“I’m going to die, sad and alone.”
“Well. That was dramatic,” Rhodey said, blinking down at Tony, who’d just thrown himself on the sofa with his head landing on Rhodey’s lap.
“He’s been like this for days,” Pepper said, following Tony into the room at a more sedate pace. She placed their drinks on the table. “See if you can talk some sense into him, will you.”
“Bold of you to think sense is something this little idiot would ever listen too,” Rhodey replied, stroking his hand through Tony’s hair. “And you, maybe we don’t talk about you dying, huh? Don’t you think you’ve caused me enough grey hairs already?”
“I’m bored of meaningless sex with people who don’t care about me, Honeybear. I’m actually bored! I never thought I’d be bored of sex. If I’m bored of sex, what’s even the point anymore? And not only that but—”
“Slow down right now,” Rhodey said, interrupting Tony working himself into a panicked rant. “And explain to me exactly what the problem is.”
“I want… I want what everyone else has. The… connection. Not just… someone wanting to jump into bed with me just because I’m Tony Stark. ”
“Okay, we can work with that,” Rhodey promised. He helped Tony sit up and handed him the hot chocolate that Pepper had prepared them.
When Tony looked at the mug distrustfully, Pepper snorted. “It’s not poison.”
“It’s not coffee, either.”
“Have you thought about trying online dating?” Rhodey asked, shaking his head as Tony eventually accepted the cup, hugging his smaller friend against his side.
“Isn’t that for losers and people with back hair?”
Rhodey blinked. “What’s wrong with back hair?”
“Nothing if you’re a gorilla.”
Pepper chuckled, eyes twinkling.
Rhodey sighed, a familiar sigh that meant he was just gonna let Tony be Tony. “Gorilla’s aside, it means you could meet someone and let them get to know Tony, instead of Tony Stark.”
“Tony isn’t… smooth,” Tony admitted. “Tony is awkward.”
“Oh, you think you’re smooth now? Do I need to tell you that you’re talking about yourself in third person?”
Tony stuck his tongue out.
“Mature. But seriously, Tones, this could be a way for you to meet someone without all the pressure of living up to your name. Think about it, okay?”
Tony nodded and looked down at his cup. “Can you, uh… help me? I need photos that don’t show my face, because. Well. The only people that don’t have photos are stalkers and axe murderers that are hiding from the police.”
Laughing, Rhodey nodded. “Sure, Tones. We’ll help you.”
“You're giving me a headache. Why are you pushing this so hard?” Bucky demanded, rubbing at his temple. “I don’t need to date, Steve!”
“But it might make you happy!” Steve argued.
“Just because you and Sam—”
“It’s nothing to do with me and Sam.”
“—are bumping uglies, doesn’t mean you’re suddenly a relationship expert!”
“I never said it did, Buck. I’m worried about you, okay? I’m worried that you’re just letting life pass you by. You’ve always been there for me, why won’t you let me return the favour?”
Bucky made the mistake of looking up at Steve’s puppy eyes and he sighed. “What did you have in mind? Because if it’s Nat’s blind dates—”
“It’s not. I was, uh, actually thinking online dating. You know, you can get to know someone without any pressure and then… I guess meet them whenever you’re ready.”
“What kind of a loser do you think I am?”
“The kind that is going to make a profile now, or I’ll do it for you. Pretty sure you don’t want any prospective dates knowing about that one time in central park when you—”
“Alright, alright, Christ, Stevie. You’re a pain in my ass, you know that right?”
The photographs were masterfully done, Tony had to admit. They didn’t show his face, but they showed enough of him that he didn’t seem like he was gonna be a nutter with an axe.
He really should stop watching horror movies.
“Miss Potts is threatening to place a curfew on you, if you don’t retire soon, Sir,” JARVIS relayed.
Tony snorted. “I’d like to see her try. Um. Probably don’t tell her that I said that. Tell her I’m done with work for the night, and I’ll be going to bed soon, okay?”
“Of course, Sir.”
Tony slid his thumb along the screen, scrolling through profiles. None of them caught his interest, until he came across a man in army fatigues. He was handsome, dark hair, dark eyes and well built, though not overly so.
He was the first person that Tony had done more than pass straight over. He clicked on the picture, and scrolled down to the written profile.
Not a real name, then. Probably initials, though that didn’t tell Tony anything. There were probably a million people with those initials.
Likes: Old movies, older music, and time in the gym.
Tony snorted and continued reading.
Looking for: A connection. Something real. Tangible. If you’re just looking for a shag, look elsewhere.
Wasn’t that what Tony had said he wanted? A connection with someone?
