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Summer is Coming

Chapter Text

The team was back together.

Some what.

Kind of.

Not really.

It wasn't really a team if half the people were ignoring the other half.

Tony and Steve were never in the same room (whenever Tony was actually at the compound) unless it was for official Avengers business. They had shaken hands in front of too many cameras way back when they had gotten together after saving the world from Thanos, and Steve had actually requested a meeting with everyone where they sat them down to tell them that: "yes, we are working together, everything is fine," but that was it.

Bullshit.

Outside of them two though, there were others.

Sam and Rhodey had gotten on surprisingly well, but the sheer amount of guilt (and some PTSD on Sam's part due to his previous partner) that overwhelmed Sam every time Rhodey was too tired for the braces and was in his wheelchair nearly drowned the older pilot. Rhodey avoided the common areas when he was in his wheelchair, stating the ramp was too steep and he wanted to relax and not work out on those days.

Wanda avoided everyone like the plague. She would join in if one of "her team" were alone, but never with more than one person. She would sometimes go into the kitchen when Vision was experimenting with food but the moment he tried to start a conversation she disappeared. Vision stopped talking automatically every time she even passed through a room.

Scott had tried to ignore the tension the first few weeks, but after the tenth time he was told to shut up, he started going out more with excuses to see his daughter. Everyone knew his visitation schedule (Friday had helpfully displayed a mixture of all of their schedules on the screen in the conference area) and nobody was really sure as to what exactly he was doing when not with them or his daughter.

Peter had school (he was graduating this year!) but he did drop by the compound at least once a week for team training. He preferred to go straight to the Avengers tower (though no Avengers stayed there other than Tony). He was interning at Stark Industries now and school so that took up most of his time. Plus, after the first time Steve saw him with his mask off, the Captain and Tony had locked themselves in one of the rooms and proceeded to yell at one another for a good three hours.

Natasha was the only one who seemed to play for both teams (yet again). She was often gone, to the tower for work (as her schedule would display), but whenever she was in the compound she would be somehow in the same room as Bucky. He remembered her, yes, and as pleasant as the memories were, he wasn't keen on reliving them so he avoided talking to her. Whenever she was in the compound, and not hounding Bucky, she was with Clint. The rest of the time she was with Tony.

Clint stayed away from everybody, was only at the compound one or two days a week, being with his family the rest of the time. Or so his schedule said, but everybody had noticed him returning with bruises and scrapes. Nobody commented and he didn't offer any explanation other than to Natasha behind closed doors. Clint's fun nature had dampened a lot over the two years he was in prison and then a fugitive, his sarcastic quips biting Tony in the ass every chance he got, and anger was becoming a more common expression for him than his usual lazy smile.

And Bucky... he was tired of this shit!

It had already been seven months since they had settled into the compound (and he met a fucking talking tree, are you for real?) and nobody fucking talked! Steve would hound him constantly and so he had to hide from both him and Natasha (God help him if the two ever started talked again and teamed up on him). His schedule was the second busiest out of everyone else on the wall though. Tony was, of course, the busiest with having to run a company and all, but Bucky had meetings with doctors, therapists, and psychiatrists almost every day.

In the seven months since the Avengers were reunited they had been called over fifty times. Since Thanos, it hadn't ever been all of them at once and every time Steve stood at the head of the table reading the roster for the mission, Tony sat and glared daggers at his back. They tried not to mix their roster too much.

On one of their missions Wanda had "accidently" sent a blast too close to Tony's armor (Steve had her do extra training with Clint to improve her aim). On another, Rhodey had almost trampled Scott to dust (Tony had adjusted his armor's parameters to register Scott at all sizes). On yet another mission, Clint had fired an arrow that T'Challa had to grab out of the air after it ricocheted off Steve's shield right towards Natasha (the Wakandan king wasn't on the roster but he did join them for the odd mission when requested).

And there were so many accidents, especially with Bucky (he may be bias, but most accidents involved him somehow!). The first time after Thanos that Bucky was out on a mission, Steve never strayed from his position too far from the other super-soldier. It had nearly cost Tony's life after his armor went and died on him. Bucky had yelled at him for so long his throat was raw but Tony had disappeared for the next few weeks without notice before either super-soldier could apologize.

After that Bucky started taking to sniping for his next few missions and when both he and Clint shot for the same man (almost letting another of the bad guys get away but saving Natasha's ass), they had to have a long conversation about calling in their attacks to one another.

Natasha was so used to working with the Winter Soldier that the first time they did a stealth mission together and he didn't kill someone, she didn't think to tie him up until the man shot her in the back. Bucky had quickly remedied his earlier mistake by snapping the man's neck, but they had to abort the mission and lost their chances on getting the data required (until a few weeks later when Tony and Vision went in full force and he got everything needed).

And when Tony got involved... well... Tony had accidently dragged Bucky off a roof when he activated the new magnetic device for Steve's shield and it was too close to Bucky's arm. Then Tony had dislocated his shoulder when he had grabbed Bucky off a collapsing building. Then Tony had made him pass out when he was flying too fast while Bucky barely held on. Then Tony had nearly blasted his arm off when Bucky raised his fist to tap him on the chest (how he used to do with Commandos after a successful mission). Tony... just... Tony and Bucky together were an accident waiting to happen. It wasn't their fault that Steve made sure they were never working together during training sessions (he still thought Tony had a grudge out for his friend).

It was a fucking mess.

And Bucky was fucking tired of it!

So he started planning and scheming and tried to find out who on the team would be with him because, at the end of the day, he had no reason to be pissed off with absolutely anybody there (though he was wary of Wanda and her mind-control powers) and nobody had a reason to hate him outright! (Right after Tony had finished shaking Steve's hand those months ago in front of the cameras, he had looked at Bucky and said: "It wasn't you." Bucky almost cried when he heard those words.) So who better to try and bring the team together than the person that, apparently, was the reason it broke apart (Steve assured him it wasn't his fault, but Bucky knew the truth: he was the final straw that broke the camel's back).

They had another training session that day where Tony had magnetized his armor to try something new and Bucky's arm had gotten stuck to his chest too close to the reactor, causing Tony to panic and both to stumble right into Peter who then proceeded to web Steve's shield to Falcon's wings, which led to Rhodey and Thor trying to catch the man before he fell and resulted in Mjolnir landing on Wanda's skirt causing it to rip off and reveal so much skin that Vision nearly cut Natasha in half with the mind stone and actually severed Clint's bow, leading to the arrow Scott was perched on to fall and for the man to get stuck in the cracks of concrete and........ well... let's just say everyone was bruised and embarrassed by that one. The only one who came out unscathed had been Bruce who had started laughing until Wanda (red in the face and trying to cover herself) had threatened him into shutting up and he had accidentally Hulked out.

It was a regular fucking Wednesday and everyone had slinked off to their individual rooms/workshops/labs to lick their wounds.

And sometimes Bucky had to wonder... how the fuck did they succeed in beating Thanos when they couldn't even get through one training session without either insults or weapons flying?

"Hey James, you just got up?" The voice startled Bucky from where he was sitting in the kitchen staring out the large window. But he knew who it was. Natasha called him Yasha (the same way he called her every annoying pet name in Russian he could think of), and everybody else called him Bucky, but only Tony called him James.

Tony had wandered in dressed to the nines in a three-piece suit of gunmetal grey with a light pink shirt under it and a plum-coloured tie between his fingers. It was just past five in the morning.

"Naah, never went to sleep." He watched as Tony expertly tied a Windsor knot with quick, dexterous fingers. "You're up early though." He went to drink from his mug of coffee only to realize it was empty.

"Didn't get much sleep either." Tony explained and started fiddling with the dark purple stones that serves as cufflinks. Bucky got up to go to the coffee maker and set enough beans to ground for at least three cups of coffee.

"Working?"

"Yea, I thought I specifically calibrated the magnet to not affect your arm."

Bucky looked up at him and noticed the man was staring at his arm. In the seven months he'd been here (and the years beforehand since getting control of his own mind again) he had both heard and seen Tony's technological genius. Not once had the man asked to look at the arm up close. Bucky was starting to feel insulted.

"Shit happens." He shrugged, making special note to move the left arm more so some of the vents actually shifted and opened. He watched Tony's eyes light up (still not covered by the pink sunglasses hanging from his breast pocket) and proceeded to use the left arm only to draw a new mug from the cupboard and pour coffee for both of them.

"Set another cup, please." Tony informed him and finally looked away when Bucky turned towards him with his coffee offering. "Peter should be down soon."

"Is that why you're so fancy this early?" Bucky made a point to look him over slowly from the tip of his gelled hair (with a few grey strands in it that only made him more attractive) to the tips of his colourful sneakers (dark purple with bright pink).

"Yea, gonna drive him to school then got some work at the tower and a board-meeting." Tony explained, he never outright hid his schedule (Friday did have it displayed for anyone interested and for today it held a lot more than just a board-meeting) but he usually didn't say his plans either. He then glanced at his watch as he took a sip from his coffee and lowered the mug only long enough to ask, "Friday, is Parker up yet?" before taking another few sips.

"Yes, boss. Just getting out of the shower."

Tony nodded and moved to sit in the chair Bucky had not pushed back under the counter when he got up to make more coffee. Bucky made a point to stand right across from him and stare at him over the rim of his own coffee cup.

Tony arched a brow in question.

"Never been to the tower. Nat said the view was spectacular."

"Steve called it ugly."

Bucky almost snorted the coffee up his nose. "Stevie's a little punk who spent his dimes on fuckin' pencils and paper instead of the pulp zines."

"You read pulp zines?"

"More like hoarded. Clarke's newest story came out the day after I shipped out and little punk didn’t even bring me a copy when he came to rescue me."

"Clarke? As in... Arthur C. Clarke?"

"Yea, heard he's pretty big now. Back then he mostly wrote short stories and the sort. Liked him better than Asimov, fuckin' Russian," he rolled his eyes with a smile on his lips, "but I like Asimov's stuff now more. Especially when I see Vision walkin' 'round or hear Friday insult one of us."

Tony was, unfortunately, trying to hide his growing smile behind the rim of his mug.

"You should read—"

"I'm ready! I'm ready!" Peter called out as he ran into the kitchen area while trying to simultaneously close his backpack and put it on his back.

Tony rolled his eyes at the interruption. "Breakfast." He intoned.

"Nah, I'm good." Peter reached for the untouched mug on the counter. "This for me? Awesome, thanks, Bucky." The teen grinned wide as he collected it and breathed in the steam as if it was the most delicious aroma in the world. He definitely had a few things in common with the genius inventor sitting at the counter.

Tony, however, did not look happy. "Breakfast. Now. Even if it's just a pop tart. Your aunt already hates my guts, I don't need to give her more ammo."

"Aunt May?" Peter drawled out the name. Sometimes, the kid sounded stoned. "Naah, she likes ya." He dropped his bag on the ground, spilling half his books and the contents of his pencil case, then reached for the top cupboard where Thor hid his pop tarts. "I think a little too much, uses me as an excuse to talk to you."

Tony rolled his eyes and Bucky only chuckled. He put his cup down and walked past the inventor to the backpack, picking it and all of its fallen materials off the ground. Peter looked sheepish as Bucky arranged it on the counter and put everything back inside it.

"You got lunch?" He asked the kid as Peter dropped two pop tarts in the toaster while opening another pack to munch on.

"I'll grab something at school." Now it was Bucky's turn to frown, but he didn't say anything else.

"Hey, James." Tony drew his attention and he faced the genius. "We got fifteen minutes before we gotta head out or he's gonna be late. You think you can get ready in that time?"

"Get ready?"

"Yea. When's the last time you left the compound? And not on a mission."

Too long, Bucky thought and looked out the giant windows. "Give me ten."

Tony nodded before turning to scold Peter as he watched the kid stuff another two packets of pop tarts in his bag.

Bucky stepped a little quicker back to his room. One minute to get there and back to the kitchen, three minutes to get dressed, so that gave him enough time for a quick shower.

"Hey Friday, what do people at the office usually wear now-a-days?" He asked the ceiling as soon as he made it to his room and shucked off his shirt.

"Executives wear suits and ties, but I think you'll be fine with something more casual."

Bucky winced and nodded as he got under the spray. "Options?"

"Jeans, t-shirt, and a blazer would work fine."

"Thanks, Friday." He had barely scrubbed down before he was out of the shower and grabbing the clothes Friday had explained. Bucky had stopped hiding the arm a while ago but some people were still wary of him so every now and then he would wear gloves when going out in public but... this was Tony and his tower. He ignored the pair that rested on his dresser.

"Boss and Parker are in the garage. He said he'll wait for you out front." Friday helpfully informed him just as he tied his wet hair in a loose bun at the back of his neck. He thanked her again and only just remembered to grab his wallet and cellphone before running out of the room.

And that is when he ran into Steve.

"Hey, Buck. Where you headed?" Steve was obviously up and ready to go for his morning run, like always, at exactly 5:30 on the dot.

"Out for a field trip."

"Yea? Where to?" The blonde almost seemed too happy at the prospect of Bucky leaving the compound on his own.

"The tower. Tony invited me to check it out." Aaaand... his expression shut down. "Gotta go, don't wanna keep 'em waitin', bye!" He waved and quickly dashed away just as Steve opened his mouth to say more.

When he made it out the front door Tony was already siting in the Aston Martin with Peter in the back seat with a pop tart hanging out of his mouth and cell phone between both hands. He made it to the passenger door and got in. As soon as the door was closed Tony peeled out and they were on their way back to New York City with only three hours to spare before Peter's first class began.

They made it in two hours and forty minutes (and that is only because morning traffic in Queens is "fucking ridiculous Tony, back in my day we had proper fucking laws—WATCH WHO YOU FUCKING CUT OFF, YOU JERK!—that people actually followed!").

By the time they made it to the tower (another hour of Bucky being the most road-rage passenger possible) Tony actually had a genuine smile on his lips. Bucky was so surprised to see it there (he had seen many smiles from Tony but never that one before and he... he really liked it) that he had stared at Tony long enough for it to fall on its own.

"So, boss." Bucky grinned wide as soon as he stepped out of the car in the tower garage. "What's the plan for today?"

"I was thinking of just winging it," Tony removed his glasses and motioned with them to the elevator, "but now I'm thinking I'll just tell everyone you're my new boy-toy and watch them stare in surprise."

Bucky almost choked on air but definitely did trip. He was staring at Tony the whole time though so he knew for sure the genius didn't notice it. Instead, he got in the elevator with him and just grinned lightly. "Boy-toy?" he lifted an eyebrow and let the grin turn dirty.

Tony rolled his eyes with a scoff. "It's either that or bodyguard."

"I like boy-toy." The soldier shrugged and put his hands in his jean pockets, finally looking away from Tony, and watched the numbers in the elevator steadily climb. "So, can I be all touchy-feely, is that phrase these days?"

The genius only grinned but his face was also twisting in confusion as he faced Bucky. "Honestly, I don't mind at all, don't stop, seriously, but I gotta ask... what's up with you?"

"What do ya mean, doll?" Bucky was already taking on his roll and leaning closer to the shorter man, leer firmly in place.

"I mean," Tony motioned over his body with the hand that still held his sunglasses, "I've never seen you this talkative or relaxed. What's going on?"

And Now Bucky got the question. He let the persona drop and looked at the ceiling of the elevator. It was so polished he could see his own reflection so he looked away. He let out a heavy sigh, dropped his head, and a raised a hand to scratch at where his now dry bun was itching at the back of his neck. "Honestly... I'm fuckin' tired of how everythin's at da compound." Tony stiffened beside him so he continued quickly. "Nobody's talkin' ta anybody, everybody's keepin' some weird ass boundaries, and I feel like I'm in the middle of a fuckin' battle field. Actually, no... I was more comfortable in the trenches back in Germany than in there with everybody."

When he finally looked up at Tony the man was staring at him with wide eyes. "I mean, that ain't a team, Tony. You gotta see it."

The genius seemed to sag with the sigh he released and a small (tiny, really) smile came out on his lips. "Tell me about it."

Bucky grinned. He could tell him. And right there and then, with that little wistful smile on Tony's face, Bucky realized he found his first conspirator. So now... now he needed to really make a plan and bring Tony in on it. Because seriously... their team? It wasn't a team. It was a catastrophe that just hadn't happened yet.

Chapter Text

Halfway through Tony's board meeting (who the fuck met for four hours!?) Bucky got bored. Tony had walked him around the tower, showed him off with a flirtatious smile that never reached his eyes, then offered him to come sit in but warned him it would be boring. Bucky had declined and decided to scout the tower on his own instead. He went to every single floor again and walked the perimeter, noting the different layouts and entrances without realizing.

Once that was done he attempted to break into the penthouse. Friday had been very firm on warning him away and stating it was Tony's private area. Bucky could have done it but he needed to be on Tony's good side if he wanted to work with the man to bring the team together. So instead he was directed to Tony's office where he poked through every single area he could (it was surprisingly sparse, though he had to admit the view behind Tony's desk of New York was pretty nice).

Sometime after three in the afternoon (the meeting had started right after lunch) he decided to take another stroll and found Peter. The kid was so still and focused on the project he was working on that Bucky thought it was someone else for a moment. The Peter from this morning was a complete whirlwind that breezed through the three hour ride into New York by talking non-stop and making Tony laugh (Bucky liked that). When he looked up, grinned wide, and waved enthusiastically, Bucky knew it was the same brat that stole his leftover Chinese two weeks ago. Bucky scowled and Peter turned back to his work. He had been completely taken in this morning to complain about it and hadn't had a chance in the past two weeks.

He walked around some more then returned to Tony's office. Then he decided that maybe he should start working on his plan so he started looking for paper and pencil. In his earlier poke around the room he had not found one writing instrument or pad of paper, but after a quick query to Friday, she unlocked the tablet sitting on Tony's desk and created a new file for him to draw. Once he realized the metal fingers didn't work on the touch-screen though he had to search the drawers again for a stylus.

And then the planning began!

"Hey Tony, I managed to change your plans for tonight." Natasha's voice brought him back to the present and when they both looked up from their respective tablets it was almost surreal. "You're not Tony."

"And you're not Jocasta." Tony was currently testing yet another of his A.I.s as a secretary for the office. Bucky had flirted with her up until he saw the flicker and Tony had actually laughed at him when he revealed that the hologram wasn't a real woman. Bucky took it in stride and only shrugged before being led off to another part of the tower for the tour.

Natasha dropped the hand holding the tablet and arched a brow at him. She cocked one hip out and that was when Bucky noticed she was dressed in a tight pencil skirt and short-sleeved blouse. Her heels could probably kill him if he just came close to them. "What are you doing here, Yasha?"

"Minding my business, podsnezhnik."

Natasha raised her brow higher and actually looked taken off guard. He winced when he actually registered what he'd called her. So sue him... Bucky's been on a flower theme these past few weeks with the nicknames and it wasn't his fault that the snowdrops' name in Russian literally translated to "under snow".

"Really?"

"Yea, didn't think that one through."

"Clearly." She was smiling though as she walked over towards Tony's desk where Bucky had been hunched over his tablet. "At least it doesn't translate to under winter." She threw out with a smirk as she sat in the seat opposite of him.

Bucky did not blush only because it was so much easier to leer. And a leer made Natasha roll her eyes and wave away the topic instead of trying to bring up their past. Bucky remembered it all and clearly remembered that Natalia, as she was called then, had been the only good thing about being the Winter Soldier. But not all of his memories of her were good.

"So, what are you doing here?" She questioned again even as she brought up her tablet to look at it.

Bucky turned back to his own tablet. "Acting as Tony's boy-toy for the day." It had actually been hilarious when Tony introduced him to some of the execs right before his board meeting (he had asked Bucky to walk him to the boardroom) and their eyes almost budged out. Bucky had taken it a step further to wrap his arm around Tony's waist as they shook hands (did the idiots really not see that it was metal and connect the dots? Both Jane and Henry down in accounting had called bullshit on them before Tony even finished the introduction).

"Is that why I had to cancel his dinner plans with General Decker?"

"I don't know nothing about no dinner plans." Bucky shrugged but did not look up.

"He asked me to make a reservation for Maialino for tonight."

"Maia..." Bucky finally looked up. His Italian was a little rusty but he was pretty sure that translated to something rude. "I don't know anything. And you... why are you acting as his secretary?"

"I was bored at the compound and I love terrifying the interns."

"Oh!" Bucky shot up. "Please tell me you got Parker to shit his pants."

She only glanced at him sideways with that small smile on her lips.

"Are you still mad about the Chinese?" This was Tony's voice as he walked into his own office.

Bucky didn't bother standing up and instead leaned back in the comfortable chair and crossed his arms over his chest. "It was mine, it had my name written on it. It was fucking pi dan. Nobody fucking likes pi dan. I don't even like pi dan!"

Tony only chuckled as he stopped beside Natasha. He leaned down to place a kiss on her cheek that she returned then stopped him from rising so she could remove the lipstick from his cheek. "Don't want you to look like you were cheating on your new boy-toy." She grinned and gently tapped his cheek with her hand when she was done.

"No, we don't want that." He grinned down at Natasha as he perched on the armrest of her chair. "So, what is my favorite Russian up to today?" Bucky scowled and muttered something absolutely rude in Natasha's direction in Russian.

She glared at him for barely a second before turning back to Tony with a smile on her lips. "Had to talk to General Decker for over an hour to get him to agree to reschedule tonight and now I think," she glanced at Bucky slyly, "since I am your favorite Russian, you should take me to Maialino's tonight."

Bucky continued to mutter every single insult he knew in Russian under his breath. He hadn't even been aware of the plans Tony had made and he was irrationally pissed at having them taken away.

"No, can do, kitten." Tony actually jumped from his seat when Natasha turned her glare to him. It was probably the nickname; she hated being called that even in Russian. Maybe that's the one Bucky should stick with.

"I already promised James I'd take him to try some real Italian pizza, as close as he can get outside of Italy anyway." And Bucky was not aware of this. Plus, his earlier slip to Natasha that he wasn't aware of these plans would make the lie all the more obvious.

"You meant tonight?" He tried to play it off. Tony came over to his side of the desk and hit his ass against Bucky's elbow. The soldier finally uncrossed his arms and when Tony perched on the arm of his chair, just the same way he had done to Natasha's earlier, Bucky automatically curled his metal arm around the man's waist to keep him balanced. "I thought you had plans."

"Not anymore." Tony grinned and crossed one leg over the other. Bucky had to tighten the arm around the man's waist to compensate for the lack of balance he now had.

"You two are disgusting." Natasha rolled her eyes but there was a smile playing on her lips as she got up from her chair. "Anyway, I'm gonna go terrify McCoy a bit more then head out for the day."

"Oh, Nat, wait!" Tony jumped up just as Natasha reached the door. "I completely forgot," he reached into his inner pocket and presented her with a plain white envelope. "I got you a box."

And now she was smiling so wide that Bucky almost replaced the image before him with that of a young girl playing in the snow. She collected the envelope then proceeded to hug Tony so tight the man's spine probably cracked. "Bruce will love it." Bucky stared at them both with contemplation, glanced down at the black screen of the tablet where he had been doing profiles on all members of the Avengers (he forgot about the whole Bruce and Nat thing and probably had to write a note about jealousy making people angry), then looked back up. Maybe Natasha was the best person to actually start with.

"Hey, orhideya," he was running out of flowers if he had to resort to calling her a fucking orchid. Probably needed to change over to fruits or something else. "You were right, the view is fantastic." He spoke in Russian with a slight leer on his lips. Tony was looking over his shoulder at him so it was only when he noticed Tony's eyes focus on Natasha in confusion did his own dart down to the genius' ass.

Natasha laughed aloud. "You should see it upstairs." She winked at him.

Tony stared after the closed door then turned back to Bucky. "You are aware I speak Russian, right?"

"Since when?" Bucky was unconcerned and turned back to his tablet. He flicked the screen on and made the note about Bruce. He should sit down and talk with Natasha about their past, to get it over and out with, and then never mention it again. Probably better to forget about that one night in Wakanda about a year back too. Desperate times.

"Since I got attacked by a crazy Russian with a vendetta." Bucky arched an eyebrow at that one.

"Which time?"

And this time when Tony came to his side he didn't sit on the armrest. No, he found it more comfortable to perch that perfect ass on the edge of his desk right beside Bucky's arm where he was writing on the tablet.

Bucky put the stylus down and focused all of his attention on Tony. He leaned back in the comfortable chair (it didn't even have an indent in it of Tony's ass) and looked the man over. Not a hair was out of place and he looked the exact same as four hours ago when they parted.

"So, dinner tonight?"

"I was supposed to ask you." Tony clarified with a small smile.

"Doesn't Maialino mean sucking pig?"

That smile opened into a short laugh. "Suckling." Tony clarified.

"Huh. Is it any good?"

"What were you writing?" Tony changed the topic and glanced at the dark screen of the tablet.

"My plan."

"For...?"

"How to seduce you." Bucky grinned when the genius turned his eyes back on him with a startled expression.

"Oh, sugar," the solider had to give him credit: he recovered from that one fast. "Trust me, I am very easy."

Bucky only smirked and spread his legs a little wider in his current sprawl then shifted closer so Tony was standing between them. This wasn't part of the original plan, not even close. But anybody with eyes could see the man was worth it.

"So everyone keeps sayin', but I don't see it, doll." He drawled out.

Tony leaned closer and planted one knee between his legs, uncomfortably close to the stretch of his jeans over his crotch, then leaned even further and one of his hands landed over Bucky's shoulder on the back of the chair. "Maybe because you haven't even tried."

"Hmm..." if this worked out, it would be explosive. As in, Steve was most likely going to explode. But the punk never had a say in his choice of partners before so there was no reason for him to have a say now. Not like he had laid his claim on Tony.

Bucky reached forward to brush one of his metal fingers over Tony's carefully tucked tie. On the other hand though, if this didn't work, it would be explosive. As in, his whole idea for getting the team to actually be a team would never work out.

He hooked his finger into the top of the vest Tony was wearing and applied just enough pressure to bring the genius closer to him. And while the team was worth more than a roll in the sheets, not like he would be losing anything in particular since they weren't really a team.

He could feel Tony's breath hitch as the man leaned closer and Bucky tilted his head up so their lips were in line. But if this was more than just a roll in the sheets and continued as Bucky tried to bring the team together, maybe Tony would help.

Bucky licked his lips and finally looked away from those brown eyes and to Tony's own slightly wet lips (he must have just liked them). And if it was more and even then it didn't work out, Bucky had noticed Tony's schedule slowly filling up more and more with SI and less and less with Avengers so maybe he was planning on retiring.

"Wait, wait, wait a second." Suddenly Tony's hand was on his chest pushing him back and stopping the forward momentum of their lips meeting. "Hold on, are you serious?"

"What?"

"This... is this... this isn't some form of gay-chicken or something, is it?'

"Gay-what?"

Tony froze. "You're serious."

"Umm... about dinner?" Bucky was so confused.

"About seducing me."

"Well... I wasn't really seducing just now, but I was planning on making you look a mess before your next meeting." And Tony's breath hitched. Bucky's pulse jumped in response and suddenly that knee was not so uncomfortably close and more like too fucking far away.

"You're serious."

"Ummm... yea."

And just as suddenly the heat from the other man's body was gone and Tony was halfway across the room. Bucky was so fucking confused. He had literally just reorganized his entire plan in his head to accommodate for Stark and the man had stepped away like Bucky had the fucking plague or something.

"I can’t do this. I don't do this anymore."

"Don't do what? Kiss? Step out? Fuck?"

Tony choked on the last one and stopped his pacing to look at him. "Men."

And yep. That was a fucking bucket of cold water. Bucky felt his face harden in a similar way it did during missions (Sam liked to call it his murder face and Natasha called it something unnecessarily rude).

"You sayin' you've been leadin' me along all day and it was just a game to get your mind off shit?" At least his accent hadn't reverted back to the strong vowels of Russian.

If the genius could have looked anymore panicked, Bucky couldn't imagine it.

"I'm saying I'm too old to sleep around."

"You said 'men'."

"Ugh!" Tony actually groaned and there went his hair. Bucky was a little disappointed he wasn't the one to mess it up. "Because that's what men are, just a fuck."

"You sayin' tonight weren't supposed to be a date?"

"Honestly?" And he was starting to look desperate but Bucky still felt like he was submerged in a tub of ice water and if he was uncomfortable he would make sure Tony was right there with him. "I wanted to run some ideas past you for a new training regiment to propose to Steve. You know him best and the team obviously... isn't a team, as you said earlier... so I wanted to talk about that."

Bucky nodded and looked away. Tony hadn't moved from the center of his own office. The soldier closed his eyes, let the cold of the arctic wash away, and looked back at the stupid fucking genius staring at him with panic in his eyes and fear in his posture.

"How about this..." he started to propose. "Tonight? It's a fucking date." He glared Tony into silence. "We talk about whatever the fuck we talk about, and if it turns into how fucking stupid everyone is being about the team, so it does. But if the only reason you don't wanna give me a chance is cuz you think I'm gonna fuck you and drop you, you can forget it, doll." And he finally let the cold wash away completely and his lips form in that charming grin that Steve hated way back in the 30s and 40s. "Because I'm fucking serious and I'm planning on romancing the shit out of you."

It was nice to be in the same room as someone so smart and watch them flounder like a fucking idiot for a good few seconds. Good thing Jocasta interrupted to tell Tony he had a meeting with the R&D team in five minutes. Even better that Tony left the office with a stammered apology. Let him think about that. Fuck... Bucky hated being cold. He turned back to his tablet and worked on reorganizing his information again.

Chapter Text

Okay... first! Start with the non-major players.

The ones that are still Avengers.

Bucky stared at the tablet in front of him with stylus raised over the screen. He had the files of each of them lined up and organized in a circle with arrows between all of them to indicate their current status (he was glad to note that there were no angry red lines pointing to or out of his name).

And maybe add in the annoying but the Avengers are stuck with them people (he scowled as he looked at Fury's name), and important to the Avengers (Bucky reminded himself as he thought of Pepper, Scott's daughter, Clint's family, Jane... and too many fucking other people). Bucky scowled at the list of names that numbered over twenty.

Okay... correction. Cut out the ones that are not useful (please don't let Pepper ever hear that, she was probably as dangerous as Natasha in heels!). He thought of those red stilettos she wore the last time he saw her and dragged the file back closer to the others using the stylus. Maybe not cut them out but don't focus on them yet. Hill had been wearing a pair of spiky black shoes that night too (the two, Natasha, and a visiting Jane and Darcy had been having some type of girl's night out). He dragged her file slightly closer too.

Maybe... maybe start with the groups already formed? No! No!

So... first! Start with the non-major Avengers! Including T'Challa even if he wasn't actually on the roster. And Peter. And Bruce, because the Hulk was on the roster but Banner was adamant that he was not... and... fuck...

Bucky wanted to bang his head against the table but knowing his luck he was going to poke an eye out with the stylus.

Start with the non-major combatants!

There we go! That's a good one.

Go!

But... would the Guardians of the Galaxy be counted in that one? What about Doctor Strange?

No! Start simple!

So... T'Challa! He was easy.

Fuck! "Just start anywhere, Barnes!" He muttered under his breath.

"Sergeant?" Friday's voice over the intercom caused Bucky's head to shoot up. He was already used to the use of his military title but every now and then he thought that maybe... "It sounds like you may need some assistance." She interrupted his train of thought.

"Yes! Thank you!" He practically shouted and literally shoved the tablet away from himself. After a moment he threw the stylus on the desk too.

"How can I help?"

"Can you make those idiots I interact with on a regular basis into a team?"

"I'm afraid not, but I can help you do it." She sounded like she was smirking. Bucky scowled at the ceiling (Tony still made fun of him for it but he wasn't the only one who did it).

"Fuck it. Where's Natasha?" He crossed his arms over his chest and went right back to leaning in the large office chair and scowling at the air. First... start with what you know. And he knew her so fuck it all, he was starting with her.

"She is on her way up to the office now."

And that caught him off guard and made him wary. He eyed the ceiling suspiciously. "Why?"

The moment of silence to follow was too long and Bucky tensed up.

"To help you get ready for your date." Bucky glanced at the tablet with the stupid files and names and colourful squiggles and lines (there was a reason Steve was not only the artistic of the two of them but also the strategist; Bucky was a shoot-at-everything-that-moves kind of guy). The stupid tablet said it was just past five (which made it almost an hour since Tony went off to meet with the R&D department) but it was still three hours before their scheduled dinner (which Friday helpfully displayed on the wall).

Bucky stared at the calendar and scowled. He wondered if anybody else at the compound looked it over as compulsively as he did and if they would notice that both Tony and Bucky now had the same time slot for the same place. Who was he kidding? He was honestly surprised Stevie hadn't called him yet to check if he was alive! No, he hadn't called because he was probably too busy coming up with an extraction mission for the forced kidnapping currently scheduled as Maialino for both Bucky's and Tony's names.

"Is that what you're going to wear on your date tonight?" What was it with Natasha starting conversations halfway through? It was like she had never heard of 'hello'.

"Didn't really bring an extra pair of clothes."

"You could always go back to the compound to change." He really liked Tony's office. His chair (Tony's) was a little higher than Natasha's so even slouched back in it he was looking down at her where she settled straight-backed into the chair opposite the table. This felt more like an interview than a conversation between friends.

Were they friends?

"Tony drove here and even if I found a car it's about three hours there."

"You are aware there is always at least one Quinjet in the tower, right?"

"Not cleared to pilot one of those yet."

"Since when has that stopped you?"

"Since my therapist dropped our regular appointments to only once a week." He stared at her for a moment and thought of uncrossing his arms, open body language, but then again... this was Natasha.

"You could always ask me to take you."

"Would you?"

He wasn't sure if the shrug that followed was an I could or a Who are you kidding?. Considering that this was, once again, Natasha, it probably meant I wonder which pour soul I'm going to devour for dinner tonight. But then again, Bucky was a little biased when it came to her.

"Tony's got a few spare suits in the apartments upstairs, you should change."

What was so wrong with his clothes?

"Maialino is a little more high class than jeans and a blazer."

Could she read his mind?

"No, I can't read your mind. You're projecting."

She was smirking at him now and Bucky tried to school his features into the emotionless mask of the Winter Soldier. It didn't really work on demand like that. There was a reason he had a muzzle as part of his uniform (there were many, but let's not talk about the others now) that he had requested to keep when Tony had overhauled all of their uniforms.

"They won't really fit me. Tony's a little smaller than me." Both of them smirked at his comment but after a moment Natasha rolled her eyes.

"Not his spare suits. I said spare suits. As in, every one of the Avengers has an emergency wardrobe at the tower and a back-up uniform."

Would they let him in the restaurant in his uniform?

"You are not going on a date with Tony dressed for battle." She narrowed her eyes at him and Bucky just stared back at her trying to project innocence. "And that one is complete bullshit."

"Look, I get that you're nervous but—"

And Bucky had to outright laugh at that one. She wiped the surprise off her face so fast anybody else would have missed it.

"I think you missed something here... I was the one that had to convince him that this is a date." This time she was projecting and when she raised an eyebrow in question he nodded. "Yea, he was planning on just a dinner between teammates, but I cleared that up right away."

"Are you saying you're not fucking?"

"I am saying I wish we were." His smirk was almost cruel. And he could probably have kept that one hidden. His ma had taught him good etiquette and talking to your ex about your new beau was not exactly proper. Though he didn't have a lot of good etiquette left in him (he would have to brush up on it to try and impress Tony) and Natasha was not exactly what one would consider a normal ex (she did come up to help him get ready).

"First date?" And now she looked scandalized. Bucky frowned but nodded.

"You thought we were already stepping out?"

"Well... I know Tony flirts with everything on two legs, sometimes one... sometimes none," and they both knew she was referring to his regular conversations with Friday, "but I could have sworn..." she turned to look at the empty wall behind her to the left of the door. "Friday, can you display the group schedule in May?"

"You thought we started dating back in May?" Bucky was sceptic but when the schedule showed up she only glanced back at him.

"Your regular therapist appointments were down to three a week before May when they suddenly went back up to six. And Tony got extremely busy in the evenings for some reason. I thought you were trying to hide it from Steve."

Bucky winced. He had a relapse back in May. Nobody but Steve knew (this had happened barely a month since they'd moved into the compound).

"The merger between SI and Baintronics happened back in May." Though merger was a very nice way of saying Tony destroyed that fucking company and took on some of its employees as his own.

The reason Bucky knew that was because Steve and Tony had gotten into an epic yelling match over Sunset Bain (Tony's ex) when it was revealed that she had apparently been working for Hydra while Tony was trying to sign a contract with her company. Natasha also knew that. That was the stealth mission Steve had sent them on where she was shot. But then again, she was doped up on painkillers when Tony told Steve and the rest of the Avengers to stay out of his business and had only requested Vision's help when it was absolutely needed. Pepper had been wearing a lovely pair of Louboutin that flashed red when she left the conference area with Tony.

"Okay, forgetting the fact that you thought Stark and I've been fucking for six of the seven months we've been living in the compound," he stopped to emphasize how stupid she was being, "what made you think I need help getting ready for a date?"

"Honestly?" Natasha did not slouch but somehow her frame collapsed a little to make her body language more open. Bucky kept his arms stubbornly crossed over his chest and had to make a conscious effort for the vents of the metal one not to open. "I thought you two were finally ready to announce it to us and the world."

"And that would take us six months?"

"It's Tony." As if that explained anything.

"What do you mean?"

"Well... survive tonight and you'll know what I mean. Now, since it is your first date you will definitely need my help. Come on, up!" She rose from her seat and Bucky stubborn remained glued to the chair his ass was trying to make an imprint in. It was fucking comfortable, okay? Plus, he hated Natasha to think that she actually had any say over his actions.

But. It was Tony.

"Fine." He rolled his eyes and rose from the seat. The right sleeve of his blazer had a few creases where his arm had been crossed over the warm plates of the arm.

And so, he followed the spider into her second den (or fifth, who the fuck knew?) while ready to be killed. He did have two knives on him (it was one of the reasons his regular sessions dropped to one a week!) and that skirt looked awfully tight around the knees, so he felt a little more confident into following her.

During his scouting of the tower Bucky had largely ignored the additional apartments settled on the three floors right below the penthouse. Friday had given him all the relevant information on those at the time (usually occupied by visiting members of SI or other friendly companies when in New York, sometimes used by staff of SI when pulling all-nighters, currently all but one full, and the data of the people currently staying in them). She had apparently missed to say that the one empty apartment was always reserved for one of the Avengers (and almost always empty).

Bucky and Natasha spent the next two hours drinking and making fun of the purple that was always present in any article of clothing belonging to Clint ("Cooper had a thing for it for a while and it kind of stuck," Natasha informed him of Clint's older son), the obsession Wanda had with red ("I think she just wears it cuz the name stuck," Bucky joked), the sheer number of sunglasses available for Sam, the flannel that Steve had finally stopped wearing ("wow, this must be old," Bucky didn't just mean the style), and everything else that could possibly be wrong with the different outfits available for every single Avenger. Although Bucky did not complain one bit about the slip of a dress that belonged to Natasha for evening wear that had an open back so low it probably met the high slit on the thigh. He definitely had to see her in that one day and she only laughed before agreeing to wear it at the next gala they were invited to.

"Nothing of Tony's?"

"He has entire penthouse upstairs." Bucky started thinking about it again. "His own closet is probably twice the size of this." She motioned to the large closer (a fucking room, really, it even had a chaise that Natasha was lounging on as she drank their wine) that held all of the clothes they had been browsing.

It was obvious that some of the stuff was really old (flannel, Steve, really?) but there was a section for every single Avenger, including Bucky himself. And while Bucky didn't think himself very fashion forward, he knew he had better taste than someone like Steve and had to say that the options chosen for him were excellent. He especially liked the three-piece suit in a solid matte black that had a shiny black tie hanging off the hanger with it.

