Tony steps into the bathroom, rubbing his eyes with the heels of his hands. He sighs, and faces himself in the mirror. He had hardly spent any time in the lab-- relatively speaking, anyway. But still--only 16 hours and he already looked exhausted, like he’d forgotten to sleep for a week. Maybe it was the stupid variables in the design that he couldn’t stabilize making him look and feel ten years older, but more than likely, it was Steve.
Well, not actually Steve, more like the ‘lack thereof.’ Steve had left the night before for a mission, unable to tell Tony where he was going, just that he wouldn’t be back for a week, and he wouldn’t be able to call until he got back. Perhaps with repetition Steve’s absence would become easier to bear, but they weren’t there yet--it would be the first time he’d left on a mission since they’d begun seeing each other. Tony wasn’t stupid, he knew things like this were part of the package of dating Steve. That didn’t make it any easier. And if that wasn’t shitty enough, Steve had dragged Tony to the doctor just the day before, and had gotten him a prescription.
For an anxiety medication. Xanax, to be precise.
As though having three panic attacks in a month somehow made you an unstable individual. Tony had rolled his eyes so many times during the appointment and subsequent trip to the pharmacy, his eyes had actually started to hurt by the time they returned home. Undeterred, Steve had pressed on; insisting that Tony take care of himself, and that taking care of his anxiety was part of that.
In spite of Steve not actually being here to support Tony in his journey into pharmacopeia, he had found a way to make his presence felt. Seriously, ask yourself; would Tony fucking Stark buy one of those cheesy, old-people, week-long pill organizers to make sure he didn’t skip a day? No, of course not, fuck you very much. Would Steve? Yes.
Did Steve? Of course.
There, on the counter, in all its glory, is a blue pill organizer. Freaking days of the week all stocked up and everything. The only bright side Tony could find to his pathetic situation and the stupid little container mocking him was that, by the time it was empty, Steve would be home.
He pops open the current day, so conspicuously marked ‘M’ and stares.
“JARVIS.” He says flatly, less of a question and more of an annoyed statement.
“Why are there two pills?” He knows Xanax is the little blue-ish oblong pill, but he doesn’t believe he’s been formally introduced to the yellow horse pill next to it. One more thing about this whole situation that has got ‘Steve’ written all over it.
“Captain Rogers has requested that you take a multivitamin along with your new medication, since it has become convenient for you to do so,” JARVIS answered, and damn his A.I. for sounding so approving. There’s a conspiracy going on between his boyfriend and his A.I. and even if Tony can prove it, he’s not sure he can stop it.
“Seriously, Steve?” he mutters under his breath, dumping both pills into the palm of his hand. “Sure, why not. What the hell.” He pops the pills in his mouth and turns on the faucet. He cups his hands under the flow and gulps down the water he collects, smoothly swallowing both pills at the same time. He’s pretty sure he was just forced to swallow his pride and dignity, too, and those didn’t go down quite so easily.
“What’d ya say, JARVIS? Same time tomorrow?” Tony asks, wiping his wet hands on the front of his jeans.
“Of course, sir.”
Just before he steps out of the bathroom, he notices something he probably should’ve before. Another pill container, right next to the one he just put down. This one is green, and noticeably heavier. Curiosity wins out and he pops open the ‘M’ day. There’s a single Hershey’s kiss and a slip of paper.
Despite knowing exactly what it is, Tony picks it up carefully, and inspects it. Turning it this way and that, watching the light catch the tiny wrinkles in the foil. This has Steve written all over it, too, but this one is a little harder to understand.
He sets the candy piece down, and carefully removes the slip of paper. Unfolding it, he instantly recognizes Steve’s immaculate handwriting.
“Stop beating yourself up for this. Thousands of people take anxiety meds every day.”
Tony’s chest immediately feels tight, and a deep breath only partially solves the problem. Two sentences. Two sentences is all it takes for him to absolutely crave Steve. He wishes Steve didn’t have to do dirty work for SHIELD, wishes he could keep him close and never have to face a day where he couldn’t even talk to him.