Deciding that it was worth taking the chance, he clicked on the button for direct messaging, and typed a sentence in. Deleted it. Then typed another and sent it.
Now he should probably sleep, or Pepper really would put him on a curfew.
Bucky’s phone vibrated in his pocket and he groaned. It was probably Steve, asking him if he’d been on the website yet. He hadn’t, but he really didn’t want to disappoint his friend.
He still couldn’t believe he’d let Steve guilt him into it in the first place.
He shifted on the sofa to pull his phone from his jeans, and then frowned when he realised it wasn’t from Steve at all, but the app for the dating site he’d signed up too.
Opening it, he read the message and snorted.
Tony: Isn’t today’s music just a big old bag of donkey shit?
That was… certainly an opening, and it proved that Tony hadn’t only looked at his pictures. He pressed the reply button.
JBB: You mean you still call it music? Just sounds like noise to me.
Tony: Oh, wow, you messaged back. I… wasn’t expecting that. Hi.
JBB: Is that not the idea of this? Was I supposed to play hard to get?
Tony: I’ve got no idea. The only conversations I’ve had so far is to tell people to fuck off when they asked for dick pics.
JBB: Wow, that’s a real thing?
Tony: Apparently. I wouldn’t mind, but a monkey would have done a better job of photoshopping the one that got sent to me. Not sure the guy was impressed when I asked what he was compensating for though.
Laughing, Bucky shook his head. This guy was definitely something.
Tony: So… I’m your first?
JBB: You are.
Tony: I don’t know if that’s good or bad. Like… I like that I’m your first because… well. For reasons. But also, you might go looking for better for reasons also. Because like… my first time wasn’t great and
Tony: Shit, I didn’t mean to press send
Tony: I meant to delete that
JBB: BRB, after I’m done dying of laughter.
Tony: Laughter is good right?
JBB: Laughter is good.
JBB: Are you always such a disaster?
Tony: I really wanna say no, but like, Pepper said I should be honest and let people get to know me so… yes.
Tony: My friend.
Tony: Best friend.
Tony: … Um. She’s basically my keeper.
JBB: Ah. Fair enough. Well… I agree with her, for the record. Disaster you is great.
“You know that you’re supposed to be in there, talking to people, right?”
Tony jumped, almost enough to drop his phone over the balcony. He turned to glare at Pepper, but softened when he realised she’d brought him a plate of snacks.
“Were you talking to JB again?”
He nodded. “Yeah. He’s… he’s really great, Pep.”
“You certainly talk to him enough,” she agreed. “It’s been what, six weeks for you guys now?”
“Uh huh. I really like him. Makes me nervous. I’ve never really liked someone before. How do people function like this all the time?”
“You get used to it. Have you thought about meeting him? Like, in real life?”
Tony shrugged. “I want to but he hasn’t said anything. I don’t want to push, you know?”
“Can’t hurt to ask, can it?”
“I don’t know,” Tony admitted. “I’ll wait a while longer, see if he brings it up. If he doesn’t want to… I don’t want to lose him. I like him, Pep.”
“I know, Sweetheart. I’m gonna have to be the meanie and have you come back inside in a few though, okay? People have noticed you disappeared.”
He nodded and smiled. “I’ll be in in a sec, Pep, promise. Just gonna tell him, kay? Don’t want him to think I’m ghosting.”
She smiled. “You're adorable and I love you. Time to be Tony Stark for a few more hours though.”
He watched her go and turned back to his phone. He’d realised, since talking to JB, that Tony was much better than Tony Stark.
It just… wasn’t what most people wanted from him.
But that was fine. JB liked Tony. That was enough.
“Oh my god, Buck, put your phone away. I know you told Tony you were out with us tonight, because I saw the messages!”
Bucky rolled his eyes at Steve, but put his phone in his pocket. Steve was right, of course. That was the reason Tony hadn’t messaged him that evening.
“You’re such a lovesick puppy,” Nat said, shaking her head. “And you haven’t even met him yet. God, you’re going to be disgusting, aren’t you?”
Bucky snorted. “Bold of you to assume he’ll like me if we ever meet up.”
Clint rolled his eyes. “At least get pissed before you get maudlin, Barnes.”
Bucky threw a beermat at his friend. “Just cause you don’t ever get to know anyone past a quick, dirty fuck in an alley—”
“Feelings are like your mother’s breasts,” Clint said, shrugging. “You know they’re there, but they’re better left unfelt. I like to keep it that way, thank you very much.”
Bucky stared at him for a long moment, and then realised the others were doing the same thing.
“What?” Clint asked.
