Tony doesn’t have the helmet anymore, no HUD to flash warnings about his health or the state of the armour at him, but he doesn’t need it. There isn’t any part of his body that doesn’t hurt. His left arm is a mess, some of his ribs must be broken—he can barely breathe—there’s blood in his mouth. He tries to stand up and the armour is impossibly heavy around him.
He’s not sure he has enough power to fly back.
He could get out of the armour. He’s in a top secret Hydra base; there must be some parts lying around. He could fix the most necessary systems or build a radio.
He doesn’t want to.
He tells himself he doesn’t need to. Friday’s still steering the copter; she’ll get here, and if he doesn’t check in, she’ll alert someone. It’ll be fine. He doesn’t have to do anything anymore. He can rest.
He’s been running on coffee and must-save-Steve, must-save-the-Avengers for days now, and it’s all been for nothing. He doesn’t have friends. He should’ve known.
He thinks that, if nothing else, he at least deserves to rest.
He wakes up to see agents in combat gear around him. He thinks he should worry—for a second he’s not sure whether they’re friendly or not—but then, it doesn’t really matter. A terrorist organisation would kidnap him; nothing he hasn’t lived through before. A friendly organisation would—well, he broke the law, didn’t he.
Steve’s shield is still on the ground, the perfect reminder.
“Anthony Stark,” the agent next to him says in perfect English when he notices Tony’s conscious. “You’re under arrest.”
“Yeah,” Tony answers. “Kinda figured that one out.”
At least he’s not arresting himself, he thinks, and a laugh escapes him, unbidden. The agents look around each other as if he’s going crazy.
“Just let me,” Tony says, moves to take off his armour.
Ten guns aim at him immediately.
“Whoa,” he says. “Won’t it be easier for everyone if I’m out of it?”
The one who spoke hesitates, and then nods.
Tony presses at the release panels, pulls at the emergency levers. His fingers are numb from the cold. I’s taking longer than it should, but then he’s finally out of the armour, sitting in the snow in his clothes, his breath rasping in his own ears. He doesn’t have a punctured a lung—an unwanted thought whispers, no such luck—but he doesn’t think he should be moving, really.
He doesn’t fight it as two agents haul him up, and another move to collect the armour parts. He’s not worried; there’s enough power in it still that the selfdestruct protocol will kick in and fry all the systems before any engineers put their hands on it.
He makes exactly one step before his legs give out on him, and the agents pull him back up, but Tony can’t really do anything to help. His chest is one point of pain.
He blacks out.
The next time he comes to, there’s the unmistakeable sound of heart monitor in the background and the smell of antiseptics strong around him. Hospital, then. Not quite what he expected.
(Not quite what he hoped for, either.)
His first instinct is still to reach for his chest—the arc reactor is gone, but old habits die hard—but something stops his hand. He cracks his eyes open—and okay, yeah, he should’ve known, his hands are handcuffed to the bed. There’s a single agent in the chair in a corner next to the door; full gear on, including a shotgun.
“You know I’m not enhanced, right,” Tony says, his own voice sounding weird to his ears, dry and croaky. “The handcuffs would be quite enough.”
The agent says nothing.
“Okay,” Tony continues. “Any chance you’d call someone more talkative than you? No?” He waits a moment. “You can’t talk. I get it. What if—”
The agent speaks to his earpiece quietly. Tony catches object, conscious.
Object. Nice. Makes it so personal.
He’s not in any pain; they must’ve given him good drugs.
He remembers Steve over him, the shield raised high as if to kill—the seconds that felt like ages when he’d been certain Steve would.
You couldn’t even do one thing for me, he thinks, annoyed. He’s so tired. He wants it to stop.
Someone—a doctor, Ross?—is probably coming to him right now. Tony doesn’t care. He closes his eyes.
