The world was a slate gray, colorless and dull save for the crimson coating the back of his knuckles and the blue of Tony’s eyes, but he didn’t mind. Those were the only colors he needed.
He could remember the first time he saw those eyes, the moment crystallized in his memory, sharp and vivid unlike the sleepy days that slipped past him in a blur of shadows. They had been indistinguishable until then, an everlasting, unchanging winter.
They asked him once after he woke up from the ice, a short while and a lifetime ago, if he had any trouble sleeping.
“No,” he said.
It was hard to when all he could see for miles was a stretch of blinding white. Nothing changed whether he slept or stayed awake.
But things were different now. He had Tony. He would always have Tony.
He would make sure of it.
“Mine,” he said once.
“Yours,” Tony agreed, his laugh soft against Steve’s lips, “Always yours.”
A long time ago, he thought, there might have been a time when doing this would have given him pause. He saw the same question reflected in the eyes of the man before him and answered with a blow to the neck.
They had taken Tony away from him, and he was getting Tony back.
The head fell to the ground with a wet, heavy thud.
It was a simple problem really. And this was a simple solution.
Blood dripped from the edge of his shield to the pool at his feet, the same shade of red as Tony’s armor.
It came to him unbidden, a force so strong and swift that it caught him by surprise.
Tony walked in, and something in Steve had calmed. He had no sense of time or place within these sterile walls, but for the first time since he woke up, he felt settled, grounded.
“Captain,” Tony said, and he found faith again.
“What do you need?” Tony panted against his mouth. “I’ll do anything,” he said, trailing hot kisses along his jaw and neck. “I’ll be anything. Tell me.” He pressed Steve against the wall, kissing him fully on the mouth again.
He was rambling, Steve knew, but the sincerity was dizzying to take in. He broke off the kiss, resting his forehead against Tony’s. “Just...be here,” he replied, closing his eyes and letting the sound of Tony’s breathing steady him. “That’s all.”
There was a pause before Tony spoke again, words gentle and slow this time. “I can do that.” Tony cupped his face, the pad of his thumb skimming across his cheek. He melted into Tony’s touch. “I’ll do that. I promise.”
And in the beginning, he did. But like the sun slipping from autumn to winter, his moments with Tony grew infrequent, ephemeral flashes of warmth that left him colder than ever.
“Outside...” he remembers saying. His voice had been raspy with disuse, and he stared at the leaf in his hands, verdant and moist with dew, unable to come up with any more words.
Tony had understood immediately. Still, there was a short pause before he replied. “It’s summer now, Captain.”
Steve said nothing, continuing to gaze blankly at the leaf instead, but something must have shown on his face because Tony spoke again. “How about we go for a walk sometime? The weather’s nice. You’ve been cooped up in here for too long.”
He finally looked up. Tony’s eyes were impossibly soft. Blue, he noticed. Not like the ocean or the ice, but a clear summer sky.
“Sure,” he said. “I’d like that.”
And Tony smiled, relieved, apologetic, and something else altogether.
Tony had left him a message. He played it as he rested his head against the window, the glass cool against his skin. A heavy fog shrouded the city that night, the most he could see in the distance the vague outlines of buildings and small, orange lights blurred in the mist. It had rained earlier, washing away most of the grime from his suit before he got to his apartment. The window pane was still speckled with raindrops.
“Hey, Steve,” the message started. “Sorry. Something came up at work.” Something always came up at work nowadays. Tony’s voice sounded strained. “I don’t think I can make it tonight. Can we do a rain check? Next Saturday at seven. I’ll take you somewhere nice.”
Tony had a meeting in D.C. next weekend.
He hadn’t seen Tony in two months.
Bodies were strewn across the floor, wet and slick with blood, and for a moment, he was back in the war, corpses piled high on the battlefield and in the trenches next to him, the air heavy with dead silence.
He shook himself out of his reverie.
Sometimes he wondered if he had really been unfrozen. He could hear their whispers about him brushing through the cracks, but they were soft and muffled, echoes in a glacial coffin before he’d feel Tony’s touch and snap back to reality.
“Steve, you’re here,” Tony would say, the brush of his thumb at the nape of his neck anchoring him, “With me.”
“With you,” he would agree, closing his eyes and holding on until the sea gave way to steady ground.
They took that away from him, threw him back into purgatory.
“Why?” they always asked. This one wasn’t any different.
Steve opened his eyes again, staring blankly at the man curled up before him, scrabbling at his hand under Steve’s foot. “He’s busy,” he said, pressing down, “Because of filth like you.”
The man groaned between clenched teeth.
"So I decided to clean things up for him. Make things easier.” He stepped harder and bone snapped, loud in the empty warehouse like a branch breaking off in the wintertime. Screams punctured the air, shattering against the walls.
With a slice of his shield, the world was silent again.
“You have to understand,” he said quietly, “If I kill you all, he’ll be mine again.”
The dead man’s eyes were glassy, uncomprehending.
This was how Steve knew he was awake.
He saw Tony and rushed forward, wrapping his arms around him and breathing him in. Tony made an aborted move to withdraw, rigid with surprise before he relaxed, hugging him back tentatively.
“I’m fine,” he said, sounding confused.
Steve didn’t answer, letting fear and anger seep out of his body slowly. He hadn’t felt this way since the war, not since Bucky went down. But this time, the outcome was different. Would always be different. He would make sure of that.
“You know I can hold up on my own. It’s not the first time this has happened,” Tony spoke again, amused. He leaned his head against Steve’s shoulder.
Steve closed his eyes and did the same.
“Were you worried about me?” Tony tried to joke, but Steve could hear the hesitance underneath, soft and fragile. He held onto Tony tighter.
“Yes,” he decided to admit. He was tired now that everything was over. The adrenaline crash left his muscles aching, and he let out a weary breath, blocking out every sensation except for Tony in his arms.
He could feel Tony’s smile against the side of his neck.
“Let me look at your hands.” Tony extricated himself and took his hands, holding them in front of him. Blood seeped through the hastily wrapped bandages, the skin raw and torn underneath the cloth. Something flashed in Tony’s eyes, too quick for Steve to analyze.
“Be more careful next time,” he said, and Steve had no time to answer before Tony brought a hand to his lips, kissing the top of his knuckles tenderly.
The cusp of twilight, spring edging on summer. A year already gone by. One moment he was alone, the next with Tony.
He shifted, turning to the windows. Streaks of fiery orange and red stretched across the sky setting the city ablaze, its sleek buildings glittering in the sunset. They had fallen asleep, cobwebbed in the quiet of dead afternoon hours. Tony was warm by his side, his skin just this side of sticky under the covers. His face, so lined with worry lately, was serene in sleep.
He wondered somewhat absentmindedly what would happen if he got too close to Tony. Fire against his ice. Summer to his winter. The way that Tony burned him, he thought his story would end like Icarus’s.
If he wasn’t careful, that was. Then Tony would slip out of his reach, and he’d fall back into the sea.
He ran his fingers through Tony’s dark locks, smoothing his hair back before cradling his head, and Tony stirred awake, eyebrows drawing together.
“What time is it?” Tony mumbled drowsily. “I have to-”
“Sleep,” he said quietly, stroking Tony’s hair. “I took care of everything.” The sky was fully red now, bright and bloody like his hands had been the night before.
Tony edged closer, taking his hand from his neck and holding it against his cheek, placing warm, gentle kisses against his palm. “Anything to keep me here with you, huh?” He smiled, summer blue eyes still half-lidded with sleep.
“That’s right,” Steve said, leaning in to kiss Tony and drowning, “Anything.”