"Get down on the ground." Steve steadied his weapon as the man at the end of the alley froze then spun on his heel. His eyes were wide, and Steve could see the terror and rage mixing behind them. "Down. On the ground," Steve repeated.
"Fuck," the man swore. He dropped the briefcase he was carrying and folded down until he lay flat on the tarmac, arms extended above his head.
"I've got him," Steve said through his comm, and in the background, he heard Jan redirecting the police to head after him. Steve approached the man cautiously. "Did you really think that little red herring was going to be enough to distract us?"
The man grumbled. "You run faster than I expected."
Steve shoved a knee against the man's spine and zip-tied his hands together behind his back. He reached for the briefcase, popping it open to make sure it wasn't yet another distraction. But sure enough, the stamped manilla envelope was inside. Steve tore it open and slid the sheets out. If the plans were marked at all, they might be able to trace this back to the source.
Steve's brow creased as he flicked through the pages. "What -?" These weren't black market weapons designs - these weren't designs at all. X-rays? CAT scan results… medical records… what -?
Steve's hand snapped out and grabbed the man's collar. He hauled him over and up until Steve's fist against his throat held him a foot off the ground against the brick wall of alley. "Where the fuck did you get these?" Steve growled, crumpling the pages in his fist.
The man shook his head, gasping for air, and Steve dropped him then pinned him to the ground with his foot. He sunk down over him, tossing the medical records into a pile by his foot.
"Who has seen these?"
The man shook his head again, and Steve fisted the front of his shirt and slammed his back against the brick.
When the man still refused to speak, Steve reached behind to where the man's hands were trapped behind his back and got a hold of two fingers. He wrenched them back until he felt them snap, and the man cried out and writhed in his hold.
"You were being paid to deliver these. Has anyone else seen them yet? Just you and your boss?" Steve twisted his grip around two more fingers.
The man started making panicky noises, hyperventilating, eyes wide and wet. "No, no," he muttered.
Steve lifted him up and pressed him against the wall again. "Who. Else."
"No, no, no one," the man choked out. "Just my boss. I don't even know what they are."
"Shit." Steve let out a tense breath then shifted back and slammed his elbow into the man's stomach, bringing him sobbing to the ground. Next to his head, Steve piled the papers and clicked his lighter until they ignited. It wasn't until the name at the top curled, blackened, and disappeared that Steve let out a tense breath.
Hot rage flared up in Steve's stomach as he thought about these filthy assholes going after Tony, spreading his cancer to the press. It was ingenious, really - SI stock price would tank if they found out about Tony's illness, and SI going down would bring the Ultimates to their knees financially - or it would have been ingenious, if they hadn't forgotten about Steve.
With the papers nothing but ash on the asphalt, Steve rounded on the man again. He cracked his fist across his jaw, smiling in satisfaction when he felt the crunch of breaking bone. Now it wouldn't matter what the man had seen; he wouldn't be able to tell anyone about it.
"Steve, what are you doing?!"
Steve half-turned at Jan's voice and saw the crowd of shocked-looking cops behind her. He grabbed the man's collar and dragged him in close. "If you so much as think his name, I will find you and I will end you."
Someone grabbed Steve's arm, and he let himself be pulled away from the man. Steve's hands were snapped into handcuffs behind him that would have no hope of holding him if he weren't letting them. He kept his focus on the other man, pinning him with a glare until they were both shoved into separate cars.
Steve watched the city flash by, fingers tingling from his weight resting on his arms. He shifted in his seat and the deputy in the passenger seat up front flinched. Steve sighed. This was the last thing the Ultimates needed, presswise. Captain America arrested for assault. Betty was going to kill him. Well, second last, after those records getting out.
It was hard to care, though, not when Tony was on the line.
He let himself be led from the car into the sheriff's station where just two hours before he'd been doing a mission briefing with Jan. The deputy guided him into a cell by himself and slid the door closed without a word. He could break out easily, but that would look even worse, and there would be no chance of keeping it under wraps at that point. But right now, there might be a way to stop this from being an absolute disaster. Steve leaned forward and peered through the bars of the cell.
"Don't I get a phone call?" he yelled at the deputy's retreating back.
Tony leaned back in his chair, one leg swinging where it hung over his other knee. He watched the headlines scroll by on his computer screen and pondered getting up to get another drink.
"I got my hands up, they're playing my song…" filled the room, and Tony looked down at his phone to see Steve's face glaring up at him from his icon. Tony smiled and swiped the call open and straight into speakerphone. "You know, darling, while you were snoozing in a freezer pack, they invented this amazing thing called texting…"
"Shut up, Stark," Steve growled, and Tony's smile deepened. "I couldn't text you because I've only been allowed my phone for one call. And even that was because I couldn't remember your number to use their phone."
"I'm in jail."
