Out of Touch

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)

Author's Notes: This is a very belated b-day fic for seanchai. Exactly one week late, and shorter than I intended it to be. *sheepish* Hope you enjoy anyway!

Tony woke with the sense that something was wrong. No, not wrong, just out of place. He opened his eyes slowly and found the room dark, the mansion still and quiet. He was alone in the bed--that's what was missing. Sliding his hand over the space next to him, Tony found that the sheets were still warm. Steve hadn't been up long, then. Probably a nightmare.

When they'd first started sleeping together, Tony had come awake every time Steve left the bed. He'd been glad when he stopped waking up every time Steve got up to use the bathroom or get a glass of water, but he hated that he'd started sleeping through the nightmares. Hated that the distressed noises and jerky motions were common enough to get used to.

Wincing in anticipation of the cold night air, Tony pushed back the covers and slid out of the bed. Padding out of the bedroom, he moved through the hallway and down the stairs. He could see a faint light leaking into the living room from the kitchen. The door was slightly ajar, so Tony pushed it the rest of the way open and stepped into the brightly lit room, squinting a little.

Steve was sitting at the table with a newspaper and a mug of what, from the syrup left out on the counter, was probably hot chocolate. The layout of the paper was unfamiliar. Tony's eyes flicked up to the top of the page. It was the Guardian, from London, England.

"Hey," Steve said softly, looking up from the paper as Tony stepped into the room. There was a certain tightness around his mouth. Definitely a nightmare.

"Hey," Tony replied, equally quiet. Instead of sitting down he came around behind Steve and rested his hands on Steve's shoulders, warm and solid beneath the thin t-shirt he'd worn to bed. "Bad one?"

"Not any worse than normal." Steve leaned into his touch a little and Tony started kneading.

"I'm sorry I slept through it," Tony murmured.

Steve bowed his head and Tony obligingly moved his hands to massage his neck. "You needed the sleep."

"I always need the sleep," Tony said wryly. "If you need me, you should wake me up."

"When they're bad, I will," Steve promised.

Tony leaned down, his cheek brushing Steve's, and peered at the newspaper. "I know you like to read the newspaper, Steve, but the Guardian? At midnight? Is last week's news from London really that absorbing?"

Steve shrugged. "I don't want to fall into the habit of thinking that America is the only place where important things happen."

"I don't think you need to worry about that, with the lives we lead," Tony said, amused.

"Sometimes I think the globe spanning battles make the world seem...homogenous," Steve admitted. "It would be easy to get out of touch with the people on the ground."

Out of touch. Tony could feel the mental light bulb go off and wrapped an arm around Steve's chest, though it was a bit uncomfortable to bend down the way he was and the chair was in the in the way. The newspapers might help him feel connected, but even with the hot chocolate, Tony would bet that Steve was still feeling cold. "How many different papers do you read?"

"Just about every English language newspaper they sell in New York." Steve sounded a little bit sheepish. "Sometimes I listen to the radio, too."

"You can get a lot more world news on the internet, these days," Tony commented, rubbing his hand over Steve's chest. "I could organize it so that you'd only have to go to one page for it."

"Okay." Steve reached up and caught Tony's hand in his, lacing their fingers together. "You want to go back to bed?"

Tony paused. "You want me to?"

Steve turned his head and caught Tony's lips in a soft, slow kiss. He smiled when they parted. "I kind of thought I'd go with you."

Tony smiled back and kissed Steve again, quickly. "Sounds good."