He didn't know what happened. At one point he was in Afghanistan and then he was being moved to different place. He didn't see anything but the drop of temperature was really noticeable.
He thought that the hot weather was awful but when he started to feel frostbites on his toes, he quickly changed his mind. Everything was worse when you were cold. In Afghanistan, you need water. Unfortunately, they had enough of it so they used it to force him to create weapons. Not that he did created something for them. But here? If you don't have enough clothes you get cold. If you are wet you get cold. If you are outside you get cold. And so on...
And when you get cold you cannot focus, it hurts, you get weak and it can kill you. They said that dying from cold isn't bad. Nothing hurts at the end. But before? It's fucking awful.
Tony was shivering. His fingers were numb and we wouldn't be able to hold a screwdriver even if his life depended on it. Which kind of did and that's why cold suck so much. Yeah, after this he will never go skiing again. Ever.
The only thing he could do at the moment had to hold his arms above his arc reactor. It seems that this thing has now another purpose that to keep shrapnel out of his heart. Now it was his personal heater. Still the air was so cold that it stole all the warm he was trying to keep.
After what felt like days he was thrown in a cell. It didn't take long for him to pass out. He was pretty sure he won't wake up again but he did. And it hurt. It seemed that his captors didn't want him to die because of the stupid temperature so they turned the heater on. And what happens when you go from freezing to hot? Yeah, it hurt as bitch. Whoever wanted him alive didn't bother about his comfort very much. He needs to make a complaint.
Tony was laying on hard mattress. The temperature was finally set to a reasonable level after his hot wake-up. He was still recovering from the transport. Feeling tired with sore body he was hoping that nobody will want anything from him today. But as this normally go, couple of minutes later he heard the opening of metal door of his cell. With his experience from Afghanistan his body twitched at the noise as he started to turn on his side so he could stand up easily. God forbid that he was slacking when the captors entered his cell in cave. They would give him a lesson.
Before he was able to sit, the door opened and a light from a torch was directed to his face. The tried to cover his eyes with hand when he heard a male voice.
“Welcome Mr. Stark, I am glad to see you are doing well. Please rest, tomorrow will be a busy day for you.”
“What the hell...” his words were cut off with the noise of closing door. Blinded with the light he found himself alone in his cell again.
What seemed to be next day, he was hauled from his cell with two guards. Both of them had face masks and didn't bother to wait for Tony to stand up. They half carried him though grey corridors until they went inside well light room which looked as some type of laboratory.
There, in the center stood an unknown man. Shorter than the two guards with unremarkable face and blond hair which were obviously coloured.
“Good morning Mr. Stark,” greeted him Mr. Unremarkable. Tony recognized the voice from previous night.
Still full of experience from Afghanistan, Tony keep silent. They didn't care about his opinion, he learnt that the hard way. After moment Mr. Unremarkable shoved a pleasant smile. The lack of response was the good response.
“I will be honest with you Mr. Stark. People here weren't very happy with my idea of bringing you here, especially after the Ten Rings didn't manage to make you cooperate.” He shook his head like Tony was just a disobedient child.
“Because you don't need to be a prisoner. You are a creator. Nobody on this planet is close to your level and I am giving you the opportunity to create weapons which would make people scream with terror. They will fear you, they will respect you. And you will keep doing what you did until now.” Tony breath get shallow.
No. No. No. Please no.
“I heard about the times your creations were denied by army. Unethical. Unwanted. They didn't understand. I do. You don't have to prove yourself. Because we are already in awe. Your weapons shape the word, but now... you can change the word for good. With me.”
Tony couldn't keep listening. The man was going and going, making Tony feeling sick more and more. He could believe it. How did he come to this moment? When? Why? Oh God. Please no...
“There is a lot to take in, I understand. Don't worry Mr. Stark, we will let you get used to this place first. You will feel fight at home in no time.”
They showed him places where he will be working. They didn't ask if he is going to create weapons for them. They were so sure of it that even Tony himself believed it sometimes. After Afghanistan, they unintentional kindness worked more than the torture. They watched him but didn't hurt him. In allowed places he could do whatever he wanted. He even set one work place to fire. To see they reaction, but they just pat him on his shoulder and called somebody to clean the mess. No punishment.
It didn't make any sense.
After some weeks, when he wanted always on edge, they started to praise him on his previous work. It started slow but after two weeks he was preening at the praises. But then, after they talked about one of his missiles, he almost volunteered information about possible update which will make it deadlier. He stopped himself in time but it makes him feel awful. He was disgusted of himself. He spends the remaining day hidden crying and vomiting everything he ate that day.
