When Tony suggested that Winter and Bucky should try directly communicating with one another, he probably should have been more specific about what methods they used.
By the time Tony realized what was going on, it was too late - the notebooks and journals he bought and placed in Winter’s room went untouched, and the email account he set up for Bucky was primarily used to send people pictures of animals while Winter used his email to send people invitations to join pyramid schemes (Winter was turning into a real smooth talker - Tony had needed to reread the email invite three times before he realized why the business proposition Winter was suggesting sounded too good to be true).
“Sacrilege,” Tony accused while he sulked in the penthouse living area and watched Stephen Strange and Vision as they placed bookshelves along the far wall of the space. The shelves were nice, at least - Strange had found the antiques in an Asian market he liked to frequent.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Stephen murmured as he used a bit of magic to resize the bookshelves so that they expanded to take up all of the available space on the wall. “The tablet you gave me is amazing - and thank you for setting up an account which automatically buys and downloads the New York Times bestseller list. However, the tombs I study aren’t available in electronic form, and I would feel more secure if there were copies of them here at the tower in case anything happened to the Sanctum… again.”
“Don’t bitch at Strange, Tony,” Rhodey demanded from his place lounging on one of the couches. “It’s Winter who’s buying up bookstores. And let me tell you, at the beginning of all this, I would have been far less nervous about letting him into our space if I’d known that he would spend so much time sitting around reading children’s books.”
“The Harry Potter books may have initially been advertised and sold as children’s stories, but as the series progresses the underlying themes and principles of the story become far darker and-”
“Calm down, Viz,” Rhodey demanded. “We’ve already gotten you tickets for the Universal vacation package, and none of us have any right to judge considering the fact that we’ll be right there with you wearing robes and waving fake wands around.”
“And I would like to take this moment to say that yes, I find it highly amusing that my books on the mystic arts will be housed on the same shelves as the Harry Potter series,” Stephen put in.
When Tony groaned in annoyance (because seriously, the shelves could have gone into Stephen’s room if the shelves in Winter’s room weren’t already full to bursting), Rhodey told him, “If it bothers you that much, why don’t you talk to Winter about donating the books to libraries after he’s finished reading them? Or better yet, set him up with a tablet and an Amazon account like the one you gave Stephen?”
“He has a tablet and an Amazon account, and he can’t donate the books when he's finished because he doesn’t just read them, you know.”
To demonstrate, Tony grabbed the fifth Harry Potter book from the stack which was about to topple off of the coffee table and he opened it to a random page. He held it out to Rhodey so the man could see the writing which filled the margins of the book's pages.
“Apparently, the Winter Soldier and Bucky Barnes find that discussing literature is one of the only ways they can communicate without resorting to name calling and insulting each other’s mothers,” Tony informed him.
As Vision wandered over to take a look at the book, he said, “That seems rather counter-productive considering the fact that both men were in fact born from the same woman.”
“Winter has no knowledge or memory of her, though, and Barnes makes real mean ‘Your Mama’ jokes about Hydra,” Tony dryly informed him.
Reading over some of the notes in the margin of the book, Rhodey made a strange noise in the back of his throat. “Is this seriously four pages of Bucky Barnes and the Winter Soldier debating how best to kill Dolores Umbridge? In detail?”
“Everyone always forgets that Barnes was infamous for his sniper skills during the war, and he was very, very good at killing people even before Hydra started experimenting on him with super soldier serums,” Tony reminded the man. “And now do you see why we can’t donate any of this crap? At best, the conversations written out in those books would be highly incriminating if anyone got their hands on them. At worst, unsavory characters would be able to actually use the ideas and information which the two of them write out to carry out crimes of their own.”
Picking up another one of the books sitting around the living area, The Count of Monte Cristo this time, Vision murmured, “Their handwriting is different.”
“Sure,” Tony agreed. “Isn’t Winter’s cursive pretty?”
“Their situation gets more confusing by the day,” Rhodey complained with a sigh.
“Not really,” Tony argued. “Not if you remember that they are and always have been two different people.”
“I know that Steve can be a persistent asshole,” Bucky informed Tony. “I’ve been dealing with this guy since we were children. You think he was bad after he found out the Winter Soldier was still active and had access to the world through my eyes? Well now Steve's even worse, and I’m the one he's going after. Please, Stark. The knucklehead cares about you. He really does. I’m not asking you to forgive him. I’m not asking you to like him. I’m just asking for you to talk to him and make him understand where you stand.”
With an incredulous frown, Tony set aside his soldering iron and gave Bucky his full attention as he asked, “You’re really taking his side on this? Now?”
“I’m not taking anybody’s side,” Bucky argued. “As far as I’m concerned, you’re my friend and I want to support you. That’s why I’ll be there for the conversation. You and Steve have some shit to work out, and neither of you are exactly easy to talk to, so I’m going to act as your translator.”
“Seriously?” Tony scoffed.
“Yes,” Barnes insisted. “Lord knows I’ll have a better chance of it than any of the other clowns we live with. And I promise I won’t let him cut you down. Just like I won’t let you cut him down. Please, Tony. Everyone has been on edge for weeks and the tension is making me suffocate. If you’re not going to do this for yourself, do it for me.”
“Wow. You’re really counting on this whole 'us being friends' thing to work out for you, huh?” Tony asked.
With a wry smile, Barnes told him, “I’m actually counting on your sympathetic sense of camaraderie to work out for me. Remember how Steve used to corner you and press for information on the Winter Soldier? He’s doing that to me now, about you. Help me get him off my back?”
“Damn it,” Tony said with a long sigh. “Fine. Let’s get this over with.”
The agreement was kind of worth it simply for Barnes’ resulting smile of relief. Tony totally understood; Steve was relentless when tackling a problem, and being on the opposite side of his Game Face was never pleasant. For anyone, apparently.
The rest of the team cleared out of the common room for them - Bucky nixed the idea of the three of them meeting in his and Steve’s quarters. Bucky said they needed to meet on neutral ground. He also denied them the option of going someplace out of the tower where there would be food. He said there would probably be yelling, and that while the people and press were fully aware of the existing divide within the Avengers, they didn’t need any evidence of just how bad it was.
As soon as they were gathered and sitting, Steve turned his sad, earnest eyes to Tony and said, “Look. I think-”
“Put a sock in it, Stievie,” Bucky immediately demanded. “I’m perfectly aware that Tony always has to have the last word, but just this once I think he should have the first word, as well. Tony, go ahead.”
“We’re not going to be a team again,” Tony immediately stated, his tone instant and resolute. “I don’t care how sorry you are, and it doesn’t matter what you do to try and make it better. It’s not going to happen, dead stop.”
Steve’s answering sigh was a sound of pure aggravation. “I know I made a mistake, Tony. I lost my temper is Siberia and I hurt you. I know that.”
“Siberia wasn’t a big deal,” Tony informed him.
“You’re using doublespeak, Tony,” Bucky suddenly put in. “Please use small words and give straightforward explanations to those of us who didn’t grow up in an environment where a single sentence could have a dozen different meanings.”
“What?” Steve asked.
“Fine,” Tony said. Sitting up strait, squaring his shoulders, and raising his chin, he looked Steve in the eye and said, “You never trusted me, Rogers. Not from the very beginning. You questioned my every thought, move, and decision even while we were fighting an invading alien army, and you never stopped questioning me after. Yet you demanded blind obedience from me. We were supposed to be a team, but you made damn sure that there was never any doubt of who exactly was in charge.”
“Only because you would never work with the rest of us!” Steve argued. “Trust goes both ways! We tried to involve you in the team and you resisted every moment of it!”
