The Corrupt and the Pure • Chapters 7-11
Author’s note: Non-con warning for this chapter!
Chapter 7: The Captive
Tony stirred slowly, feeling like he was constantly being pulled under while his consciousness attempted to awaken. Normally, he would have just given up and allowed himself to sink back into the darkness, seeing as rest was often hard to come by, but there was a sense of danger, as if he weren’t safe…
As he grew slightly more aware, he began to notice how tingly his body felt. Assuming he had fallen asleep in an unnatural position, he tried to shift in order to return circulation to his limbs – only to find it was not possible.
Tony’s mind bounced into high alert, body jerking to verify whether his initial assumption had been correct.
It had; he couldn’t move his arms, which were behind him, and while his legs felt free, there was an unnatural lethargy that waking up was yet to banish. In his experience, it was almost like being drugged, and that didn’t particularly help with the general feeling of being in danger.
“You’re finally awake,” a familiar voice stated. “I was starting to get a little worried.” Its owner was nearby, and Tony relaxed slightly because it belonged to someone he knew and trusted.
“I feel weird,” he admitted, slowly opening his eyes – then froze.
Steve Rogers was sitting a short distance in front of him, but it wasn’t Captain America. Tony’s brain ached with the strength of the realization that he might not be safe after all, and he tried yanking his arms up and in front, but they remained firmly behind him.
The Commander frowned slightly, then sighed. It was as if he were disappointed but simultaneously unsurprised. “I would have preferred not to restrain you,” he said.
“Then how about you undo my hands and we see where it leads?” Tony offered. The space around them was dim, a bit funny-smelling from what seemed to be rust and lack of fresh air, and it was clear they were no longer at the Tower.
What had happened after he passed out? Where was the real Steve?
Not that this Steve was any less real; he just didn’t belong in this world.
A rueful smile passed over the other’s features. It wasn’t the kind of smile Tony was used to seeing, and he wondered whether it was a side of Steve he was yet to see, or something that was a character trait of this alternative version of the man he had saved the world with.
“I’ve come this far,” Steve stated. “I’m not about to let you slip through my fingers.”
“So, what?” Tony challenged. “You’ll never untie me? That’s not how you build a healthy relationship.” He arched his body on the hard floor, testing the bindings as well as the control slowly returning to his legs. He couldn’t identify the material around his wrists; it was tougher than a rope but not as cool and unyielding as metal. Also, his arms were pulled back tightly enough that he could not just pull his arms in front of him over his legs – not without dislocating something, and he would rather try to avoid that.
“You’re goading me,” the creeper-Steve said – then reached out and touched his fingers to Tony’s face, making him stiffen. “It’s almost endearing,” he added, and Tony inched away from him. There wasn’t much he could do to dislodge the touch, but the Commander got the hint and withdrew his hand – after one last caress across Tony’s face.
Tony shuddered and gave the other man a dirty look. “I think we need to discuss boundaries. Never knew I had so many; you must be special.”
The blond cocked his head. “You think we’re about to negotiate?”
Tony immediately got the impression there would be no negotiating whatsoever. He swallowed and refused to budge – not that he felt all that confident, lying on his side on the floor, hands bound behind his back, his body still feeling tingly and worn out as if he had just finished running a marathon. “Is that how you did it, back home?” he asked, dropping the act for a few seconds.
“You’re not him,” the Commander replied. When he had figured that out, Tony wasn’t sure, because he sure as hell hadn’t seemed to accept that little factoid back at the Tower.
“Then why am I here?” Tony asked.
“Because you’re the only thing I have left.”
Tony thought he could name a few other things, but they might only be applicable to the Steve Rogers he knew, and not this HYDRA agent. “That’s going to be a really cold comfort,” he stated unrelentingly. “As much as you’d like, you won’t find the things you want here, with me. I can guarantee that.”
“Can you?” the other asked him, a note of cold ruthlessness entering his voice. Perhaps Tony was doing a bit too well at goading him, and seeing as he was restrained, it was going to be a very unfair fight if the Commander lost his cool.
“You said it yourself,” Tony said slowly, trying a slightly less hostile approach. “I’m not him. We’re not… I don’t have the same history with Steve Rogers as the Tony Stark in your world. The kind of thing you seem to be looking for… that can’t be forced.” In his opinion, it sounded pretty diplomatic and even understanding towards the Commander’s plight. Could be he had been in shock when he arrived at the Tower, and now that the dust was settling, he could be reasoned with.
He was Steve Rogers, after all.
The other man hummed in response. It was impossible to tell whether he agreed with Tony’s words or not, but Tony chose to be optimistic until proven otherwise – and that was possibly why he was so shocked when the Commander’s right hand shot out, fingers curling around the back of his neck with bruising strength as he was pulled forward. The super-soldier had no trouble lifting Tony’s upper body off the floor with just one hand, leaving Tony’s weight painfully divided between his hip and neck.
