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WinterIron 2 - Mistletoe

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Tony was remarkably good at faking being asleep for someone who did not, actually, sleep particularly well.

It had, in the past, led to him overhearing some very interesting conversations.

Which seemed to be the case, once again.

“You swear it will work,” came the musical tones of Amora, the Enchantress. That was not someone he expected in his bedroom, especially since he didn’t remember inviting her there. Her magic had often ensnared or enchanted members of his team, but it never lasted more than a day, and didn’t seem to muddle with memories, so if Tony didn’t remember her being around, chances were, she’d just shown up. Which made it even more curious that she’d be in his bedroom. Also, freaky.

“Of course it will work,” someone said, and that was even weirder, because -- despite his voice sounding high-pitched and childish when recorded -- Tony had heard himself often enough that he recognized his own voice. “Those who initiate a kiss under the mistletoe will be enchanted with the object of their embrace during the Yule period. I will ensnare all the Avengers, and keep them from interfering with our plans; they will not dare to refuse me, so in love will they all be. Your power, combined with mine, will assure it.”

Tony’s eyes flew open in shock and he saw himself, speaking with the Enchantress.

What the utter hell!?

Well, that’s what he meant to say, but what came out was an ungodly yowl, like someone had stepped on a bagpipe.

“Oh, look, he’s awake,” Enchantress cooed. She took a few steps toward Tony, who was busily freaking out, and… picked him up and cuddled him to her bosom.

What? What, what, and some more what?

“Careful, my dear,” the Tony who was not Tony said. “Kitty’s got claws.”

And so, apparently, Tony (the real one, not the other one, which Tony was rapidly understanding was probably Loki) did. He unsheathed them and took a swipe at the blonde goddess, maring her perfect skin. He also got in a few good digs at her belly and bit her on the chin before she flung him across the room. He twisted instinctively, rebounded off the floor and wrapped all of his pointy bits around her calf.

“We don’t have time for this, Amora,” the Tony who wasn’t Tony said. He reached down and grabbed Tony-kitty by the scruff and lifted. That was… weird. And unfair. All his weight dangled helplessly, which was really uncomfortable. Tony was growling and hissing. He couldn’t help that, and even if he could have, he’d have probably been doing it anyway. “You don’t want to interfere in this, Stark. Allow the evening to pass, and no one has to be hurt. But if you dare try to thwart me again… Amora, show him.”

The Enchantress, who was magically healing her wounds and scowling, held out what looked like a plain, wooden arrow. “Mistletoe,” she said. “With this arrow, Loki tricked the blind god Hafur into murdering Buldur, the eldest of Odin’s sons. Buldur remains in Hel to this day. The arrow cannot miss its target. If you try to stop us, we will set it loose, and it will strike the heart of your beloved, who will suffer as no human has ever suffered. For all eternity, as there exist no true heroes to bargain with Hela and return a soul.”

His beloved? Tony couldn’t remember the last time he’d been on a date, much less been in a committed relationship. Which did not mean that the arrow and its magic wouldn’t find a target. Asgardian magic was... tricky. Much like those who cast it. And there was one obvious choice, wasn’t there? Tony’s crush on Bucky had long since passed the “amusing” and “simply lustful” stages and turned into something painfully poignant. Not that Tony’d ever breathed a word of it to anyone, not even Pepper or Rhodey. Which would likewise not keep the magic from working, damn it all. Tony hated magic.

There was also the possibility that they were bluffing, but though Loki would rather lie than save his own life with the truth, it seemed, Amora wasn’t one for a bluff. And she knew enough magic to make it hard for Loki to fool her on this. Which meant that whatever that arrow was, it wasn’t a normal piece of wood. They had him scruffed. Literally as well as figuratively. He growled again and hissed, and then grumbled out a chirrut of acquiescence. He had a week to figure out how to get around them. He had to make it count.

Amora propped one perfect leg up on his dressing bench and dabbed at the cuts there, each poke of her fingertip swirling green magic around that left nothing behind except the blots of blood. That was handy, Tony had to admit, but he wasn’t sure it was worth the cost; every magician he knew was either insane, a psycho, or both. “We should just kill him,” Amora sniffed. “He’s going to be trouble, even in this form. Or a frog? Frogs are harmless. And squishy. And they make a very satisfying splat when they hit the wall.”

Loki raised an eyebrow at her. “We can’t kill him, Enchilada,” he said, loftily. “Not if you want me to maintain this mask for any length of time. And let’s not with the frogs. Frogs are overdone. The cat will be locked up in the room. Let it be occupied with where the next can of wet food is coming from, and what of its own belongings it can use as a litter pan.”

“I hate you,” Amora said.

“I know. It adds spice to our game.”

Good, good. It was always a bonus when the bad guys hated each other. And if they thought they were locking him in here for long, they weren’t nearly as smart as they thought they were. Tony had built this place, much of it literally. He knew every nook, cranny, vent, and ductwork access hatch. The lack of hands would be a problem, but his intellect seemed to be intact (how did that even work; a cat’s brain was like an eighth the size of a human’s) so he was confident he’d figure something out. He hung, inert, in Loki’s grasp, willing the Asgardians to forget about him.

Loki sniffed and tossed Tony onto his bed -- the landing on his feet thing was pretty awesome, Tony had to admit that -- and shook a finger at him. “Don’t even think about trying to pounce again, Tiny Spark. You won’t starve in a week, but if I don’t come in to feed you, you’ll be very uncomfortable. There’s water in your facilities.” He pointed, in case Tony didn’t get the point; did Loki honestly expect him to drink out of the toilet?

“Come along,” Amora said. She shifted and changed; still a blonde, still green-eyed, but less… luminous. Like the sort of cover model Tony would have taken to a Christmas party a few years ago. She clung to Loki’s arm, eyes wide with admiration. Gotta hand it to her, bitch knew how to fake adoration.

Tony waited until they’d closed the door and he’d heard the lock engage, then jumped down off the bed. Step one: figure out how to get out of here.

There was a vent near the floor in the bedroom, but it was screwed into place. There were a couple in the bathroom, but they were in the ceiling. Oh! The cleaning ‘bot access hatch was in the closet, and it had a fairly simple manual override for the door, to allow for repairs and maintenance. Tony padded his way into the closet and found the hatch. It took a couple of tries to punch in the override code with his paws, but eventually the door slid open and stayed that way. Before a maintenance ‘bot could come to investigate, Tony slipped into the tunnel.

Maybe Thor could be warned before Loki and Amara got there; they’d have to put in an appearance at the party, and if Tony’s luck hadn’t entirely run out, Thor might still be in his quarters. Tony summoned a mental map of the building, and took off through the tunnels at a run.

 

Chapter Text

Bucky was counting the minutes until it would be acceptable -- meaning Steve wouldn’t ask stupid questions -- to leave the party.

There were all the basic reasons to not want to be at a Christmas party, even an exclusive event for the Avengers and some of their friends and family (and those persons with whom they needed to remain on good terms, even if no one actually liked them). First off, there was still the dark part of the Winter Soldier that lurked -- most of the programming had been removed, but there were certain… mind-sets that sometimes jumped out at bad moments, that had to be left in, or risk Bucky being downright useless for combat, and he’d always known that there would never be a time when someone wouldn’t want to shove a gun in his hand.

But he mostly had a handle on that.

What he didn’t expect, and therefore did not have a handle on, was Tony coming in on the arm of a stunning, leggy blonde with a dress split up to her hip and showing cleavage all the way down to her fucking navel and staring at Tony as if he’d hung the moon. Not that Bucky could blame the little hussy for that -- Tony was pretty damned amazing -- but he’d never personally wear his heart on his sleeve like that.

Bucky found a nice corner. Keeping his back to the wall settled some of the itch in his brain, and he could watch the entire room from his position. And then he put his don’t bother me face on. It wouldn’t keep away Steve. Or Nat. Or even Clint. But none of the guests would pester him with small talk.

Wine and eggnog and Christmas cake made for a loud, somewhat tipsy group -- for those of them who could get tipsy. Thor’d promised some Asgardian mead for the more alcohol tolerant people on the team, but Thor hadn’t made his appearance yet. Bucky wondered what fashionably late for as Asgardian Prince meant, exactly, because he could damn sure use a drink.

He’d thought -- obviously, he was wrong -- that he and Tony had been having some nice, mutual flirting. Getting to know each other. And that maybe, maybe, the man might be inclined to step out with Bucky, once in a while. See if there was something that could be made from the spark that Bucky, at least, had thought was between them.

But Tony barely glanced in his direction, spending most of his attention on the blonde. Bending close to whisper in her ear and then they were both laughing at some private joke. One of the guests greeted him, and while he turned a smile on them, he barely listened for a moment before taking the blonde’s hand and tugging her along, deeper into the throng.

