An electric sizzle arced up Tony's spine. He screamed again, his throat raw with it. He tried kicking his bound legs -- something, anything to make it stop -- but his own muscles were out of his control. Thrashing uselessly, Tony managed to roll onto his back.
That was a mistake, for the man only applied the cattle-prod to his sensitive middle. Hot agony lanced up his chest, down to his groin, and seized his lungs. For moments that felt like hours he held there, back arched over the concrete floor, and couldn't even pull in a breath.
Finally the man pulled the rod away. Tony collapsed, moaning against the gag in his mouth.
"Enough," said a distant voice.
Exhausted, Tony didn't raise his head to look at them. There were three men in the room; one to hold a gun on him, one to jab him with the cattle-prod, and the third... well. He just watched and occasionally gave directions on where to hit him next.
They'd never introduced themselves. Never asked him a question about his father's company, though Tony was sure that was coming.
When his ordeal first started (kidnapped via being dragged from his dorm bed by unidentified goons) Tony wouldn't have said a word. Now he wished they would ask him a question. Just so he could lie. Tell them something, anything so that they'd leave him alone for awhile.
They'd given him short breaks before. He'd wept through the last two, but now he only closed his eyes. Too tired to think, to cry, to care.
I'm supposed to argue my doctorate thesis on Wednesday, he thought, not for the first time. He hoped being tortured by goons would at least grant him an extension.
In the middle of pain and fear, it was the little things that mattered.
Still, it wasn't fucking fair.
Tony had it all planned out. He was going to graduate ridiculously early with honors. Then, as a FU to dear old dad, search out his soulmate as most young people did upon starting their careers. That Howard had been dead-set against it was a bonus. When Tony found her (or him), he would start his own company in direct competition with Stark Industries. Something in robotics.
Hell, it still was the plan. He just had to get out of this hole alive.
He didn't know how long he had been here, but someone, Rhodey at least, would realize he was gone. ROTC kept him busy, but he always made a point of checking in on Tony a couple times a week. He was the closest thing Tony had to a friend at MIT-- and he was pretty sure that Howard even wasn't paying him.
Rhodey would sound the alarm. Help would come. He only had to hold out...
As Tony recovered his breath, the goons milled around the room. One bent to check his pulse. Tony didn't open his eyes. Maybe if they thought he'd passed out -- he might have once or twice. Things had gotten a little fuzzy in the last session -- they'd leave him alone.
"He's ready," the watching man said, completely dashing that hope. "Send in the Asset."
And Tony knew with every fiber in him, that all he'd gone through had just been preparation for this point.
The footsteps around him retreated. Cautiously, Tony opened his eyes.
For the first time, he was alone in the room -- well. It more like a cell with concrete floors and steal walls. The drain built into the floor was ominous.
He rolled over, groaning through the gag. Muscles he didn't even know he had, ached.
It was hard to move with his legs bound at the ankles, and wrists tied behind his back. Slowly, laboriously, Tony managed to scoot to the closest wall.
Whatever was coming next, he wasn't going to meet it laying on the ground like a dead fish. He pulled himself into a sitting position, a whine escaping from his throat.
This sucked. Everything hurt.
The door opened -- the light behind it almost so bright it was blinding. Squinting through it, Tony saw as someone was shoved in. The door shut and locked again with a clank, and Tony found himself staring up at a man.
He was tall-- taller than Tony, nicely muscled, with brown hair down to a well defined clefted chin. Handsome, in a classical way. The impact of his steel gray eyes on Tony took his breath away.
With an intake of breath, the man was striding towards him, and there was something odd about his left arm that Tony couldn't quite take in -- and suddenly the man was kneeling beside him, cupping Tony's face and staring into his eyes.
A warm sensation rolled through Tony. A bone-deep recognition. Like looking at a childhood friend all grown-up. Except Tony had never seen him before in his life. He knew him, though. Every cell knew him. Had always known him. Had been waiting for him.
He was Tony's soulmate.
"Oh God," the man rasped. "What did they do to you?"
His quick fingers reached to unknot the gag tied behind Tony's head. Pulling it away, he cupped Tony's chin again, thumb reaching up to wipe away what were probably tear tracks under his eyes. He never for an instant looked away, and Tony couldn't either.
"What?" Tony rasped, throat like sand-paper. "How?"
His soulmate shook his head and finally tore his gaze away long enough to unbind Tony's hands, then legs. The moment his hands were free, Tony pulled him in. As close as he could get.
