Bucky knew what was coming, and he wanted to just say 'no' and be done with it, no matter how cute Tony's determined face was. But one thing he'd been trying to be better at was actually listening to what someone asked him to do, before simply saying no because he was more comfortable staying indoors, in his rooms and not interacting with people. His therapist had suggested it as a good first step, and Bucky had even found himself agreeing to do actual social stuff once in while.
It wasn't always horrible – Wilson had invited him to get pizza that one time, and with Steve and Tony there to form a human wall between Bucky and anybody who might try to talk to him, it had been okay. The pizza had been outstanding, though when Bucky had said so, Wilson had been smug for weeks.
He didn't so much mind Wilson being smug, because mostly he did it by yelling “In your face!” to Steve, who'd been torn between pulling the 'he's my best friend I know him better than you' card, and being stupidly happy because Bucky had left the Tower and had sort of actually enjoyed himself for a change.
Other than being stupidly happy at him, Steve didn't push, and he didn't let anybody else push too hard, because he knew Bucky had a host of good reasons to be wary of leaving the safety of Tony's building. No matter how many times they told him the programming was gone and anything he did was all him – well, that didn't necessarily make him feel better. He could remember, was the thing, and sometimes he could see himself deciding that shooting someone was easier than putting up with whatever shit they were going on about.
(Banner had had a point, about New York not being the most relaxing place for a superhero with PTSD and aggression issues to recover.)
He didn't want to find out he'd knifed someone for shorting him ten cents on his coffee, or broken a neck for shoving him on the sidewalk. He didn't really, truly, (maybe) think it would happen, but he got flashes of seeing himself doing just those things, and the reflexes was always there. He didn't want to risk other people just because he didn't trust himself. It helped that his therapist said that returning soldiers struggled with that shit all the time, and he supported Bucky's determination to never go outside without someone who could stop him from doing something he didn't mean to do. So, Steve or Tony with his armor on call, or Thor always went with him. Clint had shown him a gizmo he'd had that worked like a super-tazer and – they'd practised – could take Bucky down in an instant, so now Clint and Nat could go with him if he wanted to leave the Tower. Banner had offered, but stopping Bucky would mean the Big Guy showing up and Bucky wasn't so sure he could stop Hulk from destroying buildings, so he didn't really see how that would be better.
For all of that, Bucky didn't like leaving the safety of the Tower, so he didn't bother doing it any more than he absolutely needed to, in order to make Steve and Tony and his therapist not frown at him. Listening to their invitations before turning them down was helping a lot with not being frowned at and, anyhow, he'd actually started taking them up on things every so often.
But this was not going for a slice and a beer. Tony was here, in Bucky's front room, looking for all he'd been rehearsing his battle plans. Bucky knew it was about Hallowe'en and the party Stark was well-known for throwing every year. He tried not to scowl in anticipation.
His boyfriend smiled, which Bucky had to force himself not to scowl at even harder. Tony had said often enough he thought Bucky's grumpy look was adorable, which what the hell. Nobody looked cute when they were grumpy, even if Tony's solution to Bucky's moods usually involved cuddling on the couch and making out a little.
“So, Hallowe'en party,” Tony began, then he paused like he was waiting for Bucky to say no.
Bucky shrugged permission at him to go on. Because surely Tony knew better than any of them to invite Bucky to any Stark shindigs where a few hundred strangers would be drinking and yelling and expecting Bucky to be in the middle of it all, on Tony's arm.
Tony's eyebrows went up a little in surprise, which did make Bucky scowl harder. He was trying, for fuck's sake, hadn't Tony noticed? But now Tony was looking at him like he wanted to – “Stop doing that,” Bucky snapped. “I'm not kissing you until you tell me what you're here to invite me to.”
“Fine, I'm holding you to that, it's a promise, I get a kiss after.” Tony grinned at him, delighted like Bucky never kissed him, which Bucky knew was a big fat lie, considering what they'd been doing just seven hours ago. Tony held up a hand, though, before he could ask JARVIS for the video evidence, and said, “We're having a party up here, the guest list is completely restricted to people you know and have shown previous tolerance or actual affection for.”
Bucky blinked at him. Tony waved his hand at one of his not-a-tablet things and a holographic scene lit up. He could read the names backwards – all the Avengers were listed first with their 'one plus' alongside. Well, Steve was bringing Sam, no surprise, and Clint and Nat and Coulson were sort of scribbled in a single line, though Bucky hadn't quite figured out exactly what was going on with those three. Thor and Jane Foster, again no surprise, and as Bucky read down the list – Tony turned it around so he could see better, like he'd thought Bucky's scowl was because half-transparent names in mid-air was difficult to figure out.
There were only twenty-five names, all told, and there were little gold stars next to names of people who, Bucky realised after only an instant, had the ability to knock Bucky on his ass if he freaked out. Every single name was somebody he liked, or didn't mind so much. The whole list looked more like a family gathering than a party.
“You can veto anybody if you need to,” Tony said, gently. “And they've all agreed to let JARVIS approve their costumes. No masks or facial coverings to disguise who they are.”
That... holy cow, that was thoughtful. Bucky was kind of used to Tony pulling this shit on him (and everybody): stuff you never thought of he already had solutions for, like Bucky being surrounded by people wearing costumes and not knowing who the fuck they were.
Wait. “Costumes?” Unless they let him dress up like James Barnes, recently retired assassin, there was no fucking way.
Tony was grinning at him again, which no way in hell Bucky trusted. “I have my bunny suit, of course,” Tony said, and what? What bunny suit?
“What fucking bunny suit?”
“You haven't seen--? Did Steve warn you off from looking up videos of me online? Not to worry. Bunny suit, very tasteful and dignified, you'll love it. I designed this for you.” He swiped his hand through the projection of names and there was a pirate costume.
