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“Jarvis, this is why I hate being me.”

“Because you discovered that HYDRA operatives make up 42% of the SHIELD workforce and are planning to seize control of the organization in the next week?”

Exactly.  We still need to access those records on Rogers.  Back on task.”

Tony continued to type away at the small keyboard, tugging every so often at the access card around his neck.


“Most of the communication between HYDRA agents must be passed along physically, sir. The reports we located containing the cypher make reference to a sleeper with code name CASR who will lead them 'when the time comes’.  No suggestion to any brainwashing or trigger words.”

Shit.  CASR shows up in intelligence from the forties and present day, doesn't he?”

“Unfortunately, yes. It seems Captain America Steve Rogers may be compromised. You need to report to Director Fury, as he's the only set of eyes restricted from these materials.”

He groaned into his hands.

“Stupid bastard probably knew what I would find when he convinced me to join this stupid organization.  I'm a billionaire. Why the hell am I here digging up government agency secrets? I could be on a beach. Drinking.”

“I believe the director phrased his proposal as more of a dare at the time. And then your personal feelings for Captain Rogers prolonged your service.”

“Mother fucker. And I may be dating a supervillain. Can this day get any worse?”

“Sir, Rogers just exited the elevator and is approaching your office.”

“Switch to silent mode, J.  Start recording and be ready to send Fury everything if things turn ugly.  Have the Mark LIX on standby.”

Tony cleared his computer screen and reached for the stack of files, unfolding the first report as the door opened.

“Hope I'm not too early?” Steve lifted the large brown bag he was holding.

“Never. Did you make me that sinful egg salad?” Tony stood and rounded his desk, attempting to steal the sack from the tall blonde.  Steve raised the arm holding their lunch out of his boyfriend's reach.

“Maybe. You'll just have to wait and see.”  Steve leaned down and kissed Tony as the smaller man pouted.

“Jerk. Should've left SHIELD and let you fend for yourself.  Want to eat here?”

“I should have warned you. I made plans for us to meet up with Natasha and Clint. They both got back from assignment earlier today and asked us to meet them near the garage.”

“Ah. Okay. Let's get to it. I'm not sharing my egg salad with them.”

Tony forced a smile.  He dropped his phone in his pocket and reached for his watch, but Steve pulled him out the door before he could grasp the metal band.

“No need for Iron Man today. I'll be sure to keep you safe.”




“I think an impromptu vacation is in order. How about we take next week off and go to Hawaii?  I can lay on the beach, you can go sprint up a volcano.”

Tony scooted up next to his boyfriend as he pulled out a pair of sandwiches.

“Sprint up a volcano?  Really? As much fun as that sounds, next week is no good. Already booked for an assignment.”

“Doesn't Sam owe you one?  Make him take your mission so we can go have some cake on the beach.”  Tony waggled his eyebrows, hoping the smirk on his face covered his unease.  The lack of reaction from Steve made his stomach roll.

“Sorry, Tones.  Operation parameters called for specifically Captain America.”

“Then I’ll just take a short leave while you’re gone.  I’ve been considering going to--”

Tony Stark definitely did not startle when a heavy hand landed on his back.  He took a couple of quick bites of his lunch, unable to taste the flavor.

“Any reason you have to go next week? We can go wherever you’d like once I get back.”

Tony wanted to believe Steve.  He bit into his sandwich again before noticing he was eating alone.  He assumed the fog collecting in his mind was his paranoia getting away from him.

“I just thought I could use a break. I've got a feeling I'd rather not be here when…”

Tony tried to stand, but the fingers clutching the back of his neck kept him down.  His vision blurred as he dropped the last half of his meal.

“Oh, Tony.  Sometimes you're too clever. Just a little late this time.”

He felt his body being lifted and carried before everything faded to black.




Tony startled awake to Steve's blank features across from him. He sat up, reached in his pocket to find his phone missing.

“There's no one you can call, Tony.”

Taking in their surroundings, Tony determined they were on the Quinjet.  His heart pounded in his chest as turned toward the cockpit.

