Steve feels it way before any alerts even hit the frequencies.
The morning is calm and peaceful, and actually pretty normal considering the the Avengers’ usual standards. The sun is shining bright through the windows, the sky is clear and blue and nothing is trying to attack New York or the rest of the planet. Steve is standing chatting to Bruce at the kitchen counter in the communal area of the tower, coffee mug in hand, when without warning something in his chest draws tight, painfully tight.
Barely able to hear anything other than the sudden muffled scream of agony inside his bones, he drops the mug. It hits the ground and shatters, spraying hot coffee all over the tiled floor and the side of the refrigerator.
He takes an unsteady step back, banging his hip into the counter. Presses his hand over his heart, can barely breathe because it honest to god feels like someone has tied a rope around it and is trying to wrench it free from under his sternum.
“Tony,” he says distantly, and his legs give out.
The alarms sound a moment later.
As first meetings went, it could have gone better.
“Back off,” Steve snapped, but Tony didn’t. He stepped up close, eyes fixed on Steve’s and glittering with anger. Steve squared his shoulders, refusing to let Tony think he had the control over the situation, over him. Bruce was hovering over by the workbench, looking wary, but Steve barely noticed him.
“Or what?” he challenged, looking Steve up and down before lifting an eyebrow in a derisive, scornful way that made Steve want to smack the look right off his face. “Or what, Cap?”
“Back. Off,” Steve repeated, and he punctuated the sentence by pressing a hand to the middle of Tony’s chest and shoving him back hard.
Instantly, Steve recoiled, grasping hold of his hand with the other and feeling stunned. Tony’s hand flew up to cover the arc reactor and the brown eyes went wide, no longer angry but full of shock and something that looked a little like fear. Without another word, Tony turned on his heel and stalked away, leaving the atmosphere brittle and unsatisfied.
“You shouldn’t touch the reactor,” Bruce said into the tense silence that Tony had left behind. Steve glanced at him distractedly, but didn’t say anything. He wasn’t sure if he should admit that he’d jerked back so quickly not because of the feel of metal beneath his palm, but because of the warm tingles that had shot up his fingers and wrist the moment he and Tony had made contact. The sensation lingered, and Steve’s mind distantly recalled a memory of lying on grass next to the edge of a lake, droplets of water drying off of his skin in the warmth of the summer sun.
“Yeah, got it,” Steve said abruptly. Brow furrowed, he looked through the doorway that Tony had left through, wondering if Tony had been objecting to him touching the reactor, or if he too had felt the same strange prickling across his skin.
The feeling doesn’t fade. Even after he’s pulled unsteadily to his feet by Bruce and Natasha, even as Coulson calls in to confirm that yes there has been an incident and Tony is MIA, it sits there agonizingly in his chest. He keeps a palm pressed to his ribs even as he’s hustled into the conference room, shoved into a chair and told not to move. His breathing is as unsteady as his pulse, short sharp exhales that don’t do anything to diminish the pain.
He didn’t know it would ever feel like this. No-one told him it could ever feel like this.
The other Avengers, Coulson and Fury are arguing around him. It washes over him; white noise.
“-didn’t plan to get himself taken off the street in the middle of fucking Stockholm,” Clint is snapping, and the words faintly register in the back of Steve’s mind. Tony is just supposed to be discussing renewable energy contracts with foreign investors and now he’s been kidnapped somewhere in fucking Europe and he can still somehow feel him-
When he thinks why that might be, he almost throws up.
“-send a SHIELD squad-” Fury is saying, looking tense. “We know his last location, and you-”
“No,” Steve says hoarsely, and everyone’s eyes snap to him. “We’re going."
“You are in no fit state to go anywhere,” Fury says frankly, and he’s got that look on his face again, the one that he’d worn when he’d first found out what Steve and Tony had done. He turns away, apparently finished, already dragging his fingers across a holo-screen and speaking to Natasha about the clearance levels of current active agents-
“You don’t even know where he is,” Steve says, and he will drag himself to SHIELD and steal a goddamn jet if he has to.
Fury cocks an eyebrow. Behind him, Coulson is still trying to argue his point with Clint; it isn’t going well. “Neither do you.”
“Actually, I do,” Steve says. “I can feel him.”
Fury just stares at him. So does everyone else. The room is abruptly quiet.
“What do you mean, you can feel him?”
“Here,” Steve says, and brushes his fingers over his sternum. “He’s hurt. He’s alive. And I can – I can feel it, it’s like I gotta go where it’s pulling.”
Looking impressed, Clint whistles through his teeth, his argument with Coulson already clearly forgotten. “That’s a hell of a thing you got there.”
Fury is staring at him in blatant disbelief now. “You’re telling me that you can feel where Tony Stark is, halfway across the damn globe.”
Steve grasps the arms of the chair, takes a steadying breath and then pushes himself to his feet. His legs shake violently but he manages to keep himself upright, because if he collapses again there will be no way anyone will let him go anywhere. He’s not even sure he’d manage to get up again. “Yeah,” he says. “And I’m going to go get him.”
