It wasn’t a terrible day – Tony’s had terrible days. No one has died, the Avengers haven’t disbanded, he and Steve aren’t fighting, no ex-girlfriend has shot him and left him paralyzed and alone, and he hasn’t been betrayed by the man he thought of as a father and sold to terrorists who tortured him daily. So there’s plenty of room for this day to go downhill.
Honestly, he’s having a hard time even coming up with a list of things that made today so rough. But he’d overslept that morning and had to leave the house in a rush, without even saying goodbye to Steve, the car waiting for him had been driven by his least favorite chauffeur, he’d spent more than an hour stuck in traffic only to realize he’d forgotten his phone and then he’d finally made it in just in time for the meeting to be over, Pepper having assumed he wasn’t coming and stepping in for him.
And normally that wouldn’t even be a bad thing but he’d been doing his best to get there on time and the realization that Pepper had expected him to blow it off had stung.
And then there had been a near-constant stream of bad reports. R&D was stagnating, a trend that he’d noticed recently and was extremely unhappy about. Marketing had released the ads for the new product too early, sales was pissed because they were getting orders for a product that didn’t exist and production was pissed because sales was leaning on them to step it up. Meanwhile HR was concerned with a sudden increase in turnover and there was an ominous email waiting for him from one of the Union Reps he dealt with on a regular basis. Nick Fury, General Ross and Maria Hill had all left him voicemail that he hadn’t bothered to listen to yet and someone he’d never heard of in Miami was suing him for child support.
He was tired and frustrated and off his usual game. He snapped at two employees who didn’t deserve it and one employee who did deserve it and of course that guy was the only one who complained to his HR rep about it. Pepper was frazzled and impatient with him, which he couldn’t even complain about, and her new assistant was so intimidated by both of them being in bad moods that the kid had locked himself in the bathroom at one point and wouldn’t come out until Tony had finally snapped and left the office entirely.
Basically, nothing terrible happened but everything was annoying and unproductive and Tony hated feeling unproductive. It made him feel stupid and useless and all day long he had to hunch his shoulders against the sound of his father’s voice in his ear – or worse, Obie's voice – telling him to get his act together.
By the time he left the office it was almost eight o’clock. He’d accomplished nothing worth getting out of bed for, Pepper was mad at him, her assistant was probably going to quit if she didn’t fire him first, and he still had to deal with a pile of problems, plus a paternity suit.
And he still hadn’t listened to his voicemail from Fury, Hill and Ross.
He had the driver – still not Happy, but someone less grating than the one who’d driven him in that morning – drop him off at the Mansion and set up camp in his home office, successfully avoiding everyone else who lived there. People very rarely bothered him while he was in there, mostly because Peter had once strolled in wearing only his socks and a pair of boxers with the X-Men logo on the crotch and Wolverine’s cartoon image on the leg while Tony was having a video-conference with two senators and a general.
But the peace and quiet didn’t help much. He was stressed out and tired and he wasn’t getting anything done, so around ten he literally threw his hands up in the air and called it a day.
Of course quitting before everything was solved just made him feel worse about himself, but fuck it.
A hot shower helped a little and he wasted some time and water just standing under the shower with his head down, letting the spray wash over him like a warm blanket. The water eased some of the tension out of his back and shoulders and by the time he turned off the water and stepped out to grab his robe, he was more tired than tense.
It was still a little early for bed, but the idea of dressing and going back downstairs held little appeal, so he toweled himself off and wandered back into the bedroom, thinking longingly of his luxurious mattress and plush pillows and thick, warm comforter. He thought longingly of other things, too, and that was when Steve walked in the door.
Steve smiled when he saw Tony, an easy, warm smile that always made Tony’s stomach flip over on itself. Just seeing him made Steve happy, and that could break Tony if he thought about it too much.
Instead he draped his towel over his shoulders and offered his husband a smile. “Hey.”
Steve was wearing lounging clothes – sweatpants and an old t-shirt that looked like it had lived through more wars than the man himself. He was barefoot and he looked relaxed and happy. Tony wanted to use him as a human pillow and see if some of that relaxation could ease into Tony himself through osmosis.
“Hey.” Steve closed the door behind him. “I have actually been wanting to talk to you.”
And like that, whatever tension he’d managed to lose in the shower came back with a vengeance. He could feel his shoulders stiffen and his stomach clenched with a nauseating twist entirely different from the acrobatics it had been doing at the sight of Steve’s smile just minutes ago. “Can we not?”
“I – sorry?” Steve paused on the far side of the bedroom and blinked at him.
“Just – you know. Not tonight?” Tony found himself clutching at the belt to his robe and forced himself to let go. “Whatever I did, can we just pretend it’s all worked out, and talk about it tomorrow?” He tried to make it sound like a joke and was painfully aware of his failure.
“Hey.” Steve crossed the room in several long strides and stepped into Tony’s space, sliding his hands over Tony’s cheeks to cup his jaw. “Baby, what brought that on?”
