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Human Nature

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When Bucky and Steve start dating, Tony handles it like any other reasonable adult.

In his defense, putting the workshop on a black lockdown and working for sixty-five hours straight is totally reasonable in Tony’s book.

He’s not acting childish, not at all. He’s not upset, honestly, seriously. It’s all a coincidence – Tony just so happened to wander upstairs for breakfast, just so happened to spot Bucky and Steve curled up adorably on the sofa, and just so happened to suddenly remember all the paperwork he had to get to Pepper by Friday. He’s not upset.

It’s good, Tony tells himself. It’s a good thing. With the whole Sokovia Accords fiasco, Steve and Bucky are no longer allowed to ‘legally’ avenge, (everyone knows they go out to help anyways. The mayor sure as hell isn't complaining when the Wonder Duo stop a 747 from taking a nosedive into a school. It's complicated, Tony’s lawyers are working on it.)

Still, they don’t get to blow off as much steam as they used to. They’ve had to find hobbies, god forbid. But it’s good. Steve has a stockade of art supplies, and Bucky is determined to catch up on every shitty romance novel he missed in the last seventy years, (yuck), but this new thing between them is nice. Long lost lovers, prevailed over all odds, blah blah blah. Happy ending, you may kiss the bride.

And honestly, (for real this time), Tony likes them. It was tense for a while – Bucky sneaking around the tower with guilt on his heels – but Tony doesn’t hate him. Not anymore. You can’t exactly be accountable for what you don’t do under your free will, and Tony sure as hell knows what that kind of guilt feels like. He’s learning to let go.

Avengers tower feels like a liminal space. People coming and going, time passing at a surreal speed. Tony would blame Strange, if the asshole would ever call.

But Steve and Bucky are constants. It’s been nearly a year since the civil war, and Tony would like to think they’re friends.

That’s why it’s so jarring, when he rounds the corner and sees Steve laughing into the crook of Bucky’s neck. They’re too big for the chair, arms around the other – giggling like kids, snuggling like puppies. It’s so unbelievably cute, the way Bucky seamlessly tips his head, and kisses the top of Steve’s temple. It's a moment nobody was meant to see.

Tony’s heart drops into his stomach – a very real reminder that yes hi, he still has one. He feels sick on his feet, head pounding, heartrate jackhammering as he realizes oh shit he likes them. 

He likes that Bucky is all bark and all bite, soft in the right places and steadfast in the wrong ones. He likes that Steve is stubborn as a mule, morally right when Tony hates it most, and the first to apologize when he’s wrong. For the love of god, they’re over two-hundred pounds each - easy, and yet they paint pictures and read books and take citywide jogs and assist at elderly homes, shit, fuck-

And that’s just way too much for Tony’s brain to handle, because at the very moment he feels something in that deep dark pit scarred under his chest, it’s then ripped away with the sudden realization that they’re together now, and already out of his grasp.

So Tony spins on his heel and presses the elevator button before the doors close, riding right back down to his garage.

 


 

Honestly, Tony has no idea what’s happening when FRIDAY suddenly says, “I’m sorry boss, but your vitals have gotten too low.”

He stops and blinks, eyes bleary over the blowtorch he’s holding. He turns it off, and rubs sorely at his left arm.

“What?”

But the blackouts on the windows lift, and there’s the sound of the keypad going green, before the door hisses open.

Tony hopes it’s Pepper. He really hopes it’s Pepper. He can handle Pepper  – did he miss her birthday? No, he couldn’t have, she just had it last year-

“Sorry to break it to you, but people have birthdays every year.”

“You’re not Pepper.”

“Jesus, Tony,” Steve steps in, and looks at the bits of sharp metal haphazardly thrown around the room, bits of roasted rejects piled in the corner, amongst at least a dozen coffee cups. “Is this what you’ve been doing all this time?”

“I actually invented trans-terrestrial warp technology a week ago,” Tony says, sorting through digital schematics. “I had breakfast in Belize this morning.”

For a brief second, it almost looks as if Steve believes him. He’s standing there in a t-shirt and jeans, hair damp from a shower, and he looks so much like he stepped out of a Macy’s Labor Day Sale commercial, that Tony can’t believe how physically attractive it is.

“He hasn’t eaten anything of a reasonable substance since Wednesday,” FRIDAY says. “I’m actually quite worried about his blood pressure.”

Steve fixes Tony a look.

“Why am I not surprised?”

“It seems the boss has a knack for going into cardiac arrest.”

“I’m reworking your artificial behavior decorum,” Tony points to the ceiling, a gesture he picked up from none other than the Stars and Stripes himself. “I'm developing a god complex, everything I create turns against me.” DUM-E makes a noise from across the room. Tony scoffs, “Don’t give me that, I still haven’t forgotten what you did with the fire extinguisher.” DUM-E whines and wheels away.

“You’re done.” Steve crosses the workroom, and Tony feels a spike of anxiety with every step he takes. “FRIDAY, shut the workshop down and start warming the stove. Tony you need food-

“No no no, no,” Tony steps away, suddenly way more awake. “First of all, you can’t tell Fry what to do, that’s my job. Second, you can’t tell me what to do, that’s also my job. Thanks bye-“

“You-“

“Everything okay in here?”

Bucky’s head pops in the doorway, and because he’s physically incapable of making noise it scares Tony shitless.  

“Wow, jumpy,” Bucky shuts the door behind him. “What happened in here?”

“Transformative-slash-mutative weaponry on a molecular level. Don’t bother with the details, I’ve hardly made a breakthrough, but I think if Loki can have the shapeshifting lightstick of destiny then I should be allowed to have one too.”

Tony rounds his workbench, and oh yeah, that blood pressure thing, he nearly trips over a jackhammer, but rights himself on the desk, hand prepped against his hip like he’s been there the whole time. “Hi.”

Bucky and Steve do that magical thing they do – where they share one short look, before they move perfectly in sync, the same deadly intent written on their faces.

“Hey-“ Tony backs away, “don’t-“

Bucky grips his bicep, “Come on Stark, you’re gonna’ chop a finger off at this rate. Your eyes look like the inside of an orange." 

Steve presses a hand at his lower back, and it’s so much, it’s so much it’s so much Tony’s brain backfires and hisses, body sparking at the hands, over-exhaustion and hunger startling a fight or flight reaction that has him kicking out of their grip.

“Fuck, fuckin’- fuckin’ let go!” Tony tears away and trips, stumbling over a 2x4, scrabbling against the concrete, scraping up his elbows.

“Woah, Stark-“

“I’m going!” He raises his hands, hissing, “Look at me! Walking all on my own, whataya’ know.”

Steve and Bucky share another look.

Tony mumbles to himself, gesturing vaguely for FRIDAY to save his work, before he shuffles past the super soldiers, and rubs at the bad arm he landed on.

The lights dim, and Tony grinds his teeth as he climbs the stairs.

 


 

“Wow, he lives." Natasha briefly smiles from the kitchen table.

“Mornin’.” Tony half-waves, sleepily fumbling with the fridge door. He’s wearing pajama pants he doesn’t remember buying, too big at the waist, shirt too short. He scratches at the old scar on his hip, and scans for creamer.

“It’s five p.m.”

“Mornin’,” Tony repeats.

There’s a short laugh, and Tony looks over to see Tony and Bucky cuddled in the lazy boy. His heart drops.

“Feeling any better?” Steve asks.

“Yes, thank you darling,” Tony teases.  He’s not lying. Fourteen hours of sleep, hell yeah.

“Don’t go doin’ that again – you freaked me out – lookin’ like somethin’ out of a zombie film,” Bucky says.

“Oh good, you know what those are now- boy, it sure is embarrassing when my two elderly grandparents tell me to go to bed.”

“What was that son?” Bucky cups his ear. “You’ll have to speak louder.”

“I really do owe you a thank you-“ Tony fumbles with the coffee filters “-igh, really? Who keeps putting coffee grinds down the garbage disposal? - anyways, a thank you gift is in order, seriously, new tennis-balls for your walkers. It’s on me.”

“You hear that Bucky?” Steve turns, with a fake-elderly voice. “New tennis-shoes for the Walkman.” Bucky breaks out laughing.

“You shouldn’t be talking shit,” Natasha says, scrolling through an ipad. She turns it around, data rolling down the screen, “You’re really malnourished.”

“Fry!” Tony hisses, “Are you scanning me? In my own good, pure, non-Christian home?”

“At Miss Romanoff’s request, boss.”

“Eat something before I tell Bruce,” Natasha takes a bite out of an apple, and sets the ipad back down. 

“Oh noo, don’t tell my dad,” Tony rolls his eyes. “Fuck off, I’m fine.” 

"You know he'll strap you down and force-feed you."

"Kinky."

“We were going to head out for burgers,” Steve gestures the best he can with his arm wrapped around Bucky. “You interested?”

Tony chews on his inner cheek, and watches the coffee maker start to drip. He turns with his back braced against the counter, and because he’s such an outstanding actor, he replies with a casual, “I’m good, thanks Cap. Enjoy your little beefcake date.” And the Emmy goes to:

Bucky narrows his eyes, “If you call yourself a third wheel, I’m going to punch you-“

“I don’t feel like being a thirdwhe- oh, hey, please don’t punch me, I’m still very human. Look! A dog!” There is no dog.

“How did this,” Natasha gestures to the couch, “happen anyways. I’m gone for five days and I miss everything.”

“Oh, um,” Steve has the nerve to flush a little, “I asked Buck out last Tuesday.”

“Only took you seventy-five years,” Bucky says, and Tony fake laughs so he doesn’t look like a bitter douche.

It’s not that he misses Pepper. Well. He does – but it’s different. He was a handful, baggage beyond what her, or anyone else can handle, he knows it...but... she pretended so well. Pretended to be strong, loved him through the nightmares and the spinal injuries and the rumors and the thankless limelight as a hero.

Sex is easy. Tony has been content with one-night stands and week-long flings for yearsever since he started getting ass as a seventeen-year-old MIT graduate. He never thought he’d long for intimacy. For someone who cares.  

But here he is, two years into sobriety, craving someone to look at him the way Bucky and Steve see each other.  

Must be getting old.

“We’re leaving in ten, if you wanna’ come,” Bucky says.

“No thanks,” Tony waves. He takes his coffee and forgets the creamer on the counter.

 


 

“Incoming call from Pepper Potts.”

“Put her on,” Tony gestures vaguely, not looking up from the device in his hands.

“Tony,” Pepper appears from her desk.

“Hey Pep.” Tony exchanges his screwdriver. “What’s up?”

“You’ve signed all the paperwork.”

“I did it!” Tony defends. “It’s in your mailbox-“

“I know.” Pepper says disbelievingly, and Tony realizes that she isn’t questioning him, but stating a fact in skepticism. “You’ve been on time for the last two months. What happened?”

Tony pauses to look at her hologram, “Uh, have you ever stopped to consider that maybe I’ve gotten my life together?”

“That’s literally never going to happen.”

“Ouch.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Tony chews. “Been quiet. Got called out by the UN a couple days ago, but Strange, Vision and Wanda handled it fine. They’re like the little fairytale trio, Pep. I feel so normal standing next to them.”

“You, normal?”

“I know!”

Pepper shifts in her seat, sliding closer to the camera, “I heard about Steve and James.”

Tony sits up straight, turning to point his screwdriver through the Pepper hologram, “There’s literally no way you know about-“ Tony snaps his jaw shut.

Pepper smirks, “I didn’t, but now I do, thanks.” 

“That was evil.” Tony snaps, turning back. “What have you been reading? Visceral Manipulation? The Power of Habit?”

“Chicken Soup for the Soul,” Pepper jokes. “Are you doing okay?”

That’s Pepper’s way of politely asking are you lonely? In which, Tony is a petty bitch, so he turns and smiles with a perfect, “Yep!” He spins his chair, “How’s the uh, what was it, Scandinavian boyfriend? Something-something in cable.”

“He’s Australian, and he does stock for Android.”

“See, I was close,” Tony reaches for his blowtorch. “Need anything else?”

Pepper frowns, “I guess not. I’ll have more for you to sign on Monday.”

Tony winks and clicks his tongue, before the call ends. Tony spends a moment staring at the unlit blowtorch, feeling numb as he runs his tongue across his teeth. He wants a drink.

Tony flicks down a mask and gets back to work.

 


 

He tries to go to bed at a normal hour, okay? There is an obvious effort here; showered, teeth brushed, pajamas, blankets, he’s got the whole package, but no results.

Tony stares at the ceiling thinking of ten different ways to dismantle an engine – he counts all the pieces in the Mark VIII, before he grunts and swings his legs out of bed. If he’s awake, there’s a good chance someone else might be. Although, the tower has been quiet lately; Bruce, Thor, Clint – they’ve been gone for months.

FRIDAY tells him Vision is meditating, and Wanda is asleep, but Bucky is in the gym.

Tony shifts back and forth on his feet a little, before he decides against it, and passes the gym up to the kitchen. Bruce is back, apparently, because he’s passed out on the couch, holopad on his stomach. Tony is careful in rummaging through the cabinets, before grabbing a tub of trailmix and pattering barefoot back over to the elevator.

He watches the numbers change from eight, seven, six, five-

Tony impulsively smashes the fourth one, right as it’s about to ding past. The doors slide open, and Tony tip-toes out. The light from the gym windows illuminate the whole hallway. Tony peeks in, and Bucky is still there, wailing on an enforced punching bag.

His human hand is wrapped, barely, shirt sticking to his back, hair tied up in a bun. Strands are falling around his face like straw, and Tony can assume he’s been there for a while. He’s sweaty and gross and he’s fucking gorgeous.

Each punch wracks the entire room, until he suddenly stops – and Tony jumps back around the corner. But Bucky pauses to unwrap his hand, and rewrap it with new tape.

“You’re not very quiet,” Bucky says, and Tony nearly drops his trail mix.

He steps into the doorway, pulling up his oversized PJ’s and then unscrewing the lid of the tub.

“Didn’t wanna’ bug ya’,” Tony says, taking a handful of trail mix and shoving it in his mouth. He holds out the tub, “Want some?”

Bucky eyes him like he’s got two heads, before he bites off the tape, and walks the few steps it takes to reach in the tub.

“Thanks.”

Tony sits on the bench of a leg curl machine. Neither of them ask the typical can’t sleep? because they already know the answer. Bucky goes back to punching the bag, and Tony sits and watches.

It’s been exactly a year and ten weeks since Bucky moved in, and roughly four months since Bucky and Steve started dating, not that anyone's counting... Tony sees them more often, oddly enough, both super soldiers wandering down to his workshop and pushing aside whatever is cluttered on the couch.

“Those emergency passcodes are for,  brace for it: emergencies,” Tony will say, but he’s never graced with a reply. They just sit on his furniture and eat his food, but whatever, what else is new.

Long story short, Bucky doesn’t even blink when Tony sits and stares, and instead of it being awkward, it’s…nice.

Tony plucks out a handful of raisins and plops them in a nearby waste bin.

“Why are you favoring your right side?”

Bucky pauses, and looks at Steve like that’s the stupidest thing he’s ever heard.

“Stark."

“But in all technicality, the Robocop arm is stronger, isn’t it?” Tony chews, “Are you afraid you’ll bust the bag down?  Don’t insult me, I did personally design those myself.”

Bucky turns away from him, fingers reaching where metal touches his shoulder, and Tony makes a small oh sound.

“It’s hurting you.”

“S’ fine,” Bucky says.

“Does Steve know?”

“Sort of.”

“You know I can-“

“Thank you, really,” Bucky says, “but not right now.”

Tony nods thoughtfully, and hums, “Okay, okay, no worries.” He gets it. Tony rubs at his own left arm.

He slides down onto the floor because the bench is more uncomfortable than he thought. Bucky goes back to the punching bag, and Tony pretends he’s not staring. He thinks he fell asleep in the gym, but he wakes up in his bed.

 


 

“You ever thought about dating?” Rhodey asks.