“Get in, get in,” Tony said impatiently over the noise of the crowd outside, the shouting of the journalists and the near-blinding flashes of the cameras, standing in the doorway and looking annoyed. Steve edged past him and into the lobby of the Tower, exhausted. The bustle and chaos were immediately muted as the doors closed behind him, and he found himself glad to be behind the translucent glass of the floor to ceiling lobby windows. Tony steered him forwards with a hand in the small of his back, and Steve didn’t move away when he felt a well-remembered sensation of warmth seep through his shirt into his skin. Tony didn’t pull his hand away either.
He let himself be hustled into the elevator without arguing, leaning back against the wall and blowing out a breath. Tony moved to stand opposite him, mirroring his pose and leaning back. Steve’s back felt oddly cold without his touch.
“So, you look like shit,” Tony said conversationally, by way of greeting. “Rough couple of weeks, right?”
“Right,” Steve replied, and he opened his mouth to talk but found there weren’t any words. He shut his mouth again, feeling useless.
“Stay as long as you like,” Tony said suddenly, bright eyes on Steve and studying him carefully.
Steve looked up, frowning. “Thought we weren’t exactly friends,” he said carefully.
“I never said that, who said that, did you say that? I might take offense if I find out you said that,” Tony said, tone dismissive as he flapped a hand in Steve direction. He pulled his phone out of his pocket, looked down with it with a one-shouldered shrug. “You’re an Avenger, I’m an Avenger, we should at least be Avenger-friends. I’ll go put on the suit if it helps with the transition-”
“Tony,” Steve said, just to shut him up. It worked, for a moment anyway. Tony stopped talking, an eyebrow raised expectantly.
“Just saying,” Tony shrugged, and then looked Steve right in the eye and said, “you want a hand finding him?”
Steve opened his mouth on reflex, feeling like he’d been winded. The misery and loss from the past few weeks rose up in his stomach and he shut his mouth again, looking down away from Tony’s bright eyes.
“When,” he said, and cleared his throat. “When I can. Yeah. Yeah, that’d be good.”
“Alright,” Tony said simply. “Say the word and I’ll see what I can do.”
It was completely unexpected, but Steve found he wasn’t all that surprised. Feeling oddly reassured and somewhat comforted, Steve watched carefully for a moment; after a few seconds Tony seemed to sense the observation and glanced up, expectant.
“Thank you,” Steve finished, and Tony looked down again, eyes on his phone and a faintly discernable smile playing around the corner of his mouth.
“Don’t mention it, Capsicle.”
Steve lurches unsteadily over the counter in the bathroom, pressing one hand to the cool marble surface, clutching tightly. He swipes his other hand over his face, tries to breathe out but has to gasp in as pain cuts through his torso.
The next breath he draws in is a sob. He grabs the counter with both hands, bowing his head so far his chin nearly touches his chest. He screws his eyes shut, and he’s trembling from head to foot. He tries to calm himself but he can’t, and then on the next exhale he’s crying, crying so hard he can barely breathe.
He can’t lose Tony. Not now. Not ever.
The knot of sensation pulses gently in his chest and he tenses, expecting more agony, but beneath the pain he feels the familiar, comforting tendrils of warmth. It gives him back some of the strength he thought had abandoned him; he draws in a shuddering breath and stands up, wiping his face roughly with the back of his hand.
He lifts his eyes, looks at his own reflection in the mirror; his pale skin and red eyes ringed with shadows. He stares at himself for a long moment, and he feels the distance between them stretching on and on, endless.
Gasping, Steve struggled upright, hands fisted in the bedsheets either side of his hips. He hunched over, trying to draw in a decent breath; his lungs felt like they were burning, like he was inhaling icy water instead of air. Screwing his eyes shut, he let go of the sheets with one shaking hand and struggled to untangle his feet from the knotted mess of blankets. He reached up and pressed his palm to the back of his head, curling in on himself and desperately trying not to think about ice or snow or the frigid air on his skin, feeling panic and shame both curling in his stomach-
The sound of his bedroom door opening made him jerk his head up, breath caught in his chest. He looked up and barely had time to think before a figure appeared in the doorway, stepping forwards hesitantly and looking worried.
“Alright, Capsicle?” Tony asked cautiously, muted and grey in the pale moonlight that spilled in through the open blinds. He was wearing sweats and a tank top, and had a mug in one grease-stained hand.
Steve flinched automatically at the nickname, cringing away from the thoughts and memories it evoked, and Tony immediately noticed. His frown deepened, and when he spoke again his voice was calm and measured, clearly designed not to spook.
“You okay if I come closer? You know where you are, Steve? You’re in the tower, where you’ve been for-”
“The last sixteen weeks, four days,” Steve finished, voice rough and uneven. He lifted his head, rubbed his hand over the back of his neck. “I know where I am, Tony.”
“Well I guess that’s something,” Tony said, and to Steve’s surprise he walked closer, close enough so that his knees brushed the edge of the mattress. “Here.”
He held out the mug to Steve, and Steve stared at him for a moment, mind still swimming and not really comprehending what was going on at all. His breathing was slowly returning to its normal rate, though his heart was still thudding inside his chest, too hard to be comfortable, and he was covered in an unpleasant sheen of sweat.
“I’m starting to feel stupid,” Tony said after what must have been a full minute, and Steve finally moved, reaching out and taking the mug with a trembling hand. It was warm to the touch and Steve felt gratitude and relief wash through him. He cradled the mug between both his palms and pulled his knees up under his blankets, resting his elbows on them.