Bucky made one foray into the crowd, mostly to secure a plate full of food. There was no other pleasure to be had at the evening’s entertainment, since his plans of asking if Tony wanted to dance went out the window with the way the blonde was clinging to him. He made a little, barely there effort to socialize with Steve, and then was determinedly ambushed by Sharon Carter, who insisted he dance with her once, and then made his way back to his corner, bristling like a feral hedgehog.

A mostly-empty champagne flute dangled from Tony’s fingers as he and his date made their way through the room. They stopped by one wall where Bruce was wallflowering nearly as determinedly as Bucky, and Tony introduced them with lot of of waving hands, nearly sloshing his drink out of the glass.

The woman giggled and produced a sprig of mistletoe -- where had she gotten it? She wasn’t carrying a purse -- and held it over Tony’s head. She seemed to be laughingly tipsy, and Bruce smiled indulgently and leaned over to kiss Tony’s cheek. Tony turned his head at the last second to catch the kiss on the corner of his mouth, and all three of them laughed.

Bruce swayed gently on his feet for a moment, then took Tony’s arm on the other side, and accompanied the couple around the room, talking animatedly with Tony -- and sometimes with the blonde, but even when she seemed to be listening, Bruce was staring at Tony with something close to interest -- the whole time.

Oh, come on. How was that even fair? It wasn’t even a real kiss, Bruce should not be acting like Tony just offered him a Nobel prize for science or something. It was even weirder, when Tony dragged both of them out onto the dance floor and bopped along merrily to a pop version of Deck the Halls. Bruce did not dance. And he didn’t drink, either.

Bucky scowled.

“You know, if you keep making that face, it’s going to stick that way,” Nat mentioned. Bucky didn’t bother to ask where she’d come from.

“Good,” he muttered. What the hell did he have to smile about anyway? Tony was whispering in Bruce’s ear, and the woman was all but gloating. And then Tony sent Bruce off somewhere with a goddamn pat on his ass?

“Are you growling?”

“Shut up, solnyshko,” Bucky said.

“It’s probably a science thing,” Nat said, reasonably. “You know how those two are.”

“Bruce was dancing with him,” Bucky pointed out. “He doesn’t even dance with you. That doesn’t bother you?”

Nat made a noncommittal sort of noise. “If you want, I can go fishing. Find out about the--”

“Tart.”

“You are jealous, aren’t you?”

“And you went to spy school t’ figure that out,” Bucky retorted. “Just… figure out who she is.”

“I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about. Tony sometimes thinks he needs to maintain his reputation.”

“He can maintain it with someone who cares about him, and not his money, his connections, or his--”

“Brains? Heroism? Charisma? Charm? Style? Sense of humor?”

“You want me to throw you out the window?”

Nat swanned away, the tinkling bell of her laughter trailing after her.

Tony smiled broadly when Nat approached and put his arm around her shoulders to introduce her to his... companion. Nat took the woman’s hand in what seemed like genuine pleasure, and soon they were all three talking like old friends. Bucky tried to relax -- Nat was going to ferret out who the woman was, and they’d figure out together what to do from there -- but he couldn’t stop watching.

And there was that damn mistletoe again. Seriously, was she keeping it down her cleavage?

Nat cast a look back across the room at Bucky, and her mouth curved wickedly. Oh, no, hell no-- but yes, because there was nothing Bucky could do to stop it. Nat curled her arms seductively around Tony’s neck and planted one on him that left Bucky breathing hard.

Jesus, he knew Nat could seduce a stone, but did she really have to? And could she stop? Any time now would be good. Great. Bucky would throw a damn party of his own if Nat would get her tongue out of Tony’s mouth sometime before New Year’s.

At least Tony’s date didn’t seem to mind, which meant she wasn’t actually interested in Tony for his person. She was actually bouncing from foot to foot like an excited thirteen-year-old. Nat finally backed off, and Tony’s lip was swollen from kissing her, his lip red from Nat’s lipstick. He looked… well-used and pleased. Bucky was going to be sick if this kept up. The blonde handed the spring of mistletoe over to Tony, linked her arm with Nat, and drew her away, chatting eagerly.

Nat… kept looking back at Tony.

Tony waggled his fingers at her, then turned away, oblivious to the look she was giving him, strolling off into the party. He pulled up where Steve was refilling a plate in between trying to one-up Sam’s seemingly endless supply of Stupid Shit I Have Done stories. Tony said something that made Steve laugh, and then Tony’s hand was on Steve’s elbow. What even the fuck?

Bucky was starting to hope, maybe, it was some sick practical joke that Clint had set up and gotten everyone in on, because--

Jesus Christ, when the hell had Steve learned to kiss someone like that? Because honestly, Tony lolled backward over Steve’s arm like a dame in an old talkie, practically swooning. Sam was staring, his eyes practically popping out of his head.

That was it. Bucky was done. Tony might not be interested in him -- or if he was, it was only as a heart to add to his collection -- but Bucky didn’t need to stay to watch, either. He shoved up from his chair, just as Thor thundered into the room.

Thor held up the horn of some impossible beast, capped at one end with gold, with a tiny wooden stopper at the other end. “Ho, there, friends,” Thor said. “I have brought mead, and choice victuals from my father’s palace. As well as yon creature that I discovered roaming the halls, if any have misplaced their pet.”

The cat tucked under Thor’s arm was dwarfed by Thor’s muscles, but it seemed happy enough to be there, rubbing its head against Thor’s bicep and pawing at him, pay attention to me me meeeeee.

Tony glanced up at Thor’s boisterous entrance and looked rather sour -- unusual, because Tony and Thor generally got along well. Maybe Tony didn’t care for cats? Bucky would have pegged him for a cat person, if anything, but he’d been wrong before.

About a great many things, apparently.

Mead. Bucky really, really needed a drink. He snagged a cup on his way by the food table, not even looking at Tony, because Steve’s hand was still lingering on Tony’s hip, and Bucky was trying damn hard not to notice, because if he noticed, then he might feel obligated to do something about it, and-- yeah, not looking, not looking. “Happy Holidays, Thor,” Bucky said. He couldn’t remember what mid-winter holiday Thor actually celebrated, but it seemed every culture, everywhere, had some sort of solstice festival, and Asgards were no exception. “Hit me up?”

“Of course, friend Barnes! I shall be delighted!” Thor was always delighted. And loud. And sometimes annoying. But Bucky was going to let it pass, just this once, because he was afraid if he rained on Thor’s parade, Thor might try to one-up him. Besides, Thor had mead. The honey-sweet liquor glimmered gold in Bucky’s cup and promised sweet oblivion. At least for tonight. Tomorrow, it promised Hel’s own hangover.

“Thor! And Barnes, of course,” Tony said, smiling that smile that was not like Tony’s real smile at all. “Glad you could make it!”

“I did give my word that I would so attend,” Thor said, puzzled. His brilliant grin dimmed a little and he tipped his head to look at Tony curiously. “You seem not quite yourself this evening, my friend. Did you… cut your hair?” He offered Bucky a grin. “That is what I must always ask my fair Jane when she looks different. What do you think? Is it the suit? Or the manner in which he is carrying himself this even’?”

Bucky scowled. The only thing different he’d noticed about Tony was his propensity to fucking swap tonsils with everyone in the room, and that he had his press-smile on. If something bad had happened, Tony would have told someone, wouldn’t he have? “No, I’d say it’s just like Tony… not one-hundred percent a dick.” But getting really damn close tonight.

Tony chuckled. “Maybe it’s just that I’m on my best form tonight,” he said. “Has your lovely Jane told you about our quaint Midgardian custom surrounding mistletoe?” He showed the spring, spinning it idly between his fingers.

Thor looked grave. “She has indeed, and I am told that the tree itself gave great apologies for the harm it did one of my people, thousands of years before. It has become frivolous, as many Midgardian customs are; not the solemn and serious tradition, held in reverence for the mourned dead, that it should.”

Bucky raised his cup. Apparently, Thor was going to decline to add himself to Tony’s roster of necking partners for the evening. “To your people’s loss,” Bucky said, then downed the contents of the cup in a single swallow.

Which might have been a mistake. He barely licked his lips, the honey-sweet taste flooding his mouth and brain and making everything seem… deliciously soft.

“I thank you,” Thor said, clapping Bucky on the back soundly. “I shall carry your respects to my father, whose kin was slain by an evil spell and an arrow of mistletoe.”

Bucky blew his hair out of his face, feeling comfortably numb suddenly.

Tony pouted. “It’s a night for partying, for making merry,” he complained. “What about you, Barnes?” He dandled the mistletoe over his head. “Care to take a dare?”

Thor’s cat was snarling at Tony, fur standing up on its spine, making the little thing look twice its normal size.

