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Road Hazards

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"Hey Tony, I need a favor," Steve says, cornering Tony as soon as he steps off the stage. Steve has a plate of all the best food the catering table has to offer held out like an offering, and Tony is instantly suspicious.

"If this is about your bro-bonding road trip, I already told you that you can borrow one of my cars,” Tony says slowly, eyeing the plate because he does want that shrimp, but he doesn’t want to get roped into something just because Steve bribed him with delicious food. Again. "But not my favorite one," he adds after a second, running through a metal list of the cars currently on offer in his Malibu garage.

“About that..." Steve says slowly, his expression caught somewhere between hopeful and apologetic as he sets the plate down and then nudges it towards Tony hopefully.

"No," Tony says instantly, “I don’t know where you're going with this but I already hate it and the answer is no." Steve pouts, and it really should be impossible for someone that huge and dangerous to look so much like a kicked puppy. "Oh goddammit," Tony says because he’s still not sure what's happening here, but he knows he's going to lose. Tony is used to getting cornered at charity galas, he expects it at this point, but he never thought it would be by Steve. The traitor.

That's how Tony gets tricked into taking a road trip with Bucky Barnes of all people. Because Steve thought it would be fun to take his oldest and bestest friend on a drive across the entire country, show him all the sights or whatever it is people do on road trips. Steve had even worked it out so they’d start after a gala in California that Tony was already dragging everyone to anyways. Win-win.

It hadn’t been a terrible plan, all things considered, Barnes has been a gloomy, silent ghost ever since Steve finally brought him back to the compound, and nothing Steve or Sam have tried seems to have snapped him out of it yet. Tony supposes a couple weeks of roadside attractions and tourist traps is as good a plan as any at this point.

Or at least it was a decent plan, until Steve got called in for some super important mission and somehow convinced Tony to cart Barnes around in his place. Because how could that possibly be a terrible idea? It’s not like Tony and Steve’s ex-assassin BFF barely speak or anything, it’s not like their interactions have been completely limited to long silences while Tony works on his arm in the lab and stilted nods of acknowledgement when they pass in the hallways. What could possibly go wrong?

Steve is already gone though, whisked away somewhere top secret, so Tony can’t even give a second attempt at arguing his way out of this. All he can do is pout about it while he packs up his bags. He should be on a jet right now, flying back to New York, but no. Instead he’s going on a two week, Captain America planned road trip with the Winter Soldier, all because he can’t say no to Steve’s big dumb sad eyes.

Tony grumbles to himself as he says goodbye to his Malibu house, which he never gets enough time in, and drives over to the hotel Steve and Bucky were staying in. Before Steve abandoned them both. The only consolation is that when when Tony pulls up Bucky is standing on the curb looking as miserable and angry-at-Steve as Tony feels. So at least that’s something.

-

Bucky is going to kill Steve. Just as soon as this painfully, awkwardly silent car ride across the entire goddamn country is over, Bucky is actually going to beat Steve to death with his bare hands. No one could possibly blame him.

Bucky didn’t even want to come on this stupid trip in the first place, he’d been perfectly happy cooped up in his room all day every day. Okay, well, maybe not happy, but he’d been... fine. He’d been doing fine. It’s hard to say no to Steve though, a century later and Bucky still hasn't been able to figure how the bastard gets his eyes so big and sad. Or how to say no to them.

Except Steve didn't even have the decency to show up for the stupid road trip himself, he had to get someone else to fill in. Just because Steve got called in for some important mission, and because for some ungodly reason he thinks Bucky still needs to go on the dumb trip. And Steve couldn’t have gotten Sam or Natasha to fill in, someone Bucky actually knows how to talk to, oh no. He got Tony Goddamn Stark.

It’s probably Steve’s idiotic, good-hearted attempt to get them to bond, but it willfully ignores the main issue, which is that Bucky has no fucking idea what he’s supposed to say to Tony Stark. What does he say to the man who opened his home when Bucky was still more of a weapon than anything else, just because Steve asked nicely? The man who no doubt footed the bill for Bucky's recovery, even if he's never said a word about it, who somehow forgave Bucky for one of the most terrible things he’s ever been forced to do.

He’s lived at the compound for nearly a year and Bucky still hasn't figured out what the fuck he's supposed to say yet. Other than the obvious 'thank you' and 'I'm sorry’, which he had at least gotten out of the way a couple months in, with Stark looking exactly as uncomfortable and out of his depth as Bucky had felt. Since then it’s been all awkward silences and Bucky is fine with that, he really is. It’s better than he could have expected, honestly.

Steve didn't agree, apparently, and now Bucky is stuck in a car with Tony Stark for the foreseeable future. Because of course they're starting in California, literally the entire country between them and their final destination, just because Steve thought it would be fun to start their trip right after a charity event that Bucky hadn't wanted to go to either. All he ever does at those events is lurk in corners and freak people out, and now he gets to sit in the passenger seat and freak out the guy who pays for literally everything. The knowledge that no one is ever going to find Steve's body is the one thing he has to cling onto.

-

It’s exactly as awkward as Tony thought it would be. He’d pat himself on the back, but the tension in the car is so thick that he’s a little worried any excessive movement will throw a spark and start a fire, or something equally crazy. And they’re only on the second day.

Barnes has said exactly nothing since Tony picked him up from the hotel, and as much as Tony can usually chatterbox with the best of them, if the abominable snowman has never shown any inclination to break the vow of silence then Tony certainly isn’t going to be the one to do it. So it's been just Tony and the radio and a silent, surly shadow in the passenger seat. Tony may or may not have spent an hour talking the ear off the poor man working the desk at the hotel last night, just for some human interaction.

Because the thing is, Tony always, always rubs people the wrong way at first. And he thought maybe he would try not doing that for once in his life, thought that maybe Steve’s BFF had been through enough without Tony’s tendency to be an asshole thrown into the mix, and the more time that went by the harder it became to start a simple conversation.

Plus, for what is possibly the first time in his life, Tony has exactly zero idea what to say. He'll never admit it out loud, not even under threat of death or Natasha's unamused glares, but Barnes is kind of, a little bit, completely and totally intimidating as all fuck. He hardly talks, is most commonly found glaring, and could most definitely snap every bone in Tony's body like a twig if he felt so inclined. He won't, probably, Tony is like 98% sure, but the fact remains.

So Tony sticks to awkward silence, because he's pretty sure Barnes is not his biggest fan, and even Tony can admit that maybe while trapped together in a car is not the best time to push his luck. Tony resists the urge to point out every stupid billboard they drive past and sing along with the radio, shuts his mouth and just keeps diving.

They're stopped for gas on the third day when Steve calls. Tony is loitering by the ice machine, sipping his obscenely large coffee and definitely not stalling on walking back to the car where Bucky is pumping gas, no sir, not even a little bit. His first thought when he sees Steve’s name on his screen is that maybe Steve has finished his mission early and is on his way to save Tony from this unending nightmare. It’s not likely, but Tony can dream.

"Oh Captain, my captain," Tony says in greeting, and wow, his voice is actually a little rough from lack of use. Rhodey would laugh his ass off if he knew, and Tony immediately swears to himself that he will never tell.

“Where’s Bucky?” Steve demands right off the bat. No ‘hello’, no ‘how’s the super awkward car ride going?’ Nothing. It’s hurtful, is what it is, Tony is hurt, and also starved for human contact.

“If you’re asking if I’ve locked him in the truck, the answer is no,” Tony says, rolling his eyes. He glances over towards the car to find Barnes shooting him a suspicious look, and damn these super soldiers and their super hearing, that’s just creepy.

“Has he been out of your sight?” Steve continues to demand, completely ignoring Tony's snark. Extra hurtful, if Tony doesn't get some attention soon he might just wither up and die.

“I didn’t realize we were at that level of babysitting,” Tony says, and yeah okay he's a little concerned now. He thought they were way past the point where Barnes needs to watched every second of every day, and if not then why was Steve taking him on a jaunt across the country?! More importantly, should Tony be concerned that Barnes has finished filling the gas tank and started wandering over to no doubt figure out what Tony is making concerned face about?

“We’re being targeted,” Steve says shortly, and Tony finally has to accept that this is not a social call. Whatever dull racket has been happening in the background on Steve’s end kicks up to a barely contained roar, and Tony’s grip on his phone tightens.

“Like, more so than usual?” Tony still has to ask because on the one hand, Steve does sound pretty concerned, but on the other hand walking around with vague targets on their backs is basically what they all do.

“They’re coming for you,” Steve continues in the same clipped tone as Barnes comes up to stand beside Tony, close enough to no doubt overhear Steve’s side of the conversation as well, with the added benefit of making Tony minorly uncomfortable. And not just because Barnes goes tense all over at what he hears.

“Should we come back?” Barnes asks quickly, just loud enough for Steve to overhear, and Tony might be offended by how excited Barnes seems to be done with their trip already if he didn’t feel the exact same way.

“No!” Steve nearly shouts and alright, Tony is officially starting to get freaked out here, “we can handle this, just- stay hidden. Don’t trust anyone, and don’t leave each other’s sides.”

“How do I know I can trust you when you tell me not to trust you?” Tony can’t resist asking and yep, that sigh of annoyance is 100% pure Steve Rogers. No one else hits that exact mix of infuriated, disappointed, and reluctantly amused. Much more interesting though, is the snort of laughter Barnes lets out, his breath warm against Tony’s neck, and that is... something.

“Tony!” Steve snaps, followed by a concerning clanging sound, and Steve actually sounds a little winded as he says “yes. It’s- I don’t know, some kind of mind control. They’re looking for you.”

“Which one of us?” Tony asks, eyes flicking up to meet Barnes’ flat glare for a second, because at least knowing that would give him a hint as to just who the hell Steve is talking about. The line goes infuriatingly dead before Tony gets an answer. “It’s probably me. Everyone wants a piece of this,” Tony says, aiming for flippant and mostly succeeding as he slowly tucks his phone away again.

“Okay,” Barnes scoffs, and if Tony didn’t know better he might think the Winter Soldier just rolled his eyes at him. If this is all some elaborate prank, like Steve’s version of a get-along shirt, Tony is not going to be responsible for his actions.

-

Bucky can’t relax. Despite the fact that he can’t find a single hint of danger, of anyone watching them since they pulled out of the gas station, he can’t stop himself from glancing around constantly as they drive through the small town. He hadn’t been completely convinced Steve really had a mission, if maybe Steve hadn’t planned to ditch him from the beginning, but Steve wouldn’t lie about something like this. Everyone should know exactly how Bucky feels about the possibility of losing control of his mind again. It only makes him more nervous when Stark insists they stop at a shitty fast food joint before leaving town.

“Stop twitching,” Stark says without looking up, still tapping at his phone as he blindly shoves a couple fries into his mouth, “I can eat while I drive, but I can’t drive and trace a phone call.”

It’s terribly unfair, Bucky thinks, that Stark can still look put together and larger than life with smears of ketchup on his chin and his hair kind of sticking up on one side. It’s the same as when he goes stumbling through the kitchen at ungodly hours, clearly sleep deprived, wearing torn jeans and covered in grease and still somehow effortlessly owning any room he walks into. By contrast Bucky, also prone to loitering in the kitchen at ungodly hours, is a constant mess about it. His clothes are too big because he likes to feel like he can disappear inside them, his hair is always in his face, and Bucky spends most of his time just trying not to look horribly out of place.

The teenagers a couple tables over are definitely staring and whispering and it’s everything Bucky can do to keep from grinding his teeth. Maybe that’s why, before he can think better of it, he finds himself grumbling “you could jus’ let me drive.”

Bucky bites his tongue immediately afterwards, because that’s just perfect. He finally finds something to actually say to the man, after spending so long floundering, and that’s what he comes up with. Steve may find it delightful that Bucky has started, hesitantly, acting like a snarky asshole again, but that doesn’t mean he should be trying it out on Stark. Bucky is well past the days when he would worry about getting thrown out on his ass at the slightest slip up, even if it did take awhile to really sink in that Tony Stark is exactly as generous and good hearted as Steve says, that still doesn't mean Bucky should be grumbling at him. He should really just stick with awkward silence.

“Hell no,” Stark says, tone still light and his mouth full of burger, “that is my favorite car, and no one else is allowed to drive it. Not even after I’m dead. I want to be buried in that car.” He’s still tapping away at his phone, brow furrowed slightly, not paying a spec of attention to anything going on around them. It’s like he’s just asking to get mind controlled and then murdered, or whatever the goal is.

Bucky wants to ask how he can even keep track of which one is his favorite, he has so many damn cars, but he swallows it down with another bite of his own burger. Stark may be barely paying attention to their surroundings, but Bucky is paranoid enough for the both of them and then some, so he settles in to eat his food and keep an eye out and let the awkward silence consume them both alive.

“So it looks like Steve was calling from New York, which is interesting,” Stark says as they exit the restaurant. He’s still staring at his phone, not looking up even as he holds the door open to let Bucky follow him out, take out bag half-full of burgers in one hand and a half-eaten burger in the other. Bucky hadn’t even needed to say anything, Stark just ordered the extra food with minimal snarking about Bucky’s insane metabolism, and Bucky kind of really hates when he does things like that. It make Bucky feel extra shitty about being a silent mess of awkward nerves all the fucking time. “Do you know where his top secret mission was supposed to be? Because I didn’t ask, and-“

Whatever Stark is going to say next gets cut off by his car exploding. They’re still far enough back that it doesn’t do much more than hit them with a wave of heat, and Bucky even manages to avoid squishing his burger between his metal fingers. Stark continues staring at the smoldering wreckage in dismay while Bucky does a quick scan of the area. All the gathered people look equally shocked, no signs of threat or malice on any faces, and it's pretty easy to tell whoever set this up didn't stick around. The lack of anyone jumping out to finish the job makes that pretty obvious.

"We need to go," Bucky points out after a couple more seconds of just watching the frame of the car collapse down into a melted heap and Tony still shows no indication of moving.

Stark doesn't move. "My favorite car," he says in a tone that's very nearly a whine and twitches a little like he’s seconds away from stomping his foot and everything.

"You have two of that exact same car," Bucky can't help pointing out as he takes another bite of his burger. He should know, he spends enough time in the workshop/garage getting his arm worked on and making a point of looking at anything but the man doing the work.

"But that one was my favorite!" Stark insists and yep, he's definitely whining now. Bucky takes another bite of his burger and tries not to roll his eyes. "Plus, the suitcase armor was in there," Stark adds, “and probably at least some of your guns.”

Bucky finally stops eating, lowering his burger slowly as that sinks in. "Shit,” he says, shoulders dropping, and bites his tongue before he can complain that his favorite rifle was in there, too.

-

Tony pokes listlessly at his phone, mostly just swiping through screens and accomplishing nothing at this point, and lets out another heavy sigh. And apparently that was one sigh too many, because Barnes’ grip on the wheel tightens.

"Are you still poutin’ about your car?" Barnes demands, glancing away from the road just long enough to shoot him an unimpressed look. Tony resists the urge to stick his tongue out.

"No," Tony grumbles, even though he definitely is. "I'm pouting about how terrible this replacement car you stole is. Next time I pick the car. And hot wire it. That took you way too long, I'm embarrassed for you."

"You could do better?" Barnes shoots him another skeptical look, which is both unfair, and also very hurtful. Tony gasps loudly, to make sure Barnes know exactly how offended he is.

"Of course I could! I could have taken this car completely apart in the time it took you to hot wire it," Tony scoffs and kicks his feet miserably against the moldy floorboards. Barnes scoffs again, but doesn't say anything else, so Tony returns to pouting silently and poking at his phone.

Steve's cellphone is either off or destroyed, Tony can't get a hit on his location and all calls go straight to voicemail. All they can really do is head for New York, which was kind of what they were already doing, and it really doesn’t feel like much of a plan. Tony is not loving the vagueness of Steve's warning, even less than he's loving this get away car. Seriously, the paint is peeling and the metal is rusted and it's giving Tony hives.

He’s just opening his mouth to say as much when Barnes demands “what’s happenin’ at the compound?” Tony huffs loudly, because that’s the question, isn’t it? Barnes keeps giving him pointed looks, clearly waiting for an answer, and Tony huffs again before biting the bullet.

“I don’t know,” Tony grits out, and glares when Bucky’s eyebrows go up. “This isn’t my normal phone!” He defends, because he’s making himself feel bad enough about it, he doesn’t need Barnes piling on. “It’s not hooked up to the security network, and we’re way out of range for me to be able to hack in.”

“Where’s your phone?” Barnes asks, and Tony can’t decide if it’s better or worse that he doesn’t bother to turn his glare away from the road. “Did you not replace it after that thing with the giant turtle?”

“Okay A, we all agreed as a group to never speak of that again,” Tony says, “and B, I am a busy man, okay, and if I had known we were going to be hunted across the country I would have bumped it higher up my to-do list.” Barnes rolls his eyes but doesn’t say anything else, and Tony is going to count it as a win.

The shroud of silence has officially been broken, and it’s so they can snap and snark at each other. Tony might feel a little bad about that later, when he’s done pouting about his car and also his life in general. He also can't stop though, because if Tony doesn't talk he might actually die, his head will straight up explode from the pressure of his racing brain and the fact that he can't actually do anything. Not while trapped in a shitty sedan on the other side of the country. Talking is really all he has at this point.

"I'm guessing any hotel reservations Steve made are officially useless,” Tony sighs, scrolling through the itinerary for the trip on his useless replacement phone. And after he had worked so hard to convince Steve to make the stupid itinerary digital, too. "You just know he used his real name on all the reservations. Like a fool."

Barnes doesn't say anything, but he does snort in amusement and hey look at that, apparently they do have one single thing in common, and it's mocking Steve's lack of raging paranoia. So at least that's something. A couple more more miles pass by in not- quite-as-strained silence while Tony mentally mocks all the dumb roadside attractions Steve has marked down to visit, and he almost jumps when Barnes is the one to speak up again.

“I know somewhere we can stay,” he says slowly, and Tony can’t tell if it’s because he’s reluctant to bring it up or because he’s actively in the process of remembering it. Possibly both, and Tony is both nervous and a little curious what kind of nightmare he’s about to wander into. “Takes cash, doesn’ ask for ID.”

“I’m not even going to ask how you know that,” Tony says, because that seems best for everyone, and the small smirk that grows at Barnes’ face is not at all terrifying. “Fine. But If we die horribly, I’m blaming you.”

-

"Oh," Stark says as Bucky pulls into the lot and parks in front of the small motel office building, "you could have mentioned that we were going to the Bates Motel."

"What?" Bucky demands flatly. That’s the thing about Stark, he speaks mostly in pop culture references and Bucky doesn’t understand a single damn one of them. It constantly leaves him feeling like he’s missing something, like there’s a joke that he’s not in on, and it’s getting kind of old. Bucky is a little tempted to start making up his own references, just to make things even, but then he’d have to actually, you know, talk.

"We're going to be murdered," Stark clarifies, shooting him an unimpressed look, “we are going to be murdered in some horrible, horrible fashion. Killed with an axe. Knifed to death in the shower.”

“What?” Bucky says again, glancing over to watch Stark eye the long, low rows of buildings with a level a suspicion that Bucky thinks is probably a little over the top. Like Stark expects the entire pace to explode any second now, or maybe just come alive and try to eat them whole. Bucky huffs and rolls his eyes, because he’s supposed to be the paranoid one.

“I’m just saying,” Stark says with a shrug as he finally drags his attention away from the buildings, “if someone breaks in and tries to skin us alive, I’m throwing you at them and running like hell.”

“Like you could throw me,” Bucky scoffs before he can think it through. Stark spins to face him with a loud gasp, one hand pressed to his chest and an expression of utmost offense on his face. Bucky is a little surprised to find himself fighting down a smile. “Come on,” he says, pushing open the door with a loud grinding sound.

“Nuh-uh, I’m waiting in mold car, I’m going to let it slowly become one with my lungs,” Stark says, crossing his arms, and just as Bucky opens his mouth to argue he adds “my face is clearly the more recognizable of the two, and we don’t know if that’s what got us nearly blown up at the burger place. So unless you want to possibly get into a fight with whatever arsenal you no doubt have hidden in your pants, I think I should wait here.”

Bucky snaps his mouth shut because dammit, that is actually a good point. The smug grin Stark is giving him really makes Bucky want to argue though, just on principle, but he can’t think of anything. Except- “Steve said not t’ let you outta my sight.”

Stark’s expression quickly shifts to a flat glare, and Bucky does smirk, just a little, because it looks like Stark is trying to find an argument of his own and coming up blank. “Fine,” he sighs, pushing his own door open with a loud creak and okay, maybe he was a little bit right about how terrible this car is. “Lets go possibly get in a fight. I just hope you’ve got enough ammo in your pockets, rocket launcher down your pant leg or something, because I have nothing.”

“Stop worryin’ about what’s in my pants,” Bucky grumbles, then ducks his chin to hide his small grin and turns to climb out of the car while Stark barks out a surprised laugh.

Checking in goes fine, despite the fact that the front desk kid looks like he’s about to vibrate out of his skin as Stark hands over a stack of cash, and despite the fact that neither of them are particularly excited to share a room. Bucky likes his space, okay, one of his favorite things is locking himself away in his room and dealing with nobody. It’s not a stretch to imagine Stark is the same way, he spends enough time locked up in his lab after all, and Bucky won’t be terribly surprised if they end up killing each other before this trip is over. But Steve had said ‘mind control,’ and Bucky isn’t going to fuck around with that. He would rather just drive himself completely insane stuck in close proximity than have to figure out if Stark is being normal-weird or mind- control-weird, because that seems like a distinction Bucky is not qualified to make. He would rather just deal with the close proximity.

After some quiet arguing, consisting mostly of making unimpressed faces at each other, they finally settle on hiding the car at the very back of the lot, under a disgusting tarp, bease the fact that it is technically stolen outweighs the possible need for a speedy getaway. They're halfway to their no doubt tiny, stuffy room, Stark grumbling and dragging his feet the entire time, when everything goes to hell.

They're in sight of the door when Bucky goes tense, because he can smell smoke, and it's quickly getting thicker. It's not hard to figure out where its coming from either, pouring out from the window and under the door of the room that’s supposed to be theirs. Lights are already flicking on in the surrounding rooms, people opening doors to see what's going on, phones in hand. Bucky stops in his tracks, because it won’t be long at all before the cops and fire department show up.

Stark sighs heavily, but when Bucky looks over its to find him with a small grin. “I don’t suppose you have a fire extinguisher in your pants?” He asks, shoulders shaking a little with suppressed laughter. Bucky doesn’t actually dignify that with a response, and Stark sighs again as he says “well, back to the rust box?”

The upside is that everyone is so busy watching as the flames start consuming the door that no one gives them a second look as they start making their way quickly back towards the car, and Bucky is in the middle of ripping off the tarp when Stark makes a curious noise and starts wandering off. Bucky seriously considers just leaving him, because he didn’t even want to be on this stupid trip in the first place, and he really doesn’t want to have to worry about keeping Stark alive across the entire country. Especially if the man is going to be just wandering off alone into the night.

Steve will totally give him shit for the rest of forever if he leaves though, so Bucky ignores the fact that he definitely hears sirens approaching to follow after Stark and angrily hiss “Stark, get the fuck back here.”

“I think I found the front desk kid,” Stark hisses back, and when Bucky rounds the camper they’re parked next to it’s to find Stark kneeling beside the body of what does appear to be the front desk kid. “He’s still alive,” Stark adds after checking the kids pulse, and then pauses and leans closer, “there’s something on his neck.”

And that gets Bucky’s attention, has him crouching down beside Stark. It’s definitely the kid from the front desk, and he’s pale but doesn’t appear visibly hurt. It takes Bucky a second to spot what Stark is talking about, a small spot of metal on the back of the kid’s neck, right over his spine. It’s no bigger than a fly but clearly mechanical, and when Stark reaches out for it Bucky says “stop.” The sirens are getting closer, and Bucky really doesn’t have time to argue with Stark’s glare, so he just snatches up the device himself and snaps “get in the car before somethin’ else blows up.”

“I wish this car would blow up,” Stark grumbles as he drops into the driver’s seat. He has to scoot the seat up quite a few notches, scowling the entire time, and if Bucky weren’t busy scanning the parking lot he’d probably laugh. “Also, what, am I not qualified to grab the tech now? Really?” He demands as Bucky climbs into the car as well.

“We don’t know how it works, could be contacted,” Bucky points out, the tiny device still held carefully between his metal fingers, one eyebrow raised pointedly. He looks away to dig around on the floor, finally finding an empty tic tac container amongst all the trash and dropping the bug into it.

Stark frowns in the way it didn’t take long to figure out means he wants to argue, he just hasn’t figured out how quite yet. Bucky smirks as they pull out of the parking lot seconds before the fire truck blocks the entire exit.

Around dawn, after hitting the rumble strips for the third time in twenty minutes, Stark finally admits defeat and pulls over just long enough to crawl into the backseat, where he spends the next couple hours drifting in and out of sleep. There’s no radio in this new car, so all Bucky has is the rattling sound of the engine and Stark’s occasional sleepy muttering about microchips and what sounds like math equations.

The only upside to this piece of shit car is that it gets fantastic gas mileage, and by the time they have to stop Stark is blinking awake again, and he stumbles after Bucky into the small gas station. Bucky is relieved that, despite his complaints, Stark seems to be taking Steve’s warning about staying together seriously. He does actually follow directions most of the time, even if he’s such a smartass that people still end up pissed, but Bucky had kind of expected Stark to protest this time just on the grounds that it’s Bucky. He doesn’t say a word though as Bucky follows him to the back of the store so he can fill an obscenely large cup of coffee. He hands one to Bucky too, and then lurches his way to the toiletries aisle, and then to the counter to pay.

Bucky fills the gas tank and stretches his legs while Stark drops into the passenger seat and, after a loud yawn, begins staring down what Bucky can only assume is the world’s tiniest mind control device.

“So there’s no point wondering how this works until I can actually pull it apart,” Stark says, holding the tic-tac container up so he can squint at it. “The real concern is how this asshole keeps finding us. We can’t split up, so our only option is some serious disguise. I’m talking haircuts and shaves. New clothes, although that’s kind of a given, what with our suitcases blowing up. The whole nine yards.”

“Hooray,” Bucky says dryly even as his stomach drops a little. He doesn’t want a haircut, he likes his hair, likes the way that it feels like he can hide behind it. Stark is right, though, ever since Bucky started going on missions with the Avengers he’s become pretty recognizable himself. He replaces the gas pump and drops into the driver's seat, resisting the urge to sigh heavily.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m not thrilled about it either, snowflake. For now, lets get way the hell away from here,” Stark says, dropping the plastic container back into the side panel of the door and yanking moodily at his seatbelt.

