Tony’s ears were still ringing painfully when he picked up his phone, pressed speed dial and brought it shakily to his ear.
He curled up in a ball on the floor, knees drawn up to his chest, and rested his forehead against the frame of his bed. He hadn’t even bothered to turn the light on when he came into his room; he’d blustered in and slammed the door shut, crumpling to the floor before fumbling in his pocket for his phone. The light from the screen was too bright in the darkness, stark and vibrant as it shone in his eyes.
Tony felt mounting anxiety in his gut as the phone kept on ringing. He was about to hang up when, finally, a familiar voice filled his ear.
At the sound of his name, Tony felt a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding in leave his lungs in a gust that sounded suspiciously like a sob. Tony cringed; he hated that, hated sounding so weak and desperate, his father was right, he was -
“Tony?” Steve said again, a spike of concern creeping into his tone. Tony could hear the distant sound of talking and laughter in the background; he wasn’t alone then. “Tony, are you alright?”
Tony took a deep breath and cleared his throat. “Yeah,” he croaked. He cleared his throat again, clenching his fist and willing himself to calm down, keep his voice steady, at least pretend he knew how to put himself back together. “Yeah I’m fine,” he whispered. “Sorry, you’re busy aren’t you? I’ll call you later, or you can call me, whatever’s best for you-”
“No, no,” Steve interrupted, his voice firm. Tony bit into his bottom lip. “I’m not busy and I’m never too busy for you. Just… hold on, okay? I’m with Bucky and Sam but I’m gonna step out for a minute to talk to you. Alright?”
Tony nodded, then realized Steve couldn’t see him. “Yeah,” he said. “If you’re sure.”
“I’m sure,” Steve said decisively. “Hold on.”
There was the sound of him pulling away from the phone, saying something to the room that Tony couldn’t quite hear. There was the staticky sound of what was probably Steve’s phone pressed against his shirt, then the line cleared.
“Tony?” Steve said his name so gently and the thrum of chatter was gone from the background. It was just him and Tony felt inexplicably relieved to have Steve all to himself. “Are you alright?”
“I…” Tony could hear his voice tremble a bit, so he paused, taking a deep breath before starting again. “I’m sorry, I just – I called you without thinking, I don’t know, I just needed to hear you.”
There was silence on the other end line.
“Steve?” Tony whispered.
“Yeah, I’m here sweetheart,” Steve said instantly, gentle and warm. Then there was a tense pause before he continued. “Your dad again?”
Tony swallowed thickly and squeezed his eyes shut. He felt stupid, so stupid for being this upset about it, but Howard’s face was flashing through his mind, angry and strained as he shouted, the feeling of his hand flying at him and catching the side of his face –
“Yeah. Yes,” Tony choked, and suddenly his words were coming out in a rush, tumbling out of his mouth before he had a chance to properly think them through. “Steve, can you come get me? Please, I just need to get away, just. Please?”
“Of course,” Steve murmured, his voice soft and gentle. There was the sound of something jingling in the background. Keys, Tony figured. “I’ll be right there, okay?”
“Okay,” Tony repeated, then continued in a very small voice, “you’ll have to come to my window.”
There was another hard silence on Steve’s end. “I gotcha. Be right there, Tony.”
“Okay,” Tony said, knowing the relief was palpable in his tone, but not caring. “Thank you.”
“Anytime,” Steve said. Tony was surprised that some small, hopeful part of him believed it.
Steve hung up then, and Tony set the phone aside carefully on the carpet. Soon the light from the screen dimmed, then disappeared completely, and he was sitting in darkness.
The side of his face face stung, still. Howard had been drunk, his face purplish with anger and he’d shouted close enough to Tony’s face that he could smell the pungent scent of liquor on his breath.
Tony remembered the faint flicker of fear in his chest, the one he tried to tramp down down by gritting his teeth and telling himself he was alright –
Howard’s face looming over him, breath hot and sharp in Tony’s nose –
He wasn’t scared, he wasn’t –
Tony was fine, he always was, this was normal, he could handle this –
Steve was coming, he told himself, breathing deep and shaky breaths as he tried to quell the nausea in his stomach that bubbled up at the memory. He’d leave with Steve and he’d have somewhere to go.
He wasn’t alone, now. Tony had to keep reminding himself that.
Breathe – he told himself. He supposed it shouldn’t be so hard to remember how to do it properly, but his lunged ached faintly, begging for more air no matter how much he took in.