“I think I’d rather kiss a cat,” Bucky said, and matching actions to words, he leaned forward, fully expecting the animal to become a ball of pointybits and claw his face off for his audacity.

But it lunged forward, out of Thor’s arms, nearly knocking Bucky into Tony in its sudden enthusiasm. It rubbed its face all over Bucky’s -- mine mine mine -- and draped itself over Bucky’s shoulders with a smug purr.

Tony stumbled back with a glare. “Stupid beast,” he growled. “It doesn’t belong here.”

Bucky scratched the cat between its pointy black ears, rubbing the soft fur. “It does now,” he declared. “Come on, baby,” he said to the cat. “Let’s get out of here. We know when we’re not wanted, don’t we?” Bucky shoved his empty cup at Tony, knowing that Tony hated being handed things and doing it anyway, because he was damned angry. Tony took the cup without apparent concern. “Goodnight, Thor.”

Behind him, Tony’s little chippie had finished her conversation with Nat, and was draped all over Thor like a wet dishrag with breasts.

Asshole,” Bucky muttered to the cat, poking the elevator button with unnecessary force.

The cat purred in what seemed to be agreement. It -- he? -- reached for the bank of elevator buttons, pawing at them impatiently.

“Yeah, we’re going, we’re going,” Bucky told the cat. “I’m on the 88th floor--” He was joking, but the cat actually banged that particular button, which Bucky blinked a few times. “I must be drunker than I thought. Am I slurring? I think I’m slurring.” Maybe Bucky had pushed the button and the cat had just pawed at the light. That made sense. He didn’t remember pushing the button, but Asgardian mead had some strange effects on Midgardians. “Come on, we can sleep it off in my room.”

The cat seemed perfectly content to follow Bucky into his room. He jumped up onto the bed and curled his tail around his toes, watching Bucky with unnerving intensity. He meowed once, and made a strange chirping sound, like he was spying a bird, but those eyes were focused on Bucky.

“Yeah, you said it, cat. Hmmm. You need a better name than cat,” Bucky said. He threw himself onto the bed, knocking the cat over. “Sorry. I dunno. What’s your name, boy? Are you a boy? I don’t even--” He sat up to pick the cat up. Flipping it onto its back, cradled it like a baby, seemed to bother the animal a lot, it squirmed and yowled and pushed at him, although there were no claws in evidence. But Bucky managed to get a good look at its works; male. And not neutered, either. “Huh. Big boy, aren’t ya? Don’t you spray anythin’ in here, okay? Deal? Deal.”

The cat managed to look disgusted, somehow. He squirmed free of Bucky’s arms and resumed his spot on the bed, furiously licking his fur back into place.

Bucky scrubbed at his face with both hands. “Tell ya what, you’re very intelligent-looking, for a cat. I think I’ll call you Sherlock. If that’s okay with you?” He offered the cat his fingers, a little unsteady. Damn that mead was some strong stuff. Bucky felt like he’d been kicked in the head by a small, aggressive donkey.  

The cat bumped its face into his fingers and purred forgiveness and agreement. Sherlock it was, then. Sherlock stood up and stropped its body against Bucky’s side, purring even louder.

“Well, at least someone likes me,” Bucky said. Ug. He was starring in his own personal disaster movie; a rom-com without any rom, and where the com part was only funny to the viewing audience. “What a terrible night. I mean, what the fuck even, was that shit? Seriously, if it turns out that someone was pranking me, I am going to commit murder. I mean that. You don’t know me, but murder’s kinda my thing. I’m really good at it. ‘Bout the only damn thing I am good at. I mean, you didn’t see it, Sherlock, but Tony was… ug. He was kissing everyone.” Well, everyone but Bucky, and by the time he got around to offering, Bucky didn’t want to kiss him anymore, because he knew where that mouth had been. Yuck.

Sherlock growled, as if he, too, was mad at Tony.

“Yeah, you said it,” Bucky said. It was nice to have someone listening to him. “And Nat, too. What the hell was she doing, trying to wind me up? I thought she and Bruce were a thing, and she goes kissing Tony like she’s mining for gold? Was she tryin’ to get me to make a move, or what? What do you think, Sherlock? But… why would she do that? We’re friends. Sort of.”

Sherlock batted at him with a paw, gently. If a cat could look confused, Sherlock managed it.

“Don’t you start,” Bucky said. “Tony… Tony don’t need to know how I feel. He obviously ain’t… interested. Or, maybe he’s too interested. Just… not in me.” He made a scoffing noise. “Ain’t even fair, Sherlock. Probably should have kissed him, when he offered. Like t’ be my only chance at it. Least I coulda had that.”

Sherlock growled and crawled into Bucky’s lap, standing up to rub his face against Bucky’s cheek.

“Yeah, you’re a sweet baby,” Bucky said, rubbing the cat’s head and down his back, tugging lightly on the long curved tail. The cat’s affection was uncomplicated. Bucky swallowed down a lump in his throat. “Good boy. Yeah, you are.” Bucky made kissy noises at the cat, nuzzling against the cat’s nose and dropping kisses along the cat’s head and ears. “I dunno what I’m gonna do with you. Get you a few things? Might have some tinned tuna in my pantry. I’ll give you some if you promise t’ wait til tomorrow to need a litter box. You hungry?”  

Sherlock paused as if considering it, then meowed shortly and jumped down, leading the way to the kitchen and its pantry.

Bucky crawled off the bed, staggered into the kitchen. He found a shallow bowl and poured out some milk, putting that on the floor before searching through his truly epic collection of tinned food. That had been one of those… things. When he’d started coming back to himself, hoarding food was a thing he’d done. “Yeah, don’t tell anyone,” he said to Sherlock, very seriously. “I have some anxiety, an’ everyone worries about it, but… it’s just food, right?” His shelves were well stocked; jarred tomato sauce, pasta of every variety, canned vegetables. Cake mix and bread mix and fifteen kinds of jelly. There was enough food in his pantry to feed even a super soldier for at least a month. “Spam?” He offered the blue can to Sherlock, who turned up a pink nose at it. “Don’t blame you for that… okay, let’s see… ah! Salmon. It’s not quite tuna, but close enough? Fishie fishie?”

Sherlock head-butted the can and purred, his eyes squinting shut as if he were laughing.

“Okay. Salmon it is. But cat food, tomorrow, okay? So don’t get used to it.” He scraped the fish onto a plate and sat it next to the dish of milk. Bucky unbalanced himself a little and ended up sitting on the floor. “Guess I’ll keep you company.” He tipped his head back against the cabinet and sighed. “God, I’m pathetic. Pathetic, do you even know that word, Sherlock? Nursin’ a stupid crush on a guy who doesn’t even look at me? Who spent half the night makin’ out with everyone in the damn room, right in front of me? If that don’t say ‘not interested,’ plain as day, I don’t know what does.”

Sherlock looked up from his meal, another confused tip to his head, then padded over and climbed into Bucky’s lap, purring again. He curled up as if he meant to stay; maybe he wasn’t all that hungry, after all.

Bucky waited a while; there was something just wrong about bothering a sleeping cat. He remembered that from his mom’s cat, who would curl up in the middle of Bucky’s back at night, like his own personal heater, and Bucky would delay getting up to get a drink because he didn’t want to bother the cat.

“A’ight, Sherlock,” Bucky said. “I know you can sleep jus’ about anywhere, but if I doze off on th’ kitchen floor, I’m gonna have an even bigger pile of regret tomorrow. Hop up, would you?” He didn’t actually expect the cat to do so, and was bracing himself to bother the cat and climb to his feet when Sherlock stretched lazily and climbed down.

“Well, that’s nice of you, thanks,” Bucky said. He peeled his shirt off as he walked back into the bedroom, hitting the laundry basket from across the room. “Two points.”

He stepped out of his jeans and hung them over the back of his chair. Absently considered brushing his teeth, but it’s not like there was anyone who was going to be offended by his breath. He’d do it tomorrow. Stripped out of his boxers and turned down the blankets. “You comin’ to bed, Sherlock?”

Sherlock stared at him for a long moment, then seemed to shake all over, almost like a dog, before he hopped up onto the bed. He chose a spot on top of the blankets but curled against Bucky’s side, purring softly with each breath.

Bucky pulled the blankets up over his shoulder, got comfortable on his pillow, and turned off the light. No sense feeling bereft. He hadn’t really lost anything. It’s not like he had Tony. There wasn’t anything to be upset about. He was no worse off today than yesterday.

At least now he had a cat.

 

Chapter Text

Bucky dropped off fairly quickly, which was a good thing, because Tony’s brain was racing. Bucky had a crush on him? A crush. On Tony. And anxiety issues, but hey, who the hell in this place didn’t have a few of those?