It was warm wherever they touched, and his aching abused body needed his comfort. The strength he could feel in every movement. His soulmate gripped him back almost painfully hard, pulling him nearly into his lap -- it felt like there was a steal band clamping around his back -- but Tony didn't care. He rested his forehead against the crook of his soulmate's neck, shaking, and just breathed in the scent of him. Metallic and leather and male and so, so right.
They held fiercely to each other, and Tony wasn't the only one trembling from shock and stress.
"My name's Tony," he said awhile later.
His soulmate's grip tightened for just a moment, then relaxed. "I... they called me... I'm Bucky?"
Tony let out a huff that might have been a laugh if he weren't so sore and scared. "You don't sound so sure."
What? He blinked, and turned his head to look at him. "Who are those people? What do they want?"
Bucky didn't answer for a long time. "I started to remember... things. Kept rememberin', no matter how much they wiped me."
His words didn't make sense, but he was Tony's soulmate. Tony was suddenly aware of a deeper meaning under the phrase 'wiped'. Something that tasted like electricity and the bliss ignorance.
"What's that mean?" Tony asked.
Bucky's face was blank and wrong somehow. "I'm their asset."
"That's... no, what?"
Bucky only shook his head and slid his hand over Tony's stomach and ribs, where a mass of bruises from the cattle prod lay. Where he touched, the dull ache lessened.
And, Tony realized, in Bucky's arms he could think clearer than he had a few minutes before. It was a gift of finding your soulmate -- soulmated pairs lived much longer and led more productive lives because they were able to share energy, heal each other. A soulmated pair balanced and covered each other's weaknesses. One person's strength became two.
And now that his pain was draining away and the shock was wearing off, Tony was able to take his soulmate in for the first time. Specifically, the fact he had a metal arm.
Lifting a hand, he traced over the seam in Bucky's shoulder with reverence, and watched Bucky's eyes close.
"Whatever ransom these guys want, my dad will pay it. I'm insured, and he'll want to keep the kidnapping quiet," Tony said. "You kinda hit the jackpot with me. I'm really rich."
Bucky made a noise that was almost a laugh and pulled Tony in with desperate strength.
He spoke a rumbling whisper in Tony's ear, "They'll be coming soon. They're going to pull us apart, and they're going to hurt you again. No--don't talk! They're going to hurt you, and they're going to make me watch."
His words -- the plain, honest truth -- sent dread curling up Tony spine. He wanted to cry. He wanted to scream and wake up from his nightmare. With effort he swallowed it all down and asked, "Why?"
"'Cause they want me to complete a mission for them. And God help me, Tony, whatever it is, I'm gonna agree." Bucky pulled back, looked into Tony's eyes. "But they're going to want to make their point. Pierce always has to drive home he's in control."
"Pierce?" Tony asked, feeling slow and stupid for maybe the first time in his life.
Bucky's mouth twisted. "My handler."
"Are..." Tony swallowed, "are they going to kill us?"
"They need me, and now they need you to control me."
That was as good as a 'yes, but only after they got what they want'.
"Who are they?" Tony asked again.
Bucky looked him in the eyes and said, "HYDRA."
The door opened a few minutes later. The men re-entered, guns drawn. One carried a half-full bucket of water, and Tony found out that Bucky had been right on every count.
No matter how much Bucky yelled that he would comply, it hadn't mattered.
Sometime in the middle of it all, the man who watched -- Pierce -- told Bucky that he didn't like to do this. That it was messy and inhumane. He was a liar. Tony saw it in his eyes.
He enjoyed every minute of it. Tony nearly being drowned over and over, and Bucky's begging.
After it was over, Tony woke to the feel of a soothing hand trailing through his hair, metal arm wrapped somewhat uncomfortably around his middle, holding him against a muscled chest.
They were alone, Pierce and his goons had gone, and Tony knew as long as he was in Bucky's arms, he was safe.
It took a moment to recognize the tune Bucky was humming.
"Over the Rainbow?" Tony wondered aloud. Well, it did feel like he was in a sucky, nightmare version of The Wizard of Oz.
"It's a catchy tune," Bucky said. "I can't believe I forgot it." His hand paused. "How you feeling?"
Tony shrugged, wishing he could somehow burrow in Bucky, and forget about the outside world. "Did you do it?" he asked. "The mission?"
"Not yet. I'll leave sometime tomorrow, be gone a few days."
The thought of him leaving Tony for an instant -- even when he'd been forced to the other side of the room, was its own type of agony. New bonds were like that, he'd always heard. That was the whole reason newly soul-mated pairs took extended honeymoons.
