Steve woke from a nightmare filled with mud, and the taste of wet metal, and snow whipping against his cheeks like miniature blades. For several seconds, he couldn’t move. His chest was paralyzed, his joints were frozen, and he was chilled straight down to his bones. He stared up at his ceiling, eyes wide and teeth chattering loudly in the silence, and he couldn’t breathe.
Above him, the heater kicked on with a loud fwoom and a blast of heat poured over him. He choked on the sudden influx of air, eyes watering in the heat, and then his muscles finally unlocked. He rolled out from under the press of the hot air onto his right side and managed to suck in a breath. The force of the air diminished to a gentle stream, warming up his room and chasing the chill out of his skin. Steve tugged his knees up and shivered while the room went from pleasantly warm to stiflingly hot. He dropped back onto his back and pushed the blankets away, groaning. The sheets were soaked in sweat, and he felt weak as a cooked noodle.
“Captain Rogers?” Jarvis asked gently from somewhere above him.
Steve sat up and braced his elbows on his knees. His nightmare sweat was drying on his skin, leaving him feeling sticky. He needed a hot shower and a cup of something warm, and he felt miserably sensitive. “I’m good, Jarvis. Thank you for the heat.”
“Of course. Shall I let Sir know that you’re awake?” Jarvis offered.
Steve hesitated. His body was alive with tingles, and he could feel the weave of the sheets against his skin, the hairs on his legs and arms were standing straight up, and even his nail beds felt sore. He could just ask Jarvis to warm up the shower and heat up the bathroom floor, and stand under the spray for as long as his overly sensitized skin could handle the punishment. Eventually the hypersensitivity would fade back to regular sensitivity, and he could go back to ignoring it.
“If he’s… if he’s not busy,” Steve said instead. “Could you?”
“I am quite sure that he is not busy,” Jarvis said.
Steve shifted his weight to stand, but the compression of the carpet fibers beneath his bare feet was an obscure sort of agony. Tingles spread over the soles of his feet, just on the painful side of ticklish, and he jerked them back up on the bed. The sheets were cooling quickly into a sticky, soggy mess, and he couldn’t help feeling like he was back in the tenement room he’d shared with his mother, the bed soaked with urine, and Steve too embarrassed to get out of it to tell her.
The door opened with a sound like a gunshot. Steve flinched. His teeth ground together at the sound of the wood scraping over the carpet. His neck locked up as the door dragged back over the carpet, and clicked shut with a quieter gunshot. Tony moved softly around the room, but every footstep still sounded like an elephant trampling on the carpets, and his attempts to walk softly only seemed to make it worse.
“Hey,” Tony said quietly, kneeling down beside the bed. He didn’t reach out to Steve, but he was close enough for Steve to feel his body heat. “Bad one?” he asked. He didn’t ask if Steve was alright or if there was anything he needed, and he kept his voice soft without whispering – the whispering was worse, directional sound carried better, it hissed across his ears and made his head hurt.
“Yeah,” Steve said simply. “Sorry. Were you busy?”
“You know I’m never busy. I just talk fast and move my hands a lot. Great illusion of activity.”
Steve smiled despite himself and reached out to run his fingertips over Tony’s hair. The texture of his hair against Steve’s fingerprints made him shiver, but it wasn’t an entirely unpleasant sensation. He repeated the motion until it didn’t feel like each one of Tony’s hairs were catching on the folds of his skin. Tony sat quietly to let him, tilting his head back with his eyes closed. He’d never admit it, but he liked to be petted, and Steve didn’t usually have the opportunity to just touch him. They didn’t get as much time together as either of them would have liked, and they typically used the time they did get for much needed rest, or much needed stress relief.
“You make the world a little quieter,” Steve murmured. He made another attempt to put his feet down, but the dry carpet on his damp feet put his teeth on edge. He jerked his feet back up, and Tony tensed next to him.
“Why didn’t you tell me that the carpet bothers you? I put it in here to help keep the floor warm,” Tony said, his voice briefly rising in his usual excited-problem solving, but he quickly remembered Steve’s sensitive ears and quieted down again.
“I know,” Steve said, rubbing at the soles of his feet. “That’s why I didn’t say anything.”
“You drive me a little crazy sometimes,” Tony said. He climbed up to his feet, and walked quietly out of the room.
Steve stared at the door for several seconds, too startled to be upset. Before he had time to work all the way through startled, to confused, to annoyed, to offended, the door opened again. Tony eased back into the room trailing a bundle of cloth behind him. Steve watched, bemused, as Tony spread the gold silk sheet from his bed across the floor from Steve’s bed through the bathroom door.
“Jarvis is heating up the shower on the rainfall setting. Do you want help?”
Struck dumb, Steve just stared up at him for several seconds. Tony’s lips quirked to one side in a soft smile, and he reached out to run the back of his fingers down Steve’s cheek. Steve leaned against him, the contrast of Tony’s meticulously well-maintained hands against Steve’s stubble making him shiver in pleasant ways.
