A/N: I am very anxious about this piece. Really. I have no experience with drugs, but I will try to make it realistic. And I have no real experience with writing proper plot, but hopefully you will enjoy it. Please share your opinion, it's very valuable to me!


'Don't do this, kid,' an older boy – almost a man – orders Tony forcefully from across the room when he's weighing in his hands a bag he's just got hold of. It's white and shiny, seems enchanting and shimmering, even if it's just lights dancing in front of Tony's already drugged self.

He is sixteen and rich and he hates the whole world, and he hates the whoever-he-is too.

'Fuck you,' he shouts through the crowd and makes a line of the drug like Jasper showed him the other day; he's good with handiwork so it's just a short moment before he takes the straw and a second later the white powder is already in his body, even if it takes it a few minutes to start working.

The boy comes across the room, snatches the bag from Tony's hand, throws it the toilet and flushes it down; Tony can see it all, but he doesn't care. He could buy a kilogram of the drug if he wanted, anytime.

'Fuck you,' he tells the taller boy again, pro forma.

Later that year they become best friends.


If things could get any more predictable, Tony would probably just end up laughing at the whole situation. It goes like this: there is a fight with a wannabe ruler-of-the-world who seems to be a typical too-powerful moron but turns out to be madder than expected (although Tony doesn't learn that until later) and in possession of a suspiciously good tech.

Iron Man flies into an area close to the man, preparing to lay a final strike and finish the pointless battle that costs money and causalities for no real reason, and then – there is an impulse and the armor just fails. It can't be EMP because Tony has a shield against those so that shouldn't be a problem; it must be a disturbance of a different kind, then. Which usually means magic or mutants are involved, and it's the part Tony doesn't like at all.

It's not even important. No one is nearby to catch Tony as he falls to the ground, and before he can even do something, he's being dragged in the suit into a huge van, cheese manufacturing company's logo on the side, and then, in the darkness only interrupted by arc reactor's light, a few people tear the suit off his body, giving him bruises and scrapes; when it's done his hands and legs are tied, a gag is forced into his mouth and the truck drives off. It all doesn't take longer than two minutes.

Tony counts seconds, minutes, hours in his mind, but he's too exhausted and hurt and no matter how much he tries, he still falls asleep too soon into the ride.

When he wakes up, he is greeted by daylight and a beautiful view out of a huge window; there is a city of small houses and several big blue and grey towers and an ocean or a sea beyond, all bathed in sun, all covered with a warm yellowish glow.

'Good afternoon, Anthony,' a soft voice with foreign accent says behind him, but he doesn't recognize it and can't place the accent. 'How are you liking your room?'

There are a few steps an suddenly, someone is standing in front of him, smiling. Tony doesn't know the person, but it doesn't mean that much since he's met so many people in his life that they could be acquainted for years, to be honest. The man is tall and slender, wearing a pair of elegant trousers, a white top and black jacket over it. His face is… typical, Tony would say, no distinguishable features: he's got dark eyes and short dark hair not unlike Tony's, thin lips, sharp lines of cheekbones and chin.

Just a normal, well-looking thirty-something man that doesn't seem to be someone who would kidnap people, but that's always misleading.

'If you are going to imprison me, could you at least call me Tony? I don't like Anthony. Just like I don't like my hands tied, I don't know why you'd think that, but I'm not into bondage,' Tony tells the man with a fake sarcastic grin; if pleasantries then pleasantries, no problem, Tony is so good at acting fake.

'Of course, then you have to call me Toma. And the bondage, well, that is necessary precaution for the moment, but I think we will be able to do something about it soon. We just need to talk for a-few-min-utes…' the man drawls, moving a white wooden chair from the corner of the room to set it in front of Tony.

'Where are we?' Tony asks, trying to read the man, to find an answer to any of the hundreds of questions that run through his head.

'South America, but I'm afraid the more detailed answer is not mine to give,' the man replies sitting down. 'I'd offer you coffee, but with your hands it could be a bit awkward… Forgive me. Later – you must have some questions, and I can anticipate some of them, but just as well, you can guess the answers.'

'If you want me to build you weapons,' Tony says, arching an eyebrow perfectly, pretending not to care that he's a whole continent away from home. 'You know how this ended last time. The whole world knows. Boom!'

