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Free Me from the Light

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There was a perfectly good smoking lounge just off the ballroom. It was of a good size and yet emulated the intimacy of an authentic Victorian gentleman’s parlor. It had a wide range of high-quality cigars and cigarettes and pipes and what-have-you from several different countries, free for the taking should a patron have failed to bring his own. It had comfortable seating and soft lighting and the musty, enticing smell of old books and smoke. There was a privacy there, despite the presence of other patrons, that allowed for the quiet thought that many smokers often sought.

Still, Tony chose to sit his Armani-clad self on a dirty stoop at the employee entrance-cum-smoking area in the alley behind the hotel.

His right arm was propped on his knee, and in his fingers loosely dangled a lit cigarette from which a steady stream of smoke rose. He lifted the cigarette to his lips and sucked in a breath before slowly blowing out the smoke that masked the faint smell of piss of the alley. His eyes shut as he allowed the peace that the empty area afforded him to clear his mind.

In a few minutes, he’d have to go back into the gala and make nice towards his investors and board members and stockholders. He’d have to put on his fake smile—the one that felt more natural on him than any real smile he’d ever given—and ham it up for the reporters. He’d flirt with the pretty ones and suck up to the rich and powerful ones and impress each and every guest there because he was Anthony Fucking Stark and that was what he did.

But for now... For now, he was Just Tony, sitting on a dirty stoop and sucking on a cigarette.

“Guests aren’t allowed back here, you know?” someone pointed out. His voice was soft and non-accusatory and velvety, so Tony deigned to relinquish his moment of peace.

“I could buy the hotel if it made you feel better,” he answered without opening his eyes. And he could, really, but then Pepper would skin him for adding another thing on top of the million things she was already taking care of, and Obi would whine that he wasn’t focusing on what was important.

There was a soft chuckle.

“I’d settle for a stick if you have any left. I promise not to tell on you.” This time, Tony conceded to open one eye and glance up at the tall blond waiter who was staring down at him.

He’d seen the waiter before—how could he have not? He was easily a head taller than most of the people at the gala. He was blond and blue-eyed and was drop dead gorgeous, and Tony wondered why no one had offered him yet a modeling contract (or maybe they had, but that only brought up the question of why was he still a waiter).

He held out the pack of his cigarettes and his custom, exorbitantly expensive lighter that was Obi’s gift to him. The waiter said nothing about it and lit up his own cigarette.

“These are good,” he commented after a few puffs.

“They’re European,” Tony shrugged and then no other words passed between them for the next half hour.

Eventually, Tony had to finish off the last of his cigarette lest Pepper start looking for him because therein only lie trouble. He stubbed it out on the stoop beside him and made to stand up, only to have a hand shoved in his face. The billionaire looked up to see the waiter offering a helping hand, and he considered it for a moment before grasping it and using it to pull himself up.

He brushed himself off and righted his clothes and took another moment—this one much, much longer than the first—to consider the second offering in the waiter’s outstretched hand: his cigarette pack and lighter.

He looked up into the bright blue eyes and simply said, “Keep them,” before turning around and walking back into his world.