The important thing was that Bucky had a crush on Tony, and Tony’s stupid crush was not utterly useless, and also that Bucky was extremely hot when he was naked--

No, stupid brain. Focus on something other that Bucky’s dick. For now. Later, that was going to deserve some serious consideration, but for now, Tony was still stuck in a cat’s body and Bucky had been petting and cooing over him and that had been nice but was not even a little bit like the kind of attention he wanted. But to get that attention, he had to figure out how to not be a cat any more.

Preferably, ideally, while thwarting Loki and Enchantress’ plot. He had to get his hands -- paws, whatever -- on that stupid arrow. That apparently could transform into a sprig of mistletoe. If they couldn’t threaten him anymore, then he might be able to alert the others. Except they were probably all under Loki’s thrall by now.

God, the gossips were going to have a field day with that party. Loki-as-Tony had been slutting it up, hard. Tony wondered if Loki had used magic to nudge everyone into those kisses or if he’d always been just a few hard flirts away from--

Focus. There was no way he could deal with both Loki and the Enchantress, not alone. Bucky had seemed immune to whatever charm Loki was using to get the others under their spell, though, so maybe, if he could convince Bucky... But how? He’d tried demonstrating that he was smarter than the average cat, but Bucky had shaken it off with some rationalization or other.

Maybe it would be less easy to shake off once he’d slept off Thor’s mead. Or maybe Tony needed to be more obvious. About a lot of things, but for right now... He needed something he could shred.

Thoughts finally focused in the right direction, Tony uncurled and stretched -- this body seemed to like stretching a lot -- and allowed himself one last drag of his face across Bucky’s stubbled jaw (mine!) before he hopped down from the bed and strolled into the bathroom.

Unrolling all the toilet paper was a lot more fun than it had any right to be, and halfway through, Tony’s swishing tail got caught in a loop of the paper and he just had to attack it.

By the time he finished subduing his errant tail, he had already succeeded in making quite a mess of the toilet paper on the floor. He flopped into it and panted.

He seemed to be acting more catlike by the moment. He didn’t think his intellect was changing at all, but his body seemed more and more determined to take over and do... cat things. Was that a thing that was going to happen? Would it eventually have full control, leaving Tony nothing more than a passenger in the cat’s brain.

Christ, he needed to get this fixed.

He shredded some more paper, and found a spot of clear floor that was big enough to use and not likely to be disturbed.

Manipulating the scraps of paper with only his paws was difficult at best. He had to resort to carrying them in his mouth to the right spot and then nudging them into place with his paws and nose.

Arranging bits of shredded paper into a readable message wasn’t easy, either -- he couldn’t see the whole thing at once, and when he jumped up on the sink to get a better view, the sink automatically turned on and got his whole tail wet. That, he discovered, was even more uncomfortable as a cat than as a human.

It took a lot longer than he expected it to, but finally, it was done. He went into the kitchen and ate the rest of the salmon. Then he had to have an argument with himself about the milk -- the body wanted it but Tony had seen the results of feeding a cat milk, and they weren’t pretty. Finally, he managed to drag his body away from the milk by reminding it that Bucky was still sleeping, warm and still and just begging for him to curl back up against.

His own desire to be next to Bucky turned out to be stronger than the body’s need for the milk, thank goodness. He jumped up onto the bed and curled up in the arc of Bucky’s body, an automatic purr rumbling deep in his chest. He deserved some rest.

***

Bucky woke up with classic hangover times ten; a mouth that felt and tasted like something scaley had died in there, aching muscles, a head that weighed eighty pounds, light-sensitive eyes, and the feeling that something horrible had happened.

It took him a minute to remember what the horrible thing was.

Right.

He was tempted to just pull the covers back over his head and pretend that he was asleep. He had a whole Tony-less life to look forward to, and he didn’t really feel like starting now. There were two problems with that. The first was a rather warm, curled up ball of fur that was sleeping draped over Bucky’s ankle and holding all the blankets down. The second was his bladder, which was screaming. Faintly at first -- quiet enough that Bucky ignored it in favor of not waking the cat for a while -- and then eventually getting to the point that Bucky was willing to risk grouchy cat to get his kidneys to shut up.

“Morning, fuzzball,” Bucky said, shifting his leg just a little. He wasn’t quite sure if Sherlock was one of those cats who became pointy-I’m-not-moving bits when woken suddenly or not. Or chased bed mice. That was always amusing. Bucky pulled his knee up slowly, getting his foot out from under the cat. “You don’t hafta move, I’m jus’ goin’ to the bathroom.”

The cat lifted his head and slitted deep gold-brown eyes. Bucky hadn’t really noticed much about the cat yesterday, aside from soft, and warm, but it really was a handsome animal; a tuxedo with a white face, a distinctive beard and moustache around its muzzle, white paws and a star in the middle of his chest.

“You really are the cutest thing,” Bucky told Sherlock, seriously. “I almost hope I don’t find your owner. Wanna keep you for my own.”

Sherlock chirruped agreement and stood up, stretching. He stretched up, propping his paws on Bucky’s chest, and meowed very seriously, then jumped down and led the way to the bathroom.

Bucky got his feet under him; ug. Standing. Why? Considered the idea of crawling to the bathroom. Freaking Asgardian mead hangover. Wouldn’t help. He still needed to do his daily calibration and he couldn’t do that if his weight was on his shoulder. He popped his neck and worked his way gingerly to his feet. Twisted his wrist and issued the calibration routine order, stretching his shoulder and flexing the muscles, venting any excess heat that built up during the night -- the machinery had never been made with human integration in mind. It tended to ignore things like sleep cycles when he couldn’t activate the heat dumps. Stupid design. He got all the way down to flexing his fingers by the time he made it into the bathroom.

Not tripping over the cat was an exercise in patience and dexterity; Sherlock weaved in and out between his ankles with every step. “Stop that,” he scolded. “I weigh more than the average. I will totally squish you if I fall on you, furbrain.”

He didn’t quite trust his aim to piss while standing, so he slumped onto the toilet.

And noticed that all the toilet paper was gone, just the cardboard tube sitting, smugly, on the holder. The rest of the paper was piled… everywhere.

“Really?” he asked the cat. “You just had to--”

He trailed off, staring at the floor in front of the tub.

Bits of the shredded toilet paper had been arranged into the word HELP. That couldn’t be any kind of coincidence. And as if to underscore it, Sherlock twined around Bucky’s ankles, then sat next to the P, tail forming an exclamation point. He meowed again, pointedly, watching Bucky intently.

“Th’ utter fuck?” Bucky whispered, too stunned to speak any louder. Did… “did you do that?”

Sherlock meowed and -- very deliberately -- bowed and lifted his head in a cat-equivalent of a human nod.

Bucky took a very deep breath, got up from the toilet. Washed his hands. And his face. And scrubbed mead off his teeth. Ignored the cat. It was still cat sized, even if there seemed to be more at work here than just feline mischief. He did not condone panic. Panic was not allowed. The cat had been in his room the entire night, while he was sleeping. If it intended him some sort of harm, drunk and asleep would have been a better time than awake and mostly functional.

And naked. Bucky squinted down at himself; claws on skin wasn’t fun, even for supersoldiers and their advanced healing. Getting dressed might make this all feel a little less surreal.

He was pretty sure he remembered Thor saying something about the cat last night, which meant -- probably -- that Bucky wasn’t hallucinating a cat that could spell.

Probably.

He stalked out of the bathroom and started yanking his clothes on.

Sat down on the bed and scrubbed his face with his hands. Looked up. There was still a cat in the room that hadn’t vanished into a poof of logical analysis.

“Riiiight. I’m losin’ my fuckin’ mind, that’s what’s happening here, right?”

Sherlock let out a pitiful meow, then caught Bucky’s pants leg in his teeth and tugged with what had to be every bit of his -- what? Maybe ten pounds? Trying to pull Bucky back toward the bathroom and that impossible message.

“You know you’re not the one t’ go to for reassurance, Sherlock,” Bucky said, then laughed. Sherlock. What a fucking appropriate name. “So, what… are you like, someone’s experiment or something? Has someone been makin’ smart cats down in the labs?”

Sherlock gave up trying to pull on Bucky’s pants and stropped against his leg, then bolted across the room to Bucky’s infrequently-used computer station. He jumped up onto the desk and began batting at the mouse.

“That is a mouse, not a… ok, great. Super smart cat c’n use a computer,” Bucky said. “Okay. Sure. Typing with itty bitty kitty paws. Is this even happening? Please, jus’ tell me this is some epic hangover thing, because I don’t know that I can deal with this.” Despite the whining, Bucky switched on the device, waited for the computer to do its loading up thing, and clicked over to a word processing application. “Have at, kitten.”

