“Edwin, when I said I owed you one I was thinking like, throw myself in front of a bullet,” Bucky said, glancing at where Edwin’s kid (or ward at least, same difference), Tony Carbonell, was poking around among Bucky’s new designs. There was something about him that seemed familiar but Bucky couldn’t think of any reason he’d know the nineteen year old college kid.
“That’s hardly an appropriate joke,” Edwin replied, not looking at all concerned that the kid’s face was about an in inch away from some very sharp metal bits. “Besides, if you were expecting a bullet you’re getting off easy.”
“I can’t just hire some kid because you asked, Edwin, I have people who need paying, I’ve got paperwork up to my eyeballs, a new engine design that still catches fire one in five times, some idiot keeps switching the coffee to decaf, and that’s not even starting on all the shit Stark Industries is throwing at me,” Bucky said with a sigh, rubbing his face and pointedly not looking at the kid. “I’d love to help but I’m barely keeping this place a float as is.”
“I assure you, James, I wouldn’t ask you to take him on if he wasn’t suited to the position.”
“This isn’t a discussion about personality profiles Edw-”
Bucky was cut off by an explosion as Edwin and he both jerked around to check on the kid. The kid was fine, looking started but entirely unharmed. Probably just Rocket then, it would hadn’t be the first time. Honestly it was why he’d reacted a margin slower than Edwin. Explosions were actually fairly common place here. Didn’t stop his heart from jumping to his throat when he remembered the child Edwin had brought here.
Fortunately Tony was just looking around frantically, entirely unharmed. It was probably just Rocket them. That guy was going to give Bucky a heart attack one day.
“At least meet him, first,” Edwin said, like that hadn’t just both panicked at the very possibility of this kid blowing himself up.
“Fine,” Bucky sighed. Why did his friends never listen to him? He needed to make better friends. Or stop owing favours to the one he had. Somehow this was Steve’s fault. Bucky bemoaned his life choices as he led Edwin down to the floor the kid was on.
The kid looked up at they entered and Bucky forced himself not to react. His hair looked a lot softer up close and the brown eyes shone with intelligence and hints of mischief.
“Tony, this is James Barnes,” Edwin said, apparently oblivious to Bucky’s sudden horrified epiphany. “James, this is Tony Carbonell.”
Bucky held his hand out automatically, and determinedly ignored the little excited part of him. So the kid, man, kid, whatever, so he was cute, he was still much younger than Bucky and it took more than a pretty face to win Bucky over.
“Nice to meet you,” Bucky said, perfect image of control. Ha, see, he was a grown ass man who didn’t do stupid things like get crushed on people at first sight. Fuck you, Steve, he totally grew out of that in high school.
“There’s a mathematical error in those microchip schematics, and is that engine supposed to be leaking fumes like that?” Tony asked as he shook Bucky’s hand. “Honestly I thought a business that grew so fast would have more impressive design processes.”
“Way to make a good first impression,” Bucky said sarcastically. “In the real world things don’t always work out perfectly the first time.”
“Well, have you considered running simulations? That would help fix some of the problems,” Tony said with his own bit of sarcasm. “Honestly, I could do better than this in the third grade.”
“And that was, what, five years ago?”
One hour, three arguments and four prototype adjustments later, Bucky scowled at Edwin as he climbed into his car with a smile.
“This is still a bad idea,” he said.
“I’m sure you’ll manage,” Edwin said, smile entirely unfaltering. “You manage pretty well with your current ragtag crew.”
“I’m not a babysitter.”
“Tony is fairly capable of handling himself. I have complete faith in you.”
“The world is against me,” Bucky said as he watched Edwin’s car drive away. Yes, it took more than a pretty face to win Bucky over, but Tony was also smart, and witty, and the way he interacted with Edwin definitely made it look like he’d burn the world down for Tony. Which meant he’d have no problem gutting Bucky. Edwin was one of those secretly terrifying people that seemed to keep popping up in Bucky’s life.
He blamed Steve.
Regardless, he was now stuck with a new employee. A very cute, smart employee he definitely didn’t want to hit on at all.
Oh yeah, this was going to go well.
“Tell the nuisance to stop scribbling on my schematics,” Peter said as he threw open the door to Bucky’s office.
“Tell dork lord here that his schematics are wrong and I’m trying to fix them,” Tony said, right on Peter’s tail. Bucky took a brief moment to be relieved Rocket wasn’t with them. Three days of Tony working here and Bucky had barely had a moment’s peace. He hadn’t been kidding when he told Edwin he already had a lot on his plate.