“Like what, E-Harmony?” Tony snorts, arm beneath Rhodey’s shoulders as they walk around the block. “Tindr? Farmers only?”

Rhodey elbows him, “I’m trying to be serious.”

“And I’m trying to not be serious. Did you hear about the bearded lady that escaped the circus down in Queens? Peter said that-”

“Tony,” Rhodey sighs. “You’re not twenty anymore. You can’t keep skipping meals and sleeping twice a week because you feel like it.”

“Always been that way, honeybuns, you know that. And, what, you want me to find a nice girl? Get a suburban home and a minivan and send the kids off to soccer practice every Thursday?”

“Yes, I do know that, and that’s why I know that your self-destructive tendencies are less life-threatening when you have someone to care about.”

“Uh, hello?” Tony scoffs, “Iron Man? Sugar Daddy to the Avengers? I have things I care about. I don’t need physical affection-“

“Sorry Tony,” Rhodey laughs, “But yes you do.” Tony’s mouth snaps shut, as Rhodey continues, shifting his weight with the leg braces, “I know you so well, that I know you get touched-starved when you hole up too long. You sleep better with someone else in the bed, and you enjoy doing nice things for other people – don’t give me that look, you pretend you don’t, but I know you do.”

Tony says nothing. Rhodey stops to take a break, leaning a little against Tony’s shoulder.

“There’s nothing wrong with any of that.”

“Okay,” Tony rolls his eyes. “Perfect World scenario. Let me just go out and dump all my super-clingy, deep physiological issues on some poor shmuck. Thanks, but no one’s going to do that for me.”

That’s just how it is. How it’s been, how it always will be. People want Tony Stark because he’s Tony Stark. Not because he likes to cuddle to fight off the PTSD when he nods to sleep. What a joke.

Bucky and Steve are the first thing that comes to mind – because when are they not, these days? Tony always hated the soulmate bullshit fiction novels drawl about– but Bucky and Steve argue like they’re eighty, and love like they’re sixteen. He knows they take walks together at night, when either can’t sleep, because Tony hears the beep of the alarm disabling, and the flicker of the front door sliding shut. He knows Bucky feels self-conscious about the arm. He knows Steve holds that hand the most, because he’s proud of it. They’re hard and soft and so perfect together it makes Tony sick.

“You’re wrong,” Rhodey says, before he starts walking again. The subject changes, but Tony never really recovers.

 


 

It only took a few worldwide alien invasions for the UN to realize the Sokovia Accords weren’t worth a damn. The lawyer garbage was a headache, but it sorts out eventually. At least half of the Avengers are no longer outlaws, fuck.

Steve and Bucky are relieved. Cue one very painful press conference later – and they come out clean. About the brainwashing of the Winter Soldier. About their intentions as Avengers. About a lot of things. Not all, but a lot. The approval ratings aren’t great – but Steve and Bucky’s little relationship earn them some good PR (surprise). The public relates to anything that makes them more, well, vulnerable. 

Antman is the size of a three-story building, and he’s attracting all the attention, drawing out weird aliens with six arms and guns in each fucking one. Vision fries them to hell, rinse and repeat. The Avengers are scattered, but it’s nothing they can’t handle.

Sure enough, Tony welcomes the distraction. He breaks an alien’s skull over his knee, and takes to the skies. The sound of Captain America’s voice speaking over the coms is way, way more comforting than it should be. A deeper voice smooths in his ear, and it's nice to know Bucky is out there watching Cap’s back.

 


 

Things are…weird. Unsettling? No- more, more off. But maybe not? Okay, there’s nothing wrong, really, but Tony must’ve spent too much time at the kid’s science fair last weekend, because now he’s sure he has spider senses.

Bucky and Steve keep asking him out. Not on, on dates, but just – out. With them. When they should be having a date. Together. But they also sleep in the same room? And spend all their time together? So maybe they’re just living in an eternal time loop of one, big fat date?

Okay, whatever, but why Tony?

Sure, Steve drags Bucky in for the occasional team movie night, and they always have takeout on Tuesdays, and Natasha and Bucky disappear to god knows where on random weekends, and Steve has taken to sparring with Thor whenever he stops in town – and they’re not hermits by any standard, ever since the amendment of the accords – so, what fucken gives?

Tony, we’re going to ride down to Jersey for the day, you in?

Tony, they’ve asked me to oversee a ceremony for the changing of the guards, do you wanna’ come?

Tony, we’re headed out for tacos-

Tony-

Well, here’s the better question.

Why can’t he say no?

Don't answer that.  

 


 

Steve appears at the door, looking stiff and sheepish as hell, so Tony throws aside his holograms and looks Steve dead in the eye.

“What’d you break.”

“Why do you have to assume I broke something?” Steve shifts, kicking the door shut awkwardly behind him, even though it closes automatically. “Usually it’s not even me.”

Tony analyzes him immediately, head to toe – he has a new haircut, and he’s wearing joggers and a t-shirt, instead of the old man plaid button downs. He wants to kiss him immediately. 

“Yeah, usually it’s Bruce, and he left for Hyderabad last week. What's up?”

“Um,” Steve scratches his neck, still standing by the door. “Are you busy?”

“I am eternally busy,” Tony leans back in his chair, and Steve has the gall to look a little guilty. “You wanna’ see your new suit? I’ve been working on it to make it look less, you know, star spangly. More – uh, normcore apocalyptic-“

“I’m not here about the suit.” Steve says. He shifts a little, and lifts a baseball mitt he’s been hiding behind his back and – oh. “You’ve been workin’ like a dog all week.”

Tony stares. Steve shrugs, “Wanted to see if you’d throw a ball around on the roof for a hot minute. Don’t have to.”

For a brief moment, he considers against it, his left hand tremoring just slightly.

But thanks to his terrible impulse control, it only takes one short, hot silence, Steve standing there, awkwardly holding a mitt and a baseball - before Tony is pushing aside a whole wall of virtual schematics.

“Archive it, Fry.”

“On it.”

The look on Steve’s face is instantly worth the effort of shrugging on a hoodie and finding his shoes. He’s been in Cap mode since they were officially reinstated on the team, so the soft, relaxed look on his face is contagious.

The roof is all solid grass. There’s some trees, and a hot tub way off on the north side, but the south is nothing but green. The elevator drops them off, and Steve hands him a mitt.

It’s not freezing – just cool because of the slight breeze. The sun is nice.

“Sun’s nice,” Tony says.

“It sure is, when you see it once in a while,” Steve throws the first ball, and Tony isn’t prepared for how fast it is. He barely catches it, internally wincing when it burns his palm. He plucks it out of the mitt, and tosses it back.

“You know, you don’t technically need sunlight – in Norway they use sun lamps for vitamin D. I could live an everlasting life in my lab and never go pale.”

“Well,” Steve starts, and catches the ball like it’s too easy. “Mom always said the suns’ good for your brain.”

Tony’s lip twitches, “Well. She’s not wrong.”

“Maybe if you’d get out more, you’d be happier.”

“Oh I get out – you know I spent two weeks in Luanda last month installing a self-cleaning water distillation plant for –“

“Yes I know, but that’s work,” Steve throws the ball. “You don’t do anything for you anymore.”

Well. 

Tony misses the ball, and has to chase it down. It gives him enough time to rebuttal, “What if locking myself in a lab for days on end is my idea of fun? – Wait, is that why we’re doing this? You think I’m not happy?”

“No,” Steve shrugs. “Just wanted to toss a ball.”

Tony is unconvinced. He throws as hard as he can the next time, and Steve only has to extend his arm a little more to grab it.

“Where’s your little bicentennial man?” Tony asks. “I’m sure he’s got a mean throwing arm. With, uh, the arm.”

“Sleeping,” Steve says, and he looks so reverent, a soft smile on his face. “He just got back from the Seoul mission.”

“Wasn’t he supposed to be back two days ago?”

“There was a malfunction with the quinjet. It was highjacked and Buck had to crash land. Took a couple days to sort it all out.”

“Shit,” Tony curses. “I had no idea, is Barnes okay?”

“Nothing he can’t handle,” Steve replies.

“You trust him a lot.”

“With my life.”

Tony chews on his lip, and has to jog a little to catch a curveball. He tosses it back, saying, “Well, I guess a crash landing isn’t much to a superspy.”

“He’s not made of glass,” Steve laughs, “Even if he secretly likes to be treated like he is.”

Tony blanches, “Does Barnes like to be pampered?”

“Don’t we all?” Steve rebuttals. He pauses for a brief second, before tossing the ball back “Don’t tell him I told you he's soft.”

“Oh please,” Tony snorts, “You’re acting like you weren’t the one curled up in his lap during the debrief last week.”

The flush on Steve’s face is worth it. Tony laughs and throws a shitty ball. Steve throws it back with a visual effort, and the speed of it nearly snaps Tony’s left wrist in half. The ball bounces out of the mitt, and rolls down the grass.

“Fuuuck,” Tony grits, “Goddammit- not all of us have reinforced arms, Rogers.”

Steve laughs, and gives Tony a once over that - frankly, makes Tony feel scandalized.

“Sorry. Old-man.”

“Oh ho,” Tony straightens, “Let me get the armor. Then we’ll see who’s old.

Bucky wakes up to Steve and Tony in full suits, throwing an on fire armor-plated baseball across the roof like it’s a grenade.

Well. When in Rome…

 


 

Doctor Strange asks for their help  preventing a complete lap in the spacetime continuum, due to the recent appearance of a race that, quite frankly, looks like Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors, and possess the ability to create five second time kickbacks. Fuck if that isn’t a mouthful.  

Anyways, it’s hell trying to fight against a horde of plant monsters that can reset time every five seconds. Doctor Strange puts them in some dimension that just makes no god damn sense, so Tony ignores all of it, in favor of not losing his mind completely.

Steve gets knocked thirty feet in the air, before he’s rolling, a bushel of thorns embedded in his side, and the amount of blood makes Tony’s stomach drop.

Tony is moving before he can yell, incinerating the monsters headed his way; and he flies towards him, but Bucky is already there, ripping off his head-cap and pulling out the thorns.

“I’m fine, I’m fine-“ Steve coughs, trying to sit up. Bucky keeps him still, mumbling something too low for the coms. Tony has just enough time to see it – Bucky leaning down to kiss him, so strong and soft and powerful and weak that Steve brings a bloodied hand into his hair and pulls, as if they’re not laying in a sea of plant corpses.

Tony’s tongue goes dry, and he fires his repulsers into a crowd of monsters, keeping an eye on Strange as he hovers above, fighting what Tony can only assume is the queen.

“PDA on the battleground,” Sam calls, delivering a hard kick to the mouth of a monster. “I called it. Thirty bucks, Scott.”

“Dammit – no! This doesn’t count, this technically isn’t a battleground.”

“Then what the hell would you call it?”

“Uh, Strange-“

“It’s the mirror dimension.”

“Ignoring that,” Tony says. “This is a bad dream.”  

"Someone call Clint and bring him out of retirement. He'd agree with me."

“Enough,” Cap says, “Focus on the queen. We’re still holding our own here.”

A hissing monster come’s wiggling their way, and the precision of which Bucky immediately slices through it, turning on his heel to stab another, is like clockwork.  

Tony flies above their heads, and takes out six or seven of the hovering plants with his miniature heat seekers. An alien flies behind him – Bucky throws a discarded knife ten feet in the air, hitting right in the soft spot under the plant’s jaw, and it goes down. Tony can barely choke out a thank you, he’s so turned on.

Bucky looks up at him, eyes hot and dangerous, like a wolf. He grins.

“You’re favoring your right side."

“Fuck you.”

 


 

He’s trying very deliberately to sneak past the dynamic duo eating at the kitchen table, but there’s an amused, “Tony, what are you doing?” from Steve, and Tony deflates.

“...Being super stealthy.”

“Stick to what you know,” Bucky smiles. “You’re still coming with us today, right?”

Tony opens a cabinet door to hide the face he’s making. As much as he’d love to sit next to America’s Sweethearts and watch them be adorable for two and a half hours, (that’s not even sarcasm), he’s not sure how long he can keep biting his tongue. He’s never been too good at keeping his trap shut when he’s attracted to someone (someones? plural?), and he really would prefer to keep this weird friendship they have going, because Tony has come to enjoy it.

“Um.”

He closes the cabinet, and jumps when Steve is right behind it, leaning against the counter.

“You promised you’d go to the movie with us.”

“Jesus,” Tony covers his heart, “Put a shirt on, you’re gonna’ poke someone’s eye out.”  Steve catches the box of cereal Tony dropped with his foot. He hands it back to Tony. Fuck his reflexes.

Bucky points with his spoon, “We didn’t sit through seventeen hours of Star Wars together, for all three of us to not see the new movie.”  

“Thanks – but uh, yeah, sorry boys. Daddy’s busy with a last minute project today-“ Steve shoots him an unamused look, but Bucky grins like the devil, “-Pepper said I have an MIT conference tomorrow, and they have to approve the prototype today because apparently they don’t trust what I consider to be a safety standard.” Tony turns back around, waving his hands. “You know how it goes. Go have fun, I’ll see it later.”

Bucky and Steve share a look, and it makes Tony nervous and horny all together, because there’s still something weirdly attractive about how they tick like a unit, turning to look at Tony with the same unabashed look in their eye. 

“We’ll wait then.”

“Hm?”

“I can help,” Bucky says. “I’ve been reading your college essays on geotechnical and microelectronic engineering. And I can hold heavy shit.”

“What, really?” Tony turns. “How did you-wait-“

“FRIDAY,” Bucky and Tony say together, before Tony chews on his cheek and turns to the fridge.

“There’s an afternoon showing,” Steve says, “right FRIDAY?”

Yes. I just switched your noon tickets to ten p.m.”

Dammit.

“Thank you ma’am,” Bucky says, standing up.

“Let’s go then-“ Steve grips Tony by the bicep.

“Wait-“

“I’ll bring you food,” Bucky waves, and Tony feels like he’s been bamboozled – but he can’t bring himself to tear out of Steve’s grip. Especially when his hand slides to Tony’s lower back, to gently prod him towards the elevator, fingers large and warm and strangely comforting.

 


 

When they walk into the theater, Tony is exhausted – but not for the obvious reason. Steve and Bucky stayed with him the whole day, lifting whatever he needed, grabbing any tool he asked for;  I have robots to do that, grandpa -  yeah, but we said we’d help, didn’t we?- and Tony won’t tell them, but they were slightly helpful.

However, the longer Steve held up a two-hundred pound arc-reactor engine frame, the more he started to sweat like a dancer from Thunder Down Under, and sweet baby Jesus if that isn’t a distraction.

Bucky was more in his space than usual -  or maybe he wasn’t, and Tony only noticed more today – but he hovered over Tony’s shoulder in a way that made the back of Tony’s neck tingle, and his palms grow clammy. It took him slightly longer to finish the engine than he initially would have. Bucky and Steve wouldn’t know better.

There’s a second where they don’t think he’s watching. When Bucky leans over to Steve and pecks him twice, a resting smile on his face – and fuck, the way Steve just brings a hand to his neck and kisses back – for a second Tony freezes, panic sweeping down spine because it feels like the shrapnel is back in his chest, heartbeat irregular and heavy, but he presses a hand to his heart and it’s gone, nothing but scarred tissue.

They help him install the engine by six, get the car running by seven thirty, and loaded in a dock by eight. They have just enough time to shower, before they’re getting in the back of a van, and speeding towards the theater.

But Tony just feels slightly off, uncomfortable in his skin, thrown from his usual game. He’s not as snappy as usual, preferring to keep his mouth shut to avoid saying something stupid, like wow, god, you’re just determined to bust out of that shirt, aren’t you – fuck, look at you –

“This way, darlin’,” Bucky says, when Tony realizes he’s walking into the wrong row. His face heats, and he shuffles in after Steve.

It’s just an off day.

He doesn’t realize until he’s taken a seat that Bucky has locked him in, Tony settled in-between both soldiers in the very back row.