They drive until they find possibly the most rundown, abandoned motel in the entire state of Nevada. The woman at the desk doesn’t even look up from whatever she’s reading on her tablet as she shoves a key at them, and the room is somehow dimly lit and grimy looking despite the open window and the fact that it’s the middle of the day. The first thing Bucky does is pull the curtains closed and the fact that the room looks exactly the same is a little concerning, but it’s far from the worst place Bucky has ever stayed. No one has seen them in the past hundred miles, they stuck entirely to the backroads, and Bucky feels like he might actually be able to relax just the tiniest bit.

That feeling disappears the second Stark hands him the bag of toiletries and Bucky remembers oh right, it’s disguise time. Bucky grits his teeth, shoves the ball of nerves in his chest way down deep, and tries to pretend he’s not stomping as he heads into the tinier, dingier bathroom. He starts by shaving, because that seems easier. Bucky has gotten really good at not meeting his own eyes in the mirror, and it’s only when he sets down the cheap razor and grabs the cheap scissors instead that he starts to really get nervous.

Turns out, Bucky cannot cut hair. At all. Pure stubbornness carries him about halfway through, just chopping huge chunks out of his hair randomly until he uncomfortably remembers that oh right, he always got his haircuts from Steve’s mom, and then the army, and just chopping off the ends when they get a little too long is not at all the same thing. It really doesn’t help that Stark just sits at the tiny table just outside the bathroom door and mocks him the entire time.

“Is the effect you’re going for ‘raised by wolves?’” Stark asks, chin propped in his hand and a shit eating grin on his face. “Because if so you are nailing it, I have to say, but I think it might actually make you more noticeable.”

Bucky huffs, because Stark isn’t actually wrong, he looks like some kind of escaped mental patient, but he’s doing the best he can, damn it. “Do you wanna do this?” Bucky snaps when Stark opens his stupid mouth again, and then immediately regrets it as Stark leaps to his feet.

“I do, I really do, watching you is painful,” he says as he drags his wobbly chair into the bathroom. There’s really not enough room for both of them and a chair, but before Bucky can point that out Stark is somehow making it happen. And he only jams the back of the chair into Bucky’s hip a little bit.

“You could just stop watchin’,” Bucky grumbles, but Stark is already snatching the scissors out of his hand and trying to shove him down into the chair. Stark pouts when Bucky moves not at all, and with a roll of his eyes Bucky finally deigns to drop down into the chair, making another face when it creaks dangerously under his weight. “Do you even know what you’re doing?” He asks, going a little tense as Stark steps up beside him.

Stark glares at him, and Bucky just stares back flatly until the corner of Stark’s mouth twitches and he sighs. “Yes, I know what I’m doing. Now hold still winter wonderland, or I might take an ear off and you'll have no one but yourself to blame."

"I'll still blame you," Bucky says seriously, and does not feel any better when Stark just smiles at him. He hesitates for a second, then figures fuck it and adds "m’ name is Bucky."

"What was that, freezy pop?" Stark asks, shit eating grin still on his face as he starts dragging his fingers through what's left of Bucky's hair, “did you say something? Because I couldn’t hear you over the sound of how terrible your hair looks right now.”

Bucky is so busy rolling his eyes that he doesn't even have time to worry over whether or not he's going to panic about Stark bringing scissors near his head before it's happening. He doesn't panic, possibly because he's still facing the mirror and can easily see every move, possibly because Stark actually does look like he knows what he's doing, Bucky’s hair carefully held between two fingers as he starts evening up the ends. He considers the chances of pissing Stark off and ending up with bald patches, then insists “Bucky.”

“Buckaroo?” Tony suggests, and laughs when Bucky glares at him again. It’s close enough though, better than snowflake at least, so Bucky lets it go and settles in to watch Stark turn his hair into something that’s a little less I live in the woods and eat live birds.

It’s not all that different from being in Stark’s lab with the man working on his arm, except for the part where it’s entirely different. Bucky can actually feel the warmth and calluses of Stark’s fingers as they rub over his scalp, almost unbearably gentle as he pushes Bucky's hair this way and that, and Bucky is surprised to find he's almost disappointed when it's over. He's also surprised that it actually looks pretty good.

“There, now babies won’t weep at your approach,” Tony says, grinning at him in the mirror as he sets the scissors down on the edge of the sink. He runs both hands through Bucky’s hair one more time before letting them fall back to his sides. Bucky frowns again, because he hadn't done that badly, and because he hates that he kind of already misses the warmth of Tony’s fingers against his scalp.

He leans down just enough to grab the large knife out of his boot, holding it up and grinning back as he says “okay, now I get t’ shave your face.” Stark flees the bathroom so fast he trips over the shitty little end table and face plants into the ground. Bucky laughs until Tony rolls over and kicks the bathroom door shut in his face. “If I had to shave, so do you,” Bucky points out to the closed door, then turns to scowl at his reflection in the mirror and he really hates that he looks even more like someone he doesn’t know.

He can practically hear Stark pouting in the other room, but eventually the door creaks open again and Stark comes stomping back in with a look of grumpy determination. “Alright fine,” he says, grabs one of the cheap razors out of the pack and stares at it suspiciously for a second before turning his attention to Bucky again. “Get out, you are not allowed near my face. Go stare at a wall or something, I know how you like to do that.”

Bucky can’t even be offended, because he does spend a good amount of time staring into space, so he just shrugs and leaves the bathroom. He spends about fifteen minutes checking over the room, looking under the beds and inside the light shades and making sure the door and window are sealed tightly, no chance of any tiny pieces of tech slipping in. Stark spends that entire time swearing and banging around in the bathroom, until a particularly loud string of cursing has Bucky sticking his head back into the bathroom to make sure the man isn’t dying or something equally dramatic.

“I don’t understand- ow, fuck! I don’t understand how you did this without taking your entire goddamn face off!” Stark declares and throws the razor down into the sink so hard that the cheap, single blade head pops right off and slides down the uncovered drain. “Shit.”

“There’s only one left,” Bucky points out helpfully, “if you’re not careful you really will have t’ shave with my knife.” He smirks a little when Stark turns to him with a dark scowl, because it’s really hard to take him seriously with half his mustache and about a quarter of his goatee missing. He’s also nicked himself in about three places so far, blood sliding sluggishly down his chin, and Bucky sighs. He snatches up the last razor as Stark reaches for it and fixes him with an unimpressed stare.

“I’m doing my best, that thing is a torture device and we don’t even have shaving cream,” Stark whines, eyeing the razor like he’s going to try and make a grab for it. Bucky raises his hand a little higher, smirks wider when Stark’s eyes narrow. “You are not shaving my face,” Stark says seriously, “I don’t know what your skin is made of, but I have delicate human flesh and razors that shitty have got to be against the Geneva convention.”

Bucky rolls his eyes and then glances pointedly at the counter as he says “if I can't have bad hair then you can’t rip your face off.” It’s a weird sentence, but this entire situation is so fucking weird that it really doesn’t feel that out of place. Of course, after another couple seconds of staring each other down Stark actually slides up onto the tiny sink and tips his chin up defiantly. And this is why Bucky should just go back to never speaking, because now he’s apparently going to shave Tony Stark’s face and he did not think this through but he can’t exactly back out.

Nope, definitely can’t back out now, Stark is already smirking at him a little, so Bucky wets down the razor and only hesitates a little before using his metal fingers to tip Stark's chin up a little further. To his credit Stark doesn't flinch as Bucky brings the blade closer, jaw still set determinedly. Bucky works slow and careful, because he'll never live it down if he does a terrible job. He definitely doesn't let himself think about how warm Stark’s skin is, the honey warmth of his eyes this close. The man holds impressively still at least, even if his jaw twitches every so often like he really wants to say something.

It does make Bucky wonder why Stark is suddenly so chatty when they've barely said two words to each other in the past year, if it's just because the silence has already been broken, or if Stark just didn’t have a damn thing to say to him before they were stuck in a car and being hunted by unknown enemies. Bucky can admit to himself that the second option is maybe a little hurtful, just a little, because Stark is the chattiest person he thinks he’s ever met, Stark could probably talk someone to death if he really put his mind to it. Not that Bucky has done much talking either, but he can’t imagine Stark shares his problem of not having any fucking idea what to say.

It’s not a particularly productive line of thought, but it’s better than focusing on the fact that he can feel the warmth of Stark’s skin soaking into his metal fingers as Bucky carefully turns his head and drags the razor gently over the last of his stupid gottee. "There," Bucky says, finally taking a step back and resisting the urge to clench up his now empty metal hand. "Now people won't cry at your face either."

"Shows what you know, people always cry at my face," Stark says. He rubs his bare chin, then cups his face in both palms and smiles wide and sunny as he adds "you know, because it's so beautiful.”

"Okay," Bucky scoffs, and then quickly backs out of the bathroom because he does not know how to deal with that smile. Without facial hair Stark somehow looks years younger even as it makes the smile lines around his mouth stand out.

"Hurtful!" Stark shouts after him, "hurtful and rude! I’m filing a complaint!” Bucky is a little surprised to find himself suppressing a smile, and he decides to do another check of the room in case that makes him feel a little more normal.

-

Tony wakes up still upset about his goatee. His face feels so naked. How do people live like this? With a heavy sigh he shoves away the scratchy sheets and pushes himself upright, and is not at all surprised to find his traveling companion being a goddamn creep. “What the fuck are you doing?” Tony demands, rubbing at his chin again. His poor, naked chin.

Barnes’ shoulders twitch a little but otherwise he doesn't move, stays crouched by the window with one finger pulling the curtain aside just enough to peak out. "Recon," he says shortly.

“And this is... normal?" Tony can't help asking as he starts flailing his way out of the tiny single bed. The other bed is already made, or possibly still made, Tony honestly isn't sure that Barnes actually sleeps half the time they stop for the night. “And that's a legitimate question, by the way, I have no idea what counts as normal anymore."

"And I do?" Barnes asks with a snort, which, yeah that's probably fair, but before Tony can say anything else he continues "I was a sniper and then an assassin, recon is my normal."

"Ah, so you come by the creeping naturally then," Tony says with a nod, and then laughs when Barnes makes a face like he wants to deny it but can't. "Whatever makes you happy, snowflake."

"Bucky," Barnes says again and oh right, that's a thing that's happening now. First name basis, apparently. It's kind of a relief, almost, Tony has been relying on stupid nicknames for way too long just because he has no idea how he’s supposed to address the man. Especially at first, when Barnes barely even remembered being Bucky. Now Tony knows, at least, which is... something.

"Buckybear," Tony suggests, because he lives to be an asshole, and laughs when Barnes visibly twitches. Tony lifts the collar of his shirt to give it a sniff and then wrinkles his nose. Showering can only do so much when they're stuck wearing the same thing all day every day. "Okay," Tony says decisively and Barnes finally lets go of the curtain to look back at him, "we shaved, you chopped off your luscious locks, next step is new clothes."

Barnes (Bucky?) looks like he wants to argue again, but in the end he just sighs and nods, shrugging a little in his own no doubt grody shirt. So they end up at a tiny second hand store where the owner barely even gives them a second look, digging through the shelves searching for basically anything that will fit them. Tony had also been hoping to find something not completely hideous, but he's starting to realize he might have to give up on that.

"Look at this," Tony whines, holding up a shirt with the most garish hawaiian pattern has ever seen in his life, "this is a crime, is what it is. I can’t believe someone even bought this in the first place for it to become second hand.”

"Will it fit you?" Bucky asks flatly, because he has no sympathy, and also no fashion sense. He’s currently holding a pair of jeans that are inexplicably bright green, for god's sake.

“No...” Tony says slowly, lowering the shirt a little like maybe Bucky won’t notice that it does, in fact, look like it will fit him. Tony has already been forced to pick out a jacket with uneven sleeves and a pair of khaki shorts that look like they will barely reach his knees. He can’t stand buying this shirt too, he just can’t.

"Stark," he growls, eyes narrowed, and Tony huffs because really? After Bucky’s whole fit about Tony calling him by his name? Just because Tony refuses to actually use it and sticks with slightly less ridiculous nicknames?

"Barnes," he shoots back pointedly, one eyebrow raised, and Bucky pauses to blink at him for a second. Tony stares right back, because yeah he can play that game too.

They stare at each other silently for so long that the nice old lady at the counter finally starts shooting them suspicious looks, and finally Bucky sighs. "Tony," he grits out quietly, "put the fuckin’ shirt in th’ basket."

“I would rather die than wear this shirt," Tony tells him seriously, giving the shirt another shake, just in case Bucky hadn't noticed exactly how terribly the yellow clashes with the pink.

"If you die," Bucky responds, equally seriously, not even glancing away as he throws another horribly colored jacket into their basket, "I'm gonna dress your corpse in that shirt and tell everyone it was your favorite."

Tony is left blinking dumbly for a second, and then he nearly doubles over with laughter. Well, it's nice to know Steve hadn’t been lying when he warned everyone about Bucky's wicked sense of humor, because before now Tony has never actually seen it in person. He tosses the horrible shirt into their small pile with a grin, partially because he's still laughing over the mental image of Bucky giving him a post-mortem wardrobe change just out of spite, and partially because there isn't actually much here that'll fit him.

"Fine, but I'm going to find you something equally hideous," Tony says happily and digs back into the shelves with renewed vigor. There’s got to be something else around here, maybe he can find Bucky a terrible jacket, Bucky wears jackets nearly constantly and that seems like the most permanent form of revenge.

"You have to be seen with me," Bucky points out dryly, and smirks when Tony looks up at him to glare. It’s a good point, but Tony reminds himself of the worst shirt he’s ever seen, which he’s probably going to have to actually wear at some point, and decides that it’s worth it.

Soon afterwards though Tony can’t help grinning, ducking his head to try and hide it as he finds the same horrible pink and yellow floral pattern on another shirt, one that appears to be exactly Bucky’s size. Oh yes, revenge will be sweet.

-

"Are you seriously pouting about this?" Tony asks, glancing away from the road just long enough to smirk at him. Bucky crosses his arms tighter over his chest and keeps his glare fixed firmly out the windshield.

"No," Bucky snaps, because he's not pouting, not even a little bit. Not at all. “Shut up,” he adds when Tony opens his mouth again, but Tony continues on as if he hadn’t spoken.

“Because it looks like you’re pouting,” Tony’s smirk audible even though Bucky still refuses to look over at him. “I told you I could hotwire a car faster than you, it’s not my fault you didn’t believe me.”

Bucky not-pouts harder, because somehow that’s easier than admitting he’s actually a little impressed. Or a lot impressed. It makes sense, really, because Tony spends most of his time in his lab working on his cars and other highly advanced pieces of tech, of course he’d be able to hotwire a car faster than some people can get the key in the ignition. It’s just that, other than the Iron Man armor and the things he’s always building around the compound, Bucky hasn’t spent much time considering the practical applications of Tony’s insane intellect.

Plus, Bucky is still maybe a little thrown by the image of Tony in ill fitting jeans and a hello kitty shirt, sprawled halfway out of the driver seat floorboard and prying his way into the steering column, for reasons Bucky isn’t thinking about. The point is, this trip is not going at all the way he expected, and Bucky hasn’t decided if this is better or worse.

“Or are you pouting because I picked a nicer car than you did?” Tony continues, “because I’m not going to apologize for that either, there’s only so much asbestos I can breathe in before I have to put my foot down.”

“I’m not pouting!” Bucky snaps again, and then lets out a reluctant huff because yeah okay, he is pouting. “I want a redo,” he demands petulantly and Tony snorts with laughter.

“Yeah okay,” Tony says and when Bucky glances over it’s to see that yep, he’s still grinning smugly. “Next time we need to switch cars, you’re up Buckaroo. I’ll even time you.”

“Good,” Bucky grumbles, “at least I’ll pick one with more gas.” He shoots a pointed look at the nearly empty gas gauge, but Tony just shrugs it off and yeah, it wasn’t a very strong point.

“Gas is easy, I have enough cash to get us across the country and then some,” Tony says dismissively, “the real question is, how many of Steve’s carefully curated points of interest can we hit on the way?”

“What?” Bucky demands, incredulous, because Tony cannot be serious. “Zero? Why would we do that?” Bucky was under the impression the only upside to the fact that someone is trying to hunt them down is that they get to rush through this trip, but apparently Tony doesn’t agree.

“Ah ah, possibly brainwashed as he may be, Steve will never forgive me if I fail to properly chauffeur you through the country's greatest roadside attractions,” Tony says, like the idea of pissing off Steve is the greater of the two evils here.

“You’re the worst,” Bucky says flatly, because he can tell from Tony’s voice alone that he is absolutely not going to let this go. “I hate this. I hope I get brainwashed again.”

“First stop, the Grand Canyon!” Tony declares grandly, obviously trying to smother laughter as he does. Bucky feels his face twitch, because that had actually been the one thing he’d been looking forward to, but like hell is he going to admit that now.

“First stop is more gas,” Bucky retorts and goes back to pouting out the window. Tony laughs some more, and Bucky leans over to turn up the radio even though he just knows Tony is going to point out that it’s just another way this new car is better than the one Bucky picked.

They stop at the edge of town, and Bucky hunches his shoulders as he follows Tony into the gas station. The new clothes may smell way better than what they’ve been wearing the last couple days, but Bucky can’t help feeling uncomfortably visible in a red shirt that’s about five shades lighter than he would usually wear. At least the sleeves are long enough to tug down over his metal fingers, and it’s that weird time between late-night and early-morning so there’s no one else in the store. The man behind the counter is focused entirely on the small TV beside the register, so they take the time to grab a couple armfuls of snacks.

“That’s too much candy,” Bucky hisses, snatching one of the bags out of Tony’s gasp and shoving it back onto the shelf. He’d known Tony’s eating habits were a little out of whack, but this is ridiculous.

“How dare you, sir,” Tony hisses back, “you have no idea what my daily required intake of sugar is.” He tries to grab for the bag again, but Bucky shoves a pack of mini blueberry muffins into his hand instead. Tony narrows his eyes but accepts the compromise and starts stomping towards the counter, Bucky smirking after him.

Their steps slow as they get close enough to hear what’s playing on the TV, because it sounds a lot like a news story about the charity gala they were just at. Which more than likely means Tony’s face has been on the screen for a good chunk of it, Bucky knows how it usually goes, and without thinking about it he steps in front of Tony and up to the register himself. He drips his own armful of chips and beef jerky onto the counter before turning to grab all of Tony’s snacks too, keeping himself between Tony and the cashier. He can practically feel Tony pouting but he doesn’t argue at least, just peaks over Bucky’s shoulder as he man behind the counter starts blindly scanning things and tossing them into a bag.

The cashier finally looks up when Bucky holds out the cash, his eyes sliding over them without a hint of recognition, and Bucky relaxes slightly. He gathers up all the bags as the cashier goes back to watching his TV, and then the man’s eyes snap back up quickly, going wide. Bucky tries to shift so he’s blocking Tony entirely but it’s clearly too late.

“Hey,” the man says slowly, eyes narrowing again as he stands up to try and see over Bucky’s shoulder and Bucky continues shifting to try and stay in the way of the man’s line of sight. “Are you-“

“Nope!” Tony says brightly, grabbing one of the bags from Bucky and making a beeline for the door with Bucky hot on his heels, “common mistake, happens all the time.”

“But-“ the door swings shut and cuts off the rest of the man’s sentence, and they waste no time heading back to the car. It takes everything Bucky has to not shove him along when it looks like Tony is thinking about pausing to dig out one of his snacks.

“Well, that almost went perfectly,” Tony says with a sigh as he tosses the bag into the car and grabs for the gas pump. “Would have gone better if I wasn’t also on his TV at exactly the wrong moment.” He keeps his chin tucked down as he starts to fill the car, face turned away from the windows of the gas station as he asks “what are the odds this doesn’t come back to bite us in the ass?”

“With our luck? We should already be dead,” Bucky says dryly, and Tony snorts. Bucky shifts until he can see the reflection of the store in the back window of their ‘borrowed’ car, and sure enough the man is practically standing on the counter in his effort to see them over the cigarette shelves lining the window. He doesn’t seem to be doing anything else though, he’s not starting any fires or running out to try and blow them up, doesn’t even appear to be grabbing for a phone.

“Okay working theory,” Tony says as he replaces the gas nozzle and they start climbing into the car, “our mystery villain is monitoring phone lines. As long as we can get out of town before he calls anybody we should be in the clear. In theory.”

“I am jus’ filled with confidence,” Bucky sighs. He pulls on his seatbelt as Tony speeds out of the parking lot, and then hands over the muffins when Tony makes grabby hands at him.

They’ve nearly made it out of town when the first siren starts up behind them, followed quickly by two more, and Bucky goes tense. “Are you speeding?” He demands even though he already knows exactly what’s going on here.

“I am going exactly the speed limit,” Tony snaps, jaw clenched and grip white-knucked on the wheel. He doesn’t slow down, instead turning down a side street and speeding up.

“They’ll be armed,” Bucky warns, twisting in his seat to keep an eye on the cars as they have to fall into single file to follow when Tony turns into an alley and hits the gas harder.

“I know, I’m really hoping to get out of town and away from the innocent bystanders before that comes into play,” Tony says, taking another sharp turn and then driving over a median and back onto the main road out of town. It earns them an angry honk from the only other person out this late, but one of the cops sideswipes one of the others and it slows them both down. “Please tell me I’m right in assuming you are also armed,” Tony says as he slams on the gas pedal and they race towards the edge of town. Bucky snorts, pulls a gun from the waist of his jeans with one hand and a knife from his boot with the other. “Don’t scratch the upholstery,” Tony says, shooting him a sideways look.

“What am I a dog?” Bucky asks with a roll of his eyes. He twists in his seat to better keep watch on the cars behind them, trying to judge if they’re close enough for him to do any damage with a handgun.

“Don’t throw up either,” Tony says, clearly amused with himself, and then asks “is that really all you have? That’s not going to get us very far.” Bucky’s not sure if he should be disturbed or amused by Tony’s insistence that he’s a walking armory, but right now he really wishes it was true.

“Lost most of it when your car exploded,” Bucky admits ruefully, wishing like hell he had the rife packed at the bottom of his suitcase. Being able to take out the tires would make this problem go away so easily.

“Yeah I know the feeling,” Tony grumbles, speeding up as they finally escape the sprawl of buildings and it’s all empty fields around them. The cars behind them speed up as well, but there’s something strange about the way they’re driving. If the cars are actually being driven by cops, there’s something very wrong with them, because they’re swerving and weaving and they sideswipe each other twice more before Tony suddenly slams on the breaks.

“Fuck,” Bucky gasps, bracing his elbows against the door and armrest as he’s thrown forward, just focused on not losing his hold on either weapon or stabbing himself in the face. “Warn a guy, shit.”

“I’m doing a thing,” Tony says gleefully as he jerks hard at the wheel, sending the car into a spin that ends with them on the side of the road, flicking on the brights so the approaching cars are brightly lit.

“I am going to throw up,” Bucky says with a groan, and glares when Tony laughs. He flicks the off the safety of his gun, wishing like hell he had more than one spare magazine.

“Game plan,” Tony says over the sound of the other cars coming to a screeching halt. “Very small chance these are just overzealous if bumbling cops, so let's not come out firing.” Even as Tony says it the drivers over the other cars tumble out, literally in the case of one of them, and raise their guns.

“New plan,” Bucky demands as they both shove their own doors open, rolling out to take cover behind their car. The cops open fire not a second later, bullets pinging off loudly off the metal. Tony curses and starts grabbing at his watch, unfolding it into an uncomfortably familiar looking gauntlet as Bucky tips his head up to glance through the back window and make sure the cops aren’t moving closer. The window shatters seconds later, and Bucky allows himself a quiet “fuck.”

“Okay new plan,” Tony agrees, slumping low and leaning over like he’s going to try and peak around the edge of the trunk. Bucky hooks a finger in his stupid pink shirt and yanks him back upright. “They’re all wearing Kevlar, if you can hit them in the chest they should go down long enough for us to get them properly subdued,” Tony hisses, shooting him an unimpressed look that Bucky returns flatly, “I hope your aim is good, frosty.”

Bucky snorts to let him know exactly what he thinks of the fact that Tony even has to ask and peaks around his side of the car again. The cops still aren’t moving any closer, in fact it kind of looks like their having trouble just staying on their feet. One of them nearly crumbles under the recoil of every gunshot, movements lethargic as he recovers his balance. Bucky plans his own shots carefully, waits for a break in the oncoming gunfire, then stands up and begins to fire. His first two shots hit their mark and the cops go down, but on the third the gun jams.

“Shit,” Bucky says and barely ducks back down before the final cop actually manages to line up a shot. He drops the gun to the pavement and pulls a second knife from his pocket, fully prepared to do this the hard way.

”Wait,” Tony hisses out before he can move, snatching up the gun. With a couple quick, confident motions Tony clears the chamber and then before Bucky can grab for him again he’s leaning around the side of the car and taking a shot.

There’s a dull thud as the third cop goes down, and Tony pauses just long enough to flash Bucky a smug grin before he’s scrambling around the car and making a dash for the other cars, gun still in his hand. Bucky is left blinking dumbly for a second, because it’s not that he’d expected Tony to be useless, exactly, but he’d definitely been expecting to do most of the heavy lifting here. Instead, after he finally gets his brain online, Bucky rounds the car to find Tony using his gauntlet to knock one cop back into a car while kneeing another in the face, sending both of them sprawling out unmoving on the ground. The third is barely getting back to his feet, and it’s almost pathetically easy for Bucky to knock him in the back of the head and put him right back down.

“Oh oh! A glow!” Tony says excitedly, and Bucky looks up from stealing a couple extra magazines to give him a confused look. “They’ve got those little bug things on their necks, and I just watched some kind of glow fade from one of them,” Tony explains, wiggling a pair of pliers out of his pocket and plucking at something on the neck of the man he’d just kneed in the face.

“Meaning?” Bucky asks, shifting his gaze and sure enough, there’s a bug on the neck of the man he’d just knocked out too. He carefully grabs it between his metal fingers and stands up to join Tony by the other bodies.

“I have no idea,” Tony says brightly, “but it’s more than we knew before, and that’s always something.” He drops the bug from his pliers into Bucky’s open palm and then adds “we should probably move them from the middle of the road, use one of their phones to call it in so they can get medical attention.”

“Then we run some more,” Bucky grits out, and he hates feeling so useless, hates that until they know more all they can do is try to stay one step ahead. Hates that they haven’t heard from Steve since that one phone call, that he has no idea if his best friend is okay or not, and Bucky can’t help because he’s stuck on the other side of the country with Tony Stark, who he cannot get a read on to save his life.

