What was wrong with him?
Tony looked back at his reflection, hair wet and sticking to his cheeks, still dripping from the shower. His lips were turned down- disgusting- and for some reason he couldn’t school it back to a neutral expression. His stomach churned when his eyes met their reflection, stinging with a new wave of tears that he couldn’t, wouldn’t, let fall free.
Because if he let them, it would win. And Tony wasn’t ready to admit defeat to the tar-like, rotten feeling.
He scrubbed his face with the cold water from the sink, relishing the contrast from the scalding water of his prior shower, his fingertips like nubs pressing against his cheeks. The pain it brought grounded him, made him forget, if just for a while, that he was broken.
That he was ugly.
He sighed and turned off the faucet, pointedly not looking at his face in the mirror again. He made a quick work of his sweatpants and loose shirt before leaving the bathroom, ready to leave his bad thoughts behind. A moan sounded off from his bedroom, stopping him in his tracks, and the deep pit in his stomach grew.
“ Steve!” Bucky moaned again and Tony had to close his eyes and held tight to the bathroom door to steady himself. He breathed deep, schooled his expression, and mentally slapped himself for only making one exit in his apartment.
Hopefully, as he walked to the main room to go for the door, Steve and Bucky wouldn’t realize how much he was shaking. The slapping sounds became louder the closer he got to the bedroom door, and maybe if he slipped by real fast, the super soldiers would not see him leaving the room.
“Tony-- ahh,” Fuck, he should have known better than to think he would be able to sneak out.
Bucky was shoved against the mattress, Steve’s hand sprawled on his chest as the blond pounded inside Bucky with a quick, ruthless pace. Tony gulped dryly, momentarily captivated by the way Steve’s ass cheeks contracted every time he thrusted forward into Bucky.
A hand stretched in bed, palm up, inviting Tony to join them, and when he looked at Bucky’s face, he saw the invitation clear as day. His stomach dropped to the ground as he froze, looking at both of them, happily fucking in his bed, eyes glued on him, but not in a good way. No… it was too much.
His throat knotted up, his skin became too tight. He had to get out of there.
“Sorry, my darlings, I’ve got to finish some tech down in the workshop. Do come down when you finish fucking.” Tony winked and threw them the widest smile he could produce at the moment. He didn’t wait for an answer before he opened and closed the door behind him.
He felt drained. His back hit the wall almost instantly, and he only realized he slid down to the floor when he was already down and hidden behind his knees.
It didn’t bother Tony that Steve and Bucky would fuck without him. Really, it didn’t. Both super soldiers had been separated for most of their lives, and now they could finally catch up on their lost time together. And it wasn’t like Tony also hadn’t had his own share of moments with only one of them.
Steve and Tony had started dating before they found Bucky, so it gave them plenty of time to get to know each other pretty well. And the times Steve had to go on solo missions? Bucky took good care of Tony. But it wasn’t the same.
Tony let the wrench fall on the table with a muffled clank. He had seen the heated glances they threw each other, the silent words they both exchanged without opening their mouths. They couldn’t spend a minute without touching each other, it didn't matter where they were.
It was endearing to watch how much they loved one another. Steve and Bucky breathed on each other’s space with an ease Tony had only read about before. Their tender smiles sometimes were too much for mortal eyes to experience, but he didn’t mind getting blinded if that was the cause of it.
They’d murmur sweet nothings in each other’s ears on movie nights, whether it was together with the entire team in the privacy of Tony’s quarters. They laughed at inside jokes and stole kisses when they thought no one was looking.
Tony never got any of that treatment.
He looked at the piece of garbage tech that sat in front of him and couldn’t let the irony pass. He, too, was too broken to be fixed. And maybe, just like Tony still kept the piece of metal around, Steve and Bucky didn’t want to admit Tony was a lost cause.
Maybe it was just pity that kept them from breaking up with him.
