Title: Touch Starvation
Fandom: Avengers (MCU)
Disclaimer: Certainly not my characters. NO money made.
Summary: The Avengers figure out Tony secretly likes being cuddled.
Author’s Notes: Written for AvengersKink. Prompt:
Somehow the team finds out that Tony a) really, really likes being cuddled and b) will not, under any circumstances, initiate cuddles. So they start finding sneaky excuses to cuddle with him. First one by one, then all together. I'll love you forever if he's sick at least at one point.
As Steve passed by Tony’s room on the way back from a particularly grueling trailing session in which both Thor and the Hulk had come out looking much better than he had, Steve paused. The sounds coming from within made him wince in sympathy. Either Tony had had one too many drinks—which didn’t seem likely as it was three in the afternoon—or the man was sick. Steve stuck his head in through the open doorway and directed his call toward the ensuite bathroom. “Hey, Tony. You all right in there?”
The door was half open and a groan sounded from behind it. “Go away.”
Steve decided that wasn’t an official order and chose to not follow it. He made his way through the bedroom. Usually neat and tidy, the covers on the bed were rumpled, askew, and clothing littered the floor in a three-foot radius around the bed. There was an obvious trail from bed to bathroom where clothing wasn’t, leading to a Tony Stark curled around a toilet bowl. His cheek against the cool seat, Tony’s head stayed put but his eyes flicked upward to see Steve.
“What’s wrong?” Steve asked, suddenly feeling awkward in
the doorway. If he thought Tony were sick, he should have called for Bruce
already. “Hangover? Food poisoning? Flu?”
Tony lifted his hand, pointing uncoordinatedly in Steve’s general direction. His words were weak, slightly slurred, as if he had no energy left. “That last one.” He suppressed a burp and his eyes flicked briefly toward the toilet then back to Steve. “Go before you catch it from me.” His whole body shuddered at this, as if it didn’t like the idea. And he pulled his arm back to wrap it around his middle. All he wore were baggy sweatpants and a short-sleeved white t-shirt.
Steve almost wished his new Captain America outfit had a cape, so he could wrap it around the man’s shoulders. And he could have gone back into the bedroom for a blanket, sure. But instead he immediately sat down, folding his body against Tony’s, and wrapped an arm around Tony. His other hand tested for fever, feeling first Tony’s forehead then cheek.
Expecting Tony to resist, Steve was shocked when Tony leaned into the touch, as if the temperature of Steve’s hand felt good against his burning hot forehead and he suddenly couldn’t get close enough to the man. Steve wrapped both arms around him and cuddled the man close. Tony pulled away from the toilet and buried himself against Steve’s front, hugging both his arms to his chest, bringing his knees up toward his chest as well, and letting Steve just hold him.
It wasn’t the most comfortable of positions, sitting on the cold tile floor in the middle of Tony’s bathroom, but this was a side of Tony he’d never seen. The man barely shook hands, unless he was making a business deal. But now he clung to Steve’s uniform, as if scared Steve would pull away, taking his warmth with him. So Steve sat there and held on for as long as Tony wanted. Even when Tony fell asleep sitting up against him and woke with an embarrassing start, Steve didn’t say anything. He just rubbed Tony’s back until Tony drifted off again, his hot cheek against Steve’s chest.
Steve was pretty sure the others were never going to believe this.
“I’ll be happy when we finish the rebuild of your lab,” Tony said, reaching past Bruce to grab a tablet off the desk that he could load up with the new suit specs he’d been working all week on.
Bruce made a noise of agreement, eyes fixed on whatever slide he’d loaded into his microscope. Tony’s lab was bigger than almost anywhere else Bruce had ever worked, but even he had to admit that it was a little cramped with two of them in there. Mostly, that was because Tony liked his space and didn’t like anyone touching his toys. Bruce had been squeezed into a corner, and even then Tony kept things on his desk. Well, two could play at that game.