It would be better if Tony could gesticulate, but the man jumps a tiniest bit anyway, and then smiles even wider.

'What an astounding performance,' he says, cocking his head. 'But you are wrong. I just want to have some – fun with you. It's enough for me that you are not making any more of your beautiful tech for the world right now. And you are here, I am delighted,' Toma says, winking at Tony.

The man, Tony decides, is obviously mad, and fear slowly starts to crawl under Tony's skin.

'You know Nikola Tesla,' Toma states easily, leaning back in the chair, 'Of course you know. I come from not far from where he was from. I was born there, too, and raised in a small town. I went to school, I won prizes for being an excellent student. I told my parents that I wanted to be an engineer and an inventor, they were so happy! Tesla was almost worshipped around the region as the greatest scientist of all times. But there weren't money in the family to send me to university and by an unfortunate chain of events I wasn't granted a scholarship, so all I could do was study by myself, teach myself everything I would need in my life to be like him. You follow me?'

'Yeah,' Tony admits, wondering where the story is going, listening to each of the man's words closely, as if there were an answer hidden between them.

'I made a few nice things, entered some contests, but even if the jury would tell me my work is really good, they didn't want to help me with finding a place to study and keep working. I was angry, really angry at that point, I could only imagine all the happy people who can pay hundreds of thousands for their degrees…'

'Like me,' Tony guesses. His MIT years were at least mentioned in every article anyone did on him, the youngest graduation with doctorate ever, it shouldn't even be possible but it was.

'Like you, yes. Like hundreds of other people, too, only that you kind of… imposed yourself. Or the media imposed you on the world. So, I wanted to be one of the good guys, change this place for the better and all that – believe me, I am such an idealist! – but they didn't let me.'

'So it was the bad guys who recruited you,' Tony guesses, trying not to sigh, because come on, this is so cliché that it's almost unbelievable.

'You can say so,' Toma admits. 'They found me and asked for my help. The mafia here, in South America, has a really big influence… They proposed me money and education and a possibility to work in exchange for my inventions and I was happy to oblige. I got two PhD's, I've been working and getting the money my work is worth. And you see!' the man exclaims, standing up abruptly, 'I invented the device that made Iron Man fall to the ground and not get up. The world now knows that there is someone they have to take into consideration, who isn't steps behind you anymore. I'm a step ahead – for now – and that will change.'

'So, that's why I am here, exactly? So that you can be the world's most renown inventor?' Tony asks, making a face. He's feeling sore and a bit dizzy and really hungry, not like he's going to admit that to the man, but the whole megalomaniac talk is just giving him shivers.

'My bosses want you out of the picture. You make too many toys for the good guys, too many inventions that make their work more difficult, so they started to be really annoyed with you. And I, well, I just want to see you suffer,' the man states viscously, with a pleasant smile, walking up to Tony and looking closely at his face. Tony can't really move, so he looks away.

'You're not the only one,' Tony murmurs, honestly, everyone knows he's been kidnapped several times and he manages to get free each time, even in Afghanistan… 'So, torture?'

'I guess not, but it's me who has you here now and not anyone else. And yes, you could say so,' Toma starts, taking something out of his pocket, a small black leather-covered box, 'but this is South America, Tony. I've got a special surprise for you,' the man adds, saying the words slowly, as if he was tasting them, and opens the box, letting Tony see the inside: padded with black velvet – there is a syringe inside, filled with a transparent liquid, and Tony suddenly has a very, very bad feeling. His heart momentarily starts to beat faster and faster and a cold shiver runs down his spine; he thinks he should protest, shout, fuck, beg even, but he can't, it just feels as if he was paralyzed as he watches Toma, with the same kind smile, install a fresh needle and prepare the syringe for injection.


'I see you know what I'm going to do, Tony. That's good,' Toma speaks up, his voice sweet as if he was talking to a kid. 'You know, you should have been a nice boy when you were younger instead of letting the whole world know about your mistakes… Believe me, I was such a good kid… But we all get what we deserve at some point – you can choose, right arm or left arm?'

'Please,' Tony manages to force himself to say, eyes closed, humiliation and fear burning inside his body. 'Please, not this…'

'Ah, but I'm sorry, it will be exactly this.'

