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always winter, always spring

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"I'm taking a day off," Tony says.

Steve stares at him, unable to decipher Tony's words, even though they're simple and easy words and not the techspeak Tony uses as easy as breathing. In the artificial light, Tony's devoid of the angles and shadows that Steve is used to when he watches Tony work in his lab.

The bulb in this kitchen is just a normal fluorescent tube. Steve knows that for sure. He took it down and smashed it on Day 34. And Day 78. And Day 99, because Tony was being an ass, and it was either smash up the kitchen or smash Tony's face.

"Try not to smash anything until I'm done," Tony says. "It's so hard to pick glass shards out of the batter."

Tony returns to helping him the next day, like day 124 hadn't even happened.

It did happen. Steve's been counting them carefully, the only measure of reality he has left. Day-in-day-out, nothing changes here. They wake up in this hideously pink one-room-plus-bathroom jail at 7am and every 7am, the place...has entirely reset. It's some sort of puzzle, or trap, or prison, Steve's pretty sure.

If it is a puzzle, neither Steve nor Tony has been able to solve it: 125 days and counting.

There's no alcohol in the room. Steve keeps count of all the patterns they've tried and he counts the number of days they've been there, but he doesn't count the number of times he's been grateful that Tony hasn't had to face that particular temptation on top of everything else.

(There is alcohol in the bathroom. Steve always makes sure he goes in there first so he can tip the mouthwash down the sink. If Tony knows about it, he never says anything.)

Steve wakes up late on day 303 to the smell of pancakes. He sits up in the (one) bed groggily. The room's reset again. Same bed, same pink coverlet, same dusky-rose sofa in the corner, same Formica dining table and chairs, same pink-painted walls, same pink analog clock, same pink curtains (no windows, just more wall), same pink kitchen appliances, same pink kitchen counters. The bathroom door is ajar. That looks the same too. Nothing changes.

Steve looks sourly over to the main door to the room: an intricate metal construction, with two-hundred safe dials embedded in it. Above the door is a legend painted in neat black letters: TO EXIT, SOLVE ME.

Tony did the math on their first day there. Two hundred dials, each with fifty potential numbers. Tony tried to figure out just one dial at first like each was an individual safe to crack; it took them four reset days to figure out that each dial just needed to be set to one number. That still meant there is….a lot of possible permutations. On day 6, Tony spoke a number out loud which had approximately 47 zeroes.

Steve used to count to himself as a kid when he couldn't sleep. Now counting before bed just gives him nightmares. He does his counting in the morning now.

"Are you taking another break?" Steve asks, unable to take the sour note out of his voice.

Tony just hums under his breath and pours more batter into the pink frying pan. It doesn't matter how much Tony dirties the pan; it's back in the cupboard and clean come morning.

Steve lies back down on the bed and puts a pillow over his face, even though that doesn't help. He's come close to trying something like it. Day 159 is a day they'll never talk about again.

When Steve wakes up, Day 492, it's to the sight of Tony's back. Tony's curled up in a fetal position. He looks so young like this. Steve shudders.

"Tony," Steve cajoles, his voice low. "C'mon. Let's get to work."

Tony doesn't move. Steve puts a hesitant hand on Tony's shoulder. Tony flinches. Steve withdraws his hand and stares at it for a long moment. He can see the curve of Tony's back through the Vs of his fingers.

"I'll start without you," Steve says.

Tony stays under the blankets, an unmoving lump. Steve has to stop turning the dials every thirty minutes to cross the room and check Tony is still breathing.

Day 512. Tony hasn't eaten since Day 490. It doesn't seem to matter—they wake up every day physically reset. Steve's sure of that—he wakes up every day straining to pee, no matter how much or how little he's drunk the day before.

The only thing to drink in this place is tap water and a carton of cloudy apple juice that magically reappears every morning.

This whole place resets to perfect parameters. All the dials on the door reset to zero. All the food in the cupboards and the fridge and freezer reappear perfectly restocked. The trash can is empty. Any sign they try and leave on the room gets erased come 7am. They've tried to stay awake, but they pass out at 6:59am, however hard they try.

Now Tony's resetting too. Same position. Curled up.

Steve resets too. Same shit, same day.

Steve hurts Tony on Day 540. It's nothing much. A slap. He regrets it as soon as he's done it, because the room resets but they don't, and Tony will always remember this, for as long as he lives. Which, in this room, might very well be forever. The walls feel like they're pressing in on him, shutting down on them both, but when Steve measures the width and length of their prison in careful paces, the dimensions always stay the same.