It happened before, didn’t it? Sunset had looked at him with a mix of pity and disgust when Tony first ever admitted he loved her, and Ty had laughed bordering on hysterical the time Tony asked him to move in with Tony. It was a simple pattern, really, he was ugly. If not on the outside, on the inside.
He had always been the problem.
Tony gathered the broken tech and dumped on the corner, together with the rest of the other unfixable pieces he had lying around. It stung. He was so sure something could have been done with that scrap.
But it was for the best. You can’t use broken pieces if you want to create something beautiful.
Half an hour later Bucky and Steve came to the workshop, both fresh out of the shower—just another reminder of what they were up to without him, not that he forgot—and smelling like Tony’s body wash. It made him sick. He had to get them to stop pretending they really cared about him, smelling of him didn’t mean he had a place in between them.
He didn’t flinch when they both dropped kisses on the top of his head. In fact, he didn’t react at all, which made the super soldiers curious, he realized a little too late.
“Hey, doll, I think it’s enough time in the workshop for today,” Bucky murmured sweetly next to his ear.
And that was another thing. They were always sweet. All the time: sweet.
Like they were silently apologizing to Tony everytime they spoke, like their pity was too much that even though they couldn’t voice it, it still made itself visible in their voices. He hated it, it only reminded him how he was unsuited to be with them.
“Tony? You ok there?” Steve asked, a gentle hand landing on his back worriedly.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” He gave them a quick smile. “I’m just thinking, you know, tech stuff and all that.”
Steve huffed and smiled- too sweetly- and caressed his back before withdrawing. “Why don’t you come with us? We were just about to order pizza and choose a movie to watch.”
“We, you mean, the team or we, you two?”
“Just the three of us, sweet thing.” Bucky hugged him from behind, and a chill ran down his spine at the thought of spending the evening with just the two of them, tucked close together in the penthouse’s living room.
Bucky might have understood Tony’s reaction incorrectly, because he hummed contentedly and left a wet kiss on the spot on Tony’s neck Bucky knew drove him crazy.
“I, uh, well, I-,” he stuttered, but the hopeful expression they were shooting him made whatever excuse he had to decline the offer evaporate from his throat. Instead, he heard himself saying, “I want margherita.”
He was going to regret this later.
The pizza didn’t sit well in his stomach.
They ordered from the same place they always did, Tony knew the owner personally, and the pizza was always top of the line. But maybe they put something spoiled into it this time, because Tony felt like throwing up.
It didn’t help much that even though Tony was sitting between Steve and Bucky—they put him there, if he had had any choice he would be sitting on the armchair by himself—they still managed to talk over him, get all lovey dovey over him.
Tony didn’t even know what they were watching, he couldn’t focus. The stupid cramps and churns in his stomach occupied his mind completely. A few times throughout the hour, Bucky had looked at him worriedly, but stayed mostly quiet about it.
He probably didn’t care enough to ask anyway.
The nausea wouldn’t leave him, no matter how much he tried to breath deep and relax, so when he felt bile threatening to rise to his esophagus, he got up from his spot and closed his eyes, gulping and praying whatever was threatening to spill out would stay down for a few more seconds.
A hand caught his wrist before he could run to the bathroom, and he almost whimpered. If he wasn’t in a hurry, he wouldn’t have minded Steve trying to stop him.
“Is there something wrong, Tony?” he asked, frowning worriedly. Someone had stopped the movie at some point, and the silence it brought was a small blessing in the middle of this mess.
“I’m fine,” he managed to get out, even if his voice was a little too light and stifled. “I just need to go to the bathroom.”
Steve let him go, and Tony didn’t waste time before getting to the bathroom. He barely got to the toilet before he was retching all the contents of his stomach into it, thanking whoever was watching over him for the soundproof walls he’d installed when building the penthouse. His grip, strong on the lid as he took long gulps of air, wishing the nausea away. It only took him fifteen minutes to recover, yet his ribs still ached badly.
