Tony’s feet left the ground as he leaned deep into the food truck’s engine with his ratchet, determined to fix that oil leak. It wasn’t critical yet, but there was a seafood festival next week down at the Outer Banks, and Bucky really wanted to be able to send the truck. Dockside was a diner, nothing fancy, but regulars swore by their crabcakes, which had been Bucky’s mom’s recipe.
Behind him in the parking lot, Billie was practicing her skateboard flips on the rail Tony and Bucky had installed for her. Tony could hear the rattling whir of the wheels and the thunk-thunk of it flipping, each one punctuated by her muttered “yesss!” of triumph or one of the wholly-invented “curse” words that she and her friends used in lieu of the real thing.
Bucky was inside, working up the new summer menu and trying to convince their other daughter, Livvy, to take a nap. Tony had his doubts about the success of that endeavor -- Livvy was every bit as stubborn as either of her fathers -- but maybe she’d fall asleep out of sheer boredom. Miracles had been known to happen.
Tony tried to imagine his reaction, if someone had told him ten years ago that this would be his life. He couldn’t quite fathom it. He’d never meant to leave New York. But he had a good life in Virginia now, with Bucky and the girls and their little chosen family of friends, and he couldn’t imagine wanting anything else. The last year, since Livvy’s birth, had been quiet and happy, and Tony almost wished that it could stay like this forever.
He was, naturally, elbow-deep in the engine when his phone rang. “Buttercup, see who that is for me?” he called.
“Okay!” Billie yelled back. Tak-whirrrrr-skrtch from the skateboard as she rolled over to him. “Oh, it’s Uncle Phil! Can I answer it?”
“Yeah, go ahead. Tell him I’ll be right there.” Tony suppressed a moment of worry -- his mother’s bodyguard didn’t call often, but he did occasionally feel the need to report in. Tony wondered what ridiculous thing his mom had done this time.
“Hey, Uncle Phil!” Billie chirped. She was still rolling the skateboard back and forth under one foot, tak-tak-tak, fidgeting in the manner that was 100% Barnes and had gotten her in a lot of trouble at school for being utterly unable to sit still unless really into her studies. Which happened… well, sometimes, at least. “Yeah, Dad’s here, he’s just up to his elbows in engine grease. Uncle Bucky’s gonna make him eat a cake of lava soap before he c’n come in the kitchen again. Oh. Yeah, okay. Hang on.” She sat the phone down gingerly on the sidewalk and looked around through Tony’s toolbox until she found his cleaning rag. “He says he needs t’ talk to you. Right away.”
Of course he did.
Tony re-tightened the bolt he’d been working on and pushed back until his feet hit the ground again. He took the cleaning rag from Billie and wiped his hands until they were... well, clean enough that the smear they’d leave on the phone case was manageable, anyway. He resisted the urge to ruffle Billie’s hair -- it was so long that washing it was a real chore, and he didn’t want to jump it up an extra day if he didn’t have to -- and scooped the phone up off the pavement. “Phil! How’s New York?”
“Difficult,” Phil admitted. “Allow me to apologize, first. I…” Phil took a deep breath as if steeling himself. “I'm tendering my resignation effective immediately. I know this leaves you in a bit of a sticky spot. For the time being, until you have an opportunity to find a… someone else. A replacement. Uh. I left my protege, Mr. Grant Ward, overseeing Mare’s-- er, your mother's security. I personally vouch for him. He's a fine young man.”
“Wait, what?” Tony glanced at Billie, who’d gone back to her skating, and took a few steps away, as if that were going to help him understand better. “I don’t... Why?”
Phil sighed. “Mr. Stark--” and when the hell had Tony been Mr. Stark to Phil? They'd been on first names for quite a while now. “-- I'm afraid there is a conflict of interest. I cannot, in good conscience, continue to hold employment with your family.”
