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Trying Too Hard

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Having James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes and the Winter Soldier on the Avengers was … an experience.  Probably luckily for everyone’s sanity, Bucky was generally the one in control.  With nearly a year of intensive therapy under his belt, this Bucky was a far cry from the shaken, exhausted man Tony had met before their first retro framing session together.  He was smart, funny, and could give Tony a run for his money in his ability to bullshit people when he felt like it.  To Tony’s absolute delight, and everyone else’s chagrin, the two of them would also egg each other on to greater and greater heights when given half a chance.  Any interview where both Tony and Bucky were present tended to go viral within minutes unless they were reined in by a long-suffering Captain America. It also didn’t hurt that cleaned up and healthy, Bucky was definitely easy on the eyes. 

Not that the Winter Soldier was in any way a silent partner.  From what Bucky said, once the Winter Soldier had decided to start talking to Bucky he never shut up.  You could even tell which of them was winning an argument just by watching Bucky’s facial expressions.

Things got a little dicier when the Winter Soldier was the one in control.  He usually only manifested when Bucky was in dire straits in battle, and he never lashed out indiscriminately, he also had no qualms about putting an enemy down for good.  Since Bucky was generally more than capable of looking after himself no matter how tough the fight, however, the Winter Soldier’s appearances were usually few and far between. 

Which made it all the more confusing when suddenly Tony couldn’t seem to go a single day without setting the Winter Soldier off. 

The first day Tony had just been trying to reach the good coffee beans that Clint kept moving to the highest cabinet, because Clint was an asshole, when suddenly Natasha was herding him out of the kitchen.  He tried to protest until he saw the Winter Soldier staring at him intently, only stopped from following because Steve was standing in the way. 

The following day Tony was arguing good naturedly with a visiting Rhodey on the practice field.  In the middle of their discussion Rhodey had glanced over Tony’s shoulder, mouth falling open in shock, and had grabbed Tony before rocketing them both into the air with the War Machine armor.  Tony could see the Winter Soldier glaring up at them from where they had just been standing.

The day after that Tony hadn’t even made it inside the compound.  He’d still been in his designer suit and complaining to Bruce about one of the board members trying to stab him in the back.  The next thing he new the Winter Soldier was striding down the steps of the compound entrance towards them and the Hulk was a great green mountain separating Tony from possibly certain doom. 

At that point Tony had thrown up his hands and decided to stay away from the compound for a few days.  Hopefully Steve or one of the others could get Bucky to tell them what Tony had done to piss off the Winter Soldier.  Tony knew they guy didn’t trust him, but they had been coexisting just fine up until this point.

Which would have been a wonderful plan if a small-scale attack on New York City hadn’t occurred before everything could be sorted out.  Some new villain, along with the eight-foot tall, acid-spitting slugs he had somehow conjured up, were trying to invade Manhattan.  Well, they had been trying to invade Manhattan, until one of the villain's own eight-foot tall, acid-spitting slugs had spit on him by accident.  Now there were eight-foot tall, acid-spitting slugs just meandering around Manhattan.

Luckily, the slugs were pretty slow moving when not being goaded into action by wannabe villains or pestered by idiots.  The Avengers and local authorities were able to corral most of the slugs using a ring of temporary fencing in Central Park until a better solution could be found.  Unfortunately, even when the villains were gone, there were always idiots.

“Iron Man, this is Hawkeye.  There is a slug on 5th Avenue south of the park.  I need you to get down there because a couple of idiot teenagers look like they’re daring each other to poke it with a stick.”

“… I’m sorry.  What?”

“Slug.  Idiot Teenagers.  Stick.  5th Avenue.  Get a move on.”

Tony cursed and sped to the location Hawkeye indicated where a couple of idiot teenagers had indeed just poked the eight-foot tall, acid-spitting slug with a stick.  The slug reared back, Tony placed himself in front of the two idiots and soon found himself covered in caustic expectorate. 

Tony held his breath for a few tense moments, but when the suit didn’t melt around him and showed no signs of doing so he sighed with relief.  He heard the clamor of voices from the team, but ignored them for the moment.

“JARVIS, analysis?”

“The substance does appear to be highly caustic, but I do not believe you are in any immediate danger.  I would recommend rinsing as soon as the last of the slugs are contained, sir.”

“Sounds like a plan, buddy.”  Tony tuned back in to the Avengers comm channel.  “Hey, guys?  I’m fine.  Calm down.  I’m just going to scare off these idiots and herd this guy back to Central Park, okay?”