Tony hissed as he was pulled forward, and he got another up-close look at the Commander’s face. Even in the weak light, the scarring was prominent, and Tony had a hard time looking away from it when the man spoke: “You would be amazed by the kinds of things that can be forced.”
It took a second for Tony’s brain to catch up, preoccupied with watching the muscles jump around a pale patch in the flesh of his face that was quite possibly bone. Once he did pay attention to the words and not the mouth producing the words, his eyes snapped up to meet the other’s.
Clearly the Commander had been waiting for that, because as soon as their eyes locked, he leaned forward and kissed Tony.
Freezing in shock, Tony blinked rapidly – then tried to pull away from the lips pressing against his. The Commander’s hold on his neck was unyielding, however, and the fingers tightened in warning as Tony tried to roll his entire body away from the assault.
It wasn’t the first time Tony had been kissed without his consent – far from it – but he had never been quite so defenseless before; the hand holding him still could have just as easily broken his neck, or just about any other bone in his body. He didn’t want to get injured, but neither did he plan on simply submitting.
Tony sneered in warning, pulling his lips back from his teeth, but when the other man didn’t relent, he inhaled sharply and then opened his mouth to deliver a sharp bite on the Commander’s lower lip. He didn’t think his teeth pierced the skin, but he made sure to make it sting.
The Commander breathed sharply at the bite and shoved Tony back – so hard and fast that the only thing that stopped his head from slamming into the floor was the super-soldier’s hand shifting from the back of Tony’s neck to the front. If the grip had been painful before, it was nothing compared to the new, suffocating hold as the man leaned over him, part of his weight momentarily resting on Tony’s airway.
“You’re not so different from him,” the Commander mused as he shifted his body over Tony’s. His right knee cleverly settled between Tony’s thighs as he fought the hand pinning him down, taking advantage of the situation. “He used to make me bleed,” he went on, hand adjusting its hold slightly, allowing Tony to breathe but not giving him room to move.
“Stop,” Tony managed to grunt past the grip. He tried to make it into a warning, even though his options were very limited at the moment.
“I made him bleed in return,” Steve’s double mused as if Tony hasn’t spoken – as if he wasn’t feeling him struggle to get free. “I don’t want to hurt you, but it can’t be helped if you keep fighting back,” he added, not sounding overly concerned either way. Like it was all in a day’s work and Tony could choose just how difficult he made things for himself.
The Commander shifted his knee forward and Tony felt it settle tightly against his pelvic floor. He told himself not to read too much into it –not to assume an outcome just because his mind was starting to conjure it up – but as he felt the Commander’s free hand slipping down and starting to tug open the front of his pants, there was no room left to pretend things weren’t going in the direction he had feared.
Tony redoubled his efforts. His hands hurt from the unnatural position and having his body rest on top of them, but he angled them to the best of his ability, to find leverage against the floor. He ceased wriggling in order to plant one foot on the floor and raise the other for a kick, distracting the other man from his task and forcing him to block the kick.
“Stop,” Tony hissed, the pressure of the hand on his throat increasing as the Commander forced his leg down. Tony tried wedging his other knee between them and turning onto his side, but the Commander maintained the upper hand and shoved him back down, simultaneously forcing his legs apart with his knees, further narrowing Tony’s options.
“You’ll enjoy it,” the Commander promised, Tony’s protests falling on deaf ears.
Tony tried shaking his head, the lack of air in his lungs starting to impede his actions. He couldn’t fight back – couldn’t stop the Commander’s hand from returning to its previous task – and the inevitability of the situation began to feed his mind in an uncomfortably familiar way that was usually more connected to wormholes in space. The hand finished undoing his pants and shifted, sliding inside. Tony felt the strong digits mapping out his crotch, but in all honesty he was closer to peeing himself in fear than popping a boner.
Either the Commander noticed that or felt no further need for exploration because he drew back, then sat up completely, his right hand releasing its grip from Tony’s throat for the first time in long minutes. As he straightened, his hands moved across Tony’s hips and then to the thighs spread on either side of his body. Normally, the sensation would have been pleasant, but the only thing Tony was aware of was how much he was shaking. He hadn’t even noticed…
Their eyes met, and for a while Steve Rogers’ evil double – Tony had no qualms against calling him that, the longer they were together – seemed satisfied simply kneeling there, his hands resting on Tony’s thighs.
“You’re afraid,” the Commander stated at last.
Tony offered no comeback; it was pretty obvious, and he wasn’t proud of it. If anyone had asked him a few hours ago, he would have claimed that he’d fight it to the end, tooth and nail, but as he lie there, mind still reeling from shock and expecting the worst, he had to admit that it was a lot harder to fight when faced with the real thing. To this day, only a small number of people had made him feel this uncomfortable in an event related to sex, and none of them had had the absolute upper hand when it came to physically overpowering Tony. Restraints or no, he wasn’t sure he could fight the other man off, and that wasn’t even counting the frozen, panicked state he was in.
The Commander sighed as if he were disappointed. Maybe he had expected more of a fight, or even enthusiasm. His hands shifted upwards, closer to Tony’s hips, and it made his thighs jerk in dread.
