“He’s back again,” Steve said, handing an order to Bucky.
Bucky grunted and took the order, staring down at the long list of food—every expensive dish on their admittedly dive diner menu. “Guy doesn’t learn, does he?”
“I dunno,” Steve said, glancing over his shoulder to the booth. One-date Wonder was leaning over the table, trying to maintain eye contact with a girl who was completely wrapped up in her phone. He was grinning and talking, eager to please, but she was mostly nodding and grunting. “I kinda admire his persistence.”
“You would,” Bucky grumbled, turning to grab the fixings for their house salad.
“Maybe we should get him a different nickname. ‘Gofer Goatee’?”
“Shut up and get ‘em their coffee, Rogers.”
“Not a coffee,” Steve said, shifting over to the malt machine. Bucky glanced up, raised an eyebrow, and shook his head.
“She’s gonna be out’a here like a shot the second that gets there.”
“Nah. She’ll stick around long enough to humor him. She looks like one’a those.”
While Steve started up the churner, Bucky glanced over at the booth again, taking the girl in. She didn’t look mean-spirited, just disinterested. One-date Wonder was talking a mile a minute, his grin wide and his eyes huge and hopeful, but this girl was still really not paying attention. Under the table, Bucky could see the guy’s hands twitching. He’d brought a gift for her. No ifs-ands-or-buts. Guy just didn’t seem to learn.
Steve finished up the malt and brought it over while Bucky sprinkled candied walnuts into the salad. He glanced behind him to where Nat was working the grill and fryer, two steaks already searing. Nat was wrapped up in her work, seasoning with all the fine expertise their greasy spoon demanded. Bucky sighed and put out the salad, ringing the bell. The moment Steve picked it up, Bucky turned to the cooler and dug out a slice of pie. They were gonna need it.
“—and so that’s the story of how I wound up in Miami without a sweater.”
Across from Tony, Janice was still staring down at her phone though, and he groped for a topic.
“Here’s your malt,” their waiter said, dropping the tall glass on the table, and popping in two old-fashioned candy-striped straws. Janice glanced up and her eyes widened; Tony’s heart thmped a little. Maybe this had gotten her attention.
She looked down at her phone and then smiled at Tony and his heart sank back down, its cheerful tattoo slowing to a death march. “I’m sorry, but I just got a text from my mom, Tony. Family emergency. I’ve gotta go.” She was already gathering up her purse and coat, slipping out from the booth. Tony stood too, his grin sheepish.
“That’s a shame. Maybe we could try again next week.”
“Maybe,” she said, buttoning herself in. She wasn’t even looking him in the eyes.
“Can I walk you?”
“Don’t be silly,” she said, waving her hand. “You already ordered. You should eat. See you, Tony.” And just like that she was out the door, their little bell jingling jauntily in her wake. Tony watched her walk away, and took note that she didn’t look back. With a sigh, he sank back into the booth, staring mournfully at his malt. After a few seconds, his waiter sidled over, surprisingly quiet despite his bulk.
“Shall I pack up the other steak to go?”
Tony sighed into his milkshake, trying not to let the sting of humiliation get to him too badly. “Yeah. Yeah, I guess so.” Listlessly, he worked his way through the salad and steak, barely tasting a thing. Outside, snow started to fall and he thought that was fitting. Lonely flurries. Lonely night. Some poetic shit like that.
Caught in his reverie, he didn’t notice there was someone standing next to his table until the guy cleared his throat. Tony looked up and saw a guy he’d noticed in passing every time he came into this diner. He had shoulder-length hair pulled back in a tiny bun, though a few strands escape to frame his perpetual five o’clock shadow. He was always back in the kitchen with the redhead, wielding knives like he was born holding one. Before Tony could say anything, he set a plate on the table.
“On the house,” he said, and then turned away.
Tony stared down at the plate, at the perfect slice of apple pie, and then at the guy’s retreating back.
“I don’t need pity,” he called, couldn’t help himself.
The guy looked over his shoulder, eyes sharp and hard. “No. You need pie.”
And then he was gone and Tony was left with the pie. He hated how fucking delicious it was.
“Gofer’s here,” Steve said around a huge yawn. They were thirty minutes from close and normally he’d be cleaning up, but with a customer, there wasn’t much he could do. From the dish sink, Bucky looked up.
“And has One-date Wonder brought another date?”
“I told you we needed to give him a better nickname.”
“You told. That doesn’t mean I gotta use it.”
Steve glanced over his shoulder, assessing, and then he put his arms on the order counter, looking conspiratorial. “I think it’s a date. With a guy.”
Bucky’s eyebrows lifted at that. “Wonder-boy’s bi?”
“Lookin’ that way. He’s making the same googly eyes, so I think so.”
“But he’s never brought a guy before.”
Steve looked back again, mouth puckered in a perfect pout that makes Bucky want to kiss him, even though they were on the clock. “He’s definitely got something in his pocket, though. Can’t be earrings like usual, but he’s fidgeting. Pretty sure it’s some sort of gift.”
“The guy?” Bucky dried his hands and headed to his cooking station, taking the ticket from Steve automatically as he passed. Vegetarian dishes this time.
“Blonde, built, smug.” Steve snorted a little. “Looks like an asshole.”
Bucky frowned at that as he grabbed all the vegetables he needed, and leaned forward so he could look through the window. The guy was eyeing Wonder-boy like a piece of fresh meat, and Bucky felt his hackles raise. “Keep an eye on ‘em.” He told Steve, unsheathing his knives so he could go to town on the vegetables. Steve nodded and went about making coffee or whatever drink it was their customer’s ordered.
Steve watched sharp-eyed as Blondie pawed at Gofer’s arm. They were playing footsie under the table and Gofer was glowing under the attention, but something in Steve’s stomach was churning at Blondie’s shark smile. Swallowing down his dislike, he grabbed the salads Bucky’d just served up and brought them over.
“Here you are, fellas. Need any refills.”
Gofer started to say no, but Blondie turned and eyed Steve up and down. “Depends? How about a tall drink of you, sweetheart?”
Steve bristled, but bit his tongue. The diner barely scraped by most months and he really didn’t need some irate customer posting a bad Yelp review. “I was talking about your coffee, sir.”
On the other side of the table, Gofer looked a little stricken, a little deer-in-headlights. “Ty,” he said, tongue stumbling a little. “That was…that was really rude.”
Blondie, Ty, grinned again and turned back to Gofer. “Aw, come on. He likes the attention, don’t you—“ he scanned Steve up and down again, finding the name tag but mostly staring pointedly at Steve’s crotch, “—Steve?”
“I’ve got a boyfriend,” Steve said tightly, inhaling slowly because if he went too fast, he’d punch the guy’s lights out. “I’ll just get you some more coffee, shall I?” He snatched the cups and turned, but he could still feel Ty’s gaze like sludge on his skin. It must’ve shown on his face because Bucky was in the window looking icy, his eyes and mouth set in a way that meant trouble.
“Nothin’” Steve said, snatching the coffee pot and refilling the cups. He paused for a moment trembling with rage and then collected himself, setting the pot down with as much care as he could muster. Buck was staring over his shoulder, though, attentive, like a bloodhound scenting something on the wind.
Steve turned back just in time to see Ty overturn his salad on Gofer’s head and then storm out. Frozen for a moment, Steve could only stare helplessly at the salad dressing dripping down over Gofer’s hair and into his immaculately trimmed goatee. Then he was rushing over, snatching a dishcloth and handful of paper napkins as he went.
“Oh my god, are you ok?” he said, wiping fretfully as the first globs of dressing hit Gofer’s T-shirt.
“Me? I should be asking about you.” Gofer took the napkins from Steve’s shaking hands and started to mop himself off. He was the saddest thing Steve’d ever seen, his face drawn and tight, hair plastered down by ranch, shoulders hunched, gaze turned down.
“I, I…” Steve didn’t even know what to say. “Hold on a second, I’ll get something to put all this in.” He ran back to the counter and Buck was already holding out one of the big metal mixing bowls for him. He snatched it with a quick smile of thanks and made his way back to the booth.
Gofer was still forlornly patting at his hair and Steve felt a pang of sadness; Gofer’d been through a hell of a lot of dates at their diner, but none of them had been quite this bad. Carefully, he started picking lettuce off of Gofer’s shoulders and placing the leaves in the bowl.
“You, uh, you got a name?”
Gofer glanced up, huge sad eyes, and then back down. “Tony. Tony Stark.” Steve nodded and grabbed for a slice of tomato. There was a huge red stain beneath it.
“I’m Steve. It’s nice to finally hear your name, Tony.”
At that, Tony looked up again, something like shock in his eyes. He watched Steve gamely pick at the salad for a moment, and then glanced past him to the kitchen window where Bucky was watching, sharp-eyed and stone-faced.
“Who’s the line cook?”
“Who? Oh, Buck?” Steve said, following Tony’s gaze. “He’s my partner. In business and life. We, uh, we always appreciate your business.”
Tony smiled at that, sad and self-deprecating, and started working on the dressing again. “And you do get a lot of my business. What with all the horrible first dates.”
Steve hummed but didn’t answer. He’d gotten most of the lettuce picked up, though he wouldn’t be trying for the stuff that’d made its way into Tony’s lap. The dressing, however, was a different problem. Steve pursed his mouth and considered Tony for a minute. “Just one sec,” he murmured, and went back to Bucky.
“Should we let him use our shower?”
Bucky’s face remained impassive, and he crossed his arms, tapping at his prosthetic. Steve winced as though Buck had actually said something out loud.
“I know, but we can’t let him go home like that. What if he’s riding the subway? Somebody’s gonna laugh at him, and the last thing he needs is bein’ laughed at tonight.”
Still Bucky didn’t speak, though his face shifted minutely.
“I can lend him some of my old workout clothes. They’ll be too big, but at least he’ll have something. And he’ll probably be back with another date next week. I can give him back his stuff then, when it’s been washed.”
Bucky sighed and nodded and Steve grinned at him. He ducked forward and gave him a kiss before Bucky could dodge out of range, and then jogged back to Tony, who was watching with narrowed, hard eyes.
“Ok. Follow me. We’re gonna get you cleaned up.” He snatched Tony’s wrist before Tony could answer, and hauled him through the staff door and up the rickety stairs to their apartment. Tony didn’t even get a chance to get a word in edgewise before Steve was pushing him into the bathroom and closing the door behind him. “Feel free to use the shower,” he said through the frame. “Bundle up your clothes and put ‘em by the door. I’ll grab you some of my spares to wear.”
Through the bottom crack of the door, he could see Tony’s wavering shadow. “Are you sure?”
“Sure. Cleared it with Buck and everything. Go on.”
There was a long pause and then a rustle and a thump and the shower started up. Steve opened the door a crack and grabbed the pile of ruined clothes, dashing off to put them in the wash. From his drawers, he pulled a T-shirt, sweats, boxers and socks, and left them just inside the door for Tony.
He trotted back downstairs with a spring in his step and found Buck mopping up the last of the salad. He’d already flipped the sign to closed and dimmed the lights to half.
“Where’s One-date Wonder?” he said, working his right hand to get up a stubborn sticky patch.
“Shower.” Steve leaned down and kissed Bucky on the cheek, beaming brightly at him. “Thank you for saying yes. I know you don’t like letting people into our personal space but—“
“Yeah, yeah,” Bucky groused, pushing Steve away with his prosthetic hand. “Go make yourself useful and start kitchen clean-up.”
“Love you, too,” Steve said, and bounced off to wash up Buck’s knives. It was just the two of them working, so it would take a while to get everything squared away and get in the pies for tomorrow, but Steve didn’t, couldn’t feel sad about the extra work when he’d hopefully helped Tony feel a little more human.
Just as he was starting up the industrial washer, Tony came back downstairs. In Steve’s clothes, he looked almost childish, especially with how tightly he’d pulled the drawstring of the sweats to keep them up. Sheepishly, he stared down at his feet, standing just inside the kitchen. “Are you sure this is ok? Me borrowing your clothes?”
“You’re gonna return ‘em, right?”
“Of course,” Tony said, scuffing the toe of one tennis shoe over the tile.
“Then of course it’s ok.” Steve beamed as Bucky appeared, Tony’s coat and scarf in hand.
“Thank you,” Tony murmured, and Bucky grunted before disappearing again. “I don’t think he likes me very much.”
“Nah. Buck’s that way with everyone. Me included. He likes you just fine.”
As if to prove Steve’s point, a moment later Bucky appeared again, a brown paper doggy bag in hand. He thrust it into Tony’s face with a rough “here”.
“Thanks,” Tony murmured, taking the bag slowly.
“No problem,” Bucky said, and then opened the kitchen door pointedly. “Now scoot. Steve and I have work to do.”
