After months and months of painful fighting and circular discussions and truly impressive denial, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark finally get their act together and make something of what they have. And when they sleep together a few weeks later, it’s great, it’s awesome, it’s completely fucking transcendental.
But then Tony wakes up the next morning and Steve’s not there.
Tony is right in the middle of the cycle of panic to embarrassment to resignation when a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Steve comes in, two mugs of coffee and a supernova grin, and Tony sighs exasperatedly even while something warm unfurls in his chest because he’s fallen in love with a morning person again, god what do all these people have against sleeping in anyway.
It’s clearly quite something because for the next couple of weeks, Tony goes to a sleep with a wonderful warm body and wakes up the next morning to an empty and cold bed. On the rare days their schedules line up, Steve greets him with coffee or some eggs, but for the most part, it’s hours after waking that Tony gets his daily recommended dose of super-soldier smile.
Until one night when Tony bolts upright from a nightmare, chest heaving.
He leans forward and rubs at his eyes with the heel of his hands, trying desperately to slow his heart because surely this can’t be good for it. Eventually the sound of his breath in his ears fades enough for him to realize the room is eerily silent, leading him to a frown. After all he’d been through, he’d have thought Steve a light sleeper for sure. A glance left answers his question - the bed next to him is missing the person who’d been there just a couple of hours ago.
Thinking maybe Steve was facing his own share of nighttime demons (god, what a fucking pair they made), Tony tosses aside the blankets and picks a pair of boxers off the floor, stepping into them on his way out the bedroom.
He doesn’t have to go far. Steve is fast asleep on the living room couch, a bed pillow tucked under his head and a big crocheted blanket covering him from shoulder to toe. Tony peers at him from over the back of the couch and realizes suddenly there’s a sheet under Steve’s body, tucked neatly into the edge of the couch. It doesn’t take much of his genius intellect to figure that Steve hadn’t unintentionally fallen asleep out here.
“What the hell?” Tony blurts out and then scrambles back when Steve jumps up, his shield in hand, and where the hell had that come from?
“Tony?” Steve says, blinking dazedly. His muscles unclench and suddenly Captain America is gone and the Steve Rogers that is left behind is a loose bundle of sheepishness.
“Have you been sleeping out here the whole time?” Tony asks him, because seriously, what the hell.
“I…” Steve rubs at the back of his neck, which, Tony can see in the lights JARVIS has helpfully raised for them, is bright red. “Not the whole time,” he tries.
Steve looks like a deer caught in headlights. Tony just waits, tapping his foot. He has his suspicions but he’s not going to be the first to voice them.
“I didn't want to hurt your feelings— “
Tony raises an eyebrow. “So you thought lying to me would be better?”
“Okay, that was dumb, but I just needed some time to— ”
“To what? To convince yourself you wanted this? Look, Steve, you don’t have to stay in bed out of some warped sense of honor. This is the 21st century, it’s perfectly acceptable to just want a simple fuck. Trust me, I know,” Tony says wryly. His nightmare and the late hour have left him feeling raw and off-kilter, which probably explains the ache in his chest as he speaks. “I’m no stranger to the love ‘em and leave ‘em concept. So if that’s what you want, we can do that. You just have to say the word.”
Steve is staring at him like he’s grown another head. In an absurd moment, Tony realizes abruptly that he’s wearing nothing but what a quick glance tells him are actually Steve’s boxers. Perhaps not the best way to convince someone you don’t want more than a quick fuck.
“Is that what you think?” Steve cries, all previous traces of embarrassment gone. “After everything we’ve been through, everything we’ve said to each other—” He cuts himself off with a frustrated noise. “I thought we’d gotten past this.”
“Yeah, clearly,” Tony snaps back, gesturing angrily at the couch between them.
Steve plants his hand on the back of the couch and vaults over it, lands with a thump right in front of Tony. “I love you, Tony. I don’t want to ‘love you and leave you’,” he says, a look of distaste on his face as he paraphrases Tony’s words. “I’m all in. And I know you are too.” He tilts his head, rests his forehead against Tony’s and Tony closes his eyes against the intensity in those brilliant blue eyes. “Okay?” Steve breathes against Tony’s skin, his hand cupping his jaw.
Tony just stays there for a moment, trying to bring his world back to center. “Okay,” Tony replies on an inhale, as if he can breathe in the assurances Steve had put into the air between them.
“Good,” Steve whispers and presses a soft kiss against Tony’s lips.
Tony kisses back, tilts his head and parts his lips a little and suddenly the sweet affirmation Steve was making turns into something much more and it’s only when Steve’s mouth moves down Tony’s jaw to his throat, when Tony’s eyes flutter open and he catches a glimpse of the couch, that he remembers why he was out here in the first place.
“Wait,” he gasps, puts his hand on Steve’s shoulders and pushes gently and Steve immediately steps back, drops his hands from where they’d been sliding towards Tony’s bottom. “You still haven’t—” Tony explains when Steve’s eyebrows ask a question. “The couch,” Tony says. “Why, then?”