All in all, this easily makes the list for Bucky’s least favorite vacations, and all he can do is stew in his frustration as they drag the pale, unconscious bodies into the back of the cop cars and then pull the cars to the side of the road.

“Maybe the Grand Canyon will cheer you up,” Tony says once they’re back in their own car and on the move again, but whatever levity he was aiming for is a total failure and his voice just comes out tired. He’s slumped low in the passenger seat, shirt riding up and gun oil smeared across his forehead.

“This is my worst vacation ever,” Bucky grumbles, and he really wishes he still had his hair to hide behind when Tony turns to him with a soft laugh and a vigorous nod of agreement.

-

Tony looks up when Bucky walks out of the bathroom, sputters for a second, and then finally settles on a glare. “Well one of us is going to have to change,” he says flatly, “and considering I was wearing the abomination shirt first, my vote is you.”

“No,” Bucky says, and Tony could swear there’s a smirk hiding under that flat expression. “You bought the shirts in th’ first place, now you gotta deal with it.”

“I refuse,” Tony shoots back, and he really wishes he hadn’t already packed up their one suitcase. He glances down at the garish floral pattern of his shirt and says “we can’t go out like this, we will be arrested for fashion crimes.”

“Wanna take the time to change?” Bucky asks, entirely too innocently, and Tony’s eyes narrow because oh no, he is onto Bucky’s evil plan here. Tony refuses to be played though, he knows exactly what Bucky is up to. They had finally settled on going to the Grand Canyon at dawn, before the swarms of people show up. It was the only way he could get Bucky to stop making extra-murdery face at him and actually agree to go. And now Bucky is trying to stall by distracting him with the horribleness of both of them wearing these terrible shirts at the same time, but Tony is not going to fall for it. Even at the risk of going permanently colorblind.

”I’m onto you, you’re not getting away with that,” Tony says, glaring some more as he slings the bag over his shoulder and stomps towards the door. “We are going to get there early, we are going to beat the crowd, and we are going to marvel at the grandness of the canyon so we can tell Steve we had a good road trip. Possibly after breaking him free from mind control. Now get in the damn car.”

He’s pretty sure he hears Bucky mutter something that sounds a lot like “can’t we just get shot at again,” but he follows Tony out of the tiny motel room and climbs into the passenger seat without any further complaint.

They’re not actually the first people at the scenic overview, but Tony finds a spot way in the back that’s pretty far from any other car. The sky is only barely starting to brighten with the impending sunrise as they climb out of the car, and Tony drags a hand down the front of his horrible shirt again. It really doesn’t help matters that Tony is also stuck in the uncomfortably short shorts. The clothes are comfortable at least, for all that they physically hurt to look at make Tony feel like he should be more noticeable.

It especially doesn’t help, Tony notes sourly as he rounds the car, that Bucky somehow manages to actually make the stupid shirt look good. He kind of looks like a movie star, with his wide shoulders and strong jaw, oversized sunglasses and the fact that he was actually able to find jeans in his size.

“Put a jacket on,” Tony complains, dragging his eyes over to the edge of the overlook. Right now it’s just overlooking a big dark hole in the ground, and if this isn’t impressive as hell then Tony is going to throw it in Steve’s face for the rest of forever.

“Tryin’ to make me hide my amazin’ shirt?” Bucky asks, and Tony refuses to look over as Bucky steps up beside him but oh, he can just hear the smugness.

“Trying to make you hide your arm,” Tony shoots back which, yes, is also probably something he should do, because a metal arm is going to be glaringly obvious the second the sun comes up.

Bucky looks down at his metal hand in dismay, like he’d been so excited to harass Tony with terrible fashion that he’d totally forgotten his own shiny limb for a second, and Tony can’t help a snort of laughter. Then Bucky’s expression shifts, quickly going from considering to a wide smirk, and Tony barely has time to be suspicious before Bucky is stepping closer and shoving his arm up the back of Tony’s shirt.

“Cold!” Tony shrieks on instinct even though it’s actually not, Bucky’s arm tends to stay at pretty steady ambient temperature. Tony just doesn’t know what to do with all that metal suddenly pressed up against his skin, Bucky warm and solid against his side, and this is so much different than all those awkward silences in his workshop. Tony has no idea what to do with himself, so he settles for more offended sputtering.

“Shh, we’re going to miss it,” Bucky says, dragging both of them a little closer to the guardrail as the sun starts to peak over the horizon, obviously trying to fight down a smirk. The worst part is that Tony is pretty sure Bucky’s arm is actually successfully hidden like this, so he couldn’t use that as a complaint even if he wanted to. He also hasn’t decided if he actually wants to, yet.

Tony scoffs and crosses his arms over his chest, tells himself it’s because he’s extremely annoyed and not just because it makes him fit a little better against Bucky’s side. “Like me making noise could possibly make us miss someth- oh.”

And Tony is left speechless for a second, because he’s seen a thousand photos, flown over the canyon a hundred times, but none of it compares to this. The shape of the canyon becomes clear almost immediately, but the color fills in slowly, another shade for every inch the sun rises, and it is actually a little awe inspiring.

“Oh, wow,” Tony finally manages, a little breathless, and he’s pretty sure that beside him Bucky has just stopped breathing entirely. They don’t say anything else until the sun has completely broken over the horizon.

“That was somthin’,” Bucky finally says, voice low and vaguely stunned, and then immediately follows it up with “we can never tell Steve.” His fingers twitch slightly against Tony’s back as Tony huffs out a soft laugh.

“Agreed,” Tony says seriously, pulling his sunglasses out of his shirt pocket and perching them on his nose as the sun finishes rising. After a couple more minutes he can’t help asking “so what else do people do here? Is that is? Because I do not want to take a donkey ride down to the bottom.”

Bucky hums thoughtfully, looking around. “Looks like coffee over there,” he says, nodding towards a small food truck in the opposite corner of the parking lot, and that’s all Tony needs to hear.

He makes a beeline straight for the truck, dragging Bucky along by virtue of Bucky’s arm still shoved up the back of his shirt. They get a couple looks as they pass the other groups gathered around their cars, but the looks are more ‘look at those hideous outfits’ than ‘isn’t that Tony Stark,’ so Tony’s not too worried. Apparently the upside to wearing matching pink and yellow floral print shirts is that nobody so much as glances at their faces. There’s already a bit of a line formed when they reach the truck, and Tony bounces impatiently on his toes until Bucky’s arm shifts down to wrap around his waist instead, holding him still.

“You haven’t even had any caffeine yet,” Bucky complains with a roll of his eyes, but Tony is having a hard time focusing on anything past Bucky’s metal fingers against his skin,tapping at his hip beneath his shirt.

“It’s a preemptive caffeine high,” Tony finally remembers to say, waving one hand dismissively. “I haven’t had nearly enough caffeine this trip, it's a travesty is what it is. I don’t know how you expect me to live like this.”

“You’ve been drinkin’ nothing but coffee,” Bucky points out, entirely too reasonably, a hint of a smirk hovering at the corner of his mouth, “not sure how you’re still alive.”

“Not. Enough,” Tony repeats seriously, then returns to excited bouncing as the line shifts forward. From what he can see of the menu board this is going to cost an arm and a leg, but Tony can already smell the coffee and after days of gas station coffee it smells like heaven.

An older couple walks past them, arm in arm with giant coffee cups in their free hands. Tony smiles politely and sternly tells himself not to make a grab for their cups, no matter how fantastic they smell. The couple continues on their way, safely un-mugged of their coffee, and Tony definitely hears the wife loudly whisper “aw, weren’t they cute, dear?”

“Must be on their honeymoon,” the man replies, sounding remarkably okay with the idea. “Remember when we were like that?” The rest of their conversation is lost in the chatter of the crowd as the couple gets further away, and Tony is painfully aware of the fact that the metal of Bucky’s arm is warm from being pressed again his skin for so long.

“Oh my god,” Tony says, horrified. When Bucky turns to him with a look of confusion, pulling away slightly, Tony adds “I can’t believe they think I’d marry someone with your fashion sense.”

Bucky just blinks at him for a second, then snorts in amusement. “You’re the one who bought the shirts, dear,” he points out with a small smirk that Tony does not find charming, not even a little bit.

“Then I’m questioning your choices!” Tony says, laughing a little as he throws his hands in the air. “I can’t believe you’d marry someone with my fashion taste!”

“Are you saying you want a divorce?” Bucky asks flatly, and Tony barks out another surprised laugh. Then he maybe chokes a little when Bucky smiles back, because Tony was not at all prepared for the way it makes Bucky look about a hundred years younger, brings out smile lines around his eyes that Tony hadn’t even known he has.

Luckily the lines moves again, and then they’re standing at the counter, and Tony can just focus on ordering the biggest, strongest coffee they can legally sell him. Their walk back across the parking lot takes longer, winding their way around families and couples and groups of all sizes as more and more people start to show up. The upside to Bucky’s arm still wrapped around him is that at least it keeps them from being separated, and that is the only upside Tony is going to let himself think about.

“Do you think these shirts actually used to belong to a colorblind couple?” Tony can’t help wondering as they walk, sipping his coffee and taking a strange sort of joy in watching everyone do double takes at their outfits.

“Probably,” Bucky says with an easy shrug, “they were prob’ly put t’ death for their fashion crimes.” Tony laughs again, and he considers demanding to know why Bucky has been hiding this delightfully dark sense of humor from him. But that would require actually bringing up the fact that they never really spoke before this trip, which they’ve apparently decided not to do. Tony is fine with that, he really is, because he’d rather not hear about it if Bucky is only talking to him now for lack of literally anyone else to talk to.

So instead Tony just focuses on pointing out equally terrible outfits they pass, like fanny packs, or sandals with socks, until they reach the car. After a short pause to admire the view some more, Tony has to ask “how long are we required to stare at it? I mean by law, if we leave now are we going to get in trouble?”

Bucky huffs out another soft laugh, taps his fingers against Tony’s hips again and then pulls away. “‘M leaving,” he says, pulling open the driver’s side door, “you can stay if you’re worried.”

“I can’t believe you’d just ditch me at the Grand Canyon,” Tony complains as he heads for the other side of the car, “you’re the worst husband ever. At least murder me for my money like a proper gold digger.”

Bucky laughs again, and Tony can only assume that at some point the sound will stop making his chest go all squirming. Hopefully soon. Pulling out of the parking lot is kind of an ordeal, it’s getting more crowded by the second and they almost run over three tourists, but finally they’re back on the road and Tony can just focus on his amazing coffee.

At least, he can focus on it right up until his stomach starts growling at him, and Tony sighs as he says “I’m starving. These disguises are clearly top notch, so I’m going to request you pull over at the next crappy diner we see. And yes, I am prepared to fight to the death for this request.”

Bucky actually seems to be considering that, and Tony lets him take his time no doubt running through every possible worst case scenario. Finally, Bucky shrugs a little and says “we can fight t’ the death after we eat.”

“Oh, so generous,” Tony says with a laugh, sitting up a little straighter in his seat so he can keep an eye out for anywhere that looks like it might offer anything slightly edible.

They end up at a tiny diner that looks like it might fall over in a strong breeze, sitting across from each other at a tiny chipped table. The waitress barely looks at them as she takes their order, and Tony stomach continues growling until she drops two plates in front of them, giant burgers and mountains of fries.

“Oh man, this food might kill us all on its own,” Tony says happily, spinning his plate a little to determine the best angle of attack before finally deciding to just dive in.

“Weak,” Bucky accuses him, and grins when Tony gasps in shocked offense. And then it’s on, Tony scarfing down his food as quickly as he can even though he knows he has no hope of defeating a super soldier appetite. The food is fantastic, despite the state of the diner, and when Bucky finishes off his own plate and starts reaching for Tony’s fries Tony swats his hand away with a glare. “Fine then, I want pie,” Bucky pouts, glancing towards the front counter again. There’s a row of pies that Bucky has been eyeing since they walked in, and Tony can’t deny they look pretty good.

The first bite of his slice of pecan pie has Tony’s eyes going wide. “Holy shit,” he groans, “this is the best goddamn pie I’ve ever had. If you’re going to kill me do it now, so I can die with this pie.”

“Yeah we’re gonna need a lot more,” Bucky says around a mouthful of coconut cream, already waving down the waitress again. She’s already holding two more plates of pie as she approaches, face smug, and Tony gets the feeling this is a pretty common occurrence.

They eat pie until Tony feels like he’s seconds away from slipping into the best food coma of his life, and he doesn’t even mind that their bill is kind of insane. He also doesn’t mind that Bucky orders an entire pie to go, because Tony is looking forward to eating that as soon as he wakes up from his coma.

“You better not eat that thing before I wake up,” Tony warns as he slumps low in the passenger seat, pillowing a hoodie between his head and the window.

“Like you could stop me,” Bucky scoffs, and Tony peaks one eye open to give him a suspicious glare. He’s too tired to put up any further complaints though, just slumps even lower and props his knees up against the glovebox. “Your shorts’re riding up,” Bucky tells him.

“Okay,” Tony says, not even bothering to open his eyes because he really does not care right now, he’s already been in these hideous clothes all day, he’s full of burger and pie, and nothing can bother him.

“Your ass is hangin’ out,” Bucky grumbles, but the car starts moving slowly. There’s a slight bump as they pull out of the parking lot, but the road is smooth and soon enough Tony is drifting off.

“You’re welcome,” Tony says with a sleepy smirk, and grins a little wider at the sound of Bucky letting out a reluctant laugh. He adjusts the hoodie slightly and then falls into a surprisingly deep sleep.

Tony wakes up to the sounds of loud clanging and bolts upright in his seat. He’s a little confused to find that it’s dark outside, pitch black the way only the middle of nowhere can be, and much more confused as to why the engine of the car sounds like it’s trying to murder itself.

“What did you do?” Tony demands, rubbing at one eye sleepily and squinting out into the darkness around them. “and, slightly less important, did I sleep through the entire day?!”

“Nothing,” Bucky grits out, glaring daggers at the dashboard like he can intimidate the car into magically repairing itself. After a second he adds “and yes. You’re a terrible travel companion.”

“At least I didn’t murder our ride,” Tony grumbles right back because shit, he can’t believe he slept most of a day away, he never sleeps that much. “Just stop, stop, pull over already, I can’t take this sound.” Bucky grumbles some more and pulls the car over to the side of the road. As soon as he turns off the engine the terrible noise stops, Tony lets out a sigh of relief. “Okay, pop the hood and I’ll see if I can find a flashlight and work my magic,” Tony says, twisting around in his seat to start digging around on the floorboards of the backseat.

Bucky climbs out of the car, hopefully to go pop the hood, and Tony starts tossing things around as his search yields zero results. He’s just tumbled into the back to better feel around under the seats when Bucky sticks his head back in the open door to ask “problem?”

“What kind of person doesn’t have a flashlight in their car?!” Tony demands with a huff as he sits up again. “That's just basic preparedness. I bet they don’t have a roadside kit in the trunk, either. No wonder their car is dying.”

“Are you sayin’ you can’t fix it in the dark by feel alone?” Bucky asks and Tony doesn’t need light to see his dumb smirk. When Tony shoves the door open and starts kicking his way free of all the displaced junk Bucky adds “watch the pie.”

“Shut it, I can hear you smirking at me,” Tony shoots back. Once he’s out of the car it becomes painfully obvious that they really are in the middle of nowhere, not a light around for miles and Tony can barely even locate the horizon in the thick darkness. “Yeah I’m not going to be able to fix shit like this,” he admits reluctantly, spinning to face Bucky again, “looks like we’re sleeping in the car again.”

It’s not that bad, they’ve had to do it a couple times now, and Tony is used to sleeping in uncomfortable places. The backseat of a car is honestly more comfortable than the lumpy and worn down couch in his lab, and Tony passes out on that all the time. Except Tony apparently slept all day, and it seems more likely he’ll just lay awake all night, staring at the roof of the car, while Bucky sits in the front seat doing that freaky thing where he gets real still and Tony can’t actually tell if he’s asleep or not.

Bucky lets the hood fall shut again and then climbs up to sit on top of it, leaning back against the hood, while Tony winces and makes soft whining noises. “It’s not even your car,” Bucky protests and Tony can tell by his silhouette that he’s rolling his eyes.

“I can still care about the paint job,” Tony mutters, walking around to the driver’s side so he can turn the car off entirely. The headlights and interior lights go out, and Tony loses his breath a little at just how dark it gets. “If we’re stuck here, I say we should eat that pie,” Tony declares, and Bucky makes a noise of agreement. It’s only once he’s blindly fished the box out of the backseat, thinking how much easier it would be if he hadn’t turned the lights out first, that another thought occurs to him. “We don’t have utensils of any sort, do we?” He asks as he stands upright again.

Bucky is silent for a tellingly long time, and then quietly mutters “shit.” Tony laughs as he walks back towards the front of the car and then wiggles his own way up onto the hood, pie box clutched carefully to his chest.

When he lowers the box to rest in his lap, Tony startles to realize that with the car turned off the brightest point of light is the dull glow of his arc reactor bleeding through his shirt. “Well,” he says, looking down and clearing his throat a little, “this is about to get real messy. With any luck at all our shirts will not survive.”

“I dunno,” Bucky says slowly, sitting forward again and turning to face him, “the shirt is kinda growin’ on me. Think I might wear it all the time. Make it m’ signature look.”

“You’re a monster,” Tony responds instantly, and Bucky laughs. It’s almost worse in the dark, because without the distracting smile lines all Tony can focus on is the low, rough sound of Bucky’s voice. If anyone asks, Tony has goosebumps because the wind is a little chilly, and for absolutely no other reason whatsoever. He flips the lid of the box open for something to do with himself and says “alright, dig in. Literally.”

They eat the entire pie with their hands, getting cherry sauce everywhere and slapping at each other’s hands when they both reach for the same handful. “So are we really jus’ wandering from tourist trap to tourist trap?” Bucky asks at one point, and Tony’s initial reaction is to get defensive, but Bucky sounds genuinely curious.

“Yep,” Tony says, and shoves another loose bit of crust into his mouth before continuing. “We’d be so much easier to track on the freeways, especially heading in a straight line for New York. If we stick to the backroads, wind our way there, we’ll be much harder to predict.”

“How does whoever keep findin’ us, then?” Bucky asks, still in that tone like he really wants to know what Tony thinks. It’s very weird, Tony thinks as he carefully scoops up another handful of pie, this is definitely the weirdest part of the trip. Usually Tony has to shove his opinions and plans down people’s throats, or at least argue for them heavily. Maybe he should have all strategy sessions stranded on the side of the road.

“So it’s either phone tapping, or mind reading,” Tony finally says, “because we only get attacked after someone recognizes us. I didn’t see that last guy grab a phone or anything, but I’m kind of hoping we just missed it because that seems way easier to deal with that mind reading.”

Bucky hums in agreement, and Tony is pretty sure he’s currently licking cherry sauce off his metal fingers. Tony is so, so glad he can’t actually see more than vague outlines in the dark. “So what’s next on th’ list?” Bucky finally asks, reaching for the pie box again.

It takes a couple seconds for Tony to figure out what the hell Bucky is talking about, and then he laughs. “I left my phone in the car, but I’m pretty sure next on the list is the country’s biggest collection of... something. I just remember that it sounded terrible, we’re going to have a great time.”

“I do love somethings,” Bucky says dryly and Tony laughs again. It’s not much of a plan, but it’s better than nothing and if Tony reminds himself that the rest of the team can take care of themselves enough times then he can almost relax.

Once the pie is gone and they’ve wiped their hands as clean as they can, almost definitely ruining their clothes in the process, they end up just leaning against the windshield and staring up at the countless stars spread out above them.

"Almost forgot what it looks like, when you get outta th’ city," Bucky says eventually, voice almost something like wistful. Tony lazily turns his head to the side, and his eyes have finally adjusted enough that he can just barely make out Bucky's profile.

He might be suffering from some kind of pie-overdose-fueled-hallucinations, because he would swear he can see hundreds of stars reflected in Bucky's wide eyes. Tony turns his attention back to the sky and clears his throat a little before he says "light pollution. It's a serious problem."

Bucky hums in agreement, and they fall back into a surprisingly comfortable silence until, voice so soft it’s barely even there, Bucky admits “used to love stayin’ up late t’ look at the stars, as a kid. Dragged Steve with me, when he wasn’ too sick.”

Tony can’t help a soft huff of laughter, because isn’t that an adorable mental image, little tiny Bucky Barnes and Steve Rogers sneaking out at night to climb the fire escape and look at the stars. “So you’ve always been a couple of troublemakers, I can see that,” Tony says with a thoughtful nod, and for some insane reason he finds himself adding “I used to want to go to space. When I was a kid, I mean. Even tried to design my own rocket a couple times.”

“Oh yeah?” Bucky asks with a soft laugh, turning to look at him. Tony is kind of having trouble breathing, for a number of reasons, and Bucky’s eyes narrow. They’re incredibly blue in the dull light of the reactor.

“Yeah,” Tony says, only a little strangled, shrugging one shoulder. “Of course, then I actually went to space, a little. Not nearly as cool as it’s cracked up to be.” His voice is definitely shaking by the end, but Bucky doesn’t call him on it. Bucky doesn’t actually say anything for so long that Tony’s thinks he’s sufficiently awkwarded up the conversation hard enough to kill it.

When Bucky finally does speak he doesn’t ask any questions, which is good because Tony really doesn’t feel like talking about the wormhole right now, with all the stars laid out above them. Instead, Bucky says “me an’ Steve used to make up our own constellations.”

It’s so not what Tony is expecting that it startles a soft laugh out of him, and he finally turns his head to face Bucky again as he asks “oh yeah? Like, making up your own names for them?”

“That too,” Bucky says, and when Tony waves a hand up at the sky, demanding an explanation, Bucky raises one arm and points up at the Big Dipper. “That one,” he says and waits until Tony nods before saying “‘s called the Rusty Ladle.”

“It most certainly is not,” Tony protests with another laugh, helpless to do anything but smile back in the face of Bucky’s goofy little grin. “Rusty, really? That’s what you decided to go with?”

“Rusty Ladle,” Bucky says with a serious nod, then points to another cluster of stars, finger moving vaguely like he’s trying to trace out the shape he sees, “looks like a toilet? Called the Shining Throne.”

“Oh, look who really knows his shit,” Tony says, and grins wider at Bucky’s flat, unimpressed look. Tony turns his eyes back up to the sky, then points to a cluster of stars and asks “so what’s that squirrel over there named?”

“That’s a badger, you monster, an’ his name is Larry,” Bucky huffs, and Tony laughs again, their shoulders pressing together as his entire body shakes with it. Bucky scoots a little closer, so Tony can more easily see where he’s pointing as he traces out another shape and says “now there’s a squirrel over there, but he refuses to be named.”

They make up more and more outrageous constellations until the sun starts to rise and the sky lightens, the stars vanishing one by one. Then it’s just a matter of waiting for someone willing to pick up a couple hitchhikers in hideous, pie stained shirts.

-

Bucky sleeps better when there’s someone he trusts in the room, lately. He’s not sure if it’s knowing someone else is on watch that gives him the extra security, or just knowing there’s someone there to slap him awake if he starts having a nightmare, all he knows is that it works. It’s not a big deal, Bucky does fine on a couple hours of restless sleep a night, and every so often he’ll go pass out on Steve’s couch while Steve reads or sketches or watches documentaries. It’s fine. If Steve’s not around, off on a mission or playing a cutthroat round of video games with Clint and Thor, Bucky finds a replacement. He’s been known to take naps in the armchair in Sam’s office, or the tiny couch in Natasha’s secret dance studio. He’s not sure how he feels about the fact that Tony is apparently also an acceptable substitute.

Bucky wakes up in another dingy motel to find the other bed empty and immediately goes tense, because it may still be dark in the room but he should have heard Tony get up, should have woken up when Tony started moving around the room. Instead Bucky turns his head slightly to find Tony sitting at the small table, hunched over the dim beam of light coming from the desk lamp. Laid out on the table in front of him is the small collection of bugs they’ve collected, lined up in a neat little row with a couple delicate tools scattered around.

Tony has one hand buried his in hair, tugging at the short, wild curls, while he uses the other to poke at one of the bugs with a tiny screwdriver. “Fuck,” Tony mutters, barely loud enough to be heard, and gives a particularly vicious tug at his hair. “Goddamnit, why can’t I- tech is my one fucking thing and I can’t figure out what the hell you are, what am I even- fuck!” Tony’s voice raises as his screwdriver slips and hits the table, and then he immediately flinches and glances over towards the beds.

Bucky doesn’t move, knows that he’s deep in the shadows and Tony won’t be able to see him well enough to tell that he’s awake. Sure enough, a couple seconds later Tony returns his attention to the table in front of him. He doesn’t say anything else, but frustration is obvious in the tense line of his shoulders and Bucky feels his chest clench a little.

He hadn’t even known Tony was still trying to figure out the tiny devices, thought that was just another thing they had set aside for once they make it back to New York with the rest of the team, who presumably have at least a little more idea what’s going on. But apparently Tony is still working on it, in the middle of the night, when he thinks Bucky is sleeping. By the looks of it Tony is beating himself up about it too, growling softly and tightening his fist in his hair.

Bucky feels like he should do something, something to stop Tony from tearing himself up over this because they’re on the run with none of their usual equipment, of course it’s understandable that he can’t figure out how the tiny things work. Tony doesn’t seem to think so, but Bucky has no idea what to actually say. He’s not great with words even at the best of times, and comforting someone is so far out of his wheelhouse that it might as well be an alien language. He’s only barely started talking to Tony in the first place, Bucky has no idea how to even begin comforting him. Especially without doing something stupid like accidentally insulting him.

In the end, Bucky doesn’t do anything, just slowly turns his face back into the pillow to give Tony some sort of privacy while he has his moment. It feels awful, and useless, leaves him with a sour churning in his gut, but it feels like the most Bucky can do. Tentative joking and late night talks aside, Bucky is probably the last person Tony would accept comfort from.

Bucky doesn’t fall back asleep, just forces himself to stay still and listen to the sound of Tony’s annoyed huffs of breath until the sun starts to creep in through the windows. He makes a show of stretching before he finally sits up to find Tony lounging in the flimsy chair like it’s the most comfortable thing in the world, flicking through brochures like he hadn’t spent at least half the night having a quiet freak out. It’s a convincing mask, and if Bucky hadn’t already seen the truth he’d probably believe it.

