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Shakedown

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The problem is, Captain America won't stop shivering.

Tony'd thought it was better. Sure, he'd been worried at first -- of course he'd been worried. It hadn't been cold when he'd taken Cap to Brooklyn, and he'd been standing there shivering then. Two days out of the ice, that had been, and they'd thrown Cap up against Namor, and he hadn't even known what day of the week it was. But yesterday Cap had shaken off the mind control from the robot like it had been nothing -- hell, clearly Tony hadn't even been able to do that -- and saved the day. He could hack it, Tony'd told himself, and the crushing weight of anxiety had lifted. See? This was Cap coping.

But it's the next day now -- three days out of the ice -- and it's still not cold. And Captain America's sitting on the couch and he's shivering.

Tony's beginning to wonder if he was wrong about Cap being fine. Sure, Cap acted calmly under pressure, came up with stunning plans, beat Tony's own suit, beat the robots -- but that was what he'd been trained to do, right? He hadn't been called a tactical genius for nothing. And he had almost definitely gone through some kind of training to resist interrogation or brainwashing or whatever the hell Hydra could have had in the war that might have resembled the giant robots' powers. This was his job. And just because he did that okay, better than okay, wonderfully, amazingly wonderfully -- he is Captain America, after all -- doesn't mean that the part of his life that doesn't directly involve superheroic feats is at all okay.

(Maybe Tony's got some experience with that. Maybe Tony's got a lot of experience with that.)

"Hey, Cap?" he asks. "You okay?"

Cap looks up. He's hunched over himself on the couch, arms crossed and folded so that his hands are stuck in his armpits like he really is cold, even with the uniform gloves still on. He's still shaking. He blinks a few times, like he isn't sure he's heard him at all.

"Iron Man?"

"That's me," Tony says, stupidly happy to hear his childhood hero saying his name -- okay, his code name -- and he's smiling a little behind the mask even though he knows Cap can't see it. It's probably better that way. "I just wanted to know if you were all right," he clarifies.

Cap looks at him, really looks at him, full in the face, and, God, he looks absolutely miserable. His expression is tight, drawn, suffering, and what's visible of his skin is several shades too pale.

"I'm fine," he says, and he is a godawful liar. Tony always kind of thought he would be.

He's known Cap for exactly three days and he's already getting the impression he's a stubborn bastard. Which means that they are going to go nowhere if Tony doesn't actually call him on this. "You're not fine."

Cap goes rigid where he's sitting, like he hadn't actually expected Tony to push back. "It's nothing that affects the team," he says, which is evasive as hell, and he looks away from Tony's eyes. Which -- huh. He'd been looking at Tony in the first place, Tony realizes. Most people seem to find the suit's motionless pseudo-face a little too off-putting. Most people don't look at him quite like they look at a person. But Cap is. Was. Had been, until right now. "I can fight."

"I know you can fight," Tony says, and he stands up from the table and comes around the side of the couch. Cap's eyes snap up to track his movement, a little wary. I know you're hurting, he doesn't say. "That's not what I was asking."

Tony understands cold. He might not understand the ice, but he understands cold. Everyone knows about Tony's captivity. But most people think only of the heat. It had been cold there at night, and he wakes up remembering the chill and the dust and the blood in the back of his throat and the pain in his chest and the way he had shivered when he'd locked himself into the suit, into the hard cold metal. But everyone knows that happened to Tony, and no one knows it happened to Iron Man.

Cap is silent for a long while. "It's--" he begins, then stops, then begins again. "It's a lot to get used to."

This is as familiar as it gets for him, Tony realizes. A team. Fighting the good fight. A mission. Knowing what to do. The Avengers are the best structure they could have given him, and Tony's still not sure it's going to be enough.

Tony reaches out and picks up the throw, folded and draped over the back of the couch, holding it out, an offer. Maybe Cap hadn't taken it because he didn't feel comfortable. Like he belonged here.

"Go on," Tony says, as gently as he can, hoping the suit doesn't make it sound like some robotic command.

Cap's eyes meet his, like he's actually looking at him behind the mask, and Tony thinks he's going to refuse, but then he takes the blanket from Tony's outstretched hand. "Thanks, Iron Man."

He spreads the blanket over himself, unfolding it slowly, methodically. He's still shaking. Just a little. But at least the color's starting to come back to his face.

"Mind if I sit?"

Cap shrugs, which is really more like a bigger shiver. "Knock yourself out."

If Tony weren't wearing a giant metal suit, this is where cuddling would be a good option, or at least a possible option. Sharing body heat. It's a classic for a reason. But, well, he is in a giant metal suit, and while he's not cold he is pretty much exactly room temperature across most of the suit, though the chestplate itself always runs hot in the middle, where the actual battery is. The cooling and venting were one of the first things he'd refined, and the system's pretty advanced; it hadn't taken him long to figure out that he was going to need it. He nearly passed out from heatstroke once without it. But anyway, if Cap wanted to cuddle up to anyone he wouldn't pick the guy in the giant metal suit. Tony's pretty sure about that.

He sits anyway. The couch creaks ominously under their combined weight.

"Any better?"

Cap half-smiles. "Getting there. Thanks for having my back yesterday."

Tony blinks a few times, dumbfounded, behind the mask. "I tried to kill you yesterday."

"We both know it wasn't you," Cap says, like it's really no big deal, and maybe it isn't. "And that's not what I meant... partner."

Oh. Yeah. Tony called him that. He's glad Cap can't see his face right now. But on the other hand, maybe that means Cap would be up for... something more. Partners. Maybe partners can cuddle. If they have to. Maybe that's not too weird.

And then he has an idea.

Tony takes a deep breath. "Say, Cap," he ventures. "I could do something about the temperature if you wanted."

Cap squints at him. "Hmm?" And then he shakes his head. "You don't need to turn up the heat for me, that's got to be expensive--"

He doesn't know it's Tony's money, and that Tony would have done it anyway for him even if he didn't have the money to spare, but that's not what Tony's proposing.

Tony lifts one gauntleted hand, glowing bright. "I am a walking power plant, Cap." Well, not exactly, and he needs to recharge soon, but he's got enough spare power for this.

One tiny tweak lets the energy ebb out of the gauntlets as more heat than light.

Cap looks at him and smiles, really smiles. He can probably feel the beam of heat.

"That's nice," he says, very softly. "That's... that's warm. Do you mind if I...?" He shifts a little closer, doesn't finish his sentence.

"Anything," Tony says.

He is entirely unprepared for Cap leaning into him, blanket and all, head against the chestplate in a position that has to be uncomfortable. It's also a position that has him basically snuggled up to the battery.

"That's even warmer," Cap says. He's smiling again, and looking down at him Tony realizes the guy's eyes are starting to fall shut. He's exhausted. Tony wonders if Cap's even been sleeping. If he's even slept at all since the ice. He hadn't asked. "You've been holding out on me."

"Didn't think you'd be up for it," Tony says, honestly.

"Mmm." Cap turns his face into the metal and Tony guesses he really doesn't mind, as strange as that is. "I'm up for a lot of things." If he didn't sound dead-tired -- and if he weren't Captain America -- Tony would wonder if it was a come-on.

Before he can figure out what in the world to say to that -- other than the obvious temptation of innuendo -- he sees that Cap's face has already relaxed, his breathing evening out into the rhythm of sleep, and he's smiling.

Tony smiles back, though no one can see him, and wraps his warm hand across his friend's body. No one's shaking anymore.