They were really lucky as to where they were located because Bucky was just shrugging out of yet another dress-shirt Natasha nixed (because while the all black suit made him look sexy as fuck it was more of a gala thing than a date thing) when their individual alarms went off.

"Friday?" Natasha immediately put her glass of wine down and walked over to her own section as she unzipped her skirt without a problem.

"Hostiles in the area, Miss Romanov. As per the Captain's instructions and based on the level of hostility I have contacted the three Avengers closest to the scene." Natasha was already out of her skirt and blouse before Friday even finished speaking. She quickly unclipped her bra before stepping into that awfully tight cat suit that Bucky both hated and loved with a passion.

Bucky himself was dropping the expensive slacks on the floor without a care as he slipped into the comfort of his own uniform. Natasha was already coordinating the Quinjet as the two rushed out of the room to get on it while Bucky was tightening up the buckles of his uniform top. By the time they got to the landing pad they were greeted with the sign of the Iron Man armour flying off in the direction of the disturbance.

Great. Bucky had just been thinking this morning that he never got to properly train to work together with Tony. But Natasha was with him and he automatically deferred to her command.

Hostiles in the area turned out to be none other than Morgan Le Fay and a few of her minions. While Bucky had never had the chance to fight her (because villains were popping up faster than fucking daisies since Thanos' attack) he knew enough about her that where she went, Doctor Doom soon followed (though he still wasn't sure as to what the situation was with those two). He also knew that she used magic and that is something that Bucky would never get used to (Tony's magic was different, that was hard fact science that was too far out of his league to understand... the likes of Morgan Le Fay and Doctor Strange were just fucking with the laws of nature).

So, in his defence, it was completely understandable when Natasha called in reinforcements as soon as she realized who was on the scene. It was also in Steve's defence to never putting Tony and Bucky to work together in training since they never have had to do so... Tony was literally flung through a building just as Bucky jumped out of the Quinjet to set his sniper's nest on a roof.

It was also completely understandable that Doctor Strange had to save their collective asses when Morgan started chanting something that caused her minions to drop dead but a portal to what looked like Hell start opening.

Only once she was gone, because how do you lock up somebody with powers like hers, did Bucky realize that Tony hadn't been on the comms for at least ten minutes. His time Strange did not save their collective asses but basically Tony's life when he had to unearth him from the ruins of the third building he had been thrown into. Bucky had not even noticed that he had not left the rubble as he did the two buildings previous.

"There is something wrong with your team, Sergeant." Strange was saying to him where they both stood as Natasha tried to convince Tony to get in the ambulance behind her.

"Yes, there is." Bucky only nodded. Strange looked at him with a raised brow.

"I am not saying that teamwork would have helped in this scenario," and Bucky now knew why Tony called him Dr. Asshole on a regular basis, "but you should at least know where your teammates are on the field."

Bucky wanted to respond that this was not his field (because even after however long working together he was still better on his own). He wanted to say that Natasha had been in command of this one (fucking throwing her under the bus like she fucking deserved it for not telling him Tony was out of the fight). He wanted to complain about Steve and his strict training (because the punk was convinced the team was working just fine as it was and all they needed was practice). He wanted to say all of this and more but he kept his lips firmly sealed.

He walked away from the Doctor where Natasha had at least convinced Tony to sit on the step of the ambulance while they looked over his bruised shoulder.

"Dislocated?" He motioned to the visible bruise on Tony's naked shoulder. The man had a lot of scars. Bucky was used to seeing his teammates in the nude when changing in and out of uniform for missions but Tony was always just stepping into one suit while wearing another (even if the other was stained jeans and t-shirt).

"Nah, Friday fixed me up." He grinned a little but still winced when the paramedic set his arm in a sling. He glared at the woman but she only glared back until Tony looked away.

"Natalia." Natasha snapped to him so fast he was worried she may have snapped something off. But she was facing him. "We need to talk." He spoke in Russian and watched her expression harden completely. He caught Tony staring at him out of the corner of his eye.

"What about, Yasha?"

"You know what, don't play coy."

Natasha glanced at Tony so quickly he didn't even notice. "Now?"

"I've always been a believer of quick makes it easy." She smirked at his words but nodded slowly. Tony seemed wary from their conversation.

"What brought this on?"

Bucky looked at Tony and after a few moments too long the genius looked down at where his arm was wrapped in a sling. He seemed to finally notice that most of his upper body was bare and reached for his jacket to slip it on. The paramedic yelled at him.

"This isn't a fucking team." He spoke while staring at Tony. The man snapped back to him when he heard the words and he seemed almost... hurt. "And I can't work under your command while I still think of you as Natalia." Tony bit out something harsh and insulting to the paramedic, threw the sling off, and stepped into his armour. Not even a moment later he was gone from sight.

"I think you missed your reservation." Natasha observed in English but she was also staring in the direction Tony had disappeared.

"Don't think I'm up for eating anymore." Bucky intoned.

Chapter Text

They dropped the Quinjet off at the tower and Tony was conspicuously absent. When Bucky asked after him, Friday just told him he was in the workshop. Bucky had only walked past his workshop earlier that day during their tour and fuck... in just one day he had befriended the genius, flirted, got a date, and was now being given the cold shoulder. But... he looked at Natasha as she peeled out of her uniform beside him... he probably deserved it. Tony was... Tony was not Natasha.

After a moment she seemed to realize he was just staring at her and turned to face him. Bucky was standing there with his uniform top hanging uselessly from one hand and his pants unbuckled, the utility belt still attached and dragging the hem of the pants down over his hips. She raised an eyebrow and her entire body shifted subtly as she looked at his eyes.

Bucky looked for a moment then rove his eyes all the way down from that perfectly arched brow to those plump lips, down the delicate column of her throat and to the sharp collarbones, down to the perfect curves of her breasts with both nipples hardening under his gaze to her flat stomach (he had seen the scar he had given her before but now he felt he had the right to observe it properly), from the barely there scrap of fabric that hid absolutely nothing even if he wasn't closely acquainted with what lay between her legs to her deadly thighs that he had wrapped around his head in very different occasions, to the hard lines of her calves that reminded him she was a dancer before she was a killer and all the way to the tips of her toes.

"I feel like I just got measured." She spoke in Russian and shifted her body. When his eyes roved up her perfect body again he noticed that the earlier shift had been meant to promote exactly that and the one now removed almost all sensuality from her, even as she stood bare before him. He felt the stirrings of arousal (how could one not?) but there was something...

When she stepped forward he did not flinch. He let her drop the hand holding his uniform top so it revealed his bare chest to her gaze. He let her push down on the utility belt until the pants started falling on their own and pooled at his bare ankles. When she took a small step back to look him over he dropped the shirt to the ground and maneuvered himself out of the pants until he stood as naked before her as she was before him.

He wasn't sure exactly what she saw when her own eyes roved over him. She had scars, yes, but nowhere near the amount on his own body and she stopped on every single one that was on display. It felt like days before her eyes locked with his once again. When she took a small step forward he matched her until their bodies were barely centimeters from touching. He felt her nipples brush against his bare chest when she breathed in.

Natasha reached for him at the exact time he reached for her. Her hand clasped right over the red star on his shoulder (he had requested to keep it though had been tempted to change it to white at Steve's suggestion) just as the backs of his metal fingers brushed over the large scar on her abdomen.

"You were my everything." She barely breathed the words out. Bucky held back the snort of disbelief only because he knew that back then... back then neither of them had anything of their own. Back then, he really was her everything because he was the only thing she had that was her own.

"You were my sanctuary." And that was as true as her statement because back then... back then she was the only thing that made sense to him outside of his next target. She was the one who gave him a reprieve between missions (even if he didn't always remember her) and she was one of the main reasons he was still human.

When she pushed her body forward he responded until they were touching from their knees to their lips, because he still remembered what she tasted like. She still tasted the same now... when she pulled back from the kiss her brows were slowly narrowing.

"Dvum smertyam ne byvat, odnoy ne minovat." She whispered the words against his lips.

Bucky licked his own lips, his tongue brushing hers because of how close they were with his head stooped down and shoulders hunched to match her height, then pulled his head back. Yes, one death is always inevitable but two are not always necessary. It was something they had both learned, on their own, once out of the Red Room. It had been a strange lesson to learn when your entire life (or his memories at the time) you had been taught otherwise. Because he may have been her everything and she may have been his sanctuary but... that is not who they were anymore and not who they needed anymore.

She was smirking at him so he responded in kind and let his old charming grin split his lips. "I wasn't thinking about death in this case." Bucky replied with a smirk in English.

"Yes, well. Not all of us have a second head to think with." She gently tapped his hardened cock through his briefs with her palm and winked at the same time. Bucky barely held back the moan at the contact but he did grab her waist with his flesh hand. When her body weight shifted he let go and watched her step away. He shook his head and turned to his section of wardrobe where he had left his clothes from earlier.

"We good?" She asked after a moment while he was trying to stuff his half-chub in his jeans and will it away at the same time.

"Yea, but I think we should keep the Russian to a minimum." He glanced at her and watched her slip into a pencil skirt (it didn't look the same as the one she had worn earlier).

"Maybe only to annoy the others?" She was smirking.

"Ooh... or talk dirty!" he was grinning like a child now. "I wonder how long it will take before Stark joins us and Steve finally explodes."

"Steve speaks Russian?" She arched a brow at that one.

"No, but he understands enough of it from the war."

Once both of them were dressed Natasha looked herself over in the mirror. After she fixed her hair (gently patted it into the exact same shape it had been a few seconds ago) she turned to him. "So is that your plan?"

"My plan?"

"You want to get Steve and Tony talking again?"

Bucky rolled his eyes and dropped in the chaise so he could pull on his boots. Lucky bitch just had to step into her heels (though they did look horribly uncomfortable). "I want to not almost die every time I go out on a mission."

She hummed in thought and he looked up at her.

"Gotcha... I'm gonna go debrief Steve. I'll talk to you tomorrow." She walked into her heels and to the door. Bucky stood up and held the door open for her. Once they were standing in front of the elevator he expected the usual awkwardness of being alone with her to settle in... but it didn't come. His shoulders relaxed and he placed both hands in the pockets of his jeans as they waited.

They stepped in together and he watched her press the button for the ground floor. Then her fingers hovered over the buttons. She looked at him and arched a brow. He raised his own in question (he will never get it as high as hers, she must practice in the mirror) but when her eyes glanced at the console again he looked at it. Her finger traced over the air for a moment and he only smirked.

When the doors to the ground floor opened she leaned in and placed a soft kiss to his cheek, so unlike Natalia and so much like the Nat he had seen interact with Tony, and she stepped out. Bucky continued on to his own destination.

"You know, when I gave Natasha that code it was meant for emergencies and to not be shared." Were the first words Bucky heard from the genius' mouth once he entered the workshop. But Tony was not turning towards him even as he strode in with purpose ('murder strut' as Sam had called it drunkenly one night). "I mean," and the fucking genius continued to talk and he did not sound happy at all, "I should really revoke her codes all together and—" and Bucky found out that spinning his chair around and kissing the fucking idiot was a perfect way to shut him up.

Another thing he found out at that moment was that he enjoyed the feeling of the man's perfectly groomed Van Dyke against his skin and that Tony was... Tony was not Natasha because Tony? He didn't taste like blood. He didn't taste like the cold winters of Russia. He didn't taste like the death of innocents. No... Tony tasted like fucking coconut, and avocado, and coffee, and below all that he tasted like the Caribbean tropics, and heat, and the sun, and the burning fire of life, and Bucky... Bucky once needed a sanctuary but now he needed the open desert.

But then Tony had to go and make Bucky questions his genius status again because he had both hands firmly planted on the soldier's chest and was pushing him away. And as much as Bucky wanted to continue to devour his mouth and find out what else he tasted like, he knew what a clear 'no' was. He pulled back a little with a furrow in his brows ready to question the genius but the same hands that had pushed him away were gripping his shirt to keep him from getting too far.

"What about Natalia?"

Who? It took Bucky a moment to realize what the question is and he barely held in the eye roll but could not hold back the chuckle.

"Were you spying on us?" He was hoping that the charming grin from the 40s still had the same effect on men and women as it did back then.

"I don't think anything that happens in my tower—"

"If," Bucky interrupted loudly to keep the genius from digging himself into a hole, "you had been spying then you would know that I had the dictionary definition of perfection standing naked in front of me closer than you are now and all I could think about was how to finally get closure with her so I can come after you."

Tony was silent for so long that for a moment Bucky thought he might have broken him.

"Well... fuck me." He finally breathed out and Bucky only grinned.

"With pleasure."

And well... it wasn't a very well hidden fact that back before and during the war Bucky was a slut. It was also a very well known fact that before Tony had gotten serious with Pepper he had also been a slut. So when Tony's breath hitched at Bucky's open declaration it only led to Bucky kissing him again, this time not for the purpose of finding out what he tasted like but for the purpose of making the genius as hard as Bucky already was (thanks Natasha for the fucking head start!).

Tony's hands quickly reached for Bucky's shoulders while they were kissing and started pushing the blazer off of them. Bucky had to pull back from the kiss (he had been leaning on the armrests of Tony's chair to be the same height as him) in order to remove the jacket and figured while he was there... he reached over his back and slipped his shirt over his head. When his eyes focused on Tony again the man's brown eyes were scanning over his chest as if categorizing every single muscle, scar, and curve to memory. It made him feel wanted in a way that Natasha's gaze hadn't.

So he lunged forward to kiss the genius again while reaching for the hem of his shirt and pulled back to rip it over his head—

"Ow, ow, ow, oww!" Tony started chanting once the shirt was gone and Bucky's eyes widened.

"Shit, how's the shoulder?" Well, there goes the sexy.

"Fucking hurts." Tony snarled out as he rubbed it for barely a moment before his good arm reached out for him again and latched onto his belt, using it to drag him in. Tony tilted his head up asking for a kiss though his chin was only at level with Bucky's chest when the solider was standing straight. The sharp tug down of his belt made Bucky chuckle and lean down to kiss him again and now curious fingers were tracing over his stomach...

"You know," Bucky interrupted the kiss again before pecking the corner of Tony's lips, "this position will get really uncomfortable for my neck soon."

"Are you calling me short?" Tony snarled out and bit at the closest available skin in front of him, which just so happened to be right by Bucky's nipple. When Tony noticed that he decided to latch onto that instead with his lips.

Bucky groaned and reached to cradle Tony's head to his chest.

"But..." he moaned particularly loudly when Tony circled his nipple with that nimble tongue then bit it gently. He tightened his fingers in Tony's hair but he wasn't sure if he wanted to push those lips closer or pull them away. "With this chair, and your shoulder..." he had to think so he tugged the lips away (and holy fuck, the sound Tony made at having his hair pulled sent a jolt straight to his cock!) "you... you got at least a sofa down here?"

"I got a floor?" Tony seemed to question and those clever fingers were unbuckling Bucky's belt and quickly unzipping his jeans.

"Lube?"

"Gun oil?" Bucky's hand tightened in Tony's hair and he wasn't sure whether to moan or roll his eyes.

"Condom?"

"Umm..." and those questing fingers now stopped. Bucky tightened his hold on Tony's hair because they had just started rubbing against his cock through his briefs. "Sandwich bag?"

And this time Bucky did laugh. "C'mere," Bucky slurred out while his lips were still pulled in a smile and used his grip to Tony's hair to tilt his head up even as he hunched over to kiss him again. And Tony's tongue was fucking magnificent because it distracted Bucky so well he didn't notice what Tony's fingers were doing until they were firmly wrapped around his cock.

The first tug pulled a moan out of him so loud that Tony not only swallowed it but he gulped afterwards and let out his own moan in response. And while Bucky was still worried about Tony's shoulder that was the arm that was circling his waist and then that hand was tugging his jeans over his ass and slipping into his briefs to grab a handful while the other was pulling on his cock like the world was going to end any second now.

Bucky had to pull out of the kiss to moan as he felt his knees starting to shake but then that hand was gone. He pulled at Tony's hair tight when the man shifted under him and groaned in anger before finding those lips again, plunging his tongue in just as the hand returned, now wet and Bucky had to swallow Tony's own spit in surprise.

When he came it was so embarrassingly fast that Bucky felt the need to apologize but Tony only moaned and when Bucky pulled back... he watched Tony's hand milk the last of the come from his cock and push his chest out so the head of Bucky's cock was rubbing right under the large scars on his chest that were already stained in his come.

"Fuck," Bucky breathed, jerking his hips forward as another spurt left him and Tony only moaned louder when it hit his chest. "You're fucking perfect, doll." Bucky breathed out and leaned down to kiss him again, the hand finally letting him go. So when Bucky ended the kiss he let his knees finally collapse under him and he let go of Tony's hair to grip his knees instead with both hands.

The vents on the metal arm barely shifted when he undid Tony's jeans (Tony must have changed out of his suit before getting in the armor). This time it was Tony hunching over and tilting his head up for a kiss, a desperate edge to the movements of his tongue where Bucky was now more pliant and relaxed.

Bucky shifted his metal arm under Tony's ass and the genius helped by rubbing against it in a way that only gave Bucky more ideas. Then they had to break the kiss when the vents on Bucky's arm opened almost completely as he lifted Tony's ass out of his seat until Tony got the hint. The genius had to hunch over his head completely and Bucky tasted his own come on the scarred skin in front of him as he supported Tony's weight in his metal arm and use the other hand the shove the jeans over his ass. After some fiddling he dropped the genius down again and his lips moved down to the now exposed cock... and...

"You umm... you clean?" Bucky glanced up.

"Yes, yes. I swear... Friday pull up my medical records and..." and Tony was babbling again. Bucky appreciated not only the quick access to proof but also the fact that Tony's babbling turned into this perfect little whine when Bucky finally wrapped his lips around the genius' cock and sucked.

He ignored the rest of his cock with his mouth and instead used the metal arm to wrap it around Tony's waist and keep him completely immobilized as his other hand grabbed Tony's cock and held it still for him. He used his tongue to stab at the slit (which granted him a low hiss), circle around the head (a deep grating moan), poke it between the foreskin and shaft (desperate whine and harsh tug at his hair), and then wrap it at the bottom of the head as he just started sucking (breathy little gasps as if Tony for some reason just couldn't catch his breath).

"Stop, stop... I'm gonna..." the tugging on his hair intensified and Bucky used his hand to touch his balls, feeling how tight they were drawn up, just waiting for that final... the first spurt of come on his tongue had him curving it up and opening his mouth wider so the rest hit off his tongue and then drooled down the pulsing cock in his hand. He stroked his hand up and down, milking the last of it out of him even as he surged up, metal hand reaching out once again (he was so used to it wrapping around necks to break them that Bucky almost surprised himself when he was so gentle) to tug Tony down to his level to kiss the man's taste into his mouth.

When Tony finally caught his breath Bucky released his cock and lips and pulled back. Tony looked completely wrecked and Bucky was so proud of himself that he openly smirked then reached up for the wet he felt at the corner of his lips (not sure if it was Tony's spit from the sloppy kiss or his come) and made a show of licking his thumb clean. Tony groaned loudly and Bucky noticed his cock twitch in his peripheral vision.

"Don't know about you, but that was some damn fine Italian dining."

Tony laughed with his whole body and Bucky loved every second of it.

"You're fucking horrible." Tony gasped out with his head thrown back as he laughed.

"I know." And Bucky couldn't help but sound smug.

"C'mere," Tony ordered with a smile on his lips and this time when he angled Bucky's head for a kiss it was with one hand cradling his jaw like a lover would and the kiss that followed was so sweet it had Bucky's chest aching. He tried to chase after it when Tony started pulling back, which led to another lock of lips and Tony tugging on his lower lip gently when he finally parted.

As far as romancing went, it wasn't very romantic but... it was a start and Bucky knew that the start was always the hardest. He stood up from where he had been kneeling between Tony's legs and kissed the man again just once... twice, another few times before he finally pulled back to stand straight.

"You uh... you going back to the compound tonight?" Tony asked as he turned with the chair towards his desk. He really did have a sandwich bag there! But under it were a few napkins that he grabbed and started trying to clean the spunk off his chest and soft cock.

"Yea," Bucky pulled up his jeans and closed them and the belt. "Steve's probably still pissed from me leaving him this morning with barely a greeting." He thought for a second that he missed something in Tony's face when he collected his shirt off the ground and slipped into it but the genius only smirked. "You coming?"

"Naah, not tonight." Tony seemed to finally figure that the napkins would not be enough and dropped them on top of the sandwich bag as he stood from his seat. "Need to finish a few things for Pepper."

Bucky slipped into his blazer and watched as Tony eyed his shirt for a moment before slipping into it with a grimace. "And take a fucking shower."

The soldier grinned and moved closer to Tony, running his tongue over the tops of his teeth and effectively trapping Tony with only the chair at his back as an option to sit back down or to just stay in Bucky's personal space.

"You don't like being a mess?" He growled out and Tony matched the lust and bravado as he closed the distance between them.

"Not when I have to do a conference call with my ex in thirty minutes."

"Ugh... glad I'll never have that problem."

But Tony's smirk and the sparkle in his eyes said otherwise. "How does a debriefing sitting beside Natasha with your ass stuffed full of my come sound?"

"Fuck, doll." Bucky felt his knees shake at the image and he had to actually lean forward into Tony in fear of collapsing to the ground just from the words. He leaned to kiss the man, feeling his cock stirring again, and wondered if he could get another orgasm out of this before he had to let Tony go. "When are you coming to the compound?"

"A few days." Tony smirked and pulled away before Bucky could initiate another kiss.

"You sure you can't come tonight?"

"Again? You know I am on the bad side of forty, right?"

"Alright, alright," Bucky leaned forward for a quick peck before pulling away. "I'll see you when I see you."

"Call me." Tony smirked and waved Bucky out as he left the workshop.

Chapter Text

The first thing that happened to Bucky once he got back to the compound was get cornered by Steve. As in, he had barely parked Tony's Aston Martin (because Friday had told him he could take any car he wanted for the drive back and he had been slightly envious of Tony driving it this morning) when Steve showed up. The jerk even opened the fucking door for him.

"So, how was today?" If Bucky didn't know him any better he would have thought that Steve looked excited.

But he did know him better. And he knew under that excitement was worry. And he knew that worry was not due to him leaving the compound alone or due to him having been in a fight (maybe a little worried about the fight). No... it was mostly because of Tony.

So Bucky decided to be as much of an ass as possible. "Let me wash Tony's jizz out of my mouth and I'll debrief you."

His words startled Steve so bad that Bucky had walked through most of the compound and was at his room before he heard the blonde's steps pounding behind him.

"Barnes!" The call of his name was also a dead giveaway that Steve was beyond furious. Steve never called him anything other than Bucky, even when Bucky himself protested the name... especially when Bucky protested.

So he sighed deeply, looked up at the ceiling as if Friday could magically teleport him somewhere far away (maybe back to the tower, it had been about three hours since he left Tony and he should be done his meetings by now), and when he realized nothing was going to happen he felt resignation draw his shoulders down.

Steve reached him in front of his door and seemed to hesitate for a moment, worried again, before hardening his expression. "That wasn't funny."

"No, it wasn't." Bucky sighed out and dropped his head. He waved his metal hand over the panel on is door (the others had bracelets or chips, Steve had a fucking key, but Tony had given Bucky the small activation device for him to add under one of the plates in his palm) and turned to Steve. "Come inside while I take a quick shower."

Steve did not look happy at all but followed him in. Bucky started undressing as soon as he reached his bed, throwing the blazer on it first then removing his t-shirt and undoing his jeans.

"Natasha said you stayed mostly out of the combat, but are you injured?"

"So we're really going to ignore I said that?"

Steve narrowed his eyes at Bucky as the brunette sat on the edge of his bed to take off his boots.

"I am fine. I nested for a bit then noticed wasn't doing jack shit so went down to fight, but Strange showed up and sent her away before things got too heated. Nothing special." Bucky sighed out and kicked off the boots before standing to take off his jeans. "Tony, on the other hand, had a dislocated shoulder, multiple lacerations, and was most likely hiding a concussion or at least banged his head around a lot. Nat was fine too, but you should already know that."

"Yea, she came back a few hours ago and debriefed me." Steve paused for a moment "Nat?" and of course he noticed the nickname.

"Yea... she umm... she used to be Natalia to me but not anymore and I don't think I can really see her as a Natasha... it just, it makes more sense." And why was it that standing there in his underwear with the fading taste of Tony on his tongue and dried come on his stomach did not make him stumble as much as talking about Natasha did?

"So... you two are... I mean... were you..." Bucky was tempted to remain silent until Steve spat it out but it would probably take ages.

"We are not even though we were." At Steve's narrowed eyes (the anger was obviously still there) Bucky sighed. "Look, what her and I had was for the Red Room and the Soviets only. It does not belong out here in the real world."

"And... Wakanda?"

"Was a drunken night where the memories for both of us got too close to the surface."

"So you are not getting back together?"

"No. I have my eye on someone else." And with just those words Steve's entire expression closed off and his body stiffened.

"Stark?"

"Tony, yes." He scratched at the patch of hair under his navel. Not much of their come had gotten on him and he had never been bothered before, but it was starting to flake now making him feel like he had dandruff on his fucking crotch.

Steve remained silent but looked away, his shoulders tense and fists clenching at his sides.

"What don't you like about it? The fact that it's a guy or the fact that it's Tony."

"I don't mind it being a guy!" Steve immediately jumped when he noticed the anger in Bucky's own voice. But of course he thought the anger was for the wrong option. "You know I never did. And I mean now, you can be open about it, no fear of getting court martialled and sent to prison..."

"So it's Tony." Bucky added in after the silence lasted a little too long. And after those words it dragged on. Bucky could see a twitch in the blonde's jaw that meant he was either holding words back or grinding his teeth.

"Look, Steve." Bucky started speaking but turned away as he removed his boxers and stepped towards his bathroom. "I like 'im, he likes me. I wanna see where it goes and you ain't got a fuckin' say in it. Period." He was not childish enough to slam the door closed but he hoped his point got across when he let the water start running in the shower.

When he stepped out of the bathroom he half expected, half hoped that Steve would be gone. But no, he was sitting there on the edge of Bucky's bed with his hands clasped between his knees and staring at them with a little furrow between his brows.

"Is this gonna be a problem, punk?" Bucky started speaking right away before Steve could begin his speech (it may have been only ten minutes or so, but Steve could prepare one of his speeches on the fly) to go along with the Captain America is Disappointed in You look (Bucky was immune to that shit; Serah did it so much better that even his own ma was impressed by it).

"I—Is this a good idea?"

"Does it fuckin' matter?" It was really hard not to snap so he just opened the drawer for his briefs a little rougher than usual.

"Buck... this could cause problems with the team."

Bucky scoffed but also shook his head. Better stay his argument about what the team was and instead cut off every single one of Rogers' reasons as to why it was not a good idea with simple logic.

"You damn well know Jacques did more than teach me French." The blush that appeared on Steve's cheeks could easily have been taken for anger if Bucky did not remember exactly how Steve had learned what Jacques could do with his tongue (let's just say that Bucky was a huge slut during the war and the French were very open with... well... everything... so... experimentation was a thing even back then along with learning new languages).

"What about your... umm... history?"

"Are you talking about his parents?" Bucky finally found his sweats and slipped into them. His t-shirt was in the hamper from this morning so he went searching for a new one. "You are aware that you are the only one who is still hung up on that, right? Well... you and that People magazine that came up with the rumor you were actually Stark's biological father." Bucky still laughed about that. He stopped though to face Steve and waited until the blonde's eyes were locked with him. "We’ve talked about it. You say it wasn't me, I say it wasn't me, my therapist says it wasn't me, and hey... guess what, Tony's a fucking genius so he figured out all of us were right."

Steve clenched his teeth. He hated being talked down to like this but it was the only way that Bucky knew he would get it through his thick skull that yes Bucky had thought about this (it may have only been a day since the idea got planted firmly in his head, but he had imagined previously and even if not... a day is more than enough when you give someone like the Winter Soldier a target).

"Find me a reason why not. Do it." Bucky challenged.

"He's an alcoholic."

"Recovering. Hasn't had a drink in about five years now. And yes—" he raised a hand when Steve immediately got ready to object "—I know you are probably thinking about every single charity and gala he has been to, but he does not drink alcohol. I overheard Pepper and Natasha talking about it once." Steve closed his mouth. "He is also a recovering drug addict, by the way, but it's been almost fifteen years since he's touched anything other than prescription. Stopped shortly after becoming Iron Man."

"Age."

"You're reaching." Bucky raised a brow. "But seventeen isn't that big of a difference now. Though I do admit, fifty-four is so I do feel a little like I'm robbing the cradle."

Steve glared at him. Bucky smirked back. If Steve was going to be a prick about it, so was Bucky.

"He is compulsive and does not work well in a team."

"I disagree with both of those but will not argue them because they are actually conductive in the fact that I want to fuck him through a mattress."

"Buck!" Steve whined. "Seriously!"

"Exactly. Seriously. I didn't ask for your opinion on whom I should step out with, I'm trying to humor you here but you're just insulting me."

"He's not good enough for you!" Steve snapped out and stood at the same time. Bucky smiled because he understood exactly what Steve meant, because Steve thought the world of Bucky. Steve thought of Bucky as the guy that used to save his scrawny ass in the alleys behind theatres; Steve thought of Bucky as the guy who was there after his mother's funeral; as the kid who did not go running with the others but stayed back because Steve had asthma and could not keep up; as the teenager who spoke loud not to be boisterous but so that Steve could hear him because he had been partially deaf; as the guy who stayed up at night with him even after the serum and Steve thought his heart was going to go back into an irregular rhythm and give him a heart attack; Steve thought of Bucky as the man who broke the programming and stayed his fist. And he was that man... but he was also more.

"Steve... I'm a formerly brainwashed assassin for the Soviets with over two dozens assassinations to my name. As targets. Not counting collaterals. I am also over a hundred years old and have spent more than half that time frozen... some people still fear me walking down the street. I spend roughly thirty hours a week, which is the standard now for a part-time job, talking to strangers about my feelings... and hey... guess what..." he raised his metal hand to both stop whatever Steve was ready to say and to show it off "...I'm part cyborg. Who better to date than someone who can fix me up for free?" And that was also who Bucky was, a fucking pain in the ass prick of an asshole with the worst possible sense of humor. And that is why he knew him and Tony... they could work.

Steve seemed to take all that in before the dropped his head. "I'm not happy."

"I ain't doin' this to make you happy, Steve. I'm doin' this to make me happy."

And that was that. Steve consented. He was obviously not happy but he dropped the subject and Bucky knew, barring something horrendous or Bucky bringing it up himself, Steve would not bring it up again. He may be stubborn as a mule but he learned that stubbornness from Bucky himself.

Bucky went to sleep that night after sending Tony a quick message of "night doll" and feeling much better about himself. He had something to look forward to the next day, which did not involve avoiding everybody at the compound (if it just so happened that his plans aided in him not being there, that was a happy coincidence).

But the following day his plans, as directed by text conversations with Tony that were both needling him to come pick him from the compound and both to go to sleep (because Tony had been awake all night working again), were completely shattered when Steve announced T'Challa was dropping by.

Bucky frowned down at his phone where he was sitting at the breakfast bar and shot off a quick message to Tony before he fell asleep (Bucky had finally convinced him he would get a nice reward if he got at least four hours of sleep). Tony responded too fast (bastard probably hadn't even left the workshop yet) saying that T'Challa had a meeting with Stark Industries tomorrow. Bucky flicked the screen on his phone to display the team calendar and noticed Tony's next few days were booked solid from morning until well into the night. And Tony needed sleep... so he probably wasn't going to see him any time this week unless he could get a few hours in today.

But T'Challa being at the compound gave Bucky something else to do. He finally stopped responding to Tony (maybe the idiot actually went to sleep), and finished off his breakfast. Steve has been pointedly ignoring him all morning (Bucky had a feeling it was because he saw one of the raunchier messages he had sent Tony earlier), and the only other people that had gone near the kitchen were Sam (to grab his own breakfast before going to the gym) and Vision (to literally just circle the island slowly and walk out).

"What time is T'Challa coming?"

"Around five." Steve was still very polite even when ignoring someone. "He said he could only stay for a few hours to discuss any Avengers business before he would have to head off to the city." He was very much like a cat, sitting in the same room as someone just so they would know he was ignoring them.

Bucky nodded, dropped his dirty bowl in the sink, and walked out. He spent the rest of his morning in meetings with his various doctors then the afternoon at the range trying to shoot the memories that had been brought up dead. At six o'clock he finally made his way out of his shower and to the common area. No Steve but Rhodey and T'Challa were having a discussion that involved some very speculative eyeballing of Rhodey's braces.

"Hey," Rhodey spoke up with he noticed Bucky and the soldier just nodded.

"Can I get a ride with you tonight?"

T'Challa raised an eyebrow and seemed confused.

"You're going to Stark's tower, right? I was wondering if I could hitchhike with you."

"It's called carpool in this century," Rhodey smirked but T'Challa nodded, informed him of what time he was planning on leaving, and Bucky left the two to continue their discussion. He found Steve in the gym instead.

"You are aware that Friday only displays our schedules if we we're fine with it, right?" Bucky started speaking right away, surprising Steve enough that his punch sent the bag spinning wildly. "So if I didn't want you to, you wouldn't know. But, I care about you even when you're being a fuckin' over-protective ass. And since you're plannin' on tryin' ta be like my ma, I'm goin' out tonight and stayin' out."

"Buck!" The call stopped Bucky from where he was leaving the gym. "I'm sorry."

"Show it, don't say it." Bucky snapped back and walked away before Steve could say more.

By the time T'Challa and his escort were ready to leave, so was Bucky. He had showered again and packed an overnight bag and made sure his schedule the following day was as clear as it could be. He even sent off a message to Tony asking him to spend the night at the spare Avenger's apartment (T'Challa and his escorts would probably be staying in the ones reserved for business members) and had already planned a rough outline of what parts of New York he wanted to rediscover the next day.

Friday responded that the apartment lock was coded to him for the next few days and Bucky tried to swallow the disappointment that Tony not only did not inform him himself but that didn't feel the need to extend the invitation from the apartment to his won penthouse.

"You wished to speak to me, Barnes?" T'Challa questioned as soon as Bucky was seated beside him in the car. Bucky looked at him with a raised brow. "I doubt you just needed a ride."

"Actually, that was literally it. But since we'll be stuck in one another's company for three hours, we could always find something to talk about."

"Such as...?"

"Why aren't you on the roster?"

T'Challa chuckled and seemed to relax a little. "I do have a country to run."

"You seem to be away from that country pretty often."

"As is the job of a King. To form diplomatic and business relations around the world."

"And defend them by putting on a cat suit."

T'Challa glared at him for a moment but Bucky only grinned wide. After a moment the King relaxed and chuckled under his breath. "The black panther is—"

"—a symbol of your people that blah blah and represents blah blah. I've heard the pitch. Doesn't mean you aren't walking around wearing a cat suit."

"What is this about Barnes?"

"And for that matter," Bucky turned to him. "Why do you call me Barnes? Feels very impersonal. Should I be calling you Your Majesty or something?"

"Bucky is a ridiculous name."

And with Bucky's laugh the last of the tension drained out between them.

"Why not call me James?"

"It seems to be that the only person who calls you that is Stark."

"And you call him Stark, and Steve Rogers, and... you mostly use our names. Why's that? Don't like us much?"

"I have to admit that my opinion of you has very little to do with what I call you," and the look he gave Bucky clearly said that if that were the case, he would have been called much more unpleasant things. "It is more of a... warrior thing."

"Warrior thing?"

"I... I trust you all as warriors and to fight beside you, that is why I acknowledge you all as individual persons. But I do not trust any of you as a team, which is why I cannot refer to you on a more personal basis."

"And that's the crux of it." Bucky sighed and dropped his head back.

"It seems that you already knew the answer before you asked the question."

"I'm not as stupid as some people seem to think. Just because I don't strategize battle plans or can build a suit of armor out of scraps doesn't mean I'm stupid."

"Nobody has ever thought you stupid." Bucky raised a challenging eyebrow to that one. "Not to my knowledge and I never certainly have." T'Challa amended and Bucky nodded slowly.

"I know that the Avengers were lucky with Thanos and if another threat like that comes up, the world is screwed."

"And you want to fix it?"

"Which requires me to know what is wrong with it."

"Well," T'Challa changed his position slightly and turned to face Bucky more fully. "I can tell you right away that in my opinion it is all based on trust." Bucky nodded along but also motioned for the King to continue speaking. "Trust is hard to give if you do not get it or if it had previously been abused, or if it is not fully shown." He looked away for a moment before turning back. "Think of it this way... children should not play with fire because even though they trust the light they should not trust the heat."

"So we all know each others' lights but not our heats." Bucky thought about it, trying to understand the strange metaphor.

T'Challa nodded then spoke again. "A flame consists of three things: the light, the heat, and the starter. You all know one another's starters, you have all seen one another's lights, and you have all felt one another's heat... but to think of all three of them at once and trust all three... with some of your—our pasts, it is really hard to accept all three aspects of the others."

Bucky thought about it for so long that he started seeing the buildings of New York City before he was able to respond. "Has anyone ever told you that you'd make a great doctor?"

T'Challa openly laughed. "I do have a Ph.D actually."

Bucky stared at him with wide eyes. "And now I know more about your starter." He grinned slightly and nodded to himself. "Thanks."

"Not a problem, Sergeant." And the title did not startle Bucky as much as the meaning behind the change of name. When he looked up T'Challa was smiling that small private smile he had while looking out the car window.

"Before all this... I was a-fuckin'-mazin' sniper." So Bucky decided to share. "It's the only thing from me that they did not take away. It's the only thing that is all mine and always has been."

T'Challa nodded not in understanding (though he probably had more right than almost anyone else seeing as he had been helping Bucky back in Wakanda) but to show that he was listening. So Bucky started saying more. He spoke about some of the most random facts of what made him who he is: about how vanilla always used to be his favorite ice cream yet now for some reason just the smell of vanilla made him nauseas; then he spoke about his childhood. T'Challa responded with family stories of when he was a child and about his older sister (who could actually put Natasha flat on her back in seconds).

By the time they arrived at the tower Bucky realized he had been wrong. He had thought of T'Challa as an acquaintance and somebody that had put up with him out of misplaced guilt during his time in Wakanda. He did not realize that T'Challa had been willing to be a friend. He had a lot to think about for himself because even though his tablet drawing had no red lines pointing in or out of his profile... there weren't that many blue ones to represent friendship either.

That night when Bucky went to bed at the spare apartment in the tower he did so with the tablet clutched under his arm and knowing that the solid blue line between him and Steve could never break, the new one between him Natasha could grow to be just as strong, but the imaginary one between him and Tony... that line could either become a noose for him or the horizon. He send a quick message to Tony and closed his eyes, dreaming of falling off a train but instead of landing in snow and pain he landed in hot sand surrounded by tropical waters.

Chapter Text

Bucky was a little... surprised? Angry? No... disappointed that when he woke up in the morning the following day there was no message from Tony. But then again, they had arrived at the tower late with T'Challa and the King and Tony probably started their meetings straight away and then sleep and... Bucky stopped making excuses for Tony as he took a quick shower and got dressed.

It was not Tony's priority to keep him informed of everything... even if just to say good night or morning. Bucky tied his hair up in a lazy bun, collected his wallet and phone, put on a nice and warm winter jacket, and... looked out the window. It was not snowing yet but it looked fucking cold, especially from the seventy-whatever floor. He put on another sweater under his jacket, then scarf, hat, and gloves. Winter in New York was always sneaky... it didn't look it but it was always cold and when it did look it... it felt like being back in cryo. And Bucky fucking hated the cold.

