Every muscle ached as, gritting his teeth, Steve attempted to get to his feet again. Between the beating and the mysterious injection they had forced on him, even the seemingly simple task of pushing off the blue tiles with his trembling limbs was difficult. He’d be damned if he was going to give up here though; he had faced impossible odds before.
All of that was nearly forgotten when fingers wove their way through Steve’s hair and the familiar scent of expensive cologne and alcohol permeated through the air. At the edge of his vision, Steve caught sight of someone in an expensive business suit kneeling down on one knee before him. A surge of hope rose in Steve, only to die moments later.
“Please Steve, for once in your life—” The fingers pressed down, and Steve was weak enough that his face was nearly forced to the ground. “Stay down.”
Steve’s limbs trembled, yet still he resisted with the small amount of stubbornness left to him. His attempts felt awfully like a last stand, though at this point the only thing he was protecting was his pride.
“…Please,” the voice pleaded, as the hand on Steve’s head gently massaged his scalp. “It’ll be easier.”
To Steve’s horror, his arms wobbled and collapsed beneath him, giving out at the same time his heart did. A single scream ripped out of him as abruptly his entire body was set on fire. He could only focus on one thought through the pain, that Tony had betrayed the Ultimates. Tired sobs worked their way from his chest, and Steve didn’t even have the energy to properly hate himself for it.
“Shhhh…it’s okay, darling,” Tony whispered, his hand never leaving Steve's head. “I’ve got you now.”
The sound of Steve's bedroom door clicking shut echoed throughout the opulent mansion. It would seem no one was there, though Steve knew that Hank at least was holed up somewhere in these endless rooms, seeing as he was still under house arrest. Steve was somewhat glad that the bastard was nowhere to be found; Steve still hadn’t gotten over the urge to punch him, no matter what Jan said.
Steve moved quietly through carpeted corridors to the kitchen, the one room where he heard faint sounds of life. The richness of his surroundings was still off-putting even months after Tony offered to house the team in addition to bankrolling them. It was a different world from the one he grew up in, not in the grimy disappointing way most of the future was different, but in the way it smelled of money and class. People like Tony, wealthy people, put Steve on edge. When Steve was growing up, their kind always looked down on working class folk like Steve and his neighbors. Even the ones that tried to make out like they were helping were really just looking down their noses at them. Tony probably wasn't like that.
In the kitchen, he found Tony rummaging through the cabinets with his ass stuck out in the air behind him, undoubtedly looking for some drop of alcohol he missed before going through the trouble of buying more. Steve looked away, his arms crossed. What was Stark thinking, bending over like that, wearing only a dressing gown? It was barely longer than some of the skirts Jan wore.
"You come out of your room for the first time in weeks, and you can't even put on some pants, Stark?" Steve growled, crossing his arms.
"Cap," Tony muttered, not bothering to withdraw his head from the cabinet. "You're one to talk. I know you've barely been around."
Everyone might think that Steve had been largely absent from the mansion, but he was hardly going to tell them that he was spending all his time posing as the Black Panther. "So what if I have a life? At least I don't expose myself. Ladies live here."
"Jan and Wanda?" Tony scoffed and pulled out of the cabinet holding a bottle of sherry. Immediately, he poured himself a glass. "I think they can handle my gorgeous ass. You're the only one so sensitive."
"I just know how to behave in decent company."
"I'm a billionaire; I am decent company, darling," Tony said, knocking back his glass of sherry.
"Money doesn't equal class, Stark."
"Don't I know it. Some of the people I deal with..." Tony grumbled. "Rich bastards who think their money means they can get away with anything."
"Not like you?"
Tony weakly laughed. "Nobody is like me."
"I suppose not. I'm just trying to decide if it's a good thing or not."
“You’ll have time to mull it over. I’m going on a business trip for the next few weeks.”
Tony’s hand ran possessively up Steve’s side, his fingers dancing across perfect, bare skin while Tony’s hot and boozy breath lingered in Steve’s ear. Drugged and restrained, an awful sense of deja vu overcame Steve. The room span as Steve shifted his head to get a better look at the man who betrayed him, betrayed everybody.
Infuriatingly enough, Tony looked as well as ever, which was remarkably well for a dying man, though Steve always suspected it was the confidence that allowed him to carry through chemotherapy looking like one of the men in Jan’s fashion mags.
It wasn’t fucking fair--Steve chained to the ceiling and on display, the Ultimates in hiding somewhere (he hoped), and Tony being responsible for making it that way. Tongue leaden in his mouth, Steve wasn’t able to do more than loose a wordless growl. That he ever even considered trusting this grandstanding, queer, glitterati fucker was more than Steve could handle at the moment. The shackles on Steve’s wrists and ankles clanked when he tried to pull his hands down, almost unconsciously, to wrap them around Tony’s neck, but his restraints wouldn’t give, not even close.
“Shhh, honey. Don’t worry, you won’t have to stay like this long. We’ll get you sorted out and comfortable as soon as your collar’s done. I designed it just for you, darling.” Tony slid a finger along Steve’s lips, at one point almost dipping in before Steve mustered the energy to snap at him.
