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"This is getting really old," Tony complains, when Steve wrenches the cell door open. Without the stasis field, the lock breaks easily enough, and Steve seems to bend time and space to get from the door to the cell to Tony's side, his touch light and careful on Tony's arms and ribs. "Ow. Ouch. Ow, hey! Ow."

"Few broken ribs," Steve notes, without looking up, and at the doorway, Natasha stiffens almost imperceptibly. "His arm's broken too."

"At least they didn't break my fingers this time," Tony says, grimacing as Steve gently helps him up onto his feet, leaning his undamaged side against him, his good arm pulled over broad shoulders. "That's always a bitch to deal with."

"Tony, I-" Steve's expression freezes. "This was my fault. I was so busy chasing B... chasing the Winter Soldier that I-"

"That you missed a whole bunch of Hydra breaking through my personal defences in Stark Tower? No, seriously, Steve, this was my bad. I mean, I didn't realize that a reactor breach in Level Thirteen would allow a brief window for a security override on the PDRM turrets. Or that almost all the SHIELD agents assigned to Stark Tower were really Hydra minions."

"I'm still really sorry," Steve continues firmly, as he helps Tony out into the containment corridor.

Tony rolls his eyes. "Don't be, this got me out of this morning's general shareholder meeting. I swear, that sort of shit is like pulling teeth with a pack of thieves. Did I tell you about the old man who always steals our cups at the morning tea? And ow. Ow. I hate injections."

Natasha inspects the blood sample on the med-reader when it beeps. "He's on truthtell and a sedative."

"Are you going out with Pepper?" Tony asks, as they limp up over a row of empty cells. "Because that's kinda hot. Wait. Did I just say that out loud?"

Natasha glances at Tony, then at Steve, and snorts. "He's your problem," she tells Steve, and stalks off, presumably to wreak more havoc in the bowels of the Hydra Kidnapping Enterprise.

Steve sighs as though exasperated, and even under the drugs, that still stings a little. "Look, I know that the vanilla human's tendency to get repeatedly kidnapped is probably really annoying for you guys-"

"Tony," Steve cuts in, and they've actually stopped walking - Tony glances up, blinking, and takes a moment to register, muzzily, that Steve looks surprised rather than irritated. "Tony, we're the reason why you're always in danger. Gosh, did you really think that - Tony, we're really grateful that you're helping us out. You're so busy. You getting kidnapped now and then is our fault."

"Okay," Tony notes slowly, owlishly, "Maybe this isn't an appropriate time to observe out aloud that you're hot. Because I want to say it, I've wanted to say it for a long time, and I'm not sure if I've said it. Close up, you're so hot. I haven't said it, right? I think I haven't. Were we talking about fault? Have I mentioned the security breach reactor thing?"

"Yes you have, Tony," Steve says, his tone patient, but his cheeks pink to the ears. "Also, you think that everyone is hot."

"Fury isn't hot," Tony corrects, and he's still expounding on this point when Steve bundles him into a waiting StarkTech helicopter, perched on the slowly disintegrating courtyard of the Hydra complex. Deep below their feet, there's an echoing boom of the Hulk destroying necessary infrastructure, but Steve firmly drags Tony into the helicopter before he can investigate the growing web of hairline cracks on the cement.


It's his fault this time, Steve knows it. Steve was so focused on Hydra, on Bucky, that he hadn't thought to act like the leader he was meant to be, to protect everyone, not just his own interests. It's pure good luck and Pepper's crazy ability at crisis management that explains why nobody at Stark Industries was killed or critically injured when the attack came.

And it's pure, beautiful luck that Tony's alive.

Granted, none of the kidnappings so far had included any serious attempt at murder - Tony is far more useful to any evil villain/organisation/creature alive than dead, with his skills, but for a long and awful moment when Steve had heard about the hit on Stark Tower, he had thought that Tony was dead. After all, Hydra's imperative had been a kill order, not a kidnapping.

He reluctantly drops Tony off at a Stark-funded hospital and into Pepper's hands, and even more reluctantly allows Clint to shoo him off and take over the watch (or what Clint jokingly calls 'Tony-sitting'). Steve might not need much sleep but he hasn't gotten very much of it lately, ever since Maria took over ground operations and Fury disappeared off to... do whatever Fury thought necessary.

