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One second Steve has a good grip, and then he doesn’t.

He’s grinning, Tony laughing bright and eager through the comm as he does a loop through the night sky, and Steve is holding onto the armored plates with less pressure than he had been when they were fighting the mutated fish monster that rose up to attack over the Atlantic.

The fight didn’t last long: a few well-placed punches, some repulsor burns and finally a lightning burst from Thor to finish it off, and then what they dubbed the Spiky Fish Monster fell back into the sea and didn’t move.

Clint is firing off a bad pun about fish when Tony twists suddenly, arcing sideways through the air in a spiral, and Steve slips.

He grabs for Tony’s armor, but it’s impossible- a split second of slipping turns into Steve being ripped away by the wind tearing past them both, and then Steve is tumbling down at breakneck speeds, the world blurring around him, unable to tell the dark of the sky from the dark of the ocean.

“Tony! Tony, I’m falling, I’m not-” He can’t hear his own voice over the wind, but he can hear Tony’s panicked voice through the comm, telling Steve to hang tight and-

He doesn’t hear the rest of it, because he hits the ocean with enough force that he blacks out for a second. When he comes to, he’s blind and choking on water, and for a second he’s back in 1945 and Peggy’s voice is distant in his ear. The plane is creaking inwards around him, glass shattering, the water is so cold it’s searing right into his lungs. The Atlantic has come back to claim him, to drag him down and fill him with ice-

Not the time, Steve tells himself, trying to starve off the panic and failing miserably. He kicks, fearing he’s going the wrong way and he’s only burying himself deeper in his watery grace, but after a while he hits air and gasps it in desperately. It only lasts a second before another wave crashes over him, and Steve feels his shield jerk out of its straps.

It sets his nerves on fire even more than they already are, feeling his shield spin away from him under the water, and he’s reaching blindly for it, his hand closing around the strap before the ocean slams into the shield and the shield slams into his elbow and Steve cries out as pain shoots through his arm.

Water floods his mouth and his body forgets he’s underwater, spits it out and tries to gasp air and getting a lungful of water for it.

Steve kicks, fumbles his shield back into the straps on his back, breaks the surface, breathes and chokes and swallows.

“Help,” he yells into the comm, throat wrecked by salt, and is instantly smothered by a wall of water.

 

-

 

It’s dark enough that Tony wouldn’t be able to see his own hand in front of his face if he wasn’t in the suit, which has built-in night vision, thank god.

“Steve,” he says into the comm, and swear when JARVIS tells him the GPS in his suit has gone offline. “Steve, come on, damnit-”

“Shall I scan the surface for-”

“Do it,” Tony snaps, and glances to his right as Thor sweeps past him. “Anything?”

Thor’s cape flutters in front of him as he careens down towards the waves. “Nothing yet. Is there any technology in the helicarrier that can help us find our Captain?”

“I’ll hail them in,” Tony tells him. “Bruce, get them to-”

“I’m on it.”

“Thanks, buddy. J, anything?”

“Negative, Sir.” There’s regret in his tone that Tony is sure he didn’t build in. “Would you like me to try again?”

“Try until you find something.”

“Of course, Sir.”

Tony tries flying as low as Thor, but has to move back upwards because he’s being soaked every few seconds and the suit doesn’t do well in water. He tries not to eye the waves too much as he narrowly avoids getting swamped by one- they’re coming down with immense pressure, anyone who wasn’t superhuman would be dead by now if Tony dropped them in.

He clenches his teeth. He’d been meaning to do some work on the handholds, make it so people can fly easier with him, but since it was Steve he’d thought it wouldn’t be a problem. But then Tony went and pulled a goddamn spiral to show off, and Steve went in the water.

The Atlantic, no less. Tony had overheard Natasha ask him, faux-casual, before they left, if Steve was okay with the fight being over the Atlantic.

Steve had shrugged and said sure, why wouldn’t he be, and Natasha had snorted and knocked his shoulder as she passed him to board the helicarrier. For Natasha, that’s practically a comforting hug.

