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Losing Battles

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He could not recall the last time he had woken up not knowing where he was. It had not been too terribly long because he did remember Steve’s disapproving frown when he came stumbling in at eight in the morning, looking exactly like he had been engaging in thoroughly disreputable activities. Which, okay, he had been, but Tony never got why Steve should care.

It looked like this morning would be another walk of shame for Tony Stark. He had been doing this more and more lately. He kind of hated himself for it. In the past, he was the one who was gone, and it was his bed partner who shuffled away with eyes averted from the world. Now, he just couldn’t bear to bring anyone home. There were too many other people there, and he really did not want to shove it in their faces that he was seeking the familiarity of a warm body against his. They already looked at him like he was something dirty.

Fuck. He hated this shit. When had it started anyway?

Right. Pepper.

Nope. No. Tony was not thinking about his ex-girlfriend when he was in another person’s bed.

Whose bed was this anyway?

He dared to crack an eye, fearing the headache and nausea that would inevitably follow. He closed his eyes again almost immediately. It was familiar, the instant roiling of his gut and the pressure that settled between his ears. Kind of like waking up after being knocked out by chloroform for impromptu major heart surgery.

It felt a lot like that.

Christ, he had not had a hangover this bad in years. Not since the whole mess with the palladium poisoning had he even imbibed enough alcohol that he could feel it the next day. Before that, he had built up an unhealthy tolerance to the drink. He wasn’t so good with it lately, but he did not recall drinking that much. Obviously he had lost track.

Bracing himself with a deep breath, Tony opened his eyes again. The hangover was already in full swing. Nothing would make it better but time and a lot of water and Aspirin.

Sunlight filtered in past a set of cheap venetian blinds. It was softened by the drape of white eyelet window hangings that looked like they belonged in someone’s grandmother’s house. The covers beneath his hand turned out to be a cheerful yellow and white patchwork quilt.

Tony marveled at the quaintness of it all for a long moment before deciding it was probably best he get the hell out of this place. Hangover or no, he had a business to run, and he could not very well do it while lounging around in some stranger’s bed.

That meant he had to get his body in working order. His left arm was numb, stretched out over his head awkwardly. That was not even taking into consideration the aches he felt throughout the rest of him. He groaned.

“Shhhhhiiiiiit.”

He knew what that kind of pain meant. He must have been roaring drunk to let a guy take him home. Tony had not dabbled in that kind of fun since he was a punk kid, determined to cause his parents some kind of scandal. (It didn’t work. Howard Stark was a master media manipulator and smart with his wallet. Besides, those had been different times, back before every fool with an iPhone was selling their photographs to US Weekly.)

It was definitely time to go. Gathering his dignity—what was left of it anyway—he crawled to the edge of the bed and sat up.

Tony heard the clatter of metal on metal before he registered the pressure of his arm refusing to follow his body. The pull actually hurt his shoulder, his sudden push from the bed not taking into account any possibility that he might be caught on something. He looked back in confusion.

Long seconds passed before he truly registered what he was seeing. A metal bracelet was locked firmly around his left wrist, connected by a short chain to another bracelet which was linked similarly to the bedrail.

He was handcuffed to the bed.

“What the hell,” he complained. This was not a kink of his. He did not enjoy being tied down at all, let alone bound and fucked. Bad enough he had gotten drunk enough to let a strange man get that close to him, but he had actually let someone take him light-years out of his comfort zone. Seriously? It was a damn good thing he did not remember the night or he was certain he would recall not enjoying himself.

This was actually pretty humiliating. Tony cursed himself for being the fool. He had let things spiral way too far out of control. He was tailspinning again, just like that time with Vanko. This had to stop. Even he knew that much.

Jesus, if Fury found out…

Tony cast about for a key. Surely they would have kept it by the bed. No one was that much of an asshole that he would leave a guy trapped to a bed.

