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Hollowness

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It feels like a hollowness, when Tony first realizes. First sees. And the first thought, the first thought his useless, traitorous, genius brain can come up with was At least this time when he leaves, it wasn't your fault .

Bucky finds them. Oh, Steve had been hunting him for months and months, embarking on jaunts to Mongolia, to Brasilia, to St. Louis, to anywhere there was so much as a whisper. Sending Sam whenever he couldn't go himself, when Steve was needed in New York too much, or what was left of SHIELD had a need for one of their best agents, or the Avengers had somewhere to be, somewhere to save. Steve had been hunting and Tony had done everything he could to help, devoting every spare computing cycle on all of Stark Industries' many servers to running the facial recognition software that he himself had coded, that was dozens of times better than anything anyone else had but still wasn't good enough. Months of work, and time, and civilians saved, and tentative kisses, and one day Bucky walks into Tony's lab, right past a hundred floors of the best security precautions SHIELD and a team of superheroes could manage and says, standing not two feet behind Tony as if he'd teleported there, "So, you're Howard's kid. Heard you could fix my arm."

After that is the screaming, and there's a lot of it, because Tony a) is individually quite vocal and b) reflexively triggers JARVIS's intruder protocols which summon any nearby Avengers. It just so happens that Bruce is off Medicines-Sans-Frontiers-ing his conscience clean in West Africa, Natasha and Legolas are gathering intel in Cambodia, and Thor is with Jane in New Mexico, probably frightening innocent chupacabras with the duration and volume of their interspecies nasty. Which means the only non-Tony Avenger around to burst in on Tony trying to simultaneously kill the alarm and coax a world-class assassin out of the cover he'd taken behind a turned-over and helplessly beeping Dummy is, in fact, Steve. Steve, who is the only one even less likely than Tony to handle this well. He goes from full-out run to a sliding halt in the middle of Tony's workshop as he takes in the scene, shield on his arm and ready even though it’s two AM and he’s still barefoot and wearing only a pair of pajama pants.  His hair is tousled from sleep, and his shoulders still sport an impressive collection of bites from earlier that evening that haven't quite faded yet.

Bucky pops up immediately at the sight, murmuring "Stevie?" The look Bucky gives him, desperate and hopeful and ever so slightly lusting, the look that Steve returns in equal measure -- Tony has always been good at reading people, when he cares enough to bother, and that look starts a clock in his head, a countdown to a foregone conclusion. He's only had a few months with Steve, not even a full year since they stopped fighting and started -- well. Started nothing at all, really, not compared to a childhood and a war and a whole lost world together. And Tony will -- will be okay with it. Will let it happen, help it happen, keep the team together anyway. His... feelings, for Steve (don't use the word, don't say it and it isn't real, don't use that word and it won't hurt as much) won't let him give Steve anything less that whatever Steve wants, whatever he deserves.

----

The really galling part, Tony thinks a few weeks later, is that he can't even blame them. Tony'd spent a lifetime of girls and booze and boys and drugs and fast cars and blackouts running from himself and blaming anyone and everyone else for his problems, when he even deigned to acknowledge their existence. Before the cave, anyway. Fuck, but he always hated Plato, couldn't have had a metaphor from Aristotle become his life, no. But as much as he wishes he could blame them, either of them, he can't. They're -- trying. They pretend they aren't still in love after all these years, that they aren't pining, longing. Steve still kisses Tony goodnight every day, and if he's ever snuck into Bucky's room, he's been careful enough that Tony never catches a hint of it. And Bucky, once he eased down a little from that half-feral alley-cat wariness and let little flashes of the man he must have been before surface, is... well, a hell of a lot of fun. Mouthy, adventurous, charming. And gorgeous, of course. Tipping his chin up at Steve and giving him sass without having to speak a single word, letting his eyes and fox's grin coax a small, shy smile from Steve even as he winces from the latest adjustment Tony’s performing on his arm. He really did need someone to see to it, that first night, but the tech itself is -- both miraculous and outdated. Tony studies it, cracks open its secrets as Bucky cracks jokes to cover the pain from its primitive interface, patched haphazardly into his nervous system. Tony knows he can do better, build better. Can ease Bucky's pain and let him feel it, really feel it, when Steve holds his hand. Steve’s face is a portrait of disbelieving wonder whenever he looks at Bucky, whether he's one-upping Clint on the range or watching movies on the communal theater's couch. Sometimes, Tony thinks the worst part of it, the most fucked-up part of the whole damn thing, is that even knowing what's going to happen, he likes Bucky. And he thinks to himself, one night when he's riding Steve's cock, that in a way he's only ever been a replacement for Bucky, before he got back, returned from the dead to come back to Steve. He sees how similar they are, the looks, the sarcasm, the sense of humor, the ... romantic tendencies (if that's what you can call mutually storied histories of chasing anything that showed an interest). Tony had hated Steve in those first few weeks after they met because he thought that all he saw was Howard. Now, Tony thinks that all Steve ever saw was Bucky, the whole time, and he's not really sure that isn't worse.

Tony comes screaming, all the same.

----

After two months of it, Tony's officially had enough. It's starting to hurt, the waiting. Wondering, every time they make love, if this is going to be the last time Tony gets to taste this, to feel Steve's hands on his hips and hear those high, hitching breaths as he gets close, years of communal living keeping him mostly quiet even in the privacy of their room. Wondering if Steve's closed eyes when they kiss are him savoring it, or pretending it's Bucky he's finally kissing again. Seeing Bucky's wide-startled eyes every time Tony and Steve kiss in front of the team and no one calls them deviants, seeing that startlement melt into a deep and throbbing sort of pain.

Steve, Tony eventually realizes, is too honorable to just dump Tony and go after the man he actually wants. And Bucky's too convinced he's broken to think Steve still wants him just as much as ever, wants him so much more than he wants Tony. So. So Tony has to be the adult here, which is so completely out of character for him it makes him want to go on a three-day blackout engineering binge, invent another new element, and impulse-buy two companies, just to make up for having had the thought. But, he admits to himself, that doesn't actually make it less accurate. His calculations are very, very seldomly wrong, no matter how inconvenient. He gives himself a week. Seven days of Steve, when he'd wanted -- well. Seven days is what he's going to get, time enough to think of what to say, some way to ease Steve's path to Bucky, to everything he thought he'd sacrificed a lifetime ago. Tony doesn’t waste a minute of it in the workshop -- and when would he ever have thought of time in the shop as a waste before now? But he leaves his projects lying dormant, but for one. He spends every moment Steve has free beside him, watching movies, kissing, talking, making love, going out to dinners and lunches and picnics, fucking hard and nasty and desperate after battling monsters, waking Steve with slow and filthy blowjobs, floating through afternoons of lazy touches, spending every second Tony possibly can memorizing this. What it was like to have the very best thing he’d ever had, and would ever have, in his life.

And then it’s the seventh day, and Tony curls into Steve one last time in their bed and says “It’s okay, you know. You can go to him. I won’t let it hurt the team. We’re -- we can still be friends. Even though this is over.” And Tony stands up, and walks away.

----

Tony decides, after riding the elevator to his workshop in silence, that he has officially been an adult, and has earned as much scotch as it takes to forget the look on Steve’s face as he left, or at least as much as it takes to send him into a really quality engineering blackout. Maybe he’ll invent a mechanical heart to hook to the reactor. Something that can’t feel pain, anyway. He walks further into the workshop, telling JARVIS “Metallica. And none of the new crap, you know what I like. Loud. And lock it down. All entry codes temporarily deactivated, we are initiating Revenant protocol.”

“Crash Course In Brain Surgery” comes thundering down from the speakers as Tony turns towards the liquor cabinet and instead sees it, the one project he didn’t completely put on hold this week, working on it in the moments Steve was busy, had other places to be: Bucky’s new arm. All the upgrades are complete, all the data's been crunched, and it’s ready for him and Bruce to install. Well. While he’s still sober and Ste-Cap, Cap now. While Cap’s too shocked to chase Tony down, might as well make sure Bucky’s in the best possible shape for -- everything. To give Steve everything he deserves, everything he wants. “JARVIS, page the good green doctor and our cyborg friend to come to the workshop, and let their access codes work. Otherwise, full Revenant protocol is still in place, and alert me if it looks like Cap’ll break through.”

JARVIS manages to make his “Yes, sir, calling them now” sound both pitying and disapproving, which really, Tony would ordinarily be proud of his brilliance for having created someone who can emote like that despite being made of nothing more than code, but right now he only finds it depressing.  

Bruce appears at the door after a few moments, looking eager. “You’ve finished it?” he asks, looking over the arm and its matching neural implants.

“Yeah, it’s ready. The fab was complete last week, I was just debugging the code and running tests --”

“Tests?” Bruce interrupts. “As in, you actually tested something in a responsible, controlled fashion before running blithely ahead with it? I didn’t know you had it in you.”

“Yeah, well. Decided to look before I leapt this time. Don’t go expecting it to be a habit,” Tony grouses as Bucky slips into the workshop.

“Where do you want me?” he asks, grinning. Tony motions to the lab chair already positioned next to the completed arm.

“Okay,” he says once Bucky is settled and Bruce is in position behind the chair. “So, the way this is gonna go is, I’ll remove the current arm. Which, fair warning, is not going to feel great. I’ll insert and secure the new one while Bruce puts the neural implants in with, yeah, the long and terrifying needle, don’t mind saying better you than me, I’ve had enough terrifying needles in me thanks to Natasha, I really feel like I don’t need any more. It should actually go pretty quick, but it’ll hurt like hell as it’s happening and you’ll be a bit sore for a couple of hours, so no exertion until, you know, the hole in your spinal cord heals. Which, unlike for us mortals, should take you four, maybe five hours? Anyway. You ready?” Tony asks, already lifting the first wrench.

“Yeah,” Bucky nods. Tony nods once in return and goes to work, steeling himself against Bucky’s gasp of pain as the other man’s arm separates fully for the first time, patched and jury-rigged connections pulling slightly until Bruce carefully disconnects each one from Bucky’s nervous system. Tony upgrades the socket for the new model that will let the neuroconnectors function electromagnetically before wheeling the new arm in close, matching it to its housing carefully and ensuring the connectors pair perfectly as he begins bolting it into place. Bucky gasps again as Bruce guides his head forward and then inserts the foot-long needle bearing the uplink. The uplink’s necessary to give him full biofeedback from and control of his arm and has to go in agonizingly deep, but the soldier doesn’t so much as twitch as it’s placed. As the last bolt slides home, Bucky raises his head and meets Tony’s eyes, intense and questioning.

“It should be working,” Tony says, looking away quickly. “Give it a second and then try moving it, a little at a time. It should be faster than before, as fast as your right arm, now. And, uh. Sensitive.”

Bucky blinks and rolls his new fingers rapidly, checking their response time, and looks startled as he brushes against the table’s surface. “I feel metal. Not just the pressure, or the temperature of it -- it feels like metal,” he says wonderingly, touching his shirt, pants, and skin by turns and then looking down at his fingers. “I -- the textures are all there. It feels like --”

“Like the real thing,” Tony finishes. “Or as close to it as I could get.” Before Bucky can say anything else, Tony continues, “You should probably, uh. Go get acquainted with it. I’ve got some stuff here I need to work on,” he gestures vaguely, “Oh, and I think Cap said he wanted to see you, once you're settled with the new arm. He should still be in ou-- his room.”

Bucky nods again, absently this time, attention focused on his hand and touching every surface he passes. “Thank you, Tony,” he says, dragging his fingers wonderingly over the glass walls on his way out.

Bruce looks over at Tony curiously and asks “His room? Since when is it ‘his room’ and not ‘our room,’ -- or ‘Cap,’ for that matter? You’ve always called him Steve when we’re at home.”

“Things change,” Tony says flatly, gesturing at the door. “I’ve got some work to do. If you don’t mind?” he adds tiredly. Bruce blinks at Tony, seemingly both for the dismissal and its unexpected politeness, but leaves without protest. Now, Tony thinks. About that bottle of scotch.

----

Four generous glasses of scotch in, Tony decides that fuck it, it's his damn Tower, and he will be a creepy peeping Tom if he goddamn well pleases, and slurs out "'ARVIsss! Security feed. Steve's room. Cap. Cap's room. Yeah." The feed obediently pops into view against the far wall, audio flowing from the speakers. Tony splashes himself another glass as he just catches Bucky entering the room, having apparently taken the intervening... however long Tony's been drinking, to heal up.

"Steve, Tony just put on my new arm, it's incredible! I can feel with it aga--" Bucky cuts himself off as he enters fully and sees Steve sitting on the floor, back braced against the wall. "Uh, Steve? Why are you on the floor? You, uh, don't look so good. Which I didn't know could still happen."

"He locked me out of the elevators. I tried every one, every staircase up and down. Whole floor's sealed off from me. He just -- left. And locked me out," Steve answers, eyes distant.

"He -- Tony?" Bucky asks as he settles on Steve's right, sitting against the wall and pressing shoulder to shoulder. "You guys have a fight or something?"

Steve blinks and curls slightly into Bucky's warmth. "No, no fight. We've been fighting since I got out of the ice, fights are part of, this isn't, this wasn't a fight. He just... said it was over and left. Why, uh, you said he just put in your new arm? You come to show me it? Woulda thought you'd be showing up Clint with it or something."

"What? Tony told me to come here. Said you'd asked to see me once my arm had settled. He dumped you? Did he... say anything?" Bucky asks, looking almost nervous.

"Just that it was 'okay' and that I could 'go to' some 'him.' He wasn't making any sense. One second I was holding him, the next JARVIS won't let me take an elevator to his workshop's floor and is talking about a -- revenant? I don't even know what that is."

Tony touches Cap's stricken face on the projected feed and mutters "One returned from the dead. All those years at boarding school had to be good for something," and watches as Bucky's face shutters, unreadable emotions and thoughts flickering rapidly behind his eyes before his head jerks up in seeming realization. He extends his new arm around Steve's shoulders, cupping Steve's jaw with his flesh hand and turning Steve's face towards his own, catching Steve's eyes before leaning in for a slow, chaste kiss.

"Enough," Tony grunts. "Shut it down." The picture flickers for a second as the kiss deepens before shutting off completely.

----

Tony manages to hide in his workshop for five days of booze and MREs and passing out on one of the tables before the "Avengers Assemble" alert sounds. Tony debates for a moment if it might be some sort of trick to get him out of the lab, but dismisses it immediately as he starts suiting up. Cap wouldn't misuse the alert that way, even if the twenty denied calls from him, the five from Pepper, and the collective twelve from the rest of the team suggest he probably wants to talk. Well. Tony doesn't want to talk about it. Tony is going to stay in his lab until Bucky's many and obvious charms, that mouth in particular, have assuaged any lingering guilt from Cap, and then they'd just be friends, no talking required. The world needing saving doesn't actually change that plan. Iron Man will assemble as ordered. Tony will just so happen to be inside him. That doesn't mean they have to talk about it, just a little evil ass to kick and then back to the safety of the workshop. As the helmet snaps on and the HUD comes up, Tony asks "Okay campers, what evil are we fighting today? Doombots? Nazis? Doombot Nazis? Reed Richards' massive and undeserved ego?"

"Iron Man," Cap answers, grateful tone sending a totally unmerited shiver up Tony's spine. "It's good to hear your voice. Namor reports something he referred to as, uh, a 'steam-punk shark-thew-loo.’ I'm not entirely sure what those words all mean together, but I have been able to confirm we have big, angry, and nasty headed right at New York from the Atlantic. I need you to pick up Hawkeye and Winter Soldier from the roof and fly them into position to snipe once this thing surfaces, then run aerial recon."

Tony grunts out an "Affirmative" before sliding out of the workshop's built-in exterior access port, designed for just such an emergency, and quickly reaching the roof. He lands briefly, holding an arm out to each teammate, and they climb aboard. "Surprised you came out, Frosty," Tony comments as he flies towards the harbor.

"Well, I'm pretty sure if I don't earn my keep, I'll have to start paying rent, and rates just aren't what they were last time I was in the city," Bucky snarks easily. "Besides, this crazed hermit just put a new arm on me. Figured it was time to put it through its paces. The asshole just broke up with his boyfriend for no damn reason, so I don't know how much I can trust his work," he finishes just as they approach the rearing, tentacled, gear-encrusted... thing. Tony might let Bucky drop just a couple extra feet to his rooftop. Supersoldier can take it, he thinks spitefully as he carries Hawkeye to his designated rooftop in turn, lowering him rather more carefully before speeding off to see how the thing liked a little repulsor right in its... tooth-studded face tentacles. Damn.

----

They’re wearing away at the thing steadily, keeping it well away from any civilians or expensive buildings to damage, when Bucky's voice pipes up over the comms with "Hey, I have an idea." He then proceeds to wordlessly dive off the side of the building and straight onto the beastie's back, metal arm flashing.

"Winter Soldier, report! What do you think you're doing?" Cap demands.

"Told you," Bucky says, grunting with exertion. "Had an idea. Oh, crap. Someone needs to be ready to catch me in a couple seconds," he adds, yanking a blinking-lighted metal something from the creature's neck, causing it to clearly buck in agony, throwing Bucky helplessly through the air.

"Bucky!" Cap screams over the comms as the man begins to plummet to the ground.

"I got him" Tony bites out, pushing the repulsors to the max to get there in time, catching him as gently as a titanium-alloy suit can catch a two-hundred-pound supersoldier who’s rapidly approaching terminal velocity. Something in Bucky's side and his flesh arm snap, but he grabs the suit's shoulder with his left, latching on as Tony carries him to the perimeter SHIELD had set up and sets him down gently by the med van. Tony turns back to the fight only to find the towering threat gone, the other Avengers running toward them with Cap in the lead.

"Buck!" he cries out as he reaches them.

"Calm down, Stevie, I'm fine," Bucky assures him as the med techs start pulling off his uniform shirt and wrapping his arm and ribs to speed their healing. Tony's just starting to back away, preparing to fly home while Cap is distracted when Bucky adds "And I brought home a present for Tony. Check it out," he says as he tosses over the metal object he'd pulled from the thing's neck. Tony catches it on reflex, tearing his eyes away from Bucky's very muscular, mostly bare chest and Cap's worried expression to examine it.

"Looks like some sort of... remote control neural interface? I think someone forced that thing to attack us, and that's why it just left once this was out. Nice call, Soldier," he says as he flips up the visor and starts tinkering with the boxy thing, trying to learn more about its maker.

"Tony," Cap's voice comes from startlingly close some time later. "We need to talk."

"What?" Tony says, head snapping up to take in Cap and Bucky standing side by side in front of him, Cap's cowl down and Bucky's shirt long gone, ribs wound in bandages. God, they look perfect together. "Talking? Nooo, no talking, nope, just gonna --" Tony cuts himself off as Steve reaches up and cups his right cheek gently.

"Please don't run off again, Tony," he asks quietly. Tony shivers at the contact, leaning into it, eyes closing for a second. When he opens them, Steve is pressed close against the armor, Bucky only inches behind him on Steve's right. Tony notices they’re holding hands, Cap's gloved fingers entwined with their metal counterparts. "I love you," he says, and Tony isn't going to -- cry, or run. He's going to handle this like an adult. Just a little longer.

"But you love him more. It's okay, I get it. We're still friends. You have my -- my blessing, I guess. Or forgiveness. Whatever you want from me, you have it." Tony chokes out.

"What I want is you," Cap says quietly. Bucky shifts forward until he’s pressed against the suit just as closely as Steve.

"What we want is you," the brunette echoes, stroking two warm fingers over Tony's other cheekbone. "C'mon. It's not right, making him choose between us. Our Stevie deserves the best, doesn't he? And we're the very best. Both of us." Tony feels Steve's hand withdraw, a tiny pang of loss, before Bucky stretches up and kisses him, slow and sweet and full of promise.

----

While kissing is all well and good, Tony thinks viciously several minutes later, it doesn't exactly solve anything. It certainly doesn't make Bucky's right arm or ribs any less broken. And now there’s going to be more talking, Tony can just tell. And yes, Bucky is... magnetic. Yes, Tony’s found him attractive since the moment he'd first appeared in Tony's workshop. But that didn't mean this could work. Tony flies in circles over the harbor, idly listening to the Shield comm chatter over how Captain America was fussing over the newest Avenger. Sitting awfully close, too, and Isn't he with Stark? There’s no way this can work. He wonders how many people saw the -- the kiss. The med techs had already cleared out, at least, and there probably weren’t any agents nearby, but Steve’s reputation already took a hit when people realized he was dating that filthy skank Tony Stark. It wouldn’t help either of their reputations for said skank to be seen, or worse yet filmed, kissing an ex-Soviet assassin, much less while the poor virtuous misguided boyfriend not only looked on but held said Commie’s hand and then fretted over his injuries. So. Point one, Polyamory Is Not Good PR.

Tony continues thinking about it, though, slowing his flight and doing a couple passes out over the Atlantic ‘in case the monster comes back.’ He keeps thinking about the way Bucky’s mouth felt, about Steve’s hand on his face, and God, it wasn’t even skin to skin contact and it’s only been three days, but Tony feels starved of Steve’s touch already. They’re probably going to force him to talk about it once they’re all home, so Tony has to get his reasons in order so he can make them understand. Remind himself why he can’t just give in, can’t have Steve again. So. Reasons. The next is that he and Bucky don’t have anything in common, or rather, that they’re all too similar in personality while barely actually knowing each other. A couple months is not much to base a relationship on, and Tony’s pretty sure that they want something permanent, not just a quick fuck. As hot as said fuck would be, Tony would probably say no to that offer too. He knows himself well enough to realize that getting that tiny sip of Steve back for just a night, would… would break something in him. Probably past his ability to fix.

But they sounded like they wanted more, anyway. And Bucky -- Tony really, really tries not to be a stalker, but, well, JARVIS is set up to automatically report any suspicious or unsafe behavior he observes -- within certain parameters. Tony is still trying to scrub his brain clear of the video JARVIS played him of Natasha, Clint, and Coulson doing the wild thing after Coulson pulled his own revolving-door-afterlife stunt. Apparently, JARVIS had included unsafe sex practices in his initial scans, Clint wasn’t using a dam while eating Tasha out, and JARVIS didn’t have their STD statuses on file. Tony had rapidly reconfigured the alert’s parameters while trying as hard as possible to un-know that, and everything else he’d seen.

At any rate, despite Tony really not being a stalker, JARVIS reported a lot of videos of Bucky, especially in his first few weeks in the Tower. Bucky pacing in his room, obsessively flicking a knife open and closed while he appeared to rant at himself in what could be interpreted as two slightly different personalities. Bucky waking up from a nightmare already throwing a knife, turning the mattress over to use as cover before he’d even started to wake up fully. Bucky setting up little caches of weapons and supplies in rooms he frequented. Bucky boobytrapping his bedroom door before going to sleep. Point being, while he played a great game in front of other people, Tony knew that Bucky was only sort of staggering towards stability at this point, and while being with Steve would help, would remind him more and more of his old personality, his old self -- well, Tony could barely be considered fully functioning most days, and sure as shit couldn’t provide anyone else stability. So, upsetting the damaged supersoldier’s fragile equilibrium with Tony’s whirlwind self: bad idea.

And, well. Tony hasn’t ever been a very good boyfriend anyway. He’s selfish and awful at remembering dates and times and food that isn’t smoothies, and will disappear for days and have to be dragged out of his lab, and sometimes he damn near gets himself killed trying to defeat Evil, or at least the latest Magical Doombot Nazi Seamonster whatevers. It was that last that drove Pepper off in the end. She said she couldn’t be the one they brought the body home to. And while Steve and Bucky would be right by his side kicking tentacled ass… it didn’t fix any of the rest. Being with Steve had been amazing, and Tony’d tried to be good, and Steve had his own obsession the whole time, looking for Bucky. If he hadn’t, he’d have noticed how terrible Tony was at everything. Sex is pretty much the only part of a relationship Tony’s ever been good at, and he’s a little embarrassed to admit this even to himself, but he’s not willing to have a relationship based just on sex anymore. No matter how gorgeous they are, and even if it wouldn’t break him anyway to do it, he just … doesn’t want that. Maybe he’s getting old, but he wants something real. Something he knows they were offering and that he equally knows he can’t accept. Those months with Steve notwithstanding, he can’t make real work. And they have real already, it’s not like they need him butting in on the good thing they already have going. Real’s just not in him, he reminds himself again, pushing away the memory of promise in that kiss. He finishes his latest pass and heads back to the Tower, ready to explain why this is a terrible idea and pretending his heart isn’t aching at the thought.

He lands and sees them waiting at the end of the armor-stripping bots’ walkway, and sighs internally. Well, better to do this all at once, rip off the bandaid. “So,” Tony says when he’s just wearing his undersuit again. “Normally I’m all in favor of gay PDA, it’s great fun shocking the plebes, but that can’t happen again. This, this thing,” he gestures between the three of them, “This is not a thing that’s happening. I have some very excellent reasons, really, I made a list. I’m well-prepared for this,” he’s babbling, he knows he is, and then Steve steps forward into his personal space and all his words sort of dry up.

“I’m sorry we sprung it on you like that. Bucky--” he briefly turns and all but glares at the other man, “decided shock and awe tactics were appropriate without consulting me. He shouldn’t have done that. We wanted to talk to you, to tell you that we, that I want you back. I don’t want you to leave. And, and if you’re okay with me and Bucky -- that Bucky likes you too, and wants to try. The three of us, all together.”

And God, he has that little blush, in his cheeks and ears, the one he’d get every time they so much as kissed for the first few weeks, and Tony feels the reactor shudder. Or something in that area, anyway. But he took his time before coming home because he knew they’d be persuasive, and he has to head this idea off at the pass before it can all come crumbling down around their ears in a couple months. “I, my list. Um. First, uh, polyamory is very bad PR, uh, the press will go nuts if they catch wind of an Avenger love triangle, much less superhero menage’ a trois, and besides, I think we’d be copyright-infringing ClinTashAgent, or whatever name the gossip rags would give them, um, threesomes are their turf, uh, and I,” Tony tries again, but then Steve’s leaning in and he’s warm and smells good, and he’s just putting his hand on Tony’s shoulder, glove to undersuit, but Tony feels his resolve dangerously weaken.

“I know it’s a lot to take in all at once, Tony. You don’t need to give us an answer now. We aren’t going to rush you. Think about it. About you and I, and about Bucky. We’re -- he and I haven’t,” and he blushes again, and Tony’s reactor, totally his reactor, goes pitter-pat again with it. “Uh, we haven’t done, um, stuff yet. We wanted to… wait for you. For your decision. We’ll respect it, whatever it is. Just… take some time to really think about it, first? That’s all we’re asking,” he finishes, turning and walking off the landing strip with Bucky, while Tony boggles behind them. Well. He’ll definitely be thinking about them, about all that yearning and restraint and built-up need and -- A shower. Yeah, a shower will probably help his thinking, he decides as his eyes helplessly track the movement of Bucky’s ass as he goes through the door. A shower. Maybe a long one.

----

"Y'know, Stark," Bucky purrs from the bedroom doorway one night, several tense weeks later, "there are some things you should probably know." Tony promptly jumps, dumps the dregs of his coffee down his own shirt, and knocks over a side table. Every time, every fucking time. Bucky always manages to sneak up on him, and seems to get one hell of a kick out of tormenting Tony with the fact that he only has pathetic completely normal senses, tends to get maybe a little tunnel-visiony, and doesn't live with hair-trigger reflexes like the other humans of the Tower.

Possibly, Bucky enjoys it because Tony is the only resident it's safe to startle. Bucky'd been intelligent enough to never try it on Bruce, and Thor just laughed at his stealth attempts and boomed out something about Loki and invisibility spells and decade-long games of some kind of heavily armed tag. Steve has some sort of Bucky-sense that notifies him whenever Barnes is within a few hundred yards, and after Bucky's third failed attempt Steve caught on and preemptively forbade him from involving Sam, because he'd learned the dangers of engaging Wilson in anything even remotely resembling a prank war back when they lived in DC. Buck tried it with the other pure humans, and promptly learned his lesson about startling superspies via one of Natasha's shuriken to the biceps. When he'd tried it with Clint the next day, the archer had planted a dart in the dead center of the dime-sized spot that Bucky's enhancements hadn't quite finished healing, pretty much on pure instinct. Thereafter, he made Tony his sole target, and despite the... kiss that had happened, things are still sort of tense around the Tower and Tony's been on edge even more than usual, which seems to make Bucky enjoy the game to an exponentially greater degree.

Bucky continues speaking smoothly, but his eyes are dancing with laughter now. "There're things you should know about Stevie, while you’re considering. You ever noticed he has a type? You, me, Peggy... his tastes run pretty exclusively to smart, mouthy, dangerous brunettes. And I can't think of anything he'd like better," he says, slinking fully into the room and heading straight for Tony, "than a little brunette-on-brunette action. Fighting or fucking, whichever. I bet he'd go wild on us. You ever work him up that much? Get him to go all dominant on you, all growling and biting, actually using a bit of his strength, maybe holding you down? You ever get him like that?" he challenges, and Tony has never once backed down from a slight to his prowess, even if his cock is sort of distractingly twitching its way towards hardness at Bucky's tone and the light in his eyes.

"Of course!" Tony answers, and then amends "... Once. I may have been disobeying orders when a building sort of, through no fault my own, uh, fell on me. Possibly a largish building. After medical cleared me and I took the armor off... he, uh. Had strong feelings."

Bucky laughs a quiet "I bet" at that, coming ever closer. "I haven't gotten him like that since before they liberated France," he says, grasping the bottom of Tony's coffee-soaked black tank, starting to pull it up. Tony's too confused to resist, merely raising his arms as Bucky says "C'mon, this can't be comfortable, soaked like that. Pretty little princess like you can't abide that sort of thing." Tony's brain abruptly snaps back into gear at that, though the shirt is now long gone.

"Hey!" he says, and shoves at Bucky's shoulder, which doesn't make him so much as waver, stupid wall-of-muscle supersoldier constitution.

"Oh, were you trying to hit me? Oh, that's adorable!" he taunts, casually shoving Tony three feet back with what appears be no effort at all. Tony's running on caffeine and half a week of sleep dep and mounting sexual tension, and apparently briefly loses his mind because the next thing he knows, he's taking a swing. A swing that Bucky catches with laughable ease, which leaves him completely unprepared for the leg sweep Tony tries next.

Everyone assumes that just because Tony loves his armor more than many people love their children, that means he doesn't know how to fight out of it, that he's weak and vulnerable without his metal skin. Like Tony hasn't spent decades pounding metal and hauling engine components, like he didn't ever take self-defense classes when he was a teenaged wet dream for kidnappers, like he didn't start sparring with Steve three times a week since he moved in (and oh, don't think about that sparring right now, no thoughts of being sweaty and pinned under Steve or of all the times sparring ended with them naked and satisfied after they got together, he firmly instructs himself while his traitorous cock just hardens further).

Once that instant of surprise is over, Bucky rolls them easily, trapping Tony under him with his stupidly arousing supersoldier training and stupidly perfect supersoldier muscles and, sigh, stupid extra inches of height. He's stretched out right on top of Tony, pressed close from chest to thighs and holding Tony's wrists easily with his stupidly compelling bionic hand. Tony wriggles under him, trying to feel for a weakness in the hold, and only succeeds in grinding his erection against, oh, against Bucky's.

He's still wriggling, unsure if he really wants to break free or just get a little more stimulation, when Bucky leans down and kisses him again, dirtier than their first and full again with promise, albeit of a different sort. Bucky's flesh hand starts stroking down Tony’s bare side and Tony's sort of getting into it when he hears a choked noise from the open door. "Hiya Stevie," Bucky drawls while Tony mostly just pants and tugs against Bucky's grip on his wrists and maybe panics a little.

"Bucky," Steve says, and it's pure Captain America and that probably shouldn't make Tony's cock twitch a little 'hello,' but it absolutely does. "I thought we agreed that we weren't going to push. Tony's pinned. That doesn't look like not pushing to me."

Bucky looks up, all messy hair and trademark grin, and says "Punk managed to sweep my leg. Had to make sure didn't have any other tricks in mind," and sounds calm as anything, but he rolls his hips against Tony's in a move that's half demonstration, half teasing, and all arousing.

"He -- you were fighting?" Steve asks, and oh, Tony knows that tone, that is one of his very favorite tones, because that is 'I find your unacceptable behavior inconveniently arousing,' and normally Tony doesn't get that tone anywhere before the first million in property damage. Tony thinks he should probably feel jealous at how easily Bucky gets it, but to be fair the guy's had a lot more practice, and honestly Tony's mostly just wishing his pants were a little less tight, and maybe that he could get -- "Bucky. Why were you and Tony fighting?" and ding, we have a winner, Steve's moved straight into full Bedroom Voice.

"Aww, Stevie, nothing to worry about. Just a little roughhousing," Bucky answers, grinding against Tony again and oh, he has his own version of the Bedroom Voice, and this is both completely unfair and an extremely exciting development.

Steve's "Roughhousing. Right." sounds simultaneously skeptical and very turned-on, and Tony's reminded of Bucky's taunt, that seeing the two of them either fighting or fucking would rev Steve up, and they're kind of doing a little bit of both, and oh, Bucky's free hand just opened the button on Tony's pants.

"Right, Stark?" he asks as he eases the zipper down, idly dragging the back of his hand over Tony's rather obvious bulge.

Tony's "Yeah" is somewhat breathless, and he realizes he hasn't actually been struggling for a while, doesn't particularly want to get free, but if Steve might like it... He tugs on his still thoroughly-trapped wrists once by way of misdirection and rolls, trying to flip Bucky under him, but Bucky must have sensed it coming because there's a confusing series of shifts and then Tony's pressed back down, on his belly this time, with Bucky's hand just as firm around his wrists, Bucky's weight holding him still, and, fuck, Bucky's clothed erection grinding into his ass. He pretends to try to throw him off, but at this point it's mostly an excuse to grind against the carpet for a little relief, moaning as he does.

"Bucky," Steve says, sounding maybe a little wrecked. "Let him up." Bucky backs off immediately, and Tony thinks dazedly for a second of hunting dogs being called to heel before shaking it off and pushing himself to stand. "Tony, are you alright?" Steve asks, and shit, he's close, must've come over as Tony stood, and he looks concerned and -- flushed. That everywhere flush, not just his cheeks and ears but down his chest, the way he only gets when he's --. Oh. Bucky was apparently right.

"I'm, uh, I'm fine. He wasn't hurting me," Tony starts, and of course his opened pants pick that second to fall off, and, well, Tony doesn't see a need for underwear on days when he's just going to be in his workshop, so he's left standing there completely naked and obviously, humiliatingly aroused in the puddle of his pants.

"See, doll?" Bucky says, his voice still firmly in inappropriate territory, "We were just having a little fun together. Don't you like seeing that? The two of us, having a little fun together?" and now his tone is all filthy promise. "Wouldn't you like to watch us, together?"

Steve lets out a soft, needy little sound at that, but seems to almost visibly firm his resolve. "We agreed not to pressure him. C'mon, we should go," he says, but Bucky's already circled around and started casually stroking Tony's arm, sliding in to stand behind him and begin kissing slowly down his neck.

"I'm not pressuring him," Bucky purrs over Tony's shoulder, nibbling at his ear as Tony lets out another moan, starting to press back against Bucky's firm, still-clothed body. "I'm just... how would Natalia put it... I'm opening a dialogue," he finishes, using his, fuck, his metal hand to tilt Tony's chin back to him before claiming his mouth in another kiss. And Tony is -- is still hesitant about this, still thinks the relationship will end in flames if they try it, but wanting Bucky has never been the problem. So Tony spins in Bucky's arms, and the momentum is just enough to let him trip Bucky onto the bed, quickly climbing atop him and straddling his thighs, intensely aware of Steve's perfect view of his ass in this position.

"I'm willing to consider negotiating, Barnes," he allows, opening the other man's pants and pulling out his very hard cock. "What are your terms?" he asks before swallowing Bucky nearly to the hilt, working him eagerly and somewhat more showily than normal. They do have an audience, after all.

"Fuck!" Bucky shouts in surprise, metal hand burying itself in Tony's hair. "I, fuck, I surrender, unconditionally, oh fuck, Tony, keep going." Tony's a little too occupied to be sure, but he thinks he hears the door close and footsteps, and then fuck, Steve's hand is on him, his mouth peppering kisses on Tony's back, and he'd thought he'd never get to have this again and it's so good he maybe wants to cry a little, or maybe that's the way Bucky's cock is nudging down his throat in these little half-suppressed thrusts that are about five times hotter than they are uncomfortable.

Before long, Tony can feel the cool hand in his hair tightening a little, Bucky's breathing getting faster, and he's only been at a few minutes but Tony gets the feeling it's been a very long time since Bucky got any, and he's only barely had that thought when Bucky twitches, growing impossibly harder, and Tony opens his throat just in time to swallow as he comes and comes. Tony feels Steve's hands settle on his hips before he's pulled bodily off Bucky's softening cock and flipped easily, and then Steve is on top of him, nestled between his thighs, and he starts kissing Tony almost desperately. "God, I can taste him in your mouth," Steve moans, fumbling at his fly. Tony kisses him deeper, helping to push his pants open, and then Steve has both of them in one big hand, and it's fast and dirty and over in minutes, Steve following Tony over the edge almost immediately and leaving him lying next to Bucky, panting.

Bucky props himself up on one arm looking well-fucked and somehow younger and leans over to kiss Tony again, gentler this time, before saying "Good talk.”

