Circumstances - the earth-shattering kind - the literal earth-shattering, Norse gods falling from the sky, Hulks rising from smoking rubble kind of circumstances made odd bedfellows, Tony supposed. Or however the hell Shakespeare said it. It seemed like one of his idioms, didn’t it? Just so insightful. So fucking fitting.
Tony could scowl and stare at Barnes and his wide, neanderthal forehead and think about how this situation was just so Shakespearean , what with the two houses or whatever… Tony didn’t really know, but it felt like Shakespeare, felt like a stupid poem, something that a ten year old surrounded by sixteen year olds could fall asleep to. Felt like something that should be analysed and reanalysed and debunked and credited as someone else’s fault years down the line.
But circumstance brought them together, had them under the same roof, kept Tony from calling up a suit and blasting another arm off of the bastard. Instead, when it became too much, he would just go through the files FRIDAY compiled for him about the man who killed his mother and try to remember that the man was nothing more than a weapon at the time. Freight car indeed.
He had to work himself up to being alone in a room with the man.
He couldn’t quite tell if it was rage or fear that made it so hard, but he knew it had to be one of the two or possibly both. He just knew that his body grew hot and his heart beat faster and his clammy hands needed to fist and unfist or else he would use his hands to pull all his hair out.
So yeah, working himself up to being in a room alone with Barnes took some time, but he would do it. He would stay in common rooms, he wouldn’t flit out of the kitchen as he usually did - found out that Barnes was one of the ones contributing to the coffee grind collection in the sink - he even stayed in the gym when the soldier would come in, demolish a piece of equipment with his flesh arm and sheer force of will and then leave. They would even speak now.
And it wasn’t comfortable, but it was what they had and what it looked like was going to be had for awhile. Still, Tony decided that he couldn’t leave well enough alone - a decision he makes often - and he couldn’t leave it to just their usual greetings one day.
“I heard you were a good teacher.”
Brow furrowed, Barnes lifted his head and directed his usual scowl Tony’s way. “Who told you that?”
“People tell me things. I have one of those faces,” he assured the other man as he shrugged out of his hoodie. He tossed it onto the treadmill he had just abandoned and moved to the training mats in the middle of the gym.
Barnes looked skeptical, but eventually just downed the rest of his water and shrugged. “What do you wanna learn?”
“Teach me how to kill you, soldier,” Tony said. “With my bare hands.”
“You’d think they had you pickled all these years to preserve some kind of skill, but I guess wrong.”
Eventually, he goaded Barnes enough to stop holding punches. Probably.
They sure as hell hurt like nothing was being held back.
“Maybe if I start spouting random words at you, you’ll come at me with something more interesting. Foxtrot. Chupacabra… Ocelot, hmm?”
That one made Barnes snort, but his fists became a little harder for Tony to dodge and then, eventually, impossible to dodge at all.
“C’mon, you son of a bitch. My mother hits harder than you and she’s dead.”
Being slammed face first into a concrete wall didn’t teach him much about killing anyone, bare handed or not, but he did learn that it could feel good. Like satisfaction.
“What do you want from me, Stark?” the soldier ground out, warming the back of his neck with his breath and sending shivers down his spine anyway. One of his hands was pulled tight behind his back, all the other would have to do was shift his hand up and Tony’s entire arm would dislocate. Barnes was tense and breathing heavily behind him, surely not because of any workout Tony could’ve given him and he relished in it . “What do you want?”
“World peace. Wool socks.”
“What do you want from me?”
“Does it keep you awake at night?” Tony asked readily this time and Barnes was just as quick with his answer.
“I want it to stop keeping me awake at night.”
“What do you want me to do?” Barnes growled again. Tony could feel him growing even tenser, he could hear the whine just behind the growl of hopeless unknowing. Barnes had been poked and prodded by the best of them, had had any conditioning drained from him and Tony knew he still had the aftertaste of decades worth of kills in his mouth, but he didn’t care. He still didn’t care.
“I want you to look at me,” Tony spat, his words slurring into the frothing corner of his mouth where it was still pressed against the wall. “I want you to look at me. Every moment of every day - even the days when you and your butt buddy are remembering your paper route or what the fuck ever - I want you to see me and remember what my mother’s throat felt like in your fist.”
“I don’t need to look at you to remember that.”
“But you will,” Tony promised. And when Barnes let him go and left the gym, he stayed slumped against the wall. Stayed there until his blood stopped rushing through his ears and his heart stopped threatening to hop out of his chest.
Needless to say, he never learned how to kill Barnes with his bare hands.