He inspects the paper, and on a thoughtless whim, flips it over.
“Including me. I love you.”
Huh. Well. Steve never mentioned that while he was dragging Tony to the doc. He tries to push down the vague feelings of betrayal climbing his spine. Steve takes anxiety meds too. In a way, he’s not surprised. Steve’s gone through just as much hell as Tony has, if not more. No one could blame him for it. On the other hand, he didn’t think modern-day meds even worked on a genetically enhanced super-soldier.
They were definitely going to talk about this when Steve got home. Probably. Maybe graze the topic.
After, of course, the blowjob that Steve was definitely going to be getting.
“Not now, JARVIS.” Tony dismisses him with a vague wave of his hand and goes back to typing out calculations.
“Sir. I regret the interruption, however-”
“Won’t have anything to regret, if you shut up now.” Tony points out sarcastically, reaching over to flip the hologram in front of him around.
“Sir, I must insist. It’s time for your scheduled medication.” Tony glares at the ceiling. He’s got to give JARVIS credit. He didn’t remember programming him to be so persistent. Which meant that was something JARVIS picked up on his own.
“Impossible.” Tony muttered, still not taking his eyes off the screen in front of him. “I took the first ones a few hours ago.”
“24 hours ago, to be precise.” JARVIS said, and fuck, if an A.I. could sigh, that would’ve been the time.
“Seriously?” Tony pauses, looking upwards and raising an eyebrow.
For one single moment, Tony seriously considers ignoring JARVIS and going back to work and ditching the whole ‘medication’ idea. For God’s sake, it was just three panic attacks. Two down in his lab--and if he’s being honest, they were probably brought on by sleep deprivation-- and one in their bed in the middle of the night. Triggered by a nightmare, most likely, and those were getting more and more rare since he’s now sleeping with Steve on a regular basis. They weren’t that big of a deal, despite what Steve said. It’s not like he had an emotional breakdown during a debriefing or during an Avenger mission. He could deal with it. He didn’t need a daily reminder of his own mind turning against him.
Then Steve’s inevitable ‘disappointed’ face crossed his mind and that idea went straight in the trash.
He finishes the line of coding he’s working on, and stands up, feeling the joints in his back pop with a groan. Alright, maybe it has been 24 hours. He steps into the bathroom, and starts what’s sure to be a new tradition, dumping the pills in his hand and gulping them down with tap water.
This time, though, he doesn’t hesitate to pick up the second container, and pop open the Tuesday compartment. A little voice in the back of his head suggests popping open all the days and reading all the notes at once. He gets a sour taste in his mouth at the thought.
This day’s container is filled with brightly colored mini-M&M’s, and when he dumps them into his hand, the tiny folded up note underneath them comes out as well. He carefully picks the note off of the pile of candies before popping them into his mouth.
“Good morning. There’s food in the fridge. EAT BREAKFAST!”
“Oh, I see,” Tony murmurs playfully under his breath after he swallows, “This whole set-up was just a new way to harass me about my health. Smooth, Cap.” He’s grinning when he flips it over and reads the back.
“And not just coffee. I love you.”
That tight feeling is back in Tony’s chest, and he vaguely wonders if it’s too soon for it to be a side-effect of the drug... or if it’s just another effect of missing Steve.
He sighs, and puts the pill container back, silently hoping Steve made that French Toast Casserole Bruce showed him how to make last month. (The first time Bruce had made it, everyone agreed it was like discovering edible gold.)
Tony snaps awake when JARVIS turns on the klaxon alarm, loses his balance and hits the floor with a groan. He always forgets about the potential dangers of falling asleep while sitting in a chair. You never know when your dumb-ass A.I. is going to decide it’s time for an impromptu wake-up call.
“The fuck, JARVIS?!” Tony shouts as he claps his hands over his ears. The alarm goes silent as Tony glares at the ceiling, lowering his hands.
