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To The Core (Under My Skin)

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“Is this the door?”

The Hydra goon sneered, baring blood-stained teeth. “I wish I could see your face when you do find him and realize you’re too late.”

Tony considered the man’s face, the way he was trying a little too hard not to look over Tony’s shoulder.

“This day just really isn’t panning out for you, is it?” He dropped the man and turned, firing a blast at the industrial padlock hanging from the hinged plate. The whole thing came off, the pieces flying past to clang against the floor and wall.

Scrambling and then pounding footsteps echoed down the hall as the man fled.

“Widow, there is a present about to deliver itself to right to you. Feel free to share with Barnes, I know you two enjoy your co-hobby.”

He wedged his fingers into the door’s gap as she murmured a response. The downside to turning off the power to hamstring Hydra during their assault was that the very heavy vault-strength door that ran on a magnetic bearing system was also affected.

He had to give them kudos for designing a system that got harder to open if someone went for the obvious escape route.

Unfortunately for Hydra, he had on a suit of armor that could more than compensate.

“Come on,” he grunted as he braced his feet and pulled. It shifted, slowly at first, but picking up speed as he was able to shift his grip. He got it open enough to get his shoulder in and shoved off the jamb to widen it more. Inertia carried it further as he stepped inside, the arc reactor painting the room in harsh lines.

There was a gurney—well, really more of a rolling table, since beds designed for medical uses generally had padding on them and this was just a flat sheet of metal on top of wheeled legs—in the center of the room. It was at a slight angle and Tony had to wonder if they’d shoved it in in a hurry when they realized they had company.

Chains dangled from the corners, looped back up into a winch system at each point that could shorten them. Right now they looked to be about as short as they could be, the ends attached to thick manacles that the HUD helpfully identified as adamantium.

Well, only the best for Captain America, right?

Tony was carefully not looking at the environmental display flashing red in the corner of his vision, a warning that he should not take off the suit due to extreme conditions. He felt the interior air circulators kick on at that same moment, warmth washing over him like a sigh.

Guilt followed a moment later and he crossed the floor to check on Steve’s status, staunchly ignoring the voice in his head that was rather frantically trying to point out how pale and still Steve was.

“They wouldn’t chain up a dead man, though, right?” he muttered.

“Hydra is not known for their use of logic,” JARVIS noted, but when Tony growled, he added, “but while Captain Rogers’ vitals are extremely low, they are present and he has survived such conditions before.”

Tony kicked himself into gear and took that last step forward, resting one gauntlet on the star over Steve’s chest. He let out a shaky breath when he felt the slow, but steady rise and fall of it under his hand.

He looked at the cuff around Steve’s nearer wrist and keyed the more sensitive scanner.

“Huh. They’re so close to figuring it out every time, but there’s always that one thing that trips them up. JARVIS, give me the plasma point cutter.”

The tips of his thumb and pointer fingers slid back and he pinched the chain between them. It was an adamantium alloy, probably cheaper and probably also mostly strong enough. It was that “mostly” that was the problem.

The light flared brightly, but the chain wasn’t that thick and it sheared off and dropped with a clank to the floor, the hot red darkening almost immediately in the subzero chill. Keeping his other hand on Steve’s chest, he circled around cutting each chain, one by one.

The last one hit the ground and Tony turned to see if he could wake Steve up or if he needed to get him out into the warmer hallway.

Would that be too warm, too fast? He was technically suffering from hypothermia, but Tony wasn’t sure how the standard treatments stood up to this non-standard patient.

A hand shot up and wrapped around his wrist above the star, startling him out of his thoughts.


Frosted eyelashes cracked apart with an audible sound, Steve turning his stiff neck to blink glassy eyes at him.

His throat worked, Adam’s apple bobbing up and down with painful slowness as his chest rose higher than before. His breath plumed out on the exhale and then he focused on Tony.

“What year?”

Tony brows drew down behind his mask before he realized what Steve meant. “Oh God,” he breathed and triggered the helmet catches, reaching up with his free hand to yank it off.

