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About Finding Our Way

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Bucky’s hands are sticky yet slippery, fingers barely catching onto the neck of a gin bottle when he hears about it for the first time- It almost makes him drop the damn thing, which he clearly doesn’t need right now. The bar’s crowded, students trying to pass out for the night with silly drinks and workers trying to forget about their days with fun filled night.
There’s obviously no time for discussion, yet Natasha’s at his side trying to chat him up like nothing else matters. It’s a gift she has, he often finds himself thinking, being able to ignore everything around her to focus on something, someone, yet have her hands multitask on quite an automatic mode it seems: she’s got two bottles in each, trapped in slender fingers, not even looking at what she’s doing as alcohols and syrups run in a glass in layers. There’s something graceful in the way she does it- But her words distracts Bucky from any other thoughts of the drink she's fixing, distracts him even from his own hands.

“It’s a job offer like any other, Buck. I emailed it to you. It could be good for you. You said you needed the money.”

Bucky hasn’t seen her in two weeks. And that’s what she chooses to greet him with? He grunts in reply, loud enough that it almost sounds like a growl, so she knows he’s got no time for any of it, before he grabs the drink he’s been trying to prepare and turns around. He hears her huff out a chuckle but he doesn’t have the nerve nor the time to glare back at her. On reflex, he adds one of the paper umbrellas the party girls he’s serving seem to find so fascinating, and forces a smile only to hear one of them squeal in delight. They come here quite often, these girls- Always look for him. Of course his coworkers, nice as they are, always make sure he’ll be the one to serve them. They’re not so bad, it’s just not what he’s into, and he really, really doesn’t like the way they act like he’s such an object, every single time. It’s beyond him how they’re blind to how annoyed he is, how annoyed this makes him. But he doesn’t want to lose this job, needs it far too much, so he plays it nice and waves at them, only to hear them dissolve in a fit of giggles. Natasha snort behind him, asshole she is. Quickly, he walks to the other side of the bar to take another patron’s order.

It feels like the night never ends, yet goes by so very quickly at the same time. Bucky hates those nights just as much as he’s learnt to appreciate them. Thursday nights, always a pain, yet filled with many a story to tell about afterward. They always share them around when they end up like this late in the darkness around, the few of them left behind to clean up the place, collecting them preciously. As silly as it could sounds, it makes all those weird customers and unusual events worth it in a way. Natasha’s cleaning the floors, graceful as she always is even as she wipes sticky alcohol away, Wanda is taking care of the tables and goes to collect the cash when she’s done, while Bucky cleans up the counters and makes sure glasses are ready for the following night. They know the night’s been successful enough to be able to relax, taking things slow despite the need to go home and rest, just enjoying the quietness in the empty place.
The winning story tonight would probably be from Nat- She always gets the winning ones, in Bucky’s opinion. A guy, Clint, Bucky knows his name is, came to the bar with his bow and arrow. It’s not all that unusual, it’s happened in the past, surprisingly enough. Nat won’t say where she knows him from but Bucky’s pretty sure they’ve lived a thousand one and more adventures he'll never get to hear about. Tonight only adds to it: Clint stuck marshmallows to his arrow and shot it through a line of fire Nat lit on the counter, making them land just above shots Bucky had lined up for some college students. Bucky’s glad the boss wasn’t there with them that night- They probably wouldn’t have had that happening, wouldn't have had any fun.
It’s not all that bad, working here. He isn’t called in that often, he’s just picking up extras whenever Natasha convinces their boss they need it, but it’s been growing on him a little. The bar’s not thar far from his place, despite the fact he often walks Nat home. She doesn’t need it, but she never says anything against it. Maybe she thinks -knows- Bucky needs it more than she does- He’s not one to think back on it, knows he's got issues already. Tonight though, as they all exit, and the redhead locks up behind them, Bucky’s surprised to see someone’s waiting there, not too far from the back door. He doesn’t have any time to ask who it could be- Natasha slams a kiss to his cheek, shoves at his chest and soon enough she’s on her way to the stranger.

“Check your emails!” She says behind her as a reminder, before a smile grows on her face, and Bucky’s not seen that kind of smile before, not even for Clint when he comes to the bar- It’s soft, gentle. Whoever he is, the guy’s a lucky one. He looks uncomfortable where he stands, his fingers caught in the hem of his shirt but he seems to be smiling through it- Bucky wonders, for a moment, if he should worry. The way he seems to melt when her slender fingers loops with the guy’s quiet down all his thoughts and he finds himself staring at their disappearing forms with a frown until Wanda waves in front of his eyes, effectively tugging him out of his thoughts.

He’s not too close to her, Wanda, but he likes her enough to allow it and he smiles as they say goodbye. She’s got someone to walk her home, Bucky reassures himself. It’s not like she couldn’t defend herself, anyway. Bucky’s seen her punching a guy’s lights out in the bar only just recently, when he'd tried and flirt with her. Her boyfriend’s waiting in a car in the street opposite to where they stand. He hasn’t seen him all that much before, but she looks happy when she speaks of him, which is enough to stop him from questionning her somehow.
“- Don’t be too jealous,” she says, and her accent’s thick from what Bucky guesses can only be fatigue from the long shift she’s had today. She’s a student, just like him, only a few years older. She’s been working at the bar for a few months more than he has, had quite a stable position he envies at time when he knows she gets called in more than he does. “She looks happy.” She adds, and Bucky frowns just a little more.

