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my light (smell) will guide you home

Chapter Text

Bucky (though can he really call himself that when he can’t remember the name half the time?) knows that he forgot something very important.

Not just his past, not who he used to be, but something about who he is now, and that only makes it more concerning.

He knows something is wrong.

It’s hard not to notice, when everything smells of something and not in the entirely normal way. Bucky may not remember much, but he knows that he should not be able to smell what the guy walking by ate for dinner or what the girl waiting for a bus is feeling, just based off of her scent. This is not hor normal humans work, and he doubts its the serum.

Well, he has no real way of knowing that, but Rogers (yet another subject to avoid) hasn’t shown any signs of having that particular ability and he knows that his serum isn’t that different. He’s seen the formula, he knows that it doesn’t really affect smell all that much.

Another sign that something is wrong, is that pull he starts to feel at some point. It hasn’t been even a month since his escape from HYDRA and he’s already feeling restless and hot and bad like something is trying to claw its way out of him. Considering his trigger words, it’s not a good sign.

Bucky just can’t match his reactions to anything - the weather is roughly the same, Rogers is still none the wiser about his location, the HYDRA has lost him way before he came to New York and he’s as safe as he can get, which doesn’t say much. It still doesn't explain why he’s feeling so terrible.

He’s jumpy and constantly looking over his shoulder, which is stupid because Bucky’s a trained professional and he doesn’t need to look over his shoulder to notice danger. He’s not safe, he’s never safe really, but there’s no one stalking him at the moment, yet he’s tense and on edge the whole time.

Eating is another thing - he’s always needed a lot of food, but since a few days ago, it’s gotten worse. He’s hungry and hot and sweaty, but he can’t take off his hoodie or glove, because a metal arm is a pretty big giveaway and everything smells wrong.

Something in Bucky’s brain is trying to get to the front, let him remember that crucial part of him that he’s so clearly missing, but his jumbled emotions are only making it worse. Bucky just knows everything is about to go down, in one way or another, but he just doesn’t know what to expect.

And from experience, if he doesn’t know what to expect, it’s usually pain he gets. And he has had enough pain to last a lifetime.

He still can’t explain why he’s feeling so drawn to the Central Park one day, once the sun is starting to set and people start to thin out. It’s dense enough for him to get lost in, and it settles something deep inside of him, something primal, that needs the covers of the trees to take that edge off.

It doesn’t work.

He’s still on edge, still tense and ready for an attack that probably won’t come and he’s getting so hot that he finally takes off the jacket and the hoodie, leaving him in a shirt only. The cool air feels good on his skin, but it’s not enough. Bucky almost growls, before stopping himself. Something wrong is going on.

Then the moon starts to rise and his blood starts boiling.

Bucky’s eyes go wide and he only gets a flash of recognition, before something else takes over his mind. It’s not Winter Soldier, because no matter what others may think, it’s not a different personality. What happens once the moon starts to rise is much simpler. Something...warm and familiar takes over, with an edge sharper than his blade, that animalistic instinct that Bucky never knew he had.

It gets more overwhelming the higher the moon is and soon, Bucky just slides to his knees and gasps for air, as everything else fades away. All that’s left is the fire in his veins and the growl that’s crawling up his chest.

He remembers glancing at his hands, the fingers turning into claws, and then everything goes black.

It’s not Bucky who raises again.

It’s the Wolf, simple as that. Human intelligence and sentience wrapped up in over 200 pounds of a giant black predator. There’s no Bucky left, no memories, no nothing, just the awareness that he’s not safe, that he’s being hunted and he’s in an unknown environment.

The Wolf gets his bearing and starts investigating.

He’s in some sort of a forest, only not really because everything smells like humans and gasoline and technology, and it’s not how forests smell. That means he must be somewhere with humans, in a patch of trees. He doesn’t remember much, but that’s not unusual, so he proceeds like normal.

There’s no collar on his throat, no threat of electricity or punishment and he shakes himself off, delighted by this new freedom. He’s missed being free.

The Wolf may not know where he is, but he knows where he isn’t and that’s enough for now. He’s also hungry, so he looks around and starts to hunt. It’s a joy to hunt something else than a human and he feels elated and satisfied after catching 3 birds and some small squirrel. It’s not enough but he’s not starving anymore.

He’s still tense because everything in him is telling him that he’s not safe, that there’s something out there threatening him, so he holds himself together and trots off, trying to find his bearings. He knows that he’s in a city, the one he remembers from so long ago, yet different. The secondary smells are different, but there’s the same undertone as when he was a pup.

The Wolf knows that he’s big and should be very careful not to get noticed because wild animals can be dangerous and he doesn’t want to be taken again. Besides, there’s something pulling at him for some reason, something anchored in his chest and making him want to stay in this city, look for whatever's out there. So, the Wolf stays.

It turns out to be a mistake.

There’s not enough food for him there and he doesn’t want to eat a human, he knows that there’s another side of him, a human one, so that would be...wrong. The Wolf doesn’t want to do any more bad things.

That, however, means that he’s getting thinner. The few animals and dumpsters he’s been able to eat isn’t enough and he’s losing mass quickly, his metabolism quicker than an average werewolf’s would be. It’s not good, because soon he won’t be strong enough to even flee this city. It’s a big one, with people everywhere, and an escape is challenging even without his strength disappearing.

He has a few close calls, not with humans but with other animals, dogs on leashes that get nervous whenever he’s close, the cats hissing and yowling when he comes into the alley… He has to keep moving because the Wolf knows that he’s large - an apex predator in this city, but for once it's not an advantage. He’s black, yes, but the white spot makes him easily recognizable and the weaker he gets, the harder it is to stay in the shadows the whole day.

Yet, for some reason the Wolf still stays, until days turn into one week and then another and soon, he’s half-starving and exhausted. His left foreleg is starting to hurt badly, and while he’s not hurt in any way, it’s still not pleasant.

The Wolf is just about to give up and try to find a better hunting ground when he meets him.

It’s late, long after the sunset, and he’s resting in a remote part of the same not-forest he woke up in. He ate a few small birds, but it’s just so that his belly doesn’t hurt from the hunger. The Wolf’s just about to drift off to sleep when he hears something.

His ears perk up and he crouches, muscles tense and ready to strike. He may be weaker but he’s not as weak as not to defend himself.

The intruder comes closer, muttering something under their breath and then the wind changes and the Wolf gets a whiff of their scent.

Immediately, his ears drop down and the low growl dies down, and he's cocking his head to the side. The scent is...like nothing the Wolf ever scented before. Warm and metallic, but mixed with some natural spiciness and bitterness. It’s good. It wraps around the Wolf, calming him down and relaxing him more than he can remember being.

Warm Smell person finally shows themselves and the Wolf feels like he should recognise the man, but he doesn’t. There are just eyes as warm as his smell and something glowing faintly in his chest as he mutters and gesticulates. It’s a good human. Warm Smell human is good and he’s his.

The Wolf doesn’t move from his spot, crouched behind some bushes, but he remembers the smell and watches the man walk by. Warm Smell man can go, the Wolf will find him no matter what, even in the cacophony of smells in this dirty city.

That's what he does. He finds the Warm Smell human and...maybe not hunts, but stalks him, making sure he’s okay. The human doesn't leave his nest too often, the tall tower made out of metal, but whenever he does, the Wolf is there, just out of view, taking in deep breaths of Warm Scent. It makes the hunger and exhaustion and the nasty smells worth it.

It continues for a few days until the Warm Smell finally catches on. Really, the Wolf has been getting worried for his human - lack of observation skills could get you easily killed, and he wasn’t trying to be exactly subtle, for some reason. It goes against all of his instincts, but something in his chest urges him to listen. And any good wolf knows to listen to that voice.

That’s why he allows Warm Smell to corner him in some black alley, standing still and looking at him with calm eyes. The Wolf isn’t proud of how he looks, but Warm Smell doesn’t seem to be doing much better, he notices with a small growl. He smells like anxiety and stress, and it makes the Wolf want to come closer and cuddle him until he starts smelling warm and nice again.

“U-uh, hello there, big boy,” Warm Smell stutters, eyes wide and so so warm… “Yeah, I probably should’ve noticed you earlier, you’re one big ass dog.”

The Wolf doesn’t roll his eyes but whines in agreement. Yes, Warm Smell should work on that, it’s dangerous! And the Wolf won’t always be there to protect him.

“You’re also very...dirty, eh? Kinda thin too, poor boy,” Warm Smell coos, his tone tuning soft and warm and the Wolf wags his tail, coming a bit closer.

When Warm Smell reaches out with one hand, muttering “I knew I have a death wish,” the Wolf meets him halfway and nuzzles it. It smells like oil and metal and technology but it makes him feel safe and nice. He likes this technology.

He lets out a small warble, wagging his tail and Warm Smell coos at him. It’s undignified but it feels so good that the Wolf doesn’t mind, just pushes more into the human. He’s...small. The Wolf reaches above his waist when he straightens, and it makes him protective. This human, his human, is tiny and needs to be protected. That’s his new goal.

“Woah there, big boy,” Warm Smell laugh, one hand coming up to scratch behind his ear and oh dear, that feels amazing… “You’re an affectionate one for sure, don’t seem too wild either…”

They’re both silent for a while, the Wolf wagging his tail and getting nice scratches and Warm Smell thinking about something.

“You’re coming with me, big boy,” Warm Smell then decides, making him perk up. He’s going with Warm Smell? That’s good, he can protect him like that. “You need to be fed and washed and…”

The Wolf just lets Warm Smell talk, content to be next to him, growling at anyone that dares to come close to them. Warm Smell, bless him, doesn’t notice. It’s just his luck that his human isn’t the brightest one.

That’s fine, the Wolf will make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid. The Wolf always takes care of his pack.

Chapter Text

Tony Stark is a certified genius. Everyone knows that. It’s basically his third name by that point.

Tony Stark is a genius, but he can be dumb as a brick and about as observant as one.

That may be the reason why it takes him 4 whole days to notice the giant ass dog that’s tailing him. Granted, Tony wasn’t looking, but honestly, he’s hard to miss - a dark shape just at the corner of his vision, a quiet rumble from time to time.

In conclusion, Tony can be oblivious when he’s busy and that’s his explanation.

Once he does notice the dog, though, he immediately finds a way to corner him in a back alley, making sure to appear as non-threatening as he can. It’s the first time he gets a good look at the animal, and once he does, his heart breaks a bit.

The dog is dirty, which is hard to notice on his black fur and huge, but noticeably thin. His flanks are almost curving inwards and his eyes scream exhaustion, the bone-deep kin, visible in the light blue orbs. He’s almost completely black, aside from his left foreleg, which looks like he dipped it into white paint - reaching up to his shoulder and spreading a bit to his shoulder blades.

In one sentence - he looks badass but also poor and thin and Tony immediately wants to help. It’s not his fault! He loves dogs (though there’s a doubt in his mind if this even is a dog) and this one doesn’t seem to be attacking him or even growling, just staring with those sad, haunted eyes.

Tony stutters through greetings and immediately reaches out with one hand, which yeah, is a bit stupid but his self-preservation skills are mostly nonexistent, especially next to poor homeless dogs.

The dog meets him halfway, wet nose pushing against his head and Tony laughs, letting the animal push more and more into him. Once the dog’s head meets his chest, he realizes just how big he is. Granted, Tony isn’t the tallest out there, but still, the animal is huge, with a broad frame, tall and clearly strong, though half-starved. His fur is probably normally soft, under all the dirt and grime and his ears twitch when Tony touches them.

His heart melts and the decision is made.

“You’re coming with me, big boy,” he declares, staring down into the dog’s eyes. They meet his calmly, the tail wagging a bit and Tony gives him a good scratch. “You need to be fed and washed and probably checked by a vet, you’re underweight…”

They start walking towards the Tower, well Tony does and the dog just follows, pressed against his leg, a warm solid mass.

“Pepper will be against you at first, but come on, you’re fluffy and big and she’ll love you soon, I promise. I just hope you won’t chew on shit, it’s all pretty expensive… And I’ll have to walk you, of course, no peeing on the carpets,” Tony keeps his blabbering, thinking out loud. There’s a lot of responsibility with owning a dog, but Tony doesn’t want to leave him and he’s already pretty attached, curse his soft heart. “You're lucky that the Tower is empty at the moment, I don’t think that a crowd of superheroes would be good for you, big boy. You seem friendly, but who knows…”

They finally get close to the Tower and Tony takes the dog to the private, back elevator so that they won’t meet any employes. Once they enter, Jarvis speaks up.

“Hello Sir, it looks as if you found a companion today.”

The dog jumps and starts looking around wildly, a low growl starting. Tony's eyes go wide and he lays one hand on his head nervously.

“No no, it’s fine! It's just Jarvis, he's an AI,” he explains as if the dog can even understand. To his amazement, the animal calms down and looks up, from where the voice came. “He makes sure everything’s fine and has cameras everywhere. He's friendly though, not a threat.”

The dog keeps staring for a few seconds, before huffing and wagging his tail hesitantly.

“I take it the dog is here to stay, Sir?” Jarvis asks, a note of amusement creeping into his voice. Tony shrugs and looks at the animal.

“Yeah. He looks homeless but he’s so cute, J, can't you see?” Is it just his imagination or is the dog rolling his eyes?

“Surely, Sir,” comes the dry reply. “I can’t help but notice that he does not exactly look like a dog…”

“Oh come on, who cares,” Tony shrugs, knowing that is it actually important. He can't keep a wild animal in the Tower, but he’s already in the city and… “We’ll deal with everything later, now just food and a bath.”

The dog, which he should name, perks up at the mention of food and starts panting, tail wagging like crazy. He’s absolutely adorable and Tony leads him straight to the kitchen, praying that they have some raw meat in the fridge. Bruce and Clint like to cook sometimes so maybe…

“Bingo!” he exclaims, finding a plate for the dog. He’s totally owning the whole “dog owner” thing. “There you go!”

The dog stares at him for a second, before tearing into the meat. It's the first time Tony has an occasion to see those giant, razor-sharp teeth and holy shit, they’re big. The food is finished in less than a minute and the dog looks up at him licking the blood off of his muzzle.

“Yeah, you’re probably still hungry,” he mutters. “Jarvis, please get a lot of raw meat delivered, as soon as possible. “And good quality too, please. I have a feeling this one can eat half his weight in meat.”

“Certainly, Sir. I will also procure vegetables that are suitable for canines. From my scans, he seems malnourished, and the vitamins will be beneficial.”

“Good thinking,” Tony nods, before smiling at the dog. “Alright, bath time. Come on, big boy.”

The dog follows him easily into the elevator, not even growling at leaving without more food. A smart one!

They arrive at his penthouse and Tony leads him to the giant bathroom with a big shower that can be filled some. It’s a good idea he insisted on such a large one, because the dog is the size of a pony or something, and it’ll be a mess.

The animal sits down and watches Tony fill the shower with warm water. He doesn’t have any dog shampoo, which he adds to the shopping list so water will have to do. When everything is ready, Tony takes off his jacket and shirt, leaving him in a tank top. He has a feeling he’ll end up wet all over.

“Hop it, big boy,” he announces, gesturing towards the water.

The dog comes closer, sniffs, touches the water and then immediately jumps back,  ears rising and teeth bared. Tony takes a deep breath and slides down to sit on the floor, smiling softly.

“You don’t like water, either, hm?” he asks gently, making sure to stay calm and collected so that the animal will not panic more. “I know the feeling, buddy, but you have to. You smell like trash, and I mean that in a literal sense.”

The dog keeps growling, belly pressed against the floor, so Tony hesitantly slides closer and, cursing his lack of self-preservation skills, gently lays his hand on his muzzle, keeping his touch soft.

“Come on, big boy,” he coos, smiling at the dog, who slowly stops growling. “I don’t know what bad memories you have, but I promise that you’re safe, okay? I just want you clean and comfy.”

Those almost glowing pale blue eyes stare at him for a second, before the dog sighs deeply, resembling a human, and inches towards the water. Tony moves with him and keeps a hand on him when he hesitantly steps into the shower, tense and scared. Tony’s heart breaks at the mere thought of what someone had to do to this poor dog to make him react like that.

“It’s okay, see?” he whispers, gently splashing the dog with warm water, scratching behind his ear all the while. “All warm and safe, promise.”

Tony keeps whispering and scratching and slowly, very slowly, the dog starts to relax, until he sits down in the water and just breathes. Tony doesn’t dare to do anything until he’s sure his new friend is as okay as he can be.

“I’m gonna wash you now, okay? Just water, for now, promise,” Tony says, speaking as if the dog understands him and it seems he does because he relaxes and lets Tony do his thing.

He makes sure to keep his moves slow and telegraph everything he can, so the poor dog doesn't tense anymore. He changes the water twice until it’s clear, but the scent is still there and he knows it has to irritate the dog too.

“Jarvis, are there any human soaps that are in the Tower and are okay for dogs?” he asks thoughtfully. Tony knows that normally it’s not recommended, but maybe…

“There’s glycerin soap that’s suitable for dogs, on Dr Banner’s floor, Sir,” Jarvis answers, making him sigh with relief. He stands up and smiles at the dog.

“Heard that? I’m gonna go and get it, but you’ll be fine! Jarvis will be here with you.”

“Certainly, Sir,” Jarvis says, voice softer now, mindful of the dog.

Said animal looks at him for a while, tensing a bit, before huffing and wagging his tail a few times, which Tony takes as an agreement. When he exits the bathroom he hears Javis starting to speak, reciting information about different types of wolves, just to keep the silence away. The dog seems to appreciate it, laying down in the water and listening.

Tony almost runs to the elevator and to get the soap. He doesn’t want to leave the dog alone for too long, he knows how stressful that can be, so he hurries. When he comes back, the dog is huffing at something that Jarvis said but seems relaxed and okay.

“I’m back!” he announces with a smile. The dog greets him with a small whine and wags his tail. “I got some dog-safe soap, smells like an ocean breeze, whatever that’s supposed to mean.”

It smells good actually and pretty tame, and when the dog sniffs it, he doesn’t sneeze so Tony takes that as an okay and lathers it all over the dog. There’s a lot of fur, long and thick, perfect for colder months, so by the end, he’s feeling it like a workout. The dog is all soapy and smells nice, so he gently rinses it out and smiles.

“All clean and pretty!” he announces, reaching for a big towel.

The dog is faster, however, and jumps out of the shower, before Tony can scream at him not to. He raises his hand in a feeble attempt to protect himself as the animal shakes the water off, getting it all over Tony and the bathroom. Tony glares at the satisfied, panting animal and groans.

“Thanks, asshole,” he mutters, wiping the water from his face. “Now we’re all wet.”

The dog (he really needs to find a name), just gives him a toothy smile and comes closer, nuzzling against the towel.

“Oh so now you want it?!” Tony laughs, wrapping it around the animal and rubbing. The tail starts wagging and he laughs some more, scratching behind his ear from time to time.

When the animal is as dry as it’s gonna get, they exit the bathroom and Tony takes a deep breath, before smirking.

“Wanna be blow-dried?” he asks slyly, getting the hairdryer and letting the dog sniff it curiously.

They settle on the floor next to a contact, and Tony turns it on, the lowest setting and not too much heat, before turning it towards the animal. He laughs when the dog tries to catch the air in his mouth and just settles down to dry him. He knows it’s going to take some time, but that's fine, they have it. A break from the workshop is a good idea actually.

