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You Had Me At Cheese Fries

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“No, seriously, Clint, Clint, listen--” Bucky said into his phone. He was alone in the park, which was just typical. He’d done a quick sweep to make sure he’d picked a bench away from all the toddler moms and their kids, and the girls with their hula hoops, and the boys who were playing some crazy game that involved a ball and a lot of yelling.

“I don’t know why I listen to you,” Clint said. In the background, Bucky could hear Clint, bouncing a rubber ball off the wall in his kitchen. He knew that’s what Clint was doing because he’d seen Clint do it. Never missed. Alway caught it. Sometimes if Clint was in a mood, he’d bounce the ball off the furniture before it came back to him. The man’s aim was uncanny. He was also super, super lazy, because he didn’t want to get up to collect his projectiles. For his side job, Clint husseled people at bars playing darts or pool.

“Because you like hearing about my sex-capades?” Bucky suggested.

“Yeah, well, today you’re not having one, so I’m bored. Entertain me.”

“He stood me up,” Bucky complained.

“Rumpot?” Thock, thock, thock.

“Rumlow,” Bucky corrected.

“Yeah, whatever. You know I don’t care, right?”

“I just don’t get it,” Bucky said. “I mean, what more can you ask for? He’s got a guy willing to blow him on short notice, willing to cross town for it, to climb under his damn desk at work while he carries on with his damn job--”

“I wanna know how this dickweed of yours has a job. I mean, where the hell can I get a job getting a blowie under the desk?”

“Pretty sure you’re not qualified,” Bucky said.

“Not qualified to get a blow job? I beg your pardon,” Clint said, laughing. “I have a dick, bro. Hell, you’ve even sucked it before.”

“That was a long time ago,” Bucky pointed out, “but I meant you’re not qualified for a job with a desk.”

“Steve’s right, you are a jerk,” Clint told him. “Go on, though, get it all out, Bucky-boo. Tell me how the nasty CEO stood you up for a destress blowie. And then you can tell me why the hell you’re upset about this. You should totally make the most of your free afternoon.”

“Rumlow’s not a CEO, he’s…” Fuck, Bucky didn’t even know what he was.

What he did know was that Rumlow was beautiful and that Rumlow gave Bucky a lot of what he needed. He would grip Bucky’s hair so tight that Bucky’s eyes were watering, would fuck his mouth ruthlessly. Left bruises on Bucky’s hips and neck that lasted for days.

Rumlow’s expectations were clear; show up, look pretty, swallow Rumlow’s dick, go away.

Bucky liked clear expectations, he would go above and beyond for orders.

What he didn’t like was Rumlow’s lack of appreciation for Bucky, but he was used to that. A lot of the Doms he’d been with weren’t big on praise. That said, even good job, or thanks, would have been enough. But it didn’t matter, really, that he didn’t always like Rumlow.

Bucky needed him, and that was usually enough.

Except he’d gotten stood up.

Bucky was still sitting in the park, waiting for that final permission text, the one that would tell him to come the final distance between the park and Rumlow’s office and do his job.

He’d rushed across town, sitting in almost ninety minutes of traffic. He’d stopped at a McDonalds for a quick lunch and to check his hair and his look in shitty lighting in a bad mirror, so that he’d be perfect.

“He’s a dick, Bucky,” Clint said. Thock, thock. “You can do better. This guy’s stood you up twice and now you’re all the way on the other side of town, in a park, complaining that you didn’t get come in your hair. I mean, pal, how is this your life?”

“Because I suck at making decisions?” Bucky suggested.

Which was definitely true. He was so bad at making decisions that Steve made a lot of Bucky’s decisions for him.

“You are certainly holding the current title as Dumpster Fire Lifestyle,” Clint said.

“I did not chose the burning garbage life,” Bucky retorted. “The burning garbage life chose me.”

“Okay, okay, I know,” Clint said, laughing. “Tell ya what. You do something for me, and I’ll do something for you.”

“Let’s hear it?”

“Okay, this what I want you to do,” Clint said. “I want you to order me two pizzas, delivery, from Supremo’s.  And then I want you to go into a bar or a club and find someone to flirt with. Flirt with them. If it’s a go, I want you to go with them, have fun with it, get fucked in the bathroom, whatever. If it’s a no, come over here and you can eat greasy pizza with me, and we’ll watch some bad movies. Either way, you win.”

“Either way, you win,” Bucky said.

“Same, same. It’s not a zero sum game,” Clint said. Thock, thock, thock, thock. “Forget Rumlow. He’s bad news, just… forget it. Go have stupid rebound break up sex. Or come over and have pizza. Pizza or sex. It’s like cake or death, just not quite as violent.”

“Right. See you for pizza in like… two hours.” It was going to take him at least an hour to get to Clint’s place, and that was assuming it would take an hour to get shot down in a club. It could be sooner.

“Dump Rumlow!” Clint yelled just before Bucky hit the call end button.

Still no text from Brock. I think he dumped me.

***

“This bar has like 90 seconds to conjure up some semi-decent ass, or I’m leaving.”

Tony glanced up from his phone to look at the declarer of that statement and then had to drop his sunglasses on his nose to make sure that he was really seeing what he thought he was seeing. The most gorgeous, fucking beautiful man Tony had ever seen -- and he’d been known to party with porn stars and actual underwear models and actors in his day, so he knew human beauty -- threw himself onto the barstool next to Tony.

“Don’t look now, but I think it just did,” Tony said. “You’re setting the bar fairly low.”

“Vodka,” the guy said to the barkeep. “So, are you saying my ass is semi-decent, or--”

“I was volunteering as tribute,” Tony said. “But if I had bedroom eyes like that, I think I’d go for at least a great ass.”

The guy looked Tony up and down. Slow, deliberate. Judgy. He made a little spinning gesture with one finger, and Tony hopped down from his stool to turn on the spot, making sure to flip up his jacket tail and give the guy a look at the assets. It had been a while since Tony felt that little quiver, wondering if he measured up. At least for dive-bar hookups.

“So, like what are you looking for, in quality ass?” Tony wondered.

“Hmmm, mostly trying to find someone who’s a more palatable choice over pizza from Supremo’s. Which is my other offer on tab for the night.”

“Wow, you really are setting the bar low,” Tony said. “I mean, my ex can get over that bar. Supremo’s is terrible pizza. Look, I’m feeling generous tonight, why don’t I make you a better, third option.”

The guy raised an eyebrow. “I’m listening.”

“There’s a pizza place, literally, just like two blocks from here. Much better pizza than Supremo’s.”

“You’re offering to, what, buy me a piece of pizza?”

“Yeah, like, you’ve already got a drink. It should be the new society norm. There are seriously days when I would blow a guy who offered to buy me cheese fries.”

Tony got that look again. Slow, deliberate. Judgy.

“Can I buy you some cheese fries?”

Chapter Text

“So, you actually bought him cheese fries?”

“You know, you would think with all the fast food joints and hole-in-the-wall greasy spoons in this city, finding a place that had both pizza and cheese fries wouldn’t be all that hard,” Bucky commented. He was laying on his sofa, staring at the ceiling, still high as hell on cheap beer, terrible food, and one hell of a goddamn blowjob.

“But no?”

“But no,” Bucky agreed. “I swear, we ended up at this one place, and then Tony fuckin’ grubhubbed a tray of pizza two blocks. It was the most ridiculous thing. And when the waitress tried to be a no-outside-food-or-drink about it, Tony tipped her a fifty and she just walked away.”

“You guys were horny on main for some damn pizza. Fuck, you shouldda just picked up some cheese fries and come over here. I still got a few leftover slices.”

“Yeah, I’m gonna go with no on that,” Bucky said. “Didn’t feel like getting a blow job in your bathroom.”

“Aw, I cleaned it. Like, a month ago. I think. Might have been two.”

“And that’s at least ninety percent of why I don’t want a blow job in your bathroom, Clint.”

“So, details, details, I want them,” Clint said.

***

Tony -- his name was Tony -- did, in fact, buy Bucky another two shots of vodka while he nursed a neat scotch. “We’re already here,” Tony reasoned, “and anyplace that sells greasy pizza is probably not going to have a scotch, or vodka for that matter, worth drinking. Beer goes with pizza, and I don’t mind beer, theoretically. But I do like to have a little buffer of real alcohol before I drink wheat juice.”

“That’s a myth,” Bucky said. “The whole liquor before beer shit. If you don’t want to puke, you just have to pace yourself. And, you know, get some food in you.” He knocked back the shot of vodka.

“I haven’t puked from drinking since I was eight,” Tony said. Bucky peered at him over the second shot, wondering if that was true. If it was true, was it bragging or… something else? It was hard to tell. The bar was noisy enough that Tony was speaking up in order to be heard.

“I think the last time I was worshiping at the porcelain altar was… New Year’s.”

“Not pacing, or not eating?”

“Dipshit boyfriend was cheating on me,” Bucky said.

“Is he a dipshit ex boyfriend, now, I hope?”

“He will be,” Bucky said. “Soon as I actually get him on the phone to tell him so.”

“Ah, this is a rebound vodka and cheese fries blowjob,” Tony said.

“Is that a problem for you?”

“Oh, no,” Tony said. “I’ve been on all sides of this equation before. I’m not judging.”

“All sides?”

“Oh yeah,” Tony said. He took a long swallow of his scotch, opened his mouth to breathe in, obviously enjoying the burn. “I’ve been the cheating bastard, I’ve been the needing rebound sex to remind myself that it’s all worth it, and I’ve definitely been the one scraping a sad sack off the floor.”

“I’m the sad sack, then?”

“Only if you’re planning to go back to him,” Tony said. “I think you’re more in the needing some life-affirming sex to remind you that this -- and you -- are worth it.”

“That’s so sweet I could cry,” Bucky remarked. He dropped the second shot back, feeling a little dizzy. “As long as it’s not a problem for you, let’s go find us some cheese fries.”

***

“Huh,” Clint said. “So, like, was it good sex? Life-affirming and all that?”

“I dunno about life-affirming,” Bucky hedged. “We did it in the fucking car-garage next to some dude’s Bugatti. But it was a damn good blow job.”

Better than damn good, really, Bucky thought. His knees were shaking and his hands were deep in Tony’s hair, feeling the product that made his hair spiky and cute, while Tony sucked his cock like he’d fucking invented fellatio.

“Hey, stop drifting off, I want details!”

“Get your own sex life,” Bucky said.

“I have a sex life,” Clint said.

“You and Bobbi are a thing, again?”

“Friends with benefits,” Clint replied.

“Enemies with benefits, more like.”

“Yeah, well, it’s spite sex and hate sex and I am going to fucking kill you, emphasis on the fucking. It works out for us. But you-- you are having some trying to figure it all out sex, and it’s interesting, so spill!”

“You read a lot into a one night pick up,” Bucky said, rubbing absently at his thigh where Tony had left a purple mark. “I’ve got some epic beard burn, though.”

“Rumpot had a beard--” Clint said, then stopped himself. “Oh, come on, Rumpot never returned the favor? Jesus, Buck, you are better off without that dude. A dude who makes another man swallow come oughta at least pay it back once in a while.”

“Yeah, it--”

“Okay, no, truth is for your dude-best-friend,” Clint said. “When was the last time Rumpot got you off? Not you jerkin’ it while you were between his knees, but he actually did for you. When?”

“Sex is not all about orgasms,” Bucky protested, vaguely aware that the only reason he was protesting was because he couldn’t actually remember. He and Brock had been good, at first. Hadn’t they?

“Uh, yeah, kinda is is,” Clint said, “especially when you’re not getting one. An’ you know, if there’s no intimacy other than that. And don’t tell me mr. ‘you keep doing that while I check my email’ asshole gave you any sort of goddamn intimacy, because that would be a fucking lie and you know it.”

“So, uh, this was… this was kinda intimate,” Bucky said.

***

Bucky leaned back against the cool wall of the parking garage, ass bare against the cement, his pants and boxers around one ankle, the other leg over Tony’s shoulder, gasping for breath.

He’d had a few back alley blowies before, although he was usually on the other side of things. And they were nothing like this was. Tony didn’t go straight for the damn action. He rained a shower of tiny, kisses along Bucky’s stomach, making the muscles there jump and twitch. It was impossible for Bucky to think about anything else -- Brock didn’t even get a second thought once Tony was rubbing soft fingers up and down Bucky’s length, teasing him fully erect. “God, you’re beautiful,” Tony murmured.

One hand slid under Bucky’s shirt, fondling his nipple, teasing it to a stiff peak. Bucky bit down on the heel of his hand to stifle a moan. He loved it when someone touched or licked his nipples, but it happened so very rarely that sometimes he wondered if other men even knew that it could feel so damn good.

Tony closed his fingers around Bucky’s cock, nosed at the soft hair underneath Bucky’s navel. He thumbed over the broad head, smearing precome around. In response, Bucky exhaled, hard and flexed his hips to push into Tony’s touch.

A quickie-bar one-nighter wasn’t supposed to be about kind words, about soft gestures, about poetry and quicksilver sensation in the belly. It was supposed to be hard and fast, no kisses, no nothing. Just getting there as fast as they could before they got caught.

That wasn’t what Bucky was getting and it felt too fucking good to stop.

Tony’s mouth was hungry, silk-slick and hot, when he finally took Bucky into his throat. A hot wave of emotion that Bucky knew damn well he wasn’t supposed to be having washed through him as he pushed his cock into Tony’s mouth, through those plush lips. Felt Tony’s tongue working him over, little paintbrush licks.

He throbbed and ached and wanted, no longer able to stifle his moans, he kept them as low as possible. Tony swallowed around him, hummed a soft vibration up Bucky’s shaft. Licked and mouthed and lipped at him.

God, it had never been like this before.

What the hell, even--

Tony twisted his head, sliding smooth over the head of Bucky’s cock, and there wasn’t anything he could do then but grab a handful of Tony’s hair and pull him closer.

Tony made a soft choking sound, grabbing both of Bucky’s hips. He expected to be pushed off, pushed back, but Tony only yanked him tight, hands busy on Bucky’s ass, mouth a vortex of sensation.

“Gonna--”

Tony only hummed again, encouraging, and then wriggled his tongue against the sensitive patch just at the ridge. Bucky bit down on a scream and came.

When Bucky came back to earth, Tony was still on his knees, looking red-mouthed and debauched, a little dribble of Bucky’s come splattered on his cheek and chin. Feeling unbearable tender, Bucky wiped it off with his thumb, brushed over Tony’s lower lip. Tony dipped his head and licked off Bucky’s thumb, which sent a bolt of post-orgasmic rush through Bucky’s spine and all the way down to his heels.

He moaned again. “Wow, that was… that was something else, all right.” He panted for breath, his heart loud in his ears, throbbing in his temples. “Gimme a -- gimme a minute to catch my breath.”

***

“Yeah, that sounds amazing,” Clint agreed. “You, did you score digits?”

Bucky looked down at his hand. Tony had whipped a pen out of his front pocket and jotted a number down on Bucky’s palm. “Yeah, I did.”

“Great! Excellent. You gonna call him?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

 

Chapter Text

“So, I might need a new phone number,” Tony said, leaning back in his office chair. He didn’t really spend a lot of time in his office, but when he did, he was always impressed at how comfortable his office chair was. He really needed to get one of these down in the shop. Except he knew himself, and there was just something more appropriate about hanging out on a ratty old bar stool, the kind with the cracked vinyl seat decorated with an obscure beer label.

Even if he’d had the best possible chair known to man down in his workshop, he’d have been on the stool anyway, one bare foot tucked through the rung, sitting on the other one, and making him do that weird, half of his leg was asleep dance whenever he actually came out of his engineering fugue to notice.

“What’d you do to your phone this time?” Pepper didn’t sound particularly concerned.

“Not the phone, the phone itself is fine.” Tony should know. He designed the damn things. He had, actually, reason to know that the case was impervious to falling down two flights of stairs and being dropped in the toilet. He’d made the glass mostly scratch proof (really, the tiger was a bit much and he wasn’t taking the blame for that one) and the recharge system omni-directional. (Take that, Sherlock Holmes.) “I just might need a new number. Might. I’m not sure yet.”

He could almost see the way Pepper rolled her tongue around in her mouth, biting off the first few choice phrases.

“What did you do?”

Well, that was just rude. Except for how it was true. “I might have given my number to someone.”

“Your personal number?”

“Mmmm.”

“You know we talked about this, right?”

“Yeah, I know.” Keeping Tony’s number secure was one of Pepper’s main jobs -- well, no, not really, but she was supposed to keep people in general away from him.

“So, what happened?”

“I, uh… I met someone,” Tony hedged. “And I don’t know, I mean, I don’t know for sure. He might call. He might not.”

“He might sell your damn number on the internet,” Pepper pointed out.

“Well, that would certainly be a bad decision on his part,” Tony said.

“Only if he doesn’t get paid premium,” Pepper said. “So, new phone number?”

“Not… quite yet,” Tony said.

“Tony? Do you like him?”

“It’s possible that I like him,” Tony said. “I suppose it’ll depend what he does with that number.”

“So, it’s a test?”

“That’s very manipulative,” Tony said. “I don’t want to be manipulative, Pep. I’ve been on the wrong side of that a few times.”

“Tony, if it quacks like a duck,” Pepper said. “You want me to prep you a new phone, with a new number. You’re expecting this to go south.”

“Well, past events can predict future trends, Pep,” Tony reasoned. “And this way, you’re prepared and ready to go. When my big mouth gets me in trouble again. Or, in this case, my big Sharpie.”

“I hope that’s not a euphemism, Tony,” Pepper groaned.

“And my big mouth, because you know, I’d have to have a pretty flexible jaw to get my--”

“I’m hanging up now.”

“Thank you, Miss Potts. Don’t know what I’d do without you.”

***

“... so leave a message and if I don’t get back to you, it’s nothing personal.”

Bucky disconnected the call. He’d texted several times and got no answer. Then he’d called and left a message.

And then he’d called two more times, but didn’t leave messages.

Rumlow just didn’t want to talk to him, and he supposed that was fine. Bucky was fine. He wasn’t… upset.

Well, okay, he was sort of upset, but he wasn’t really, like cry in his vodka having a tragedy.

He’d just wanted a clean break. Not some messy, I’m sort of involved with this other guy, except not really, and I’ll be broken up with him as soon as he gets his act together and calls me. That wasn’t fair to try to start something else, if he was still involved, right?

“Am I, though? Am I still involved with Brock?”

“I don’t know,” Clint said, sitting down and scaring the shit out of Bucky as a side benefit. “You’re the one with the fucking hang up about getting him to actually be on the phone when you break up with him. Jesus, the guy ghosted you. Break up with him via text message. He deserves it.”

“Where did you come from?”

“Buck, pal, you know you’re fucking predictable, right?”

“I’m not-- the hell I am,” Bucky said.

“Well, also, when you instagram your damn coffee, it’s not that hard to figure out what coffee shop you’re at, and--”

“You thought if you happened to be in the neighborhood, I’d buy you a cup?”

“That’s really sweet of you, Bucky, you don’t have to do that,” Clint said.

“Do you ever buy your own food, or do you just have a ton of friends that you leech off of?”

“We’re friends?”

Bucky sighed, pulled a twenty out of his pocket. “Here. Get me a second one, while you’re up there. And a blueberry muffin. The one with the little crunchy things on top.”

Bucky swirled the dregs around in his cup while he considered his dilemma.

“So, do you want Brick--” Clint was back with Bucky’s muffin. No change, but that was probably a bit much to hope for. At least Clint probably tipped the barista, so there wouldn’t be any spit in his coffee. Probably.

“Brock.”

“That’s what I said. Do you want to talk to him so that you can break up with him, or do you want to talk to him so that he can sweet talk you into another blow job? Because I know you, and you’re not big into confrontations, Buck.”

“That’s rude,” Bucky said, squirming uncomfortably. It was true that Bucky had a hard time standing up for himself, although he was pretty quick to stand between Steve and incoming trouble. It was just, when he thought about it--

“Naw, see the thing is, man, is that you don’t think you’re worth it,” Clint said. “You wouldn’t let any of the rest of us put up with being treated the way Prick treats you.”

“Brock.”

“That’s what I said,” Clint repeated. “He treats you like shit, and you just take it. Like, I think sometimes that dude could slap you in the face and you’d thank him. So… are you actually breaking things off with him, this time?”

“Yeah, I… I think I am.”

“Great, give me your phone.”

“What--” But he was already handing it over. Clint thumbed the screen, punched in Bucky’s passcode -- fuck, how the hell did Clint know Bucky’s passcode? Sigh. Now he’d have to change it.

“Yeah, hey, Prick Rumpot. This is Bucky Barnes’ friend, and he’s breaking up with your ass. Nothing personal.”

“The-- the fuck-- Clint!”

“What? Now, he’ll call you back, if only to yell at you, and you can break up with him in person. Which, personally I think he doesn’t deserve that much courtesy, but you do you, bae.”

“Jesus Christ, Clint, you’re a menace.” Bucky stared at his phone. His first impulse was to call Brock back -- a fourth time, his brain whispered -- to apologize for Clint.

His phone rang, the photo flashing of Brock’s profile; they’d been on a date at an open air cafe and Brock had been people-watching. The picture caught that chiselled jaw and those bright eyes to perfection. It was one of Bucky’s favorite pictures of him, but now that he thought about it, Brock had, in fact, been watching, not people, but a specific person, walking down the street. A moment after the picture had been taken, Brock had commented on the girl’s thighs.