“Uh, hey,” Tony turns to Steve. “You um, sure you don’t wanna-“ he jabs his thumb to Bucky, “sit by your boyfriend?”

“This is fine,” Steve smiles. He offers a bag, “Popcorn?”

Tony doesn’t even remember Steve getting that – fuck, Tony is out of it. He takes a handful and shoves it in his mouth, kicking his feet on the empty seat in front of him, and reminding himself that he wants to see this movie, that he’s been waiting for it, and tries to ignore the thigh-high rips in Bucky’s H&M jeans. Who gave him those in the first place? Someone is fired, he doesn’t know who, but they’re fired. He’s going to buy out H&M and-

The movie has already started. Tony attempts to focus, but partway through he feels Steve’s arm drape over the back of his seat, and he’s probably reaching for Bucky, but Tony tenses like a bungee. He rubs at his bad arm, the pain in his elbow another distraction. 

Only once he manages to steal the popcorn bag from Steve, does he start to relax, because it gives him something to do with his hands. They didn’t put down the arm rests, so there’s room for both to dip their hands in and take popcorn, and the stress bleeds from Tony easy, because there’s something outlandishly comfortable about the way they’re sitting – Tony is too tired to figure out what – so he focuses on the movie, and doesn’t think about checking his phone to see if the world is ending.

Tony knows he’s a fidgetier, so he doesn’t startle when Bucky’s silver hand softly lays on his knee to stop it from bouncing. Tony goes still, mumbling a sorry, and Bucky keeps his hand there to keep it from bouncing again. There’s an explosion on screen, and only later does Tony notice that Bucky’s hand has slid up his thigh, and is resting comfortably there. The metal is cool and light, fingers so smooth that Tony can feel it through his jeans.

It’s dark, and there’s hardly anyone in the theater this late – but the media has had a hay day with their little super soldier relationship, and Tony can only imagine the headlines: Billionaire Tony Stark pollutes America’s Super Sweethearts-

Except Steve’s arm hasn’t moved, and neither has Bucky’s hand, and as panicked as Tony is, the touch is soothing. Maybe that’s why Tony doesn’t freak out when Bucky softly squeezes his leg and whispers, hey, just loud enough for Tony to turn his head so Bucky can kiss him.

Okay, maybe he freaks out a lot, but he’s shocked so still he can barely breathe, mouth going lax so Bucky can lean back a millimeter and kiss him again. His bottom lip is rough from when Steve split it in the gym last week, but he tastes like salt and popcorn and fingers softly curl into his inseam and what the fuck is happening-

He pulls back just enough to stare at Bucky and gape like a fish – but soft fingers grip around his jaw and tip his head the other way, and suddenly Steve is kissing him too.

Tony’s brain overloads so hard he goes dizzy, but the hand on his jaw is steady, like they’ve done this before, and for a second Tony wonders if they have – if they should have – if they missed out on time – so he has half a mind to try and kiss back, but he feels thirteen, can hardly remember how it’s done.

They pull apart and it’s slow, lips sticking together from the butter, and Tony whispers, what the hell, and Bucky and Steve cover their laughs to hide the noise.

Bucky threads his fingers through Steve’s on his cheek; he tips Tony’s head to kiss him again.

 


 

He's gone into cardiogenic shock, or at least, Tony thinks he has. He’s numbly ushered out of the theater, head running through a million different ways to start damage control – it’s okay, its fine – he can fix this - they won't leave, they won't leave -

He realizes that they’re in a Pizza shop, and he checks his phone to see that it’s nearly one in the morning. They’re in a corner booth, and the only other person here is the teenager half-asleep at the register, and Tony can’t feel his fingers they’re so cold. His lips are swolen from making out in the back of that theatre, and it can't be real, it just can't.

“Stop thinkin’ so hard,” Bucky speaks around his straw, where he’s chewed the end flat.

Tony asks too fast.

“Is this a date?” 

“We were sure hoping so.” Steve shrugs from next to Bucky, and they look too big for the booth, except they fit just right. Curled up together like sweeties.

“But it don’t hafta be,” Bucky finishes. “If you don’t wanna’.”

“As in…” Tony drawls.

Steve scratches his neck, “We like you.”

Ahh.

Tony laughs, and it startles Steve a little, “You didn’t have to go through all this effort for a threesome.”

Bucky and Steve’s expressions harden in an instance, so similar to the other that Tony stiffens in his seat.

“That’s not what we’re after.”

Bucky’s murder stare turns soft, as he smirks, “Well-“

Steve slaps a hand over his mouth, “That’s not what we’re after.”

Tony feels his heart drop and soar all together. “You’re being serious.”

Steve shrugs, pulling that hand away to run through his hair, and Tony is smitten with how much he’s changed. How much time has changed him, because he’ll always be Captain America, but like this he’s Steve, with his hair a little too long and his cheeks a little scruffy, just a cute boy from Brooklyn wrapped around his sweetheart at a penniless pizza parlor. 

“Not really the kind to joke about something like that,” Steve mumbles.

“Same,” Tony blurts. Only then does he feel a twinge of panic, so he gestures weirdly, “You know. B-Both- I um. Both you guys. Too.“

Steve smiles like a million bucks, and Bucky chews on his straw, eyes hot enough for Tony to shift down in the booth and look away. He’s so out of his element that he sits on his left hand to keep it from shaking, still trying to process the last half-hour, and there’s a million reasons why they shouldn’t do this, but one glance back across the table tells him it might be worth it.

 


 

A visit to Rhodey’s place is vital. Just when Tony is on the brink of panic, babbling on his couch, oh god, I dreamed the whole thing didn’t I? – Rhodes is there to chuck a pillow at his face and laugh.

“I hate what they did to you,” Rhodey says, rubbing a hand down his face with a sad smile. “I hate what that war did to me. But that was the past, and I think we both need to move on.”

Tony stays silent, picking at the fringe on the edge of the pillow, staring at a spot past Rhodey’s head.

Rhodey shifts to stand up, and he does it so easily now, the braces almost a part of him.

“I think we’ve all seen the way they look at you,” Rhodey grins, and Tony blinks, stupidly,

“What does that mean?”

 


 

There’s absolutely zero reaction from the Avengers.  Tony starts accompanying Steve and Bucky on dates, and nobody bats an eye.

Like, nothing. Nada. It’s almost disappointing. 

He’s spent the last year wanting to be exactly where he is, and now he can’t even brag about it, because apparently no one gives a damn.

“I’m going out,” Tony says, sprawled against the adjacent wall of the den. “On a date. Don’t miss me.”

“Kay.” Wanda flips through channels.

Tony turns around the corner, and turns back.

“With Steve.”

“Uh huh.”

“And Bucky.”

“Okay.”

“Don’t wait up for me.”

“We won’t,” Vision says, and Tony pouts. Damnit, Rhodey was right. He can hear his stupid voice now,

I’m always right Tony.

Natasha comes walking through the room post-mission, newly showered and in leggings.

“Hey Nat,” Tony turns, to lean up against the other wall casually. “I’m going out.”

“Have fun,” she deadpans.

“With-“

“Tell Bucky and Steve I emailed the UN reinstatement papers to them.”

Tony crosses his arms, “Can you at least act surprised?”

“Not an actor,” Natasha replies, vaulting the back of the couch and settling next to Wanda.

 "That is a blatant lie."

“You caught me,” she deadpans. “What are you going to do about it?”

“I’m still very much terrified of you, so, nothing.”

Bucky chooses that moment to quietly enter the room, and ghost a hand over Tony’s shoulders.

“You ready, baby?”

“Shit!” Tony jumps, and Bucky keeps him from falling over. He places a hand over his heart and breathes,  “Oh fuck don’t do that to me.”

Bucky laughs, “Sorry.”

“I’m getting you a bell,” Tony exhales, leaning a little into his side. “Fry, write that down.”

“Noted.”

Natasha is grinning at him from over the pillows of the couch, and Tony sticks out his tongue. Bucky’s hand slips from his shoulders down to his waist so effortlessly, you almost wouldn’t know it’s there.

“Steve’s waiting in the car.”

Tony turns in his arm and smiles at him. “Where we going?”

“I dunno’, some art museum Steve has wanted to go to.”

“He does know I sponsor at least seven art galas in New York alone, right?”

“Yeah, but if you don’t pretend to be interested in the art trivia he tells you, I’ll kill you myself.”

Tony laughs into his shoulder, pats his hip and nods, “Fair enough.”

“Oh my goodness,” Wanda waves without looking. “Please leave already.”

Bucky prods him out the door, Tony turning around to blow her a kiss. Vision gives him a side eye, and Tony scuttles into the elevator. Red magic slams it shut.

“Always the hard way with you, ain’t it?”

“Fun,” Tony reminds him. “The fun way.”

Bucky gives him a look like he’s too amused to be upset. Steve is waiting for them in the car, dressed in dark jeans and a button down, sleeves rolled up to his forearms.

“You look like a sexy lumberjack,” is the first thing Tony’s mouth says, and Bucky laughs so hard the rest of the drive, wiping at his eyes until they’re puffy.

Steve pouts for a hot minute, before he slings an arm over Tony’s shoulders, and kisses the side of his face like it’s nothing. It’s so natural that Tony has to swallow down the urge to lean against his arm like a teenager in a 90's movie.

“It’s nice to see you back,” Steve says sweetly. “How was Italy?”

“All work and no play, honestly, I was supposed to board a plane in six hours and they scheduled me for a Ted Talk I didn’t even know about.”

“I’ve been watching those,” Bucky says. “The ones you recommended me.”

“Most of the speakers are balloon-head idealists,” Tony gestures, “But I’m one of them, so. Birds of a feather..."

“What did you talk about?”

Tony lies with a shrug, “Artificial Intelligence.”  

Steve hums, and settles back against the window. The sun is setting, and it makes his hair glow; Tony hates how sappy he gets over it. He looks away, towards Bucky, and goddammit that’s almost worse, because he’s in the middle of retying his hair up, the shorter strands falling down his face, so Tony looks straight ahead, past the driver, and counts every red car he sees.

 


 

Tony can’t stop looking between them. They always make him feel so small – and he usually hates that, opting for shoes with heels, or rather, surrounding himself with partners that are under 5’7, but Bucky and Steve make him feel like something precious, and the amount of which he loves it fucking terrifies him.

“The Old Guitarist,” Steve smiles. “This is one of my favorite Picasso paintings.”

“Really?” Tony shifts, settling his hands in his pockets. “I thought you’d like his more, you know. Nonconcrete stuff. Weeping Woman, La Lecture, et cetera.”

“That’s all fine,” Steve nods. “But there’s more emotion in this one. Something real about it.”

Bucky hums – and he’s not even looking at the painting, instead he’s staring at Steve, which is, uh, a big mood.

“This one is called the painting within a painting,” Steve says. “Because if you look here, you can kind of see an outline of a woman.”

“I think I remember hearing something about that once. Dated an art nerd for a few weeks. Rambled on about stuff I didn’t think I’d remember. “

Bucky gives him a strange look, but Steve keeps talking.

“I wonder if he painted over it." Steve’s eyes still skim the painting. “I guess everyone makes mistakes.” There’s no way that’s the original, but Tony won’t rain on his parade, so he nods, and looks over to the next painting.

It’s something newer, by an unknown artist. It’s incredibly abstract, all hues of dark blue, white and red. Tony studies it – some of the lines reminding him of circuitry. Bucky leans over towards Steve, and curls an arm around his itty waist, and Tony lets them have a moment, shifting a little farther away.

They didn’t talk much on details of this relationship...thing, other than they’d like to date him togetherSome poly idea, not that Tony hasn’t tried it, but more, he’s hard enough on one partner, let alone two. He tries not to think about it too much.

A voice says, “That one’s mine.”

Tony turns to a young man, scruffy, gangly looking kid, no older than 23, with red eyes and wrapped fingers. He has a slight accent. 

“Congrats,” Tony says, with a half-smile. “You’ve made it to the Whitney. That’s a resume maker.”

“It’s an honor,” he responds, voice reverent. Tony stares at the painting in silence, and is tempted to look back towards Bucky and Steve – maybe they’ve left him – but the man says. “We’ve met before.”

Tony turns and blinks, “Have we?”

“2008.” He nods. “I was only a kid. You were on a weapons tour in Sibera. Stark Expo.”

“Sorry,” Tony shrugs, rubbing at his left arm. “Don’t remember.”

“No, you wouldn’t.” The artist says. “If I had been that drunk, I wouldn’t have been able to stand, let alone give a lecture on integrated circuits.”

Tony is hit with déjà vu so hard, it can hardly be called that. He stumbles back a little, heartrate jackhammering into his throat, blinking back memories like an old black and white reel.

Yinsen, in that cave. The car battery hooked to his chest, with every tug, pain rocketing up his chest, and into his neck. Yinsen, - we met once, you know – bleeding out, on the floor – he blinks and blinks, the kid keeps talking.

“We lived on the lake.” His eyes are redder, bearing into Tony, leaving him paralyzed to the core. “One morning I woke up to a ballistic missile test right outside my home. Stark Industries. I lost everything."

Tony is rendered mute. He thinks of the soldiers, in that van. The woman who hardly made it out the door. Wanda and Pietro, huddled next to a dud. The boy in Sokovia – his fault, his fault, his fault -

“Full offense,” The artist turns. “But I don’t want a mass murderer looking at my art.”

Tony nods, but he’s having a panic attack so bad he can feel it in his ears, like the ringing of Obe’s paralysis device, ripping the heart out of his chest. Oh god, he never forgot the feeling. The reactor glowing under his shirt. He presses a hand to his chest and it’s not there, it’s gone –

“That’s quite enough.” It’s Steve, at his back. A weird lizard part of his brain chants safe, safe, safe. 

An arm secures around Tony's waist, fingers slipping into his back pocket. “Cme’re baby,” Bucky mumbles, voice tight. He pulls him away, walking towards the stairs.

“Captain America?!” The kid blanches. “Oh wow – I, I’m a huge fan, can I have a –“

“No.” Steve snaps, and follows towards the stairs. Tony starts the decent, feeling utterly numb, and he hears the artist call, how could you take his side, after everything he’s done?!, and Bucky jerks to fight. Except Steve is faster, and only turns back to growl, “Son, you have no idea what bear cave you’re pokin’ in,” before he follows.

Bucky seats him on a bench in the corner of the gala, and by now Tony has his breathing back under control, but he’s still pressing a hand to his heart, feeling the blood pump way too fast. The arc reactor’s gone.

“Don’t listen to him,” Steve huffs, jaw set in frustration. “You’re not that man anymore.”

“Sorry, sorry,” he waves absently. He inhales, and exhales. “Give me a minute, I’m fine, I’m good.”

“Are you sure?” Bucky chews on his lower lip, and it’s cute enough to distract Tony for a moment. “I’m sorry – we, we weren’t paying attention – “

Already embarrassed, Tony stands back up, and plants a smile on his face.

“Nope, I’m totally good. Hey, we haven’t gone in this room yet – I think I heard something about 3D sculptures, and believe it or not, I used to take a ceramics class at MIT because I needed the extra credit to–“

Steve grips his wrist to keep him from walking away. He doesn’t say anything, just stares, until he’s convinced that Tony’s episode is done. He feels heat sweep down his neck, and he’s very grateful that Steve doesn’t bring it up again.

“Alright,” he says; he doesn’t let go, fingers softly slipping down to grip his hand, and oh god, Tony’s palms are sweaty and that’s so not attractive, but Steve doesn’t let go, and Bucky quietly slings an arm back around his shoulders, and he’s very impressed at the stealth of it all, because nobody stops to stare.

The rest of the evening goes fine. The mood lightens back up, but Tony can’t stop the embarrassment, knowing they saw him clutching his chest and hacking in air like a junkie. They stop for hot dogs, and Bucky rambles on about the hot dogs his mom used to make, and Steve attests that they were, by far 'the best dogs' – and Tony just sits next to them on the park bench and watches, silent, as they go on about memories from a different lifetime.

