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"They won't find you, my boy," Master's voice is soft in his ear. Master's voice and Master's touch along his shoulder are the only links to reality in the darkness. Tony strains to listen, to feel. He needs that, even when it's only pain that Master gives him. "They didn't find you before, and you know I'm much smarter than that fool I paid to take care of you in Afghanistan. No, the only way you're walking out of here is when I let you. And when will I let you?"
Tony is so caught up in listening that he misses his cue, but Master is kind enough to hurt him, hurt him sharp and sudden but with the device that leaves no marks because Tony is his, and he likes Tony to stay pretty. Tony arches against the bindings and answers, swiftly, before he's bad, bad enough to deserve the gag and the water and the other things that are worse. "When I'm good, Master, when I'm your good boy." He's not being hurt, but he's not being praised, either, so he has to keep going, has to find the right words, the pleasing words. "When you can trust me. When you know I'll never, never do anything bad. Never let anyone hurt you. I won't, Master, really. I'll be good, I'll be good!"
Master touches him then, the good touch, with his fingers slick with oil, not with the hard metal, the ice, the things that have no name because he's never seen them in the darkness. "Yes, you'll be my good boy." Master touches his lips, next, and Tony opens his mouth, desperate to please. There's warmth and the familiar musk and it fills his mouth, heavy on his tongue and it pushes against the back of his throat. He chokes a little before remembering how to do it, how to please, desperate not to offend with his teeth. Master chuckles, his voice further away. "Yeah, that's my clever boy. I said I'd teach you, and I have, haven't I?"
Tony can't answer, can't even nod, but he can use his tongue, his mouth, the arch of his body, to show how good he is, how well he's learned. Master touches Tony's chest, touches the skin around the arc reactor, and Tony frantically redoubles his efforts with his tongue and throat. That's the worst, when he's so bad that Master takes the reactor, and he can't tell in the darkness if Master has left him, has grown tired of training him, has given up and left him with his heart slowly trying to tear itself to pieces. The first time at least he'd been able to see and had seen Master returning. Had seen Master looking down at him. Had heard Master's voice. On second thought, why should I settle for one suit? My incompetents probably can't duplicate your work, even with a model to reverse engineer. And Master had given him back his heart and then he'd kissed Tony. Master had said, You were always high maintenance, Tony. I didn't have the time to give you the attention you need. But I'll make that time now. For you. I'll show you where you belong. And you'll be grateful. You can stop pretending. I'll take care of you. You won't have to think about anything except doing what I tell you. No responsibility. No guilt. No being ashamed of what you are. You'll be my boy. That's all you'll have to be. And then he'd carried Tony away.
And now Tony is his and everything is simple. All he has to do is please Master. He feels Master pulling back from his mouth and undoing all the bindings. Usually that means Master wants his ass, so Tony grabs his knees and pulls his legs up hard against his chest, trying to show how willing, how eager he is to be used, to please. He's a little nervous because sometimes he guesses wrong, and does the wrong thing, says the wrong thing, but he has to try. He's lucky this time. Master presses him down and pushes in, hard and fast and hurting, but not more than he deserves. It's never more than he deserves. And even when it hurts really bad, it's so much better than being left alone in the dark, in the quiet, with nothing except fear. There could be anything in the dark. Sometimes there are terrible things. Hungry rats caged against him, the sound of them gnawing at bars trying to get at him. Once when he was very, very bad, when he had said terrible things, had threatened Master... once Master had paralyzed him and taken the reactor and caged a rat in the recess. That... was very, very bad. Master's big cock pushing into him, rough and hard, that's... good, that's what he deserves. He says the words he hopes Master wants to hear, moves the way he hopes will please.
And again he's so very lucky. Master finishes and lies on him for a while. He can't breathe easily, but the reactor is safe, pressed between their bodies. "Good boy."
Tony smiles. "Thank you, Master."
"You've been so good today." Master strokes his hair and Tony turns his head into the touch. A touch that doesn't hurt is wonderful, makes him feel so good. "Stay." Master gets up, and presses a hand to Tony's belly.
