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Sleep Protocol

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“Cap’s asleep,” Tony remarked, fishing for another handful of peanut clusters from the bowl nestled between his thigh and Natasha’s on the sofa. He loved these rare occasions when everybody was in the Tower and in the same room, and there was no tense or horrific reason for it, like a call to assemble.

“Shh,” Thor said. “This film nears its conclusion.”

Tony glanced back over at Steve as he reclined on his other side, head tipped backward against the sofa pillows, mouth slightly ajar in profile. He leaned over to Natasha. “It’s not even 10:30.”

She raised an eyebrow, and Tony shrugged, munching. The next time he cast a glance at Steve he was awake again, paying rapt attention as Tom Hanks wept over losing Wilson to the sea.

After the movie, when the lights came up, Thor and Clint got into a discussion about whether conversing with a painted volleyball for years was a good idea if you were stranded on a deserted island, or a sure path to madness. Consensus: good idea, for reasons of sanity.

“Tom Hanks really lucked out, having that convenient volleyball,” Clint remarked. “What if it’d been a baseball bat?”

”Anything round would suffice,” Thor declared. “One could carve a face into a coconut.”

“I could draw a passable face,” Steve said. “Not sure about the whole carving thing.”

Natasha frowned. “I don’t think roundness matters. You could make small figures out of palm leaves, or twigs, for example.”

“Aww, little twig Barbies!” Tony sassed. “So cute!” Natasha elbowed him. “Ow!”


“Mine would look like the Blair Witch doll things and I’d accidentally creep myself out,” Bruce said, with a snicker.

“You have a built-in buddy, buddy. Personally? I wouldn’t bother,” Tony declared. “I don’t need a face-shape or twig-people to talk to. I’m my own best company.”

“Shit, you’d probably make a blow-up doll out of the life preserver, Stark,” Clint laughed.

“Nah--uh-okay, yeah, I probably would.” Tony muttered, and turned Steve’s way again. He’d apparently drifted off again. “Yeah, so...Cap’s asleep,” he said again.

“That appears to be the case, yes,” Thor said. “It is evening.”

“Early, though,” Tony said with a glance at his watch. “It’s not just tonight, either.” Thinking back, he’d noticed Steve had crashed in the same spot after pizza on Sunday evening, and he’d fallen asleep in the zero-gravity chair by the windows reading just last night. “Maybe he’s narcoleptic.”

“Soldiers learn to grab some Zs anywhere they can, no matter how noisy or uncomfortable it is,” Clint shrugged.

“He gets up early,” Bruce pointed out, jiggling the ice in his empty glass. “He’s out the door for a run before six, most mornings.”

“Yeah but...” Tony shook his head.

“If you wake up before 6am, 10pm is probably the correct bedtime if you want to get your eight hours,” Natasha said. “He had a recon mission with me this week, and today he did a couple of those hospital visit things. It’s not like he sits on his ass all day.” She looked pointedly at Tony.

“You act like I don’t stand in the workshop. Who the hell sleeps eight hours a night? Consecutively?” Tony asked. “He’s like 90. Don’t old people sleep less? Get up at 2am to watch infomercials and order snuggies?” But everyone was peeling themselves off the furniture and the floor and either heading for the kitchen for more snacks or to their respective suites. He probably wasn’t one to judge. He kept odd hours and needed very little sleep, until he skipped it long enough to crash hard through the next day at noon, at least.

But ironically, he thought something was weird about Steve’s incredibly normal slumber pattern, though...eight hours. He guessed that’s what regular people did. Still, something bothered him about it.

It was a week later when Tony walked through the common area on the way to his own quarters after spending hours in his workshop. He stopped to switch on the TV to see the basketball scores, and jumped slightly when he realized that Steve was stretched out on the sofa, shoes off, with his arm folded lightly over his chest. Tony watched it rise and fall.