“Jarvis, get me everything that a dog would want,” he says after a while, thinking. “A big dog bed, some bowls and everything, a grooming kit, a leash and maybe a collar?”

At the mention of the collar the dog jumps away, now full-on growling, teeth bares and ears pressed into his skull, glaring at Tony. He gasps and presses himself against the wall, suddenly nervous. The collar. It was the collar that set him off. Oh god, what someone had done to this poor dog?

“Hey hey, it's fine,” he whispers soothingly, raising his hands, palms up. “No collar, I promise, we’ll find something else, okay? No collars.”

The growling dies down slowly and the animal stares at him, longer than ever before. Tony doesn’t break the stare and just lets the dog decide, knowing that there must be a deep trauma there.

Finally, the dog lays down and, like with the shower, inches closer, until he’s laying next to Tony once again. He gently pets him and breathes out.

“I’m sorry, I won’t mention it again,” he whispers sincerely, feeling bad for scaring the animal like that. “Jarvis, find some other way to safely walk with him outside.”

“A harness, Sir?” Jarvis asks, both him and the dog, who perks up. “It rests on the dog’s chest and back, nothing touching the throat. When you pull, it pulls the whole chest, not just the head.”

“What do you say? That okay?” Tony asks the dog, not even feeling silly for talking like that. It’s about his comfort.

The animal huffs but lays his great head on his paws, so Tony smiles.

“Okay get it, J, we’ll see how it goes. Also some snacks, a lot of them, and maybe some toys? Soft but durable, please.”

“Of course, Sir. The order will arrive in half an hour,” Jarvis responds.

“Maybe we’ll be done by then,” Tony jokes and gets back to work.

They’re not. When Jarvis informs him that the delivery is here, they’re maybe halfway done, the fur getting softer and dryer slowly, but it’s slow. There’s so much of this dog, holy shit.

Tony gets up to get it personally and puts everything near the entrance, not interested in it now. He has to finish the blow-drying, which is fun but very time-consuming.

Actually, he finds himself having fun. It’s relaxing, just him and the dog, resting next to each other, the soft sound of the blow-drier filling the air. The dog is calm now again, breathing evenly and sometimes glancing at him as if to make sure he’s okay. It’s heartwarming.

When he's finished, Tony gets a true view of the dog, and he’s gorgeous - black, soft fur shining, one leg pure white, mixing with the black on his shoulder blades, ears silky-smooth and pretty. He’s still thin, but he knows that dogs regenerate quickly, so he hopes a few weeks of proper feeding and he’ll be back in perfect shape.

“Well, aren’t you a handsome one,” he comments with a smirk, running his hands through the soft fur. The dog preens a bit and gets up and yeah, he’s still as big as before. Really, Tony feels tiny in comparison.

“Now we gotta name yo- Hey, where are you going?” Tony calls after the wolf, as he walks away and starts investigating Tony’s bedroom.

The dog walks to the bed and nuzzles against the covers, before perking up at the sight of something. He catches it gently between his teeth and turns to Tony, a fucking Bucky Bear in his mouth.

“Of course you immediately find the most embarrassing thing in the room,” he mutters, resigned. “Okay, so maybe this is a teddy bear of one of our national heroes - James Bucky Barnes. He was killed during the war and he was Captain’s America best friend and all. I may, uh, had a crush on him, when I was a teenager.”

By the end, he’s blushing furiously, staring at the floor. Only Rhodey knows about it, and Tony told him when he was absolutely hammered and not embarrassed in the least. Tony knows that this is just a dog, but still…

“I may still have a, you know, tiny crush on him,” Tony admits finally sighing. “He’s hot okay?”

The dog seems like he’s laughing at him, tail wagging and eyes shining so Tony laughs as well and grabs the Bucky Bear back.

“No idea why it’s a bear, really, you look more like a bear than this,” he laughs and pauses.

Tony glances at the dog, at the bear, and then back at the dog.

“Looks like we found a name for you, Bucky Bear,” he chuckles, laying the teddy bear back on the bed. So what, he’s naming his new dog after his teenage crush? It’s not a big deal, people do it all the time. Not like the real Bucky is there, right?

Newly names Bucky Bear huffs and wags his tail more, coming closer to nuzzle against his stomach. Tony buries his hands in his silky fur and snorts, quite happy. He’s never going to live it down once Rhodey finds out but the name fits for some reason.

The dog is certainly as big as a bear. And looks as cuddly as his teddy bear.

Together, they walk back into the kitchen, Tony unloading everything and Bucky Bear just watching with those intelligent eyes. The silence is nice and a small break from the mess in his head is also nice. He doesn’t get that calm silence too often.

“I take it you wanna eat more?” he asks, already preparing the food. He puts some of it into a pot, adds water and some veggies, as Jarvis tells him. Apparently, it’s good for them to eat some variety.

He puts the raw food down on the plate, adding some of that weird powdered vitamins. Bucky sniffs it and wags his tail before raising his head and looking at Tony.

“What? You don’t like it?” Tony asks, confused.

The dog just huffs and noses the fridge, before poking his stomach. He does it again until Tony gets it.

“Oh, you want me to eat?”

Bucky huffs, satisfied and looks at him expectantly.

“Not really hungry now, big boy,” Tony shrugs and prepares to sit down, but Bucky grabs the hem of his shirt with his teeth and tugs.

It’s enough to send him stumbling against the fridge and what the hell, why is he so strong?! Why does it have to be a huge wolf-dog?

“Hey!” he cries out, indignant. “I said I’m not hungry!”

Bucky stares at him for a while, before plopping is rear on the floor, raising his head and howling to high heavens. Tony’s eyes go wide and he looks around frantically.

“What is it?!” he calls, at loss of what to do. Bucky continues to howl.

“If I may, Sir,” Jarvis perks up, sounding faintly amused. Tony hates his A.I sometimes. “I think he wants you to eat. Now.”

“He’s not the boss of me!” Tony cries, exasperated.

Bucky hears him and his howling gets even louder if that’s possible, long and terrible and holy shit, Tony hates it.

“Okay, okay!” he finally gives up and the howling stops immediately. Bucky just looks at him, satisfied. “You win.”

Tony makes himself a sandwich, muttering under his breath. He can't believe that a fucking dog is making him eat now! It's ridiculous. Tony Stark is a grown man and he doesn’t need a babysitter. Though Pepper will be proud of him for eating…

He puts the plate down on the table, louder than normal and glares at the satisfied dog.

“Happy?” he grumbles, sitting down. Bucky huffs and eyes him until he akes his first bite, and only then starts to eat. Tony’s being bullied in his own home, by a dog he took in the same day. His life is ridiculous.

Tony has to admit once he finishes, that the food did him some good. He feels pretty okay and Bucky looks so stupidly proud that Tony almost poof up in pride. Maybe this whole owning a dog gig is a good idea, for more than one reason.

“You want to go outside now?” he asks, once the dishes are in the dishwasher and they’re just sitting in silence. Bucky shakes his head and lays down, clearly intent on relaxing. “Well then, I’ll leave you alone and go do some work, then.”

Tony stands up and Bucky stands up with him, making him scoff. “You don’t have to follow me, you know.”

Bucky just gives him a toothy smile and walks to the elevator, before looking back at him expectantly.

“Jarvis, are all dogs this smart?” he asks, laughing.

“Maybe Bucky Bear is just special,” comes the dry response.

Tony shakes his head and pets Bucky, while they ride all the way to the workshop. They exit the elevator and suddenly, Bucky’s behaviour changes. He starts growling, just like with the collar, and looking around.

Once he doesn't find any more people, he glances at Tony and stops growling, but refuses to get into the workshop. Okay, Tony can work with that.

“Bad memories, eh?” he asks sadly, crouching to hold the dog’s big head in his hands. “That’s fine. You can see me just right and you can stay here, alright? I’ll bring you a blanket or something later.”

Bucky wags his tail a few times and settles down on the floor by the entrance, clearly still tense. He doesn't close his eyes and stays vigilant, but doesn’t seem too stressed. Tony almost wants to stay with him, but some battles must be fought alone, and there is not much he can do, aside from showing Bucky that he’s safe.

T9ony’s thrown out of his working mindset by howling. He startles and looks up to see Bucky Bear sitting and proudly howling to high heavens.

“What the hell?” he asks, shocked.

“I assume that Bucky Bear thinks this is an appropriate time for food, Sir,” Jarvis responds promptly, showing just how much he agrees with the dog.

Tony sighs deeply. “Will you only stop if we get food?” he asks and gets some more howling in response. “Okay, okay, I submit!”

The howling stops immediately and Bucky Bear wags his tail when Tony exists the workshop.

“You’re a bully,” he informs the dog, who just doesn’t seem impressed.

Tony has a weird feeling that his life will revolve around food much more often now, with a big dog to feed who also for some reason seems to think that Tony needs to eat more. He can't believe this is his life.

Though it is pretty late and he has pulled an all-nighter the day before, so it doesn’t take much effort on Bucky’s part to bully him into the bathroom. If Tony wasn't so tired, he would’ve noticed just how strange this behaviour is for a dog, but as it is, he just takes a quick shower and falls on the bed, dressed in old sweatpants and a tank top.

He’s on the verge of falling asleep when the bed dips under a considerable weight and Tony gets a faceful of fur.

“Wha-?” he manages but Bucky just settles on his chest, head next to the reactor and falls asleep.

Tony has no other choice than to follow.

When he wakes,  Bucky is already awake, watching him calmly with big blue eyes. He sighs and stretches, allowing Bucky Bear to get up and shake the sleep off. He seems energetic and happy in the morning and of course, out of all the weird dogs out there, Tony got the morning bird one. What even is his life.

Tony himself feels like a walking zombie, so he drags his sleepy body to the kitchen and makes coffee on autopilot. It’s only after one mug of it he realizes that Bucky Bear probably needs food, so he prepares just that.

He puts it on the floor, but Bucky Bear doesn’t even glance at it, just stares at him calmly. Tony sighs deeply.

“Will you start howling if I won’t eat?” he asks and Bucky just throws his giant head back. “Okay, okay!” Tony interrupts. “I’ll eat.”

He really can’t believe this is his life. His adopted dog is some weird, super smart giant animal who seems to think that Tony is his human pet, instead of the other way around. How shit like this keeps happening to him, he has no idea.

They’re both finishing their food when Jarvis informs Tony that Pepper is on his way, so he just manages to put the dishes down when the woman walks in, some papers in her hand.

Seeing Bucky Bear, she promptly freezes and looks at Tony with huge eyes.

“Tony? What is this?” Pepper asks, remarkably calm for someone just seeing a giant wolf masquerading as a dog in Tony’s kitchen.

“This is Bucky Bear,” he introduces dumbly, flushing once he says the name out loud. He has a feeling that it’ll come to bite him in the ass.

“What?” she snaps, not daring to come any closer. Tony just walks to her and squeezes her shoulder.

“I adopted him yesterday. Well, I took him in, more like. He’s my dog.”

“Tony you can't just adopt a dog! And it's not really a dog either!” Pepper exclaims, probably thinking about the press and everything.

Bucky’s ears go down and he lays down sadly, looking like he already knows what's going t6o happen and it breaks Tony's heart.

“I can’t give him back,” he says softly, coming closer to the dog to pet him gently. Bucky presses into the touch, but there’s a resigned air around him.

“I… Tony, we have to get him to the vet and do paperwork and… It really would be better for you to just...find him a good home. You’re not the best at taking care of living beings, Tony,” she says helplessly. “We should find him another home.”

Tony winces and pulls Pepper outside so that Bucky won’t hear them.

“Listen, Pep, it’s not that easy,” he says, keeping hands on her shoulders. “I think he was...experimented on.”

Pepper looks at him, horrified and he sighs.

“It’s just… Look, I know he’s not a dog. He’s huge even for a wolf and there are a few things that made me think. He definitely acts like he was abused, in some ways, but there’s more. He’s terrified of a collar, water and labs. When he entered my workshop, he had a doggy equivalent of a panic attack and he starts growling at pictures of doctors. He has some scars, along his left shoulder and when Jarvis did a scan, there are more. Surgical scars, mostly healed, signs of repetitively broken bones, weird results… I can’t really scan him, because I don’t want to traumatize him any more, and it’s not that important. What’s important, is that I think someone was playing Dr Frankenshtein on him and he managed to escape finally. I can't just...leave him.”

Tony’s heart is hammering when he finishes and there are tears in Pepper’s eyes. Finally, she nods and squeezes his hand.

“I understand,” she says softly, smiling. “You’re an amazing man, Tony. I’ll make sure thing gets out, but don’t walk him during the day and if you do get out with him, wear a disguise. We don’t need media on it.”

Tony nods, relieved. “Thaks, Pep. You’re the best.”

“I know,” she replies calmly and then turns around to go back into the kitchen where Bucky Bear is laying down, staring at the entrance.

Pepper stops a few feet in front of him and smiles, her whole demeanour calm.

“Hello, Bucky Bear,” she greets the wolf, just as she would any person. “I’m Pepper and I’m Tony’s babysitter.”

Bucky Bear huffs and his tail starts wagging before he gets up to poke her stomach with his nose. Pepper laughs and gently starts to pet him, allowing him to control how much touch he wants. Jesus, Tony loves this woman.

“Did you make Tony eat breakfast?” Pepper asks, almost cooing and Bucky huffs again, almost nodding. “Good, that’s very good. Use emotional manipulation, he can’t stand the thought of you being sad.”

Did Tony say that he loves her? No, he hates her. She’s the worst.

“Pepper! You can’t just say that,” he doesn’t whine, not he does not.

“It’s the truth,” she shrugs, clearly delighted by the wolf. “He is quite adorable, even with the size and everything. Must be the eyes.”

Bucky does have those amazing, pale blue eyes that sometimes look like they belong on a tiny puppy and not a big-ass, genetically modified wolf. Tony would know, it’s the eyes that made him take him in.

“Right? Most adorable giant wolf in the world,” he chuckles.

Pepper laughs as well and gets out her phone. “Well, get next to him, we have to send a picture to Rhodey,” she encourages.

Tony rolls his eyes but does come closer and sits down on the floor, allowing Bucky Bear to climb all over him, wagging his tail happily. He laughs and pushes his wet tongue away and that’s when Pepper takes the picture. Tony only hopes it won’t get out because he looks like a giant mess.

“Don’t tell him the name!” he manages before she sends. “He’ll kill me with laughter.”

Pepper laughs and sends the picture, and Tony has no way of knowing if she did tell Rhodey the name. She’s evil.

“I see that you're in good hands, eh paws, so I can leave. Just sign those papers and you’re free until Wednesday. I need you at a meeting.”

“Sure, Pep,” he mutters, already busy with the papers.

“Floor 76, at 10 am. Be there,” she calls, just as she leaves.

Tony only shakes his head and sighs. “Well, we can’t leave the Tower now, it’s too bright, but we can go down to the workshop, what do you say?”

Bucky Bear whines but walks to the elevator, already tensing a bit. It’s not as violent as before, but it’s there and this time, Tony dares to lay one hand on the back of his neck, humming. They can get through this.

And they do.

The wolf starts howling around lunchtime, so Tony is forced to take a break and go to the kitchen again to make dinner for himself and something for Bucky. They stay there for a while because the wolf demands pets and tries to climb onto Tony’s lap and when he returns, he feels fresh and light and has fun creating.

The workshop’s windows have blinds, so there’s no way of knowing what time it is, but Bucky seems to just know as he starts whining and even kind of barking at one point. It takes Tony a second to realize before he’s raising his head and looking at him questioningly. Bucky only whines again and does a little dance. It’s enough to make him realize.

“Oh yeah, you need to get out,” he mutters and finishes his work. Well, if his wolf has to go, they’re going.

“We have to check that harness, you know,” Tony notices once they're in the penthouse, with Tony dresses in an old hoodie and sunglasses because he’s That Bitch.

Bucky huffs and starts sniffing the harness, wary but not hostile. Finally, he looks up and gives that weird not-nod, so Tony grabs it and carefully puts it on the wolf. He makes sure to leave a lot of space and not pull anything and Bucky tenses again but stays still.

“Okay?” he asks gently, crouching to pet his muzzle. Bucky whines and wags his tail, allowing Tony to clip a leash to it. He’s not a big fan of it, though, so Tony grabs the harness handle instead and puts the leash in his pocket.

“Just don’t pull me too much,” Tony jokes.

When they’re finally out in the open, the wolf perks up. His gait becomes faster and he actually starts pulling Tony in the direction of Central Park, making him almost run to keep up. He curses his short stature and tries not to fall back.

He’s not exactly panting when they arrive, but it’s certainly a workout and a half.

“You can go on morning runs with Cap, holy shit,” Tony manages, plopping down on the bench under some big tree. Bucky gives him a toothy smile, before looking around and glancing back at him. “Go ahead, have fun.”

Bucky does.

He runs around, chases the air, jumps and plays with the bushes. It’s really fascinating to watch him go at it, so Tony doesn’t even take out his phone, just focuses on his wolf. He wonders if this is the first time in years that Bucky Bear had fun if he ever really had fun before. Wonders how much he had to suffer before finding Tony.

It’s not a good track of thoughts and Bucky seems to notice, as he comes closer, panting, and jumps on the bench to curl up there, his big head on Tony’s lap. He snorts and starts petting him immediately, running his hands through smooth, soft fur.

“Having fun?” he asks gently, staring down at the wolf. His ears perk up and he huffs in that adorable way of his but settles down even more. “I take it you’re ready to return?”

He is apparently. Bucky stands up and allows Tony to garb his harness again and they walk back to the Tower. For a moment, Tony is glad that New York has so many issues because no one spares them a second glance and the arrive unbothered.

Bucky doesn't allow Tony to get back to work. Instead, he tugs him to the couch and curls up there, half-laying on Tony, who has a bowl of popcorn on his lap. They put on some movie and Tony spends most of it just petting his wolf, running his hands through his fur, sometimes eating some popcorn, and enjoying himself.

It's not something that's going to happen every night and they both know it, but Tony can see the glint in Bucky Bear’s eyes and he knows that the wolf will try his damn best to get what he wants.

Tony's right.

Over the course of the next week, he spends over 50% less time in the workshop than before Bucky Bear. He eats more, actually sleeps more, feels more rested. Jarvis comments on his better diet and overall, things are great. Until the nightmare happens.

In retrospect, Tony’s quite lucky to get so much time without any nightmares, almost a whole week. But it doesn’t make him any less panicked and scared when he does wake up, a scream on his lips and eyes wide.

He's just about to tumble out of bed when something soft and smooth and wet touches his neck. Tony flinches and raises a hand to push it away, but then there's a rough, slick tongue on it and he realizes that it's just Bucky Bear, making a small, concerned sound.

“O-oh, hey b-big boy,” he gasps, voice gravelly and throat hurting.

Bucky Bear whines again and nudges him towards the nightstand where water is. Tony gratefully gulps it down and just sits there, panting and scared. His hands are shaking and there’s a phantom pain in his chest and he almost panic again, but then Bucky just...curls around him, the big body easily wrapping around Tony’s shaking one and he falls back into it.

His hands clutch at soft fur and Bucky starts making a low, comforting sound. It's not quite a purr, he’s a wolf after all, but it's a bit rough but nice, echoes through Tony's shivering body until it stops shaking. Tony matches his breaths to Bucky’s, slow and full, and curls up even more so that he can cuddle into the wolf’s side.

