They’re at another charity event. They’d tapered off a bit, the former Avengers reputation at least partially rehabilitated to Tony’s satisfaction, but now they’ve brought Bucky into the fold and his reputation needs its own work, so back to the dog and pony show it is.
Tony’s okay with this, mostly. Therapy and time and a lot of deep breaths and some strategic breaking things in hidden, private moments, all paired with actually forcing himself to speak with the guy now that he’s unfrozen, has made him okay with this. Tony still has nightmares of Maria calling for Howard while that hand works its way around her throat. But he also knows James Barnes was just the face on that body.
Barnes is a nice guy. He’s had it rough, to say the least. He’s nice and he genuinely wants to help people when he can and he actually listens when Tony talks–unlike certain teammates Tony could mention–so Tony’s willing to do the work to make him a respected Avenger.
The party is on hour three, and it’s the third one this week. Other than Bucky, Tony is the only one who goes to all of them. On top of a full time job–multiple full time jobs, really–he’s exhausted. Not to mention, the people.
“Steve said you were a playboy, but I don’t see it.”
Tony didn’t even hear Bucky come up. He turns slowly. “What do you mean?” He asks, taking a sip from his club soda.
“People been throwin’ themselves at your feet since we walked in the door, an’ not a second look. Like you don’t even notice.”
Tony laughs darkly. “I noticed,” he says. “But I’m just not into the way they flirt anymore.” The money-grubbing, fame-hungry, attention-chasing way, he doesn’t say.
“What are you into, then?” Bucky asks. Tony looks him over slowly. His hair is tied back, his face clean-shaven. The tux fits him well. He’d tried to get Bucky into an old Army dress uniform like Steve sometimes did, but he’d categorically refused and Tony hadn’t pushed. The uniform would have sold an idea, but Tony’s pretty sure a hell of a lot of people, maybe including himself, are buying whatever the tux is selling, too.
He doesn’t say that. Instead, he says “If someone used cheesy pickup lines on me, I think I’d marry them.”
He’s heard his share, of course, but not since he was a hot piece of ass at seventeen or so. Ever since, flirting has been more refined, more…predatory.
Bucky grins. “Are you a magician?” He asks. “‘Cause when I look at you, everyone else disappears.”
Tony almost snorts soda out of his nose. “Jeez, Barnes. That’s…terrible.”
“I got more,” Bucky promises. “You got a bandaid? I scraped me knee fallin’ for you.”
Tony looks him over. “Careful there,” he says. “Any more and I might think you mean it.”
“I tried my best not to feel anything for you. I failed,” Bucky says, staring right back, and this one doesn’t seem quite as humorous.
Tony swallows. “Well, then,” he says. “Tell me more.”
“Can I have your picture so I can show Santa what I want for Christmas?”
This one makes Tony laugh a bit. “You buy a guy a drink too, or do you just have lines?” Tony asks.
Bucky smiles back. “It’s open bar.”
“So walk me over.”
That’s where Pepper catches up to them, Bucky’s arm around Tony’s back as Bucky whispers more lines at Tony and Tony chuckles. “Tony, what are you doing?” She asks, harried as ever when Tony goes off-script. “You were supposed to be getting ready for your speech ten minutes ago.” She blinks, looks them over. “What is going on here?”
“I swear, we’re not dating,” Tony blurts. Then pauses. “Yet.”
“Yet,” Bucky agrees, pushing Tony towards Pepper. “Go make your speech, doll. I’ve got lots more when you’re done.”
The entire time Tony is supposed to be looking over his speech, he’s on his phone, Googling dumb pickup lines for his own use later that night.