Tony felt like he couldn't breathe all over again, like when they'd been holding his head down in the bucket. Bucky tightened his grip, murmuring 'shhh'ing sounds, and stroking through his hair. He didn't tell Tony it was going to be all right. He didn't make promises he couldn't keep. But Tony slowly calmed anyway.
"So," Tony said, trying to think of anything else but the oncoming separation. "HYDRA."
He felt Bucky sigh against him. "Yup."
"You work for them?"
Good, Tony thought. You were supposed to love and accept your soulmate no matter what, but he would have had a big problem with his working for a Nazi Death Cult.
"Who did they want you to kill? I was kind of... underwater."
Bucky was silent. Tony lifted his chin to look at him, and Bucky's expression was stricken. Then Tony knew who the target was. He grabbed Bucky's wrist.
Bucky clamped a hand over his mouth and in a second their positions were flipped, with Tony pinned under him.
"Me defying them got you in this mess-- no, listen to me!" Bucky said harshly when Tony started to object. "I'd been coming out of their spell for awhile as you grew up -- They finally figured I had a living soulmate. They thought my soulmate was Steve all this time, but now that they know it's you, they're going to hurt you to control me. "
It didn't make sense. And who the hell was Steve?
No sooner had the question occurred to him than an image flashed in Tony's mind. A small, skinny little punk. His best friend -- no, Bucky's best friend. Steve Rogers.
And Tony had been a fanboy long enough to see his father's classified Project Rebirth pictures.
Which meant... which meant...
Maybe Bucky could read something of Tony's eyes too, because he nodded and pulled his hand away from his mouth.
Bucky Barnes--The Bucky Barnes was Tony's soulmate.
"You're old!" Tony blurted.
His lips twitched in what might have been a smile. "Thanks, Sugar."
"No, really," he insisted pushing him away just enough to scan him up and down. (Mine, a tiny, thrilled voice crowed in his mind. Every inch of him is mine.) "You were around in World War Two. How do you look so great?"
Bucky blinked then shook his head. "My memory's swiss cheese. How old are you?"
"Almost twenty," he said, then added at Bucky's doubtful look, "Well, I'll be twenty in five months. It counts." Then, because Bucky was laying so conveniently on top of him, and Tony didn't want to think about the fact he'd almost been forcefully drowned a half dozen times, and he just wanted to, he pulled Bucky down and kissed him.
Tony had been around the block. But he'd never been kissed like this, a touch that sent every nerve singing. Bucky was hesitant at first -- Tony could feel it in his mind -- but a warm feeling of rightness rolled slowly through his body. And when Bucky got over his moment of shock and started to kiss him back, it was like all the stars -- outward and in -- were aligning.
They parted finally, reluctantly. Tony looked his soulmate in the eyes and said, "You're not killing my father. He's an ass, but I forbid it."
Bucky let out a breath -- half exasperation, half-strung out laugh. "You don't know what Peirce can do. If I refuse..."
Tony could still taste stale bucket water in the back of his throat, and could feel the conviction of horror behind Bucky's words. The weight of hundreds of memories that lay there.
"He's a bag of dicks," he said. "I get it."
Bucky made a rusty sound that might have been amusement. Then they were kissing again, reverent and desperate at the same time. And Tony knew he'd kill for Bucky, sure as Bucky would kill for him. They were part of the same package.
Only it wasn't going to come to that.
"I'm a genius," Tony said, once he was able. "Have I mentioned that, yet? Because it's a big thing."
"Hmm. And here I liked you for your smooth talk." His eyes dropped and lingered on Tony's lips. "That mouth..."
"You'll learn to love it." A heady wave of arousal flowed through him. Tony swallowed and with a great effort, forced himself to look away. It wasn't like he didn't want it -- oh, he wanted him -- but there were kinda other... things they had to take care of, first. Tony looked pointedly past Bucky's shoulder, to the single light bulb hanging down from the ceiling, in a dire cliché. Then to the half-full bucket his torturer's had thoughtfully left behind. "That arm of yours -- what's the gauge on the internal wiring?"
Bucky's steel gray eyes widened as he caught the tenor of Tony's thoughts. He leaned back on his elbows. "You ain't taking apart my arm for parts." Tony opened his mouth to object, but Bucky beat him to it. "I can't break us out one-handed." You aren't getting shot on my watch. "Think of something else."
