Bucky didn’t like cuddling.
It wasn’t that he had anything against it, per se, but rather that he just didn’t like it. Getting used to positive human contact was already hard enough. Cuddling was on a whole different level of awkward and confusing and terrifying.
Too bad Tony didn’t seem to care.
Admittedly, it was partly Bucky’s fault. First, for ending up in bed with Tony, and second, for not leaving Tony’s bed.
It wasn’t the first time they’d fucked, but it was the first time Bucky didn’t leave right after.
Bucky didn’t know what to call their relationship. They sat in awkward, forced silence whenever they had to be together. Bucky wasn’t even sure how they ended up fucking, but the sex was good enough for both of them, so they didn’t bother to stop. It at least made Bucky’s arm maintenance bearable, knowing he’d get sex afterwards.
So when Tony clung to him like an octopus when Bucky decided to stay the night, Bucky really didn’t know what to think. He figured it was too late to leave, and it’d be too awkward to push Tony off of him.
Bucky didn’t like cuddling, but he also didn’t like being rude.
At least Tony was warm.
The second time it happened, Bucky expected it. He wasn’t ready for it, but he expected it.
As soon as he turned off the light and pulled the covers over himself, Tony took it as a cue to wrap himself around Bucky and faceplant into Bucky’s shoulder.
“Do you have to do that?” Bucky grumbled, despite the embarrassed flush of his cheeks. “It’s hot.”
Tony made a grunting noise. “My bed, my rules. You wanna stay the night after a quickie, you deal with me.”
Bucky couldn’t help the laugh that escaped him. “We went at it for an hour, and you call that a quickie?”
“Shut up and go to sleep,” Tony grumbled against Bucky’s skin.
Bucky smiled, feeling himself relax a bit. Maybe cuddling wasn’t so bad, otherwise, he wouldn’t have still been there. Cuddling was just cuddling, no matter who it was with.
Bucky didn’t really know how or why, but he ended up sleeping in Tony’s bed even on nights they hadn’t had sex. If Tony wasn’t in bed or even close to going to bed, Bucky would just curl up by himself and sleep surrounded by Tony’s scent.
It was just… nicer. Tony’s room was cooler, his bed was bigger, his blankets were softer. And he had an ungodly amount of pillows.
“You know,” Tony mumbled one night as he climbed in next to Bucky, “I can put a bed just like this one in your room if you want.” He wiggled his way into Bucky’s arms. “So I don’t annoy you when you’re trying to sleep.”
“No.” Bucky was surprised by how quickly he responded. “It’s fine. I don’t… I don’t mind you.”
Tony’s little giggle at that was surprisingly cute. “Keep talking like that Buck, and I’ll think you’re catching feelings.”
Bucky scowled. “I am not.” His tone was defensive.
Tony just hummed. “Goodnight, James.”
Usually, Bucky hated being called that. It was too formal, too pretentious, too foreign.
But god, it sounded nice on Tony’s tongue.
Bucky waited until he was sure Tony was fast asleep. Then he tightened his grip on Tony and pulled him just a bit closer.
Bucky, as it turned out, was not immune to Tony’s cuddles if he wasn’t in Tony’s bed. As he found out the hard way, sprawled out on a couch in the communal living room, reading Good Omens.
The sight of Tony stumbling in with bleary eyes, messy hair, and an oil-stained shirt was… nicer than Bucky imagined it would’ve been. Calling Tony cute was something Bucky definitely wasn’t used to, but it was the first word that came to mind at the sight of it.
Tony took one look at Bucky, mumbled something unintelligible that might’ve been in a different language, and flopped down right onto Bucky’s stomach.
Bucky didn’t even have the chance to protest before Tony was out like a freaking light.
So instead he stared down blankly at Tony’s sleeping form. Tony fell asleep so fast he was in an awkward position, arm hanging off the couch and face smashed down into Bucky’s abs.
He grabbed the throw over the back of the couch. With some awkward readjusting and finagling, Bucky managed to get Tony in a more comfortable position that wouldn’t leave him waking up with killer cramps. He topped it off with the throw blanket over Tony’s bottom half, and the content little sigh that Tony let out in his sleep made Bucky’s heart flutter.
Tony looked downright angelic, curled up against Bucky’s chest. It made Bucky’s heart twist and flutter in ways he hadn’t felt in a long time.
Bucky didn’t understand much about feelings. But staring down at Tony’s sleeping form made him maybe consider Tony’s concept about catching them.
Bucky didn’t look forward to much in life. He was still working on his recovery, and there were good days and bad days.
Today was a bad day.
