Thankfully, this is only going to be two chapters long. Just a little plot bunny that's been running around in my head for quite some time. It's a different look at the arc reactor kink. Also, Tony is probably my favorite character, if I'm completely honest with myself. Well, I don't own Avengers, hope you like this story, reviews are loved. Also, this is completely Movie-Verse and has spoilers.
NEW NOTE AS OF 12/11/14: This fic has been censored. To find the uncensored version, please visit my a03 account under the same username.
Tony stared up at the ceiling, debating whether or not to go out to the living room and drink until he passed out. That was usually the solution for nights like this, when he dreamed of Obadiah ripping out the reactor, that last final tug as the magnet left his body. It made his chest throb even though he knew it was fine, that there was nothing wrong with it. Well, there was still a ton of shrapnel trying to dig its way to his heart but at least he knew that it wouldn't succeed while the arc reactor was in place.
But the dreams? They just liked to remind him that all it would take was to be held down, paralyzed, and with a flick of a wrist it could be removed.
Tony pulled himself out of bed, stumbling across the room and out the door. Jarvis had thoughtfully brought the lights up to ten percent so he wasn't walking around completely in the dark, though he probably would've been fine doing just that. He stopped, leaning against the bar, when he saw a shadowed form huddled on the couch.
"Tony?" Steve stood from where he sat, his voice uncertain.
"What are you doing up?" Tony asked, slinking behind the bar and mixing together a quick drink that was mostly vodka. Okay all vodka. With no mixing involved. "Don't you need beauty rest or something?"
Steve frowned and sat back down on the couch so his back was to Tony. "I was thinking." He turned and gave Tony and odd look. "Why have alcohol so late?"
Tony knocked the drink back, then refilled and sucked that down too. "Trying not to think. I find it keeps me up. I'd offer a drink but-"
"Can't get drunk," Steve said, a soft smile on his lips.
"It is my specialty though. Vodka mixed with broken dreams and angst. It's delicious." Tony refilled again, and after a moment of contemplation, grabbed the bottle of vodka and moved to sit down beside Steve, who was giving him an odd look. "Might as well have some company if I can't sleep. It's certainly better than the alternative."
"What's the alternative?" Steve was leaning forward on his knees, head bowed.
"Oh, just drinking myself into a pathetic stupor, passing out on the couch, then having Jarvis wake me up before any of you get up so I can go back to a real bed," Tony said, crooking an eyebrow at him.
Steve tilted his head. "That's not healthy."
"Hm, you're not the first to tell me that," Tony said. He took another swig.
Steve snatched the bottle out of his hand, holding it out of reach when Tony flailed for it, a petulant expression on his lips. "How about I offer you another alternative?"
"Oh, and what would that be?" Tony asked as he stood up. If Steve was going to steal his alcohol, he'd just go grab another.
Except Steve had reached out and grabbed his arm and forced him to sit back down. At any other time, Tony wouldn't have cared. He would've shrugged Steve off and walked away, but his mind was too fragile and decided that Steve was a threat that needed to be eliminated.
His own hand wrapped tight around Steve's wrist and he yanked the man forward off the couch, throwing him to the ground and jumping back, panting. Fear thundered through his veins, making his ears roar with blood as he stared down at Steve. Steve, who was not Obadiah. Steve, who was not going to pin him down and tear his life out. Steve, the blond man looking up at him, eyes narrowing with judgment.
"Don't say a word," Tony said, backing up. "I know that look, and I really do not want to hear what you have to say."
"No, no, not listening," Tony said as he turned away and headed back to the bar. His hands were shaking too bad for him to pour anything, and after dropping the glass from before three times back onto the counter, he realized Steve was walking towards him.
"I'm sorry," Steve said, picking up the glass. The discarded bottle of vodka from earlier was in his other hand, and he poured another drink and slid it closer to Tony. "I...for whatever I did to upset you."
"Just an over-reaction, it's nothing," Tony said. He didn't trust himself to grab the shot glass, so he left it, full on the counter. Stop the presses, Tony Stark refused an offer for more alcohol.
"It's not nothing," Steve said. "I've seen that expression, that fear, in too many men's eyes to know it isn't nothing. I did something wrong, and for that, I am sorry."
"You may have known your men, Rogers, but you don't know me," Tony said, finally gathering his wits about him once more and walking away, back towards his room.
"I would if you'd just tell me," Steve said, his words causing a falter in Tony's step.
Tony took a deep breath, closing his eyes. "I'm not wearing the suit, Steve. Pretty sure you were convinced I was nothing without it." I even believe you.
"You know I don't think that now, not after...everything."
Tony turned around to see Steve staring down at the ground, as if ashamed that he had ever thought a single bad thought, however deserved, about Tony. And that was just a weird thing to see.
"But I'm nothing compared to you guys. I just have this thing in my chest that can just be...ripped out by anyone. I can be killed easier than any of you, and I'm not a superhuman, and I..." Tony stopped when Steve looked up at him, his blue eyes full of something that he really hoped was not pity.
"Tony, are you sure you don't want to talk?" Steve asked.
"No, I don't want to talk, Rogers. I've never been big on the whole emotions thing," Tony said with a flap of his hand.
"Maybe I want to talk," Steve said, stepping closer. "I was up before you after all, maybe I need someone to talk to."
Tony glanced at the ground. "Why would you talk to me then? Like I said, emotions and me don't mix."
"I have no one else."
