After the fall of SHIELD, Steve and Sam start searching for Bucky right away. Unfortunately, two soldiers are no match against a highly skilled expert in hiding in the shadows. By the time Tony finds them in his DC apartment looking understandably annoyed and worried since Steve hasn’t checked in with him in weeks, Steve’s pretty sure Bucky’s left the continent.
Steve and Tony have been going out for nearly a year. It’s been hard since Steve had moved to DC, but it’s even harder now that Steve’s avoiding Tony like he’s got the Spanish influenza. Tony’s not the kind of boyfriend who sends a hundred texts, but after the third text goes unanswered, he’s taken to sending flowers and apologies despite the fact that he’s done nothing wrong. Sam gives Steve a pointed look, introduces himself to Tony and heads out to get chilli for dinner.
“So I’ve been going through all the data from Romanoff’s awesome info dump, and lookie lookie,” Tony holds up a photograph of Bucky in the icebox — no, cryonic chamber, that’s what the notes had called it. “So that explains a lot of things.”
Tony’s the only one who knows the truth about Steve and Bucky. He’d told him one night, a few weeks before he’d made the move to DC. They’d been lying in bed together, arms wrapped around each other, when Steve had worked up the courage he was apparently famous for, and told Tony Bucky — about stolen touches and secret smiles. He’d told him about their first kiss in that draughty old apartment, about tucking freezing feet in between Bucky’s warm calves.
Even then, rather early in their relationship, Steve had known that he loved Tony without a doubt. But he’d also known that he loved Bucky and some part of him always would. And Steve had told Tony as much, between sobs that wracked his whole frame and fingers that pressed into Tony’s skin far too firmly. Tony had smoothed Steve’s hair back with gentle fingers and kissed his forehead, telling him it was okay.
They had never spoken of it again.
It’s different now. Bucky is alive. That confession means something else now, and Steve doesn’t know how to talk about relationships, he can’t treat it like a battle. He loves Tony. He’s not ready to lose him — never will be. Tony’s everything that Steve doesn’t understand about the future in a beautifully condensed form, and that’s what makes him love him more.
Still he doesn’t know what words to use, because he knows that if Tony still loved Pepper, Steve couldn’t stay with him. It’s easier to just avoid. Except Tony stands in front of him, looking extremely out of place in Steve’s apartment, with its bullet holes and old furniture.
“Hey remember that time Brucie-baby and I used every satellite on the planet to find an Asgardian asshole?” Tony, who’s usually just as bad with communication, just smiles at him and drops the file and the suitcase suit. He’s holding out his arms and Steve falls into his embrace. Tony smells like expensive cologne and motor oil and Steve can finally breathe.
“I’ve missed you.”
“Then you should call me more often, Captain Idiot,” Tony whispers against Steve’s clavicle. “Come home and let me help.”
After that, things improve.
Steve moves back into the Tower with Tony and finds that they’ve acquired roommates. Bruce has been living here for a while now, then Clint shows up with a goose and Natasha follows with a new blow out. Then Thor shows up, asking about Loki’s sceptre, and the Avengers do what they do best and assemble.
A few weeks later, Sam brings Bucky home with Tony’s help. Bucky remembers a lot more as his serum-enhanced brain recovers what’s been wiped away. He has nothing on him but his clothes, a pamphlet from the Smithsonian, and a copy of The Village Voice with a picture of Steve and Tony kissing plastered on its front page. Bucky looks at Steve and there’s recognition in those eyes.
That night, Tony comes to bed willingly, no arguing, no clinging to lab equipment or his robotic children. He climbs into bed and pulls Steve into his arms, letting Steve press his cheek against the scars where an arc reactor used to be.
“You’re still in love with him,” Tony says.
“But I love you. Bucky and I were friends for years before we ever became more. I can go back to that with him,” Steve insists, wrapping his arms tight around Tony. “I want to be with you. I love you.”
“I know, baby. I love you, too,” Tony soothes him. “It’s going to be okay.”
Bucky and Steve relearn each other slowly. They go out for walks, cook together and talk. At first it’s just Steve talking and Bucky listening. Then Bucky begins to make small comments. Steve’s making lunch for the four of them, Bucky, Tony and Sam, when he tells him he’s ‘ruinin’ the taters, Stevie, stop wastin’ food’.
They make much progress over the next few weeks, but the credit goes to Tony, who is better with Bucky than Steve is. Tony teaches Bucky to use the coffee machine, and then treats him like his own personal barista by demanding coffee every few hours. When Bucky begins to pay attention on his coffee runs to the lab, he starts asking Tony questions. And Tony, who’s famous for answering dumb questions with snark, actually pays attention and explains things to Bucky. Steve, who trails after Bucky, is completely forgotten about in the following conversations that takes place.