“Just… Wow, man,” Sam said, shaking his head. “I am entirely too sober to talk to you right now. Anyone for another round?”
They all agreed quickly. Natasha changed the subject, still shaking her head at Clint, and Bucky felt his phone vibrate in his pocket.
Tony had hit a roadblock and he just… couldn’t look at his screens anymore. “Shut it down, J.”
“Yes, sir,” the AI replied, the screens locking into their save mode for a moment before they all disappeared. Tony grabbed his phone from the desk and left the workshop, wandering up to the living room.
He knew he should probably eat, and because Pepper was the bestest, she’d left him some chinese in the fridge. Tony warmed it up, spinning his phone between his fingers for a moment, before he opened up his chat with JB.
Tony: I know you’re out with your friends, so don’t feel like you need to answer this.
Tony: I’m just waiting for my food to warm up and thought I’d see if you were having a good night.
Tony: But I suppose if you’re having a good night, then you definitely won’t answer me and then I’ll have my answer and you can gimme all the dirty details tomorrow.
JBB: Save me from my friends. They’re a bunch of assholes.
Tony: Not sure if that says a lot about you or them.
JBB: They’re giving me shit about being a lovesick puppy.
Tony blinked at the message as he took his food from the microwave and crossed through to the lounge, sprawling out on the sofa.
JARVIS started the television up, a movie Tony had mentioned he wanted to see a couple of days ago. All the while, Tony couldn’t take his eyes from JB’s last text.
Tony: You told your friends about me?
JBB: Was that… wrong? Should I not have?
Tony: No, no, it’s… good. Just unexpected, I guess.
JBB: Your friends don’t know about me?
Tony: They do. Pep and my Honeybear and Happy. They tease me about you relentlessly.
Tony: People just… don’t usually tell their friends about me, I guess.
JBB: Aww, Doll, you’re hurting my heart. Anyone who didn’t shout about you from the rooftops is a fucking moron.
Tony: You’re making me blush, stoppit.
JBB: I bet it’s a pretty blush. How far down does it go?
Tony: I just missed my mouth and got Chinese all over my t-shirt.
JBB: Okay, I’m sorry, I’ll behave. Are you having a good evening?
Tony: Eh. Couldn’t concentrate on work, so I’m gonna watch a movie.
JBB: You should get some sleep. I know you haven’t been getting much of it lately.
Tony: Okay, Mom.
JBB: If you heard what Clint said a little while ago, you’d realise why I just full body shivered.
Tony: Well you can’t just leave me in suspense. What did he say?
JBB: ‘Feelings are like your mother’s breasts. You know they’re there, but they’re better left unfelt.’
Tony: … Wow
Tony: Your friends are worse than mine. That’s amazing.
JBB: You’re going to be awful if you meet them, aren’t you?
Tony: ... Is that something that you’re willing to do. I mean. Are you ready to… meet me?
Tony: Because I’m ready for that. I’m so ready, JB.
Tony sat and looked at his phone for a long moment, waiting for the reply to come. Except it didn’t. Had he pushed too far too fast? Suddenly not hungry, Tony put the lo mein container on the table beside the sofa and flopped back, his phone on his chest.
He closed his eyes, waiting for the vibration from his phone that never came. He drifted off, wondering if he’d just fucked up the first relationship he’d ever had before it had even started.
When he woke up, hours later, it was to see that JB had replied, only an hour after Tony had fallen asleep.
JBB: I’m sorry, Tony. I’m not ready for that. I don’t know if I ever will be.
“I mean, I guess things are fine,” Bucky shrugged. “Back to normal even. I just feel really bad, you know?”
Steve sighed. “I still don’t understand why you told him no, Buck. This Tony has made you happier than you’ve been in years.”
Bucky shook his head. “He only sees the good in me, Steve. He only sees what I want him to see. It’s not the same as being around me, is it? The pictures I put up on the website… they were before my tour. Before this.”
He lifted his metal arm.
“Your arm doesn’t change you,” Steve said softly. “In fact, it only shows how strong you are. I’ve told you that before, haven’t I?”
“I didn’t believe you then, either.”
“Look,” Steve said, sitting down beside him. “You meet the guy, and this makes a difference, then at least you know now. If you drag this on for much longer, it’s going to hurt so much worse in the long run if you realise that he isn’t right for you. Stalling like this isn’t going to make it any easier. Isn’t it better to know now?”
“I… I don’t want to lose what we have now.”
“You’ve got to ask yourself if being with him, really being with him, is worth taking the chance, Buck. And if it’s not… why are you wasting either of your time?”