Tony only narrowly avoided Steve’s teeth, but instead of looking worried, he just smiled and took half a step back to look Steve up and down. Eyes intense on Steve, he slugged back the remnants of the bourbon in his glass, seeming to take an unusual amount of interest in Steve’s bared body, though it wasn’t a novelty. Then again, maybe the interest wasn’t so unusual, Steve thought as he remembered all those hungry looks he tried to forget.
“Let’s see if we can’t get you more relaxed while we wait,” he murmured, setting down his glass and patting Steve’s ass.
Steve shivered underneath his touch. He tried to work his tongue loose to form some sort of protest, but the drugs were doing their job well.
His nose and cheek pressed up against Steve’s chest, Tony reached lower, curving around so his hand stroked Steve’s inner thigh. Beneath the prickle of Tony’s beard, Steve’s heart pounded. He took great gulps of air--not enough, but it was all he could do when he was unable to even silence the whine in the back of his throat. His mind sluggishly raced between disbelief and the all too real direction this was heading in.
A knock on the door interrupted Tony. He withdrew, leaving Steve shivering behind him. Stomach churning, Steve tried once more to pull his chains loose from where they were embedded in the ceiling and floor. His head swam, his only thought was of escape, urging on his futile struggles. He heard ice clinking against glass as Tony knocked back another drink. Tony returned a moment later, a thick circle of metal in hand.
“Here we are, darling,” Tony purred, splitting the collar into two. “The casing is adamantium, so don’t go thinking you can destroy it.”
Steve twisted away, pulling back as far as he could, but there was no point, no escaping the collar closing around his neck with a click. It rested heavily around his throat. Logically, he knew it was probably just loose enough that he could swallow without issue, but in his mind it was choking the life out of him.
“Fu-fuck you,” Steve slurred between gasps.
“So dramatic. I can’t keep you if you aren’t under control, darling.” Tony cupped Steve’s chin while he gasped for breath.
The cuffs released Steve’s wrists, allowing him to drop to the floor where he tried to remember how to breathe. Tony crouched beside him and rubbed circles into his back. In the end, that was what let him forget the weight of the metal around his neck. He launched himself at Tony with a guttural scream.
Steve woke to the slide of silk across his skin, wrapped around him, pulling him down into its softness. A warm body pressed up against his back, warding away the cold. His ears were filled with the quiet sounds of breathing and the slow and measured beats of a heart at rest. He’d never been so comfortable in his life, yet something had him on edge.
It was the pressure of metal encircling his neck. It was the musky scent of a man with a hint of medicine and illness. It was the distant sound of patrolling guards. It was the rising memory of being beaten into the ground, of being drugged and captive to the man who currently had one arm draped over him.
Steve was halfway out of bed before his body stopped responding, and he collapsed back onto the sheets. Panic rising, he tried again. He struggled out from beneath the covers, but as soon as he tried swinging his leg over the edge of the bed, he found he couldn’t. He couldn’t even twitch in that direction.
“Darling, you’re not leaving the bed, you can’t,” Tony murmured in a sleep-rasped voice.
He could only fuzzily recall the collar being put around his neck and not much more. A hunk of adamantium around his neck couldn’t do this, couldn’t take over his body. There had to be something more, something to cause this. The injection—the one they got from Tony – it had to be that.
“What did you do!?” Steve snarled.
Burning with rage, Steve was on Tony in seconds, straddling him, and winding up for a punch. However, instead of knocking Tony’s face in, his arms just fell by his sides. With a furious growl, Steve put his hands around Tony’s throat, but he couldn’t apply any pressure, they just rested there, absorbing the beat of Tony’s heart.
Some of the blinding anger receded, instead pooling in Steve’s gut in a feeling akin to dread. The cool air reminded Steve of how exposed he was. He knew well enough by this point that when his anger sparked, arousal was quick to follow, and sure enough, he was hard. The warmth from Tony’s lithe body soaked into Steve’s skin, including the place where Steve’s erection brushed Tony’s stomach. Suddenly, he didn’t like where he was at all.
“This is a rather delicious position, darling,” Tony said, his voice sending vibrations through Steve’s hands. “But I think this will have to wait until some other day. We both need our sleep for tomorrow.”
Steve was frozen in place, and he wasn’t sure if it was because of whatever Tony did to him, or because of the fear that moving might cause Tony to change his mind. Hands gripping Steve’s shoulders, Tony rolled Steve off of him easily, like Steve was putty in his hands. With Steve snug in the bed next to him, Tony pulled the sheets over both of them.
“Just relax and try to get some sleep,” Tony ordered, softly.
Immediately, Steve went limp and boneless. His body relaxed into the too-soft bed, and his eyes drifted closed. Thoughts struggled to the surface as he was overcome with a different kind of fuzziness than when he was drugged. Slowly, his breath evened out, and with only one more hitch of panic as he realized what was happening, Steve was deep asleep.
Their footsteps echoed in the cavernous warehouse, bouncing off the maze of shelves stacked high with crates. As usual, Pietro and Wanda were wrapped up in each other while Jan followed along, looking bored. Steve was the only one taking the situation seriously.
An alert early that morning had brought them to the warehouse, located just outside New York. With only four members of the Ultimates present, Steve might have to call the rest of the team in, depending on the level of the threat.
