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Beneath the Shining Moon

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“When I said we weren't spending enough time together recently, and you joked you'd make time for romantic picnics and sitting out on your penthouse terrace at night gazing at the moon and stars and dream about space adventures,” Steve started with a frown, “I have to admit I didn't see this coming.”

He paused. Through the starboard viewing window, he couldn't see much of space because the moon was too close. Craters were visible in detail. If they inched further around the moon in this orbit, they'd be able to see the crater where Atilan was hidden.

“I should have, maybe. Tony Stark doesn't do things by half, does he now?”

With difficulty, Tony set aside his helmet; he was barely able to move in the dysfunctional armor, and his movements were the slow disgraceful movements of a person caught in too much metal. Since Steve had pulled him back into their Quinjet, Iron Man had struggled to sit up, but now Tony was lying on his back like a helpless red and gold turtle that had landed on its back. He was grinning up at Steve when he readily returned: “I would bet you didn't see it coming because there's no roof to sit on here and we're looking at the moon from the wrong side?”

“You missed the part where we didn't see the moon at all because we were spinning out of orbit. That was fun.”

“Nah,” Tony said. “I didn't miss it. I was too nauseous to complain about it.” Without his helmet, he sounded much closer and alive. A tired smile graced his features as he turned to look at Steve. “Are you okay?”

“Am I okay?”

“Kang tried to attack you.”

“Yeah, sure. But he blasted your armor to smithereens. I had to haul you back in. Are you okay?”

It was good to see that they both could smile, that both of them could grin.

The latest attack by Kang had left them in dire straits. Tony had in the end managed to hurtle the time-traveling conqueror's armada back into the time stream, but he'd drifted helplessly in space until Steve had managed to grab him. The other Avengers had been putting fires out on Earth. But Carol and Thor were out there somewhere. Steve could only hope that Kang hadn't completely crushed them or thrown them back in time. These two were their best chance of rescue now that they were stuck in a floating Quinjet without propulsion – but who knew if they were close-by.

Tony sat up, pushing armor parts to the side.

Knowing his tendency to hide injuries, Steve gave him a critical once-over. The way Tony was rolling his shoulders spoke of pain.

Steve was fighting with the latches of his space suit. It was a Tony Stark design, and that was lucky; it had survived the surprise attack in space; it had even retained enough maneuverability to allow him to snatch up an immobilized Iron Man and pull him back into the Quinjet.

The Quinjet had taken a few hits too. The life support systems were working, but apart from that they were effectively stranded in space. “I had hoped for more of a picnic basket, and looking up at the stars for our next day, yes,” he joked and helped Tony to peel himself all the way out of the armor, “not floating among them without a way back to Earth.”

He helped Tony stand, found he was dressed in tight jeans and a simple muscle shirt. Coming face to face with him Tony pecked him on the cheek and pushed back Steve's cowl. “Give me some credit, Steve,” he said. “You're here with me. We can make the best of it and...”

Before Steve's hands could settle around his hips, Tony extracted himself to slip to the cockpit, making a quick check of all systems.

“I checked,” Steve said. “Life support is working. Comms are out. Now way to get the navigational mainframe online.”

Tony leaned over a seat to open one of the secondary control hatches and pull out an old-fashioned keyboard to type in something that led to a stream of green numbers and ciphers on a small screen to the side. Steve had no idea how to read any of it, but he was too distracted by the line of Tony's back. His eyes slid down to contemplate the perfect way the jeans clung to his form.

“We're stuck for now,” Tony said. “Nothing that can't be fixed with a little effort. Life support is working. With the two of us, we have oxygen for at least a week.” A wink was thrown his way.

“We weren't really prepared for a week-long outing in the Quinjet,” Steve pointed out. And who knew what Kang was up to? Was he going to be back any minute? He didn't voice his thoughts while Tony worked to get communications back up.

Static sounded, then: “Quinjet 1? How are you doing?” It was Jan's voice calling to them.

“Two passengers, dented but mostly undamaged. Floating without propulsion. Drive off-line. Life support stable.”

“Tony?” Jan squeaked. “You and Cap are okay?”

“Yes, we are. How is everyone else?”

“Carol and Thor were pushed out to deep space. They're on their way back.”

“Tell them to give us a little push when they come our way,” Tony answered and looked over his shoulder at Steve. “We can either start on repairs and be ready to get to Earth in a day or two, or wait for the Space Avengers Towing Service to get to us in a few hours.”

“Shields?” he asked, and Jan said: “I'll let them know your position.”

Tony whispered a “thank you,” before ending the transmission and pushed a few buttons. With a small “tada” he showed Steve that the shields were up. “Time to wait.”

“I would really have preferred our next time stuck together to be either of our rooms,” Steve whispered and this time made sure he had his arms firmly around Tony so he couldn't slip away. “Or one of your many apartments.”

Turning his face, Tony smiled. “I'm okay being stuck with you anywhere, anytime.”

Steve leaned down for the kiss, enjoying the quiet moment of intimacy thoroughly. When he pulled back Tony's eyes were shining, and he whispered: “I was also on the way to pick you up before the call came in. The picnic basket is in the storage compartment.”


Tony shrugged with an open-handed gesture of Figure it out.

Until he opened the storage compartment, he thought Tony was joking. But there it was: packed picnic basket and a blanket.

“Nothing fancy,” Tony said, appearing at his shoulder. “I thought we might catch a free moment and...”

A warm feeling spread through him. His heart swelled with a love that for the longest time he hadn't investigated too closely, had told himself he shouldn't act on. How had they wasted so much time?

He turned to catch Tony's chin with one hand and kiss him, sweetly. “This is a date then, Shellhead.”

Tony smiled. “We better take these moments as they present themselves. My previous dating experiences involved a lot of disappointment because the hero life interfered with appointments, dates and having any downtime.”

“I'm sure the Tony Stark life doesn't make it any easier,” Steve pointed out and spread out the blanket.

“The Tony Stark life isn't usually that exciting, but it can be.” Tony crouched down on the blanket. He was still trying not to jostle his shoulder and he shivered.

“Cold?” Steve kneeled down beside him with the basket. Tony was after all only wearing a thin tank top now.

“You can keep me warm,” Tony suggested - or offered as if Steve was the one in need here.

Needing no more prompting, Steve pulled some sandwiches out of the picnic basket, pulled a thermos with coffee along with it to set out some cups. He let Tony do the pouring while he went about setting the rest of the stuff out. “Nothing fancy,” he stated with a raised eyebrow.

“I ordered the whole thing,” Tony admitted as he eyed their little picnic.

They sipped their coffee together. Steve leaning on the wall and Tony propped up against his chest, sitting comfortably between his legs. “I could get used to this,” he whispered.

“Picnics in space?”

“Having some peace and quiet with you.”

They passed their time like that, enjoying their little impromptu date, an eye on the controls. Tony fell asleep in his arms sometime later, and Steve was happy enough to do the same.

A small knocking noise caught his attention.

There over the view window Carol was hanging upside down, a breather covering her face. She gave him a thumbs up, and her eyes were twinkling with mirth.

He put a finger against his lips.

She nodded and didn't ask to be let in or anything, just gave the Quinjet a little push. The moon vanished from his view, and after some spinning, he could see Earth.

“We're on our way home?” Tony asked drowsily.

“Everything's fine. Go back to sleep, Shell-head. Enjoy the rest of our quiet picnic.”

Tony's head settled back at his shoulder and his arms remained around Tony's hips. They were still sitting like that when Carol sat them down on the landing patch.