“Please, don’t,” Tony begged before he could even think it through. He hadn’t wanted to sink this low, to actually grovel, but it seemed to do the trick as the Commander’s hands stopped again, his touch warming the crease of Tony’s thighs through the material of his pants.
With a huff bordering on annoyance, the super-soldier suddenly rose to his feet and turned away. His steps were heavy as he walked into the darkness surrounding the dimly lit area, and the sharp bang of a door made Tony start. The steps didn’t return, and after a while he decided he was alone.
Tony lay back on the floor, shivering, his body still tense with dread and throat aching as he drew in shaky breaths of air. Eventually the pain in his arms grew too prominent to ignore and he rolled onto his side, then pulled his legs up towards his chest. His fly was still open, his pants shifting slightly around his waist as he moved, and he closed his eyes and told himself that he was fine.
It had been a close call, but he couldn’t figure out a way to escape if he continued to freak out.
As his heart hammered in his chest and his clammy skin cooled down, Tony licked his lips and willed himself to open his eyes. The reality of the situation was that the Commander would come back, sooner or later, and he had to be prepared.
It was most definitely easier said than done.
to be continued…
Chapter 8: The Roster
Manhattan, New York City, NY
For the past two hours, the destroyed communal area of the Tower had been filling with superheroes as they arrived one after another to hear about the most recent threat.
Not that there was much to see save for security tapes; the Commander was long gone, as was Tony Stark, and Steve felt like every minute that passed was wasted by waiting for the others to arrive.
“Relax, Cap,” Sam Wilson called out to him. He had been the first to arrive, for which Steve was glad; Sam, for the most part, seemed to know what to say so as not to get on his nerves. “We’ll all be here soon,” Sam added and fidgeted a bit in his seat.
“Nervous?” Steve asked, taking his mind off the aching in his body and the concern for what the Commander was planning to do.
“Nah,” Sam shook his head, but it was obviously a lie. “This wasn’t how I expected to be introduced to the rest of the team, is all,” he mused.
“That’s how it always seems to go,” Steve mused. Bonding under fire…
The familiar sound of Iron Man’s thrusters made the windows rattle faintly, and Steve turned to watch as an armor landed on the ramp outside. It was one of Stark’s suits, but not one of his red-and-gold ones: this was War Machine, piloted by Colonel James Rhodes – a friend of Tony’s.
Steve drew in a lungful of air, telling himself he deserved it if Rhodes decided to blame him for Tony’s kidnapping.
“Welcome, Colonel Rhodes,” J.A.R.V.I.S. greeted as the man entered, still wearing the suit. “Meet Captain Steve Rogers and Mr. Sam Wilson.”
The suit opened up at the front, allowing Rhodes to step outside. “A pleasure,” he nodded at them both. “I had wished our meeting would be under better circumstances,” he added to Steve.
“You’ve been briefed, Colonel?” Steve asked.
“J.A.R.V.I.S. gave me the rundown en route,” Rhodes nodded. “Any luck tracking Tony down?”
“Not yet, Colonel,” the AI replied before Steve could.
“Keep trying,” Rhodes ordered. “He’ll let us know where he is – usually by blowing something up,” he added, clearly trying for a joke but falling a little short. Steve got the feeling there was a story behind the comment.
“How far away are the others?” Steve asked, his impatience growing again.
“The Quinjet is beginning its final approach as we speak,” J.A.R.V.I.S. replied.
“That was fast,” Sam commented.
“Agents Barton and Romanoff picked up the rest of the team. Also, the new Quinjet designed for the Avengers is much faster than the models you might be familiar with from S.H.I.E.L.D.”
“Stark made you your own Quinjet?” Sam raised an eyebrow at Steve.
“Apparently he’s been doing a lot of things,” Steve mused, taking a look at his shield where it was lying on the bar which was still surrounded by broken glass and spilled alcohol. No one had attempted to come up to clean up the mess, and Steve guessed it was better that way, to preserve the scene of the fight.
Of course that meant the small stains of blood were there, too, as visible reminders of Steve’s defeat.
Steve had cleaned himself up a bit while waiting for backup. He still looked like he had been in a fight for his life, no doubt about it, and he knew it would help him convey the seriousness of the situation to his fellow Avengers. Not that he thought he needed all hands on deck for this, but when he called out to the others with J.A.R.V.I.S.’s help, everyone had responded almost simultaneously.
Once they located the Commander, the man would regret ever crossing into their world.
As promised, a Quinjet bearing the ‘A’-shaped insignia of the Avengers soon touched down on the landing pad. Steve watched it dock into place, its engines shutting down and wings folding to accommodate it into the hangar on the floor below as the docking system pulled it inside.
“Have you met the others before?” Sam asked Rhodes.
“Only Banner and Romanoff,” the Colonel replied.
“But you’re also friends with Stark, right?”
