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The Naming of a Puppy

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When Howard had been in a rare pleasant mood while drinking, sometimes he’d tell Tony stories. If Tony sat there, still and quiet, not fidgeting for long enough, it was like Howard started talking half to himself, half to Tony. Almost always, these stories had to do with Captain America and the Howling Commandos. (“Some of the craziest bastards you’d ever seen.”) Tony loved and hated it. So easily during these stories could Howard’s mood change from nice to vicious.

It was the first place Tony heard of Peggy Carter, who could shoot one of Dad’s guns better than half the men in the army and was the smartest woman he’d had the pleasure of meeting.

Nowadays, Tony thought it explained some things. It wasn’t that Howard was in love with Peggy Carter, but he genuinely respected her. He spoke of her with admiration and fondness, when his marriage with Maria was crumbling. (Had been ever since Tony was born, he overheard one of the staff gossiping when he was five and a half.)

Maria’s jealousy was how Tony ended up eventually meeting the infamous Peggy Carter. She was never over often, but the few times she was Maria seemed to think Howard needed a reminder that he had a family, and she’d drag Tony away from whatever he was doing to the room the other two were visiting in.

Within minutes Howard and Maria would leave the room to argue for a bit, Tony forgotten in their wake.

Peggy Carter’s smile was what Tony remembered most. Red and genuine and soft, so like and unlike his mother’s. She’d slip him little candies and ask what it was he was playing with or working on lately, and listen as he babbled.

Tony liked Peggy Carter, rare though their encounters had been. The last time he’d seen her was his parents’ funeral. She’d told him there was no shame in grief and he’d shook her hand and thanked her with an empty, perfectly-faked smile.

He thought that maybe, maybe that was one of the things he regretted from those days the most.

Tony stared down at the puppy, wagging its tail in front of him, and sighed. “Stop it. I haven’t had coffee yet.”

He made his cup, glancing over to check that either Steve or Bucky had already fed her this morning and that the water bowl was still full. He sighed happily as he took that first sip, turning and shuffling down to the lab. It was still rather early, for him, but he’d had trouble sleeping the other night. The puppy trotted along at his heels. As soon as he opened the lab door she rushed ahead to pounce on her ball. He sat at his desk, watching and sipping his coffee as she struggled to keep it in her mouth and carry it over to him.

“You look ridiculous.” Setting his coffee well aside, he stretched down to lift her into his lap. She dropped the ball on the way, tail wiggling rapidly. “Jarvis, pull up last night’s work.” Several screens came up, including one of names. He glanced at them, then down at her, rubbing behind her ears.

It’d been an idea Tony had played around with for almost a week now, part of the reason he thought he’d been having trouble sleeping.

In the weeks since they’d brought the puppy home, some poodle-mix that Steve and Bucky had found at a rescue shelter while Tony was on a business trip in California, they had yet to name her. Thor and Darcy had both offered suggestions, Thor giving crazy names from Norse mythology and Darcy giving the most frou-frou names (including Frou-frou) that she could think of. Steve and Bucky had kept offering cliché names that people gave their pets in the thirties and forties.

Tony had had to save the puppy. Really. They were practically being cruel.

Of course, Tony wasn’t really sure how to go about naming a puppy, so he’d given the task to Jarvis. Jarvis, apparently, had called Pepper. She’d been willing to offer suggestions, talking with Tony on the phone or during lunch breaks at SI for the past week. One suggestion had been Maria and he’d shut that one down hard and fast. Still, it’d gotten him thinking.

People named pets after loved ones, like in their memory and stuff. Hell, they did it to their kids. It was an honor, or so he’d been told, to the past loved one as well as the one now holding the name.

He sighed, looking down at the pup. She’d slumped heavily against his chest. Possibly she was ready for one of those many puppy naps. Steve took her on his run with him, if he wasn’t planning on really letting loose, and usually made sure to at least play with her in the park for a while before coming home.

“It’s a good name,” he murmured. She looked up at him, attentive. “Something old and new, right? Wait, that’s weddings…” Tony sighed. “He loved her. He loves you, it’d be like still having a piece of her. Or something. Another lovely, fierce Peggy.”

