At first he just thought it was his imagination. Then he thought maybe it was his “old age” catching up to him and he was just misplacing a few things. But after opening the drawer that normally held his workout shirts and realizing it was empty, Steve came to the conclusion that his things were missing.
He frowned but went to the workout room that Tony had built especially for Steve in mind. He used the punching bag and lost track of time until Tony was suddenly in the doorway staring at him.
“Hi, Tony, anything I can help you with?” Steve asked, picking up the towel by his side to swipe at the sweat rolling down from his face to his chest.
“No, no, you’ve done enough.” Tony’s eyes followed Steve’s towel. “The shirtless look is really working for you.” Tony smirked.
“My shirts have gone missing,” Steve explained. “You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”
“What? No, why would I? It’s not like I do laundry or even know where the laundry room is. Besides, your shirts would be way too big for me to wear. I’d be practically swimming in them and why would I want your workout shirts if I did want any of your clothing? They probably smell even after being washed.” Tony grabbed his phone out of his pocket. “Well I’ve got work to do. See ya later, Cap.”
Steve frowned as he watched Tony mock salute him before walking swiftly down the hall. Normally Tony went on longwinded rants for a purpose; to expose the truth, to figure something out, or to hide something from Pepper.
He turned back to the punching bag and continued as he worked over Tony’s unusual even for Tony behavior. Eventually he stopped, after his third punching bag because he felt bad for breaking more than three a day and didn’t want to risk anymore, and went up to Tony’s room. He knocked politely and waited.
Tony opened the door looking like a zombie in an over sized shirt and boxers. His hair was sticking up in all directions and there was a crease on his face presumably from a pillow. “This is the first time in four days I decided to actually get more than two hours of sleep. If the world isn’t in danger I’m going back to bed.”
Steve blushed lightly as he realized it was the middle of the night. “I’m so sorry, Tony; I didn’t realize how late it was. I’ll let you get back to sleep and—hey,” Steve narrowed his eyes as he stared at Tony’s shirt. “Is that my shirt?”
Tony’s eyes widened as he resembled the living for a moment. “No. Goodnight.” He slammed the door in Steve’s face making the super soldier take a step back before his face could actually be hit. He frowned and knocked again. Then he knocked again.
“Tony,” he called as he reached for the door handle. The door opened before he could grip it and suddenly he was being handed a pile of shirts.
“Fine you can have them back. I didn’t realize I had taken so many of them.” Tony scowled at being caught and stared at Steve as though he was the one in the wrong. Steve stared pointedly at the shirt Tony was still wearing. “I’m keeping this one.” Tony declared. “For now, I’ll switch it out for another one in a few days or something, okay? I’ll just starting switching them around in a routine so it works out for everyone. Does that work for you?”
“Why did you take my shirts in the first place?” Steve asked.
“Uh, they’re comfy to sleep in?” Tony’s smile faltered as Steve continued to wait for an answer. “This was all some sort of perverted plan to get you to workout shirtless.” Tony leered and Steve rolled his eyes. Tony had been openly flirting with him ever since things fell apart with Pepper. He had gotten used to it especially since Tony did it with Bruce and Clint too. Thor didn’t seem to understand the concept and Tony wasn’t suicidal enough to try anything with Natasha.
“Tony, it’s past three in the morning. I’ll let you go back to sleep if you just tell me the truth.” Steve pressed.
Tony sighed and scrubbed at his face. “I have trouble staying asleep.” He leaned against his doorway. “Nightmares, you know.” He shrugged a shoulder as Steve nodded. He knew all about nightmares and waking up shivering in the middle of the night to look around a room, confused and alone.
“I found one of your shirts in the hallway one day. You must have dropped it from your laundry basket or something which is ridiculous because you use a legitimate laundry basket.” Steve raised an eyebrow and Tony rolled his eyes. “So I was going to return it but I had just finished a big project and I kinda passed out in my room using your shirt as a pillow.” Tony’s eyes dropped to the floor. “I woke up from a nightmare and the first thing I smelled was your shirt and it calmed me down.”
“My shirt smelling calmed you down?” Steve questioned.
“Your shirts smell like you, Steve, like freedom,” he quipped but stated seriously, “and like safety.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “I kinda started sleeping in your shirt after that because it helped after nightmares. But then it stopped smelling like you and started smelling like me so I took another one. Then another one and apparently I didn’t stop until I had them all.” He shrugged one shoulder. “At least I wasn’t taking them and using them as jerk off material or anything.”
“Tony,” Steve frowned.
“It’s after three and I’m exhausted, okay? My brain to mouth filter isn’t working or else I probably wouldn’t have told you anything.” Tony scrubbed at his face with his own frown.
Steve nodded, knowing that Tony only really opened up to people when he was incredibly drunk or incredibly tired. “Let’s get you to bed then.” He crowded his way into the room and dropped his pile of shirts next to the door.
Tony stared at him as Steve walked over to his bed and crawled under the covers. “This is my weirdest dream ever but I normally never complain about them when they end with you in my bed.”
“Tony, close the door and come here.” Steve ordered, rolling onto his side to face the middle of the bed. He heard the door click shut and felt the bed dip as Tony sat down. The sheets shifted and then Tony was lying next to him, staring up at the ceiling.
Smiling, Steve moved and wrapped an arm around Tony’s waist to pull him closer and snuggled up against him. “Sorry if I don’t exactly smell like freedom right now.” Steve joked after he realized he has only toweled off after his workout.
Tony scoffed a small laugh. “You smell like you, Steve.” Tony turned his head slightly to chance a look at Steve.
“Good, maybe that will make sure that you don’t have any nightmares tonight.” Steve tossed one leg over Tony’s as he settled into a more comfortable position.
Tony remained tense for a few minutes but Steve waited patiently, focusing on evening out his breathing. Then Tony relaxed and turned into the embrace. “Thanks,” he murmured.
“Anytime,” Steve promised as they both got a restful night’s sleep.