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Wasteland, baby

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There was no scientific explanation for the little ticking bombs everyone carried tattooed on their bodies, fate decided they needed to appear at some point between birth and fourteen, no input needed, no questions asked. One day the little pesky numbers appeared somewhere, also no scientific explanation as to why they didn’t always happen on the same body parts but, eh, who will go against Mother Nature. Although, Tony thought, maybe father nature? After all, what kind of woman would come up with such a convoluted way to set people up with one another without telling them. Looking at the women in his life, well, maybe it was Sister Nature.

Rain, a temporal, they had said, the vague smell of ozone was all Tony remembered from his fifth birthday. Howard and mother were somewhere in their Miami vacation home house, while water seemed to try its absolute best to pummel the ceilings and walls, the windows rattled as the wind hit them and Jarvis and Anna lit up five exact candles on a small cake, made from one of those red boxes they apparently sell in the supermarkets.

His skin tingled as he blew the candles out, it grew warm as he happily chewed away at the biggest slice Anna cut out for him, goosebumps clawed their way from the soles of his little feet to the back of his neck to the top of his head where his curls swirled a small hurricane. And it settled around his rib cage as he asked about the little empty squares on Anna and Jarvis’ wrists. He couldn’t help but wonder why neither Howard nor Maria had ever talked about the backward clocks life gifted you with.

It wasn’t that hard to figure out as the years began to pass.

Tony never told them about the two sets of running numbers on his ribs, one on each side under his breast bones. It wasn’t too hard a secret to keep, Howard was busy looking for his old glory, long buried along Captain America, and mother, well mother never really seemed to be there, her eyes vacant and serene smile ever present.

What if Tony was a bit of a slut, who gave a single shit what Howard’s sixteen year old son got up to at MIT, he was a teenager at MIT for fucks sake, and it was the twentieth century, nobody believed in “saving yourself up” for your soulmate crap anymore. Ok, maybe some people believed in it, and Tony respected that, he truly did, he wasn’t one of them though. So what if he spread his legs a little too much or put his dick in questionable holes every once in a while, he may have been sixteen, but he was Tony fucking Stark, a genius, a prodigy, and an overall embarrassment and disappointment to Howard Stark so, again, what was another bedmate worth on his growing list of sins.

His head was pounding, the coolness of the bathroom floor sweeping through his jeans. Rhodey found him there, heaving over a stained toilet in a public bathroom somewhere in a bar. He was gracious enough, loved Tony enough, to not say anything and just sit there, an arm around shaking shoulders as tears, snot and vomit mingled down Tony’s chin.

And just like that, on that cold bathroom floor, Tony was twenty one, an orphan, and the heir of the USA’s leading weaponry manufacturer.

It’d take Obadiah Stane three more years of fake kidnappings and attempted murders to finally have Tony strapped to a car battery in the middle of the Afghan dessert, his chest mangled, the little numbers that had once counted backwards on either side of his chest burned out, not a shadow of a clue to when Tony would meet whoever was at the end of either of those ropes.

Until that moment Tony would’ve sworn he had all but forgotten of the tingly sensation over his ribs, the excitement of every year counted down, that breathlessness that came from seeing realization dawning on people’s faces in a coffee shop, in the middle of the pasta aisle, right in front of the golden gate, somewhere as mundane as the post office. Tony would’ve sworn he didn’t care.

And yet, a sense of despair and loneliness, bigger than being lost to the sweltering heat of a foreign country, drowned the air in his lungs.

It’s hot, it’s hot, it’s hot, there’s nothing but heat and the unbearable sun hitting his already burnt skin as Tony falls to his knees on the scorching sand, an army helicopter descends some space away and Rhodey’s relieved voice are the last thing his senses register before everything goes black.

Weeks go by where all Tony sees is that fucking Jericho missile, embedded in foreign soil, the face of a mother yelling for her dead son, all the red blood dripping from his fingertips and soiling everything and everyone he touches.

Tony becomes Iron Man.

Tony becomes Iron Man because he’s tired of being Tony Stark. Tony becomes Iron Man because he needs penance and he needs to pay for the money all those lives bought. Tony becomes Iron Man because there are bigger threats out there and he doesn’t believe anyone else could take care of them. But mostly, Tony becomes Iron Man because he’s dying of palladium poisoning and because there’s no one waiting for him in a cafe, or in the middle of the pasta aisle or the fucking post office, and even when they aren’t for him anymore, Tony becomes Iron Man so they can have a safe place to find somebody else, somebody who isn’t Tony Stark.

There’s a press conference, there are reporters and Tony is Tony Stark so, naturally he announces his alter ego and how Stark industries will stop manufacturing weapons, the stock market crashes for a couple of weeks and Pepper is irritable and neurotic.

“They’ll get over it Pep” Tony tells her over coffee “come look at this thing I’m working on, it’ll revolutionize cellphone battery lives, those suckers at apple and Samsung are in for the ride of their sorry short lives”

Pepper laughs a little and goes.

StarkPhones launch and they do revolutionize the cell phone industry, the stock market goes back up and Tony keeps on flying around in a glorified tin can and making the bad guys go boom.

Somehow the city of New York has yet to sue them for structural damages. The media swears it’s because of the inauguration of the Stark Relief Fund, but Tony knows it’s because he has access to every nasty sex tape every single politician in office has ever made.

He’s not too worried about his own sex tapes because he was the one to upload them in the first place, thank you very much (Nobody asks why he’s wearing a shirt in every single one of them).

It’s not the same. Sleeping around, it’s not the same after Afghanistan, drinking until passing out losses some of its charm too and Tony doesn’t really know how to fill the void of an empty rib cage and skin that’s marred with scars but no ticking clocks.

There are new nightmares too, so there’s not a lot of sleep, there’s not a lot of many things if Tony’s honest. That might be a lie though, there are a lot of meetings and a lot of mergers and acquisitions and galas and people to butter up. But there’s not a lot of substance.

Somehow, in the midst of not sleeping and too much coffee and cheeseburgers and green smoothies, the palladium doesn’t go away, but Tony manages to reinvent the entirety of the green energy market and how it’s dealt.

Well, Pepper helps, at least 12%.

Naturally Tony makes her CEO, giving himself more time for R&D and less time for ass kissing.

Naturally, she was made to lead. Pepper Potts takes to being CEO of Stark Industries with terrifying accuracy and efficiency, their sales go up in the first quarter after she takes over. Every single tech company on earth starts fighting for her, offering her exorbitant salaries and frankly obscene gifts, but she stays with Tony, maybe out of some misplaced tenderness.

“You’re more than my friend Tony, we’re family” she says, easy as if that was the most obvious thing “and besides, what other boss will give me at least five heart attacks and two coronaries before I hit 35” there’s a twinkle in her eyes and mischief in her smirk. Tony’s a little sad there’s no romantic or soul shattering pull between them.

He can’t really begrudge destiny when he stands as Pepper’s maid of honor, her smile radiant as tears run down Happy’s cheeks and his face threatens to stay frozen in the single biggest grin Tony has ever seen on the man. He pays for their honeymoon in exchange for dibs on being godfather to their their first three children. They roll their eyes but kiss his cheeks goodbye as they board the private jet that’ll take them to Monaco.

At some point in life, after being Tony Stark for almost three decades, disaster and betrayal became par for the course. For some reason Tony is still a little hurt after Fury reads to him Natalie, no, Natasha’s report.

She was, after all, one of the better hires Pepper had managed to find. And, well, even being Tony Stark, taking hit after hit to your personal flaws started to itch after a lifetime of disappointing his father, not being enough for his mother and being but a means to an ends for most of everybody else.

So, yeah, Tony’s a bit hurt.

Despite popular belief, he doesn’t reject the Avengers out of spite or pettiness. It’s more a matter of distrust, distrust towards an organization that has been salivating over his tech since he came out of that cave, a shady organization, might he add, that sent someone undercover to spy on him and steal god knows what from under his nose.

Like most other times in his life, his allegiance to the Avengers is not his choice to make when Loki decides to crash the planet Earth, a planet in which he himself lives, and they’re faced with the biggest threat any one of them as individuals have seen.

Meeting Captain America and a real god in less than stellar circumstances leave his mind exhausted, reeling with possibilities and ideas to fight and protect.

Him and the good Captain don’t really see eye to eye, no one ever accused Tony of being an easy man to handle or a like able character. But somehow and, after a three month long road trip on a death trap of a motorcycle, they start talking and a small truce begins.

As if following the lead of Captain America, the other parts of he group start gravitating towards Tony, splitting their time between the tower and SHIELD HQ.

Nothing really registers until one night Tony looks up as he’s exiting the elevator into the kitchen, with all the lights on and a ruckus of laughter and loud voices invades his space.

“Oh, hey Tony, didn’t know if you’d want food, but I made enough to feed an army” Bruce is at the stove brandishing a spatula. Tony didn’t even know he owned a spatula, or an apron, or cooking utensils and cookable food.

As if on cue, Thor appears next to him, steering him to where the table is set. “Come, man of Iron, we shall all partake in this delicious feast prepared by the green man” somehow, Tony’s eardrums didn’t completely tear with Thor bellowing right next to his ear.

Natasha and Clint were already sitting at the table, chopping and mixing a salad with what appeared to be not kitchen knives, Tony was so not gonna ask about those.

“Sup Birdbrain, Natalie” yeah, ok, he was still a little bitter.

“So nice of you to grace us with your presence your majesty” Clint bowed sarcastically, but the smile on his face was jovial, betraying how comfortable he felt teasing him. It surprised Tony, not unpleasantly, but made him wary. After all, it was not everyday people got close to Tony Stark without an agenda.

Natasha simply smirked at him, chopping tomatoes with deadly accuracy as her eyes remained on Tony. “Hello, Tony” there’s something a little bit threatening in her tone. Maybe that bitterness would need to go faster if he appreciated his balls attached to his dick.

Tony ends up sitting next to Captain America himself, bane of his self esteem, the bisexual awakening of his eleven year old self and all around eternally handsome American dream. He might not know the man personally, but he grew up being regaled with tales of wonder and amazing feats accomplished by the very man, while being compared to him and forever found lacking, excuse him for having a bit of a complex. As for the other part, well, he was terminal not blind.

“Mr Stark” a sharp nod

“Captain” another sharp nod

God, was he always this awkward around people.

Suddenly Bruce brings some sort of stew to the table, Thor throws about six beers in a record of two minutes and seven seconds, Clint manages to eat while perched on the back of his chair while Natasha sharpens her knives one handed. Suddenly, so so suddenly it’s not all that awkward and Tony relaxes minutely, the stew is delicious and trying to explain earth animals to Thor becomes the entertainment of the night.

“I just don’t understand, what is this cow you talk about and why slaying one is not the feast of a warrior if it is as dangerous as you make it seem” somehow Thor is able to sound deeply confused and extremely condescending all at once, Tony’s impressed.

“Here, let me show you” Tony says, the rest of them turning to stare at him expectantly “JARVIS, can you show us some of those cars crashing against cows videos?”

“Of course sir” comes the disembodied voice, managing to sound both exasperated and fond despite its slightly mechanical quality.

Tony’s so used to JARVIS running the tower that he almost misses the startled jump from three out of five Avengers, the Captain turns to him, brows furrowed and eyes moving almost frantically, looking for whoever spoke.

“Shit, my bad, did I not introduce you guys to JARVIS?” It’s more a mumble to himself than a real question.