The boys would start to get suspicious if he didn’t go back to the living room soon, and he didn’t want them having to deal with yet another one of his problems. He made a quick detour to the kitchen to grab a glass of water and gulped it in one go, gasping with relief as he finally got things under a sense of control again. His hands were still shaking slightly in the aftermath, so he breathed deep a few times, closing his eyes to clear his mind, and rinsed the glass before leaving the kitchen.
He didn’t know what to expect when he got to the living room. He should have seen it coming, though. Steve was now sitting on what had been Tony’s place, with an arm behind Bucky’s shoulder, cuddling the brunet closer to him. They had their backs to him, so Tony couldn’t see the expressions on their faces, but the way Steve left a gentle, loving kiss on Bucky’s forehead was too much for Tony at that moment.
He was going to be sick again.
Tony turned around, glad that they didn’t notice him, and slipped into his bedroom. He threw his dirty shirt and pants in the corner, fished another pair of comfortable sweats and a large shirt (this one stolen from Rhodey in their MIT years) and tucked himself under his duvet. If he was shaking, well, no one was there to see it.
His mind kept playing that tender moment between Steve and Bucky, how they were so comfortable in each other’s space, how it was nothing. Tony squeezed his eyes shut and hoped the sting from his eyes went away.
Why hadn’t they been comfortable and relaxed when he was sitting between them? Why didn’t they give him kisses, or one armed hugs, just to keep him close? No mumbled sweet words, no tender touches, nothing.
Was he really so ugly that they didn’t even want to touch him?
He covered himself further with the covers, keeping only his nose in sight and curled into himself.
“Tony, love,” Steve’s soft voice woke him up from a tense dream, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to go back to the dream or deal with the feelings being awake would bring. Steve tucked a wild lock from Tony’s hair behind his ear and continued, “I’m sorry for waking you up but we need to talk.”
That woke him up instantly. This was it. They were breaking up with him. He turned around and saw Bucky on his other side, face hurt yet serious. Tony closed his eyes and schooled his expression in a blank mask before his broken heart could be seen on his face.
Tony didn’t think he could physically take them saying the words, so he had to do it himself. He managed to sit back against the bed frame, only shaking a little and looked down at the pattern on his duvet, suddenly all too interested in picking at nonexistent stray strings.
“I can go now if you guys prefer. I know how you like the penthouse, you can have it. I-I don’t really mind.” He felt tinier than he ever did muttering those words, and he didn’t dare to look at them before continuing, “I won’t make things weird from now on, okay?” He laughed, hating how wet it sounded, “Yo- uh, you won’t have to deal with me anymore. I promise.”
He gulped down an apology before he could say it. He knew his voice would break if he tried apologizing, so he bit his trembling lips and mentally cursed himself at the tears forming in his eyes.
“Can you just give me a moment before making me go?” This time, his voice did break, but what did it matter, now that the tears gave away how he felt? “I-I just need to gather some of my things. I’ll try not to take long.”
Tony hadn’t noticed how tense he had become. His hands were fisting the duvet, shaking ever so slightly, as if it was the only thing keeping him from collapsing completely.
“Tony, look at me.” Bucky’s voice was so sweet, a new wave of tears ran down his face. It dropped on his shirt, leaving big round spots on the fabric. Tony shook his head, he couldn’t look at the relieved expression on Bucky’s face. He couldn’t hear his sincere ‘thank you’ for doing this for them.
“At least now we know what’s on his mind,” Tony heard Steve say to Bucky before turning to him, “Tony, Tony, no. We don’t want to break up with you.”
“We love you, doll,” Bucky added.
“Wha-,” Tony’s eyes widened, stunned. He felt like he was thrown off a bridge all of a sudden.
Tony flinched but didn’t stop Steve when he rested a tentative hand on Tony’s tightly fisted ones, and he glanced up shyly. Steve didn’t look relieved. Far from it, he noticed with confusion. Steve looked almost disturbed by Tony’s words, as if the thought of breaking up with Tony never crossed his mind.