Except that there was no key, so obviously this guy was that much of an asshole. Cursing again, Tony yanked at the cuffs, searching for a safety latch. Naturally, there was no safety latch. The guy had used police-grade handcuffs instead of the fluffy, sex-toy kind that allowed the wearer to escape.

“God damn it all to hell!” Tony gave the headboard a violent shake out of sheer fury, mostly at himself and his own stupidity. Turning, he located the door, hanging open several feet across the room. Lifting his voice (he had it on good authority that he could be obnoxiously loud), he hollered for the dickwad who had done this to him. “HEY! WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH THIS, YOU JERK?! COME LET ME OUT!”

He waited. Surely the guy would come let him out rather than allow Tony to wake the neighborhood with his shouting.

Nothing.

HEY! A KEY WOULD BE NICE! SOME OF US HAVE TO GO TO WORK!

He gave it another several seconds, straining to hear something, anything, that would indicate someone taking notice of him. Another several rounds of this had his throat aching and his temper fraying. He was going to throttle the bastard that did this to him.

Pissed to an unpleasant extreme, Tony searched the room again. His clothes were nowhere to be seen, so he could not even attempt to gain access to his phone.

Shockingly, he was not naked, so that was something. The shirt was not his, though, nor were the shorts. If he had not been so caught up in his fury, he might have been embarrassed about that. With the way he felt, there was no way he would have been up for cleaning and redressing himself last night, which meant someone did it for him. He was glad not to be wallowing in sweaty, sexed out sheets, but this was disturbing.

The floor creaked.

Tony perked to the sound like a dog to a whistle, head whipping toward the door.

“Hey! HEY!” he yelled again. Maybe his shouting had drawn some attention after all. Someone was coming to investigate. “I’M IN HERE!

His call for help died on his tongue when a man appeared at the door, holding, of all things, a breakfast tray. The man looked unreasonably pleasant. He was fairly tall, with dark hair, dark eyes, pale skin, and he was smiling over a tray with a plate of what looked to be scrambled eggs, sausages, fruit and a glass of orange juice.

“Good morning, Anthony.”

Any patience Tony had left snapped like a dry twig.

“Are you kidding me?” he snarled. “Good morning? I have been shouting for help for the last twenty minutes, and you come in here with food and a fucking cutesy greeting? What the hell, you asshole! Screw your breakfast! Let me out of this!”

The man’s expression barely faltered. He came into the room another few steps, still smiling and holding up the tray like a peace offering.

“You shouldn’t be so quick to turn down breakfast,” the prick said lightly. “You’re too thin as it is, Anthony, and breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”

“If you bring that tray anywhere near me, I will break your nose with it,” Tony growled.

Pain cut into his wrist like a knife, and he realized he was straining rather hard against the cuffs. His heart was racing, and it wasn’t anger that had it beating so fast. Because he knew this guy. Tony’s head was swimming a bit too much to produce a name, but he was good with faces. This was not one he had only seen once. He had seen him at galas and Stark Industries promotional events several times over the past few years. A wallflower, someone who drifted in and out of his line of sight but never came close that he could recall.

Never in a hundred years would Tony have gone out with this dweeb.

“You should be careful, Anthony,” the man put the tray down on the dresser—an antique number that fit right in with those drapes—and took another few steps forward. It put him just out of reach, which proved the guy was not totally stupid. “You might hurt yourself.”

“I might hurt you if you don’t let me out of this right now,” Tony retorted, but he was losing some of his wrathful edge. The way the guy said his name was starting to creep him out. It was caught somewhere between Obadiah’s condescending drawl and Justin Hammer’s weasely whine. The last time his own name had grated on him like that had, in fact, been when Hammer spoke to him. “Seriously, buddy. It was a great time, I’m sure, but all good things come to an end, right?”

“At least consider the juice, Anthony. You’re dehydrated.”

