The wine is surprisingly excellent, so it's a pity that the canapés are not up to par. Though one wouldn't think so from the sheer number of them that have thus far disappeared into the man standing next to her.
Only, she hasn't actually seen him take more than single, delicate bites of the food, as well-mannered and restrained as every other person in this black-tie affair, so it's a big mystery how he's been putting them away as fast as someone who’s outright scarfing them down.
"You know, it's not necessary for you to be that convincing."
"Hmm?" She resists the urge to play with her earpiece. Takes another sip of the wine instead. Maybe he's sneaking it under the jacket?
"I mean, I totally understand that this is payback for all the times I was... not as respectful towards women, including yourself, as I could have been, and I accept this as my due-"
"Ms. Potts!" says a vaguely familiar voice. Her well-honed memory quickly spits up the necessary name, company, affiliations, and relationship to Stark Industries.
"Mr. Glenwood," she greets the approaching man with a firm handshake. "Mrs. Glenwood. How lovely to see you both." She doesn't miss the curious looks that they— Mrs. Glenwood in particular—are casting to her side. Pepper obliges with, "This is James, my date for the evening."
"James Barnes," says Bucky, holding out the hand that Pepper could have sworn had been full of butterflied shrimp only seconds before. "Pleased to meet you, sir. Ma'am."
"Well, aren't you a gentleman," coos Mrs. Glenwood, when Bucky kisses her hand.
Mr. Glenwood clears his throat. "Stark too busy to join us this evening?"
"Oh, you know how he is with his projects," says Pepper, smiling brightly. "I'm afraid I haven't seen him in almost a month." She notices the waiter with the wine tray passing close. "James, could you please get me another one?" She makes a point of trailing her hand down his right arm. It's a very nice arm, and the slim cut of his very nice suit offers hints of well-turned muscles under the fine fabric.
"Of course." The brief incline of Bucky's head might come off as mocking, from somebody else, but he makes it look natural—she supposes it's not an antiquated gesture for him.
"He's a very handsome young man," comments Mrs. Glenwood, who unabashedly joins Pepper in admiring the view of Bucky walking away. Pepper had taken great care to ensure that Bucky's very nice suit fits him perfectly.
Another pointed clearing of the throat. "I wanted to thank you for the card and wine you sent after we announced the acquisition," says Mr. Glenwood.
"Oh, you're welcome," says Pepper, "I'm glad business has been going so well."
By the time Bucky returns, Pepper has wrapped up the casual talk, so all that is left is another round of handshakes and pleased to meet you's.
"Just how much more meeting-and-greeting do you need to do before you've sufficiently saturated the gossip-mill? Or are we aiming for the tabloid front pages? 'CEO Pepper Potts dumps billionaire genius boyfriend for a younger model'," whines Tony.
Pepper leans into Bucky's space so that anybody able to see her lips moving will assume she's speaking to him. "Well, right now most of them are still trying to decide if James is just arm-candy, or a full-time replacement."
Bucky snorts. He holds up the wine glass to her. "Did you want this?”
She considers for a moment, but shakes her head. “It’s probably better if you have it. I’ve already finished two.”
“No skin off my back—it’s not bad stuff.” He takes a small sip. Or that’s what it looks like, but somehow he manages to imbibe half the contents of the glass. “Almost makes up for the food.”
“See, Steve? Exactly what I meant,” Tony’s voice cuts in. “A less secure man would be, I don’t know, indignant. Or something. Which I am not. I’m just… observing.”
“Uh.” Hearing Steve’s voice visibly perks Bucky up. Pepper has to stop herself from smiling wider. It's hard to remember sometimes that the man used to be an infamous assassin. “I hate to agree with Tony, but, um. Pepper, you do seem to be, ah—”
“What he’s trying to say is you’ve been staring at James’s mouth all night,” intercedes Natasha, who is spotting them from a different location than where Tony and Steve are manning the security feeds and communication lines.
Pepper feels the blush starting high on her cheeks. “I was trying to figure out where he’s been putting it!” A beat. “I meant all the food. That may have sounded better in my head.”
“Oh, the jokes I am holding back,” chimes in Clint. “On the plus side, everybody not listening in to this channel is probably convinced that Pepper and James are whispering sweet nothings to each other. Making plans for later tonight, that sort of thing. I’m sure you know what I’m getting at, Stark.”
Bucky glances for a moment at one of the buildings bordering the open-air event—where Clint has stationed himself, no doubt, though Pepper has no idea how Bucky knows—and then gives Pepper a wink and a particularly suggestive smirk, which doesn’t help the blushing situation any.