----

Ordinarily, Tony has a support system for whenever he has mindblowing sex he's not sure if he regrets or not, and that system is the same system he has for everything, namely, Pepper. This one, though, he thinks as he wanders into his bathroom to hide until the other men leave, maybe requires a specialist, and that means there's just one person he can go to. That's why he finds himself, an hour later, back in his pants and wearing a different, non-inundated black tank (Bucky may or may not have used the coffee-drenched one to clean the three of them up, and it may or may not have been weirdly hot) standing outside Clint's door carrying a large bottle of tequila and a box of fresh doughnuts.

Tony discovered about four months into the Avengers' residency that Clint has a thing about the taste of doughnut glaze and tequila together, and in the same night also learned that Clint, for all he uses an absolutely ridiculous weapon and disrespects Tony's manifest genius on occasion, is actually an excellent bro. Certainly, part of that is the fact that he’s the only Avenger Tony can really drink with. Bruce tends to go green-tinged from so much as a taste of alcohol thanks to memories of his dad and Sam gets uncomfortably maudlin, to the point of crying and hugging Tony after barely three shots. Agent just gets grimmer and more precise until he abruptly falls asleep, sometimes with his eyes still open, while Natasha treats vodka like water and Thor exclaims (never 'says'. Thor never just 'says' anything, not enough volume or puppylike enthusiasm) how far superior Asgardian alcohol is to “these puny Midgardian brews.” Steve can’t get drunk at all, and Tony has never tried drinking with Bucky, because even he occasionally has sufficient insight to realize making yourself slow and vulnerable while simultaneously potentially lowering the inhibitions of a semi-unstable assassin with superpowers is not a great plan.

But Clint. Clint is both completely human and not pants-wettingly terrifying, and when Pepper broke things off, she made Tony swear not to get drunk alone in his workshop over it, so it's entirely possible he had JARVIS override the lock on Clint's door (after checking he was both alone and awake, Tony isn't stupid) and wandered in, announcing "I hope you don't have plans, because I'm not allowed to drink alone and this bottle of premium reserve Stoli is not going to empty itself." Tony learned a hell of a lot that night, the very least of which was that Clint liked tequila, and he liked it best when there were fresh, plain-glazed yeast doughnuts to go with it.

Offerings firmly in hand, Tony knocks on Clint's door (after asking JARVIS to confirm he's alone and awake, because bros or not, Tony still isn't stupid), and just to be sure asks JARVIS to project a request to enter on the nearest available wall. Clint hollers for Tony to come in and is just slithering out of an air duct when he enters (‘Practice!’ he’d exclaimed when they were well into their second bottle of vodka, that first night, and Tony got around to asking him. ‘Gotta keep the skills sharp. Also, once, when we first moved in, I made Cap squeak and jump and then wonder aloud if God was talking to him or if JARVIS had suddenly developed a split personality, and that is a memory I will treasure to my grave, man’). Clint’s gaze lands on Tony, flicks to the booze and the pastry box, and he says “Damn. Eh, that 0900 briefing was going to be boring anyway, the hangover will spice it up. Give me a second to get my ears on, and then tell me all about whatever terrible decision you just made.”

Tony blinks for a moment, warmed by Clint’s blithe acceptance, and puts his cargo down on the kitchen table as Clint inserts his aids, nodding. “I sucked Bucky off while Cap watched.”

Clint’s head snaps up at that, but he just raises an eyebrow, holding a doughnut in one hand and the tequila’s lid in the other, before asking “Seriously? You let Bucky sex-ninja you?” and Tony is so, so unsure where this is coming from, this is not the reaction he should be getting.

“Um. What? Aren’t you… where’s the part where you stare in shock or ask me what the hell is going on?”

“Um, Tony. They call me Hawkeye for a reason,” he says, and makes a bow-and-arrow gesture that ends with him flicking the tequila lid through the doughnut’s hole to bounce off Tony’s forehead. “I was watching. Pretty steamy kiss, especially given the grade-school levels of supersoldier handholding happening during it. And I saw how you flew off with your red-and-gold tail between your legs afterwards, so I’m guessing there wasn’t a mutually satisfactory resolution to that particular conversation. So Bucky sex-ninja’d you.”

Tony rubs idly at the spot the lid had hit before taking his first shot and bite of doughnut, mmhmm, sugar, before asking “Sex ninja?”

“You know,” Clint says between bites. “Come up all slinky and sly, get you off balance with a little misdirection, and the next thing you know your pants are off and you’re about two seconds from begging for it? That’s sex-ninjutsu. Phil’s totally a master of it.”

Tony blinks for a second before taking another shot, choking a little on the burn, and responding “Dear God, I am going to pretend I didn’t hear that. Agent doesn’t have sex. Ever. You and him and Natasha, just, uh, knit. Do paperwork. Whatever. But, uh.” And it’s too awkward to say, he can’t, because Tony Stark has never asked for relationship advice in his life, he knows how to do relationships, but -- but this is different.

And then Clint just demonstrates yet another reason why he is totally an excellent bro, because he reads Tony’s silence perfectly and just claps Tony on the shoulder, gestures at the table, and says “Ohhhhh, so this is Oh-God-I’m-Poly Panic. Gotcha. Damn, I actually get to be a wise mentor figure for once, this is amazing. Okay, so. So it’s never going to be easy. There’s going to be fights, fucking crazy fights, and fights are always crazier when there’s three of you. And sometimes you’re going to wish them to Siberia, and other times you’re going to wonder how you ever got so fucking lucky and you’re going to feel your heart seize up every time they’re in danger so you fight right next to them just to know you did everything you could to get them back home safe with you. Sometimes you’ll feel smothered, but when it’s working, you’ll just feel so damn loved you don’t know what to do.”

Tony stares at the bottle of tequila, which is looking substantially lighter that it was a few minutes ago, for a few seconds and then asks “So… pretty much like any other relationship?”

“Yeah,” Clint confirms. “Most of the time? Pretty much like any other relationship. But as much as the bad stuff is magnified when you’re three -- the good stuff is too. Two people to watch your back, to carry you home. And the, uh, the knitting? All sorts of things you can do with three that you just can’t with only two. Just saying.”

“I -- thanks, Clint.” Tony says, feeling off-balance from more than the alcohol.

“Sure,” he says, smiling. “Now, instead of obsessing about your oh so tragic love life, two hot supersoldiers all torn up over you, such angst, how about I show you exactly how much better I am at Mario Kart than you are? I’ll let you pick first and I’ll take a two-shot starting penalty, just so it feels fair.” Tony grins, takes another shot, and thinks that there are so, so many reasons why Clint is a truly spectacular bro.  

----

The next morning, Tony is moderately hungover (they stopped after two doughnuts and half a bottle of tequila each, a fairly modest night in all) and decides that he’s going to man up and actually explore his, eugh, feelings. He rides a wave of panic-tinged nausea that probably has about 50% to do with last night’s excesses before setting himself up in his bathroom, door locked, sitting in front of the mirror. Tony goes over the list in his head again, line by line. Poly Is Bad PR. We Don’t Know Each Other. Bucky’s Unstable. I’m A Terrible Boyfriend. He feels the reflexive discomfort start to rise, but his mind’s clearer this morning, untainted by post-battle adrenaline or booze or sex, and he holds it down. He’s reminded briefly of being fourteen and in college, with so many pretty older people who all wanted a slice of the boy genius, and realizing he liked his male admirers just as much as their female counterparts. He’d known it was a possibility, with puberty really ramping up, and it… hadn’t worried him overmuch. He’d always known he was going to be a disappointment. All told, liking dick too was barely a drop in the bucket. He heard about “gay panic,” but he could barely describe his teenaged realization as being much more than bisexual mild startlement. Now, though, he gets why people panic. Okay. Think it through, calmly.

PR can be handled with discretion, maybe. They’ll have to tell the team, but hell, Clint already knows (which meant Natasha and Coulson know, or will very shortly), and it’s not like anyone had a problem with their threeway superspy lovefest. Thor could probably be convinced not to proclaim sonnets about their love in public, though really, he does have a way with iambic pentameter. And getting to know each other… well. That’s sort of what dates are for, traditionally. He imagines taking Bucky to Palma, all low candlelight glinting off a metal hand, shared glasses of wine, and Bucky’s blue, blue eyes. That could be... good. If they can sneak it by the press. And maybe picnics on the roof, the three of them together, talking and kissing where no one but the birds can see, gazing out over their city, their home. He thinks he’d like getting to know Bucky Barnes a little better.

But Bucky’s stability… is a problem. He’s had fewer incidents once he settled into the Tower, but Tony knows how much he's still struggling. And there isn’t really a cure for Tony being Tony. Plenty of boyfriends and girlfriends past had tried and failed to move that mountain. But maybe -- maybe they could try it. A few months of dates, well, he’d get to know Bucky better, and maybe Bucky would level off more. And Tony would get to have Steve for just a little longer. It might be months before they realize they don’t need him messing up their relationship anymore, before he fucks up one time too many. Months and months with Steve again. Tony knows he’s never been strong enough to resist that.

----

On balance, Tony muses to himself once he’s safely ensconced in his workshop again (the ideal location for planning), his romantic history is sort of… sad. He’s had some really memorable fun, or at least had what the tabloids’ paparazzi photos suggest was a lot of fun that someone who wasn’t blackout drunk at the time certainly would have remembered. There are whole swaths of the 90s he only actually remembers in flashing lights and hangovers and patent plaques. He still has no idea how he managed that thing with both Estonian Olympic swim teams. Really, he’s sort of amazed his liver hasn’t given out on him, between college and the 90s, and that he never managed to pick up anything a quick round of antibiotics couldn’t fix, especially given the era.

But he has, thus far, dated, well, two people, for any value of date much more demanding than “we showed up at a gala together, fooled around some, and split a pizza before going back to wild, meaningless sex,” and he’s asked out precisely none of them. He and Pepper flirted and flirted for years and then one day she just sort of announced that they had reservations at Salinas at 8:30, and he would be prompt, clean, and wearing the grey pinstriped Brioni, or else. Steve… the whole team had been walking back from a bout of particularly vigorous Avenging and they’d passed a hotdog stand, and Tony’d cracked wise about blowing Steve if he bought Tony a hotdog, because Tony reacted to crushes by endless flirting and being as vastly inappropriate as possible. But his tone must have been off, the exhaustion letting something real shine through, and Steve sort of blinked at him in surprise, blushed scarlet, and turned to the cart’s owner and asked for two with everything and one with everything but the relish. Tony hadn’t realized Steve knew how Tony liked his hotdogs, and was busy being entirely too charmed by this discovery when Steve turned to him with the hotdog, held it out, and said “You’re an awful cheap date for a billionaire, but I hope it’s good anyway,” with this look in his eyes. When Tony took a particularly messy bite, Steve just leaned over and wiped the mustard away with his thumb and then cupped Tony’s jaw as he leaned in for a kiss. That had pretty much been their first date, and Tony’s fairly confident that casually sexually harassing your teammate, crush and subsequent making out notwithstanding, doesn’t actually constitute asking someone out.

So Tony’s going to come up with a plan. A good plan. A plan that will make Bucky feel romanced, and wooed, and valued, and all that. “JARVIS? What does Bucky, you know, actually like?”

“Based on frequency of participation and apparent enjoyment drawn from the last two weeks of behaviour, Sergeant Barnes appears to enjoy: challenging Agent Barton in nontraditional marksmanship competitions, French films, ballet practice with Agent Romanova, sparring with Captain Rogers, Italian cuisine, sharing Doctor Banner’s morning meditation sessions, watching ‘cooking competition’ reality programing with Agent Barton, participating in Team Movie Night, and having sexual contact with you, sir,” JARVIS recites smoothly.

“Huh. Artsy foreign flicks, Italian, and fucking. I think I can probably do that, yeah.”

JARVIS pauses briefly before saying “Sir, if I may offer commentary? I believe Central Park’s Films on the Green offering this Thursday is Les Chansons D’Amour, and for his own reasons Chef White still has not banned you from Marea, which is five minutes’ walk away.”

“Mikey loves me, I made him an oven that would make angels weep and Hephaestus cream himself, and that thing with the undead sea bass was not my fault,” Tony responds absently. “G’head and get dinner reservations set up for after the movie, yeah?”

“Certainly, sir. Shall I order you a bouquet as well to present to Sergeant Barnes?” JARVIS asks, making it sound more like a strong suggestion than a question.

“Ooh, good call, yeah. Say, my favorite Armani --”

“Dry-cleaned and waiting for you in your closet on the far left, sir, along with your ‘lucky’ shirt and a coordinating tie.”

“Excellent, you’re the best, Jarv. Now I just have to, uh, ask him. Okay. Uh. I can do this. He wandered into my bedroom and started a threesome like it was nothing, I can totally ask him out on one little date. Not a big deal. This isn’t a big deal. I just have to ask.”

“Ask what?” Bucky says as he enters Tony’s workshop, out of freaking nowhere, yet again.

Tony, predictably, jumps and twitches, though at least this time he isn’t carrying any beverages. “Bucky! Uh, uh, you are here, that is, uh, that is eerily convenient, JARVIS, I’m looking at you, you meddling pile of outdated code, don’t go acting innocent on me, I --”

“Tony,” Bucky interjects with one eyebrow raised, “If you’re done haranguing your invisible friend, you were going to ask someone something?”

“Uh. Yes. Um. Would you, uh, ever maybe want to, you know, go out. On a date. With me?” Tony just barely manages to choke out.

“A date? You gonna take me out nice and proper like I’m your best fella?” Bucky asks, apparently enjoying Tony’s pain, which is both terrible and, hmm, an interesting thought, best contemplated in the shower and at some length.

“Well, yes. One of my, uh, best fellas, I guess. Uh. Please?”

“My answer’s yes, Tony. It was always going to be yes. When?”

“Um. Thursday? At, uh,” and God bless JARVIS for flashing the start time on the wall behind Bucky, “6:30? No, gotta add in travel time, uh, leave here at 6?”

“I’ll try to look presentable for ya,” Bucky says, smiling fondly, and leans in to kiss Tony on the cheek before heading for the door. “Bet Stevie’ll let me borrow one of his suits or somethin’,” he says as he steps into the elevator.

“What? No! I have a tail--” But Bucky was already gone, doors closing on a knowing smirk. Well. He was probably just teasing. Probably. Almost certainly.

----

The date went pretty much the way he'd expected it to go, Tony thinks wearily around midnight on Thursday. Or how he should have expected it to go, anyway. The start was promising enough, with Steve coming and collecting Tony from his lab at 5 and helping him, ah, work through any pre-date nerves in the shower. This had the handy side effect of keeping him more or less on time to meet Bucky downstairs, who'd clearly found someone who wasn't Steve to take him suit shopping, because wow. Absolutely nothing about his sleek black suit was reminiscent of Steve's taste for grandpa fashion, to Tony's intense delight. At the last second, Steve handed him the bouquet JARVIS had arranged for and subtly shoved Tony forward. "Uh, hi, um, you look nice. These are flowers, I mean, obviously they're flowers, they're very floral. Uh. They are yours?" Tony trailed off, holding out the bouquet hopefully.

"Wow, you're... actually trying. I didn't know you did that," Bucky said, looking weirdly surprised as he casually took the bouquet. "I thought 'date' was code for 'wear a suit so I can take it off you with my teeth.' You actually meant date. Huh."

They'd sort of just stood there looking at each other for a second until Steve calmly walked over, handed Tony his suitcase armor (still the fastest of his suits to don when away from the Tower), gave both of them a peck on the cheek, slid Bucky's flowers into a vase he produced apparently from thin air, and linked Bucky's and Tony's arms. "The door's that way, gentlemen, and best of luck," he said quietly, and they startled into motion. Tony should have taken the fact that Steve -- Steve! who blushes at the mildest innuendo and wears pleated khakis unironically! -- was being comparatively suave as a sign from above that the night was cursed. Maybe he should have just done that thing Bucky suggested with his teeth instead, he thought mournfully as Happy dropped them off at the park. He'd been able to give people screaming orgasms when he could barely remember his own name, but entirely sober dating, apparently, is just outside his skillset.

"We're in... is this Central Park?" Bucky asked, looking around. "It's close to dark, so why are there so many people?"

"Movie!" Tony responded as cheerfully as possible, guiding Bucky towards a quiet corner with folding seats already laid out for them. He'd done that thing in that place with the scraps, he could handle one date, damnit. "You like French movies and Central Park is showing one and there's this great Italian place down the street, they do seafood too, and I totally know how to taunt the chef into perfection, that lightweight. Could barely get through one bottle of Macallan before crying, actually crying, about semi-living evil sea life. I'd heard New York chefs were tough, I mean Bordain drank me under the table back in '97, but this guy --" and then Bucky was squeezing his shoulder a little, maybe like a buddy would, but for the fond look in his eyes.

"French cinema and Italian food? You knew I like them?" he asked gently.

"... yes?" Tony offered. "Well, technically JARVIS knew, but as his creator I think I get some transitive credit." Bucky just smiled at him and settled onto a chair as the movie opened, and when he subtly took Tony's hand after the first musical number, Tony started to relax, thinking that maybe he hadn't messed this dating thing up too badly after all.

That was, of course, when everything went to hell. "Tony?" Bucky hissed after a few more minutes of movie that really was nowhere near as interesting as leaning a little into Bucky's warm shoulder. "A movie about a three person relationship that's falling apart? Seriously?"

"What?" Tony whispered back. "I don't know what this thing's about. JARVIS just said it was French."

"You didn't actually bother --" Bucky started, volume rising slightly, but he cut himself off suddenly, saying "Tony. On our six. I think I hear something." And then Tony found himself grateful for villainy's timing, because that was definitely the sound of tearing asphalt, and oh look, a giant... badger... drill... thing, no time for a fight over Tony's really regrettable lack of cinema foresight. He was up and in his suit before anyone could've so much as thought "is that Tony Stark having a couple-fight with someone who isn't his boyfriend?" which now no one will think anyway, thank Evil.

Bucky had climbed a tree in one smoothly casual swing, pulling a sleek little semi from... somewhere, and was signaling Tony to go high and try to keep it from invading the park and assaulting civilians. Tony had just realized it had a disturbingly familiar blinking box on its neck and announced this over the comms when the rest of the team arrived, and the damn thing promptly burrowed into the -- the sewers, oh, no. Cap ordered them follow it, both to attempt to free it and minimize its damage to commuter tunnels, and into the filth they went.

Tony's night proceeded to just continue sliding steadily downhill from there until he found himself back the Tower, scrubbing sludge off the armor at midnight, utterly exhausted, alone, hungry, and quietly mourning the loss of the lucky shirt (apparently a misnomer) to a claw-induced suit leak. He'd just gotten the last of the gunk out of the gauntlets' most fiddly joints and started sort of drooping over them a bit when he feels a warm hand on his shoulder. He leans into it idly for a second before Steve's gentle voice rumbles "Hey, you need any help with that?" and oh that's both hands now, and they're rubbing Tony's back and that is very, very lovely.

"N-no," Tony manages after a moment, "finished," and that's, mmm, that's Steve kissing his neck a little now, oh, that's nice.

"I've got a pot of those frozen ravioli you like going, and garlic bread in the oven. How about we take this shirt off," and buttons start parting while Tony's brain sort of melts, "and these pants, and get a shower. Bucky's upstairs getting clean too right now, now that he's finished field stripping every firearm that went into the sewers with him. You'll both get clean, and into some fresh clothes, and then we'll have some dinner. Italian, just like you planned."

Tony thinks that probably he shouldn't be letting Steve do this, take care of him like this, but honestly even with two espressos as soon he got home, Tony's mostly asleep and maybe being carried a little. Chasing subterranean monsters for five hours straight was sort of strenuous, and possibly he hadn't slept any in between the asking out and the date having. Certainly that wasn't because he'd been nervous, and oh, warm water, and Steve pretty much is bathing him, and probably that should be sexy but mostly it's just comfortable. The glorious feeling of clean, and safe, and Steve perks Tony up enough over the course of the shower that he mostly towels himself off and gets dressed on autopilot. And then Steve's there too, in a plain tee and those grandpa khakis, barefoot and gesturing gently at the door, and Tony comes out into their kitchen and there's Bucky, wet hair back in a loose bun and just stirring the jarred sauce into the pasta for them, and Tony sits at his table, at their table, as they eat fridge Italian, damp and weary from heroing and together, and thinks that yeah, he could do this. He'd kind of like to do this, for as long as he can. And when Tony settles between Bucky and Steve in their big bed and Bucky kisses him on the cheek, murmuring "I had a good time tonight," before relaxing into sleep, Tony thinks that maybe it wasn't such a bad first date after all.

----

Tony wakes up warm and ridiculously well-rested the next morning. He'd forgotten how shitty he always sleeps alone, and Steve had been a gentleman about not wanting to share a bed until it was all three of them (though he'd thankfully made an exception for pre-date blowjobs). He stretches a little, nuzzling forward into Steve's strong, firm form and, mmhm, looks like something else's well-rested and ready to greet the day. Tony wriggles back a little, savoring the feel of Bucky's metal arm wrapped securely around his waist and grinding his ass against the front of Bucky's pajamas while letting his hand wander up the inside of Steve's thigh. He's just starting to get a nice response from both of them, heaven bless the supersoldier serum, and sneaking his other hand down into Bucky's pants when abruptly Bucky is on top of him, hips trapping Tony's to the bed and bionic hand hard on his throat, and his eyes are open and just... empty. His hand starts tightening as Tony chokes and grabs at his wrist, coughing desperately and managing to grit out "Bucky, please, don't," before his air cuts off completely.

It was enough, though, because Steve is awake and pulling Bucky off him in seconds. Bucky starts to fight him, and Steve's "Bucky? Buck?" is sounding increasingly worried before he pins the other man, trapping his metal arm behind his back and saying "Stand down, Asset!"

Bucky abruptly goes limp under him, and there's an awkward, frozen moment before Bucky croaks out "Stevie? Why are we trying bondage right now, and on the floor?" Steve releases him immediately, rolling off and hurrying to check on Tony, who's already sitting up and rubbing his bruised neck and clearly breathing okay, seriously, Steve, stop hovering, or at least go get coffee.

"So, uh," Tony starts, and Bucky abruptly turns to him, looking alarmed at the rasp in his voice. "I guess morning sex is out, then? Cause, uh, that intensity of breathplay, not so much my," and he can't quite suppress a cough, "kink. Is there coffee?"

Bucky stands smoothly, prowling forward and that should not make Tony's lingering morning wood twitch, damnit. "What happened, Tony?" Bucky asks while Steve gets three coffees together.

"You, uh, woke up on the wrong side of the brain, I guess. I was getting a little handsy, must've startled you or something. You pinned me, grabbed my throat. Steve pulled you off pretty quick, no damage done," Tony tries to reassure him as Bucky's face pales.

"I -- I hadn't actually slept beside someone before, since, I, I, I'm so sorry, Tony, it won't, I won't share your bed again, I should just, I can go. You can do that, uh, revenant thing on me, so I can't get to your floor, or you can, I'll leave the Tower, you won't ever have to see me again --"

"Woah, woah, slow down. I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to be the one panicking here. I'm not throwing you out of my Tower or my bed. Fuck." Tony rubs his throat again, thinking. "Fuck. Okay. This isn't that bad. No permanent damage. I just... shouldn't wake you. Okay, I can do that."

"'Not that bad'-- Tony, you could have died. Would have. It takes less than a minute, if you're doing it right. No one could have gotten here from their floor in time, and you couldn't have thrown me. If Steve hadn't --"

"But he did. And he will, I mean, pretty sure he isn't planning on going anywhere. It's fine, really. You don't have to run off, the first date wasn't that bad, was it?" Tony jokes feebly.

"I can't, l can't be here right now," Bucky says, striding rapidly towards the door. "Bucky?" Tony calls out, voice still rough, but he's through the door and disappeared already.

Steve returns with three cups, one black, one milky with cream, and one milkless but sweet as sin, just as they each take it. He always remembers that stuff, Tony thinks idly, thoughts tumbling and still baffled by Bucky's departure. "Buck?" Steve asks cautiously, and Tony shakes his head no.

"Ran out of here like I'd set him on fire, which, I haven't set anything on fire for weeks, I don't know why people --" he stops himself, reaching towards the plain mug. "He left. I'm not sure why, or where he went."

"Why?" Steve repeats incredulously. "He hurt you. And... and he's hurting too. He hadn't had an episode in nearly three weeks. At first, he could hardly stand to be around me, for fear of hurting me, and I'm a damn sight less destructible than you are, Tony. He's scared and hurting. That's why he left. I'll... give him a couple hours to calm down. Then I'll find him."

Tony abruptly has a thought. "JARVIS? Sergeant Barnes still in the building?"

"For the moment, sir, though he appears to be heading for an exit."

"Don't let him out. He can go wherever he wants in the Tower, but don't let him actually leave."

"Tony, you can't just imprison him here," Steve protests.

"I'm not. I, just, look. You said his head isn't on straight right now, he isn't okay. If he calms down and still wants to leave in a couple hours, I won't keep him in. This is just... minimizing the drama's potential blast radius til he's fine."

"And you're completely fine right now?" Steve asks softly.

"What? I'm fine, I'm completely, totally fine, don't be ridiculous, why wouldn't I be fine," Tony replies immediately.

"Tony? Your hands are shaking," Steve says, and pulls the empty mug from his, huh, mysteriously trembling fingers, where did that come from, but Steve's climbing back into bed, his own coffee set aside. "C'mere," he says, pulling Tony into the warmth of his arms. "It'll be ok. Bucky'll calm down, and we'll get him used to sleeping beside us. It's okay to be scared."

"I'm not," Tony says, and he isn't, really, even if point number three, Bucky Is Unstable, is sort of blinking in large letters on his mental marquee, and the bruises on his throat are starting to ache, and not being able to breathe in no way whatsoever reminded him of any caves or portals, nope. He's fine, just fine, "'s just the adrenaline, you know. Just biology. I'm fine."

"Okay, Tony. Is it okay if we lie down together for a little while anyway?" Steve asks, pressing a kiss to Tony's hair.

"Y-yeah. Sounds good," Tony says, pushing back and settling quietly into the security of Steve's arms so he can shake and shake and shake.

----

When next Tony wakes, he's alone in the bed and the angle of sunlight suggests it's been several hours. "JARVIS?" he asks on reflex.

"Good afternoon, sir. It's currently 2:13 PM, Friday, 27th February 2015. Captain Rogers asked me to inform you that he went on a run to 'clear his head,' and that Sergeant Barnes has not attempted to leave the building again."

"Where is he now?"

"Currently, Sergeant Barnes is with Doctor Banner in his lab."

"What? That sounds needlessly hazardous, especially when Bucky’s like this. Pull up video, what is he even doing down there?" The far bedroom wall flickers briefly as the security footage starts to play, life-sized if at a slightly odd angle.

"Thanks for putting up with me, Doc. I've been down here a while and you haven't told me to get lost yet," Bucky says.

"You've been brooding silently in a corner. It wasn't terribly likely to interrupt my work," Bruce replies with a half-smile. “Did my lab just have the right atmosphere, or…?”

Bucky shifts uncomfortably for a moment before saying “Um. I was wondering if… I could kind of use some, um, advice. It’s sort of personal, you don’t have to if you don’t want to but, uh.”

“Questions about the other guy?” Bruce offers, still smiling a little.

“Sort of. Um. So I know you said you had a dame -- uh, a girlfriend. But there were... problems. How do you, uh. How can you be with someone, you know, fragile, when any second you could just snap and turn them into paste? Not that I think you would, of course, Doc.”

Bruce blinks at this for a moment while Tony indignantly mutters “Fragile!” at the feed.

“Well, in my case, I have to be careful, go slow. If my heart rate goes up too quickly, I get sort of... panicky. And green. But I don’t think you meant physiologically. There someone fragile you worried about, uh, Hulking out on? Last month, you mentioned you were struggling with some romantic feelings for Captain Rogers, but, uh, I’m pretty sure he could take you in a fair fight. I don’t think you have to worry too much about breaking him,” Bruce says, intrigued.

“Yeah, uh. We’re sort of -- um. Don’t spread it, but, well, I’m pretty sure Romanova knows, and I think Tony told Barton, so, uh. I’m dating Steve now. I guess I lost the whole romantic feelings struggle, there,” Bucky admits.

“You’re -- Cap is cheating on Tony? I know they had a rough patch the last few weeks, but I’m pretty sure they’re still an item,” Bruce points out incredulously.

“They’re an item. And we’re an item. And, uh, me and Tony are an item, I guess. All three of us, together. Or we were going to be. Tony wasn’t up for it at first, but we went out last night and he was really trying and it was so nice, but I -- I messed up. Bad,” Bucky looks down as he finishes, staring as he flexes his metal fingers. “I was doing good, and Steve was really happy, but I had a … break, this morning. Just for a little while, but… I started choking Tony.”

“Is Tony… alive?” Bruce asks, voice badly strained but still gentle, telegraphing his movements clearly before resting a hand on Bucky’s shoulder.

“What? Yeah, yeah, he’s fine. Stevie pulled me off right away. He isn’t hurt bad or anything, but I still hurt him. When I was sleeping he tried to get a little fresh like normal fellas do and I nearly killed him for it.”

Tony scoffs quietly at the video, but Bruce is already talking, asking “And they’re mad at you now, and you’re worried about how to fix it?”

“What? No. Or Tony isn’t mad, anyway, dumb punk tried to get me to come back to bed right after I did it. I … I don’t know if Stevie’s mad. Probably just, uh, sad. Which is kinda worse. He -- Steve doesn't -- won't ever say it. But he wishes I’d be like I was before. I can’t blame him, hell, he doesn't even realize that I miss him right back. He's the same man, but not. He isn't that skinny little runt of a Brooklyn artist, trying so hard to act straight whenever we were outside, getting the shit kicked out of him when he couldn't keep his mouth shut. I mean, fuck, he doesn't see it that way, and it's not like I wish he still got sick like he did then, but... my Stevie's gone and never coming back, all the same," Bucky shrugs, too casual. "Died in the war. Lot of people's sweethearts did, I guess. And I still sort of have him, it's not like I'm not grateful. But I can tell how torn up he gets whenever I… slip, when I’m not quite the Bucky he wants. So I have him and don’t, and he has me and doesn’t, and we both have Tony now, but not if I fucking kill him in my sleep because he got a little affectionate. So how do I... be safe with him?”

Tony watches them, transfixed, unconsciously rubbing the image of Bucky’s other shoulder in distant, useless comfort. “Well,” Bruce says after a long moment, “have you tried introducing them? We’ve talked before about integrating your… you called him the Asset, the last time you mentioned him? I mean, I know you don’t like him. I don’t like my other guy much, either. But I only really got control when we started working together more, when he didn’t feel threatened by being suppressed so hard all the time.”

“Stevie doesn’t, doesn’t like him. Doesn’t want him to exist,” Bucky says immediately, looking uncomfortable.

Bruce pauses a moment before replying “But he does exist. The things that made him come to be did happen, and pretending they didn’t is just as unhealthy as blaming yourself for them. And maybe… Steve’s a good man, but he’s just a man. He isn’t perfect. Yes, he misses the old you, but you’ve accepted the new him, right? You treasure the parts of the old him that are in there, but love the whole package?” Bucky nods, swallowing hard. “Maybe Cap needs to learn from your example a little. If you can do it in a controlled, slow way… maybe introduce Tony to the Asset. Let your other guy know he’s not a threat. He gets along with Steve okay now, doesn’t he?”

“Can tell Steve doesn’t like him. But doesn’t attack or anything, when, um, when I’m him,” Bucky admits. “I don’t know how -- I’ve never, uh. He’d never gotten out when Tony was around, before. I don’t know what Tony will do, if he can be okay with it.”

“Well, that seems like the sort of thing that dating helps you figure out. If you’re okay with the other person’s secrets, their sore spots. No way to know but to ask him.”

Bucky nods, rising. “Thanks, Doc. We still on for yoga for tomorrow afternoon, like always?”

Bruce smiles at him, moving back towards his waiting experiments. “Like always. And hey, best of luck with your boyfriends. You’ll work it out,” and Tony cuts the feed, staring at the now-blank wall. Since when were Bruce and Bucky pals? And… and the Asset. Looks like it’s time to confront point three head-on, he thinks, rising and getting dressed. Steve would be home soon, and then they’d go collect their Bucky together.  

----

Tony’s down in his workshop, waiting for Steve’s return and continuing to dive into the monster-control boxes they’ve recovered while polishing the rough edges off the latest StarkPad prototype (because he does, in fact, have several day jobs, and not everything is about his love life), when Bucky knocks on the workshop’s outer wall. Tony blinks at this -- he’d been holding coffee and standing with his head ducked under something hard. That was primo Stark-startling position, but Bucky’d actually announced his presence in a way that wasn’t likely to end in a lump on Tony’s head and hilarity for ex-assassins. “Hey, uh. Would it be alright if I came in?” Bucky asks, and fuck, he sounds… nervous? Unsure of his welcome?

“Huh? Yeah, of course. You always get a free pass to the workshop. I think Dummy misses your arm now that it’s actually attached to you and walking around,” Tony answers absently, switching rapidly between drop stability reports and tentative brain-highjacker schematics.

“About, uh. Earlier. I -- you know I’m sorry, I told you that when it happened, not that you seemed to listen to much of anything. Or anything of sense, anyway. But if -- if you still don’t want to, uh, revenant me, I -- do you still want to try this? Us?” Bucky asks, inching closer slowly.

“Yes? I didn’t think the date was that bad. I mean, sure, sewer gunk, not sexy, also I have terrible taste in movies apparently, but we, I dunno, bonded, right?” Tony replies, eyes still fixed on his work but body held tense and stiff now, too-casual.

“Tony. We both know the date isn’t what I’m talking about. I know you didn’t want me running off this morning, and I’m… glad you didn’t let me out of the Tower when I was like that. But that doesn’t change what happened. I hurt you. And you didn’t even… know about him, before this morning, know it could happen. I hadn’t slipped in a while, but I realize you had no way to know that slips were even possible, and I understand if it’s a dealbreaker. I’ll get out of the way of you and Steve, if it is. You should just tell me,” Bucky says, swallowing uncomfortably.

“I knew.”

“What?” Bucky barks, startled.

“You said I didn’t know about the slips. I knew. JARVIS reports, uh. Unsafe behavior. He showed me security footage. And Steve said it’d been weeks since the last one, after you ran out this morning. So, actually, I knew both of those things. Genius,” Tony huffs absently, hands still buried in machine guts composed of nothing but light. “JARVIS, this isn’t right, there’s a weak point two inches diagonal from the bottom left corner -- yeah, there. It’s throwing off the shatter readings, dig into that. Deal not broken, by the way.”

Bucky blinks at this for a moment before continuing, “I had some ideas, then. Well. An idea. Since you don’t seem to mind that much that he’s, uh, there. I -- the Doc, Banner, thought I should introduce you. Uh, you and… him. The Asset. So he knows you aren’t a threat.”

Steve emerges from the elevator just as Bucky finishes his suggestion, looking sweaty and perfect and worried. "Buck?" he starts cautiously.

"Yeah, I'm here. C'min. I was just telling Tony about, uh, the Asset. He sort of knew already. I think they should meet."

Steve pales at this, eyes wide. "Are you sure that's a good idea, Buck? This morning..."

"I do. Well, the Doc thinks it's the right move, and he knows something about living with a dark side with violence issues. I was hoping you'd be there. Just to make sure he stays safe, if it ... I ... don't react well."

"Of course. When do you...?" Bucky turns back to Tony, glancing at the holographic display he's been fiddling with the whole time.

"Tony?"

Tony’s head doesn't so much as twitch as he gestures through the cloud. "Yeah. I'm up for it, with Steve to keep an eye on us. Just let me -- yeah, okay, it's the transistor's mounting that's doing it. Mock one up with a 3:2:1 alloy ratio on the mounting, we should be able to shave off an extra millimeter without any loss of functionality. Beef up the case, run it through the dryer, and buzz me when the data’s back. I know, I know, Pep’ll bitch about cost margins, but a 3K durability rating is going to look pretty compelling in the ads. Okay, good, that’ll be -- I’m all yours. For the next, uh, three hours, anyway,” he says, finally looking towards them.

Bucky looks down, staring at his hands, flesh and metal both as his breathing grows increasingly heavy before suddenly smoothing out, head snapping up, and Tony sees his eyes are empty, horribly empty, just like this morning. He stalks close to Tony, pressing against him before pushing him back until they reach a wall. Tony fights to keep his breathing regular as it happens, as he feels the larger, stronger man push him hard up against the wall, chest close enough against his that there’s no way to get past him, to get out. “Hey, it’s me. I’m Tony. I guess you’re, uh, the Asset. Bucky, the other you, he, uh, seems to like me some, which, really, I’m very likable, he should, that just makes sense. He thought we should meet,” and Tony’s voice is mostly even but ever so slightly higher than normal. Bucky’s -- or the Asset’s -- bionic hand fits around Tony’s throat again, not pressing down yet, just matching itself to the wine-dark bruises there. “Yeah, yeah, you did that this morning. I startled you, and we hadn’t, uh, met properly yet.” Steve starts to shift forward but Tony subtly waves him back, signals him to hold. “But you don’t need to hurt me. I’m not a threat. I’m an ally,” Tony starts before the Asset’s thumb cups his jaw and turns his head to the side, baring the side of his neck.