“It seems that you may have forgotten, sir”

“Huh” Tony doesn’t miss the slight emphasis on the sir, but chooses to ignore it. “You guys have been here for what? A couple of week...”

“Almost three months, sir”

“what”

For a moment, nobody moves, nobody says anything, Bruce and the Captain keep eyeing him with a mixture of concern and amusement, Clint and Thor seem to not particularly care and are just waiting for the cow videos, while Natasha remains as impassive as ever.

“Three months?” He asks no one in particular, can’t be sure of what his face is doing except that it’s probably not attractive whatsoever.

“Indeed, sir” and now JARVIS is just making fun of him, somewhere along the way he’ll pay some therapist or three to explain to him why he built his AI with such a sarcastic personality.

With a last sigh and a clap Tony recovers from the shock of the apparently obvious passage of time and proceeds to introduce everyone to JARVIS. Soon enough they’re sitting in the downstairs living room, sprawled on couches and the floor, watching cow videos that, after about an hour or so, devolve into the weirdest discussion on the properties of grass. For some reason Tony is surprised that Clint seems to be an expert on the matter of tall glass vs non tall grass and apparently other existing varieties.

“Just out of curiosity, where have you guys been sleeping?” An idea suddenly struck Tony, and when an idea grabbed Tony, it would not let go until it was seen through.

“What do you mean where?” Natasha asks, all throughout the night Tony could not shake the feeling that she knew something he didn’t yet, it made him the littlest bit uncomfortable “Tony, you have more guest bedrooms that you care to know for”

“I do? Huh”

“We didn’t mean to impose Mr. Stark” the Captain turns to him from where he sat on the other end of the couch, that worried frown back in full force.

“Impose?” Tony is a master at masking his voice, his brain might be somewhere else but he can very well continue the damn conversation “you heard the lady, I have more guest rooms than I can account for, don’t sweat it Capsicle” he even throws a wink at the end there for good measure.

“Now, as exciting as grass is” a pointed look to Clint “if you all darlings could excuse me, I’ve got a bug to get to”

And with that, not waiting for an answer, Tony turns to leave, taking the elevator as he turns the ideas that had started to settle in the forefront of his mind. If the Avengers had already spent almost three months in and out of his tower, then...”JARVIS, how many times a week at least one avenger spends the night or day in the tower?”

“Well, you’re here everyday sir”

“Very funny, don’t think I won’t rewrite your code”

“I am trembling in binary sir. There is at least one avenger, other than you, in the tower everyday with Captain Rogers spending an average of four out of six nights, Thor however long he’s in Earth, Dr. Bruce stays here whenever he’s not abroad, and Miss Romanov and Agent Barton splitting their time equally between the tower and SHIELD”

“I see” the colts keep on turning in Tony’s head, ideas and data that just need to be worked through. “How many punching bags did that SHIELD report say Cap goes through in a week?”

“A good one or a bad one?” A new voice joins his conversation, turning to the door, the Captain is standing there, looking for the world like the most uncomfortable man in earth. Tony couldn’t help but snort at the image, the always confident Captain, looking uncomfortable at Tony’s door no less.

“The ones you go through the most” he signals with his hand for the taller man to join him.

“Ah, so you mean an awful one then” the Captain deadpans, his face pensive, that little uncomfortable air to him is still around but not as obvious as before, something tells Tony the blond is messing with him a little.

He narrows his eyes and waves his hand in a go on motion instead of answering.

“About five to seven”
“Five to seven a week then? That’s not too bad”

“A day”

And that, yeah, ok, theoretically Tony knew the man was strong, he had read the files, both medical and classified and everything in between, but between knowing in his brain and knowing knowing that this white bread of a man could absolutely demolish seven punching bags in one day. Tony whistles lowly, that’s gonna add a whole other level of difficulty to his plans. Luckily for him, he’s never quite shied away from a challenge.

“Ok Mr American icecicle, I’ve got some ideas, care to bounce some with me?”

“You can call me a Steve, you know?”

“And you can call me Tony, Captain Iceman”

They stare at each other for a couple of seconds, a smile worms it’s way into the Cap-Steve’s face and suddenly, they’re just two guys standing in the middle of a workshop, five feet apart, smiling at each other.

“If I may, sirs, your simulations are ready” JARVIS’ voice interrupts their mussing, both of them jumping a little at the sudden noise.

“JARVIS, please introduce Mr. Freeze here to your brothers while I check this over” Tony says distractedly, missing the inquisitive look Steve directs are him.

As he jumps into calculations and results and trial and error, time loses all meaning, he vaguely hears JARVIS introducing the bots to the blond, not paying much attention. The new punching bags would need a sturdy and thick titanium center, they would be expensive and time consuming to produce, but Tony would make it happen, we was Tony Stark, after all. After the bags he needed to start thinking of arrows, widow bites, new pants for Bruce and, what could he possibly get Thor? Eh, he’ll think of something.

A green smoothie appears next to him, souring his good mood, he downs it at once, vowing to get to the palladium thing as soon as he was done with the punching bags.

By the time he emerges from the workshop, its morning, he never even noticed Steve leaving the night before, but apparently the Captain didn’t take it personally and just left. It’s only Bruce and Thor in the kitchen as he grumbles and drags himself towards the coffee machine, finding it blessedly half full he just takes the entire container and starts chugging it, it’s lukewarm and a little acidic after spending god knows how long sitting there but who cares, the important part is the sweet sweet caffein running through his veins and burning his neurons away.

“Morning Tony” Bruce looks worried while Thor just smiles at him as he lowers his makeshift coffee mug.

He’s so tired all he really muster is an unintelligible grunt as he turns to make more coffee. The elevator doors open as the machine beeps and Tony starts filling his favorite mug, a giant monstrosity that can fit at least sixteen ounces of blessed bean water, Steve enters followed by Natasha and consequently Clint, who proceeds to also drink coffee directly from the machine’s container.

Bruce looks even more worried than before.

“Oh, hey Tony, how was the experiment?” Tony doesn’t have the heart to tell Steve that it’s not so much an experiment, not in the earnest face and tentative smile the man has directed at him, it’s almost too much, having those blue eyes focused on him and whatever he might say.

“Good, good, almost done, just a couple more days and you’ll have brand new indestructible Stark brand punching bags” he smiles what he hopes is a winning smile, going by Bruce’s growing concern though, it probably comes out more a grimace than anything.

He can’t help it, the arc reactor had started acting up some weeks or so ago and, try as he might, Tony couldn’t figure out just what exactly was wrong with it. Time was of essence, he knew that, even so, his brain refused to focus on fixing himself and decided that making pretty gifts for his new acquaintances was a better way to spend time. His brain could very well be the poster child for let’s focus.....on the wrong thing.

A giggle works it’s way out of his throat, making the others stare at him inquisitively, except Bruce who just looked more concerned by the minute, must be the doctor in him.

“It’s nothing” more laughter comes out of his mouth, it’s like he’s so tired he can’t really control his body anymore “just, uh, JARVIS, put up that art, you know which one, the let’s focus one that Rhodey sent me that one time?”

The Avengers just seem more confused at his non sequitur. Silently JARVIS displays the image in question on the far wall, understanding dawning on every other face around him. It’s but a second before everyone dissolves into snickers and rambunctious laughter for Thor.

“We all have our moments Tony” and maybe it’s how tired he is or how the coffee that he just downed was more probably than not decaf, he’d need to have words with JARVIS about what he decided to order and buy, but the smile on Steve’s face just seems so warm and inviting, it scares the crap out of him.

“Yeah, thanks Cap” he says around a yawn “I have your punching bags ready by the way, just let me take a quick power nap and I’ll be down so we can test them”

As he moves out of the kitchen and reaches the elevator, his vision swims a little. Feeling off kilter, he reaches for the wall closest to him, stealing himself before any of the others notices anything.

“Ah, yes” JARVIS, bless his code, stops the elevator so he can finish speaking “I almost forgot, you all do know you’re welcome to stay here” he says, watching as the others regard him, maybe a little coldly but, then again, he hasn’t really made much of an effort to know them, depending on how this particular information was received, that could change “permanently, I mean”

He doesn’t really want to wait for an answer, waving for the elevator doors to close.

“Thank you Tony” it’s Natasha, out of all of them who answers, it’s makes him squirm, the way she’s looking at him, almost through him.

He nods once and the elevator blessedly begins to move as his knees give out and he sags against the wall.

“If I may sir”

“You’ll say it regardless and we both know it”

“If I may, sir” someday, Tony thinks, someday he’ll understand why he made his AI the way he did “your blood levels are far from safe, I have contacted both Mrs. Potts and Colonel Rhodes, they are on their way and are estimated to arrive in two hours”

Tony groans at the prospect of seeing his two best friends and the new asshole he knows they’ll rip into him.

“How does being graciously donated to MIT sound to you?” He muses “ok, new plan, forget sleeping, get me some real coffee for fucks sake, and show me the composition of palladium” he doesn’t really need to see it, branded as it is in his brain, countless nights and days and hours spent trying to find a cure “oh, and let the good ol’ Cap know that I need to postpone our session until further notice. Or no, wait, better yet, send the bots to the gym, they can carry the reinforced bags up there, ask our resident popsicle to go to town on them, to really try and destroy them, record everything, I’ll take a look later”

And with that, holograms began glowing blue around him, actual coffee being made in his coffee machine, AC/DC deafening him, Tony begins to seriously look and look and look for a solution.

Maybe it’s the urgency in his AI’s voice, or the way Steve’s name has begun to roll out of his tongue with more ease as the days move forward, how Natasha has stopped being Natalie in his head; how Clint still eats perched on the back of his chair somehow managing to pick on him while stirring away from any of his real weak points, the still unfinished renovations on the tower, made to withstand a group of enhanced and dangerous individuals.

Maybe it’s the prospect of movie nights, of showing Steve all he had missed in the ice, of annoying him with whatever new apps the StarkPhone came with. Maybe it’s the way Tony’s chest had begun to constrict a little whenever he ran into Steve at 3 am, sitting on a kitchen stool, tea mug forgotten besides him, the weight of his loneliness slumping his strong back down.

Whatever it is, Tony spends eighty four hours and change downing coffee and green smoothies, eating the sandwiches that seem to appear out of nowhere when he gets hungry, taking thirty minute naps when it really seems like he’s gonna keel over.

Pepper and Rhodey really do come over, they stay for about an hour ripping him a new one. After, they hug him really tight, enveloping him like they never want to let go and, for the first time in his thirty years, well Tony also doesn’t want to let go. The feeling of belonging crashes into his chest, overwhelming him so much that, for a moment, he can’t see anything through the blurry mess that are his eyes.

By the end Tony is exhausted, he’s probably lost weight, the bags under his eyes are almost black and the lines on his cheeks are pronounced enough that he’s almost convinced he’s spent ten years and not just three and a half days awake and working. By the end Tony is exhausted, but he’s smiling hard enough to create new lines around his mouth. Somehow he doesn’t really care.

A new element.

Fuck, a new element. Will surprises ever end in this new life of his.

It’s almost anticlimactic, how easily the palladium poisoning is reversed afterwards.

Afterwards meaning after Tony collapsed and JARVIS called any available Avenger currently residing in tower, guess even the AI got fed up of Tony’s bullshit self reliance. Turns out every single one of them had been playing a pretty intense round of Mario Kart when alarms started blaring.

Steve had been so angry, he’s probably still angry if the way he’s still clenching his jaw is any indication.