His heart stutters in chest as he hears a crackle of Steve’s voice in his ear, gritting out help before static overtakes it.

“Steve,” Tony yells. “STEVE!”

He flies down again, powering through the wave that roars towards him, searching desperately even as Steve’s voice catches in his ear again.

“C-can anyone h-hear me? Is-”

“We’re here, Steve, we’re looking for you,” Tony says, eyes scanning. “Any idea where you are?”

“N-no.”

“Are you okay?”

“I’m f-fine,” Steve gets out, which could mean anything, Tony’s heard Steve say that to papercuts but also to buildings collapsing on top of him. “Be b-better if someone c-could find m-m-me.”

Tony’s internal monologue of shitshitshit gets louder, filling his head. Steve’s teeth are chattering badly- can Steve freeze to death, with the serum? Didn’t it save him the last time, putting him on metaphorical and literal ice when he drove the plane into the ocean?

Tony schools his voice into something resembling reassuring. “You got it, Cap.”

“S-sooner rather t-than later, S-stark.”

“Hey, I’m going as fast as I can,” Tony says, trying for light and probably surpassing it by miles. “If you haven’t noticed, it’s a very big ocean and you’re a very small man.”

“’M n-not.”

“Fine, but you’re small compared to the ocean, you have to give me that.” Tony winces. Might not be a good thing to remind Steve just how insignificantly tiny he is compared to his hulking monster of a body of water.

He switches to his private comm. “J, anything?”

“Nothing, Sir.”

“Keep looking,” Tony says, and then in the open comm: “Hey Steve, keep talking to me, okay?”

“N-no promises.”

“Kind of have to promise me on this one.”

“Can’t g-guarantee-” Static invades and Tony says Steve’s name, increasing in volume when he doesn’t get a reply.

Stuck between going turbo to cover more ground- well, water- faster, and going slow so he can see properly, Tony swears under his breath without realizing until Clint snaps, “We know you’re stressed, Tones, but believe me, we’re a hell of a lot more stressed back on dry land, so shut it.”

“You shut it,” Tony snaps back. It’s childish, but Tony’s a childish guy and he still can’t see hide or hair of Steve. Jesus, if he has to tell the press Captain America died because Tony couldn’t resist throwing a spiral in his suit, he’s going to get maimed in business for the rest of his life, stocks are going to drop irreparably low and Pepper’s going to be so pissed-

Steve screams into the comm, and Tony is caught between sheer relief that he’s still alive and panic that he screamed. “Steve, you okay?”

Nothing for a few seconds, then, “’M f-f-fine,” which doesn’t make Tony feel any more at ease.

“You don’t sound fine.”

“Oh g-g-god,” Steve chokes. “H-hurry up, f-f-find m-me.”

“Trying,” Tony says. “I swear, Steve, we’re trying everything-”

The line dissolves into static, and Tony forces the suit faster.

 

-

 

This happens twice more, with Steve’s reactions getting slower every time until he’s mumbling into the comm. When Thor yells that he found him, Tony speeds over and they spend thirty seconds both diving in and trying to spot Steve’s blond head, his shield, anything.

Tony sees a thatch of blonde hair peeking above the waves and lunges, locking his arms around Steve’s waist and pulling, Steve’s broken gasps the best thing he’s ever heard, even when Steve mumbles something that sounds close to Peggy.

“Sorry, just me,” Tony says, and Steve’s eyebrows crease before he opens his eyes and stares up at Tony, uncomprehending. There’s a fresh cut on his forehead trickling into his eyebrow, running along that and then dripping into his eyelashes.

“I got him,” Tony yells, and he hears every one of the Avengers heave a relieved noise through the comm.

Tony and Thor barrel into the helicarrier yelling for medics even as Steve starts to regain consciousness, shuddering his way through trying to assure people he’s fine, really, he just needs a rest and maybe a few extra blankets.

“Your mouth is blue,” Tony snaps at him, pulling off his helmet and letting it drop to the floor with his knees so he’s eye level with Steve. “And your skin, Steve, Jesus.”