“Too bad Iron Man isn’t here to scan for trouble,” Jan sighed. “This is boring, wandering around and looking in empty crates.”
“Stark is on a business trip. Nothing wrong with doing things the old fashioned way.”
“Yeah, you would—”
Steve brought his shield up and took a fighting stance, the rest of his team following suit despite the fact none of them would have heard it, the faint creaking noise that was more than just the shelves settling. For a moment there was complete silence, then something came barreling over the shelves.
“Shit,” Steve said as he raised his shield to meet his attacker.
Scrapping long claws across Steve’s shield, the enemy looked for an opening. He looked monstrous, twisted into an uncomfortable lethality. His jaw opened too wide, revealing sharp teeth, and his legs and spine bent in such a way that suggested he was more suited to walking on four legs. Bone spines grew from beneath his skin, but even for all that he looked much too human.
Two more enemies popped out from behind some crates and charged.
“Where did these bastards come from?” Steve asked.
In a silver blur, Pietro disappeared and returned, reporting, “There are secret passages beneath some of these crates.”
“That still doesn’t explain why they have powers,” Steve growled. “Are they mutants?”
“I don’t believe they are,” Wanda said. “They do not have a good measure of their abilities, as if they haven’t had them long.”
It was true as far as Steve could see. One of them had a face that looked to be carved of ice, except for one cheek, which was normal human flesh. The contrast gave anyone who saw him the impression his face was melting. His frost laden clothes were in tatters around the various parts of his body that ice erupted, the huge crystals were still growing. The metal he touched went brittle with cold, causing a shelving unit to collapse nearly on top of him.
The third wasn’t much better: she had sores all over her body leaking fluid that, when it splattered on the floor, sizzled. She coated her hands in it, but the acid didn’t appear to damage her skin further. She made furious grabs for Jan, who had shrunk down and was flitting about. Though she was quick, it wasn’t exactly the most efficient fighting method.
Despite his clear inexperience, the iceman had Pietro well matched. Every attempt to close in was met with slippery floors and spears of ice. Staying still wasn’t without its own consequences, as Wanda found out. While she attempted a spell, her feet were frozen to the floor.
Steve put out the call for reinforcements. Though currently they had the enemy out-numbered and most likely out-matched, there was something suspicious going on. The whole set up felt like a trap, and he would feel better having Hawkeye and Iron Man by his side when he figured out who was behind it.
“Rise and shine, darling.”
Steve bolted up in the unfamiliar bed, panic coursing through him. He tried to remember why the husky, deep voice of Tony Stark would be the first thing he heard in the morning. Within seconds, the memories tumbled into place, and somehow they were worse than his initial half-formed assumptions, a twisted and nightmarish version of the dreams that haunted Steve at night.
Apprehensive, he pulled his attention away from Tony to get a sense of his surroundings. The bed he woke up in was tucked away in the back of a luxurious, open-plan apartment. Even though there were almost no walls within the apartment, there were clearly designated areas for dining, sleeping, and entertainment, if the furniture was anything to go by. Throughout the apartment, antique and modern furniture were liberally combined with little consideration to style or unity in theme, intricately carved end tables settled next to a minimalist couch for instance. Steve noticed that despite the light, airy feel to the room, there were no windows and only two doors, one of which was cracked open just enough to reveal what was probably a bathroom.
Tony hovered by the bed, wearing another robe, this time with boxers underneath. It wasn't much of an improvement as his chest was still in full view. His hair was sleep-mussed, stubble had grown in on his cheeks, and dark circles rimmed his eyes.
He hardly seemed to mind Steve as he walked over to a large table with an extensive breakfast spread. Platters loaded with fruits, pastries, breakfast meats, and eggs dominated the surface.
Tony spared Steve a glance before ignoring the food in favor of mixing up what looked like a Bloody Mary with twice the normal amount of vodka. He gulped down half the drink and gestured Steve over.
Steve balked at being called over so thoughtlessly, however before he could even protest he was moving, his nudity on display. A tendril of fear coiled in his stomach but it was quickly burned away. It was the most vile thing he could think of: being robbed of control of his own body, and at that by another person, someone he had once, if briefly, trusted. Even worse was the glint he thought he saw in Tony's eyes, the one that reminded Steve of Tony's hands running across his skin.
“Eat that,” Tony said, passing Steve a croissant.
Steve wolfed it down, his resentment festering beneath the surface. The croissant, as perfect and flaky as it was, tasted like ash in his mouth and sat heavily in his stomach.
"Have the rest whenever you want," Tony said, waving a hand at the spread before heading over to his closet. Smooth skin revealed itself as Tony slipped off his robe and began selecting clothes. He dressed in a dark suit, perfectly tailored to his lean body.
Tony acted almost like it was just another morning at the mansion, or what a morning at the mansion would be like if they actually spent time together. And Steve was just going along with it. Shame churned in his stomach with the croissant. He should be railing against this, yet he hadn’t even said a word.
"That's real nice of you," Steve deadpanned when his mouth finally came unstuck. "Feeding me up before playing out your sick fantasies on me."
"What." Tony froze in the middle of buttoning his shirt.
“It’s pretty standard for you, isn’t it? Soften them up with gifts, parties, and charm. You call them ‘darling’ and ‘dear,’ all sorts of pet names, before getting them in bed.” Steve almost fell for it, too. “You ignore the fact that without all that, they hate your guts. Just like Natasha.