Pancakes. Tony makes pancakes on the days he takes "off" from turning safe dials. Sisyphus pushing boulders; Steve's knuckles twisting numbers.

Steve looks over at the Tony-shaped lump on the bed. Day 542. Day 30 without a moving, speaking Tony. Steve's itching to implode, or maybe to lie beside Tony and become a statue next to him. The Avengers could find them. They'd be trying to find them, surely? He pictures the Avengers breaking into this impossible room and finding Steve and Tony on the bed. Paperweight humans. Broken pieces that just look whole.

Maybe pancakes will wake Tony from his sleep.

The Tony-shaped lump moves a little at the smell of pancakes, but Steve's so distracted by that he burns the first pancake and it sticks to the pink pan. Steve hurls it in the sink. Tony stills. In the morning, the pan is clean and new and in the cupboard again.

Fuck the door puzzle—Steve has to figure out pancakes. There's a recipe on the packet. He follows it dutifully. Makes a whole plateful. There isn't any syrup in this cursed place, but there's a jar of strawberry jelly. Tony stirs a little but doesn't wake. Just stares at the wall, blank. Steve refuses to believe he's gone. Steve eats all the pancakes himself with the jelly and reads the packet as he shovels them into his mouth. Apparently it's a waffle mix too.

Tony wakes for the waffles. Wakes like he hasn't just checked out for over a month. He eats the ones Steve makes for him in a (pink, always pink) waffle maker and then kneels next to Steve by the door once he's done, asking briefly what number they're up to.

In another life, Steve might have screamed at him, but he's just so glad that he has Tony back that he just tells Tony where they're up to, and they both pretend Steve's voice isn't shaking.

When Tony takes a day off, Steve doesn't complain anymore. He still counts the days, though, every single day, even the breaks. It's the only way to be sure all that time is real and not an illusion.

Steve wakes on Day 601 and nearly forgets how to breathe, because Tony's back is toward him in a curve, and he reaches out desperately because he can't lose Tony again like that, he can't, he won't survive it—

Tony rolls over with a questioning expression that melts when he sees the panic on Steve's face. Steve shakes his head furiously because pity isn't what he needs, the panic is still whiting out the edges of his vision, he can't do this alone, he can't—

When Tony's response is to kiss him, Steve's too shocked to do anything but respond. Tony's mouth is warm and lush beneath his own. Steve's fingers curl into Tony's t-shirt, and he shakes, and his eyes are wet, but he kisses Tony anyway.

A kiss doesn't break the curse of the room, but Steve didn't expect it to; this has always been more of a nightmare than a fairytale.

Tony doesn't go catatonic again. Instead, their morning routine swiftly changes; Steve comes out of the bathroom to Tony's eyes, trained on him, and Steve's nodding yes before the question's even asked.

They fuck across the spectrum of lovemaking: warm and tender on days when they feel like they're making progress; aggressive and hard on days when one of them feels hopeless and trapped. Steve spends an hour one day just pinning Tony with his thighs and jerking off against his stomach, thrilling at the feel of Tony's eyes, dark and locked on his the whole time. Tony doesn't even clean off Steve's cum; just slips his shirt back on and wanders around their tiny room stinking of Steve's arousal all day; Steve ends up tackling him to the bed earlier than usual, rutting into Tony like he'll die if he doesn't.

Sex in the evening is less common. Usually they fall asleep kissing, nowadays. It's just another language they speak, one someone watching (is someone watching? They don't know, they never know) wouldn't be able to decipher. When Steve kisses Tony, sometimes it's you're here and you're real; lately, it's been I love you, and you're important to me; sometimes it's don't leave me. Tony kisses back: yes and yes and me too and you too and don't leave me either.

Tony wakes him on Day 1095, urges him to take care of his usual problem, then pounces as soon as Steve exits the small bathroom; pushing him onto the bed, sucking him until he's hard, and then riding him so fast and deep that Steve sees stars. He smiles at Steve, instructs him to stay in bed, and half an hour later brings him breakfast—he's turned their daily six eggs into a hash with some of the vegetables that line the bottom of the fridge every morning. He's poured Steve a large glass of the apple juice and makes him drink it, even though it's Tony's favorite.