“Look! Speak of the devil, and he appears,” Clint crowed. “Go ahead, break up with him.”

Bucky watched the picture flash a few more times, and then swept his thumb over the screen.

Decline call.

“Is this a power move, or are you hiding from a pissed off boyfriend?”

Bucky waited until the icon appeared on the top of his phone. Brock had left a message.

“Power move,” Bucky said. He brought up his contact list, and made a selection.

The phone rang a few times, and then-- “Hey, I’m really hoping this is Cheese Fries and not some other random person.”

“Hi, Tony,” Bucky said. “I was wondering if… you might want to go out this afternoon and have a cup of coffee?”

“Coffee, or coffee? Because I’m telling you, right now, I might commit murder for a cup of coffee.”

“Just coffee,” Bucky said.

“Great. Just coffee sounds great. How about… you give me half an hour, and I’ll meet you at Ground Central?”

“Ground Central,” Bucky said with a grimace. “Better make it an hour.”

“Gotcha.”

Clint was applauding when Bucky tucked his phone back into his pocket. “So, you have a coffee date. Across town. Better hurry.”

“Forty minutes on the train,” Bucky said. “It’ll be fine.”

“You go get it, Buck,” Clint said. “I’ll just… stay here and drink your coffee.”

“You can have the muffin, too,” Bucky said. “Thanks!”

Chapter Text

First dates, Tony decided, first dates were easy.

They were all sort of the same, even when they were incredibly different. Put on an act, the nice clothes, the good manners, and pretend to be a decent person while asking getting to know you questions and trying to care about the answers. Sometimes the first date ended with getting on your knees in a parking garage and swallowing the most beautiful dick known to man, and sometimes they ended with an awkward game of who was supposed to pay for the pizza.

First dates held potential, and you never quite knew what you were going to get, but generally… generally, they weren’t boring.

There were enough nerves and hopefulness to be appealing.

And still, first dates, no matter what, were pretty chill. Calm, even. Because everyone knew, even if the first date was an utter cockup, once the date was over, you never, ever had to see them again. You could set your damn tie on fire, and at the end of the night, you were done. Ghost ‘em, don’t call, give out the wrong number, stop speaking to your blind-date setting aunt, whatever.

Tony could have made a career of first dates.

Second dates…. Second dates were a whole different ball game.

This wasn’t… it wasn’t even a real second date. Was it? Tony wasn’t sure; how could you call it a second date after you’d gotten the third best (well, maybe second best. Definitely not the best, because that was always going to go to the girl under the bleachers after Homecoming. Tony hadn’t even cared about the game, he just went because Rhodey was playing, and Tony was the one who’d gotten the hand off. Even if he couldn’t remember the girl’s name at all.) hand job of his life with his ass pressed up against his car door and Cheese Fries talking dirty in his ear.

And of course, that was like the worst thing; Tony couldn’t remember the guy’s damn name.

Like, how did he tell the guy that? Hi, nice to see you again, I’ve spent the last few days dreaming about how supple your wrist is, what the hell is your name again?

Had the guy even told Tony his name? Probably. Normal people did that, right? Introduced themselves. Tony had probably just stopped listening at the wrong time, which also didn’t seem right, because he was utterly fascinated by Cheese Fries’ mouth, and had been watching it raptly the whole time. That had probably been creepy, right? Except, apparently not.

But it was a really beautiful mouth, with a lush lower lip and a delightful upturned top lip, and his tongue kept darting out to lick his lips. And he actually chewed on the bottom one, like he was back in high school and nervous or something, and it was entirely adorable.

Which quite possibly meant that Tony had been distracted looking at his mouth, and totally missed the introduction.

Tony turned his coffee cup around again. He was waiting. He was, point of fact, early. Pepper would have been astonished.

Except he hadn’t been lying when he said he was about to commit murder for a cup of coffee. Turned out, leaving the grounds in the coffee pot for almost a week was a bad move, and he’d gone to make a cup, and discovered mold. Gross. And since Tony didn’t really know how to make sure there wasn’t any trace of mold left, he just threw the pot out entirely. He could get a new one.

But between that and the meeting with the Budget committee, and getting stuck on a conference call with R&D in Toyko, which meant brushing off his Japanese manners -- completely different from his American Business manners, which were different again from his normal manners -- and not slurking down a cup while he was on a video call… he hadn’t actually had a cup of coffee that day.

Which seemed like a bad recipe for a second date.

Tony without coffee was normally not a Tony that anyone liked.

The Tokyo guys and the budgeting assholes just had to deal with it. But Tony actually wanted Cheese Fries to like him. At least a little bit.

He turned the cup again. TONY was written on the side of the cup in black sharpie. Oh! Oh, that was an idea.

Tony finished off his cup, tossed it, and went up to the barista. “Hey,” he said. “Look, I will give you a hundred dollar tip--”

Naturally, he had the barista’s attention.

“-- in like twenty minutes, I’m going to have a second date with the man I’d like to take home and make babies with--”

“You know that’s not possible, right?” She blinked at him, eyes round and wide and Tony was quite positive he was being trolled.

“-- technicalities,” Tony said, brushing it off. “So, like, this is my second date, except I don’t think I got the guy’s name, or I don’t remember it--”

“Sounds like it wasn’t a good date.”

“No, no, it was a great date, perfect, excellent, and he called me and everything, so… here’s what I want you to do--”

“You want me to get his name wrong on his order so he corrects me when I call it out and you can get married and have your HEA.”

“What’s a--”

“Happily Ever After, Charming, don’t you know anything?”

“Do you do this a lot?”

“All the fucking time,” she confided. “Do you have any idea how many people have their first dates at coffee shops, how many people hang out just waiting for their soul mates to drop in? Seriously, dude. I’ve seen it all. Cross my palm with silver and I’ll read your future.”

“Huh?”

“Pay up, chump. I’ll get the name for you.”

Tony handed over two fifties without even a whimper.

“Great, thanks,” she said, folding the bills over and stuffing them into what was not an insubstantial amount of cleavage. “So, here’s the game, Tony-- yes, I know what your name is, I just wrote it on your cup not ten minutes ago. Also, you come in here all the time, we all know what your name is. But, just in case you can’t read… my name is Darcy.”

Tony wasn’t sure what he needed to know her name for, but whatever. She was the one who knew all about happily ever afters, he’d call her Snow White, if she wanted him to.

“So, this is what we’ll do,” she said. “You get up in line with him, and I’ll take your orders, and I’ll say, oh, yeah, this is Tony, and put it on your cup, and then turn to Mr. Dreamboat and say ‘and you are?’ So, you’ll get his name, I’ll earn my tip. And I expect you to come back here and invite me to the wedding.”

Tony snorted. “Promise,” he said, crossing his heart with his pinkie like he was back in second grade.

“Oh, there’s a hottie, two o’clock,” Darcy said. “Is that your boy, because if it is, I might need more than a hundred not to ask for his number.”

Tony turned, and sure enough, that was Cheese Fries coming in the door, looking like he just stepped out of a dream. Dear Tesla, what had Tony done right in a past life to deserve that? “I called dibs,” Tony said.

“You cannot call dibs on a man,” Darcy hissed back at him.

“Tony!” Cheese Fries waved, smiling that sweet little smile that turned Tony’s whole world upside down and tied his stomach into knots.

“Hey there,” Tony said. “Come here and give Darcy your coffee order. She’s a horrible person, really, quite evil, but a pretty good barista.”

“I am not horrible,” Darcy said, putting her hand on her breastbone like she was offended, but she was shaking her head and laughing at the same time. “So, I know what Tony wants, same old same old, black no sugar. Like his little corporate soul. And what can I get for you, Gorgeous?”

“As black and evil as my soul,” Cheese Fries said.

Darcy eyed him up and down. “So, like a white chocolate mocha, double whip?”

“Sounds about right,” he agreed.

“Yeah, you look sweet as pie, all right,” Darcy said. She picked up the cup and wrote a bunch of coffee-code on it. Tony never got coffee code on his cup. Sometimes, next to his name, there’d be a little bl. But mostly, just Tony. Probably because they didn’t have to do anything with his coffee, just pour. “Name?”

“Primrose Everdeen.”

Darcy just looked at him. “You are not volunteering as tribute. Do you have any idea how many people will try to take your coffee if you do that? That joke was on Facebook, it’s so old.”

“Just give her your name, already. She’s a menace, a tyrant, she will--”

“Bucky,” he said.

“It is not!” Tony gasped before he could stop himself. He would have remembered that, wouldn’t he?

Cheese Fries turned, very slowly, his eyes going wide. “Actually, it is,” he said, carefully. “And… you didn’t know that.”

Oh, Tony was sooo screwed.

Chapter Text

Bucky’s chest ached.

Which was kinda stupid, because he’d only met Tony once. There shouldn’t be a reason why Tony would disappoint him. The sex had been phenomenal, and that was great and all…

But he’d just rushed across town -- again, mind you -- to be disappointed.

“Wait,” Tony said and he put his arm out like he was planning to grab Bucky’s sleeve. “Wait, please… can you just not punish me for being a dumbass, okay? I know, I have problems paying attention and that little details slip my mind, and if you said your name during our date, I swear to fucking Mandelbrot that I don’t remember you saying it. You-- honest, you made me forget my own name, so I don’t think I should written off entirely, just because I can’t remember yours.”

“You’re the one who was saying I set the bar pretty low,” Bucky pointed out. “And I remember your name.”

“Of course you remember my name, I wrote it on your damn arm with a Sharpie,” Tony said. “I am Sharpie-less here. Come on--”

Part of Bucky wanted to snatch his arm out of grabbing range and storm off. It’d be a lovely story to tell Clint, and he would probably relate it with all due drama to Sam (and Nat, and Steve, and Wanda and all the rest of their friends) and he’d probably get some pity-drinks out of it the next time they all went bar-hopping.

“Nope, you can’t leave it at that,” the barista said. “You totally missed it, but he was waxing poetic about you before you came in, all dewy-eyed and desperate.”

“Not helping, Darcy,” Tony said, and kicked at her ankle, which she dodged easily.

 Bucky took a deep breath. “How poetic?”

“I--”

“Not talking to you, talking to Darcy,” Bucky said, pointedly stressing that he’d already learned Darcy’s name. Fuck it, if she was going to be witness to his eternal humiliation, she was going to fucking well be involved in it, too. “What do you think? I met Tony because I got stood up by my boyfriend--”

“For the second time,” Tony piped up. “And that was after you caught him cheating on you and you threw up on New Years. See, look, this is me, listening to you. Paying attention. I just… out of a thousand details, I missed one.”

“--and we had a few drinks--” Bucky continued, talking over Tony. Darcy was looking like a kid at Christmas, like this was the best fucking thing she’d ever seen, and she was probably going to be all over social media about it later. “--and grabbed some pizza and cheese fries.”

“And I blew you,” Tony muttered.

“So, do you think he deserves a second chance?”

Darcy appeared to consider it, eyeing Tony, who was giving her an enormous pair of doe-eyes, and then back to Bucky. “Did he swallow?”

What?”

“Well, I mean, I’m not saying that swallowing is you know, the pinnacle of relationship worthiness,” Darcy said.

“Why does everyone get hung up on that?” Bucky wondered. “Look, the sex was fine, the sex was great, fantastic, everything I could possibly hope for, but that’s not indicative of whether or not someone is good dating material.”

“Says the person probably getting bad sex from his ex,” Darcy said, shaking a finger at him.

“That’s beside the point,” Bucky snapped.

“No, pretty much in this case, I’d think it’s primarily the point,” Darcy said. “You had a bad ex, this may or may not be a rebound relationship slash sex thing, so the sex being good, that’s a point in Tony’s favor. The fact that he was in here, trying to bribe me into making sure he got your name means he already knew he screwed up and he was trying to fix it --” she slanted Tony a look “--by the way, you’re not getting that tip back, this is now an impromptu relationship counselling session and I’m charging you for my time.”

“Well, that’s probably good, given that your coworkers there are in the weeds, because you’re talking to us,” Tony pointed out.

“They’ll get over it. If they can get over the parrot that got in here the other week--”

“What kind of coffee shop is this?”

“A very damn good one,” Darcy said.

“I agree,” Tony added.

“So, as I was saying, he’s putting in the effort, trying to make things have the potential for working out,” Darcy said. “So, that’s a few steps over low-bar ex, as far as I see it. And he’s still standing here, which is another point, because half the men I know would be running away so fast there’d be a little animated smoke cloud on their heels. He wants this -- whatever this ends up being. And he’s willing to work for it, and to take his lumps for the opportunity.”

She handed Bucky his mocha with extra whip without even blinking. “So, now the question I have to ask is… are you worth it?”

It was probably telling that Bucky’s first response to that was an absurd and abrupt urge to apologize. For taking up Darcy’s time, for being too picky or too ridiculous or just too damn tetchy for Tony. For… everything. I’m sorry. It hovered on his lips like an admission that no, he didn’t think he was worth it. Hadn’t he just put up with Brock Rumlow for the last eighteen months because having a boyfriend -- even one who treated him shabbily -- was better than having no boyfriend.

Because Bucky Barnes was… nothing. He was nobody. He was…

No.

Bucky straightened his shoulders out of his characteristic slump, felt the ache in his back as he did so. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, actually, I am.”

“I feel like I should give you a free cookie for that,” Darcy said. And promptly did so. White chocolate macadamia, wrapped in a napkin. “Here. Have a cookie. Yes, you deserve to have a relationship with someone who respects you. Tony, do you respect Bucky?”

“Well, if you mean in a ‘will I respect him in the morning,’” Tony said, “then I think the answer is obviously yes. I also gotta admit that I have a hell of a lot of respect for a grown man who still goes by Bucky. That’s some secure in your masculinity, right there. And it seems like something that should have gone out of fashion when you were fourteen. Also, I can’t believe I missed it, because I’ve missed all the opportunities to make bad jokes about your name, since now it’s a hot button topic and I’m not going to be able to joke around about it. Are you sure you told me your name?”

Well, Bucky would admit that he was glad Tony’d missed all those opportunities to make jokes. Bucky had heard them all and then some, he was pretty sure.   

“And he accuses me of not helping,” Darcy said. “Tony, put the shovel down.”

Bucky took a sip of the coffee, stalling for time while Tony pouted at Darcy. God, he was gorgeous, Bucky thought. Almost a strike against him, really, since Rumlow was gorgeous. “Wait, I have a question,” Bucky said. “When I called, you answered the phone and said I hope this is Cheese Fries.”

Tony raised an eyebrow. “Yes, I did say that, sounds like something I would say.”

“Why? I mean--”

“Well, you didn’t give me your number,” Tony said. “And, generally speaking, I don’t give out my number. So if you weren’t… well, you, then I’d have a problem. Besides, I was hoping you’d call.”

Bucky thought about that a little bit. If Tony hadn’t answered the phone that way -- spot-on identifying Bucky from the hope that he would call -- wouldn’t Bucky have said something like Hi, Tony, this is Bucky, we met the other night? Thus alleviating the problem of Tony not remembering his name.

“Okay,” Bucky said.

“Okay, what? What’s okay? How is this okay?”

“Okay,” Bucky repeated. “We can have the date. If you still want it.”

“Ah, this is lovely,” Darcy said. “Now you’ve challenged him. You’ve engaged Tony in a need to prove himself worthy.”

“I’m not pulling any swords from any stones,” Tony said. “But I would… still like to have a date.”

“Me, too.”

Chapter Text

Tony climbed up onto the oversized bar stool like it was Mount fucking Everest. The table top wobbled alarmingly and a bit of his coffee sloshed over onto the scarred wood surface. Bucky, on the other hand, did the lift and scoot thing, where he balanced neatly on the rung of the stool with the heel of his shoe.

Unfair that Tony always had to be attracted to tall men.

Also unfair that he’d never actually had his order served in the shop; he got his coffee to go most of the time, and when he didn’t, it was because he was talking to someone on the phone and he usually paced around, rather than sitting. Which meant he hadn’t known that he was going to have to climb the table like a damn tree.

“So, second date,” Tony said, when he finally got up there and situated, trying not to knock the table with his knee and lose any more of his coffee. “I mean, we’re counting this as the second date, right, and not, like, the first one?”

Bucky waved a hand negligently. “If we’re counting any of these as dates,” he said.

“Asshole ex-to-be still hasn’t called you back?”

“Well, does it really count as breaking up if someone else did it for me, in a voice mail message?” Bucky winced, looking vaguely ashamed. “Power move? Or being a damn coward?” He ran his hand through that thick, shiny hair. Vaguely oily, softer than it looked; Tony remembered exactly how it had felt to card his fingers through it.

“Well, it’s a breakup, right?”

“We are definitely broken up,” Bucky said. “Even if Brock wanted me back at this point, I’m pretty sure I don’t want him anymore.”

“Pretty sure?”

“Positive.”

“Only fools are positive,” Tony said.

“Are you sure about that?”

He couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face. “Positive.”

“Well, that was the soft ball set up for your terrible sense of humor,” Bucky said. “Good going.”

“Thanks, I didn’t want to make things too difficult for you. I mean, if you’re not going to straight man for my jokes, what good are you?”

“Given that I’m not a straight man at all,” Bucky said, “there’s lots of things I’m good for.” He licked his lip, before returning his attention to his coffee cup.

“God, that’s evil,” Tony complained, knowing exactly what that mouth had felt like, wanting to feel it again, and not just that, but liking the way Bucky was looking at him, coy and flirty, and a little bit shy all at once. It was a complete head rush.

“You should probably know that about me,” Bucky said.

“That you’re an unrepentant flirt?”

“No,” Bucky said. “Well, yes, that too. But that I’m done… pretending to be someone I’m not. I’m not… with Brock, whenever he upset me, I just took it. Hell, I practically offered him the other cheek to slap. So. You should just… what you see is what you get.”

That was abruptly honest, and the way Bucky was looking, like he thought Tony was going to hop off the bar stool and run screaming, was painful. “So, what am I looking at? Tell me, in a few sentences, who is Bucky-- What the hell is your last name, anyway?”

“Barnes,” he said. “Technically, it’s James Barnes.”

“Jim didn’t appeal?”

Bucky shrugged. “I met most of my current group of friends when I was seventeen. My best friend still called me Bucky, and it didn’t occur to me to object. Now… I just own it. So, who am I?” He scratched at his chin.

“Uh, my basic dating profile, if I had one. I work in marketing. It’s not very exciting, except when it is. I got my degree in Russian Studies and a minor in computer science. I’m good at analytics, which is how I ended up in marketing, it was kind of an accident. I actually started as a document librarian, translating Russian.”

“Well, that’s what you do,” Tony said. “Doesn’t tell me much about who you are.”

“Uh, let’s see. I was a lightweight boxer for a while, welterweight champion in my division,” Bucky said. “I have three sisters, and because that wasn’t enough, I adopted my best friend as his second parent-slash-older brother. Single mom, he was a pretty sickly kid, so I took care of him. I… like to do that. Take care of people. Cook for them, make sure they’re comfortable. I have a hard time saying no when people ask me for help. I almost never have any cash because I give it away to people sitting on street corners. I do volunteer work for events -- cancer research 5ks and stuff. They always want someone to man a water station or whatever. I do that.

“My favorite book is The Left Hand of Darkness and I hate Game of Thrones, which makes me decidedly unpopular with my lunch group, sometimes. Is that enough information, or should I keep talking about myself?”

Tony shook his head and laughed. “You know, I almost wish I had a recording of that,” he said. “I’ve been recently described as a textbook case narcissist, so it’s nice to know that I can let other people talk, once in a while.”

Bucky studied him over the rim of his coffee cup. “Unless you’re really good at hiding it, I disagree. That--” he jerked his chin back toward the coffee bar, where Darcy was working hard at pretending she wasn’t eavesdropping. “--was not the actions of a classic narcissist. Which is why I decided we could have a second date.”

“I don’t, you know, do this, usually.” Tony swirled his coffee in the bottom of his cup, then gulped the hot, bitter liquid like it was a lifeline.

“What, drink coffee? I got the impression you did that rather a lot, actually,” Bucky said.

“No, I mean… date. Like a normal person.”

“What do not-normal people do?” Bucky seemed honestly curious. “I thought most people did the coffee shops and the bar hookups and the swipe lefts.”

“Is your passport up to date?”

“Huh? Um, yeah, not that, like I’ve used it, but my company makes us keep them up, just in case we have to visit clients. I haven’t gotten any clients out of the country yet, but it could happen.”

“Great. Want to go to Paris for breakfast?”

“Now?” Bucky almost choked on his coffee.

“Sure, why not? We’d get there around eight in the morning, Paris time.”

“Fun as that sounds,” Bucky said, cautiously, “I have work tomorrow.”

“You asked what not-normal people did,” Tony said. “I’ve been known to do that. But coffee is nice, too.”

Bucky sat his cup down on the table and leaned on his elbows. “Are you shitting me right now?”

“No,” Tony said. “If you said yes, we could be on a plane… probably in an hour, although it might take a while to get in the air, not having filed a flight plan before this morning. Why, are you reconsidering?” He wasn’t sure what he’d do if Bucky said yes. Well, no, that was a lie. Tony knew exactly what he’d do, which was get on the phone with Pepper and get them ready to go to France. He’d introduce Bucky to the mile-high club and wine and dine and impress the shit out of him.