And then he had to fall into the computer’s desk chair, because he was pretty sure he was not going to be standing for much longer.

Sherlock tapped delicately at the keyboard. It was a slow process, but his first message was short: loki and enchantress.

Yeah. Sitting was a good plan. Bucky was happy to be a part of it. Actual. Words. From a cat. “You’re a magic cat?” That made as much sense as anything, which was okay, he could cope with that. Thor had spent a while as a frog some months back, so… yeah. Cat. Bucky’s eyes narrowed suspiciously.

im tony. loki stole my body.

Sure. Great. The cat was… oh fucking Christ. The cat was Tony. Tony was the cat. The cat. Tony. Bucky’s mouth dropped open in shock and then panic. Tony. Was the. Cat. Tony… who’d been in Bucky’s room for the entire bullshit scenario where Bucky’d been… oh fuck. Fuck him sideways through a rolling doughnut.

Sherlock -- no, wait, Tony -- was still typing. have 2 stop them asap.

Bucky held one finger up. “Excuse me a minute.”

He got up without looking back, went in to the bathroom, shut the door behind him and locked it. “Oh, my god. Ohmigod. Oh. My. God. This cannot be happening.” The toilet paper letters were still there, a little scattered from the movement of air in the room, but perfectly readable.

HELP

The fuck did Tony want Bucky to do about two magicians who turned people they didn’t like into cats?

Scritch scritch scritch. Tony was clawing at the door, trying to push it open. “Mrowwwwwww,” he complained loudly.

Not to mention-- “You heard all that, last night, didn’t you?” Bucky asked.

A pause. “Mow.” Whatever that meant.

Just like a cat, always on the wrong side of a closed door. Bucky sighed, letting his head drop. “Sorry, you can’t come in. I’m going to drown myself in th’ shower. Die of mortification or somethin’.”

“Mrowwww!” That sounded distinctly impatient. More scritching at the door, faster now, like he was trying to claw through it. Then silence. That was even more worrisome.

“What?” Bucky sighed. He couldn’t even look at himself in the mirror, how was he supposed to face Tony, like ever again? “You cannot expect me t’ handle this. I ain’t even remotely qualified t’ deal with demagicking anyone.” He washed his face again, as if the answer to everything could be found in a sink full of cold water. On the other hand, if… wait, wait, wait. If Loki had stolen Tony’s body, then--

“What the utter fuck was Loki doing kissing everyone?”

There was a rustle from the far side of the toilet and then a panel slid open and Tony came squeezing through. “Meow,” he said, irritably.

“Oh, come on,” Bucky snapped. “You cannot expect me t’ take this calmly. You’ve had… however long it was bein’ a cat t’ get all… adjusted. I’m still dealin’ with hangover an’ mortal embarrassment. Stop fussin’.”

He took a couple of deep breaths, tried to center himself. Okay. Fix Tony first, and then he could worry about finding some deep hole to hide in for the rest of his life. “Okay. I’m gonna make coffee,” Bucky said. “You… go play with th’ computer an’ tell me what I need t’ know.”

Tony huffed, but nosed up against the bathroom door and pushed through the instant Bucky cracked it, beelining for the computer.

Bucky tried to ignore that there was a cat on his computer and went in to his kitchen, setting up a pot of coffee and grabbing himself a couple of eggs to scramble. The plates he’d put down on the floor were still there; the salmon empty and the milk still there with a thin layer of skin over it. Yuck. He picked them up and dumped them in the sink.

He was pretty sure cats shouldn’t drink coffee -- Tony was bad enough when he was hyped up on caffeine, Bucky didn’t want to see what a cat-sized caffeine disaster was like. He split the eggs when he was done, and poured Tony a bowl of water instead.

Freaky.

He had to stop and gasp for air for a few minutes, before going into the other room with assorted breakfasts. “Come on, have somethin’ to eat,” Bucky said, putting the scrambled egg and water down on the table. He was also pretty sure cats shouldn’t be on the table, but it was weird to think of Tony eating at his feet. Yeah, right, okay, not going to think about any of this, beyond what to do next. When Tony didn’t stop pecking at the computer, Bucky sighed, got up, and scooped up the cat.

God, the fur was so soft, Bucky had the strongest urge to bury his face in it. “Eat first, if you want me functional.” He set the cat down at the table, picked up his coffee cup and drank.

Tony sniffed at the eggs and took a delicate bite, then looked at the dish of water. He looked from the water to Bucky’s mug, then back to the water. “Mrrrr,” he grumbled. He turned up his nose at the water and went back to eating eggs.

“You can’t have coffee,” Bucky protested. “I mean, you’re a magical cat, but I refuse to be responsible for poisoning you.” Poor Tony, he mused. If he was stuck that way. Bucky wasn’t sure he wanted to contemplate it. “Don’t eat so fast. You’re gonna hork it back up at that rate.” Bucky finished his food -- it wasn’t nearly enough, but it should keep him going for a while, baseline functional, which was all he needed at the moment -- and scooped Tony back up. He probably shouldn’t be carrying the genius around, but the cat was hard to resist. Fluffy. He sat down in the computer chair, cat in his lap, and looked over what Tony had to say, absently stroking the cat’s back.  

Tony curled onto Bucky’s lap, apparently content with being petted. The typing he’d left on the screen was a lot less fluffy. loki and amora plotting vs thor. magic mistletoe, kiss = enthralled. can kill too. need to take away. think it will break spells. if not, find thor. hope he wi

That must have been where he’d been interrupted for breakfast.

“Amora’s that blonde bitch that came in with you-- er, not you, but Loki?” It was still weirdly painful, thinking of Tony, who wasn’t, apparently, Tony at all, necking with everyone in the room. Bucky shoved it off to one corner to stew by itself. He didn’t have time for it. “And everyone else is under Loki’s spell? That’s gonna make this hard. I don’t wanna fight my way through the team to get to you. Him. Whatever.”

Tony uncurled and reached for the keyboard again. work 2gether. u distract, i get arrow. tell him u reconsidered kiss. i grab and run. 

“You better move damn fast,” Bucky said, chest squeezing strangely at the thought of kissing Tony, even if it was Loki, wearing Tony’s face. “I’m tough, but I ain’t gonna be much good against the god of mischief. Run where?” 

bot tunnel. how i got in bathroom. human-size wont fit. will take 2 thor. 

Bucky nodded. “All right,” he said. “I’ll try an’ give you a headstart.” And hope that Loki didn’t kill him, because that was not entirely unlikely. What did he know about the god; that Loki, like Amora, couldn’t cast if he couldn’t speak. Well, that was an idea. Bucky sat Tony down on the floor and dug in his closet. He still used a Winter Soldier face-mask during combat scenarios; his sense of smell went way up when he accessed his training, and the overwhelming sensations sometimes distracted him, so Tony had adapted his face mask. And to keep other people from messing with it, it was DNA imprinted, so only Bucky could take it off. It might work, if Loki wasn’t expecting it.

It was a little bulky, so Bucky pulled out a zippered hoodie and tucked it inside the hood. It wasn’t the most subtle thing in the world, but it was better than nothing.

“If… um,” Bucky said, looking down at his feet. “If this doesn’t work, I’m sorry ‘bout last night.” For that matter, even if it did work, Bucky was sorry he’d said anything. Tony didn’t need to have to deal with Bucky mooning over him.

Tony looked at him, a very cat-like, inscrutable look, and then turned back to the computer. im not.

 

Chapter Text

Stark’s penthouse was relatively comfortable, for a Midgardian home. Almost palatial. Loki lay back on the soft bed, staring up at the ceiling.

Of course, the palace back on Asgard was nicer. But there would be plenty of time to get used to that luxury, once Amora finished her spellcraft.

For someone who was such a lunk, Thor was ridiculously difficult to enchant.

Amora had to kiss him into submission under the mistletoe’s influence, which would hold him for, at most, a day per kiss. And then she had to use his placid adoration to keep him still while she bound him to her, each strand of magical enchantment as thin as a spider’s web, but in the end, a week’s worth of casting, and Thor would never be able to leave her side without suffering terrible pain.

Which would work out well for Loki. Stealing Thor’s face, he’d return to Asgard, humble and ready to begin his regency, ruling at first with Odin’s (Father’s) oversight, and then later, Odin would slip into his last sleep, rejoining Frigga at last.

No one would ever know that Loki was the true power. Everyone would think he was Thor, instead. Which was sort of revolting, if Loki had to be honest with himself. He tried not to be honest; veracity caused him an obscure sort of pain.

But power was power, and in the end, it would not matter under whose name he held it. It would be his, at long last.

He’d sent his conquests, the Avengers, all pitiful and eager to please, on various tasks for the day’s work. The only one he did not command, Barnes, had not been seen since the party, when he took the stupid cat and sulked off.