“Hot milk?” he asked, raising an eyebrow as he stared down at the drink in his hand.
“My Mom used to say it was good for helping you sleep,” Tony said casually, and sat down on the edge of the bed, eyes on Steve. “And actually, science agrees with her; it’s full of tryptophan. Amino acid, helps your brain make serotonin and melatonin and all those chemicals that make you sleep. So, yeah. Science says it works. Unless you don’t want to go back to sleep, then you’ll just have to appreciate the gesture and act polite about it.”
Faintly soothed by Tony’s blathering, Steve smiled weakly. He shifted, dropping a knee and leaving one up to rest his arm on, taking a sip of the drink. It was warm and sweet and made Steve think of home. Taking another, he reached over and clicked the small bedside light on; the sharp grey stillness was immediately chased away by a soft orange glow which felt a thousand times more comforting.
“Did you – did you know I wasn’t asleep?” Steve asked, eyes trained down on the lump of his leg beneath the sheets, looking at the way the light created ridges and valleys of illumination and soft shadow where the blankets folded and creased.
“Jarvis alerted me,” Tony said, sounding a little apologetic. “He’s learned to recognise nightmares and alerts someone if they get bad.”
Steve understood the unspoken implication of how and why Jarvis learned that particular skill, but he didn’t comment. He just nodded and took another sip of his drink. He was already feeling warmer, the chill slowly fading from his bones. He wasn’t sure if it was down to the fact he was awake and out of the grips of the nightmare, the warm drink or Tony sitting there.
“He alerted you?”
“You didn’t have to come.”
“I know I didn’t,” Tony said with another of those one-shouldered shrugs that had at first seemed so dismissive. “But you live in my tower which makes you my Cap which means I gotta look after you. You know, legal liability and all that, imagine the fallout if Captain America falls out of bed and brains himself on my watch.”
Steve arched an eyebrow. “Your Cap?”
“Yeah. Slightly less like a badly behaved pet than Barton, but not by a lot.”
“Don’t mention it,” Tony said, and reached out, seemingly unconsciously, to put his hand on Steve’s knee. Warmth spread through Steve’s body, and the last of the cold was gone.
“Sure you’re up for this?” Clint asks, leaning against the doorframe of Steve’s room, already suited up and with his bow propped up on his foot, palm resting against the top limb.
“Yep,” Steve says, tipping his head back as he zips up the suit, folding the collar around his neck and securing it in place. Clint doesn’t move and Steve pauses, cowl in hand.
“I might throw up,” he concedes. “But I’m going.”
“Course you are,” Clint says easily, and pushes himself upright. Steve slips his earpiece in, tugs the cowl on, breathing in and out. His heart throbs, the invisible ribbon of sensation tugging him inexorably onwards. It’s almost enough to make him physically sway forwards, and he reaches up to press his palm to his ribs again, breathing out shallowly.
“You can really feel him, huh?”
“Well, I wasn’t just saying that for Fury’s benefit,” Steve says when he can draw a proper breath. “Yeah, I can feel him. Feels like something’s gonna pull my heart right out if I don’t get closer.”
Clint watches him with a strange look on his face, half wary and half curious. He’s known about Tony and Steve from their first kiss, apparently, but he’s always just let it pass without comment. Until now, that is.
“I take it that it doesn’t always feel like that?”
Steve reaches for his shield, fingers closing around the familiar weight. “No.”
“What does it normally feel like then?
“Sunlight,” Steve says without even thinking about it. He swings the shield onto his pack, locking it into the straps with a familiar metallic click. “It feels like sunlight.”
“Get me a drink.”
Steve rolled his eyes, even though Tony wouldn’t be able to see it in the darkness of the room. The only light came from the TV screen where some 90’s action film was playing, and from the dimmed lights that were on in the kitchen behind them. “Get yourself a drink.”
Tony grumbled unintelligibly, sliding even further down the couch, slumped into Steve’s side with his cheek mashed against his arm. “I’m injured.”
“Entirely your own fault.”
Tony pulled a face, shifted over so he was half draped over Steve, chin propped up on his shoulder. “You yelled at me in front of Coulson.”
“Again, entirely your own fault.”
Tony huffed and shifted again. “I fished your shield out of the Hudson. Again.”
“Yep, thanks for that.”
“You live here for free.”
“Still not getting you a drink.”
Tony huffed, craned his neck up and looked around. “Hey, Barton-”
“Don’t wake him up,” Steve interrupted firmly, shifting and throwing one arm over the back of the couch. He glanced over to where Clint was passed out asleep in one of the lounger chairs, mouth open and snoring softly. “Where are the others? Thought they were coming down to watch the film?”
Tony shrugged, his shoulder and elbow pressing into Steve’s side. He was a comforting weight along Steve’s side, and Steve absently dropped his hand to trace the back of his fingers along the bare skin of Tony’s arm. Tony hummed happily, lazily, and Steve flattened his palm against Tony’s arm, gently stroking up and down. Tingles spread through his fingers, up his wrist and along his arm, all the way to his chest.
“You feel that, right?” Tony murmured, barely audible over the noise of the TV.
“Yeah,” Steve replied absentmindedly, and then blinked and realised that Tony was actually talking about the strange warm sparks he felt every time they touched.