“Jarvis, code fifty-ni--”

“Jarvis, Captain Rogers override.” Steve's vacant features creased as he snarled, taking the few steps over to Tony before backhanding him.

“Don't make me punish you.  Behave.”

“Yeah, I'm not making you do anything you don’t want to do, Rogers.” Tony rubbed his swollen cheek. His eyes darted around the cabin until they landed on the weapons locker.  As he made to stand, Steve took the seat next to Tony and pulled him over and pressed him into his lap.

“I cleared the guns and knives out of the ship while you rested.  Your AI will no longer take commands from you. Barton and Romanoff confirmed Fury was out of the picture.”  Tony struggled for a short time before the hands holding him tightened to the point of tears. Steve watched as the smaller man dropped his head, letting his dark curls fall against the front of his oppressor’s shirt.

“They’re HYDRA too?  Who that I trusted isn’t HYDRA?”

“Bruce is not, but he’s been MIA for awhile.  Same with Thor.” The supersoldier dipped his head to catch the other’s drifting eyes.

“I granted you amnesty.  You’ll be getting that vacation you wanted over the next week at my safe house.  Not close to the ocean, but the scenery is nice. No one around to bother you.”

“That’s it?  HYDRA will take over SHIELD, and then what?  Launch those helicarriers and murder anyone some software deemed a potential threat?”

“Yes, for now.  More will come later.  And over time, I am sure we can come to some sort of agreement.”

Tony snapped up and glowered.

“Fuck you, Rogers.  You know how adamant I am about normal issues.  I am never going to join the HYDRA bandwagon. Awarding me immunity will be your downfall.”

“I love you, Tony.  I don’t want to have to hurt Rhodes or Potts or young Parker, but I am willing to sacrifice them for the cause.  With time, we all break.” Tony’s tried to keep himself from crumbling, but the stress in his chest made his body tremor.  Steve tucked a lock of hair behind Tony’s ear before he leaned forward and kissed him on the corner of his lips.

“I reckon you will shatter beautifully.”

Chapter Text

Tony spent the next week trying to escape the HYDRA nightmare that was Steve Rogers.  Every chance he had, Tony either stole sharp utensils from the kitchen or attempted to hack the single landline in the house or the front (and only) entrance. While he had yet to successfully make a phone call or an escape, Tony kept his collection of steak knives and metal forks under the bedroom carpet. The bundle of tiny weapons was neatly hidden under the foot of the king bed frame.

Unfortunately, his live-in captor was a supersoldier and impervious to silverware.  Tony kept his supplies hidden for the time being as he continued to contemplate how he could use the arc reactor to his advantage.

“I find it hilarious that you own a copy of the Federalists Papers.  Is there really a need keep your cover here?”

Steve looked up from the stove and over to his home companion.  Tony’s body leaned against the door frame of the kitchen, holding up the offending book. He dropped the paperback in the trash and he sauntered up to the half-dressed blonde.

“Good morning, Tony. Didn't expect you'd wake up this early.”

“Haven't been able to sleep very well knowing my Nazi ex-boyfriend shares the bed.”  Tony got a glare and stony face as a response. Steve looked like he wanted to say something, but he instead turned back to the stove and killed the gas.

“Would you like some pancakes? I have to head out here in a bit, but we can have breakfast together before that.” Steve pulled out a pair of plates and held them out to Tony.

“Not hungry.  Also been having issues eating ever since you drugged my lunch and brought me to this hellhole.”

“I have some news to share with you.” Steve circled the counter and stepped up to Tony until the dishes touched his chest.  He opened up his mouth to refuse again, but a heavy stare and tight mouth made Tony swallow his words as he took the plates and fled to the far side of the table.

Steve served the food and brought silverware and syrup before sitting across from the hunched brunette.  He ate half of his plate before he gestured to Tony’s with that look in his eyes. Tony picked up a piece of bacon and took a slow bite, watching Rogers as he finished his meal and leaned back.

“HYDRA successfully took over SHIELD.  We seized the Fridge yesterday and have begun sorting through the artifacts and transferring them to Stark Tower.  I have...negotiated with the CEO to align Stark Industries with SHIELD in order for both to collectively prosper.”

