Bucky sighed as he looked over to where Tony was watching the end of Pocahontas with Rhodey, whispering something in the man’s ear. Rhodey said something back to him and poked him in his side, causing Tony to giggle softly..
“You know, I’m sure if you asked to join them they’d let you,” Natasha said from behind him, making Bucky jump. He hadn’t even noticed her come into the kitchen but she was sitting on the counter with a cup of coffee in her hands. “Tony let me color with him yesterday. He could barely talk to me, he kept blushing every time he tried. It was very sweet.”
“Oh sure, he let’s you hang out with him,” Bucky said grumpily as he sat down at the table, “everytime I look at him he practically runs and hides.”
After a fight with Loki had left Tony de-aged to a four year old, no one really knew what to expect. Probably a loud mouthed, fast talking, rambunctious child looking for trouble at every turn. What they definitely hadn’t expected was a shy, timid, little boy who spoke quietly, played with his hair or his fingers, sucked his thumb, and flinched back from loud voices. Little Tony was extremely polite, always saying please and thank you. He was content to sit quietly in the living room and watch cartoons or read a book
What they really hadn’t expected was how openly emotional Tony was, and how incredibly, adorably shy he was. Even though he didn’t seem to remember any of them as a four year old, Tony had still immediately latched onto Rhodey, clinging to him like an octopus. Bruce thought maybe Tony was more comfortable with Rhodes because he’d known Tony the longest and so Tony had some unconscious memory of him, but personally Bucky thought it had more to do with the fact that Rhodey had been the only one not yelling when Tony had woken after Loki’s spell.
So, Tony had latched onto Rhodey and never really left. He’d pull on Rhodey’s shirt or pants to bring him down to level when he was hungry, or tired, or needed to go to the bathroom. He watched cartoons with Rhodey, he ate meals with Rhodey, he played games and read with Rhodey, he took naps with Rhodey…. Basically everything he needed, he’d only go to Rhodey for.
Which was… fine.
No, Bucky was not jealous. What right did Bucky have to be jealous? Sure, he and Tony had gotten close in the last year that he’d been at the tower, but Tony and Rhodes had been friends for years. Of course Tony would be more comfortable with Rhodey than Bucky -- the big, muscular guy with a metal arm and a horrible resting murder scowl. Sure, maybe before it had been Bucky Tony had gone to when he was bored and wanted someone to mess with. Maybe it had been Bucky Tony would ask to go out to eat with, to go see movies with. Maybe it had been Bucky who Tony allowed in his workshop while he was working, who Tony allowed to come to him when his memories got too scrambled and he didn’t know which way was up and what was down. Maybe it was Bucky that Tony would go to when the nightmares got too bad, when the thoughts got too dark and he needed someone to pull him back.
But that was adult Tony. And, just from the apparent differences in personality alone, it was obvious that adult Tony and toddler Tony were definitely not the same person. He understood that, logically.
That didn’t mean it wasn’t a little upsetting when Bucky would look over at Tony and wave or smile, only for Tony’s eyes to go wide, his face grow pink, and for Tony to bury his face in Rhodes’ neck, or hide behind Rhodes’ leg. It was adorable , in all honesty. But it still stung a little to know that Tony didn’t want to come to him anymore.
“He’s just a little shy,” Natasha said as she hopped off the counter to join him at the table, “give him time to warm up to you.”
“It’s been almost a week,” Bucky definitely didn’t whine, “he even went to Barton yesterday to play with him, and--”
He cut himself off when he felt something lightly tug on his shirt.
Turning and glancing down, he was greeted with the sight of Tony looking up at him, brown eyes wide and his hands fidgeting nervously with the sleeves of his shirt.
“Hey, buddy,” Bucky said gently, trying to seem as calm and welcoming as possible even though his heart was speeding up in his chest from sudden nerves. “What’s up?”
“Um,” Tony murmured. He pulled at his sleeve again and glanced back at Rhodey, who was watching from the doorway. Rhodey smiled slightly and nodded.
“Um,” Tony tried again, voice louder, but still soft, “can… can you read t’me?”
Bucky felt his eyebrows shoot up in surprise. “Oh-”
“Please?” Tony added quickly, as though in afterthought.
Tony’s eyes were wide, nervousness palpable on his face as he shifted from foot to foot. Bucky glanced back at Natasha, who quirked an eyebrow and lifted her head as if to say ‘I told you so.’ He glanced over to Rhodey in the doorway, face expectant as he waited for Bucky to answer.
Bucky smiled. “Of course I can, buddy.”
Tony smiled back slightly and ducked his head before turning and running back into the living room.
“I told you,” Natasha said behind him, smugness in her voice, “he’s just got to warm up to you.”
