RATING: NC-17 for sex and violence and language
WARNINGS: noncon (in later chapters), torture, abuse, violence, canonical character death.
SUMMARY: A post-civil war/pre-secret invasion AU where Steve is dead, Tony's a mess, and everything sucks. In which Tony deals poorly with Steve's death, falls off the wagon, and sees ghosts. Oh, and the skrulls are about to invade.
CHAPTER 12: Rats in the Walls
on AO3 / on FF.net
It doesn’t feel like a scene.
Steve doesn’t say anything beyond issuing simple commands. Strip, Tony, kneel, Tony, spread your knees and bow your head, Tony.
Tony is inclined to listen, which is more than slightly ill-advised.
Because they haven’t talked about this. Tony has played around in the past, years and years back, when he knew where he stood and what he wanted and how to ask for it, but this is – terribly intimate.
He suspects that’s why Steve chose the rope. That’s the point, after all. Ropes aren’t quick like cuffs are, Tony has to sit still while he’s trussed. He has to keep his mouth shut and let Steve have him.
Steve is so certain in his movements, in the way he methodically winds the rope between Tony’s thighs and back again, over the planes of his body, around his waist. Thumbs the ends around into perfectly tight knots. Caresses each bit of Tony before he lays the silk down over his skin.
“I’d like to negotiate,” Tony says carefully, keeping his gaze straight ahead.
“Mm,” Steve says, thumbing a leather gag, “I’ll bet you would.” He kneels in front of Tony and thumbs his chin so it’s tilted up in something like supplication. “Well,” he says. “I’m listening.”
“Have you done this before?” Tony says.
Steve’s face warps into a deeply amused smirk. “Yes,” he says, pressing his thumb just inside the slick of Tony’s mouth. “Rachel liked it.”
“You said you’d done research –“
Steve laughs soft in his throat. “Research on you. I know what you like.” ‘
“How,” Tony says, disquiet slithering in his belly. “How, Steve, how would you know that –“
“You’re not the only one that can find what you need,” Steve says, leaning closer. “I watched your security footage. I’ve seen all the filthy things you let her do to you.”
There is a chill settling into Tony’s bones, and he’d like nothing more than to buck and snarl and slap a black eye across Steve’s pretty face. “You watched me,” he says, desperately trying to keep his voice steady, “you watched Rumiko and me, having sex-”
“Sex is such a loose definition,” Steve says, testing the knots on Tony’s arms.
“Untie me,” Tony says, entirely done with this bullshit. “You’re a dick, Steve, that was fucking private-”
Steve grabs at the ropes somewhere between his back and his tightly bound arms and pushes him face-first into the rug. Tony feels a knee press into his back between his shoulder blades.
There’s nothing Tony can do.
“I don’t think you understand,” Steve says, somewhere above him. “You need this. I know you, Tony, I know it all gets to be too much.” Steve’s shirt falls onto the ground next to Tony’s head. “I know you better than anyone,” he says, and his voice is measurably softer, “I don’t like seeing you unhappy.”
Steve’s fingers are tangling in his hair, and Tony can’t fucking stand it.
“You need to let me do this for you,” Steve presses, so calm.
“Steve,” Tony says, wriggling a little, trying to shake off his hand, “I don’t want to do this while I’m mad at you.”
Steve laughs soft and low in his chest. He pulls up on Tony’s arms, strains his shoulders and presses his chest into the ground even harder with his knee.
“You won’t be soon,” Steve says reasonably. “You won’t even be able to say your own name, you’ll be so far gone.” Steve’s voice is so composed, so assured, so balanced and measured in a way it hasn’t been lately, in a way that Tony thought he’d lost, and it makes him ache with nostalgia, and something curls warm in his belly.
Tony decides he’s going to ride that feeling as long as he can.
“I want a safeword,” he says, hating how his voice is getting away from him, hating how he wants to be saying get the fuck off me and isn’t. He shouldn’t have to ask for this, he shouldn’t feel like he’s fighting to keep his freedom, he shouldn’t be angry -
But Tony can’t go to work with thumb-shaped bruises on his neck. People will ask questions.
Steve palms his ass, and his touch is so feather-light it sends tremors creeping up his spine.
“No,” Steve is saying. “You won’t need one.” Tony feels it then, his bound hands against Steve’s hot skin. Steve brushes his bed-tousled hair away from the ear that’s not pressed against the rug and breathes deliberately against his neck.
“I promise,” he whispers, and then he’s working the gag into Tony’s mouth.
- - -
Tony doesn’t lose himself in subspace like he should.