Steve puzzles over the number of the day, wondering what's so special about it, but 1095 isn't much beyond a neat 5 number.

"We've been here three years," Tony says, softly, deciphering Steve's puzzlement correctly. Oh. Steve missed that.

"That's why you're wasting time spoiling me?" Steve arches an eyebrow.

Tony shakes his head. "I'm trying something new."

Tony's something new is… a weird kind of acceptance. He starts aggressively living in the room.

Every morning, he takes the time to make them breakfast, changing it up as often as he can. He plans dates for them, at least once a week. One day, Steve looks up from the dials to see that Tony's torn apart all the paper packaging from the food to make a shadow theater, and he tells Steve the truncated adventures of Harry Potter, a whiny wizard who dies to save the world (Steve cries before Tony can explain Harry comes back from the dead.)

Another time, Tony divides their evening meal between all the crockery in the room like it's a fancy tasting menu; he puts on an astoundingly bad French accent and tugs one of the curtains (that cover nothing but wall) down to wear as an apron.

One day, Tony doesn't cook dinner, but takes the jar of strawberry jelly to the bed. While Steve has an excellent time, he keeps getting erections whenever Tony feeds him anything strawberry-flavored. This is a problem, because the fridge contains strawberry yogurt, the freezer holds strawberry ice-cream, and sometimes Tony makes up the packet of strawberry blancmange hiding in the back of the top cupboard for Steve, even though Tony hates the texture of it.

For another date, Tony creates a picnic lunch: he rearranges the room to make space on the floor, pushing the table, two dining chairs and dusky-rose sofa to the outside of the room, and he places the pink coverlet from the bed on the floor like it's a blanket. Tony makes pretty much all of the food in the kitchen—there are roll-up sandwiches with the crusts cut off because they're both tired of seeded bread; pasta salad with vegetables; steak cut into fingers and breaded; strawberry yogurt and tinned peach slices; a small cake that Tony's jury-rigged together with the pancake mix and eggs—and they eat like kings, feeding each other with their fingers, reclining back on the blanket once they're done, staring up at the perfect, unbreakable (Steve's tried, a hundred times) ceiling.

It's only when he's staring up at the ceiling and not at Tony that Steve even has the courage to voice his worry. Steve asks the question quickly, like he's been winded with it and has only a small amount of oxygen spare to get it all out. "Do you not—worry about the time you use—setting these things up? That you should be using it on the puzzle instead?"

He spares a look at Tony then, but Tony's staring up at the ceiling still, his breathing carefully measured, like he's thinking it through.

"We're here for the foreseeable repeating future," Tony shrugs. "I'm here with you. I'm making the most of it." His gaze lowers to meet Steve's. "The way I see it, someone wants us to suffer. Let them try and make us miserable, or keep us from having a life. I'm going to live my life here, with you, as best as I can. Someone wants us miserable? Fuck 'em."

Steve smiles at him. "I'd rather you fucked me." He considers it for a moment. "Maybe after a nap." He squints. "I don't think I could stand up right now."

"We don't have to," Tony says. "We live in a magic room. If we sleep right here, we'll be on the bed come morning. That's half the distance covered for free."

"Ah, there's the genius I know and love."

Tony beams. "It's important not to lose who we really are. I know that now."

Steve can still feel the lump in his throat and chest that he'd had for the period of time Tony mentally checked out. He can't express how he's feeling, so he just reaches out and takes Tony's hand in his, tangling their fingers together. From the way Tony clings back, he thinks Tony understands the words he didn't say anyway.

There's a really bad day: Steve wakes up with Tony in his arms, and it's just so nice he forgets his usual routine; he ignores the pressing need to pee in favor of how nice it feels to have Tony pressed up against him.

Tony caves first after an hour of snuggling; his morning needs are always on a short delay to Steve's. It's only when the door closes that Steve realizes what he's done, opening Tony to a temptation that he shouldn't have to face in a place like this.

When Tony comes out of the bathroom, his expression is drawn. Steve hates that his first impulse is to hurry in after him; he hates that he exhales so hard in relief that the mouthwash is untouched. He still breaks the seal and tips it down the sink and pretends his eyes aren't stinging.

Tony never uses the bathroom before Steve again. They don't talk about it. They both carefully pretend nothing is wrong. Denial is the only coping mechanism they have, sometimes.