“Although,” Steve sips a lemonade, “she always layered on the hot relish too hard. Damn near killed me, during the fourth.”

“That was your birthday!” Bucky cackles. “I remember you were dry heavin’ over the trash.”

“Really cleared up the sinuses.”

Bucky laughs more, and Steve slaps him on the back, and Tony watches with a sense of dread, thinking that, despite everything, there’s no room for him here. The merchant of death. Someone that can never make up for what he's done, not in a million lifetimes. They’ve seen him shaky and panicked, they’ve seen the tapes, of his past. They’ve seen what he was, and what he still is.His left hand trembles.

“Oh my gosh, and that’s not even to say what happened to poor Johnny. Norma gave him a horseradish and he just about – “

“This isn’t going to work out,” Tony says, standing suddenly, shocking Steve silent.

There's a pang of silence, the park nothing but a breeze against trees. 

Bucky’s voice goes raspy. “What?”

Yinsen on the floor. The car battery. The Jericho missiles, dismantled on the table, blood on his hands and under his nails and behind his ears –

“That kid’s family died because of me,” Tony says too fast. “And Wanda’s. And-“

“Don’t.” Steve interrupts. “Don’t do this to yourself.”

“This can’t happen,” Tony shakily gestures. “You and me and him and you and me and-“

Tony-“

“I’m too much luggage, that’s okay, that’s fine, I try to pack light but sometimes it just doesn’t zip up, even when you sit on it and -you know Beethoven never married? It’s something about not wanting to bring emotional distress to the people you care about because you’re actually a giant fucking mess who still has the gall to go into obstructive shock over something a kid says in a gala-“

“God dammit, I knew you weren’t okay,” Bucky snaps, standing up to yank Tony back when he starts to wander away. “I’m gonna’ kill that fuckin’ kid.”

“I killed his parents,” Tony pants, eyes going glossy, nails digging into Bucky’s soft forearm. “I did it.”

“I read all about your company, Stark,” Steve grits, helping Bucky maneuver him back on the bench. He sits in a way that blocks Tony from any passersby. “Stain was dealing under the table. For goodness sakes, that was the whole reason you became Iron Man in the first place.”

Tony’s hands are shaking, and Bucky is so close behind him – and it should make him panic more, but it doesn't. Tony slips a hand under his shirt and feels for the metal, but it’s not there.

“He ripped the arc reactor out of my chest,” Tony shakes, trying to rub the memories out of his eyes with his left hand. “The closest thing I had to a father.”

He can hear Bucky’s jaw snap behind him, and Steve loosens his grip around his forearm, now that he’s convinced Tony won’t leave.

Instead Tony lets out a shallow laugh, and presses both hands into his eyes. He laughs more, “Great date night, Tones.”

“It’s not your-“

“You don’t want to deal with this,” Tony tells them flatly, once his eyes have stopped trying to cry in Central Park. He points between them, “I really think we had a good thing going as friends. I’ll take a trip to Cape Verde, T’Challa has been wanting to meet about the adamantium trade, I think two weeks is enough to forget that all of this happened.”

“You’re real dumb,” Bucky says, and it shocks Tony into sitting up straight. He turns around to look him in the eye, but Bucky flicks his forehead, and Tony whines, hands coming up to the sore spot. “You have no idea how much we’re obsessed you.”

"Completely," Steve affirms. His hand rests softly on his knee, "I know we've had rough patches - but I still regret what I said, back at the SHIELD lab. You will always be more than a man in a suit."

"Steve-"

"You forgave me when you had every reason not to," Bucky says. "You gave me a home and a life and a fresh start. You're so fuckin' beautiful - you give until you've got nothin' left."  

Tony swallows, tries to make some kind of response, but it sounds like nothing. 

"I won't remember your birthdays." 

Bucky grins, "Don't need you to."

“We know your game,” Steve smiles. “You’re not wiggling yourself out of this one.”

“Unless uh, you don’t really like us-“

Tony presses his face in his hands, and curls over to rest his elbows on his knees.

“God, no, I’m so fucked for both of you it’s embarrassing.”

 “Good!” Bucky chirps. “Because we haven’t come this far just to let you Tony Stark this up.”

“Am I a verb now?” He croaks.

“Yes. Now walk with us, or I’m giving you a piggyback ride home.”

“That’s very tempting.”

Bucky kisses him, broad shoulders trapping him in, soft fingers hooking under his chin. He tilts his head a little, and Tony lets his eyes close, lets himself kiss back, lets go of the guilt pooling in his chest.

Bucky kisses with such a purpose. Like he knows exactly where he’s going, and how he wants to get there, road map and all. Steve’s fingers have dug possessively into his knee, and Bucky licks against his lips, only briefly, before pulling back, and Tony can’t stop staring at his mouth now.

“You sure are.”

He’s heaved up to his feet, and they walk through the park, before it’s almost too late to call a cab. Steve stops a purse snatcher along the way, and Tony and Bucky laugh about it the whole way home.

 


 

Tony feels sweat drip down the side of his neck, and it makes him twitch, bringing his shoulder to rub it away. More sweat drips from his forehead, and he wipes it with his arm.

“Fry, boost the air, please.”

“Yes boss.”

It’s warm in the lab, but it’s no different from any other day. His robots built most of the frame, but now the work is almost too precise for his bots. It’s small wiring – he uses tweezers to feed it.  Dum-E hovers over his left shoulder, and he mumbles to it, up a little, jeez, heavy footed there, aren’t you – and Dum-E whirs, the soldering iron no bigger than a pin in it's arm.

He’s been putting off this project for a while. Pepper has him flying all over the fuck, trying to make nice with some stock holders before the next Stark expo. He’s supposed to prove he’s working on something other than charities – people always want the new phone, the new laptop, the new psychoanalytical headphones that reduce the effects of PTSD. Capitalism.

Tony has wires wrapped around his wrist, because the spool came undone half an hour ago. His hands don’t shake, but his ears burn, and he’s sure to glare at the source every few minutes or so.

It’d been a nice morning. He hovered around in Bruce’s lab, since he was back in town, and Tony had unironically missed him a lot. Bruce is always a nice constant, as hypocritical as that sounds. He explained all about the research he was doing in India, and Tony was able to bounce a few ideas off him, before slapping him on the shoulder, and heading back down to his workshop.

But then Steve came back from a recon mission, and Tony knows he spent the morning with Bucky in the shower, because they both filter into his workshop with drying hair and shower-pink skin. Bucky is just in a tank-top, and Tony can’t help but stare at the joint where the arm meets skin, the transition so utterly flawless.

However, the Dynamic Duo have been sitting on his couch for the last hour, watching him, and not like usual – not with a notebook and an holopad – but with a bag of veggie fries, and their complete, undivided attention.

Fuck, is it making Tony sweat like a pig, and he’s not one to get hot under some twitchy eyelashes, but it’s all because Bucky leans over to Steve every so often, still watching Tony work, and he’ll mumble something that has Steve make a face Tony has never seen. One where he chews on his lip and leans over to whisper something back. Something that makes Bucky grin evil and shift closer, eyes still watching Tony work.  

Tony works until he can’t handle it anymore, eyes blurry and unfocused as he tries to hear what they’re saying. He twists a screwdriver and says, flippantly, “Got some good gossip over there, girls?" They pause. "Now now, don’t be shy, come share with the class.”

Steve’s legs are in Bucky’s lap, back braced against the armrest; he doesn’t say anything, but Bucky does.

“We were talking about your hands."

Tony feels his face start to heat, so he turns back to his device before they can see. His left hand trembles a little, and he hides it out of view.

“Why sergeant, are you flirting with me?”

He smirks, “I’m not that subtle.”

Tony snorts, and leans back to twirl the screwdriver around.

“If I have such great hands, why don’t you come sit over here and let me touch that arm.”

Bucky winces a little, and Tony knows he’s sitting the way he is to ease pressure off that joint. Steve immediately sits up, feet hitting the floor, and gives Bucky a wordless look. Bucky chews on his cheek a little, and Tony prepares to backpedal. They’ve been dating for five weeks – that’s long, right? Or not long enough? It’s probably too soon -  but Bucky gives him a lopsided smile, and heaves up off the couch.

“Alright.”

“Bucky-“

“It’s fine,” Bucky stands. “It’s been hurtin’ more anyways.”

Tony clears space on his workbench. He pats a spot, and Bucky barely has to rise onto his toes to sit down. Tony stands, kicking away his rolling chair, and digging through his drawers for a smaller set of drivers.

“Fry, run some scans please. James, sit still.”

Bucky spreads his knees a little, almost daring for Tony to step between his legs – and Tony does so shamelessly, keeping his face neutral as he begins prodding at the arm. He starts at the elbow, watching the plates bend, before he slips his hand up to the bicep, and squeezes.

“Feel that?”

“Barely.”

Tony trails his fingers up to his shoulder. Bucky’s eyes stare into the side of his face, and Tony feels his neck start to tingle. Ever so gently, he curls his fingers between an opening on the plating, and Bucky lets out a soft moan, eyes closing for a moment. The gremlin in his brain distantly reminds Tony of how sexy it sounds.

“That hurt?”

“Nn.”

Tony looks over to Steve, and he looks incredibly stiff on the couch, so Tony jerks his chin in their direction.

“C’mere Cap. Come hold your boy.”

Bucky rolls his eyes, but Steve is there in a moment, standing far enough to give Tony space, but by Bucky’s side, watching Tony feel for a release on the shoulder joint.

“It’s the musculocutaneous nerve,” FRIDAY says. “It’s pinching with the auxiliary. There’s an innermost plating with a release mechanism beneath the armpit.”

“Thanks babe,” Tony hums, and begins to pop open the plating. He suddenly stops, and looks Bucky in the eye. “Do you have any limb dysphoria?”

“What?”

“You know, phantom limb syndrome. You’ve had the arm for so long, it might feel like open surgery with me poking in here.”

“No, no, you’re fine,” Bucky nods. “They um. Worked on it a lot. When I was awake.”

Tony nods wordlessly, and pops open the plating. There’s a joint plug that hinges into a surgical hole drilled into his skin. It’s nice work, a little old school, and unfortunately, a little more painful, but still in nice condition. Tony mumbles to himself, speaking to FRIDAY every so often, releasing a few parts, and working on the nerve wirings. Bucky winces, and Tony hums an apology.

He notes dully that the star has been sloppily buffed out. You can still see part of the indent, where he was once branded. Tony waves at Dum-E to get him some solvent from his cabinet, and keeps working. Bucky and Steve are talking about something, but Tony works on carefully piecing the wires back together.

Tony's bad hand accidentally tugs a little too hard, and Bucky makes a low grunt. Tony glances up to Bucky with a grin.

“Doing okay?”

“Just peachy,” Bucky smiles back. He blinks once, in the split silence, and hums, “Wow, you’ve got some beautiful doe eyes on ya’, don’t you babydoll?”

Tony realizes that he’s staring just a second too long, before he hurriedly turns back to the arm. “I can honestly say I’ve never heard that one.”

“Really?” Steve asks, eyebrows pushing together. “That was the first thing I noticed about you.”

“Oh? And not my overinflated ego?”

“Well, that too.”

“Maybe it’s correlated,” Bucky muses. “The bigger the ego, the bigger the eyes.”

“All the better to see you with, my dear,” Tony teases, and connects the last wire with a click.

Bucky jolts, and lets out a long groan, head flipping back, nails scrabbling at the table. 

"Buck- you okay?"

“How’s that?” Tony wipes his hands on his jeans.

“Oh my gosh,” Bucky moans, rolling his shoulder. “That feels so much better.”

Tony beams, “Good!” and snaps the plating shut. “Now, Dummy – thanks – I just gotta’ buff this out, and you’re good to go.”

Bucky chews on his lip, “Um, you don’t have to.”

Tony dabs some on a rag, and begins to rub off the indents of the star. “Why not? New start and all that jazz, right?” 

Bucky stares, eyes too soft for Tony to stare into. 

“Thanks Tony,” Steve smiles, and it’s infectious, so Tony chews on his cheek, and buffs out the rest of the prothesis.

“There you go,” Tony pats his human arm, and it’s almost as rock solid as the robot one, damn. “Now you can return to Valhalla all shiny and chrome.”

Steve begins to laugh, “I watched that movie with Thor and Sam. Thor was completely horrified by the misuse of Norse mythology.”

Tony laughs and begins to step back, but Bucky traps between his knees, hands coming around to hook under his arms, and behind his back. Fingers curl into his spine, right at the hem of his shirt, and Tony steadies his hands on Bucky’s thighs. He can't help a shiver from the metal against his lower back.  

“Can I help you?” Tony arches an eyebrow.

“Already did,” Bucky hums. “Thank you darlin’.”

He presses a kiss along the corner of his mouth, until Tony tips his head and meets him full on. It’s deeper than before, less hesitant and more meaningful; they click like perfect machinery, coming apart and meeting back together kiss for kiss. Bucky’s hands move from his back to his hips, thumbs rubbing at bone. There’s scars there, and Tony shivers when fingers press into it, and move as if they could rub it away. His whole body tingles, warm running from head to toe; its horribly romantic, but Tony isn't appalled by it, not in the slightest. 

Bucky is so distracting when he kisses – Tony hardly notices Steve moving behind him, until there’s hands coming up and around, to slip beneath the front of his shirt and splay against his stomach. Tony jumps a little, and Steve presses a kiss along his jaw, and Tony feels his eyeballs roll back into his head.

“Oh god, oh god-“

Bucky laughs, breath ghosting across his cheek, and he kisses at his ear, so Tony’s head naturally tips towards Steve. He wastes no time in kissing Tony, fingers still crawling up his shirt, tracing beneath his pecs, and down the sides of his ribs.

Steve sticks his tongue in his mouth, and Tony immediately moans from the shock of it – good, moral Captain America, French kissing him in the middle of his shop. Someone slap him.

Bucky mouths down his cheek, over his throat, thighs still solidly bracing Tony in, Steve a wall behind him, and he feels so surrounded, so safe he could float off and never return. Tony’s hands jerk into motion, immediately reaching for Bucky’s tank and slipping his fingers beneath to feel for muscle. It’s overwhelming – he can’t touch enough, can’t get his hands around either of them as quickly as he wants. Steve sucks on his tongue.

"Ah fuck," Bucky curses, against his throat. "Damn beautiful, I'd watch that all day." 

Steve makes a noise against his teeth, before he pulls away to ease the strain on Tony’s neck, lips sticky between them.

“Shit, who taught you to kiss?” Tony breathes. 

“That’d be me,” Bucky grins. He squishes Tony even closer, so he can peck Steve over Tony’s shoulder, and Tony is so turned on he might cry. He keeps his hips angled carefully from Bucky’s, instead focusing on tracing up and down his thighs, hooking his fingers in the rips of his jeans.

“You’re so small,” Steve mumbles, nose drawing back into Tony’s hair, fingers squeezing at his stomach. “Jus’ wanna’ hold ya’.”

“Gee, thanks.”

 Bucky laughs against his collarbone, and opens his mouth to say something, but the alarm goes off in the hallway, and FRIDAY’s voice comes over the coms.

“Sorry to interrupt, boss. There’s been the appearance of some kind of chemical beast in Kentucky. It’s torn through Greensburg, and it’s headed towards Liberty.”

Tony exhales, lifting a hand to rub between his eyebrows, “Alright, thanks Fry.”

“Tell the Avengers to meet at the helipad in five,” Steve commands, untangling himself from them.

"Yes captain."

Tony steps back, and Bucky hops off the desk with an aggravated sigh.

Steve pats Tony on the hip, before heading out the door.

“Better suit up.”

 


 

Well, the Mark XI gets right fucked.

Some remote science experiment went wrong in a lab, and a big mucky blob of anger started tearing through country towns, eating whatever it could fit in it's mouth. The damn thing spat acid, for fucks sake, so, it’s best to just scrap the suit altogether. There’s not much left of it anyways.

