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“This is awkward,” says Steve.

Since he’s in the process of bleeding out on the floor of a cabin Tony owns and there’s no electricity and the blizzard outside—which is not of natural origin—nearly sucked them up and spat them out when Tony tried to get Steve home in it, Tony doesn’t feel like a spot of awkwardness is really their main problem. “Sit down,” he orders.

“Fire first,” Steve says.

“Uh, no. Gushing wound first. Sit down.”

Steve remains stubbornly standing, one hand pressed hard into the gash at his shoulder, doing not nearly enough to stop the bleeding. He’s getting close to panicking at the thought of there being no fire, and the fact that Tony knows he’s panicking even though Steve hasn’t said it and his face hasn’t changed—yes, okay, that fact could be characterized, by someone with a very poor grasp on priorities, as awkward.

“You’re frustrated,” says Steve.

“Quit it,” Tony snaps.

There’s just a lot of emotions and thoughts that he doesn’t want Steve having access to, and it’s taking a lot of concentration to keep all of them at the back of his mind. Frustration’s the least of it. Also, Steve’s bleeding a lot, and Tony can feel exactly how much it hurts.

It’s actually kind of weird: Whatever the magic was in that clearing, it’s making him feel Steve’s pain but also Steve’s pain tolerance, which it turns out is a good bit higher than his own. Makes sense, he guesses: If you know you’re about to heal right up, you probably don’t have to worry so much about in-the-moment agony. So it’s this weird cycling back and forth between, like, a seven on the pain scale and maybe a four, and Tony can’t get his brain to settle into one or the other. “Please can I sew that shit up,” he says, a little desperately.

“Oh,” Steve says, surprised, and for a second the pain goes way the fuck up—Tony yelps—as they get into some kind of weird little feedback loop. Steve says “Okay,” in his most concentrating voice, and it snaps back down again. That’s at least a good sign: It’s controllable, to some extent. The scientist in Tony wants to sit Steve down and fiddle with it for the rest of this blizzard, but Steve’s bleeding like fucking crazy, and his teeth are starting to chatter in the cold.

It tears Tony up the way Steve can’t stand the cold. When they talk about missions in places like Russia, Steve blinks a little more than regular and volunteers real fucking hard like he’s got something to prove, and if Tony were in charge of the Avengers he’d never let Steve go anywhere the temperature’s under freezing. Ever again.

He feels Steve react with surprise, again. He can’t quite place what the surprise is for, but Steve’s eyes are soft, fixed on his face.

“Okay,” Tony says, surrendering to the inevitable. “We’ll get a fire going. I’ll—what do you need? There should be firewood downstairs—”

Steve nods and makes to move.

“—which I will get, Jesus Christ, Captain Stoic, please sit the fuck down while I am gathering materials. What do you need besides logs?”

“If you’ve got some twigs and stuff,” Steve begins, then Tony gets a flush of embarrassment from him as he realizes that’s unlikely. “Okay, no, or, um—just some paper I can tear up for tinder, and then, if you’ve got any cardboard.”

The basement’s real fucking cold, but Tony tries hard not to focus on that. Steve doesn’t need to be colder than he already is. Tony pictures fire, fire, fire. He grabs an old volume of encyclopedia—how does this shit collect down here? (renters probably)—and a couple of empty cardboard boxes for kindling. The laundry room’s got a trash can full of lint, so he grabs that as well, feeling pleased with himself for thinking of it. He’s becoming pioneersy in his old age.

He feels a rush of affection from Steve, fuck, that has to be another feedback loop, him being pleased with himself and Steve feeling it too and it’s just building, but fuck if he lets himself think about what he feels for Steve it’s going to be, fuck fuck, okay, no, pain, pain, think about how fucking much his shoulder hurts.

(He hates magic. Has he said? And traps. He hates magic and traps, and now that he and Steve have walked right into one, he has the experience to say with certainty that he hates magic traps most of all.)

“Let’s never do this again!” Steve yells from upstairs.

Tony laughs, and he feels how pleased Steve is to have made him laugh.

