Bucky did his best to glare the stoplight into submission, but the light remained tauntingly red. The intersection was empty and Bucky had an army of cars behind him, yet the godforsaken light was a sadist who refused to let everyone get home and surrender to their vices after a long day of work.
The phone in Bucky’s jacket buzzed and Bucky tightened his grip on his motorcycle, or really Steve’s motorcycle, which was the exact reason Bucky’s phone was buzzing. Bucky’s bike was in the shop, and Steve—being the awesome friend that he is—loaned Bucky his bike for the day. Of course now Steve needed it back because one of Steve’s freelance buyers had an emergency commission for Steve and wanted to meet in person to go over the details.
Fuck his life. First his bike breaking down, then his obnoxious boss, and now this friggin’ light. What deity had he pissed off to earn—
There was suddenly a second body on the bike and two arms wrapped around his waist. “Drive!”
Bucky twisted in his seat.
Some guy a few years older than him and in a gaudy, expensive business suit was seated behind him.
Bucky glanced at the building behind the man to see a bunch of men and women with cameras chasing the man.
A car honked.
The light was green.
Bucky grinned and revved the engine. “Mister, you’re lucky that light just changed.” Bucky sped off, popping a wheelie as he led the herd of cars through the streets.
The man clung tighter to him and laughed in his ear. “Are you kidding me, I saw that the light was red from my office and knew by the time I got down here it would just turn green. Do you know how many times I’ve gotten caught at that thing? I’ve literally gone so far as to sneak out here at night and try to reprogram it, but every time I do, some cop shows up. I swear, it's a trap by the city. They know people run that light because of how slow it is, and that’s how they get their money.”
“Well, don’t you sound like a paranoid bastard.”
“When you’ve spent several years making weapons for the bad guys and then almost get killed when you decide to quit, you become one.”
Bucky swerved into the gutter and stopped the bike. He whirled and looked at the man, really looked at him. Brown eyes, brown hair, ridiculous goatee. “You’re Tony Stark.”
Tony appeared mildly disappointed at Bucky’s exclamation. The expression was wiped away a moment later and replaced with a showman smile. “Got it in one. Want my autograph?”
Bucky snorted. “More like I want to know where to drop you off so my friend doesn’t kill me for keeping his bike too long.”
Tony whistled lowly. “Someone not share well with others?”
Bucky started the engine again and peeled out into traffic. “Shares fine. Something came up. Now where do you want to go? And it better be on the way to Brooklyn.”
“I haven’t been to Brooklyn in years. Do they still have that pizza place with the cat wind chimes and pink roof?”
“I’ve never seen it.”
“We gotta find it.”
“No, I gotta get this bike back to Steve.”
“Steve.” Tony snorted and waved off Bucky’s reason. “He can wait. That weirdly colored and decorated pizza parlor has got the best pizza in Brooklyn, and it would be a travesty if a true Brooklyn resident didn’t ever experience the glorious and rich taste of that perfectly cooked pizza.” Tony sighed wistfully. “I can even taste it now.”
“Theorized, but never diagnosed.”
Bucky guffawed. He felt Tony move against him. The man was looking over his shoulder. His brow pinched as he glanced between Bucky and the road behind. “Take me to your place.”
“What?” Bucky squawked.
“Just so I don’t run into any more paparazzi.”
“You realize I could be a serial killer, right?”
“That’s cool, as long as you’re a serial killer who kills serial killers.”
“You’re a weird one,” a hint of chuckle could be detected in Bucky’s voice. Bucky picked up the pace.
Tony howled in delight as Bucky threaded between cars and in and out of lanes. He cut down his estimated arrival time by one third. He parked the motorcycle in its designated spot and led Tony into the apartment structure and to his apartment with Steve.
Steve was pacing by the door with his satchel slung around his shoulder when Bucky arrived. Upon seeing Bucky, he smiled and started to say thank you until Tony showed up in the doorway behind Bucky.
Steve gaped and shut his mouth. “Why is Tony Stark in our apartment?”
“Technically, I’m standing on the threshold.” Tony slung one arm around Bucky’s shoulders, tugging Bucky in for a half hug from behind. “Darling I thought we discussed that you were going to carry me over the threshold like a proper husband.”
“That was before you put on the weight,” Bucky quipped.