"Oh -" Tony snorted with laughter. "Oh my god. Who put Captain America in jail?"
"She was just doing her job," Steve muttered, and Tony could imagine the exasperated twist to his forehead. "But they say I'm going to be denied bail."
Tony couldn't hold back the laughter now, doubled over in his chair, gasping for breath. "You lunatic. You are the only one of the Ultimates who would call me looking for a bailout. Oh my god. Sweetheart, you are insane. What did you get caught doing?"
"I beat up a man in my custody."
Tony stopped laughing. "What?"
"I beat the shit out of a little worm in handcuffs then waited for the police to come arrest me, Tony. That's what happened. Can you take care of this or not?"
"I'll come get you."
"They're telling me to hurry up."
"It's okay, Steve. I'll come get you. I'm already tracking your location. Just sit tight. I'll have you out in an hour."
"Okay." Steve's voice was a mix of frustration, anger, and appreciation. "Thank you."
Steve hung up, and Tony set to work. He found the jail Steve was being held in - county lockup at a sheriff's station - and dove into their computer system. Ten minutes later, Tony was pulling on his coat and digging out the keys for the Lotus. It took almost the whole hour to drive to the Sheriff's station, and by the time he pulled into the lot, Tony was vibrating with tension. Steve had spent enough time locked up. He wasn't going to take this well.
Tony breezed up to the reception desk with a charming smile painted on. "Good evening, my dear."
The deputy at the desk looked up, and her eyes widened. "M-Mr. Stark. What brings you here?"
"I have an appointment with Sheriff Milne."
She swallowed audibly. "Um. I don't think -" She clicked around on her computer. "Oh. You do. One moment, please." She scuttled off.
Tony could hear raised voices in the back room. He played Tetris on his phone while he waited for her to return.
Tony held up a finger, watching as a long piece slid perfectly into the gap, and he was rewarded with a shower of points. He looked up. "Sheriff Milne. Thank you for meeting with me." He pressed into his office then turned back to face him. "You seem to have something of mine in your custody."
The sheriff settled behind his desk. "Uh. Mr. Stark… Captain Rogers was found assaulting an unarmed, restrained man. He's going to county where he's going to be arraigned and almost certainly denied bail…"
Tony leaned forward until his fists rested on the edge of the desk. "I understand that, Sheriff, but Cap's very, very sorry, and unfortunately he has far too much superheroing to do to hang around in jail." Tony's smile turned sharp. "And I should have far too much superheroing to do to waste my time sending the pictures of you and Lieutenant Cooper in a seedy motel on highway nine to your wife. I should also be far, far too busy to comb through your department budget records and find out where that four thousand dollars went last quarter." Tony leaned closer. "But, you see Sheriff, without the leader of the Ultimates… well… I haven't really got much else to do…"
The sheriff's eyes were wide and round, his fingers twitching against the desk. "I - he was assaulting…"
"I know. It was very bad. Don't worry. I'll make sure he's punished appropriately." Tony winked, and a flush bloomed along the sheriff's collar.
The sheriff blinked solidly at his keyboard for a long moment. "I'll need you to sign -"
"I'm sure that won't be necessary."
"I -" Tony watched as he went through several stages of panic silently. "Right." He stood and walked out of the office.
Tony followed after him and leaned against the front desk again, waiting. He spent the time digging through the office's records, deleting any mention that Steve had ever been there. It wasn't long before he heard Steve grumbling his way down the hallway. He looked up and grimaced at Tony, but Tony could see the relief there too.
"Took you long enough." Steve snapped his watch back around his wrist and followed Tony out to the parking lot. He rolled his eyes at the Lotus, and Tony chuckled gleefully. Steve hated this car.
They didn't speak until they hit the highway.
"You're an idiot," Tony said affectionately.
"I was protecting you," Steve mumbled at the window.
"I was in my penthouse apartment in my underwear, darling. I really don't think I was the one that needed protecting."
Steve rumbled low in his chest, eyes still fixed on the scenery flashing by outside the window. "He was going to release your medical records to the press."
Tony was quiet for a moment. He shot a glance Steve's way, tracing his tense jawline and creased brow. "Oh, sweetheart… I can protect myself, you know. It's not the first time someone's found out and threatened me. I would have handled it."
Steve flexed his scabbed-over knuckles, and Tony caught the hint of a smile turn the corners of his lips. "I liked my way."
Tony tipped his hand open on the console between them, wriggling his fingers enticingly, and Steve slotted their hands together, giving Tony's a squeeze. "You know, lovey, if you needed to burn off some extra energy, I can think of some other ways that won't end up with you in jail." He winked.
Steve snorted, but his fingers twitched around Tony's. "Just take me home, Stark."
Tony turned towards the city, into the brilliant red and orange of the sunset. He stroked his thumb along Steve's palm. "I always do."