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Nosy Friends and Seaweed Kisses

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1

“How’s Steve doing?” Rhodey asks, pressing a freshly refilled tumbler of scotch into Tony’s hand as he comes to a halt at his side, gaze fixed on the man in question.

Tony shoots him a grateful smile, emptying the drink in one go. God, he hates these publicity things. “Better, I think. Now that he knows Bucky’s safe and not out there being hunted down or running around exploding HYDRA facilities. Which happened. On more than one occasion.”

Rhodey chuckles, but it sounds strained and Tony turns to him, brows drawn together.

“He’s calmer. More settled,” he shrugs, swirling the ice around in his glass. “Happy to be home where he’s got constant access to hot showers and fewer people shooting at him.”

“How are you?” Rhodey wants to know after a moment. “The two of you?”

Tony’s frown deepens in confusion. “We’re good, we’re perfect. Never been better.”

“Okay,” Rhodey hums and Tony knows there’s more coming, but he leans back against the wall, eyes drifting back to Steve and Bucky out on the dance floor, Bucky’s movements graceful and assured while Steve stumbles along and does his best not to fall or step on anyone’s toes.

Watching him, Tony would definitely believe all the jokes about having two left feet if he hadn’t seen Steve in action, on the battlefield in the middle of pure chaos, perfectly in control of every single part of himself, jumping and twisting without so much as a hint of doubt in his body’s abilities.

Steve miscalculates and it’s only Bucky’s arm darting out and around his waist that keeps him from meeting the floor at full speed. He scowls and Bucky laughs, reaching out to flick his cheek before brushing a strand of wayward hair away from his forehead, murmuring quietly. Steve groans and blushes, though he doesn’t protest when Bucky pulls them back into position for another try.

Rhodey awkwardly clears his throat. “They seem close.”

Ah. Grinning challengingly, Tony turns to face him, eyes glinting mischievously. “Do you remember the tango classes we took together?”

Rhodey levels him with a glare bordering on murderous. “We agreed to never mention that again, Tony. You promised not to-“

“Point being,” Tony interrupts, completely unperturbed, “that we danced together, closely, intimately, for weeks and everyone was convinced there was something going on, no matter what either of us had to say about it.”

“You told everyone we were doing it because it’s supposed to increase flexibility and we decided to work our way through the kamasutra to spice up our secret but very loving relationship,” Rhodey reminds him, deadpan, Tony’s shoulders shaking with barely suppressed mirth. “Asshole. There are still people who believe those rumours, are you aware of that? It’s been over twenty years, Tony. Two decades!”

“But Carol was impressed with your skills. After you convinced her you were not, in fact, fucking your male, underage roommate on the side, of course.”

“Why do I even put up with you?” Rhodey grumbles, more to himself than Tony, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Because you’re a shameless gold digger, that’s why.”

That earns him a whack over the back of the head, Rhodey rolling his eyes at him in that exasperated but fond way that’s solely reserved for Tony and his antics.

They lapse back into a comfortable silence, elbows touching, each caught in their own thoughts and simply enjoying being here, together, after everything their friendship went through over the years, having come out on the other side stronger and better for it.

“You’d tell me if there was something going on, wouldn’t you?” Rhodey can’t help but check, eyes back on Steve and expression unreadable.

“I’m fine, honey bear,” Tony sighs, tipping his head to rest against Rhodey’s shoulder. “Stop worrying.”

Rhodey harrumphs but lets it drop.

***

2

“Long night?” Clint smirks knowingly when he enters the kitchen, clapping Tony on the back as he walks by.

Tony only grunts in response but accepts the cup of coffee Clint slides across the bar toward him a moment later, moaning happily through his first sip.

Hopping up onto the counter, Clint rests his elbows on his knees and his chin on his fists, waggling his eyebrows as he prompts, “So?”

“So what?” Tony asks absently and flips a page of the report in front of him, highlighter poised and ready.

“So, it sounded like you were having fun,” Clint says slowly, drawing the words out, clearly waiting for something.

With a heavy sigh, Tony pushes his paperwork away and finally glances up properly at Clint, shooting him a thoroughly unimpressed look. “I have no idea what you’re talking about and I’m too tired to figure out your cryptic bullshit. I’ve been dealing with a crisis that could have easily been prevented if half of my staff weren’t completely incompetent morons all night and I still have to work through,” he stares at the report, calculating, “a good three dozen pages of this before I’m allowed to pass out. Whatever you’re getting at, I really don’t care right now.”

Clint is watching him warily now. “You’re saying you weren’t here last night?”

“Came in an hour ago,” Tony yawns and brings his cup back up to his mouth, focus wandering back to his paperwork.