Because money always impressed, even when Tony didn’t manage it. France might even make up for the sin of screwing up the name thing.

“No,” Bucky said. “I mean, yes, it sounds great, but I do have two major conference calls tomorrow, and I don’t want to dump my co-workers with my load, unless it’s an actual emergency.”

“Missing out on a French pastry breakfast is an emergency,” Tony pointed out.

Bucky laughed. “Okay, tell you what. You let me pick the third date, and if we’re still on speaking terms afterward, we can do France. When I have a week or so to get my plate cleared to be able to take some vacation.”

“You’ve got yourself a deal,” Tony said, because that cleared him for four dates. Four dates was actually getting really close to having a relationship. Well, a dating relationship. He wasn’t actually sure what the etiquette was, or even if there was any etiquette, but more dates was good, right?

“You don’t have to,” Bucky said, suddenly. “I mean, if you’re worried about what Darcy said. I’d be just as happy to make you breakfast.”

Tony couldn’t help but grin at that. A breakfast date usually meant sleeping over. He was pretty sure he knew that part of it. He’d had a few date-mates who made him omelettes in the morning. He, on the other hand, was a terrible cook, and it took him like three hours to figure out how to make eggs. And they certainly didn’t do the neat fold-over like he saw in the pictures. “Do you make French pastries?”

“No, I make waffles, though,” Bucky said.

“Okay, so… we’re doing this, then?”

“Breakfast?”

“Dating. As a… third date.”

“Well, second date is a little early to be picking out curtains or anything,” Bucky said. “So yeah, I guess we are. Going on a third date.”

Tony smiled, felt it stretching his face so wide that his cheeks ached. “You sound like you have something in mind.”

“I do,” Bucky said. “I mean, I never did it with Brock, so that’s a point in its favor. You already know about my terrible ex, and I don’t want to be comparing you to him-- you’d come out ahead, by the way. But I don’t want to, you know, go to places I used to go, or anything.”

“But?”

“Well, I always wanted to,” Bucky said, ducking his chin and looking adorably shy. He really needed to stop doing that, because Tony was more than halfway in puppylove as it was, and every time Bucky shot him that particular look, Tony was just falling deeper.

He already knew that hitting the ground was going to hurt.

Fuck it. Tony was all in. “So, what is it?”   

Chapter Text

“You are a cruel, evil man, and I admire you,” Clint said.

“It’s not evil,” Bucky protested. “It’s strategy.”

“That you have a strategy for dating is all Kasparov-esque and calculating,” Clint said. He grabbed another handful of fries, swirled them around in his strawberry shake and shoved the whole mass, dripping, into his mouth. The way Clint was such a poor excuse for a human being when he was in his real life, and right on target with his job always made Bucky wonder if he was possessed by the ghost of Jacob Marley. Marley did all the lawyering -- Clint worked for the ACLU suing corporations that didn’t have good accessibility, or that didn’t hire anyone but white boys, and he was damn good at it -- and Clint, in turn, tortured Marley by eating the most disgusting food combinations he could think of.

Honestly, it was the only thing that made sense.

Well, aside from Clint fucking with his hearing aids during a trial, just so he could make some dumbass corporate lawyer say whatever stupid line he was spouting a second time, and louder. A lot of times people realized how stupid it was, second time round. It was a sure way to get the jury’s attention, at any rate. That was one hundred percent Clint-being-a-dick-on-purpose.

Annoying, sometimes, that Clint could be so stupid and yet so successful at the same time. It made Bucky wonder what he was doing wrong in his life.

Bucky took a slurp of his own milkshake. He’d pay for that at the gym later. Truly, every time he hung out with Clint, he had to do extra time on the treadmill.

“So, maybe it is a little calculating,” Bucky admitted. “But how else am I supposed to know anything about the guy? I mean, what he’s really like? This isn’t college anymore, where I can spend half a semester hanging out before anything happens.”

“That didn’t work out very well for most of us, anyway,” Clint pointed out. “So, you’re taking him to Paint Night. Should be good for a laugh, at any rate.”

“Not paint night,” Bucky muttered. He didn’t know how to paint, despite Steve trying to teach him. What he did know was-- “Plant night.”

“What do you do with plants and alcohol?”

“You’ve seen my terrariums,” Bucky said. He’d gone to one Plant Night with his sister about a year ago, some birthday party thing, which was mostly an excuse to get drunk and gossip with her friends and use Bucky as a shield between them and any drunk dudebros who wanted to hit on the ladies drinking copious amounts of wine and knocking little flowers onto the floor.

Instead, Bucky had ended up paying a lot of attention to the instructor, pushing his little plants and decorations into the ceramic bowl provided until he had a tiny ecosystem -- complete with pretty rocks and a plastic dinosaur.

He’d had a lot of fun doing it, had gotten the instructor’s card, and ended up going a few more times by himself. The little flower arrangements and greenery looked cute in his apartment. It was nice to be surrounded by living things in a huge city. He even thought the air in his place smelled fresher, somehow.

Brock… had declared the whole thing stupid and girlie and a waste of money. “You wanna stick your thumbs in the dirt, just go to the damn nursery,” he’d said.

“So, what do you do with the drinks and food, just get potting soil in them? Seems really messy, to me,” Clint wondered.

“I just like it,” Bucky said, hunching his shoulders over a little. It wasn’t like he expected Tony to love it, or to get right into it, or even be any good at it. But it was something Bucky enjoyed, and it’d be nice to have someone to share it with. “Besides, if he’s a total wank about it, then I know we don’t need to waste any more time together.”

“Can you really just walk away, just like that?” Clint had mustard on his cheek. It was distracting, but Bucky knew better than to point it out.

Bucky just shrugged. He liked Tony, and he’d invested about four, maybe five hours total, if one didn’t count all the time he’d spent on his own, obsessing over the idea of Tony. Which was totally on him, and had nothing to do with Tony as a human being at all. Bucky had to remind himself of that, given his tendency to spin castles in the air. Tony wasn’t responsible for it if Bucky put him up on the mountain and then got buried in the avalanche.

“Well, good luck, bro,” Clint said. He tipped his cup up and knocked the rest of his milkshake directly into his mouth. Neanderthal.

***

“I don’t usually go for the squishier sciences,” Tony said, looking at the tray in front of him, arranged with little succulent plants -- he only even knew that much because the sheet the instructor had given them said “Caring for your succulents” on it, and Tony assumed that they wouldn’t get cactuses instead.

“It’s semi-squishy,” Bucky said, scooping some brown and white smelly dirt-looking stuff into his wooden drawer. “You need to pack the soil in deeper than that, Tony; your plants’ll fall right on over if they don’t have enough root support.”

Tony wasn’t squeamish. It wasn’t like his hands weren’t normally filthy on any given day, really. His manicurist hated him. Or she would have if he hadn’t paid her exorbitant amounts to keep his fingers and nails from looking like he spent most of his days elbows deep in engines. She was brilliant and worth every penny, really.

But this was… dirt.

Dirt and a bunch of fat little plants, each painstakingly placed in tiny plastic pots with more dirt around them. And an assortment of decorative rocks, colored sand, and… ceramic gnomes.

Tony wasn’t entirely certain that he wasn’t being pranked.

Like, every single other person there was a woman. Groups of women. All of them gleefully arguing about the ceramic fairies and the glittery rocks, most of them drinking high sugar, high alcohol beverages and eating appetizers.

Their server came around with the drinks and food orders -- Bucky had laughingly ordered a deluxe cheese fries.

Tony stared from Bucky’s hands -- lightly dusted with soil -- to the cheese fries in concern.

“Relax,” Bucky said. “They make forks for a reason.”

Tony wasn’t sure what was weirder, that Bucky would consider eating fries with a fork, or that he could apparently read Tony’s mind.

“Told you,” Bucky said, “I do this a lot. Potting soil’s not tasty.”

“Well, that much I believe,” Tony said. He wasn’t sure he believed that Bucky did this all the time, except that he seemed to know what he was doing, arranging his work space neatly, in an order that didn’t make sense to Tony, but Bucky went about it efficiently, so Tony had to believe Bucky had a system in mind.

Bucky chuckled, and pushed his thumb into the dirt, making a little hole. Tony ignored the assorted pile of crap in front of him and leaned over Bucky’s arm to watch, absently turning his martini glass in his free hand.

Why do you like doing this?” Tony wondered. It seemed incomprehensible to him, the way so much of what normal people liked seemed like some strange ritual. Cooking, for instance. Ana always seemed to enjoy it, watched with pride as she pulled fresh bread out of the oven, beamed when Tony ate everything on his plate. And yet, cooking? He wondered if he was just made wrong.

He couldn’t imagine cooking as fun. Cooking was… cooking. Following a recipe that someone else had done, hundreds of times before. It would be like Tony doing the same eight math problems over and over; or building the exact same robot.

He didn’t understand why people thought knitting was fun. There had to be something fundamentally wrong with them.

Or with him.

When he was in his teenage years, he was just as apt to believe that he was the one who was screwed up, the one who didn’t fit in, no matter what. As a young adult, he’d decided most of the world was just stupid.

Neither of those theories had made him particularly happy, though.

So, he was trying again. Trying to be normal, to figure out what normal people were like.

“Lotsa reasons,” Bucky said. He stuck the fork in his mouth for a moment while using both hands to situate the plant -- plant, really, it was a twig with roots! -- in his planter. “I mean, just scientifically, gardening is good for you; it gets you out-of-doors and getting the vitamin D, it’s proven to reduce anxiety and depression. It’s--”

“No, that’s for gardening, which is an entirely different thing,” Tony said, arguing because that was what he did. He argued. Which was probably not good for the relationship thing and he opened his mouth to apologize, when Bucky just waved a dirt-covered hand at him.

“Same principals, just smaller,” Bucky said. “And honestly, this is my terrarium. There are a lot like it, but this one, this one is mine. I can make it any way I want, and no one can really tell me I’m doing it wrong. It helps me relax, too. You can’t rush plants. They do what they want in their own time. It’s a little bit of control in a world where I don’t have much. And there’s a sense of pride, in watching something that I planted… well, grow and respond and flourish.”

“Huh,” Tony said. Well, maybe he could understand that. A little.

“Here, let me help you,” Bucky said, and he scooped some more soil into Tony’s terrarium. “Now, pat the soil down--” he took Tony’s hand and demonstrated.

Bucky was leaning against him, embracing him from behind. Tony could feel the heat of the man seeping through his clothes, and it seemed somehow more intimate than the sex they’d shared on their first date.  One of their tablemates noticed and whispered to her neighbor. The two of them stared for a moment, then giggled. Aw, look at Karen cooing over the gay men.

“Stop that,” Tony said, even though his mouth was twitching up at the side.

“Why?” Bucky wondered, either not noticing the gossip girls, or not caring.

“My hands are dirty,” Tony protested.

“My hands are dirty, too,” Bucky said, with the air of someone quoting. “What are you afraid of?”

Tony blinked. “Did you just--”

“Admit it, Princess,” Bucky said. “You like me because I’m a scoundrel. There aren’t enough scoundrels in your life.”

Tony huffed. “I happen to like nice men.”

“I’m nice men.”

Tony licked his lips, not quite sure if he was about to be kissed senseless or not.

“Oh, look,” Bucky said, reaching over Tony’s shoulder and plucking something off one of the passing trays. “Look, Tony.”

He dropped the ceramic garden gnome in Tony’s palm. Tony stared at the little fat santa-claus looking thing, trying to see why Bucky thought it was important enough to interrupt a call and answer of The Empire Strikes Back.

“What?”

“It’s a mechanic,” Bucky told him. “I thought you might like him for your display.”

Sure enough, he was holding a wrench in one hand and box of tools in the other. “How about that?” Tony marveled, grinning. “Show me what to do?”

“Absolutely.”

Chapter Text

The bachelorette party at the far table was getting a little wild, Bucky decided.

The whole group was wearing shiny tiaras, and someone had just brought out a penis cake that the bride-to-be was cutting into gleefully.

There were a lot of empty margarita glasses on their table, as well, the servers trying to dodge around the various people and the trays of plants and decorations and soil and tools.

“... so I just want to remind everyone,” the instructor, Doreen Green, was saying, “about the care of your plants. What these plants need, is one shot every week, and their favorite libation is?”

“Water,” Bucky answered, while the girls down the way were yelling things like tequila and rum!

Someone at the bachelorette party queried, “But why is all the rum gone?” and there was a burst of giggles and shoving at that. Bucky smiled indulgently and hoped that no one actually gave their plants a shot of rum. In a small planter like what they had, it’d probably kill the plants. Especially if they didn’t get any water.

“And what else do plants need?”

“Sunlight,” Tony spoke up. He rubbed thoughtfully at his fingers and the back of his hand, as if the work of planting a half dozen tiny shrubberies had been arduous. But he had gotten into the whole idea, and Bucky wasn’t about to complain. He was participating in one of Bucky’s hobbies, and that’s really all Bucky could have asked for.

“Exactly right,” Doreen said. “But-- despite popular belief -- most succulents do not thrive if blasted with sunlight. They need sun protection, too! Try to follow the at least six and six rule; six hours of sunlight and six hours of actual darkness. Plants need to sleep, too. If you don’t have access to a lot natural sunlight, store bought will do.”

There was a question from the bachelorette table that was about the kinds of electric sunlight, and what was meant by actual darkness, and Bucky stopped paying attention. He knew all that stuff.

Bucky eyed Tony’s terrarium critically for a moment. “You’ll want to repot some of these in a few weeks,” he said. “Black rose is really an outdoor sort of succulent, it needs full sunlight, but it’s really pretty, especially when it flowers, those are yellow, and look really striking against the leaves. But the spiral aloe needs a lot more water to survive. They look cute when they’re tiny like this, but they’re not-quite incompatible, and if you want to keep them both, we’ll need to separate them.”

“Oh, we will, will we?” Tony said. “I like this one, it’s like a living Mandelbrot set.”

“Yeah, I can see--”

There was drunken giggle and a body fell against Bucky’s back. His hand shot out, autopilot, to grab the table, steady himself, and--

He saw it happening and couldn’t stop it; his palm hit the table and skidded, bunching up the cheap tablecloth that the instructor had no doubt put down to make cleanup easier. Which rippled and--

Shoved Tony’s planter off the far side of the table.

He heard the crash, but couldn’t see the damage.

“Watch where you’re standing, dude,” one of the bachelorette party girls said, brandishing a half-empty cup at him. “I almost spilled my drink!”

“I was almost wearing your drink, and I was stationary,” Bucky protested. “Maybe you should watch where you’re walking.”

Tony made a small, whimpering noise, like a puppy that had been forgotten. “My gnome,” he said. He’d gone around to the far side of the table to view the damage. He had the little gnome cradled in his hand like a baby bird.

Bucky leaned over the table; the small ceramic gnome was in three pieces, the toolkit and arm, the rest of the body, and the head. The rest of the planter was smashed to bits.

“God,” Bucky choked. The plants themselves were probably salvageable, but-- the bachelorette chick took the opportunity to vanish like so much alcohol-scented mist.

“Well, that’s a mess,” Doreen said. “I don’t have another planter. They only give us enough to fill the reserves for the class. Some instructors buy extra, but…”

Bucky looked down at the planter for a moment, then-- “Do you have any extra of the handyman gnome? I think we can get Tony’s succulents into my terrarium for a temporary relocation, and I’ve got a few empty containers at home, but… yeah?”

“I’ll go look,” she said, patting Tony’s shoulder bracingly.

“You don’t have to take care of my plants, repot them or anything,” Tony said. “I mean, I didn’t know what I was going to do with the thing in the first place. Maybe on my desk at work or something?” He was back to wringing his hands, practically scrubbing at the skin.

“Yeah, I mean, I know I don’t have to,” Bucky said. “But I like the plants, and you liked the little gnome and all. I want you to have a souvenir of our date.”

“That’s… that’s sweet,” Tony said, then made an exasperated noise in his throat, twisting his hands together.

“Oh, my god, look at your--” Bucky reached out, forcibly separating Tony’s hands before he tore the skin.

Tony’s fingers were red and puffy, the knuckles swelling, with pink welts along the back of his hands. “Uh…”

Doreen was back, then, a little white box in her hand. “Oh,” she said. “Looks like-- are you allergic to pine pitch? Like, Christmas trees or anything? There’s pine bark in the potting soil. Some people are allergic.”

Tony blinked. “I have no idea, I’ve never actually touched a Christmas tree in my life.” He gave Bucky a defensive look. “My mother had people that did that sort of thing, and… well, I don’t much do Christmas anymore. Personal… reasons.”

“Well, those are definitely hives, so I don’t suppose it matters if you know,” the instructor said. “Go wash your hands and then come back here.”

Bucky watched Tony rush off to the men’s room. “Is that dangerous? I mean, does he need to see a doctor?”

Doreen rummaged around in her bag. “Here we go.” She twisted the top off a bottle and poured a thick, clear bubble-gum smelling liquid into a shot glass. “Liquid benadryl. Gets into the system fast, it’ll relieve the itching and the swelling. If he’s still got hives tomorrow night, try his regular doctor. If he has trouble breathing, numbness in the face or lips, vomiting. Then take him to an ER right away and tell them he’s having a severe allergic reaction. Here--” she handed the shot over to Tony “--drink this.”

Tony complied and then made the worst face. “Ug. That… tastes like baseball cards. You know, the old ones, and how they sort of kept that terrible stick-of-gum scent?”

Doreen blinked. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she said. “And… don’t touch any more of the potting soil. I have to get everyone else out of here and start cleaning up. I only have the space rented for another twenty minutes.”

“Okay,” Tony gave an awkward salute with two fingers.

“I’ll… look, I’ll rescue your plants and take them home,” Bucky said, trying desperately to salvage the evening. “And repot them in soil that’s not pine-based, if you still want them?”

“Yeah, sure, okay,” Tony said, and he pulled out his phone and started googling pine allergies. 

Bucky bent down to recapture the little succulents. His own terrarium was getting really crowded, but it didn’t matter, it would only be for a few days at most. He’d have to check his own soil that he had at his apartment, but he didn’t think it had pine bark in it.

Tony continued to poke his phone, not talking, and frankly, Bucky didn’t blame him. The evening was going right off the damn rails, and there was nothing Bucky could really do now, aside from pack up their stuff and get Tony home. He finished settling the plants, tucked the box with the gnome in it into his jacket pocket. He had a heavy duty canvas grocery bag that he usually took to these events, to carry his plant in safety.

“Thanks for coming, bye everyone,” Doreen said, then handed Bucky a card. “For your friend, I refunded his sitting fee.”

“Why not jus--” the rest of the words died in his throat. Tony was half laying on the table, asleep. His mouth was open and he was snoring, just a little bit.

“The benedryl,” she apologized. "It makes people sleepy. If they're not used to it."

“I’ll, uh, just get him home safe, then,” Bucky said. He pulled his phone out and ordered an Uber.

It took a bit of coaxing, but he and Doreen got Tony up, and Tony managed his address to the Uber driver. “I’ll just ride home with you, make--”

Bucky was going to reassure Tony that he just wanted to get him safe and tucked into bed, but Tony was already crawling across the backseat of the Uber, pillowing his head on Bucky’s thigh, and practically gone back to sleep.

“I’ll take you home, Tony,” Bucky said, patting Tony’s hair absently. He wasn’t sure if, after this shitshow of a date, he’d get the opportunity to snuggle with Tony again. “I’m so, so sorry about this, honey.”

Chapter Text

Unfair, Tony tried to say, and couldn’t quite manage to get his mouth wrapped around the word. “Unf,” he said.

“Yeah, I know, honey,” Bucky told him. Despite the inside of the cab being warm and not particularly unpleasant smelling, and Bucky’s thigh being exactly the right amount of cushion for Tony’s head, Bucky was nudging him upright, and then he opened the door, which let in a blast of New York fall breeze -- cold, somewhat wet, and smelly. Ug..

Unf,” Tony complained. Slightly louder.

“Can’t stay in here all night,” Bucky told him, which was just untrue, as well as being unfair.

Tony could probably buy the car they were in and the driver’s salary for the next month with just what Tony had in his wallet. But why should he have to? Didn’t Tony already have a driver and a warm car and wouldn’t Happy just drive around if Tony told him to?

“Happy?” Tony managed to say, even if he couldn’t get his eyes more than half mast, and what the hell was in that drink anyway? The shitty little thing that tasted like bubblegum. Cheap. Antique bubble gum.

“Not particularly,” Bucky said, “but that’s just how it goes sometimes. Okay, Tony… hey, come on, I need some help here. Is this your building?”

Bucky wasn’t quite carrying him, but he was supporting almost all of Tony’s weight while Tony tried really hard to remember what it was like to have working ankles. He wasn’t drunk, he was actually still pretty coherent when drunk. This was… this was something else entirely. His mouth was completely dry, too. He smacked his lips a little. “Tower?”

There was a long pause, and then Bucky said, very carefully. “Oh.”

“Home,” Tony said. He got his eyes open, just a little, and waved absently in the direction of the express entrance.

Right,” Bucky said. He half-dragged, half-carried Tony in that direction. One thumbprint later and they were riding up the elevator. “Tony. Stark.”

“S’me,” Tony acknowledged, because it was.

