Actions

Work Header

He'd Like to Come and Meet Us (But He Thinks He'd Blow Our Mind)

Work Text:

Image of the Iron Man helmet and a gun beneath Captain America's shield, a blanket half draped over both on the left. Title author and artist information on the right. Glancing away from the empty road, Bucky looked over at Steve, slumped against the passenger door of the truck with his eyes closed. “Just hang on, Stevie,” he muttered, flicking his eyes back to the rearview mirror, making sure that the road behind them stayed empty. “We’ll get you fixed up soon.”

Steve slit his eyes open enough to roll them. “Supersoldier, remember Buck?” he asked, shifting a little and wincing as the movement pulled at his shattered ribs. “I’ll heal.”

Bucky just grunted under his breath in response. Steve may have been a fast healer, but he knew he’d feel a lot better when he could get them somewhere safe and check him over properly. So of course, the Check Engine light came on right then. Bucky eyed it reproachfully, but didn’t bother slowing down. He was far more worried about making sure they had well and truly lost the bad guys than he was a loose fuel cap, or an upcoming oil change. 

Naturally, Steve had other ideas. 

“Buck,” he protested. “The engine light is on.” 

“I can see that, Steve,” Bucky bit back. “I may have ended up with the discount version of the super serum, but it didn’t make me fucking blind.” He pressed down on the gas pedal a little harder, just to prove his point. “Car’s still running, ‘s all I care about.” 

Steve gave him a reproachful look, but didn’t argue. Bucky should have kept his big mouth shut though, because a few minutes later the car started shuddering, forcing him to drop down to a crawl just to keep the car on the road. 

“Goddammit!” he yelled, because it made him feel a bit better. 

“Buck,” Steve said again. 

“I know , Steve,” he shot back, hitting his hand against the steering wheel just in case it magically fixed the problem. “Piece of garbage,” he added in a grumble.

“I feel like that’s just kinda what happens when you steal a car,” Steve told him, voice still rough. “Karma, or whatever.” He ignored the baleful look Bucky gave him. “Buck. We’ve got to stop. I saw a sign for a garage a couple miles back. Let’s just go there.” 

Bucky gritted his teeth, fingers clenching and releasing against the steering wheel. “We should keep going, Steve. Put as much distance between us ‘n them as we can.” 

Even with his probably-broken ribs, Steve made a point of leaning over and giving a pointed look to the speedometer, mostly hiding his grimace in the process. “Don’t think you’re putting much distance between us and anything, Buck,” he retorted, and then, when Bucky didn’t answer, he rolled his eyes. “ Bucky . We’re in the middle of nowhere, who knows when we’re going to find another garage. It was off the main road, and we haven’t seen anyone in miles anyway. We’ve probably already lost them. Let’s just… Get off the road and lay low.” 

And as much as it pained him to admit it, Steve was probably right. 

Bucky hated it when Steve was right. 

Without admitting as much, he slowed to a stop and then turned the car around, still clenching his jaw because he didn’t like one single thing about this. He made it two miles before he shot a look over at Steve. 

“You can wipe that smug look off your face, too.” 

Image of Bucky Barnes supporting Steve Rogers as they step up to a mechanic's shop. Tony Stark is coming out of the shop, looking surprised as he wipes his hands on a rag.

The mechanic’s shop was tucked off the main road. In fact, it was so far off the road that Bucky nearly drove past it until Steve smacked his arm. He whipped the car into the driveway, wincing at the grating, whirring noise that came out of the engine in the process, and pulled to a shuddery stop, taking in the garage in front of them. It was late, the sign out front dim, but the bay doors were open and there was light from inside filtering through. Bucky eyed the doorway critically for a moment, still not loving being forced to stay here then reluctantly got out of the car, moving around to Steve’s side. 

“Think they’re open?” Steve asked, slipping off his seat and then cursing when his leg refused to hold his weight for a moment, nearly sending him to the ground. Bucky was there a second later, wrapping an arm around his waist to keep him upright. “I got it,” Steve protested, although he didn’t make any actual attempt to pull away. 

Bucky opened his mouth to give Steve shit -- that came as naturally as breathing -- but before he could there was a man walking out through the bay doors, wiping his hands off on a rag that looked as though it had seen better days. 

“Sorry guys,” he started, gaze focused on some spot on his wrist. “We’re just closing up, but--,” He looked up then, and his eyes went wide as he took the two of them in. Bucky hadn’t escaped injury free either, and his eyes seemed to catalogue every cut and scrape. “Jesus Christ,” he spluttered reflexively. “What the fuck happened to you?” 

“Bar fight,” Bucky replied without hesitating, looking him over. He didn’t present an immediate threat; he was several inches shorter than the two of them, though muscular in a way that spoke of lugging around heavy car parts, and Bucky couldn’t track any weapons under his clothes. He noted, distantly, that he was attractive -- if you were into the kind of men who could potentially be undercover agents planning to kill you. 




Steve nudged him hard in the ribs, and Bucky didn’t have to look over to know he was rolling his eyes. “Ignore him. It’s been a long night.” He pasted on his Captain America smile, the one he used when rescuing kittens from trees and walking elderly ladies across the street. “Sorry, we know it’s late. Is there any chance we could just get you to take a look? We could really use a win right now.” 

“Yeah! Yeah, Jesus.” He waved them in through the open doors. “Come in and sit down. You look like you’re about to fall over.” He ushered them into the garage, the space bright and warm after the late-fall chill outside. There was a mostly-apart car with space for another, and the back corner held a messy desk. He led them there, hauling a couple chairs over. “Uhh, can I get you guys anything? Some water? Some chips?” He arched a critical eyebrow as he got a better look at them in the bright lights of the garage. “A first aid kit?” 

Steve was still smiling, extra bright to try and offset Bucky’s sullen scowl. “We’re great, thanks.”

“Okay…” He looked unconvinced, but gave them a smile. “I’m Tony, by the way.” 

“Steve. And this is Bucky.” 

Tony arched an eyebrow at the name, but apparently managed to restrain himself from any comment. “Great, well, I’ll go and get your car and let’s see what we’re working with, huh?” 

Bucky watched him go, still a little suspicious, but the moment he was out of sight, Steve was elbowing him again, harder than he should have been able to considering how beat up he was. Bucky huffed out a cursed and made a show of rubbing at his ribs, giving Steve his deadliest murder glare. Steve didn’t even flinch. 

Bucky ,” he hissed. “I get that your default state is to trust no one, and I get why . You’ve been through some shit. But you’ve gotta chill out a little. You’re acting like a complete weirdo.” 

“You’re a complete weirdo,” Bucky retorted on reflex. 

“Yep,” Steve drawled. “There’s the feared Winter Soldier.”

Bucky glared, really wishing Steve wasn’t hurt so he could smack him. “I don’t like this, Steve,” he hissed. “It’s too many coincidences. First we get caught like that, and then the car breaks down and this just happens to be the only mechanic around?” 

“We are in the middle of nowhere. It’s not exactly surprising. Coincidences happen, Buck. Sometimes they’re just coincidences. Besides, do you really think it’s more likely that they knew where we’d be heading, had a car planted and knew which one we’d steal, and timed it so that it would crap out and force us to the specific mechanic’s shop? Really?”

Bucky huffed, leaning back in his seat and folding his arms across his chest. “I still don’t like it,” he grumbled. 

“That’s fine. You don’t like anything, I’m used to it by now. But seriously Bucky, you gotta calm your tits. If this Tony guy is working for Hydra, you’re gonna give the game away right away.” 

Their conversation was interrupted then as Tony pulled the car into the garage. Both men winced at the grinding sound, the noise seeming even louder in the more confined space. It was a relief when he shut the engine off, hopping out of the car with an arched eyebrow.

“Well, that definitely doesn’t sound good,” he acknowledged. He fiddled with something in his hand a moment, glancing down at it before he tossed it toward them. Steve caught it on instinct. “Uh, by the way. You left your license in the glovebox, next to your registration.” He gave them a pointed look. “Cute picture.” 

Steve looked down at the license in his hand, and made a strangled noise, his heart sinking. Bucky looked over his shoulder and his eyes went wide as he took in the picture of the freckled, red-headed woman. 

“Fuck,” he muttered. “Uh, listen Tony --,”

“Nah.” Tony interrupted him without looking over, lifting the hood and peering inside. “You both look like you’ve been run over by a truck. I already figured it might be complicated, but complicated isn’t illegal, right? And even if it was… Illegal doesn’t always mean wrong. Doing the right thing isn’t always about finding the perfect path. Sometimes no matter what you do, people get hurt. And property nearly always gets hurt. It’s just stuff. It’s harder to know who to trust, you know? Sometimes the person you can’t trust is yourself, and sometimes you’re the only person you can trust. But that’s better than not trusting at all, right?” 

He was half talking to himself, lost in the inner workings of the truck, and Bucky stared at him. It reminded him of the kind of speech that Steve would have come up with. 

Shit. Despite his suspicions, Bucky was sort of starting to like him. 

“That sounds like hard-won wisdom,” he admitted somewhat grudgingly. “But seriously, you’re not gonna try and call the cops? Devil’s in the details, and you don’t seem like a guy who… let’s things go.” 

Tony hummed absently, doing something with the engine that elicited a sparking sound. “It’s hard to pay attention, and figure out which situation you’re in. Especially when you’re already in it. It sucks, having to pay that much attention to yourself and your motivations and where they take you. It sucks having to look at yourself in the mirror and see yourself getting older, hoping that older doesn’t mean dumber, or more jaded, or less righteous. But I do it every day, and it’s given me some pretty good instincts about people. You haven’t done anything I wouldn’t do, if my Rhodey was hurt. And he’s been hurt before, before I could get to him, so I’m not just talking out of my ass here.”