“Good news, sleeping beauty, there’s a famous old barn just a couple miles from here,” Tony says brightly, flapping one of the pamphlets, “you know we have to check that out.” His smile is almost real, and when Bucky runs his fingers through his hair Tony’s face twitches a little in a way that he doesn’t know what to make of.

“Have to,” Bucky repeats flatly, and Tony snorts. Bucky shifts through his foggy memories, because he knows he’s been in this area before, and slowly he says “if we break north from here, we’re about a day away from this whirlpool on top of a cliff, no one knows where it goes.” It was such an unexpected relief the first time, and every time after, that Tony doesn’t get that wrinkled little frown between his eyebrows whenever Bucky mentions something he remembers from his time as the Winter Soldier. Bucky has become incredibly familiar with that expression, and he didn’t even realize how sick of it he’d gotten before the first time Tony didn’t make it at him.

Instead Tony’s face lights up, and now that Bucky is looking for it he can easily see the way Tony’s real smile reaches his eyes where the fake one hadn’t. “Oh, I like the sound of that,” Tony says, dropping all the pamphlets he picked up from the front desk in favor of sitting forward eagerly. “I want to build a tracker, solve the mystery.”

“Okay,” Bucky says with a small smile of his own, the knot in his stomach starting to loosen when Tony’s smile gets even wider, like he hadn’t expected Bucky to agree. “D’you need to pick anything up?”

In the blink of an eye Tony is on his feet and shoving everything back into their one duffle bag. “There should be more than enough already in the car for me to work with,” Tony says, “now lets go lets go!”

“Can I change first?” Bucky asks, failing to completely hide his own smile as he shoves away the blankets and pushes himself to his feet. “I don’t wanna go look at whirlpools in my PJs.”

“Nope!” Tony says brightly, shoving his feet into his shoes and then bouncing on his toes near the door, “c’mon, I’ll even let you drive. I can rig up my mystery-solving tracking device on the road.”

Bucky nearly has to wrestle the bag out of Tony’s hands, and he’s pretty sure Tony pouts the entire ten minutes it takes for him to shower and change. Before they leave Tony spends a good twenty minutes digging through all the random boxes shoved into the trunk of their latest car and demanding to know why one person needs so many VCRs like he really expects Bucky to have an answer.

Once they’re finally on the road Tony turns the entire passenger side of the car into a mechanical graveyard, tearing apart VCRs and smart phones and things Bucky doesn’t even recognize and twisting the pieces into something new. He chatters happily the whole time, and Bucky can only see the barest hints of the previous tension hanging around Tony’s shoulders. It makes Bucky feel ridiculously pleased that his stupid suggestion has Tony in such a good mood, especially considering he was up half the night worrying himself sick.

When Tony starts talking about his bots is when he really gets going though, waving his hands as he talks and somehow still working at the same time, nearly hitting Bucky with his monstrosity of wires more than once. Bucky can’t even bring himself to mind that much.

“Of course DUM-E can play fetch!” Tony says with a loud gasp, like Bucky suggesting otherwise is the most horrifying thing he’s ever heard. “He doesn’t always bring back the exact tool you threw, but he’s doing his best!”

“I dunno, I’m pretty sure that’s not th’ rules of fetch,” Bucky says, and grins when Tony shoots him an offended look. Tony’s offended flailing ends with Bucky getting smacked by wires again, but it was still totally worth it.

“You say that to his face, next time you see him,” Tony finally says when he’s done making offended sputtering noises, narrowing his eyes, “you break his little robot heart like that, I dare you.” After a second of consideration, he shrugs and adds “well, he doesn’t have a face, but I dare you to say that to his claw.”

“Okay,” Bucky scoffs, a little thrown at the reminder of real life, surprised by how much he’s looking forward to an end of the painful silences when Tony works on his arm. “‘M gonna tell him you said he’s terrible.”

“You wouldn’t,” Tony gasps, clutching one hand to his chest and then swearing when he drops something that looked important and it immediately get lost in the mess on the floorboards.

“You said he doesn’t know a socket wrench from a crowbar,” Bucky continues seriously, and then grins again when Tony makes even louder angry incoherent noises at him.

“The nerve on you, what an absolute scoundrel!” Tony wails dramatically. He breaks out into giggles immediately afterwards, his entire body shaking with it and the smile lines around his eyes nearly breathtaking without sunglasses in the way.

Bucky opens his mouth to say something else, but before he can Tony leans forward to crank up the volume on the stereo and drown him out. Another fun quirk of this latest car, on top of being filled with random bits of tech, half of the stereo is smashed in and the only thing that actually works is the volume control. Tony had spent the first two hours after stealing it wondering why someone would ‘collect so much old junk but refuse to fix their radio?!’ The end result is that they’ve been stuck listening to the same CD on repeat for the past two days, albeit quietly, and now that it's cranked way up Bucky finally has to ask “what is this?”

Tony turns to him with such an expression of honest shock that Bucky actually has to rewind the past couple minutes to make sure he did in fact said what he thought he had. “You- I don’t-“ Tony continues to sputter uselessly until Bucky shoots his an unimpressed look, and then finally demands “how do you not know Queen?!”

“Music isn’t real high on my catch-up list,” Bucky huffs, and then rolls his eyes when Tony makes more offended faces at him. “Look I’ve been watchin’ the list of movies, what more d’you people want from me?”

“Unacceptable,” Tony says, like he’s making a declaration, and sits up a little straighter in his seat. “This is conveniently the Best of Queen album, and I am going to make sure you properly appreciate it.”

“Are we sure we can’t get the CD out?” Bucky asks, eyeing the stereo. Tony turns it up again, completely ignoring Bucky’s protesting shouts of “I’m willing t‘ lose a finger! I’ll find us a new car!”

Tony spends the next six hours singing at him, voice surprisingly confident even as he continues building his tracking device. After a couple rounds of the album he starts really getting into it, dramatic hand motions and everything even though it means flailing loose wires all over the place and dropping his tools more than a few times. Bucky hates to admit it, but it grows on him. All of it, the music, the warm sound of Tony’s voice, and even the flailing limbs, all of it has Bucky grinning helplessly and unable to fight it.

“C’mon tasty freeze, I know you know the words by now, feel free to jump in anytime now,” Tony teases as the first song starts over again for what feels like the millionth time now.

Bucky’s not going to sing, he’s not, and it’s not just because he’s been enjoying listening to Tony’s smooth, warm voice. He’s also trying not to think too deeply into that, so instead he just rolls his eyes and insists “my name is Bucky.”

“Mr Freeze?” Tony shoots back, giggling a little when Bucky shoots him his best deathglare, and Bucky probably shouldn’t find it so charming that Tony is not at all affected by it anymore. “Buckarino? The frost king?”

Bucky,” he says again, drawing the word out like maybe he thinks Tony just didn’t understand him the first fifty times. It’s hard to keep up his annoyed act in the face of Tony’s smile, and Bucky reaches over with one hand to swat at the device in Tony’s hand.

“Buckybear?” Tony tries, easily avoiding Bucky’s flailing hand, and then starts giggling all over again when Bucky sputters. “Sing for me and I’ll call you whatever you want,” Tony offers around his laughter, wiggling his eyebrows.

Bucky sputters some more, forcing his attention fully back onto the road and hoping like hell that Tony can’t see the heat rising in his cheeks. “Fine,” Bucky finally grumbles, then reaches over to turn the radio up a little louder.

Tony makes a couple noises of vague protest but doesn’t turn it back down, just starts singing again, twice as loud, while making big expectant eyes at the side of Bucky’s face. Slowly, quietly, Bucky starts to join in, because yeah he definitely knows all the words by now, he had them memorized the second time Tony sang them all through. Tony lights up all over again, but he at least has the decency to stop staring, turning back to his project instead and after awhile Bucky stops feeling like his face is quite so on fire.

Another couple hours in, Tony has finished his tracker and tucked it carefully away, all the better to do sweeping hand gestures, and Bucky has lost all his embarrassment. The stereo is cranked up ridiculously high, nothing around them for miles but empty fields and all the windows rolled down to let in the cool evening air. What they’re doing at this point can only be described as screaming, rather than singing, more concerned with trying to drown each other out than trying to sound good. Bucky doesn’t know that he’s smiled this much since before... well, before everything. He doesn’t know that he’s seen Tony smile this much ever, not a real smile, the kind that lights up his entire face and everything around him.

Bucky bursts into laughter again as Tony belts a line out with extra drama, back of his hand pressed to his forehead while he holds the other out beseechingly, and then he turns to Bucky with a wide grin. Bucky’s heart lurches in his chest. Oh. Uh oh.

-

Tony knew it was only a matter of time before this happened. It’s still better than sleeping in the car, by such a wide margin that it’s not even worth mentioning, but Tony has still been dreading this moment, just a little.

The woman at the desk gives them a dirty look when Tony takes the key from her, and Tony has a lot of things he would like to say in response to that look. Things like it’s not his fault this is the last room in this run down motel, or how he wouldn’t be staying here at all, if it were up to him, but honestly he’s too exhausted for any of it. So Tony just gives her a dirty look right back and then shuffles out of the office, Bucky trudging along behind him.

When Tony pushes the door open there it is, the one, singular bed. It looks like the frame is about to give out beneath it at any moment, and the bedspread is worn down to a dull gray color. And oh yeah, there’s only one. Tony is nearly dead on his feet though, so he just continues his forward shuffle until he can collapse down onto the mattress. It creaks dangerously, but nothing terrible happens and Tony is absolutely going to call this a win.

“If you’re going to shove me off,” Tony slurs out, his eyes already closed, “just give me like, fifteen minutes to properly pass out and then roll me to the floor. I won’t even wake up.”

Bucky lets out a soft huff of laughter, and then Tony hears the now familiar sounds of him checking over every inch of the room. Tony is right on the edge of sleep, that hazy, floaty point where nothing is quite real, when he feels the other side of the bed dip under Bucky’s weight. And it’s fine, this is not at all worth freaking out about, it’s not like Tony has never done platonic bed sharing before. Back at MIT he had a 50/50 chance of drunkenly stumbling into Rhodey’s bed instead of his own, after all. He’s nearly asleep already anyways, and between one breath and the next he’s out. When he wakes up in the morning Bucky is already up, checking over the room again, and it’s all fine. It’s totally fine. Tony doesn’t at all think about the way he swears he can feel the warmth that lingers on the other side of the bed.

The thing is though, is that it keeps happening. After the first time results in a surprising lack of general awkwardness, Tony tends to just get a single room whenever they stay in motels for the night. He’s all ready to defend that decision too, if Bucky ever asks, because single rooms are cheaper in most of the places they stop, and Tony doesn’t actually have an unlimited amount of cash on hand, doesn’t want to risk stopping at an ATM or using his cards when he still doesn’t know how they’re being tracked. So yeah, totally valid reasons. Bucky never asks.

Eventually it gets to the point where Tony would almost call it normal to wake up with his legs all tangled up with Bucky’s. And by ‘normal’, he means ‘something he is refusing to let himself think about too closely.’

“Why are your toes so cold?” Tony grumbles, face still mostly shoved into his pillow, eyes tightly closed against the bright sunlight pouring in through the flimsy curtains. “I’m supposed to be the one with bad circulation.”

“Probably all that time spent in a freezer,” Bucky points out dryly. He presses his toes harder into Tony’s shins and laughs when Tony squawks angrily and kicks at him blindly.

“And yet you won’t let me call you snowflake,” Tony says with a sigh, finally squinting one eye open so he can give Bucky a betrayed look. “What else is in a freezer? Can I call you fish sticks? Ice cream?”

“No,” Bucky says, but Tony can totally see the smile trying to break free around the corners of his mouth, even as Bucky reaches over and tries to tug Tony’s pillow over his face.

“Frozen burrito,” Tony suggests, laughing as he wiggles and flails, tugging the pillow out of Bucky’s hands and tossing it across the room. Sure, he’s not as comfortable now, but he’s also not at risk of being smothered, so he just grins victoriously and says “oh! What about juice concentrace?”

Bucky kicks him out of the bed. Tony hits the floor with a loud squawk, and then firmly reminds himself that it’s way too early in the morning to be thinking about why his heart lurches nearly painfully when Bucky leans over the edge of the bed to laugh at him, his hair all matted down on one side from sleeping on it. If Tony never actually gets around to letting himself think about it, well that’s his business.

It is a little disturbing that when Tony wakes up in the middle of the night he can instantly tell Bucky isn’t beside him, but that's another thing Tony is in deep denial about. Instead he just rolls over, onto the cold half of the bed, and lifts his head to find Bucky doing that creepy crouching-by-the-window thing.

Bucky is pretty hard to read, but by now Tony can pick out the extra tension in the set of his shoulders, and even in the dim light from the parking lot he can see that Bucky’s flesh fingers are white knuckled on the windowsill. “Anything good going on out there?” Tony asks, and then pauses to clear his throat when his voice comes out sleep rough. “Police raid on the obvious prostitution ring next door? Masked killer stalking through the night? Maybe a particularly large moth?”

“No,” Bucky says shortly, just the one word, and if anything he gets even tenser. His eyes don’t shift away from the window at all, even though as far as Tony can tell there is nothing going on out there at all.

Tony drops his head back down to the pillow with a huff. He should just go back to sleep, let Bucky do his thing, because Tony is not at all qualified for whatever is happening here. He can’t ignore it though, he can practically feel how tense Bucky is from here, and with a groan Tony shoves himself out of bed.

Bucky finally turns to look at him as Tony starts shoving his feet into his shoes, confusion written all over his face. “You are too tense,” Tony tells him seriously as he pulls on his jacket, “you are giving me knots, and it’s disturbing my beauty rest. So we are going to go sit by the pool, and we are going to relax.”

Bucky looks like he wants to outright refuse, jaw clenching, and Tony deflates a little because yeah, he really should have stayed in bed. Finally, Bucky grits out “the pool is disgusting.”

He definitely doesn’t sound thrilled, but he’s not actually saying no, so Tony tries out a small grin and says “that’s the fun.” He grabs the one towel from the bathroom, the large bottle of vodka some previous guest left in the bottom drawer of the dresser, and then marches out the door, leaving Bucky with no choice but to follow him.

“Alright, so here’s the game,” Tony says once they’re seated next to the pool, only the threadbare towel between them and the mold covered concrete. He points to a strange mass of hair and plastic floating near the stairs and asks “what the hell is that?”

Bucky side eyes him, frown still firmly in place, and Tony is fully expecting him to go storming back to the room at any second. Instead, after a long minute, Bucky grumbles out “mutant hair clog come to life.”

“You’re crazy if you think that thing is alive,” Tony says, smile widening a little as he opens the vodka bottle and takes a swig, “nothing could possibly survive in that water. And I use the word ‘water’ loosely, because I kind of think this pool might be filled with toxic sludge.”

“Then what is it?” Bucky demands, snatching the bottle from him and because Tony is such a nice guy, he doesn’t even object when Bucky takes a swig huge enough to knock a normal person on their ass.

“It’s obviously a zip tie that tried to grow fur in order to survive the harsh midwestern winters, but who’s life was tragically cut short by it’s meeting with this cesspool,” Tony says with a wave of his hand.

Bucky doesn’t actually look any less tense, but he snorts out a laugh and takes another drink. “Okay, what’s that?” He asks, pointing to a dark shape luring at the bottom of the pool near the drain.

“Loch Ness monster,” Tony responds instantly, and can’t help the rush of satisfaction he feels when Bucky’s next huff is accompanied by the smallest of smiles. Tony may not know a single thing about making people actually feel better, but he does know distraction. Tony is a master of distraction, and he is all too happy to share that knowledge.

“Swamp creature,” Bucky suggests, and finally hands him back the bottle, “got lost on it’s fall migration.” When Tony points out another unknown lump clinging to the tiled wall of the pool, he makes a long, thoughtful sound and then says “what’s left of my soul.”

It startles a laugh out of Tony and has him choking on another sip of the vodka until Bucky slaps him on the back. They keep playing until Bucky has killed most of the bottle himself and nearly all the tension has bled out of him, until the chill starts getting to Tony and he tries to subtly press himself close to Bucky’s side. Once they finish arguing over every unidentified floating object they fall into a peaceful silence, and Tony is hesitant to break it. But he can’t stop thinking about how Bucky had looked at the window, ready to snap at any second, and Tony has to say something.

“I know you hate that we can’t do anything particularly useful right now,” he starts slowly, eyes fixed on the broken patio furniture across the pool, “but I promise you, the best thing we can do right now is just to make it back to New York, and-“

“I know,” Bucky interrupts, which is probably for the best, because Tony was just about to completely lose control and go on a long winded rant about his entire thought process. No one wants that. “I do hate it,” Bucky grits out, like it physically pains him to admit, “but I know you’re right.”

Tony turns to blink at him. “You- what?” He sputters out and returns Bucky’s flat stare with more blinking. “No seriously, can you say that one more time? I think all the fumes from this toxic pool water is making me hallucinate.”

“Why is that surprising?” Bucky grumbles defensively, not meeting his eyes and holding the bottle out of reach when Tony makes a grab for it. “You know you’re right, you know how smart you are.”

Tony’s not sure he could explain it even if he wanted to, how hard he usually has to work to convince people to put even an ounce of trust in him, much less agree with a plan like ‘I know people are hunting us but let's continue our tour of the country.’ Tony really doesn’t want to get into any of that, so instead he goes with “well how was I supposed you know you trust my ridiculous opinion? Seriously, when would I have gotten that impression? Before this trip we had spoken basically not at all.”

Bucky continues to stare at him flatly, doing a surprisingly good job of expressing how unimpressed he is with just his eyebrows, and then finally says “‘m not exactly the chatty one, of the two of us.”

Tony opens his mouth to argue, and then closes it because yeah, Bucky and his eyebrows might have a point there. "In my defense,” he says, shrugging one shoulder sheepishly, “you do kind of have resting murder face." When Bucky stares at him flatly, Tony explains "resting murder face. You know, it's like resting bitch face, but more... murdery."

“Resting bitch face," Bucky repeats slowly, and then smirks.Tony is instantly suspicious of that smirk. “Is that what you have?" Bucky asks, eyes big and innocent, and Tony has to swallow down a surprised laugh.

“I never!” Tony gasps in shocked outrage, shoving at Bucky’s shoulder and then pouting when it accomplishes exactly nothing. When Bucky finally stops laughing at him and hands back the bottle Tony finishes it off, trying to steel his nerve. It still takes a couple deep breaths and looking away from Bucky’s face before Tony can force himself to admit “I didn’t- know what to say. After everything.”

After a second Bucky laughs again, and Tony turns back to glare at him because okay, that feels a little unnecessary. “You didn’ know what to say,” Bucky repeats, shaking his head, and despite his reluctance Tony finds himself letting out a laugh of his own. “Tony,” Bucky says slowly, like Tony is particularly slow, and yeah he probably deserves that too, “I barely talk at all. An’ you’re intimidating as hell.”

“Stop, I’m blushing,” Tony says, swatting at him, but he has a horrible feeling that it's actually true. He still hasn’t gotten used to the sound of Bucky actually saying his name, warm and low, and Tony drags his attention back to the swamp creature in the deep end. So much for thinking Bucky hated him for any number of totally valid reasons. “I’ll get us back to New York,” Tony promises, “and in the mean time you have stupid roadside attractions to distract you. Next up, the country’s oldest covered bridge.”

“We’re not doing that,” Bucky says instantly. He leans back, resting his palms on the ground, and the last of the tension seeps out of him. Tony has a feeling he’s grinning smugly, but he got Bucky to stop brooding in corners so he’s going to let himself have this one.

Tony goes still as Bucky shifts a little more and it has Tony tipping further sideways, practically tucked in against Bucky’s side, and when Bucky doesn’t object or move further Tony relaxes again. “Oh, I think we are doing that,” he says with a small grin, “Steve even put a little star next to it in the list. He’s going to want pictures.”

“I’m gonna feed you t’ the swamp creature,” Bucky replies with grave seriousness, nodding to the dark shape at the bottom of the pool. “I’ll never have t’ see an old thing ever again.”

“I’m telling Steve you said that,” Tony says, and then squawks when Bucky actually gives him a little shove, clinging to Bucky’s shirt and declaring “if I go I’m taking you with me!”

-

Bucky doesn’t know that he’s ever spent this long sitting still in his life. No amount of gas stops or bathroom breaks or tourist traps can make up for the fact that they spend the majority of the day in the car. Bucky is seriously starting to worry that he’s going to get out of shape on this semi-vacation, no matter how unlikely that is, because he knows Steve will never let him hear the end of it. He ends up doing push ups in a lot of weird places, like parking lots in the middle of the night, the filthy carpet of tiny motel rooms, and on the side of the highway.

Currently, he’s doing pushups in the scraggly grass of a highway rest stop, dirt digging into his flesh palm, but it’s better than the oil stained parking lot. Tony is sitting on the hood of the car parked right beside him, his attention completely focused on the tablet in his lap. There’s not a single other car at the rest stop, and Tony left the car running so the Best of Queen drifts out the open windows.

Bucky may or may not be sneaking a peak up at Tony every time he pushes himself up again, the focused little wrinkle between his eyebrows, the way his eyes practically glow in the light of the screen. It was one thing to know, objectively, that Tony is a generally attractive person, it’s an entirely different thing to be personally subjected to it every second of every day. And once Bucky actually noticed the fact that Tony is breathtakingly gorgeous, he can’t stop noticing it, it’s a little like getting punched in the chest every time Tony turns those big doe eyes on him, every time Tony laughs like it’s been startled out of him. Bucky may be the master of the blank face, of denying himself things he wants but definitely doesn’t deserve, but there’s only so much he can take. It certainly doesn’t help that Tony is always in his space, that Bucky actually feels disappointed when they end up in separate beds, that he’s become painfully familiar with smelling Tony on his own skin. He constantly misses the warmth of Tony pressed against him.

It’s a problem. Bucky does push ups until he feels like he can barely shove it all back down where it won’t show, then climbs to his feet. He finds himself drawn back to Tony’s side like a stupid little moth to a flame, leaning his hip against the car as he glances down at the screen in Tony’s hands.

“Any update on your tracker?” Bucky asks, smiling at little at the memory of how excited Tony had been, hurling his frankenstein's-monster of a tracking device into a whirlpool while other tourists looked on in confusion.

“Still just going straight down,” Tony says, glancing up at him briefly before shifting the screen so they can both see it. “This thing is just, crazy deep. I keep expecting the tracker to start moving in some direction, caught in an underground river or something, but this son of a bitch just goes straight down.”

Tony continues chattering happily, laying out all the possibilities, and Bucky nods along even though he only understands about half of it. Tony finally gave in and started wearing the only hoodie he could find in his size now that they’re getting farther north, and it may be a terrible bright green but it somehow makes his skin look more golden, warm and glowing and Bucky has to shove down the urge to climb up onto the hood next to him, wrap himself all around Tony and just soak up the heat of him.

Instead, Bucky just listens and nods along as Tony goes off on a tangent about the quality of soil around here, doing everything he can to hide his smile, knows that it would come out entirely too fond. When Tony trails off, distracted by shifting numbers on his tablet screen, Bucky reluctantly points out “we should get back on th’ road.”

“Boo,” Tony says without looking up, kicking his feet a little, and Bucky is losing the fight to contain his smile. He lets himself reach out, nudging Tony in the ribs until he finally sighs and slides off the car. “Fine, but I demand another bathroom break first,” Tony says, leaning in the car window to grab the keys before turning towards the bathrooms, “I may or may not have drank my coffee entirely too quickly.”

“You did,” Bucky agrees, laughing at Tony’s offended huff and following him across the small parking lot, “th’ answer to that is basically always ‘you did.’”

They’re arguing about who’s turn it is to drive as they walk out of the bathroom, and Bucky goes tense at the sight of the car parked in the closet spot. The stupid concrete walls of the building had muffled the sound enough that Bucky hadn’t heard the stupid hybrid car pull up, and now he’s been caught by surprise, which is one of his least favorite things. Tony immediately steps in against his side, sandwiching Bucky’s metal arm between them. It doesn’t seem to do any good, the driver gives them a strange look as he climbs out of his car, the passenger not far behind, and it’s impossible to tell if it’s because of Tony’s lime green hoodie, Bucky’s loony toons shirt, the metal arm, or just the fact that they’re staring like a couple of deer caught in the headlights. Bucky can see it the instant the driver recognizes them, knows Tony sees it too when he gives a quick, jerky nod and then starts shoving at Bucky to get him moving again.

“If we can just get on the road, there’s a huge clusterfuck of country roads coming up we should be able to get lost in,” Tony hisses as they head quickly for the car, and for some reason he’s still plastered to Bucky’s side, clutching Bucky’s metal arm to his chest despite the fact at least one of the men has already recognized them and it’s really serving no purpose.

Bucky is not going to actually point that out to him though. Instead he just whispers back “we need a new car, next town-“ He cuts off at a strange sound from behind them, something between a gasp and a scream, and Bucky just knows things are about to go sideways again.

Tony finally lets go of his arm as they both spin to face the other men again, both of who are clutching at their necks and hunching over, leaning heavily against their car. Even as Bucky scans the parking lot for any signs of someone else around, someone causing this, a small part of him can’t help but miss the warmth of Tony pressed against him. Tony makes a soft sound and Bucky pulls his attention back just in time to see a soft glow surround the men, barely visible, spreading from their necks and outwards, and then their heads snap up in creepy unison up to look at them again, expressions glazed.

“Uh oh,” Tony says, and then the driver takes a stumbling step towards them. Bucky instantly grabs for his knife, doesn’t want to be caught off guard, and before he can step in front of Tony he finds that Tony is already dashing forward, heading straight for the wavering man.

“Damnit Tony,” Bucky grumbles and takes off after him. At least the driver doesn’t seem to know what to do about being rushed, fumbling in his pocket and finally pulling out a small pocket knife. The man makes a half hearted swipe with the pitiful blade as Tony gets close, but Tony side steps it easily and pulls a small metal box from his pocket. Bucky recognizes the sound of a taser crackling to life, and sure enough when the man spins back towards him Tony slams the box into his chest and the man goes down hard.

The passenger was apparently using that time to dig out a tire iron from the car, because Bucky barely slings his metal arm around Tony’s waist and hauls him out of the way, as the man brings the metal bar down hard. Bucky uses the momentum of the turn to slam his foot into the man’s chest, knocking him back hard against the car. “Hey, maybe I was going to kick him,” Tony protests, and Bucky just tightens his hold as Tony starts squirming, instead focusing on pinning the quickly paling man back against the car by his throat. “I was going to knock him out,” Tony whines again, swinging one foot back to kick Bucky in the shin.