Wiggling, the puppy climbed his chest to lick his chin. He grinned, tilting his head back and chuckling.

“Little Peggy the poodle. Ugh.” He made a face. “That’s… I didn’t plan for that. Maybe we should see if we can’t think of something else, huh?”

He didn’t put that much effort into it. The more he thought on it, the more he liked that name. Besides, the puppy also refused to respond to anything else, really, so she obviously agreed with him about it being the perfect fit.

For the rest of the morning, they stayed down in the workshop. After a nap, Peggy either played with Dum-E or curled up in Tony’s lap, nibbling with sharp puppy teeth at the fingers of the hand he wasn’t using to finish designs.

“Sir, Master James and Captain Rogers have returned,” Jarvis announced.

“Awesome.” Tony was actually excited to share the name now. It was a good one and it’d been almost a month since they’d gotten her, the names being tossed around randomly never seeming right. This one did. It was about time, honestly. “Where are they, J?”

“Currently they are in the kitchen with Agent Romanoff, Dr. Foster, and Thor.”

“Come on, Peggy,” Tony called, shutting things down. She ran over from where she’d been playing tug of war with Dum-E. At least the rag was actually a clean one, and Dum-E had been showing excellent restraint in his strength. Tony was proud of the bot.

Scooping her up (and automatically tilting his head so she couldn’t lick all of his face), Tony headed upstairs.

The five in the kitchen were talking, the atmosphere happy and friendly and Tony took a moment to appreciate that. Jane and Thor were in two chairs pushed together, elbows and arms constantly brushing as they ate. Steve was at the stove, serving a fried sandwich onto a plate, while Bucky was bringing two of them to the kitchen bar, where Natasha was in her usual seat.

“So, a name has finally been bestowed,” Tony announced.

“Hey,” Steve greeted. “You hungry?”

“Uh, sure.” He supposed he could eat. He’d not really eaten anything that morning, so it was probably an appropriate time for food. He walked over, watching as Steve put together another sandwich and set it on the pan to fry.

“And what is the name of your young hound?” Thor asked, arm around Jane’s shoulders. She looked interested – hell, even Natasha did.

Tony cuddled the puppy closer, smiling proudly. “Took a while, but… Peggy.”

Steve dropped the spatula.

Even Tony, in all his social ineptitude, knew this was not really the ideal response. It was silent, all eyes on Steve when Tony looked around, kind of hoping for a bit of help here. Nada. He swallowed.

“It’s a good name,” he offered. “I… Steve.”

Without a word, face stony and not once looking at Tony, Steve left. He ducked smoothly out of reach when Tony stretched out a hand. He pulled it back, curling it against his chest and the warm fur there.

“Shit,” Bucky sighed, pushing back his bar stool and tossing down a napkin. He followed after Steve.

Tony looked around, caught the way Thor and Jane were focusing on their mostly finished plates, the pitying look Natasha sent him.

He was shaking.

Turning on his heel, he walked quickly back down to the lab. His heart was going too fast. Air rushed in his ears, and it was like his mind was caught in a loop, Steve ducking away from his touch and leaving and Tony’d somehow fucked up, again.

Shit. Shit, shit, shit.

He pushed in, quickly set Peggy down, and stumbled to the couch. Had to catch his breath. He bent over, clutching his hands together tightly, closed his eyes and focused on breathing. Distantly, he was aware of Peggy whining, claws scrabbling against his legs.

Then she was somehow on the couch, pushing her way into his lap and licking his face.

Tony sank his fingers into her fur, little curls and baby softness and smelling of puppy shampoo. He buried his face in it, hiding watery eyes he refused to admit to. She whined quietly but stayed there, still and occasionally sweetly licking whatever part of him she could reach.

It took several minutes for Tony to calm down, but when he did exhaustion slammed straight into him. He shifted, curling up on the couch with Peggy held close. “Jarvis?” His voice stuck, throat too thick and tongue clumsy. He drew in a deep, if shaky, breath.

