“Tony, please stay,” Bucky heavily plead, words quieter than a whisper.
He probably wouldn’t have asked Tony, of all people for help; but he was desperate.
Steve was out on a mission, Sam with him, and he didn’t trust anyone else enough. He supposed he could have gone to Natasha, but he still struggled with their relationship, rocky past as it were. Though, his past with Tony wasn’t any better. He wouldn’t let himself admit it, but he does feel closer to Tony. For some reason he’ll never understand. Some sick, twisted, humorless part of him desperately wished for Tony to accept him, though he knows he doesn’t deserve it. He never will.
He expected the other man to simply walk out without so much as a goodbye, but he waited for a response regardless. It’s the least he could do, after everything. Tony doesn’t owe him anything, Hell, it’s Bucky who owed him everything.
Tony let him stay in the tower, for free, gave him everything he could possibly need tenfold, helped with his treatment, helped make his new arm; Tony had given well enough already; and Bucky still asked for more. He hated it, hated himself for how needy he felt; especially at times like these.
But he’s desperate.
Desperate to not be left alone with his demons. Not again, never again.
It was hard enough to breathe on his own most days, he didn’t need the chilled grip of a haunted past to clutch his throat and squeeze; leaving his airways closed and his lungs strangled.
It hurt and he needed.
Someone. Anyone. Tony.
Tony stared at him for a brief period of time, a few seconds which felt more like hours to Bucky.
Just leave if you’re going to. I can’t take this.
No, please stay.
His thoughts were phantoms in the back of his mangled conscious, a loud whisper, like far out screams in the night.
“Stay,” Tony repeated, more of a statement. “Why? Why me?”
"I don’t know,” he said, eyes lowered, stare locked onto the floor. He couldn’t look at Tony anymore, he didn’t deserve the pleasure.
“Yes, you do,” Tony spoke with conviction, yet his voice was still ever so gentle. Bucky’s eyes traveled back up to the others’, slowly; icy blue met amber brown.
“I...I don’t wanna say.” Bucky looked defeated, eyes glanced off to the left. It was hard to look at Tony, it was always hard. Yet he’d found that he wanted to do it more and more each day. It was a terrible push and pull within him; a cold hand in his hair that thrust his head down, a gentle caress that lifted him back up. Over and over. It was impossible to bear.
How do I choose? He thought. Choose what you want. The voice in the back of his head reminded him. Choice. He had a choice now. Why is it always so hard to remember that?
Tony hummed, he seemed to contemplate Bucky’s simple, yet entirely unsimple request. “Alright.”
Bucky’s eyes shot back toward the other man in a snap, shocked.
"Yes, alright. I will stay, but only because you look like a terribly sad puppy who was stuck in a rainstorm for hours. I don’t like sad puppies, Barnes. Puppies should be happy.”
Tony peered off to the side, a small blush crept its way onto his face. What am I doing? This is a stupid, bad, terrible idea, Tony. He thought to himself.
“So, uhm. What do you need? What do you want?”
Bucky blinked at the other man, at a loss for words. He stared.
“I--” he began, gave a short pause to gather his words. “Ya don’t hafta do anything if ya don’t wanna, jus’...bein’ here is, is better. Thank you, Tony.”
“No, what do you want?” Tony said with a grin, small, but present.
“Uhm, well,” he hesitated, again. “Tony, ya don’t--”
“I asked you what you wanted, Night King, not what you think I want. This is a one time offer, so make it count. I’ll do whatever, promise. Make it snappy, Robocop, we don’t have all night.”
Out of context, it sounded a tad harsh; but the small fade of red on Tony’s cheeks mashed against the lilt of his lips, and the sheepish gleam in his eye spoke otherwise. It was one of Tony’s masks, his coping mechanisms; Bucky noted. Tony spoke quickly, or resorted to using sarcasm, or snapped quips if he felt anxious, or awkward. He didn’t take it to heart as others might.
“Well…” Bucky removed his gaze from Tony, once more; fingers traced slow lines across the soft fleece blanket he was wrapped in.
Tony’s gaze focused on the motion of Bucky’s fingers, and he knew what Bucky wanted, but he also knew he would never ask for it. It was up to Tony, now; and a small part of him felt giddy.
“You want to cuddle? Right? Cuddling. Cuddles are good, great actually! That’s what you do with Rogers, right? On nights like this. It’s fine, totally fine,” Tony took a step towards the couch Bucky was huddled on.
Bucky looked taken aback, shocked. He just stared at the other man like a deer lost in the lights, his heart drummed against his ribcage. Did he hear that right? Yet again, his words escaped him. How could he speak when confronted with that by the very object of his affections. He should’ve said no, but he didn’t want to.