Rhodey nodded as he waited for Bucky to stand and follow him into the living room.
“He’s been working up the courage to ask you for, like, two day now,” Rhodey said with a huff. “He was so afraid you’d say no for some reason.”
“I could never say no to him,” Bucky said.
“Yeah,” Rhodey said, smiling at him, “I know that.”
Tony was already sitting on the couch with a book by the time Bucky got there. His arm was wrapped around the Iron Man teddy bear Pepper had bought him earlier that week, and his thumb was in his mouth.
“Alright, kiddo,” Bucky said, sitting down next to Tony, “what are we reading?”
Tony held up a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone . Bucky took it, eyebrows raised. It seemed a little mature for Tony’s age group, but Tony was so much smarter than most kids his age. Bucky remembered Tony had built his first circuit board at four years old, so he didn’t think something like Dr. Seuss would keep Tony engaged for very long.
Wondering vaguely if young Tony would remember having read Harry Potter as an adult, he opened the book to the first page and began to read. The longer he went on reading, the more relaxed and comfortable Tony seemed to get. He slowly got closer to Bucky until he was so close Bucky had to lift his arm so Tony could lay more comfortably against his side. Every now and again Tony would let out a little giggle when Bucky read something he found funny, and he kept snuggling further into Bucky so he could try to follow along with the words.
“ You could just leave me here,’ Harry put in hope --”‘
“You’re not doin’ it right.”
Bucky glanced down at Tony, who was staring up at him with those bright, wide eyes again. Tony blushed slightly but kept staring at him.
“What do you mean?”
“You’re not doin’ the voices,” Tony said around his thumb, “Jarvis always does voices when he reads t’me.”
Bucky felt a flare of amusement as he looked back down at the book. He was already a chapter and a half in.
“Well, why didn’t you say something before?”
Tony ducked his head again, shrugging his shoulders. He heard Rhodes huff a laugh from across the room.
Bucky rolled his eyes in fond amusement before turning back to the book, clearing his throat.
“ ”You could just leave me here,” Harry put in hopefully,’ ” Bucky tried again in what he hoped sounded like a child’s voice. Tony let out a little giggle.
“‘ Aunt Petunia looked like she had swallowed a lemon .’” Bucky raised the pitch of his voice and said in a shrill, nasally tone, “” And come back and find the house in ruins? ””
Rhodes let out a snort and Tony began giggling in earnest, his body shaking slightly against Bucky’s side.
When he got to Uncle Vernon’s part, he dropped his voice as low as he could comfortably go, putting on the most terrible british accent he could muster up.
“ ‘That car’s new, he’s not sitting in it alone….’ ”
Tony was full out laughing now, obviously not paying attention to the book anymore.
“What?” Bucky asked, pretending to be put upon but struggling to cover up his amusement. “You said you wanted voices!”
“You… you sound... silly,” Tony said between giggles. His face was red from laughing and he was giving Bucky the brightest smile he’d seen from the boy all week.
“I sound silly!” Bucky said, talking in the shrill voice he had used for Aunt Petunia again. “You ask me to do voices and then you insult me!”
Tony laughed harder when Bucky’s voice cracked when he said ‘insult.’ Bucky was finding it impossible at this point not to laugh along with the boy who looked like he was almost in hysterics.
“Well, if you’re such an expert maybe you should do the voices,” Bucky said, poking Tony’s side to tickle him.
Tony let out a squeal when Bucky started tickling him, trying to crawl away from him. Bucky tossed the book to the side and grabbed Tony’s ankle, pulling him back towards him.
“Oh no you don’t,” Bucky said with a laugh, pulling Tony into his lap to tickle him more.
Tony laughed and laughed, trying and failing to escape Bucky’s clutches.
“Stop-stop!” Tony squealed suddenly, pushing Bucky’s hands away. Bucky quickly pulled his hands back.
“What? Are you ok?” He asked, thinking he had accidently hurt the boy.
Tony shook his head, blushing a little bit more as he motioned for Bucky to lean down closer, which he did.
“I have to go potty,” Tony whispered.
“Okay,” Bucky whispered back, suddenly unsure “Do you… do you want me to take you?”
Tony seemed to think about it for a moment, glancing back at Rhodey before turning to Bucky and nodding.
“Okay,” Bucky said, ruffling Tony’s hair, “let’s go.”
Bucky stood quickly and put Tony on his hip, walking him down the hall to the bathroom. Tony’s hand fisted the back of Bucky’s shirt.
“Hey, Bucky,” Tony said quietly.
“Can we… can we color after?”
“Sure,” Bucky said, beaming at the boy in his arms and brushing the hair back from his face, “we can do whatever you want.”