Steve's unsurprised to find Bruce in the hospital on the way out, dressed up like a doctor and reading a chart in an empty patient's private room. Bruce shoots him a quick, awkward grin when Steve pauses in the doorway, then he sighs when Steve steps into the private ward and closes the door.

"Just wanted to check on the medical chart," Bruce taps on the clipboard. "He'll be fine. The truthtell and the sedative will flush out of his system, then it'll be up to him. The breaks were pretty clean, and the scrapes and bruising are minor."

Steve grits his teeth briefly, then unclenches his hands with a careful exhale when Bruce looks pointedly at them. "I should've been careful."

"Hydra blasted through Stark Tower's defenses."

"I should have called one of you to stand by when I had even a small suspicion that Hydra would be after him. Of course they would've targeted him. He's SHIELD's most prominent independent contractor. He's the world's biggest philanthropist... he's everything Hydra is against."

"Well," Bruce said diplomatically, "Natasha talked to me. You had a... you were dealing with a lot of things. She could have made the call too, by the way, but she kind of... bluntly said that she wasn't sure who to trust, and had to prioritise."

"I trust you. And Clint. And Thor. It just slipped my mind," Steve admitted, frustrated. "And look what's happened."

"We make mistakes," Bruce awkwardly patted Steve on the arm. "And we can't be everywhere." He pauses. "But, ah, for the next few days..."

Steve nods slowly. It's starting to become an Avengers tradition. "I give him twenty-four hours before he cracks, this time."


Tony passes out in the helicopter, wakes up in his Malibu house with a blinding headache, chugs down half a bottle of thirty-year-old Macallan to compensate, and rolls into the second shareholder meeting with his arm in a sling over his crisp Ford suit as though nothing had happened. Rather to his surprise, Thor's sitting in a corner of the room, taking up far more space than he actually is, grinning and leonine in full armour, a touch too big for the ergonomic StarkTech chair that he's ensconced in.

A touch too big for life, even. Especially for life right after three days of being kidnapped and getting high on various illegal drug cocktails.

"...Okay?" Tony glances helplessly at Pepper, whose tight smile and quick shrug is Pepperspeak for I already tried, just run with it. The shareholder meeting runs quicker than usual, with nobody stealing any Stark Industries plateware on their way out, and at the end of it, Tony sidles over to Thor even as Pepper does the wrap up.

"Did you buy some of our shares when I wasn't looking?" Tony asks slowly. "How did that even happen? Do you even know what shares are?"

"The Asgardian economy has evolved beyond primitive concepts of currency," Thor notes blandly, because of course it has, "I am here as a show of support."

"Well," Tony blinks, "Thanks?"

"I am glad to see that your injury has not far inconvenienced you."

"Oh, this? I've had worse, remember?" Tony taps at the reactor in his chest. "I mean, if SHIELD hadn't shown up to extract me from Afghanistan when I was in that cave, way worse would've happened."

"Your courage is commendable, Son of Howard," Thor says heartily, and claps Tony on the shoulder, ow, "I shall leave you to your heroic struggle against basic Midgardian concepts of capitalism."

"What was that about?" Pepper asked, when Thor had wandered off to the nearest balcony to take flight. "Basic what?"

"Asgardian culture is more advanced in every single aspect of life, apparently." Tony shook his head. Asgardian humour sometimes left him wondering if Thor was just being (unintentionally) brutally honest or subtly sarcastic or both.

"But he's in a Lord of the Rings suit."

"That suit's also bulletproof, acid-proof and possibly nothing short of Wolverine's claws could get through it. I've checked the alloy. It's like nothing I've ever seen. There's also some sort of temperature control woven into the fabric that's powered by some semi-organic interweave. If I could figure out even a quarter of how his suit's been put together, we could probably make more money than what Iceland's paying us for their arc reactor."

"What about that cloak?"

Tony shrugs. "If I was Crown Prince of a series of worlds, I'll probably be rocking more than a red cloak. I'll be rocking cloaks in all the colours."