But he had been talking to Dr. Vale recently about his old life for first time in a few months (the last time had brought on his relapse when he looked up if any of his family were still alive) and she had suggested he go see the old haunts.

Winter in Manhattan was completely different from winter in Brooklyn. Where in Manhattan the tall buildings hid the sun and created wind tunnels that threw even him off balance, in Brooklyn it was just... winter. It was what he had considered normal cold before the war, before the train, and before Russia. So he spent the day walking around.

His old building was demolished, replaced with a playground that was empty in the morning but when he walked past it again in the afternoon it had a few kids (though they looked more like large spheres of protective wear) running around. Steve's old building was not demolished... it looked like it had recently been remodeled in the last five years. Probably when Captain America came back. Bucky scowled only because he knew he couldn't mock Steve about it right now.

By the time he got back to the tower his toes, fingers (of the flesh hand), and nose were frozen solid. The joint where the metal arm met flesh was even worse, but he ignored that pain and just jumped in to take the hottest shower possible. Right before he had messaged Tony to see if he was free that evening but even the fifteen-minute shower was not enough time for the genius to reply.

Bucky went to bed shortly after midnight (with still no response from Tony) after sending out a few emails and messages to his therapists (Dr. Vale replied right away with a smiley face and confirming their appointment for the following day), Pepper (because she was due to be in New York this week and he wanted to talk to her), Natasha (to ask her to bring him some things from the compound next time she was making her way to the tower), and Steve (to make sure the fucking punk knew that Bucky was pissed but already mostly over it). He hovered over the messages from Tony then just sent another "night doll" before logging back into his file.

Natasha and Tony had history between them but they were functioning. And although Natasha had been the reason they went their separate ways at the end of the civil war, she had not betrayed him like some of the others had. And she had come back well before Steve and the others. So the blue line between the two of them was something he was a hundred percent sure of.

The line between Tony and Peter was a weird orange colour because he had no clue how to define their relationship. It was almost parental (better not let either of them hear it) but also a friendship. Bucky did not know enough about Peter to know what the boy would do in certain situations, but he did know that both during and after the war Peter had stayed.

Same thing with the line between Tony and T'Challa. How the fuck do you describe a relationship that was mostly business (both SI and Avengers)? But from their discussions back in Wakanda (T'Challa had been the one working with the BARF to try and help Bucky with his memories) he knew the King grudgingly respected Tony, and from their few interactions at the compound he knew that Tony felt the same towards the King. But Bucky would have to hear Tony's name fall from T'Challa's lips before the line between them changed to blue.

Rhodey and Vision were surprisingly easy. Rhodey has always and will always, no matter what, stick by Tony. The same way Steve and Bucky always will (even when they fight and disagree) because that is just how they were wired. And Vision? He was literally wired (or coded) that way. And though he is not Jarvis and though Bucky never had the opportunity to verbally spar with the AI, he had heard much about him and did his own research via Friday to know that something inside his synthetic heart made him care for Tony no matter what.

Bruce, although at first had not seemed it, was also completely on Tony's side. Their arguments over the Sokovia Accords had only escalated into doomsday scenarios that scared even Bucky until eventually both men had come to a quiet compromise (that Bucky was still not sure of) and had returned to their previous lives of inventing, researching, and generally blowing shit up. Bucky liked seeing them like that.

Thor was... complicated. Bucky was going to skip him for now.

And that left... Wanda, Sam, Clint, and Steve. In regards to Tony (whom Bucky had decided to focus on first). Because no matter how much he had told himself to start easy, start from the beginning, start with the others... at the end of the day the main divide was between Steve and Tony, and Bucky didn't feel in a particularly good mood towards Steve today to analyze his idiot of a best friend.

Wanda and Tony? That was a can of worms Bucky did not feel comfortable touching. His reason: because he disliked Wanda for the exact same reason Tony did.

Sam was just too loyal to Steve and even if the two could be amiable and work together and stay in the same room, Sam seemed like the type of person who would automatically take Steve's side... not due to hero worship (see: Tony when the Avengers first started), but simply due to the fact that both men thought along the same lines. He just showed that Tony did not have anything against Steve per se, it was more to the way he had handled the situation (or maybe because he had grown much closer to Steve in the past than he has with Sam).

Clint was... there was something wrong there. Bucky had no idea what it was but had the feeling that with Natasha's new friendship and her strong connection to the archer, he may eventually figure out why the fuck Clint hated Tony. He had seen footage of them before, even mundane things such as dinner or movie night between the team. In that footage there was no indication what so ever that Clint and Tony did not get along, quite the opposite in fact. They both had a very childish sense of humour and loved pranks... but for some reason now Clint was... Bucky changed screens from his notes to the map and noticed with surprise that the only line coming in or out of Clint's profile was linked to Natasha.

He would definitely have to focus on that as soon as he could because the archer was what had kept the team light before and there was obviously something wrong now.

And then there was Steve... ah dear fucking idiot Steve. Bucky sighed, noted the time, and decided that was that. He shut off his tablet and went to sleep.

The following week passed much the same. Natasha had brought him his requested items after two days, Steve had called and they had hashed it out and even came out for a day for them to walk through Brooklyn together, T'Challa had taken him out to dinner before leaving and shared some more knowledge, Pepper had agreed to a lunch date on Wednesday that had to be cancelled due to work, and Tony had ignored him. All fucking week.

Bucky scowled down at his phone as he waited for Friday's message. He was not going to bother Tony at work and in meetings so he had asked Friday to inform him when Tony left the office and again when he arrived at the penthouse. He had received the first message about five minutes previous. No second message. It was lunch though so maybe Tony went out of the office for lunch? First time for everything (when it's not a business meeting).

By the time nine in the evening rolled around Bucky was furious. Tony had been ignoring him all fucking week when the two were in the same fucking building. If the idiot of a genius was having second thoughts about their relationship, Bucky wanted those aired out now rather than later down the line. His plan of action was already formulated and he need to know what had to be changed when it came to Tony. He was planning on leaving the following morning to go back to the compound (he had already asked Natasha to carpool, willingly trapping himself in an enclosed space with her for a set amount of time just so he could talk) and then was planning on hunting down Clint (or at least his fucking problem).

Natasha had said they'd be leaving really early in the morning, as she had wanted to be at the compound in time for her yoga session with Bruce (the two had apparently been rekindling their relationship using yoga every Thursday) a few hours ago before following Tony's example and ignoring his messages. And since Bucky had no plans for the evening (had decided to keep it open in the hopes of seeing Tony) he was bored.

It was around eleven when Bucky decided to fuck it all and go to sleep. Tony had not come back to the tower after leaving at lunch and Friday had told him he was taking care of something personal but was safe. Bucky had been tempted to log into the Avengers trackers (all of them had one in case of emergencies) but decided it was both a breach of trust and that if Tony wanted to ignore him... he couldn't do it forever.

So when the door to the apartment opened some time after two and Bucky shot out of bed armed with a knife, the last person he expected to see was Tony.

"Hey James," Tony smiled and he seemed sheepish and apologetic at the same time.

Bucky sighed, letting the adrenaline from waking up so suddenly wash off, and looked the man over. He looked like death warmed over with dark circles under his eyes that were visible even in the minimal lighting of the apartment's living room, muddy shoes, and a long overcoat that was shining with wet (it had been raining for a few hours). His entire body wrecked in shivers that he was not sure if it was from the cold or something else and he also had strange lilt in his steps that would have made Bucky think he was drunk if he had not defended him just the prior week.

He looked broken.

Bucky ran a hand through his hair and let the frustration and anger at Tony that had been slowly rising upon seeing him simmer down into his subconscious. "Go take a shower to warm up."

At first he seemed offended before that nasty, horrible smirk (the one he turned towards Steve every time they argued and both knew Tony was right), slid across his features. "Well, I was thinking you could fuck me through the mattress to warm me up, but I guess shower would do."

Bucky was left speechless. The words went straight to his cock so fast that he felt lightheaded as images assaulted his imagination. Tony didn't help the matter much when that horrible smirk turned into something more sly and charming, his entire body's posture changing as he removed the knee-length overcoat and dropped it to the ground. He proceeded to remove his blazer and walked towards Bucky with hooded bedroom eyes.

Bucky clenched both fists, feeling the hilt of the knife digging into the soft flesh of his palm.

When Tony was right in front of him he had his tie undone and with a playful twinkle in his eyes that matched the smirk, he looped it around Bucky's own neck, pulling on both ends so sharp and sudden that Bucky could only follow until their lips were locked. He wrapped both arms around Tony, careful to keep the knife's edge pointing away, and responded with the same hunger Tony seemed to drive into him.

Tony moaned into the kiss and let go of the tie in order to loop both arms over Bucky's shoulders, keeping him down to match his height. When Tony plastered his chest (wet and cold) against Bucky's bare skin, the shivers wrecked both of them. Bucky wrapped his metal arm tight around Tony's waist, helping to keep him at a height comfortable to kiss, and used that arm to maneuver them slightly. Just enough to place the knife down.

Then his flesh hand came around Tony as well, grabbing the back of his head and running his fingers through the messy and wet hair at the back of his head. Fuck, but he was cold. And Bucky never wanted to associate Tony with that. So he slowly started pulling away.

The whimper that crawled its way out of Tony's mouth made Bucky kiss him again, shuffling his bare feet away until the genius followed him, still in his hold.

By the time they made it to the bathroom door Tony had stepped on him enough times that the first thing Bucky did when he let him go was drop to his knees to unlace his shoes (not sneakers, but proper oxfords with a beautiful stitch pattern and proper laces). Tony's hands remained on his shoulders and when Bucky looked up it was just in time to see the genius lick his lips as he stared down at him.

Bucky smirked, ran his hands up the wet pant legs, squeezed that perfect bubble butt playfully, then circled around front and undid his buckle. The moment the fly was open Bucky leaned in, breathing warm against the wet of his boxers (how long had Tony been standing out in the rain?), and nosing down along the visible outline of his cock. Tony moaned lightly and one hand transferred to his hair, pulling on the strands and pushing him closer.

Bucky chuckled. "Not what you said, doll." He whispered to the cock before him, feeling it twitch against his cheek, and smirked wide as he looked up. He drew both the pants and boxers down and helped Tony step out of them, before rising to his full height to look down at Tony.

Tony looked like he was high. His eyes were closing and his body was gently swaying as Bucky undid the tiny buttons on his shirt, but the hard line of his cock was jutting out proudly and the moan that left his lips when Bucky brushed over a nipple were a sign he was aroused.

For a moment Bucky was worried, what if Tony really was drugged? Maybe not willingly? But then why would he come to Bucky?

Bucky forgot about the cufflinks of the shirt until it was stuck at the genius' wrists and Tony let out that quiet rumble of a laugh that went straight to Bucky's cock. He leaned in for a quick peck before stepped back and easily undoing the tiny buttons there. The speed at which his fingers moved cancelled out Bucky's worry of drugs.

But what the fuck?

A week of silence only to come in stumbling in the middle of the night for a fuck?

Then Tony's bare body, cold and damp, was plastered to his chest while the heat of his mouth invited Bucky's tongue in it once more. The thought fled as quickly as it had settled earlier.

And then the kiss ended as suddenly as it started when Bucky pulled back. He turned to the shower and quickly flicked it to start running. When he turned back to Tony it was to see the genius watching him with hooded eyes, licking his lips, and one hand gently stroking his cock.

"Fuck, doll." Bucky stepped in again, pulling that hand away to replace it with his own and chasing Tony's tongue back into his mouth.

"Get in." Bucky growled after a moment, knowing that if he didn't get the genius warm now he never would.

"You joining me?" Tony smiled playfully and bit his bottom lip, stepping slowly around Bucky (though not really around when his entire body brushed against Bucky's side) and turning to face him as he did.

"I might."

"You should."

Tony stepped back into glass cubicle and was immediately under the water. His skin started turning pink almost instantly but the genius didn't seem bothered by the heat. He reveled in it instead and closed his eyes, turning his head towards the spray.

The play of water on his skin was too much for Bucky to take and he ripped off his boxers quickly before stepping in beside Tony.

The cubicle was smaller than his own at the compound, not meant to be filled with two fully grown men (one of which a super-soldier and the other with years' worth of muscle from lifting various items in his workshop), but when the door closed behind Bucky it was an excuse to plaster himself fully to the other's body.

Tony was still smirking when Bucky leaned down to kiss him but at least he was warm. So Bucky decided to help him get warmer, running his hands up and down his arms, circling around his waist with the metal one and using the flesh one to brush his nipples. All the while, Bucky kept Tony from saying anything or pulling away, pushing his mouth at the genius and his tongue in the other man's mouth, almost sloppy in the kisses with the water running down their heads.

After a moment Tony placed both hands on Bucky's chest and shoved. Bucky was so startled and hit the glass behind him, feeling the cold from it seep into his warm skin. When he looked up at Tony he saw panic in his eyes only for a moment before the genius composed himself.

"Sorry, that was..." Tony stumbled and reached out for him again, brushing tentative fingers against Bucky's arm. "Let's not kiss under the spray." The smile on his lips now was almost as broken as earlier, but for a different reason. And Bucky knew this one. Because he had read Tony's file and he knew about the water torture. He nodded and stepped closer to Tony again, going for his neck instead of lips, and wrapped his arms around Tony's waist.

He started moving them, putting himself in direct line of the spray and blocking most of it from Tony with his larger frame. Tony opened his mouth to protest, obviously noticing the action, but when Bucky pulled away from him he reached behind easily for the shower gel.

"Turn around." Bucky ordered. Tony snapped his mouth closed and did as ordered, turning in the small space until his back was to Bucky's chest. "This is gonna be cold." Bucky warned, making sure that Tony could hear the smirk in his words, then placed one hand between Tony's shoulder blades and shoved.

The sound that came out of the genius was a mixture between whimper and moan and more shivers wrecked his body when his entire chest connected with the cold glass of the cubicle.

"You're supposed to be getting me warm." Tony grumbled, trying to push away from the glass but not succeeding with his minimal leverage and Bucky's hand still at his back.

"I will." Bucky let his arm drop so he could lean forward, breathing the words into Tony's ear, and plastered his chest to Tony's back. Now when Tony moaned it was because of the hard cock pressing up between his cheeks. Bucky leaned down to lick and nip at the skin of his neck. Tony turned his head, bearing more skin for the soldier to latch onto.

While distracting him with that, he opened the bottle of the shower gel and poured some into his open palm. He pulled his hips away, forcing Tony's own to sway where he had been rubbing back, and wrapped the handful of gel around his own cock. He decided to moan into Tony's neck so the genius would know exactly what he was doing, rubbing his cock in a tight fist that bumped against Tony's ass at the end of ever stroke.

When Tony started scrabbling at the glass, trying to turn around, Bucky held himself at the base.

"Close your legs." He ordered and then Tony got the idea and quickly shuffled his feet closed. Bucky had to bend his knees in order to guide his cock into the cleft under Tony's ass but when he pushed between his thighs, both men moaned.

Tony clenched his thighs tighter together and Bucky only stopped his forward momentum when his hips were flush with that perfect ass. He could feel Tony's balls with the head of his cock and had to grip the genius' hips tight with his metal hand to keep him from moving for a moment. Then he leaned back slightly, let go of the hip, and poured more shower gel into his flesh palm.

The bottle of gel fell somewhere unneeded at his feet and he plastered himself against Tony's back, thrusting experimentally between his thighs, just as his soaped hand wrapped around Tony's own cock.

Tony shivered beneath him, pushed himself slightly higher as if on his toes, and his fingers bent as if trying to dig holes into the glass in front of him.

Bucky breathed into Tony's neck before latching on with lips and teeth and thrusting his hips, pushing his cock between Tony's thighs until he felt the man's balls against the head, then pushed slightly more so he would thrust Tony's own cock into his tight fist.

Tony threw his head back on Bucky's shoulder and opened his mouth though no sound escaped. So Bucky continued, not stopping even once, thrusting his hips but keeping his hand still so the only stimulation Tony would get would be due to the soldier bounding into him from behind.

"More." Tony moaned. Bucky tightened his fist and let it meet ever thrust as his hips sped up. Tony started moaning on every slide.

"Hold on." Bucky breathed.

"To what?" Tony growled out but then reached one hand over and behind him, latching it onto the back of Bucky's wet hair and grabbing tight.

"That's it, doll." Bucky chuckled then let go of where he had been holding Tony's hip and stopped his own hips, letting Tony continue the momentum of fucking himself into Bucky's tight fist then pushing back so Bucky's cock would slide between his thighs. He had to look down Tony' chest to the man's cock then pull back and watch his cock slide. It looked like it was going into Tony and though it felt amazing, he knew the real act would be so much better.

"Fuck, doll. You're so good to me." He had still not moved his hips and Tony sped up between his cock and fist. "That's it doll. Fuck yourself on me." He growled and Tony whimpered, hand tightening in his hair and bringing it back to his neck.

"Come on, come on." Bucky growled against the already reddened skin and started thrusting his hips again in counterpoint to Tony's own movements. He stabbed quick and fast, keeping his hand moving at the same speed and felt the shiver that wrecked Tony's body as if it was his own.

"You close, doll?"

"So close." Tony barely breathed.

"Talk to me." Bucky had always been a talker during sex (excluding when he hadn't been Bucky and was just the asset). He loved riling his partners up with words as well as touches, loved feeling the twitch of Tony's cock in his hand every time he whispered doll into his ear. But the thing he loved even more was when his partner talked.

"So good, so hot." Tony moaned out. "Tighter." He then commanded and Bucky followed. "Fuck, babe. You feel me?" Tony was speaking low, head thrown back and slightly turned towards Bucky but the angle would be too uncomfortable to try for a kiss. "How is it for you? Is it good? Is it tight?" His voice dropped an octave. "Am I tight enough for you?"

Bucky groaned loudly, his hips stuttering out of rhythm for a moment before resuming out of sheer will. Tony was smirking now.

"That's it, James. Keep going. That's it." His voice was made for sex. "Can you imagine, James, it feels this good now but... can you imagine being in me?" Tony gasped as Bucky's fist tightened automatically. He started circling the tip, rubbing it against the ridges of his palm before stroking down tight, going completely off from his hips. "You'd fuck me so good. You'd stretch me nice and wide and then fuck me stupid." Tony continued to speak and Bucky's hips went off on their own rhythm. "Oh yeah, James, just like that."

The reason Bucky loved it more when his partners talked was because he was able to hear the cadence of each word to tell him how close the other was, how to keep them on edge, how to throw them over it (shove them full body or a gentle nudge), how those words turned into senseless babble (as Tony's words were turning now).

When Tony came it was with this whine from the back of his throat that sounded almost painful. His entire body locked up, thighs squeezed even tighter on Bucky's cock so that he felt like he couldn't even move, and cock spurted heavy streams against the glass of the cubicle.

"Oh yeah," Bucky groaned, the sound of it and the tightness almost enough to get him off. But when Tony's body relaxed the tight passage for his cock to slide into was loose. Bucky thrust into it a few more times, hitting Tony's balls with one thrust, perineum with another, brushing the head along his hole a few times and thrusting at it, until Tony whined again.

Bucky let go of his cock and Tony almost collapsed against the glass reaching forward with both hands and resting his cheek against it as if it could cool him down. He looked back at Bucky, then made a show of arching his back and looking down to where Bucky's hand was wrapping around his own cock.

When Tony licked his lips Bucky moaned.

"Come on me." It wasn't a command because it was barely a whisper but it hit him in the gut like a fucking two-by-four and he had to reach out to steady himself against the glass with his metal arm as the first spurts of come escaped him. He was looking down, watching them land on Tony's pert ass, back dimples, and down his thighs, so he was confused when he felt the metal arm registering pressure on his wrist.

When he looked up it was to see Tony's tongue darting out against the metal, licking the water from it as if a thirsty man in the desert.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck..." Bucky had to close his eyes as another tremor left him, elongating his orgasm just from that sight.

When he finally came down from his high, entire body shaking, he noticed his come-covered hand was resting on Tony's ass and hip.

"Well, I got nice and warm but now I'm all dirty." Tony smirked.

Bucky just rolled his eyes and leaned to the side, letting the spray of water finally hit Tony and making the older man yelp at the difference in temperature.

Tony only pouted before turning around and wrapping his arms around Bucky's neck, bringing him down for a kiss.

"I'm actually started to get cold." Bucky breathed into Tony's lips.

"Hmm, yes. Yes. Bed time." Tony breathed and he seemed like a completely different person from the one that walked into the apartment. They quickly washed themselves off then stepped out together and Tony quickly stole the big towel to dry himself, forcing Bucky to either use the small one or wait. Tony smirked at him and walked out so Bucky had to use the hand towel to dry himself off.

On the bright side when Bucky walked out of the bathroom he was completely in the nude and noticed Tony's eyes widening and the man licking his lips as he looked him over. Bucky smirked.

"Sleep. I gotta get up early."

Tony just nodded, not asking anything and slid past the impression Bucky had already made in the bed and to the other side. Bucky settled in, feeling sleep dragging him down before he could even question if Tony was a cuddler or not.

When Bucky woke up for the second time it was to the door banging. He groaned loudly but quickly got out of bed and made his way to the front door. Natasha was standing there, looking as grumpy as he had ever seen her (she was not a morning person). Her expression then changed to one of surprise when she stepped into the apartment and both brows flew up when she looked him over.

Bucky had forgotten to grab his boxers when he got up. And then he woke up completely and his eyes darted around the room. There was no overcoat, no suit jacket, no tie. He was sure if he looked in the bathroom there would be no shoes, slacks, dress shirt, or boxers either.

"Somebody had a good night."

The only indication that Tony had been here last night was the muddy footprints moving through the living room.

Bucky just shrugged. "Make coffee while I get dressed."

"Bossy, bossy." Natasha sing-sang with a smirk but still walked towards the kitchen. "Usually sex makes people more relaxed, not more grumpy."

"Ever thought I maybe just sleep in the nude?" Bucky called back. His bag had been packed from last night with his clothes for the day on the chair. He quickly got dressed then entered the bathroom (his own boxers were lying on the tiles) to brush his teeth and wash his face.

"So..." Nat started as soon as he stepped out with his duffle flung over his shoulder. "We gonna ignore this?"

Bucky just grunted and collected the travel mug of coffee from her before they both made their way out of the apartment.

Chapter Text

"Yo, birdbrain," the glare he got in response only made the smile on Bucky's lips turn into a full out grin.

"The fuck you want?" Clint crouched before turning back to his hand where he was wrapping medical tape around his wrist.

"I'm pretty sure that's not how you do it." He motioned to the hand where band-aids covered all fingers. "What, are you trying to become a mummy?"

Clint only snorted, this nasty thing that he did to try and dismiss the others. Up until now Bucky was never on the receiving end of it, but then again... he had never been one to bother.

"Need help?"

"Fuck off."

"Sure, but I need you for something first."

"Fuck off." Clint reiterated and apparently deemed the comment important enough to look up at Bucky as he said it.

Bucky only sighed and rolled his eyes.

"Look, you hate me, I get it..." he trailed off, hoping for the other sharpshooter to interrupt with a negative but Clint only arched a brow (fucker was hanging out with Natasha too much). "Yea, whatever... I know I'm not the most lovable guy around, but Nat asked me to replace her for your sparring session today."

Clint froze, his entire body becoming as still as a statue. It was hard to imagine that this was the same guy that had thrown popcorn at the TV and ranted with Tony during sci-fi movie marathons (what the fuck even was Star Wars and why did it have nine of it?) or shoved his cold hands down Thor's back just to get a response (Bucky's would have been to shoot his face off, but on the video he had watched Thor only responded with booming laughter and trapping Clint in a headlock for almost twenty minutes).

No... this was the guy that stayed in his nest for hours staring down the scope of a rifle or held a bow drawn for an hour straight without moving. This was the Avenger that they needed in the field and it's been too long since he's been the guy with the quick grin and even quicker wisecrack (Bucky had only seen it once and it was actually on the battlefield where Clint and Natasha joked as they fought).

"Nat?"

Bucky wasn't sure if the question in his tone was due to questioning Natasha's sanity or due to the nickname, but he decided to ignore it anyway. Instead, he decided to adapt Natasha's own technique of crossing his arms over his chest, cocking a hip to the side, and raising a brow. He decided against the pout (though it was natural for her due to her full lips) and after a moment felt like an idiot for the hip so he decided to tap out a rhythm on the ground with a booted foot.

"You wanna do this or not, birdbrain?"

"Or not."

"Cool." Uncrossing his arms he turned around quickly and walked to the exit of the gym. But after talking to Natasha about this he knew he had one more chance to actually get to talk to Clint. "Should I tell her you decided to skip today or let you do it?"

The muttered 'fuck' behind him had him grinning again, but at least he was turned around.

"I know what you're doing." Clint sounded annoyed but closer now so Bucky turned around. The archer had gotten up from the bench he was sitting at earlier. "And I don't like it." He pointed a band-aid covered finger at Bucky.

This time Bucky deemed it worthless to hide his grin. He crossed his arms over his chest again. "That's cool. If you honestly don't wanna do this with me, I'll go grab Nat now. But I wanna talk to you."

"What about?"

"Life. Love." He knew he was being dramatic but acting like this was all a joke was better than taking it all too seriously (Natasha had told him how to get through Clint's walls). "The pursuit of happiness and finding out why you decided to get into an arm-wrestling match with a blender."

Clint's scowl deepened so much that Bucky was worried for a moment his face would stick that way. He was about to open his mouth to inform the archer of his worries when Clint turned his eyes away and snapped out a quiet, "like you fucking know what a blender is."

It was an insult but it was better than 'fuck off'. It was a start.

Bucky snorted and moved closer to him. "Yea, I don't know if you remember but I had the unfortunate opportunity to learn all about Steve's nasty ass morning shakes and how to make them."

When Clint snorted this time it was with a small smile on his lips. It was better than a start.

The two setup the training mats and then it all got quiet for the next hour. Bucky had to admit that while Clint was nowhere near his level, he was good. He was especially good when taking into account that he was a baseline human (even Natasha wasn't considered one) and that almost all of his visible skin on his arms was covered in either band-aids or medical tape. There was even a strip near his collarbone and an entire patch of gauze on his stomach that Bucky noticed when he flipped Clint over his shoulder and his shirt pulled a little. There was also the fact that he didn't fight like he did in the training videos Bucky had watched. No... he left too many openings, using them to draw Bucky closer so he could score a more dangerous hit at the expense of getting himself hurt.

It was a very desperate fighting style. No-holds barred and ready to die at any moment. If Clint fought like that on the field... he would be hospitalized for weeks at best, though most likely dead. Just one of those openings would allow Bucky's knife to tear his stomach open, another would have let him stab a kidney out, and one even let him slip a knife between Clint's ribs to his heart.

But after their hour was up (Natasha had been adamant on making sure Bucky kept it to just an hour and a minimum fifteen-minute break before another set) Clint did not seem in pain (though Bucky knew he had scored some painful hits on the archer) and instead was sweating and breathing heavily with a small smile on his lips and a huge one in his eyes.

During their break they didn't talk much as Bucky just sat drinking water while Clint stretched out (there was another patch of gauze taped to his lower back), but when their second hour was up Clint seemed more loose and relaxed. They both stretched in silence for the next fifteen minutes before Clint finally opened his mouth.

"Can you show me how you did that flip?" Bucky only held back the grin because he would hate for Natasha to know that she was right. She had told him about that particular move that Clint fucking hated every time she pulled on him. Bucky knew that doing that same flip (though harder for him since his frame was much heavier than Natasha's lithe form) would be his way in.

So they spent the next hour with Bucky showing him the move, becoming a willing practice dummy for Clint to try it out, and then showing the archer how to counter it. By the fifth time he was flat on his back from Clint's counter the archer was full out grinning. But he was also breathing heavy and his entire body was visibly shaking from the strain he had put it through. So Bucky remained flat on his back and only glanced towards the archer for a moment. "You know that Nat knows how to counter the counter too, right?"

The smile was gone and Clint was staring at him. His eyes were a little wide and for a moment Bucky felt like a very delicious piece of meat that was being served in front of a starving man. Clint didn't outright say anything but Bucky knew what he was asking and smirked. "Want me to teach you?"

It was obvious the answer was yes but Clint still hesitated. He had pushed himself too much (Bucky sometimes forgot that three hours with him was not the same as three with Natasha) and he was obviously tired.

"What do you have planned tomorrow?" Bucky asked instead of forcing Clint to decide between his fighting (though he was obviously good enough) and his health (though he obviously did not care about that for some reason).

So after much cajoling and barbs Bucky got Clint to agree for another sparring session the next day.

"Why are you doing this?" Clint asked quietly when the two were done putting away the training mats.

"I wanna watch Nat get taken down a few pegs."

It was obviously a lie and the archer's face told him the other man knew it too, but they both dropped the topic. Bucky grinned and went to collect his water bottle and phone, quickly flicking the screen on and frowning when he noticed no notifications.

"See you tomorrow." He waved at Clint without looking as he unlocked his phone and sent yet another message to the fucking idiot that was also the resident genius.

By the time dinner was over Bucky decided to fuck it all and called Tony instead. The phone rang for so long he thought that maybe Tony did his whole answer-the-phone-then-put-you-on-hold thing. Bucky had been witness to it only a few times but it had brought a smile to his lips every time. He hung up and called again, and again, and again. He was starting to feel a little like a stalker but honestly... Tony was being a little unfair! On the fifth time it was Friday that answered.

"Where's Tony?" Bucky immediately interrupted her spiel.

The AI seemed to hesitate (can computer programs hesitate?) before answering that he was on his way back to the tower. When Bucky asked from where and was informed that Tony had just left the compound he almost broke the phone in his hand. "Patch me through." He growled out instead.

This time it rang only once before silence descended over the line and Bucky growled low in his throat. "Ya know, when ya 'ccused me of fuckin' ya and droppin' ya, I didn't 'spect for ya ta be the one ta drop me." He spat out in anger and immediately hung up before Tony could say anything (or worse even, remain silent on the line). Tony didn't call or message back even by the time Bucky made it to his sparring session with Clint.

After the sixth day in a row of sparring Bucky stopped taking his phone down to the gym with him. That is where Steve found them just as Clint executed a perfect roll out of Bucky's flip and then stopped Bucky's counter before he could start it so he could knock the soldier face-first into the mat.

Steve stared with wide eyes and raised brows. "Hey, Buck. You okay?"

Bucky growled around his bleeding nose (the mats were soft but Clint seemed to feed off Bucky's anger and had slammed him down harder than usual) but nodded in affirmative.

"I was wondering if you wanna come down to Brooklyn with me tomorrow."

"Whass tomorra?" He slurred out and when he was finally standing up Clint was walking towards him with a towel. Bucky waved it away but the archer only glared before flinging the small towel right at his face.

"They're doin' this big thing before Christmas at the orphanage by our old place. I was gonna go volunteer and hang out with the kids."

Bucky stared at him with the most bored expression he could muster.

"Was thinking we could also go walk around for some Christmas gifts." Now Steve seemed almost sheepish in his offer. Bucky would have felt guilty if his anger for Tony's stupidity hadn't spilled over into every aspect of his life these past few days. "Maybe even go buy those suits Pepper told us about for the gala thing on New Year's Eve." Bucky threw the bloodied towel to the ground and stomped off to the showers (he usually showered in his room after working out but that meant walking near Steve and Bucky could not handle that right now).

"What's with him?" Bucky heard Clint question just before the slammed the changing room door closed behind him.

When Bucky stepped out of the shower Clint was sitting on the bench with legs wide and elbows resting on his knees. He looked up from where he had been playing with one of the band-aids on his fingers and Bucky only scowled.

"Hey, fuck off." Clint scowled back when Bucky turned away. "Look, I get it we're not friends and shit, but... you're helping me out now and I wanna return the favour."

"Nothing to return. I'm just doing this cuz Nat—"

"Bullshit. I spoke to her last night and this thing was apparently all your idea." Clint scoffed and turned to look away when Bucky focused on him. "I don't know why you're doing it, I don't think I wanna know, but... it's good for me." Bucky had noticed the band-aids and medical tape slowly decreasing this past week. Along with Clint actually staying the night in when his schedule said he should be with Laura and the kids.

"So, you sleeping with Tony?"

Bucky turned around and started banging through the open locker with his extra pair of clothes, hitting the metal walls with his arm so loudly it echoed in the changing room. He had just grabbed his shirt and started banging around the area again for his sweats when Clint muttered something behind him.

His entire body froze in shock and it took him a moment for the words to register. He had never met the woman and kids, heard a lot of good things about them from all of the Avengers that have, and knew all of their names as well as the Avengers because of how often they were on the schedule. So he never would have guessed for Clint to speak the words, so quiet they were almost lost to the banging... "Laura asked for a divorce."

He turned around and Clint was back to playing with the band-aids on his fingers, staring at them with a furrow in his brow. "She already signed the papers, been pushing me to sign for the past few months..." he was speaking so quietly and Bucky didn't know what to say... he didn't know what to do. "She wants full custody and I can't really fight her... Kate says I have every right but..."

"Kate?" And how stupid is Bucky that this is the thing he questions? The glare Clint threw his way told him the archer thought the same thing.

"I'm not cheating on my wife. I never have. Kate's this girl that lives in my apartment building." His apartment building? What the fuck? "She's a firecracker, wanted to learn archery and has some serious skills... I've been teaching her in my spare time..."

"...not visiting Laura."

Clint shook his head and turned away.

"Fuck." Bucky collapsed on the bench beside him and turned away. He never met Laura and the kids... but fuck if he didn't think they were Clint's entire world. And having something like that ripped out of you... without being able to hold it in because no matter who this Kate was or what she said, Clint was a fighter but not to the point of breaking his family apart. He would sign... Bucky turned to Clint.

"I'm meeting with her lawyers day after tomorrow." The laugh he let out sounded so broken that Bucky felt the pain himself. "Merry fucking Christmas to me." Clint sighed out and seemed ready to get up and leave.

So Bucky had to stop him and...

"Tony's a fucking asshole." Clint only looked at him as if he was a fucking idiot before scoffing and nodding. "Yea, no, I mean.... we all know he's an asshole but..." Bucky turned away and ran a hand through his wet hair. "It's not the same, I'm not saying it is at all... but... is that how relationships are in the 21st century?" he knew he sounded lost but the broken hurt in Clint's eyes was enough to have Bucky push his pride back. "I mean... I've been fucked over before so that's not a first but... it's usually after I get... you know... fucked." The disgust in Clint's face had him worried for a moment that maybe he turned the archer away but then Clint only shook his head.

"Tony's a... well... Tony's more fucked than all of us combined probably."

"That why you hate him?"

"I don’t..." this time Clint was ready to jump up and when Bucky looked at him with a raised brow the archer's shoulders slumped. "I don't hate anyone here. I just... it's really fucking hard when you've grown up without a real good family and then you find it, you know, and you make it your own, and then you find another one and it's just as good... and then they both just..."

"Fall apart." Bucky nodded when he finally understood Clint wasn't going to finish that. Bucky clapped a hand on Clint's shoulder and used it to push himself to stand up. He walked to his locker and dropped the towel so he could change while speaking. "Well, I already god the fucking spider spy on my side and I prefer to have a twin set so..." he looked over his shoulder at Clint and grinned when the archer met his eyes "...wanna help me knock some heads together so this team becomes a team again?"

The spark was back in his eyes and Bucky turned away when he noticed them glaze over, giving Clint enough privacy to push the tears back before they fall as he changed. When he was facing the archer again Clint was standing with a cocky grin on his lips and both hands on his hips. "It ain't gonna be easy."

"Nothing worth it ever is."

The smile disappeared. It was obvious just this talk, this one week, was not going to be enough. But Clint shared something with him that mattered, showing him that the archer was willing to share his burden with another. The fact that he had been going around the past seven months banging himself into a giant bruise and thinking over this by himself only showed that nobody else fucking cared enough to ask him what had been wrong. Bucky wanted to smack Steve first and then every other fucking member of the team.

"Is that why you're sleeping with Tony?"

And while the subject was sore it seemed to bring some amusement to the archer so Bucky only rolled his eyes and moved to lead Clint out of the changing room. "Have you never looked at his ass?"

"Can't say I have but... now that you mention it I will take notice."

Bucky turned to glare at Clint and the archer only grinned before his expression fell. He stopped walking and Bucky stopped as well, turning around to see what had caught Clint's attention and giving the archer enough time to gather his thoughts into words.

"So... what's our problem with 21st century relationships? Maybe I can help, young padawan."

Bucky rolled his eyes at the reference he didn't understand but decided to fuck it all and rant about the fucking idiot of a genius.

"Apparently it's perfectly normal to ignore me for days at-a-time then burst into my room and demand sex, then disappear again for a fucking week." And that about summed up his relationship with Tony. Wasn't that fucking depressing?

"Umm... you guys have been together for how long, now?"

"One afternoon in the workshop, one night at the tower, and about two weeks of being ignored." At Clint's panicked expression Bucky decided that being a pouty child was not worth it.

"Umm... I don't... do you—I mean..."

"Just say it."

"You know what last week was... right?"

"Last week?" Bucky thought about it. It was the week that Tony fucking ignored him before showing up shivering cold and giving Bucky some horrible dreams for the days to follow that involved that perfect ass and a NSFW soundtrack.

"As in... the 16th of December... the anniversary..."

"Fuck!"

Silence reigned between the two for so long and then all Bucky saw was livid red. That fucking idiot of a genius. Bucky was going to strangle him!

Chapter Text

Bucky spent Christmas Eve with Steve at the orphanage in their old neighborhood. They had stopped by a store earlier to collect bags upon bags of presents to give out and Bucky was both surprised and pissed off to find out that the Maria Stark Foundation had provided some funds for additional presents. Because Tony of course had time to organize a bunch of under-privileged kids to get presents but not call Bucky back.

Well... not to blame the kids or anything (they were adorable and more than a few had decided to use his metal arm as a monkey bar once they got over the initial fear) and knowing Pepper, Tony had nothing to do with the donation (other than provide the money but he probably had a standing order every holiday or something), but Bucky was still... not happy.

They spent the entire afternoon and evening at the orphanage (with Sam joining them for the latter half), leaving for the compound shortly after midnight. Steve had thrown Bucky's present at him (wrapped in old newspaper like how they used to do it before the war) before settling in the pilot's seat in the Quinjet. Bucky had responded by throwing his own at his head once he was sure Steve wouldn't crash and kill them.

Then Bucky got about four hours of sleep before a knocking at his door woke him. He was both surprised and not to open it to Clint. The archer looked like he was in pain (there was no gauze or medical tape on his body anymore, only band-aids) and opened his mouth a few times to try and speak.

Bucky didn't want to seem presumptuous so he let the archer in and stood over him where Clint sat on the edge of the sofa.

"Want me to come with?"

"Naah, it's cool...Kata was gonna come but it's Christmas Day and..."

He trailed off so Bucky crossed his arms over his chest, scowled, and glared down at Clint. Only after long minutes of silence did the archer look up. "Maybe just to New York?"

"You know I'm still not cleared to fly, right?"

It was Clint's turn to scowl. "I don't need a fucking ride."

"Good. Let me get dressed."

So Bucky spent his Christmas morning flying back to New York City where Clint was to meet with Laura's lawyers. Because she was apparently a bitch and decided that he wasn't going to be seeing his kids on the day but her lawyers instead (shortly after voicing that under his breath Bucky found out that it was just a coincidence that the three month deadline had fallen on Christmas and if Clint missed it the divorce would be taken to court and he would most likely lose all rights to seeing his kids again).

So even though they had parked the Quinjet at the tower, Bucky decided against staying and muscled Clint out of the way so he could drive the archer to the courthouse. He had planned on letting Clint out and then driving around for a bit, maybe see the ice-skating ring, but the defeated slump of the archer's shoulders made him change his plans.