He leans in close, sniffing up and down Tony’s neck, all warm breath and intense eyes and oh, no, this is not an opportune moment for an erection, down, that’s not helpful. The Asset clearly notices, pulling back to look up and down the length of Tony’s body before leaning back in to lick at his pulse point, metal hand still firm around Tony’s throat. Tony can’t help but let out an eager little moan, damn his overactive libido, and the Asset presses closer at that, aligning their hips and chests and oh, he’s hard too. That… was not something Tony foresaw happening. He starts nibbling almost experimentally down the plane of Tony’s neck and towards his shoulder as Tony shifts against him, grinding a little, hands coming up to rest on Bucky’s hips. The Asset freezes, growling, and tightens his grip on Tony’s throat a little more and Tony puts his hands back down, slowly, carefully. “Okay, no touching, got that, I can do that. I’ll just, uh, stand here while you, uh, ohhhhhhh” he trails off as the Asset starts sucking a mark just behind Tony’s left ear. He seems to abruptly notice that Tony’s still wearing a shirt and casually rips it down the center one-handed so he can explore more. He stiffens again and pulls back more when he sees the arc reactor’s calm glow. “It’s okay. It’s not a weapon. It’s a prosthesis, like your arm. Keeps me alive. Remember when I put that new arm on for you? I made the thing in my chest, too.” Bucky’s flesh hand flattens against the reactor slowly, exploring, and Tony’s breathing speeds up, flashes of a couch in Malibu starting to overtake him, but he manages to ride it out as the Asset just pets over the reactor’s cover curiously before moving on to a nipple and oh, that’s a really nice distraction, mmmhm. He works his way down Tony’s body, half exploring and half testing for any sign of resistance, of threat.

Tony glances over at Steve briefly, checking on him, and he looks mostly worried and maybe just a little turned on, so Tony thinks they’re probably doing okay, and then the Asset’s working open Tony’s fly. He just barely manages to keep himself from thrusting up a little, trying to get a little attention, but the Asset starts gripping him anyway, almost gently, working up and down. Tony moans again, wondering where this is going but kind of liking the direction it seems to be heading, when the Asset abruptly kneels, bionic hand shifting from Tony’s throat to, fuck, right over the reactor. Okay, message received, move and I’ll kill you this way instead. Fuck. But the Asset is tucking his hair behind his right ear, a gesture that’s pure Bucky, and taking Tony’s cock into his mouth easily, and Tony has never before been simultaneously so terrified and aroused. He holds still, as the Asset clearly wants, pressed hard against the wall as his cock is swallowed casually, taken quickly to the root in a way that only a supersoldier whose enhancements have let him utterly bypass the gag reflex can do.

Tony’d never really realized that getting blown, and very thoroughly, could be quite this submissive, but fuck if it isn’t sort of working for him. Asset-Bucky just opens his throat and keeps going, sucking like a pro, and Tony’s so busy being very, very careful not to do anything that could be interpreted as thrusting or squirming or struggling of any kind that his orgasm takes him completely by surprise, leaving him frozen and screaming out as he spills down Bucky’s throat, shaking a little. As he gathers his thoughts and looks down, he meets beautiful blue eyes and they’re Bucky’s again, warm humor and wicked intent suffusing and erasing all the icy, predatory command of a moment before. “Uh,” Tony manages after a moment. “That was… unexpected. Um. Thank you? Um. Do you want, I could?” he pants, gesturing vaguely while his legs still sort of tremble from the shock of coming like that, of all that tension being released at once.

Steve slides quietly up behind Bucky while Tony’s still trying to remember how sentences work, though, and starts kissing his neck and shoulders in turn, hand sliding into Bucky’s pants, praising him softly for being brave, for keeping enough control that they could try, they could make this work, whispering filth and beauty in his ear in tones low enough that Tony can only sort of guess at the contents before Bucky twitches in Steve’s arms and comes quietly, still looking a little shaky from coming back to himself like that. Steve just holds him, kneeling behind him and wrapping those long arms around Bucky’s body while Tony gets himself back together enough to lean against the wall and run his fingers gently through Bucky’s hair, massaging his scalp a little. “So, uh,” Tony ventures after a few minutes. “That seemed to go… okay. In an unexpected direction, but a good one. I think. Um. I know supersoldier knees don’t really get tired, but, uh, I was wondering if, and we don’t have to, if this isn’t awesome we can pretend I didn’t say anything, but, uh. I was wondering if --  I kinda had JARVIS lay in supplies for a picnic. Um. A rooftop-garden picnic. For the three of us. I know we can’t go out, out, exactly, but it’s still kind of a date?” he suggests, watching Steve and Bucky’s faces.

Bucky mostly looks tired and blissed out from the petting, but Steve smiles sweetly, nodding. “That sounds really nice, Tony. I’ll get us cleaned up while you pick the basket up? Meet you on the roof in thirty?” he suggests.

Tony finds himself smiling back, maybe a little goofy from relief, a really excellent orgasm, and the promise of a spectacular evening, and says “It’s a date.”

----

Tony throws the various components from the fridge and pantry into a truly giant wicker hamper (the only observable downside of the serum was that the fantastic metabolism required a staggering amount of food to let its bearer feel satisfied. They could survive and function on very little for much longer than a normal human, but much less than 5000 calories on even non-battle days left them irritable and with a gnawing, persistent sense of hunger). Then he slips upstairs to throw on a new, not torn-down-the-front shirt (while instructing JARVIS to order in another Let There Be Rock AC/DC tour tee and not particularly mourning the loss, despite it being so perfectly broken in) and to grab a couple things from the bedroom. He heads up to the roof just about on time, and steps off the elevator to the lovely sight of Steve and Bucky standing close together, arms around each other’s waists, speaking quietly among the winter-diminished but still verdant expanse of the Tower’s roof in early spring. It’s quite warm, for February in New York, and the fresh air feels almost … nice, even for such a dedicated basement-dwelling technological mole rat as one Tony Stark. Tony walks forward, smiling fondly, and offers up the large blanket he has draped over one arm, silently. Steve takes it, eyes warm, and lays it out in a nice, quiet corner well-insulated from the worst of the wind, even this high up. They sit as Tony opens the basket, laying out roasted duck and baked brie, crusty baguettes and sliced fruit, cranberry-studded chicken salad, more and more and more. Bucky’s eyes widen a bit, and Tony says “What? I know how Steve eats. Figure you probably need to eat about the same. The brie’s pretty much a calorie bomb, so I have four different kinds in here, with crackers and apple slices --” and Bucky’s kissing him, sweet and eager.

Tony kisses back, a little confused, as Steve chuckles. “The way to Bucky’s heart is definitely through his stomach. Half the time when we were kids, I was convinced he only put up with me ‘cause I was tiny and pathetic and could con all the grandmas of the parish into feeding us a little.”

“Aww, Stevie,” Bucky breaks the kiss to say, “I wanted you around for lots of reasons. The chow was just a helpful bonus.” Steve pulls plates out of the hamper’s side and starts loading them up with his, Bucky’s, and Tony’s favorites, attentive as always to their tastes. Tony and Bucky sit beside him on the blanket, Tony snuggled right between them and enjoying their perpetual serum-granted warmth whenever a cool breeze manages to sneak into their little corner. They eat slowly, feeding each other little bits and relaxing into each others’ presences as the sun slowly makes its way across the horizon and the stars begin to peek out. Eventually, the basket’s contents are demolished and even the most enhanced appetites sated, and they just curl up together on the blanket, talking and enjoying the contact. Tony knows he should be checking the data from the latest round of StarkPad tests, but somehow, with Steve a solid warmth behind him and Bucky tucked up beside them, it all seems very far away.

He leans farther back into Steve’s arms, and grins when he feels something pressing against his lower back. “Mmhm, happy to see me, Captain?” he teases, shimmying a little.

“I, I’m sorry, I haven’t, um, in a little while, and you both feel really good, I can, um, go… away. To take care of that. If you want,” Steve blurts out, blushing fiercely.

Bucky leans over to claim Steve’s mouth in a sweetly proprietary kiss before saying “Now why would we want you to go and do a thing like that? That’d be an awful waste, wouldn’t it, Tony?”

Tony hmmm’s eagerly as he kisses Bucky in turn, adding a “Truly unforgivable” as he grinds back against Steve’s lap a little more. “Fortunately, though, I came prepared,” he says, pulling out a tube of lube with a little magician’s flourish. “I brought some other things too,” he adds, trying for casual.

“Oh?” Bucky prompts, circling around to leave Tony sitting directly between him and Steve.

“Yup. If our good Captain is feeling a little adventurous, well, I’ve been thinking about what you said, Bucky. About the pair of us, working together. How we’d be able to just drive him wild, getting to see that. I’d been working on a little something in the lab… cuffs strong enough to withstand a supersoldier, after he broke our latest pair. If he lets us, we could tie him up, make him watch us play for a while. What do you think?” Tony asks, taunting a little. “Think he’d like that?” he continues, even as he feels Steve’s cock twitch to further life under him.

Bucky prowls closer, shifting onto all fours and trapping Tony between his and Steve’s chests as he leans forward to growl into Steve’s ear “What do you think, Stevie? Want to watch us together?” Steve moans, looking a little dazed, but nods eagerly. Tony reaches into a side compartment of the hamper, pulling out the cuffs and stroking his hand down one of Steve’s thick, perfect arms before fastening a cuff around his wrist. He grinds into Steve’s lap again as Bucky reaches around them both, looping the cuffs under the strut of a raised planter bed before trailing his hand over Steve’s other arm and closing the cuff around his other wrist. Steve shudders under them at that, clearly excited, eyes darkening.

“If you need out?” Tony asks, careful about this as always.

“Shield,” Steve replies easily.

Bucky whimpers a little, murmuring to Tony “Fuck, you already have a safeword set? You’ve been having kinky sex without me, all this time?”

Tony arches back into Bucky, pulling his own shirt off over his head as he replies “Oh, Steve’s not half so innocent as he likes his fans to believe. Careful with that, by the way. If you pull hard enough, you might be able to break free, but you might also break the planter, and Natasha is very attached to her garden,” Tony comments as he lifts off Steve’s lap with a final little roll of his hips, turning to Bucky and starting to ease his shirt off in turn once they’re positioned with Steve off to their side, giving him a perfect view of everything they’ll do.  

“Mmmmhm,” Tony hums eagerly as Bucky’s chest is bared. “Nice. Not quite pecs of doom like our dear Capsicle, but very nice. Sleek,” he notes, hands trailing over Bucky’s arms as he leans forward, kissing Bucky again, slow and filthy and maybe a little showy, too.

Steve groans and the cuffs rattle a little as Bucky starts stroking down Tony’s side and says “You’re not so bad yourself.”

“I keep in decent shape, as scarred-up middle-aged engineers go,” Tony replies, casually self-deprecating as always. “Fighting Evil’s a pretty solid workout, though I must say I find fucking pretty supersoliders far more satisfying, as sweaty activities go,” he allows, sliding a hand up the inside of Bucky’s still-clothed thigh.

“You planning on fucking me, Stark?” he challenges, rubbing the bulge of Tony’s cock through his pants with his metal hand.

“Mmmhm, that’s -- oh -- that’s a nice idea, but I was thinking maybe I should blow you. Steve sure seemed to enjoy watching that last time, and, well, with your stamina, I bet I could have my cake and get fucked by it, too, eh?” Tony suggests with a wicked glint in his eye, opening Bucky’s pants and pulling him out. Bucky leans back, abs flexing as he holds himself up easily on his arms and lets Tony pull his boots and pants off completely before settling back, legs spread a little on the blanket, still leaning negligently back with his hard cock curling freely towards his belly in the evening air. “Nice, very picturesque,” Tony enthuses before shoving his own pants and shoes off and going to work. He savors Steve’s eager little moan and accompanying cuff-rattle when he licks a slow, filthy stripe up Bucky’s cock, tongue curling around the head before he opens his throat and eases Bucky in. If it’s not quite as abruptly as Bucky can manage, he certainly makes up for the lack with enthusiasm and low, vibrating moans that tease along Bucky’s length. Bucky’s head is thrown back in pleasure, dark hair hanging free and baring the long, elegant line of his throat as his hands twist in the blanket, scrabbling for purchase in a way that brings a warm glow of pride to Tony’s heart. He still hasn’t lost his touch, he thinks happily, bobbing up and down until he can take Bucky to the root. He holds as long as he can, swallowing around Bucky before pulling off and tonguing the head of his cock again, teasing a little.

“Fuck, Tony,” Bucky grinds out, clearly inches from just burying a hand in Tony’s hair and keeping him from any more teasing. “F-- finger yourself. So you’ll be wet and open and I can fuck you.” Tony moans eagerly at the suggestion, pulling off just long enough to grab the lube and check on Steve.

He notes with approval that Steve’s flushed all over, cock straining against his pants and eyes blown wide, watching them hungrily. “What do you think, Bucky?” he asks as he eases the first finger inside himself, careful to angle his body so that Steve gets a nice view. “Should I open his pants for him? I won’t touch his cock, not yet. But maybe I should let him out of his pants, at least.”

Steve’s shoulders roll at the suggestion and at Bucky’s languorous “Sure. Give him a little more room to grow. Won’t get him any closer to coming.”

Tony grins wickedly, fingers himself slow and sweet enough to deserve another little moan from his own attentions, before leaning over and easing Steve’s zipper down with his teeth, nuzzling Steve’s cock a little with his cheek before reaching in and pulling him free of his pants. Then he pulls away entirely, going back to teasing Bucky with his mouth and adding a second finger, starting to press against his prostate as he takes Bucky to the hilt again. “T-tony, shit. God, you look so good like this, mouth full of my cock, finger-fucking yourself so you can take me in…” he trails off as Tony moans around him again, pulling back to lick and suck at the head. Tony’s gotten a third worked in, a nice little stretch without pushing himself too hard, when Bucky pushes at his shoulder. “Fuck, Tony, if you keep going I’m going to come in your mouth. Off. I want to fuck you.”

Steve shifts again as he groans a soft “Fuck, please,” rustling the cuffs as he leans forward, not quite straining yet but clearly worked up, cock standing hard and proud and flushed from his open pants.

Tony slides his fingers free as he pulls off with a lusty slurp, making both Steve and Bucky moan, and braces himself as Bucky crawls around him and grasps his hips possessively. “Got yourself nice and open for me?” Bucky asks, teasing Tony’s loosened entrance with one cool metal finger.

“Y-yes. Fuck, yes, I’m ready for you, please. Want you in me. Want you to fuck me while he watches. Fuck, maybe I’ll let him fuck me too once you’re done with me,” Tony moans out, rutting back against Bucky to encourage him to hurry. He turns his head until he’s looking at Steve, meeting his lust-darkened eyes, and asks “You like the sound of that, babe, watching him have me? Want to get to fuck me too, once he’s done using me?” Steve just jerks against the cuffs again, planter’s strut creaking a little ominously, and growls wordlessly as Tony licks his reddened, bruised lips slowly. Bucky picks that moment to push inside, slow and considerate and maybe a little teasing, too. “F-fuck,” Tony stutters out. “So big inside of me… both of you, so big and good for me, God, that feels amazing, haven’t gotten fucked in weeks, been missing it. You been missing it too, missing being in me, babe? Dunno how I managed to go so long without getting a dick in me, the way I got used to having yours. Such a niiiiiice, oh, fuck, Bucky, yes yes yes, oh, your dick’s pretty damn nice too, fuck, fuck!” he grits out as Bucky starts to pick up the pace.

“Y’know, Stark,” Bucky comments, sounding entirely too calm for the speed and fervor with which his hips are pistoning into Tony’s, pounding his prostate. “You keep hollering like that, whole neighborhood will hear you begging for it like a little whore. And while I know you’re a whore, and Stevie,” and another particularly well-aimed thrust draws a gasp from Tony’s throat, “certainly knows you’re a whore, maybe I should make you put that mouth to better use, yeah?” And then Bucky’s lifting him, just lifting him straight up without bothering to stop fucking him, and suddenly Steve’s flushed cock is right in front of his mouth. “G’head and make yourself useful, eh, Tony?” Bucky suggests almost idly, and Tony leans forward slightly and starts sucking Steve off while Bucky keeps pounding away inside of him.

Once he has Tony’s mouth on him, it’s like a dam breaks inside Steve, and he’s suddenly moaning and struggling against the cuffs, growling desperately and thrusting up, just a little, not enough to make Tony choke, but enough to make his enthusiasm pretty damn clear. Tony’s jaw is starting to get tired between the two of them, but fuck, it’s so worth it, hearing Steve’s increasingly needy, wild noises as Bucky plows away at Tony’s ass, getting him closer and closer. Tony braces his hands on Steve’s thighs, more to emphasize the other man’s lack of control than to actually keep him still, and opens his throat again, lowering himself down as Bucky draws another long moan from him, sending it vibrating along Steve’s length and that’s apparently enough, because Steve’s hardening further, gasping out a half-swallowed warning and spilling. Bucky wraps a hand around Tony’s cock as his thrusts grow uneven, urging Tony to orgasm seconds before finding his own release. Bucky gasps and shudders against his back as Tony rides out his orgasm, focusing on swallowing Steve’s seed smoothly before pulling off to give a final lick to the head of Steve’s half-oversensitive cock.

Bucky pulls out after a moment, folding the rest of the blanket half over Tony’s naked form and fumbling Steve’s cuffs open. Steve pants for a moment while Bucky shakily gathers the remains of the picnic and their clothes into the basket, nodding as Steve rises and simply picks Tony up, still wrapped in the blanket they’d shared. “Mmm,” Tony murmurs, snuggling close as Steve carries him inside and Bucky follows. “The stars are out. ‘S nice.” Steve presses a soft kiss to his hair as he sets Tony gently down on the bed, putting the now-dirty blanket in the laundry. Bucky sets the hamper down next to it and looks uncertainly at the bed for a moment. “C’mere,” Tony manages after a sleepy second of pondering his hesitation. “Come be my supersoldier blankets. I need one for each side.”

Bucky smiles, sweet and hesitant, as he climbs in behind Tony, bracketing him as Steve lays down too. “One for each side, eh?” he asks gently.

“Yup. ‘M a billionaire. Just one won’t do. Gotta have both,” Tony murmurs, snuggling down between them as he drops off to sleep.  

----

Tony wakes to Steve sliding out of bed the next morning. “Mmphwha?” he manages, flailing vaguely at the blond’s retreating form.

“Good morning, beautiful,” Steve says, smile clear in his voice. “It’s 5:30, time for my morning run.”

Tony raises his head slightly, cracking one eye open to glare skeptically at Steve’s broad back. “S, uh. ‘Arvis? Daysit?”

“Saturday, sir.” JARVIS replies quietly.

“Ydun run Sat’dys,” Tony mumbles.

“You’re right, I don’t normally run on Saturdays, but I slept in yesterday and so I need to go run. You know I get itchy if I don’t see the dawn too many days in a row.” Tony grunts, pushing up a little with vague thoughts of checking the test results on the latest StarkPad tweaks, but Bucky’s metal arm tightens on his waist, pulling him back down. He thinks briefly of fighting it, but Bucky’s warm, and the bed is soft, and really, 5:30 is a terrible time to be awake, so he settles down easily enough, lulled back asleep by Bucky’s steady breathing.  

It’s closer to noon when Tony wakes up again, flat on his back with his bladder aching and plagued by that over-rested feeling where his eyes don’t ever-so-slightly itch anymore and he doesn’t want to stab anyone standing between him and coffee. He should have been engineering, he thinks mustily, trying to sit up. His progress is arrested by Bucky, who’s shifted correspondingly in his sleep, laying half on top of Tony with one leg across his and one arm curled around his torso, head buried in Tony’s neck. Tony freezes when he realizes that Bucky’s asleep still, and there’s no way to crawl out from under him. He tries just lying still, but he really does need the bathroom pretty badly, so he braces himself, takes a deep breath and murmurs “Bucky?” as quietly as he can. Bucky twitches a little and curls tighter instinctively without waking. “Um, Bucky?” Tony tries again a little louder, careful not to move. When there’s no response, Tony says at a normal volume “Bucky, pretty sure you’re not into watersports, I’m not either, so you kind of need to let me up.” Still nothing. Okay, talking doesn’t seem to be working. Tony moves his free arm very, very slowly, grasping Bucky’s wrist and easing it down across his body. He’s about halfway free when Bucky suddenly jerks and raises his head sharply. “Hey, uh, good morning?” Tony says somewhat feebly. Bucky blinks at him before looking down at where Tony’s hand is still wrapped around his wrist.

“Summ wrong?” he manages, and oh, Tony didn’t know he’d be adorable all bed-mussed and sleepy. Steve always wakes like he’s coming to attention, straight from dreamland to may-I-have-another-sir precision. Bucky, though, seems to ease into it like Tony himself, and he almost regrets not being able to take advantage of this newfound knowledge, but really, it’s starting to hurt pretty badly.

“Nothing wrong, Buck, just really, really need to pee. Is it, uh, is it OK if I get up?” Bucky just now seems to notice how he’s sprawled over Tony and rolls off immediately. Tony pops up and all but races for the bathroom, ah, sweet relief. “I’m surprised you were still asleep, actually,” he comments from the magical wonderland of the bathroom, ooh. “Steve can barely stand more than six or seven hours in a row.”

There’s a weirdly long pause before Bucky says “Normally, me too. I, uh. Haven’t been sleeping much.” Tony washes his hands and ducks back into the bedroom on the way to coffee.

“What, lately? I mean, you slept for probably nine hours night before last, another, what, more’n a dozen last night?”

“Since… well, since I broke through, I guess. I, uh. Nightmares. It’s… been a long time since I got more than an hour straight. I hit REM and -- well. Anyway. Serum kept me rolling along just fine,” Bucky answers, looking uncomfortable.

“Oh,” Tony says, not sure how to react to being… some sort of ex-assassin security blanket. To being that trusted. They look at each other for a moment before Tony gestures vaguely at the door, saying “I, um, data. Lab. Yeah,” and skittering out before things can get anymore awkwardly honest.

----

It’s only once he’s safely established in his completely feelings-proof workshop that Tony allows himself to really consider the notion that Bucky, well, trusts him that deeply. It certainly seemed like yesterday’s … introduction worked. Bucky didn’t panic this morning when Tony touched him in his sleep. And it seems like he finds their bed… soothing. Point number three appears to be caving under the weight of evidence suggesting that being in a relationship, and one that involves Tony in particular, is actually helping Bucky find more stability, not less. And they certainly do seem… compatible, and their three-way date last night had been pretty amazing, even before the sex. So. Tony’s apparently already subconsciously decided to make a go of this. The only problem, though, is old Point Four -- I’m A Terrible Boyfriend. And now the thought of only getting this for a matter of months before that problem runs Steve and Bucky off isn’t just painful, it’s all but devastating. Losing Bucky just as they’re starting to make it work, just as Tony’s starting to maybe have… some feelings towards him. So, Tony thinks to himself firmly, he just has to be a better boyfriend. A good enough boyfriend that they’ll want to keep him. “JARVIS, buddy, I’m gonna need some help. I, uh, need to learn how to be a good boyfriend. And then do whatever that requires. I think I’ll need backup for both.”

“I am ready to assist as always, sir,” and it’s not fair that JARVIS has mastered that tone of dry amusement that Tony himself has never quite managed. “Based on preliminary research, I believe common criteria include: providing intimacy and affection, demonstrating respect and trust, openly communicating, offering emotional support, paying a partner attention...”

“Okay,” Tony says, looking thoughtful and starting to count off on his fingers. “Rooftop Eiffel Tower last night, so intimacy and affection, check. The thing in the lab yesterday definitely covers trust. I’ve never had a brain-to-mouth filter, so I think we’re good on communication. I’m apparently some kind of genius billionaire teddy bear, so that’s kind of emotional support. Star that one for later, I’ll come up with something else for it. Damn supersoldiers being all stoic. And, fuck, what was the last one?”

“Paying attention to your partner,” JARVIS repeats dutifully.

“That… is going to be more of a problem. I tend to, uh, tunnel vision. Which is great for SI’s stocks, but less great when I don’t notice that they walked into the room two hours ago. Or that thing where they talk but there’s this really interesting schematic just begging to be fixed, which, go ahead and pull up the data on the drop tests, I can multitask. Uh. Attention-paying behaviors. Maybe I can grand-gesture my way past this one until I’ve practiced myself up on, um, noticing people. Maybe some sort of automated reminder. Uh, what are some example behaviors?” he asks, diving into the file JARVIS pulls up for him.

“Sources are inconclusive, but several suggest complementing changes in appearance, learning preferences, and remembering and celebrating important dates.”

Tony’s head jerks up at the final suggestion, and he immediately says “Oh, crap. JARVIS, have I missed any important dates?”

“Sir and Captain Rogers’ relationship’s first year anniversary is in another three months, assuming the calculation is not reset by your break last month, during which Valentine’s Day festivities additionally were understandably avoided. Sir and Sergeant Barnes have been in a romantic relationship for, depending on parameters, between two days and six weeks. Captain Rogers’ birthday is on 4th July, which is four months away, and sir did successfully remember to acknowledge the prior one.”

“I did?” Tony asks.

“Sir provided Captain Rogers with oral attention while putting on a pyrotechnics show that culminated in fireworks spelling out his name and displaying his shield.”

“I have the best ideas,” Tony idly complements himself.

“And,” JARVIS continues, “Sergeant Barnes’ birthday is in ten days.”

“Ten -- ten days? Okay, okay, I can do this. Remembering his birthday, classic good boyfriend material. I have ten days to figure something out. Uh. What do you get a guy who, uh, you already pay all his living expenses?”

“I’m afraid I don’t have enough data on the situation to speculate, sir,” JARVIS responds diffidently.

“Huh. Okay. New project, then. And oh, fuck yes, thirty-five hundred Newtons you little transistor bitch!” Tony says upon finishing his review of the previous night’s test.

“Just so, sir. Shall I forward the designs and results to Ms. Potts?”

“Yup, pack ‘em up and ship ‘em out. Now, let’s see, those little neural impulse devices. Pull up the specs, and -- yeah, what’s the status on the electromagnetic resonance tests?” Tony asks, already putting a corner of his brain aside to work on a much more important problem than Evil -- birthday planning.  

----

“Fuck!” Tony shouts several hours later. He’s surprised when, contrary to most of his outbursts, there’s actually someone to listen, someone who in fact just offered an interrogative grunt. Tony turns towards the source of the noise and finds Steve standing from his seat on the workshop couch, and aw, man, he has his sketchbook, he’s been here a while. Damn engineering tunnel vision. Tony really, really needs to start noticing people when they enter the lab. “Oh, uh, hi, Steve, sorry, didn’t realize you were there, no worries, uh, I’m just too cool to shout ‘Eureka,’ also, not Greek, though I do speak a little Greek, though mostly just ‘another bottle of ouzo’ and ‘don’t mind my friend, we’ll pay for the damages.’ But! Breakthrough, because I’m a genius. I know what I’m getting Bucky for his birthday, I’ll build him something, building is what I do, if I were one of those pastel horses Katniss likes it’d be on my ass, really glad it isn’t, my ass is a work of art in its natural state.”

Steve smiles at this outburst in a fashion that’s maybe a tiny bit patronizing, but mostly just adorable, before saying “You knew Bucky’s birthday’s coming up?”

Tony immediately responds with “Of course I knew! Well, JARVIS knew, but that’s close enough, and anyway, I know now, as of today, and I’m going to make it magical. Oh, and also, I cracked the hijackers.”

Steve blinks at him before asking “You cracked them, you know their origin? … And you didn’t lead with that?”

“My mind is gorgeous and complex, you can’t also expect it to be orderly. I got sidetracked for a little while in the base robotics and distance-control style they’re based on, shockingly antiquated stuff, has to be at least three, four years old and not very good even when it was new. Looks like old HammerTech, circa Stark Expo, that thing up in Flushing where Rhodey and I kicked major ass, and also there were some explosions? Plenty of bits and pieces from the droids filtered into the black market, they really weren’t that impressive, and all the really interesting stuff blew sky-high anyway. No, the really good part of this -- well, for a certain value of good, at least the really distinctive part, I guess -- is the biological components. It’s the way the robotics and mechanics interface with the spine and brain that’s the real kicker, that gives these babies their punch. Once I got the designs broken down enough to actually isolate the approaches they were using, there was something familiar about it. I started pattern-matching against SHIELD’s data banks, and ...” Tony pauses, because in his heart of hearts he is a flaming drama queen, bisexuality be damned, and gestures at the cloud in front of him, “Presto, we have a match!”

Steve leans forward to examine the file, reading out “Starr, Elihas. Worked in SHIELD’s R&D division and a bunch of other government labs until he was caught selling secrets. Escaped custody, pulled off a few robotics-enabled heists under the name ‘Egghead,’ dropped off the grid. SHIELD hasn’t been able to get a trace on him, and he’s been listed as a low-priority target due to inactivity. You sure this is the guy?”

“Once I dug down far enough into the way these puppies function, I recognized the, hm, unique biochemical slant to the robotics. I was already familiar with his work on artificially derived neurotransmitters and their theoretical ability to transcend the flesh-tech divide. Crazy, crazy stuff, ridiculously dangerous and difficult to predict. I researched it when I was working on Bucky’s arm -- I considered it as a possibility for the biofeedback needed, but there’s too much risk of a third party, well, hijacking it with the right cocktail. ‘s why I went pure electromagnetic for Buck, locked to his body’s own EM field and completely self-contained. Removes the risk of tampering. But these are the same biobotics principles at work here, about a thousand times more advanced than those papers, and really, really nasty. The victim retains consciousness, but loses the ability to control their body. Maybe still some speech capacity if that isn’t being specifically directed, but they’re just... locked out of their own body, along for the ride. Egghead’s system gives him control of all their muscle memory and skills, too, not just the basics like ‘walk over here’ or ‘smash shit’.”

Steve nods once, looking intensely disturbed, and says “I’ll brief the team and get SHIELD hunting for him immediately. Good work, Tony,” he finishes, pressing a quick but enthusiastic kiss to Tony’s mouth before bounding up the stairs.

Tony allows himself a second to bask in the warm glow of satisfaction at Steve’s praise before shaking himself and turning back to the work table. “Ok, JARVIS. Time to figure out what I’m building Bucky, and see if I can find some way to disrupt Egghead’s remote control of these things. Get the coffee going, it’s going to be a long night.”

----

“So I been thinking," Bucky starts one afternoon when they're laying curled together on the lab couch after fooling around a little, just the two of them. Tony may not bother with sleep much and Steve’s been too busy lately with the hunt for Egghead to chide him into bed, but Tony’s never really had much willpower to keep working when Bucky decides he deserves some attention. "You know how Stevie has that charm on his ankle? The 'least'--" and Tony stretches as he choruses in on "least tactically disadvantageous position," because Steve's defended his girly anklet many times before. "Yeah," Bucky continues. "It has that little medal of the Statue of Liberty on it. He ever tell you why he wears it?"

Tony thinks about it for a second, but has to answer "No, not really. I always assumed it was for luck, or maybe because he's actually as ridiculously patriotic as he seems and wants to marry her."

Bucky snorts and says "Not quite. He wears a charm because tattoos won't take, last about a week before the serum erases them completely. Everyone knows about the huddled masses thing, but the poem it comes from, she has another name. Mother of Exiles. He told me about it one night, a week after I moved in. I was... Not doing so good. Confused about where I was. When I was. Found me huddled in a corner and just held me, talked to me, and it was like his voice was a rope I could use to haul myself back. He just talked and talked for hours about anything, everything. Pictures he'd watched with the team, places he’d gone with you, an exhibit at some museum he was all excited to take Pepper to. And eventually, about the charm, his thing for the Statue. He said when he woke up, at first it seemed like she was the only thing that hadn't changed. And he went to see her one night, up close, said he'd never been to her before, but he went, and there's this plaque at the base with this poem. About how she's the mother of exiles. He said that he realized that's what he is, now. Someone who'll never see his home again, so he has to try to make a life in this strange country, just like everyone else she's sheltered. That I should do that too. But it isn't like that for me. Steve's my home. Long as he's around, I don't miss it, not really. And you, you're the future. Steve... grounds me. You let me keep going. I don't… I don’t feel like an exile, with both of you beside me. Maybe a refugee, given somewhere safe to stay. I just. Thought you should know," he finishes awkwardly, slinking out of the room while Tony stares at the ceiling a long while, lost in thought, before going back to his work.

----

Tony wakes up slumped over on a lab table at 4PM on Tuesday to the Avengers Assemble alert. He jerks, knocking a wrench off the table with the motion, and stands, already walking towards the armor assembly platform as he asks “JARVIS, sitrep. How long was I out?”

“Three hours, sir. As it is the first sleep you’ve had since mid-day Saturday, I’m required by Captain Rogers’ standing request to inquire if sir is, in fact, currently fit for duty as Iron Man despite having been awake for more than seventy-two hours.”

“C’mon, JARVIS, I just had a powernap, I’m right as rain,” Tony says as his gauntlets lock into place. “Ooh, is that some kind of gun in the corner? Did I make a gun? I thought I wasn’t doing those anymore. Eh, it’ll be here when I get back, world to save again,” he observes as the helmet snaps on and he heads for the exit port. “Iron Man reporting in, I’m suited up and exiting the lab now. What’s our situation?”

“Good to hear you, Iron Man. Did JARVIS --” Steve starts to ask.

“Yes, JARVIS annoyed me with the same question you’re about to annoy me with, can we move on to the part where I kick some ass, mom?”

Steve grumbles wordlessly over the comms, but just says “We have a situation in Long Island.”

“No, no,” Tony replies instantly, “The Situation is still in Jersey, thank everything that’s holy.”

“Tony,” Steve says, and uh-oh, that’s the Captain America voice. “If you can’t take this seriously, I’m going to have to bench you. Egghead’s hijacked another bunch of monsters, a flock of giant … bird-dinosaurs.”

“Pterosaurs, they’re pterosaurs, not dinosaurs!” Clint corrects over the comms, sounding breathless with excitement.

“Pterosaurs did not have the head of a Tyrannosaur and eighty-foot chicken wings with green and white feathers, so I will continue calling them bird-dinosaurs until I am given a compelling reason not to, and if we don’t cut the chatter and focus, they’re going to hand us our heads!” Cap says, sounding quietly furious. “They’ve already taken over a dozen people, just swooped in and carried them off, some of them children. This is a serious situation. Get your heads in the fight or get the hell off my comms,” he barks finally, and then Tony’s up to the roof, pausing for Steve and Bucky to climb aboard as Natasha, Bruce, Coulson, and Clint hop in the Quinjet they keep parked on the roof. Tony pushes the repulsors’ speed as much as he dares while carrying two passengers and arrives at the fight in scant minutes.

Bucky and Steve drop off immediately, Bucky settling into a high point to snipe while Steve wades into the fight, tossing his shield again and again, ricocheting it between the flying beasties’ heads to keep their attention on him rather than the running, screaming civilians. Tony does his best to hem the things in and aims his repulsor fire at the control boxes, smaller and sleeker than before, still visible on the things’ necks. The rest of the team arrive and make short work of the boxes, freeing the flock who make strange chortling noises as they gather up their wounded, drop the temporarily kidnapped civilians safely on the square below, and fly away without any further trouble.

Tony’s just beginning to relax, flying over to stand beside Steve, who’s comforting a tiny grandma with magenta hair and a two-year-old clinging to her, when the code for Pepper’s panic button starts flashing across his HUD. He lands abruptly, opening the faceplate to call out “Cap, we’ve got a problem!”

Steve’s head snaps towards him and he rises smoothly, quickly. “Iron Man, report,” he says warily.

“Pep’s flare just went up! Something’s wrong. Bucky?” he calls out as the other man drops casually off the three-story building he’d been positioned atop. “Saddle up. I need your help.” Steve and Bucky again climb into Tony’s arms, feet braced on his boots, and Tony’s just lifted off when the signal abruptly disappears. “I just lost her signal,” he says through the helmet’s speakers, routing it to their comms to be sure it isn’t lost in the wind. “I’ll head for her last known location.” He pushes his speed against his supersoldiers’ durability again, racing for Manhattan before dropping onto the top of Stark Tower, her last recorded position. He flies down the stairwell towards her office as a slightly bedraggled Bucky and Steve race down the stairs behind him, the space too tight for Tony to be able to carry them safely. He bursts into her office seconds later, only to find it empty and clearly trashed, holes in the walls and her panic button smashed on the floor… along with what looks like the shreds of a sleek designer dress. He starts scanning the area immediately, but only finds her assistant Miguel, whimpering back to consciousness in a corner with his left eye swollen shut and what looks like a dislocated shoulder marked with taser burns. “Miguel? What the hell happened here?” Tony demands desperately.

“They took her. I tried to stop them, but... I’m a PA, not a prizefighter. He said something about balancing scales, and they just… took her. I think I heard her screaming when they, uh, hit me.” Tony just stands there, shocked, as Steve and Bucky burst into the room and take in the scene before they split off, Bucky examining the evidence scattered around the room while Steve coordinates medical services and alerts SHIELD that Virginia Potts, CEO of Stark Industries, has been kidnapped.