Pepper rolls her eyes. "Well, please make sure that his Royal Highness has no further interest in our basic Midgardian capitalist currency, or whatever it is, all right? I mean, it's sweet how the Avengers like to hang out around you whenever you've been hurt, but you're the CEO of one of the world's biggest independent companies. You're busy. They need to understand that. No more crashing our shareholder meetings."

"I'm a consultant, not their boss," Tony protests, even as he's bundled off to the monthly tour of R&D, and this time, to his surprise, Bruce's loitering next to the large arc reactor at the entrance of R&D, trying his best to look casual. Pepper looks startled, and Tony blinks at him. "Something up?"

"Uh, no, well, you've never shown me your labs before, and I thought, maybe, this time," Bruce tries, and as Tony arches an eyebrow, he gives up. "How's your arm?"

"Still broken," Tony says dryly, and Bruce winces.

"Ouch, okay, yes, I knew that, but-"

"Look," Tony notes kindly, "I know you guys are concerned, but seriously, I'll call if I need help, all right?"

"Well," Bruce digs his heels in, surprisingly, "I'll still feel better if I got the tour now."

Tony looks to Pepper, who arches both eyebrows at him, and he sighs. "Fine. Just... try not to Hulk out in there. We've got way more delicate equipment than in the Triskelion."

Bruce is perfectly well-behaved, so well-behaved that Tony leaves him to tinker along with the R&D team dedicated to gamma containment radiation, and Tony sneaks out to lunch when Pepper's distracted by a bevy of South Korean robotics distributors. He gets a few blocks out to a pulled pork sandwich joint that's one of his secret loves, right up against his love of things that explode and his love of Internet kitty videos, only for Clint to settle into the chair next to him at the communal table.

"Seriously, you guys," Tony growls.

"What?" Clint feigns astonishment. "The sandwiches here are awesome."

"I'm not about to get grabbed off the street during lunch hour. The traffic's so bad, the getaway van's going to have to crawl their way to evil freedom."

"Actually," Clint points out, "That's already happened twice so far, remember?"

"That second time didn't count, it was a coffee break! In Prague!"

"Tony, you've managed to get kidnapped even when you were in Singapore. I don't know who was more mystified: us, or the local police - that country's only, what, twenty-five miles and a spit across?" Clint notes patiently. "You've got a talent for getting kidnapped."

"It's probably something to do with being the richest man in the world and consulting for SHIELD," Tony mutters.

"Which is totally fine," Clint continues serenely, "But it just means that since we've got some downtime right now, we just so happen to like spending it keeping an eye on you. Less work for everyone involved, more awesome sandwiches."

"Someday I'm going to spend half a billion dollars building a... a giant robotic fuck-off suit or something so all of you will leave me the hell alone," Tony threatens, but there's no heat in his tone.

"Sure, sure," Clint shoots back anyway, "As if you'll spend that kind of money on a robot suit instead of whatever rainforest you're still in the middle of buying up to save the global climate, or whatever it is that you're doing right now."

"Just preventing a small global palm oil crisis," Tony scowls. Half a billion dollars can change the world, and it has. Since Afghanistan and Yinsen, Tony's never been able to morally justify using his money for his ego.

"You're the biggest hippie in the world," Clint tells him facetiously, as their sandwiches arrive.

"Your next set of StarkTech arrows is going to explode in your hands," Tony retorts, but Clint sticks to him like a barnacle, all the way until Tony finally gives up pretending to windowshop and slinks back to Stark Tower.

Irritatingly enough, Natasha is there, as part of some evil SHIELD tag team, evidently, in her not-quite-secretary disguise, and Pepper betrays him by immediately disappearing to deal with 'that Crimean energy deal's paperwork', with a sweet little smile that promises murder if Tony tries to slip away from his new and temporary minder. Tony ends up locking himself in the mens' bathroom after an hour of Natasha's passive-aggressive secretary act and calling Fury for help, but he gets voicemail, then Coulson, then Coulson again.

"SHIELD takes care of its own," Coulson says mildly, on the third time. "Thank you for your contribution, Mister Stark."