Tony's arms are tied to the chair separately on his sides, so the man has an easy access to them; he kneels by the chair's side and rolls up the sleeve of the blouse that Tony is wearing, then within seconds, he finds the vein, the needle pierces the skin and Tony feels an uncomfortable pressure that quickly dissipates; then the needle is gone and he's left with nothing more but a stinging feeling.

It takes only half a minute for the drug to start working, and Toma stays close by, observing Tony's reactions; Tony himself knows the fucking list too well.

When he starts to feel exhilarated, heart beating even faster, jaw clenched, he knows that this is going to be bad. Really, really bad – only that he's just too ecstatic right now to care.

Toma gives him a radiant smile, hiding the syringe into the box.

'You missed the feeling, didn't you?' he asks, whispering the worlds into Tony's ear. 'Of course you did. You missed her, even if you tried to fool yourself into believing you didn't. Oh, I love this!' the man sings louder, taking a few steps away from Tony; the stream of words is loud and harsh in Tony's ears and he'd very much like to reply, there are endless words waiting to roll off this tongue, but somehow he manages to stay silent. His mouth feels painfully dry.

He can't stop grinning, though.

Toma puts his chair back into place, looks around and nods to himself, then he walks towards the door and when he's passing Tony, he leans over him and hisses:

'You will die hating yourself for how you love what is killing you.'

Then he is gone.

Tony knows he should feel terrified, but all he does feel is euphoria.


'You are making a big mistake by sticking with that guys,' Rhodey tells Tony. 'They are nothing but trouble. And everyone knows very well what they like to do in their free time.'

'Don't pretend you are and angel yourself, sweetheart,' Tony says mockingly, like always, not looking away from the machine he's working on.

'I am twenty – and you are not even sixteen, when will you be sixteen?'

'In three weeks, don't make my heart bleed, you must have heard about the party I have planned. Everyone has heard about it. You can be a guest of honor if you help me with persuading my bodyguards to keep their mouths shut.'

The last few words are muffled since Tony put a screwdriver between his teeth, as if he couldn't just place it on the table.

'You will just bribe them anyway,' Rhodey comments, taking a sip of his coffee.

'True,' Tony replies, the screwdriver back in his hand, and then he turns around and flashes Rhodey a perfect media smile he's learned probably when he was a toddler. There are dark rings under his eyes, his skin is pale, lips parched.

Rhodey would like to say he doesn't know where the boy finds the energy to go on so frantically, but he knows – and the worst thing is, he can't do anything about it.


The crash is softer, more subtle and comes quicker that Tony expected.

That is logical, of course, given that a drug injected always runs through the organism faster than any other. It worked like that on every drug Tony has ever tried, and there've been a few.

Cocaine, though –

'Stop,' he tells himself firmly, feeling even more achy and restless in the chair-bound position now, his skin almost itching after the beautiful twenty minutes of being blissfully high. 'Don't even think about it. Someone will find you,' he tell himself, but he can hear the man's – Toma's – laughter ringing in his ears. South America, no traces left, of course, it could take a year to find him or it could never happen.

That is much more likely than Tony likes lets himself think.

So, to focus his mind on something else, he glances around the room. It's small but not cramped and Tony can see most of it from his place in the middle of the room; there is much more space in front of him than behind him given the echo, he knows without looking.

So, the doors behind him, the windowed wall in front of him. Bed on his left, behind it a tiny round table with a pot of flowers on the top. A cupboard on Tony's right, and the other chair in the corner. Walls painted light beige, floor wooden, deep brown color. That's all.

Simple, sleek and modern, eye-catching, with an amazing view. Nothing electronic, nothing that could be turned into a tool of some kind. The windows, Tony is sure, made of reinforced glass impossible to break. It's a complete contradiction of any prison that Tony has ever expected to find himself in, if a situation like this happened.

Tony doesn't have anything to do, especially with his hands tied, so he lets his mind wander, lets himself think of the battle and analyze all details, trying to figure out if there were any signs that the man they were fighting with was cleverer than they thought, but he can't remember anything like that.