“I’ll be there, Pep! You don’t need to babysit me, you know!” Tony exclaimed, throwing his hands up in the air when she only tapped her foot against the floor and arched her eyebrow pointedly. “Fine, fine, I’ll come with you now. Slavedriver.”
“You’ll be thanking me later, when you’re not late for the meeting and don’t have the board members giving you grief.”
“Bold of you to assume they won’t find something else to shout at me for,” Tony replied, taking his phone from his pocket as the two of them stepped into the elevator. He’d felt it vibrate a few minutes previous, but he’d been too occupied by being told off by Pepper to check it.
JBB: So… my friend Steve thinks I’m being an idiot and should just meet up with you.
Tony blinked at the screen. “Uh. Pep?”
“Am I reading that correctly?” he asked, holding the screen up for her to see. She read the message and slowly, a smile appeared on her face.
“I believe you are, yes. Oh, Tony, he wants to meet you!”
“I mean. He didn’t say that. Just that his friend thinks he’s an idiot.”
“He is being an idiot, I already like Steve,” Pepper said, grinning. “But that definitely is a step in the right direction.”
“Yeah. Yeah, I guess it is.”
Tony: So does that mean you… want too? Meet me that is. Unless you want to keep being an idiot.
Tony: Not that I think you’re an idiot.
Tony: Why do I never use my delete button. Moments like this is why it was invented, Dear Lord.
Pepper, reading over his shoulder, took a moment to kiss his cheek. “It’s a good job you’re hot, Tones. Come on, the meeting is going to start in ten minutes, and it’ll look better if we arrive first.”
Tony followed behind her, still tapping at his screen.
JBB: I guess it means I’m ready to stop being an idiot. Nervous though.
Tony: Me too. Nervous. Shouldn’t be though. We’ve been talking for over two months now. Pretty sure you’re not gonna axe murder me.
Tony: You’re not, right?
JBB: I’m offended you think I’d be so cliche as to use an axe. That’s so nineties slasher movie.
Tony: Nineties slasher movies are the best, you heathen!
JBB: Should I be worried that you’re going to turn up with the scream mask on or something?
Tony snorted, and then looked down when Pepper glared at him. The board members were taking their seats around the table and Tony pretended to be interested in greeting them, even with one eye still on his phone.
Tony: I’m not completely cliched. I’ll wait until at least the third date to try bringing kinky shit in.
JBB: So confident we’ll last longer than the first.
JBB: Restaurant then? I don’t suppose a movie theatre would be great the first time, given the dark and all.
Tony: There’s a lot to be said about the darkness in a movie theatre, but yeah. Restaurant for the first time. I, uh. You’re not confident we’ll last past one date?
JBB: I’m just teasin’, Doll. You know how much I like you. I don’t imagine that’ll change when we meet. Just… nervous. Like I said.
Tony: Kay. I’ll book a restaurant for. Um. Thursday? Is that too soon? And send you the details.
JBB: Thursday is fine.
JBB: So, should I tell you what I’m wearing, so you can find me in the restaurant?
Tony: Feel free to tell me what you’re wearing anytime :P but no, I’ll sort it. Just tell the maitre d that you’re there to meet Tony, kay?
JBB: Um. Sure. And I’m wearing jeans and a shirt, you perv.
Tony: Boring. Lose them and be naked so my imagination can have some fun.
JBB: I’m in the supermarket. I’ll get arrested.
Tony: I can always find a police costume, if you’re into that. I’m not a judgy judge.
JBB: You’re terrible. I’ll text you later?
Tony: I’ll be here, hot stuff.
Tony put his phone down on the table and looked up, only to find the entire board of directors staring at him with varying levels of irritation and amusement on their faces.
“Now that our CEO has decided to pay attention—”
Tony looked at Pepper and mouthed, “oops?”
She rolled her eyes at him and looked pointedly at the person currently speaking. Tony did the same, though honestly, when he left the meeting, the only information that he’d retained was that he was finally going to meet JB.
“Have you told him about your arm?” Steve asked, glancing at the metal arm.
Bucky shook his head mutely, looking away.
“Hey. If he thinks less of you because of it, then he’s a jerk that doesn’t deserve you anyway, okay? And if he’s as great as you say he is… he’ll love you regardless, okay?”
“Yeah. I… do you think I should have told him?”
“Well, I mean. It’s a bit catfish-y, isn’t it?”
Natasha, still sprawled on Bucky’s bed, snorted. “Have you been watching shit daytime tv again, Steve.”
“Hey! It’s a good show! I like it when the people are who they say they are.”
“But… I am who I say I am,” Bucky said, his brow furrowing.