“My apologies, sir. While normally, I would encourage rest for your well-being, the matter of your medication has taken higher priority for the moment.”
“Seriously, again?” Tony asks, running his hands through his hair. No wonder he could easily stay in the lab for days at a time. It feels like weeks since Steve left, and at the same time, it feels like JARVIS is reminding him to take his meds every five minutes.
Nonetheless, he picks himself up, and stretches as he walks to the bathroom.
He pops open the ‘W’ lid and unceremoniously tips the pills into the palm of his hand. He picks up the tiny blue-ish grey pill between two fingers and studies it. He wonders to himself how many of these he’s going to end up taking in his lifetime. If he’ll ever get off of them. How they’ll ever know if he can. He wonders if Steve takes the same kind, same dosage. Wonders if Steve feels as broken as Tony does every time he swallows one.
He exhales slowly, and pops it into his mouth before he can talk himself out of it. He swallows it down with tap water and picks up the green container with much more enthusiasm.
Today is a bright green Jolly Rancher that Tony wastes no time in unwrapping, pleased to note that Steve remembered his favorite flavor. The apple flavor bursts over his tongue as he unwraps the note tucked in beside it.
“Happy Wednesday. I’ve thought of you a million times since I left.”
He flips it over immediately.
“Thinking of you right now. I love you.”
Tony bites down on the Jolly Rancher. It’s funny. He loved Pepper- loves Pepper- and he never meant to ignore her, not intentionally; but when they were dating, Tony couldn’t help it. She’d slip into his peripheral vision, lost to Tony’s one-track mind of his latest project, newest idea. He’s not proud to admit it, but he actually forgot about her from time to time.
That never happened with Steve. No matter what he was doing, no matter how long they’d been apart, Steve was always right there, like a faint humming in the back of his mind. It was comforting to know Steve felt at least somewhat the same.
He sighs, turning the candy over and over in his mouth, and stares at his own reflection.
On Thursday, JARVIS interrupts Tony and Bruce going over blueprints.
“JARVIS, if you are about to inform me, yet again, that it’s time for another goddamn pill, please, do not say another word.” Tony threatens, pointing at the ceiling, in lieu of an actual person to point at.
The following silence is almost funny.
“Um, pill?” Bruce says, carefully, raising up away from carefully inspecting the blueprint to look at Tony. Tony knows there are times and places where he’s gonna completely deny this whole situation, but fuck it. If anyone else is ever going to find out about it anyway, it’s gonna be Bruce.
“Anxiety meds. Xanax. Once a fucking day.” Tony says, with a fake smile and dramatic eyelash batting. “Prevents those pesky panic attacks that are just so much fun.”
Bruce nods, like it’s the most rational thing in the world, and goes back to erasing an earlier drawn line. “Okay, go do your thing. I’ll see if I can figure out the relay issue while you’re gone.” He says this in a completely unaffected tone, and see, this is why Tony loves Bruce. He takes all of Tony’s weird shit in stride. Kinda like Rhodey, but with more destructive potential.
He steps into the bathroom, already annoyed by the repetition of the routine. He’s almost sarcastic with how he takes the pill container out, exactly like the day before, pops it open and takes the pills without show or preamble, just like the day before, and sighs. Another day down, God only fucking knows how many more to go.
He sets the container back, and can’t help the grin that hits his face as he picks up the second one. He has to give Steve credit. He thought this was cheesy as hell at first, but damn, in it’s own little way, it’s a surprisingly good motivator.
He flips the top off the current day to reveal the pink Starburst underneath. He sets it to the side and picks up the slip of paper that was tucked next to it.
“Halfway through! Thank you for not giving up on the meds. I’m proud of you.”
Aaand… Yep. That’s it. Right there. That is what’s going to keep Tony coming back every day and repeating this same damn routine until he loses his damn mind. The idea that Steve’s proud of him.
It should probably make him feel a little more embarrassed, and a little less happy, but whatever. His life. Suck his dick if you don’t like it.