But his words… he knew how to use those. Even when they weren’t his own.
And, oh, how he did use them. At every moment he could. In front of the group and in private - oh, especially in private when Barnes was already quiet and vulnerable and retrospective and all plump, pouty lips and self loathing. Tony could waltz into the room, perch himself on the arm of a chair and wait until the bastard would look at him. They would search out for the understanding they had with one another in their locked gazes and Tony would open his mouth and ask, “What are you thinking about today, soldier?”
And the answer would always be as ugly and bloody as he hoped it would be. Tony felt like a confessional, like polished wood pockmarked and stained with whispered sins and, hell yes, he would be awake that night due to the chilling account Barnes gave of torturing a man’s family in front of him, one toddler toe at a time, but Barnes would be just as awake that night and wasn’t that just lovely?
What was it called? Misery loving company? Another Shakespearean idiom?
Tony’s own words, sharp as they were, couldn’t come close to the damage that the memories that came from Barnes sometimes wrought, but God forbid that ever stop him from trying.
Once, while discussing the alliance between the Avengers and Peter Quill and his space pirates who don’t do anything, Tony waited until the room had quieted down, still slightly jovial from an anecdote from Thor concerning the tree alien and his first encounter with Thanos’ daughter before she was more machine than blue.
“What about you, Barnes?” Tony asked, then watched, enraptured at the way that smile started to crumble at the edges and then work itself in, all in the span of Barnes turning his head from Steve to him. “In your time you’ve travelled to exotic places, met new faces and shot holes into them, I’m sure. Maybe Hydra rented you out for a week or so, sent you after diplomats’ daughters to pillage and other things that go with pillaging? You’ve gotta have a few stories under all that hair, right?”
And tension snapped into the room with the quickness of one of Clint’s arrows. And Tony loved it.
“I’ve got some stories, yeah,” Barnes said, casually leaning back in his chair and draping his metal arm across the top of it, his eyes bringing new meaning to his code name. “You want me to tell one?”
Tony smiled just as icily. “Tell that one about the ambassador’s daughter in Paris.”
And just as Barnes opened his mouth to tell it, the masochistic son of a bitch, all eyes in the room wide and on him, Steve cut in, “You’re out of line, Tony.”
“Fuck your lines, Steve,” he countered, his throat tightening as soon as his heart leapt up into it. Steve just squared his shoulders as if waiting for the weight of whatever Tony was going to push on him. “You don’t get to draw those anymore. You don’t get to tell me how to feel .”
“It’s not his fault.”
“He’s a walking encyclopedia of every major kill in the last century. He’s nothing but assassin muscle memory and the one time you guys went to Coney Island, but sure, lean towards that. It’s not like he killed anyone you were unfrozen enough to care about.”
“Fuck you, Steve.”
And even despite the way Steve looked at him now, resigned and disappointed and always on the cusp of anger, Tony’s only regret was not anticipating how this entire situation could backfire on him.
“So when are you gonna start sharing some stories of your own, Stark?”
Tony was in his workshop, music not blaring for once as he was working on something delicate and small enough to keep him accidentally pricking himself with the tools, but for all the quiet, he never would have heard Barnes come in anyway. It was late, maybe it was considered early on this side of midnight, but Tony had not slept yet and the dark circles under Barnes’ eyes mirrored the sentiment. Tony knew from experience how dangerous he was when he was tired and he could tell he was going to learn a whole new lesson from the soldier. He wasn’t wrong.
“Tell me a lil’ something about Gulmira,” Barnes prodded when Tony continued to do nothing but stare at him blurrily. He could feel himself pale and he could tell the other man noticed by the way his mouth quirked up in the corner. “How many children live in a village the size of Gulmira?”
“Seventy-four,” Tony replied readily, chest aching like he still had to breathe around an arc reactor, and Barnes nodded, eyes cold but solemn as he moved closer to him, his heavy boots making noise now, just barely. Tony didn’t move away, didn’t even breath again until Barnes had pulled up a chair less than a foot away from him and straddled the back of it, propping his chin on his arms so he could look into Tony’s captive gaze.
“And how many children live in a village the size of Gulmira after you?” he asked softly. Tony could feel the question brush against his lips.
“How many mothers?”
He felt a tear drop at that question and he looked at the other in shock. “I never… I’ve-I-I…” He’d never thought of that. How many mothers had he left childless? How many children had he left motherless?
