Chapter 1: Cheap Lay, Expensive Whiskey
“He’ll recognize me. But that’s the point, ain’t it?”
“Exactly the point.”
Bucky dropped the tablet back onto the table and looked at Fury. “I’m supposed to remind him of his dad? Annoy him into playing nice?”
“Just a little illustration of there being more things on heaven and earth than Tony Stark has dreamed of.”
“And he tells everyone I’m alive?”
“Everyone important knows the Winter Soldier works for us. We order Stark not to tell that Bucky Barnes is still alive, and we find out who he talks to when we tell him not to.”
Well, yeah, the fact that the Winter Soldier worked for SHIELD was known by just about every intelligence agency and serious bad guy in the world. But the fact that the Winter Soldier was Bucky Barnes wasn’t common knowledge, and frankly, Bucky preferred it that way. It wasn’t important from an intelligence point of view, it was just... hell, he didn’t like people knowing how low he'd sunk compared to who he was before. So he didn’t try very hard to disguise his annoyance at being paraded around like some war souvenir. But he knew why Fury was doing this. He’d screwed up badly on his last mission in Turkmenistan (though there had been a lot of external circumstances screwing him over at the same time), and this was punishment. It probably amused Fury to be able to get two guys pissed in one efficient action.
So he was sprawled on Stark’s couch when the guy walked in. Not a bad recovery from seeing Fury unexpectedly in his house, and, huh, more attractive in real life than on TV, and he was pretty hot on TV.
Fury introduced himself, but not Bucky. A nice touch, get Stark interested enough to give Bucky a good look. Stark didn’t go for it at first, the guy was smart enough to know when he was being played. But Bucky could see the curiosity and the dawning recognition as Fury explained the Avengers Initiative.
“This Exhibit A for your initiative? You cloned Captain America’s sidekick?”
“Not a clone. The original.”
Bucky grinned at Stark.
Stark checked him out, which Bucky was fairly certain was just intended to make him feel uncomfortable. “Looking good for ninety.”
Thing was, Bucky didn’t just get in people’s pants for fun, but for work too. He was a damn professional at this shit. He let his grin spread, checked Stark out thoroughly, top to toe. A good lingering look at his package, finally ending up with his best ‘fuck me’ eye contact. “I work out.”
He could tell that had put Stark off his stride for a moment (no-one ever expected the guy from the forties to swing both ways), but only for a moment. Fury wasn’t reacting to it at all. Hell, Bucky wouldn’t have put it past him that this had been his plan in the first place.
“Got Captain America stashed somewhere as well? Wait, no, no point bringing the sidekick if you have the real deal.”
Bucky had known that was coming and had prepared himself for it. So he didn’t react at all, even though it scratched the old scars of his grief for what felt like the millionth time.
Stark was still talking. “Sorry, Fury, but I’m not a joiner. However many hot pensioners you have on staff.”
“Oh, but you have joined, Mr Stark. Whatever you may care to think about it. And everything you have heard tonight, everyone you have seen, is classified top secret.” Fury started to walk to the door, and Bucky stood up to follow him. “We’ll be in touch.”
“And I’ll be upgrading my security.” As they got to the door, Stark said, “But hey, Barnes, you ever want to come round for a workout-” Stark grinned at him and Bucky grinned back.
Taking up Stark on that offer would be a terrible idea, which was why Bucky was finding it so appealing.
In the car Fury said, “I will remind you that any interactions you may have with Tony Stark will require a full report.”
“That’s not ‘don’t do it’.”
“It doesn’t compromise any current strategies.”
“Is it part of any current strategies?”
“If we could get to Stark through one of his conquests, we’d have done it already. And don’t give me any wiseass bullshit about them not being you, Barnes.”
Bucky smiled. “Sir.”
So the next night , having checked Stark’s schedule, Bucky broke into his house again. He only bothered disabling any security measures that might prove fatal. He could stand to announce his presence, he had been invited after all.
As soon as he got through side door into the house, Stark’s creepy AI said, “Good evening, Sergeant Barnes. I have alerted Mr. Stark to your presence. He will be with you presently.”
Bucky was heading straight to the bar he’d noticed the previous night. “He say anything about not helping myself to his booze?”
“Good.” Bucky picked a bottle of whiskey at random and poured himself a generous glass, then dropped onto the couch. The whiskey tasted odd, which either meant it was very expensive or very cheap, and given the surroundings he’d guess the former.
Or Stark had poisoned the whole bar. Bucky looked at his glass. He could clear some poisons without much problem, but there were still things out there that could kill him, especially in high doses. Nah, nothing in Stark’s profile suggested he was that paranoid. And he was enough of an alcoholic to consider booze pretty sacrosanct. Someone else could have tampered with it, but then he’d be up for a fucking commendation for saving the bastard’s life.
Bucky was about half-way through his glass when Stark walked in.
“Didn’t think you’d come.”
Bucky gave a lazy, sleazy smile. “Haven’t yet.”
“This a mission?”
“Anyone who thinks you can fuck information out of someone is a fucking idiot. I ain’t on the clock. But you want to give me a spare one of those Iron Man suits, I ain’t saying no.”
Stark nodded at Bucky’s metallic arm. “I’d have to go for a completely new design with your arm. That’s too much like commitment.”
Sparkling conversation had not been on Bucky’s agenda for the evening, so he put his glass down, stood up and kissed Stark. It was a little strange to lean down to kiss him, as Stark gave off the impression of being taller than he actually was . Stark kissed him back, then unexpectedly pulled away as soon as Bucky slipped his tongue into his mouth.
Stark picked up the still half-full glass and sniffed it. “JARVIS? You let him drink the Glen Garioch?”
“You did not instruct me to prevent this, sir.”
Stark looked at him. “That costs over two thousand dollars a bottle.”
“So I ain’t a cheap lay.” He took the glass from Stark and knocked back the rest of the whiskey.
“And you looked like such a nice boy on the newsreels. Or were you just polite for Captain America-”
Bucky cut him off. “You want this evening to go anywhere, you stop mentioning Steve.” He could see that Stark was about to say something, and cut him off again, “Rules, Stark, I don’t talk about him, I don’t listen to people talk about him. And I ain’t explaining myself to you.”
“Call me Tony. What do I call you anyway? Don’t tell me it’s still-”
“Bucky. Yeah. It is. It’s my name. Problem? You prefer Sergeant?” He kissed Tony again, a little bit of aggression in there, trying to work out what pushed Tony’s buttons.
When Tony drew back he said. “Military chic is out this year. Just don’t expect me to yell your name in bed without snickering.”
“That means we get to your bed, right?”
“Of course. You are ninety, anything too athletic and you’ll break a hip-”
“I’m good, it’s just if I accidentally break you then SHIELD garnishes my pay.”
“Nickel a week. You ain’t all that.”
“I am all that. And more. You wouldn’t be here otherwise.”
Bucky knew when he was beat. He smirked at Tony and said, “Lead on, Iron Man.”
He’d expected some questions about how he’d lost the arm but no, Tony was an engineer first and foremost. He was openly fascinated with the metal arm, how it moved and reacted. “Crude, but beautiful in its own way. If I could look inside-”
“Thought not.” And then Tony’s attention entirely switched, ignoring the arm in favor of the rest of him.
Bucky had been half-expecting Tony to be less than impressive in the sack. Guy had looks, money and power, he could be a lousy lay and still get people into bed with him. But seemed that Tony took sex as seriously as engineering, and was almost as good at it.
They were fucked out on the bed when Tony said, “Not bad for a cheap lay.”
“Fuck you, Tony.” Yeah, a damn good fuck if it had screwed all the comebacks out of him. But that was pretty awful from Tony too, so he’d given as good as he’d gotten.
He got up and started cleaning himself up and redressing.
Tony watched him for a few moments before saying, “So, does all this go in an official report to Director Grumpy?”
“I knew it was one of the seven dwarfs-”
“And yeah, it does. I’m giving you an 8 on technical execution and a 7 on artistic impression. Gonna have to check see where that puts you in the rankings.”
“Eight? Tell them they need to send more judges.”
He might as well reinforce Fury’s message while he was here, see if Tony was capable of keeping his mouth shut. “I know you ain’t gonna pay any attention to this, but I wasn’t here, you ain’t ever met me. I’m dead.”
“I was looking forward to telling Rhodey I’d fucked a SHIELD Agent. I think we agreed that was worth at least twenty points-”
“Tell him you fucked a SHIELD Agent. But no names. No hints.”
“You’re a nameless, faceless, inhuman operative of governmental interference, got it.”
Bucky finished lacing his boots, grinned, and said, “That’s the job description. Night, Tony.” And he walked out.
Honestly, he expected that to be that. A great night, reinforcing his instinct to follow through on all his terrible ideas, but nothing more than that.
Tony, apparently, had other ideas.
The next morning he opened his e-mail, and in amongst the usual SHIELD garbage was one that was titled ‘Hi Bucky’ from what he knew to be Tony’s personal email account. He knew he probably shouldn’t open it, what with email exploits and all that crap. But if Tony had hacked SHIELD enough to get Bucky’s email address they were well beyond that point.
The email just said, You break into my house, I break into your systems. You going to break in again?
Bucky decided to write his report first. SHIELD had templates for everything, including recreational or accidental contact with a person of interest. It didn’t have a rating scale for sex. He would have been tempted to add one if there was even the slightest chance it would get a reaction from Coulson. He attached the e-mail to the report and sent it.
Then his phone buzzed. Text message from an unknown number: I know you read my email. Not even a little praise for such a thorough takedown of your security?
He sighed and walked over to Coulson’s desk. He waved his phone at Coulson. “Add to that report that Stark’s got my phone number as well.”
Coulson nodded. “I already ordered you a new sim as a precaution.”
“And the email?”
“It’s a potential avenue of compromise, but Mr Stark can be persistent. You may reply if you wish.”
