There are many advantages to living in Avengers Tower.
Clint has learned over the years never to take Tony’s generosity for granted. His fridge is always fully stocked, he has his very own customized gym to train in, and having access to JARVIS is pretty fucking cool. But, most importantly, he loves that he never has to worry about doing his laundry ever again. His days of sorting and folding, accidentally turning his whites pink and shrinking things are over.
Up until recently, anyway.
He has started to question the competence of the staff in charge of his laundering. He's never seen them, so he’s not entirely sure if they’re human, or robot, or some other invention Tony has dreamed up to make this magic happen.
It’s not like Clint takes regular inventory of his wardrobe or anything, but custom-made superhero-quality sniper-level archery suits aren’t exactly easy to come by. Sure, Clint isn’t exactly paying for them, but he did have to stand around for the measurements and fittings and listen to Tony gripe about where all his money was going. If he could avoid that scenario from ever occurring again, so help him, God, he would swear off pizza for the rest of his life.
“Awe no, pizza, I didn’t mean that,” Clint says to himself, dismissing the thought.
His level of frustration is reaching an all-time high as he stomps in and out of every room on his floor, leaving crumpled piles of clothes in his wake. Not one of them containing anything resembling his tactical gear. In one of the closets, hanging crisp and clean, are eight pairs of combat pants, and only three uniform shirts.
Cursing out loud, Clint stomps out of that room.
The first time it happens, Steve thinks nothing of it.
Bucky shows up in the common room wearing a thick plush hoodie and a pair of...pink booty shorts. Is that what they’re called?
Steve’s eyes track Bucky as he makes his way over to Steve and flops down beside him on the couch.
Steve offers his coffee without a word, and Bucky takes it and has a sip, then cringes.
“Needs more sugar,” he says, handing back the cup.
“You say that every morning,” Steve says, and places the cup on the coffee table.
“So you should add more sugar.”
“You should make your own coffee.”
Bucky grunts and gets up to do just that. The ass of the shorts he’s wearing is bejeweled with the words KILLING IT written in fancy cursive.
Over the next few weeks it happens more and more.
Bucky showing up wearing things Steve’s pretty sure don’t belong in Bucky’s wardrobe. They live together for, chrissake; If Bucky had been shopping, Steve would’ve known about it. Not that he particularly cares if Bucky wants to wear bright, colorful, over-the-top outfits. He is allowed to. Steve isn’t his keeper, it's just, well, Bucky has his routines.
With his induction into the Avengers, if and when Bucky needed new equipment or an adjustment to his arm, he went to Tony. If he wanted some extra time training, he often approached Natasha. Sam was his go-to for social media happenings, and Clint was always there to talk sniping. Steve..., Steve was always the one Bucky went to with everything else.
The thing is though, Steve keeps seeing the same shirt, or identical shirts. What could possibly be so special about them? Solid black in color, breathable material, fitted, albeit a bit tight and having absolutely nothing distinctly unusual or unBucky about them - or is it? - aside from the fact that Steve is pretty certain they do not belong to Bucky.
As The Shirt makes its ninth appearance, not that Steve’s been counting, when Bucky once again flops down beside him. This time making a grabby gesture for Steve’s coffee, which Steve dutifully hands over.
Sam snorts from the other side of the room just as Tony wanders into Steve’s line of sight wearing a pair of tracksuit pants and a very rose-pink silk house-coat, open and baring his chest and his brightly thrumming arch-reactor. An embroidered “PP” is sewn onto the left breast.
“Why Ms. Potts, I hardly recognize you this morning,” Sam says, moving to turn down the morning music.
Tony blindly thrusts out his arm, waving his hand in a dismissive manner.
“This is a perfect example of a double standard, my friends.” Tony turns to face them. “Pepper is always taking my clothes and wearing them! That’s what couples do.”
Whatever ribbing or chaos begins to erupt after that doesn’t matter. Steve’s vision has gone tunnel.
He glances back to the offending shirt sitting beside him. This time, he really looks at it. The stitching is all wrong, it's settling incorrectly around the bulges of Bucky’s biceps, the chest pulling too taut with any movements of his shoulders. Hell, even the collar fits almost uncomfortably snug around the base of his neck, and…is that purple on the inside of the upright collar?
The only explanation that made any sense is that the shirt does not belong to Bucky.
The shirt belongs to someone else.
That’s what couples do.
