The Avengers never left Tony alone, not for a moment, over the next two weeks. At least one of them stayed with him, most times more than one. The helicarrier med bay was advanced and Tony didn't argue when they wanted to keep him there instead of letting Bruce take him back to the tower. None of them had seen Tony like this before; he was quiet. He did as the doctor and nurses said. He didn't offer any resistance. He just lay in the bed and stared at the ceiling. Loki, each day, had been performing the complex magic to repair Tony's arms. It was taking multiple sessions to deal with the damage to the nerves. Loki tried to engage Tony in conversation only to be met with a blank stare and noncommittal response.
Finally, at the end of the second week, finished, Loki sat back in the chair and stared at the Man of Iron. Tony stared back silently.
Loki sighed. "You know, Man of Iron, everyone does not have to be your enemy. I certainly am not your enemy any more even though I was before."
Tony stared at him for a moment and turned his head away. Loki continued speaking anyway. "Torture and manipulation tends to change a person's point of view," Loki said with a shrug. "Now that I've regained control over myself, it is apparent what they were doing. The staff you are seeking had a hold over my mind as well, but the magic was only part of what happened to break me. To know that I let them break me, and use me, it was very hard for me for a long time, Stark."
Tony stared for a long moment before he spoke, far too quietly. "So you really weren't doing all that because you wanted to?"
"Yes and no," Loki answered, crossing his arms and staring upward for a moment. "I was angry at Odin, he lied to me for what he believed was my own good, and kept the fact I wasn't a true prince of Asgard from me. I was taken from the frost giants and raised among the Aesir, as one of them, when I was Jotun. And being raised among warriors as a magical being is not easy. I was angry, and those that captured me used that anger and twisted it into blind rage. In truth, I only sought my father's approval."
Tony nodded. "I know that feeling…what is wrong with fathers who expect their kids to be something they aren't?" His voice, though still soft, was slightly stronger than before.
Loki smiled. "They are not perfect beings, Tony Stark. They are far from it. Some more than others, but alas, what may we do?"
"I can't do much, mine's dead." Tony's voice was flat, completely without emotion.
Loki shook his head. "Mine's an immortal king, so there is not much to be done with him, and I murdered my Jotun father."
"So what do we do?" Tony said, looking up at the ceiling again morosely.
Loki shrugged. "Find someone else to depend on. That is all we may do, Tony Stark. I have come to realize that sometimes the closest thing to one's heart is often within arm's reach." Loki stood and smiled sadly at Tony for a moment. "But sometimes even that seems too far away."
Tony sighed as the doctors came in and examined him. Loki had healed his arms nearly completely and accelerated the healing in the rest of his body. He wouldn't be bound to the medbay for much longer, and that was something those standing outside the room were not looking forward to in the least.
"At least he spoke to my brother," Thor said quietly to the others as they watched through the one way mirror. "Perhaps a connection has been made between them."
Steve frowned. "Though to hear Loki utter such heartfelt words is strange. It sounded like he spoke from experience."
Thor shook his head. "I am not sure to what he refers to. He has not had a romantic relationship since he was in love with his daughter Hel's mother…"
Everyone stared at Thor. "Loki has a child?" Natasha said finally.
Thor nodded, frowning. "More than one, of course. Hel is the ruler of the underworld, and he mothered Slepinir, Odin's mount."
"Wait, mothered?" Bruce said, tilting his head. "Like, in the old mythology where he turned into a female horse?"
Thor looked at them and grinned. "Yes! I am surprised that got converted to earth's lore."
Clint shook his head. "You're telling me Loki can turn into a female animal if he wants? To the point he can actually give birth?"
Thor nodded. "He's a master shape shifter. He can take any form he wishes, and the changes are not only on the surface, he becomes what he changes into. He did have to remain a horse until Slepinir was born, however, or else he wouldn't have been able to birth him. But he has more than one occasion tricked people with one of his female guises."
Everyone blinked confused for a while, imagining being able to change into other things like that. Finally, Clint cleared his throat. "So, then he's like bi."