Instead he let Clint out and went to find a parking spot. He was not at all surprised when he walked to the designated area to find Natasha standing there. But he practically saw red when he noticed little Nathaniel balanced on her hip while both Cooper and Lila were standing around her. Natasha shook her head once when she saw him and said a brief command in Russian before resuming her conversation with Cooper as if nothing happened.

"I didn't know she was supposed to be here." Bucky voiced after sitting around for half an hour and watching the kids running around. He was getting tired just from their constant jumping. The courthouse was mostly empty so they raced up and down the empty hall in some bizarre game.

"She wasn't." Natasha responded quietly. "She felt it unfair he wasn't going to be with them for Christmas." She changed over to Russian when the kids came running closer.

"Did he know?" Bucky asked in Russian.

Natasha shook her head. "But she did bring their ice-skates so maybe they can take them to the Rockefeller Centre afterwards."

"I don't think he'll be in the mood after that conversation."

"He will. It's his kids." She seemed to hesitate afterwards and Bucky looked to her with a questioning brow. Natasha looked like she had been shot and was already planning on killing the person responsible (yes, there was such a look and Bucky had seen it before, that's how he recognized it). "Who knows when he's going to see them again after this."

Bucky scowled and crossed his arms over his chest. He closed his eyes and listened to the patter of little feet and happy voices.

"I'm glad he opened up to you." Natasha spoke after a while.

"He would have opened up to anyone."

"But he did it to you."

"Yea... because I don't have my head stuck up my ass."

Natasha glanced at him with an amused curl to her lips. "No... apparently it's trying to get stuck up Tony's, but there's not a lot of room there."

Bucky's scowl returned ten-fold. He had finally stopped thinking about the fucking idiot.

"That morning, when I came to grab you... did you really sleep with him the previous night?" At Bucky's silence she decided to continue. "I was just joking at the time because... well... the date but..."

"Yea. He came over in the middle of the night begging to be fucked." Bucky spat out.

"And you, being you, didn't question it and forgot the date."

There was really no response to that. It was partially his fault but it was also Tony's. No... mostly Tony's... no, fuck that... he wouldn't have forgotten the date or to question Tony if the fucking bastard hadn't ignored him the entire week prior and then looked so fucking delectably broken when he showed up. It was all Tony's fault.

"You know... Tony's a bit...."

"Stupid?" Bucky decided to provide the word that Natasha seemed to be missing.

She sighed and rolled her eyes. "Yes, that he is, but we love him for it anyway." The words were slow coming out and she seemed to be searching Bucky's face. Bucky tried to revert to the emotionless mask of the Winter Soldier but it was really hard when all he could do was grind his teeth and narrow his brows in anger.

"Give him a chance."

"I did."

"I meant... hmm... do you need help?"

"What? No!"

She finally seemed to smile full out at his burst and when they locked eyes Bucky knew he was screwed.

"Ask him out for the New Year's Gala."

"What? We're all going anyway."

"Ask him to be your plus one... or you his... or..."

"No! Look... I tried to contact him; he has been ignoring me again. Did you know he was at the compound the other day? No? Me neither, I found out after calling his phone so many times that Friday answered and informed me he had just left. Ball's in his court now."

Natasha sighed and rubbed at her temples. "Your pride—"

"It is not fucking pride, Nat." Bucky snapped to interrupt her. "There's only so many times a guy can get a no before taking the fucking hint." He was angry and taking it out on her and he knew he shouldn't but Natasha was strong enough for it. "Is..." he decided that even though she could take it, she did not deserve it. "Is this what you meant a few weeks ago when you said I'd find out."

She raised a brow in question.

"When you found out it was supposed to be our first date, you thought it would take us six months to..." he trailed off the recount when realization dawned.

"I don't know if you know this, you could probably Google it anyway, but Tony's been in exactly three long-term relationships in his life. Sunset Bain," Bucky scowled when he remembered the woman, "Tiberius Stone," he didn't know that name but it was obviously male, "and Pepper." She looked towards the kids as she said the last name, they would not recognize the first two but maybe they knew hers.

"You know what happened with both Sunset and Pepper, but Tiberius wasn't much better."

"What do you mean?"

"Tony was still young, and Tiberius took advantage of him... not the same way that Sunset did with the company. No... his style was on a more personal basis. As in..." she looked away now and was scowling at the wall, "there's a reason for him men means sex, not a relationship." And when had she heard that? No, why is Bucky even questioning it, she's the fucking spider spy; of course she heard that conversation. Or maybe she had heard it before Bucky.

"So he doesn't want a relationship with me."

"Don't be stupid," Natasha glared at him. "He doesn't want a relationship with anyone, that doesn't mean he doesn't need one."

"So what the fuck should I do?"

Except her wide well of wisdom was suddenly stopped off when the door behind them opened. Clint looked like he had gone a few rounds with Ultron and Laura was obviously wiping tears from her red eyes.

"Daddy!" All three of the kids rushed at them (they probably hadn't seen Clint coming in) and his entire face brightened when he dropped to his knees to hug his bunch. Bucky felt like he was intruding on a private moment.

"Hey, what do you monsters say to lunch and some ice-skating?"

The chorus of agreement that greeted Clint's question had the archer full out smiling.

Bucky rose from his seat, knowing he wasn't needed anymore, but Natasha's hand on his arm froze him. He looked to her and she only arched a pointed brow before glancing towards Clint. Bucky followed her gaze and noticed that even though he was smiling his shoulders were slumped. The archer looked at him too.

"I should..." Laura started speaking but Clint cut her off.

"No. You're coming with us. We're going to have a nice, big, family Christmas lunch, then have some fun outside, and then you're gonna take them home so they are in bed on time." Bucky was glad the kids were too young to catch the edge of a threat in his voice. Laura, however, was not so lucky.

So Bucky spent the rest of his Christmas day with the broken Barton family and Natasha. Natasha was the eye of the storm around them, sweet and attentive to the kids, friendly and supportive of Clint, and even nice to Laura. Clint tried to be nice to his wife (or was it already ex?) but it was obvious they felt uncomfortable talking. The kids were oblivious to everything. Laura was obviously uncomfortable but combating it for the sake of the kids and Bucky... Bucky was barely amiable to the fucking bitch that broke their resident archer.

But he had already spent a day with kids before and these ones were quicker to warm up to him, so he knew how to distract both them and himself. Cooper was old enough to understand what was happening so Bucky decided that this was his project. He even rented skates to race the boy around the ring while Natasha and Laura were showing Lola how to do some simple twirls and Clint was acting like a fucking horse for his youngest in patches between teaching him how to balance.

When they separated Bucky had to glare Laura into silence every time she opened her mouth (she probably had something stupid to say anyway) and then proceed to get Clint as drunk as possible without killing the archer. They made it back to the compound some time around six in the morning because Bucky was the only one sober and he had decided to drive (he was not risking his therapist's wrath on flying the Quinjet).

The following day Steve threatened Bucky with releasing him on the Boxing Day shopping crowds in New York if he didn't go for a run with him, so Bucky braved the fucking cold weather and went outside (because Steve was evil and went for runs outside the compound instead of in the perfectly functioning and, most importantly, warm gym). When Bucky returned to his room with the plan to catch up on some sleep (he had slept for barely two hours!) he was immediately woken up in surprise when he noticed a missed call from Tony.

He pressed to listen to the voicemail with a slight tremble in his hand.

"Look... I know this isn't fair and I'm being a complete ass and... I'd understand if you said no, really... I mean, I don't think you'll say yes but... anyway..." Tony always rambled when he was nervous. Bucky had noticed it before but only now, pissed off as fuck but at the same time hopeful, did he realize that he liked it. As in... even before Tony had started his whole flirting joke. And then... he missed something because that didn't make any sense so he replayed the message and... there it was.

"I was wondering if you'd do me the honor of being my plus one for the New Year's Gala."

Wow... Natasha worked fast. He sounded nervous, not like he was being forced to say the words at gunpoint (Bucky wouldn't put it past her).

This time when Bucky called the first ring was cut off as Tony answered. There was silence on the other end, too familiar to be pleasant, but then a hesitant 'hello' sounded and Bucky broke.

"Yes."

"Umm... yes?"

"Yes."

"Yes!"

"Yes, you fucking idiot. I'll be your plus one."

"Yes! Okay, umm..." and the joy form the earlier seemed to disappear in nerves again for a moment. "Do you... umm... do you want to meet up and talk about this beforehand?"

Bucky scowled because that one sounded like it was being forced at gunpoint. Was Natasha even at the compound or was she with Tony at the tower? So he decided to give Tony an out. He quickly called up the team schedule to be displayed on the wall and noticed that the Gala event started at seven. "I'll come pick you up at five."

"Oh... umm..."

"Is my suit still in the spare apartment? I had to drop it when—"

"Oh yes, yes. I had it sent to be cleaned and pressed. Is that the one you're going to wear?"

"Well... that's the one you bought for me, isn't it?" At the hitch of breath on the other end Bucky smirked. "See you then, doll." And Bucky hung up because... well... he could be a fucking asshole too.

Chapter Text

It was exactly 17:02 when Bucky exited the elevator to the penthouse floor. He stepped out and was immediately greeted by a circular open-concept room with a bar on one side, a hallway on the other, a depression in the middle, and an entire wall of floor-to-ceiling windows.

"Hello, Sargent Barnes." Friday's voice greeted him as she had in the elevator on the way up. "Unfortunately boss was called away on some urgent business," Bucky scowled, "but he should be back momentarily."

"Yea, sure." Definitely not a good start to what should be a reconciliation date. Or... not even reconciliation as much as a first fucking date. They clearly had a lot of problems in that department.

"Would you like a drink while you wait?" He eyed the bar and noticed the sheer amount of alcohol. Tony must be some kind of masochist or extremely good at hiding the fact that he was still drinking.

"No thanks. Where can I wait?"

"Right there, sugarplum," Tony's modulated voice sounded barely a second before the Iron Man armour came into view. Bucky watched, amazed as always, as the armour floated on the pad outside before opening up. Tony stepped down from it and with a quick flick of his wrist the armour closed up and flew away on its own. "Sorry to keep you waiting."

"Barely." Bucky voiced.

Tony walked through the bar and stood behind it as he reached for a glass. "I'm sure Friday already offered, but want a drink?"

The super soldier raised a brow. Tony was not looking at him.

"Maybe later. What was the urgent business?"

"Hmm?" The genius glanced up for barely a second before returning to making his drink. Bucky stepped closer until he was on the other side of the bar. "Just Rhodey."

"He okay?"

"Yea, yea. He was having a bit of a hissy-fit about the braces and his suit." Tony shrugged and finally brought whatever drink he had been making to his lips. It was clear, no bubbles, just a few ice cubes and some... cucumber? Did it honestly take that long and that much concentration to fix himself a water?

"Man's allowed."

"I'm not saying he's not. He's more than allowed. I'm just way behind on my production schedule. Should have had the smaller braces ready for tonight. Actually, should have been past that and working on the implants already but..." he cut himself off as if waiting for Bucky's eyes to glaze over in disinterest. Who was the cause of that? When Bucky remained quiet and attentive (because no matter what may or may not be between them, Tony's work was cool as shit) the genius cleared his throat and looked away. "He just really wanted to impress his date tonight."

Bucky raised an eyebrow at that.

"Not that I don't care or want to know," Bucky spoke up as he watched Tony's mouth open. "Because I do and am extremely curious... but we can talk about this tonight. What I want to know is... why am I here?"

"I... uh..." and now Tony looked almost... nervous?

"Look." The genius started and put his glass down. "I know I messed up. I am not as stupid with human interactions as people seem to think I am. I wouldn't be where I am now if I was. I just..." he let out a heavy sigh and his shoulders dropped. "I just can't..."

The pause was too long. "Do this," Bucky added in with finality in his voice. Should have known.

"No, no, no!" The panic in Tony's voice is the only thing that stopped Bucky mid-turn. "I mean..." he let out another heavy sigh. "I'm gonna lay this all out and you can do with it as you will. But seriously... I don't know if I can." That did not make the soldier any happier than his earlier guess. It wasn't that much different. "I just... what I can't do is wrap my head around this. I'm not used to..." and he trailed off here.

Bucky wasn't exactly sure what he was going to continue with so he kept his features blank and his mouth shut. He deserved a fucking answer.

"You're gonna make me say it, aren't you?"

Bucky raised a brow at that. Yep... he was an asshole.

It took a long moment of heavy sighs, a few false starts, and finally, the genius was walking around the bar and putting himself right between Bucky and the hard counter at his back. It was a stupid move, giving him no option for escape. But it was also strategic because Bucky knew it was stupid and Tony must have as well, which meant he was trying... something. He definitely didn't smell of alcohol.

"I’m not used to wanting something I can't have." It was a lie. Bucky didn't have to be standing close enough to see the dilation of his pupils or the quickening of his pulse at his neck. He knew it was a lie because he had seen Tony want things before... want thing he couldn't have. He wanted his family back for one (both his parents and the Avengers). But if that's what he was going with...

"And what do you want?" Bucky almost whispered the words.

Tony glared at him, his face doing that thing where it morphed from one expression to the next so fast that they were all blurring together. Bucky caught anger, exasperation, annoyance—

"Really?"

The soldier nodded, not noticing that the rest of his body was leaning closer to the genius.

"You, you fucking asshole. God ask me why, but I want you."

And wow... way to pull your fucking punches. The only reason Bucky's legs didn't give out under him was his Winter Soldier training. As it was, he swayed slightly forward and had to drop his metal arm on the counter behind Tony to keep himself from crashing into the genius. That only left Tony one way out.

"And why pray tell, do you think you can't have me?"

The roll of his eyes, the tightening of his muscles, it all registered as anger to the soldier but Tony was still there. He even tried to cross his arms over his chest but ended up elbowing Bucky in the ribs in the process, so he had to lean his entire upper body away. He looked almost... vulnerable.

"Because this isn't... natural."

And Bucky knew what homophobia was. He was the victim of it enough times to recognize the language that led way to it. But he had also done a lot of readings to see what was happening in modern day with it and that word... natural?... it wasn't that common anymore. It was—

"I mean, Howard always did—"

"Fuck him." Bucky's blood boiled. Tony seemed shocked but whether it was by the words, the interruption, or the sheer anger behind them, Bucky couldn't tell. And he would never voice the thoughts that just quickly skipped through his brain 'it's better that he's dead' and 'he deserved it' because even he knew they weren't true... but some parts of the Winter Soldier were just... him now. He couldn't stop those thoughts even if he would never voice them aloud or act on them.

"I know, I know I'm the last person you want to hear this from, trust me..." he paused for a second to lick his lips and Tony's eyes tracked the movement. "Fuck him. He doesn't control your life and who you step out with, whether you are his son, his friend, or even just a fucking war buddy."

Slowly, surprise turned to understanding as something clicked behind those brown eyes.

"He said..."

"Yea. Wanted to get me discharged the first time he saw me." Bucky spat the words out. "Thought it was a big secret when he told Steve about it and was even more surprised when Stevie brushed it off." Then the smirk that crossed his lips was almost evil when he remembered, "and then he walked in on Jacques and I. He shut up after that."

Tony actually burst out laughing. Finally, the mood lightened slightly.

Bucky let out a heavy sigh and felt like he could finally breathe properly since walking into the tower earlier today. His next inhale was filled with the smell of oil, metal, and coconuts, it was desert heat and summer sun... it was all Tony.

"I can't say I get it..." he had to be serious though and spoke up before Tony could go off on a tangent. "I just... I don't. I understand hiding it, I had to, but I never hid it from those that mattered and it didn't make a difference. But I think the same way I don't get it for you, is the same way you don't get it from the other side, for me. So... I'm willing to try and learn and... be fucking careful or whatnot, but... only if you're actually willing to try and be with me."

"Be... careful?"

"Yea... with all the gay sex and..." he trailed off at Tony's widening grin.

At this Tony seemed to finally relax. It seemed for a moment as if his spine became liquid and he melted back into the counter, both arms dropped and rested comfortably on Bucky's hips. "Oh, honey bunch... the sex is the easy part." When he used both of Bucky's belt loops to draw him in closer, Bucky only followed from surprise. "It's the..."

"Romancing the shit out of you part is what freaks you out." It wasn't a question but the way Tony looked away for a moment, it was confirmation enough. "Alright. In that case..." he stepped back so suddenly that Tony actually floundered for a moment where he was standing. "I'm going to go get ready for our date downstairs, and I expect you to pick me up at quarter to seven so we ain't late. In the meantime, you're going to get ready and think about what you want out of tonight. Clear?"

The surprise on his features was enough of an answer but Bucky still waited for the nod. "Good." It seemed that giving him explicit directions would go a long way to getting them on the same page. "See you soon. "And with that he leaned forward, smacked a quick and lazy kiss on Tony's lips, and turned around to walk out, all before Tony even muttered a word.

Seriously... talking to Stark was like a fucking rollercoaster. And this entire relationship, if it ever happened, would be a fucking rollercoaster. He was sure he wanted to get on (that ass... seriously), he knew he'd regret mixing it with other activities (Avenging and romancing... uhh...), he was positive the ride would be fucking spectacular (if the shower last time was any indication), and he was afraid it would be over too quick. Because Tony was sexy and amazing, yea... but maybe it really could only be sex between them. He'd have to wait and see and not be one of those assholes that put the rest of his life on hold just to be with someone because he can't give that much control to another person. Never again.

---

When Bucky had said Tony would pick him up, he had completely forgotten that he had made a deal with Natasha for her to wear that slinky black dress. Which meant she was in the same closet space he was going to in the empty Avengers apartment. Which meant her date (Bruce) was also there. And he wasn't the only one when Bucky entered the apartment.

Peter was there as well, the young kid seeming more overwhelmed with the suit options another man was showing him than when he was out Avenging. Bucky didn't recognize the tall bald man holding two ridiculous suit options out (seriously, one had a shirt with a polka-dot pattern of at least five colours), but he was obviously cleared by the others as none of them bat an eye at him.

"Hey, Buck." And that was Clint's voice from the direction of the closet space. When Bucky glanced over it was to see the archer standing there shirtless and trying to wrestle an absolutely horrible purple shirt with little archers all over it out of a young woman's hands. "I'd like to introduce you to Kate," Clint grunted out, "but she's being a bitch," and the young woman kicked him in the shin, causing the archer to yelp and let go of the shirt.

"Got it!" She screamed in satisfaction.

"Good, burn it." Natasha's voice sounded from the door and a moment later she stepped out dressed only in lingerie. Bruce cleared his throat and Natasha only smirked in his direction, but the tall brunette holding the suits stopped and his jaw practically fell to the floor.

"Wade..." the growl in Peter's voice had the bald man turning towards him again.

"Oh, so she can wear that but I can't?"

"She will not be wearing that to the gala," Peter spoke up and turned to Natasha with wary eyes. "Will you?"

"Not visibly, no." She smirked and walked towards Bucky. "You're back sooner than I thought."

"Yea, we umm... finished quick."

"Kinky." The bald man, Wade, (and by god, those scars were bad) voiced before a loud smack sounded behind Bucky. He glanced over only to see Peter blushing red and Wade rubbing his head.

"Yea... we just talked."

"You'll tell me all about it, I'm sure. In the meantime, go grab a shower. I don't know what you did or didn't do, but that suit requires no underwear."

"Sure it does."

"It does." Clint grinned wide when he came to stand over by Natasha, draping an arm over her bare shoulders. Another throat clearing from behind Bucky had the archer grinning wide and stepping away from Natasha with both arms raised. Natasha's smile gained a softer edge to it.

"Why are you all here?" Bucky voiced as he started removing clothes where he was standing. He was not shy about his body; everybody knew he had scars and even the arm didn't bother him anymore.

"Kids needed a ride." Natasha voiced again as she entered the closet space. Clint sputtered at that before running after her in the room, where he proceeded to argue about something (probably another horrible purple shirt) with the woman who he had barely introduced as Kate.

Bucky barely spared a glance at Peter and his friend (date?) before raising a brow at Bruce.

"Tony asked me to come over and keep him company while he panicked. I'm going to go do that now." The scientist rose and discretely put his phone away. He then walked right towards the two young men. "He is not wearing either of that. Both of your tuxes are upstairs in Tony's penthouse." Peter smiled gleefully before turning to follow Bruce out of the apartment.

Bucky took a little longer in the shower than planned because while he and Tony didn't do anything upstairs, they had done something in this exact shower and the smell of coconuts was still fresh at the back of his throat. When he stepped back into the closet with only a towel wrapped around his waist (because while he wasn't modest he did have some consideration for the new girl), it was to Clint tucking in the ends of a black shirt into a pair of purple slacks. Seriously.

His face said it all and Natasha only grinned when she hung up the black gown with the slits near one of the mirrors so it was on display.

"We decided to all do it."

"Do what?" Bucky looked to Kate as she hung up her own purple gown. "Dress like clowns?"

"Dress in our colours, moron." Clint snapped back at him. Natasha grinned wider as she took out a long red... scarf?... and hung it on the same hanger as her dress. He honestly doubted Bruce was going to wear a green suit but... who knew? And Steve? Red, white, and blue? Who was he kidding? Steve would totally wear that. No... the worst colour combinations on the team for a gala had to be Bruce, Vision (but he was already purple), and Tony himself (how do you pull off red and gold in a suit?).

"I got you a bowtie." Natasha voiced.

"No."

"Yes."

"No. My suit is perfectly fine as..." and he trailed off when Natasha walked up to him (still wearing only a lace bra, panties, and a garter belt that did not hold up any stockings) and held out a box for him. When Bucky looked down he actually... fuck it, he liked it... it was cute.

The bowtie was small and all black, except for one of the front lapels that was a bright glaring silver with a red star on it. For a moment, he couldn't believe there was Winter Soldier merchandise. Then he thought that maybe Natasha had threatened someone into doing it for him. He took the box and noticed no specific brand name. The second option started looking more and more viable. He glanced up at her but Natasha turned away and back to one of the mirrors where she started putting makeup on.

By the time Bucky was in his suit (black, black, and more black), the girls were done with their makeup and Natasha was pulling Kate's hair into a beautiful bun at the top of her head. He left the bowtie for last, leaving the top few buttons of his shirt undone as well (so he could breathe!), and joined Clint in the living room of the apartment. The archer actually looked good. The purple on the tux wasn't as bad when combined with the whole. It was a nice dark and matte colour that contrasted against the black shirt and the jacket's lapels were black as well. His own bowtie was the same purple as the suit, but it had a small silver arrow tucked under the middle band.

They still had about half an hour until Tony was coming down to collect them (or him, specifically) so Bucky decided to prop one of the windows open and light a cigarette. Clint joined him after a moment but did not take the offered cancer stick and the two remained quiet for a long time.

"So... Kate?" Bucky arched a brow after a moment. They both heard curses behind them and Clint smirked at recognizing the younger girl.

"Yea. She's my pity date."

"Pity date?"

"Yo man, I've been divorced for six days... not a lot of time to find a date. Give me a break." Bucky smirked, glad that the archer was ready to start joking about it. "Plus, we may be the only couple tonight that actually matches."

At Bucky's raised eyebrow Clint smirked. "Friday is making sure everybody is doing their colours for this. And since both she and I are purple..."

"You'll match. Fuck. Think it's too late to change dates?"

"To who?" Clint snorted out.

"Either Nat or Sam, actually. Maybe even Lang would match me better." But Bucky was grinning as he was saying this. Both men were aware of Tony's tendencies to go crazy with his outfits and if he was following the theme (as Friday should be ensuring) then the idea of how crazy he would go tonight had the soldier dreading it a little.

"Don't worry. Tony's got a personal stylist. I mean... even he wouldn't allow purple and green together, but his man did up Bruce's suit."

"You've seen it?"

"Nope. But I know how those two are," Clint crossed two of his fingers together. "Either they will both look ridiculous, or sexy as fuck."

"I think ridiculous."

"I think sexy, Nat threatened Tony when she found out he was having Bruce's suit tailor made."

"Okay... we'll see."

Bucky finished his cigarette and finally returned to the closet to put his bowtie on. Kate looked magnificent, a long purple gown without shoulders that had a thick black band under her breast and spread out to the floor. It had a subtle black pattern throughout and he easily picked out the silver arrow necklace she was wearing. And Natasha... well... Bucky was sure he wasn't the only one whose pants would be tight tonight. The dress he had previously seen was truly magnificent on her. The slit on her thigh went up high enough to show that the garter belt did actually hold something, but it was only visible when she walked and the red sash she had tied around her waist shifted out of the way. The end of the low back was also hidden under the sash, though he wouldn't be surprised if her ass dimples would be visible without it. She looked fucking stunning and Bucky just simply had to grab her hand and twirl her around once.

"You're not leaving your hair like that, are you?" She moved as easily on heels as she did on bare feet and followed his twirl like the dancer she was. He was definitely stealing her for at least one dance tonight to show all those shmups how it's done.

When the others arrived (Bucky was glad that Tony was coming with other people as well), the soldier was just pulling away from both Kate and Natasha where they had slicked his hair back with some gel (but it still felt soft to the touch) and tied it into a small bun at the back of his head (as Natasha whispered that Tony found that look sexy as fuck).

Peter and Wade were first through the door. Peter was wearing a dark blue suit with a matching vest that had bright red buttons on it to match the shirt under. His tie was a simple blue with a light red vertical stripe and a small spider. His partner (seriously? Was this guy his date? Not that Bucky needed to know but... he felt like he needed to vet the guy) was wearing an entirely red suit to match Peter's shirt with a black shirt under it and a black skinny tie. Bucky wanted his own skinny tie back.

Bruce made an immediate line towards Natasha and holy shit! Tony's tailor must have made fucking magic because Bruce was wearing a dark purple suit, the purple so dark and matte it appeared almost blue, with a brighter purple shirt (though still dark) and the most vibrant green tie. It looked so fucking good that even Bucky did a double-take. He was also holding something in his hands and after a moment it was revealed to be a black shawl that he draped over Natasha's shoulders.

But Tony... Tony was a fucking piece of work. His jacket and slacks were black (because he was a cheater, but then again... the newest mark of the Iron Man had more black in it than red) with a slightly off-white shirt, and a red vest that had a beautiful gold pattern in it, like those old Victorian ones. And because it was Tony he was not wearing something as boring as a tie or a bowtie... no... he was wearing a fucking cravat that matched the vest.

When Bucky looked back up into Tony's eyes he saw the smirk playing there. So he licked his lips. Tony's eyes followed the movement and narrowed.

"You are not messing up those suits and making us all late," Natasha spoke up and turned to leave first, arm comfortably resting in the crook Bruce offered her. Clint offered his own arm to Kate and fuck, the two looked good together. As they walked past him he noticed that her eyeliner ended in two small arrows and it was absolutely adorable. Then Wade did the most dramatic bow to offer his hand but Peter just walked past him, his cheeks turning a colour that was starting to match his shirt. Wade ran out after him and towards the elevator.

"Shall we?" Tony motioned behind him to where the others were.

"Must we?" Bucky saddled up close to him and reached out with a metal finger. He gently touched the cravat and since that was where his eyes were focused, he easily saw the long up and down of the man's Adam's apple as he swallowed loudly.

"We must."

"So we shall." Bucky grinned and took a small step away, giving them both some breathing room, before offering his arm out to Tony. The genius quirked a brow but the shrugged and looped his arm in his. His free hand reached out and when Bucky looked over next, Tony was wearing a pair of sunglasses.

"No." Natasha voiced as soon as they were all standing in the elevator and took Tony's sunglasses off. The man pouted but did not voice any argument aloud.

They took the elevator all the way down to the parking garage where a driver was waiting for them in front of a limousine. One by one they all files inside and were driven off to the Stark Mansion where the gala was being held.

When they got there ("right on time!" Bruce sounded both surprised and mocking as he looked at Tony) it was just on time to watch another limo spill out some superheroes.

"Did you time that?" Bucky leaned close to whisper to Tony.

"Of course I did." One by one they all stepped out, their driver holding the door open and each of their dates holding a hand out to the other to let them step out. When Bucky exited the limo last, holding Tony's hand, his grip automatically tightened at the explosion of flashes and lights that bombarded them. Tony leaned close to him, a warm hand on the small of his back, and whispered into his neck (because even with the lifts in his shoes he was shorter than Bucky) "just don't kill anyone." He pulled back, winked, and then mouthed out "yet".

Bucky shook his head and then looked over to the other party. Vision was also wearing his colours, the suit he was sporting matching his usual battle wear in colours and fitted tightly to his frame. On his arm was Wanda in a long red gown that did not show off so much cleavage for the simple fact that there was a bright yellow stone right between her collarbones. The colour and shine of it were too similar to the mindstone for Bucky's comfort.

Right behind them were Scott and his date Hope. Bucky had only met her the once and kind of fell in love with her personality, especially when that time was her dragging Scott through a hallway by the hair. Ant-Man was wearing a dark grey suit with a red shirt and black bowtie, and his date was in an elegant black dress with a yellow trim. Standing beside her was none other than Maria Hill, the two women talking (probably about how to castrate men) and she was wearing a simple but elegant black gown. She was also on Sam's arm, who was wearing an all black suit with a wine-red tie. Bucky totally called it. He should have taken Sam as his date.

"Hey, Buck." And Steve, of course, looked the most normal. His suit and vest were blue, his shirt was white, and his tie was red. His hair was in that spiked style though; instead of the stupid 40s part he still sometimes wore it for special occasions. And beside him was Sharon in a light grey, sparkling gown that she was holding the skirt of with one hand so it didn’t drag too much.

"Stevie." Bucky greeted him and reached out his free hand (the other had somehow hooked itself around Tony's waist) to shake hands. Steve kept the smile on his face when he also shook hands with Tony and damn... Tony was a good actor because the only change in his posture and face was the slight tightening of his fingers at Bucky's waist.

But then Bucky was completely distracted because walking behind them was Rhodey. There was no hitch in his step, no off balance stumble, and no visible braces. Clearly Tony was beating himself up for no reason. And then Tony smiled wide and moved to pull away towards his friend.

"See ya inside, Stevie." Bucky quickly voiced and followed after Tony, taking Tony's hand in his own once it trailed off his waist. They stopped right by the Colonel and Bucky had to stop and stare. "I know it's rude as fuck to stare, but that's good."

"Tony is the best." Rhodey grinned and shook Bucky's hand. "But still, not as good as yours." He added in and the statement confused Bucky for a moment.

"Come on, honey-bunch. Lose both legs and I'll build you the sexiest ones ever." Tony only grinned wide before turning to Rhodey's date. "How you doing, Carol?"

"I'm all good, Tony. Got leave for two months this time because someone tried to bribe General Braddock." Her eyes narrowed in a glare but there was a smile on her lips.

"Someone clearly succeeded." Tony grinned even wider. Bucky looked at the beautiful woman. She had short blonde hair, spiked up and back into a strange style, and was wearing a black dress with a high neck and a gold outline to a hole at her cleavage. She looked stunning.

"Pardon me. Sergeant James Barnes, meet Major Carol Danvers of the US Air Force."

"Another James?" She rolled her eyes with a smile even as she offered her hand for a shake. "What do they call you? Jimmy?"

"Bucky, ma'am," Bucky grinned and took her hand, lifting it to his lips for a gentle kiss on her knuckles.

She raised a brow. "And which asshole named you that?"

Bucky laughed as he dropped her hand. "That would be Captain America himself, ma'am. Too many Jameses where we grew up."

"Oh... so you're that James!" And that had his hackles up a little. "Good lord, if I had known he was this good looking I would have bagged myself one a few years ago," Carol spoke with a wry smile towards Tony as if some private joke.

"Well... you already have one James, I have another, I think we are both at a good place in life."

"Indeed." She smiled but the entire time kept her arm in Rhodey's. They were either just casual acquaintances, Rhodey was really good of an actor, or they were together long enough for Rhodey to brush off her comments. Either way, Bucky felt a little awkward.

"Trust me, you wouldn't have liked me a few years ago."

"So I've heard. Well, enough chitchat here. We have to go start schmoozing the rich for their money and support. Shall we, Jim?" With that, the two made their way inside the mansion.

"Well, she's something."

"Isn't she?" Tony smiled and turned to lead Bucky inside as well. "Known her for about fifteen years and now she finally starts talking to me like a friend, when she got all hopped up and powered up."

"Powered up?"

Tony eyed him with that same little smile he had shared with him what felt like months ago in the elevator. It was a little confused, a lot adorable, and somewhat playful. "That was Ms Marvel you just introduced yourself to."

"No shit!" Bucky stared back inside. He had been on the field with her only once or twice, always in a rush, and never stopped to chat. He had seen a lot of footage of her though and...

"She cut her hair." That wasn't the only thing but Bucky nodded along. It was more the lack of leg showing that threw him off (Bucky was an ass-man fist and then a leg-man and Ms Marvel had a pair of legs on her that he would love to find himself wrapped in).

Once the rest of the brief introductions outside were completed, with Tony having to be visibly seen and photographed with every single one of the Avengers and more than a few times with just Steve, they finally made it inside.

The evening passed by just like any other gala. Long, annoying, and absolutely boring. Tony was popular, of course, Bucky knew that, but he hadn't known how much of a kiss-ass Tony needed to pretend to be. They stopped by Generals, Majors, Colonels, Agents, Ladies, one Count of fuck-knows-where, and so many other rich assholes that Tony had to spend time with to reassure that "yes, we're all going to save your asses", and "no, we're not going to kill each other", and "yes, we're at your service," and "no, we won't become villains". It was honestly, depressing. The last gala Bucky had attended, he had spent the whole thing at Steve's side and the entire evening passed by talking to old veterans and current military, them being all nice and proper. If this is what Tony had to do every single time they were out, Bucky had to feel sorry for him.

But Tony was also used to it. It was after fifth time somebody asked him how he was spending his money and in the same conversation another bitch asked him if he was finally going to pay for that mall section he destroyed (Bucky knew exactly which mall she was talking about and 1, nobody but the fucking rich used it; 2, Tony wasn't even involved in that fight; and 3, who the fuck was she to ask?) Bucky had had it.

So he used the excuse of seeing someone and dragged Tony away to his people. Which included Richards, who spent almost twenty minutes insulting Tony and Tony giving back as good as he got and Strange, who Tony introduced as Dr Asshole even though Bucky had already met him. It was barely ten in the evening and Bucky was fucking exhausted.

"How do you do this, babe?" He asked when they finally had a moment to themselves and Tony grabbed two glasses of champagne off a passing waiter.

"Hmm?" Tony seemed unconcerned as he downed one glass in two large gulps. Bucky only stared with wide eyes. Alcohol would, obviously, help in these situations. But Tony was sober. Or at least supposed to be.

"Ah, Tony! You got my message!" And how is it that it took them three hours to finally meet up with Pepper, who looking fucking stunning in a jade gown falling off both shoulders. Bucky barely spared her a glance though, especially when Tony's entire face brightened upon seeing her.

"Hold these." He thrust the two glasses at Bucky, one empty and one sploshing over his hand, as he stepped away and pulled Pepper in with both hands for a hug and kiss.

Bucky growled under his breath and put both glasses on another passing waiter's tray. He looked at his sticky hand and the smell of alcohol... did not hit him. He stared at his hand for a moment before bringing it subtly up to his nose (no need to have someone snap a picture of him sniffing or even licking his hand), but all he smelled was apples. Fucking apple cider?

"Babe, sorry. I spilt your drink. Do you want another?" He just had to confirm though.

Tony barely glanced over his shoulder from where he was talking to Pepper and nodded. Bucky looked for one of the waiters and was just about to call him over when Tony was once more at his side. "Not him," he made a shooing motion with his hand towards the oncoming waiter. "That one," he pointed to another. "See the red pin?" He tapped on his cravat and Bucky immediately zoomed in. "Those are the ones that carry the non-alcoholic."

"Subtle." Bucky seemed almost impressed.

Tony eyed him with a wry smile. "I am not the only recovering alcoholic here, trust me." And with that, he was off again. But this time, Bucky just couldn't follow.

By god. New Year's, fucking, sucked.

"Yasha."

"Zolotse." Fuck. It was a habit by now and Natasha's smirk at him calling her darling was almost welcome.

"Where's Tony?"

"I... umm... somewhere over there." He waved over his shoulder and emptied the tumbler of whiskey in his hand. He had seen Tony quite a few times but they had split up about an hour ago. Bucky was fucking tired of sucking up to people (read: watching Tony suck up to assholes). But Tony was going strong and the most important thing is... Tony was keeping them safe. Because them fighting the bad guys, that was important, yes, but Tony keeping these rich assholes and the fucking mayor happy... that was what allowed them to actually be here. It was fucking depressing and the worst part about it was... Bucky walked around and noticed that Tony was the only one trying to make good with these people.

Steve stuck to his own crowd of military and veterans, Sam had outright turned his shoulder on one of the socialites, Clint and his date Kate (who was the daughter of one of this rich fucks) were outright interrupting and being rude when they were around them, Peter had been talking to the other superheroes before he disappeared somewhere with his date (Bucky had to catch that fucking Wade guy and make sure his intentions were at least somewhat pure), Rhodey had sat down at one point and had yet to get up, Wanda and Vision were in their own little corner, Scott and his date were talking to some guy Tony introduced as Pym, and Natasha had been avoiding most conversations like it was a fucking skill.

If this is how it always went, and even before the Avengers, no wonder Tony turned to alcohol. Bucky ordered another glass from the bar and Natasha raised a brow in question.

"Wanna dance?" She asked after a moment.

"Yes. Please." He finished the newly received drink and practically dragged Natasha out on the dance floor. Bucky finally noticed Bruce sitting at the same table as Rhodey where Richards and few others were gathered.

There were not a lot of couples dancing, more socializing than anything, but the live band had been playing some steady classical music and enough people were swaying to indicate a dancing floor. Bucky took Natasha and the moment he stepped into that space he flung his hand out, making the woman spin away from him as he walked towards her. He ended her turning as he went right into her, both falling into frame immediately and then moving around as if they had practised this. In truth, they hadn't danced in decades.

The simple waltz had them moving around the others, spinning enough to see what was happening but not brazenly showing off. Bucky noticed Bruce staring at them after a while and could only smile to himself. That man was so in love and Natasha, he glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, if he believed she could love he would say she was just a smitten. He bowed his head in Bruce's direction, hoping the other man did not see it as a challenge or competition. Bruce only nodded slowly.

By the second song, he noticed he had Tony's attention. The man excused himself from a conversation, grabbed one of his drinks from the specially marked waiters, and moved closer to the edge of the dancing crowd. Bucky winked at him as they passed by and Natasha followed it by blowing him a kiss. Bucky timed it so by the ending of the song they were near Tony, so he spun Natasha in a tight circle before sending her out towards Tony.

The genius did not disappoint, easily catching her even as he held his drink in one hand. He smiled at Bucky and when the soldier passed him he collected the glass. But Tony did not take Natasha out on the floor for a dance. Instead, he bowed down to kiss the hand he had grabbed and then stood up. "That was magnificent."

"It was, indeed." An elderly woman spoke up beside Tony. "I have to admit, it was a very pleasant surprise considering your... umm... background."

Bucky barely held in his glare but he was finally in a good mood, he was not going to let some old crone ruin it for him.

"Where did you learn how to dance like that?" The woman asked a bit louder as Tony finally turned towards her, acknowledging her presence.

Natasha had her arm hooked in Tony's as she smiled that sweet, innocent one that confused all of her marks. "The first thing we are taught in the Red Room is how to dance." She explained. The woman's woman closing shut was almost audible. Natasha leaned towards Tony to whisper something to him then kissed his cheek. She came to Bucky's side and took the glass from him. "Take your man dancing." With that order, she walked away.

And Bucky was a good soldier. He followed orders. So he asked Tony for a dance and took the man out for two slow songs. "Where did you learn how to dance?" He asked halfway through the first one where Tony followed him flawlessly into the music.

"From that bitch Natasha just insulted, actually," Tony smirked. "She was my dance teacher when I was a kid."