Oh, Tony thought, and it really was simple. It was weird that Steve wasn’t in bed. That’s what had been bugging him. It wasn’t that Steve crashed early (though he still thought it was granddad-early) but that he crashed anywhere but his own suite. It was nice, too...fully outfitted, queen-sized extra long bed with firmness and temperature controls. There was a flatscreen, and it had automatic reading lights that dimmed if you shut your eyes for more than ten minutes. Steve had even selected the colors. It was a fantastic suite.

And yet Steve seemed to prefer sleeping anywhere but there.

“Hey you,” Tony said softly, nudging Steve’s shoulder. Steve stirred, but didn’t wake, so Tony clasped his hand and lifted it up. Steve gave a slight flinch, then blinked at him groggily.

“Wha - what is it?” Steve murmured.

“Time to go to bed,” Tony said. “You fell asleep on the sofa again.”

“What time is it?”

“Uh...twenty minutes to four.”

“‘kay,” Steve mumbled, closing his eyes again. “I’m getting up pretty soon anyway. Gonna go for a run.”

Tony shrugged, turned off ESPN, and went to his own suite.

Tony didn’t think about it again until the weekend, when he fell asleep on the sofa himself running suit modification test cases on his tablet while half-watching some sitcom. Of course, he’d been up for over 30 hours and fairly punchy by the time he’d settled into the sofa that evening, his stocking-feet on the coffee table. When he startled awake a few hours later to laughter on the Late, Late Show, Steve was curled up on the sofa next to him, his sketchpad askew on the floor. Tony would have moved, but Steve’s head was resting against his shoulder, and he didn’t want to disturb him. And Steve was warm. He shimmied down further into the cushions and shut his eyes again.

When he woke up and checked his watch, it was after seven, and Steve was, of course, gone. And then something made him check with JARVIS, and

“Steve? Got a minute?” Tony ventured a couple of mornings after when he found him alone in the kitchen.

Steve set down his coffee mug, turned off the screen on his tablet and set it aside. Steve had manners. “Sure, what is it?”

“Question for you...about your sleeping habits.”

There was a flicker in Steve’s eyes then, if Tony wasn’t imagining things. “What about ‘em?” Steve asked, picking up his mug again and taking a long sip.

“You don’t sleep in your room. Don’t you like it?”

Steve looked taken aback. “Of course I do.”

“Because you’re never in it.”

“Sorry,” Steve said quietly, “I know it’s your living room. I don’t mean to intrude on your space.”

“No, it’s not that. You’re welcome to. It’s not my’s the team’s space. You can sleep wherever you want to.”

“I won’t fall asleep in there anymore.” God, he looked miserable.

Tony sighed. “No, see, I don’t care if you want to sleep there, or in the middle of the gym in a Strawberry Shortcake sleeping bag. I just don’t understand why. We can fix your quarters if the temp control is off or the bed’s facing the wrong direction for your feng shui harmony or whatever.”

Steve opened his mouth and shut it again. “Oh no, that’s not necessary. It’s just...”

Something clicked. “Do you have nightmares?”

“Yes. Sometimes,” Steve confirmed softly, after a pause. “But. Well.”

“Don’t feel strange about that,” Tony said. “You know about Afghanistan, right? I have hellacious nightmares once in awhile. It’s normal.” Steve nodded, and Tony settled back on the chair, waiting. Tony had nightmares after falling from the portal, too, and no one to tell about them since he and Pepper had drifted away from one another. They’d tried, but...

“It’s not that nightmares are that bad, exactly. That’s not the problem. It’s just that I get a sort of...I don’t know. It’s a kind of insomnia, maybe. I can’t fall asleep when I'm-- when I'm alone.” Steve looked sheepish. “There’s a feeling of...dread I get. It’s not rational.”

“You fall asleep alone in the living room, though,” Tony squinted at him, “when you’re reading or drawing.”

