Snow is piled up against the glass of Rhodey's bay window so high there're only a few inches between it and the top of the frame. It's getting dark out, which is only evident because through those few inches the gunmetal gray sky is turning inky. Cold is leeching in through the glass, slipping across Tony's skin like ghostly fingers. “Ugh, this sucks,” he groans, staring at it sullenly. Stupid snow. Stupid damn storm. “Rhodey,” he whines and gets an eye roll for his trouble.
“Man, I know. Do you not think I would get your ass out of here if I could? I love you, but this little pity party is getting on my last nerve.”
Tony sighs and scrubs his face with his hands. “Sorry, I know, sorry. It's not your fault. I just...” He looks at the window again.
Rhodey puts a hand on his shoulder, squeezes gently. “It's your first anniversary, I know. It's a big deal. And I'm sorry, I really am, Tony. But this is supposed to go on all night.”
Tony should be grateful, he knows, that he didn't head out when this first started. Temperatures have been dipping down to the negative double digits and the idea of Rhodey being stuck here alone freaks him out. As it is, every tap in the house is running and there's been a fire going in the fire place almost nonstop. Outside the living room it's still pretty freakin' cold and Tony's bundled up in layers, including one of Rhodey's wool sweaters. He squeezes his arms around his waist and sighs.
“I know you really wanted to be with him, Tony.”
“It just—feels like I'm screwing up,” Tony sighs, making the admission in an undertone.
Rhodey hears it anyway and moves his head around until Tony reluctantly meets his eyes. “You're not screwing anything up,” he says firmly. “Steve wouldn't think that you did. It's bad luck, man.”
Apparently being trapped is turning him soppy, because he says, “I never really thought I'd get married, you know? And now I'm here and I just—I want all those things I thought I'd never have. I want that romantic first anniversary. I mean, I went all out, I couldn't decide if we were traditional or modern so I got him this disgustingly gorgeous leather-bound sketchbook and a new watch so he's probably going to think it's too lavish. And then this—”
Rhodey pulls him into a hug and Tony lets him, folding against his chest, grateful for both the gesture and Rhodey's warmth.
“Come on,” Rhodey says, gruff, but gentle, “you can still call him. Power's still fine so far.”
“God, don't jinx it,” Tony grumbles as Rhodey drags him toward the kitchen.
Steve watches thick, fat flakes pour from the sky and says to Sam, “It's not that bad. We saw worse in Europe. If I go now—”
Sam stops him at the door, hand to Steve's chest, a disapproving look in his eye. “No.”
“No, Steve. You must be out of your damn mind if you think I'm gonna let you go out into this weather.”
Steve tries the sad-eyed, pushed-out lip look that Nat calls his puppy dog face. “We should be together. A guy doesn't have a first anniversary every day.”
Sam sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose. “Look, I get where you're coming from, I do. This sucks. You should be with him. But we're smack dab in the middle of the worst storm in like, three decades, and I am not letting you go barreling out into it to cross a state line and probably get yourself turned into a human Popsicle again. I don't want that, and Tony will blast me from here to kingdom come if I let you do it. So you are gonna sit down, have another cup of cider, and you can celebrate your anniversary when the fury of nature isn't going full tilt, okay?”
Steve glances out the sliding glass door again, jaw clenching at the sight of the snow piling up against it, driven by a relentless wind. It's knee deep and he knows from getting too close that it's cold as hell out there. He's been on edge for days now watching it come down. The idea of being stuck here, surrounded by all that is bad enough without missing the celebration he and Tony had worked so hard to arrange. They'd had so many plans and had been so excited and so bewildered by how quickly the time had gone by. This is their day, one of the few and far between and he should be with Tony .
If he goes out there at least he's not stuck in place, and maybe he could get to Rhodey's—
“Steve,” Sam says, voice low and serious, “do not—”
He's debating how to deal with Sam when his phone rings in the other room. His heart jumps.
Tony fidgets with the napkin holder while he listens to the phone ring, his eyes following as Rhodey moves around at the counter, making fresh coffee. The line clears and Tony's heart starts to beat a little faster.
“Steve hi honey,” he says, all in one breath. God, he misses him. It's barely been a week and still, it hits him like the Hulk's fist.
“Tony,” Steve says, and there's something aching in his voice. “I'm sorry, I wanted to be there.”
Tony huffs. “It's not your fault. If anything I blame Ororo.”
“I know. I know—it's just—” He's quiet for a moment and Tony knows he's searching for the words to say what he means. After a long silence, he murmurs, “Seems like I keep missing important dates.”
Tony starts, a rush of pleasure that Steve thinks of their anniversary as important rolling through him, quickly replaced by concern over the dejection in his voice. His eyes are drawn toward the doorway, through which he can still see the snow piling up against the window, the dim light of the day fading to blackness. He bets it looks a lot like this at Sam's place too.
A few months before they had been married, Steve had confessed in the wee hours of the morning that while he didn't remember the crash, when it got cold and dark he grew anxious, restless. Peggy's voice rang in his ears.