Broken ribs, pulled muscles, arrhythmia—take care of your heart, Mister Stark—as if he didn’t know. He nods mechanically as the doctor speaks. It doesn’t matter. He’s not going anywhere but to prison from there. He doesn’t care.
No one has tried to question him yet, but there’s always an agent wherever he goes, as if they think Tony’s going to break out and run and—join Captain America in his illegal free time activities, probably.
Well, Tony’s tried that already, and look where it’s got him. Let it not be said that he doesn’t learn from his mistakes.
The doctor leaves, finally, and then Rhodey’s rolling into the room in a wheelchair.
“What are you doing here,” Tony says, “who let you fly, you should—”
“Tony.” It’s slow, but Rhodey gets to the edge of his bed, and god, Tony wants to touch him, but the cuffs are firmly closed around his hands.
(He lied, before: getting out of the bonds is not a problem. But he knows that he probably wouldn’t even manage to reach out his hand before the Silent Armed Guy knocked him down.)
“I’m sorry,” Tony says, quietly.
“And I know you’re apologizing for the wrong thing here,” Rhodey tells him. Then he leans in as far as he can, and speaks quietly. “Listen—I did what I could; you can claim you were going after Zemo and didn’t expect Steve, he attacked you, they’ll—”
“No.” Tony has to inhale slowly. He doesn’t deserve Rhodey. He really doesn’t. “I fucked up, okay? It’s my fault. So I’m gonna bear the consequences.” He levels a look at Rhodey. “And you aren’t going to stick your neck out for me.”
He winces; talk about bad wording, but Rhodey doesn’t comment.
“Supporting the Accords was the right thing to do,” Rhodey says. “You know it was, and I don’t regret it.” He sighs. “This,” he gestures at his leg, “sucks. It sucks a lot. But I haven’t changed my mind.”
But if he’d sided with Cap, sure, he’d be locked up now—but he could walk. Tony wouldn’t be responsible for crippling his best friend.
“They wouldn’t let Pepper come,” Rhodey continues, and Tony flinches minutely. “But just say a word, and she’ll send the lawyers. Tony. Come on.”
Tony shakes his head.
“You fought for the Accords,” he says. “I broke them.” He hesitates. “If—ask Friday about prosthetics.”
“Agent!” Tony calls. “Colonel Rhodes is leaving.”
Rhodey should forget about Tony. It’d be the best for everyone.
He keeps expecting to see Ross, or whoever it is overseeing the Accords now, but he never shows up. It’s always just a silent agent, a string of doctors, nurses.
No one else.
Not even a build weapons again and we’ll forget about your little transgression.
He wonders if Steve—
No. He doesn’t. He doesn’t care.
Keep telling yourself that, he remembers, and grits his teeth. He’ll do just that.
He doesn’t care.
They lower the drugs dosage.
Steve brings the shield down, and Tony somehow sees it hitting his neck, going down—
He wakes in cold sweat and trembles.
The agent doesn’t notice, or maybe just doesn’t comment.
It’s dark, but the street light reflects in the plates of the metal arm, and Tony tries to focus on that and not the sickening sound as the fist hits his dad in the face. He can’t. He watches, almost detached, and the blood is black.
His dad stops moving, and Barnes puts him back in the car.
Tony wants to wake up now.
Barnes walks around the car, reaches in, and now it’s his normal hand which grabs Tony’s mum, and Tony tries to close his eyes and can’t.
She looks nothing like the last time he’s actually seen her, before Christmas. She’s pale, bruises are already forming on her face, and Tony doesn’t want to look. Her eyes widen and she’s trying to breathe, but the hand around her throat only tightens—
Tony thrashes, pulls his hands towards him, and the cuffs clang against the bed frame.
“Stop moving,” the agent snaps, and Tony stares at the ceiling, forces himself to breathe.
It was just a dream, he could say, except it wasn’t.
Had Steve known when he used Tony’s tech to try and find Barnes?
Tony doesn’t want to think about it.
