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December 16th

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When he was a child, it used to be just another day.

It was just another day until Christmas.

Just another day of winter.

Just another day of trying.

It wasn’t his favourite time of the year by any reach, but he could appreciate the peace in the snow - the chill that came with it. He could stay inside with hot chocolate and skim over blueprints and papers, not really focusing on everything yet still getting everything done to standard.

He was only 21 when they died - he was meant to be out enjoying himself in the prime of his life, but instead he was running a company and drinking his misery away. He scoffed lightly into the glass filled to the brim with alcohol, just like dad . He glared at the empty glass as he practically slammed it down in front of him again, past the point of caring.

If the glass broke, he could always replace it. Unlike other things.

So, yes. December 16th used to be like any old day, but now it was a day surrounded by grief and heartache. He could feel tears escaping out of the corner of his eye and he huffed, quickly wiping them away and leaning forward on his knees, hands in his hair as he breathed deeply.

He really wasn’t trying to be like this, he was trying to get better with his drinking, but it was something about this day. Something just made him want to give everything up, to revert back into the shell of what he was now and hide.

He didn’t though, and as a hand hesitantly clasped his shoulder he remembered why. He looked up from behind his hands and saw James Bucky Barnes crouching awkwardly in front of him, not even trying to smile or offer reassurances. Tony was glad for that. He wasn’t sure he could take any more - let alone from the person who had his parents blood on his hands and conscience.

“You still want me to come?” His voice had hesitancy in it and Tony swallowed, nodding his head and wiping his eyes again before removing Barnes hand from his shoulder and stood in a jolty fashion, like he had been shocked.

He breathed deeply and closed his eyes - but all he could do was remember the tape and wince.

He needed to be strong for himself. He was sick of showing weakness all the time. Pepper had told him that he didn’t need to always be so strong, but it felt like he was failing if people knew how he truly felt. Usually he pushed people away in some shape or form, sometimes without even knowing, but here he had done the opposite.

He had invited James Buchanan Barnes, the Winter Soldier, the guy who had killed his parents, to come and lay flowers on their grave.

It wasn’t like they didn’t both know it was going to be awkward and uncomfortable, but after the whole “Civil War” fiasco, Tony was done with fighting - and Barnes was too.

Things were still tense here and then, but after a few years things were starting to smoothen out. Sometimes someone still said something that made Tony stiffen up, or sometimes someone brought up the conversation around Barnes and he always looked so guilty - like it was all his fault and his fault alone.

Tony had never tried to tell him wrong though, knowing that no matter what he said Barnes would believe what he wanted to believe. They were similar like that.

Grabbing the nearest coat to him he sighed as he shrugged it on, not even bothering to try hide any fact that he had been upset, visibly shaken by a single date - a date on a calendar . Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that it was on every calendar, that no matter what sort of “power” he held, he couldn’t change the fact that it was everywhere. That everyone knew. That he never got to truly grieve alone or in his own time.

He shook his head, he needed to try get over it. So what? He was a lot better off than most people when they lost his parents - who cared that he had the biggest shoes for him to fill, who cares that people kept hounding him with question after question after question. Who cared? Who?

“You coming?” He opened the door, walking past Barnes who trailed behind him as he tried to shake his head from those depressing thoughts. Today was depressing enough as is, he didn’t need himself adding to it.

It was too bad that no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t help himself.

 

Pulling into the graveyard brought unwanted feelings. It seemed to be a theme for Tony today. He looked briefly over to Barnes, who seemed just as tense as Tony was. As the car stopped he rolled his shoulders, sitting a little straighter and holding his head high before he got out of the car without saying anything to Barnes.

He frowned as he started making his way towards the familiar graves without giving it much thought.

Once upon a time he may have gotten lost, partly to blame on intoxication and darkness, but now he could be blindfolded and know the exact steps it took.

He didn’t bother looking behind him, he only focused on the destination.

Reaching it much quicker than he would have liked, he twirled the two peony flowers in his hands before sinking to his knees and placing one delicately on each grave. He rested there for a moment, eyes closed and focused on his breathing before he steadily rose to his feet. There was a slight tremble to his lip and he had to remind himself not to cry.

Turning to Barnes to say something he found his mouth closing shut, twisting into a frown as he looked back towards the graves. The man was crying silently - his own tears starting to run down his cheeks but he didn’t look like he noticed as he looked at Tony with such haunted eyes. Tony couldn’t handle it. He found himself taking a step away from the graves and forcing himself to look at Barnes again, “Meet me in the car when you’re ready.”

Barely giving the other man time to nod in agreement he speedwalked to the car. The weather was gloomy and it was starting to drizzle a bit, but he knew that Barnes wouldn’t care if there was lightning and hail.