While that was not untrue, Tony was growing increasingly agitated with the man’s behavior. Warning bells clanged in his head. There was something seriously wrong with this fruit loop. No one was this calm when faced with the angry billionaire (Rhodey and the Avengers totally did not count as they were practically superhuman), and this single-minded persistence was never a good sign when aimed at trivialities.

Convincing the guy to let him free was becoming a losing battle. Tony changed the subject.

“I prefer to go by Tony,” he declared.

“Anthony flows so nicely,” the creep replied pleasantly. “It’s a regal name. You should be proud of it.”

“Yeah?” He was not touching that one with a ten foot pole. “What about you? Are you regal?” He searched his memory frantically, abruptly producing, “Paul?” He knew it was wrong.

“Judas.”

“Shit, really?” What kind of horrible parent would name their child Judas?

“It’s a reminder,” the man said easily. “To keep faith in friends. You, Anthony, have faithless friends. Did you know that?”

Ohhhhh, crap. This guy was a nutbag and a half. Ten minutes of conversation, and he was already revealing himself as a religious fanatic. Not good. Not good at all.

Tony twisted against the restraint uneasily. This kind of crazy needed gentle handling. He was not certain he was up for the task.

“They smile to your face and speak with disgust where you cannot hear,” Judas told him. “Yet you rely on them to have your back on the battlefront. Tell me, Anthony: How can you put your life in the hands of men and women who share such dislike of you?”

This was not new information. Tony knew what Judas had seen and heard. The disgust for his behavior lately was not actually a secret in the Avengers household. It was, however, a secret to the public. Which was why they smiled and played friendly at events but largely avoided each other whenever possible.

Tony knew they had been giving him space after Pepper left. Just as he knew he had let the grief carry on a bit too long. He also knew they would welcome him back with open arms when he stopped acting like an ass and got his shit together.

To an outsider, it would look a little bit like backstabbing. To a lunatic, it could obviously be taken a little further.

“It’s not like that,” he said finally. “They’re good people.”

“They are not good people,” Judas said sharply. “They are hypocrites and fiends! They deserve punishment for how they are willing to ignore your pain!”

“I’m not in pain,” Tony protested. “I’ve been a jerk to them. They’re sick of it. It’s not unfair, really.”

“Don’t lie, Anthony,” Judas scolded, gentle and almost kind. It was getting rather frightening actually. “You told me yourself, of your loss, of your wish to do well for your loved ones. When you wept in my arms, that was truth. Don’t cheapen it with lies now.”

Wept in his arms? Tony was not actually a weepy drunk. He was loopy and reckless and maybe just a little angry. He could sulk with the best of them. This man had to be lying about that. He was bluffing.

That or Tony had been hit with something a whole lot stronger than alcohol. It would explain why he would allow this guy to remain within fifty feet of him, let alone take him out of the building.

“You might think they’re faithless, but they’re going to miss me,” he cautioned the man. He tried not to think that they were actually well accustomed to him disappearing for a couple days at a time and would not truly start worrying for a bit. “They’ll figure out where I am. Where we are. They’ll come here.”

“Why worry about such things?” Judas smiled faintly. “If they come, it won’t matter. You’ll prefer staying with me, Anthony. I promise.”

“Judas, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you’re crazy,” Tony said, doing a magnificent job of keeping himself calm and steady. He had faced down terrorists under far worse conditions than this. He could handle one little psychopath. “You’re reaching raving loony territory.”

“I don’t think trying to protect the ones I love is crazy.”

“Yeah, but you don’t love me,” Tony protested. “You barely know me. I didn’t even know your name until a few minutes ago!”

Judas sighed, ever patient, and shook his head. Like Tony was just a child, not understanding simple logic. He wanted to grab the man, to shake him, to tell him that he had it all backwards. His logic was flawed, and Tony was not the uncomprehending child.

“You don’t imprison the people you love,” he tried.

“This is an intervention,” Judas replied, just as reasonable. “Sometimes we must be harsh to make our love understood. You should at least have the juice, Anthony. It would do you good.”