Natasha nodded and threw a pillow at Steve. “He is. Besides, this guy could be a catfish himself. Are you sure you don’t want Clint and I to stake the place out, Bucky?”
“No. Absolutely do not do that,” Bucky demanded, glaring at her. “If you chase him off—”
“Breathe, Buck. Tash isn’t gonna stake the place. We’re all having a movie night here, and we’ll be waiting for you when you get back and you can tell us all about it.”
“That sounds like a threat, Steve. Was it supposed to be one, because it sounded like one. Why are you threatening me?”
Steve cuffed his head and rolled his eyes, and then reached up to straighten the forest green knitted scarf around Bucky’s neck. “You look great, and it’s gonna be great. You’ve been talking to him for months, you know him, he knows you. It’ll be fine.”
Bucky checked his appearance in the mirror one last time and then nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, it’s gonna be fine.”
“Holy fuck, why did I suggest this?” Tony despaired. “I’m a nervous wreck. This is ridiculous. I should call it off, right? Tell him I’m busy or—”
“Hush,” Pepper said, straightening Tony’s navy blue jacket. “You’re gonna be fine, he’s the love of your life as you told me only last week, and it’s all going to go brilliantly.”
“You could come?” he begged. “I can tell him I have separation issues, and that I need you with me at all times. You’re with me for all my business meetings and I always do better when you’re there and—”
“It’s not a business negotiation, Tones. It’s a date. People have them all the time and it’s fine.”
“I’m not people! I’m, I mean, I am a people—person—see now I can’t even English. But I don’t do this, Pep. And he doesn’t even know who I am! I should have told him, right? I should have told him that I’m Tony Stark?”
“Too late to worry about that now, and I’m sure he’s not going to run away screaming. Being Tony Stark isn’t akin to being Frankenstein’s Monster, you know?”
Tony stared at her for a long moment before he nodded. “You’re right. I’m too pretty to make him run away screaming. Uh. Do I look alright?”
She smiled at him, as if she’d been waiting for him to seek her approval, which… probably fair. He may look like an adult but age was but a number. “You look perfect. Happy’s waiting for you. You don’t wanna be late.”
“Right. Bad first impression. Right. I got this.”
“You got this,” Pepper reiterated as Tony stepped into the elevator. The doors closed, and it jerked slightly as it began lowering him to the ground floor.
Tony sighed and ran a hand through his hair, messing up the perfectly styled locks Pepper had just spent forty five minutes on. “This is gonna be a disaster.”
“Uh. I think there’s a table booked for Tony?” Bucky told the maitre d.
She smiled at him and nodded, guiding him through the restaurant with a, “follow me, Sir.”
He was led into a private room, hosting just a single table. The tablecloth looked like it cost more than Bucky’s rent. Before he could ask her if she’d made a mistake, she left the room, only to be replaced by a waiter in a crisp shirt and bow tie, who offered to take his coat and scarf before he pulled a chair out for Bucky to be seated.
So. Maybe not a mistake.
Bucky sat awkwardly, looking around. There was a single flower in a crystal vase in the middle of the table, and more cutlery for each of the place settings that was in Bucky’s apartment.
A few minutes later, the doors opened again, only this time, a handsome man strolled through them with a nervous smile on his face.
“Uh. Hi? I’m Tony. JB, right?”
Bucky blinked. He knew that face, had seen it on TV and magazine covers and more importantly, on the wall of the building his prosthetic arm came from.
“Um. You can… call me Bucky. You. You didn’t mention you were, um. That Tony.”
Tony rubbed a hand over the back of his neck sheepishly. “No. No I didn’t. I’m sorry, I know I should have told you, I just… it’s so rare for me to be able to get to know someone without wondering if there’s an ulterior motive for it, you know? And you just… you were so authentic, and I didn’t know how to drop it into conversation and then it just got longer and I didn’t know how to tell you and—”
“Hey, relax,” Bucky said, worried that the man hadn’t taken a single breath the entire time he’d been speaking. “It’s not… it’s not a bad thing. I was just… surprised, that’s all.”
“Right. Um. That’s… good?”
“Come and sit down, Tony,” Bucky said, nodding at the seat facing him.
Tony did so, handing off his jacket to the waiting waiter. “So, um. You’re hotter than your pictures, hi.”
Bucky chuckled, charmed despite himself. He’d always wondered if Tony’s awkwardness on text translated into awkwardness in real life. He was happy to know it did.
“Thanks. I, uh. Wasn’t entirely honest with you, either.”