“Yes, Sir?”

“Dim the lights.” He hesitated, then added, “And lockdown, please.”

“Yes, Sir.” Soon there was nothing more than the dim orange glow of the lights along the far walls, the glass of the door turning black and solid – enough so that even super soldiers had a hard time getting a good view, and others had no view.

He’d have to go upstairs soon, make sure Peggy ate; he didn’t have food down here for her. If he thought she’d actually go upstairs, he’d just set her outside later, but Tony wasn’t all that sure she’d make it up the stairs, let alone that she’d actually leave his door.

He’d deal with it later. Right then he just wanted to… rest.

Not think.

Peggy was warm. It was comforting.

He closed his eyes and tucked his face into her fur again.

 

“Hey, wake up sleepy.”

Tony made an annoyed noise, swiping blindly at the disturbance, and heard a soft laugh. A warm hand curled around his, brushing lips over the knuckles.

“Come on, Tony.”

He hummed a disagreement, starting to twist away until he realized the warm weight against the front of his chest was Peggy, the puppy, and he didn’t want to chance hurting her as he flailed around to face the back of the couch. What if he accidentally pushed her off?

Groaning, resigned, he peeled his eyes open. Peggy was still sleeping, little body rising and falling with her breaths and looking unfairly adorable.

Next thing Tony saw was Bucky, looking pretty exhausted himself, smiling faintly and still holding onto his hand.

“Hey. You know, when I saw you were in lockdown I was worried for a second.” He offered a half-hearted grin. “Didn’t realize you just didn’t want anyone to see you taking a nap with a puppy. It’s pretty adorable. Your badass image would be ruined.”

Tony yawned. “Shut up Barnes.” He blinked blearily a few more times, arching and stretching his back. “Time is it?”

“Almost six. She’s gonna be demanding dinner soon.”

Tony hummed agreement.

It didn’t escape his notice Bucky wasn’t calling her Peggy.

Whatever peace he’d managed to gather back to himself vanished, and he pulled his hand away and got up, heading for his worktable and leaving Bucky crouched in front of the couch. “Go ahead and take her upstairs. I have stuff I meant to finish, wasn’t planning on a nap.” True, all of it true.

“Tony-“

“I’m not kidding, I actually told Pepper to expect this draft today and if it’s six that means I probably have like five messages from her threatening bodily harm, so.”

“You need to come upstairs and eat too,” Bucky scolded, appearing at Tony’s shoulder.

“Not hungry.” He really wasn’t. He felt antsy and tired all at once, but he wasn’t hungry and he flinched from the hand Bucky laid on his shoulder.

Bucky mumbled something, Tony didn’t catch what, and then he was pushing Tony’s chair back and turning it to face him. Tony crossed his arms, waited, ready for a good argument that never came because Bucky was… very, very softly placing a kiss on his forehead.

“If I bring something down here for you, will you eat it?”

Tony blinked, thought about it. “Maybe.”

“Close enough,” Bucky sighed, straightening and walking to the couch. He picked their puppy up in his arms and headed for the door, ignoring the sleepy wiggling. “I’ll be back,” he called over his shoulder.

Tony watched him leave from the corner of his eye. “Didn’t you tell him we were in lockdown, J?”

“I did, Sir,” Jarvis responded primly. “It appears that Master James’ has realized that his code works even then.”

Why Tony had thought that was a good idea to set up, he had no idea. He toyed briefly with the idea of fixing it, but…

Yeah, no. Bucky could and should get in whenever he wanted. Tony had known what he was doing when he did it; no reason to change things now. No good reason. Changing it would be a pretty big thing to not-say, and it wasn’t an idea Tony wanted Bucky getting. Even if at the moment it felt safer to lock himself completely away.

“Established that’s a bad idea, Stark,” he muttered, pulling up the draft he’d told Pepper to expect – not that she needed it till Thursday. He sighed, rubbing a hand over his face before straightening and getting to work.

