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Building Sandcastles

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"Please stay," Bucky asked, but his date just smiled and made excuses before walking out of the room.


"Please stay," Tony muttered, and Pepper sighed sadly before leaving.


"Please stay," Steve begged, but Peggy only looked confused and worried when he started crying.


Tony was dressed in one of his nice suits, straightening it out as he stood and stared at himself in the mirror. It was an important fundraiser, he reminded himself. Showing up would mean more donations, and he had to be responsible, he was trying that now even though Pepper was gone.

Well, not gone, but not here anymore either. He was trying to be good about that too, not make her feel worse. This was hard for both of them, it’d be easier if they could have space for a little while, but they couldn’t, not now.

He sighed and gave himself one more look over, plastered the right grin on his face and told himself to hold it there until he was back in front of this mirror.

Happy would be waiting out front with the car. Pepper had declined, saying she had her own ride (neither Happy nor Tony were particularly happy about it) and Tony expected it to be a quiet drive. Things were stiff between him and Happy as well, and if Tony was right about why they would be for a while.

"Sir," JARVIS said. "There is a situation that requires your attention in the lobby."

"Way to be cryptic J," Tony said, almost losing the smile. He fixed it back in place, checking with a glance in the reflective surface of the elevator. "Mind specifying?"

"There are three persons-" The elevator doors opened and Tony stepped out, only to pause immediately as they closed silently behind him.


Tony was pretty sure it was Steve, though the scruffy beard and baseball hat and glasses made it a little hard to make out clearly. There really was no mistaking that shoulder-waist ratio though. The man next to him stood like Rhodey did when around superiors, and a quick assessment made Tony almost sure it was the infamous Sam Wilson he’d heard about and seen footage of. He’d called Rhodey about him. Good things only, trustworthy.

Which just left the last person, standing just a bit behind Steve and looking like a somewhat clean hobo.

Tony’s eyes narrowed. “Tell me you did not bring him here.”

"Stark, I-"

"Damn it, Rogers!" Tony twisted to hit the panel for the elevator. JARVIS opened it almost instantly. "You know the kind of people that have been coming by here lately! They’d like nothing more than to get their hands on him. They’re desperate for a scape goat, you think he’s not the perfect target?"

Steve straightened, adopting that look Tony recognized from the helicarrier during that first meeting. “They’re not getting him. I’ll-“

"Hurry the fuck up and get in the damned elevator before someone sees. I still have normal employees you know, and they do watch the news."

Sam Wilson was the one to step forward, and Tony made a note to tell Rhodes that he might like this guy. Steve followed, not touching but definitely guiding James Buchanan Barnes forward as well.

Tony stepped in right behind them and snapped, “Penthouse, J. And scrub any security footage that has clear shots of them.”

"Of course, Sir."

Tony ignored the tension that ran through Barnes, the slight jump of Wilson, and the shifting Rogers did that spoke of something Tony wasn’t versed enough in just yet to understand.

The smile was gone, he noted. Might even be a lost cause. He’d have to drudge up a different one. Maybe aid it with alcohol.

"I’ve got floors set up for the team," Tony said. "But the security level of the penthouse is best, so that’s where we’ll station for now. JARVIS, make sure the workshop is locked down, and-"


"-call Rhodey. Make sure it’s a secure line and that he knows no one can overhear it. He has to know what he’s getting into if we tell him about this, but he’d want to know."

"Of course, Sir. Would you like me to patch the call through to your cell?"

"Nah, he can yell at me when he gets here."

"I’m sure he’ll appreciate the opportunity, Sir."

"Watch it, J," Tony grinned, momentarily distracted.

“Stark.” Steve’s hand closed around his arm and Tony jerked around, pulling it free, to face him. “You need to explain what you’re doing, here.”

"You just brought the most wanted guy on the planet to my Tower, where I’ve started setting up a privatized version of what S.H.I.E.L.D was. I’ve got government officials and reporters and former spies crawling all over the place, desperate to either fuck me over or get in bed with me, and if they catch sight of him-" he pointed at Barnes "-it’ll end well for none of us. So. Keep to the penthouse. It’s secure, JARVIS can help if you need anything. There’s a spare room he can direct you too and I promise the couch is comfortable-"

"Can you look at his arm?"

They all glanced at Wilson, who just raised both brows at them pointedly. “You said he claimed it wasn’t working,” he said to Steve.

Barnes scowled. It was a very Not Nice look, Tony was glad it wasn’t focused on him, but Wilson didn’t seem to care about it.

"Tony Stark is an engineering genius, if anyone can fix it, it would be him."

Tony smirked, inwardly pleased by the recognition. Maria Hill had said the tech of the arm was even better than anything he’d come up with, and that had been plain insulting. He’d be lying if he said he hadn’t been itching to get his hands on it (and studying the hell out of what info there was to be found about it).

"It’d take a few hours, probably. Have to figure out the nuts and bolts, you know, what makes it tick, but I could do it." Tony shrugged. "Can’t tonight, places to go, people to see."

They stepped out onto his floor, and Tony pointed. “Kitchen. Living room. Hallway with bedrooms and bathrooms. Ask JARVIS.”

He turned back into the elevator, worked on getting a new grin in place - this was an old one, he hadn’t used it in a few years, but hell, he had a wanted man in his apartment, the situation worked - and strode across the lobby.

He hit the street and was about to step into the car when Steve appeared in the doorway, breathless.

"Hey - wait, Stark!"

He glanced over, raising a brow. “Jeez, Cap, did you run down all those stairs or something?”

He blushed. “JARVIS… directed me to the other elevators, too.”

Tony shook his head. “What, Cap?”

Steve rubbed a hand over his hair, glancing around uneasily. He had to still be on alert, hadn’t had enough time to come down from being on the run or whatever. Rhodey got like that sometimes during leave.

"It’s just… I don’t know how long I can keep him here," Steve sighed. "He’s… he’s not always steady, you know? And this, it’s unfamiliar and Sam brought up the work on his arm so now he’s just gonna get worked up over it. I… I need help. I need your help."

Tony stared.

"Please stay." Steve sighed, slumping. "Please? I know you probably have somewhere important to be," he added, gesturing at Tony, "but-"

"Alright." Tony stepped away, ignoring Happy’s muttered protest of "Boss!" He stepped over to Steve, hands in his pockets, and let the smile drop again. "What can I do?"

"Look at the arm?" Steve sounded relieved. "I think… I’m hoping if we prove that we’re not gonna do anything like they did, he’ll calm down some."

Tony nodded slowly. “Or it’ll make it worse,” he warned. His fingers tapped at the reactor. “He only talk to you?” he asked suddenly.

Steve shrugged, which Tony took to mean “basically yeah” and nodded to himself. “Alright. This’ll be interesting.” He chuckled, following Steve inside and back to the elevator.

"JARVIS, call Pep and let her know something came up with the Secret Spy Business and I can’t make it. Then order some pizza, only like quadruple the order, I bet Barnes eats as much as Cap does here."

"Tony? Thanks," Steve said.

Tony shrugged. “Didn’t want to go there anyway.”