Tony mock gasped. “How dare you? You know I’m self-conscious about my figure. Do you know how few people have perfect abs and arm muscles like me? I’m a freak. A beautiful freak, and I do not take kindly to your body shaming just because my muscle mass out weighs my fat considerably.”
Bucky rolled his eyes at the exaggerations, spun around, picked Tony up and then deposited him just inside the apartment. “Happy?”
“Delighted.” Tony winked. “I’d kiss you, but I gotta call Pepper and let her know that I did not just stage my own kidnapping. She’ll probably have Happy here in a bit. Mind if I use your bathroom?”
Bucky shrugged. “Go ahead. Down the hall on your right.”
Steve watched with a furrowed brow as Tony walked past him. Tony stopped long enough to flash Steve a smile and pat him on the chest. “You’re not so badly built yourself.” Tony sauntered into the bathroom.
“What did you do?” Steve said the moment Tony wasn’t in earshot any more.
Bucky went to the fridge and pulled out a bottle of beer. “I drove. He hopped on the bike.” Bucky popped the top off his bottle and gulped down a mouthful of the liquid. “Now he’s here.”
“Made me laugh.”
“Bucky, you can’t just—”
“Obviously I can. The guy was being chased by paparazzi, and he asked. Besides, I needed to get your bike to you so you wouldn’t be late meeting with your client.” Bucky raised an eyebrow. “Which by the way, shouldn’t you be meeting with them right now?”
Steve looked torn between giving one of his epic lectures and running out the door.
Bucky rolled his eyes. “Just go mama bear. I swear I won’t let the crazy billionaire philanthropist stab me when I’m not looking.”
“We’ll talk,” Steve hollered as he ran out the door.
“You mean you’ll talk.”
“And you’ll listen.”
“Only to the voices in my head,” Bucky shouted before shutting the door behind his friend.
“Voices? Uh-oh. I’m in trouble. Unless, they wouldn’t happen to be telling you the location to that pizza parlor, would they?”
“Nah,” Bucky said, and plopped himself down on the couch. He grabbed the remote and turned on the history channel. He motioned at the fridge. “Feel free to grab whatever you like and join me.”
“Do you get HBO?” Tony rustled around in the fridge.
“Any movie channel?” Tony asked.
“I’m sure the Disney Channel is airing one of its original movies right now.”
Tony vaulted over the couch and joined Bucky. He had his own bottle of beer, which he opened on the coffee table. “Oh, let’s watch that. Overacting coupled with wacky shenanigans.”
“You serious?” Bucky asked.
Tony smirked, giving Bucky a silent challenge.
Bucky was never one to back down from a challenge.
Two-thirds into the movie and Bucky was wondering what had children done to earn this type of entertainment aimed at them when Tony’s phone beeped. Tony fished his phone out of his pocket and read the screen. “Looks like my ride is here.”
“Need me to walk you outside?”
Tony shook his head. He remained seated on the couch for a few seconds more. He sipped his beer. “So any way I can repay you?”
Bucky smiled as he pressed the lip of his bottle to his mouth and drank. “Just let me know if you ever find that pizza parlor.”
“C’mon on, that can’t be it. At least ask for HBO.”
Bucky laughed. “Thanks, but I am more curious about that pizza place. Sounds interesting.”
Tony stared at Bucky. Incomprehension showed on his face. Tony blinked then waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. His haughty attitude was back in place. “Whatever. Your loss.” He headed for the door.
“Hey, Tony.” Bucky waited for Tony to stop at the door. “Feel free to bum a ride any time.”
Tony faltered but recovered quickly. “Careful. I may just take you up on that, and not just for escaping the paparazzi too. There might come a day when you see my assistant chasing after us and threatening to kill us with her high heels.”
Tony chuckled. “It is.” Tony ducked out a second later, and Bucky was left alone in the apartment.
Bucky dragged his thumb across the corner of his beer’s label, peeling it off. Just a couple of hours ago, he had been pissed off and ready to drive Steve’s bike off a cliff if it would make his day any better. He was surprised that all it had taken was an eccentric man to hop on the back of Steve’s bike with him to make his day ten times better.
The next morning Bucky was woken up by a newspaper landing on his head.
Bucky grumbled as he swatted the newspaper away, but whoever had dropped it on him plopped it back on. Heaving a sigh, Bucky sat up. The paper fell into his lap. A picture of Tony and him on Steve’s bike covered seven-eighths of the front page.