When Loki had seen the beast, he’d almost changed the branch over to its arrow form, thrown it to strike down whoever Stark loved best. But if they used it to kill, it would go dormant until the next year, and Loki would be there, exposed, his spells broken and Thor still free. He’d let the moment pass. What harm could a cat do, even in the hands of someone like Barnes. He could not, after all, speak.

A few minutes conversation with the good Captain had given Loki some insight. Barnes believed that Loki was, in fact, Stark, and bound by jealousy and rage, would probably not emerge for a while. There was time to figure out how to get to him. The love spells were delicate creatures, thin weavings between Loki and his victims; easily disturbed. Violence could disturb the webs, setting them all free.

Loki had learned better; god though he might be, he was no match for the entire team, brutish and violent as they were.

Subtlety, that was the name of this game. And Loki was a master of lies. He could hold them long enough for Amora to do her work, then depart for home, and none of this, this disgusting realm, would ever concern him again.

There was a rap at the door.

Ug. Probably one of the mortals, returned from their task and eager to bask in Loki’s glorious presence. He considered that idly. Discovering, once Loki was gone, that they had subjected themselves to Loki’s desires, that might be enough to drive some of them to madness.

He laughed, lightly. Delightful. And it would give him something to do. Pretending to be Stark was boring.

“Come in,” he called.

Somewhat surprising, it was not one of his enthralled creatures, but instead the one independent one. Barnes. Looking sheepish and delightfully embarrassed, rubbing fitfully at the back of his neck. “Hey, Tony,” he said, not meeting Loki’s gaze. “Look, sorry ‘bout last night, I mighta had too much t’ drink. I was… wonderin’ if that offer of a kiss was still open, or if I missed my shot?”

Loki allowed himself a languid smile. Well, this was working better than he’d anticipated. The mistletoe branch did exert a certain… pull. He summoned the sprig of enchanted leaves and berries with a wave of his hand. “Far be it from me to be less than generous, this holiday season, Barnes.” He made a seductive, beckoning gesture. “Come and get it.”

 The cat -- Stark -- appeared out of nowhere, leaping through the air. It used Barnes’ shoulder as a springboard, launching itself at Loki’s head, claws extended wickedly. It scratched with fierce vehemence, and in the instant Loki lowered his hand protectively, bit at the base of his thumb with a pain like hot, stabbing needles. He dropped the mistletoe in surprise, fumbled to catch it.

Stark snapped it out of the air and took off running with all the speed his feline legs could grant.

Loki surged to his feet, barely managing to keep his mask in place as Barnes just looked at him. “You see? It does not belong here at all,” he snapped. Damn it, he had to catch Stark before the monstrous little beast did something utterly unforgivable.

“Don’t leave without my kiss,” Barnes said, catching Loki’s shoulder and reeling him in. Loki sighed inwardly. There was nothing he could do; violence would break his hold on the other Avengers. He had to let this idiot kiss him, and then he could pursue Stark. He was pretty sure he knew where Stark was going -- running for Thor, and there was nothing Thor could do to help him, so it would only take a moment before the game was up.

He closed his eyes.

Then opened them in shock when something locked around the lower part of his face, muzzling him. Cutting off his magic. He swam in the fog of sudden mundanity. Felt it as his mask spell dripped right off him, like melting wax.

“Surprise, motherfucker,” Barnes snapped and shoved him backward onto the bed. Loki’s hands came up to tear at the muzzle, but he couldn’t unhook it. What the hel had this mortal done to him? “Stay put.” Barnes gave him a cocky little salute, then bolted from the room, chasing after the cat. He yanked the door closed behind him, and Loki could hear the distinctly unpleasant sound of a metal hand crushing the door’s panel.

Loki snarled behind the mask.

There was no help for it. Amora was on her own until Loki could get this damned thing off.

***

It seemed like only yesterday that Tony had been racing through the service tunnels for Thor’s quarters, desperate to get to him before Loki and Amora.

Oh, wait. That was only yesterday. And now he was doing it again, trying desperately to ignore the cat-body’s extreme distaste for the taste of the mistletoe sprig in his mouth, or the way some of the tighter passages squeezed on his whiskers.

He hoped Bucky was all right. He hoped Thor would see the mistletoe sprig and actually pay attention to him this time instead of just tucking him under one arm.

He hoped Amora hadn’t done anything to Thor that was irreversible; he didn’t think he’d be able to rouse the rest of the Avengers from their enchantments without making his way across town to see Doctor Strange, and that was something Tony was devoutly hoping to avoid.

He skittered around a corner and came up to the panel leading to Thor’s rooms. No time for subtlety. He burst through the little door and skidded to a halt.

Enchantress was back in her normal form; a dangerous, green-eyed siren. She had Thor standing, placid, in the center of a circle drawn on the floor of green, glowing runes and sigils, delicate tendrils of eldritch smoke coiling around him like so many snakes.

“You wretched little beast,” she snapped, eyes widening at the sight of the cat, branch still held in his teeth. “You’re too late, you know. There’s nothing you can do.” She hesitated, face scrunching up the way Bucky’s had, when he’d been petting Tony. “You’re still just a cat. Resistable.” She gestured with one hand, sending a spray of scalding hot water at him.

Tony clamped his teeth tight on the sprig, refusing to drop it, and leaped, mostly avoiding the water. He jumped again, avoiding another spray and her grabbing hands. He eyed the circle of runes on the floor with distaste, and skirted its edge. He growled as loud as he could without opening his mouth and darted away, out of Amora’s reach.

“Kitty kitty,” Amora called. She dropped to one knee, holding her hand out gently. “Come on, nice kitty.” There was something sweet and seductive in the sound. Comforting, really. “Kitty, kitty, kitty.” Her voice was high pitched and delicate. How would she ever hurt him? He couldn’t remember why he’d thought that at all. “Here, kitty-kitty-kitty.”

Tony shook his head. No. She was bad, she was... He couldn’t remember why she was bad. Maybe he was confused. She wouldn’t hurt anyone. Why was he here, threatening her with this foul-tasting plant? He should just drop it and--

No. No. She was bad. She’d splashed water at him. Tony backed away a little and growled again.

The Enchantress reached into her dress and pulled out a small, golden rod. She shook it a few times, then pointed it at the floor. A brilliant dot of green light flickered, then shuddered across the floor, dodging and weaving along the carpet. “Want to play, you poisonous little monster?” Her voice was entirely gentle, a little enticing, and Tony couldn’t stop watching that glowing green spot; amazingly tempting, the way it moved, bouncing along the floor, along the edge of the wall, teasing him.

It had to taste better than the stupid stick in his mouth.

No, he had the stick for a reason, even if he-- god, that light was distracting. It was only a laser, Tony knew, or the Asgardian equivalent, but the body couldn’t help but see the glint in the eyes of some prey creature, or a dancing, glowing toy... No. He had to get to Thor. Who was not nearly as interesting as the dot.

The Enchantress crept closer, keeping the dot moving, wiggling, fascinating, crooning gently. “Nice kitty, good kitty, it’s okay, momma won’t hurt you,” she said. Reaching. Her fingers touched his lashing tail, then grabbed hold. That hurt!

The door smashed in.

Bitch, get your hands off my cat!” Bucky was there, suddenly, and he gave Amora a shove, knocking her off her feet, her legs sprawling. The dancing green light flickered across the room, then up Thor’s leg to waver, temptingly, in the center of the Asgard’s chest.

Light! demanded the body, and finally, it and Tony were in agreement. He jumped, all claws extended, and landed in the center of Thor’s chest, digging in with everything he had. Wake up, please!

Amora was cursing, struggling to her feet. She smashed at Bucky with a glowing green flash that knocked the man across the room and into the wall. He arched back in pain, then slumped to the floor, gasping. She whirled, fingers flexing, ready to attack and then her mouth dropped open. She stared at Thor like a love-sick teenager.

“My prince,” she said, her face softening, mouth curving into a helpless, adoring smile.

Thor shifted. “Ow,” he said, mildly. Gripped Tony by the scruff and held him up. “What are you doing, little one?”

Tony managed to mrrrrr around the mistletoe sprig in his teeth. It was about all he could do. If he was never scruffed again, it would be too soon.

“Thor, darling,” the Enchantress crooned. She stepped inside the magic circle, which vanished as soon as her foot came down on the runes. “Oh, my… so--” She touched Thor’s arm, one hand curling around the back of his neck and drew him down into a kiss. Tony… was squashed in between her bosom and Thor’s massive chest. Not where he wanted to be at all, oh, god, that was just wrong!

Thor shoved her away, startled. He let Tony drop to the ground -- thank god for that lands on the feet thing, really -- and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Amora! What foul spell have you wrought?”