----

As hours and then days pass, the hunt for Pepper grows less frenzied but no less desperate. Tony pulls the facial-recognition software back out, running it full-time on as many servers as it damn well needs, and fuck SI’s board if they have a problem with it, but there’s nothing, not for Pepper or the carefully only-seen-in-profile security camera images or the sketch based on Miguel’s description of a tallish, blandly handsome brunette man with a strange outfit and a boxy, whirring metal collar around his neck. Tony buries himself in his workshop, desperately going over every clue, every lead, and every time he runs into a dead end, throwing himself at his latest project, the one he’d been working on before Pep disappeared. When he sleeps it’s in snatches, passed out on the workshop’s tables, waking from dreams of Pepper screaming for help he can’t give. Steve and Bucky both are too busy being out there leading the search to come home just to check if he’s been sleeping, to curl up beside him so he can rest. He wouldn’t have it any other way. He only emerges when he runs into yet another dead end and no longer has anything left to do on his project, the not-exactly-a-gun. He suits up, carrying it, and goes to find Bucky. At least he can be useful this way, even if he can’t save Pepper. Bucky looks pale and drawn in the downtown plaza’s sunlight, a sure sign that he hasn’t been getting even the scant hours the serum needs to sustain him properly, but he manages a weak smile at Tony when he approaches. “What’s that?” he asks, nodding at the rig in Tony’s hands and draping his rifle’s strap over his shoulder.

“Present. Was supposed to be for your birthday, but figured -- when we find the bastards that did this, you’ll need it. So, uh. Happy birthday. I think I’m -- early? Late?”

“Early,” Bucky confirms absently, “M’birthday’s not for three more days. What is it, though?”

Tony walks up behind him and starts strapping the rig on, working it under the rifle’s carry strap and explaining as he goes. “I know you really love guns, but the problem with guns is that they can run out of ammo. So I made you a repulsor rig. The one on the right’s muscle controlled, yeah, like that, and it’s kinda short-range only. But the one on the left, that one links into your arm directly, so it’s… kind of an extension of it, can tap the neuroconnectors just a little. That one can do long or short ranges, shaped beams, pretty much anything you can think of as far as repulsors go. And the pads are flexible, so you should still be able to climb and shoot like normal, too. Um. I didn’t wrap it. Probably that’s a problem.”

Bucky smiles suddenly, a real smile that makes the shadows under his eyes disappear for just a second, and leans in to hug Tony through the armor. “Thank you. It’s great, no wrapping necessary. You know, if you hadn’t nixed PDA, I’d be kissing you right now,” he says gently, head tilting into Tony’s space.

Tony murmurs “I’m starting to reconsider my posit--” and then Bucky jerks abruptly, an arrow sprouting from his back as he falls to one side.

“The fuck, Clint?”

Tony screams into the comms, but Clint answers “The hell is your problem, Stark? I’m practically in fucking midtown --” and then another too-well-aimed arrow arcs towards Tony, bouncing off his upraised arm just in time.

He turns in the direction of the shot, trying to cover Bucky’s fallen form as he screams “Then who the fuck just shot Bucky in the back with a goddamn arrow?!” into the comms.

“Arrow?” Clint asks, then immediately follows that with “Oh, fuck, no, no goddamn way. Stark, back off, get Bucky and go. Nat and I are on your six and approaching rapidly." Tony grabs Bucky and carries him to a nearby roof, depositing him as gently as possible before speeding back in the direction of the shot with Clint and Natasha appearing and heading the same direction on the ground. Tony lands, running with them until he staggers to a halt, shocked by the tableau before him. There’s Egghead, standing openly on the street, and with him is the tall brunette from Miguel’s description, still collared but now wearing a quiver and carrying a bow. Beside them is -- Justin fucking Hammer. Seriously, Justin Hammer? Tony didn’t even know that asshole was out of prison yet. And behind him is -- Pepper. Pepper wearing an unfamiliar dress, one that coordinates with Hammer's grey-on-grey three-piece suit, and -- and also wearing one of those goddamn collars.

“Anthony!” Hammer greets, sounding as smarmily cheerful as always. “I was hoping you’d come by for a little chat, nice of you to finally leave your basement. I missed you when I was in prison, buddy. Why, some days thinking about you was the only thing that got me through. Well, thinking about what I’d do to you once I got out, anyway. And here we are, together again, oh, this is great, just like I was hoping for.”

Clint cries out “Barney!” and the brunette stranger’s head twitches, expression agonized.

“I have my own little team, too, now,” Hammer says, discordantly casual. “They’re not quite like having SHIELD as my own personal bully boys like you, Tony, but after the implosion of Hammer Industries, the bankruptcy, the damages from the Expo, and that silly little conviction, well, I found myself a little strapped for cash. But with help from my dear friend here, bless his mercenary soul, and his little devices, all that’s going to change! And look at my team, why, just the mirror of yours. I even have an archer named Barton and my own sweet little redhead,” he adds as he gestures to Pepper. “Come here, sweetheart. No hard feelings about that whole arrest business, see? Give me a kiss.” Pepper walks over to him, expression revolted, but obediently kisses him. “So, here’s how it’s going to be, Tony. I have a team, one that’s even better than yours. I have your girlfriend, she’s my girlfriend now, and I can make her happy in ways you never could. Want me to order her to come so you can watch?” He turns towards Pepper and strokes a hand possessively up her thigh as her face contorts and she shudders. “Oh, right, also if you don’t want me to have my archer turn your archer and his little pal into pincushions, you’re going to give me your armor. No fuss, now. Just take if off, and hand over the power source, and you and your little SHIELD minions get to live. We’re going to do great things together, your armor and I.”

Tony starts slowly easing the left gauntlet off, careful to take as much time as possible without tipping his hand to Hammer. He’d already sent out the Assembly alert and his location as soon as the first arrow hit Bucky, but the rest of the team is scattered far and wide, and he has no way of knowing what their response time will be, so he delays as much as he thinks he can get away with and studies the situation furiously. Hammer’s distracted by monologuing and not armed, probably not easy for an incompetent like him to get ahold of black-market guns, no contacts to get one. Egghead’s holding the control device. He… can’t be sure what will happen if he destroys it. Too big of a risk.

Hammer’s ranting again, something grandiose about his plans to regain wealth, fame, and good standing via hawking the armor followed by something even more incoherent about fighting and glory and having a trick shot when suddenly there’s a flash of light in Tony’s eye, coming from the general direction of the building he’d put Bucky on. Tony takes a deep breath, quietly signalling Clint and Natasha to be ready to go for Egghead on his mark. “You know, Justin,” Tony starts as he opens the left boot’s catch. “The problem with you is, you’re always out of date. Your tech? Antiquated. Your ideas? Cliche’. You even dress like it’s still the Fifties -- the all-grey three-piece hasn’t been in since Beaver Cleaver mattered. And your information is wildly, pathetically out of date.”

Hammer smirks and gestures broadly at his ‘team,’ the showboat (and no, Tony is totally not showboating right back, this is strategy), saying “Oh, please, Anthony, do enlighten me while you surrender your greatest creation. I’m all ears.”

“Yeah, I’m not dating Pepper Potts.” Hammer blinks dazedly at the tiny red dot that appears on his right shoulder, the side opposite Pepper, as Tony signals his team and says “I’m dating him.”

Justin’s face clouds over with confusion before his shoulder erupts in a brilliant repulsor beam of light and a spray of gore. In the same instant, Natasha darts towards Egghead while Clint makes for -- fuck, ‘Barney,’ a Barton, oh, fuck, that’s his brother. Tony goes for Hammer, making sure the little shit stays down, wading in with his fists and without a scrap of armor on him. Egghead rabbits and Natasha is in hot pursuit when a red and blue blur all but scythes the little guy’s legs out from under him. Steve, looking sweaty and intent, follows close behind, catching his shield in one hand as he just barely grabs the control box out of the air when Egghead tosses it aside as he slides into the backseat of a running car that abruptly pulls away. “I’ve got the box,” Steve says aloud, panting, a moment later, "but Egghead had a getaway vehicle prepped. We need agents tailing him, now," apparently into the comms, still in Tony’s discarded helmet. Tony focuses on the very satisfying sensation of splitting his knuckles open on Hammer’s stupid fucking face until he stops moving and goes limp.

Pepper’s crying quietly, still standing where the collar made her, when Tony gets off Hammer’s unconscious body and embraces her. She sobs, shuddering, and he starts examining the collar. “D-don’t,” she says shakily. “It’s in deep. H-he said the more intelligent the subject, the deeper in he had to d-d-drill. It, it took d-d-d-days. I, I, I. I want to sit down and I can’t, oh God, Tony, I can’t even sit down.”

“Don’t worry, Pep, we got the box, we'll get the guy, too. We’re going to get this thing off of you. It’ll be okay,” he tries to comfort her. “Here, uh,” he says and lifts her gently, setting her down on the curb so she can sit.

“Wh-what was that at the end there? Gloating about some boyfriend? Cap came from the o-other direction. Were you just trying to distract him?” she asks.

Tony winces before saying “Uh, Pep, I don’t know if this is really the time --”

“I can’t even sit myself down, the least you can do is give me something that isn’t my terrifyingly non-responsive body to focus on!” she interrupts hotly, still crying a little.

“Okay, okay, uh. Well, I’ve been meaning to tell you, Pep, I, uh. Have another boyfriend. Besides Steve. We both do. Bucky. He’s the one that took Hammer out.”

Pepper blinks briefly and sighs before saying “Of course you do. Well, at least he’s a good shot.” Tony’s head jerks up at that, remembering Hammer’s other little puppet, and looks over to see Clint hugging the brunette man who looks like he isn’t sure if he wants to reciprocate or shoot him, but for now just stands perfectly still and takes it.

Tony sighs to himself, seeing a wealth of fascinating drama ahead, and slowly starts donning his armor again, just managing not to whimper with fatigue. He picks up his helmet last, getting back on the comms just in time to hear Steve say “Okay, guys. Coulson’s going to be here with the rest of SHIELD in five minutes. Once he’s packaged up today’s psychopath, let’s get these people and that box back to the Tower. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

----

Tony's first thought, once he deposits Pepper safely in a guest bed in the Tower and settles her into as comfortable a position as possible, given the collar, is to start examining the device on the captive archer's neck so he can get them off all the sooner. He descends to the common floor, finding Steve casually carrying the other Barton in, with Clint hovering nearby. He puts the other man down on the couch as Tony approaches, nodding a vague greeting of "Tony Stark, hopefully collar cracker."

The other man still sits stiffly, but his eyes are speculative and suspicious when he respond with "Trickshot. Or, uh, Barney Barton, I guess." Natasha strides past and brushes the archer's shoulder only briefly before he appears to wholeheartedly pass out.

"Man, I see why you go with the codename," Tony absently opines, stripping out of the gauntlets and leaning toward the collar to examine it more closely, wavering slightly.

Steve appears behind him, hand on Tony's elbow, and murmurs "Tony. Come on. I know we need to remove the collars, but you need to rest more."

Tony tries to shake him off, but Steve is so warm and strong, and Tony barely manages a half-hearted "M'fine" in response.

"Tony. I know you haven't slept in our bed once since she was taken. You're exhausted. Your hands are visibly shaking and you're barely standing straight, even with the armor on. SHIELD is hunting Egghead with the highest priority, and Bruce has already agreed to take the first crack at the devices once Pepper and Mr. Barton have gotten some rest. Nothing will get worse overnight, will it?"

Tony's forced to admit "No, they seem stable. Resting, since 'Tasha knocked him out, probably for the best." Steve starts pressing the hidden catches on his armor and Tony groans as he loses its support.

"Then we're going to let Clint take care of his brother and Pepper sleep, and you're going to come get some rest." The last of the armor takes Tony's resistance with it, and he just sort of leans into Steve's side as the other man, who's clearly exhausted from the last week of sleepless worry and work but pushing ahead through the serum, guides them into the elevator, the hall, and subsequently the shower, and, oh, yeah, showers. Tony can't actually remember when his last one was, that's probably bad, his poor boyfriends' supersenses must be suffering. "It's fine, Tony, we're sort of used to it, albeit not usually quite so well-aged," Steve says kindly, and that was out loud. Eh, no worries, Steve's kinda used to his lack of filter, it's not like he really bothers keeping many secrets that aren't proprietary design-oriented, and ooh, Steve's washing his hair, that's nice, and does Steve have a kink, because he bathes Tony an awful lot, and really, Tony can work with that if so. "I'm glad it feels good, Tony, but no, I don't have a kink. You just tend work yourself into the ground and need a little help by the time you get around to getting clean. Woah, yeah, like that," Steve says, catching Tony's waist with one long arm when Tony maybe lists a little abruptly to one side. "Can't have your genius brain out of commission because you bumped it the shower, here, c'mon," he says as he sort of leans Tony against the wall briefly while he starts to clean himself.

Bucky appears then, naked and tired-looking and still a little grimy with his own blood. "Mind if I join you?" he asks with an equally tired-looking little smile. Steve grins back, weary but fond as always, and gestures him in, going to embrace him when Bucky hisses in discomfort. Steve immediately looks concerned and appears to only just notice the blood on Bucky's back.

"Buck?" he asks while Tony slumps against the shower wall, enjoying the water and the sight of both his naked boyfriends and if he had the energy, maybe he'd do something about that, but for now he just watches them, dark and light together as Steve carefully checks Bucky's injury and strokes down his back.

"Closed over already, but muscle damage is taking longer and I think the fucker nicked a lung, um, oooh" Bucky trails off as Steve starts washing his hair, too, and Tony knows exactly how magical Steve's scalp massages are. He idly slides down the wall until he's sprawled on the shower's floor, watching them kiss and lean into one another, both drawn with stress and exhaustion and clearly taking comfort in the other's proximity. When they finish, Steve gently picks Tony up and Bucky swipes a towel over each of them before they're suddenly in their bed and oh, Tony always forgets how nice their bed really is.

"Well, then," he hears from behind him as covers are pulled up and he's blanketed by supersoldier warmth and the clean, comforting scents of his lovers, "we'll just have to make a point of reminding you." Tony feels a warm arm wrap his waist and a kiss on his forehead as a voice says "Go to sleep," and he gratefully obeys.

----

Tony floats to consciousness endless blissfully dreamless hours later to a painfully empty stomach, a faint dehydration headache, and the smell of -- "Is that bacon?" he asks as he groggily pushes himself up on one elbow. Steve's just walking into room carrying bags and bags of what looks like, ooh, takeout.

"Hey," he says, setting the bags down next to the nightstand on the empty side the bed before climbing back in. "Yeah, there's bacon, and sausage, eggs, pancakes, toast, fruit -- I, uh. Ordered heavy. I'm not sure about Buck, but I haven't had a real meal in probably a week, and I know you definitely haven't. I figured the food would get eaten," he comments as he hands Tony a box, a little plastic fork and, oh God yes, a thermos of coffee.

"Marry me," Tony says on reflex, but doesn't miss how Steve looks down his own lap at that, uncomfortable. "Steve?" Tony asks.

"Hmm?" he replies, digging into his own breakfast. "Oh. Uh. Just. We can't, I mean, not with Bucky too. If you ever really wanted to, anyway. 'S nothing, I'm just out of sorts. Need grub," he finishes, eating a little faster.

Tony's distracted from the mildly awkward silence by the delights of bacon, and home fries and eggs and wow, he'd forgotten how much he enjoys food. When he finally terrifies his stomach into submission he looks up and find Steve, already finished and surroundings completely clean, leading back on an elbow and watching Tony and the still-sleeping Bucky, who took Tony's sitting up as a signal to curl his whole torso around Tony's waist. "What?" Tony asks as he scrapes up the last bite.

"I just like... seeing you. Both of you. Here in my bed where I can watch over you both, know that you're safe."

Bucky starts to twitch in his sleep, frowning, and Tony carefully rubs a hand down his back, smiling a little when he quiets immediately, expression smoothing out again. Steve's grinning at the exchange when Tony looks back up, and it's so sweet and boyish Tony just has to lean for a kiss. Steve returns it with considerable interest, and they're just starting get somewhere very promising when Bucky uncurls and sits up, blinking at them. "Okay, you, I get, you're indomitable," he says, gesturing at Steve. "But why hell are you awake and making the bed smell distractingly like sex? It's barely been four hours, and I'm pretty sure you got an hour of sleep a day for the last week."

Tony laughs and leans into Bucky a little. "All his fault. He brought me breakfast, and what can I say, I just go wild for smoked pork products."

Bucky perks up that, just managing to ask "Food?" before Steve's passing more boxes of delicious all-night-diner bliss. While Bucky's occupied plowing rapidly through boxes of takeout, Tony goes back to sleepily kissing Steve, straddling his lap to get a better angle. None of them bothered with clothes last night, so Tony's getting Steve's pretty clear and emphatic approval skin-to-skin when there's a rustling off to the right and suddenly Bucky's pressing against Tony's back, mmm, that's nice.

Bucky's arms wrap around Tony's waist and Tony perks up as he leans back into it for a moment, breaking his kiss with Steve for just a second before Bucky takes his place, tilting Tony's head back towards him and tasting of coffee and maple syrup when they kiss. Steve looks up at the two of them kissing with a mix of seeming contentment and a more immediate, animal hunger, running a hand up Bucky's side. Bucky hums in satisfaction before pulling back to comment, "You know, Tony," and oh, that's the Bedroom Voice, this is extremely promising, "Steve ran himself ragged all last week, and then on top of all that took such nice care of us, helping us shower, getting us breakfast..." Bucky trails off to kiss Tony's shoulder almost idly. "I'm thinking we should show our appreciation by taking care of him."

Tony mmhms quietly in response, reaching back to bury a hand in Bucky's long, soft hair. "I think you definitely have a point. Any suggestions?" he asks lightly, grinding down a little, and they sure seem to end up in this particular arrangement often, but Tony is definitely not complaining.

"Well, remember how I said, that first time we fucked, when you let me pin you and then you took my cock in your mouth like such an eager bitch, that there were some things about our Stevie you should know?" he asks, playing with Tony's chest a little and pinching at a nipple as Tony manages a shaky nod. "Well, one of those things is that before the war at least, he'd just go wild for a tongue in his ass. Bet he's even more sensitive, now." Steve flushes bright scarlet as Tony quirks a brow at him, but nods sheepishly. "What do you think, Stevie? Want us both down there? I know how good Tony's mouth'll feel on your cock, and I promise I haven't lost my touch, either."

"H-how, uh, I don't think laying down," Steve starts.

"All fours, if you're up for it?" Tony suggests, and then he's scrambling out the way as Steve rapidly moves to his hands and knees.

"Someone's eager," Bucky comments. "Lay under him, yeah, like that, and I'll get between your legs, mmmhm, that's nice. Maybe once we're practiced up at this, I'll see if I can fuck you while I tongue him," Bucky speculates, sliding a finger over Steve's entrance as Tony goes to work.

The only downside, he thinks as he opens his throat to keep taking Steve deeper and deeper on each bob, is that he can't see Bucky doing it, and based on the desperate little sounds Steve's already making, it's a sight worth treasuring. Well, he decides, it's early yet, and if Tony can keep from fucking up too soon, maybe they'll fall into more of a pattern and actually need to spice things up by doing things like watching, rather than each time being shockingly new, shockingly hot, and over fairly quickly. Speaking of, Bucky's hand just started moving on Tony's cock, and that's so unfair because he just can't help but moan, Steve's thick, beautiful dick down his throat and Bucky's legs pinning Tony in place while he plays with Tony's cock and eats Steve out. Steve mewls out a high, needy little noise as a slick sound joins the mix and oh, is that Bucky fingering Steve, too? Steve's only ever topped with Tony, which is far from a problem, Tony likes bottoming plenty, but the image of Bucky fingering open and maybe fucking Steve, having done it before to sweet, tiny pre-serum Steve, so full of fire and happily taking it from his boyfriend when they fucked on the floor to make sure the neighbors couldn't see, oh, that's really something, and Tony takes Steve the rest of way down his throat with an eager little moan, and there it goes because Steve thrusts a little two or three times, seemingly unsure if he wants to press forward into Tony's mouth or back onto Bucky's tongue and then he's coming in Tony's mouth with a long, broken cry.

He rolls off on clearly shaking legs and Bucky turns his attention wholly to Tony, grasping their cocks with his bed-warmed metal hand, working them together as he asks almost casually "That was a pretty noise you made, towards the end there. What were you thinking about?"

Tony gasps and tries to thrust up in time with Bucky's touches, but Bucky's weight atop him keeps him still as he groans and answers "T-thought about you fucking him, before the war, how it must have looked, him all tiny and fiery and stretched around, fuck, around your cock."

Bucky leans down to bite at Tony's neck and chest before saying "He always loved taking it. When he was still small, I could haul him up and down on my cock, sit still and fuck him on me with just my arms. Would drive him fucking crazy for it, begging me to stop teasing and dick him proper. Maybe we'll let him do that to you, some night," he suggests while twisting his wrist with a sound of whirring servos and fuck, that's more than enough and Tony is coming and coming, spilling eagerly over Bucky's hand. He's along for the ride for another half-dozen uncomfortably oversensitive tugs before Bucky finishes too, leaving three of them panting in pleasant exhaustion. Tony feels sleep beckon again and surrenders to it as Bucky and Steve curl around him once more.

----

Tony wakes himself up four hours later screaming "Pepper!" as he sits up. He only then notices his bedmates waking too, Bucky with a knife in his hand from God knows where and Steve reaching on reflex for the shield he always keeps on his side of the bed. "I, fuck, sorry, I didn't mean to wake you, I just, I've been sleeping and fucking and having goddamn breakfast and she's --"

"still asleep, sir," JARVIS interrupts.

"What?" Tony pants, still disoriented from waking up like that.

"She and the elder Mr. Barton are both still asleep. Their vitals indicated their captors had not permitted them rest in several days and they have both been sleeping for the last eight hours. Doctor Banner asked me to inform you that he was able to make some progress towards understanding the collars before retiring yesterday evening, though he is no closer to removing them."

"What kind of progress?" Tony asks, swiping a hand over his face and idly noting his beard is in desperate need of tidying.

"He has been able to determine how to operate the 'control box,' so that the Avengers may at least verbally direct the victims to perform whatever actions they request. He has not yet been able to ascertain a method of returning control of their bodies to victims, however. As an interim measure, the victims are being assigned full-time assistants to... operate their bodies, for lack of a better term. Colonel Rhodes is currently with Ms. Potts, and Agent Romanova just took over for Agent Barton with Mr. Barton."

Tony blinks at this briefly before hauling himself out of bed, gesturing at his lovers to remain. "Mad scientist time, gentlemen, nothing for you to punch. Get some more sleep. JARVIS, Bruce is his main lab, right?"

JARVIS immediately responds at a lowered volume with "No, sir. Doctor Banner is in his quarters and indicated he is not be disturbed for anything less than full Assembly for at least two more hours. He furthermore included a personalized notation of 'Sleep-dep is not conducive to calm and the other guy knows where you park your favorite cars, Tony.'" Tony smirks a little as he ducks into the bathroom for a quick neatening-up shave before pulling on the nearest pair of work pants and casting around for a clean top, eventually shrugging and just putting on a Captain America tee-shirt that appeared somehow in his closet. Tony looks back once at the bed, smiling softly as he sees Steve's dropped the shield and gathered Bucky into his arms, dropping off to sleep again with his nose buried in Bucky's hair. Bucky looks like he's not likely to be awake much longer either, tucking his knife away and snuggling back into Steve's broad chest.

Tony nods once, closing the door behind him, and waits until he's in the hallway to the elevator to say "Kay, JARVIS, shared floor and let's start getting me up to speed. Bruciebear's research first, then a SHIELD manhunt status report, the money trail update, anything they've gotten out of Hammer, then SI's critical items attention list, then whatever crisis happens while I’m reviewing all that."

"Of course, sir," JARVIS says as the elevator descends toward the common floor and Tony gets to work.

----

Tony's most of the way through SI's list by the time he's finished his third mug of coffee due to the simple expedient of having rendered Hammer too thoroughly unconscious the previous day to have given any intel more useful than moans of pain and a little twitching against his cuffs. Tony tries to feel something other than smug satisfaction about that for maybe an entire ten seconds, but it doesn't go very well. He's entirely less enthusiastic about the manhunt update, which was essentially a resounding "Well, there's a man. And we're hunting him. I guess."

Tony's just finishing unkinking a potentially multi-million dollar hiccup in a supply chain and feeling weirdly nostalgic for his days as CEO when JARVIS notifies him that "Ms. Potts is awake and asking after you, sir." Tony bounces up from his seat in the lounge and hurries to her guest room, grabbing a fresh mug of coffee as he passes the kitchen.

When JARVIS opens her door, he's surprised to see Rhodey curled around her protectively, still asleep. "Tony," she says warmly, "you look like you've actually slept, that's a nice change. Can you, uh. I need to go to the bathroom."

Tony double checks the instructions Bruce provided, just to be certain, before hitting a little glowing button on the box and saying "Um, go into the restroom and use it as normal. Oh, and coffee, here, uh, drink this coffee, if you're thirsty." Pepper smiles at him again, a strangely disconnected expression from the businesslike way her body rises and enters the restroom, grabbing the mug along the way.

Once she finishes, she says through the door "You're going have to tell me come back in, so we can talk." Tony dutifully repeats the instruction and she appears in the doorway again, looking much more caffeinated and calmer, before sitting on the bed as he'd directed.

"How, uh, how are you holding up, Pep?" Tony asks nervously. "I'm doing alright, everything considered. I... yes. Alright."

"You know I'm going to get that thing off you, Pepper. I, I won't sleep until I have--"

"Hey, no," she interrupts immediately, "none of that. Look, I'm safe now. I'm in the Tower, and you and Bruce are working on this thing, and James is here to help take care of me. I heard how you ran yourself down last week, all but collapsed the second you got home. You won't save me, or the rest of the world which you're still on call for, if you keep doing that. Sleep. Eat regularly. Maybe hug your boyfriend -- boyfriends? That's still a story I want, by the way -- every now and then. Based on what it t-took to put it in and how long, this isn't going be a sprint, and I don't want you hurting yourself for me. I've had more than enough of that. And I... I want some normal, too. Or, well, as normal as this Tower ever gets. There was a lot of, of, of," and Pepper starts crying again, but doesn't stop talking, "things. Things happened. I just want to feel normal again. The c-collar, there's no way of knowing how long that'll take to remove, but if I can have normal right away, in other things, it might -- help. It'll give me something else to think about, anyway," she finishes, still a little watery but sure.

Tony leans in to hug her, pulling back when Rhodey sleepily comments "Making a play for my girl when I'm right here? Classy as always, Stark."

Tony grins as Rhodey sits up for a hug of his own. "Of course! Class oozes from my every magnificent pore. Man, I missed you. How long do we have you for?"

"I'll be liaising with SI and the Initiative for at least three weeks, maybe more if you need it. Stark Industries may not make our guns anymore, but all that body armor and communications tech means a stolen CEO is a very big deal in the Pentagon," Rhodey points out.

"Also, 'your girl,' Rhodes? Do I need to give you the shovel talk? Because it's less of a shovel and more of a 300-pound titanium-alloy suit with repulsors, and also I can ruin your credit rating with pretty much a single thought."

Rhodey just chuckles, leaning over to kiss a faintly blushing Pepper on the cheek before saying "You and your precious Cap tee-shirt over there don't scare me, Stark. Besides, I'm pretty sure she can kick my ass thoroughly all on her own, even with the War Machine armor."

Tony scoffs, but just smiles when Rhodey embraces Pepper from behind, supporting her. "Where do you want to be for the day? I need to dig into the code in this thing, and I somehow doubt you want to sit next to it in the workshop and entertain Dummy all day while I do."

"Couch," Pepper says after a moment's thought. "I'm thinking terrible TV is a really excellent idea, and I do have a highly-decorated military officer to serve as my remote control and body pillow." Tony nods once and directs her as requested, and once she's comfortably settled carries the box downstairs to pry at its secrets.

----

"Hey, Tony," Steve starts at some point, at least two genius revelations since Tony descended into his lab with the control box. "It's getting pretty late, we're getting dinner se-" he breaks off when Tony turns to listen to him, actually listen and not just keep triple-checking the simulation's results, because Tony is trying really hard at this boyfriend thing. "Are you -- You’re wearing a Captain America tee-shirt,” Steve abruptly growls. Tony blinks at his tone, glancing up to see his eyes are dark and his throat is starting to pink and, huh, that’s not a bad growl, then. “Wearing my shield. Wearing me, for everyone to see.” Steve presses up close to Tony, a wall of warm, living muscle, and grasps the tee’s hem with one hand, the other running possessively up the inside of Tony’s thigh.

Tony shivers, a little surprised but completely okay with the new direction his evening is taking, and asks “Is that a p-problem? I can take it off, if you want.” Steve growls again, biting hard at

Tony’s neck before responding “No. Want you to keep it on. Want to fuck you while you wear it. Can I?” Tony raises one eyebrow at this somewhat un-Steve-like bluntness, but just turns around and fishes a tube of lube from a workbench drawer and passes it back, fumbling at his own fly. Steve casually rips the zipper on Tony's pants and then the pants themselves completely apart in his eagerness to get Tony half-naked, and fuck, he’s never been fervent like that before, and this is kind of a massive fucking turn-on, this needy, commanding Captain taking over sweet, considerate Steve. Steve all but shoves Tony into bending double over the workbench and Tony whimpers eagerly, pressing back firmly into Steve’s strong hands and enjoying the way the other man doesn’t waver in the slightest and fuck, he’s finally using a touch of his strength and it’s even better than that time Tony ended up under the remains of a five-story building. Even this deliciously dominant Steve is still Steve, though, and despite casually ripping Tony’s pants apart like it was nothing, he’s careful when he first presses a finger into Tony. Steve works him open gently, if a little faster than normal, still an edge of that desperation driving him on and Tony just spreads his legs wider and whimpers eagerly as he’s prepped, faster and dirtier than he’d ever imagined Steve capable of. Steve buries his clean hand in Tony’s hair and pulls, not roughly, but firmly enough to bend Tony’s head back, baring his neck for Steve to bite down on. Tony moans again, rocking forward into nothing like he’s been doing since the second finger breached him.

Steve makes a half-frustrated sound and then casually picks Tony up and flips him over like he weighs nothing, leaving Tony’s back braced against the worktable and his lower body held up only by Steve’s strength, Steve’s hands on his legs. “Want to see you, want to see it,” Steve pants out before lining up and pushing in, no warning, just taking what he wants and Tony doesn’t think he’s ever been closer to coming untouched in his life. That first thrust of Steve’s cock is a delicious burn, the size of it always a little challenging to start with, especially with their hurried prep, but it’s the best kind of burn and Steve surprises Tony again by not waiting like normal, not pausing to let Tony adjust, but instead just thrusting forward. God, he’s taking what he wants, and there’s nothing hotter than that, than fucking Captain America -- fucking Steve, sweet, gentle Steve who likes holding hands and black-and-white romances and sketching his lovers lazing about like they’re treasures he wants to preserve forever -- just holding Tony up, holding him where he wants and taking his pleasure from Tony’s body.

Tony moans again, louder, because even like this Steve’s still aiming for his prostate, almost seeming determined to push the pleasure into Tony, to make Tony love this whether he wants to or not, and it’s that dichotomy, combined with the hand Tony manages to get around his own dick, that has him coming hard around Steve’s cock in minutes. Steve just keeps going, though, keeps enjoying Tony’s body like it has no other purpose than to please him, and Tony’s just starting to have enough brainpower to worry about things like overstimulation and friction burns when Steve jerks, managing a couple more eager thrusts before pulling out and coming all over Tony’s lower belly and thighs, some of it even splashing onto the damned Captain America shirt. He holds Tony up still, arms shaking, while he pants for a moment into Tony’s neck. Tony pets his hair softly, fingers running through the short, fine strands as Steve starts to look up at him again. “Hey,” Tony says gently.

Steve blushes bright red, the cheeks-and-ears blush, and Tony smiles at him. “I, um. I’m really sorry, Tony, I know you’re working down here, I shouldn’t have distracted you just so I could, um. I was, I wasn’t being very considerate about it, I’m sorry, I--”

“Steve,” Tony interrupts gently, “That was hot. Really, really hot. And yeah, I’m working, but, mmmhm, I was starting to get all stressed out, and that isn’t going to be a problem anymore. Excellent work, there.” Tony rolls his shoulders a little, luxuriating, as Steve blushes more.

“I, um, I came down to ask you how things were going, and if you’d come up to team dinner.”

Tony nods, smirking, as he says “I figured. I think I’m going to need a towel and some new pants, though, or the team might complain.” Steve glances down at Tony’s torn and discarded pants and at the mess all over Tony’s belly and thighs, and sets Tony carefully down, looking, if possible, even more uncomfortable. “What was up with the pulling out, by the way? Not complaining, but you usually like finishing inside me,” Tony asks as he uses his half-shredded former pants to clean himself off.

Steve makes very determined eye contact with the floor before mumbling out, “I, uh, well, I didn’t have a condom on, and if you wanted to keep working, well, you’ve said how uncomfortable it is, uh, after, and I, um. Wanted to, um. Mark you. Sorry. And about your pants, I’m real sorry I ripped them up.”

Tony scoffs, pulling an identical pair from a different rolling workbench. “Yes, because I don’t have over a dozen pairs of the things. I’m pretty sure Jarvis just buys them in bulk whenever they come on sale. I’m not worried about the pants, Steve. And for the record, I find the marking thing slightly weird yet very hot, so you’re good there too. Now, I believe I was promised food?” he prompts as he finishes closing the new pair. They head for the elevator together, Bucky stepping on a floor later as they head to the communal level and its kitchen full of, let’s see, Bruce’s turn to pick, ooh, probably Chinese from the place with the really good moo goo gai pan, he has a thing for their eggrolls.

Bucky sniffs the air casually, smirks, and idly comments “Interesting shirt, Stark,” before the door opens. Tony looks down and, oh. There are a few, uh, slightly suspicious stains near the bottom. Nothing that anyone without supersenses (or, probably, intimate familiarity with Steve's surprisingly subtle "I just got laid" glow) would be able to tell was anything other than normal Tony-destruction of any garment that approaches the workshop, but, uh, were they -- was it okay that they had sex without Bucky? Is Bucky mad? Tony watches the other man nervously for a few minutes until Bucky notices and decides to take pity on him, reaching over for a box of, Tony was right, the really good moo goo gai pan and murmuring into his ear a breathy “Knew he’d go crazy, seeing something of his on you. Used to be the same when I’d borrow his clothes. Why do you think I bought it for you? Nice hickey, by the way, very subtle.” Tony jerks, only barely keeping himself from slapping a hand over the place Steve had bitten so eagerly earlier, and Bucky chuckles aloud before adding “Now just imagine if it were both of us, wearing his things, his mark like that…” and Tony’s spine straightens, mind alight with the possibilities, before Bucky comments in a more normal tone "I told you we'd manage to rile him up together,” and flashing that fox’s smile before claiming his portion of their usual couch and joining the ongoing debate about what movie to watch during dinner. Pepper appears to be successfully lobbying for a chick flick of some kind while the Bartons lead the countercharge in favor of explosions, and Tony just hmms quietly, gathering a takeout box of his own while wondering if it goes both ways, and if maybe he should have JARVIS order a pair of the new Winter Soldier tees for him and Steve.  

----

Tony buries himself in his workshop again after dinner, implementing the code changes he'd run simulations on before. He was pretty confident after the first pass, but he wasn't willing to risk accidentally damaging the only thing letting the box's victims pee with no more than verbal assistance. After the third set of tests reports success, though, he starts in, ripping out the code that prevents the victims’ bodies from responding to their own verbal commands. Not the same as having their full autonomy back, but it'll certainly make the time it'll take for that delicate research much more pleasant. Bruce messages him, letting Tony know that he's heading off to bed and providing Tony with the newest batch of data on the chemical side of the collars' control.

He's debating the merits of another cup of coffee and starting in on reviewing the new data when the far wall suddenly flickers with a security feed, life-sized. Tony realizes it's from his bedroom and is about to ask JARVIS why it popped up when he's caught by what he sees. Bucky appears, leading Steve by the hand and saying "So, you liked the present I got you? Tony did look pretty good in it."

Steve blushes and asks "So you don't mind that he and I, uh,"

"Had a little fun without me?" Bucky finishes as he circles to Steve's front. "Naw, I don't mind. But hey, if you're feeling guilty, maybe you can make up to me." Steve looks attentive as Bucky starts walking Steve backwards towards the bed. Bucky smiles at him with a wicked glint in his eye, and Tony has never been more grateful for the Tower's high res security cameras, because Bucky's pushing Steve's shirt off, and Steve gets the idea rapidly, peeling out of his pants and underwear as Bucky strips in front of him.

Bucky shoves Steve onto the bed, and Steve goes willingly, hands settling on Bucky's hips when he straddles Steve's lap. Bucky rolls against him a few times, which is really a criminally lovely sight from this camera angle, before saying "You know, it's been a long time since you let me have you. Since the serum. Do you not like it anymore?"

Steve blushes harder before admitting "No, I like it. Too much. I'm, uh, more... sensitive there, now. Would have made too much noise, in the war, would have gotten us caught. And after, I... I dunno. Didn't think Tony would like that, he likes getting taken fine and all, and I get... needy, that way. Didn't want to pressure him," Steve finishes awkwardly, blush more uncomfortable than aroused.

Bucky just kisses him, all slow, sweet reassurance, before asking softly "Would you let me, now? No war to stay quiet for, no fairy hunters. And you won't pressure me, I'm sure of it." Steve nods after a moment and Bucky kisses him again before rolling off to grab the lube.

Steve awkwardly half-smiles and asks "H-how do you want me, Buck?" and he sounds younger, unsure, and just like the skinny young man from the grainy pre-serum interview videos.