When Bucky screams in the middle of the night, Tony doesn’t mind Steve rushing into the guestroom. When he shows up at their door after the quiet nightmares that steal speech from Bucky, Tony simply shoves Steve over so there’s enough space for all three of them in bed.
When Steve wakes up in the morning, Bucky usually startles awake as well, but Tony just shushes him and pulls the sheets to cover his head. When Steve comes back from his run with Sam, they’re still in bed, arguing about magnetic fields or some such thing.
It’s the happiest Steve’s been in this century.
After spending weeks inside the penthouse, Bucky ventures out for Saturday morning breakfast with the other Avengers. He sits beside a sleepy Sam and pouts at his plate of toast. Sam shoots a pitiful look at Steve, and passes Bucky the plate with a fond roll of his eyes. Ten minutes later, Bucky takes a bite of maple syrup on toast and smiles at Sam.
It isn’t too terrifying, as first smiles go.
Bucky likes Sam and Natasha. He’s wary of Thor until he introduces Bucky to pop tarts and of Bruce until they spend two hours discussing super conductors. He’s fascinated by JARVIS and he accepts Coulson. To the entire tower’s dismay, he adores Clint and his pet geese. They take to playing pranks on the other Avengers, even after it leaves them with eighteen stitches thanks to Natasha. Bucky treats Steve like a child’s beloved toy, always aware of him and where he is. And Bucky loves Tony. They spend hours in the lab working on SI projects. After many pleading looks and much cajoling on Steve’s part, Bucky even lets Tony have a go at his bionic arm. The plan backfires on Steve in that soon, he’s dragging two people off to bed at two am instead of just one.
Steve has a type, it would seem.
A week after that, Pepper drops by with SHIELD-issued ID, a legal passport, and a work contract for Bucky while they’re having breakfast with the Avengers.
“If you’re making breakthroughs for SI, you might as well be getting paid for it,” she tells him. “You’re not a slave; you’re welcome to work with Tony. But we have to be fair about this.”
Bucky nods and signs the dotted line. Pepper also hands him a black plastic card, and heads right back out.
“Is that a black AmEx?” Clint asks, showing off his mouth full of half-eaten scrambled egg. “Can I get a black AmEx?”
“I gave you a platinum card for Avengers use and you bought a pair of geese,” Tony replies. “I think the answer to that question is as clear as hydrochloric acid.”
“It was for a mission!”
“You brought them home and they pooped in my lab!”
Afterwards, Bucky and Clint disappear for a few hours on a wild goose chase that ends with the discovery of eggs in the vents.
Even Tony can’t fight against the double strength of their collective pouts. But he’s not fooling everyone with his reluctant acceptance of the geese. Steve catches him looking up how to take care of goslings on the tablet in bed that night. Of course, he knows better than to actually say anything about it.
Bucky and Steve spend a lot of time in Brooklyn. Usually, it’s just the two of them, but sometimes Tony will decide to come along. At first, Steve had worried. Maybe this was something Bucky wanted to share with just Steve, and that would have been okay. Bucky he likes being left alone in the lab with Tony. But Bucky had simply rolled his eyes and told Tony that the latex gloves and the medical masks weren’t necessary. It’s Brooklyn, idiot.
Once they pass an alleyway. The buildings are new but the street is the same. Bucky just stops and turns to look at Steve and Tony who are walking behind him, their arms linked.
“You kissed me here once. I was wearing my Sunday best and you ruined my tie,” Bucky says, voice devoid of all emotion.
Steve can only nod and look away. He remembers the day clearly. Aunt Winnie had sworn to find the culprit and teach them a lesson in manners. It’s Tony that breaks the tension with a small laugh. “So it’s a habit.” He grins at Bucky. “You have no idea how many ties of mine this maniac has destroyed. No respect for Armani.”
When Steve looks back at Bucky, he’s smiling too. “You have a type, Stevie.”
“Smart, good-looking men in suits?” Tony asks before Steve can open his mouth. “Hell yes. It’s what makes up for his terrible taste in music. Now are we gonna stand here all day? I thought we were getting the best hot dogs in New York.”
When they come home that evening, Clint’s got four books on geese and Natasha and Sam both have their fingers on their noses. So Bucky sighs and follows Clint into the library. Tony blows them kisses and drags Steve upstairs.
Steve’s balls deep in Tony and moments away from his orgasm when Tony says, “I think we should ask Barnes out on a date.”
Galaxies are blinking in and out of existence at the edges of his sight when he pulls out of Tony. He looks up at Tony, bracing his arms on Tony’s chest. “What?”
