Bucky stood at attention in one of the many corners of the Stark Gala.
He was slightly bored, having taken the job hoping for some excitement, but no. Nothing. The entire evening had been a very calm affair with some slow dancing and a lot of booze for the guests. It wasn't the first time that Bucky worked for Stark; actually he was kind of one of the usuals for the security coverage. He would never admit it but he kept coming back because he liked to look at Tony.
The way he smiled and charmed his way through the evening, never staying too long with a group and buzzing around like a hummingbird between flowers. It tugged at Bucky's heartstrings when he stopped at the bar for a few minutes, sitting down and downing a glass of god-knows-what just to escape the chaos for a few moments. Bucky knew he was hiding there because he had observed him stealing away several times. His preferred hiding spot was the balcony where he would sit down and look at the stars.
Bucky didn't stalk him or anything. He was just keeping an eye out for his employer, okay? The rest of the security guards obviously stayed at whatever party was going on so Bucky couldn't leave Tony all by himself. Who knows what could happen to him!
That's how Bucky ended up standing in the shadows of the balcony – or Tony's workshop, or whatever location he had decided to spend the remainder of his party in today – and waited.
When he thought about it, this should be boring as well, but no. Bucky loved watching Tony. His handsome face relaxing, his eyes closing; he'd put the alcohol away and never take a sip from it when nobody was watching him. When he disappeared in his work shop Bucky couldn't see what he was doing but he kept standing in front of it, just in case. He used this time to imagine what Tony was doing. His strong arms manipulating metal, his clever fingers flying over his keyboards and his mind working on ideas so great that Bucky couldn't even dream up what Tony might be inventing right now.
But Bucky also worried. He worried why Tony was hosting these parties when most of the time he ended up hiding from them as soon as he'd shown his face to everyone. He worried about the role Tony was clearly playing and he worried what might be the reason for that behaviour.
He had hoped that the annual Gala would force Tony to stay at the event for a little longer than usual and maybe give Bucky the opportunity to get a good look at the suit he'd be wearing. However Tony hadn't even shown up and Bucky was seriously starting to worry. He had seen Happy hurry through the meddling party guests a few times, though – and that didn't help the tiniest bit to calm his nerves since Happy, as Tony's security chef, should be busy coordinating everything and not running around like that. They had a comm system for a reason.
So when Happy approached Bucky he immediately straightened his posture and tried to look as professional as possible. Not that he wasn't professional – it was just that thinking about Mr. Stark instead of watching the party closely was maybe not exactly the epitome of professionalism.
"Barnes", Happy said with a nod.
"Yes, Sir", Bucky replied and hoped he hadn't fucked up. He'd take his complaints back. He liked working private security for Stark even when the bastard didn't show up.
"We have an issue here... security breach", Happy explained in a lowered voice, throwing a glance over his shoulder to make sure that nobody was listening in. "There's been a death threat involved. I don't know where Tony is; he was supposed to show up hours ago."
Bucky nodded, frowning. "I've noticed his absence", he said, hoping it sounded very professional and not like thinking about Tony was his favourite pastime. He hadn't even talked to the man once, for fuck's sake.
Happy checked the room another time, looking at every person and sighing. "I'm afraid I'll have to leave, I have to check in with Ms. Potts and then talk to this goddamned AI again... Anyway, I need someone to take over my bodyguard duties."
His face didn't show any reaction, but Bucky was internally freaking out. Tony was in danger. "Sir?"
"Barnes, you're responsible for Tony. As soon as he shows up here you have to keep him safe. Don't let him out of your sight for at least the next twenty-four hours, understood?"
"Yes, Sir", Bucky said and blinked. "What if he doesn't show up?"
Happy ran his hand over his face and let out an exhausted sigh. "Then we have a real problem. But I'll make sure that whoever this Iron Man is will not pose any threat to him." He sounded determined and Bucky obviously agreed. "May I ask what the threat was about? Just to be prepared."