“You’re lucky Bruce has his breathing under control” Natasha isn’t smiling or smirking or whatever it is she does, she’s just serious, a little somber “you’re so stupid, I swear you scare me like this again and I’ll kill you myself, get that Stark”

For some reason that doesn’t sound like a question or much of a threat.

Clint just nods next to her and Bruce keeps on sipping his tea. Thor seems to not completely comprehend the fragile mortality of humans just yet, simply hugging Tony as he keeps on smiling.

“I am just glad your buttler machine called us and you are alright son of Stark” and, yeah, Tony really needs to teach Thor to just call him Tony, being called son of Stark when that last name had brought him well, his father, isn’t exactly pleasant.

“Yeah, thanks buddy, remind me that you’re my favorite next time something happens” If possible, Thor’s smile grows even wider, tightening his arms around the man, “oooooook, ok, please let go of the squishy human recovering from near death” Tony pats the god’s obscene muscles, huh, maybe he needs to start working out more lest he develop a complex.

One by one they start filling out the sterile and half built medical bay. Tony’s lucky he had thought of putting those somewhere in the basement.

“Don’t do that again” Steve’s voice is like steel, no room for arguments.

“Can’t make any promises Captain”

“It’s Steve” the man replies tiredly “not Captain America, it’s Steve”

Tony doesn’t know what to say, slowly feeling himself fall into how terrifying the man’s friendship can be. It’s not easy letting people in when you’re Tony Stark and Iron Man, one and both at the same time.

With a final nod, Steve leaves the room, giving space to Pepper and Rodney to barge in. Idly, Tony wonders how many new assholes they’re gonna rip into him before he manages to kill himself, knowing Pepper she’ll find a way to bring him back, rip him a new one and then kill him again if that ever happens. Better not try her then.

Tony’s put on bed rest for a whole week, an entire week where all he can do is either sit in his bed or sit in one of the living rooms, working on his tablet or running ideas through JARVIS. It’s almost too lucky how there are no major emergencies that require the presence of Iron Man in the city.

And so the days move on, the tower gets remodeled, the Avengers seem to become a permanent fixture in Tony’s life and no, he’s not explaining why he doesn’t exactly consider himself part of that extra exclusive group despite funding everything, attending every single meeting, fighting alongside them, and the media dubbing him and Captain America co-parents of the ragtag group. Which, honestly makes Tony laugh for a good two hours until he realizes they’re being serious, nobody before that would’ve considered Tony a parental anything, the pleased look on Steve’s face only helps to fan the fluttering that has taken place in Tony’s chest whenever the blond man is near or, more accurately, whenever Tony as much as thinks of the existence of Steve Rogers.

That’s one of the discoveries Tony’s most proud of, after almost nine months of living with the Avengers, Tony is most certainly sure they’re something akin to friends, he’d go as far as say that Steve is his work best friend (Rhodey is his life’s best friend and nobody would ever take that place). It’s a bit unsettling, noticing how Steve Rogers and Captain America are two different entities.

While yes, they hold the same moral compass and the same face and the same body and are indeed the same person; Steve is Steve and Captain America is just the persona he becomes when the people need him to be bigger than life, need some sort of compass in the way. Sometimes the weight of his responsibilities seems to almost swallow him whole.

The two of them are so different and so alike, two sides of the same coin. Tony wants to be known as Iron Man, Tony and Iron Man are one and the same. As a punishment for his last sins or as a reminder that he has repented and is a better person now, not even he knows.

It’s a rare opportunity that all of them are together having dinner. Be as it may, they are all high profile individuals with real jobs aside from the super hero gig.

They’re just sitting there, eating take out from the Thai place down the block when something catches his eye, it’s too fast and he turns looking for it, Natasha’s wearing a sleeveless top and there, on the swell of her right shoulder rest a couple of small dots, frozen and empty. Tony tries not to, can’t help but stare, a familiar ache under his ribs. And most days it’s fine, he’s fine, he’s okay, he doesn’t mind that his skin is broken and his biology or magic or destiny or whatever the fuck decided he didn’t deserve anyone after all, but seeing it there, plain as day on somebody else, he can’t help but stare.

His silence must stretch for too long, suddenly five pairs of eyes fix on him, following his line of sight and breaking his staring contest with Natasha’s shoulders.

“See something you like?” She asks, smirks around her metal straw.

Tony can’t really say anything, can’t even muster the strength to hide his emotions and flirt back. At the back of his mind he wonders when he became so comfortable with them that his walls are not as available to put up as they used to be.

Her smirk turns gentle, lips softening into a small smile “it was a long time ago if you nosy people must know” her eyes betray nothing “she died a while ago”

And it’s like a punch to the gut, like the floor underneath him has suddenly opened up and there’s no Iron Man suit to help him fly. He won’t cry but it’s close, the burning of his throat slowly making its way down to his stomach.

“Don’t look at me like that, the years we spent together were some of the happiest of my life, so don’t you dare look at me like that” and she’s fierce as she says that, it occurs to Tony that Natasha is not lying, that she’s glad to have had her destined if only for a bit.

He doesn’t say anything but also doesn’t avert his gaze as she looks him in the eyes, it would be a disservice to the rare vulnerability she’s shown.

It turns into a round of tell all, Clint going next, showing the sole of his left foot where two dots rest.

“I want to tell you all about her so much” he sighs, a wistful look dimming his smile somewhat “she’s amazing, but I can’t, not with this life path”

And Tony gets it, he really does, when there are nights he can’t sleep because all he’ll see as his eyes close are shadows upon shadows encroaching Pepper, hands reaching for Rhodey, a dark abyss swallowing Happy, the infinite expanse of their universe suffocating every Avenger, Steve in the middle of it all.

Bruce is a little more reserved with his timer, only allowing them the knowledge that it’s still running and that he doesn’t really know what kind of person he wants to be on the other end of time.

Surprisingly, Thor also has a timer on him “got it when I landed here, on Midgard” he explains, “us Asgardians are free with our love” he doesn’t offer more information, just sits there with a placid smile on his face, Tony guesses nobody has actually explained to him what the timers actually are, not that anybody actually understands the damned things.

Now there’s only Steve and Tony left, sweat begins to pool on Tony’s lower back as Steve opens his mouth, time slows down to molasses as he sees how much closer they are to him. As much as he enjoys spending time with the team, because that’s what they’ve worked to become, a team, there are still parts of him he’s not ready to share. Parts of him he doesn’t think he’ll ever be read to share.

“Bucky”

Steve says the name with the ease of having said it a million times before and the grating difficulty of having lost the practice of calling someone by it. No one really knows how to answer to that.

And Tony wants to ask, he obviously knew about the two of them, he doesn’t think theres anyone who has heard the Captain America story and not known about him and Bucky Barnes but that’s the theory, he wants to know what’s inside, he wants to ask about everything in between.

But mostly, he wants the coldness that suddenly starts to spread around the pair of missing timers to stop.

He doesn’t say anything, just smiles at his friend and whistles lowly.

“Well damn cap, I’ve seen photos of Bucky and let me tell you” he winks for the drama of it.

The other Avengers laugh and nobody says anything when Tony skips his turn and changes the topic to the latest modifications he’s doing on their uniforms.

Maybe Steve looks at him a little funny but Tony pretends not to see, knocking back his tenth cup of coffee of the day and moving on.

It’s six months from that late night conversation when they finally find footage from the Winter Soldier. “Shit” Tony swears there are reasons that he’s agnostic, knowing Thor he can’t really call himself an atheist, but knowing Steve and now seeing Bucky, dead eyed and robotic, he can’t also say he believes in some omnipotent all-encompassing divinity that would allow such suffering.

“Tony, there’s something you need to know”

Steve stands at the door to the workshop, nervous, it’s endearing, reminds Tony of those first months of them living in the tower.

“The Winter Soldier-Bucky” they’ve been following the man for close to a year now, Tony has seen Steve become more and more desperate with every mission that went unanswered, the titanium punching bags sit now reinforced with vibranium, a gift from the Wakandan king.

“He...” Steve clears his throat and now Tony’s also nervous, they need to be in the Quinjet in five minutes, today is the day they bring Bucky Barnes back. Steve sighs, steels himself, Tony can see the determination in the fierceness of his eyes, the set of his jaw. For reasons he won’t disclose to even himself, his heart squeezes in a vice grip waiting for the blond to finish. “Bucky is the one responsible for your parents death”

“Oh” he doesn’t really know what else he could say to that “I knew that”

“What”

“Yeah. I mean, I didn’t know know it was him, I just knew it had something to do with Hydra. Then we found out he’s the Winter Soldier and I put two and two together. Genius, remember?” He taps his right temple as he says this, and it hurts, being reminded of that day a decade ago, his feelings for both his parents notwithstanding, but he can’t really blame Bucky. Not when he also knows intimately what it’s like to be paralyzed and having people do whatever they want with your body.

“Yeah, genius” and there’s something funny in Steve’s eyes as he looks at Tony. There’s an odd twinkle there that Tony tells himself not to see, months and months of 3 am conversations, of prank wars and Mario Kart fights, and Tony still doesn’t look Steve in the eye for too long. He won’t let the other man see the infinite sentiment that has suffocated him since that night when they talked about soulmate finding clocks and Steve whispered Bucky’s name like a reverence.

It’s gruesome and they’re exhausted after the fight. But they have Bucky, strapped in the Quinjet as a precaution, his eyes clear as day, gray and stormy as they look at Steve in wonderment.

And it’s so tender, like they’re meeting anew that Tony has to look away. He focuses on calling Pepper and organizing the lawyers that will take on Bucky’s case. After all, he did not just learn the entirety of the USA’s legal system a week ago for them to fuck it up.

Arriving back stateside it’s an absolute disaster. Secretary Ross, asshole extraordinaire, is waiting for them when they land, waving around an arrest warrant against one James Buchanan Barnes aka the Winter Soldier. The Avengers are instantly on the man, stupid as he is for trying to ambush them when they are tired from a mission as gruesome as recovering a brainwashed ex-assassin who so happens to be their captain’s soul mate, or as Tony calls it, a Tuesday.

And Tony has to give it to the man, as much as he hates him and everything he stands for, secretary Ross has done his research, rebutting them at every turn and allegation. It takes for Bucky to get triggered and almost murder every single one of them, Hulk and Thor included, for Ross to leave them alone with the promise of coming back with cavalry.

It’s not ideal but at least it buys Tony time to formulate something, his mind already running with every possible defense they can use.

“JARVIS please send Pepper a message detailing what just happened, ask her to prepare the lawyers, we won’t have a lot of time” he sighs, he’s tired for fucks sake, he just wants a bath and to go to bed, not to be dealing with government assholes who don’t understand the difference between first degree murder when you’re sane vs when you’re being mind controlled. He groans just thinking about the months to come.

When he looks up Steve is already looking at him, with such focus and gratefulness in his eyes that Tony loses his balance for a moment, Bucky’s in the captain’s arms, but the blond’s attention remains on Tony.

He turns around, not wanting to see that, hey sometimes even heroes are cowards.

“Who’s hungry?” He asks the room at large. Unanimous grunts answer him. “Yeah, figures. JARVIS, my favorite child, you know what to do”

“Pizzas were ordered twenty minutes ago, they’re to arrive in approximately seven minutes sir”

“Have I told you how much I appreciate your robot butler lately?”

“I assure you I am not a robot nor a butler Mr. Barton” none of them bother to wonder how a mechanical voice coming from the ceiling can manage to sound both disappointed and threatening at once.

