Tony hated magic with passion because magic defied the laws of physics, biology and sanity in general. People can prepare for logical things, superheroes are equipped to deal with unexpected situations even, but magic was impossible to prepare for. Magic was damned cheating.
And the ray-gun the villain of the day swayed in his hands was an unholy bastard child of alien tech and earthly magic, stuck together by duct tape and used chewing gum somehow. Terrible combination, and also, ew. Supervillains lacked decency nowadays.
Anyway, the bad guy, who had a severe case of bad coping mechanisms, called the gun the Separator, because whatever it hit with its ray came apart to components. That’s why Clint had icing and flour in his hair after standing next to the pastry shop’s show window that got blown up, and Natasha was fighting against tangled threads that were clothes once.
And that’s why Tony’s heart stopped when the Winter Soldier didn’t dodge fast enough and the ray hit him.
“Bucky!” Steve cried out, mission probably forgotten. Therefore Tony shouldn’t let himself be distracted. He had to remain focused and deal with the threat. Which was sheer luck, because he wasn’t brave enough to even look at Bucky’s direction right now, he needed time to prepare for whatever he might see, and there was no way he could face if something… terrible…
He shut down the thought and maximized his speed and efficiency and not three minutes later the bad guy was safely apprehended.
Which meant Tony couldn’t stall more and he had to face his fears. It would have been hell with anyone, but the fact that it was about Bucky… it doubled, tripled, took it to the nth level.
He took deep breaths, in the vain hope of preparing himself for the horrors. Steve was utterly quiet through the commlink, which was never a good sign. But everyone’s breathing patterns were even, and no one was crying or screaming, so… Tony didn’t know what to expect.
It didn’t matter, after all, nothing could have prepared him for this sight.
Steve hugged Bucky tightly, and Bucky clung to his uniform and chuckled, softly, in a barely audible and very much adorable way. Also, he was naked, though Cap’s colossal figure at least meant cover for that, so Tony registered this fact a bit belatedly. But Steve didn’t let himself be entirely lost in the embrace, eyeing another figure behind Bucky’s back. And catching a glimpse of him made Tony’s heart skip a few beats and his brain freeze because there stood… the Winter Soldier himself.
Tony looked back at Bucky, then at the Winter Soldier, then Bucky, then… His head started to spin.
The Winter Soldier met Tony’s eyes and tilted his head to the left, then slowly let a tight, pale smile blossom on his face.
“Fuck,” was all Tony was able to say, stunned.
So there were two of Barnes now.
SHIELD confiscated the ray-magic-gun first before Tony was able to put his hands on it, so there was no telling how permanent this situation might be. Though Tony was pretty sure he’ll see the weapon again, after SHIELD scientists got their playdate with it and came up empty-handed, because this was what usually happened. But until that point… well, they were screwed. At least Tony was.
Let’s be real, he already needed cold showers on a daily basis before this incident, because Bucky was a goddamned beautiful specimen of a human being. His blue-grey eyes made even Steves’ pale in comparison and Tony was pretty certain those muscles should be illegal. The goddamned mechanical arm was every engineer’s wet dream. All of these combined with his shy smile, sarcastic humor, the moments when his personality shone through the trauma and past abuse... Tony was a goner.
Literally, if he counted the self-help under the spray of water.
And now he had to deal with two of them. One of them was extremely hot – see, the broody Winter Soldier with his death glares, quiet lurking and metal arm had quite a vibe – while the other one was hot plus mind-blowingly charming.
Everything Steve talked about, every story of the good old times when Bucky Barnes was the biggest flirt, the funniest guy and the center of every social event? None of those things made sense until now.
Now that, that Bucky Barnes was back.Tony was so screwed.
It would’ve been easier if Bucky and Winter hadn’t become instant besties. Everyone, Tony as well, expected them to at least be wary in the presence of the other, but nooo. As Tony’s luck went, Bucky and his ex-Hydra persona immediately started to hang out together like peas in a pod.
See, Tony was able to handle one Barnes at a time. It wasn’t easy, but he was a decent human being, so he controlled himself as much as he could. He talked a mile a minute to hide his stupid crush, and sometimes he had to do serious mental gymnastics to distract his mind from the image of a very naked and very horny sidetrack, but he managed.
But two against one just wasn’t fair, and when he saw them together… well. Cold showers weren’t enough anymore.
When Winter Soldier came down for arm maintenance – which wasn’t strictly necessary, but Tony wanted to make sure the separation didn’t damage the mechanical limb somehow –, Bucky arrived with him. Tony was glad they weren’t in a manga, because he would’ve got an instant nosebleed there and then.
Bucky sat at Winter’s feet on the floor during the diagnostic. Tony was pretty accustomed to working on the limb by now and he could tell by the tightness of the wires that the owner was on the verge of losing it, but they didn’t need a break right now: whenever Tony was ready to announce he needs a drink or something, Bucky would lay a hand on Winter’s thigh, mumble some words so quietly Tony couldn’t catch them, and the nerve connections relaxed a bit. It amazed Tony because that was some telepathic-level shit. Which, somewhat, wasn’t entirely out of the question, given the circumstances.
Regardless, the arm was fine. Winter was fine too, though he was mostly nonverbal and had a very teenage-gothic-phase vibe around him. Bucky, of course, was better than fine. He literally bounced with excitement when he and Steve arrived home from a science museum; he shamelessly flirted with every woman in the Tower – not seriously enough to cause mayhem and knightly duels from their respective other halves, but it was enough even for Pepper to turn into a giggling, blushing schoolgirl –; and he was basically never alone.
Tony had thought Barnes – his old, unseparated self – with the impressive metal arm and mysterious behavior was irresistibly attractive and nothing could top that.
Tony was obviously a fool who knew nothing.
He spent even more time in the workshop, drowning himself in blueprints and projects to avoid the double trouble.