There are still nights where despite everything he tries, Steve can not sleep. Nights where his memories grip him tight and refuse to let him go. He see's his men dying, he see's Bucky falling away, and he see's himself getting closer and closer to the water until, finally, he's under it all. He's choking on water and ice and no matter how hard he kicks there is no way he can break the surface.
The doctors call it PTSD and Steve guesses that’s as good a name as any. What they don’t tell him is a sure way to fix it. They give him suggestions and he smiles and nods and promises to call them if he has any questions even when he knows he wont. He wont call when he feels like he can't breath or when every thing flashes before him too fast and too slow to hold onto. He wont call when he can't sleep at night or when he feels himself get so low that it’s a miracle he's able to get out of bed in the morning. He wont call because there's nothing they can do to make it stop.
Steve breaths in and out, calming breaths to prevent himself from hyperventilating. He knows from experience that once he starts that, its hard to come back.
He feels the water dragging him down, the little breath he managed to take rapidly running out.
The ice is more painful than he would have thought. Its sharp, stinging him in a million places. Is ice supposed to burn this much?
Please don’t panic.
He grips his shield in his hands and kicks but gets nowhere. The serum was supposed to make him better, he should be able to get out of this. He cant, he cant, he cant breath. He feels like he did when he was younger and smaller. There is no air and every time he tries to pull some in it hurts. Its like an asthma attack times ten.
The fight leaves his body and his eyes fall shut. This is it, he's dead. He's dead, he's dead, he should be dead.
Steve throws the covers off of his body and sits up right, hand against his chest.
His breath leaves him in one go and he feels it then, the ice water in his throat. The burn on his skin. He gags on it, he tries to pull in the air but there is no air. He's drowning all over again. He's alive when he should be dead and he's still drowning. He doesn't know if he'll ever stop drowning.
Steve grips the sheets in his hands and forces his lungs to work. He can do this, he's Captain America for goodness sake.
He isn't drowning. There is no water, there is no war, nobody is dying. He's in bed. He's at home. His home is Stark tower. He's in the future. He's safe. Over and over again until his breathing evens out and his grip on his sheets loosens.
Steve lets out a breath and closes his eyes. There's no way he's sleeping tonight. He swings his legs over the edge of the bed and plants his feet firmly on the ground. He stands up straight, gives one last longing look to his bed and then walks forward. One foot in front of the other until he finds himself in the elevator, staring at the buttons trying to decide where he plans to go that night.
Most nights he goes to the gym to swing at the punching bag until he doesn’t see or feel anything but the bag in front of him. His hand hovers over the button but all he feels is a bone deep tiredness that he rarely feels anymore. He cant bring himself to press the button for the gym tonight. He presses the button for the roof.
The first couple weeks in the Tower he confined himself to select rooms, mostly his own. It went on like that until Clint and Natasha walked in and dragged him out and into the communal living area for what was apparently movie night. After that he started to explore exactly where it was that he lived now. He still found the tower as big and ugly as he had when her first saw it on the outside, but on the inside it was actually pretty nice. Steve would even go as far as to say that he liked it. When he finally made his way to the roof for the first time it quickly became one of his favorite things about his new home.
Up there he feels like he can breath, he can lean against the railing and look out at the city below that's so full of people that its impossible to feel alone even in the dead of night.
The elevator only takes a few moments before he's deposited on the very top of Stark tower, now mostly called Avengers Tower due to the huge 'A' lit up on the side and the fact that the Avengers reside here.
Steve is always a little bit awed by the view from the roof. Up here, high in the sky, Steve can almost make out stars above him while below him the lights continue to shine just as brightly as they always do.
He breaths in the crisp night air and feels his body relax almost immediately. Steve begins the short trek forward to the edge of the roof when his eye catches movement to his right. He pauses momentarily, making his next step louder.
The figure moves and Steve catches sharp eyes with his own. Tony.
He feels instantly wary, a norm when he's around Tony. They aren't hostile with each other as they were when they first met. Its more of a shaky truce that neither seems willing to break or push forward into friendship. No, he and Tony Stark are definitely not friends.
He's just about ready to turn tail and leave when Tony sighs quietly and turns back to the city beneath them. He speaks quietly but loud enough that Steve can pick it up "You might as well join me"
Steve glances back to the doors of the elevator and then to Tony before moving forward to stand to Tony's left.
Its not terrible. Being here next to Tony isn't as weird as he thought it might be. They aren't friends but maybe that doesn't matter. Steve soaks in the night and the quiet and the feeling of an alive body next to his. If there's one thing Tony is, it's alive. Even now when he says nothing every part of him is thrumming with it. Its there in the way his fingers tap against the railing and the way his eyes flick around. Its there in every breath he takes and in the way his lips are quirked like he's always in on some private joke. Tony is alive in a way that Steve very rarely see's in people, In a way that he's pretty sure is systematically removed the older a person gets. He's alive in a way that Steve wishes he could feel.