Steve, Bucky and Natasha weren’t much help this time around. Cap called it, ordering for anyone without reinforced armor and/or skin to take the sidelines. They stayed after for cleanup instead, helping people to find loved ones that got lost in the chaos. Vision is eventually the one to take it down, digging through the core until he was able to destroy what could only be the heart. It’s a weeklong annoyance; Tony stays behind to help rebuild some homes with Clint, and when Bucky and Steve are back, he helps Bruce legally dispose of the acid remains.

Another week passes, to get them all in the same room again, up in the Avenger’s tower. They’re tired, but glad to be home, filling in all available space on the couches and the floor.

Tony pays for takeout. He offers to have something fancy catered, but everyone denies, voting on their favorite Indian joint two miles down the road. They all agree on no work tonight, taking a hot minute to relax, before everyone disperses again tomorrow. They nurse drinks and talk for hours - so it takes half the night to get the Avengers to sit and decide on a movie, and through a generated voting system, they end up watching Grease.

“You started it without me!” Tony gasps, peeling around the corner.

“Then do be quicker,” Thor smiles, arms thrown over the backs of the couch.

“I had to pee!”

“Then pee quicker!”

“Shut up,” Clint hisses. "I'm only in town for two more nights, we're wasting time."

“Move over-“ Tony kicks at him.

“No! I was here first!”

“This is my couch, literally, this is my couch, I had this imported from Dubai.”

“Stark if you talk over Summer Nights I’m going to castrate you.”

“Well I’m not sitting on the floor, so-“

“Oh for fucks sake,“ Bucky reaches over, and pulls him between Steve and himself, securing an arm around his waist so he won’t go anywhere.

Tony huffs and puffs, wiggling to get comfortable, and he accidentally elbows Steve along the way. FRIDAY dims the lights, and boosts the audio a little. There’s still some hushed talking, but it doesn’t make the movie inaudible.

“This is uncomfortable,” Tony whispers. “Neither of you are squishy at all.”

“Not like you, no,” Bucky whispers back, pinching at his hip, and Tony squirms more.

“Rude.”

“Just lay down,” Steve pats his lap, and Tony thinks about all the reasons why he shouldn’t, as he lies down to do exactly that. Nobody even spares them a glance as Tony lies across Bucky’s thighs, and plants his cheek in Steve’s lap. His toes curl up into the armrest of the couch, and oh this is much better. He rolls onto his right shoulder, carefully avoding weight on his left. The damn arm's been acting up lately - soon he'll look like Bucky.

For a moment, Tony wonders if he’s too much in their space. If the cuddling thing is only Steve-and-Bucky territory, but Bucky’s fingers come to rest on his stomach, and Steve’s hands immediately fall into his hair, and Tony is glad they can’t see his face.

The movie goes on – and talking gets louder, with commentary and laughter – but Natasha shushes them, and it goes quiet. Tony zones in and out, partially because he’s seen this movie a thousand times, and partially because Steve is absently running his fingers across his face, without a glace.

Nails trail around his ear, lax and barely there, thumbs smoothing across jaw, before sweeping down the side of his neck. They’re back, tracing under his eyes. Down the line of his nose. Over his forehead. Tony spares a glance, and Steve is completely enthralled with the movie, not paying attention to Tony whatsoever. Fingers trace his forehead, over and over. They feel for his hairline, back to his ears, back to his nose, as if he’s memorizing Tony’s face forever.

He can feel himself getting hot, and he tries not to squirm, but once he noticed Steve’s fingers he can’t stop, hyperaware of everywhere he barely touches.

Bruce is snoring from the floor; Wanda and Clint are singing Beauty School Dropout, and Tony wouldn’t know, because all he can hear is the blood past his ears. Bucky is still awake, and Tony only knows this because his warm, human hand has suddenly slid down his stomach, picking at the hem of his shirt, before curling around his hip and staying there to keep him from rolling around.

Fingers trace beneath his nose. Around his cheeks. The corner of his lips. When they feel over his cupid’s bow, Tony can’t resist sticking out his tongue, and catching the tip of his finger.

Steve startles, head jerking down to look at Tony – who then nips his fingertip, and grins. Steve jerks his hand away and whispers, “Oh gosh, I’m sorry Tony.”

Tony hums, “It’s fine. Feels good, actually.”

Steve stares at him for a long moment. Tony twists enough to see him, now laying on his back. The TV light flickers along Steve’s face, making him look sort of ethereal. Slowly, he brings his hand to Tony’s hairline to push back the strands there; thumbs roll down to his cheek, and Tony closes his eyes, feeling himself relax almost immediately.

He lets Steve do whatever he wants. Trace his eyebrows, feel his chin, over his jaw. Gently he circles his jugular, but only once Steve feels around the back of his ear, does Tony shiver in his lap, nearly kneeing Bucky in the side.

Steve’s breath hitches a little, and Tony opens half an eye to say “Don’t-“ but Steve is already pressing behind his ear, rubbing around the cartilage, and Tony squirms, shivering again as his back arches.

“Oh my god,” Bucky whispers. “Just like a cat.”

Tony knees him on purpose this time, and Bucky has to cover his mouth to stop from laughing. Half the room is asleep, but the other half has an interest in finishing the movie. Tony closes his eyes again, and Steve is nice enough to leave his ears alone.

Fingers draw to his mouth, a pinky tracing his lower lip, and it’s only now that he’s noticed that since he flipped to his back, Bucky has wrapped an arm around one leg, to spread them over his lap, and the soft, tingly, relaxed feeling from earlier turns heavy in his blood.

Tony peels open his eyes, and lifts a hand to brace around Steve’s wrist. Steve stares right back, even as Tony kisses two of his fingers, and leaves them there. Steve’s eyes are dark, and there’s the daunting realization that anyone could turn and see them – but Steve slips his index finger along Tony’s tongue, and Tony’s eyes roll shut.

They could crush him. Bucky could take his leg and pop it right off. Steve could choke him in seconds. Tony never denied being an exhibitionist, and sure as hell never denied his weird, twisted love for danger.

But they’re not dangerous. Not right now – Steve petting the inside of his mouth, making Tony’s stomach do all kinds of flips. He lets himself relax – lets Steve trace the inside of his cheek, and when he swirls his tongue, swallows and sucks, he does it for the look on Steve’s face.

He draws out his fingers so he can bend down and kiss him. It’s not very long, but there’s a bite to it, a reprimand, and Tony is absolutely going to think about this during every single shower for the next month.

“You like this, don’t you?” Steve muses.

Fingers slip beneath his belt, and trace where he’s half hard. Tony jolts, but he’s held still, not too strongly, but enough.

“Sure does,” Bucky whispers, smiling. He grinds the heel of his hand between Tony’s legs, and Tony chomps down on his tongue, trying not to make a noise.

“You wanna’ get kicked? ‘Cause this is how you get kicked.”

Steve breathes a laugh, and reaches over to smack Bucky.

“Leave him alone.”

Bucky does, but he doesn’t look happy about it, and Tony sure isn’t either, but he’d really prefer not to do this next to all his closest friends. Tony rolls back over onto his side, and they’re singing, Sandy done up like a greaser, so the movie must be ending soon.

But Steve leans over, and whispers so quietly he can hardly hear it, breath ghosting his ear.

“We’ll at least take you to dinner first.

Tony shivers, hand coming up to slap by his ear; he turns to give Steve a scandalized look. Except, Steve is already leaning over, making out lazily with Bucky against the back of the couch, and Tony can’t help but feel a little cheated.

However, watching Bucky suck Steve’s soul from his tongue is way, way more entertaining than the ending of Grease.

 


 

He's panicking.

Not in a bad way, but also in a bad way. More – paranoia, because it’s been two months since he started dating two (2) Avengers, and the world hasn’t ended. A meteor hasn’t hit the earth. They haven’t had a fight of catastrophic measure.

Well, Tony did chew out Bucky for being the one to toss coffee grinds down the sink – which he only found out about because he installed a camera in a cereal box – and there was the fight last week, where he and Cap hashed it out over the battlefield because of conflicting battle strategies – but that’s the usual.  

So it’s going…good.  

He’s eating more. Steve will throw a fit if he doesn’t. His sleep schedule is still all over the place, but Bucky comes down to drag him to bed if he doesn’t sleep for longer than twenty-four hours; the chronic morning headaches aren’t as bad as they used to be.

Tony refuses to acknowledge that Rhodey was right again.

 

He’s been in and out of town recently. They go out on dates when they can, of course, but when they can’t, they text. Bucky took to it like a fish to water, but Steve still struggles, sometimes. He’s not embarrassed to ask Tony questions, and Tony is always willing to give him an answer. Their little group chat is what gets him through meetings, these days. Tony thought he was over this when he handed the company to Pepper, but apparently not.

When he lands back in town he’s greeted by nearly being squashed to death, toes scraping the floor as Steve picks him off the ground.

“Baby, you're choking him,” Bucky says, and Steve lets him down with a sorry.

He cleared the next day up just for them – not that Tony tells them that. He’s sick of wearing a tie, so they go out for Thai food at a place they’re sure no one will recognize them. Bucky has been adamant to eat every delicacy from every country, because, quote, I grew up on hotdogs and military rations. I’m eatin’ all the good shit I can.

Tony sits across from them in a booth, and it’s very much like their first date, except Bucky kicks his feet up on Tony’s lap from under the table, and Steve is completely determined to build a house of cards out of salt packets, because Bucky dared him he couldn’t.

“You know that’s bad table manners,” Tony says, and Steve deflates quickly, shoulders hunching in embarrassment. It’s so sad that Tony stutters, “I’m kidding – here, it’s not working because of the weight distribution. It all has to do with Archimedes’ law – “ he picks at some of the packets, placing them differently, “- you need one here, and here.”

“That is totally cheating,” Bucky barks, but Steve looks ecstatic, building packets where Tony points.

Their food comes quickly, and Steve tries boba in his Thai tea for the first time and nearly chokes on it, but Bucky immediately falls in love with the stuff, asking for one for the road. Tony naturally moves to pay, but Steve and Bucky had the nerve to fucking tag team. Bucky uses his quick slide of hand to change out the credit cards, and Steve blinds him with his bright, All-American smile, until Bucky has already signed the receipt, and Tony is left wondering how his wallet got put back in his pocket.

The distance to the tower is short enough to take on foot, so they walk, trying to avoid any onlooker that might recognize them. They don’t hold hands, but Tony’s shoulder brushes against Bucky’s arm as they walk, and he’s going on about some TV show Natasha got him hooked on, and he has a nice voice, so Tony listens.

When he looks over, he sees that Steve has a finger hooked in Bucky’s beltloop. He pulls a little, forcing Bucky to walk a little wonky, so he can kiss the side of his face. Bucky slips his hand down, and intertwines their fingers, and it’s bittersweet to watch.

The public doesn't know about the three of them. Tony hasn't brought it up - figures its best if the world only knows Bucky and Steve. He's been in the limelight his whole life, he’s not going to ruin what they have.

Tony tucks his hands in his pockets, and looks up, the skyscrapers all lit at night. There’s wreckage from an attack years ago, the building never quite recovered since. Bucky elbows him out of nowhere, “What about you, Chappie?”

“Okay, I’m the one who showed you that movie, you can’t call me that,” Tony points. “What are we talking about?”

“Why do you want to be America’s Next Top Supermodel?”

“Oh ha-ha.” Tony deadpans. “No, really. Tell me.”

“What did you do growing up?” Bucky looks over. “It seems like kids do exactly what they did fifty years ago. Ride bikes and cause trouble.”

“And I disagree,” Steve interjects. “Kids have phones and, and the internet. They don’t go outside anymore.”

“Now you just sound old,” Tony says, and Bucky gives Steve a look like I told you so.

“And?”

Tony shrugs, “I made my first circuit board at five years old.”

Steve gives Bucky a look back, “Ha.”  

“But I also delivered papers on Saturday mornings. Dad said something about building character.”

“Ah-ha!” Bucky pokes Steve’s arm.

“I built a robot to do it for me,” Tony finishes, and Steve woops.

“What else did you do?” Bucky asks, pushing Steve halfway off the sidewalk. “I’ve realized that I don’t know much about your childhood.”

Tony shrugs, “It’s not worth listening to.”

Steve frowns, and Tony hates it.  “Don’t say that.”

“Well what’s there to say?” Tony clears his throat, “Spoiled brat, child genius. I didn’t have friends because I didn’t need them. I built AI’s because they were more trustworthy than people. And they never leave. Well. They didn’t.”

“Jarvis,” Steve mumbles.

“That’s sad,” Bucky flat out says.

Tony laughs, “I was a billionaire at eighteen. There’s nothing sad about that.”

“But you were never a kid,” Steve says. “You’re supposed to toss stones across ponds and climb fences you’re not allowed to.”

“Well. I didn’t.”

Bucky hums, “Sounds lonely,” and it almost hits too close to home, so Tony shrugs and pats around for his phone when it dings.

“Some stuff makes more sense now,” Steve says, and Tony isn’t paying attention anymore, so he’s surprised when Bucky continues.

“Yeah, maybe that’s why he does this-“ Bucky slips an arm around his waist, and Tony immediately leans into him, walking closer, nearly fumbling his phone to fold into him.  

A car whizzes by, lights flashing across the buildings, and the alleys next to them. Tony jolts, “Oops,” pulling back away from Bucky.

Bucky and Steve share a satisfied look, and Tony snaps.

“Hey. Don’t do that, that look thing, I hate when you do that – I don’t speak eyeball.”

Bucky pats his ass and hums, “Don’t worry about it.”

Tony lifts his phone to his ear and pretends, “Um, HR, I’d like to report an incident.”

“Report this,” Bucky jokes, reaching over to squeeze his ass again; Tony jumps away and gasps, utterly scandalized, but he breaks into a laugh too early. Steve gives him a look – like he holds the moon in his hands – so Tony turns back around, and walks along the edge of the sidewalk.

“Buck, you're too smooth for your own good,” Steve smiles, and Tony wholeheartedly agrees. Bucky shrugs.

 


 

He’s got a big bed, for being the only one in it these days.

Sometimes it’s too big. Too much space to roll around in, so he sleeps on his workshop couch more often than not. His poor back.

Tony does have a nice room though. His holographic television covers most of the wall, and it currently shows a screensaver, bubbles floating up the screen. The blinds are drawn, the whole city there in the distance. Lava lamps glow along the table, rainbow light to dance off the ceiling. Tony stares at it, as he lays sprawled horizontally along the bed.

“Who’s this?” Bucky asks, laying opposite him.

“Black Dog by Led Zepplin. Iconic, honestly, Fry, play Immigrant Song.”

The song switches, speakers going short for only a millisecond, before music fills the room back up again, almost like water.

“I like the vocals,” Bucky says, one leg kicked up, the other hanging off the bed. His eyes are closed, “Not much for the loud guitar though.”

“No guitar? No no, you’re listening all wrong then.” Tony rolls over, “Fry, Highway to Hell.”

AC/DC comes on, and Bucky laughs, “I’m never going to hear a song through, am I?”

“I wont switch it this time, I promise.” Tony sits up, “But listen to this shit- are you listening? Fingers shouldn’t move that fast, James. I was never one for instruments." 

Bucky snorts, and takes a moment to listen, before nodding.

“Not bad.”

Tony flops back on the bed with a sigh, “I’ll convert you eventually.”

The music rolls off the walls, dancing with the glows of the lava lamps. Bucky reaches enough to pluck a cheese stick off a plate on the bedside table, and bites the top off.

“I think Kansas was my favorite so far.”

“I’m trusting you more,” Tony mumbles, closing his eyes. “Keep talking.”

“Uhh…there was another one. Aero…Aerosmith? That guy can sing.”

“Oh baby,”  Tony fake moans. Bucky laughs, reaching over to slap at his chest. It nearly winds him, and Tony has to roll over to cough.