He straightened up, turning to lean back against the car and look at them both. “Steve, I don’t know you, but those wounds look fresh and neither of you seem the type to wait around. But also, neither of you are drunk, so… I figure it must have been one hell of a ‘bar fight,’ huh?” He arched an eyebrow at them. “I might have some experience with that too. I get it. So. We’re good? I’ll do my best for your car, you’ll do your best to get yourselves cleaned up, and we’ll all just be… Doing our best.” 

He wasn’t really looking at them, half focused on the car, his impromptu speech the kind of rambling that could only come from someone who really meant it, and Bucky leaned back in his seat, shaking his head and mouthing a forlorn ‘why?’ up at the ceiling. He didn’t know how he always ended up falling in with this particular brand of altruistic idiot, but it was going to be the death of him one day. His heart couldn’t take it. 

He could practically feel Steve’s eyes boring into him, and when he looked back over, he was giving him a very pointed look. ‘Told ya,’ he mouthed, before turning his full attention back on Tony. “So you’re like… The hometown hero?” he ground out, sounding both thoughtful and pained. 

Tony seemed to snap out of it a little, lifting his head to give them a strange look, mostly sheepish, but with a darkly mirthful edge to it. “Something like that.” 

**

Tony put on music while he worked, AC/DC filtering out through the speakers. It didn’t take long before Steve was dozing where he sat, arms folded on the desk to support his head at a painful-looking angle. He also crashed hard after the adrenaline of a fight, and being injured made it a hundred times worse. Bucky let himself zone out a little too, still fully conscious of everything around him but letting the beat of the music lull him into something approximating relaxation. And that, as much as anything, spoke to Tony’s trustworthiness. Clearly Bucky trusted him on some inherent level, and he’d always had very good instincts. 

Still, he wasn’t so relaxed that he didn’t immediately snap back to it when the music turned down again, attention fully focused on Tony. The man was still buried hip deep in the engine, but a minute later he was pulling himself free. He kicked Steve in the ankle, and the other man jerked awake with a grunt, looking around with wild eyes and doing an absolutely terrible job of pretending he hadn’t been asleep. Tony looked like he was fighting back a laugh as he moved over to them, wiping at the grease on his hands with the same towel from before. 

“So,” he said, sprawling in the seat opposite the table from the two of them. “I’ve got good news and bad news.” 

Bucky resisted the urge to make a face; the fact that there was good news at all was better than what he could have hoped for. “Hit us.” 

“So the good news is that I can definitely fix your car for you.” 

“And the bad news?” Steve wondered. 

“The bad news is that it’s going to be a few days before I can get the parts I need in, and I cannot in good conscience let you drive it before then.” He winced, giving them a sympathetic look. “Honestly, you’re lucky the engine didn’t catch fire just driving the couple miles from the main road.” 

Bucky groaned, scrubbing his hand over his face. “This day just keeps getting better and better.” 

Steve reached over, patting him absently on the back. “How far is the closest hotel?” he asked Tony, ever the optimist. 

“Uhh…” If possible, Tony’s wince deepened. “‘Bout a two-hour drive? It’s pretty far removed from anything out here, and we’re not exactly a major tourist destination.” 

Bucky turned to face Steve, knowing without being told that he was feeling just as miserable as he was. Bucky was exhausted after the day they’d had, and he could only imagine how much worse Steve was feeling. He knew neither of them wanted to walk that far. He hadn’t noted any spare working vehicles around either. Presumably Tony had his own car, but it’s not like they could borrow that and leave him without transport. And even on the off chance that he did have a spare car and would be willing to lend it to them, that was still a good two more hours on the road, two more hours before they could get food and any kind of actual rest. 

He gave Steve a kind of a hopeless look that he hoped imparted at least some sympathy before he turned back to Tony. There was a funny, wistful look on his face, gone almost as soon as Bucky had noted it, and Bucky wrote it off as unimportant to the current situation. He offered Tony a half hopeful smile. “Any chance you have a car you can lend us in the meantime?” 

Tony blinked at him for a moment, like he couldn’t even comprehend the question, and then his eyes widened into something incredulous. “Oh my god, I’m not making you go. Full offense, but you both look like shit. If I let you drive away, I’m not even sure you’d make it to a hotel before you fell asleep at the wheel or something, and I don’t need that kind of liability on my hands. Look, I live upstairs, I’ve got a cozy little apartment with a spare room that I’m told has an extremely comfortable bed. I even went grocery shopping this week! Or -- Had groceries shopped for me this week. Why don’t you two just crash here tonight, and you can figure out what you want to do in the morning?”

Bucky and Steve shared a look before Steve turned back to Tony with an arched eyebrow. “Really? You’d let two strangers stay in your home?”

Tony shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve got a good feeling about the two of you? Like I’ve met you before or something. And that sounds crazy, so let’s just call it my good deed for the year.” 

Bucky looked over at Steve, who tilted his head back, leaving it up to him to make the final call. Tony was right, that did sound crazy; the permanent edge of paranoia that resided deep inside him told him it was a trap. But if he looked past that, tried to use his actual instincts, he didn’t have the same bad feeling he’d had before. He still didn’t love the situation, but there was something about Tony that struck him as sincere. Tony may have been a flip, slightly ridiculous civilian mechanic, but he was definitely sincere. Besides, he needed the rest, and Steve needed it more, and though he’d never tell him to his face, Steve might have had a point when he’d pointed out that Tony being in collaboration with the same people who were after them was the least likely scenario. And if he wasn’t, heading back on the road could put them back on their radar again. With a heavy sigh, he tossed his hands up hopelessly. 

“Fuck it,” he decided. “If you’re sure you don’t mind, we’ll stay.” 

“Awesome!” Tony declared. “Either of you like scrambled eggs?” 

**

As it turned out, Tony hadn’t been kidding about the scrambled eggs. He’d closed up the shop quickly, which mostly consisted of lowering the bay doors and turning out the lights, leaving everything else in the organized chaos where it sat before gesturing them through the door near his desk. Said door opened onto a back staircase which in turn led to his kitchen, lights flicking on as he passed through the doorway. It was small but cozy, all warm lighting and open shelving. It was the last thing Bucky had expected them to find, but then again, nothing about what he had seen of Tony so far was what Bucky had expected from a backwoods mechanic. 

Tony turned to them with a grin as they followed him through the doorway. “Welcome to my humble abode,” he said with a wink. “Come in, sit down, make yourselves at home.” 

He pointed them toward a small kitchen table, nestled under a large window that gave a great view of the expansive, empty field behind the garage. On their last legs for the day, Bucky and Steve didn’t hesitate to take a seat, leaving Tony to make his way over to the refrigerator. 

“I hope you don’t mind eggs,” he continued, words slightly muffled as he bent over, half disappearing into the fridge. Steve grinned a little to himself, making a show of appreciating the view before waggling his eyebrows at Bucky, trying to get him to relax a little. Running too high stress for too long never turned out well for him. Bucky rolled his eyes in return, but snuck a look of his own. The majority of his brain power may have been occupied with running over the events of the night, and taking advantage of the window to triple check no one was sneaking up on them, but still. He happened to be a very observant man, and the observant part of his brain noted that Tony had an amazing ass. 

“Scrambled eggs are fine,” Steve reassured him, since Bucky was busy noting possible ambush points. “I’m always a fan of protein.” 

Tony turned with a smile and a couple cartons of eggs. “Well that’s good. I’ve got an iron stomach,” he added, before snickering to himself with some kind of private joke. It was enough to pull Bucky away from the window and stare at Tony with an arched brow before turning to Steve, who shrugged in response. Tony shook his head. “Sorry. Point being, I usually subsist on caffeine and whatever I find in my fridge that hasn’t actually grown legs yet. But scrambled eggs are the one thing I’m really good at cooking.” 

He kept up a steady stream of chatter as he worked, though very little of it seemed to be directed at Steve and Bucky. Reassured with his vantage points and exit strategies, Bucky watched Tony work, tilting his head a little, and scooted in closer to Steve. 

“Is he talking to his appliances?” 

“Seems to be,” Steve replied with a grin that was all too familiar. Bucky shook his head. 

“Oh no,” he hissed. “You can wipe that look off your face right now.” 

“What look?” 

That look. Tony is fine , Steve. He doesn’t need rescuing, and we don’t need to adopt another stray.” 

Steve just huffed, turning back to the man in question. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” 

Bucky narrowed his eyes at Steve. “Yeah,” he muttered. “That’s what you said about Clint too.” But his worst best friend was pointedly not meeting his eyes. With an exaggerated eye roll, Bucky turned to follow his gaze instead. Tony was dropping toast into what was apparently a toaster, although it was half pulled apart and outfitted with more alarms and lights than Bucky had ever seen on any self-respecting toaster before. 

“Come on baby,” he was pleading, bent over so that he was draped across the counter and eye level with the appliance, seemingly unaware of the audience behind him. “I know we’ve had our differences in the past, but I just need you to behave right now. We have guests, sweetheart. Let’s be on our best behaviour, hmm?” 

He was absolutely nuts, Bucky decided, but still, there was something about it that made Bucky want to smile despite the bullshit day he’d had, something weirdly soft and endearing and human about the man that was a breath of fresh air. At any rate, he could see why Steve seemed to like him, even if Steve had a bad tendency to try and make friends with everyone, down to a skunk one time when they were holed up in the woods for three weeks straight. 

… Bucky was starting to wonder about the type of people he always seemed to end up with, and what that said for him.

It didn’t take too long for Tony to serve up the scrambled eggs -- which, admittedly, were some of the fluffiest, most delicious-looking eggs that Bucky had ever seen -- served with a side of slightly-burned bacon. He was just shelling the food onto plates when the toaster made the worst noise Bucky had ever heard and thick black smoke began billowing out of it. 

