Steve gets back from his mission abroad in the middle of the night, exhausted and grateful to be home. He’s happy to protect the world; he gave up his entire life to do it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not wearing.
Most of him wants to sink into his bed and get the most out of the few hours of sleep his body will allow him, but he’s lost a lot of fluids this past week in blood and sweat and he knows he’ll feel better tomorrow if he drinks a gallon or so of water now. (He’s pretty much used to his metabolism at this point, but every so often he’ll stop and wonder how on earth he consumes the things he does without vomiting or dying.) He takes the elevator to their shared living area to grab his jug from the fridge but aborts the task only a few steps into the living room.
“I was wondering when you were going to get back,” Tony says off-handedly, putting his tablet down and smiling. It’s then Steve notices what he’s wearing.
“That’s mine.” Tony looks down at the light blue sweatshirt he has on. Steve wears it all the time. It’s his favorite, because it fits him snugly, but it’s not too tight, like most things these days are. It’s far too big on Tony though. It hangs on him in not an unflattering way and the sleeves are rolled up several times, so Tony has use of his hands.
“I missed you,” he says simply and shrugs. He feels a rush of affection as he pictures Tony pulling on his sweatshirt, maybe taking a deep breath to smell the lingering remains of his cologne, and going about his daily routines: drinking his coffee, working in the lab, falling asleep on his work table. The image warms him to the bone and he needs to touch him again, needs to relieve the building ache he’s had since he left.
He takes a seat next to him on the couch and pulls him in close. Tony responds immediately, fitting their bodies together and offering his face up for a kiss, which Steve eagerly takes. His lips are chapped but warm and so familiar it makes him want to cry. When he reluctantly pulls away, he's close enough to see that Tony looks worse for wear than he's accustomed to. Dark circles mar his handsome face and he's struggling to keep his eyes open. Guilt spills through him.
“Tony, when was the last time you slept?”
Tony dodges his eyes. “I don’t know.”
“Like, three or four days. It’s happened before. It’s okay. I’m fine.”
If Tony’s being honest, which he unfortunately thinks he is, than it must’ve been before they got together, since Steve all but forces him to sleep, or at least to try, each night. The idea of Tony running himself raw makes him sick to his stomach and Steve is more than happy to put up with Tony’s complaints and snide comments in exchange for a couple extra years on his life.
“Come on, we’re going to bed.” Water could wait; Tony is more important anyway.
As Steve pulls him up from the couch, his eyes sparkle mischievously.
“Stop that,” he says, aiming for seriousness and falling short at bemused. “We’re going to sleep.”
“I know something that’ll make me fall asleep,” Tony purrs and Steve blushes, which only makes Tony’s Cheshire grin spread further across his face.
They get to his bedroom and he pushes Tony toward the bed before he takes a quick shower to get rid of the last of sweat and dirt off of him. When he gets out, he finds Tony already curled in his sheets with his back to him, so he slips under the covers behind him and pulls his back to his chest.
“I don’t like when you go away,” Tony says and Steve hears the sincerity behind his stubborn façade.
“You leave too,” he points out. “You have your business trips.”
“You know you can come with me.”
“I know. But I couldn’t. What if the New York got attacked and they needed me?”
Tony mumbles something into a pillow that Steve doesn’t quite make out, but he knows Tony well enough to understand the gist of it. He presses a reassuring kiss to his shoulder and up his neck. Tony shifts and takes his lips in a soft, lingering kiss. They kiss lazily for a few minutes, enjoying the rediscovery of each other, until hands start to roam and breath starts to shorten.
Tony gets his way after all, winding Steve up until he pushes into Tony with a gentleness and sweetness that their sex doesn’t always have. They’re not just fucking tonight. Fucking doesn’t make you feel raw and vulnerable and so in love with this other person that you would rip your heart out if they asked. He takes it slow and steadily builds them up to a climax until Tony begs for it, nonsense words mixed in with Steve, Steve, Steve. They come together and, when Steve collapses on top of him, Tony holds him there, still inside, and he feels safe for the first time since he left.
Eventually, for fear of suffocating him, he pulls out and off and dutifully retrieves a towel to wipe them both off, before falling back into bed with a long, weary sigh. When he opens his eyes, he finds Tony staring at him.
“Hi,” he says.
“Hi, yourself,” Tony replies.
What Steve loves most about these moments after sex is that they’re his and only his. He alone can melt Tony’s wintry front to reveal the warm, affectionate eyes and flushed face and unforced smile of a perfect summer. His chocolate eyes are soft and fond and loving and Steve can’t help but gently touch his check and smile when he presses his face into it.
“I love you,” Tony says for the first time and Steve wants to scream; he wants to yell from rooftops how much he adores this man; he wants to hold him tightly and never let him go; but Tony would close up and rebuild the walls Steve has so carefully broken down, so instead he just smiles.
“I love you too.”
Before he drifts off, he makes a mental note to tell Tony to keep his sweatshirt. It looks better on him anyway.