A sharp bark startled him from it sometime – an hour, a glance at the time revealed – later. Bucky was carting an eagerly squirming Peggy towards him, a plate of food balanced in his other hand. He bent over to set Peggy down and she darted to Tony, hopping at his legs and trying to jump into his lap.

He picked her up.

“You’re gonna spoil her,” Bucky noted, sounding amused. “You said you didn’t even want a dog.”

Tony shrugged. She tried licking his face, but he was getting good at ducking out of range now, and scratches behind her ear usually distracted her. Bucky watched with a strange look on his face. Tony turned back to the draft, adding some last touches with one hand, the other curled tight around Peggy.

“She-“

“You can change the name,” he snapped, tensing.

“What?” Bucky sounded startled. Tony chanced a glance, mouth set in a tight line.

“You don’t have to call her Peggy,” he said in a relatively even tone. She perked up at the name, wiggling a bit. “Name her something else. I don’t care-“

“Hey.” Bucky’s voice was warningly sharp. “I get you’re upset but don’t pull that ‘don’t care’ crap-“

“It’s just a name.” Tony made an irritated sound. “Whatever, I suck at naming things. I mean look, my first bot’s called Dum-E, I get it. Should have listened to Pepper’s suggestions instead of thinking of my own. I’ll send you the list, you can go over them with Steve-“

“Tony, he’ll-“

“-and we can forget this whole thing ever happened-“

“Tony, stop it.”

“Stop what?” He looked around, gestured with his free hand. “I’m not doing anything, I’m just-“

“Tony,” Bucky’s voice raised.

Tony took a breath to start yelling back until he realized Peggy was still, except for a small trembling.

He looked down and felt a swell of guilt.

Carefully, he set her down on the floor. She curled up behind his feet, under the desk, and Tony buried his face in his hands, leaning over his desk.

“Listen,” he said. He tried to keep his voice calm and easy. “I fucked up, I get it. Just change it to something-“

“It’s a good name.” Bucky’s voice was firm, if also softer than it had gotten. He leaned a hip against Tony’s desk, arms folded and looking down at him. “Peggy Carter was a good woman.”

“I know,” Tony muttered, deciding he didn’t feel up to explaining when he saw Bucky’s questioning look. It’d mean talking about Howard, and Tony really wasn’t up for that. Not after today.

“Look, Tony, Steve’s upset and maybe you could have broken it to him a little smoother, but… it’s a good name. He’ll work it out in his head and be fine.”

“I just…” Tony trailed off, suddenly wanting to explain. “Pepper suggested Maria – I, I didn’t, I don’t… but, but Peggy was important, and Steve loved her, I know that, so I thought maybe it’d be nice….”

Bucky’s hand was warm on his shoulder, comforting when it slipped around to wrap around his neck and tug him forward. Tony buried his face against Bucky’s stomach, hands holding his shirt tightly.

“You didn’t fuck up, Tony. You just… might have done well to think that one through a little more.”

“Yeah.” He sighed. He was still exhausted.

“Bed?”

Tony nodded, let Bucky urge him to his feet and out of the lab. He bent over to scoop Peggy into the crook of one arm, the other going back to Tony’s neck and directing him up the stairs. He dropped Tony off at their room, leaving him to get ready, and delivered Peggy to her bed in the living room. She whined a bit until he stroked her for a few minutes. When she was settled, he went back to Tony.

Tony was standing in the middle of their room staring blankly at their bed.

Bucky sighed heavily and dragged himself together for just a little longer. He all but manhandled Tony into changing out of his clothes (he only bothered working him into a t-shirt, it was easier) and into the bed, pulling the blankets up and over them. He wrapped an arm tight around Tony, pulling him firmly back.

“Where is he?”

Tony’s voice was quiet, vulnerable, and Bucky swallowed back a curse. The entire day had gone FUBAR, and he was struggling to keep it from completely crashing and burning. He was tired, he was feeling raw himself, but he refused to take it out on Tony. He almost had earlier.

“He’s been on his floor all day,” he admitted. “It’s fine Tony.”

“He hates sleeping alone.”