They talk about the nature of time, Tony explaining quantum mechanics with frantic hand gestures to emphasize the difficult parts. Steve thinks he's picking up on the science of it, a little. They're not aging—Tony's sure of it, he admits to Steve that he has to dye his hair now, every four weeks, because too much gray is showing, and there's a tabloid that keeps saying he's copying Reed Richards when he lets his hair go too white. But Tony's hair hasn't changed, the whole time they're there. A burn of Tony's disappears by morning. Steve cuts a chunk of his hair off, and it's back again come morning. Steve wonders for a moment whether one of them dying would be reversible, but he's too scared to try that more than—

Day 159 and Steve's had enough he can't take it this place is killing him the walls are pushing in and if he slits his wrists and bleeds out will he get out or will the walls turn even pinker what will happen, he has the knife, he can do it any time, he can do it any time—and Tony's found him and he's crying—he's sobbing—and the knife's slipping between them—there's blood on the floor—do not do this to me Tony yells do not do not do this, I'll do it right after you if you fucking try—I won't I promise—I won't—

                                     —once, so that remains just as a thought experiment.

Tony's worried that while they're repeating, the world outside is changing. The Avengers must have given up on finding them now.

"What if it's like… reverse Narnia," Tony says, staring up at the rows of dials, shaking his head. Narnia had been written after Steve's turn as a human ice-cube, but Tony had paper-theater'd all seven books; Steve really enjoyed Tony's Puddleglum voice. "Like, the Pevensies step into Narnia as kids, grow up to become Kings and Queens there, then at the end they step back through the wardrobe and they're kids again—but we'll step out this wardrobe at the same age and it's the whole world that's changed, decades that will have slipped away without us around to see them."

Steve takes both of Tony's hands in his own, even though Tony's reaching up for the next dial in sequence. "I've survived that sort of thing once before, you know." Tony's eyes meet Steve's and he winces, realizing that yes, Steve knows what it's like, to emerge decades later having not aged a day. "Do you know how I survived it?"

"Because you're strong and tenacious and you roll with new situations better than I do."

Steve rolls his eyes. "No. Because you were there. Any time I flagged, the Invincible Iron Man was always battling, just a regular human throwing himself at bad guys, trussed up in a fancy tin can—"

Tony laughs. "It was more than a fancy tin can." He pulls a face; he's voiced more than once how much he misses his armor. Steve identifies—he thoroughly misses his shield too.

"I thought to myself, if someone—just a regular human someone, no super serum, no Vita-Rays—could hurl themselves at certain doom so often, then I had no excuse not to be as brave," Steve says. "It took me a while to learn the regular human inside the suit was pretty damn exceptional. But by then, I was just honored to fight by his side."

Tony stares at him, his eyes a little wet. "This still could be Narnia," Tony says. As better as they've become at clarifying emotions, Tony still changes the subject when he's feeling too vulnerable. "It is permanently summer." He pulls a face, squinting up at the fluorescent tube light. "Summer-ish."

"Spring," Steve offers—the temperature stays warm, but not too hot.

"Spring," Tony agrees.

"But on the plus side, no lions," Steve says.

"Well, there is that."

It's not like Steve is immune to the threatening winter. Sometimes he can't not feel the shadows pushing down on his spine. He has a headache. The light is too much. The dark is worse. Tony never used to know how to handle Steve in a mood, besides giving him things to destroy, but now Tony just fucks him through it. Lets Steve ramble out all of the things he's worried about, while Steve's body slowly heats to meet the crescendo Tony's tipping him towards, one thrust or stroke at a time.

"What if—we never get out—or they never looked for us—or what if they're trapped too—or this is all in our heads—"

Tony's inside him and around him, and the next time Steve panics, when the thoughts won't leave him alone, he can still feel echoes of how good Tony makes him feel. It keeps the darkness at bay for a while.

"I'm taking the day off today, I think," Tony says, after he finishes drawing something on Steve's back with his fingers. It's an almost unconscious habit; Steve thinks he's planning out schematics for inventions he may never get to make. Steve's stomach hurts when he thinks of it like that.

Steve stretches languidly. "I'll get the pancake mix out for you."

Tony smiles into their good morning kiss. Steve drifts into the bathroom still thinking about that kiss. When Steve emerges, bladder blessedly empty, he wraps his arms around Tony's waist as he mixes the batter, kissing his cheek.

"Let's take the day off together," Steve says, impulsively.

Tony's smile brightens even further.

