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Crucible

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The Soldier

Steve never needs an alarm clock. There’s something in his brain now, some tiny fantastic mechanism that is always aware of the time. If he decides he wants to wake up at 5 AM, he’ll wake at five on the nose, just as the horizon starts lightening with the first hint of morning. And he doesn’t wake slowly, not like he used to before the serum. It’s always a quick process, a sharp snap of the eyes and a jolt in his arms, as though his body doesn’t know the space between sleeping and waking anymore.

Tony is the polar opposite, and Steve lives vicariously through his languorous early morning routine. The alarm will chime, a calm soothing noise or a sharp blare, the buzz of the radio or the clarion tones of a bell; JARVIS is always trying different audio files in an attempt to force Tony into punctuality. Inevitably, though, the inventor grumbles and groans, turns in the bed, pulls the pillow over his ears. His sleep is so spotty and irregular that any time he does manage to slip into REM, he seems always reluctant to leave. Steve, if he times his run correctly, gets to watch this strange push and pull between inventor and AI. He gets to watch as Tony finally drags himself from bed, rumpled and bleary-eyed, barely coherent and strangely graceful in his lethargy.

It might be Steve’s favorite iteration of Tony, this soft, mumbling man who at least momentarily has forgotten to put on airs or flash his press smile or find a sharp retort to keep others at bay. Tony, when he’s hovering on the border of waking, accepts touches more easily, speaks more freely, and is less inclined to deflect Steve’s own soft words. Sometimes, if they don’t have pressing business, Steve will climb right back into bed with him and they might doze or they might have sweet, slow morning sex or they might just talk. And on today, of all days, that's really what Steve wants to do.

But he has a plane to catch, and just barely enough time to squeeze in a run before it. He looks out at the predawn light of Manhattan, the skyscrapers etched sharply against the pale sliver of morning, and briefly considers skipping his run and staying with Tony. He knows the restlessness will hit him hard, though, and in a metal can 30,000 feet up, there’s not any way he can spend that energy. So he pulls himself out of bed and hurriedly dons his sweats and a T-shirt. If he pushes himself, he can get in twelve miles and still have time for a shower before he has to be in the SHIELD transport for the airfield.

“Tony,” he says softly, leaning over and kissing the inventor’s cheek. “I just need you for a minute, sweetheart, and then you can go back to sleep.”

Morning

Tony groans softly, turning over on his side. “Said notta call me that,” he slurs, reaching blindly with his left hand. Steve plucks his fingers from the air and pulls them to his chest, squeezing fondly.

“But you never say what I should call you instead,” he teased, ghosting his lips over Tony’s morning stubble.

“Master a’ the Universe. Thought that was pretty clear.” His brown eyes slit open and he gives the barest hint of a crooked smile.

Steve hums and pulls back just enough that he can take in Tony’s whole expression. “Well, happy anniversary, Master of the Universe.”

“’S more like it,” Tony says, wriggling his hand free so he can pull the sheet up to his chin. His eyes slide closed again, and he burrows until only his nose and forehead are exposed. “Now let your master sleep.”

“Ok. Just wanted to let you know that I’m headed off on my run and then after that, it’s straight to Russia.”

Under the sheet, Tony’s groan is loud and resounding. “Forgot about that,” he mumbles, brow wrinkling “You’re ruining our anniversary.”

“No. Hydra’s ruining our anniversary. Blame them.”

“I will. So much blame. Mountains of it. You better kick some ass on our behalf.”

“They won’t know what hit ‘em.” Steve brushes one last kiss over the patch of Tony’s skin still visible and then stands. “I’ll be back by Friday and then we can have that nice romantic dinner like we planned. I’ll bring you back some Russian nesting eggs or something.”

“Vodka,” Tony demands, rolling even further into the pillow without Steve’s weight to counterbalance him.

“No, Tony.”

“Spoilsport,” he murmurs, but he’s already half-asleep again. “Stay safe.”

“Don’t worry,” says Steve as he strides out the door. “I’ll be back before you know it.”