“It wasn't the team I had a problem with - it was the team's insistence on working for SHEILD that I had a problem with! I thought I made my opinion of SHIELD clear from the very start,” Tony instantly replied. “I told you that I would have nothing to do with them, but you instantly and eagerly drank the Kool-Aid, and look how that turned out!”
“How was I supposed to know that they’d been infiltrated by Hydra? How could I have possibly known-”
“It wasn’t even about Hydra! Did you do any research on the organization before you signed on and started taking orders? Did you have any idea what they did, or what they would have you do?”
“Peggy helped to create SHIELD!” Steve argued. “Your father helped create SHIELD!”
“My father made shitty decisions and he was a shitty judge of character!” Tony argued back. “My father was involved in some really shady business, Rogers. He made weapons. His fortune was soaked in the blood of his enemies! He stole other people’s work and designs. He gave Thaddeus Ross an accommodation when the man was applying for a job in the DoD. He trusted Obadiah Stane to have his best interests at heart, even though Obi never left anyone with any doubt that all he cared about was money and power. I don’t think there’s a single thing which my father ever touched without royalty fucking it up. I mean, my father was the idiot who got his wife and himself killed because he was transporting five vials of experimental super soldier serum in the back of his civilian vehicle and-”
“Your father was an ass,” Bucky suddenly interjected. “We shouldn’t admire or emulate the guy. Got it. Stevie?”
With a frown and a furrowed brow, Steve said, “I never knew about any of that. Tony, you never told me.”
“Most of its public knowledge! If it wasn’t public, it was in the file which SHIELD had on me,” Tony pointed out.
“Besides a few lines about Stane, none of that was in your file!” Steve argued. “And there was never any mention of Stane and Howard working together! Stane was your business partner! If he was so horrible, why did you keep him at SI?!”
“Stane controlled SI for four years before I became eligible to take over, and by then I’d developed an addiction to cocaine and could hardly get out of bed and get dressed under my own power, let alone run an entire company,” Tony snapped back. “And guess who it was who introduced me to the people who taught me about the delight of drugs in the first place?! That asshole worked long and hard to keep me down, Rogers! It’s a miracle that I survived to the age of thirty, let alone the direct attack on my life which Stane orchestrated! And except for Stane's one direct attempt at murdering me, the rest of my life was so publicly documented that you can still find the before/after pictures of my stints in rehab! And that’s saying something considering the fact that most of those stints happened before the world wide web was a thing.”
“Doublespeak,” Bucky once again warned.
“For fuck’s - how is that doublespeak?!” Tony cried. “I’m spelling it out for him!”
“I know, but it hasn’t been spelled out before,” Bucky replied. “You're glossing over a lot of information, and it seems like doublespeak. In fact, Winter had to explain most of your history to me. Like - Ivan Vanko is detailed in your file, but on paper he looks like a Russian copycat who was jealous of your fame and success and blamed you for his traitorous father’s death. Winter had to explain to me me about how the arc reactor technology was originally designed by Vanko’s father, and that guy had been charged with criminal conspiracy before getting deported during the Cold War, a time in America’s history where Vanko could have easily been framed or he could have been branded as a Socialist sympathizer simply for trying to contact any of his family in Russia. I didn’t understand that the man wouldn’t have been in America and working for the government in the first place unless he had defected from the Communist Party by handing over some damning evidence to the US government before he was even allowed to enter the country. I didn’t understand that upon returning to the Soviet Union after being kicked out of the US, Vanko would have been treated as an outcast and a pariah by his former colleagues and the Russian government. You and Winter know what sort of environment that would have left Ivan Vanko to grow up in, and so when you talk about Ivan Vanko it’s with a different connotation than what the rest of us hear. You just know that he was raised in poverty and that he probably had to resort to crime at an early age just to get by, and he probably spent a lot of time in jail as a result. But without knowing the political and economical climate of that time, others would assume that he had just as many opportunities as the rest of us. You just know that he probably had a bad time of it in jail, and you just know how detrimental incarceration probably was to his brilliant psyche. You just know that the guy probably turned to alcohol to deal with his problems, and you just know how that further damaged him. You know exactly what Howard Stark did to that man and his family, and you assume that everyone else does, as well. You assume the same thing about Stane and his manipulations.”
“You spoke to the Winter Soldier about Ivan Vanko?” Tony asked.
“We read The Hunt for Red October a few weeks ago,” Barnes replied.
“The hunt for what?” Steve asked with a furrowed brow as his eyes flickers from Bucky to Tony and then back again.
“Fuck,” Tony said as he stared at Steve with wide eyes. But it was to Bucky he was speaking when he said, “You’re right.”
“What?” Steve repeated.
“You and I missed a few things over the years,” Bucky explained to his friend. “If the others got you caught up with current issues the same way they did with me… It’s likely that a lot of information was left out or skipped over during the explanation.”
Steve let out a harried sigh. “I know that. Clint calls it giving us the Cliff Notes. But what does that have to do with-”
“We haven’t been given a lot of information about a lot of things,” Bucky reiterated. “I was given the Cliff Notes on Tony Stark when I first moved into the tower, you know?”
“Iron Man, yes. Tony Stark, no,” Tony realized.
“Exactly,” Bucky agreed.
Steve ran an adgitated hand through his hair as he said, “We’ve always wanted Tony Stark on the team. We’ve tried to make you a part of the team, Tony. And you always shot us down.”
“You’re still not listening, punk,” Bucky told Steve. “Tony spent over fifteen years being manipulated by a megalomaniac who Tony believed cared for him and was his friend. Tony’s file probably didn’t go into much detail about Stane though, did it? Not beyond his trying to have Tony killed in Afghanistan. If anyone had cared to read the full length novel instead of the Cliff Notes, they would have realized that Tony has some major issues with trusting people, especially people who wish to exert control over him, his company, and the suit. Not because he’s egocentric, or a control freak, or-or hoarding power or something, but because of the horrible things people have done and would do again if given half a chance.”
Steve grimaced, but then his brow furrowed. “If that were true, then why were you ready to subject us to the Accords, Tony?”
“Because people are scared of us,” Tony stated. “And for good reason. When we go into battle, we aren’t the ones who die. Half of the people on our team committed criminal offences even before gaining superhero status. And none of us have a good track record when it comes to minimizing collateral damage.”
“Bucky says you have trust issues. When the government wanted your suit, you called a bunch of senators ass-clowns. But then you turn around and decide that you want those same people calling the shots for us?” Steve pressed.
His lips pressed into a thin, angry line, Tony told Steve, “Did you know that Senator Stern, who led the committee attempting to confiscate my suit, was a Hydra operative? And do you know what happened after that day? I was fined for cussing on CSPAN, and neither Hydra nor the government got any of my tech. I wasn’t arrested for treason and my suit wasn’t confiscated because there is a system in place which allows me to protect myself and my interests. Is it a perfect system? No. Does it protect every person and every person’s interests? If it did, we’d be living in a fucking utopia, so I can say with certainty that it doesn’t. But it’s something. It’s something we need, it’s something everyone needs, if we’re going to survive and coexist with others.”
“I couldn’t help but notice that the example you gave included a member of Hydra who was holding and exerting power over others,” Steve dryly intoned.
“I reiterate - we don’t live in a utopia,” Tony slowly said. “There will always be people who weasel their way into power in order to do bad things. Like Thaddeus Ross when he imprisoned all of you-”
“You were working for him!” Steve hotly accused. “You knew he was bad news and you were on his side!”
