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Here in My Arms

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Through the cracked cockpit canopy of the wrecked Quinjet, Steve can see that the snow is coming down even harder. Wonderful.

It's nowhere near as bad as it could be. They have food. They have water. They have enough power to keep the Quinjet heated, if they stick to minimal heat. The Avengers will definitely find them by tomorrow morning. Jan's definitely not going to give up on them. The comms are too fried for an emergency beacon, but there was a set of flares in one of the kits. Steve put a couple of them out half an hour ago, venturing out onto the featureless snowy plain, and he plans to keep replacing them as they burn. The team knows their flight path, and it's not like there's much else to see in -- where are they? Greenland? Probably Greenland.

But still, it could have been better. Steve considers this as he watches Tony peel himself out of his battered armor, piece by piece. It was a bad crash, so bad that even Tony's not flight-capable, but he's in one piece. The helmet dented, which is why Tony doesn't have his own comms anymore, but at least it was the helmet and not Tony's head. Mostly.

In the dim emergency lighting, Steve can see that the blood dripping down Tony's face is mostly dried. Head wounds always look bad; Steve knows that. Still, knowing that doesn't keep him from worrying about his-- his fella.

He's not entirely sure what he and Tony are to each other right now. Steve had assumed they would talk about it at some point shortly after they'd fallen into bed for the first time, but then Kang invaded Earth again and they were all a little busy. And then they still didn't talk about it. Steve's not sleeping with anyone else and not planning on it; he's pretty sure Tony isn't sleeping with anyone else either. The fact that they love each other isn't news to anyone. They've always loved each other.

It'd just be nice if Tony would say it, is all.

"You all right there?" Steve calls out, as Tony lets the chestplate drop to the floor. Thank God he doesn't need that anymore, but Steve hopes his heart is charged up. There's a lurid line of bruising all across Tony's ribs where the side of the chestplate hit the side of the Quinjet. Tony is so very lucky it wasn't worse.

"A little sore," Tony calls back. "But I'll live. Don't you worry."

I always worry, Steve thinks, but he doesn't know if he should say it. Maybe that's not what Tony wants.

Then he realizes Tony is shivering. Tony wasn't wearing much under the armor. He's down to his boxers, and, well, the armor was what was keeping him warm. And they don't have spare clothing.

They do, however, have blankets.

Shoving a few of the seats back, Steve clears a space on the floor. He's got one of the blankets spread out beneath him, insulation from the metal decking, and he's down to his undershirt -- the mail on his uniform is going to be a hindrance -- before Tony takes notice of what he's doing.

"Hey, Steve?" Tony asks. "Not that I mind, but what's with the shirtless picnic?"

It's nice that Tony can make jokes that presume he's attractive, but that's not really all Steve wants.

"Not a picnic," Steve says. "And, sorry to disappoint you, but not shirtless either." He pulls another blanket up over his own shoulders, sets two more aside for Tony. "You need to stay warm, Shellhead. C'mere."

And that's when Tony gets it, because Tony balks. "You don't have to--"

Does Tony honestly think he's going to let him freeze to death? Does Tony really think so little of him?

He knows Tony well enough to know that Tony is probably thinking he doesn't deserve this.

"I want to," Steve says, and that's the truth.

Tony must be cold, because it doesn't take any more convincing to get Tony to come over to the blanket. Tony sits down, picks up a blanket, wraps it around himself, but he doesn't come closer. And he's still shivering. It's not going to be enough.

"I'm happy to share some of my body heat," Steve offers, after an excruciating minute of watching Tony shake and suffer in silence. "I've got lots to go around."

Tony's throat works. "Steve, I--"

"I want to," Steve repeats. "I want you to, okay?"

Tony studies his face for a few seconds, and Steve doesn't know what he sees, but whatever it is, it does the trick. Tony crawls into Steve's arms.

He's ice-cold. He's still shivering. Steve tells himself that's actually a good sign; it's when you're cold enough that you stop shivering that you really need to worry. Steve wraps his arms around Tony and draws him close, pulling the blankets up to cover both of them together, to trap the heat.