“I’m better at it,” Bucky growls, hitches Tony a little higher off the ground and resolutely don’t think about the fact that his fingers have slipped under Tony’s hoodie, pressed against his warm skin. Instead, he forces himself to focus on tightening his grip on the passenger’s throat, applying pressure until the man’s hazy eyes roll back in his head and he goes limp.

“You’re a glory hog, is what you are,” Tony grumbles, wiggling harder and Bucky finally sets him down again, wishing he didn’t always start to miss the feeling of Tony’s skin under his hands the second he has to let go. As soon as Tony’s feet touch the ground he’s moving towards the collapsed man, laying him out gently and then plucking the tiny metal device off his neck. “Well, that was much less elegant than blowing up my car or starting a fire,” Tony says as he stands back up, “not sure if that means they’re getting sloppy or desperate.”

“You stupid shit,” Bucky snarls before he even realizes his mouth is open. He’s a little surprised by how harsh his voice comes out and he’s still flooded with adrenaline without an outlet for it, nearly shaking as he clenches his fists.

“Well I don’t like that name at all,” Tony says, turning to him with an exaggerated pout, and it would be so easy to miss the hint of actual hurt lurking behind his eyes. Bucky feels bad about that, he really does, and he knows Tony is more than capable of taking care of himself, but that doesn’t mean it hadn’t thrown Bucky’s heart straight up into his throat to see Tony running headfirst into danger, no armor, no weapons, nothing.

“Dumbass,” Bucky grumbles, trying to force himself to calm down because he’d always known Tony has little to no self preservation instinct, it was one of the first things Steve had told him about Tony before he’d even met the man. There is no reason Bucky should be so upset about it now, nothing has changed. Nothing at all. “Where th’ fuck did you even get a taser?” he demands.

“Not a fan of that name either,” Tony says with a shake of his head and gives Bucky some truly impressive big sad eyes. It’s immediately ruined when he grins proudly and says “and I made it out of a digital camera! Seemed the easiest way to take down brainwashed people without actually hurting them.”

“Trouble,” Bucky declares, and Tony smiles like he’s pleased by that designation. “Trouble,” Bucky says again, for lack of anything better to say, any better way to express the knot of emotion caught in his gut, then turns and stomps towards the car.

They keys are still in Bucky’s pocket, so he climbs in the driver's seat and forces himself to take another deep, calming breath. When Tony drops into the seat next to him Bucky almost feels something like normal again, especially when Tony turns to him with an excited grin and says “I figured it out!”

“Why you feel the need to run face first into trouble?” Bucky grumbles and he has the worst sense of dejavu, like he’s said that some thing to another tiny, stubborn hot head more times than he can count. This feels different though, an extra layer of fear wrapped tightly around his heart.

“That’s a mystery the world will never solve,” Tony tells him gravely, and then smiles again as he holds up the tiny bug and says “I figured this out!” Bucky feels the last of his anger melting away in the face of Tony’s giddy excitement, and he really wishes he could just stay mad, it would be so much easier if he could stay mad. Tony wiggles his eyebrows, like he’s just waiting for Bucky to asks, and if Bucky could just stay mad he wouldn’t find that nearly as adorable.

“What did you figure out?” Bucky finally asks, rolling his eyes like it’s some great inconvenience to him as he starts the car. He’s also trying really hard to pretend Tony’s smile doesn’t have his heart speeding up for totally unrelated reasons.

“It’s magic, it’s basically all magic,” Tony declares, and laughs when Bucky makes a face. “I agree, magic is the worst, but at least now we know. Whatever these things are-" he holds up the small device again and then shakes it a little until Bucky glances away from the road to give it the obligatory once-over, "is just something they use to transport the spell. Like a little remote controlled blow gun dart."

“And they keep finding us through, what? Mind reading?" Bucky asks, and a small part of him still can't believe this is his life now, having very serious conversations about mind reading and magic with a man who made a highly effective taser out of a digital camera.

"Probably," Tony says with an easy shag, and then grins. “If you could just manage to keep your arm hidden, we'll be in the clear," he adds, and doesn't actually sound all that upset about it.

Bucky shrugs back and says “just tryin' to show off your handy work." He smirks and wiggles his metal fingers for emphasis, smiles widely when Tony laughs and boos him.

-

Half the windows in this newest car don’t work, and Tony would really like to know why Bucky can’t seem to pick anything that’s not a total piece of shit. To make it worse, it's the back windows that work, and they’re the crank kind, so doing the twisting and reaching necessary to get them open is really more trouble than it’s worth.

Tony is getting pretty close to rethinking that assessment though, because they’ve been sleeping in the car for the past three nights now, spending all their time on the road to put as much space between them and the rest stop as possible. They're both a little cranky because of it, even Tony has a limit to how many nights he can spend hunched over in an uncomfortable seat, and he's pretty sure Bucky hasn't been sleeping at all. The real problem though, is that three days in the car means three days without showering, and there's only so much Tony can stand.

"That's it, that's all I can take," Tony declares, practically throwing his seat belt off so he can twist around in the passenger seat and paw desperately at the handle for the back window.

"Baby." Bucky accuses with a roll of his eyes, like Tony hadn't caught him also making disgusted faces earlier today. They are ripe, and Tony is not afraid to admit it, he is in fact going to throw up about it sometime very soon.

"Sweetheart," Tony shoots back, laying on the sarcasm extra thick, and grins when Bucky lets out a reluctant huff of laughter. “I don't know how you haven't just driven off the road yet," Tony says, leaning a little further over the back of his seat and finally getting his hand on the window crank, "put us both out of our misery and- oh goddamn it..." Toy stares in dismay at the lever in his hand, and when Bucky laughs Tony 'accidentally' elbows him in the head as he turns back around.

“You smell worse than me, anyways," Bucky grumbles, and Tony considers gasping in offence and throwing the window lever at him, but.... well he might have a point. Tony has been doing his best to breathe through his mouth for the past twenty four hours, and he couldn't confidently say which of them smells worse at this point.

In fact, Tony figures he might as well use it to his advantage, so he points the lever at Bucky and threatens "don't make me shove my armpit in your face. Because I will do it, don’t think I won’t.”

"I will crash this car," Bucky responds instantly, swatting at Tony with one hand even as he doesn't look away from the road. He still has amazing aim, manages to knock the lever out of Tony’s hand and into the back seat.

"That's what I'm trying to accomplish!" Tony says, throwing his hands in the air and then slumping low in his seat again. Bucky laughs, but does not at all crash and put them out of their misery.

Twenty miles later, Tony spots a small river and slaps at Bucky’s shoulder until he finally agrees to pull over, with lots of grumbling and sour looks that Tony gleefully ignores. They suspension of the car makes some truly terrible unhappy noises when Bucky pulls off the main road and onto a dirt tail, and an even louder angry noise as he pulls onto the shoulder to park.

Tony doesn’t care about any of that though, this car can go die in a fire for all he gives a fuck, he’s too busy tumbling out the door and sucking in deep, dramatic breaths of fresh air. “Oh my god I can breathe,” Tony says happily, “I don’t even care that I’m pretty sure there’s cows around here somewhere, it still smells better than that car.”

“So delicate,” Bucky says as he climbs out as well, rolling his eyes, but Tony doesn’t miss the way that little wrinkle between his eyebrows finally smooths out, the way Bucky’s shoulders rise and fall as he drags in a couple deep breaths of his own.

“I’m okay with that, I really am,” Tony says, already stripping out of today’s hideous Hawaiian shirt as he heads for the water, “I am a fancy bitch, and I wear that title with pride.”

“Of course y’do,” Bucky says, and Tony doesn't even need to look back to know he’s rolling his eyes again. Tony should maybe be concerned that he can already identify that by sound alone, but that seems like a worry for the future.

“And as a fancy bitch,” Tony continues as if he hadn’t been interrupted, “I require a certain level of upkeep. Mostly that involves not being stuck in a car that’s been marinating in our combined BO for the past three days.” As he talks Tony kicks off his shoes, wiggles out of his jeans, and resolutely doesn't let himself think about it too hard.

And if he keeps his back to Bucky the entire time, well that's his business, and it's definitely not because Tony is painfully aware that he is not a solid wall of muscle, unlike some people. He maybe didn't think this through very well, but he also can't turn back now, so Tony keeps his eyes firmly fixed forward as he starts marching towards the water in just his boxers. He really wishes they weren’t also Hawaiian print, but that’s just one more thing he’s trying to ignore.

"Can't believe you're really doin’ this," Bucky mutters, just loud enough to be heard, and then bursts into laughter when Tony shrieks the second his foot touches the slowly moving water.

"Holy fuck that is cold!" Tony nearly howls, kicking his foot wildly as if that'll help warm it up again. Bucky is still laughing, and when Tony glances back he’s actually leaning against the car with how hard he’s laughing, and Tony just will not stand for that. No matter how much it lights up Bucky’s face, makes his eyes shine, and- nope, nope, at least plunging himself into the cold water is a good distraction. “Why is this so goddamn cold?!” Tony whines loudly even as he trudges on, and he’s only a little ashamed of the shriek he lets out when the water hits his dick.

“I’m tellin’ everyone this is how you died,” Bucky calls, and when Tony turns to glare he sees that Bucky has moved to stand on the riverbank, all the better to grin at him with obvious sadistic glee. “You know if you don’t get all th’ way in it’s pointless, right?”

“Fuck you,” Tony calls back pleasantly, even though Bucky is right, damn him, Tony has definitely stopped halfway in. After a couple deep breaths to steel himself, Tony bends his knees and dunks himself in up to the neck with another series of pitiful whimpering sounds. He pops back up immediately after, arms wrapped around himself, but it counts damnit, and he grins at Bucky victoriously. “Alright,” he says, fixing Bucky with the sternest look he can while mostly naked and shivering, “if you don’t get in this water, I will shove you in the trunk and make you ride there for the rest of the trip.”

Bucky crosses his arm right back and gives him a once over that definitely doesn’t make Tony blush, not at all. Then he smirks, raises a pointed eyebrow and asks “could you, though?”

Tony gasps, clapping his hands over his mouth to hide that fact that he’s failing to hide a smile. “That’s it, go get me my taser,” he says seriously, and then lowers himself into the water again when a breeze blows past that wow, that’s even colder.

“Excellent plan,” Bucky says dryly, “kill us both t’ make a point.” He does not go get the taser from the car, but does finally start tugging his shirt off and yeah, Tony didn’t think this through at all.

“That’s my signature move,” he says and has to look away when Bucky starts shoving down his pants. Hey at least the upside to the cold water is it makes it way easier to fight down the heat trying to rise in Tony’s cheeks.

Because here’s the thing, it is really easy to get used to someone in your space when they’re constantly there. And Tony is actually really good at getting along with people when he has to, and when he wants to. Neither of those things explain what’s happening here though, because Tony is too used to having Bucky in his space, has to constantly remind himself that however close they are is close enough, damnit Tony stop trying to move closer. And despite all expectations, getting along with Bucky is too easy, once they got past the initial awkward silences it was effortless. Bucky is smart and sarcastic at least half of his comebacks leave Tony laughing helplessly. And all of that Tony can deal with, barely, as long as he firmly ignores that fact that oh right, Bucky is also devastatingly handsome. Tony has been doing a really, really good job of ignoring that, shoving it down with all the other basic facts of life. It’s much harder to ignore now that it’s literally in his face, and the worst part is that Tony one hundred percent did it to himself.

Tony is so busy mentally berating himself for his stupid, stupid life decisions that he jumps and yelps when Bucky splashes him a little, and wow he hadn’t even noticed Bucky wading up next to him. And wow, Bucky is pale, which shouldn’t be so surprising considering he spends all his time dressed in multiple layers, indoors, but it’s easier to focus on than all the thick muscles hiding just underneath that skin.

After giving himself a vigorous mental shake Tony splashes him back, hard enough that Bucky ends up wiping water out of his eyes. “See?” Tony asks, returning Bucky’s glare with a sunny smile, “don’t you feel better now?”

“Feel like ‘m gonna drown you now,” Bucky responds flatly, and Tony barely has time to flail screaming to the side before Bucky lunges at him, arms outstretched and an evil smile on his face.

“I need an adult!” Tony shrieks as he swim/flails away, then sputters when he ends up splashing himself in the face. He can definitely hear Bucky laughing behind him, but Tony is not going to fall for the trap of turning around to look. His escape is actually going pretty well, or Bucky is just letting him think that, right up until Tony apparently finds a deep spot in the river. “Fuck-“ Tony gasps as he goes to take another step and there’s nothing under his foot, and yep he was not prepared for that, he’s definitely going down.

The water has barely reached his chin before a strong hand wraps around his bicep and yanks him back to slightly-more-solid ground. Tony is clinging before he can stop himself, wrapping himself around Bucky’s flesh arm and it’s only force of will that stops him from straight climbing up onto Bucky’s shoulders. “It’s no fun if you drown yourself,” Bucky says, other hand hovering awkwardly like he’s not sure if he should pat Tony on the head.

“Well this is all about what’s fun for you,” Tony huffs but finally lets go of Bucky’s arm and how is it that he’s only now remembering that fact that they are both mostly naked?! That seems like a really important thing to have forgotten, but here Tony is, somehow shocked to find that Bucky’s skin is pressed all up against his chest.

"If that was true, I wouldn’t be standin' in freezing water right now," Bucky grumbles but his hand is incredibly gentle, keeping ahold of Tony's arm until he's firmly on his feet again. No amount of cold water is going to stop the heat rising in Tony's cheeks, but he's kind of hoping they can just completely ignore it. When he drags his eyes up it does in fact turn out that Bucky probably hasn't noticed Tony's blush, because he's too busy staring at Tony's chest.

Tony narrows his eyes and slaps his hands over his pecs, like maybe he can pretend that’s what Bucky is staring at. Bucky's eyes snap back up to fix on Tony's face, and even as he flushes and grins a little sheepishly his gaze flicks back down to the reactor. “It’s waterproof, if that’s what you’re wondering," Tory says, for lack of literally anything better to say.

“An’ here I thought you were slowly fillin’ with water," Bucky laughs. His eyes flick from Tony's face to his chest a couple more times, and Tony is this close to accusing him of moth-like tendencies when he asks "the cold doesn’t... bother you?" Bucky's voice comes out quiet, hesitant, and it seems so wrong after all the constant, good-natured snarking they’ve fallen into that Tony is answering before he even pauses to consider it.

“I mean, a little,” Tony shrugs, and this is weird, this is definitely weird. No one asks him about the reactor unless something is going horribly wrong, and there’s definitely no one who asks about the finer points of living with a ring of metal embedded in his chest. But at the same time, he kind of feels like Bucky might be the only one to really get it, so Tony fights thought the weird and shrugs again as he says “the heat is worse, you know?”

Bucky nods and hums knowingly but doesn’t say anything else, just glances down at his metal arm for a moment before fixing his stare on Tony’s face again. It takes everything Tony has not to twitch under that gaze, chewing on his lip so he won’t say something stupid and ruin whatever moment they’re having here, and firmly telling himself that Bucky’s gaze definitely isn’t focused on his mouth, no matter what Tony’s stupid brain is trying to tell him. When Bucky finally speaks all he says is "get your hair, you’ve had a cow lick for t’ past two days.”

“And you’re just now telling me?!” Tony howls and immediately dunks himself, furiously running his hands over his hair. When he pops back up it’s with a sharp intake of air followed by a high whine and a gasp of “Jesus fuck that’s cold, still so cold. The things I do for beauty.”

He looks up to ask if he got it at least, but the words die in his throat when he finds Bucky smiling at him like... Tony doesn’t even know what to call that smile, but he's been seeing it more and more and it's starting to freak him out. Because Tony has no idea what that smile wants from him, and he has a terrifying feeling that the answer is ‘nothing’. Tony has no idea what to do with people who want nothing from him, because without his money and gadgets and brains Tony is stuck relying on his personality, which is.... historically not a winner.

“Is that what you call it?” Bucky asks, grinning a little wider, and Tony splashes him again. “Hey, hey, some of us are already beautiful,” Bucky laughs, holding his hands up like he’s trying to protect his hair while he kicks at Tony with one foot.

“Yeah you keep telling yourself that,” Tony says, because it’s safer than ‘yeah I can see that I have eyes,’ and uses his entire arm to send a wall of water up over Bucky’s head. He giggles when Bucky sputters indignantly, then fails to dodge when Bucky lunges for him again. Tony is still laughing as Bucky gets an arm around his middle, and then he’s shrieking and trying not to completely lose his cool as Bucky hauls him up into the air and out of the water entirely. “No no no- Now I’m even colder! How is it even necessary for one person to be this strong?!”

“No one complains when t’ furniture needs rearranged,” Bucky says with a wide grin, then visibly fights it down to give Tony a serious look as he takes a step closer to the drop-off asks “you ready t’ go back in the deep end?”

“Don’t you dare!” Tony shrieks again, wrapping his arms around Bucky’s shoulders and head in a death grip. Bucky laughs harder but starts walking back to shore instead, and Tony loosens his arms just enough to give Bucky an unimpressed look as he adds “and you make Steve move the furniture, don’t even try to lie.”

Bucky doesn’t set him down until they make it back to dry land, and Tony does his best to pretend he’s annoyed, rather than wildly amused and a little turned on. It’s not his fault, okay, Tony never gets picked up and carried around like he weighs nothing, how was he supposed to know that’s a thing he’s apparently super into? Thank god for cold, boner-killing breezes and the fact that the only thing that have to dry off with is some slightly stale blankets they find in the backseat.

“I should start a travel diary,” Tony says as they stand by the trunk of the car, digging fresh clothes out of the duffle bag. “Dear Diary, today I saw seven cows and Buckybear tried to drown me in a lake.”

“That was a river,” Bucky points out, holding out a neon yellow shirt with a smirk. Tony bypasses the shirt and instead grabs the giant hoodie in Bucky’s other hand, yanking it on before Bucky can stop him. “That’s mine,” Bucky protests. He shakes the yellow shirt at Tony pointedly before giving up with a sigh and putting it back into the duffle bag, digging for another shirt for himself.

“Okay, but you didn’t object to the nickname,” Tony says happily, “that means it’s a keeper.” He smiles wider when Bucky gives him an unimpressed stare, then drops into the passenger seat so he can wiggle some pajama pants up his still damp legs. “Also, this hoodie is super soft and it’s mine now, you snooze you lose Buckybear.”

“We’ll see,” Bucky says, halfway between a threat and a promise, and Tony is definitely not thinking about Bucky wrestling his out of his hoodie, nope, not even a little bit. Everything is fine.

-

Bucky glances over when Tony lets out a snort of laughter, and firmly tells himself that the sight does not make his heart melt. It’s a lie of course, but it’s a lie that Bucky is holding onto for all he’s worth. If he lets himself think too hard about Tony sprawled out in the seat next to him, oversized jeans riding low on his hips and hair a soft mess, then Bucky is going to start thinking words like ‘adorable’ and that’s a dangerous road.

“So according to Steve,” Tony says without looking up from his phone, “if you take the next left we can see the country’s biggest ball of twine.” He laughs again, slumps a little lower in his seat, and Bucky has to drag his eyes away from where Tony’s shirt is riding up.

“Or,” Bucky says slowly, digging through his fragmented memories for something a little more interesting, “I know of a guy near here, has a smoking goat. He’ll even let us sleep in his barn s’long as we bring him a rabbit.”

“A live rabbit or a dead one?” Tony asks and turns to look at him, face lighting up as he giggles in disbelief, and Bucky gets as far as ‘fuck that’s ador-‘ before he shuts that thought down hard. “And what kind of smoking goat are we talking here? Does the goat have a nicotine problem, or doe it just produce smoke somehow?” Tony continues to fire questions at him, blissfully unaware of Bucky’s internal struggle, then apparently changes his mind because he says “no, no you know what don’t tell me, don’t tell me anything. I want to be surprised.”

“You will be surprised,” Bucky promises, turning his eyes back to the road again. He needs to stop staring, and not just because if he crashes the car Tony will never let him drive again.

Tony bounces back and forth on whether he wants answers several times in the next couple hours, and Bucky knows he’s in deep shit because somehow he just finds it endearing, rather than rightfully obnoxious. When Bucky pulls off a dirt road and parks near the thick tree line, Tony looks almost disturbingly excited.

“Please tell me we have to walk from here,” Tony says, turning fully in his seat to stare at Bucky with big hopeful eyes, “please tell me that’s what’s happening right now. We’re going to go hiking through the woods just a couple hours before sun down.”

“You’re way too excited,” Bucky tells him flatly as he undoes his seatbelt and pushes the door open. The sound of Tony’s laughter follows him out of the car, and Bucky hides his own smile by busying himself with getting their bag from the trunk. “Yes, we have to walk from here,” he admits when Tony comes up beside him, still making hopeful face.

“Awesome!” Tony cheers, “it’s like we’re in a horror movie. Walking into the woods to meet a weird man with a magical goat. You need to find a rabbit on the way. I love it.” As he talks he paws at the duffle bag until Bucky opens it up and lets him grab a jacket.

“I’m gonna survive,” Bucky says, taking the opportunity to make sure his sleeve is pulled all the way down, covering the edge of his glove. When Tony shoots him a confused looks he adds “y’know, cuz I’m th’ pretty one.”

“Okay first off, I’m the pretty one,” Tony huffs, and its amazingly hard for Bucky not to agree, even with they way Tony’s hair is sticking up in a staticy mess. “And second off- wait this guy isn’t going to recognize us, is he?”

“‘S not a problem, he has no idea who I am,” Bucky says, shoving away the urge to try and smooth down Tony’s hair and instead turning to lead the way into the forest. “He prob’ly wouldn’t know who you are anyways,” Bucky adds, pausing to let Tony catch up, stomping awkwardly through the brush.

“Extra creepy, I am so excited to be eaten by wolves and/or a creepy deep woods cannibal man,” Tony says, then squeaks and grabs onto Bucky’s arm when he nearly trips over a tree root.

By the time they finally reach the tiny farm deep in the forest, Tony has not only made every possible horror movie reference, he’s explained them too, and Bucky is carrying him bridal style because Tony was too busy laying out the plot of Cabin in the Woods to watch where he was walking. Tony has one foot stuck way up in the air to try and keep his ankle from swelling any further, one arm around Bucky’s shoulders and the other waving as he continues talking.

Tony finally falls silent as a man emerges from the small house, shotgun in hand and suspicious look on his face. The look lightens slightly when his eyes land on Bucky, and then further when they land on the dead rabbit hanging from Bucky’s belt. Tony’s arm tightens around Bucky’s shoulder slightly, and Bucky pats him on the hip before he can think it through all the way.

It occurs to Bucky, as he opens his mouth, that he doesn’t actually remember the farmer’s name, and he really hopes that isn’t going to be a problem. “He wanted to meet the goat,” Bucky finally settles on, jostling Tony a little in his arms and earning himself an annoyed huff.

The man stares at them for several incredibly long seconds, and Tony starts humming something that Bucky’s sure is the theme to some movie. Finally the farmer lowers his gun and holds out one hand expectantly, and Bucky steps closer. He has to shift his hold on Tony to one arm, ignoring it when Tony squeaks and clings tighter, and hands over the rabbit.

The farmer inspects it carefully, then slings it carelessly over his shoulder and says “the goat is around back. Here-“ he grabs a small box from the porch and tosses it to Tony, who only fumbles a little before catching it- “you can give her a night cigar.”

“It’s a lady goat,” Tony whispers excitedly, clutching the box to his chest. The farmer pauses to give him a strange look, and Bucky has to resist the urge to protectively tighten his hold on Tony. “Can I have one too?” Tony asks, blissfully unaware, so busy cracking open the box and swinging his uninjured leg excitedly, “I don’t want to make her smoke alone.”

The man’s face twitches, like he’s reluctantly amused, and yeah Bucky knows that feeling. “Fine,” the farmer says with a sigh, “but you want dinner, you have to help cook it.”

Which sounds like a pretty fair deal, and at this point Bucky would literally kill for food that isn’t handed to them through a drive in window. So Bucky nods and carries Tony around the side of the house, sets him down on an overturned bucket next to a rickety fence.

“If this goat doesn’t smoke, I am going to be so disappointed, I might actually cry,” Tony says as he makes himself comfortable, grabbing another bucket to prop his leg up on and settling the box in his lap.

“Not worried ‘bout being killed anymore?” Bucky can’t help asking, grinning a little. As soon as Tony cracks the box again there’s a loud clatter, and then a scrawny goat comes bursting out of the oversized dog door in the barn and charges towards them.

“Not if I get to smoke cigars with this goat first!” Tony declares, smile wide enough to split his face, forgetting all about elevating his foot in favor of scooting even closer to the fence just as the goat comes to a skidding stop on the other side. All Tony has to do is hold out one of the cigars and the goat is instantly snatching it between her teeth and fixing him with an expectant look. “Oh my god this is the best day ever,” Tony breathes out as he starts digging a matchbook out of the bottom of the box, a cigar already shoved into the corner of his own mouth as well.

“Okay, I’m gonna go make some food,” Bucky says, and at least he doesn’t have to worry about Tony noticing his fond smile right now, he’s way too busy politely lighting the goat’s cigar first. “Don’t wander off and fall in a thorn bush,” Bucky adds, though he really doesn’t think he has to worry about Tony going anywhere.

“This is like some kind of fever dream and I’m having the best time,” Tony calls after him happily, and Bucky is really glad no one can see whatever his face is doing, because he has a feeling it’s something stupid and embarrassing.

When Bucky loops around to the far side of the house the farmer has already started cleaning the rabbit, sitting next to a small fire pit with a steaming pot suspended above it. There’s a second cutting board with a pheasant resting on the rock next to him, and Bucky gets to work.

He can hear the warm, steady hum of Tony’s voice as he carries two bowls of stew back towards the barn, and Bucky is somehow not at all surprised when he gets closer and realizes Tony is telling the goat the story of the mysterious whirlpool.

“So I was only distracted for maybe five minutes, maybe,” Tony is saying, sprawled out on his back in the sparse grass and waving one hand lazily as he talks, “and when I looked again, poof! The tracker had totally vanished. No feed. No blip. Nothing.”

To Bucky’s immense amusement, the goat is laying on the other side of the fence near Tony, legs tucked up neatly under her and cigar still hanging from her mouth. She makes a soft bleating sound, as if responding to Tony’s pause, and Bucky has to fight down laughter because he really doesn’t want to disturb this.

“I know!” Tony says, one hand flailing even more wildly through the air as the other raises his cigar lazily to his mouth. “It was so frustrating, I was going to solve the mystery, but no, some assholes just had to rumble in the parking lot and ruin my shit.” The goat makes another soft sound and Tony sighs out “I know, you’re right, I’ll just go back with better tech once this is over.”

