"Steve. Steve, wake up."
Tony sounded like he was coming in through one of the old boxes they used to haul around in Italy, and for a moment Steve couldn't figure out why that didn't make sense.
It hit him with the suddenness of the Arctic Ocean and he gasped and curled forward like he'd actually been hit with a wall of icy seawater. He looked around, still panting and shivering, trying to connect the last thing he could remember—Peggy's voice—aliens in the skies over Manhattan—Bucky falling—cherry blossoms in Washington DC?— Tony flying between him and the missile .
He spun on his hip to get his feet under him, but collapsed to the ground when his entire left side spasmed in pain and folded up in agony. The cold, damp cement under his cheek was both unnerving and soothing. He stayed down for a moment and surveyed what he could from that spot.
Harsh blueish-white light lit a bare cinderblock wall in sharp relief and his breath was semi-visble as it puffed out and drifted upward. He knew it was more like "early fall morning" cold, but it felt like “December in the Alps” thanks to his fritzing memories.
A shadow shifted on the wall and Steve rolled over, coming up ready to fight, the memory of Tony’s voice and the realization he couldn't see him combining to spike his instincts. He had to protect them, they were his team. He couldn't fail again.
"Whoa! Easy there, Rocky. You could take an eye out with one of those things."
Steve blinked as the light source slid down past him and then Tony's face was there, smiling grimly at him, but with real relief in his eyes. A chilled, calloused hand cupped his cheek and Tony's gaze searched his face.
"You with me now, Steve?" Tony asked.
"I… yeah. I'm—" He looked around, wincing when the twisting of his spin aggravated all kinds of bruising and probably breaks in his torso. "Where are we?"
The tight lines in Tony's face relaxed as he sat back in a cross-legged position. "Guests of HYDRA. They didn't appreciate our ideas on how to remodel their base. Some people just don't get the value of an open plan."
The laugh barked painfully out of Steve's chest and Tony reached forward, but paused before he made contact.
Steve grabbed his hand before it could be pulled back and tugged it against his chest. They were captured and injured and he felt like cold shit on a hot tin roof, he wasn't going to be stingy about asking for some comfort.
Tony had apparently been waiting for the invitation, since he immediately scooted closer, shifting around so he could sit next to Steve and tugging him into a half hug. "The last thing I heard over the comms was everyone losing their shit over us being hit, so we probably don't have much more of a wait," he offered. "I would prepare for Hulk to tag you in for teddy bear duty for the flight home."
"I probably won't turn him down," Steve admitted, letting his head rest on Tony's shoulder. He turned into Tony's neck, shuddering as the warmth of proximity began to seep into his own skin.
It wouldn't be so bad if they'd left them in their uniforms, but that wouldn’t make tactical sense. HYDRA was, unfortunately, learning.
He was glad Tony still had his insulated undersuit on though. He was probably warmer than Steve in his boxers and t-shirt. He was a little jealous, but Steve knew he was also better able to handle the cold for longer.
"Just because you can handle it doesn't make it comfortable, come on. Budge up," Tony said, his hand pulling at Steve's hip.
"Hmm?" Steve asked, lifting his head.
"Cold cement is worse than cold air for leaching heat. Come on. Up."
Steve frowned, but let Tony move him until he was sitting on his lap, face to face. Steve felt his cheeks flush lightly, but Tony just grinned and waggled his eyebrows.
"No funny business, Cap, I have a reputation to uphold."
Steve snorted, and then let his head drop back to Tony's shoulder and nestled into the warmth of his neck.
"Pretty sure the way to uphold your reputation is with funny business," he informed Tony's collarbone.
Tony's hands slid over Steve's back in slow patterns, pressing and rubbing a little precious warmth into the skin. "If the team doesn't get here in a few hours we'll give HYDRA show, but until then hands above the waist." He of course punctuated this with a squeeze of Steve's ass.
Steve yelped and worked one of his hands to Tony's waist to pinch him back, but it only got laughter. Tony was obviously in much better condition than he was right now and that was somehow more reassuring than envy-inducing.
The hands on his back tightened into a hug and Tony murmured almost directly into his ear, "We've got a good team and they're stubborn as hell. They're going to find us and get us out of here. Until then we hold onto each other and we'll be just fine."