He does scream and arch his back as Steve takes him carefully apart like he’s never meant anything at all. Steve’s prep is cursory at best, and then he’s using him (there’s no other word for the way he fucks into Tony’s body) like it’s all he’s good for. Steve spits out words, ugly words, tells Tony he doesn’t deserve this, that he should be so lucky, that he’s a poor excuse for a man.
He thinks maybe he enjoyed this part more when it wasn’t all true.
Tony doesn’t realize he’s hard until Steve is bringing him off with ruthless efficiency. When he comes, it’s fast and brutal and his orgasm rips through him so violently Steve has to hold him up through it.
Steve takes the gag out of his mouth (he’s left bite marks in the bit) and shoves his fingers into Tony’s mouth and holds them there until Tony lowers his eyes and sucks his own mess away.
He realizes his cheeks are wet when Steve pulls his fingers out.
“Shh,” Steve says, “It’s ok. Don’t you feel better now?”
“Yes,” Tony lies, his eyes wide and blank and leaking tears.
- - -
Tony limps into the kitchen.
Steve leaves a note this time, hastily scrawled on a napkin under a fresh mug of coffee.
Gone to meet Jessica, it says. She says she has intel. She might know where Fury is. Don’t even think about tailing us.
I love you, the post-script says.
Tony balls it up and chucks it at the wall as hard as he can.
There are bruises on his wrists, he notices, as his hand falls.
- - -
Tony doesn’t want to be in the tower.
He’s sure Jarvis heard them, heard him begging and whining and screaming like a whore. It’s nothing he hasn’t heard before, but it’s the room, it’s feeling the rug under his feet and wanting to fucking burn it, it’s looking at the closet and knowing Steve knows where all the toys are, it’s knowing it was a little awful and really fucking dangerous.
(It’s knowing he came all over himself because there’s apparently nothing that gets him off faster than being treated like shit.)
He calls the armor (it takes almost a full minute to get there, and he realizes he doesn’t remember where he left it last) and dives entirely gracelessly from the Helipad and rockets down Park. It hurts, where the plates interface with his body, because so much of him is bruised. He feels it when he banks, how the pressure on his hips intensifies.
The sooner he finds Fury, the sooner he can stop doing this.
He just wants to be Tony again.
- - -
He starts with the barbershop.
Fury, he knows, has these fucking bolt-holes all over the city, and more outside. It’s a slim shot, he’d probably be better served by working with Maria, but Steve is already meeting with Jessica and this feels better than doing nothing.
He knows if he sits still for too long he’ll have time to think about what he’s playing at with Steve.
There’s nothing in the bunker underneath the abandoned roller rink, there’s nothing down in the warehouse in the business district, there’s nothing in the basement of the gay bar on 84th, there’s nothing. Every time, he scans, and there’s nothing, no electrical signatures, no masked heat signatures, nothing on infrared, but he lands every time, he drops through rotted floors and crawls through carefully-concealed holes in cinderblock walls and doesn’t find a damn thing.
He supposes he wasn’t really expecting to, but it gives him an excuse to fly around, to punch in through rotted floors and feel like he’s being assertive.
He stays out for hours, circling, the lights beneath him for awhile over the city, and then gone, as he soars out over the ocean where there aren’t lights for him to navigate by, where the black could swallow him up if he let himself fall.
- - -
The sun is rising as he’s flying back, and he’s feeling dejected and ill when Steve is calling on his encrypted channel.
He shouldn’t be surprised, at this point.
“Yeah,” he says, feeling caught.
“You need to get back to the Helicarrier.” And there it is, the call to return. He’s been out too long, he’s tasted freedom and shed responsibility for a few too many hours.
“What happened to I’m-on-vacation,” he says, ducking under a crane.
“I’m not in the mood,” Steve snaps. “This can’t wait.”
“Ok,” Tony says, stricken, “I’m sorry, I’m coming.”
“Just get here,” Steve says.
- - -
There’s shouting before anything else. Tony hears it down the hall.
“ – playing with your food –“
“ – I’m doing what I have to –“
“ – you’re taking liberties –“
“ – I’d like to see you do better, but you’re hiding in Tokyo, aren’t you, you could be helping–
“ – I am throwing you a bone, Captain, you should be thanking me –“
Tony walks into the morgue, and they fall silent.
Jessica is covered in blood, her hair falling all into her face. Tony thinks it’s affecting her pheromones, because he feels vastly uncomfortable as soon as he walks into the room. Steve is red in the face, his hands balled into fists, trembling in his anger.
“Am I interrupting?” Tony says. He doesn’t have a fucking clue what they’re on about, but he suspects it’s his fault again (it’s always his fault), that it’s Steve getting shit for doing what Tony’s made him do.