“Ever felt anything like it?” Tony asked, and he twisted around to look up at Steve, eye to eye. His hand pressed against Steve’s chest and his face was very close, so close that Steve could feel his breath whispering across his mouth. His eyes glinted with lights from the TV, face half in shadow.
Steve slowly shook his head. Unconsciously, he licked his lower lip and watched Tony’s eyes dart down, widening slightly. Tony’s skin seemed to grow warmer beneath his hand, and he looked away back towards the TV.
Tony didn’t move away. He also looked back towards the TV, but he shifted almost imperceptibly closer, turning his body even further into Steve’s. Steve was hyperaware of every small movement, of the heat of Tony’s body next to his. It was a strange sensation; the warmth he could feel wasn’t uncomfortable, didn’t feel like too oppressive or too stifling despite how closely pressed together they were.
His heart was thudding so loudly in the darkness that he was willing to bet that Tony could at least feel it even if he couldn’t hear it over the noise of the film. The lights were flickering and playing beautifully over the contours of Tony’s face and they were slumped so far down the couch that even Clint probably wouldn’t see them even if he did wake up-
Tony’s breathing was noticeably less steady than it had been before, Steve was sure if it. Even as he tried to work out what the hell to do next, Tony moved again, hitching a leg up so his outside knee was crossed over and resting on Steve’s thigh. Almost instinctively, Steve dropped his arm from the back of the couch so it was along Tony’s back, his fingers touching the waistband of Tony’s jeans. His other hand slid onto Tony’s knee, to either stop him moving his leg any further or to stop him pulling it back, Steve wasn’t sure
They’d crossed a line here, and he knew it. Though maybe the line had been crossed the very first time Steve had touched him and felt those sparks light up his fingertips.
Tony’s face brushed against the cotton of Steve’s shirt, and he knew Tony was looking at him. If he turned to look at him in return, he knew Tony was going to kiss him. A strange thrill uncurled in the pit of his belly, and when combined with the sensation of touching Tony it was enough to make him physically shiver.
He swallowed, licked his lower lip. Then he looked away from the TV and turned his face towards Tony’s.
Without a moment of hesitation, Tony kissed him, mouth pressing gently against Steve’s. Breathing in sharply through his nose, Steve reached up and pressed his fingertips to Tony’s jaw, catching Tony’s lower lip between his own and returning the kiss.
Tony pulled back after a long moment, breathing shallowly through his mouth. His eyes were still closed and his hand was pressing against Steve’s chest, fingers splayed over his sternum.
“That was probably a dumb idea,” he murmured, the words breathed into the space between their mouths
Steve kissed him again. Tony arched up into it, and this time neither pulled back.
The jet dips and rocks, turbulent in the icy winds. Steve doesn’t care; he trusts his team with his life and knows they’ll get him to wherever he needs to be safely. He stares out the front of the jet at the desolate white expanse in front of them, wishing he didn’t hate the cold as much as he does. His compass is in his hand, open and flat against his palm. The interior of the jet is as frigid as the air outside, a perfect contrast to the pulsing heat in Steve’s chest.
“Give me another read, cap,” Clint says calmly from the pilot seat. Steve nods, shuts his eyes. He breathes in and out slowly and lets himself feel. It’s almost like he’s reaching out along the invisible light that connects him to Tony, sensing which direction it’s pulling him in and by how far.
“Keep going,” he murmurs. “East by north east.”
“Got it,” Clint says easily. “We’re just coming over Sweden, Cap.”
“Sky is clear,” Coulson says from his position over at a console. “No commercial airlines in the area and nothing taking off from the military any time soon.”
Steve nods, breathes out, rubs his chest. He doesn’t voice it, but he’s worried; all they’re going on here is literally what he can feel, the tug in his chest that aches to be closer to Tony. What if they can’t follow it properly? What if he’s not leading them in the correct direction at all?
Steve breathes out, nods. “Keep going,” he says. “We’re getting closer.”
“Close enough to set down and take the jeep out? If we overshoot in this thing it’ll be harder to backtrack.”
Steve bites at the inside of his lip. “Not sure.”
“Hey,” Natasha calls from her console next to Coulson. “I got him.”
Steve is up out of his seat before he can even blink, half stumbling in his haste. He grabs the back of her seat, looks over her shoulder. “This van,” Natasha says, pointing at a still image on the screen. “Seen in Stockholm this morning, matches a witness description from the kidnapping. Just passed a traffic camera in Boden.”
“Is that near here?” Steve asks agitatedly. “How far?”
“Thirteen minutes,” Clint fills in. “I’ll set down north of the town and we’ll roll the jeep out and get Cap-Nav to take us the rest of the way.”
Steve nods. Some of his panic is fading now he knows how close they are, but the space it leaves doesn’t remain empty for long. As he stares out over the bleak white landscape in front of them, cold determination takes its place, anger slowly brewing in the pit of his stomach.
He will find Tony. And he will make whoever took him pay.
