Hey! This was a fic prompt for FrostIronStrange (54- Reading a book together) from @acutepotato !
Stephen handed the textbook over to the Cloak, yawning as he looked at the watch on his wrist, the one Christine had given him, damaged but still working, a fitting metaphor. He reminded himself that he needed to call her. It’d been weeks since their last conversation, and he was surprised that she hadn’t been hounding him.
It was just after one in the morning, hours after he’d told his partners he’d be up for bed. He shoved his chair back with a wince, knowing he would get an irritated earful from at least one of them. It was probably Loki’s turn, he’d been nagging recently about how fragile Tony was as a mortal, how he needed his sleep, his food, his exercise.
He chuckled as he imagined Tony’s disgruntled expression, an image of a bedraggled kitten with a goatee coming to mind, which indicated it was way past the time to sleep.
Creeping up the stairs, he did a last check of the foyer of the Sanctum, checking for any breaches to his wards or spells, anything out of place before he shuffled over to the artifacts. He spent longer here, checking them all over, making sure everything was as it was meant to be and that his Asgardian lover hadn’t accidentally borrowed anything again.
Despite being careful, the door to his bedroom creaked as it opened, and he slipped in as silently as he could, shucking off his tunic top onto his armchair and looking over towards the bed dimly lit by the bedside lamp. He wasn’t foolish enough to think that Loki hadn’t woken when he’d entered the room.
Loki was the textbook definition of a light sleeper, and he was even worse when he had one of them in his arms, constantly alert in case something should happen to either of them. Centuries of losing things he loved, of believing himself unworthy had left scars that no amount of tender touch could eradicate.
Looking at him now though, Loki was the epitome of calm, laying on his back with one arm up by his head, his other holding Tony securely to his side. The smaller man’s breathing was heavy in true sleep, not shallow like Loki’s was, his head nestled on Loki’s shoulder.
As he finished getting undressed, Stephen paused as he heard the shifting of skin across sheets, and he watched Loki push himself up into a sitting position, looking around with a frown.
‘What’s wrong?’ Stephen asked in a whisper, leaving his pants on and padding over to the bed, placing a knee on it as he reached out towards Loki. His fingers trailed over Loki’s side, teasing up the bumps of his ribs and the crisscross of scars there as he peered down into worried green eyes, his heart beginning to quicken.
‘Nothing with me, but I fear…’ his body tensed up under Stephen’s touch as he looked down, his swallowing loud in the silence of the room.
‘Lo? Sweetheart, what’s-’ his gaze snapped down at the low whine Tony let out in his throat, watching the way he became restless against Loki’s hip.
‘I thought we had avoided any complications about the date passed,’ Loki breathed out, brushing Tony’s bangs back, his fingers sweeping aside the sweat beginning to bead on Tony’s forehead.
‘Just because he says he’s alright, doesn’t mean his subconscious mind is. Stane literally tried to rip his heart from his chest. Tony still feels conflicted about his death. Come on, sweetheart, wake up,’ Stephen whispered down to him, stroking his fingers up and down Tony’s bare arm, willing him to wake up before the nightmare became intense.
‘You are safe with us, beloved, none will harm you, I swear it.’ Loki added his own concern, the tiniest hint of anger coating his last few words. ‘If that man still lived today, I would carve his own heart from his chest!’ Loki spat, keeping his touch on Tony light as they continued to try and wake him.
You and me both, Stephen venomously agreed as he watched the effects of the constant betrayal Tony had suffered, the pained gasps clogging his throat and the tears dampening his lashes.
‘Tony,’ Stephen raised his voice, adding a little jolt of magic to his fingertips, enough to rouse Tony from his sleep without physical harm to his body. It did the trick, jolting Tony awake. Brown eyes were open but unseeing, and he flinched from their hold as he flung himself towards the other end of the bed, his hand splayed over his chest.
Over the scars of where the arc reactor had once sat.
‘Calm yourself, Anthony, it is only us. We will not let harm come to you, you are safe,’ Loki soothed, carefully extending his hand, leaving it hovering in the space between them, not moving any closer. Tony’s head swung between them both, his breathing shuddering in huge, panting gasps, his eyes enormous and his pupils dilated.
‘He’s gone, Tones, he can’t hurt you, no one can hurt you, you’re safe,’ Stephen reassured, not moving, holding his breath. He watched Tony try and process what they were telling him, feeling like phantom hands were crushing his heart at the confusion Tony felt with the vestiges of sleep still clinging to him
Slowly, his movements deliberate and careful, Tony shuffled forward, placing his cheek on Loki’s outstretched palm, taking a deep, shaking breath.
Stephen didn’t believe himself to be the vengeful type, that was much more Loki’s characteristic, but he could feel the crushing feeling in his chest transforming into fury. Terror hid behind Tony’s doe eyes as they glimmered with tears, pain etched in the deep crevasses of his face.
He didn’t want Tony to talk about the nightmares. He would listen if that’s what Tony wanted, they both would, for however long it took for the fear to fade, but he was afraid that if Tony talked about them it would give the nightmares a will of their own, which would affect his mood and happiness for the days to come.
Stephen didn’t want that to happen, didn’t want the betrayal to keep its claws in Tony. He’d come so far, and he deserved to feel safe.
‘I have something that might help,’ Stephen said softly, the words shimmering around the three of them, banishing the pain and reminding them all that here, in the safety of the Sanctum, there was only the three of them.
Slipping into bed beside Loki, Stephen held his hand out, a book falling into his palm via magic. Tony looked up curiously, allowing Loki to coax him closer, his gaze still darting about to make sure he was safe before he allowed himself to settle, his body tense and rigid.
Stephen settled on his back, using magic to hold the book aloft and cleared his throat. It had been a secret Tony had uttered, years ago, about how Jarvis used to read to him when he had bad dreams as a child, when he couldn’t sleep.
When Howard ignored him.
Then, when he’d become an orphan and created his AI JARVIS, Tony had asked him to continue that comfort when things had gotten bad in his life. During the nights following his return from Afghanistan, JARVIS had read to him while he tinkered in the workshop, just so he didn’t have to hear the silence pressing around him, his demons invading his rational thought.
‘“Where's Papa going with that ax?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast. “Out to the hoghouse,” replied Mrs. Arable. “Some pigs were born last night.”’
Stephen wasn’t sure if Loki knew Charlotte’s Web was a children’s story, but he knew Loki would remember the title of Tony’s favorite story, and he glanced down to see green eyes reading ahead of where Stephen was narrating, eager to absorb any information he could about a childhood comfort of Tony’s.
He felt Loki’s leg twine with his under the covers, Tony’s hand stretching over to rest on Stephen’s hip, his hand sporadically twitching. With Stephen’s voice, Loki’s warmth and the blanket of his childhood memories, Tony’s fear of his nightmare, his hurt of the betrayal began to fade.
When Stephen heard Tony’s snores, he stopped, looking down at where he was content in Loki’s hold.
‘Keep going. I am interested to see if this Wilbur is able to save his life with the help of his new friend,’ Loki whispered, the back of his head resting in the crook of Stephen’s elbow as he waited.
‘You just want to hear me talking,’ Stephen laughed.
‘That too. I don’t remember the last time you read. Go on, before he starts to stir, I believe your voice will keep him calm.’