Before Clint gets the chance to come up with an answer to that, Steve and Bucky walk into the room, the former looking annoyingly alert despite the time while the latter seems barely awake, blinking blearily at his surroundings.

“You,” Clint jumps up, pointing at Steve. “With me,” he orders, snagging the back of Steve’s shirt and forcefully dragging him out into the hall, ignoring Steve’s spluttered questions as to what the emergency is.

Bucky takes the seat next to Tony, observing the whole spectacle in quiet amusement. “What was that all about?”

“Hell if I know,” Tony shrugs dismissively, then turns to scowl at him when Bucky plucks his cup right out of his hands.

Bucky smiles innocently and smacks a wet kiss on his cheek, settling back in his chair.

“Rude,” Tony sniffs, but he’s trying hard not to smile back.

***

3

“Seeing someone new?” Bruce asks casually, gesturing at Bucky’s neck and the array of purpling bruises there.

“Sparring got rough,” Bucky explains and Bruce’s expression turns sharp.

Tony leans out from where he’s lounging under Steve’s arm to reach across the couch, brushing a gentle thumb over the most prominent mark. “You should be more careful.”

Bucky rolls his eyes and flicks a piece of pop corn at him, giving a triumphant whoop when it catches Tony on the nose.

“Ass,” Tony tells him fondly, snuggling back into Steve who tips his head down to press his lips to Tony’s forehead.

“Those don’t look like-“ Bruce begins but Tony quickly shushes him, nodding at the TV.

“Everyone shut up, it’s starting.”

***

4

“Natalia-“ is as far as Bucky gets before she has him pinned against the nearest wall, an arm across his throat and teeth bared in a sneer.

“Как ты смеете?“ she spits angrily, ignoring Bucky’s wriggling and wide eyes. “Они заслуживают лучшего. Оба.“

Tony stares at the two of them, mouth hanging open in shock. “Nat, what the fu-“

“Это не твое дело,“ Bucky interrupts steadily, jaw set firmly in that stubborn, determined way that never fails to remind Tony of Steve.

Natasha hisses at him, releasing him just as quickly as she grabbed him in the first place. To Tony she says, voice gentler and kinder that Tony has ever heard it, “You should talk to Steve.”

With that, she glides out of the gym, leaving Tony to gape after her and rub a coughing Bucky’s back.

***

5

All Tony wants is his bed. Right now, he doesn’t even care about the sand, too exhausted to wonder how it managed to penetrate the armour or wonder why it always seems to accumulate in the worst places imaginable. Like his underwear.

What greets him and the super soldier duo once they get out of the elevator instead is a fuming Pepper, newspaper clutched in one clenched fist.

“May I have a moment of Tony’s attention.”

She doesn’t make it a question. Steve and Bucky recognise the dismissal for what it is, edging past her with tired smiles that don’t get returned.

Pepper usually adores Steve. Tony winces. Whatever he’s done to make her this furious, there won’t be any talking himself out of it this time.

Curiously enough, Pepper’s features relax the moment the other two are out of sight and she moves closer, cupping Tony’s face as she inspects the impressive black eye he’s sporting.

“It’s fine, Pep,” Tony insists, gracing her with a weak smile of his own. “I’ve had worse.”

“I’m sure you did,” Pepper agrees and unfolds her paper, holding it out to Tony, one perfectly manicured finger tapping against the article on the front page. “This, however, is not fine. This is the farthest thing from fine I’ve come across in a long time, Tony.”

At least they had the good grace to hide behind an upturned bus, Tony thinks, taking in the grainy picture. It’s post battle, something still smoking in the background, and Steve is cradling Bucky’s face in his hands, his uniform ripped and bloody, while Bucky clutches at his arms, their lips pressed firmly together.

There’s seaweed tangled in Bucky’s hair, Steve is missing one of his boots and Tony can’t help the inappropriate giggle bubbling up his throat and out of his mouth.

“You knew,” Pepper realises, her lips pursing. “Tony, you knew, didn’t you? Why-“ she breaks off, waving a hand about helplessly. “Why?”

“Pep, it’s okay-“

“No, it’s not okay!” Pepper screeches, causing Tony to grimace and take a precautionary step back. “Nothing about this is okay, Tony. Why would you go along with something like this?” Her tone softens as she reaches out, touching his arm. “You don’t have to go along with this, no matter what Steve told you, you’re not-“

“This isn’t Steve’s fault,” Tony says with finality, shrugging her off. “And I’m not talking about it.”

“But-“

“Leave it, Pepper,” Tony warns and turns around, heading for the showers. “This doesn’t concern you.”

The “Tony, please.” that follows is quiet, filled with worry, and Tony pauses, rubbing a hand over his face.