Tony snickers at Clint’s paling face as he walks to the elevators, seven minutes are more than enough for a quick shower and clean clothes. He hopes it’s enough to get his thoughts in order. It’s not like he’s not happy for Steve, because he is, he genuinely is, there’s nobody more deserving of happiness than Steve. Sweet, intelligent, dry humor Steve who volunteers on sundays to read to children at their local library, who saves kittens from trees and interrupts his morning jogs to take pictures with obnoxious tourists.

So Tony’s happy for Steve.

And yet.

And yet, he cannot help but wreck his lungs as he drowns in the hopeless endeavor that is jealousy, because he can already see it, how Steve will pull away from him, how their found friendship will start to crack under the pressure of a newly recovered boyfriend, and god Tony’s such an asshole, of course Bucky needs attention, the man has spent seventy years brainwashed doing god knows what for the shadiest fucking organization outside the US government.

The water tries to drain the tension from his body, he washes his hair and scrubs his scalp and takes a shower longer than he wanted to. By the time he’s calmed down enough to go back downstairs, it’s been twenty minutes and he can hear the others talking quietly, guess nobody’s really in the mood for laughing right now. He really hopes Thor didn’t inhale all the pizza.

As he sits down next to Steve, always next to Steve, Bucky on Steve’s other side, he notices with mounting despair that most of the pizza boxes are empty. Shit, he was actually hungry today, now he’s just irritated.

“Here” a plate appears in front of him, five slices of New York’s finest street pie piled on top of each other “I saved you some”

And of course Steve saved him some. It’s such a mundane moment, Steve passing him a plate heaping with pizza because none of the others bothered to think that maybe Tony, who’s paying for the thirty something pies on the table, might be hungry too. It’s so so so mundane and it’s there and then that Tony realizes with mounting horror that he’s falling for Steve Rogers, not Captain America concurrent star of a lot of his fantasies, but Steve Rogers with his perfect frozen little dots somewhere on his perfect body, Steve Rogers who’s boyfriend is currently siting at the same table.

Now Tony has done a number of despicable things in his lifetime, but coming between timeless impossible lovers Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes will not be of them. He decides to bury it all as soon as he recovers from the shock of having actual feelings for his friend. It only takes him approximately two and a half panic attacks in the short period of one night.

Stark Industries’ lawyers work relentlessly on Bucky’s case, their paychecks are more than enough to keep them motivated and, if that wasn’t enough, there’s always the possibility to face a disappointed Pepper Potts-Hogan, which nobody ever wants to do.

Whenever Bucky needs to do a court appearance it’s decided that at least one Avenger and Steve will be with him. The rest of the time Tony works with the man trying to reprogram that brain of his into the closest resemblance of the Bucky Barnes before torture. His BARF technology working in conjunction with JARVIS to learn and evolve as they slowly break through Hydra’s programming.

“I’ll never be that man again, that Bucky died a long time ago”

“Yeah” Tony sighs, some days are harder than others, he gets it, he really does, or well, as much as someone who has gone through the whole PTSD process can get it “I know”

Barnes nods once, something dejected in his eyes and no, fuck no, they didn’t work as hard as they did to get this man back for him to give up on himself.

“Steve knows too” he looks straight into grey eyes, doesn’t let the super soldier avoid him “the 1930s Bucky might not be here anymore, but neither is the 1930s Steve” his voice is a bit harsher than he intended, but whatever, nobody has ever accused him of having tact “so maybe help me out a little here and we’ll try to find a twenty first century Bucky for this twenty first century Steve”

And Tony’s not stupid ok, he’s a certified genius for something, of course he understands that whatever they’re doing, whatever Barnes has to do to move forward has to be for himself. But Tony also understands guilt and self hatred, is intimately acquainted with feeling worthless, the weight of actions that maybe weren’t exactly his own on his shoulders, and so, he knows that living for someone else will have to do for now. At least until Barnes learns to be Bucky again.

It has to be karma.

It has to be karma or retribution or punishment from some divine force he still doesn’t quite believe in. There cannot be any other explanation.

Months fly by in a flurry of courthouses, lawyers, therapists, BARF sessions, Tony builds a new arm with the help of the Wakandan princess (honestly humbled and incredibly jealous of her genius), and all too soon it’s been eighteen months since Bucky, because he’s Bucky now, came to live in the tower.

Tony tries not to stare, he really really tries not to stare. Grumbling to himself about how he should be used to the supersoldiers by now and it’s his damn house, fuck, he should be able to walk through the damned kitchen without having to tip toe around teammates exchanging saliva. Which, rude, it’s a public space, where everyone spends time, and where they should have the peace and tranquility of doing so without public displays of affection.

“Oh, hush Tony” Pepper’s laughing at him now “you act like we haven’t caught you doing worse in this very room”

“Now that’s just unfair” and he refuses to admit how whiny he sounds even to his own ears “that was a long long time ago and I was most definitely not sober”

It really says something about how long they’ve been friends that they can joke about those times now, that there is no judgement and no hard feelings, just the quiet love between friends.

Pepper smiles at him and oh no, he’s gonna regret whatever comes out of her mouth next. “Your ass did look amazing on that particular one”

“Whose ass looked amazing where doll?” Bucky’s face appears in front of them, followed by a red cheeked Steve.

Pepper opens her mouth again, her eyes bright and wide open, looking for all intents and purposes the picture of innocence.

“Tony’s, which one was it? Ah yes, the third sex tape. His ass looked really nice in that particular one” she smiles at the two super soldiers while Tony splutters in the background, he really needs to invest in new friends.

In his peripheral Tony is vaguely aware that Steve keeps on blushing while Bucky merely smirks that cocky little thing that drives Tony up the fucking wall. And yeah, ok, if realizing he had fallen in love with one super soldier was bad, coming to the conclusion that now he had a crush the size of Alaska on the other super soldier was devastating to say the least.

Over the course of their BARF sessions, team dinners, arm maintenance and everyday interactions, it had been hard not to notice first just how handsome the man was. Sure, Steve’s good looking, too good looking, to the point were it almost hurts to look at him directly, he’s the sun. Barnes though? He’s classically handsome, with sharp features and stormy eyes. Not to mention the charm the man knew how to play to his favor, he pulls people in with a well placed smirk and a wink. Tony didn’t stand a chance.

He almost managed to break his personal record of days in a row spent in the workshop without social interaction, and he would’ve succeeded, if not for the pesky super soldier super couple barging in to carry him firefighter style and unceremoniously dropping him in his own bathroom, only leaving after ordering him to shower and then “just go to sleep Tony, please?” And, honestly, the disrespect of having been carried around like a sack of potatoes and then the audacity of these men of using Steve’s pleading look when the entirety of New York and their mothers knew Tony couldn’t say no to that? Unbelievable.

He still did as he was told and slept for twelve hours straight. When he woke up there was coffee and blueberry pancakes waiting for him in the kitchen, along with the super couple of the century. All in all, he couldn’t really feel bad for himself.

Even so, he vowed to never say anything of anything to anyone.

A month later found him spilling everything to one Pepper Potts-Hogan. Damn her and her Machiavellian ways, Tony shudders thinking what would happen if she ever joins forces with Natasha.

“The third one you say?” Bucky’a voice reverberates through the buzz in his ears.

“Yes, the third one. It’s online” Pepper whispers, mocking him and the panic he’s starting to feel bubbling to the surface. Why, just why in the hell had he told Pepper anything. The crazy woman was convinced he had a chance with the power couple, Tony’s a genius, he had run the possibilities and his had amounted to a negative number.

Taking into account how his little timers remained burned out, well, who could blame him for not being overtly optimistic.
“Buck, stop it”

“Oh come on Steve” and even though Bucky’s talking to Steve, his eyes never leave Tony’s “don’t you wanna see how great Tony’s ass looked?”

“I resent the implication that it doesn’t look great anymore” Tony sniffs, pulling onto the last vestiges of his vanity to defend his honor and the small sparks of hope that had begun to infect his chest every time Steve and Bucky invited him for lunch or a movie or a stupid baseball game where he didn’t really care to understand anything, every time the both of them went down to the workshop just to sit there or play with the bots or drag Tony up because he’d spent way too long away from society. “I’ll have you know, Robocop dearest, that my ass looks great in the present, thank you very much”

In an attempt to leave the conversation there, Tony moves to the coffee maker.

“Oh, believe me doll” and Bucky’s voice is saccharine sweet, nothing good can come from that “we are plenty aware of just how great your ass currently looks”

Somewhere behind Bucky, Steve facepalms, Pepper’s lips twitch in an attempt to not burst out laughing while Tony’s rendered speechless, he’s sure his jaw is by the floor and his eyes are bugging out of his face. Maybe as a protection mechanism all that plays through his brain is how unattractive he probably looks in that moment.

“Let’s go Buck, stop bugging Tony” Steve begins pulling his boyfriend by their intertwined hands and it’s that, that soft reminder that it’s them and Tony is just, well, just Tony that sobers him up. Something must show in his face because both Steve and Bucky lose their good humor on an instant.

“Hey doll, I’m sorry if I overstepped something, I didn’t really mean...”

“It’s fine, don’t worry about it” and that’s the end of it, isn’t it? Bucky didn’t mean anything, he was just teasing Tony, it’s not like they really are interested in the squishy human, not even in his body, not that Tony would ever be happy with a purely physical relationship but, he would be lying if he said he hadn’t imagined at least one or two rounds with them. But, once again, he’s just not enough.

“Tony, look at me”

“I said it’s ok” his voice cuts through the space in the kitchen, and he knows Bucky doesn’t have the best temperament, still, he’s surprised by the hard edge to the man’s expression as he simply turns around and leaves him be.

He’s not too sure of what happened, just that he can’t meet Steve’s eyes as the blond follows Bucky out of the kitchen.

“Why are you like this” it’s not even a question, Pepper already knows why he is the way he is, what Tony can’t understand is why she insists in meddling, she knows damn well that nothing good can come out of it.

“Pepper, I love you” he starts, his voice hasn’t lost the closed off edge from before “but I’m going to ask you to please never do that again”

For reasons unbeknownst to him, life decides to give Tony a small respite in whatever muddled space his friendship with the super soldiers has ended in, his life gets so busy he really has no time or a chance to meet any of the resident super humans even in passing. He knows that neither of them are in the tower for about a week because Fury called them out to some sort of super secret karaoke session (and he still keeps tabs on them through JARVIS).

The week after that he manages to lose them as he’s taken to Japan in an impromptu business trip that Pepper cannot attend last minute. It’s a whirlwind of meetings and lunches and people he can hardly remember by the time he’s back in his room in the tower. He’s exhausted but he’s antsy and sleep won’t come no matter how much he tosses and turns.

Annoyed with himself he gets out of bed, might as well be useful while he’s awake, he makes his way to the kitchen, looking for coffee before he goes down to the workshop. He has a coffee machine down there but the better coffee beans are kept in the communal kitchen, it’s not that big of a hardship to make the detour.

Later he’ll blame how tired he is for how he doesn’t hear anything until he’s face to face with the last two people he wanted to see right then.

It’s such a mundane scene that Tony wonders why he’s so shocked into it, any other Avenger has walked in on the super couple doing worse. The air smells fragrant, full of spices, butter and garlic. Despite himself, Tony’s mouth waters.

“Here, try this” Bucky’s voice is quiet, breaks his musing and the surprise still in his system. For a moment he panics thinking he’s being addressed. But Steve turns from where he’s doing the dishes, opens with mouth and takes the offered bite.

