“Oh for fu– Ice cream!”
“Okay, donuts though. You can't tell me you couldn't go for a donut right now.”
Bucky snorted. “I solemnly swear that I don't want a donut.”
Sam groaned, shaking his head and panting hard as he kept pace with Bucky. “God, you and Cap, I swear. Body like that and you don't even take advantage of it.”
“What's wrong with eating healthy?” Bucky asked, stubbornly facing forward even as they passed a group of students having a barbecue which – well, frankly smelled delicious. “Just 'cause I can't get fat don't mean I should – I mean, it's about more than – it's. Vitamins, yeah, heard those are important, so...”
“Wa–pshh,” Sam quipped, accompanied by a whipping motion. Bucky bristled.
“Oh shut up. Look – it's a good thing! I mean, it's a good thought. You know. For society.”
Sam rolled his eyes. “Jesus Christ, man. Just because your boyfriend suddenly decides to go vegan doesn't mean you gotta do it too.”
“But I want to.”
Sam gave him a look and Bucky chuckled, shaking his head.
“Fine, yes, I only agreed to this because Steve's gonna try it and fail,” he said with a conspiratorial grin. “I give him three weeks before he breaks and asks me to make him my mom's famous roast chicken.”
Sam sighed exasperatedly. “You're a fucking disaster.” A hotdog stand to the left caught his eye and he hummed, leading them in that direction. “Whatever, I'm craving meat so we're getting hotdogs. You can have a salad if you want it so much.” Bucky grimaced and Sam punched him in the shoulder with a grin. “You know, what Steve doesn't know won't kill him. I won't snitch.”
Bucky gave him a weirdly harsh look. “I promised Steve.”
Sam shrugged, pulling his wallet out of his back pocket. “Fine, whatever. But if you don't –“
The hotdog stand exploded. Sam yelped as the blast rocked him off his feet, landing hard on his back a couple feet away. He looked up just in time to see Bucky smack head first into a lamppost next to him and crumple to the floor, unmoving.
“Fuck!” he shouted, rolling out of the way when gunfire suddenly started raining down on them, taking cover behind the nearest dumpster. He activated the comm in his ear. “Falcon to dispatch. We got an explosion in Central Park, multiple armed forces, Winter is down, I repeat, Winter is down.”
“On my way,” Tony said and Sam could already hear repulsors whirring on his end. “How many are there?”
“Unable to confirm. Lots of bullets though.” He leaned over just far enough to get a look at where Bucky had landed and felt his blood run cold when he saw two people standing over him. Bucky still wasn't moving. “Fuck!”
“Quinjet ETA three minutes,” Steve suddenly said. “Falcon, sitrep.”
“I got eyes on Winter. There's – fuck, they're taking him!” Sam jumped to his feet, dodging another round of bullets as he sprinted over to Bucky, punching out the first guy who turned to him and taking his glock. He spun-kicked the next in the face but his leg got caught mid-air and twisted until he lost his balance, landing hard on his shoulder.
“Don't engage, I repeat, do not engage!” Steve shouted and Sam grunted “Little late for that, Cap.” as he punched the guy in the back of the knee, forcing him to the ground with him so he could wrestle the gun out of his hands. A bullet zinged just past his ear and he dropped low to the ground, turning to where it had come from. His heart sank when he saw five armed men running towards him with their guns cocked. “Shit.”
“Falcon, do you have eyes on Winter? What's his status?”
“Still down. Five more armed men coming in. I'll have to move him.”
Sam grunted as he lifted Bucky over his shoulder in a fireman's carry. Behind him he could hear guns going off before they were interrupted by the sound of repulsor fire. He grinned.
“Iron Man here, swooping in to save the day,” Tony drawled. “Now where's the Winter Smoulde–“
Sam was knocked flat by another explosion, sprawling on the ground with Bucky landing heavily on his back. “Ooff. Fucking hell, what have you been feeding that asshole?”
“Falcon, what's your status?”
“Not great,” Sam snapped, struggling to his feet and barely ducking in time to avoid – something. A projectile. “Shit. Stark, little help here?”
There was no answer and Sam turned to see Iron Man looping around some kind of – was that a robot? A robot tank? What the fuck?
Another projectile zipped right by his leg and Sam grabbed Bucky's limp arm, dragging him back to his feet. “Come on, grandpa, we have to –“
The prick in his neck caught him off guard and he barely had time to bring up a hand and feel feathers sticking out of his skin before he keeled over, all of his muscles going limp. He fell with his head facing Bucky and twitched when he realized that Bucky was looking back at him with thinly-veiled terror in his eyes. There was a set of black feathers sticking out through Bucky's shirt near his shoulder.
Paralytic, Sam's mind supplied and before he could even panic black boots stepped into his vision as someone dragged Bucky out of sight.
No! he wanted to scream but only managed a weak grunt, his tongue already fat and useless in his mouth.
“Do we take them both?” someone asked and Sam tried desperately to push himself up but couldn't move his fingers. He felt like he was sinking into the ground, getting heavier and heavier –
Another voice scoffed. “We have no use for this one. Kill him.”
Oh shit, oh shit shit shit shit –
He felt what could only be a gun pressed against his temple and oh god this was it, this was how he would die –
Metal clanged and the voice grunted in surprise before Sam heard the dull sound of a punch and the guy fell right in front of Sam, a surprised look on his unconscious face. Then hands were turning him onto his back and he was met with the concerned eyes of Steve.
“He's conscious!” Steve yelled, patting Sam down for injuries. “Hey, Sam, can you hear me? Nod if you can.”
Sam would've loved to but he settled for moving his eyes ever so slightly up and down, panic still simmering in his gut.
“Oh, you can't – okay.” Steve hoisted him up into his arms and sprinted off to where Sam assumed the quinjet was. “Bruce, I need medical for Falcon, stat.”
“Bring him in, I'll set it up.”
He felt the jostling of his body as he got passed into a different set of arms, his mind whirling to try and keep up with his surroundings. It was getting hard to focus on anything and he thought he saw Natasha kicking ass somewhere on the way but his vision was swimming too much to really be sure.
“...losing... –alzyed...” he heard someone say from very far away before exhaustion finally pulled him under and his world went black.
Bucky was gone. They'd let Hydra get away with him.
Tony was absolutely furious that it had taken SHIELD thirty-six fucking minutes to show up on premises only to not have the 'resources' to send out an immediate response team. Now they'd lost the trail on Bucky and Sam was in the hospital, hooked up to a respirator because his lungs had given out.
Natasha had called him earlier to inform him that the doctors weren't sure when Sam was going to wake up which was just the fucking icing on this shit cake. Tony was going to find those doctors and rip them a new one.
He'd planned to just stride into the room and demand answers but was halted in his tracks by the sight of Steve, sitting on the visitors' bench with his shoulders hunched and hands folded tightly. Tony sighed, leaning against the doorway.
“How long have you been here?”
Steve looked up and his eyes were clouded over with a numbness Tony was all too familiar with. “Hey, Tony,” he said and his voice sounded terrible.
Tony hummed. “You never left, did you?”
“Natasha's doing everything she can,” Steve said flatly, looking back at the hospital bed. “Someone should be here when he wakes up.”
Tony nodded, walking over to the chair on the other side of Sam's bed to sit down. “And as soon as she gets a lead you'll just rush over?”
Steve glared at him. “Of course I –“ His eyes narrowed. “Did Fury tell you to bench me?”
“No, of course not,” Tony scoffed. “Fury's not stupid enough to think he could stop you from going after Barnes.”
“Then why are you here?” Steve snapped, sighing when Tony twitched almost imperceptibly. He rubbed a hand over his face. “I'm sorry, it's just – he should've woken up by now.”
Yeah, well. “The doctors said he'll be up in no time.”
“You don't know that!” Steve yelled and Tony raised his hands placatingly.
“Okay calm down, I didn't come here to fight.”
“Then maybe you shouldn't have come!”
Tony gritted his teeth to keep from rising to the bait, taking a deep breath instead. “Look, I just think that if you want to chase after Barnes you should be in top condition. Get some sleep first.”
“I don't want to hear that from you, Stark.”
“Okay, you know what? Fuck you, Steve,” Tony snapped, getting to his feet. “You're not the only one who almost lost a teammate today. Maybe get off your high horse for a second here.”
Steve's muscles bunched up for a moment before he seemed to deflate, shoulders sinking and mouth curled into a miserable grimace. “You're right. I'm sorry.”
Well, now Tony just felt like an ass. “No, I'm sorry,” he sighed, running a hand through his hair. “Fuck. I need a drink.”
