Disclaimer: I do not own the Avengers or anything directly affiliated to them.

Title, for once, not made by me. That goes to Fallfromreality. Who, through text, also gave me a few more titles. One includes Stark Naked Redemption, because she just couldn't resist. God, she's the greatest. She is also my awesome beta reader, also the first time I've had a beta reader.

Bitter Beginnings


Chapter 1

Summary: When a recon mission goes horribly wrong there's a domino effect that leaves Steve cracked and almost broken. Luckily, there's a man made of iron who might just be the one to help. Pre-slash/Slash

Tony woke up stripped of everything but his pants and dress shirt. Even his belt and shoes were gone (and his favorite tie!) and his pockets were emptied. He groaned and sat up slowly, reaching to touch the back of his head where the pain was radiating from. This was worse than any hangover. Luckily, there was only a large bump and no blood.

He bemoaned the also loss of his shoes (they were expensive!) before it occurred to him that he was almost brained for a reason and, wait, where was Rogers? Tony was pretty sure Rogers was standing next to him when everything when dark.

Twisting around was a bad idea for two reasons: One, the whole (bare and chilly and very, very locked) room swirled in a nauseating circle and two, the sight of the living legend Captain America chained up with blood running down the side of his face made him go cold.

Tony didn't bother struggling to his feet, instead he crawled over to the man who kind of almost could be considered an acquaintance as a result of about three hardcore missions, and sat back on his knees. He inspected the chains pulling Rogers' arms high above his head, the strain obvious in his shoulders. Even now, when the man was unconscious, his shoulders shook as they supported the dead (no, not dead. Never dead) weight of his slumped body.

The chains had no seam and were connect to the stone ceiling by some mechanical device he so did not have the time nor the height to inspect thoroughly, they were three times as thick as normal and something told Tony that whoever captured them knew exactly who they were dealing with. This wasn't a Tony Stark and body guard kidnapping for ransom, this was an Iron Man and Captain America capture and (not good) possibly torture.

He used his sleeve to wipe the blood off Rogers' cheek and from under his ear (the absolute red of it was bothering him quite a bit) before attempting to wake up the soldier.

"Rogers." Tony tapped the not-blood-covered cheekbone, probably a lot harder than he should. "Hey, Spangles, no sleeping on the job. I thought you were suppose to be my body guard? You suck at this job." Rogers' face twitched away from his finger, prompting him to keep talking (because, no, he was not babbling). "Next time, because there's gonna be a next time knowing Fury, I'm so snatching up Natasha…or maybe Barton. I know they wouldn't be sleeping on the job."

Rogers groaned. "Shut up, Stark," he mumbled. He squeezed his eyes together tightly before they fluttered open, his pupils not dilating properly and there was a haze over them that wouldn't clear up, making his eyes grey instead of that annoying blue Pepper liked to fangirl over.

Yeah, not good. Especially when he groaned again and his eyes slid close.

"Hey. Hey!" Tony all but yelled, making his own head ache a little worse. This want' exactly on his agenda for 'things to do while dealing with a concussion.' "No more sleepy. Nap later. Got it?"

He received a glare for that, but Rogers' face unmistakably said Got it. Which was good, because Tony was not the greatest at medical things. What he wouldn't give for Bruce right now. Hell, what he wouldn't give to not be in this situation right now.

"What do you remember?" He asked. Just to keep him talking (Tony totally knows what's going on and doesn't need a second opinion. He's Tony Stark for God's Sake, when does he ever need a second opinion? And, no, asking Bruce about something doesn't count.) The good ol' Cap may be great at following orders in normal scenarios, but this wasn't very normal. Normally bad guys don't manage to get the drop on their civilian personas and normally bad guys didn't have foresight to lock Mr. Stars'n'Stripes up in seamless metal. So, yeah, the order of not taking a Cap Nap was going to be very hard to follow. "Open your eyes, Captain," Tony said hardly a second later.

Case in point.

"You were being annoying," the Captain muttered, opening his eyes as per ordered. "As usual."

Tony rolled his eyes at that, even though it was true.

"Then darkness."

Wow, that was helpful. That's as much as Tony remembered (though, Rogers was being stuffy instead of Stark-level annoying. It was an art form, really).

"What about you?" Rogers asked him. His muscles bunched as he clenched his hands into fists and lifted his sagging body up via his wrists. It was obviously bad for aforementioned wrists, but it relieved some of the strain of his shoulders, if only for a second.