“After all that cheap bullshit about dying and making the world a better place, I was right about you--well, almost right, took me a while to notice you were a queer. It’s a big scam to get what you want. You don’t care about being a hero; you only care about sex and booze.”
“Is that what you think?”
"You've made your interest known. So, when are you going to do it? Are gonna order me to bend over for you now?"
“Why, dear , I didn’t realize you were so eager,” Tony said, strutting over to Steve, every step like liquid seduction. “It has been a while since that little affair of yours with Jan, hasn’t it?”
Tony downed the rest of his drink in one gulp. He put the glass down on the table and pulled out one of the heavy wooden chairs. “Go ahead. Bend over for me. Hands here,” Tony said, waving to the back of the chair. “One knee on the seat.”
Steve’s body moved against his will, doing exactly as Tony instructed, no matter how he tried to resist. His next breath came out too hard, almost shuddering, so he stopped breathing altogether. He would not let Tony see him break.
There was the sound of a bottle being uncapped and liquid being poured from behind Steve. The scent of vodka was sharp in the air, cutting through the smell of breakfast foods. Steve twisted his neck to get a better view, but it was difficult to see much of anything when he was forced into his current position.
Steve closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He could endure this. Whatever Tony had planned for him was nothing. Steve had been to war, had fought aliens and gods.
A finger traced down his back, leaving goosebumps in its wake. Steve gripped the chair harder. Tony’s hand stroked Steve’s hip, slowly sliding back to his ass, gripping it firmly. Tony’s breath brushed against Steve’s back.
“No,” Steve whispered, his voice soft and broken and not at all like him.
Glass shattered, and vodka spilled across the floor, startling Steve. Tony backed away several steps.
“Shit,” Tony swore. “I should be going anyway. Business meetings, you know how it is.”
Rushing out the door, Tony said, “Don’t wait for me, darling, and don’t break anything while I’m gone.”
Reinforcements did not come, at least not for the Ultimates. Two more guys on the other side appeared. These ones were more ordinary looking, built like brick houses, but nothing out of the range of an unmodified human. They were more sharply dressed too, with their pressed black uniforms. They were cut from the same cloth, even though one was black and the other white, they looked nearly identical with the same cropped hair, square jaw, and military bearing.
They had arrived not from the tunnels, but rather from the entrance Steve and the others had entered through.
“We’re here to clean up your mess, freaks,” the black one said. He looked slightly younger than his partner.
Steve wasn’t certain they had powers, though he had his suspicions when neither of them appeared to be carrying a weapon when they entered the fray. Then one grabbed a piece of broken metal and bent it, not like he was just that strong or had Magneto's powers, but like it turned into taffy in his hands. The metal was exactly as pliable as he wanted it to be when he twisted it into the shape of an ax.
Soon after, Pietro was sent flying into a set of collapsed shelves without either of the new arrivals going near him. Similarly, projectiles from the surrounding debris and shelves moved seemingly on their own. Perhaps the blond one had some form of telekinesis.
Steve quickly checked on his teammates: Pietro was still down for the count, and Wanda, unstuck, assisted Jan against the woman bleeding acid. It wasn't going well. Minor burns covered Wanda at least. Jan's movements looked a little sluggish, so it was possible she had taken some damage, as well.
“One-three-three! Focus on helping Nine-six-six with Captain America! Box him in!” the blond shouted at the iceman.
One-three-three joined the man with the claws, who must have been Nine-six-six, and together they attempted to corner Steve by blocking off one side with icicles and attacking from the other.
Steve threw the shield at One-three-three, attempting to take him out before his range of movement was completely cut off. Nine-six-six used this opportunity to slip past Steve's defense with his mouth open wide. Steve yelped when those sharp teeth came down around Steve’s red glove, thankfully only denting the leather, not piercing it, though it hurt like a son of a bitch.
Grabbing his shield on the ricochet, Steve brought it down on Nine-six-six, breaking a few of his spines in the process. He let loose an eerily animalistic howl of pain. One more strike knocked him out.
“TK! I need help!” the woman cried.
“Goddamnit, Seven-nine! You’re useless!” the blond, TK, said. “Can you help her out, Forge?”
“We should have handled it from the start rather than letting the numbers mess it up,” the black man grumbled before grabbing the metal shelves.
“You know what our orders are,” TK said.
“I still think it was a shitty idea.”
Icy spikes erupted from the ground on either side of Steve, caging him in. Concurrently, ice formed over Steve’s boots, effectively sticking Steve in place like Wanda had been. He twisted around and saw that while there were cracks in the One-three-three’s face, he appeared more angry than injured. With Nine-six-six, it was just them now. Wanda and Jan had taken down Seven-nine and were fighting Forge now.
Steve smashed the ice with the shield, first the spikes, then the layer of ice around his feet. New ice formed, but Steve smashed that, too. One-three-three seemed to be having more difficulty forming ice. When the Ultimates had arrived at the warehouse, it had been humid and dank, yet now the air was as dry as could be. It was possible that One-three-three’s powers weren’t as effective without the excess moisture in the air.