“You and me both,” Steve said with a wry smile.
“Just... just get some sleep, okay?” Tony said tiredly, sitting back in the chair. “I told JARVIS to have something delivered to your room. Hope you're up for pizza.”
Steve took a deep breath before pushing to his feet. “You'll call me if he wakes up?”
“Of course,” Tony said and Steve gave him a weary smile that made his heart squeeze. At times like this Tony really wished he could –
"Okay." Steve walked towards the door with a small nod in Tony's direction. “Thanks, Tony.”
The door was almost closed when Tony muttered under his breath. “Anytime, Cap.”
They found him three days later.
It was still three days too long but Steve couldn't think about that right now. There were so many things Hydra could've done to Bucky in that time. If Steve started dredging up scenarios he'd go insane.
And Bucky had been doing so well recently, following all his exercises and seeing a therapist and –
Steve took a deep breath. This wasn't the time or the place.
“ETA two minutes,” Natasha said from the pilot's seat, flicking some switches on the ceiling to put them in stealth mode. “We'll drop you off two miles from the complex, Cap.”
“Roger that,” Steve said grimly, reaching for a parachute when an armored gauntlet grabbed his hand.
“I'll give you a ride,” Tony said and Steve nodded gratefully, adjusting the straps of his suit one last time.
“Well, I'm still gonna need one of these,” Clint said, reaching around them to grab a parachute and put it on. “Man, I wish Sam was here. I want my own private ride.”
“Don't we all,” Steve said, a little bitter at the memory of Sam in that hospital bed, snarking at Steve to cover up the fear in his eyes. He'd regained most of his mobility since then but standing up was still a struggle. The doctors said he'd make a quick recovery.
“Drop coming up,” Natasha said and Steve stepped close enough to wrap an arm around Tony's armored shoulders, one foot on each boot.
Tony opened the hatch before he slung an arm around Steve's waist in return, his faceplate snapping down. “Hold on tight, Capsicle.”
With that he let himself fall out of the jet, firing up the thrusters to get them to ground level faster.
“Let's see if these bad boys work,” Tony said and Steve could see a thin film of what looked like translucent fog wafting out from one of Tony's suit compartments, enveloping them both. Above them Clint suddenly disappeared in mid-air and Steve felt a stab of fear before he realized what was going on.
“Stealth tech?” he asked and Tony laughed triumphantly.
“Fuck yeah. I'm a genius!”
“No one said you weren't,” Clint shouted from above them. “Are we good on detection?”
“No alarm has been set off,” JARVIS reported to all of them and Clint whooped.
“Look at that, you are a genius, Stark.”
“Okay, can we please focus?” Steve asked a little snappishly, the joking tone grinding on his nerves. Bucky was somewhere in that facility down there, probably getting tortured or worse, and every minute could mean life or death –
“Sorry, Cap,” Tony said, sobering quickly. “Coming up on entry point. Nat, you got us covered?”
“Landing the jet now. Go get him, boys.”
Tony cut the engines a couple feet above ground to make as little noise as possible upon landing but of course the suit wasn't exactly built for stealth. They both stayed still for a couple beats to see if someone had noticed the clanging sound but when no alarm went off after more than a minute they moved forward.
Steve quickly found a garbage chute that would lead them inside, pointing it out to Tony who melted the lock with one of his armored fingers. A moment later they were in, dropping into a long corridor as Tony flicked a stray banana peel off his armored shoulder.
“Classic. Undignified but classic.”
Steve ignored him, making a hand signal before counting to three and turning the corner with Tony right behind him. There were three doors, all of them closed, but the corridor was still empty. Steve snuck down the hall, hyper-focused on any and all sounds from behind the walls, but there was nothing. Either they had very good sound isolation or there really was –
“Shit!” Tony spat when red lights came on above them and a siren rang through the empty halls. “Someone spotted us!”
Steve immediately took off running, kicking in the first door to his right. It was an empty lab, nothing of import but a few computers. The next one revealed an office which was just as deserted. He didn't even get to the third door because it slammed open on its own, a bunch of Hydra agents swarming into the corridor with their machine guns cocked. Just great.
“Cap, status report!”
“We got enemy fire on the second floor,” Steve said, bringing up the shield just in time before bullets started pinging off of it. Tony was already returning fire, blasting agents left and right even as more and more stormed into the hallway. Steve suspected that the last door led to a staircase to the lower levels. “Hawkeye, where are you?”
“Basement,” came Clint's clipped reply. “I'm in the vents. They initiated a lockdown on the bottom floor so I'm trying to get down there and see what's up.”
“Keep us in the loop,” Steve said, finally getting the leverage to push forward, drop kicking an agent to the ground before throwing his shield at the next one so it bounced off two others and returned to his hand.
Tony was already by the door, leaving clean-up to Steve as he cleared a path downstairs. Steve quickly disposed of the remaining agents on the second floor and by the time he caught up to Tony the man was wrist-deep in an electric lock's circuitry.
“Go!” he shouted at Steve, flicking his head to the left. “I'll open the doors for you.” The red light flashed to green. “First one down. Go!”
Steve nodded, taking a hard left and shouldering the door open. To his surprise the corridor behind it was empty, no agents anywhere, but Steve wasn't deterred, just kept going straight ahead until he reached the locked down vault.
“Almost got it,” Tony said over the comms and Steve counted the seconds, standing with his back to the vault and his shield raised in case someone tried to sneak up on him. He barely got to thirty-eight before Tony huffed triumphantly. “Open sesame!”
Steve wasted no time to push through, stepping into the basement. It was dark and at least ten degrees colder than the rest of the facility. Steve didn't like using the word but it felt ominous somehow.
“Thanks, Tony,” Clint said and Steve noticed a blinking light above one of the doors. It had a red cross on it. “There's some sort of – fuck! Fucking shit!”
Steve could hear gunfire through Clint's comm as well as several feet below him so he rushed towards the door, unsurprised to find it locked. “Tony!”
“On it,” Tony gritted out. “Fucking hell, this is such outdated tech, why do they even still make this shi–“
“Hawkeye, sitrep!” Steve barked, swinging his shield back to bring it down hard on the door's lock. It didn't budge.
“About a dozen down here,” Clint panted. An explosion rocked the walls below. “Half of that now. And I think – oh, hey, there's Barnes!”
Steve's heart rate skyrocketed. Bucky was here, he was alive, oh thank god –
“Where is he?” Steve snapped breathlessly, redoubling his efforts on the door. “Dammit, Clint, tell me –“
“He's – hey! Dude, what the fuck, I'm – oh.”
“What's going on?” Steve asked a little hysterically, smashing away at the sizable dent in the door. “Clint!”
“Got it!” Tony suddenly said and the blinking light flashed green. Steve immediately crashed through the door and down the stairs it revealed. He all but burst into the lowest level and – oh.
“Bucky!” Steve shouted, relief heady in his veins as he rushed forward across the fallen Hydra agents where –
Bucky whipped around, a terrifying snarl on his lips as he growled menacingly, backing Clint into a corner to box him in against the wall. Steve stopped in his tracks when Clint made a wheezing sound.
Bucky's eyes focused on him and something in them softened as he stepped forward and away from where he'd been pressed up against Clint – protectively, Steve now realized – to stumble into Steve's arms and hug him tightly.
“Hey,” Steve said softly and Bucky let out a wordless whine, burying his face in Steve's shoulder. Steve met Clint's eyes over Bucky's head but Clint looked just as confused as Steve felt, shaking his head with a shrug.
A sudden noise to their left made Bucky spin on his heels, growling at the renewed threat and pouncing on the Hydra agent before he'd even made it into the hallway. Steve could only watch in shock as Bucky leaned down and – Wow.
Steve stared at the piece of the man's throat Bucky spit out at his feet with a snarl, dropping the still bleeding corpse to the ground before disappearing through the open door. Clint recovered first, sprinting after him, but Steve needed a second longer to process what just happened before he could follow them, surprised when the room was much bigger than any of the others, several glass tubes lining the walls and in the middle of it –
Bucky was bent over a terrified looking scientist on a medical table who held some sort of vial in his hand, apparently in the process of packing his things to get away. Steve quickly stepped between them so Bucky wouldn't ruin their chance of getting information, pulling the scientist up by his lab coat.
He'd just opened his mouth to start an interrogation when the scientist looked past him, pointing at Steve and shouting.
Steve whipped around, raising his shield against the oncoming threat, but all he saw was Bucky, still growling under his breath even as Clint held him back.