“Hey,” Tony says, “we just have to push back the festivities a few days. We're stranded, that's all. Doesn't mean we can't spend the night together.” Rhodey rolls his eyes as he sets a steaming mug on the table in front of him and Tony sticks out his tongue in reply.
“I love you, Tony,” Steve says, somber, and it gives Tony a shiver the way it always does. He tucks his phone against his ear, holding it in place with his shoulder and cups the hot mug between his hands.
“Yeah,” he murmurs, “I love you, too.”
Steve curls up on the couch with the mug of cider Sam offered, out of sight of the windows and with Tony's voice warm in his ear, talking about what he and Rhodey have been doing to keep everything in the house from freezing, including themselves. Sam turns the TV on low to keep an eye on the news and little by little the tension seeps out of his body.
“You guys have been stuck inside up there for almost three days, I'm surprised you haven't invented a weather machine,” he jokes and Tony makes a thoughtful noise that makes him grin. Trust Tony to take it as a genuine suggestion.
“Well, it's not like I haven't thought about it,” Tony says. “But Rhodey's pretty much hopeless with anything that doesn't fly.”
“Say that again to my face,” he hears Rhodey say in the background and Steve presses the heel of his hand into his smile when Tony squawks. For a second there's a lot of scuffling on the line, then: “Don't listen to a word this man tells you.”
“Hey! My husband!” Tony protests. “My anniversary! You're interrupting my romantic anniversary!”
“You wouldn't know romantic if it bit you on the ass,” Rhodey scoffs.
“That is patently untrue. And offensive. Steve, tell him. Tell him how I woo you. I romance the pants off of you, don't I?”
“It was his idea to ask if we could stay at your house for some alone time,” Steve says. “It's not his fault we got snowed in before we got that far.”
“Ha, see?” Tony's smugness oozes from the phone.
There's more scuffling as—presumably—he tries to get it back into his possession, then there's yelping, laughter, and a loud thump. Both of their voices sound far off when Tony says, “Pooh bear, I will make you suffer.”
“I'd like to see you try,” Rhodey replies.
There are several more thumps, a wild shriek of laughter, and Rhodey yells, “Shit, you son of a bitch!” Rustling follows a moment later.
“Sorry about that, sunshine,” Tony pants. “Rhodey, I swear to god, I will open that window. Don't make me.”
“Dumbass, that would be as bad for you as it would for me,” Rhodey grumbles. “Talk to your husband, you cheater.”
“Having fun?” Steve asks, and he's sure Tony can hear the smile in his voice when he says it.
“I'm not not having fun,” Tony says. “Be better if you were here.”
After Tony stuffs the freezing cold paper weight down Rhodey's sweater front and gets back to Steve, Rhodey sits down with one of his models, carefully setting out each piece in a neat grid. Tony watches, talking to Steve about what he and Sam have been getting up to (not much), what they had for dinner (chicken), and what Steve got him for their anniversary (it's a surprise, Tony—but it's our anniversary now Steve!). Rhodey's deft with his hands, and it's relaxing to watch him fit the plane together piece by piece with Steve in one ear talking about the moon landing and how good Sam's peach cobbler is and how much he likes Rick Astley's “Never Gonna Give You Up”.
“I know it's a joke,” he says, and Tony smiles to himself because it sounds like he's eating again—yogurt or something that has to be scraped out of a cup—, “but it's a good song. It's catchy and I like his voice. It's something you feel in your chest, you know?”
“Can't you sing bass?” Tony asks. Rhodey's frowning, looking around and moving things around for a piece that Tony's pretty sure is right in front of him. He taps the table next to it and Rhodey glances over, expression clearing. Thank you, he mouths.
Tony signs back you're welcome in ASL, which Rhodey knows because after Clint had sacrificed his (already compromised) hearing, he had picked it up quicker than any of them.
“Nah,” Steve replies, “I was a tenor, though before the serum a lot of the church ladies used to think I could sing falsetto. That really got my goat.”
“What, just because you were small?” Tony demands, indignant. “What a bunch of—”
Steve cuts him off with an amused huff. “A lot of people thought I was still just a kid.” His voice warms with a smile as he goes on, “On my twenty-first birthday a policeman saw me go into a nightclub behind Bucky and thought I was just some punk kid sneaking in. He hauled me out by my ear and it took Buck twenty minutes to convince him I was plenty old enough to be there.”
“Oh my god, that's incredible,” Tony says. “It's a travesty that I didn't get to see the Before model. I mean, pictures, but they don't do it justice.” He sighs, imagining it, trying to figure out how all that righteous anger would fit inside such a tiny frame.
“I can't say I agree. Being sick so much was hard. It would be easier nowadays, but I wouldn't want to go back. Being healthy is such a blessing.”
Tony makes a noise of agreement, fingers tracing over where the scar lies in the center of his chest. Being whole and hale, yeah, that's something he'd fight like hell to keep.