When he makes it back upstairs with his supplies plus as much firewood in as many different sizes as he could carry, Steve’s sunk down onto the couch, his face a little paler than usual. He tries for a smile when he sees Tony.

“No point doing that, Cap, I know exactly how shitty you’re feeling,” Tony says.

A flash of despair from Steve, at that. Jesus. Is that what he feels when—

Steve puts the smile back on and says, weakly, “Don’t like being a burden, is all.”

Oh, fuck, is it ever dangerous when Steve gets vulnerable. Tony has a fuck of a hard time not giving himself away to Steve even when—

Nope. Fire. Fire fire fire. Blood and fire.

His shoulder hurts. Steve’s shoulder hurts. Fuck fuck it hurts. “Steve,” Tony says, “I’m sorry, just—I’m having a really hard time concentrating with you bleeding that much. Can we look at your shoulder before—”

“It’s clotting,” says Steve. He takes his hand away, like he’s going to prove it, but all Tony can see is blood, and he flashes onto a memory of bodies, a broken shield, blood trickling from Steve’s nose while his eyes go fixed and empty.

He jolts. Steve’s got a hand on his shoulder, Tony’s shoulder, they’re separate people, keep it separate, Stark. “Hey,” Steve says. “I’m good. We’re good, okay?” He squeezes, and Tony has to fight for breath.

“Yeah,” he manages.

“Let’s do the shoulder,” says Steve. “That’s a good call. We’ll—I’ll get the suit off, okay, while you get some first aid supplies, how about.”

Tony keeps basic first-aid in the suit, which is a pain in the ass at the moment, because he has to put the whole suit on to access the stuff, and then take it back off again and fold it back up into the briefcase. Gotta find a fix for that problem, he thinks, and then there’s a vast and impressive expanse of bare chest in front of him, which makes it hard to think about anything else.

“Ah,” he says, intelligently. He wants to touch, and he gets to touch, which is a pretty fucked-up thing to think while your teammate’s gushing blood right in front of you.

Okay, not gushing. Steve’s right, it’s started to clot, and it’s not looking as bad as Tony was afraid it would. He pulls some wipes and starts getting rid of some of the dried blood, gentle as he can. Steve says, “Thanks, Tony. I know you don’t like—” and doesn’t finish the sentence.

What doesn’t he like, he wonders. What does Steve think he doesn’t like?

“Hey, no problem, Cap.” He’s good at babbling to cover up what he’s feeling. Works inside brains as well as outside them, it turns out, because all he’s getting from Steve as he does this is relief, and the occasional twinge when he gets too close to the actual fucking hole in Steve’s shoulder. “So, witchy spell, any thoughts on that while we’re waiting out the storm?”

“I hate magic,” says Steve.

Tony has to laugh. “The worst.”

“It’s the worst!” says Steve, enthusiastically furious about it.

The gash looks bad. Lymphy. Tony hates lymph. “Okay,” he says, “so we’ll, yeah, um—”

Steve says, “Have you done this before?” and Tony’s answering rush of panic must answer the question for him, because Steve says, “Okay. That’s okay! I’ll talk you through it. It’s easy. Those scissor things are for holding the needle.” He shows him how to do it. “And you’re going to—right into my skin, okay? Straight down, and then you’ll sort of curve your wrist to pull it through.”

Tony tries. It’s fucking hard, and Steve’s skin is skin, he can’t pretend that it’s anything else, especially when he feels the answering prick and burn of it in his own shoulder. He wants to say, I can’t, only there isn’t anyone fucking else to do it.

“Good,” says Steve. “Now let go, and we’ll take a break. It’s okay. The needle’s going to stay put. Look at me. Tony.”

Tony obeys. Steve’s eyes are clear and steady, and he’s forgotten how cold it is, because he’s focused on Tony, so Tony feels warm in more ways than one. He’s giving too much away, probably. Steve’s got reassuring eyes, and he’s probably giving too much away.