He doesn't remember much before the fall, either, it's all blurry and unclear; it's usually JARVIS to do the detailed analysis second-by-second, with his cameras and sensors calibrated perfectly, counting time down to milliseconds. The A.I. wasn't responding when Tony started falling, so whatever Toma's device was, it must have shut off the electricity inside the suits; Tony was only lucky that the arc reactor was untouched.

'Arc reactor,' he murmurs to himself again, glancing down at his chest, the comforting blue light is there, untouched, constant. At least that much is okay.

It's more or less two hours before Toma comes again; Tony doesn't know exactly, since the drug has always made his internal clock go somehow unbalanced; he can estimate so much from the view of the town in front of him: it's bathed in soft pinks now, about an hour before the sky turns completely black.

'I see you are feeling all right, Tony, that's good, that's amazing,' the man starts as soon as he finds himself where Tony can see him. 'I've got something for you here,' he adds, putting a brown paper bag on the table. 'Dinner. I am sorry that it's only cold food today, but we were all a bit… busy recently.'

Tony follows his movements, staring at Toma with blank face. More than the physical discomfort – he really needs to use the bathroom, come on, and clean all the dried blood off his skin – it's the thought that he's at the man's mercy that makes him distressed. He really is at Toma's mercy. Even if Tony is be a bit bigger and more muscular than the man, he is sure if he tried anything, he would somehow be contained a moment later; Toma really seems to be too smart to make a child's mistake.

'How about I untie your hands, Tony? Only that you'd have to promise me you will be a good boy and won't try anything.'

No threats, so he feels secure, and Tony has no way of determining what kind of precautions did the man take.

'You don't even have to ask. Just tell me if you'll be nice.'

'I will, since you are such a kind host,' Tony replies cheekily before he can stop himself, making Toma even more delighted.

'Fantastic!' the man says and claps his hands before moving to Tony and kneeling on the floor to untie the ropes – no, ribbons. He's been tied with fucking black velvet ribbons. This is officially the weirdest thing ever.

But it's just one more indication of the man's unpredictability.

A moment later Tony's other hand is free and he rubs his wrists gently, helping the soreness and the cold heeling in his hands go away. Toma steps away, his head cocked, and the first thing Tony does is look behind, only to see an empty space and another transparent wall with doors – no, there is one more doorframe on the same side as the bed, no doors though.

'Yes, Tony, that is your beauty place. Come on, come on,' Toma informs him happily, making a shoving movement with his hand.

Tony gets up from the chair and waits a few moments to feel his legs properly again before he takes a few steps, stumbling a bit, but it's all very close. The bathroom is tiny, too, consisting of a shower that takes up three quarters of the space, and a toilet. That really in uncannily civilized for a holding cell, but Tony doesn't plan to complain.

Toma disappears in the meantime and when Tony's relieved himself, he's back with a towel and set of clothing and hands them to Tony with the same pleasant smile.

'You wanna me to have Stockholm Syndrome, huh?' Tony asks, taking the things and putting them on the floor next to the shower.

'That would be very interesting, I have to say,' Toma admits with a gleam in his eye. 'But I think you are a bit too strong for that. See? I even give you compliments!'

Tony cocks his head, staring at the man who is almost bouncing happily.

Everything is so, so wrong.

Toma leaves again without a word, waving at Tony, and for the first Tony sees the door open: there seems to be a palm-reading mechanism installed into the glass surface in the middle of the door, and an retinal scanner; probably no security on the outside.

Tony takes a long shower, cleaning the dirt and blood off his skin, making an assessment of the state of his body; he's got a great number of big purple bruises and red scraps and cuts from the battle – and from having the suit taken off unprofessionally, it feels like his ribs are bruised, too, but otherwise he is as good as he was. That's probably a good thing, but Tony can't make himself rejoice.

When he steps out of the shower, the room is half-dark. He finds out that there is a jug of water on the table. Some stray mist lazily sneaks out from the bathroom fills the room; everything else is unchanged – and no one seems to be around, at least not in the part of the house Tony can see.

He puts on the clothes he was given – a pair of soft cotton pants and t-shirt, both a bit too big, but almost his size, stands in the middle of the room and looks around, but decides that he's going to make an assessment of the place in the morning, since there doesn't seem to be any light switch anywhere.

Then of course he can't sleep.

