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Before the Storm

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“Steve?”

He turned at the sound of his name, halting in the threshold of his and Tony’s borrowed bedroom, and found Laura standing behind him, two folded towels resting in her hands.  

“Here,” she said, smiling open and friendly, holding them out to him. “For you and Tony,” she explained. 

He took them, and smiled back at her, grateful. “Thank you. And not just for this, but everything. Letting us crash here. We all really appreciate it.”

She reached out, patted his arm and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “It’s our pleasure, Steve. The team is welcome here any time.” She gave him a wry smile and shrugged slightly. “Though, next time I hope that it’s under slightly better circumstances.”

The small laugh Steve let out was a little bit twisted and it caught in his throat, the sound dry and brittle on his tongue. Still, he managed a small grin and shook his head ruefully. “You and me both,” he said.

She patted his arm once more, and stepped back. “It’s late, you should get some rest,” she told him. “Clint’s making breakfast in the morning, you won’t want to miss that.”

“Ah, he cooks,” Steve remarked. “I didn’t know that.” He didn’t finish the sentence with what he was thinking; seems like there’s a lot of things I don’t know about my team. He wondered if Laura could tell. He hoped not.

If she did, she didn’t let on. She squeezed his arm again and started to leave, giving him one last wave before disappearing down the hallway. 

When she was gone, Steve ducked into the bedroom then and found Tony flaked out on the bed face down, his limbs strewn out across the bed in a rather haphazard fashion. The smallish room was dimly lit by the bedside lamp, the room quaint and cozy, exactly as he would expect a bedroom in a farmhouse to look. Wooden furniture, white walls, a vase of flowers sitting on the dresser. The bedspread Tony had collapsed on was brightly patterned, not so much that it was gaudy, but enough that it added a cheerful splash of color to the room. 

Tony craned his neck in what appeared to be an incredibly uncomfortable angle, and looked up when he heard Steve step inside and softly close the door behind him.

He grinned at him, and the expression was so familiar, but Steve can’t help but notice that it didn’t quite reach his eyes. He’s tired, and its apparent in his distant expression, the tightness around his lips that could be easily missed if he wasn’t actually looking. Of course, Steve was. 

“Hey, roomie,” Tony said, and Steve didn’t comment on the way his voice rasped over the words.

“Hey,” Steve said softly, and placed the towels on the dresser before crossing the room to the bed. He made a move to crawl onto the bed, but then he stopped when he realized he was still in his costume.

“What a tragedy that we ended up being in the same room together, huh,” Tony mumbled into the bedspread, not even bothering to turn his face away from where it was pressed into the blankets to speak. 

Steve scoffed under his breath, in the middle of letting the fabric of his uniform whisper across his skin, pooling around his waist before he pushed it down his legs. He stepped out of it, leaving himself wearing only underwear, and bent down to pick it up, only to lay it over the back of a nearby chair. 

“Whatever will we do?” Steve said mournfully, lowering himself onto the bed beside him, squirming to get underneath the covers. 

“Yeah, I bet you snore,” Tony groused.

“Uh huh,” Steve said amicably. They’d had this conversation before, and JARVIS had proved that yes, in fact, Steve did snore. “You kick though,” Steve pointed out.

Tony peeked over at him, barely raising his head to narrow his eyes at Steve,  who was currently burrowing himself into the blankets.

“Lies,” he said, and dropped his face into the covers again.

“Mmm,” Steve hummed, then reached over and flicked Tony’s ear. “Are you just gonna lay there in your clothes all night, or are you going to get in bed with me?”

Tony groaned animatedly, and rolled off the bed, landing clumsily on his feet and began immediately peeling himself out of his clothes. “Bit soon to be getting me out of my pants don’t you think?”

Steve rolled his eyes. “Trust me, I have no plans to prey on your virtue tonight, considering you look completely dead on your feet.”

Tony snorted, flung aside his pants in a heap on the floor and dove under the covers. “So you admit that you-oof.”

He was cut off mid sentence when Steve wrapped his hands around his hips, the familiar feeling of his waist fitting so perfectly in Steve’s hands, and pulled him against his side, wrapping his arms tightly around his lower back. 

After the initial moment of surprise at the way Steve frantically clutched at him, not even trying to hide how desperate he was for his touch, Tony relaxed into his embrace. He slid his arms around Steve’s neck, while Steve buried his face into the space where his neck met his shoulders. 

“Sorry,” Steve murmured into his skin, tightening his arms for a brief moment. “Been wanting to touch you all day.”