They get back into it. You have to pull the thread through with each puncture, which means double the time for each fucking stitch, and then you have to tie off every one, too, it’s not like sewing a hem, not that Tony’s ever sewn a hem.

“That’s perfect,” Steve says. “You’re a natural!”

Tony can hear Steve doing his on-purpose Coach Captain America voice, motivating the troops, but he needs it, Steve’s bleeding and it’s his fault for taking them out here and he needs it. “I don’t know about natural.”

“Yeah, you’re doing so great,” says Steve. “You’re doing goddamn great for me, Tony, thank you.”

Probably it’s because Steve’s half-naked and trusting him, but that for me sends a shiver through Tony that makes him take a beat before resuming the stitches. He puts in nine of them (it’s a big fucking cut), and then he’s done, and as soon as he sets the needle down Steve puts up a hand for a high-five.

“You dork,” says Tony, but he gives him the high five. Steve closes his fingers around Tony’s and holds him there for a second, smiling straight into his eyes, which, shit, he’ll stitch up a hundred fucking wounds if Steve’s going to look at him like that afterward. “Okay, okay,” Tony says, to break up the mood. “Let’s get some goop on this and bandage you up, soldier.”

Once they’ve finished with that, their eyes meet, and it occurs to them both at the same moment that Steve doesn’t have anything clean to wear. As soon as Tony thinks of it, he’s slammed with lust, fuck, the idea of Steve wearing something that’s his is way, way, way too much.

Steve’s cheeks are stained dark. Tony can feel his embarrassment burning hot as he says, “I’m—I’m sorry.”

Sorry. Of course he is.

Tony shakes his head and tries to force down what he’s feeling. “That’s—no, hey, I’m the one who—just, yeah, let’s not worry about it, for, um. For now. I’ll just—I’ll find you something—um. There’s gotta be something upstairs or, just, something you can wear. I’ll go have a look while you get the fire started.” Not a bad idea to be away from Steve’s chest and his fucking shoulders and his abs, Christ’s sake.

The property must be a rental, because Tony finds a weird variety of things in the closets and chests of drawers upstairs. There’s this massive faux (he hopes) fur coat/robe/monstrosity that he figures they can use for a blanket, as long as he can convince Steve no bunnies died in its making, and one clean shirt that Tony thinks will be big enough for Steve. It’s not warm enough, but they’ve got blankets, and by the time Tony gets back downstairs, Steve’s laid the foundation of a fire and is blowing on the kindling with an expression of deep concentration.

(Underneath that, he’s still mortified. Tony can feel it like a trickle down his spine. Great work, Stark. Great fucking work, practically popping a boner while Steve’s bleeding in front of him. That’s the Tony Stark the world—Steve—knows and loathes.)

“Stop that,” Steve says, sharply, without turning around.

Tony tries to decide between a defensive rebuttal—“get the fuck out of my head”—and a display of ignorance—“Stop what?” He goes with neither one, just piles blankets on the couch and tries not to feel anything. Steve is golden, in the uneven light of the stuttering fire. From where he’s kneeling beside the couch, Tony could stretch out a hand, bump his knuckles down the knobs of Steve’s spine. It would be warm, Steve’s skin.

“I got you a shirt!” he announces, too loud, and throws it at Steve so that it catches around his shoulders.

“Oh,” Steve says. “Oh. Thank you. Thanks, Tony,” but he doesn’t look up from the fireplace as he wriggles into it. Well, shit. This is going to be the most uncomfortably snowed in Tony’s ever been. Might as well resign himself to it. Awkward conversations. Maybe a game of chess. Does Steve play chess? Fuck, he’s cold.

Steve says, “I think it’s me.”

The fire’s looking stronger. Steve’s made a little box out of pieces of firewood, with lint and paper and cardboard in the center, and Tony bites back something snide about how Boy-Scout-y he is for a city boy. “What’s you?”

“The—feeling cold. Thing.” Steve turns around, and his eyes fall on the fur robe, folded in half over the arm of the couch. “Is that for me?”