He flips the paper over.
“Answer the door later, I arranged for food to be delivered. I love you.”
Seriously, at this point, there’s a real chance he’d be dead from sleep deprivation, malnutrition, or dehydration without Steve. He acknowledges this.
On Friday, a miracle occurs and Tony actually notices the time before JARVIS rudely reminds him again.
He’ll admit, there’s a certain amount of smugness that surrounds him like an aura as he goes into the bathroom. It’s petty, but he’ll take his smugness where he can get it. Which is usually everywhere.
He goes through the motions, already fitted into his brain like an old habit. Pops the top of the current day, dumps the pills, swallows them down with tap water, pushes down the feeling of being broken and tries to pretend he feels normal. Or at least, as normal as he ever does.
He picks up the green container, his new favorite color, and pops open ‘Friday.’ A mini Reese’s cup is sitting by itself and for a moment, Tony’s disappointed there’s not a note with it.
The he sees it just got stuck underneath. He huffs a little breath of relief and pulls it out with the candy, unfolding it; like all its companions before it.
“Good morning. Chances are, you haven’t been sleeping. Relax! Sleep, jack off, read a book, whatever.”
Tony barks out a laugh. Steve said ‘jack off.’ Wrote it. Whatever. That’s awesome. Tony glows with pride at the idea that he’s finally corrupting Steve in noticeable ways. He proudly unwraps the chocolate and is still grinning as he chews. He flips the paper over, leaving a smeared chocolate thumbprint on it.
“Yes, Tony. I said ‘jack off’. Scandalous, I know. I love you.”
“For you, it is, Capsicle,” Tony says, after he swallows, still beaming with pride.
Steve’s right, though, even in his absence. Tony does the math in his head and realizes that if it’s Friday morning he hasn’t slept in… over two days. A shower and lengthy nap both sound pretty good right now.
And if he imagines a sweaty, naked Steve writhing in pleasure, riding Tony’s dick as he jacks himself off in the shower, well. He’ll tell Steve all about it when he gets home.
An interesting pattern began to emerge: JARVIS’s reminder was unnecessary on Saturday as well, since Tony had just come down to the lab when he realized it was time again for daily meds.
Strangely, he doesn’t feel the same resentment towards the routine. Probably a devious combination of sleep, making him more mellow, and anticipation sweetening his mood just a little. Steve would be home in 48 hours and Tony could pretend this week without him was an cruelly unfortunate dream.
The pills went down with tap water, same as before (maybe Tony almost choked on them, maybe not. Maybe you can shut your face).
He notices how the green container rattles slightly when he shakes it as he picks it up. He’s pleasantly surprised to find the day’s compartment filled with jellybeans. And once again, Steve nailed the flavor, Tony thought, as he bites down on strawberry cheesecake flavored candies.
He pulls the note out, and unfolds it, silently gleeful it was one of the last. Soon, very soon, Steve would be here to say these things to him in person, and if that wasn’t the best thing ever, Tony really doesn’t know what was.
“One more day.”
Three little words, and Tony knows, like he knows his own name, that Steve is feeling the same way Tony does. There’s a certain comfort in that, but that tightness is back in his chest and this time, he knows it’s not the Xanax.
He flips the paper over.
“I love you.”
Tony felt his eyes sting as a deep sense of longing enveloped him. Apparently, Steve is the world champion of only needing three words to make Tony an emotional wreck.
Tony is pretty sure he's in the bathroom popping open the pill container a little early Sunday morning, but it doesn’t matter. 24 hours.
Only 24 more hours and Steve would be home. With Tony. Where he belonged.
He downs the pills faster than before, barely even noticing himself doing it. Too wrapped up in thoughts of Steve. And not just sexy thoughts either.
Mostly sexy, of course-but not entirely.
He barely contains a little dance as he opens up the final compartment of the green container, spilling out a Skittles of varying colors.
He throws them into his mouth and devours them as he unfolds the note.
“I can’t wait to see you.”