But Tony didn't like the way he winced when he finally relaxed (not the best term, but he was a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist not an English professor). The moment of relief was short lived and probably made the pain worse now.

"You probably shouldn't do that," Tony offered.

Rogers gave him a dirty look that meant Ya think and, really, it was pretty amazing how much snark the Captain could get into one look. Tony relied on words and blank stares. Rogers could make a whole unit back with just his deadpan look. Trust him, he'd seen it first-hand.

"What do you think they want with us?" Rogers asked, panting a little.

Tony tried to keep his worry internal and leaned against the wall next to him. "I don't know… And, you know what? The waiting's getting annoying." He got to his feet, struggling only slightly, and headed to the featureless door standing right in front of him. He pounded on it (hammering his head inadvertently) and shouted, "Can we get some room service in here? Little wrapped up chocolates?"


"Maybe some blankets?" He continued, on a roll and the whole damn loaf "Fluffed pillows? Lobster?...Are we even in a lobster country?"


The combination of his first name, panic, and pain made Tony turn around. Only to find the chain somehow becoming shorter and slowly lifting the Captain from the ground.

"Hey!" He shouted, raising his hands in a pathetic attempt to stop the man from rising. "I was kidding! I'll shut up. Stop!"

And the chains did stop right where they were, Rogers' toes tapping around in panic because they could just touch the floor. The look on Rogers' face made Tony go white, he'd never seen that look before and now he knew that he never wanted to see it again.

"I'll keep my mouth shut," he assured to open air.

That air apparently was listening because the chains got a little longer so now Rogers' knees were back to barely brushing the ground and his face was twisted in pain. His eyes were a little clearer, but was probably due to adrenaline so that didn't make Tony feel any better.

"You okay?" Tony asked. Stupid question, whatever.

Rogers gave a jerking nod, chest moving rapidly as he breathed harshly through his nose. "Y-Yeah." He swallowed thickly. "Just do me a f-favor? Don't a-antagonize them again…please."

It was the please that caught his attention and made him nod. He wasn't going to say sorry, even though he kind of was, because he wasn't the sorry kind of man (saying like he meant it, at least. Sarcastically was perfectly acceptable).

Tony sat down again, this time right next to the door so he could jump anyone who came in and with his legs drawn in so he could hug them comfortingly (he would say later he was just cold…was it getting colder?). He made sure to keep the Cap in his line of sight; he didn't want any more surprises injuring his teammate/acquaintance (—/friend. He'd try and deny that, but it was getting harder).

What a way for a so-called recon mission to go horribly wrong, right?

They were both silent for a moment, the only sound was Rogers' harsh breathing, until the injured man rasped out, "How long have we b-been here?"

He checked his watch. (and of course they would leave his watch and no his favorite tie or designer shoes. Come on! Who was running this freak show?) "Seventeen hours."


Tony smirked at the sarcasm, but then he blinked when something occurred to him: his watch.

He still had his watch.

Okay, run down.

The walls were thick, obviously, but not thick enough or protected to keep cell phones from working or else they wouldn't bother with taking his (or Rogers). That must mean some or most radio signal could still pass through. Which meant the super-special (superly-special-awesome) Avengers red alert signal built into his watch could still get a hold of the standby team.

And that's what he did. It would take about half an hour for the signal to reach them, no matter where they are. So they just had to last that long, plus another hour for them to get here (considering Clint's driving and the fact they would most likely split up when they got here to send a skillfully sneaky assassin around to get them instead of fight mooks). Considering they'd already been there for seventeen hours and the only bad thing was the shortening of chains Tony believed they could really last that long.

…and, of course (as usual), he was wrong.

"Mr. Stark. I believe you have something I want."

Tony rolled his eyes, glaring at the ceiling where the crackly voice was coming from. "A lot of people want a lot of things I have, doesn't mean they get it."

"So I've heard, but you're still going to give it to me."

That made him chuckle, if not a little bitterly.

"That's a quick assumption. What does the high and mighty voice want so much that they kidnap me and my guard?" He was still on just a simple recon mission, right? So yeah, he was still sticking to the whole 'Steve Rogers: Body Guard Extraordinaire' thing.

"Your Iron Man suit."

"You and everyone else in the world. Get in line, buddy."