“Sure.” Tony slides past him and into the kitchen because, honestly, the fire is making the lines of Steve’s face soft and bright, and it’s never been easy to hide what he feels for Steve even when they aren’t sharing feelings. It turns out good though: The stove is gas, which means they can heat water if they need to (don’t think of baths, don’t think of baths, Steve naked, his skin flushed with the steam, don’t don’t), and he finds fresh milk in the fridge (who keeps these places stocked?) and a cache of hot chocolate packets in one of the cupboards.

“Hey Steve!” he yells.

Steve is laughing. Tony can feel it, more than he can hear it. “Yeah,” he shouts back, his voice light with laughter.

“You want hot chocolate?”

Steve comes lumbering into the kitchen with the fur coat on. It’s miles too big for him, the sleeves slipping off his shoulder on both sides side, and he’s clutching it to his chest and trying to hold back giggles. “Hey Tony. Hey, guess who I am.” He drops his voice by an octave and puts on the stupidest Scottish accent imaginable. “Look. Yer a wizard, Harry.”

Tony cracks up. It’s mostly tension probably, or the same kind of feedback loop they got into before with the pain, but every time he looks at Steve in that ridiculous robe, it gets funnier. He leans against the counter and howls. Steve is propped against the doorframe for support, tears streaming down his face.

“It’s Hagrid,” he gasps out. “I was doing Hagrid.”

“Stop,” Tony begs. “My stomach hurts. Go finish making the fire and then sit down, you’re going to pop a stitch.”

Wheezing, Steve wanders back into the main room. Tony can feel fresh bursts of laughter, or at least near-laughter, as he settles himself down on the couch.

Tony brings the hot chocolate out, two mugs and a bag of marshmallows held in his teeth. When Steve sees him he smiles, which, honestly, Steve giving up a genuine smile is already brutal, without adding to it the warm rush of affection and gratitude that’s pouring out of Steve in waves, like seriously even without this telepathy bullshit, Tony thinks he’d still be able to feel this.

Steve says, “Hot chocolate sounds so good right now” and stretches out a hand for the cup.

“I figured we’d drink the first round straight, and then for the next up I’ll toast some marshmallows to put in them.” Tony settles himself on the couch, at the opposite end from Steve, and starts piling on blankets. The fire’s getting into gear now, and the room’s no longer murderously cold, but it’s still chilly, and Tony’s pretty sure he’s picking up extra cold from Steve.

“Mmmmm,” goes Steve, and he puts his head back luxuriously.

Tony gets—not a flash, but a swell of the utter, golden-retrievery happiness of a Steve Rogers patched up and ready to fight another day. It’s weird, and it’s nice, this kind of easy happiness that hasn’t ever had a place in Tony’s own mind.

Some of Tony’s bewildered unfamiliarity must transmit to Steve, because he brings his head back down and stares at Tony. “Really?”

“Really what,” says Tony sharply.

“I don’t,” Steve says. “I don’t like that.”

Tony barks a laugh. “Yeah? I don’t like it either, Cap, but welcome to life in my head. It’s shit in here, like, ninety percent of the time, why do you think I found a way to make myself fly?”

“Oh.” Steve looks—and feels, great work once again, Stark—like he’s been slapped. He brings his hot chocolate mug close to his face, breathing in the warmth of the steam.

“Sorry you’re being subjected to it.” Tony says it sarcastically but he means it sincerely, and he hopes Steve can pick that up from him. If he didn’t have to live with his own mind, he wouldn’t choose it. And, God, he wouldn’t inflict it on Steve, not Steve of all people, who has enough to deal with, who deserves—

There aren’t words big enough to describe the good things that Steve deserves.

“Come here,” says Steve.

“What?” Tony’s so surprised that he does the whole nine yards of like, pulling his hands inward like he’s some fainting maiden, fast enough that a little chocolate slops onto one of his blankets.

“I’m cold,” Steve says. “The Hagrid coat’s big enough for both of us and I’m really cold so—can you come here, please?”