Tony is a light sleeper anyway – unless he pushes himself almost to the state of unconsciousness, but that doesn't happen so often days – and he doesn't spend much time sleeping anyway, maybe four hours a day, seven to eight if it's after two days. And – he's just spend who knows how many hours unconscious.

Being in captivity of a madman, because there is no question as for that, it's a petrifying thought and the more Tony lets himself analyze the situation, the worse it seems to be. He doesn't know anything about where he is, no means to contact the world, nothing that he could use. It's – it's the best mind game he's been pulled into, and that's even without mentioning – her.


Everything would be better, hell, even waterboarding and having an open-heart operation drugged by half-legal and possibly lethal medicine. Any kind of torture, Tony prides himself in being able to bear a lot. A lot, but not everything.

And her, it's – he is at the man's mercy. He's been clean for almost twenty years and after one time, Tony can feel his body craving her again, already, the empty achy feeling in gut, the restlessness that is possible to ignore but only for now. Not for much longer. There is absolutely nothing to do in the room, besides staring out of the windows, and this is almost as difficult as feeling the drug slowly seeping into his veins, into all the cells of his body.

It's maybe two or three hours of constantly-interrupted sleep that Tony manages, but when the sun starts going up, he knows there will be no more rest, even though the bed is quite comfortable and he has a blanket and a pillow and everything that makes him hate this place even more, because his body tells him not to.

He lays on the bed thinking about the others. Pepper and the Avengers. He – he can only imagine what they might be doing now, how they might be worried, how frantic the tower's common kitchen must be, buzzing with ideas, questions, plant. He hopes. If they don't find him –

No. Better not to be pessimistic. Or realistic.

They all must be worrying so, so much, and Tony kind of feels sorry for making a mess and making himself a trouble yet again, but – it doesn't matter now. The feelings. Whatever he might think about his not-so-newfound-anymore team, his friends. Not yet family, but maybe in some months, in some years, he would have called them that – fuck. He will.

Survival rule number one, don't let yourself thinks of yourself as if you were dead already.

Tony counts minutes until he makes a mistake and finally drags himself out of the bed to have a closer look at the room; there surely are cameras hidden somewhere and whoever is observing must have great fun, staring as he lurks under the bed and runs his hands across the walls and traces all potential cracks in the structure; both parties know that it's futile, but it doesn't mean he can't. There is nothing hidden, even the cupboard is completely empty besides two magazines from twenty years back, completely not matching the modern space, faded so much that it's impossible to read them. In English, so that doesn't help. Tony can only stare at the almost-white pictures, trying to figure out what they might have been.

Just as he tosses them across the room, angry and resigned, a figure appears behind the glass wall and a moment later Toma comes inside the room, bearing some nice-smelling food. Tomatoes and eggs, it seems like…

'Enjoy, Tony, I need to be going,' the man states, putting the plate on Tony's chair that is still in the middle of the room, and leaves quickly.

The silence rings in Tony's ears, together with confusion that he can't shake off, what, no cocaine? It's surprising and Tony hates how – how his body almost wants her. Desires her.

He's fucked.

'Sure, you better leave,' he murmurs to himself, taking the plate from the chair and placing it on his lap as he sits down on the bed. There is a plastic fork, how sweet. 'It all works even better when you're not here, hmm?'

Tony eats the food slowly, deliberately taking his time, because there is nothing else to do. Nothing but – waiting. Waiting and waiting and waiting and wondering what is going on in the world and expecting and trying to guess what the man might do. It's – different from being in the captivity of simple brutes, of those who prefer physical force and violence and blood, and it's more exhausting. More lethal. More disquieting.

Especially with the catalogue-like view of the house and a perfect postcard-like view of the town below, and the beautiful late summer nature.

So, Tony stares and thinks and stares some more, tries to sleep, to do anything, including playing mental chess against himself, but he can't focus enough to make the game make sense, he can't focus on anything enough.

He walks around the room again, measuring distances, mentally mapping angles, trying to calculate the latitude of wherever he might be using the sun, but he doesn't have enough data yet, so he in the end he just sits down by the window and observes the outside, bathed in warm sun, leaves moving an a wind he can't feel.

He's not sure how long he's been waiting like that – the sun has moved considerably – before Toma comes again, with a bag in his hand.