What the hell had his mother done? “I’m... Okay, if you really can’t stay, then... I’m sorry to see you go. If Mom’s okay with Mr. Ward, I guess that’s fine with me, too. Uh. Good luck. Let me know if you need a reference or anything.”
“No--” Phil protested, which sounded pained, and almost forced. “No, I don’t think I’ll be requiring anything further. I’m fi-- Thank you, sir.” And the phone went dead in Tony’s ear.
Tony stared at the screen for a moment, then called his mother. “Mom,” he demanded as soon as she picked up. “What did you do?”
“Good morning, Antonio,” his mother said, crisp and cool and sharp. “It’s lovely to hear from you as well. I’m quite well--” and that didn’t sound anything like quite well at all, that sounded like the days when she put on a pretty smile for company and pretended that Howard was everything desirable in a husband “--thank you for asking. How are the girls?”
Tony huffed out a sigh, letting her hear it. “They’re great, thanks. Why did Phil just call and give me his resignation?”
“Well, I assume that’s because he quit, darling,” Maria said. “Is… er, is he all right? Did he say anything?”
“He said there was a conflict of interest and he couldn’t work for us anymore. What does that even mean?” Tony leaned against the side of the food truck and shoved his free hand through his hair. ...Damn it, now he was going to need a whole shower, not just a quick scrub from the elbows down.
“Well, that was very discreet of him,” Maria said. “I’m sure I appreciate his professionalism. I suppose it’s just as well.”
It was the soft little catch in her voice that brought Tony up short. “Mom,” he said, trying to calm down and listen properly, “what happened?”
“Antonio,” Maria said. “I’m not so very old, you know. And Philip… Well, nevermind. It isn’t what I thought it was. He’s quite right. It was… not professional. You must think I’m dreadful.”
“Of course you’re not dreadful, you’re-- Wait. You mean you and Phil?” He all but screeched the last bit, swallowing it down when Billie looked around curiously. He somehow summoned a smile and waved at her -- everything’s fine, you can keep playing -- before turning his attention back to the phone. “Mom!”
“Antonio, is that tone truly necessary?” Maria sounded actually upset, and it had been a long time since Tony got much of a look at his mother outside her mask -- sometimes when she was with her grandbabies, she didn’t see the need to keep up her society pretenses. “It was a… momentary distraction, that is all.”
Tony tried to consider the situation, but his brain seized up and refused to function beyond the data point of: my mother has a sex life.
“I’m... sorry?” he tried. “I’m... uh.” He pushed the thought of his mother’s love life as far into the back as he could and forced himself to focus on the logistics. “Is the new guy going to be okay, or do I need to start looking around again?”
“Mr. Ward came highly recommended,” Maria said, sharply. “He’s very young. You needn’t fret, there shan’t be a repeat of this incident. He’s barely your age.” She sniffed, a little disdainful, as if Tony was still wet behind the ears, for all that he’d been married and running a joint business venture for several years now.
“Okay, okay, that’s not what I-- You’re okay with him, that’s... that’s good. I’ll get Matt to send over a contract for him in the next day or so. Uh. I guess I’ll let you go, then.”
“Thank you, darling,” Maria said, firmly back on safe ground. “Give my love to James and the girls, if you’d be so kind.” She hung up, less forcefully than Phil had done, but just as final, somehow.
Tony took a breath. Another. ...Nope, still couldn’t quite wrap his brain around it. “I’m going in for a minute,” he told Billie. “Don’t leave the lot.”
He took the stairs two at a time up to the house and barged into the living room where Bucky was poking at his laptop. “My mother,” he announced, “has been having an affair with her bodyguard.”
Bucky made a neutral sounding humming noise. “Yeah? Is it official, now, then?”
“Bucky! Is it-- What does that mean?”
Bucky made a squinched face, the sort he made when Livvy was practicing her pterodactyl impersonation. “I assumed they were keepin’ it on the downlow. I dunno, for society reasons or somethin’.” He actually looked up. “You didn’t know?”
“You did?” Tony stared at his husband in utter betrayal.