He says please, but it’s an order. That’s an order, Avenger: Come cuddle with a wounded, grateful, insufficiently dressed Steve Rogers. Tony’s life is so fucking weird sometimes, but Steve’s not lying: He is cold, and now that one of them is thinking about it, they’re both feeling it worse than ever. Steve flings an arm out over the back of the sofa, opening up the massive coat, wincing when the cold air hits him.

“Whatever,” Tony says, but he scoots over, dragging his blankets with him.

“Tuck your feet under me,” Steve instructs, “like—yeah, that’s good. And then just—” He closes his arm so that Tony’s caught against his side, his knees practically in Steve’s lap, the fur coat wrapped around them both. Steve adjusts slightly so he can put both arms around Tony. Well, not—Tony tries to steer his mind elsewhere—not like it’s a hug, it’s not—they’re not cuddling cuddling, it’s huddling is what it is, for warmth, and Steve’s just maximizing the—

“I get it,” Steve says. His feelings are hurt.

“Why are you pissed off?”

“I’m not,” Steve says, like they aren’t currently sharing feelings through a jacked-up magic spell brain connector. “I’m not going to—you don’t have to—I get it, okay? I’m sorry I—I’m sorry about before. Okay?”

Telepathy, not ultimately that useful for communication purposes. “Sorry about what before, Steve? The part where I dragged you out into the middle of the woods to come check something out and it turned out to be a huge fucking trap? The part where I ineptly sewed your flesh back together and then drooled over you like a fucking horny teenager? Jesus, I can’t—can you just, can we please sit here quietly until the blizzard’s done so I don’t humiliate myself any more than I already—”

Steve sets his hot chocolate down on the side table with a hard clunk. He’s all resolve now, which probably bodes ill, and Tony honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Steve challenged him to fisticuffs or something. That’d warm them up as good as cuddling. But Steve just puts his hand on Tony’s face. His fingers are warm from the mug, and his thumb brushes over Tony’s lips, and God, God, the way he’s feeling, the fondness and desire pouring out of him, Jesus.

(Or it might be Tony’s own fucking feelings for Steve, finally spilling over like he knew they were going to from the first goddamn second he realized what this spell was.)

“Hey Tony,” says Steve. His eyes are so intent.

Tony barely breathes the word “yeah” because this is so unbelievable, this is a fever dream possibly, the way Steve’s touching him. Under the fur coat, Steve’s free hand finds Tony’s, and he laces their fingers together.

“Could I kiss you?”

(oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit)

He croaks, “I, uh. I think that’s—a definite possibility, yeah. Hang on.” He leans over Steve to put his mug on the side table, too, and as he’s sliding back, Steve stretches up, licks the skin of his throat. It shudders all through him, the feel of Steve’s tongue.

Steve says, “Oh wow, that’s—” and then he’s kissing Tony hot and possessive.

Holy holy shit if there is a Yelp for mouths, Tony’s going to create a wealth of dummy accounts to give ten million stars to Steve Rogers’s mouth, ten million out of five stars, would make out with again. He tastes like chocolate and he wants Tony so fucking frantically, the press of his fingers at the back of Tony’s neck is from want, to hold Tony there, to keep him. He tugs their joined hands to his heart, and Tony twists his fingers into the neck of Steve’s shirt and breaks away from Steve’s mouth, panting a little.

Hey,” Steve complains. It comes out loud and forceful, like Tony’s disobeyed a command in the field, and Steve hears it and blushes. “Uh. Hi. Why’d you—”

“Bossy,” Tony purrs at him, just to see—

Yeah, fuck, Steve likes his voice like that. He swallows twice, and Tony tracks the bob of his Adam’s apple. “Why,” he begins, and clears his throat. “Why’d you stop?”

“Was that you before?”

Steve’s eyes flick up to Tony’s, and hold there. “You mean, did I want you when you were taking care of me and, and doing this crappy thing you didn’t want to do because it’s what I needed, and worrying about me right next to my face? Yeah, I did. You ran out of the room so fast you practically left an Iron Man-shaped hole in the wall.”