“Oh for - Steve, you know what you should do? You should focus on the part of your job that involves punching people,” Tony declared. “Ross wasn’t going to keep his position! That useless piece of shit wasn’t going to last a week with us or the Accords.”
“Doublespeak,” Bucky chirped.
“If you say doublespeak at me one more damn time-” Tony seethed, now properly worked up.
“Relax,” Bucky demanded. Then, turning to Steve, he explained, “Working in politics isn’t easy, and neither is working in big business. Part of the reason laws are so wordy and complicated is because lawmakers want to establish precise boundaries and rules which everyone has to follow, and even then there’s more wiggle-room than most people are comfortable with within the law. Tony’s lived in a world defined by those boundaries and he’s practiced working around those boundaries his entire life. He knows far more about how these things work than any of us. And now? I think Tony’s right. Steve, you don’t understand the politics which go on behind the Accords. I barely understand them myself, and I’ve been following the conferences and talks along with everyone else. I think Tony should be in charge of that part of the Avengers. And Tony, I think that your lone gunslinger mindset is too deeply ingrained for you to truly comprehend teamwork on the field. You get the mechanics of it, but you don’t understand the spirit behind it, and that’s what can make or break a team in battle. That’s what Steve is good at, though. So he should be in charge of the Avengers’ battles.”
Slowly, Steve told Bucky, “That’s… already how we were doing things.”
“Officially?” Bucky sardonically asked. “As in Tony’s word in regards to the Avengers’ legal situation is final, and your word in regards to battle-operations is final?”
“Buck, that’s doesn’t seem-”
“I am not-”
“Both of you shut your traps,” Bucky snapped. “You don’t have to be friends, okay? That’s not what I’m asking. I’m asking you to be coworkers. I’m asking you each to officially do what you’re good at. Tony, you’re good at understanding legalities and managing large groups of people in boardrooms and during press conferences. Steve, you’re good at managing people in the field of battle and and working as a strategist. So those are your official job assignments from now on. The rest of the team will still speak up when they want to or feel the need to, but you two have the final say in those particular areas because no one on this team can negotiate a deal like Tony, and no one is as strong a leader as Steve.”
Bucky gave the both of them hard stares. Steve was the one to cave first.
“Fine,” he stubbornly ground out.
Tony immediately jumped at the concession. “That means no more secret calls to the Accords Committee behind my back,” Tony demanded. “It means you stay out of it. You have no idea of how much ground I lost and how many favors I had to call in when I was arguing for them to let you and your lot back into the US and revoke your criminal status. We lost a lot of leeway and a lot of respect during that little stunt-”
With a scowl firmly in place, Steve said, “If I stop working on the Accords, then you have to at least try being a part of the team. That means attending drills and team bonding nights and-”
“Wait, drills?” Bucky asked.
“Yeah, drills,” Steve said with a frown towards Tony. “We’ve only ever done practice drills sporadically, and if we’re going to properly fight in the field, drills will be a regular mandatory event for everyone on the team.”
“Tony?” Bucky asked. “What do you say? You’ll attend drills and follow Steve’s lead in battle, and Steve will follow your lead in regards to the political side of the Avengers and with the Accords.”
With an aggravated sigh, Tony said, “Fine.”
“You’re trending,” MJ informed Tony when he walked into Midtown High’s robotic lab for a Saturday of nerding out with a bunch of teenagers.
“I’m always trending,” Tony easily agreed as he made a beeline for one of the computer terminals to check out what his minions - unpaid child labor force - proteges had come up with by way of coding that month. “What am I being trendy about today? World changing technology? Rescue and relief efforts in far off lands? Is it my new haircut?”
“It’s that list of rules you have posted on the Avengers floor of the tower,” Ned chipperly informed him. “MJ got photos of the list and Peter recorded some stuff.”
“O...kay,” Tony said slowly, turning away from his computer monitor to level MJ and Peter with a narrow-eyed gaze.
“She made me do it!” Peter fibbed as he pointed an accusing finger at MJ.
“I strongly suggested,” MJ corrected.
“You were threatening me with blackmail!”
“And you made the choice to bow under pressure.”
Tony turned back to the computer, quickly pulling up a web browser and almost instantly finding the YouTube account named AvengersInAnarchy999. The account was only five hours old and had three videos, and all three videos had already gone viral.
Clicking on the first upload, Tony watched as a large picture of the Avengers House Rules was displayed - and jeez, he hadn’t realized that it had gotten so out of control. What had started as a neatly typed and printed list had turned into a sprawling web of additions, amendments, and contradictions over the years. The whiteboard which was originally meant for “suggestions” had gone to hell ages ago - Tony blamed Thor for mixing up the dry erase marker with a permanent marker. Then, construction paper had been tacked all over the wall, some pages with multiple rules written out on them, and some with only a single very important rule written out in bold marker. Eventually, people had stopped bothering with paper at all. Scott’s daughter had written a rule directly on the wall in crayon after an incident with one of her stuffed animals during a visit. Natasha liked to carve rules which she considered particularly important into the plaster. Tony liked to include diagrams and illustrations with his additions, and Clint liked to shoot arrows into the rules he wasn’t fond of.
Out of context, it wasn’t immediately obvious what was being pictured on the video. The hodgepodge looked like a crazy person’s attempt to map the timeline of a conspiracy which wasn't real and had never occurred. Clarification was quick to come, however, as the picture zoomed in on the mess. Atop the screen, the words AVENGER HOUSE RULES appeared, and the picture stopped zooming when 9: Don’t eat Thor’s Pop-Tarts was clear and legible on the screen.
“Thor hasn’t been by in ages,” Rhodey was saying as the video began to play.
“Platypus, no,” Tony groaned.
“Dude, don’t even,” Clint warned in the video.
Grabbing one of the boxes of cinnamon Pop-Tarts from the cupboard, Rhodey said, “Thor hasn’t been by in so long, these have probably gone stale.”
“The vikings called Thor the god of fertility,” Clint pointed out. “Nothing of his ever goes stale.”
“He’s not going to miss one package,” Rhodey insisted. “Especially if I replace the box-”
“We just finished dealing with the fallout from the Accords, man,” Clint sighed. “Do you really want to start an intergalactic incident over artificially flavored toaster pastries?”
“Artificially flavored with LSD and meth,” Rhodey pointed out. “If anyone can be blamed for what is about it happen, it’s the corporation responsible for devising these amazing morsels of-”
As soon as the seal broke on the Pop-Tart’s box, a klaxon sounded and demonic chanting filled the air. The kitchen lights dimmed, the walls shuddered, and then a moment later the room returned to its normal state of being.
Or at least it was mostly normal.
Rhodey still stood in the center of the kitchen, but his complexion was ashen, his eyes were wide, and the box of Pop-Tarts was mysteriously missing from the man’s hands.
“Did I just die?” Rhodey quietly asked.
Barton stood with a sigh. “I’ll go see if Dr. Strange is around. If not, then… go lie down for a bit. It will wear off in a couple of hours,” Barton instructed as he quickly moved to search for the resident magic-user.
“I think I just spent an eternity in hell,” Rhodey told the empty kitchen.
“House Rule Nine,” Natasha said as she came into the kitchen, walked around Rhodey, and opened the fridge to grab some milk. “Don’t touch Thor’s Pop-Tarts.”
The next video started much the same way, with a full view of the House Rules before the view zoomed to focus on one in particular.
23: Coffee is life.
This video was a montage. It showed a dozen different incidents as well as the dozen House Rules and addendums which were directly related to rule 23.