“Guess I just didn’t really put it together,” Bucky said.

Tony actually made an effort for that one, opening one eye almost all the way; the other one felt like it was sanded shut, so he was doing the best he could. “I’m… still th’ same person,” he said, seriously. “That you asked out. Still.” Because he knew how that went, too, didn’t he? The people who dated him because he was Tony Stark and the ones who broke up with him for the same reason.

“Yeah, I know,” Bucky told him. “Just, you know, with more money than god.”

“God,” Tony said, “I have it on the very best authority, is fucking broke. Or, as my Aunt Peggy would say, a tad embarrassed.”

“I’m pretty sure there’s a rude joke there somewhere, and I’m not about to make it,” Bucky said. “This your floor?”

“Hmmm, yep,” Tony said. “Keyzzzzzzzzzzz.” He scrambled at the pocket where he knew his fob was, but couldn’t seem to get his swollen fingers to fit in the opening.

“Here, I got it,” Bucky said, and he dipped his hand into Tony’s pocket, which felt pretty damn good, actually and Tony leaned back into Bucky’s embrace, rolling his ass against Bucky’s groin. “Careful there, cowboy, or we’re going to fall over. Here, which-- what even is this thing?”

Tony clumsily grabbed the fob and waved it near the door. Truth, it didn’t even need to be that close, the wireless signal had unlocked the door as soon as they reached the top floor, but since Bucky didn’t know, it seemed a good way to point it out. He fumbled the doorknob and spilled them into the penthouse.

Gingerly, Bucky let the bag of plants and gnomes slide down his arm until it was resting on the floor, before snapping on the light.

The penthouse looked like it always looked. Designed by Pepper. Lots of white and mirrors and shiny chrome furniture. Tony had checked the furnishings over and added some leather and wood, to give it a little less Star Trek feel. But it was very modern, very expensive, and not always particularly comfortable. Tony preferred his workshop most of the time.

“Holy shit,” Bucky whistled. “Nice…”

“I’ll tell Pepper you like--”

Whatever he was going to say was suddenly cut off by a loud, panting, sweaty Happy, who collided with them both, shoving Tony out of the way, and pinning Bucky to the floor, one arm twisted up behind his back.

“I got him, sir!” Happy bellowed. “I got him! You get clear, sir.”

“Get clear?” Tony blinked a few times, his head completely spinning, the room weaving in and out in front of him. He was going to puke if it didn’t stop, and he closed his eyes. “What are you--”

“Get off of me!” Bucky struggled, which was only appropriate, given that he’d been tackled by an overzealous bodyguard slash driver. Apparently convincing Happy that he was, indeed, a villain, and actually trying to escape. The two of them tussled for a moment, and Tony heard a distinct sound of knuckles cracking against skin.

“Happy, no!” Tony yelled, which was a mistake, because yelling actually made his head hurt worse. Probably not as bad as Bucky’s head hurt, now that Happy had slugged him, but still.

“Boss, he’s tryin’ to kidnap you!”

Bucky was sitting up, prodding gingerly at his mouth. There was a trickle of blood leaking down from the side of his nose. “Oh, right, that’s a good plan, kidnap the guy to his own damn house, really? What universe do you live in?”

Tony sighed. He wasn’t awake, not really, and it was making him very cranky. “Happy, this is Bucky. My date. Bucky, Happy. My driver.”

“Boss, he just dragged you out of there, to a cab, it could have been anything,” Happy protested. “And look at you, you’re all…” Happy waved a hand around. “What if he roofied you?”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake! He’s taken a benedryl for an allergic reaction. I brought him home to sleep it off. And make sure someone was here to keep an eye on him. What the hell?”

Tony held out his hands for Happy’s inspection. “S’the truth. We’re fine, we’re all fine here, everyone’s fine. How are you?”

“I am not fine,” Bucky said. His voice came out sounding a little slurred.

Tony tried to focus on that. “I should, uh, yeah, I should get Happy to drive you home.” Both Happy and Bucky stared at him for that. “Or, you know, not. Happy… go...pick something up or push something over. You know, muscle things. What do I pay you for? It’s certainly not to think. I’m home, I’m not kidnapped. Just… you know. Go.”

“Right, boss,” Happy said. He got to his feet, reached into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief, dropping it near Bucky. “Don’t bleed on the carpet.”

Tony waited until Happy was gone before he tried to move; moving while doped up on antihistamines were bad for his dignity, and he tried to have some. Mostly because Happy didn’t have any, and Tony thought someone ought to. “Sorry about that,” he said. “Happy’s… overzealous sometimes. Usually Happy tackles me when he thinks there’s a danger. You know, wants to take a bullet for the boss. Except, you know, he really doesn’t. Want to, that is. I… do you need to, I dunno, see a doctor?” Tony himself avoided doctors at all costs.

“Uh, no, no doctor,” Bucky said. “This isn’t too bad, I’ll, you know, I’ll be fine. I can just ice it. ‘Sides, a doctor sees me in the ER sporting another set of bruises, someone’s gonna think I’m in an abusive relationship, and then where will you be? People love a scandal.” Bucky pried himself off the floor, Happy’s handkerchief held to his nose. “I’m just… gonna. You do have ice, right?”

“Hmmm, yeah, kitchen’s that way,” Tony waved. He crawled over to the sofa, one of the few pieces of furniture he actually liked, soft and velvet soft, with consoles and charging stations and drink trays and modules at every possible spot. Also, great for naps. “What… what do you mean another set of bruises?”

“Oh, my ex,” Bucky said, casually. He’d used a kitchen towel -- Tony had kitchen towels? Who knew? -- to wrap up some ice and was holding at his mouth. The words were muffled, but Tony got that clear enough.

“Your ex hit you?”

Bucky’s face went pink and he lowered his eyelashes. “Uh, not… not because I didn’t want him to. He just… Brock sucks at tying knots and, we had a slip. Pulled a muscle in my shoulder, and with the-- well, belt marks. Let’s just say I ended up having a very frank conversation with an ER doc. I’m sure they’ve heard and seen it all.”

“Bel-- Oh. Belt marks,” Tony said. “Right, okay, yeah, I… yeah.” Tony swallowed hard, because that was an image he couldn’t not conjure up.

“Too much for a third date, I know,” Bucky said, and he dropped onto the sofa next to Tony.

“After this date,” Tony said, reasonably, “I don’t think anything you want to talk about would be too much.”

“Yeah,” Bucky said, sounding morose. “Pretty much an epic disaster.” He heaved a sigh. “How are your hands?”

Tony looked. The itching had died off a while ago, but they were still pretty red. “I think the swelling’s going down.” That was good, right?

“Good, that’s… no trouble breathing, or heart problems?”

“You mean aside from my bodyguard giving us both a heart attack?”

“Yeah, ‘sides that,” Bucky said, laughing a little.

“Think I’m okay,” Tony said, and he slouched a little until he was leaning against Bucky’s side. Which probably wasn’t fair to Bucky, after everything he’d gone through that night for Tony’s sake, but Bucky put an arm around him, and didn’t protest, so Tony let himself settle in. “You?”

“Yeah, I’m… more surprised than hurt, really,” Bucky said. “I’ve got a pretty high pain tolerance.”

And there went those mental images again. “We’re really going to need to talk about this,” Tony said. “In more detail… after I get some sleep.”

“Yeah, gimme a minute, I’ll, just… call--”

Tony wrapped his arm around Bucky’s thigh, pillowing his head there. “Just stay,” Tony said, patting his knee clumsily.

“Okay,” Bucky said, giving in with a groan of exhaustion. “Yeah, okay, Tony.”

Chapter Text

Bucky woke up with a stiff neck, a bad headache, and that feeling of dread that often accompanied a vague sense of what the hell did I do last night?

The problem was -- aside from being pinned to a white micro-suede sofa that probably cost more than Bucky made in a year -- that he knew exactly what he’d done last night and he further knew why he was feeling like he’d made a classic ass out of himself.

Had he actually told Tony Stark -- Tony fucking Stark, owner and CTO of Stark Industries, as well as numerous shell companies and wholly owned subsidiaries, decidedly in the top ten of ridiculously wealthy people living in the City -- that he let his ex-boyfriend tie him up and smack him with a leather belt?

Yeah, he’d done that.

After being tackled by the self-same billionaire’s bodyguard. Which only happened because Bucky had taken Tony on an epicly bad date and said bodyguard thought Bucky had roofied his boss and was going to take him back to Tony’s home, molest him in his sleep, and probably rob the place while he was at it.

In retrospect, he couldn’t blame the bodyguard.

Jesus Christ, Barnes, you are living the dumpster life.

There was never a convenient hole in the ground to climb into and pull in a rock over himself. He groaned, covering his face with his hand, and then hissed. That bruise still hurt. Jesus, what time was it?

Bucky managed to get his eyes open -- ow, too much light. The penthouse where Tony lived was decorated almost exclusively in white and steel, with huge windows, which magnified every bit of available sunlight and it was like having the damn hellstar right there in the room with him. “Someone get the number of the truck that ran me down?” Bucky muttered. He went to fish in his pocket for his phone, but Tony was still sleeping on him, draped across his thighs, one arm tucked under his face, the other dangling off the sofa, fingertips barely touching the carpet.

Which meant he was not going to be able to get out of the penthouse with his dignity intact. “Tony?” Bucky wiggled his legs a little; his feet were completely numb, gone dead with Tony sleeping on them.

“Don’t wanna,” Tony muttered and shifted, his face pressed against Bucky’s gut, breath sending out heated puffs of air through Bucky’s shirt.

Bucky managed to lift his hips just enough to squeeze his phone out of his pocket, which was good, in that he knew what time it was -- not quite late for work, yet -- and that Clint had texted him like eighteen times, and bad in that moving around had ended up with Tony’s mouth right over Bucky’s groin.

Fuucccck.

Because even if he wasn’t already dying inside from eternal humiliation, looking down at that dark head between his thighs, Bucky’s dick perked up.

No, no, no. Bad timing. Like sophomore year gym class bad timing.

Tony made a soft, lip-smacking sound, and that did it. Bucky was all the way awake and very much at attention. He swallowed hard, wondering just how he was going to get out of this mess. Not that he didn’t want Tony; he’d wanted the man since they met. But he also liked Tony. Was getting invested in the idea of actually dating someone who he wanted to spend time with.

He squelched a bit of guilt about not wanting to spend time with Brock, because it didn’t matter, and Brock had never shown much interest in anything about Bucky aside from sex.

“Uhhhh,” Bucky said, and Tony moved again, bringing his arm up. His hand slid up Bucky’s thigh, an electric brush of sensation, the faint rasp of calluses against denim. At least all the swelling seemed to have gone down; Tony could bend his fingers without apparent pain. “Tony?”

Tony’s hand moved up and down Bucky’s thigh again, and then-- “Oh, good morning, gorgeous,” he said. Tony lifted his chin, that tip of his head and the way his mouth was wet, his face soft and luminous from sleep, sent a bolt of need deep into Bucky’s gut.

Okay, well, at least Tony wasn’t upset or angry about finding himself face down in Bucky’s lap. “Hey,” Bucky said, which was about the least interesting and original thing he could say. “Uh… I’m sorry.”

“I’m not,” Tony said, and this time Bucky knew Tony was fully aware of what he was doing, and the effect it was having on Bucky. Those fingers wandered up his leg again and traced a line just over the waistband of his jeans. “Waking up to a face like yours is a privilege. One I’d like to have more often.” His fingers kept moving, teasing at Bucky’s skin, along his hip to the ticklish spot at the small of his back.

Bucky arched into it, back making a curve away from the sofa, inviting, practically begging for more of those touches.

“Mmm, that’s nice,” Tony said, and he moved in, tugging Bucky’s shirt up with his goddamn teeth.

“Hoooly crap,” Bucky managed, and then Tony’s mouth was on him, lipping at his belly, nosing around that line. Tongue torturing his skin, and then Tony fastened his mouth to the tender skin just over Bucky’s hip, sucking blood to the surface. A sharp dazzle of pain to spice up the pleasure.

Bucky’s hands went helplessly into Tony’s hair; anything to prolong the moment. His phone slid onto the floor with a dull thud.

“Yeah?” Tony asked, seeking permission, or maybe just agreeing with the incoherent noises coming out of Bucky’s throat.

Bucky gritted his teeth, trying to steel himself for the moment. “Tony-- I… god knows I don’t want you t’ stop.”

“I sense a but coming, and it’s not my butt,” Tony said, but he pushed himself up with a sigh. “What’s up, sunshine? Aside from the obvious?” And he let his fingers linger over the very obvious bulge in Bucky’s jeans, watching with dark, eager eyes as Bucky rolled his hips up against that touch.

“I… I uh, got like an hour to get to work,” Bucky admitted. He ran one hand through his hair. Ug. Sharon was going to be all up in his business if he showed up in the office looking like he’d been involved in a gutter-crawl, with his unwashed hair and his two day stubble and his black-fucking-eye.

“Or, you’ve got maybe half an hour before you call in?” Tony suggested. “You got punched in the face last night, I’m pretty sure that deserves a mental health day, if nothing else.”

Well, that was true. “Hang on--” Bucky tapped out his calendar app, scrolling through the list of client deliverables and meetings.

There was something about the novelty of being able to protest and being listened to when he protested that was a bit of novel. By this time in an argument with Brock about whether or not Bucky was going to work, Brock would have either stormed out (they never fucked at Brock’s actual home.) or he’d have pinned Bucky down, and instead of calling in politely before office hours to say he was sick, Bucky would be making frantic apologies about oversleeping.

In fact, it was so novel, and Bucky was eight flavors of shocked about being surprised by it, that he kept scrolling through his phone. His throat went suddenly tight, and he wasn’t quite sure if he was mocking himself in his head, or if he was bitching about Brock. Two customer emails that he could take care of from his phone, a voice mail that could wait, and one meeting where he probably wouldn’t be missed, since he wasn’t presenting.

He held up one finger to Tony, who was smiling with the smug satisfaction of someone who knew they were going to get laid. One more minute.

“Hey Share-- yeah, this is James. You’re in early. Oh, well, you know, I was… look, if I told you that I got attacked by a drunk bridesmaid at a bachelorette party… no, seriously, the instructor at the plant night will back me up. I need like a few hours extra sleep and… Sure, that’s totally doable. You got it, boss.”

He pressed the disconnect. “Sharon’s son has a doctor appointment this afternoon, so if I come in after lunch and cover her 2 o’clock meeting, we can call it square.”

The smile on Tony’s face stretched until all those dazzling teeth were lighting up the room. “Great,” he said, plucking the phone from Bucky’s fingers and dropping it into one of the console stations. “Because I know someone who looks like they could use a blowjob.”

Bucky couldn’t help the electric shiver that went right up his spine at that, mouth falling open with want. “You have my complete attention,” Bucky told him.

“At least until after lunch,” Tony added. He slithered down the sofa, ending up on the floor between Bucky’s knees, looking up at Bucky and licking his lips.

As Tony worked the front of his jeans open, Bucky had one last cogent thought before his brain dissolved into an incoherent haze. Fallin’ for you so fast I need a parachute.

Chapter Text

God, Bucky was gorgeous. He was probably some sort of sex addict, but all he could think of, even through the hell that had been the previous evening, was how soon would it be allowed to get that man out of his pants, and into Tony’s bed.

The allergy thing had thrown a major kink in Tony’s plans -- and speaking of kink, he wanted to explore that conversation a little better from the previous evening, pain tolerance and belt marks, the whole idea just gave Tony the shivers in the best possible way.

But he felt fine now, and while Bucky had a dark scuff along the left side of his face, he didn’t seem adverse to a bit of messing around.

Tony got Bucky’s pants undone, and yanked down to cradle his ankles. Bucky threw his head back with a groan of want, exposing a vulnerable throat. Tony got a few licks in, tasting the tang of Bucky’s skin.

“C’mere,” Bucky told him, nudging Tony up. It took them a while, struggling with clothes and position, and Tony was quite sure he accidentally elbowed Bucky in the gut, but it didn’t seem to dissuade either of them. Tony ended up on his hands and knees, ass in the air, face in Bucky’s lap. “You got lube?”

Tony snickered. “Yeah, yeah, gimme a second.” He climbed off the sofa, padded, stark naked (ha) into the bathroom. He dug through his supplies, decided to clean up a little while he was in there. Wet wipes were a gift from God. Tony hoped whoever had invented them had gotten filthy rich while keeping people clean.

Lube, condoms, the box of wipes while he was at it. It was almost worth considering just taking it into the bedroom, except  Bucky was sprawled over the sofa, shirt tugged up to expose those abs, cock out and growing stiffer by the moment, he looked like something out of Tony’s lurid fantasies. He’d barely moved from where Tony left him, except that he was absently stroking his cock while he gazed across the room where Tony had disappeared, waiting for Tony to come back.

“Holy shit, you are trying to kill me,” Tony told him.

“Been right here, waitin’,” Bucky said. “Come here, doll, lemme make you feel good.”

“Oh, I’m onboard with that plan,” Tony said. He tossed his scavenged supplies onto the console like sex party favors.

He leaned forward to grab the lube. Tony grabbed a handful of Bucky’s shirt, and pulled it off over his head. That crazy sleep-hair got even worse, crackling with static. Tony scuffed his feet in the carpet a little and reached forward, zapping one exposed nipple with a brief pop.

Bucky yelped, surprised, his hand coming up to shield himself, then arched into it, the abused tit perking from the stimulation. “You’re evil,” Bucky said, biting at his bottom lip.

“And you like it,” Tony replied, feeling fairly smug and confident. He kissed Bucky’s lip, sucking it out from under Bucky’s teeth and soothing it with his tongue. Bucky slid a hand around Tony’s waist, pulling him in until Tony was straddled over Bucky’s lap, their cocks sliding together for a brief moment, before Tony lost himself in kissing, and kissing.

Mouth and teeth and lips, the sour tang of morning breath that faded as they necked frantically. Bucky was a great kisser; he made Tony weak with wanting, hungry with fervor. Just the thought of touching Bucky made Tony’s toes curl, actually being able to do it was bliss. Sublime.

Tony kept returning to explore Bucky’s mouth, not sure that what he was feeling could possibly be real, that Bucky could possibly be that good. And every time, it was confirmed. Bucky’s kisses were the best thing that Tony’d ever experienced.

Bucky’s mouth was so fucking beautiful. Tony pulled back to look at it, puffy and red from kissing, his face still sleep-soft. Tony reached out, played his fingers along Bucky’s lip, smooth and incredibly supple. Tony could feel the muscle trembling under his fingertips, the puff of warm air as Bucky breathed. Bucky’s pupils were huge, blown wide. He sucked Tony’s finger into his mouth, sucking light, letting the pad of Tony’s finger scrape across his teeth. With a flick and twist of that nimble tongue, he sucked in a second finger, until Tony was fucking Bucky’s mouth. His tongue swept over Tony’s fingers in a hot, wild caress.

“I could come just watching your face,” Tony said, aware that his voice was not precisely steady.

“Wanna sit you right on my dick,” Bucky said, eyeing Tony under lowered lashes.

“Yeah, yeah, let’s do that,” Tony said. He shivered, body aching. If kissing Bucky was this amazing, what was having sex going to feel like? Tony wondered if he’d survive, but hell, what a way to go if he didn’t.

Bucky lifted him, just enough, groping Tony’s ass until those spit-slicked fingers were circling Tony’s hole. There was something filthy and obscene about the idea that Bucky was prepping him with his own saliva.

It wasn’t enough, and Tony groped behind them for the lube, needing, wanting, impatient enough to be demanding.

He ended up practically arched over, his stomach making a curve that Bucky kissed and licked and teased, until, giggling, Tony forced them back upright. Bucky’s nipples were rock hard, little scrapes over Tony’s chest as they rubbed together.

Bucky was making sweet, needy noises, and Tony paused to lower his mouth to those little nubs, working one and then the other. Bucky was hot like syrup, flowing over Tony’s body, sticking them together with delicious friction. Their cocks rubbed together, sending ribbons of shock up Tony’s spine.

“If you don’t get your cock in me soon, it might actually kill me,” Tony threatened.

“You’re not ready--”

“I am, just… go slow,” Tony told him.

Bucky squirmed and struggled around him to grab the condoms off the table, to get one unwrapped and rolled on. The rest of the strip went over Bucky’s head and probably was going to be under the sofa the next time the maid cleaned up, and Tony couldn’t even care.

Tony groaned and shifted, pushing up and then lowering himself-- “Hold it steady for me,” he said between gritted teeth. Bucky squirmed, the tip of his jacketed dick prodding at Tony’s perineum, sliding up his crack, not seeming to get where he wanted it. Finally, finally, Bucky’s cock snagged on the rim, and Tony pushed himself down.

Bucky made a low, animalistic growl, hips jerking up once, almost knocking them out of alignment again.

“Please,” Tony said -- begged really, but the only person who could hear him was Bucky, so that was okay. “Please, I need it.”

“Doin’ the best I can--”

Tony lowered himself, slow. Aching. It was hard to think with Bucky’s cock stretching him, the press of their bodies together.