So he left the man to it. Barnes needed time to grieve as well, Tony thought to himself. He had told the man that he no longer blamed him, but wasn’t entirely ready for forgive him yet one night a few months ago. Barnes had merely let out a startled laugh before he turned to Tony with a lazy grin that wasn’t even close to reaching his eyes, “You could kill me right now and I’d let you - I’m not looking for forgiveness, I know what I’ve done and I’m aware as much as you are that I was brainwashed. Even with the other metal arm gone, this hand still takes the blame. It was me, and you’ve already given me a second chance. It’s a hell of a lot more than I ever could have asked for.”

Tony huffed a shaky breath as he remembered that night. They didn’t have a lot of late-night confessions or really conversations at all, but they now seemed to understand each other a lot better.

When the others had come back to the tower after the fight, everything was riddled with tension - it was Barnes and Tony slowly morphing into a type of more-than-acquaintances, still-a-bit-far-from-friends that had helped change the dynamic. Everything was moving slowly, but after the previous events it was all any of them could handle really.

He was trying his hardest not to look out the window, but he couldn’t help but allow his eyes to trail to Barnes’ form, which was now crouched in front of both of the graves, his lips moving slowly and Tony could just make out an, ‘I’m sorry’ before he couldn’t look anymore - running his hands up and down in an effort to move , to burn some energy off because all he really wanted to do was cry.

Barnes joined him in the car another few minutes later and they both nodded at each other before making their way to the tower together in silence, not feeling like there was anything to be said. Tony was trying to get his head clear, trying to save himself a night of drinking and the headache tomorrow as Barnes sat there as silent as ever.

Perhaps if circumstances were different and it was a different day, a different mood, Tony would have asked him what he was thinking - but right now he was trying to not make so much noise in the silence.

When they arrived back at the tower Tony was trying to make a quick escape before Barnes slid next to him as they waited for the elevator together, “Thank you for letting me come with you.”

Tony merely shrugged as they stepped into the elevator, “It’s only a funeral plot - I can’t dictate who goes and who doesn’t.”

Barnes didn’t elect to respond to that and Tony was glad. He really didn’t feel like having an emotions spill right now - not when he couldn’t escape to a private space. The trip was once again spent in silence and Tony tried desperately not to think about how Barnes had looked so completely devastated, how he wasn’t trying to fill any silences, how he deliberately pressed the gym floor instead of one closer to Tony’s.

When Barnes left the elevator, Tony finally allowed himself to breathe.

As the elevator opened on his own personal suite he immediately collapsed in the same place he had left it before, alcohol sloshed onto the table surrounding the glass carelessly. He didn’t bother to drink it as he re-filled it, downing it without much thought. He paused as he went to place it back down on the counter though, sighing as he ran a hand through his hair. Was this really how he wanted to spend the anniversary of his parents death? Drinking himself stupid once again?

This time when he slammed the glass on the table he did it with enough force to break as he stood, getting a jacket and once again entering the elevator. He pressed the button a little harsher than he should have but his emotions were taking control and he just wanted to rage out or sob to his heart's content - but he wasn’t going to do either.

As the door opened to reveal the roof he tried to take deep, calming breaths. He sat with his back against one of the walls and tried to take in the view, praying that the thoughts in his head would just quiet for a moment.

He had always known this day was the hardest day (emotionally) of the year, but something about taking Barnes with him to the graves had made it ten times worse. Even with all the muddled emotions he was feelings, the ones that made him want to go on an alcohol binge, purge until his heart’s content and even cry a whole lot, he couldn’t bring himself to regret taking the man with him. He couldn’t help but think it was something they both needed.

Leaning back to rest his head on the wall he closed his eyes and curled himself to resemble a ball, his arms connecting around his legs as he let out a shaky sigh. He wasn’t sure how long he was sitting there alone before he heard the sound of the door opening and a hand hesitantly settling on his shoulder lightly. Opening his eyes he found Barnes’ eyes already looking back, a slight crease in them as his eyes were rimmed red.

Tony made no move to move the hand off and within a few moments Barnes had settled himself down beside Tony, still leaving some space so that Tony could leave easily if he wanted to. Tony was sick of running though. He felt emotionally drained and instead leaned to rest his head on Barnes’ shoulder - the soldier leaning slightly to accommodate the weight. Sometimes they had good days, other days they had bad days, and some days were either a mix or nothing and they both felt relief that at the end of the day they could both find a sense of comfort in each other.

Some days Barnes might also lean his head ever so slightly on top of Tony’s head, but today didn’t feel right. Instead, in what could have been the quietest voice Tony’s ever heard him talk with, he asked the simple question, “We alright?”

That made Tony paused as he exhaled. Such a simple question, but so many different variables and answers. So many different tones.

He could joke, he could be snarky, he could be rude, hell. He could reply with anything and Barnes would accept it without a question and move on - as long as it convenient for Tony, done stepping on people’s toes when they didn’t want him. As the two of them continued to look out at the sky and towards the distance he instead decided to go as close to the truth as he could without over-spilling. Barnes would know all the hidden meanings anyway.

“Yeah, Bucky. We’re good.”