Tony peeked inside the bag, and a slow smile grew on his face. He looked up at Bucky, eyes shining a little. “There’s pie in here.”
“Because you need pie and we had some spare coconut cream,” Bucky said, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. “Now get.”
Tony stumbled out, shrugging awkwardly into his coat as he went. Steve watched from the window as Buck escorted him to the door and held it open, ushering him into the night. Once Tony was gone, Buck locked up and then came back, eyeing Steve like this streak of good deeds was somehow contagious and it wasn’t from his own secretly soft heart that he helped Tony.
“What are you looking at?” he grumbled as Steve’s grin grew and grew. Finally, he snorted and turned away, taking up his mop again. Together they cleaned for an hour, before heading up to their own supper and bed for the night.
“Tony’s brought a date again,” Steve said through the window, and Bucky rolled his eyes.
“Jesus, Steve, I feel like we’re the guy’s parents or something.”
“Nah,” Steve said, eyes twinkling. “More like…like fairy godfathers?”
“Kill me,” Bucky murmured, hands busy kneading dough for tomorrow’s rolls. Behind him, Natasha snorted and tossed her hair and Sam grinned. On Fridays, they had all hands on deck for the weekend crowd, and Bucky never liked how crowded the kitchen got, for all that he liked both Sam and Nat.
Steve rushed off before Bucky could say anything else, seating another gaggle of college kids in their last open booth. Jan buzzed in behind him, waiting on that half of the room, and Sam started chopping lettuce. They had customers to serve and Tony’s next date was hardly Bucky’s top priority.
Through the dinner rush, he alternated between preparing food for Saturday and chopping when Sam couldn’t move fast enough on his own to serve the crowd. Outside, the murmur of voices ebbed and grew in turns, the doorbell tinkling often. In the kitchen, though, it was always loud. The sizzle of meat, the crackle spit of the fryer, knives ratta-tat-tatting on the cutting board, alarms ringing. Bucky liked the mechanical nature of it—everything moving exactly as it was meant to, nothing too human, nothing too messy. He liked how kitchens ticked.
Around ten, the crowds finally dissipated, families going home, and college students going to drink in places far more disreputable than their little diner. Bucky took a deep breath and leaned against the counter, glancing out to where Steve was wiping down a table.
In the booth next to where he worked, Tony still sat, deep in conversation with his date. It was another man, slim, but well-built. His dark black skin caught the low light of the diner, and his teeth were bright with a smile. For once, Bucky felt approval welling up inside him. Maybe Tony had finally found a keeper.
Steve swung by then, a handful of plates in arm for the dishes. Sam took them, glancing meaningfully at the clock, and Steve nodded. He pulled out the cleaning supplies, a not-so-gentle hint for Tony and his date, and started swabbing the empty end of the diner.
Bucky started in on clean-up, transferring the pies to the oven and pulling out the risen dough to cut out the buns. He looked up, though, when someone cleared his throat at the window. Tony was there, smiling gently, a paper bag in his hand.
“I brought Steve’s clothes back,” he said, wriggling the bag a little.
“Oh, uh…I think your clothes are upstairs. Just wait a second.” Bucky dashed up to the apartment and found the pile of folded clothes Steve had put aside last week. He gathered them up and headed back down, slipping out front to the dining section so he could trade with Tony.
“How’d, uh, how’d your date go?” he asked, hand at the back of his neck.
Tony smiled, but there was a sad edge to it. “Jim’s a really nice guy, but we decided we don’t have that kind of chemistry. More of a let’s blow shit up in the lab and drink beer kind of a chemistry than anything.”
“Yeah,” said Tony, brightening a little. “I’m an engineer. I like robotics, but my dad…well, that’s a long story. Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks. For the clothes. And the shower. And the pie. Do you guys put crack in it, because it is the best fucking pie I’ve ever had.”
“Something better,” Bucky said, smiling a little in spite of himself.
“Huh,” said Tony, and he looked down a little. “Well, thank you. I guess I’ll see you guys the next date I have.”
“Why?” said Bucky, suddenly, looking up.
Tony froze. “Why what?”
“Why do you bring your dates to this little dive? It’s not like it’s a great atmosphere. Especially on a busy night like tonight.”
Tony shrugged awkwardly, looking around. “I guess…I didn’t eat in a lot of places like this growing up. And you guys are always really nice to me. Steve’s one of the best waiters I’ve ever had. And your pie is so good it should be illegal. Why shouldn’t I come here?”
Bucky didn’t know what to say to that, so he shrugged and tucked a loose piece of hair behind his ear. After a moment, he said, “Just…just wait there a second.” He dashed back into the kitchen and grabbed a slice of chocolate mint pie, packing it into a plastic takeout container.
“Here,” he said, thrusting it through the window to Tony. Over Tony’s shoulder, he could see Steve watching and grinning like he’d just heard the world’s greatest joke.
Tony stared down at the container and then back up at Bucky. “I’m gonna start losing my confidence at this rate, what with all the Pity Pie.”
“It’s not Pity Pie. It’s extra pie. We just end up eating it if there’s any left. Take it.”
Tony’s smile was a little brighter when he looked back up. There was something effervescent about it, but also something very vulnerable. Bucky felt his heart twist in his chest and then thought, Oh shit.
“Well, thanks for the extra pie,” he said, and turned, waving as he headed out the door. Once he was gone, Steve locked up, turned the sign over to closed, and came over to the counter.
“You,” he said, leaning in smugly, “are a sweet man.”
Bucky scowled with maybe a little more force than he’d intended, still trying to ignore the way his twisted little heart was dancing a conga. “I’m no such thing,” he said, and then turned to start on the dishes and get the buns in the oven. He could feel Steve’s warm gaze on him, and somehow it just made him feel even worse.
This time, it was Sam who said, “Your boy Tony’s got another hot date.” Steve glanced up and watched as Tony ushered a stunner of a woman to a booth, taking her coat as she sat. She was beautiful, alright, but she looked around the diner with a wrinkle in her nose, as though she’d smelled something just the wrong side of rotten.
Steve brought over the menus and set them down. “Can I get you anything to drink tonight?”
“Merlot,” said the woman, tossing her thick mane of hair and looking at Tony like he was a piece of meat.
Steve shuffled a little and frowned. “Ma’am, I’m sorry, but we don’t have a liquor license. We only serve non-alcoholic beverages here.”
She looked sharply at Steve and then at Tony, her eyebrow raised in one perfect arch. “No wine, Tony? Surely we can do better than some…family establishment.” She drew out the syllables of “family” like it was a four-letter word, and Steve fought to keep his face neutral.
“Sunset, they have delicious food. And we did Italian Monday night. I thought it might be nice to try something different.”
“Well,” she said, reaching across the table and drawing her fingers over Tony’s wrist with deliberate intent, “if you say so.”
Steve shuffled even more uncomfortably and cleared his throat. “So if I can get you anything to drink…”
“Lemon water,” Tony’s date said, and Tony nodded. “I’ll have the same.”
Nodding, Steve trotted away as quickly as decorum would allow. “Christ where does he find these people?” he asked Bucky as he got out a lemon to trim down. “It’s like he’s scraping the bottom of the barrel when he should have the cream of the crop.”
“Maybe she’s old money,” Buck said, nodding toward her. “That coat looks like it’s got real fur on it.”
Steve pursed his lips and finished fixing up the water, bringing it back to their table. “Ready to order or do you need a few minutes?”
“Do you have anything gluten free?” Sunset asked, and Steve put on his stiffest smile, the one he’d used on commanding officers he disagreed with.
“Ma’am, I’m sorry, but we really don’t have much. You could have a salad with no dressing. Soup of the day is tomato bisque. That doesn’t have any flour in it, if I remember the recipe correctly.” He glanced over at Tony, but Tony only had eyes for Sunset. They were still holding hands, Sunset tracing Tony’s fingers in the most suggestive ways and for some reason, it made Steve’s teeth grind to see it.
“Well,” she sniffed. “I suppose a salad will do. And you darling?”
Tony blinked for a moment and then looked up. “Usual, Steve?”
“Burger, medium-well, no pickles, sweet potato fries?”
“You know me so well.”
Steve grinned and put down the order, trying not to think about the woman across from Tony. Bucky took the slip with barely a glance and left Steve to contemplate the rest of their customers, all two of them.
Angie and Peggy had been coming in once a week for nearly two years, and Steve liked them both—Peggy’s wry no-nonsense wit and Angie’s flair for dramatics. He focused on them for a while, making small talk at the counter seats until Bucky brought up the orders. Steve gathered the plates and made his way back to Tony’s booth just in time to overhear part of the conversation.
“…really think Paris would be just wonderful, don’t you darling? Fashion week? Glamor and beauty and all the world’s finest.”
“Sunset, that’s March. It’s our biggest developing season and we have to be ready for the summer tech shows. I’m not sure I can get away.”
“But darling,” Sunset pouted, thrusting her lip out rather more than Steve thought was strictly necessary, “I won’t have nearly as much fun on my own.”
Before Tony could answer, Steve hemmed in his throat and started setting down the food. “Your salad, Miss. And your burger, Tony.”
“Now just one moment,” Sunset said, and Steve froze. He knew that tone. That tone was “there is a hair in my food and I demand a refund and a second free meal and a coupon and a fucking cherry on top” customer tone. That tone was “my coffee is 105 degrees and I specifically said 115 degrees” customer whine. That was a tone that almost always made him lose his temper.
Slowly he pivoted and looked back at Sunset. “Yes, Miss?”
“Why,” she said slowly, as though she was afraid Steve wouldn’t understand properly if she didn’t enunciate, “do you address him by his first name? Isn’t that rude to the customer? Shouldn’t you be doing your utmost to make your customers feel special.”
“Sunset,” Tony said, laughing a little awkwardly and flapping his hand. “Steve’s good people. He doesn’t need to call me ‘sir.’ Hell, he lent me his pants. I’d feel a little weird if we weren’t on a first name basis.”
“He lent you his…pants?” Sunset said, clicking on every consonant like she could quite believe what was coming out of her mouth.
“It’s a long story,” Tony said sheepishly, looking down at the table.
Sunset stared at him for a long time, something cold and hard in her expression. Then she said, “Be that as it may, it’s still inappropriate when he’s on duty. He should address you properly. Don’t you think?” She turned back to Steve and batted her eyelashes expectantly, as though by their fluttering power alone Steve would shrink into a squeaking mouse.
“Miss, I’ll let Tony decide how he wants me to address him. Now please enjoy your food.” Steve turned and strode away before she could get another word in and began vehemently scrubbing cups at the counter. Peggy and Angie watched him, one wide-eyed and the other hard-mouthed.
“Some people,” said Peggy, ice in her tone, “just don’t know how to be civil to service workers.”
Angie leaned forward and touched Steve’s forearm; he froze at the contact. “Steve, honey. They’re not worth your anger. Just let it go.”
“Do I really look that bad?” he asked quietly, glancing up through his bangs at Angie.
“You look like you’re about fit to break some noses.”
Steve took a deep breath and then shook out his shoulders, dabbing at the glass a little more gently. “It’s just,” he said after a moment, “Tony’s a really nice guy but he keeps bringing in these, these characters for dates and its like he can’t pick a decent human being to save his life. The one decent guy he brought in? No chemistry. Better off as friends. And he always tips well and he treats me and Buck with courtesy and doesn’t look down on us for being service workers and he’s just, just a really nice guy.”
Steve looked up to see Angie and Peggy both staring at him, Angie’s mouth gaping and Peggy’s lips in a stony line.
“Steven Rogers,” Peggy started, “what are your intentions toward that young man?”
“What Pegs means is,” Angie jumped in, elbowing Peggy none to subtly, “the way you talk about him seems a little…you know. And since you and Bucky are…you know?”
Steve blinked for a moment, hands still frozen on the glass. “No, Angie. I really don’t know.”
“Morons,” Peggy murmured, and then gathered her coat. “Come, Angie. We’re going home.”
“But Peggy, this is the juiciest thing we’ve seen in ages.”
“No,” Peggy said, though not without good humor. “I’d rather not watch this train wreck.”
“Aw, Peggy!” But Angie gathered up her coat and put it on and the two women slipped out into the frigid winter night, arm in arm. Steve watched them go and then picked up their ticket, surprised to see that Peggy had stiffed him the tip. He looked back to the kitchen window, where Bucky was ever watchful.
“What’d I do?” Steve asked, flashing the empty bill holder, but Bucky could only shrug. After a moment, he glanced significantly to Tony’s booth, though, and Steve turned back. He could see it happening in slow motion, asshole blonde all over again, except this time with a brunette. Sunset took up her glass of lemon water and upended it over Tony’s head. Then she shrugged into her coat and with a humph strutted out of the diner, her heels clicking loudly against the tile.