If there was something else Sam wanted to ask, he was interrupted when the other Avengers came up the stairs from the hangar. Thor wasn’t wearing his usual gear, dressed as he was in civilian clothes, but he was carrying his hammer; Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton were in some kind of uniform, but they had been redesigned since the last time Steve saw either of them; Bruce was wearing civilian clothes as well, looking like he had planned on being outdoors.
“I think there was something wrong with your message,” Clint called out. “It said Stark’s been taken – by you.”
“Not a mistake,” Steve told him.
Thor frowned. “I do not understand,” he admitted.
“A Tesseract-related anomaly brought another Steve Rogers into our world,” J.A.R.V.I.S. supplied. “He proved to be incredibly hostile.”
“Tesseract?” Bruce frowned.
“It’s in the lab,” Steve pointed. “Tony sealed it away before…” He made a vague gesture at the room around them, which of course did only so much to explain the situation.
“I have some data from the fight, mostly captured by Mark 43,” J.A.R.V.I.S. offered. “Most of the Tower systems went offline or stopped transmitting normally after the Tesseract appeared. Also, the EMP launched by the attacker caused some issues.”
“Show us,” Rhodes ordered, stepping over to a computer Steve and Sam had set up while they waited.
Everyone else gathered in front of it, too, and the screen flickered to life. Steve could see Tony’s AI selecting files in real time, faster than human fingers could work.
The video began when Tony still had his back to the suit of armor. There was an audible gasp from the crowd when they saw the Commander for the first time.
“Okay, that’s creepy,” Clint stated.
“Another you,” Bruce murmured, leaning forward.
On the screen, Tony shifted his hand – a tiny gesture Steve hadn’t paid attention to, but clearly the armor picked it up.
“I fought you longer than I fucked you,” the Commander said. “I know your tricks and toys.”
“What?” Rhodes blinked. “Did he just –?”
“Yes,” Steve confirmed.
In a matter of seconds the fight broke out, the Commander incapacitating Tony and then turning his attention to Steve. Looking at the fight from another perspective, Steve could see just how evenly matched they were – and where he had started losing, finally. The Commander may have had a point: Steve lost because he wasn’t determined enough to push harder. For him, it hadn’t been personal…
There was a collective groan from the others when he got elbowed in the groin – followed by audible hisses as the Commander kicked him in the face.
“Damn,” Sam murmured, “remind me never to piss you off.”
“That man isn’t me,” Steve said with determination.
The fight shifted to a more limited, hectic perspective as the armor fought the assailant. Steve hadn’t seen this part, lying unconscious on the floor, and he watched with interest as the Commander actually had to work up a sweat before he finally managed to best the armor and the feed was cut off.
“What do we know of this guy?” Natasha asked.
“Other than that he is just as formidable an opponent as our Captain,” Thor mused.
“He called himself ‘Commander’, not Captain,” Steve told them. “Apparently, he woke up in 1985 – and was recruited by HYDRA at some point.”
“Well, that explains some of it,” Sam grimaced.
“Could be it was HYDRA who pulled him from the ice,” Natasha noted. “From what we know of their activity within S.H.I.E.L.D., it is possible he was subjected to similar brainwashing as the Winter Soldier.”
“Who?” Rhodes frowned.
“Another time,” Steve promised. “What we need to focus on is finding him before he hurts anyone else.”
“Are we certain he took Stark?” Thor asked.
“Did you miss the parts where he explicitly stated the two of them were an item?” Clint reminded.
“He said that in his world, Tony was killed,” Steve said. “While it may be that he won’t hurt Stark, we need to find them as soon as possible.”
“Can you track him?” Rhodes asked out loud, seemingly talking to none of the Avengers.
“I am attempting to do so, Colonel,” J.A.R.V.I.S. replied before anyone else could phrase an answer. “So far there has been no luck, but I am broadening my search methods to track down their movements.”
“Let us know when you’ve got something,” Rhodes ordered.
“Perhaps in the meantime, we shall get to know our new allies,” Thor suggested.
Natasha took over introductions, surprisingly enough. Steve was glad, however, because he was busy staring at the last frozen image of the Commander smashing down the edge of the shield to incapacitate the armor. He knew it didn’t look good, getting beat up by the other one, but that wouldn’t stop him from trying again.
No matter how motivated the Commander said he was, there was no way Steve was going to let him run rampant in his world. All the bullies in Brooklyn hadn’t managed to beat it out of him back in the day, and he wasn’t about to start bowing out of a fight now.
Besides, if something happened to Tony, it would be on his conscience.
to be continued…
Chapter 9: The Talk
When the Commander returned, it had been over an hour. Tony had spent the time making his way around his prison – which he had deduced was most likely a large shipping container illuminated by a battery-operated lamp in a corner. He hadn’t found anything to use as a tool or a weapon, and with his hands still tied behind his back, his range of motion was painfully limited.
It didn’t deter him from trying, naturally. A shipping container was filled with opportunities compared to a cave, and it would eventually provide him with something he could use.