“Oh god- sorry,” Bucky rubs his shoulder until he can breathe again – but it’s hard, because Tony is trying not to laugh. When Bucky realizes that he’s not in pain, but giggling instead, he snatches his waist and pulls, dragging Tony to his side of the bed. 

They’re still laying the wrong way on the bed, but Tony prods around until he’s comfortable, head on Bucky’s shoulder, feet braced against the headboard.

The song switches.

“Who’s this?”

“Blue Oyster Cult!” Tony laughs. “Forgot I had them on here.”

Bucky curls a hand up to play with Tony’s hair, brushing his human fingers through it. The guitar solo kicks in, and Bucky blinks, “Woah.”

“I know right-“

 There’s a knock on the door.

“It’s Rogers," FRIDAY says.

“Well don’t leave the guy waiting. That’s rude.”

It hisses open, and Steve appears, looking in a little surprised. He’s half in uniform, the suit peeled off his torso, left in socks, an undershirt, and the cargo pants. Steve smiles once he sees them, and steps in the door.

“Looks like you’re having fun in here.”

Tony points to the bedside table, “Cheese stick?”

“I’m good, thanks,” Steve sits on the edge of the bed. “How’s it going?”

FRIDAY turns the music down a little.

“Good,” Bucky turns, reaching upside down for Steve’s leg. “You’re clean.”

“Yeah, it was just a debrief.” He leans over to peck Bucky on the lips.

Tony huffs, “Alright, well, this is a no-pants zone, so I’m going to have to ask you to take those off.”

“But you’re both wearing pants,” Steve blinks.

Tony sticks up his leg, “Excuse you. These are Armani sweatpants.”

“I don’t know what that is.”

“They’re not whatever those scratchy things are, so if you wanna’ sit, they gotta’ go.”

“Seconded,” Bucky nods.                       

“It’s unanimous,” Tony smirks.

Steve shoots him a look, before he stands up with a sigh, peeling off his socks, and working on the buckle of his suit. Tony cranes his neck to watch, and wolf whistles when he finally gets them off.

“No star-spangled underwear. How disappointing.”                                                                                                                   

“SHIELD sure did try,” Steve exhales. He crawls up to them on the bed, and collapses on Tony’s chest in a reprimand for laughing.

“Why are you wearing shorts under your pants?” Bucky pulls at the elastic of the spanks, and snaps it back. They’re tight, like Tony’s flight suit, but his ass is beyond legendary. Tony squeezes it.

“I definitely learned my lesson from the Zorans,” Steve grumbles, and Tony starts laughing all over again, but it sounds compressed from under Steve’s weight.

Bucky blinks, “What?”

“Oh, you weren’t there for that!” Tony wheezes. “There was these-hhah- these aliens that crawled in your clothes and ate them. I was fine with the nn-suit of course, but Stevie here only had his shield. Looked like a playboy bunny. Captain Sleazy. Captain Ass-merica. Captain-"

“You’re kidding!” Bucky cackles. “Where the fuck was I?”

“-Hot-gers- uh, Bosnia, if I remember correctly.”

“Why did no one tell me about this?”  

“Because I threatened them otherwise,” Steve mumbles.

Tony pats his butt, and pushes, “As great as your ass is, I’m kind of suffocating.”  

“Good.”

“James, can you take him?”

Bucky reaches over and grabs him so easily; it’s a distant reminder of how damn strong he is. Steve goes quietly, flopping over him, and re-burying his face in Bucky’s shoulder with a disgruntled sigh.

“I’m guessing the debrief went well.”

“Ross takes years off my life.”

“He probably feeds off like, the laughter of babies or something.”

“He’s not a bad guy,” Steve starts, and they both shoot him a look, so he lays back down, “Yeah, okay.”

 Bucky shifts, so Steve is laying between his legs. Bucky gives him a squeeze, and Steve hums.

"This bring back any memories?" 

Steve smiles, and kisses at his jaw. 

"Yeah." 

"He was so small," Bucky tells Tony. "Always getting into trouble, but so easy to hold." 

"I saw pre-serum pictures."

 Steve turns, wide eyed, "You did?"

"Dad had them," Tony sniffs. "You were gangly." 

"Adorable," Bucky affirms.

Steve sits up a little, looking down at Bucky with a reserved smile.

"You were everything. Welterweight champion. Top of the class. Gorgeous all to hell."

"Yeah, where'd that go," Bucky teases. 

Steve hums "Still here," and kisses him. 

Tony can't help but smile, propped up to watch, as Bucky hikes up a leg and pulls so he can hug him better. Their eyes always go so glossy when they talk about the past, like an old married couple reminiscing on their wedding night. They've been through hell together. They all have. 

Tony winces, the way he's laying suddenly twinging his arm. He rolls to his back, hand flying to brace at his bad elbow. He flexes his fingers, trying to quietly stop the tremors.  

“Are you alright?”

Tony looks over, “Hm? Of course, baby.”

Bucky and Steve are staring at him.

“Did you hurt your arm?”

“A long time ago,” Tony shrugs, working into a sitting position. Bucky and Steve follow, sitting cross legged.

“Really? I never even noticed. What happened?”

“Wanda dropped a car on it."

“Oh my gosh what?”

“Don’t think too much about it,” Tony waves. “I also tried to kill both of you.”

A short silence falls over them. His speakers are playing Bon Jovi now.

“Can I see?” Steve asks.

Tony unceremoniously sticks out his arm and sniffs, “Banner checked it out already.”

Steve feels gently around the elbow joint, squeezing down his forearm. He bends his arm, feeling how it moves.

“And?”

“It was twisted when it broke. The nerves grind against the bone now.”

Steve frowns, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I don’t have to tell you everything, Rogers.”

“Don’t get snappy,” Bucky clips. “I think we know a thing or two about a bad arm.”

Tony grits his teeth, and he clenches his palm, his hand trembling almost immediately. He relaxes it, and pulls away from Steve’s grip.

“Sorry. It’s not a big deal, is what I’m saying.”

“Would surgery help?” Bucky asks.

“I hate hospitals."

“Would surgery help?” Steve repeats, stricter.

“Can we drop this?” Tony waves. “We were having a good time. Fry, Fleetwood Mac.”

Steve nods wordlessly. Tony suddenly feels restless, like he’s been wasting time, so he goes to hunt down his phone, but Steve grips his arm again. Tony shoots back to look at him; Steve is already leaning down, pulling his arm so he can place a kiss into the crook of his elbow.

Tony cringes, “Don’t.”

Steve’s slides down to Tony’s hand, spreading his fingers with his thumbs, so he can kiss at his palm. 

“Don’t what? Kiss you?”

“Give me that look,” Tony waves with his free hand. “Like I’m made of paper. If we’re – if we – if were going to do this, you can’t look at me like that.

“Why would I ever think of you that way?” Steve muses. He gives a short pull, and Tony is thrown into his lap, knees spread over Steve’s thighs. “You definitely are not,” he squeezes his waist, “fragile.”

The air is pulled out of him, and Tony scrabbles to brace his hands on Steve’s shoulders.

“Now Stevie,” Bucky muses, crawling next to them, “I do think you’re onto something.”

“I swear,” Tony fights, “if you two do that thing again where you-aaAaA-fuCK-“ Steve presses lips to the side of his throat, just as Bucky holds his hips and licks behind his ear. “Cheating cheating cheating, cheaters cheating fuck.“ Tony squirms.

“Oh no babydoll, this is fair game,” Bucky laughs. Steve sucks hard beneath his jugular, and Tony squeezes his eyes shut, so he can’t tell whose hands are who. His shirt gets pushed up to his armpits, and someone traces around the scar on his chest. Steve is definitely the one who leans down to kiss it.

Tony shoves his nails into Steve’s hair and tugs, yanking his head back so he can kiss his face. Steve meets him sloppily, taking a moment to find a rhythm. Bucky sneak-attacks his ear, kissing behind it and sucking with a noise that has Tony shocking like a wire, goosebumps rolling up his arms. Oh shit, it’s been a while.

 “This okay?” Steve asks. His breath is hot against his cheek. They wiggle a little, so Steve can rest his back against the headboard.

He gives a braindead, “Uhhh….yeah.” Bucky pops his shirt off, and immediately starts biting at the back of his shoulder, and it’s like the pulley on a drag-engine, because Tony’s mouth kickstarts back up, like it never knew how to stop. “Oh my god yes – fuck yes – holy fuck, do you know how much I’ve thought about this – wait, there’s still too many shirts here, Steve this has gotta’ GO-“ his nails pull at the fabric, “oh Steve baby, how do shirts fit you?”

Bucky and Steve are laughing, so Tony takes the opportunity to map out Steve’s body with his hands. Shoulders, pecs, his stomach tensing as Tony scratches into it with his nails. However, Bucky’s metal hand digs into his head and yanks, and Tony moans with it, twisting around, half in Steve’s lap, straddling his thigh. He braces his hands on Bucky’s cheeks and kisses him. Steve, surprisingly, is shameless in grinding Tony against his thigh, and Tony chokes, heat trapping under his skin.

Bucky kisses filthy, licking behind his teeth, and Tony lets him, lets him do whatever the hell he wants. Steve grinds his thigh up. Tony shortly blacks out, rolling his hips back down to ease the way his body pulses. 

“Fuck, why’d we wait on this?” Tony asks, dizzy.

“Didn’t, uh,” Steve starts, out of breath. “Want you to um. Think we were just after the sex.”

“But god do we talk about it,” Bucky mumbles, reaching around to grip his jaw, and force Tony to look Steve in the eye. “You should’ve seen ‘em last night. Went two rounds thinkin’ about ya’. See – he’s already red.”

“Oh, I am definitely setting up a camera in your room after this.”

“Then start sleeping with us.”

“Damn, I’m trying,” Tony squirms, hot under Bucky’s grip. “How do you want me? Back, stomach, I used to be able to do handstands – have you ever heard of an Eifel tower?-“

 “Just like this,” Steve kisses him. “Stay.”

 Fingers deftly crawl beneath the waistband of his sweatpants, and give a tug, until they’re stretched taught around his thighs. His cock snaps to his stomach, and Tony doesn’t even have the mind to be embarrassed, because Bucky literally picks him up, so Steve can tear the pants off completely, before tossing them off the bed.

“I can’t even be mad about that,” Tony says, disoriented, as he’s placed delicately back in Steve’s lap.

“Ah, lookat’cha,” Bucky slurs, bending down to kiss at his side. Fingers roll past his ass to squeeze at his thighs, and Tony jolts, oh  -

“More – naked needs to happen,” Tony waves. “I can’t be the only one having a birthday suit party.”

Steve finally chucks his shirt away, so Tony slings his arms around his neck, leaning down to swap spit. Kneeling like this, he’s a little taller, yet he preens under the attention; under the hands that curl over his stomach, across his hips, over and around his cock. They’re an evil fuckin tag team, both pushing and pulling him wherever they please – so Tony fights back. Yanks on their hair and bites at their lips. He shamelessly sticks his hand down Steve’s pants, and grins when he jerks, fingers tight on his hips.

There’s the sound of rummaging, and Bucky leans over to the bedside table, cursing, “Stark, if you don’t have lube in this drawer, I’m revoking your title of Playboy.”

“Press the button on the right.” 

“What are you talking abou- oh. Hey, banana flavored.”

Steve pulls away from Tony to laugh, “What? You have a lube trap-door?”

“Stop acting surprised. Buck, hand me one.” 

“Pick a flavor: Cheesecake, Raspberry, Apple. Wow, the future is great.”

“I don’t care,” Tony whines, sticking out his hand. “Gimmie something.”

Bucky flips open a lid, and pours some in his palm. It doesn’t smell like anything, so Tony immediately takes that hand and does his best to wrap it around both him and Steve. His fingers aren’t as long as Steve’s – so he takes over quickly, and ohhhhhh fuck that’s way better. Tony closes his eyes, and arches into him, mouth muffling a moan into Steve’s shoulder. He sucks a bruise there, a mark that’ll heal before they’re done, but he needs something to do with his mouth.

“Oh shit, Steve, your hands. Fuck your fucking hands.”

Steve smiles, satisfied, and flicks his tongue over his lips, wetting them downright dirty. His free hand smooths up and down Tony's waist, nose nudging by his hair.

“Help him out, gorgeous,” Bucky mumbles against his ear, sliding a slick hand up his back inner thigh, making Tony feel all kinds of things. He rocks into Steve’s lap – and the short, choked groan he gets is like Christmas. Tony knows exactly what he’s asking for this year. And the year after that, and the year after that. Tony grinds right back again, and Steve exhales his name so nicely.

Bucky decides to arch his middle finger into his ass, and Tony tenses, spitting out an “Ahhh- it’s – shit, been a while, you might hafta’, uh.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t.” Bucky presses in to his knuckle, “Right now. I just wanted to see the face you’d make.”

“Ha-ha,” Tony swallows. He’s half tempted to ask FRIDAY to turn down the air, because he’s boiling, brain half fried to hell. Steve tightens his grip around them, the sound dirty, and Bucky pulls out, wiping his hand against Tony’s inner thigh, so impossibly pornographic that Tony is seconds away from recording this. 

Something for another day, he figures, because Bucky’s cock slips between his thighs, hips flush against his ass, and Tony’s nails scrape down Steve’s arm, leaving red lines. Bucky’s hand braces around his chest, holding him still, the grip strong, pulse rapid under his fingers.  Bucky is saying nonsense in his ear, soft dirty talk that Tony wants as his ringtone.

Steve’s eyes are hot. He’s gone silent, bottom lip pulled between his teeth as he watches Bucky exhale against the back of Tony’s neck. Tony shakes, feeling sticky and hard, but Steve decides to focus on just Tony, changing his grip. His fingers are slick, rolling around in a way that shouldn’t be so practiced – but Tony thinks of Bucky, behind him – how many times they’ve probably fucked, right under this same roof, and Tony is openly moaning, eyes unsure whether to stay open and watch Steve, or close and focus on Bucky fucking lazy between his thighs.

Steve moves up to kiss him, and the way he misses, as if he’s just as worked up as Tony is – it’s hot as hell, and Tony tells him so, biting at the flush down his neck.

He’s probably getting close – Tony doesn’t know, he’s not really paying attention. His brain is trying to memorize exactly what Bucky sounds like when he moans, fingers measuring exactly how Steve’s throat works when he sticks his tongue in his mouth.

They must’ve noticed that he’s getting tired from kneeling so long, because Steve’s hands hook under his ass and lift, so he’s sitting, and Bucky can somehow squeeze even closer, balancing his weight between them both.

“Oh, lord.”

Bucky kisses Steve over Tony’s shoulder, mumbling that’s it baby – and Tony doesn’t even realize that Steve is coming, until he feels him twitch against his stomach. Steve’s sticky fingers flex, slipping under his thighs, and Tony watches Steve’s face with awe, as it slams back against the headboard. His grip squeezes hard, like, really hard, and that’ll definitely bruise, but Tony would rather die than complain.

“Wow,” Tony mumbles, still watching Steve try to suck in air and breathe.

“I know right,” Bucky smiles, kissing the side of his face. “You’re next.”

He’s ripped out of Steve’s grip and rolled into the mattress, and Tony moves with him; it’s way less effort than struggling, and he can’t find any logical reason to – now able to look up and see Bucky, hair shaggy around his face, shorts shoved down past his ass. He wants to lick every square inch of him forever.

“Lemmie’ look at ya’,” Bucky grips beneath his knees and pulls so he can shift closer – and Tony makes grabby hands until he leans forwards to kiss him. Bucky grinds against him and Tony arches, the pressure a painful reminder of how fucking hard he is. A new hand braces around his knee, and it’s Steve, taking over so Bucky can prop an arm up by Tony’s head.

Bucky’s stopped talking now, fully concentrated, so Tony babbles words against Bucky’s lips, nothing that makes sense, more than content to scratch Bucky’s shoulders to hell. Steve forces his leg higher, just to see how flexible he is, and Tony chokes on his tongue when fingers prod around his ass.

