The sound of an alarm on someone's watch pulled Bucky out of his concentration. He looked from the circuit board he was working on and glanced around the room.
“What's that?” he asked.
There was a beat of silence before Darcy responded from somewhere in the lab.
“My reminder that my break is over,” came her voice.
“What time is it?” Penelope called from her office.
“Nine,” Darcy answered tonelessly.
A collective groan sounded from everyone in the lab. They had been at it all day with no sign of an end. The deadline for a prototype was due the next day. Everything had been going great with the tests until the arm fucked up a simple maneuver and they had to disassemble it to figure out what was wrong.
Bucky sighed as he stretched his back. Darcy popped up from the floor a couple of tables over and looked around with wide eyes.
“Has anyone had dinner?”
“I ate a protein bar at, um, five I think,” Jared said without looking up from his station.
“Let me go call my mom, she can bring us some food since we can't order it right to the lab,” he announced, standing up for the first time in almost three hours.
Penelope stuck her head out of her office.
“Have her bring you a change of clothes too. I need you with me for the presentation and we probably won't have time to go home and change,” she said.
He nodded at her before heading to the locker room where his phone was. The conversation with his ma was short and she promised to have enough food for the group brought out along with some clothes for him. After he hung up his phone he took a second to scroll through the few text messages he had received over the past few hours. There was one from Steve asking if he was going to be home that night and did he want to come over for a movie night again. Bucky replied in the negative, explaining that they would be pulling an all-nighter.
Steve and him had been hanging out with increasing frequency over the past few weeks. As Bucky started to stay later at work he would sometimes catch dinner at Steve's and the two would watch a movie as they ate. It was comfortable between them now and Bucky found himself enjoying the time they were spending together. Becca constantly teased him about it, while his ma had cornered him on more than one occasion asking about the time he spent with Steve. He always shot both of them down, insisting that things between them were nothing more than platonic, which was how Bucky wanted to keep it. Even if it was getting more difficult to think of Steve in a strictly friendly way.
The security guard came back about thirty minutes later to let Bucky know he had a visitor. Darcy cheered at the prospect of food as Bucky left, laughing at her along the way. Bucky was surprised when he got to the lobby and saw Steve looking around curiously. There was a bag of food on the front desk and he had a duffle bag slung over one shoulder.
“Hey, I wasn't expecting you,” Bucky commented, smiling when Steve shrugged at him.
“Your ma asked if I could take this stuff to you because she was helping Abby with some homework,” Steve said, handing over the bag of clothes.
“That was real nice of you, I hope she didn't put you out.”
Steve shook his head.
“Nah, I didn't have anything going on. I had just gotten your text that you were pulling an all-nighter right before she came over,” Steve explained.
“Were you just waiting around for me to answer you?” Bucky teased, grinning.
He was kind of shocked when Steve blushed.
“Like I said, I didn't have anything going on,” he mumbled, before clearing his throat, “I picked up some Thai food too. She said bring enough to feed seven people?”
“Uh, yeah, the um, the team. None of us have eaten since lunch really. They'll appreciate it.”
“There's mostly a bunch of pad Thai in there, but there is one dish of pad woon sen. That's for you. Your ma said it was your favorite,” Steve said, looking a little bashful.
“Did you buy it all yourself? I can get some money from everyone so we can pay you back,” Bucky insisted, trying not to think too hard about the fact that Steve made a point to buy his favorite dish.
“It's alright, I swear. It's not like I don't have the money to spare. I'm glad it can go to a good cause,” Steve told him.
“I'll let them know about your generous donation then,” Bucky replied, hefting the bag of food into his arms, “I gotta get back though, we still have a lot to get through tonight.”
“No problem, I hope you're able to get some sleep tonight Buck.”
The two said their goodbyes before Bucky headed back through to the secure section with the food. It was all promptly taken from him when he returned and he had to fight Lorena for his pad woon sen. They all decided to take a short break while they ate and retreated to the staff lounge for a short dinner.
Bucky woke up the next more face down in the break room couch with a rat's nest on the back of his head. Penelope was staring down at him with an unimpressed look on her face.
“We have to leave in thirty, go make yourself look pretty,” she said, before walking away.
He groaned and rolled off the couch onto the floor. Darcy looked over at him from where she was snuggled into a sleeping bag and loudly shushed him before rolling over and burrowing further into it. Bucky wandered through the lab into the locker room to change, feeling the exhaustion of working until three that morning like a weight on his shoulders.
He and Penelope arrived at Stark Tower with thirty minutes to set up. They unpacked the arm and got it hooked up to everything, talking very little as they went. There was still ten minutes left before the scheduled start of the presentation, so Penelope threw some cover up on the bags under Bucky's eyes at his request. Bucky caved last minute and texted Steve to ask if it would be too much trouble for him to come get Bucky after the presentation so he didn't have to take a cab home. He was waiting for a reply when the grant board filed in and he had to turn off his phone in order to beg for money for their project.