He didn’t hear heavy footsteps or other sounds of foreboding before the door of his prison was opened and the familiar frame of Steve Rogers entered before closing the door firmly. Tony heard a lock latch into place, and he wished he had his hands free to make a more thorough inspection of whatever prohibited him from simply walking out.
Other than the Commander, of course; as it were, the lock was a minor hindrance compared to the super-soldier.
The Commander looked him over, and Tony didn’t even try to pretend he hadn’t just been over every inch of his prison. He stared the bigger man down, either willing him to look away or say something, not budging from where he stood near the back wall.
“This is not going as I was hoping it would,” the Commander finally stated.
“I can imagine,” Tony replied dryly. “How about we wrap up this little misunderstanding and you let me go?” It was worth a shot, especially when he could see the other man was beginning to realize that the replacement he had sought out was nothing like his Tony Stark.
The Commander shook his head. “I can’t do that.”
“Sure you can,” Tony insisted. “Just untie me and let me walk out.”
“I can untie you, but I can’t let you leave.”
Tony pursed his lips in annoyance. “Negotiation doesn’t seem to be your style in any universe.”
“This isn’t a negotiation,” the Commander stated and stepped forward. Tony tensed and backed away, but he didn’t have far to go before he hit the back wall of the container.
“Is this really the kind of relationship you’re looking for?” Tony snapped once he was quite effectively, not to mention literally, backed into a corner, the Commander looming in front of him.
“You’ll adjust to the idea, in time,” the other replied.
“Having someone force themselves on me? I don’t think so!”
Even in the poor light, it was easy to see the scarred face darkening. Tony spied the super-soldier’s fists tightening, fingers curled, and he wondered whether he was going to be punched sometime soon. Instead, the Commander let out a sharp breath and took a step back. “I could force you,” he said, but with a little less confidence. “It’s not what I’d prefer.”
“Maybe we can work around that,” Tony offered. As long as they were just talking, nothing else was happening, and he needed to change the situation more into his favor somehow.
The Commander nodded, which was a bit of a surprise – then gestured towards Tony. When he didn’t move, he gestured again. “You wanted me to untie your hands, right?” he prompted, and slowly Tony turned his back to him, tensing as he felt the Commander’s hands on his wrists, but as promised the bindings loosened and then unwound from around his hands.
After he was free, the other made no move to secure him otherwise, and Tony turned to face him, carefully rubbing his wrists. “Now what?” he asked, untrusting of his newfound freedom and that it would last.
The Commander hid whatever he had used to restrain Tony in one of his many pockets, looking uncharacteristically uncertain for a few seconds. It almost reminded Tony of his Steve – the patriotic, HYDRA-busting one. The brief glimpse reminded him that the two were the same, originally – until something derailed the Commander from his righteous path.
“Perhaps we should… get to know each other,” the Commander suggested.
“You want to talk – or the other thing?” Tony asked, to make sure. “Because if you’re thinking of the latter, I gotta say, your attention span is really short.”
“Talk,” the Commander snapped.
“Okay,” Tony agreed before the other could change his mind. “I have questions – like what happened at the Tower after you knocked me out?”
“You’re concerned for the other one,” the Commander guessed.
“Don’t read too much into it,” Tony retorted. “If it were any one of the team, I would ask the same question.” Tony could guess how the fight had ended, seeing as he was here, even though he wasn’t sure how that was possible: even with him out cold, Steve Rogers was a formidable opponent, not to mention J.A.R.V.I.S. in control of one of his suits. That Tony had still been taken didn’t bode well.
“I didn’t kill him,” the Commander said, as if reading his mind. “I could have,” he added, “but I didn’t. He and I are the same, after all.”
Tony suppressed a snort. “Aside from your chiseled cheekbones, I don’t think so.”
“I told you about my past,” the Commander insisted. “Up until crashing the plane…”
“Maybe it’s the stuff that happened after that defines you – not the choices you made to get there.” Still… “How exactly did America’s golden savior end up as HYDRA’s errand boy?” Tony knew he needed to cut back on snide commentary in the interest of keeping himself alive and unharmed, but this man did get under his skin just like the regular, non-HYDRA Steve Rogers.
“Wipes,” the Commander replied.
Tony raised an eyebrow, trying to guess what that meant.
“A HYDRA practice for memory erasure and brainwashing,” the other explained. “In the beginning – after they revived me from the ice – I resisted. I don’t remember much of that time, but in the end, they took it all from me. The man I used to be, the ideals I lived to uphold.” A rueful smile that was more like a grimace twisted his face, and the weak light wasn’t doing his scarred appearance any favors.
“But you do remember things,” Tony commented.
“For decades, I didn’t. I was HYDRA’s perfect soldier, driven to do my duty and serve their cause, and whenever the doubts began to rise, they put me back in the chair.” The Commander looked at him intently, all of a sudden – as if Tony’s face was something he was happy to fixate on for the rest of his life. “Then I met you: cocky and brilliant, ready to die for your cause – but fighting tooth and nail not to. You spent hours taunting me, throwing my past in my face even when I didn’t remember it.”