But he can only agree with a nod. Surprisingly enough, she does look happy. Though it’s Natasha. Bucky can’t help but wonder- And alright, maybe he feels a bit hurt she hasn’t told him anything, because this, whatever this is, doesn’t look all that new. He waves Wanda off, trying to smile as he does, and makes sure she’s safely in her car before he’s turning on his heels, his legs taking him automatically towards where he lives. It’s not the best part of town- Actually, it’s a pretty shitty part of town. What it takes to live in Brooklyn, he thinks as he ignores some obviously illegal actions happening in darker alleys.

The apartment’s crap. There’s no other way to put it- Bucky tried to make it look like a Home, but it’s not- Far from it. It’s small, and old. It smells, he’s pretty sure bugs live there more comfortably than he does. But it’s something. He barely manages to get his shoes off before he’s crashing down the couch that serves as his bed- His arms curl around one of the cushion, and he doesn’t even have the energy to take off his clothes. The exhaustion never sinks in until he’s there, face first in his crappy couch, wishing he could’ve at least showered because he smells like beer and vodka and it’s clearly not the best thing to push him into Morpheus’s arms. His lids are heavy, well on his way to falling shut when he thinks back on Nat’s words from earlier. He doesn’t know why it pops up in his thoughts, but it does, and sluggishly, automatically, his fingers reach for the back pocket of his jeans, drawing out the old phone he uses- Which he get a lot of shit for, but hey, why would he need more. It’s a smartphone, so even if it’s an old one, it’s good enough for him despite the cracked screen and broken buttons.

It takes a few tries to get to his emails, his digits not registering on the screen, but finally he gets it and sure enough, he’s got an email from Natasha. She’s insulting him in the title, because why would she not be?
From: Natasha Romanov (
To: James B. Barnes (
Subject: Read this, Fucker
Forwarded from
We are, following this, looking for a person of trust.
Male, 20+, in good health, available immediately.
A first interview would take place with me, leading to a NDA, before a trial week with the client. Initially paid 2,000$, more if the contracts extends.
If you find yourself in this situation, please, contact me.

Pepper Potts.
Bucky stares at it with a frown digging at his brow for a while. He notices a part of the email’s been deleted by Natasha, notices there’s no hint as to what he’d be doing, no description of the job. It all looks a bit shady, if he has to be honest about it. He stares at it for a long time, trying to understand things. Stares at it for too long, actually.

He wakes up with drool at his chin, forming a still damp patch on the cushion he’s slept on. As he tries to move, he finds his arms achy- He’s struggling with a loud string of curses as he slowly shifts up on the couch, until he’s sitting upright, hair a mess where it falls at his jaw. He doesn't care all that much about it- Cuts it himself, on occasions. The pain doesn’t surprise him all that much, seeing how he slept- But is there any good way to sleep on this couch, with his feet hanging off it? His hand’s hanging off, too, which would probably explain why his arms feels tingly as much as they do. As he looks down, Bucky sees his phone on the dirty ground, and grunts as he reaches for it. He feels like he’s been reading the email over and over even in his sleep. Despite the fact his eyes are still crusty at the corners, he feels awake enough he could recite it entirely, actually. It’s intriguing, the fact he could, the email itself, the way Natasha presented it to him- He doubt the reality of it all for a moment before he’s actually reading it all over again, frowning to fight off the brightness of his screen in his still dark apartment.

He’d be lying if he told anyone wondering that it’s not the money he’s looking at when he opens the email again, once his fingers decide to cooperate enough to let him hold the phone correctly.
2,000$. For just a week.
He’s never made that kind of money before. Not only would he be able to pay rent, even from the previous month he stills needs to pay the landlord, it means he could pay back debts he’s got- And oh, lord, he’s got many of those. To Steve, to Nat, to the freaking government for all the money he owes to put himself through college. He sighs as he slowly gathers himself from his couch, and crawls to the small kitchen, flopping down at the ridiculously tiny table there. Okay, maybe he’s thicker than your average joe, maybe he's been packing some mucles recently, especially around his shoulders. But this table? It’s really, really tiny. It serves as his office, too. He found it for free in a flea market, because of how dirty it was. He took some time to clean it up- It’s not so bad, now. Just small. From where he sits, he can reach the coffee machine, which is one of the only bonus points from this place- The machine takes ages to heat up, but it gives him time to gather his thoughts as he waits for the hot drink, his eyes still skimming over the email.

He’s got nothing to lose now, does he? Whatever they’ll ask him to do, it can’t be all that bad. Natasha wouldn’t put him through something he couldn’t handle. And he can handle a lot, he has, actually.

And he needs money. He really, really freaking does.