“Pepper would never support HYDRA.  And SI has a very strict no ransom policy, so I can’t be used a bargaining chip.”  Tony managed to finish the bacon strip he was holding, stomach already churning. He stabbed his pancakes before he glared up at the blonde.

“The fact that SHIELD is under a different regime is not yet public knowledge.  I have shared certain details with necessary parties, including Ms. Potts, so that they were made aware of your situation.  Extortion also does not apply as we are not looking to make an exchange.”

“Demanding the company complies at the cost of my well-being is definitely--”

“Tony, believe me when I say no threat to your well-being was or will ever be made. You are under my protection.”  Steve stood and carried his empty plate to the sink, glancing over his shoulder back at the table. The dark bruises under his eyes and the flat line of his lips made Tony realize how tired and sad the man before him looked. The familiarity of that face made Tony’s chest hurt as his rancor started to falter. He got up and took a few uneasy steps towards Steve as the man leaned over the sink with the faucet running.

“What is the endgame here?  You know I will never cooperate with HYDRA and you won't be able to shelter me here indefinitely.  My immunity will be lifted, then I will be eliminated as a risk to the cause.” Tony moved slowly to touch Steve arm. The supersoldier slapped the lever down to stop the flow of water and turned.

“None of that will happen. Your safety was non-negotiable on my end.  No one would dare to violate my conditions.”

Steve placed a heavy hand over Tony's. He entwined their fingers as he leaned to rest his forehead on top of the shorter man’s dark curls.

“We can fix this, Steve. Before something like that happens. Let me go so I can--”

Tony’s hand was released. Rogers left the kitchen, only stopping shortly at the front door, face turned away as he spoke.

“Get rid of those knives under the bed. Otherwise I'll use them on Potts when she visits.”

The door slammed shut behind him.




When Steve returned, Pepper was with him.  By that time Tony had emptied his stash and returned all of the missing utensils to the kitchen.  Steve's face was back to being a blank slate.

The woman rushed Tony and wrapped her thin arms around his shoulders.

“Oh god, Tony. I thought the worst. When I tried and couldn't get ahold of you, I called Steve and Natasha but neither of them responded.” Pepper kept her damp face in the crook of his neck as she trembled. Tony noticed the heat in Rogers's stare and his tight stance as he watched them. He pulled Pepper back, pivoting her around and away from Steve.

“I'm okay, Pep. No need to worry.  Are you alright?” Tony looked over her slightly wrinkled pant suit and splotchy makeup.

“Fine. I'm just wanted to see you. I was assured you were safe. I didn't know what to believe.”

“Virginia, should we continue this conversation in the living room?”

Pepper collected herself before she turned to face the supersoldier.  She nodded once before she moved, dragging Tony by the hand to sit him down on the far side of the sofa away from Steve.

“James has been attempting to find you since last week. It was like Afghanistan all over again.”

“Almost.  Something about me makes those closest to being family want to betray me.”  Tony shared a small smile before he eyed Steve as he sat in the armchair across from them.

“You wanted to discuss some matters between the three of us.” Steve gestured for the CEO to speak. She braved his dark eyes with her own.

“You have corrected me several times stating that this is not a ransom situation, and yet you refuse to release the Stark Industries chairman to our custody.”

“Surrendering him to SI would void his exoneration for his infractions against SHIELD.  Let's not have that conversation again. Instead, let's continue our exchange regarding the redirection of SI.  We expect for you to begin analyzing the artifacts provided by our organization so construction of armaments can begin.”

“So this is literally a rehash of what HYDRA was doing seventy years ago. Make guns from power cubes and alien tech.”  The words left Tony’s mouth before he could consider stopping them. He automatically started tapping his arc reactor with his overgrown nails, groaning weakly when he recognized his tick and stilled his fingers.

Steve smiled at the scowling mechanic.

“While SI previously was unable to assist us, we want to involve the creators of the best weapons of mass destruction and the Iron Legion.  We understand the company's move away from government contracts for the last few years went against the wishes of the board of directors.”

“Since I hold the largest interest in the company, it was our collective decision to end weapon manufacturing to prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands. Exhibit A.  And the Iron Legion is not equipped for combat.”