“That… sounds like something I would do,” Tony admitted.
“Bit by bit, I started remembering – and I hid it,” the Commander said. “The fragments that started coming back to me were confusing, but as long as I didn’t alert my handlers, they didn’t do a full wipe to erase it all. The memories started mounting up, and you kept throwing gasoline on the fire to keep it burning.”
That also sounded like something Tony would do. “Did you turn on HYDRA?” he asked. “You mentioned not following their rules anymore.”
“I was considering it, but you don’t just walk away from HYDRA,” the Commander reminisced. “If I made even one mistake, they would have wiped the slate clean and started again – and there were too many new memories that I couldn’t afford to lose.” His hand twitched towards Tony, but stopped before it could start reaching. “Memories of you,” he concluded, voice a bit strained.
“I’m not him,” Tony reminded him again. “Just like you’re not the Steve that I know.”
“What about Bucky?” the Commander asked. “Did he become the Winter Soldier?”
“Yeah,” Tony nodded. “Also, if they used the same practices here, that would explain why Steve had such a hard time connecting with him – and why he thinks there might be hope after all; Barnes could start remembering, given enough time.”
The Commander nodded slowly. “Have you met him?”
“No,” Tony shook his head. “Saw some footage, though. The arm seems pretty cool for being a HYDRA concoction.”
“The Fist of HYDRA,” the Commander muttered.
“Jealous?” Tony asked.
“He killed you,” the Commander snapped.
Tony had almost forgotten that part of his tale. “So you were still friends, even after HYDRA messed with your heads?”
“We worked together, and the little bits and pieces we got back… At some point the engineers stopped trying to meddle with it, seeing as we recognized each other, over and over.”
“And then he killed me? That seems like an odd thing to do for someone who’s supposed to be your BFF.”
“He never recalled the man he was – not the way I did,” the Commander explained. “They had him since he fell in 1944.”
“Damn,” Tony murmured. “So, you just left him there while hitching a ride on the Tesseract?”
The Commander didn’t say anything for a while, so Tony began to guess there were some regrets concerning that. When the other man spoke again, the venom in his words took him by surprise, especially knowing to whom the Commander was referring: “The next time I cross paths with Bucky Barnes, I’m going to destroy him for killing the man I loved.”
Tony supposed he might have felt flattered by the dark passion in his words if he weren’t blatantly creeped out by it.
to be continued…
Chapter 10: The Search
Manhattan, New York City, NY
As the hours passed and there seemed to be no new developments in their search for the Commander and Tony Stark, Steve began to think they would accomplish more by simply walking the streets of Manhattan, looking for clues.
“Look, I don’t want to be the guy who doesn’t get it, but… is someone actually working on finding them – aside from Natasha?” Sam asked loudly just as Steve was entertaining the idea of heading out for the third time.
Natasha glanced up from the computer where she had been working, no doubt contacting people who might be able to help them. Aside from her, the rest of them had been reviewing the footage from before, trying to spot something that they’d missed the first time.
Something akin to the sound of a throat being cleared came from the hidden speakers. “In the last half an hour I have narrowed down our options and ruled out various methods of the Commander’s transport,” J.A.R.V.I.S. the AI stated. For a program, it sounded a lot like J.A.R.V.I.S. had just taken offense at the implication that none of them was tracking down his creator.
In the short time they had known each other, Steve had learned it was preferred to call J.A.R.V.I.S. ‘he’ rather than ‘it’. Considering how life-like the AI was, it didn’t seem odd or awkward, and if that’s how Tony approached the subject…
“You have some idea of how he left the Tower?” James Rhodes jumped at the news.
“Indeed. There is no indication the Commander left either on foot or by vehicular transport. I have gone through camera coverage on the streets, in the Tower and in the parking area beneath it, and it is highly unlikely he managed to slip past all the cameras undetected.”
“Is he still within the Tower?” Clint asked, shooting to his feet from where he had been lounging on a couch that had been set back on its feet and cleared of most of the debris.
“No,” J.A.R.V.I.S. replied. “I believe the Commander managed to enter the subway line beneath the Tower. There is no security coverage in the old, closed-down tunnels, and it seems a logical way to make his escape.”
“While carrying an unconscious man?” Rhodes challenged the theory.
“Someone of Tony’s size and build wouldn’t be a problem – unconscious or awake,” Steve informed them. He was aware of the looks he was getting, but instead stared at one of the operational screens that J.A.R.V.I.S. was using to track his progress. For the most part, he didn’t understand the symbols and markings that kept appearing, but he trusted someone like Bruce to be able to decipher it. “How do we proceed?” Steve asked. “We can send teams down there to search for signs, to get a direction. He can’t stay in the subway system forever.”
“Why not?” Bruce frowned.
“He appeared here, out of thin air. He doesn’t have provisions for either of them,” Steve listed. “Either they both have to leave the tunnels, or he’ll find a secure place to keep Stark until he has more options.”