“But I know someone will come through eventually. You, or...somebody. When I,” Steve swallowed hard. “When I was in the ice...”

“Oh god. You don’t remember that, do you?” Tony was horrified.

“No,, obviously,” Steve managed a small smile. “I mean, after the crash, I came to briefly, before I went into stasis. Kinda faded in and out of consciousness before I finally conked out. I just knew that I was alone and trapped and that nobody was coming. I had injuries, it was cold and I was fighting sleep because I knew no one would...” he trailed off, and when Tony laid a hand on his arm on the breakfast bar, he looked down. “I just remember that when I go to bed. I said it wasn’t rational.”

And things kind of...fell into place in Tony’s head then, when he remembered how he’d hesitated about offering Steve a place in the Tower, so certain he’d reject the offer in favor of the place SHIELD had found him in Brooklyn. Steve had had his bags packed and was here within a couple of hours.

“That’s. That is absolutely rational, Steve. So...idea. JARVIS can check up on you,” Tony said. “If you want. I mean, there are life signal monitors all over anyway, because of my also-completely-rational mortality paranoia. If you were sick, or your heart rate fell out of an acceptable range, we would be alerted.”

Steve nodded diffidently, and Tony thought about it a little harder. Steve never seemed to feel exactly comfortable around JARVIS. He’d adapted to modern tech quickly, but still seemed startled at the idea that he could simply ask the AI a question about the weather or where to find the closest place to get barbecue. And Tony had caught Steve checking the window to verify JARVIS’s weather answers before. He didn’t seem to really trust the AI, when it came right down to it. Which was ridiculous. JARVIS was more reliable than any meatbag.

“Or,” Tony continued. “Or, you can have a life alert button. I mean, cliche, right? Or better...we could have a rota. The team would take turns checking up on you. Or,” he added with a wink, “we could call Coulson. I hear he’s into that. Watching people sleep.”

“No,” Steve said, brusquely, then lowered his voice. “Too much trouble. And I’d rather nobody knew. It’s bad enough that you--” The corner of his mouth twisted upward. “Sorry.”

“Yeah, it’s okay,” Tony said. And he got it, of course. Steve was the team’s leader; he was bold and competent and gave the orders, and he didn’t want anybody to lose confidence in him, as if being human would do that. And if Steve had decided on his own to talk somebody about his phobia, Tony was probably the last person he would have selected. He’d have gone to...well, Tony wasn’t exactly sure who Steve would have picked. Apparently nobody, so he guessed it was just as well that he’d been the one to notice and bring it up. (And it wasn’t like Tony had informed anyone that it had taken him three weeks to manage a shower without hyperventilating after he’d been waterboarded; he still hadn’t attempted to actually sit down in a bathtub.)

Tony realized he was squeezing Steve’s wrist. He loosened his grip and gave his forearm an awkward pat.

“I will, then. You know I keep odd hours anyway, but I can check in on you in your suite when I come up. Want to try that?” He was pretty certain Steve would turn down that option too and just insist on well, ironically, soldiering on. “We’ll call it the sleep protocol.”

Steve took a deep breath. He looked profoundly relieved, but also embarrassed. “Okay.”

It was 2am when Tony headed to the quarters floors the next night, and reminded by JARVIS, (whom he did trust, implicitly) he stopped in front of the door to Steve’s suite. He didn’t have to knock; the door was cracked slightly. Tony opened the door and poked his head in. The room’s lights were dimmed to ten percent, and Steve was curled up on the bed.

“Steve?” Tony asked quietly. He didn’t want to wake him up.

“Uh huh,” Steve answered, turning over.

“Did I wake you?”

“No. I...”

“You couldn’t sleep,” Tony stated flatly, closing the distance so he didn’t have to raise his voice.


“Have you been lying here awake for...” Tony checked his watch. “Four hours?”

“Five, I think. Almost.”