“Yet.” Tony wanted to smash in that smirking face.

“They are strictly non-combatant.  This was intentional to avoid any confusion on whether they were machines of war.”

“SHIELD wants to change that protocol. We believe the Iron Legion will be better served protecting the public and fending off any potential threats.”

“Too fucking bad. As the majority shareholder--”

“Tony.” Pepper placed her hand on his lap, earning her a death glare from the now-standing blonde.

“The price of your amnesty included shared control over your assets to assure your compliance and to prevent you from becoming a hazard.”

“No way. Just because you call it amnesty doesn't cover up the fact that you sedated me against my will and kidnapped me. My lawyers will rip HYDRA apart.”  Tony ignored the red head’s reaching fingers as he stood and rounded the coffee table to confront Rogers.

“We have made it very clear this is a definite requirement in our contract with the American government.  No lawsuit can be made against our organization regarding this agreement without consequences. The board of SI also signed a declaration acknowledging your inability to be impartial on this matter.” Tony swung his fist, but Steve caught his punch midair and squeezed.

“You deserted your responsibilities to SI five years ago when you shutdown the primary function of your business and later joined SHIELD. Your split focus between the two occupations has made your decisions unsound, so I am now your handler.”

The same hand that embraced his this morning now crushed his knuckles until Tony could only see white. He heard a string of pops before the grip released.  Tony dropped to his knees and folded over, clutching the misshapen fingers to the reactor in his chest.

Pepper tried to engage her friend, but Steve moved in her way and motioned to the front door.

“Thank you for coming today, Virginia. Now that we're all clear on the situation, I expect Stark Industries to begin assessing the provided commodities and start running simulations before production. SHIELD will provide test subjects for R&D.”

She watched as Tony struggled to sit up. He gritted his teeth and started to say something, but the horrified look on Pepper's face made him exhale instead.  He bent back over and tried to breathe.

She turned her fury to the stolid man blocking her path.

“I'll leave for now. But do not think for an instant that this conversation is over. He adored you, Steve.  He trusted you. You will never get that back, regardless of the pain you inflict on any of us. You trying to win him back will only make him resent you more."

Pepper found herself being towed to the door with a heavy arm around her shoulders.  Once they reached the entrance, the supersoldier leaned down so his mouth nearly grazed her earlobe.

“Next time you see him, Tony will be a new man.  The Tesseract seems to have that effect of people.”

Rogers forced Pepper out the door, looking back briefly at the crumpled man on the living room floor.

“I'll be back soon.”

Tony heard the door close and lock in place before his lungs gave out and he conceded to unconsciousness.

Chapter Text

Turned out only four bones in Tony's right hand endured stress fractures.  The physician who made the house-call wrapped his fingers together and instructed him to continue doing so for the next two months.  Steve made the doctor depart quickly when he caught the greying man trying to sneak Tony a cellphone.

Tony no longer left the bed unless he was forced to do so. He ignored most of captor’s comments and only ate when necessary. Steve resisted the urge to knock some sense into his house guest as Tony grew more indifferent by the day.

“James Rhodes asked to see you.”

Tony pulled his shirt over his head with his good hand. He didn’t turn to face Steve as he responded.

“Do whatever you want.  If you're just going to use his visit as a power play, tell him I'd rather him stay away.”

He walked into the bathroom, leaving the door open as he finished stripping and slipped into the shower.  Steve stepped under the steamy spray behind him, brushing Tony's injured hand out of the way as he poured shampoo into his own palm.

“He misses you. I'll let him know you'd like him to come by.”

Tony closed his eyes as those strong hands started massaging his scalp. He felt soap suds slip down his neck as his head was moved directly under the flow of water.  The memory of periodic drowning back in the cave with his chest sparking made Tony tense and put distance between them. Steve let him retreat to the corner of the stall, out of reach of the showerhead, chest heaving.

Rogers took the next minute to clean himself before he returned his attention to the brunette.  Tony was once again breathing evenly and was watching him with red-rimmed eyes.