It was a pretty fucking awesome-looking pirate costume. It looked dangerous and mean, not stupid or silly at all. Perfect for glowering at people in, and it didn't include an eye patch to render one eye blind. But-- “You gonna take my arm off and put that on?” He could see the appeal, a little, but surely Tony wouldn't just assume Bucky would be okay with that without asking.
“No, it's a hologram. We'll put a sleeve on your arm and make it look like a hook. Up to you if you pretend to use your hand like one, or not. If you use your fingers individually, the hologram makes your fingers look like smaller hooks.” He waved his hand through the hologram and the hook moved, splitting the one, big hook into five smaller ones.
It was seriously fucking awesome.
Bucky tried to take the thing from Tony, so he could look at the costume better, but the tiny little sliver of whatever it was that made the projections fumbled in his fingers. He caught it before it fell, but the picture had gone away. “I wanna see your bunny outfit,” Bucky said, not sure how to search for pictures other than asking JARVIS. “Is it one of those French Maid type outfits? You got a short skirt and fluffy tail?”
The smile Tony gave him was very encouraging. “It looks like this,” Tony said and there was another picture. It looked – completely and horrifically stupid. It was a big white coverall thing, and Bucky would have thought Tony was having him on, except the picture was definitely Tony, outside in someone's yard, jumping around in a white suit that completely covered him head to toe. Big floppy ears on his head bouncing around as he acted like a complete dork.
No wonder Steve laughed at him sometimes about falling in love with this guy. What even, Bucky asked himself.
“And you're gonna wear that in front of people?” Bucky asked, pretty sure his boyfriend was having him on.
But Tony nodded. “I am. And you can see what everyone else is wearing as they add their costumes to the database. I should mention JARVIS won't let me see Steve and Sam's costumes, which means I am probably going to hate them. If either of them show up as Ironman they are off my Christmas list,” Tony said, looking up at the ceiling.
“Yes, sir,” JARVIS said, sounding polite and a little like he was laughing. “Shall I inform them of your ultimatum?”
Tony sighed. “Nobody around here listens to me.” He gave Bucky a pitiful-me look, which Bucky felt was completely uncalled for.
“I listen to you sometimes,” he said, patting Tony on the hand. “Like when you tell me we can stay in bed and ignore whatever's been scheduled for the whole morning.”
“So,” Tony leaned in, and paused just an inch away from stealing a kiss. “I asked, did you say yes, can I have my kiss now?”
Bucky kissed him, a quick peck on the lips, then sighed. “Yeah, I'll go.” It seemed a shame to say no when Tony had clearly put the party together to make sure Bucky would feel comfortable and safe.
The way Tony lit up told him his boyfriend hadn't really been sure, and Bucky was even more glad he'd said yes. He shoved Tony off, then, as much as he would have been happy to keep kissing him and watching him smile, because Pepper had started yelling at him about preventing Tony from attending meetings. Pepper sent him copies now of Tony's schedule with red and yellow highlights indicating which ones Tony couldn't miss or she was coming after both of their heads.
Probably he should add Pepper to the list of people who could go with him outside the Tower.
Tony was giving him kitten eyes now, and Bucky just said, “Pepper, 2 o'clock.”
There was a moment when he didn't move, but then Tony sighed. After sneaking in and getting another kiss, he actually headed for the elevator, calling out to JARVIS about a audit report from the office in Melbourne.
Bucky waited until Tony was clear, then asked, “Okay, JARVIS, what are Steve and Sam's costumes?”
There was a noise like JARVIS was clearing his throat, then said, “I believe it will be better if they explain it themselves. They are both currently in Captain Rogers' apartment and, I hasten to add, fit for company.”
“That better mean fully dressed,” Bucky warned, but took himself off to find them.
It didn't take long, and after suffering through Steve's 'so proud of you, Buck' and 'Tony was so worried, he'll be so happy', they finally sat down to explain.
“So of course we're both going as Ironman,” Sam said, and Bucky just nodded. “Clint said he'd do it as well, but Nat and Phil are doing the whole old-school Dracula thing. I'm still not sure Thor understands what we meant by dressing up in costume, but either Jane will explain it to him or we'll have Thor dressed as the God of Thunder at our party.” Sam shrugged.
“So why are you smirking, then?” Bucky demanded. “Just dressing up in Tony's armor? Even if he complains, he'll get a kick out of it.”
Steve laughed. “We got these.” He came out of the bedroom, holding two...things. They looked like they were made from paper, or thin plastic. Steve shook them out and Bucky still couldn't tell what they were made from. They were the ugliest, most horrific versions of Ironman armor he'd ever seen.
“What the fuck?”
“They cost five dollars each,” Sam explained, and suddenly Bucky was getting the picture. “We each have a different version and none of them are even remotely accurate. They're not SI licensed, we got them from a Taiwanese knock-off online.”
“This one is already torn from when I tried it on,” Steve said, showing Bucky the costume's leg. “And Clint's has the colors completely reversed.”
“Tony is going to HATE them.” Bucky grinned. He didn't even care that each costume had a sort of 'mask' – they looked like they fit badly enough a three year old could recognise whoever was wearing them. Tony would spend the entire evening ranting about them or pretending to ignore them. “You guys are evil.” He held out his fist and Sam bumped it.
He wondered if he should be feeling protective, or demand they be nice. But he knew – long after the party was over and there was no way the others would overhear, Tony would laugh his fucking ass off.
And Bucky would be the one to get to see it. And, okay, sometimes Tony did shit that meant he deserved exactly something like this. Bucky could hardly blame them for laughing so gleefully.
Besides, there was always next Hallowe'en to retaliate.