Tony stared at the man, contemplating, calculating the odds. There would be no reasoning with this kind of fanaticism. It would be like trying to convince a devout Catholic that their god was not real. Okay, not a fair comparison. Tony had met Thor, so he was not one to throw stones at anyone’s religion. But the point was somewhat valid. He was going to have to find a way other than rationalization.

“Okay, fine,” he said. Judas’s face lit up in a smile that sent ants crawling under Tony’s skin. “I’ll have the juice if you’re so determined.”

The man was damned cautious. Tony held back, waiting, but Judas would not get close. The glass was held aloft, an offering to a dangerous animal, and Tony actually had to stretch to reach it.

“You’d think I was going to do something horrible by the way you’re acting,” Tony grumbled, sipping at the drink under Judas’s watchful eye.

“One does not simply walk up to a feral child and expect him not to bite,” Judas said gently. “I will gain your trust, Anthony. You will understand that you belong here.”

“I think I saw this movie,” Tony retorted. “It ended with the crazy person dying gruesomely.”

But not until after the prisoner suffered unspeakable horrors. Good lord, Tony hoped Judas didn’t go Misery on his ass. He liked his foot where it was, thank you very much.

“Relax, Anthony,” Judas picked up the tray and walked back out of the room. “You’ll be feeling different very soon. I promise.”

“Don’t bet on it.”

 

* * *

Tony should have heeded that particular warning. He didn’t know it yet, but it was going to bite him in the ass soon enough.

Judas left him alone most of the morning. Tony tried shouting again, actually screaming for help. Dignity be damned. He wanted out of this place and away from that creepy bastard. He screamed himself hoarse and then started to work on the handcuff.

There was a way to escape these things. Tony had heard that people could do it. People with small hands, probably. No matter how Tony shoved or pulled, the best he could do was slice the skin of his wrists into ribbons.

Well, there was that at least. Judas would have to come close at some point, if only to clean up the mess Tony had made of himself. It was that or let him succumb to infection. Tony doubted he would be able to keep himself from continually attempting this escape method, and he knew better than to think the constant agitation of open wounds would not create opportunity for bacteria.

That got him thinking about flesh-eating diseases, of course, and he had to stop struggling to deal with that momentary panic.

No. He was certain Judas would not let him die that way. The man might kill him, but he would not sit idly by while Tony ailed.

Hours later, barely able to form words past the rough of his throat, nursing his swollen and bleeding wrist, and battling with a strong desire to pee, Tony had sunk into irritable contemplation.

This was his own fault. Of this he was fairly well certain. Judas would never have gone after him (or gotten close enough to anyway) if he had stopped acting like such an ass. He could have been talking science with Bruce or introducing Steve to nice women. Maybe sitting back and quietly poking fun at the stuffy guests with Clint.

Instead he had pushed them away, ignored their warnings, and what had it gotten him? Handcuffed to a bed in a house that was probably in the middle of nowhere with a psychopath downstairs who might very well be contemplating making BLTs for lunch.

His stomach growled.

Damn it. Now he was hungry.

Another hour passed before he decided he could not tolerate this any longer.

“Judas!” It hurt like a bitch. He was willing to bet the inside of his throat looked like raw hamburger. But he was getting a little desperate here. “Judas! I need—!” Well, it was one thing to scream out for help. It was quite another to shout to the world that he had to use the restroom. Tony flinched away from the words, and finished, “I need your help!”

If anything, he could take the man out when they made the trip to the restroom.

 

* * *

Tony could not recall when he had last been so humiliated. True, he felt much better, physically speaking, but his pride was taking some serious blows.

He glared at the empty soda bottle on the floor by the bed. The request for a bathroom had not gone at all as planned.

“You’re kidding.”

“You’re bedridden, Anthony,” Judas said gently.

“I am not bedridden, I am tied to the fucking—I am not pissing in a bottle!”

“I will leave to allow you privacy.”

“What if I need to do more than pee?!”

“The waste bin is beside you.”