It was harder than he remembered, it’d been a while since he’d wanted anyone like this. Penetration was an act of trust. Or, sometimes, an act of drunken idiocy, and Tony’d done enough of that in his life to last for the rest of his life. He settled, flush against Bucky’s lap. Jesus, it felt huge, huge and hot and-- he wasn’t sure he could--

“Oh, god, baby,” Bucky cried out. He tucked his face against the crook of Tony’s neck, his lips moving against the skin there, tongue reaching out to swipe wet kisses. His cock jerked inside Tony’s body and--

That was right, that was-- everything in him unclenched, loosening up, and at the same time, seemed to pull tighter, to grasp greedily, instead of trying to force out.

Pleasure coiled up inside him, pressure building.

Bucky’s hips moved again, and then Tony was moving with him, riding Bucky’s cock as their thighs moved together and apart. Tony didn’t even bother to think about technique or to make it good for Bucky, all he was doing then was chasing his own pleasure. He didn’t even try to hold off when the pressure and tenseness in his cock sped toward orgasm. He wanted to, wanted that single, perfect moment more than anything he’d ever wanted before.

“There, Bucky, oh, yeah, just like that--”

They moved together, animals in heat, rutting desperately. Bucky lifted, practically bounced Tony on his dick, slamming home. He rolled his hips at the base of each stroke, teasing and pleasing. Each motion, each twist, and it was like Tony was flying on the wings of sensation, no longer sure which was was up or down.

Bucky’s hand came between them, circling Tony’s cock and tugging it, fingers still slicked with lube, in time with his thrusts.

Their mouths crashed together, kissing furiously, frenetic. Wet and sloppy and perfect, their breath swirling between them, and even though Tony was trying, straining for the orgasm, for release, it seemed to go on, and on, reaching heights of desire that Tony didn’t even think were possible, and every time it felt like he might come, Bucky stroked him to some new bliss.

Between kisses, he was begging, pleading, and Bucky was encouraging him with lewd words and curses, dirty talk and praise. Telling Tony how goddamn gorgeous he was, how tight and slick, how perfect.

It was nonsense, sex talk, and yet Tony was profoundly affected by it; warmed all the way through until his skin was on fire and Bucky was molten honey, flowing over him.

The sound of Bucky’s cry as he rutted up into Tony one last time echoed around the room. Tony’s arms tightened, holding Bucky’s head, hands deep in that thick hair, pulling and tugging. Tony let out a rough groan and surrendered, finally, to pleasure. The twist and clench of his orgasm ricocheted through him, a bolt of silver heat. Bucky filled him as Tony spilled over, each pulsing wave of pleasure dragging obscene noises from both of them, until Tony wasn’t sure where he ended and Bucky began.

Languid and satiated, Tony collapsed against Bucky’s chest, the sweat growing cooler. The heat from their joined bodies sizzled and seeped away as Bucky nuzzled at Tony’s throat, his jaw, and chin.

“Yeah, that was… wow,” Bucky said, finally, raising his face to peer at Tony with soft fondness and a little puzzlement on his features.

“Wow’s a good word,” Tony agreed. He kissed Bucky’s mouth, the tip of his nose, his forehead. A guy could fall in love.

Chapter Text

“Get the fuck out of town,” Clint said.

“In fact, that’s what I’m doing,” Bucky said. “So, can you come over and feed Alpine while I’m gone for the weekend?”

“You are, actual facts, not fucking around here, Buckybear, going to Paris. With Tony goddamn Stark?”

Bucky kicked himself around in the chair until he had his legs hanging off the arm. “I really, actual facts, am.”

“I keep thinking you gotta be a lying sack of shit--”

“Rude.”

“--but why lie about something so easy to prove or disprove?” Clint continued, ignoring Bucky entirely.

“You feeding my cat is not contingent on whether or not you think I’m making up who I’m dating or what I’m doing.”

“No, I’ll feed the damn cat,” Clint said. “Animal cruelty is not in my nature, and I got a thing on that side of town this weekend.”

“Gonna tell Nat you’re calling her a thing,” Bucky threatened.

“Nat kills the messenger first,” Clint pointed out. “So, ‘fess up, when do we get to meet the famous Tony Stark? Because I, for one, do not believe you.”

Bucky rolled his eyes. “Look, it’s going--” Well was not the right word, really. As it happened, things had been going semi-crapily, and if Tony hadn’t been so good natured about the whole thing, Bucky might have given up in disgust, found himself a nice hole, and crawled in it to die.

“Yeah, yah, I get it,” Clint said. “You went from Boss-man to Sugar Daddy, and you don’t want us to screw the pooch for you.”

“Could you possibly mix your metaphors any harder?”

“Not unless I put ‘em in a blender,” Clint said. He was chewing in Bucky’s ear, loud smacking noises. Probably cold cereal, right out of the box. Clint was not, generally, qualified to be a human, Bucky thought.

“So, are you going to feed Alpine, or are you going to be a dick?”

“I say, is it too much to ask for both?”

***

“So,” Bucky said, staring around. Even outside the airport, everything looked… different. Okay, so he’d rarely left New York, and only been out of the state a few times in his life, and France was. Well, France, and the sky looked… different in a way that Bucky couldn’t quite put his finger on. “What’s fun to do here?”

Tony pushed his sunglasses up on his nose and gave Bucky a sly wink. “Me,” he said.

“Cute,” Bucky said. “But I did not fly halfway across the globe to do nothing but stay in a hotel.”

“No, you didn’t. Fly halfway across the globe, that is,” Tony said. “It’s about thirty-six hundred miles from home to here, and another twenty-one thousand miles to get all the way back around. Not that they’d let you fly in a straight line, not even me.”

Because of course Tony had his own jet, and on top of that, of course he actually knew how to pilot it. He didn’t, since he wanted to show off all the amenities (like the bed, and the stripper pole) which kept his attention off the cockpit.

“I crossed mile high club off my bucket list,” Bucky pointed out. “And breakfast in Paris--”

“Soon,” Tony promised. He picked a cab, seemingly at random, and ushered Bucky into it, speaking French a lot better than Bucky’s high school education could track it. He tossed their bags in the trunk, said something else to the driver, and got in. “Hotel first. Carrying around one’s suitcase while eating, three of ten, do not recommend. Even if the waitress doesn’t spill coffee on my bag. Again.”

“Yeah, okay, I can see that,” Bucky said. “I mean, you come here all the time, so you must have done everything. What do you recommend doing?”

“I have… absolutely no idea,” Tony said. “To be frank -- ha, ha, frank, that’s a pun -- with you, I’ve been here on business and for various bed partners. I’ve never really done the tourist schtick.” He leaned on Bucky a little, peering out the cab’s window as if he’d never seen the city before. “There-- that’s the Arch, which means… there. The Eiffel Tower.”

“I guess I didn’t realize the Arch was so big,” Bucky said, marveling. He felt like a little kid at the zoo, begging his dad to go off to the reptile house. “Can--”

“We can do whatever you want. I’ve got you for three whole days,” Tony said.

Bucky pulled out his little brochure that he’d gotten at LaGuardia and started thumbing through it, reading off the names of sights that were of particular interest, folding down the corners for the pages of anything Tony showed any enthusiasm for.

Finally, near their hotel, Tony plucked the book out of Bucky’s hands and tossed it to their driver with several sentences in French.

“What--”

“I haven’t done a lot of touristy things, but the advice I was always, always given… ask the locals what’s good,” Tony said.

“I still want to go to the catacombs,” Bucky insisted, crossing his arms. He wasn’t really sure if he actually did or not. What he was curious about was how Tony reacted.

It might not have been the best time to push that particular button; he was thousands of miles from home with no plane ticket to get back to New York, utterly depending on Tony’s money and-- well, if things went completely south, Bucky could afford a ticket home.

He shoved that thought aside.

“Sure. We can take turns,” Tony said. “So long as we do it together.”

Bucky thrilled to it, letting Tony lace their fingers. “Sure, I mean, that’s the whole idea, right? Romantic getaway to Paris? It’s gonna make a hell of a story to tell later.”

Tony got them checked into their hotel, a deluxe suite done in gorgeous shades of teal and purple. “View!” Tony threw open the curtains to show off the city.

“Holy shit,” Bucky breathed, staring down at the city, hands against the glass, practically gaping.

“You shouldn’t tempt me like that,” Tony said, coming up behind him, laying his arms alongside Bucky’s, rolling his hips suggestively at Bucky’s ass. “Wouldn’t that be a story, too. Having sex while overlooking the most romantic city in the world, pressed right up against the window.”

Bucky shivered. Tony wasn’t giving him orders, but it was a little more than a question. Just enough bite to it to be sharp. “The glass?”

Tony shrugged. “We’re on the top floor, and I’m pretty sure everyone’s seen it before. The French aren’t exactly prudes, the way Americans are. But that’s part of the allure, isn’t it? Showing off, knowing someone could look up and see. Know.”

Bucky had to lock his knees to keep from wobbling. “You are a menace and a disaster, and I have no idea what I’m going to do with you.”

Tony rolled against him again, cock a stiff line against Bucky’s thigh. “I know what I’m going to do with you.”

“Yeah? What’s that?” Bucky didn’t mean it to come out quite so much like he was begging, but it did, and he wasn’t even ashamed. If Tony told him to strip, right now, he’d be out of his travel jeans in under five minutes.

“Take you to breakfast,” Tony said. He dropped a kiss on Bucky’s jaw as his mouth fell open in shock.

“You--”

“Oh yeah,” Tony said. He smirked and stepped back. “Come on, let’s eat, and then you can pick a thing to do-- or a person.”

“Good lord, with a temptation like that, do you really think we’re going sightseeing?”

“You can see all my sights you want,” Tony promised.

Bucky tugged Tony into his arms and kissed him, licking his way into Tony’s mouth without hesitation, enjoying the way Tony’s body pressed up against him. Tony made a small, whimpering little moan, and Bucky swallowed it down, chasing more of those noises, and then, “You’re the one who wanted breakfast.”

Tony sagged against him. “Mean.”

“You knew what I was when you invited me to France,” Bucky said.

“This is not the place for scorpion and maiden stories,” Tony protested, drawing Bucky back in for another soft nuzzle.

“Food. Feed me, I hunger,” Bucky insisted.

“Breakfast. Sex, and then sightseeing?”

“You have got yourself a bargain, my dear.”

Bucky kissed Tony’s temple, keeping him firm against Bucky’s side. He laughed out loud; he was in Paris, with the man who-- if not precisely of his dreams, was certainly worthy of the title. The most romantic city in the world. He was going to have a wonderful time, he just knew it.

Chapter Text

After being carefully coached through the pronunciation, Bucky uttered the sentence in exceptionally dubious French. “So, what did I say?”

Don’t hate me, I’m Canadian,” Tony responded, then laughed as Bucky threw his crumpled up napkin at him.

“Seriously?”

“No, you said my French is very bad, have mercy.” Which really, Bucky didn’t need to say. His French was execrable, not to put too fine a point on it.

Bucky picked up his tableware. “I have a fork and I’m not afraid to use it.”

Be nice to me, I’m pretty,” Tony said.

Bucky’s bronze skin went a delicious shade of pink, cheekbones highlighted by that glorious blush. “Thanks,” he said. “I might still stab you, but thanks.”

“Do you speak anything else with passing fluency? Honestly, pretend to be, I don’t know, Romanian or something. If someone’s being stubborn about French, if they think you speak something else, they’re likely to switch to English, if you don’t have another language in common. America is way behind, as far as that goes. Monolinguistic country, that’s not good for business.”

“I know a little Russian,” Bucky said.

“Perfect,” Tony said, snapping his fingers. “Do that, if you’re having trouble. The Brits that do speak another language usually know French, so Russian’s--”

Bucky laughed. “You need my friend Steve,” he said. “He’s got German and French and Gaelic and some other stuff. That’s why he’s always going overseas to deal with our branches in Europe.”

“I’ll take you, terrible French accent and all,” Tony promised, lacing their fingers together across the table. No one paid them any mind; very open-minded, the French.

“Good to know,” Bucky responded. “I still can’t believe they checked our pockets for bone-bits, though. Like, do people actually do that? So gross.” Bucky shuddered delicately.

“People take, touch, or poke anything they’re not supposed to touch,” Tony said. “It’s been in our nature since God told Adam ‘could you, like, just not?’”

Bucky flicked his tongue out, rolled a fruit out from the breakfast basket and offered it to Tony. “Voudriez-vous une pomme?”

Bucky said it like he was a backup singer for ABBA, and pomme more like the thing a cheerleader waved around, but-- “You are a temptation,” Tony admitted. Even if his back and legs hurt. Bucky’d been fascinated by the underground bone vault and walked as much of it as he could. As far as Tony could tell, Bucky had dragged them nearly a mile, in some pretty damn narrow corridors and doorways to duck under. Tony’d probably gotten more of a workout doing touristy shit than he had when Bucky pushed him up against the wall (so much for the window, maybe next time) and very thoroughly made love to him.

That had, Tony thought, been a total power bottom move. Tony had absolutely not been able to resist giving some very strongly worded suggestions and been delighted with Bucky was utterly responsive to those not-quite-orders.

As impatient as he’d been to get Bucky to Paris, he was even more impatient, now, to get Bucky home.

But, like a fine wine, this was an experience to savour. And Tony needed -- really, needed -- Bucky to trust him.

Tony kicked his shoe off under the stable and propped his foot against Bucky’s thigh. “So, what do you think, so far? Of Paris… and--” He waved a hand, trying to encompass everything, but mostly me, in a gesture.

Bucky nibbled on a pastry, looking down at his food and then up at Tony while he pondered. “Uh,” he said. “Paris is great, like, really, impressively great. I didn’t think I’d ever get here. Still want to do the Eiffel Tower.”

“No, you don’t,” Tony said, ticking points off on his fingers,” first off, there are like seven hundred stairs, and you don’t want to carry my out-of-shape ass up them. Second, the line for the lift is horrible, and while I probably could buy our way to the front of the line, I don’t think we need that sort of attention right now. Third, what we actually want to do is go up the Tour Montparnasse -- see that big building over there that looks like a cigarette butt? Yeah, that. It’s almost as tall, we get a great view of the city that includes the Eiffel Tower, and we don’t have to look at Montparnasse while we do it.”

Bucky’s mouth did that thing, where Tony wondered if he was biting his tongue, literally.

“Or, we can do the Eiffel Tower if you’re set on it, but we’ll want to do it tomorrow,” Tony said. “Get in the queue early. I’m easy. Okay, seriously, what’s with the face thing? That-- that you’re doing there. You--”

“You keep telling me what I do or don’t want,” Bucky pouted. “Look, I know you have ideas, and I don’t mind that, I want-- I want to spend time with you. Obviously, or I wouldn’t be here.”

Tony made a face of his own, there. Either Bucky was astonishingly sincere, or he’d never met a gold digger before. Tony had gone on many, many trips, usually to various island resorts, with people who thought he was a complete pain in the ass, and they’d done it, just for the money. But that didn’t really seem to be Bucky’s angle. Also-- “Sorry. I didn’t realize I was phrasing it like that,” Tony said. “Leftover business-speak, maybe. I don’t… I don’t mean to be telling you what to do.”

Bucky started tearing little pieces of his pastry off, letting the crumbs shower down onto his plate. “I mean, I don’t… there are circumstances where that’s okay, and I know I’m… not the most. I project, okay? You keep telling me what I think, or what I want, and eventually, I’m just going… to do that, because it’s easier. I recognize I’m setting myself up, just telling you this.”

“No, no, this is good, I can work with this,” Tony said. “Always, always better for me to be more self-aware, right? Is this, like…” Tony folded his hands together to keep from fiddling with something. “Your ex?”

“Brock? Yeah, Brock was demanding as hell,” Bucky said. “Even if he used to call me the high-maintenance boyfriend. And you know, sometimes I need that. I… get really tangled up sometimes. Like, I don’t know where to start, so someone giving me clear steps, that… that can help a lot. But he… pushed past helping me, all the way to helping himself. I tried, really hard, to be what he wanted, to do the things the way he wanted them, but-- I guess I never did quite measure up.”

“I don’t find you high maintenance at all,” Tony said. “In fact, you can be remarkably stubborn about taking when I’m offering.”

Bucky shrugged. “I guess maybe I don’t know why you’re offering in the first place. Or that it’s too much. This-- I mean--”

“Paris is lovely,” Tony said. “And you are lovely. It gives me a lot of pleasure to know that my money’s helping someone else be happy. I mean, there’s a ton of charities and foundations and whatnot that we support, but watching someone else, just enjoying themselves? That means a lot to me.” He hitched in a breath and took a risk. “You mean a lot to me.”

The look Bucky shot him, well, if the man had a sign on his forehead with a window into his thoughts, they might have read Sounds fake, but okay.

“No, really, I’m not shuck and jiving you here, promise,” Tony said. “I mean, you obviously have some sort of self-esteem thing going on, since you don’t seem to realize how incredibly hot you are. And that’s not even the whole package. You’re… nice. I don’t feel like I have to put on a show for you, or be someone that you think you know from magazines and tv spots. I’m… I’m Tony Stark, everyone knows who I am, it’s ridiculous, and it’s also very isolating sometimes. You-- you don’t do that to me. You suggest adorable little dates, and you’re fun, and you’re funny. I like spending time with you because you get me off the damn merry-go-round.”

“And this--” Bucky gestured around at Paris, the whole… thing. And Tony.

“The merry-go-round is fun, too,” Tony said. “When you’re with me.”

Bucky’s face went very soft and still and he stared at Tony like someone who’d never seen the sun before. And then he grinned, wide and bright. Like he was becoming the sun. Tony could swear, the entire street lit up under the force of Bucky’s smile. “Oh. Well, okay, then.”

“We’re doing this, then?”

“Well, obviously we are, because I’m here,” Bucky said, again. “But… yes. That’s. That’s kinda what I want, really. I like having a boyfriend.”

“We’re not picking out curtains or anything,” Tony said. “My personal assistant, she does that, and I don’t want to step on her toes. Because otherwise she might step on mine, and the heels she wears are ridiculous… but. Dating. With intent. Yes.”

“Okay.”

Chapter Text

There was a part of Bucky that wanted to ask Tony up for a cup of coffee, or you know, coffee. But he hadn’t been in his house for four days, it was very likely that his cat was going to want a lot of attention, and Clint had probably helped himself to all of Bucky’s food and left the milk out on the counter, since that’s what he usually did.

“Nah, it’s okay,” Tony said, waving the offer away. “Gonna go back to my place and fall on my face until Pepper makes me get up and do work. But I’ll see you next week, for the thing?”

“The puppet show, yes,” Bucky said. “It’s just fun. My Ma used to take us, so I started volunteering a few years back.”

“Sewing costumes on puppets,” Tony said. “If I stab myself with scissors and end up in the emergency room, I’m going to take it as a sign.”

“A sign of what? That I take care of your clumsy ass?” Bucky wondered.

“All right, snowflake, come here and give me a kiss, and I’ll text you when I feel like a human being instead of three sloths in a trenchcoat.”

Bucky crawled across the car’s front seat, practically devouring Tony, his hand sliding into Tony’s hair. “Talk to you soon, babydoll.”

Bucky grabbed his bag, slung his carryon over his shoulder, and headed up into his building. While in the elevator, he tapped his phone a few times.

Am home, he texted Clint.

Paris was good?

Paris was amazing. Tony is amazing. Am vry happy.

Clint sent an entire row of emojis, including several peaches and eggplants, as well as a dozen thumbs up. Glad to hear it.

Clint was busy texting Bucky pictures of everything stupid that Alpine had been up to while Bucky was gone (or, that Clint was up to, since apparently Clint had built a replica of Paris out of canned goods on the damn kitchen table and then put Al on the table -- where the cat was decidedly not supposed to be -- in order to make a Catzilla type tableau, when Bucky shoved his phone under his armpit to unlock the front door.

The-- door was unlocked.

Hastily, Bucky texted. Did you forget to lock up, asshole?

Don’t think so

Going inside. If I don’t text you back in like 4 minutes, call 911 for me.

Bucky slipped his phone into his pocket and pushed the door open cautiously. He’d been robbed before-- someone smashed in his doorknob and ransacked his place when he was just out of college.

His living room was clean, or at least as clean as it was when he left it, aside from some detritus that was probably Clint-related. No one had knifed his couch looking for hidden drugs or money. The TV was still in place, hanging on the wall. Unbroken.

His heart was still going a mile a minute. “Alpine, tkkk tkkk, honey, you here?” If the door was unlocked, the vague possibility existed that Al had left. Probably not, because Al didn’t like strangers and she wasn’t prone to trying to escape, but still, Bucky would feel better if he saw his kitty.

He took a step inside his apartment, hands gripping the door, and then wishing to Christ he did something like Clint, who kept a weapon just inside the door, in case he needed it.

Bucky could feel a lot better if he could wrap his hands around a bat right about now.

Another few steps, and the door slid closed behind him.

The kitchen was, as expected, a little messy. Clint had apparently ordered pizza, and there were empty cat food tins on the countertop. The faint smell of mildew -- he needed to dump the trash, wipe the counters, maybe some air-freshener.

“Alpine?” Even if the cat had been fed in the morning, she should come out to poke her nose into her food bowl in case Bucky had some sort of momentary aberration that caused him to feed the cat early.

Sometimes she came out just to eat a bite or two of kibble in a hi, I see you, kind of way.

No cat.

Bucky pulled open his kitchen drawer and pulled out a marble rolling pin.