“We were worried when you didn’t come back to the couch after you went to the bathroom. I know how you don’t like the cold, so I was warming your place for when you got back, but you never did, so we came to check on you.” Steve explained for the both of them.
“That’s when we noticed you’re wearing your comfort clothes,” Bucky added and huffed a soft laugh at Tony’s confused glance. “You think we never noticed what clothes you wear when you’re feeling sad?”
He never thought they really paid attention.
“It doesn’t matter right now, though,” Steve stopped them before they discussed anything else. “What matters is that Tony, for some reason, thinks we want to break up with him.”
“And yo-you don’t?” His tears had stopped a few moments ago, and his skin grew dry from the salt. Tony wasn't sure how he felt. The desperation and fear were still there, he knew it, but there was something else growing in the midst of dark feelings. Hope, perhaps.
Yet he still hesitated. He had barely managed to whisper the question without fearing they would laugh at him, call him too naïve for believing they would want him. But he had to know. If they were only dating him out of pity, he needed to know, so he could break it off, if not for them, then for his own sake.
But the gentle, sad expression Bucky aimed at him didn’t look like the expression of someone who was ready to retract a lie. Bucky’s hand joined Steve’s and Tony’s, and this time, Tony didn’t flinch.
“Tony, doll, love, of course not. We love you.”
His heart leaped almost hopefully.
“What made you think we don’t?” Steve asked, searching Tony’s eyes, as if trying to understand Tony, puzzle him together.
“I- well, you two are perfect together and I’m… I’m not perfect.” his shoulders slumped at the admission. What more could stop him from telling it all now? “I’m broken. I thought-,” he broke off. “I’ve seen how you two interact with one another and compared with how you interact with me. It feels forced when you do it with me, like you’re trying to put up with my presence all the time, and I’m sorry. I really wish I wasn’t a burden all the time.”
The silence stretched almost endlessly around them, the only sounds Tony could make out were his shaky breaths and weak, pounding heart. It was getting to him. The longer he sat in the middle of them, the itchier his skin felt. Were they about to burst into spontaneous laughter? Would they call him stupid for thinking they truly loved him? At this point, only his lower lip could be redder than his eyes.
“Fuck,” Bucky massaged his forehead with the hand that wasn’t still holding Tony’s. His metal fingers undid the creases that were spurring on his skin. “I think we fucked up, Steve.”
Steve grimaced. “Yup. I see it too.”
“What do you mean?” Tony’s head was starting to feel a little dizzy. The air was once again entering his lungs with some difficulty as he watched the guilty expressions on their faces. This couldn’t possibly mean anything good. Fuck, Tony fucked up something, didn’t he? They were going to let him down gently, he knew it.
If they weren’t about to break up with him like they told him, they were about to tell him that he was too much, that they needed space. Okay, okay. Maybe that was doable. It would hurt, but it was way better than them breaking up with him. He just had to learn what he did wrong and try to fix it. Maybe he could still salvage their relationship.
That is, if they didn’t already think it wasn’t salvageable.
Fuck, his hands started shaking again. What if this was just the first step to a possible future break up? It would be new to Tony, but he saw it happening before. People would grow apart and would mutually break up with time. Was this what was happening?
“Tony, hey, come back to us, baby.” Steve squeezed his hand, and he snapped back to the moment. He blinked at them, both looking more worried than before. Shit, he spaced out, fuck. He was starting to feel out of his depth by now.
“I mean that we fucked up bad, Tony, and we’re sorry.” Bucky answered his question then, once he noticed Tony was again a hundred percent with them, “We, uh, well. Steve and I wanted to take things slow with you. We don’t want to fuck it up, we both love you very much, but we don’t know your boundaries, we don’t know if you're okay with the things we want to do with you. Like today, while watching the movie, all I wanted to do was lay you against my chest and cuddle you until you fell asleep. But, well, I didn’t want you to feel uncomfortable.”