“This one’s my favorite,” MJ told him as a split screen popped up.
One side showed Tony slouched on a couch in the common area and doing absolutely nothing to escape or extinguish the flames quickly engulfing the cushion beside him as he blearily said, “We’ll worry about it tomorrow.” The other half of the screen showed Wanda as she paced back and forth in front of a stairwell while speaking quickly, saying, “The alarms would sound if something was wrong - I will not use my powers to summon the elevator. I will not use my powers to summon the elevator. Bad idea. Steve! Steve! I need for you to practice good judgement for me! What do I do? How should I help? I mean, is the tower under attack or what?”
As Steve patiently explained to Wanda that the elevator was working just fine, she was at the doorway to the stairwell, and that the fully functioning elevator was down the hall, the words House Rule 33: Don’t switch the full strength with half-caff appeared at the bottom of the screen.
As the third video began, Tony blinked as the shot zoomed in on a rule which he had been unaware of until that very moment. 64: Don’t engage in prank wars with the Winter Soldier.
“I didn’t know it was Winter I was up against!” Sam sulked from where he had his head in the kitchen sink. Steve was helping him wash something off his head while Vision wrote the new rule onto a napkin and then tacked it onto the wall with the other house rules.
“Did you honestly think it was Tony messing with your wings?” Steve asked with a sigh. “You know he doesn’t mess with our mission gear when he pranks us.”
“After that little heart-to-heart we had last month, I thought he may have upped the ante and gotten more demonstrative in his anger towards us.”
“Tony doesn’t mess with our mission gear,” Steve said again. “He wouldn’t do that no matter how angry he was. Tony doesn’t do anything which would endanger us during a fight.”
“But Winter would,” Sam muttered.
“Winter is very protective of Tony,” Vision pointed out. “While you may have been attempting to engage in playful comradery with Tony, and Tony would have understood the prank as such, Winter probably saw the trap laid out for Tony and interpreted it as an attempt to scare, hurt, or humiliate him.”
“And Tony is Winter’s favorite,” Sam groused. “Yeah, I think we’ve figured that out.”
“Figured what out?” Bucky asked as he wandered into the kitchen. “How to get that red goop off of you?”
“Wait, you knew about this?” Steve asked, turning from the sink so that the camera could see his red-stained hands.
“Was my idea,” Barnes replied with a shit-eating grin.
“Vision, add another rule,” Sam said from the sink. “The Winter Soldier and Bucky Barnes aren’t allowed to do team-ups.”
Vision was writing on a napkin again, but he said, “If we started making rules against Winter and Bucky teaming up, we’d have to make rules against other people teaming up, as well. It would make team practice and game nights considerably less entertaining.”
Soon, a napkin which read 65: Do not engage in prank wars with Bucky Barnes was tacked to the wall. Then 66: Don’t f*** with Tony Stark and give the Winter Soldier or Bucky Barnes any reason to disregard rules 64 or 65.
“That last one wasn’t actually all that funny,” Tony pointed out after the video had ended.
“MJ said we had to post it for the good of mankind,” Peter said.
“The good of mankind?” Tony incredulously repeated. “Are Winter and Bucky’s prank skills that much of a threat?”
“It’s not just their mad pranking skills, idiot,” MJ said with a roll of her eyes. “It’s the massive crush they have on you and fair warning to villains everywhere that if they mess with you, they’ll have a devious Super Sniper/Assassin combo to deal with.”
Tony almost did a spit take regardless of the fact that he wasn’t drinking anything.
“They do not-”
Before Tony could even get the words out, MJ reached around him, took control of the cursor, and scrolled down to some of the comments under the video.
“Just because it’s popular opinion doesn’t mean it’s a fact,” Tony weakly informed the teenagers after reading some of the very supportive comments which were posted beneath the final video.
Barnes usually only spent time in the penthouse if he woke up in the Winter Soldier’s bed. Tony was therefore surprised when one evening, it was Bucky who stepped off the elevator, slouched into the living area, and collapsed onto one of the couches, rather than Winter.
“What’s up, Sargent?” Tony asked as he looked up from the specs he was reviewing for R&D.
“Steve and I had a fight,” Bucky informed him.
At least, Tony thought that was what the man said. It could have been, “My lego fort is fallen,” or, “My appendix has ruptured.” It was hard to tell when Bucky was lying face-down and had his face pressed into the couch cushions.
Just to make sure, Tony asked, “Do you need to go to the hospital?”
Bucky chuckled as he sat up. “It didn’t come to blows. There was just a lot of yelling.”
Not the appendix one, then.
“What were you fighting about?” Tony asked. Winter, probably, Tony thought. Because that was what Bucky and Steve argued about the most.
“The same thing we always fight about,” Bucky informed him. “You.”
“Excuse me?” Tony asked, his eyes wide.
With a tired sigh, Bucky’s head fell back on the couch as he explained, “He seems to think that since you and I get along these days, it means that you and he should get along as well.”
“We get along fine,” Tony announced, which he was proud to say was true. Since they’d started doing team drills regularly, their battles had become much smoother. Steve has learned not to throw his shield anywhere near Tony, and the rest of the team had gotten used to Tony not always being around to catch them when they fell (Wilson had taken over acting as the team’s transport during battles). The team dynamics were getting better off the field, too. Tony no longer had to find excuses to Get the Hell Out of There whenever Steve was within his immediate vicinity for longer than ten minutes, and Tony no longer felt like bashing his head against the wall whenever he spoke with the other Avengers about the Accords. It turned out that setting and maintaining boundaries was the thing to do when a bunch of superheroes with sensitive dispositions lived and worked together.
“Sure,” Bucky agreed. “But Steve wants things to be the way they used to be.”
“Not gonna happen,” Tony instantly declared.
“I know,” Bucky said. “Thus, the argument. It’s like… He got me back, and now he thinks that if he applies the same principles and methods to get you back, everything will be fine and dandy again.”
“Except that if he employed the principles and methods he used to rescue you to me, the team would probably be left dealing with a second personality who isn’t nearly as happy-go-lucky and fanciful-free as Winter,” Tony intoned.
“I don’t know,” Bucky said as he gave Tony a shit eating grin. “If you ended up in the same predicament as me, I think you might be the evil half of that equation.”
“Winter’s not evil,” Tony replied, the words a knee-jerk reaction after spending months defending the man’s very right to exist.
“That fucker likes green skittles,” Bucky argued. “If that isn’t an indication that he’s the Antichrist, I don’t know what is.”
“What’s wrong with green skittles?” Tony asked, honestly offended. “They should have stopped after making the green skittles. But no, they had to go and ruin a good thing by making every bag a rainbow monstrosity, and it’s things like this that are the reason it took me such a long time to figure out that you weren’t the second worst person in the world, Barnes. Why would you even suggest-”
Bucky was still grinning at him, and Tony realized that the ass was trolling him.
Rolling his eyes, Tony reminded Bucky of the issue at hand. “The green Skittles are the best Skittles. End of story, stop distracting me. I still don’t understand why you’re arguing with Steve about me. Just because I’m not getting along with one of the other kids on the playground doesn’t mean you need to step in all the time. I can look after myself.”
“You shouldn’t always have to, though,” the man hummed in response. “And Steve needs to come to terms with the fact that he’s never going to have a buddy-buddy relationship with you again. I’ve been heading him off from cornering you for a talk for weeks.”
“And today was different from those other times because…?”
Bucky grimaced. “I’ve been getting a little frustrated with having the same conversation over and over again, and I may have let my frustration get to me, and I may have told Steve that he wasn’t any better than Obadiah Stane.”