“They're the enemy!” the scientist screamed shrilly, his eyes wide in terror. “Kill them! Why aren't you killing them?”
Steve felt a rush of fear like ice down his spine, looking at Bucky – oh god, please, don't let it be the asset, not again, he was doing so well –
But Bucky's eyes didn't change and while he looked – well, feral was probably a good word for it – his eyes never glazed over with that Winter Soldier haze. Steve allowed himself a sigh of relief before he rounded on the scientist and slammed him into the medical table.
“What did you do to him?” he asked icily and the scientist gulped before his eyes hardened and he tilted up his chin.
“He is a killing machine. I did nothing but enhance that which he has always been.”
Steve saw red but before he could smash the man's face in someone caught his fist and he turned to see Tony standing behind him, holding him back.
“I'll take care of this. Go get your boyfriend.”
Steve wanted to protest for a second – he wanted to fucking hurt this man – but maybe that was exactly why Tony was right to step in. He nodded briskly, letting go of the scientist to march over to where Clint was barely keeping Bucky calm, talking to him in a low tone. Bucky's head snapped up when Steve came close, his nostrils flaring, and Clint couldn't stop him from jumping on Steve, all but climbing into his arms.
“Hey, it's okay,” Steve said quietly, stroking Bucky's hair with growing dread in his stomach. Bucky clearly had been injected with something because this wasn't normal. “Are you okay? Can you talk to me, sweetheart?”
Bucky didn't respond, snuffling against Steve's cheek instead and – and licking him which – yeah. Definitely not normal.
“Okay, that's – okay. Let's get you home,” Steve said, wiping a hand over Bucky's mouth to clear away the blood that was still smeared on his face from when he'd ripped that agent's throat out with his teeth, Jesus Christ. “Don't worry, Buck. We'll figure this out.”
Steve felt a strong sense of déjà-vu, sitting by Bucky's hospital bed on the helicarrier with his head in his hands. Bucky had passed out almost immediately after they'd brought him onto the ship and he hadn't woken since. It had only been two hours but already Steve felt ready to rip his own hair out.
“He was supposed to fight us.”
Steve looked up at where Natasha was standing in the doorway with a frown.
“Fight us?” he asked wearily and Natasha stepped into the room, picking up Bucky's medical file and flipping through it.
“The drugs they gave him were inhibitors to shut down his higher brain functions and reduce him to animal instincts. Tony thinks they used these to try and revert him back into their weapon when the trigger words didn't have the desired effect.”
Steve nodded grimly, the urge to find those bastards and kill every single one of them almost overpowering. Bucky was so much more than a weapon and it had taken them long enough to get him to realize that. If Hydra had fucked him up again Steve was going to murder them.
“He didn't though,” Natasha continued thoughtfully. “I watched the security tapes. As soon as he saw Clint he started attacking the Hydra agents around them. And he recognized you.”
“So he protected us instead of killing us,” Steve said with a mixture of despair and hope in his chest. “Do you think –“ He couldn't even finish the sentence before Bruce stepped into the room with a clipboard under his arm.
“He'll be fine,” Bruce announced and Steve's shoulders immediately slumped in relief. “It's a complicated mix of drugs, stimulants and inhibitors at once which – hell, we'll need a lot more testing to figure out how that even worked. His body might take a while to break it down.” He gave Steve a serious look. “Without the serum I doubt that he would've survived the dosage.”
“Will it hurt him?” Steve asked, trying not to let the fear seep in again, but thankfully Bruce shook his head.
“That's very unlikely. I think he'll just start to slowly regain agency over his brain functions, like coming off morphine.”
Steve nodded gratefully, a huge weight sliding off his shoulders.
“However, the process could take more than a few days. Or weeks for all we know, like I said, we're still testing.”
Steve simply nodded again even though it left a sour taste in his mouth. “So we'll just do our best to keep him calm until that happens?”
“Seems like our best bet,” Bruce said with an apologetic shrug. “Sorry we can't do more, Cap.”
“No, no, you've done plenty,” Steve said immediately, clapping Bruce on the shoulder. “Thanks, Bruce.”
Bruce gave him a tired smile that Steve returned with one of his own.
“As touching as this is,” Natasha said, looking out one of the helicarrier's windows. “I think we're ready for transport.”
As if on command a gaggle of SHIELD nurses came into the room, ready to push Bucky's bed onto a jet so they could transfer him to the tower, but as soon as one of them touched it Bucky sat up straight, his eyes startlingly alert.
“Bucky!” Steve called out and Bucky's head snapped around, his eyes losing their murderous edge as they fell on Steve. “You're fine. They're here to help you, okay? Just keep calm.”
He couldn't tell if what he said got through to Bucky but before he knew it Bucky had gotten up off the bed and stepped into Steve's arms, wrapping himself around him. Bucky normally wasn't one for public displays of affection, especially in front of strangers, so Steve needed a second to even return the hug, patting Bucky on the back.
“It's okay, Buck. You think you can get out of here on your own?”
He could see Natasha quietly ushering the nurses out the door, Bruce following close behind with one last nod at Steve before he closed the door. Steve's shoulders immediately lost some of their tension, relaxing into the hug now that they were alone, and Bucky made a satisfied noise, shuffling even closer.
“You're sweeter like this,” Steve said and wanted to punch himself for it right away. It wasn't really fair to enjoy Bucky's affection when he was obviously not fully in control of his actions. Bucky had told him once, after a particularly gruesome night, that he didn't feel comfortable showing off the way he felt for Steve around others, especially after his memories of life in the forties came back to him. Steve wanted to respect that.
So he pulled away and thankfully Bucky allowed it although he held on to Steve's hand with a firm grip. Steve sighed and gave Bucky a tired smile as he led them out of the room.
“Come on. Let's get you home.”
“Common floor, JARVIS,” Tony mumbled as he stepped onto the elevator, two bags of pastries and an assortment of coffees under his arms. Seriously, this was the last time he let Fury drag him into a meeting room this early, he hadn't seen the right side of six am in years. Thankfully it had just been routine blah blah, build us this, Stark, build us that. Which was annoying but didn't take long so that was a plus. “Who's awake?”
“Agents Romanoff and Barton are currently having breakfast in the kitchen. Doctor Banner is in his laboratory and Captain Rogers is watching TV with Sergeant Barnes.”
“Perfect,” Tony said tiredly right as the elevator dinged open and he gladly stumbled into the living room, waving the two bags in the air. “I brought food! Trade for the couch!”
“Good morning, Tony,” Steve said, ever cheerful at ungodly hours, and Tony did a double take when he realized that Bucky was actually leaning on his shoulder. Steve must've noticed the look because he shifted uncomfortably, making Tony tear his eyes away with an internal curse. Dammit, he'd vowed not to make things weird when he said they could live in his tower, he could damn well keep up his end of the bargain. Even if this was an unusual sight.
Not that anyone living in the tower had any doubt that Steve and Bucky were a thing. The aversion to PDA was probably just a habit from the forties that they couldn't shake and a part of Tony thought it was kind of sad while another part of him was guiltily glad that he didn't have to see them being all lovely dovey together. Not staring at them was hard enough as it was. Tony didn't think he could handle them kissing in front of him without embarrassing himself.
“Damn, is that hazelnut I smell?” Clint shouted from inside the kitchen, already making grabby hands at the coffee. “Gimme my fix!”
Tony rolled his eyes, walking over to the kitchen island with a sigh. “Not even a thank you? Were you raised in a barn?” he sniffed but obligingly passed the coffee along. Tony would never be so cruel as to deprive anyone of caffein. He was an asshole, not a monster. “I brought bagels too. You want some?”
“Cream cheese?” Natasha asked and Tony handed her the bag which she opened with a pleased hum. “Thanks, Tony. How was the meeting?”
Tony waved her off. “Well, I only made two pirate jokes so Fury would probably count it as a success. I think I could've done better.”
“Set a goal for next time,” she said with a shrug and he toasted her with his own coffee.
“So did you guys get home okay last night?” Tony asked off-handedly. He already knew they had, he'd read the mission report first thing this morning, but it still felt polite to ask.
“Sure did,” Clint said, nodding at the super soldiers on the couch. “Bucky slept like a baby apparently. Not that I was there, I was actually on scene.” He raised an eyebrow at Tony. “You know, doing clean up? Like I was supposed to?”
Tony shrugged unapologetically. “Whatever, man. My genius was needed elsewhere.” He lowered his voice, leaning closer so the two soldiers next door couldn't hear him. “Seriously though, is Cap okay? He seemed pretty shaken up last night.”