Tony's heart clinches a little when Bucky kisses him, gentler than normal, and says "You know I love you, every way." His accent's there, just a little, and the difference such a tiny change makes is astounding. Tony can almost see them, kissing with the curtains drawn in a rundown little cold-water walkup, Steve tiny and Bucky whole, and so in love it hurts a little just to see it. Bucky leans in and kisses Steve again, still sweet, and the left hand he molds along Steve's jaw could almost be flesh again, just for this. "If you like, you could go on all fours, and I can lick you some?" Steve moans eagerly, stealing one more kiss before rolling over and squirming up to hands and knees. "Beautiful as always, Stevie. God, always so sweet for me," Bucky praises reverently before leaning in, parting Steve's ass and starting to lick steadily. Tony watches as Bucky's tongue just starts to penetrate before distractedly telling JARVIS to save all his work and put it away, waving vaguely behind himself with his eyes locked on the scene before him.

Steve's whimpering, shifting back a little before Bucky braces a hand on his hip to keep him still, and soon enough he's begging, voice still a little softer than Tony's used to, "God, Bucky, please, please let me have a finger, please, give me that much at least," and Bucky just keeps licking him open, teasing little laps interspersed with firm pushes of tongue into that furled little entrance, and Steve whimpers and rocks uselessly back against against Bucky's bracing hand, but Bucky decides to show him a taste of mercy, popping open the lube and working one slicked finger in. Steve makes a broken little sound then and tries rocking back harder, and Bucky has to push a little to keep him still. "Please, please," he begs again, and fuck, Tony's pants are really tight.

Bucky just laughs a little, still licking as his finger barely shifts, staying shallow as it works Steve open. "Now, doll, don't be so overeager. If I were to give you what you want, you'd come," he says almost sweetly as he slides his finger a fraction deeper, making Steve gasp, before sliding nearly out and adding a second well-slicked finger. "This'll be over too quickly if I start playing with your sweet spot before I'm in you. You know that." Bucky continues working Steve open, staying shallow the whole time even when Steve babbles half-coherent pleas for more, for Bucky to take him. Bucky waits until Steve's taking three easily and all but sobbing with need before pulling his fingers out. Steve whines in what almost sounds like pain before Bucky runs his clean hand down Steve's back and says "Flip over for me, darlin'? Want to see your face when I'm giving it to you." Steve scrabbles to obey, rolling gracelessly in his hurry to get fucked, and Tony just gives up and opens his pants when Bucky lifts Steve's hips and finally, finally pushes inside.

Steve throws his head back and screams, a long, loud stream of mingled prayer and profanity, and Tony suddenly gets why Steve was worried they'd get caught. Bucky starts thrusting in a nice, steady rhythm Tony unconsciously mimics as he touches himself watching them, and if anything Steve manages to get even louder, wrapping his arms around Bucky's neck and holding on for the ride. When Steve's cries start trending from "Oh God yes, Bucky, so good, missed your cock in me so much" to "please, please, Buck I'm close, please, I wanna come" Bucky slows, thrusts growing shallow even as Steve sobs desperately and begs Bucky to "keep going, fuck, please, please, I need it, please don't tease anymore."

Instead, Bucky looks halfway over his right shoulder, directly at the camera he positioned them so perfectly for, and says "Not gonna let him spill til you come to bed, Tony." Tony jerks at that, and is all but running for elevator, uncomfortable erection and all, the second he finishes processing. The video feed is left behind in the workshop, but JARVIS's speakers are everywhere, so in the elevators Tony can still hear it perfectly clearly when Bucky almost idly suggests "Want to give him some motivation, Stevie? I won't let you get what you want until he's here."

The sound of flesh on flesh and Steve whimpering and gasping out "Please, please hurry Tony please, oh fuck, he's teasing, won't hit my prostate, pleaaase..." chases Tony down the thankfully empty hallway to his bedroom before he bursts in on them, whimpering a little himself when he sees Bucky pick the pace back up immediately, long, deep thrusts making Steve's back bow before he screams again, wordless this time, and comes.

Bucky thrusts a few times more and follows as Tony stands there, staring, for a long moment before wrapping a hand around himself again and God, Tony isn't a teenager anymore, but his cock apparently never got that memo, because mindblowing pre-dinner fuck or not, Tony's coming for the second time that day after barely a minute more of his own touch and Steve's happy post-coital whimpers. Steve smiles up him, boneless and blissed out, gesturing vaguely for Tony to join them on the bed. Bucky pulls out and disappears briefly into the bathroom, emerging with a damp washcloth and cleaning all three of them off before pulling Tony's mussed clothes off and guiding him down. Tony makes a half-hearted attempt to rise from where he’s slumped on the bed, but Steve's already curling up against him, and Bucky leans over Steve from the other side of bed to kiss Tony on the mouth and say "Now don't ruin all the hard work we put into getting you here. I had to talk your invisible robot butler into helping me seduce you. Very tiring," he comments, spooning up behind Steve and drawing a happy little sigh from the dozing blonde. Tony thinks about it for a second, but Pepper did tell him to sleep and hug his boyfriends, and really, this level of tactical brilliance should be positively reinforced, and the bed is very comfortable, so Tony just rests a hand on Steve's hip and lets himself drop off.

----

“Sir,” JARVIS says several hours later, “I’m sorry to disturb your rest, but Mr. Barton is urgently requesting your presence.” Tony sits up, dislodging Steve from where he’d nestled into Tony’s shoulder, and blinks until the sleep fog clears. He grabs for his discarded pants and absently pulls them on as he walks towards the elevator, yawning and asking JARVIS for a sitrep. “I’m uncertain, sir. All my readings indicate he is physically well, but he appears to be experiencing a high level of distress.”

Tony wanders into the guest bedroom they’d put Clint’s brother in and finds Agent Coulson standing there, trying to soothe him. “Evening, Agent,” Tony says absently, “Or possibly morning. What’s going on?”

The other Barton takes the brief lull in Coulson’s reassurances to demand “Okay, who the hell is this guy? I wake up and he’s just standing in the corner! And you -- what the fuck is that thing in your chest?!”

Tony looks down briefly, realizing he forgot to put on a shirt, and shrugs. “Pacemaker, mostly. What can I say, apparently guys dig scars too. And he the hell is Coulson, Agent Coulson, and Bond wishes he was that good. Is there a reason I’m in your bedroom at, uh, J?”

“Four forty-three A.M, Monday, 9th March 2015,” he interjects smoothly before Tony continues,

“Right, at o-fuck-thirty in the morning, or did you just miss my sterling presence?”

“I went to the bathroom.”

Tony blinks at that, raising an eyebrow. “And presumably my laundry service will want a bonus for dealing with that, but why am I here?”

“No, I mean, I went to the bathroom. I said I needed to, and then I just… got up and went in there and did it. I didn’t even notice Nosferatu Bond over there ‘til I got back, and fucker is seriously creepy, no one is that mild-mannered and calm in real life!”

Coulson twitches a little at the Nosferatu crack, but smiles politely throughout. “I assure you, Mr. Barton, that my return from the dead was in no way partial, nor do I have any interest in your blood,” he says, voice mild as ever.

Barton blinks at that, clearly confused, when Tony takes the opportunity to add “You think my scars are good, you should see his. Definitely bears out that guys-dig-scars thing, and while I’m not on the market, I do have eyes and he’s a very hot guy, he could have his pick. Also, I’m a genius, that’s baseline knowledge you should have while living in my Tower. I spent an entire day with that box, of course I made progress. You went to the bathroom because I made the box let you respond to your own vocal commands. Behold,” Tony gestures towards the open door, “peeing at your own volition! I’m fairly confident Agent is now overjoyed that he doesn’t have to keep taking the night shift with you.”

Coulson smiles a little at Tony then, not the polite mask but something almost fond, and says “You have no idea. If my services are no longer needed?” he says, already heading for the door.

Tony starts to follow him out, throwing a “Panic and scream at the ceiling if you need more ‘help’ thanks to my amazing brilliance. I’ve got a gorgeous cuddle-prone blonde waiting for me, and so does Coulson, don’t pretend he doesn’t like to cuddle, I’ve gotten drunk with him before.” Barton’s silent, presumably goggling at Tony’s sheer awesomeness, before the door closes and Tony looks at the elevator, deciding. “Hmm… Eh. Steve’ll be up in half an hour anyway. Might as well get some work done,” he says, nodding, and steps into the elevator with a “Hey, JARVIS, pull up that data batch from Bruce and count down the status updates. Let’s get to it.”

----

“So,” Steve says when he appears in the Tony’s workshop, several hours later and deliciously sweaty, “Uh.” And then he pauses, and Tony looks up from Bruce’s extensive list of recommended pre-surgical collar robotics alterations, because 1) he really is trying to do better about that paying-attention thing, and 2) Steve sounds adorably uncomfortable, which 70% of the time means something dirty is going through his head, and the last time he sounded like that they did the thing with the wax. Tony really, really liked the thing with the wax, even if he did lose that set of sheets in the process. Then again, a further 20% of the Uncomfortable tone is generated by something incriminating having been leaked to a tabloid, so, really, another excellent reason to pay attention.

“So, uh,” Steve tries again after a moment of Tony’s very best I Am Listening Attentively, Look How Attentive I Am face. “Listen, uh, Sam’s back in town, uh, we were talking on the run, um,” he appears to steel himself briefly. “Okay. Two things. Uh, first, I … accidentally told him about us and Bucky. I -- is that okay?”

Tony blinks at this briefly and then shrugs. “Hey, he’s done classified before. As long as you told him not to go throwing press conferences, it’s your call. He’s an Avenger, and the rest of the team pretty much knows already, so… yeah. I mean, hell, I told Clint without asking about it, Bucky told Bruce, and Natasha has ways of knowing things I choose never to question or even think too hard about lest she sense it and get the big needle out again, and that means Agent probably knows too. Huh, oh, and Pep, I guess. I was mouthing off to distract Hammer, and, well, anyway, she knows, so probably Rhodey does too. Huh. We should tell Thor, so he doesn’t feel left out, once he gets back from wherever Jane’s guest lecturing this week. Or possibly outer space, it’s not like he uses the shared team calendar no matter how many times I had JARVIS explain it to him. Although, with telling him, there’s always a risk he might slip into a public edda about itttttt and you had a second thing, I remember you said there were two. Also how did he take it, probably that’s a thing I should ask?”

Steve grins at his outburst, but it’s the “look how adorable my boyfriend is” grin, so Tony will allow it, before answering “Really, really well. He, uh, offered to sort of… oh, what did Clint say they call lavender wives now -- beard! He offered to be a beard, if we want to go on a date. So it looks like Bucky’s going with him, or that we’re just all friends going out together. And, uh, about dating -- Are you going to need Bucky and me this evening?”

Tony nods happily at the thought of getting to take both his boys out in style at once, then shakes his head at the question. “Huh? Uh, no, don’t think so. I mean, baring Avenging emergencies, my day is pretty much tinkering on the collars to make the surgeries easier for Bruce, once he’s confident it’s time for that. He’s apparently still making sure he’s crystal on the thing’s entry points, no random cutting around when you’re that close to the spine, you know?”

“Great, Tony, thanks,” Steve says, leaning in to kiss his cheek before heading back towards the elevator, a little spring in his step.

Tony’s so distracted by the interesting bounce that gives certain elements of Steve’s, ahem, dorsal anatomy that by the time he manages to call out “Um, why?” Steve’s already disappeared into the elevator. Huh. Weird. Eh, well, Tony thinks, it’s about time he go find Pepper and Barton the elder and take the first phase of cracks at the collars, anyway.  

----

Sixteen endless hours of painfully fine work later, Tony’s about ready to punch Barney in his endlessly gaping mouth, and Pepper’s not even there to stop him since Rhodey already came down to collect her for dinner four hours ago, to her immense relief. Apparently, even her saint-like patience, honed after years of Tony’s own brand of high-octane asshole, had grown tired of the elder Barton and she’d looked about ready to suggest places to hide the body when Rhodes appeared to offer her blissful escape. There was only so long either of them could stand whining complaints about Tony “spending all your time on that damn redhead, come on, she’s cute and all but I got places to be!” as he split his time, fairly, damn it, between them. It’s not like he elected to have Pepper be the one fitted with a high-quality, sleeker model that was infinitely easier to partially dismantle safely.

Once she’d gone upstairs for team dinner, though, Barton had if anything gotten even worse, moving on from begging for attention and demanding greater speed to badgering Tony about everything from the Initiative to Clint and Natasha's potential relationship status to questions about someone named “Laura.” When, four endless hours after Pepper’s departure and Tony’s increasingly annoyed undivided attention he rounds to the topic of “that freaky fucking guy in the suit standing over me last night, in my fucking room watching me sleep! He some kind of  psycho like the rest of you, fucking kidnapping people to experiment on, watching me like that? Is he, like, an undead pervert?” Tony rather visibly restrains himself from punching Barney in the mouth before going back to stripping a wire.

Tony enjoys the blissful moment of silence Barney's surprise produces before replying “First, Phil Coulson is one of the best men you'll ever have the privilege of meeting, so you'd better show some respect, especially around Clint. Second, you’d certainly better hope we're not like that, because you’d be pretty shit out of luck if, say, the 'psycho’ here working on this mind-control collar attached to your spine decided to teach you a lesson about the hazards being a nonstop fucking asshole to your rescuers for sixteen hours straight. I see why Clint doesn’t ever fucking talk about you, goddamn, I will never complain about Legolas being annoying ever again.” Tony snaps a wire with perhaps slightly more viciousness than strictly speaking necessary, and certainly does not enjoy the involuntary flinch of pain it produces, before saying “Now get the fuck out of my workshop. We’re done for the day.”

Barney’s still talking as his body starts to rise and obey, heading for the elevator. Tony sighs, running a hand through his hair before rubbing at his aching lower back and musing to himself that there’s just never a comfortable position for that much detail work, no matter how he tweaks the shop’s stools. “JARVIS,” he says tiredly, “Compile status report on today’s progress and forward to the team. Include the following note on Clint’s copy: ‘Sorry about nearly punching your asshole of an older brother. Also, be advised he was asking lots of questions about you and Tash. I didn’t say anything about it, so it’s up to your discretion on how much you tell him about the three of you, but I don't think he'll drop it. Oh, and he was worried about some “Laura,” in between whining like a twelve-year-old and calling us psychos. I’ve never appreciated your class, wit, and restraint more given the alternate results from your genetic origin pool, and I say that still remembering everything you told me about that time in Tijuana with the ex-KGB guy and the zebra. You owe me so much goddamn tequila after today, you have no idea.’ Okay, send please, J, and shut things down.”

Tony drifts up from the lab slowly, stretching as the elevator climbs. God, he wants to crawl into bed and die for a while. When he reaches his room, though, he finds it empty, and he blinks at the bed for a long, confused moment, so exhausted he briefly can’t think. “JARVIS? Where are Steve and Bucky?” he eventually asks.

“Both are in Sergeant Barnes’s room, sir.” Weird, Tony thinks as he ambles back towards the elevator, Bucky’s bed isn’t all that big, they always just sleep in Tony and Steve’s room. He steps off to find the corridor dark, and he slows his step as JARVIS comments very quietly “Captain Rogers requested the lights be shut off. You may wish to be quiet, sir.”

Tony nods, intrigued, as he moves forward as stealthily as he can, sneaking up to the bedroom door. It’s open just enough that he can see inside, and it’s beautiful. All the lights are off, and they’ve been replaced by flickering candles, dozens of them. Soft music flows from the speakers, the sound quality clearly that of a copied vinyl rather than any modern recording, a song Tony knows he’s never heard before but that somehow sounds familiar all the same. Steve and Bucky are standing together, Bucky’s head leaned forward a little onto Steve’s shoulder as they press close, swaying slowly to the music. The singer croons out Do I want to be with you, as the years come and go? Only forever, if you care to know as Bucky says quietly “You remembered? After all this time?”

“‘Course I did,” Steve replies, equally quietly, both their voices rich with their oft-suppressed accents. “I still remember the first time we heard it, one of those double dates you were always getting us. I never was very good at dancing, though, or keeping the lady interested. I think they could always tell I only had eyes for one person, and it wasn’t her.”

“I -- that last night, before I shipped out. I’d bribed the band to play it at the dance hall, not that you came with me to hear it. Too busy being a hero. I wanted --” Bucky says as he nuzzles in a little closer, still swaying with the music, steps apparently more reflex than thought, “Well, I wanted a way to promise you I’d come back, find a way for us to stay together after the war. And I did, I guess, even if I was a little late.”

Steve smiles down at him softly, saying “I’ll always wait for you, Buck. I didn’t -- I didn’t want to go, that night. To pretend to be with some dame when all I wanted was one dance with my best fella. Didn’t want to think about losing you, us not even getting to dance once. ‘s why I -- tonight. I’m still not much of a dancer, but I think we waited more’n long enough for this one, even if I’m not very good at it. And -- and happy birthday. I think it’s after midnight now.”

“First real birthday in the twenty-first century. Crazy,” Bucky says, shaking his head.

Steve kisses his hair softly before saying “‘s part of why I did all this tonight. I know it’s not -- it’s still not taking you out properly. It’s still hiding. But at least we can dance, now, without worrying about the neighbors seeing. And Sam said he’d help us, go out with us so the three of us can go on dates and have it just look like a -- well. Like those double dates you’d always take me on. I still want to take you dancing, someday. Show you off in front of everyone, let them all see I got the finest fella in the place on my arm.”

The song changes, complete with a little record-skip noise added in between, to a song Tony’s definitely heard before, Glenn Miller’s “The Nearness Of You,” and Tony’s still frozen, peeking through the doorway at their private moment. “Do you think we could?” Bucky asks, somehow sounding so painfully young again. “Really? Maybe if you dye your hair with the stuff that washes out, and I cover my arm…”

“Really. We’ll think of something, Buck. There are plenty of places no one’ll know us. Just two fellas out dancing together, and no one’ll mind.”

“I used to dream about it sometimes, Stevie. Before. Imagine taking you out on the floor, and, well, you were still small then, so I’d be leading, of course.” Steve shifts smoothly, hand going to Bucky’s shoulder, letting him start to lead. “Leaning you in all close to me, just the two of us, with no one to say a thing about it. Wrapping my arms around you so everyone knew you were mine, that such a swell fella had picked me. I love you, Stevie.”

“How long?” Steve says, and it sounds like more than that, like a lifetime’s history is buried in those two short words.

“Only forever,” Bucky says, guiding Steve into a turn as Tony backs away silently. He wonders as he enters the elevator again if maybe he should step aside -- at least publicly. Keep them both for as long as he can, but let them have the spotlight together, be out in the sunlight together after all this time. It’ll make it easier when they’re tired of him, he thinks as he drifts to sleep under sheets left cool compared to the usual furnace warmth of a bed inhabited by his lovers. He’s cold, he hates the cold, it was always cold in… his thoughts trail off as sleep claims him. Their bed seems achingly empty and far, far too large with just Tony alone.

----

Tony startles awake three hours later, shaking and sweating from a vision of an endless gaping maw in the sky and the sensation of floating bodiless through space only to drop like a stone in the infinite icy dark. The sheets tangled around his legs are still too cool, the sides of the bed unoccupied. Fuck but he hates sleeping alone. And -- cold. It was always so cold in the caves, in the dar-- no, no. Ground in the physical. Stay here. His back still aches from the day in the shop, but no point in trying to go back to sleep now. Once the dreams come, they stay the night, and nothing can dislodge them. He sighs, dragging himself up and into the shower, rinsing off the fresh layer of sweat and the layer of existing workshop grime it had sprouted over. “J, any updates? Where are the boys?” he asks, lathering up mechanically.

“Captain Rogers and Sergeant Barnes are in the later’s bedroom, sleeping, sir. Would you like me to call them?”

“No,” Tony says, briefly leaning against the shower wall, eyes closed. “No. Leave them be. They belong there. Bruce? Any other messages? Egghead? Hammer?” he continues, scrubbing at his goatee.

Couple more days before that’ll need a refresher, he observes as JARVIS promptly reports “Doctor Banner should be asleep for approximately three more hours, sir, and has not yet reviewed your report. One new message marked non-urgent from Ms. Potts, thanking you again for the increased autonomy functions and indicating she has begun managing the SI Critical List again as well as starting on her backlog. One new message marked non-urgent from Agent Romanova inquiring if you know the origin of the damage to one of her rooftop planter’s support struts. One message from Agent Barton, responding to your recent update, as follows: ‘Thanks for the heads up, man. Trickshot’s an asshole, but he’s still my brother, so probably I’ll tell him about my, uh, partners, I guess. Laura’s his wife, actually, they’ve got a couple kids out on this farm Upstate. I go and see them sometimes, make sure they’re doing okay. He kinda disappears on them sometimes without warning, so they didn’t know to tell me he’d gone again, this time. I already called Laura about the situation, though, so if he asks again, tell him she’s fine, and the attic floor needs patching again. And you think the thing in Tijuana’s bad, remind me to tell you about that time in Milan with the semi-sentient oracular puttanesca when I pay up in the cheapest tequila the liquor store has to offer. You know you love slumming it with plebe booze and my ‘class, wit, and restraint,’ and don’t think for a second I’m not framing that email, Stark. And… thanks. For helping Barney.’ End message. SHIELD reports several promising leads on the manhunt for Egghead, but no potential location as of last report, filed at 8 PM yesterday. SHIELD detention department reports Justin Hammer is awake, communicative, extremely uncooperative, and somewhat unbalanced mentally per his SHIELD interrogators. They have successfully investigated his finances, and report that he appears to have sunk the contents of his few remaining offshore accounts into funding the recent kidnappings and extortion attempt via patronage of Egghead’s technology.” JARVIS finishes his status report crisply as always as Tony shuts off the water and drags a towel over his hair and body.

“So… looks like I’m free until Bruce is up and looks at the data, tells me if we’re ready to proceed on collar removal,” he observes aloud. He can’t actually quite remember the last time he didn’t have a pressing project to hand, and his memory is all but eidetic, even if his ability to differentiate days as they’re happening is somewhat poor. He takes a second to savor the sensation of endless possibility the thought of three -- maybe four, if Bruce has a longer-than-usual morning swim or lingering breakfast -- entire, contiguous hours free gives him as he steps into the elevator, before saying “Workshop, J. I’ve got entire new industries to revolutionize.”

----

Bruce appears in the workshop six -- six! straight! -- glorious hours of boundless engineering later with a fresh mug of coffee and a pleasantly relaxed expression. Tony relieves him of the former while gesturing away the “future projects” list and the half-finished designs for a new iteration of the StarkGo sports watch. He thinks he just cracked the problem with the GPS tracker making the upload process inefficient and killing the battery. No point in automatically recording all relevant biometric and behavioral data if the automated uploads to the management app and any designated healthcare or personal training professionals drains the thing dry in a couple hours. “So, you look happy. Should I ask?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, no, just, Bucky was in a great mood this morning during our meditation session. You can just feel it when someone’s giving off a really awesome vibe. Then we baked,” Bruce comments idly.

Tony raises an eyebrow, taking a sip of, mmmmhm, liquid nirvana, before asking “Baked or baked?”

“Cookies, Tony. I continue to have no urge to dispense medicine to third parties without a prescription. They were just regular sugar cookies. He said something about a birthday and wanting to have some. But I do bring good news with me, I read your report from last night, and I think the collars are safe to be removed. I’m confident I have a solid enough grasp on them and as of last night Helen, uh, that is, Dr. Cho, is here, just in case. We shouldn’t need anything from you, but keep an ear out and maybe don’t leave the Tower today, just to be sure.”

Tony nods eagerly before smirking and echoing “‘Helen,’ eh, Banner you dog. Some hot doctor-on-doctor loving? Do you read medical journals to each other every night before bed?” Bruce flushes, but it’s not green-tinged, so Tony just grins at him before saying “Good for you. Everyone else in the Tower is coupling up like it’s going out of style, it’s nice to see you’re joining the fun. Just, you know, take it really slow. I like my Tower with its structural integrity intact.” Bruce casually flicks two fingers in an offhand salute and wanders out of the workshop again, still perky. Tony considers for a moment that it’s Bucky’s birthday, and maybe he should go -- no. Bucky and Steve will be celebrating. He should let them be. He’ll just … stay in the workshop alone. Where he belongs, inventing. He calls the project specs back up with an easy gesture and goes back to them with substantially less joy than a whole, uninterrupted, endless, lone-- no, not lonely, damn it -- day in the workshop deserves.

----

"Tony? Hey, Tony?" a voice calls out, and Tony jerks awake from the lab table. He lifts his head off the pillow of his arms and the ... repulsor glove he was apparently cuddling, and finds Bucky standing behind him, just resting his hand on Tony's shoulder. "Hey. You've been down here all day. I was wondering when you were gonna come back up. What were you doing down here, anyway? Doc says the collars are off and patients recovering well, and thanks. Oh, and I, uh, brought you a cookie," he says, holding it out a little awkwardly.

Tony idly rubs a metal-finger-shaped crease out of his cheek and takes the offered pastry. "Um. Thanks. I was just, uh, a couple projects, backburner, between crises and gear updates, and I didn't want to interf- Why, uh, why aren't you with Steve? I figured you'd be celebrating your birthday, which, happy birthday, and thank you for already using your present to smite evil, I don't think I've thanked you for that yet."

"Tony," Bucky says, almost... gently? "It's 2 AM. You sort of missed my birthday. Steve's in bed, wondering where you are. ‘S why I came to get you."

"Oh," Tony says blankly. "Don't you two want some, you know, birthday private time?" Bucky smiles a little and starts rubbing Tony's shoulders just as he takes a bite and oh, that's not fair, the cookie is really good, Bucky shouldn't get to be a superbaker and supermasseuse on top of everything else.

"Course we do. With you. C'mon," he answers, tugging at Tony's waist carefully and chivying him towards the elevator once he rises.

"Is sheepdog also on your resume'?" Tony bitches as they ascend.

"I'm not a sheepdog, I'm a retriever," Bucky murmurs into Tony's ear, low and warm and mmm, Bucky's hand appears to have wormed its way under Tony's shirt and started pulling it off and that's nice, very nice. "And since it's my birthday, more or less, I decided to fetch myself a little treat." The elevator doors open and Tony steps into the bedroom only to stop, transfixed. Steve's on the bed, just as Bucky said, but he failed to mention that Steve was tied there spread-eagled on his back, blindfolded and hard and that, that sounds like a vibrator, oh. Bucky presses up close to Tony's back again, stroking slowly up the inside of Tony's thigh and over his rapidly hardening cock, and continues in that wickedly intimate tone, breath caressing Tony’s ear, "He looks awfully nice like that, doesn't he? I thought about just riding him, getting off like that. I got him all excited and fingered myself open while he watched but then I thought, it's my birthday. I should really indulge, right? I should get to have his cock and your mouth on me, yeah?  Bet he’ll let you fuck his mouth while you do, with him still tied like that. Bet he’ll just lay there and take it."

Before Tony can get his brain back online enough to agree or step forward or get naked, Steve tugs on his bonds and moans out "Yes, please? Want you both, so much. F-fuck, please."

Bucky strips casually as he walks over to the bed while Tony stares, and then Bucky’s working the vibrating plug in and out of Steve’s entrance a few times before pushing it in nice and deep and then sinking onto Steve’s cock without any warning. Steve bucks up, pulling tight against the cuffs keeping him spread, trying to shift his hips up. “Nuh-uh, Stevie,” Bucky says immediately, pushing at his chest. “You start squirming, it’ll move the vibrator around too much and you’ll come.” Steve moans at that, arms tightening again, trying to reach Bucky. “And if you do come before I’m nice and ready, you know what I’ll do? I’ll leave that vibrator right where it is until you’re ready for me again. I know how sensitive you get there right after you spill, so it’d probably be… pretty intense, eh? Maybe it’s better if you just be a good toy, do as you’re told, and hold off for me.”

Steve whimpers, nodding and panting roughly but lying still as Bucky starts to ride him, slow and deep, each movement drawn out carefully. Tony manages to shake off the spell the sight casts after a moment and fumbles off his clothes before following Bucky to the bed. He kneels to Steve’s side, leaning over to lick a long stripe up Bucky’s cock. “Mmmmhm,” the other man says, “Nice, but only halfway there. Go on, he wants it.”

Steve immediately echoes “I want it. P-- oh, fuck, Buck that’s good -- please, Tony, want to taste you while he rides me, please,” he begs, and Tony shakily complies, carefully settling his legs on either side of Steve’s head before slowly lowering his hips toward Steve eagerly open mouth. Steve lifts his head a little, blindly, and manages to find the head of Tony’s cock, licking at it a little clumsily before he seems to get his bearings and takes it in smoothly, starting to bob his head as Tony moans.

Bucky comments “Now, Tony, mouth on my cock. You probably don’t want to go too low -- just open your throat for me, I’ll do the work. Don’t want you to gag as I thrust, yeahhhhh, that’s it, fuck, love your mouth. Fuck, you both feel so damn good.” Tony looks up at Bucky as he starts sucking, moaning as Steve's mouth matches Bucky’s pace and Bucky leans back a little, supporting himself with his metal arm as his other hand tangles in Tony’s hair, keeping him from going deep, letting Bucky completely control the pace as he thrusts up into Tony’s mouth and back down onto Steve’s cock. He’s still going slow, all long, rolling motions of his hips as his thighs clench and Steve keeps moaning around Tony’s cock and making it hard to think so he just lets go, lets Bucky guide him, use him, just savors the feel of them both.

After hours or seconds or somewhere between, Steve pulls off Tony’s cock to whimper “Please, please, Buck, don’t know how long I can hold. ‘S too much, please let me come.”

Buck keeps rolling at the same slow pace as he merely says “Tony, his mouth is empty enough to let him whine. Fix that.” Tony pulls off just long enough to feed his cock back into Steve’s mouth, hips settling a little lower this time so it’ll be harder for him to pull off, to do anything but lay there and take it and make them both happy.

Tony knows how much that always gets to their sweet Steve when he’s bound like this, how turned on he gets being made to serve that way, and savors the delicate little moans he gets in thanks, shivering up and down the length of his shaft as he goes back to work on Bucky’s cock. Soon, though, Bucky decides to show mercy and speeds up, fucking Tony’s mouth properly as grinds back on Steve’s cock, swearing as he tells Steve how good he’s being, how good his cock feels, what a good job he’s doing being Bucky’s little fucktoy. Tony starts thrusting too, shallowly, not enough to risk Steve choking, just enough to let him feel used and get Tony so, so close, fuck, fuck, and Steve just takes it, still managing to let out those sweet, eager little noises and suck and oh, fuck.

Tony spills down his throat just as Bucky’s hand in his hair tightens and Buck thrusts three times, four, five and then screams long and low and starts coming, holding Tony still so he swallows all of it. Steve lets out a high, desperate little sound and then suddenly relaxes, limbs twitching a little and oh, he must’ve just come, fuck yes. Bucky seems pretty out of it as Tony pulls off so he takes the initiative to reach between Steve’s legs and quietly shut off and remove the vibrator before his happy little fucked-out whimpers can turn pained. Tony collapses to the side, panting and bonelessly relaxed. Bucky shifts forward then, pressing his forehead to Steve’s for a moment as he whispers how good Steve was, how sweet, how much they love him. Tony smiles at them for a second before getting up just long enough to collect a warm, damp washcloth. He returns to the bed to start cleaning them off as Bucky gently removed the cuffs, saving the blindfold for the very end, slipping it off as he kisses Steve slow and deep.

Tony runs a fond hand over Bucky’s back and ass as he does, and Bucky looks up from where he’s already curling around Steve’s side, head on his shoulder. “Good birthday?” Tony asks gently.

Bucky nods, yawning a little as he says “Mmmhm, yeah, excellent birthday. Scoot over, Stevie? I wanna get the middle this time. Wanna feel you both.” Steve obliges, still looking a little shaky from coming back down but shifting and wrapping an arm securely around Bucky’s shoulders as they settle together. Tony slides in behind him, looping his arm in turn around Bucky’s waist as they all go quietly to sleep.   

----

The next month mostly goes on in that fashion. Pepper goes back to work with a few new interesting scars, Trickshot goes back to his family (good riddance, the unbearable asshole), Evil keeps its head down. The Avengers are called out once, but it’s just to provide backup for Richards having another ambiguously gay standoff with Doom, and they barely get to rack up any property damage at all before the latter storms off, taking his bunny-bots with him, and really, the villains these days are getting weird, and a little sad. Maybe Tony should just make Doom an OkCupid profile or something. Must love murderous dogbots, megalomaniac seeks long-term conspiring partner for world domination and candlelit dinners, brunette men and blonde women preferred, past experience saving the world a plus, that sort of thing. Tony watches Steve and Bucky reviving everything they’d lost in the ice of nearly a century gone, and vacillates wildly between burying himself in the workshop (and even occasionally attending Pepper’s R&D division meetings, to her profound confusion) to give them space and desperately trying to make them happy in any way he can think of.

Sam “double dates” with Bucky a couple of times so they can go to the movies, out to dinner, but it’s still a risk. The dinners are never very romantic, they can’t chance it, and anyway Bucky’s… surprisingly terrible at paying attention to his “date,” for a guy who’d kept his closet spick-and-span for years, and keeps gazing dreamily at Steve when Sam’s talking at him. SHIELD hunts Egghead, who apparently funneled most of the profits from cleaning out Hammer into setting up really excellent disappearance preparations, but they don’t find him until mid-May, and by then he’s a surprisingly low priority for Tony because, well, Steve has been walking around with hearts in his eyes every time he so much as glances at Bucky when they’re at home, and eventually Tony may have asked why, directly between giving him the best blowjob Tony can offer and presenting him with the new body armor upgrades. Steve had panted, half-slumped against a workshop table and said “Huh? Oh, it's just, our anniversary. Back in ‘35, we got together in May, the 25th. I think he’s remembering too, he’s been real sweet lately. Why?”

Tony deflected it, but… he sees that they can’t go on like this. It’s not right, Steve and Bucky still having to hide. It’s not like Tony won’t be better at the subterfuge thing anyway, at being a bit on the side, being quiet about it. He managed to keep his closet door shut until he had control of the company, despite having a near-permanent tabloid tail, and it was certainly not through keeping it in his pants. Or, on several memorable occasions, pleated skirt and lacy panties. So when he goes up to the penthouse only to find the bed empty again, he doesn’t even bother asking JARVIS before stepping back into the elevator and going straight to Bucky’s room. He takes his practically regular spot at the cracked door, gazing in on a decent recreation of a 40s theater. The seats are the same couch that’s been in the suite since before Bucky moved in, but the drapes nearby are heavy red velvet and the air smells like popcorn that’s never seen a microwave and soft drinks containing actual sugar. There’s a movie on the screen, black and white, of course. A handsome man in an 1840s suit is singing to a be-ringletted starlet who looks suitably dazzled by his presence and vibrato in equal measure. Bucky’s got his arm around Steve’s shoulders, nuzzling him in close. Tony watches them, silent as ever, as he realizes Bucky’s singing along. He can just pick out another voice layered under the recording, baritone rusty but still lovely, serenading a quiet “I’ll love you in life’s grey December the same as I love you today,” and Tony should leave, should go. Shouldn’t have even come down to see them, to peek at the dates they go on in the stifling privacy of the Tower, when Tony’s told them he’ll be working late.

He watches a moment longer as a new voice, still quiet but slightly lighter and smooth echoes the line “though our paths may sever, ‘til life’s last faint ember I will remember…” and Tony shuts his eyes. Turns. This -- isn’t his. Isn’t his to see. He goes back down to the workshop. There’s no point in the penthouse tonight. By the time they’re done and come to bed, the nightmares will have already woken him.

----

He faces the problem head-on the next morning. Well, morning is a highly negotiable term when you're Tony Stark, but it's somewhere after passing out on a lab table for a couple hours but before full dark, so close enough. He wanders into the communal floor's kitchen in time for team... lunch? Wait, no, dinner. Probably. Stupid orbital tilt making determining time by the sun's position unnecessarily complicated. Clint's cooking, which makes Tony intensely glad he hasn't really, you know, eaten, in... a while. Clint is an unnaturally good cook and the kitchen smells like beets, which means he's probably making Hungarian and Tony briefly considers believing in God just so he has someone to thank for all the missions Barton had been sent on in Eastern Europe. Seriously, his gilded borscht is some kind of religious experience. Steve's in the kitchen too, chopping vegetables at Clint's direction while Bucky snarks and occasionally swipes carrot chunks and Bruce kneads bread dough, smiling fondly at the banter. Tony's heart seizes just a little at the sight, at the way the team's become more than that over the years, grown together into something solid and reliable.

Steve looks up when Tony enters and practically beams at him, leaving the knife by the cutting board to walk over and wrap his arms around Tony's waist, leaning in for a quick kiss before saying "Hey, there you are. You didn't come to bed last night. You've been so busy in the shop lately... will you join us for team dinner tonight?"

Tony leans into the embrace for a moment, sighing quietly at how inordinately comforting it is, before saying "Yeah, I will. Can we talk privately before, though? Or does Julia Child over there need you right now?"

Clint snorts and immediately jumps in to respond "I will let that remark pass because Julia is a badass, and I too am a badass. And I possibly stol -- liberated, Cap, liberated, stop growling -- one of her aprons from a museum once for my personal collection. Don't worry, gentlemen, I've got dinner well in hand and you've got at least an hour of cook time left for... knitting," he finishes, waggling his eyebrows.

Steve blushes adorably at the innuendo but shifts a little closer to Tony in a fashion that suggests he too sees metaphorical purling in his immediate future and has no problem with the notion. Tony steps back and says "Can we, uh, go upstairs to talk?"