Black, oddly fluid creatures are everywhere. Buildings are falling down. New York is on fire. The streets are covered in blood.
There are bodies, and Tony doesn’t want to look, because he knows what he’ll see—
Rhodey, Pepper, Steve—
He tries to sit up and the cuffs hold him down, and he’s breathing heavily.
They’re coming, he thinks, and scolds himself. It was just a vision, he’s paranoid and hurting everyone with it; he should be locked up.
Maybe he should’ve listened to Rhodey though, what if—
Even if they come—Tony would only make it worse.
The first change comes after a few days, when he’s able to breathe properly. They give him a set of ill-fitting clothes—at least they’re not orange—chain his ankles, and slowly walk him to a copter.
The Raft, then; it’d be a plane if he were going to any continental prison in the States.
There are only unidentifiable agents with their faces covered around him, and he guesses whoever it is overseeing his case wants to wait him out before asking him anything.
For a moment, he almost wishes he could see the newspaper headlines.
Genius, billionaire, playboy, convict.
If his heart was going to give out on him, couldn’t it be now?
He doesn’t fight it when they push his head down and force him inside. Even if he wanted to, he’s just a baseline human. He keeps being vaguely amused at how they insist on handcuffing him all the time—he’s not like Cap. He won’t make a break for it and run away faster than anyone can follow. He couldn’t do that in his twenties, and he’s definitely not that young anymore. He’s just glad he builds better and better suits, because he’s honestly not sure he’d be able to pilot Mark 3 anymore.
Not that that will ever be a problem again.
They get over the sea pretty quickly and it starts pouring down; this helicopter isn’t as comfortable as Tony’s—and more importantly, isn’t piloted by him or someone he trusts, at least—and he both feels vaguely uncomfortable and hopes they might crash. He scolds himself for that; he’s not the only one in the copter now.
He grits his teeth against the turbulences and lets his mind wander.
He remembers his mum’s eyes as she desperately tries to breathe and can’t.
“Did you know?” Tony asked in Siberia, even though the answer was clear on Steve’s face.
Tony takes in a shaky breath. He really could’ve picked a better moment for a breakdown, he thinks viciously.
Just how long has Steve known?
It doesn’t matter, Tony tells himself, even as he can’t stop wondering why Steve lied to him—why didn’t he trust Tony. They were supposed to be friends.
As if Tony would even know what that means.
“We’re landing,” the pilot calls, and moments later Tony can hear the roaring of the Raft’s engines as the prison floats up.
They push him out of the copter. Tony stumbles, catches his step just in time to see Ross standing in the door, a mocking smile on his face. “I warned you the last time, Stark,” he says.
“Yeah well, I liked the facilities, wanted to try them out,” Tony quips. One of his guards shoves him forward, and he barely manages to keep his balance and not fall down.
“You let me know when you’re ready to talk business,” Ross says.
Tony squints. “Bypasses, you said, and you’re not getting any younger, I’m not sure your life expectancy is—”
This time the shove is harder, and he falls down, can’t quite angle his hand enough to cushion the fall. He curls in on himself, expecting a blow, but none comes.
“Take him to the cells,” Ross says, almost dismissive, and Tony’s hauled up and led through the corridors.
He’s put in a solitary cell.
In a way, he’s relieved he won’t have to deal with Clint’s insults. Mostly, he’s terrified at the prospect of spending more time with just his own thoughts for company.
It’s the best solution, he repeats. It’s the only thing he can do now. He knows full well that the only way he’d be allowed back would be as Ross’s puppet, and he’s done playing these games. He’s rather positive that if—when—someone attacks Earth, the Avengers will be miraculously granted a leave to go save it again (and maybe kill someone else’s child while there at it, a treacherous part of Tony’s mind whispers).
He doesn’t have to worry about anything now.
(That’s a lie. He’s not sure how to function without worrying anymore.)
His left arm still hurts, and he’s not sure if he really fucked it up or if he’s just too old to be sleeping on the hard narrow bed here.