'Got you burgers, all-American, hope you will like them,' he says, putting the bag on the floor next to Tony, and leaves

Tony is sure that it's just the calm before the storm.


In April Tony wins a contest for a program that could be used to command robots. It's not an A.I., but it suits the purpose perfectly.

For once, Howard is present during the awarding ceremony and Tony is beaming. He ignores his friends from school and introduces his father to Rhodey only. Howard takes an instant liking to the man, twenty one now, going to graduate early – not as early as Tony, but no one is going to do that – with excellent grades and a dream to work for the Air Force.

'Thank you for looking out for my boy,' Howard tells Rhodey, who smiles and says it's nothing, knowing that Tony hates it all. 'He behaves like such a brat sometimes,' Howard adds in stage whisper, but Tony is above caring.

He walks proud to the podium and shakes hands, takes the cup in his hands and dedicates it to his father with a smile that looks genuine to everyone but himself.

When Howard is gone, Tony goes back to his flat, orders his bodyguards out and bribes them to stay in their place for the rest of the weekend, then calls Jason and Miriam over. He should dedicate the award to them, if he was trying to be honest, 'cause it was them who provided him with drugs and it was drugs that provided him clarity of mind and endless ideas and the energy to stay up all nights writing the code besides effortlessly keeping up with classes and social life.

It's that night that he tries crack for the first time, it's still a relatively new thing, but decides that he prefers the traditional coke. Works longer – and that's what he needs, because there are endless things he's got to do and there isn't enough time.


The next morning, Toma states that Tony's been a good boy and tells him it's time for his reward. Tony punches the man had five seconds later there are two 200 pounds guys pinning him to the ground and Toma, with his face bloodied, he might have a broken nose, Tony guesses, he just stands there, the red drops falling on his clothes and onto the floor, and laughs with delight.

'You're just making it sweeter,' he whispers into Tony's ear when he's been put on the bed, sitting up with arms and legs tied, but without a gag this time.

'My fucking pleasure,' Tony spats, watching frozen how Toma takes the familiar box out of his jacket's pocket and prepares the syringe. He doesn't try begging this time, having learned that his humiliation and admitting to weakness are not what Toma wants. Tony can't guess what exactly the man wants.

'What a beautiful, beautiful veins you've got here,' the man murmurs in a low voice, preparing the syringe mechanically; Tony can't tear his eyes away from Toma's dancing hands, staring with morbid curiosity because he can't, can't do anything else – and he doesn't want to let the destruction just happen. Staring makes him feel a bit, a tiniest bit, as if he were in control.

He is petrified and his body wants this and it's the most terrible thing about this situation.

The needle pierces Tony's skin, he doesn't really feel any pain, and then the injection is quick and before he realizes, Toma is putting the syringe away and dripping some of his blood on the bed sheet.

Everything now is familiar, a lovely sequence, repeating like a shitty metaphor; the heartbeat and the pupils, the feeling is Tony's muscles and the excitement that's hard to contain, it all kicks in fully within half a minute. Toma stands there, observing and rubbing his face, smearing the half-dried blood and looking like a man out of a very cheap horror movie. When he sees Tony's body react, he smiles, nods to himself and leaves without a word.

Then it repeats.

Again and again and again; it's small doses but Tony knows that if it continues like that, his body will need more and more drug.

Toma brings him a gift twice a day for a few days. Tony desperately tries to think of any way to make the man stop, tries talking and sweet-talking, tries bribing, tries shouting and crying even, but Toma just stands there with his usual smirk and waits until Tony stops his hysterics. Tony manages to lay a few more punches on the man, but each time it ends the same way, with being thrown on the floor brutally by the two residential goons.

And in the meantime, between the doses, Tony still has nothing to do.

He would prefer the fucking man to try to interrogate him, try to steal everything that Tony's got in his mind – but the Toma doesn't. He doesn't seem to care about the fact that he could – theoretically – have all of Tony's secretes and make the world his.

'I will achieve all this on my own, as long as you don't interfere,' Toma tells him one time, his words sounding loud and colorful in Tony's drugged mind. 'I don't need to cower before you and I don't need to know your secrets because as long as you're here, it doesn't matter what's in your head, and I – I'm acting now. It's my showtime now!' he adds with a giggle.