“That’s what you’re focused on, huh?” Bucky asks as he drops down to the ground, and grins when Tony finally looks over at him, only to immediately bolt upright and make grabby hands at one of the bowls.

“Of course it is, I will figure out the whirlpool if I have to fly down there myself,” Tony says, and nods when the goat makes a noise that might be taken as agreement. He carefully stubs out his cigar and tucks it back into the box before taking the bowl Bucky hands him and stirring it curiously.

“There’s got to be a movie warnin’ against that,” Bucky points out and grins wider when Tony barks out a laugh, loud enough that the goat makes an angry sound and Tony laughs harder.

Bucky drags the upturned bucket over so they can use it like a little table, and they eat their dinner sitting on the ground while Tony fills him in on the backstory he apparently made up for the goat. Bucky nods along, just trying to make sure his smile isn’t too completely smitten, and the goat makes the occasional noise that Tony swears is her agreeing with everything he says.

Once the sun dips behind the tall trees it starts getting dark quick, and Tony hugs his arms around himself a little as he asks “so are we cleared to sleep in the barn? Because I really don’t feel like walking back to the car in the dark.” When Bucky fixes him with a flat look he huffs and adds “fine, I don’t feel like being carried to the car in the dark.”

Bucky smirks, victorious, and says “‘s long as you’re bein’ honest. And yeah, we’re good.” He collects their empty bowls and takes them back to the house, leaves them on the railing of the porch and sure enough he’s only a couple steps away before the door creaks open.

“Do not burn my barn down,” the farmer calls over the clatter of him collecting the dishes, and Bucky waves absently without turning around. When Bucky makes it back to the fence line Tony has pulled himself to his feet and is eyeing the goat speculatively.

He looks up as Bucky approaches, then back at the goat and the last bit of a cigar clenched between her teeth. “Do we need to take this away from her? Or- oh, no, she’s got it.”

As they watch the goat lazily climbs back to her feet, spits the butt of the cigar an impressive distance, then prances over to stamp it out. “That’s my favorite part,” Bucky says with a grin.

“Best day ever,” Tony says again with a happy sigh, then leans heavily against the fence and rubs a hand over his stomach as he adds “that stew was so good, I’m not even going to ask what was in it.”

“Good,” Bucky says, then steps in and scoops Tony up before he can object. Tony makes a couple unintelligible sounds, which had been his reaction last time too, and Bucky isn’t sure what the hell it means but Tony hasn’t actually tried to tase him, so Bucky’s going to assume it’s not all bad.

He carries Tony over to the barn and after a short struggle, during which Tony nearly gets himself dropped for throwing his weight around too much, they manage to unbar the door and shove it open. It’s not the best place they’ve stayed, but Bucky is more than willing to bet it’s not the worst either. At least there’s a big pile of clean hay that is highly unlikely to give them bedbugs.

Tony certainly seems happy enough, pulling up the hood of his jacket and wiggling down into the hay until he’s practically formed a den for himself. “Dear Diary,” he says, voice already low and sleepy, “today I shared cigars with a wise old nanny goat, and Buckybear tried to force feed me road kill.”

“‘Scuse you, I killed that with m’ bare hands,” Bucky huffs as he lays down himself, reluctantly leaving a good foot of space between them as he does. It’s decently warm in the barn, away from the chill of the wind, and Bucky unfortunately can’t think of a single excuse to press in close against Tony’s side.

“Shh, it’s about th’ drama,” Tony says, swatting over at him and completely missing because his eyes are closed. Bucky snorts, but before he can argue Tony is already snoring softly. It’s too bad really, he had a great line about how Tony would know, being the queen of drama and all.

Instead Bucky just settles in himself, expecting at most that he’ll just drift in and out, on the edge of sleep all night. He’s counting Tony’s soft, steady breaths to pass the time, and between one breath and the next Bucky falls asleep.

He wakes up to soft dawn light peeking in through the cracks in the walls and Tony sprawled out halfway on top of him, his hair tickling at Bucky’s chin and drooling slightly on Bucky’s chest. It’s another one of those things Bucky should find annoying, just like a dozen other things about Tony that he finds painfully endearing instead. He can tell the second Tony starts waking up, smacking his lips a little as his hand tightens in Bucky’s shirt. Bucky is excellent at a lot of things, but denial isn’t one of them, and he finally has to admit to himself that he’d really like to wake up like this every morning. It’s a painful realization, because Bucky is pretty sure that as soon as they get back to New York everything is going to go right back to normal.

Tony makes an unhappy noise and presses his face harder into Bucky’s chest, trying to hide from the light, and Bucky allows himself a brief moment of weakness, tightening his arm around Tony’s shoulders. He’ll just have to enjoy this as long as he can, and hope that maybe they’ll end up sharing a couple more beds before the trip is over.

Naturally, Bucky doesn’t get what he wants, which is pretty par for the course. They spend the next two days back in the car, focused on making some progress after their detour to meet the goat, and Bucky drives straight through the first night while Tony mutters in his sleep in the next seat. The next night Tony demands Bucky stop and sleep too, and Bucky is trying really hard to pretend that part of the reason he’s grumpy isn’t that he just wants to wake up with Tony against him again.

Tony even offers him the backseat, which just serves to make Bucky feels worse about the fact that he’s pouting, and he turns it down because Bucky is undoubtedly the one more accustomed to sleeping in uncomfortable positions. Bucky manages a couple hours, leaned back in the driver’s seat, and when he snaps awake it’s to Tony shivering in the backseat. The sound of his teeth chattering is nearly enough to drown out the rustle of Tony pulling the blanket tighter around himself.

Bucky’s heart clenches in his chest, and before the can think it through he’s making the tight squeeze between the front seats to go tumbling into the back with Tony. Bucky is used to the cold, so much so that he hardly notices it anymore, and he knows he runs a little colder than most people, but it’s got to be better than nothing, right?

Apparently so, because Tony flings his blanket cocoon open instantly and pulls Bucky in gratefully even as he puts up a weak protest of “you- you don’t have to- I swear I’m fine-“

“Shut up,” Bucky grumbles, because he can’t run the risk of Tony doing something crazy like thanking him when Bucky mostly just feels like he’s doing this for himself. He certainly feels selfish as he winds his arms around Tony’s waist, sandwiches Tony between himself and the back of the seat.

It makes him feel both better and worse when Tony just makes a soft happy noise and tucks his face into the curve of Bucky’s throat and tangles their legs together. “You’re the best,” Tony slurs out, halfway to falling asleep again, and rubs his cold nose against Bucky’s throat.

Bucky doesn’t have a single idea what to say to that, and it turns out not to matter because he loses all his breath anyways when Tony shifts a little more and they slot together perfectly. One of Tony’s thighs is tucked between his own, cold fingers slipping up under the hem of Bucky’s shirt, and Buck can feel Tony’s smile pressed against his skin. “Go th’ fuck to sleep,” Bucky finally manages, voice low and rough, just trying to memorize the feel of Tony’s strong back under his palm.

Tony laughs softly, shoves his hands a little further under Bucky’s shirt and murmurs “sir yes sir, sergeant sandman.” He laughs harder when Bucky pinches him in the side, and Bucky has to suppress a shiver as the movement causes them to shift and Tony’s hips press up even more snugly against his own.

It’s awful. It’s the most amazing thing that’s ever happened. “‘M gonna make you sleep outside,” Bucky mutters without heat and tightens his arm around Tony’s waist.

-

Tony glares at his own reflection in the mirror. His hair is out of control and the scruff on his cheeks is officially longer than he wants to deal with. He shifts his glare to the cheap disposable razor in his hand, back his own reflection, and then to the razor again.

Finally, he admits defeat. “Hey Buckarino, get in here and shave me,” he calls out the open bathroom door, and makes pleading face when Bucky looks up from the ‘local guide’ book in their latest motel room. It’s more of a hand-stapled booklet than anything, and Tony knows for a fact that Bucky has already read it through at least three times over, so he continues making pleading face until Bucky pushes himself to his feet with a sigh.

“Spoiled,” Bucky accuses as he steps into the doorway and eyes the bathroom like he’s trying to figure out how he’s supposed to fit in. It’s a fair point, Tony is already standing in the only tiny square of empty space, but Tony is determined to make this work.

“I am not spoiled,” Tony feels the need to defend himself, even though he definitely is, a little bit. He backs himself up against the sink, trying to make as much space as possible, and says “just because I don’t want to attack my face with a single, rusty blade-“

Tony is so busy death glaring at the razor again that he doesn’t notice Bucky reaching out until the man’s hands are on his hips, boosting him up onto the counter easily and stepping between his knees while Tony’s words dissolve into strangled noises. He really needs to stop doing that every time Bucky picks him up. Tony is aware that he could just... tell Bucky to stop picking him up, but he never seems to be able to actually make himself do it, for reasons that he is refusing to think about.

Instead Tony just grumbles “warn a guy, would you?” He glares when Bucky just grins smugly, and starts wiggling the razor in Bucky’s dumb handsome face, saying “come on, come on, my entire face itches and I’m about to just claw it off.”

“Well I’d hate t’ see that,” Bucky says, raising a pointed eyebrow and then taking the razor when Tony finally stops waving it around. Tony would swear Bucky is extra gentle as he starts spreading shaving cream over his cheeks, but that’s probably just Tony’s stupid brain playing tricks on him.

Tony doesn’t know how to even begin unraveling the complicated mess of emotions caught in his chest when Bucky’s metal hand cups the back of his neck, holding him still as Bucky makes a first swipe with the razor. It only gets worse when Bucky’s hand shifts to his jaw, tilting his head slightly, metal fingers smooth and warmed from being pressed to Tony’s skin.

“Quit movin’,” Bucky instructs, and Tony makes a protesting noise in his throat because he’s not moving. And if he is then it's not his fault, he’s busy having a minor freak out because Bucky is pressed close between his thighs, his hand on Tony’s face, and Tony can’t figure what to look at that’s not Bucky.

Tony isn’t dumb enough to actually try and speak though, not when Bucky is holding a razor to his upper lip. Instead Tony stares at the ceiling and swallows thickly when Bucky’s thumb brushes his mouth on it’s path to his chin. Tony is dumb enough to think he’s going to make it through this without making a fool of himself, and then Bucky tips his head way back to get at his neck and Tony fails to completely smother his shiver. At least he manages to swallow down the soft groan that wants to escape.

“Hold still,” Bucky says with a huff and wow, Tony can feel the rush of air against his bare neck. Tony bites his tongue to keep from shivering again, and it’s both a relief and an immense disappointment when Bucky lets go of him and takes a step back, saying “there, you’re done.”

“Am I beautiful?” Tony asks before he can help himself, grinning and fluttering his eyelashes and hoping that the heat he can feel in his cheeks isn’t actually visible. Bucky huffs out a soft laugh, but heads back out into the room and doesn’t answer. Tony tries not to feel too terribly offended.

He rinses his face, then trudges back into the room as well and sprawls out across his bed with a loud groan. His bed, because they have their own beds, because it cost the same amount as the single room at this weird little bed and breakfast, and that is definitely not something Tony is pouting about. Not at all. It doesn’t help that the closer they get to New York, the harder it is to ignore the fact that they have no idea what they’re coming home to, that they haven’t heard from anyone since that one phone call from Steve. They’re only a couple days from New York now.

Tony has been doing his best to keep Bucky distracted, which doubles as a convenient way for Tony to distract himself from his own spiraling worries, and it’s getting kind of exhausting. Tony may be a master of denial, but even he has his limits and ignoring both the fact that he has no idea if his friends are alive or not and that fact that he can’t stop thinking about climbing Bucky like a tree, finding out what his mouth tastes like, and even Tony is reaching his limits.

He’s just thinking that maybe he’ll take a stress nap until it’s time to leave again when Bucky drops down to sit on the mattress next to his hip and Tony reluctantly lifts his head. “Butter festival,” Bucky says, so flatly that Tony isn’t even sure he heard him correctly. Then Bucky holds out the booklet he’d been flicking through and yep, that is what he said.

“Butter festival,” Tony repeats slowly, then rolls onto his side so he can grab the booklet and bring it closer to his face, hoping if he reads the words a couple more times they’ll start to make sense. “What the hell does that mean?”

“Dunno, but it’s tonight,” Bucky says, and then continues to stare at him pointedly. Tony stares right back, and just as he’s opening his mouth to finally say something Bucky adds “we’re going.”

“No,” Tony says, and then when Bucky continues to stare him down he says “no. I mean it. I don’t know what a Butter Festival is but it sounds terrible and I refuse. I will chew my own leg off first.”

“You could replace it,” Bucky says with a careless shrug, and Tony kind of hates that it nearly forces a laugh out of him. He’s trying to sulk, and Bucky is ruining it with his stupid dark sense of humor and his stupid tiny grin. “An’ I went to that thimble museum you wanted t’ see.”

“And I regretted that,” Tony says immediately, flailing one arm a little and dropping his head back down to the mattress. If he didn’t know better he’d say Bucky is pouting at him, and Tony buries his face in the surprisingly clean blanket because he is not at all prepared to deal with that right now. He has a heart condition, and Bucky making puppy dog eyes at him is just not fair.

“It’ll be fun,” Bucky wheedles, actually wheedles, poking Tony in the side as he adds “maybe there’ll be butter statues.” Tony wants to demand why Bucky is suddenly so excited about stupid road trip activities, but he has a feeling Bucky is just trying to pick up Tony’s distraction-slack. Maybe Bucky is even trying to cheer him up, a little, and that is... well, Tony is having trouble thinking of any word other than ‘sweet’.

“How are butter statues a selling point?!” Tony demands, but he lets out a heavy sigh and pushes himself upright without further thought. “Fine, fine, but I better see you eat at least one bite of pure butter or I’m throwing a fit. Ugh, and I just know it’s going to be cold, where did we throw the bag?”

Tony almost changes his mind when he realizes he’ll actually have to wear the bright yellow bomber jacket Bucky snuck into their basket back at the thrift store, because Bucky is already wearing the giant comfy hoodie. It’s so big that it's even oversized on Bucky, the sleeves hanging down over his hands and nearly hiding his one glove. It almost succeeds in hiding how ridiculously thick Bucky’s chest and shoulders are, makes him look soft and warm and Tony really needs this trip to be over already. All this prolonged exposure is doing things to his head, and also his chest. Things he is never going to recover from.

It’s close enough that they just walk from the motel, the crowd getting thicker as they get closer to the festival, and it looks like the entire population of the small town is gathering on Main Street. And there are indeed butter statues at every corner, much to Bucky’s delight. At least it’s cold enough that they’re not melting too quickly.

“Well, at least I fit in,” Tony says dryly as he takes note that most of the crowd is also dressed in bright colors. “Also, I have no idea what smells so good, but I do know that I need to put it in my mouth as soon as possible or I will literally starve to death.”

Bucky laughs softly, stepping closer as the crowd gets thicker, and says “c’mon trouble, let’s get you some food.” He slides right into Tony’s space and wraps his left arm around Tony’s waist, starts leading him towards the nearest of the countless small tents set up in the street. Tony knows it’s just to keep from getting separated, to make it less likely someone will bump up against the metal, but it still makes his face warm and he ducks his chin in the hopes that Bucky won’t notice.

Luckily, Bucky seems pretty thoroughly distracted by the press of the crowd around them, everyone laughing and eating things that Tony can’t identify. He has a terrible feeling that whatever it is people are eating off of sticks is deep fried butter, but he’s trying not to think about that too hard. Soon enough Tony forgets that he’s supposed to be sulking, bursting into laughter when he spots a hand painted sign hanging above a small makeshift stage. “Check it out” Tony says with a wide grin, elbowing Bucky a little and then nodding towards the sign, “a butter eating contest, you know you want to get in on that.”

“I very much do not,” Bucky snorts, but lets Tony drag him closer to the stage. "Oh wow, they’re really doin’ it," Bucky says, face twisting a little as they watch the people on stage start shoving giant spoonfuls of straight butter into their mouths.

"Okay, yep, that is horrifying," Tony agrees, his own stomach turning a little, “quickly, let us flee from this cursed place." He turns and starts marching away, relieved that Bucky goes with it because Tony has discovered more than once that he can’t actually move Bucky if the man doesn’t let him.

"The butter eating competition, or th’ town in general?" Bucky asks, laughing and putting up no resistance as Tony leads them off again. He stops as they pass a stall full of colorful fabric, smirking at Tony as he says "check it out, just your style."

Tony fixes him with a flat, unimpressed look, and then smiles as something occurs to him. “You are so right,” he says, reluctantly pulling away from Bucky’s side so he can step closer to the garishly colored wool of the many scarves and hats, eyeing them with the utmost seriousness. “Exactly my style. And now, you have to watch me pick the perfect one. I expect lots of input.” With that Tony selects a neon pink scarf that is somehow also sparkly, wraps it around his neck, and gives Bucky an expectant stare.

“Not your color,” Bucky tells him seriously, and when Tony tries one covered in what looks like yellow fur he says “think that one might be still alive.” He declares the next scarf “a literal crime,” and the one after that “just... why?”

The woman who owns the table keeps shooting them sideways looks with an expression like she can’t decide if she should be offended or not, but she doesn’t say anything and Tony realizes he’s actually going to have to buy one of these monstrosities or end up feeling like an asshole. He’ll have to choose carefully, then. “Okay, what about this?” He asks, slinging another scarf around his neck and then striking a pose, fluttering his eyelashes and trying not to laugh when the woman’s eyes narrow further.

“Hate it,” Bucky replies instantly, smiling widely, and Tony doesn’t understand how the woman can still be glaring in the face of that expression, “makes me wanna scratch my eyes out.”

Tony laughs, then waves one end of the scarf as he asks “what bothers you more, the tassels? Or the mix of plaid and zebra print?” Tony has to admit, it’s a pretty horrible combination, and the rainbow tassels aren’t really helping.

“It’s really jus’... the whole package,” Bucky says, eyeing the scarf like he expects it to leap off Tony’s neck and try to strangle him at any second. He narrows his eyes suspiciously when Tony’s smile grows, but it’s already far too late.

Before Bucky can say anything else Tony grabs the scarf’s twin and dashes for the woman and her small lockbox. He pays what feels like entirely too much for two ugly scarves, but the end result is Bucky’s look of resigned horror as Tony loops the second scarf around the back of his neck and tosses one end around over his shoulder.

“Oh yeah, looking good, hot stuff,” Tony says gleefully, then when Bucky blinks at him he tries “lukewarm stuff?” Bucky tips his eyes up and sighs heavily through his nose, like he’s trying to find his will to live, and Tony turns back to the woman to loudly whisper “that means he likes it.”

Bucky’s mouth twitches, which means he’s totally fighting down a grin, and even the scarf woman looks reluctantly amused as she carefully tucks the money away. “Well,” Bucky says, and the smirk spreading slowly across his face means Tony is absolutely not going to like where this is going, “least now when you get lost in the crowd, people will know where t’ return you.”

Tony remains suspicious, because he knows there was a dig in there somewhere, and he demands “why would I be the one to- wait.” The suspicious feeling only gets worse as Bucky adjusts his own scarf, and then pointedly lowers his hand to adjust Tony’s. “Was that..?”

“A short joke, yeah,” Bucky says easily, smile getting even wider as Tony gasps, clutching his hands to his chest in a display of utmost offense. He’s not even that short! It’s not his fault everyone he knows is a giant! Tony doesn’t have to stand for that, so he spins on his heels and pointedly stomps away. “Aw, honey come back, I didn’t mean it!” Bucky calls after him, and it doesn’t at all help his case that Tony can hear the laughter in his voice. He’s pretty sure the scarf woman is laughing too.

Tony only makes it a couple tables down before Bucky catches up with him, wrapping his metal arm around Tony’s waist again with a familiarity that Tony really wishes he could let himself get used to. “You’re the worst,” Tony grumbles, though he knows he’d be a lot more believable if he could actually stop smiling.

“You already bought me the scarf, you can’t take it back,” Bucky says smugly, and when Tony looks up to correct him, because he absolutely can just wear both scarves himself, Bucky cuts him off by flicking one of the tassels up into his face.

Tony sputters and swats at him while Bucky laughs. “All this abuse!” He whines, throwing his hands in the air and very nearly colliding with a family of five before Bucky pulls him out of the way, “and you haven’t even fed me yet!”

“I dunno what my problem is,” Bucky agrees easily, still looking entirely too pleased with himself and tightening his arm around Tony’s waist. He does at least start steering them towards the stalls that are selling food.

They’re carefully combing through the available foods for something that’s less than 80% butter when someone at the next table look up at them and squeals “oh my god honeypie, look!” Bucky goes immediately tense, and Tony agrees, because this is the very last place he wants to get in a fight with brainwashed zombies, but then the young woman continues “we have to get matching scarves too!”

She drags her boyfriend past them, towards the ugly scarf stall, and he gives them a baleful glare that Bucky returns with a helpless shrug while Tony just tries not to laugh his ass off. “Well,” Bucky says once the couple is out of earshot, shaking his head like he’s not clearly fighting down a grin “I hope you’re happy with what you’ve done, honeypie.”

“Thrilled,” Tony shoots back, still struggling to contain his giggles, “it’s important to spread the misery, sweet-pea.” He grins wider at the conflicted look on Bucky’s face, like he’s torn between annoyed and amused, and says “now come on, I need- food!”

“That’s not food,” Bucky protests as Tony makes a beeline for the next table, where they are selling cookies in varying sizes and amounts. “Cookies are not food, how are you even alive when you eat like this?”

“I beg to differ,” Tony says with a sniff, “cookies are the most important of all food groups.” He picks a cookie nearly the size of his face, shoved full of peanuts and chocolate chips and amazing smelling even through its plastic wrap, then grins up at Bucky as he says “and you get none, snickerdoodle.”

“Wow,” Bucky says and shakes his head, “wow. That’s cold, sugar. And I know cold.” Tony can’t help barking out a laugh as he rips in the wrapper on the cookie. The first bite has him groaning happily and clutching the cookie protective to his chest when Bucky looks like he might make a grab for it. “What, so I don’t get any food?” Bucky asks with a truly impressive pout, and swipes one hand out.

“Cookies aren’t food,” Tony tells him happily, and cracks up when Bucky makes offended face. “Fine, fine, but only because everyone should experience how amazing this cookie is.” Tony hands it over reluctantly, and then carefully watches Bucky’s face to make sure he’s properly appreciating it.

"Damn," Bucky says, eyes widening, "that is good." Tony generously allows him a couple more bites before snatching the cookie back and firmly ignoring the return of Bucky’s pout. "You suck at sharing," he points out pleasantly.

"I never agreed to share!" Tony protests, clutching his cookie close again, "if you want a cookie then get your own." The words are barely out of Tony’s mouth before Bucky is backtracking, and Tony gets to laugh smugly as Bucky buys a cookie of his own before they start wandering through the crowds again.

Unsurprisingly, Bucky and his super soldier appetite demolish his own food insanely quickly, and Tony does not at all miss the way Bucky starts eyeing the last of Tony's cookie as they find a nice out of the way butter statue to stand next to. Tony is ready for it, and as soon as Bucky's hand twitches towards him he shoves the remainder of his cookie in his mouth and smiles, cheeks puffed out because he may have slightly underestimated how much was actually left.

“Real mature,” Bucky huffs and laughs as he watches Tony try to actually chew and swallow his mouthful of cookie. Tony just grins widely back at him, because he still feels like the winner here. He could definitely use a drink now, but he didn't choke and die and that’s definitely a win. “Here-" Bucky says, reaching out again, and Tony freezes as Bucky’s thumb brushes over his chin.

Tony is aware that he probably has crumbs all over his face, but he's too busy focusing on the fact that Bucky’s thumb is touching the corner of his mouth now, the rest of Bucky’s fingers resting lightly on his jaw. Tony can feel his face flushing again, heat rising in his cheeks and he swallows thickly, resisting the urge to drop his eyes from Bucky’s warm gaze, duck his chin again and try to hide his blush even though Bucky can definitely already see it.

Bucky finishes oh-so-gently brushing the crumbs from Tony’s face, thumb dragging one last time over Tony’s lower lip before he slowly pulls away. He doesn’t go far, his hand stays hovering near Tony’s jaw and oh hey look at that, Bucky is leaning way into his space and Tony is apparently leaning right back because he can feel Bucky’s breath on his face. Especially when Bucky sucks in a sharp breath and then lets it go slowly before he practically sighs out “Tony...”

“Buckybear,” Tony responds instantly, because it’s just habit at this point and oh, he is in so much trouble. And Bucky really shouldn't smell so good, they’ve been using the same cheap motel soaps, how is this even possible?

“Darlin’,” Bucky drawls at him, and forget fair, that is not legal, with his voice gone all warm and low. It sends a shiver down Tony’s spine and he’s not actually sure if he’s breathing or not.

Tony can’t let himself be shown up though, so he turns on the doe eyes, the ones that always work at least fifty percent of the time. “Sweetheart,” he says, fluttering his eyelashes as he smiles up at Bucky.

Bucky’s fingers twitch and finally land on his jaw, feather light as they slide back to smooth the hair behind Tony’s ear and make him shiver again. They’re so close now that Tony can’t see anything but the clear blue of Bucky’s eyes and he can nearly taste the chocolate lingering on Bucky’s breath as he says “babydoll.”

Tony has the abrupt and terrifying realization that if Bucky doesn’t kiss him right now then Tony is just going to have to do it himself. And if Tony is apparently going to get his heart broken by Bucky goddamn Barnes, then why wouldn’t it be in the middle of a butler festival in small-town USA? It makes about as much sense as the fact that Tony is still leaning closer, although the craziest part is that the look on Bucky’s face is kind of making Tony think maybe he won’t get his heart broken at all.

A sudden, loud cheer ripples through the entire crowd, startling Tony so badly that he jumps and kind of smashes their foreheads together. “Ow,” Tony moans pitifully, raising one hand to rub at his head while Bucky immediately jumps to looking around for any signs of trouble. The cause for the cheers becomes obvious pretty quickly when the first firework goes screaming into the sky and bursts into a shower of gold sparks. When Tony finally works up the nerve to glance at Bucky he’s standing up straight again, no longer leaning into Tony’s space, staring up at the sky as more fireworks start going off.

Tony can’t figure out if he’s more disappointed or relieved, because on the one hand he’s not even sure what’s going on here besides the fact that it’s a terrible idea, and Tony has a lot of experience with terrible ideas. He’d rather not add ‘falling for the winter soldier’ to his list of mistakes if he can help it. On the other hand though, now Tony is never going to know what Bucky’s lips feel like against his own, not that he’s been dying to find out or anything, and who is he kidding Tony is absolutely disappointed.