Tony’s eyebrows slowly rose as he processed this information. “You told him what?”
“I didn’t mean it like that!” Bucky defensively declared. “I was just trying to make him understand why you wouldn’t be friends with him again and why he should leave you alone, but then I may have pointed out what you did to the last person who betrayed you and took a kill shot at your arc reactor. Now he’s not speaking to me, and he hasn’t stopped wailing on the bags in the gym all afternoon.”
Tony wanted to point out that the Steve-Acting-Like-Stane analogy wasn't exactly inaccurate, and he wanted to thank Bucky for sticking up for him and having his back, but it seemed like these would be inappropriate responses considering how upset Bucky was about the whole thing.
Tony remembered the times he’d called Rhodey to complain about Pepper, when they were still together. He’d made the calls because he needed to vent, but at the same time he didn’t feel like Rhodey knew Pepper the same way Tony did. He appreciated it when Rhodey made sympathetic noises about whatever situation Tony was complaining about, but if Rhodey ever said anything nasty about Pepper, Tony became very defensive of her very quickly, and suddenly he would be upset at Pepper and Rhodey both.
This is why Tony surrounded himself with AIs.
“I’ll talk to Steve,” Tony decided with a harried sigh.
Bucky frowned. “You don’t need to-”
“Yes I do. You shouldn’t be fighting these battles for me, and I’m not going to let you damage your relationship with your BFF just because I’d rather run from this particular problem than face it. I’m getting this over with.”
“Bucky was right, you know,” Tony told Steve after they had finished yelling at each other and had gotten all of the really nasty bits out of their systems. “I’m not going to be friends with you, and I’m not going to trust you. Been there, done that, and all it got me was a knife to the back, your shield to my arc reactor, millions of dollars in property damage and reparations, and over a year of muddling through the Accords by myself.”
“I didn’t mean to hurt you, Tony,” Steve tried, looking exhausted.
“Is that supposed to make it better?” Tony asked. “Congratulations, Steve. You did worse by me than most of the people who actively try to kill me and destroy my life. You don’t honestly expect me to allow you into a position where you can do that to me again, do you?”
Steve’s shoulders sagged as he finally, finally gave in. “No, I don’t,” he quietly conceded.
“Good. Then stop being an ass to Bucky, stop harassing me, and focus on making sure that we can at least work together on the field.”
Tony wasn’t sure how to approach the subject with Winter, since it was one of the few topics they’d never actually discussed.
Therefore, Tony brought the issue up with all of the tact and grace which he used when approaching any unfamiliar situation.
He tossed the tablet which he was working on towards the soldier, and when the man caught it and glanced at the schematics open on the screen, Tony declared, “Done!”
Winter studied the blueprints with a raised eyebrow, then asked, “Why?”
“Sergeant Barnes doesn’t like the star. Our born and bred American boy finds it offensive, and he wants to wear an American made product. He asked me if I could look into a new design. You’re the one who remembers the shit Hydra did with the arm, though, so I thought this was one body modification that shouldn’t be done without full consent and approval from all parties involved. Waking up with a tramp stamp is one thing - it happens to the best of us. Waking up with a new arm is something else entirely. And I mean, those Hydra scientists did something right with you, in that they gave you a well designed and well built appendage, but the new design has a few new bells and whistles and a very much improved power cell-”
Squinting at the screen, Winter asked, “Is that a switchblade in the wrist?”
“It’s detachable and everything,” Tony confirmed.
“Why?” the soldier asked, his brow furrowed. “I keep half a dozen knives on me at all times, and this design is also equipped with a - is that a repulsor? It has repulsor technology, flashbangs, a taser, and three tranq darts stashed inside of it. Why the fuck is there a switchblade in the wrist?”
“I don’t know. I thought it would look cool?” Tony said with a shrug.
Tony was surprised when Winter responded by dropping the tablet, launching himself over the coffee table, and attacking Tony. With his mouth.
Winter was very thorough and very efficient when it came to kissing. Tony was well aware that the soldier was capable of multitasking, but Tony had never considered the epicness which might occur when that ability was applied to kissing. There were lips, teeth, and tongue all over the place, all at once, Winter wasn’t shy about using his metal hand to grip Tony’s hip tight enough to leave a bruise, and he didn’t hesitate in taking full advantage of Tony’s overwhelmed state to make Tony’s body do exactly what he wanted it to do.
“Damnit!” Rhodey cried, making Tony jerk in surprise. Because yeah, a kiss that had lasted maybe thirty seconds had made him forget that the rest of the world existed, and that Rhodey had only left the living area to make a new bag of popcorn. “Winter, we’ve talked about this! It’s fine and even somewhat understandable that you’re completely obsessed with my best friend, but I don’t want to see it or hear about it or-”
“Fuck you, Rhodes,” Winter responded as he sat up - when did Tony wind up on his back, and how did they get to the floor? “Tony just designed a new arm for me, and he put an extraneous weapon in it just for the hell of it, and he is going to be rewarded for his behavior, your sensitive constitution be damned-”
“I’m not sensitive!” Rhodey argued. “It’s bad enough hearing you talk about all of the depraved sexual acts you intend to perform on the guy who’s like a brother to me. It’s something else entirely to have to watch you engage in those acts in public spaces where I hang out and watch tv and sometimes take naps. And we’re in the middle of a movie, dude! I’ve been trying to sit through the entirety of Transformers for almost a decade, and-”
As Winter and Rhodey continued to loudly argue, Tony sat up and rubbed at his lips, which were honest-to-Oden tingling, and then he rubbed at his back, which hurt - he must have hit the floor hard, and it was a testament to Winter’s ability that Tony hadn’t noticed.
“What just happened?” Tony wondered. “I think I may have had a religious experience.”
“It certainly seemed so,” Dr. Strange said from his place lounging in a nearby recliner.
“Um, shouldn’t we talk about this?” Tony asked as he watched Winter carefully remove the butterfly displays from the wall of his room.
“We have talked about it,” Winter responded.
Blinking, Tony asked, “When was this? I don’t remember having any let’s move in together after sharing one mind blowing kiss conversation.”
Tony almost immediately regretted this statement when he saw the self-satisfied smirk stretching across Winter’s lips.
“I probably should have been more clear,” Winter told him. “Barnes and I have talked about it. We have decided that while you’re an attractive, kind, brilliant man, you’re slow on the uptake when it comes to understanding people and making decisions about your personal relationship with them. Therefore, we’re in charge. Technically, right now, I’m in charge. And I say that no, we are not moving too fast and we don’t need to discuss this. I say that I should have moved into your room weeks ago.”
“Hey, I've been doing great in the personal relationships department for the last few months!” Tony pointed out.
“Only because I’ve been scaring people away from you and Barnes has been mediating your conversations with the others. And I hate to admit it, but Barnes is right - it’s somewhat concerning that you’ve been so twisted up and screwed over by people that you’re more willing to interact with and support someone like me than to get to know and work with someone like Barnes.”
Tony was very confused about what was happening. Bucky and Winter had been talking behind his back, clearly. But…
“You two hate each other,” Tony pointed out, because that was the one thing he knew for sure. Even though they’d started communicating, Winter and Bucky hated each other. They hated each other, and that would probably never change because there weren’t exactly any trust fall exercises the two men could do to build camaraderie of any kind.
“Sure,” Winter instantly agreed. “But we don’t hate you. And you don’t hate us. So we… we are going to share you.”
The way Winter said the word share, it sounded like a profanity.
“Oh, well if you and Bucky have agreed, then okay,” Tony dryly stated.