Pressing his advantage, Steve shattered the icy barriers his opponent threw up between them. One-three-three backed away, closer to where Jan and Wanda fought Forge. Metal twisted around the two women, running up Wanda’s legs and arms like vines, and trapping Jan in a small cage.
Steve continued his forward march, avoiding and breaking the ice impeding him in equal measure. His goal was now to get to Wanda and Jan as quickly as possible.
Out of nowhere, something bashed into the back of Steve’s head. Another blow swiftly followed, knocking the helmet from Steve’s head then Steve’s legs were swept out from beneath him. He was manipulated into an arm lock, by an unseen force. Steve tried bucking out of the straight arm bar, but the grip around his arm was tight. A man with bleached hair popped into view while maintaining the armlock. The man holding him in place was slight, at least compared to TK and Forge; he wouldn’t be able to hold Steve for long.
TK and Forge walked around the mass of creeping metal and icy patches on the floor to face Steve. TK quickly jumped in, grabbing Steve’s other arm. His touched seemed to rob Steve of his strength, to the point where Steve ceased to struggle. Forge piled in on top of him and with the help of the other two, wrapped a piece of metal around Steve’s wrists.
“Mission accomplished,” TK said, his grip moving to Steve’s neck.
“You provided an excellent distraction,” the formerly invisible man said.
“Thanks, Shinobu,” Forge said. “Nice to know our hard work means so much to you.”
One-three-three’s approach must have weakened the metal somewhat as Wanda managed to snap one of the pieces holding her arm in place and was close to snapping another. She struggled frantically, but couldn’t free herself before the men began dragging Steve into the tunnel and sealed the passage with a thick layer of ice.
Backing up, Steve prepared to ram the door. At the last second, he abruptly halted, his momentum carried him forward, but he only hit it with a fraction of the force he intended. The door remained undamaged.
With an angry snarl, Steve grabbed the nearest thing to him, the chair, that fucking chair, and tried to smash it against the door. Once again, his body betrayed him, stopping short of actually hitting anything. He tried again and again, and every time proved as futile as the last.
Abandoning the chair, Steve tore at his collar, pulled at it with his considerable strength in an attempt to pry it loose. It may have been adamantium, but there had to be some mechanism that allowed it to open. The attempt caused the collar to painfully dig into his neck and made Steve’s vision go white, eventually forcing Steve admit that the collar was there to stay.
He screamed in rage, repeatedly attempting to smash one object or another to little effect. Finally, he slumped to the floor with his head in his hands, his fury temporarily exhausted.
Steve didn’t understand how Tony could control him like that. It was unlike any form of mind control he’d seen. He had a greater degree of freedom than most and as far as he could tell, it wasn’t affecting his thoughts. Not that that made it any better.
Eventually, with nothing left to do since neither escape nor wanton destruction were possible, Steve riffled through Tony's things. Steve gave the bed a wide berth as he searched through the closets and drawers, discovering nothing more personal than a few sets of clothes. Tired of being exposed, Steve took a pair of underwear and the largest pair of pants he could find in Tony’s wardrobe. They were much too small, but better than nothing.
Now that Steve looked again, for all the apartment was lavishly decorated, it wasn’t particularly lived in. It could have belonged to just about anybody with money. Besides the clothes, the only touch that screamed Tony was the tray of drinks with bottles of everything from bourbon and whiskey to sake. Tony might not care about the other things in the apartment, but he’d definitely miss the alcohol.
One by one, Steve poured Tony's drinks down the drain with great glee, even making sure that he didn’t miss the bottle of vodka from the breakfast table. He might not be able to break anything, but he could do this much at least. While he didn't usually go for petty revenge, any small rebellion felt like a triumph at this point, shackled as he was to Tony's wishes. Still, once the drinks were gone and the bottles placed back where they came from, Steve couldn’t escape from the hollowness of it all.
He had been reduced to causing minor inconveniences. It was the greatest indignity he ever suffered to be so thoroughly robbed of his ability to take action. Even when he had been small and sickly, he’d been free to act.
He would just have to find a new angle. He decided to start testing his limits, to see what he could get away with. Stark had told him not to break anything and he couldn't, but what if breaking something wasn't his intention, what if he broke something by merely being careless? He started by picking up a glass and balancing it upon his finger. It would wobble and tip over, but every time his reflexes kicked in and he grabbed it before it fell.
After hours of experimentation, Steve now studied the carpet underneath him, taking in the intricate details woven into it as he practiced his push-ups. He was tireless and knew from experience that his arms wouldn't even burn after hours of doing this, but he had no other way to occupy himself.
One hundred, two hundred, three hundred push-ups later, and he began hating the carpet pattern. Thoroughly sick of it, he moved to the dining room to continue his exercise there. Push-ups weren't any better with a different patch of floor to stare at, so he switched exercises, as well. Now sits-ups were the name of the game.
It wasn't long before he grew tired of those as well and began picking at the food on the table. Not physically tired of course, in fact he was more fired up than ever, but rather he chafed against the feeling of being trapped. It was hardly a surprise. He'd never taken well to being stuck somewhere, not even when it was for his own good. Look what happened when he woke up in SHIELD custody, he'd been awake for five minutes before busting out. He hated that he couldn't do the same here.