“Well look,” Tony said, perching on the end of Steve’s bed. “I know I have a reputation for unreliability, but it’s totally unfounded. I mean, check my contract history; I always deliver.”

Steve blinked as Tony continued. “And I did come by, right? Like I said I would. You’re just going to have to trust me to show up to make sure you’re not in a deathlike coma.” He flicked his finger against Steve’s foot. “Can you? Trust me, I mean?”

“Sure, Tony,” Steve said, nodding as his eyes fell closed.

“Okay. I’ll see you in the morning. Well, way after you get up. And if I don’t see you, I’ll come and check on you again. Promise.”

“Okay,” Steve mumbled into his pillow. Tony waited until his breathing evened out before he left.

The next night, Tony called out to Steve quietly after stepping into his suite, but when he didn’t receive an answer, he padded over to the bed. Steve was sleeping soundly, the covers rucked down around his waist, the television silent but flickering, tuned to some program about cheetahs in the wild.

The air conditioning was really working it. Tony pulled the edge of the comforter up to cover Steve’s shoulders, and he murmured something Tony couldn’t catch.

He was reassured that Steve knowing someone would check on him at some point during the night seemed to be working. Since Steve wouldn’t know that Tony had been there otherwise, he reached for the sketchbook and charcoal next to the bed and turned to a fresh page before writing, Sleep tight! -- Tony before setting it down and quietly leaving the room for his own. He felt a little ridiculous leaving a note, but he also felt very...good about it.

Tony didn’t see Steve -- awake, anyway -- for the next three days; he was spending a lot of time in the workshop in anticipation of a new hardware install on the helicarrier with movable mounts for Fury’s monitors. But he checked on Steve’s status daily, making sure he’d gone on his run via JARVIS, and he’d managed to swing by his room every night, leaving a new note on a fresh page each time, even if he headed back to his project and a deluge of coffee afterward.

The next time Tony saw Steve conscious was one night for dinner on another of those rare occasions when most of them were in the city; Bruce had finished a process in his own lab and had apparently decided to celebrate by whipping up something else. He’d texted the team two words: CRAB RAVIOLI.

That caused a stampede for the kitchen, with Clint sending back instructions from headquarters to save some for him and Thor for later, “if u know what’s good for u, gluttons.

When Tony strode in, hair still damp from a hurried shower, Steve handed him a plate and he glanced at it and then up, meeting those knockout eyes. “Doing okay, Cap?” he asked and Steve nodded back. “Good,” Tony murmured as Natasha turned with a bowl of grated parmesan and stopped. She flicked her gaze quickly over Tony and Steve, and cleared her throat.

“Excuse me, gentlemen,” she said, and Tony blinked at her, then down at the plate he and Steve were still holding before he took it and moved out of her way.

“Bread’s on the table,” Bruce said as he passed them with his own plate. “Caesar salad, too.”

Natasha hummed in anticipation. “Oh my god. Warm bread.” Bruce took the compliments over his dinner in stride; he was the only one of them all who could cook things that hadn’t come from a bag in the freezer or that weren’t thrown on the grill.

“So, Cast Away, that movie?” Steve said. “I was thinking about it, and I wonder why they couldn’t find the packages. When something’s delivered now, they track it. Don’t they have tracking chips in them?”

“The movie was set before that tech,” Tony said.

“The plane then,” Steve persisted. “Isn’t there a beacon? And come to think of it, since they have those GPS locator things, why don’t people carry them?”

“Appalling violation of civil liberties and privacy?” Bruce ventured.

“There’s one in each of your phones,” Tony said. “But I could chip your asses too, if you want.”

Natasha threw a breadstick at him.


Stuffed, they ended up in the living room with wine glasses and a new release. Just after 11:00, halfway into the film, Tony caught Steve’s eyes sliding shut next to him and poked him with an elbow. “Hey, forty-winks. You going to bed?”

Steve stretched and stood. “Yeah, I’m bushed.”