“Jesus, he sure does pick ‘em,” Bucky said, and behind him Sam replied, “You’re tellin’ me.”
Steve was caught between rage at the woman and sadness for Tony, but he knew who needed him more at the moment. He gathered up several clean dishtowels and brought them over, handing them to Tony without a word.
“Thanks,” Tony groused, trying to ring the water from his button-up. Steve watched for a moment and then sat in the spot where Sunset had been, watching as Tony patted ineffectually at himself. “What?” Tony snapped, glancing up. “This must be like fuckin’ pay-per-view for you guys. Me coming in here every week just to get dumped and humiliated again. I don’t know why I bother. One night stands would be so much fucking easier.” He gave one last swipe at his pants and then gave up, throwing his dishtowel down on the table. He slumped into his crossed arms and groaned.
“Fuck, I’m sorry,” he said, muffled. “You didn’t deserve that. You guys have been nothing but nice to me. She just…I just…sorry.”
“Can I ask you something?” Steve said after a moment, picking up the dishtowel and gently blotting at Tony’s hair.
Tony mumbled something that Steve took for assent.
“It seems to me,” he said slowly, thinking back on the parade of dates Tony had brought in over the months, “that you never try to be yourself with them. And I think ‘yourself’ happens to be pretty cool. Why do, why do you put on a front?”
Tony laughed softly and then turned so he could look at Steve with one eye. “I did try that at first. Being myself, I mean. Turns out no one likes an awkward robotics engineer, and they like an awkward weapons engineer even less. The things I cared about didn’t matter to them, so I figured it was time I stop talking about the things I cared about and figured out what they cared about.”
“Tony, that’s…that’s really…”
“Sad,” grunted Bucky, standing at the edge of the booth. He was carrying a plate with a piece of peanut butter silk pie on it, and he set it down next to Tony’s elbow. Steve glared up at him and then glanced back at Tony, who was hiding his face again. After a moment, Bucky sank down next to Steve and they sat hip to hip looking at Tony’s bent, sopping head.
“Tony, maybe if you have to change yourself so much for these people, they’re not the right people,” Steve said, leaning across the table a little to start dabbing again. Bucky joined him after a moment, so they were both wiping away what water they could manage.
“Easy for you to say,” Tony said through his arms. “You’ve already got the right person.”
“Well, it wasn’t easy,” Steve said, glancing at Bucky, asking for permission. Bucky looked sidelong at Steve, but after a moment shook his head. Steve sighed and continued, “But that’s a story for another day. Right now, I think you should get yourself cleaned up, eat some of our delicious pie, and be thankful you’re not dating such a…such a—“
“Bitch,” Bucky deadpanned. “The word you’re looking for is bitch.”
Tony chuckled, and then giggled, and then actually laughed a little. Slowly he looked up and smiled at them, a half-hearted tug that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “You guys are too nice to me. I’m gonna get fat with all this pity pie.”
“Not pity pie,” Bucky said, rising, his niceness quota clearly filled for the evening. “Sometimes you just need pie.” He disappeared into the kitchen, and Steve grinned a little, well aware that he was making goo goo eyes at Bucky’s back, but sure that he didn’t want to stop. After a moment, he turned back to Tony.
“So, hey. Here’s an idea. How about you eat your burger and your pie and tell me about all the engineering you care about. I’ll listen. You don’t even have to change one bit.”
“Like I would. You’ve seen me covered in salad dressing,” Tony groused, sitting back in his seat. He looked up through his eyelashes at Steve, suddenly vulnerable. “You’d really listen? Rhodey listens, but he’s more of a physics guy. Even he blanks out on me sometimes.”
“I’ll really listen. I might have to ask you to explain things, but I’ll listen.”
Tony blinked and stat up a little straighter, contemplating his burger for a moment. “What about the diner?”
Steve stared for a moment and deadpanned, “Yeah. Don’t know what I’ll do about this huge crowd.”
Tony glanced around at the empty booths, and Sam and Bucky in the back, washing dishes and mostly packing in for the night. He huffed once and gave another wry grin. “Alright. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” He looked up again then, and suddenly his eyes were ablaze, bright with some inner fire Steve had never seen before. “So the problem with plastics is that they can’t conduct electricity right?”
“That’s a problem?”
“Well, sometimes. Sometimes it’s a good thing. But right now for me it’s a problem. So what I’ve been working on…”
It was a busy night and Steve’s throat was aching, a sure sign of an oncoming cold, but Jan had already called in, so it wasn’t like he could turn in for the night. Outside, the snow was blowing, but the stream of customers was still shockingly steady. He bussed out some empty dishes and paused staring into the kitchen, trying not to feel his brain fuzzing over.
“Steve?” Bucky said softly, standing at the window.
“I’ll be fine.”
Bucky’s eyes narrowed, and he whipped a towel through the window so that it snapped on Steve’s nose. “You’re going to bed the second we close. No ifs, ands, or buts.”
“Bed! Now get out there. Tony’s here.”
Steve twisted and looked over his shoulder to Tony, settling in the farthest corner booth, bewilderingly alone, though he was dressed in nicer clothes than usual. Steve snapped up a menu and shuffled over, resisting the urge to sniffle.
“Hey Steve,” Tony said with a smile, his eyes twinkling and his teeth white.
“Yep. Blind date. Friend of mine set me up. Says she’s a real winner.”
“You want something to drink while you wait?”
“Coffee would be great.”
Steve nodded and set down the menu, shuffling back to the counter. He poured out the coffee and watched as Table 5 gave him the stink eye for being so slow. He cleared his aching throat and headed back to Tony with the coffee.
“You feeling ok?” Tony asked, genuine worry on his face.
“Think I’m coming down with something. I’ll be fine, though. You wave me over when your date gets here, ok?”
“Sure thing, Steve,” Tony said, and touched his arm with genuine concern. Steve froze for a moment and then gave Tony a tired smile. He shuffled over to 5 feeling slightly better and nodded blearily as the father of the family snapped out their orders. The night drew on, growing into more and more of a blur, though after 7:30, customers stopped coming in such droves. It was just a trickle of overworked single stiffs, and they looked at Steve with kindred eyes.
He poured out coffee and carried plates and paid more attention to his feet than he normally did because he could not afford to send plates clattering. Through it all, he kept one hazy eye on Tony’s table, waiting for the blind date. She never showed.
Around eight, Sam slipped out from the kitchen and said, “Buck says you look dead on your feet. I’m going to take over waiting, he’s going to do cooking, you’re going to go to bed.”
“No you’re not.”
Steve scowled, but he didn’t fight it when Sam slipped the order pad from Steve’s pocket. Steve gave one last glance around to their hollow-eyed late crowd and then started telling Sam who was waiting on what.
He lingered last on Tony, whose bright air of hope had disappeared about forty-five minutes ago. “Tony was supposed to have a blind date, but I don’t think she’s coming. Maybe…maybe…” Steve blinked and glanced at Sam, and then at Bucky, who was glaring at him through the window. “Actually, just give me a second.”
Steve walked over to Tony’s table and waited until he had Tony’s attention. “Buck’s makin’ me go to bed, but I just wanted to check on you before I head up.”
Tony looked up at him, eyes huge and a little sad, but he gave Steve a soft smile. “That’s sweet of you, Steve. I hope you feel better.”
“Can I get you anything?”
“Just put yourself to bed. I don’t want you getting even sicker on my account.”
Steve lingered a moment, shuffling his feet and sniffling without thinking about it. He wasn’t quite sure what it was he wanted to say, but he felt like he owed Tony something. After an awkward pause and another sniffle, though, he settled for a half smile and a “goodnight, Tony.” Tony nodded to him and wished him goodnight, but Steve could feel his gaze even once he’d turned.
Bucky was waiting for him at the foot of the stairs. He gave Steve a once over and then jerked his chin over his shoulder. “Get some sleep, ya mook. I’ll bring up some soup later.” Quick as a rabbit, he leaned in and kissed Steve’s cheek, and then turned back to his kitchen, heading for a sizzling set of burger patties.
Steve moved through his routine like he was swimming through molasses. By the time he managed to wriggle into bed, he’d been puttering for thirty minutes, and was feeling worse and worse by the minute. But in bed, he couldn’t sleep, too hot or shivering in turns, throat aching.
His mind turned to work, which was what it always did when he couldn’t sleep. He thought about Angie and Peggy, sitting at the counter and sipping a shared malted milkshake. Peggy was still cold-shouldering him, but Angie at least was her usual sweet self. And there was Gabe and his crew, all of them a little rough around the edges, but nice guys and fair tippers. And Tony. Poor Tony. Tony who was…was…in the door?
Steve blinked at the bedroom door, sniffling and trying to work out if he was hallucinating. Tony stood there sheepishly, holding a serving tray from downstairs. Steve tried to speak, but what came out was a wracking cough that forced him to sit up from the sweat-sticky sheets.
“Bucky sent me up,” Tony said, still hovering awkwardly, though he was leaning forward he like wanted to fluff Steve’s pillows. “He said you needed to eat and they got a bunch of college students in late. He’ll be a while yet.”
Steve smiled weakly and wiped at his mouth. “You shouldn’t be in here. You’ll catch it.”
“Worse things have happened,” Tony said with a shrug and bitter smile. “Here.” He stepped into the room and looked around for a moment before settling the tray on the bedside table. There was a plate of sandwiches and a bowl of soup and two plates of pecan pie. Steve frowned at that for a moment before looking up at Tony, who stood rocking on his heels.
“Bucky said I should keep you company until he comes up. Says you're a terrible patient.”
Steve grinned tiredly and reached for the soup. “You don’t have to stay if you don’t want to, Tony. I’m sure you’d rather head home. Did, uh…”
“She never showed. And I don’t mind keeping you company.” Tony glanced around their small bedroom and then held up his finger. “Back in a sec.” He disappeared out the door and came back with one of their spindly chairs from the dining table. He settled on Steve’s side of the bed and pointed imperiously at the tray. “Now, eat. Chicken soup for the soul and the cold virus and all that good stuff.
With a sigh and cough, Steve took up his spoon and started sipping at the soup, which hadn’t cooled too badly on its journey upstairs. It was good–Buck’s own recipe–and it always warmed him a little to eat it, even when he was healthy. Tony nibbled at a sandwich, looking lost in thought. “Maybe I’ll stop dating,” he said finally, glancing up at Steve. “You were right about me always changing myself for them, and I shouldn’t be doing that. Maybe I should just focus on my robotics and getting out of the weapons division and say screw love.”
“Don’t say that, Tony,” Steve said, sniffling. “You’re a great guy. There’ll be someone out there for you.”
Tony looked up at Steve through his eyelashes, something like hope in his eyes. But then he blinked and looked back down. “Yeah, maybe.” He ate the last bite of his sandwich and then looked at the tray. “Bucky insisted on sending pity pie again.”
“Keep tellin’ you it’s not pity pie.”
Both Steve and Tony jumped. Bucky stood in the doorway, his arms crossed, looking at them both inscrutably. “It’s just pie.” He stepped into the room and looked Steve up and down before leaning in to kiss his forehead. “How you feelin’?”
“Like death warmed over. College students gone?”
“Yep. Closed up. Sam’s cleaning. I gotta go back down and get the baking in, but I just wanted to check on you.”
“Consider me well-checked.”
Bucky raised one eyebrow and met Tony’s eyes. They both grinned at exactly the same moment, and Tony had to put a hand over his mouth to cover his laughter. “Not quite well-checked, Rogers. But that’ll have to wait until you’re healthy again.”
Steve blushed into his soup, and Bucky swaggered out the door while Tony snickered into his palm. “Told you he liked you,” Steve said after a moment, hoping to redirect Tony’s attention. “He doesn’t tell dirty jokes about me in front of just anyone.”
“If that’s your definition of a dirty joke, I’d probably scorch your ears off.”
“You’ll have to try me some time,” Steve said, drinking down the last of the broth.
Tony bit into his pie with a suggestive grin and then made an even more suggestive sound. “God his pie is the best. It’s so fucking good.”
“Not quite sure where he learned it either,” said Steve, digging into his own pie and nibbling at the nuts. “We decided to open the diner and I said ‘Who’s gonna cook?’ and he said ‘I’ll figure it out’ and next thing I know he’s shoving sweets at me left and right. Don’t know how I didn’t gain fifty pounds.”
“You two are good together,” Tony said, and Steve could see the way his shoulders fell, the way his eyes went distant. But then he took another bite of pie and groaned. “But if you ever leave him, he’s mine. I need this pie.”
“Not going anywhere,” Steve said, “but the pie’s always gonna be here for you.”
Tony hummed, but didn’t say anything more. He finished his pie and then grabbed a book from the shelf and read it to Steve. It was to his lilting cadence that Steve drifted off. When he woke, Tony was gone and Buck was in bed, so Steve turned over, sniffled, and went back to sleep.