“We are really sorry, Tony. We didn’t think you’d feel like we were excluding you from the relationship.” Steve scooted closer tentatively, resting next to him on the bed frame. He gently brought Tony’s head to his chest, and Tony didn’t protest.
Okay. This was new. New new .
People weren’t afraid to step over Tony’s boundaries, that had always been his job in a relationship. He would let his partners do whatever they wanted to him and would listen to what they liked and didn’t without a second thought. To have this directed to him… Maybe that explained why he thought something was wrong, he was never the one who people took care of.
They loved him, they were just scared to fuck up. They loved him.
“I love you both too. Very much.” Tony mumbled on Steve’s chest, squeezing Bucky’s hand reassuringly. The bitter feeling died somewhere in the middle of his internal monologue, leaving room for light, tender emotions to take its place, yet Tony still didn’t believe this was more than a sickness induced dream. Maybe he should trust them for once, instead of hiding inside his own brain. “Am I dreaming?”
That got a chuckle from his boyfriends. He could feel butterflies fluttering inside his chest, bubbling excitedly at the reactions of the men he loved. Leave it to them to be the breach in Tony’s pattern. He thought of telling them about his past experiences with lovers, to explain why his brain took him to that dark place, but looking at their light, happy faces, he dismissed it.
Tomorrow was as good a day as any to have that talk.
“No, you’re not dreaming.” Bucky assured him, bringing his hand up and peppering it with kisses. His skin blushed, tingling warm at Bucky’s touch, and his eyes filled again, but this time the tears were of relief. Relief and joy.
Tony hummed, smiling dazedly at them because, wow, it was true. Really, really true. He wasn’t about to lose them, about to lose this. They loved him.
No matter how many times he told it to himself, it never got old. He shifted further into Steve’s space, finding the most comfortable position to have his head resting on the blonde’s shoulder. He warmed up, both because Steve was a furnace and because his heart was overflowing with love.
“I think we should talk about boundaries, yeah?” Steve said over him, and Tony nodded. “How about you tell us when we do something you don’t like?”
“Hmm, that sounds just about genius, Steve,” he smiled, looking at Steve from the blond’s shoulder. “Thank you for explaining, really. And…well, thank you for still letting me live in my penthouse. At least now I won’t need to move out.”
He laughed, breaking the last of the tension that still rested somewhere deep inside. Bucky gave him a sappy smile, one he’d never seen directed at him before and Tony pulled his murderous boyfriend closer to them until he was all but straddled on Tony’s lap. It wasn’t the most comfortable position to be in, half laying on Steve’s chest with Bucky on top of him, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Like we would ever let you.” Bucky murmured against his lips. Tony could immediately tell that this kiss felt different from the ones they had shared in the past. Bucky wasn’t holding back anymore. He didn’t hesitate before taking charge and getting what he wanted, and Tony melted, completely happy at the change.
Steve didn’t wait for his turn, and instead pressed his lips to Tony’s neck, just as bold as Bucky had been. Things started heated, but soon that flame cooled to caring kisses and touches, reassuring murmurs of love and devotion.
“Tony,” Steve said softly. “I want you to never hide behind that big brain of yours again, okay?” His eyes were serious as he spoke, “We are here for you, just like you are for us. Let us help you when you need it.”
Tony shifted a little in their embrace, sighing and nodding.
“I’m sorry I let it get to this point, that I didn’t say anything before.” He shook his head when Bucky opened his mouth to intervene, wanting to say it all before they interrupted, “My brain likes to sabotage me, likes to tell me lies. I know, logically, they don’t make much sense, but this has nothing to do with logic. It’s pure feelings. So it’s hard to fight it alone, and well, it didn’t work.”
“That’s why we want you to tell us, doll,” Bucky gave him a tiny smile. “We all have our struggles, right? Would you neglect us if one of us had a bad night’s sleep?”