The blush is creeping back up over Steve’s face and Tony is so, so utterly curious about what the hell it is that’s making him react like that.
“Is it the light?” Tony tries. He sweeps a hand down his bare torso. “The arc reactor? Because it took Pepper a little while to get used to it too. I can sleep in a shirt, a sweater or something if— “
“No, no, it’s not that,” Steve hastens to reassure. “I— I find the light kinda soothing, actually.”
He offers no more than that and his entire body is screaming that he’d rather do anything than talk about this. So despite his curiosity, and despite the fact that it’s not, not really, Tony just sighs and says, “It’s okay.” He rubs his eye, suddenly reminded of how completely exhausted he really is. “We don’t have to talk about this tonight. You can just—“ He swallows down the hurt, tucks away the stupid neediness, and continues, “I’m going to go to sleep in there.” He thumbs over his shoulder. “And you can just go back to sleep here. And…yeah,” he finishes lamely. “So goodnight then,” and before Steve can say anything, he pecks him on the lips and turns for the door.
It’s stupid, it’s all so stupid, he’s a grown man and Steve is a grown man and if he wants to sleep somewhere else then who the hell is Tony to—
“I’ve never done this before,” Steve blurts out and Tony freezes in the doorway.
He hears Steve’s heavy gait approach but doesn’t turn, not even when he can feel Steve’s breath on the back of his neck, sending goosebumps tingling down his spine.
“I’ve never…slept with someone like this. I mean, in the army, we were all huddled close together but not— and it’s not like I don’t like it – the cuddling, I mean – because I do.” Steve takes Tony by the hand and gently tugs. Tony turns obediently. “I love lying there with you in my arms, talking about nothing, talking about everything, or not even talking at all, just being there, enjoying each other. But then we go to sleep, and you’re in my arms and—” Steve swallows, and god, his face is so red Tony’s legitimately afraid he might combust. He watches in fascination as Steve takes a deep breath and a steely determination takes over, pushing all the uncertainty away. “And it’s— it’s so hot! How the hell do people do this every single night? It’s hot and there are too many limbs and even though I can’t sleep my arm sure as hell can and I don’t want to wake you to move you but I’m afraid one day my arm might actually fall off and then what will I do? Because I need my arm, Tony! The super-serum did not make me ambidextrous! And I— are you laughing?”
Tony locks his jaw and shakes his head and when that doesn’t work, slaps a hand over his mouth.
Steve’s eyes are wide. “I can’t believe you’re—“ Steve throws his hands up. “And you wonder why I didn’t tell you!” He starts to storm off but Tony, mirth suddenly dissipated, snaps a hand out and catches him by the bicep.
“No, wait, Steve, I’m sorry.” He takes a deep breath. “You’re— I shouldn’t have laughed at you, you’re right. But if I’m laughing, all it means is that I’m not crying over how much of a cradle robber I feel like right now.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” Steve asks dryly, tugging his arm out of Tony’s grasp.
“No, and let’s forget I said that and not talk about it ever or I’m going to develop some sort of complex.” Steve’s mouth is opening so Tony hurries on to his next sentence. “We can just sleep, you know.” Steve’s lips linger apart, whatever he’d been about to say put on pause. “We don’t have to be—” Tony waves his hands around vaguely, then brings them together and twines his fingers “—entangled.” He lifts his joined hands to Steve’s eyeline. “Sex,” he says, and he pushes his hands flat together. “Cuddling,” he says, twisting his hands and wrapping them around each other. And then he pulls his hands apart, holding them parallel to each other with a small space between them. “Sleep,” he finishes and drops his hands back to his side with a shrug. “I mean, if you want to,” he adds, nonchalant. “But I—” He swallows, sucks his bottom lip in between his teeth. “I’d like it if you did. You know, sleep. In there.” He thumbs over his shoulder again, towards the bedroom behind him. “With me.”
Steve looks down at the floor for a long moment, studying his feet. “I—” he starts, then glances up at Tony through those damn lashes and Tony’s heart stumbles. He’s not sure he wants to hear the rest of Steve’s sentence. “I think I’d like that too,” Steve finishes, the sweetest of smiles on his lips.
Tony can’t take it anymore and he wraps a hand around the back of Steve’s neck and tugs him down for a deep kiss.
When they break apart, Steve’s smile has bloomed into a goofy grin; Tony knows he’s wearing one to match. “Alright,” he says and drops his hand to Steve’s waist. “This has taken more than enough of my rare and thus incredibly valuable sleep time. Think you’re ready to come to bed tonight? Though on second thought,” he says, dropping his hand to Steve’s ass and squeezing, “that might not be the best thing for my sleep time right now.”
Steve slings an arm over Tony’s shoulder. “For the record,” he says, starting them off towards the bedroom, “these conversations would go a lot faster if you were wearing more than just my underwear.”
“Yeah probably,” Tony replies, “but where’s the fun in that?”
It turns out Steve isn’t actually a morning person at all, not by choice, and the first time Tony sees the usually perfectly-coiffed Steve with disastrous bedhead and crusty eyes, he laughs so hard he falls off the bed.