“Still not part of an operation?”
Bucky wasn’t sure if this was true or not. He could well be being played. But if he was having fun, then what the hell.
He went back to his desk and replied to Stark’s e-mail, Only if I get the good whiskey.
A reply a few moments later, Rebottling cheap garbage into expensive bottles as we speak.
He was about to reply when he realised that he could spend most of his day doing this. Which would not get him back into Fury’s good books after Turkmenistan, and if he didn’t get back into Fury’s good books he’d be stuck on the most shitty, boring, uncomfortable missions. All SHIELD email was closely monitored, and Coulson (and thus Fury) would know damn well that he wasn’t working.
But it was completely okay to email Stark at lunchtime. Timestamp on the emails would show it was lunchtime, and he was allowed a break when he wasn’t in the field. He wrote, Didn’t know you cared.
From Tony, My expensive whiskeys and I have a long, deep and enduring relationship.
Bucky smirked to himself. Your whiskey didn’t want to be drunk, it shouldn’t have made itself so available.
From Tony, You don’t get away with slut-shaming my booze.
Bucky smirked again. Whatcha gonna do about it?
He looked at the time. End of lunchbreak, back to reality, ignore Tony’s emails until he was off the clock and at the nameless motel that he was staying in while he was on the west coast.
Which turned out to be a damn good thing, as Tony’s reply had been lengthy, detailed and completely filthy. He’d read that at work and he’d have either had to spend the rest of the afternoon with a hard-on, or go jerk off in the bathroom. And if you worked with covert agents all the damn time, they’d damn well know you were jerking off in the bathroom as a result of an email from Tony Stark, and fuck, no, that was not something he wanted to deal with.
So he had two options. One, a good, lazy, satisfying jerk off to a reread of the email, dignity still vaguely intact. Or two, go straight back to Tony’s like he couldn’t get through twenty-four hours without fucking going back for more. Option two was obviously the worst option, so he was already heading to his car.
He broke in the same way he had the previous night, but this time Tony was sitting on the couch in the living room, tablet on his knees and whiskey in his hand.
“Going to install an Agent-flap on that door. Course, you’ll have to wear a magnetic collar. I don’t want stray Agents coming in.”
He sat on the couch next to Tony. “You fed me booze. Feed an Agent booze and they just keep coming back.” He leant in and kissed Tony. Then in one smooth movement he took the glass of whiskey out of Tony’s hand, pulled back from the kiss and downed the drink.
“That was much less expensive.”
“I can tell, it tasted better.”
Tony winced. “Low standards are one thing-”
“I started drinking during Prohibition. You won’t believe how low my standards are.”
“You coming back a second night, does that I mean I get to know anything? Like why you don’t look ninety, why you’re even alive, who built that arm-”
“Nope. Play nice with Fury and he might tell you. Might.”
Tony made an exaggeratedly disappointed face. “Guess we’ll just have to fuck then.”
The next morning Bucky deliberated for a few minutes before writing his report on the previous night’s activities. Eventually he settled on one line “Please see yesterday’s report, but for all occurrences of ‘twice’ substitute ‘three times’.”
And somehow, without even thinking about it, it became routine. They’d snark and flirt at each other over email and whenever they were in the same postal district they’d fuck. Bucky never told Tony where he’d be ahead of time, he hadn’t gone completely stupid, but he had access to Tony’s calendar. Sometimes Tony wasn’t where he should be, but a simple email informing him of the fact that Bucky was naked in his bed was usually enough to remedy that.
The fact that SHIELD could read all of this didn’t concern Bucky in the slightest. Perhaps if he spent some time with Tony cooking up some seriously elaborate system they could have some form of communication that SHIELD couldn’t monitor. But it was probably better this way. It meant they couldn’t ever argue that they didn’t know how compromised he was. So whatever the fuck they would lay on him concerning Tony in the future, it was officially Not Agent Barnes’ Fault.
The nature of being a SHIELD agent meant that there could be weeks when he couldn’t even check his email. And Tony would go off the grid for a few days at a time when something really interesting or important caught his attention. But that didn’t seem to matter. It was like one single conversation, however much it was interrupted.
It had been going on a few months when he met Rhodey and Pepper. Of course, he’d heard all about them from Tony, and the fact that they were just about the only two people in the world that Tony was regularly positive about had made Bucky ask, “So why aren’t you dating either of them?”
“Perhaps if Rhodey wasn’t the straightest guy on the planet, and Pepper wasn’t the gayest woman. Or lesbianest. Is lesbianest a word?”
“Pepper’s a lesbian?”
“Apparently the dungarees are optional. And I’m not allowed to ask to watch.”
“That was the first thing you said when you found out, right?”
“Maybe. And she might have resigned after the third time I asked.”
Bucky was grinning, because he could just imagine it. “You had to beg to get her back.”
“I do not beg. I merely offer very competitive employment packages.”
From the way he talked about them it sounded like Pepper and Rhodey were pretty special people. So, to be honest, he’d rather have been introduced to them in a context that wasn’t them walking in on him fucking Tony over a table.
Though this had probably happened before, from the way that Pepper turned on her heel and said, “JARVIS, remember I told you to specify why Tony didn’t want to be disturbed.”
“Sorry Ms. Potts, Colonel Rhodes.”
Tony shouted after her, “Be with you in five!”
And that meant “don’t stop”, which Bucky was more than okay with.
Five minutes later he was clean and presentable and smiling his most ingratiating smile at Pepper and Rhodey. And kicking himself for getting too damn lax about things, to allow the two of them to get a look at his arm uncovered. Too late to cover it now, but damage control was in order.
“Pepper, Rhodey, this is Agent I’m Not Allowed To Tell You His Name.”
“Hi.” He could feel Rhodey’s attention on the arm. There were wheels turning there. He knew that the Winter Soldier’s most memorable feature was common knowledge in intelligence, but didn’t know if that held for the military. Fuck, of course it did. There was enough crossover of personnel, and the military was worse than a mothers’ meeting for gossip.
Pepper smiled brightly. “Tony’s told me a lot about you. However often I told him I really, really didn’t want to know. Apart from your name, of course.”
And that meant that Tony had told her his name. But had managed not to tell Rhodey, otherwise the attention he was getting would have been different. He could go for subtle, but they were kind of beyond that.
“Something you wanna say, Colonel?”
“You’re the Winter Soldier.”
Bucky looked him in the eye and deadpanned, “Who’s the Winter Soldier?”
Tony looked between the two of them. “If this is some military porn thing-”
Rhodey cut him off, evidently practiced in this. “The Winter Soldier was a codename for an assassin. Or assassins. Worked for the Soviets, then for the Russians. He was almost a myth, they said that if he wanted to kill you, he’d kill you, didn’t matter how good you were, how much security you had. There was a rumour he’d defected a few years back. And the one thing that the myths agreed about was his left arm. They said the star was red, but I’d understand a defector getting a repaint.”
If he’d worn a larger t-shirt, rather than one that was deliberately, provocatively tight, then the white points of the base of the star would have been hidden under it. Yeah, he’d gotten careless around Tony. Just a good thing that he was paying for it this way, rather than something fatal.
“Under Section 35 of the Strategic Homeland Defense Act, sharing any information pertaining to a SHIELD Agent without clearance can be considered an act of treason.”
“So you are the Winter Soldier.” said Rhodey.
“Did I say that?”
Tony said, “Stop the spy bullshit. JARVIS, tell me about the Winter Soldier.”
“Almost entirely rumour and hearsay, sir. As Colonel Rhodes said, an assassin and covert agent in the service of the Soviets and then the Russian Federal governments, whose only distinguishing feature was noted to be a metal left arm. Linked to Department X and the Red Room, both of which are thought to have been part of the scientific wing of the KGB. The Russian government formally denied that either agency ever existed in 2000, but most intelligence analysts reject this. Also linked with the assassin known as the Black Widow. The Winter Soldier is posited to have been active from approximately 1950 to at least 2002, leading to the assumption that it was a codename for multiple agents. Estimates of the Winter Soldier’s kills vary widely, but most believe the number to be around 800. Rumours of the Winter Soldier’s defection surfaced in 2005, in connection with an incident in Gdansk.”
“JARVIS, why didn’t you tell me this before?”
“You didn’t ask, sir.”
Tony looked at Bucky.
“What, you thought I worked at a kitten sanctuary?”
“There is a whole world of difference between a SHIELD Agent and an assassin with a kill count of over 800.”
Bucky shrugged, picked up his jacket from where he’d thrown it over the couch, and said, “Nice knowing you, Tony.” before turning to leave.
None of them stopped him. He didn’t expect them to.
What he hadn’t expected was how bad he felt. And kept feeling worse, every day getting a little more morose. It had been fun, a wild ride, and he expected to miss that. But this was something else. He seriously, honestly, missed Tony.
At day three post-breakup (because it damn well had been a breakup, fuck his dignity, Tony Stark had dumped him and he was going to mope over it, fuck what the world and SHIELD thought), Clint turned up at his apartment with a rucksack full of booze.
“What are you, fourteen? You’re getting the department down. Or was it true love?”
“Right, you’re going to get drunk and you’re going to cry or whatever the fuck you need to do to get your shit together. Unless that means getting laid, because I’m not offering. Because you should not be off your game this much over a guy. You’re supposed to be better than this.”
“Fuck that. Winter Soldier’s supposed to be better than that. I’m not the fucking legend.” Clint had opened the bag, and Bucky grabbed the first bottle, opened it and took a swig. Crappy vodka, good choice.
“Yeah, thought this was going to be a pity party. You know how long Stark’s longest relationship lasted?”
“You’re gonna tell me.”
“You already know, because that was the longest relationship Stark’s ever had with one person.”
“What?” He’d known that Tony had a reputation for sleeping around and being linked with every beautiful woman (and a good few handsome men), but Clint had to be bullshitting him.