A lump blocked Steve's throat until he swallowed it down. His voice was more raspy and trembling than he intended when he said, "I thought I was supposed to be the one with the inspirational speeches. You planning a coup, Iron Man?"
Tony chuckled and hooked his chin over Steve's shoulder. He was relaxed but alert enough that Steve felt his own hypervigilance stand down a little. He could trust Tony to keep watch for a little while.
"If it didn't involve so much paperwork maybe. But I'm more than happy to be the power behind the throne. Why do you think I promoted Pepper to CEO?"
Steve hummed, feeling his attention start to drop again. He was still cold, but it wasn't so bad now and the serum was working overtime to fix him. It was exhausting without any food to help counter the energy cost.
"I wanted to make sure you didn't have a concussion," Tony said. "You can sleep again if you want. I'll wake you when they get here."
"I'm fine," Steve said, but he sounded half asleep even to himself. He turned his head to let the cold wake him up a bit, but it was biting after the warmth of Tony so he didn't stay long before retreating once more.
"Of course you are," Tony agreed. "But I'm more fine. Everyone but People magazine agrees and they're still bitter over that interview I skipped out on a decade ago. Go to sleep and I'll wake you when something happens."
"No," Steve said stubbornly, but he did close his eyes. There wasn't really anything to see anyway.
That lasted for all of thirty seconds before the darkness felt like it was closing in and about to smother him and he jerked up and almost fell over. Tony’s hands caught and braced him, keen eyes watching closely.
Steve looked around in confusion for a second, then sighed and slumped forward. "I hate being injured," he muttered.
Tony's fingers scratched lightly at his spine, the other arm tightening around his waist. "It's a bitch and a half," Tony agreed.
"Language," Steve murmured on pure reflex.
He regretted it almost immediately, then again when Tony cheekily said, "Préféreriez-vous français? Il est une salope et demi."
"Votre accent est terrible," he said for lack of a better retort.
"Well not all of us learned it in France," Tony said, but he sounded more amused than offended.
"I didn't learn it in France either," Steve said. "I learned it in Italy."
Tony laughed, jostling Steve, but it was countered by a bracing hand on his back. "Then you can't say shit about my accent. Also, I have it on good authority that your accent is also terrible ," he said, mocking him with the French pronunciation. "Uncle Jacques drank a lot of wine in fond remembrance of your shitty accent."
"If you mean Jacques Dernier," Steve said dryly, "he drank a lot of wine period. He didn't need my shitty accent as an excuse."
Tony shrugged, Steve's head rising and falling on the fluid wave. "I can't really argue that point."
Silence fell between them, but it was a comfortable one. Steve felt himself dozing again, and tried to push it back with mixed success. He didn't feel entirely alert by any means, but he was aware of the way Tony's hands kept moving on his skin, friction and pressure leaving heat behind in their wake. He carefully avoided Steve's injuries except to occasionally cup his bruised ribs and abraded thigh and other bumps and scrapes to give them a bit of respite from the chilled air.
His legs had to be falling asleep and Steve thought that he should probably say something about that, move off to sit on his own or something, but Tony was so much more comfortable than the floor would be and Steve was tired . He'd stay for just a few more minutes and then he'd insist on giving Tony a break to get up and move around at least.
It was probably more than a few minutes since Steve was pretty sure some of the seconds he counted were longer than they were supposed to be, but he finally got down to zero and was about to move when Tony tensed under him.
He lifted his head and turned until his body protested, trying to see the door. It was solid and gave no indication of what had caught Tony's attention until the sound came again: the screams of someone who had gotten up close and personal with the Hulk and was experiencing a sudden regret for their career choices.
Steve turned back and Tony's smirk was almost feral as their gazes met.
"Sounds like our ride's here."
Steve returned the grin and let out a shaky breath of relief.
Tony laughed as they untangled themselves and got to their feet. Standing upright was a painful idea, but with Tony's arm wrapped around his waist it wasn't so bad. And if meant leaving, Steve would walk across broken glass right now. He'd even carry Tony across if needed.
There was a solid thunk against the door that could have been a body hitting it or a giant green fist, but either way a second and third followed until cracks appeared in the wall around the frame, bulging and shuddering until the whole thing popped through and clanged on the ground.
Hulk put his hands on either side and yanked, widening it enough to get his shoulders through. He stepped in and bent to sniff and huff at them, inspecting the two of them with a wary green glare. Then he snorted and reached out for Steve.
