Bucky had to hand it to Steve; powerful men seemed to always want to do things for him.
Back in the '40s it had been Howard Stark helping Doc Erskine turn Steve from a scrawny little punk into America's golden boy, and then giving him that damn shield.
Then last year it had been T'Challa—a fucking king, for fuck's sake—giving Steve and him protection while the best of Wakanda's scientists got Hydra's shit out of Bucky's brain. Not to mention letting him recover in his palace. A fucking palace. And it wasn't just a beautiful place; it was full of tech that seemed right outta Wonder Stories and all the other pulps he used to devour as a kid while Steve filled his sketchbooks with his damn doodles. He might have been turned into a goddamn science experiment, but he could still appreciate awesome science.
Now they were back in New York, in their own apartment in Avenger's Tower, courtesy of Howard's kid. Hell, who was he kidding? It wasn't an apartment. Stark had given them a whole fucking floor, and high enough up that the view was spectacular.
Stark was standing behind them, nervously shifting from foot to foot as the two latest members of his collection of super-powered freaks checked out their new digs. Bucky tried not to show his own nervousness, but he felt a constant need to tell Stark he wasn't going to go all Winter Soldier on him.
Not unless Stark deserved it, anyway.
And no, he was never going to make that joke out loud. Not when Stark had promised to build him a new arm with the vibranium T'Challa had sent along with them. Mind you, that was only fair since Stark's fucking suit had blown up his old arm.
"This is pretty fucking nice, Stark," he finally said, wanting to break the silence that had settled around the three of them. From what he knew of Stark, the kid didn't do silence well. "I really fuckin' appreciate this."
"You're welcome, Sergeant," Stark said, clearing his throat. "But you might want to tone down the language. Cap's a little sensitive about that."
Bucky turned to Steve, who was turning the slightest bit pink at the tips of his ears.
"What the fuck's he talking about, Steve?"
"Well…" Steve said, wearing that fake bashful look Bucky had seen him turn onto commanding officers and school teachers alike. The look that said he was just a nice, innocent boy from Brooklyn. The look that was a big fucking lie.
"You fell for that?" he asked Stark, then turned back to Steve. "He actually fell for that?"
"Fell for what?" Stark said, and it was pretty fucking funny, watching the expression on his face as he realized he'd been had. Bucky figured that didn't happen too often in Stark's world. Not if he was as sharp as his dad had been.
"Fell for the innocent altar boy act."
"You mean Cap's not an innocent altar boy?"
"He's not innocent, and he was never an altar boy. Father Patrick knew Steve was too much of a little shit to trust him with the incense. He woulda burned the fucking church down. Hell, he kicked me off the altar boy squad when he realized I was Steve's friend."
"So the language…"
"We grew up in Brooklyn, Stark. And then we were soldiers. We saw some fucking horrible stuff over there. We used bad language." He grinned at Steve. "Steve was the worst."
"Hey!" Steve said, and his outrage was about as real as the innocent act.
"Oh, sorry, I forgot. Peggy was the worst. Steve was right behind her."
"Agent Carter swore?" It was cute, how Stark's eyes were suddenly about to pop out of his head.
"Peggy was the only woman in a bunch of guys, rough characters the lot of us. She had to hold her own. She swore more than anyone—those English dames can swear; Shakespeare coulda learned something from her—and she could drop any guy with her right cross."
"She really could," Steve said with a smile, putting his hand up like he was still in Sister Bridget's class.
"Aunt Peggy swore?!" Bucky changed his mind. Stark's eyes weren't going to pop out of his head. His head was going to explode. It was going to be a big fucking mess.
"Are you well, sir?" Stark's electronic butler asked. "Your blood pressure has spiked alarmingly."
"I'm fine, JARVIS," Stark spat out. "I've just had the sudden epiphany that everything I was told in childhood was a big. Fucking. Lie."
"Sorry, Stark," Bucky said, making sure his tone said he wasn't sorry at all.
"Dad used to talk about you, both of you, all of you, like you were saints. And for years I thought Aunt Peggy was like the queen."
"Peggy was fucking royalty," Steve said, his eyes getting that soft look they always did when he thought about Peggy, his accent drifting back to Brooklyn.
"She was a fucking classy dame," Bucky agreed.
"Jesus," said Stark.
"Don't blaspheme," Steve said with a twinkle in his eye. "You'll fucking go to hell for that."
"I'm not talking to you." Stark pointed an accusing finger at Steve. "And you!" He turned to Bucky. "If you get all my team talking like Jimmy Cagney in a Tarantino movie, I'm kicking you out of the tower."
"A film director," Steve said. "You'll love his stuff. Inglorious Basterds is fucking hilarious."
"I did not want to know that Captain America is a Tarantino fan." Stark was pretty close to hysterical now. "So, Barnes, do you have any other bombshells about your boyfriend you want to lob my way?"
"Besides the fact that he really is my boyfriend?" Because, hey, if Stark was going to give him that kind of opening, he wasn't going to waste it.
"Jesu—I mean, fuck!" Stark was waving his arms and backing out of the room. "I did not need to know that. Not least because it means Nat was right, and now I owe her a sports car. She's going to ask for the Lambo, and I love the Lambo."
"Hey, why don't we have you and Pepper over for dinner?" Bucky moved closer to Steve and put his arm around Steve's waist.
"Two couples, hanging out."
"I make a mean boiled cabbage."
"I don't think he likes boiled cabbage, Steve."
"Who likes boiled cabbage?" Stark was actually, 100% hysterical. "Except old people. You two are old people. Gay, sweary, old people."
"Bisexual, sweary old people," Bucky said. "That's the term, Steve, ain't it?" And then he leaned in and kissed Steve. On the mouth. With tongue.
Bucky wondered what the public would think if they knew Iron Man could sound that panicked just from watching a coupla senior citizens kiss.
"The elevator is here, sir," JARVIS said, and the door slid open behind Stark.
"Come back anytime," Bucky said.
"Not without backup," Stark said as the doors were closing.
"You are such an asshole," Steve told him, but he still put his arms around Bucky.
"Tell me that wasn't the most fun you've had in the 21st century."
"Not the most fun," Steve said, pulling Bucky closer and rolling his hips suggestively.
"Okay, the most fun that didn't involve me and nakedness."
"I don't know. Running with Sam is pretty fun."
"Running is horrible with anyone, even Bird Boy. Tormenting Stark is way more fun."
"Do you think it's smart to torment the guy who's going to build your new arm?"
"He's forgiven me for worse," Bucky said.
Steve's reply was a sharp hiss, and a tightening of his arms around Bucky.
"And anyway," Bucky said, not wanting to bring Steve down, "he'll forgive me even more if we do have him and Pepper over for dinner."
"Not if you make boiled cabbage, he won't." Bucky could actually feel Steve smiling into his shoulder.
"I'd never make him boiled cabbage. That shit is horrible."
"Just so long as we're clear on that. No cabbage. No boiling."
"I make a mean frittata."
"Why do you even know about frittatas?" Steve laughed, which was Bucky's goal all along.
"Why do you?"
"I fucking love you, Bucky Barnes."
"Language, Steve." Bucky couldn't help himself.
"You little fucker," was Steve's reply.
That's my altar boy, Bucky thought as he kissed the punk he loved.