There was an odd humming noise that made the hair on the back of his neck stand up and the air tasted like the tip of a battery (don't ask). Before he could make the inevitable connection, Steve was screaming, shrill and long, his back arching and his body twitching sporadically as electrical currents scorched through his nerves.

"Stop it!"

Nothing changed.

"I said stop!" Tony shouted. "Stop it! You can have the damn thing!"

Steve's last scream was choked. The hum turned off and the air wasn't charged anymore. His body fell limply in his chains, a sickening pop sounding from one of his shoulders as most of his weight dragged it down and forced it out of its socket.

"Steve?" Tony said quietly. He shuffled over, hand hovering over him hesitantly. "Steve, you there?" It wasn't like he could ask him if he was okay, he wasn't okay. And asking him if he was awake seemed a little stupid.

He received no answer. So maybe it would've been better to ask him if he was awake.


"Your suit, Mr. Stark."

"I heard you the first time," Tony snapped, placing his fingers on Steve's neck (wait, when did it change from Rogers to Steve?). More out of reassurance than practicality. He could see a few veins throbbing in his strained shoulders so the manual pulse check was unneeded. He just wanted to make sure. "But I don't have my suit, do I? You bastard, this was a recon not a fucking attack. I didn't need it."

"Your mistake will be sorely paid for."

The room was plunged into almost true darkness and it suddenly got about 40 degrees colder, literally making Tony's teeth chatter. Panic clawed up his throat, making it hard to breathe. He didn't fear the dark or the cold. There was only one out of all six of them who did.

He wasn't the one paying for his own mistake.

Steve's breathing quickened as he woke up. "T-Tony?"

Tony came to the sickening realization that maybe this whole capture thing was not about him (but why would they want Steve then ask for his Iron Man suit?). So far, his only torture was being forced to watch his friend be subjected to different horrors. But it was Steve who hated being restrained and who was now chained up. It was Steve who hated not having control and suddenly found himself being hoisted up.

The electricity was probably just for sick pleasure, but the dark and cold?

There were times when the Avengers completely crashed during their designated "down time" and Steve, more often than not, managed to wake them all up with his whimpering and shivering despite practically commandeering the thickest blanket.

Besides the deaths of family and friends there was nothing Steve Rogers feared most.

"T-Tony?" Steve said again, teeth chattering as well.

"I'm right here, Spangles," he assured, keeping his almost overwhelming fear and worry out of his voice.

"C-Cold," he stuttered.

Tony grimaced. "I know. Just hang in there, okay?" Come on, Team.

"W-Why is it c-cold?" There was pure panic in his voice now. "And d-dark? T-Tony!"

"Hey," he said softly. He took a guess and cupped the other man's face, wincing at the blood he felt. The head wound was bleeding again. "Hang in there, Steve," he ordered sternly. "You're not alone. I am right here."

"I c-can't see y-you," Steve all but whimpered.

Tony didn't know what to do. He hadn't felt this helpless in a long, long time. He didn't do helpless. He didn't know how to calm Steve down as he steadily worked his way to a full-on panic attack. Tony wasn't even sure the Cap was in the room with him anymore. For all he knew, he was down back in the ice with a broken Hydra ship.

"Tony! Steve!"

Tony blinked. "Clint?" The walls were that thin?

"Stand back. I'm using an EMP."

He sighed in relief, but—wait. "No, wait! Don't!"

It was too late. There was a tang of something attaching to metal and the fizz of the EMP. The door sparked and slid open at the same time the device keeping the Cap's chains attached to the ceiling shorted out and dropped him to the floor.

Steve cried out as his muscles locked painfully and spasmed from being in the same uncomfortable position for eighteen-ish hours then were suddenly freed. The electricity didn't help.

"Shit," Clint muttered, rushing in.

The two of them helped Steve sit up carefully. He leaned against Tony heavily, panting and twitching. He moaned in pain when Clint accidently jostled his arms while he took a laser through the metal.


"'S o-okay," he mumbled.

Tony shifted as Steve pressed his face into the billionaire's shoulder. "Where are the others?"

"Bruce is back at base," Clint said, brows furrowing together. The metal was really thick. "He figured that since you both were missing, but only your signal came through, Steve was injured. He's setting everything up."

"And he didn't want to Hulk out by accident," Tony deduced, "when he saw the Cap."

Clint nodded. "Natasha is stealing the information we need. And Thor is currently beating the crap out of every mook up there."

"And the main guy?"

The archer scowled. "Gone."