Tony's eyes remained permanently rooted to the floor then, a cold feeling washing over him. He swallowed thickly, fists unclenching slowly. He knew that feeling. He knew that feeling quite well. When he came home from Afghanistan and showed Obi the reactor only to have the man rip it out for his own uses, leaving him to die on the floor. It was then he realized there was no one, no one, to take care of him, no one for him to talk to any longer.
Steve walked back towards the couch, and Tony followed. I don't have to say anything. I can just listen to him talk, it's fine.
The conversation, surprisingly, wasn't that bad. Steve talked about old war stories, mainly about Bucky, and memories of when he was younger living in Brooklyn. By the time he stopped, it was three in the morning and Tony was feeling more relaxed than he had in awhile from Steve's care free jokes. The man really was funny when he wasn't trying to be the symbolism of America.
Tony went back to bed at four in the morning, and woke up feeling refreshed for the first time in a long while.
It started to become a regular thing, or rather, as regular as Tony's nightmares were. Which occurred every other night or so. He was surprised to see Steve up every time he stumbled out to the living room, but Steve brushed it off saying that he had things that kept him awake at night too.
It wasn't really a surprise when Steve began to divulge those things. Stories of how he had almost lost Bucky, on numerous occasions, and the one time he actually had to see the man fall to his death. Stories of watching close friends die, falling before the might of Hydra's weapons, born of the Tesseract. Tony himself had been angry to see Fury was making weapons using the Tesseract energy. It must've been even worse for Steve, having seen what the weapons could do, up close and personal.
He was beginning to realize that he and Steve weren't so different. They both had their nightmares, their losses, their fears of seeing the past repeated.
Tony was realizing something else though. Steve had experienced traumatic events. He had seen people die. But he always had someone he could count on, someone he knew wouldn't betray him.
Tony, on the other hand, didn't have many of those left. Pepper, yes, but she had left him soon after the Avengers debut performance against Loki. She didn't appreciate the constant near death experiences of her lover, which he didn't fault her for at all. At the very least, he knew he could still count on her as a friend, but that was really it. Rhodes and he didn't talk as much as they used to. And if those two fell through, he used to have Obi, but then the man had tried to kill him, then ripped out the only thing keeping him alive.
Steve had never experienced that pain. Despite all he had been through, it was that event that kept them different, apart, in Tony's mind. He was...honored that Steve had told him so much during their late night talks, but he couldn't bring himself to reciprocate.
Because he knew Steve could never understand that ache of having your best friend try and kill you.
Tony stared up at the ceiling, resisting the urge to get up and move to the living room. He could hear Obadiah breathing in his ear, the smell of booze and that cheap mint gum he always insisted on buying even though he didn't have to in his nose. Obi had never been frugal; he had just really liked that gum. Now he couldn't help but suppress a shudder whenever he saw it on the shelf of a store.
Try as he might, he couldn't dispel the thoughts of his nightmare. His body jerked at the memory, the pain lancing through him, making him curl up on himself as he gasped out stuttered breathes. Phantom arcs of pain radiated out from his chest, his blood roaring in his ears as it tried to process the adrenaline spiking through him.
The door cracked open, the sound startling Tony out of his flashback, and he jerked on the bed, panting heavily as his mind finally caught up with itself. Groaning, he untangled himself from the sheets, covering his eyes when the lights flickered on, bright.
"Jesus...f-fuck..." Tony flopped back fully on the bed, his free hand rubbing at the arc reactor beneath his shirt, trying to affirm that it was there, but the touch through cloth wasn't enough.
Practically choking on his panic, Tony sat up and began to tug his shirt off, flinging it to the side before he looked down, staring at the circle of blue light, whirring within his chest. It ached, horribly. He rubbed his hand over it, felt along the edges of the metal.
He looked up to see Steve standing in only his sweats, hair mussed up and eyes full of concern. "Oh great. Jarvis, what the hell?"
"You were not coming out of it on your own sir, so I enlisted some outside help."
Tony rolled his eyes, orders to kick Steve out on the tip of his tongue, but all he could do was stare at him, and something must've read in his gaze because the next moment, Steve was crawling onto the bed, slipping between his knees and moving close.
"Tony, I'm going to hug you now, okay?"
Breath still stuttering, Tony nodded, trying not to panic as Steve's arms wrapped around his shoulders, tugging him forward so they were chest to chest. The arc reactor rubbed between them, and he started, pulling back. But Steve kept his grip firm, only letting him move enough to get rid of the contact with the arc reactor.
"This is okay, you're okay," Steve said, resting his chin on Tony's shoulder.
"Of course I am," Tony said. He wished he could keep the snapping bite out of his voice, but now that he was beginning to calm down, his mind was demanding that he stop being so weak, especially in front of Steve.
But Steve had shown him weakness throughout the past few weeks, baring his deeper thoughts and painful memories.
"Could you do something for me?" Tony asked, the words escaping him in a rush.
"Yeah, anything," Steve said.
Tony pulled back, grabbing one of the soldier's broad hands in his own two, then pressing it against the arc reactor, trying not to flinch at the touch. Steve looked up at him, but Tony broke their gaze before Steve read too much.
"I figure, you're as good as a human shield, right? So you can...protect it." Tony maneuvered them back down onto the bed so they were spooning, his back to Steve's chest with the man's hand resting firmly over the reactor.
"Protect it from what?" Steve asked into his neck as Jarvis dimmed the lights back down.
"I'm only giving you so much, don't get excited," Tony said, burrowing his face into the crook of his elbow.
Steve didn't move his hand for the rest of the night.