The door slid open quite suddenly, interrupting Steve from his reluctant snacking. Standing in the doorway, grinning wildly, were two of the men that had originally captured Steve, TK and Forge. Just as before, they looked eerily alike in both their large stature and menacing expressions. It did not bode well.
"Can I help you?" Steve asked, trying to affect Captain America's usual slightly cool assurance. It wasn't easy, wearing nothing but a collar and Tony's pants.
"Come with us," TK said.
“Our bosses want to see if you can be a good little pet,” Forge added.
Steve flinched at the order, but within seconds realized that nothing was happening. The collar wasn't making him follow their orders. Unfortunately, the goons were quickly coming to that realization as well.
Determined not to let this chance go to waste, Steve jumped into action before either of the men could react. He dodged around TK, careful to avoid his touch, before throwing Forge into him, sending both of them stumbling into the furniture. A kick to Forge’s chest sent them toppling over and ensured that they would be down for the count.
Steve darted out the door in Tony’s too-tight pants, his blood singing with the thrill of escape. A wide corridor stretched ahead for about one-hundred feet before splitting off in different directions. The continued lack of windows told him he was most likely underground, so he had to find some way to the surface, but without any idea of the layout, Steve had no choice but to pick a path pretty much at random.
Once he was free, he could find the Ultimates and be rid of the twice-damned collar around his neck. Surely someone would have the knowledge to get it off, shut it down--whatever, just as long as he wasn’t some doll for Tony to play with anymore.
Scanning the hallway for enemies and finding none, Steve proceeded cautiously. A few turns later, and without warning, a burst of pain bloomed on the side of his head, powerful enough to stun him. Blows rained down from thin air, or so it appeared. Steve swung out desperately, and his fist glanced off of something solid. Steve threw another punch, this one met flesh head on and drew a grunt from Shinobu, causing him to come into view.
It wasn’t enough. A sharp chill to the air and pounding footsteps heralded the arrival of another opponent,One-three-three. More blows from the unseen source had Steve’s head ringing. Before Steve could recover, he was knocked over in an icy burst of pain as One-three-three tackled him to the ground.
Steve was down, but the attack continued, only increasing in brutality as Forge and TK caught up and joined in. Someone slammed Steve’s head against the ground. Repeated kicks to the stomach and ribs left Steve breathless. A foot came down on Steve’s wrist, cracking the bone. Everything was cold.
“Don’t touch him,” a voice from faraway said. “He’s mine.”
The onslaught stopped as Steve’s consciousness faded.
“Can’t leave you alone, Rogers.”
Gentle hands stroked his hair, a sensation so familiar at this point that Steve didn't question it, no matter that his hair was caked with ice. Steve shivered, his battered body rapidly losing warmth.
The hands moved down to hook beneath his armpits. "Come on, work with me here," Tony grumbled. "Stand up.” Steve’s legs uncurled and found their footing as he was rousted from the floor. The goons were gone and the hallway was empty save for Steve and Tony.
“Walk with me,” Tony said, just barely holding Steve up.
Somehow, Steve found the strength to support himself on jellied legs, though he still leaned heavily upon Tony. He quashed the rising feeling of gratitude; Tony didn't deserve gratitude, not when he was just making sure someone else didn't break his toy. It was hardly a rescue if he was being taken to a worse fate anyway. Steve would rather be beaten than made into Tony's whore any day. At least Steve knew how to take a beating.
Despite Steve's reservations, they continued down the hallway back to Tony's room. Tony tutted at the mess Steve had made of his apartment, but made no further comment. He swiftly deposited Steve on the bed, then retreated into the bathroom.
The plush, deceiving softness of the bed sickened Steve. Unable to stand it, he rolled off as soon as Tony was out of sight, landing on the floor with a painful thump. It was worse on his injuries, but the floor was a million times more preferable to that god-awful marshmallow.
Tony came out of the bathroom moments later, carrying a white box. He paused at the drinks tray on the way over. He lifted the empty bottle of scotch and glared at it in disappointment before replacing it with a sigh.
"You sure are a handful, darling," Tony said, placing the white box, a first aid kit, by the bed. "Let's get you back up here."
Tony heaved Steve back onto the bed, Steve completely unable to resist.
"Fuck off." Steve stared Tony down, but the man refused to meet his eyes. Guilty conscious then, and here Steve thought he entirely sold his soul.
"Sorry, darling, you're stuck with me for now."
Tony opened the kit and took out a bottle of rubbing alcohol, regarding it wistfully before applying it to Steve's scraps. How pointless, Tony should know very well by now that Steve was immune to infection. Bandages were next, Tony tightly wrapping Steve's injured ribs and wrist.
"I think you're all set," Tony said, tying off the last of the bandages.
"Yeah, I’m right as rain and having a real swell time," Steve spat. “It’s a wonder that I hadn’t done this sooner.”
"Don't shower me with too much praise. I have an ego, haven’t you heard?" Tony muttered, looking back at the empty tray of drinks.
A moment later, Tony got up and cleared away the first aid kit. Once that was taken care of, he grabbed his jacket and headed out.
“Stay in bed this time. You need to rest,” he said before closing the door behind him.
