45 - sleep

Nothing but Everything

"So Stark, you are a man with everything but has nothing."

That phrase pounded through Tony Stark's head as he tried to lie down to sleep for once. His body was nearly giving out on him from the exhaustion of constant work and Yinsen had forced him to try to sleep.

As Tony lay down on the hard cot that had been set up, he could not help but make comparisons to the life he had at home. If he had been at home, he would have been lying on a very expensive and soft mattress with Egyptian cotton sheets and a goose down comforter to keep him warm. Instead, this hard, thin pad was all he had and a rough, beaten up, old blanket was useless in trying to keep warm with on cold desert nights. He tried to use his imagination to make things more comfortable but no one could pull that off.

Tony tossed and turned, trying to find one comfortable position to attempt to let himself sleep but nothing worked. He laid there in the darker part of their prison, absently scratching at the shirt he was wearing. He still had his own pants, which were now getting quite shabby and were hardly recognizable as the Armani he was actually wearing. The shirt wasn't his though, it was one of the few he and Yinsen had been forced to share. It didn't fit right and it was scratchy but if Tony took it off to try to sleep, he would freeze during the night unless he slept on the ground by the fire pit and be kept awake by his now built-in nightlight in his chest. Frustrated, Tony started laughing at his own misery and how no one would ever believe this.

"What is so funny, Stark?" Yinsen asked at the peculiar sound of laughter.

"Nothing important. I could either laugh or cry at my situation here. I'm cold, exhausted and in pain but I can't sleep."

"You need to try to or you'll collapse. You are working too hard as it is, Stark." Yinsen said softly.

"I am trying. Believe me, I am."

As Tony thought about it more, sleeping on the ground by the forge may not be a bad idea. He heaved his tired body off the ridiculous cot, grabbed the ratty blanket and plopped himself back down on a clear spot on the floor of the cave near the warmth of the forge. Tony immediately took the shirt off, leaving him only his undershirt which was no longer the color it used to be, and balled it up to use as a makeshift pillow. Tony wrapped the blanket around himself and curled up, making a second attempt at truly trying to sleep.

Yinsen, to his credit, noticed where Tony had moved to and out of consideration for the man, who had been working non-stop to obtain their freedom for days, dimmed the light he was using while Tony tried to sleep.

Tony closed his eyes as he was soaking up the warmth radiating from the forge. He was trying to will his body to sleep but his mind kept going against his wishes. One person kept popping into his head, the one thing he had at homeā€¦Pepper. He couldn't help but think about Pepper and just imagining her brought a small smile to his lips. Pepper must have been worried sick about him. Was she still fighting for him? Was she not letting them call off the search and declare him dead?

With Pepper in his head, Tony let his imagination wander a bit. Pepper was so much different from the other girls he conquered. She meant something to him. Pepper actually meant a great deal to Tony. An outside observer may have even seen love beneath the surface that both were afraid to show. Tony let himself imagine that he was with Pepper right now instead of Hell on earth. He could smell her perfume and her shampoo in his nose. He could almost feel her touch ghosting over his cheek. Tony swore that he could feel her holding him and running her fingers through his hair. For once, Tony was grateful for his over active imagination because it was relaxing him even though all of this was a dream since Pepper had never done most of this.

Tony's breathing was starting to deepen as he started thinking only about Pepper once more since she was all he had. He thought of her hair and how much he would like to touch it. He thought of her skin and how it burns with the littlest sun. He thought of her legs and how much he wanted them wrapped around him. He thought of her smile, the one only he got to see. It was that smile that he had known since he was eighteen and Pepper probably still did not realize it. Her smile had saved his life in a way that Christmas. It reminded him that there was something still left to live for as he faced a pretty lonely and empty holiday.

Tony knew he would see that smile again and what he was fighting for. He was fighting to get back to Pepper and tell her how he felt for once and for all. As he finally fell asleep, Pepper's smile kept the demons away, kept him warm, and kept him alive to fight one more day.