Steve cries out when Tony touches his right arm to manoeuvre him off to the side, jerking away pitifully and nearly falling over before Natasha grabs his left shoulder and steadies him.

The arm is swollen, bluer than the rest of Steve and lumpy in somewhere it shouldn’t be. Tony waves Bruce over, who examines it gingerly, lips pinched.

“It’s broken.”

Steve absorbs this information, nods, and then leans forwards, braces his good arm on the floor and vomits seawater onto the carpet. Bruce leaps out of the way as it pools towards him, more and more of it as Steve retches, shoulders bunching as he heaves his way through a stomach full of saltwater.

“Shi-i-t,” Clint says, and Thor makes a vague noise of agreement next to him.

Bruce steps around the vomit and tilts Steve’s head back, pulls gently at his eyelids. “We need to get him out of that uniform and into something warm, now,” he says, and turns to an agent who is staring at Steve swaying on his knees. “Get any warm clothing you can find and bring it here as fast as you can.”

She nods, tearing her eyes away from Steve before ducking out the door, signalling to other agents as she goes.

Tony looks back towards Steve, who is being less than co-operative as Thor tries to ease his uniform off his shoulders.

“’M f-f-fine,” Steve mumbles, eyelids drooping, eyebrows creasing, and Tony takes in the blue hue of his skin as he shuffles closer to Steve.

“Steve?”

Steve has to look at him for a second before his eyes focus on him.

“We need to take your uniform off,” Tony says, putting a hand on Steve’s shoulder. “We need to get you into warm clothes, okay?”

For a moment Steve just looks confused, but then he nods sluggishly. Before the nod is even finished, Thor is tugging gently around the neck of the uniform so it undoes, before angling Steve’s good arm and helping Steve out of it.

“We’re gonna have to cut his arm out of this one,” Clint says, fingers hovering over Steve’s broken arm. “Yeesh. Nat, do the honours? I know you have something sharp on you.”

“Says the ex-assassin,” Natasha says, but bends down and starts to slit the uniform’s arm open, going along the whole arm and then up to the neck so she can pull it free from his arm and shoulder, leaving Steve bare from the chest up.

He trembles violently as they do it, and Tony watches helplessly until the agents return with a heap of clothes in their arms.

“We don’t have any blankets,” one of them says, “but we brought a lot of everyone’s spare clothes, if that helps? We could pile them on him?”

Clint is already on it, grabbing the jackets and putting them around Steve’s shoulders, careful of his bad arm, which Bruce is now working on splinting.

They’re down to Steve’s stomach now, still pulling the uniform off, and Tony kind of regrets taking his helmet off earlier because it’d be handy to hide his expression right now. This is definitely not how he thought he’d be seeing Steve’s dick for the first time.

“So,” Tony says, meeting Steve’s glazed eyes. “You don’t wear underwear under the uniform.”

Steve’s mouth works wordlessly for a second, sounding punch-drunk when he says, “Th-the uniform’s t-too t-t-tight for them.”

“Fair enough,” Tony says, and covers Steve’s crotch up with a sports bra until they’ve pulled Steve’s boots off and they can work Steve’s legs into new pants. It takes a few tries to find ones that remotely fit, and then more time to find ones that fit over those ones, but soon Steve is shivering his way through two layers of pants and one shirt, with numerous bits of clothing draped over them.

Tony knots a scarf around Steve’s neck but stops when Steve raises a clumsy hand, swatting at his wrist. “D-don’t.”

“We have to get you warm-”

“Not my n-neck,” Steve rasps. “C-c-can’t b-breathe.”

Tony’s deft fingers unknot the scarf, pull it away, and Steve swallows. “Thanks.”

“No problem,” Tony says, and takes a hat when Natasha offers it to him, pulling it down over Steve’s head. “You doing okay?”

Steve makes a noise, low and scratchy at the back of his throat. It’s not a good noise, and Tony puts his hand on Steve’s cheek. Steve leans into it gratefully. “Warm,” he mutters, and Tony presses his other hand into Steve’s cheek, making Steve’s lips part on a sigh.