“Shut the door,” Tony managed to say, mouth muffled by Steve’s. Steve kicked the door closed behind him without even pausing, his hands catching Tony’s hips and pushing him blindly towards the bed. God, he didn’t think he’d ever get bored of kissing Tony, the way they fit together-
“Steve,” Tony groaned, one hand on Steve’s belt buckle and the other sliding up the back of his shirt. “Come on-”
“I’ve only been gone for five days,” Steve replied breathlessly, and then let out a strangled yelp as Tony used his weight and momentum to pull them around, sending Steve sprawling back onto the bed in a tangle of limbs. Tony followed, yanking off his own shirt before he crawled onto the bed over Steve, kissing him soundly-
“God, I don’t think I’d care if you’d been gone five minutes-”
Tony broke off, suddenly sitting up, straddled across Steve’s hips, denim stretched taught across his thighs. Steve looked up at him, confused. Tony was bolt upright, straight and perfectly still, holding his hands up by his shoulders.
Steve eyed him warily. “Are you okay? You look like you’re surrendering.”
“My hands,” Tony said abruptly, and Steve noticed it just as the words came out.
Tony’s fingertips were shining. Literally like they had some sort of current running through them and lighting them up. Steve’s first thought was that it was something to do with the arc reactor, but that glowed blue, not golden white-
“Shit, your hands."
Steve sat up as abruptly as Tony had done; Tony had to throw one hand out behind him and grab hold of Steve’s shoulder with the other to stop himself ending up flat on his back. He slid back off of Steve’s lap and ended up sat on the mattress between his thighs, legs still half-hooked around Steve’s waist.
Steve didn’t notice; he was too busy staring at one of his own hands, how it seemed to be lit up the same way as Tony’s.
“Weird,” he breathed, but even as he watched, the light faded, leaving his skin looking completely normal again. He looked up at Tony, who was turning his own no-longer glowing hands over, examining them closely.
“Am I – has it stopped?” he demanded. He looked at Steve and then cautiously reached out and dabbed his hand against Steve’s bare arm, jerking back quickly. When nothing happened, he slowly slid his palm from Steve’s elbow to his wrist, watching intently the whole time.
“Did we imagine that?” Steve asked.
“Imagine what?” Tony replied vaguely, leaning in to kiss Steve again. He drew back, looked them up and down and then, appearing satisfied, kissed him again.
Steve recognised Tony diverting when he heard and saw it, but he didn’t call him on it. He just pulled Tony back into his lap and returned his hungry kisses and touches, not commenting on the way Tony kept discreetly looking at their hands.
Steve jumps off the back of the jet and lands in a crouch, head down. His boots crunch in the snow, his breath is visible in the air. Everything around them is a dull white, ground and sky alike, stretching on for endless miles. He looks up, breathing slowly and deliberately. In front of him is the only blot on the landscape; a low roofed concrete box of a building with no windows and a heavy steel door. Snow is piled up against the sides, almost masking the building amongst the bleak white expanse of their surroundings.
In between him and that door are twelve guards. Five have guns. Three have batons. Four have tazers. Steve slowly straightens up, and the guards all take a shuffling step back towards the door.
“Move,” Steve says, his calm voice betraying the sheer weight of the rage he feels inside. His heart is pounding with adrenaline and the knowledge that Tony is close, somewhere in that bunker.
One soldier raises a gun, the click of the safety loud across the space between them.
“Have it your way,” Steve says, and he hurls the shield at the guard as hard as he can. It’s a blur after that; he jumps forwards to snatch the shield out of the air on the rebound, just in time to block a storm of bullets. He kicks out the knees of the closest solider, smashes another in the mouth with the shield, dropping him instantly. He brutally cleaves his way through the defence, and by the time he reaches the door there’s only one soldier left conscious, and she’s on her ass on the snow-covered ground, scrambling backwards towards the door and away from Steve, fear etched into every line of her face as her fingers scrabble for her gun-
Steve is there in three strides, viciously kicking the gun away. He grabs her by the collar, hauls her halfway to her feet. “Give me the door code,” he says, quietly and deliberately.
Steve shakes her roughly. “I will break every bone in your body,” he snarls. “And then I will invite the Black Widow or the Hulk to play with the leftovers.”
“Four eight two three nine six one,” the solider immediately says. “You need a thumb print as well.”
“Okay. Get up and do it, or I’m taking your thumb.”
The soldier’s eyes go, if possible, even wider. “You wouldn’t. You wouldn’t - you’re Captain America,” she blurts out, and her eyes flick up at someone over Steve’s shoulder. “You’re Avengers-”
“And you’re part of an organisation who though it was a good idea to kidnap someone who is also an Avenger,” Clint’s voice says from just behind Steve, sounding casual but oh-so angry.
“A someone,” Steve interrupts, voice low and dangerous, “who Captain America is bonded to.”
If the soldier had been pale before, it’s nothing compared to how white her face has gone by the time Steve finishes speaking. “We didn’t know,” she says wildly, looking between them. “We didn’t - we just needed him to build-”
“The code,” Steve says, and the woman is nodding frantically. Steve hauls her up and shoves her in the direction of the control panel. She stumbles, catching herself with a palm on the edge of the bunker. She’s shaking from head to foot, and trying her best not to turn around and look at Steve.
The door opens with a clunk and the grinding sound of machinery. She turns around, but before she can even formulate any words, Steve knocks her out cold, the edge of the shield connecting with her temple. He leaves her slumped in the doorway, stepping over her and into the darkness beyond.