“When he was thirty, he went out with some starlet for six weeks. Papers called it a mid-life crisis. Apart from you, that was his longest relationship. I think you’re the first person since then he’s nailed for more than one night. You got him for months. So, be thankful, and see it for the aberration that it was.”
“You ain’t making it better.”
“Less pathetic than you. When Natasha told you she needed space you were more of a mess than this.”
“So we’re even.” Clint pulled another bottle out of the bag, and clinked it against Bucky’s bottle.
Clint got him thoroughly, deeply drunk. He didn’t cry, whatever Clint said. Perhaps he couldn’t remember the whole of the evening, but he wouldn’t have fucking cried over Tony fucking Stark. And yeah, he turned up to work the next morning hungover, but it was an admin day, he could do paperwork hungover. Anyone who wasn’t him would have been in the damn hospital, that had to count for something. But he could tell from Coulson’s expression that this was going to be one of the many things that turned up in ‘areas of concern’ in his stupid annual performance review.
It had been worth it. Cathartic. And he was back on his game again as soon as he’d stopped puking. Back to normal.
That was until sixteen days after they broke up (not that he’d been counting), he got an email from Tony. It just said, Bucky Barnes has a confirmed kill count of 104.
He replied, That sounds about right. Your point?
Point, I always knew you didn’t work in a kitten sanctuary.
So what now?
Not even in the same timezone, Tony. Bucky hesitated for a second before writing the next sentence. Would rather be in your bed.
Soon as you get to the same timezone, you get here.
It was a week later when he finally ended up in close enough to Tony to drop in, an expensive hotel suite in Frankfurt. He found Tony sitting with Pepper in the lounge of the suite, obviously being hounded into doing something important.
Before Tony could get a word in edgeways, Pepper said, “Fifteen minutes and he’s all yours.”
Tony made a face, and Bucky just smirked and sat on the couch. Seemed that running a megacorporation was just as dull as Bucky thought it would be.
Finally, Pepper definitively shut the case on her tablet. “Done. I just need to sort some of these papers and I’ll be out of your way.”
“So...” said Tony.
“Are we dating?”
“You’re dating.” said Pepper, pleasantly. “Or you’re in a relationship, whichever you’d prefer.”
Tony inclined his head to her. “She’s usually right.”
“So, you’re okay with dating an assassin.”
“Looks like it. My moral depths are plumbed again.”
“I’m a reformed character.”
“Only people who need killing for the safety and security of the world.”
Pepper stood up and said, “Tony, you have a meeting at nine tomorrow morning, which you are going to attend. Goodnight.” She walked out.
“I get any special benefits if I’m your boyfriend?”
“My dick and my booze not enough for you?”
Bucky laughed. “Yeah, I’m good. But I gotta ask - does Tony Stark do monogamy?”
Tony paused for a moment. “Guess if I don’t want you screwing around either. But you don’t have breasts. I need breasts in my life.”
“So screwing around’s okay if it’s women?”
“How many were you intending on screwing?”
Tony made a face. “No, don’t like that either. Okay, monogamy but if either of us feels the need for a woman, we ask the other first. Pre-arranged, consensual infidelity only.”
“Sure. I’ll copy Pepper in if I need to schedule some pussy, right?”
“Never say that ever again.”
Chapter 2: I Ain't Captain America
It was in bed that night that Bucky noticed the little purple tendrils under Tony’s skin around the arc reactor. “What’s that?”
Bucky knew that was a lie, but also knew that tone of voice meant Tony wasn’t answering any more questions.
That went into his report for SHIELD. He knew that SHIELD had an interest in keeping Tony alive, and hoped they could do something or find something out even if he couldn’t.
So they were back to flirting and snarking and fucking, and that was damn good. But Tony was looking rougher, and the tendrils were getting more distinct, more numerous, spreading further, every time he saw him. And Tony did not, would not talk about it. He was getting more reckless too, though admittedly that was hard to tell with Tony.
Bucky became fairly certain that Tony was dying, and similarly certain that there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it.
Then one evening Natasha turned up at his apartment. “You’re compromised.”
“So this is a warning. I’m going undercover at Stark Industries. You blow my cover, you even accidentally drop a hint, and you will find out just how much I’ve learned since you taught me.”
“I’m not that bad.”
“You’re going to prove it.”
Bucky grinned. “I ain’t gonna give you an excuse to kick my ass.”
Natasha smiled back. “This way, it’s a win-win. Either the job goes smoothly, or I beat you up.”
“Yeah, Tony can find ways to screw your job up that have nothing to do with me. But,” he swallowed, “I’m worried about him, and he ain’t talking to me. You might find out something that means I can help him. If there’s something I could do, something SHIELD wouldn’t do....”
“You’ve got it bad.”
“Don’t even bother telling me how stupid that makes me.”
“You say that like you being stupid is somehow new.”
“Natasha... don’t hurt Pepper.”
“The intention is to get through this mission with as few injuries-”
“You know what I’m fucking talking about. Just- don’t. Okay?”
Natasha cocked her head to one side. “You really are getting to be part of the family, aren’t you?”
“She doesn’t deserve half the shit she gets from Tony to start with-”
“And she’s a grown woman with a valuable skillset, who could get out any time she liked. Don’t try to be a knight in shining armor. It doesn’t suit you.”
It was probably as a result of that conversation that SHIELD decided that he was too much of a risk anyway, and sent him on a mission to the wilds of Kamchatka, so far out of communication that he didn’t see anyone who he didn’t have to kill for three weeks. So he didn’t have an inkling that anything had happened to Tony until he got a message from Natasha at the first point the phone SHIELD had given him for the mission got signal again. It just said, “Tony’s fine, situation resolved. More details on email.”
Even though the message was reassuring, he felt a tightness in his chest. Tony had been in trouble and he hadn’t been there. It wasn’t until he was was waiting for a connecting flight in Tokyo that he saw any footage from the battle. And even though he knew Tony was okay, it still made him want to puke in the middle of the airport concourse.
As soon as he got a chance to securely get to his email, he found that Natasha had copied her report to him, with some additional annotations (mostly along the lines of ‘what the hell do you see in him, actually, I see it, you are both irresponsible, sarcastic, and plain stupid’). And Natasha had apparently decided that her mission objectives could be achieved without seducing Pepper. He wasn’t being a knight in fucking shining armor, he wasn’t out to protect Pepper’s virtue, he was just fond enough of her that he didn’t want her feelings hurt.
He had one message from Tony, Rumors of my death etc etc.
I leave the country for a few weeks and this is what you do. Happy Birthday, by the way.
I get into trouble when I’m bored. Do I get a birthday present?
Like there’s anything you need. He had actually bought Tony a present. In his hand luggage was a matryoshka of an attractive young woman, where each progressively smaller doll was wearing less and less clothes. It was cheap and tacky and so badly made that the smallest dolls were scarcely interpretable as human, let alone erotic. It was just about perfect.
Naked guy in my bed would be good.
I’ll see if there’s anywhere I can find one for you.
When he did turn up at Stark Tower in New York he scooped Tony into a bone-crushing hug that almost swept him off his feet.
“Hey, new parts in the arc reactor, don’t go breaking it-”
“I could have lost you, you idiot.” He released his hold enough to look at Tony.
“Well, now the super-spy knows how it feels when he goes silent for weeks at a time with no warning.”
“You- that worries you?”
“Dating? Relationship? Actually possibly fond of you?”
“Shit. We really are as stupid as Natasha thinks we are.”
“And thanks for the heads up on your ex-girlfriend coming to spy on me.”
“It was the only damn way I was ever gonna find out what the hell was wrong with you. And she would beat the living crap outta me if I broke her cover.”
“She told me that before she left, and told me that I had no right to be mad with you if I wasn’t going to talk to you. Since I think she might come back and kick my ass if I get mad at you, I’m not mad. She is one scary woman.”
“You don’t know the half of it. Oh, and I did get your a present.” He pulled the matryoshka out of his bag.
“It’s horrific,” Tony opened his way through the dolls, “This may be the most horrendous present I’ve ever received in my life.”
“Knew you’d like it.”
“It’s going in the main conference room.”
“So, that new element give you any extra powers? Stamina?”
“Only way to find out is rigorous scientific testing.”
That night he stayed over for the first time. He didn’t say anything, didn’t ask permission, just didn’t move from his position wrapped around Tony. When JARVIS woke them up in the morning, Tony’s only reaction was to mumble into the pillow “Coffee.”
He made coffee for the both of them, having had some very strict lessons on the right way to use the coffee machines, and brought it back to bed. Tony drank and said, “Having you stay over was one of my best ideas.”
Bucky just snorted and got dressed.
“Work. You know, super-spy assassin, who also happens to have contracted hours where he has to turn up at the office?”
“Come back here tonight.”
“I need to go home for clothes-”
“Then come back here after you’ve got clothes. Or come back here naked. I’m good with either.”
When he came back to Stark Tower that night Rhodey was there. “Uh, hi again.”
Tony put his hands up. “Hey, he worked it out all by himself. Nothing to do with me.”
Bucky raised an eyebrow.
Rhodey said, “Blame the History Channel. And a hotel whose cable only carried the History Channel.”
If joining the dots was as simple as that, SHIELD might want to do something about it. He’d report that back in the morning, with a suggestion that the History Channel’s ‘All Nazis All The Time’ schedule was vetted for too many appearances of himself. “So assassins are okay if they’re also war heroes?”
“You work for SHIELD, you haven’t harmed Tony, and he actually seems happier when you’re around. Guess I have to take that on trust. But if you hurt him-”
“If I hurt him I’m gonna die with one of Pepper’s stilettos through my brain before you can do a damn thing about it.”
“He is still here, and quite capable of looking after himself.”
“Sure you can. When was the last time you nearly died and needed Rhodey to save your ass? Oh yeah, last week.”
“You’re ganging up on me.”