"She taught you to follow?" Bucky smirked.

"No, I taught myself to follow so I could teach Rhodey how to lead," Tony smirked and looked over the crowd, spotting Rhodey sitting and stiffening slightly in Bucky's arms. When Bucky next turned them he noticed the man was rubbing his knee.

"Why's that?" Bucky tried to distract him. He knew the Colonel would not appreciate having Tony running to his aid in the middle of his.

"As I said," Tony looked back at him and smiled. "I've known Major Danvers for fifteen years." By fuck, that smile was beautiful. It lit up his entire face. Especially his eyes. Fuck whatever Bucky was thinking earlier. If it was just a fuck with Tony, just physical, he would never get that smile. He knew it. He had seen its twin mirrored at every single one of those assholes Tony had had to ass-kiss tonight. None of them got the spark that was aimed at him now. And Bucky was selfish... he wanted it all. So he continued to dance even as he ducked his head down and kissed Tony.

That's it. It was beyond official now. At first, them arriving together could have been played off as either them going stag or some type of PR move to show that the two Avengers with the most grudges could get along. But now... now there was no denying that when they left tonight, they were leaving together. Bucky felt the whiskers against his mouth twitch as they formed into another brilliant smile even as Tony's lips parted and his tongue came out to play.

"Can we get out of here?" Bucky whispered to his lips. It wasn't even midnight yet.

"Yes." The husky tone was even smoother than the whiskey Bucky consumed earlier. Not he wanted to consume that. He could get drunk off of Tony tonight. Fuck this. Let Steve deal with the schmoozing.

Chapter Text

"Happy!"

"No."

"But—"

"No."

"I just—"

"No!"

Tony suddenly pouted where he was holding Bucky's hand behind him.

"I am no longer your driver." Happy spoke after a moment, arms crossed over his chest. Bucky could barely hold back the smirk when Tony's shoulders drooped.

"But just—"

"I am here for Pepper." Happy interrupted, yet again. "I need to be here for when she wants to leave."

"It's just to the tower and—"

"No!"

"You were my driver first!" Honestly? Why did Bucky like him, again? He was like a fucking five-year-old. But grown up and sexy.

"Yes. And then you became Iron Man." Happy was obviously not happy. "Where's your driver?"

"He is going to drive all the others back."

"So, maybe you should wait for them and all leave together."

This time Bucky could not hold back his brief bark of laughter.

"Babe," he pulled Tony towards him, "we can walk."

"What? No! It's like, freezing out here and that's an hour walk!"

"Please, it's like thirty minutes. I can see the tower from here." It was nice that both the Stark Mansion and Avengers Tower were so close to central park. They could actually cut through the park.

"No!" Tony turned back to Happy. "Happy?"

"No!" The other man was just as stubborn.

"Fine!" Tony threw both hands in the air, resulting in one of Bucky's hands flying up as well. "At least go inside, you dumb-nut. It's freezing out here and it's almost midnight."

"And Pepper doesn't have a date." Bucky supplied helpfully. Happy glared at him now instead of Tony.

"I'm not giving you my keys."

"Fine, whatever. I'm done with this. Just go inside." Tony waved him off then finally spotted his own limo. "And Happy New Year!" he yelled back at Happy as he proceeded to drag Bucky down the steps of the mansion to the round driveway that was filled with cars.

"Back to the tower." He practically growled out to the driver.

"The others?"

"I'll give you an even better tip than I already planned if you're back here immediately and don't mention this."

"You are aware they already know, right?" Bucky smirked even as Tony opened the back door and started pushing him inside.

"What? No. We were the definition of subtlety in there." If it wasn't Tony saying it with that smirk and that tone, Bucky almost would have believed him.

As soon as the door was closed behind him, Tony was on him. Crawling on top, straddling his thighs, and using both hands at his neck to tilt his head up so he could kiss him. It was filthy, a bit of spit running out of the corner of his mouth, and Tony's beard giving him a bit of a burn, but Bucky fucking loved it and was already getting hard in his slacks. The two handfuls of ass didn't help his situation much.

"Pants. On." He breathed out between kisses.

"What?" Tony barely questioned into his mouth and started tugging at his bowtie. "On?"

"Natasha."

"Ah."

Glad they were in agreement there. So the bowtie came off, the cravat was thrown somewhere, and at least one button ended up pinging off the back window, but pants stayed on and hands stayed above the waist... well... at least away from any dicks.

"Sir?" Bucky had barely registered the voice, let alone the rest of the words, and Tony was suddenly crawling off of him. He opened the door and almost fell out, catching himself on the door at the last minute. Bucky wasn't much more graceful following him out. Then Tony shoved something at the driver (who was holding their door open and trying to hold back a grin), and they were walking towards the elevator.

The limo was already gone by the time the doors of the elevator closed. And that one wall... it looked really fucking comfortable. With the hand-rail the perfect height and... ugh... yep. Bucky easily hoisted Tony up, setting his ass on the edge of the rail and keeping his hands at the man's thighs so gravity was pulling him down. Tony was too busy trying to taste the back of his throat to say anything about the treatment, but the way the man's hands tightened in his hair was sign enough that he enjoyed it.

Friday had to do a very amused "clearing of her throat" at one point and Bucky finally pulled his lips away from Tony's neck and one hand out of the back of his slacks to notice the elevator doors were open. He pulled back a bit more (by fuck, the whine that left Tony's throat almost made him drop to his knees then and there) before Tony followed him on unsteady legs.

His blazer was left in the elevator and Tony's own fell somewhere near the doors. Tony's shirt was quick to follow with a tug that garnered a grunt of pain from the genius before it flew off his hands. Bucky's pulled his own shirt out of his slacks even as Tony started undoing the belt, zip, and button combinations out from under him. He stripped it off easily over his head (huh, must have been one of his buttons that pinged in the limo) and dropped it just as Tony's hands reached skin.

"Hmm..." Tony was looking down with hunger in his eyes and that playful tongue licking his bottom lip.

"Yea... blame Nat." So the no underwear thing was a good idea then.

"I'll send her a fruit basket." Tony grinned and dropped to his knees. They hadn't had any discussions in regards to safe sex other than that first initial question Bucky asked way back when, but Bucky knew he was clean (found out he couldn't catch or carry pretty much anything in a very traumatic way) so he didn't say anything. And then he couldn't think of anything to say anyway because holy shit... that mouth.

The beard was too hard and kind of hurt his over-sensitive skin so Bucky used both hands in Tony's hair to guide his cheek away from his cock and then pull him in. He made the mistake of looking down and fuck... how was it possible for somebody to grin and look so fucking smug when they were getting a cock shoved in their mouth? Well... Tony did it. And then he did something else with his tongue that had Bucky's knees wobbling.

He had to stop because while he had a pretty awesome refractory period (fucking serum) he wanted his hands all over Tony. So he pulled Tony up and tried to lick the taste of his cock out of the genius' mouth. His hands were busy trying to pull Tony's own slacks apart and when he got kicked he pulled away and he looked down to see Tony kicking off his shoes.

Then Tony's hands joined his own at the zip and button of the slacks and next thing he knew Tony was pushing the material down. Bucky yanked hard when he realized the genius had also gone commando tonight and fuck... good thing he didn't know otherwise there would have been no way the slacks stayed on in the limo.

"You coming?" Tony whispered into his lips with a grin before pulling back suddenly. Bucky lost his fine grip on the slacks and next thing he knew Tony was sitting on the edge of the bed. When the fuck did they even get there? But Bucky followed, his own slacks were tight on the body so they stayed just under his hard cock as he moved forward. Tony started backing away (and he was full of fucking questions and contradictions because how did someone look so much like prey while at the same time looking ready to be wrecked?) and Bucky followed.

He put one knee on the bed as Tony scooted back, then the other, but before the genius could move even further away Bucky grabbed his slacks and started pulling. Some wriggling, one errand leg, and a chuckle that was so deep it burrowed its way right into his balls, and then the slacks were gone.

Tony sat up, grabbed a handful of hair and used it to tug down hard, making Bucky groan right into his mouth. Then the soldier was on top of him, using his metal arm to hold his body up while the other started touching all that naked skin.

Tony's tongue was a fucking villain because Bucky forgot anything and everything for a moment there until there was a hand wrapped around his cock once more, tugging as if trying to use the appendage to bring the soldier closer to him. Bucky groaned and followed, shoving his slacks down a little further.

But no. He was on a fucking mission (though hopefully the only deaths happening tonight were the little ones). He pulled away from Tony's lips for a moment before looking down at the genius. "Where's the gun oil and sandwich bags?"

The confusion that crossed Tony's features made his grin widen. But he waited. And it didn't take long until understanding dawned and Tony barked out a laugh.

"Top drawer." He motioned to the left with his chin and Bucky focused on the nightstand.

It was far enough away that he had to crawl more up Tony's body and to the side. The fucking genius under him was definitely a villain because just as he opened the drawer he felt that wet heat of his tongue on his stomach, then Tony shifting under him before his cock was enveloped in tight, wet... and a holy fucking shit vacuum. He fumbled for the lube and box of condoms then had to get off his arms but that only changed the angle a little where he was straddling Tony's chest and the suction continued.

"Stop. Stop." He pulled on some hair and used it to move the genius around. It was a tight hold in his bare hand, he knew it, but Tony followed direction as beautifully as he did on the dance floor and then Bucky was straddling his naked dick and Tony was sitting up to kiss him again.

"You're going to fucking destroy me," Bucky swore into the other man's mouth.

"Well..." when Tony pulled back his lips were bright red and puffy, but he looked smug as fuck, "I was hoping to just make you blow your load but—" Bucky interrupted whatever other obscenities could fall from that mouth and started shoving until Tony was lying down again.

A few more errand legs, one socked foot that came too close to his hard dick, and then Tony was spreading his legs wide around Bucky's hips.

If Bucky believed in God or a higher power, he would have thanked them right there and then. He had to stop and look down the lengths of their bodies, breathe heavily even as Tony latched onto his neck and just... stare. But fuck... Tony was perfection. His hard dick was resting on his flat stomach and it looked a nice size (any guy would mentally measure, Bucky was not a fucking child) that he remembered clearly having down his throat a few weeks ago.

Tony shifted under him, a curl of his spine that brought his chest up, as if showing off, followed by a wriggle of his hips that made his hard dick bounce a bit from where it was curved against his stomach.

"I'm not very patient, you know?" Tony's voice broke him out of his trance and he shifted back, sitting on his feet and looking up Tony's body. The scars only made the shadows of his body deeper. He was utterly breath taking.

Then something hit him on the chest and he looked down to see the tube of lube Tony must have thrown at him. When he looked up the genius was smirking but also had a brow lifted high. Bucky accepted the challenge, uncapped the bottle, and poured a generous amount into his flesh hand (he made sure enough dripped out of his hand so the cool liquid could hit Tony's heated skin and the hiss and wriggle that followed only made his balls tighten). Then he reached down and fuck... Tony was fucking tight.

The first finger went in easily, calming him down from thinking he may hurt the other man if he was inexperienced, but the second one was a tight fit. He fucked them in and out and couldn’t decide whether to look at Tony's face (head thrown back, throat revealed, eyes closed, and mouth open), his heaving chest and hands clutched in the bed sheets, his cock as it twitched hard enough to lift off his stomach and start curving to the opposite side, or just straight down... he settled for down because then on top of watching his fingers (now three) pumping in and out of Tony's body he could see the man's balls hanging heavy, his cock twitching, and a few little spasms in that corded stomach.

"Done, done, done, done," Tony started chanting, his body trying to pull away from his fingers yet still undulating his hips to meet every one of Bucky's thrusts. But yea... Bucky couldn't wait any longer. He pulled his fingers out as fast and carefully as he could and wiped the excess lube on the sheets.

This time it was a condom that hit him in the chest and fell between them and Bucky could only look up with small grit of his teeth.

Tony smirked wide. "I know it's not exactly a sandwich bag, but I hope it's up to your standards."

Just for that Bucky roughly shoved one finger back in (aiming for that perfect spot that had Tony's grin falling) before pulling out roughly to collect the fallen condom between them. And then fucking hell... he could just sit there and stare at Tony all night while jacking off to get him off. But Tony's impatient noises, the frown between his brows, and that plump bottom lip being attacked by a set of teeth...

The soldier grabbed Tony's hips and yanked hard, dragging him down the bed until his ass was Bucky's lap where he was sitting back on his heels, then his flesh hand to balance Tony while the metal one guided his erection into... wet, heat, tight... holy fuck. His mouth fell open without his consent and he reached with the metal limb for those hips, grabbing tight before pulling the genius right up his dick and... yea.

Tony's moan was more than worth the entire night of schmoozing and ass kissing. Ass kissing... that definitely gave him an idea for next time. But this time... right now... he could only groan as Tony shifted away before Bucky used his grip on the man's hips to pull him back onto his cock. And fuck... it was just like the first time.

Then again. And again. But the angle was hard and the going was slow so Bucky shifted, his bare hand running up Tony's leg, lifting it high until his lips could kiss a knee, then the metal hand came under Tony's ass and he pulled up as he shifted from sitting on his heels to just balancing on his knees.

Tony's moan was almost a screen at the first thrust at the new angle. Bucky dropped his bare hand down, keeping his lips connected to the knee on his flesh shoulder, and had both hands under Tony's ass balancing him and keeping him off the bed, giving him barely any leverage as he fucking into that tight passage slow and deep.

"Fuck... fuck!" Tony moaned, hands still gripping the bed sheets tight and yanking on them hard. His eyes were screwed shut and head turned to the side, revealing the long expanse of his throat, which led to his scarred chest.

Bucky sped up.

Tony's other leg twitched and then it was on his metal shoulder, hard calves moving to wrap around his head to try and get some leverage. But Bucky took it away and moved his hands up, one by one, up to Tony's legs, keeping them both locked tight against his chest even as his hips continued to piston in and out of Tony.

It was still tight and hot and fucking amazing, but it was getting loose enough for Bucky to harden his thrusts.

He thrust hard and then stilled, making Tony almost scream before the sound was cut off with one that sounded suspiciously like a sob, and then he ground into that perfect ass and this time... this time he got what he wanted.

"Oh my god, so fucking good..." Tony stated babbling. The words were so quiet that Bucky wouldn't have understood them if not for his superior hearing, but Tony "you're so fucking deep in me" Tony only continued to spill filth from his lips.

Bucky pulled out a bit, just enough to hear the whine from Tony, before thrusting back in hard, making the genius gasp out and finally turn to face him. He did it again, pulling even a little further out, before slamming back in and swivelling his hips. When he went to pull out again he felt the genius' hands latching onto his thighs through the slacks so he returned to keeping his hips flush with Tony's ass and started grinding again, little movements that only shifted his dick around inside the genius and caused that vice grip around him to tighten sporadically.

When he felt the grip at his thighs relax he pulled out almost all the way and slammed back in. Tony screamed this time then while Bucky was grinding deep inside him, he arched his back (his belly was trembling hard and muscle spasms started travelling up his legs), and reached hard with both hands, digging his fingers into the back's of Bucky's knees and pulling hard.

Bucky pulled out again (the hold did nothing more than encourage him further) and slammed back in. But this time he did not stop to grind. He pulled out immediately afterwards and thrust in again. And again. And again.

Tony's back started arching more as if trying to get away from the pleasure, but Bucky kept his legs locked down tight to give him as little leverage as possible.

"Touch yourself." Tony obeyed as if he was one of his fucking computers. Command received and being implemented immediately.

After that Bucky didn't stop at all, not even as Tony continued to describe what the soldier was doing to him ("you're so fucking big in me, so fucking good, harder James, oh my fucking god, that's it, fuck, harder"), or when Tony's words got lost in one endless and fucking amazing whine from the back of his throat, or when the genius' legs tightened so much, his entire back bowed off the bed, and he exploded down his own stomach and chest with the force of his orgasm.

Bucky didn't stop even as the tremors and muscle spasms from Tony's orgasm had the clutch around him tightening even more. He only stopped moving once Tony's hands were both at the back of his thighs, pulling him in and keeping him still even as Bucky moaned his way into release and ground deep into Tony's ass.

And holy shit.

Tony's entire body was still trembling, muscles twitching around him and under him even as Bucky rode out his high.

When he finally pulled out the only thing he could do was sit back on his heels and use Tony's legs on his shoulders to balance himself from falling down.

When he looked up Tony looked... fucking smug. Damn it. Bucky thought he could have fucked the smug out of him. But no. Tony was stretching out, running one hand up his come-covered stomach and chest before bringing it to his lips to lick a little off. Bucky's cock twitched in response.

"You're going to kill me." Bucky moaned into Tony's knee. He had to look away (he could swear that he could hear the smugness radiating off of Tony though, even without looking at the genius).

Tony chuckled in response before dropping one leg, then the other, down to frame the soldier once more. "La petite mort?" He grinned wide even as his tongue poked out to lick more of the cooling come off his fingers.

"Been there. Done that. Got the fucking souvenir." Bucky sneered back and glanced down. He removed the condom and tied it off.

"Hope you liked the ride," Tony said a moment later then motioned with his hand to the other nightstand. Bucky noticed the wastebasket under it and threw the condom in. Perfect fucking aim even when most of his brain was still on vacation.

"Liked. Yea, sure. Let's go with that." And now he was grinning as he crawled up Tony's body and kissed him full out. The taste of the genius' come was still in Tony's mouth and he licked it out until all he could taste was heat, sand, and coconuts.

Then fatigue finally caught up to him and he rolled off the genius on his side until he could lie down and rest. Fuck... that was phenomenal.

That was one first date he would never forget.

Slowly, the darkness started creeping in as he felt his entire body relax. He was too out of it to even bother with taking his slacks off the rest of the way, let alone the covers.

Then something shifted beside him. Not the "I'm just settling down for some sleep" shift he was used to from sharing a bed with Steve or even the Commandos way back when. Tony shifted again and Bucky's brain slowly started booting up again.

"Hmm?" the soldier murmured when he felt the movement beside him continue without any intention of stopping.

"Nothing, get some sleep." Tony murmured quietly even as he got out of bed.

"Where you off to?" The lethargy was slowly draining out of him.

"Workshop."

Wow. Okay. Sure. Why not? "Did I fuck you so hard you got inspired?" It's not really his fault it came out a little snappy. Fuck... did they miss the countdown? Happy new year?

Tony froze where he was and even in the dark of the room, Bucky could see his outline. He stayed quiet... Tony needed to fucking learn when to talk.

"Just... umm..."

"Yea. Got it." Bucky sat up and started scanning for his clothes.

"No, no. Nevermind. Don't worry about it." Tony quickly tried to correct but now Bucky was just irritable. The brunette came back to the bed, sitting on the edge and fiddling with something. Bucky did not move more but he made an inventory of his clothes... his bowtie was probably still in the limo and his jacket was either in the elevator or in the living room. His slacks were still around his thighs.

"Come back to bed." Tony murmured, so quiet it was almost lost in the darkness. He lay down but it felt like he was hanging off the edge of the bed.

Bucky huffed out a "yeah, sure" and dropped back to lie down on his back. He was wide-awake now, the earlier irritability becoming an uncomfortable itch under his skin. He wanted the gym. He wanted to punch something.

"This is awkward."

Bucky only snorted out, better to laugh than to cry, but he agreed with a hum. After a few more minutes of that awkward silence, the itch under his skin becoming unbearable, Bucky sat up again. "You go." He got out of bed this time. Tony was sitting up and watching him as he pulled up his slacks. "I'm gonna—"

"I'm sorry." Tony interrupted and it sounded sincere. It really did. And Bucky knew he was trying (he did get back in the bed, didn't he?) but it just... it wasn't that fucking much. The irritation, the annoyance... it was gone and Bucky was just so fucking tired.

So he decided to fuck it with the rest of his clothes and walked out. He didn't slam a door behind him or even voice-activate the elevator. He got back down to the floor with the extra apartments. A few of the Avengers had said they were returning to the tower after the party, so there was a chance Natasha or Clint was there. He didn't bother knocking as he went into the apartment.

Natasha and Bruce were sitting at the kitchen table, heads bent low together and talking quietly. They both stopped when they saw him. He waved a hand, motioned for them to remain seated. "I'll grab the sofa."

"Third room's empty." Natasha voiced out. So either Clint and Kate were sharing or one of them didn't make it back. Bucky nodded and made his way to the only open door. He crashed face down on the bed, the smell of Tony still fresh on his skin. He fell asleep before the pity in either of their gazes could really dig out under his skin and awaken the anger.

Natasha woke him up in the morning to tell him they were leaving for the compound in thirty, if he wanted a ride. He got up, took a shower, and changed into the jeans and Henley he had been wearing yesterday. He smoked a cigarette in the hanger while waiting for the others, never looking up even when more pairs of footsteps walked towards him than he thought. He got on the quinjet without looking at any of them and tried to get some more sleep on the flight back.

Two days later, his curiosity got the better of him and he brought his coffee into his room, locked the door, and quietly asked Friday if Tony ever did make it to the workshop that night.

"He hasn't left yet."

The mug shattered in his metal hand.

Chapter Text

"I have to say, I was surprised to see that you've requested an appointment."

Bucky looked up at his therapist as soon as he was comfortable sitting on the chair across from her. "Yes, well... I felt like I needed to talk."

"Of course. You know my door is always open to you."

Bucky chuckled as he looked down at his metal hand. "Monday to Friday, eight am to five pm."

"Well... I do have a life outside the office." When he looked up the woman was smiling. Bucky liked her. Dr Elena Saiikova. At the beginning, he hated her the most out of everybody he had to see, but she was court appointed. When he found out she was a second-generation Russian, he had flat out refused to open his mouth around her. Now, he actually liked her. She helped him out the most with her no-nonsense attitude and blunt words.

"So, what did you want to talk about?" She didn't have the standard-issue notepad and pen before her and she had admitted, a few months ago when he started opening up, that she avoided them because she hated wearing her glasses. She was in her late fifties and gave off the impression of a typical eastern-European grandmother, what with the scowling and chiding and sweets (he probably gained his first few healthy pounds from being in her office every day). He was almost 100 percent certain that if he met her on the streets, she would pinch his cheeks. Or snap at him for not being dressed for the weather.

After a moment of silence (that he spent looking at the plate of cookies on the edge of her desk), she let out a sigh and got up from behind her desk. "We can go ahead and continue with what we had planned for our regular appointment if you want."

"I just want to... have a normal conversation."

"Normal?" She smiled and walked past him to the comfortable chairs in the other part of her office. Bucky's eyes trailed the cookies she was carrying. "Don't you have friends for that? The other Avengers?"

"Have you met them?" Bucky scoffed and finally got up to follow her.

"Grab the milk." She ordered just as he was about to sit down. He scowled at her but did as instructed and collected the carton from the fridge near her desk. He had been here so often that he knew this office better than his own rooms at the compound. Once he had filled two glasses (because he fucking hated the shit but she always complained that cookies should be eaten with milk) he replaced the carton in the fridge and hesitated.

"Does this have anything to do with one Tony Stark?" The door to the fridge creaked alarmingly in his metal grip. He had to consciously focus to let go before he moved to put the two glasses on the small table and sit down in the free armchair.

"How do you know about that?"

"You are aware that I am uniquely qualified to deal with all of the Avengers." She seemed almost smug when she said it.

Bucky could not wait for the day that he could sound that smug. Her 'unique qualification' was that her father had been a researcher for the USSR, working under a special scientific branch where they were trying to create their own super soldiers (thank fuck he didn't know about the Red Room), and had decided who better to experiment on than his own daughter. She had told him that story a few months ago when he finally opened his mouth to talk. Luckily for both of them, those experiments didn't take for anything other than some gruesome scars on her body and experiences that made her perfect to be his therapist.

"Who told you? Stevie or Barton?"

"Doctor-patient privileges. I am not painting a target on either of their backs."

Bucky scoffed and leaned forward, legs spread and elbows resting on his knees. He looked down at his hands and started trying to dig his nails between the delicate metal plates on his palm.

"What'd he say?" He knew it was fucking Stevie. Clint had better things to talk about.

"Doesn't matter. I'm more interested in what you have to say. Scratch that, not that I am not curious because I am—who doesn't want to know what Mr Stark is like in bed?—but I only care if you want to talk about it and especially if that's why you asked for an appointment out of your regularly scheduled ones."

Bucky couldn't hold back the smile. Once they had gotten over their initial dislike (on his side), paranoia (his side), and disgust (again, his side), she had started seeming more like a person and not a therapist. She was fucking good.

"He's good," is the first thing he said after a long moment of silence.

Elena hummed and took a cookie, dipped it and her fingers in her glass of milk, and then inhaled the whole thing in one go. "And?" she mumbled around her mouthful.

"I don’t... I don't know. I mean... can we talk about sex?"

"Oh, I hope so." The grin never left her lips but it felt less teasing and more friendly. "Everybody involved is over the age of eighteen, so yes, I say we can."

"Well... we had it. A few times now... well... I mean once was... but whatever. We're good. We're really good and compatible like that but..."

"Not on a romantic level." And now the smile was gone and she seemed serious.

Bucky nodded.

"Talk to me. I have to admit, relationships are not my forte, but I do have some experience in that department." And this was why Bucky liked her best. She was honest, to the point of it being painful sometimes, and she could make even the most serious and fucked up of conversations seem completely normal.

"Well... we agreed to go steady but... we haven't even... I mean. He asked me to fuck him on his parents' death anniversary." His head started hurting and after a moment he realized it was because he was gripping his hair so tight. "I didn't... think. The date completely escaped me, and I think that makes it even worse than if I had known. But it just... and the only date we've been to was fucking new year's gala, which ended absolutely spectacularly."

After a long moment of silence, he looked up. She was frowning and there were small wrinkles between her brows.

"That was two weeks ago."

"Yep."

"Have you talked to him since?"

"Nope."

The frown deepened slightly.

"Haven't even been on the same call. Think Stevie noticed something and he's trying to give us some room but... it's also on his side. He's avoiding him."

"Hmm... have you called him?"

"What? No. Why?"

And the frown was slowly disappearing. "Because to him, it may seem like you're avoiding him."

"I'm not."

"And he knows this... how?"

Bucky stopped and looked away. He fucking hated her sometimes too. "I mean... he knows I'm interested."

"Does he?"

"I've told him. Multiple times."

"So, why stop?"

"What?" He snapped his gaze up.

"I've been married for over twenty years now and I still like to hear my husband say how beautiful I am and that he loves me."

Fucking logic.

Bucky muttered some swears under his breath in Russian. Elena immediately snapped back at him to dare and repeat himself louder. In Russian.

"Okay. Forget that for a second." She waved a hand and Bucky released a sigh of relief he hadn't been aware he was holding. "How did your date end?"

"What?"

"You stressed spectacularly. That little sneer on your lips made me think it wasn't orgasms at the stroke of midnight." Bucky almost choked on the cookie he finally took a bite of.

"We actually missed the countdown." He blushed and took a sip of milk (grimacing on the inside at having to drink that crap, but it did wash the chocolate from the cookie down well).

"So... good?"

"And then he wanted to go to the workshop."

"Hmm... and did he?"

"Yea... Friday told me he was holed up in there for three days apparently."

"Sounds like a dick move." And Bucky immediately jumped to defend Tony, because he may be a dick but Bucky still liked him for some fucking reason. And he was glad that Elena was so open because he did not blush once while explaining to her how their evening ended.

"Okay... definitely a dick move."

"But he—"

"Oh no, no, no. Not him. You."

"Wait... what?"

She leaned forward to steal one more cookie but did not shift back in her chair. "What would you do if I told you that right after a mission, no debrief, no nothing, I wanted you to come to an appointment?"

Bucky glared at her. She had done that to him on three separate occasions and two of the appointments ended with him stalking out angry and annoyed and going straight to the gym to punch something out. On the third, she had let him take his rifle and clean it while they talked. He knew what she was referring to because they had addressed his obsessive need to clean his weapons at length. Multiple times.

"That's not the same."

"Why not?"

"Because it's just finishing up the mission. It's a habit."

Elena raised a brow and after a moment it clicked into place. She smiled when it did, something on his face must have given him away, and finally leaned back (stealing two more cookies as she did).

This time when he swore in Russian under his breath she laughed.

"I agree, wholeheartedly. But just because his past relationships were shit, doesn’t mean you can blame him."

"Yea."

"Which is what you're doing right now."

"Yea."

"And not calling him, that's probably making him feel like shit for doing something that for him is just a habit."

"Well, I fucking hate it." Bucky snapped out suddenly. He knew she was right and that he had no right to complain, he got it now. But still... the silence got almost cold and he dared to look up and Elena was glaring at him (it reminded him of those first few weeks when he was assigned to her).

"You think he likes the fact that you were used to kill his parents?"

Ouch.

That fucking hurt.

She still used the same language as always when talking about the situation, that he was used, that it wasn't his fault, but that it happened anyway and he needed to learn how to live with the situation. Everybody else was doing it.

He looked down at his hands and focused on how finely crafted the plates on his fingers were. He never did thank T'Challa for it properly (he did, but the King had brushed him off saying it wasn't his work). Now, as he stared at it, some things seemed to click. At first, Bucky had thought it was because the King did not want to take credit for what his scientists created. Now he suspected otherwise.

He looked up and Elena had a brow raised as she finished off her milk. She didn't apologize. She just sat there silently, staring at him without any real judgement on her features as she let him figure his shit out.

"So... I should probably call him." He didn't mean for it to come out as a question but her face was a clear response of 'you think?' with the sarcasm and everything laced in the light quirk of her painted lips. "And apologize?"

"No. Not unless you know what you're apologizing for."

Bucky once more gripped his hair. "I don't fucking know."

"And that, right there, is why I said relationships are not my forte."

"What?" Sometimes, she reminded him of Tony, especially when she jumped tangents like that. It was hard to keep up.

"You see... my speciality is dealing with trauma victims of extreme circumstances. I have been with you for close to a year now. And you know what is the one thing I can say, without a doubt?" He looked at her questioning, hoping that whatever she said was the answer to fixing things with Tony. "You aren't ready for this."

...

Bucky stared at her for long then looked down at his hands where his metal fist was clenched so tight the metal was actually complaining. He focused on opening up his hand then leaned back in the chair and dropped his head back to look at the ceiling. He spent at least fifteen minutes just staring at the ceiling and going over every single fucking interaction he'd had with Tony since this whole thing started.

He had rushed into it. Yes, he found the man attractive but then again... who didn’t? Exhibit A was currently stealing one more cookie from the tray between them. He thought Tony was a fucking genius and loved his brain and inventions... ditto on the 'who didn’t'? Even his competitors praised his genius. He knew Tony was broken... he knew the man had problems going into this (he remembered the way Tony had pushed him away when they were kissing in the shower) and yet he still... but even with all the quirks and annoying habits and being ignored... that look in Tony's eyes when Bucky kissed him in front of everybody, that smile on his lips that looked so carefree and happy, that curve of his body towards him when they connected (not necessarily for carnal pleasures), that vulnerable side when he returned to the bed...

Fuck.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

"What do I do?"

"What do you want?"

"I want him."

"Why?" And it was so hard to answer that question because he had too many things to say. It'd be easier to list the reasons why he didn't want the genius. And that list was not short, it wasn't, but... it was pointless little things that didn't make any sense to him now that he thought about it.

When he looked at Elena again she was finishing the milk from his own glass.

"Because I need something to fight for." And that was almost painful to admit. That at the end of the day, no matter how much therapy he did, he was a fighter because he liked it and he needed to fight in order to live.

Elena only smiled at him and nodded slowly. She understood him because it was her job to dig in and get all that shit out in the open.

"Good. Then fight for it." She seemed almost proud of him. She was the one that had told him that fighting who he was was pointless. She encouraged him to come to their sessions with a gun or a rifle and disassemble it and clean it while they talked. She was the one that made him finally accepted that he was the Winter Soldier and that there was a reason he had a muzzle as part of his uniform, even now. It was there to keep his face from being shown but not from his enemies (the blank slate that his handlers put him into or the one that could be matched to so many kills) no... it hid him from his teammates so that they wouldn't see the maniacal grin that split his lips when he was fighting. Because he was good at fighting. Because he enjoyed doing what he was good at. Because he fucking lived for it.

"You still have some problems with aggression. It's gotten much better, but anger is always easier to turn to than serenity. I know that these appointments are helping, I will not make it more often if you feel comfortable enough to book extras when you feel you need them... but I think you need to find something to get you out of yourself when you're not out there fighting. What are you doing now?"

"Sparring with Clint twice a week, Natasha three times, and Stevie every day... when we are both free at least." She raised a brow as if waiting for him to continue. "We also do drills, all together, sometimes."

"Since new years, how many times have you had a fight where you can let go, completely?" Bucky had to look up at the ceiling again and think. He always had to go easy on Clint and Natasha (even if she kicked his ass more often for it), and Stevie could keep up but... it wasn't the same. It wasn't like that first time the two fought on the streets in DC. Bucky remembered having to change to five different weapons in the span of five minutes, he remembered having to use almost every trick in his arsenal... he remembered trying to kill Steve.

"Good." Elena voiced when Bucky shook his head with a negative for an answer.

"And how is your... umm... hobby going?"

Bucky glared at her. When she had finally dragged out of him she had told him she would have to inform the proper authorities dealing with the Accords. He hadn't had anybody come knocking on his door yet so either they approved or she had kept her mouth shut.

"I haven't done that in a while." Not that he didn't want to. He had left all of the files for every Hydra base he knew of where they were easily found. Natasha had been sent on a few missions to infiltrate. So had Sam and Steve and even Tony. Bucky had been on one and he had spent three hours nesting in the snow and watching an empty door through a scope before the others finally exited and said the mission was over.

"Good. Any new hobbies...?"

"I've umm... I tried all those things you told me about last time," Elena had given him a list of common hobbies to try out. Knitting was fucking awful, especially when the yarn got caught in between the plates. Reading he liked doing, but it wasn't as relaxing as people seemed to think. Art really wasn't his thing in any form. Baking and cooking, in general, was almost as bad as knitting (plus the fact that he had fucking skills in setting the kitchen on fire). And so many other things to try... Parkour was awesome, but it didn't push him the way he needed. Then there was the get a pet option (which Bucky nixed before he even left the office when he saw it on the list) so Bucky got a plant instead. A cactus. He almost drowned it before Bruce told him to just leave the fucking thing alone.

"Okay. Here's something new for you." Elena got up to her desk and produced a new list. This one was much shorter. The lists were starting to get creative.

"Competitive duck herding?"

Elena raised a brow. "Don't diss it till you try it."

Bucky had promised to try everything on these lists she gave him. He had received over thirty of them already with anywhere between five to fifteen activities on them. Learn a new language. Bucky knew four fluently and six passably. He pocketed the list and looked at the clock.

They remained silent for another five minutes until the clock was about to mark their session done. Just as Bucky was leaning forward to steal the last cookie, Elena surprised him by speaking up.

"I'm not saying you're not ready for a relationship. I'm just saying, you're going to have to work for it harder than anything else you have in your life if you want it to work."

"You just said I'm not ready."

"Not the way you are now. But you work for it and you will be."

Bucky scowled then looked down only to notice she had stolen the last cookie out from under him. He turned a glare towards her just as she stuffed it into her mouth.

So he nodded and got up.

"Hold on," she rose and went to her desk. She opened a drawer and next thing Bucky knew he was holding a small paper bag filled with cookies. "I'll see you on Monday for our regularly scheduled appointment."

*

"Hey."

"Umm... uh... hi." Bucky was completely caught off guard to see Tony at the compound. The engineer was standing at the entrance of the living room wearing his suit with the jacket in the crook of one arm and both hands in the pockets of his slacks.

"Thor's back."

"Wh—" Bucky looked up when he heard Thor's booming voice. And there the alien slash god was. Pulling Steve into a hug that probably hurt even for the super soldier.

"Umm..."

"Can we talk?" Tony interrupted but he didn't look at him.

"Yes. Please." Bucky finally nodded and they slipped out before they could be dragged into the hugging going on in the living room as Thor greeted everyone enthusiastically.

"He seems happy?"

"Yea. Yesterday was Thursday."

"What?"

Tony snickered and looked sideways at him. "Thursday? Thor's day? Norse holiday in Thor's honour. He's still drunk."

"Shit. I didn't know he could get drunk."

"He can. And so can you. He brought this Asgardian mead once that..."

"Stop." Bucky stopped walking as he said the command. "We can talk about Thor later. What did you want to talk about now?"

Tony looked away and shuffled slightly on the spot. "I wanted to call but..."

"You shouldn't have."

"What?"

"No, no, no! I don't mean it like that." Bucky quickly tried to assure the genius but he was fucking tired. Just because he had one very successful session today didn't mean he was full on ready to talk about it with the person it was meant for. "I was the one out of line. I should have called. I'm sorry."

Tony looked dubious but after a moment nodded. He looked like he was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

"Look... I'm fucked up. I may not show it, but I am and... I can't do this right now."

"This as in... this?" Tony motioned between the two of them as if trying to explain their whatever-the-fuck-it-was relationship in that one simple gesture of his wrist. "Or this conversation."

"This conversation. I've had a really hard day and got to figure out what the fuck competitive duck herding is."

Tony raised an eyebrow at that and returned his waving hand back to his pocket. "Okay." He motioned after a moment and turned to look the way they had just come.

"Are you free? Tonight? Or tomorrow night?'

"Huh?"

"I want to... I want to take you out on a date." How the fuck is it possible for a man nearing his fifties to blush so prettily? "I want to apologize and take you out on a date. I just... can't function right now."

"No, yea, yea. Sure. We'll... umm..."

"Tonight?"

"I've got..."

"Tomorrow?"

"Pep..."

Bucky sighed in frustration and raised a hand to pinch at the bridge of his nose. He knew Tony was busy. He fucking knew it. His schedule was always the most full on the calendar. Did he have to fucking contact his secretary in order to get a date??

After a moment he let the hand drop and exhaled heavy and long. He looked up and Tony's entire face was closed off. "I'll be free tonight, late... after midnight probably."

"Naah." Bucky tried a smile but it felt forced. He was so fucking exhausted and mentally drained. "Just... slot me in for a dinner when you have the time."

Tony nodded and Bucky leaned in, pecking a quick kiss to his cheek. "I really need to crash." He explained before turning and walking to his room. He didn't look back to see that Tony's posture had changed from stiff to downright volatile.

So Bucky got about three hours worth of sleep before Thor's booming voice woke him up. That night he remembered what it was like to get drunk. He fucking hated it. Especially when it led to him sitting alone in his room and staring at his phone at fucking two in the morning, trying to convince himself not to call Tony.

So he called the next best thing. Natasha picked up on the second ring. She had been out of the compound that evening (Bucky wondered what her hobbies were and if he could borrow some). A moment later she started explaining them so he realized he must have said that aloud.

"Nat... look... I need... something."

"What?"

"I don’t... a fucking sober mind." He groused after a moment.

Natasha laughed on the other side of the phone. "That won't really help your situation though, will it?"

"No. No, it won't. But I do need your help."

"With what, Yasha?"

"Tony."

The laughter was suddenly gone from her voice and it took on a serious edge. "What happened?"

"I fucked up." Bucky finally admitted and dropped his head. "But I didn't even realize it until too fucking late and the worst part... you know what the worst part is? I still think I'm right."

Natasha sighed on the other end and muttered something that sounded suspiciously like "I don't get paid for this shit" then spoke up louder "get some sleep and be up and showered by nine. We'll do some yoga and talk about it."

Bucky nodded even though she couldn't see it and hung up without another word. By the time he had crawled under the bed his phone had vibrated with three new messages.

Bye

Fucker

Learn some manners

Bucky smiled at Natasha and opened his contacts list. His finger hovered over Tony's name for too long. After a few minutes of that, he flicked to a different screen. "Friday... what information can you give me on Tony's projects."