This was hell. What was worse, Judas had taken the bottle away and returned with it several minutes later, empty and clean. Tony knew it was the same bottle. It had the same torn off soda label.

It was, quite frankly, disgusting. Even the damned caves had bathrooms. Sort of. Separate rooms with Biffy-like setups. It was close enough to an outhouse that Tony had not been too horrified.

He knew one thing was for certain. He was not taking a dump in that goddamned trash bin.

 

* * *

Tony did not expect any help that first day. His bad habits of late ensured that much. At best he could hope someone would start getting worried on the third day, and then it was a matter of detective work. Natasha would find him. She was good at finding people.

That meant he had to last at least another two days. He was being generous with that. It was straight up wishful thinking. Tony suspected it would be something more along the lines of four or five days before he could expect a rescue.

All that meant, really, was that he would have to find his own method of escape. He had done it before. He would do it again. Once he figured out how to free himself from the bed. (Or be strong enough to drag the damned thing with him.) If Thor was in this position, there would be no questioning the escape. But then Thor was a god. Tony was just a man when he wasn’t in his armor.

Pepper had made that point perfectly clear.

No. Self-pity was not the way to go. He had bigger things to worry about than his broken heart.

Besides, Pepper was still around. She still ran his company, still told him where to go, what to do, who to talk to. She was his boss, in essence, though he paid her. She was still there for him if he chose to let her back in. She would never truly leave him. He knew that.

He kind of wished she was here now to tell him to hurry it up because his plane should have left three hours ago. Even stuck in some granny’s bedroom, that would have cheered him up immensely.

Judas checked on him periodically. Tony stopped trying to talk sense to the man. He needed a bit more time to find an angle for this kind of crazy. He had slept with this guy (which, in retrospect, had totally been coerced, which struck an uneasy chord in his mind), and Judas had decided this meant they were meant-to-be. The whole mess would have been very teenage romance if it were not so sick and wrong.

Lunch was another thing that did not happen. Despite his rumbling stomach, Tony took one look at those sandwiches (French dips, not BLTs, which was too bad. At least that might have given him a small amount of amusement for the day) and knew he would never be able to choke it down. Anything he swallowed would just come right back up.

He had already peed in a bottle. He did not need the added embarrassment of vomiting. It had him wondering just how much he had drunk the previous night if he still felt this bad. When he thought back, he struggled to grasp any actual details of the evening. He must have really gotten smashed. Maybe that was how he had ended up with this whack job. Too much to drink tended to make him unpleasantly giddy, which had gotten him kicked out of more than one party.

Tony did accept some water. He requested a vodka martini as a joke and received a bland smile and a rebuke.

“I don’t keep alcohol in the house, Anthony. It leads to bad decisions.”

Tony had simply stared at the man, unable to wrap his mind around the irony of that declaration.

Judas had some sympathy. For dinner he prepared chicken soup, which he cautiously placed at the foot of the bed. Tony felt like an idiot straining to reach the tray and tugging it gently toward him. Still, he was not a fool. Pride had its place, but he would get nowhere fast if he let himself waste away without food and drink.

After peeing into the bottle for the second time, Tony was convinced he would never be drinking soda again. Certainly not if it came as a two liter. He was more than a little revolted by the need to cap it and hold it out when Judas came to retrieve it, but it was better than living with the sight and smell of his own waste by-product on the nightstand.

Tony requested more water as darkness fell outside. Judas watched him drink, the intensity of his stare actually making Tony pause halfway through the glass. He was dehydrated, had been drinking fairly minimal amounts on the fleeting thought that maybe he would not have to use the bottle again. It was foolish, and he knew it, which was why he was forcing the liquid down his throat now.

Still, that stare was a little worrisome. Tony kept his eyes on Judas and finished the drink, dutifully holding the empty glass out as far as he could reach.

Judas took the glass and set it on the dresser, never averting his eyes. Okay, that was just getting uncomfortable.