“Tony,” Bucky sighed.

“You can go-“

“Shut up and sleep Tony.”

Tony quieted, but Bucky knew that meant nothing. A few minutes later, Tony shifted, curling up inwards and latching onto Bucky’s hand around his waist. “’M sorry.”

Bucky kissed the back of Tony’s neck, hushing him. “You did nothing wrong, Tony. Get some sleep. Things’ll be better tomorrow.”

 

Things were not better tomorrow.

Every other week or so, as many of them as was free got together to a movie night. It had started as a way to catch Bucky and Steve up on popular culture, as well as a way to get to know each other. They’d order take-out, make drinks and snacks, sprawl out in the living room, and switch off on whose turn it was to pick the movie.

In time, it’d grown to include the people involved in their lives. Pepper sometimes came, and if Rhodey was on leave he’d likely be there. Sam wasn’t an uncommon sight, lounging around with a beer and a quick smile. Thor brought Jane, Clint brought Phil, Darcy… Tony wasn’t sure if Darcy came with Thor and Jane or if she came with Natasha really. He’d ask her except he was sure she’d laugh and not actually answer him so it’d be a waste of time.
This week was Phil’s choice. Tony used Jarvis to cheat and figure out which movie they were watching before he came out of the workshop (it was The Three Musketeers) and also to see if Steve was in a better mood because Tony had no problems admitting he was nervous about that. He hadn’t seen Steve since the other afternoon.

Steve was apparently showing all signs of being in a good mood, joking with the others, vitals in acceptable regions. Tony glanced down at Peggy, hesitating. He couldn’t leave her alone down here, he didn’t feel right shutting her in another room, and… And Steve would have to suck it up sometime. He and Bucky were the ones that had wanted a puppy.

He picked her up and carried her to the living room, taking a deep breath and plastering on a smile.

Natasha was arguing with Clint over something, it looked like the take-out menu. Phil was ignoring them and making the call. Bucky saw Tony and smiled, going back to listening to Bruce and Jane talk science. Thor and Steve were discussing something in low voices. Darcy was the one to actually comment on Tony appearing.

“Hey, puppy!” She held out her hands. So maybe she was more interested in Peggy than Tony.

“Hell no, you are not corrupting her,” Tony said, like he had last time she’d been over. He ignored Darcy’s pout for all of three minutes, which really was an improvement. In the end, it was the lesser of two evils, because Steve wasn’t looking at him.

With a sigh, Tony passed her over.

“Aren’t you a cutie,” Darcy cooed. “Hey, maybe you should name her-“

“Man of Iron has come up with a fine name for the young hound,” Thor said, cutting Darcy off. His voice was quiet and firm and Tony dared a glance over. Thor smiled at him. “Lady Natasha explained to me Lady Peggy Carter’s contributions to your world. It is a worthy name.”

Tony smiled, just a bit, and Thor nodded serenely. Darcy looked interested, eying the puppy. “Peggy? Yeah, I guess she looks like a Peggy.” She rolled the puppy over and started rubbing her belly.

Tony was just starting to relax, because no one was making a big deal of it and Steve wasn’t freaking out this time. Darcy was asking Natasha to tell her about Peggy, and Clint and Phil were both adding to the stories with things they had heard. Some of them were hilarious, because Tony was like eighty percent sure his dad had done no such thing. He searched out Bucky on the other side of the room, wondering if he could get him to come sit next to him and-

Steve left.

Again.

Tony stared after him. Carefully, he drew in a breath. His eyes caught Bucky’s, and Bucky looked torn, staring between where Steve had left and where Tony was sitting.

He tilted his head, sending him after Steve. It was Tony’s fault.

Bucky got that stubborn look on his face. He came over to Tony, leaning down and kissing him right on the mouth in front of everyone. It wasn’t that Tony had a problem with it, but usually Steve and Bucky were more circumspect around the others. He had no idea if it was some leftover thing from their time or if it was just how they were. From the stories Tony remembered his dad telling, Bucky Barnes was not shy about PDA.