"What do you need?"

"I'm looking for something specific."

"I can't share all the information but if you know what it was about or who for, I'll tell you as much as I'm allowed."

Bucky closed his eyes and steeled himself. "Can you tell me if Tony made my arm?"

"Yes." There was no pause and no hesitation. "I've just uploaded the schematics and instructions to your phone." No fucking wonder Tony had never asked him about the arm.

"I don't fucking deserve him." It could have been the alcohol. It could have been the emotional and draining day. But that night was the first time in years that Bucky went to sleep with tears in his eyes.

Chapter Text

How does next Tuesday sound?

Bucky stared at the text received at 4:36 am and grinned to himself.

I'm all yours.

He didn't expect a reply, it was barely nine in the morning and Tony should be sleeping. So he got up, did his morning stretches, and got dressed to go to the gym. When he arrived there Natasha and Bruce were putting away their yoga mats. Bruce smiled at him before slipping out, but Natasha stayed behind.

"I see things are working out," Bucky smiled at her and walked over to the treadmill. Fuck Steve and his running outside.

Natasha only shrugged and that made Bucky pause. He looked at her and her face was such an emotionless mask that he was worried for a moment. "Everything okay."

"Yea," she stretched the word out.

"No," he copied her. "Look. You were ready to help me out with Tony, least I can do is listen."

"It's not important."

"If it puts that expression on your face, yea it is." He reached out. They were over clean break. He was only hoping that they could become friends now. His hand brushed a loose lock out of her face then dropped to her shoulder. "Talk to me."

"Dance with me."

Bucky startled at her response but nodded. After a moment he looked down at himself, he was wearing sweat pants, tank top, and trainers. Natasha was in her yoga gear with bare feet. He only thought about it for a moment before removing his trainers and socks and rolled up the bottoms of his sweats to under his knees.

Natasha dropped off her towel and water bottle and plugged her phone into the sound system. The song came one was not one he recognized. She walked over to him, her heels coming off the ground and her eyes slitting. Bucky shook out his body to try and loosen himself up. When she reached him she did not reach to go into a ballroom hold (the music didn't fit anyway) but instead spun around until her back was to him.

He was never really good at this one but fuck it. When his hands grabbed her wrists she didn't flinch and when her body curved to the side it was as if her spine was made of liquid. Bucky followed her lead at first, copying the curves of her body as best as he could and complimenting them when he couldn't. Halfway through the second song he finally got with the program (fucking lyrical shit, but at least he could move his body around hers rather than the strict footwork required in the ballroom) and started leading her.

"You know that... spark that people talk about?" She asked well into their seventh (or was it eight?) song. Bucky only nodded. "I think ours died out."

"Why do you say that?" He asked as softly as she had spoken.

"We're not..." she let out such a heavy sigh that her entire body collapsed but Bucky just grabbed her around the waist and twisted them around, lifting her lightly into the air before letting her go into a turn. "Interacting with him now is like I do with... actually I don't know. Steve maybe? But not really."

"You sayin' you ain't attracted to Stevie?" Bucky grinned at the withering look she sent his way. "You still care for him?"

"Of course I do."

"But..."

"But I don't feel like he does... in a romantic way."

"What makes you say that? How's the sex?" of course for Bucky it was all about sex. It was an important part of any relationship, as far as he was concerned.

"We haven't..."

"In how long?"

Another heavy sigh that almost worked on covering up the quiet "ever" that slipped from her lips. Bucky did not stumble but holy shit... who didn't wanna have sex with Natasha?

"Mind... umm... if I ask why?"

"He does have a condition," she smirked but it looked painful. "The farthest we've gone and he accidentally turned into the Other Guy. He wouldn't talk to me for a week after that."

"Ah," that was a tough one. "Is it based on heart rate?"

"Partially. It's complicated."

"No way around it?"

"That's the thing... I don't know and he hasn't looked."

"You know," Bucky stopped them for a moment. "I read some stuff Friday gave me about sexuality in modern day and there's this thing called asexual? It's when—"

"I know what asexual means," she glared at him.

"And he's... not?"

"I don't think so, but... he may be."

"And you?"

"Are definitely not," she suddenly seemed frustrated and turned away from him. "I'm not blaming him at all but... it's been over a year since the last time I had sex!" Bucky counted down and... fuck. Now it was just awkward (they never did talk about that night in Wakanda).

She shook her body out and turned back to him so they continued with the fluid and smooth movements of their dance. "I don't know what to do."

It sounded almost painful for her to admit that but Bucky got it. He stayed silent, not to ignore her but to think of what would be a proper response. His therapist would have said that talking about it would help. Bucky called bullshit but apparently, there was a ton of evidence to contradict him.

"Have you talked about it?"

"Anytime I've tried to bring it up, he changes the subject. We haven't been intimate in any way in months now," she sighed yet again. Bucky hated seeing her like this, unsure and frail and scared. It reminded him too much of a young girl with hair the colour of blood as she sat in the snow surrounded by bodies.

"I think... I think him going away only to come back and me not here—"

"He's completely in love with you," Bucky interrupted.

Natasha glared at him again before turning. Bucky pulled her back but she ducked under his arms for a weave of her body. "I think it's changing. He's stopped looking at me like something he wants and more like something he wants to protect."

"That's not necessarily bad."

"From himself."

"Oh," and Bucky knew he was the reason she knew what the looked like. He ducked his head in shame.

"I'll... I'll talk to him. Corner him if I have to," the playlist started from the beginning again and she pulled away. "Thanks for listening."

"I didn't do shit."

She smiled. "How're things with Tony?" Smooth change of subject.

Unfortunately, Bucky couldn't help but grin and tell her about their upcoming date.

"Tuesday?"

"Yea?"

"You have the mandatory psyche eval. next Tuesday."

"What? No! That's Thursday."

"Check your schedule."

"Fuck."

And that was the first date Bucky had to cancel.

Tony seemed completely understanding and told him he could clear out Thursday evening instead. Unfortunately, when Thursday morning rolled around, Tony had to call him and let him know that there was an emergency with the plant in Texas and he had to fly out immediately.

Saturday it was.

But Doctor fucking Doom decided that he hadn't attacked New York in a while and by the time they got back to the compound Tony was barely keeping his eyes open and all Bucky wanted to do was lock himself away from everybody else (Tony blasting those Doom bots was sexy as fuck until he ripped one of their arms out with his chest beam and Bucky had a sudden flash of pain in his shoulder).

Sunday morning greeted them with the kitchen being off limits due to one of Vision's cooking experiments having gone bad and by the time everything got sorted out Tony had to run to Rhodey's PT followed by 'bro-night' that never ever got cancelled. Bucky was only a little miffed.

Monday was super busy as Tony was needed to negotiate some contracts followed by product updates, which went well into Wednesday evening. Then Bucky got called out on Thursday with Wanda and Clint for a small dispute in northern Italy. After their second day there Steve and Natasha joined in and another week passed.

Upon his return to the compound, Bucky found out that Tony was in China for the next two weeks to personally oversee the production of their newest StarkPhone followed by some bullshit PR (though when Bucky looked online both Tony and Pepper looked stunning in the photos and videos).

Mid-way through February and they already had seven dates cancelled. Bucky had only seen Tony on the battlefield and even then, it was only that one time with the Doom bots because they were both rarely put on the same roster.

That did not mean that Bucky didn't get put on almost every single fucking time Steve!

"You said you were still looking for a hobby, at least you have something to do."

"I could have had something much nicer to do!" Bucky growled right back at Steve as his fist went through the door he was supposed to break down. Sam snickered in their earpieces.

"Get some, Barnes!"

"Shut it, bird brain!"

When they got back to the compound Bucky was wound tighter than a spring and most of it was sexual frustration (one taste of that fine ass and he couldn't stop thinking about it!) but was more pissed off that he hadn't seen or heard from Tony in days now. He went right into the shower then settled in bed with a tube of lube and a nice selection of photos scrolling across his phone screen.

It was barely seven in the morning when loud pounding on the door woke him up. He grumbled and swore but it did not stop, even when he told Friday to kill the fucker on the other side.

"I doubt you want me to do that, Sergeant Barnes. Even if I was willing to do it."

Bucky only grumbled louder before getting up and finally opening the door. He was surprised to see Tony standing there, almost frantic.

"I am fucking done!" The genius snapped and pushed past him into the room. Bucky was still trying to wake his brain up but most of the blood had decided to pool in another direction due to the pleasant dreams (courtesy of the even more pleasant thoughts the previous night).

"Wha--?" he mumbled out causing Tony to turn on the spot and stalk across the room to him.

"I escaped Pepper's evil clutches for the next two hours. Get dressed, we're going out for breakfast." When Bucky obviously didn't move fast enough for Tony the shorter man started pulling and pushing him around and towards the bathroom. "Hurry up, we gotta leave before Steve comes back and sees us."

Bucky finally made it into the shower and Tony just stalked out, closing the bathroom door behind him.

The warm water woke him up some more and then it finally registered what was happening. With a smile on his lips, he ignored his erection and washed up as quick as possible then brushed his teeth and finished the rest of his morning routine (stretches could wait). When he stepped out, Tony was sitting on the edge of his bed with phone in his hands as he typed away and there was an outfit lying beside him.

"There's this place Happy recommended last time he drove up here. It's about half an hour away but it's perfect for breakfast and they should be open by the time we get there."

"Got it."

Tony's fingers continued to move across his keypad as Bucky turned around to get his underwear. It didn't even occur for him to think anything was different than usual so he swung his towel across his shoulders as he opened the drawer to get a pair of briefs. The quick inhale behind him though had him stopping and looking over his shoulder. Tony's eyes were focused on his ass and suddenly Bucky regretted not rubbing one out in the shower.

But no. Date! They talked about this.

They had to... when Tony's eyes ran up his body and met his own Bucky could only smirk.

Fuck that.

Clearly, the genius was on the same wavelength as him (does that automatically make Bucky a genius too?) because he dropped his phone on the bed and quickly got up. The soldier barely had time to turn around before Tony was on him and he tasted coconut and coffee.

By God, Tony's taste was fucking addictive.

He reached around and got two full handfuls of that ass (even better than his memories or dreams) and used his hold to pull the shorter man right into him. Tony's gasp was worth the slight chafing he would probably get from his jeans. But why risk it?

He ran his hands around to the front and started undoing the button and zip combination. He had barely gotten the zip down when Tony shoved the towel away and his lips latched onto the side of Bucky's neck. He bit down to his collarbones and those deft fingers were running down his chest when the alarm went off.

"No," Bucky growled and pulled Tony's lips back to his. It was loud and insistent and Friday's voice over the building comms told him that Steve was asking for him (was she fucking conspiring with the little shit?).

Tony ignored it just as well and suddenly the jeans were around his knees and those deft fingers were wrapping around both their cocks as one.

"Sirs, I'm sorry to interrupt but—"

"Five minutes, Friday, common," Bucky whined even as Tony's hands sped up. The genius brought one hand up and spat in it before bringing it down to make the slider smoother.

"I'm afraid—"

"Mute," Tony ordered quickly before his lips were once more occupied.

It was the fastest orgasm of his life (not counting his first time with Sandy Hawkings behind the docks) and it ended with a bleeding lip from Tony biting him and what he was sure were going to be some truly impressive bruises on Tony's ass and hips.

"Buck! I need you on the landing pad in five!" Steve's commanding voice was, unfortunately, not connected to Friday's mute protocols. Tony seriously needed to fix that.

"Coming!" Bucky yelled back.

Tony chuckled in his hold and whispered a filthy "again, already?" against his neck.

"Don't start what you can't finish," Bucky growled and it took physical effort to pull himself away from the shorter man.

"Oh, I can finish. Problem is, you can't."

"Fuck you."

"Hmm... tempting. But I'm not a five-minute lay."

Bucky grinned even as he started pulling on his uniform. "I'll take that as a challenge."

"You do that," Tony was smiling as he picked up the towel and quickly wiped their come off Bucky's belly and cock first then his own. "But you gotta go."

"And you?"

"Steve didn't call for me."

Bucky scowled and did up his uniform pants.

"Pepper promised me Monday evening is all mine. Said she won't call me even if the tower is burning."

Bucky chuckled. "I'll call Elena and ask her to move my appointment to Tuesday. Won't change it on the schedule so Stevie doesn't get any ideas."

"Good. Monday!"

"Monday."

And then Monday came around. Once again, it was Bucky who had to cancel their date. He sent a whiny text before it was comms out from a blackout mission.

Mission w/ Steve. Blackout for 24. Msg me new date/time and I'll be there, I don't give a fuck if Thanos is back or the galaxy itself has decided to implode.

Unfortunately, though, the mission did not take 24hrs. It didn't even take 48hrs. No. It decided to be a pain in their asses and it was five days before they could call in for a pickup. They had actually finished their job early on but with all communications destroyed they had to improvise to get a pickup.

When they finally did get a pick up it was with Natasha grinning from ear to ear and Clint muttering under his breath about old men forgetting where they parked.

Steve and Bucky got in and both practically collapsed into their seats.

Once they were up in the air Steve asked Natasha for her phone.

"You two get demoted to glorified taxi drivers?"

"Cute," Clint snorted. "We were close by when Friday called and let us know you two are alive."

"Nice. Thanks," Bucky closed his eyes.

Steve finished talking to someone (sound like Sharon maybe?) and thanked Natasha. After a few long minutes of silence, Bucky felt eyes on him. He slit his own open and watched for the next few minutes as each Clint, Natasha, and Steve looked at him curiously.

"What is it?" He growled out after a moment.

"Aren't you gonna call Tony?" Natasha is the one who asked.

Shit. Bucky sucked at this thing. He hadn't even thought about calling anyone to let them know he was alive and coming home. Fuck.

"You got this Nat?"

"Yea," Natasha replied as Clint started handing off all control to the widow. "As long as you've got that."

The archer sighed as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders. "I can try, but even I can't turn a rock into a butterfly."

Bucky scowled and closed his eyes, hoping that if he ignored the archer long enough he would drop it and leave him be.

No such luck. Clint only sat down beside him and started humming that stupid fucking commercial song under his breath until Bucky was singing about auto insurance in his head.

"Fuck you want?"

"You... asked me how relationships work in the 21st century."

"And I regret it now."

"Tough luck. Here's my advice."

"Don't want it."

"Too bad."

Bucky scowled and Clint sighed.

"Look... everybody knew that you two had a date. It was on the schedule. And when it didn't happen Tony showed up at the compound. And he stayed there long enough to Pepper herself to come collect him for a few meetings. Obviously, the dude cares."

"So?"

"So...? Right now it seems like you don't give a fuck."

"I do."

"Uh huh. So why didn't you call him to tell him you're alive and coming home."

"Friday directed you to us, so he already knows."

"And what if he maybe... wanted to hear it from you?"

Bucky scoffed yet again but then he thought about it. Steve wasn't even dating Sharon (they had decided it was too weird since she was the niece of his long-lost-love) and he still called to let her know.

Steve grumbled something under his breath and crossed his arms over his chest. He was clearly not happy about this relationship at all and wanted everyone to know.

Clint looked at him with an annoyed twist to his lips before turning back to Bucky.

"But seriously... how's things between you two?"

"You really wanna know?"

"Honestly... I want to know how is he in the sack?"

Bucky stared at the archer with a raised brow. "Really? I thought you were straight."

"Eh," Clint shrugged. "I can make an exception. Plus... it's Tony Stark. Everybody wants to fuck Tony Stark," Clint said loud enough for the other two to hear.

"Clint!" Steve's warning only made the archer continue even louder.

"Natasha wants to fuck Tony Stark!"

Bucky looked over in her direction. She shrugged with one shoulder as she fixed the controls and nodded. "Yep."

"Steve wants to fuck Tony Stark!"

"What!? I... no!" Steve turned red as a tomato when the attention was on him. Clint only grinned wide before turning back to Bucky.

"I just want to know what it's like to fuck Tony Stark. Or be fucked by him. Not judging."

Bucky grinned and shook his head.

"It's fantastic."

"Buck... no..." Steve started off, his face still bright red.

"I mean, he does this thing with his tongue—"

"Not listening!" Steve suddenly shouted, brought both hands up to his ears like a child, and got up. There wasn't anywhere much for him to go except the cockpit so that's where he went.

Hopefully, the headset would keep him from hearing the rest.

"And... the other thing we talked about?" Clint was quieter now, leaning in and his expression turning more serious. "Dates? Conversations? Calls?"

Bucky shook his head. "Other than the New Year's gala we haven't been out."

"That wasn't even a date."

"I'm counting it as one otherwise it'd be even more depressin'."

"What about the one last week?"

"We got distracted," Bucky grinned at the memory, "and then interrupted," he glared at the back of Steve's head and even though the punk probably didn't hear him, he must have felt the look because he reached back to scratch at his head.

Clint snickered but then nodded. "What's happening?"

Bucky scoffed. "What's not? Have you seen his schedule? I think they're comin' out with a new product soon or somethin' cuz he's barely been in his own bed at the tower, let alone the compound."

"That why you're not calling him now? Because he was busy with work and ignored you?"

"I... no!"

"You had to skip out on a few dates too."

"For Avengers stuff!"

"Because that's your job. And guess what. Tony's is SI. And Avenging. Keep that in mind."

Bucky growled in frustration. He knew that already. He did. It was still fucking annoying and made him want to pull his hair out half the time.

"So... what's keeping you from going to the tower?"

Bucky looked at him like he was crazy. The last time he did that it was apparently pushing it too much because Tony had ignored him the entire time. But maybe... maybe this time it could work a bit better? After all... they talked about it... a bit. More than before at least, so that's gotta count for something.

"Lemme guess. You're starting to doubt you'll ever be anything more?" Bucky looked up and Clint nodded. "Look... I clearly don't have either of your experience in bed, you fucking sluts, but I'm pretty sure I got you beat in the relationship department."

"You're divorced."

"It's still too soon."

"It's going to be too soon for the next five years," Bucky rolled his eyes.

"No. I'm hoping I can get me some before that. But until then, it's still too soon." It was good that he could joke about it but Bucky wanted to let him know that he didn't have to. Not for his sake.

"Anyway! What I was saying. The longer you stay like this, the harder it will be to change it."

"Oh, and this is from your extensive relationship experience?"

For once Clint seemed to take him completely seriously and nodded. "Yea, it is," the look he sent towards the cockpit was answer enough and then it clicked.

"How long ago?"

"Fifteen years now," Clint chuckled. "Started shortly after I brought her into SHIELD and lasted a while but..." then the archer looked away. "She's the one that got away."

"She was, wasn't she," and suddenly Bucky knew he had something else to talk to the archer about that nobody else could. "But you’re close friends now?"

"Closest. But that wasn't the case until Laura gave birth to Lila."

"Fuck," that was his second child. And a few years of marriage too.

"Yea. Take it from me... some things need to be talked about."

"What," Bucky scoffed. "Sit him down with a contract and check off all my kinks?"

"Somebody's been watching bad movies," Clint grinned. "But basically, yea. Sit him down for sure, seriously... get it all out there. You need to. Talk to Elena too... she really helped me during this whole thing with Laura."

"Yea..."

"Seriously."

"What? I can't do it now, he's not here."

"No, but he's at the compound."

Bucky only raised an eyebrow, not believing the archer one bit. After a moment Clint took out his phone and showed him the same schedule that Bucky kept on him at all times. And yes, Tony was working with Rhodey and Sam for some stuff but he didn't have anything to do for at least another hours afterwards. If they stayed on schedule, that gave Bucky about an hour or so of Tony's time.

Clint held out his phone and Bucky quickly took it to send a message to Tony, asking him to wait for him to get back. The archer only grinned and turned away, not looking at the brief conversation Bucky had with the genius over the phone.

Chapter Text

It felt extremely formal, leading Tony into the sitting area (not even of his own room because he didn't have his own sitting area) and close the door behind him. There was no lock in the room, it was a fucking library, but he had made sure to tell Friday to turn all other Avengers away while they were in there. If not, Natasha and Clint were bound to help him out.

Tony moved over to one of the two wing-backed chairs that had a small round table between them. Bucky proceeded to move the table out of the way and remove any physical obstacles between them, then decided to kick the other chair a little so it was somewhat closer. If they both sat right at the edge they could touch.

"So... clearly this is important," Tony wasn't looking at him. The genius fingered some of the stitches on the back of the chair with one hand while the other was in his suit's pant pocket. Once Bucky settled down in his chair Tony walked around his own. He undid the button of his blazer and sat down as if he was fucking modelling.

"Yes. And to start off with... I have a lot to say. I would like it if you didn't interrupt me while I got this out."

Tony only nodded and crossed one leg over the other at the knee, leaning back into the opposite corner of the chair and crossing his fingers in his lap. He looked like he was about to be read the riot act.

"Look Tony. I like you. I do... But..."

"But you can't—"

"No!" Bucky snapped at Tony's interruption. "Shut up and just fucking listen, okay. Whatever you think I'm going to say ain't it. And even if it is, cuz you are fuckin' genius, just shut up and let me say it anyway."

"And what if I don't want to hear it?"

Bucky was silent at that question for so long that he noticed Tony's frame tightening and him uncrossing his legs as if he was getting ready to get up and leave.

"Then I want to ask you to please, listen anyway."

The genius didn't relax but the shift changed so that he crossed the left leg over the right instead, his entire upper body shifting from the opposite side of the chair so he was leaning in the other corner now. After a moment of silence he motioned with one hand towards Bucky then crossed his fingers in his lap again.

"I like you." Bucky stopped and stared at him pointedly. "And I don't mean all that, we're on the same team, we're friends, fuck all. I mean... that too. But more of the I want to carry you into bed and have my way with you. I want us to have mutual orgasms and see what count we can get to before we pass out from either exhaustion or dehydration. Fuck... I wanna ruin you." The light dusting of pink on Tony's cheeks only made Bucky smile.

"But not only that," he continued. "I also wanna take you out dancin'. I wanna cuddle up in front of the TV and watch bad movies. I wanna go out to dinner and not worry about anybody watchin'—" he stopped and raised a hand when Tony opened his mouth. "I know you're fine bein' seen in public with me. It ain't that... it's just... I wanna be able to say ten, twenty, even thirty years from now that fuck yea... I had this awesome guy and we had a great time together and we fell in love. And guess what... I wanna say that to you. I know that's a lot and I'm not saying that's a for sure. But what I am saying is that's my end game here. I just..."

After another long moment of silence Tony uncrossed his legs and leaned slightly forward. But at least he was being quiet, giving Bucky the time he needed to sort out the thoughts in his head. Fuck. He thought he had this planned out.

"Problem is... my therapist says I ain't ready for a relationship."

Tony's eyes were the first to shutter.

"Unfortunately, I agree with 'er."

Tony's shoulders followed and tensed up.

"Even more of a problem is... I wanna say fuck it to all that and go for it anyway," Bucky watched Tony's entire body carefully, trying to gauge what his words inspired.

"And let's add on top of that how fucked up our schedules are and how hard it is to meet, and the fact that you're worth so much more than me half-assing it through this. 'Specially when I'm askin' for so much." No changes what-so-ever. It was like talking to a statue. "I want you, by God I do. And fuck... I know it's wrong to say it but only thing I've got from you so far from all that is the sex and it's fuckin' amazin' and I definitely want more."

Bucky wasn't sure what to say after that. Tony's expression and body language had not changed one iota. He looked down at his clasped hands and noticed one of his fingers was bleeding where the meat had got caught between the plates on the other hand. Fuck, he was supposed to talk to Tony about that to get it fixed (ignoring the fact that it just happened during this mission and he hadn't even changed out of his uniform yet). He quickly brushed it away with a metal thumb.

"I think... fuck. I don't even know what I think." He grabbed his hair now and pulled on it in the hopes that it got his brain working again. "I know that I should ask we leave it and I try and work on my self and all that crap. I know that's the right thing to do, but it's also so fuckin' wrong cuz it feels like I've been stringin' ya along. That we leave it be, and come back to it when it can be something good and real. But to tell ya the truth, I never planned for this and it scares me that even with so little... it's already good and real," Bucky was slowly running out of steam but he had to get this all out there. Whatever Tony chose to do with it afterwards was on him, but Bucky had to get it out.

"That first time, at the tower..." Bucky continued and glanced up at Tony. "Before that, you were nothin' more than another guy on the team with awesome toys, genius ideas, and quite frankly a great ass and a sexy smile. And yea... I'm used to my relationships startin' with sex... but I feel like it should—like it has to be different with ya, cuz you deserve more and better and fuck... and I'm fuckin' terrified that if I ask that you give me time you're gonna agree and when I'm... better or whatever... you'll be gone. Either with someone more worth or your time or..." he looked down at the ground as fear gripped him. He wasn't used to saying all this crap out loud but Clint was clear. And more importantly, he was right.

When he looked up Tony was leaning towards him with one hand twitching in his lap.

"I ain't ever gonna ask ya to wait for me. But emotionally... romantically? I ain't all there."

After a very long moment of silence Bucky realized that Tony was waiting for more. But he was done. There was nothing more to say that he hadn't already. Nothing he could think of right now anyway. Any future talking would be based on Tony's responses. So he looked up, tried on a smile for size, and then motioned to Tony the same way the genius had motioned to him earlier.

"So then... sex. We keep it at just sex. Until you... get better."

The fact that that was Tony's first suggestion almost broke Bucky right then and there.

"It will be so much easier," Bucky noticed Tony's entire body language closing off and that was it, door fucking closed in his face, "but nothing worth it is ever easy."

Tony's face was still hard, his body was stiff, the white of his fingers betrayed how tightly he was clenching them but... there was a spark of hope in his eyes.

"And you think I'm worth it." It wasn't framed like a question but Bucky took it as one.

He didn't step closer, didn't throw on that charming grin, didn't touch and kiss and lick and bite like he wanted to... because that was easy. It was so much harder to look Tony in the eye and nod, to open his mouth and say: "I do".

They stayed like that for what felt like eons. Tony's responses weren't really enough to get Bucky saying more. He needed more from Tony. After a moment he glanced down at his hands, took a deep breath, and finally leaned back in the chair.

"Tell me what you're thinkin'," Bucky almost whispered the words.

Tony looked startled at that, glanced away, then bit his lip and nodded slowly.

"I'm thinking... that I'm not sure if I'm worth all this trouble."

"I—"

"My turn!" Tony cut off Bucky's interruption before it could even start. His eyes were hard as they narrowed down on Bucky. After a long moment the soldier motioned and kept his mouth closed.

"Thank you. I'm thinking that even if I was worth it, I'm not sure if it... this... us... I'm not sure what we could, potentially, have is worth it." That fucking hurt. "You say time apart, working on yourself, may make it better? Well guess what, you're not the only one that feels like they need to fix something." Once again Bucky was ready to interrupt but Tony only had to glare at him before he got the message. He reached out and rested his hands on the arms of the chair.

"I told you before that... I don't do men. Not anymore. To me men is... it's sex: it's giving the tabloids something to talk about; it's another drop in the SI stocks; it's fun and no strings attached. It's Howard breaking my arm and Maria telling me it's just a phase." All of those hurt but the last one was like a punch to the gut.

"I don't know how to be in a relationship with a man. I thought once, long ago, that I was in one but I was so wrong."

The silence was long enough and Bucky couldn't keep his mouth shut so he whispered out "Tiberius Stone?"

Tony chuckled and looked away. "See you’ve become friends with Google."

"Natasha, actually."

Tony only nodded then looked back at him. "Neither Google nor Natasha know the truth. It was bad. It was a young boy falling in love only to find out that the other guy preferred pussy anyway and thought he could whore me out." Bucky was fuming at this point and was already planning on contacting Natasha for a side mission. "I'm not saying that's you, never. But that's all I know."

And now Tony seemed unsure. "If you want..." and it looked like whatever he was going to say next actually physically hurt him, "I don't mind if we both take some time..." he glanced up and his face almost looked panicked "...for a bit. Not... I mean. I definitely need to think over the whole... thirty years from now deal."

Bucky only nodded slowly. It was better than nothing.

"I like you too," Tony added in after a moment and this time when he leaned forward, legs apart, elbows resting on his knees, he was smiling. He reached one hand out and Bucky released the arm of the chair to reach out for him. As soon as their fingers touched Bucky leaned forward until he was cradling both of Tony's hands in his own. "And you're right."

Not sure what about but... okay?

"I think that... this is a lot. And I want to be all there for you, as you want to for me. But I need time to... get in that mindset if you will. I'm not saying I can change my way of thinking overnight and I will definitely have problems in the future but... I want to try."

"Just, not right now?"

"We can start now... stick with what we know for now, but... I think we're both too... how did Pepper put it that one time?... emotionally open? I don't know. I just... there's too much going on in my head right now," and it didn't sound like a no but it was definitely not a yes. "But the thing that stands out the most right now is that yes, I want to try."

"Okay."

"Okay."

"Yes."

"Yes, you dumbass." Tony grinned and turned his hands over so he was holding Bucky's own in turn. "And if you tell anybody about this conversation—"

"I'll kill you," it was as if the Winter Soldier was speaking.

Both of them grinned and looked away for a moment. It was good. It was something. Stick with what they know. Bucky wouldn't push Tony for more until the genius was ready and in turn Tony wouldn't... wait... what did that mean?

"Where does that leave us?" Bucky questioned, back to serious. "I just... I hate doing this but I need at least some clear lines. As in... are we stepping out, exclusive, just a fuck...?"

"Well... I think we both know what we want and I have to admit... it will be quite hard to keep my hands to myself around you," Bucky grinned only lightly, "and only you," and the grin only widened when Tony added that. "I guess... we'll just keep talking."

"Yea."

"Keep trying to go on that first date."

"Second," Bucky scowled.

"Whatever," Tony brushed off with a smile.

"And if I push too much, you tell me."

"And if I pull too much, you tell me."

"And we..." Bucky cleared his throat as he felt a blush rising once more, "we actually do more than fuck. Not saying we stop that but just..."

"Yea," Tony nodded in agreement "keep our options open. To one another," he quickly amended, "not other people," Bucky grinned wide and nodded but it seemed like Tony was already distracted, his eyes focusing on Bucky's lips. He licked them just to be sure and watched the genius' pupils dilate.

It was better than something. There was just... one more thing. Bucky felt himself tense up as he thought it and Tony responded on automatic, worried eyes shooting up to his quickly.

"I just..." Bucky cleared his throat, let go of the hands, and leaned back in the chair. "There's just one more thing I gotta know."

"Sure." But Tony didn't seem so sure.

"Your... your parents," when the soldier looked back Tony's face changed to one of surprise before slowly shuttering down again, drawing walls and defences so high that Bucky was never sure how (if at all) he got through them before. "I gotta know..." but how do you word that? Do you still blame me? Do you have even the smallest smidgen of regret? How does it feel to sleep with your parents' murderer?

Tony looked away and then followed Bucky's example by leaning back in his chair. He brought a hand up to his lips, brushed at his beard, and then cleared his throat.

"I don't know. I mean... logically... I know it wasn't you. I know..." and Tony trailed off, his eyes glazing over as he stared in the corner and it seemed like he would never continue.

"I think," Bucky started carefully, causing those eyes to focus once more, "that's one of the things you really gotta think about. It's not something small and last thing I want is to have an argument where you use that against me."

Tony's eyes snapped back to him so quick and sharp that it caught the soldier off guard. After a moment though he sighed and closed his eyes.

"Yea. Yea, that does sound like something I'd do."

"I never—"

"No," Tony interrupted. "I get what happened. I read your files, I saw the videos, I saw... I saw what a wiping session was. I get that it wasn't you. I meant it when I said it. But..."

"Knowing is not the same as feeling it."

Tony nodded.

Then Bucky had a horrible thought. It must have shown on his face because when Tony looked at him again it made the soldier wince.

"Ask now, rather than when we get in a fight."

Bucky nodded. "So... does that mean that... there really wasn't a chance for anything more than sex?"

And Tony's expression was answer enough. But Bucky didn't get mad. Instead he nodded and felt resignation wash over him.

"But you know..." and Tony seemed chipper for some reason. "After that proposal that was basically just missing a ring, I think I may be open to other things on the table too." He grinned lightly, leaned forward again, and smiled. "I mean... I need to think about it. Being in a serious relationship, with anybody, not specifically a man or even you, it will affect a lot more people than are usually involved in a marriage."

How is it that Bucky had lived through (kind of) a world war, being brainwashed, becoming an assassin, being kept frozen for more than half his life, and yet was still able to blush at such a simple statement that didn't even involve genitals or bodily fluids?

"But sex stays on it?" he tried to will the blush away. "The table, I mean."

"Oh, sex is definitely still on it. Especially on the table," the grin was downright filthy now. After a quick moment though it turned into a wince, "as long as we can actually find the time..."

"Like now?" Bucky nodded and his eyes glazed over. Fuck... he couldn't live with just a taste. He needed to gorge himself out on Tony. "So we can just..."

"Yea," and nothing else was needed for Tony to cross the distance between them and clamber into Bucky's lap. His mouth tasted fantastic and then...

The loud pounding on the door made both men groan and pull away.

"Friday?" Bucky almost whined.

"Sorry, Sergeant. But Thor said the convoy is due to arrive." the AI replied almost gleefully. "Should I tell him you changed your mind about being part of the welcoming party?"

Bucky was stuck. There Tony was, sitting in his lap (though it did look uncomfortable with the style of the chair) with lips red and wet, and a gleam in his eyes that promised sin. And it had only been a week since Bucky had seen him last in a similar situation... but he had duties, although a quick hand job again, but he'd promised Thor months ago, but it's been so long...

Tony must have noticed his indecisiveness and chuckled. "I need to head out anyway."

Bucky groaned and dropped his head back, hitting it as hard as he could against the cushions and gripping Tony's hips hard when he felt the man shift away. "Why is this our lives?"

Tony grinned and leaned forward to place a quick peck on Bucky's lips. "It's called being a hero. Apparently, it involves sacrificing all aspects of your personal life for the good of others."

Bucky hit his head back a few more times and tightened his grip on the genius in his lap. "I'm seriously thinkin' of turnin' villain."

"Please don't. Steve will blame me."

"Not if you join me."

"No, he'll still find some way to say it was my fault."

"It's Steve's fuckin' fault. I will fuckin' die from blue balls!"

Tony only laughed before he placed both hands on Bucky's chest and pushed. Bucky let go (that beautiful ass that filled out both flesh and metal palms was gone!) and Tony got up.

"Talk to Steve."

"He's sabotaging me. I know it. I'm just tryin' ta figure out who's helpin' 'im out."

"Clint?"

Bucky got up and brushed his hair back even as Tony did up the button on his blazer. "Naah, he's on my side."

Tony raised an eyebrow at that.

"Long story, I'll tell you later. But before you ask, I got me a twin set, so Natasha should be helpin' me out too."

Tony smirked. "Natasha gave up on helping anybody with their love lives when she failed to get Steve a date."

"So that's what it is," Bucky opened the door to a smiling Thor, "he's just cock-blockin' me cuz he ain't gettin' some."

Tony shrugged and looked towards Thor. "Hey, point break. Am I needed?"

"Boss, you have a meeting with the head of finances and need to get going."

"Apparently not, man of iron," Thor clapped a hand on Tony's shoulder. "But I will be needing the Sergeant to help me out."

"Got it," Tony turned back to Bucky with a smile. "Friday, clear out my schedule for tomorrow evening."

"Can’t boss. Miss Potts said you can't miss out on another meeting with the R&D team. But I can clear out Thursday evening for you."

"Do it," he smirked and turned to walk away.

"Wait... what happened to... some time apart?" Bucky asked.

"Do you know how far away Thursday is?" Tony grinned and turned the corner.

Bucky found it very hard to wipe the grin off his face even when his eyes finally focused on Thor.

"I see you have reconciled! That is good news," Bucky just raised an eyebrow, confusion written all over his features. "You talk a lot when you drink."

"Ah."

"Yes. Though I do have to admit," and Thor turned back to where Tony had disappeared to with a slight grin on his lips that looked almost smug, "I am not sure I believe you about that mole you mentioned. I must see it for myself."

"Thor!" The Asgardian just laughed.

"I jest, my friend. I jest."

"So, convoy's landing soon?" Bucky asked and tried to shake all the emotions off his body like water to get down to business.

"Aye, Loki just informed me they have passed the belt of meteors and should be here within half of an hour."

"Loki? You mean the guy that almost destroyed New York? That Loki?"

"I mean my brother who helped me save my people, that Loki."

It was kind of obvious now why Thor asked him (without really asking) to come and be part of the welcoming party for his brother. The original Avengers all knew and hated the guy, still wary of him no matter how many promises Thor made. Wanda was probably off hiding somewhere (apparently there had been a conversation between her and Thor where Thor called her a baby with the powers of a newborn compared to his brother) as far as Bucky was aware the rest of the new Avengers were out on a call.

Bucky sighed and nodded. He needed other shit to do anyway. "Let me get cleaned up and changed."

"Aye. I was just about to suggest that," when Thor motioned to his neck Bucky reached up and his hand came away with dried flakes of blood.

"Fifteen minutes, tops," which, unfortunately, Thor took that as an invitation to follow him to his rooms and then proceeded to repeat the story (yet again! Bucky's heard it over a dozen times already) as to how brave and selfless that little shit of a brother of his was to help save their people from their older sister.

Once Bucky was out of the bathroom (having brought his clothes in because even though Thor was no Tony, there was no reason to tempt the guy with his sexy bod) Thor was just getting to the part where the Hulk had been battling a giant wolf. Bucky still didn't believe him on that one.

"So, how long do they plan to be here for?" Bucky tried to change the subject.

"Just a while. Though I was hoping Tony could join us as I was told there were some malfunctions on the ship."

"Let me take a look," Bucky spoke as he followed Thor towards the back entrance of the compound, the one that lead to a large field of green that was apparently going to be used to host what was left of Thor's people for a few weeks while they refuel, resupply, and look for a new place to settle.

At Thor's raised brow Bucky shrugged. "I may not be Tony but I can work a wrench. If anything, I can help with the small problems."

"Busy hands keep busy minds."

Bucky smiled and nodded. That they did.

Chapter Text

Somehow, over the next month, things at the compound started to gel and Bucky got his proper fucking date with Tony. It was a quick breakfast meal in a drive-by diner on the way to the compound, but it was nice and sweet and completely casual. Too casual even. It felt like going for food with Steve.

There wasn't even a blowie on the road.

But Bucky brushed it off, picked up his tablet when he arrived and locked himself in his room to continue his scheming.

Two days later Bucky, Clint, and Natasha took over one of the open spaces near the kitchen and converted it to a full out living room with sofas, chairs, fuzzy blankets and even fuzzier pillows, a coffee table, side tables, lamps, and a fucking epic home theatre system that wasn't even out on the market yet courtesy of one Tony Stark (though the bastard laughed for a solid five minutes on the phone with them when they had trouble hooking it up. Clint had hung up on him but when he called back an hour later the genius was laughing again). Once they got it set up though, Tony made sure to go over the problems more seriously ("there are consumers that may buy this and have an IQ below 100", Clint had hung up on him again).

The first night they had a movie night together, Sam joined them halfway through the second Indiana Jones and spent the rest of the evening arguing with Natasha on who made a sexier Jones father (Bucky was solidly on team Sean Connery even though Harrison Ford did have something going for him).

Then it became less of a movie night (because even though Steve gave Bucky less missions, he was still busy and they couldn't do too many nights together) and more of a "hey, there's a bunch of us and I haven't seen this yet!" moment.

Rhodey joined them when he found out they were watching Star Trek with a mumbled whisper that Tony never let him watch it around him. This led to yet another argument of Star Trek versus Star Wars and Bucky finally found out why there were over nine movies out.

Steve joined them for the first one.