Tony sipped his cognac -- he’d swapped after bringing out a bottle of the best stuff after dinner -- and kept watching the film until he realized how exhausted he was, too. “I’m knocking off,” he said, missing the raised eyebrow Natasha offered to Bruce as he stumbled towards the hallway. He’d kicked off his shoes and shucked his jeans before realizing he hadn’t checked on Steve yet, and dragged himself to his feet before heading to his suite.

Steve was lying facedown, the television’s volume low as something about Nikola Tesla came on after a commercial break, and Tony slid himself onto the other side of the bed. He’d just watch a little bit of this...

Tony had slipped into a bleary slumber when Steve startled awake and sat bolt upright with a gasp. Tony blinked and watched him turn to the bedside table and run his fingers over the blank sketchpad.

“Y’alright?” Tony asked, and Steve jumped again, twisting on the bed.


“No, it’s the tooth fairy. Go back to sleep,” Tony mumbled, and Steve slowly sank back down to his pillow, turning to face him. Tony squinted back and became aware of how this might...look. “Uh, I came in and I guess...I haven’t had any sack time since yesterday afternoon. Thursday afternoon,” he clarified. He pulled himself up on one elbow, rubbing an eye. “Sorry, I’ll just go now.”

“No, it’s okay,” Steve said softly. “You don’t have to leave.”

Tony considered that, (he was already here, and he was comfortable) and eased himself back to horizontal. Steve did have an awesome fucking bed.


In the morning, Tony was awakened by Steve rushing to dress for his run, pulling a t-shirt over his head. Tony threw an arm over his eyes, because holy daylight, window, and when Steve turned around, realized Tony was up and jumped. And then blushed. “Do you want to come with me? I run through the park, most mornings.”

“I would, but you’d just dust me and it’s too early to experience the sting of defeat.”

Steve shrugged, with a smile.

“...and I have to get ready to go to the Helicarrier today. Putting in some upgrades for Fury while he’s not there, on purpose,” Tony explained. “I’ll be out there for a couple of days. It’s pretending to be a ship at the moment.”

“Great. Uh, enjoy it,” Steve said, grabbing a sweatshirt on the way out the door.

It was tempting to just stay in Steve’s bed for a while, but damn, that sun.


That night, mid-install and mid-Atlantic, Tony checked his watch. Three am meant...nearly midnight at home. He found a quiet corner and called JARVIS. “I need a sitrep on Steve,” he said into the phone.

“Captain Rogers is asleep, Mr Stark,” JARVIS informed him.

“Where is he?” asked Tony.

“On the reclining chair in the living area.”

Tony tapped and twisted the phone to view the feed, and there he was. He’d thought that maybe what he’d been doing had...helped, but maybe not. “Has he been there all evening?”

“Captain Rogers was awakened in his quarters by what appeared to be a night terror, and then moved to the living room, Mr Stark.”

“Huh. Okay.” Tony toyed with the idea of calling Steve, but he seemed to be fast asleep now. “JARVIS, alert me if Steve has any more nightmares.”

“Welcome back,” Bruce said, and greeted him further with the details of his latest project; a portable quantum box, before heading back to the lab.

“It’s nice seeing Bruce so stoked,” Tony remarked to Steve, who was perched at the bar filling out SHIELD paperwork. He glanced at the top sheet. “Oooh, team assessments.”

“All good things,” Steve said with a smile. “They want to know about our mental health.”

Tony sniffed. “Right. Well, I’ve seen mine. Check off ‘still textbook narcissist’ and call it a day.”

Steve laughed. “It’s not some clinical thing, just a team morale check. I’m not a headshrinker, so...”

“Ever think about seeing one?” And Tony immediately regretted saying that after seeing Steve’s expression. “I mean, about the anxiety thing, and the--”

“What good would that do? I already know what’s wrong with me.They’d tell me to exercise to burn off stress.” Steve rolled his eyes dramatically, “...and probably give me some pills.”