Steve stood in front of Bucky with his arms crossed.
Bucky looked down at the image. “We make a cute couple.”
Steve huffed and dropped onto Bucky’s bed. “I really hope you realize what you’ve gotten yourself into.”
“I’m not dating the guy.”
“No, but a third of the gossip rags think so. Also, who knows how your workplace is going to react.”
“They’ll probably use it as advertisement.” Bucky pushed his blankets way and stood up. He arched his back as he stretched. “C’mon, let’s go for a run and calm you down. You can recite all the ways this could go bad, and refresh my memory on stranger danger.”
“It’s too late for the latter.”
Bucky playfully punched Steve. “Jerk.”
It was three days since Tony had hopped on behind Bucky and gone for ride into Brooklyn. Other than a few questions from his friends and coworkers, nothing much happened. There had been one paparazzi swarm for his picture, but after that the vultures with cameras left him alone.
Bucky was stuck at the godforsaken stoplight again. His eyes drifted to the Stark Industries building. He glanced at the windows, wondering if he might catch a glimpse of Tony peeking down at the traffic.
Bucky shook off the thought.
The light turned green and Bucky took one last look over his shoulder then sped off.
Steve was gone when Bucky got home. He plopped himself on the couch and picked up the remote. He flipped through the channels, pausing on the Disney Channel. He stared at the screen for a few seconds then flipped to a news station.
The phone rang.
Bucky sat up straighter. Steve had long ago put their landline on the do not call list. Other than a few telemarketers that didn’t get the memo, the only times the phone rang was when someone wanted into the complex from outside. Bucky went through a mental list of who the caller could be, but most of his friends would call his cell phone to be let in.
Bucky picked up the phone. “Hello?”
“Hi, this is The Pink Cat’s Pizza with an order for James Barnes.”
“I didn’t order pizza.”
“It was purchased for you by a third-party. A guy named Tony.”
Tony. “I’ll be right there.” Bucky hung up the phone. What on earth had possessed Tony to send him a pizza? He understood wanting to show his gratitude, but it had been three days, and it wasn’t like—
Bucky could smack himself. Cat? Pink? Tony must have found the pizza parlor he’d been talking about and had order a pizza as proof.
Bucky opened the door to the apartment complex and was met by a young twenty-something-year old guy in a pink baseball cap with a cat’s face on the brim. Bucky stared as the young man grinned and pulled out two boxes of pizza from his insulated bag. A slip of paper was tacked onto the top box.
Bucky eyed the paper as he took the boxes from the young man. He fumbled for his wallet, but the guy held up his hand.
“I was given strict instructions not to take any tip from you. The pizzas are a gift and the tip is already covered.”
Bucky blinked and stared at the pizza in his arms. “Okay. Thanks, I guess.”
The guy nodded and gave a curt wave. “Have a good evening.”
Bucky carried the pizzas up to his apartment. He squinted as he tried to read the scrawl on the paper attached to the boxes. He could see his name—James, not Bucky (Tony had probably Googled Bucky, and had found his real name instead of his nickname). It took the entire trip to his apartment to decipher the note, but by the end of it he was pretty confident it read:
Found it! Best pizza in Brooklyn. I dare you to say otherwise. Also, you should be grateful. You have no idea how much trouble I went to get you these pizzas. I had fax over nondisclosure papers and everything. Enjoy.
Bucky snorted at Tony’s antics as he fiddled with the doorknob. “Dork. Shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble.”
Bucky strutted to the couch and dropped the pizza boxes on the coffee table. “Seriously, who sends nondisclosure forms for…” Bucky trailed off as he opened the top box.
In rainbow M&Ms was the phrase: Call Me and Tony’s phone number.
Bucky stared dumbfounded. A snicker escaped him, and then he burst out laughing. “You’re fucking joking.” He shook his head and pulled out his cell phone. He punched in Tony’s number and waited for the genius to answer.
“Hello?” Suspicion laced Tony’s voice (probably caused by the unknown number calling through on his personal line).
“Did you really just Princess Diaries me, Tony?”
“James?” Disbelief flood Tony’s voice. He cleared his throat and tried again. “You called?”
“What fella wouldn’t call after being sent two pizzas?”
“I was going to send twenty, since I didn’t know what you like, but Pepper pointed out that the one with the message might get lost in them all.”
Bucky rolled his eyes. “It’s Bucky, by the way. Too many James in the world to go by my really name.”