"What does Fury want this time?" Tony whines. "Another helicarrier? More swivel chairs? Swivel chairs that teleport? Get your agents off my back!"

"Agent Romanov and Agent Barton are both currently on annual leave," Coulson continues blandly, "And what they do in their personal time off is their own affair."

"I'm not an invalid!"

"Technically," Coulson begins, and Tony hangs up, irritated, glaring at his reflection in the mirror. The whisky's long worn off, and the painkillers feel like they're about to. His face is all bruised up along one cheek, where he had been slammed up against a concrete wall, roughened up with scrapes that are still scabbing over. He looks like a damned fright, but Tony doesn't give a fuck. He-

"Tony?" Steve's muffled voice floats through the door. "Can I come in?"

"Oh my God, not you as well!"

There's the faint sound of the lock being unobtrusively tried. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. Get the team back to the Triskelion and to the way more fun task of rooting out Hydra spies."

"Fury and Maria are taking care of that."

"Where's Fury? He wasn't answering his phone."

"The Director's... occupied with something else right now." Steve notes delicately. "He's gone off-grid."

"What?" Tony hadn't heard that. He opens the door to the bathroom, and Steve steps in, looking extremely self-conscious as he closes the door behind him.

"Yeah. It's bad. SHIELD's... mostly compromised, Tony. Almost all of it. Coulson and Maria are rebuilding. Fury's got other priorities. Until we figure out what's part of Hydra's network and what's not, everyone's sitting tight for now." Steve's expression is carefully sober. "Tony... Hydra was going to launch a targeting system, within SHIELD resources."

"I knew about that. Wasn't my tech," Tony added flatly. "Stark Industries refused the contract."

"One of the targets that they would've hit if it had come online was you, Tony," Steve continues earnestly. "So the team and I, we're still a little worried, all right? I'm sorry if you think that we're annoying."

"No, I..." Tony exhales. "It's not that."

"You're not just our consultant, you're also our friend," Steve adds, with a quick smile. "Some of us don't have very many friends left. Especially after what just happened in SHIELD."

Oh. Right. A little shamefaced, Tony nods slowly. "I guess I don't like feeling like I'm being... hemmed in. After Afghanistan."

"I know. I guess... we just don't want to lose anyone else."

"Fine." Tony throws up his one good hand. "All of you can keep stalking me. Wanna move in to Stark Tower? Or my place in Malibu? Feel free."

This time round, Tony certainly wasn't high enough on drugs to discount the very pink flush that climbed upwards from Steve's collar. "I'll let them know," Steve noted, his tone perfectly calm, even if his eyes darted away, and well now. Well now.

"...Okay," Tony blinks slowly at Steve. "So. I actually did say you were hot when I was totally out of it, didn't I? I thought that maybe it was a bad dream, and after the whisky I wasn't sure."

"You said that everyone was hot, except Director Fury," Steve corrected, though he smiles, a little shy, a little nervous, and totally weird on someone over six feet high and with shoulders broad enough to challenge Stark Tower's sleek and minimalist doorways.

"Wow." Tony says slowly. "Wait. This isn't part of some Avengers plan to stalk me 24/7, is it?"

"What is?"

"You and me? Flirting?"

"We were?" Steve turned even more pink. "I didn't mean to!"

"You didn't?" Life, Tony noted, had a tendency to run the fuck away with him even if no special Hydra drugs were involved.

"We already put you in so much danger," Steve adds earnestly, before Tony's ego has the opportunity to feel crushed. "I didn't want to add to it, and besides, you're always going out with some gal, according to the papers."

"All right, firstly, don't believe everything that you read. Haven't you learned this by now? And secondly," Tony checks off his fingers, "I will personally build a doomsday device to keep people the fuck off my back if it means that you'll go on a real date with me."

"... thanks?" Steve hazards, though he grins broadly now, his confidence returning. "I didn't think modern people dated anymore."

"Trends are way overrated."


"What's this I hear about a Stark Doomsday Device?" Fury sounds suspicious, and Steve sighs, even as he rolls onto his back, phone jammed against his ear with his shoulder.

"He was kidding around."

"With that brain of his? He never kids around. He'll make it out of a toaster and a lightbulb next, just to 'see if it works', and then the world will go to hell."