Steve, concern clear in his tone, cut him off.  “Iron Man, Winter Soldier is approaching your location.  Repeat, Winter Soldier is …”

Steve’s warning was silenced by the expedient method of someone wrenching his helmet off.

Tony’s heart stopped as he took in the angry gaze of the Winter Soldier.  For the second time in so many minutes, Tony held his breath in anticipation of what was to come, but Winter just continued to remove his armor piece by piece.  When Tony was completely removed from this armor, Winter stripped off his own gloves, which were sizzling worryingly, and picked Tony up in a princess carry.  That’s when Tony noticed the large gelatinous smear that had once been an eight-foot tall, acid-spitting slug.

Things were beginning to fall into place.

“Uh, Winter.  Thank you, you know, for murdering the giant slug.  And removing me from my acid covered but completely safe armor.  But I can probably walk from here?”

Winter only glared until Tony sighed in defeat and laid his head on a broad, muscled shoulder.  Aside from the mortification of being carried like a damsel in distress, it was a surprisingly comfortable experience.

“We’re talking about this later, you know that, right?”  The Winter Soldier remained stubbornly silent.

The Quinjet ride back to the compound was, unfortunately, not silent.

“So,” Clint said, drawing out the one vowel into several syllables, smirk firmly in place now that the apparent danger was passed.  “Seems someone’s been holding out on us.”

Tony, bundled as he was in one of the Quinjet’s emergency blankets and tucked into the Winter Soldier’s lap, could only give him the finger.

“Language,” came Steve’s amused voice from the co-pilot’s seat.

“I hate you all, and all of you hate me,” Tony muttered, annoyed with everything.

“Well, now we all know that’s not true,” said Sam with a smug grin, arms crossed as he surveyed Tony’s immobilized state.

Tony turned his glare at Winter.  “Aren’t you supposed to be defending me?  Isn’t that what this whole week has been about?”

Tony felt a vindictive satisfaction when Winter tilted his head as if to consider his request and both Clint and Sam paled, but his fun was cut short.

“Do not encourage the Winter Soldier to attack team members,” said Natasha as she piloted the Quinjet home.  Tony huffed and slumped in defeat until Natasha added, “At least not until the rest of us are safely out of the air.” 

Tony gave a small fist pump.

Of course, once the team landed at the compound, Tony remembered he had something more important to do than terrorize unfortunate teammates.  At least for now.

“Right.  Winter,” Tony said sternly.  Or at least as sternly as he possibly could while swaddled in a blanket and being carried like a bride on her wedding night.  “You are going to carry me to my workshop, and then you and me and Bucky are going to have a discussion.  Got it?”  Winter hunched in on himself but nodded.

Once they reached the workshop and Winter finally let him go so Tony could extract himself from the blanket, Tony led Winter over to the couch and motioned for him to sit while Tony remained standing, arms crossed.

“Okay, Snowflake.  Are you going talk or do you we need Bucky?”

Winter looked mutinous for a moment before his shoulders slumped and then the whole demeanor of his body changed.

“Hey, Doll,” Bucky said with a hopeful grin.  Tony merely lifted an unimpressed eyebrow.  Bucky grimaced slightly.  “Yeah, I tried to tell him he was coming on a bit strong.”

“Our entire team thought he wanted to kill me, you moron.  I thought he wanted to kill me.  Or at least stomp me to the ground a bit.  And he was trying to do, what, exactly?”  Tony asked, frustrated, arms gesturing wildly.

Bucky caught one hand and held it gently between his own.  “Tony, you were the first person in Winter’s entire life to say a kind word to him, to do something nice just for him.  Not for me, for him.  He didn’t trust it at first, didn’t trust you, but now that he does, he just wants to pay you back.”  Bucky smiled bashfully.  “I do, too.”

Tony felt a little bashful himself, shivering as Bucky softly ran his flesh and blood thumb over Tony’s knuckles.  He rolled his eyes but his voice was soft when he replied.  “Alright, you two.  No more threatening teammates and no more ‘rescuing’ me when I’m perfectly safe, but I think we can work something out.”

Bucky beamed at him and stood, brushing a kiss on Tony’s cheek.  “Thanks, Sweetheart.  You won’t regret it.”  A moment later Winter brushed a kiss on his opposite cheek.  He then gave Tony a crushing hug before marching out of the workshop. 

“We’ll see,” Tony muttered, but he couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day.