Not willing to discuss this in the ball room, Happy grabbed Bucky's arm – the flesh one, thankfully – and walked him through the mansion to an open space sitting room.
"Someone who calls themselves Iron Man sent a message. It directly references the gala tonight." Happy looked very worried when he took out his phone and opened a voice message. "Here, listen for yourself."
After Happy hit play, a distorted voice came out of the speakers. It sounded like someone was talking into a voice modulator. "I'll be there soon! The party can't start without Stark, right?" There was a tinny laugh following this announcement and then the speaker rasped "Iron Man Out" before the line clicked.
Bucky's muscles tensed up. Whoever that was, they apparently wanted to stop the party from happening – or at least Stark from showing up. They had had success with that, Bucky thought and suddenly he wished his boredom back. He didn't want Tony to get hurt over a stupid gala.
"Alright", he said out loud to Happy. "I'll keep my eyes open for people calling themselves Iron Man or using voice modulators."
Happy nodded, seemingly slightly placated. "Also, this is top secret. You've been working here often enough that you should know your way around by now. Don't bother talking to JARVIS, he doesn't know a thing." That last sentence was added in a very distrustful voice.
Before Bucky could ask who the hell JARVIS was Happy patted his shoulder and turned around to skip out of the room.
"Great", mumbled Bucky to himself and decided to check Tony's usual spots first. He started with the balcony and worked his way down to the workshop. He hadn't really expected to find Tony in any of the obvious spots, he assumed that Happy must have checked them as well. But when he walked down the stairs to the workshop he stopped. The glass that served as walls for Tony's workshop wasn't the usual opaque.
Confused, Bucky blinked and slowly descended the stairs down further, his muscles tensing up and his body going into fight mode in case there was a danger waiting.
The glass was shattered, only a few pieces still clinging to the window frame and Bucky focused on the glass that was lying on the floor, scanning it for blood or worse.
It took him a second to look up again and to realise what was actually happening before the scene displaying in Tony Stark's workshop gave Bucky almost a heart attack.
He ripped the door open, ignoring that what was still intact from the glass shattered now because of him using way too much force and sprinted inside.
Tony was hanging in the air, enclosed in a metal contraption of some sort. It was painted a bright red and had bullet holes everywhere, but what was even worse were the robotic arms that seemed determined on tearing Tony apart. Tony moaned in pain and dragged his body away from a big claw that was trying to clutch onto his stomach.
"Let go of him!", Bucky yelled and jumped forwards, desperately wishing for a better weapon than the taser that was issued for the security guards.
"Wha-" Tony looked in his direction, but Bucky couldn't spare a second to look at him. He had to free him first. The metal contraption seemed to be deformed around him so no matter how hard he struggled, he couldn't get free. The robot arms were drilling into the metal and Bucky shuddered from a squeaking noise they made.
"Who's responsible for this?", he shouted and tried to push one of the robot arms off. Those things were sturdy as hell and Bucky would have to use his left arm. "Stop this! Can't you see it hurts him?!"
"What the fuck?! Stop trying to hurt my babies!"
From one second to the next, the robot arms stopped their work and... looked at Bucky. There was no better way to say it, he had the distinct feeling that when they turned their claws in his direction he was the new centre of their attention. Slowly backing away a step or two, he looked up. He was also the centre of Tony Stark's attention. Bucky swallowed nervously.
"Who the fuck are you?!", Tony asked, kicking his legs in the air and trying to stop his floundering. He frowned and didn't seem to be too happy about being rescued by Bucky.
But Bucky had decided long ago that he didn't care about Tony's grumpy attitude. He was grumpy, too. "Bucky Barnes", Bucky said as confidently as possible. He didn't leave the weird robots out of his sight for a second. One of them whirred its claw a little closer to Tony again and Bucky narrowed his eyes. "I'm your security detail, Mr. Stark."