He stopped communicating with them after that. Too afraid of what he could reveal to them. Still no punishment. No. They tried to make him feel guilty, that they care. The worst part, he started to feel guilty. He wanted their approval, attention.
He would prefer physical punishment.
There were so many people around him every day.
He felt so lonely.
Tony was sitting with assistant of Mr. Unremarkable. She was a petite woman with permanent scowl and no-nonsense attitude. Miss Scowl. They didn't like each other, but at the same time nobody liked her either. Which meant that they left him alone when she was around. She knew that but never commented on it. By his opinion, she was lonely too but had too much pride to admit it. He could relate here.
“... and as always, she stuck her nose where it doesn't belong.” Said miss Scowl to him. Tony always responded with nondescript sound. It was enough for her. “And now everyone here know that they will move the Winter Soldier here for his arm maintenance. Unbelievable!”
The Winter Soldier. What Tony heard about him everybody was pissing themselves when they mentioned him.
“Well, it doesn't happen every time,” Tony played for nonchalance, finishing for more information.
“Yeah, this week...” she lowered her voice. “I got a peak on his file. Mindless killer. They are planning to brainwash him after the maintenance...” she is bending towards him. “Again!” Tony raised both eyebrows, she looked smug.
“Soo, what maintenance you are talking about?” She didn't understand first thing about it but Tony still got pretty good idea what is going to happen.
This may work.
Tony was kind of impressed. Nowadays, assassins are people who blend easily. This one wouldn't. He looked like badly concealed terminator. But the metal arm was awesome. His fingers twitched, he really wanted to play with his arm.
But after a while of snooping he found out that he wouldn't be able to get closer look on it. Not when he wasn't cooperating as they wanted. All he did now was to update they TV and other non-lethal electronic. Mr. Unremarkable started to be very displeased. He still wasn't allowed near computers with any connection and with how the things progressed, he won't ever be.
But he got bored so easily that even an ugly thought passed his mind. Like if he helped them a little, there will be a bigger chance to escape. But he stopped himself, most of the time it wasn't about escaping, he just wanted to create, build something.
So, after he saw the Winter Soldier for a short moment, he started to tinker with stuff. First of all, the brainwashing made him think about ways how you can stop it from being effective. But he didn't know how are they doing it, so he just created a device which will eliminate electric pulses going through body. He may sell it one day to electricians. Yeah, no more guns, just to protect people.
At the end, it was really small device, kind of ugly. It didn't have any important components on it. It worked like a parasite. You need to first connect it to some power source for it to work. But it has to be this way, otherwise they will get curious about it and God knows what they would do with it. So, he put it with his tools he carries around and forget about it.
It was an accident. They have some safety problems in the rooms occupied with the Winter Soldier. So, they have to move him to different room and left to deal with the problem. They forgot that Tony had access to this room.
It is not like he was seeking him out, maybe he was just strolling around. But after that, he found himself with the Winter Soldier a.k.a Winter in the room alone. Seriously, there was nobody around to stop Tony from doing something stupid.
Like try to talk to him.
“Did you choose this look personally? Or it is trending now? Looking like a super villain?” said Tony with nonchalance. Trying to hide his nervousness. But without any response he got bolder.
“Did you hear about Grumpy Cat? You look like her fan or it is the other way around? No? Uh...” Tony made a melodramatic turn then checked that nobody was still around.
“They really messed with you good, terminator.” Sighed Tony. “I am in no position to help you, I need some help myself but maybe it will help you a little bit.” He crossed the room and stopped before the arm.
“It isn't anything fancy, maybe it won't help you at all but...” Tony carefully opened one of the plates near his shoulder and inserted the small device he created recently. It took few minutes but Tony was pretty sure that he hides it well. “Your beautiful arm is from metal, so this should help with electricity. Or not.”
When everything was secured, he looked at the soldier again. He was for a moment started to see he was being watched. Then he Winter spoke.
“Elaborate usefulness.” Tony looked at him in confusion.
“Elaborate what? Winter dear, it helps with pain.” He was rewarded with a blank look. Well, not that there was any emotion before. “And reduce electric damage?” he got a nod.
“Uh, uh.” Tony shook his head. They got him good. “Glad you liked it. If you need another update let me know. Bye.”
Then he left. Better early than later.
Three days after he was sitting with miss Scowl again.