“Fuck!” Tony cried, abandoning the plates and rushing over to the toaster. “No, you stupid hunk of metal. Before you burn it. You’re supposed to sound before you burn the bread. I swear to god, I’m going to take you to the dump. Scrap metal, that’s all you're good for.” He continued in this vein until he had unplugged the appliance and fished the toast out, and the machine had (mostly) stopped smoking. Then he leaned in again, giving the side of the toaster a quick pat. “I know, I’m sorry,” he said in a low voice that probably wouldn’t have been overheard if not for both Steve and Bucky having supersoldier hearing. “I didn’t mean to yell. We’ll work on it, I promise. We’ll get you sorted.” Then he turned to them with a slightly sheepish smile. “So, uh. No toast tonight, sorry. I don’t know what it is with kitchen appliances, but I’m quite possibly cursed.”

“It’s no problem, really,” Steve assured him. “You’ve done more than enough already.” 

Tony gave a half shrug as he joined them at the too-small kitchen table, a crooked smile on his lips. “Still, it’s a little embarrassing. I enhanced him specifically so this wouldn’t happen anymore, and here we are. Burnt toast.” 

Bucky rubbed at his forehead, feeling a headache coming on. “You… Enhanced your toaster?”

Him ?” Steve added curiously. 

Tony shrugged, meeting Bucky’s gaze utterly unabashed. “It’s kinda what I do. MIT dropout, never really lost the urge to tinker.” 

Bucky shrugged right back, pretty sure nothing else could surprise him tonight. “Of course you are.”  

By the time they’d finished eating, Steve was starting to doze into his plate. Bucky kicked him the ankle and he snapped his eyes open with a sheepish smile. 

“Sorry,” he offered, the apology directed at Tony; he’d never apologized to Bucky in his life. 

Tony shrugged, the look he gave Steve something that Bucky would almost call fond. “Not the worst thing that’s happened in this place, I promise.” He pushed his plate away though, shoving his chair back. “Come on, I’ll show you the guest room.” Bucky and Steve followed him down the hall, Steve stumbling a little and lacking his usual Captain America grace. “Oh, sorry,” Tony added, like a thought had just occurred to him. He glanced over his shoulder at the two of them. “There’s only one bed. I mean, it’s a queen, but you’re also two fucking bruisers, so it still might be a tight fit.” 

Bucky gave him a small smile. “Don’t worry about it,” he assured him, distracted with grabbing the back of Steve’s t-shirt before he could walk into the wall. His injuries were catching up to him, and he needed sleep badly. “We’ve definitely slept in worse places.” 

Steve huffed out a laugh. “You should have seen the first apartment we shared.” 

For just a second, Bucky could have sworn that Tony’s smile went a little disappointed before he was opening the door to a bedroom, the majority of which was taken up by a bed piled high with pillows. He might have wondered about it more, but then Steve was groaning happily, staring at the bed like he’d never seen anything so wonderful. 

“Oh, I think I love you,” he breathed, and it was hard to tell if he was talking to Tony or the bed itself. 

Either way, Tony laughed. “Bathroom’s right across the hall,” he offered. “I’ll leave out some towels and stuff, but just yell if you need anything else. And just help yourself to anything in the kitchen if you get hungry.” 

Bucky arched an eyebrow. “You may regret giving Steve that kind of offer,” he told him, smiling serenely when Steve just glared at him.

Tony laughed at the two of them and then shrugged. “I guess that’s it? I’ll let you two get some sleep.” 

He left them then, shutting the door softly behind him. No sooner had his footsteps faded off down the hall than Steve was stumbling out of his t-shirt and jeans, collapsing face-first into the bed and wrapping his arm around one of the pillows. “Oh god, I love this bed,” he mumbled, words muffled by the down-filled fabric. 

Bucky rolled his eyes, glad Steve was in the process of smothering himself and wouldn’t be able to see the affectionate smile working its way across his lips. He sat himself in the nearby chair, pulling his boots off with a groan. “You don’t think it’s a little weird?” he asked. “Tony just offering us up a place to stay? In his home?” 

Steve groaned, the sound exasperated, and heaved himself over onto his back to blink at Bucky. “I like ‘im,” he declared. “I don’t know, Buck. It’s a small town. People just do shit like that, or so I’m told. Maybe he just trusts us.” He gave him a smirk then, accompanied with an eyebrow waggle. “I am Captain America.” 

“You’re stupid, is what you are,” Bucky grumbled. 

Steve ignored that. “Do I think he’s kinda weird? Definitely. That’s what I like about him. Do I think he’s bad, or evil, or some kind of super villain? Nope.” He popped the p just to annoy Bucky. “I think he’s just a normal guy trying to do a good deed.” His look softened then, turning to sympathy. “I know you’ve had a raw deal, Buck, but I promise, not everyone is coming for you. And I won’t let them try it again.”

Bucky rubbed awkwardly at the back of his neck. “You’re such a sap, Rogers.” 

Steve shrugged, unapologetic. “And you’re still going to make us take watches, just in case, aren’t you?” He shook his head at Bucky’s sheepish nod, but there was a grin as he buried his face back into the pillows. “You’re taking the first one though, right?” 

“Obviously,” Bucky told him. He smacked the back of Steve’s upper thigh, just to make him yelp. “Think you can hold on long enough for me to wash up a little?” 

Steve waved his arm at him with a low noise that Bucky chose to take as an affirmative, slipping back through the door. There was no sign of Tony in the hallway, but he could see light filtering under the door further down the hall. He could music too, faintly; he was pretty sure it was Fleetwood Mac. 

Shaking his head for what felt like the millionth time in the last few hours, Bucky moved into the bathroom. True to his word, Tony had left towels out for them. There was a whole mountain of them, more than he and Steve could possibly have used, all of them ridiculously thick and fluffy. He couldn’t resist running the tips of his fingers over the material, smiling a little to himself when it was just as soft as he’d imagined. He tried to be quick about washing off, pulling the skin sleeve off his metal arm to check all the joints and fixtures, making sure he hadn’t fucked up anything integral in the fight earlier. He was working it back over his arm when he noticed that Tony even left out toothbrushes for them, fresh in their unopened packages.

“Jesus,” Bucky muttered, opening up the package of the blue toothbrush because he wasn’t going to turn down the chance for clean teeth. “Who even is this guy?” 

Feeling a little more human, he moved back into the bedroom. Steve, shock and surprise, was a liar, sound asleep in the middle of the bed, sprawled out on his middle and snoring into the pillows. Bucky ignored him and flopped back into the armchair, letting him watch both the door and the window, with a smaller version of the view from the kitchen. The temperature had dropped while they were busy in the garage apparently; he could see little flurries dancing in the security lights that Tony had installed around the main floor of the building. It was oddly soothing, helping to ease some of the lingering insecurities that had been plaguing him all day. Steve wasn’t wrong; Tony was weird, but that didn’t mean he was bad . And if Steve’s instincts were telling him that Tony was okay, and Bucky’s own weren’t screaming at him to run for the hill, maybe he could relax and trust him too, just a little. 

**

As it turned out, fate decided to force Bucky’s hand over any lingering doubts that he might have had. After switching places with a much-refreshed Steve (he had, obviously, let his own watch run long so Steve could heal properly), he woke up the next morning to howling wind and a thick, heavy snowfall blanketing the several feet that had already landed on the ground. 

“The fuck?” he asked out loud.

The room was empty, but he could hear the sound of Steve’s voice filtering down the hall, by the sounds of it chatting amiably with Tony. He hauled on his pants from yesterday, grimacing a little when one knee was stiff with what was probably dried blood, and then the tight t-shirt he usually wore under his uniform before sliding into the hall. Their voices were coming from the kitchen, and he padded barefoot down the hall to join them (it wasn’t, after all, like he needed boots to take someone down, if worse came to worst). 

“What the fuck is this?” Bucky asked by way of hello, staring past Steve and Tony and out the window framing them. The snowstorm looked even worse here than the brief glimpse he’d caught from the bedroom. 

“Oh yeah,” Tony gave him a slightly guilty grin, like he was somehow responsible for the weather. “Sorry about that, we’re kind of in a snow belt here. On the bright side, my Rhodey was just here like two days ago, so I’m fully stocked for groceries.” 

Bucky arched an eyebrow at him, waiting for him to continue. “Which is the bright side because…?” 

“Yeah… There’s a good chance you’re going to be stuck here for a couple days at least. It’s supposed to keep snowing for the next 24 hours, and then it’s usually a while before they actually get us plowed out. And even if the roads are passable, the delivery of your parts are going to be delayed, so…” He trailed off, letting Bucky fill in the gaps, and offered him a hopeful smile. “More scrambled eggs?” 

Bucky couldn’t really help the faint smile that appeared in the face of Tony’s hopefulness. “Yeah, alright,” he agreed, slumping down in the seat beside Steve as Tony scurried over to the stove. 

“Hey. Cheer up, Buck. A delay for us is a delay for the bad guys too, right?” Steve pointed out in a low whisper, elbowing him in the ribs and making him grunt. Clearly he was feeling better. “Besides, even for me the visibility out there is like two feet, and I’m Captain America.” He dropped his voice even lower at the mention of his alter ego, even though Tony was singing to himself at the stove, and Bucky rolled his eyes. 

“Shut up, Steve.” 

“I’m just saying. They’d have a hell of a time tracking us in this. Just… Try to enjoy it, huh?” 

He wasn’t looking at Bucky anymore though, his eyes drifting over Tony’s form and a small smile forming around his lips. Bucky felt his eyes go wide and he stared at Steve incredulously. 

“Oh no,” he muttered. 

“What?” 

“I know you, Rogers. Are you kidding me? You are not getting a crush on the random mechanic we’ve known for thirteen and a half hours .” 