The machine beeps for him to pick up his mug just as he’s opening a new draft on his phone. He sips and relishes in the warmth of it sliding down his throat just as he types up the first few words.
Though he expected to struggle with how official the actual email was in a way, he finds words easily enough. He figures, seeing how urgent this whole thing sounds, maybe they won’t care much for his wording.
From: James B. Barnes (
Subject: Job Offer
Male, 20, available from now on.
James B. Barnes

He doesn’t know what he expects exactly, but it certainly isn’t for his phone to light up with the notification of an answer barely three minutes later. It’s early, he thinks. It’s not even 8 in the morning. Yet it’s there, and he takes his hands from where he’d been cleaning his mug, wiping them on his jeans before he’s picking up the device.

The answer’s short, yet polite. 6, tonight, in a building in town- He knows the street, but the name of the company doesn’t really ring a bell- Maybe it should. He sends a confirmation without even thinking twice of it. Why would he even? Again, he trusts Natasha. Kinda. And he'd really need the money.
And then, just likes that, it dawns him that maybe, just maybe, this could be a solution to his problems. For the first time in a while as he grabs his bag, in which he’s packed a few of his notebooks, he’s got the hint of a smile growing on his lips.

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Of course, the smile doesn’t last all that long. It disappears pretty instantly, actually.
He walks for a little more than forty minutes to get on campus, and of course, because his luck seems to be so very low these days, happens to be late for the stupid lecture of the day -Which he hates anyway, on top of that. The professor’s still chewing at him and people are still staring as he settles at Steve’s side, his cheeks reddened from the embarrassment.

At least, Steve brightens up the moment- if not the whole day. Steve’s a sweet guy- He's such a sweet guy. He’s had it rough in the past, still has it rough some days, most days, but he’s always there for him. Bucky could’ve never found a better friend around here.

“-Saved you a seat.” He says. “Here, y’can snap a pic of my notes if you want.” The blonde whispers and Bucky can only reach up to squeeze his shoulder, smiling gratefully. He wonders in time like this what he'd do, if Steve wasn't there with him, but doesn't say anything. They've got this silent kind of rule to keep emotions wrapped up somehow. They don’t talk much after that- Bucky really needs to focus on his grades, and actually take notes because he’s missed many classes and lectures already this semester, and Steve’s always quiet when the professor’s speaking, polite as he is. Admirable, Bucky thinks it is.

“How was it, then? Last night?” His friend asks as they finally gather back their notes an hour later, shouldering their bags in unison. Bucky smiles as he pulls Steve close. He remember Steve’s only came a few times to the bar, because this one girl he’s really, really after is going too- Peggy, her name is. Bucky’s fixed her drinks many times. She looks way out of both their leagues, but if anyone’s got a chance, it’s Steve. Guy got the biggest heart and best manners around.
“Wasn’t all that bad I’d say. Pretty good, actually. Just- Y’know. Usual. Real tiring is all.” He shrugs his shoulders and Steve just frowns in concern, the mom he is, reaching to pat Bucky’s shoulder.
“You shouldn’t be working all that much.” He mutters. Bucky doesn’t answer, instead his thoughts drift to the email from Natasha, somehow. Because it’s true, it’s very true. He shouldn’t be working all that much. The bar’s tiring but it’s quite temporary, he only goes there a few days per weeks, sometimes he isn’t even called for two weeks. It worries him, these times. He was so very glad and relieved for Natasha’s call two days earlier to ask him to pick up a shift. He’s not too sure what he’d do if they stopped calling him. He tries not to think about that too much though, the future’s already worrying him enough as it is.

As they chat, Bucky doesn’t see too much of what’s around him for he doesn’t bother looking, just allows his legs to work automatically until they’ve reached the campus’s library. It’s quite a small one, but it’s nice. Filled with books. Bucky wouldn’t have been one to walk through the doors if it wasn’t for Steve. He doesn’t know how exactly, but Steve got them both jobs here at the beginning of the year. It’s taken a while to learn how to work exactly, because books haven’t really been Bucky’s thing before, but he’s quite at ease now, comfortable as he makes his way around different shelves, glad for the quietness of the place. He shoves his bag under Steve’s desk before he’s off pushing a cart full of discarded books to slowly starting putting them back where they belong on their shelves.

It doesn’t pay much, and he only works there three days a week, but just like the bar is, it’s something, and he doesn’t want to lose it. Bucky won’t complain- Can't complain. He’s grateful for what he’s got, and it’s quite an easy job. Cleaning up, piling books back into their shelves, and occasionally, like today, he helps kids on their computers, shows them what they can do, give a few tips here and there through their notes. Though he doesn’t have one himself, it comes quite quickly to him these kind of things, technology related. So he helps around, dedicated, with polite words and light smiles, until it’s 5, and Steve and he are checking out of the place. Usually he’d walk the blond home, because he’s such a good friend, sue him- But this time he leaves him at the corner of his street and thanks him for his notes quietly, squeezing him to his chest in a gentle hug. Steve wishes him good luck. When Bucky told him about the interview earlier, he'd looked quite worried about the whole thing- Who’d pay that much money, Bucky? What if it’s something illegal, Bucky? But Steve’s the best friend there is. He stopped as soon as he took a glance at Bucky’s worried face. Just told him whoever was interviewing him would be a fool not to take him in, and anyone would be very lucky to have Bucky Barnes. The world doesn't deserve Steve Rogers, that's very clear.