Bucky looked at Rhodey and grinned. Rhodey grinned back and said, “Not yet, but it’s a damn good idea.”
Rhodey turned out to be as great a guy as Tony made him out to be, and it was fun evening. Which led to Bucky thinking that maybe he should spend some time with Pepper as well, but he couldn't think of a way of suggesting that which didn’t seem creepy or weird.
Bucky didn’t stay over again. He wanted to, but even though he didn’t have nightmares as often these days, he still had them. The worst ones, he would wake up fighting, and he wasn’t going to risk hurting Tony. Not that he told Tony any of this.
And perhaps Natasha had been right about him developing a knight in shining armor problem, except it was aimed at Tony, not Pepper. He wanted to protect Tony, stop anything bad happening to him, and fuck, how screwed up was that if Tony was Iron Man? But Tony could be caught without the suit, and the likelihood was that Bucky wouldn’t be there to look out for him. So he offered to teach Tony how to fight, “properly, hurting someone so as they can’t hurt you again”.
“This ends up in post-fight sex, right?”
“Impress me first.”
Tony was a fast learner when he was motivated, which wasn’t very often, usually only after something had reminded him of his own mortality again. So Bucky picked his moments, only asking him to spar when he saw that look in his eyes. Training while he was like that both got him to actually learn something, and got him out of his own head, which was a win-win.
It was a few weeks later when Fury dropped his bombshell.
“We need you to become Captain America.”
“The Avengers Initiative needs a leader. Not just a leader, a figurehead. Both combat and symbolic authority. It needs Captain America.”
“Yeah, it does. And I ain’t him.”
“You’re the nearest we’ve got. Between Hydra and Department X you have a percentage of the enhancements that Captain Rogers got from the serum, along with your other augmentation. And you know what it means to be Captain America.”
“Damn right I know what it means. There ain’t nobody who could do what Steve did, especially not a screwup like me. You know I’m unreliable, compromised-”
“Not where it counts. You screw up when you don’t care. When there are lives on the line, you always come through. Captain Rogers saw that. Enough to make you his second in command. So it’s a field promotion. It’s time to step up, Captain.”
He spent the rest of the day looking over the proposals for the Initiative. And cursing Steve for leaving him to deal with this shit on his own. He wasn’t up to this. Even when they were kids and Steve was tiny, Steve was the leader. He missed Steve anyway, but now it was almost a prayer, “Steve, I need ya, I can’t do this on my own.”
At least Tony was in New York as well. Bucky turned up at Stark Tower almost shaking. He looked bad enough that Tony said, “The hell did they do to you?”
“They want me to be Captain America.”
“That it? You’d look damn good in the suit-”
“Tony, I can’t do it. I can’t be him.”
“So tell them to find someone else.”
“I can’t. I- can’t trust anyone else to do it for him.”
“Fury’s your boss, he’s not-”
“Not Fury, Steve. I- he-” Bucky swallowed. “I owe him. And I’m gonna screw this up, but I can’t think of anyone who’d screw up less. And I’m gonna prove I’m the screwup and not the guy he thought I was-”
“And people say I’ve got issues. I’m not your therapist, but you don’t get four figure kill counts by screwing up. Unless you blow something up by accident. And either Steve Rogers was a saint, in which case he’ll forgive you, or he screwed up some of the time as well.”
“That’s pull your shit together and stop moaning, ain’t it?”
“Pretty much. Either go be Captain America, or go tell them where to stick it.”
“A lot more helpful than my therapist.”
“I’m hotter than your therapist.”
“You’ve never met my therapist.”
“Don’t need to, it’s self-evident.”
“Your modesty’s one of your best points, you know?
“Does this mean I can ask about you and Steve Rogers?”
“Nothing to tell. He was my best friend since I was maybe six. That’s all.”
“The way you sound when you talk about him-”
“Look, Steve was something special. Someone to look up to. I wanted to be as good as he was and I never could be.” Bucky sighed. “And if it hadn’t been illegal and if I hadn’t been an idiot and I hadn’t thought he was straight, I’d still have been too much of a damn coward to make a move on him, ok?”
Tony paused for a moment. “You know, I used to really hate him. Way my dad talked about him, like I’d never measure up to him. Thought he must have been a complete asshole. But you have excellent taste in men, so-”
“You are impossible-”
“- So, we ever get time travel, I am officially proposing a threesome. Debauching Captain Perfect would be too good an opportunity to pass up.”
Bucky grinned. “Officially? Gonna put that in writing to Fury? He can’t have Captain America for his initiative because you need to debauch him first?”
“Fury can have him back after. And if you’re going to be Captain America, you come pre-debauched.”
He’d already made his decision, even before speaking to Tony. He just hadn’t liked it. He had to become Captain America, because he was the least worst option. He spent some time just trying to remember, to crystallize in his mind what made Steve the guy that people would follow to the gates of hell. He ignored all the material that SHIELD gave him about Captain America. What he needed to imitate was something intangible, almost magical. The difference between someone being in command and someone being a leader.
And he trained harder, sparred more. He was enhanced, yeah, but he wasn’t a super-soldier. He was tiring himself out, his time with Tony spent half-asleep more than anything. So when he had a day off he decided he was going to be a good boyfriend and pay Tony some attention. When he arrived, JARVIS directed him to Tony’s workshop.
Tony greeted him with, “Captain America needs some upgrades.” He nodded towards a workbench, where there was lying a very familiar looking shield, and a metal arm.
“Top of the arm’s unfinished because you haven’t let me look at how it connects, but that’s easy to add. And the shield isn’t vibranium, so it won’t stand up as well as the original, but it’s the best I can do, and I will guarantee that is better than the best SHIELD can do.”
Bucky walked over to the bench and reached for the shield, stopping just before he touched it. Picking it up last time hadn’t gone so well. But this wasn’t Steve’s shield. This was his shield. He picked it up in both hands, instinctively put it on his right arm as the unprotected one. He hefted it, swung it, felt how it handled.
“The aerodynamics of that are fascinating. I could write a paper on it. Not that you’re interested-”
“Sniper, Tony. Interested in math that helps me hit things.”
Tony had to go back over some of the more complex equations, but it was useful. He’d practice, get the muscle memory he’d need in combat, but the theory would help him work out the best way of using the shield.
Then he let Tony fit the new arm. The last times he’d had the arm changed he’d been under general anesthetic, but he wanted to see it this time. Lidocaine, vicodin and something to bite on made it just about bearable, and worth it for the sense of control.
The arm was fantastic. A dull grey that wouldn’t catch the light, still with the white star at the shoulder. Even better fine control, and he’d had damn good control with the last one. Stronger, as Tony proved by setting up a bunch of stuff for him to punch through. And finally, embedded in the palm, a repulsor.
“So don’t start any fights with me or Rhodey.”
“Yeah, but I carry this all the time, you two gotta get into those suits.”
Tony shrugged. “Calculated risk.”
Shit, that was trust right there. And Bucky had no way to repay it, so he changed the subject. “This and the shield need testing, and I ain’t ever seen you fight in the suit. No repulsors, I like it when Pepper isn’t wanting to kill me.”
Tony grinned. “Thorough scientific testing.”
He grinned back. “Course. We’re not gonna have any fun at all, are we?”
It was a helluva lot of fun. Tony’s suit was amazing, the SHIELD reports and even the footage he’d seen didn’t do it justice. And it allowed him to really test the new arm and the shield. Tony was right, it wasn’t the same, didn’t absorb impacts in the way that Steve’s shield had. But it was still extremely tough, and did absorb some impacts, and it flew through the air beautifully.
And everything was great until Pepper arrived, saying “I am so glad you threw over this afternoon’s meeting in favor of Captain America cosplay.”
Bucky really, seriously, did not like getting Pepper pissed. Testing the shield and arm could have waited. He smiled guiltily at her and said, “Sorry, Pepper.”
“Don’t apologize for him. He claims to be a grown adult, and he can act like one when he wants to.”
“This is a matter of national security-”
“It always is. The board meeting tomorrow morning is non-negotiable, Tony. Bucky, try at least not to distract him.”
“You’re already getting into character.”
“Shut up, Tony.”
So when Loki took the tesseract, he was as ready as he’d ever be to be Captain America. But at every step he knew he was a pale imitation of the real thing. Steve would have had the team organised and working together when the hit came on the helicarrier, rather than them standing around arguing. And Steve certainly would not have ended up arguing with Tony about Tony flirting with Bruce. Bucky was going to blame that one on the weird mind-control device though, as Tony flirting was like Tony breathing, a fact of life, and not one that had ever bothered him before.
Then he nearly watched Tony die.
And that was going to be another addition to his nightmares. Tony flying up, steering a damn nuke, and hell, if he was going to die in combat it fitted he’d do it in the flashiest way possible.
“I have to do this, it’s the only way. Bucky, I..., huh, you know.”
“Tony, I love you, and you are dumping that nuke and coming right back through that portal or god help me I will strangle your ghost.”
Then silence, just static, and he knew the capabilities of the suit, knew that keeping the portal open meant more people dying. So he gave the order to close the portal. That’s what Captain America needed to do. Then seeing the tiny red figure drop through, and the bloom of hope, followed by the sick realization that the figure was falling, not flying. And again, the hope when the Hulk caught Tony, and then thinking that Tony wasn’t breathing.
But apparently Tony was damn hard to kill. After the Hulk roared he gasped, breathed, focussed on Bucky, said, “Don’t strangle me.”
Bucky wasn't sure whether he wanted to cry, kiss him or punch him, and just said, “You’re a fucking idiot.”
They fucked in the shower on the helicarrier, security cameras be damned. That was another reason he shouldn’t be Captain America. Captain America should not think with his dick. But he’d thought he’d lost Tony. Shit, he’d nearly died along with most of the population of New York. That was a good reason to let the adrenaline run its course, to pretend you could fuck away the pain.