He shoves that way down deep, where hopefully it’ll stop hurting someday, and manages a smile when Bucky turns back to him. “I’m really not sure what fireworks have to do with butter,” Tony says and he doesn’t even sound like he’s having an internal freak out, ”but sure, I guess, why wouldn’t this be happening right now?”

“Maybe the finale with be cow-shaped,” Bucky suggests with a small, lopsided grin that Tony can no longer pretend doesn't make his chest ache. Because it absolutely does, and Tony hates that it feels like there’s a time limit on how long he’ll be able to see it.

“Now that is actually something I would like to see,” Tony says and he’s only half paying attention to the words coming out of his mouth, too distracted watching the pay of light and color over Bucky's face and trying to remember how to breathe. The finale is not actually cow-shaped, but it’s almost dangerously huge and bright enough to leave Tony blinking spots out of his eyes.

He glances over to find Bucky already watching him, a soft smile that only grows as Tony continues blinking and squinting blindly. "Stared straight at it, didn’ ya?" He asks, and Tony can absolutely hear his poorly suppressed laughter.

"Yeah, like I'm going to not stare at the carefully calculated explosions," Tony scoffs, and then nubs at one eye because seriously, what is wrong with these people?! “That was way too bright though, is the second half of this festival supposed to be just people running into each other all night?”

Bucky steps towards him again and Tony's breath freezes in his chest, then rushes out when Bucky hesitates for only a second before wrapping his arm around Tony's waist again. "We should probably get back before we go fully blind," Bucky jokes, and Tony's really hoping he's not imagining the reluctance in Bucky's voice.

Because Tony doesn't really want to leave either. He wants to stay in this magical, buttery land where he can press in close against Bucky’s side as they start to walk again, where he can do crazy things like nearly kiss the guy he may or may not be falling hard for. But no, they have to get back on the road in the morning and in about 36 hours they'll be back in New York. Where Tony doesn't get any of those things.

"I want more cookies," Tony demands petulantly, because that at least is something he can have. Maybe if he buys a big enough bag of cookies he can at least hold on to this feeling.

"Yes dear," Bucky says dryly, and leads them back towards the stall. While Tony is busy carefully selecting the biggest bag of baked goods he can find, Bucky absently fixes Tony’s scarf and then wanders over to the next table with a muttered “I dunno what a butter burger is, but I need one.”

"You two make the sweetest couple," the cookie lady says with a bright smile as Tony hands over his money. It takes an amazing amount of self control to not go bright red and glance over at Bucky in a panic to see if he'd heard.

"Uh, thanks," Tony chokes out and then does not at all squeak when Bucky reappears at his side and shoves half a hamburger in his face. "What are you- how did you even eat that so quickly?!" Tony demands, swatting at him lightly while clutching his own bag closer, just in case this is a clever ploy to steal his cookies.

"You gotta try this," Bucky insists with a wide grin, wiggling the burger at him. When Tony continues to stare at him suspiciously Bucky pouts at him and gives the burger another wiggle.

It does smell amazing, so Tony rolls his eyes and huffs out “fine, give it here." Bucky does not actually hand over the burger though, so Tony has to grab his wrist instead, painfully aware of the cookie lady still watching them as he pulls Bucky’s hand closer and takes a bite. “Oh shit,” Tony groans as soon as the juicy beef and buttery bun hits his tongue.

“Yeah,” Bucky says smugly, and then tugs his hand back when Tony tries to steal another bite. “Nuh-uh,” Bucky says and takes a bite of his own, “you gotta get your own food.”

“Oh I will,” Tony says, like it’s any kind of threat, and grabs Bucky’s arm to stomp over to the butter burger table. “I am going to buy the entire table’s worth of burgers, and I am not going to give you a single one.”

They end up getting a couple burgers each, eating them as they slowly make their way back to the motel, and the amazing food almost makes up for the lack of Bucky’s arm wrapped around him. Almost.

“Well that was somethin’,” Bucky says as he firmly closes and locks the door behind them, and then begins his usual paranoid check of the room while Tony places his bag of cookies on the table and starts kicking off his shoes.

“Something indeed,” Tony agrees, “still not sure what the purpose of all that was, but I can’t deny they know how to party. And cook. And set off a dangerously impressive firework display.” Tony is nearly free of his jacket, but then the stupid cuffs get caught around his wrists and one of the tassels of his scarf gets stuck in the zipper, and he ends up just flailing desperatly and making panic noises. “Ah, help, I’m under attack!” Tony cries, nearly tripping over his shoes, and then “stop laughing you asshole!”

“Hold still,” Bucky says, stilling laughing entirely too hard, and snags the loose end of the scarf to tug Tony to a stop. “Can’t take you anywhere,” he huffs as he unwinds the scarf from around Tony’s neck and starts working it free of the zipper.

“Don’t rip it,” Tony says, just for the annoyed glare it earns him, and then adds “and technically you just took me to the butter festival, so, point to me.” Once the scarf is loose Bucky moves on to freeing Tony’s hands from his sleeves, and then laughs when Tony hurls the stupid jacket across the room with a victorious shout.

Tony means to step back, he really does, because somehow he and Bucky have ended up all up in each other’s space again, and that has proven to be a very dangerous place to be. Because Tony apparently has zero self control, and even as he tells himself to move away he can’t stop staring at Bucky’s smile, the way it lights up his entire face and crinkles his eyes up around the corners. Tony is already up on his toes before he catches himself, inches from finally tasting Bucky’s smile for himself and then he freezes in place, heart dropping as he realizes there’s probably no way to play this off.

Especially because Bucky is staring back at him with wide eyes. Bucky’s hands hover over his sides, unsure, and it feels a little like getting punched in the chest when Tony licks his lip nervously and Bucky’s eyes instantly drop to track the motion. Bucky’s next breath shakes on the inhale, and his voice comes out soft, almost like a plea, as he says “Tony, doll-”

Tony breaks. He practically flings himself forward, grabbing the front of Bucky’s stupid oversized hoodie as he smashes their lips together with maybe a little much too enthusiasm. It’s worth it though, it’s so worth it because Bucky’s lips are so incredibly soft, his hands finally landing on Tony’s sides and hauling him in close.

And yeah okay fine, despite his best attempts, Tony has maybe spent a lot of time wondering what it would be like to kiss Bucky. He spends most of his day just staring out the windshield, there’s only so many times he can stop his mind from wandering before he just gives up. Tony’s imagination doesn’t compare at all, because Bucky kisses him fierce and hungry, licking into Tony’s mouth with an enthusiasm that takes his breath away.

Bucky breaks away from the kiss just enough to drag his lips along Tony’s jaw and it leaves him gasping, clutching at Bucky’s broad shoulders. “Sweet thing,” Bucky says against his jaw and oh, his voice comes out a low, rumbling growl that has Tony shaking, “Tony, if you don’t want this-“

“Shut up,” Tony snaps, and then gets his hands on Bucky’s jaw, yanks him up and bites at his lower lip when he tries to say something else. It earns him a ragged groan and Bucky’s giant hands pawing at his hips, yanking him in until they’re pressed flush together, his fingers inching towards the curve of Tony’s ass. “I want this so fucking much,” Tonys gasps out when he finally has to break away from the kiss, lips tingling, “you- I want-“

Like it’s some kind of magic word Tony suddenly finds himself spinning, lifted into the air, and then landing on the nearest bed with a bounce that has him giggling insanely. Bucky follows him down with a wide grin, eyes gone dark and Tony eagerly pulls him into another kiss, groaning helplessly when Bucky stretches out over him and covers him completely.

Tony drags his fingers through Bucky’s short hair, chases after Bucky’s tongue with his own and arches up against him, swears he’s going to commit every second of this to memory. Bucky wiggles one arm under Tony and wraps it around him, shifting until their hips line up just right and Tony moans at the feeling of Bucky already half-hard against him.

It’s so easy to get lost in the all-consuming heat of Bucky’s kisses, his tongue teasing along the roof of Tony’s mouth while the smooth pad of his metal thumb brushes reverently over Tony’s cheek. Tony almost forgets about Bucky’s other arm wrapped around him until he wiggles a little his hand lands on Tony’s ass, palming and squeezing through his jeans. Tony huffs out a laugh against Bucky’s lips and asks “do you want to fuck me?”

Bucky’s eyes go wide, pupils blown out huge, and he whines deep in his throat as his hips jerk and grind down against Tony hard. Tony groans right back, rocks his hips up to match every roll of Bucky’s and it’s such a power trip to feel the way Bucky shakes against him, the way Bucky’s breath comes out ragged and desperate.

“Yes,” Bucky finally growls and drags his hips purposefully against Tony’s, cocks lined up just right and knocking all the air out of Tony’s lungs as he hits full hard so fast that his head spins a little. He can’t get his breath back either, because Bucky follows that up by pressing toothy kisses along his jaw again, speaking between each sweet, sharp press of lips. “Fuck I wanna feel you, wanna make you feel so good, gonna take such good care of you baby.”

Tony instantly starts yanking at Bucky’s hoodie, tipping his head back and panting out “then get naked, get naked already, god, do you know how much I have been going crazy trying not to think about your fucking abs?”

Bucky laughs, which rumbles amazingly through his chest and into Tony’s, then sits back on his knees and yanks at Tony’s pants so hard that it tugs him down the bed a little. “I got an idea, yeah,” Bucky says, as he tosses Tony’s jeans carelessly off the edge of the bed, then immediately leans down to sink his teeth into Tony’s thigh with a low groan.

“Fuck!” Tony gasps, and then moans loudly when Bucky traces his tongue over the indents left by his teeth. Tony tugs weakly at the shoulder of Bucky’s hoodie again and whines “goddamn it- honey- please get fucking naked already.”

Bucky leans back again to yank both his shirt and hoodie off at once, leaving his hair a staticy mess. Tony stores that image away to mentally coo over later, for now he focuses on propping himself up on one elbow so he can reach out with his other hand and start tugging at the button of Bucky’s jeans. It goes much faster once Bucky starts helping, shoving his jeans and underwear down at once and Tony may or may not start drooling a little when Bucky’s thick cock pops free.

They both moan raggedly when Tony wraps a hand around him, rubbing his thumb over the slick head and feeling the way he twitches in Tony’s grasp. Bucky goes still, frozen except for the way his chest heaves as Tony starts to slowly stroke along the length of him, grip teasingly light. “Tony,” Bucky says, caught somewhere between a sigh and a moan, hips rocking forward ever so slightly as he pushes into Tony’s grip, shuddering as Tony thumbs at the head of his cock again.

He intends to say something back to that, but all Tony can manage is a breathless, desperate noise as he watches the play of muscle under Bucky’s skin. Tony licks his lips, wondering if Bucky will let him get his mouth on that because god Tony wants to taste him, wants to feel Bucky stretching his lips wide, pushing into the back of his throat.

Tony is just opening his mouth to ask when Bucky moves again, collapsing down onto him and pressing a fierce kiss to Tony’s lips as he starts peeling Tony out of his shirt and boxers with shaking hands. When Bucky presses in close again it has Tony gasping at the first brush of Bucky’s cock against his own, smooth and slick and forget his ego, Tony is seconds away from begging as Bucky’s hand moves down his side to grope at his ass again.

When Bucky finally presses one finger into him, slow and firm and slicked with lotion, Tony really does beg. “Fuck,” he gasps out, nails digging into Bucky’s shoulder, whining when Bucky’s other hand on his hip keeps him from rocking up into it. “Bucky, please I- fuck, more-“

“Patience, darlin’,” Bucky breathes out as he twists his finger a little, making Tony’s breath catch, “wanna take my time openin’ you up.” He leans into Tony’s hands running over his shoulders and chest, doesn’t even seem to notice when Tony’s fingers skate over the line where metal meets flesh and the trust in that is just another thing Tony is going to have to think about later. “Could spend all night feelin’ the way you clench around me,” Bucky punctuates that with slightly harder thrust of his finger and his gaze is heavy as it drags down Tony’s chest, watching the way he arches and writhes.

“Don’t you dare,” Tony tries to snap, but his voice comes out weak and he moans as Bucky presses in deeper, “don’t you fuckin’- sweetheart please I need- ah!” It’s only Bucky’s hand pressing him into the bed that keeps Tony’s hips from jerking up as Bucky presses another finger into him, stretching him open with an infuriating gentleness and one of Tony’s hands slide back up to grab at Bucky’s hair again.

“Gonna give you what you need,” Bucky promises in a low growl, and it probably shouldn't make Tony whine and his cock twitch against his stomach that Bucky makes it sound almost like a threat. Tony doesn’t have the brain power to wonder what that says about him right now though, because Bucky finds his prostate and proceeds to play him like a goddamn violin. Tony gasps and moans out broken noises as Bucky alternates between light, teasing strokes and firm, lingering presses, sending fire shooting through Tony’s veins and leaving him shaking.

“Fuck-“ Tony sighs, caught between disappointment and relief when Bucky returns to working his fingers in and out, spreading him open and Tony’s cock is throbbing almost painfully. “Fuck- you are killing me. I am going to die and then I am going to killl you,” Tony threatens uselessly, and when Bucky huffs out a soft laugh Tony tugs on his hair and adds “and then I will go fuck myself if I have to, don’t think I won’t.”

Bucky makes a sound caught halfway between a laugh and a moan, hips jerking and Tony gasps as it presses Bucky’s cock against his thigh, presses Bucky’s fingers a little deeper into him. “Maybe you can show me that after,” Bucky says and Tony can feel his smirk as he leans down to press their lips together again, licking and biting his way into Tony’s mouth until they both break off panting.

“Not gonna show you a damn thing if you- fuck-“ Tony cuts off when Bucky presses a third finger into him, a little less gentle, exactly what Tony wants and it leaves his moaning shamelessly, arching up into Bucky’s wide palm spread across his hip. “Bucky- Bucky please I need- I need you please- please fuck me already,” Tony begs, doesn’t give a damn about anything besides the fact that he can still feel Bucky’s cock pressed against him and Tony wants to feel it inside him instead, wants to feel it inside him so badly he can barely breathe.

“Not yet,” Bucky growls, kisses him again and swallows all of Tony’s wailing cries as he strokes firm and slow over Tony’s prostate again. When he lets up Tony’s every breath comes out as a hitching whine, thighs shaking around Bucky’s hips as thick fingers twist and curl inside him. Bucky looks entirely too smug, and Tony needs to do something about that.

When Bucky leans in to kiss him again Tony uses his hold on Bucky’s hair to stop him, leaves him hovering just inches away. “Now,” Tony demands, their lips barely brushing together with the word and his stomach swoops when Bucky lets out a frustrated hiss. “If you don’t get inside me right now, I am going to roll us off this bed and ride you into fucking the ground,” Tony swears, giving Bucky’s hair another tug because he likes the low growl that it earns him.

Bucky seems to be actually considering that option for a second, and then he’s withdrawing his fingers and slicking himself up with a shaking hand. “You want it that bad?” Bucky asks, rubbing the head of his cock teasingly over Tony’s hole and the crazy part is that it sounds like a genuine question, like the way Tony is trying desperately to arch up into him isn’t a giant clue. Or maybe like Bucky can’t quite believe they’ve ended up here either.

“Yes, I want it- fuck I want you so bad,” Tony blurts instantly, because there will be time for both of them to wonder at the mysteries of life and actually getting what they want for once later. For now, Tony is so turned on it’s almost painful, an ache deep in his stomach and he can’t stop himself from admitting “I need you, please honey, c’mon, c’mon, oh- fuck-“ Tony’s words turn into breathless moans as Bucky starts pressing into him, slow and steady and inescapable, the most amazing burn starting in Tony’s hips and spreading through his entire body.

“Fuck,” Bucky groans back, “fuck- damn babydoll you feel so good-“ He keeps his grip firm on Tony’s hip, keeps him still so he can’t do anything but open up and take it as Bucky slides deeper, spreads him open and fills him up perfectly. Tony finally loosens his hold on Bucky’s soft hair and instantly Bucky’s mouth is crashing into his, kissing him deep and sloppy while Tony moans with happy relief.

Tony hitches his legs a little higher around Bucky’s hips, tugs Bucky in closer and whines as Bucky’s hips finally press snug against his ass, as deep as he can get. Tony has to pull away from the kiss to pant for breath and Bucky instantly shifts to kissing down his neck as Tony gasps out “move- Bucky, please I- move honey, fuck me, please-“

“‘M gonna fuck you,” Bucky promises against his throat, scrapes his teeth over Tony’s pulse as his hips slowly start to shift back again, leaving Tony achingly empty as he drags his cock back out just as slowly. “Gonna fuck you just right, make you feel me for days,” Bucky continues, voice barely more than a low rumble against Tony’s skin, and then snaps his hips forward hard.

Tony screams, clawing at Bucky almost frantically, entire body on fire as as Bucky fills him again. “Yes, yes,” Tony moans, and then continues chanting it as Bucky works up a steady rhythm, working Tony looser with steady thrusts until Bucky’s cock moves easily inside him. Tony moans loudly when Bucky finally, finally releases his hold on Tony’s hip, sliding his hand up Tony’s chest instead and they both groan as Tony rocks up to meet his next thrust. “Fuck- perfect, oh god that’s so good- Bucky-“ Tony practically whimpers as the new angle has his cock rubbing up against Bucky’s firm stomach with each thrust, Bucky’s cock dragging relentlessly over his prostate.

Bucky hums in agreement, wraps both arms up under Tony’s back and shoulders, curling down around Tony completely and pulling him roughly into each slap of Bucky’s hips against his. “So beautiful, fuck you are so tight,” Bucky pants, voice soft and almost dreamy as he drags kisses up Tony’s neck again, “perfect, so fuckin’ perfect, babydoll, feel so good.”

Every drag of Bucky’s cock inside him, every time Bucky shoves in deep, it punches another breathless gasp out of Tony’s chest until his head is spinning, until he can’t think about anything but rocking up to meet every thrust, desperate for the friction against his leaking cock and the glorious ache of Bucky inside him. “Bucky,” he whines, “Buckybear, please- fuck I can feel you everywhere, I-“

Bucky pulls him into another kiss, all teeth and tongue and ragged panting for breath. Tony’s cock throbs with every rub against Bucky’s stomach, with every rough thrust, Bucky’s cock almost impossibly huge and deep inside him, pushing the burn inside him higher with every slide, every time the head of Bucky’s cock drags over his prostate on the withdraw and Tony is losing his mind even before Bucky moans his name against his lips. “Tony- Tony, sweet thing- fuck-“

“Yeah,” Tony gasps like any of that had been a question, “yes just like- oh god-“ He arches up hard again, grinding up against Bucky’s stomach and then gasping as one of Bucky’s hands slides to his lower back and holds him there, suspended in the air as Bucky drives into him in short, hard thrusts. “Bucky- please baby-“

When Tony tips his head back Bucky moves to mouthing along his jaw to his ear, making Tony groan and shake as he clenches up hard around Bucky inside him. Bucky lets out a low moan of his own, teeth catching on Tony’s earlobe before he growls “yeah, come on gorgeous, let me see you, wanna feel you come on my cock, let me have it darlin’.”

Tony comes with an all out scream, writhing and shaking in Bucky’s firm hold, his legs tightening around Bucky’s hips, clenching up around Bucky’s cock inside him as his orgasm sets him ablaze, threatens to burn him alive in endless crashing waves. “Bucky, fuck,” Tony sighs, voice torn up and blissed out.

Bucky growls deep in his chest, thrusts going rough and uncoordinated as he tucks his face down into the curve of Tony’s neck again, breath hot and fast against his pulse. Tony tips his head to the side a little further, smoothing one shaking up the strong line of Bucky’s back, and breathes out “do it.”

That’s apparently all the permission Bucky needs, and he lets out a deep growl before biting down hard. Every inch of Tony goes tense, strung tight as Bucky’s teeth sink into his neck, his hips slamming against Tony’s ass as he chases after his own release. Bucky comes with a deep groan that seems to rumble through his entire body, grinding as deep as he can and Tony whines at the feeling of Bucky’s cock twitching inside him, messy and amazing.

Tony pants raggedly, fingers tingling slightly as he drags them over Bucky’s skin and he doesn’t even realize his eyes are closed until they snap open at the feeling of Bucky gently pushing his sweat soaked hair out of his face. Tony smiles up at him, feeling fragile in all the most terrifying ways, and he can practically see the way Bucky’s breath catches. “Oh, gorgeous,” Bucky sighs out then leans down to kiss him again, slow and sweet and Tony is not prepared for the way his own heart lurches in his chest. They break away from the kiss slowly, lips lingering in final parting brushes before Bucky nearly collapses down on top of him, one arm still wrapped tight around Tony’s back.

Tony soaks in the warmth as they both catch their breath, but Bucky is not light and eventually Tony shoves weakly at his shoulder and whines “move, honey- I can’t breathe.” Bucky grumbles out a vague complaint but shifts enough to carefully withdraw, pulling a soft groan out of Tony, and then rolls to the side just enough to let Tony breathe without actually losing any skin contact. “I can’t move,” Tony says, turning his head to fix Bucky with a serious expression, “I mean it, I can’t feel my legs. You gotta find us something to clean up with.”

Bucky huffs out an annoyed sound, but he’s grinning as he rolls over a little more and starts groping around on the floor. “Where did those scarves go?” He asks, and then laughs when Tony shoves at him ineffectively.

“Don’t you dare,” Tony says and gets a foot in on the action, kicking Bucky lightly in the thigh and giggling a little deliriously. “Use the ugly orange shirt so I never have to see it again,” he suggests, and grins when Bucky huffs again.

When Bucky rolls back towards him it’s with Tony’s shirt in hand, and Tony actually doesn’t mind that shirt, but Bucky is so gentle as he cleans them both up that Tony decides to let it slide. Bucky tosses the shirt back to the ground once he’s done and then his hand twitches like he wants to reach out before he hesitates, hand falling back to his side. Tony acts before either of them can start thinking too hard about it, he’s already conveniently on Bucky’s right side, so he rolls over quickly, knocks Bucky onto his back and sprawls out across his chest.

He throws his arm and leg over Bucky just for good measure, and holds his breath while he waits for Bucky to unfreeze and give Tony some kind of sign if this is actually okay or not. Slowly, Bucky relaxes beneath him, one hand shifting to rest on Tony’s thigh thrown over his hips and the other coming up to play gently with the hair at the base of Tony’s skull. “Now hold still, it’s time for my beauty sleep,” Tony says, giving into the urge to rub his cheek against Bucky’s chest a little and sighing happily when he finds that his head fits perfectly in the dip of Bucky’s shoulder.

“Spoiled,” Bucky says and Tony doesn’t look up but he’d swear he can hear a fond smile in that word, Bucky’s fingers sliding a little further up the curve of Tony’s head. Bucky reaches over to flick off the lamp on the nightstand and then places his hand back on Tony’s thigh, metal fingers tracing gently up and down the line of muscle.

Tony is uncomfortably aware of the fact that his arc reactor is still casting a dim blue light around the room, throwing crazy shadows as he shifts slightly, and dammit this is why Tony usually sleeps in a shirt. He tips his chin up just enough to look at Bucky with half formed plans to apologize, to offer to go get a shirt, and finds Bucky already looking at him.

“Go to sleep, gorgeous,” Bucky says softly, like he knows exactly what Tony was going to say. He presses his fingers harder into Tony’s scalp, pushing the hair all the wrong direction and practically forcing the tension out of Tony’s body.

“Sweet dreams, Buckybear,” Tony says back, voice already slurring, eyes falling closed almost against his will. The last thing he’s aware of before he falls asleep is Bucky still playing with his hair, his heartbeat steady in Tony’s ear.

-

Bucky doesn’t intend on sleeping at all, he plans to stay up and memorize every single detail of Tony snoring quietly against his chest, Tony’s soft hair between his fingers. Bucky has no idea how long he’ll be allowed to have this, if he’ll ever get to have it again, so he wants to remember the exact rhythm of Tony’s thumb twitching against his stomach in his sleep.

Bucky must fall asleep himself at some point though, because he wakes up to early dawn light and Tony still, amazingly, sprawled out across him. Bucky doesn’t dream much these days, and when he does it's always nightmares, but he still can’t quite believe this isn’t just a fantastic, perfect dream. He has to resist the urge to hold his breath for fear of waking up for real, because Tony is so warm under his hands, radiating that addictive warmth where he’s pressed all up against Bucky’s side, and Bucky wants to hold onto this for as long as he can.

It didn’t take long to learn that Tony wakes up slowly, but now Bucky gets a front row view of the way Tony’s forehead scrunches up just before he squints his eyes open, the way his licks his lips before stretching as much as he can without actually moving at all. And then Tony’s eyes open fully, flick around the room before meeting Bucky’s, and Bucky really does stop breathing. Because if Tony is going to roll out of bed and put everything back to normal, now is when it’s going to happen.

That’s not what Tony does. Instead he blinks up at Bucky, long eyelashes catching the light and eyes like warm honey, and then Tony slowly smiles. It brings out every gorgeous laugh line and lights up his entire face, the most beautiful fucking thing Bucky’s ever seen and forget breathing, Bucky’s entire brain shuts down. It still hasn’t kicked back in when Tony leans up and presses their lips together, easy as anything, and Bucky’s fingers twitch against Tony’s skin because he’s still a little terrified of waking up.

Bucky takes too long to snap out of his shocked daze; Tony goes tense against him and Bucky is too scared of doing the wrong thing to do a single fucking thing at all. He isn’t going to let that happen again, he’s not going to make that mistake with Tony, so Bucky gets a hand up and curls it around Tony’s jaw before he can pull away, kisses him light and slow and as sweet as he possibly can.

Tony melts against him, wraps his sprawled limbs tighter around Bucky and hums happily. Bucky’s heartbeat skips and then doubles, and when he works up the nerve to swipe his tongue out Tony opens for him like it’s not even a question. Tony shifts, presses closer, and there’s a slow burn of arousal growing in Bucky’s gut but for now he’s perfectly happy focusing on licking slowly into Tony’s mouth, the soft slide of Tony’s lips against his own.

Bucky shifts onto his side a little, all the better to pull Tony in against him, and when Bucky’s hand slides down the line of his neck Tony gasps into the kiss. It takes a second for Bucky to realize his thumb is resting over the swollen bruise left by his teeth, and Bucky really wishes he could properly feel the heat of it with his metal thumb. Then Tony arches against him with another soft sound, hips hitching forward slightly and thigh tightening around Bucky’s hip, and the arousal in Bucky’s gut bursts into a wildfire.