Winter rolled his eyes. “Don’t give me that attitude. You and I both know that you can stand up for yourself when you really need or want to. If any aspect of what is happening right now was upsetting to you, you wouldn’t be standing here talking to me, and you certainly wouldn’t be passively watching me take apart my room so that I could move all my stuff. If you want to play injured and ignored, pull that shit with Barnes, not me. Now make yourself useful. Start carrying this stuff to your room. The sooner we’re done here, the sooner we can go back to inappropriately making out in public places and offending our friends and coworkers.”
It figured that Winter would instantly find a means of controlling him via a system of positive reinforcement. No one else had ever realized how powerful an incentive making out was for him. As it was, Tony trusted that Bucky wouldn’t let Winter use that knowledge to take advantage of him too often.
Tony awoke to a slap in the face.
It took him a moment to realize that he wasn’t being slapped, but rather smacked. Beside him, Bucky was flailing about as he sat up, his head whipping from side to side and his eyes wide as he asked, “Where the fuck am I?”
“You are currently on the top floor of Stark Tower in the year 2016-” FRIDAY began to recite, and Bucky immediately relaxed.
“Yeah, so Winter decided to move into my room last night and then we made out for a while,” Tony announced as he rubbed at the spot where Bucky’s flailing hand had connected with the side of his head.
Bucky jumped at the sound of Tony’s voice, but then his eyes seemed to register Tony, and the bed, and Tony’s - now Tony and Winter’s - bedroom.
“You’re letting him keep the stupid butterflies?” Bucky asked, his expression going sour. “You’re letting him display them in your bedroom?”
“Winter said that if I get to keep my Iron Man merch on the walls, then he gets to keep his butterflies on the walls, too,” Tony explained.
“If that’s the deal, then I get to put up the paintings that Steve’s made for me.”
“Can’t argue with that; I may not like the guy, but his art is literally a work of art and - wait, what? You mean you’re going to put them up in here?”
“Of course I’m going to put them here. I’m moving in, too.”
With a groan, Tony flopped back onto the mattress. “You were supposed to be the reasonable one, Barnes. You were supposed to be the one who wanted to talk things out and do things the boring normal way.”
“And dance around with dates and wooing while Winter get’s to live with you and make out with you? Don’t get me wrong, you and I are still doing all of that, and there will be plenty of conversations and other normal boring things-”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Tony huffed.
“- but we’ll be doing all of it while living together. I’ll be damned if Winter’s the only one who gets to smooch on you.”
“I wouldn’t call it smooching,” Tony told him. “Smooching implies a level of gentleness and innocence which is distinctly lacking from Winter’s technique-”
“Then I’ll be the one smooching,” Bucky said with determination.
And smooch he did.
The kiss was simple and brief, hardly more than a quick press of lips. When Bucky pulled away, he was making a face at Tony’s morning breath, but he didn’t move very far away and his eyes were smiling even while his nose was scrunched up in distaste.
The entire thing was so fucking sweet it made Tony’s gums ache, but he was smiling as Bucky said, “Go brush your teeth and get dressed. You’re helping me move today.”
“You move quick,” Scott noted as they watched Steve and Bucky argue over which items would be remaining in Steve’s rooms and which would be accompanying Buccky for his move-in with Tony. Most of the argument seemed to be about clothing. And not nice clothing, either, but worn out shirts and baggy sweatpants. When Tony had offered to buy Bucky some new laze-about-the-penthouse-clothes, Bucky had whined about how long it would take to properly wear the clothes in until they were of optimal worn comfortableness.
“I didn’t move at all,” Tony pointed out. “Winter set the moving trend, and Bucky's simply following his lead.”
“You owe me fifty bucks,” Clint told Natasha, and the woman sighed.
His eyebrows jolting upwards, Sam asked, “You bet against Tony getting together with Winter and Barnes?”
“This particular wager precedes Bucky and Winter by several years,” Clint gleefully corrected as he watched Natasha count out bills. “When the Avengers were first being formed and we were reviewing the potential member files, Nat and I spent quite a bit of time parsing through tabloid articles and reports of Tony’s Sexcapades, and we made a game of trying to figure out which reports were real and which ones weren't.”
“That’s one way of getting to know your teammates, I guess,” Tony dryly commented.
“Like you haven’t spent hours looking over our mission reports from SHIELD while trying to figure out which ones were truthful and which ones were more FUBAR than they appeared on paper,” Natasha countered.
“Natasha thought that most of the reports were exaggerated, strait up fabrications, or that you'd outgrown your seemingly adventurous attitude in bed and that you’d gone vanilla,” Clint informed him.
“No one has ever called me vanilla about anything in my life,” Tony incredulously stated as he looked over to Natasha.
“I think we've all known for a very, very long time that my initial assessment of you was way off the mark. And in my defense, you stopped sleeping around after you received the arc reactor, and I always suspected that your time being held captive had left you with so many triggers that trying for anything beyond vanilla was a no go,” Natasha told him.
“Hey, do all of you sit around and speculate about my sex life like this?” Sam asked, his brow furrowed in concern.
Ignoring Sam, Clint accepted Natasha’s money with a grin as he announced, “I said that you were so wild and adventurous that you would somehow manage to do something in sex or a relationship which had never been done before. Considering the fact that Bucky and Winter are something that’s never been done before, and now you’re in a relationship with them…”
“I bet the sex is still vanilla,” Natasha muttered.
“It’s not! I mean, it won’t be, when sex actually starts happening!” Tony insisted.
“Either way, I win on the technicality,” Clint gloated.
“Can we stop talking about this?” Scott sighed. “I don’t want to sit through any more presentations about Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, please.”
“Don't those rules only apply when we’re out in the field?” Sam asked. “Asking us not to talk about sex in the place where we live and spend all of our downtime seems a little extreme.”
As the debate devolved into something which Tony knew was going to result in their team sitting through a boring seminar of some kind, Tony decided that it was fine if his teammates were under the impression that his sex life was vanilla. The first time anyone mentioned as much around Winter, he would correct them with impunity.
“So you’re… dating both of them,” Pepper slowly confirmed.
“I guess so? I’m definitely dating Barnes. He’s been very considerate in letting me know when we’re hanging out together and when we’re technically on a date. Winter isn’t nearly as concise - I think he likes to keep me on my toes and guessing. But regardless of our relationship status, we’re definitely living together.”
The tilt of Pepper’s mouth and eyebrows indicated she was in disbelief, but in true Pepper form, she only continued to patiently nod as she asked, “And how is cohabitation working out for you?”
“Better than I thought it would,” Tony honestly replied. “It helps that Winter and Bucky can never be in the same room at the same time. I don’t think they would be capable of sharing any sort of space if I wasn’t there to talk them down from expressing their opinions on the other’s taste in decor via vandalization. The best part of it, I think, is that since Winter’s rooming with me now, we’ve been able to convert his old room into a library so we won’t have to put any more bookcases up in the living room.”
“Of course,” Pepper agreed. “Because the most complicated part of dating two men sharing one body is rearranging your living room so that you don’t have to be assaulted by the view of something non-electrical occupying space in your home.”
“Exactly,” Tony confirmed.
Pepper gave a long sigh, and her eyes darkened until she was giving him the No More Games face. Pepper’s No More Games face was twice as horrible as Steve’s Game Face.
Usually, Tony cowered before that gaze. Today, it caused Tony to feel like something was finally right.