“Of course not,” Tony said without hesitation.
“Then believe us when we tell it’s the same for us. We love you and want to help you in what we can.”
He blinked once, twice, before bringing both his hands up to hold Bucky’s jaw and bringing him up for another kiss. Bucky hummed happily against his mouth and inched closer, resting his own hands on Tony’s shoulders.
Steve wrapped his arms around Tony’s waist, and without much difficulty, managed to bring Tony entirely over his lap, Bucky following right behind.
He felt safe, held between them, with Bucky’s lips on his own and Steve’s on his neck. They both took turns to whisper love confessions to his ear, and each time, a shiver ran down his spine. Who would have thought feeling loved was so enticing?
Tony froze for a few seconds as his hands hesitated over his shirt, his heart suddenly beating fast against his ribcage. He watched as Steve and Bucky threw their shirts away, exposing their perfect bodies and felt insecure washing over him again. Their bodies were clear, strong, free from scars and beautiful like marble. But his… well, he carried a lot.
He could do this, just had to take his shirt off. It wasn’t like Bucky and Steve had ever looked disgusted at his body, and as they said before, he could trust them, right? It was slow work, but he managed to do it. He was rewarded with darting kisses all over his chest that followed the flow of scars and imperfections that Tony would normally hide.
He let them, resisting the urge to hide again.
Their hands fumbled from body to body, and Tony wasn’t sure who he was touching, but in the end, it didn’t matter, not really. He brought Steve in for a heat-filled kiss, clearing his mind of all thoughts and all doubt and focused on touch and feeling. Bucky was laying on his side as he watched Steve going down on Tony slowly, until he parted Tony’s thighs without much difficulty and cleared Tony’s mind for good.
Tony couldn’t say he had ever experienced such tenderness in sex. Their fingertips travelled over his skin, every touch screaming with love and lust, driving Tony crazy. He was drunk on their affection, on the way their kisses would burn him and take him over the edge like nothing else mattered, just the three of them in the bed.
Steve prepped him with the utmost care, nothing different from what he normally did, but now that there were no more invisible barriers between them it felt more real, like Steve did mean every move of his fingers inside of him. It was intoxicating.
Bucky stayed next to him, kissing him sweetly to ease the stretch and burn of Steve’s fingers. Bucky’s tongue opened his mouth with intent, pulling Tony for an exchange of kisses that took the stress out of his mind, relaxing him completely.
“I love you,” Bucky whispered once more, before capturing Tony’s lips for another one of those kisses.
Tony felt afloat, and he discovered he liked that.
Steve’s fingers soon were swapped with the blunt head of his cock, and Tony only needed to nod once before Steve breached him open, swiftly and with little resistance. Tony’s voice ran wild then, with moans and lovely nonsense directed to his lovers, who for some reason were still with him, holding him, never letting him go.
“Thank you, thank you,” he repeated like a mantra, too high to care about the meaning behind the words, but knowing the importance of it being said. He reached climax not much longer after that, coming with a loud moan right over Bucky’s mouth.
He felt sated. Tony’s mind blinked shut for a moment, and next thing he knew, Steve was cleaning him with a washcloth, leaving delicate kisses on the inside of his sensitive thighs as Bucky cuddled him from behind, arms around Tony, hugging him closer to his chest.
Steve made a quick job of cleaning them all up before falling with them in bed, sliding in on Tony’s other side without hesitation before closing all the distance between their bodies. It felt like coming home for the first time.
Home… if he really wanted to make it right, to make this work, he should tell them about Tiberius and Sunset, shouldn’t he? He wasn’t fragile by any means, but there were certain aspects of himself that should be handled with care.
He wanted to see them for all they were, wanted them to see him for all he was, too. But that conversation could wait until tomorrow.
Right now, he let himself drift off between his lovers, warm and secure. Home, finally .