Steve nods, still grinning as Tony adds "You too, Bucky." Bucky actually high-fives Barton as he rises and Tony can feel his resolve to get this ugly conversation over with wavering in face of his lovers' obvious interest. However much fun just taking them to bed would be, though, this is more important, he reminds himself firmly as the elevator ascends to the penthouse.

On the way, Steve presses up against his back and starts kissing his neck and oh but that's nice. Tony steps away and sighs internally at having to forego inevitably hot threeway sex in favor of a conversation about, urgh, feelings and media strategy, but he does have fifteen years of conscious time on both of them, so occasionally he has to be the adult. Damn it. "Tony?" Steve asks as the elevator doors open. "Is something wrong?"

Tony walks in, bypassing the bedroom entrance directly in front of him to settle in one of the living room's seldom-used armchairs. Steve and Bucky trail after him, sinking into the couch together across from Tony at his gesture. “Not wrong, just, uh, I really did mean we needed to talk. Need to talk. Right, okay. This is going to be fun,” Tony says, blowing out his breath in a huff. Bucky’s hand seems to unconsciously reach for Steve’s, interlacing their fingers automatically as both tense up. “So. Uh. I guess I have an anniversary present for you, for both of you. Steve and I are going to publicly break up.”

Steve immediately looks wounded and worried, asking “Tony? Did I do something wrong?”

Tony shakes his head, continuing “No, I -- I’m not saying we actually break up. Just… we give the press a nice showy break, you ‘mope’ for a month, and then you and Bucky can start dating. Visibly. You won’t have to hide anymore. Bucky can finally take you dancing, you can go out to nice restaurants together, see movies somewhere other than your bedroom. You’ve been together for 80 years, you deserve to get to kiss him in public. I can… I have plenty of practice being discreet, shockingly enough. Haven’t really bothered using it since I was about twenty-two, but I remember how it works. Hell, maybe Sam’ll beard with me, or I know a bunch of -- anyway. So, yeah. Happy anniversary. We should probably pick a topic to get into a photogenically ugly fight about at some point this week and a nice public venue. Hey, I know, how about the Tower’s foyer plus some moderate cheating, maybe feeling up some B-list starlet? Everyone will buy that, I’m a well-known skank. The tabloids’ll make a mint off of Iron Man’s wandering gauntlets, the heartless unAmerican bastard,” Tony finishes, feeling his mouth twist into a bitter self-deprecating smirk without his having any intention to do so.

Tony gazes blankly out the window, barely catching the movement in his peripheral vision when Steve stands abruptly before he’s wrapped in Steve’s warm arms. He breathes deeply, nose burying itself in Steve’s collarbone on reflex so he can savor Steve’s scent even as he forces himself to stay calm. “You’ve been thinking about this for a while, haven’t you, Tony?” Steve asks gently, still holding Tony so, so close. “Is that why you’ve been staying in the shop so much lately?”

Tony takes another deep, slow breath before answering “Some. I know you’ve been, uh, dating I guess. I wanted to … be not in the way. Give you space. And yeah, thinking about how to make this better for you. For both of you.”

Tony feels a presence at his back suddenly and Bucky’s behind him, pressing tight and Tony’s trapped between two walls of living muscle, keeping him still. Bucky growls, then, his hand just a little too tight on Tony’s shoulder. “And you just get to decide this? Decide what’s best for us, for the three of us?” and Bucky sounds really, really pissed. Tony can’t remember Bucky ever being angry before, can’t remember really fighting with him. Tony and Steve can have hour-long snipe sessions over essentially nothing, but when the chips are down and they’re facing the big stuff, fighting just… doesn’t seem to occur to either of them. Apparently Bucky’s rather the opposite.

“Bucky…” Steve starts, and really, it’s sweet of him to want to help, but if Buck wants to start shit, Tony can absolutely oblige on his own, thanks.

“Given that I’m the only one of us with any real modern media experience, not to mention half again the life experience of either of you, yeah, I think I just might get to be the one making that decision. It’s not like you’re going to suddenly not stare at Steve like he’s dessert on legs even when we’re outside the Tower. How the fuck you never got caught in the Dark Ages I will never know,” Tony lobs back, digging an elbow into Bucky’s side to shake off his hand.

“What the fuck ever, like you don’t look at him too. And of course I didn’t get caught then, Stevie might go to jail is a lot bigger incentive than People might write mean things, but I guess you’re too coddled, growing up in your rich-boy brave new world to really think about that, huh, genius?” Bucky spits.

Steve’s affronted “Bucky!” doesn’t slow things down much as Tony spins in the scant space between them, facing Bucky as he says “Of course I look at him, he’s my boyfriend, publically! We all agreed to keeping this quiet when we started and you aren’t keeping your end of the bargain, Barnes. And shove your brave new world shit right up your self-righteous ass, one of my best friends in college got six months in prison for getting caught with her girlfriend back home, two got thrown out of their parents’ houses and nearly starved hitchhiking back to MIT so they could move in with me. Don’t act like I haven’t lived through shit too. It isn’t like everything magically got better the second your precious self went back on ice between murders,” and oops, that might have been too far.

Steve’s “Tony, what the hell?!” sounds pretty upset, but fuck it, Bucky’s been parading around showing off how much better a boyfriend he is than Tony ever can be, and Tony’s going to take this golden opportunity to get a little of his own back. Bucky’s metal hand flexes at his side a little alarmingly, servos whirring at the abrupt clench and Steve tries to tug Tony back a little from where he’s gotten into Bucky’s face.

“Fuck you, Stark, we both know you’re just fucking jealous, jealous even though Stevie’s with both of us. I actually make time for him! I know what movies he likes, his favorite songs, what he likes to do to unwind -- What do you offer him? A tower and a big pile of money and the clanging of your workshop as you stand there ignoring him for hours. And he still loves you! And I might too a little, when you aren’t being such a massive fucking asshole, but you’re too busy sulking in your workshop to ever spend any time with either of us. Admit it, that’s really why you want me and him to go public. So you don’t even have to pretend to be a real boyfriend to him, so you can ignore us more!” Bucky taunts.

Tony maybe sees red a little, because before he can think it through he’s spitting out “It’s so that when the two of you leave me it’ll be easier, you dumb fuck! You’re right, I’m a terrible boyfriend. No fucking kidding, I’ve known that for years, Pepper damn well taught me that once and for all. Once you’re both out to the public, when you get tired of me it’ll be easy for you to just stop letting me into your bed, and you can keep on going together with no one the wiser.” Tony runs out of steam abruptly, sagging down from the aggressive stance he’d taken so reflexively. He says more quietly “It’ll be easier. You deserve to have each other, fully, out in the light. You’re so much better to him than I can ever be. Just… take it. We both know you’re going to win. Let me make it easier for both of you.”

Bucky sways back in shock and Tony takes the opportunity to slip out from between them and dash for the elevators. Fuck. He wasn’t supposed to tell them that, and he promised he’d be at dinner so he can’t even get hammered in peace tonight. Tony descends to the workshop, staring blankly at a wall and trying to cudgel his brain to functionality. He walks in and glances at the scattered projects. Good work, all of it, but none really pressing, nothing that really matters. Just excuses to keep himself out of the way. “J, Revenant on Bucky and Steve. Just for an hour or so, and ask Clint to ping me when dinner’s ready. Guess I should probably rename it, no point in a protocol to help the one returned when he’s being blocked too.” Tony just... needs some time. They’ll calm down, and the three of them will have dinner with the team, and maybe they’ll come to bed with Tony tonight. Maybe if he begs they’ll let him stay with them for just a little longer.

----

Clint’s too-cheery “finished already? u kno sexcapades arent a time scored event lol” text in no way improves the next two hours. Tony mostly just stares at a wall, rapidly generating and discarding plans to try to fix the mess he’s made and wondering if he can get away with being just a little drunk when he goes to dinner. Probably not. Clint’s subsequent “soups on motherbitches” has Tony trudging dutifully to the elevator, trying to brace himself for the symphony of awful that’s sure to come. He arrives on the communal floor to find the rest of the team already there. Natasha’s passing out bowls from the top of the cabinet, graceful as ever, while Bruce pulls his bread out of the oven and Coulson lays out condiments and kisses a still-stirring Clint’s cheek. Steve’s finishing toss a salad, face grave, and Thor is regaling Sam and an extremely distracted-looking but otherwise unreadable Bucky with an account of his latest off-planet excursion. Tony steps out of the elevator and stiffly starts pulling silverware and napkins out of their drawers, decidedly not making eye contact with Steve or Bucky. He can practically feel it when Natasha notices and eyeballs him, but he focuses on laying out place settings and pretending everything is just fine, damn it.

Clint, attention still on the soup, calls out “Okay, guys, bowls out, c’est fini.” There’s an immediate general shuffle towards the stove, and Tony finds himself standing next to Steve. Tony’s shoulders rise automatically, pulling in on himself, but Steve doesn’t say anything at first, just stares at the bowl in his hands and looks sad and fuck. Exactly what Tony was trying to avoid doing, making Steve unhappy.

As Tony approaches the front of the cluster and reaches for the ladle, Steve says quietly “Me and Bucky’d like to talk to you after dinner, Tony. May we?” Tony nods shakily, filling his bowl as quickly as possible and darting towards the table to grab a seat as far away from Bucky as he can manage, hoping Steve won’t sit next to him.

Steve obliges by parking next to Bucky and consequently several seats away from Tony, but when Clint turns around he notices their arrangement and says “The fuck? You are harshing my feng shui, Stark. Superspy threesome on the left, supersoldier sandwich on the right, Sam and Bruce share one end and Thor gets the other to himself because his meals frequently involve splash damage, quaffing, and/or Jane. It’s been like that for, like, months. Why are you suddenly fucking up my table?”

Tony manages to force out a rather harsher than normal “Fuck off, Clint” before plopping down and shoving his spoon into his mouth as rapidly as possible. The soup’s as good as ever, even if he isn’t really noticing it much. He bolts half the bowl down before starting to internally debate drawing it out -- the longer dinner takes, the longer he has before they… talk.

----

He’s partway through his second now-very-slow bowl and really savoring the way the entire earlier atmosphere of buzzing camaraderie has slowly dwindled to confused stares and awkward silence punctuated by stilted requests for the passing of various comestibles when the Assembly alert goes off. He thinks he hears Sam mutter “Oh, thank God,” under his breath as they all abandon their meals and dash for their gear.

Tony gets the armor on in short order and activates the comm line immediately. “Situation?” he asks, determined to be all business. Even if Tony Stark’s not recommended for much of anything -- CEO, boyfriend, hero, whatever --  Iron Man’s still a yes, and Tony promised not to let this, any of this, hurt the team a long time ago.

Steve responds just as professionally with “Iron Man, SHIELD is advising they have a confirmed location for Egghead, just outside Poughkeepsie. His position is well-defended, and they have requested our assistance in apprehending him. You and Thor are to fly ahead and provide aerial support, priority being containment rather than direct capture. Keep him from rabbiting again while the ground crew takes the slow boat after you.”

Tony bites out a neutral “Affirmative” before sliding into his hatch and flying out, indulging in speed than he never dares when he has passengers. He sees Thor more-or-less pacing him as they race toward their objective and they descend in mutual silence, circling the normal-looking two-story house set squarely on the coordinates Steve forwarded. Tony watches as SHIELD agents attempt to close in on the house only to be attacked by some sort of robot spiders. They look like they’re holding their own for the moment, though, so Tony focuses on watching for Egghead.

Sure enough, just as the sweet whine of their quinjet’s engines approaches, a smallish figure darts from a cellar and towards the dull-looking car parked along the street. Tony lets him enter it and close the door before he casually smashes in the driver’s side window and a makes a nice hand-hold divot in the middle of the car's roof. He lifts the car easily, taking grim satisfaction from the screams of the man inside, and shakes it a little before dropping it, punching through the engine block. He hefts the weight of it again and casually carries it over to the SHIELD vans. “Present, boys,” he says through the suit’s speakers. “What do you make of this?” he asks as he notes his teammates’ landing on the HUD.

“That’s not Egghead!” one of the agents barks. Tony drops the car immediately, rising into the air to watch for any more movement, cursing himself for taking the time to indulge in terrorizing whoever-it-was when Egghead could have been getting away.

He continues circling the house as Cap announces over the comms “Clear! House is empty, but there’s a tunnel in the basement, looks pretty deep. We’re going in. Falcon, join Iron Man and Thor, all aerial assets please continue wide sweeps as a precaution until otherwise notified.” Tony spends the next four hours running some phenomenally interesting sweeps of suburbia and listening the rest of the team -- mostly Clint, honestly -- bitch about cramped spaces, lightless depths, and just when Tony was starting to get maybe a little unsettled hearing about all the, you know, caves, there’s something about mind-controlled giant glowing fish in the underground lake. That sounds much more like the current speed of his life, Tony thinks with a little sigh, still faithfully scanning the area for any sign and debating how much trouble he’ll get in if he falls asleep in the suit while JARVIS flies. Probably a lot, and he can’t really take Steve’s disappointed face right now, not after earlier tonight.

So he flies endless circles as Thor does the same, and is idly listening to Clint’s current rant, “Why does nearly every video game have a sewer level? There’s no fucking point! They’re cramped, same-y, unattractive, and hardly ever plot releva--” when there’s a crashing noise through the comms, and suddenly a small, roundish man pops up from a manhole, seriously not even two blocks away from Tony’s current position. The little guy scurries for a car, but Tony can break the sound barrier when he puts his back into it, and two blocks is hardly enough to lose a flying suit. He scoops up the guy, not bothering to let him get into the car this time, no flash or grandstanding. He just picks the guy up, runs his face against the SHIELD file while his sensors indicate a warm wet stream just appeared down the outside of the armor’s leg, eww, and flies over to the SHIELD team.

“This one better?” Tony asks, not bothering to put any of the usual verve into it. The agents quickly cuff the quivering little man as Tony attempts to raise the team over the comms, saying “Captain? I’ve secured Egghead and delivered him to SHIELD custody. What’s your status?” When dead silence answers him, he repeats “What’s your status, Captain?” Nothing. “Hawkeye? Widow? Soldier?” He switches channels to Thor and Sam, “Guys? Can you raise Cap and the others?”

Sam immediately responds with “Negative, Iron Man. What’s your status?”

Tony ruthlessly suppresses the fear trying to bubble up as he answers “Green. I captured Egghead, SHIELD has him. I heard a crashing noise over the comms, now I can’t raise the others. Thor?”

The other man’s voice booms into the comms “I likewise cannot hear our companions. I believe we must go to their aid!”

Tony sighs before saying “Yeah, just what I was thinking. Okay, Falcon, you keep on aerial patrol as a precaution. Your wings’ll make it too hard to move around underground anyway. Tell Bruce to keep an eye on the jet and be ready, but that he's not needed in action. Thor and I will go in, I’ve got a tracer set to their last known position before their comms cut out and am sending everyone that now."

Tony glances at the conveniently open manhole, compares its diameter to the width of the suit's shoulders and sighs. "Thor? Yeah, entrance you can use on my location. I'll be taking the long way around." Tony waits for Thor to land and start wriggling in before jetting back to the little house.

He's a few hundred yards into the basement tunnel when Thor proclaims over the comms "This cave system appears to be extensive! The Egg-headed Man has altered it greatly. I am recording images of the structure and sending to JARVIS so we may delve into its secrets in time! Alas, I have yet to find any trace of our shieldbrothers and sister." Tony sighs again and thanks him, climbing deeper into the cave system.

With the evening’s earlier audio commentary track and the record of the team's movements to crossreference, he manages to retrace their path in only one hour, rather than another four, as the initial panic melts into a lingering weight in his gut that drives him on and on and on, as fast as he dares. The whole time he can't raise them on the comms, can't ping their trackers, can't get any heat signatures through the solid, damp stone walls, nothing. Eventually he finds a wall of fallen stone a few dozen feet from the last reported position and directly over the path they took. He immediately gets to work, shifting rubble as rapidly as possible without risking a collapse. As he does, he starts hearing scrabbling sounds and muted voices -- not from the comms, but with his external audio inputs, the suit's "ears." He heaves a particularly large slab aside and then there's Steve, uniform torn and bloodied but otherwise well and whole, and Tony can't quite keep himself from reaching for him, running gauntlets over his arms, checking for injury as the knot in his stomach finally begins to unclench. "I'm okay, Tony, hey, I'm okay." Steve says. He leans forward and Tony's faceplate flips up automatically in time for Steve to give him a gentle kiss.

Tony pulls back after only a second to choke out "Bucky? The team?"

Steve cups his cheek fondly and says "We're okay. Widow sprained a wrist, Hawkeye scraped his back up and twisted an ankle stumbling around down here after we lost our lights, and Bucky said he cracked a couple ribs and his shin, but he's probably already healed that by now. He was supposed be about to come try to help me move--" and then Bucky's there too, quietly wrapping his right arm around the suit's chest.

Tony blinks at the sudden fondness and the sweet kiss that quickly follows it, but then Bucky's saying "Oh thank fuck, we didn't know how far the blast went, you're okay, you're okay," which is sort of an answer.

Tony raises an eyebrow at Steve in the light of the reactor, asking "Blast?" while carefully looping a titanium-clad arm around Bucky's waist.

Steve looks away guiltily "I was getting to that. EMP blast, right after the charge that took out that wall. I think we were supposed be the other side of the rubble, blocked from following him. Widow wanted to try to keep going after him anyway, but stuck in an unfamiliar cave system with no lights or intel... I had to order her not to. Did you, uh?"

"I got him, Steve, don't worry. I take it the EMP killed your comms?"

"And our phones, and our flashlights, and my arm." Bucky confirms, still sounding weirdly shaky. "’And ‘fit could get my arm, it coulda -- " and he breaks off, gesturing awkwardly at Tony's chest with his left shoulder, arm dangling limply.

"Aww, you were worried about me, Buckaroo?" Tony tries to joke, even as he calculates the probability that whatever device Egghead used would have at the very least knocked the armor out and left Tony trapped in it and finds himself not liking that number at all.

Bucky just clings on, nuzzling at Tony's cheek, and says "Maybe. Maybe I jus' wanted you around so I can get my arm fixed and then yell at you proper for trying t'break up with my boyfriend again. Ya jus' keep hurting him, over 'n over, 'n he was worried 'bout ya too, even if he don't show it."

Steve sighs and says "Not the time or the place, Soldier. Widow, Hawkeye," he calls out, louder, "Wall's down and Iron Man confirms target has been captured. Let's head home."

They all trudge back through the cave system, Natasha supporting Clint whenever his ankle twinges, Bucky limping at the back with the emergency flashlight Tony’d brought, and Tony and Steve leading with Tony's reactor alone to light their way. Tony reports the team's status into the comms and then falls silent, thinking. After a moment Steve says quietly "Don't mind Bucky being tactile and, uh, critical just now. The... something in the serum makes you a little loopy right after healing major injuries, and it's worse if you haven't eaten in a while. I'm mostly used to it now, but patching up cracked ribs and what I'm pretty sure was a broken leg, whatever he claimed, on half a bowl of soup five hours ago, and with a scare like that... I'd be pretty bad off too, even without my arm suddenly failing. He didn't... I hope you didn't feel pressured or anything," Steve finishes awkwardly.

"Is he -- are we -- should there have been kissing, back there? Are we -- what are we, now?" Tony attempts.

"That's a conversation Bucky needs to be a part of, and we should really wait until we get home, too."

Tony's about to protest when his left gauntlet's haptics report pressure and warmth, and Tony glances down to see Steve's gloved fingers entwined with his own. "You know I can't properly feel you through the suit," Tony observes as the very last of the panicked adrenaline that fueled his search of the caves drains away, leaving him utterly exhausted.

"I can feel you, though," Steve says, and the light's angled wrong to let Tony read his face, but his voice is somewhat strained. "Bucky was right, I was worried, too. Had the team to think about and a job do, but now, I ... would it be okay if I just... feel you with me, for a little while?"

Tony manages a quiet little "Y-yeah" and walks on in silence broken only by Coulson and Thor's occasional reports over the comms, hoping Steve will want to keep holding on for a long, long time.

----

With two leg injuries on the team, it takes just over two hours to trek back to Bruce and the quinjet, even using the shortest possible path JARVIS can calculate. During that interminable span, Thor reports that he has led a contingent of SHIELD agents down into the quasi-workshop area he discovered, and they've begun collecting and cataloging its contents. Coulson likewise confirms the containment unit has safely packed Egghead onto a plane headed straight to the new and improved Fridge. Tony stays upright and functional mostly thanks to the armor, and even Steve looks drawn and strained, sitting close beside Bucky in the jet's bay while Tony flies escort. When they land, Coulson's already waiting, suit crisp as ever, and walks up the freshly lowered ramp with a wrist brace in hand. He silently passes it to Natasha, fingers barely brushing hers before he slides under Clint's arm on his wounded side, helping him stand and limp towards the elevator. Tony notices Natasha strapping the brace on before quietly taking Agent's free hand on their way to their floor. He thinks he hears Coulson say "Welcome home,” and perhaps Tasha says "Vy moy dom" in reply, but it might have been the wind.

Tony turns back to the interior of the plane and sees Steve checking in with Bruce as Bucky pushes up from his seat. He puts his weight down on his injured leg too quickly and wavers, but instead of being able to correct in time, his left shoulder twitches helplessly and he starts to fall. Tony darts over just in time, catching him and steadying him from behind. "Hey, you ok?" Tony asks, because usually Bucky is a graceful, flawless engine of destruction.

"Y-yeah," he answers, sounding impossibly tired. "M'fine. Leg got stiff once I stopped using it, and I forgot my arm isn't working. Sorry. Could, um. Could you..." he trails off for a moment before saying very quietly "...maybe come up with me so I don't fall if my leg buckles again?"

Tony nods, resting his hand on Bucky's waist, support ready if he needs it without threatening his pride. Bucky limps for the elevator alongside the disassembly strip, so by the time they reach the elevator doors Tony's down to his undersuit and he's pretty much leaning on Bucky as much as he is supporting Buck's wounded side. When they get in, Tony hesitates, but Bucky says "Penthouse, please, JARVIS," without pause. He blinks for a second before looking at Tony and asking, tone heartbreakingly uncertain, "If that's ok? Can I ... am I still welcome there, after today?"

Tony just leans in, a little wobbly, and kisses him lightly before echoing "Penthouse, J. Take us home."

Bucky smiles at him the whole way up, boyish and open and surprised, and as they step into the bedroom together says "I'm sorry. About earlier, I shouldn't have --"

Tony interrupts, saying "Me too. I, we both... said things. Heat of the moment things. Let's, can we just -- Look, I'm probably going to fall over soon. I don't think I can have this conversation now, even once Steve gets here. Just, let's. Sleep."

Bucky nods, kicking off his boots, opening his tac vest one-handed, and shaking it off. Tony strips out of his undersuit in a handful of automatic motions and then pauses when he sees Bucky fumbling awkwardly at his shirt. Tony steps close to him and asks "Can I ...?" and Bucky looks away, clearly uncomfortable, before nodding briefly. Tony cups his jaw, gently turning Bucky's face back toward him before kissing him, light and chaste. "Thank you for letting me undress you," he says quietly, easing Bucky's shirt up and off. Bucky looks down at the floor and doesn't say anything at all to that. Tony's legs wobble threateningly, and before they can go out on him he sinks to his knees as smoothly as his wrung-out body can manage, pulling off Bucky's socks before opening his pants and easing them down his thighs. "Still okay?" Tony asks, looking up and trying to meet Bucky's eyes. He's pretty obviously avoiding making eye contact but gives a tight nod, so Tony pulls his boxers down too, leaving him standing naked, weight clearly shifted off his injured left leg. Tony notices how dirty Bucky is from the caves and catches a whiff of himself, all fear-soured old sweat, and says "Hey, we should probably shower."

Bucky nods again and says "Thanks for, uh. Sorry I'm ... broken," as Tony tries to rise.

His calf cramps when he's halfway up and he nearly falls over before Bucky's flesh arm curls around his waist, pulling him to stand. "E-everybody needs help sometimes. Doesn't make them broken. Just human," Tony says, leading Bucky into the shower.

They stay close together, keeping each other upright as they touch slowly, hesitantly, spreading soap surrounded by the shower's ample sprays. When Tony's hands brush down Bucky's stomach he shivers, cock twitching with interest. Tony grins, hands wandering up and down Bucky's back and over his hips as Bucky lets out a soft moan. "This okay, Buck?" Tony asks carefully. Bucky nods quickly, stroking his hand down Tony's back in turn as Tony cups his ass, rocking against him.

Bucky pulls back, then, looking worried, and says "Are you -- you aren't getting hard."

Tony smiles fondly at him, sliding a hand up the outside of Bucky's thigh, and answers "I'm an unaugmented forty-five-year-old with a history of cardiac issues who hasn't slept more than five hours in the last forty-eight. I promise the spirit is extremely willing, but that just isn't happening tonight. May I still...?" Bucky nods again, cheeks a little pink as he hardens further. Tony grins and grabs a shampoo bottle. "Hand out. You can get my hair while I'm occupied," he instructs, squeezing a measure into Bucky's palm before bracing against the wall and lowering carefully down to his knees.

The spray warms his back as he runs his hands up and down Bucky's legs, cleaning them before licking a languorous stripe along Bucky's cock, base to tip. He's too tired for anything particularly vigorous and this probably isn't going to go down on the list of the World's Most Spectacular Blowjobs, but he thinks it should work just fine. He slides his mouth down nice and slow, wraps his right hand around what he can't reach, and sets an easy rhythm as Bucky's hand sinks into Tony's hair, halfway between scrubbing and just holding on. His fingers scritch along Tony's scalp gently, working the shampoo in as Tony moans happily at the massage, taking things slow and letting them enjoy each other. Tony keeps going, not trying to go particularly deep, teasing the tip with his tongue every third or fourth pass, and by the time Bucky's tilting the showerhead to rinse the last suds out of Tony's hair, he's breathing pretty hard, whimpering a little. Tony speeds up, pulling back until he has just the crown in his mouth, sucking as his hand tugs Bucky's length faster, saliva and shower water slicking the way, and Bucky lets out a little half-choked noise and comes, slumping against the shower wall. Tony swallows through it and then lays a gentle kiss on Bucky’s thigh before scrambling up, wavering a little but catching himself against the wall in turn. He huffs out a laugh at the pair of them, leaning against the wall side by side, and kisses Bucky again. Bucky stands there looking a little dazed, which is excellent for Tony’s ego, as Tony grabs the shampoo bottle and gestures for Bucky to turn. Bucky does after a moment and Tony kisses between his shoulder blades gently as he starts lathering up Bucky’s hair. It’s rather longer than he’s used to washing, but he did this for Pepper a time or two and he thinks he still remembers all the tricks for doing it properly. Bucky certainly doesn’t seem to be complaining, tilting his head back and leaning into Tony’s chest with a relaxed-sounding sigh. Tony finishes up as best he can and helps Bucky step out of the shower, careful his wounded leg doesn’t make him slip. They dry each other off, still leaning together and indulging in casual little touches, the incidental brushes of closeness, of finding each other again.

They’ve just about dragged themselves and each other to the bed when a freshly-showered Steve suddenly appears in the bedroom door, looking worried. He pauses, eyes locking on where Tony’s nuzzled up under Bucky’s limp left arm, supporting him with an arm around his waist, both still entirely naked and clearly having showered together. Steve seems to wilt with relief where he stands, hip cocking up against the door as he says “Oh, thank God. When JARVIS said you were both up here, I was afraid you’d gone back to arguing and swearing at each other.”

Tony waves vaguely with his free arm and says “Sounds too much like work. I can always slam doors and call him a cocksucker after we’ve both gotten some sleep,” as he deposits Bucky onto the bed.

Bucky grins and says “That’d be rich coming from you, or was that someone else in the shower with me?” Tony grins back, lifting the covers and climbing in over Bucky, snuggling down into the middle of the bed. Steve blinks at them, clearly confused. “Come to bed, Stevie. There’ll be no war tonight. Just us,” Bucky says, lifting his dead left arm with his right and draping it over Tony’s waist as he snuggles in close. Steve smiles at them, glad for the reprieve even if he doesn’t understand its origin, and slides in on Tony’s other side.

“Where were you, anyway?” Tony slurs out, slipping quickly, and just enjoys the sound of Steve’s voice as he answers.

“Well, Bruce wanted to debrief about the mission, and then he needed to discuss some odd readings from the quinjet’s sensors he wanted me to be aware of, and then there was the …” but Tony’s already most of the way to sleep, and only distantly notices a kiss to his hair as Steve murmurs “I’ll tell you in the morning, love” before sliding gratefully under at last.

----

After a measly seven hours of sweet, sweet unconsciousness, Tony's woken by his growling stomach. Right, human bodies want more than two bowls of soup every couple of days, oops. Normally he can ignore it, though, so why... wait, what's that smell, that is, mmhm, that's marinara. Why does the penthouse smell like marinara? he wonders muzzily, scooching down the center of the bed so as not to wake either of his still-sleeping supersoldiers. He wanders out into the kitchen and finds two tall stacks of family-size takeout containers, still warm, next to a giant cardboard thermos of coffee, oh God yes coffee, and a note reading "Stop forgetting that machines require fuel to function or you'll burn out your engine, Mr. Stark. And best of luck with your partners. You'll work it out" in Coulson's typeface-neat handwriting. Tony makes a mental note to nag Hill into giving Agent a hell of a bonus and digs fork-first into the pasta primavera without bothering with a plate. He works steadily into the box until his stomach stops making those distracting noises, grabs a chair to carry over next to the bed, and shotguns a mug of coffee. Okay, all fueled up. Now, about working it out...

When Bucky abruptly sits upright an hour later, Tony doesn't so much as twitch. "Ow, what the fuck?!" Bucky gasps, and Tony just calmly settles a box of warmish chicken alfredo into his lap, passes him a fork, and goes back to micro-soldering a new capacitor in Bucky's left arm while idly wondering a) how Agent knows all their favorites even though JARVIS claims he's never asked, and b) when exactly his life became strange enough that accidentally waking his polyamorous ex-assassin supersoldier lover while repairing said lover's cybernetic arm is pretty much just Tuesday. Huh, he thinks, it might actually be a Tuesday. He should probably ask J what the date is.

"That was the biofeedback circuits starting to transmit again. You should be getting some sensation now, I think, but no movement yet. I disabled it -- it'd be bad if I hit the wrong 'nerve' and you accidentally backhanded me into a concussion and a broken jaw," Tony says aloud while Bucky just stares.

After a second, Bucky asks "How, uh, how many weeks until it can function? Should I have Steve take me off the roster?" as he looks unhappily down at the box he's gripping with his thighs and starting to eat, a little awkward with the enforced distance between food and mouth his position requires.

Tony scoffs, and answers "C'mon, we're talking StarkTech, being repaired by the man himself, in all my nude, not-particularly-nubile glory. Should be another hour, maybe two if there are any unexpected problems."

Bucky makes a skeptical noise and swallows quickly, looking hopeful but saying "Seriously? It took you weeks to build it."

Tony gives him a mock-affronted glare, reaching for a screwdriver and replacing one plate before removing another, lower down, and responding "I'm hurt! I only took weeks the first time because I was starting from scratch in a field I'd never attempted before, and because I ran tests. Actual tests! Simulations! You know how I tested the suit? Strapping shit on and hitting 'go' while terrorists shot at me, that's how. Besides, I was designing in redundancies and protections for just this situation. Because I did take weeks the first time, I've just got to," he wiggles the screwdriver in a 'so-so' gesture in midair, "well, think of it as slotting in some replacement fuses for the ones that blew. Rather than, say, the whole arm's innards being hopelessly melted slag."

Bucky drops his fork into the box and cups Tony's chin, meeting Tony's eyes and pulling him in for a slow kiss before saying “I know, doll. You've always taken good care of me. Thank you." Tony looks down before the eye contact can get too intense, coloring slightly and fiddling with the wires under his hands.

Bucky quietly goes back to eating after a moment more, and they continue on like that until Steve wakes an hour later, just as Tony’s starting to guide Bucky through some basic functionality tests to confirm everything's working normally again. Steve rolls towards them, smiling at the sight, and raises an eyebrow at the miniature soldering iron Tony left (off! He was careful, he checked it twice) on the nightstand. “I thought we had an agreement about there not being power tools in the bedroom? Or anything involving fire?” He sounds stern, but clearly can’t fight a boyish grin as he leans across Bucky to kiss Tony hello.

“Special circumstances, and as I recall, you enjoyed the last time there was fire in the bedroom,” Tony says between kisses.

Bucky makes an interrogative noise at Steve’s resulting blush, but just says “Tony’s fixing my arm up. It’s working again, already!”

Tony immediately adds “You sound surprised, why do you still sound surprised? Of course it is. I am, after all, a genius. But, uh,” Tony looks down at the bed as Steve notices Bucky’s empty box and wanders into the kitchen in pursuit of food, “Maybe not so much of a genius about, um, people stuff. Um. We’re… we’ve all slept, and eaten, and I guess now, we, uh. Right. Relationship conversation, urgh,” he finishes as Steve returns with two boxes of food, dropping one directly between Bucky and Tony before settling into his own. Tony smiles down at the ricotta cannelloni in front of him sadly. Steve always remembers stuff like that the cannelloni are the only favorite Tony and Bucky share, he thinks, and Tony has no clue whatsoever what Steve’s tastes are. Yet another reason Tony doesn’t deserve him.

Bucky starts picking at the other end of the cannelloni box with half-hearted interest before blurting out "I'm sorry I yelled and called you names. That was unnecessary, and, uh, wrong. I should've stayed calm. I," he huffs a breath and glances sidelong at Steve "guess I have issues with other people making decisions about what I get to do, what I’m gonna do. Had more'n enough of that when I was the Asset. So, I'm sorry I cussed at you, but, well, if you try that high-handed bullshit again I'll probably end up cussing at you more anyway, even if it don't fix anything and makes Stevie mad. Sorry."

Tony swallows and says “I shouldn’t have handled it like -- I still think it’s a good idea, but I presented it all wrong. I should have asked, not told. And I’m sorry for, well, pretty much all of everything after that, swearing included.”

Steve nods happily at both of them as Bucky flexes his metal hand open and closed, open and closed, watching it work. “Thank you,” he says suddenly. “I don’t think I ever thanked you properly for -- it’s incredible, all the work you’ve put into it, and you waking up and working on it right away, when you could’ve been in your shop, doing things for your company, or, hell, getting more sleep. I shouldn’t have given you shit for working a lot.”

Tony swallows and admits “You weren’t wrong. I’ve been, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to have time with you. You two were just so happy settling back together, and I didn’t want to be in the way of that, so I stayed out. Uh, literally. And I guess the more you were gone, the more I stayed gone, and so the more you were gone, and, uh. I don’t sleep. When you’re gone.”

Steve looks concerned, running a hand over Tony’s arm as he asks “So, those nights were Buck and I stayed up late and slept downstairs so we wouldn’t wake you by coming to bed…”

“I’d get an hour or two,” Tony confirms, “Then the. Nightmares or whatever. Yeah. Anyway. So, public break up. If, uh. Am I still… welcome? With the two of you?”

Bucky sits up further, drops the box of food on the nightstand, and reaches for Tony, pulling him off the chair and back into bed easily. “Like I said when we were fighting. I think I might be a little bit in love with you. I know Stevie’s all the way in love with you, for sure. We want you, for as long as you want to stay,” he says, settling Tony against him and wrapping his left arm around Tony's waist.

Tony fiddles with a slightly loose plate a little more as Steve shifts in close to both of them and kisses first Bucky then Tony, murmuring “I love you both very much. Of course we want you with us, Tony.”

Tony looks down at his hands very intently, swallowing hard, and after a moment manages “Love you too. Both of you.” Steve sighs gently, resting a little of his weight against Tony’s shoulder, and Bucky’s arm tightens around his waist.

After a beat, Steve continues “So. The issue at hand is media management. Tony’s right that he does have the most practical experience with modern press, and he’s also right that it isn’t fair, us having to hide it when he and I can be open. It’s not fair to any of us. All the trouble lately, it’s ‘cause we haven’t been acting as equal partners. Buck and I have been all wrapped up in each other having dates at home, neglecting Tony, and Tony’s not been telling us when he needs something because he didn’t feel, uh, equal, I guess. That’s my fault, not making it clearer, treating you both equally, and I’m sorry for that. I should have done better by you both.” Tony and Bucky make simultaneous skeptical noises of protest, and Steve holds up a hand to forestall them. “It is my fault, and I promise to try to do better in future. Tony, please, if you need something from us, or just want it, please tell us. I want to make you happy, and I’m pretty dang sure Bucky does too, but we aren’t mind readers.” Tony nods tightly, not saying anything. Steve takes a deep breath before saying “Bucky and I should come out. With you.”

Bucky grunts in surprise and asks “You mean… the three of us, together? Not hide it?”

Steve nods, crisp and quick, and sounds so painfully earnest when he says “I love you both. I don’t want to hide that, to keep lying by acting like I don’t love Bucky too whenever we’re outside the Tower. We’ve been together for months now, and I think we’re good together, that we can work.” He takes Bucky’s right hand and Tony’s left, eyes shining as he looks back and forth between them, and asks “Will you both be mine, for the world to see?” and when he asks like that, how could Tony ever say no?

Bucky sounds just as wrecked as Tony feels when he replies “‘Course, Stevie. I’m with you til the end of the line.”

Tony echoes him with a faint “Always. As long as you want me, I’m yours, no matter what.”