"Yes, Master." Tony's arms and legs are hurting, cramping, but he manages to relax the muscles so they don't move too much. He didn't get to come. Master hasn't given permission, and Tony's not going to spoil things by being a bad boy now. He hears Master walk away and locks his fingers together, keeping his knees up in position, so they won't come loose even if he falls asleep, if Master doesn't come back for hours. He's been very, very good, but sometimes Master has to punish him so he doesn't get smug, even when he hasn't been bad. And Master knows how bad being alone in the dark and the quiet is for Tony. Tony used to be able to play music in his mind, and that helped, but he's forgot that and all he can hear in the silence is Master's voice, telling him what he has to do, what he has to be. Telling him about the rats and the water and the things that have no names. Sometimes he wonders how long Master has been training him. Sometimes he wonders at how patient Master was with him in the beginning, when he had tried to get away, tried to hurt Master, tried to hurt himself.
Sometimes he wonders if there is a world still out there, outside of Master's playroom. Not that he wants to go there, not unless Master tells him to. No, he's a good boy, not going to do anything he's not supposed to do. He hears Master returning. It's only been a few minutes. Master grabs Tony between his legs and squeezes. Tony draws a sharp breath but doesn't come. Doesn't have permission.
"Such a sweet little prick." Master strokes him, almost gently. His hand is slick with oil, and it feels very good. Tony shudders and holds onto his knees tightly. Hasn't got permission. Mustn't... "Come now." And Tony does, of course he does, he's so grateful that Master let him come. And then Master lets him relax, and holds him and strokes his hair.
"You're my very good boy, Tony. Very soon I'm going to take you out of here."
Tony shudders. He knows what it's like here. What terrible things could be in other places?
"Shh." Master kisses Tony's temple. His lips are warm and soft and don't hurt, don't hurt at all. Tony loves his Master, but he doesn't say that. Sometimes Master just wants Tony to be quiet. Most of the time. Master says, "I will take care of you. You'll have a workshop and you'll make things for me. Won't you?"
Tony thinks he should answer. He risks it. "Yes, Master. I want to make things for you."
Master's hand goes over Tony's chest, skin touches against skin and then that odd internal pressure he feels behind the arc reactor, which always makes him feel a little sick. "You'll make more of these for me, won't you, Tony?"
Tony nods. "Yes, Master. I want to. I want to please you." And that must have been right, because Master kisses him, and brings Tony food and gives him permission to sleep. Tony falls asleep with his Master's hand stroking his hair.
Tony wakes in a panic. His Master is shouting, shouting and angry and the lights are on and Master hasn't put Tony's blindfold on him. Tony's eyes are watering because it's so bright and his head hurts and he can see all the things around him in the playroom, including things he never wanted to see which he recognizes by the shapes. He stays where he is, and hopes that watching isn't bad, but he can't help watching as Master strides across the room and does things at a console. It's some sort of communications and warning system, Tony thinks. Master straightens and turns towards Tony. Tony tries to shrink back and be invisible. Master is very, very angry. Tony's fairly sure he hasn't done anything wrong, but sometimes Master is just angry.
Master comes over to Tony and stares down at him for a long moment. Then he puts his hands on Tony's chest. On the reactor. Tony whimpers.
"I need it, Tony. You stay still, be a good boy and I'll give it back when I'm done."
Tony swallows hard and can't help jerking up when Master pulls the reactor out of his chest. "Breathe, Tony. Breathe." It hurts and he's scared, he's hollow and his heart is beating all wrong and he hurts and he's weak and this is slow dying, but Master pats him on the cheek, and doesn't paralyze him. "You're a good boy, Tony. Don't move. I don't want you to die on me."
Tony is still, Tony is good. Tony doesn't want to die. He sees that Master has a suit. It's not beautiful and elegant like the suit Tony made, but it's very big and looks powerful. Master puts the reactor into the suit and gets into it. Tony watches. The suit comes alive and it comes over to Tony. The metal arms pick him up. It's cold and it's hard, and he swallows again, trying not to be sick. He's not strong enough to be sick without the reactor. Big doors open up at the end of the playroom and they go outside. Outside is hot and the sun is so bright Tony's crying. He closes his eyes and tries not to die as Master carries him along in the heat. His suit is walking very loud so it's not as bad as being alone in the dark and the quiet. Light comes in through his eyelids, reddish from his skin.
"Release him!" There's a new voice, loud and angry. Master stops and turns quickly, swinging Tony around with him. Tony isn't quite sick at the motion. He opens his eyes, blinking against the light. There are three people facing his Master: a red-haired woman wearing a tight black body suit, a man with a bow and arrow, and... Captain America? Tony wonders if this is a dying vision. He remembers Captain America from his dad's stories. Dad knew Captain America and even had pictures of them together. It certainly looks like Captain America. Tony has lost the ability to tell what's real from what's not real, so he's not sure.