He grits, quickly - “Fuck- I’m close-“ and Bucky shoves his tongue past his teeth, and grinds his cock against his and that’s it, shows over –

Steve is saying something, Tony isn’t sure what. He’s too busy staring at the ceiling, sticky and sweaty; his head throbs but it’s not bad, his toes tingle, and he curls them, up by Bucky’s thighs.

When he comes to, he realizes that hands are braced on his cheeks, kissing into his hairline, and it’s almost too romantic, too intimate, enough that Tony feels his face go red, and he tries to roll away.

“Stop squirming,” Bucky reprimands, and kisses his temple. Tony clears his throat, and looks away.

“Are you embarrassed?” Steve marvels, and oh, that’s where his hand went- a rag wiping up his thighs, and over his stomach.

“N-no.”

“The great Tony Stark? Shy about cuddling after sex?” Bucky grins. “How endearing.”

“Pepper didn’t like it,” he says quickly.

Bucky drops on him, all two-hundred-whatever, and all the air leaves Tony’s chest in a quick oof.

“Well I do,” Bucky hums. Steve tosses the rag over to the hamper, and makes it perfectly. Tony opens his mouth to be angry about it, but Steve crawls next to him, and runs a hand up Bucky’s naked shoulder blades.

It’s amazing how quickly Bucky relaxes, melting so fast, face making a home in Tony’s shoulder.

“Soft.” He muffles.

“Shut up,” Tony wraps his arms around Bucky, tentatively, once he’s realized he’s not leaving. His skin is flawless, hot, all the way up to the arm.  “You’re heavy.”

“Gimmie like two minutes,” Bucky mumbles. “I’ll be good to go again.”

“Uh, excuse you, we don't all have super recovery periods.”

“You don’t have to join,” Steve teases.

“I didn’t say that - don’t put words in my mouth, I do that enough for the both of us, also there are a billion other things I can put in my mouth and hey, you know, I’m not that tired.”

Steve and Bucky laugh, and Tony can’t believe how badly he wants to stay. For a moment, he’s not anywhere other than here. He’s not Iron man, he’s not Stark Industries, he’s just – Tony. It’s nice.

“Yo Fry. Let’s do some Queen.”

 


 

There’s good days and bad days. There's busy weeks, where it seems like the entire universe is trying to collapse in on itself – and there’s quiet days, where they don't even hear of a purse snatcher. 

They hit a long streak; more aliens, this time in Michigan, bubbling out of the water like sirens. They also spat acid, but ha, jokes on them, Tony reinforced the Mark XII, so, fuck you aliens.

He hasn’t had time to spend in his shop lately, so with the recent downswing of world dominating emergencies, Tony holes up and works. Bucky and Steve handle the missions with the rest of the crew.

He got put on the backburner a year ago – supposed to be called in for big emergencies only – but Tony is starting to reconsider his sabbatical, because it’s not really a sabbatical, when the world gets more dangerous every day.

It’s quiet at the tower. As far as Tony knows, the Wonder Duo took a small group to the Alps for some mission. Sam, Natasha, Vision and…Wanda? He can't remember.

“Hey, who’s in the tower?”

“Banner, Rogers, and Barnes are in the tower.”

Tony looks up, “What?”

The keypad goes green, and it slides open with a soft hiss.

“Way to ruin the surprise, FRIDAY.”

“My apologies.”

“You’re back!” Tony grins, setting down his device. “Wait, you're back? It was supposed to be a two-week mission.”

“Supposed to be,” Bucky rubs behind his head. “We landed and…”

“Nothing.” Steve sighs. “We searched the entire area. Whatever was digging that hole disappeared.”

“So, let me get this straight,” Tony pushes out, spinning in his rolly chair. “Something digs a mile-diameter sized hole in the middle of Switzerland, and then what, disappears?”

“The hole is closing too,” Bucky says, jumping to sit on his desk. He picks up a prototype, “What’s this?”

“Don’t touch that- hey, FRIDAY, do you think you can get into NASA's satellites and run some interior scans of the earth for me?”

“It’ll take me a while, but I can try. To which terrestrial layer?”

“Outer core is fine. Thermal may not be enough.”

“I’m running the diagnostics now.”

“What do you think it is?” Steve slides up to him, and threads a hand through the back of his hair. Tony’s eyes lull shut, scalp going all fuzzy. He leans into him.

“Don’t know. It’s either some kind of portal that’s closing, which isn’t good, because as we know, things come through portals – or, it’s burying itself into the mantle, and the ‘closing’ hole is just displaced dirt sliding after, uh, whatever it is.”

“What are you watching?” Bucky interrupts, looking up at the TV.

“Huh?” Tony turns, “Oh, I dunno’.”

“That’s us.”

“We’re on TV a lot, baby.”

“I know, but that’s us-“ Bucky points. It’s a candid photo, all three of them walking out of a Chinese restaurant. Steve is carrying the takeout bags with one hand, and holding Bucky’s hand with the other. Tony is there, and he’s talking with his hands, but he’s mostly cropped out of the photo, the focus on Bucky and Steve. The headline says Do the Power Couple Have a New Thrill for Chinese Food?

“How rude, I looked good in that shirt,” Tony pouts.

The photo goes off screen, and back to a bunch of TMZ shmucks debating about the Avenger’s love lives.

“I wish they wouldn’t do that,” Steve frowns. “It’s not just Bucky and I anymore.”

Tony shrugs, and spins around in his chair. “We’re not public, so, not their fault I guess.”

“We should.”

“What?”

“Go public,” Bucky continues, and reaches out a leg to stop Tony’s spinning.

“Why?” Tony sniffs. “Not much to gain. It’ll only bring more bad news.”

“That’s not the point,” Steve continues. “It’s a matter of principal.”

“Good thing I don’t have any.”

“Isn’t there the UN military gala coming up?” Bucky blinks. “We should go together.”

“That’s a terrible idea.”

Steve crosses his arms, “Tell me a good reason why.”

“Really? Are we going to have this argument right now?”

The alarm goes off.

“Sorry to interru-“

“Yeah, what is it?” Tony rubs at his temple.

“It looks like whatever started that hole in the alps, has created a path to San Francisco. It’s…some sort of alien. Technically, both of your theories were correct.”

“Great,” Bucky groans.

Tony sniffs, “You got any cellphone footage? Hashtags?”  

TMZ disappears from the TV, and on goes a split screen of different views. It’s… almost Godzilla like, but made of pebbling rocks and lava. It grips a hand on the golden gate bridge, and the entire structure rocks to one side.

“Fuck.”

“All available Avengers to the jets immediately,” Steve stands. “Call anyone who can meet us there. We might need all hands on deck here – Tony, this conversation is not over.”

“Wait,” Tony stands too, “You guys just got back from a mission – like, shit, you’re not even out of uniform yet. Are you sure you’ll be alright?”

Bucky looks up at the TV, where the golem crosses through water, heading right towards land.

“We don’t have much of a choice.”

Tony chews on his cheek and nods, clicking open the vault for his armor. “I’ll lead the aerial team. Should take an hour by supersonic.”

“Hopefully that’s not too late,” Steve steps towards the door. He pauses, if only to turn back around and press a kiss to Tony’s jaw. “Meet you there.”

Tony nods. Bucky squeezes his shoulder, and follows Cap up the stairs.

 


 

The monster is just beginning to rip through Oakland when they get there. Tony immediately starts scanning for weak spots, as the jets land with the ground team.  

What’s this thing made out of?” Natasha asks.

“Seventy three percent andesite, fourteen percent dolomite crystal and uh, thirteen percent unknown?” Tony reads. “Not the toughest thing in the word. It’s the massive size that seems intimidating. Shouldn’t be too hard to breach.”

“Alright. Iron Man and Vision, start work on breaking the shell,” Cap says. “We’ll distract it. Direct it towards the mountains and away from the city.”

Vision already starts lasering into the back of the beast. It swings an arm and growls, huge boulders falling from the mouth like spit.

“Oh yeah? And how are you going to go about that?”

A round of shots fire into the side of the beast's face. It growls, stepping atop a car, swinging its’ head. People run screaming.

HEY DICKHEAD,” Bucky shouts. “This way!”

It howls, and crawls after Bucky. There’s then a muffled fuck fuck fuck as he starts to run, the monster barreling after him.

Tony fires rockets into its’ side. The arm blasts off and nearly levels a building, if not for the Hulk who seemingly flies out of nowhere, and catches it.

“Big green!” Tony grins. “Good to see ya!”

“Bruce upset about monster!” The hulk howls. “Crush friend’s home!”

“Sounds like a good revenge plot.”  Natasha hums.

Cap says, “Have at it, big guy.”

The Hulk tears into the beast, distracting it away from the highway. Tony is still running scans, data rolling up the screen.

“Hey Vision,” he calls. “Try the right shoulder blade.”

Vision nods, immediately flying over, and zapping a laser precisely between the only arm left. It pops off, just as the Hulk grabs at its’ jaw, and swings.

“Hey boss, there’s some movement about a mile west. It might be the hole the extraterrestrial dug through.”

“Alright. Hey Cap, I’m going to check on that hole,” Tony says, flying off where FRIDAY has set a tracker.

“Okay. We’re holding.”

There’s talking over the coms-  “Hey Captain, I’m here.”

“Falcon. It’s regenerating the arm, stay out of swinging range-“

 “I see it, thanks Soldier.”

“We need a police perimeter, we can’t predict where this thing is headed.”

Tony flies over them, and he sees the giant hole before he reaches it. Except, it’s different. It’s not a deep hole but – more, a perfect circle, with intricate symbols drawn throughout it. Part of it glows, strange hues of purple and pink.

“Fry?”

“No idea sir. It’s magic.”

“Strange, Scarlet Witch, and Iron Patriot are here.”

“Rhodey!?” Tony blinks.

His video pops up on his feed.

“Hey Tones. Thought I’d stop by.”

“I see you got my birthday present,” Tony grins.

“My birthday was six months ago, but yeah- the suit is amazing. Thank you, Tony.”

“Code names please.”

“I think we found the heart,” Natasha says. “I can’t pierce it with just bullets –“

Tony lands at the edge of the circle. He’s watching the feed off Steve’s body camera – and it looks like they’re taking the monster apart piece by piece.

“Good work team,” Tony calls, kneeling by the edge of the circle. “Drinks are on me-“  

“I see you found my distraction.”   

Tony jolts, looking up to a man standing at the edge of the tree line.

“Uh,” Tony stands. He lights his repulsers, not firing, yet.

“Beautiful, isn’t it,” the man grins. “He’s a beast from the Pinwheel galaxy. Their planet is stocked with them.”

“Alien down!”

“Nice work. We need to start searching for survivors-“

“Guys.” Tony swallows. “You might want to head over here.”

“We’re on our way. What’s wrong?”

“Zemo,” Tony starts. “What…what happened to you?”

The coms go crazy. Tony mutes them.

He’s hardly human anymore. Zemo is missing an eye, an ear, his nose is nothing but scar tissue, as well as the side of his face. His left arm is gone. He stands on robot legs entirely. He smiles, the skin around his face stretching so horribly, Tony nearly looks away.

“I didn’t know you survived,” Tony gestures, “they told me you uh…”

“I was spared for a magnificent purpose,” he grins. “You see – this – this is my new life’s work.”

The Avengers clear through the brush, Sam, Vision, and Rhodey carrying some of the on-foot members.

“Zemo!” Steve jogs, once he’s landed. “What’s going on here?”

Zemo walks to the center of the circle, robotic limbs creaking with every painful step. It’s secondhand machinery, wires sticking out of bloody stocks on his limbs. Tony cringes.

“My final mission,” he gravels. His voice sounds horrible, like his vocal chords have been sawed. “Since I can’t kill you, and you refuse to destroy each other, I’ve been left with no other choice but to bring stronger forces to end the Avengers.”

Tony pieces some very old, dusty, random puzzle pieces together, and he opens his mouth, but Natasha beats him to it.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

“The plant monsters…” Bucky starts.

“And the spider gunmen. And the sludge aliens. And the Zorans. Oh my god, even the acid spitter?” Tony scoffs. “It was all you?”

Zemo is cackling wildly, hardly staying on his feet.

“I know what happened to your family,” Steve starts. “What you’re doing – you, you’ll kill innocent people.”

“Only a minor casualty,” Zemo hisses, spit slicking down his chin. “My family cannot rest in peace while you still breathe.”

“Wait…” Doctor Strange hovers. “Captain, we must stop him, that’s a-“

Zemo lifts a knife, and Bucky aims his gun at his forehead, but Zemo slits a line down his sternum and shouts, the huge circle going blood red with it. His body evaporates, and nothing is left. His ashes blow away in the breeze.

They recoil from the kickback, as the circle opens, swirling with color. Tony is blown through a tree, the others pushed back through the forest.

“What the hell was that?” Steve asks, getting back to his feet.

“A transmutation circle,” Strange grits. “Equivalent exchange. He’s unable to perform magical acts himself, so he’s been giving a piece of himself for every portal he’s opened.”

“Alchemy…” Wanda mumbles.

“Exactly.”

“So what now?” Rhodey asks.

An alien crawls out of the circle, just as large as the golem, but made of metal armor, swords sticking from its’ arms. Another crawls after it, and another, and a ship, larger than a building, steps out on legs, and Tony doesn’t know where to begin.

“This is New York all over again, isn’t it?” Natasha sighs.

“Captain?” Bucky turns. Steve is frozen, staring at the monsters that bubble out, roaring. There’s an aura of intimidation, and they all look to him. 

"Cap?"

Tony snaps, “Steve. We need you, baby.”  

Steve jolts, and stands up straight, shoulders squaring. He swallows and nods. “Right. Strange, we need a way to close the portal, while any aerial teams keep a perimeter away from the city. Ground team, you’re with me. I need a distress signal to any other available Avengers. Panther, Spiderman, Thor, Ant Man, get me everyone. Hulk,” Steve smiles. “You already know.”

The Hulk goes barreling into the ship, and Tony takes to the skies, Rhodey, Sam and Vision on his heels. FRIDAY patches Cap to the police, ordering barricades and devoting a battleground for the fighting.

Strange immediately starts work on the portal, but it’s difficult, with the number of soldiers stepping out of it.

One of the ships fires a canon that levels a mile radius of trees. Hulk gets blasted miles away, and there’s a universal understanding to not get caught in front of that thing. Tony can’t look for Steve and Bucky – cant afford to watch their backs, because there’s aliens already running towards the city, and Tony blasts them to ash.

Once they start coming, they don’t stop. They’re like huge ants, double, triple the size of a human man, swords of a space metal harder than adamantium. Tony gets hit by one only once, before he never makes that mistake again. FRIDAY starts running diagnostics, but the information is of little help.

They’re split up, but follow Captains orders. The aliens move towards the city, step by step, and the freeway goes down in crumbles.

When Peter shows up, Tony isn’t sure to be relieved or not.

“Recon work, kid. Keep the civilians out of this.”

“On it, Mr. Stark!”

Iron Man, I need you on my six. There’s a squadron headed towards the suburbs.”

“I gotcha’ buddy,” Tony flies, sending misses towards the aliens that pop on his hud. Hulk goes flying past him. Vision is fighting off a ship single handedly.

Lightning rains from the sky, and Tony has never been so happy to hear thunder.

“I received your message!” Thor bellows. There’s a few cheers over the coms.

“Thor, what are these things?”

“I do not know,” he yells. “I, nor anyone on my home planet, have encountered this race.”

“Well, we need some damage control. This is getting too close for comfort.”

“I hear you, Captain Rogers!”

Tony meets up with Rhodey, a little too paranoid to leave him for too long. He keeps an eye on Bucky’s tracker; but he’s mowing down these things, smashing through them with the mechanical arm, and sticking to Steve’s side.

He isn’t sure how much time passes. He’s not worried about time – rather, than the way these aliens spread. They’re hard to contain, some taking to the skies, others running on all fours like animals. They’re fast, and the amount that keeps popping up is concerning. It takes considerable effort to take down the ships, and after a while, the team starts running ragged.