“No!” Steve hissed in the same low whisper, but there was an edge of guilt in his voice. “Of course not.” Then he shifted a little, waggled his eyebrows at Bucky. “There’s nothing wrong with a little eye candy though, right?” 

“Oh my god,” Bucky groaned, resisting the urge to slam his face into the table. He knew he shouldn’t encourage him; most of this was probably just Steve trying to wind him up, because he was a shithead like that. “And people think you’re the wholesome one.” 

“That’s why people are dumb,” Steve informed him. Then he sighed, kicking Bucky’s ankle. “Hey, come on. Pretty sure nobody’s figured out how to control the weather yet. Sometimes a snowstorm is just a snowstorm. And it might be kind of nice, right?” He rolled his eyes at Bucky’s skeptical look. “Just think of this as like… A really weird vacation.” He gave him a pointed stare. “Seriously, weather like this? Not much we can do but sit down and wait it out, and the Hydra goons are probably doing the same.. You don’t have to be on the whole time, you know? I think a few days of relaxing just a little would do you some good.” 

And maybe Steve had a point -- not that Bucky would ever admit that to him. He blinked at him coquettishly instead. “Is this your way of offering to give me a back rub?”

Steve just snorted and shoved him. “Keep dreaming.” 

They were interrupted then by Tony, bringing over an enormous plate of scrambled eggs, just as delicious as they had been the night before. Bucky couldn’t help scarfing them down; he’d always been an eater even before the whole super soldier thing, and that had only increased his appetite tenfold. Vaguely, he thought he should probably be at least a little embarrassed by his lack of decorum, that somewhere his mother was probably twitching in horror at the thought of her son eating a stranger out of house and home. But he was starving, and the eggs were delicious, and when he chanced a glance at him, Tony was watching him with a soft, pleased smile on his face. So Bucky kept eating without pause, and when he’d finished he even offered Tony a real smile. 

“You weren’t kidding about your scrambled eggs skills,” he told him. “Those were phenomenal.” 

“Thank you!” Tony told him, and Bucky could swear he was blushing just a little. It was more endearing than he’d like to admit. 

“Uh, not to complain though…” 

“You’re always complaining, Buck,” Steve piped in from beside him. That wasn’t even remotely true, so of course Bucky had to kick him in retaliation. Steve made a ridiculous squawking sound, playing up his flailing, but it was worth it to hear Tony laughing at the two of them.

“Not to complain,” Bucky started again. “Because the eggs really were delicious, but is that really all you can cook?”

“Uhh…” Tony rubbed at the back of his neck. “I mean, I can cook frozen pizzas? No, I know how to make other things, they just don’t always work. Eggs are about the only thing I can turn out with any kind of consistency.” 

“Great!” Bucky told him, earning him both a confused arched eyebrow from Tony and an incredulous stare from Steve. He did his best to ignore both Steve and the way he could feel heat starting to crawl up the back of his neck. “I mean, not great. I just thought, as a thank you for letting me ‘n Stevie stay, I could cook dinner tonight. If you don’t mind giving me the run of your kitchen.” 

“Yeah?” Tony leaned back in his chair, arms folded across his chest, but he was doing a very poor job of hiding his grin. “You any good at cooking?” 

“He’s good,” Steve answered for him, finally stopping with his suspicious stare. “Not me. I grew up with terrible allergies, and no sense of taste, and now I’m a terrible cook. But Bucky’s real good -- when he lets himself do it.” That suspicious stare was back again. 

“Yeah?” Tony was grinning wide now, and he gestured at the kitchen behind him. “Well then… Mi kitchen es su kitchen.” 

When he’d finished eating, and Steve had had another helping, because of course he had, Steve tried to do the dishes. Tony just snorted. 

“Oh yeah. Dishes. Those are… Definitely a thing I do.” He grinned at them. “Seriously, Steve, that’s what I have a dishwasher for. Don’t worry about it.” 

Steve frowned, his particular moral compass kicking in as he tried to figure out what they could do to repay Tony for letting them stay. “Well… We’ll shovel your driveway then!” 

“Uhh… We will?” Bucky asked. 

“Yes,” Steve decided firmly. “We will.” 

Tony’s laugh turned a little confused. “You really don’t have to do that? You’re my guests, I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to make you shovel. And also, it’s still snowing? It’ll probably be snowing for a few more hours? I don’t usually worry about clearing the snow until it actually, you know, stops snowing?” 

Steve just shrugged though, a stubborn glint in his eyes that had Bucky heaving an internal sigh. “That’ll just be less snow we have to worry about later then. Besides, I didn’t get to go for my run this morning. This’ll make up for it.” 

Tony tilted his head, eyes narrowing suspiciously. “Weren’t you like, grievously injured yesterday?” 

There was an almost imperceptible beat of silence before Steve grinned. “I wasn’t hurt that bad, Bucky’s just a momma hen. Some sleep and food and I’m good as new.” He smiled just a little too brightly, but after a minute Tony relented, leaning back in his seat with his arms folded across his chest. 

“Fine. But if you’re shoveling snow then so I am. I know how to be a host.”

“I’m pretty sure there’s nothing in the Emily Post guide about snow shovelling etiquette.” Bucky felt the need to put up a token protest, because this was quite possibly the dumbest argument he’d ever been a part of -- and being friends with Steve, he’d been a part of a lot of them. 

He was ignored. 

“Fine,” Steve told him. “Better get your parka on, son.” 

Tony just scoffed. “Do you even have a parka?” 

Bucky just sighed hard as they both headed for the door. “What are you two even talking about?” he asked the empty space. 

Still, five minutes later he found himself outside with the two other men, squinting against the heavily falling snow as he watched them apparently competing to see who could shovel the most snow the fastest. Tony was right; they didn’t really have proper winter jackets. They were waterproof though, and he and Steve both ran hot anyway, and his boots were thick and warm and dry so it really could have been worse (even if Bucky had no idea why they were even out here). 

They’d been outside for the better part of two hours, Steve and Tony’s dumbass competition devolving into fighting over who could uncover actual ground first, or most, or something, when Bucky spotted the snow blower in the garage. “Really?” he asked, pitching his voice loud enough to draw both their attention. 

Tony’s face transformed into a guilty smile. “Um. Whoops?” he offered, not actually looking sorry in the slightest. He beamed at him. “I… Forgot about that?” 

Steve was laughing and Bucky rolled his eyes. But Tomy was grinning at him, eyelashes caked in snow, and Bucky couldn’t help grinning too, the smile contagious apparently. “Sure you did,” he said. “Well, I’m going in to dry off. You two about ready to admit that you’re not actually more powerful than a snowstorm?” 

“Excuse you?” Steve shot back automatically, but Tony was nodding slowly. 

“I’m getting kind of cold,” he admitted before reaching out and patting Steve on the back. “Come on, big guy. You gave it a fair fight. I’ll make you some conciliatory hot chocolate.” 

He headed over to Bucky, leaving Steve blinking at his back for his long moment. “Wait, are you implying that I lost ?” he called after him. 

They were all cold and damp as they trooped back up the stairs to the apartment, dumping their boots and coats in a messy pile by the kitchen door as directed by Tony. Steve’s teeth were chattering a little (more of a psychological reaction -- he’d always been sensitive to the cold, even if the serum was supposed to have taken care of that) and Tony grinned to himself as he eyed them. 

“They might be a little… Short,” he admitted, glancing down at his own diminuitive stature. “But I think I’ve got some dry clothes that you should be able to fit into.” He scrunched up his nose a little. “Besides, I’m guessing you probably don’t want to be stuck in the same clothes for the next few days anyway,” he told them with a grin. Bucky resisted the urge to surreptitiously sniff at his armpits. 

True to his word, the sweatpants Tony had offered them only came to about mid-calf on both Steve and Bucky. They were a little snug, but not so much as to be uncomfortable, and Bucky definitely looked less stupid than Steve, which was what truly mattered. Fortunately, Tony did have an overabundance of extra-large band t-shirts, so they weren’t waltzing around in crop tops too. 

Tony laughed a little when he saw them, dressed in his own sweatpants and an ROTC sweatshirt. “Sorry,” he said, coughing a little to try and hide the way he was laughing at them. “None of my friends are quite this… Tall.” He looked them up and down again, eyes lingering just a little before he cleared his throat. “Anyway!” He slid a couple mugs down the counter toward them. “Hot chocolate, just as promised.” 

“Really?” Steve’s entire face lit up as he made grabby hands toward the cup. “I thought you were joking, this is amazing!” 

Bucky rolled his eyes fondly, taking his own mug of hot chocolate and breathing in the sweet scent. “Ignore Steve. He has the sweet tooth of a five-year-old.” 

They ended up in the little living room that Tony had briefly shown them the night before, the large television on the wall tuned to some How It’s Made show. He had one of those electric fireplaces on the wall beneath, and had turned it on, the fake flames surprisingly cozy even if they weren’t at all realistic. It was nothing short of peaceful, the three of them holed up with the snow falling thick and heavy outside. The relative silence was broken only by the occasional commentary by one of them -- usually Tony -- about whatever was happening on the screen, and Bucky was surprised to find, despite all his paranoia, how he was downright comfortable here. 

It lasted all of fifteen minutes, until Steve turned him with big blue eyes and a smile resembling a golden retriever. “Hey, so… About that dinner you were going to cook us…?” 

Bucky cast him a disparaging glance. “It’s not even three o’clock in the afternoon, you absolute heathen,” he told him, mock-horrified, before his own stomach growled loudly, completely negating his point. He couldn’t help laughing a little, mostly at Steve’s epic eye roll.

“Oh god, I’m sorry,” Tony told them, although he was grinning too. “My hosting skills are failing me. Seriously, I’m not great at keeping to a regular food schedule. Just… Help yourself to anything in the kitchen whenever you want.”