The crowd shifts and Pepper catches a glimpse of Bruce, looking exceptionally handsome in his own suit. He catches her eye and turns to stare somewhat fixedly at the grand piano, jaw tensed in a way that suggests he is working hard to keep himself from laughing.
“Remember that time when Barnes didn’t let people within handshake distance,” says Tony morosely, “and refused to be in the same room as Pepper because he didn’t trust himself to not turn into Terminator if someone breathed wrong? What happened to those days?”
“I think he got over the second one after she set that alien tank on fire,” Steve says drily.
“And I’m gonna give Cap most of the credit for taking care of the rest,” says Clint.
“Look sharp, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, the target is circling,” reports Natasha. “Don’t engage him, Pepper, wait for him to come to you. He’s curious. From the look of him, he’s heard the rumours about your split from Stark, and he’s ambitious enough to investigate a situation that might give Ten Rings an advantage. But it’ll probably be another hour before he approaches you.”
“You doing okay?” Pepper asks Bucky. They’d made multiple contingency plans in case Bucky needed to pull out at any stage. He only had to be seen with Pepper, so he’s done his part; she’s confident he can leave now with minimal disruption to the plan.
He’s quiet for a moment—she imagines him going through a mental checklist—and then nods. “Fine.”
He glances behind her and steps to the side, body language notifying her that there are people approaching. The man and the woman—another married couple—look familiar enough to be greeted by her professionally-friendly smile. Unfortunately, the teasing exchange with the others has taken her momentarily out of her work mentality, and she can’t for the life of her remember who these people are.
She feels Bucky's breath against her ear. “Senator Tom Lawson, Nevada, Republican. His wife Francis. Officially, interested in clean energy; unofficially, has ties to the military.”
After the Senator and his wife have been greeted and introduced to James and reassured that their relationship with Stark Industries is unchanged, yes wasn't that whole HYDRA business just terrible, and sent on their merry way, Pepper gives Bucky a real smile. “You said you liked the wine?”
He blinks at her. “Yeah, it’s great.”
“Steve,” she flashes a smile at the nearest security camera, “I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve changed my mind—I think I’ll keep this one.”
In their ears, both Steve and Tony yelp, “Hey!”
Bucky steps out of the elevator with a wave goodnight to Bruce. The floor he shares with Steve is mostly dark, the main lights turned off, but his ears pick up Steve's familiar tread coming out of the bathroom. The elevator doors close silently behind him. He pulls at his bow-tie. "Hey, Steve. Pepper said to thank you for not killing To-mmmph."
Anybody else, and he'd be pushing them away on reflex, if not worse, no matter how much his brain insists he's safe. Bucky's relationship with his own body remains fairly complicated. But when it's Steve, he doesn't even resist. Does the very opposite: his hands grasp and grope at firm muscles, reeling that powerful frame as close as it can come, skin spreading out over skin like he's trying to soak Steve up through touch alone.
It's like his body, at some point, decided to stop counting Steve as a separate organism; Steve's bulk is pressing him against the cold, hard wall, and he's not even tense.
Well, one specific part of him is, and he helpfully lets Steve know by arching forward, rolling his hips a little. Steve's thigh slides in to say hello. Bucky belatedly realizes that Steve is shirtless, wearing only loose sweatpants. Then Steve's tongue is reacquainting itself with Bucky's mouth; Bucky gives it a friendly little suck. Steve shivers, making a happy sort of noise, and Bucky can only sigh in agreement, twitching his lower jaw a little to graze his teeth against Steve's plush lower lip.
"What brought this on?" he huffs, when they reluctantly part for air.
The faint light from the direction of the bedroom— one of the bedside lamps, Bucky guesses—is just enough to reveal the bright blue of Steve's eyes. "Watching you at the event. All those women and men eyeing you up. Felt like we were back in the dance halls, like all the times I watched you dance with girl after girl."
Steve is unbuttoning Bucky's shirt as he speaks; Bucky hadn't even noticed him opening the waistcoat. "Would have danced with you if I could, Steve. I'd dance with you now."
That gets him a smile, which does something funny to the stuff under his ribs; to distract himself, Bucky slides his hand down Steve's chest, savoring the differences in the sensations: softness and heat from the organic hand, firmness and give from the metal.
"Hey there," whispers Bucky, his flesh fingers sneaking past the flimsy excuse of a barrier that are Steve's sweatpants. Steve is huge and hot and so, so hard already. "You been up long?"