"I know you hate the cold." Tony's voice is laden with apology. "I'm sorry."

"I hate the thought of you dying of hypothermia much more than I hate the cold," Steve tells him. "Also, you know, holding you in my arms is definitely not a hardship."

"It's not?" Tony sounds honestly surprised. Like it really, truly, never occurred to him that Steve might like him like that. They've been friends, and they've been lovers, and there's somehow a vast area of their relationship that has remained unexplored. Or, at least, unsaid.

Steve supposes they're going to talk about this now, at last. It's not like there's much else to do, trapped in a broken Quinjet at night.

"Did you really think it was just sex?" Steve asks. "Really?"

Tony bites his lip. "I knew what I wanted it to be," he whispers. "But I also know what-- what I'm good at. What people want from me. Asking for more from you -- it'd be like double or nothing. And, sure, I wanted double. But I was too selfish to settle for nothing. And I thought if we just-- if we just kept sleeping together, it wouldn't be nothing."

"You're the farthest thing from selfish," Steve tells him, and he works one hand free of the blankets to stroke Tony's hair, the way he's never dared to before. "You're allowed to be happy."

That was apparently the right move, because Tony just melts against his hand, his eyes half-closed. It's-- it's nice.

"Not sure that's ever been in the cards for me, Winghead," Tony says, softly. "But I appreciate the thought."

He knows Tony's had a hard life. They've known each other for most of their adult lives; it's not like Steve hasn't been there for most of the heart attacks, and the drinking, and the drinking, and the damn paralysis, and everything else miserable that's ever happened to Tony. He knows that sometimes he's been the cause of it. He tries not to be. He's always tried not to be.

"I'm not looking to change you," Steve clarifies. "I like who you are an awful lot. But I just thought, maybe-- maybe I could keep you company, if you'll have me."

Tony snorts. "I think I've had you a few times already."

"Tony." Steve taps the side of Tony's jaw, the scruff of his beard, and Tony raises his eyes. "I'm offering double."

Tony swallows hard. "I'm going to need you to use a few more words there, Cap."

"I love you," Steve says, simply.

If he's making a fool of himself -- well, there are worse things to be than a fool for love. But he doesn't think he's wrong. He knows Tony.

Tony blinks up at him. His eyes are too reflective, filled with tears. He's not crying yet. But it's a near thing. It's probably a lot to come to terms with.

"You don't have to say it back," Steve says, which is both a true statement and a knife in his heart. "It's okay. But I'm-- I'm a sure thing, for you. However you want me. You're not going to lose me, all right? You don't get nothing. No matter what."

Tony's biting his lip again. "What if I wanted to?" he whispers. "What if I wanted to say it?"

He has to know that Steve would like that. He's a genius. He's the smartest man Steve ever met. But he wants Steve to reassure him. He needs to know that he's safe. That this is okay.

Steve tries not to think about all the people Tony's loved who have never loved him back. He knows it's a long list. He can probably name most of the people on it, anyway, because that's how long he's known Tony.

His name's not going to be there.

"I'd like that," Steve tells him. "I'd really like that."

Tony doesn't say anything right away. He just leans in and kisses Steve, gently. There's still blood on his face. Steve can't say as he's ever pictured this moment happening like this, but he's not about to complain.

"I wanted to." Tony's still whispering. "I wanted to tell you, that first night. I nearly did."

He still hasn't said it. It's okay. Steve knows. They both know.

"I'm afraid if I say it you'll just disappear," Tony admits, eyes downcast. "Like some kind of terrible fairytale. If I say what I want, I don't get it. It won't be real. I know it's irrational."

"It's okay," Steve says again, because it is.

Tony tucks his head under Steve's chin. He's silent for long minutes. Steve can hear his heart beating. Tony's stopped shivering, he realizes. He's warmer. Good.

"Hey, Steve?" Tony murmurs.


"I love you too."

Steve holds him tighter. "And look," he says. "I'm still here."

Tony tips his face up. He's smiling.