“No,” Steve says, his gaze locked on Jessica’s face, “no, we were done, weren’t we.”
“Nice to see you again, Tony,” Jessica says, still staring Steve down. “Gonna chain me to a chair and work me over?”
“No, but I could arrest you if that would speed this along,” he says.
“Save it,” Steve snarls. “We have bigger problems.”
“Ok,” he says, carefully choosing his words, because there are so many things this could be (so many things that could be his fault), that could set Steve off. “What’s going on?”
Jessica reaches an arm out and wrenches one of the cadaver drawers out of the wall.
“Fuck,” Tony says, because there’s a naked Skrull lying on that table.
It could be a woman, lean and sinuous, but Tony knows that shade of green, knows the high sculpt of the cheekbones and the ridges on her chin and those ears. She’s wearing Elektra’s headscarf.
“She died in Japan,” Jessica says. “Logan didn’t want me to bring her back, but I thought you needed to see this.”
“Fucking Christ,” Tony says, already raising the alert level to yellow. Maria can chew him out later. “When did this happen?”
“Yesterday,” Jessica says. “She – it – died, and then it morphed. The thing is, we couldn’t tell until it was dead. Peter had no idea. Logan couldn’t smell her, I think his ego was bruised.”
“Egos aside,” Tony says, still trying to work his brain around the fact that there’s a Skrull lying dead on that table, “what the actual fuck. What were you doing in Japan, are you all there?”
“If I told you that, you’d have to arrest me –“
“Do you know where Fury is?” Tony says, rounding on her.
“Jesus, no, would you people stop asking me that –“
Steve closes a hand on his bicep, and Tony puts all of his energy into not flinching away. “She has to go,” he says urgently, “she’s only on the Helicarrier because I happened to be meeting with her anyway-”
“This wasn’t part of your liasing to begin with?” Tony says indignantly.
Jessica runs a hand through her hair. “I do need to get back. They’re gonna think you shot me and Danny is going to take your head off –“
“We don’t just shoot people,” Tony says angrily, “I’m really fucking sick -”
“Well, how would we know that,” she snaps, “you’re using Sentinels to chase us now, you gonna tell me Barnes was an accident –“
“Enough!” Steve shouts. “Jessica, go.” She casts a last filthy look Steve’s way, and a condescending one Tony’s, and then she’s beating a hasty retreat out the side door.
Tony wants to sink into the floor when Steve turns that fury his way.
“What took you so long,” he snaps.
“I was out,” Tony says, “I was looking for Fury, I’m sorry, I thought you were busy today-“
“I was,” Steve says, and he sits heavily in one of the swiveling chairs and thumbs at the catches on his jumpsuit. There is sweat beading on his brow, and his hair looks fucked around, like he’s had an especially trying day, like he’s about to fall apart at the seams.
He’s not, though. That’s not how he operates.
“We need to deal with this,” he says, his voice a little too short for Tony’s comfort.
Tony circles around the far side of Elektra-Skrull’s body and snaps on a pair of latex gloves.
She’s bleeding from several stab wounds, red blood, it’s run all over her abs and trickled down into her pubes. She’s startlingly human, and she still looks like Elektra – if it wasn’t for the green, and the ridges on her chin, and the slightly more austere bone structure, she could be a perfect copy.
He remembers, when they were all captured, the time they spent in that Skrull ship, how they were green all the time, how Reed found a way to detect them. But this one - she was in their ranks. Living with them. Fighting with them.
This is worse, he thinks.
“Steve,” Tony says. “She – it - looks – it looks just like her.”
Steve runs a hand through his grimy hair. “Yeah, I know. It’s like they had the source material,” he says grimly.
“I’m calling Reed,” Tony says. “How did Logan not realize anything? This is – really fucking problematic, but it’s new, because we used to be able to detect them, remember, Reed built a thing -”
“No one knew. Jessica couldn’t tell, Peter couldn’t tell-“
“Steve,” Tony sighs, turning the exam light off, “you can’t keep talking to them, the amnesty’s done.”
“If I hadn’t been, we wouldn’t know anything about this.”
“We don’t know anything about this! There’s a body, Steve. That’s a Skrull. There’s probably more Skrulls, we’re probably fucked.”
“We’ll handle this,” Steve says, so certain it’s infuriating.
“Steve, if there’s one of them, there’s more of them. We need to be on top of this yesterday.”
“There’s nothing to be gained from losing our heads,” Steve says coolly. “There’s nothing we can do until Reed gets here-“
“Fine,” Tony says, pacing, “then let’s talk about you and Jessica and why you were ready to rip each other’s throats out.”