Clint gave him a judgmental look, biting into his bagel. “Why don't you ask him yourself?”
Tony wrinkled his nose, not only at the disgusting sight of half-chewed food in Clint's mouth, but also because that was exactly what he didn't want to do. In fact Tony made it a point not to barge in on Steve and Bucky's alone time whenever he could. It was just easier that way.
“You can't just give me a sitrep?”
They both stared blankly at him.
“Fine,” he sighed when no answer seemed to be forthcoming, grabbing the second bag and walking over to the couch where Steve and Bucky were watching Phineas and Ferb for some reason.
Tony sighed. Here we go. “Mornin', Cap, Pop Freeze. How are you guys doing?”
Steve's face darkened for a moment before he smiled carefully. “As well as can be expected, I guess.”
“You make it through the night okay?” Tony asked, plopping down on the armchair next to the couch as he rummaged through his goodie bag, pulling out one of the tiny cakes that Bucky liked for some reason even though they consisted of nothing but sugar. “I wanted to check in last night but –“
“No, no, it's fine, you didn't miss much,” Steve said so Tony hummed and held out the cake in the general direction of Bucky, still rifling through the bag with his other hand to find an apple strudel for Steve.
“Well then. Good job not being dead. Here's a treat.”
When several seconds passed and the cake was still in his hand Tony looked up, surprised to find Bucky just staring at him with almost comically wide eyes.
“What is it?” Tony asked but Bucky still didn't react. He turned to Steve in concern. “Is he... responsive?”
“He was earlier,” Steve said with a slight frown, nudging Bucky in the shoulder. “Hey, what's wrong? You don't want it?”
Just as Tony started pulling away Bucky's hand suddenly darted out to grab his arm, keeping him there. His eyes were intense and Tony had to concentrate very hard not to flinch at the scrutiny. “Whoa, okay then. I'm not taking it away, don't worry. You can have it.” For a moment they were locked in some sort of weird staring match until Tony rolled his eyes and wiggled his fingers. “Just take the cake, you fucking weirdo.”
Steve gave him a sharp look but Bucky finally plucked the cake from Tony's fingers, holding it almost delicately as he studied it from all sides before biting into it with an expression of pure bliss. It was beyond strange to see such unguarded emotion on the Winter Soldier's otherwise mostly stoic face.
Tony raised an eyebrow at him. “Um, Steve? Is Bucky okay?”
“He, uh –“ Steve struggled to find the words for a moment before he sighed. “He's not quite... there. I mean, he is, but –“ He shrugged helplessly. “I don't know how much he understands about his situation right now. Bruce said he's reduced to instincts so at least he still recognizes that we're not a threat.”
“Well, that's good,” Tony said absentmindedly as he watched Bucky demolish the cake. He'd read all about the drug they'd injected Bucky with in Bruce's analysis but seeing it right in front of him was a little more disconcerting. Tony cleared his throat, getting up from his seat. “Anyway, I got stuff to –“
He froze, his thumb still pointing over his shoulder towards the elevator, when Bucky suddenly held out his hand to him with an openly hopeful expression on his face. Tony swallowed heavily because that look was –
“You want another?” Tony asked a little hesitantly, holding up the bag and Bucky's face lit up in a beautiful smile that made Tony's breath catch in his throat. Jesus Christ, this couldn't be good for his heart –
Then Bucky made a small wanton noise and it felt like a bucket of ice down his back.
“Here you go,” Tony blurted, just shoving the entire bag at Bucky who reflexively grabbed it, his face scrunching up in a frown. Tony immediately felt guilty but not enough to stay in this awful situation so he turned to go to his lab –
And was stopped by strong hands grabbing his shoulders from behind. Tony yelped as he was turned back around to come face to face with Bucky who was looking at him with an unreadable expression.
“Bucky!” Steve shouted, already on his feet, but to Tony's surprise Bucky didn't try to attack him. Instead he lifted his metal arm, holding up one of the cakes like some sort of peace offering. When Tony didn't react immediately Bucky huffed, pushing the cake even more insistently at him.
“I, uh... Thanks?” Tony said uncertainly. “That's okay, though. I bought them for you.”
Bucky frowned, not backing down in the slightest until Tony sighed and took the cake. Bucky's face immediately brightened and he very insistently ushered Tony back into the armchair, grabbing another two cakes from the bag and handing one to Steve. Then he stared expectantly at Tony until he took a small bite before doing the same to Steve. When they both started chewing Bucky's smile burned with a thousand watt and Tony swore he could hear him humming under his breath as he bit into his own cake.
“What the hell,” Tony murmured, questioning his life choices when sudden laughter by his ear made him jump.
“What's this?” Clint asked gleefully where he was leaning over the back of Tony's chair. “An Avengers tea party? Why weren't we invited?”
Tony rolled his eyes. “Shut up, Clint.”
Clint chuckled, reaching for the goodie bag –
And recoiled when Bucky growled at him, actually growled, like a fucking dog.
“What the fuck?” Clint asked in bewilderment as Tony just blinked.
“Oh my god,” Steve said, sounding horrified. “Bucky, you can't do that!”
Bucky didn't seem to care, just pulled the bag of cakes to his chest and gave Clint a dirty look. Clint held up his hands.
“Okay, fine, I'm not touching them. Calm down.”
Bucky still looked wary but he put the bag down, biting into his cake with an adorable pout on his face.
“Well, that's something,” Natasha said, almost giving Tony a heart attack. He hadn't even heard her come in. “How come you got a cake, Tony?”
Tony shrugged helplessly. After that display just now he was kind of wondering that himself.
“Guess a dog loves the hand that feeds it,” Clint quipped and Tony tried very hard not to feel too guilty at that. Oh god, had he manipulated Bucky somehow, priming him with food or some shit –
“Shut up, Clint!” Steve snapped and he sounded so angry that they all flinched in response. “He's not a dog and he can give his cakes to whoever he damn well wants!”
There was a short silence where Steve flushed at his outburst while the rest of them – Bucky included – stared at him in awe.
Tony cleared his throat. “Well, as fun as this has been I'm gonna go to the workshop.”
“You're coming to movie night later, right?” Natasha asked in a tone that made it clear it wasn't really a question and Tony smiled winningly.
“Of course! Don't wait up for me though, Pepper might –“
“Sir's schedule for this evening finishes at five-thirty pm, Ms. Romanoff.”
Tony gave the ceiling a dirty look – a habit he'd picked up from Steve after the Avengers moved in. “Traitor.”
“So you'll be there, right?” Natasha asked pleasantly and Tony waved a hand at her as he stood up.
“Yeah, yeah. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go and –“
He paused when he was held back by the arm. Tony looked down to find Bucky staring at him with weirdly serious eyes. “Uh... you good, Freezer Pop?”
Bucky didn't let go and when Tony tried to pull away Bucky stood up with him, following along. Tony frowned.
“Dude, I'm going to the workshop, you can't come with me.”
“Bucky,” Steve said, grabbing Bucky's other arm to pull him back. “Come on, let Tony –“
Bucky growled and they all froze. It was probably a funny picture, all of them standing there basically holding hands as Bucky glared at Steve. Tony couldn't really see the humor in it.
“Oookay,” Clint said, slowly backing away. “This is getting weird. I'll see you guys later.” With that he walked off to his own floor, leaving only Natasha who stared at them like they were the evening's entertainment. Tony cleared his throat as he finally pulled his arm out of Bucky's grip, prompting the soldier to give him a betrayed look.
“Sorry, Pop Freeze. I'm just gonna –“ He took a step back, pausing when Bucky actually whined and made puppy dog eyes at him, what the fuck. Tony looked around helplessly, his eyes landing on Steve who – well. The look on Steve's face just made him feel even more guilty.
“Yeah, anyway, catch you later,” he said quickly before turning and forcing himself to walk at a normal pace towards the elevator instead of running the fuck away. This was a disaster.
“Sir? Your heart rate is severely elevated. Do you require assistance?”
“Shut up, JARVIS,” Tony mumbled, not in the mood for sass. “Workshop, now.”
“As you wish, Sir,” JARVIS said and Tony flinched when the elevator started a lot more roughly that usual. Asshole.
Tony leaned against the wall, afraid to close his eyes because the look on Steve's face was burned into his retinas, the disbelieving shock that Tony hoped to god was not directed at him. For a second it had felt like Steve could see right through him, down to that wretched part of Tony that longed for things he couldn't have.
Tony really hoped he hadn't. He would hate to be despised – or worse, pitied – by one of the very same people he so desperately wanted to love him.