Enchantress crawled over to Thor, patting at his legs and feet, staring up at him with spell-bedazzled eyes. “I love you,” she told him, seriously. “Love you so much, Thor, Prince of Asgard, Prince of my Heart, I love you.”

“Ow,” Bucky said, the spell around him broken into pieces around him, a spray of emerald glitter like glass.

“Tell me, what has occured?” Thor bellowed. He was remarkably good at bellowing. “Amora, stop crawling around like a worm.”

“Oh, we were going to enchant you,” she confessed, lowering her eyes prettily. “And I was going to get to keep you forever and ever by my side, while your brother rules Asgard in your stead. All we had to do was turn Stark into a cat, and we stole the mistletoe arrow from your father’s vault, and oh, Thor, don’t be angry with me. I did it for love.”

Thor scowled impressively. “That’s revolting,” he declared, then looked around the room. “Friend Stark, is that, indeed, you?”

“Yes, you idiot,” Tony said, though it came out more like “mrowwwr.” He padded across the room to check on Bucky.

“I’m gonna reconsider my stance on punching women,” Bucky said. He shook his head gingerly, fingertips going to his forehead. “Oh, hey there, Tony. You okay? What th’ hell happened? Why are you still a cat?”

“If it is my brother’s spell that made him such,” Thor said, “he will be a cat for some time, I fear. It takes time for an enforced transformation to wear off. A few days, mayhap.”

Tony swiveled around to stare at Thor in disbelief, an unhappy warble escaping his throat. Days, stuck as a cat?

“Where is my brother?”

“Up in Tony’s suite, unless he’s managed to get my muzzle off,” Bucky said. “In which case, fucked if I know.”

“He abandoned me,” the Enchantress said, sadly. “And we had such a good plan, Thor, darling…”

Thor sighed, and got to work securing the Enchantress, binding her hands and getting a gag into her mouth. “I shall return her to my father, where she will be imprisoned.”

Enchantress was still urgently trying to express her adoration of Thor through the gag, batting her eyelashes and rubbing up against him.

“Ug, that’s disgusting,” Bucky said. He leaned over and scooped Tony up. “Don’t fret none. You can get caught up on your sleep.” Gently, Bucky took hold of the sprig of mistletoe in Tony’s mouth. “Give me this, it’s very hard not to kiss you when you’re holding it. And I don’t think any of us need that.”

The catbody, now that someone was trying to take the stick away, decided to hold on to it tighter. Tony had to argue with himself for a bit -- with Bucky tugging at the dumb thing -- before he was finally able to relinquish it.

As soon as Bucky was holding the branch, Tony got a first hand feel at how damned… attracting the stupid thing was. Worse than the green light. “Acht, no,” Bucky said, pulling his face back, tipping his chin up so his mouth was out of reach. “Tony, no. Thor, here, take it, take it, take it.”

For just an instant, Thor was the most insanely attractive thing in the room, and then he shook the spring of mistletoe, which shimmered and transformed into an arrow.

The arrow lay flat, lifeless, in Thor’s hand, whatever magical glitter and attraction it had seeping out. “There. It is quiescent, for a year’s time, its magic spent.” Which was obvious, as the Enchantress went from pining and subservient to furious. She kicked Thor in the shin, glaring. “Let us see if Loki remains likewise powerless--”

Tony was suddenly falling, Bucky’s grasp not set for the suddenly increased weight as he resumed his natural shape. “Fuck!” he gasped, flailing to catch himself with an arm around Bucky’s neck.

Bucky’s reflexes were still fantastic, though, and he somehow caught Tony’s still-flailing body in a princess carry.

It wasn’t until Tony felt the first surge of relief that he hadn’t landed on his tailbone that he realized he’d transformed back without any clothes. “Oh... well, fuck.”

Thor heaved a sigh. “Or my brother had fled the realm,” he said, resigned. “His magic is unable to maintain itself without his corporeal form to latch on. He has escaped our grasp yet again.”

“You might have mentioned that,” Bucky squeaked. He moved as if to let Tony down, but realized that, while less personally embarrassing for Bucky, was going to expose Tony to everyone in the room.

“‘Tis very Loki-like timing, indeed,” Thor boomed.

Bucky was blushing furiously, trying to keep his gaze averted. “Here,” he said, taking a few steps into Thor’s room and putting Tony down near Thor’s bed. “Grab a blanket.” As soon as Tony’s feet were on the floor, Bucky turned all the way around, his neck brick red.

Tony grabbed the comforter on top of the bed and wrapped it around him. Thor and Amora appeared to be fully engaged in snarling at each other, and didn’t even blink at Tony’s nakedness. He thought the Asgardians had a completely different set of nudity taboos than Earth cultures. “Okay, I’m covered,” he told Bucky’s neck. “Relax, it’s fine. Just makes us even.”

“Right,” Bucky said. “So, uh, Thor’s got Amora under wraps, and Loki’s off planet again, I’m just gonna… go. Now.” If it was actually possible for a person to leave a smoke cloud behind when running off, Bucky made for a very good roadrunner impression, fleeing the scene with haste.

Damn it. Tony had been sort of enjoying the closeness of being Bucky’s cat. Now he was going to have to deal with Bucky being all skittish and shy again. Maybe worse, if Bucky was feeling embarrassed about the whole crush thing. Tony was going to have to be more obvious.

 

Chapter Text

After three days of not leaving his own quarters, including refusing, point blank, to acknowledge the people knocking on his door, Bucky had three new pastimes.

Trying to convince himself that Tony wouldn’t make some sort of production out of Bucky’s accidental confession. Which was probably true; Tony couldn’t possibly want to embarrass Bucky any more than Bucky wanted to deal with it. It was more… waiting it out until Bucky could face Tony without turning brilliant scarlet and stammering like an idiot.

Attempting to mangle his massive collection of tinned food into something worth eating. It was fuel, yes, but Bucky was spoiled from living in the Tower and getting fresh cooked meals, or take-in, all the time. There was a limit to what Bucky could manage with a collection of canned vegetables, a microwave, and a single burner.

And staring at Tony’s message.

i’m not

What did that even mean? He wasn’t sorry that Bucky said something? He wasn’t… what? Why did cats have to be so damned enigmatic?

Bucky was engaging in another round of what the hell did he mean by that when one of the cleaning bots -- something like a roomba -- bumped into his ankle. Repeatedly. Bucky scowled; they were supposed to be self-directing, and he’d never seen one bump into anything more than once.

It bumped into him again, and when Bucky leaned over to forcibly point it in a new direction, he saw there was a folded piece of paper taped to the top. With his name written in a very recognizable hand.

“What, are we in fifth grade again?” Bucky sighed and pulled the note up gently. “Shoo,” he told the ‘bot, which didn’t listen, of course, it wasn’t that smart. Bucky had to pull his legs up into the chair to avoid a passive-aggressive mail-delivery system. He looked at the note. Considered throwing it away unread, but knew that he’d just be diving into the trash bin after it within five minutes. And he might as well spare himself the indignity of having to tape it back together if he tore it up.

He unfolded it.

Don’t you know when you’ve confessed a crush, you’re supposed to give the other person time to tell you they feel the same way? Granted, I was a cat at the time, but I did the best I could with what I had. And you definitely didn’t give me the requisite amount of time after I changed back. I think that’s the least you could do.  -T

Bucky sighed. Obviously he wasn’t going to get out of this without a mortal wound. A small part of his brain was busily pointing out that the language was positive enough that maybe Tony was… possibly, maybe… reciprocating? A little? He grabbed the annoying bot, which had taken to pushing his rolling desk chair across the room a half-inch at a time, and tucked it under his arm.

Note in his teeth, he punched the penthouse button in the elevator and headed up to get it over with. Whatever it was.

He knocked on Tony’s door.

The door opened before he even got the third knock out. “It’s about time,” Tony said. He hesitated, blinking at the little bot under Bucky’s arm. “You come bearing gifts?”

“You didn’t tell it when it could stop trying t’ climb up my leg,” Bucky said. He put the thing back on the floor, where it proceeded to demonstrate proof of complaint, running over his boot several times and bumping his ankle. The ‘bot was decidedly less friendly than the cat Bucky had wanted to adopt. Which was standing in front of him, looking bemused. “So, how much time d’you need?”

“Thirty seconds,” Tony said. “Twenty of them for this.” He bent down and picked up the robot, flipping it over. He opened an access panel, reached in with a screwdriver that he apparently just kept in his pocket at all times, and then closed it back up and put it back on the floor. It rolled off as if it had never seen Bucky before in its little electronic life.

“And the other ten for this,” Tony continued. He hooked his fingers in the lapel of Bucky’s shirt, tugged him down, and kissed him.

Bucky wasn’t entirely sure what he’d expected; he was trying, really hard, to limit his expectations.