"Security det-?!" Not trashing about anymore, Tony just hang limply inside the – was that a metal suit? "Listen, Bucky Barnes, I don't need a security detail. Shouldn't there be a party going on? Go up there and find someone to warm your bed. Have some fun. Bye."
Well, that was the most ridiculous thing Bucky had ever heard. "Well, sorry, but that won't happen. Now, what is going on? Why are you up there in those, uhm, robot arms? Are you in danger? Is Iron Man here?"
Tony had started to struggle against his metal suit and the robotic claws again who slowly took up their earlier tries to rip the suit off again. Only when Bucky said the words 'Iron Man' he froze; looking down at Bucky like a deer caught in the headlights.
Uhm, a suspended deer. In a tin can.
"How do you know about Iron Man?!", Tony hissed, every trace of the earlier bitter sarcasm gone. "What do you want from me?!"
"I don't have anything to do with him!", Bucky made sure to say immediately; his hands raised in a placating gesture. He was still keeping an eye on the robots. "Happy sent me to look for you. We were worrying where you are."
Slowly getting closer and stretching his hand for one of the robot arms, Bucky felt like he was really trying to talk to a deer. Tony's perfect brown doe eyes suited that image just too well. But the wide eyed, surprised expression from just a moment ago was gone and Tony was fidgeting. He was nervous, Bucky observed. In a soothing voice, he started to talk to Tony again: "Hey, I'm here to help you. They can't get you here. I'm here to keep you safe."
"Take your fingers off my bots", Tony blurted, interrupting Bucky's calming talk. "I don't like you touching them. Especially not in my, uhm. Predicament right now."
Bucky narrowed his eyes. "There's no need to play tough. I can get you out of these, doll, no problem. Whoever wants to hurt you needs to get past me first."
Without meaning to, Bucky slipped the little endearment into his sentence that was way more passionate than a perfectly professional bodyguard should be.
Should Bucky get Tony safely out of whatever this situation was he'd have to look for a new job. He was completely biased towards his employer.
Suddenly Bucky realised that he was talking to Tony. He'd been fantasising about this for weeks and now he had barged into his workshop to find Tony hanging between some robots with bullet holes everywhere over his chest.
"Oh fuck, are you hurt?", Bucky continued to babble, almost climbing up to Tony when the need to touch him, to make sure that he was fine tingled in his finger tips. "I will kill who ever dared to shoot at you. Who put you in this thing anyways? Iron Man?"
Cursing under his breath Bucky started to fidget. He wanted to rip Tony out of there but Tony had clearly said not to touch the robot arms. It was driving him mad that he didn't know how to handle this situation and Bucky felt the anxiety tightening up his chest a little.
"Shhhh." Tony moved his arm as if he wanted to reach out for Bucky before he bumped into one of the robot arms. "It's okay, I'm fine. Don't freak out. Not when I can't kick you out", he added, almost like an afterthought and the famous smirk lit up his face.
Bucky took a deep breath. "Okay", he said. He looked up at Tony, honest and trusting. "I trust you."
That seemed to shock Tony into silence again. "What?", he finally whispered, only the whirring of one robot that was doing god knows what interrupting the silence between them; Bucky's eyes fixed on Tony's face. The way his hair was sweaty and standing off in all directions, the way his skin was glowing in the cold neon light of the work shop. The light blush on his cheeks as if he had done some light physical exertion. Tony blinked as if he was trying to shoo unwelcome thoughts away. "You trust me? You don't even know me. You- what is this?"
He was starting to get angry and Bucky felt like it might be time to explain a thing or two.
"I've been following you – I mean, I've been a part of your security guard for the parties for a while. And I obviously had an eye on you. For the job."
That didn't seem to help at all. Tony just started to kick his legs again, a little more desperately. "We need to have a conversation", he announced before interrupting himself by a small sound of pain. "A proper one where both of us are actually on the ground. I just need to – JARVIS?"