It was only Tony's fear of Natasha that made him listen to JARVIS' reminder about movie night, shutting off his monitors and taking the elevator to the common floor. The others were already there so Tony spread his arms, giving them all a jovial grin as he stepped into the living room.
“As a wise woman once said, 'The party don't start til I walk in!'”
“Sit your ass down, Ke$ha,” Clint snarked, already two slices into his pizza. “We're watching Predator.”
“Oooh, who thought that was a good idea?”
“Me,” Sam said and Tony gave him a cursory once over, something that had been wound tight inside him loosening when he saw that Sam looked much better, not so pale anymore and feeding himself with minimal difficulty. “I said 'Get to the chopper' and neither of those fools reacted,” he said derisively as he waved a hand at the two super soldiers cuddled up on the couch. Tony had to avert his eyes, his heart doing nervous cartwheels in his chest at the sight. Fucking hell, he needed to get his shit together.
Tony plopped down on the couch next to Bruce, reaching for his own pizza – spicy pepperoni, fuck yeah – and immediately shoved a slice into his mouth. “Okay, I'll accept. But only because I want to see Schwarzenegger's bulging biceps.”
“Say that three times in a row,” Clint chimed. “Bulging biceps, bulging biceps, bulging bi–“
He was hit directly in the nose by a piece of popcorn and Tony looked up to see Natasha walking in from the kitchen with two giant bowls. “Hey, Tony. Glad you could make it.”
“I never break my promises,” Tony said, grinning when she raised an eyebrow. “Unless I have to. Come on, we're waiting.”
“Unbelievable,” she sighed but Tony could see a small smile on her lips as she plopped down next to him on the couch, passing one of the popcorn bowls along. “Just start the damn movie.”
Tony whistled. “Such strong language from a lady. Steve, cover your ears.”
Steve sighed heavily. “Are you ever gonna let that go?”
“When pigs fly, my dear,” Tony said, throwing him a kiss as he reached for his pizza –
And flinched back when a slice of frutti di mare was shoved into his face.
“What –“ he asked, looking to the side where Bucky was leaning – across the space between their couches and Bruce – to offer him a bite of his pizza. “What the hell, Barnes?”
Clint burst out laughing, actually holding his stomach as he fell sideways on the couch. “Holy shit! You actually bought his trust with food!”
“Shut up, Clint,” Tony snapped, reeling back when Bucky all but smushed the pizza against his face. “Okay, stop, I'll fucking take it. Jesus.”
He reached up to pluck the slice out of Bucky's hand but Bucky wouldn't let go, his eyes narrowing as he kept pushing it against Tony's lips.
“Oh, for fuck's sake,” Tony ground out before opening his mouth and taking a bite, his face probably bright red. “There. You happy?”
“This is getting a little uncomfortable,” Bruce said, looking a bit green around the gills, and it was probably that more than Tony's protest that made Bucky return back to his place by Steve's side, looking ridiculously proud of himself.
Tony only got a glimpse at Steve's face – which was just as flushed as his own felt – before he looked back at the screen, feeling very uncomfortable. Why the hell did Bucky keep giving him food? Did he think he had to keep Tony from starving or something?
Well, to be fair, that had happened more than once before all of this, Bucky coming down to the lab with a plate of food, so maybe Bucky was living out some sort of paternal instincts with Tony. Which was – ew. Friend-zoned was one thing, Tony didn't want to be baby-zoned.
“I guess the way to a man's heart really is through his stomach,” Clint quipped and this time it was Tony who pelted him with popcorn.
They got through the rest of the movie without any further incidents except the very short wrestling match between Sam and Clint for one of the throw pillows that somehow ended with both of them sprawled out on the floor. Sam settled onto the pillow in triumph, leaving Clint on the carpet to pout, but about halfway through the movie Bucky joined them on the floor, curling up at Steve's feet. It was unbelievably cute and Tony had to keep reminding himself not to stare too hard at them.
“Well, that was fun,” Sam sighed as the credits rolled, getting up off the floor with a lazy stretch. “I think I'm just gonna head to bed. Early day tomorrow.”
“Boo,” Clint drawled, throwing his arms out and accidentally hitting Bucky's head with one of them which made Bucky huff in irritation, swatting at Clint. “Whoops, sorry.”
Tony was just about to make an excuse himself when his attention was drawn back to the floor by a noise that sounded almost like a purr. He looked down to see Clint running a hand through Bucky's hair which made Bucky push closer to him, happily flopping down on the floor next to Clint. Tony was very pointedly not jealous at the sight.
“Oh my god, he's like an actual dog,” Clint exclaimed, sounding way too delighted by that fact. “You think we're gonna have to take him for walks?”
“He's not an animal, Clint,” Steve said sharply. “Cut it out!”
“Aw, but he likes it, don't you, bud?” Clint cooed, scratching behind Bucky's ears when he pushed into his hand. He moved to rub the underside of Bucky's neck. “There you go, there's a good boy–”
Natasha had her gun out in a second, but Bucky was faster, metal hand squeezing Clint's throat where he had him pinned to the floor. Clint let out a pained wheeze, trying to dislodge him, but Bucky growled in his face, leaning down with murderous intent in his eyes –
Tony barely managed to knock Natasha's gun aside before a shot rang out through the room, causing Bucky's head to snap up as he let go of Clint, keeping him pinned with one knee across the chest. He snarled at Natasha, pulling a knife from somewhere in his pockets when Tony stepped between them.
“Stop! Bucky, you know Clint, he's your friend, he would never hurt you. You're safe here, you know that!”
Bucky faltered, blinking at Tony in confusion. Tony stepped closer despite Natasha's hissed warning, kneeling down to grab Bucky's shoulders.
“Look at him.” He pointedly turned his head towards Clint, then back to Bucky with piercing eyes. “You know him. You're not going to kill him. Let him go.”
Bucky didn't look at Clint at all, but his entire body sagged all of a sudden as he slumped against Tony who struggled to support Bucky's not so inconsiderable weight. Clint quickly wiggled out from underneath them, careful not to jostle Bucky more than he had to. Tony wrapped an arm around Bucky to stroke his back soothingly.
“Yeah, that's right. You're safe here, you – wait, whoa!”
Tony startled when Bucky pushed him so suddenly that Tony tipped onto his back, breath punching out of him when 200 pounds of super soldier landed on his chest.
Tony held up a hand when he heard Natasha cock her gun. “Wait, I'm okay, he – wait, what?”
He stared in disbelief as Bucky wiggled on top of him, trying to wrap even more of his body around Tony and all but burrowing into his chest to get closer. Tony was frozen for a moment before he reflexively raised a hand to put it on Bucky's head, eyes widening when Bucky instantly went boneless on top of him with a content sigh. “Okay, what the fuck?”
“Oh, I see how it is,” Clint joked. They all pretended not to hear the waver in his voice. “He'll accept cuddles, but not from me. Clear favoritism, Barnes.”
Tony looked at his team mates for help, but they were all just staring in guarded amusement, those unhelpful fuckers. He startled when his eyes met Steve's because – well, Steve looked gutted, his fists tightly clenched at his sides.
Tony gulped. Fuck, this was bad. “Um, Cap, could you –“
“What?” Steve seemed to shake himself out of his stupor before he came closer. “Oh, yeah, of course, hold on.” He bent down to get his arms under Bucky's arm pits, trying to pull him up, but Bucky stayed clamped onto Tony like his life depended on it. “Come on, Buck, get up! Let go of him!”
Bucky snarled out something that wasn't quite words but managed to get his displeasure across just fine. Steve was starting to look very uncomfortable now, his eyes darting between Bucky and Tony.
“Stop it, Buck. You can go see Tony later, okay?”
“Yeah, listen to your boyfriend, Buckaroo,” Tony said a bit awkwardly, patting Bucky's head. “I'm sure he gives better cuddles than me anyway.”
“Please tell me you're getting this, JARVIS,” Clint whispered loudly and Tony gave him a scathing look.
“Come on,” Steve said as he finally heaved Bucky to his feet, wrapping him up in his arms. Bucky twisted around to bury his face in Steve's neck with a whine, the sight so foreign that everyone shifted a little uncomfortably. It felt like intruding on a private moment. “Shh, you're okay, you're fine.”
Tony stayed on the floor, waving weakly when Steve gave him one last apologetic look before he half-dragged, half-carried Bucky into the elevator. Their departure left the rest of the room standing around in an awkward semi-circle. Now that the main attraction was gone they all turned back to look at Tony who was still lying on the ground, motionless.