“Another panic attack?” Tony nodded, moving back under the spray. He handed Steve the soap and washcloth and let the supersoldier bathe him. He ignored the soft kiss on his thigh as Steve scrubbed his legs.

Steve toweled them both dry and dressed for bed.  Tony did not react when Steve pulled him back against his chest, his thick fingers slipping under his shirt to tap the arc reactor.

“Are you still brainstorming on how to make a break?  You must believe you can use this to your advantage.” He blocked the blue light with his hand.  Tony started squirming when those digits drifted down to his navel, tracing small circles on his belly.

“Or maybe you're hoping I will lose interest and slip up.  Is that why you're acting so apathetic?”

Tony grabbed Steve's lowering hand in his own. He hadn't rewrapped his fingers, so his grip was loose and ineffective.  Even so, Steve relaxed his joints and gently cupped Tony's injured knuckles, bringing them to his lips. He kissed the nail bed of each finger until he got to his thumb.  He drew the digit into his mouth and sucked lightly, groaning against the flesh before he let go completely and allowed Tony to scoot a few inches away.

“Let me reassure you. This ruse will not work. No matter what you plan, I will stop you. Now let's rewrap your hand before you hurt yourself.”

He got up and watched as Tony moved slowly off the bed and over to the dresser to dress his hand.




His next visitor was not his lifelong friend. Instead, Sam Wilson walked in alongside Steve, dressed in a grey suit and crimson tie.  Tony decidedly did not look at the blonde dressed in similar black attire.

“I thought the discussion with the board went well.  They seem to be on the same page about next steps.”

“You told James to meet us here?”

“Indeed. He just got back from a mission and promised to help you house-sit while I'm away.” Steve sat on the couch next to his captive, heavy hand landing on the other’s knee.  Tony continued to stare down the newcomer rather than engage the supersoldier.

“Seriously, Sam?  You take orders from an organization built to breed prejudice?  Are you stupid or do you just have zero preservation skills?”

Tony kept ignoring Steve, hissing between clenched teeth as the hold on his leg tightened.

“HYDRA has evolved over the years while staying in secrecy.  We strive to lead humanity down the necessary path for survival.  Freedom for all comes at the cost of destruction and death, and HYDRA will take that danger away from the people to save what little is left of this world.”

“And we get closer to our goal with each passing day.”

Sam seated himself across from the pair at a wave of his leader’s hand.  Tony felt bile creeping up his throat, and he fought the need to heave. His vision tunneled on Sam's satisfied expression until the room around him flickered from view.

“If you actually believe that bullshit, then you're nowhere near the man I thought you were.  Riley must be rolling in his grave hearing you say this trash. You were right, Wilson; you should have been the one killed that day.”

“Tony, that’s no way to talk to a friend.  Especially since Sam has promised to stay and keep you company for the next few days.  I trust you will prefer him to your other warden.” Steve released Tony’s knee in favor of tapping the inside of his thigh with a light touch.  The brunette turned his legs away and jabbed Steve in the side with his elbow.

“The day I prefer Wilson to my Rhodey is fucking nonexistent.  Why the hell--”

“Rhodes?  Oh no, wrong James.  Rhodes won’t be visiting until I have returned.  I am sure you remember us discussing my buddy Bucky.  You may have read up a bit about him and his service with HYDRA while you were hacking into SHIELD’s systems.”

The blonde averted his gaze, pressing his thumbs together as the rest of his fingers strung together in front of him.  Tony shot Sam a look and took in the man’s tight lips as he watched Rogers hunched form.

“You told me Barnes died.  Even if he was still alive, he would be over a century old and probably not the best person to play chaperone to my shenanigans.”

As the words left Tony’s mouth, the door to the house opened as the Winter Soldier stepped inside.  Steve stood and approached his rigid friend with slow steps.

“Buck.  Thank you for coming.”

“Steve.”  His words fell flat.  Bucky reached out his metal arm and shook his leader’s open palm.  Tony stared at the silver limb, his body turning cold when his eyes fell on the crimson star centered on the man’s shoulder.

“Him.  Barnes is HYDRA’s Winter Soldier?  The monster who bashed in my father’s head and smothered my mother?”