Tony smacked both palms down onto the counter, either side of the file Steve was reading from. Steve lifted a brow, and looked up to meet determined brown eyes and a resolute expression.
“What did they teach you about soul bonds back in the day?” Tony demanded.
That wasn’t the question he was really asking though, and Steve knew that damn well. He looked down and then back up to meet Tony’s eyes again. Tony didn’t so much as blink, gaze fixed fiercely on Steve’s.
“Yeah,” Steve said simply, and Tony swore, pushing back away from the counter and turning away.
He stopped about three steps away, though he didn’t turn around, not fully. He only turned his face slightly, so Steve could see the corner of his mouth, the way his eyes were trained on the ground.
“We should probably stop sleeping together,” he said.
Steve watched him carefully for a moment. “Probably,” he finally said, and then Tony was gone.
“Cap, wait up! Hold your position, damnit-”
Steve ignores the voice that comes over the comm unit in his hear, swinging his shield viciously up and sending a solider flying into a wall. There’s the flash and rattle of gunfire but he doesn’t care; with every step he can feel that Tony is nearer. Another pair of soldiers runs around the corner and he hurls the shield at them without thinking twice. He’s distantly glad that Natasha wouldn’t let him have his gun.
He steps over the still forms of the soldiers, chest heaving and heart pounding. Even as he steps closer to Tony and the pull on his heart eases, it begins to hurt more. He’s full of horrid, sick anticipation, terrified of the state that Tony might be in when he does finally reach him.
“Tony?” he shouts, stumbling. Heart pounding, he looks wildly around. “Tony?!”
The corridor is still and silent.
“Have you found him?” Coulson asks curtly over the comms. “Captain, report. Hold your position and report. Have you found Stark – I repeat, have you found-”
A frustrated noise catches in the back of his throat and Steve yanks his cowl back and pulls the comm unit out of his ear, throwing it away. He tries to calm his breathing, closing his eyes and listening hard, focussing every fibre of his being on the connection, on the sensation of light-
Steve, where are you?
I’m coming. Stay still.
He opens his eyes. He breathes out through his mouth and sets off running, shield grasped tightly in his hand. He feels warmth slowly building in his chest, hot beneath his ribs as he kicks down a door, smashing a glass window and vaulting through, running as fast as he can-
He slams into a steel door, and this one doesn’t give, doesn’t break beneath his strength. The sensation of being so close is now agonising. He bangs his fist on it, desperate.
The answer is faint and weak and Steve feels like he’s about to turn inside out. “Tony!” he punches the door again, kicks it, hears the metal whine and creak in protest. He shoves at it, and his voice is cracking and breaking, as he screams, forehead pressed to the cold steel.
Tony’s words broke off on a groan, his breath caught in his chest. Panting, Steve slid his palms onto the back of Tony’s thighs and yanked him closer, sweat slicked palms hot on Tony’s skin. The rough motion pushed Tony even deeper inside him, and Steve’s breath was knocked out of his lungs in a breathless grunt. Tony leant down to kiss him, rolling his hips in a way that made Steve’s back arch, chest pressed up against Tony’s.
“Steve-” Tony panted against his mouth, and Steve craned his neck up to catch Tony’s mouth in a kiss. Tony’s breath stuttered in his chest and everything was so warm, Steve felt lit up from the inside out, light and free-
“Shit,” Tony’s voice suddenly cut through the haze, rough and jagged. His body wrenched back away from Steve’s, so quick it left Steve reeling.
“You’re fucking glowing,” Tony said, kneeling up on the mattress, his voice rising in volume and pitch. “Steve, what the fuck are you doing-?”
Pushing himself up onto his elbows, Steve looked down helplessly. Shit, Tony was right – this time his whole body was lit up with a faint golden light. The light was coming most strongly from his chest, skin glowing yellow-orange like someone had lit a lamp inside his ribcage. He could even see the outlines of his bones, his sternum and each individual rib easily discernable. Even as he stared in shock, the light pulsed, almost like a heartbeat-
“Steve!” Tony snapped, and Steve jolted, looking up at Tony’s face. “Pack it in, cut this shit out right now-”
“I’m not doing it on purpose!” Steve replied, incredulous and wrong-footed and panicked. “I thought you had to say it out loud for this to happen-”
“Say what out loud?”
The room went silent. Steve was lost for a moment and then he realised what he’d said.
“Say what out loud?”
Steve shook his head. He was still glowing, his fingertips bright as he lifted a hand to push through his sweat-damp hair. “I’m not exactly going to say it out loud if I thought it would seal it, would I?” he finally said testily. “Especially as you don’t want-”
“Tell me,” Tony demanded, and he wasn’t looking away. “Saying words doesn’t seal anything, but you-”
“-owe me the goddamn truth Rogers, tell me-”
“-what it is that you didn’t think you should fucking well say out loud-”
Steve’s shout Tony stopped mid-rant. Steve sat up, eyes fixed on Tony’s chest. “Tony, you’re glowing.”
Tony looked down and his jaw fell open. He slumped back onto his heels, staring at the orange glow that was creeping over the skin of his chest and stomach, blending beautifully with the blue of the arc-reactor. Tony pressed his palm to his mouth, apparently lost for words.
