Bucky would have rather gone back in cryo than have to attend to this dinner.
Steve had finally broken and accepted Tony’s offer of dinner so here they were, standing in the entryway of the resident’s quarters of the compound. He could hear all the Avengers in attendance chattering in the dining room.
“We can turn around and go home right now if you need, Buck,” Steve said, lifting Bucky’s hand to kiss his knuckles.
“No, I can do this. And if we don’t, Stark will never stop pestering me,” Bucky said and smiled gratefully down at Steve. “Come on, let’s get this over with.” Bucky squeezed Steve’s hand before leading him to the main room and over to the sectioned off dining table. The table was completely covered in food with barely enough room for the actual plates. There were eight people already seated around the table and Bucky’s attention was immediately drawn to the one he didn’t recognize.
“Oh, Buckaroo, I forgot you haven’t met Peter yet,” Stark said from his seat at the head of the table. “Peter this is Bucky-bear Barnes and his very loud boyfriend Steve. Grandpas, this is Peter Parker, newest member of the Avengers.”
“Newest member?” Bucky snapped before he could stop himself. “He’s like fourteen!”
“I’m seventeen, actually, Mr. Barnes-Winter Soldier-Sir,” Peter said nervously. “And Mr. Stark doesn’t let me go on any missions or anything, no matter how much I beg.” Bucky’s eyes narrowed at Stark, but he sat down without a word, taking the place next to Peter with Steve on his other side.
“Dig in,” Pepper told them gently. Bucky nodded. He liked Pepper, she was kind to him and when he first joined the Avengers she helped him with all the legal issues of being a MIA American soldier turning brainwashed Hydra assassin. He was also the first person he told about Steve, when she asked if he wanted someone as his emergency contact.
“So, Popsicle,” Stark started. Bucky could feel Steve tense beside him. “How come you never told us you had a boyfriend?”
“Pepper and Wanda both knew because they asked. You didn’t,” Bucky said and shrugged.
“Pepper? You knew, and you didn’t tell me?” Stark asked, mouth dropping open.
“No because James didn’t say I could,” Pepper said simply. “Now drop it and let them eat their dinner.” Their meal continued, harmless save for the few inappropriate questions Stark asked but Bucky expected those. Steve spoke with Wanda and Sam while Bucky watched Peter out of the corner of his eye. The boy was awkward, that was for sure, insecure under false bravado. But he was also curious and sincere, listening intently whenever anyone spoke to him and paying attention to other conversations in the meanwhile.
“Parker,” Bucky said quietly, halfway through dinner. Peter’s head whipped around to look at him, eyes wide.
“Yes, Mr. Bucky-Winter Soldier-Barnes-Sir?” he asked breathlessly. Bucky rolled his eyes.
“It’s just Bucky, kid. That’s it,” he said. “How long have you been doing the superhero thing?”
“Oh, well, I’ve been Spiderman since I was fifteen and Mr. Stark has been helping since then. But I only joined the Avengers last month, I swear,” Peter said excitedly.
“Are you still in school?” Bucky asked. He would knock Stark’s lights out if he pulled this kid out of school.
“Of course! I’m a senior at Midtown. That’s uh, Midtown School of Science and Technology,” Peter said. “And I live with my Aunt May during the week and come up here a few weekends a month to train.”
“Good. You’re smart then? To be at a school like that?” Bucky watched as Peter turned bright red.
“I guess so,” he shrugged.
“Don’t listen to him,” Natasha said from across the table. “He’s third in his class and he’s in band, robotics, and decathlon. He’s just modest but he’s smarter than all of us here,” Bucky ignored the indignant sound from Stark in favor of looking over at Peter to see him, if even possible, blushing more.
“Don’t undersell yourself,” Bucky instructed. “But let others underestimate you. Then you always have the advantage.”
“My girlfriend says something like that,” Peter said thoughtfully. “But she says it about herself. Because she’s black and a girl, so people underestimate her no matter what.”
“I like your girlfriend,” Bucky nodded. “Where do you live?” At Peter’s answer of Queens, Bucky gestured with his hand.
“Phone, now.” Peter yanked his phone from his pocket and set it in Bucky’s waiting hand. Bucky quickly programed his number in. “If you ever need anything.”
“He gets your number? After an hour of knowing you?” Stark cried out. “I don’t even have your number. I have to get JARVIS to text or call you.”
“And that’s the way I want it,” Bucky deadpanned causing Peter to let out a barking laugh. Bucky grinned and looked over at Steve who was giving him a fond look.
“What?” Bucky muttered, dropping his voice so that Steve would have to read his lips.
“Nothing, Buck,” Steve leaned in and pecked his lips. “Just like seeing you happy.” Bucky couldn’t help the blush from spreading over his cheeks.
“Oh, shut up,” he rolled his eyes but the smile on his face gave him away. The group finished dinner soon after and at the offer of dessert, Steve and Bucky declined, begging off due to Steve’s need to take his meds at a certain time. They said their goodbyes but before they could make it out the door, Pepper approached them, carefully taking Bucky’s arm. He was appreciative of it. He was still very cautious of anyone’s touch but Steve’s.
“I hate to ask but if you’re already heading that way, would you mind taking Peter home as well?” Pepper asked. “It just seems like a waste to have him driven home in a separate car but if you don’t want to, it’s not an issue.”
“Of course, we can, Pepper, it’s not a problem,” Bucky nodded. “Tell the kid we’ll be waiting at the car.” Pepper nodded and kissed his cheek before going back to join the rest of the group. Bucky and Steve made their way downstairs and out to massive circle drive where their car was parked. Bucky leaned against the side and pulled Steve under his arm.
“So, how was it for you, babydoll?” Bucky asked. “Not too horrible?”