Bucky gets on his way then. The weather’s not forgiving, winter has slowly started settling over New York and with it comes heavy winds and biting cold. Bucky pulls his jacket around him, tries to find his way around the streets as the sun slowly dies in red streaks in the sky, leaving empty space for darkness to rise. He doesn’t know what he expects as he arrives by the crossing streets he looked up earlier in the library, but very clearly it’s not this. A wasteland, the online one in the large skyline of Manhattan’s buildings, it seems. Bucky stares at the emptiness, looking so very intense between two skyscrapers, glances down at his phone, at loss. He’s a few minutes late, but he guesses the building he was supposed to have the interview in hasn’t collapsed in these few minutes. Instinctively he checks the email and frowns. He’s supposed to be there, he didn’t get it wrong- He doesn’t think he did at least. He stares at the wasteland again, steps to the entrance of it, hands shoved in the pockets of his jacket to keep his already dry and chapped skin warm. He waits there, feels dumb as he does for the few minutes it lasts. All kind of thoughts cross his mind as he grits his teeth. Maybe it’s a prank from Nat. Maybe it’s for TV. Maybe it’s his stupid past biting him back right in the ass- The thought makes him feel like some kind of character dug from a crappy novel. He hates it. It’s just when he decides to turn around and head back, with a long string of muttered curses escaping and disappearing with the wind biting at his reddened nose, that he hears it.

“James Barnes?”

He whips around in time to find a guy in a suit, standing next to a very nice looking- very expensive looking car. For a moment, the only thing he can think is /feds/. Cops? Problems. But he’s done nothing. And Natasha would never, right. And why would they ask him here? And what would the feds even want with him? He's not a character from a crappy novel.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” The man says, his voice a bit gruff, and Bucky realizes he’s probably stared for too long, trying to decide if he should be running. “Just get in the car, kid.” He adds. The man doesn’t budge when Bucky squints at him- Because he’s not a kid- Hell, he looks older than he is, or so he’s been told. He’s not that far from the guy in height, and what the guy has in stature with his belly, Bucky’s got in muscles around his shoulders. Still, he steps closer and the man opens the door of the backseat the car. Slowly, Bucky climbs, tense, fingers curled in fists. Somehow, he’s absolutely conscious that this could very well have him killed, isn’t too sure what drives him to sit there, but as he looks up, there’s a woman staring right at him. He doesn’t know if he should be reassured by her presence: Though her features are soft, her looks kind, her eyes are cold as steel.

“Mr. Barnes? I’ll need an ID.” She says, her voice as soft as her face yet he knows there’s an authority to it. He doesn’t think he can actually refuse the demand from the way it came out. Bucky isn’t too sure how, but the next thing he knows he’s handing her his ID, a tremor running through his fingers as he does so- And really? He's fine. The situation's fine. Is it?

“Very good.” She praises, which causes him to relax unconsciously on the seat. Her eyes run over his ID, and he knows they stop by his birthdate for a double check. “My name is Pepper Potts, but you may already know me." Bucky doesn't know her. "We spoke this morning. First of all, I’d like to thank you for getting back to me so quickly.” Her eyes soften around the corners for a few seconds and Bucky feels himself relax a little more He doesn't know what could be dangerous about this. Though it does look a bit weird, all of this, Pepper doesn't seem like she's going to kill him. It’s only then he notices how his fingers are gripping hard onto the legs of his pants and he swallows the lump forming in his throat as he lets go. “I’ll have to let you know that although this is quite a late minute notice, you’ll be working tonight if you’re open to it.” Pepper continues. Bucky catches her looking at his hands, but she deosn't say anything, just reaches for a bag at her feat.

“Doing what?” Bucky’s voice comes too low in a grunt and it surprises even himself. He straightens up a little in his seat and clears his throat, cheeks flushing slightly. “I’m free. What will I be doing?”

Instead of answering, Mrs. Potts hands over a stack of paper sheets and he stares at it with a frown before he takes them in hands, reading the first few lines. It’s a Non Disclosure Agreement, he quickly realizes, and this is just on a whole other level now, isn’t it? Of course, he'd read about it in the email, the NDA had been mentionned then. But having it in his hands seems to make it more real somehow. Bucky raises a brow at her as he looks back up.

“Before I tell you anything, you’ll need to sign this document- No, don’t read any of what follows before you sign,” She frowns as he tries to lift the first few pages. He gives a nod. Slowly starts to read through the document, about how he’s not to tell anything of this meeting, of what he’ll be doing, nor about the person he’ll work for. He wonders for a few seconds if it’s legal, what they’ll ask him to do- Is he going to kill people now? Was Steve right about all this? But it registers that they probably wouldn’t bother with an NDA then. He reads through more lines, the paper getting scarier the more he does, and after a while, when he feels Pepper’s gaze getting quite heavy on him, he clears his throat again and tugs a pen out of his bag, fighting with it for a few seconds to get the cap off. He manages to sign eventually, cursing at how childish his name looks on the paper, but the woman just gets the sheet back without a word, allowing him to read through the following documents. It’s a contract. His contract- It makes it feel more real to have it in his hands, less like a joke, maybe.