Afterwards he ended up looking at the casualty count, wondering how many of them would have been alive if Steve had been in charge rather than him. How many of those deaths he was personally responsible for.
Chapter 3: A Terrible Sense Of Timing
This chapter contains Iron Man 3 spoilers.
Twelve days later, Steve Rogers proved that he had the worst sense of timing known to man. Or rather, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had a terrible sense of timing, since it was one of their survey teams who had unexpectedly come across the remains of a very unusual plane in the Arctic.
SHIELD didn’t tell him until they’d brought Steve back to New York, and he damn near passed out when they did. Then he ran to Steve’s hospital room at speed that he wasn’t sure he’d ever match again, barreled his way through the medics to see Steve lying there, cut out of his uniform, tube in his mouth, covered in monitors, but alive. The medics tried to kick him out, but there was no way he was leaving until Steve came round.
Fury appeared at some point. “Our psychologists are suggesting to mitigate the transition, he should think he’s woken up in 1945. They’re preparing a room upstairs.”
“That is the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. It’ll feel wrong, and that’ll be enough to get him thinking you’re the enemy.”
“And your suggestion would be-”
“Let him wake up like this. Let him see anything he wants to. Give him a long leash and he’ll work it out for himself. It’s gonna be a hell of a shock whatever we do, and he doesn’t like bullshit.”
So Steve woke up in the hospital bed, most of the monitors still in place. Bucky saw him switch into threat response mode and said, “Hey, Steve, you’re okay, you’re in New York-”
Steve sat up, pulling off some of the monitor leads. A nurse ducked in to take the rest of them off him. “Bucky?”
“Yeah, I ain’t dead, which is a long story.”
He could see Steve trying to make sense of his surroundings. Bucky reckoned that it still would register as being a hospital, even though all the machines and equipment would be unfamiliar.
“You coulda crashed someplace better. It took them sixty years to find you. Welcome to the future.”
And Steve wasn’t dumb, he worked through that, “You’re looking well for ninety.”
He grinned. “You too.” Damn, that was making him think about what Tony had said about debauching Captain America, and that was definitely not something appropriate to think about when your best friend had miraculously come back from the dead. It would probably have been easier if Steve had been wearing clothes, rather than being sat there naked apart from the blanket pooled at his waist.
He started talking to cover his discomfort. “So, right, we won the war, the SSR became SHIELD, SHIELD is where you are right now. And I kinda hate you, because they made me be Captain America, and I ain’t any good at it.”
Steve smiled. “You did say you liked the suit. And I’m sure you were great.”
It was so easy being with Steve again, like there hadn’t been any time they’d been apart. He tried to explain everything the best he could, but they talked the way they always had, going off on tangents, and ended up talking about their shared past as much as what Steve had missed. He deliberately skated over his time as the Winter Soldier, just saying that the Soviets had found him and put him in suspended animation, and that SHIELD had brought him back a few years ago. It was a surprise when he looked at his watch to find it was seven in the evening.
“Shit, sorry Steve, gotta go, got plans for this evening.”
“You’ve got a date.”
“No, what I got is a stable, long-term relationship.”
“You sure you’re Bucky?”
“Funny. Anyway, they’re going away for a few days, so I want to see them before they go. See you tomorrow.”
Playing the pronoun game with Steve was not going to end well, but that was another conversation he wasn’t going to have today.
He didn’t bother with any greetings for Tony, just unzipped him and sucked him off.
As soon as Tony got his breath back he said, “So, when’s the world ending? That was an imminent apocalypse blowjob.”
“Nope, that was a reminding you I love you blowjob.” He sat next to Tony. “Steve’s alive. He’s here, at SHIELD. Spent the last sixty years deep-frozen.”
“So, you nailed him and you feel guilty-”
“Did not. He’s- Jesus, just imagine it, missing out on sixty years. He needs a friend, Tony. And you don’t get to get all insecure about me spending time with him.”
“I’m sure I have no worries about you spending time with a supersoldier you already told me you thought about fucking.”
Bucky kissed him. “Yeah, that was what the apocalyptic blowjob was for. I ain’t dumping you, I ain’t cheating on you, and you called dibs on fucking Steve.”
“I called dibs on a threesome.”
“Yeah, so, if being frozen has caused some sort of brain injury that means that Steve is no longer the most awkward person in the world about sex, and he turns out to be gay, and he wants to nail me, I’ll tell him to wait till you’re back in town, okay? And if that happens, you’ll know, cause there’ll be pigs in iron man suits flying past your window.”
Trying to look after the both of them was damned hard. Steve was lost, lonely, grieving and trying to be a damn hero about it all. It didn’t help that the evidence of the attack on New York was still all around them, feeding Steve’s guilt at not being there when he was needed. Bucky couldn’t use his normal way of dealing, which was to talk to Tony so Tony would call him on his bullshit, because talking too much about Steve to Tony would just feed Tony’s insecurities. And Tony, shit, Tony had not taken his brush with death well at all. Not that he would talk about it. He just holed up in his workshop working on whatever new suit or modifications for the suit he’d come up with this time.
He was trying to carry the two of them, and pretend that he was fine, and balance his time so that neither of them were left alone in their own heads for too long. He didn’t know how long he could carry on smiling while he was screaming on the inside.
Then he bumped into Clint in the corridor one morning, and recognized the tautly blank look that Clint was wearing. He grabbed Clint by the arm, probably harder than he’d intended, and said, “You and me, we need to get drunk.”
“Yeah, liver-destroying drunk. And do whatever we need to do to get our shit together. Right?”
And the smile on Clint’s face was weak, but genuine.
This time he brought the booze to Clint. And he did remember crying, but they were both crying, so that meant that neither of them were ever going to mention it again, so that was okay. But he was getting too old for waking up after passing out on the floor. Clint always managed to pass out on a couch or a bed or something comfortable, bastard.
That morning Steve proved again why he was Captain America and Bucky was not, by seeing the way that Clint and Bucky staggered into SHIELD holding each other up and trying to avoid bright lights, and immediately offering to get them both a coffee. Straight up, that was why he was a damn hero.
Steve had briefings and testing and therapy from it seemed a hundred different people in SHIELD. And then if Tony was out of town, Bucky would walk Steve home in the evening, buy him dinner, and give him the no-SHIELD-bullshit versions of what he’d been told. Otherwise Bucky would give him the condensed no-bullshit briefing on the walk home, then go over to Tony’s for what he was thinking of as reassuring I-am-not-nailing-my-best-friend sex. He had no idea what to do about Tony’s state of mind beyond that.
Eventually, after three weeks, he decided that Steve was stable enough that he would be okay (or as near to okay as you could be after losing just about everyone) without him. Which meant it was time for some home truths. There wasn’t a guide to telling someone their best friend was an ex-Soviet assassin and gay, and, hell, Bucky wasn’t even sure which of those Steve was going to react worse to.
They’d eaten and were sat on the couch in Steve’s SHIELD-provided apartment.
Bucky took a deep breath, ran a hand through his hair and said, “Steve, I gotta tell you some things-”
“Your long-term relationship is with a guy.”
Bucky was taken completely by surprise. “I- er- yeah. You guessed? When?”
“Few days ago. You’ve always told me everything about your dates, even when I didn’t want to know. So I figured that if you weren’t telling me anything, then there was something you didn’t want me to know, then I worked out you’d never actually referred to them as ‘she’.”
“Are you- are you okay with that?”
Steve shrugged. “Guess so. I mean, it’s kind of a surprise. Were you always pretending-”
“No, I like girls. I just realised that I like guys too. And ended up with a guy. Uh,” Bucky looked down and smiled, “It’s not just any guy either. I, er, might be dating Tony Stark.”
“Howard’s son? Iron Man?”
“That’s the guy.”
“So tell me about him, idiot.”
“Oh. Yeah. Right. Uh. I kinda wanna say that he’s sweet and kind and all that bullshit, but he’s not, he’s a mouthy sarcastic bastard who does his best to pretend he doesn’t care about anyone, but he does. And he’s arrogant as all hell, but he damn well is the best at everything he’s so arrogant about. You’ll hate him.”
Steve chuckled. “So I get to meet him?”
“Depends. He’s got a problem with you. Not you, actually. What Howard made you out to be, which ain’t you at all.”
“And the other thing you wanted to tell me?”
“About- when I said the Soviets froze me, they didn’t just freeze me-”
“You were the Winter Soldier.”
“Sorry, I didn’t want to bring it up, figured that you didn’t want to talk about it. They briefed me on that my first week.”
Bucky had got a promise from SHIELD that he would be the one who would tell Steve about his past, and by now he should have been prepared for SHIELD promises being worthless, but he was still angry. “Fucking lying bastards! What did they tell you?”
“That the Soviets found you with no memories, decided to turn you into an assassin. Kill count of maybe a thousand. That SHIELD got their hands on you in 2005 and used some device to get your memories back.”
“Yeah, that’s about it. I’ve got a lot to make up for. And if you say a single thing about it not being my fault because I didn’t remember being me, I swear, I will show you how hard I can hit with this arm.”
“So you don’t want to talk about it.”
“Sure as hell don’t. But I wanted you to know the truth.”
Steve took the hint to change the subject. “Tony make you that arm?”
Bucky smiled, twirled the wrist of his left arm. “Yeah. When they made me Captain America. It’s not worth it, by the way. I’d rather have a shitty arm and not be Captain America.”
“Look, I get it, I’m sorry, next time they need Captain America, I’ll do it, okay?”
“And I’ll watch your back, stop you doing something stupid like crashing a plane in the most godforsaken glacier in the whole Arctic.”
So, he was officially out to Steve. That just left persuading Tony that he wanted to meet Steve.
He asked when they were in bed. Naked and post-coital was one of his favorite negotiating positions. “Do you want to meet Steve?”
“You want me to meet Steve.”
