"Your hands are cold."
Tony stills for a long second and then immediately removes his hands from Steve's arm. "Oh."
Steve feels like an idiot. He didn't mean to just blurt it out like that, but Tony's hands are freezing. Cold like they've been left in the icebox for too long.
"Well, um, you want me to put on gloves or something?" Tony's rubbing his fingers like the friction will warm them. Oddly enough he's staring pointedly at the ribbony pile of measuring tape and notes for Steve's new armor on the desk.
"Why are your hands cold?" Steve asks, because he's an idiot who doesn't know when to shut up. He squirms a bit when Tony briefly glances at him, and almost falls off the desk he's perched on.
Tony heaves a sigh. "Dunno. Started after I got back from...started a couple months ago. Used to sneak up and put my hand on Pepper's shoulder just for the hell of it. Actually learned a couple new swears that way."
Steve watches him lean to the side and shove his hands into the pockets of his stained jeans. There's tension in the line of his neck and clenched teeth; something's bothering Tony and Steve carefully, cautiously asks.
"After a while I stopped...touching people. Not like that! Okay, maybe like that. Although it's kind of hard to get people off when your hands are cold as ice cubes."
Steve is feeling uncomfortably hot right now and Tony notices, gives him that smirk that reminds him strongly of another Stark he knew. After a moment the smirk fades and Tony sighs, pulls a hand out of his pocket to rub at his face and rake fingers through unruly hair. He's tired; they're all tired, still licking their wounds after that first unexpected clash with Thor's brother. Maybe that's why his hands are cold-Steve finds his eyes wandering down to the faint blue glow under Tony's shirt.
There was this one time, when Steve caught a glimpse of the thing that kept Tony alive and later cornered him about it. Tony was understandably vague about the details of how it got into his body, but he did explain its function and how the palladium cores he'd been using were poisoning his blood and slowly killing him. If it weren't for Fury and Howard he'd be dead.
What if that thing's making his hands cold? Maybe it's affecting his circulation. Steve's unsure about his concern for Tony's hands but the idea of him avoiding contact with people when he's such a...well, he's not exactly a people person but he's their consultant and he does tend to communicate using gestures. Avoiding touching people because it might elicit the same response as Steve's must be awful.
"You think you can handle my cold fingers until I get these measurements down or should I make Coulson fetch some hand warmers?" Tony asks.
He's sliding his hand back into his pocket, tucking them out of sight and out of reach. Steve stares at it and, in a split-second, decides to follow the sudden impulse to reach out and grab it.
It's cold. Very cold. The palm is rough and callused, and so are the pads of his fingers. It's stained with grease and there's grime under blunt purple-tinged fingernails. Steve envelops it in both his hands, feels the cold seep under his skin and a shiver work its way up Tony's arm.
"What are you doing?" Tony asks carefully.
"Warming your hand." Like it's that simple.
"When I said hand warmers I didn't mean it literally."
"I always run hot." It's probably the serum.
Steve starts massaging each finger, coaxing the blood to flow. Slowly Tony's hand warms up and takes on a healthier glow, relaxes from its tense frigid state. Tony flexes his hand experimentally, and then looks at Steve with bright eyes.
"Give me your other hand," Steve says. He sounds too loud in the dead silence of Tony's workshop.
Instead of making some kind of crack Tony obeys without question, sliding out his other hand and holding it out. Steve takes it, pressing the heel of his thumb to a joint and rubbing circles. He doesn't look up at Tony as he covers the grimy worn hand in his clean ones, finds he's a bit afraid to look up and see what's on the older man's face.
"You don't have to do that," Tony finally says a few minutes too late.
"Yeah, well..." Well what? He doesn't know. Steve shrugs, mumbles, "Just want to help."
Tony suddenly curls his hand around Steve's, stopping him and compelling him to look up. He then slides his feet closer to the desk, closer to Steve.
"Not a lot of people do that," he says. "For me. Not a lot of people do that for me."
He's standing way too close and with Steve sitting on his desk they're almost at eye level. Steve sees the warm smile on Tony's face and the oddly shy and uncertain way he keeps flicking his eyes down to his hand in Steve's.
"Well," Steve says because he's seeing the smile fade and that's a damn shame. "I'm not like most people."
"You don't know what I was like, what I did-"
"I know. Clint told me."
"Asshole. I'm stocking his quiver with rubber arrows."
Steve chuckles at the image in his head and image-Clint swearing a long mile when he finds out.
"But that's not the point," Tony continues. He's looking down at his hand again. "I don't know. Maybe it's because you're America's Golden Boy. You're everything that a hero should be. Almost untouchable."
"Almost," Steve echoes. "You said almost."
"Yeah, because I'm touching you. Or is it the other way around?"
There's a casually teasing tone in his words and Steve feels his face heat up again. Tony sees it, grins cheekily, and moves as if to pat the side of Steve's face with his other hand. Instead he starts leaning back and Steve feels the pull, feels him trying to retrieve his hand.
"Anyway," Tony says. "Still have to get those measurements, Cap. Would've been nice if I got them before Fury tossed us into battle."
He keeps trying to pull away but Steve won't let him; he tightens his grip on Tony's hand and instead draws him closer. Now Tony looks confused, opens his mouth as if to ask if Steve will kindly let go of his hand right now, but then clamps it shut when Steve brings his hand up and breathes lightly over his knuckles.
Steve wonders if Tony can hear his heart beat. He can definitely see Tony's Adam's apple bob and the pupils of his eyes expand. Feeling a little more daring - Why? What is he doing? - Steve brushes his lips over the knuckles, smells motor oil and salt on his skin. Tony's fingers curl tightly around his as he takes a deep, shaky breath.
"Okay," Tony says carefully and somewhat breathlessly. "Okay, wasn't expecting that."
He wants to say me neither but his attention is on Tony's lips and the smudge of grease on his chin. He thinks about wiping it away, about drawing Tony even closer, about tasting salt and maybe traces of iron in his mouth
Sir, incoming call from Rhodes.
Tony heaves a sigh. Steve lets him pull his hand away and sit back on top of the desk, watches him swipe an earpiece off the cluttered surface and plug it into his ear. A flash of regret, and then Tony's turning away, hand to his ear, saying, "Rhodey! Haven't heard from you in a while, pal. What have you...yeah, okay. Okay..."
Steve watches him turn and walk away, then looks down at his empty hands.
They feel cold.