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total hypocrisy

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It's not that "home" gets split between two places - at least, not for him, if only because he's still not sure what the hell the idea means anymore. Knows what it used to mean, knows what it means for other people, but right now places are . . . familiar or they aren't. Safety's complicated, comfort's complicated, most of it's way more tangled up in Steve than in his surroundings and in the end, except for short-hand and because "that place Steve owns that we sleep in most of the time and he keeps renovating because he's kind of a goof actually" is too long for every-day conversation, Bucky lets the concept lie.

Maybe he'll pick it up in a few years. Maybe it'll always be like this. He tries not to think about those kinds of questions too hard. He's got enough bitterness to go around four or five times already. He doesn't need to dwell on things that give him more.

So it's not quite like that, and on some days he can't take the Tower at all, but they still end up with two places that count as theirs, the condo and Steve's floor, aka "proof that either Tony Stark didn't have any friends as a kid or the ones he did were assholes", because Bucky can't think of a clearer case of here, be my friend, I'll get you nice stuff he's ever seen, up to and including Tommy Gillies literally trading candy from his dad's shop for company.

The upside is, the Tower floor is someplace Steve can actually invite people to.

(Technically he could invite them to the condo. Bucky's even said that. And frankly it's a good thing the windows were closed because that ended up in a fight, but it also ended up with Bucky having to admit the idea made his skin crawl or lie outright, and he is . . .trying not to do that. So in the end, people visiting there - beyond Wilson wandering in and out to pick Steve up - isn't something that can really happen.)

And being able to invite people in makes Steve happy, and for that Bucky'll more or less put up with as much as he can; he tries not to think that it's actually kind of nice to have people around anyway, because half the fucking time if he notices something's good, his subconscious fucking loses it and it pretty abruptly isn't anymore, at least for a while.

Company is usually the same, give or take one or two people, depending on where Wilson or Rhodes are just then. How involved or sometimes even how often Bucky's in the same room can vary, and he does his best not to think about how that passes without comment, too.

Someday maybe that twisted up nib of rabid pride, the one that does him no fucking good at all, will get bored and let go. Until then he just works hard to keep it from fucking noticing things.

Tonight isn't bad. If nothing else, Jane Foster with three beers in her is frankly adorable, and Potts is hilarious. The extent to which Stark does not deserve her, Bucky thinks, is honestly only mitigated by the fact that he so obviously knows it.

They start talking about the Battle of New York because of Potts asking about Romanova, which led to Banner remarking that it's honestly a miracle she doesn't hate him, Stark pointing out that nobody could blame him for "going green" (Stark's words) after the helicarrier got attacked, and then Banner wincing as Elizabeth quickly puts down her glass and says, with wide eyes and intoxicated voice, "No it's not even that - you didn't tell them about the first time you met? Oh my god he was so mean!"

"I admitted it was mean!" Banner tries, unsuccessfully, to plead his case. "I said it was mean at the time! And she was lying!" And eventually he has to tell the story, of Romanova paying a kid to get him to Kolkata's outskirts and then him scaring the living shit out of her. Frankly, Bucky figures it's a miracle she likes him, too.

"Yeah, well," Stark says. "I had SHIELD breaking into my elevator. On date night. With homework."

"I don't believe it," Thor says, almost immediately. Tony frowns at him.

"It happened. You were there when I asked if I was the only one who did the reading."

"Oh, I believe Coulson gave you homework," Thor says, his grasp of normal English getting better every day. "I do not believe that anyone from this planet, even SHIELD, possessed or possesses the technology to bypass JARVIS' security. At least not before he kills them."

Tony looks like he's probably going to lie, so Bucky adds, "And I don't believe it either."

Stark glares at him, or "glares" - right now he mostly looks like a pug trying to intimidate. "See, him I could probably bullshit," he says, sourly, "so you're just ruining my fun. Fine, okay, JARVIS had standing instructions not to kill Phil Coulson even if he broke into my elevator. But my date still got trashed and I still had homework. Nobody else had homework."

"I had homework," Steve objects. "We call that kind of thing 'briefing'."

"It wasn't brief," Stark replies. "Besides, your homework was clearly mostly on how to be a grouchy no-fun stick in the mud."

Pepper reaches over and takes his scotch glass away, ignoring the expression of incredibly exaggerated objection. "You can make anyone into a stick in the mud, Tony," she says, and leans over to kiss his cheek in a way that makes it a little unclear whether that's supposed to in- or decrease the rebuke.

Bucky's only half paying attention to that, though, because the minute Stark got halfway through grouchy, Steve suddenly started looking like he'd been caught doing something wrong - funny, even cute, but -

He takes a second to rerun that last sentence of Stark's in his head, while Steve pretends firstly that he's not looking like he's really hoping nobody noticed something and secondly that he's not avoiding Bucky's eye; out loud, Bucky says, "'Grouchy no-fun stick in the mud'?" and Steve winces minutely. "Exploding things to jump out of, and you were no fun?"