He smiles as he chews, a small furrow between his brows as he seems to try and find all the flavors in it. “It’s good Buck” he finally settles on, moving forward to plant a small kiss on the other man’s closed lips. They both smile into each other and suddenly Tony doesn’t really care that all he has to drink is the stale pre ground coffee down at the workshop.

Tony doesn’t wait to listen to the rest of their conversation, knows he hasn’t the right to intrude between them, not after all the time and space they’ve somehow managed to transcend and finally be together.

The mangled mess of skin under his ribs an ever present reminder that there’s no one for Tony. Maybe it’s atonement, for fucking everything and everyone who so much as breathed next to him, for not guarding himself for whomever it would’ve been.

A couple of hours go by, he downs three mugs of coffee and advances on the new Kevlar composition he’s been working on for his teammates uniforms, he still needs to find a way to accommodate the damn thing to each one of their necessities. Natasha’s and Clint’s need to be lighter, thinner and more flexible than Steve’s and Bucky’s. Which brings him to the actualization he actually does need to do on that arm, as conflicting as his feelings for the two men are, he certainly did not put as much work as he did on that metal arm only to let it rot away just to avoid meeting them.

“You have visitors sir” if JARVIS’ exasperated tone is anything to go by, Tony guesses this is probably the third or fourth time he’s called out to him.

“Wha” a plate of food descends in front of him, his stomach growling without his consent.

“Figured you’d be hungry” and Steve is laughing at him, Bucky not far behind, a brow quirked and signature smirk in place.

“Yeah” idly he wonders how many more years he’ll be able to get away with no sleep “thanks”

Something softens in both super soldiers’ expressions as they move to sit, not on the couch though, they pull two little stools near him and settle with plates of their own.

“Um”

“What? You wanted something else?” Bucky asks, forkful of lasagna dangling uselessly between his plate and his open mouth.

“Uh, no, I actually hadn’t really thought of anything” he answers “just thought you would’ve already eaten by now”

“By now?” The both ask in unison, a silent eye and brows conversation passing between them. God, Tony hates when they do that, not because they shouldn’t have their secrets, but because he feels so left out, like the both of them are in their own world and he’s been left behind.

“Yeah, Terminator, weren’t you cooking this like a million years ago?”

Two sets of blue eyes, one cool one warm, turn to him, it’s a dizzying split second where he can see the mischief brewing in there before he realizes he fucked up. He had left the kitchen quietly, sure that neither of them had seen him, only for his brain to mouth filter to stop working.

“Doll” and yeah, Bucky is definitely laughing at him a little there “it’s lasagna, it takes time to make”

“Just eat your pasta Tony, we’ll talk afterwards” there’s the reason Steve is most definitely his favorite of the both of them. “Besides, Buck here doesn’t just make his infamous lasagna just for anyone, you should consider yourself plenty special” and now Steve is also laughing at him for some reason, the Captain is not his favorite anymore.

“You’re not my favorite anymore” he announces “Thor is back on first place”

Both super soldiers laugh, the corners of their eyes crinkling, Tony feels like he’s lost his footing again. And so he eats, they eat, the lasagna is delicious and Steve manages to produce garlic bread from somewhere in his person, Tony doesn’t question it, maybe the serum also gave him garlic bread making abilities.

“I don’t think making garlic bread was something Dr. Erskine was thinking about when he injected me Tony” they’re still laughing a little at him, and Tony’s comfortable here, sitting between these two men that are big enough, strong enough to crush his entire existence.

Tony’s man enough to acknowledge that he’s an absolute mess in the face of the combined strength of one Steve Rogers and one Bucky Barnes.

“There’s something we’ve been meaning to talk to you about” Steve clears his throat, Tony doubts there’s anything there that needed clearing. The plates have been put away and there’s nothing separating Tony from the two super soldiers and their laser focus on him. It’s terrifying for reasons he knows and won’t voice, not after the incident with Pepper.

Rhodey knows because of course he knows, he’s visited the tower enough times in the past year and a half to notice the tense set of Tony’s being when the two men are around, how he relaxes when they talk to him and how he preens with a different kind of pride when their attention is turned to him.

His best friend has also been around the tower enough to start conspiracy theories and delusions from what he thinks are the ways Steve and Bucky look at Tony and act around Tony and apparently look for Tony even when there are other people in the tower.

Tony begs Rhodey to please visit an ophthalmologist and possibly a psychiatrist as soon as possible.

“For a genius you can be pretty dumb Tones” Rhodey had exhaled against the dark curls on the top of his head, they had been cuddling after a movie, something about being enveloped in the strong arms of the other man settling Tony, making him feel safe in ways maybe only his Iron Man armor allowed.

There’s a burning sensation under his right breastbone, exactly where he knows the dark spot left behind from Afghanistan sits. The air around the workshop is suddenly uncomfortable to breath, he can’t look Steve in the eyes and turning to Bucky just leaves him staring into what he refuses to believe is open hope.

“If it’s about Terminator’s arm actualizations, they’re ready, we can even do them right now if you guys want to. Like they say, no time like the present” he’s rambling, he knows he’s rambling, but he doesn’t want to hear whatever it is after Steve’s initial sentence. He doesn’t think he’ll be able to hear to whatever it is they want to say.

Because, as much as he’d like to believe in his acting and press management abilities, he also knows how painfully obvious he has been in the way he both feels and refuses to feel about the two super soldiers. Natasha must smirks at him every times she catches him staring after one of the pair, Clint hasn’t said anything but the pointed looks he sends his ways everytime he sees the three of them together can lead to no other conclusion. Bruce is quieter, offering a small and sincere smile, Tony wouldn’t say there’s pity in his science bro’s eyes, but there’s something akin to it and that, that he is definitely not ready to face.

Out of all of the Avengers, Thor appears to be the only one willing to respect his wishes, the god is smarter than anyone gives him credit for, figuring what’s going on and deciding on letting Tony keep his pride.

And out of all of that, the targets of his twisted affection remain non wiser.

Or so Tony thought. But what if they had known all along. What if they were just humoring him in order to maintain the peace and the balance of the team.

He knows them well enough to not even entertain the thought that they’d remain civil for the money and shelter he provides. They know him well enough to be sure that Tony wouldn’t leave them dry even if things went south, at least Tony hopes they do.

“Why do you do that?” Bucky sighs, all humor and smiles leaving his handsome face, his shoulders taking an almost defeated slump.

“Don’t know what you’re talking about, I’m not doing anything” denial, denial until it becomes true.

“Tony, come on, don’t be”

“Sir, Colonel Rhodes just arrived”

Bless JARVIS, maybe Tony had programmed him right after all.

An annoyed look passes both super soldiers’ faces, it’s there a second and then gone, Tony only notices it because of how long he’s spent watching like the utter creep he is.

“I’m not crashing date night, am I?” A familiar voice trails in before it’s owner walks calmly into the workshop.

“Honey bear!” At this point Rhodey is but fazed by the grown man jumping into his arms as a pair of long legs wrap around his torso, effectively turning the colonel into something resembling a tree with a koala hanging for dear life.

“You are crashing a little bit if I can be honest” Bucky grumbles under his breath, earning himself a glare from Steve, a surprised Tony and a smirk from the newest addition.

“Happy to see you colonel” always well mannered with those he likes, Steve shakes hands with Rhodey as the man easily maneuvers the space while simultaneously carrying his best friend.

“How many times have I told you to just call me James?”

“Still feels a little weird”

“Yeah, that sounds like a you issue man. And you, robot arm over there, are you also happy to see me?” Tony doesn’t want to ask why Rhodey sounds like he’s teasing their super soldier numero dos, content with nuzzling the man’s neck and receiving a wet kiss on his right cheek for his troubles.

Something breaks behind him, finally forcing him to get off of his friend’s embrace and turn to look, Steve stands where he’d been, shock on his features and a blush making it’s way down his neck, splotching his cheeks and what’s visible of his collarbones. God bless that plaster white Irish complexion. And there, in his closed fist, are the remnants of a what appears to be a piece of his work table.

Nobody moves for approximately thirty five seconds, and then Rhodey is doubling over with laughter, tears gathering on the corners of his eyes.

“That’s the same alloy of my suit, how the fuck did you do that? Do I need to reinforce my suits now?”

“No, I, sorry Tony, I don’t know what happened”

“I do” pipes Rhodey, immediately going back to clutching his stomach as his laughter comes out in the wheezes of someone who has just been told the best joke on the entire universe.

Tony’s confused as Bucky starts taking the piles of dirty dishes to take them back upstairs.

“Hey, what about the arm?”

“We’ll talk tomorrow doll. Nice to see you Colonel”

“Not you too” Rhodey groans.

“I’m really sorry about your table Tony” Steve quickly follows Bucky, both of the men with twin expressions of disappointment on their faces.

“You” Rhodey starts, pointing a finger at Tony’s face “are stupid as can be. God bless the souls of those two poor idiots”

“Honey bear, darling of my heart, love of my life and light of my eyes, I adore you, but you are not making sense”

“I’m the one not making any sense” it doesn’t help that the entire world seems to be taller than Tony, allowing Rhodey the perfect vantage point to tip his head and look down on him.

Thankfully Rhodey drops the subject and the night devolves into cold beers, new feature to the War Machine suit, and messing around. It’s almost enough to make Tony forget about the dull ache that hasn’t stopped under his ribs.

One month. Four weeks. Thirty exact days. Seven hundred and twenty hours to the dot.

Seconds trickle down on the new glowing numbers that have appeared under the arc reactor, a little bit to the left. Tony looks at it a little bit dumbfounded, sure that he’d gone to sleep without them. He’d woken up that morning, still snuggling Rhodey, the comforting smell of his best friend encompassing him. Everything had been fine, the had had a small headache as he got up to pee. As he was brushing his teeth, his shirt forgotten in favor of changing out of his pajamas, that he noticed it, like a mole you know it’s not supposed to be there.

It’s enough to make him laugh. A cruel joke, the hook of it the two men he already knew he had fallen in love with, the butt of it, how there was one single clock counting backwards.

So, destiny had deemed Tony Stark good enough to be loved by someone, just not good enough for the two he wanted.

He doesn’t even question it, finishes his business, changes to a clean shirt and keeps his mouth shut. He doesn’t even need to tell JARVIS to keep it from both Pepper and Rhodey.

That first day he’s tense, Natasha keeps sending him worried little looks while Rhodey seems suspicious. Specially so because they’d been fine going to sleep and Tony’s demeanor had changed only as he woke up. Never before had Tony felt the relief that floods him that afternoon when Rhodey has to go back to whatever Air Force business the government needs of him.

Pepper calls him later that night, asking if he’s ok. He doesn’t necessarily lie, he just doesn’t disclose everything that’s going on. He’ll have to tell them eventually, he’s not stupid, but he’s definitely scared and angry and a little bit annoyed, so he’ll delay it as much as possible.

Every day that counts backwards begins to feel like it’s going too fast and not fast enough. The anxiety is killing him, he doesn’t sleep for the first week, at least until he collapses in the middle of the workshop and miraculously wakes up in his bed.

Steve and Bucky are mad at him the next day. “I never want JARVIS to wake me up at three in the fucking morning to walk into your workshop and find you passed out on the hard ass floor” tall as they are, they tower over him, it’s almost too easy to not look up and into Bucky’s angry eyes.

“It won’t happen again” he half promises “JARVIS won’t call you again, don’t worry about it”

“Tony, that’s not what we...ah shit, just please take care of yourself” it’s not a question but it’s also not a Captain America order, it’s just Steve, asking.