It takes him ten minutes to read it entirely, and as he’s done he looks up with a frown digging deep at his brows. Gone the illusion of this whole thing being a serious matter.

“This is a joke, right?” He asks, finally.

Pepper has the nerve to smile, evil woman she is, and Bucky takes a deep breath to settle himself but he’s gritting his teeth in anger. He hates being mocked of. This whole thing? It really feels like it’s exactly that, he thinks, nails digging in his palm.
He’s being asked to hold someone. That’s it- That’s the job. The word ‘cuddle’ even is on the freaking contract.

“It’s not a joke, Mr. Barnes. Far from it. Everything that’s requested of you on the contract is what’s expected of you for this. You may keep this one if you’d like to read it again. I understand it may be a bit.. Unusual. But it’s important. And I’m sure you won’t mind it for the amount of money going into your bank account for it.”

Somehow, her words feel like a threat. Is this a threat? As in, we know you need us more than we need you, as in, you're replaceable? Bucky stares at her for a moment, before he accepts the blank contract, and reads it again, almost expecting it to be different than the one below it. But it’s not. It’s clearly written here.

For ‘personal reasons’, someone wants him to hold them at night, five nights a week. The contract makes it sound very professional, very neutral. Medical, almost. Again, Bucky wonders if this is all a joke- But if it is, it’s a really serious one. Why would it involve a woman looking as high class as Pepper Potts? A car like this one? Printing contracts that look really official? Instinctively, he reaches to push long hair back, away from his face, scratching at his scalp as he tries to think of everything that’s happening.

“Who am I gonna be working for?” He asks, and Pepper shakes her head, red hair not moving an inch from how well they’re structured around her face, framing it beautifully.
“This is a private matter. It’ll be labeled under the name of a private company.”

Something tells him Mrs. Potts has thought this through . He sighs, and again, her gaze gets heavy after a few seconds. He’s got nothing to lose, he tries to tell himself. Worst case scenario, this is all a big joke and he’ll be ridiculed for a few weeks by whoever created this- Natasha, probably. Best case, he’ll just need to hold someone to sleep… Or is this really the best thing that can happen? His fingers close around the pen and he signs his name again, frowning at his scribble, but the thought of the paycheck eases his hand and mind and he tries to keep the thought of it going. Pepper takes the contract from him with a smile, and packs it along with the first paper he’s signed into her briefcase.

“Thank you, Mr. Barnes. I’m hoping this goes well- It’s in our best interest. For the both of us.” And just like that, the car stops. Bucky hadn’t even noticed they’d been driving. He frowns and watches as she slides out of the car with a hand holding hers from the driver, who he recognizes as the man who’d greeted him earlier -of course- and she turns back to look at him one last time. She seems to hesitate on her words, even looks flustered, for a few seconds. Bucky wonders if this is really it as a slight heaviness settles with the growing silence.

“Take care of him. I think this can work. I’ll see you at the end of the week, Mr. Barnes. Happy will drive you.”
Bucky doesn’t know what to say to that- What is he supposed to say to that?
“Yeah, yeah.” He mutters- Which is very eloquent, but somehow it gets the ghost of a smile to grow on Pepper’s face before she turns around. Through the open car door, Bucky recognizes where they are- It’s in Manhattan. He can tell from lights shining in blurry teardrops in the darkness around, but before he can situate them exactly, the door closes behind Mrs. Potts.
It takes a few minutes before the car starts again, and Bucky figures she’s chatting up to the driver. He settles in the seat she was in, glad at least he’s facing the road now, and glances down at the contract she’s left him with.
Hold someone to sleep. He can do that, he supposes.

No sex, the contract stipulates in bold characters.

At least there’s that. He won’t be some kind of fancy prostitute. Bucky sighs heavily, leaning back into the seat as he shoves the contract back in his bag. He doesn’t really know to make of this whole thing- What can he do really? He’ll have to see the guy. Because it is a guy, Pepper said so. Take care of him, she said. At least there’s that, too. It’s not that he doesn’t like women. He’d just rather have someone his size now that he’s all bulked up. Is that a weird thing? Steve had said it was quite a weird thing to think.

It takes a long, long time to get them to wherever they’re going. Bucky can’t see anything through the darkened windows, doesn’t know where the driver is taking him. It should probably scare him more than it actually does, he thinks but tries not to let his mind focus much on it. He’s in now, anyway. His signature is on the damn paper- And it’s not like he could just jump out of the car. And even then- For 2000$? Yeah. Though something tells him he should've taken a bit more time to think about all this.

