He’s halfway through soldering an SMD capacitor when his stomach rumbles and he realizes he hasn’t eaten in a little over twenty-four hours. Tony has access to high explosives, can disassemble and reassemble a pistol in the time it would take a normal person to tie their shoes, can even manage to half decently balance a dual career as a somewhat normal human being and the coolest superhero in the Western Hemisphere – he can’t lay claim to being able to keep normal hours. That would be too much.
He wonders if Steve is still up, but JARVIS lets him know that it’s shortly after three in the morning, and even Steve isn’t that much of a night owl. Tony thinks he might be able to get a solid hour and a bit of snuggling up next to that super-serum warmth, maybe even some pre-sunrise bonding before Steve leaves for his run if he’s lucky. The thought makes cleaning up and getting a post-midnight, early morning snack seem much more worth it than just working through the night.
The workshop is quiet, cool and dry, just the way Tony likes it to be this early in the morning. It’s the most peaceful time to work; Dummy and You and Butterfingers are either at their charging stations or trying to help, even if they’re not very good at it. Dummy has his arm leaning up against Tony’s side, and Tony won’t admit it to anyone, but the contact is a little comforting. He pats Dummy’s claw and wipes the soldering iron on its pad, then sets it on his worktable. The circuitry can wait, but his stomach cannot. This is an indisputable fact. Tony launches himself from his seat, wipes his hands on an old rag, and heads for the door.
“Bedtime, boys!” He calls to the bots, turning and walking backwards so he can face them, “Dummy, remember to read your brothers a story, you know they can’t sleep without it. You likes Robert Munsch, but you can’t cater to him forever! I say Roald Dahl, but in the end the choice is yours.”
He likes to talk to them like that. It makes them feel like more than just machines. They’re family, after all.
“Kill the lights, J."
Tony tiptoes up the stairs. Dummy chirps behind him, like he’s reading a story book and doing all the voices.
There’s nothing in the fridge, but Tony makes it work. He fills a bowl with dry Frosted Flakes, and manages to scrounge up enough peanut butter for half a piece of bread. Steve won’t be happy to find that Tony’s left the heel of the loaf and a torn, discard scrap behind, but that’s a kind of guilt he can live with, he thinks.
The peanut butter makes the roof of his mouth sticky, and there’s no milk, and the cereal makes everything worse, but hey – he’s fed, now. The kitchen is dark and the fridge is flung wide open, throwing an eerie, white glow into every corner and crevice. The kitchen islands cast dark shadows onto the walls.
Somewhere, in the distance, Tony can hear music. He likes to tell people that the whole tower is soundproof, but sometimes, every now and then, he’ll catch a bar or two of the latest Billboard Hot 100 single, or he’ll hear the flat, blunt sounds of fists and feet when someone’s training in the gym. He wonders who’s up this early. Probably Natasha.
Truth is, Tony likes having people in the tower. It’s easy for him to moan and gripe when Clint is stealing his food, or when there’s too many people in the common room, but when it really comes down to it, he likes it. He likes Sunday mornings when they're all crowded in the kitchen, making breakfast, cracking jokes and eggs in turn. He likes movie nights, especially when popcorn is involved and he can pick the movie. Tony doesn't often think in terms of permanence, but he's steadily accumulating a mass of people that don't look they're all about to turn tail and leave. And that's something new for him.
He'll never say that to any of them, of course. But he means it. All of it.
"What on earth are you doing?" Steve asks from the doorway, more resigned and amused than anything terribly bad. Tony stops with his hand pressed against his mouth, crunching dry cereal slowly. When he can speak, he does, and he does it with dignity.
"I was hungry," he explains, like eating cereal and bread at three in the morning is something that people do all the time, "We really need to go grocery shopping, by the way. You're really dropping the ball."
Steve isn't a stick in the mud. He sometimes has a stick up his ass, maybe, but that's more of an spur of the moment type thing, and he's usually wearing spangly tights when those particular moments of belligerence and by-the-book character defects rear their ugly heads. Here in the kitchen, though? This is Steve, the soft, genuine Steve that Tony loves. This is Steve Rogers, the good man from Brooklyn who lied on enlistment forms to help his country, the history nerd with the surprising aptitude for electronics and the strange affinity for emojis (once he got the hang of it all). Tony's one of a very limited selection of people who get to see this Steve - he treasures the honor like a soldier treasures his war medals. He wears it on his skin like battle scars. This is mine, this part of him belongs to me, they say proudly, and if people can't hear them, well. Is that really so much of a problem?
"It's three in the morning. Little late for cereal."
"Late for you, maybe. I'm just getting an early start to the morning."
Steve doesn't like that Tony doesn't sleep regularly, or eat regularly, Tony knows it. He gives Tony his space anyway, lets him operate the way he has to, the way he's used to. What's the point in trying to change him? He smiles at Tony and steps into the glow of the fridge, leans up against the kitchen island to look at Tony.
He's shirtless, all those muscles under taut skin, and Tony can't help but appreciate Steve like he's artwork. And he is. The light hits his eyes in a way that makes them a shadowy blue, soft and kind and quiet.
"You should sleep," Steve suggests, crossing his arms, "You could use the rest. Those robots today wore us all down."
Tony puts the cereal bowl down and offers Steve a half smile, "I've almost figured out the circuitry I'm working on. Sleep does sound good though. Are you offering your company, darling?"
Steve grins. He pushes himself from the kitchen island with barely any effort and slinks around it, pulling Tony into his arms. Tony can feel Steve's chin resting on the top of his head, enveloped in all that warmth, and he can honestly say he loves this man, loves the comfort he gives and the kindness he offers. Tony snakes his arms around Steve's back and leans into the embrace. When he feels Steve move, Tony looks up, and he's pulled into a kiss. It's slow and soft, a gentle press of lips. They pull apart, reluctant, until Tony brings him back, fingers curling around Steve's bicep, tongue dipping into his mouth. Steve tastes like mint toothpaste and peppermint mouthwash. Tony is sure he probably tastes like peanut butter and stale frosted flakes, but Steve doesn't seem to mind, or at least he doesn't complain.
After a while, they stop search for each other's mouths, and Tony lets his head test against Steve's chest. He can hear the steady thrum of his heart, thump thump thump, a steady reminder that Steve is here, happy and healthy and warm, and that this isn't a dream. That's a nice change, too. Steve sways with him back and forth, their figures casting shadows into the wall. The fridge is still open, but no one's complaining about the cold.
The music filters back into the room. It's slow, sweet, something Tony can imagine hearing at their wedding. He thinks about that. It would be nice to be able to have that little bit of peace. A day to declare to the world that he is loved, that he deserves to be loved.
They dance around the kitchen in the refrigerator light until Tony starts to get sleepy. Steve kisses the corner of his mouth and closes the fridge.
The sun has just barely broken the horizon, all gold and red and pink through the tall windows. Tony has a particular fondness for the view of New York that he gets from their bed. He can see the skyscrapers, glass paneled and monstrous, and all the people below. The city is buzzing with activity, bathed in the glow of the sun and the peace of the early morning. Steve's arm curls tightly around his waist. His skin is warm against Tony's back, and he melts a little, content and sated and woozy with sleep.
"I love you," Steve says. Tony rests his head back against Steve's body.
"You'll be here in the morning?" Tony asks, and Steve kisses his temple.
It's four thirty in the morning. Down in the workshop, his bots are resting. Natasha is sparring with Clint in the gym. Bruce is brewing a cup of tea.
It's a new day. The circuitry can wait.