"I really don't think-" Steve hesitates as Tony mumbles something, stirring against him, then he adds, more softly, "I've got to go, sir."

"You don't think what?" Fury asks dryly.

"No, nothing sir. Slip of the tongue."

"You're a poor liar, son. Also, you picked up Stark's phone."

"Ah... well sir, I-"

"Try to keep everyone out of trouble. I'm close to what I'm after."

Fury hung up, and Steve drops the phone over the side of the bed. He hadn't meant to, but a groping hand had slipped down, lazily, and was now stroking his quickly firming cock.

Steve's breath hitches, even as his hips buck, and he knows he's blushing again, even in the dark. Everything that Tony did in bed was so lewd. So good.

"Hel-lo," Tony mumbles, amused. "Look at that. The wonders of science."

"Tony," Steve gasps, with a startled laugh.

"No, really. D'you know how much the serum would be worth to the porn industry?" Steve feels Tony grinning against his shoulder, even as Tony shifts up, his weight moving on the bed to either side of Steve's hips. "Round... is it three now? Four?"

"Four." Steve's breath catches as Tony strokes him until he's fully hard, then groans as he guides Steve's cock to rub against his entrance, already wet and stretched from the previous night, still dripping, dear God; Steve moans hoarsely as Tony sinks back down, slow and teasingly steady until they're flush together.

Tony keeps it maddeningly slow this round, just rocking against him, with the occasional thick gasp whenever Steve rolls his hips and hits something good. Steve can feel Tony leaking around him, Christ, as his cock shoves and rubs up into the loosening fit and pushes his come from the previous rounds out. It's the most filthy thing he's ever done, and the hottest: Tony keeps making these dry, gasping whimpers as he clenches around Steve with his hands braced tight over Steve's elbows. The breaks have healed up by now, but Steve's still careful as he slides his hands up to Tony's hips to drag him down hard over his cock, punching a choked cry out of Tony as he thrusts up.

"You're - uhh - amazing," Tony gasps, rolling his hips luxuriously against him, "Should've done this earlier. Should've thought... hey," he adds, stilling suddenly and making Steve whine and squirm. "This is just you, right?"

"Just me?" Steve manages to ask from behind gritted teeth. "Tony, move."

"I mean," Tony continues, his voice hitching but otherwise clear, "All of you are stalking me."

"Oh, that, I," Steve lets out a long breath when Tony snickers and starts to move again, rocking slowly, deliciously. "Everyone else is already attached, I'm pretty - nfph - pretty sure. We're - ahh - just stalking you for your own good-"

"That's right," Tony says dryly, "Call it as it is."

"We're just protecting an asset," Steve retorts, and pointedly squeezes Tony's ass, making Tony laugh and clench tight around him and groan.

"Sure. Well. Protect away, Captain. This is worth getting kidnapped for, by the way."

"Don't say that."

"You've got to put up if you want me to shut up," Tony challenges, and that ends up with Steve rolling them both around, very carefully, and lifting Tony's hips up to meet him; Tony screams when Steve drives into him, wary of his strength at first, then more confident when Tony curses and jerks an ankle against his back. It's rough and brutal and he doesn't last, pumping deep into Tony and holding his hips up to take it all, ignoring the squirming and the choked babbling pleas, then finally finishing Tony up with a few quick pumps of his cock.

"Wow," Tony rasps after. "Four. And to think that I thought that I would need drugs for this."

"Mm." Steve kisses the back of Tony's neck. "Pepper told me you have a meeting with some Swiss delegates at eight-thirty in the morning and you can't be late. So you should get a bit more sleep while you can."

"You still expect me to walk after tonight?" Tony asks, then adds, "I expect a quickie fifth in the bathroom later, supersoldier."

"Aren't you sore?"

"It'll be worth it." Tony stretches luxuriously. "Mm. And I have just got this crazy idea involving a toaster and a lightbulb-"

Steve hurriedly leans up to kiss Tony, pulling him close, even as Tony murmurs something between them before he licks into Steve's mouth with a low laugh. Some things, Hydra or not, were never going to change.