“Pepper, no matter what you think you know, believe this; I am happy with my relationship. Isn’t that what’s supposed to count here? You know me, Pep, better than most, and have I seemed, I don’t know, sad or upset or different lately?”

Pepper shakes her head. “No, but-“

“No buts. I know what I’m doing and a little trust would be nice.”

Pepper doesn’t say anything but when Tony glances over his shoulder she gives him curt nod and the barest of smiles before picking up her purse and heading out.

***

+ 1

Tony is hovering in that blissful state of not asleep anymore but not yet fully awake either, he’s warm and comfortable and not inclined to change that status anytime soon if he can at all help it.

Lazy Sunday mornings - or any mornings that start with him right where he currently finds himself, actually, because neither the Avengers nor their countless foes really do weekends - are Tony’s absolute favourite mornings of all. Not that he usually likes any sort of mornings, if there’s one thing Tony is not, it’s a morning person, but his point still stands; this is pretty great.

Of course, as soon as that thought crosses his mind, the noise starts.

“Stark,” Clint hollers and a moment later, Tony’s bedroom door crashes open, bouncing off the wall. “Get your lazy ass out of bed, we’ve got a-“

He cuts himself off with a strangled squawk and Tony resigns himself to wakefulness, opening his eyes to glower at Clint who’s opening and closing his mouth, over and over, without actually producing any sound.

“What?” Tony demands, irritated about the intrusion, and Clint simply points at the bed, then throws his hands up in the air, obviously at a loss for words.

“We are on a schedule here,” comes Nat’s voice, followed by the woman herself. “Ah,” she says, mouth curling into an amused smile. “This does explain some things.”

Confused, Tony makes to sit up only to find himself pinned to the mattress. He glances at Steve’s arm where it’s thrown possessively over his waist, then down at Bucky curled up against his own chest.

“Ah, indeed,” he allows, reaching back to smack Steve’s thigh, ingrained soldier senses kicking in and making him shoot up instantly.

“What?” Steve asks, looking at Tony, and Natasha clears her throat. His gaze snaps up to her and Clint, both still hovering in the doorway. “Oh,” he says, blushing furiously.

Bucky grumbles something Tony is convinced contains curses directed at all of them, rolling over to glare at their guests, the effect somewhat dulled by the way he’s nuzzling Tony’s neck on his way up.

After a moment of awkward silence, Clint gathers himself enough to shout, “What the fuck?” Natasha punches his arm, but he doesn’t lay off. “No, really, what the fuck? What were you thinking, why didn’t you just say something? We all thought-“

“Because, first of all,” Tony begins haughtily as he falls into lecture mode, earning himself various groans and eye-rolls, “my sex and love life, despite being smeared across the front pages of every available gossip rag more often than not, are no one’s business but my own and that of the person or people directly involved.” He takes a deep breath, mostly for show and because he knows it will piss Clint off, holding up two fingers. “Secondly, watching you squirm and struggle with the concept of Captain America being a dirty, rotten cheater was fucking hilarious, seriously. Pure gold. I’ll print you all some nice reaction shots, don’t think I won’t, because I totally will and-“

“Tony,” Steve warns and Tony turns his head to pout at him.

“What? It’s not like we owe them an explanation, this has nothing to do with them or the team as long as it’s not interfering with dynamics. I don’t see why I’m the bad guy here simply because I wasn’t bragging about all the amazing se-“

“I wasn’t ready,” Bucky interjects loudly, most likely to save Steve from death through embarrassment-induced spontaneous combustion. “This, this healing stuff, it’s a process. It’s complicated.” He snags one of Steve’s hands and leans a bit more into Tony’s side. “They’re helping. We’re all helping. Each other. It works. It’s what we want. But I wasn’t ready.”

Which is the moment Bruce walks in. “Coulson says to-“ he begins, takes one look at the situation and closes his eyes, rubbing at his temples. “Of course.”

“All right, that’s enough,” Steve speaks up in his Captain voice, leaving no room for arguments. “Everyone out. Bucky, shower. Tony, coffee and clothes. I imagine there is an actual emergency which doesn’t involve the three of us and what we do in our spare time?”

Bruce simply turns around again while Natasha hauls Clint along by the ear, door clicking shut behind them.

Tony breaks down snickering the instant they’re gone, Bucky joining in as he collapses across Tony’s lap. Steve gives Tony’s leg an affectionate squeeze and kisses the top of Bucky’s head before sliding out of the bed to get dressed.

“You should call Miss Potts and Colonel Rhodes, Tony,” he hums thoughtfully. “Clear some things up.”

Tony groans which only makes Bucky laugh harder.