When Tony Stark walked through the door, Bucky froze like a deer in headlights.
Not because it was Tony Stark, CEO of one of the largest tech and weapons manufacturing companies in the world. Not because Steve hadn’t said anything about bringing anybody home, and Steve usually warned Bucky about these sorts of things. Not even because Tony was good looking enough to stop traffic - which he was, but that was beside the point. Yes, Tony was famous and gorgeous and somehow standing in Bucky’s living room; but really, all Bucky could think was that he hadn’t expected to see Tony ever again.
Bucky hadn’t even known it was Tony Stark who had rejected him all those months ago, not at first. A picture on the front page of the newspaper with Tony’s name spelled out in big bold letters had finally done the trick. “Tony Stark visits orphanage in lower Manhattan.” Bucky had almost been sorry he’d made the connection. Getting turned down by a random stranger was embarrassing enough. Getting turned down by Tony Stark somehow felt ten times worse. The memory of Tony’s harsh response was still burned into his mind. “Ha. Yeah. I don’t think so.”
Bucky had put it behind him. Forgotten about it. Written it off as a stupid impulse gone wrong, even if he still thought Tony was the most attractive man he’d ever seen. And now Tony was standing in his living room, perfectly put together, casual but sexy in slacks and a leather jacket. Bucky’s heart leapt into his throat, and he swallowed, wishing he could melt into the floor.
“Hey Buck,” Steve said, smiling brightly. “I hope you don’t mind, I sort of brought home a friend.”
Bucky wanted to say that he did mind. He didn't want to share the same space with someone who had shut him down so decisively. Of course, Bucky hadn’t exactly told Steve that Tony Stark was the one who’d rejected him. He’d only mentioned being turned down. The name Tony Stark, conveniently, had never come up. “’Course not,” Bucky replied, still too stunned to manage more than a few words.
“Great. Well, I guess I should introduce you. This is Tony. Tony, this is my roommate Bucky.”
Bucky nodded once. “Nice to meet ya.”
They shook hands, and Bucky probably held on too long, surprised by the callouses on Tony’s palm, impressed that Tony’s grip was somehow firm and gentle all at once. There was no flicker of recognition in Tony’s eyes. No apology. No revulsion. Maybe Tony didn’t remember him. Nothing about Tony’s expression suggested he recognized Bucky at all. Hell, if Bucky didn’t know better, he could’ve sworn he saw something appreciative in the way Tony took him in.
If that ain’t confusing, nothin’ is. Was Bucky supposed to feel flattered that Tony was giving him an obvious once-over, or offended that Tony didn’t even remember turning him down?
“I invited Tony to have dinner with us,” Steve said. “If that’s okay?”
“’Course,” Bucky replied, his vocabulary shrinking as his thoughts spun. Did he excuse himself and leave Steve and Tony to have dinner alone? Or did he keep his big mouth shut and have dinner with them just to make Steve happy? He couldn’t remind Tony that they’d met before, not without dragging Steve into the mix. Besides, bringing it up might embarrass Tony as much as it had embarrassed Bucky. Not a good idea.
“Nothin’ in the house,” Bucky continued, giving in to Steve’s stupid smile. Skinny little punk was impossible to say no to. “We’ll have to order.”
“That’s okay by me, as long as it’s okay with Tony.”
Tony shrugged easily. “I like takeout as much as the next guy. There’s a great Thai place just around the corner, I think it’s called-”
“Joya?” Bucky finished before he could stop himself.
Tony smiled. “Yep, that’s the one.”
Oh, Bucky thought, his eyes catching on Tony's mouth. He remembered now why he’d asked Tony to dance in the first place. That smile. It was like… The sun? It was dazzling. Blinding. It stayed burned into Bucky’s vision even when he looked away. Maybe it hadn’t been stupid, going out on a limb for Tony. That was the kind of smile that made people do crazy, stupid things.
“Joya sounds great - that’s actually Bucky’s favorite.” Steve shot Bucky a knowing look, like Tony suggesting his favorite restaurant was some kind of important sign. “Menu’s on the table. You two start thinking about what to order. I’m going to go get changed.”
Before Bucky could get another word in, Steve had disappeared into the bedroom, closing the door behind him. That left Bucky in charge of entertaining, which Bucky wasn’t good at in the first place. He had a feeling he would be especially bad at it when he wanted to flirt with and avoid his guest in equal parts.
“So, uh… How’d you meet Steve?” It was a stupid question, and one Steve probably should’ve answered before he’d left.