Steve’s face twitches, a barely perceptible, nano-seconds long tic that Tony wouldn’t have been able to detect without Extremis.
“It’s nothing,” he says, but there’s a hair’s edge of anger that’s bleeding through. “She’s unhappy with me.”
Tony laughs hollowly. He can’t help himself, he wants to piss Steve off, because Steve deserves to feel some of what he’s been feeling lately. “Yeah, I’ll bet,” he says, and now that he’s started, he can’t stop. “You fucked them all over, didn’t you, they think you just rolled over, they think you’re a fuck-”
“You need to calm down,” Steve says, entirely unimpressed.
“No, you need to tell me what’s wrong with you and her-“
“Do I ask you for answers when you lock yourself in the basement, Tony?” Steve cuts in, snarling. “Do I make you explain yourself whenever you decide to get trashed because you can’t deal with life like the rest of us have to?”
“No,” Tony says.
“No,” Steve says.
“You don’t tell me anything,” Tony says bitterly, turning away, throwing his gloves in the bin.
But then, of course, Steve is pulling him back, his fingers closed painfully around Tony’s wrist.
“Hey,” he says sharply. “We disagreed. That’s all there is.”
“Fine,” Tony says.
“Look at me,” Steve says.
“You need to trust me,” he says.
“I do,” Tony spits out. “You don’t seem to trust me.”
Steve’s face darkens. “You need to relax. You’re getting upset over nothing.”
“So I’m upset,” Tony snaps. “It fucking happens, Steve, we can’t all be perfect like you are.”
Steve squeezes his wrist harder.
“You’re hurting me,” Tony says. “Let go.”
“Am I?” Steve says, dragging Tony closer by the waist. “Does it hurt?”
“Yes, it hurts,” Tony spits.
“Good,” Steve hisses. “You need to be taken down a notch.”
“You need to back the fuck off,” Tony says, trying and failing to wrench himself out of Steve’s arms.
“No, you need to stop questioning me at every turn,” Steve hisses in his ear, pulling him tightly against his massive chest. “You don’t care I’m meeting with them, not really, you just don’t like that it can’t be you doing it. You don’t like that you aren’t in the loop anymore. You don’t like being blind.”
“Fuck you,” Tony says.
“Yeah,” Steve says, bitter and cold, “That’s what I thought.”
“Get your damn hands off me,” Tony says, so fucking sick of Steve being right about everything, sick of him knowing all his weaknesses, all the things that make him hurt most.
“Oh, please,” Steve says, “I’m not holding you anywhere you don’t want to be.”
Tony punches Steve in the jaw with his free hand.
He knows how to fight, but Steve is a solid wall of muscle and Tony is tired and hasn’t been working out. It turns out to be a glancing blow, and Steve’s head barely even snaps to the side. Steve lets go of his wrist, though, stepping backwards momentarily, shock written all over his face, and that’s all the time Tony needs to send the gold creeping out from under his suit.
Steve thumbs his lip, he’s bleeding a little. Tony couldn’t be more thrilled.
“Yeah,” Tony says. “How’s it feel, Steve? You gonna hit me back?”
“Calm down, Tony,” he says, but he’s clearly angry too, there’s anger dancing in his eyes. Tony feels his breath harsh in his nose, feels his own rage boiling down and welling up.
“Make me,” he says desperately, half-snarling, It’s entirely the wrong thing to say, he realizes a fraction of a second too late, because then Steve is wrenching his arm up behind his back and pushing him face-first into the wall, dragging his head back painfully by the hair.
“Why do you always do this,” Steve says, holding his neck back at an outrageously painful angle. “Why do you always push, Tony?”
This is why this happens, he realizes, it’s as much him as it is Steve.
“I don’t know,” Tony says.
But that’s not true, he knows exactly why.
“Let’s talk about this bullshit where you tie me up and have your way with me and leave and then I can’t fucking sit down when I brief the crew on things,” Tony is saying, emboldened, “let’s talk about how you looked at my private security files–“
“Let’s talk about how you couldn’t bother to make it to Sharon’s funeral, even though you’re the one who signed off on putting her in Latveria to begin with, Tony,” Steve roars. “Let’s talk about how she was pregnant and you didn’t think I’d find out!”
That wasn’t in the autopsy report.
“I didn’t fucking know that,” Tony says, and he’s inches away from begging Steve to let him go, because his arm is twisted up and his eyes are watering from the pain. “I didn’t fucking sign the orders, Steve, I didn’t know anything about it-“
“Stop lying to me!” Steve bellows. “You sign all the orders, Tony! What is wrong with you, why can’t you just be honest with me?”