Pretending his pen was out of ink, Bruce wheeled his chair toward Tony. Instead of reaching in front, he reached around behind the man, helping himself to a pen from the cup there. Tony almost never bothered to write things out the old school way, but he still had the pens there as if they’d come with the desk. Bruce’s hand grazed the curve of Ton’s back and his arm pressed there, lingering as Bruce found a pen he liked. The side of his body pressed against Tony’s and he turned his head to get a look at the cup, finding Tony staring right into his.
Tony didn’t look annoyed or even curious. He had a distant look in his eyes, which closed slowly, almost timidly. Then his body leaned to the side, heavy against Bruce’s.
It was as though they were each running their own experiment, trying to determine the proper length of time, amount of weight to apply, how close their heads could get, how each would react upon feeling the other’s breath against his skin. Bruce rubbed his hand, pen gripped between two fingers, up and down Tony’s upper arm. And Tony tilted his head, fitting it into the space between Bruce’s chin and shoulder.
It lasted all of a minute and ended with a satisfying, strangely adorable “Emmmph” sound from Tony as he cuddled impossibly closer and a simultaneous, affectionate tighter squeeze from Bruce. Then they both broke apart.
Without a word, Bruce rolled back to his corner. He pretended to make some notes with the pen and watched out of the corner of his eye as a grinning Tony finished loading the specs into the datapad.
“Can anything be done?” Clint looked up at their only escape after tying the bandage around his shin; the wound wasn’t deep and it seemed to have stopped bleeding.
Tony raised his eyebrows and turned around. It had been pretty clear since the crash that the engine was not fixable. It wasn’t in one piece. It wasn’t even in the plane any more. Tony was a master with technology, but he couldn’t just make replacement parts appear out of nowhere. “No. Nothing can be done.”
“Damn.” Phone reception had been spotty, but Coulson had finally been able to get through to S.H.I.E.L.D. He ended the phone call with a strong push of a button. “It’s going to be an hour before they can get a plane to us.”
“I’d offer to fly you all back to the states, but the suit needs a recharge, and it isn’t powerful enough to hold up this whole plane. I think we’re all agreed that we can’t abandon the hundred crates inside?”
“Agreed.” Coulson said at once, stuffing his phone in his pocket and switching off his earbud. “It’s too valuable. Can’t scratch the mission now.”
Clint gestured toward his leg. “Plus, I nearly got killed getting that stuff.”
Coulson rolled his eyes. “You didn’t nearly get killed.” He kissed Clint’s cheek.
Clint pretended to pout and crossed his arms over his chest. He noticed the way Tony eyed him. Maybe it was a little childish, and Clint would be the first to admit that, but he faked a shiver. “Just our luck to break down on the coldest day of the year so far.” He attached himself to Tony with a mumbled, “It’s freezing out here.”
“It’s not that c—“ Coulson broke off as he saw Clint’s eyes widen and Clint’s head tilt slightly in Tony direction. Catching on, “It’s not that cold if we huddle together. Best way to stay warm.”
And before Tony could say anything, he had Clint cuddling from the front and Coulson from behind. He rocked between them and, to both of their surprise, faked a shiver of his own.
Clint snuggled closer, stretching his arms around Tony, all the way back to Coulson. And Coulson’s hand ran up Clint’s arms, reassuringly. Clint lifted his bum leg off the ground and leaned into Tony, who took all of his weight, with Coulson to steady him and hold him up as well. “What do you think the chances of S.H.I.E.L.D. getting here early are?” Tony asked, hugging Clint to him and resting his head back against Coulson’s.
Tony made a noise of understanding and seemed to resign himself to his fate. Coulson squeezed Clint’s arm.
Tony rummaged fruitlessly through the refrigerator. “There’s never anything to eat.”
“That’s because you don’t stop working and start thinking about dinner until eleven at night. Here… Indian.” Natasha dropped a brown paper bag on the kitchen table, filled to the top with takeout containers. Tony eyed her suspiciously but hunger overpowered him and he dug in.
Halfway into the meal, Tony sneezed. He managed to both swallow first and bury his nose in the crook of his arm. But when he looked up, Natasha stared at him critically. “Coming down with something, Tony?”