Steve shivers at the first, firm stroke. "Been hard since I first saw you in that suit."
Bucky grins, delighted. "You like seein' me all dressed up?"
And damn, all of Bucky's best lines have nothing on Steve Rogers wearing honesty plain on his face. Bucky has to look away, pulse hammering. He might be the one with his hand on Steve's cock, but there's never been any doubt that every soft, vulnerable part of Bucky—such as he has left—are firmly in Steve's keeping.
Steve pushes off his clothes, pouncing on the chance to get his own hands all over Bucky. One or both of them pull the other close again, tangling them tight. Steve's mouth trails down the side of Bucky's neck, licking and nipping the sensitive skin at the juncture with the shoulder. The glut of skin-contact makes everything go hazy for a while; the next thing Bucky knows, Steve is pushing his trousers and briefs down and tipping him gently onto the bed.
A peek past Steve— who is similarly naked— shows a trail of clothing and shoes leading into the bedroom. Bucky remembers being somebody who was careful of clothes, especially nice ones, but it's not like they even do their own laundry, these days, and a night on the floor won't damage these ones unduly.
He looks back at Steve, who has one knee on the bed and is staring down at Bucky like he wants to eat Bucky alive. Again, having somebody looming over him should be sending Bucky's body into defensive mode, but instead he stretches out, putting himself on display for the hunger in Steve's gaze. The cool sheets against his back are a delicious contrast to the heat building under his skin.
"Beautiful," murmurs Steve, quiet like he's not entirely conscious of speaking. His eyes meet Bucky's. His throat clicks as he swallows. "Want you inside me, Buck. Want to remember you're mine. Is— is that okay?"
"Oh my God," moans Bucky, because only Steve. "Yes. Very, very yes. Let. Let me get—" Bucky gropes blindly for the bedside table where they keep the supplies. But Steve just makes a dismissive sound. Grasps Bucky by the hips and pins him in place. Climbs over him, and in one decisive move, impales himself on Bucky's cock.
"FUCK!" shouts Bucky, loud enough that his voice echoes faintly off the walls. He stares at Steve. His brain has short-circuited. Heart, flat lined.
Steve gives him the fake innocent smile he uses when he's playing the harmless naive nonagenarian.
A couple of brain cells rally back to life, and Bucky realizes that Steve feels slick around him, and amazingly, deliciously tight, but not injuriously so.
"Had a bit of time on my hands waiting for you," says Steve, by way of explanation.
Steve had been in the bathroom when he'd come in. Steve had been in the bathroom working himself open, getting himself ready for Bucky. Bucky groans at the mental image, and also because Steve has started to roll his hips, experimental and shallow, letting only a few inches of Bucky slip in and out. "Steve. That is. So hot. The hottest thing."
Bucky's hips jerk up, not entirely of his volition, sinking himself deeper into that sweet, tight heat. Steve groans and gives up the teasing, works himself up and down Bucky's cock hard enough to set the bed squeaking.
"Next time," Bucky gasps, struggling to remember how words work, "You—you gotta—show me. Do it—while I watch."
"It felt real good, Buck," says Steve, eyelids drifting half-close, his voice lowering to the timbre it gets when he's relaxed and turned on. He flashes Bucky a grin. "But you feel even better." A shudder runs through him. "Love having you inside me."
"Oh God," Bucky moans. Steve beams at him, bright as a million dollars, and lets out a heartfelt sigh the next time he slides back down on Bucky's cock. Like Bucky filling him up is the best thing he's ever felt.
"So good, Steve. Nothing else compares, can do this forever," Bucky babbles. He wants to throw an arm over his face, hide his eyes, but Steve's got hold of one hand and the other, metallic and gleaming, is gripping a sweaty, muscular thigh, and there's a part of Bucky that will always resist letting go of Steve, no matter the reason.
"Not so smooth now," teases Steve, leaning forward a little. The change in angle must hit something good, because Steve lets out a low moan, thigh muscles clenching.
"Still doing better than you." Bucky licks his lips. "Damn, Steve, do you even know what you look like? Fuck." He drags his hand from Steve's thigh up over the defined ridges of Steve's abs, those smooth firm pecs.
Steve shivers from the light touch. Leans forward to claim a kiss. Bucky turns it open-mouthed and dirty, moaning happily around every clever flick of Steve's tongue.
When Steve finally releases him, Bucky gasps at the ceiling for a moment before fervently declaring, "God bless America."