An hour and a half later they were shaking hands with Pepper Potts and Tony Stark. Penelope was beaming at the praise and the several million dollars they were being allocated to keep working on the prosthetics project. Once everyone had left again he and Penelope packed things up.
“You sure you're good to take this back to the lab alone?” he asked, glancing down at his phone to see a text alert from Steve.
“Yeah, like I said earlier, my place is really close to the lab. Go home and get some sleep Barnes. I'm not counting on seeing anyone in the lab until next Wednesday,” Penelope assured him, patting him on the back.
They headed toward the elevators together, but when they reached them Bucky was waylaid by none other than Stark himself. He waved Penelope off, ignoring her curious looks, and walked over to the other man, a little frustrated at being kept any longer.
“Steve is up on his floor, he asked me to bring you up and also to not verbally abuse you. I told him I could only promise one of those things,” Stark rambled, herding Bucky into an elevator away from the rest of the others.
“I can just meet him in the lobby,” Bucky tried, not succeeding much at convincing Stark to let him go.
“Where is the fun in that?” he asked, punching in a code and then the button for one of the top floors.
The doors opened into a large living area and when they stepped out Steve looked over the back of a couch at them and grinned.
“Hey! How did it go?” he asked, standing and moving gracefully around the couch.
“Good, we got the grant,” Bucky answered as Stark yawned and walked away.
“Awesome! So does that mean you get to take bit of a break?”
“A little, but we still have a lot of work to get done to get everything up to speed for human testing,” Bucky explained, shifting from one foot to the other.
“At least you get a little break. I know you must be exhausted, but I wanted you to meet Nat and Sam real quick since you were here. I hope that's alright, they've been asking to meet you for a while now.”
“Oh, yeah, that's cool,” Bucky said, feigning confidence in the fact he was about to meet two of Steve's close friends (not to mention two Avengers).
Steve led him through the large living room and into an equally large kitchen where Stark was perched on a counter while the other two sat on barstools at the kitchen's island. They both looked over at him when he walked him. Bucky found himself wanting to shrink away from their gaze.
“There he is!” Sam Wilson (Captain America!) exclaimed, jumping up from his seat and closing in on Bucky with his hand extended.
“Sam Wilson man, it's great to finally meet you! Steve talks about you literally all the time!”
Bucky laughed nervously and shook his hand as Steve became indignant at Sam.
“Bucky Barnes, nice to meet you.”
Sam grinned at Bucky after letting go of his hand and motioned for his companion to join them. She walked over to them with assessing eyes sweeping over Bucky as she approached.
“Natasha,” she said, crossing her arms and staring him down.
“Nice to meet you?” Bucky responded, swallowing thickly.
She hummed at him before a predatory sort of smile spread across her face.
“You're good looking,” Natasha announced, before brushing past him and leaving the kitchen.
Bucky stood there rather confused before looking to Steve for some sort of explanation. Steve was sighing and shaking his head while Stark laughed from his place across the kitchen.
“Sorry, she's a little defensive sometimes, don't take it personally,” Steve apologized.
“She'll warm up to you,” Sam assured him, clapping Bucky on the shoulder, “But seriously, I'm sure you're tired. Steve told us you've been up all night, go get some sleep, it was great to meet you.”
“Yeah, I am pretty beat. It was good to meet you Sam; I guess I'll see you around?”
“Oh yeah, definitely,” Sam laughed, shooting a look Steve's way that Bucky couldn't decipher.
Steve showed Bucky back to the elevator which they rode past the lobby and down into a parking garage Bucky had no idea existed.
“Thanks for picking me up, I really appreciate it,” Bucky said with a yawn as they got into Steve's ridiculously large SUV.
“It's no big deal, I was glad you texted me instead of taking a taxi home. Why don't you try to nap? There's probably going to be a lot of traffic at this time,” Steve suggested.
Bucky nodded his agreement and nestled against the door. He was asleep moments after they hit the street.
When Bucky woke up he was in his bed and it was well into the later afternoon. He groaned as he pushed himself up and looked around his room confused. After a moment or two Bucky got up and wandered downstairs to find his sisters all sitting in the living room watching television. All three of them looked at him simultaneously when he entered. They were wearing matching smirks as they looked at him.
“What?” he asked, squinting at all of them.
Becca climbed over the back of the couch with her phone.
“Mom sent this to me,” she said as she scrolled through it for a moment before flipping it around where Bucky could see.
There was a poorly taken picture, like his ma had been trying to take it secretively, of him being carried up the stairs by Steve, bridal style. Bucky swiped for Becca's phone only to have it yanked away from him.
“I swear Rebecca Anne Barnes if you don't delete that,” he snapped.
“Wouldn't matter if she did,” Abby sang, “It's already been uploaded to the cloud.”
“We were thinking of taking it to have it printed out so we could frame it,” Hanna chimed in.
The girls laughed as Bucky stormed out of the living room, not even able to go find his ma and gripe at her because she was at work. Instead he texted Steve.
“Really? Bridal style?” he wrote, not having to wait very long before he got a response.
Steve just sent back a shrugging emoji.