"Uh," Steve says. Eloquently.

"Uh, yeah," Stark says, still looking a bit resentful at his missing drink. "Grumps up all into my lab - "

"Fury's lab," Steve says, and when Steve's latching onto completely irrelevant details, odds are the end of the story's going to be hilarious.

" - it was mine for the duration, I mean, mine and his," Stark amends, gesturing to Banner, "but seriously, grumps his way in, are you insane - " and Stark does his best impression of a grouchy old man. Foster's giggling already, although at this point that's not hard; Banner's doing his best I'm not getting involved expression, Elizabeth's covering her mouth and Potts is suppressing a smile.

"He was stabbing Bruce with an electrified tool," Steve says, halfway between defensive and conciliatory. "I had some concerns."

" - you need to focus on the problem!" Stark continues, keeping the voice, "we have orders, we should follow them! No wonder peo - "

And then he stops, because apparently Bucky laughing is enough of a surprise to derail him, and everyone else.

Okay, on consideration, that's probably fair. But that, that is also fucking hilarious. And Steve's turning pink, like he fucking should be, and hiding his face by rubbing his forehead, arms folded and not meeting anyone's gaze.

"Yeah," Steve says. "Well."

"I am fucking amazed Phillips' fucking ghost didn't show up right then and there just to stare at you," Bucky says, knowing that they've left everyone else behind for the moment and really not giving a shit. "What were you - actually, no, wait," he says, stopping whatever answer Steve was about to try to stammer through and pointing at Stark. "What did he do after that?" When Stark blinks at him, he says, "I'm guessing you chased him out of the lab, he's not much use in one. What'd he go do then?"

Stark's still catching up, but Banner says, "Ah, if I recall correctly, he broke into the helicarrier armoury - "

Bucky starts laughing again, because of Steve's face, and Steve gets up and says, "I'm . . .going to go get more beer."

"Not gonna help," Bucky calls after him, and if Steve didn't still spend way too much effort trying not to curse, Bucky knows there'd be a streak of them coming from that direction right now.

Thor's managed to keep up, sort of, and says, "I surmise that this attitude was not characteristic," in a mild voice. Bucky snorts.

"I dunno," he says, dryly, raising his voice so that Steve can't pretend he can't hear. "Other than Basic, which you weren't supposed to be in anyway because you got turned down four times, three of which and the one Erskine rubber stamped lied about who you were - which was a felony - can you remember any order you actually followed Steve?"

He reaches up his right hand to catch the open beer Steve mock-tries to drop on his head, and adds, "And the ones where you told Phillips what we were doing and he wrote out the official orders afterwards don't count."

"I'm not going to answer that," Steve says, pretending that he's trying for dignity.

"You can't," Bucky retorts.

"I stayed with the show," Steve tries, but Bucky snorts.

"First off," he says, "senators can't give orders, second, he was bribing you. Badly, too. Face it, you can't think of one."

Steve shoves his knee.

 

It turns out to be Potts' turn to be the adult and call stop at around one AM, dragging Stark out and giving Thor an excuse to take Foster to bed before she falls asleep on his arm. Elizabeth insists on helping to pick things up before she and Banner go, because that's how she is.

There aren't any words for how infuriating it is that the restless itch settles in under Bucky's skin within less than the time it takes to tidy up, how fast the fucking bill for a couple hours of amusement shows up. And it had been, a few, because giving Steve shit inevitably led to people wanting stories, even if they were too cautious or careful to make demands about them. And there were enough that were funny, good to remember - enough for that.

And now he tries to step on the agitation, to strangle it, ends up with coffee and leaning on the window-frame, one of the windows wide open.

After a bit Steve comes to stand beside him, says, "You're such a jerk."

"You deserved it," Bucky replies, more than willing to be distracted. And amused. "Forget Phillips you're fucking lucky you didn't end up with some kind of fucking angel showing up just to point out you being a hypocrite."

Steve breathes the brief laugh of capitulation. "Yeah, well." His voice turns wry. "You know - " he starts, and then trails off like he hasn't got the rest of the words. Bucky turns his head slightly.

" - you turn into an asshole when you're sad and you can't figure out what to do about it?" he finishes. "And you don't notice you're doing it? Yeah, I know."

Steve doesn't answer for a minute, and then the answer is his arms working their way around Bucky's waist and his face resting in Bucky's shoulder; carefully, Bucky shifts his coffee to his left hand so he can reach his right back to rest on Steve's head.

Sometime soon the part where that grief's still there's going to trip Steve up and land him on his face for a while. Well, the marks are, anyway. Bucky's not the only one of them who has nightmares, his are just more dramatic; his are all over the place, pulling in every fucking thing they can.

Steve's are always the same.

Eventually Steve takes a deep breath and shifts to raise his head and say, "Notice you didn't share that bit."

"Yeah," Bucky says. "Well. I was still here first."