So Bucky got up to grab some snacks to tide them over, wondering where on earth Tony had grown up that he was so concerned with the finer points of hosting two literal strangers in his home. 

There were enough chips and cheese and crackers to tide them over until Bucky got it in himself to make supper proper. He found a whole cupboard of pasta, and some tomato sauce, and enough spices to put together a decent red sauce -- especially when he came across the frozen ground beef in the freezer. He’d always enjoyed cooking, it brought him back to when his mother had taught him how, the two of them alone in the kitchen. It was easy enough to lose himself in it now, only distantly aware of Tony and Steve’s voices filtering down the hall from the living room. 

When dinner was ready, the worst of the mess already cleaned up, and Bucky expertly balanced three plates in his hands to carry them back to the living room, it was to find Tony and Steve sitting across from each other on either side of a chess board set up in front of the electric fireplace. 

“Sorry to interrupt,” he told them dryly. “But food’s ready.” 

“Aww, yes!” Steve practically knocked over the chess board in his rush to get to the food, inhaling a deep whiff as he collapsed on the couch. 

“Thanks, Buck,” he mumbled, mouth already stuffed with his first bite. “Thif if delifif.” 

Bucky rolled his eyes, catching a grin from the slightly more sedate Tony, whose eyes were sparkling. “Is that Italian?” he asked, a hopeful tone to his voice. Bucky shrugged, handing over the second. 

“You seem like a guy who appreciates Italian food.” 

“You have no idea.” Tony took a bite and his eyes rolled back in his head, a moan leaving his throat that would have made Bucky blush, if he were a different sort of man. “Oh my god, that’s amazing,” Tony declared. “Tastes like my childhood. Seriously, can I pay you to be my full time cook?” 

Bucky huffed out a laugh, not quite meeting Tony’s eyes and a little thrown by how flustered his praise was making him. “Already got a job,” he pointed out. “But I’ll keep it in mind.” 

He had half expected them to forget all about it, but when dinner was done, Steve and Tony moved back to their chess game. Bucky eyed them skeptically, though he didn’t hesitate to kick his legs up on the couch, sprawling his legs out and taking up the space. 

“Really?” He called over at them. “You’re going to teach Steve to play chess? That’s… brave of you.” 

Steve shot him a dirty look, but Tony grinned wide. “I’ll teach you too, if you like.” 

Bucky waved him off, letting his eyes drift back over to the football game that was playing on the television. “I already know how to play, I just don’t enjoy it. I get enough strategy in my real life.” 

Tony looked a little confused at that, but Steve was quick to draw his attention back, sitting up in his seat and staring down at the board. “Come on, Stark. Fight me. I’m gonna kick your ass.” 

There was a brief second of silence. “You’ve only got two pieces left, Steve.” Tony sounded absolutely baffled, and Bucky couldn’t help the way he busted up laughing, stretching out a little further on the couch in the process. “Seriously. I didn’t even know that was possible.” 

Still laughing to himself, Bucky turned his gaze back over to the television, letting the sounds of their voices wash over him. Tony seemed to be in a constant state of awe over how absolutely hopeless Steve managed to be, but even from across the room Bucky could hear the notes of genuine fondness in it. He’d long since gotten used to Steve’s particular blend of eagerness and stubbornness, so the way he absolutely refused to lose even when he already had lost wasn’t exactly a surprise to him. But finding someone else who seemed to appreciate it the same way he did was rare. And the patient, laughing way that Tony continued to explain the rules to Steve was rarer still.

Belly full of carbs and soothed by the drone of the football announcers, and the crackling of the fireplace and Steve and Tony’s voices, Bucky could feel himself relaxing, sinking further into the couch. But he hadn’t realized how much he was relaxing until something jolted the couch beneath him and he snapped awake with a jolt. He shifted automatically into a defensive position only to find Steve staring down at him with a stupid smile. 

“Wakey-wakey sweetcheeks,” he sing-songed, leaning forward to pinch Bucky’s cheek. “It’s bedtime, honeybun.”

“Fuck off,” Bucky grumbled, slapping his hand away and stifling a yawn. “Imma punch you for real,” he added, scrubbing a hand over his eyes. 

“Sure you are, Buck,” Steve teased, laughing and then dancing out of the way when it looked like Bucky might do exactly that. Bucky shook his head, wiping the last bit of sleep from his eyes, and looked up in time to see Tony watching them with a look that he might almost have called wistful. Too tired to try and interpret that, he got to his feet and headed for the hall instead, ignoring Steve and ‘accidentally’ stumbling and nudging his elbow against Tony’s side on his way by, getting a laugh out of him instead. 

Steve managed to wait until they’d cleaned up, and all said their goodnights, and Bucky had shut the bedroom door behind them before he started. He threw himself on the bed before rolling over and sprawling out on his back, hands behind his head as he gave Bucky a shit-eating grin. “So?” 

Bucky resisted the urge to heave a big sigh. “So what?” he asked instead, playing dumb. 

“So, we gonna talk about it?” 

Bucky didn’t look at him as he tugged his borrowed shirt off over his head. “Nope,” he declared, moving around to the far side of the bed and giving Steve a shove to leave him some room. He got in under the blankets beside him, rolling on his side away from him so he wouldn’t have to look at his stupid, smug face. 

“I’m just saying --,”

“I’d rather you didn’t.” 

“I’m just saying, you fell asleep, Buck. Like, totally asleep. That’s a big fucking deal for you.” 

“People sleep, Steve. It’s a normal, human function.” 

“Mmm. Hate to break it to you, bud, but you’re not exactly a normal human though. I’ve just never seen you sleep like that unless you feel totally safe.” 

Bucky reached back with his arm, smacking Steve in the stomach and grinning to himself at the grunt that Steve made in response. “Stop trying to do some psychoanalysis thing and go to sleep, asshole.” 

**

It was still snowing the next day, although it had tapered off a bit, the wind dying down. There was no sign of the roads being cleared any time soon, but at least it no longer looked like a winter wasteland outside. After breakfast, and a morning spent clearing the new build-up from Tony’s driveway, and then a lunch of grilled cheese and soup -- because, Steve insisted as he ate an entire loaf’s worth of sandwiches himself, it was practically criminal not to have grilled cheese and soup during a snowstorm -- there was nothing much to do except hole back up in Tony’s living room. 

Bucky didn’t know who had picked the movie (probably Steve) but they ended up watching an old Hollywood film on tv, one of the ones in black and white, where the men had pencil-thin moustaches and said ‘doll,’ and ‘dame’ a lot, and where even the heroines were treated like porcelain. 

It started off fine enough, although the male lead seemed extra forcefully masculine, stomping around like he owned the place, obviously thinking he knew best and telling so to anyone -- mostly his female counterpart -- who would listen. It was almost a parody, except for how it wasn’t, and Bucky mostly found himself rolling his eyes a lot. 

“God,” Tony muttered about ten minutes in, drawing both Bucky and Steve’s eyes away from the screen. “I’m having flashbacks to my childhood. They quite possibly based this dude off my dad.” 

It was clearly meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but there was something slightly off in his tone, a note there that had Bucky’s eyebrows drawing together in a frown. He shared a look with Steve, who just gave him a helpless shrug, Bucky’s expression echoed on his own face as he turned back toward the screen. But as the movie went on, Tony was obviously growing more and more uncomfortable with the likeness. He’d stopped watching the screen, suddenly intensely focused on something on his phone, but Bucky could tell he couldn’t quite let it go either, body tilted toward the television like he was forcing himself to look away, rather than losing interest. And then there was the way that he would wince or grimace at certain lines, very obviously being reminded of something he didn’t want to think about, occasionally rubbing at the palms of his hands when he did. 

Thinking about what Tony’s father must have been like, what Tony must have dealt with for it to leave this kind of a lasting impression was making Bucky want to murder things. Instead, as he caught Tony blowing out a slow, uncomfortable breath, he jumped suddenly to his feet. 

“Uhh. I’m going to go out and watch the snow for a bit. Get some fresh air,” he said. Tony just shrugged, apparently not finding this strange. Bucky could feel Steve’s eyes on him, but he ignored him as he pulled on his jacket and boots and slipped out the door. 

Even with the snow, and the fading light as the day slipped into evening, it wasn’t hard for him to find the power breaker. After a furtive look to make sure there were no secret security cameras guarding the area -- that would make for an awkward conversation later -- he quickly disconnected it. There was only a little over half an hour left in the movie. He could sneak away long enough to reconnect it and blame it on the storm and no one would have to be any the wiser. 

Of course, he probably should have accounted for Steve when developing his amazing plan. Steve gave him a suspicious look when he came back in a minute later, claiming he’d seen the lights go off from outside, but he hadn’t said anything. When the allotted time was up though, and Bucky left to go to the ‘bathroom’ only for the power to magically come back on, Steve’s grin was a little frightening. 

Cheering happily to himself, and apparently not finding the timing suspicious, Tony headed for the kitchen to make a fresh pot of coffee. Almost immediately Steve was grabbing Bucky, hustling him into the corner where they wouldn’t be overheard. 

“Oh my god,” he hissed. “You like him.” 

Bucky rolled his eyes, trying to deflect from the way he shifted awkwardly. “Oh my god,” he parroted back. “What are you, Stevie, a twelve-year-old at their first sleepover?” 

Steve ignored him, not phased in the slightest by Bucky’s ornery attitude. “Come on, Buck. You’re acting like I don’t know you. Turning off the movie so he doesn’t have to watch it? I see you showing how much you care in that creepy, strong, invisible assassin way of yours.” 

“Jesus Christ,” Bucky muttered. “I just met the man.” 

It wasn’t a denial though, and he knew Steve hadn’t missed that fact. He gave Bucky a pointed look. “So did I.” 

“Yeah, well, you’re not exactly known for your restraint.” 