Without Tony the apartment was near silent, occupied by only Steve’s ragged breathing and the blood rushing in his ears. It was too quiet without Tony. Steve should have been relieved Tony was gone. He dreaded what would happen when he returned, but the only thought going through his head was that he wished Tony had taken him with him. Steve didn’t want to be trapped here, all alone.
It made him feel small again, like he was a sick boy in a tenement in Brooklyn, only worse because it reminded him of how much he had lost. There was no mother to come home and take care of him, no brother to tease him, no best friend to read serials to him. There was just Tony.
Steve almost wished being ordered hurt, but it didn’t, not in the slightest. If it had been painful, he could have endured it somehow. Instead, he was just empty, like a porcelain doll, liable to shatter with the slightest mishandling and too hollow to be truly angry anymore. The anger still existed, ebbing and flowing, but it was always too distant to do anything with, not even to hold himself together.
Tony handled him like a porcelain doll, too, all soft touches and gentle manipulations, soon he’d be playing dress up with him and putting him on display.
“Stupid,” he muttered to the empty room, pressing his hands to his eyes. He stayed like that seemingly forever, a study in defeat.
“Are these all your business partners? I was led to believe your network was a bit more extensive,” Tony said to a greying man in a business suit.
Steve sprawled lazily on the floor, legs splayed. His head rested upon Tony’s silk-clad knee as a calloused hand stroked his hair and occasionally traced the shell of his ear. Steve’s relaxed posture belied the rage seething just under the surface, rage that burned stronger with every spark of arousal that Tony’s touch sent through him.
Steve could scream. His body betrayed him at every turn; he couldn’t even disguise his unwanted arousal by moving from the shameless pose that Tony had guided him into. The gauzy loin cloth hid nothing. If anyone cared to look under the table, his burgeoning erection would be plain to see. Tony had probably already seen it; Steve had noticed him glancing down.
It wasn’t until late last night that Tony had come back to the apartment, drunk. He’d staggered over to the bed before passing out, leaving Steve to spend the night with Tony cuddled up to him, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
It finally happened the following morning, just not in the way Steve expected. Tony had Steve clean himself up and dressed in a frankly ridiculous outfit before dragging him off to a lavish conference room.
“We are important people. You can’t honestly expect all of us to pander to your wishes,” the man replied.
“I do when I’m handing over everything I promised on a silver platter, Hammer.”
“What of your promises, Stark? Is Captain America truly under your control?” the man, apparently named Hammer, asked.
“I think he’s well in hand.” Tony gestured down to Steve with a hefty glass of scotch.
“That’s not what we saw yesterday.”
“The collar is keyed to only recognize my commands.” Tony swallowed a mouthful of his drink. “Everything would have been fine if your goons hadn’t let him out.”
Tony shot a dirty look at Shinobu, TK, and Forge, who were hovering in the background like bodyguards. Forge’s face twitched slightly, like he was annoyed, but TK and Shinobu maintained their impassivity.
“You promised us a way to control our assets, but you have yet to show us that your methods work.”
Tony snorted derisively into his scotch. “Your assets, right. I could have shown you plenty if you let me get at your little human experiments you made with the formula you stole from Osborn. That’s the goal here, isn’t it? To put a leash on your rabid dogs?”
“The goal is total control. We already have the world’s economy in our grasp, so we just need an army to back it up,” Hammer said from behind steepled fingers. “Now, do your nanites work or not?”
“Oh, no, it’s more than just nanites, Hammer,” Tony said, his voice taking on that arrogant tone he was infamous for as he refilled his glass. “I have created an advanced AI, housed in the collar, that scans the environment, monitors vitals, accurately interprets spoken and unspoken commands, and most importantly, coordinates the nanites so they send the correct electrical impulses. Without it, the nanites are just a bunch of tiny, zappy robots.” His point made, Tony emphatically took a drink.
Hammer paused thoughtfully for a moment before asking, “If the collar was so important, why didn’t you have it the other day?”
“Well, I was expecting you to send my sample to your labs, not inject Captain America,” Tony said with an annoyed shrug.
“I thought it would be more expedient,” Hammer said, coolly. “As I recall, you didn’t have any complaints, in fact you were rather eager to have him. You always did seem more comfortable when you had someone to warm your bed. A waste of a super soldier, though.”
Steve went cold. Hammer’s tone, full of affected casualness that couldn’t quite hide his longing, left no doubt in Steve’s mind. Hammer wanted to experiment on him, take him apart to see how he worked. Tony gripped Steve’s shoulder possessively, and it was almost reassuring.
“No, I get what this was really about. You wanted to see if I was really going to betray the Ultimates. Well, you have your proof. I sold them out, and as told you, he’s my thirty pieces of silver, so you better pay up.”
“Just imagine what we could do if we unlock Erskine’s secrets,” Hammer said, leaning forward.
“People smarter than your pet scientists have had a crack at it, but the best anyone’s ever managed resulted in the Hulk. Not really any more controllable than your current lot.”
“Surely we can come to some sort of agreement—” Hammer was cut off by the loud sound of glass hitting wood as Tony slammed his drink down.
“Without my nanites, you have no way to control your little army of experiments,” Tony said. “So, we’re doing this on my terms. It’s the nanites for Captain America.”
“Fine, you can keep the good captain. Just uphold your end of the bargain,” Hammer said, sounding rather taken aback.