It was the kind of day where Bucky knew his name, but it felt so distant and wrong, that it might as well have been gibberish in a different language. Nothing about his body or his head felt right, and he’d snapped one too many times at anyone who even looked at him.
So he ended up in Tony’s room. Arms folded, glaring at the wall. It took every ounce of strength to not grab the lamp sitting right next to him and hurl it at the wall.
“Well, you look like shit,” Tony said it as a bland fact as soon as he walked into the room. He slid out of his suit jacket and started to undo his tie. “Wanna fuck?”
Bucky looked at him with a harsh glower. “No.”
Despite the snap in his tone, Bucky wasn’t just saying no because he was angry.
He was saying no because he was afraid. Afraid of hurting Tony if he lost control, afraid of letting Tony see the monster that he laid in bed with.
As much as the anger boiled beneath the surface, it was only a cover for how scared Bucky was of himself.
“Okay,” Tony said. He didn’t sound scared or turned away by Bucky’s anger which was… new. He finished stripping down to an undershirt and boxers. “I’m going to sleep. Is it okay if I touch you, or should we draw a line down the middle of the bed?”
Bucky blinked and turned to face Tony.
Tony had never asked before. Which to be fair, Bucky had never been this close to murdering everyone before, so it was fair.
Still. Having someone ask before touching, ask about boundaries, just ask.
It was different. Even Steve didn’t do that. As hard as Steve tried, he was awful with boundaries. Bucky didn’t blame him, and he’d accepted the behaviour as normal. Understandable.
But Tony was different. Tony asked.
Everything about Tony was different, wasn’t it?
Bucky felt the anger melt away a bit. “It’s okay. We-you can cuddle… if you want.” Heat licked against Bucky’s cheeks, and he ducked his chin.
Tony smiled and shook his head. “You’re so emotionally stunted, it’s kind of cute.” He climbed into bed next to Bucky and yanked him down into the bed to cuddle.
“What does that mean?” Bucky mumbled, turning off the lamp.
“It means you’re a hot mess, but I don’t mind,” Tony yawned and faceplanted into Bucky’s chest. “Now goodnight, James.”
Bucky blinked. “Goodnight, Tony.” He tried to ignore his voice breaking. Tony made a happy noise.
Long after Tony had fallen asleep, Bucky was still staring down at Tony’s sleeping figure, trying to understand what he meant.
He hadn’t gotten anywhere.
Bucky sighed and decided to relent and just go to sleep. Just before he closed his eyes though, he brushed his hand through Tony’s hair and gave him a soft kiss on the forehead.
Feelings were confusing. But at least they felt nice.
Bucky came back from a sparring session with Natasha so late, Tony was already asleep. Late-night sparring with Natasha was probably one of the most therapeutic things Bucky did, outside of actual therapy.
They never expected anything from each other except to put up a good fight. It was freeing.
Bucky wasn’t surprised to find Tony asleep when he crept into Tony’s room. Even insomniac geniuses seemed to have bedtimes.
He was surprised to find himself a bit pouty that Tony had gone to sleep without him, though.
It meant that Tony wouldn’t cuddle into Bucky’s chest and that Bucky couldn’t fall asleep to his gentle breathing against Bucky’s skin.
Sleeping in Tony’s bed was pointless if Bucky couldn’t sleep with Tony in it.
So when Bucky climbed into bed on the other side of where Tony was all curled up, he found himself staring at the ceiling, trying to sleep. It was harder than it should’ve been. He tossed and turned so much, it was a wonder he hadn’t woken Tony up.
The realisation that Bucky could just be the one to cuddle Tony first took him an embarrassingly long time to figure out.
Bucky looked at Tony’s sleeping form. Tony was so gentle, so breakable, it scared Bucky some days. Tony was beautiful, and Bucky was a hot mess.
Well, Tony would probably make some comment about being a hot mess too and how Bucky shouldn’t be so hard on himself with moping. Just the thought made Bucky smile.
With some awkward scooting, Bucky wiggled over to Tony’s side of the bed.
He tried so, so very hard not to wake Tony as he pulled him into Bucky’s arm. He went slow and carefully as if he was working with a bomb.
“What the..” Tony groaned away, rubbing his eyes. “James?”
“Go back to sleep, Tony,” Bucky said, pulling him against his chest.
Tony made a noise. “I thought you didn’t like cuddling.”
“I said go to sleep.”
“Sure thing,” Tony hummed. “We should talk about this in the morning.”
Bucky kissed him on the forehead. “We will. But for now, let me hold you while you sleep.”
Tony’s smile was pressed against Bucky’s collarbone. “Gladly.”