“Thanks,” Tony whispers into Bucky's flank.

He doesn’t fall back asleep, but he’s not shaking or scared, just breathing deeply in the dark until the dawn comes. It’s only an hour or two, so he still got a lot of sleep and he feels pretty...okay when he gets up.

Yes, Bucky Bear has to force him to eat, but Tony does and when he works in the workshop, Bucky inches in, just a bit, so that he's closer. Tony calls that progress but his heart feels warm at such a blatant sign of caring.

Through the day, Bucky Bear stays close and even when they walk out into Central Park, he only runs around for a while, before coming to Tony and making him walk with him. Tony doesn’t mind, the company feels nice.

They curl up together on the bed, Tony opens a hologram and then just talks, about anything and everything, gets lost in explaining how fundamental physics works, talks about his suit and how it's made, how it works, just talks until his words start slurring and Bucky pulls a blanket over them.

Tony falls asleep with a small smile on his face, cuddled close to his wolf.

Next morning, he gets a rude wake-up call from Rhodey, who lets him know that he’s almost there and he better be up.

Even Bucky grumbles at that but pulls Tony into the kitchen and they both eat in silence, finishing just in time for Rhodey to burst through.

He stops after seeing Bucky. “Holy shit, he’s huge!”

Tony raises an eyebrow. “Yeah, I sent you a picture.”

“Well, yeah but you were the only point of reference in that. I just thought he was huge compared to you, which isn't that big of an achievement,” Rhodey cackles.

Tony gasps, offended and is Bucky chuckling?

“J, do wolves chuckle?” he asks angrily, watching Bucky wag his tail at Rhodey and nuzzle close. The traitor.

“Some dogs are capable of expressing laughter,” Jarvis informs him and fuck, is he also amused? Tony’s living with traitors.

“I hate both of you,” he informs them and stalks out, rolling his eyes fondly. They both follow, though so Tony can’t even sulk like he wants to.

Both Tony and Rhodey enter the workshop and Bucky tenses a bit but follows, making Tony gasp.

“You did it, big boy!” he exclaims, dropping to his knees in excitement.

Bucky barrels into him, sending them both to the floor and Rhodey laughs, but Tony’s just so so happy. He knows that the issue with labs isn't gone, that it’s probably just Bucky being comfortable with Tony's workshop, but it still feels huge.

“Good job,” he mutters into thick fur, getting an affectionate nuzzle in return.

They gather themselves and Tony watches in amusement as Bucky explores, sniffing and poking stuff. He stiffens when DUM-E comes in, quipping and excited. Tony laughs.

“That’s just DUM-E, my first robot,” he explains, fully aware that Rhodey is filming all of it. “You’ll get along probably.”

DUM-E makes an exciting sound when he sees Bucky Bear and the wolf stares for a while, before hesitantly coming closer, sniffing and poking. Once he pokes, DUM-E pokes back and for a while, they poke each other. Then, Tony throws a ball and DUM-E comes barreling after it. Bucky doesn’t make a move to follow but seems amused so Tony counts that as a win.

“That’s one weird dog,” Rhodey notices. Tony shrugs.

“He’s probably genetically modified or something but I can't really check. He’s smart, though.”

“Seems friendly enough,” his friend agrees. “But what you'll do if you have to fly somewhere?”

Tony winces. “We’ll cross that bridge once we get to it. I have a feeling Bucky Bear will just come with me.”

He realizes his mistake once Rhodey starts laughing, leaning against the table. Tony groans and hides his flushed face in his arms. He really can't believe that he's a grown man blushing like a schoolgirl at the mention of his teenage crush but that’s just his life.

B-Bucky Bear?” Rhodey manages to choke out, now almost crying with laughter. “That’s precious.”

“Shut uuuup,” Tony whines, wishing he could just escape. “It made sense back then.”

“Well, now you can call out ‘Bucky!’ and I won’t immediately think that you’re mas-”

“I’ll stop you right there!” Tony exclaims, slapping a hand over Rhodey’s mouth, flushing even more. “It happened once and I was drunk.”

“Sure, sure,” Rhodey mumbles, smirking.

Tony just elbows him in the ribs and sighs. “The team will be probably coming back pretty soon, at least Bruce and Clint. No idea about Cap or Natasha,” he mutters. “I hope Bucky Bear won’t hate them.”

“He seems like a nice wolf, Tony, I doubt it’ll be a problem,” Rhodey notices gently. Tony just doesn't want to give up his new friend for the old ones, nor does he want to lock Bucky Bear in when the team is back.

“I just worry. He’s a nice company,” Tony says softly, watching Bucky settle on his ratty couch, tail wagging slightly. “Even though he bullies me into eating and all.”

“Then I like him already,” Rhodey announces, smirking. “I can't be your babysitter 24/7 and he seems qualified. Certainly large enough to push you away from work…”

“Don’t give him ideas!” Tony hisses, also smiling. He can complain all he wants but it does feel nice to have a guarddog...wolf. A guardwolf.

At the end of the day, it's still nice. He and Bucky Bear walk back to the Tower, as usual, and it's just comfortable. New York keeps running around them and he knows that when they get back home, they’ll cuddle on the sofa and Tony will scratch Bucky Bear behind the ears and then fall asleep, warm and protected by his big wolf.

It’s a nice thought.

Chapter Text

Tony is working on the suit, Bucky up in the penthouse when Steve comes into the workshop. Jarvis told him he’s back a few hours ago, but he was busy at the time, so he let the Captain come to him.

“Well, welcome back, Mr America!” he calls with a smile, that quickly disappears when he sees Steve.

The man is frowning, pale and tired, and he’s clutching a thick file. Immediately, he straightens and pushes his work back, giving Steve his full attention.

“What’s wrong?” he asks, serious.

Steve sighs deeply and leads him towards the sofa, still silent. Tony lets him and they sit down, facing each other.

“Tony, I have some news,” he finally says, voice gravelly. “Both good and bad.”

“I’m listening,” he replies, mind reeling with all the possibilities.

“Bucky is alive.”

His brain screeches to a halt.

What? James Barnes can’t be alive. He fell from the train over 70 years ago! There’s no way he survived in the winter there, alone and probably seriously injured. Yet, he doesn’t say anything, letting Steve speak instead. There’s more to that.

“You heard that the SHIELD was basically HYDRA, right?” Steve asks instead of answering and Tony has a bad bad feeling about this whole thing. “HYDRA got him, Tony after he fell. They got him and they kept him, tortured him…”

Steve’s voice breaks but it seems like he doesn’t have any tears left so Tony just listens in horrified silence.

“Not everything that happened during SHIELD’s collapse made it to media. It started with… Someone tried to kill Fury, and they almost succeeded. Someone strong, faster than me. Enhanced.”

Tony doesn’t say anything again, hands shaking. He really really doesn’t like where this is going.

“It was Bucky, or what remained of him,” he says shakily, choking back sobs. “I got the files and everything. They called him the Winter Soldier. He, um, he trained Natasha briefly, in the Red Room.”

Oh. If the Winter Soldier, James Barnes, trained Natasha, Tony can only imagine how dangerous the man has to be.

“I have the files with me, Tony, and I want you to look through them. I… I hate to ask this of you because I got sick when I first read them, I still get sick, but I… It’s important.”

Tony nods and gently pries the files from Steve's clenched hands, not looking inside just yet. With HYDRA in work, it’s probably more terrible than he can imagine.

“They wiped his mind.” And there it is, more awful than Tony imagined. “They spent over 20 years breaking him down, wiping his mind, torturing him, experimenting on him, before they got a blank canvas, and not for long anyway. There are trigger words, that activate the Soldier and assure complete and blind obedience. They made him forget everything, wiped everything from his mind and made him their assassin.”

There’s a sick feeling in his stomach and Tony has to take deep breaths as he listens. Steve is clearly barely holding on, chest heaving and eyes misty, but he keeps going.

“The Winter Soldier is a ghost story, responsible for massive political decisions. He killed prime ministers, presidents, changed the whole history to fit HYDRA. Bucky’s been there for 70 years and they kept wiping him, kept...destroying his mind.”

Tony doesn’t want to listen anymore, wants to get up and escape from the terrible words that are coming from Steve’s mind but he stays. He owes it to Barnes, to at least listen before vomiting.

“I fought him and he...I think he remembered me, you know,” Steve says softly, a small sad smile on his face. “He escaped after pulling me out of a river and I’ve been looking for him ever since. I don’t think he's a danger, but I just… I want him safe.”

Tony nods. “I understand,” he replies, voice shaky from all the things he learned. “Once you find him, bring him here. We’ll get him a therapist, a good one, and I’ll get through this file and work on the law side of everything.”

Steve looks floored before looking down and swallowing. “Don’t,” he says quietly, making Tony raise his eyebrows in surprise. What? “Not...yet, okay? Please, Tony, I’m incredibly grateful, but it’s not everything I have to tell you. Just, can you, at least skim through the file? Please?”

“Sure,” he mutters, still not understanding. Steve grabs his hand and squeezes, eyes full of pain and guilt.

“I know you don’t understand but please, trust me. I can’t tell you today, it’s...too much for both of us, but once you read them, tell me, okay? I’ll tell you then, I promise.”

“Okay,” Tony says softly, squeezing back. He’s almost scared of what’s left to say, but he doesn’t ask. Steve’s right, it's enough for them.

“Thank you,” Steve whispers, deflating. “I’ll just go, for now, I need to rest. And you need to think. I know it’s a lot.”

Tony nods and turns around, letting Steve leave. Once he’s gone, he almost runs to the bathroom and vomits, tears in his eyes. He hasn't even looked at the file but fuck, just what he’s learned is… It’s horrifying.

When he finally stops, there’s a presence next to him so he easily leans against Bucky Bear, sighing deeply and burying his face in the wolf’s fur.

“It’s such a mess, Bucky Bear,” he mutters, getting a questioning huff in answer. Tony has long ago stopped wondering why the hell is his canine friend so smart and accepted it as part of Tony’s Not Strange Life. “James Barnes is alive. The man I named you after, well kind of, is alive and apparently has been HYDRA’s weapon for 70 years. 70 fucking years! I’m still shocked he isn’t a vegetable at this point,” Tony sighs, getting up.

Together, they head to the sofa and Bucky curls up on his lap, wet nose poking his stomach as Tony steels himself and opens the file.

After that, it’s a nightmare.

He’s sickened by what he’s reading and he has to run to the bathroom 3 more times, sometimes just stares dazedly into nothing as his brain tries to process everything. What they’ve done to Barnes is beyond anything he has ever seen. And Tony has seen a lot.

It takes him hours and Bucky Bear stays right next to him, whimpering from time to time, whining and huffing, probably reacting to Tony's emotions. He just cuddles his wolf closely and reads and reads and reads.

Tony’s sure it’s late but for some reason, he just can’t stop, even though he wants to. It's Bucky Bear who decides for him and grabs the file, trotting away.

“Hey! I was reading that,” Tony whines, but he’s exhausted. There are tear tracks running down his face and his whole body is heavy. He’s afraid to go to sleep after everything, but Bucky Bear tugs until he finally gets up. “You’re terrible,” he mutters while they ride back.

Bucky just wags his tail weakly and pushes him into the bathroom. Tony shakes his head but takes a quick, hot shower before settling on the bed, Bucky Bear’s head on his chest.

He runs his hands down his back, soothing both of them and then just closes his eyes and lets the repetitive motion calm him down until he’s hovering on the verge of sleep.

“Thanks for being there, Bucky Bear,” he mutters sleepily, smiling softly.

His having a companion next to him, to cuddle and lean against is amazing. Sure, Tony would’ve done it on his own, but it’s just so much easier and Bucky Bear isn’t even human.

The wolf huff again and nuzzles against his neck, wet nose ticking his skin, making Tony laugh shakily. He wraps his arms firmly around Bucky’s neck and just holds on, breathing evenly. Tony knows he’ll have nightmares, that’s a giver, but with Bucky Bear next to him he’s not afraid to fall asleep.

He does wake up from nightmares 2 times, but Bucky is there, nuzzling and whining and generally being a giant teddy bear, letting Tony hold his fur and ground himself in reality. He goes to sleep both times and wakes up when the sun is already high in the sky.

His whole body aches from the bad night, but Tony’s had worse, so he just smiles at Bucky and squeezes him close for a moment. The wolf withstands it with patience and only nudges him away when Tony’s stomach starts to rumble.

“Yeah, yeah I know,” he mutters and gets up, Bucky following eagerly.

They go to his private kitchen, as Tony doesn’t feel like seeing other people just yet. He’s still shaken and shocked and other people sound exhausting now.

He just prepares Bucky’s food and then his own, knowing that the wolf will not let him go to the workshop without breakfast. They eat in silence, pressed together closely, Tony thinking everything over and Bucky probably lost in his own little wolf world. It feels...better. Not okay, not good, but better, with someone else in this situation next to him.

“Alright, workshop?” he asks tiredly and gets a huff in response, one that he already knows means yes.

They do just that. Tony loses himself in his work for a while, mulling over all the new information he has and Bucky plays fetch with DUM-E, nudging him from time to time to drink something or take a break. He really can’t believe how much better he is at taking care of himself with Bucky Bear there, though it’s more like the wolf is taking care of him. Indirectly, because of lack of opposite thumbs, but still.

It’s almost 6 pm when Steve hesitantly knocks on the door and Tony just pushes everything back and gives him a tired, small smile.

“Hey Tony,” his friend greets him, just as tired and sad. “Ready?”

“Are you?” he counters, getting up.

Steve shrugs. “No, but I’ll never be ready. I’d rather just...tell you.”

Tony nods and they settle on the couch again, the atmosphere even more tense this time. Steve is silent for a long while, and Tony doesn’t say anything either, letting the Captain work out how he wants to say whatever it is.

Finally, he seems ready, face pale but calm, only his eyes betraying the storm of emotions raging inside.

“I wanted to keep a secret from you,” Steve says seriously, staring Tony straight in the eyes. Tony swallows and nods. “I wanted to, well, make sure you’ll never know, for a while.”

“Why didn't you?” he asks quietly, just curious. “Why are you telling me all of this?”

Steve smiles sheepishly and glances at the window, at New York spread under them. “I thought about Bucky,” admits. “I thought how he would’ve reacted if he knew what I’m thinking and I realized that I don’t want to be that man who lies to his friend, no matter what. I trust you and I know that you trust me. It took us a long time and I don't want to ruin this because I’m scared of what you’ll do. Bucky would kill me if I did and I really don’t… I don’t want to do that to you.”

Tony smiles and nods, glancing at his lap. He’s not angry that Steve thought about not telling him whatever it is. Everyone has bad thoughts, stupid ideas. It’s not doing that what counts.

“I’m glad you don’t.”

His friend nods and takes a deep breath, steeling himself.

“As you noticed, I didn't give you Winter Soldier mission reports, because I wanted to tell you myself. It’s… On December 16, 1991, the Winter Soldier was sent out with a mission to kill Howard and Maria Stark.”

Tony’s world goes white. Everything freezes and after a while he realizes that his breathing sped up and Steve is holding his shoulders, speaking softly. He opens his eyes and stares into Steve’s blue ones, gasping for breath.

“Tony, please, breathe with me,” Steve pleads softly, and Tony just...obeys, taking a deep, much-needed breath. He’s not sure how he’s doing that, but he is, taking a breath after breath, the spinning slowly calming down. “You with me?”

Tony nods and doesn't say anything, not ready yet. It’s one thing to know that your parents died and another to hear that they’ve been killed by HYDRA. Not by Winter Soldier, because that's not how it works.

You don’t say that someone’s been killed by a gun, you say that someone’s been killed by the shooter. By the person behind the gun. Because they’re the one who did this, the gun was just there, a weapon to commit it. A weapon doesn’t make a decision, it doesn’t have the consciousness to do that, and the Winter Soldier didn’t either. He was just that - a weapon used to commit a crime.

“I’m so so sorry, Tony,” Steve whispers, looking at him sadly. “There’s a video of it, one of the only missions where we have more evidence, but I-”

“I don't want to see it,” he says immediately, voice like steel. Steve nods.

“I didn’t want to show it to you,” Steve confirms. “But I can tell you that Howard tried to...talk to him. I don’t know if it worked, but there’s a whole video. The Winter Soldier stared straight into the camera before shooting it.”

That would be interesting if Tony wasn’t still in shock, on the verge of a panic attack. He just nods and stands up, before Steve can say anything else.

“Give me time,” he requests hoarsely. “Don’t go anywhere, don’t do anything. I still… It wasn’t Barnes, it was HYDRA. I know that. I don’t blame him but I need time.”

“Of course,” Steve replies quietly. “Thank you.”

Tony nods and almost runs to the elevator. He doesn't notice Bucky Bear until he slips into it after him, clearly having listened to the whole thing. He’s whining quietly, cuddling against Tony and he drops to his knees, wraps his arms around his neck and sobs into his fur.

He can hear Jarvis saying something and then being pushed out of the elevator on shaky arms, and then he’s in his bed, Bucky curling around him, letting him weep into his fur. He’s making those soothing, rumbling sounds that help Tony focus on breathing, so he just cries, safely next to his friend.

Tony cries for Maria, his mother, who wasn’t the best but tried her best, for the conviction that it's been Howard’s drinking that killed them, for that 21 years old boy who lost his parents and never got closure. He cries for it all, shaking and sobbing and Bucky Bear is there, licking his hair and nuzzling him and keeping him warm through it all.

He already had time to grieve them, let them go, and this is a final goodbye, finally knowing what really happened to them. Tony knows he’ll be alright.

He falls asleep like that, with Bucky wrapped around him, watching over him when the crying finally exhausts him. He feels lighter when the darkness finally takes him.

Tony wakes up rested.

That in itself is strange, after the news he got the day before, but Tony’s body is thrumming with energy and Bucky Bear is gazing at him with calm, blue eyes. He smiles sleepily and scratches his ear.

“Morning, big boy,” he mutters, sitting up. Tony really feels okay. Yes, he’s sad and there’s some darkness pulling at the edges, along with anger at HYDRA, but it’s been years. He had time to...come to terms with everything so finding out the truth just gave him...closure. He’ll always be sad about it, always miss his mother, but all he can do is move forward and focus on living.

And on Barnes.

“Come on, we have a Captain to talk to,” Tony announces and gets dressed. There’s a lot to discuss about Barnes and everything and now knowing the whole truth, Tony’s ready to help the man, as much as he can.

When he enters the communal kitchen, Bucky Bear next to him, everyone goes quiet. Everyone meaning Steve, Natasha and some new guy, who’s sitting next to the Captain.

“Morning?” he asks hesitantly, laying one hand on Bucky and oh, that’s what they’re looking at. “Meet my dog!”

“Dog?” comes a reply from Steve, who forgot to be sad and devastated and is instead in deep shock. “Tony, this animal is many things but definitely not a dog.”

Bucky Bear huffs, offended and trots to the fridge, before turning to look at Tony and whining.

“Yeah yeah, Mr Bossy, I’m coming,” he mutters, rolling his eyes. “Listen, I don’t know what to tell you. Bucky Bear is my friend now, we’re cool.”

Bucky Bear?”

And oh shit, yeah, Tony didn't think about. Granted, when he was naming the wolf he thought Bucky was dead but now… It’s pretty awkward.