'You know that there are people looking for me,' Tony reminds him, his voice much too cheerful since he is having a hard time controlling himself. He still does try, though.

'Yes, believe me, I know! Your disappearance has been all over the news and I'm quite sure your precious friends and the agency are checking all possible places for you, but contrary to your stay in Afghanistan, they don't even know the country!'

'I think you are underestimating them,' Tony replies with a grin, but he isn't sure if he believes his own words.

Toma just laughs again, he always fucking laughs and Tony can't get the sound out of his mind even when the man leaves; it seems to be permanently echoing in within the room's small empty space.

The other day, Toma brings him a few sheets of plain white paper and a pencil.

It's a temptation, because Tony could occupy himself with something that wouldn't make his brain rot, but – he can't. He can't do any specs or write down any ideas, it would just be taken away, he is sure… But it's so, so fucking difficult to stop himself, as the drug makes his think cleared, quicker, better, like – back then, and his head is bursting with ideas that he can't dare to express.

Toma is a scientist, an inventor, according to his words – Tony decides he can believe that for now – so he knows very well how terrible it is to do nothing. Tony can't do any work, and if not then what he is supposed to do, write poems?

So, in the ends, he draws mini chessboards and plays with himself.

The papers lasts him for two days and then he discovers that it's all gone, his drawings and the pencil and even the two newspapers from the cupboard.

The addiction is creeping up on him inevitably, even if Tony tries his best to fool himself, but his body's reactions are more than obvious. Toma observes him closely and he must have noticed that Tony is getting used to the drug, and the comedowns are worse and worse every day, even if the change is subtle; Tony finds himself more irritated, more distressed and lethargic, and – the headaches. It's been one of the biggest issues back then, and Tony hasn't missed them at all for the last two decades.

Then, after two weeks or so, Toma comes up, of course he does, with the most elaborate torture of all: he's been giving Tony shots twice a day (changing places, always sterile equipment, even coming back to rub some sort of scar cream that makes the marks much less visible, in some crazy attempt at hiding the evidence), morning and afternoon, and suddenly – he doesn't. One morning, Tony is already mentally prepared, all braced for the drug in his system, and there just isn't an injection.

And his body, used to the routine, just screams.

Come to think of it, Afghanistan was much easier than this.

Being surrounded by terrorists who could kill him any second, having a battery attached to his chest, torture, the stench of death all around, seeing his legacy in the remote sandy lands, the cold and the food and the pain, he hated it all, he hates it still. All that time, he's felt nothing but hate and disgust.

Drugs are pleasant and make Tony ecstatic and energetic and help him come up with the most amazing ideas of his life, thought running wild, without any boundaries or logic's limits; it feels good and his mind protests against going back to normalcy, boring and dreadful. He can see the world out of the window, the sun and the sky, cars and planes.

Afghanistan was purpose and determination, he has tools and options and activity, and he wasn't there alone, he has Yinsen. Here, it's him and Toma and silence, all he had was the white paper and pencil and it's gone, too, and Tony knows he can't get out.

Toma comes and goes, Tony tries to struggle a few more times but then he decides that it really is pointless, it doesn't change anything. It's been about a month since his capture and there is no indication that anyone is looking for – finding him.

And Tony knows that he's slightly, slightly, inevitably going insane.

One day, when Toma comes with the drug, Tony just stretches out his arm obediently and looks away; the man stops for a few moments and hold his breath, but then laughs happily and administers the dose of the drug.

'I'm so proud of you, Tony. I love seeing you like this,' he whispers into Tony's ear after the drug is already doing its job. Tony smiles, looking the man in the eye, and all he sees is pure admiration and he feels – proud – when he realizes what he's doing, he looks away quickly and stays staring at the wall until the man disappears. He's in such a blissful state now that he can't bring himself to care, but when the comedown comes and he fully understands what has happened, he drags himself to the bathroom and throws up at the realization just how much he rightfully loathes himself –

– the thing that he has become.

He spends rest of the day sitting on the floor in the small room, filled with a sweet scent of vomit. It's – it's the only place where he feels like he has some privacy, even though it's obvious that there are cameras there, too, and there are no doors – just a doorframe, just a hole, but at least the walls are not transparent.