“How do you sleep at night?” Barnes’ expression gave nothing away, but his voice did and Tony felt so much - too much shame from the disgust he found there he could finally will himself to look away. “No,” was what he heard when a cold, vibranium finger trailed the line of his beard to turn his face back to the other man’s. “I want you to look at me. And I want you to tell me all the ugly little pieces of you, you pathetic shit.”
He bit back a sob, swallowed it in a way that left his throat burning, but he found enough of a voice to ask, “What do you want to know?”
“Start with North Korea and we’ll work our way west, yeah Merchant?”
“I’d give all my fame for a keg… I think Thor said that once.”
“Does drinking even help anymore?”
“From my experience, no. It just makes me want to blast holes in the walls. Which, I think was only helpful the once.”
“It burns through me too quickly. The hangovers stick around though. Hair of the dog, every few sips.”
But they drank anyway. Sat on the floor amongst the bottles. Well, Barnes sat and Tony slumped and eventually sank onto his side because he was old and didn’t have Red Skull blood in him.
“Does sex help?” Barnes asked, eyes on Tony’s hip where his shirt had lifted just enough to show that his pants had become loose and baggy on him.
“Help you forget? Help you feel numb? Help you sleep? Help at all?”
He rolled to his back and swept a hand through the air between them. “Feel free to check an’ see.”
Barnes crawling onto his lap was not as sobering as he thought it would be. Finally, the man he had been taunting for weeks was close enough to sink into, to hate hands on, and his senses were going nuts for it. He wanted Barnes to taste like blood, but he only tasted like his own brandy and salt. He wanted Barnes’ hands to squeeze him too hard, to bruise him, but the calloused and too slick things just ran over his skin, back and forth, never grabbing, never even trying to hold on. He was the one that held on. He was the one that yanked their clothing off, the one that scraped his nails down a spine, the one that opened up his legs and invited the hand that killed his mother to stroke him off.
And it didn’t help him to forget a damn thing, but his body didn’t care.
Barnes bit against his throat and the space beneath his ear with his panting and heavy breaths that grew laced with desperate whines once he got his fingers into Tony. Tony didn’t want those fingers for too long, he wanted his side of pain from Barnes, he wanted it raw and tight and caustic inside of him so he could beat on broad shoulders and gasp into the air justified. And still the other wouldn’t give him want he wanted.
Stretched across a concrete floor, drunk and aching, legs draped over another man’s arms with super soldier pressing his length into him and Tony couldn’t hurt enough, he could only arch into pleasure and let his eyes blur.
“I fucking hate you. I hate... Oh God, don’t stop,” he bit out, pulling the other into his neck by his hair. The soldier was rolling his hips, his dick sinking deeper inside with each return, making Tony’s thighs burn as he attempted to stay suspended in air enough to take and take and take. Barnes moved like a machine, his arm glinted in the corner of Tony’s eye and it just made each piston forward hotter, better. He licked along the sharp edges of that arm, nibbled on a shoulder that tasted like sweat and engine oil and he only wanted more, thought that he would always want this and that he had always wanted this.
Finally, the metal hand caught his hair and yanked his head back, exposing his neck to the bastard who just bared his teeth at it and fucked him harder, pounded into him until he started to go boneless and blissfully numb to anything not Bucky Barnes and not the hand around his cock and not the rough voice telling him he was going to be filled to the brim and then fucked opened again and again because he deserved it.
“So where did you learn this? Pretty sure this isn’t a skill you’d learn in a POW camp. I certainly didn’t learn anything like this from my stint in a cave.”
Those pale eyes just continued to look up at him.
“I learned how to strain tea through a sock. That’s my only new skill.”
Those eyes never even blinked.
“C’mon Barnes, tell me how you learned to suck dick.”
Those eyes never wavered and Barnes just hollowed his cheeks and let Tony arch even further into his throat. Tony broke eye contact then, gave up grunting out commentary to the brick wall of the soldier’s scruffy face and just let his head drop back so the ceiling could hear him moan unhindered.
Barnes’ throat only seemed to get tighter around him, so hot and bottomless that Tony whimpered every time he sunk further into it and gasped whenever the other man pulled back and left his dick wet and naked in the night air.
“More,” he growled at one such moment, curving his hands into the back of the other’s skull, thick hair tangling around his fingers as he was allowed to shove forward. “Take it. Take it all. ” And Barnes did, without complaint and unblinkingly. Even when his throat began to spasm, he’d just stroke up Tony’s thighs reassuringly and bob his head a few times until he could breathe properly again. “Please!”
And he looked it up later. Shakespeare never said that misery loved company. Apparently, misery had no other antidote than hope. Then again, Tony was just paraphrasing.