Tony focused again on the hanging light bulb. He'd done one elective in construction engineering for a laugh last year, and one boring basement party where he'd taken it upon himself to fix all the faulty outlets in the room -- after two lines of coke. Anyway, HYDRA prison cells probably weren't up to standard electrical code, but...
"Better," Bucky said, and rewarded Tony by dragging one thick, muscled thigh between his legs.
Tony's breathless groan was swallowed by Bucky's mouth over his. His own hands roamed under his soulmate's shirt, fingers following the line between metal shoulder and deliciously muscled back. His hips arched, grinding up against Bucky's impressive erection. The hot wash of Bucky's pleasure echoed through both of them.
This wasn't the time, or hell, the place. But his soulmate wanted him, and he could feel the cautious joy of discovery, the awe Bucky felt for him, and fragile hope that things could be better. Tony wanted to make everything better, be a better person, the person Bucky already thought he was.
Tony was going to start by getting Bucky off, follow it by breaking out, and then pour every cent of Stark fortune into making sure Bucky was comfortable, safe, and well kept.
It was Bucky's turn to make a high, needy noise when Tony wiggled a hand between them, and undid the zip of his combat pants.
"Yeah," Tony agreed shakily, feeling Bucky's pleasure almost as clearly as his own. He didn't think either one of them were going to last long.
They didn't. Tony held onto Bucky as the other man came, so intense in his mind that his own orgasm followed on the heels. Bucky groaned anew into his neck, hips thrusting weakly against him in sympathy.
Multiple orgasms, Tony thought in delight. Oh, the experiments he planned with that.
"Save it for later, hot stuff." Bucky's voice was delightfully raspy, though Tony sensed no disagreement. "I thought you had a plan."
Tony blinked. "Plan?... oh! Right!" He tapped Bucky to get his weight off him, and, ignoring the sticky grossness in his pants (okay, so maybe this hadn't been the time or place) he stood and set about examining the one light bulb.
Wait a minute.
He looked down at himself, standing, in no pain what-so-ever. Then he lifted his shirt (drawing a slightly strangled sound from Bucky) and stared at his unbruised chest, and flat belly free of cattle-prod marks.
Bucky slid up behind him, one hand protectively over Tony's sternum. His lips brushed against the back of his neck as he said, "I heal quickly."
And now, so did Tony. "Useful."
It took every ounce of (limited) self-control Tony had not to rest his weight back into Bucky's embrace. Rub back against the erection he could feel anew. This might be why HYDRA felt comfortable locking them in this room. He'd heard newly bonded couldn't keep their hands off each other, but whoa boy.
"Light bulb," Tony breathed, rolling his hips back because he couldn't help it. "I need to..."
He felt Bucky nod, heard him take an indrawn breath to center himself. He didn't step away, but he did loosen his grip enough to move. "Light bulb," he repeated. "Right. I..."
"Don't say you're sorry." Tony turned and realized anew he had to look up to meet his eyes. He'd always had a thing for taller men. "Later, when we get out of here, I'm flying you to our country estate, and so help us we're going to go through the entire Karma Sutra. I'm screwing you to the floor."
He could tell that Bucky didn't exactly know what the Karma Sutra was, but smile that blossomed across his face made Tony's heart flip anew. "Get us outta here, and I'm holding you to that."
When the HYDRA goon walked into the cell, he looked somewhat confused to be stepping in a puddle of water, the negative lead laying beside it. It only lasted a second. From the safety of the twin-size bunk, Tony threw down the hot end of his electric wire.
Electricity did what it did best, the circuit completed, and the guard went down.
From his place standing on the cot beside Tony, Bucky uncoiled in a leap that actually took him past the electrified puddle and to the surprised guard, who'd been standing behind the first. Tony winced -- having his soulmate that distance away actually hurt, deep inside.
The fight was brutal and efficient, and within a few seconds Bucky had a gun. He kicked the negative lead out of the puddle to make the area safe again. When Tony joined him (slightly breathless) he held out a second gun to him.
"Do you know how to use this?"
"... Yes! Sort of," Tony amended, at his look. "I know how they work."
Their hands brushed, the touch calming nerves that had been jangled from their brief separation. Then Bucky's flesh hand closed over his, their fingers tangling.
Bucky said, "Stay close. If it moves, shoot it."
Then, still hand-in-hand headed down the corridor. Only later, looking back, would Tony realize how coordinated their movements were, how one was aware instantly of the other's intentions before it was said. As it were felt. A perfect partnership, though their bond was hours old
Between the genius of a Stark and the training and determination of the Winter Soldier, HYDRA didn't stand a chance.