Tony and Pepper’s break-up had been nasty, and they had faked their friendly attitudes towards one another for a long time afterwards. After months of seeing each other in boardrooms and greeting each other with pointedly polite smiles or tentative nods, they began to forgive each other and move on. Now, when Pepper leveled him with that look, Tony felt like he finally had his friend back.
“They’re treating you well?” Pepper seriously asked.
“Yes,” he was confidently able to tell her.
Tony was 75% correct when he announced to the team that his sex life with Winter and Bucky wouldn’t be vanilla.
Winter was a kinky fucker. He was controlling, and possessive, and sometimes a little dangerous. His idea of going slow involved the use of intricate knots when tying Tony up and experimentation with orgasm denial. He didn’t so much cuddle after sex as he allowed Tony to collapse on top of him in a boneless, tired heap. And Winter was shameless when it came to public displays of affection. His leer was a thing of magnificence, and it never failed to make Tony’s knees go weak (Rhodey liked to claim that Tony was swooning).
Bucky, on the other hand, was very thoughtful during sex. His every move and action seemed purposeful and deliberate, and Tony gagged a bit the first time he thought of it as love making. When Bucky kissed Tony in front of others, they were the kind of kisses which made people go Awww. Which wasn’t to say he couldn’t get a little dirty - Bucky was a bit of an exhibitionist - he liked having sex in semi-public places, and most of their dates outside of the tower ended with the two of them going at it in a restaurant’s bathroom or in Tony’s car.
It only ever got awkward when one of the men would wake up ready for sex only to find that the other had already thoroughly worn Tony out. Tony refused to help mediate the argument which ensued where Bucky and Winter tried to work out some sort of schedule for sex with Tony (Tony soon discovered that either way the argument went, he was the winner of all the things).
He should have known better than to let the two men work it out for themselves.
“T-G-I-S,” Tony said by way of greeting the day.
“It’s Wednesday,” Winter grunted in response.
Flopping onto his back, Tony blearily rubbed at his eyes as he glanced at Winter sitting beside him in bed, the man's back propped against the headboard as he read a collection of short stories by the Grimm brothers.
Tony turned, flopping over to lie across Winter’s legs before pulling the blankets tight around his shoulders. He fully intended to fall back to sleep as he told the soldier, “Callenders, months of the year, days of the week, and the 24 hours of the day are artificial constructs created by humans in order to add some form of structure to their chaotic lives. They are sloppy and inefficient artificial constructs, and I just completed a magnificent workshop bender, and it’s Saturday if I damn well say it’s Saturday. It’s the spirit of the thing that counts, so T-G-I-S.”
To drive home his point, Tony forcefully snuggled against Winter’s legs and abdomen. Snuggling only happened with Winter on the weekends when the rare lazy day occurred. Winter was ambivalent about snuggling at the best of times, but he was especially tolerant of Tony’s attempts when he was reading in bed - Tony’s head and shoulders made a fine perch for the man’s books.
Letting out a long sigh, Tony closed his eyes, preparing for another few hours of sleep when Winter surprised him by saying, “FRIDAY? Inform Ms. Potts that Tony is celebrating the weekend, and he won’t be into the office until the next time the artificial construct known as Monday rolls around.”
Tony groaned. “The artificial construct of time argument doesn’t work on Pepper, Winter. She says that if I get to construct artificial intelligence, then I have to adhere to other people’s artificial constructions as well and - Wait. Did you just call in my vacation days? Winter, vacation days are not an artificial construct. Vacation days are a mathematical formula. They involve money, and increments of non-artificial time in which I don’t have to show up at the office, and I was going to use those days to take you on some Indiana Jones style tomb raiding adventures. Please tell me you are not forsaking the chance to explore jungles, rob graves, and tussle with cannibalistic voodoo cults so that we can laze around in bed and read Germanic fairy tales.”
“Today’s my birthday,” Winter replied.
At this, Tony became as close to fully awake and alert as he could be before his first cup of coffee. “What?” he asked as he sat up. “I mean… Bucky’s birthday is in March…”
“You think I’m sharing a day with that asshole? Fuck that,” Winter scoffed.
“And today is your birthday because…?”
“Because I decided it was,” Winter replied.
“Ah. Of course,” Tony agreed. “Well… The adventure vacation was supposed to be for our one year anniversary - I was going to get you the hat and the whip and everything.”
Winter’s eyebrows rose. “Would I get to use the whip on you?”
“You can’t ask me things like that, Winter. I’m getting old, and I have a heart condition. The autopsy report will read death by anticipation. But yeah. I can rush order the hat and the whip - let me just arrange for the plane tickets and-”
Before Tony could reach his phone, he found himself on his back being straddled by a half naked Winter Soldier.
“Save it for the anniversary,” the man commanded. “Today is my birthday, and I get to decide how we celebrate.”
Tony’s breath hitched as the man slowly and purposefully ran the tips of his fingers down Tony’s arms, then grabbed his wrists and pinned them above his head.
Leaning close, Winter warned him, “It’s my birthday, and no one’s going to notice you missing for five days.”
“Oh,” Tony breathed.
Tony wasn’t usually one for taking things slow, especially when it came to something he wanted. An orgasm, for example. He was very impatient when it came to climaxing during sex.
Winter countered his impatience with several lines of rope and a cock ring.
Winter had been preparing to celebrate his birthday for some time, apparently. He spent the morning getting Tony worked up, touching him carefully and patiently, his expression detached and his eyes observant as Tony got closer and closer to the edge only for Winter to pull away and add yet another restraint. It was all very calculated, and Tony was soon cursing as he realized that Winter was purposefully winding him up and holding off for his own amusement.
“Come on,” Tony panted as Winter pressed several well-slicked fingers in and out of Tony, his movements slow and methodical as he idly watched Tony writhe against the ropes restraining him. His arms were secured above his head, and his legs were held up and apart, secured to his chest and leaving him spread and fully displayed for Winter. “I’m ready,” he insisted as Winter idly caught a bit of lube dripping from Tony’s ass before pushing it back inside of him. “Get inside of me and fuck me. I’m ready.”
In response, Winter hummed. “You may be ready, but I’m not,” he informed Tony with a pleased leer.
Tony groaned in annoyance as Winter withdrew, turning towards the entire fucking chest of toys he’d set next to the bed. Tony’s groan turned into a sob as Winter returned and pressed a plug into him.
Grinning, Winter told him, “I think I’m ready for a bit of a break. Tell me if you’re about to strain anything. It would be a pity if you were taken out of the game before we could properly start playing.”
“Come on,” Tony snarled as Winter grabbed his book from the bedside table and settled against the headboard beside his bound form.
“Be patient,” Winter hummed in reply.
Tony was impatient, but Winter’s special form of torture was worth it, he though.
It took Winter a while to get properly worked up, so it was rare for Tony to see him in full form. It was a treat, reserved for special occasions when time was put aside and Winter was able to work without distraction or interruption.
Winter’s eyes were dark, his pupils blown wide, and he was looking at Tony like he was prey, and like he was going to be devoured.
Tony was gone by then. He’d lost track of the hours, and the toys, and the games, and he was little more than a blubbering, sloppy mess of nerves and sensation.
“Please,” he quietly begged, his voice gravely and hoarse, only a little louder than a whimper. “Winter, please.”
The man responded with a pleased, satisfied hum as he spent another few moments admiring Tony’s bound form. Then, Winter slowly and carefully tugged at a few knots, causing the ropes to go slack and fall away from Tony, letting his body unfurl and go limp. He groaned as his bruised, aching limbs were released, but Tony lacked the energy and presence of mind to stretch or move.