Goddamn it was cold in here.

“It’s the same year, honey,” he reassured Steve, twisting his arm in Steve’s grip until he could grip his bare hand, bringing it up to his chest and wrapping it up in his own. It was a poor start when all of Steve was freezing and the metal of the suit probably wasn’t all that warm either. “You didn’t miss any time. Maybe like a day or two, but it’s still— Fuck. It’s only been three days. I swear to God, sweetheart, you didn’t lose any more time than that. JARVIS, anti-icing measures.”

The frost that had formed on the surface of the suit began to steam off as it warmed up and Steve shuddered and tried to sit, instinctively seeking out the new source of heat.

Tony reached for his shoulder and tugged him off the cold slab of the table and into his arms.

Steve’s frame shivered and shook and Tony didn’t know if it was the cold or relief, but he just tightened his grip. A cold nose was pressed into the collar of the suit, brushing Tony’s jaw and he flinched at the icy jolt.

“Sorry,” Steve said, and started to pull back, but Tony brought his hand up and cupped the back of Steve’s head, pressing it back down. He couldn’t resist burying his own nose in Steve’s hair, ignoring the frosted tips and kissing his head.

Steve shuddered and he couldn’t resist doing it again.

“Don’t be. You’re freezing. I’d absolutely do the same in your place.”

Steve snorted. “You’d be dead in my place.”

“Probably. Hey, speaking of that, let’s get you out of here, babe, what do you say?”

Steve nodded and a soft, “Please,” escaped his blue lips as he shifted his weight forward, though Tony was pretty sure he was going to just slid off into a puddle on the floor right now.

He moved the hand that wasn’t on Steve’s head down and under his arm until he had a grip on Steve’s belt.

Sure enough Steve’s feet hit the ground and the rest of him followed until Tony hauled him up and against his own chest.

“I got you. I got you,” he repeated. Steve’s fingers were white where he was trying to grip onto the armor, but he was still frozen enough that it was more show than success.

Tony stood for a second debating options for moving out the door without making Steve let go of the toasty warmth of the armor’s exterior heating system. Only one came to mind, but—

“Oh screw it,” he muttered and shifted, dipping forward and sweeping his arm against Steve’s thighs, scooping up until he had a secure hold under Steve’s ass.

Steve shivered and made a noise like he might protest, but then he sighed and clumsily lifted his legs, trying to wrap them around Tony’s waist. The arm around Tony’s shoulder moved and tightened around his neck and he nuzzled deeper into the warmth coming from Tony’s collar. The other arm remained between them and Tony felt Steve twist it and saw the light change as he pressed it over the arc reactor.

“Wanna go home,” Steve said, sounding somewhat out of it still.

“Aye aye, mon Captain,” Tony said, turning and striding out into the hallway.

Clint almost ran into them as Tony rounded the door, but he skipped backward in time. His expression darkened at the sight of their Captain clinging to Tony like a baby koala. His eyes met Tony’s and he said, “The rest of the base is secure. SHIELD’s fifteen out and Coulson is willing to take it as soon as they arrive if you want.”

Tony nodded. “Natasha can do handoff, right?”

Clint nodded, eyes skimming over Steve. “You need any help?”

“Grab my helmet,” Tony said as he started walking again. “I’ll be on the ‘Jet warming her up.”

Steve gave a low groan of approval and turned his head enough that he could press his lips against Tony’s neck. “God, I love you,” he murmured quietly.

Tony turned his head enough to rub his cheek against Steve’s temple, his arm under Steve’s butt bouncing him a little to make sure his grip was secure.

Steve’s arms tightened around him in a slightly stronger hug than before and some of the tension leached out of Tony’s shoulders.

“I’ll tell everyone to be ready to go when SHIELD gets here or plan to catch a ride with them,” Clint acknowledged, some of the stiffness bleeding out of his own frame as he watched them. He tapped his ear as he ducked into the room to fetch Tony’s helmet, passing on the news and orders to the rest of the team, but Tony was already halfway down the hall and had no plans to stop between here and the ‘Jet.