“Why are you watching me like that?” he was unable to resist the question.

“Because I like how you look when you are unguarded,” Judas replied. “Your wariness ages you. When you relax, you are innocent and lovely.”

“You are aware that I won’t be relaxing as long as you’re being all tall, dark and creepy in the corner there,” Tony pointed out.

“You will, very soon.”

That was all the warning he had before he felt the drug hit. Tony felt like he had just finished a seventy-two hour project surviving on sugar and coffee. The crash hit him hard, painful almost. He could not hold back his hiss of displeasure as his body sank down, a marionette whose strings had been cut falling in slow motion.

He should have known better than to trust the water.

His mind flew far faster than his body was able. Just for a moment. Tony was not a medical doctor. He did not know what drugs caused which reactions in a person. He had heard of Roofies and had been on the receiving end of the older, much more dangerous chloroform, but he did not know what they were supposed to do. If this was anything like the last time, he could expect another morning after with no memories.

He hoped it was, even as he knew it was not. Tony was all too aware of his surroundings when Judas finally approached. The man looked bigger up close, his hands looming in like great white paws that no amount of squirming would let him escape.

“Relax, Anthony,” Judas murmured. Tony huffed at the sensation of a hand dragging through his hair. The last person to do that had been… Bruce, awkwardly enough. Right after Pepper left. He had tried so hard to be comforting, but Tony just wouldn’t let—

“Nnnnuh…” Tony would worry about the whining quality his voice had taken on later. Presently, he was more concerned about his inability to say the word No. Or maybe nuh-uh. That would get across the same sentiment. Because he wanted to keep his shorts on, thank you, and Judas was tugging at them efficiently.

“Don’t worry,” Judas murmured. “I’ll take care of you.”

That was not comforting. It really was not comforting when there were hands dancing over his hips and groin, places no man had a right to be going without Tony’s express permission.

For some reason, he recalled how Judas had claimed Tony had confessed his sorrow the night before. While the man was not incorrect, he had also been extremely vague. Anyone could have guessed that Tony was having a rough time of things, that he was dwelling in his failures. Considering his inability to voice even the simplest of protests, he was extremely dubious of his story-telling prowess while under the influence of a drug that would later wipe his memory of the event.

There were fingers pressing inside of him, too much, too quick. Despite his forcibly relaxed state and Judas’s promise, it hurt. He heard himself cry out, something that was almost a whimper, and his body gave a weak lurch.

He tried to distance himself from what was happening. If he was being honest, his past was riddled with ill-advised sex combined with too much alcohol. He had slept with senator’s daughters and high profile models and, on one memorable occasion, the wife of the Idaho state governor. (Which, by the way, did not ruin a marriage because everyone knew that sleeping with Tony Stark was almost expected and did not count as cheating.) A man who was probably certifiably insane barely ranked.

Besides, he had already had sex with the guy once. Another time would hardly make a difference. Although, it might do some interesting things to his reputation if people thought he was out courting men now. Probably some speculation about him swearing off women after breaking up with the famed Pepper Potts.

Not true. Totally not true. He was not against dating or sleeping with men as a general rule. There simply were not many out there who were able to hold his attention for long. Bruce came close, but there were a whole host of issues he was not close to overcoming that would impede on any potentially intimate relationship. Steve caught the eye, sure, but the man was as rigidly straight as they came.

There was a stuttering moment where he came back to himself. Judas was pressed horrifically close. The pressure was intensely uncomfortable, the sliding sensation sickening. Tony tried to recall if he had ever enjoyed this and found he couldn’t. He had probably been smashingly drunk when he had tried it.

“You’re so beautiful,” Judas whispered. “I only wish I could thank God in person for leading you to me.”

Tony closed his eyes and drifted away on a haze of drugged sensation. He reached for the gray, latched onto it, pleading with it. This was not someplace he wanted to be.

Finally, the drugs took their toll, and he spiraled down into sleep.

 

* * *