“That’s it,” Winter breathed as he effortlessly rearranged Tony’s limbs to his satisfaction, Tony unresistant and limp as he was repositioned. “That’s right, Tony. Don’t move, don’t think, and don’t worry. I’ll take care of everything.”
Tony let out a long, low sound when Winter finally removed the plug, and then finally, finally, the man was inside of him and pounding into hims with long, hard thrusts.
It wasn’t long until Tony’s every breath was a sob. He was all feeling and sensation, Winter had kept him that way for hours. “Please,” he begged. “Please.”
“Good,” Winter breathed and then he finally, finally, released Tony’s cock from the ring.
“What a fucking mess.”
Tony’s eyes slid open, but his body wasn’t able to do much else. As he took inventory of himself, he instantly knew that Winter’s treatment would leave him out of commission for at least two more days.
“Buck?” he managed to breath.
“Relax, Tony. FRIDAY’s starting a bath, and the food will be here by the time we’ve finished up.”
It took every spare bit of Tony’s concentration and energy to roll to his side. Through slatted eyelids, he saw Bucky grimacing as he neatly rewound and put away Winter's rope, then began gathering the various toys which Winter had employed and discarded during their time together.
“Isn’t there a rule?” Tony asked. “A Winter-Bucky Bedroom Rule about cleaning up your own messes or something?”
“Sure,” Bucky replied. “But Winter’s decided on his birthday, yeah?”
“Yeah?” Tony asked, because while the entire thing had been amazing, Winter’s arbitrary method of choosing a date for his birthday seemed a little hanky.
“I’m in charge of clean-up and aftercare when Winter’s celebrating his birthday,” Bucky informed him. “We agreed that it’s the one time a year when I don’t get a say over what he does, where, or for how long, and I give him the gift of my discomfort and confusion while picking up… all of this. Seriously, why is the waffle maker here? What the fuck did he do with the waffle maker?”
“He made waffles,” Tony replied with an laconic grin. “And then he ate them off of me. Even super soldiers need to refuel every once in a while.”
Bucky sighed, but he dutifully set the waffle maker aside for cleaning. He very pointedly kept it separate from the other items he was collecting.
“Alright, come on old man,” Bucky urged after FRIDAY notified them that the bath had finished filling. He moved onto the bed, carefully pulling the sheets away from Tony and lifting him from the bed in order to carry him to the bathroom.
Bucky paid for the "old man" comment when his knee landed firmly in a large spot of syrup and lube which had smeared together on the bed sheets during Winter’s time with Tony. The sound of disgust he made as he realized what had happened would doubtlessly become Winter’s ringtone in the near future.
It was several hours, a long bath, and a deep tissue massage from Bucky before Tony felt somewhat human again. Bucky was kind enough to change the sheets on the bed before returning Tony to the mattress, and then Bucky served him dinner.
Tony was checking his email and texts - holy crap, was it actually Saturday now? Already?
He was about to lift a bite of perfectly cooked steak to his mouth when he realized that Bucky wasn’t reading next to him, like Tony thought, but was instead closely watching him instead.
“What?” Tony asked.
“I’m just thinking of how I’m going to top Winter’s performance when it’s time for my birthday,” he revealed.
At this, Tony gave a loud, dramatic groan. “Please,” he said, “please do not talk to me about sex for at least a week. Even then, I don’t think I’ll be up for more than a quickie hand job, Buck. Winter did not go easy on me.”
“It’s a good thing that you’ll have six months to recover before it’s my turn, then,” Bucky reminded him with a cheeky grin.
Blinking, Tony opened the calendar on his phone and realized that yes, Winter had very conveniently chosen a birthday for himself which was smack dab on the other side of the year from Bucky’s.
“You two are planning to kill me,” Tony realized.
“Slowly,” Bucky agreed. “Very, very slowly, over an extended period of time. Just wait until you realize what we’ve got planned for your birthday.”
When Tony’s response was to stare at Bucky with wide eyes and his mouth hanging open, Bucky treated him to a gentle, fond smile as he took Tony's hand and pushed at it until the forkful of food Tony held was guided into his mouth.
“Eat,” Bucky commanded. “You’ll want to keep your strength up.”
“I may or may not have a concussion,” Tony reported as the battle came to a close. “It’s hard to tell through the adrenaline.”
“Wanda, Scott, can you two start moving debris?” Steve called. “Everett says they evacuated the building, but they’re not sure everyone got out. Tony?”
“The suit’s picking up on several life forms - it looks like they made it into a shelter in the basement. Thank you, New York City building code, for making bunkers mandatory in populous areas of the city. Best public safety project ever,” Tony gleefully reported as he finished scanning the destruction and flew down to meet with the rest of the Avengers.
Everett Ross was waiting for them, of course.
“Stark, they want you to take a look at the weapons used in today's attack,” the man immediately began.
“Those may have been weapons, but those were not Earth weapons,” Tony immediately argued. “You might want to call Spider-Guy, actually. He has way more experience with this salvaged knock-off bullshit than we do.”
“Regardless,” Ross began to press, his eyes narrowed.
“Have Strange and Vision take a look at the weapons,” Bucky commanded as he came up beside Tony. “Babe, you okay? Are you sure you don’t have a concussion?”
“Looking good, Boss,” FRIDAY said as she finished preforming her own scans on Tony.
“If the weapons were salvaged, like you say,” Ross continued, “then we need your help to determine from where. There are already reporters gathered at the edge of the barrier asking questions-”
Tony wasn’t paying attention to Ross, because Bucky was struggling to release the manual latches which allowed Tony’s helmet to detach from the rest of the suit. As soon as the helmet was gone, Bucky’s hand gently trailed through Tony’s hair and over his scalp, causing Tony to hiss when the other man’s fingers prodded at the nasty bump forming on his head.
“Sorry,” Bucky murmured before pressing a quick kiss to Tony’s lips in apology.
“Inappropriate,” Steve muttered.
“Fuck off, Stevie,” Bucky hummed as he moved to continue his examination. “If I want to reaffirm my man’s continued survival with a little mouth-to-mouth, that’s nobody’s business but mine.”
“There are reporters and civilians gathering,” Steve argued. “Everybody needs to remain professional.”
“And we need to move quickly, before the vultures start coming up with their own answers to their questions,” Ross pressed.
Taking a deep breath, Bucky turned to the others and said, “You know what? Tony’s hurt. And if I don’t finish checking him out, Winter might show up to get the job done more quickly and efficiently.”
“Ugh, gross,” Rhodey muttered.
Sighing, Steve squared his shoulders and decided, “Dr. Strange, Ant-Man, you two go and take a look at those weapons. Nat, see if you can get anything out of the men we captured. Wanda, Clint, Rhodey, you work on rescuing those people from the bunker. Sam, Vision, you two are on parana duty today.”
Sam groaned as he looked to the line of reporters which were gathering at the barricade.
“On one condition,” Wanda put in.
Steve turned to her with a raised eyebrow, because not helping the stranded civilians wasn’t an option. Wanda, however, was looking at Tony and Bucky. “If you two get to run off and play Nurse Bucky while the rest of us deal with this cleanup, then next time Vision or I so much as break a nail during battle, you two have to cover for us.”
“Done deal,” Tony instantly agreed.
Taking a bit of the brunt weight next time would be worth it if he and his guy got to shirk their responsibilities for a bit of role play today. Tony would make sure that the memories of this day would be so fucking amazing that after the next battle, when he was helping with clean up, or talking bureaucracy with the Accords Committee, or standing in front of the press, a genuine smile would still be stretched across his lips as he faced them down.