Master laughs. "I don't know why I was worried. If you're the best SHIELD has to threaten me, I needn't have bothered to suit up."
"Let him go." Captain America steps in front of the other two. "Let him go and we'll let you escape."
"I don't think so!" Master jumps forward and the ground shakes beneath his weight as he reaches out with massive steel arms. He misses Captain America and the other two as well. They're very fast and Master's armor is slow. Tony's armor had been faster, but he doesn't think he would have been able to catch them, either. It's getting harder to breathe and there's a buzzing in his ears that he doesn't think is coming from the armor.
Captain America waves, directing the other two people to encircle Master. The bowman has an arrow cocked. Looks like an explosive charge. Tony mentally calculates the force and decides it's nothing that could hurt his Master's armor unless it hit exactly on a weak joint. Of course, it would kill Tony if it hit him, but he's dying anyway. He looks at the woman. She's very pretty. She says, "Captain! Stark's reactor, Stane is using it to power the suit!"
"The hell with this," Master says. "I don't need to fight you." Tony hears metal moving and identifies it as stabilizers going down around boot jets. He's pretty sure that Captain America can't fly, and it doesn't look as if either of the other two can, so Master will get away. Maybe he will give Tony back the reactor.
"No!" Captain America shouts. There's a loud whirring noise and an even louder sound of metal smashing and ... Master... the armor's helmet flies off and Master's head is still in it, and blood, so much blood, Tony is covered in blood and the armor is falling backward and he's falling with it, the metal arm still gripped around him. His time sense is off, he knows everything is happening fast, but he's seeing it as separate frames. The blood hangs in the air. An arrow hits the metal arm at the elbow. Tony falls into Captain America's arms. The red-haired woman does some impossible flip in the air, snatching at the suit's chest plate.
Then time goes back to normal. Captain America puts Tony down on the blood-soaked ground. He turns his head and sees Captain America's shield sticking up from the armor. Captain America killed Master. Tony thinks about it. Tony needs a Master. Captain America beat Master, so he is Tony's new Master. Tony hopes he doesn't die before he finds out how to please him. He looks up at Master, hoping to get some idea what he wants from his expression. "Hold still," Master says. That's easy enough.
The woman brings his arc reactor and gives it back to him. He won't die. Tony is glad about that. He keeps watching Master's face. It's good that it's not dark. And there are no rats. Master stands, still carrying Tony.
The bowman says, "It's creepy the way he's looking at you."
Master shakes his head. "Get my shield, Hawkeye. Widow, call Fury. We need a team to...clean up. And find out what he did to Stark."
Tony doesn't look at them, but he hears the others moving around, following Master's orders. Master's arms are warm.
There are too many people. Tony's not used to so many people. There are black cars and black helicopters and people in black suits whose faces are still as stones. Tony knows better, he does, but when Master puts him down on a stretcher and turns away from him, turns and walks away, Tony gets up without permission and tries to get to him. "Master! Master... America, please!" Tony calls, struggling. He's being very bad, but he's scared and he doesn't know these people, he doesn't belong to them, only his Master should touch him. Hands grab him and pull him down and there's a needle jabbing into his arm and oh, God, he hates needles they can be so very bad. His new Master is looking at him as Tony reaches for him, tries, tries, and falls down with them holding him down and he's so bad, he's going to be punished so bad.
Tony wakes up. He thinks he wakes up. People are talking soft, close enough to hear the rhythm of the language. He decides that it's probably English, but he can't understand what they say. He thinks he hears Master's voice, but he's not sure, he hadn't heard enough of it to memorize the cadence and timbre. Everything is far away. His eyes are open? No, he blinks and then they are open. He doesn't need to move to feel the restraints. There are machines, beeping and making other noises. He looks as best he can without moving his head. He's not in the playroom. There's some cloth partition around the narrow bed he's fastened onto. There are shadows moving on the cloth.There could be anything here. He doesn't know what Master wants, he only knows that he's been bad, and bad boys get punished. He feels his pulse pounding in his throat and the machines beep loud and fast.
The curtain moves and people come in. These people are dressed in white. He can't see his Master and when they touch him he struggles. He's bad, so bad. "Master, please!" And then there's another needle and this one feels cold going in, running liquid ice inside his arm, running cold to his heart and he's so scared he needs to be sick, but that's bad, too. The machines are still screaming and the people are talking loud and fast and they're touching him, touching him, not supposed to, he's not theirs, Master will be angry. "Master! Please!" And another needle is coming and he cringes against the bed.