Bucky took a deep breath and then lifted his left arm onto the table, tugging the sleeve up so Tony could see his arm. “I didn’t just finish my tour in the army. I, uh. I left for medical reasons. As in, I had my arm blown off.”
Tony was silent, and Bucky panicked. “Say something! Please.”
“Huh. Metallic wasn’t in your physical description,” Tony said, and then his eyes widened. “I’m sorry. I, uh, don’t think before I speak.”
Bucky chuckled and shook his head, letting his sleeve fall back to settle at his wrist. “I know that on the pictures I’m still well, whole, and I understand if this is a dealbreaker; a lot of people are uncomfortable—”
“With you being an eighth robot? Hell no. It’s hot. I just did it again, didn’t I? Why does Pepper let me speak, oh my god, she should have taped my mouth shut before I left the tower.”
Properly laughing now, Bucky couldn’t help but find Tony’s blush adorable. He was so much better in person, and Bucky hadn’t considered that to be a possibility. “So, you’re okay with it then?”
“So okay. So, so okay. I’m sorry for being so… me. I just. I really like you. And. Um. I haven’t been on a date… ever. So.”
“I’m your first date?”
Tony nodded. “Yeah. I, well. I don’t really… date people? Or, I mean. People don’t really date Tony Stark. It’s a thing. Big thing. I should stop talking now before you run away screaming.”
“Relax,” Bucky said, settling into his seat properly himself. He was a little bit glad that Tony was so nervous, because it was helping him stay calm, knowing he wasn’t alone in being a little bit of a disaster.
Tony grinned at him across the table.
“So. Um. Question.”
“How many people were they expecting?”
Tony blinked. “Just the two of us.”
“Then, uh, why did they fetch enough cutlery for a party of thirty?”
Tony laughed, loud and freely, and Bucky knew immediately that he was in trouble. If he hadn’t been in love before, he sure was after hearing that.
JB—Bucky—was even better in person than he’d been on the phone and Tony was in trouble. He was trying to watch his words, because even he knew that a declaration of love on a first date was probably a little bit not good.
The conversation flowed so easily between them, just as easy as it had by text. Bucky told him more about his friends, and a little bit about his time in the army, and Tony, finally able to talk freely, told him more about his work and his life as a CEO.
“Although really, Pep does all the CEO-ing. She’s brilliant.”
Bucky smiled. “I’m glad you have good people in your corner. It seems like you need that, with the sharks in the water around you.”
Tony nodded. “Pepper and Rhodey and Happy look after me better than I could ever look after myself. And, uh. Steve seems like a good friend? I feel like I should send him a fruit basket or something, since he talked you into meeting me.”
“Oh, Christ, if I tell him that, he’ll be smug for days. He’s a pain in my ass, but,” Bucky grinned. “You’re right. He’s a good friend.”
The food arrived then, and they paused in their conversation to eat. Tony couldn’t help but look covetously at the steak Bucky had ordered. He’d ordered the fish, thinking it made him look more sophisticated or something, and it was nice but…
“Here,” Bucky said, cutting a piece off and placing it on the side of Tony’s plate.
Tony blinked at him. “You need to stop being so perfect. I might keep you forever if you carry on.”
Bucky blushed and it was the prettiest sight. “I don’t think I’d be too mad about that.”
Bucky had barely gotten through the door before Steve was in front of him, looking at him expectantly. Sam, Natasha and Clint were all doing the same, and Bucky rolled his eyes at his friends as he passed through the living room to his bedroom.
Once he was changed into his sleep clothes, he rejoined them, throwing himself down on the sofa beside Clint, thanking him when he handed over a beer.
“Oh my god, tell us how it went you utter tease ,” Sam demanded, when Bucky didn’t say anything.
“It was, uh. Kinda perfect,” Bucky admitted, smiling shyly. “ He’s perfect.”
They cheered, and Bucky was slightly disappointed that there were no balloons, given the amount of enthusiasm.
“He’s also uh, Tony Stark.”
Steve blinked as the others fell silent.
“As in, Tony Stark of Stark Industries?” Natasha asked, her eyebrow arched. That reaction was practically dramatic for her.
“The one who designed the prosthetic you’re wearing?” Clint added.
“The very same.”
“Why was he on a dating app?” Sam asked, frowning. “Surely he can date, well, anyone he wants?”
Bucky stared at him. “Thanks pal,” he said dryly.
“But the Tony on Bucky’s messages isn’t anything like the Tony Stark we see on TV or in the papers,” Steve said, head tilting slightly. “It must be lonely, to have to hide yourself like that.”