Tony winces and turns to face Steve, who doesn’t really look angry, just confused. Natasha, however, is staring at him and smirking and Tony can feel himself blush, just barely.

“It made a lot of sense when I was naming him, okay? Not a story I wanna tell.”

Steve just rolls his eyes and glances at the wolf with soft eyes. He thinks for a second before offering him his hand, posture open. Bucky Bear stares at him for a while, as he’s known to do, and then delicately presses his nose against Steve’s hand, making the Captain smile.

Then, as if remembering others in the room he straightens and smiles at Tony.

“Tony, this is Sam Wilson,” he introduces them and Tony doesn’t miss the slight blush that appears on his face when he does. “He helped me a lot, during everything with SHIELD and now he’s helping with Bucky.”

Tony nods and smirks at the man. Those two have something going on, that’s for sure.

“On the subject of Barnes,” he begins, reaching into the fridge. “I’m definitely helping you. Bring him here once you find him, we’ll get him everything and I’m going to need you to come down and go through the files again. Once we’re done, I’ll contact my lawyers and we’ll focus on media and publicity.”

There’s silence after that, so Tony focuses on making food, Bucky Bear pressed close to his side the whole time. It’s only after everything is ready he turns to face his friends questioningly.

Steve is staring at him like he hung the moon and the stars and Wilson just looks...surprised. He can’t tell what Natasha is thinking, as her eyes are focused on Bucky Bear.

“Tony, that’s…” Steve breathes, almost crying now. “I can’t thank you enough,” he finally manages.

Tony smiles and squeezes his shoulder. “Of course, Cap. I saw what they did to him and there’s no way I’m blaming that poor man for something that HYDRA did. History paints him as a good man, and after everything he’s been through, he deserves some peace.”

Steve nods, swallowing with difficulty and sighs. “Thank you, Tony,” he repeats, at loss of what to say.

Tony nods and digs into his breakfast, Bucky still pressed close. While the dog doesn’t seem to have issues with Steve, he also doesn’t seek him out, happy t6o stay with Tony. It makes him happy for some reason.

They eat in silence, and it gets broken when Natasha stands up and Bucky Bear suddenly growls, ears pressed against his skull, eyes focused on her. Tony straightens and glances at the woman, frozen in place, eyes on the wolf.

“He’s never done that before,” he says slowly, unsure what’s going on.

Natasha takes a deep breath, then exhales and her whole body relaxes. She sends Tony a small smile and doesn’t move.

“I’m sorry,” she says softly, speaking directly to Bucky Bear.

The wolf stares for a while longer, gives the last growl and moves to Tony’s other side, shielding him from the woman as she walks to the sink.

“What's going on?” Tony asks, not liking the situation in the least. “He’s usually pretty friendly.”

Natasha sighs and turns around, keeping her distance from Bucky Bear. “Canines are especially good at smelling things. They gauge human’s moods and emotions by smelling them. I probably smelt fake and dangerous, because I was keeping myself in check. He doesn’t trust me, because he thinks I’m hiding something,” she explains softly. “It’s happened before with other dogs.”

Tony nods slowly. “Are you hiding something?”

“No, not at the moment. Nothing important or concerning any of you, anyway,” she shrugs.

Okay, that’s fair. She’s a spy, she probably hides many things.

“I’ll just keep my distance,” Natasha adds and walks back to her seat, making an effort to keep her posture open and non-threatening. “He’s very protective of you.”

Tony laughs and gently pets Bucky Bear. “Yeah, he’s very committed to keeping me well and functional.”

“Good, you need someone like that,” Steve comments with a smirk, making Tony roll his eyes. “Alright, we’ll be going now. Have a person to find,” he says and starts getting up, but Tony catches his arm.

“Wait,” he commands. “I’ve been thinking about it, actually. Look, so far Barnes didn’t do anything bad on his run, it’s more likely that he’s just figuring things out. I don’t think that your search is helping.

“What?” Steve asks, shocked. “But I just want him safe and…”

“I know,” Tony interrupts. “But try looking at it from his perspective - he probably doesn’t remember you all that well. He has flight or flight response on his side and some messed up memories of 70 years of torture. HYDRA is probably looking for him, hunting him. You’re also looking for him. From his point of view, you’re also hunting him, no matter the intentions. Wouldn’t it be better to let him come to you? He probably knows where you are and when he feels ready or gets to the end of his rope, he’ll come. Don’t make him panic more by hunting him, Steve.”

Steve is silent for a long while, glancing at Wilson from time to time. Finally, he slumps over and suddenly looks very very small.

“It feels like letting him down again,” he says quietly. “I don’t want to do that again. What if he gets in trouble?”

“Then he’ll either deal with them or come to you,” Tony says quietly. “It’s a very delicate situation and we don’t know if remembers enough to know that you want to help. Maybe, from his perspective, you’re just another person hunting him. Making him feel like prey, instead of a human being. Respect his decision, Steve.”

“I need to think,” Steve says quietly and just like that gets up and leaves, probably to his floor, leaving them in the kitchen. Tony sighs and closes his eyes.

“Thanks,” Wilson speaks suddenly, making Tony look at him. “I think it’s a good idea and Steve needs to understand it. It’s not hard to find Captain America, after all.”

Tony shakes his head. “Yeah. Let’s hope it gets to him,” he mutters and leaves as well, Bucky trailing behind him, keeping him protected.

In the end, Steve stays. Wilson and Natasha as well, because Tony is generous like that and also because things have been quiet lately, but bad guys never sleep and he has a feeling something will go down soon.

In the meantime, he works, spends time with Bucky Bear and eats breakfast with the team. The wolf doesn’t want to go on a morning run with Steve, so they keep going out when it's dark and Tony’s okay with that. It’s nice, having him all to himself.

It’s two weeks later that Bruce comes back, tired but calm, a small suitcase by his side. Tony greets him with a smile, rambling about science, and Bucky Bear comes from behind the corner, sniffing curiously.

Bruce, just like everyone, freezes but Tony can see that he’s preparing for the animal to either growl or bolt, scared of the Hulk. To both of their surprise, Bucky Bear sniffs some more and then comes right to Bruce and nudges his belly with his nose, his tail wagging. Bruce laughs delighted and surprises and pets him gently.

“What kind of dog is that?” he asks, voice quiet and awed.

“It’s a wolf, actually,” Tony corrects. “Meet Bucky Bear. He’s… Well, I’m his human, apparently.”

“He’s friendly,” Bruce mutters, hands achingly gentle. “And not scared of me.”

Tony shrugs, still smiling. “He’s pretty special, yeah,” he agrees. “I found him over 2 months ago, he’s been living in the Tower with me.”

“And he’s a wolf?”

“Probably?” Tony shrugs. “I think he’s been, you know, with some Dr Frankenstein, but I can’t really check since he's scared of labs. Doesn’t matter anyway.”

“No, it doesn’t,” Bruce agrees, eyes a bit misty. Tony’s wolf is the best ever.

Bruce becomes Bucky’s second favourite person after Tony. Steve is okay in his books, but the wolf doesn’t seek him out, Natasha is still on shaky ground, Clint, when he comes back, gets a playful growl and his bow goes missing the day after. Wilson just gets absolutely ignored for some reason. Bucky Bear doesn't even acknowledge him unless it is to steal his food. Tony thinks it’s hilarious

Bad guys still don’t show themselves, so Tony spends more time going through what Steve gave him, trying to make sense of what’s there. He still feels sick, the whole time, sometimes having to take a break when it gets too much. The reality of what HYDRA did to Barnes is...overwhelming. It’s sick and brutal and Tony wants to fly there and kill each and every one of them, for doing that to an innocent man.

But there is something that keeps catching his attention and he brings it up the next day when Steve comes to visit.

“You know, I studied most of it already,” Tony starts gently, knowing it must be hard, to see what they did to Steve’s best friend. “And there’s something...interesting if you can call it that.”

He pulls up a few scans and graphs that he made -  a rough timeline of the wipes and brain activity.

“Look, they did the wipes...often. Too often,” he tries to explain. “For example, if they treated your brain like that, that often and that strong, you’d be a vegetable after maybe...5 sessions or so.” That makes Steve frown. “The serum they gave him is different from yours, not as perfect and it shouldn’t allow for that,” Tony gestures towards the brain scans. “Those show that it took Barnes around a week or two to almost fully regenerate brain matter. It’s impossible, Steve.”

“He recognized me,” Steve whispers, still looking at the scans. “Or at least he must’ve, to save me from that river.”

“Yeah, that should’ve been impossible. I had Dr Cho look at it, along with Bruce and they agree. After so many years of extensive wipes and treatment, Barnes shouldn’t be alive. He should be a vegetable, at best, probably brain dead. Not a living, thinking person, able to remember you after only a few days. We’re missing something.”

Steve sighs deeply and leans against the table. He looks pale but he’s holding up and Tony’s impressed. He puked 3 times while making this whole small presentation.

“It did look like some of the files were missing,” Steve finally admits, glancing up at him. “Not just one or two, but like someone had been stealing or destroying them pretty regularly, Some other research?”

Tony shrugs helplessly. “I have no idea, Steve. But I know what I see and I know that they must’ve done something to make it happen. There’s no way just serum can be responsible for the amazing speed of his recovery. The last wipe they did, probably after he met you, was the most powerful one and it almost fried his brain, yet he survived. My guess is that it would take him about...2 or 3 months to recover from that damage, if undisturbed. I’m not saying that he’ll be fine, no trauma or memory loss, but that he’ll be a person, not a mindless weapon or a vegetable. That’s remarkable.”

“Bucky’s pretty remarkable,” Steve quips with a small, soft smile. “Always had been. I just hope that he’ll be back.”

Tony sighs and lays one hand on Steve’s shoulder, squeezing. “I’m sure your therapist told you that, but he won’t be the same man you know. Hell, you are not the same man he knows, so you can’t expect him to be the Bucky Barnes from your childhood, not entirely.”

Steve seems to get smaller after hearing that but he nods, not looking at Tony. “I know,” he whispers sadly. “And I think that I’m at the point where I just want him to be a person, you know, remember the past. I want him to be happy, finally.”

“Then you’re a good friend,” Tony says in a rare moment of seriousness. “When he comes back, and he will, I know it, he’ll be welcome here. I promise.”

“Thanks, Tony,” Steve says softly and then tugs him into a hug. Tony stares for a second, surprised, before chuckling and hugging him back. “You have no idea how much it means to me.”

“I’m just being a decent human being, Steve,” Tony chuckles. “Barnes is probably even more of a victim than I am. I lost my parents, but he lost everything, along with his own mind. H deserves happiness and home now.”

Steve’s eyes are wet but the man doesn’t cry, just gives him a smile. “You’re more than a decent person, Tony. You’re amazing. You did so much for all of us and now what you’re doing for Bucky… I don’t… Thank you.”

Tony just gives him a small smile. He wants to be better. None of them deserves to suffer anymore, they all paid for their mistakes and he wants to help. He likes helping people.

“Sure, Cap,” he says with a smirk. You owe me one, then.”

“I more than owe you, Tony,” Steve rolls his eyes and then stares at him when a devilish smirk appears on Tony’s face.

“As a payment, you gotta finally ask Wilson out,” he orders, enjoying how it makes Steve blush furiously. “The tension is killing us, Steve, we can’t take it anymore. Grow a pair and ask him out, take him dancing or whatever you old people did back then. Just do something.”

Steve keeps blushing and stuttering, so Tony just rolls his eyes and pushes him towards the door.

“Now out! I have things do design, a dog to cuddle. Go and grow your balls or something.”

He cackles once Steve disappears behind the door, still speechless and then leans against the table, sighing deeply. Tony doesn’t even want to think about what would’ve happened if Steve decided not to tell him, to keep it a secret. He suspects something terrible would’ve happened. Thank the gods for common sense.

Just when he’s about to go back to work, Steve comes back, a thoughtful look on his face.

“Yes, Cap?” he asks curiously.

“I just had a thought… I mean, why would HYDRA do something to make him more resilient? To make him heal faster? It doesn’t make any sense,” Steve notices.

Tony sighs. “I’ve been thinking about the same thing. From, you know, practical point of view, they should’ve done anything to make him easier to handle. What was happening looks like a side effect, more than the goal. You know, as if they did something and it backfired. Maybe it’s about the time they kidnapped him before he fell, they did something…”

“Yeah, maybe… Or maybe we really are missing something important,” Steve mutters, slumping.

“We’ll figure it out, Steve, when he comes back,” Tony promises with a small smile. “Maybe he’ll remember what happened, maybe he’ll give us some answers. Let's just hope he does come back.”

Steve nods and smiles again, this time gratefully. “Yeah, you’re right. Thank you, Tony.”

“Yeah, yeah, sure,” Tony waves his hand. “Now get out of my workshop, Rogers.”

His friend laughs but does as commanded, his gait a bit lighter than when he was coming in. Tony just sighs, smiling at Bucky Bear. The situation is shitty, but they’re doing it somehow, finding order in chaos. Go them!

All in all, life is good. Barnes is still out there somewhere and Steve doesn’t smile as much anymore, but they’re gaining ground again. The team is back in the Tower, minus Thor of course, and bad guys are quiet still, allowing them to relax. Tony sleeps more now, not every night but most nights and Bucky Bear wakes him from nightmares and coddles him to sleep.

Everything changes when Tony wakes up one morning and instead of a fluffy wolf, there’s a man in his bed, shirtless and sitting up, face in his hands. Tony’s eyes go wide and he scrambles to sit.

“Who the fuck are you?!” he shouts, reaching for the gauntlets. “How did you get here?!”

“Jesus, Tony, I can hear ya just fine, no need to scream,” the man drawls, raising his head.

Tony’s eyes meet familiar, pale blue ones, a bit confused but calm. What the fuck?

“Who are you?” he repeats, not shouting this time. He should be scared but he feels safe, okay for some reason. Like there’s no reason to panic.

The man smiles gently and okay, that’s a handsome face, with sharp cheekbones, a bit of stubble and shoulder-length, brown hair. “My name’s James Barnes, but everyone calls me Bucky.”

Well, shit.

Chapter Text

Bucky (because now he’s definitely Bucky) is calm.

He knows there’s no danger here, even though Iron Man is highly dangerous. Tony, however, he’s safe. He made him feel safe for almost 3 months and he feels calm, waking up in his bed.

Tony is staring at him with wide eyes, clutching the sheets to his chest and Bucky just breathes, trying to find a way to explain.

“You call me Bucky Bear,” he says finally, raising an eyebrow. “Fitting name actually.”

“Wait,” Tony snaps, tensing. “You’re saying that you are the wolf?”

Bucky shrugs. “You fight aliens for a living, Tony, surely that can’t be the most shocking thing ever.”

Yes, he should probably be more tense or just unsure, but this is Tony. Besides, his mind is the calmest it’s been in 70 years, and while some memories are still missing, it’s not tragic. He feels more like himself than ever, probably.

“A werewolf,” Tony says calmly, staring at him still. Bucky shrugs again. “You’re a fucking werewolf? They exist?!”

“They definitely exist and I’m definitely one. You met me in my...other form.”

It’s actually more complicated than that, but for now, it’ll do. He needs Tony a bit calmer to actually explain everything. Because there’s a lot to explain.

“And you never thought to actually tell us, or change back, knowing that Steve is looking for you?”

Tony doesn't sound accusing, just unbelieving. Bucky winces.

“Well, I wasn’t exactly...ready,” he mutters, grabbing the sheets as well. It’s weird to have opposable thumbs. “It’s complicated.”

“We have time,” Tony shrugs, leaning against the headboard, not quite as tense as before. Now, he looks curious.

“Yeah,” Bucky agrees, before wincing. “Think I can borrow some pants? I’m pretty naked here,” he says, gesturing towards his waist.

Tony blushes madly and jumps from the bed, running to the closet but Bucky’s just amused. Being naked isn’t that weird for a werewolf, modesty in packs practically doesn’t exist. Besides, it’s not like they’re not both adults.

He does put on the sweatpants though, mostly for Tony's comfort, and sits down on the bed cross-legged, facing the other man.

“I'm going to start from how werewolves work and all,” Bucky says, and Tony nods. “I'm a born werewolf, meaning at least one of my parents had the genes, I wasn't turned. My Ma, she was from Romania, was a witch, but her father was a werewolf. Simple biology - her werewolf genes were dormant, but there. She met my Pa in America, he was an Alpha of Brooklyn pack, a werewolf. So, I was born a werewolf, with some affinity for magic. My sister was a witch and my brother also a werewolf. Let's say I would have a child with a human - they would have equal chances to be a human, werewolf or a witch because supernatural genes are a bit stronger than normal ones.”

That's most of what he remember for now, but he knows there more. Yet, it's enough to just paint a picture for Tony to understand a bit more.

“Now, a born werewolf can change at will into a full wolf, the one you saw. Bigger than normal wolves but that also depends on a person, really. We need to change during a full moon, always, but other than that, it's all about the control you have over your other form. The HYDRA knew I was a werewolf, that's why they took me in I think. They made me forget, mostly, what I am, only for some missions I was allowed to change and kill as a wolf.”

Buckys voice breaks for a second, but he straightens himself. Tony is looking at him with sympathy, but no pity. Just…understanding.

“That's why I changed so suddenly during full moon 3 months ago. I didn't remember what I was and I didn't understand what was going on. Normally, I would change back after the moon set but it didn't work.”

“Why?” Tony asks, clearly fascinated already. Bucky can see that he's almost itching to research more, do some tests, understand it deeper. Somehow, it doesn't make him scared, as HYDRA did. Tony's labs are safe.

“Its a survival mechanism,” he explains. “If you're feeling unsafe, hunted or scared, for a long period of time, during the change the more animal part takes over, as a meaning of protection. Animals process trauma differently and a werewolf in wolf form always heals faster - both mind and body. My wolf felt that I was scared and confused, so he took over, trying to help. Staying here, in the Tower, made me feel safer and safer. I was in a secure environment, with no danger and no one wanted to hurt me, only help. I was being fed properly, allowing me to heal and so, day by day, I got better. Changing today was…pretty normal, actually. I was mostly aware for a few days and when the wolf decided that I'm in a nest, safe and secure, he allowed us to get back to how things should be.”

“Fascinating,” Tony breathes. If Bucky didn't know the man, he would be surprised by his reaction, but Tony Stark is an amazing, outstanding specimen. He never reacts the way others do. “So the wolf, well, your other part, took over to heal faster and better and after finding stable environment, receded?”

Bucky chuckles. “I'm saying the wolf as a way of diving is two, but that's not how it works. We're one. He's the more animal part, and I'm the more human part, but when everything is okay, we're one. Half human, half wolf.”

That's how it should be. The Wolf isn't a separate being, just Bucky without humanity. He has the same character traits as Bucky normally does, but he has no barriers and confusing thoughts.

“Why did you seek me out?” Tony asks finally, almost leaning towards Bucky in his curiosity. He blushes slightly but shrugs, smiling.

“You smelt good,” Bucky admits sheepishly.

“Pardon?”

He sighs deeply and looks up, trying not to get redder. “You smelt good to the Wolf. All werewolves rely heavily on smell to judge the emotions, mood, reactions. Smells are important. Some are appealing, some are not. And for some reason, you smelt really good to the Wolf. He referred to you as ‘Warm Smell’ and decided you’re pack when you took him in. You were, still are, his human.”