“Son of a bitch,” he finally said, voice thick. Dropping his hand to his side, he looked up at Steve again, eyes bright. Steve could see fear there, but it was almost overwhelmed by something more, something that made the golden light in Steve’s chest pulse more strongly.
The moment stretched out, and then Tony slowly moved. He slid forwards and leaned over Steve again, forcing him to lay back. His hands pressed into the mattress either side of Steve’s head and his hips slotted between Steve’s thighs. Heart now hammering madly inside his chest, Steve caught Tony’s waist in his hands, swallowing thickly as Tony leaned in, ghosting his mouth over Steve’s.
Steve’s eyes fluttered shut, the taste of Tony’s mouth invading his senses, whole body aching. He forced his eyelids open again, and his hands were glowing even brighter against Tony’s steadily lightening skin.
“I don’t think we should, uh,” he tried, even as Tony reached down to hitch Steve’s thigh up around his waist. “Tony, we’re both – if we, if we do this now we might-”
“Yeah,” Tony breathed, and he knocked his forehead gently against Steve’s. “Fuck it.”
Steve drew in a sharp breath, because he knew exactly what Tony meant with the softly murmured words. Tony pushed his thigh back, reached down to guide himself back inside Steve’s body. Steve’s breath caught in the back of his throat and he slid his hands up under Tony’s arms and over his back, holding him as tightly as he dared.
“Tony,” he managed, voice wrecked and vulnerable. Tony pressed kisses down the bridge of his nose, over the bow of his upper lip.
“Fuck it,” Tony whispered again, and Steve laughed, a choked sound.
"I don’t think they’re the words.”
“Not the words that matter,” Tony said, his hips shifting restlessly and making Steve ache for more. “Steve – I didn’t mean – Steve, can we-”
“Yeah,” Steve breathed back, and he felt something strange shifting in his chest, his heart thudding in an uneven tattoo, something pulling at his sternum. “If you’re sure-”
“If I wasn’t sure, would I be lit up like a damn Christmas tree?” Tony said, and he was smiling, weak and vulnerable too. “Steve, I can’t push this away anymore, I really can’t and I’m starting to forget why I even tried-”
“Okay then, fuck it,” Steve said, and he slid a hand onto the back of Tony’s neck, pulling him in for a bruising kiss even as the light grew brighter and brighter, the warmth grew so intense it was like being close to a fire. Light was pouring from Tony's skin. The sensation in Steve’s chest throbbed, twisted, reached out with the light, searching and feeling blindly through the air-
The lights touched, and the thing in Steve’s chest pulled taught, connecting.
It only takes one violent swing of the shield, and the lock shatters. Steve throws the shield aside and grabs the door with both hands, wrenching it open. The metal shrieks and grinds and Steve puts all his weight into hauling it back. It moves inch by inch, and he gasps as he lets go and looks up.
The knot in his chest pulses, heat spreads throughout him from his heart to the very tips of his fingers.
“Took your time,” Tony says hoarsely from where he’s sitting on the floor in the corner of the room. He’s visibly shivering, wrapped up in a tatty old coat, black beanie hat shoved on his head. His feet are bare, and Steve can see a metal shackle around one of his ankles.
Steve is across the room in seconds. He drops to his knees and literally slides the last few feet into Tony as Tony reaches for him, grabbing him tightly and hauling him up against him. Tony is somewhere between laughing and sobbing, arms tight around Steve’s neck as they press together, chest to chest.
“Are you okay?” Steve is asking, trying to push Tony back so he can look at him, hands on his shoulders. He pushes the hat back off Tony’s forehead with his palm. “Tony-”
“Cold,” Tony says, teeth chattering. “Sweden sucks.”
“I’m going to kill them,” Steve says without thinking, touching Tony’s face, his shoulders. He’s half checking for injury, half just submitting to the need to touch. When he reaches Tony’s feet he grabs his ankle and snaps the chain attached to the manacle with one brutal wrench. “I’m going to fucking kill them-”
“No you’re not,” Tony says, and he shifts, pulling Steve back in. Steve buries his face in Tony’s throat, shoving his hands under the layers of clothing until he finds skin. He’s juddering helplessly as he mouths over Tony’s neck, and Tony is still violently shivering, clutching at Steve like he’s never going to let go.
“I could feel you panicking from here,” he says hoarsely into Steve’s hair. “The minute they grabbed me, I could feel you-”
“Of course I was panicking,” Steve replies, sharp and almost angry. “You’d been taken and there was nothing I did to stop it-”
“You’re not my bodyguard,” Tony says, and he’s about to speak again when there’s a shout from outside.
“Cap? Cap, where the fuck are you? I can see your shield but not you, if you’re dead I’m going to kill you-”
Clint’s voice gets louder and louder and then Steve hears him in the doorway. His bootsteps come to a halt, and when he speaks again he sounds somewhere between exasperated and amused.
“Really? Didn’t think about letting us know you’d found him? I know you’re like, super-duper in love but we care too-”
“Go away, Clint,” Steve shouts from where his head is still buried in Tony’s shoulder, voice cracking. Tony smacks a hand against his shoulder but he doesn’t care about the reprimand in the slightest.
Luckily, Clint just finds it funny, snorting with amused laughter. “I’ve got your shield,” he says easily. “Tony, you need medical?”
“No,” Tony replies, and his cold fingers are stroking along the back of Steve’s neck.