They were just starting the second one when Tony dropped by to pick up Bucky for their date (Steve staring at the screen with a scowl and arms crossed) but got distracted when he realized they were watching the movies in episode order. The argument that followed made them miss their reservation and instead sit with Steve (who used a call for a mission as an excuse to leave), Rhodey (who didn't stop complaining after the third time he caught Bucky kissing Tony's neck), Sam (who had agreed completely with Tony on the order and forced them to start watching the series again starting with Episode IV), and Vision (who watched the screen entranced).

Tony fell asleep halfway through Episode V and both Clint and Natasha were back at the compound just in time to watch the great reveal of Luke's father. It was like they fucking timed it (Clint did the dramatic "nooo" yell at the exact same time as on-screen while he waltzed into the room).

Steve didn't come back.

When the sixth episode ended Bucky decided to take the genius to bed. Unfortunately for him, Tony shot up when Bucky started moving.

"I gotta go."

"Where?" Bucky scoffed. "It's one am."

"Early meetings tomorrow, need to prep. G'night," and he was out in a whirlwind before Bucky could even get off the sofa let alone demand a goodbye kiss.

"What's his deal?" Scott questioned and turned to Bucky.

Bucky just shrugged but when he looked over the others Clint was giving him a raised brow that almost matched Natasha's.

"I'm going to call it a night," Rhodey spoke up to break the silence and groaned when he tried to get up (the braces were much smaller but still visible over his jeans and Bucky easily heard the mechanism whirling to life as the pilot moved). Before he could fall back down though, Sam was there and balancing him. "I can do it," the older pilot snapped so quietly that Sam and Bucky were probably the only two who heard him.

"I know you can, doesn't mean you have to," Sam replied and after a silent staring match the two left the room as well.

"We should make this a regular thing," Natasha spoke up to draw attention away from them and got up to start clearing out all the crap that had accumulated in the room while they watched movies.

"It's starting to get there. But we should make it mandatory. Team building and shit," Clint nodded in agreement.

"No, seriously. What's up with everybody?" Scott questioned again and looked at the remaining occupants. "Since when is this a team again?"

At Bucky's sharp glare (probably mirrored by the spy-twins) Scott only gulped and raised both hands as if to show he was defenceless. After a moment though Bucky sighed.

"Of course everybody fuckin' noticed."

"Kind of hard to miss it, actually," Clint nodded along. "I guess Wanda's up to me?"

"You did have some great rapport with her," Natasha nodded.

"Which leaves you with Steve," the archer pointed at Bucky and completely ignored his grimace of pain, "and you with Bruce," which only brought on that blank and expressionless face again.

"Is this... no seriously. Can anybody answer my question?"

"It seems that Sergeant Barnes had a plan," Vision was the one who spoke up as he walked into the room (he had left halfway through one of the movies when Wanda walked past the room and stormed away) and started helping with clean up. "Miss Romanova and Mr Barton decided to join him in helping bring the team back together."

"You think there's a chance to get all of us into a proper team?" At the multiple glares he received, Scott once again raised his hands. "Hey, I'm all down for that. Didn't like fighting one of my heroes anyway."

"Heroes?"

"Yea. And it's beyond fucking uncomfortable around here."

"Wait, wait, go back to heroes. I was on your team," Clint grouched.

Scott's eyes widened and glanced over at Natasha so quick that Bucky almost missed it. He grinned, Natasha looked smug, and Clint just groaned. "It's cuz of the red hair, isn't it?"

"Maybe cuz of the carpet, doubt it's cuz of the drapes," Bucky laughed when he looked at Clint and the archer grinned knowingly.

"Boys," Natasha rolled her eyes before leaving the area with some collected bottles and glasses. Bucky only grinned. If he made that joke about anybody else (male or female) he probably would have gotten either shot or stabbed. Good thing Natasha liked him. And Clint since the archer had somehow survived over fifteen years around her with that personality.

"So... any way I can help?" Scott asked after a moment.

"You can bring around Hope for the next movie night, if you want," Clint shrugged. "The most important right now is to get Bruce and Wanda in the same room or Steve and Tony actually talking to one another instead of at."

Scott grimaced and nodded. Natasha came back with a large bin bag and both Vision and Clint started piling crap in it (who had even gotten the pizza? And why didn't Bucky have any of it!?).

"Maybe you can bring around Kate?" Bucky mentioned as he went through the (admittedly simple) process of turning off the theatre system. He didn't really have much to do but Natasha's face earlier... he needed to stay behind and talk to her.

"Yea, as if she'd like hanging out with a bunch of people her parents' age."

"Hangs out with you, doesn't she?" Clint flipped him the bird before taking the bin bag from Natasha.

Clearly the archer had noticed something too because he dropped the closed bag right in Scott's lap and raised a brow. The man sighed but called out a quick goodnight before he left.

"Maybe, I could talk to Wanda for you, Mr Barton." Vision spoke up.

"Can you?" Clint raised an eyebrow then shook his head. "Yea, you do that. Let me know if you figure out why she's still avoiding both Bruce and Tony like the plague."

Vision nodded, said his own good nights, and phased right through the floor.

Bucky just shook his head. It still creeped him out sometimes when the android (synthezoid?) did that. Natasha looked ready to slip out but suddenly Clint was in her way.

"Kitchen or balcony?"

"We have a balcony?" Bucky questioned. At the twin looks of horror he received he realized he should have kept his mouth shut.

"Take him to the balcony, I'll stop by the kitchen," Clint ordered without looking at Natasha.

They did have a balcony. The reason why Bucky had never been to it is because he had to go through the lab (Tony's original space) that was converted into a hanger (when Steve took on a few new Avengers) and Bucky had never had reason to be there other than team training. And it was less of a balcony and more of a wide edge off the roof, which, nevertheless, had two lawn chairs already sitting and waiting.

Bucky dropped in one with sprawl and Natasha took over the other one with a sigh. She remained stubbornly silent until Clint showed up with a few bottles of vodka in his hands.

"So," Clint started as he dropped down between Bucky's spread legs on his lounge chair. "Which one of you do we start with first?" he hadn't even bothered with glasses when he passed one of the bottles over to Natasha and the other to Bucky. He kept the third in his hand and the fourth at his feet.

Bucky motioned to the widow as he cracked the top open on his bottle and took a swig. He never had been a fan of vodka but... he was part Russian now, right?

Natasha threw out one of those heavy sighs again even as she opened her own bottle. "Do either of you think it's strange that I've slept with both of you and am about to talk to you about having a relationship that did not involve sex?"

Bucky shrugged. Clint looked back at the soldier then shrugged as well.

"Been there," Bucky tilted his bottle towards Clint.

"Done that," Clint hit his own against it lightly and smirked.

Natasha glared at them and threw her bottle cap right between Clint's eyes. Good thing she didn't have any other projectiles on her (that were not going to kill Bucky when she threw them).

"And you both got the fucking t-shirt. Congratulations."

Still, they waited in silence and after a while it was well deserved.

"We decided to stay friends."

Clint grimaced but nodded. Bucky drank more.

"How friends is... friends?" stupid question and could have been asked better, but Clint had the right idea.

"We have our usual yoga session tomorrow morning."

"When did you talk?" Bucky questioned instead.

"About a week or two ago."

"And..." Bucky continued and leaned slightly forward as he brought one leg up. Clint used that leg to lean his side against it. "How are you doing?"

Natasha shrugged but after a moment she spoke again, "I thought he would be able to look past all the red in my ledger. I never thought it would be his own that he couldn't get over."

"And that's it, you're done?" Clint questioned but not harshly.

She nodded slowly. "Yea. We talked. A lot. He never wanted to be part of the Avengers anyway. Told me he spoke to Tony and... let's just say that it doesn't matter what country signed the Accords or not, Tony can get him to retire anywhere he wants."

That seemed to actually shock both sharpshooters.

"He's leaving us?"

"Not yet. But, yea. I mean, both him and Tony are getting up there with the ages."

Bucky scoffed at that but after a glance from the other two he almost felt attacked.

"You and Steve don't count," Natasha snapped.

"Neither do you," Clint pointed at her.

And Bucky was honestly surprised by that one. He knew the timelines in his head were still a little messed up, but he also knew what the Black Widow program did to their recruits. The fact that Clint did when Steve obviously didn't (Bucky hadn’t stopped laughing when Steve told him the story of kissing Natasha, but what had stood out the most is when Steve had claimed she was "a fucking kid, Buck. She's what, our age when we joined the war?") only made him have even more grudging respect for the archer.

He definitely wanted them both on his team. Always.

"Which reminds me!" Natasha suddenly perked up, "what are you guys getting Tony for his birthday? It's the big five-oh coming up."

Bucky groaned.

"Smooth change of topic," the archer grinned. "We still have, what, two months?"

"Before that. I'm man enough to admit that I need help with Steve."

"Ah," and the two assassins both took long swigs from their bottles, almost as if they were trying to escape the situation all together.

Steve was... Steve required more than the four bottles of vodka Clint had brought up. So instead, they decided to scheme some other plans and next thing Bucky knew, he had been roped into joining tomorrow's yoga session where Clint would also bring Wanda.

Lucky bastard of an archer though, Clint volunteered for a mission in the middle of the night with Sam and Steve, leaving Bucky alone to go collect the witch. On the bright side, at least Vision informed him that he talked with Wanda and while she didn't outright say it, she seemed open to mending relationships. That gave Bucky all the push he needed.

"What?" Wanda immediately snapped when she opened her door to him.

"Yea, okay. Shut the fuck up and don't snap at me like I ate your fuckin' grandmother or somethin'," Bucky snapped right back. At her surprised expression he actually thought over what he said and groaned. "I'm hungover, sue me." Yes, Bucky found out that he could get hungover even if he couldn't get drunk. Dehydration was still a thing for him... unfortunately. But that vodka started tasting really good when Clint was holding the bottle against his lips with a smirk and the opening was still wet with Natasha's drunken giggle.

"I wouldn't have to if you'd leave me alone."

Bucky slammed a hand against the door as she went to close it.

"This is your space, I will not invade. But I think you can have some courtesy for your elders and at least hear me out," the spark of red from her hands made the servos in his metal arm whine and after a long moment of glaring at one another, she sighed. The light stopped and Bucky relaxed.

"I know what you’re trying to do. Everybody does," the young witch sighed and let go of the door but did not move to invite Bucky in. He wouldn't have any way. It was completely her space and she needed to know that he would never make her feel unsafe in her home.

"So why are you fighting it? How do you plan on being here, with us, as an Avenger?"

She raised a brow as if the question caught her off guard and after a long moment she crossed her arms over her chest. "There is nowhere else for me to go."

"That the only reason you're staying?" She was silent for so long that Bucky actually raised a hand to rub at the bridge of his nose. "Why do you hate Bruce?"

"I don't. He's uncomfortable around me and my powers so I give him space."

Bucky scoffed but relented. "So if he said he was fine with it, will you join us for yoga in about half an hour?" and now he knew what surprise actually looked like on her features.

"Did he say that?"

"He won't unless you ask," the scowl was back on her pixie-like face.

"And you? I know it's weird for you with the whole, HYDRA and mind-control thing."

"I'm here and I'm askin', ain't I?"

Wanda started chewing on her bottom lip and the crossed arms started looking less like anger and defiance and more like she was hugging herself.

"Why do you hate Tony?"

"He killed my parents."

"And I killed his."

"But I don't want to shove my tongue down his throat."

Bucky smirked wide and she only scowled deeper, her hands tightening in front of her chest as she looked away. "You don't actually hate him, do you?" she was silent for so long that Bucky had to drop the smirk and wave slightly to draw her eyes back to him.

"Look. The first step is always the hardest. Thing is, both of them think you hate their guts so they're never gonna make it for fear of encroaching on your territory or makin' you feel like you have to answer."

"The same way you are now?"

"Yes. You see, I respect you as a member of the team, but it ain't a team unless we all communicate. And if it ain't a team, you ain't a member, and long story short, no reason for me to respect either you or your space. As far as I am aware, this is your home and, hopefully, it will be for the next few years at least. I wanna make it so nobody feels uncomfortable in their own home," he sighed out heavily and looked away before turning back to her, "plus, I'm too pretty to die on the battlefield so early."

The joke worked and made one corner of her lips twitch but then she focused on him again. "So what? You want us to sit down around a fire and sing kumbaya?"

"I was thinking you join us to finish off the Star Wars marathon we started."

"That's all you want from me?"

"And join us for yoga, otherwise Nat will have my balls."

"I'll think about it."

"Thanks. For listening." Bucky walked away feeling like at least the first step was taken. Now it was up to the young witch herself to breach the gaps she created.

When Bucky showed up in the gym, Bruce didn't seem surprised and was already rolling out an extra mat beside his own. By the time he sat down at the mat though, Bruce's face morphed into one of pleasant surprise when Wanda walked in.

Bucky quickly got up from his mat and motioned it to her before he got up and set a new one right beside Natasha.

At least the stretches were easy, similar to his morning routine. When Bruce suggested they do some partner work, Bucky immediately picked Natasha as his partner and tried to tune out the soft conversation happening behind his back while Natasha tried to bend him into a fucking pretzel. On the bright side, his hangover was gone and his entire body was completely loose and relaxed, up until that final combination of stretches where something got pulled in his left shoulder and the servos in his arm whined. He ignored it to finish up the final two poses even though it was actually starting to hurt.

What surprised him most though was that Natasha quickly pulled him out of the gym and he only glanced back to see Wanda helping Bruce put their mats away.

Natasha pulled him right into their new living room area and pushed him to sit down, coming back a moment later with a hot pack that she dropped on his shoulder and sitting beside him. "You trust me enough to take a look?"

"Yea, go for it," he mumbled and turned away even as he opened one of the smaller plates on the side of his bicep with a nail to get a small tool kit out. Natasha took it quickly and proceeded to start opening additional panels around his shoulder.

"I think you should get Tony to look at it, but I swear I heard something buzzing in there while you were doing downward dog."

"I probably should. I have one plate bent on the palm as well, but he's always so busy that..."

"Friday, when is Tony next coming to the compound?"

The silence was long enough for both to start worrying.

"He said it would be two weeks from now, at the earliest."

"Why so late? He hasn't been by for a few days now."

"Boss was just at the compound. He left a few minutes ago," and Bucky would always be impressed by how human Tony's creation seemed, especially when Friday huffed out her response as if she was miffed.

But once the words registered, it wasn't only a buzzing but also a slight spark that shot out from the open panel at his shoulder. He closed his eyes and forced himself to relax.

"What did he come for?"

"Apparently it was to surprise you. I told him you were in the gym and shortly after that he said he had to get back to the tower. He took one of the suits even."

Bucky reached around behind him, trying not to move too much to distract Natasha, but he knew (because he both watched and helped) what she had stored around the living room. He got the small comm device easily and put it in his ear. "Patch me through to him, Friday."

After a long moment of silence he realized that Tony was, once again, ignoring him. It fucking stung. Everything had finally started to work out between them. Was he pushing too much? But no, it was Tony that came to the compound to see him.

Once Natasha closed the panel she smiled, dropped a kiss on his cheek, and walked out the room to give him some privacy.

"Friday, can you send a voice message to Tony, please?"

"Yes, Sergeant. Go ahead."

"Hey, babe, just heard you dropped by but had to leave quick. Everything okay? Please... don't ignore me again. We decided we were gonna talk about this shit so, let's talk. Yea, that's it," helpfully, Friday sent the message without replaying it and giving Bucky a chance to change his mind.

Bucky then returned the comm unit to the side table and went to his own room. When he left the shower, he noticed a text from Tony.

Need some time. Talk later. Promise.

It was better than before, that's for sure.

But when three days passed by with no contact, Bucky started to get irrationally pissed off again. He scheduled another extra appointment with his therapist and then just spent the entire hour ranting and complaining.

Elena just rolled her eyes at one point, told him he was justified at feeling that way but not in the way he was responding, and urged him to talk to Tony again. Bucky sent a message to Tony. He spent over half an hour trying to compose it and it finally turned out:

Hey. Miss you.

Tony didn't respond for another day and then, out of nowhere:

Wanda called me and asked to meet up. Saw what you did there. Good job.

Bucky called Tony's number as soon as he saw the message. When Tony ignored him (he had just sent the message like five seconds ago!) he actually snapped his phone in the metal hand.

Chapter Text

It did not display more prominently than anything else on the calendar, but when Bucky saw it on the wall he felt a swell of pride.

Peter's graduation!

That boy was amazing and apparently got early admission to MIT. Bucky wanted to be there for him, but it was going to be hard enough to explain why Tony Stark was at a high school graduation let alone multiple other Avengers.

So instead, Bucky talked to Natasha, annoyed Clint, mentioned it to Rhodey and Sam, and finally worked up the courage. He cornered Steve in the gym's changing room.

"Hey, Buck. What's up?"

"Peter's graduation is two days from now."

"Oh yeah, Rhodey was talking about it the other day. Sorry, Buck, but we can't go—"

"I know, punk, that's not why I'm here."

Steve stopped drying his hair and turned to his friend.

"Look, you've been avoiding us for movie nights too... but we need to become a fucking team. Even if you hate Tony—"

"I don't hate Tony."

Bucky glared him into silence.

"Even if you and Tony disagree on shit, I don't give a fuck. This is a huge thing. I never finished high school Stevie and not only did this kid do it, he did it while being a superhero on the side and interning at SI. Not only that, but he got early admission and a scholarship to MIT. You know MIT? Cuz I didn't think it was such a big deal until Rhodey started telling me all the stories when him and Tony first met."

Steve remained stubbornly silent.

"I know you were pissed off as fuck when you found out the kid's age, but come on... let's throw him a proper fuckin' party. I already talked to the others and they're in, but it's up to you if you're gonna have us running around the world or sitting down to actually bond as a fuckin' team."

"I don’t—"

"Before you answer I want you to remember one thing... who was there for you when I fell?" it was shitty to pull this card on him but maybe he'd get it. "Cuz, believe it or not, I'm not invincible. None of us are. And if something were to happen to me, I wanna know who's gonna be there for you. And if something happens to one of the others, I wanna know you're gonna be there for me. Cuz I'm starting to love these people as much as I loved the Howlies, Stevie."

He turned around and left before Steve's expression could register or the punk could say anything. It was mean, he knew it, but Steve had been acting like a fucking child recently. Even before things started falling apart with Tony again (seriously, three conversations in the past month and all of them were less than five minutes before Tony was making some bullshit excuse to hang up!) Steve had only been interacting with the team on a professional level.

There was only so much of Captain America the team could take. They needed to wind down. Maybe Steve thought he didn't, but even he could get mental exhaustion. And constantly going on missions (Bucky's own had slowed down but he still went out four days out of seven) was draining on all of them.

T'Challa was due back at the compound for a few days in the summer months. Bucky had already talked to the King and, as far as he was aware, the other man agreed with his assessment and had started working on some fixes for the Accords. Now Bucky just had to get Steve to agree. Because yes, they worked under the Accords but there was only so much they could do, even the meta humans on the team. They needed more breaks and less work and definitely less "illegal crossing of the North Korean border" to deal with. That wasn't even close to what the Avengers were meant for.

A few days later and the party was on!

By the time Friday informed him that Peter and Tony were twenty minutes out, the pizza had been ordered and the second fridge was half-filled with beers to chill. Hope and Sharon had shown up together and even Wanda had come out of her room (she was just standing around the kitchen while Vision made the most complicated sandwich known to man).

Steve was still at the gym but he had personally asked for one day off for all the Avengers so that was something.

And then they arrived.

It was good to see Tony, even if the older man practically ignored him as he steered Peter inside the compound. Food and drinks followed ("just because you graduated didn't mean you got alcohol" Steve had muttered and Bucky had poured some of his beer in Peter's glass – the kid made a face and gave him the glass) along with congratulations all around. Peter spent a good two hours talking excitedly about going to school and how happy he was that Ned was going with him. At some point some MJ girl got mentioned but Bucky had tuned out when he realized somebody had put a movie on.

After a while, the conversation drifted away from him but he kept track of all members of his team (they were gonna be a fucking team by the end of this and that was it!) and made sure to know where they were.

Tony left for the kitchen with Bruce and Peter while talking about numbers and letters. What even is math in the 21st century!? Bucky was a sniper, he knew his math and calculations and he knew that you didn't need a fucking squiggly S (Bruce had just said the name but it already escaped him) in order to calculate if he can hit his target or not.

Fuck that.

The living room area had no walls so Bucky could easily see the geniuses in the kitchen (and fuck, it was a bit of an ego drop that Peter was sitting there with Tony and Bruce) as they talked. Rhodey then decided to make his way over, muttering something about teaching the kid what to actually expect of MIT and none of the crap Tony sprouted, and Sam had joined in shortly afterwards (Bucky completely missed it when the two pilots got over their shit! It was good and less for him to deal with, but it still caught him by surprise!) so he could listen in and weigh in his own experiences at university.

Without even realizing it, Bucky turned his body so he could listen in on their conversation with one ear even as he turned back to the movie playing. At least Steve hadn't decided to fuck off to nowhere. Though that may be in large part due to Sharon sitting there and looking like she was thoroughly enjoying the most recent Middle Earth movie while talking with Hope and Scott.

Wanda was also being... well... she was a work in progress but whatever conversation here and Tony had definitely helped. She had even pushed his coffee mug towards the genius earlier. Vision seemed the most satisfied out of all of them even if he was completely entranced by the movie; his mouth was open and eyes slightly wide, and every now and then he would turn towards Wanda as if to ask her something. Then he seemed to remember something, snap his mouth closed, and turn back to the screen. Wanda noticed it though and the last few times Bucky caught the interaction he also noticed her placing a hand on his shoulder, arm, or even thigh and she clearly said something to him even though Bucky couldn't hear it.

This was good.

This was amazing.

It was better than he had hoped.

Clearly everybody just needed a push, needed somebody to take that first step. They fit together, a bunch of broken people that lined their sides perfectly. The problem was that at the center of their break were Steve and Tony. And that one didn't look like it would get fixed any time soon.

Bucky sighed heavily. Steve glanced at him and motioned as if to ask him what's up. Bucky waved a hand and turned back to the TV.

He was pretty sure that his relationship with Tony (were they even still dating if they hadn't seen one another in over a month and barely spoken? Was he getting... ghosted? Natasha had mentioned it last time he complained to her and he had brushed it off at the time... but now...) that was fucking things up with Steve. Because Steve was a stubborn jackass who barely interacted with Bucky outside of missions now. And it started when he mentioned he was interested in Tony.

Did Steve like Tony, or something?

That thought had him choking on his beer and coughing so loudly that every single person in the room turned towards him. He even heard Sam call from the kitchen area in question as who was dying.

After Steve hit him on the back (hard enough, punk?), Bucky just cleared his throat and tried to breathe again. Okay. Steve liking Tony? No. Though Steve did have a thing for feisty brunettes, Bucky sincerely doubted that his best friend had started getting interested in guys (not even Jacques could make the man experiment). But then again... Bucky glanced over towards the kitchen. Tony hadn't even turned to check on him (or he had turned away after making sure he was okay, Bucky hoped) so that ass was on full display.

Bucky's fingers twitched at the memory of holding it. He still hadn't had a chance to worship it like it was meant to be.

The soldier turned to his best friend (arms uncrossed, body loose, one hand resting carefully on Sharon's ankle where it was draped over his lap, completely focused on the movie, and no frown in sight) and contemplated. After a while, Steve turned towards him and once more motioned with his chin. Bucky contemplated but then shook his head and lifted his empty beer bottle. Steve checked his own, finished it off, then handed him the empty and nodded.

"Oh, me too, please," Sharon quickly finished hers and handed it over as well.

"Anybody else?" Bucky asked sarcastically only to have Clint grab the empties before him on the coffee table with a smirk. Natasha just smiled but did not look away from the movie. Bucky rolled his eyes but collected them all before going to the kitchen to deposit them.

"And your Aunt?" Tony was asking softly. Bucky pretended to look through the fridge for a snack just to listen in.

"I know, I know. But... I want to try it out now, you know, before it's actually time to do it," Peter was talking.

"No such thing as time to do it," Rhodey added in. Whatever the conversation was about had the young boy waving his arms and blushing lightly.

"You know what I mean."

"I know that you're on summer break now before you start," Tony started speaking again. "So how about this? Before you make any rash decisions like that, why not come with me for the break and then decide?"

"Wow, that's actually really grown up, Stark," Sam laughed and when Bucky looked over it was just in time to see Rhodey smack the other pilot upside the head.

He decided to make himself a sandwich and started pulling all the ingredients out.

"No offence, Mr Stark—"

"Tony," multiple voices interrupted him.

"—but I don't think coming to actually live in the tower will be that different."

Why didn't Bucky get invited to live in the tower? Not that he would but it's the thought that counts. Hmm... did he want to have pickles on his sandwich or not?

Tony scoffed. "Not that different, he says. But no, kid. I meant Cali."

What?

"Hey, Pep mentioned that the other day. You really doing it?" Rhodey questioned, all easy and lazy and completely comfortable in the company he was sitting with.

"Thinking about it."

"Doing what?"

Was that Sam or Peter?

"Oh Brucey-bear, you gonna miss me?"

A scoff followed by laughter. Bucky decided no pickles. It would involve handling a knife and his arm was acting up again. The fine tremors in his fingers were just annoying. He should ask Tony to look at it while he was here.

"You going back to California, Mr Stark?"

Before he left back for the tower.

"Tony!"

Who knew how long he would be gone this time.

"Yea. Thinking about it. Pep and I both knew that moving the headquarters to New York was going to cause some problems, we just didn't realize it would take a few years."

"I told you that asshole was going to try and—"

"You're movin'?"

Bucky felt five pairs of eyes on him. Tony's focused for barely a moment, glanced away, and when he turned back his eyes were hard as stone.

"Yea. Got to clean house in the California office."

"How... how long for?"

"Don't know yet," Tony shrugged as if it was the easiest thing in the world. The others at the table though seemed tense. "At least the summer. Maybe longer."

Bruce quietly excused himself and slipped out before anybody could say anything. Bucky only had eyes for Tony.

"Is that... is that why you've been so busy recently?"

"Umm... yea. I told you last month that I was busy at work."

"Yea. Here. In New York. Not in fuckin' California."

"I think we should..." Sam didn't bother finishing his sentence as he moved to get up.

"Did ya seriously plan on movin' back without even tellin' me?"

"Yea, definitely," Rhodey actually leaned on Sam willingly and Peter followed them out of the kitchen.

"Why do I have to tell you?" Tony snapped.

"Because I'm your fuckin' boyfriend! Or at least I was the last time we fuckin' talked! Which, by the way, was two weeks ago!"

"Well, maybe you should just take the fucking hint."

The silence that followed was deafening. Fuck. Bucky forgot that the living room wasn't an actual room and the kitchen didn't really have walls other than the counter and where the appliances were.

"You're just..." don't get angry, don't take it out on him (the voice in his head sounded suspiciously like Elena), "you're just runnin' away," no, sound like a pathetic fucking loser instead! Fuck that. "I thought that talk we had, that was good. And you said it was all good... what? Did none of it fuckin' register?"

"Oh, it registered. It told me—"

"That you're fuckin' scared!"

Tony's mouth snapped shut and he finally rounded the table so there were no physical objects between them. Bucky was glad he decided against pickles because otherwise, he'd be gripping a knife right now.

"You're just scared to actually commit to something. To anything! You move offices for the fuck of it, throw the Avengers out unless you fuck up and need 'em to clean up your mess, and now..."

"And now?" Tony sneered when Bucky couldn't continue. "And now you? Is that what you were going to say? What the fuck makes you think you're so special!"

"I told you exactly what."

"Yes. You did."

And ouch. Where did that easy going smile go? Where was the I'm willing to try? Where was the guy that climbed into his lap and groaned when they were interrupted but seemed more fond than angry?

"And you know what? Your plan? Your... your fucking goal? Thirty fucking years from now? Are you fucking kidding me? We haven't even been together for longer than a week without either fucking or fighting – and the fucking is usually to avoid the fighting – and you want to plan out our future? What, you got baby names picked out already, too?"

And the worst part was that yea... Bucky could see them with kids. Peter was practically one of their own now. Harley (though he had only been at the compound once) was also a cute little shit that was basically a miniature version of Tony. But yea... Bucky had always wanted to get back from the war, settle down, and have a nice, big family. One of the very few good things about being a frozen assassin for so long is that now he didn't have to limit his choices to a woman and he could have that family with a man.

But Tony's sneer, the venom in his voice as he spat that out... it wasn't gonna be him.

"Fuck you," Bucky said, almost quietly. The anger was burning so low.

"Yea. You wish. We should've just kept it at that. But no. You had to get all emotional and shit. Well, get over yourself. You're not all that!"

"No, you are right. I was not anything more than a quick fuck to be thrown away," Bucky knew something was wrong. Yes, he was thinking it, but that's not what he had planned to say. "You are just too scared to even figure out how to do that and were hoping I would do it for you," no, no, no, no! He knew where this was leading. "You wanted me gone. Done. But I am staying here. So you go to California. Leave."

Tony looked like he was slapped. After a long moment though his face turned bright red and the anger that welled up was visible in his entire body.

"This is my fucking house," Tony sneered out. He heard another sound behind him and his body tensed. "You want your fucking happy family? You can take them and get the fuck out. Fuck, now that Nat decided Bruce wasn't worth her time, you can get back together and screw each other like you did in Old Mother Russia!" Something was wrong. "Just careful not to screw each other over again. After all, wasn't it—" and while Tony's mouth continued to move, Bucky didn't register any of the words.

Then there was another person filling out the tunnel vision. Blonde. Compact. Not the mission.

"Hvatit!"

Who said that? And why the fuck should he stand down?

The two men in front of him started talking but he couldn't understand. He could hear the words but...

"Ya prikazyvayu prekratit', soldat!"

Soldier. He hadn't been called that in a while. Mostly his full call sign or Sergeant when not on the field. So why now? And why was somebody commanding him to stand down? He hadn't heard that order in a while.

A flash of blood came to his eyes to block the two men. The new mission?

"Ya s toboy." The blood was just hair. And the lips moving to say those words, I'm with you, they were just as red. He looked down at his hands. No blood there. No weapon even.

"Ty so mnoy?"

"Da." He remembered her. Of course, he was with her.

"Are you with me?" She asked again and he frowned.

"Da."

"Are you with me, James?"

He frowned. James. Oh shit. Fuck. He looked away from Natasha and straight at Tony. A quick scan of his body revealed no injuries or blood. Clint was standing protectively in front of the engineer so he couldn't catalogue his full body, but he looked the exact same as... a few minutes...? Fuck! He checked his hands quick just to be sure.

"James?" Tony's voice was trembling as bad as his hands.

"No!" Clint snapped and put his body more between the two of them.

"Fuck, I'm so—"

"You took it too far, Stark," Natasha growled out but did not turn her back to the soldier. Bucky looked down at his hands, they were trembling and the plate on his left palm was slightly bent out of shape, but the hand was still functioning properly. There was no blood. He looked up and noticed Steve's concerned eyes. When he turned his head all the others were there too.

Fuck.

Natasha said something to him again but...

"Mne nuzhen otdykh," Russian was so much easier. He needed to rest, just a little break, and then he could go back to English. But for now. He needed a break, some rest, just to fucking breathe.

"Davay," good thing Natasha got him. He nodded and let her lead him away, hopefully to his own room. He didn't trust to get there himself right now. Not when Clint's face kept blurring so that Tony's could come in focus. Not when Steve's face made the spasm in his shoulder worse. Not when every single fucking Avenger saw him break down because... because why? Because his boyfriend broke up with him??

He was fucking pathetic.

He looked up just before he turned the corner and... fuck. Tony was sitting down at the table, head between his knees, Clint's hand on his back as the archer crouched in front of him and instructed him to breathe. Fuck. He did that. Tony didn't have a good heart. His lungs as well, restricted breathing due to having the reactor. Bucky could only hope he was okay but... he wasn't the one who should take care of him. He was the one that caused this.

The widow's grip on his arm was firm and solid and she pulled him until the man that was struggling to breathe was out of view. He could hear the rattling breaths, the gasps, the coughs that sounded almost wet... he did that. But she was leading him away so for now he would follow. For now the mission was incomplete.

Chapter Text

"Hey, Buck," the voice was familiar even if Bucky didn't immediately know who entered his room. "I'm going for a run, wanna join?"

Bucky looked up from where he was cleaning his rifle. He looked back down and estimate that he could have it all clean and assembled back in under ten minutes. He shook his head when he turned back to Steve.

The blonde nodded, his shoulders dropped, but he didn't push it.

He had pushed it last time, over a year ago now, when Bucky had snapped back into the programming. It had led to covering up renovations in the hanger from the others (though Stark was probably the one to foot the bill anyway) when Bucky snapped and attacked him.

It was better now, for sure, his shoulder had stopped hurting every time he saw Steve (though it was more because he was forcing himself to relax rather than the comfort he had before). But it was still... something wasn't right just yet.

"Can we, umm... can we just sit... and talk a bit?"

Bucky pointed to the chair across from him with the oiled rag and turned back to finish polishing the handguard.

"I'm just... worried about you, Buck. We all are," Steve took the seat but it seemed hard to try and meet his eyes. Not that Bucky was looking at him anyway.

"Which, by the way, good job. When I say we all, I mean everybody. Wanda even said you promised to watch Star Wars with her."

Bucky just hummed in reply and put the oiled rag down to grab the clean one and wipe the handguard down.

"Well... almost everybody. I mean. Rhodey is a bit pissed at you, but he's more pissed at Tony. And Tony... he's... umm... he hasn't been around much."

Bucky tried not to make that news affect him in any way.

"But not back to California. Not yet, apparently. Rhodey was saying that he had to finish up some business here first and then he would go but... I mean..."

"You do not need to push yourself," fuck. He was still speaking with the strong consonants of a Russian accent.

"Well... it's been a few weeks and... I'm just wondering if you're hiding out here until he leaves."

"And if I am?"

When Bucky finally looked up Steve's expression was actually pained.

"You going to ask him to leave sooner?"

"He... hasn't been by the compound so..."

"Drop it, Steve," he tried on a smile but it felt forced.

"Look, I just... I'm sorry I was such a jackass about the two of you. I am. But... this is what I meant."

The handguard was as clean as it could be but there was a smudge on the buttstock. He grabbed it up and started oiling it down a second time. The leather grip (actual leather, because Bucky liked the feel and Stark actually listened) was comfortable in his hands. It was so worn out that it felt baby smooth.

"He's not... he's not all there, Buck. He never was. I mean, I was there when things ended between him and Pepper and... I don't know how she put up with him—"

"Are you here to apologize or to criticize?"

"Sorry!" the blonde quickly snapped out at the question.

"Look. I made a mistake. Will not happen again."

"I'm not," he winced and it seemed like whatever he was going to say next would actually, physically hurt. Bucky finished with the buttstock and put both that and the rag down. "I'm not trying to criticize. You knew from the beginning I was against this and this is why. You're not... both of you, you're not in the right place."

"And he is not good enough for me."

"I... I did say that, didn't I?"

Bucky raised an eyebrow and picked up the barrel and contemplated which pick to use. He knew exactly which one but he needed to focus on something specific now.

"I'm sorry. I am. I just... you were doing so well and he—"

"It wasn't him," dropping the accent was hard.

"Buck, I was there. I heard—"

"I asked him for too much," the orange pick would do. He turned it over in his fingers before running it through the top of the gun oil salve. "I asked for something he couldn't give. Something he doesn't even have to give."

A light dusting of pink came on the blonde's cheeks and for a moment it caused Bucky to pause. He turned his focus back on the pick and scraped the excess oil off the bristles into the damp cloth.

"Thirty years from now?"

Bucky nodded. "I thought I could see it. I thought wrong."

Steve was silent for so long that the scraping of the pick's bristles against the inside of the barrel was starting to grate on Bucky's nerves. He ignored it and finished cleaning the inside properly before grabbing a thinner pick and wrapping the cleaning cloth at the end to shove it inside.

"You need anything and I'm here for you, Buck. You know that, right?"

He finished with the barrel and tried on another smile for size. The grimace he got in return told him to practice it a bit before trying it out again.

Steve left, hesitating a total of four times before he finally closed the door.

Natasha did not hesitate at all a few days later. Bucky tried to ignore her as she told him about meeting with Stark (calling him Tony made something in his chest twinge... he should have had the man look at his arm as apparently even the metal in his ribs was starting to hurt now) and the conversation they had. It apparently involved a lot of yelling and a lot more silence than a conversation usually has.

But then again. More talking doesn't necessarily mean it's better. Bucky thought that and look where it got him.

"You do know he didn't mean any of that, right?"

It took him too long to actually register the words and answer back with a slight glare over the top of his magazine (something about motorcycles that Sam had dropped off the previous day when he attempted to talk to him).

"Unless you're telling me he's not moving to California, then he meant every word."

Natasha scoffed and continued talking at him for at least another hour before Clint came and dragged her away. The archer winked at him (as if the two were conspiring or something) before literally dragging her out of the soldier's room.

Elena called him three times. Steve had scheduled an emergency appointment but Bucky skipped it. She hadn't booked another one because he was court-mandated to go to all and if the courts found out he skipped one, let alone two, they would be reviewing his case again. She was amazing. But the state he was in right now, even she couldn't help.

Steve came to his room at least once a day. Natasha started coming as often. Clint always came to drag her away, but on one occasion he kicked her out and stayed himself (lounging on his bed and eating pizza but doing nothing otherwise to acknowledge his existence). He wasn't close enough to any of the others, but Sam came by a few times as well and even Vision dropped by with some new cooking experiments for him to try. Everything tasted the same.

So when Bruce asked if he could come in, Bucky actually jumped.

"You know I don't blame you, right?" clearly Bruce and Natasha had hung out too much because the scientist had the same habit of starting conversations from the middle. "About Nat and I. She told me everything about you and her. Well... not everything, I hope, and I don't want to know what she didn't."

Bucky could only remain silent.

"So I'm not angry about that and that was a bullshit move on Tony's part."

Okay. Where was this going?

"But the thing is... Tony was right. You asked for way too much from a man that has a history of running away from relationships. Sometimes literally," the glasses came off as Bruce sat at his small table, ignoring the growing parts of three different rifles that Bucky had organized by size. "I'm not saying it was the wrong thing to do, I was actually rooting for you on that one. I'm just saying, it was the wrong way to go about it."

"By talking."

"What?"

"That's how I went about it," Bucky clarified. "I talked to him. I told him what I wanted. He said he'd try and then he tried to ghost me."

"Okay. That both does and doesn't sound like him."

"Look. I'm tired of this. And tell whoever is coming after you to drop it. I'm trying to get over this and I can't when everybody keeps talking about it."

"This is your trying to get over it?" Bruce picked up the gas piston of his Barrett rifle and waved it around. "At least get out of this room," he placed back in the wrong spot. "Go down to the gun range or even the gym or something," Bucky picked it up and placed it in its right spot without noticing. "Steve's been missing you on missions. He isn't the only one too."

"What do you care?"

"Excuse me?"

"No offence, but you're planning on leaving, ain't ya?" he questioned then looked down. "Tony too," Bucky thought about it but when Bruce stopped playing with the spring in front of him the soldier realized he said it too loud.

"Yes, but... not for a while yet. And definitely not for Tony."

Bucky scoffed. "He's moving to California."

"He's going there for work," Bruce clarified. "Did you know that Friday had to lock him out of the suits because he was breaching some sub-clause of the Accords with flying back and forth so much? That was why he went missing for days at a time at one point, he wasn't getting any sleep when he was flying there and back with the company jet."

"So, why didn't he just go there to begin with?"

Bruce smiled and it looked like he pitied him. "Are you really asking me that?" when Bucky turned away, stubborn and angry and pissed off at being pitied, Bruce sighed. "Because he had something to come back to, here. And while, apparently, the sex was phenomenal, that's not what I mean."