“Bucky-“ Tony gasps out as Bucky hauls him closer, slotting their legs together snugly and Bucky is already half hard against the warm skin of Tony’s thigh. Bucky whines, because he can already hear the beginnings of a reluctant protest in Tony’s voice and he’s not ready to let go yet. He doesn’t know if he’ll ever get to feel Tony under his hands like this again.

“It’s still early,” Bucky points out, drags his teeth over Tony’s lower lip and grins when Tony shudders against him. He presses his thumb a little more firmly to the bruise and says “been thinking about you so much, don’t wanna let go of you yet.” It’s maybe a little more honest than Bucky could usually bring himself to be, but it’s surprisingly easy first thing in the morning, warm dawn light and Tony even warmer wrapped around him.

He’s still kind of waiting for Tony to be the voice of reason, to pull away and point out that they should probably get back on the road. It takes him by surprise when Tony does the exact opposite, throws his weight forward to roll Bucky onto his back and follow him over. It ends with Bucky inches from sliding off of the bed and Tony on top of him, rolling his hips down against Bucky’s in a slow grind that takes Bucky’s breath away.

“I’ve been thinking about some things too,” Tony says against his lips, pulling back when Bucky leans up to kiss him and laughing when Bucky lets out a frustrated whine in response. “If you’re going to insist on staying in bed, then I am going to insist on trying a couple of them,” Tony adds, perfectly reasonably, like Bucky’s fingers aren’t twitching desperately against Tony’s back.

Before Bucky can agree blindly that yes, whatever Tony wants, he’s being kissed again, deep and ferocious and over entirely too quickly as Tony pulls away again. “Tony-“ he gasps and then moans helplessly as Tony shifts to kissing down his neck and chest with the perfect occasional tease of his teeth scraping over Bucky’s skin. “Doll, please-

Bucky isn’t even sure what he’s asking for, other than more, more of Tony’s mouth on him, and yet somehow it’s a surprise when he feels Tony’s lips ghost over the head of his cock. “I’m going to swallow your dick now,” Tony says, like he’s announcing the weather, like he’s not driving Bucky out of his mind, lips brushing down the shaft of Bucky’s cock with every word. “Feel free to pull my hair, fuck my face, just- go wild with it.”

And then Tony follows through on his promise, wraps his lips around the head and then swallows him down in one smooth, hot slide. He stares up at Bucky through his lashes the entire time, one hand on Bucky’s stomach and other other on his thigh, letting the restless shifting of Bucky’s hips nudge his cock into the back of Tony’s throat and groaning happily around it.

As delicious as the options Tony presented him with are, all Bucky can manage is running his fingers through Tony’s hair almost reverently, stroking a thumb over Tony’s cheek and feeling the push and slide of his cock in Tony’s mouth. Maybe later Bucky will be embarrassed by how quickly he comes down Tony’s throat, but right now he’s too busy losing all rational thought with every flick of Tony’s tongue just under the head of his cock, drawing his orgasm out until Bucky is shaking with it.

“Darlin’,” Bucky growls out as Tony pulls off slowly, dropping little kisses and kitten licks of his tongue down the shaft of Bucky’s cock and if he’s not careful Bucky is absolutely going to get hard again. Or stay hard, really, and Bucky is already dreaming up all the parts of Tony he’d like to get his own mouth on. “Get up here,” Bucky demands, tugging Tony’s hair a little, and with a laugh Tony finally shifts back up so Bucky can pull him into a deep, sloppy kiss.

Tony melts against him again, his cock leaving slick smears across Bucky’s skin as he grinds against his thigh. Tony puts up no resistance when Bucky rolls them back over, then pouts when Bucky is the one to pull away. Bucky slides off the end of the bed and as soon as his knees hit the thin carpet he grabs hold of Tony’s ankle and yanks down until his thighs are draped over Bucky’s shoulders.

“Oh fuck-“ Tony gasps, and then moans beautifully as Bucky drags his tongue up his cock to lick over the leaking slit. “Bucky, honey please I’m- god I’m not going to last please just-“ Tony’s words come out strangled and desperate, and Bucky thinks he could listen to that sound forever right up until his shifts down to press his tongue hard behind Tony’s balls and Tony wails breathlessly.

“I got you, sweet thing,” Bucky promises lowly, turns his head just enough to scrape his teeth over Tony’s thigh before ducking his head a little more and dragging his tongue firmly over the furled skin of Tony’s hole. Tony moans loudly again, jerks so hard that Bucky has to clamp both hands down on his hips to hold him in place.

“Fuck-“ Tony groans again as Bucky continues licking over his swollen hole, easily working him loose again as Tony whines and moans and writhes in his hold. “God I can still feel you, please baby I- oh- oh-“ Tony breaks off into unintelligible cries as Bucky shifts enough to wrap one hand around Tony’s cock, lets Tony rock up into the grip of his metal fingers.

Tony goes silent when he comes, his back arching sharp and gorgeous as he claws weakly at the twisted blankets. Then he collapses down into the bed with a shaking moan, his thighs twitching against Bucky’s shoulders as he starts to pant raggedly. Bucky can’t resist swiping his tongue through Tony’s come splattered over his fingers and grins when Tony lets out another whine, starts making grabby hands at him.

Bucky is all too happy to let himself be drawn in, tucking his face into Tony’s neck again and making sure he doesn’t put too much weight on Tony as he continues catching his breath. “Okay, now we can get outta bed,” Bucky says into Tony’s skin, and grins wider when Tony laughs.

“We need a shower,” Tony points out, dragging a hand up Bucky’s back. Then, like he thinks Bucky could possibly have missed it, he adds “singular. We need a singular shower. Co-shower. For the environment.”

“Well if it’s for th’ environment,” Bucky huffs and gives into the urge to suck another light mark into Tony’s neck before reluctantly pulling away. He pulls Tony up as well, his chest warming as Tony slumps lazily against him the second he’s on his feet. And then Bucky’s face is warming at Tony smirks and glances pointedly from Bucky’s face to his hard cock pressed against Tony’s stomach. “Your fault, gorgeous,” Bucky mock-grumbles, then laughs when Tony smiles delightedly.

They take a singular shower that lasts for way longer than strictly necessary, kissing slow and deep under the stuttering spray of water. Tony makes muffled encouraging noises when Bucky starts grinding against his hip and it’s not long before Bucky loses control. He still has the sounds of Tony’s moans ringing in his ears, and it makes a beautiful counterpoint to Tony’s breathless gasps as Bucky spins him around, pins him against the tile and comes over the swell of his ass with a couple sloppy thrusts.

The water is going cold when they finally get around to grabbing the soap and they hurry through scrubbing themselves clean, laughing and jostling each other in the tiny shower. Bucky is still toweling himself dry when Tony wanders back out into the main room and all Bucky hears is an excited shout of “I still have cookies!”

“You are not eatin’ cookies for breakfast!” Bucky shouts back, abandoning his towel to storm after Tony and snatching the bag out of his hands. He holds it up above his head and grins smugly when Tony’s fingertips barely brush the bottom of the bag.

“You’re not the boss of me,” Tony huffs out, wraps one arm around Bucky’s shoulder and tries to climb him, still swiping ineffectively at the cookies. Bucky laughs when he finally gives up and drops back to the ground with an impressive pout. “Fine, then what are you going to feed me, bossy pants?” Tony demands, and Bucky resists the urge to lean in and bite at Tony’s lower lip.

He doesn’t know when Tony is going to draw the line, and he can’t bare the thought of seeing Tony pull away from him. So Bucky does nothing, and instead pretends to seriously consider Tony’s question. “Think they do a breakfast here,” he says, then glances down at the both of them, Tony with a towel barely hanging off his hips and Bucky completely naked. “We should prob’ly get dressed first,” he adds with a regretful sigh.

“I’ve got twenty dollars that say the food is heavily butter based,” Tony says, giving Bucky a heated once over before heading for their bag. Bucky is surprised by how much he misses the soft glow of the reactor once Tony pulls a shirt on, and he can only hope he’ll get to see it again.

It turns out the older couple who own the place are in fact serving waffles completely smothered in butter, and they look incredibly bemused as Tony makes grabby hand until Bucky actually hands over twenty dollars. Tony proceeds to cover his stack of waffles in so much syrup Bucky might as well have just let him eat the cookies, and then they sneak back to their room before anyone can recognize them in the light of day.

They eat standing in the tiny kitchenette, pressed close so they’re both over the couple squares of scuffed linoleum. Every now and then Tony’s shoulder will brush against his as they eat in comfortable silence and Bucky feels warm, warmer than he can remember feeling in a long, long time.

“You excited to get home?” Tony finally breaks the silence to ask, swirling his last forkful of waffle around in the lake of syrup on his plate. He glances up, and there’s something lurking behind Tony’s open expression that Bucky feels so close to understanding. He just needs a little more time.

Bucky opens his mouth to reply, and then actually thinks about the question. When he just shrugs Tony gives him a confused look, so he tries to actually put the mess of confusion in his chest into words. “I wanna see Steve again,” he says, “make sure everyone is okay, but the rest of it?”

He shrugs again, a little helplessly, because home means his empty room where he spends most of his time locked away, alone, no endless chatter and bright smiles. Home means keeping himself locked away in his own head, overthinking every joke and comment until he ends up saying nothing at all. Home is a place where he doesn’t talk to Tony at all, no stupid jokes and stupider pet names, no Tony leaning lazy and comfortable against him as they eat breakfast. Nothing at all. The mere thought of that makes Bucky’s heart clench up painfully, steals his breath away.

“What?” Tony asks, voice soft, nudging their shoulders together a little harder. He’s still staring up at Bucky and there’s something hidden in the soft brown of his eyes, Bucky is so close to understanding it and he finds himself leaning a little closer, desperate to understand.

Bucky knows he can’t afford to say this wrong, if he can’t find the right words right here, right now, then he may never have another chance. But even worse would be to say nothing at all, to overthink it like always and end up saying absolutely nothing. He can’t ruin this without giving himself even that single chance. So Bucky drags in a deep breath, forces himself to say something terrifyingly real. “Kinda feel like I already am home,” Bucky says, voice just as soft. He forces himself to continue meeting Tony’s gaze even though it feels like his face is on fire, like his lungs are trying to collapse and his pulse is pounding in his ears while he waits for Tony to say something, anything.

It’s all worth it for the way Tony smiles at him, warm and wide and there’s open relief in his eyes, Bucky can see it now. Their plates go crashing to the ground as Tony pulls him into a kiss, syrupy fingers curving around Bucky’s jaw, his lips sweet, and Bucky doesn’t even think twice before he wraps his arms around Tony’s waist and pulls him in close.

“We can still do all of this,” Tony says between short, sticky kisses pressed all over Bucky’s face. “Less time stuck in cars, way better beds, equal amounts of crazy bullshit, because it’s important to be realistic about the amount of crazy bullshit in our lives.” Tony pauses as Bucky laughs, drags his fingers through the short hair at Bucky’s temple and his voice drops a little as he adds “and we can make out like, all the time.” Tony says it all like an offer, or a bribe, like he’d give Bucky anything he could ask for.

It’s such an insane feeling, like he could have the entire world if he wanted it, Tony warm and happy and willing to give it to him. Bucky tightens his hold on Tony and somehow finds the courage to blurt out “I don’t wanna sleep in a bed without you in it.”

Tony smiles impossibly wider, and he looks a little crazy with his pupils all blown out and his hair sticking up wildly because he didn’t dry it properly after his shower. “You just want to stick your cold toes on me,” Tony complains, sliding his fingers further into Bucky’s hair and Bucky just knows they’re both going to smell like syrup for the rest of the drive.

“Yep,” Bucky says shamelessly, matching Tony’s wide smile with one of his own. He pulls Tony into another kiss, sticky sweet and Tony’s laugh gets caught between them.

-

Thirty six straight hours on the road later they finally get close enough that Tony can check on the compound, and to his horror, he finds that everyone inside has been brainwashed already. It’s one of Tony’s many, many worst fears come to life, if slightly less dramatically than he always imagined. The entire compound is still on lockdown, everyone locked up in separate rooms, and Tony isn’t sure if that’s FRIDAY’s doing or just a lucky break.

The upside is that they’ve apparently been taking care of themselves the minimum required amount to stay alive, even in their zombie-brain-controlled state. Who knows, maybe one day they’ll even be able to laugh over the video feeds of Steve lazily swinging at where a punching bag would be, Clint sitting on his bed hitting a single button on a game controller that isn’t even plugged into anything. Scans of their vitals show that no one is starving or horribly sleep deprived, and Tony thinks it’s officially safe to say at this point that he or Bucky are definitely the real target here. How exciting for them.

At least half of the team doesn't even seem to be there, and they won’t have to worry about Bruce hulking out and smashing through walls or Vision phasing straight through them. Bucky’s expression remains cold and steely as Tony relays all of this to him, and his glare gets even darker when Tony finishes up with the fact that the asshole who’s doing this is also in the compound. He has apparently been there all this time, just hanging out, and at least the magical jackass can’t actually get into anything important with the entire place locked down tight. That doesn’t seem to make Bucky feel any better, his knuckles are still white from how hard he’s gripping the wheel, and Tony can’t really blame him. The thought of anyone, much less a stranger who has it out for them, just inviting themselves into the compound and hanging out there has Tony’s skin crawling.

“I just can’t believe how old this guy is,” Tony bitches, kicking his feet against the floorboards of the car with frustration as he stares at the security feed pulled up on his phone. Bucky is already driving way over the speed limit, pushing the car about as hard as it can go, but it doesn’t feel fast enough.

“Old enough that I gotta feel bad ‘bout knocking his teeth in?” Bucky asks in a low, angry growl that does not at all remind Tony of his sexy growl, not even a little bit. There will be time for that later, hopefully.

Tony hums thoughtfully and then says “I’m gonna go with no. Teeth knock away.” He scrolls to another feed and watches the hunched, wrinkled man dig through their pantry with a scowl. “He’s eating my Oreos!”

“I’ll save a couple teeth for you,” Bucky says, corner of his mouth twitching the slightest bit. Tony gasps, presses a hand to his chest and pretends to swoon, and Bucky smiles a tiny bit wider. “Does he know we’re comin’?”

“Doesn’t look like it,” Tony says, switching feeds again to watch as the man goes back to the common room and drops down onto the couch like he owns the place. Which he does not, Tony owns the place, and it’s taking everything Tony has to not grind his teeth in anger.

They spend the last hour of the drive making a plan to get the drop on the guy, even walking the last half a mile to make sure the roar of the old car’s engine won’t be overheard. It all goes out the window when they’re creeping along the side of the main building and suddenly the security footage shows the man leaping to his feet and waving his hands in their general direction, as if he knows exactly where they are.

“I fucking hate magic,” Tony swears, because he has no idea how the bastard knows they’re here but he just knows it’s magic related. “If you get mind-control-bugged I am going to tase you,” Tony warns, raising his makeshift taser a little and hitting the button so it makes that crackling noise he’s become so fond of.

“Right back atcha,” Bucky says, and Tony nods because that sounds like a pretty fair deal. “Let's do this,” Bucky adds in a growl, pulling out one of his many knives, and Tony’s not sure when he started finding that hot but he definitely does.

Tony is about to suggest plan B, forget the armory and just focus on getting one of his suits so he can actually be useful, when Steve’s shield and then Steve himself come bursting out of the wall mere inches away from them, and apparently he’s finally found the determination to break free of the gym. At least now they know what the magic asshole has been arm waving about. “Oh come on, I thought we wouldn’t have to worry about wall smashing!” Tony complains, and when Bucky shoots him a flat look he adds “plan F, plan F!”

If Tony thought the first couple brainwashed minions were uncoordinated, it’s nothing compared to now, Steve hits the ground hard and rolls a couple times before slowly flailing his way to his feet again, eyes unfocused as he turns to face them. Tony really hopes this means the old man is in fact running out of magic, running himself thin after trying so hard to find them for the past couple weeks. Tony also wonders how long he has to wait before he can make fun of Steve for this, because he almost drops his shield when he goes to pick it up again and Tony really wants to make fun of that.

“Tony,” Bucky says shortly, and Tony snaps into action just as Steve rears his arm back for another throw. Bucky catches the shield easily, which is good, because it had definitely been aimed at Tony’s back as he climbs through the giant hole in the wall. “I got Steve,” Bucky says, reaching back with his free hand to steady Tony when a bit of the drywall crumbles under his foot.

Tony makes it inside, only stumbling a little as he hits the ground in the long hallway, and then pauses. He knows for a fact that Bucky only has knives on him, and he probably doesn’t want to have to knife Steve in self defense. Tony doesn’t want to leave him empty handed, even if one of those hands is metal. After a split second of thought, Tony sticks his head back out and says “hey, catch.” He tosses the taser and Bucky catches it easily, barely glancing away from Steve as he dodges sloppy punches.

“There’s a gun under my chair,” Bucky says, and Tony doesn’t even need to ask what he means, everyone knows Bucky’s favorite armchair is the one in the corner of the common room, so of course Bucky hid a weapon under it.

“Oh, I get to touch your secret gun,” Tony can’t help teasing, and he also can’t help taking the time for an eyebrow wiggle. It’s totally worth it, even if Bucky is too busy trying to hit Steve with the taser to see it.

Bucky huffs, but Tony can totally hear the repressed smile as he says “go get th’ bastard.” Apparently Steve’s uncoordinated stumbling and flailing makes him hard to predict, and more than once Bucky nearly gets him only for Steve to stumble out of the way.

“I’m on it,” Tony says, even though it feels kind of weird to let Bucky out of his sight after so long. Steve is sufficiently distracted tussling with Bucky at least, so with a final reluctant glance Tony takes off down the hallway. Time for plan F, winging it wildly.

The magic asshole is totally ready for it when Tony bursts into the common room, and greets Tony by throwing the loveseat at him. Tony barely manages to dodge out of the way, arms up to protect his head from the splintering wood as he ducks behind the bar.

“Sorry, we have a strict policy against party crashers,” Tony calls over the sound of the asshole chanting something, then covers his head again as the coffee table bounces off the top of the bar and crashes into the backlit shelves, showering Tony is glass and an expensive assortment of liquors. Great, now Tony smells like an entire booze cruise, and the old jackass probably isn’t even going to pay to replace all of that. “Guess we’re skipping the reasonable conversation part of the evening,” Tony mutters and leans over just enough to grab a silver drink shaker amid the glass and bits of wood.

Tony slides along to the end of the bar, ignoring the crunch and sting of broken glass beneath him, and uses the reflective surface of the shaker to get a look around the corner. The man is only waving one hand now, the other clutching his head and Tony really, really hopes that means he’s almost out of steam. Tony carefully digs through the piles of debris around him until he locates a bottle solid enough to have survived the fall to the ground. It’s not easy, basing a blind throw on a heavily warped reflection, and Tony has to resist the urge to cheer at the satisfying thunk of the bottle bouncing off the man’s head.

The magical home invader goes down hard, and Tony allows himself a small cheer as he dashes around the other end of the bar and dives for the chair in the corner. It’s a wide, sturdy armchair, and Tony tucks as much of himself as he can behind it just as one of the end tables comes crashing into the wall beside him.

“Quit wrecking my house,” Tony calls angrily as he shoves one hand under the chair, feeling around desperately in the torn lining, “I get enough of that from the people who actually live here!” It’s a difficult reach, the gun is clearly positioned for Bucky to easily grab while he’s sitting in the chair, not for someone hiding behind it, but Tony manages to get ahold of the barrel just as the chair goes skidding across the floor away from him.

Tony barely keeps ahold of the gun as the chair is ripped from his him and then swears as he has to roll out of the way of the chair flying right back. It definitely leaves a dent with how hard it slams into the wall, and Tony is going to be pissed about that later, but for now he’s grinning victoriously as he comes out of the roll with the gun properly in hand, lining up his shot as he flicks the safety off. The first shot hits the magic jackass in the shoulder and he finally stops waving his arms around, which is a definite plus, but he shouts something loud and panicky in a language Tony doesn’t recognize, and doesn’t stand down. In fact he stumbles a couple steps closer, and Tony doesn’t actually want to kill an old man today so he lines up his next shot at the man’s leg.

“Stop,” Tony says, just in case, “stop everything you’re doing, let my friends go, give yourself up and I won’t even charge you for all the property damage.” The man still doesn’t stop, but before Tony can fire they’re both spinning towards the sound of a loud crash from the direction of the doorway as Steve and Bucky come crashing through the door frame. “Seriously guys, property damage!” Tony shouts.

Bucky doesn’t respond, too busy slamming Steve to the ground and getting in a good shot with the taser that has Steve twitching before finally going limp. Tony is wondering how long that’ll actually keep Steve down, if the sluggish mind control will slow him down in this too, and the old man uses that momentary distraction to wave his uninjured arm and throw the other end table at him. Tony shifts in time that it grazes off his shoulder, but he loses the gun somewhere in the growing pile of ruined furniture around him.

“I lost your secret gun,” Tony calls, because that seems like the kind of thing Bucky should know. Especially because the magical asshole has started stumbling towards Tony with the kind of crazy face that means he isn’t going to let a little thing like a bullet in his shoulder or the fact that he’s gone pale and shaky stop him.

“I will get you, Stark,” the old man snarls, finally in English, and he appears to be out of magic because he lets his arm fall limply to his side and continues stumbling forwards. Bucky swears and goes to lunge after the man, only to nearly lose his balance as Steve swings a foot out and catches him in the knee.

“Aha! I told you, everyone wants a piece of this,” Tony calls smugly, laughs at the flat glare Bucky shoots him, and then catches the taser when Bucky throws it back. Bucky finally breaks free of Steve’s flailing limbs and rushes forward, kicks the old man in the back so he goes stumbling forward wildly.

Tony steps to the side and hits the button on the taser, shoves it into the asshole’s side as he flails past. It’s amazingly satisfying to finally get to use his taser on someone again, and even more satisfying when the man goes crashing limply to the ground. Steve tumbles to the ground a second later with a low groan and Tony smiles proudly as he says “look at that, I was useful after all.”

“Knew you would be,” Bucky says as he comes over and quickly secures the magical old man’s hands behind his back with the cord form the curtains. Tony pretends to swoon so hopefully Bucky won’t notice he’s actually blushing a little, but Bucky is smirking knowingly as he says “lemme see your hands.”

“They’re fine,” Tony protests with a roll of his eyes, but tosses the taser aside so he can hold out his hands, palms up for Bucky’s inspection. Bucky is somehow incredibly gentle even as he tugs Tony’s hands closer, runs his thumbs over the scrapes and nicks left by the glass, and Tony just tries not to shiver.

“Nothing too deep,” Bucky finally declares, though he doesn’t let go of Tony even as he turns at the sound of Steve groaning again. They watch carefully as Steve shoves himself upright again, legs still sprawled out as he sits in the middle of the wrecked common room and rubs both hands over his face. When he finally looks at them again his gaze is clear and alert, and Tony hears Bucky let out a sigh of relief to match his own.

“What happened?” Steve asks, still sounding a little dazed as his eyes move over the destroyed room and once they land on the unconscious man they widen with recognition. “You got him?” Steve looks caught somewhere between relieved and disappointed he missed it, and Tony is absolutely going to mock him about that later.

“We did,” Tony says, reluctantly pulling one hand out of Bucky’s grasp so he can dig his phone out of his pocket, “no thanks to you, Captain Crashing Through My Walls.”

Tony flashes Steve a sunny grin and then turns his attention to his phone, scrolling through the security feeds again to see everyone snapping out of their weird trances. Natasha stops doing ballet twirls in the laundry room, Sam sits up from where he’d been sprawled on the ground in the library, and all at once Tony feels all his tension from the last couple weeks fading away, leaving him drained.

“Please tell me this doesn't have any horrible lasting side effects we have to deal with now,” Tony says with a sigh, because he’d kind of really like to crawl into his own bed and sleep for the next forty eight hours. Preferably with Bucky.

FRIDAY confirms that everyone’s vitals still look good as far as she can tell, and Steve is bouncing on the balls of his feet a little as he nods vigorously. “I actually feel like I just had a really good night's sleep,” Steve says, and then his eyebrows leap up his forehead as he seems to finally notice the way Bucky is still poking at Tony’s sluggishly bleeding palm with concern.

“So that means you’re good to clean up this mess, right? Because I need about ten naps, and I really don’t want to deal with brainwashing Merlin right now,” Tony says quickly, hoping to cut off whatever questions Steve might have about this development. Tony is way too tired to deal with that right now, and also it’s probably a conversation he should have with Bucky first. Based on the way Bucky keeps glancing up at him with equal parts fondness and hunger in his eyes, Tony has a pretty good feeling about how that conversation is going to go.

Steve is not so easily deterred though, and a wide grin spreads across his face as he says “looks like you guys are finally getting along then.” He looks entirely too proud of himself, and Tony no longer actually thinks this was all an elaborate scheme to get him and Bucky to finally talk to each other, but Steve certainly looks smug enough to make Tony just a little suspicious all over again.

“Ugh, he is the worst,” Tony says, pointedly turning his attention back to Bucky and watching the way the corners of Bucky’s mouth twitch as he tries not to smile, “why do any of us put up with him? We saved the day and we deserve a nap.”

Bucky finally grins as Tony nods decisively, totally ignoring Steve’s sputtering protests in the background. “Gotta patch you up first, trouble” Bucky says, giving Tony’s hand a little shake, still too gentle to actually hurt at all.

The combination of the pet name and the warmth in Bucky’s eyes, the way his thumb has moved to stroking gently over Tony’s wrist, it gives Tony the final little boost of courage to say “I have a first aid kit in my room.” He takes a step back, using Bucky’s grip on his wrist to pull him along, and adds “c’mon Buckybear, you’re going to love my bed. Especially after all those lumpy hotel mattresses.”

“Whatever you say, sweet thing,” Bucky says, his voice low and warm and his smile so gorgeous that it makes Tony’s heart skip a little. He steps closer and slings his arm around Tony’s waist in what is now a familiar motion, grabs one of Tony’s belt loops and gives him a little spin so they can walk out of the room side by side.

Tony is nearly dead on his feet, the only thing keeping him moving at this point is the idea that soon he can wrap himself around Bucky in his own bed to sleep the sleep of the road weary, and when Bucky’s hand slips down into his back pocket to squeeze his ass as they walk it successfully kills every other thought in Tony’s head. He has no idea what happens now that they’re home, if it’s going to ruin everything somehow, but for once Tony is actually feeling optimistic.

He’s basically forgotten everything that’s not counting the steps to his bed, so Tony jumps a little when they’re nearly to the destroyed doorway and a strangled sound comes from behind them. “Wait, what?” Steve demands, halfway between confused and alarmed, and Tony laughs so hard he collapses against Bucky’s side.