“I think they will get rid of her soon. She broke the Chair. Can you believe it? It never happened before. They said it was problem with electricity.”
“Chair?” asked Tony. Did they execute here people on chairs? She gives him another smug look.
“It is the brainwashing machine!”
From what he heard from miss Scowl, they don't know what is wrong with the Chair. And as more time passed, the more restless everyone was.
It was another two weeks before he saw Winter again. He moved differently. He wasn't so still anymore, he even looked around. At one moment their eyes met. Tony felt like somebody walked over his grave.
After that he tried not to think about Winter. But as hard as he tried, he still got really uneasy feeling.
It was another week before Tony found Winter. Or more likely, Winter found him. Let say that Tony would deny his reaction after he saw Winter watching him. He totally didn't make that sound.
“Uh, hey Winter. How it's going buddy.” Said Tony with fake smile. Yep, he wasn't nervous at all.
“It stopped.” Said Winter.
“Stopped what?” Tony blinked. He was tired, didn't even remember the last time when he had coffee or slept.
“The pain. It stopped.” It took Tony painful four second before he catches up.
“Great! I am all about stopping pain now. But it would be better to keep it a secret, cupcake.” Whatever Tony said made Winter to relax a little bit.
“Are you even allowed to be here?” at this Winter got even grumpier than before. “Why are you here?”
“Help. You said, you needed help.” Tony's eyebrows went to the roof.
“You should be careful about what you are offering, soldier. Because I want to get the hell out of this place and go home.” Tony signed, very unlikely.
“I will help you.”
“Well, um... We need a plan and weapons. And coffee, I definitely need some coffee.” Tony started immediately to plan they escape. It would take him at least a day before he will have everything ready, and he told that to the soldier.
“We are leaving now.” Said Winter and grabbed Tony's arm with his flesh one.
“What?! No! We need weapons.”
“I am a weapon.” Tony send him a glare, he opened his mouth to respond when he read an alarm.
“How could they know it so fast?” that question got him a short squeeze of his arm. “Don't tell me that you...!”
They got interrupted with a duo of guards which intercepted them. They never stood a chance against Winter. Tony could just silently watch how Winter send them flying against a wall. Tony flinched at the sound of their impact.
But he didn't have time to freak out. The next moment Winter pushed a gun into his hands and they were on their way out. To Winter's surprise, Tony had lot of experience with guns, so when they got a big group before them, half of them are out before Winter gets them with his metal arm.
Which results with Winter giving Tony every gun he could find. But unlike Winter, Tony has certain limit of stuff he could carry, so at the end he had to sneakily leave couple of them behind.
At one point, Winter stopped before a laboratory. It was so sudden that Tony nearly run in to him.
“We need a bomb.”
Tony shook his head. “They don't have them here, I was here a couple of times.”
“I can make one, but the damage won't be enough.”
“Oh! You want to blow the building! I can do that!” Tony grabbed Winter's arm then turned to the door on left.
He was going to enjoy it!
At the end, it wasn't a military base. They got out almost unscathed. Or at least Tony did. Winter will heal soon enough, as he told helpfully to Tony. It didn't stop Tony to freak out when Winter got shot.
“You are bleeding!”
“It is not a lethal wound.”
“Do I look like I fucking care!”
“Shut up and hold still!”
“Next time, we should get one of their cars before we will blow the place.” Complained Tony. Currently, they were walking in the middle of nowhere.
“The cars have trackers.” Responded Winter. At least he was kind enough and carried most of the stolen weapons himself.
“That's no problem, I could get rid of them... Speaking of trackers, you think they put some of them in your arm?” Winter stopped at that and looked at this hand. The next moment he frantically started opening his arm plates. Seeing that Tony immediately went to him to stop him before he will damage something.
“Hey, easy there. That is not... oh c'mon, I will do it.” Winter send him a dirty look but got still. “Great, now we will find a place where we can sit. I am not doing it standing.” Unfortunately, they didn't magically find an abandoned cottage. So, pile of kind of flat stones had to work for now. At least they weren't on the main road.
It took Tony half an hour before he was sure what belonged inside and what not. He found six trackers, he kindly let their destruction to Winter. He didn't hold back.
Tony was half asleep when Winter stopped with words that they will rest here. Not bothered to complain he just laid on the ground ready to sleep. But the moment he closed his eyes he was picked up by Winter.
“When I get my rest, will l be very offended,” said Tony sleepily. He didn't even bother to open his eyes.