"Stop it!" Master says, loud and commanding, and the people move back. Tony looks up gratefully as Master comes close. He's still wearing red, white, and blue, but he's pushed the hood off his face. He's very handsome, and while he looks serious, he doesn't look angry. "Mr. Stark, you're safe. No one will hurt you. Relax."
Tony obeys, of course he does. Master has told him to do it. Master reaches out, slowly, and lays his hand on Tony's arm, in one of the places that doesn't have bruises. Tony smiles, and the machines beep slower and the ice in his chest melts and is warm. "Thank you, Master."
"Mmm..." Master is waking. Tony watches him closely, hoping for a clue as to what he should do. Would Master like it if Tony crawled over on his hands and knees? Does he like being sucked when he first wakes up? Tony doesn't see a whip anywhere, but Master is wearing a belt. Would he like to correct Tony with it? Tony's been bad, and he adds up all the times he moved and spoke without permission, and then he subtracts the nice things Master said to him to try to figure out where the balance lies. Will he be rewarded with sex? Will he be punished with pain?
Master opens his eyes and looks at Tony. He sits up and smiles. Tony gives himself another 'good boy' point. "Mr. Stark. How are you feeling?"
"Good, Master, very good." Tony doesn't dare ask if Master wants sex, but he has hope.
Master frowns. Tony draws a sharp breath and looks down at his chest. Please, please, don't... New Master doesn't have to begin his training all over again. Tony knows. Tony will be good. Please don't take the reactor. Master stands up. Tony can hear him move. Tony is trembling. Master lays a warm hand on the back of Tony's neck. His thumb moves gently. It feels good.
"It's all right, Mr. Stark. No one will hurt you, I promise. But you can't call me Master. It's... not right."
Tony looks to the side as far as he can without moving his head, trying to see if his Master's expression matches his voice. It seems so. He looks sad, not angry. After a moment, his Master strokes his hair, and that's so nice, so gentle, Tony closes his eyes and pushes his head against his Master's hand.
"My name is Steve Rogers. I want you to call me Steve."
"Steve," Tony says obediently, loving his new Master so much.
Master's hands rub his back. Tony sighs softly. Master says, "I was there when we liberated Nazi... experimental camps. I don't know everything that happened to you, Mr. Stark, but I know you must be a strong man to have survived. I've talked to Director Fury and he's agreed to allow me a leave of absence to help you get... better. And you will."
Master likes him. Tony gives himself more good boy points. He wonders what kind of sex Master likes best.
"Tony," Pepper says, and she comes to him and hugs him before he can decide if this is allowed. Tony looks past her shoulder, and Master is smiling, so he relaxes. Maybe he should talk to her. If he's wrong and he's punished, it will add to the database. So far he has quite a few 'allowed' and the only 'not allowed' is to say Master instead of Steve. There must be more bad things than that. He just hasn't found them yet.
"Pepper," he says, and Master is still smiling, so that's all right. But he can't think what else to say. There are so many possibilities, and so many ways he could be bad. He pats Pepper's back, lightly, and still no one is angry with him. But Pepper is crying, now. "Pepper," he says again, and keeps patting. Pepper shouldn't cry. Pepper never cries. It must be Tony's fault, but he's not sure what he's done wrong. "I'm sorry," he offers.
Pepper pulls back and fumbles in her purse, coming up with tissues. She wipes her eyes and sniffles, and then she gives Tony a small smile. "It's so good to see you, Tony." She reaches out and touches the neck of the hospital gown he didn't realize he was wearing. "We're getting you out of here. Steve is coming home with us."
Tony smiles and looks at Master. "Thank you, Steve."
They bring a wheelchair. Tony looks at it, and then at Master. Master sighs, "Mr. Stark, would you please get in the wheelchair. It's hospital regulations."
"Yes, Steve," Tony says as he obeys. Pepper looks at him strangely, but she doesn't say anything.
Happy is waiting for them with the Rolls. Tony is glad to see both of them. He always liked the Rolls. Plenty of room for sex. Tony is fairly sure that Master doesn't intend for the three of them to have sex in the back seat of the Rolls, but he keeps watching Master to see if he's mistaken. Sex with Pepper and Master would be very nice, he thinks. It probably wouldn't hurt much at all.
He closes his eyes. "I'm sorry, Steve. It's my fault, punish me. Happy didn't do anything. It was all my fault."
