They would see Tony come down into the common room, or more often than not, come up to the common room, from the workshop. They would take in his bruised eyes and sunken cheeks. The way his eyes seemed to drag over his surroundings, slightly glazed with effort to keep them open. Immediately they would be filled with pity. Tony hadn’t been able to sleep again. What they don’t know is that it wasn’t that Tony couldn’t sleep. Its that he wouldn’t.
He would force himself awake, gut churning and fingers digging into his scalp. His mind rushing with thoughts he couldn’t control. He made it blatantly obvious he wasn’t sleeping. He never hid it, always complaining about being tired. Yet no one ever said anything. They knew, but they never asked why. They never asked if he slept okay that night.
Sometimes they would complain about how they themselves couldn’t sleep, no matter how hard they tried, they just couldn’t. Tony would purse his lips into a grimaced sort of smile, trying to display any sort of empathy. Really, his stomach is twisting with hurt. He wanted to blurt out that he hadn't been sleeping, and that he was running on a solid 3 hours in the last 52 hours. But he never did. That would be like trying to one-up them, and he couldn’t do that. Especially because thats the whole reason why he wasn’t sleeping. He wanted to one-up them.
He came close to so many times, he would even drop hints for fucks sake. He would say, “oh man I know how that feels”, but they would completely disregard him. They would ignore his pleas for help. He couldn’t ask for it directly and they knew that. He never did. He always waited for a confrontation, and if one never came, then so be it. They knew it wasn’t a matter of cowardice or not trusting his team enough. It was a matter of him feeling like a burden. They knew he over thought things, they knew he took the blame for everything and apologized when it was never necessary or asked. They knew that, but they didn’t care. They didn’t see. They didn’t know. They didn’t want to.
Because only physical injuries needed attention, right? Not the fact that every time they’re called in to battle, no matter how many times it’s been now, every sound of a weapon jolts him back to Afghanistan all those years ago. Every time he hears a shower turn on in the tower, he imagines a tub of water with his name on it. Because every time he looks at the sky, he sees the wormhole.
Because every time he looked in the mirror, all he saw was eyes staring back at him, screaming for help.
So he continued to deprive himself of sleep, at some point or another they had to notice right? At first it was that he actually couldn’t sleep, he would lie at his ceiling and wonder why his heart was racing. But thankfully, thankfully he found a way to calm himself down. He found a mantra, and would repeat it as many times as necessary before his eyes blissfuly collapsed. But he didn’t want them to. He started realizing he wanted to stay awake. He thought that this was the only way to visually show how he was feeling without saying anything. That if the bruises under his eyes were dark enough someone would say something. They would ask if he was okay and he would say no, he wasn’t.
But they didn’t. It doesn’t matter because - “Tonys tired all the time”. It became of thing of nonchalance, Tony’s tired? Oh thats nothing new. He’s always tired. So if he’s always tired, at the same time its like he never really is right? He’s felt it so much that he’s immune. Tony doesn’t need sleep. He needs coffee. He’s a workaholic.
Its normal for Tony to feel like gravity is magnified and the earth is going to swallow him whole. its normal for him to feel like he has to put extra effort into reacting to anything that happens. its normal for him to swallow his tongue when something minuscule irritates the fuck out of him. Its normal because Tony never sleeps. He can’t. He has no choice. He’s an insomniac. Its fine.
Spoiler: He’s not.