Of course you’re still beautiful when you’re near hypothermic, Tony thinks to himself, mouth quirking. It doesn’t help that he’s cupping Steve’s face- it’s only the bone whiteness of Steve’s skin, the terrifying cold that stops Tony’s mind from trailing away to thoughts he shouldn’t be thinking right now.

Steve’s head is drooping into Tony’s hands like they’re the only thing holding him up, so Tony shakes him a little. “Hey, stay awake.”

“Am,” Steve says, and a furrow forms between his eyebrows. “D-don’t want to go to sleep. ‘Fraid ‘m gonna wake up in the future again.”

Something in Tony’s chest twists like a corkscrew. “That’s not going to happen.”

“Mm,” Steve says absently, leaning further into Tony’s hands.

Bruce appears beside Tony, starts wiping at the crusted blood coming from a cut over Steve’s eye. Steve flinches, a bigger shudder amidst the constant shivers.

“It’s just iodine,” Bruce tells him, and Steve cracks an eye open, relaxing when he sees Bruce.

He sags back into Tony’s hands, rubbing his cheek against Tony’s right palm like he’s soaking in the warmth of it, and Tony gets an idea. He waits until Bruce is finished with the cut before moving closer and tucking Steve’s face into his neck.

Steve gives a shaking sigh, moves his good arm so he can loop it around Tony’s neck. It dislodges a lot of the clothes that they’ve draped around him, and Tony reaches around Steve’s back to help push them back into place along with the rest of the team.

“Remember to stay awake,” Tony tells Steve, who doesn’t respond. Tony’s about to shake him again when Steve starts talking.

“It was s-so cold. ‘N dark.”

“Yeah,” Tony says, and takes off his other gauntlet, moves it so he’s cupping Steve’s neck under his clothes, pressing heat into his skin. “We know, Cap.”

“No, not,” Steve says, slurring it into Tony’s neck. “I. On the plane. When I crashed. It was really cold, n’ dark. Th’ water knocked me flat on my back, knocked me out. ‘n when I woke up it was dark, n’ the water kept rising n’ the plane kept sinking and I tried to get out but th’ water kept me pinned to the wall. And it was s-so cold. And I was cold and alone and in the dark for- ages, I thought I’d n-never…”

He trails off, still shivering against Tony.

Clint gives Tony a worried look over Steve’s shoulder. Tony returns it with gusto.

“Well, uh.” Tony moves his hand up Steve’s neck so his thumb is pressing against the tip of the hat, wondering what anyone could say to soothe that. “You’re never going to have to go through that again, Steve. Or this. We promise.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Tony says. “Guys?”

“Not while I still draw breath,” Thor says, coming to sit down next to Steve, knee pressing into Steve’s calf. “You have my word, Captain.”

“And mine,” Natasha says. She’s standing against the wall next to him, but she lets her ankle knock into the blanketed lump of his right foot, which has four socks on.

Clint sits down against Steve’s slumped back. “And my axe!”

Slowly, Steve breathes in and out, then he says, “M-Movie reference.”

“Yeah, but which movie?”

“He’s hypothermic, take it easy on him,” Bruce says, and comes to sit down crosslegged between Tony and Thor. He reaches out to touch Steve’s knee, squeezing once. “This isn’t like the plane, Steve. We’re all right here, and you’re going to be fine.”

Tony feels Steve smile into his neck, a small thing as he continues to shudder.

 

-

 

The shivering hasn’t stopped by the time they get back to New York, but it has died down considerably, enough that Steve is relatively pink-ish instead of blue and is able to walk himself into the Tower and get his arm put in a cast, at which point he immediately declares he’s totally fine and he can handle himself from here.

“I’ll handle it,” Tony says before anyone else can, and Steve gives him a look which Tony guesses has less effect than it should have since he’s still wearing a spiderman beanie.

Natasha hums as she passes Tony. “Take care of him.”

“Always do,” Tony says, and waves the others away as they trudge back to their rooms for some well-deserved sleep.

Then he’s back under the scrutiny of Steve. He raises his hands. “Look, I’m just going to make sure you’re okay.”