Tony had not realized he had crossed the room until Rogers restrained him, pulling him to his chest and locking Tony’s arms at his sides with that stupid sad look in his eyes.

“I’m sorry, Tony.  I regret that your research revealed that certain truth to you.  If it is any consolation, Bucky had little choice in the matter. Just another order programmed into his psyche.”

Tony felt angry, hateful, destructive.  All of the heavy emotions trapped in his chest made his frame shake.  His fury fought against the supersoldier’s tight clutch as the silent clip played in his mind again, and he watched the car crash into the tree, his father break beneath the man’s metal fist, and his mother struggle against those plated fingers--

“Breathe, Tony.  You are having another panic attack.”

“Fuck you, Rogers.  You’re sorry?  You fucking knew and never told me.  And as for your shit excuse for comfort--hopefully those lies can keep you warm at night when you’re out there killing innocents yourself in the name of justice.  Believing I could ever love you was the stupidest mistake I have ever made and let me reassure you that I will never have such a lapse in judgement again.”

Tony broke free of Steve’s arms, taking two steps back to admire as the blonde tried to mask his upset with a hardened expression.  After one more heavy glare at the other supersolider, Tony turned and left the three standing men and slammed the door to the bedroom behind him.  He did his best to stifle the sound of his fit of terror by running the shower and biting the loose skin of his wrist beneath the burning water.

When Steve heard the sound of the shower, he fought the urge to drag Stark back into the main room, still wet and naked.  The fear he had come to expect from his captive both excited and bothered Steve. Such control was reassuring, but remembering the delight and devotion those soft brown eyes used to share felt like a dagger in his abdomen.  

“He’ll calm down.  Used to see similar reactions from veterans suffering from post traumatic stress.  James and I will take care of Tony while you’re gone.”

Sam clapped his leader’s shoulder.  Bucky came forward, gaze wavering between the bedroom door and the floor.

“Perhaps it would be wise if I left.”

“No.  While I trust Sam’s abilities, Tony can be crafty and it may require some extra strength to keep him in check.  Buck, I won’t rest easy if you’re not here making sure he’s safe. If he manages to escape, he will die.  Or worse.”

Barnes took a deep breath before nodding.

“I’ll look after him.  It is the least I can do, given everything else I have done to ruin his life.”

Steve smiled at his friend.  He allowed himself one more long look at the bedroom door, remembering the feel of the soft skin of Tony’s belly after they had bathed together.  He dropped the memory and tore his gaze away, nodding at the two next to him before he left.

Chapter Text

Tony tried locking the bedroom door.  As he expected, Sam stepped in minutes later with a key in hand.

“No point, Stark.  Dinner is in twenty.  Either you come out and join us on your open terms or James will force feed you spaghetti and sausage.  As suggestive as that sounds, I feel like you won't enjoy that experience.”

Tony skulked into the dining room after another threat involving the Winter Soldier with a fork.  He initially just sat there, but he soon started shoveling food in his mouth when the supersoldier stood up and began to approach him.  Once his plate was empty and his stomach was angry, Tony fled the table, wrangling his dirty bowl into the dishwasher before disappearing back into the bedroom.  He took a long shower, keeping the heat high so his skin stained a bright pink. Just as he was getting into bed dressed in his designated pajamas (Steve was insistent on the unnecessary standard for bed attire, with Tony’s only other option being nothing at all), Sam opened his door again.

“Steve asked for one of us to sleep in the room with you.  Given that he might skin us if we share the bed, we’re putting the extra sofa in there.”

After the two HYDRA agents settled the couch parallel with the dresser, Sam exited the room.  Barnes sat on the edge of the sofa, hiding his metal hand between his torso and the armrest.

“Seriously?  Cut the shit and go away.  I won’t be able to fall asleep with you staring at me.”

Barnes got up and left.  Tony let himself smile, but this hope died in his chest when the man returned with a book and blanket.

“Come on.  What, does it seem unreasonable that I’d prefer not to have my parents’ murderer only a few feet away from me while I’m unconscious?  And yeah, me being awake probably can't prevent you from doing whatever the fuck you want, but I like it when the monsters stay in my dreams when I wake up.”