“Better living through chemistry!” Tony crowed, and Steve shrugged.

“Medications don’t really work as designed on me,” he pointed out. “I metabolize them too fast. And I had my fill of being psychoanalyzed by SHIELD after I came out of the ice, thank you.” Steve picked up his sheaf of papers and shoved them into a beige envelope.

Great. Good work, Tony, he thought to himself.


Later, Tony had a dinner with investors (boring) and a few drinks with Rhodey (fun) afterward. It was nearly two by the time Tony made his way upstairs. Steve wasn’t in the common area, so he made his way to his suite. He turned the doorknob but found his access revoked. Tony leaned back against the wall in the hallway.

“JARVIS? You loafing?”

“Always, Mr Stark.” Tony could almost hear the clack of his AI’s nonexistent eyes rolling back in his theoretical skull.

“How’s Steve doing? He awake?”

“My monitor status has been revoked for Captain Rogers’ suite.”

Tony pinched the bridge of his nose. “Life signs?” That function couldn’t be deactivated.

“Within normal ranges, sir,” the AI replied.

Tony nodded at no one. “Alert me if his heart rate goes nuts.”


Tony, jacket off and tie loosened, fiddling with a design on his tablet, started at the verbal alert from JARVIS, and waited quietly on the sofa as the motion sensors lit Steve’s way down the long corridor to the living room. “Hi,” he said quietly, and Steve blanched. Tony stood up and took Steve’s arm. “Come on,” he urged, leading Steve gently back to his suite.

“Tony,” Steve protested in a logy, halfhearted way, but Tony tightened his grip, and Steve didn’t argue when he followed him into the bedroom and took off his own shoes.

“I don’t think anything’s wrong with you,” Tony said. “Okay? Because you act like you think maybe I do, and I don’t.”

Steve ran a hand through his hair as he flopped onto the bed. “All right. I’m sorry.”

“You don’t need to apologize either,” Tony said, stretching out on the other side. “Why would you?”

Steve raised a brow. “Are you sleeping here?”

“Just hanging out until you crash. I just...will you let somebody worry about you for a change?”

Steve considered this, then nodded, and Tony ended up dropping off where he was. The next thing he was aware of was his own hand, outstretched palm-up in front of him on the bed, with Steve’s curled into it.

Not thinking, Tony linked their fingers, thinking this is nice before falling asleep again.

And then it was early morning, Tony becoming aware of it because of the damned window again, painting the insides of his eyelids red and reminding him where he was. He kept them shut, expecting to find Cap gone on a run, except he wasn’t because they were holding hands and it still felt...nice. Nevertheless, Tony decided it would probably be prudent to carefully disentangle their fingers before Steve awoke and experienced a why-am-I-holding-hands-with-Tony-Stark-panic so he cracked his eyes against the light and found Steve looking at him.

“Uh,” Tony said, intelligently, mentally formulating an apology as he tugged at his hand, but Steve gripped it tighter. “,” he added, and actually, it was hard to formulate something to say with Steve’s face that close, and the only thing he was thinking anyway was how much he wanted to lean in closer -- much closer -- and he also wasn’t sure where that had come from, really. “I’m sorry.”

Steve just regarded him silently, unblinking. He finally spoke. “Why?”

“Your hand was just there, and--”

“No, why do you bother?” Steve asked. “You stayed up last night, just to make sure I didn’t. That’s going above and beyond the call of duty.”

Tony let out a gust of breath. He didn’t have an answer for that.

“And you stayed with me,” Steve added, squeezing his fingers.

“Yeah, I just fell asleep here. I was exhausted too, so--”

Steve sighed, rolling onto his back, Tony’s hand still in his. “I don’t remember the last time somebody went to this much trouble for me.”

“Well, SHIELD did build you a fake 1940s hotel room and uniformed-up the staff and they probably had a vintage victory meatloaf waiting in the microwave.”