“I’m okay.”

“Wow, didn’t see that coming.” Tony rolls his eyes. “Come on, Steve, hop to it, you know the way.”

“The way?”

“To your room. Go.”

“I’m fine, Tony, I don’t need to be coddled.”

Tony lowers his voice. “Steve. I’d be worried if you were fine. Just- indulge me, okay?”

He thinks he’s going to have to convince him further before Steve sighs and relents.

“Fine,” he says, and when he starts walking down the hall, Tony follows.

Steve uses his left hand to open the door, looking down at it as he does. “Guess I’m not going to be able to throw my shield for a while.”

“Hey, you’re adaptable. Learn how to be ambidextrous.”

“Can you learn? I thought it was something you were born with.”

Tony shrugs, looking around the room. Plain curtains, plain walls- he’s going to have to have a talk with Steve about interior decorating at some point in the near future. “I’m 90% sure Clint said he learned in the circus, but he could’ve been lying.”

He turns around when he hears the sounds of clothes rustling, and bites back a laugh when he sees Steve struggling to pull off his shirt one-handed.

Tony pads over to him. “Let me,” he says, and Steve lets out a frustrated noise.

“I feel like a toddler,” he says as he lifts his good to let Tony strip the shirt over his head and then eases it carefully over his bad arm. He’s still shivering, tiny shudders running through his body every few seconds.

“Really? You don’t look like one.” Tony starts untying the string in the first pair of sweatpants, but Steve covers his hands with his good hand.

“I can, uh, do that.”

“Right,” Tony says. He grins up at him. “No underwear under the uniform.”

Steve tries to look annoyed, but mostly he just looks embarrassed, a blush tinging his cheeks when Tony laughs.

 “JARVIS?”

“Sir?”

“Turn up the heat, would you?”

“To what, Sir?”

“As high as you think Steve needs it, and then tailor it to his body temp,” Tony says, and then goes to root around in Steve’s drawers for the warmest PJs he has, trying not to listen to Steve as he takes off several pairs of pants. It sounds like a struggle.

“Having fun,” he calls over his shoulder.

Steve grunts. “You guys had to put me in jeans for the first pair.”

“Hey, they were the biggest ones we could find at the time.”

“They’re impossible to get off wet skin,” Steve says, and grunts again.

Tony waits a few more grunts before saying, “You decent?”

A pause. “Throw me those, please.”

Tony covers his eyes with one hand, turns and throws the PJs where he thinks the bed is. He keeps a hand over his eyes until Steve says, “Okay,” and Tony lets his hand drop.

Steve is climbing into bed, glancing at Tony. “Thanks for the help.”

“No problem,” Tony says, and leaves.

 

-

 

He’s drifting in the uneasy limbo of being half asleep when JARVIS clears his throat.

Or, no. He doesn’t, because AIs don’t tend to have throats as a rule, but he makes the noise he would make if he had a throat and was cleaning it. Tony wonders about that AI sometimes.

“Sir?”

“J,” Tony says into his pillow. “This better be good.”

“Captain Rogers’ shivering has increased, Sir, though his body temperature is now fairly normal.”

Tony sits up. “Excuse me?”

“He is violently shivering, Sir. It is as if he is freezing, though I can assure you that’s not the case.”

“Shit,” Tony sighs, and gets out of bed, yelping when he steps on a screwdriver. When the hell did he leave a screwdriver near his bed?

He winds his way down the hall, knocks on Steve’s bedroom and enters before Steve can answer.

“G-go away,” Steve croaks, teeth chattering like they were when Tony pulled him out of the water, shuddering beneath the covers.

Tony walks up to him, puts a hand on Steve’s forehead. “Okay, J said you’re fine, and you’re fine. So what’s happening?”

“N-nothing.”

“Steve.”

“I’m n-n-not,” Steve says, and then he can’t get the next word out, he’s shaking too hard.

Tony swears under his breath. “JARVIS?”

“By all means, he is fine, Sir. Perhaps the problem is psychological?”