Tony pushed him forward and before Steve could even voice a protest, he was cuddled up to a bright green pectoral that radiated heat like a furnace. He tried to stifle the moan as he turned toward it, but Tony's snicker said he didn't do a good job.
Steve got to smirk back when Tony himself was gathered up in the other arm and cradled against Hulk's chest as well.
"I'm not the one that got tackled by 500 pounds of gold titanium alloy, buddy," he tried to explain as Hulk turned and ducked back through the doorway. "I can walk just fine."
"Stark lies," was all the rebuttal Hulk offered as he stalked back down the hallway past a trail of downed Hydra agents. Tony squawked, but, well, Hulk wasn't wrong. At least when it came to being injured.
Clint appeared around a corner ahead, walking backward and firing arrows. He glanced over and said, "Hulk found them. They're awake and don't look much worse than expected. Down to their skivvies though, so someone's gonna need to see if we can locate their armor and shit."
There was a brief pause as Clint fired off one more arrow, then he turned and came toward them. The hallway behind him exploded in a gout of flame peppered with screams. Tony snorted, and behind his glasses Clint's eyes were no doubt full of smug humor at the knowledge he looked like an action movie hero.
"Copy that. Rendezvous at the quinjet in 10."
He didn't stop until he was close enough to touch, laying a hand on Steve's arm and squeezing it lightly. "Good to see you in one piece, Cap."
He looked briefly Tony's way when the billionaire demanded "What am I? Chopped liver?"
"Thanks for not losing me a bet," Clint said with a smirk and a finger gun salute.
"I am moving your arrows to the bottom of my to do list," Tony threatened, as Hulk started moving again, Clint drawing a fresh arrow for cover.
"Still on the list though," he said, peeking around the corner, then nodding and leading the way.
They snarked at each other the whole way back to the 'Jet and Steve found himself dozing to the familiar sound.
"Both of you shut up," Natasha said from somewhere nearby as Steve was shifted to lay down on what felt like the blissfully warm and padded medical bed. A mylar blanket was laid over him, then a second heavier weight was added. He sighed in relief and cracked his eyelids open.
"Hey," she said as she carded gentle fingers through his hair. "Anything you want to fess up to before Sam gets started?"
"Ribs," Steve said. "Left ankle feels a little loose. Killer headache, but I'm guessing that's obvious. Everything else is minor."
"Mmm," she hummed, tugging the blankets up another inch closer to his chin. "I'll need your arm for a sugar drip here in a minute, but you can keep it under the blankets for now. Any tattles on Tony?"
Steve let his eyes close and leaned into the palm cupping his cheek. "Not that I know of. He seemed pretty unscathed. Better off than I was definitely."
"Okay. If you open up those pretty blue eyes one more time to let me check your pupils, I'll get you that drip and you can go back to sleep."
He scrunched up his face in anticipation of the pain, but she was standing over him enough to shield him from the cabin lights and the flashes of her penlight were kept brief.
She patted his head and turned to accept the IV bag that Clint was holding, the two of them murmuring just quietly enough that he didn't feel the need to pay attention. His arm was pulled out and he shivered, but bowstring-callused fingers tangled with his and squeezed as the needle was slipped into his vein and taped down.
"JARVIS, do you have those scans for Sam?" Natasha asked as Clint replaced his arm on his chest. The hand in his moved to his shoulder to rest as the two of them continued their basic first aid.
Curiosity and responsibility won out over the weight of his eyelids and Steve turned his head and peeked to see if he could find Tony.
He was on the other bed, laying down and also under blankets, though they weren't staying in place the way he kept moving his arms to try and help/fend off Thor. The god of thunder grinned and deftly dodged the hands, teasing Tony as he did so. Bruce was wrapped up in a blanket in the seat next to Tony's head, lips curved in a soft smile and eyes closed.
Tony turned and looked his way then and stopped, hands lowering as he met Steve's gaze. He smiled and gave a quick nod, then turned back to Thor to claim a fear of needles and deny needing an IV of his own.
Steve felt the last of the tension wash out of him, the sound of Bucky's and Sam's boots and their voices coming up the ramp. He felt Natasha brush a thumb across his forehead as the voices washed over him, pulling him down into the tide of sleep once more.