“Well, yeah,” Bucky said. “I mean, they ain’t been much but making mooncalf eyes at each other for a while now. I thought he was better for her than those men she was meetin’ on the dating service.” He shook his head, obviously disgusted. “Gold diggers, every one of ‘em.”
“Dating service?” Tony’s voice was reaching dangerously screechy levels. “What-- Oh, god, my mother has a sex life.”
After several years of being married to Tony, Bucky didn’t blush as much as he used to. Built up tolerance or something, but he lowered his eyes, and his cheeks turned a pretty shade of pink. “Well, I didn’t ask about that part,” Bucky confessed. “But I helped her-- oh, musta been about, I dunno, before Livvy was born, leastways. She put her net-worth in her damn dating profile. Me an’ Nat helped her put together somethin’ a little more appropriate, but… she had us take it down. What, about four months ago, now, I think.”
Tony sank onto the couch and buried his face in his hands. “My mother has a dating profile,” he groaned. “I did not need to know that. And now she’s down a bodyguard, because Phil decided it was a conflict of interest and quit. So she’s being tailed by some guy Phil trained, who I don’t know a damn thing about except Phil liked him.”
“Oh, man,” Bucky said. “Is she okay? I thought-- I thought it was going well.”
“I don’t know,” Tony grumbled. “I know I’m not okay. She didn’t sound great. Maybe he quit because they broke up, I dunno. Fuck.”
Bucky sat down on the couch next to him and slid an arm around Tony’s shoulders. “I’m sorry, honey,” he said. “I… well, I thought you knew. That it was just one of those things you didn’t wanna talk about, kinda like I don’t like talkin’ about Loki and Becca.” He made a face that Tony saw out of the corner of his eye. “It’s just weird an’ freaky, knowin’ that Bex’s lover and one of my lovers were. Related. It’s like all incestuous and stuff.” He shuddered.
Tony sniffed. “At least you didn’t find out about that until years afterward. This is now. Or. Recent, maybe. Uggggg.” He groaned again and leaned into Bucky. “I’m never having sex again.”
Bucky made a scoffing sound in the back of his throat. “Think I’ve said that a few times, too,” Bucky reminded him, gently. “Never sticks.”
“You could at least pretend to be worried about it,” Tony pouted. “Stupid Mom. Stupid Phil. Stupid... Grant Ward, whoever he is.”
“That th’ new guy?” Bucky asked, and then went on when Tony nodded. “Well, even if he quit because they broke up, I don’t see Phil bein’ irresponsible. Let ‘im do a trial run an’ we’ll meet th’ guy next time we see her. If you want, I’ll talk t’ Phil, see if I c’n figure out what happened.”
“Yeah,” Tony agreed. “Might have to give it a day or two. He went all Mr. Stark starchyshorts on me.”
“Well, yeah,” Bucky said. “S’gotta be weird for him, too. When your ex’s son is your boss. We had some of that ‘round here, after… well, after the shit with Rumlow, and what happened with Peter. Wanda was terrified for a few weeks that I was gonna fire her as soon as I got back from Azzano.”
“You wouldn’t have,” Tony said confidently.
“Well, no, of course I wouldn’t have,” Bucky said. “Doesn’t mean it wasn’t weird for her.”
Tony leaned further into Bucky’s warmth. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me.”
“I dunno, I guess I thought you knew. Like, when we all knew ‘bout Sam and Wanda, but no one wanted to say anything, ‘cause we didn’t want to jinx it?”
“Yeah, but they were really obvious,” Tony pointed out. “And she’s my Mom.”
“An’ she was playin’ footsie with him under th’ table the last time we went out t’ Aldo’s,” Bucky exclaimed.
Tony stared up at Bucky in horror. “No.”
Bucky laughed, his ears turning pink. “Oh, yes, they were. She bumped me with her knee like three times and I don’t even want to know what he did to her stocking. You didn’t notice?”