He shook his head and swept his hand toward the food. “No, I think it’s the spices.” He sniffled, suddenly unsure that that was true.
She stood slowly and walked toward him with silent grace. “Because... you’re our leader. We can’t afford for you to get sick.” She cupped his cheek in her hand and stepped closer. “I think I’d better see you to bed, just to be sure.”
Tony was tense, rigid, until she took one step closer. And then his face nuzzled into her abdomen and arm slid around her back. She stoked his head, fingers grazing the dark brown hair, the bare neck. She didn’t ever let anyone get this close without an ulterior motive, though this one was more innocent than most, and certainly welcome.
“Okay… just to be sure. But what about the dinner?”
“We’ll bring the curry with us. I heard somewhere that spicy foods are good for colds.”
He laughed into her belly and nuzzled closer. She wanted to lead him upstairs and tuck him into bed with her body pressed to his and her arm draped over him, but right now she also didn’t want to move for all the world.
Thor did not quite understand the concept of inventing an excuse to cuddle Tony. The others had explained it to him multiple times, but cuddling was not something one forced. It was the result of mutual understanding and a desire to become closer. And though he looked for possible ways it might come about, he could not force a reason.
It was, in fact, the last thing on his mind when Tony was busy in his lab or eating or when they were off on missions or doing battle. He had just about forgotten the missive when he found himself lying on top of Tony.
They had been in the training room together, practicing speed and working on reaction times, when a series of spikes had shot from a wall. Thor had gone flying, tackling Tony to the floor and pinning him down while the spikes shot above them, piercing his cape but doing no more damage than that.
Thor looked down at Tony. “Are you all right?”
Tony nodded, winded but otherwise unscathed. The Iron Man mask slid away as Tony found enough breath to squeak out, “Fine.”
It was then that Thor realized how close they were already and that it would be the easiest thing to become even closer. He slid his arm under Tony’s neck. Tony was in his armor still, but that didn’t matter to Thor; he barely felt its hardness as he lay on top of Tony and sort of cradled the man at the same time. Tony smiled in satisfaction even as the timer rang out in warming that the battle simulation was seconds from ending. They would have to have a second go at it, but not just yet.
Tony swiped the movie off the table and followed his teammates down the hall to the rec room. Avenger Movie Night had become a tradition in the tower, for whoever happened to be there. Tonight, there was a full house, which they hadn’t had in some time. Thor’s trips to Asgard had become more frequent. Coulson was almost always away, working with S.H.I.E.L.D., and Natasha and Clint disappeared almost as frequently. And the Hulk’s actions and whereabouts could never be predicted.
When he got to the room, he stopped short, staring at the single couch sitting in front of the television screen. “What happened to all the furniture?” Just last week there had been three chairs, a loveseat, and a different couch.
“Hulk smash. This one stronger.” And then, without warning, he scooped Natasha, Tony, and Steve up in his arms and collapsed onto the couch. He hadn’t been kidding; the couch supported their combined weight with not so much as a creak or groan of springs. There wasn’t much room for anyone else on the couch, however. Hawkeye took a seat next to him and Thor sat on the back of the couch, leaning against the Hulk’s other side.
Coulson stuck the DVD in the player and brought a bunch of blankets out from a chest behind the couch. For a minute, it looked to Tony like the Avengers had used their super powers to rob a quilting bee of every last scrap of fabric. But then two soft quilts landed over Tony and he didn’t care how it looked. Coulson squeezed onto the couch beside Clint and hit play on the remote.
But Tony wasn’t paying attention. He was trapped against the Hulk, the strong arm holding him in like a lap belt, but larger and heavier and more satisfying against his middle. He could feel the steady rise and fall of the Hulk’s chest at his back, each breath a reassurance. He could feel the others snuggled closed on either side of him. He could feel the warmth of so many bodies trapped beneath layers of shared blankets. Surrounded by comfort, Tony closed his eyes and drank it all in.