Bucky nodded, pointing at Steve. “Exactly that. He’s like… the most adorably awkward puppy. When I kissed him goodbye, he blushed all prettily and stammered at me. I don’t think many people are interested in just Tony. ”
“You kissed him?”
“Of course I did,” Bucky snorted. “Have you seen him? He’s gorgeous!”
“Are you going to see him again?” Nat asked. She was smiling slightly now, and Bucky got the feeling that he’d somehow earned her approval, though he didn’t know how or why. She was an odd duck.
He nodded though, because Tony had already asked if Bucky was free on the weekend. “I think this Saturday, but I don’t know what we’re doing.”
“I’m happy for you, Buck,” Steve said, grinning at him. “I’m glad he was as good in person as he was on the phone.”
“Don’t be smug.”
Bucky threw a pillow at him.
“Well, he’s not sobbing into a whisky glass, so I’d say it went well,” Rhodey said, as he and Pepper stepped into the penthouse. JARVIS had informed them he was back, and he’d been expecting them.
“He’s perfect,” Tony said, grinning. “He shared his steak with me and I didn’t even have to ask.”
Pepper laughed. “You’re right, he’s perfect for you. You never order what you actually want.”
“So, I don’t have to dead anyone then?” Rhodey asked, slinging his arm around Tony’s shoulders.
“Shame. I polished my gun and everything.”
“There’s still the shovel talk,” Pepper said, and Rhodey visibly cheered up, while Tony frowned at them.
“Why are you both like this? You should not be so happy about threatening people. That should not bring you joy.”
“We’ve been waiting to give someone a shovel talk on your behalf for years, Tones. You can’t deny us our fun now,” Rhodey said, shaking his head. “That’s just not sportsmanlike.”
“I’m not a sportsman and if you scare him off, I’ll piss in your cheerios and then not speak to you for at least a month.”
Pepper softened and reached out to ruffle his hair. “Don’t worry, sweetheart. He won’t scare him too much. Are you going to see him again?”
Tony blushed and nodded. “I asked him to see me again this weekend. Is that too soon? I feel like that’s probably too soon but—”
“Did he say yes?”
“Then it’s not too soon.”
“He kissed me goodbye too. It was… weird.”
“He’s a bad kisser?” Rhodey asked, clearly struggling to hide his amusement. Tony elbowed him in the ribs.
“No! It was just… different is all. He didn’t even try and use tongue! He just kissed me and said goodnight. Is there something wrong with me? He didn’t even try and cop a feel and—”
“That’s a good thing, Tones,” Pepper interrupted. “Doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, I promise. It just means he’s a gentleman.”
Tony frowned. “Are you sure?”
“So it’s not because I called him a robot?”
Rhodey blinked. “Why did you call him a robot?”
“Oh. Erm. Well, he has a prosthetic arm. One of mine, actually. And uh. I saw it and said he was an eighth of a robot and erm… it’s hot? Because I think he was worried? But you know what my mouth is like and I just…”
“If he still kissed you after that, then he’s definitely a keeper,” Pepper said, shaking her head. “You’re a bloody menace, Tony.”
“I know. I did tell him it was your fault though,” Tony said shrugging. “You really should have taped my mouth shut before you let me leave the tower.”
Tony was waiting for him when he arrived at the gates into central park. He looked adorable. He was wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, apparently trying to stay lowkey, though Bucky knew that people would recognise that facial hair anywhere.
When he reached him, Bucky leant down to press a kiss to his cheek. “You ready?”
Tony practically bounced along beside him, a ball of energy in the cutest package imaginable.
“I uh. Thought we could go to the zoo?” Tony offered. “I like animals, and you said you do too, so—”
“Sounds perfect, Doll,” Bucky agreed. He reached out and snagged Tony’s hand in his own, slowing him down a little bit so they could walk side by side.
Tony looked down at their joined hands and then gave Bucky such a blinding smile, he almost felt faint.
“Pepper thinks you’re a gentleman, by the way,” Tony said, as they continued walking.
“Um. Well. I was a little bit confused why you just kissed me and didn’t… try anything else? And she said it’s because you’re a gentleman because I had a bit of a meltdown about there being something wrong and—”
“Hey, hey, no,” Bucky interrupted, frowning. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you, though I do suddenly have the strongest urge to hunt down anyone you’ve been with before.”
“You and Rhodey would get on great,” Tony said, shaking his head. “You’re all far too joyous about things like that.”
Bucky snorted. “I guess you just bring out the protectiveness is some people.”
“I can adult, you know? My facial hair says so.”
“Hmm, it is very nice facial hair,” Bucky agreed. “I bet it takes you forever to get it so perfect.”
