Tony doesn’t sleep, because sleep isn’t safe.
It was roughly two in the morning on a chilly Wednesday (or maybe even Thursday) in early April, and Tony was wide awake. He hadn’t yet gotten to sleep, hadn’t in a day or two, because he couldn’t get his brain to turn off. He had too many ideas he wanted to explore, too many equations to solve, and far too many little strands of caffeine buzzing in his veins from the likely dangerous amounts of coffee he’d (inhaled) consumed hours prior.
His fingers lightly tapped on the mattress beneath him, itching to be back in his lab with his tools in hand; the smell of oil and sweat, and the sound of rock music vibrating through the concrete structure. Tony’s lab was where he felt safest, and whenever he was out of it – even in the Iron Man suit – it made him anxious.
Behind him there was a shifting movement and Tony sucked a breath in through his nose. “Stop,” came a calm, soft mutter from his back. A hand slid lazily down Tony’s arm and towards his drumming fingers, stronger fingers slipping between the spaces of his own and gently squeezing hard enough to cease their movements. The thumb brushed along the side of his hand and Tony exhaled the breath he was holding as his fingers instinctively curled around the ones gripping him.
Tony stared at the blue glow of his arc reactor against the window covers across from him. He could hear it quietly whirring in his chest – a sound so normal to him now it was inaudible unless broken or thought of – mixed with the steady rhythm of breathing drifting from the other side of the bed. It was peaceful and quiet and Tony wanted to scream. To break something. Anything.
He had so much energy he was practically shaking. Or maybe he actually was. Tony couldn’t really tell. The perfect blue circle created by his chest ornament stared right back at him with a steady glow. Almost pulsating, though Tony knew that was just his eyes trying to adjust properly without any other source of lighting to take in.
He was thirsty, and really wanted more coffee. There was still so much Tony had to do and he shouldn’t be just lying in bed wasting the time away. He should be fixing the small glitch in his suit’s wiring (nothing big, but a nuisance all the same), or working on those arrows he promised Clint, or giving Dummy an upgrade for loyalty over the years. He should be working on a larger scale of clean energy because the entire borough of Manhattan alone could –
“Tony;” The same voice from before broke through Tony’s rapid thought process and dropped him back in the bed. “Stop thinking. You’re freaking out.” It was heavy with sleep but still patiently calm and Tony mentally cursed himself out for disrupting sleep patterns yet again.
“’m not freaking out,” he quietly answered, blinking at the reactor’s reflection. A light humming noise ran through his muscles.
“JARVIS says your heart’s racing.”
Tony scoffed. “JARVIS can keep his mouth shut.”
Overhead a dry, “A physical impossibility, sir,” filled the room. Tony opened his mouth to snap something back but caught the words before they escaped because he didn’t need to argue with his AI when others were trying to sleep.
The hand trapping his own moved up along the bed, dragging Tony’s along with it, until it settled over the hard casing of the arc reactor and blocked out the glow. A strong arm pulled Tony back until he could feel himself pressed along a warm solidness that always startled him for a few seconds.
It was a familiarity he still hadn’t quite gotten used to.
“Stop thinking,” was whispered right against Tony’s ear. “Just close your eyes and stop thinking for a minute.” A leg forced (without much resistance) its way between Tony’s, tangling around Tony’s and immobilizing him from any sudden movements as if knowing Tony would try to run. Run back to his lab where he felt – “You’re safe, Tony. Right here, with me. I won’t let anything happen to you.”
Steve was there.
Steve was always there. Had been ever since the Avengers formed and their petty initial bickering dissolved into actual conversation and mutual respect. Love – or what Tony could manage of such a foreign feeling.
Steve was there when Tony wasn’t in his lab to protect him (though Steve was more often in the lab than not, too).
Steve made sure Tony ate and bathed and talked to actual people. Steve was there when Tony’s mind got going too fast for his body to keep up and sent him into flashbacks and panic attacks and, when he’d pass out from going too long without sleep he couldn’t physically stay conscious, nightmares of nearly dying in a tiny cave.
Steve was always there.
With another sharp inhale, Tony forced his eyes shut and squeezed the hand over his reactor.
Steve was still there.
And Steve was where Tony felt safest of all.