Thor looked at him curiously for a long moment. "Bi?" he asked, frowning.
Natasha rolled her eyes. "Bisexual. Meaning he finds interest in both men and women."
"Oh, yes, Midgardians have that definition of sexuality. It really doesn't work like that in Asgard, a person's value as a partner is not dependent on their gender, honestly. Living such long lives gives us the benefit of not considering those minor sort of details," Thor said, almost in a distracted fashion, as though such things should be quite obvious.
Steve frowned deeply for a second. "You mean it isn't…odd to feel attraction to women and men in your world? I'd think, since the Norse are warriors…"
Thor shook his head. "Not at all. There are many warriors who take another man as their partner. Bondings can be done for any who wish it."
By the end of the day, Steve sat alone in his room on the helicarrier staring at the wall in silence. He'd spent the day digging through information JARVIS had helped him find. He'd recruited Black Widow and Hawkeye to help him as well. They'd taken a Quinjet and spent most of the day visiting people that JARVIS had located that still lived. What he found out left him cold as though he were still frozen in the ice.
Joseph Stelvel had been the first. He'd been on the ship that Tony and his dad had gone on the artic trip on that had left his hands so badly frostbitten. He had welcomed Steve into his home, and talked about the many expeditions he'd had with Howard Stark.
"So you went out with Howard a lot?" he asked, sipping the tea he'd been given by the old man.
"Aye, I did. I still can't believe I'm looking at the real Captain America, I remember it well. Can't remember lunch, but I remember back then like it weren't nothing," He said, smiling.
"Oh, my yes sir. At least fifteen times we went out into the arctic circle with him. He was a mite bit obsessed, you know," Joseph said with a grin. "But he only took that boy of his out a couple times, shame too; I did enjoy the kid when he came along."
Steve smiled. "Oh yeah?"
Joseph grinned in return. "He was so happy and excited when I saw him on the docks. He would talk and talk to us about what he was doing, until Mr. Stark came into the room, then the boy wouldn't say a word. Never did like that bit, you know? Something wrong when a kid won't talk around his pop. Course there were the rumors about that whole thing. Too small a ship to keep things quiet."
"Rumors?" Steve asked with a frown. He was sure he knew of which rumors the old sea dog spoke.
"Aye, that he hit the boy. It came up now and then, boy'd come one deck with a bruise or somethin', and he'd say he tripped and fell, but we knew better. Them walls in a ship ain't that thick, you know," the old man said with a sigh. "Wasn't too surprised when I seen that kid in the news, been into drugs and messes. Can't grow up right without a pop to keep you straight. And I swear, Howard weren't that kind of pop."
Steve sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "I'm sorry to have bothered you, I just…Tony was in an accident and some of this stuff came out. I just had to find out…"
Joseph nodded. "Ya, it ain't fun when ya find out the people you thought ya knew weren't who they used ta be. Shame, ya know, that he didn't treat that boy better. He idolized his dad. I can remember when he weren't around, the kid would go on and on about the things his dad did, and the inventions and how much he just wanted to be just like him one day. And boy howdy was he excited to help search for you, Captain. I remember looking down into those big brown eyes of his and he just grinned ear to ear, telling me how they were gonna find you and get you out of the water and he couldn't wait to talk to you."
Steve's face fell and he closed his eyes for a long moment. Joseph spoke softly. "Take it when you and the boy met it didn't go as well as all that."
Steve shook his head. "Tony's been through more than I can imagine, and I didn't help things. I thought I knew Howard, and so I thought I knew Tony. It would seem I was wrong on both counts. I thank you for the tea, and your time," Steve said and left, mounting his bike and taking off to nowhere in particular.
"Cap?" buzzed the intercom in his ear. It was Natasha.
"Yeah?" he answered, slowing down.
"I…there's some things you should see that we've found," Hawkeye supplied.
"Got the location, will meet you there," he said with a sigh and turned the bike around and headed toward where Clint and Natasha had told him to get to. He was a bit worried.