Bucky made a despairing noise. “He’s my best friend, course I want you to meet him. I’ve met Rhodey and Pepper-”
“You want to arrange it so he walks in on us fucking?”
“Oh Jesus no. I can’t even- that- no. Embarrassment might be the only thing that can kill him.”
Tony raised an eyebrow. “That bad?”
“Worse. I spent ten years of my life trying to get him to first base with a dame, and I swear he’d rather have run a goddamn marathon-”
“Perhaps it wasn’t the dames he was interested in.”
“You don’t want to meet him, but you want to fuck him.”
Tony huffed. “Sex with Steve Rogers is much more appealing than awkward conversation.”
“Yeah, well, you’re an Avenger, he sure as hell is gonna be an Avenger, so you’re gonna end up meeting him eventually. So you can get your awkward conversation done here or in a SHIELD briefing.”
“If by here you mean my bed-”
“Give it up, Tony.”
“Fine, fine, I’ll meet him, and I’ll be nice.”
“Christ, don’t do that, I’ve told him about you already, he’ll think you’ve been replaced by a double or that I’m delusional or something.”
When he finally did get the two of them together at Stark Towers, he was more nervous than he had been in his entire adult life. Not scared, scared was reserved for shit that could kill him. This was proper nervousness, dry mouth and sweaty palms and butterflies in his stomach and rehearsing the several million ways it was all going to go wrong.
“Tony, this is Steve, Steve, Tony.”
Steve smiled and said, “Pleasure to meet you.”
“I’d say you’re the one you get free when you buy one frozen Howling Commando, but you’re a little late for that.”
And Bucky froze a little inside because he had warned Steve but had no idea how he was going to take Tony being Tony. But Steve just said, “Guess you’ll have to take the delay in delivery up with the postal service.”
“So, we get the original Captain America back. You going to be an Avenger?”
“If they want me to be.”
“What do you want?”
“Does it matter?”
“I am never going to understand the military mind. You should meet Rhodey. You can military at each other. How are you getting on with technology? Bucky let you use his StarkPad?”
“Yeah. It’s not too bad when there’s someone to explain things.”
“You mean like explaining how the internet is mainly for porn?”
Bucky said, “Tony-”
Steve looked a little embarrassed, but said, “Seems to me the internet is whatever you’re looking for.”
And Steve could hold his own against Tony, and it seemed that Tony was getting to see Steve, and not the bullshit about Captain America he’d been fed. It was a relief. They didn’t have to be friends, they just had to not hate each other, and they seemed not to. Yet.
“Signed up for any internet dating sites? You’ve got to be in the world’s top ten most eligible bachelors. They could make a reality show of it, A Date For America. JARVIS, copyright that idea.”
That really did make Steve blush, “I’m really not looking-”
“Well, people will be looking for you-”
“Tony, drop it.” That had come out harsh, but Tony needed to be told. As far as Steve’s personal timeline was concerned, it was less than two months since he’d lost Agent Carter. They needed a change of subject. “You said you’d get food-”
“Yes, food. Samples of all the world cuisine on offer in New York that Capsicle here-”
Almost in unison, Steve and Bucky said, “Capsicle?”
But Tony ignored both of them, “-probably hasn’t tasted, and JARVIS assures me there are a couple in there I haven’t tried in there as well. Broadening your horizons.”
From there the evening was just about perfect. Food gave them something to talk about, even if Tony did mock Steve a little because “you’d think that being a super-soldier would give you at least some tolerance for chilli”. They sent Steve home full of food, looking happier than Bucky had seen him in a while. And Tony seemed to have relaxed some as well, probably reassured that there was no chance of Steve making a move on Bucky.
Steve was adapting reasonably well to the modern world, and seemed to be at least grieving normally. So Bucky could concentrate on getting seriously worried about Tony. One evening JARVIS greeted him by saying, “Good evening, Sergeant Barnes. Mr. Stark is in the workshop, where he has been without sleep for 56 hours.”
Right, if the AI was prepared to sell Tony out to him, it meant the AI was really worried. Tony had programmed the thing to protect his secrets, so this was serious.
Bucky went for the straightforward approach. “JARVIS says you ain’t sleeping.”
“Hm, yeah, things to do-”
“Bullshit.” He smiled pleasantly.
Tony put down his tools on the workbench. “Perhaps to you, New York nearly being nuked is all in a day’s assassin work, but not for me, okay? It comes back, everything about it, black hole, the lot. And then it starts full rewind right back to Afghanistan. Everything, full colour HD replays.”
“You think I don’t get that?”
“You think I don’t get full colour replays? Shit, I get nightmares about things that happened in fucking 1943. Right down to the smell of the place, I wake up and all I can smell is the chemicals.”
“You still get nightmares about that?”
“That and a hundred other things. Why d’you think I don’t stay over? Jesus, Tony, sometimes I wake up fighting. I’ve destroyed half my room before.”
“So it doesn’t go away.”
“Fuck, no, it does not. You learn to deal with it. And I got SHIELD mandated therapy. And meds.”
“I’ve never seen you take pills-”
“So I didn’t feel like telling you I take crazy pills.”
Tony had slumped against the workbench, and Bucky stepped closer, drew him into a hug. “Maybe it doesn’t go away, but it does get better. Give it a while. Shrinks tell me it takes a few months for people to process stuff normally.”
“And until then?”
“Do I look like a therapist? I don’t know. Distraction?”
“That an offer?”
That night he was already considering staying when Tony said, “You can stay if you want.”
Which of course was Tony-speak for ‘oh god please don’t leave’. Bucky spooned round him, kissed him on the shoulder and said, “Even if I might beat the crap out of you in my sleep?”
“I’ll risk it. Beat you up in the suit later as payback.”
And that was kind of how he ended up sort of moving in with Tony. Who wasn’t exaggerating about the nightmares, but it wasn’t anything that Bucky hadn’t seen before. At least Tony never woke up not knowing who he was.
Fuck, he was doing domestic with Tony Stark. He’d say it was unexpected, but nothing in his life since his twenties had been expected. And it was kind of nice. Not that he’d ever use that word to Tony, of course. He still went back to his own apartment when Tony was out of town. It still wouldn’t feel right to be in the tower without Tony. What that said about him, he didn’t know.
Then some bastard put a kill order out on Captain America, and Fury decided that this was a great idea for tidying up some loose ends.
“You ain’t using him as bait-”
Fury ignored Steve, “Bait that can fight back, Agent Barnes. We can use this to draw out all of your former employer’s best assassins and neutralize them. Nothing that you, Captain Rogers and Agent Romanov can’t handle.”
Tony was out of town, and all Bucky could do was call him, tell him that he would be out of communication for weeks, maybe months, tell him he loved him. And listen to the way that Tony kept the conversation light and casual, even as he could hear the tightness, maybe even the fear in his voice.
It was a grand tour of all the shittiest parts of the former USSR. Fights in concrete ghost-towns, in neighborhoods of cities so poor that even the mafia didn’t bother with them. And deep into the wilderness, passing through villages where everyone had died or left apart from the old women, who regarded their passing through as a visitation from either god or the devil. Old women who, he realized, were technically younger than him and Steve.
It also reminded him of one of his favorite things about the serum - how warm it had made Steve. Like bringing their own heater with them. Natasha had raised an eyebrow when he’d told her this, but that hadn’t stopped her from curling up in Steve’s arms like a very contented cat the first night they stayed in a cold apartment. If it was Steve on watch Bucky and Natasha would curl round each other, but it just wasn’t as warm.
One night, after they switched watches and Bucky dove under the threadbare covers to wrap around Steve and try and warm up some, Steve said, “Can I ask you a question?”
“How did you know you liked guys? I mean, you said you realised. Um, how did you realise?”
Shit. That sounded a helluva lot like Steve was thinking about having a crisis about his sexuality, and all Bucky had to offer were terrible ideas. Like ‘how about I blow you and see what you think then’. But first, he actually didn’t want to cheat on Tony, and second, he never followed through on his terrible ideas mid-mission.
Instead he said, “I had to seduce a guy for a mission. And I’d seduced women for missions before, and it felt exactly the same. So it got me to thinking, if I think of men and women the same when it’s for work, is it the same when it’s for fun?”
Steve made a little ‘hmm’ noise. Oh, there was so much in that ‘hmm’. Disapproval of the idea of fucking people in the line of duty, a little distaste that Bucky was mixed up in that, perhaps a little protectiveness of Bucky in there too.
So Bucky kept talking. “Yeah, sorry, no notification through the mail or visit from the sexuality fairy. But I’m sure you’ll work it out.”
He was wrapped in too close to Steve to see his expression, but could feel him stiffen, feel the discomfort. “I never said-”
“How long have I known you?”
“Fine, jerk, you know everything, so you tell me.”
Bucky chuckled. “If I knew about what goes on in your head about dating, I’d have already set you up with your perfect match. I could start looking for dates for you, few girls, few guys, see which you like-”
Steve groaned. “Please, no. That sounds terrible.”
“See, that’s what I’d do. What I did. That’s what I meant about not knowing what goes on in that head of yours.”
“Please- please don’t tell anyone-”
Bucky squeezed him. “‘M good at keeping secrets. Relax. Whatever you work out, you’ll be fine. Promise.”
They took down the first assassin with a little difficulty. There had obviously been enough time since his and Natasha’s defections for their old employers to work out some new methods of engagement, and some new techniques. But enough remained of the old, familiar stuff that they could work against it.
The next assassins were sent as a pair, and they ended up facing off against them on a sleeper train in Siberia.
Neither he nor Steve froze up or slowed down just because they were on a train. Training and combat instinct won out over memories, probably helped by fighting up and down passenger train corridors being different enough from the Hydra train. They took the two down relatively easily, but, fuck, he’d rather have fought anywhere except there.
That night Natasha was polite enough not to mention that it was warm enough where they were staying that Steve and Bucky didn’t really need to share a bed. And certainly didn’t need to cling to each other like drowning men.