So Tony nods and changes the subject, he knows he can’t answer either of the men with whatever it is they want to hear from him.

Two days later he installs Bucky’s new arm, Steve there as insurance. “Just in case” they both had said, as if Tony hadn’t personally worked in erasing everything that could trigger the Winter Soldier back. Bruce is also there, Tony insists it’s because biology is not his field of expertise, a lie, every field is Tony’s field of expertise. Not for the first time, he doesn’t want to be left alone with the two super soldiers.

Sooner than he’d like, two weeks have gone by, half the time on the little clock. As the days went by it became not easier but less difficult to breathe around Steve and Bucky, things settling down in a small mimicry of the friendship they had shared before Tony made decision of staying out of their way.

Neither Steve nor Bucky attempt to continue to conversation interrupted that lasagna night. It seems so far away, somehow Tony thinks he’ll never be able to eat bolognese sauce the same. Quite a shame if he says so himself, it was one of his favorites.

As the third week begins to dwindle to it’s second half Tony thinks he’s fooled everyone. He doesn’t look at the damned numbers anymore, acts flippant and flirty and egotistical. The whole Tony Stark shebang.

Natasha keeps sending worried looks his way, once he thought she’d found out, hiding in his bathroom until the wrecking half inhale of air slowed down and his panic attack subsided. He couldn’t really think of what to do but ask JARVIS to monitor her closely.

“My observations determine that miss Romanov hasn’t yet found out about what you’re keeping” JARVIS’ voice soothing him despite the lack of inflection “however she does suspect you of having a secret. As your AI, programmed to look after your health and overall wellbeing, and for what it’s worth sir, I would find it advisable for you to talk to someone”

“Thank you JARVIS”

Just like hat, the third week’s seventh day finds him eating out of a Ben & Jerry’s pint, sulking at destiny or whatever the fuck it is that keeps toying him like a string doll. He’s halfway down the caloric bomb, his spoon dangling from his mouth as he stares listlessly into the empty kitchen.

“Death by chocolate? You angry doll?”

And it should say something about his current state of mind that he doesn’t jump, he doesn’t as much as turns slowly to where Bucky’s standing by the kitchen island.

Tony just shrugs and dives for another spoonful.

“Hey, are you ok?” And Bucky’s not teasing him anymore, he’s worried about him, with that adorable frown both super soldiers seem to have rubbed on each other during their time together.

“I’m fine” he mumbles around the sugary treat “or I’ll be fine, it’s.......it’s stupid”

“Tony, nothing about you is stupid”

And he can’t take that, not before and specially not right now. Not the tenderness and care and how special he feels whenever he’s the sole focus of one of the absolutely wonderful men he apparently doesn’t deserve. It pisses him off even more than he already was.

“Ah well, darling Terminator, clearly you haven’t spent enough time with me and my disasters”

Bucky rolls his eyes, a small smile playing in his features and drops the subject.

That last week has to be the worst of them all. Tony doesn’t know how many more times he can go through all five stages of grief at once before his frayed nerves simply give up and kill him with a heart attack. It’s five days to the end of the countdown and he’s settled on acceptance as he spars with Steve, throwing punches and lunging forward to try and tackle the blond wall of brick.

And Steve lets him get one or another, pulling his punches and acting all sweet and surprised as he looks up from where’s spread out on the gym mat. It pisses Tony off, everything is making him angry nowadays. What’s after this? Bargaining again? Bargaining with who? Shit, maybe Thor will cut him a deal if he offers an eternal supply of pop tarts and cheap pizza to the god.

“Tony”

He gets up, suddenly not interested in whatever Steve wants to say, wiping the sweat he’s worked he turns to leave for a shower, not before seeing the worried expression on the blond man.

“I’m fine” he doesn’t sound fine at all it’s the thing, so he just huffs again, like the mature adult that knows how to deal with problems he is, and leaves the gym.

Hours keep passing by, he takes his shower and goes down to the workshop, immersing himself in whatever work he has for SI and the Avengers. He works and works, drinks his coffee and eats the random sandwiches that keep being left next to him whenever his stomach begins to threaten to eat itself.

It would be a lot to say he doesn’t notice it, how it’s the last day, how the numbers have caught up to the last twenty four hours. Because, these are things that don’t need to even be memorized, he’s focused on them so much he can almost feel as they move and change from twenty four to twenty three and a half to twenty three sharp to twenty two and a half and so on and so forth.

He’s nauseous.

Yesterday he had arrived at acceptance of his fate again, but today he had skipped denial and went all the way to anger town again. So he’s seething in his bedroom, not even bothering to get out of his pajamas, the poor motherfucker that gets stuck with him for eternity might as well know the real messy him early on. Not really in the mood for tech, not really in the mood for anything. But just sitting there, angry as can be, makes him antsy and his breath shortens out twice before he decides he needs to do something lest his brain kill him from overthinking.

It’s weird how he doesn’t run into anyone as he walks the stairs to the kitchen and then to his workshop, there are times where there’s but one or two of them in house but today JARVIS had checked and everyone sans Thor are somewhere in here, so it’s a little weird. Knowing destiny and it’s penchant for messing with Tony’s sanity, he doesn’t question it, just gets angrier.

Contrary to popular belief, Tony does have things to do. It’s half a year for the launch of the new StarkPhones and StarkPads; with faster response time, longer battery life, and of course the piece de resistance an amazing camera quality (both front and back excuse him, he’s bisexual he knows). And before being able to announce it to the public there are specs for the inside and specs for the outside, gotta look pretty too, and trying to see if it can be mass produced and not just a little game in Tony’s work table.

His neck is hurting from looking down so long, as he looks up to stretch a little, his eyes land on the piece of bent table that for some reason he hasn’t gotten around fixing.

He knows the reason.

Guilt pools on his stomach as he distinctly remembers every night he’s sat there, pulling on his weeping cock, three fingers up his ass, as he looks at that same indentation, physical proof of the strength in Steve Rogers and, if extrapolation can be trusted, also in Bucky Barnes.

A shiver runs down his spine thinking of what the two of them must get to when they’re just the two of them.

And that’s his brain’s cue to be angry again, he’s seething, shaking red in the face with how upset he's gotten.

Because first of all, how dare destiny tell him he’s not good enough for the two men he wants, how dare destiny deny him the things and people he has decided to love, the people he has dedicated the better chunk of the past couple of years to, how dare destiny point him in the direction of who knows who and just tell him “ah yeah, you’ll love this one” without asking Tony first.

How dare destiny- his train of thought cuts off abruptly, he was so angry he hadn’t even noticed his feet moving, walking on their own accord, he’s still moving now, dread spreading like tendrils through his nervous system as he realizes it’s time, there are no more numbers as they come down to zero.

And yeah, ok, fuck destiny, he thinks with a hysterical laugh.

Fuck destiny.

He’s Tony fucking Stark, he’ll love whoever the fuck he wants to love, and if those people happen to be Steve and Bucky, both in love with each other already, then who gives a flying shit, he’ll still love them.

Because he’s Tony Stark and he never does something he doesn’t want to do, and they are Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes, the pinnacle of human perfection, taller than his refrigerator, wider than even Thor, strong as can be, smart, funny, intelligent, and so so so kind. So incredibly kind and tender in their friendship with the resident genius. Yeah, they’d had their moments, screaming matches and the silent treatment, because they’re all adults there, and Tony loved that, absolutely thrilled at the fact that neither men took his shit or was even remotely scared of calling him out on it.

So, once again, fuck destiny.

He’d walk to wherever this weird know all entity was telling his feet to go, and he’d be nice and he’d be placid but he’d apologize, and he’d mean it because his selfishness was about to leave someone alone for the rest of their lives, but he couldn’t, he didn’t want to can.

A part of his brain felt bad for the person that was standing at the end of this time, but he wanted the super soldiers damn it, he wanted them and if he just got them as friends then good and if he managed to get them into more then better, but fuck it, it would be a conscious decision of his own, not an ever present sense of foreclosing that told him he’s meant for someone else.

It’s too soon when his feet stop, at some point he’d closed his eyes and just let his feet go, if he bumped into something he bumped into something, he could pay for it later.

Slowly, he opens his eyes to find himself staring into the floor of his own kitchen, and the weirdness of still being inside the tower, the surprise of coming to a halt inside the communal kitchen he’d designed and built for the Avengers, make his head snap up.

“Oh” he exhales.

“Hey sweetheart”

“It’s you” it doesn’t come out as a question, sudden clarity fills his head, a smile threatening to spill out.

“Took you long enough doll”

“It’s you” he turns to the other man, as Bucky recriminates him, the biggest smile on his face.

“Yeah” Steve comes around to hug him, gathering the shorter man in his arms and pulling close, so tight it almost feels like Tony’s ribs might crack “it’s us” he says as Bucky walks from where he stood, a second pair of arms encircling their little group hug.

Tony mentally apologizes to Thor and his dad, and whatever else is out there for good measure. At this point he doesn’t even want to bother asking how or why, but he knows his brain won’t leave him alone until he does.

“How”

“You weren’t ready” Steve musses, not an accusation, more of a statement “we’ve been wanting to talk to you for a while”

“Then why didn’t you say something?”

“Not for lack of trying that’s for sure” Bucky snorts inelegantly next to him.

And, yeah, he can’t really argue there.

Soon enough they’ve dissolved into laughter, moving to the bigger couch on the living room, where the next couple of hours are spent laughing and talking quietly amongst them. The wonderment of being given what he wanted for so long not lost on Tony.

“Wait” something just clicked in his brain “have we been going on dates this whole time? Is that what you two sneaky bastards have been doing? Taking me out and inviting me for food?”

The two super soldiers just look at each other, the way they’re laughing at Tony clear as day in their faces.

“Rhodey and Pepper are never gonna let me live this down” he groans, he can’t really feel bad for himself though, not when two sets of shoulders shake around him, he can even see Steve reach for his left boob as his head is thrown back.

“What number date would this one be?” He asks.

Bucky smirks at him, already knowing where Tony’s going with this, Steve looks at them in confusion, his eyes widening in realization when Tony leans impossibly close, “is this ok?” He whispers, Steve’s pink lips curve into a smile before pressing forward.

It’s sweet, it’s so so sweet, not that he’s complaining but something needs to start moving, he licks the seam of Steve’s lips and the man opens up, a quiet moan escaping Tony’s throat. A hand is worked into his hair, he’s just getting used to the warmth of another tongue down his throat when the hand in his hair pulls, and suddenly his dick makes an appearance.

His mouth isn’t left alone for long, a different pair of lips, Bucky’s lips crash into his open mouth, tongue invading his space and caressing the roof of his mouth. It’s so different from Steve, who makes sure nobody forgets he’s there by pulling Tony into his lap without dislodging him from sucking the other brunette’s soul through his mouth.

Things don’t really go too far from there, JARVIS’ does remind them they’re in a common area when hands begin to wander under clothes, Tony never would’ve imagined the fixation Steve seems to have on his ass.

“It’s a great ass Tony” the man shrugs, unrepentant of how both his hands are squeezing Tony’s cheeks. How hard he is, noticeable where Tony grinds on his lap, pulling equal groans from the three of them.

“Maybe, most definitely, we should go upstairs” he says.

Bucky opens his mouth to answer, that mischievous streak in how dark his eyes have gotten, when Tony’s stomach growls, reminding him of the fact that he hasn’t eaten anything solid for the last twenty four hours, anxiety eating away at his stomach lining.