"Of course, Sir." The soft, British accented voice coming from nowhere and everywhere made Bucky jump. He tensed his muscles again, looking over his shoulder and trying to shield Tony from whatever that was.
"Whoa, whoa, if there's someone who's the knight in shining armour, that's me, darling."
Hearing Tony's amused voice, Bucky toned his stance down a little and looked over his shoulder. "What?"
Tony's smirk was bordering on a grin and one of his arms was now free. The metal plates fell with a loud clatter to the floor, but Tony didn't even look after them. "That was just my AI. JARVIS, say hi to Bucks Bunny here."
"Bucky Barnes", Bucky corrected quietly; his attention still focused on the body-less voice.
"Sergeant", the voice said and Bucky jumped again. "I'm JARVIS, an artificial intelligence designed to help Sir whenever he deems it necessary. Most of the time I serve as an elaborated notebook."
The dry humour went right over Bucky's head. "O-kay?", he said slowly, clearly lost. Should he just write this off as one of the inventions so great that nobody could even imagine Tony making them?
Tony didn't care that the explanation had confused Bucky only further.
"Ah!", he made, not really a sound of pain this time, more like he was trying to get JARVIS' attention.
"The suit is a tight fit, Sir", the British voice said. "The more you struggle, the more this is going to hurt. I told you that already!"
"Be gentle", Tony answered, gasping and wiggling his arms. "This is my first time."
He winked at Bucky who immediately spluttered and gaped at Tony and the robots. They were unscrewing the metal plates and finally more and more came off, falling to the floor and giving Tony more and more freedom of movement back.
"Can I ... help?", Bucky asked, fascinated. "I'm guessing they're not trying to hurt you, at this point." He might be a oblivious, but he wasn't completely stupid.
Tony looked up at him. "Can you stop surprising me every time you open your mouth?"
It may have sounded like an insult but Bucky took it as an invitation and helped one of the claws to get the plates off Tony's stomach. When one of the chest pieces fell off, Bucky quickly caught it and inspected the bullet holes.
"Didn't go through", he announced, even though it wouldn't be new information to Tony. He didn't dare to look up into Tony's face though and concentrated on the beeping sounds the robot made as if to direct him. It opened and closed its claw a few times and together they got the deformed metal off of Tony's body.
A sigh of relief escaped Tony and he took a deep breath. "So", he said cheerfully, "now you can finally tell me why a guy with a metal arm rips off my precious suit with way too much force. Hey, U! Don't throw that away!"
Bucky raised his hands. "What?! I have no idea what you're talking about. I wasn't about to throw anything away!"
"Oh, not you. U!" Tony snickered as if he had made an especially funny joke. "This one here is U." He patted a robot to his right that had indeed tried to get rid of half of an arm from the armour.
"This is Butterfingers", Tony continued and pointed at the one that had helped Bucky to get the stomach plate off. "The one behind me is DUM-E. I will donate him to community college soon."
The robot made an offended sound and – finally free – Tony balanced himself before he pressed a kiss to the claw and jumped to the ground. "Just kidding, baby."
Tony left the robots to the clean up and walked up to his desk that was surrounded by screens and holograms. It had an eerie blue glow to it and Bucky thought it looked beautiful. It was the same shade as the ring of light in Tony's chest.
"Second try", Tony said and sat down in a rollable desk chair, smoothly sliding over to a mini fridge and producing an ice pack that he pressed to his shoulder. "You're a security guard."
Bucky nodded, awkwardly standing in front of Tony's desk. There was no second chair.
"And Happy sent you to look for me because I didn't show up and he thought I was in danger?"
A second nod from Bucky and Tony frowned. "But I sent him a message that I'm on my way!"