Bucky is trying really really hard not to blush. It’s a pretty private and intimate thing to say, but he owes Tony all the answers. Especially since he knows about Tony’s little teenage crush on him.

“You’re saying that the Wolf adopted me?” Tony asks, stifling chuckles. Bucky shrugs but nods, also smiling.

“I’m extremely grateful for your help, for everything you did for me, but in the Wolf’s mind, he was taking care of his human. He thought you aren’t the brightest.”

Tony gasps, offended and then just laughs. “I’m a fucking genius!”

Bucky only stares at him. “Tony, I literally had to howl to make you eat something. You didn’t sleep before meeting me. In the Wolf’s mind, that means you’re dumb because you can’t survive on your own, without a babysitter.”

“I take offence in that!” Tony whines, now truly relaxed. It also makes Bucky relax some more because Tony smells like confusion but also happiness, elation and curiosity, with just the faintest undertone of embarrassment. It’s cute.

“I’m sure both Pepper and Rhodey will agree with me,” Bucky drawls, raising an eyebrow.

“Oh, so it's you and not the Wolf now?” Tony teases, making him roll his eyes.

“We’re one, Tony, we think the same things.”

Tony shakes his head but he’s smiling. They fall into silence for a second, before the genius speaks again, this time soft.

“Does Steve know? He doesn’t seem like he does.”

Bucky winces, unsure. “I don’t think so?” he answers with a question. “My memory isn’t back yet so even if I told him, I don’t remember. But I don’t think so. He was a good Christian and all.”

“Okay,” Tony breathes. “But the werewolf thing...that’s why you always healed so fast after wipes, isn’t it? Why you remembered Steve so fast.”

Tony smells unsure, a bit scared and it takes Bucky a second to realize that he’s scared of making Bucky uncomfortable, with all the HYDRA questions. It’s very thoughtful but not entirely necessary. Yes, he’ll definitely have nightmares and there’s a whole load of shit to unload there, but spending so much time in wolf form helped him deal, at least for now. The cold precision of a predator really helped - they went against an enemy, they lost a lot, but they won. Simple as that.

“Yes it is,” he agrees. “Werewolves naturally heal extremely fast and it’s quite hard to kill us because unless we die on the spot, we’ll probably recover. That includes healing the brain and mind if given enough time. Now, there’s not a lot of information about it, but I figured out that it’s more effective to heal mind damage while in a safe, stable environment. Pretty logical actually - you are stable so your mind starts to heal.”

Tony nods, looking deep in thought. “How much have you healed already? How much do you remember?”

“Most of my time with HYDRA,” he admits easily. “You saw the files, you know how much time it took them to wipe me clean. I have almost all of my memories of after that 15 years, but it’s fuzzy further down the line. The war, before the war… My childhood is mostly scraps, associated with certain things, deep in my instincts.”

“Fascinating,” Tony breathes.

Bucky chuckles, staring at him curiously. “You’re taking it all better than I expected,” he finally says.

“Well, you said it yourself - I fought aliens, a furry problem isn't that big of a deal,” Tony shrugs, but Bucky can smell that he’s lying.

“You’re lying,” he says calmly, deciding he wants to play with open cards.

Tony deflates. “Yeah, I am. Well, not really,” he backtracks. “It really isn’t that huge, all things considering, but mostly I just feel...safe.” The genius blushes when he says it, looking down at his hands. “I felt safe with the Wolf, always, and now that I know you’re one and the same I still feel safe. It’s just...rooted deep within me, you know.”

Bucky’s eyes go wide when he finally understands.

“You’re my pack,” he whispers, both elated and a tad panicked. He didn’t think this could happen so quickly. “Your mind, your instincts, recognize me as pack. I...I’ve seen it happen with humans, especially if there was a witch or a warlock in the pack, but it usually takes years, not a few months.”

“I’m special,” Tony laughs. Bucky can smell him processing the information, confusion changing into warmth, acceptance. “Okay, so we’re pack. Now what?”

Bucky winces, unsure. “No idea,” he sighs. “I should talk to Steve and everyone but… Not sure if I want to.”

“Well, you can always stay as a wolf for a little longer,” Tony suggests, almost off-handedly. Bucky freezes. “Look, if you’re not ready, you're not ready. Recovery is a bitch and you have some serious shit on your shoulders. You have the right to wait until you feel ready.”

It sounds amazing actually but…

“Steve’s worried about me,” Bucky sighs, shoulders slumping. He’s definitely not ready for human-on-human interactions but he can't just leave his friend like that.

“Than send him a message,” Tony shrugs. “I know you can find a way, just let him know that you’re okay, safe and just need some more time. He may not understand but… Wilson will make him honour that.”

Bucky fall silent for a while. That’s an amazing idea. While yes, he’s not a total shell of a man, ruled by his triggers and mind-wipes, he’s still so so far from recovery and he doesn’t want to add human interactions on top of that. At least not until he can figure out who the human James Barnes is.

“That’s a great idea,” he breathes, amazed. Bucky smiles softly at Tony and his heart melts when it makes the other man blush ever so slightly and duck his head. This man is something else. “I can’t thank you enough, Tony.”

“Don’t mention it,” Tony shrugs. “I stand by what I said - you were fucked over more than anyone and if I can give you a way to figure it all out… I’m definitely going to make it happen.”

Tony Stark is an outstanding man. This level of selflessness and willingness to help is astonishing. HYDRA had used him to kill Tony’s parents, and yet this man somehow got over that. Somehow can still sit fully relaxed with Bucky in his bed, help him recover. Bucky’s shocked by this behaviour and he swears that he’ll do everything he can to protect him now. Even more so than before.

“Just accept my thanks, Tony,” he chides finally, smiling again. It feels strange but not unwelcome, to smile.

Tony rolls his eyes but smiles back, slightly unsure, yet sincere. “Okay, okay, Mr Pushy.”

“You know it,” Bucky smirks, falling into the banter easily. It still doesn’t feel completely familiar, but it’s right somehow. Easy with Tony. “You don’t mind me as a wolf, trailing behind you?”

“Hey, being your pet human was an amazing time,” Tony laughs. “You’re a manipulative little shit but you’re...good for me, I think. Or at least Pepper thinks so.”

Bucky smiles, warmth blooming in his chest. He’s good for someone. He, after all the terrible things HYDRA made him do, is good for someone. Good for Tony. It feels amazing.

“You’re still my pet human,” he informs the genius bravely, trying not to blush when he sees Tony’s shyly pleased expression. Gods, Bucky feels ridiculous, like a teenager he doesn’t really remember being. It’s both like flying and falling uncontrollably, but he’s not scared. It's exhilarating. “Now you’ll just know that I’m a werewolf.”

“Yeah, say that about 5 more times and it’ll sound normal,” Tony nods, smiling. “So, what now?”

Bucky shrugs. “I have no idea,” he admits easily, also smiling. With every minute, it’s easier to smile. “Guess I’ll find a way to send Steve a message, change into a wolf and do what we always did.”

“Don’t you want to spend more time as a human?”

“Yeah, kind of,” Bucky snorts. “Opposable thumbs are awesome,” he snickers, moving his hands. The metal arm doesn’t even bother him anymore, mostly because of the Wolf.

“It's settled then,” Tony announces. “You can change in the workshop, almost no one visits unannounced and also here since it's my private floor. That okay?”

“Amazing,” Bucky breathes, smiling so widely that it hurts. He kind of wants to cry, because it’s a bit overwhelming, so many good things happening to him at once, after 70 years of hell. “Thank you.”

This time, Tony nods and smiles again, a pink blush high on his cheekbones. It seems like the genius doesn’t know how to accept genuine compliments, so Bucky will make sure to teach him. By complimenting him as many times as he can.

“So, breakfast?” Tony asks then as if it's another normal morning. Then, his eyes widen. “Oh shit, I’ve been feeding you on the floor like…”

“Like an animal,” Bucky finishes calmly. “It’s fine, Tony, don’t worry about it. I remember Ma used to just put bowls on the floor when we were in wolf form because there’s no way to feed an animal on the table. It’s normal.”

Tony breathes a sigh of relief. “Thank God then,” he mutters and then gets up, still rumpled from sleep. He looks absolutely adorable. “Um, how do clothes work, normally? Will you always be naked?”

The genius blushes brightly when he says that. It’s really flattering because Bucky knows that the man has no issues with nudity and has very little shame when it comes to sex. That must mean it’s about Bucky.

“I’ll look into it,” he promises, unsure. Bucky remembers that there used to be spells for that, a way to regain his clothes once he changes back into human form, but he’s never tried it. He knows that he can, though, but he has no idea how.

Before HYDRA, he had the potential to be a warlock, but no real way to work the magic of the universe to do his bidding. Now, he can feel it thrumming around him. Not as strongly as what Rebecca used to explain, certainly not as strong as his Ma, but there is something. Maybe enough to work simple spells to make his life easier.

“I’ll have to get out of the Tower for a few hours, but I should have an answer.”

“Well, you’re not leaving the Tower until you get some real clothes, that’s for sure. Mine is too small,” Tony sniffs as if offended. Bucky just glances at his bare ankles in the short sweatpants and grins. “What clothes do you want?”

“Black, durable but on the thinner side. Places to store weapons,” Bucky says immediately. He doesn’t feel okay enough to get out there with no means of protection, and having a weapon on his should settle him a bit

“Boring, but we’ll work on that,” is Tony’s dry reply. “Heard that Jarvis?”

“Indeed, Sir,” Jarvis replies, as always perfectly composed. Bucky doesn’t even jump. “That was quite a surprise, Sergeant Barnes. Welcome.”

“Hello, Jarvis, nice to officially meet you,” he greets kindly, smiling into the nearest camera. Future is awesome.

“Likewise, Sir.”

“Well, let’s go then! You got me used to normal breakfast,” Tony whines, glaring at Bucky.

He just chuckles and pulls the sheets over his lap, to shimmy out of the sweatpants. Tony mutters something but Bucky just closes his eyes and lets the change take him, painless and smooth as always. When he opens his eyes, everything is a tiny bit sharper, and the height is different, but otherwise, it's okay.

Tony makes a small sound when he jumps out of bed and his smell is curiosity, awe, interest, fascination. Bucky gives him a toothy smile and nudges his stomach, pushing him towards the elevator. Tony laughs and lays on hand on his head, easy as always.

Neither of them stumbles or feel awkward, and Bucky thinks it must be the pack bond and just Tony being an amazing human being. They finally enter the kitchen where the breakfast is already on the table, everyone talking.

As always, Bucky ignores Sam and then steals one of his bagels when the man is looking the other way and trots to his usual spot, near the door, where he can watch everything. Tony is chattering with his teammates, so he just lets it wash over him. It's nice, being fully aware of what’s going on and still feeling like he belongs; like it’s his pack.

For now, only Tony is his full packmate, but Bucky can already feel the bond forming between them all, a web of connections, just barely visible. They will strengthen in time, he knows it. It is a bit strange, to have a pack again, but Bucky relishes in the newness of it. If the bonds settle, it’ll make easier for him to come out as a human, because he’ll feel secure. For now, he just focuses on checking if they deserve his trust and if they’ll be able to handle the truth.

The first day is strange.

Neither he nor Tony want to actually change anything between them, but there’s this new awareness that makes things a bit awkward, even if Bucky doesn’t want it. They skirt around each other, Tony pulls away when he’s about to pet him and finally, Bucky decides that he’s had enough.

When they all settle for the movie night, Bucky just huffs and plops down on Tony’s lap, as usual, pushing his head into Tony’s belly. The genius freezes for a second, smelling unsure and shocked, but then it changes into affection and ha[pines and those amazing hands start to scratch behind his ears.

“Needy,” Tony comments under his breath, making Bucky huff. Like he can’t smell how elated Tony is because of this cuddle session. The man really is stupid sometimes.

The same weird stillness settles over them when Bucky forces Tony to go to sleep. For a second, they stare at each other and Bucky’s afraid that Tony will offer him a guest room, but then the genius smiles shyly and pulls back the covers on his bed. Bucky jumps on it and they curl together as always, warm and safe, smelling like home. Their sleep is calm.

It’s 3 days later that Bucky finally gets out of the Tower, using Tony’s private elevator, wearing his new clothes. He feels a bit restless, even with their visits to the park, so it’s a good way to work out some of that energy.

It’s strange, being between people like that, but Bucky takes it all in stride and forces himself to relax into the new era. It’s not all that unfamiliar, so he doesn’t really feel threatened or unsafe, the pack bond solid in his mind. It’s enough to keep him tethered to reality.

He spends the first 3 hours just roaming New York, walking down the streets he hasn’t seen in so long, familiarizing himself with all the scents and smells, the new territories of packs, covens and Families.

Bucky stumbles upon the small, old shop as if by accident, but he knows better than assume accidents when it comes to old witches. He enters the shop and lets the power wash over him, old and strong, a bit familiar. He opens his eyes and meets the dark ones of his great-grandmother.

“Hello, dear,” she says calmly, her old skin glowing with innate power. It calms him down instantly. “You’ve been through a lot.”

Bucky nods. “Yeah, you can say that.”

“You’re wounded but healing already. Will you tell me your story?”

Her question is absolutely harmless. Bucky can say no and she won’t press, but Lăcrămioara always listened to him well and gave good advice. Bucky can only imagine that the 70 years that have passed made her wiser.

That’s why he nods and follows her deeper into the shop. Lăcrămioara makes herbal tea in silence, whispers a few spells over it and Bucky just basks in her familiar magic, relaxing completely into the old armchair.

When she sits down in front of him, Bucky takes a few sips of the strong essence and starts his tale. Lăcrămioara listens in silence, her eyes sympathetic but not pitiful. She cries with him and gets angry with him, leads him through the tangled maze of his mind and Bucky is so so grateful to finally share what they did to him.

It’s therapeutic in some way, even as he sobs and rages, eyes shining and fangs elongating. Lăcrămioara takes it all in stride, watching him calmly and lays old, shaking hand on his metal one, offering silent comfort.

Once Bucky’s done, the sun outside has started to set and he feels exhausted but a bit lighter, a bit more like himself.

“I always knew you were the strongest of all of us,” Lăcrămioara comments after a few minutes of silence. “You’re building yourself again and you’re doing a wonderful job, Jamie. I am so proud of you.”

Bucky ducks his head shyly and smiles, a flush working its way on his face. “Thank you,” he mutters. “Means a lot.”

Lăcrămioara smiles kindly. “Of course, dear. Do you want to stay a bit longer? I have a few potions to finish.”

He lights up and nods, before frowning. “Uh, I have to let Tony know that I’ll be late,” Bucky mutters. “Can you send him a note?”

She can, of course, and Bucky spends the new few hours helping her with potions, talking about his family, how they’re doing, how’s the Brooklyn pack, what he’ll do once he’ll fully come back.  Bucky has fun, really, he’s always loved magic, and now it’s especially interesting since he can feel the thrum of it, as faint as it is.

Lăcrămioara, of course, notices but doesn’t ask yet. They both know he’ll be back, there’s always more time to talk about things. For now, when Bucky goes back home, he feels settled. Talking with Lăcrămioara always made him feel better, but going back to his Romanian roots and soaking up all that magic is making him feel lighter, almost like he’s glowing.

When he finally arrives at the Tower, Jarvis informs him that Tony's in the workshop, using his absence to work a bit longer. But once Bucky walks there, he looks up immediately.

“Tell me, how the hell did you talk with your great-grandmother? Can you talk to ghosts or what?”

Bucky laughs and slides onto the stool, looking at Tony’s work. “Nah, she’s alive and kicking. Just, more powerful witches and warlocks live longer than normal humans, their magic heals them. My great-grandmother, Lăcrămioara, is around 220 years old and she has probably around 10 years left, maybe more,” Bucky explains. “We talked a lot.”

Tony doesn’t ask more questions and soon they ride back to the penthouse. This time, Bucky just changes into sweatpants and slides into the bed, Tony settling in his arms. They don’t think about it, just cuddle together and fall asleep like that.

Through the next week, Bucky keeps coming back to his great-grandmother. He makes sure to divide his time between the Tower and her shop, and slowly inserts himself back into the Other World. He meets up with the Alpha of the Brooklyn pack, plays with the pups a bit, visits his sister’s old coven and talks with the leader about Becca, makes sure to set a meeting with the local Family, as to avoid issues.

Somehow, along the way, he saves a vampire from a vindictive witch, informs the coven, gets their thanks and favour and also talks with the vampire, Tuwile, who’s an old one from Kenya and travels a lot.

Bucky gets his number, a great thanks and a gift for his help and on his way home he sees the small tattoo shop. Something in him nudges him to go inside, so he does. Instantly, he’s hit by a wave of Old Magic. His eyes adjust to the dim lighting and he nods at the Fae behind the counter. He knows them, they tattooed his Pa and some of his old pack, and suddenly he knows why he’s there.

“It’s your time,” Nye says quietly, their black eyes staring into him. Bucky swallows but nods. “An hour before sunrise.”

With that, they turn around so Bucky walks out, knowing he won’t make them talk. Fae are like that, mysterious to the point of theatrical, but they’re powerful and Bucky’s not about to fuck with Nye. They’re old. Very, very old. Better just accept it.

“I’m getting a tattoo,” Bucky announces arriving at the penthouse, putting the bag down.

Tony glances up at him from the movie he's not watching and raises an eyebrow. “You need money for that,” he notices.

Bucky smirks and plops down next to him, relaxing into the soft couch. “Yeah, I saved a vampire today and he rewarded me good,” he explains. “The old ones are rich and this one was particularly nice. He gave me money and some connections to the Other World.”

Tony’s eyebrow goes even higher. “You’ll have to explain that one later, but back to the tattoo. Why?”

“It’s customary for creatures to have some form of marking, usually with spells and incantations woven into it, as a means of protection and remembrance. I found a good one, an old Fae that tattooed my grandparents and some old packmates. They’ll do it.”

Tony’s eyes light up and the man leans closer to him. “Can you-”

“Tell you more?” Bucky finishes. “Sure. You can’t come with me because it’s a one-on-one process, but I’ll tell you everything you want.”

The genius smiles widely and settled on his stomach, looking up at Bucky curiously. It makes Bucky want to pet his hair and cuddle him, so he just does. He slides down on the couch and pulls Tony into his arms, the human just snuggling closer, head under his chin and hands tangled in his shirt. Bucky adjusts the blanket to cover them both and breathes in the scent of comfort and home, pack and being safe. And of course, that amazing warm scent of Tony. It's insane, how comfortable they are together, how much easier the pack bond makes it.

“Fae are great for doing tattoos because of their connection to Old Magic, that relied on markings to carry some spells. They don’t want any monetary payment, instead, they just get some of your power.” Seeing that Tony doesn’t really get it, Bucky tries to explain it further. “Fae are tied to Old Magic, as I said, and there’s power in tattoos. Having one done is powerful, but doing one has even more benefits. One that does such tattoo gets some of their clients strengths and advantages, as well as a new spell in their repertoire. It’s hard to become a tattooist in the Other World, and they’re insanely powerful.”

“That’s fascinating,” Tony breathes. “Do Fae have pointed ears?”

Bucky just has to laugh at that. “Yes they do,” he confirms. “But they also have very sharp teeth, long tongue and almost completely black eyes. Some, more powerful, have flowers growing out of their skin. They’re terrifying.”