Steve dismounted his bike outside what looked to be a storage unit where another bike, Natasha's, sat parked. He made his way over to where he saw Hawkeye standing at the doorway of one of the larger units. He frowned, obviously, it wasn't an emergency situation, but something was going on. He didn't see the rest of the team, though. That didn't surprise him, though. He knew that Bruce would have stayed to keep an eye on Tony.
"What's up?" he asked as he came nearer to the unit.
"I thought you'd want to see this before I brought in Fury," Natasha said, coming up and handing Steve a journal.
Steve opened it and found it was emblazoned with the hydra seal on the first page. He frowned and found there were newspaper clippings inside it, like some sort of scrapbook. They were all about Tony from the time he first started getting media attention. Steve looked up at Natasha.
"What…I don't understand," he said, shaking his head.
"Come on," she said, leading him into the storage unit and flipping on the lights. Steve's jaw dropped.
The place was papered with pictures, articles, drawings, maps, all about Tony. There were photos pasted to the walls that followed Tony from childhood to very recent. He frowned an turned a circle seeing different things pasted everywhere around the room. Maps with points marked and post-it notes with commentary written on them. On the large desk was a photo of "Anna" and the two men who had been with her when she captured Tony. It started to make sense. They hadn't found anyone else that was helping her. The snipers, the people that had set things up, they had been chasing ghosts to find them. Now, it all clicked into place. Hydra.
"How'd you find this place?" he said softly.
"Just a random call, but Steve, I think they wanted us to find it, because look," she said, picking up a page on an easel with a large paper pad on it.
The Hydra symbol was crudely drawn and a note was written below it.
"We've seen what you've been doing. Make no mistake, next time, Starrk won't escape me. He's mine, and you won't have him."
Steve blinked and then heard something. "Natasha, Clint, go, run!" he said, recognizing the sound of a timer initializing.
Clint and Natasha bolted, but before Steve ran, he grabbed the journal and another book that was laying open on the desk. He managed to roll as the blast threw them. All three escaped with minor injuries and soon they were all back on the helicarrier in the conference room with both the journals open on the table.
"So our best guess is that someone gathered all this?" Fury said, watching the video that Natasha had gotten before the place exploded.
"Those are originals," Steve said, pausing it and pointing to the older pictures. "Those aren't easy to come by. Whoever this was took those pictures."
"But that would mean they're at least twenty or more years older than Tony," Natasha said, shaking her head.
Bruce came in a dropped a file on the table. "They're not. It's a variation on the super soldier serum," he said, dropping into a chair. "The DNA traces from the books confirm it. Some are thirty five years old, and the DNA from the recent additions is the same, and hasn't aged. It carries some of the markers of the serum Steve has, but not all of them. Whoever this is has been altered on the molecular level like Steve was."
"Are we saying that whoever this is designed Anna's attack? Why would anyone do that? He almost died," Natasha said. "How would that have played into this obvious obsession?"
Bruce picked up the second journal. "I think the serum drove this person mad," Bruce said, sighing. "He writes about knowing that he's supposed to have Tony, from the time he saw Tony as an infant. The writing is disturbing, to say the least. It is like he's completely fixated on him. The vast majority of this journal is about this person's internal struggle on what to do with his obsession. Then, he meets someone who offers him a good solution to 'give him everything' so he can be happy. Sounds like someone from Hydra, and then it just stops. My guess is Hydra finally got him and used their brain washing techniques on him."
Steve sighed, rubbing his head. "Okay, so what do we do now?"
Fury shook his head. "Get Tony back to the tower. I want you all there with him while I use other assets to get something done about this. Hydra is dangerous, and someone who is in this mental state and has access to their assets is not going to be a good thing. Stark's tower is the best defensive place for him for now."
The rest of the day was a blur, with everyone getting Tony settled back in at the tower. The entire ordeal, Tony had been quiet and reluctant to talk to anyone. Once he'd been settled into his room, he had requested no one bother him.