Tony didn’t answer at first, but Steve could feel him sag against him at his words, absorbing his warmth, letting it seep into his bones. After a day where everything felt like it was being ripped out of him and shoved back inside in a jumbled mess, finally being here in Tony’s arms, he finally felt some measure of relief and normalcy.

“Me too,” Tony whispered, and if his voice cracked a little bit, Steve wouldn’t judge. "Aren't you angry?"

"Yes," Steve admitted, a sigh on his breath. "Still love you."

Tony burrowed deeper into his arms, as if Steve was the only source of warmth in the entire world and he had to soak up as much of it as possible while he could. 

"Me too," Tony murmured.

Steve pressed a kiss light as a feather to his collarbone before drawing back just enough to look at Tony, his eyes intent and focused on him as he leaned forward to press their foreheads together.

“You alright?” he asked. A simple question, one that he could’ve asked any of the Avengers and it would have merit, but he knew that Tony heard all of the underlying questions that lingered just below the surface of the inquiry. 

Steve didn’t miss the faint grimace that creased Tony’s lips for the briefest moment, fading almost instantly, smoothed away as quickly as it appeared. “About as good as you’d expect,” Tony said dryly, “considering, you know, we’re on the brink of human extinction at the moment.”

He was trying to say it casually, Steve knew, but there was no mistaking the strained tone of his voice, the way his words trembled across his lips. For not the first time that day, Steve wished he could kiss that expression away, wipe away the guilt and exhaustion, even just for a moment. He was angry, yes. Frustrated. Scared. But he knew Tony was all of those things too, and the last thing he wanted was for Tony to look this worn down.

“Tony,” Steve said gently, and Tony winced, his body tensing up slightly under Steve’s touch.

“Can we not talk about it?” Tony sighed, squeezing his eyes shut. Steve’s heart panged painfully in his chest at that sight. “I created a murderous AI that wants to destroy all of humanity today and I just. I lost…” he trailed off, his grimace deepening. Steve knew better than to push him to finish, he knew how well that would go. Still, his heart ached.

Tony let out a long, heavy breath before continuing. “How do you talk about that? Not tonight. Just. Not tonight. Please?”

Steve bit back a sigh of his own, and pressed his hand into the small of Tony’s back in what he hoped was a comforting gesture. He brought his other hand up and pressed it against Tony’s cheek, causing Tony to open his eyes. He began to run his thumb lightly against the crest of his cheekbone, caressing his skin softly.

“We don’t have to talk about it,” Steve assured him, and he felt the relief run through Tony’s body like a current, the faint tautness of his muscles relaxing slightly. He leaned forward and pressed a kiss to Tony’s lips, which earned him a small contented noise and easy reciprocation. Tony’s arms tightened around his neck, and he leaned into the kiss, taking everything Steve gave to him and giving him back double. Steve felt himself relax too, not even realizing how tense he’d been; this familiarity, this normal thing that he’d done so many times with this man, gave him a few moments of peace. For just a few moments, all there was was the sound of Tony’s soft breath mingling with his own, the feeling of Tony’s lips under his.

For a moment, there was just this, and it was alright.

All too soon, Tony pulled away, bumping their noses together, melting into his arms. His eyes looked a little bit softer, at least, and Steve was glad that if anything, he could give Tony some form of comfort even for just a few moments.

“Don’t snore too loudly tonight,” Tony said, his voice dry and vaguely teasing.

Steve gave him a small smile and kissed him again, brief and only lingering for a few seconds. “I’ll try my best.”

Tony nodded, as if it was a serious matter, and scooted away from him, reaching for the lamp beside the bed and turning it off.

In the dark, he instantly returned to Steve’s side, blindly searching for him with his hands until they were wrapped around each other again. Most times Tony wouldn’t let himself be held for so long, so when he felt Tony so desperate for it, he knew he needed it.

They both did.

“Night, Tony,” he whispered, and Tony made a sleepy noise at the sound of his voice.

“Night,” he slurred back, clearly already fading into exhaustion. Steve was silent then, and let him.

Steve hugged him close, and kissed his hair, holding him tightly against his chest. There would be things to talk about in the morning; demons to face, battles to fight. But for now, there was just the silence and this man in his arms, warm and comforting, and just for now, he could pretend things were alright.

He’d learned a long time ago to treasure the present moments while he had them, and tonight wasn’t going to be the night that he forgot that. So he just held Tony close, and tried not to think of the truth; that while they lay here, broken and battered, this was the calm before the storm.