Too busy in his own meltdown, Steve may have happened to miss Clint begrudgingly ask Tony if they had “saved his measurements,” just as Bucky manages to slip unnoticed from the room.
Steve is not a jealous person. At least he hasn’t been up to this point, but It takes him another four days to confront Bucky after a few sleepless nights, wondering why the hell Bucky wouldn’t tell him that he was in a relationship. It’s not that he wants Bucky all to himself. The jealousy, if that’s what this really is, is because Bucky feels like he can’t tell Steve, knowing full well Steve would be more than supportive.
Bucky laughs in his face when confronted, which Steve does not expect. Laughs. Not even a laugh of discomfort at being called out, just a full-blown Bucky belly laugh, one that is rare, but Steve knows all too well.
“You are a dumbass,” is all Bucky says. “Those shirts are comfortable, it’s why I like ‘em.”
So, not in a secret relationship then. So what? Bucky has taken to wearing other people’s clothes for comfort’s sake? Because he definitely hadn’t denied that it belongs to someone else.
Steve has comfy clothes, so why hasn’t he seen Bucky wearing anything familiar out of his wardrobe?
Why is he obsessing over this?
He has no idea. But the mystery is still unsolved, so Steve does the only thing he can think of: he starts to leave articles of his clothing around, hoping something peaks Bucky’s interest enough to wear.
A oversized hoodie over the arm of the couch - Steves personal favorite. It lies there, untouched for three days.
Oops, some of his work-out shirts accidentally make their way into Bucky’s drawer after Steve does their laundry. They show up on the foot of his bed neatly folded, a note attached, saying I think these are yours -B
Steve groans in frustration and stuffs the shirts into his closet, still not quite sure why exactly he wants Bucky to wear something that belongs to him. He just does.
Three more weeks pass and Steve is still going out of his mind. Especially since he’s worked out that all the colorful clothing Bucky wears belongs to Natasha. He’d seen her wearing the KILLIN’ IT shorts last week, and couldn’t help his jaw dropping at the sight. It wasn’t his finest moment when Nat called him out for staring at her ass.
The shirts that started this whole thing, Steve finds out, belong to Clint when he overhears Tony telling Clint this is the last time. “My robot cleaning staff are not stealing your uniforms, Clint!”
Bucky is sitting on their couch, a bowl of popcorn in his lap, when Steve sits down beside him. “I’m three hours into marathoning Brooklyn 99,” Bucky says, not looking at him but holding up a handful of popcorn to Steve.
Steve notices he’s wearing one of Tony’s renowned Black Sabbath Iron Man t-shirts. He calmly reaches for the remote and hits the pause button. Bucky squawks. “Hey!”
Without looking at Bucky, knowing what’s he’s about to ask is beyond ridiculous. “Why won’t you wear my clothes?” He laces his fingers together, looking down at them.
“Buck, you wear everyone’s clothes but mine.” Steve can’t believe this has got the better of him, he can’t believe he can’t just let this go. He wants to sink into the couch and die. “I noticed,” he begins, not knowing what outcome he wants exactly, “that you love wearing Clint’s uniform shirts. Nat’s shorts? Which by the way look great on you. And now,” he can’t help looking at Bucky, “Tony’s workshop shirt. But we live together, and you won’t wear anything of mine.”
Bucky huffs. “Steve, they’re comfortable. That’s all. Nat knows, she gave me access to her floor months ago, told me to go nuts. Clint, that’s just been fun, fucking with him.”
Steve laughs then, out of relief.
“And this shirt,” Bucky goes on, “isn’t actually Tony’s. I ordered it because I like the design.”
They sit there in silence for a few moments before Steve says, “I’m a little jealous, is all.” It’s silly, it really is, now that he knows why, but here they are.
“You want me to wear your stuff too?” Bucky asks, “because I will.”
“Yeah, I think… yeah,” is all Steve says.
“You got it.”
Steve presses the play button on the show, and settles in to watch too.
Steve can’t find his favorite running shirt, he searches for twenty minutes when Sam texts him asking he’s coming, or what?
Yeah be right there, he texts back, throwing on another shirt.
He’s sitting in the common room in his usual spot when Bucky comes in, wearing the shirt Steve had been looking for, and flops down beside him. Steve offers his cup of coffee to Bucky without a word and Bucky takes it.
“I was looking for that shirt,” Steve says.
“Your coffee needs more sugar,” Bucky replies, handing back the coffee.
Steve can’t help smiling.