“Right, right! Move over, there, Winter Wonder. Make room, we’re gonna; we’re gonna cuddle.” Tony yanked the blankets up and plopped himself down on the couch next to Bucky, or he tried. It was a little snug, two grown ass men don’t fit on a couch very easily together. He turned, back pressed right up along the other’s front.
Now Tony’s heart beat in his chest like a war drum, too.
His eyes were wide, fixed on the wall across him. Tony was nervous, but giddy, he clamped down the excitement he felt. He wouldn’t let himself admit that he’d dreamt of having done this very thing a multitude of times before. He only wished the circumstances were different.
He never wanted to walk in and see Bucky mid anxiety attack, curled in on himself, words of the horrors he’s faced mumbled from his lips; still half drenched from a shower he never fully dried off from. But he did, and he was there now; Bucky’s chest a thick line of heat across his back.
Bucky let out a deep, shaky sigh, then wrapped his arm around Tony’s middle, pulling him closer, if at all possible. After a few seconds that felt like years, Tony tried to adjust himself, but his leg nearly fell off the couch. This happened a time or two dozen more before he chuckled.
“Okay, this isn’t going to work...but I have an idea. Let me up.”
Bucky didn’t reply, but the arm he had around Tony tightened just a little bit. He didn’t want to let go.
“I’ll come back, Buckaroo, promise. I need to go get something. It’ll be great, and when I get what I need, we’ll cuddle some more; sound good?”
Again there was no response, but Tony felt the other man nod against the back of his head, and the arm that encased him lifted.
He slinked out and walked towards the door. Tony stopped midway through and turned back to Bucky, his heart ached for the other. Bucky looked entirely run down, fear rooted deeply in his gaze. He was exhausted, eyes haunted and riddled with the guilt he shouldn’t even be burdened with.
“Hey, would ya like me to have FRI open a call between us? Then we can talk while I’m gathering the essentials, you know, the goods.”
Hope flickered in Bucky’s eyes, and he nodded again, a small smile lifted his face, but it left quickly. Tony smiled back.
“Alright, FRI. You know what to do.” He turned away again, and said, “I’ll come back,” before he made his exit.
They stayed on call while Tony was out, Tony talked, Bucky mostly listened; but they were fine like that. Tony hadn’t expected him to say anything, really; he just wanted to be sure the other man knew he would return; that he hadn’t just made some lame excuse to bolt from the room. Bucky heard sounds on the other end of the call, things clinked together, rustled, Tony muttered to himself and the bots; but he couldn’t make out what they were. A few minutes had past before Tony walked back into the room, a cart full of an assortment of metal and fabric pulled behind him.
“I have arrived!” he exclaimed. “Now, to the fun part.”
Bucky looked confused, he wasn’t sure what Tony had planned; but he was sure it’d be something great. Tony always made amazing things. Tony tipped the cart over, fabric tossed onto the floor. Blankets, those were...blankets? And pillows. What?
After a moment, Bucky realized what Tony was up to, he questioned it only a little. As if he noticed Bucky’s question through the blanket he had hung across the metal rods he’d set up, he spoke.
“Shh, just let it happen, Buckaroo, no one’s ever too old for a blanket fort. Honest, it’ll be incredible. Very snuggly, peak for cuddle comfort.”
Bucky scoffed, but couldn’t hide the smile that cracked his face, and he shook his head.
“Okay! We’re done,” Tony said, hands brought down to pat off his sleep pants. “Climb in!”
Bucky opened the flap of the fort, which to be honest, was much bigger than he’d initially thought it would be; and peeked inside. He should have known Tony wouldn’t halfass anything. Go big or go home, he supposed. He crawled in on his hands and knees, the fort not quite tall enough for him to stand in, and settled up under the large nest of blankets and pillows. Tony followed soon after and laid down so they were face to face.
“So, what do you think?” he asked, happy smirk firmly in place.
“I...like it,” Bucky replied. “Thank you, Tony.”
“Good, good. Now, about those cuddles.”
Bucky stared into Tony’s eyes, still unsure what to do. Tony spared him from having to make a decision and opened his arms, which urged the other into his embrace. Bucky complied willingly. Almost too quickly, but not fast enough; he slid closer to the smaller man and latched onto him like he was his lifeline, face buried into the crook of the other’s neck. Tony wrapped his arms around Bucky in kind, one snug across his chest, the other pinned under the pillow the other laid atop. He wiggled his arm free and slowly and let his hand card through Bucky’s still slightly damp hair.
Bucky hummed, he wished he could stay here forever. They should talk, he knew that, but he was so tired, and Tony felt so good cuddled up against him; warm, solid, and small.
“Tony,” Bucky began, but was stopped by the man in question.
“We can talk later, Sunshine, for now why don’t you try and sleep?”
Bucky wanted to protest, he did, but he was asleep before his throat created words; warm and content, safe in Tony’s arms.