Bucky couldn’t get it out of his mind. Tony in the chair smiling at Steve and Steve smiling back and how good they looked there together and how badly he wanted to see it again. The idea had been percolating at the back of his brain for days now, all through Steve’s cold. He thought about it when he was kneading the bread and when he was mixing up the pie fillings and when he was frying and cutting and frankly it was a wonder he hadn’t burned himself or chopped off a finger or two yet.
Steve was still sniffling, though his cough was down to almost nothing. He wanted to get back to waiting, but Bucky was putting his foot down. The last thing they needed were customers complaining about a sick waiter. Jan and Sam were covering and Bucky had called Natasha in to help him work kitchen. So long as Steve was better by Friday, they’d be fine.
But Bucky’s inability to Steve-watch meant that he ruminated more than usual and rumination took him to places he didn’t want to go. It was either think about the war or think about Steve and Tony, and of the two, he knew which he’d rather linger on. And the more he thought about it, the more he thought, Hey maybe…just maybe…
With a fist pump and a whoop, Sam finished mopping down the last of the booths for the night. “Spick and span!” he said with a grin, leaning to look into the kitchen. “You need any help with prep?”
Bucky glanced at the clock and saw that it was nearly midnight. “Naw. You head home. I’m just wrapping up the pies and then I’m heading up to bed.”
“Ok, man. If you’re sure.”
Sam slipped out the back employee entrance and Bucky locked it behind him, setting their alarm system and making sure both locks were done up tight. They hadn’t had any problems in their little corner of Brooklyn, but it paid to be careful. Bucky got the last of the pies in the oven and the buns as well, and then he headed upstairs.
Steve was propped in bed reading and looking positively bored; he smiled gratefully when Bucky appeared at the door and immediately held out his hands. “Come to bed.”
“Haven’t eaten yet.”
“You could have me?”
Bucky wished he had his dishtowel so he could snap Steve on the nose. “I’m getting some chicken. Did you eat yet?”
Steve didn’t answer, which Bucky took to mean no. He’d let him stew in his guilt for a bit, so he took his sweet time pulling out the cold chicken and fixing it into sandwiches, slicing an apple into perfect wedges and filling a little bowl with liquid caramel for dipping. Carrot sticks and piping hot chamomile tea. And pie. Always pie.
“How are we not fat?” Steve asked as Bucky set the tray down over his lap.
“Good genes?” Bucky guessed, though they both knew that their bodies had been hardened by more than just the war.
They tucked into their meal side by side in bed, bumping elbows and shoulders, spilling crumbs. Steve’d do laundry in the morning, and neither of them much cared about the occasional breadcrumb or dusting of flour.
“I’ve been thinking,” Bucky said as he started in on his slice of pie.
“Oh god, is the apocalypse coming?”
Bucky punched Steve in the shoulder and took a larger bite of pie. “You know Tony’s little dating conundrum?”
Steve hummed and bit into a crisp apple slice.
“I was thinking we should fix him up on a date.”
“Yeah?” Steve said around a full mouth, frowning thoughtfully. “With who? Nat? She’d eat him alive. Sam maybe…”
“I…uh…I was kinda thinkin’…” Bucky swallowed, not quite able to look Steve in the eye. “I was thinkin’ we should…fix’imupwithus.”
Steve’s frown deepened and he swallowed, shifting so that their hips and thighs were touching. “Sorry. Say that last part again?”
Bucky drew a deep breath through his nose and looked up, meeting Steve head-on. “I think he should go on a date with us.”
For a long time, Steve said nothing, and Bucky was grateful that his normally impulsive other half was actually thinking this through. He fiddled with the edge of the sheet and the pie crumbs on the plate as Steve processed until finally he said, “Are you suggesting a, uh, a threesome?”
“Well, yeah. Except not a one-time thing. A, a relationship thing. The three of us. Together. Polyamory.”
“You want Tony. And me. And you. To…date?”
“Goddammit, Rogers, you’re not an idiot. That's exactly what I want.”
Steve blinked and looked down at his plate, still chewing on the thought of it. “And it’s not…because you’re unhappy? With just me?”
“God no. You can say no to this, and I will still be the happiest man alive. It’s just…I look at him with you and I think ‘God, it makes me even happier. Look at how much he cares for Steve. Look at the way Steve looks out for him.’ And he makes me laugh. He’s handsome and sweet and he’s always kind to us.”
Steve looked at Bucky then and his expression changed; it was the same way he looked when he was forming up a sketch in his head, contemplating the layout and the pose and the lighting. Bucky could see it–him picturing Tony and Bucky together, all of them together.
“What if we fuck it up?”
“Don’t think we will, but if we do, well…we could fix him up with Sam?”
Steve snorted at that. “Sam would spoil the crap out of him.”
“But that’s my job,” Bucky said with a sharp grin.
Steve laughed and gestured to the pie. “Damn right it is.”
“So is this you saying yes?”
“This is me saying we’ll ask him. Ok?”
Bucky nodded and carefully lifted the tray to set it on the floor next to their bed. Then he tackled Steve and worked his hands under his undershirt. “Ok.” Steve squealed under his touch and drew him closer. And then there was no more talking for a while.
The next time Tony came in, it was with Jim, and Steve was actually relieved. It would have been much more awkward for all parties if he’d been on another disastrous date. Steve served up their menus and watched them from the corner of his eye. They were laughing over something and Tony’s hands were up in the air, describing his words with gestures that only seemed to become more expansive. Now that Steve was thinking about it, picturing it…well, he could see why Buck had been so eager.
He glanced back to the kitchen and caught Buck staring as well, and they shared a secretive grin, Buck into his salad prep and Steve into the glasses he was polishing. It was a slow night, like Wednesdays always were, and it gave him plenty of time to plan out scenarios in his head.
Around nine, Tony waved him over. He and Jim were the only ones left in the diner, and Tony said, “Take a load off with us?” his expression hopeful.
Steve glanced around at the tables–already wiped down–and the dishes–already polished, and grinned at Tony, sliding in next to him.
“How’s your evening been going?” he asked, leaning back and studying Tony’s profile. It was a nice profile, and now that he was looking, he liked what he saw.
“We’re hoping you’ll settle a debate for us,” said Jim, grinning around the straw in his milkshake. He leaned forward conspiratorially and added, “Of course I’m expecting you to side with me, because this guy’s nuts.”
“That so?” Steve said, glancing over to Tony again. Tony was smiling, his eyes sparkling, and he looked down almost bashfully at Jim’s teasing.
“See I think that your coconut cream pie is the best pie on the menu. Tony says I’m wrong. He says the key lime is out of this world. So we’re hoping you could tell us, seeing as you’re dating the chef and all.”
“You haven’t even had the key lime, you’re no judge,” Tony said, pointing at Jim across the table. “You can’t tell me coconut is better until you actually have the key lime.”
“Well, I could bring out a slice for you to taste and tell me what you think.”
“No,” said Jim, grinning at Steve. “I see your game. Sell us your pie and then the only winner is you and your boyfriend. That’s why you have to be the tiebreaker. You’ve tasted them all and you’ve gotta have a favorite.” Jim looked pleadingly at Steve and waggled his eyebrows until Steve laughed.
“Well, I’m going to disappoint you.”
“Yes,” Tony said, hissing the ‘s’ out and pointing across the table. “In your face, Rhodey.”
“Oh no. I’m going to disappoint you too, Tony.”
Tony’s face fell in mock hurt and he held his hand to his chest. “You’d betray me, Steve?”
“We don’t serve our best pie down here. It’s reserved for just Buck and me.”
“Well that seems like a poor way to make money.”
“It’s just hard to get rhubarb most of the year. Buck hates using frozen and the fresh stuff is only ever at the farmer’s market or it costs an arm and a leg.”
“Wait, the best pie has rhubarb in it?”
“Cherry rhubarb pie. Tastes like summer to me. Buck makes it for my birthday.”
“Well,” said Tony, leaning back with a warm smile. “Guess we’ll have to agree to disagree then, Jim. Although clearly I’m right.”
“Clearly you’re not, but we should get going. I’ve got that flight tomorrow.”
“Right,” Tony said with a groan, stretching up until his spine cracked. Steve watched the shift of muscles in his ribs and shoulders, the way the T-shirt molded over them, and wondered how he hadn’t noticed sooner. “Do you have our check, Steve?”
“Yeah, let me just–“ Steve stood and ran the check through the register quick, running back to Tony with a slightly shaking hand. “Here’s the check. Tony do you have a minute?”
Tony looked torn, glancing at Jim and back. Jim found the solution for him: “Just hug me now, man. It’s not like you’re following me back to Queens anyway.” Tony stood from the booth and gave Jim a tight hug, holding him close.
“Safe flight. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
“What does that leave exactly?”
Jim raised an eyebrow and then let Tony go, passing Steve a twenty on his way out. Steve stared dumbly down at the bill and then back up at Jim’s back. He started to follow, to get Jim his change, but Tony put a hand on his shoulder and stopped him. “I told him what you guys did for me the night my blind date ditched me. He won’t take the change. Neither will I.”
“Tony, you really don’t have to–“
“I know. But I want to. How else am I going to thank you?”
“You could meet us for dinner Monday night,” Bucky said, looming in the kitchen door. Tony jumped, but Steve managed to keep his keep his cool, looking down earnestly at Tony. He frowned back up at Steve, and then at Bucky.
“You guys feeding me doesn’t seem to have the sense of gratitude I’m looking for. You do that every week. I was wanting to do something nice for you, so could you just take the obscene tip? Please?”
“What, you draw a penis on it?” Bucky said, smirking a little.
Tony guffawed and then shook his head. “I knew there was a reason I liked you.”
“Seriously, Tony,” Steve said, putting his hand over Tony’s hand still on his shoulder. “Have dinner with us. Monday night. Seven o’clock. We’d um…well…I know you were thinking of stopping dating for a while, but–“
“Oh god, are you guys fixing me up? Double date? Actually, that might not suck. At least if they dump food on me, I can clean up here again.”
“It’s not a double date,” Bucky said, stepping out of the kitchen door and drawing a little closer. “Just the three of us. A date with the three of us.”
Tony blinked and frowned at Bucky and then seemed to realize that Steve’s hand was over his. He looked up at Steve and then down at the hand, flexing his fingers beneath it. “Are you asking me for sex? Because don’t get me wrong. I’m flattered. You are both incredibly hot men. But I actually respect you as human beings and I’ve had enough of the whole love ‘em and leave ‘em business and I really think you maybe haven’t thought this through so I–“
“Tony,” Bucky said, laying his hand over Steve’s and squeezing, “we’re not asking you for sex. Well, not right away. That’s usually reserved for the third date. But Steve and I were never traditionalists. We can wait. Or not wait. Whatever you want.”
“What we are asking for,” Steve said, giving Bucky a significant Shut up! look, “is for you to have dinner with us. As our date. A nice meal. Nice conversation. Maybe a kiss, but maybe not.”
Tony’s eyes were ping-ponging back and forth between Steve and Bucky, growing rounder and rounder the more they spoke. “You’re actually serious. You want to throw me, the king of fucked up first dates, into your perfect relationship and gum up the gears until we all ground to a halt. Don’t take this the wrong way guys, because I think you’re both wonderful men, but have you lost your fucking minds?”
“Pretty sure we haven’t,” Bucky said, leaning into Tony’s space. “At least no more than usual.” Steve held his breath as Bucky drew closer, and then closer still. Tony seemed frozen, but Buck didn’t close the distance. He held, an inch out, eyes open just enough to broadcast his intentions. Tony swallowed once, heavily, and then leaned in and planted an innocent peck on Bucky’s lips. He jumped away again almost instantly, and looked at Steve.
“You’re not punching me.”
Steve, who still hadn’t quite remembered how to breathe, mumbled “nope” and then leaned in as well, waiting on Tony for that last bare inch. Tony gave him the same sweet kiss he’d given Bucky, barely there at all, but Steve instantly felt a rush of stupid happiness in his chest. That had felt pretty nice. Great, even.
“So date?” Buck said, leaning into Steve so that he could kiss his jaw. Tony watched them both, some of the confusion in his expression trading out for hunger.
“Date,” he said, hand flexing beneath theirs.
“Perfect,” said Buck, pulling him into a hug. “Good. See you Monday night.”
Tony nodded dumbly and then leaned into them, apparently debating between Steve or Bucky and winding up smushed between them, nose in their shoulders. He lingered there a moment, and Steve felt the press of lips through his T-shirt, and then he backed off, hopping away awkwardly.
“Well that was the least smooth move I’ve ever made,” Tony muttered, staring down at their feet. But then he looked up and smiled a little, tentative and hopeful. “See you Monday,” he said, and dashed out the door.