“Don’t I know it. My best friend Rhodey is named James. Bucky’s an okay name. Kind of cute and a little old school. Makes me think of a kid missing his two front teeth.”
“I told you, you didn’t have to get me anything.”
“You told me you wanted to know where the pizza parlor is.”
“Funny,” Bucky grinned, “because I still don’t know where it is.”
“Don’t tell me your so old school you don’t know how to work the Internet. You got the name. You can find it from there.”
Bucky hummed in thought. He picked up a slice of pizza and bit into it. It was just one bite, but it was warm and just the perfect mix or cheese and tomato sauce. The crust was just slightly charred, the burned taste adding to the crust’s perfect blend of seasonings sprinkled on top. Bucky groaned.
“I told you it was good.” Bucky could hear Tony’s satisfied smirk over the phone.
“You must have bought at least ten for yourself.” Bucky inhaled two bites at once.
“Sadly, I did not. I’m still stuck in the office, and Pepper is watching me. She’s not letting me near the stuff after my last physical.”
“That’s some assistant,” Bucky muttered, an idea forming in his head.
“She’s a queen, and she gets paid like one to put up with my crap.”
“And a friend,” Bucky said, testing the waters.
“The best! You know one time,” Tony went off on a tangent.
The gears churned in Bucky’s head as he finished off his slice of pizza then stood up. He slung on his leather jacket. He pressed the phone to his ear as he grabbed his keys and put on his fingerless gloves. He listened to Tony as he went to the parking lot and got on his motorcycle (which had gotten back two days ago after the repairs on it were finished).
“Hey, Tony, can I call you back in a bit? Something came up and I need to go somewhere. Can’t be driving with a phone in my ear.”
“Don’t you have an earpiece or something?” Tony scoffed. “Caveman. Fine. I gotta get back to work anyway.” A note of disappointment tainted Tony’s voice.
It made Bucky smile. “Promise I’ll call you back in a bit.”
“Yeah, yeah. Get going Biker Boy.”
They hung up.
Bucky’s bike roared through the city as he drove down the streets. The sun was midway through setting when Bucky had started his journey and had turned into the starry night sky by the time he arrived at his destination.
Bucky parked his motorcycle in front of Stark Industries and pulled out his cell phone. He listened to his phone ring three times before Tony picked up.
“Calling back already, I knew you couldn’t resist me.”
Bucky smiled and leaned back on his bike. “Yeah, well, I don’t have much to do right now since I’m waiting on this guy to show up.”
“Ooh. Sounds like a drug exchange or something equally exciting and illegal. Tell me, Bucky, are you in the mafia?”
Bucky chuckled. “Nope, just waiting for this guy to show up and climb on the back of my motorcycle so we can get pizza at this fantastic place he keeps talking about. He even sent me a couple boxes earlier today.”
There was silence on the other end of the line followed by floundering. A few loud bangs accompanied the sound. “Shit! You're really down there! I can see you and everything!”
Bucky waved up at the building.
“No one else has ever hopped on the back of your bike and bought you pizza, right?”
“My friend Natasha did once, but the two were separated incidents—one time free pizza, and the other her hitching a ride. The second one led to a couple of brawls in a few bars.”
“You rebel,” Tony teased, and Bucky could hear him moving hurriedly on the other end of the line.
“Me? I’m perfectly innocent. It’s Steve who you have to look out for. He’ll trick you with his baby blues, and you’ll find yourself waking up in a jail cell because you tried to play vigilante with him.”
“Sounds like my type of guy.” The glass doors of Stark Industries opened, and Tony sauntered out of them with his phone pressed to his ear. The moment he saw Bucky, Tony lowered the phone and beamed.
Bucky copied Tony and hit the “end” button to their conversation.
Tony stopped in front of Bucky. His shoved his hand inside his suit pocket and leaned back in a relaxed manner. He nodded at the motorcycle. “That seat taken?”
Bucky pretended to think about it, then scooted up so there’d be more room for Tony on the back. “I suppose I could make room.”
Tony swung his leg onto the bike and wrapped his arms around Bucky’s waist. “Where to?”
“I still don’t know where that Pink Cat place is. Give me directions?” Bucky grinned over his shoulder.
Tony smiled back and tightened his hold. “Of course.” His thighs pressed against Bucky’s. “First direction: drive.”