“My company has been doing some consulting at the museum,” Tony replied. “Working on how to enhance displays, improve the guest experience, that sort of thing. Steve and I have gotten lunch a few times, and when I told him my evening got cancelled, he sort of insisted I come back to see your place. Wouldn't take no for an answer.”
Bucky couldn't help a small huff of amusement. “That sounds like Steve.”
“I hope I’m not putting you out or anything," Tony said, looking suddenly apologetic. "I get the feeling he didn’t tell you I was coming.”
“It’s alright. You ain’t bad company, so far.”
Tony stared at him for a few seconds, eyes narrowing. “I… I’m sorry, this is a stupid question, but do I know you from somewhere?”
Bucky blinked. Tony did remember him.
Are you happy about that or not?
Bucky couldn’t tell. It was all a confusing tangle that made his throat tight. “Yeah, we actually met.”
“I knew you looked familiar.” Tony tilted his head to the side, obviously trying to place Bucky, then frowned. “Where was it exactly that we, uh…? I’m sorry. I don’t remember-”
“The party,” Bucky said. “At Wilson’s place.”
“Oh. Shit.” Tony winced, rubbing at his beard. “You asked me to dance and I was a complete asshole.”
Not a complete asshole, if he’s willin’ to admit it, Bucky thought.
The earnest intensity in Tony’s expression made Bucky want to forgive him outright, no questions asked. Maybe Tony hadn’t meant to wound Bucky’s pride. Maybe it had just been a bad night; maybe Tony wasn’t as tactless and spoiled as he’d come off. He certainly seemed nice enough now. And Bucky’s interest clearly wasn’t going away anytime soon, not if his sweating palms and pounding heart were anything to go by.
“Look,” Tony said when Bucky didn’t respond, “I’m - I’m sorry about that. It’s not that I wasn’t interested. It’s just… well. You don’t need to hear my shitty explanation. I’m sorry. I promise, I’m not always that much of a dick.”
“You couldn’t be, if Stevie likes ya.”
Tony looked genuinely remorseful, and Bucky didn’t know what to make of that. He had met two versions of Tony Stark - which one was the real one? The unassuming man in front of him, or the arrogant, entitled socialite who had turned up his nose at Bucky's offer to dance?
“So. We, uh. We should prob’ly talk about food.” Bucky reached over and picked up the menu, passing it to Tony. Their hands almost touched in the trade off, and Bucky fought to keep a blush from crawling up his neck toward his cheeks. He was saved from saying anything more when Steve reappeared in the doorway, tugging on a sweater.
“So, what’re we thinkin’?”
Tony rattled off a list of dishes without even looking at the menu, and Bucky busied himself setting the table while Steve called in the order. Thirty minutes later they were seated at the table digging into five takeout boxes, the smell of curry and Pad Thai filling their small apartment. Steve was his usual talkative self, telling Bucky about Tony's work at the museum and asking Tony too many personal questions for all of them to be entirely off the cuff. Finally Steve paused long enough for Tony to get a word in edgewise, and Tony told them about a trip to DC where he'd seen the monuments at night. Bucky tried to pretend that Tony’s voice wasn’t melodic enough to put him into a trance.
When they were done, Steve cleared the plates, and Bucky followed him into the kitchen under the pretense of helping with cleanup. Bucky waited until Steve ran water in the sink to make sure Tony didn’t overhear. “I ain’t sayin’ I’m mad, but… Why’d you bring him to dinner?”
“He’s nice,” Steve said, rinsing one plate and moving on to the next. “He’s single. I thought you two might… I don’t know. Hit it off?” Steve shut off the water and looked back at Bucky, lowering his voice just enough to keep their conversation private. “Are you upset?”
No. Bucky wasn't upset. He just hadn't enjoyed being surprised. “Coulda told me is all.”
“I’m sorry," Steve said, which was as quick a concession as Steve ever made. "You’re right. I should’ve told you.” He paused, glancing briefly toward the dining room. “But he’s cute, right?”
Bucky rolled his eyes. No point in lying to Steve, especially not when Steve knew Bucky's type inside and out. “Yeah, yeah, alright. He’s cute.”
Steve turned and crossed his arms, leaning against the counter. “Why don’t you take him downstairs to the bar?”
Bucky sighed. Even when he was trying to be helpful, Steve was pushy as hell.
“Come on, Buck. What’s the big deal?” Steve raised his eyebrows, and Bucky recognized that look. That was Steve’s ‘don't think I don't know what’s best for you’ look. “You might actually have fun.”