Steve makes a noise, curling deeper into the blankets, and Tony makes a decision. He taps on Steve’s hands, which are white-knuckling the sheets. “Budge over.”

Steve looks up at him, puzzled and shaking. “W-what? Tony-”

“Move,” Tony tells him. “I’m warming you up, okay?”

Still confused, Steve moves over. Tony gets in and wraps his arms and legs around Steve, octopus-style, starting to sweat almost immediately. The covers are heavy and Steve is running hot from shivering so hard.

“C’mon,” Tony says, running his hands under the back of Steve’s shirt. “Feel my hands?”

“Y-yeah.”

“Are they warm?”

A pause. “Y-yeah.”

“Just like you,” Tony tells him. “It’s just in your head, Steve, it’s not real, I swear. You’re warm, and you’re here, and you’re not going anywhere.”

He reaches for the covers, pulls them over their heads, pulls them tight against Steve’s back, tucks them in around Steve’s body as much as he can while still holding him.

“Here, give me your hands.”

Steve does, wincing when it pulls on his bad arm, and Tony ducks his head and starts rubbing them between his own hands, blowing on Steve’s fingers. “Warm?”

Steve nods, and his throat clicks as he swallows. “Tony?”

“Yeah?”

“B-back in the barracks, sometimes w-w-we had men who got h-hypothermic in the w-winter, and to get them warm ag-again, s-someone would, uh.” Steve stops.

Tony can’t see much since they’re under the covers- the only light is coming from his arc reactor, which shines dully through his white tank top. But he can see Steve’s face, the flush high on his cheeks.

“N-nevermind,” Steve says. “This is g-good.”

He burrows deeper into the covers, and Tony pieces together the sentence Steve didn’t want to finish. “They’d get naked with him to get him warm again.”

“It’s n-not necessary,” Steve says, stubborn as ever as he shudders like hell. “It’s j-just in my h-head.”

“And your head knows this works,” Tony says, and shuffles awkwardly so he can start to pull off his shirt. “Steve, it’s fine, stop looking so pissed with yourself and take off your damn PJs.”

The covers get messed up as they shed their clothes, and Tony ends up having to help Steve out of his shirt again, tossing it down the end of the bed.

Then Tony’s wrapping himself around Steve again, trying to focus on how traumatised Steve was today and how he’s going through a crisis right now, instead of how Steve’s skin- god, so much bare skin- feels as he shivers against him, how it would feel if Steve was shivering for another reason.

I’m so glad I wore boxers to bed this time, Tony thinks weakly, and presses his hands into Steve’s shoulderblades. “Warm?”

“V-very,” Steve gasps, and then clenches his jaw. “S-sorry. About th-this.”

“Hey,” Tony says, mock-offended. “You know I’d get naked for any of you guys.”

Steve laughs, a condensed shiver against him. “I k-know. I j-just, feel s-stupid about this.”

Unthinkingly, Tony rubs a palm down Steve’s back. “We all have bad days. And hey, you fell into a major trigger and got stuck there for half an hour, it’d fuck any of us up.”

“Mm.” Steve tilts his head into Tony’s neck, and Tony closes his eyes against the sudden flood of affection as it barrels through his body, filling him up from toes to fingertips.

“Steve?”

“Mm.”

“How about you concentrate really hard on the warmth, okay? Then we can convince your head that your body’s warm.”

“S-sounds good.”

“Good. Okay.” Tony pauses, tries to think of a non-homoerotic way to go about this, and comes up with none. “Just- focus on my hands.”

Tony takes his hands off and presses them a little higher, near Steve’s shoulderblades. After a minute or so, he takes his hands off again and wraps his arms around Steve’s torso, pressing his hands into Steve’s ribs. He touches each one, pushing his fingers gently onto them before moving up to Steve’s shoulders, curling his fingers around them and squeezing firmly.

Steve rumbles lowly, and Tony lifts his head. “Good? Warm?”

“Yeah,” Steve says, and Tony notes with pride that his teeth are only chattering slightly now. “I- could you put them on my face? Like you did in the helicarrier?”