“One word,” Tony said. “And SHIELD will never find your bodies.”
Three days passed before Tony saw the resident power couple again. He spent most of those days on an inventing binge so it wasn't really a huge surprise that Steve knew exactly where to find him.
“Captain Rogers is requesting entry, Sir.”
“What?” Tony asked, looking up from the wires he was soldering together. “Oh, sure. Let him in.”
Tony grabbed a nearby rag to clean off his hands a bit as he turned to face the door where DUM-E was already enthusiastically greeting Steve. “Yo. What's up?”
“Hey, Tony,” Steve said and Tony couldn't not look at the way his white shirt was clinging to him with sweat, clearly just post-workout and – yup, Bucky was only a step behind him in those godforsaken threadbare sweatpants. The universe was testing Tony today.
“So what brings you here?” Tony asked, leaning casually against his desk. “Everything alright?”
Steve had that rueful smile on his face that usually meant he'd broken the coffee machine again but to his surprise Steve gestured at Bucky instead. “He – well, we were sparring in the gym, you know, trying to see if Bucky would fight differently like this, but –“ Steve grimaced. “He might've... broken his arm.”
“What?” Tony asked in alarm, stepping closer to take a look at Bucky's arm which – now that he was looking at it – was just hanging limply by his side. “What happened?”
Steve's mouth twisted ruefully. “Clint kind of... egged him on.”
“Of course he did,” Tony sighed, gripping Bucky's arm and turning it wrist side up. Something sparked near his elbow joint. “Yeah, okay, that's not good. Bring him over here?”
Tony cleared a space on the nearest table, laying out his precision tools as Steve guided Bucky into a nearby chair, whispering reassurances in his ear. Picking up a screwdriver Tony pulled over another chair with his foot, plopping down on it with a drawn out sigh.
“Alright then. Let's take a look at this beauty.”
He opened up Bucky's arm swiftly and efficiently, turning it this way and that to take a look at the circuitry.
“So nothing's melting or about to explode, that's good,” Tony said after a cursory check, twirling a precision tool between his fingers before wedging it under one of the panels. “Let's see what lies beneath.”
Bucky shifted a little and Tony's eyes snapped up to gauge his reaction – he wasn't too keen on a metal fist to the face – but Bucky mostly looked calm with a hint of nervousness under the surface. He probably remembered this on some level, sitting in Tony's workshop and getting his arm poked at. This was probably the way Tony and Bucky spent most of their quality time together on a normal day. Not that they had many of those, unfortunately.
“This is gonna take me a little while,” Tony said after loosening another panel, grimacing at the mess of wires at the elbow joint. “Ugh. What did he do, elbow a tank?”
“Huh?” Steve asked, looking up from his phone. “Oh, sorry. Clint's yelling at me. I kinda left him to do clean up at the gym, so...” Steve gave him a wry smile, pointing a thumb over his shoulder. “Do you mind if I –“
“Nah,” Tony said absentmindedly, fiddling with a tiny wire. “Go clean up your mess. We're good.”
“You sure?” Steve sounded a little dubious. “Bucky can be a little... unpredictable at times.”
Tony raised an eyebrow at him. “We're in my home zone. My fort knox. Even if JARVIS wasn't able to knock him out – which he is – DUM-E has been waiting for an opportunity to put the fire extinguisher to use.” When Steve still looked skeptical Tony made a shooing motion. “Just go. We'll be fine.”
“Alright,” Steve said hesitantly, walking towards the door. “Call me if something happens.”
“Yes, father,” Tony said, rolling his eyes. The closer Steve came to the door the more restless Bucky got, almost jumping out of his chair with a forlorn noise when the door closed behind Steve. Tony gently pushed him back down, feeling a little out of his element when Bucky just kept gazing longingly at the door. “Calm down, Buckaroo. He'll come back.”
Bucky was still tense but at least he let Tony straighten his arm back out enough so he could keep working on it. It wasn't that big of a problem, just a couple of wires and fuses that had come loose and needed to be reconnected, so Tony hummed under his breath as he worked. At some point Bucky started fidgeting but a small tap on Bucky's hand was enough to remind him to settle down every time. It only became a problem when Tony tried to close the arm up again and Bucky just wouldn't – stay – still –
“Barnes!” Tony hissed irritatedly, but Bucky didn't react. He just kept wriggling restlessly and Tony grabbed his shoulder to try and push him back into the chair. “Stop it, you're gonna mess me up!“
Bucky whined very quietly, looking up to give Tony a weirdly desperate look.
“What? What are you – Oh.“
Tony gulped as Bucky shifted, hips pushing forward to press his hard dick against Tony's hip. The realization hit him like cold water down his spine. “Oh fuck, you – no, okay, stop it, this isn't –“
Bucky resisted his attempt to move away, gripping Tony's arm to pull him even closer. When Tony's leg made contact with his crotch Bucky gasped, hips instinctively rutting forward, and gave Tony a look that held a heartbreaking amount of pleading.
“I can't help you with that,” Tony whispered a little hysterically, trying to twist out of Bucky's reach. “You need to – fuck, just wait until you're back with Steve, he can –”
Tony's head snapped up and thankfully Bucky let him go when he pulled away this time, still breathing a little unevenly. “Heya, Cap. Perfect timing as always. I'm almost done.” He hoped his voice didn't shake as much as he thought.
“Alright,” Steve said, a little bemused but mostly relieved which – why? What was that about? “How bad was it?”
“Oh, you know, just a couple of parts knocked loose, nothing broken, thank fuck.” Tony chuckled nervously as he very carefully reached out towards Bucky's arm again, keeping his body out of range. “Good thing too, it's not like I keep spare Winter Soldier parts in my –“
He choked on air when Bucky suddenly grabbed his hand, pushing it directly onto his hard cock despite Tony's attempt to pull away.
“Oh my god!” Steve shouted, hurrying over to pull Bucky's hand away. Tony immediately stumbled backwards, his wrist still tingling where Bucky had touched it and his eyes wide in horror. Oh fuck, Steve had seen –
“It's not what you think!” Tony blurted with a desperate edge in his voice. “I didn't – I tried to stop him but he just started touching me out of nowhere, I swear I didn't –“
“Fuck,” Steve said miserably and Bucky yelped when Steve tugged him none too gently out of the chair, Tony's tools clattering everywhere. “Oh fuck, Tony, I'm so sorry, did he – Did he hurt you?”
“What? No!” Tony shouted in outrage. “No, he – He just... touched me.”
Steve's face looked terrible, like something out of Tony's worst nightmares. “I'm so sorry, Tony. I'll just – We'll go. Just – sorry.”
“Steve!” Tony called after him but Steve was already dragging Bucky from the room, the look on his face unreadable. Tony leaned heavily against his desk, heart racing and a sinking feeling in his stomach.
What the fuck just happened?
“God fucking damn it, Buck!” Steve shouted as soon as the doors closed behind them. “You can't just – what the hell is wrong with you?”
Bucky shrunk against the elevator wall, whining under his breath, and Steve deflated, putting his head in his hands with a quiet moan of despair.
“What are we going to do?” he asked miserably and when Bucky very hesitantly put a hand on his shoulder he reached out and pulled his boyfriend into a hug. Bucky clung to him fiercely, a soft whimper trapped in his throat, and Steve closed his eyes, leaning into him. “I know. Hey, it's okay, shh.”
Bucky kept making those tiny, hurt noises and Steve couldn't help but feel sorry for him. And for himself but that was his own damn fault for leaving Bucky alone with Tony.
“You shouldn't have done that,” he sighed and Bucky's shoulders slumped. Steve just felt tired. “I know you want him but that's not how we were going to tell Tony about it.” He pulled back to look Bucky in the eye, brushing a stray bit of hair behind his ear. “God, you're gonna be so mad at yourself if you remember this later. We had a whole plan, you know?”
Bucky just looked miserable so Steve pulled him back into his chest, rubbing his back comfortingly. God, he didn't even want to imagine what Tony must be thinking now. The man was a genius, he'd probably figured out that there was something fishy going on with the way Bucky was behaving.
Steve sighed. He'd hoped to ease Tony into it slowly, the thought of allowing Steve and Bucky into his life. Subtly. Maybe go on a few dates first. Give him the treatment that he deserved after all of the heartbreak he'd gone through.
Well, subtlety had flown out of the window now that Bucky had already all but humped Tony's leg. Steve couldn't imagine anyone taking too kindly to that.
He couldn't wait for this to be over. And maybe – just maybe – if Tony didn't throw them out of the tower tomorrow he and Bucky might even get a chance to make it up to him.