“It was fun, Buck,” Steve said and smiled up at him. “Tony asked me if I’m pitcher or catcher in bed but other than that everyone was nice and polite. Sam asked me about my job and Natasha wanted to know if I would consider learning self-defense. Pepper talked with me about the current global market a bit and asked my advice on buying art. And Clint wanted to know if I thought feeding a dog pizza was a bad idea. It was good and they’re not nearly as crazy as you make them out to be.”
“Yeah but you’ve never been stuck in a quinjet with them for six hours while everyone is covered in alien guts. And tired. And hungry,” Bucky said and as annoyed as he was at the rest of his team sometimes, he was mostly thankful for them. And they never tried to erase his memory or take his arm.
Soon enough, Peter was walking out and jogging over to meet them. “Thank you for giving me a ride home.”
“It’s no problem Peter, hop in,” Steve said and walked around the car to get in the driver’s seat, Bucky in the passenger, and Peter in the backseat.
“So, you said you live with your aunt?” Steve asked once they were on the road.
“Yeah, for years now. My parents died when I was little and I’ve been with her ever since,” Peter explained briefly, and Bucky knew not to push, could hear the slight edge to Peter’s voice.
“What about your girlfriend?” Steve continued, and Bucky was grateful Steve could tell a subject change was needed too.
“Her name is MJ, she’s the smartest person I know,” Peter said, face lighting up. “She’s actually first in my class. She loves to read, she’s always got at least three books with her. She’s captain of the decathlon team.”
“How long have you been together?” Bucky asked, a bit curious now.
“Two years, just about. We got together in our sophomore year,” Peter said.
“Does she know?” Steve asked. “About you being Spiderman, I mean?” Peter nodded.
“She figured it out really quick. Before we got together even; she’s not first in the class for nothing,” he joked, smiling softly.
“How did you become Spiderman, anyway?” Bucky asked. “And where the hell did you come up with the spider thing anyway?”
“Well, uh, would you believe me if I told you I got bitten by a radioactive spider?” Peter rubbed the back of neck self-consciously.
“Honestly kid, I would believe just about anything. I was born in 1917 and here I am one hundred years later with half my memory and a cybernetic arm,” Bucky retorted. “So, a radioactive spider then? Where does the superhero bit come in?”
“Well, the abilities I got from the bite…I couldn’t just not do anything. There were so many people that needed help and now that I can, how could I not, you know? I don’t…I don’t like bullies,” Peter shrugged and looked up at them. Bucky smirked over at Steve and smirked a little.
“Sounds exactly like someone I know,” Bucky said, not taking his eyes off Steve.
“Really?” Peter said. “Although I suppose I don’t really know anything about either of you it’s just that…”
“That I’m small?” Steve finished and chuckled at Peter’s blush. “Don’t worry about it. Everyone thinks the same. Works into that whole letting people underestimate you thing you talked about earlier. No one expects the 5’2” asthmatic to get in a police officer’s face at a protest, yelling about immigration and equal pay.” Peter laughed and shook his head.
“No, probably not. Do you do that a lot?” He asked. Bucky snorted.
“You have no idea, kid. I’ve been saving his ass from a different fight every week since we met. He’s a menace and a punk,” Bucky said. “Patched up more cuts and set more broken noses than this one will care to admit.”
“That’s cool though. That you’re willing to stand up for what you believe in, what’s right,” Peter said. “Not a lot of people are willing to do that.”
“There’s a lot of injustice in the world, lot of assholes and if I can do something about it I will,” Steve reasoned and glanced back at Peter. “Just got to do it a bit differently than a team of superheroes.”
“And at the risk of his boyfriend’s heart,” Bucky huffed. “Do you know how many calls I’ve gotten from him at the police station? Or the hospital? When he needed me to come pick him up? Too fucking many.” Peter laughed loudly, covering his mouth with one hand.
“My girlfriend would like you a lot. She’s very similar, going to protests every weekend, fighting against the patriarchy,” Peter told them, directing the statement at Steve. “I would say she drags me along, but I enjoy them too. Like I said, I don’t like bullies.”
“I think you’re going to do just fine in the Avengers, kid,” Bucky said. “Now, what’s the address to your place?” Peter rattled off the street and building number and before long they were pulling up in front of it.
“Thanks for the ride home,” Peter said earnestly. “It was nice meeting you both.”
“You too, kid. And I meant it, with my number. If you ever need help with anything, just text or call me,” Bucky said and turned to look at him.
“He really does mean it,” Steve turned around too. “You’re only the…fifth person to have his number.”
“What? Really?” Peter asked, raising his eyebrows. “Only five?”
“Well, technically four and an AI,” Steve amended. “Me, Pepper, Wanda, and JARVIS were the only ones before you. So, when he says use the number, he means it.” Peter smiled and nodded.
“Alright, I will. Thank you again. I’ll see you soon, maybe,” Peter said and both Steve and Bucky bid their goodbyes, watching until Peter was in the building with the door shut behind him.
Steve waited until they were on their way home before speaking again. “You seem very fond of him.”
“He’s just a kid, he needs someone looking out for him,” Bucky shrugged and looked out the window.
“And Stark can’t do that?” Steve questioned, raising his eyebrows.
“Not as good as I can,” Bucky said. “Besides, I’m closer. And stronger. And smarter in a lot of ways.”
“I think it’s cute. And sweet,” Steve smiled. “And it’s nice. You need more people in your life, Buck. And if that’s in the form of a seventeen-year-old who dresses as a spider then so be it. You deserve good things in your life, good people.” Bucky looked over at him just as they pulled into their parking spot. He looked up at their building, thinking of Dodger waiting inside. He smiled at Steve and nodded. He did deserve a good life, he’d been through a lot. And he had a lot of reasons to live the best life he could, a lot of people to prove wrong.
Fuck Hydra, after all.