In reality he’d never expected Silver Scraps Creations to take off like this. He’d been prepared for a small workshop and a handful of people doing what they could. He’d already enlisted all of Peter’s crew by that stage. It was basically going to be like the Commandos, except entirely different people and inventing things instead of fighting.
It was nothing like the Commandos. Sure Bucky had the ‘Guardians’ on payroll, on the condition he joined their racing crew, but somehow he’d ended up with multiple factories and a high spot on the long list of tech/engineering companies. He didn’t even know why SI was so intent on removing him as competition. He wouldn’t touch the weapons industry with a ten foot pole despite know Rocket could very easily switch from his current tinkering to bombs.
He did love explosions.
“You know I’m your boss not your babysitter, right?” Bucky asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Well, this is what you get when you hire children,” Peter said, ignoring the noise of protest Tony always made when they said or implied he was a child.
“You’re hardly a child, Peter,” Bucky said, rubbing at his eyes. “Sometimes people are going to notice things you don’t, that’s why we share our schematics. Stop snickering Tony, you need to understand that not everyone wants your opinion. Write your own schematics if it’s that important to you.”
“Jeez Barnes,” Tony said, folding his arms and pouting. “What’s got your panties in a bunch?”
“I have a lot of paperwork to do,” Bucky said, pointedly not looking at Tony’s pouty lips. “Stark Industries is breathing down my neck, I’ve got a mound of other paper work to get through and you two are squabbling over who can engineer better.”
“Ok, calm down boss, we’ll sort it out,” Peter said, much to Bucky’s relief. “Or I’ll get Rocket to blow him up, either way.”
Bucky nodded and turned back to his paperwork as Peter left the room. He had a couple minutes of quiet before it became obvious Tony wasn’t leaving.
“Why don’t you get an assistant or something?” Tony asked, looking down at the paper work.
“I don’t really have the time at the moment,” Bucky said with a sigh.
“Do you want me to give you a hand?”
“Weren’t you just complaining about being bored?”
“Well, it’ll be a good change of pace,” Tony said as he pulled up a chair and took half of the papers from the pile. Bucky stared for a moment as Tony picked up a pen and seemingly gave the papers his full attention. He’d never seen Tony so focused. Even when he was working with his tech his mind seemed to be following several different tracks. It was a sight to behold.
Tony’s determined expression as he put clear effort into focusing on this task was something else entirely. Bucky wondered what it would be like to be the sole focus of all Tony’s attention. Then he was struck by the image of Edwin’s fond smile every time he picked Tony up and he quickly threw away those wonderings and returned his focus to his own work.
He didn’t know the exact relationship between Edwin and Tony but it was clear Edwin adored Tony and Tony looked at Edwin as a father figure of some kind. While that raised a whole lot of questions for Bucky it also made it extremely clear Edwin would defend Tony without hesitation. Bucky remembered what Captain Edwin Jarvis had been like in crises situations. He knew what was hiding under the well-mannered, even-tempered appearance Edwin gave off and he liked not being on the wrong end of that.
Regardless of how cute Tony was when he wrinkled his nose in frustration.
“Are you crying, child?” Drax asked, coming out of fucking nowhere to stand behind Tony. The jumped and grabbed the part he was supposed to be getting.
“No,” Tony said, wiping harshly at his eyes with the hand holding his phone. “It’s just dusty back here.”
“Hey, what’s taking so long newbie?” Rocket called from where he was waiting for Tony to come back.
“He is being bothered by the dust,” Drax said as he followed Tony out.
“Oh, yeah, what were you reading?” Rocket asked, catching sight of the phone.
“Nothing,” Tony said again. “Here, this what you wanted?”
“Yeah, sure,” Rocket said with a grin. “Thanks Groot.”
“What- hey!” Tony shouted as Groot snatched his phone and tossed it to Rocket. Rocket caught the phone with ease, glanced at it, scoffed, and threw it back to Tony.
“What are you reading the Stark stuff for? It’s all garbage at this point,” Rocket said, his attention already back on whatever he was building. He rarely told anyone until it was done.
“Don’t go talking about anything Stark related where Bucky can hear you,” Gamora said as she walked in with a box of pieces in her arms and Peter behind her with another. “I think he’s developing a nervous tic to the name.”
“It’s not that bad,” Tony said with a wince. Gamora gave him a look a bit too reminiscent of Aunt Peggy and he quickly took the box from her to start rummaging through it. Silver Scraps Creations prided itself on using recycled or left over parts where possible. Scraps, in other words.
“Of course it’s not,” Peter agreed, ruffling Tony’s hair. “Bucky’s got everything under control, he’d never sell the company anyway.”