Tony stayed that way, gulping in air like he was drowning, folded in on himself on the floor in the dark until his phone blinked again with a text.
- standing under your window right now
Shakily, Tony stumbled to his feet and hurried over to the window, pushing it open as quietly as he could. He poked his head out and, sure enough, Steve was standing right there, barely visible in the darkness. His hands were jammed in his pockets, his head tilted back as he craned his neck to look up at Tony.
“Hey,” he whispered, and Tony gave him a wavering smile.
“Hey,” Tony said back, just as softly. “I hope those muscles aren’t just for show, because you might have to catch me.”
Steve grinned up at him. "I’m not gonna let you fall,” he assured Tony.
“Better not,” Tony grumbled. He jammed his phone into his his pocket and braced his hands on the window ledge. Luckily he was on the first floor of their house – he’d picked his room when they’d moved to this house a few years before for this reason – so the distance from his window to the ground was not too significant. Still, it was far enough that he risked injury jumping that far. He’d done it before, though, and those times he didn’t have a Steve to cushion the fall just in case, so he wasn’t exactly worried.
Tony swung one leg over, gripped the sides of the window like he’d done so many times before, and ducked his head out. He surveyed the ground below as he leaned forward.
“How are you gonna do this?” Steve whispered, brows furrowed in what was probably slight concern.
“Well I usually just jump,” Tony explained. “I’ve gotten very good at it over the years, don’t worry Steve.”
He swung the other leg over, and settled so he was sitting on the ledge, body cowed forward as he kept his body angled in the space of the window. He scooted forward a little bit, but paused when Steve raised both hands in a “wait” gesture.
“Hold on,” he said, “turn your body sideways a bit.”
“I’m not sure what you’re hoping to happen here,” Tony said, one brow arching up, “but that sounds like a recipe for a broken neck.”
“I’m gonna catch you,” Steve told him, stepping forward so he was positioned just beneath Tony, and extended his arms. “You’re gonna jump into my arms.”
Tony let out a short laugh. “Yeah, no, we’re not doing that.”
“It’s safer than just throwing yourself at the ground,” Steve insisted.
“Jumping into your arms from this height is not safer, Steve,” Tony countered. This was really a bad time to be discussing this; he was practically dangling on the outside of his house in plain view of anyone who might happen to go by, and Howard was due for coming back into his room again for more yelling any moment. It wasn’t really the best time to be arguing over escape methods.
“I’m not gonna drop you, Tony,” Steve told him gently, his voice careful. “Trust me, okay?”
"Honey we have a limited amount of time here,” Steve told him, his voice still low and soft despite the urgent intention of the words. “My bike’s parked pretty close by and it’s only a matter of time before someone notices it. I’m not gonna let you fall, okay? I promise.”
Tony stared down at him, frowning. Steve was looking up at him, arms out and ready to catch him, mouth set in that familiar stubborn line. Tony knew that look; Steve wasn’t going to back down on this.
“Worst case scenario,” Steve continued when Tony didn’t respond right away, “you fall on me and I cushion the impact.”
“I don’t like that option,” Tony objected quickly, his frown deepening. Steve getting hurt instead of him didn’t exactly sound like the lesser of two evils.
“Good, because I’m not gonna let that happen,” Steve said firmly. He gestured with one hand. “Come on.”
Tony stared down at him for another long moment before deciding.
“Fine,” he said on a heavy sigh, and arranged himself the way Steve wanted him. “Better?”
“Perfect,” Steve said. “Now, jump.”
Tony jumped. No preamble, no more waiting; he slid off of the ledge and pitched himself downwards, towards Steve’s waiting arms.
Steve, of course, caught him easily. One moment he was airborne and then the next Steve was catching him with a soft grunt rumbling in his throat, the solid muscle of his arms wrapping around Tony’s wiry frame as he held him tight against his chest; one arm hooked underneath his knees and the other braced around his back. Tony’s arms came up instinctively to loop around Steve’s neck, clinging to him.
“There,” Steve breathed, and the asshole didn’t even sound like he was straining under Tony’s weight. The muscles on his boyfriend were truly ridiculous (and glorious, if Tony was being honest). “Told you I’d catch you.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Tony mumbled, burying his face in the crook of Steve’s neck. “Stop being so smug. You’re big and strong, we get it.”
Steve laughed quietly at Tony’s grousing, and he felt him press his lips to the top of Tony’s head, lingering there for a long moment with his face pressed into Tony’s hair.
“I’m not being smug,” Steve told him. “Just glad you’re safe.”