Of course, Bucky Barnes then hadn’t been forcefully turned into a weapon, so what did Howard’s stories matter.

Except that Bucky was still kissing him.

Clint whistled then cut off with a loud “Ow!”

When Bucky did finally pull back, Tony was flushed and breathless. “I’ll be right back, alright?” Tony nodded dumbly, eyes following Bucky as he left after Steve.

Darcy made a pleased sound next to him and his eyes snapped over. She grinned.

It was kind of hard not to grin back. Tony liked Darcy.

He pushed it all to the back of his mind, focusing on talking with Darcy about what had been happening at the office this week. (Coulson and Hill had been working together for a while now to put SHIELD back together, and Tony was glad to have that once more off his plate.) He swore that some of these situations only Darcy could get into, they were both great and horrible. All his friends kept trying to get themselves killed, and seeing as he’d never had this many before, Tony would prefer they all stay alive.

He already had a few ideas for the next gadget he could make Darcy.

He didn’t expect Bucky to actually come back. So when he settled at Tony’s side, throwing an arm over his shoulders, Tony started a bit. Part of him wanted to ask, but Tony decided after a glance that he wasn’t going to. Bucky’s eyes were tight around the corners, his breathing purposefully steady.

Tony didn’t want to know if they’d been fighting, especially if it had to do with him.

Peggy crawled out of Darcy’s lap and dropped into the small space between Tony’s and Bucky’s thighs. Tony immediately ran a hand along her back, the same way he did when Dum-E or another of the bots were nearby, except if she were hurt he’d not be able to fix it. He frowned.

“Relax,” Bucky murmured into his ear. His thumb rubbed firmly against the side of Tony’s neck.

The take-out arrived, the movie was started, and Tony did somehow manage to lose himself in this weird sense of family. It’d been a while and it sometimes still felt new and overwhelming, but in a good way. Darcy fell asleep against Natasha’s shoulder, Bruce dozed off halfway through the movie like usual. Jane and Thor cuddled in their armchair, Phil and Clint talked quietly to one another.

It wasn’t quite right, because there was no Steve and Tony felt his absence too acutely. But Bucky’s thumb kept up a steady pressure, and Peggy was a warm sleepy weight between them. So it was almost good enough.

 

It was two more days and a complete accident that finally resolved things.

Steve still hadn’t returned to their bed, and Tony refused to go back to it after the third night. It only made him feel worse, he’d rather work himself to exhaustion and sleep on his couch. This in turn made Bucky irritable, which Tony felt bad about, he did, but really, how was he supposed to get into his bed every night knowing that Steve should be there and wasn’t because of Tony.

Steve hadn’t been taking Peggy out during his morning runs, but Bucky had been making sure to take her out, and Tony had even made sure to take some time to get on the floor of the lab and play with her himself. He wasn’t sure if he was doing it right, but Jarvis had told him that there was no exact way to play with a puppy, so long as he wasn’t hurting the dog.

Tony was very careful not to hurt Peggy when he wrestled around with her, his hands getting nibbled and clawed lightly as he rolled her to her back only for her to spring back at him again.

It was almost six in the morning and Tony had been up all night, unable to sleep. Peggy was in the lab with him. She had been sleeping on the couch, because when he’d tried to put her in her bed upstairs she’d started crying.

He was so weak. It was a good thing he didn’t have kids because he’d probably cave to the slightest sign of a tear and spoil them and it wouldn’t end well.
Rhodey had laughed when Tony told him that, having called him before midnight because Tony was trying to do better. He hadn’t touched any alcohol during this whole thing, even if he really wanted to sometimes. He was kind of proud of himself for that.

Peggy whined and looked over at Tony from where she sat pitifully by the door.

Sighing, Tony got up, grimacing as he stretched the kinks out of his back. “Alright. Fine. I could go for another cup of coffee. Maybe a bagel.”

She ran ahead of him to the stairs, trying to make her way up them with minimal success. Tony picked her up and carried her up them, setting her back on the floor once he reached the top. She rushed ahead, claws clicking on the floor, and Tony fought off a yawn as he followed behind. He should probably take a shower while he was up here, change into clothes not covered in engine grease.