Strange, can you put us in that uh, weird dimension?”  Bucky asks.

“Not if you want to close the portal.”

“We could really use that about now. We have about three thousand and incoming.”

“I think so, but Thor, I’ll need your help.”

“I am on my way!”

Tony lands next to Natasha, to take out an alien riding her ass. He kicks it off, and shoots a blast into the chest, bits of metal and alien gunk going everywhere.

“Thanks,” she pales.

“Having fun?”

“Oodles.”

“I brought you a present,” Tony grins, and turns around. Clint jumps off from where he was perched on his back. Tony saw him crawling out of a crashed quinjet, cursing the aliens to hell.

“Aww, you shouldn’t have,” Natasha smirks.

Clint pats her back with a smile, “Heard you guys were taking on an alien invasion without me.”

“Sorry, we were late sending your invite.”

Tony flies off again, when he sees a ship heading right down a street, towards a hospital. He fires missiles, but he’s running low, so he asks FRIDAY for weak spots, and takes out the legs.

Peter comes swinging, shooting web at the gunmen, and clogging up its canons. He swings away, and Tony nods, “Thanks kid,” before he blows up the ship. In the distance, he sees Scott go supersized, to punch another carrier ship in the nozzle.

“Oh, shit- is anyone there?”

“I copy,” Tony calls. “You good, Falcon?”

“I need help over here. There’s hundreds of them.”

“On my way.”

Tony shoots off, passing Wanda on the roof, Vision hovering around her. Half the city is on fire. They’re past the police barricade, and people run, trying to evacuate as quickly as possible. It’s all gone to hell. Military jets fly above, aiding what they can, but their bullets do little to nothing.

“We’re closing the portal!” Thor calls.

“Well thank the lord.”

“Good work! Keep-“

He’s just about to land with Sam, but he sees Rhodey on a rooftop, paused to take a breath. An alien ship spots him, the big canon loading, before it cocks, and shoots a blast his way.

Tony doesn’t have time to warn him – just pushes him off the roof, and takes the hit himself. He’s thrown through an office building, and down to the freeway. He rolls, until he’s stopped by a cement wreckage.

He coughs, eyes closing, cursing.

“Ss- man- sst- copy?”

“Sst- there-?!-“

“ony!”

His helmet is crushed. Tony pops it off, inhaling, but the metal is caving in on his chest, and it’s hard to breathe. An arm grabs him around the neck, and heaves him off his feet.

It’s an alien, with lips that spread into teeth, eyes like evil green pinpricks. It snarls in his face, and Tony cringes, choking.

His arms are crumpled. Tony tries to lift one, sucking in air, but the alien crushes the metal around his neck, and tosses him aside.

There’s screaming everywhere, women, children, a building topples in the distance. Bullets rain above like hell, the ground shaking from the explosions.

He hears his name, somewhere, before the alien stabs a sword through the chest plate.

 


 

Well. He wakes up in a hospital. So, that’s nice.

It’s horribly sterile. A heart monitor beeps in the distance, way too loud in the silence of the room. Everything is so disturbingly white. Tony blinks, trying to rub the sleep out of his eye. He lifts a hand, but it hurts, so he uh, doesn’t try that again.

Pepper is sitting at the opposite end of the room, reading through a newspaper, one slender leg folded over the other.

“Are you really reading a newspaper in this century?”

Peppers head snaps up. “Tony?”

“I died, right? You’re here to send me to hell.”

“I wish,” she stands, setting aside the paper with a frown. “I was on a flight when it happened. They’d called it, Tony. Your heart stopped seven times. You deserve to go to hell for scaring me like that.”

“That’s good,” Tony cringes, shifting to sit up a little better. “We win?”

Pepper sighs, and rubs her forehead. “Yeah. I’m glad you’re okay.”

Tony smiles, and reaches out a hand. She takes it, and squeezes it. The memories filter back, and Tony inhales, “The team-“

“Nobody died,” Pepper tells him, and pats his hand. “Sam got a little roughed up. Wanda had surgery for a gunshot that went through her foot. But everyone’s alive. I’ll leave your phone. You can read the field report yourself.”

Tony breathes out a hard sigh of relief. He stays there, breathing, until he has the energy to open his eyes again.

Pepper half-smiles, “I’m going to get out of here. I’ll get trampled when they find out you’re awake.”

“Bucky and Steve?” Tony asks, voice lightening, and Pepper shoots him a look.

“We have a lot to talk about.” She steps away. “I’ll see if I can sneak some real food past the staff later this evening.”

“You’re amazing,” Tony calls after her, and she waves tiredly. Tony flops his head back against the bed and exhales.

His torso is completely bandaged, arms included. He can feel a neck brace – but at least his legs aren’t broken. So they won, huh? They were just closing the portal, last he remembers.

Not even thirty seconds pass, before the hospital door slams open. Bucky and Steve crowd in the doorway, and they look like they tore out of the hospital staff’s hands, because Bucky has a needle sticking out of his arm, and nurses are running after them.

“Tony!”

“You’re awake!”

“Someone missed me,” Tony winks. He lets out a groan, when arms circle him and squeeze, a face burying in his hair.

Steve reprimands, “Bucky!-“ But Bucky doesn’t let go, only mumbles you scared the shit out of me, how could you do that to us, do you have any idea how worried we’ve been –

He’s peeled away by Steve, and Tony sucks in air. Nurses come by to check on him, working around the two soldiers, seeing how they have little to no chance of making them leave.

“You’re a miracle child,” Steve breathes. Tony gets a chance to look at him, and he’s exhausted, eyes red ringed, hardly out of uniform. His arms are wrapped up, and there’s bandaids on his face. Bucky looks less roughed up, except for a bandage on his leg. 

 “Well, yeah.”

“Two millimeters,” Bucky slumps in a chair. “Two millimeters to the right, and it would’ve cut off the artery to your heart, killing you on impact.”

Tony sniffs, “Hm. That’s convenient.”

“Never again,” Steve points. “Never, ever again. You hear me?”

Tony tries to lift a hand to his head to salute, “Sir yes sir.” He offers a smile to lighten the mood, “You two look terrible. Have you even showered?”

“No,” Steve sits on the edge of his bed, carefully. “I’ve been making sure the team is okay. We lost track of Banner for a day, but he showed up in Arizona last night.”

“Shit, how long was I out?”

“Only two days.”

“You two need to go,” Tony waves. “I’ll uh, still be here-“

“No.” They say together. Bucky continues, “Not until you’re coming home with us.”

Tony chews on the inside of his cheek, so he doesn’t show how stupidly emotional that makes him. He looks away, and back, and manages, “At least shower. You smell like a battlefield.”

Bucky frowns, closing his eyes and resting his head against the wall. Tony swallows, feeling itchy, fingers twitching to move. He wants to press their tired faces in his hands. He wants to kiss their foreheads. He doesn’t know how to fix this, and his stomach twists and turns.

“Um.” Tony runs his tongue along the back of his teeth, and says, “Sorry. I hate hospitals. I’m glad you’re both okay.”

Steve gives him a tired half-smile; his eyes are the brightest part about him, body caked in alien blood and dirt – but his eyes are still the bluest damn thing Tony has ever seen, and they feel like a thousand carebear hugs. Sunshines and rainbows and ugh, Tony has gotten soft. For some reason, he doesn’t hate it.

“We need a vacation,” Bucky sighs.

“Amen.”

 


 

Well, they never got to have that discussion about coming out, because the decision is made for them.

Tony sees the spread three days after he’s discharged, and resting on the common room couch. His arms are healing, his left in a cast. Apparently they corrected the nerves while he was under, so maybe there might be a good thing to come of this.

He’s scrolling through junk emails, when he sees an email from Pepper. It’s not work related, but under the title you might want to see this.

It’s a link to a recent TIME magazine edition. Sure enough, they’re on the front, the words scrabbled across the bottom, “The Human Nature behind Love.”  There’s small print with page numbers, like: read the details behind the Oakland attack – and rebuilding the golden gate, but Tony hardly sees it.

His throat goes tight. His hands shake a little on the holopad, and he nearly drops it.

It must’ve been taken by a professional photographer, because the camera quality is too high. There’s Steve, right in the forefront, and he’s carrying Tony in his arms, armor and all. They’re covered in dirt, Steve’s hood down, Tony’s hemet long gone. Blood drips down the armor, and over Steve’s boots, but Steve stalks towards the camera, the deadliest intent written on his face. Bucky is only a pace behind him, an automatic rifle in hand, his expression so hardened, Tony can hardly believe it’s him.

There they are, right on the front of TIME magazine. Steve clutching onto his dying body, eyes glossy. Bucky right on his heels.

The small print reads: is the way we love changing?

No, Tony thinks. It’s always been this way.

 


 

Stocks drop, but what else is new. There’s a surplus of paparazzi for the upcoming weeks, but Tony brushes it off like anything else. What surprises him the most, is the way Bucky and Steve don’t seem to care either.

They’re dressed in bespokes; Bucky’s is a clean white suit, and Steve’s a dark royal blue. They look damn good, if Tony does say so himself. They accompany him into the gala, arms hooked in his, and Tony doesn’t even see the cameras. Doesn’t hear the questions, the protests of morality, nothing at all, except for Bucky cracking a joke about Natasha’s ass, and Natasha whipping around twenty feet in front of them, and lifting up the slit of her skirt to reveal a knife.

“You’re going to die tonight, and I’m not going to save you,” Steve says. Tony laughs and nearly trips going up the stairs, but two sets of arms lift up onto the final step, like Mary Poppins.

The venue is okay. An older hotel, big chandeliers, a little too old-timey, but the government likes it that way. There’s officers done up in uniforms, but most are in suits.

Tony spins around, and realizes he’s lost Bucky and Steve to T’Challa, who’s chatting them up by the buffet.

He’s tapped on the shoulder, and Rhodey is there, dressed in a grey suit.

“Hey.”

“Rhodey,” Tony grins. He pulls him in for a hug, “Good to see you.”

Rhodey hugs him back, and stands away. He’s in the new leg braces Tony made for him, and they look nice with the suit.

“Lookin’ good bud.”

“You too,” Rhodey pats his shoulder. “I’m glad to see you up and around again.”

“The stab wound was the worst,” Tony pats his chest. “It was right where the arc reactor used to be. Looks like a spiderweb under here.”

Rhodey frowns, swallowing, looking guilty. “Tony…I…I never apologized for-“

“I can’t hear you,” Tony plugs his ears. “La la la~ I sure hope my best friend isn’t feeling guilty because I saved his life, la la la~”

Rhodey laughs and slaps his arm, “I’m trying to be nice here.”

“Stop, it’s weirding me out.”

“Where’d your boys go?” Rhodey looks around. “I thought I saw them.”

Tony waves flippantly, “They’re…around. Causing trouble, probably.”

“I saw the media backlash. They’re being pretty nasty."

“Still not as worse as the sex tape.”

“Oh my god, don’t bring that up here.”

“Colonel Rhodes,” Steve appears, sticking out his hand. “You made it.”

Rhodey blinks, and turns to shake Steve’s hand. “Wouldn’t miss it, Captain.” He turns on a dime to shake Bucky’s hand as well.

“You still thinking about getting back in the field?”

“Yeah,” Rhodey tugs at his tie. “I’m more than combat ready. These new braces are all Tony’s work. I accidentally stepped a little too hard going up the stairs and I nearly flew through the ceiling.”

“Oh wow, really?”

Bucky laughs, “This arm is new too. Tony installed it last week. I pulled the fridge door off on accident.”

“Both of you use my technology for evil,” Tony crosses his arms.

“Well, I’m sure the military will be excited to have you back,” Steve smiles. “You were a huge help back in Oakland.”

“It was my honor.”

The music shifts, and more people join the dancefloor, women in beautiful gowns, men done up in tuxedos. Thor is already out there, French dipping Jane like a professional.

“Do you mind if we steal him for a dance?” Bucky smiles, arm back around Tony’s waist.

Rhodey grins, “No problem.”

Bucky prods him towards the dance floor, and Steve nods a thanks to Rhodey.

“Uh, yes problem,” Tony fights. “The three of us can’t dance together at the same time. We'll look dumb."

“Uh, yes we can,” Steve mimics his tone, and pulls him out to the dancefloor.

“Oh my god you’re going to embarrass me in front of all these people,” Tony babbles. “Coworkers. Trusted stockholders. Friends."

Steve holds his waist and grips his hand, and they move together, Steve setting the lead. They dance slow, back and forth.

“Pepper is laughing at me, I can see her over there.”

“Maybe it’s payback,” Steve hums, rocking him back a little. His face is right there, hair slicked back all proper, and Tony wants to muss it up. Kiss his stupid face and ditch this place. Tony sets a hand on his hip, and swallows.

Just as he’s starting to panic less, he’s spun around and pushed. Bucky catches him easily, hands slipping right where Steve’s were.

“This is just not fair,” Tony swallows.

“Try not to step on my feet, will ya’ darlin’?” Bucky grins.

Tony scoffs, “Uh, excuse you, I know how to dance.”

“Put your money where your mouth is, then.”

Tony huffs, and sets his own lead, Bucky then following it easy. His smile is so cute, silver fingers entangled with his. Right when they spin, Bucky kisses him soft, before pushing him back to Steve.

“I hate this,” Tony lies.

Steve pulls him closer, “No you don’t.”

“Go dance with Bucky so I can run away and never come back.”

“We had our dance,” Steve smiles. “Seventy three years ago. Surrounded by military, just like this.”

Thor picks Jane up and spins her, and they’ve gained a crowd by now, so at least not everyone is looking at them, but Tony still feels antsy under their eyes. He's...exposed. Because this isn't a joke. This is Bucky and Steve.

“Why are you nervous?” Steve laughs. “Aren’t you the genius billionaire playboy philanthropist with three leaked sex tapes?”

“Heard about that, did you?”

Steve leans over to his ear and hums, “Heard. Saw.”

“Oh my goodness,” Tony grins. “You did not.”

Hands brace on his upper waist from behind, and Bucky laughs behind him, “You weren’t lying about the handstands.”

The music changes.

“Hey, uh, you know what? We should blow this popsicle stand and go get a hotel room, like, right now. Penthouse suit, tinted windows, whole deal, you can fuck me against the wall and nobody will know.”

He sees Steve eye Bucky over his shoulder.

To his utter surprise, he’s pulled away from the dance floor, and towards the elevators. Tony tries not to smile like a kid in a candystore.

 


 

3:45 am.

It’s no mystery that Tony can’t sleep, but New York shines below them, and the lights are almost soothing, so he's not too upset about it. He's sore, bone tired from being fucked against the window for an hour and a half - he'll never, ever make fun of their stamina again, that's for sure. 

Steve is all curled up in Bucky’s right side, octopus arms squirmed around him, and there’s an obvious spot on his left, where Tony was moments ago.

He rubs at the scar on his elbow, and there’s no pain, only habit. Tony sits up a little, covers pooling at the waist, just to watch them sleep a little more.

It feels creepy, but his heart is too heavy, so big it hurts.

There’s a soft, muffled, “Mmhhmhm,” and Tony looks down to Bucky, who’s making sleepy grabby hands. “Whatya’ doin’ up.”

“Can’t sleep,” he whispers. He wiggles back down, and lets Bucky yank him over.

“Stop that,” Bucky yawns.

“You’re both furnaces,” Tony huffs. “I’m sweating over here.”

“Well too bad,” Steve mumbles, now awake. Tony snorts, and reaches over to push his hair away from his eyes.

“Fine. Go back to sleep.”

“Kay,” Steve yawns. “Love you.”

Tony’s entire world screeches to a halt. His back runs cold and his stomach freezes, mouth going dry.

Bucky nods off to sleep with a muffled, “Yeah. Love ya’.”

Tony swallows around his tongue and clears his throat a couple times, before he sniffs, and sets his head back down on Bucky’s shoulder.

“Um. Yeah. Love you guys too.”