Tony nods, wide-eyed, like a kid on Christmas. It warms Bucky’s heart because the man always reacts the same way whenever Bucky tells him about the Other World.

“Vampires are also interesting,” he continues, wanting to give Tony some more information. “They’re not pale but they have white body hair, that they usually dye. They can change into bats,” Bucky confirms before Tony can even ask the question.

“Holy shit,” his friend mutters. “And the whole stake thing?”

“I suspect it’s all because the smallfolk only had sharp sticks in their disposal,” Bucky laughs. “They can be killed by stabbing them in the heart, and a stick is as good as anything.”

Tony laughs as well, hot air hitting Bucky's chest. When he glances down, Tony looks adorable with messy hair, smiling eyes, curled in a blanket.

“Are werewolves the only ones with no visible changes? Like, weird stuff on their bodies,” Tony asks, chuckling.

Bucky rolls his eyes. “A bit, yeah,” he agrees. “But we usually have glowing tattoos, on our necks, shoulders, hands. Visible places, they glow under moonlight. Also, glowing eyes, as you’ve seen. From what I understand, there's just something sharp about us, something that tells others what we are.”

“I can definitely see that,” Tony mutters.

Bucky lets it slide for now. They’re still getting used to being human friends and he doesn’t want to ruin that with any romance. Yes, Bucky’s aware that he’s falling for the man, but it’s impossible not to. Tony is incredibly smart, witty and sarcastic but also selfless, kind and ridiculously nice, even though he doesn’t want to show it. Just perfect, really. But he can tell it’s not the time for that yet.

He lets the comment slide and soon after goes to bed, as he needs to be up quite early for the tattoo.

When Bucky gets up, Tony is still asleep so he dresses quietly and pushes a blanket into Tony’s arms, so that he’ll have something to hold.

“Jarvis, remind Tony I’m getting tattooed if he wakes up before I’m back,” he requests quietly, once he’s in the elevator.

“Of course, Sir. Have a good day,” Jarvis replies just as quietly.

Bucky does.

Nye is waiting for him in the tattoo shop, everything ready and primed. Bucky doesn’t have to tell them what he wants, that’s not how magical tattoos work, so he just pulls off the jacket and the shirt and settles on his stomach.

“You may rest now, I will wake you once you will need to turn around,” Nye says quietly and gets to work. Bucky closes his eyes and dozes, the slight pain overshadowed by the warmth of the spells the Fae is putting in the ink.

Time passes in a haze, just like his Pa used to tell him, and before he knows it, Bucky has to sit up to allow Nye to work on his shoulders. The Fae doesn’t seem deterred by his metal arm, just switches the tattoo gun to a sleek, black wood stick that has a name but Bucky can't remember it. The whole process just feels warm, Old Magic heavy in the air, more oppressing than the new one, more palpable. While New Magic is like strings in the air, the Old feels more like some kind of gas - everywhere at once, and very heavy.

Flowers bloom in the shop and Nye starts to glow as well, before he finishes and the glow moves down his arms and back, lighting up the sleek lines and runes.

“It is done,” Nye says, voice rough from all the power he got. “A rope to hold you together, that works as a bridge to allow you more access to New Magic. A structure to build more strength upon, a testament to your pain and your inner power. It is not done. Come back, once the Old Magic will beckon you.”

Bucky nods, staring at his hands. The tattoo lines are sparse but beautiful, glowing the same blue as his eyes. They’re strong, if lean, and carry the weight of his years, yet allow for growth. He knew that Nye is the best out there.

“Thank you,” he says quietly, nodding once. The Fae nods back and disappears into the shop once again, letting Bucky dress.

It feels strange, to have the tattoo on him, shifting and finding its place but he knows it’s a matter of a few days before he’s used to it. He can even feel the bridge that connects him to New Magic and it’s enough to convince him to go to Lăcrămioara. He has spells to learn.

Another few days pass before Bucky dares to breach the subject to revealing himself to the team. Tony just smiles.

“You know it’s your choice,” he says gently. “But this is as good time as any. They’re calm, Steve’s a bit better because of your message, I think that Nat suspects something anyway and I know you miss being human full time.”

He’s not wrong. Being a wolf is amazing, but Bucky does miss opposable thumbs and the ability to hold a conversation. He winces.

“I can’t just walk in like it’s nothing and say ‘Hi Stevie, I’m the wolf that’s been living with you for the last few months.’” He stops for a second, and his eyes light up. “Or can I?”

Tony just groans but he’s smirking. Bucky knows there are many reasons that they get along so well but a  shared sense of humour is one of the main ones.

He really can’t believe he’s doing it, but the next day, they wait until everyone is eating breakfast. Bucky stays as a human, dressed in soft sweatpants and a black t-shirt, hair up in a bun, a slight stubble on his face. He knows that he looks good, healthy. He’s well fed and sleeps enough, his eyes are full of light. He looks better than he should, honestly, and it's mostly thanks to Tony.

Bucky stands next to the entrance and just listens for a second. His eyes meet Natalia’s and they nod at each other. He knows that she at least suspected and it’s not a surprise to her. Well, one less person to lose their shit in a few seconds. He waits until there’s a small break in the conversation and enters the kitchen.

“Can I interrupt?” he asks cheekily, shoulders up and back straight.

It’s almost comical, how fast Steve turns around, the fork flying across the kitchen. His friend’s eyes light up and then he’s running across the kitchen at him. Bucky catches him easily and smiles tenderly when he hears Steve sob.

“Bucky?” the blonde asks shakily.

“Hey punk,” he replies quietly, patting Steve’s back. “Sorry for the delay, I had to deal with some shit.”

“‘s okay,” Steve mutters, tightening his hold on him. Bucky glances over his shoulder at the rest of the shocked team and then smiles at Tony, who’s just watching in amusement. “H-How are you…?”

Bucky winces and pulls away, staring straight at Steve. “That’s a long story,” he says.

“We have time,” Sam replies, eyes hard and trained on them. He smells like distrust and hesitance, like he doesn’t know how to react which is fair, all things considering.

“True,” he shrugs. “But it’s one hell of a story and y’all better keep an open mind or we won’t go anywhere.”

Steve nods against his shoulders and finally lets him go, allowing Bucky to get to the fridge. “Great. I need food, though, so excuse me…”

Tony just chuckles and gives him his coffee, scrambling some eggs. The atmosphere in the kitchen is tense, to say the least, but Bucky doesn’t let it deter him and just carries on with making food. Calories are important for a werewolf.

Finally, they’re done so they settle at the table and Bucky sighs deeply.

“Let’s start with a few important reminders - most of you fought aliens, there’s a Nordic god as one of your team, Dr Banner has a green other side, Steve is from the 1940s and y’all are generally okay with that,” he says, gaining a few confused stares. “This is why it should be more or less okay for me to tell you that magic exists, vampires, werewolves and all that jam is a thing and I’m not human.”

They all stare at him for a second, wide-eyed and shocked and Steve whispers, “What?”

Bucky winces again. “Listen, Stevie, I couldn't exactly tell you back then because of many reasons but mostly you were very Christian and my family didn’t take to it too well. I wanted to tell you during the war but shit kind of went down.”

His friend nods dumbly, clearly not yet processing everything. Bucky knows Steve, he knows that there will probably be an explosion of anger or something similar, that Steve will storm out and come back once he composes himself. He can deal.

“So what, you’re a vampire?” Clint asks with his usual amount of tact. “That’s cool, man.”

“He’s not a vampire,” Natalia answers for him, rolling her eyes. “He’s a werewolf.”

“Oh shit,” Clint mutters, clearly getting the bigger picture. “You’re Bucky Bear!”

Tony colour slightly at the name but they both nod. “Yeah, that’s ironic,” Bucky chuckles. “I’m the wolf, yeah.”

“Why didn’t you…” Steve starts, eyes betrayed. It makes Bucky sigh deeply, some guilt surfacing. He never meant to hurt Steve or lie to him but the situation just wasn’t...ideal.

“I needed time, Steve,” he says plainly. “It took me almost 3 months to become aware and that wasn’t enough to make me ready and comfortable with a confrontation. I needed more time.”

Tony’s hand squeezes his arm and Bucky relaxes a bit. The genius smells of reassurance and warmth and that, along with the bond is enough to make him settle again.

“I’m sorry if that hurt you, Steve, but it was necessary.”

Steve nods and then stands up abruptly, the chair falling back before he bolts from the kitchen. Bucky just sighs and rubs his face. “There it is,” he mutters.

When he looks up, Clint is staring at him with open curiosity, Natalia is just amused, Dr Banner seems calm and a bit understanding and Sam is...Sam is both angry and understanding. As a therapist, he probably understands why Bucky did what he did but as Steve's friend (and maybe something more) he doesn’t like seeing him hurt.

Bucky returns his glare with a calm stare. He will not feel guilty for his actions. Yes, he never wanted to hurt Steve, but pushing himself more than he felt comfortable with at that time was a big no-no. Not everything works out the way we want it to.

“Sam, don’t glare at him,” Tony says sharply, but he’s rolling his eyes. “You know full well why he did it and you can’t shit on him because of that. It’s a miracle Bucky’s even a person, not a vegetable. Some time is the least you could give him.”

Sam deflates and nods. Suddenly, he looks very tired. “Yeah, yeah,” he mutters. “Sorry. Steve was just very worried.”

“I know,” Bucky replies. “But I left him a note and I’m a big boy. Even without my memories, I could take care of myself and if I felt like I was dangerous, I wouldn’t come back. He knows that he’s just stubborn and feels like he has to protect me all the time. He can’t.”

The whole team nods.

“How did you end up in the Tower anyway?” Clint asks then, leaning towards him. “Did magic pull you in? Some instincts that knew that Steve will be there?”

Bucky just laughs and shakes his head. “No, not at all. The Wolf liked Tony,” he says simply.

Natalia actually chuckles at that. “Did he think that Tony needs someone to take care of him?”

“Hey!” Tony whines, leaning against  Bucky’s side. “That’s rude!”

“Yes he did,” Bucky deadpans, smirking down at the genius. Tony sticks his tongue out petulantly.

“That’s cute,” Clint coos. “And really cool. We have a werewolf in our team!”

“Wait, do you even want to be an Avenger?” Sam asks suddenly, making Bucky look up. “Aren't you tired of fighting?”

Tony looks very interested suddenly and Bucky just smiles down at him. “I’m tired of fighting someone’s war. I'm tired of being a weapon. But I’m a wolf, we’re protectors. I want to help people, fight the bad guys. I want it to be my choice,” he says proudly.

“You’ve got it,” Tony says instantly. “Now that you’re here, we can go forward with publicity and the law side of things. Should take a few weeks if it goes right.”

“With you doing it everything will be perfect, Tony,” Bucky says warmly, smiling at the genius tenderly. He sees Natalia’s smirk but ignores it, in favour of watching a blush work its way on Tony's face.

“Flatterer,” the genius mutters, hiding his face in Bucky’s shoulder. He just laughs and ruffles his hair.

“Alright, time to go after my dumbass friend,” Bucky decides then. “Better not give him too much time to come up with stupid ideas.”

Sam chuckles at that and they share a long-suffering look before Bucky gets into the elevator.

“Captain Rogers is on the roof, Sir,” Jarvis says instantly.

“Thanks.”

The wind is howling when Bucky steps out on the roof and he notices Steve instantly. He's stood near the edge, staring at New York in silence, so he comes closer and stands next to him.

“I still don’t understand,” Steve says after a few minutes of silence, not looking at him. Bucky sighs.

“I dunno how to explain it better, Stevie. I was a mess. Hell, I’m still a mess and I wasn’t ready to talk to you, or anyone for that matter. I needed some time to do things on my terms, not someone else’s”

“You talked with Tony,” comes the reply. Steve sounds hurt. “He knew.”

“The Wolf liked him a lot,” Bucky explains gently. “Tony took him in, not knowing who I was, and it took me almost 3 months to change back. By that time, I felt safe and happy with him. There was already a pack bond between us, so it was easier to talk to him. No expectations, no nothing. You were more difficult than that.”

“Because I’m your friend?”

“Because you knew me before everything,” he says with a shrug. “Deny it all you want, Stevie, but we both know that you had expectations, you wanted me to be the same man I was in the 40s. We both know it’s not possible, but just that thought was terrifying for me.”

Steve’s silent for a long while. He smells like misery and sadness and Bucky wraps one arm around his shoulders, pulling him into a hug. His friend crumbles into him with a sob, arms wrapping tightly around his back.

“I’m sorry, Buck,” he manages between sobs, tears warm against Bucky’s neck.

“Nothing to be sorry for, punk,” Bucky says, voice soft and gentle, but chiding. “Neither of us was in the wrong and we both had our reasons. Valid ones. We just have to move on from that.”

“How?”

Bucky shrugs, smiling slightly. “With sheer stubbornness if nothing else works. We’ve always been good at that.”

It makes Steve chuckle weakly so Bucky counts that as a win. “Yeah.” He falls silent again, thinking, as his scent changes to hopefulness and warmth. It’s different from the one Tony emanates but also soothing. “Will you tell me everything? About being a werewolf and all?”

“Sure,” Bucky promises easily. “We can spare one movie night for story night. It’ll be a long one.”

Steve just laughs, leaning his head against Bucky’s shoulder. He feels like pack already, the bond warm and golden. For now, it’s enough.

Chapter Text

They’re all settled in the common room, on their usual spots, when Bucky and Steve finally come back. Tony can’t help but notice the Captain’s red eyes and the tear tracks, but Bucky sends him a small smile, so he doesn’t worry about it. After all, Bucky really does know Steve best.

“Ready for a storytime?” Bucky asks, smirking, after settling on the loveseat next to Tony.

The genius immediately settles against his side, head on his shoulder, and then ignores the pointed looks Natasha keeps shooting him. Okay, so he is a bit in love with Bucky, but who can judge him? The man is amazing.

“Get on with it,” Clint whines, fiddling with his arrows. Bucky just rolls his eyes.

“Jesus, y’all are annoying,” Bucky grumbles but starts his tale and Tony just drifts. He knows it all already, they actually talk a lot in bed, so he lets Bucky’s deep, rumbling voice wash over him, sending him into a light sleep.

He can hear the team asking questions and laughing and everything, but it's not important, not with Bucky pressed close to his side, the rumble of his chest under Tony's ear. A question finally makes Tony resurface.

“So, we’re pack?” Sam asks, looking curiously at Bucky. They all have bright eyes, excitement written on their faces and it makes Tony smile. He’s glad they’re all so accepting.

“Well, yeah,” Bucky shrugs with one shoulder. “Tony the most, our bond is the strongest, but y’all aren’t that far behind. Steve and Bruce are the closest, I’d say, but the more time we spend together, the stronger the web gets.”

“It’s that...soothing feeling at the back of my mind, isn’t it?” Bruce asks quietly, looking a bit awed.  Bucky nods with a smile.

“Yeah, I’d say so. It’s not really an emotional transfer or anythin’, but… We feel safe around each other, which is why y’all didn’t freak out so badly when you found out. I suspect that during a battle it’ll come in handy, as well as while looking for someone. The packbond will pull us towards whoever is lost.”

“That’s so cool,” Clint breathes. “It’s magic, right?”

“Yep,” Bucky says, laughing. “Natalia has a dormant witch genes, which makes it easier to tie y’all together. I’m a warlock, kind of, she’s a witch, kind of, it works.”

“Wait, a witch?” Clint exclaims, turning to face Natasha, who’s looking at Bucky, curiously. “Why didn't you tell me?!”

“I didn’t know,” she admits calmly. “I knew that there was something wrong with the wolf, I knew of werewolves, but not about my witch genes.”

Bucky shrugs again. “It just makes you more attuned to magic, to packbonds and everything. No spells, no magic, just awareness. It’s enough.”

“Aw man, you sure I’m not some badass creature?” Clint whines again, looking comically disappointed. “That’d be so cool.”

“Nope,” Bucky deadpans. “Just a regular, ol’ human.”

“Hey,” Tony perks up, elbowing him in the side. “I’m a human too, you know.”

“Yeah, but you’re smart,” Bucky shrugs, smirking at the rest of the team. “I’d say you carry like 40% of this team’s brain cells, and they’re all about being a genius. Natasha has the remaining 60% and they’re just common sense.”

The whole team gasps and then laughs and Tony lets himself join it. He can't remember the last time the atmosphere was so light, so carefree. It kind of looks like they needed glue to make them finally stick together and Bucky seems to be doing a wonderful job.

It’s enough to make Tony relax and send Bucky a soft smile, before closing his eyes. Bucky picks up the story and Tony drifts again, comfortable with his pack around him, safe and happy and light.

It’s remarkable how well they fit together. Him and Bucky, yes, but the whole team in general. It was just a few hours, but it seemed like Bucky already found his place in the team, in his pack, a pack of misfits, a bit broken, a bit not okay. They really fit together.

That night, when they were cuddling in bed, Tony cards his fingers through Bucky’s hair and smiles when it makes the werewolf make that rough, rumbling sound.

“I’d say it went well,” he says quietly, smiling into the darkness. “You fit with us, Wolf Man.”

Tony can feel  Bucky rolling his eyes. “I’m surprised too,” Bucky chuckles. “But they’re good people. A bit lost, maybe, but who isn’t, eh?”

“Yeah,” Tony laughs quietly. “I’m glad it worked out.”

“Me too. Thank you, Tony,” Bucky whispers, tightening his hold on Tony’s waist. “You did so much for me, I-”

“No,” he interrupts. “We did so much for each other, Bucky. You helped me too, more than I realized I needed. We help each other around here. We’re pack, after all.”

The last thing Tony hears before falling asleep is Bucky’s rough, choked up chuckle.’

The next few days are intense, to say the least.

Tony contacts his lawyers and they finalize everything, before officially releasing some of the Winter Soldier files to appropriate people. Bucky is almost vibrating with nerves, but Tony’s impressed by how he holds it together, especially when the government calls.

They get through it. They hold a few press conferences, all official and professional until everything they want to be released is out there. There are no charges against Bucky after he’s recognized as the longest held prisoner of war, He gets the money, the information, ID and the rest of things needed to function in the 21st century. Some people are not happy with that, especially once it gets out that he’s being tested for an Avenger, so Bucky decides to do an interview.

Tony’s heart swells when he sees the man stand straight and proud, in a smart suit, and talk about what HYDRA did to him. Steve squeezes his shoulder and they help each other through the tale of Bucky’s suffering.

Bucky, who gets teary-eyed but talks with dignity, who doesn’t hide his pain and guilt but shows that he wants to help people.

“I’m not saying I don’t have blood on my hands,” Bucky says. “We all do, and it’s one of the things that connect us - we want to make this world better. We got a second chance, all of us, and we want to protect people who gave it to us. I want that too. I will never bring back people that HYDRA killed using my hands, but I can help protect others. I can try and do good things now.”

When he gets off the stage, Tony pulls him into a hug and almost cries with him. He can’t believe just how good  Bucky is. All that pain and misery and loneliness, and it just made him kind. Each time Tony thinks about it, he’s floored.

“I’m so proud of you, snowflake,” he whispers into Bucky’s shoulder, and Bucky squeezes him tighter.

“Thank you for giving me a chance,” Bucky replies, just as quietly and they both pretend they’re not crying.

Neither of them sees the look Steve is giving them.