Toma comes later, seeming upset with Tony's behavior and basically drags him to bed, giving him another shot and Tony doesn't have strength to fight or to protest anymore.

It takes him a few more days to decide that he hates staring out of the windows, what has been one of his main activities so far, because it almost bears a promise, and it's been six weeks, over six weeks, and nothing has changed, it only gets worse and worse and if he's not on the drug he has a pounding headache and feels like someone was staring at him, feels a strange gaze on his back even though there is no one there, ever, besides invisible cameras and Toma a few times a day; the house is completely lifeless, but looks perfectly normal.

The silence starts to ring in Tony's ears and with the pounding feeing in his temples it's constant and painful and he can't think properly, can't concentrate, can't do anything.

But then Tony finds the answer and it's been there all the time and helps the tiniest big: he just stays in the bathroom suite with the water running, either sitting on the floor or inside the shower; the soft murmur of water is like white noise, calming him and easing the restlessness just a tiniest bit.

'Do you think I've got you addicted yet?' Toma asks him sweetly as soon as he comes into the room. Tony is sitting on the floor, slumped, his back against the wall. He just raises his eyebrows in response, quite sure that his face says are you fucking retarded or something? but the man only smiles. He always smiles. It's terrifying.

'Fuck you,' Tony manages, looking somewhere behind the man's head.

'I've got something special for you,' Toma just states, taking something out of his pocket, but it's not the familiar black box. This one is smaller and silver, with something engraved on the top, but Tony can't make it out. Toma takes out a small glass pipe. 'Oh, it wasn't after your times, right? Started out on '84, when you were a cute kid just starting your course in MIT… Yeah. Have you tried it?' Tony doesn't answer and Toma's hand grabs his face the man kneels down. 'Have you?'

Tony nods.

'Perfect. So you know how everything works!' the man replies, letting go of Tony's face and handing him the pipe. Tony doesn't take it; they stay unmoving for a few long moments, like marble statues, and the world around seems to have frozen, too – but then Toma sighs theatrically and tuts in disapproval. 'Well, your choice,' he says, takes out the black box and quickly injects a bigger dose than usually – Tony can tell that perfectly by now – and disappears.

He doesn't come back for three days and by that time, Tony is tired and achy and restless, he managed to sleep a total of maybe three hours, and he is hungry, so fucking hungry, he knows he hasn't been eating enough 'cause the drug reduced his appetite and now his stomach just hurts so, so much.

When Toma comes, he's holding a perfectly-smelling bag filled with food, but Tony knows that it won't be for free and he knows that he's not going to resist because he's not strong enough and it feels like he's going to die anyway so what's the difference?

So he takes the pipe and gives it back when Toma tells him to, crack already in his system, making Tony feel relaxed and happy immediately, making all the tiredness and pain go away, and it's a bliss.

Even though he understands rationally that he is making a big, big mistake, he can't stop himself. Toma is happy, says that Tony is a good boy and brings him only crack from now on; if Tony doesn't oblige, he doesn't get food and he's as much as physically forced to smoke it anyway, in rather ingenious ways.

The marks on his arms heal until they are invisible.

One time, Tony even gets a book. It's Dostoyevsky's The Idiot and Tony reads it in one go, not able to tear himself away from the first thing he's been really able to occupy himself in weeks. It disappears the next day.

Toma brings him food and tells him about how desperately the US are looking for their golden boy. Tony doesn't let himself think about his teammates, about his friends, because it hurts so fucking much and he is not sure he can remember their faces well enough. Everything that's beyond the house, his well-lit, beautiful prison, seems to be a dream. He doesn't let himself hope anymore because it's been two months and a half and there is no sign of rescue and he – he is just sinking lower and lower and Toma is glowing.

Until one evening, almost exactly three months after Tony's capture – it's not like he doesn't know, Toma likes to boast – the man gives him food for the usual… price, and leaves. He doesn't come the next day and the next and the next, and on fifth day Tony's body is free of the drug and it makes him crave it like crazy; he is almost delirious with hunger and pain, he can't even make himself move to the bathroom, to the safe place, just lays exposed on the bed and stares – and then he spots a familiar shadow of a jet on the bright morning sky.