As much as Bucky hated to admit it, Steve was right. Tony was here. Tony had apologized. Tony had expressed vague interest, at least. Was wounded pride worth protecting it if it meant Bucky spent his evening alone?
C'mon, Barnes. What could it hurt?
“I think I’m gonna go down to the bar for a while,” Bucky said as he walked into the dining room. He met Tony's eyes, drumming up just enough courage and stupidity to ask, “Would you wanna come get a drink with me?”
Bucky held his breath, waiting for the same rejection he’d gotten the first time around. It never came.
“Yeah,” Tony said, one corner of his mouth tilting up. “Yeah, I’d love to.”
They left the bar some three hours later, Bucky pushing the door open and Tony trailing behind. The cool night air felt good on Bucky's skin. He looked back at Tony, thinking to himself that he ought to thank Steve later. This was the most fun he'd had on a date - if this even counted as a date - in a long time. He and Tony had more in common than even Steve could've known, and Bucky found himself wishing that the hours had gone by slower. He didn't want to stop talking; he didn't want to say goodnight.
"Glad you didn't turn me down this time," Bucky said. He hadn't meant it as a dig, but Tony looked crestfallen, and Bucky kicked himself for saying anything at all.
“I shouldn’t have. Turned you down, I mean.” Tony searched Bucky's face, and Bucky wondered what exactly he was hoping to find. “Just because I said no at that stupid party, doesn’t mean I’m not interested. I am. Very interested. In case that wasn’t clear.”
That warmed Bucky all over. He resisted the urge to move closer, asking, “Then how come you didn’t wanna dance?”
“Guys like you are usually bad news. At least, for me.”
Bucky snorted. “I ain’t bad news.”
“You sure about that?” Tony smirked, raising an eyebrow. “Anyway. I was so drunk, I probably wouldn’t have waited five minutes before asking you to fuck me in the backseat of my car. Not exactly the first impression I wanted to make.”
Bucky couldn’t stop himself from imagining that scenario, no matter how inappropriate it was. “Can’t say I blame ya.” He paused, then said, “Can’t say I woulda said no, either.”
“What did I tell you? Bad news.” Tony bit his lip, then started again, his voice lower. “Little much for a first date. Maybe not for a fourth date, though.”
Bucky laughed. He could already tell that Tony was like Steve in so many ways - stubborn and intense, to name a few - but this kind of innuendo would've made Steve's face turn red as a tomato. “Think there are that many dates in our future?” Bucky asked.
“Definitely.” Tony reached into his jacket pocket to pull out a business card, then fished around in a few other pockets before finding a pen. “Here.” He used his mouth to open the pen, the cap trapped between his teeth as he scribbled a number down. “My cell.” He popped the cap back on and passed the card over. “Call me. Text me. Whatever you want. I promise I’ll answer.”
“Alright. I will.” Bucky took the card and turned it over a few times. It was printed on pearlescent paper, and it shimmered a little whenever it caught the light. He slipped it into his own pocket, then glanced briefly up at his apartment window. Steve had turned the lights off - that meant it was past midnight. “Um. I should probably be headin’ back up.”
Tony moved to block Bucky's path. “Hang on,” he said. “Before you go, let me just…” He reached up, hands framing Bucky’s face, and planted a kiss on Bucky’s lips.
If Tony’s smile was the sun, then his lips against Bucky’s were a supernova. Sparks lit behind Bucky’s eyes, and when Tony tried to pull away, Bucky followed, holding Tony still with sturdy hands on his hips. It couldn't have lasted more than four seconds, but it felt like longer, and Bucky's lips tingled when he opened his eyes. He blinked, and Tony took his hand, lacing their fingers together.
“Well." Tony looked a little smug, and Bucky didn't blame him. "Since you live upstairs, I guess I don’t need to walk you home.”
Bucky smiled. “Think I can manage the four feet to the door.”
Slowly, almost as if it pained him, Tony disentangled their fingers, pulling his hand away. “Well. Goodnight.”
“G’night.” Bucky walked backward a few paces, then turned in the direction of the stairwell. He hadn’t made it past the first step when he heard Tony’s voice from across the street.
Bucky turned around, watching as Tony stepped up onto the curb.
“Wilson is hosting another party next week,” Tony said. “Will you go with me?”
Bucky pretended to think about that for a few seconds. Payback, he thought to himself. Not that he actually planned to say no. “Only if you save me a dance,” Bucky said finally.
Tony winked, flashing a cheeky smile. “You bet.”