And then it dawned on him that Tony was kissing him.

His hands went up, almost helplessly, cupping the side of Tony’s face with one hand, the other wrapping around Tony’s shoulders. “Oh.” He pulled Tony in closer and kissed him again, soft and sweet and eager. He realized he was making little urgent noises, sighs and ardent moans that he couldn’t seem to stifle.

Tony’s fingers were in his hair, Tony’s arm around his waist, and Tony’s mouth was still on his. Tony stopped, breathing, but didn’t pull away, every breath warm on Bucky’s mouth. “That’s what I wanted to tell you.”

“Uh…” Bucky leaned his forehead against Tony’s, trying desperately to control his breathing, the way his heart was pounding in his chest. “Jus’ makin’ sure I’m not losin’ anything in translation, or anythin’... are you sayin’ you… like me?” He was blushing again, and mentally cussed himself for being eighteen varieties of idiot.

“Yes,” Tony said. “Also, this blushing thing is adorable, I’m going to need you to do a lot more of that. How far down does it go?”

“Nothin’ you’re gettin’ to find out about in the damn hallway,” Bucky muttered. “Gimme a break, th’ last time I made time with anyone I actually cared about, was right after watching your dad fail a flyin’ car demonstration.”

“I’m giving you a break!” Tony said. “You didn’t talk to anyone for three days, the least you can do is let me see the rest of this blush.” He stepped back, pulling Buck with him into his room.

Bucky wasn’t entirely sure that he followed that particular bit of logic. He certainly wasn’t sure how far down the damn blush went, either. Not like he spent time staring in the damn mirror when he was embarrassed. He knew for a fact, however, that it was getting worse, the more attention Tony was drawing to it, because it went from his neck feeling overheated and itchy to spreading down his chest and back. And if Tony didn’t stop trying to shove his shirt up, it was going to go down even further than that, holy shit. Tony stopped as soon as he found a pink blotch just over Bucky’s navel, crowing with delight.

He was going to die, absolutely die, on the spot, except that, despite being stupidly shy, Tony was touching him. Those long, graceful fingers slid over Bucky’s skin, tracing lines of heat, and damned if Bucky was going to let himself expire while he was getting to feel that. There was also the possibility that Bucky might get those hands and that mouth other places, and he wasn’t going to miss that, either. “Tony…” He shivered, butterflies putting on an aerial display inside his belly. “I… uh… shouldn’t you kiss me while you’re doin’ that?” He wanted… Jesus, there was so much he wanted, but those kisses were not to be skimped on.

Tony slanted a sly look at him. “Hot stuff, you can have all the kisses you want.” He tugged Bucky a little further into the room and kicked the door shut before pushing Bucky up against it, his mouth claiming Bucky’s in an instant. Those clever hands were back on Bucky’s skin then, slowly working up Bucky’s stomach and ribs, stroking in rhythm with the movements of the kiss. He tasted and touched, teeth grazing over Bucky’s lip, fingernails dragging lightly across Bucky’s skin, until Bucky was gasping for breath.

Damn, the man was made for kissing, mouth pliant and willing, tongue moving sweetly along Bucky’s lip. Bucky brushed his lips over Tony’s forehead, along the bridge of his nose, slid sideways to test the spot just under his ear. Tony tilted his head back, silently asking for more kisses, down his throat. Bucky let his hands wander, down Tony’s spine until he was cupping the swell of Tony’s ass, firm and supple under his hand.

He had a brief, school-age urge to declare he was never washing his hands again, since he didn’t think he’d ever touched anything as fine as that glorious backside before in his life. Tony made a noise, some sumptuous moan, and pressed closer. Quite possibly even as desperate and wanting as Bucky was. Bucky claimed Tony’s mouth again, using his handhold on Tony’s butt to tug them together.

Tony moaned again and rolled his hips against Bucky’s. “Yeah, that’s it,” he sighed. “That’s perfect.” He twined both arms around Bucky’s neck and stepped back, and back again, and they were kissing again, hot and slick.

Bucky was chasing the feel of Tony’s body against his, and it was a shock when Tony stopped with a bump and Bucky realized they were at the edge of the enormous bed. Tony’s hand under his shirt brushed over a nipple, light scrape of callus against the soft skin, and Tony’s tongue was teasing at the corner of Bucky’s mouth. “Just to make sure not to lose anything in translation,” Tony murmured, each breath a torment, “I want to take you to bed now.”

Heat and tension rippled through him, and he was pretty sure he stopped blushing, because his blood had better things to do, filling and swelling him. Longing ratcheted higher as Tony touched him, petted him, the leisurely attention at complete odds with the hot press of Tony’s mouth against his, the urgent little sounds he was making.

Bucky was beyond rational thinking, assaulted on all levels by the sensual claim of Tony’s mouth, his hands on Bucky’s body. “Whatever you want, sweetheart,” Bucky murmured against Tony’s lips. It wasn’t enough, suddenly. Bucky wanted, skin on skin, and he fumbled with Tony’s shirt, tugging at it until Tony moved his arms enough for Bucky to get it off.

“There you are,” Tony said happily, and echoed the motion, pulling Bucky’s shirt off, and then teasing around the waist of Bucky’s pants, sliding those fingers below the belt, touching him. “Come and get me.” He was naked, then, suddenly, and scooting back across the bed, watching Bucky with something like challenge in his eyes.

The need to be on, in, over, Tony was like a fire in Bucky’s blood. He shucked out of the rest of his clothes, barely noticing where they fell. Beyond want, or need, it was a compulsion to get his skin on Tony’s, to feel the heat of the man, to cover him like a blanket.

When Tony wrapped his legs around Bucky’s waist, Bucky growled, nipping at Tony’s shoulder before rocking against him. “Oh, God, Tony,” Bucky said, hips moving without his active thought, just wanting more-more-more, now. He didn’t even know what he hoped anymore, just that it couldn’t, wouldn’t end. “Let me,” he was begging, “let me make you feel good, please, I want…”

“Me too,” Tony said. “Oh, god, this is... This is good, this is fantastic.” His fingers dragged restlessly through Bucky’s hair. “Just want to touch you, everywhere.” He certainly seemed to be trying. His other hand worked between their bodies to curl around Bucky’s cock. “Fuck, that’s gorgeous.” He tipped his head back, seeking Bucky’s mouth. “Come on, honey, come on.”

Bucky lost all tether to the ground, floating away on the feel of Tony’s hands on him. He whined into Tony’s mouth and there was nothing left, just heat and incredible soaring pleasure that teased and tormented and consumed him. He matched the thrust of his tongue into Tony’s mouth, each tug and stroke that Tony made echoed with his own.

Reached down between them to return the favor; they weren’t going to get very far this day, or at least, this time. Too new, too urgent. He couldn’t let go of Tony long enough to do anything else. He ran his hand down the length of Tony’s cock, felt it jump and throb against his palm. He jerked Tony toward completion without any grace or finesse, just driving, insistent need. Tony didn’t seem to mind, his hips thrusting up shamelessly.

“Tony, Tony,” Bucky was sobbing his name against Tony’s mouth and the world exploded in the best possible way. He shuddered, covered Tony with frantic kisses.

“That’s it, that’s exactly it, oh god, keep--” Tony’s voice hitched and his breathing turned hoarse and he cursed again an instant before his cock throbbed and swelled under Bucky’s hand. Tony arched into it, his legs tightening around Bucky’s hips as heat spilled between them. “Oh, god, yes,” he panted. “Honey, Bucky, that’s... Oh, god.” He sagged back down to the bed, his hand slowing its movement and finally stopping.

Bucky leaned over, kissed Tony slow and easy, dragging himself a few times through the mess they’d made together, groaning at the overstimulated feel. He propped himself up on his metal elbow. “Think… just so it’s not lost in translation,” he teased, feeling comfortable and relaxed enough to tease Tony, to joke with him about what had just happened, “that I might need a promise from you.”

Tony didn’t quite tense up, but he did go very still. “What’s that?”

“I wanna try this again,” Bucky said, running his finger in a circle around the scar on Tony’s chest, “when we ain’t quite so keyed up, yeah? Might be better, slower.”

“Oh. Yeah, that would be... Definitely good,” Tony agreed. He flopped flat onto the bed, letting his legs fall. “That’s an excellent idea, right there.” He took a couple of heavy breaths. “I could use a catnap first, though.”

Yeah, that… that sounded nice. A bit of sleep and waking up with Tony wrapped around him, a more leisurely exploration of each other’s bodies. And then, maybe they could talk about where, if anywhere, they were going.

“Remind me,” Bucky murmured, sleepily against Tony’s hair, “t’ not smack Loki quite so hard, next time we run into the little bastard. I owe him one.”