The ragged man gave Tony a long look.  His eyes did not quite meet Tony’s, but the fear in his gaze sent a shiver down his spine.

“I am under orders.  Steve said you were allowed Benadryl if you had issues sleeping.”

“Oh yes, I really fancy the idea of being drugged around a serial killer.  Why didn't I think of that?”

“You realize my intention is not to kill you. Steve wouldn't let me anywhere near you if he thought I would bring you harm.”

“Old habits tend to be difficult to suffocate.  Maybe you want to complete the Stark set.” Barnes noticeably tensed, dropping Tony's glare and staring at the frayed paperback in his lap.  Any guilt Tony may have felt for upsetting the broken soldier was buried beneath his rage as the familiar taste of bile crept up his throat.

“My mom had planned for me to join them for that holiday excursion, but I convinced her otherwise.   Was I also part of your original kill order?”

“If you had been, you would be dead.  The Winter Soldier did not fail to eliminate a target.  On the rare occasion where he lost his opportunity on the first attempt, my handlers put me back on ice and scrambled my brain some more before sending him off again.”

Tony looked down at the sound of ripping paper.  He watched the hunched man shred the book cover until the glossy paper was confetti.  When he glanced up at Barnes’s face, Tony's anger faltered. He averted his eyes and blinked several times, giving the man the chance to wipe the wet streaks off his cheeks.

“Then what's your deal now?  You seem to regret your past actions, and yet here you are walking around with all of the other HYDRA scumbags.  Did you decide compliance was better than compulsion?”

“Steve wants me awake.  They still put me in the chair when the Winter Soldier has a mission, but the rest of the time I am just the same old Bucky he remembers from the forties.”

“So, pray tell, what is keeping you from busting ass and leaving this hellhole?”

Barnes scowled, eyes wide and suddenly angry.  Tony scooted to the opposite side of the bed after the supersoldier slammed his metal fist on the armrest.

“A lot has changed on the outside while you've been here living pretty with Steve. The helicarriers would probably be the least of my problems.

“Excuse me--living pretty?  Is that what you consider this Stockholm prison?”

“Compared to the New York death site?  Yeah, Stark; I'm pretty sure your situation, husband of HYDRA's head general, is a bit nicer than the concentration camps being built across the country.  Most men with your political stance and superhero status are either dead, dying, or complying, hoping their immoral actions will allow their friends and families to survive.  And here you are, bitching how horrible your life is because Steve took a shine to you and bargained for your safety so you wouldn't be sent to die or be made a puppet of HYDRA.”

He regretted his words when he looked up at the other man. Tony gaze was wide and unfocused as he gripped the bedspread between his strained, pale fingers.  He bent his back forward until his head hit his covered thighs.

“You're lying.”

“I wish I was.  Most mutants and overpowered beings have been rounded up and slaughtered.  Either that or they're waiting for the next round of eugenics testing to kill them or they're the newest foot soldiers for HYDRA’s SHIELD operation.”

“Peter. Where's Peter?”

Barnes sat frozen as Tony flipped the blankets and scrambled toward him until he was knee-to-knee with his parents’ killer, reaching fingers shaking as they went to clench the man's nonmetal hand.

“Peter Parker.  Spider-Man? Almost fourteen, lives with his Aunt May in Queens?”

“He's currently in the custody of your company. Steve arranged for SI to house him for the time being, given specific parameters.”

Tony seemed to relax, but he did not release his hold on the supersoldier.

“For the time being? What parameters? Bar--James. Please.

Barnes looked down at their joined hands.  He let his grip go lax, twisting his wrist until his palm was face up and curling his fingers around Tony’s knuckles.

“He’s not allowed to leave Stark Tower without Steve accompanying him.  He must wear destabilizers at all times to minimize his powers. Steve drove R&D off from weekly mutation trials after their testing gave him a seizure. He told me he planned to bring the kid here when things are more settled.”

Tony had started shaking halfway though Barnes's explanation. After a short moment of silence, Tony got up, grasp tight as he tried to pull the larger man up from the couch.