“Sorry.” Tony closed his eyes for a minute and exhaled slowly. “Shit, Steve, I’m sorry. Of course we can talk. I’m just tired and it’s been a shitty day, but you didn’t deserve that.”
Steve pressed a soft kiss against Tony’s mouth. “You didn’t do anything wrong,” he said quietly. “You know it kills me when you assume everything is your fault.”
Tony sighed and curled his fingers around one of Steve’s wrists. “It’s just been a shitty day.”
Steve kissed him again, a little more firmly this time, and let his hands slide back to clasp around the back of Tony’s neck. “Do you want to tell me about it?”
The very thought of reliving the day only made him more exhausted. “Is it okay if I don’t? It’s nothing bad,” he added, “nothing dangerous. Just… work shit, you know?”
“I may have experienced a day or two like that in my lifetime,” Steve said a little dryly. “You look tired.”
“I feel tired,” Tony admitted. Down to his bones and the shower and this brief conflict with Steve had only made him feel it more. “What did you want to talk to me about?”
Steve kissed him a third time, then a fourth, then again, worrying at Tony’s bottom lip with his teeth. “It can wait. Just some ideas for upgrading the training room. We’ll talk about it tomorrow if you have time.” He ran one hand through Tony’s hair, brushing it away from his forehead and probably making it stand on end. “Or it can wait for the next team meeting. You need some rest.”
“I didn’t get to kiss you goodbye this morning,” Tony said. He leaned forward and rested his head against Steve’s shoulder, letting his husband bear the majority of his weight. “It ruined everything. I should never be allowed to leave without a goodbye kiss again.”
Steve pressed a kiss against his ear. “I’ll do my best. Come on. Let’s get you into bed.”
Steve bundled him into the bathroom where he did everything short of brush Tony’s teeth for him. He stood behind Tony while he cleaned up, finger combing Tony’s damp hair and pressing little kisses against Tony’s neck. “Drink some water,” Steve said, sliding his hands around Tony’s waist in a loose embrace. “It’ll make you feel better.” He brushed his own teeth quickly and ran the tap till it was good and cold and filled the glass with water, then pulled a jar of multi-vitamins out of the medicine cabinet and shook one out onto his palm.
“Come on,” he said, and Tony let Steve slide the robe off his shoulders and sit him down on the side of the bed. Steve held the vitamin out but Tony grinned and opened his mouth instead.
Steve rolled his eyes at him, but popped the pill into Tony’s mouth and handed him the water. “Drink. You’re pale. I don’t want you getting sick.” He pressed a kiss against the top of Tony’s head, and one hand brushed lightly over the arc reactor. Tony didn’t want to get sick either, coughing was murder with a ton of metal embedded in your chest and compressing your lungs.
Tony gulped the water, and damned if it didn’t make him feel a little better almost immediately. “All done, Mom.”
Steve took the cup from him and set it on the bedside table. “If I’m your mother we have a real problem,” he said. He was smiling down at Tony, one hand cupping Tony’s jaw, his thumb brushing over Tony’s lips. “For example, I’m almost certain being married is going to get awkward really fast.”
Tony caught Steve’s hand in his and tugged on it so he could press a kiss to Steve’s palm. “How do you do it?” he asked quietly. “How do you make everything better with a cup of water and a couple of kisses? How do you make me right again so easily?”
“The same way you do for me,” Steve said. He brushed his knuckles across Tony’s cheek. “The same way you push back the nightmares with a word. The same way you fight off the panic and the loneliness just by saying my name. Being loved cures a lot of ills. Being loved by you sets my world right side up no matter how askew it’s gone.” He slid onto the bed beside Tony and pulled him into his arms. “Come on. Let me put things right for you.”
He pulled Tony against his chest and settled them back against the pillows, then pulled the comforter up from the foot of the bed and bundled it around them until they were all but cocooned beneath it.
Tony pressed his face against Steve’s throat, kissed the pulse he found there. “Kiss me again,” he demanded.
Steve obeyed that order as he did few others, kissing Tony slow and deep; he was almost lazy, as if they had all the time in the world, yet each time he pulled back he reclaimed Tony’s mouth quickly, as if he couldn’t stand to stop.
Tony could taste the peroxide toothpaste Steve liked. He could smell the lingering traces of his shampoo and the cologne Steve liked to wear. He could hear Steve’s heartbeat and the quick drag of Steve’s breath. He could feel himself getting hard, a slow burn that made his blood warm and his heart pound, and he could feel Steve stir against his thigh in response. He could feel the way Steve’s hands gripped at his back and his hip, holding him tight but carefully, like something Steve couldn’t stand to lose hold of.
He could feel his world being put right.
“God,” he said into the space between them. “God, how did I ever do this without you?”
“I’m not ever going to let you remember,” Steve said in a low voice.