After that interview, people seem to love Bucky even more. He’s a hero, and becoming an even bigger one, winning people over with his big heart and honest words. It’s only a matter of a few days before they all decide that Bucky’s ready to train with the team. Bucky’s therapist agrees and Tony can see how restless Bucky is, even with his long runs in the park.

They all gather in the gym to watch Bucky spar with Steve, who’s the only one Bucky feels safe beating up if something goes wrong.

“He’s used to getting his ass handed to him, even though it's been a few years,” Bucky shrugs with a smirk. God, Tony loves him so much.

“I won’t go easy on you, jerk,” Steve warns, getting in position. Bucky only smiles and rolls his shoulders, the metal one whirring and adjusting. Tony has a feeling Steve won’t win easily.

“Ready? Go,” Natasha instructs and Steve attacks.

Bucky counters easily, avoiding his punch with a fluid grace Tony hasn’t really seen in the recordings of the fight on the bridge and street. It seems like he’s more than just the Winter Soldier, more than a superhuman.

He’s a werewolf, and for the first time, Tony gets to witness what it really means in a fight. It’s glorious.

Bucky ducks and swipes, seemingly just feeling out Steve’s style, not attacking at all, content to stay on the offensive. Tony can tell that Steve’s surprised, probably expecting a more aggressive style and Bucky smirks, before starting to attack.

It’s fast. Faster than Steve, just a bit, and full of fluid, graceful power. He fights in a more brutal way than the Captain, effective and terrifying, competent to the extreme. Tony knows that for the most part, Bucky didn't remember being a werewolf while with HYDRA, and suddenly he's glad because Bucky is now wiping the floor with Steve, and he’s not sure if it's just Steve being unsure.

The fight is over soon after Bucky starts attacking, with Steve face down on the floor, his friend keeping him pinned.

“Yield,” Bucky says calmly, remarkably controlled even in a fight.

“Fine, you win,” Steve grumbles and then sticks his tongue out when Bucky lets him go. They both laugh and Bucky hoists him up. “What the hell, Bucky?”

Bucky laughs even harder and slaps his back. “Steve, honestly, you got like 2 months of training and then went with just the serum. I’ve been trained in most martial arts that exist, and I’m a werewolf. It’s not that hard,” he chuckles, rolling his eyes.

It’s unbelievably sexy. Tony swallows, hard, and escaped upstairs, before Bucky can smell his arousal. There’s something extremely sexy about a man of Bucky’s statue moving so fast and graceful, about putting Captain fucking America on his ass like it’s nothing.

He stumbles into the shower and wraps his hand around his arousal even before the water hits his skin, hissing and closing his eyes.

All Tony can see is Bucky, in that fucking tank top, hair in a bun, metal hand almost shining in the sun. That sinful smirk on his full lips, the glint in his eyes when he flirts with Tony. He's close embarrassingly quickly, pumping his cock like his life depends on it, making small, needy noises.

“Fuck,  James, ” Tony whines, coming all over the wall and sliding down on the floor, legs suddenly shaky. He can’t believe how worked up he was, how easily he reached the edge, with just his hand and the vision of Bucky Barnes in his mind. He’s way too old for this.

Tony makes sure to shower thoroughly before coming back into the gym, not wanting to smell like cum and arousal, but something must show because Natasha gives him a look and then glances at Bucky with a smirk. They’re still training, now with Sam and Clint as well, Natasha joining from time to time. It looks fun, honestly, and Tony’s heart melts when he realizes just how loose and relaxed Bucky is, how easily he slid into their team and made it pack.

He could take just lusting after Bucky, the man is a masterpiece, but Tony just had to go and fall in love with him. That’s just his luck.

Bucky seems to notice how lost in thought Tony is because he sends him a questioning glance and steps a bit closer. Tony only shakes his head with a smile and settles down to watch.

“Punk, I know how you fight, I studied you, and you probably underestimated me. We’ll work on that,” Bucky is saying, straightening Steve’s posture. “You won’t be so surprised next time, we’ll train together and all. You gotta get better at proper fighting.”

With that, they’re back to sparring, talking and explaining everything, finding each other in a fight, finding ways they can complement each other, give where the other is lacking. Tony just focuses on Bucky.

It's interesting, because maybe 10 minutes in, he starts really focusing on the arm. They worked on it before, some maintenance and repairs, and Tony already has a few new designs ready, but seeing it in a fight gives him a few insight. He notices how Bucky moves with it, how his range could be improved, how it would work with his fighting style, with his transformation. His head is full of new ideas and soon, Tony escapes into his workshop to turn them into reality.

Bucky only comes around 10 pm, poking and pulling, until Tony complies and goes to bed with him, figuring that he can always work the next day. Bucky really is fixing his daily routine, and Tony’s both scared and impressed by the level of influence the assassin has on him.

They curl together, breathing evenly and Tony plays with his long hair again, until Bucky falls asleep.

It doesn’t last, though, because he jerks up a few hours later, pulling Tony with him. It takes the genius a second to realize what’s happening, and then he’s racing after Bucky, who’s dry-heaving over the toilet. He slides to his knees and lays a gentle hand on his back, rubbing circles there until Bucky finishes.

“Done?” Tony asks quietly, receiving a nod in response. He gets Bucky a glass of water and they stay on the cool floor for a second, until the other man stops shaking.

“I can still see their faces,” Bucky whispers finally, voice rough and exhausted. It’s not the first time this happened, so Tony by now knows the drill, knows what haunts Bicky’s dreams. Especially since he can see how Bucky keeps staring at his hands as if expecting blood on them.

Tony catches his hands with a sigh and squeezes them. “I know,’ he says simply, because what is there to say?

“I know it’s not my...fault,” Bucky finally manages, clearly forcing himself to say what his therapist has been telling him. “But that feeling of helplessness, of being forced with no way out… I hate it.”

“I know, James, I’m sorry,” Tony says again, pulling the other man into his arms. It’s not often that he uses Bucky’s first name, but in moments like this, it’s fitting. More profound somehow.

“Sometimes I feel like there are still strings attached to my hands, pulling in all directions.”

Tony closes his eyes, trying to stop the tears. He hates that Bucky has to go through this, that a man so kind and good is suffering so much. He hates all those years he hasn’t been there to helo Bucky.

“You’re free now, snowflake,” he finally whispers, lips brushing against Bucky’s sweaty hair. “I’ll make sure they won’t get you again. I promise.”

“I trust you,” Bucky says back, disarming in his honesty. Tony really feels like his heart has stopped for a second, and has to blink back tears.

“Thank you.”

They move back to bed eventually, and this time Bucky grabs Tony’s hand in his own and holds on as if trying to find a tether to reality. Tony's not sure if the man falls back asleep that night, but he’s not shaking anymore, and if the next day he’s more withdrawn and quiet, no one mentions it. They all have their demons.

Tony doesn’t mind helping Bucky through his nightmares, he’s honoured that the man trusts him so much. It turns out they’re really good at helping each other, neither disgusted by the other’s demons, by what they’ve done. Tony has never really experienced such deep understanding; Pepper is amazing and she tried, but Bucky just gets what Tony means, what haunts his dreams. It’s...something else.

Their quiet domesticity gets interrupted by the bad guy, who finally decides to make his move. None of them is surprised, they got quite a lot of free time anyway, of peace and quiet and Tony sees how they all perk up at the thought of actually doing something finally.

Even Bucky, who’s dressed in his new suit, all black, arm free, an impossible amount of weapons stored on him, is interested. Tony can see it in his shoulder, the way something predatory slowly emerges, his eyes getting lighter, almost shining. No one reacts, but a shiver runs down Tony’s spine. He’s always had a thing for danger.

“Ready?” Cap asks, his shield by his side, and they all nod. Tony notices the way Steve keeps glancing at Bucky, as if worried, but the werewolf just sends Tony a smirk and follows everyone.

They’re lucky that the new bad guy isn’t really big on destroying the city, but still, they're thrown into the middle of a battle immediately. In the corner of his eye, Tony can see Bucky fighting, hand to hand. He’s an amazing sniper as well, but Cap decided that he wanted to really see him in action, and Bucky didn’t protest.

He’s tearing through the bots (that are glowing for some reason?) like it’s nothing and Tony lets him work, secure in his safety.

All in all, it’s nothing special, certainly not an alien invasion, so there are no close calls. Through when Tony finally turns around to face the others, he can see how Bucky’s features have changed, how his hands tear through the bots easily, claws glistening on the metal arm, the way the man almost hunts on the battlefield. There really is something wrong with him, because it only makes the heat pool in his belly.

“Alright, we finishing?” he asks lightly into the comms.

“What, the view ain’t nice, doll?” Bucky drawls, his accent more pronounced for some reason. Tony rolls his eyes but smiles under the mask.

“Focus, Winter,” he laughs, destroying yet another bot. “Seems like he’s running out of bots.”

“Yeah, I have a shot at this weird thing he has in his hand,” Hawkeye reports, seated on a nearby building.

“Purple?” Bucky asks suddenly, sliding from his position and getting higher.

“Yep,” Hawkeye replies. Bucky jumps up on a balcony and swiftly gets to Hawkeye’s position, taking out the bots.

“You know something, Winter?” Cap asks, a bit breathless.

“Yeah. Hawkeye, aim at the green glowy thing at his waist. It’s the power source, the purple thing is useless without it.”

“Copy,” Hawkeye mutters and then an arrow shoots through the sky. The bad guy shouts something and then explodes in shimmering green light. Tony hears Bucky’s laugh.

“Iron Man, can I have a lift?” Bucky asks cheekily and then throws himself from the building, making Tony catch him in the air.

“Idiot,” Tony mutters, but he’s smiling.

“Get me close to him, please.”

Tony does as instructed and soon enough they’re all gathered close to the fallen bad guy, sparks of green energy still crackling in the air. Bucky huffs and grabs the purple stone,  before kicking the guy.

“Little shit,” the werewolf mutters. “Gotta contact the local coven, he's one of theirs. Surprising that he got this far.”

“He’s a wizard?” Clint asks, suddenly next to them.

“A warlock,” the bad guys hisses, glaring at them. “You barbaric, stupid hu-”

Natasha knocks him out before he can start hyperventilating and Bucky chuckles.

“Is he good to give to the SHIELD?” Cap asks, suddenly worried. Yeah, a warlock wouldn’t be really secure in a normal human facility so…

“Yeah, someone from the coven should be here soon, they’ll go with him,” Bucky nods. “If we’re in luck it’ll be a teenage girl so that he’ll get even angrier.” Seeing their confused stares, he adds, “Witches are much more powerful than warlocks.”

By the end of the day, they’re back in the Tower, watching the news. Bucky is especially glowing, smiling gently at the screen, where the reporter sings praises about the newest Avenger.

Tony’s heart swells and he lays a hand on Bucky’s knee, squeezing gently. “You deserve it, snowflake."

“Thanks, tin can,” Bucky mutters, smiling back. The name is almost tender with the way he says it, like an endearment. Tony is so so smitten.

It’s that fight that ultimately makes Tony finish the arm because he saw how the current one hindered Bucky's movement sometimes, how it could be improved. That’s why he calls Bucky down into the workshop at 3am and smiles nervously when the man finally arrives.

“Tony, you okay?” the werewolf asks, not even sleepy but gloriously messy. God, Tony’s heart almost can’t take it.

“I’m great,” he snickers and grabs Bucky’s arm, pulling him to the station. He can't help but glance at Bucky from time to time, strangely nervous. It’s a big thing, to show him a new arm that he’ll hopefully attach to Bucky’s body. “Okay, so, you know how I like to improve the team’s weapons and equipment and rooms an-”

“Breathe, doll,” Bucky says with amusement, cupping Tony’s face in his hand. “Calm down and tell me, nothin’ to worry about, just same ol’ me.”

“Yeah, that’s what I’m worried about,” Tony mutters and they both pretend Bucky can’t hear him. “Alright.” He takes a deep breath and finally says, “I designed and built a new arm for you.”

It all comes out in a rush and Tony pointedly does not look at Bucky, content to stare at the floor and pretend he's not almost melting from nerves.

“Tony,” Bucky whispers and when Tony raises his head, his breath hitches because Bucky's eyes are soft, and there are awe and disbelief on his face and he just has to hide his face in the man’s shoulder so that he doesn’t see Tony blush. “Doll, I’m… I can’t believe you’d do that for me.”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself, soldier, it’s all because the arm is an engineering masterpiece and I wan-”

He’s interrupted by a metal finger resting on his lips, making him fall silent. Bucky smiles and doesn’t move his hand.

“You don’t have to pretend with me, Tony,” he says gently. “ I mean, I’m sure it played a big part in the reason, but… Thank you.”

Tony nods, dazed and stupid. Holy shit, he can’t believe just how well Bucky knows him, how well he can play him. It would be terrifying it Tony didn’t trust him so much.

“Want me to, um, show you?” he asks timidly, enthusiasm slowly returning.

“‘Course, doll,” Bucky says easily and smiles when he sees the black arm with some silvery-blue touches. It’s sleek and gorgeous and Tony absolutely loves it.

Immediately, Tony starts talking about it and Bucky listens and asks those amazing question and is interested and Tony is so far gone on this man that it’s not even funny anymore. They talk it through and finally settle on a surgery led by Dr Cho, as the current arm needs to be removed and everything needs to be checked.

Tony knows that it's just nerves, but for him, the time passes in a breeze. Before he knows it, everything is ready and Steve is pacing nervously in the corridor, the very image of a worried mother. Tony can relate and he’s the one who has to get into the operating room and actually do stuff. It’s good that his hands are naturally steady because his nerves almost make them shake.

In the end, everything goes smoothly. Bucky wakes up a bit earlier than they thought, but he says the pain isn’t bad and before Tony knows it, he’s back in training. Each time Bucky looks at it, he smiles and that really was Tony’s goal - to take away what HYDRA did and give Bucky something good, something to be happy about and proud of.

Bucky is slowly reclaiming what HYDRA took from him, starting from the name Winter Soldier and ending at the arm. Tony couldn’t be more proud.

He’s also happy that Bucky is so eager to share it all with Tony.

“Hey, Tony, I’m gonna visit my great-grandmother and show her the arm. Wanna come?” Bucky asks casually, popping into the workshop. Tony’s mind goes blank for a second before he smiles.

“I’d love to.”

He really can’t believe that he’s so trusted, that Bucky really  wants  him in his life like that. They walk to the shop slowly, laughing and talking and if Tony glances at Bucky’s hand from time to time, no one needs to know. Maybe in a few weeks, he’ll gather the courage to actually hold it.

“Here we are,” Bucky says suddenly, stopping in front of a small, hidden shop. There’s something about it, though, that makes Tony aware because the air almost cracks with energy and Bucky’s eyes glow for a small second.

They enter and before either of them says anything, a woman appears. She’s old, looks to be around 90 years old, with pure white hair and the same eyes Bucky has - pale blue, electrifying. She’s wearing a dark purple dress and a warm shawl because the winter slowly but surely is creeping up on them.

“Took you long enough,” she says simply, eyeing Bucky, who blushes and ducks his head.

He says something in what is most definitely  not  English and the woman replies before they both glance at him and Bucky smiles.

“Tony, meet my great-grandmother, Lăcrămioara,” Bucky introduces her. “This is Tony Stark.”

Lăcrămioara smiles at him kindly and shakes his hand in her own frail ones. She looks delicate but Tony can tell there’s strength in her, years and years of wisdom. He can bet that she says and knows more than she lets on.

“Yes yes, I was expecting you. You have a new arm, Jamie, a very good design, Anthony,” she says as she leads them to the back.

There’s a room there, actually, quite a few rooms and the shop is definitely bigger on the inside. Everything looks cosy but also exactly how Tony has imagined a witch’s home would look like. He absolutely loves it. Loves the cauldrons, the shelves filled with jars and bottles and books; loves how different it is from his own workshop, but just as amazing.

“I can tell you have questions, Anthony,” Lăcrămioara says once they’re sitting. “Please, ask away, Jamie will finish my potions,” she waves her hand.

Bucky laughs and ruffles Tony’s hair, before disappearing into another room. For a second, they just sit in silence and then Tony launches into his questions.

Lăcrămioara answers most of them, though she glides over some of them and sometimes, Tony really knows less than he knew before she answered the question, but that's fine. He can always come back again. At some point, Bucky comes back and just listens to them, smirking. Tony sticks his tongue out at him and goes back to his questions.

Then, Tony stumbles.

“Yeah, forests are cool and all, but honestly kind of boring for me. I’m not a botanist, so it’s just trees and some animals and more trees,” he rolls his eyes.

“Don't underestimate forests, Anthony,” she says suddenly, looking him in the eyes. Tony shivers. “When you enter one and care to walk deeper, there’s a moment when you actually feel how your ancestors used to worship Old Gods there and treat nature as part of their spiritual world and you’ll know that those old trees have seen empires rise and fall. They’ve seen people forget the power in nature and yet they stand there, proud and old, with history etched into their bark, roots back in the times where there used to be prayers sang in the forests.”

She looks straight at him and power sparks in the air. “There's a reason why people used to worship nature, Anthony and nature didn't forget.”

There's…something in her words that makes Tony take a step back. When he glances at Bucky, the man is loose and relaxed, clearly not feeling the same fear as Tony. Like he's used to it; like he also didn't forget.

For a second, Tony wonders if Bucky ever worshipped his gods in the old forests, if the ones in America are good enough for him. It's not the right time to ask, but the longing in Bucky's eyes is answer enough.

That's when Tony decides that he'll take the werewolf with him next time he flies to Europe, and make sure to stop in Romania.

When he glanced back at the old woman, she's smiling like she knows something. Like she had a plan and it worked. It kind of creeps Tony out.

“Not to be rude, but she’s kind of scary,” he mutters once they walk out, and Bucky just laughs.

“Told you,” he says. “She’s old, Tony, very old, and she’s a witch. They always see more than anyone else.”

“It’s still creepy.”

Bucky rolls his eyes but he’s smiling. “Yeah, it kinda is.”

It doesn’t mean that what she said doesn’t haunt Tony at night when Bucky's wrapped around him as always, sound asleep. There’s power in the forests, she said, and Tony remembers the longing in Bucky’s eyes.

The werewolf probably misses the forests, if he’s ever been in one, and Tony has a feeling that there aren't many like that here, in America. Well, it’s not hard to find some time and get a plane to Romania, and Tony would do anything to make Bucky happy.

That’s why he finds some time and plans a trip for them, to Romania of course. While Bucky isn’t exactly Romanian, he definitely sees it as his main nationality, finds it an important part of himself. Besides, a werewolf running around in Romania is kind of funny.

Bucky almost cries when Tony tells him and the whole team tolls their eyes, but Tony’s whole focus is on Bucky’s beautiful smile. The man looks like he can't believe this is real even as they fly in Tony’s private jet to the hotel room that’s already prepared for them.

“You’re something else, Tony Stark,” Bucky asks when they enter, and Tiny just shrugs bashfully, looking at the floor. Then, he looks up and smiles.

“You can thank me with cuddles.”

The werewolf only laughs and nods, so they both take a quick shower and then curl together under the fluffy blankets, Tony‘s head under Bucky’s chin. It’s not winter yet, but the air is cool and it’s perfect for cuddles in bed.

They just talk and talk, Bucky’s hand carding through Tony’s hair, pulling him under easier than any sleeping pills.