Tony backs up a little so he can press his palms against Steve’s cheeks, fingers curving over his chin and cheekbones. Steve hums, eyelids fluttering. He leans into the touch, dazed, lips parting, and Tony chews hard on the inside of his cheek so he doesn’t do something insanely stupid, like try to kiss Steve when he’s in the middle of this thing.

“”S like you’re pushing the warm into me wherever you touch,” Steve mumbles.

They stay like that until Steve stops shivering, and by then Tony thinks he’s asleep.

“JARVIS,” he whispers, and thankfully, JARVIS answers in an equally quiet voice.

“Sir?”

“Has this happened before? The shivering when he’s not actually cold?”

“Captain Rogers has had approximately four occurrences in this Tower where he has been unable to stop violently shivering even though his body temperature is at a safe level.”

“Fuck,” Tony says softly. “JARVIS, next time it happens, let me know.”

“Of course, Sir. And the time after that?”

“Whenever and wherever it happens, J.”

“Of course, Sir.”

“Thanks, J.”

 

-

 

 Steve wakes slowly, sunlight shining through his eyelids and warming the sheets, his skin- god, he’s so warm, but not unpleasantly, like he so often is when he wakes up in the morning with his blankets covering him. In fact, he’s the most pleasantly warm he’s been in as long as he can remember. An easy joy seeps through him, and he lies there for several minutes, basking in it, unquestioning.

Then something moves beside him, and Steve looks over. Oh. That’s- why the joy. And warmth.

The joy dries up as soon as Steve puts a finger on why it’s there, replaced by a cocktail of guilt, embarrassment and arousal, all mixed into an unappetizing concoction in Steve’s gut. Jesus, Steve had been shivering and pathetic last night, asking Tony to get naked with him just so Steve’s brain could tell itself it wasn’t actually as cold as it thought it was.

His face burns as he remembers how Tony felt wrapped around him, tucking Steve’s face into his neck where Steve could still see the faint, comforting glow of the reactor. How Tony’s bare body had felt against him: legs tangled together, arms around his torso, solid and present and letting Steve leach heat out of him.

He’s still stewing in his own embarrassment when Tony stirs next to him, and Steve’s stomach twists as he watches Tony wake up. He’s thought about this so many times, waking up next to Tony without a stitch on either of them, but this is definitely not how he wanted it to go.

“Hey,” Tony says when he’s blinked himself into consciousness. “Warm enough?”

“Yes,” Steve says, trying not to let the awkwardness into his voice. “I. Thank you, Tony. It meant a lot to me.”

It meant a lot to me, Steve’s brain parrots in a high falsetto. Steve tells it to shut up.

Tony sits up, scrubbing at his eyes with the back of his hands. “Hey, anytime.”

He’s in mid-yawn when his expression goes confused. “You have stubble.”

“Excuse me?”

“Stubble,” Tony repeats, reaching out to drag a thumb across it. “You get stubble?”

“Most men do,” Steve says, reaching up to touch it himself. It’s his regular morning stubble, dully prickly against his hand. “I do shave it every morning, though, so I’m not surprised you haven’t seen it before.”

“Oh.” Tony drums his fingers on the pillow. “Well, you learn something new everyday, I guess. I should let you get to tha-”

He pauses, staring at Steve. “Ah.”

“What?”

“Do you want some help shaving?”

Steve opens his mouth to ask why the hell he would want help shaving, before a throb in his arm answers him and he remembers oh, right, his dominant arm is broken.

He sighs. “I might have to ask Clint about becoming ambidextrous.”

Tony chuckles, a bright, sleepy sound in the quiet bedroom. “C’mon, Cap, lead me to your razor.”

He slides out of bed and is padding towards the bathroom when he looks back at Steve. “You coming?”

“Gimmie a second to put pants on,” Steve says.

Tony gives him a thumbs up and darts into the bathroom, leaving Steve to fumble his way into a pair of sweatpants as fast as he can.

Tony is messing around in his drawers when Steve comes in, stepping out of the way when Steve hip-checks him to the side.

“Nice,” Tony says approvingly when Steve pushes a straight razor into his hand. “Fancy.”