Of course, Steve was in the mindset that he had to fix things between him and Tony. He had to tell him how sorry he was for some of the things he'd said and done. So he found himself outside Tony's room and building up his courage.
"Friend Steve," Thor said as he walked by. "Why are you standing here with such a look on your face?"
Steve looked at Thor. "I'm debating on how to talk to Tony about…things."
Thor nodded slowly. "I believe that telling another person your feelings is the best place to start in matters of the heart," he said in a surprisingly gentle tone.
"Heart?" Steve said, brows meeting. "I'm talking about how I've misunderstood him, and treated him badly, and made assumptions, I don't…I'm not…that's not…" he stammered.
Thor smiled and shook his head. "Ah, of course," he said and turned and walked back the way he had come.
Steve blinked after him and then opened the door to Tony's room, intent on fixing things with him. Tony was his friend, and he wanted him to know how he felt. But how did he feel?
"Tony?" he called as he entered the dark, quiet room.
Tony, wrapped up in blankets in the middle of his large bed, rolled over and glared at him. "I said no one should bother me," he said, thinking about the fact JARVIS had obviously not listened to him.
"Look, Tony, I'm sorry but I have to apologize," Steve said as he walked in and sat down on the edge of the bed.
Tony pulled himself to sit up against the headboard and looked at him. "For what?" he said quietly.
"For not realizing that the Howard Stark I knew and the one you knew weren't the same man. I said some terrible things to you and I shouldn't have. I didn't think that Howard was capable of being such a terrible father. And he used me to be that terrible person, and I can't understand why."
Tony glanced at his hands and twisted his fingers together. "I…I wasn't good enough for him."
"You should have been, Tony," Steve said, reaching out and taking one of Tony's hands. "You should have been, and you were. If he couldn't see it, he was stupid. You're a wonderful, good person, Tony. And you're stronger than you think."
Tony chewed his lip for a second. "I'm toxic to anyone I touch, Cap, so you should just go on now that you've given your apology, okay?" he said, pulling his hand away.
Steve felt like he'd been gut punched. "No," he said, frowning, and reaching out and grabbing Tony's hand again. Tony turned on him, punching him with his other hand.
"Let go of me, dammit!" he said, but his human strength was no match for Steve's super soldier strength. "I said, let go!"
Steve shook his head. "I won't. I won't let you go because you need someone to hold onto you and I'm going to hold onto you no matter what. I don't want to lose you."
Tony growled, growing angry as he punched Steve's chest with his free hand again. "Get away, I'll turn you into something twisted and hurtful just like me, no go on and leave me alone! You should have let me die to begin with and then no one would have to worry about me and my messed up life!" he screamed finally but Steve held on.
Steve pulled him closer, despite the resistance and put his arms around the smaller man's body. "Tony, please, stop, I'm not going to leave you."
Tony pushed on Steve again and again but stopped exhausted and just sobbed into his chest finally. "I just wanted to be loved, just to be loved, that was all, and I just messed everything up, all the time, all of them, they always left and I was never good enough, no one wanted me, they wanted what I had…they wanted what I could do, they never wanted me…" he sobbed, beating weakly on Steve's chest with both fists now and heaving choking sobs.
"Tony, but I want you," Steve said when Tony had cried himself out.
Tony swallowed and looked up at Steve. "Why?"
Steve smiled, reaching up and wiping away some of Tony's tears. "I…I think it started the first day I met you. You were so…sure…so strong…and outside that suit, so vulnerable…and so brave. Tony, I want you to know, I acted the way I did because I was confused. I didn't understand why I felt the way I did."
"I don't…I don't understand," Tony said, brows creasing.
"Maybe this will help," Steve said, taking both hands and cupping his face and then leaning close enough to brush lips against him.
Tony's eyes betrayed his surprise and without thinking he cracked open his lips, and Steve took the invitation, pressing the tip of his tongue against the edge before sliding it into Tony's rapidly slackening mouth. Tony didn't move at first, and Steve worried that he'd been wrong, but then, all at once, Tony moved, his hands reaching up and grabbing Steve's hair and yanking it as he began to press back. Steve smiled lightly and let Tony take control, relaxing as Tony began to move closer to him until Steve had to move his hands to his back to hold him in place.