"Bucky," chides Steve, somewhere between a laugh and a groan. Bucky doesn't tell him that he only said it because embarrassment makes Steve squirm, which when he does while riding Bucky's dick naturally catapults Bucky's feelings of patriotism to new heights.
Steve's thighs tense around him, and Steve's next moan tells Bucky that he's getting close. Bucky makes an eager sound and grabs Steve by the hips with both hands. He says, "Hang on," and Steve leans forward, supporting himself with his arms by bracing his elbows on either side of Bucky's head.
Bucky plants his feet firmly on the bed, legs bent, and holds Steve's hips in place as he pounds into Steve with abandon. Steve lets out a soft, high, "oh, oh," each time Bucky's cock hits the right spot; Bucky adjusts until he nails it each time and he has to cover Steve's mouth with his own, kiss him breathless, because Bucky needs to last and few things turn him on more than the sound of Steve's voice lost in pleasure.
He wraps metal fingers around Steve's neglected cock, strips him hard and fast- just a touch harder and faster than the average organic arm would be capable of. Steve shudders, cock twitching, because naturally Steve gets off on being handled by something so provably dangerous.
He feels the moment Steve's body tenses, arching at the precipice, and then Steve is chanting "yes, oh yes, Bucky", biting at Bucky's mouth, his body curling in on itself. His cock paints Bucky's stomach and chest wet; Bucky barely feels it, caught up in the sensation of Steve's muscles clenching around his dick, Steve's body gripping him impossibly tighter.
A few more thrusts and it's Bucky's turn, hot bright pleasure searing through his nerves. Even his metal arm is tingling, the plates shifting, as if it can sense that it's missing out on one big party. Words fall out of Bucky's mouth without much sense or order, except for Steve's name, which he does his solemn best to wear out.
"That's it, Bucky," whispers Steve hoarsely, laying kisses down the side of Bucky's face. Bucky can't quite feel parts of his body, but he thinks those are Steve's hands stroking his arms. "I'm so full of you, Buck, I can feel you filling me up inside."
Bucky's hips assay a feeble twitch. He can feel liquid trickling down his spent cock, he can feel his come spilling out of Steve, and he groans and forgets how to breathe and ends up having to take deep, calming lungfuls.
"Nnnngh," he eventually manages. He swipes at Steve's arms, unbalancing them, and pulls Steve down on top of him. Steve makes a noise at feeling the ejaculate that had been cooling all over Bucky's stomach and chest. "Shut up, Rogers, that mess is yours."
Steve mutters about a shower but subsides for the moment. The kiss he gives Bucky is slow, achingly sweet, the kind that seems content to go on forever. The gala feels like a different lifetime, now, the stress and anxiety Bucky had carried from it melted like so much syrup under the heat of Steve's attentions. Steve shifts just enough to let Bucky breathe easily, pulling the blanket over them both.
Sleep steals over him even before their lips are done wishing each other goodnight.
The next morning, there is a pile of tabloids waiting for them on the kitchen counter. Most of the front-page headlines are variations of: WHO IS PEPPER POTTS'S HOT NEW BOY-TOY?
There's the predictable misogynistic 'speculation' and some outright name-calling, but Bucky is pleased to find that a quarter of the publications have included a section in support of Pepper, with quotes from other female CEOs and celebrities describing the pressures of a high-profile life and the difference made by having a supportive partner. Two explicitly congratulate Pepper on her "good taste".
He can practically hear Steve's teeth grinding. He'd never really thought of Steve as the possessive type, because Steve is generous to a fault; he's starting to realize that maybe it's just because Steve only feels possessive over a small number of things. Or people, in this case.
Barnes is very much fine with being one of them.
"I think I remember this name from last night," says Bucky, holding up the tabloid. "She describes me as 'very charming with exceptional manners', and says that Ms. Potts looked distinctly relaxed, so I must be good for her." The only thing better than the look on Steve's face, Bucky reflects, is the thought of Stark reading the same articles somewhere upstairs. "What do you think, Steve? Think I can make a career of it, being a pretty face for the rich and famous to parade around?"
He barely sees Steve move before Steve is on him and they're kissing like their lives depend on it. Bucky is breathing hard by the time he's let go; dazedly, he says, "Maybe I should go see if Ms. Potts has any needs for me to attend to."
Steve lets out an actual growl, fingers digging into Bucky's sides. Bucky laughs, "But Steve, the public has spoken!" and drops the tabloids in favour of kissing Steve some more.
~ end ~