“So this is where you've been hiding.”
Tony yelped, whipping around to see Clint dropping out of the ceiling vent in his garage. “Oh my fucking god, do you want me to die?”
“If I did you'd be dead already,” Clint said nonchalantly, leaning onto the hood of the Rolls Royce Tony was polishing right now. Tony wrinkled his nose.
“Get off my car or I'll kick you off.”
“I'd like to see you try,” Clint said before giving Tony a stern look. “You missed movie night.”
“Oh, that's a shame,” Tony said insincerely. “What did you watch? Hunger Games? Brave? The Green Arrow?”
“The Iron Giant,” Clint deadpanned and Tony hummed.
“Hey, it's a good movie. Don't knock it.”
Clint sighed, crossing his arms. “Listen, man. I want to avoid this conversation just as much as you do but Nat will have my balls if I don't at least try, so.” He shrugged. “Why don't you help a brother out, come up for a few hours? I promise I'll let you go back to your man cave right after.”
“I'm busy,” Tony said, a little more clipped than he wanted, and Clint just stared at him for a moment. “What?” Tony asked defensively.
“Nothing,” Clint said with a shrug. “Just wondering. This wouldn't happen to have anything to do with Steve and Barnes moping around on the common room couch, would it?”
Tony really hoped his surprise wasn't as obvious as he thought when he hummed. “What? No, I don't know anything about that.”
Clint sighed exasperatedly, pushing off Tony's car. “Whatever, man. I tried.” As he walked out of the garage he called back over his shoulder. “If you don't come up I'll eat your portion of Bruce's curry. Don't think I won't!”
“I'll take your entire stock!” Tony shouted after him and Clint laughed heartily as he left with a middle finger over his shoulder. Tony put down the polishing rag with a tired huff. He didn't want to think about Steve and Bucky after all that had happened. To be honest he was a bit surprised that they seemed to spend time on the common floors at all. He'd thought they would want to avoid all areas Tony could run into them. He knew he was.
Tony still couldn't wrap his head around what happened. His brain just – refused to process the knowledge that he'd had his hand on Bucky's dick. Because Bucky had put it there. Which was just absurd because Bucky was devoted to Steve in a way that would be sickening if Steve didn't return the sentiment in equal measure. Their love was one that weathered the ages and here Tony was, tarnishing it with his sheer presence.
He'd tried to justify it, like maybe Bucky was acting that way because he'd somehow imprinted on Tony right at the beginning with that stupid fucking cake. It sounded ridiculous but Tony just couldn't ever imagine Bucky being unfaithful to Steve for any other reason than being coerced into it which – yeah. Tony felt pretty shitty about regardless of whether it was true or not.
So no, Tony was not about to go up there and subject himself to Steve's bitterness and possible resentment or – god forbid – more of Bucky's advances. His gay heart couldn't live like this. Well, bisexual heart, but it made the point.
Suffice to say Tony didn't go to the common floor that night. Instead he fleshed out the designs of a new processor for the Stark phone so he could send it to Pepper before trudging up to his room and practically falling into bed, three nights of almost no sleep catching up to him.
He didn't remember falling asleep but he must have because when he opened his eyes again it was dark, the only light in the room coming from the moon in front of his window. Tony was about to turn over and try to go back to sleep when he suddenly froze.
“JARVIS, lights,” Tony said, squinting when the light pierced his eyes. Thankfully JARVIS immediately dimmed it to a bearable level and Tony blinked to clear his vision and look at what had woken him up in the first place.
He just barely resisted the urge to scream when he realized that Bucky fucking Barnes was sitting on his bed, silently staring at Tony with a hand on his leg. Yeah, that wasn't creepy at all.
“What the hell, Barnes,” Tony hissed under his breath. “What are you doing here?”
Bucky didn't answer, he just casually lifted Tony's blanket and slipped under the covers. He did it so gracefully that Tony's sleep-muddled brain only realized what was happening when Bucky had already pulled him into his chest.
“Okay, no,” he blurted, pushing at Bucky's shoulders to gain some distance. “We're not doing this. Go back to your room.”
Bucky grumbled something inaudible, trying to pull Tony back in, and Tony had fucking had it with this shit.
“Bucky!” he snapped. “Stop!”
In a second Bucky was gone, scooting all the way to the other side of the bed with wide eyes. He looked scared and confused and Tony had to avert his eyes, rubbing his face with a frustrated groan.
“God damn it. How the fuck is this my life?”
Bucky made a soft noise and Tony looked over only to be met with the most pathetic puppy dog eyes he'd ever seen. He could feel his anger melting away like ice in the sun.
“No, come on, don't look at me like that.” Bucky just whimpered again, hands kneading at Tony's blanket, and Tony pointed an accusing finger at him. “No! You won't make me feel guilty about this! You are Steve's boyfriend and you'll damn well stick to the guy you love!”
At the mention of Steve Bucky perked up, his head darting over to the door before he went right back to staring forlornly at Tony.
“What?” Tony asked and Bucky whined, laying his head on the edge of the bed. “No!” Tony said firmly and for a split second he felt bad about treating one of his teammates like a misbehaved dog. But then he remembered that Bucky had tried to hump his leg not even a week ago and steeled his resolve. “Go back to your room, Bucky. Steve's waiting for you.”
Tony wasn't sure Bucky had understood what he said but the sentiment must have come across because Bucky slowly got to his feet, shoulders drooping as he slunk off like a kicked dog, closing the door to Tony's bedroom behind him. And god fucking damn it, Tony refused to feel bad about this. Bucky was a grown, taken man, and Tony was doing the right thing by turning him away.
He still felt guilty though.
Sleep didn't want to come easy after that and Tony found himself tossing and turning for quite a while before a quiet thump just outside his door drew his attention. He was instantly alert, listening for more sounds but there seemed to be none. Still, he had to be sure –
“JARVIS?” he asked quietly. “Give me the feed from my living room.”
A small screen was immediately projected onto the wall opposite him, showing the entrance to his bedroom in a wide angle – Oh fucking hell.
“You gotta be shitting me,” Tony mumbled, feeling a headache coming on even as he got out of bed, marching over to the door and yanking it open. Bucky looked up at him from his spot on the floor, his face mostly hidden behind long strands of his hair. “What the fuck do you think you're doing?” Tony asked irritatedly and Bucky just kept staring at him. “You can't sleep on the floor, you idiot. You'll ruin your back!”
Bucky didn't react beyond a slow blink and Tony dragged a hand down his face, cursing himself for his weak, weak heart.
“Fuck it. Come in then,” he said tiredly, waving Bucky inside and Bucky's whole face lit up as he scrambled to his feet. By the time Tony had closed the door behind him Bucky was already on his bed, looking expectantly at him.
“This is a terrible idea,” Tony informed him even as he climbed into bed with Bucky, resigning to his fate of being a teddybear for the night. Bucky wrapped him up in his arms, his grip gentle yet firm, and Tony was too tired to resist it so he just let Bucky manhandle him into position until his head was cushioned on Bucky's chest.
“G'night,” Tony mumbled and Bucky rumbled something unintelligible that made his chest vibrate and sent an entirely unwanted shiver down Tony's spine. Bucky seemed to notice because he stroked a hand over Tony's back, making that same noise again, and it was so strangely soothing that Tony couldn't help but relax into it.
He would have fallen asleep like that if Bucky hadn't suddenly turned them over, tangling their legs together and hovering above Tony. Alarm bells went off in Tony's head.
He trailed off when all Bucky did was lie down on top of him like an overgrown house cat, complete with a blissed out face and purring. Tony's mouth snapped shut. He was seriously questioning his sanity as he wrapped his arms around Bucky's shoulders, allowing him to snuggle closer.
“This is the weirdest night of my fucking life,” Tony grumbled under his breath. “And that's including all those benders in the eighties. I hope you're proud of yourself.”
Bucky didn't respond, happily nuzzling Tony's chest instead. Tony sighed, closing his eyes to at least try and catch a few more hours – only for them to snap right back open.
He was frozen in shock but that didn't stop Bucky from pressing another kiss to Tony's chest. Even through the fabric Tony could clearly feel the warmth of his mouth.
Jesus fucking Christ, they were both fully clothed and this was nothing, Tony would fucking murder himself if he didn't get a grip right now –
And then Bucky moved up, kissing Tony's neck, his jaw, his chin, and Tony was torn between guiltily enjoying the attention and shoving him off so he could clutch his pearls like a scandalized old lady when the door crashed open.