The bathroom was likewise devoid of both intruders and cat. He snatched the shower curtain back; the tub was empty.

Fuck, he was getting paranoid.

He pushed into his bedroom--

“Fuck!” he squeaked. It was a manly squeak, he would swear that to his dying day. “Brock-- what the hell are you even doing here?”

Alpine slithered out from under the bed, fur sticking up like the world’s most staticky snowball and fled the room. “Your cat doesn’t like me,” Brock reported from where he was laying on Bucky’s bed, stretched out like he owned the place.

My cat has better taste than I do, Bucky thought, but didn’t say. He relaxed minutely. He did not, however, drop the rolling pin.

“Thought I’d wait for you, pet,” Brock said. “You’ve been gone a while. Didn’t return my calls.”

“I’ve been out of the country,” Bucky told him. “I had my phone off for the whole--” He fished his phone out of his pocket to look at it.

Are you okay

“Hmmm,” Bucky said. “I don’t have any missed calls. Guess no one called that I wanted to hear from.” He thumbed his text messages. Not sure yet.

“Don’t be like that,” Brock said, sliding off the bed. The way his shirt rolled up those abs seemed deliberate. Bucky didn’t care anymore, barely gave Brock a glance.

“I’m not being like anything,” Bucky said, “Aside from done with you. I thought I was clear on that.”

“Honey, you’ve said a lot of shit when you’re mad at me,” Brock said. “You gotta understand, something came up.”

“Something always does, Brock,” Bucky said. “I’m not mad at you. I’m done. We’re done. There is no us. How--”

“You gave me a key,” Brock said. “You don’t give keys to people, and then break up with them over the phone. That’s really stupid. You don’t know--” Brock was right up in his personal space, he could feel the man’s breath on his cheek. You don’t know what I could have done, I could have boiled your cat.

Bucky’s grip tightened on the rolling pin. “Okay, so I’m not always that smart,” Bucky said. “We’re still done.”

“We’re done when I say we’re done,” Brock snapped. “I’m not done with you, buddy.”

Bucky felt the ache in his fingers from clutching at his makeshift weapon too hard. “No, we’re done. Leave the key, or I’ll get the locks replaced, I don’t care. But you can go now.”

Bucky’s phone buzzed again.

He glanced at it. oMW

Well, maybe he wasn’t hallucinating, or overreacting, or getting paranoid. If Clint thought it was worth Bucky having backup, Brock might be--

“I’m not going anywhere,” Brock said. He reached up and his hand curled around Bucky’s throat. Soft, caressing, but with an edge. A bite. “You owe me a blowjob.”

Bucky scoffed. “Get out--” He choked as Brock’s fingers tightened.

“Come on, baby, you know you like it when we get a little rough,” Brock said, and Bucky’s stomach twitched and dipped unpleasantly. That was true, he’d encouraged Brock to be rough, to hold him down, to order him around. He loved it when his hair was pulled, when he was practically choking on dick, tears streaming down his cheeks. Brock had been--

Had been--

Bucky shoved him away, raised the rolling pin. “I don’t owe you shit,” he told Brock. “Get out of my house.”

Brock grabbed the pin, twisted, and Bucky couldn’t hold his grip. He tossed it aside and it shattered against the wall, leaving a huge dent in the plaster. Jesus fucking Christ. He backed away and found himself shoved against the wall. From the next apartment over, Bucky could hear his neighbor squawking in response to the ruckus.

“Let go!” Bucky kicked, getting a foot up against Brock’s stomach and used all his leverage to shove. “Clint’s on his way over, you want to get the fuck out of here before my neighbors call the cops?”

Brock’s hand tangled in Bucky’s hair for a moment, jerking his head back. “This isn’t over,” Brock threatened. Bucky’s legs were quivering from adrenaline, fear, anger. When Brock let go, Bucky sank to his knees, unable to hold himself up.

Brock snorted, obviously disgusted. “And that-- that’s right where you belong. You’ll see.”

Brock stormed out, leaving the door open. As he left the building, Bucky heard him yell at Bucky’s neighbor, an older Asian woman. “What you lookin’ at?”

Bucky’s hand went to his throat, tender. He couldn’t catch his breath. His heart was so loud that he couldn’t hear anything else.

He scrambled for his phone, started to dial for the cops, but--

Yeah, cops weren’t going to care.

He pulled up his contact list, hesitated, then…

“Hey, snowflake, did you leave something in the car, I just got back--”

“Tony--” Bucky’s voice cracked and his throat closed. He couldn’t get another sound out.

“Bucky?” Tony sounded worried. Then frantic as Bucky didn’t talk-- couldn’t. “Honey, what’s wrong, did something happen. Is your cat okay? Bucky, come on honey, talk--”

Bucky let his head rest against the wall, Tony’s voice a squeaky counterpoint to Bucky’s thundering heartbeat.

A few minutes later, Clint was in the apartment, and he had a goddamn switchblade in his hand. “Buck?”

“Hello! Hello, hey!” Tony was still on the phone and Clint scooped the phone up.

Bucky just stared at the ceiling. He knew he should do something, or that he wanted to do something. All the things I told myself are lies. I’m not strong. I’m not brave. I don’t know how to fight back. I don’t know how to stand up for myself.

“What did you do to him?” Clint demanded of the phone and Bucky tried to shake himself out of it, to respond to that, to--

“Brock,” Bucky managed to whisper.

From behind Clint’s elbow, Alpine stuck a white nose in Bucky’s direction, then crawled into her owner’s lap, purring like a miniature earthquake.

Bucky ran his fingers through soft, snowy fur. “Good girl,” he whispered.

“Yeah, okay, so your new boyfriend is coming back over,” Clint told him. “Now’s a good time to let me know if you don’t want that. That’s a nasty bruise you got on your neck there.”

“Brock was here,” Bucky said. “He was in my house, he was…” If there was anything that Bucky resented, it was that Brock had made him feel unsafe in his own home. This was Bucky’s sanctuary, this was--

Alpine rolled over, exposing a furry tummy.

“Yeah, okay, buddy,” Clint said. “You just sit here, pet the cat. I’m gonna go let your boyfriend in, and then we’re gonna lock the doors and figure this shit out.”

“He has a key,” Bucky said.

“Okay, well,” Clint said. “I’m here. We’ll… you can stay at my place-- Lucky won’t mind your stupid cat.”

Bucky nodded, swallowing again. His throat hurt like hell.

“I’m right here, pal.”

“Thanks.” 

Chapter Text

Tony got up to Bucky’s place, stuck the bag in his teeth, balancing the drink tray with one hand, and knocked.

Which meant, of course, that he had a paper bag full of baked goods in his mouth when a scruffy looking ditch-blond opened the door. Scruffy guy had watery blue eyes, a mobile mouth, several days worth of didn’t bother to shave scruff (totally different from Bucky’s intentional spent the weekend in bed with my lover stubble) and arms that looked like a Mr. Universe contest.

Tony was glad he hadn’t met this guy before, because this was exactly the sort of person that Tony thought Bucky should be dating. He snatched the bag out of his mouth, tearing a bit of the paper away.

“You’re Stark?”

What was it with people who didn’t know who he was, wasn’t he in enough magazines already. He wasn’t a Kardashian, but he should at least rank up there with Steve Jobs for recognizability in a public setting.

“Yeah, I guess you’re Clint Barton? Can I--”

“Come in,” Clint said. “Don’t suppose you’re handy with tools?”

Tony almost dropped the bag of snacks. Really? “Is one day on Venus longer than a year on Venus, nevermind, no, the answer is yes, yes I am handy with tools. What--”

“Rumpot has a key, I thought we could replace the locks.” Clint jerked his chin at a courier package from Amazon Prime Now.

Tony nodded. “I can do that. Temporary solution. I can also replace this door, get a home monitoring system set up--”

“I think just replacing the lock will do, no need to go all backyard bomb shelter,” Clint said.

“Where’s Bucky?”

“He’s remaking the bed.”

“Do I even want to know?”

“Brock was laying on it when Bucky came in,” Clint explained. “Why do you have three coffees?”

“One’s for you,” Tony said. “I didn’t know your taste in coffee, so there’s sugar and creamer in the bag.”

“Black’s fine.”

“A man after my own heart,” Tony said. He sat the cups down on Bucky’s coffee table and looked around. He’d never been up to Bucky’s place, which was a small one bedroom, brick interior with overly dark wood floors, but there was a lot of glass, giving it a mix vibe of modern and old. Nice. Bucky’d hung up dozens of art pieces to make the living room / eating area more colorful.

Bucky came out of the back room with a bundle of sheets and blankets in his arm.

“Here, let me,” Clint said. He took a long slug of his coffee, hissing air around his burning gums, and then-- “I’ll go drop this in the washroom, unless you’d be more comfortable if I stay?”

Despite the brief flare of indignation that Clint would think Bucky didn’t want to be with Tony, Tony found himself being grateful that Bucky had such a good friend. Reminded him a little of Rhodey, back in the day when Rhodey was dragging Tony’s ass out of parties that were too hard-core for fifteen year old Tony Stark.

Bucky gave over the laundry. “There’s quarters and detergent in the drunk bag in the kitchen.”

“Drunk bag?”

Clint was already moving, and he held up the bag to show Tony the writing, stuffing the laundry into it.

“A Poem About Me
I hate people
I wish I was drunk
-the end”

Tony snorted. “Hey, honey. I hear you’ve had a lousy day.” He offered Bucky the other cup now that Bucky had empty hands to take it.

Bucky wrapped his hands around the warm cup, as if he was cold. He took a sip, then-- “Not coffee?”

“Hot chocolate,” Tony said. “You’re upset. I didn’t think a stimulant was what you needed.”

Bucky licked his lip. “Salted caramel cocoa. You hate salt in your sweets.”

It warmed Tony that Bucky remembered, even if that was one of the myriad subjects they’d talked about at that first cheese fries date. “But you don’t,” he said. Because he remembered what Bucky had said about liking salted caramel, and being addicted to chocolate covered potato chips. Both things that made Tony shudder with culinary dismay, but who was he to judge? He’d been known to eat pickle and peanut butter sandwiches because he liked the cronch of pickles.

Bucky sat down on the tiny, ancient sofa, curling his legs under him like he wanted to take up as little space as possible. “It was… thank you. For coming, I mean, I know you were going to get some rest, and your PA is probably breathing down your neck already.”

“Pepper? Yeah, she does that,” Tony said. “Putting her in charge of the company was one of my best decisions.” Tony took the seat in the single chair, close enough to Bucky that he could touch, if he stretched, but not close enough to crowd him. “I’m sorry this happened. Your friend wants to change the locks, but -- which is fine, yeah, happy to do that -- but I wanted to say, if you want to just go? SI owns a lot of real estate in New York, apartments and short-term lease and stuff. It doesn’t have to be the Tower or anything, and you’re in no way obligated, but. I’m trying to say, I can rehome you, fairly quickly. If it’ll make you feel safer.”

“That feels like quitting,” Bucky said. “Like, he’s gonna know I cut and ran, that he fucking got to me.”

“Maybe this is the wrong time to ask, but… do you care what he thinks?” Tony wondered. “All my properties have doormen, big bronky ones like bouncers. If someone goes up to your place when you’re not there, they know. They’ll tell you. Even if your ex had a key, you’ll get a ‘Mr. Barnes, you have a guest,’ when you walk in the door. Nothing like this would ever happen again!”

Bucky snorted. “Can’t afford that.”

Tony bit down on his first offer, which was to ignore the rents entirely, but he knew that was putting Bucky in a bad position. “I can-- offset the rent difference for the first year of your lease,” Tony said. “No, listen, just the first year, as a transition period. The rent would gradually increase over the next four years to bring it in line with street price. If that doesn’t work for you, you’ve got a new place for a year or more, and then you can apartment shop again. It would all be above board, get legal to put together a nice contract and everything. And then, if you do move, you’re somewhere else entirely, and Rumlow never even knows it.”

Bucky struggled with the thought some more, muttered, “but he wins,” into his cocoa.

“No, he doesn’t,” Tony said. “Think of it as the home improvement version of getting a new haircut and eating a tube of raw cookie dough. Decking out a new apartment is fun, we’ll invite all your friends over to help you pack and move.” Not that Tony couldn’t get professional movers to do it, but Rhodey had drilled it into his head several times to stop acting like money didn’t mean things to normal people, since it certainly never had to Tony.

Bucky narrowed a look at him. “Packing is not fun. Packing is, in fact, slightly below shopping for a used car with bad credit, on the fun scale.”

Tony was going to talk him around, he knew that. Because if there was one thing Tony was good at, it was talking people into things. Even when it was a bad idea for them. And in this case, it was not a bad idea, it wasn’t a bad idea at all. Tony knew all about how a place could hold a memory -- he’d had such bad trauma going into the dining room at Stark Manor that he’d had Pepper sell the damn place to a museum so that no one would ever have to actually eat in there again.

He knew how just walking into his father’s study would cause his throat to ache and tears to prickle at his eyes, no matter that Howard had been dead for twenty years. And Tony could just afford to go. Throw his shit in a bag and fucking move to Malibu for a few years, which was exactly what he did.

He had to admit, it was a little amusing, really. Bucky had decided he was going to have to just suffer through the fear and the uncertainty and the worry and anxiety. And now he seemed just a touch indignant about Tony offering him a way to just… not. Like Bucky had gotten attached to the anxiety already and was going to nurture it like a pet, and there was Tony saying “no, honey, you already have a cat, it’s okay, put this wild thing down and let it run away.”

“Look, tell you what,” Tony said. “We’ll replace the locks here, if you want. But I’m going to suggest that you pack a bag, grab your cat, and I’ll put you in a guest suite at the Tower for a few days. We can go apartment shopping, we have at least twenty buildings all over the city, and see if you find something you like. If not, the door lock is changed out, you’ve been gone for a few days -- most people, if they’re going to do something stupid, they do it right away -- to make sure Rumpot doesn’t come back, and everything’s good, okay? But you should at least see what you’re saying no to, right?”

Bucky wiped his nose on the back of his wrist. “All right,” Bucky said. “But no more than a few days at the Tower, and I can come right back here, whenever I want.”

“We’re talking about you being a tenant, not a prisoner,” Tony said.

“Okay.”

“What’s okay?” That was Clint, back from the washroom. He was trailing a dryer sheet stuck to the bottom of his shoe.

“Tony’s gonna put me up for a few days,” Bucky explained.

“In a guest suite,” Tony clarified, because Clint was already narrowing his eyes. “Not like, on my sofa.”

The way Clint’s mouth moved, Tony knew that Clint had made that same offer. But Clint was a friend, not a boyfriend, so there was a difference.

“It’s all fully furnished and everything, so, like grab a few changes of clothes, and your cat supplies, and we can go right over,” Tony said. “Come along, Barton, and you can help Bucky unpack and get settled in.”

Bucky and Clint exchanged a look, which Tony wondered about, but it was none of his business.

“Sure, if you’re okay with that, Buck?”

Bucky looked around his place. “Change the locks out,” he said. “I don’t want Brock coming back and deciding to trash my stuff.”

Tony reached into his pocket and pulled out a compact multitool, which he almost always had in easy range. “Can do.”

Chapter Text

“I have a lunch date with Tony,” Bucky protested as Clint dragged him toward a shoddy-looking professional building. He was nervous as hell about it, too, since that was… The Day. His anxiety had started spelling it with capital letters a few days ago, and now it was said with a movie announcer voice and accompanying soundtrack.

“And don’t I know it,” Clint said. “Don’t make me hold your hand, Barnes.”

“Aww, you gonna tell me to look both ways before I cross the street, too?”

“And if you’re really lucky, I’ll let you have pudding with lunch,” Clint said. “Now come on, he couldn’t make much time for us.”

“Who couldn’t?”

Clint pushed into an ancient office that smelled like bad coffee and cheap carpet cleaner.

“Matt Murdock, avacado at law,” said the young man sitting behind the desk. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Barnes. Hey, Clint, you still up for joining me and Foggy for a beer tonight?”

“Yeah, maybe I’ll let you beat me at pool,” Clint said.

Bucky couldn’t look away; the man was neatly dressed, wore red sunglasses that didn’t quite hide his black eye, and carried-- a white cane marked with a red tip. The man very gently turned his head in Clint’s direction, chin tipped with that awkward angle that spoke of someone who was looking near, but not at, the person speaking.

You have a blind lawyer? Bucky signed frantically trying not to be rude. His ASL was terrible, but he could fingerspell most words.

“Matt here is one of the best attorneys in the city for renter’s rights,” Clint said. “He’s done a lot to get housing conditions improved, and to make sure tenants are treated right.”

“Which is why we get paid in chickens,” another man said, coming out from the back office, where, indeed, there were two chickens running around. “Literally, Matt. Chickens!”

“Well, now we know why Señora Brickhouse crossed the road, Foggy,” Matt joked. “Sit down-- I looked over the contract that Clint sent over.”

“You didn’t have to do that,” Bucky protested, not sitting. “Clint, I don’t need a lawyer.”

“Well, in your case, you probably don’t,” Matt said, “but in a great deal of tenant/landlord relations, people do. This is a Stark Contract, I would know Maria Hill’s legal expertise anywhere. Very tight, neatly spelled out, all the obligations on both sides. It’s quite renter friendly. But it never hurts to be sure. See no evil.”

“Hear no evil,” Clint added.

The other man -- Foggy? -- crossed his hands over his mouth. “Speak no evil.”

“You guys come up with that all on your own?” Bucky wondered.

“In any case, Mr. Barnes,” Matt said, “I won’t waste your time, but I wanted to draw your attention to a couple of key items in the contract. Nothing to be unduly concerned about, but they’re not standard. Have a seat, I can hear you hovering.”

Bucky dropped into the chair, pulled it up to the desk. On the surface was a copy of the contract, neatly highlighted, and a second copy -- probably -- in braille. He shook his head and tried to pay attention as the lawyer went over the fine print, apparently mostly from memory.

***

“This is nice,” Bucky said. And it was; in a Godfather sort of way. Nice Italian restaurant, private rooms. There were two smallish tables, only one of which was set. Eight people could fit comfortably, but there was only Tony and Bucky.

“Yeah, I do some business luncheon here from time to time, the kind of thing where you have to keep confidential information at least minimally private.”

Bucky opened the menu. No prices, because of course not.

He made small talk while considering his options, and he wasn’t just talking about the grilled shrimp over the stuffed mushrooms.

Tony eyed him one, then let it pass, waiting until the food orders were in before nudging Bucky with his foot. “You doing okay?”

“Yeah, I’m,” Bucky said, hesitating. “Got a lot on my mind.”

Tony sat back in his chair, spreading his hands. “Care to take a load off?”

“Yeah,” Bucky said. “I wanted… look, the apartments are really nice.”

Tony smiled. He’d probably heard it from the nice woman who’d taken him around to view several places. They’d already agreed to a rent that Bucky could afford and it was just a matter of finding a place in that range that he liked.

He was positive that the rent cut on some of those places was extreme, but the lady -- Rumiko? Hadn’t indicated that she held him in anything less than the highest of esteem.

Bucky had looked around the one place, the nicest of the lot, with white, open spaces and bay windows, a very modern kitchen, and a jetted tub in the bathroom, and wondered absently what his second hand furniture would look like in it.

He’d planned to try to keep an eye out, take the cheapest thing that was offered, but in the end, it was one of the neighbors who’d sold him on the place. Ms. Keener, with her two kids, had gushed to Bucky about the neighborhood, while Rumiko took an important call. “Oh you’ll love it here, Mr. Barnes,” she’d said. “I didn’t know what we were going to do, but Harley --” she indicated a tousle headed boy “-- got into the Academy up here, on scholarship, but coming all the way from Jersey? But we got into this program for housing, and I thought it would be terrible, but--”

“It’s nice,” Bucky had agreed.

Scholarship programs? Housing funds… maybe it wasn’t just a charity for Bucky specifically. Not a trap, but something that Stark Industries did for neighborhood improvement (and not in the tear down the bodega and the coin op for an upscale coffee shop that no one who lived in the neighborhood could even afford way.)

“Did you find one that you’re interested in?”

“I did,” Bucky said, nodding slowly.

The appetizers came in, and Bucky took an experimental bite and offered a thumbs up to the waiter.

“That’s good to hear,” Tony said. “He hasn’t been back to--”

“I checked in on my place yesterday, doesn’t look like anything’s happened,” Bucky said. He’d packed up a few more boxes, after not only locking the door behind him, but wedging a chair under the knob.

He probably needed to take Tony up on his offer, he wasn’t sure how he was going to live with his current levels of anxiety. He wouldn’t have been able to sleep at all, except he was sleeping on the other side of town in an exorbitantly expensive hotel room. Stark Tower’s facilities were ritzy. Probably nicer than the Ritz, honestly.   

“So, I, uh… wanted to talk to you about something else, before I make up m’ mind,” Bucky said.

“Anything--”

“So, I had a lawyer look over the contract for the rent,” he started, watching Tony carefully.

“That’s smart,” Tony said. “You should always at least read everything you sign, and it helps if you understand it. Legalese can get quite thick sometimes.”

“And so, that’s good,” Bucky said. “I-- what’s going to happen with us?”

“Nothing’s changed,” Tony said.