Steve fucking beams at both of them, and Tony’s as dazzled as ever by it. “Then, I want to take you both out. It’s me and Buck’s anniversary, or, well, I guess yesterday was, but we haven't celebrated yet on account of it being Decoration Day yesterday, it didn't seem right. And it’s almost Tony’s birthday, too.”

Tony fondly grouses “Oh, yes, let’s remember how old and wrinkly I’m getting,” and Steve just squeezes his hand a little and says

“You get more beautiful every day, Tony, you both do, and I want to get to show you both off. Will you come to dinner with me tonight?”

Bucky echoes “Tonight? Just like that, we can… I can be with you? Both of you? Outside the Tower?” and his voice is full of wonder.

Tony thinks about it, mind racing as he tries to work out the chains of consequence, and says “I’m in. I’d love to get to have dinner with both of you. Just, let me tell Pepper, warn her. Should we have a press conference?”

Steve looks delighted at their answers, but focuses on Tony’s question, brow furrowing. “I think… we treat it as a non-issue. We go out like anyone else, and if anyone asks we answer, but we don’t make a big production out of it,” he says.

Bucky immediately adds “That’ll be a first for anything Tony’s done ever.”

Tony half-turns to cock an eyebrow at him, and says “Hey, I can do subtle and restrained. Theoretically. Probably. Oh, fuck off,” he finishes when Bucky continues to steadily give them his most skeptical expression.

Steve kisses them both again, slower this time, and says “Well, then, it’s settled. And, uh, Tony. It seems like the right moment for -- Bucky and I were thinking, if you wanted, for your birthday, would… would you want Bucky to move in with us? Officially? Move all his things up here, and leave the downstairs as just a guest room?”

Tony imagines it, pictures no more having to find his bed empty, to peek through cracked doorways and wonder if they’ll come to bed or not, and he sighs happily as he cuddles back into Bucky’s arms and says “I think I’d love that. Stay with us, Buck?” as he tips his head back for a kiss.

Bucky obliges him, deep and sweet, and answers “For as long as you want.”

----

As much as they’d love to just curl up in bed together for the rest of the day, they all have work to do, and soon enough they're composting their takeout boxes and pulling on clothes. Steve heads out first to catch a flight back out to Egghead's base in Poughkeepsie to supervise SHIELD's investigation and disassembly operation there. Bucky finishes the last functionality tests in front of Tony, confirms he's not getting any lag or neurological 'feedback' from his arm's 'nerves' and heads downstairs, limp noticeably lighter, to join Clint in the team tradition of the minorly injured getting stuck with writing the post-mission report.

The policy originates pre-team, back when it was just Coulson hunting down Clint (and Natasha, theoretically, but pretty much just Clint) for his missing paperwork, and while nominally it's to ensure the maximum number of battle-ready Avengers are available at any time, Tony privately theorizes that Agent started it as a punishment to motivate Clint to actually try to avoid injury, and Steve keeps it going purely as a way to force the injured into sitting still long enough to heal somewhat, the incurable mother hen.

For his part, Tony has the entirety of Bucky’s present to overhaul. Unlike his arm, which had the space for redundancies and shielding, the flexible and lightweight nature of the pseudo-repulsor rig meant it was pretty much straps and dribbles of melted circuits now, and Tony’s always had a little problem with self-restraint when the opportunity to improve on his prior work presents itself. He pulls on pants while he considers potential upgrades and then finds himself staring at his closet blankly for a second until he realizes why it feels off, and oh, there, new t-shirt in between the Operation Mindcrime and the Captain America one, which luckily the stains came out of, and he reaches for it curiously. All black, he sees as he pulls it out, but with, oh, it’s the new Winter Soldier tee, right, he had that ordered in. Bright red star edged in shining metal, very classy, he should give the design team a bonus, he thinks as he smiles a little whimsically and pulls it on. Maybe it’ll cheer Bucky up after his paperwork, he thinks, picking up the wrecked rig and heading towards the workshop. He’d been distracted by the search for Pepper when he built it, anyway, he points out to himself as he pokes at it. Lots of room to improve, and by the time it’s all better, SHIELD will probably want him to look at some of Egghead’s stuff. A nice day of engineering, then, and after, dinner out, with both of his boys. Now that’s something to look forward to.

Tony’s had a very productive four hours in the workshop and is cheerily looking forward to another one before Pep calls him back and then three or four more before it’s time to wander up and prep for dinner when a text pops up in the usual corner of his holo display. He taps it and sees a message from Bucky, reading simply “so fucking bored. these subforms have subforms, and clint actually tried to thank me for shoving him out of the way of that wall when it was coming down. dumb fuck just cant jump fast enough to suit me is all.”

Tony raises an eyebrow at the message, remembering the way Clint’s back had been scraped up. If he’d been in front of Bucky, was meant to have gotten the rubble on him, well, it’d take a hell of a lot longer for him to fix cracked ribs and a maybe-cracked maybe-broken leg. He certainly wouldn’t have been walking out, much less with nothing more than scrapes and a twisted ankle to show for a rain of literal tons of stone. Tony idly contemplates the notion that Bucky’s actually getting good at this teamwork thing again, just like Steve’s stories of the Commandos, and huh, that’d definitely be a positive sign overall, but when he gestures a keyboard up, he just sends back “Haven’t you learned the noble art of the copy-paste? I’m pretty sure even clueless Clint can manage ‘it was dark and there was pain,’ just double from him.”

Tony gestures the keyboard to the side slightly, but leaves the app up as he goes back to stripping the unnecessarily fragile relays from the design of Bucky’s rig. After a moment more there’s another restrained ding sound, and Tony sees Bucky’s “someone explained the report upload systems search button to stevie, he actually goes over our shit and he yells if we cheat. you should cheer me up. clint says the best way to entertain me is sexting.”

Tony chokes on air at that, and replies “Aaaaand 1) You are suddenly listening to the, your words, ‘dumb fuck’? 2) Wait, why does Clint want you to sext with me now? Isn’t he sitting right next to you? 3) Seriously, why is Clint telling you about sexting at all, much less to do it with me right now? And most importantly, 4) We live in the same place, dumbass. Why would we sext when I could just fuck you over a lab table right now. I bet you’d go fucking crazy for that, you haven’t ever had me in you before, have you? There’s a reason I have the reputation I do.”

And with that, Tony’s pushes the keyboard back into the center of his station, because firstly, he is an incorrigible flirt and can’t wait to see if Bucky will rise to the bait, and secondly, he’d given up on the fine art of phonesex when he first hooked up with a guy who still occasionally forgets for a few seconds at a time that phones don’t have to be a single line to the entire low-rent apartment building. He tried with Steve once when he was on a mission and Tony couldn’t come with him, but Steve just made sad, confused noises at him and said “But I’m not touching you right now, Tony, much as I’d like to be. I don’t understand. I’ll see you Sunday, and we can do, um,” and the adorable little thing actually cleared his throat and dropped to a whisper “that, when I get home.” But Bucky has apparently heard of phonesex’s wonders -- and its more evolved literary cousin, the sext -- and is on board, and Tony feels his nearly-forgotten capacity for pornographic eloquence stretch its metaphorical muscles, even if it’s wincing at Bucky’s evident disinterest in things like capitalization and apostrophes.

There’s a brief delay, and then the screen pops with “1 hes only an idiot in the field, or when he thinks he can beat me at anything ever. 2 nope natasha came and got him for physio for his ankle so itll heal faster. im stuck in the naughty corner doing paperwork all alone. 3 okay maybe clint didn’t exactly say to do it now, but youre not the only person in the building who knows about his thing for donuts and when hes drunk he has great sex advice and if you ever tell him i said that ill end you messy, stark. 4 reputation, huh? i had one of those back in the day. wonder if the magical stark cock is really as good as everyone claims. its certainly nice to look at, specially when im fucking you nice and hard and youre whimpering for me to keep going and make you come around me like a little bitch, but looks arent everything. i dont give it up for just anyone. why should i let you have what only stevies had so far? you gonna show me a nice time?”

Mhmm, Tony thinks to himself, he always has loved a challenge, and a mouthy bedmate, for that matter. He debates tactics for a moment, praise or taunt, promise or describe… and settles on “Only Steve? Ooh, maybe I shouldn’t fuck you, then. I don’t think you’re ready for the deep end yet when you’ve only had the kiddie-pool of fucks. Steve’s gorgeous and, mmhm, wonderfully thick, but he’s awful nice about sex. I don’t think you’re really able to handle a pro-level competition. You should probably just jack off imagining how nice it’d be to get to have me that way, in nice and deep and making you beg me to fuck you, making you crave every single thrust and whine for it like a bitch in heat before I give it to you. Maybe you can get yourself a nice dildo and practice up, precious.”

Bucky’s “ill fucking show you precious, stark, bet if i came down there right now i could pin you easy and ride you hard. we could see who makes who beg for it then. if i even decide youre good enough to let you finish in me, that is. maybe id pull off halfway, go find that dildo you mentioned so i can have something closer to a real man than youll ever be” is perhaps a touch more offended and aggressive than Tony was going for.

He scales back the next one, cajoling “Aww, come on now, darling. No reason to get that kind of nasty. We were talking about having fun… you know what’s fun? Going slow. You know, there’s a reason I’m known for this, and it’s not about my cock at all. I’ve never gotten any complaints, mind you, but the real magic’s all in the brain. See, what happens when you have an eidetic memory and you go to bed with someone, you sort of automatically record all their reactions, every tiny gasp and twitch and moan as you touch them. Combine that with genius-brain processing power, and let’s just say I’m a fast learner when it comes to hotspots. That, plus taking it nice and slow means having the time to try out a little of everything, means I can figure out exactly what angle of my fingers makes you make that pitchy little moan Steve gets when he hits your prostate just right, and then I can just hit it over and over and over if I like. Or I can switch back and forth, keep trying new things and gathering data, rubbing you just right when you need a little encouragement, and in between that finding out, say, what you sound like when you’re getting eaten out alongside one finger, and then two, and then three, and then what it takes to get you to ask real polite for me to pull my fingers out of your sweet, wet little pucker and replace them with my dick. Just for instance.” Tony hits send and casually rubs his erection through the canvas of his work pants, because the anticipation and okay, his own patter, is kinda getting to him. His storied passion for dirty talk has always been about fifty-fifty for his partner’s benefit versus his own. Yeah, it’s more of an ego trip than he normally actually buys into (though he sells fucking interstellar ego rocket rides to the press and public all the time, he’s intelligent enough not to believe his own hype), but damn does it ever work to hear himself describing every tiny detail to whoever it is, to build the fuck in words like he builds machines in light, laying a gorgeous groundwork that only he and those he chooses can make into a spectacular reality.

He strokes over himself a few times, still clothed and just savoring the build, and grins at Bucky’s brief “fuck. ssso, uh, slow, the first time?”

Tony feels himself lick his lips reflexively at the first signs of success and types back “Oh, absolutely, Buck. I usually go slow the first time anyway, if I’m sober at least, but with you, I’d be doubly sure to take my time. I know you’ve got all sorts of lovely things under the hood, can take a lot more punishment than an average human, but that doesn’t mean I’d want to be less of certain sort of gentleman, for your first besides our Stevie. He’s always so sweet with you, isn’t he? Kisses you during, holds you, those big hands on your hips keeping you steady while he goes nice and slow, while he’s careful about the angle and maybe gives you a reacharound beside, just to be sure it’s good for you, that he’s taking good care of you. But slow doesn’t have to mean sweet. Slow can be fisting my hand in that pretty, curly long hair and tugging, keeping you from getting a kiss until I decide to give it to you. Slow can be hands on your hips holding you still so you can’t fuck back any faster, can’t take any more of me than I let you. Slow can be hitting you at just the right angle and pulling back, taking my time, and making you take a second thrust that’s just a tiny bit too shallow, then a third at the not-quite-right, almost-there angle so that when I line up again and finally hit your prostate you’re all but ready to weep with relief, and you know that you won’t get it again for a couple more thrusts anyway but it’s too good for you to feel anything but grateful when it does come. Slow can mean taking three hours if I want to, just to see if you can come from my cock and nothing else, to slap your hands away every time you try to touch yourself and let off a little pressure. I can take care of you in whole new ways you’ve never known and make you beg me to hurt you more, please you more, give you more indivisible pleasure-pain until you think you’ll die of it and don’t ever want it to stop. So, yeah. I’d go slow,” Tony finishes and sends it out with a wry little grin, easing his fly down to give his straining erection a bit of breathing room, but not touching himself properly yet. He wants to see what Bucky has to offer in return.

He’s intensely satisfied by Bucky’s prompt “i, uh, i. okay. maybe. um. i think its traditional to ask what youre wearing right now? want to imagine you coming up here right now, coming to do all that to me. maybe take me right over the desk, see how long i can keep going on the goddamn ‘explosives sub-report 4e dash 2 explosion resulting in demolition, circumstance of use unauthorized by shield’ with you teasing me. fuck, maybe if you keep at it long enough, ill be able to hand the report in to stevie with a little bonus explosion on the page for him to smell, yeah?”

Tony gives himself a moment to congratulate himself for his garment-ordering foresight, and simply sends back “Work pants and a Winter Soldier tee. You?”

Bucky’s response is improbably fast, given his apparent lack of familiarity with the keyboard (Tony is working very hard to convince himself that it’s a lack of familiarity, rather than some sort of unacceptable disdain for the laws of style and grammar. He loves proper style, and anyway is generally law-neutral to -friendly. It’s just the laws of physics he likes to bend into magnificently shiny contortions.) and reads simply “no fucking way. in the words of barton when i told him about that time with dumdum and the three free french ballerinas, pics or it didnt happen.”

Tony laughs aloud, delighted, and squares up in front of one of JARVIS’s cameras, arching his back against the worktable behind him to show off the sharp vee of his hips and sliding his left hand into his open pants, technically covering his cock and keeping it clean-ish while leaving it perfectly clear what he’s been doing, what he’s going to keep on doing. He angles his wrist so that the neat, dark trail of hair leading down his belly is unobscured, letting it point right to what he’s so teasingly hiding, and uses his right to push the tee up a little, just enough to show off his abs without wrinkling the bright, blood-red star or its metallic outline, because there could be whole server farms dedicated to the flirty pics Tony has taken over the years, and once you’ve gotten advice from both Esquire and Playgirl’s principle photographers on how you should show off for them to convince them to take a day’s layover next time they’re both in New York, you kind of have to know what you’re doing.

“Save and send on my count, J? Three, two,” and Tony schools his expression into his very best ‘hello sailor’ as JARVIS dutifully plays a “snap” sound out of deference to Tony’s admittedly highly selective and seldom utilized sense of nostalgia. He sends the pic (which turned out nicely, not to come over all Narcissus at himself or anything) with a casual flick of his fingers and takes the opportunity offered by his hand’s position to tease himself a little more.

When Bucky responds with a (less well-staged but no less effective) pic of himself, shirtless, with his right hand just teasing at his waistband and his left raised to his jawline, two fingers extended with his lips wrapped tightly around their tips, cheeks ever so slightly hollowing, Tony growls out a “Well played” and takes the simple expedient of shoving his pants down to his thighs so he can start touching himself in earnest. Before he can think of a suitable response, the app dings again, this time with a message of “fuck, that’s so hot seeing you in my star. makes me want to mark you up more, leave you something you cant just take off. im pretending its your hand, going down my pants, just thinking about it.”

Tony pauses for a moment at that, and is immediately reminded of the highly geeky henna 'tattoo' he kept up in his college days (because needles made him nervous even before Natasha, and he has a history of commitment issues, including to ink), yea verily long ago at this point, but the idea stands... “Did Steve ever tell you about wanting to paint on you? He’s talked about it a couple times, said he’d love to get to put a brush to me. His hands are nice, steady. Would be perfect to put your star on me in henna. Stuff lasts for weeks, and no amount of scrubbing will get it gone before its time. You can get all sweaty, rub up against it, let someone lick it, and it won’t come off. I’ve, ah, stress-tested it before. Would you like that, watching Stevie paint me with your mark, knowing it won’t come off for weeks, maybe months? It’s interesting that you both are so territorial that way.”

Bucky answers “would love to have him paint you, fuck. and we arent territorial the same way at all. he likes it cause to him its loyalty, seeing you accept him that way, pledge yourself to him. me? i aint nearly so sweet. i like putting a claim on you, owning that little piece of you that no matter what you cant get rid of, cant control. id fucking carve myself into you if it wouldnt damage you too much.” Tony thinks that he really, really shouldn’t find that arousing, probably it should be scary, but it just makes him feel valued, wanted, and fuck if there’s anything hotter than that, than the thought of two gorgeous, powerful men who could be with anyone they choose wanting him, wanting to make a permanent claim on him, through loyalty or blood or both.

His hand speeds up almost unconsciously, spreading the precome  starting to bead at the head of his cock as he types one-handed “Fuck, that shouldn’t be hot but it totally is. Not saying I want you cutting on me, because there are more than enough supervillains out there who’d like to introduce my vulnerable fleshy bits to their pointy and/or blunt instruments, but the thought behind it is, damn, making me leak already. How you doing on your forms? Need a little help, ah, scenting them for their eventual destination?”

Bucky takes a moment to respond with “ugh, not helping me think sexy thoughts, stark. ive moved on to the wonderful world of 10b dash 9 dash 2 explanation of intentional friendly fire, subtype purposes of preventing greater harm. its a fucking miracle my dick hasnt atrophied and dropped off just from the fucking name alone.”

Tony rolls his eyes, and sends back “Maybe I should come up there, then. I bet you’d find it real motivational if I fingered you through them. You wouldn’t get to get fucked until you finished, though, just fingered nice and slow, maybe a tiny bit of teasing for your prick, but nothing anywhere close to risking you coming. That’s a reward for good boys who finish their paperwork. I wouldn’t want to get our Captain mad for distracting you with unearned orgasms.”

There’s a bit of a pause, and then another message pops up, reading “fuck. im already fingering myself, with my left. gotta make sure the fine, oh fuck yes, the fine motor controls back and working properly. you do pretty good work, stark. makes me think maybe your hands really would be that skilled elsewhere, that i should let you put two of those clever fingers in me. i like your hands. for such a rich boy, all neat nails and crisp suits, youve got the best calluses. adds that little hint of pain to the pleasure when you jerk me fast enough, when one catches just right. stevies hands are awful soft, always have been, even before the serum to keep em from hardening up, but when you play with me i can feel all the little scrapes and cuts, makes it dirtier, realer.”

Tony whimpers a little, looking at his own hands and remembering in vivid detail all the noises Bucky’d make when Tony got a little rough during a handjob, the way he’d arch shamelessly into it, thrusting up with a half-surprised little gasp, and knowing why now. The memory is intense enough that Tony has to slow down from the rhythm he’d set, shifting to teasing touches, just to keep himself from getting there too fast. Bucky doesn’t wait for Tony to respond, just continues “ive, fucking hell, got two fingers in me already. feel so fucking good. wish they were yours. stretching me out just right, fuck, gonna get all sloppy open. i snuck a tube of lube down with me before i started on the fucking mission reports, just in case. id be a real sweet ride for you, nice and wet. you wouldnt have to worry about hurting me or nothing, not unless you want to. you sure you gotta stay down there in your shop?”

Tony privately savors the question as a small victory, perfectly aware that if Bucky’s far enough to ask for Tony to come up, instead of teasing him with the distance and how untouchable he is, he must be craving it even more than he’s letting on. He thinks about it for a second, and then dares “I want you to ask me to come and fuck you. Politely.”

Almost immediately the lone word “please” appears, but despite the sharp spike of satisfaction that sends through him, Tony’s not giving in quite that easily. Neither of them would want him to.

“Come on, sweetheart, I’ve been hearing about the wonders of your silver tongue since I was a little boy, I think you can do better than that. I want you to ask me nicely to come up there and let you have my cock.”

Bucky’s reply is an imminently satisfying “please, please come up here, come fuck me. want your fingers in me, on me, making me crazy for em, and then your cock. i need your cock so bad, want to find out what its like, want you to come up here and put it in me and fuck me til i can nearly taste you youre in so deep. please, tony, please come up and fuck me.”

Tony rises and haphazardly shoves his painfully hard dick pack into his pants, half-closing them, and then takes an instant to set his messenger’s status to ‘Away: Off to conquer new territory in the name of science and Stark,’ purely because he knows the change in status will auto-reply next time Bucky sends a message, and that Bucky will realize Tony’s going to come to him, going to give him what he wants. He hops into the elevator eagerly, trying to pretend the way his erection is rubbing against the slightly coarse fabric of his pants is anything other than a rough tease, an encouragement to wickedness. When the doors open, he only just keeps himself from dashing forward, but no, he doesn’t want to hurry this, to risk spoiling the perfect tension. He makes himself slow down, amble in casually, for all that his cock is pretty clearly giving the lie to his calculated air of disinterest.

“Hey, Buck,” he says once he ducks into the communal level’s office, and manages to keep his voice even, if tellingly deep. “Heard you needed some attention?” Bucky’s actually on the desk, a laptop and a handful of paper forms on the ground next to it while he splays across its surface, legs up and wide, three metal fingers rocking into his own entrance steadily. From the smear of precome across his stomach, it’s pretty obvious he’s been doing this a while, but his right hand is above his head, grasping the desk’s edge tightly, rather than wrapping around himself below. “Need some help there?” Tony grinds out, and, yeah, he’s starting to sound a little rough.

Bucky presses in deeper and shudders through a full-body roll, pressing his shoulders hard into the desk as his back arches beautifully, hips coming up in a little thrust before lowering again. “Well, if you aren’t too busy,” he pants out, “there was this fella making all kinds of promises. Seems to have disappeared on me, left me all high and dry.”

Tony purrs “Promises?” as he opens his pants again, drawing close to the desk and the magnificent sight of Bucky’s sweet pucker tight around his own fingers as he works himself.

“Y-yeah. Said he was gonna fuck me good, nice and deep, show me a real good time. Don’t suppose you could help with that?” Bucky responds with a raised eyebrow as he twists his wrist a little and watches in evident satisfaction when the sound makes Tony’s freed cock visibly twitch.

Tony drags a hand down the inside of Bucky’s left thigh, and drops the teasing for a moment to ask “You ready? Got a condom?” Bucky smiles up at him and says “M’ready, got myself all open for you, don’t worry. And we don’t need one.”

Tony hesitates “It’ll be messy without one, might not want that our first time…”

Bucky assures him “If it don’t like how it feels after, I’ll just take a shower. Besides,” and now that spark of challenge is back, slipping into play again, “maybe I’ll just hold you down and make you eat it out of me.”

Tony grins, because as much as he really, sincerely adores sex with Steve, he’d missed having a bedmate who’s perfectly willing to give him shit, to occasionally make sex into a thrilling challenge. There’s nothing quite like getting to play little dominance games and scrabble to see who gets to do what this time, knowing they’ll both end the night blissed out together, whoever ‘wins.’ Tony lets himself growl a little, pressing close to Bucky and rocking against his thigh a few times before pulling Bucky’s hand away, pushing it towards his head. He clearly gets the general idea and grabs onto the desk with his left, too, as Tony lines up and pauses a moment, looking down at Bucky’s spread hole, before he orders “Ask me.”

Bucky’s neglected cock jumps against his belly with another little drip of precome as he tries to shift forward onto Tony, but Tony holds him steady, meeting his eyes as the silence and intensity simultaneously grow. After an endless, frozen moment, Bucky’s eyes drop a little as he actually blushes and says, very softly and somehow sweet “... Please. Fuck me.” Tony presses a kiss against one of Bucky’s upraised knees and pushes in, slow and careful. Bucky moans, absolutely filthily, and the desk makes an unhappy creak beneath his fingers.

Once he’s fully seated and Bucky’s had a moment to adjust, Tony starts moving in him, thrusting slow and careful and curious. He meant what he’d said earlier, that he really does enjoy exploring a partner’s body and trying new things to make them happy. He doesn’t go through with teasing this time, though, just figures out what Bucky’s preferred angles are and stimulates him steadily. After a few minutes of Bucky alternately moaning wordlessly and goading him on, Tony can tell he’s getting pretty close, and goes to reach for Bucky’s cock, because he is a goddamn gentleman and always sees to his partner’s pleasure first. Bucky releases the desk for a second to swat his hand away, though, and says “N-no. I haven’t, fuck, haven’t touched it. Just my fingers, inside. Want to see if I can come like this, from just your cock. Used to be able to for Stevie, ‘m out of practice.”

Tony’s vision goes briefly white and he has to pause for a second to keep from bringing things to a humiliatingly early close, and Bucky makes an affronted, impatient noise and demands “Oh, come the fuck on, Stark, put your back into it! Thought you were a pro, not some teenager. You fucking me or not?” and Tony really, really shouldn’t let the thought of there ever being doubt about his skills, any of them, push his buttons like this, but Gates giving him shit about being a one-trick pony back in the eighties, foggy as their memory is, did result in an entirely new industry and several additional billion in the bank, so Tony just bites at Bucky’s chest and speeds up, lifting Bucky’s hips enough to keep him at that angle where, no matter how he squirms, he’ll get his prostate pounded square-on by every thrust. Bucky’s subsequent gasps and cries are extremely gratifying, even if they do sound just a little self-satisfied, too.

It’s a near thing, over the next few minutes, but Tony just barely holds on, fucks Bucky steadily as he wants, and eventually, fuck, eventually Bucky screams out high and thready and wordless, his back arches again, the desk squeals, and Bucky’s pretty flushed cock spurts against his belly as he clenches down hard around Tony. Tony gratefully gives in, spilling inside him after two more thrusts and then just freezing there, shaking against him as they both ride out the pleasure. After a moment Tony looks up and at Bucky’s nod pulls out. Bucky’s easy, fucked-out grin and sleepy expression tell Tony that, yeah, cleanup’s on him this time, and he dodges into the nearby bathroom for a towel on shaky legs. Tony swipes the damp cloth over Bucky’s stomach and chest, cleaning him off gently and asking “How’s, uh, from not using a condom?”

Bucky nods at him vaguely and says “Oh,‘s fine. Kinda like feeling you in there a little longer.”

Tony smiles a little at the current demonstration of Bucky’s typical post-coital bonelessness, and wipes the worst off from Buck’s ass, too, knowing that he’ll probably want a nap before bothering with the shower. Bucky lays back on the desk, spread and lax, and idly pets at Tony’s tee. “’S nice,” he offers simply.

Tony kisses him and asks “Did you finish the report, or should I brace for Cap yelling at us?”

Bucky chuckles and says “Mostly. We still got a couple hours before dinner, I’ll get it done in good time. ‘Sides, if he finds out, I bet Stevie’d get all heated up at us for skipping work, but the second we tell him why he’d just want us to do it again so he can see it.”

Tony makes a brief mental note to at some point explore whether Steve’s voyeurism kink responds well to “accidentally” being sent security cam footage of Tony and Bucky fucking, but then JARVIS interrupts the afterglow with an incredibly poorly-timed “Ms. Potts is calling, sir, for your meeting.”

Tony grouses at having to leave the lovely sight in front of him, but answers “Put her through on audio-only mode.” He makes the time for one more kiss, stroking Bucky’s hair fondly, before he heads back down to the shop.

----

Pepper sounds confused when she starts with “Tony? Are you there?”

“Yeah, I’m here,” Tony replies to the empty air. Really, it’s a good thing all his homes are fully integrated with JARVIS, or he’d probably go around talking to empty air at people who aren’t there without them being able to hear him, and that’s how you get into trouble. “Was on a little excursion, I’m not back in the workshop yet so no video until I get there,” he says, stepping into the elevator and closing his pants. Pepper’s made it clear that she’s already seen more than enough of his privates outside of their past relationship, and he doesn’t actually want to disturb her a little extra directly before asking for what could arguably be construed as a favor, if he ever were the type to ask someone for a favor.

“I’m going to preserve my sanity by not asking what your excursion entailed, only if it’s something I should be expecting in the papers tomorrow?”

Tony immediately answers “No, what, no, Pepper, I haven’t caused a non-villain-related public mess in nearly a year --” but then his brain catches up to his mouth and points out exactly what he was doing and he’s forced to finish “Actually, yes. Sort of. Um. Sorry?” He settles back at his usual station and her face appears on the wall before him.

A lot of fascinating video, that wall’s played, he thinks as she pulls a really impressive face, sighs heavily, and asks “Okay. On a scale of triplet-gymnasts-in-the-Bellagio’s-fountain to that party right after Monaco when you were dying, what kind of damage am I looking at?”

Tony pauses for a moment, and then attempts “Waterslide at the Burj Al Arab? Uh, the ‘04 one, not the ‘06 one.”

Pepper quirks a clearly disapproving eyebrow, but only says “I’m pretty sure we don’t have enough champagne on hand to re-create the ‘06 debacle. Okay, details.”

Tony smiles a little, because Dubai ‘06 was totally worth it, even if he never did find where that Maserati got to. “So. Uh, you remember how I have two gorgeous supersoldier boyfriends?”

Pepper nods, rolling her wrist in a ‘go on’ gesture as she says “And that is a deeply unfair truth, because you are hogging all the supersoldier for yourself, but how is this relev -- dear God, please don’t tell me you broke up. Especially not publicly, oh, God.”

Tony’s smile goes slightly strained, because his plan wasn’t that bad of a plan, damn it, and says “Not exactly, no. Uh. So, Steve and I have been public about being a couple for a while. We, uh. We’ve decided to be public about being a -- there isn’t really a good word for it. Pod? Unit? Triad? That we lo, uh, are with Bucky too.” Pepper looks mildly shocked, and Tony rushes to add “Please don’t freak out?”

Pepper blinks for a few seconds more, nonplussed, and then says “I think I’m mostly surprised that you were about one phoneme from admitting that you love someone. Two someones, by implication. That’s… nice to hear. I’m glad it’s working out for you. So, are you going the press conference route, or...?”

“We decided to try subtle. What, I can do subtle! Probably. Anyway. Uh. We’re going out to dinner, the three of us, tonight. It’s Steve and Bucky’s anniversary, or yesterday was anyway, and I guess I’ve got a birthday incoming, too. Thought you should know before it, or any subsequent, uh, I guess dates, hits the tabloids.”

Pepper nods, expression thoughtful. "Well," she says after a moment, "there are some upsides to this inevitable catastrophe. You aren't CEO anymore, and there's a really limited amount of trouble the board can make over the personal life of the head of R&D. You're coming out via what I presume will be tasteful evenings out, given Steve's presence, rather than a sex tape being leaked or an act of public indecency. You've had a quiet and discreet past year, which I again presume is due to Steve's presence, really, I should send him a fruit basket. And, well. It's not like you haven't been filmed frolicking with multiple people simultaneously before, if not dating them. I think I can prevent much of a stock drop from the SI side of things. Preparing for the Avengers backlash is going to be...  more interesting."

Tony hmms thoughtfully, pointing out "We essentially run the Initiative these days, and thank whatever for there being a shocking lack of governmental oversight or anything approaching fraternization rules. Also, you're... taking this really well. Unsettling well."

Pepper smiles wanly, and says "My doctor told me two years after I started working for you that accentuating the positive whenever possible was good for mitigating ulcer formation. In any case, I suspect Steve is going to get a lot more heat about this than you are. The media tends to have shock fatigue whenever your antics aren't sufficiently photogenic, doused in controlled substances, and/or featuring seven figure property damage. ... that was not a suggestion to get the attention off of him, Tony, I know that look. No."

Tony looks down, then, all levity gone. "I know they're going to go after him. That's the worst part. I can handle the circus, but when people say things about him, sometimes he takes it to heart just a little bit. I know this is going to hurt him. I wanted... I'd suggested we fake a public breakup, let him and Buck be the out couple. They wouldn't go for it. He said he didn't want to lie. I just... don't want to hurt him any more than I already have."

Pepper nods soberly and says "He understands the consequences, and it sounds like being honest about this is important to him. Respect his decision, be there for him, and I'll keep SI's legal department primed to go after anything actionably libelous. And happy birthday, by the way. We'll see this through, just like everything else, and pretty soon everyone will ignore Stark's supersoldier boyfriends in favor of Stark's supertough tablets. They're set to drop in the first week of July, and I have to admit, you managed to impress even me with the durability."

"Thanks, Pep. I... know I don't say it much, but I... I'm glad you're still in my life, even after all my fuckups." Pepper smiles again at him, and the joy it carries makes his heart seize for a moment, just the way it always has.

"Nowhere I'd rather be." She raises an eyebrow, then, but her voice is still warm when she says "Will that be all, Mr. Stark?"

Tony smiles back, and answers "That'll be all, Ms. Potts. Oh, and tell your absentee slacker boyfriend I've got upgrades for him, if he elects to remember my existence again."

Pepper laughs, promises "I will," and blows the camera a light-hearted kiss before the video feed cuts off.

----

Tony's just sending off the finished StarkGo 4.0 plans for Pepper to send to her market readiness people and pulling up the preliminary results from SHIELD's investigation of Egghead's financials when his workstation abruptly shuts off. "J?" he asks, confused.

"Captain Rogers sent notice to please be ready to leave for dinner at 7PM approximately two hours ago. Sir previously requested I take whatever measures necessary to ensure your timely readiness for said engagement, and sir did not respond to my last three notification attempts."

Tony flushes a little and says "Oh. Oops. Uh, thanks, J. Sorry I wasn't listening. Man, if the workstation thing hadn't worked, what would you have even done?" he muses mostly to himself, and is surprised when JARVIS answers, tone full of dry amusement.

"The subsequent protocols are to enlist Dummy and Butterfingers' aid via 'poking' behaviors, followed by activation of the fire suppressant system if necessary."

Tony huffs out a laugh, walking towards the elevator, and says "Well, thanks for not starting with drenching me, then. Time? And did Steve give a dress code?"

"The time is 6:21 PM, Tuesday, 26th May 2015. While Captain Rogers has not directly indicated a formality level, based on his recent searches, may I suggest grey slacks and pastel shirt, perhaps with a coordinating tie?"

Tony cocks an eyebrow directly at JARVIS's nearest camera as the elevator rises, commenting "Did you turn into Tim Gunn when I wasn't looking? Or a yenta, for that matter?"

JARVIS responds as the doors open and Tony heads for his closet, because of course J is right about what he should wear, Tony just enjoys teasing him about being right, and about caring. "Sir's physical, mental, and emotional health indicators have improved, on average, by 45% or better during periods of time in which your romantic relationships with Captain Rogers and Sergeant Barnes are operating within generally-accepted 'stable partnership' parameters."

Tony idly checks a mirror -- hair clean, goatee within acceptable neatness limits, no motor oil smears anywhere, changing is a go -- as he says "So you think they're good for me, eh? That why you're so invested in me getting ready?"

JARVIS merely answers "The data clearly supports the conclusion that their presence is to your benefit. As ever, your well-being is my primary purpose, sir, and I will do everything within my programming's bounds to care for you."

Tony pauses in the act of pulling on a pair of (as instructed, grey, and fairly tight, because Tony knows the power of his own ass) slacks. "Um. Thanks, J. I ... you've always been there for me. I appreciate it."

Before the moment can get too much more awkwardly emotive, Tony continues, "Uh, so, is Steve back in town yet?"  

Bucky's voice immediately pipes up from the opening elevator with "Yup, he just got home. Stashing his gear now. Should be up here in a few." He appears in the doorway a few seconds later and casually passes Tony by, carrying a hefty box under one arm and a large stack of clothes, still on their hangars, over the other. Seemingly sensing Tony's puzzlement, he adds "I went to go get ready, then I realized that I was getting ready in my old room, that all my stuff was still down there, and there's, uh, no need for that now. Right?"

Tony grins at him, getting it, and says "You can put the hangables in Steve's closet, he only uses like a third of it. Give me five and I'll have one of my dressers empty for the rest." Bucky nods, almost a little shy, and starts hanging things in the left-hand closet, barely having to nudge any of Steve's hundred thousand identical khakis and hideous plaid shirts aside at all.

Tony starts pulling half-finished old projects from his second dresser's drawers and glances over idly at what Bucky's carrying before asking, somewhat startled, "Skinny jeans? You own skinny jeans? How do you even... do you have a secret fashionable side? If so, that's the sort of thing I should know about. Do I suddenly have a shopping buddy? Because Steve's eyes glaze over when I even say the word 'tailor,' and I haven't delighted the media by acting stereotypically queeny to go along with my actually liking dick in, like, at least a decade."

Bucky raises an eyebrow at him and says "... Natalia got them for me. 'Queeny'?"

"Effeminate. You know, overpriced girly drinks, obsession with personal grooming, dedication to following the latest clothing trends and bitching about anyone being poorly-dressed, a combination of the above activities..."

Bucky finishes putting away the clothes and pushes a lock of glossy, beautifully wavy hair behind his ear a little awkwardly and says "Seems like modern fellas all forgot how to dress nice for their dames, show you made an effort for 'em. There's no reason a man shouldn't value looking nice. Doesn't make him any less of a man."

Tony buttons his shirt and smiles over at him, saying "Of course not," and then adds, eyes sparkling and voice warm with sudden mirth "Should I take that as a yes to being my plus-one next month for NYC's Men’s Fashion Week?"

Bucky blushes, just a little bit -- no one can beat their Stevie's pale complexion for blushing -- as he busies himself with pulling out a going-out-worthy pair of jeans and a shirt of his own and admits "...it's a strong maybe. I'd like a better handle on how things have changed, so I don't have to text Talia to ask if the shop's playing a prank, when I'm in the stores."

Tony snorts out a "Just wait til you see the 'pranks' of Fashion Week," but Bucky continues.