Steve huffed. “It’s okay, pal. You’re allowed to have feelings, it doesn’t mean the world is going to end. Nobody’s saying you have to marry the man tomorrow just because you’ve got a little crush.” 

“It’s not a crush ,” Bucky protested, and then, because Steve obviously wasn’t going to let this go, and wasn’t entirely wrong, “But there’s maybe…” He threw his arms up helplessly. “The beginning of feelings. I do like the man. Okay? Happy?” 

Steve positively beamed at him. “Was that so hard?” he teased, clapping him on the shoulder. “Just remember,” he added, heading back over to the couch. “I called dibs.” 

“Wait.” Bucky stared after him, following him without meaning to. “What? What do you mean you’re calling dibs??” 

All he got in response was a too-casual shrug, Steve’s lips twisted into a shit-eating grin but with a glint to his eyes that suggested he maybe wasn’t entirely just talking shit to rile Bucky up. “I’m calling dibs,” he said again. “It’s not my fault you can never get your head out of your ass, Buck. I saw him first!” 

“Nuh-uh, no way.” Bucky shook his head and then shoved at Steve for good measure. “You can’t call dibs.” 

“Uhhh. I think you’ll find that I just did,” Steve replied, shoving him back.

“Nope, don’t care. I’m calling dibs on Tony. You’ve already got your stupid crush on Iron Man.” 

Steve blinked, staring at him incredulously. “SO DO YOU!” 

Which was, admittedly, a fair point; there was something about the snarky vigilante that did funny things to Bucky’s insides, to the point where he’d started watching the skies for his arrival on his and Steve’s more recent missions. But still, it was a matter of principle. He couldn’t let Steve think he’d won

“It doesn’t matter,” he insisted. “He’s a human being, Steven.” 

Steve just stared blankly back at him. “So?” 

“So you can’t call dibs!” he added. He was well aware that he was completely ignoring the fact that he had just tried to do exactly that, and Steve probably would have called him on it, if not for the timely return of Tony. 

“Oooh,” he crowed, balancing three steaming mugs in his hand and grinning at them with eyes that were just a little too sharp. “What are we calling dibs on?” 

“Uhh…” Bucky stared for an instant, feeling uncharacteristically caught off guard, but for all that Steve was a giant pain in the ass, there was a reason he’d been Bucky’s best friend for so long. 

“Chocolate,” he lied smoothly. “Bucky’s got a wicked sweet tooth, and he’s got a secret stash of the expensive imported shit. He was calling first dibs on it when we get home.” 

“Ahh, right.” Tony hadn’t looked like he believed one word of what Steve was saying to him, all but openly laughing at them, but at the mention of ‘home,’ his smile faded ever so slightly, almost imperceptible if Bucky’s entire life didn’t depend on noticing people. “Well, it might not be up to your exacting standards, but I do happen to have chocolate floating around here,” he offered, recovering quickly. 

Despite that weird little moment that, technically, wasn’t even long enough to qualify as anything, Bucky couldn’t help feeling like things had shifted slightly, in a Very Good Way. The evening passed quickly, the three of them sharing jokes like they were all old friends. Tony’s laughter was addictive, and now that Steve had called him out, it seemed silly for Bucky to pretend like he didn’t want to make him smile. The conversation was easy and on top of that were the looks. He’d caught Tony watching Steve a few different times with a small, almost hungry smile on his face. It might have been enough for him to feel jealous, except for the few times he also caught that look turned on himself. There were touches, too, casual brushes of the shoulders or arm as Tony slipped past them to grab refills on their drinks, the touch of his fingers against Bucky’s upper thigh when he wedged his way between Steve and Bucky to show them something on his phone. Brief enough to give him plausible deniability, but still lingering enough that Bucky knew, deep down, that they weren’t accidental. 

It was easy, tucked away in the middle of nowhere, snowed in and isolated from everyone to imagine that something could… Happen. Easy to keep flirting, to reciprocate those feather-light, could-be-nothing touches. Even when the snow had stopped the next day, the sun rising blindingly bright over the crisp white landscape, and Tony told them the part for their car would probably arrive in the next couple of days, it was all too easy to push that aside, to pretend they could just stay here in some happy little bubble indefinitely. 

Or at least, that was the case. 

Bucky was standing in the kitchen, eating yoghurt right from the carton just because it pissed Steve off (even though he’d finish the carton easily, so chill the fuck out, Steve), when he heard a noise on the staircase behind him. Immediately tensing, he shifted into defensive mode and whirled to face the door just as it burst open. He stared for a split second, registering the man bundled up in what looked to be about twelve layers of parka as Probably Not a Threat before he could take him out with his spoon. 

“Who the fuck are you?” he demanded instead, not entirely relaxing. 

The stranger pushed back his fur-lined hood and the scarf wrapped around his mouth, revealing a handsome face and suspicious eyes. “Who the fuck are you ?” he demanded in turn. 

“I asked you first,” Bucky retorted which yeah, definitely not his best look. 

The newcomer blinked at him a moment and then evidently decided to ignore him entirely, shoving past Bucky instead. “Hey, Tones?” he hollered down the hallway. “Who’s the weirdo in your kitchen?” 

Bucky blinked after him, a little affronted, and it wasn’t Tony who appeared in the hallway, but Steve. 

“Who are you?” he asked curiously, and the stranger stopped, staring back and forth between them. 

“Okay, seriously. Tony? Short little smartass, habitual under sleeper and coffee drinker? He does still live here, right?” He arched an eyebrow as they continued to frown at him. “Please tell me you’re at least not serial killers. Pepper’s gonna kill me if I ask her to help me start planning a funeral.” 

They were saved having to answer by Tony finally making an appearance, stepping out from his bedroom and blinking at the three of them standing there. 

“Rhodey?” he hollered, and then a second later he was tearing down the hall, practically jumping on the other man in his haste to hug him close. The interaction between them seemed so easy and familiar, and Bucky felt his stomach sink. The name triggered something in Bucky’s mind, remembering Tony talking about what he’d do if ‘his’ Rhodey was hurt, and how ‘his’ Rhodey had just restocked his groceries. He met Steve’s gaze over the top of their heads, and found his own sour feelings echoed on Steve’s expression. 

And then Tony was pulling away, arms still on the man -- Rhodey --’s shoulders as he beamed at him. “What are you doing here?” 

Rhodey arched an eyebrow, lifting his head to eye Steve. “I think the better question is who the hell are these people?”

“Oh, uh…” Tony stepped away further, gesturing to the two of them. “This is Steve, and over there, that’s Bucky.” 

“Bucky?” Rhodey repeated, a little skeptically, and Bucky resisted the urge to give him his strongest glare. “Yeah, that’s still not giving me much to go on, Tones.” 

“Um,” Tony scratched at the side of his nose, clearly twitchy. “We-elllll. They came in late the other night, and I didn’t have the part I needed to fix their car, and it’s not like there was anywhere else for them to go, so… I let them stay here until the part came in?” He winced, rubbed the back of his neck. “And then, you know, there was the snowstorm, so they got kind of… Stuck?” 

Rhodey drew in a long, deep breath. “Tones…”

“Come on Rhodeybear!” Tony ridiculously wide, pleading eyes on him, and Bucky felt something flutter low in his stomach. “It was a snowstorm! Mother Nature! Weather! Not even I can control the weather!” 

“Yeah, but you can control letting two strangers live with you,” Rhodey shot back, rubbing at his forehead. “What the fuck, Tones.” 

Steve was slowly retreating back into the living room, clearly not wanting to be part of this little domestic dispute, but Bucky frowned. Something about Tony and Rhodey’s interactions didn’t seem very couple-y to him. 

“Listen, honeybear,” Tony was saying. “I’m fine! Everything’s fine! The power went out once, but it came back on before it got too cold, it was fine , we’re all fine… Look at them, they’re very fine, know what ‘m sayin’...” 

He waggled his eyebrows ridiculously, obviously trying to get his… Boyfriend? Friend? to smile. But when Bucky caught his eye over Rhodey’s shoulder, he gave him a quick wink too. 

“Anyway,” Tony continued brushing past him and heading back toward Bucky, “You still haven’t told me what you’re doing here. You just left a few days ago. You forget your favourite underpants, or something?” 

“Really, man?” Rhodey directed a Look at the back of Tony’s head. “There was a two-day snowstorm, Tony. Of course I came to check up on you. You sometimes forget to brush your teeth every day.” 

Bucky saw Tony’s eyes go wide, a slight flush on his cheeks before he whirled around to stare at the other man. “ Rhodey ,” he hissed, his head tilting slightly in a nod toward Steve, who was suddenly fascinated by his hands. (Give Steve neo-Nazis to fight, and he was all set. Major emotional events? A complete coward). 

Rhodey just shrugged impassively, turning to follow Tony down the hall. “And then,” he continued, “I heard there was Captain America sighting like five miles from here.” 

Behind them, Steve’s head snapped up, eyes wide, and Bucky fought back the urge to roll his eyes. There was a reason that he ran around in a flashy suit designed like the American flag; subtlety had never been one of Steve’s strong points. 

“And I know how you are with Captain America,” Rhodey continued. “Can’t resist going out and catching a glimpse. Figured I should make sure you didn’t get into trouble, weren’t hiding some catastrophic injury.” 

He said it so pointedly that for half an instant Bucky thought he knew, that somehow he’d put together the Captain America sighting with Bucky and Steve’s sudden appearance and figured out who they were. He wasn’t looking at them though, his gaze focused on Tony, and Tony’s expression in turn was just a little too casual. 

“Oh yeah?” he asked. “I hadn’t heard. Anyway, if you’re here, why don’t you make yourself useful and come help me make lunch?” 