Throwing all caution away, Bucky marched around the table and right into Tony's personal space. He placed his arms on the desk behind Tony, effectively caging him in between Bucky's body and the desk behind him. "So you're Iron Man", Bucky said in a low voice, his eyes never leaving Tony's face. He picked up the way his breathing quickened and how his eyes darted away to where the bots where still cleaning up the mess Tony had made. "It's a suit of armour. For you", Bucky continued, piecing together what he had seen. Remembering Happy's off-hand comment that JARVIS wouldn't be of any help, Bucky narrowed his eyes. "Your... talking computer wasn't allowed to tell anyone."
"He's an AI." Tony's reply was somewhere between a whine and a whisper. The way his voice caressed him made the hairs on Bucky's neck stand up – and not in a bad way.
He backed off, giving Tony his personal space back and went for a tiny smile. "It's starting to make sense. I'm just glad you're not in danger."
"Which brings me to the point that doesn't make sense. To me. And usually everything makes sense to me." It was Tony's turn to get up and to walk closer to Bucky. He had turned back into predator mode so fast that the intensity of his gaze made Bucky dizzy for a second. "Why do you care?", he inquired.
Bucky didn't back away, he let Tony come close until they were breathing the same air again. "It's my job", Bucky stated flatly. His eyes darted down to Tony's lips for a second.
"Wrong answer", Tony breathed and he smirked his stupid smirk again.
"Why is there a glowing circle in your chest?"
That made Tony flinch away. "It keeps me alive", he breezed over it and waved his hand around. "And it powers the suit. Hey, I can brag about the suit to you!"
"Don't change the topic." Bucky felt like he had gained a little ground on him again. "Tell me."
When Tony didn't answer for a few heartbeats, Bucky feared he had crossed a line. "Maybe another time."
Bucky nodded, that was fair. "I'm sorry for invading your private space like this. It was a misunderstanding, I really thought you were in danger."
"It's... alright." Off-balance Tony blinked, his confidence nowhere to be seen. "You keep saying things... why do you know that the workshop is my private space?"
"Wasn't hard to guess with the opaque glass and the gigantic retina scanner outside and all." Bucky smiled a little, but Tony's facial expression hardened. "You were here before?"
"Only outside the door. Just made sure a few times that you went somewhere safe when you disappeared from one of your parties."
Tony scrubbed his hand over his face. "I know I just asked, but why? Why do you care?"
"You're not used to people caring?" Bucky felt a sharp pang in his heart. "But you're amazing. I even cared about you before I even knew how damn amazing."
"Stop", Tony whispered and there was real pain in his voice. "You don't know anything about me."
Against all rationality, Bucky raised his hand and pressed his palm against Tony's warm cheek. "I know you rather look at the stars than talk to people. I know you think of your robots as your babies. I know you have a weird voice in your ceiling. I know you built all of this by yourself."
"You know that I am Iron Man", Tony mumbled and Bucky realised that his eye lashes were long enough to cast a shadow over his cheekbones. There was a dash of fear in Tony's voice and Bucky realised how much Tony had given away to him. How much of himself.
"I will keep your secret", Bucky replied softly. "I promise you won't regret that you let me in."
"Please don't punch me with that metal arm of yours should I read this wrong."
Tony looked him in the eyes for a few more seconds and then he leaned forwards, pressing his lips to Bucky's. A soft noise escaped Bucky before he pulled Tony closer, almost desperately chasing the taste of metal and rightness on Tony's lips with his tongue.
When they separated out of breath and slightly rumpled, Bucky was beaming. "This may be a little weird, but can I take you out for dinner? I need to find a rich boyfriend now because I'll have to quit my job. I think I might be in love with my employer."
Tony laughed and hugged his arms around Bucky's waist. "No need to quit your job, Buckaroo. I'm still a squishy human in need of a strong, sexy bodyguard when I'm not in that tin can." He nodded over to his suit.
"I promise I'll try my best to protect you, doll", Bucky whispered into Tony's ear, hiding his face in his neck. "Even though you don’t need me to."
With a chuckle Tony run his fingers through Bucky's hair, a content sigh escaping him. Who would have thought that the day would take this kind of turn. "You can always try to save me from my own bots."