“I don’t remember,” Tony yells. “I don’t fucking remember, Steve!” And he’s looking, he’s looking at the autopsy report where it’s written, he’s looking at the pictures of Sharon’s fucking fetus, and yeah, that’s why Maria looked at him like he was insane when she tried to arrest him in Latveria, because that’s his signature on those documents, sending Sharon to Eastern Europe.
He’s losing his mind.
“BULLSHIT,” Steve says, slamming him against the wall again, for emphasis, Tony imagines. “How can you not remember?”
“I don’t know,” Tony says, feeling terribly lost, all of his bluster gone, “It’s not just that, I’m seeing things – people I used to know-”
“You’re a fucking piece of work,” Steve says with disgust.
“And you’re not listening,” Tony says desperately, feeling like Steve is crushing his ribs. “Steve, please-”
“I’m listening, I just don’t believe you,” Steve says viciously into his ear. “You have this uncanny habit of getting off clean while everyone else suffers for your mistakes.”
“Steve,” he gasps, “let me go, my arm.”
“No,” Steve growls.
Tony stomps on his foot, and it’s all the leverage he can get before they’re wrestling on the floor. He calls the armor, and it’s crashing through the window, but something is wrong, it won’t line up with his skin, it won’t interface with the ports right.
He tries rebooting, but then Steve is on top of him. One of the shoulder plates hits him in the side of the head and he heaves it so hard it sticks in the wall.
“What’s wrong,” he says, and there’s something wrong with his voice, it’s cracking. He hauls Tony up so he can punch him in the face. “Can’t fight without your armor? Being a coward not working out for you today?”
Firmware error, his brain tells him, and then he’s tasting blood.
Tony kicks wildly at Steve’s chest, but Steve weighs more than he does out of his armor, and he’s settled his full mass on Tony’s hips. “Stop,” he says, “I’m sorry, just stop, I want to stop.”
“You’re always sorry,” Steve says, and there’s such pain in his voice. “What do the rest of us get?” But he’s not hitting Tony anymore, he’s sitting back on his heels, and when he picks up his head, Tony sees he’s shaking with inaudible sobs, quivering with angry, desperate tears.
“Oh my god,” Tony says, because everything is more awful all the time, “Steve, I swear, I didn’t know-”
“You ruin everything,” Steve says hoarsely.
“Please let me up,” Tony moans, wheezing, feeling like he’s been run over by a truck. “Steve, you’re hurting me, I’m sorry, but just –“
“I want to hurt you,” Steve says, his voice flat and far away. “Why do you do this to me,” he whispers, and Tony isn’t sure if he’s talking to himself or to Tony. “Why do you make me feel this way?”
Tony closes his eyes and feels utterly wretched. “I don’t know, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” He can say it thousands of times, but he can’t get Sharon back for him. He feels the guilt slicing away at his insides, and he wonders how long Steve’s been swallowing this down.
How Steve can stand to even look at him.
“I want you,” Steve says raggedly, his eyes still glistening with tears. “I want to touch you.”
“Why,” Tony asks, smashing his head into the floor, “You touch me all the time, and all I do is hurt you,” Tony says quietly.
“I love you,” Steve says, sounding wrecked. “Tony,” he murmurs, bending to touch their foreheads together, “Please, I need this, I can’t-”
“I know,” Tony says, “I know, what can I do, Steve, tell me what I can do,” he forces out. Breathing, breathing is control, breathing is still a thing he can do, he’s fine.
“Show me how sorry you are,” Steve says, desolation in his eyes.
“I love you,” Tony says desperately, and he knows he’s going to do anything Steve asks of him, he was always going to do whatever Steve could ask of him, this is what they do. “Whatever you want, I’m here.”
“You’re going to do this for me,” Steve says, his voice dead and dark, “and then you’re going to fix this problem, Tony, you’re going to meet with Reed and figure out what the hell is going on.”
“Yes,” Tony says earnestly, because the sooner this is over, the sooner he can run and hide, the sooner he can wrap himself in metal and fly away, the sooner he can have a drink.
Steve kisses him like he’s the only thing that matters in the world. “Yes,” he agrees, breathless, “Use your mouth.”
It’s fine, he thinks, as he draws the gold back into his bones.
It’s not so bad, he thinks, as Steve undoes his tie and winds it around his hands.
He’s had worse, he thinks, as Steve pushes him to his knees.
This is what he needs, he thinks, as he feels himself getting hard. So what if he hates himself.
He deserves this, he thinks, as Steve holds his head and fucks his face.