He's not sure how long he actually spends moving his eyes to and from Tony, just that the last time he does it Tony is looking back, head tilted to the side.
Steve keeps his eye for a moment before turning his gaze back to the city. He expects that to be it. For Tony to turn away again and for them to continue in their silence but that’s not the case. He can feel Tony's eyes on him for far longer than can be considered normal. Steve turns back to him and opens his mouth to speak when Tony cuts in with a soft smile that Steve can guarantee he has never been the recipient of. He's not exactly sure what he did to deserve it but he'd like to find out. "Couldn't sleep?"
Steve flounders for a moment, trying to catch up to where Tony is. "No, you?"
Tony snorts and turns quickly so that his back is against the rail "Nah, I always keep weird hours. Comes with the whole genius thing."
"I'll take your word for that"
They're both quiet for a while again. Steve watches as Tony's foot taps listlessly against the ground, taping out some rhythm Steve can't even hope to pick up. He's focusing so much on Tony's foot that he almost doesn't catch it when Tony speaks again "You aren't going to ask why I'm up here of all places?"
Steve blinks, bringing his eyes back up to Tony "Do you want me to ask why you're up here?"
Tony smirks and waves his hand "No. Can I ask why you are though?"
Steve quirks his lips "I'm sure you could if you tried"
Its funny really, the way Tony's eyes light up so completely that Steve can only think 'oh, so this is what its like' before Tony's voice washes over him again, a new lightness to it that Steve only hears in passing to other people. "A sense of humor, I can't say I'm not surprised. Who knew?"
Usually Steve would be offended but with the spark came a clarity Steve was never privy to before. Tony is kidding. This is... it’s a surprise.
"So why are you up here tonight?"
Steve runs a hand over his face when he remembers his panic attack in bed. "I just needed to breath"
He almost expects a digging comment but all he gets is thoughtful silence and a considering look before Tony goes into a long rambling tale of how he's been working on a way to give his repulsors more of a kick without draining his suit of too much power too quickly. Steve listens to it all even though he understands only about fourth of what Tony is saying, the rest covered in mechanical jargon. Its calming though, the sound of Tony's voice. Even more calming is the way that Tony doesn't comment on what Steve said, the way he seems to understand. Hell, maybe he does.
Tony talks and talks and at some point they both ended up sitting down on the ground, backs against the steel behind them. Tony requires very little input from Steve so when Steve feels his eyes grow heavy, he lets them rest making 'mhmm' noises and nodding his head every once in awhile to let him know that he's still listening. Eventually even that stops and the only noise is the sound of Tony's cool timber voice and Steve's slow breathing.
When Steve's eyes open again he's a bit surprised to find that the sky is just that much lighter than it had been and to his head pressed against Tony's shoulder. He pulls away slowly, confused and a little embarrassed "uh, I fell asleep."
Tony's hands still on his phone and he turns to look at Steve with slight concern "Did I wake you up?"
Steve rubs a hand through his hair and stretches "No? How long have I been asleep?"
Tony checks his phone again and shrugs "I'm not sure, maybe two hours? Probably three. JARVIS, how long was he asleep?"
Jarvis's voice comes through in his British tone "Three and a half hours sir"
Tony nods before getting distracted by something on his phone again. Steve isn't sure what to say, about to open his mouth and go with whatever comes out first when he notices a blanket covering him. He frowns "I didn't have this"
Tony doesn't so much as glance at it before waving his hand. "I had Dum-E bring it up, you looked cold. I know I was"
"You didn't have to stay up here. You could have woken me up to go inside"
"Its not a problem Cap. You looked like you could use the rest. I hear that people your age should get every bit of sleep that they can."
Steve feels a smile tugging at his lips "wouldn't want to fall asleep during bingo night"
Tony pauses and gives Steve a startled look before laughing and shaking his head " I don’t know if I'm going to be able to get used to that Cap. I gotta tell you, its kind of freaking me out"
Steve rolls his eyes and moves to stand up, stretching out his limbs. He offers his hand to Tony who stares at it for a moment before allowing Steve to haul him up. They both stand there, in a silence reminiscent of the one that they shared at the beginning of the night. The sun rises slowly and with it the sound of people milling around on the streets below grows louder and louder. "Thank you"
Tony shrugs, mouth twisting funnily, making no comment on the subject. "I'm actually kind of hungry, are you hungry? Of course you are, lets go eat some breakfast. I'll even let you make me some pancakes. I know you can do it, Clint says they taste amazing. I'll be the judge of that." He's jittery, pocketing his phone and turning to walk to the elevator. This is how Tony Stark takes gratitude. Steve just allows himself to smile at his retreating back.
He and Tony aren't friends, but he has a feeling they will be.