“I’m going to need access to your files, all the information you have on your experiments.”
“I fail to see what possible use you would have for that.”
“For all that Captain America is a super soldier, he isn’t wired so differently from a normal human. On the other hand, your experiments have all sorts of powers. I’m willing to bet it’s created some unique neural pathways. I need to be able to calibrate the nanites for that. Plus there’s a whole different set of orders I need to teach my AI to recognize…”
“Yes, yes.” Hammer sighed. “I’ll have someone connect you. The information won’t be leaving my server, though.”
“That works just fine,” Tony said, smiling wolfishly.
Tony rose from his seat and led Steve out of the room with a jerk of his head.
Forge and TK dragged Steve into a dark room as he struggled and strained at the twisted metal acting as handcuffs. TK’'s touch kept him much too weak to break it, but he hoped that if he put up enough of a fight he'd be able to throw him off and regain his strength. Shinobu led the way. At his signal, the other two stopped and kicked Steve to the tiled blue floor. Forge sat on Steve's legs while TK kept his hand on Steve's neck, while Shinobu went ahead into the next room.
Soon enough Shinobu returned with another set of footsteps following him.
"We've got the subject right here," he said, kneeling by Steve's head.
A stumble and a soft intake of breath.
“Any objections?” Shinobu said, only to be rewarded with strained silence. He nodded to himself. “I thought not.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Steve could see a wide-barrel syringe filled with a greenish gel in Shinobu’s hands. "Let's see if this is the real deal. You better not be trying to trick us, for his sake."
There was a sound of a plastic cap being popped off, then, seconds later, the grip on his neck was shifted just enough to allow something to stab into the back of his neck. Steve screamed in pain, writhed with it.
Every muscle in Steve’s body quivered, went haywire, as the restraints were removed and all contact was withdrawn. The three men in uniform retreated to the doorway.
Instead, someone in much nicer shoes approached. Steve grunted and tried to rise.
As soon as they returned to the room, Tony was off, brimming with eagerness. Steve was once more left behind in the apartment.
Suddenly, a loud boom echoed throughout the building, and the ground shifted beneath Steve’s feet. A second then third and fourth explosion rocked the world. Everything was falling apart around Steve; the building had taken serious structural damage in the attack.
When some of the dust cleared, Steve spotted a hole in the ceiling. He jumped up and climbed out just as another blast occurred. Steve wobbled on the precipice, the unsteady footing threatening to send him tumbling back down. It was only thanks to his enhanced reflexes that he regained his balance and moved forward.
Klaxons blared, and guards swarmed through the base. Steve took out any that came too close, but most of them hardly seemed to notice him anymore. It didn't help that no one seemed to have clothes in Steve's size, so he was stuck wearing the stupid outfit that Tony put him in, though Steve had tied a shirt around his waist to cover himself a bit more.
Steve didn't get to move through the base unattended for long. Some of guards weren't so willing to ignore Steve, though surely they had bigger problems.
Savagely tearing through the enemy, Steve continued to look for an escape route. Many paths were closed off by rubble or fire-suppression doors, but there were enough left open that he could keep moving forward. He had little chance to see the base before this and had no idea how large it was or where the exits were located. Still he could tell that he was getting closer to a way out from the taste of fresh air.
Turning a corner, Steve saw the last person he wanted to see: Tony. He stood there, in front of an open door with a case in his hands. He turned to solemnly look at Steve and took a step towards him. Steve backed up half a step and stopped, but Tony continued towards Steve.
Frozen, Steve couldn’t run as Tony approached him. Tony reached up, putting his hand on Steve’s collared neck, drawing closer. It was too close; Tony’s face was only an inch away. Steve hated himself for still not entirely hating the feeling of Tony’s hands on his skin, the soft caress of Tony’s breath. He braced himself for the worst.
All Tony did was softly press a kiss to Steve’s lips, gentle and sweet. It was breathtaking for all that it was chaste. Steve hardly noticed the click of metal as Tony released the collar’s catch, and it fell to the floor.
Steve couldn't understand at first, Tony taking the collar off was so wholly unexpected. Steve searched Tony's face for answers. Tony met Steve's eyes, for the first time since this started, Steve realized. Shocked by what he saw there, Steve drew back.
“Steve,” Tony said. "You need to go." Tony handed Steve the case he had been carrying. "Your uniform and a serum to flush out the nanites are in here. I've also included a drive with the data on all of the Hammer’s activities and business partner."
“Are you trying to buy forgiveness? You’d think after seeing how I dealt with Banner and Hank that you’d know you can’t worm your way out of this,” Steve said, rage coursing through him.
Seconds later Steve's fist connected with Tony's face and sent him staggering back. Clutching his cheek, Tony collapsed on the ground. He didn't seem the least bit surprised, rather a look of resignation was written across his face.
“I knew what was coming the moment I agreed to meet with Hammer, but you can’t just punch everyone who doesn’t live up to your standards. I was a necessary monster, and I’ve made my peace with that.”
No, Tony didn't get to do that. He didn't get to toy with Steve, let Steve think the worst of him and then just turn everything around. It wasn't fair. Steve's heart ached as he walked past Tony and out the door.
He should have punched harder.