They make a paper theater together, clumsily ripping the paper into shapes. They try and retell Lord of the Rings until they realize Steve is working from the books and Tony's working from the movies; that somehow makes it funnier. Steve tries to introduce him to Tom Bombadil, but he can't really sing; he improvises and uses the puppets to tell Tony some stories about the Howling Commandos instead.

Then Tony says slowly about how they could do anything, and Steve waggles his eyebrows, and that's how an hour later, they're lining up food items on the table, and Steve's pulled down the light covering to make an impromptu golf club. They take down one of the curtains and Tony immediately wears it as a cape, admitting he's always been a little jealous of Doctor Strange, and Steve uses the jar of mustard they both hate to draw a target on the wall. Tony invents a ridiculous point system and more importantly, Steve lets him, and the eggs do explode satisfyingly in the center of the target.

Tony's laughing as the strawberry jelly (and yes, Steve's hard again, just from the smell) smashes against the mess, and he looks so beautiful, Steve can't help himself; he pushes Tony down onto the dining table, even though there's food still lined up on it, and he fucks him there, among the produce, thank god for whatever twisted fuck made this place and stocked it with lube; whoever it is behind this messed up place might be sadistic captors, but at least they're thoughtful sadistic captors.

Steve could have been more strategic about this, but he doesn't care; Tony is warm and beneath him, urging him on with his heels, murmuring praise under his breath. They're both covered in produce, fruit pulping beneath their bodies, powder exploding into Tony's hair, giving him the silver-fox look he dyes to avoid. Tony's laughing as he comes, and then they're kissing as Steve pulls out and spills over Tony's stomach, and it's probably a thing, he likes it a lot more than he can put into words, more than he can explain why, it's something proprietorial—something that Steve can look at and think I was here, which is a kind of permanence that feels important in an environment so impermanent.

Tony tilts his head. "Further up, further in," he mutters, reaching for a higher dial. Steve leans against the wall and watches him spin the numbers, round and round.

Steve interviews Tony like he's on the news, using a rolling pin as a microphone, and that's when they learn that some of their languages overlap (Russian and French) and some don't. Steve teaches Tony Spanish and German; Tony teaches him Japanese and Korean in return. Steve's mouth can't handle the Mandarin Chinese, so Tony uses that to whisper things into Steve's ear during their morning sex some mornings.

The door puzzle tends to have to wait longer for them on those days.

"I'm taking the day off," Tony announces, after a leisurely blowjob that has Steve seeing stars. Steve nods mutely.

"I probably won't," Steve admits. "But if you wanted to make me pancakes too, I wouldn't stop you."

"Of course you wouldn't," Tony says placidly, pressing a kiss to Steve's cheek and ambling off to the kitchen. Steve watches him go, smiling. They are living a life, even if it's completely bizarre. It's almost a happy life, that's the strangest part of this. Anyone else would have gone insane by now, Steve thinks.

Steve sits by the door and turns dials, and Tony makes him a plate of pancakes, sitting cross-legged next to him, hand-feeding him bites of the traditional day-off breakfast food. Tony's grin is wicked; Steve doesn't understand until he gets the second pancake and a burst of strawberry flavor hits his taste buds. Tony's expression turns swiftly innocent. Steve rolls his eyes fondly and keeps turning dials; he doesn't need instant gratification. Steve pliantly finishes eating the pancakes Tony feeds him, continuing the methodical clicking of dials, and Tony pushes Steve's shirt aside just to press a warm kiss against his shoulder.

Tony washes the dishes next, scraping off some of their block of hand soap to do it. There's no reason to wash the plates—there are enough plates to last several meals—but Steve knows Tony likes working with his hands. And Steve likes seeing Tony work with his hands, that's a lesson Steve didn't need to be here to learn. He just didn't know until they were here what it meant, that he could so rarely take his eyes from Tony whenever he was in any room.

Steve turns back to the dials, focusing on them; Tony hums something under his breath, one of Bach's unaccompanied cello suites, because Tony might play rock records in his workshop for his documentaries when the cameras are on, but he's a classical nerd when no one's paying attention.

Maybe Steve's always been paying attention.

He isn't, when it finally happens. At first, he thinks he's found the combination of dial numbers that will open the door—the ominous crack sounds close to the noise Steve's been imagining as the noise it will make when the puzzle's solved—but it's not the door. It's the ceiling.