“I need to talk with Steve.  I know I'm not allowed to use your cellphone, but there's a landline in the living room.”

“Stark. He's halfway across the globe. Even if Steve picks up, Parker won't be allowed to come here without him.”

Tony tugged again, but Barnes stayed seated. He took the supersoldier’s wrist in his wrapped hand before pulling again, teeth grinding and cheeks tight with pain.

“He's a fucking kid! And I made a custody agreement with his family, which means--!”

“It was that exact arrangement that gave Steve full guardianship of Parker after HYDRA shot up his aunt for trying to hide him. Stop--you're going to hurt yourself.” When Tony continued to yank and cringe as his breathing started to shorten and quicken, Barnes took his elbow with his metal hand.

“You're having a panic attack. Breathe with me.”

Surprisingly, the smaller man stopped struggling. Tony's throat felt thick as he attempted to even out his inhales, but his exhales morphed into whimpers, vision blurring his sight of the Winter Soldier's silver limb.

“It’s my fault. May's dead and Pete's suffering because I told a fucking teenager he could be a superhero and gave him a high-tech suit that made him a prime target for HYDRA. Fuck.

James moved slowly as he pulled Tony back down to the couch.  Once the shaking man was seated again, the supersolider covered them both with his blanket and only wavered for a second before he wrapped his real arm around the other’s shoulders, drawing him closer.

“HYDRA would have known about the kid’s abilities even if you’d never come into the picture.  I would even wager he’d be dead by now if you hadn’t taken a personal interest in his well being. Otherwise Steve wouldn’t have stepped in when he did.”

“Hah. Good thing Rogers like using people I care about against me.”

Tony ignored the screaming in his head and the violent flashes from that familiar video as he rested the side of his head on Barnes’s chest and let the sound of the man’s pulse lull his rattled senses.

“I do not think you realize how much of an effect you have on Steve.  He’s a monster on the field and lacks ask sympathy for his targets, but he reminds me of the kid in Brooklyn I grew up with when he’s talking about you.  Maybe it’s dumb and damn naive, but that gives me some hope HYDRA didn't brainwash all of the good out of him.”

“Brainwashed? I couldn’t find any evidence of brainwashing or trigger words when I hacked into SHIELD’s database.” Tony peered up and caught the other man staring down at him, eyes unfocused and dull.

“It’s definitely some advanced form of conditioning.  HYDRA used the Tesseract on him when they captured him back in 1945.  I was stationed there in case things started to go south before they finished the procedure.  Three days later, Steve came out spouting HYDRA rhetoric and plotting their global takeover.  They faked his escape so he could go back to base and begin to put their plan into action. Thankfully he went down in the Arctic not too long after. But once SHIELD located him, HYDRA got their claws into him again to make sure he was still loyal to the cause before letting him loose in the world to start his mission again.”

Fuck.  And this Tesseract?  HYDRA still has it?”

“As far as I know.  I imagine they would send me or Steve after it if they didn’t still have it.”

“Maybe...maybe if we got our hands on this Tesseract, we could return Steve to his old self.”  

Tony felt the grip on his shoulder tighten.  The Winter Soldier finally met his gaze, and the captive did his best not to cringe under the dark glare as he ducked his head down again.

“The minute they figured out that scheme, I would be put back in the blender and iced again, then HYDRA would go behind Steve’s back and have you killed.  Better to have an unhappy supersoldier than no supersoldier at all.”

“Probably.  Based on what you’ve told me, I’ve only ever known the bad Steve.  I can imagine the real one must be pretty amazing if I fell for this version.  I hope I get to meet him someday, though he probably won’t like me much once he gets to know me.”

“I doubt it.  His feelings for you have nothing to do with HYDRA’s conditioning.  If anything, they’re getting in the way of what they want from him. He’s rather adamant HYDRA keeps you out of the picture.  I’d say it’s the only real part of Steve that’s left.”

James felt the other man smile into his shirt.  With a sigh, Tony pulled his legs up on the couch and settled in after a heavy wave of exhaustion hit him.  He closed his eyes and counted with the other’s heartbeat until he was asleep.