Steve and Tony watched him for a moment and then Buck laughed, turning to rest his forehead on Steve’s shoulder, arms wrapped loosely around his chest. “Well that went pretty well, all things considered.”
Steve chuckled, too, leaning into Buck a little. Then he shoved him away and said, “Come on. Let’s get the clean up done and head to bed.”
They separated, each with a lightness in their step, and went about polishing down the diner, the scent of baking pies wafting over them.
Tony showed up to the diner entrance Monday night at 6:50, flowers in hand. They were closed on Mondays, but Bucky had had a suspicion Tony wouldn’t come round to the employee entrance, so he’d been waiting in the kitchen, watching the door and doing dishes to sooth his nerves. It was one thing to suggest a polyamorous relationship to his long-time partner–it was another to actually attempt it.
Tony looked as nervous as Bucky felt, fidgeting with the flowers, and tugging at his shirt collar. He’d dressed nicely, though not too nicely, and he met Bucky with a sheepish smile.
“Steve’s upstairs setting the table. Come on.”
Bucky locked the door after Tony and then let him led up to their little apartment. Steve was there with the spread, a few candlesticks, and a hesitant smile. “Hey Tony,” he said, and hesitated a moment before leaning in and kissing Tony’s cheek. Tony looked pleasantly surprised, but then glanced back at Bucky, clearly wondering if he’d misstepped in his greeting.
In response, Bucky leaned in and kissed his other cheek and then pulled out a chair for Tony. “Take a seat.”
Tony did, and Steve settled down as well, grinning a little more widely, teeth sparkling in the candlelight. Buck took in the sight for a moment, his boys sitting there gilded by fire, and then bustled over to the oven to get out the meal.
He set out the spread before Tony–honey glazed salmon, collard greens, mashed potatoes, and fresh berries macerated with balsamic and mint–and then hovered expectantly as Steve served up the food. He glanced up at Bucky with a twisted smile and said, “Sit down, ya mook. It’s gonna be delicious like always.”
Bucky settled with a huff as Tony looked down at his food. “You can cook like this and you run a diner?”
“Diner’s easy,” Bucky said, leaning back a little in his chair. “Simple food for simple folks. If I wanted to be serving up foie gras to the one percent, I’d be doing that instead. This way’s better; Steve and I can work together and it’s not so damn high pressure.
“Their loss,” Tony said and took up his fork. He glanced at Bucky, who watched intently, and bit into the salmon, eyes closing appreciatively. He chewed for a long moment and then opened his eyes again. “Not as good as your pie, but still amazing, Bucky.”
Reassured, Bucky tucked into his own meal and so did Steve. For a minute, there was a slightly awkward silence as forks and knives clattered on the plates, and then Steve said, “So Tony, how was that program for the robot you were talking about coming?”
With a sigh and a grin, Tony started in on his work, hands waving, face animated. Like clockwork clicking into place, the conversation took off. Before their service, Bucky had been as conversational as Steve, but now he preferred to let Steve lead, all eager questions and poorly phrased compliments. Steve’d never quite mastered the art of flirting. Bucky kept his comments to pointedly wry remarks that jolted surprised laughter from Tony. Tony was a chatterbox of a man, but his enthusiasm for his work was so immediately evident that Bucky was content to listen even when the material went way over his head.
“God, there I go again, never shutting up.”
“’S’okay,” Bucky said, reaching out and putting his hand on Tony’s arm. “I…I like it.”
“So do I,” said Steve, grinning at them both. “It sounds like you’re really making the future in those labs.”
“Well, trying. But what about you guys? How did you end up running a diner in Brooklyn?” Tony frowned and leaned in. “Come to think of it, I don’t actually know much about you, except that you’re both really nice, incredibly handsome, and Bucky makes pie that’s better than drugs.”
“Not sure you need to know much more than that,” mumbled Bucky, though Steve gave him a look, mouth twisting a little.
“It’s kind of a long story,” he said, smiling softly at Tony. “We’ve got our own baggage.”
“Well, I’ve got time,” Tony said, not without a little bit of hope.
“If you’re sure…”
“Lay it on me, big guy.”
Bucky’s stomach twisted and he quietly stood to clear away the empty salmon plates. Steve started talking, but he kept a sharp eye on Bucky as he went, treading carefully over the spots that rubbed the wrong way. Tony was watching too, glittering intelligence in his gaze; he was probably catching more than Bucky really wanted him to, but maybe it was for the best. Maybe he should know what kind of baggage he was picking up.
From the refrigerator, Bucky pulled out a toffee apple pie and started slicing it down for dessert. Ice cream for the a la mode and a sprinkling of cinnamon and Bucky’s hands were shaking, listening to Steve talk about their enlistment. He froze when he felt warm hands on his elbows, a gentle kiss to the back of his neck. Steve had stopped talking, but Bucky could feel his eyes, watching as Tony rubbed warmth back into his limbs.
“That’s ok,” Tony said softly. “I don’t need to know right away. We can talk about what dumb TV shows you like, if you want. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
Bucky shook his head and stared down into the ice cream. “Better you know now. I’d rather you know now so you can decide if you want our brand of crazy.”
“Honey, I love your brand of crazy.”
Tony pressed another kiss just under Bucky’s ear, and he shuddered with pleasure. There was the scraping of a chair, and then Steve was behind them both, enveloping Tony completely, hands on Bucky’s sides. He let them both soothe him just a moment longer, sinking into the warmth of it, and then shook his head slightly.
“Alright, you big softies. Dessert. The ice cream’s melting.”
Tony pressed one last kiss to the corner of Bucky’s jaw and then he and Steve both pulled away. Bucky turned in time to see Steve press a gentle kiss to Tony’s lips and something in his stomach fluttered with pleasure at seeing them together. It felt right.
He set out the pie and watched Tony expectantly until he took his first bite. “Oh my god,” he moaned, melting into his chair a little. “I’m addicted. I’ll never be able to let this pie go. I need a fix at least once a week.”
“That can be arranged,” Bucky said with a smirk, and Tony smirked back, grin wicked around his fork. The lingering look went on a little longer than Bucky had intended, but Tony broke it off finally and said, “You draw?” pointing at the sketches on the wall behind Steve’s head.
That sent Steve off on an art spiral and that was its own beauty, watching him talk about struggling with hand proportions and dynamic poses and finding time to sketch around taking care of the diner. Bucky watched with satisfaction, slowly demolishing his own pie slice, and then leaned back and put his arms behind his head, immensely pleased with his own brilliance.
Tony turned on him then. “What about you? Do you have some hidden talent besides making pie that’s better than sex?”
“Sex,” Bucky answered instantly, and Steve made a little choking noise. Tony blinked and then snorted, his little devilish smirk returning.
“Is that your final answer?”
“Buck fiddles with cars a lot. He’s real good at engines,” Steve said, jumping in before Bucky could say anything even more embarrassing. He was red from the tips of his ears to the collar of his shirt–Bucky could see it even in the candlelight.
“Is he?” said Tony, and the gears shifted as Tony began gathering up the plates. He grilled Bucky on his favorite cars, motorcycles, preferred engines, favorite tools. The shop talk was…nice. Bucky hadn’t really gotten to do that since the boys back in his unit, and he liked picturing the engines, even if he wasn’t actually working on them. They had that same kind of order he liked to see in his kitchen and it pleased him to imagine everything clicking neatly into place.
He and Tony did the dishes, and Bucky didn’t even think about how strange it was that their guest was the one doing the clean-up. It felt right. Tony felt right in their space, bumping elbows with Bucky and teasing Steve gently as the candlelight slipped lower and lower.
They finished up drying and then the slightly awkward silence from dinner returned, the three of them all standing in their little dining room/kitchen, staring at each other. Traditionally, this would be the part where the date would end and Tony would leave, but Bucky found himself thinking that he really didn’t want Tony to go.
Steve apparently felt the same way because he suddenly said, “How would you feel about a movie? Our TV’s small, but it works just fine. And our couch can fit us all.” He smiled hopefully, a bit of his boyishness shining through, and Tony folded like a crappy hand of poker.
They piled onto the couch and after a brief squabble, settled on Star Wars because it was on network TV. Bucky was careful to have Tony in the middle, and the moment it seemed appropriate, he leaned in, settling his head on Tony’s shoulder. Not long after that, Steve pulled them both over until they were laying on top of him, soaking up the warmth of his broad chest.
“Is this ok?” Steve asked, hand cupping first Tony’s jaw and then Bucky’s.
“More than ok,” said Tony, whose body had already gone nearly boneless over Steve’s. He looked like a cat curled up enjoying a fireplace, drooping eyelids and limp limbs. “First date in months where I haven’t gotten pity pie.”
“I keep tellin’ you,” Bucky growled, “it’s not pity pie. Sometimes you just need pie.”
Tony hummed, and then like it was the most natural thing in the world, he shifted and kissed Bucky. It was more than the chaste pecks they’d shared before, but still simple, sweet. Bucky sank into it, sliding a languid hand up Tony’s back and then shifting around front to press at his pec and collarbone. Tony shuddered and pulled away for a moment. “Could you just, uh…not the sternum. There’s a scar there and it’s…just not there.”
Bucky considered Tony for a moment and then nodded solemnly, sliding his hand away to thumb at a nipple through Tony’s shirt. Tony hummed and then kissed Bucky again. His mouth was pliant, warm, still tasting of pie. Kissing him was strangely familiar, like Bucky had done it a thousand times before.
Above them, Steve made a noise in his throat, and barely missing a beat, Bucky shifted up to kiss Steve while Tony slid to Bucky’s neck, sucking gently at a tendon, kissing and nipping with expert pressure. Steve moaned into Bucky’s mouth and shifted, his arms coming up to encircle them both. In his arms, they wriggled and traded, kissing Steve, each other, necks, nipples, wrists, hands.
The pace was unhurried, smooth, like the steady pulse of waves. It quieted Bucky’s mind and warmed him to the core until between one slow kiss and the next, he nodded off into an easy half-sleep, still aware of Tony’s mouth on his jaw, but too boneless to respond.
“Beautiful,” Steve murmured above him, in that low syrupy voice Bucky associated with post-coitus. Tony hummed with pleasure and then slotted himself against Bucky, going limp atop Steve.
“We’re not too heavy?”
“I have work tomorrow.”
“So do we. I always wake up early. Don’t worry. We’ll take care of you.” Even to Bucky’s ears, it sounded like Steve was talking about more than just tomorrow. Tony sighed and stilled, pulling Bucky down into sleep with him. It was the most peaceful night he’d had in years.
Steve woke before the sun, the sky outside looming gray and gloomy. Valentine’s was creeping up on them and even though the days were supposed to be getting longer, they still felt abysmally short. He shifted a little, a crick in his neck where he’d been laid across the armrest. Tony and Bucky were both asleep on top of him, and they’d probably regret their night on the sofa just as much as he was. As he wriggled beneath them, Tony’s eyes blinked open.
For a moment he looked panicked, almost terrified, but then he caught Steve’s eye and his face transformed. He beamed, the biggest smile Steve had ever seen on his face. “Morning,” he said in a husky just-woke-up-voice, and Steve shivered at the tenor of it. He yawned and then glanced around. “Time?”
“Maybe 6:30,” Steve ventured, stretching his neck a little to try and see the kitchen clock.
Tony groaned, but then shifted and rolled off of Steve, landing a little heavily on his hands and knees. He stayed there a moment, head drooping down, and then slowly started getting up. “Much as I like cuddling with you guys on a couch, next time let’s move it to the bed.”
“Agreed,” Steve said, starting to worm his way out from a still sleeping Bucky. Bucky grumbled and shifted atop him, grabbing for clothes and wrists, but Steve managed to work himself free. He grabbed the throw from the back of the couch and tossed it over Bucky before gesturing to the kitchen. Tony nodded and followed him, standing in the middle of the small space and staring vacantly at the microwave clock.
“Two and a half hours to work,” he said. “I should get home. Shower, change.”
Steve nodded and reached out, touching Tony’s cheek. “I really liked having you here last night. I think Buck did, too. I hope we can do it again.”
Tony pressed into the touch, his eyes slipping closed, a warm smile curling his lips. “I’d like that a lot. I…I haven’t had such a good date in years.”
Steve hummed and drew him close, pressing their foreheads together. Tony’s hands slid up his arms, thumbs running over his biceps, and they stood for a moment in each other’s warmth, and the predawn quiet. At last, Steve said, “Do you have time for coffee before you go? The smell’ll probably wake Buck up, and then he can say goodbye too.”
“Mmmm. I think I can swing a cup.”
Steve pulled away and started grinding beans for the pot. In the living room, Bucky groaned more loudly and raised his hand, giving Steve the middle finger. “Rogers, what did you do to my spine?”