“Maybe let us get something inside you first”

“I can think of some things you can put inside me my dearest capsicle”

“Let’s just eat Tony” the disapproving tone Steve’s trying for, lost in the fond smile he directs to the shorter man.

It’s almost dinner time anyways and, despite the months on end he’s spent loving these men in the not-so-secrecy of his mind, Tony still has a lot to think about, a lot to assimilate. No matter that his dick stays stiff for a bit longer, giving him the stink eye for being a prude so late in his life.

One by one the other present residents file into the kitchen, walking idly looking for something to eat. If anyone’s surprised by the fast that Steve has an arm around Tony’s waist and Bucky’s metal one is draped over the genius’ shoulder where he sits between the two walls of human perfection, well, nobody says anything. Only a muttered “finally” by Natasha gives away their exasperation.

“So, she did know” Tony muses, somehow he can’t find it in himself to be upset.

“What has she not known ever” Bucky deadpans, Steve nodding alongside.

Not sooner has she left the kitchen when his phone pipes with a congratulatory message from Pepper, yeah, the women in his life are terrifying and in kahoots with each other, great.

It doesn’t exactly fix everything, Tony still has his self-esteem issues, specially when added to a couple that’s been bigger than time, bigger than life itself. Sometimes it’s still easier to hide away, to turn from his partners and turn and turn everything in his head until he’s convinced they’ll leave him, that one day they’ll realize how much of a mess he is and how much better they were without him. At first they let him, they let him hold himself up in the workshop and letting him come back to them, shaken up and barely back together. After a couple of months, they simply move their things to Tony’s penthouse, emptying the room the two shared, leaving no question or doubts as to where they’ll be staying from then onwards.

They only give Tony two or three hours to panic before they go looking for him, peppering his face in soft kisses. Steve murmuring sweet nothings into his ear while Bucky talks absolute filth I ness into his other ear until Tony breaks into laughter. Later they feed him cake as they talk about team activities and whatever show they’ve been watching. The mundane scene crashing into Tony and settling into his chest.

Maybe it surprised the two super soldiers how, despite all his fronting and bravado, he had still been reluctant to have sex with them. If it did, they never really complained, no matter how hard they kissed him or how much they pushed him, how he can see the fiery desire in their faces, as soon as he asked to stop they stopped.

Sometimes he feels guilty about it, never begrudging them when they retire together for long showers, coming back to bed all soft and sated smiles. For some reason, Tony cannot seem to find it in himself to feel jealousy at being left alone.

He stares at himself in the bathroom mirror, at the mangled mess of scars going around his torso, raised skin, shiny little tendrils, some darker and some pink and some pale. It brings a grimace to his features, he knows he’s not ugly per se, and in theory, they have all seen each other naked already. But that was perfunctory, a fast paced change of clothes after some mission or another, not this intimacy, not the trust he needed to have in and in himself to let another person really see what lies beneath his surface.

“Ok” he breathes slowly “ok”

Tony steels himself to leave the bathroom, he knows he’s taken way longer than usual and he knows that they know he’s taken more time than usual. It had been necessary, he’d washed everywhere, and when he says everywhere he means everywhere. Shit, it’s been decades since he’d been with another person, let alone a man, and now he’s about to go outside and proposition two super soldiers. Granted, the three of them are already in a relationship, sex being the only barrier left for them to cross.

With a final sigh he turns to open the door, foregoing a towel and just walking into the bedroom, naked as can be, better that over with as fast as possible.

As soon as he turns the corner of the short hallway from the bathroom to the bedroom, two pairs or blue eyes settle on him, the intensity on their gazes makes his skin itch, makes him want to cover himself if at least with his arms, dangling uselessly at his sides.

“Well damn doll” Bucky whistles, and Tony will never know how he does that, how he manages to de escalate whatever mess is going on inside Tony’s head into a huffed laughter.

He keeps walking until he’s standing right next to the bed, where the two men had been lounging. Steve, sitting closest to him, lifts his right arm slowly, as if asking Tony if it’s ok. Tony hadn’t noticed how coiled his muscles had become until he tries to nod and his neck hurts as his head moves in a quick up and down motion.

“Hey, sweetheart, what’s going on?”

Steve’s arm is around his waist, baby blues looking for his own brown ones, and he has come to this, he has planned for this, he has prepared for this damn it, he’s not gonna turn around now, fuck it.

“I love you” he says “both of you”

Neither soldier answers him, smiling at him in encouragement, and it has to mean something how he doesn’t mind that they don’t say they love him back, how every other instance when they have said it just plays in a loop on the back of his mind.

“And, well, as we all know I have a myriad of issues” he chuckles, his therapist would be proud of him “the way my body looks being just one of them, specially when compared to both of you”

At this, Bucky opens his mouth to protest but Tony shakes his head, asking him to please let him finish.

“But” saying it now it’s a lot harder than when he practiced in the mirror, but he forces himself to breath through it, trusting his partners to listen and understand “i love you both and I want to be with you, not” he adds hastily “not out of some attempt to keep you with me. I just-I- I really want you both, I’m a genius and I don’t know how to explain to you how many times I’ve thought of this and how badly I want...”

He doesn’t get to finish his speech, a hand reaches for him, pulling him in to the bed where the three of them topple over and land in a heap of clothes and skin. There’s a mouth on his own mouth, a warm tongue plunging without finesse into his throat, Bucky then. As they separate to breath, he gets rearranged to sit on Steve’s lap, noticing that the other man is also naked, and when did that happen.

Not that he’s complaining, having all that skin and muscle at his disposition and available to touch, he moves his hands to caress every inch he can reach in that position, while his brain promptly leaks out his ears thanks to Steve placing open mouthed kisses down his neck, nibbling and sucking as he goes. Thank god he’s already sitting down because even then he can feel how his legs have become useless.

Bucky returns to his front, and apparently he’s naked now too, maybe disappearing clothes is a new power from the serum they’d need to keep exploring later.

“Hey doll”

“Hey” he smiles, his nerves are still there, slowly but surely being turned outside in as big hands grab at him, touching and touching and touching. Lips kiss over his skin, he shivers as he’s laid out on the bedsheets, his back hitting the soft mattress.

“Will you tell us about these?” Steve asks him, fingertips ghosting over the burned remains of his original timers.

“Maybe later?” He asks.

Both super soldiers hum at him.

Things begin to turn into a blur after that. His skin tightens in arousal as he sees and feels the other men’s bodies over him and around him.

Tony’s normally self conscious about his short height, but here, being enveloped by the sheer size of the super soldiers, well, he’s not yet too old to be finding the size kink he apparently has. His stomach is in knots as his dick curves upwards, a steady stream of precum making a puddle near his navel.

A breathy moan escapes where he’s biting into Steve’s mouth when Bucky’s teeth pull one of his nipples hard, metal fingers playing with the other one, he feels his hole clench and his dick jump, overwhelmed with sensation as he is.

Steve laughs into the kiss “he’s good, isn’t he?”

Tony can’t really say anything as they move around him like the perfect team. He opens his eyes to see them kissing over him, catching the pink of tongue as they appear to want to devour the other.

It’s not like they have never before touched or engaged in some heavy petting, so Tony already knows that they’re big, the measurements for their uniforms giving him fantasies and dreams he thought he’d left in his teenage years. Seeing them out and hard though, Steve being longer and Bucky being thicker, Tony’s mouth waters, not allowing himself to think too much he sits a little, reaching with both hands so he can hold one cock on each. A groan and a moan sound from above, both men separating to stare at him where he sits under their kneeling bodies.

Precum beads both cocks, Steve an angry red and Bucky’s almost purple with blood. He can’t help it, he reaches with a flick of his tongue, licking the slit, first of Steve and then of Bucky, reveling in the cut of curse from somewhere above. Making an execute decision he moves, pulling Bucky into his mouth, enjoying the weight of him in his tongue while Steve’s cock jumps in excitement where he’s holding him in his hand.

Where he sits he can feel every minute movement of the ex-assassin and, he may not have been with anyone in a while but he knows damn well what he likes, so he looks up, staring into blown stormy eyes he takes Bucky’s metal hand, putting it on the back of his head, curling the fingers so Bucky understands what he means.

And the man does, grabbing handfuls of brown curls and pulling softly. Tony moans encouragements so the super soldier pulls harder, making Tony’s eyes roll to the back of his head, his hand going slack where he had been pulling on Steve’s cock.

Steve hums as he moves to sit behind Tony, tonguing his ears and kissing the sides and back of his neck. It’s almost too much sensory input, but he has plans for fucks sake, so he lets Steve pull him off of Bucky’s cock for a bit, his limbs useless as they rearrange him on all fours, Bucky sitting in front of his face while Steve kneels behind him. And the thing is, Bucky’s right there, all shiny with spit and precum, sweaty from exertion, panting like he just went a few practice rounds with the Hulk, and Tony’s never been known for his ability to deny himself things, so he opens his mouth and goes back to sucking and lapping at the man, opening his throat and swallowing around the head, taking as much as he can, moving his hand in tandem with his mouth to reach what he can’t fit in yet.

The grunts above him spurring him on, his mind is going blank, he’d really forgotten ho much he likes sucking dick, he’s working a rhythm when two hands grab at his asscheeks, chart,omg him and making him choke, coming up for air he turns around only to find Steve massaging his ass with a look of absolute concentration on his face, licking his lips like Tony’s ass is the most delicious thing he’s seen in a while.

“See something you like?” And god, his voice is wrecked, anyone would think he’d swallowed a buck load of rocks.

Steve hums, the blue of his eyes completely hidden by how blown out his pupils are, suddenly the blonde dips, his tongue out. Tony would’ve jumped out of the bed if not for the pair of hands keeping his ass where he is, Steve lick around his rim, kissing and sucking the skin around it.

“Now sweetheart, don’t go leaving Bucky all dry and alone” the man smirks, his mouth open around the swell of Tony’s ass, where he promptly bites.

With a little difficulty to focus, Tony goes back to sucking Bucky into his mouth, moaning at the smell of sweat and the salty flavor on his tongue. He moans when he feels Steve adding a finger along with his tongue, stretching him, making him soft and pliable, able to take them into himself.

He wants to carve a piece of himself out, let them in and let them stay there, under his skin, in that place bellow his ribs that always aches and itches with need.

Bucky’s moving his hips, thrusting into his mouth, the way his thighs shake the only indicator as to how much he’s restraining himself.

“It’s ok” Tony says, his tongue dipping into the slit, kissing around the crown and sucking along the length “you can fuck my face” he can’t help but smirk and be proud at the strangled sound that leaves both super soldiers’ mouths.

The smirk is quickly wiped from his face when Bucky pulls him by his hair, stuffing his mouth with his thick cock, hard and hot, gagging him when the head hits the back of his throat. His eyes water as he moans with abandon, not caring how he probably looks like a whore right then, each time Bucky thrusts into his mouth pushes him into Steve’s mouth and fingers, his asshole burns with the stretch of Steve’s thick fingers with too little lube, the blond taking care to just scissor them as his tongue pushes and licks Tony’s inner walls.

With a grunt Bucky pulls Tony’s face flush against his groin, spilling hot cum into the smaller man’s throat, as Tony swallows and swallows, gagging at the length and the absurd amount of semen, some of it slipping out the corners of his mouth.

He’s pulled to his knees and a mouth crashes into his, Bucky pulling his own cum out of the genius, sucking throaty moans out of him. He’s deposited back into the bed, his back on the mattress and his hips put on a pillow, Steve kneels between his open thighs while Bucky settles besides him, trailing soft fingertips over his sides, punching his nipples, licking into his mouth.