Doesn’t matter. He can deal with a bit of pain. Easier to focus on it than on his constantly running thoughts.
How is Pepper, how’s Rhodey’s recovery going, what about Nat; howisSteve?
He doesn’t care about Steve, he lies even—especially—to himself, any maybe if he repeats it often enough it’ll become the truth.
He wakes up at night, his mum’s face moments before she died haunting him forever.
Why didn’t Steve tell him? Did Tony really never mean anything, that Steve didn’t grant him even that much respect to tell him I know how your parents died?
Tony wants to punch something, but he knows he’s being watched 24/7, and he doesn’t want to give anyone the satisfaction.
Another thing he still cares about, apparently: masks.
“Your trial is in three days,” Ross says.
Tony didn’t hear him coming in, and he briefly startles. He takes a moment to compose himself. “Oh, I’m getting a trial?”
“That depends entirely on you, Stark.” Ross stares at him.
Tony sighs inwardly. Here it comes.
“If you, say, decided to build weapons again—”
Tony laughs. “I thought you’d be more subtle about it,” he says.
“You’re not in the position to mock me, Stark.” Ross’ voice is clipped.
“Or? You’ll transfer me to an even more top secret prison? I’m not sure that’s possible.” Tony’s done with it. The last time someone wanted to force him to build their weapons, they drowned him, really, this is luxury in comparison.
(Later, he gets a glass of water to his tasteless food and stares at it a bit too long, reminded of how it felt to try and breathe and take in no air at all.)
It’s two days later that the lights go out, and Tony wonders if this is where the US government tries to torture him.
He looks at the door to his cell, considering.
Then he hears a gasp, and sees Steve.
For a few seconds, they just stare at each other.
“Tony,” Steve says.
Tony doesn’t want to talk to him.
“What do you want, Rogers?” Tony tilts his head. “Your friends are on the other side of this charming hotel.”
Steve winces. “Let me just—” He moves towards the door to Tony’s cell, his intent clear.
“Rogers,” Tony speaks, “exactly what makes you think I need you to break me out of here?”
The locks are electronic, and Tony knows the guards’ schedule and exactly where the cameras look to. He could get out, if he really wanted to.
“I didn’t know, Tony,” Steve says as if he didn’t hear him. “I swear, I didn’t know, I thought—”
“I told you I’d have to arrest myself,” Tony reminds him. When he went to help him. “How’s Barnes? Found any new triggers?”
Steve steps back as if hit, and Tony feels a moment of short-lived satisfaction.
“I’m sorry,” Steve whispers then, and Tony freezes.
“Yeah, you don’t get to say that,” he snaps. He’s not even sure Steve knows what he’s apologizing for. It’s not as if there was fixing them. “Come on,” he says, suddenly tired. “You really don’t have enough time to be chatting with me now.” Steve opens his mouth, and Tony talks over him, can’t resist one more jab. “Frankly, no idea why you’d want to, since when we were both free men you never found a moment to mention my parents.”
“That’s exactly it, Rogers,” Tony yells. “Go save Wanda before elite squads are sent here to check what happened and someone does shoot you.”
“I can’t leave you here.” Steve shakes his head.
“You left me in fucking Siberia,” Tony says, “believe me, no one will be surprised.”
Red lights flicker on in the whole length of the corridor; the generators clearly going back online after whatever it was Steve did to them.
“I’m not going with you,” Tony says, “but in five seconds, you’ll have to decide between staying here and rescuing them, and it’s never been me, has it, it’s not gonna be me now either.” He sounds bitter, and he didn’t mean to say it, and now he almost hopes Steve will prove him wrong and stay—except Tony is very good at being right, and then Steve’s turning around.
Tony pretends his heart doesn’t break again.
“I’ll come back,” Steve promises.
“No you won’t,” Tony mutters, and doesn’t look as Steve goes.