The next day they decide to stay in the hotel room and cuddle some more. Bucky almost pulls Tony into his lap and the genius blushes but cuddles closer, looking through Jarvis’ code, looking for something to repair. Bucky busies himself with his newest book and they just wait for the sun to set.

Finally, Tony notices how restless Bucky has become and tugs him out, rolling his eyes at the ridiculous werewolf. He suspects that the man just didn’t want to give up cuddles, but the wilderness is definitely pulling him in now.

Bucky is buzzing with energy when they come closer to the forest. They’re both dressed appropriately, but Bucky didn’t allow him to take any electronics or flashlight.

“The moonlight will be enough,” he says once more, smiling at him warmly. Tony rolls his eyes.

“For you maybe, Mr Wolf,” he whines. “I’m just a normal human, no extra bits. I’ll be blind here.”

“You won’t,” Bucky says confidently and when that also doesn’t calm Tony down, he grabs his hand and squeezes.

Tony fights very hard not to blush.

At first, he’s right. The moment the trees close behind them, Tony sees nothing. It’s strange, the forest is dark and quiet, the only sounds are unsettling and it’s only the knowledge that he has an apex predator next to him that calms him down.

Bucky squeezes his hand again. “Trust me, okay?”

“Okay,” he replies instantly. Tony trusts Bucky with his life, he also trusts him to lead him through.

They walk for another 20 minutes, in total silence, before something in Bucky changes. Tony can’t see it, but he becomes more relaxed, his hold more tender and loose.

“Can you hear it?” Bucky whispers. At first, Tony wants to snap that he doesn't have super hearing, but then he does hear it.

Tiny whispers in a language he doesn’t understand, coming from all around them. They don’t feel dangerous, so Tony just breathes and lets Bucky lead him further.

He can actually feel the moment they step into the other part of the forest, the one Lăcrămioara told him about. The trees grow as thick as before, but suddenly, Tony can see around him. It’s like the moonlight really is enough and when he looks around, things seem to actually glow.

Bucky’s tattoos are glowing too, peeking from under his jacket, beautiful and light blue, making him look more ethereal. He fits there, in this forest, surrounded by Old Magic.

Tony stops, tugging the werewolf back and just breathes for a second. The air smells fresh and cool, and the whispers start to sound like a song, a prayer.

“You can hear it, can you?” Bucky asks softly.

Tony nods, smiling at him in awe. Even Bucky’s eyes are glowing, the same colour as his tattoos, wild and dangerous and so so familiar. They’re warm, even while lit such an icy blue.

“They’re the echoes of the prayers, right?” he asks instead of replying, eyes wide. “The old forgotten prayers, the ones Lăcrămioara told me about.”

“Nature didn't forget, Tony,” Bucky chuckles quietly. “When you care to listen, it tells you all of its history.”

“What glows? Some kind of fungus? They exist, you know…” Tony starts to wonder, mind already running. Oh, Bruce would have a field day here, trying to figure out what chemicals are causing this beautiful glow.

“Oh no, that’s just Old Magic,” Bucky laughs, making him snort. “Look around. Some trees, the older and bigger ones, glow brighter than the other ones. There are circles on the ground in some places, that also glow more. Old Magic never truly dies.”

Tony hates that he’s right. There’s no real pattern to it, because some trees just glow brighter, in different colours, particles dancing in the air. It truly is magic and against everything, Tony had ever studied. It’s more than he could’ve imagined.

“It’s beautiful,” he breathes, awed.

“It is,” Bucky agrees.  He really fits there, glowing just as the forest, beautiful and dangerous and Tony knows this will haunt his dreams forever. “Want to see more?”

“Yes,” Tony replies instantly. He wants to see everything, wants Bucky to explain in that voice that seems to roll around like thunder, rumbling and soothing at the same time. He wants Bucky to uncover all the mysteries of this forest.

He lets Bucky lead him further, still holding hands and looks around, still awed, still breathless with wonder. The whole forest seems alive suddenly, not dangerous but enticing, breathing just like he does. He almost seems like a person.

“This what Old Magic used to look everywhere, thousands of years ago, on this lands,” Bucky mutters. “European beliefs and mythology broadly overlap, if you exclude Green and Roman, it’s a different branch. This is the land of witches and warlocks, nature spirits, hundreds of different creatures, all tied to Old Magic. It’s more than just a place, it’s power in faith and power in nature.”

“I can see that,” Tony whispers, unwilling to break the atmosphere by speaking too loudly. “It’s magical.”

Bucky chuckles. “Yeah, it is.”

They continue to walk in silence, when a branch breaks near them and Tony whirls around, heart hammering. There, looking right into his eyes is the biggest stag he has ever seen in his life. Bucky goes completely still next to him and when Tony glances at him, his friend nods at the animal.

They let the stag come closer and Tony notices that his body is covered in feathers and there are...vines and branches vowed into his antlers. He looks ancient and beloved, yet capable of great violence.

“This is the Guardian,” Bucky says in a hushes whisper. “He protects this place. Your reactor interests him.”

“Oh,” Tony breathes, glancing down. He hesitates for a second, before opening his jacket and pulling his shirt up, so that the glow of the reactor shines of the Guadian.

The animal tilts his head and his ears twitch before he exhales forcefully and turns around. It seems like he disappears into the forest like he’s a part of it and he’s just coming home.

“It was a great honour to meet him,” Bucky mutters, laying one hand on Tony’s lower back. His touch almost burns in its intensity. “You’re special, Tony.”

“The stag told you that?” Tony teases.

“No,” Bucky shrugs. “I always knew that.”

Tony’s not sure what to say to that, so he just falls silent and blushes wildly. Bucky is a menace - Tony knows that the other man knows well what he’s saying and implying, but he so goddamn  honest…  Tony can’t remember last time someone said so many kind things about him in such a straightforward way. It’s like Bucky genuinely doesn’t believe anyone could think differently, that it’s just common knowledge that Tony is special. In a good way.

All of it makes Tony fall more and more in love with him, every second. Even as they keep walking, he's still blushing, but Bucky doesn’t seem to mind.

He’s so awed and focused on the forest around them, that Tony just can’t help himself.

“Have you ever thought about moving here?” he asks hesitantly and is almost afraid of the answer. Bucky, as always, surprises him.

“No,” he replies without hesitation, and Tony looks up, shocked. The werewolf smiles softly and grabs both of his hands, pulling him closer and making Tony look into those glowing, beautiful eyes. “Tony, I am, and always had been, fascinated by the future. I love New York and I love the Tower. Jarvis is amazing, all of your inventions are amazing and I adore technology. The Tower is where my pack is, where  you  are. I would never want to be anywhere else.”

By the end, Tony is breathless. He wasn’t expecting that, he wasn’t expecting the sincerity and conviction in Bucky’s voice. He’s impossibly happy.

“Really?” Tony asks in a breathless whisper.

Bucky smiles, that tender, overwhelming smile and love shines through his eyes. “Really really.”

Tony can’t not kiss him now. He takes that one step closer and hesitantly presses his lips against Bucky’s, nearly weeping in relief when the man responds easily, hands sliding to his waist, pulling him against his body.

The genius melts right into him, standing on his tiptoes to better reach his mouth and Bucky laughs, pulling him up until Tony’s arms are wrapped tightly around his neck and he's not touching the ground anymore.

He can’t think of a more magical moment than right then, kissing Bucky Barnes in the middle of an old forest, with magic shining in the air. It feels like the resolution of months of pining and also the beginning of the most wonderful story ever. Tony just closes his eyes and gets lost in the gentle kiss, the secure hold Bucky has on him.

They’re both breathless when they finally pull away, smiling and laughing, leaning against each other.

“I’ve been waiting for months,” Tony mutters, his little secret.

“Me too,” Bucky chuckles. “But I wanted to get to know you first. I wanted to be your friend.”

“You are,” Tony assures. “You’re so much more than that.”

“You too, Tony. There’s a reason why the Wolf chose you, you know.”

“What’s the reason?” he asks curiously, pushing a stray lock of hair behind Bucky’s ear.

“I have no idea,” Bucky laughs. “But I think I’ll figure it out, someday. In the future.”

“Future sounds good,” Tony says, breathless and impossibly happy. “With me by your side, maybe?” He hates being so insecure but Bucky is a fine specimen who could have anyone he’d want, and here he is, holding Tony in his arms like he’s the most precious thing in the world.

“That’s the only future worth living, kitten,” Bucky purrs. Tony whines and hides his blush in Bucky's shoulder.

“Charmer,” he mutters, rolling his eyes.

“I can smell how delighted you are, you know.” Bucky sounds amused, so Tony just punches him in the arm and pulls away. He’s glad they hadn’t lost this lightness between them. “You don’t have to be scared of changes, Tony. We’re still us, just...more.”

He nods and leans against him again. “Good. I’d hate to lose what we have. And you don’t mind that I’m Iron Man?” Tony can’t help but ask. That’s what ultimately broke him and Pepper apart.

Bucky just cups his face and smiles tenderly. “You’re a hero, and I would never want you to give that part of you up. Besides, now I can be beside you on the battlefield, protecting you. Protecting our pack.”

It sounds good. Amazing really. Tony can’t believe he gets to have this, a wonderful, good man, who wants him to continue fighting bad guys, who wants to fight them by his side.

“We have a deal,” Tony chuckles, smiling like a fool. Bucky replies with his own smile and kisses him again, before pulling away and grabbing his hand again.

“Wanna see more, doll?”

“Yes please,” he breathes, eyes lighting up. Tony can't get enough of this, of the forest and Old Magic, of things he never imagined were possible.

They walk in silence, Bucky soaking up the Magic and Tony just admiring it. Before he knows it, they’re stepping out into a clearing, in the middle of which stands a big, beautiful tree. There are things, little specks, flying around it, and then a circle, bigger than any Tony has ever seen before, lights up around a tree.

“A fairy ring,” Bucky explains, tugging him forward. “Old things, very powerful. Usually, I’d avoid it, but we have the blessing of the Guardian, so…”

“Let’s do it,” Tony laughs, excited.  A fairy ring sounds like something out of a children’s book, but with Bucky, legends come to life in front of his eyes.

They step into the circle and the fairies, they must be those little specks, start dancing around them, reflecting in Bucky’s eyes, making them even more beautiful.

“Gorgeous,” Tony mutters and when he glances at Bucky, the man is already looking at him tenderly, eyes soft and glowing and everything Tony’s ever wanted.

They meet in the middle in a kiss, soft and chase. Then, it turns into a passionate, warm one, Bucky’s arms wrapping tightly around him again. Tony lets his tongue dance with Bucky’s, smiling and sighing and making those little, needy noises that he’s embarrassed about but Bucky seems to love.

The circle around them glows brighter the longer the kiss, lighting up in gentle pink and silver. Tony pulls away to look around in wonder, and when his eyes catch Bucky's, his heart jumps.

The werewolf smiles at him gently and cups his face again, thumb caressing Tony's kiss-swollen lips.

“The forest is reacting to our magic,” Bucky explains gently.

“I don't have magic, you told me that,” Tony notices, confused. “And you also said that your magic is the New one.”

Bucky laughs and shakes his head. “Not that kind, Tony.” He falls silent for a while, suddenly shy, before he raises his head and looks at Tony again, blushing adorably. “Love is one of the most powerful kinds of Old Magic.”

“Oh,” Tony breathes dumbly. He's surprised even though he shouldn't be. “Then I have a lot of it.”

The werewolf stares at him for a second, before surging up to kiss Tony again, even sweeter this time. Tony lets out a surprised sound, before falling into it again, completely safe in Bucky’s arms.

“Love you, doll,” Bucky whispers like he’s sharing a secret. Tony smiles and cups his face, staring into his eyes.

“Love you too,” Tony replies just as quietly, leaning in again to press a chaste kiss against Bucky’s lips. “Can’t believe this is real.”

It makes Bucky laugh. “Oh, so you can believe I’m a werewolf and that magic is real and forests light up at night, but not that I really love you?”

“My life is just that weird,” Tony shrugs with a smile. “It’ll take some time before I believe this is real.”

“I have all the time in the world, sweetheart,” is Bucky’s soft reply.

That’s why they spend the next 2 hours in the forest, just looking around. Bucky changes at some point and chases the lights as a wolf, panting and wagging his tail and Tony lets him tumble them both on the cool grass, laughing and grabbing his fur.

“Ridiculous dog,” he says fondly and then splutters when Bucky licks him. “That’s not sexy licking!” Tony cries and rolls away from him, laughing.

They chase each other around a bit, but finally, they go back, this time hand in hand, smiling shyly. There’s heat in the air that has nothing to do with a magical forest and Tony can't wait to get his hands on this beautiful specimen of a werewolf.

The moment they’re in the hotel elevator, Tony finds himself pressed against the wall with Bucky fucking Barnes kissing the life out of him. He moans and grabs his hair, knees going weak. His wolf catches him easily and then almost drags Tony to the room, hands roaming and kisses desperate.

By some miracle, they manage to open the door and then they tumble on the bed.

“F-fuck, clothes,” Tony pants once he tears his mouth away, but then his thoughts turn to mush because Bucky starts kissing and nipping at his throat, lavishing the stinging marks with a warm tongue. “ Clothes,”  he repeats finally, tugging at Bucky’s shirt.

“Yeah, yeah,” the man mutters and pulls away to throw the shirt over his head, revealing that glorious, muscled chest and tight abs. Fuck.

“God, you’re gorgeous,” Tony moans, sliding his hands over the warm flesh, then to the cold metal of his bionic arm. They fingers tangle together and then they’re kissing again, wet and deep and passionate, and if Tony can feel a hint of sharp fangs against his lip, it only makes him harder.

Finally, after much struggle, they manage to get naked, and all that skin against skin contact is almost enough to send Tony over the edge.

“So beautiful, doll,” Bucky growls, his eyes shining in dangerous. It makes Tony pull him into another kiss and them fumble around for the lube. It takes him a second to realize they’re not home and the lube is…

“The suitcase,” he mutters feverishly. “Lube’s in the case. Get it.”

Bucky seems almost reluctant to get away from him, but Tony doesn’t even get a chance to feel the cool air against his exposed skin before Bucky's back against him, that hard body pressing Tony into the mattress.

“C’mon, fuck me,” Tony whines, uncaring about dignity at this point. He’s been dreaming about this for forever.

He tries to raise his hips, but Bucky’s strong hands grab them and press him against the bed again. Tony looks up at him confused and is greeted by the striking image of an aroused Bucky Barnes, full lips red and eyes dark with lust.

“Won’t fuck you, baby,” Bucky coos and kisses the confusion off of Tony. “I’ll make love to you.”

It’s enough to make Tony fucking melt into the mattress, a blush rising high on his cheeks. He tries to hide his face in the sheets and gets kissed before he can.

“James,” Tony whispers shakily, cupping his face. “I love you.”

Never before had those words came so easily, so effortlessly. For once, Tony isn’t afraid of loving someone.

“I love you too, darlin’,” Bucky replies just as quietly, staring him straight in the eyes. “Let me cherish you, Tony.”

All he can do is nod and lean back against the sheets as Bucky’s warm, sinful lips descend on his body, kissing the reactor and licking the scars, paying equal attention to everything. He nips at Tony’s hipbones and then sucks his cock briefly, making him moan and grab Bucky’s hair.

“Later, baby,” Bucky purrs, hot breaths hitting Tony’s sensitive cock. “Need to get you ready now.”

“Yes, yes, c’moooon,” Tony whines, arching his back. Bucky’s laughter rolls in the air like antique gold, dark and rough and oh so beautiful.

Bucky[‘s touch is gentle but persistent and Tony’s so relaxed that the first fingers slide inside of him easily, and it takes Bucky less than 5 seconds to locate his prostate and press against him. Tony shouts and grabs the sheets, desperate to tether himself to reality.

“Wha-?” he mumbles, staring blearily at Bucky.

“‘m a marksman, baby, when I aim, I don’t miss,” Bucky chuckles and Tony can’t help but laugh at his ridiculousness. He can’t remember the last time he felt comfortable enough to laugh during sex.

The sudden burst of humour doesn’t ruin anything and Bucky goes back to stretching Tony slowly, methodically but so adoringly, whispering praises and dirty fantasies against the skin of Tony’s inner thighs.

Finally, Tony can't take it anymore and he tugs at Bucky's arm, whining. “Come on, James, ‘m ready, come on.”

Bucky must be just as desperate as him, because it takes him only a few seconds to roll on a condom and position himself properly, staring Tony in the eyes. They hold eye contact as Bucky slides into him, slow and steady, giving Tony a chance to breathe.

It’s almost too much, but Bucky’s right there, holding Tony’s hand in his metal one and whispering love confessions, until Tony’s heart does;t feel like it’s about to burst from his chest. “Okay,” he whimpers, legs wrapping around Bucky’s waist.

The first few thrusts are slow and steady before Bucky gains momentum but still keeps everything gentle. There's nothing rough in this moment, just their love and the glow of Bucky’s gorgeous eyes, the low growls of the werewolf and Tony's loud moans.

Tony can’t remember the last time he felt so loved and cherished, taken care of.

Everything passes in a haze, and before he knows it, Tony's tethering on the edge, Bucky's metal hand wrapped around his leaking cock. The cool metal makes for a wonderful contrast and Tony almost cries, before his whole body seizes up and he comes with a loud scream of Bucky[‘s name, back arched and eyes closed.

He forces himself to open his eyes when Bucky’s thrust grow erratic and then Tony’s treated to the amazing sight of Bucky Barnes cumming - head thrown back, fangs bared and the tattoos on his chest glowing. His scream is almost a howl and God, Tony loves how Bucky embraces his wolf, his other side.

They fall back on the bed breathless, though Tony suspects that Bucky can easily go again. He can't, though, because his limbs feel like jelly and his whole body is thrumming with the wonderful orgasm.

“God, you’re a sex machine,” he says when he finally finds his voice, gravelly and hoarse from all the screaming.

“Thanks, doll,” Bucky mutters from where he’s tucked against Tony’s neck. “You’re amazing.”

Tony just wraps his arms around Bucky's shoulders and keeps him close as they come down from their high. Silence falls over the room and he closes his eyes and lets himself drift, content and impossibly happy. Just a few hours ago he was pathetically pining, and now he has the love of his life in his bed, pressing sleepy kisses to his neck, the echoes of his love confessions still in the air.

“You smell like me,” Bucky says with great satisfaction. “Like you’re mine.”

“That’s cause I am,” Tony replies easily.

“Like I’m yours.”

Tony smiles and kisses his temple. He’s a bit curious who won the bet that most definitely has been placed over their love life, but that’s a thought for tomorrow. Now there’s only Bucky, warm and sticky on top of him, the memories of the magic forest and the endless possibilities in front of them.

“Hey, Tony?” Bucky asks suddenly, raising his head and looking at Tony with soft, happy eyes. “Thanks for saving me.”

He thinks back to all the dinners Bucky has forced him to eat, the nightmares Bucky has helped him get through, the soft touches and trust. He thinks back to the team, now a close pack, finally really really together, fighting as one.

Tony smiles softly and kisses Bucky’s nose. “We saved each other, James. I don’t think you’ll ever understand just how much you did to me.”

Bucky shrugs, smiling brilliantly. Tony knows that he has his new favourite Bucky-smile. “Well, I have our whole lives to do it… And you’re a good teacher.”

He just laughs and kisses him again, sealing their fates together. Bucky did say that love is one of the most powerful kinds of Old Magic.