It feels like it’s an hour later that the car finally parks- And as he checks, sure enough it has been an hour. The door’s opened for him from the outside and he walks out, wishing he could be as graceful as Pepper had been. Backpack held tight to his chest, he glances around only to freeze, frowning. He’s in a forest it looks like, a dense one, there’s nothing around. Except, as he turns around, a house, lights on behind curtained windows. Bucky looks up at the driver, kind of expecting him to punch his lights out so he could get killed, like he'd seen done in some silly movies, but the man just gives him a gentle push towards the house. “Boss’s waiting for you inside. Don’t keep him waiting too long.” He says. Bucky doesn’t really know what to answer. What’s it today with words escaping him, he wonders before he gives a nod and he’s on his way, fingers gripping tight onto the straps of his backpack. He takes a last glance back when the car starts up and leave. Which is great. Now he’s trapped here- He doesn’t even know where he is.
Standing where he is at the door, he takes a deep breath, slowly releases it and watches fog forming a light cloud from the ambiant cold. Thinks back on the money, thinks back on everything he can do with it. Thinks of what could come out of all this, as unusual as it is. Steeling himself, shoulders squaring up, Bucky tries his best to stretch his lips into a polite smile- The kind he's learned from Steve, before he’s reaching for the door handle. It’s open, Bucky notices as he pushes, but locks up automatically behind him as soon as he’s inside, which makes him jump lightly. It sounds like the whole thing’s automatic.

He doesn’t see anything, at first. Just the wood of the walls. It looks quite modern, even if traditional. Reminds him of pictures of typical log houses. And as he takes a step forward, eyes moving from the shoes set at the door to the coat hung up, he tries to keep himself in check- Only then does he see it. Him. His eyes widen almost comically as he takes in the man standing there.

“Well, I mean, at least you don’t look that bad.” The man says, and Bucky’s jaw falls a bit, because in front of him, a glass of amber looking liquid in his hand, stands Tony Stark.

Chapter Text

Bucky feels like he’s known Tony Stark his entire life, quite literally. He’s heard of the man’s parents dying when he was still young, he’s seen him getting in all kind of parties, he’s heard the crazy rumors about those same parties. He’s seen hundreds of pictures of him stoned or drunk -or both- in various magazines, claiming a lot of things about him. But in all the mess, he’s also read different articles about Tony Stark, about how brilliant he is, about how much of a genius he can be when he’s in his labs, when he’s working for the company he owns. He’s read articles about the Arc Reactor he created being a revolution of its kind. And before that, and above all, he’s heard about Tony Stark being kidnapped, just two years ago, by a terrorist group, in the depth of Afghanistan. He remembers this being all over the news, how suddenly Tony Stark was America’s golden child, mourned by those who’d insulted him only weeks prior.

He doesn’t know much about what happened to him afterward. Bucky’s pretty sure the guy kept to himself after what happened to him, and who’d blame him, really? His media presence lowered from what it’d been before. Thinking about it now, Bucky’s not sure he’s seen Tony Stark on any of the light-hearted TV shows he’d been in a few years back any recently- The same TV shows he’d been in laughing and grinning, making so many young people fall for. But maybe it’s just because he doesn’t have a TV, hasn’t had one in a few years, maybe it’s just because he cares less. In any way, any shape or form, Bucky struggles to grasp how and why in all hells Tony Stark would end up here, in front of him.
His mind goes back to the thought of this being a joke pretty quickly, because what other solutions could there be to this? His eyes roam the corners of the room for hidden cameras, catching on objects that could contain some, but there’s not much. Almost nothing, actually. The place doesn’t look very personal, he realizes then. His thoughts come to a snap when Tony Stark’s voice resounds in the room.

“-I’m renting the place. For the week.” The man speaks up, and Bucky’s eyes snap back to him where he still hasn’t moved from where he is by the couch, sipping on his glass. Bucky figures it’s not too hard to follow his thought process here, the way he’s been staring at Tony and looking around.
“This ain’t a joke, uh?” He asks, a little dumbly, and slowly, sets down his backpack. Stark shakes his head. He doesn’t seem very at ease either, which Bucky finds both comforting and unsettling in some twisted ways. He’s glad they’re both on the same level somehow, sure, but from what he remembers of Tony Stark, the guy doesn’t just... Stands there, looking almost as lost as Bucky himself is. He looks so very similar to the guy he knows from TV, though, so very handsome, but there’s something about him that’s so very different, Bucky can feel it just by him standing there. He’s in a large hoodie, thick, which Bucky can understand from the cold weather despite the fire burning in a corner of the room, in a simple but nicely presented chimney, and some sweatpants. He’s never seen Tony Stark in sweatpants from what he can remember- Though feels dumb at the thought. Celebrities don’t wear fancy suits all the time, he reminds himself. Makes sense, sure, but still. He remembers Tony being praised for his fancy suits.
His hair is a big part of this all, of this new Tony, Bucky thinks: It’s not brushed up and gelled, it’s falling onto his forehead, longer than what he can remember. From head to toe, Stark looks very different than the image Bucky’s grown up with.

“Done with the inspection?” Stark’s voice gets him out of his reverie again, and Bucky flushes lightly, scratching the back of his neck at how rude he’s being just now. He probably shouldn’t be staring the guy up and down- He’s supposed to be his boss, isn’t he? Apparently so. The contract he’s just signed comes back through his thoughts
. He supposes the man is used to it, though. It’s Tony Stark. The thought’s still improbable to him, realization dawning but not sinking in just yet.