“She’s my mom,” Tony said again. “Moms don’t have sex!” He knew that was possibly the stupidest thing he’d said in at least the last year, but he couldn’t quite stop it from coming out of his mouth. “Shut up, I know, I know, I just. I didn’t think it was possible.”
“Tony,” and Bucky’s voice was painfully gentle. “Your mom’s a good looking woman. She’s independently wealthy, she’s polite. She can be really damn funny when she wants to be. Of course men are gonna find her attractive. An’... you know, that’s okay, don’t you think? Shouldn’t she be happy? Don’t you think she deserves that? I mean, I guess I can see not noticin’, if you don’t like thinkin’ about it. That’s okay, too.”
“You’re just going to give me hell about it forever,” Tony grumbled. Now that he was -- reluctantly -- thinking about it, his mom and Phil had been a little friendlier than a society matron and her bodyguard generally were. “I can’t believe I didn’t notice.”
“Next you’re gonna tell me you don’t know that Billie’s goin’ out with Bryan Bain-- and ain’t that the dumbest phrase? Goin’ out? They’re not going anywhere--”
“WHAT?” Tony all but shrieked, sitting bolt upright. “NO. NO, I will not--”
Bucky started laughing, hard enough that he almost fell off the couch. “Calm your jets, Lord Montague,” he said, between giggles. “I’m kidding, I’m kidding.”
“Oh my god, you are actually the worst,” Tony complained. “Literally and actually. Worst. I don’t know why I even love you. You’re so mean.”
Bucky couldn’t even stop laughing long enough to give Tony an appropriately contrite pout; he kept losing it at the last second. “Sorry, sorry,” Bucky said, pressing his lips together to try to keep from busting out laughing again. “Seriously, you should have seen your face, oh, my god…”
“Hmph. Just for that, I’m not even sorry that I got my greasy hands on you.”
Bucky pulled himself together long enough to give Tony a sultry look. “I happen to like your hands on me, greasy or otherwise.”
Tony tried to fight the smile that tugged at his lips. “Yeah, I like that, too.”
“An’ look, you have a clean spot… right here.” Bucky leaned in, nuzzling at the corner of Tony’s mouth, tongue flicking out to brush against his lip.
“Yeah?” Tony leaned in a little. “Want to see if you can find any more?”
Bucky nosed around Tony’s ear, then-- “Wow. You have engine grease in your hair, baby.” But that didn’t seem to deter him much, as he licked at the sensitive patch just behind Tony’s ear.
Tony shuddered and tipped his head for more. God, the reactions that Bucky got out of him... He slid his hand around Bucky’s shoulders and pulled Bucky closer, wanting more and more and more. They had to stop soon, he knew -- he needed a shower, and the couch wasn’t really an option for serious makeouts unless Billie was safely off with a friend. But for now, just for a little longer, he wanted to feel Bucky’s touch, gentle fingers and sensitive lips.
Tony was going to blame distraction, because Bucky’s hand was creeping up his shirt, pushing the fabric up and running a teasing hand along Tony’s skin, but the door crashed open and Billie stopped dead in the doorframe. “Ug, gross,” she said, her tone mimicking Steve’s whenever he caught Bucky and Tony necking in the restaurant’s kitchen. “Dads should not be kissing.”
“Go on, be like that about it,” Tony said, “and we’ll just do it more.”
Billie made a face. “I know, I know.” She sounded extremely put upon. “Gonna put you two on rations!” She stomped off into her room, her skateboard gear littering the hallway as she went.
Bucky shook his head, grinning. “How is it that Becca raised her, you an’ I take care of her, an’ she acts just like Stevie?”
“Maybe he’s slipping something into the food,” Tony suggested. “That mac and cheese he makes her is very suspicious.”
Bucky gave a quick peer over his shoulder to see that Billie’s door was still safely slammed shut, and then gave Tony a quick kiss. “You need a shower, grease monkey,” he said. “Want me t’ wash your back?”
“Always,” Tony agreed.