“Not really,” Steve says, putting the shaving cream on the sink. “Got it at a chemist.” He takes the bottle of shaving cream and tries to pour it into his bad hand, but after two attempts Tony takes it from him and Steve lets him.

Tony sets the razor on the edge of the sink, squirts shaving cream into his hands and starts rubbing it into Steve’s face.

Steve watches him, watches his eyes track his own hands. “You know how to use a straight razor?”

“In theory.”

Steve snorts. “Oh, good. I’m gonna be leaving here with a bunch of toilet paper stuck to my bleeding chin.”

Tony swats him with the clean back of his hand. “Excuse you, I’m going to rock this.”

“I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Tony smiles.

It’s not much different from any of the other smiles Steve has seen before, but the sun is streaming into the bathroom from a window to their left and Tony looked so damn happy with that particular smile, like nothing could be bad in the world and he could stand here and smear Steve’s face with shaving cream for the rest of his life and be perfectly happy with it, and later, Steve privately thinks that’s why he ends up leaning forwards and kissing Tony.

Tony’s hands are still on his face, applying shaving cream, and they follow Steve’s cheeks when Steve leans in and slants their mouths together, muffling Tony’s small gasp.

What am I doing, Steve thinks when their lips touch, and he’s about to jerk away and beg for forgiveness when Tony starts kissing back and all of Steve’s thoughts melt away, replaced by the wonder that is kissing Tony.

He hasn’t kissed many people in his life, and never for long, so it’s not surprising that Steve gets lost in the press of Tony’s lips against his, the slick slide when their tongues meet, soft and gentle and impossibly warm.

It’s like you’re pushing the warm into me wherever you touch, Steve distantly remembers saying, and god, it’s never been truer- Tony’s mouth spreads liquid sunlight through Steve’s body, humming through his nervous system and lighting him up from the inside.

When Tony pulls away for breath, Steve chases his mouth dazedly, making Tony laugh and peck him on the mouth. Steve tries to deepen it, but Tony thumbs at the hinge of his jaw and pulls his face back an inch.

“Us non-superhumans have to breathe,” Tony reminds him, and Steve nods distractedly, gaze on Tony’s lips. God, kissing is great. Kissing Tony is great.

“You’re so great,” Steve blurts, and then he winces.

Tony freezes and then that smile is back, going into a full-blown grin when Tony laughs. “Back at you.”

“No, I mean-” Steve reaches up with his good hand to brush his knuckles along Tony’s cheek. He saw someone do this in a movie when he was fourteen, remembers watching them and aching with how much he wanted to do that to someone special. “You’re amazing, Tony.”

He lets his voice go soft when he says it, lets everything he’s been feeling into the words, and watches Tony’s eyes widen and wonders if he’s just screwed this all up in record time.

“Back at you,” Tony croaks, then clears his throat. “I, uh. Yeah. You’re really something, Steve Rogers.”

Steve hopes his smile isn’t too nervous. “Yeah?”

Tony nods, and he’s leaning in again when Steve stops him with a hand on his cheek.

“What?” Tony leans back, eyes dark and worried.

“Oh, it’s-” Steve swipes off a speck of shaving cream from Tony’s scruff, holds it up to show Tony. “You have, uh, my shaving cream in your goatee.”

Tony scrubs at it, making a face when he comes up with traces of it. “Yeah, it happens when you start making out with a guy you’re about to shave. Should we finish that, by the way?”

“Sure,” Steve says, and tilts his head back to let Tony continue. He draws in a sharp breath when Tony gives his neck a considering look and then presses a soft kiss to it, right under his chin.

“Sorry,” Tony says, smoothing shaving cream over the spot he kissed.

Steve tries to get his breathing under control. “You don’t look that sorry.”

“Yeah, I’m really not.” Tony grins, and Steve messes up the new layer of shaving cream by bending to kiss Tony thoroughly.

Tony puts his hands on the sides of Steve’s face again, like he did in the helicarrier, like he did in Steve’s bed, and it shakes any remaining ice from Steve until his whole body sings with warmth.