“I think we should ask him out. You’re still in love with him, and he’s still in love with you. And you seem to still want to be with me, which is sweet. But that doesn’t stop your feelings. Also he’s really hot and I really like him, and you have no idea how badly I want those metal fingers in my ass. Or in yours. I haven’t decided yet.”
“Is this a sex thing?” Steve asks. Bucky and Steve have not talked about it, but their hard-won friendship is enough for them. They’re not pining. Steve spent two decades in love with Bucky before he ever told him. And the three of them have finally found their rhythm. Steve’s not sure if they could ever have three-way sex without ruining what they have.
“No, Steven. It’s a ‘the three of us could date’ thing. It’s a ‘I wouldn’t mind sharing you if you wouldn’t mind sharing him’ thing.”
“I love you,” Steve says, putting his arms around Tony and holding him close. “And I like the sound of that.”
“I love you too. Now sleep. We’re both useless post-orgasm.”
Steve wakes up the next morning with permanent marker on his palm. It simply says: Come to the bathtub. Time to plan Operation: El Dorado.
In hindsight, trying to put together a strategy to woo Bucky was never going to work while Tony was naked and in the bathtub.
Plan A is simple. Invite Bucky for a nice dinner, explain clearly and carefully that Tony and Steve both have feelings for Bucky, and ask if he would be interested in pursuing a relationship with them.
Unfortunately, Plan A only makes it as far as the nice dinner. The X-men call them up and tell them another one of theirs is going rogue (but not Rogue). When they make it back, Bucky’s asleep and Plan A is officially a bust.
Plan B involves movies and pizza in the penthouse until Clint drops out of the vent and cuts himself something awful on the glass table. They have to call Sam up to stitch him up in their living room as Clint’s allergic to hospitals. Once Clint catches sight of the pizza and Ferris Bueller lip-syncing Twist and Shout, he pouts until they all head downstairs for an impromptu Avengers movie night.
Plan C is a bust because Tony has an anaphylactic reaction to the flowers they buy for Bucky He assures them that adult onset allergies are a thing and Steve needs to stop worrying, ‘it’s not even remotely attractive, not even a little, Steven’.
Plan D is ruined by Doombots.
By Plan G, Steve’s angry and Tony’s horny and Bucky keeps asking if everything’s okay.
Everything’s obviously not okay, but not even Plan Z involves actually telling Bucky that.
The night after Plan K fails, Tony stomps off to the lab and Steve crawls into bed, pulling the covers over his head. The next morning, Steve goes for a run with Sam, takes a shower and comes downstairs to make waffles. It’s been three weeks since Operation: El Dorado was hatched, and yet their work has yielded no fruits. He’s earned comfort food.
“Do you want to clue us in on exactly what the hell is happening between you, Tony and Bucky?” Sam asks while frying bacon.
“Don’t really want to talk about.”
“Even with a double helping of bacon?”
“Even with a triple helping of bacon and scrambled eggs.” The waffle batter probably doesn’t need this much whisking, but if he stops, he’ll have to look Sam in the eye.
“Must be bad then. Here,” Sam says, holding out a fork of bacon directly from the pan. “You can have this. Call me when the comfort food fails and you need a friend.”
Before Steve can reply, Clint walks in with Natasha, heading directly for the coffee machine. “Hey Steve’s making waffles for everyone,” Sam says.
“No,” Steve begins, but Clint’s pouting again and oh boy, that pout is deadly and shouldn’t work on Steve. Unfortunately Clint’s like a cute overgrown baby, albeit one who sometimes ends up in dumpsters. It’s hard to say no. “Fine. But you’re all doing the dishes.”
The others trickle into the kitchen slowly, and finally Tony walks in with Bucky on his trail. “You don’t need it Tony, all it does is cause complete system failure every time it busts.”
“Of course I need it! How else would I bypass—”
“Just take your G-line, plug it straight into the port pin-lock,” Bucky tells him as they make their way over to the kitchen table.
Tony stops, and Bucky nearly stumbles into him. Tony turns around and tugs Bucky down by the neck to plant one on him right then and there.
Clint spits out his orange juice; Sam snorts and chokes on his waffle. Natasha catches Steve’s eye with a knowing smile. Bruce hasn’t noticed yet, his head buried in his notes, and Thor doesn’t seem to be bothered by what’s happened. When Steve finally gathers enough courage to look back at Tony and Bucky, they’re still at it, Tony’s hand sneaking inside Bucky’s t-shirt.
It’s the hottest thing Steve’s ever seen.
But the skin on skin contact works like ice cold water on Bucky. He jerks away from Tony, looking like a startled deer as his wide eyes focus on Steve. He takes a step backwards, then another, and Steve realizes it’s up to him to react.