“-Sorry, Mr. Stark.” He mutters in reply. “It’s just- I mean, I wasn’t exactly expecting this.” He says and knows he sounds almost as embarrassed as he is.
“You just met with the CEO of Stark Industries, what exactly did you expect?”
Bucky’s mouth snaps shut. Oh, he thinks, again feeling a bit silly. Really silly. Really freaking dumb, actually. That’s why she’d seemed so familiar, that woman- And of course, it only hits him then. Pepper Potts, CEO of Stark Industries since Tony Stark gave the company over to her after his rescue, after Afghanistan, after the whole thing. How could he be so stupid? And the place in Manhattan she stopped at. The Stark Tower, probably, Bucky realizes quietly.

“-So, James Barnes…
-Bucky? Okay. Odd. Sure. So, Bucky. I can only assume you know what you’re here for.” The man hums, raising a brow at him, and it seems it’s his turn to stare Bucky up and down. Bucky allows it- Not that he can’t, just watches as Tony’s eyes swipe down his body, watches the man notice his hair falling long onto his face, his well-used clothes, his old shoes. He feels he really doesn’t belong in the same room as Tony Stark now, squirms under the man’s intense gaze, but soon enough Tony’s eyes settle back on his own and Bucky just swallows, trying not to squirm, trying to stay right where he is, hands at his side.


Tony’s arms are wrapped around his chest almost defensively, Bucky notices, still trying to process it through. Just looking at him, he understands the issue maybe is sensitive- This whole thing, that is. He gets it, in a way. Not every day you need to pay someone to hold you- And Bucky wonders then, why Tony needs to pay someone for this- Doesn’t he have people he’s close to?
Why would Tony Stark even need to be held, he asks himself, but he can guess from what he’s heard in the past somehow. Can guess from the way Stark stands so far from him, looking like he’s not too sure about all this. He knows it’s not some silly billionaire caprice, knows it’s not just Tony Stark looking for a Sugar Baby or anything like it.
“Yessir,” Bucky answers, simply.

Tony disappears in what Bucky guesses is the bedroom then, in just a few steps- He’s not losing any time, he muses before he slowly follows after him, hands twitching at his sides- He allows himself a few seconds to glance around, noticing more of the place they’re in. Though, as he thinks again, there’s not much to notice. There are no pictures on the wall, no decoration, nothing giving away any details. Which is understandable, Bucky guesses, if Tony’s renting. A couch, a TV. It looks simple, but then again the way the door closed behind him makes him think there’s more to the log house than the shown simplicity.

When he does finally step into the room, Tony’s settled on the edge of the bed. His glass is down on a nightstand, where a small lamp is lit, highlighting the man’s face beautifully, and a heavy sigh resounds between the two of them, stretching the silence. Without any other words, Tony waves at a pile of clothes set on the other side of the bed. This seems so thought through, Bucky thinks, again. Especially when he realizes the clothes fit perfectly as he slides them on. He’s taken off his shirt and jacket to wrestle into a thick hoodie, looking like Tony’s, and after a few seconds of hesitation he just shrugs off his jeans, sliding in the sweatpants. It’s the same as the ones Tony’s wearing, he notices as he glances back at him. Soft and comfortable, plain. No details. The way this has been planned reminds him of the contract he’s signed. Rules and steps- It’s very methodical, almost medical, Bucky thinks as he moves to sit by the other’s side on the bed, still a bit hesitant.
Tony rolls his eyes though, and reaches for him, though, like they’ve shared the same thought. In no time, he’s got a lap full of Tony Stark, strong arms around his neck, and Bucky’s cheeks flush pink. Fuck the rules, is that it? That’s more like the Tony Stark he remembers somehow.

“Do you need to read the contract again?” The man asks from where he’s perched in his lap, and Bucky frowns down as he glances into soft eyes before he shakes his head quietly, and slowly, he wraps his arms around the older man, moving them from where they’d been limp at his sides. It’s only then he notices it. The hands clutched in the fabric of his hoodie are trembling, gripping tightly. He can almost hear it, the way knuckles are firmly clenched into the cloth. Tony Stark doesn’t look too shaken up, not giving away what seems like a very anxious state, but he doesn’t look relaxed either. For a long moment, Bucky doesn’t know what to do, doesn’t know what to think. So, this is it? This is the job? He glances down to see Tony has closed his eyes, though there’s still a frown digging at his brows, half hidden from where he’s pressed against Bucky’s collarbone, and carefully, Bucky’s hands start moving up and down his back.

The man against him visibly relaxes with the softest sigh, left in the crook of Bucky’s neck. The cold silence between them switches to something more peaceful, more comfortable, as they both seem to relax into it, into each other, even as they still are strangers. Bucky allows himself to lean back against the heavy pillows, hands still moving in gentle motions over the man’s back.

“This okay?”
He doesn’t really know why he asks because Tony looks way more comfortable where he is now than when he’d first entered the place. His nose is pressed into the crook of his hood, like he’s really trying to hide himself, but he still does.