Winter didn't respond to that. He carried Tony to more secured place, he then placed Tony in a V of his legs with Tony's back on his chest. One of the guns in his metal arm, the other one holding Tony in place.
The next day they were still on their way to civilization. Without any food. It wasn't problem for the Soldier. But Tony Stark was a different story. He didn't complain not even when Winter refused to visit a passing village. There was a big chance that they waited there for them.
The day after was much worse. Tony was tired, hungry and cold. Not so much cold as when they transported him here months ago. It seems that it happened though winter, now it is late spring. But it was still cold. So, like the last time, his arc reactor was a heater once again.
Speaking of the reactor...
“What is this?” asked Winter, pointing with his head to his chest.
“This? This little thing is keeping me alive. Keeping metal shrapnel out of my heart.” Said Tony as he placed palm of his hand over his arc reactor.
“They did it to you?”
“No, I did it to myself.” That got him single nod from Winter. He didn't mention it again, none of them did.
Tony woke up sore and more tired than when he went to sleep.
“We have to go.” Said voice near his ear. Tony tiredly opened his eyes. First thing he saw was Winter's stubble which reminded him that he didn't wash in couple of days and he probably smelled awful. And that wasn't fair because Winter didn't smell bad at all.
“Okay,” responded Tony but didn't move. He was so tired and Winter was very warm. He should keep him. He giggled at that though. Keep Winter when it's winter. He closed eyes for a moment, he will get up in a minute.
The next time Tony opened his eyes Winter was carrying him on his back. Which at the moment didn't make sense, because Winter always carried guns there. So, he asked where they are. Winter stopped for a second, surprised, then started walking again.
“They are not important.”
“But what if...”
“Hush, go to sleep.”
“Wake up.” Said persistent voice.
“Hmm..., what?” mumbled Tony.
“Drink this,” said soldier and the next moment Tony felt a cup touching his bottom lip. He took a sip before the cup was removed from his lips. He whined on protest, it tasted so good.
“Show down, you will get sick.”
“No, I won't!” that got him very unimpressed look from Winter. Tony signed and looked around. They were in some wooden house or cottage.
How long ago we escaped? How long I was out? How long until we're safe?
“We escaped five days ago.” That mean at least six days without food. He should eat more regularly. “Tomorrow, we will continue.” Tony looked out of the window. It wasn't even noon yet. The wanted to point that out but noticed the dark circles under Winter eyes. He started to feel guilty.
“Then you should get some sleep.”
“Yes. Oh c'mon, I'm pretty sure that corpses have healthier colour than you.” Winter send him a dirty look to which Tony responded with a cheeky grin. But he did acknowledge that he needed rest. So, he brought another cup and a gun on a table near Tony.
When Tony went to grab the cup, Winner slapped his hand. Which resulted in the most pitiful pout Tony could manage. Not used to its effectiveness, Winter looked at lost for a moment and then he just rolled his eyes and went to lie on old looking couch in the room.
“You are not going to drink that for another hour.”
“I am not?” challenged him Tony. He couldn't help himself.
“No, you are not.” Said soldier with a warning glance. Then you closed his eyes.
Tony looked at the cup. The temptation! He signed and looked out of the window. Because of that he missed Winter's barely there smile.
Winter slept for couple of hours but it was still light outside when he woke up. It was so sudden that it surprised Tony, he was pretty sure he would sleep through the night.
“You don't have to wake up, there is still time. You can go to sleep.” Offered Tony. But Winter just shook his head and got up. The first thing he did was to check that around the house was nobody.
Then he went to Tony and refiled the cup. Tony gladly accepted and emptied it in one go. Winter was watching him.
“You should go to sleep.” Tony made a disguised noise.
“I was sleeping all the time. Shouldn't you eat something?” Tony didn't see him eat once.
“I already ate when you slept. I am not hungry. You need to sleep more.”
“Oh c'mon, you just want to cuddle me, don't you?” teased him Tony, to his surprise Winter averted his eyes for a moment. “Well, not I am surprised. Who wouldn't want to?” yep, there was even slight blush now.
Tony got up and followed Winter to the couch. It should be awkward. He shouldn't want to do it, but he was kidnapped, didn't see home in half a year and because of that he was on edge all the time.
But Winter made him feel safe. He could rest easily. He didn't feel so lonely anymore.
When they were both on the couch in the same position as always, Winter grabbed his hand. Tony didn't protest, he just lied on his chest and let himself be lulled by the beating of Winter's heart.