Steve has to blink and blink again as cold air spirals down, as a dark sky is revealed by the large gap that's been opened in the roof. Steve's kneeling by the puzzle door; Tony's still washing dishes at the sink.

"Well, this is more domestic than I was imagining," Carol says. "But the Cavalry's here, boys. Sorry we took so long."

Steve moves his gaze from her to Tony, a clear question on his face: Are you seeing this too?

Tony shrugs: I think so?

Carol flies down to get them out; Steve makes her carry Tony up first.

Despite how much he hates the place, Steve takes one look at the pink room, taking in every detail. It's been a jail, but it's also given him Tony. It's worth remembering for that.

Carol rambles about how they didn't realize Tony and Steve were missing until it was too late, and she apologizes for it taking a whole ten hours to negotiate with the aliens that took them to give them back. Jan's managed to retrieve Tony's armor too, and Steve's shield, although they've had to put them on the quinjet—even though peace has been brokered and the aliens know now the Avengers came in peace, they are still jumpy and nervous about Steve and Tony having access to their weapons. Steve thinks about how bad it got, how close he came to losing Tony, and they're lucky Steve doesn't have quick access to his shield.

"Ten hours?" Tony repeats, sounding dazed. He stares at Steve and shakes; Steve gathers him in his arm and holds him close, even though they're getting stared at by Jan, Carol, Hank, and Sam for the intimacy of their embrace. Let them look, Steve thinks, tugging Tony closer. Let them stare as much as they like.

"Fifteen-hundred days?" Jan whispers in the quinjet, her pretty eyes wide in confusion, like she can't even slightly comprehend it.

"Give or take," Steve murmurs, as loudly as he dares risk with Tony resting against him. Tony's only pretending to be asleep, Steve thinks, but he knows Tony needs to keep up this pretense for now. Steve understands. Everything's overwhelming. Shutting it out is better than letting it in and losing himself again.

Steve knows Tony now, better than he'll ever know anyone again. He probably shouldn't like the thought of that so much.

"But that's—" Jan shakes her head. "How did you not go insane?"

Steve looks at Tony's tousled hair and counts his even, deliberate breaths with the same care he counted dials and days for. He doesn't answer Jan, but she doesn't ask again; maybe his expression speaks volumes enough.

Once back at the mansion, the Avengers all vocally swear off space adventures for a while, and pull Doctor Strange in to check Steve and Tony over. Steve's sour when he overhears Strange telling the others that Tony and Steve didn't invent the impossible room—traces of time magic are all over them, apparently— but the sourness fades when he hears Strange adding instruction to be careful with them. Steve doesn't wait for them to give the all-clear announcement—he drags Tony upstairs instead.

Tony mumbles about needing a change of clothes and a shower. When Steve watches Tony cross the hallway to get to his personal suite, Steve feels gutted, like Tony took one of his organs with him. Steve swallows awkwardly and goes into his own bedroom.

There's a pink cushion on the sofa. Steve picks it up and strips the cover from it. He throws the pink fabric out of the window. Gone, forever gone. There's a fire lit beneath him and he opens all the drawers and the closet; every pink item of clothing he owns joins the cushion cover's fate, littering be damned. A pink tie; two silky pairs of boxers; a t-shirt with a charity's name printed in bold capitals on the front. Another graphic tee has a logo with large black capital letters and even though it's innocent, Steve's vision blurs the text into TO EXIT, SOLVE ME, so that goes out the window too.

Steve slips into his bathroom—pulls out a pink bar of hand-soap, and then automatically tips the contents of his mouthwash bottle down the sink. He watches the liquid slip away, almost hypnotized by the spiral motion.

There's a quiet knock on his bedroom door and Steve makes a noise, soft, like he's been wounded, when he opens it to see Tony. Tony's in a bright red t-shirt, blue sweatpants, a riot of color, and his breath smells like mint when he flings himself at Steve; when Steve slides his fingers into Tony's hair, it's wet and silky. Tony's clothes are different and he's cleaner and they're in a different environment now, but as Tony presses their mouths together, Steve realizes that's the only change. Their kissing is exactly the same as it was in the room, questions and answers: Did we do it and is this real and are we still doing this here, even though we were in Narnia all along and we grew into Kings and Queens and we emerged out of the wardrobe unchanged; yes and yes and yes. Despite Steve's careful counting, time is an illusion, but their love has been real all along.