“Hold me tighter.” He just requests after a few seconds of long silence, and Bucky complies with a light smile because Tony Stark looks adorable right where he is and really, he shouldn’t look this cute.
He catches his thoughts quickly enough.

He’s not sure he’s allowed to think that, even when the guy’s curled against him, even when he feels his breath against his throat. Isn’t Tony supposed to be his boss? Bucky thinks back on the contract. He really shouldn’t be thinking that.

It’s strange to him how normal this whole thing seems. Just two hours ago, he was an average college kid. Now, he’s apparently a professional hugger for Tony Stark. Tony Freaking Stark. He’s still waiting for it to sink in- Bucky doesn’t feel like he’s truly realized who is in his lap right.
He glances down at the way Tony is against him, how he fits between his legs, bare feet curled, knees almost drawn close to him, their hips touching. His inspection is stopped though as a beeping noise resounds, outside of the bedroom. Tony shifts in his hold, huffing and muttering- Bucky’s pretty sure it’s not actually directed at him, and he releases the guy to watch him move away, scratching at his goatee lightly.
Left alone on the bed, Bucky doesn’t really know what to do, confusion washing over him. He’s fidgeting when Tony comes back, only it stops as soon as he notices the large plate in the man’s hands.

“Thought you wouldn’t have eaten before Happy got you here.” He mutters, the plate settled on the bed by Bucky’s side, and before he can even say anything Tony’s crawling onto him again, resuming his position, eyes quickly fluttering shut. “Just don’t get crumbs on me.” He demands- Bucky can only nod, allowing Tony to shift against him.

He eats the pizza slowly, carefully, mindful of Tony’s words as he does. Can’t stop thinking about how nice he’s being. But the man looks tired, he can’t help but notice again. It seems so obvious right there.
Slowly, concerns and creases seem to leave Tony’s face as time passes. Bucky watches closely as the frown disappears, watches as Tony’s fingers loosen around the fabric of his hoodie, hears his breathing evening until there’s a light snore. He smiles a little. Again, the thought that Tony Stark is adorable comes back- But he doesn’t let himself extend more on that. Pushes the empty plate away, reaches to turn off the lights, before he’s carefully shifting, making sure not to wake Tony up as he tugs the blankets above him. The man doesn’t seem too bothered by it all- He grunts and squirms, but as soon as Bucky pulls him in close again, Tony’s cold nose pressing to his neck and it’s like nothing happened.

Bucky sighs softly. It seems easier to think now that everything is dark. Now that he can’t see who’s in his arms- He can, if he focuses.
The blinds aren’t shut, the light from the moon falling down through the window makes Tony’s features just visible enough. But Bucky’s not sure he wants to, for just a few seconds.

He takes this moment to think a little- Tries to, at least, moving as little as possible- Tony does really seem like he could use the sleep.
He can start and try to piece together why Tony Stark would want someone he could pay to cuddle, but he’s not sure he’d have every bit of the puzzle. He knows he doesn’t, actually. He can only assume certain things- it’s probably linked to the accident. Afghanistan. As he glances down, even with Tony’s worries smoothed away from sleep, he can tell the man in his arms has been through a lot.
So he tries and quiets down his thoughts. Maybe if Tony’s willing to pay a complete stranger to cuddle him, he wants some privacy. With a soft sigh that seems to resound loudly around them in the quiet log house, Bucky rests his chin at the top of Tony’s head, ghost of a smile on his lips, and his last thought before sleep takes him is that the nice smell around of the man’s hair probably comes from some kind of very expensive shampoo he’d never be able to afford.

He doesn’t know how long has passed when he wakes up. The only things he’s actually aware of are the hands gripping tightly, bruisingly onto his shoulders. Bucky’s eyes open difficulty as he struggles to grasp consciousness, but soon enough he’s himself enough to be aware of a pair of eyes very close to his own. He shifts back, tries to at least, which proves to be quite hard when he feels the hands on his shoulders tightening even more.
Only then does he realizes. He shoots up, completely awake all of a sudden, as he’s left to take in the sight of Tony Stark, trembling like a leaf shaken by a strong wind where he is on the mattress, still clutching onto him as if his life depends on it, his lips parted for what looks like silent pleas for help.

Bucky freezes right where he is for an impossible amount of time before he feels like he can move. And then when he does, it’s very sudden. He moves down on the bed, pulls Tony close to him, allowing him to clutch right onto his shoulders, as painful as that is, and his own arms move to wrap around the older man’s middle to pull him close. He focuses all he can to try and shush him, whispering softly spoken words close to his ears, telling him how he’s going to be okay. Because Tony’s going to be okay.


He doesn’t know how much the man hears, doesn’t know if he actually is awake, but soon enough the grip around his hood loosen, and Bucky pulls back to glance at Tony, just in time to feel him break into an ugly, heavy sob right there in his arms.
Still struggling to comprehend what’s happening, Bucky gathers him close, tucking Tony’s head in his chest as he presses his lips to the man’s forehead, soft words still falling from him.
Somehow, he definitely knows Tony Stark didn’t get him in bed just for fun nights then.