“But there’s no knowing where he’ll pop up,” Rhodes grumbled. “J.A.R.V.I.S., put together a map of the subway tunnels that are not in use. Highlight connections to the operating lines and stations, exits, possible connections to the sewer system…”
“Processing data,” J.A.R.V.I.S. replied. “It will take a moment.”
“He can’t just appear at street-level with Tony Stark without someone noticing,” Natasha surmised. “Someone would notice – and take a picture. I assume you’re scanning for any pictures, video or messages concerning both Tony and Captain America, J.A.R.V.I.S.?”
“Indeed. I have also attempted to ping the remote locator micro implants within Mr. Stark’s body, but there has been no response.”
“Micro implants?” Sam repeated. “He has tracking devices in his body?”
“Well, he was once kidnapped by terrorists,” Clint shrugged.
“They’re not used for that,” Bruce corrected, “although I’m sure in this situation it makes little difference.” He stepped around the screen, fingers playing with his glasses. “Can you guess as to why you aren’t able to locate the implants?”
“I wish I knew, Doctor,” the AI replied, sounding almost concerned. “I shall keep trying, however.”
“Maybe he’s being held underground, or in some kind of a bunker?” Clint guessed.
“These micro implants were designed by Mr. Stark. An ordinary shielding would not be enough to dampen their signal,” J.A.R.V.I.S. retorted a bit stiffly.
“So they’re being disrupted, or have malfunctioned,” Bruce said.
“He did incapacitate Tony with that weird little disc of his,” Rhodes recounted. “Perhaps that could have shorted out the implants.”
“It is possible. Regrettably, my information on that is limited, seeing as the interference from the Tesseract affected many of the readings during the battle.”
“How long is the range on those things?” Natasha asked. “By now, if he were to move fast, the Commander could have found a transport out of the city.”
“Unless he’s managed to take Mr. Stark off the planet, range is not an issue,” J.A.R.V.I.S. told them.
“Really?” Clint asked, disbelieving.
“Really,” was all the AI said in return.
“We’ll find him,” Bruce murmured, not looking at any of his fellow Avengers so he must have been talking to J.A.R.V.I.S. “Just keep looking. Something will pop up. Tony’s resourceful, especially under pressure. He’ll let us know where he is.”
Steve hoped he was right. He knew better than to underestimate Tony Stark, but knowing who had taken him… If the Commander was familiar with Tony Stark from his world, as well as his tech and tricks, it posed a problem none of them was probably willing to think about. Steve tried to imagine what he would do if he were in the similar situation as the Commander, but he kept coming to the conclusion that where it mattered, the two of them were not the same man, and he could not blindly rely on his own instincts to get them through this.
If he tried, it might cost Tony his life.
to be continued…
Chapter 11: The Sleep
Tony Stark had slept in many a place in his life, from luxury suites to a dumpster in an alley. In his defense, the dumpster had been a perfect way to escape the pouring rain that had been coming down that night, but maybe if he hadn’t been that drunk, he would have just called a cab to take him home – or to the nearest luxury suite available.
He had also shared a bed – his own or someone else’s – with dozens of people, and a large handful of those experiences were not something he wished ever to repeat. Not because they had been painful or nonconsensual, but because Tony had gotten around in his past and most of those encounters were easily categorized under ‘gave it a shot, moving on’. He had walked through life one single-use encounter at a time, some of them more memorable than the rest, but most of them falling short of expectations and losing their charm before the night was even over.
In hindsight, though, even the most uncomfortable one of those nights was nothing in comparison to when Tony had to lie beside the Commander on the floor of the shipping container, one of the super-soldier’s arms wrapped around him. It was just as effective as if he had been tied down, because the other was a light sleeper and stirred at Tony’s every little move.
It was infuriating, lying on the floor, untied and his freedom just a few feet away, yet he knew he would never make it to the door.
Tony chose to view it more as a challenge, to keep his spirits up, refusing to give up.
Unable to rest in his current predicament, he spent the hours subtly straining his muscles, shifting his arms bit by bit into a pose that should have sufficed to trigger the remote call for his armor. One of them had to be functioning, but seeing as he had no idea where he was, there was no telling how long it would take before one of them got to him.
If the suits even received his signal: he didn’t put it past the Commander to find some way to cut the signal, especially if he knew of the tiny implants beneath Tony’s skin. He had known about Extremis, after all. It didn’t stop him from trying, even though his spirits were lowered somewhat as hours went by and nothing happened save for his muscles complaining from the unnatural tension.
“Get some sleep,” the Commander murmured from behind him, either knowing what he was doing or simply noting that he was awake.
“The accommodations are falling a little short of my expectations,” Tony replied dryly. “Couldn’t even find a mattress?”
“Didn’t have the time,” the Commander replied.
Tony decided that if he didn’t have time for that, then there had been no time to select a location that would block the signal, and the armor had to be on its way. It was just going to take a while.
“You did okay in the cave, didn’t you?” the Commander mused after a while. “This is warm compared to that.”
Tony stiffened for a different reason. “You know about that?”