“You do drive me a little crazy sometimes,” Tony said, “And I am still completely happy to climb in the shower with you, if you want.”
Steve smiled, and turned his head to kiss Tony’s fingers. “No thank you. Might be too much right now.”
Tony softly tapped his finger to Steve’s nose and left the room again.
By the time Steve made it out of the shower, Tony had stripped the bed and replaced the cotton sheets with satin, and the entire carpet had been covered in a tapestry of red, gold, and black silky sheets. Steve stopped in the doorway wrapped in a plushy robe, steam still curling around his feet and lifting off his hands. Tony was on his hands and knees by the bookcase, tucking a black sheet around the base of it. He twisted to look over his shoulder at Steve, giving him a sultry smile and a smoldering look from under his eyelashes.
“Hello, hot stuff. Literal hot stuff,” he said, crawling in a careful circle so he didn’t twist the sheets. “My very own Mr. Steamy.” He did his absolute best to crawl sexily across the room, but he had to pick his knees and hands up carefully to avoid undoing all his work, and the result ended up less ‘sex kitten’ and more ‘unsteady puppy just learned how to walk.’
Stifling a laugh, Steve took a step back, and then another when Tony followed him into the bathroom. He’d stretched the sheet in earlier, and it had wet footprints down the length of it and a splash pattern of darker patches by the shower. Steve kept taking steps backwards and Tony kept following, though he started laughing on the third awkward crawl into the bathroom.
“Take pity on my old knees,” Tony pleaded finally, giving Steve his best impression of puppy dog eyes (he did a good impression).
“My knees are at least forty years older than yours,” Steve pointed out, but he cuddled the robe tighter to his chest and sat down on the toilet seat. Tony took the last two shuffling steps to his side and sat back on his ass. Despite his claims of old knees, he was still fantastically limber and his hips fit neatly between his ankles.
Tony held his hands up questioningly. When Steve nodded, he set his palms gently on Steve’s thighs over the plush robe. His fingers slid over the soft fibers and Steve felt a flush rise up his cheeks. Tony had gone out in the middle of the night for the plushy robe after the first time Steve had woken hypersensitive from a nightmare, and barely able to explain why he hadn’t wanted to be touched. Tony had returned from a pharmacy run with two armfuls of bags filled with satin sheets, fleece blankets, fuzzy socks, and the robe. It was lemon yellow and just barely fell to his knees by virtue of being a XXXL. The sleeves were big enough to fit his head through, and even though Tony had furnished him with half a dozen others of various lengths and materials since, it was still his favorite.
“Why didn’t you just tell me that the carpet didn’t work for you?” Tony asked.
Steve brushed a thumb across Tony’s cheek. Most of the hypersensitivity had faded under the water pressure, so the scrape of Tony’s facial hair against his skin was deliciously pleasant. “Because I can live with the carpet bothering my feet for a few hours, every now and then. And you have a tiny tendency,” he added, holding his forefinger and thumb up, “Just a tiny tendency to go overboard.”
“Me?” Tony asked, aghast. He put one hand on his chest and batted his eyelashes. “I think I’m offended.”
“I’m sure you are,” Steve said. “I think I can handle the satin sheets now, if you feel like joining me.”
Tony shifted and did something liquid and lovely with his spine to get up to his feet. He held his hands out, and cradled Steve’s fingers in his palms when they were offered. He drew Steve up to his feet and walked carefully backwards, lifting his feet to avoid tripping on the material. Tony crawled backwards over the bed to draw Steve down with him, and then pulled a crisp top sheet up over their shoulders. The satin was cool, but Tony was pressed against his spine, and his fluffy robe was insulating him from the worst of it. The sheets would warm up quickly with their body heat.
“If you have work, you can leave,” Steve offered, even though the last thing he wanted was to be left alone again.
Tony wrapped a careful arm around his chest and slid in closer. “It was time for me to take a break anyways.”
Steve pressed back against him. With his skin gradually desensitizing, the tingles from being held and the scent of Tony – cologne, rosemary, molten metal, and the faintest hint of sweat – was a soothing combination more than the nausea-inducing nightmare it would have been less than an hour before. He cuddled tighter to Tony’s body and trailed his fingers down Tony’s arm, brushing over his short arm hair and humming at the gentle tingles across his hands.
“You are stunning,” Tony murmured against Steve’s neck. The tickle of Tony’s breath made gooseflesh lift up down Steve’s spine and legs.
“You are more stunning,” Steve said around a yawn. Tony laughed nearly-silently, only the shaking of his chest and the gentle huff of his breath giving him away. “Shut up,” Steve told him. “Go to sleep.”
Tony shifted around to get one arm under Steve’s neck and slid his hand further up Steve’s chest so his arm was more accessible for petting. Steve hummed happily, enjoying the vibration of his own voice against his throat, and the softness of his robe, and the slickness of the new sheets, and the sound of Tony’s heart beating steadily in his chest.