“Well. Erm. Actually, Rhodey did it—”
The rest of Tony’s sentence was drowned out by Bucky’s laughter.
“Penguins are actually the best,” Tony said, as they left the zoo a few hours later. He had a plush penguin under one arm. Bucky had insisted, after Tony had spent half an hour just watching them frolic in the water.
“Uh huh. They’re cute,” Bucky agreed. “Did you know that most penguins mate for life?”
Tony shook his head. “No but now I like them even more.”
Bucky grinned down at him. “You’re adorable.”
Wrinkling his nose, Tony butted at Bucky’s chest with his head. “Adorable is what you call a pet. Aren’t you supposed to think I’m sexy?”
“Can’t I think you’re both?”
“Um. I guess?”
Bucky kissed his nose. “Come on, I’ll buy you an ice cream.”
“We, uh. We could have dessert delivered to the tower? If you wanted to come see it, I mean? You don’t have to obviously, I know it’s only our second date and oh my god why can’t I shut up? I just keep talking. Please interrupt me—”
“I’d like that, Tony.”
“I… right. I’ll have Happy come pick us up.”
“Good afternoon, Sir,” a voice sounded in the elevator.
Bucky blinked and looked around for the disembodied voice, because what? Elevators didn’t talk.
“Hey JARVIS. Say hi to Bucky.”
“Hello, Mr Barnes.”
“Uh. Hi. Tony, you didn’t say someone else lived here. Is he like… watching us on a camera somewhere?”
Tony blinked. “What? Oh. No. JARVIS is an AI. Artificial Intelligence. He runs the parts of my life that Pepper doesn’t, and grasses me up to Pepper when I blow things up.”
Bucky stared at him for a long moment and then he started laughing. “You’ve got an AI grassing you up for blowing shit up. How are you even real?”
Tony shrugged. “J, send out an order for a mixed dessert plate, please, and tell Pep and Rhodey that I’m good, but if they interrupt my date, I’m gonna sulk for a fortnight at least.”
“Of course, Sir.”
Bucky followed Tony out of the elevator a few moments later, looking around with interest. The apartment was stunning, but it looked… unlived in, almost, like a showroom rather than a home.
“I, uh. Don’t spend much time up here,” Tony said, apparently reading Bucky’s mind. “I spend most of my time in the workshop.”
Bucky nodded. “Well, it’s nice.”
“The interior decorator said so,” Tony agreed, making Bucky snort. “Do you wanna watch a movie?”
“Um. Drink? I should get drinks. I’m being a terrible host already, I’m sorry.”
Before Tony could wander off towards the bar, Bucky grasped his hand and tugged him close. “You don’t have to try so hard, Tony. I’m already charmed by who you are, okay?”
Tony stared up at him for a moment before he nodded, sagging against Bucky’s chest. “I’m a bit of a disaster, aren’t I?”
Bucky hugged him close. “Maybe. But… I’d really like it if you’d be my disaster.”
Tony pulled back to look up at him, and Bucky waited with bated breath. He knew it was a bit soon and he knew he was taking a chance, but—
“I want that. I want to be yours. Please?”
Bucky smiled. “I love you. I think I loved you before I even met you.”
“I love you too.”
They got drinks and then settled down on the sofa, Tony snuggled in against Bucky’s chest.
“Oh my god.”
Bucky stared at Tony, who’d just sat up, paling.
“Pepper is going to kill me.”
“She said I’m not allowed to do declarations of love until at least the fifth date!”
Eleven Months Later
Tony stared at the TV for a long moment, before he turned his gaze to Bucky and Pepper.
“I want a puppy.”
“No,” Pepper said, not even looking up from the paperwork she was glancing over.
“So… two puppies?” Tony asked, looking at Bucky. “You know you want to. Don’t you want kids with me?”
Bucky snorted. “Bold of you to think DUM-E, U, and Butterfingers don’t count as kids.”
“But Buck,” Tony whined, pointing at the screen, where rescue dogs were being played with. “I want one. Or two.”
Sighing, Bucky stood and leant over the sofa to press a kiss to Tony’s lips. “Better put your coat on then, hmm? It’s a bit of a drive and it’s chilly out today.”
While Tony grinned—and did not squeal thank you very much—and leapt up to get himself ready, Pepper shook her head at Bucky.
“You’re entirely too soft with him.”
Bucky shrugged. “Look how happy he is though. I like it when he’s happy.”
Rolling her eyes, Pepper looked back down at the paperwork. “Saps.”
Bucky, rather politely he thought, didn’t call her out on the indulgent smile on her lips. He was a gentleman after all.