“You have only yourself to blame,” Steve sing-songed, measuring out water. Tony wandered back into the living room and murmured something too softly for Steve to make out. He just watched as Bucky rose up a little and they kissed, morning breath and all. His smile deepened as Buck stretched and then got up, scratching at his stomach as he wandered into the kitchen.
He walked straight into Steve, mumbled “morning gorgeous,” and then kissed him, too. Behind them, the coffee pot began burbling merrily as it spit its contents steaming into the pot. Bucky sniffed at the air and grinned. “You used the good stuff.”
“Well, we do have company,” Steve said, grinning as Tony put his arms around them both, draping languidly and looking up with wide eyes.
“Pulling out the stops for me, Steve? I feel honored.” His smile was positively wicked, and Steve pinked a little when Tony’s hand drifted south to cop a feel.
“So when can we see you again?” Bucky asked, eyes on Tony’s wayward hand, grin just as wicked.
Tony hummed. “Well you guys work evenings and I work the 9 to 5, so I’m thinking weekend morning? Saturday morning? Park? Ooh, winter picnic!”
Steve shuddered and shook his head. “Maybe not a picnic. A walk and then come back to our place for brunch or something.”
“Steve doesn’t like the cold,” Bucky explained, using a face that said ‘don’t ask,’ and Tony took the hint.
“Ok. Lovely winter morning walk and then delicious food. My treat this time. I’ll order Thai or something. No cooking.”
“No cooking and that’s final,” Tony said, slipping between Steve and Bucky to wrap his arms around Bucky’s neck. “Humor me. You guys have spoiled me enough.”
“If I have to,” Bucky groused, but he kissed Tony’s forehead and then reached for the cup of coffee Steve offered him. He moaned a little and tilted his head back, steam rising from his lips in the chilly kitchen. “Nectar of the gods,” he murmured, and then offered Tony his cup.
That was the moment Steve realized that this was serious for both of them. As serious as they’d ever been about each other. Tony sipped, echoed Bucky’s sentiments, and then returned the cup.
“I wish I could stay,” he said, pressing his lips into Bucky’s neck, “but I’ve got to get ready for work.”
Bucky nodded and extended his hand to Steve, pulling him close so they could all wrap around each other. They kissed Tony goodbye and Steve walked him down to the front door. There was a sweet pillow of warmth in his chest, a cotton cloud that resisted even the chill of the outdoors. Overhead, the sky threatened snow, and Tony pulled his collar closer around his neck.
“See you Saturday?” he said, turning a hopeful grin on Steve.
“Looking forward to it.”
Tony leaned in to kiss him and then set off down the alley to the main road. Steve watched him go, that same pillowy warmth soft in his chest.
Tony dropped by the diner Thursday night, and Bucky knew the moment he walked in because Steve perked up like a dog who’d just heard a silent whistle. Buck leaned out the window, caught Tony’s eye, and smirked, nodding shortly. Then he got back to the burgers because they had hungry customers to feed and Bucky had a job to do.
But his job didn’t stop him from doing dishes in front of the window, or kneading bread in front of the window, or chopping vegetables in front of the window. From there, he could watch as Tony alternated between tapping at his tablet and flirting with Steve. Steve took it in stride, blushing and laughing and occasionally glancing at Bucky, and it was so sweet Bucky was sure he was getting cavities.
A few seats down the counter, Peggy and Angie were watching the whole display, Angie practically shaking, hands over her mouth, Peggy stony-faced and glancing between Bucky and Steve and Tony like they were ticking bombs about to explode.
Bucky got a wicked idea then and kept an eye on Tony’s meal. When he’d picked away the last of his sweet potato fries, Bucky plated up a slice of pecan pie and slipped out from the kitchen.
Tony’s eyebrow went up and he smirked when Bucky set the plate in front of him, and Bucky could feel both Peggy and Angie staring at his back with the utmost concentration.
“Pity pie again? What pitiful thing did I do this time?”
“Just pie, you punk,” Bucky said. Furtively, he glanced down to the other couple seated in the booths, but they were wrapped up in their own conversation and not watching the drama at the counter. Secure in this knowledge, Bucky leaned across the counter, planted a solid kiss on Tony’s lips, and then spun on his heel and ducked back into the kitchen.
A part of him was instantly horrified. He was never demonstrative in public, even with Steve. What business of theirs was it? But Steve liked Peggy and she’d been cold-shouldering him for weeks now, and Bucky hated seeing Steve look sad when Peggy sniffed at him. And really, fucking with them was just too tempting. Panic assuaged, Bucky returned to his window and looked out.
Angie was quietly having a conniption at her stool, hands waving and tiny squeaks of earnest glee slipping out between her pursed lips. Peggy, sharp firecracker that she was, was squinting at Bucky with her lips pursed and her eyebrows furrowed. “You wanker,” she breathed finally, and suddenly burst out laughing. Steve and Tony, and even the couple down in their booth, all turned to look at her as she cackled. “I can’t believe…but you didn’t say…you absolute prig…” She gasped and put her forehead down on Angie’s shoulder, giggling.
Bucky smirked in spite of himself and went back to his kitchen cleanup. It was nearing 9:30 and he didn’t expect they’d have any more customers. For a while he rattled around, making note of the tinkle of the door and Steve’s quiet goodbyes. And then suddenly, Steve was in the kitchen, backing Bucky up against the oven.
“You,” he said through smirking lips, “are an evil man.” And then he kissed Bucky, working his fingers past the apron and under Bucky’s shirt.
For a moment, Bucky sank into the kiss, but then he smirked too. “Well, you were never gonna tell Peggy you were living in sin with two men, now. Might as well let her know. Get you your tips back.”
Bucky jumped when a third hand crawled under his shirt. “You’re lucky I think you’re handsome, Buck,” Tony breathed against his ear, and then Tony’s lips were on his neck and it was almost too much, all that skin against his own. He moaned into Steve’s mouth and wrapped his good hand in his hair.
Steve pulled away for a moment and looked down at them both, pink across his cheeks, chest heaving against Bucky’s. “She started tipping me again after that first time. But she wrote ‘hopeless’ on every single receipt.”
“Well that hardly seems fair,” Tony said, and turned so he could attack Steve’s neck as well, sucking right at the spot Bucky knew Steve liked best. Steve’s eyes rolled back and he went boneless against Bucky. They all huffed and panted against each other for a while until Bucky groaned.
“You planning on following through, Tony, ‘cause if you’re not, we gotta stop. I’m…uh…” He tilted his head back as Tony turned teeth on his collarbone. Steve’s hands were on his ass, squeezing, and surely Steve wasn’t oblivious to what this was doing to Bucky. “Fuck,” he hissed as Tony sucked sharply and then pulled away.
“I shouldn’t,” he breathed, cheeks bright pink and lips red from kissing. “You guys still have clean up.”
“You could help,” Steve said, bright-eyed and suddenly eager. “We’d get done in half an hour. And then…well, bed’s kinda small, but maybe…” he frowned and looked toward the dishes still in the sink.
Bucky frowned too. He hadn’t really thought about the logistics of the three of them…being together in that way. Well, not much thought beyond “Yes. Let’s. Now.”
Tony was frowning, too, but not in the same way Steve and Bucky were. It was more of a thinking cap expression and then he said, “I know I’m in Manhattan, and that’s a ways, but what if we clean up and then you guys come to my place? My bed is huge.”
Steve and Bucky traded a look, and Bucky could see that Steve was torn. But then, Tony could see it too. He was already pursing his lips and looking down a little.
“It’s not that we don’t want to,” Steve rushed, removing his hands from Bucky’s hips and putting them on Tony’s shoulders. “But we always get the baking started at seven. And I…” his face clouded for a moment and Bucky wasn’t quite sure what was getting to him, but then he cupped Tony’s jaw and said, “I want to do right by you. I don’t want to be like all those people who took advantage of you. Some of those dates you brought in…I’m sure they’re nice people, but sometimes they weren’t very nice to you. And you deserve more than that.”
Tony’s eyes widened and widened the longer Steve spoke, and unthinking, Bucky dropped his forehead to Tony’s shoulder, pressing his lips to the nubbin of bone he could feel through the T-shirt. “Yeah, punk,” he added, when he was pretty sure Steve was done speechifying. “You definitely deserve more than a quick roll and a ‘see you.’ If we’re going to your place, we’ve gotta plan for it. Make sure we treat you right.”
Beneath Bucky’s lips, Tony shivered, and then slipped his arm around Bucky’s shoulders. “The Saturday date. Do you…do you guys want to skip the walk and come straight to my place. Brunch? Maybe a museum? I know you like art, Steve, though I don’t know how you feel about it, Buck.”
“Anything that makes Steve happy,” Bucky said, working his way up the shoulder seam of the T-shirt until he found skin again.
“But we don’t have to,” Steve hastened. “We…we can…”
“I know,” Tony said before Steve could stumble even further. “But I want to. If you do.”
“Oh god yes,” Bucky said, and bit the thick muscle of Tony’s shoulder as if to prove it. Tony shuddered again and then gently pressed his palm against Bucky’s chest. Bucky took the hint and backed off, but only just.
“Then…then I’ll see you on Saturday? Let me just write down my address for you.” He snatched one of the empty order pads from the kitchen window and scribbled down his address and his phone number. “In case you get lost,” he said sheepishly. He rocked on his heels for a moment and then darted forward and kissed Steve. Bucky watched them with satisfaction and then tilted his head when Tony turned to him. He still tasted a little like pecan pie and that was nice, especially because it was Bucky’s recipe. When Tony drew back, Bucky nearly followed, but forced himself to stop, and instead stared at Tony from under his lashes.
“See you Saturday,” he said, and he made sure it was his bedroom voice. Steve had a practically Pavlovian response to it, and he leaned back against the table, eyes half-lidded as they both watched Tony. Tony walked backward out the kitchen, as though he couldn’t quite stand to take his eyes off them, but then he was gone. They watched him put on his coat through the window and then disappear into the night, constantly glancing back at them.
“Guess we better lock up,” Steve said, and Bucky nodded dumbly. The he whirled on Steve and pushed him back against the fridge, dropping hard to his knees.
“Buck?” Steve squeaked, but Bucky was already shoving Steve’s apron to the side and undoing his jeans zipper. They didn’t get to the cleaning for a while after that.
Steve and Bucky took the train into Manhattan early Saturday morning. They were up anyway and they figured if Tony’s wasn’t really awake yet, they’d cook breakfast for him and make getting out of bed worth his while. Steve checked the address, checked his phone, and then looked up at the huge glass and steel building. He passed the paper to Bucky and said, “That third number. Maybe it’s an eight?”
Bucky glared down at the paper for a moment and then back up at the monstrous building. “Pretty sure it’s a three. Give me the phone.”
Steve passed it over and waited for Bucky to check the map, but a second later, Buck was holding it to his ear instead. “Morning, punk,” he drawled into the receiver, smirking and scratching at his stubble. “Mmhmm. Mmhmm. Yeah. No, we were just wondering. Your apartment building. Is it, uh…like, bigger than Trump Tower? Yeah, no. We’re…Mmhmm. You’re sure? Ok.”
Bucky tapped the end call icon and passed the phone back to Steve. “So it was an eight.”
“Nope. This is it. He said go in and give the desk guard our names.”
“This? He lives here?”
Bucky shrugged and shoved through the front door to the reception desk. The guy sitting behind it was big, but he didn’t look like he could take Steve in a fight. More marshmallow house than brick shithouse. He was watching what Steve was pretty sure was Downton Abbey, but he hastily blacked out the screen when they entered.
“Can I help you fellas?”
“Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes to see Tony Stark,” Steve said, already feeling nervous in the swanky lobby. Was that…was that a Picasso on the wall? He stared hard at it, his world tilting sideways. Surely it wasn’t real. Just a big print. Definitely. The guard hemmed and hawed over his computer and then pursed his lips at them.
“You’re on the guest list,” he said, like it irritated him that they were there with permission and everything. He huffed and gestured to the elevator. “Right over there. Mr. Stark’s on the 22nd floor.”
“Thanks. What’s the room number?”
The guard blinked at them and then snorted. “You’ll know.”
Bucky and Steve traded a look and then walked over to the elevator, slipping into the sleek machine. The far side looked out on a sheer glass wall, and they could see New York falling away as they climbed higher and higher.
“I figured he had money,” Bucky said slowly, “but like…like maybe he could afford a two bedroom in Greenwich or something. Not…not this.” Bucky was looking more and more uncomfortable by the second, so Steve leaned into him and hooked an arm around his shoulder, rubbing at the spot where his prosthetic sat on his skin. Steve knew it ached in the cold, and they’d had a bad run of below zero weather the past week.