Steve’s voice, probably intended to be casual and light, sounded far too raw and honest, and Tony could hear the underlying meaning behind the words. I’m glad you’re safe now, he was saying. I’m glad you’re in my arms and away from your asshole father.
“I’m fine,” Tony said, the words sticking painfully in his throat. He squirmed, kicking his feet to signal Steve to put him down.
Steve obliged, bending over slightly to set him carefully on his his feet. His hands hovered awkwardly in the air for a moment when Tony didn’t release his hold on Steve and back away; Tony couldn’t seem to manage to let him go. Steve’s solid warmth felt so good against him, the column of his broader body pressed against his own. Tony found himself stepping closer, tightening his arms around Steve’s neck and pressing his face against his chest, breathing in the clean, soft scent of his shirt. The softness felt so good against the still heated sting on his cheek, soothing the faint throbbing that lingered on his flesh.
A beat, then Steve seemed to realize that Tony wanted him close, and he curved his arms around Tony’s waist. His head bowed forward, leaning his head slightly to the side so that it rested against Tony’s.
“I’ve got you,” Steve whispered, and he did, Tony knew that he did; he felt Steve’s warmth around him like a blanket. He was safe, so safe, Steve was holding him like he was precious and treasured. It was a moment of weakness to cling to Steve like he was a lifeline, but he needed it. He needed Steve in that moment more than anything in the world, and he didn’t have the strength to deny himself what he needed when Steve was giving himself so willingly to him.
“Tony?” Steve whispered after a while, his voice breaking through the silence.
“Yeah?” Tony answered, the words muffled in Steve’s shirt.
“Let me see your face?”
Tony’s back stiffened at that, his chest tightening. Steve went still and a little tense in response.
“Sorry,” Steve murmured, squeezing Tony softly, reassuringly. “I’m sorry, I just want to see how bad it is.”
“It’s fine,” Tony said shortly.
“You know it’s not.”
Tony didn’t answer. Steve wasn’t new to this, he’d seen the damage that Howard could inflict more than once before, but Tony still had an instinctive impulse to hide any blemishes he left on his skin. Usually it was easier, but Howard had been sloppy and drunk tonight. Normally he didn’t go for the face, but he’d been out of control, scotch running thick and potent in his blood –
“Please?” Steve asked, pressing on, even though his voice was gentle and undemanding. He was asking Tony, not forcing him. Tony knew he could brush it off, insist that Steve didn’t need to look at it, it was fine.
It would’ve been easy to do if he couldn’t hear the concern in Steve’s voice, the genuine worry evident and plain to Tony’s ears.
He didn’t answer, but he also didn’t resist when Steve leaned a bit away from him and brought a hand to his chin, tilting his face slightly so Tony was staring up at him.
Steve let out a sharp exhale when he was faced with Tony’s face full on. In the milky moonlight it was probably hard to see what Tony assumed was a dark, purpling bruise around his eye and over the crest of his cheekbone, but Steve looked instantly distraught, which meant it was pronounced enough that he could see it in the dim light. Tony wasn’t surprised. Howard hadn’t held back tonight.
“Shit,” Steve hissed, his face crumpling a bit. His fingers tightened momentarily on Tony’s chin before he dropped his hand, tugging Tony close again. He wrapped his arms tightly around him again, hugging Tony rough and tender all at the same time. “Shit,” he said again, sounding so broken and pained.
Tony shivered. He wished he could sink into Steve, meld into his heat and absorb everything that was him. His fingers dug into Steve’s back; he was so close but it wasn’t enough, he could drown in Steve and still want more –
“Take me away from here.” Tony could hear his voice crack as he spoke, the broken cadence of the words, but he didn’t care. Steve was solid and warm against him and that was all that mattered. “Please? I want to leave here for forever, Steve.”
Steve’s hand started slowly stroking up and down his back, his other tightening on the curve of his waist. Lips pressed against his forehead, the coldness of Steve’s lip ring sharp against his skin, and Tony could feel himself melting, melting into him –
“Of course,” Steve said, and his voice sounded broken too. Tony wondered if he was trying not to cry. If Tony hadn’t felt so raw, broken open and exposed to the thin, cool night air, he might have teased Steve about tears ruining his bad boy rep. Steve would probably laugh and roll his eyes, give Tony that fond smile that always made Tony’s heart jump a little bit in his chest.
It wasn’t the time. As it was, Tony just clung to Steve, trusting him to take care of him for the few brief moments when he couldn’t stop himself from succumbing to it.