“Whatever. I wasn’t talking about the company,” Rocket said, not even looking up. “All the talk about the crash. It’s garbage. It happened. Unless they’re going to say something new, which they never do.”
“It does seem to serve little purpose,” Drax agreed.
“People just like to gawk at celebrities and feel involved,” Peter said with a shrug. “Besides, they’re still trying to get some kind of contact with the kid aren’t they?”
“Something like that,” Rocket replied absently. “Ask the newbie, he was reading it.”
“Yeah, something like that,” Tony said with a shrug. Hoping none of them noticed how tense he was. The conversation soon turned to something they found more interesting, namely ribbing each other, so he assumed it was fine.
“I can’t believe you managed to bother Rocket enough that he kicked you out. Rocket. He lives for arguments.”
“It wasn’t me. Gamora’s sister showed up.”
“Nebula was here? Jesus, I’m lucky I still have this building.”
“I think she’s still here. Not sure what she was doing. She told me I was cute and asked Gamora where she could get one. Please don’t let her kidnap me, I have concerns.”
“I’m not going to let her kidnap you,” Bucky said with a roll of his eyes as he stuck his hand out from under the car. “Edwin would kill me. Now hand me the wrench.”
“Not really, it’d probably be doing him a favour,” Tony said as he put the tool in Bucky’s hand. Bucky took it but rolled out from under the car with a frown.
“What are you talking about? Edwin would be furious if anything happened to you.”
“I mean, yeah, I guess, but he’s really busy at the moment trying to sort things out with my aunt. I’m kind of just in the way. That’s why he forced you to take me. So, I’m not in the way during the day but there’s still someone keeping an eye on me.”
Bucky stared for a moment. Tony suddenly looked old, worn, tired from a long life. Bucky wanted to ask but it wasn’t really his place and whatever Edwin was trying to sort out it was clearly serious. Bucky had actually been wondering lately if Tony was the kid of a vet who wasn’t capable of being around him at the moment. Bucky sure as hell wouldn’t have been accepted around kids when he first got back and Edwin was the kind of man who’d step in to keep a friend from doing something they’d regret. Especially with the clear devotion he had for Tony.
“Tony, you’re not exactly a burden here,” Bucky said instead. “You might have noticed that I complain about everyone who works here and it’s not like you’re not pulling your weight. Your work is amazing.”
For a moment Tony just stared at him, eyes wide and mouth slightly opened. He finally looked away as his cheeks started to pink, a small pleased smile on his face.
“You really think so?” He asked quietly, poking at his possibly-a-phone.
“Of course, I give personal work spaces to just anyone.”
“I’m getting my own workspace?” Tony said excitedly, Bucky smirked and rolled back under the car.
“Sure, if you finish helping me with this and agree not to create more explosions than Rocket.”
“Hey, no promises,” Tony said with a laugh. “Let’s get this thing finished.”
Tony grinned as he and Rocket finished the final checks on Bucky and Peter’s cars. He loved working for Bucky. Silver Scraps Creations was way better than Stark Industries as far as he was concerned. Sure, Stark Industries might be considered a higher ranking company but with their focus on weaponry, Silver Scraps was very close to taking over. Frankly Tony liked working on all the little tech things way more than designing weapons.
Plus no one here really treated him like a kid. They teased him, sure, but they never talked down to him or acted like he was too young to understand the work they were doing. Also here there was no claim that he didn’t deserve to work for them, that he’d only gotten the job because of his father or Obie. Even though he was pretty sure Jarvis had strong armed Bucky into taking him on despite being some random, they all acknowledged his skill and listened to him when he talked.
It was nice.
Plus Bucky even let him come to their race, despite his doubts. Jarvis and Aunt Peggy were both busy with the things Tony wasn’t supposed to worry about and Bucky had obviously realised he was worried because he’d grabbed Tony and announced he was acting as Bucky’s mechanic.
Tony really liked Bucky. He was an amazing boss, listening to everyone and taking all kinds of suggestions. He was funny, sarcastic and charming, and matched Tony wit for wit. He was great.
Tony may or may not be a little starry-eyed. Not that it mattered. It’d just been a long time since he met someone who was actually willing to get to know him.
Now he had Bucky and ‘The Guardians’ as Peter called their racing crew.
“Good work guys,” Peter said with a grin as he and Bucky came over.
“Yeah, I guess the kid did alright,” Rocket said with a smirk.
“I’m not a kid,” Tony said with a resigned sigh.
“You’re still in school.”
“Is not, and it’s not like it’s my first… Besides, none of you even went to college.”
“Well, he’s got you there,” Bucky said with a laugh, clapping Tony on the shoulder. “Tony’s the most sophisticated of us.”