The elevator doors opened whisper soft onto a short hallway and Steve frowned, stepping gingerly out. There was only one door. Holy shit, there was only one door. He and Buck eased forward like they were walking into a lion’s den and after a moment, he knocked.
“Welcome, guest,” a voice intoned, and Steve jumped about six inches off the ground. Buck was looking more and more panicked by the second.
“Steve, this can’t be the right place,” he said, tucking his arms around himself.
The computer continued on, apparently oblivious to their trepidation. “Please identify yourself.”
“Welcome, Steve. Guest registration acknowledged. Please enter.” Steve blinked hard and then, because he couldn't think of anything else to do, he tried the door. It opened for him and he peeked in, staring at the huge open layout and the floor to ceiling windows. He was about to close the door and flee, when a rumpled head of black hair shot up from the cream-colored sofa.
“Steve? Bucky? Is that you?”
“Jesus fucking Christ,” Bucky murmured and hustled into the apartment, looking harried and spooked. Steve followed, keeping close.
“You ok?” he murmured.
Tony clambered over the back of the couch, dressed in a black tank top and a goofy set of boxers with little red, white, and blue circles filled with white stars. “You found it!” he said, and his smile was so earnest, so eager, that Steve’s heart ached a little. He felt Bucky relax next to him.
“We found it.”
Tony bounced on his feet and then clasped his hands behind his back like a school boy. He looked positively bashful. “Sorry I didn’t get dressed. I overslept a little and then I had an idea so I…” he gestured loosely to the couch and Steve suddenly remembered what he’d said about inventing.
“What kind of idea?” he asked, peering curious toward the living space.
“Well, I’m trying to convince my dad to invest a larger budget in the robotics and household technologies division, so I was thinking we could start with smart houses. You know? Like Bill Gates’ place? Custom heating profiles, music selections, recipe suggestions that keep track of your kitchen pantry and utilize those ingredients. Hell JARVIS practically…” he stopped suddenly and blinked. “I’m sorry. I’m probably boring you.”
At that, Steve stepped forward and gave Tony a soft kiss. “You are definitely not boring us,” he said with a smile.
Bucky was right behind him and he slotted in when Steve pulled back, giving Tony a kiss that was a little dirtier. “Definitely not.”
Tony looked half dazzled half incredulous. “Well, I know I’m a magnificent specimen, so I think you’re not completely bored, but I—“ Bucky put his cold prosthetic fingers over Tony’s lips and shook his head.
“Have you eaten yet?”
Tony blinked and then slowly shook his head, his expression changing so quickly Steve could barley guess at what he might be thinking.
“Good. Where’s your kitchen? I’m making my special buttermilk waffles. Unless you don’t have a waffle iron. Then I guess I’ll make buttermilk pancakes instead.”
Tony’s expression only got more confused, but he led them into his massive kitchen, and Steve saw the way Bucky instantly relaxed. And then started drooling. “Look at all the counter space,” he said, awed, and walked over to run his palm down the side of the sleek fridge.
“Kitchen’s turn him on?” Tony asked, eyes wide and eyebrows up.
“He likes ‘em,” Steve said with an indulgent grin. “Sit down. You had any coffee yet.”
“Now wait a second, I’m the host here. I should be offering you coffee.”
Steve was already making a beeline for a machine that probably produced coffee. And maybe rocket fuel, too, it was so shiny. He stared at the array of buttons a moment and then turned to Tony. “I guess you get to be a host after all, because this thing is beyond me.”
Tony sidled over to Steve’s side, pressing his hip to Steve’s, and began explaining how to work his frankly terrifying coffee/espresso machine. Steve watched with careful attention, noting how to load it and make all the buttons go.
Off to their left, Bucky was bustling in the pantry, pulling out ingredients like he’d been living in Tony’s apartment for years. He knew kitchens the way Steve knew customers.
“Et voila!” The machine started humming and steaming and burbling and Steve watched as coffee began to drip from the elaborately twisted spout. Tony had placed a cup there to catch it all and Steve watched in consternation as the machine spat out half-a-cup’s worth of coffee and then puttered to a stop.
“Is it broken?”
Tony frowned and glanced at him. “No. That’s the cup.”
“But it’s so…”
Tony didn’t wait for Steve to find a word. He thrust the cup under Steve’s nose and said “Drink.” Watching Tony with clear incredulity, Steve lifted the cup to his lips and sipped. And then sipped again.
Grinning, Tony spread his arms. “Amazing, right?”
Steve was too busy communing with the coffee to really answer. He’d never had a cup that was quite so…coffee. It filled his mouth and the aroma drifted up to his nose until it was all he could smell and he quietly melted against the counter. When he finally opened his eyes again, both Tony and Bucky were watching him with covetous expressions.
“Let me try a sip of that,” Bucky ordered.
“Get your own.”
“Your cheeky bastard.”
Bucky smiled, his mouth kicking up just on the one side, and started mixing batter. “Tony,” he said, “you were telling us about your smart house idea thing.”
“But you don’t really want to hear—“
“Yes, we do,” both Steve and Bucky said at once. Tony threw his hands up as though annoyed, but Steve could see the sparkle in his eyes, the secretly pleased expression. He started in on his ideas again and then introduced them to JARVIS, the household AI he’d already wired into his own apartment. Through his explanation, Steve and Bucky shared more and more glances, and Steve suspected they were thinking the same thing: Tony is a fucking genius.
In due time, the smell of waffles on the iron filled the air, and Bucky fried up some bananas in caramel sauce to go with it.
“You are trying to make me fat,” Tony said with an accusing finger in Bucky’s bicep.
“Pleasingly plump,” Bucky responded, not even flinching.
“It’s just because I'm not as tall as you guys isn’t it?”
Steve got a wicked idea at that and slipped up behind Tony, wrapping arms around his waist and lifting before he knew what was happening. “You’re travel sized,” he said, pressing his nose into Tony’s spine. “I happen to like travel sized.”
In his arms Tony was squirming and huffing indignantly, but the moment Steve set him down, he turned in his arms and kissed him. “It is very hot,” he said when he broke away, “that you can lift me four feet in the air.”
“You’re both disgusting,” Bucky drawled, but he had on the smile Steve liked best, the one that was in his eyes more than his mouth. “Grub’s ready. Sit.”
Bucky set out the plates and got them all more coffee, bustling and fussing like Steve’s mom used to for Sunday dinner. “Sit,” Steve said finally. “We’re not gonna eat without you.” So Bucky sat and they all dug in. Tony was watching them both with that frustratingly inscrutable expression again.
It apparently didn’t bother Bucky at all, but at length, Steve got too curious. “Have we got dirt on our noses?”
“You’re lookin’ at us like we grew a second head or something.”
“Oh! Oh no, I…I mean I was just…”
Tony blushed, and Steve had an instant gut instinct to tug him close and hold him.
“I guess I figured you guys were more here for the…for the giant bed? Booty call? That’s…I didn’t really think you’d want to…to domestic.”
Bucky snorted and mumbled “that’s not a verb” but Steve had a sudden and burning urge to find all of Tony’s exes and punch them. How had they treated this sweet man, that he expected visits to his house to be about sex and only sex.
“We meant what we said before,” Steve said. “We don’t have to do anything. Your company is what we want, Tony, and that doesn’t have to include sex. We’d be happy just to hear more about JARVIS and what you’re doing to make it easier for him to learn.”
Tony stared at Steve like a man staring at an oasis. He seemed like he couldn’t quite believe his eyes. After a moment he looked down at his waffle and ate a slice of banana.
“But if…if I wanted? To have sex. With you. That would…is that on the table?”
“Breakfast is on the table, Tony,” Bucky said, pointing his fork. “But let’s get something straight. We want you. We like you a lot and we want you. But we’ve also watched you have the worst string of dates in the history of dating for the past six months, and almost all of those people seemed to treat you like shit. We don’t want to treat you like shit. We don’t want to push you into something you’re not comfortable with. So we’ll wait for you and move when you want to move.”
Tony blinked at Bucky, opened and closed his mouth, and then said, “I think that’s the longest speech I’ve ever heard from you.”
“You should get Steve goin’. He’s a real hoot.”
“Shaddup,” Steve said, pushing playfully at Buck’s shoulder.
Across from them, Tony’s smile was slow and warm. “So if I told you I’d very much like to take you to bed. Not because I think I have to but because you have physiques that make me go weak in the knees and I’ve been horny since Thursday?”
Steve’s gut clenched and he felt a blush rise on his cheeks. “I could be persuaded,” he said, glancing at Buck.
Bucky’s eyes went dark and he pouted his lips out in that way he knew made him look like a supermodel. “Finish your waffles and we’ll find out.”
After that, Tony inhaled his breakfast, faster even than Steve, and then sat with his elbows on the table, clearly mentally undressing both Steve and Bucky. Steve finished next and he leaned back in his seat, throwing his arms up behind his head because he knew it made his biceps and triceps look particularly nice. Bucky was last, eating slowly and deliberately, glancing up at the both of them through his eyelashes, face fixed like he had no idea what effect he was having on them.
“You’re an asshole,” Steve groaned, when Buck set about cutting the last quarter of his waffle into miniscule pieces.
“Didn’t you know anticipation’s half the fun?” Bucky said, licking at a splatter of caramel sauce on the corner of his mouth. Steve’s dick hardened from half-interested to fully in the game and he looked heavenward, asking god and anyone else for a little patience so that he didn’t strangle one of his best guys.
But suddenly, there was a hand on his knee and then a body in his lap. He looked back down just in time for Tony to loop his arms around Steve’s neck. “Well, since Buck wants to anticipate, maybe we can show him what he’s got to look forward to?” Tony’s voice was steady, smooth, but his eyes were uncertain. Steve curled an arm around the small of his back and stroked soothingly, nodding and smirking.
“I suppose he might appreciate a little sample.”
Tony hummed and his expression grew more confident. He swung easily in Steve’s lap so that he was straddling rather than sidesaddle, and pressed closer. “Kiss me?” What could Steve do but comply, arching up and pressing Tony’s neck down licking at the last of the sweet sauce on his lips. Tony smiled into his mouth and tilted his head, kissing with just the right rhythm to get Steve’s cock twitching. He let Tony know how much he was enjoying it by slipping his fingers below Tony’s ridiculous boxers and cupping his ass, pressing him as close as he could get him. Tony was hard against his stomach, warm and so damn tempting.
Off to the side, there was a clatter and suddenly Buck’s hands were on Steve’s shoulders, kneading as Bucky kissed the back of his neck. “Bedroom Rogers,” he hissed, nipping to make his demand clear. Steve stood easily, hefting Tony higher up his abdomen and getting another hand under his ass.
“Holy shit,” Tony breathed, breaking away. He leaned back, hands clamped over Bucky’s, and threw his head back. “How strong are you? Wall sex?”
“It’s a definite possibility.”
“Oh my god,” Tony groaned, and rolled his hips, digging his heels into Steve’s ass.
“Where’re we going?” Behind him, Bucky laughed and began working Steve’s shirt out of his jeans.
“Uh, down this hallway. Last door on the right.” Tony bucked against Steve again and then rolled up, clinging tightly. He moaned suddenly and then giggled, and Steve wondered what Buck was doing back there, because it wasn’t Steve making him wriggle like that.
Bucky jogged in front of them to get the door and then turned around so he could bracket Tony and Steve both, leading them backwards into the bedroom. “Are you kidding me?” Tony said, and Steve watched with satisfaction as Buck worked Tony’s shirt up his stomach and then pressed the precise fingers of his right hand into skin and muscle.
“What do you want?” Steve asked, leaning forward to kiss the newly exposed skin.
“I…I don’t even know.”
“Stevie looks real pretty with a cock inside ‘im,” Buck said, and Steve blushed from the roots of his hair all the way down his chest. Buck talking like that always got to him.
“That…that sounds good.”
“Good? It’s fucking beautiful.”
Steve turned and sat heavily on the edge of the bed, barely pausing to notice that it was indeed as big as Tony had promised and also that Tony’s room was a bit of a sty, but in the best sense of the word.
Tony got his knees under himself and then urged Steve back, pushing and massaging his chest in turn. Steve slid back easily enough and then Buck sidled onto the bed behind him, lifting his shoulders until he was partially on Buck’s lap.
For a moment, Tony looked at them both with complete disbelief. “How am I this lucky?” he seemed to be saying, but he never spoke. Instead, he leaned forward and set nimble fingers to Steve’s fly, unhooking the button and drawing down the zipper with excruciating slowness. Bucky kept his hands working over Steve’s chest in the mean time, pinching at his nipples and squeezing and pressing the muscle beneath.