“I mean, this isn’t quite the same as moving in with you,” Bucky said, trying to control his racing heart. He was so bad at confrontations and this wasn’t even an actual confrontation. Not really. “Which, by the way, it would be a lot too early for, and I did that once, with an ex, and… like, the fallout from that breakup, and finding a new place to live and stuff, that was, yeah. Hard pass.”

“This would be your home, Bucky,” Tony said. “I’m not even the direct owner, it’s a-- Stark Industries owns a couple of holding companies, and this is one of the smaller real estate development projects under that holding company. I’m not your landlord. This is more like… my skipping you in the line a bit. I can’t have you thrown out, or have a key to your place, or anything that you don’t allow.”

“Yeah, that’s what, uh, that’s what my lawyer said. All aboveboard, he said.”

“Well, that’s good, right?”

“It is,” Bucky said. “But… what happens to us. As a couple. I mean, we’re doing that, dating with intent.”

“Yes,” Tony said, stretching the word out. “I haven’t changed my mind about that. I like you, Bucky. I really do. And honestly, I wish… sometimes I wish I was someone else, that I could just have something normal and real. But I’m… I’m Tony Stark. I can’t change that. It comes with some advantages. And I like to… I mean, big gestures, it’s kinda my thing sometimes. But I never want to ask more from you than you’re willing to give me.”

“That’s good,” Bucky said. He reached his hand out, palm up, and was relieved when Tony put his fingers in it. “I want… I want to give you-- everything. And I think that you’ll value it. But I just need… a little certainty in my life.”

Tony’s eyebrow went up, but he didn’t take his fingers away, tracing circles in the palm of Bucky’s hand. “You want me to be your Dom,” he said, more than asked.

“I want to know if you can be,” Bucky hedged.

“Do you, uh, have a standard contract-slash-kink sheet? Obviously, I don’t want to make any decisions without knowing what’s on it, but-- I have been in the scene before,” Tony said. He gave Bucky a very direct look. “I can Dom you. You’ve said a few things about your pain tolerance, and I have some hard lines in that direction, so if heavy painplay is something you need, you may need to find a club or a professional. Which-- if that’s something you need, no judgements. And it won’t adversely affect our relationship.”

“What I mostly need,” Bucky said, rubbing his thumb over Tony’s wrist, “is clear objectives. Someone to tell me when I’m doing things right. The real world-- makes me anxious, I’m sure you’ve noticed. When I play… when I play, I need to know I’m doing things right. Even if you’re really hard to please.”

Tony closed his fingers around Bucky’s. “I think we might be able to come to a working arrangement.”

Bucky took a deep breath, held it, then let it out. “All right,” he said. “Um… I like the place in Astoria.”

“Great,” Tony said. “I’m glad we found something that suits you.”

“You suit me,” Bucky said.

“I’m glad of that, too.”

 

Chapter Text

The list of things that Bucky was willing -- and apparently, eager -- to do was astonishing.

And arousing.

Tony hadn’t been lying, he’d certainly been involved in Dom/sub relationships before, but they were usually short relationships, the D/s part of it strictly limited to a scene, or an evening in the club.

They weren’t… a lifetime contract.

And this wasn’t, either. Not really.

But boy, it really sounded like one.

Tony went through the list again, trying to divorce the actual black and white words from the full color and sensation images they raised in his head. Bucky had emailed Tony with his list and Tony had emailed his list back before he looked; that way they were both coming into the conversation with knowledge, but the ideas hadn’t been colored by the other person.

Some of the items on Bucky’s list were quite exciting, and Tony could see putting together some amazing scenes with those in mind.

Some others-- well, Tony started to wonder if what Bucky needed was a Dom, or a personal assistant.

Not that Tony couldn’t understand; he had a personal assistant of his own, and, to be quite honest, Tony couldn’t run his life without her. And her whole cadre of assistants under her. Because Pepper was also in charge of the company. Of the two things, she often said Tony was the more difficult one.

“What you need, my dear,” Tony said, tapping his tablet screen, “isn’t a Dom here so much as limiting your choices.”

Bucky had checked off such things as wardrobe control, communication control, and public service in his preferred lists; with such punishments like being slapped, scolded, or humiliation. With a note attached that he was usually very good about these things and didn’t need correction.

If Bucky’s old Dom wasn’t such a douche, Tony might have considered calling him. Not to talk about Bucky behind his back -- well, okay, yes, exactly to talk about Bucky behind his back -- but because Tony wanted to know how much of this was actually necessary, and if it wouldn’t benefit Bucky more to get into therapy.

Or if Bucky had just been taught to crave things that he didn’t need. Tony rather wondered if Bucky wouldn’t do better with praise kink, rather than humiliation.

“The man says this is what he needs, you’d do well to believe him,” Tony told himself.

Well, none of it was set in stone, really. They could always try to swap things around; do a scene the way Bucky wanted it, and then do it the way Tony preferred, and then sit down to renegotiate. That might be the best way, really. See what worked for Tony, what worked for Bucky, and what worked for them.

“Hard line, no,” Tony murmured, making some notes. He wasn’t adverse to a little pain play, but slapping someone in public, given his status and place as someone in the limelight, he couldn’t risk that. The court systems still hadn’t really come to the conclusion yet if a Dom/sub contract counted as consenting violence or not, and even if they did decide that Dom violence, like a boxing match, was legal, the court of public opinion still held sway.

Tony took out his phone and tapped a quick message. Whats your sched today

A moment later his phone buzzed Mtng at 2 free after if type minuts bfore 8 tmrow

Tony chewed his thumbnail -- his manicurist was going to murder him, point blank, that would happen -- and then typed If you’re still interested in playing, come to my office after your meeting. Security will have a badge and a package for you at the front desk.

Tony pulled out a small jeweler’s box. He’d had it made up when he and Bucky had first started talking about things, because Tony liked nothing more than extravagant gestures, and part of those involved planning ahead. If they’d never used it, it wasn’t a problem. He ran fingers over the item, then slid it into an interoffice envelope.

Yes, sir.

A long pause, and then what will i be doing? Condom? Lube? prep?

Bucky liked being told what to do, Tony recalled. He liked strict rules of play, what to wear, how to look. Expectations that he could meet. Or fail to meet and be punished.

Tony shivered, punishment could be very, very exciting. He wouldn’t mind seeing the red patches left behind on Bucky’s ass after a proper correction.

Tie your hair back.

That wasn’t a lot, Bucky-- Bucky needed more from him.

Tony frowned, then, when you get to the building, there’s some benches near the front desk. Stop and take your shoes and socks off. Put them in your bag and then come up to see me.

There was a much longer delay, almost twenty minutes, and Tony was just beginning to wonder if he’d pushed things too far, too fast, when he got a text that conveyed breathlessness.

::wide eye emoji:: Yes, sir.

Tony stuck his head outside the office. His assistant looked up. “Drop this off at the front desk, if you would. I have a three-thirty appointment, I’m absolutely not to be interrupted once he arrives. Oh, and get security to send me the CC feeds for the front lobby up to my office, please.”

To her credit, she was trained by Pepper Potts, so she didn’t even blink at the instructions. “Of course, Mr. Stark. Will there by anything else?”

“Send up a snack pack; deli meat, fruit, nuts, water bottles, that sort of thing. Before my appointment gets here.”

The PA gave him a stern look, then, which meant Pepper had probably told her enough for her to guess what was going to happen.

Tony waved a hand at her. “You can take the rest of the afternoon off,” he suggested.

“Very good, Mr. Stark.”

“Thank you, Miss Quinn.”

I’ll see you at three-thirty.

When the snack arrived at precisely three, Tony was quite positive that his PA knew what he was up to, as she included an entirely unasked for selection of wet wipes, disinfectants and paper towels.

All of which she brought in with an air of amused tolerance.

“Miss Quinn?”

“Yes, Mr. Stark?”

“Fill out the form for a spot bonus, and email it to me.”

“For whom?”

“You, duh,” Tony said. “Above and beyond. Also, the cleaning staff thanks you, or they would, if they knew.”

“The less I know, the happier I am, Mr. Stark,” she said, but she went back to her desk in a decidedly more cheerful state of mind. Not that Stark Industries pay scale was anything to sneeze at, but there were few people who didn’t find an extra thousand to five grand bonus useful.

Tony sat back in his desk chair, turned on the security feeds, and waited.

***

Bucky managed to squeak into the Stark Tower at three twenty-six, which counted as on time. He practically dropped onto one of the benches near the door that Tony had told him about and considered if he was really doing this.

It was, in a nutshell, the exact same situation that Rumlow had put him in. Cross town in a hell of a hurry, and blow me under the desk.

Okay, well, Tony hadn’t said it was going to be a blowjob, but Bucky rather assumed. The whole tying his hair back and everything.

There was both a strange sort of excitement, and a resentful little tang around the edges to the whole thing.

Maybe he just wants to do it right, Bucky though. He took a deep breath. He’d checked on his way in through the door; there were no signs about shoe or shirt wearing, and as there were a number of little shops and boutiques in the bottom few floors of the building, Bucky assumed that he wasn’t going to get thrown out into the street for going barefoot.

He bent and took his shoe off, rolling the sock down and sticking it inside. He kept a gym bag in his office, which included a storage bag for shoes so that the rest of his stuff didn’t hold unpleasant odors, and he’d grabbed it on his way out.

The tiles under his feet were cool.

No one appeared to notice, but Bucky felt like he’d had a spotlight put on his head as he walked over to the security desk. “Excuse me,” he said to the man there. “I have a three-thirty appointment with Mr. Stark.”

“You Barnes?” the man said, consulting a tablet.

“Yes.”

“Here you go, sign in here--” Bucky was given a clipboard, asked to produce his driver’s license, and given a manila folder with the Stark Logo on it. “Take the elevator, down the hall, to your left, either of the ones marked Express. Select floor 88.”

“Thank you,” Bucky said. He got his license back after they’d swiped it through some barcode thing and then printed up a guest badge for him to wear on his jacket.

The elevator bank was huge, six to a side, and the hallway around there was crowded. Bucky had to pay attention, but no one stepped on his toes.

The express elevator was empty when it opened for him, and no one got on. A quick look at the buttons told him everything he needed to know about that; there were three below ground floors, all of which had keys by them, and two top floor buttons, 87 and 88.

Once in the elevator, he unwound the string holding the envelope closed.

A small box, somewhat larger than a ring box, at least, although it did look like it might contain jewelry, one of those velvety things with a spring hinge. He opened it.

The necklace was silvery, but based on the weight, Bucky rather thought it might be platinum. Two tags dangled from it, much like dog tags, one round, the other oval. The round one was a stylized compass and in tiny letters on the back said Property of Stark. On the other was a series of numbers.

It took him a moment, and then-- it was a plus code for GPS mapping. Bucky pulled out his phone and entered it.

Not Stark Tower, but--

Tony’s penthouse, just a few blocks away.

“Property of Tony Stark, please return.”

He checked his hair one last time in the mirrored surface of the elevator. Put the necklace on.

The elevator opened onto a grand receiving lobby. Like the pearly gates, Bucky thought. The furniture was all terrifyingly white and chrome, and the carpet was soft. Not that durable square tack stuff that most businesses put down, but an actual wall-to-wall fluff. His toes practically sank into it.

“You’re the three-thirty,” the woman said. “He’s expecting you--” She gestured at the door to one side of her desk, made a few more clicks of her keyboard and then pushed away from her desk. “Have a good afternoon.”

Bucky turned to watch her walk away.

Deep breath. Everything was fine. Bucky didn’t feel anything except a bit lightheaded after his deep breathing. So much for that trick.

He put his hand on the latch, pushed it down, and entered Tony’s office.

Chapter Text

“Come in, have a seat,” Tony said, using his best I am doing a Job Interview voice. Pepper would have been proud -- you know, if she wouldn’t have been thwapping him about the head and shoulders for talking about his sex life.

There was something almost childlike and vulnerable about him, the way his bare feet moved over the carpet, and the way he looked down, not meeting Tony’s eyes. Like a kid called before an authority figure when he wasn’t sure what he’d done wrong.

Bucky put his bag down near the chair, sat, and clasped his hands together over his knee, neck still bent. It was an almost perfect posture of submission, and Tony’s dick twitched in his slacks, thinking about what that could mean.

“You look really nice today,” Tony said. “Just like I asked. Thank you.”

Bucky flicked a look at him, just a flash of those steely blue eyes before he looked back into his lap. “Thank you, sir--”

Like Tony had fallen off the script, which wasn’t fair. Bucky liked precise directions, and trying to say thanks and you’re welcome in the same sentence was complicated.

“You didn’t tell me your safe words,” Tony said, “can you look up for a moment, here, please?”

“Of course, sir,” Bucky said, and his chin tipped up obediently. “Would you like them now?”

“We’ll get to that later,” Tony said. “I thought I’d run you through what I see happening here and you can give me the yay or nay. Since this is our first time playing, I’d like to just go through the whole thing--”

Bucky nodded.

“All right, then,” Tony said. “First, I’ll tell you, my personal assistant has gone home for the day, security feeds in my office have been cut, and I’ve left instructions that I’m not to be disturbed, which reduces our actual chances of being disturbed to about twenty-three percent. I could run the numbers for you based on past experiences, but I want you to know there still is the possibility that someone will walk in, or knock, while we’re playing. If that’s not acceptable, this is the time to say so.”

“I’m okay with that, sir,” Bucky said.

“You want to give me a range on that, love?” Tony asked. “Like, 1 is I’d prefer no risk of getting caught to 5 as a baseline, yeah, shit happens, to 10 as the idea of getting caught is super arousing to me and adds to the scene.”

Bucky hitched in a breath and Tony swore he could see the man’s pupils widen from across the desk. “Sir-- about an eight, sir.”

“So, you like a little voyeurism-slash-risky business. Good to know, that’s good data. Thank you, that’s one.”

Bucky bit at his lip, then asked, “One what, sir?”

“One reward. I like to keep a ledger,” Tony explained. “I’ve always wanted to be fair, so I keep track. Good behavior gets points, bad behavior loses points. Now, I’ve noticed from some of your notes, you prefer to be able to strive toward doing things right. A bit of the perfectionist, I’ve noticed.”

“Yes, sir,” Bucky said.

“So, here are my expectations for the scene,” Tony said. “You will take off your shirt, hang it on the back of the chair. If someone comes in, I want them to know there’s someone else in the room--”

Bucky inhaled sharply, then nodded.

“I want you under my desk, on your knees, and I want you to blow me. That’s the basic expectation. You will get points -- if someone knocks, you’ll get one point. If they actually come in, that’s two. I will give you points for form, efficiency, and satisfaction. You will lose points -- if you have to stop to push your hair back, if you bump your head on the bottom of my desk, and my chair slides back. Are we clear on my expectations?”

“Clear, sir,” Bucky said. He kept his eyes on the floor.

“Also, I want you to look at me,” Tony said. “There will be some occasions in which I don’t want eye contact, and I’ll tell you when they are, but I prefer to see you, I prefer to hear you. Now, because you’re going to have your mouth full, two taps against my calf for slow down, three taps for stop. Is that acceptable to you?”

Bucky raised his eyes, and they were wide and dark and luminous. “That’s agreeable to me, sir.”

“Then get to it,” Tony said.

Bucky stood up, unbuttoned his shirt, and draped it over the back of the chair. His chest gleamed in the light, each line and curve illuminated.

“You’re very lovely,” Tony told him. “And very good. Come on, show me how good you can be.”

***

Climbing under Tony’s desk was nothing like graceful -- the underside of the desk was heavy, and the drawers were low, so he was crouched in there like some sort of desk gollum. There was a slick chair mat that didn’t keep Tony’s chair anything like stable, and Bucky was trying to work out the logistics of keeping his mouth on Tony, not bumping his head, and keeping the chair still all at the same time when Tony tapped his watch. “Tick-tock,” he said, and then the bastard docked him a point for it?

Bucky managed to get into position before he got docked a second point. While he was working on getting Tony’s pants unfastened and unloop his belt, and actually get Tony’s cock out where he could do something with it, Bucky found himself wondering what punishment would be like.

There was a jolt of heat at that.

He licked tentatively at Tony’s cock, trying to decide if he wanted to be punished, or if he wanted to be good. He probably should have asked about consequences, but he couldn’t say that Tony hadn’t given him the opportunity to do so.

On the other hand -- and Bucky scolded himself a little for thinking, when what he was supposed to be doing was swallowing Tony’s dick for him -- he’d never gotten rewarded for doing what he was supposed to. Unless rewards were a lack of punishment and the continuation of the relationship.

Tony, on the other hand, didn’t seem to notice, or scold him, for being preoccupied.

Bucky turned his attention to what he was supposed to be doing; blowing Tony under the desk. Bucky rolled his tongue around in his mouth a few times, getting his mouth nice and wet, then proceeded to lick all the way around, like working on a rapidly melting ice cream that he didn’t want dripping on him.

Tony made a soft, breathy sound and Bucky felt his mouth stretch in a smirk. He was good at this, he enjoyed it. The heavy musk smell of Tony’s skin, clean and soapy, but still intimate. Personal. Earthy. The way his cock tasted, his skin, the heavy weight of it against Bucky’s tongue. He could lose himself in this; got hard as a rock in his own slacks and ignored it to try to get more of those breathy moans out of Tony.

Tony, it turned out, was not above cheating, either.

Every time Bucky got really into it, was listening to the way Tony’s breath caught and snagged-- he’d push the fucking chair out and make Bucky scramble to hold onto it.

He finally settled on slipping his fingers through Tony’s belt loops, keeping the guy from going anywhere at all, and all but choking himself on Tony’s dick. He fell into the rhythm of it, bobbing his head, trying to keep from cracking his skull on Tony’s desk. Keeping hold of Tony so that he didn’t get points off for that, listening to Tony’s breathing, the way he said “oh, that’s so good,” a few times, a hand in Bucky’s hair, then around his face, thumbing over his lip.

His lips were tingling with the effort, drooling down his chin and onto his chest, eyelashes clumped together with tears, and looking up at Tony every so often.

Easy, necessary motions. Bucky couldn’t have stopped if he wanted to, and he didn’t want to. Somewhere in there, the world went away and there was only the smells and sounds and movements and feelings.

Tony gave him absolutely no warning, and suddenly Bucky’s mouth was flooded with come, hot, spurting fluid at the back of his throat. He gagged, choked, swallowed hastily. At least some of Tony’s spill overflowed, gushing down Bucky’s chin and dripping along his throat, chest. Some of it splattered on his cheek. In his hair.

It was glorious.                                                                                                                                   

“Look at you, pretty boy,” Tony said, and Bucky couldn’t help but duck his chin, sheepishly wiping at his face with one hand. “That was really, really well done.”

Tony managed to say all that, still breathing hard, still looking wrecked, and Bucky had done that to him, had reduced him to this current state of disaster.

“Thank you, sir,” Bucky said, and his voice was hoarse from the way Tony’s dick had been poking at his throat. Tony knew it, too, smiled approvingly.

“A little floaty, there, I see,” Tony said, tipping Bucky’s chin this way and that, studying his eyes. “You were close, even just that. Amazing.”

Bucky managed a smirk. “So, am I up, or down, in points?”

“You weren’t keeping track?”

Bucky shook his head. “Not really, no. I had a job to do and I did it. You’re the one who’s supposed to be evaluating.”

“So, what if I lie,” Tony wondered. “Say you were four points down.”

Another quiver; Bucky wasn’t sure if he could come untouched, in his pants, if Tony was to punish him, but at the same time, he wasn’t sure he wouldn’t, either.

“Then, if you think I deserve to be punished, if that’s what I earned,” Bucky said, and he tried to say it gently, rather than petulant, because he ached and he needed, and it had been so close, and it had been so long… “Then that’s exactly what I want.”

Chapter Text

“I think,” Tony said, growling in Bucky’s ear, “I think you want to be punished. I think you know you’re naughty.” Naughty, because naughty was sexy, naughty was the opposite of nice, and Bucky wasn’t nice, he was goddamn amazing.

Bucky was shivering under him, eyes wide and dark, and his lip was puffy and red from where Tony had used his mouth.

“You do-- you want that,” Tony said, almost marveling at it. High pain tolerance, Bucky had said, but brute force was rarely the answer. He raised an eyebrow, giving Bucky the opportunity to protest.

Bucky didn’t, just watched him, and his tongue slipped out to lick his lips.

“I’m gonna give you what you need, baby,” Tony told him. “I want you to put your hands on my desk and bend over-- you were good, but you could be so much better. You need that, right, to stay on the straight and narrow.”

“Ain’t nothin’ straight about me,” Bucky snarked.

“You want another round for that smart mouth?”

Bucky swallowed. “Yes, sir.”

“Drop your slacks, hands on my desk, bend over.” Tony produced one of the towels and had Bucky spread it, to keep the edge of the desk from biting into his belly, and for hasty clean up.

Tony had seen Bucky’s ass before, of course, but he never failed to admire it. Round and muscular, leading into the world’s best thighs. Bucky dropped his trousers and left them pooled around his feet, spreading his legs as much as possible in the makeshift hobble.

God, that was hot.

Tony stroked Bucky’s ass, squeezing both cheeks, lifting them and pushing them together, spreading them apart, getting a look at that sweet hole. He rubbed himself against Bucky’s backside, feeling himself starting to get hard again. Just watching Bucky, completely undone, was a dull heat in Tony’s spine. The way Bucky was panting and pushing back against Tony’s dick probably felt good to Bucky, too.

