Pairings/Characters: Steve/Bucky, Steve/Tony
Continuity: The Avengers (2012) and Captain America 1: The First Avenger (2011)
Genres: Angst, Drama, Hurt/Comfort
Warnings: PTSD, major canon character death, near-drowning, asthma attack
Spoilers: For Captain America 1: The First Avenger (2011)
Summary: Plummeting temperatures trigger bad memories for Steve.
Date Of Completion: July 19, 2014
Date Of Posting: September 21, 2014
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Marvel and Paramount do, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1223
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Notes: Written for this prompt on avengerkink. The entire series can be found here.
Weeps diamond tears
As the world
Under the weight
"The Frosted Heart"
Steve hunched his shoulders against the wind, hurrying into the old apartment building and passing through the worn vestibule. He didn’t bother to check for mail. He received any relevant mail at Avengers Tower.
He trod lightly up the staircase, the wooden newel scarred and loose. The stairs creaked under his footsteps as he reached the second floor. The smell of cooking cabbage and anything else cheaply obtained was always present. In some ways, Brooklyn had never changed.
Steve unlocked his apartment and went inside, replacing the key in his jacket pocket. The apartment was simply furnished and the walls were drab, some of the wallpaper peeling.
I really ought to spruce the place up.
He remembered the worn spots in the floor, the crack in the ceiling, and the water stains above the baseboard in the kitchen. The furniture had changed and the appliances were different, but it was still the same apartment that he had grown up in, and he and Bucky had shared after his mother had died.
He had been lucky the old place had been unoccupied. Fury had rented it for him under an assumed name. Tony had been hurt by the arrangement but Steve had explained, “I just need to come back to my roots once in awhile.”
Steve pulled down the blankets on his bed. He was tired, and the bed was comfortable. This was a haven against the constant chaos of the modern world, something his soul desperately needed.
Tony’s got his workshop to go to when he needs to be alone. And while the Tower has plenty of space to find privacy, sometimes I just need to get away.
As he crawled into bed after kicking off his shoes, he wondered if Tony really understood, but he had not bothered Steve about the apartment anymore. It was autumn now, almost Halloween, and getting colder.
Steve curled up under the blankets. He fell asleep and slept deeply under the worn blankets.
“C’mon, Stevie, wake up. No sleepin’ late, kiddo. Time to rise and shine, buddy.”
Steve groaned. “Bucky, please, lemme sleep a little more.”
Bucky gently slapped Steve’s arm. “No goldbricking, boy-o.”
Steve groaned again and opened his eyes, seeing Bucky smiling down at him. Joy mixed with pain as his hand trembled as he reached for his partner’s face. Warm brown eyes looked at him with the affection he needed like air to breathe.
Steve shivered. “I’m cold.”
“You’ll be all right.”
“But it’s too cold, Bucky. Something’s wrong.”
But Bucky just smiled and kissed him, pulling him close, wrapping his body around Steve’s.
Everything tilted as Steve’s vision whited out. He tried to breathe, the old, familiar pain pulling at his chest. His limbs hurt as the cold seeped into his bones.
“Bucky,” he gasped.
His gaze fell upon the window. He climbed out of bed and out of Bucky’s grasp and touched the pane, frost spiraling up the glass. He touched it with trembling fingers, the cold sharp as his body almost jackknifed with the pain of it.
They say fire is painful, but cold is worse.
The patterns of the ice twined up the windows and slipped in through the cracks in the walls. The room undulated like a boat on the sea. His throat rattled as his limbs began to harden as he watched in horror as they began to crack. Panic spread as he could feel himself submerging below the waves.
“Bucky,” he croaked, looking toward the bed.
Bucky was still smiling, his eyes too-bright, his smile too-brittle. Bucky reached out a hand and began to disappear, falling into a frosty swirl of snow. Steve’s arm was outstretched but he couldn’t get to Bucky in time before he was swallowed up by blazing whiteness.
He was alone. Tears glittered on his cheeks as he drowned, too tired to scream.
Tony entered the shabby apartment, slipping the key back into his coat pocket. He shivered. The heating must have gone out in the building. It was freezing out in the hall, too.
Great! Figures, when we’re getting an early cold snap.
“Hey, Steve! You trying to relive your Depression boyhood? Come on with me back to the Tower.”
He could not understand why Steve wanted to spend time in this rundown apartment, but the poor guy had gone through a lot of trauma, so he had decided to cut him some slack.
“C’mon, Capsicle, show yourself!”
Tony shivered again. It was really uncomfortable in here. The temperature was going to drop significantly tonight.
Maybe he had gone out. He checked the cupboards and found a few staples like coffee and sugar inside, but not much else. The refrigerator held a wilted head of lettuce and some leftover butterscotch pudding, a sorry little compilation, in Tony’s opinion.
Maybe he fell asleep in the bedroom. Poor guy’s run himself ragged lately, and with his PTSD flaring up…
Tony pushed open the bedroom door and froze. “Steve?” he rasped.
Steve was on his knees, staring up at the window with its delicate filigree of frost. One hand was outstretched toward the window, his face contorted in pain. The blankets on top of the bed tumbled halfway to the floor.
Tony approached his lover slowly. He recognized the signs of PTSD once again holding Steve in its pitiless grip.
He dropped to his knees. “Steve,” he said quietly.
Steve remained motionless. He was painfully rigid, as if one touch from Tony would shatter him like ice.
Ice. That’s what it’s all abut, isn’t it? Oh, Steve, I’m so sorry.
“Steve, it’s all right. You won’t freeze. It’s okay.”
Steve said nothing. Tony was unsure if he had heard anything at all.
“C’mon, baby, don’t worry. You’ll be warm soon, I promise. You aren’t back in the ice. You’re safe now.”
Tony deliberately kept his voice gentle and calm. He slowly put his arms around Steve, feeling how rigid his body was as he stared at the window, trapped in his own private hell.
Tony hoped that an understated approach would work. He understood how skittish a man could be in this condition.
Tears tracked down Steve’s cheeks. “Bucky,” he whispered.
A little piece of Tony broke but he never faltered in his grip.
Bucky was your first love, but he’s gone and I’m here, and I won’t fail you.
“It’s all right, Steve.”
The ice was closing in, suffocating him, squeezing the breath out of his laboring lungs. The world was blue-white and frosted at the edges. Panic gripped his body, his muscles tight and rock-hard. He was sinking down, down, down…
Steve could hear a warm gentleness floating on air. He latched on to it like a drowning man.
“That’s right, it’s okay.”
The soothing voice washed over him, slowly relaxing his muscles. He clung to strong arms as he struggled to breathe. The squeezing of his lungs was painfully familiar, the stuff of his childhood nightmares.
Bucky…no, not Bucky…Tony?
“Tony, I’m so cold,” he rasped.
“Come home with me,” Tony whispered.
“Tony,” Steve sobbed.
Tony kissed his hair. “Right here, Steve.”
The frost glittered on the windowpanes as warmth enveloped the two men in a bitterly cold apartment.