He was a grown fucking man. He would not blush.

Bruce's chuckle told him otherwise.

"You started something here that... look, I'm telling you this in confidence. I'm not sure if he even told Rhodey this. But the Accords, worst possible time for it to happen. In that one week he lost his team, one of his closest friends, his god-mother, whose funeral he couldn't even attend, by the way, because he was trying to keep Vision from becoming a guinea pig, and the only serious relationship he has ever had that wasn't toxic. Add on top of that the fact that he found out how his parents actually died, thirty years after the fact. He basically lost his parents all over again on top of most of his family. All he had that was impossible for him to lose was SI. Even Rhodey... with his legs... that hit him harder than even I would have thought."

Bucky was at a loss for words. If it was him in that situation, he would have shut down. Fuck. He practically did after only losing one person. But no. Tony not only soldiered through it, he did it all for somebody else (for Clint to be with his family, for Wanda to have a home, for Steve, Natasha, Vision... for Bucky, to try and keep them all safe!) and he did it all and without expecting anything in return.

Bucky knew he had a reason to like Tony, but that right there... that was a reason to love him. And fuck, but that thought hurt more than he could imagine.

Bruce gave him a moment to put his thoughts in order but when Bucky looked up at him the scientist only smiled before he opened his mouth again. "And you know what you did?"

Destroyed it all. Fucked it up even worse. Made it so that Tony would never trust another person again and would run away from everybody and anybody that even remotely showed that they cared. Even Rhodey seemed resigned that day when Tony said he was going away. Did he know his best friend so well that he knew nothing he would say would keep the genius with them? That's what Bucky did, he made Tony keep everyone at arm's length and—

"You started to give him all of that back."

What?

"You gave him something steady and familiar, though I still disagree that sex is the proper basis for any relationship. But you have him something that he was comfortable with. And then you started giving him his family back. True, some of us were already there, but I honestly don't remember the last time I was able to sit down with Rhodey and have a cup of tea until a few weeks ago. I never even wanted to talk to Wanda until I found out she is as big of a nerd as I am. I didn't even want to be in the same room as Steve for fear of the Other Guy coming out, who is, by the way, very protective of Tony. Keep that in mind the next time you see him and be glad he's not the one here talking to you."

Bucky almost laughed until he realized Bruce was serious. Fuck.

"I didn't even think to talk to Clint and still don't know what I would have said if he had dropped hat divorce bomb in my lap instead of yours."

"I... I didn't—"

"I never thought I'd be comfortable enough to let Natasha go."

Fuck.

"I really didn't do anything."

"No. You did. You started it all and then asked Friday for help. And who is a baby AI going to ask when she doesn't understand something?" Oh shit. So that's how everybody knew. "You planted the seed. Don't walk away now before you see it bloom."

"I'm not."

Bruce looked at him imploringly.

"I'm not," Bucky said with more conviction.

"Good. Because Tony's here, his flight is tomorrow, and there's no return date on that ticket yet."

Bucky was out of the room before he could even ask Bruce where exactly the genius was. But he figured walking down the hall towards the kitchen was enough.

It felt like everyone was, once again, in the living room area and all eyes were focused on him as he scanned the group for Tony.

Clint pointed over his shoulder further down the hall from the kitchen while Natasha called out "in the hangar".

Those two were fucking magnificent. Bucky wanted to keep them both. Forever. Especially when Clint immediately started yelling at the TV and drew everyone's attention to him.

The entrance to the hangar was a few steps above the main floor, which was cluttered with boxes and tables and the last training rig they had used as a team (what felt for-fucking-ever ago!). But right there against one of the tables was Tony, leaning over some papers with Steve.

They both must have heard him coming in because as soon as he stopped to take a breath two sets of eyes were focused on him.

"James," and fuck, he missed being called that. Natasha hadn't used it since she did to bring him out of the haze (but not reverting back to Yasha after the first time she did it and he responded in Russian) and everybody else stuck with Bucky. "We'll be done in a moment, then you can have him."

"Hey, Buck," Steve looked almost surprised, blue eyes wide and earnest and the arms crossed over his chest actually relaxing.

What were the two of them doing in here?

"We're just finishing up some legal stuff with Tony's move. What did you need?" Guess he must have said that aloud, or at least loud enough for Steve to hear because Tony was focused back on the papers in front of him with a pen poised in the air.

"I want to talk to you."

"Yea sure, just give me—"

"Tony."

The pen stopped heavily on the paper before Tony finished his signature with a flick of his wrist. He flipped one page, signed again, then finally straightened up and looked at Bucky.

"Just five minutes, please."

"Sure. Rogers, here you go. You can have my soul," Steve scowled at the dramatics but took the pen from Tony before leaning over and signing his own name down. Then he put the pen down, took a step back, and crossed his arms over his chest.

He looked comfortable. He looked like he wasn't planning on moving.

"Stevie, can you... give us—"

"No."

"I just—"

"I know what you just," Steve interrupted again. "And yes, I don't approve of this, at all. But that's not why I'm staying."

At Tony's raised eyebrow Steve's scowl actually deepened and he looked away. "Tony has the survival instinct of a lemming. And if something triggers you..." he trailed off but Bucky got the message. He agreed completely and nodded.

So he turned his soldier focus on Tony and tried to ignore Steve as the blonde moved just enough out of the way to not be intrusive but still visible in his peripheral. When Bucky cleared his throat Tony's eyes snapped away from Steve and on him.

"I just... I don't know where to start."

"That's always the hardest part."

Bucky laughed and nodded. He knew that. Everybody told him that. Didn't mean shit though because he had to start somewhere.

"I'm sorry."

Tony actually looked shocked.

"I... I pushed too much on you, too fast, and I didn't even think about how it would affect you. So I'm sorry."

The shock did not abate but Tony did bite his bottom lip. He chewed on it for a while before nodding. "I'm sorry too. I didn't mean anything I said..."

"It's forgotten."

"But, I'm still going."

"I know. And... and I think it's a smart choice."

"What?" Steve was the one who said that quietly.

Bucky threw a glare in his direction before focusing back on Tony.

"You have a company to run, that is your number one, and I get it now. I'm sorry I didn't before. And I just want to say that... that break that we talked about? I think it was a really good idea."

Tony's laugh was completely mirthless and almost painful. "Yea, yea it was."

"So I just came by to say, have a good flight. I hope you can fix up everything with the company while you're away," he hesitated because, once again, he was going to bear himself and he knew no matter what Tony answered with, it would hurt. "But I hope you come back. I hope you want to come back. And... I'll be here."

The silence that stretched on was almost awkward, especially with Steve's presence still somewhere in the back of his mind, but then Tony's face changed over and...

"I can't."

Chapter Text

I can't do this again.

I can't promise anything.

I can't wait.

I can't be with you.

I can't... what?

Tony never did finish that statement but that I can't... it could stand for too much.

So Bucky ignored the absence of Rhodey and Bruce when the two had gone to send Tony off. He ignored the pitying looks from the others in the ground. He ignored Steve's righteous presence at his side. He ignored it all and just focused on getting back to where he was.

Tony was a huge set back to his recovery.

And he knew that this recovery could and probably should last years, but he had been doing so well. He had been able to get Steve to roll his eyes at him at least three times in one hour. He had been able to remember exactly which buttons to push to get Steve mad at him and which threads to pull to get someone in bed with him (not that he had done so, but knowing he could if he wanted was a good idea).

So he focused on himself.

He left his room often enough to seem normal, even if he didn't stay out much. He went back to three appointments a week with Elena, even if he didn't talk much. He went out with Clint and Natasha to the city, even if he didn't drink much. He sat with the team to watch movies, even if he never stayed past the first one.

He felt like a fucking imitation of what he was before Tony.

It was when he was wandering around the compound, having made his way to the back area of their training hanger, that it fucking hit him.

He had been doing well even before he got close to the genius, but it was having that goal, that mission, that gave him something to focus on. It may have felt like a mission (get close to the target) but it was Tony's presence, and laugher, and random bits of information, and kisses, and skin, and sweat... that's what made it all real (don't get too close – but how close can a weapon get?) and made it so fucking worth it (because Tony never treated him like a weapon – even Steve did sometimes, forgetting himself and just ordering the Winter Soldier around).

So.

Tony wasn't coming back; it had already been a month since he'd left with no word to any of the Avengers (or at least none to someone who talked about it around Bucky), and it didn't look like he was planning on coming back any time soon. Bucky had been tempted, on multiple occasions, to ask someone (ask Friday, fuck people, and their pity, and their compassion, and shit) for more information about the genius, but he just stuck with headlines and news for SI. There had been an attempted takeover by one of the board members from California and while it was stopped, it caused stocks to drop. Friday informed him that his own stocks were climbing back up (every one of the Avengers had stocks in SI).

During that month, Steve was always a silent and annoying presence either at the back of his mind or in his peripheral. It was obvious that the blonde was worried (fucker wouldn't let him out on missions until he was cleared by Elena) and for once in his damn fucking life (or at least what of it Bucky could remember) he didn't push until Bucky broke. And as annoying as he was, it was exactly what Bucky needed. Something, someone, to keep him grounded. Tony was no longer there and Steve could never be that someone again (not when Bucky trusted him so little from being a bias little shit) but he could be that something.

So when Stevie's birthday rolled around (fucking all-American piece of shit, and his righteousness, and that fucking "aww-shucks" smile that he used to troll everyone with, and the fact that as much as he wanted to Bucky couldn't actually hate someone that he loved so much and loved him back) Bucky had actually left the compound on his own to find the idiot a present and then done it again with Clint and Natasha to get drunk off his ass.

They stayed in for the morning, a small party for the team (that were too stilted to be called a team) that felt like something was missing (because Tony was always the life of the party, even back when they didn't get along but had to pretend for the media) before moving to a quiet afternoon of the soldiers walking through Brooklyn (because that asshole was still a little shit and knew that it calmed Bucky down), which became an evening out in the city to watch the fireworks.

Bucky was with Steve when he got called in. Steve looked at him once they had gone to the rendezvous point where Natasha would land the Quinjet and then the blonde seemed to decide something for himself because he got a very stubborn set in his jaws when both of them got in the back of the jet.

"Status report!" He called out as he started changing. Natasha informed them of an attack of Doom Bots and that Vision was already there with Wanda, but they needed help due to the machine detonating upon destruction.

Once she was done Steve looked at Bucky with a raised brow. "Why aren't you dressed yet?"

Bucky didn't want to question the change of mind so he quickly turned towards his locker on the back of the jet and slipped into his uniform.

The resulting battle had his blood pumping and the first real smile on his face since Tony left.

Tony.

Fuck.

He probably could have ended this all with one of his genius hacks.

Bucky punched one of the bots extra hard, his metal fist going right through the robot's chest and destroying the explosive before it could activate. So far, only Vision and Wanda had been able to destroy them without any explosions detonating. Steve had been yelling at him to get out of blast range but Bucky knew he could at least disable them. Not he knew he could destroy them.

With the new intel provided to the Captain and Widow, they finished off the battle quickly. Steve stayed to coordinate clean up when Natasha came to Bucky's side.

"You good?" She didn't vocalize the question but the look in her eyes and the raised eyebrow spoke their own language.

Bucky nodded and reached up to unhook his goggles and mask. Natasha's look changed to one of horror for barely a second before she schooled it back into a blank mask. Bucky pretended not to notice and reached up to try and wipe the smile off his face. Maybe he should have kept the muzzle on a little longer.

She tapped her ear pointedly and after a moment Bucky got the message and muted his communicator.

"So... is that what has always been under the mask?"

He didn't answer.

She knew the truth.

She looked worried but didn't say anything else.

Not to him anyway.

Two days later (Bucky just coming back from an appointment) Steve was in his room. Fuck.

"What is it?" Bucky growled. Elena had been brutal today.

"We need to talk."

"Clearly."

"Don't be an ass."

"You first, pipsqueak," Bucky was pissed as fuck.

"Do you enjoy it?" and though he knew what Steve was talking about he decided to play as dumb as fucking possible. "The fight?"

"You tell me you don't?" Bucky sneered out and did a point to look at Steve from head to toe.

"Not like that."

"Yes, like that."

Steve sighed as if the weight of the world was settling slowly on his shoulders. It looked very familiar and it took Bucky barely a second to compare that slumped shoulders and heavy sigh to Tony in his office. Fuck.

"You know, I never liked it, but I decided not to question it. Is that the reason for the muzzle?" Bucky schooled his features to keep his face as blank as possible. It was fucking hard (hence the muzzle). "Are you... hiding from us?"

"Clearly I had to."

"Buck, you don't have to—"

"The fact that you're here and making a big deal of it says that yea, I did have to."

"Does... Elena—"

"Yes. We've talked about it and she has actually encouraged me to continue to do something I enjoy."

"Kill."

"Fight," Bucky clarified with a pointed look. "I know the difference and no, I don't enjoy killing and don't you dare lie to me and tell me you don't like the fight; I picked you up out of too many alleys to believe that."

"Do you... always?"

"No. Usually isn't challenging enough, but I've had a dry spell for a while now."

Steve nodded, looked down at his fists, and then nodded again as if agreeing with himself about something. "Let's do it."

"What?"

"Fight."

"Stevie, we spar all the time."

"Yea... and clearly that's not what you need. Let's go."

It sounded too much like an order for Bucky's liking, but he followed the blonde anyway. They stopped in the hanger, not the gym, so... maybe... when Steve threw the first punch Bucky knew the blonde was serious because he fucking felt it.

He responded in kind.

Clint was the one to find them fighting (because that's what it was, not a fucking spar but an actual and brutal fight where Bucky could finally take all his aggression out on someone that could take it and Steve responded in kind. The little shit had a lot to let go of.) and announced himself by doing a loud wolf whistle from the foot entrance of the hanger.

Bucky looked up from where he had Steve pinned down with the blonde's face in the ground and an arm behind his back. Steve used the distraction to flip him and slam his own face down, breaking his nose in the process, and then lock him down using his legs around the metal arm.

"Okay, okay, you two..." Clint said something to follow that but Bucky ignored it. His shoulder had been hurting anyway so it was easy for him to make it hurt more as he twisted the metal arm unnaturally from the socket to get out of the hold and sucker punch Steve in the kidneys.

"Seriously, do I need to call someone?"

They grappled for a bit more, scrambling on the ground until they were both free and took a step back. Clint was munching on some crisps and the sound of the bag and his chewing was the loudest thing in the room.

"Vision cooked enough to feed an army and I was volunteered to be slaughtered and inform you of this. It's going to be a team dinner and only you two are missing."

Steve straightened out at the information. Bucky nodded and lifted his flesh hand to wipe the blood streaming steadily from his broken nose. He used that to wipe some blood off his teeth as well.

"Sure. We'll be there," Bucky is the one who answered with a wide grin. Fuck but it felt good to let go.

Clint rolled his eyes. "Clean yourselves up first."

They had to go through half the compound to go into the gym (it was easier to clean the gym showers than their private ones) so everybody noticed Steve's limp, Bucky's bloodied face, and the grins on both their faces. Only Wanda looked horrified but both soldiers heard her muttering under her breath about who was going to clean the blood off the carpets when they passed her.

Team dinner was nice but Clint lied. They weren't the only two missing and the quiet in the dining room was sign enough of that.

Bucky returned to the hanger after he was done his meal to hose down the cement from their dried blood. Steve joined him a bit later with a bucket and scrub to get into the tougher stains.

"What's that?" Bucky questioned the tarp in the corner when he put away the hose and bucket.

"Oh, I forgot about that," Steve responded by coming over and pulling the tarp. Under it was a beautiful Harley Davidson that had seen better days. "Tony found it after the whole Triskelion mess and was planning on fixing it up, but I told him it's not important and then he got busy with other things."

Bucky looked over the motorcycle. It was beautiful, for sure, pure American muscle, but there was nothing special about it. Steve favoured motorcycles when going into battle but that was only because the little punk liked throwing the things at his targets.

And then it hit him...

Tony had gone looking for something of Steve's, something that the soldier cared for but always dismissed when others asked, and brought it back. He had planned on fixing it up, making it better... maybe even making it something that Steve wouldn't use as a weapon because he'd love it too much.

"Buck?"

Steve's voice sounded concerned for some reason but Bucky couldn't focus on that. His vision was blurring and black spots were dancing at the corners. He couldn't focus on anything except the thought that he was the reason that Tony and Steve were no longer friends. He was the reason Tony had no problem abandoning one of his projects, something he has never done. He was the reason the Avengers broke up and they weren't coming together. James Fucking Buchanan Barnes was the reason that two of the best men of this century could barely stand to be together in one room and ultimately, the reason why Tony left.

When Bucky came to he was sitting on the ground between Steve's legs with the blonde's arms wrapped right around his upper body. Steve was talking about something, quiet and steady, in his ear and Bucky tried to focus on that. It helped. The pain in his shoulder did not. He forced himself to relax until the pain was manageable and that made the words make more sense. Steve was telling him stories of the Avengers. More specifically... of Tony. He was telling him the story of that one time the idiot jumped off a staircase with a fondue fork as a weapon and onto the back of one of his own creations that had gone murderous. Bucky chuckled more at Steve's tone of voice (tired but fond) than the actual story. He'd seen the footage of that fight (though it was more for the fact that Clint was able to handle Captain America's shield like a pro).

"You with me?" Steve asked and his grip on Bucky loosened somewhat.

"Yea... what happened?"

"You don't... umm... it wasn't a trigger?"

"Naah," Bucky shifted slightly until Steve got the message and let him go completely. But he was too tired to move other than to sit up. "The triggers, they don't like... it's not a separate personality or anything like that. I just... remember to think a different way but it's still me... it's still my memories and my actions I just..." he trailed off, not knowing how to explain it. Elena was the one that had tried to explain to him.

"Huh."

What. The. Fuck.

"Huh?" Bucky turned around, incredulous. "That's all you gotta say? 'Huh'?"

"Well... umm... yea..." Steve looked sheepish. "Then, I mean... this was basically a panic attack."

"A what?"

"Yea... shortness of breath, difficulty focusing, loss of control..."

"Fuck you."

"Hey, don't judge me, you're the one that had it. But what triggered that?"

Bucky thought about it and immediately he started feeling that loss of control again. A chill was going through his body even as he felt like he was sweating. Steve waving in front of his face brought him back.

"Fuck, Stevie... it's my fault."

"Huh?"

"Tony."

"Buck, we talked about this..."

"Not... I mean, the relationship is one thing, I mean... you two."

"Huh?"

"You..." he looked away from the blonde and towards the motorcycle. He was hoping Steve would get the message without him spelling it out.

Steve's sigh was answer enough that he did.

"Look Buck... we were already at odds with one another before you came along. I mean, we never agreed on anything, he always questioned my orders, especially on the field, and... and I admit, I never listened to him."

Bucky chuckled though there was no humour in it. "Sounds familiar, eh punk?"

Steve looked almost shocked when he turned back to Bucky. And this guy was supposed to be a tactical fucking genius?

"That's what made you two so good as team leaders. You got the experience and knowledge, but you need someone to question you. You always needed someone that was a little off the rails that could give you another option. Especially now, here... the world was never black and white and you need that reminder, you fucking idiot. Especially on the field."

Steve chuckled and shook his head but Bucky recognized that position.

"Yea, yea, you're right. He reminded me so much of you, I mean... the old you, but... he just wasn't. He was... he was Howard's genius, your recklessness, and Peggy's attitude. Even... hah... I could even see Phillips in him, with the sarcasm and sass."

"Yea... and your fucking heart," Bucky smiled.

"I think that's one of the reasons I hated him so much. He reminded me of everything I lost, he was making me leave it behind so he could drag me further into this future he sees – this future he creates."

"Stevie... I think that's one of the reasons I love him."

Fuck.

Steve's shocked face was one for the books.

Bucky's own revelation of saying it aloud, for the first time broaching that subject since he realized the truth almost two months ago, was almost as painful as the expression on Steve's face.

"Yea... I think I get that now. I... I made the mistake of thinking the past was more important than the future and... and hid it from him. That was on me, Buck. But you... you two... fuck, I hate saying this, it really hurts but... but you're good for one another. I never wanted to see it, I hate the idea of him taking you away from me, taking the last of my past, but... but you belong in this future he can create."

"Hey, guess what, punk?" Bucky leaned closer, dropping his forehead to Steve's temple and close his eyes. "So do you."

Steve chuckled but it was once again humourless.

"So does everyone," Bucky continued. "He's got a big enough heart to carry us all there."

"He does, doesn't he?"

"Yea... and... and we don't have to forget the past. I miss it too. I miss being whole, and not questioning my every move, and not trying to figure out if I'm looking at my friend or at my mission. I miss not being in pain every single day. Kind of strange but I even miss cryo sometimes. I miss dancing with Natalia. And hey, guess what... I know we just did it about an hour ago, but I miss sitting down with everyone, sharing a meal."

"It's all in the past. Yea... I talked to Elena about that."

"Yea. I even miss bashing your face in," Bucky chuckle to brighten the mood and Steve responded in kind. "But, you know what? More than I miss any of that, I just hope it will happen again."

"Yea. Yea, we can hope."

"And... maybe we could also... push towards that?"

Steve nodded.

The two got up and Bucky led the way back to the centre of the compound. They passed the living room area where Kate (who had finally come to compound a few weeks ago to train with Clint) and Hope (who was coming to the compound more and more often) were playing with Cassidy (who was with Scott for the weekend).

"Night, Buck," Steve said when they were in front of his room.

"Night, Stevie," Bucky responded in kind.

Steve went into his room and Bucky hesitated for a moment at his door, trying� to figure out if he was tired enough to sleep or to go to the gym for a bit. Just as he was turning around towards the gym heard the very faint: "Friday, if Tony isn't busy, can you give him a call?"

Bucky smiled to himself and turned back to his room instead.

Things were looking up.

But then... Peter returned to the compound on the 1st of September. He was alone and he had no news of Tony.

Bucky had another panic attack on the 3rd when he started working on Steve's motorcycle.

Chapter Text

"Friday, where's Steve?" Bucky questioned as he wiped his hands on a dirty rag. He wasn't sure which came out cleaner when he was done, but the action had become a habit by that point.

"Out, Sergeant."

Bucky rolled his eyes. He looked back down at the motorcycle before him. He was almost done, needed to get Steve's opinion on a few things.

"I know he's out, my question is where."

He had stopped looking at the schedule on the wall with the almost perverse interest he had before. After the first month of Tony leaving, Friday had stopped adding so many details to it (it looked so empty without Tony's constant appointments and meetings) and after the second Bucky had made an offhand mention that he didn't need to know full details.

Tony had left before his own birthday back in May.

The leaves were red and falling now in October.

Almost five months since he'd left and not a word.

Not to Bucky.

Bucky had heard Bruce and Natasha talking a few weeks ago about the genius but the conversation quickly (and very subtly, Bruce was a fucking genius too) changed direction to his work rather than the absent genius himself.

Bucky kept up with the news and knew that the California branch of SI was back on track. There were still some problems but nothing that should have kept Tony there any longer.

And with Tony's growing absence, others around the compound started disappearing as well.

Peter had started at MIT and hadn't been able to join them on even one call in the past month (though there hadn't been any specific occasion for him to join anyway).

Hope had shortened her visits to the compound, which lead to Scott being there less.

Rhodey had returned to active duty and had been gone for the past few weeks (though Bucky did notice that he had disappeared a few days before his scheduled deployment).

Wanda and Vision were in their own world half the time and the other half the synthezoid was discovering the world himself with the witch at his side (all thanks to Tony, yet a-fuckin-gain, by bringing up some clause in the Accords that had kept Vision from leaving US territory).

Sam had returned to the VA centre and as such only came to the compound for the mandatory team training.

Clint and Natasha stuck around the most often, but it was obvious that they were getting bored of sitting around and doing nothing again.

Natasha had returned to her previous cover position at SI working for Pepper (though now Bucky new that it wasn't a cover as much as a liaison between SI and the UN) and Clint had started going to the Fort Drum Army Base with Kate to train other military in their specialized fighting style. The two archers had a scheduled trip next month for a week to train in Germany and then France (Clint mentioned it was like being back in the circus but this time he was the ringmaster).

And those were just the ones that were gone that day.

Everybody started disappearing off to somewhere. Saving the world wasn't a full-time job, as Bucky had been told multiple times, and each of them had something else to do. Bucky had finally found his hobby (Elena had given him two batches of cookies on the appointment following his announcement) but it still kept him in the compound.

Where nobody else was anymore.

And Steve, the little fucker, started doing something going around behind everybody's backs. Nobody knew where he had gone last month for a few days. Clint had bet a girlfriend (to which Natasha had scowled and proceeded to tell them both about how many time she had tried to set him up with someone). Natasha herself did not outright hazard a guess, but she hinted towards something to do with the Accords. Bucky could only hope that it wouldn't screw them over all over again.

But they were working. Finally. It was a team but...

It just felt like something major was missing.

As weird as it was, some world-changing even would probably make that disappear.

But Tony was world-changing enough on his own, without the threat of lives being lost.

Bucky hated the fact that he was hoping for an attack so that Tony would return to them. To him. To fucking talk.

"Friday, don't ignore me," Bucky spoke up with a smile.

"He said it's a secret," the AI replied finally, sounding both teasing and petulant. But fuck, Tony was good at what he was doing. Bucky knew he was still working on his little AI baby because just last week she would have said that statement and sounded like a total brat. Now she was just cute and teasing.

"Well, let him know I need his opinion."

"Will do, Sergeant. But he won't be available for the next few days."

Bucky snorted and looked towards the clear wall behind him. After a moment Friday made a sound that sounded suspiciously like a snort and their schedule was displayed.

Steve's schedule was blocked off for a whole week starting that day. Natasha's had cleared out somewhat and there was a note on the side that stated Natasha was team lead until Steve returned if needed.

"What's the punk doing now?" Bucky muttered under his breath.

"It's a secret, Sergeant," Friday informed with an obvious smile in her voice.

Bucky grinned, shook his head, and decided he was done with the motorcycle for the day. He made his way past the living room area (which was completely empty save for one pop bottle somebody had forgotten to clear out) and the kitchen (also empty) and meandered up to his room.

It was five days later when Wanda and Vision were in the kitchen cooking with Bruce supervising (the scientist was sitting at the table with a journal in front of him but his eyes never strayed from the couple at the stove and there was a small smile on his lips) while Clint was perched on a counter and helping (though it looked more like he was getting in Wanda's way rather than handing her the items she asked for) that Bucky heard the first news of Tony in a while.

"And nothing has blown up yet?" Wanda was questioning.

"Oh, it's Tony, I am sure there have been at least two explosions by now," Bruce replied with a smile.

Vision was smiling as well and Clint outright laughed.

They clearly loved their genius and even in his absence (or maybe due to it), they knew that he was the one that held them all together. It was a pleasant surprise to see that even Wanda was smiling when talking about Tony. Bucky knew both Bruce and Vision loved the genius and that Clint had a soft spot for him, but he was pleased to hear that whatever conversation the young witch had with Tony had her smiling now.

"But no... violence?"

"No, no," Bruce shook his head smiling.

Bucky decided to stay around the corner watching; he wanted to know what the conversation was about though he knew it seemed slightly creepy. Vision definitely knew he was there, Clint too probably. Wanda probably as well.

"This is Steve we're talking about."

Steve? Tony? Explosions?

It felt unfair to keep only Bruce in the dark.

Does Bruce not know Steve at all? The punk himself would explode for no damn reason half the time.

"What's the punk gone and blown up now?" Bucky finally asked as he walked into the kitchen. He was glad to see that none of them seemed surprised by his entrance.

"Tony has probably blown up his lab," Bruce informed and motioned to a chair beside him.

Bucky made sure to pass close by Vision at the stove (god, whatever he was cooking smelled fucking amazing!), easily stole the cherry tomato from Clint's fingers right before the archer ate it (Clint only smirked and opened his fist to transfer a second one to his fingers that he quickly popped in his mouth), and made a note to smile at Wanda as he passed her (though the witch seemed a little unsure so maybe Bucky had to practice more in the mirror), before he sat down at the seat Bruce had indicated.

"I meant Steve."

"He was probably the reason," Clint smirked.

And fuck.

What?

His expression seemed to show his confusion enough for Wanda to turn back to the cutting board in front of her (wielding the knife with her magic with way too much concentration) and mutter something under her breath.

Bucky only caught it because of his enhanced hearing but Bruce repeated it anyway.

"Steve went to visit Tony out in California."

"And... nobody stopped him?"

"Why would they?" Clint was the one to question with a smirk on his lips.

"Umm... because it's Steve and Tony?" It sounded too much like a question for his liking.

"They are both grown adults," Bruce snorted and Wanda threw a glare in his direction, "when it counts," she amended and Bruce nodded. "They needed to talk."

"About what? Have there been changes to the Accords?"

"Actually yes," Bruce was the who spoke up, "but I think Steve only used that as an excuse."

"I just... look," Bucky started, staring down at his clasped hands on top of the table. "I know everybody's been cautious about mentioning Tony around me, you don't need to be. But last I heard, he wasn't on the roster anymore."

"Yes," Bruce was the cautious one now. He was the one who had pushed Bucky to talk to Tony before he left. He couldn't have known it would backfire so spectacularly. "But that's only while he fixes everything at SI. He's been called out a few times, on emergencies out west that nobody could get to first, but it was never permanent for him to leave the Avengers."

"Oh."

Silence reigned and it seemed uncomfortable. Bucky felt like an ass for ruining what had probably been a very comfortable atmosphere around them.

"He's the one who kept the Avengers going after—"

The loud claxon that sounded interrupted Bruce and made all of them stare up at the ceiling and red flashing lights with wide eyes.

"Friday?" Bruce questioned even as Clint clapped both hands over his ears. Bucky copied the archer but it didn't help much.

"Sorry guys, we have an emergency." Friday sounded and turned off the sound even though the red lights remained.

Vision turned off the stove as the others quickly got up.

"What is it, Fri?" Clint asked.

"There's been an attack in California."

Bucky's veins froze over.

Clint's muttered swear and the fact that they were being called all the way out in New York when both Steve and Tony were in California was significant enough that it was serious.

The soldier let his training take over even as they all rushed to the hanger and into the quinjet. Bucky was in the middle of strapping on his thigh holster when the words "explosion" and "boss" and "no contact" registered. His eyes shot up and he noticed the others looked worried as well.

"How long until we get there?"

"Twenty minutes, strap in," Clint sounded almost angry as he fired up the quinjet and it shot off. The speed made Bucky's neck hurt and for a moment he felt sorry for the non-enhanced on the jet but the red glow of magic around Wanda and the determined set of Clint's shoulders were answer enough that they were fine.

No contact. Fuck.

It was a very tense twelve minutes of silence until they made contact.

"Umm... Friday said something about a protocol 'highway to hell'?" Steve's voice sounded uncertain and the connection even worse. The shooting and yelling happening in the background were not encouraging.

"I already told you what 'highway to hell' meant," Tony. Fuck. He sounded good and alive. A weight lifted off Bucky's shoulders knowing both men were alright.

"Who is coming?"

"Hey, Cap. I got Vision, Bruce, and Bucky with me," Clint responded. "We can get Strange to bring others sooner if you need the help."

"Brucy-bear!" Tony crooned from the other end but he still sounded like he was far away. "We're good, no need for more!" Something that sounded suspiciously like an explosion went off really close followed by Tony swearing loudly.

"Tony," Bruce sounded almost fond, "what did you do this time?"

"Umm... I am totally innocent in this," Steve's snort of disbelief was just how everybody felt about that. Following it was a small scuffle on the other end consisting of Steve ordering: "here, hold this."

"Now? I am kind of busy over here, you know, keeping us alive."

"My turn, hold this."

"Fuck you, Captain Righteous."

"No thanks, Shellhead. Ask the other super soldier you know."

Bucky blushed and the glance Wanda sent his way only encouraged him to clip the muzzle on a little early.

"Yea, okay, fine. It's my fault," Tony's voice was clearer now. "Any of you remember that time I gave my address out on national television?"

He did what? Clint's loud groan was followed by Bruce rolling his eyes.

"Please tell me you didn't rebuild the house in the same place," Bruce asked.

"Of course I did, have you see the view here? Plus, half of the old house is still down in the water, I can just jump down—"

"Not now, Tony!"

"Yea, okay. Long story short, I don't have a house again."

"What?" Bucky didn't realize he was the one who growled it out until he heard Tony hesitate on the other end.

"Well, you see... we... umm..."

"How bad is it, Tony?" Clint interrupted.

"Umm... how bad is it, Cap?"

"You fucking tell me."

"Ooh, language!" Tony snickered. He sounded hysterical. "We're kind of boxed in, Cap is doing his thing with throwing his Frisbee around and I am a perfectly fine shot, thank you very much, but we're kind of..."

"I take it that giant column of smoke I see is your fault?"

"Ha! No! Not this time!"

Bucky made his way to the front of the jet and holy shit. Excluding the beautiful view in the back of the ocean and the sun setting, it reminded him too much of the war. He noticed a bright blue spark small in the distance and when Clint sucked in air through his teeth he knew he hadn't imagined it.

"Is that Hydra?"

"Umm... let me stop and ask," sarcasm. Fuck. Tony usually resorted to that when wounded (and it was fucking sad that Bucky had missed hearing his banter over the comms on missions or even that dreamy lilt to his voice when he was distracted by something yet still fighting).

Clint decided that circling around on top was not a good idea so he let Wanda and Vision out first, dropping them off in the air and covering them with the body of the jet.

"Bruce, you know how much I love the big guy and all," Tony now sounded strained, "but I kind of need you down here, not him."

The archer used the jet for cover and they were low enough to the ground for Bucky to jump out the back. He immediately saw Steve's shield flying and then decided to just focus on the mission. Tony's voice in his ear was something he had been missing a lot in the past few months, but the way the genius' breathing was starting to sound raspy was not good. The soldier tried to locate Tony in all the rubble and after a moment noticed Wanda throwing up a large wall of red.

"Tony, how many times do I have to tell you? I am not that kind of doctor."

"Fuck Brucie, we all know you're our healer. Now roll a fuckin' twenty and get my HP back up."

"We need to retreat," Steve spoke up.

"Fuck that! It's my house, these fuckers need to pay. Hopefully, literally, I am not made out of money."

Bucky caught Steve's shield on the rebound, used it to turn away one of the bright blue blasts then threw it and shot right after it.

There was a small fucking army around them, hiding behind and in between the rubble. Another explosion went off too close to where Wanda was holding what he now realized was a shield of magic and the soldier heard her grunt. He focused on where the explosion came from but Vision was already there and disarming the man carrying the rocket launcher.

"Captain?"

"How's he doing?"

"I'm fine!"

"He'll be fine, retreat or...?"

"If you're done with him, we could use the big guy."

"Got it, Captain."

When the Hulk's roar joined the fight, it seemed like their opponents gave up. A retreat was called on the other side but it was too late. Tony's repulsor blasts joined in with Wanda's red magic and Vision's stone beam. Clint used the quinjet to fire and keep the attackers from escaping.

They had won and with just enough time for Natasha to come over the comms and inform them that no, they weren't done yet.

"What do you mean?" Bucky was close enough to hear Tony in person as well as in his ear. Tony looked good, there was some blood on the side of his face and the left thigh of his pants was soaked in it, but he was standing on his own two feet.

"I mean," Natasha growled over the comms, "we got Friday's 'highway to hell' claxon response so we were on our way back, then she told us to redirect to New York. The compound is under attack."

"Fuuck," Tony groaned.

Clint landed the jet close by and opened the back door.

"I'll stay behind until the authorities arrive, you go," Vision volunteered even as Hulk roared at a few of their opponents until the men shuffled over.

Tony turned around towards where Clint had landed the jet. Steve was on the phone with local law enforcement and Wanda was using her magic to secure their opponents while Hulk hovered around them and Vision started searching the wreckage for more.

A loud groan of pain followed by an even louder: "Nobody move!" had Bucky's eyes snapping in the direction of the quinjet.

Tony skin was pale, pale enough to make the soldier worry about that thigh wound again. Especially as there was now a knife handle sticking out of it and gun was pressed against Tony's bleeding temple.

"Are you fucking kiddi—"

"Shut up," the man pushed the gun harder after he cut Tony off and made the genius groan. "Let them go or he dies."

The moment Bucky noticed the man's eyes straying towards Steve he acted.

Tony groaned in pain and fell down barely a second later but Bucky knew his shot was clean. He rushed to the genius' side just in time to see Tony throw up right beside the dead body of the man.

"Search for stranglers," Steve commanded but was also running on Tony's side.

"Hey, snowflake," Tony grinned around the sick sticking to his lips.

Bucky leaned forward and brushed it away with a gloved hand.

"Nice shot but... you could have... you know... not killed him?"

What? Bucky's eyes strayed to the lifeless eyes of the man. There was a neat bullet hole between his eyes. Fuck. Fuck!

Bucky shot up to his feet. He hadn't killed anyone (intentionally, he knew the collateral damage for each mission he had been in and had more than once received a slap when he went to the families personally) since before becoming an Avenger. Even when they had been fighting Morgan or Doom, or whoever the fuck else decided to be the bad guy of the day, Bucky always shot to incapacitate.

He felt bile rising in his throat when he realized he was still smiling under the mask.

"Tony, you okay?"

"Yea, yea, but... James?"

Bucky's eyes lost focus. He didn't want to look at Tony and see fear or disgust. He didn't want to acknowledge Steve reaching out to him. He didn't want to even register the fact that it had been so much easier to kill the man than anything else.

Because that's just it.

It was easy. It worked. He would never attack Tony or anyone else ever again. Why do they even try and capture these guys? They escape, or somebody breaks them out, then they go on another attack and the Avengers have to... avenge. They shouldn't have to fight because they were attacked and people died. They should stop it from the beginning. They should just kill them all, it would be so much—

Bucky realized where his main had trailed off and... fuck... there was a reason for the fucking Accords. He turned around and shot off, the sound of the sirens coming closer from the distance and it felt like they were coming for him.

"Guys..." Natasha's voice sounded in the comms, uncertain and almost as scared. "We're at the compound... it's... there's nothing here."

"Do you know who attacked?" Steve changed direction quickly.

"Steve. There's nothing here."

"Vision, Wanda, stay behind. Hulk, meet us in New York. Tony, can you walk?" no verbal response but then Steve said, "good. On the jet, Clint, back to the compound, asap."

"What about Bucky?" Clint's voice sounded worried.

"Buck," Bucky was tempted to remove the earpiece. He could not hear them in person anymore.

"Shut up, Steve," fuck. Hearing Tony dismiss him so easily hurt. "Gimme that, gimme now," a scuffle and suddenly the connection seemed so much clearer. Bucky heard Steve saying something in the background and then a familiar click that indicated it was a private channel.

Bucky wanted to turn it off before Tony could tell him to never come back.

"James? Soldier? I need you back at the compound. The mission is not over. Can you make your own way there?"

Orders. Missions. He could to that. He could ignore the tremor in Tony's voice that sounded too much like fear. He could pretend that the orders didn't come because of distrust or disgust.

"Yes."

"Are you sure?" Fuck. Now he didn't even trust his ability as an Avenger.

"Yes."

"Good. I'll see you at the compound."

The quinjet shot off. Barely half an hour later the authorities were leading their attackers away and Bucky felt like he was sulking his way towards Vision.

"Sergeant. Are you wounded?"

"No."

"Good," Wanda sounded like she was smiling but Bucky didn't dare look up at her. "Ever flown with Vision before? It's pretty awesome," and with that her red magic surrounded her (Bucky forcibly held back the flinch even if it made his shoulder ache horribly) and then she was fucking... floating away. The fuck even is his life?

When he looked away from her finally it was to see Vision standing there with one arm held out to him. Bucky took it hesitantly and then was glad for both the speed and the cold wind that kept his mind focused instead of on what had just transpired.