“Bucky no, it’s okay. I’m not mad,” Steve tells him, taking quick but careful steps towards Bucky until he’s within arm’s reach. He grabs him by the wrist, making sure he won’t bolt, but not too tight so he doesn’t feel constricted. Bucky’s shaking. “Dammit Tony, we had a plan.”
“This isn’t my fault!” Tony defends himself. “He was being sciencey and it was hot, and Steve we had plans! Eleven of them and they failed! I’m tired of waiting.”
Steve sighs, closing his eyes momentarily before opening them to look at Tony.
“Can someone please explain what just happened?” Clint asks.
“Okay, this isn’t happening,” Steve says, pretty sure his cheeks are as bright as Natasha’s hair. “Sam, if you could take over waffle duty. Buck, Tony, come with me.”
He leads them into the living room, squeezing Bucky’s wrist a little to let him know everything’s going to be okay, but not tight enough that Bucky feels smothered. Steve leads Bucky to the sofa, sitting him down before kneeling in front of him. Bucky looks down at Steve like he’s terrified, but there’s a tiny spark of hope in those eyes, and Steve leans forward to press a familiar kiss to Bucky’s forehead.
Bucky jerks and Steve pulls away quickly in case it’s too much for him, but Bucky’s looking at his own right hand, where Tony’s hands have come to rest on top of Bucky’s.
“Hey, so I’m the genius and I had this genius idea, wanna hear it? Tony asks in a quiet voice. Bucky nods. “I know I love Steve and I know he still loves you. I like you and I could theoretically love you. So wanna date us?”
Bucky looks at Tony, and then at Steve, who nods in agreement with Tony.
“I… you’re both happy. I can live the rest of my life and be friends with you two,” Bucky whispers. “I could live with it.”
“I know, Bucky,” Steve reaches forward to pull away a strand of hair, tucking it behind Bucky’s ear. “And if that’s what you want, I’m happy with it. We can just be best friends. But, if you want and only if you want, we could be a lot more.”
Bucky takes a short, shaky breath, and then leans forward to steal a kiss, touching his lips to ones he hasn’t touched in seventy years. Steve knows those lips, and it’s that single touch that reminds him how much he’s missed this. He leans in, reaching for Bucky’s shirt. After seventy years and all the parts of Bucky that have evolved, he still kisses like he always did, wholly and openly. They pull apart, breathe in deeply and reach for each other again. Steve needs to touch Bucky, press his fingers over Bucky’s face, his neck, his shoulders. It’s hello all over again.
Bucky’s first to pull away, just so he can look at Tony.
“It’s okay,” Tony tells Bucky. “I like it when you kiss him. It makes him happy.” But Tony looks a little scared. Bucky sees it too, the way Tony’s edging a little away from them. Bucky doesn’t let him get too far, leaning over to cover Tony’s mouth with his. Tony tightens his hold on Bucky’s hand even as he reaches for Steve with his other hand. They’re beautiful, the two of them. His boys. They’re his. It takes Steve's breath away.
“So, can I count that as a yes?” Tony asks when they pull apart for a breather.
“Yes,” Bucky says into where Tony’s neck meets shoulder. “I’ll go out with the two of you. When?”
“How about now? Let’s ditch those losers in the kitchen and go to iHop,” Tony suggests. Bucky laughs against Tony.
“You know they’ll just follow us,” Steve warns, but he’s smiling.
“Fine. Breakfast in the penthouse. And if they follow us up, we can just be extra gross and kiss, make Clint run for the hills.”
The others don’t follow them up, and only a little later, JARVIS tells them the goose eggs are hatching. Tony still adamantly refuses to get Clint a black AmEx, and Clint tries to get revenge by gosling. So Steve kisses Bucky, which shuts everyone up except for the goslings.
Tony takes the opportunity to sweep the gaggle of geese in his arms and runs towards the windows. Steve and Bucky can only watch in amusement as the rest of the Avengers run for Tony to save their beloved birds.
“The twenty-first century is nuts, Stevie,” Bucky tells him.
“No, the twenty-first century is fine. Everyone in this tower is nuts.”
“You’re dating two of them, ya punk.”
“Well, I also live in this tower. Guess I’m just nuts too,” Steve leans in to kiss Bucky’s cheek. “Now shall we go save the geese?”
“Nah, they’ll be fine, Tony loves them. This breakfast on the other hand,” Bucky smirks, pointing to the full plates of waffles, “will be cold by the time those nellies sort out the mess they’re making. And that’d be a damn shame. What say we take three plates and head to the lab?”
“And they say I’m the man with the plan.” Steve’s cheeks ache from smiling. “Lead on, Sergeant.”