Tony’s more sure than ever he needs to be down in his lab when Steve comes home. He’s almost entirely sure no one and nothing is going to stop him from pouncing on Steve the second he lays eyes on him, and Steve’s made it clear he’s not into exhibitionism.
Which is really a shame.
Turns out, Tony’s not in his lab when Steve comes home. He’s still laying on the bed he collapsed on the night before.
He opens his eyes and glances at the clock. 6:45. He’s immediately awake and borderline panicking. Steve was supposed to be home half an hour ago, why isn’t he-
The train of panicked thought ends as he goes to get up but the arm around his waist tugs him back. Tony does manage to suppress the girlish squeal of joy from breaking out of his throat, but it’s a close thing.
He turns around and can’t hold back a laugh as he throws his arms around Steve, curled up shirtless in bed with him. He buries his face in the crook of Steve’s neck and inhales. He smells like leather, and cologne and Steve, and Tony’s pretty sure that’s the best smell ever. He can’t stop smiling, and he sighs, as Steve runs his hands up and down his back.
“God, I missed you.” Steve says, breathless.
“You should’ve woken me up.” Tony scolds playfully, still unmoving from his hidey spot in the crook of Steve’s neck.
“No chance in hell.” Steve retorts, and Tony can hear the happiness in his voice. God, he’s so glad this week is over. “You should’ve seen you, all relaxed and beautiful.”
“Hey,” Tony says, pulling back enough to glare at Steve. “We’ve talked about this. Women are beautiful. Guys are handsome.”
Steve’s expression gets serious, and he cups Tony’s jaw with one hand, running his thumb over Tony’s cheekbone. “You’re beautiful.” He says, and his tone is so deadly serious, there’s no room to even consider arguing. So he tucks his head back down and pretends not to feel his face flush.
They stay like that for long minutes, both just basking in the presence of the other.
“Oh, shit.” Tony says suddenly, pulling away and scanning Steve up and down. “You’re okay, right? You didn’t get hurt or anything, I swear to God, I-”
“Tony!” Steve says, trying and failing horribly not to laugh. “I’m fine, I promise. Everyone made it back fine. Everything went exactly like it was supposed to.”
“Thank God.” Tony sighs, relieved as hell, because fuck these missions. He presses his forehead against Steve’s collarbone. Moments pass in contented silence.
“Steve,” Tony finally says, because he has to ask, “Why didn’t you tell me you took meds, too?”
He feels more than hears Steve sigh. “Why didn’t you want to take them?” he asks reasonably.
Oh. Tony flinches. Remembering how stupid and weak he felt every time JARVIS reminded him to take them. How he felt somehow defeated by his own mind, and frustrated at everything. Somehow, he never put that together with Steve not telling him.
“Gotcha. Just… don’t do that, okay?” Tony asks, keeping his voice low.
“Do what?” Steve asks back.
“Not tell me stuff.” Tony says, trying to keep the pout out of his voice. “Even the small stuff. No secrets.”
“Okay.” Steve agrees after a moment, and starts stroking Tony’s hair.
“Speaking of hiding stuff, where’s the rest of all that candy, anyway?” Tony asks, pulling back enough to raise an eyebrow at him.
“Oh, I shared some of it with Nat, and Thor took the Skittles. I think Clint ended up with the Jolly Ranchers.” Steve shrugged.
“What?” Tony barks, and this time the pout is out in full. “I wanted those!”
Steve laughs and kisses Tony, bright and happy, and Tony sinks into it.
Finally, finally, it makes it through Tony’s thick skull that he has Steve. Half-way to naked. In a bed.
He pulls away, and runs his hands down Steve’s abs.
“I guess I’ll just have to find something else to suck on, won’t I?”
“Tony…” Steve groans out, and Tony will always love how little it takes to turn Steve on. One little innuendo, and Tony can already feel him getting half-hard through his pants.
Tony starts kissing his way down Steve’s chest and only pulls away long enough to unbutton his pants. “Thank God you’re home.”