“Well, that’s just sad,” Peter said with a snort. His amused smile dropped as Gamora came over with a frown.
“We have a problem,” she announced once she reached them. “Rumlow’s racing today.”
“Who?” Tony asked.
“Bad news,” Rocket said, now frowning as well.
“Bad news, but not a problem,” Bucky said, taking his hand off Tony’s shoulder to cross his arms. “We’ve beaten him before.”
“Man, you can’t race with him out there,” Peter said. “You know he’s got it out for you.”
“It’s too late to change the line up now, and like hell I’m just straight dropping out. We’ve got the best the drivers and the best engineers. We can beat him, easy.”
Without further discussion Bucky turned and climbed into his car, moving it to the starting line. The others frowned but didn’t have much choice other than to accept it. Tony moved to Rocket’s side.
“Is this guy that big a deal?”
“Well, if Bucky weren’t already missing an arm, Rumlow would have removed it for him last time they raced. He doesn’t care about the damage the races cause.”
Tony bit his lip and looked over at the lined up cars. Groot came up to him and pointed at a dark green car that definitely looked like it had some unregulated alterations made to it.
This could be bad.
It was. The first lap was brutal and it was obvious the green car was targeting Bucky. It rammed into him ever opportunity along with his apparent lackeys. Fortunately Bucky had so far managed to avoid being boxed in with the help of Peter in the Milano. Tony knew these races weren’t exactly clean and fair, or legal for that matter, but this was a bit more than he’d been expecting.
Rumlow’s car looked almost like it was made to do damage more than go fast, not that it was stopping him from got fast. The Milano, a little on the bulky side, could take a plenty of damage without failing with how Peter cared for her and Bucky’s car, though slimmer, was sturdy enough to take a fair few hits. Tony knew Bucky and Peter’s cars well, he didn’t know anything about Rumlow’s except what he could gleam from seeing it in action.
Which was why it took him so long to spot the solution.
“Did you see that?” Tony asked Rocket as he ran the math. “Somethings up with Rumlow’s steering.”
“You sure?” Rocket asked with a frown.
“Yeah watch him take this corner.”
“You’re right, sloppy maintenance, no doubt.”
“If they hit it hard enough at the right angle, you think?”
“Hell yeah, I’ll let them know.”
Tony kept watching the race as Rocket let Peter and Bucky know what they’d discovered over the radio. As Tony watched Peter dropped back just a little, doing his best to block the other racers off. Rumlow took the opportunity to aim at Bucky again. At the last second Bucky slammed the breaks, the cars behind him swerved or braked except for Peter who shot past him, colliding hard with Rumlow’s car. Good thing they’d reinforced the front.
Rumlow spun out while Bucky and Peter quickly drove past him. One lap to try and get back to the front. Rumlow’s lackeys were apparently less confident without Rumlow leading them so it was just up to their driving skills which, fortunately, were pretty good.
Tony and the other Gaurdians cheered as Bucky managed to swerve in front just before the finish line. Peter pulled a close third and would likely complain for at least a week about the damage to the Milano. To be fair there actually was serious damage and it very well might have had some impact on the end of the race. Either was it was a problem for later.
For now Tony vibrated in place waiting for Bucky to come through to where he was waiting. He wanted to go congratulate him but Bucky had been firm about Tony staying away from the regular crowd here. The others had already gone off to see them and check the damage and Tony knew he wouldn’t last long. Fortunately Bucky new better by now than to leave Tony waiting.
“Congratulations!” Tony shouted, throwing himself at Bucky as soon as he walked in.
“Congratulations for me? What about you? That call was amazing,” Bucky said with a laugh, easily holding Tony up and spinning around with an amused smile. “You basically won us that race.”
“I would have smoked that race if you actually let me drive,” Tony said with a grin. Enjoying being in Bucky’s arms way more than he probably should. Bucky throw his head back as he laughed. He looked bright and care free, no thoughts on the paper work and trouble he’d been having. When he looked back down with a fond smile Tony moved up to meet him.
Their lips met.
Bucky did nothing for a beat.
Then his arms tightened around Tony and he leant into the kiss. It was amazing.
Eventually Tony pulled back with a smile, which fell the moment he saw Bucky’s face. His lips were kissed red and his eyes were wide, horrified. His arms released Tony, falling slack by his side.
“I’ve got to go,” Bucky said in a flat voice. He turned on his heel and marched out without a backwards glance, completely ignoring Tony. Tony just stared after him, his words stuck in his throat and he wasn’t even sure what those words would be.
He could feel a horrifyingly familiar sting in his eyes.
He really should have seen him coming.
Bucky didn’t need another mess on his plate.