“I did okay before. I would have liked to help Ma out more. Struggling made me strong though. Had to fight just to get people to think I was worth the air I breathed.”
Tony loathes the idea of Steve growing up under the impression that he didn't even deserve to live because of the frailties he'd been born with. He knows it helped make Steve who he is today, that it cemented him into the hard-headed champion of Good, but he hates it nevertheless. He's admitted before in the safety of their bed when sane people are usually asleep that he'd probably have looked Steve over in his original form.
He hates that about himself, but it just makes him more determined to love Steve the best he can now that he's got him.
“Don't do that, Tony,” Steve warns and Tony clears his throat, sits up a little straighter, even though Steve can't see him.
“What?”he says innocently, “I'm not doing anything.”
“Don't beat yourself up over something that's worlds away.”
He doesn't know what to do or what to say, so he does the only thing he can think to do. “Are you gonna watch Night Shift with me when we get back to the Tower?”
Steve lets Tony deflect because he can't be there to make him see how it doesn't matter what Tony would have done in another life, Steve has him in this one and that's all he cares about. They bicker about television shows and he agrees to watch Night Shift if Tony will watch Clandestine.
Sam starts to clean up and turns off a few of the lights. Steve's surprised when he realizes how dark it's gotten outside. The only thing visible is the puffs of snow skating off the glass. That reminds him how tired he is—he and Sam had been woken at three last night when one of the branches on the tree in the yard had snapped off, though it had thankfully narrowly avoided the house.
He's reluctant to get off the line with Tony, so he takes the phone with him to the bathroom to get ready for bed and turns it on speaker. “Hello?”
“Yep, hi, Buttercup, still here.” The nickname makes Steve smile. “You getting ready for bed?”
“Thought I'd clean up.”
“Then I will, too,” Tony announces.
So they brush their teeth and wash their faces and the sound of the tap water running over the line makes it almost feel like Tony's there with him. He aches with how bad he wants to touch Tony though, to feel the warmth of his body, see the light in his eyes.
Steve winds up leaning his hip against the counter, listening in awe as Tony tells him a wild story from his days with Rhodey at MIT where they'd disassembled a professor's car and reassembled it in his office. “So you've always been trouble,” he says.
“Yeah, pretty much,” Tony agrees and Steve grins at the way it sounds like he's preening.
As he's getting into bed, Tony says, “You know, I could send you off to dreamland with some decidedly unsweet thoughts.”
Steve groans, the idea of Tony talking dirty to him making his stomach twist with heat. It's tempting as hell. But it's also not really what he wants. “I don't want to get off, Tony, I want to be with you.”
Tony sighs. “Yeah, well, apparently we don't get what we want this year. Next best thing?”
Steve huffs a laugh and curls up around a pillow. “I'd rather wait for the whole package.”
“You're a menace, Rogers.”
“Ten bucks says we don't even make it to the bedroom.”
“Twenty, and we don't make it to the penthouse.”
Steve barks out a laugh. “This doesn't encourage me to let you rush things.”
Tony grins, voice low and wicked when he says, “Oh, I don't think you'll be able to resist.”
“I'm glad,” he says suddenly, needing Tony to hear this. “I'm glad it was you. Even with everything I lost. I never could have dreamed this is where I'd end up, how things would turn out, but I'm glad they did.”
Tony's quiet for a long stretch, then he rasps, “Me too, Steve. I love you. So. So much. I— I didn't think I'd ever be—” He doesn't finish, but Steve can hear the assortment of words he means even in the silence. “You make me a better man.”
“Same,” Steve says immediately. “You make me so much better than what I am.”
Tony lets out a small breath that Steve knows is disbelief, but it's true. Tony keeps him grounded, keeps him in check, keeps him together. “Happy anniversary, Steve,” he whispers finally.
“Happy anniversary, Tony.”
He holds on to the sound of Tony's slightly ragged breathing and closes his eyes, tries to imagine that Tony's there next to him in the bed. At some point, he drifts off for a minute, starting awake and blurting, “Tony?”
“Here,” Tony says. Then a little guiltily he admits, “I was listening to you breathe.”
“'m falling asleep,” Steve tells him.
Tony's soft smile is audible. “I know.”
“M'be I should...”
“No,” Tony says quickly. “No, just stay on with me. I want to fall asleep with you, if that's—”
Steve grins into his pillow like an idiot. “Love you.”
“Yeah,” Tony says softly, “you too, sweetheart.”
Steve falls asleep like that, with the gentle in and out of Tony's breath carrying him off.
“He fell asleep in the damn chair,” Rhodey says, sighing, from where he's leaned in the doorway, phone tucked to his head with his shoulder. “Yeah. He's drooling. The line's still open, I think I hear Rogers snoring.”
“Well, he is snoring,” Sam replies, amusement thick in his voice. “He's passed out on his stomach with his hand curled around the phone.”
“Jesus,” Rhodey grumbles.
Sam's grin shines through in every syllable. “These saps, huh?”
“Disgusting,” Rhodey says, but he knows he sounds fond.