“That was for them, Tony, because they wanted Captain America back. They don’t give a damn about me personally. So why do you?”

Tony closed his eyes and thought of the last person who’d given a fraction of a damn about him: Pepper. Making sure Tony slept was something Pepper would do, would be doing now if they had managed to stay together instead of slowly unraveling. Steve didn’t have anyone like that. “Pepper,” Tony said. “would be happy to know that I learned something about taking care of people, since she certainly did it for me.”

“But you, you were a couple, though,” Steve pointed out. “We’re...”

“Friends, I think,” Tony replied. “I like you. Sue me. And you’re still holding my hand, friend. Uh, I mean...I’m not trying to, you know.”

Steve lifted one eyebrow. “You sure?”

“I mean that I don’t expect,” Tony said quickly. “anything like that."

“You know how long it’s been since anybody touched me?” Steve asked, after a long pause.

“Days or decades?” Tony joked, and was immediately sorry when Steve pulled away. “Hey, no, sorry. You know how I am.”

“You don’t need people,” Steve said, leaning up to face him again, and there was something in the way he said people that made Tony blanch. “You even said that. When you’re alone, you’re your own best company.”

“Steve,” Tony said. “That was crap. I built an artificial intelligence to converse with, okay?”

“That’s not the same thing.”

“Except it actually is, because I can’t disappoint an AI and it can’t leave, and I’m never really alone, even though he’s basically a pile of pile of programmed data with a voice.” Tony paused. “No offense meant, Jarv. But you’re right, it’s not--” Tony edged closer. “Not the same.” He curled his fingers under Steve’s elbow, then ran them up to his shoulder and squeezed as Steve just looked at him with an unreadable expression.

Tony screwed his eyes shut then and just rolled in and wrapped his arm around Steve’s back, tucking himself against him, close. He felt Steve stiffen for a moment and then suddenly relax, go boneless and bring his own arm up around Tony’s waist and then upward as a gust of warm breath graced Tony’s ear. “Oh, you feel so damned good,” Tony murmured.

“I...” Steve began, as his fingers traced along Tony’s shoulder blade.

“Could we establish a snuggle protocol?” Tony mumbled into Steve’s neck. “Because, I mean,’re really good at this and I think I need--” Steve was shaking next to him, and it took Tony a second to realize he was laughing. “Look, I didn’t laugh at you over the ‘sleeping in public’ deal so--”

“Yeah, I’m not laughing at you,” Steve said, tipping back to look at him. “This does feel good.” And there was that smile. Damn.

“I’m not trying to get into your pants, though,” Tony said hurriedly, even as a leg came up between his and he was lying a little but oh, that was full body contact, and a hug protocol could be the best idea he’d had since that oil spill sweeper and he could feel himself melting into Steve’s warmth.

“I know, you’ve probably built some kind of robot for that, huh?” Tony was a little lost, about to say something about the spillvac being more of a drone, but his brain caught up to Steve’s hand tightening around his back just an audible alert startled them both.


“Captain Rogers’ heart rate is elevated, Mr Stark,” came JARVIS’s voice.

Tony grabbed for his phone.” I got it,” he said. “I’m actually in the room, JARVIS, as I know you are well-aware,” he said to the ceiling before turning to Steve again, who looked amused. “That was in case you had a nightmare.”

“JARVIS is very reliable,” Steve said. “You’re right, I don’t need you.”

“No, no, you definitely do,” Tony insisted. “Sleep protocol. Checking on you nightly. It’s a service of Tony Stark, a tradition now. I could even leave a mint on your pillow. That's completely optional, but, you know.”

“We could add in the hug thing too, as one of those options,” Steve said slowly. “If you wanted. It’s only fair.”

“You’re right. It is,” Tony agreed, and snuggled closer, close enough that he didn’t need his AI to tell him anything about Steve’s heart that he couldn’t figure out for himself.