“I figured you had to have a reason for building the suits, and why else would you have Extremis?” He paused. “You are so much like him. More than I resemble the Steve Rogers from your world.”
“You have no idea who I am,” Tony replied – and would keep repeating it until the Commander accepted it as truth.
“I’ll figure it out,” was all the other man said. “Sleep,” he ordered then.
Tony let out a rebellious breath of air and adjusted his arms again, muscles protesting. Escaping was more important than minor discomfort, though,
The Commander’s arm moved, rising from Tony’s waist and halting when it reached his outstretched arms, landing on top of them and forcing them down onto the floor. “I’ll find us something more accommodating than this,” he promised, oddly enough.
“I could have had that at my home,” Tony retorted, trying to relax in order not to raise suspicion. “Why did you take me, anyway?” he asked, seeing as he might as well fish for information.
“I couldn’t afford to lose you, and our initial encounter wasn’t exactly promising.”
“You could have left out the part about being HYDRA,” Tony suggested. If not for that, they may have not questioned his motives half as much.
The Commander chuckled, and Tony could feel a breath of warm air against the back of his neck. “I know you don’t like being lied to,” the man said. “Didn’t seem like the thing to do.”
Tony wasn’t sure whether or not to be thankful for his captor’s consideration. “What now?” he asked. “What’s your big plan? Hide me in this box forever?”
Silence met his words.
“That won’t fly with me,” Tony informed the Commander. “In case that wasn’t clear from before.”
“I know,” the other replied. His hand shifted on top of Tony’s, and he stiffened again when the Commander’s fingers fanned out, attempting to intertwine his digits with Tony’s. When Tony didn’t accommodate him, the other sighed, but kept his fingers as they were – just in case Tony would relent. “I’m not trying to make you miserable, or hurt you. If you would just… cooperate…”
“To being kidnapped?” Tony snapped and twisted around and out from under the other’s arm.
For a moment he feared the Commander would grab him and force him down, but he was allowed to sit up and glare down at Steve Roger’s evil twin. In the almost nonexistent light, he could barely see an outline of his figure, but he could sense his presence just fine, so close he could almost feel him.
“Just let me go and you’ll find me in a more amicable mood,” Tony demanded.
In the dark, he could hear the Commander move – and then felt his touch on his neck. The fingers that had previously tried to hold his hand wrapped around his throat, much like earlier, but the pressure was almost nonexistent. Tony knew a warning when he was given one, though, and sat still as he felt the other sit up as well and lean closer to him. He wondered if perhaps super-soldiers could see in the dark.
“You’re the only thing I have left, in either world,” the Commander snapped. His voice was so much like Captain America’s, although not really. Tony was starting to be able to tell them apart by tiny little nuances. This Steve Rogers had seen and experienced horrors Tony’s version of the man was yet to encounter – or had been blessedly spared, having not been found by HYDRA at an earlier date. “If I let you go now, I know what the odds are,” he went on, fingers squeezing a tad tighter for a moment, as if he wanted to secure Tony to his person, somehow. “I can’t lose you, so I won’t. While I don’t want you to be miserable… it makes no difference whether you’re amicable or not.”
“It does,” Tony insisted, trying to keep his voice from wavering. “Maybe you’re telling yourself it doesn’t, but if you’re anything like the Steve Rogers I know… You’ll want to do the right thing.”
The fingers tightened again, fractionally, and Tony suddenly felt the other’s breath ghost against his face. “The right thing…” the Commander growled – then pressed his cheek against Tony’s, rubbing them together. Tony could feel the deep scarring, alien and disconcerting. “That is something HYDRA took from me a long time ago.”
“Don’t you want it back?” Tony asked.
“Why?” the Commander asked, voice rough. He pressed in close, lips brushing the shell of Tony’s ear. “It’s liberating, not to be bound by so many moral obligations. If I wanted to do the right thing, I would have put a bullet in my brain a long time ago. I would have left HYDRA for you, and burned it all to the ground. I would have never assumed I could have you, when I realized I was in a different world entirely. If I were a better man, I would be alone and miserable, wasting away in some cell while you decided what to do with me. I could never have this…” he almost crooned, fingers tightening again, and his tongue licked his lips, briefly touching Tony’s ear as well. It was impossible to tell whether it was on purpose or not.
In the next second the man shifted, facing Tony again, their noses brushing one another in the dark. Tony thought he could see a glint of eyes in front of him, but it may have been just his imagination.
“I stole the Tesseract to get you back. I was delivered to you, and I’m not about to let that gift go to waste,” he declared, voice dark. “It’s up to you whether you choose to adjust to the change or keep fighting me.”
Tony swallowed and said nothing. The suit might be on the way, and if not, the others would come for him. In the meanwhile, he would devise his own escape, because he wasn’t going to play the victim for any longer than he had to.
He had gotten away from the Ten Rings, and he would get away from the Commander, too, when given the opportunity – an opportunity which he might have to craft with his own hands, but it wasn’t as if he hadn’t done that before.
to be continued…