“Shirt,” Steve whispered, and obediently raised his arms when Buck caught the hem and started pulling. The cotton obscured the view for a moment, but not before Steve saw Tony’s eyes go wide and hungry. And then Tony was yanking Steve’s jeans and boxers off in one go and that was nice, good. Steve’s cock caught on the waistband for a moment, and even that was good, the quick tug-friction-pull of the elastic before the boxers slid free.
There was the rustle of Tony dropping Steve’s jeans and then Buck tugged the shirt free as well. Steve blushed under the gazes, but then colored with a different sort of heat when Tony ran a reverent hand up his thigh.
Steve shuddered and turned his head away for a moment, closing his eyes and reveling in just Tony’s touch. But then he turned back and reached out, catching the strap of Tony’s tank top. “You too?”
Tony hesitated for a moment, but then pulled his tank top free and stared at them both, his expression suddenly defiant, his jaw jutting out. Steve could see why. Tony’s chest was crisscrossed with a mess of scars, with the worst of it right dead center. Steve had seen scars like those before on fellow soldiers. There was a story there, and Tony’s expression dared them to ask, but instead, Steve sat up and kissed Tony’s sternum, right over the worst of the scarring. Tony sucked a sharp breath in through his teeth, eyes closing and chin tilting in as though to protect himself.
But then he wrapped his fingers in Steve’s hair and pulled him even closer. “More,” he hissed.
Steve quietly went to work, tracing his lips and tongue over the angry red lines and spots. He heard the rustle of more cloth and then felt Buck shift closer behind him. There was a wet sucking sound and Steve realized they were kissing over his head and that was even better. He reached one hand around Tony’s back and then wrapped the other around Buck as best he could and pulled them even closer, sandwiching himself in their warmth. It was sticky and sweaty and Tony smelled faintly of something metallic and it was fucking perfect.
When Steve reached Tony’s navel, Buck groaned above him. “You about ready to put that cock to good use? I bet Stevie’s dying for it.” Both Steve and Tony groaned and then Buck pulled back, urging Steve along with him. His cock was warm and a little wet between Steve’s shoulder blades, and he bent himself in half to kiss Steve’s chin and that was good too. The scrape-rasp-rub of Buck’s scruff and the sharp bite of his teeth sent Steve bucking up against Tony, and Tony groaned in turn. He scrambled up and away, and Steve moaned at the loss, but there was a rustle and a thud-crackle and then Tony was back, naked thighs settling beneath Steve this time, prying his legs further open.
Bucky kept Steve’s mouth busy, but the unmistakable snap of a cap sent a jolt through him, and the cool touch of Tony’s finger behind his balls made him positively squirm. “That’s it,” Buck said, breaking the kiss to look up. “Let him feel you.”
Tony’s fingers worked further back and then he was slipping in, the lube almost too cool against the burn of Steve’s skin. He whimpered and pulled Bucky back down, biting at his lips in retaliation for his meddling. Bucky smirked into his mouth and just mumbled, “Show ‘im how pretty you are. Let ‘im see.”
Steve was going to get Bucky for this. Later. For the time being, he stretched his arms up over his head and wrapped them around Buck’s waist, fingers scrabbling for an anchor as Tony worked him open. It was good. Tony was careful and attentive, and his other hand worked Steve’s pecs, massaging back and forth over the nipple.
Finally he took his hand away and Steve whimpered at the loss, bringing forward a hand to grope blindly for Tony’s arm. There was the crinkle of foil and Tony hissing between his teeth and then Bucky pulled up, lips swollen and expression positively smug. “You’re gonna wanna see this,” he said and pushed Steve up a little so he could see Tony’s cock jutting up obscenely over the crest of Steve’s own erection.
Tony licked his lips and then lowered himself onto his hands, pulling closer to Steve’s face. “You ready?”
With a smile and a quick sweet kiss, Tony reached between them and lined himself up, and then took Steve’s hand and wrapped it around the base of his cock. “Help me a little. Don’t want to hurt you.”
Steve nodded and jerked sharply forward, and above him, Tony’s neck went boneless. “Yes,” Bucky hissed, and his own erection bobbed against Steve’s back. Tony followed Steve’s lead and began pushing forward, sinking in, and he was perfect. Hot and thick and carefully smooth in his movements. Steve groaned and jerked him again, trying to get him to go faster.
But Tony had none of it. He worked himself in at a snail’s pace, and when he was fully seated, he just stopped. “Tony,” Steve hissed, and rolled his own hips, asking for more.
“Just…just let me savor this. A minute. Ok?”
Steve huffed and tossed his head, but he stilled his hips. Above him, Bucky hummed and patted Steve’s chest. “I was right. You do look real pretty on his cock.”
“Oh god, Buck,” Steve groaned, trying to sound exasperated, but mostly just sounding wrecked.
“You do, Steve,” and deep in the back of his head, Steve then realized he’d made a terrible mistake, because Tony used the same sassy tone Bucky did and that…that was not good. Except how it was good because Steve’s cock jerked of its own accord and dribbled a little precome onto his stomach. “Pretty as a picture.”
“God, please Tony,” Steve breathed, and at last, Tony moved, pulling out just as slowly as he’d pushed in.
“Yessss,” Steve hissed, and tried to pull Bucky back down for more kissing. Bucky, though, remained steadfastly upright, his cock occasionally brushing against Steve’s back.
“No, Stevie. I wanna watch this. I wanna see you sweet for ‘im.” Tony huffed and that was most definitely a laugh and Steve was most definitely screwed. Literally and figuratively. But then Tony pressed back in, and it didn’t matter anymore. The sweet, hot press of his cock was all that mattered.
Steve endured Tony’s teasing for God-knows-how-long, but finally, he twisted and bucked his hips hard. “Please. Please I need…I need something. More, I—“
Above him Buck shushed him and worked soothing hands up and down his shoulders. “Ok, Stevie. Ok. I’ll give you a little more. You wanna suck me?” Steve and Tony moaned at the exact same instant, and Bucky smirked at them both, the bastard.
He slipped his knees out from under Steve’s back and slid around to the side until his cock jutted over Steve’s lips, red and hard and tempting. Steve reached up and pulled him down and started sucking, lapping at the underside of the head and then working his tongue over the tip.
“Fuck, Stevie, that’s it. Fuck, you’ve got a sweet mouth.”
At that, Tony groaned and his hips suddenly stuttered hard into Steve’s thighs. It was just right. The angle of Tony’s cock shifted and he caught Steve’s prostate and Steve wanted more. He moaned and sucked hard around Bucky, reaching blindly for Tony’s knee where it jutted under his thigh.
“Think he liked that, babe,” Buck said, and Steve watched him lean forward to pull Tony into a kiss. Everything after that became less controlled, less neat. Steve’s blowjob went sloppy, broken around moans and moments where he had to pull away and clench his teeth. Tony’s rhythm went to hell, stuttering first jackhammer fast and then excruciatingly still. Buck reached for Steve’s cock and started working him, right hand quick and nimble as his less dexterous left hand anchored Steve’s shoulder.
Buck moved his hand lower to press behind Steve’s balls and brush where Tony was fucking into him and that was it. Steve shouted and let go of Buck’s cock, spilling over his own stomach. Tony moaned through his teeth, thrust in three more times, and then came as well, collapsing down on top of Steve’s chest as his hips jerked.
He panted for a moment and then turned his head, gripping Bucky’s cock and pulling it into his own mouth. Buck, surprised, fell to his hands and knees over the both of them as Tony urged his hips closer and closer.
“Oh god. Tony, baby, you…Fuck that’s good. Don’t stop. There…there, I…” Steve watched in a post-coital haze as Buck jerked helplessly, falling apart in a way he rarely did in bed. When he came, it was almost quiet. He tapped at Tony’s shoulder frantically, panting but not quite managing a word. Tony just shook his head and sucked harder until suddenly a little white spilled out of the corner of his mouth. Steve hadn’t even realized Buck’d come. Unthinking, Steve leaned up at licked away the mess, reveling in the way both Tony and Bucky shuddered at his touch.
For a moment, Bucky remained completely frozen, and then he dropped his hips and rolled onto his back, arms splaying out. Tony, smirking, melted back onto Steve’s chest and watched Bucky with glistening eyes, a distinct air of satisfaction about him.
For a long while, they lay quiet, and Steve nearly started nodding off. But then Bucky spoke. “Tony?”
“Uh huh?” Tony was nearly half-asleep as well, and he didn’t bother opening his eyes to answer.
“Your mouth’s sweeter’n Stevie’s even, I’ll give you that. The tongue thing? Real nice. But Jesus Christ don’t suck a guy off without protection.”
Tony spluttered and Steve guffawed and then started laughing outright. “That’s the first thing you’re gonna say to him, Buck?”
“No. I told him his mouth was sweet first. Then I started tellin’ him of.”
Steve laughed again as Tony stared at both of them in consternation. After a moment, he said, “But…but Steve…”
“Is my long-term partner and up until now my only sexual partner for the past…I dunno, Stevie, six years?” Steve grunted, and flapped his hand, wrapping his arms tight around Tony because he could feel the way Tony was tensing up. “Thing is, if I had something, Steve’d have it too by now. Wouldn’t matter.”
“I’m clean, baby, but that’s…you don’t have to do that. You didn’t bareback Steve, did you?”
“Well no, but—“
“So you shouldn’t have to do that for me. At least not without talking it out. I was kind of…surprised or I woulda…anyway…I’m sorry I didn’t clarify. But you shouldn’t have to do that unless you’re 100% ok with it and know for sure I’m clean. Which I am. But still.”
Steve squeezed Tony because he could feel the way he’d gone all tense. “Buck’s like that,” he said softly, leaning forward to kiss Tony’s ear. “He likes to look out for people. And he doesn’t…he’s not very tactful. About telling them when he thinks they’re stupid. Not anymore, anyway.”
“Learned it all from you, punk.”
In his arms, Tony relaxed a little, though he was still looking wary now that they’d finished with the sex. Bucky reached out and ran his hand down Tony’s spine, the touch feather light. It seemed to loosen something in Tony, and his eyes went soft.
“That’s better,” Buck breathed, and then leaned forward to kiss him.
Tony hummed and closed his eyes again, pressing his cheek down against Steve’s pec. “You guys have work at…two?” he mumbled, his neat goatee scraping against Steve’s hypersensitive skin.
“JARVIS, set an alarm for noon.”
“That’s handy,” Bucky murmured, and then he slung his hand over the both of them, closing his eyes. Steve watched them both, savoring the way the tenseness flowed out of their shoulders, and then gave himself permission to sleep as well. They hadn’t cleaned up and they’d be sticky and messy and uncomfortable when they woke, but Steve couldn’t bring himself to care.
Next Thursday night, Tony came again, looking a little apprehensive as he stood just inside the door. Steve grinned and checked around the tables. Peg and Angie were gossiping with Jan and the only other customer this late was Juan, who was always sweet and never said a bad word about them. So Steve crossed to meet Tony at the entrance and give him a kiss right there in front of all of them. Behind him, Angie squealed and Steve could hear her starting in on telling them all that she was the smartest of the lot of them.
Whatever nervousness had been in Tony’s eyes disappeared and he smiled, slowly shedding his coat.
“You want a booth or the counter?”
Tony hesitated for a moment, looking to where Angie was excitedly prattling a mile a minute while she watched them. “Counter?” he said finally, and Steve put an arm around him, leading him to Peg’s other side.
“You made the right choice. They’re real sweet. Don’t let Peg scare you. She probably won’t shoot you.”
“Well, she did shoot me, but I was a special case.”
Peg smirked into her coffee while Angie kept up her gossip with Jan. Steve thwapped Jan with a menu as he passed. “I am literally right here. You could at least wait until I was out of earshot.”
“But then I wouldn’t get the satisfaction of watching you turn tomato red.”
And of course Steve blushed. Of course he did. He turned to Tony and asked, “Usual?”
“I was thinking I’d try something new tonight.”
Steve smiled. “Comin’ right up.”
By ten, Tony was the only customer remaining. Steve watched him talk with Buck through the window, and then watched Buck carry out the usual pie slice—chocolate strawberry for the upcoming Valentine’s day.
Just as Steve finished mopping, Tony spoke up. “Could I…would it be alright if I stayed the night? With you? We…we have to plan our next date after all and I could take a look at your stove. I know Buck said the burner wasn’t working right and I can probably fix it. And maybe your radiator too. Your windows are frosting at the edges. And I could…”
Bucky was suddenly there in front of Tony, kissing him sweetly over the counter. “We want you here because we like you, punk. Don’t need you to do anything for us.”
Tony blinked and Steve wondered how long it would take before he actually believed them about them wanting him. “Does that mean I can stay?”
Steve crossed over and put his arms around Tony’s shoulders, palms over his heart. “It means you can stay, Tony.” He kissed the side of Tony’s neck just for emphasis. “It means you can stay.”