They’d thought that the enemy might stop after that, but no, it seemed to make them more determined. It seemed like the entire organisation was armed and looking for the three of them. So they decided that this meant they would go to source, try and take out headquarters, which took them out deep into the wilderness. They had their final showdown at a base in the desert, the sand in the air making a sniper position useless. He fought back to back with Steve, just like old times, except against an enemy who was nastier and faster and better trained than Hydra’s goons.
When they were heading back, he picked up a newspaper on autopilot at the first village that actually had a store, and saw Tony’s name on the front page. He skimmed, needing the important detail of whether Tony was still alive. Yeah, seemed he was, thank god. There wasn’t a lot of detail, it was foreign news which had only made the front page because it was so dramatic, but it looked like Tony and Rhodey had saved the President.
There wasn’t even cell coverage out here, he could use a SHIELD radio but he doubted they’d put him through to Tony. But there was an ancient payphone. Fuck security, fuck everything, he needed to hear Tony’s voice, to hear he was still alive. Even as he opened his mouth to ask, both Steve and Natasha handed him change for the phone. He was still going to have to work on how transparent he was where Tony was concerned.
He dialed the number, a bypass that Tony had given him that should be able to reach his current cell wherever he was.
The line quality was terrible, but it was still unmistakably Tony who said,“Hey, Bucky-”
“How did you know it was me?”
“Only you, Pepper and Rhodey have this number, and the call’s from Kazakhstan. Not difficult.”
“So you’ll know this ain’t a secure line.”
“It’s barely a line.”
“I just- I needed to hear you. I only just found out-”
“You’re never there when I do something really impressive.”
“Sorry. Listen, I’ll call properly as soon as I can, okay?”
“Sure. Bring me a Christmas present.”
“Demanding. Whaddya want?”
“Rhodey took the pornographic Russian dolls, you can get me a new set.”
Back in New York he decided that he didn’t have any dignity left to preserve, and so as soon as the elevator door opened onto Tony’s suite, he ran across to him, hugged him, and this time did pick him up off his feet.
“Woah, down there cowboy, good demonstration of the arm, but-”
“Shut up, you nearly died again, will you fucking stop doing that?”
“Perhaps if there was some sort of strategic homeland agency that could deal with-”
“I love you. I might not have said it enough, but I do, okay? Just- just look after yourself.”
“Back at you. How many times has someone tried to kill you while you’ve been away?”
Bucky sighed. “More than I’d like to count.”
“So, we’re not even a little even. I have to get into some serious extra trouble before you get to say a damn thing.”
“Did I mention that I love you?”
“Sweet talking is a good start. You want to move in? Officially, I mean, I know you’re here most of the time anyway-”
“Pepper says we should communicate more. This is me communicating.”
“Yeah, sure, great, I’ll move in, I love you, I love your coffee machines. Anything else you want to communicate?”
Tony tapped his chest. “Found some surgeons who can take the shrapnel out. It’ll mean no more reactor. Just a functioning heart.”
“You want me to say something sappy about always having a functioning heart, right? Cause what I’m actually gonna say is that we’ll have to buy a nightlight.”
“This is why I like you.”
“Okay, communication, I may love you.”
Bucky beamed and kissed him.
Tony said, “About Extremis-”
“I read the report, I know you stabilized it with Pepper, but no. Never. No one is ever, ever gonna get me strapped to a table for anything experimental ever again. Okay?”
Tony shrugged. “I kind of think the arm with the repulsor is better anyway. But I had to ask.”
Bucky put a finger of that hand under Tony’s chin. “You just like it when I touch you with something you made.”
“Maybe. Want to test that theory?”
So Bucky moved into the Tower. And Tony being Tony, he’d scheduled the surgery for three days later. Bucky couldn’t stay away, even though he probably should have been a little more subtle than standing outside the operating room with Pepper and Rhodey. At the point that Tony went under the anesthetic Bucky may possibly have taken hold of Pepper’s hand and held it until Tony was in recovery. His presence got some attention, and when one of the nurses actually asked him who he was, he said in his best softly feminine voice, “Ms Potts’ girlfriend.”
He’d shaved, he had long hair, he was wearing a very loose sweatshirt to keep attention away from the arm, it would totally work. Pepper just smiled serenely at the nurse.
As soon as the nurse was out of earshot Pepper said firmly, “Tell me that isn’t the official SHIELD cover.”
“Nah, just for my own amusement.”
“Good. Don’t even think of- of- whatever the female equivalent of cockblocking is.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it. You ever want a wingman-”
“No, I do not need you or indeed Tony to be my wingman, I am not taking either of you to lesbian bars, and I am only introducing either of you to any girlfriends I may have when I think they won’t run a mile after meeting you, which may be never.”
Bucky turned to Rhodey, “Does she have a girlfriend?”
“Like she’d tell me.”
Pepper smiled. “You’re a terrible security risk as far as Tony’s concerned, Rhodey.”
They told Tony that Bucky was now Pepper’s girlfriend as soon as they were allowed to see him. And got a very stern lecture from the doctor about making someone laugh after heart surgery.
Chapter 4: Everything he’d ever wanted.
But SHIELD didn’t give a damn about Agents’ personal lives, and Tony was barely recovered from surgery before SHIELD wanted Bucky out on a mission again, this time a solo. And he was scared. Scared that anything might happen to Tony without him. So he was having a seriously awkward conversation with Steve in the canteen.
“About Tony. I. Er. Can you. I mean. Could you, you know, look out for him while I’m away?”
“You want me to babysit Iron Man.”
“No! Yes. No. I just-”
“You think something terrible’s going to happen to him when you’re not around.”
“Yeah. But he can’t know you’re looking out for him, Jesus, the idea of having you save his ass would drive him crazy. So I don’t even know how you’d do it-”
“That’s easy.” Steve caught Bucky’s expression and continued. “Tell him that he needs to look after me. Something about the last mission means you think I need looking after. Feed the Stark ego and I’ll probably not be able to shake him off the whole time you’re away.”
“You’d do that? You’d let Tony be smugly superior at you for however long I’m away?”
“It’ll stop you worrying, and if you’re worrying you’re not concentrating and if you’re not concentrating you’re more likely to get killed, so yes, I will let your boyfriend patronize me the whole time you’re away.”
Bucky rubbed his face. “Why are you even friends with me?”
“Been trying to figure that out for a long time, jerk.”
Tony bought the line about Steve needing looking after. And there was something warmly reassuring about knowing that the two of them were looking out for each other, even though he was taking a calculated risk that spending more time with each other would end up with them liking each other more rather than at each other’s throats. He could imagine coming home to find them both battered and bruised and blaming the other and refusing to speak to each other ever again.
So after the mission it was something of a relief to walk into Tony’s living room to find them both sitting on the couch, seeming relaxed and happy. Bucky bounced onto the couch and into Tony’s arms.
Tony feigned disinterest. “Hmm, you miss me then?”
Bucky kissed him, all tongue and teeth and want, belatedly remembering that Steve, sitting three feet away, had probably never seen a guy kiss another guy before, and was getting something pretty pornographic. It would probably only make it worse if he lept off Tony like he expected Steve to freak out, so he kept wrapped round Tony, but half-opened one eye to see Steve’s reaction.
Ah. Right. Wide pupils, shallow breathing, sitting in the classic ‘no, I do not have a hard-on’ position, trying real hard not to stare at them. Looked like that whole crisis of sexuality thing had come to a conclusion.
Fuck it. Terrible idea time.
He let go of Tony, and Steve said, “I should be going-”
“Stay.” He didn’t look away from Tony, but put every ounce of command he had into that word, and it worked, Steve stopped, perched on the edge of the couch. Oh, this could go horribly, terribly wrong, but he was going to do it anyway. “Tony, me and Steve, we’ve always shared just about everything. Since we were kids.”
Oh yeah, Tony was getting with the program. He raised an eyebrow. “Everything.”
“Everything. And I reckon you ain’t gonna mind. Am I right?”
Tony grinned. “Twice the fun.”
Bucky looked at Steve, smiled, and held his hand out. Steve looked like he was pitched precisely between running out of the door and lunging forwards, and so was frozen in place. Bucky gave an exaggerated sigh and said, “C’mere you dumb punk.”
Steve hesitated, but then took Bucky’s hand and let him pull him along the couch until he was right next to Tony. Then Bucky slid from Tony’s lap to Steve’s. He leaned in, just giving a tiny pause, enough for Steve to move away if he wanted. But Steve didn’t move, and Bucky kissed him. There was a moment when Steve didn’t react, but then he was responding, pulling Bucky close.
They’d been kissing a good few moments, no, not kissing, making out, getting hot and heavy, when Tony said, “That should not be that hot if you both have all your clothes on.”
Bucky drew back, grinning, looking between Steve and Tony. And was completely surprised when it was Steve who leant forward and kissed Tony. Shit, the guy kissed two people and he was suddenly making the moves on Tony Stark. And, Jesus, yes, that should not be that hot while they were both still dressed. He realised that he was unconsciously grinding into Steve when Steve made the most obscene noise into Tony’s mouth.
Steve must have been on the verge of coming right there and then. Practically Bucky’s duty to make sure his first orgasm in company wasn’t in his pants. Bucky went for Steve’s fly, unbuttoning him, releasing Steve’s cock. Steve drew back from Tony in surprise.
Bucky said, “S’okay” before swallowing his cock in a smooth motion, and it only took a few moments before Steve was coming. Bucky smiled up at Steve, who was looking stunned, then tucked him back into his pants.
“Kinda hoping that supersoldier stuff means you’re good to go again real soon.”
Steve made a little noise in the back of his throat.
Tony smirked. “Thought supersoldiers were supposed to be more difficult to break.”
Bucky cuffed Tony. “Ain’t broken, just needs practice.” He flashed a grin at Steve. “Right?”