“Oh that is really unfair,” Tony says. He’s smiling, which probably spoils the effect. “You were practically the color of a fire hydrant from embarrassment, it’s not actually that unreasonable—”

“Well.” Steve looks down. “I, um. Usually when I—uh, feel—something like that—around you, you’re not, you don’t, uh, necessarily know about it.”

It’s weird, sharing feelings. Tony honestly can’t tell if he’s achy with his own happiness, or Steve’s. He stuffs it down (if he doesn’t, it’ll be all he’s capable of feeling or doing) and throws a leg over Steve’s lap, wriggles up to straddle him. “How often would you say you experience feelings of sexual desire for me, Captain Rogers?”

Steve’s back arches a little, pressing them closer, and Tony gasps. “Mostly always,” Steve says roughly. Tony runs his tongue over the edge of Steve’s ear and enjoys a sharp burst of pleasure and surprise, like nobody’s ever done that to Steve before—which, shit, for all Tony knows, maybe no one ever has. “Not when—God, Tony, that feels—”

“Answer the question or I’ll stop,” Tony whispers, and punctuates it with a nip to Steve’s earlobe that makes them both groan.

“Not when I’m—just pretty much always, Tony, please please kiss me.”

“Aren’t you pretty,” Tony says, predatory, and Steve surges up and takes his mouth. He licks into Tony hungrily, holds him down at the shoulders and rolls his hips up, and he’s throwing off so much want and heat and surprise and pleasure that it’s impossible not to give him what he wants.

For the record, Captain America is pretty when he begs to be kissed, but it is nothing compared to how he looks and sounds (and fuck, feels) when Tony gets a hand on his dick. He throws his head back, gasping, and there's desperation in the lines of his throat. Tony can feel the feedback from Steve as he strokes him, every second of it, it’s vivid and sharp like he’s touching himself but more, more, more.

Tony realizes abruptly that he’s going to come when Steve does, and Steve meets his eyes and starts to say “Oh, sorry—” but they’re both gone by then.

Steve is goddamn beautiful when he comes. His skin against the dark fur of the Hagrid coat. His eyes squeezed shut.

And he’s maybe even more beautiful after: Hazy and pliant and content, blinking sleepily while Tony cleans them up, doing the absolute minimum amount of protesting that can be called protesting when Tony offers to fix another batch of hot chocolate.

“Should we toast marshmallows?” Tony asks as he’s bringing back the mugs.

Steve grumbles wordlessly and opens the Hagrid coat up, beckoning Tony back over. Which, yeah, no complaints there. The lingering chill that’s been making both of them shiver is gone—which is probably due to the fire, but Tony’s chalking it up to his excellent sex game—and Steve is sweet and cuddly in this way that makes Tony feel ridiculously good.

“This is good,” Steve says brightly.

“Yeah, it’s not too—”

“Can I take you out on a date?”

“On—”

“A date. Stop doing that,” and by ‘that’ Tony presumes Steve means ‘feeling like a whole army of misery ants are building a hill in your head,’ which, Steve might as well know up front, is pretty much a constant state of being with him.

“You deserve someone who—”

Steve covers Tony’s mouth with his hand. “Stop that,” he says sternly. “You can feel however you want about me—”

“Thanks,” Tony says tartly, around Steve’s fingers.

“—and I know you won’t necessarily, I mean I’m not trying to dictate how you feel about yourself, either. But don’t you ever tell me I deserve better than you.” He’s fierce about it. “That’s not, I’m not having that. You’re who I want. For a long damn time now.”

Thanks to this spell, Tony knows that Steve knows exactly how much (and maybe even for how long) Tony’s wanted him, too. He doesn’t say so, though. He’s polite. Kind of astonishingly polite and considerate, and Tony is in love with him a nonzero amount.

“So since we’ve already kind of had sex, would you like to go out with me on a date?” And he’s so confident that Tony’s going to agree, and so blindingly glad about it, that Tony gets choked up and can’t answer, and Steve hushes his voice to say, “I think I could make you a little happy, sweetheart. Sometimes.”

So there really isn’t anything Tony can say except yes.