“Tony, JARVIS said – Bucky!” Steve cried out, marching over to the bed with a determined glare to quickly drag him off Tony's bed. Bucky snarled and snapped at him but Steve was stronger, holding him tightly around the middle as he stepped away. “No! God damn it, Bucky, stop!”
Tony felt terror claw at his chest as he watched Steve wrangle Bucky with the most disappointed look on his face that Tony had ever seen. “Oh my god, I'm so sorry, it's not what you think –“
“What the fuck were you thinking?” Steve suddenly snapped and Tony winced, wishing he could just sink into the bed and disappear.
“I'm sorry, Steve,” he said, startling when Steve suddenly froze. Tony followed his gaze and felt his breath catch in his throat because – well, Bucky was very obviously hard in his pants. Fuck.
“I can explain –“ he said desperately but Steve was already shaking his head in despair.
“Oh my god,” Steve groaned and Tony felt like the scum of the earth because this couldn't be happening, Steve and Bucky were so happy, he couldn't be the reason they – “I'm so sorry, Tony, god, please don't kick us out. He didn't mean to do this, I swear!”
“What?” Tony asked, perplexed, and Steve looked at him with pleading eyes.
“I promise, I'll keep an eye on him until this blows over, just – I don't want you to think –“
“No, it's okay, Cap,” Tony said quickly. “I don't – I mean, I know Bucky would never do this if he wasn't –“ He shook his head at himself for stuttering over his words. “Look, you and Bucky, you're it, right? I'm not gonna – I mean, I would never –“
“Right,” Steve cut in and he sounded – well, not as relieved as Tony had expected. In fact Steve looked almost a little sad. “I understand.” He took a deep breath. “I'm really sorry, Tony. I wish we could've – I mean, we wanted –“ Steve shook his head ruefully. “Doesn't matter. Thanks for not being mad.”
“What? Why the hell would I be mad?” Tony asked in bewilderment and Steve gave him an incredulous look.
“Why would – Tony, this is the second time Bucky has essentially forced himself on you.”
“Forced is kind of a strong word,” Tony said awkwardly and Steve looked at him as if he was questioning Tony's sanity.
“What would you call it then?” Steve asked, waving a hand at Bucky who was looking between them with sad, lost eyes. “Bucky was making you touch him!”
Tony shrugged. “I might have been leading him on a little?” he said guiltily, averting his eyes. “I mean, I didn't mean to but I did sort of bribe him with cakes and then I didn't really try too hard to stop him. So it's kind of my faul–“
“Leading him on?” Steve asked shrilly and Tony winced.
“I'm sorry, okay? I didn't mean to.”
Steve seemed to need a moment to compose himself, pinching the bridge of his nose as Bucky squirmed in his grip.
“Tony,” Steve finally said, his voice painfully composed. “You didn't do anything wrong. I mean... I kind of knew that Bucky might do this.” Tony froze. “He and I, we've been... talking. About you. Including you in our relationship. Which – yeah. I guess we messed that up before we even got the chance to ask.”
Tony could only gape at him.
“I'm really sorry about this,” Steve said tiredly, moving to pull Bucky away. “I'll get him out of your hair –“
“Or you could stay,” Tony blurted out, flushing when Steve's head whipped up to stare at him incredulously. “You know, if you, ah. If you're okay with that.”
“You –“ Steve couldn't seem to find the words so Tony smiled at him, hoping it didn't look as nervous as it felt.
“I, uh. I might have been... enjoying Bucky's attention.” He chuckled awkwardly. “A little too much probably.”
“Oh,” Steve said tonelessly and Tony quickly held up his hands.
“Which isn't to say that – I mean, you are –“ He made a waving hand gesture, encompassing Steve's whole... Steveness. “I mean, wow. Who wouldn't, right?”
Steve looked a bit like someone had just clubbed him over the head and his grip must've loosened in his surprise because Bucky suddenly pulled himself free and pushed forward, lying down on top of Tony with a content purr. Tony reflexively wrapped an arm around him to keep him there, glancing up at Steve to gauge his reaction.
Steve looked a bit torn and Tony was just about to apologize and push Bucky off him when Steve suddenly nodded, an awfully nice blush high on his cheeks.
“Okay,” Steve said, putting a hand on Bucky's back himself and tangling his fingers with Tony's. “But this isn't...” Steve cleared his throat uncomfortably. “I mean, this wouldn't be just a sex thing, right? Because Bucky and I –“
“Oh no,” Tony said quickly. “I, um. I would be... interested. In more. If you want.”
The smile that bloomed on Steve's face tied Tony's chest into knots. “You're sure?”
Tony wanted to say yes but Bucky chose that exact moment to start grinding against him, a soft moan tumbling from his open mouth, and Tony was far too transfixed by the sight and feel of him to speak.
“Oh jeez,” Steve sighed, moving to intervene, but Tony stopped him with a hand on his wrist.
“I'm... okay with this if you are,” Tony said just a little nervously. “I mean, maybe if he gets it out of his system he'll feel better? Or something?”
Steve didn't seem to be against it judging by how dark his eyes turned when Tony grabbed Bucky's hips and pulled him in, making him gasp at the friction.
“That'd probably be good, yeah,” Steve said huskily and Tony grinned.
“Alright then. Have at me, Buckaroo.”
It was pretty surreal, to just lay there while Bucky got himself off on Tony's body in front of his fucking boyfriend – who apparently had feelings for Tony too and what the fuck was that about – but in that moment Tony didn't really care, just allowing himself to feel good as Bucky got what he needed.
Then Bucky suddenly grabbed him around the waist none too gently and Tony yelped as Bucky tried to flip him over, his fingers tearing painfully at Tony's pajamas –
“Hey!” The pressure was gone in an instant and Tony looked up to see that Steve had pulled Bucky off Tony and against his chest, holding him around the waist. Bucky whined pitifully and Steve clucked his tongue, one of his hands sneaking down to grab Bucky's cock through his pants –
And Tony's mouth went completely dry as Bucky yelped, squirming in Steve's hold and humping forward into his hand desperately. It took barely even a minute for Bucky to get himself off like that, coming with a drawn out groan that seemed to reverberate through Tony's room as Bucky twitched through the aftershocks, an almost comically blissful expression on his face. Bucky turned his head just enough to nuzzle into Steve's neck and Tony watched as Steve's breathing hitched, his grip tightening –
Their eyes met over Bucky's shoulder and Tony knew that Steve knew he was hard enough to pound nails the same way Steve undoubtedly was. For a second it was awkward, neither of them knowing if they should make the offer to help out, but then Steve shook his head slightly, giving Tony a warm smile.
“Later,” Steve said, allowing Bucky to slump down on top of Tony and snuggle into his side with a content sigh. “We can talk about it once Bucky's brain is firing on all cylinders again.”
“Okay,” Tony said a little breathlessly and when Steve looked at the door a little hesitantly he patted the space beside him. “Just sleep here. We can deal with this tomorrow.”
Steve gave him a small smile as he laid down next to Tony, keeping a respectful distance even though Bucky had already knocked all boundaries concerning personal space out of the park. He did reach out to take Tony's hand again though and Tony's heart flip flopped in his chest at the soft look in his eyes when he said “Good night, Tony.”
Tony swallowed heavily, intertwining their fingers as he wrapped his other arm around Bucky. “Good night, Steve.”
“Oh my god!”
Tony was startled from sleep by a horrified shout, his eyes snapping open to lock immediately on Bucky's shocked face.
“Bucky?” Tony asked and Bucky jolted like Tony had electrocuted him, grimacing the next second and looking down at himself.
“Shit, what –“ His eyes widened dramatically. “Holy fuck, did I –“
Tony winced when he realized that Bucky was probably having a crisis over his soiled pants right now, reaching out a hand to pat Bucky's arm. “Hey, it's okay –“
“Oh my god!” Bucky blurted again and his tone made Tony's heart sink like a rock. Steve had said – but maybe he'd misunderstood, maybe Bucky didn't really want Tony like that and he'd just said it to spare Steve's feelings or something and now –
“Buck, you're back?” Steve grumbled sleepily from Tony's other side and the surprised gasp from Bucky only made Tony feel worse.
“What the – Steve?” Bucky asked, sounding like his greatest dream and worst nightmare had come true at once. He looked up at Tony with wide, horrified eyes. “Oh god, did I – please tell me I didn't just fuck Tony and forget about it. I might actually cry.”
“Bucky,” Steve sighed and Tony froze in shock for a second before he fell back on the bed and laughed until his sides hurt.
Yeah, he had a feeling they would be just fine.