Eyes narrowed, Rhodey followed Tony into the kitchen, pausing as he passed Bucky near the doorway. “Hey man, do you think you could give us a minute?” he asked, voice not-quite-warm. 

Bucky held up his hands in what he hoped was a reassuring gesture. “Yup! No problem.” Leaving them alone, he hurried off down the hall, only to have Steve yank him into the living room. 

“Shit, Buck,” he hissed. “Do they know?” 

“We’re fine, you goofball,” Bucky assured him, like the exact same thought hadn’t occurred to him. “Whatever that was, I don’t think it was about us.” 

“Oh.” Steve considered this, falling back onto the couch. “Do you think they’re, you know… Together?”

Bucky shrugged, flopping down on the couch beside him. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “I thought so, at first, but…  I don’t know.” 

Steve hummed out an agreement. “I suppose we have only known him for a couple days,” he admitted with a wry grin. “Even if they are together, it’s not like we have some kind of claim on him.” 

“Yeah.” Bucky turned to Steve. “Are we doing the right thing here? I mean, hiding out with the hot mechanic? Presumably those guys are still out there, looking for us. There’s still shit going on out there, and we’re just… Hiding.”

Steve sighed. “Okay, listen up, guy, I’m not going to say it again, but I was hurt. Okay? I admit it, I was injured. And more than that, I’m fucking tired, Buck. I don’t know, I just feel like we’re supposed to be here. Even without the snowstorm, and even if Tony wasn’t a wet dream… We’re of no use to anyone if we don’t give ourselves a break every once in awhile.” 

Bucky groaned, leaning his head back against the couch. “God, I hate it when you actually manage to say something smart.” 

“Fuck off,” Steve retorted, but he was grinning. “Tell me I’m wrong, though.” 

“No, you’re not,” he admitted. 

“See?” Steve elbowed him in the ribs, hard. “Try to go easier on yourself, yeah?” 

**

Rhodey ended up staying for lunch, and while the suspicious looks didn’t stop, exactly, he did seem to warm to them slightly, being polite even if he wasn’t out right friendly. The more he saw them interact, the more Bucky was pretty sure that they actually weren’t together, just incredibly close -- not unlike he and Steve, when he thought about it. 

This was all but confirmed when Rhodey left with a final suspicious look at the two of them and a reminder to Tony to call if he needed anything at all and Tony shut the door behind him and turned to them with something like an apology on his lips. 

“Sorry about that. He’s the best man I know,” he told them. “He’s just… Overprotective.” He rubbed at the back of his neck, looking a little embarrassed. “I wasn’t always a great judge of character, knew some… Pretty bad people, when I was younger. I don’t know if he’ll ever forget that. Anyway!” He brightened his expression, clearly not wanting to expand on the topic, and turned to Steve. “Redo on that last chess game?” 

The afternoon passed much like the day before, bright and light and easy, and Bucky did his best to let himself enjoy it, not get caught up in what he should be doing. Steve was right; they did need a break. And he liked it here with Tony, tucked away, feeling removed from real life. 

Of course, he should have known that once he allowed himself to embrace the feeling, it wouldn’t last. 

Tony and Steve had abandoned their chess games in favour of moving on to cribbage, like a couple old men, and then eventually Bucky had wandered off to make dinner again. After another heavy pasta dinner that had Tony making delighted noises, they’d all ended up sprawled around the living room, watching one of those action movies that were more explosions than plot. Tony had kicked his feet up on the couch where Bucky was sitting, his sock-clad toes nearly brushing against his leg, and Bucky was distracted by that and nearly dozing when he heard a noise. It was quiet, nearly inaudible under the noise of the movie, and it could have been nothing. But Bucky wouldn’t have been Bucky if his brain didn’t play what if.

He grabbed his empty glass off the coffee table, getting to his feet. “Refill?” he offered, getting a vague assent from the other two men that he barely heard as he headed for the kitchen. Not turning the lights on, he crept over to the giant picture window, peering outside. The sun had long since set but the sky had stayed clear, and now the moon shone brightly on the snow, lighting it up almost as well as the daylight. There was nothing there that he could see, just a still, empty field. 

And then, just as he was about to write himself off as even more paranoid than he’d realized, there was a flash of motion, and when he looked again he spotted the figure, all dressed in black and sticking close to the shadow of the house so as not to be seen. It was quickly followed by a second figure, and then a third, and Bucky felt adrenaline shoot through him. 

“Shit,” he hissed, slinking away from the window again. “Shit, shit, shit. How did they…” 

He didn’t finish his thought, because the how didn’t really matter. As quickly as he dared so as not to freak Tony out, he hurried back to the living room, drink refills forgotten. “Uh Steve?” he asked, stopping in the doorway. “Could I talk to you a sec?” 

Both Tony and Steve looked up at him, and Steve must have seen some of what was going on in Bucky’s expression, because Bucky could see the way his body tensed, switching almost instantly into Captain America mode. He opened his mouth, presumably to ask what on earth was going on, but before he could there was a loud bang and then the entire building rocked with an explosion somewhere outside. Bucky caught himself in the door frame and Tony yelped and nearly fell off the couch before Steve caught him around the waist. 

“Shit,” he said, as he caught his bearings, meeting Bucky’s eyes. 

“They found us,” Bucky agreed. 

Steve nodded tersely, then turned Tony to face him. “Listen to me, Tony. I am so sorry, we should have… It doesn’t matter. You’re in danger, you need to get somewhere safe.” 

Tony looked back and forth between them incredulously. “What about you??” 

“We’ll be fine,” Bucky assured him as Steve rushed to join him. “We’ve… We’re fine. You need to get somewhere safe and hide, understand?” 

“Yeah…” Tony said vaguely as they raced back toward the kitchen. “I’ll… Do that.” 

Trusting him to know the best place to go, Steve and Bucky headed back for the stairs. In one actual stroke of luck, the garage hadn’t been infiltrated  yet, and with the placement of the stairway door, they were able to sneak into the garage without being seen and even raid the back of their broken down car for the shield and guns they’d hidden in the backseat. Unfortunately, that seemed to be where their luck ended. As they hunkered down behind the car, trying to formulate a plan of action with their limited visibility, Bucky could already tell they were outnumbered. 

He turned to Steve, not sure what he was even going to say, but before he could speak there was a loud screeching from outside as their megaphone (??? what kind of bad guys even were these?) came to life with a painful amount of feedback. 

“Attention Captain America,” a voice with an indeterminable accent called out. “Come out, come out. This can end now. If you and your companion come quietly, no further action will be taken.” 

Beside him, Steve huffed. “Well that’s just rude,” he grumbled, and when Bucky turned to look at him, he gave him a wan smile. “I mean, it’s not like there’s a whole lot of explanations for two guys showing up on Tony’s doorstep looking like they’d been attacked by a rogue elephant, but outing someone’s secret identity is just mean .” 

Bucky huffed out a soft laugh too, couldn’t really help himself. “We’re in agreement that they’re 100% lying about no further action if we come quietly, right?” 

“Oh yeah, definitely.” 

“At least they don’t want Tony?” His stomach clenched at the thought of what they might have dragged him into. “We go down fighting and at least it might give him a chance to get away. I know it’s not the best option, but by the time we’d get any backup here it’d be too late anyway.” He gave Steve a smile. “It’s you and me, pal.”

Steve’s returning smile was even tighter. “Wouldn’t have it any other way.” Then, because he was Steve, he clapped Bucky on the back, hard . “But come on, Buck, cheer up. Where’s your sense of optimism? I’m Captain America!” 

“Yeah, pal, you’re Captain America. Just wouldn’t be fitting if you didn’t heroically and tragically die for nothing, am I right?” 

“Something like that.” Steve nudged him with his arm. “And you’ll be right behind me.” 

“Exactly.” 

One last, regretful look shared between them and then, without needing to say the words aloud, they grabbed their weapons. The element of surprise was about the only advantage they had, and the least they could do was make full use of it.

They may have been seriously, ridiculously outnumbered, but they were still very good at what they did. For awhile, at the start, it might have even looked like they had a chance. The two of them moved in perfect sync, complimenting each other, Steve calling attention to himself, distracting, while Bucky slunk through the shadows, the two of them taking out the Hydra goons methodically, one by one. 

Even the serum had its limits though, and Steve had already been injured, and what the bad guys lacked in ability they more than made up for in sheer numbers. They seemed never-ending, piling through the snow, and Bucky could see Steve starting to lag, only a split second behind, but those split seconds could add up. 

He was just hoping that they’d at least bought enough time for Tony to get to safety when his super serum hearing picked up a noise, a low whine that was both familiar and impossible at the same time. Taking out the guy on top of him with a well-timed throat punch, he looked up and felt his jaw drop. 

“Holy shit,” he hollered inadvertently, loud enough to draw Steve’s attention too as, unbelievably, Iron Man flew into the scene. 

It was almost laughably easy, after that. Iron Man was the big guns, more than making up for the artillery that he and Steve were lacking, and between the three of them it was almost no time at all before the bad guys were all incapacitated, Iron Man snarking in his trademark robotic voice, like none of this was any effort at all. 

Bucky felt almost embarrassed when, what seemed like scant minutes later, he looked around to find no one left standing beyond him and Steve. “Jesus Christ,” he muttered, shaking his head with a rueful grin as Iron Man did a final, showy flyby over top. Steve was grinning too, looking up to give Iron Man a wave, and it was just as he glanced over at him that Bucky noticed the flash of silver, the glint of steel in the moonlight. His eyes went wide but it was already too late to do anything as the crack of the gunshot went off by the bad guy they’d missed and Steve went down like a ton of breaks. 

“Steve!” he hollered, only vaguely noting the way his cry was echoed. His training kicking in, he raced across the field, not to Steve but to take out the man who had shot him. He was already injured, the gun a last ditch effort to try and stop them, and it took less than a minute for Bucky to take him down fully. But by the time he got to Steve, Iron Man was already there. 