No one says anything for a long moment, and then Master sighs. "No one is going to be punished, Mr. Stark. I'm not going to hurt your friends." He pats Tony on the back. "We're here to help you get well. We're going in and you're going to rest. When you wake up, the four of us will talk. You'll say whatever you're thinking. You can say anything, I promise we won't be angry with you."
Tony shivers. "Yes, Steve."
He goes into the bathroom with the pajamas. He remembers what he used to do, of course he does. He hasn't forgot anything. He wasn't allowed to forget anything, because he was supposed to build things for... for... Tony touches his arc reactor. Steve ... Master... hasn't asked him to build anything. He runs the tub and bathes using all the familiar soaps and bath brushes. His nails are a mess. He tidies them as best he can once they've soaked a while. He gets out of the tub and looks at himself in the mirror. Master Steve wants him the way he was? At least he probably wants Tony to look the way he did. Tony hadn't realized what a mess he is. No wonder Steve doesn't want to have sex with him. His hair is shaggy, and his beard is a shapeless, bristly mass. He looks older than he is. At least, he thinks he does. He's not really sure how old he is now. He couldn't keep track of the time in the dark. He fingers the beard and pulls a strand straight to estimate the length. Then he mentally divides that- half an inch per month should be about right. Three months. That's good to know. It took three months for him to learn how to be good. He gets his razor and begins carefully trimming his beard. The bath has softened it. It's slow going. He has to keep stopping to clean the razor. He keeps watching himself in the mirror. His eyes are steady. He can do this. He can make himself pretty for Steve. He can be what Steve wants.
He combs his hair and brushes his teeth and goes to bed, curled up tight in the middle with the blanket pulled over his head.
Tony doesn't think about it. He can't. It hurts, and it doesn't make sense. He goes over to Steve and kneels at his feet. "Steve."
Steve sighs and lays his hands on Tony's shoulders. "Tell me. What are you thinking?"
Tony answers honestly, with the only truth he has, "I want to do whatever you want. I want to be whatever you want. Anything else... hurts." Tony leans forward the slightest bit to press his head against Steve's legs. "I'm broken. I know I'm broken, and not good enough for you, but if you leave me, I'll fall apart, and no one will ever put me together again."
Steve's hands move to stroke Tony's hair. "I loved Howard, and you're very much like him. You're good enough for anyone, Tony. But you can't make a free choice. I'd be taking advantage of you. I'd be no better than Stane."
Tony shudders. "No. You're nothing like him. You'd take care of me. Maybe I could get better. I'd try." Tony rubs his face against Steve's leg. "If you leave me, I'll die. Even before... I wasn't... wasn't good at taking care of myself. Now I don't care at all, I can't do it."
"Tony, I can't stay with you forever. I... I have other commitments. Captain America's a pretty big responsibility."
Tony runs his hands up and down Steve's legs. "Oh, the super-hero thing."
"Exactly. Fury wants me to head a team, a special force. It's important, Tony. More important than you or me or any one person."
"Uh huh." Tony reaches a little higher to confirm that Steve really isn't as uninterested as he says. "So, this team. Where will you be based?"
"I don't know yet. Fury is trying to find a place in New York City. He says for some reason trouble always starts there. But it's not easy getting someplace in the city that will lease to super-heroes." Steve laughs a little but doesn't move away from Tony's hands. He's still stroking Tony's hair, soft and gentle.
"Mmm... I own property in New York City. A mansion and a Tower and oh, lots of things." Tony kneels up a little higher and runs his mouth along Steve's leg. The trousers are thin enough for him to feel the muscle twitch. "I could use a tax write-off."
"We still couldn't be together, Tony. I'd have to live with the team. We couldn't... you know, you couldn't be a mascot and hang around the place." Steve's touching Tony's face now, gentle fingers on his temples, over his eyebrows, along his jaw line.
"I have a suit." Tony puts his hand up a little higher, and strokes. Steve twitches under his hand. "It's a very, very nice suit. It's much nicer than ...than... Stane's." He presses his head against Steve's crotch. "I can fly. I can fight. I can be a very good boy for you."
Steve draws his breath in sharply. "I should say no. You can't... you don't know what you're doing, not really."
Tony opens Steve's trousers. "I can learn. I learn very quickly. You'll see, Steve." Master. Always. Tony nuzzles Steve. He smells good, clean and like love. "You wouldn't break my heart by saying no, would you?"
Steve moans as Tony takes him into his mouth.
Tony counts that as a good boy. He is very pleased with himself.