Steve blushed. “Uh, I think he might be right.”
“Oh, you ain’t seen nothing yet.” Bucky stood up and extended a hand to both of the men on the couch. “C’mon. Taking you both to bed.”
Tony took his hand, but said, “You’re taking us to bed? No, I am taking both of you to bed.”
Bucky was already pulling both of them towards the door. “Whatever. Bed. Move.”
Thing about Steve was, he’d always been a fast learner. And right now he had some pretty excellent teachers. No better way to lose your virginity.
Tony managed to get Steve to gasp out “Fuck!” at one point, which marked the single time Bucky had ever heard Steve swear in a non-life threatening situation, and that itself was pretty huge fucking turn on. And just, shit, just being between the two of them, not even doing anything, that was a huge fucking turn on. Like everything he’d ever wanted.
They ended up in the middle of the bed (which suddenly felt a damn sight smaller with Steve in it), in a sticky tangle of sheets, Bucky between Steve and Tony, trying to work out some way of snuggling into both of them at the same time.
Tony made an annoyed noise. “When did you get this wriggly? Some of us want to sleep.”
“I wanna sleep wrapped round both of you, and there ain’t enough of me.”
Steve chuckled, and rolled Bucky over so he was on his side facing Tony, then spooned behind him, one arm over both Bucky and Tony, pulling them together.
“Give him two minutes, he’ll say he can’t breathe.”
“Sure you’ll give me mouth to mouth if I pass out.”
Steve sighed, but sounded more amused than anything. “Shut up, both of you, and go to sleep.”
“Yes sir, Captain sir.”
Bucky snickered. “Oh, you like that do you?”
Bucky felt more than heard Steve mumble something exasperated into his shoulder.
He woke up later, feeling warmth move away from his back. He reached out instinctually, managed to grab Steve by the wrist, mumbled “Don’go.”
“Stay.” And if he’d been more awake perhaps he would have sounded less needy.
Steve was talking quietly, obviously trying not to wake Tony. “It was great but you and Tony-”
Tony, however, was understandably a light sleeper. “Are quite happy with you here. This some gay freakout?”
“Uh, no, just you two, are, uh, a couple.”
Bucky looked at Tony, then at Steve. “You never know if something’s gonna work unless you try it. You want to?”
Tony said, “Polyamory. Three way relationship. Ridiculous amounts of hot sex.”
Bucky could see Steve’s expression. “You want to, don’t you?”
“So stay.” Bucky yanked Steve’s arm so he tipped back into bed, then arranged Steve and Tony round him like they were a couple of extra blankets.
“You going to let a junior officer order you around like that, Captain?”
“He’s the senior agent, Tony.”
“Sleep. Talk in morning. Senior agent order.”
And when he woke up Steve was still there, but sitting up against the headboard, reading something off a tablet. Steve didn’t need much sleep, so he was only still there because Bucky had asked him to be there, and damn, that was a chest full of warm fuzzy feelings right there. Tony was still asleep, half-sprawled across him.
When Tony woke up, he mumbled into Bucky, “Is this where we have to communicate?”
“Yeah, Tony, it is.”
Tony propped himself up on one elbow and looked at both of them. “This seems a good number of sexy pensioners in my bed. I’d like to keep it that way.”
Bucky sat up, needing to be able to see both Steve and Tony at the same time.
Steve looked a little uncertain. “Can it work? I mean, three people-”
Tony said, “Why not?”
Steve said, “I have been paying attention, and even for 2014, this isn’t exactly normal-”
“Oh, right, and the two of us being over ninety and him spending time flying around in a metal suit is completely normal?”
Steve smiled. “Guess when you put it like that.” He blushed slightly and looked down. “I, er, both of you, um, I mean, I like it.”
Bucky grinned. “And getting you talking about sex is going to be something we work on. Cause having the both of you, it’s like Christmas and birthday and thanksgiving all together. So now, I’m sure the shower is big enough for the three of us. C’mon.”
Three-way shower sex also needed work. But shit, if this was a thing, they could work on it. And that was fantastic.
Tony was called away from New York before either Steve or Bucky were sent on a mission. So it was just Bucky and Steve coming home to the tower from SHIELD, no Tony to go and talk to in the workshop, and suddenly Bucky was nervous. He hadn’t spent any time alone with Steve that wasn’t at work since they’d started fucking. What if Steve was going to tell him that it was all a huge mistake?
So when Steve paused as soon as they’d gotten through the door into the penthouse, every fear that Bucky had crawled to the surface. Steve kissed him, then hesitated again. “Um. Is it okay to do this when Tony’s not here?”
Bucky grinned, trying not to let his relief show. “Pretty sure that’s what he’s expecting. But if you’re worried, JARVIS, call Tony’s cell for me, thanks.”
That was definitely Steve’s influence. He was a lot more polite when Steve was around.
Tony’s voice came out of the air. “Hey.”
“Hey Tony. You ain’t on speaker or anything dumb like that are you?”
“Securely earpieced. I’d say I hope that sounds like a promise, but I’m walking to a meeting and Pepper is already giving me a look-”
Bucky laughed. “Yeah, sorry Tony, just called because Steve was worried you wouldn’t be okay with us fucking while you weren’t here.”
Tony’s voice was very tight when he said, “No, it’s fine, you do that.”
“You can’t say a damn thing cause you’ve just walked into a room full of suits, can you?”
Huh, seemed like Tony did have limits regarding sex, and announcing possible phone sex to a business meeting was one of them. “You’re going to spend the whole meeting thinking of us fucking, yeah?”
“Sounds about right.”
“So we would be the best boyfriends ever if I kept super-libido here in check until you were out of your meeting and could get somewhere private and then-” Bucky belatedly realised that he should get Steve on board, “Hey, Steve, you good with us setting up so he can watch us fuck over the phone?”
Steve swallowed, his arousal obvious. “Yeah. Long as no-one else can see-”
Tony sounded like he was just about still in control when he said, “My secure lines are extremely secure”
“How long’s that meeting going to be?”
“Two hours? Maybe two and a half.”
“Right, me and Steve, we’re gonna get food, watch a movie, have a proper romantic date while you’re being bored. And you call us when you’re on your own.” Bucky grinned, “And try to get through the meeting without thinking that any time either of us could have decided that we couldn’t wait, and I could have my mouth ‘round his dick, or he could have-”
“Gonna have to stop you there, meeting’s about to start.”
Being curled up on the couch with Steve, watching an old movie that neither of them had seen before was... lovely. Not a word Bucky generally had much use for. But it was. Shit, he really was getting old if he was appreciating getting domestic with Tony, then cuddling with Steve. Soon he’d be thinking of buying slippers.
But then again sex with Steve was pretty fucking awesome too. Especially with Tony on the other end of the phone, just watching, not being able to do anything. Though he became incredibly bossy when he couldn’t actually get involved, they could deliberately ignore him and tease him mercilessly.
Oh yeah, and the ‘welcome home’ sex for Tony was fucking awesome, and being curled on the couch between the two of them was great, and... shit, Bucky realised that he actually liked his life. Might be genuinely, seriously happy. That was pretty scary stuff right there. Especially if the two people who were making him happy had a nasty tendency to regularly get into life-threatening situations.
So it was with a fairly sick feeling in his stomach that he said goodbye to both of them to fly to Europe. And it wasn’t even a dangerous mission (though given his luck, it would turn out to be that way), it was going to be a bunch of really boring inter-agency meetings. He should probably be booking an emergency appointment with his therapist to talk about his codependent relationships. How the hell would he even start on that, “well, I’m kinda fucking both Iron Man and Captain America, and I’m terrified they’ll get themselves killed when I’m not looking after them”. Even for SHIELD shrinks that was weird shit.
But he was a damned professional, and he could focus, get through a day of dull meetings, actually paying attention for almost half the time. And phone Tony and Steve late enough at night that, with the time difference, Steve would be home, and listen to them fuck as he jerked off. He could set up video, but call him old-fashioned, phone sex was supposed to be audio and imagination. Like radio plays, and what was it they said, the pictures are better on radio? The leap of imagination was better than the small picture he could get on his phone or tablet. Just listening to the noises the two of them were making, Christ, even if Tony hadn’t been doing a pretty good job of narrating what they were doing he’d still be coming like a fucking train.
As he got his breath back he said, “Love you. Both of you.”
“Yeah, I love both my hot pensioners.”
“Love you, Bucky. Love you, Tony.”
As he ended the call, Bucky realised what they’d said. Yeah, he’d said he loved Tony a while ago, and had eventually heard Tony say the same thing back. But this went all ways. Wow. Or possibly, shit. This was all going to go wrong. Karma, or some bullshit like that. If something good happened to him, it meant something horrible was round the corner.
When he woke up in the morning, he checked his email to find a message from Tony from a few minutes previously. Stuck under sleeping Steve, and have an idea I want to work on. This is all your fault.
So wake him up.
I’m sure that waking up Captain America before his alarm is against the constitution.
Bucky grinned to himself. He’s spooned round you, cuddling you like a teddy bear and you want to get up but you don’t actually want him to let go, do you?
You are adorable.
I will make you pay for that.
Look forward to it.
He was aware that he was walking into breakfast at his hotel with the stupidest, goofiest grin on his face, but he didn’t care. Because thinking of his two favorite people in the world together in bed didn’t make him jealous, it made him feel loved, because they’d be there for him when he got home (perhaps not literally, he could get unlucky with schedules). And they were there for each other, not just for him, cuddled up like in some crappy romance novel. Perhaps when they were all together they were the highest concentration of neuroses and psychological scars and other screwed-up psychology in the world, but it could fucking work. And perhaps, just perhaps, the amount that life had fucked the three of them over meant that karma owed them a bit of happiness.
But one thing was for definite: he was really, really going to enjoy asking HR for the correct paperwork for registering that he had two male partners.