“Steve?” he was saying, patting the unconscious man’s face as gently as he could manage with the metal gauntlets. “Steve, can you hear me?”

Bucky took the time to note that at least Steve’s breathing was steady, that there was no bright bloom of blood on the snow beneath him, before Iron Man’s words caught up to him. 

“Wait,” he said, looking over at him. “How do you know his name?” 

There was a long moment of silence, and Bucky didn’t know how it was possible for a robot suit to emote guilt, but that’s exactly what it was. Then Iron Man’s face shield slid up. 

Bucky blinked, felt like he’d had the wind knocked out of him as he stared at the familiar face behind the mask, Tony smiling sheepishly back at him. 

“Holy shit!” 

“Holy shit!” Steve echoed, apparently regaining consciousness without either of them noticing. “Holy shit !” He struggled to his elbows, trying to sit up, and groaned loudly in the process. “Fuck,” he grumbled. “Why am I always the one getting hurt?” 

“Hey, take it easy, pal.” Bucky planted his left hand on his chest, keeping Steve from getting him too fast. You just got knocked on your ass for the second time in like three days. Don’t want you getting hurt worse.” 

“Buck…” Steve rolled his eyes, shifted a hand to try and pry Bucky’s metal fingers off of him. “Knock it off, I’m fine. It was just some kind of tranq gun or something. Serum already ran through it. I just think I landed on a rock or something.” 

“Still, I’d feel better if we got you checked out before you hoe up all set to jump back into the fray.” 

“I’m fine , Buck. Buck -- quit it!” 

He started slapping at Bucky, trying to get him to move, but Bucky had the position advantage and kept him pinned, snickering a little at Steve’s attempts since he was clearly okay. The wave of relief that had gone through him was strong, and he couldn’t help wanting to just keep the dumb punk still a little longer. 

“No,” he insisted. “Jesus Steve, you gotta stop scaring me like this.” 

Beside him, Tony cleared his throat. “Right,” he said, and Bucky looked over to find him watching them with a funny look on his face, almost sad . “We should, uh…” He glanced down at his suit. “We should probably talk, later, but I’ll… I’ll give you two a moment.” 

He started to shift away, closer to the two of them than Bucky had initially realized, and without thinking he reached out, grabbing Tony’s wrist -- like that would do anything to keep a flying suit of armour in place. “Where the hell do you think you’re goin’?” 

Tony looked startled, eyes wide. “Nowhere. I mean, I just…” He gestured between the two of them in some way that he apparently thought was meaningful. “You know, reaffirming love confessions and whatnot. Probably don’t want an audience for that.” He gave a weak grin. “Nothing like a near-death experience to remind you how much you love your boyfriend, right… Although, I guess near-death experiences aren’t quite as uncommon for you two as they are for the average person, huh?” 

He seemed to realize he was rambling and stopped abruptly, leaving Bucky blinking at him. He looked at Steve, to see if that had made any kind of sense to him, but Steve just stared blankly back at him. 

What ?” Bucky asked. 

Tony was looking flat out uncomfortable now. “You, I mean… You’re together, right? And so I figured, you know… You thought Steve almost died for a hot second there and so you might just want a minute… Together… Alone?” 

Bucky nearly choked on air as he realized what Tony was getting at. “You thought me ‘n Steve were together? Like dating ?” 

“Oh, ew!” Steve added reflexively as he caught on too. 

Bucky rolled his eyes, smacking Steve on the outside of his thigh. “Oh, thanks Stevie. That’s real nice.” He turned his gaze on Tony, who was starting to look a little confused. “Tony, Steve and I are not together. I mean, I love him, and I’d probably die for him -- you know, if I really had to -- but we’re not like that,” he told him, Steve nodding his agreement a little frantically. 

“But, but…” Tony was frowning now. “The way you are with each other. You finish each other’s sentences.” He pointed at Bucky a little accusatory. “You gave him that look !” 

“What look?” 

“That look when I told you I couldn’t fix your car right away. Like everything was awful and your whole world was ending but at least you were facing it together. That’s a love look if I’ve ever seen one.” 

Bucky shrugged, Tony’s frantic tone starting to make him feel a little hysterical himself. “It was probably just exhaustion!” 

Steve nodded again beside him, eyes wide. “We finish each other’s sentences because we’ve been friends for about a hundred and two years. I know Buck like the back of my hand, but we’re not dating. Never have.” 

“Oh,” Tony said weakly. He shifted to sit back on his ass with a loud clank from the suit. “Wait. So you’re both single? That’s… Maybe not better.” 

Bucky’s stomach did a little flip, and echo of the feeling when he’d finally admitted to Steve the bit of a crush he was developing on Tony. “Yeah?” he asked, and he didn’t mean for his voice to drop into that low, husky register, it just kind of did. “Why is that?” 

Tony fixed him with a glare, a hint of fondness beneath it. “You know why. I’m many things, hot stuff, but nobody’s ever accused me of being subtle. But it’s different when it’s just harmless flirting cause you’re already with each other. God, this is embarrassing.” He dropped his face into his hands, Bucky fighting back a grin at how adorable the movement was (and dear god, he really was gone for the man), before lifting his head again and looking at them both head on. “I really like you. Both of you. I already liked you as Captain America and the Winter Soldier, and I fucking adore knowing you as Steve and Bucky. And admittedly, that sounds a little batshit I know, but I feel like there’s a chemistry here that’d be worth exploring.” Then he shrugged helplessly again. “But how the hell am I supposed to explore it with only one of you?” 

Bucky couldn’t help smirking a little, didn’t even have to look at Steve before he spoke again. “Who says you have to?” 

Tony arched an eyebrow at him. “Excuse me?” 

“Buck and I have shared just about everything since we were kids,” Steve added. “Don’t see any reason we couldn’t make this work too. Plus, Bucky has like the biggest crush on Iron Man--,” 

“Shut up, asshole!” Bucky interrupted, shoving him. “So do you!” 

“And I couldn’t deprive my best friend of that. But also, I’m selfish. I want you for myself too. Seems like this is the best solution.” 

Tony’s other eyebrow joined his first, but he was starting to smile now too. “Really? You two would be comfortable with that?” 

“It’s 2020,” Steve told him airily. “Polyamory is in. Get with the times, Tony.” 

“Well I know that,” Tony protested, grinning fully now. “I just didn’t know if it was something you could handle with your old man sensitibilites.” 

“Rude,” Steve protested, grinning right back.

“There is one condition,” Bucky added as he heard the first whump of helicopters in the distance -- it seemed their big blow out was enough to finally warrant an extraction team. He kicked out with his foot, his boot clanging against the metal surrounding Tony’s ankle, and grinned. “You gotta join us on all fronts. No more unsanctioned vigilantism there, Iron Man .” 

Tony rolled his eyes, but gave him a reluctant smile. “Guess I could make that work,” he agreed. Then he threw Bucky a wink, nodding at his left arm. “Does that mean you’ll let me have a look at that gorgeous metal arm you’ve been hiding from me?” 

At Bucky’s acquiescence they fell into an exhausted silence, listening to the approaching helicopters as both the emotional and physical strain took their toll. Bucky was just wondering if it was too early to suggest making out when Tony sighed heavily. 

“Damn. If you’re not together, I guess that puts a damper on all my favourite fantasies of being the filling in a super soldier sandwich.” 

It was said jokingly, meant to elicit a laugh, but Bucky couldn’t help the flare of heat that shot up his spine or the way his toes briefly curled in his boots at the resulting mental image. “Well…” He glanced over at Steve, who just winked back at him, and grinned wide. “I wouldn’t give up on all your dreams just yet.” 

***

After the bodies had been cleaned up and the extraction team had come and gone, after the explanations and the after-action reports and hours of talking to Fury, after Tony had officially been welcomed into the SHIELD fold, it was just Steve and Tony and Bucky once more, left alone in the apartment above Tony’s garage. 

They ate, enough to sate even Bucky and Steve, and they talked. Explanations were given about how Steve and Bucky had gotten all super-serumed up, and how Tony had become Iron Man. (Bucky had felt himself falling even further when Tony had told them he was just a mechanic who built himself a shiny suit, just a guy doing his best, and how he had an advantage in being extra smart, so he felt he had a responsibility to use that to help people.) Discussions were had about feelings and desires and hopes and expectations. 

And after all of that, there was the living room, a fire in the fireplace and flurries drifting past the window, the thick shag rug on Tony’s floor and the three of them. 

In deference to Steve’s wounds and lingering sense of unease from the tranq, he was the one who got to lay there like a starfish while Tony ground himself into Steve’s lap. Bucky, on the other hand, was left to cradle Tony’s hips from behind, helping him with his rhythm and plastering himself front-to-back against Tony in the process. Bucky had never been so grateful for the enhanced abilities the serum had given him, letting him easily maintain a straddling kneel on the carpet while nosing down the back of Tony’s neck. 

Honestly, he’d had worse jobs. 

“We’ve been treating you with civilian gloves, Stark. What a shame,” he muttered into Tony’s skin, voice a low rumble. He scraped his teeth over the top of his spine. “Not any more,” he added, and it was gratifying how Tony reacted to his voice by allowing his rhythm to shudder. For a moment, instead of grinding down onto Steve, Tony was pressing himself back into Bucky. Bliss.

“We… We could have been doing this the entire time we were snowed in,” Steve said dazedly, staring up at both of them with dark, wide eyes. He groaned, and Bucky wasn’t quite sure if it was in pleasure, or disappointment for what they’d already missed. 

“You two could have been doing this for your whole lives, Steve. I don’t wanna hear it,” Tony pointed out. 

Bucky laughed a little against his shoulder. “We really, really couldn't have.” 

Not without you.