Without giving him a warning, Tony slapped his hand down sharply on Bucky’s asscheek, eliciting a crack of skin against skin, and Bucky yelped, then ducked his head, as if ashamed of his outburst. “Sorry, sir.”

Tony rubbed over the slight pinking of Bucky’s skin, then smacked him again. This time, Bucky didn’t so much as grunt, although his fingers tightened on the desk. Tony slid around the side of his desk, smacked the other side. And again.

He wasn’t counting smacks out loud -- he was Tony Stark, he couldn’t mistake a number if his life depended on it -- just waiting until the buzz in his palm grew too loud to be ignored.

And then a little longer.

Bucky’s panting breaths became whimpers, and then whimpers became a single cry.

“There you are, good, that’s good,” Tony told him. “Look up at me now, baby.”

Bucky’s eyes were so lust-shot they were almost black, his mouth red, chin slick with saliva. Gorgeous and floating and perfect. “Sir?”

“Oh, you’re so good, baby.” Tony opened his desk drawer and produced a bottle of lube, a strip of condoms, and a glove. “Time for your reward, honey. Hold yourself open for me.”

That was the kicker, really. The salt on Bucky’s palms, the sore and tender skin on his ass, and making him do the work. He did it, with only a soft whine at the beginning.

Tony ran a stripe of lube down Bucky’s crack and slowly started working him open. The spots on Bucky’s skin around his fingers grew white, and then pink, and then white again as Bucky squeezed, keeping his hole open and vulnerable for Tony to play with.

Bucky was whining again, for totally different reasons, by the time Tony decided he was ready.

“Check in with me,” Tony said. “You feeling good?”

“Sooo good,” Bucky slurred, then gave Tony a sweet, completely unselfconscious smile, totally love-doped and high as a kite on it.

Tony reached for a condom. “You want me to?”

“Oh, please, please, please Tony--”

Tony wasn’t sure he’d be able to come-- he wasn’t nineteen anymore -- but sinking into the hot clutch of Bucky’s body was just about perfect even without a second orgasm.

Bucky pushed back against him, rushing him, and Tony had to grab his hips, eliciting a muffled groan of pain, to keep him still. “I’ll get you there, baby,” he promised. “You just relax and let me do all the work now.”

Bucky only moaned softly. Tony stroked him, thrusting in with calm, easy movements, rolling his hips at the end of each. Bucky was babbling, whining, begging and it was glorious. Tony wasn’t sure it had ever been this good in his life, and he was effusive with his praise.

“Tony-- please, tell me-- help me,” Bucky cried, and Tony reached a hand around Bucky’s hip to help him out, stroking in time with his thrusts, until Bucky was practically screaming, muffling his shouts against one forearm, squeezing and clutching around Tony’s dick.

Tony wasn’t quite there, but he waited until Bucky stopped moving, practically collapsed over Tony’s desk. “Hang on a minute, sweet,” Tony told him. “Stay right there, like that.” Tony pulled out, yanked the condom off, and jerked it, looking at Bucky’s pink and red ass, hole gaping open from being fucked, the way he was slack and barely standing…

And painted Bucky’s thighs and ass, the tail of his shirt, with come.

***

Bucky wasn’t sure how he got from bent over Tony’s desk -- the smell of his leather blotter in Bucky’s nostrils, the sting of his hand on Bucky’s ass -- to the small sofa. He was laying on his side out of respect to his still sore bottom. He doubted that the spanking would last through the evening, and he might be a bit sore tomorrow, but not more than a good workout where he didn’t neglect leg day for a change.

He vaguely remembered Tony cleaning him off, gently. A handful of wet wipes went into the trash, and Tony spent the whole time telling Bucky how gorgeous he was, how wonderful, perfect, such a good boy, and Bucky was in that headspace where he could actually believe it.

That space, he didn’t get there often, but when he did, it was so nice. He could drift around in it forever. That he’d pleased someone worth pleasing, that was even more rare.

“Hmm, Tony?” Bucky raised his head, trying to look around.

“Right here, honey,” Tony said. “Have some more water?”

Bucky hummed affirmative and Tony held the cup to his mouth, gently tipping water in. He blotted Bucky’s chin -- had he dribbled? Normally that would embarrass him, but right now, Bucky couldn’t even care. Tony fed him little nibbles, a bite of cheese, a rolled up slice of deli meat, a few peanuts. A slice of apple.

It was nice, perfect.

Just like Tony was nice and perfect.

I think I love you.

“That was exactly what I wanted, thank you,” Tony was saying. “You’re so good to me, I want to be good for you. Are you feeling okay?”

Bucky had his head cushioned on Tony’s thigh, pinstripe trouser looking somewhat rumpled. Bucky was still shirtless, although Tony had pulled his pants up. The air was thick with the smell of what they’d been up to, though, and it wouldn’t have taken a smart person to figure out they’d just been messing around. But Tony had said something about his PA giving him cleaning supplies, and something else about staff.

Bucky wasn’t sure, he hadn’t really been listening. He wasn’t listening now, just sort of floating away, letting Tony’s voice wander through his ears with none of the words really putting down roots into complete cogent thought.

“Buck?”

Bucky wrinkled his nose at the shorter form of his name. Not his favorite, made him sound like Bambi’s dad or something. “Mhmm?”

“Anything else you need?”

“Nap,” Bucky said.

“Well, that’s probably true,” Tony said. “We shouldn’t have messed around in my office, no good place to sleep. I wanted you to have a good-- well, nevermind. Tell you what, if you think you’ll be okay for a few minutes, I’ll do some quick clean up, and then drive you home. Or back to my place, if you’re not ready to be alone yet.”

Bucky managed to put a coherent thought together. “Brock jus’ pour me in an Uber, send me home.” If that much, really. Half the time, Bucky’d staggered out of Brock’s sessions, barely able to get one foot in front of the other, running on autopilot.

“Well, I think we’ve all established that Rumlow doesn’t have your best interests at heart, honey,” Tony said.

“Mmm good here,” Bucky said, although he was a little sad when Tony stopped petting his hair and got up. He was got chilly, sat up to reach for his shirt and wrapped it around him. That was better. Sitting up meant that he could watch Tony putter around with some disinfecting wipes, bagged up all the trash, and straightened out his desk.

“Still okay?”

Bucky sucked in a breath. He was just going to nod, and let Tony get on with things, but his mouth just ran off with him. “Be better if you were sittin’ over here with me,” he said. Because it was true, and because Tony had been as attentive to Bucky’s needs and wants as he could possibly be, and because Bucky wanted Tony. Just wanted him, wanted that closeness.

“Sure,” Tony said, and Bucky found himself making grabby hands for Tony. Tony knelt down, letting Bucky hang on him, slouched over, Tony cradled between Bucky’s thighs, head resting against Tony’s shoulder.

“Thank you,” Bucky said. He sort of drifted in and out, smelling Tony’s clean sweat, the smell of sanitizer, the fading remnants of Tony’s cologne. It was nice, and safe, and comfortable, and Bucky was not just happy. Happy was easy to come by, it was a cigarette, or a chocolate chip cookie, or a five second orgasm. You smoke the butt, you eat the cookie, you get your rocks off, you go to sleep, you get up in the morning and you went to fucking work. Happy was nice, but it came in small fucking doses.

Comfortable, comfortable on the other hand--

Bucky rarely knew comfortable.

“I love you,” he mumbled into Tony’s neck.

For just a moment, Tony went stiff under Bucky’s hands. “What?”

 

Chapter Text

It wasn’t raining. Somehow that seemed incongruous. It should be raining. If it was raining, if Bucky looked out the window and saw beads of rain collecting on the glass and running in rivulets down the pane to disappear into the sill, that would have explained his mood.

His feet were heavy, dragging. His steps barely cleared the pavement, and the whisk whick of his jeans as he walked seemed unbearably loud. The office was busy, like it always was. Office doors were closed as confcalls went on and on. He passed a few of the guys he knew from Steve’s department.

Everywhere he went, there were eyes on him. He knew he looked rough, he had slept almost ten hours straight, bolted upright in a panic to get to work in the morning, and had to skip shower, coffee, and breakfast. As it was, he was still late, and Hand had given him the stink eye about it.

Bucky busied himself with the Alchemex account, ignoring Hand looking over his shoulder, until she’d gone away.

His stomach was grumbling, so he went down to breakroom to see if someone had brought in donuts or bagels. There were a few oranges in the bowl and a banana that looked like it should have been made into bread a day ago. He peeled the orange and ate it, watching the television listlessly.

It wasn’t exciting fare. Most of the times, corporate had a range of the commercials and advertisements that his company made running. Like, who wanted to watch back to back commercials for products they knew they were helping to sell. Or it was on HGTV, which was considered non-political. Fist fights rarely started in the breakroom over what molding someone wanted to use, where there had actually been a case of workplace violence when the lunch room television had been tuned to Fox News.

There weren’t any donuts, and Bucky spent at least five minutes standing at the counter while waiting for donuts to mystically appear. It was, he thought, the office equivalent of opening the fridge every twenty minutes or so, in case food that he wanted to eat appeared out of nowhere. He knew it didn’t work that way, and yet, like so many people, it was a compulsion.

Mack, from accounting, came in, made himself a cup of coffee, stirred in a packet of hot chocolate mix, all the while watching Bucky out of the corner of his eye.

Bucky restrained the urge to pat down his hair or tug his collar. If there was something unprofessional about his appearance, he wasn’t going to draw additional attention to it.

As soon as Mack was gone, Bucky hightailed it to the men’s room. He inspected his reflection, but didn’t see anything particularly offensive. He looked tired, deep bags under his eyes like he was packing for a trip to naptown, but that was it. His hair was a little oily, but that wasn’t entirely abnormal. He took a leak, gingerly spreading his legs because his thighs were sore as hell. Washed his hands and went back to his cubicle. No coffee. No donut.

He considered getting up again, but decided it wasn’t worth the walk.

I love you.

What?

Tony had covered it up, pretty quick, but Bucky had noticed.

Tony had been shocked by Bucky’s sleepy-muttered confession. Not pleased, not even surprised, but out and out shocked.

Bucky scrubbed a hand over his face and stared at his computer. Six unread emails, and his boarding software was complaining that it needed to be updated, and that updating would require a reboot.

Bucky clicked the yes button and stared some more.

Tony was shocked that Bucky had said it. Obviously, he didn’t feel the same, which was okay, they hadn’t been dating for very long, and Bucky was kind of a high maintenance boyfriend. He knew that. Love wasn’t on offer.

Except they were supposed to be dating with intent.

What else was the damn intent, except being in love?

Wasn’t that the whole point of dating? Otherwise everyone would just swipe on Tinder, get their rocks off in the bar’s men’s room, and go on with their lives. The sex life equivalent of the drive through window.

He’s not like that, Bucky protested, the logical part of his brain on the defensive. Denial was the first symptom of a problem, right?

Bucky pulled out his phone and thumbed through his texts. He could just text Tony. Not to be overly clingy or anything, but just--

Just what?

Not to nag him, or ask him if he was upset or--

Yeah, right.

Bucky put his phone away.

Stared at his computer screen. Opened up his programs again, since the reboot was done. Eight unread emails.

He opened an email, read through it. Sighed. Osborne never could follow two step directions. He’d send out an email with six questions, Bucky would go through and answer them all, and then the next email would ask five of the same six questions, because after the first one, Osborne stopped reading. Freaking goblin.

Bucky copied and pasted the answer to the second question and hit reply.

He started counting down from sixty

Eight unread emails.

He thumbed through his texts again.

Hi Tony…

Deleted it.

Stared out the window. His stomach cramped painfully. He should probably eat something.

Nine unread emails.

He walked over to the cafe across the street and stood in line. He went from everyone staring at him to feeling invisible. He was tempted to jump in front of someone, just to see if they moved aside or ploughed right into him.

Got back to work and listlessly picked his sandwich to pieces.

Twelve unread emails. He answered another one of the ones from Osborne, cc’ing him on the emails he’d sent to other teammates. Let someone else notice that Osborne was a tool, and an idiot.

Pulled out his phone. No texts from anyone.

Thumbed down to re-read Tony’s text messages from the other day, all perky and cheerful, suggestive. And nothing today.

Did he do it wrong? Tony had seemed pleased, he’d--

Was Bucky supposed to text first? Was there some sort of etiquette to this?

Hi Tony...

Deleted it, tucked his phone away.

Answered another email. Marked down his hours for the Alchemex project, even though he’d probably only done 10 minutes of actual work. It wasn’t like anyone was going to notice, the Alchemex project would hit another roadblock when it got to filming.

Hell, he could probably blame any tie ups on Networking, they were everyone’s whipping boy.

Bucky shuddered, and his hips and thighs ached.

I love you.

What?

Bucky pulled his phone out again. Pulled up Clint’s contact information. Send me cute pupper pictures

Clint: U need to threaten alpine into behaving?

Just having a down day.

Fifteen unread emails. Bucky opened two of them and tried to read through the contents. Added a meeting to his calendar. Requested more information on a food photography shoot. CC’d that to Steve, who could do some touch ups on the final sets. Food never looked good when you took pictures of it, so there were a lot of touch ups to be done. Steve would appreciate the heads up.

His phone vibrated. Clint had sent a video clip of him throwing a frisbee for Lucky on the roof of his building. The wind caught it and it went over the side. For half a second, Bucky was concerned for Clint’s stupid dog’s safety, but the next set of pictures was Lucky staring down into the alley with great big huge mournful eyes. And then a few pictures of Clint going for the stairs in his building. All fourteen flights of them. The elevator must be out again.

A moment later, it buzzed again, to an assortment of pictures of bunnies in tea cups.

A hamster sitting at a tiny table, eating a turkey carved out of a vegetable.

More, or you better?

Bucky tapped his phone a few times. Told Tony I loved him. Might have been a mistake.

His phone buzzed. Bunnies in party hats.

Wanna hang out and eat pizza?

I’ll bring Truth about Cats and Dogs.

Bucky allowed himself a smile. Clint knew him so damn well. Pizza and nachos.

See you at 6.

Bucky glanced at his computer. Twenty three unread emails.

How the hell did he always end his day further behind than he was before?

Chapter Text

Tony could smell pizza even out in the hall. He looked down at the takeout bag he was carrying, didn’t matter. They could always reheat and eat it later. He had to kick the door rather than knocking, since there wasn’t anywhere to put his stuff down.

From inside Bucky’s apartment, he heard voices. Loud, female voices, that got abruptly louder, and then “shit, shit--” they went mute.

Tony wasn’t quite finished blinking when the door opened.

“Oh, Stark, yeah,” Clint Barton said. He glanced at Tony’s full arms -- take out bag in one hand, flowers tucked under his arm, another bag of various snacks and games -- and gave him a nod. “Good to see you aren’t an asshole. Hang on.”

And he shut the door.

Behind the door, Tony could hear Clint talking, but again, not the specific words.

The door opened again. “He says come on in,” Clint reported.

On the screen, Janeane Garofalo was paused, aggressively threatening Uma Thurman’s boyfriend with her violin’s bow. “Movie night? Am I interrupting?”

Bucky was bundled up on the sofa, face and toes sticking out of the blanket he was swaddled in, hands cupped around a mug of hot chocolate. The crust ends of two pieces of pizza were on the plate in front of him. “No, come in, have a seat, we were just--” He sniffed at the air.

“Cheese fries?” Tony offered, holding up the bag. “Or, looks like you’ve already eaten dinner. I made blueberry scones. Sorry it took me so long to get over here, I got held up at a thing at work, you don’t want to hear about it, very boring, and I-- well, I wanted to make the scones, it’s literally about the only thing I can cook that doesn’t come out of a box. You know how it goes, you get a thing in your head and then you have to do it.”

Maybe he should have come by earlier. Bucky looked like he was having a comfort food night.

But Tony had gotten it into his head that Bucky would be disappointed if Tony didn’t make the scones, and-- even if he never told Bucky he was planning that at all. Brains were weird.

And then Bucky happened to look around, and saw the bundle of flowers Tony had tucked up under one arm. It wasn’t much, just some purplish roses and hyacinths and one orchid. But Bucky smiled like the sun coming up, soft and warm. “Aw, for me?”

“Yeah, just a little something,” Tony deferred, hovering, and the finally putting the bag of food down on the floor. Alpine poked her nose out from under the sofa. “No lillies, although I know you like them. They’re bad for cats, someone told me that.”

“Okay, I changed my mind,” Clint said, relieving Tony of the other bag and digging through it. “Kit Kats and Reese's and gourmet popcorn, Twizzlers? Oh, and a six pack of the expensive Dr. Pepper with the cane sugar in it? You can keep him.”

“So glad I have your approval,” Tony murmured.

Clint looked around the room, made a gesture in Bucky’s direction. “Dude, learn to text,” he said. Then-- “If you don’t need me to stay, I’ll get out of your hair, I know you got some talkin’ to go.”

“It always worries me when Clint acts like a functional adult,” Bucky said. “I feel like I stepped sideways into some alternate dimension.”

“We control the vertical, we control the horizontal. Do not adjust your set,” Tony joked.

“Yeah, go on,” Bucky told Clint. “Thanks for stopping by.”

“No problem,” Clint said. “You get to bail me out, next time.”

Bucky watched as Clint packed up the leftover pizza, stole one of the packs of Reese’s cups, and departed. “You know, with Clint, when he says bail me out, he usually means that literally.”

“So, he’s a wanted man?”

“Someone must want him, I guess,” Bucky said, then gave Tony the side eye. “Sit down. Do you want to watch this, or just jump into the conversation?”

No, Tony did not want to jump into the conversation, but he was sort of scared if he let them settle into watching a movie and eating, they wouldn’t talk, and they kinda needed to talk.

“If I screw this up, your friend will come right back, won’t he?”

“Are you planning to screw it up?” Bucky wondered. “And if you do, who are you going to talk to.”

No one, because he was Tony and when he screwed things up, he usually deserved to sit it out on his own. “Uh, no, I don’t plan to, but I never plan to. Human beings-- well, they’re not machines. If a machine acts weird, there’s usually a piece of broken code somewhere that I can fix.”

“We’re all bits of broken code,” Bucky said, but he turned off the television and shifted on the sofa so that he was facing Tony. “Come on, what’s on your mind?”

“Well, I need good data, so I want to ask you a question,” Tony hedged. “How much do you remember about-- yesterday. After, I mean, not the--”

Bucky gave him a sad little smile. “I told you I loved you, and now you want to know why?”

“Something like that, yes,” Tony said, and the bottom of his stomach went weak and watery.

“I said it because I meant it,” Bucky said. “I mean, it’s not, you know, a bad thing. That’s what we’re shooting for, right? Dating with intent?”

Tony tilted his head a little. That was fair, really. It’s what dating with intent was supposed to be. Seeing if there was something there. “There’s just a lot going on, and I don’t want… you to feel obligated or anything.”

“I don’t,” Bucky said, even as he looked around his apartment. “I mean, I do feel gratitude, but that’s not the-- look, Tony, falling in love, that just happens. You don’t really have any control over it. Being in love… it’s being in love that’s a choice. That’s something you work on every day, and you have to take care of it. Like… a pet, or a garden or something. I mean, you’ll still get flowers if you neglect your garden, but you get weeds, too. Right now-- right now, what we have is a flower. Or a couple of flowers. It’s nice. I like it. I like you. I like spending time with you. And the sex, the sex is great, wouldn’t swap that out.”

“So-- what are you telling me here?”

“I got you flowers?” Bucky said, with a sheepish little grin. “I mean, you don’t gotta say it back, not right now. Or even know if you are or not. I’m just telling you, there’s seeds here.”

“I thought I got you flowers,” Tony said, waving one hand at the vase on the table. “Nice ones, even.”

“Yeah, you did,” Bucky said.

“You know,” Tony said, carefully, “my friend, my best friend, Rhodey-- he’s in the military, I don’t see him as much as I’d like. He tells me I have a tiny heart. No, don’t make that face, he doesn’t mean that I-- don’t have enough room in there for people. He just means that-- well, that I give the whole thing away all the time. I don’t section it out. I don’t do things halfway. I’m either all in, or I’m not in at all.”

“So you try to hold onto it, because people don’t always value it,” Bucky said.

“Yeah, or I lose it all the time,” Tony said. “Like my car keys.” He had to make a joke, because he sometimes couldn’t stand how things got serious, and Bucky was looking at him like it was serious. That’s what he did, Tony deflected, and he joked and he-- “Yeah. But you know, maybe you’d take care of it.”

“I would,” Bucky said, and he reached out and touched Tony’s cheek. “And I will.”

“Oh,” Tony said, and it seemed like that was all he was going to be able to say. His throat closed up and his eyes burned. He wanted to turn his face away so Bucky wouldn’t see him, crying like a little kid because someone said they loved him. This was always how Tony got in trouble, it was always the start of a great big disaster.

He didn’t even realize he’d said that out loud until Bucky said, “Yeah, well, a campfire and a forest fire start the same way. With just a few sparks.”

“Really, no, forest fires start with dry weather conditions and--”

“Pedant,” Bucky accused him, fondly. “I love you.”

Maybe… maybe it would be okay. Statistically speaking, it had to work out eventually, right?

“Yeah,” Tony said, not being able to stop smiling, even though his face ached. “Yeah, love you, too.”