Steve has a bottle of lube in his hands, pouring a lot on his fingers and proceeding to shove them into Tony’s already opened hole. He can feel how soft he’s become down there, how easily two fingers go, quickly turn into three as he tries to ground his hips and fuck himself on the beautiful fingers inside him.

“Pass me the-yeah”

Tony hears a foil package tear, having closed his eyes at some point.

“No” he hears himself say “no, it’s-I want it without, please”

Both super soldiers turn to look at him, searching his face to make sure. They must be satisfied by whatever they see because Steve throws the condom on one side of the bed, scooting over to kneel over Tony, fitting his mouth over the genius’ and licking into him, distracting him from the head of his cock breaching in.

It’s a little uncomfortable at first, the intrusion of an alien object in his ass trying to be fought by his body. Sure, Tony likes to play with himself every once in a while, but Steve was big, pushing and pushing for what feels like eons until he bottoms out. Staying still for Tony to get used to the feeling.

A hand closes around his own dick where it had flagged a little while Steve bottomed out, Bucky pulls slowly, his grip lose and barely enough to bring him back to full hardness. When he’s panting and moving his hips, unsure if he wants to fuck into Bucky’s hand or fuck himself on Steve’s cock, Steve takes the decision from him, pulling out and beginning a slow grind. His breath is panted as he picks up pace, his hips undulating as he looks for Tony’s prostate, finding it easily through the sheer size of his cock.

Bucky takes his hand away, moving down to close his mouth on Tony’s dick, the wet heat making him throw his head back in a shout, eyes rolling into the back of his head as his vision whites out for a while there.

The vulgar slap of skin on skin fills the room, surrounding him, he’s so close, so so close, he feels his balls pull up, his lower abdomen tense in preparation, the delicious drag of Steve’s cock in his asshole pulling at his sensitive rim and caressing his walls, he can feel himself clenching on Steve.

 

He’s moaning something awful, ready to spill when Bucky pulls off, his metal hand coming down and pressing on the base of his dick.

“No” he can cry “please, I’m so close”

“I know baby” Bucky moves to kiss him deep, the circle of his fingers never leaving their place, he gets kissed and kissed until the urgency to come subsides.

Steve’s still fucking into him, his balls slapping against Tony’s ass, his pace begins to stutter, moans growing louder as the blonde looks at him.

“Gorgeous, yeah?”

Tony can only nod as Bucky whispers into his ear, only to get up and pull one of Steve’s nipples into his mouth and bitting hard. That’s it, just like that Steve grounds down, his body shaking with the way his orgasm rips through him. Tony can feel him twitch where he’s inside, can feel the warmth painting his intestines. Just like Bucky before, Steve takes a while coming, the sheer volume of it turning Tony on even more than he already is.

As soon as a Steve pulls out, there are fingers being shoved into him, Steve’s fingers keeping his own cum inside Tony. The two super soldiers are looking at him in wonderment before turning to each other in a heated kiss, too much tongue and no finesse.

Tony moans, fucking himself into Steve’s fingers for a bit before Bucky’s metal hands comes down to hold his hips still. Faster than he can understand how, specially in his current state of mind where his brain is both fucked out and still hyped up with the need to come, they change positions, with Bucky coming to kneel between Tony’s spread thighs.

And Bucky’s not as gentle as Steve was, he curls his hands on Tony’s thighs with enough strength that he’ll develop bruises before he gets to come. Steve pulls his fingers out and Tony can feel a little bit of semen dribble out, god he’s probably gaping all open right now.

The look on Bucky’s face is nothing short of hungry as he appraises Steve’s work, quickly lining his own cock to Tony’s hole. As he begins to push inside, Tony squirms with the new stretch. As soon as he bottoms out, Bucky pulls out and goes to town on Tony’s ass, his own hard dick bobbing ridiculously with how hard Bucky’s moving him.

His hands feel useless as they grip the bedsheets, nails scrabbling to hold onto something lest he goes insane with how much pleasure he’s feeling. Steve goes to sit by the headboard, pulling Tony’s torso into his lap and really, he shouldn’t be surprised when feels the blond super soldier hard against his back, rutting against Tony’s shoulder blades as he crouched to kiss all over Tony’s chest and rib cage.

Nobody’s touching his dick, nobody’s touching his dick and yet he feels again how his balls pull up and his lower abdomen tenses as pleasure washes over him, he’s gonna come, he’s gonna co,e so hard he feels like he’ll pass out. Bucky’s nailing his prostate and Steve is bitting his neck, his balls pull up and he’s about to come when, once again, a hand, this time Steve’s squeezes his dick and stops him.

And he cries, he really cries this time, fat tears staining his cheeks. He just wants to come for fucks sake, the blonde super soldier shushes him with kisses around his face, praising him with how good he’s doing, how pretty he looks on their cocks, how gorgeous his voice is, he’s shushed and petted until he calms down and his orgasm is staved.

Bucky’s hair is hanging on sweaty tendrils over his face, his hands having migrated from Tony’s thighs to one on his shoulder and the other on his hip, pulling him down into every thrust. It’s almost too much, how full he is with Bucky’s cock, how Steve keeps rubbing himself on his back, how his nails are starting to leave red lines where they sink into Steve’s legs.

The movement of the bed frame adding to the already deafening cacophony of them fucking, he feels cheap and used with the squelching noise of Bucky pushing and pulling, lube and Steve’s cum easing the way. He feels beautiful and desired with the way both men touch him, kiss him, with how Steve keeps praising him.

Tony wouldn’t be able to tell how much longer they keep like that, with Bucky losing his strength as he stutters to a stop, grinding close to his ass and ridding his orgasm while his balls pumped more cum inside him. And Tony would’ve come with that, with how full he is, his stomach bulging with how much the two super soldiers have put inside him, if not for the fingers still pressing the base of his dick, stopping him from orgasming.

His cheeks are getting itchy from dry tear tracks, his back has begun to hurt from the position and his thighs are aching from being spread wide. Nothing wants to come out of his mouth but a small whimper when Bucky pulls out, once again, fingers are shoved into him to stop the semen from leaking out. And god, he can just imagine the picture he makes, try as he might, he can’t clench his hole, he can feel the way it gapes open after being so thoroughly ducked by the two massive cocks of his partners.

A shiver runs his body when hands sooth over his overheated skin, he can’t really tell who is who anymore, his mind too far gone to even try and recognize Bucky’s metal arm. He gets turned over, laid on his stomach, the soft sheets rubbing on his neglected dick a small respite.

“You’re beautiful like this sweetheart” and Steve sounds wrecked, Bucky laying more kisses across his back, tonguing his spine lower, lower until he can tongue at his abused rim.

“Now, now, just one more sweetheart” without waiting for an answer, big hands stop his hips from where he’s rutting against the bedsheets and, huh, when had he begun doing that.

Steve stretches over him, the fingers that where keeping him plugged are pulled out and a hard cock replacing them. There’s no waiting for him to get used to anything this time, his hole open enough to barely feel the smallest of friction, his breath catches when the thick of the head catches against his rim every time Steve pulls out only to slam back inside.

His dick is being pushed into the mattress with every powerful thrust of the blond, he wants to come so bad, he doesn’t think he can take them stopping him again so he starts babbling and begging, tears falling down his face and moans burning his throat.

“You’ve been so good doll, you’re the absolute best, only you can do this for us” Bucky’s running soft fingertips over his back “it’s ok, you’ve been such a good boy, you can come now” he whispers into his ear.

If he was asked later, Tony wouldn’t know what makes him finally come, if it’s really how long he’s been on edge, how Steve keeps pounding into him, how full he is, how he can feel his distended stomach from all the cum inside him which, hi other new kink he didn’t know he had, or just the fact that they thought he’s been good.

He comes harder than he cares to admit, his sperm catching in a wet pool where his dick is trapped between his stomach and the mattress. His hole clenches hard, effectively trapping Steve where he is, milking him for the second time and, just like the first time, he comes an indecent amount. Tony groans when he feels his already full stomach move. He’s almost sure he blacks out for a moment there, only coming back when Bucky’s whispering sweet nothings into his ear, kissing away at his open mouth.

The three of them stay where they are, catching their breath, after a couple of seconds Steve makes to move to collapse next to Tony.

“Wait” Tony’s voice is a mess, he swallows dryly in a futile attempt to wet his tongue. Bucky moves to give him water from a bottle he’s brought from the mini fridge they keep in the room.“I have some stuff, there’s a plug in that black box at the top of the closet” and he’s never shown this to anyone before, but this time, he feels safe, he feels cared for when Bucky’s eyes widen in surprise, turning to look at him in awe and adoration.

“You’d do that for us?” The man in front of him asks, Steve remaining quiet through all this.

“I like it” he mumbles “I like feeling full of you both, like I’m yours” and he’d blush more if his skin wasn’t already on fire from however long they spent fucking.

“Oh god, please don’t get hard again” he groans when he feels Steve’s cock twitch where he’s still lodged.

“Sorry” he doesn’t sound sorry at all.

Bucky comes back with the box, finding the plug inside, it’s stumpy with a flared base, thick enough to keep his hole open and their semen inside of him. Between the two super soldiers they work it inside of him with minimal loses, licking whatever manages to escape.

With the difficulty of someone whose limbs have stopped being connected to their brains, Tony manages to turn around, moaning at the way his bloated belly presses into him, admiring how it rounds out where it’s normally flat, reaching down to touch around the plug and shit, he can feel how puffy and inflamed his rim is. He knows it’s impossible for him to get hard again so soon, but a soft and low hum of arousal curls from his toes to his chest.

As he looks over, he notices how his two partners are itching to touch him, looking at him in almost reverence, both of them hard again, it makes him groan how much they want him. He’ll be eaten alive but these men, and he won’t mind, he really won’t care if he has to give himself entirely to them.

They don’t cuddle immediately, Steve the neat freak, runs to the bathroom for wipes to clean themselves with, none of them in the mood for a shower. Bucky changes the sheets and they lay down, Tony in the middle of them, exchanging slow kisses as the soldiers rub themselves off against his thighs and hips, taking turns to reach down and touch where the plug sits snuggly against his asshole.

After they come for the third time, they don’t really talk about what just happened, Tony figures they’ll have time in the morning for that, knowing them he knows they’ll bring him breakfast in bed before removing the plug and fucking him silly at least once each.

Steve had wanted to take the plug out “so you’re comfortable Tony” insisting on it with that adorable stubborn furrow on his brow. Only quieting down when Tony locked into his mouth and talked loudly about how much he wanted to wake up already open and ready to get them inside of his hole, filling him even more, to the point where hi stomach was so inflated he almost looks pregnant.

Blue eyes had darkened so fast, Tony had been surprised Steve didn’t get whiplash from it, laughing a little when the super soldier’s cock gave a valiant twitch against his leg.

“I can’t anymore” he says “but you two can go at it while I sleep” he’s only half joking but they don’t need to know that.

“Let’s just go to sleep sweetheart”

Maybe he’ll convince them to give him a show another time then.

“Yeah, love you”

Tony falls asleep to declarations of love and kisses on his eyelids, down on his cheekbones, on the tip of his nose, a kiss at a time on his lips, to the sound of kissing over his head.

Maybe there is no scientific explanation to the stupid ticking bombs people get somewhere between birth and fourteen, Tony thinks, maybe there doesn’t need to be one.