They parted, panting for breath and Tony swallowed. "You want me still, after…after what they…"
Steve's face had flushed completely. "Oh yes, Tony, every bit of me wants you," he said, nuzzling into Tony's neck.
"Have you…done this…before," Tony gasped as Steve's teeth raked against his collar bone.
"No," Steve breathed into his ear as he began nipping at it gently. "Just doing what feels good, isn't that enough?"
Tony nearly jumped out of his skin when Steve slid his hand down the front of the loose pajama's he was wearing and gripped his rapidly hardening arousal in his hand and began stroking him firmly. Tony swallowed, his head lolling backward as Steve moved and laid him down on his back, releasing him for a moment while he pulled off own t-shirt and sliding the pajamas off Tony's hips. Tony looked up, not sure this was happening or not, sure that this was some kind of joke or some kind of falsehood. He looked at Steve and by the completely flushed look and dilated eyes that Steve was sporting, he knew it wasn't a one way street, especially when Steve slid his jeans down over his hips and Tony saw his obvious interest in the current act.
"Oh God, Steve, are you sure you want…me…to be your first…I mean, I'm so…" Tony gasped, stopping talking to arch as Steve leaned down sucked him into his mouth. "Oh damn," he whispered. "Oh, bedside, table…lube…don't…forget it…" he gasped as Steve stood up and crawled between his legs, kissing up his chest and pausing to suck on each nipple.
Steve nodded, reaching over and pulling out a small bottle, then Tony heard the click and felt Steve work a finger into him, causing him to gasp in surprise. "You…said you'd never…" Tony whispered as Steve worked a second then third finger into him, sliding up against his prostate repeatedly.
"I said I'd never done it, I didn't say I didn't know what to do," he breathed. "There was pornography, even in the forties, but this kind we had to hide a lot better," he breathed, watching Tony's entire being come undone at his fingers alone.
Tony didn't have time to absorb that Captain America just told him he'd seen gay porn when he was younger because he carefully lifted up Tony's hips and began to ease his dripping cock into him without warning. Tony gasped because damn, he was super in more ways than one because he had never felt something that size on a living human before. Steve paused, holding a hand on Tony's hip, panting.
"Are you okay?" he asked, seeing that Tony's own interest was fading quickly. "Do you want me to stop?"
"No, no keep going, just keep going," he whined using his feet to try and pull him in quicker. "Takes a minute…oh god I didn't think I was a fucking size queen but…"
Steve nodded, trying not to rush but trying to seat himself so that Tony could adjust to his size. Tony was panting, and Steve was holding onto his control as tightly as he could because he wanted nothing more than to just fuck Tony as hard as he could until he exploded inside him but he couldn't. He could hurt him if he did that.
"M-move," Tony said finally, his legs flexing around him and Steve nodded, pulling out a bit before sliding back in, and feeling bolstered by the almost inhuman sound that Tony made. He leaned down, stilling and captured a kiss then wrapped both arms around him and sat him up on his lap, sliding even deeper inside him.
"Ah, fuck…" Tony muttered. "Harder, Steve, fuck me harder, I need to be…alive…" he muttered, clinging to him, his own cock trapped between them and causing him to come unglued.
Steven nodded, sitting up and using his legs to pull almost completely out of him before slamming back into him again and again until he felt Tony's body stiffen and clamp down on him as he came between them. Steve grit his teeth together and pumped through the tightness and felt himself tip over the edge, clutching Tony's body tightly to him as he did so.
Minutes later they both laid entwined in each other's arms. Steve ran his hand through Tony's damp hair and sighed. "I didn't come in here for that…I…"
Tony nuzzled into Steve's loose grip. "I'm not complaining," he muttered as he slipped into a dreamless sleep. Steve sighed, kissing him gently on top of the head and realizing that he was going to do everything to keep him safe. Everything and anything.