“Alright. The rest of the building is secure, meet us back at the jeep in ten,” Clint says, and Steve hears him step away, speaking into his comm unit. “Yeah, he found him. I don’t know, I didn’t ask. He’s not wearing his comm. Well I don’t know where it went - Jesus, Phil, I’m not his Mom-”
Steve laughs, the sound a little hysterical. Tony shushes him, cupping the back of his neck with both palms. His fingers already feel less cold than they did. “You got me,” he murmurs, and kisses the side of Steve’s face, leaving bright tingles of sensation as he does. It’s so familiar and needed that Steve could cry.
“Yeah,” he says thickly, and he slides his hands around Tony’s sides and up his back. “You’re still cold.”
“Warming up pretty quick,” Tony says, and he eases back a little, holds Steve’s head in his hands and touches their foreheads together. “Look.”
Steve opens his eyes, looks down. He can see the glow of his own chest, lighting up the star of his uniform from the inside. Tony is also glowing, blue and gold both visible through the black jumper he’s wearing. Both washes of gold spread out, the light dancing and intertwining in the space between them like lazy whorls of dust in the air on a sunny afternoon. Steve exhales shakily as everything settles back into place in his body, Tony’s warmth spreading through his skin alongside his own.
“Felt like someone was trying to wrench my heart out,” he says, still watching the space between them as the light fades. The sensation doesn’t though, so it’s okay.
“Yeah, I felt that too,” Tony says, and he presses close again, gently touching his mouth to Steve’s. “Knew you’d find me. Could feel you getting closer.”
“Had to get closer,” Steve says. “Only option.”
Tony shushes him again. “You did good,” he murmurs, and kisses him again, slow and lingering.
Tony’s voice was rough with sleep, lazy and blurred around the edges as he rolled over and pressed into Steve’s side. Steve made a contented noise in the back of his throat and shoved his arm under Tony’s shoulders so he could wrap it around him, hold him close. Tony didn’t object; he rolled further over so he was half draped across Steve’s chest, one palm flat on his chest.
“Regretting it yet?” Tony asked casually, and Steve cracked an eye open. Tony was staring down at his hand where it was resting against Steve’s sternum, fingers together.
Steve shifted, his legs brushing Tony’s under the blanket, delicious sparks dancing across his skin as he did. “Do you really have to ask that?” he asked, gesturing down to his chest.
Tony looked taken aback for a moment, and then he looked down too. He slowly spread his fingers apart and as he watched the light shine between his fingers, his mouth curled in a smile.
“Guess not,” he said, and leant over to kiss Steve again.
The jet dips and sways, and Steve barely notices. He lays in the back on one of the stretchers that are there for when members of the team inevitably get injured. As far as Steve is aware, this is the first time they’ve actually been used. Various Avengers have passed out on the floor of the jet on more than one occasion, but the beds are usually avoided with the same tenacity that medical is.
He lies prone with the shield propped up by his feet. His uniform jacket is unzipped, his gloves abandoned on the floor next to the coat, jumper and hat Tony had been wearing. Tony himself is lying against Steve’s bare chest, skin to skin and cheek resting on Steve’s collarbone.
“Warm enough?” Steve murmurs, sliding his palms across Tony’s back in soothing circles. He turns his head, presses his mouth to Tony’s forehead for a long moment. His brow creases, he feels a lump in his throat, a tremor in his hands.
“Yeah, am now,” Tony replies, and he shifts his whole body lazily against Steve’s, tucking in closer. Steve nods and breathes out unsteadily. Tony seems to sense his roiling emotions and presses a line of kisses along Steve’s neck and up to his jaw. He keeps going, kissing Steve’s chin and cheekbones and even his eyebrows, until Steve gives in and huffs out a laugh.
“There we go,” Tony says, mouth quirking in a weak smile. “You’re warmer when you’re happier, you know that?”
“No,” Steve says honestly. “No, I didn’t.”
“Yeah,” Tony says, and presses his face back into Steve’s neck. “Warmer. Lighter. Glowier. Though only I get to see the glowier, and only really when we’re naked, and right now I only really care about the warmer.”
“Alright,” Steve breathes, and wraps his arm around Tony’s neck, holding him close. “Warmer, I can do.”
“Yeah. You ain’t bad for a Capsicle.”
Steve laughs again, smiles at the feeling of Tony’s hand sliding up over his bare chest. He hums contentedly in the back of his throat, so glad to have Tony back safe in his arms. He’s not sure he’s ever going to be able to find the words, but Tony doesn’t seem to mind. Steve’s pretty sure he knows anyway; his actions and the connection between them probably speak louder than any words he could find anyway.
“So,” he says, now he’s more certain he can get the question out without breaking down. “Why did they take you?”
“Wanted me to build nefarious technology,” Tony says, yawning. “Same old, same old.”
“They won’t be taking you again in a hurry,” Steve says, and Tony cranes his head up to look at him. “If it gets out about us, they’ll know we can track each other down. And I didn’t exactly go easy on them when I got there.”
“Not necessarily a bad thing,” Tony muses. “Always good to have a failsafe.”
Steve nods, nuzzles his way into another kiss. “Still don’t regret it?”
Tony’s mouth curves against Steve’s, sparks of light against his skin. “Never.”