Tony went straight to the coffee machine, absently noting the sound of Peggy happily eating her food, and grabbed his favorite mug.

It took until he’d actually poured his coffee for him to realize that… he hadn’t put any food in Peggy’s dish.

He stilled, sucked in a breath, and hoped it was Bucky looking at him sternly from the table.

No luck.

Steve stood on the other side of the kitchen, shoulders hunched up around his ears and arms crossed defensively. He stared off to the side at the floor, away from Peggy. His shirt was already dark with sweat, so either he’d gotten an early start on his run or… he’d been in the gym. Not sleeping either.

Tony’s eyes narrowed and he asked suspiciously, “Are you breaking the gym rules?”

Steve’s shoulders hunched closer to his ears.

He totally was.

“Next time I get lectured about the workshop rules, I am bringing this up,” he muttered, taking a sip of his coffee. As quickly as the petulance had come, it was gone and he sighed. “Sorry,” he muttered.

“For what?” Steve’s voice was a bit hoarse, but when Tony looked at him he was giving Tony that cautiously puzzled look, like he expected a trick. It kind of hurt, because Tony had gotten that look a lot back in the start before their relationship had started, and he only really got it rarely now when he was purposefully being an ass.

“Everything?” he offered.

Steve shook his head with a sigh, and Tony fought to keep his shoulders from tensing up. Peggy finished eating and stretched. Tony watched as she started dashing between Steve and the entry to the hall, almost bouncing and twisting on herself in excitement.

Steve cleared his throat. “I… I could take her for a run.”

Tony nodded silently, watching as Steve cautiously reached for the leash hung above her bowls and going over to click it on her. Before he lost his nerve, Tony decided to just say what he’d been thinking since that first day. What the hell did Bucky know, anyway? It hadn’t gotten better, so Tony was just going to have to fucking do this.

“We don’t have to name her Peggy.” He stared at the floor, even if he could see Steve still and look at him from his peripheral. “I just… I thought.” He swallowed, crossing his arms. “It was stupid, I’m sorry-“

“No.” Steve cleared his throat and sighed. “No, Tony. It’s… it’s a good name. I just…” He shook his head, standing up and coming over. Slowly, giving Tony a chance to step back, he wrapped his arms around him and pulled Tony against his chest. “I wasn’t expecting it. I miss her, and I wasn’t… but it’s, it’s good. Besides, everyone else is already settled on it.”

“Fuck ‘em,” Tony mumbled. “If you-“

“I like it.” Steve’s voice was firm. “I promise, I like it. I just… I had to get used to the idea.”

Tony nodded against Steve’s shirt. “Good,” he said. “Because she refuses to answer to anything else.”

Steve laughed. “Is that so?”

“You two had to pick the stubborn puppy,” Tony said, daring to tease just a bit. It made Steve laugh, chest shaking against Tony, and he relaxed just that little bit more.

“If you tell me you two idiots finally made up, I will make that damn pound cake French toast you both love.”

“We’re good,” Steve said, rubbing a hand up and down Tony’s back, which was nice, but…

“Get baking, Barnes.”

Steve laughed again, even as Bucky playfully grumbled. Pulling away, Steve gestured towards the door. “I’m going for a run, with… Peggy.” He stumbled, just a bit, over the name. “We’ll be back in time for the pound cakes.”

Tony yawned again once Steve was out of sight, hardly startling when Bucky slid an arm around his waist and kissed his neck. “Better now?”

Nodding, Tony turned into Bucky and sagged against him, just for a moment. Then he pulled away. “I’m gonna shower,” he said. “I expect pound cake French toast when I get out. With honey on it.”

Bucky rolled his eyes, waving Tony off and already looking for what he needed. “Alright, alright. Take your coffee with you so you don’t fall asleep halfway there.”

When they all three finally sat down for breakfast together, feet touching absently under the table, Peggy napping in her bed in the living room, things finally felt right again.