Summary: Sleep, and when you wake up you will still be in your room at Stark Mansion, and it will still be August 2012. You will be Steve Rogers, and I will be Tony Stark, and we will go downstairs and eat dinner ordered by JARVIS. (Inspired by Dollhouse, but not a crossover.)
Fairy Tales We Tell Ourselves
The first thing he sees is Tony hovering over him, wearing his Iron Man suit with the gold face plate removed, and Tony's face is a snapshot of concern and fear. His brain feels fuzzy, like he has just been rudely awakened from a long nap. He blinks slowly. "Did I fall asleep?" he hears himself murmur. Tony's dark eyebrows knit together. "Steve?" he asks.
Steve sits up slowly. He is sitting in a strange sleek chair in a room he doesn't recognize, with dark-paneled walls and large windows that allow him to see beyond into a large, open room filled with sunlight, wooden floors, and comfy-looking chairs. Crouching behind Tony is a clunky behemoth of wires and screens and metal boxes. Something beeps steadily.
Steve is very confused.
"Where are we?" His body feels heavy as he maneuvers out of the chair. The armrests of it are thick and white, swooping around the edges of the chair to embrace him. They connect smoothly to the headrest of the chair, a grey arc which, oddly enough, has a flat little keypad on the top. His feet find the carpet and he stands, uncertain and disoriented. The fuzzy feeling is still his head, the strangeness of his surroundings, and the last thing he remembers... panic and pain as something smashed into his head while they were battling the minions of some evil league that had been trying to use mind-control to bend unsuspecting civilians to their will. But the battle had been in a warehouse, a cold, concrete-walled place nothing like here, and he feels dread pooling in his gut.
The last time he felt this way was after he'd woken from being frozen in ice for seventy years.
Did it happen again?
"Tony?" He feels his legs trembling underneath him as he searches his surroundings for some clue about where they are, and he misses Tony's expression sagging in relief. "When are we?" Tony shifts, and the face plate slides into place, hiding any emotions his face might betray. "Come on, Cap, I'll explain later." Steve shakes his head, his heart thudding. "When, Tony? And where?" Tony's red metallic fingers close around his bicep, steering him to face the room's entrance.
"Later, Cap. We have to go." He prods Steve forward as Clint appears in the doorway, his bow at his side and blood on his clothes.
They tell him that he had been captured, that the mind-control had been tested on him. His memory had been wiped, and a new personality had been imprinted onto him. He had been given a mission, though they don't tell him what the mission was. All he knows is that after the mission had been completed they had wiped his mind again, given him a new persona, a new mission. They had done this to him again and again. He doesn't know what he did during these missions, if he hurt anyone. He doesn't think he wants to know.
They had him for three months. He doesn't remember any of this.
It's probably better that way.
When they found him, he didn't know them. He was someone else entirely, not a trace of Captain America or Steve Rogers to be found. The Hulk had subdued him, carried him to the imprinting room and held him in the chair while Tony used his tech prowess and JARVIS to hack the system and locate the personality profile of one Steven Rogers. They gave his own personality back to him, restored his memories. Saved him.
He doesn't remember any of this.
He is terrified of falling asleep. Once upon a time he had crashed a plane in the Arctic and had awoken seventy years later, alone in a confusing new millenium. Once upon a time his memories had been repeatedly stolen and replaced, and he had woken months later, not alone this time but still very confused.
What's to stop it from happening again? He has nothing but his teammate's reassurances to protect him, but even his serum-enhanced body can't go forever without sleep. Eventually he caves, feeling his eyelids forcing themselves shut while his head lolls onto his chest, then there is Bucky and Peggy and Howard in 1943, the roar of guns and tanks, and men screaming as his shield crushes them. He is holding a gun in 2012, surrounded by unknown henchmen in black masks, his right hand twisting a man's dark curly hair until the man's neck snaps sharply.
Bucky falls. A man's head whips back as a bullet tears through his forehead, leaving a tattered skull behind. The Chitauri ravage the streets of New York, shredding buildings that crumple onto terrified bystanders.
He wakes, sweat-soaked and breathing heavily. He is on a sofa in a darkened living room, night pressing against the windows, and a vaguely familiar-looking dark-haired man is sitting near him watching a silent screen that's showcasing an Old West style gunfight. He swallows, and the man looks over at him. "Morning, sunshine."
He knows this room, but the shifting light from the screen and the muted surroundings make him uneasy. "When are we?" he rasps, searching the room. "Twenty-twelve," the man says evenly, keeping his eyes on Steve.
He remembers this now: the man is Tony Stark, his friend. Playboy, genius, billionaire, philanthropist. He knows this. He is safe.
Steve has been awake for several days now, and Tony is worried. He notes the supersoldier's pallid skin and the under-eye bags that look more like bruises. He understands why Steve doesn't want to sleep; he's been there too, and he remembers clearly Steve waking from a nightmare last week, unsure of the year. Tony sips his coffee and wanders to his garage to tinker, and to ponder the mystery that is Steve.
He stops by Steve's room later in the evening. Steve is half-slumped on the bed, his sketchpad on his lap and a worn pencil drooping in his large hands. Steve's head drops forward, then his body gives a large twitch and he jerks awake, blinking rapidly. He sees Tony standing in the doorway and tries to smile. "Heeeey," he slurs.
"Capsicle." He strolls into the room and pulls the sketchpad from Steve's lap. He plucks the pencil from Steve's unresisting hand. "What are you going to do the next time aliens come to conquer Earth, Steve? Snore at them? You need to get some sleep. We need you at your best."
Steve looks up at him through heavy eyelids, cobalt eyes cloudy. Tony sets the sketchpad on the table at the side of the bed. "Tell you what. I'll keep guard." He stands at attention, miming holding a gun towards the door of Steve's room. Steve mutters something unintelligible, then sags forward again, eyes sliding shut.
Tony wants to reposition the supersoldier, because in his current position he'll wake with terrible neck and back pains, but he doesn't want to risk waking the other man by moving him. He wants to cover him with a blanket and to ruffle Steve's blonde hair, because Steve looks terribly young for once, and he wants to loop his arms around Steve's broad shoulders and say, Everything will be alright, I won't let anything happen to you. Sleep, and when you wake up you will still be in your room at Stark Mansion, and it will still be August 2012. You will be Steve Rogers, and I will be Tony Stark, and we will go downstairs and eat dinner ordered by JARVIS. It will be delicious.
But he keeps his arms and his words to himself, simply sitting on the side of the bed while Steve slumbers.
He won't let Steve lose any more time.