"Do, uh, do papers actually expect you to... act a certain way?"

Tony starts idly perusing his tie collection as he answers "Me specifically? And these days? Eh, I've mostly trained them out of it. Back in the 90s, when half the headlines on the gossip rags were about me being 'caught' fooling around with a guy, or used the phrase 'controversial bisexual icon' every three sentences? Well, let's just be glad no one ever found the pictures of that Catholic schoolgirl costume from Halloween '86 or even more of them would have been claiming all the very x-rated pics of me with various women were faked."

Steve's voice filters through the open door, asking "Catholic schoolgirl costume?" in a hard-to-place tone.

Tony wanders over to him for a quick kiss and says "Hey, welcome home, how was Poughkeepsie Part Two? And yes. I was sixteen, stressed as fuck by my senior year, and my, and I use this term very loosely, “boyfriend” had a kink. To be fair, my ass did look fantastic in the skirt and lace is an interesting sensation, even if the Adeptus Mechanicus tramp-stamp didn't really go with the rest the outfit."

Steve gives Tony some high-quality confused eyebrows for a moment before saying "I have learned that sometimes, I really don't need to know. Sure. Poughkeepsie was fine, very calm, and I'm very glad to be home. I'm going to go shower so we aren't late." Tony watches, amused, as Steve quickly strips and walks into shower.

He hears the water turn on and Steve faintly asking "JARVIS? What's a," he sighs briefly, "'tramp-stamp'?"  before Tony turns back to Bucky, finding him zipping up a deliciously clingy light cashmere sweater to go with the, huh, skinny jeans Tony had seen earlier, and damn but that look works for him. Tony represses the urge to find out exactly how soft the sweater is, because he knows if he starts touching, odds are good they'll both be naked by the time Steve finishes getting clean, and if he finds them on the bed together, well, there went dinner.

So Tony shows some really terrific self-restraint and walks back over to his open closet, focuses on picking a tie, and asks "How goes the paperwork and the leg?," because he can be an attentive boyfriend sometimes, if he works hard enough at it.

"Done and fine, respectively," Bucky says a moment later, standing dangerously close to Tony's back, not quite touching but definitely near enough for Tony to notice a faint hint of slightly spicy aftershave blending into Bucky's normal scent, and Tony's busy reminding himself that they don't want to miss dinner, and they just fucked four hours ago so there's no reason to be that damn eager, he's going to be forty five in three days, seriously, stop that, is this just what happens when he gets balanced nutrition and regular sleep? when Bucky shifts forward just the slightest bit, barely brushing Tony's shoulder as he reaches for a fairly understated lavender silk  and hands it to Tony, saying "This one. You'll look wonderful in it," making Tony shiver.

Tony takes the tie and starts working it on purely to keep his hands safely occupied and not stroking the casual scarf Bucky just added, and apparently the universe takes sick pleasure in testing Tony's resolve because Steve picks that moment to wander out of the bathroom, glistening slightly and wearing only a towel, and cross the room to quickly dig into his own closet. Tony hears himself distantly making a little groaning sound, but Bucky decides to show mercy and backs away a bit before he asks Steve "We walking or driving? Or are we not allowed to know anything about the date before it happens?"

Steve blushes, but finishes his last button and tucks in his shirt as he answers "I wasn't trying to keep anything hidden, I just, uh, didn't have plans set until recently. Walking, if you're both okay with that? I was thinking we could wander over to Bryant Park, watch the sunset together, then, um, there's a Japanese restaurant called Soba Totto nearby? Nothing too fancy, but they have those wheat noodles Tony likes so much, make 'em in front of you, and they do these little grilled skewers that I figured you'd like, Buck. It's, uh, not really anywhere glitzy, but maybe it'll be more peaceful that way? Does that sound okay?"

Tony thinks about it, a nice, low-key walk out in the sunlight, then soba and yakitori somewhere the paparazzi aren't likely to bother. They might get to have a date, maybe even a few dates, before the media notices, which would be a nice way to ease into things. Maybe, just maybe, they'll get to have a couple days of calm together. He slides on a pair of shades, takes his lovers' hands, and says "Perfect."

--

Oh, 'a couple days of calm,' Tony thinks to himself a few days later. Shoulda known better.

Us Weekly Parody InTouch Parody

Star Parody National Review Parody

Oreilly 1oreilly 2oreilly 3oreilly 4oreilly 5oreilly 6oreilly 7 or watch as a video here.

stewart 1stewart 2stewart 3stewart 4stewart 5stewart 6stewart 7 or watch as a video here.

Accessibility:

Us Weekly Magazine: Main headline “Superhero shocker” subheaders “Stark cheats on Cap”, “Infamous playboy Tony Stark breaks Captain America’s heart with assassin Winter Soldier, Cap’s best friend”[Paparazzi photo from the Park of Tony with his left hand on Steve’s shoulder and his right entwined with Bucky’s left]. Secondary story, “Pepper Potts: Stark Ind. CEO’s secret wedding” [Picture of Pepper].

InTouch Weekly Magazine: Main headline “Captain America cheats!” subheader American icon caught betraying fellow Avenger Tony “Iron Man” Stark with Cap’s best friend, assassin “Winter Soldier” [Image of Bucky nuzzling Steve’s cheek after a battle -- image credit to the incomparable Petite Madame]. Secondary stories, “Pym family feud: “Hope: ‘My name is Van Dyne now!’” [image of Hope Pym/Van Dyne], “Secret affair: Hammers falls for SI CEO in prison” [separate images of Pepper and Hammer], “Strange Love?: Surgeon’s bizarre fetishes revealed” [image of Doctor Strange].

Star Magazine: Headline “Avengers in crisis” subheaders “Stark cheats with Banner as ‘reformed’ assassin Winter Soldier seduces heartbroken Cap” “Can the Avengers survive?” “10 page tellall within” [top image, Tony and Bruce embracing overlaid with photo of Tony kissing Bruce’s cheek. Below left, Bucky looking threatening. Below right, Steve looking heartbroken and muscular.]

National Review Magazine: Headline: “Fallen Son” subheaders “Liberal perversion destroys another icon of American Values,” and “Special Edition: ‘Heroes’ hidden agenda” [Image of Steve looking down and holding shield in grimy haze]

The O’Reilly Factor [Talking Points Memo segment]: After his 2008 kidnapping in Afghanistan, Stark abandoned our armed forces in favor of "privatizing world peace." In his youth, he was known for his hedonistic lifestyle, but after his ordeal the "controversial bisexual icon" abandoned his partying along with his arms contracts. He dropped the public indecency and settled into a monogamous relationship with SI CEO Pepper Potts, and subsequently with Captain America. However, it appears that the self-proclaimed "genius" has returned to his old ways -- and not by building life-saving weapons. Rather than giving the military the arms it needs, it appears he's allowed his moral fiber to decay to the point of actually betraying Captain America. Now there is evidence of infidelity among these so-called heroes -- perhaps even some sort of group arrangement he's dragged Captain Rogers into. Real heroes have a responsibility to be positive role models, and with Tony Stark's influence, these Avengers just aren't.

Fox News’ Current events crawl: “Glowing blue vortex over NYC’s Baxter Bld “Not a threat” says Richards … Latveria files complaint with UN over Wakandan mineral trade and foreign investment restrictions … SI stock drops due to infidelity rumors, then soars from leaked StarkPad 5 specs … Xavier Institute under state investigation for alleged violation of minors’ privacy via telepathy … “Thor-ite” Asatruars stage 20,000-person protest after TX State Assembly refuses to allow Asatruar opening prayer”

The Daily Show [Photo from the Park accompanied by transcript of Jon Stewart’s narration]: “So, you may have heard there’s a big kerfluffle over the Avengers, specifically over what some of them do in the privacy of their own Tower that at least 60% of the nation would pay to watch. Yeah, rumor has it Tony Stark’s bagged himself a pair of supersoldiers. Conservative talking heads across the nation have taken the opportunity to decry loose morals, heroic irresponsibility, yadda yadda. But as a New Yorker, I gotta say [image switches to a picture of Iron Man in three-point landing on cracked pavement with the legend “The Road Warrior”] I’m more interested in Iron Man paying for the dents in Fifth Avenue.”

Well. At least nobody's talking about how old he's gotten. Happy freaking birthday.

----

“It’s ‘assassin,’ every fucking time, ‘assassin.’ I did other shit too! Ask Talia sometime, she’ll tell you. I taught her half of what she knows about sabotage alone. I may have been a puppet, but I was a puppet with a broad range of valuable skills!” Tony hears Bucky assert hotly as the elevator opens on team dinner a few days later.

Tony steps into the kitchen, finding Bruce standing at the stove and directing Clint as his kitchen minion this time, and ooh, that probably means curry, and naan, and maybe dal fritters, and if Bruce made saag paneer with the crimson kale again he’s very probably getting a shiny new thank-you lab. Meanwhile, Bucky is gesturing wildly with one brightly-colored tabloid at a stack of others and apparently ranting to an uncomfortable-looking Steve about the narrowness of criminality to his portrayals.

Tony clears his throat significantly and calmly asks “Buck. I thought we had an understanding about not bothering Steve with media stupidity?”

Bucky’s spine straightens in surprise, and a light flush tints his cheeks as he says “Oh. Right. Oops?”

Tony looks at him steadily for a moment before sighing and walking over to glance at the magazines splayed haphazardly on the table. Well, the damage is done now. Steve’s seen all the “dishonoring the flag, pervert, doesn’t deserve the shield” bullshit, and now they’re going to have to deal with it, and Tony’s always handled uncomfortable thoughts with the holy trio of amuse, avert, and add alcohol. Granted, that last won’t work on Steve, but the rest should help, so he picks a mag up at random, flinches at the poor cover design -- have these “publications” never heard of visual balance, not to mention white space or non-neon colors? -- and snarks “Hey, Bruciebear, apparently we’re fucking each other, in addition to double-teaming the laws of nature.”

Bruce only offers a dry “Helen will be distraught at news of our whirlwind romance, I’m sure,” before going back stirring something intriguingly spicy-smelling, and it is being exactly that adorable that makes Tony need to do things like kiss him on the cheek, bless his tragically straight little heart. In another life, alas.

Steve still looks grim and uncomfortable, so Tony slides onto his lap (carefully, these kitchen chairs are nominally Thor-proof, but neither of them are tiny guys) and nudges gently in for a kiss. “Hey, you’re not actually listening to this stuff, are you?”

Steve kisses him lightly, but says nothing and doesn’t meet his eyes. “Hey, hey,” Tony says, tilting his head until Steve has to either make eye contact or make it extremely obvious that he’s avoiding Tony’s gaze, and as expected, politeness forces him to reluctantly look at Tony. “Look, the same people talking about you breaking my heart think that Pepper’s kidnapping leave of absence was cover for her getting married to, what was it, some mogul? Idiots are going to say a lot of awful shit.”

Steve looks away again, still quiet and clearly unhappy, and Tony realizes he’s looking directly at one of the half-dozen stories with an angle more on disgrace to the shield, the stars-and-stripes. “And the same people calling you a traitor for being with two people also thought you were disgracing the uniform when you talked about the importance of fair, accessible healthcare, and three months before that when you said you voted for FDR and approved of the New Deal, and three months before that when you dared to admit you were dating someone who had a dick. But I’m pretty sure you still like FDR and my dick, though, right? I’m very invested in you still liking my dick,” he tries to tease. Steve cracks the tiniest smile at that, and Tony takes it as a victory, kissing him again. “It’s just talk. It’ll pass. People will get used to us.”

Steve’s still silent, but he nuzzles against Tony’s hair and his shoulders are losing a little of that parade-ground stiffness, the way he always gets when he’s trying to suppress some emotion he considers temporarily inconvenient. Bucky picks up on Tony’s cues and circles around them to rest his hands on Steve’s shoulders, rubbing at them as he says “Yeah, Stevie, they’re always saying stupid shit. Remember how it was when we were kids? Just the same, all fire and blame and not a lick of proof or sense.”

Steve seems to relax a little further, resting his head back against Bucky’s hip as he runs a hand up and down Tony’s spine for a few moments, before he says “You’re right. But some of them -- the things they’ve been saying about you, Tony. It isn’t right.”

Tony grins, a little nastier than usual, and says “This? This is pretty much nothing, as Tony Stark scandals go. No one’s gotten any pictures of my dick somewhere it isn’t supposed to be or anything. If you’d be awake in the 90s, you’d have seen some real journalistic hack jobs. Don’t worry about it. We’re going to be just fine.”  

Natasha and Agent appear then, and shortly after so do Thor and Sam, who both look a bit windblown. Tony sees a golden opportunity to practice averting attention, having successfully deployed amusement already via brilliant snark, and addresses them from his (very comfortable, really, thigh muscles make excellent seats) perch. “Chasing pigeons again, gentlemen?”

Thor replies, at a good-naturedly bombastic volume, “Nay! Our fierce Falcon suggested we practice aerial maneuvers for the betterment of future battles. You should join us next time!,” and Tony could all but hug him, because he just said “maneuvers,” and that’s practically a bacon-scented dog-whistle to a tactician like Steve. The rest of the half-hour or so before Bruce declares dinner ready passes in pleasant shop talk as they go over the exercises the other fliers have already attempted, and how to improve. Bucky stealthily gathers up the magazines and puts them far, far away and only looks guilty at Tony’s subtle nod of thanks, but all that matters is that Steve seems so much happier, focused on the good work they’re doing.

Team dinner is as raucous an affair as always, and there were indeed dal fritters and fresh raita to dip them in, if no crimson saag. Tony’s just finishing the last of his portion of curry and thinking about actually going to bed after dinner, he’s slept like shit the last couple days, when Clint disappears briefly into the elevator and comes back bearing a modest but undeniably well-decorated cake. Tony raises an eyebrow and protests “Hey, I stopped celebrating my birthday after I nearly reached the Answer and possibly caused some structural damage after having a slugfest with Rhodey in the process.” Everyone but Bruce and, for some reason, Sam, looks confused, but the two of them laugh and the rest of the team just accept it as a fragment of Tony weirdness.

He abruptly feels Bucky’s strong hands clamp on his shoulders directly before the team starts to, eugh, sing him “Happy Birthday,” nope, he does not want -- aaaand that’s why Buck grabbed him, apparently, because between the leverage and sheer strength, Tony doesn’t manage to do much more than flail helplessly in his seat through the whole thing. “I’m being serenaded against my will,” he observes aloud.

Bucky smirks and sings a little louder, and Steve just laughs and kisses Tony’s cheek. Really, Tony thinks, his team is entirely too sassy for their own good, but they’re here, together, sharing meals and swearing at each other and kicking Evil’s butt and actually baking and serving a homemade birthday cake to a billionaire, and he never thought he’d have a family when he was growing up, but this one seems to have snuck up on him and fuck but does he hope they never, never leave. There’s a single arc-reactor blue candle on the cake, and he rolls his eyes and protests before he blows it out, but as he does he quietly wishes “Stay with me.”

After the cake, which was surprisingly good for being a food item Bucky had a hand in -- Tony’s lover has, as he so vigorously pointed out, ‘a broad range of valuable skills,’ but none of them are in the kitchen -- they move to the team theater, and they watch the first Star Wars movie together. Everyone there had seen it before, Steve and Thor included, as it was considered so essential a cultural touchstone that its viewing actually pre-empted Steve’s briefing on the dissolution of the USSR and Thor’s on the particulars of democracy as a system of government (and even Bucky had seen it, in Romanian as a cover during a mission when it was still in theaters there). All the same, it came out four days before Tony’s seventh birthday and he imprinted on Han Solo hard and never looked back, and possibly he gets a little sentimental, this time of year. Tony curls up happily on the couch, with Steve at his back and Bucky essentially sitting in his lap so Tony can pet his hair, and Tony allows himself to quote along with all the best lines and throws popcorn at Barton whenever he complains about it.

Tony finds himself drifting off during the medal ceremony, floating on the music and the sensation of safety his lovers’ presences always provide, and when the credits music starts he just burrows a little more against Steve, enjoying his warm solidity. After a moment, Bucky pulls back, shifting off of Tony’s legs as Steve rises, scooping Tony into an (embarrassingly comfortable) bridal carry. Tony lets himself just enjoy it, mumbles a vague “Goodnight” to the rest of the room and tucks his face into Steve’s neck, inhaling his scent.

He notices that they’ve made it into the elevator when Bucky observes quietly “Y’know, I’d figured you’d want to one-up my birthday, as soon as we were alone.”

Tony raises his head enough to blink one eye sleepily at Bucky and comment “I’m old now. Not wanting sex constantly is a thing that happens,” he breaks off in a yawn, and then admits “... and maybe I haven’t been sleeping so well since the press, you know, flipped their shit. It’s not a big deal, really, but they, well. Steve hasn’t ridden this particular coaster b’fore.”

Steve murmurs quietly in his ear “I’ve been thinking about what you said, about considering where the criticisms are coming from. Most of them… well, I heard something once about being able to judge a man by his enemies, and some of them aren’t anyone I’d be particularly eager to please. Don’t worry so much, Tony. I’ll be just fine.” They reach the bed and Steve deposits him gently before working side by side with Bucky to strip first him, then themselves as efficiently as possible before climbing into bed on either side of him, bracketing him again. Tony sighs happily, snuggles down between them, and drifts off with a lighter heart.

----

“So,” Tony says first thing the next morning, after nine luxurious hours of sleep have fully restored his swagger “I believe I was promised birthday sex. Is that still on offer?”

Bucky snorts softly from where he’s already sitting up and holding a tablet, before commenting “Was wondering when you’d be up. Steve’s on his run right now,”

Tony grunts an unhappy “But it’s Saturday!”

as Bucky continues “...even though it’s Saturday. He missed Thursday ‘cause of that dope fiend in Queens with the cocaine superpowers... You only remember the day of the week when Steve is somewhere you find inconvenient, huh?” Tony pauses a moment, because this is actually a somewhat accurate observation, before offering “... I remembered Tuesday was Tuesday, this week. For reasons that had nothing to do with Steve.”

Bucky laughs softly, setting the tablet aside and wrapping an arm around Tony’s waist has he leans in for a slow, lingering good-morning kiss. “You still taste like popcorn,” he observes after a little while.

Tony quirks a suggestive eyebrow at him before replying “I could taste like other things. Interested in changing my flavor?”

Bucky shifts so he’s straddling Tony’s nearest leg, grinding against his hip a little, and hello supersoldier serum, it is a good morning already, and goes back to kissing him, still slow and deep and perfect. “Y’know… Stevie left a couple hours ago. Should be home soon.”

Tony mmhms thoughtfully, pointing out “And he’s always such an easy touch after a run.” Bucky makes an interrogative sort of grunt as he noses at Tony’s neck, licking and nibbling. “You didn’t know?” Tony asks, and then answers his own question with “Huh, I guess not. No running around when he was tiny, not much chance for convenient post-exertion fucks during a war, and lately he’s had SHIELD paperwork or sparring right when he gets home during the week. Hmm. Guess you’re not the only one to know a few things about our Stevie, huh? Want to learn a few more, while we wait for him to get back?”

Tony takes the moment of distraction that offer gives Bucky to roll them, leaving Bucky in the center of the bed with Tony shifting a little against his leg and sliding a hand into Bucky’s hair, tugging to make him bare his neck for those tiny, biting kisses that always bring out the sweetest little panting sounds. “You ever have the time to play with his stamina? You know, his jaw pretty much just doesn’t get tired, ever. One time, he decided to see how long and slow he could blow me. God, had to tie me to a chair after an hour or so, I couldn’t stop squirming, trying to get him to stop teasing. Fucking hurt when he finally let me come, but it felt so good the whole time, you have no idea.”

Bucky groans at that, arching up into the thumb Tony swipes over his left nipple, both still frotting easily, in no hurry and just teasing each other with the contact. Tony has always prided himself on his capacity for entertainingly dirty talk, and they do have some time to kill, so he indulges himself to a little recounting of some of the kinkier moments of his recent sexual history, because Bucky seems pretty into it and they are certainly some happy, happy memories. “Speaking of blowing -- sucking his cock while he draws. You know how intense he gets when he’s halfway through a sketch? One day I decided I wanted to see if he could keep that up against a little distraction and started in on his pants. He ignored me at first -- well, other than his cock, which seemed interested enough -- so by the time I got far enough along that he was dropping the pencil to grab at my hair, I made him go back work. Stopped sucking every time he stopped sketching, wouldn’t let him come until he finished it. I still have it up in a corner of the workshop. Ever notice how pink he goes when he looks at the one of the crossed repulsor gloves laid against a boot? Yeahhhh.”

Bucky pants a little, eager, but he’s just as much of a shit as Tony is, so he all he says is “Competitive blowjobs? That all you got?”

Tony grins at the challenge, and starts listing off “Well, I assume you already know most of his kinks, doubt those have changed all that much. But capacity -- did you know he can hold you against a wall and blow you, with your legs over his shoulders? Just hold you up like it’s nothing, and you panic a little the whole time because it’s so precarious and there’s nothing you can do if he loses his balance or grip on you but that edge of tension just makes it sweeter.”

Bucky’s eyes spark at the image as his hands wander over Tony’s back, cup his ass, urge him to rock his hips a little more insistently, rub their cocks together a fraction harder. “Where do you think he got that move? Used to do it to him, before the war. It always made him grab my hair hard and give me the sweetest little gasps.”

Tony savors that image for a moment before casting back over fucks past, looking for the really unusual ones. “He said your name during sex, once, way before you came here.” Bucky’s head jerks up at that, shocked. “Yup. Thor went on a diplomatic thingy to Vanaheim, brought back this… Vanir paint thinner, I guess. Smelled like cinnamon, tasted like anise, hit like a freight train, and it was strong enough, or magical enough, or both, that after a couple pints of it Steve was preeeeetty drunk. I don’t know what kind of drunk he was back before the serum,”

“Cheap, and flirty” Bucky interjects.

“--or if he’d react the same now that he has you back, but I took him to bed like normal, he got handsy, we fucked, and when he came he screamed your name and then started crying when he realized what he’d done. Was all sheepish the next morning, like he thought I’d be mad, but I honestly mostly just felt bad for him. But, yeah, when you came back? Still pretty clearly in love with him? There’s a reason I wasn’t exactly surprised things played out the way they did. Well, up until the part where you kissed me. Did not see that coming.”

Bucky looks briefly uncomfortable before saying, too-casual, “Hearing about our boyfriend crying over me being brainwashed and missing, kind of a boner-killer, Stark. Thought you were going to tell me sexy stories of what you’ve learned about Steve?”

Tony kisses him with a little extra tongue by way of apology, before attempting “Sense play?”

Bucky looks intrigued, and says “Go on…”

Tony grins at the memory, and explains “So, the serum cranked all his senses up too, right? Took him a little while to learn how to handle them, but most of the time he suppresses the extra data pretty hard. I tied him to the bed, blindfolded, had J play some white noise real low and soothing, and played with the rest one at a time. Smell and taste, kinda intertwined, but I splashed around some essential oils, and also he gets a little excited for turpentine for some reason --”

Bucky smirks knowingly at that, and at Tony’s curious expression merely offers “Blew him in an oil-painting classroom once when he was in school. I had a key to the door and I knew it was locked, but he didn’t know that, and he has a thing for the risk of getting caught, always gets him that little extra bit turned on.”

Tony files this knowledge away for future wickedness, and continues “and after the room smelled nice for him, started in on a tasting platter, the usual strawberries and chocolate and whipped cream stuff, a little sharp cheese for contrast, some toro, little caviar, pretty much whatever might be a ... pure taste, I guess. Strong, compelling. Whatever I guessed he might enjoy. Once he was pretty far along, started playing with touch. Stroked my hands up and down his arms real gentle, rubbed little bits of different kinds of fabrics over his abs, thighs… took a while, but God, he was so responsive by the end. Let down some of those walls keeping his senses from overwhelming him, you know? He said he could do it because he knew it was safe, that I was taking care of him. He’s always so sweet like that, gives himself over so earnestly.” Bucky nods, clearly understanding Tony’s meaning, as they keep touching everywhere, building each other up so, so slowly.

“You ever get him to play with pain?” Bucky asks, sounding more curious than taunting.

“... No.” Tony’s forced to admit, because the thing with wax was so low-temp it barely tingled, fun as it was. “Tried asking a couple times, but he says he won’t risk me getting hurt, and that he doesn’t much care one way or another about receiving, and I don’t care that much about giving, so…”

“Huh,” Bucky says in reply. “Yeah, haven’t ever been able to get him to give it, even before he was all serumed up and worried about my 'traumatic' past, but before the serum he liked it when I put him over my knee. And I got no problem with the thought of giving,” and Bucky rolls them again, this time pinning Tony’s wrists above his head, “to either of you,” he finishes as Tony gasps and rocks up into him, tugging a little against Bucky’s grasp. “Felt your cock twitch against my thigh just now. Which was it? The thought of Steve sprawled across my lap, ass pinking up from my hand, maybe even the metal one, leaving some nice marks… or the thought of you being there?”

Tony flushes a little, squirming under the intensity of Bucky’s gaze before admitting “Both. But mostly the second one.”

Bucky leans in close, left hand still easily holding Tony’s wrists, as his right starts to wander lower, dragging a gently teasing finger up the length of Tony’s cock as he suggests “I wonder if Stevie’d like to see that too? Watch me draw those pretty noises out of you, watch you get excited from it. Maybe we can get toys, too, if you like it enough. But just my hand’d be alright, I bet, make you squirm for me real nice.” Tony’s gasp and flickering eyes gives his surprise away, and Bucky looks over his shoulder to discover what Tony just did -- that Steve’s in the doorway, looking sweaty and satisfied and increasingly aroused. Bucky doesn’t miss a beat, even as Tony flounders, and just says “How about it, doll? Want to see me put him over my lap? He did just have a birthday, and I hear spankings are traditional.”

Steve swallows hard, and the damp, clinging running shorts he's wearing don't do anything to hide the eager little jump Bucky's suggestion inspires. Tony moans, arching up against Bucky both because Buck has the best fucking ideas, and because Tony's always in favor of playing into Steve's voyeur kink and getting him excited watching them. Bucky smirks at him and rolls off, releasing his wrists to pat his own thigh in invitation. "You interested, sweetheart?" he asks, and Tony bites his lip, thinking for just an instant before he sits up, swings his legs around, and stretches across Bucky's lap with his ass just under Bucky's metal hand, looking up all doe-eyed at Steve, who's still standing frozen in the doorway. Bucky cups Tony's ass gently, stroking as he asks "Safeword?"

Tony immediately replies "Red," and arches his back so his ass is a little more on display, pushing eagerly up into Bucky's hand. Fuck, but it's been way too long since he got to play like this, probably since before Pepper, whose kinks went in completely other directions. Bucky's hand lifts, and he lets Tony hang in a moment of breathless anticipation, waiting just a beat or two, barely long enough for Tony to start wondering if Bucky changed his mind about doing this after all, before his hand descends in a firm, loud smack. Tony moans a little in pure reaction even as he calculates -- cupped hand for extra sound, very gentle contact in deference to the metal, probably going for teasing Tony and building him up slowly, rather than causing too much discomfort, and giving Steve a show besides. Bucky's fingers glide gently over the now-slightly-warmed cheek, rubbing the slight sting and just barely teasing at Tony's perineum, which confirms his theory and also feels fucking ridiculously good. Bucky gives him another, alternating sides and following up with more gentle rubs, and the coolness of his metal palm really adds something, the contrast against Tony's slowly warming flesh a relief and a tease all at once.

He keeps going, still slow and gentle, and Tony can't resist moaning again and squirming a little to grind his erection against Bucky's firm thigh. The next one is slightly harder, and Bucky says "Quit squirming or I'll make you stay still," and the cool, controlled threat in his voice, that almost-hint of the endlessly dominant, powerful Asset makes Tony freeze, obeying reflexively even as he moans again, louder. Bucky looks up at Steve, then, who still hasn't moved or said anything, evidently transfixed by the sight of them, and comments "He's getting awfully loud for us just having gotten started, isn't he? Why don't you come on over, keep his mouth busy for me, yeah?"

Steve looks down at Tony, concerned, so Tony takes the opportunity to encourage him with the sweetest "Please? Wanna taste you,” he can muster while being thoroughly distracted by another perfect slap being followed by Bucky's thumb pressing down against his perineum again, firmer this time, nudging against his prostate from the outside, oh fuck yes, that's good.

"Cockslut," Bucky says fondly, and Tony should have investigated Bucky's dominant side a long time ago because he apparently knows what he's doing and also exactly how much Tony really, really enjoys being called a slut. Steve approaches, clearly still hesitant, and once he's in grabbing range, Tony reaches an arm out, distracted halfway through by another fucking excellent smack, just the right pressure, escalating slowly as the endorphins get going and damn, Bucky's good at this, but Tony manages to focus again and wraps his outstretched hand around the back of Steve's left thigh, trying to reel him in. They're both well aware that Tony couldn't actually pull Steve anywhere when he's not in the suit, but Tony's evident desire is enough to convince Steve to come closer. Bucky takes a break from the slaps to rub two fingers over Tony's entrance, nice and slow, not pressing in yet. Tony stutters out a breath, pulling at Steve's shorts until his cock's curling freely toward his belly, already beautifully flushed. Tony licks at him eagerly, savoring the tang of precome beading at the head and whimpering long and low when Bucky swats him again.

"Make him take you down properly," Bucky idly instructs a very aroused if somewhat skeptical-looking Steve, fuck, like Tony's not even there, just a toy for them to play with, and Tony can't fight the urge to twitch his hips just a little, get a tiny bit of friction on his dick. Bucky calmly wraps his right hand firmly around Tony's throat and otherwise doesn't acknowledge his disobedience at all, continuing "He's got his hands free at the moment. He needs you to stop, he can tap your hip. Go on, don't you want to feel it when I hit him hard enough to make him moan?" and Steve swallows hard, steps forward that last little bit, and Bucky's thumb digs into Tony's jaw just a little, making his mouth open on its own as Bucky uses the grip he has on Tony's throat to guide him onto Steve's cock, and Tony was totally heading that direction anyway but fuck if this doesn't just make it even better. He goes to work, and just as predicted each and every one of Bucky's slightly harder strikes has him moaning eagerly as Steve starts to cautiously thrust into his mouth, hands buried in Tony's hair, not holding him in place yet so much as hanging on to the nearest point of stability can find.

They continue on like that, Bucky still teasing between every stroke, right hand solid on Tony's throat, and fuck, Tony thinks he can probably feel the movement when Steve pushes particularly deep as Tony just lays there, sprawled helplessly over Bucky's lap and taking it and loving every second, particularly as Bucky reaches, fuck, maybe the mid-thirties and goes a little faster, a little harder, and the momentum's enough to start shoving Tony farther along Steve's cock and give Tony's own neglected erection a little friction without him getting punished for squirming. Steve's making incredibly eager noises and being a little less restrained about fucking Tony's mouth, which Tony is all for, and Tony's ass is just starting to move from "deliciously warmed and tingly" to "sitting through tomorrow's briefing is going to be even less pleasant than normal" when Bucky announces "And one to grow on" before giving Tony one last smack, a little harder than the others and centered directly over his entrance, and Tony lets out an embarrassingly needy, drawn-out groan that apparently is all Steve needed, because he's gasping and coming, still buried down Tony's throat. Tony swallows dutifully, more focused on the way Bucky's petting his very red ass, stroking softly and running his fingers down the center line and over Tony's perineum and balls before rubbing a little more of the sting away, and fuck that's good.

Steve pulls out, panting and running his fingers through Tony's mussed hair fondly. "Hey, you doing okay?" he asks, sweetly concerned as ever.

Tony manages a "'m awesome," as he shifts against Bucky's thigh again.

Bucky's right hand presses against his throat ever so slightly harder, still not impeding his breathing at all, just making sure Tony's aware that he could, any time he liked, and fuck, that's hot. "You wanting me to do something about that?" Bucky asks, disinterested like they're goofing off watching a movie on the couch together and his cock isn't a solid, insistent heat against Tony's stomach, a little precome smeared over his abs from the way Bucky was leaking during the spanking.

"That would be nice, yes," Tony snaps back, and Bucky casually swats the back of Tony's thigh, making Tony gasp and moan again.

"What was that?" Buck asks again, light as anything.

Tony gets it then, and responds "Yes, please, sir. Touch me?," looking over his shoulder to all but bat his eyelashes at Bucky, expression all sweet submission for the moment.

Bucky snorts and says "Damn, but you're a little shit when you want to be," but he starts lightly stroking Tony's cock, so Tony's happy enough to be called whatever he wants. "What do think, Stevie," Bucky continues, "want to make him ride you while I get a taste of that mouth? Or d'ya just want to have another go fucking his throat, maybe make his voice all raspy for the rest of day?"

Steve blushes beautifully, already hardening again thanks to the serum, before quietly offering "Um. Actually, I was wondering if he'd maybe want to, um... have me. Like that. He sure liked watching it when you had me, didn't seem bothered that I got, uh, kind of..."

"Prone to begging for it like a whore as soon as you got a cock in you?" Bucky finishes easily, and Steve nods, still blushing fiercely. Bucky strokes Tony's cock again before asking "What do you think, sweetheart? Think you can hold out long enough to get him prepped for you?" Tony just twists around to grab the lube and toss it onto the bed in response, already reaching to pull Steve's shirt off and urge him on. They both kneel on the bed, kissing slow and filthy while Bucky circles, drawing his hands slowly down Steve's back before going lower, making Steve moan eagerly. Tony notices that he's still only half-hard after his recent orgasm, so he breaks the kiss to start mouthing his way down Steve's body, eventually settling to licking eagerly, teasingly at Steve's cock while the slick sounds of Bucky's well-lubed fingers breaching Steve's body and starting to work him open provide a perfect counterpoint to Tony's soft slurps and Steve's quiet but increasingly insistent little moans.

Tony thinks about taking a hand to himself while they get Steve ready, but he's already far enough along that if he does, things might come to an unfortunately premature conclusion, and Tony wants his first time inside Steve, probably the first time Steve's been taken by anyone but Bucky, to be so good for him. Eventually, Bucky says "There, I think that's about good, don't you, Stevie?" Steve mostly just rocks back and makes an eager, wordless little sound as Bucky's fingers withdraw. "Go on, on your back, I think, and legs wide. I'm going to make sure he shows you a real nice time."

Steve obeys and spreads his thighs just as Tony settles between them. Bucky kneels right behind Tony, breath warm on his neck, and pets Steve's left thigh with his clean hand. "Want a condom on him? Or do you want the mess?" Steve frowns a little, and Bucky clearly takes that as a vote against mess, because he immediately starts opening a condom and rolling it down Tony's aching dick, and really, slightly less sensation is probably an excellent idea right now. Bucky idly shoves at Tony's hip once he's done, ordering "Get to it," and Tony obeys, lifting Steve's ass a little to ease the slide in.

Steve immediately starts making very happy little noises, if not quite so loud or enthusiastic as when Bucky fucked him. Bucky's warmth presses against Tony's back, then, and Tony jumps a little when he feels two of Bucky's still-slick metal fingers press against his entrance as Bucky purrs into his ear "Here's what's going to happen. I'm going to put my fingers in you, and use them to show you what he likes. You're going to do what he likes, and if I don't think you're doing a good enough job, I'll pull you out of him and take care of him properly myself. Got it?" Tony nods rapidly, rocking his hips forward a little on reflex, because the thought of Bucky just using him that way, as nothing more than a tool to pleasure Steve, is pretty damn hot.

Steve moans again, fingers tangling in sheets as Bucky pushes into Tony's body and starts fingering him slow and shallow. Tony's careful to replicate it, remembering how well Steve responded to a bit of early teasing, and Steve starts to whimper a little, to get just a little louder. Tony lets himself feel a quick burst of satisfaction as he keeps it up, even though it's getting harder and harder to focus on anything but the need throbbing up and down his spine. Eventually Bucky shifts deeper, speeding up and hitting Tony's prostate every second or third pass, and when he follows the unspoken command Steve lets out a moderately loud "Fuck!," so Tony thinks he's probably in the clear still.

He's careful not to hit Steve's sweet spot too often -- Bucky would notice Tony wasn't obeying and might decide it constituted not doing a proper job, and Tony doesn't want to risk that -- so he focuses on teasing Steve and suppressing his own increasingly urgent need to come. He has a pretty good grip on things, moving steadily and drawing the loveliest noises from Steve's open, panting mouth, right until Bucky speeds up a little more and starts pressing his prostate with every thrust, not just every third. Tony tries to mimic it, moving faster inside Steve's body and angling dead on, and fuck but it's too much, he's only human and hasn't gotten laid in a couple days and they've been going at it for most of an hour now, and he only holds out for another desperate minute before he's coming, Steve squeezing around him eagerly.

Tony pants dazedly as Bucky's hands settle gently on hips, pulling him out, and Bucky must have known what was going to happen because he already has a condom on and is filling Steve again in less than thirty seconds, fucking him in that same quick, brutally accurate pace he'd had Tony using. Tony just lays there, utterly relaxed with the force of his orgasm, watching as they fuck. God, but his lovers are beautiful. They keep going for a while, because even with the serum to ease the way, getting Steve to his second orgasm in a row takes serious effort, and even Bucky's starting to look a little strained by the time Tony's back with it enough to flop sideways and get his mouth partways onto Steve's dick. Bucky offers a grateful-sounding grunt for the assist, and Steve just keeps crying out, same as he has been since halfway through Tony fucking him, all desperate praise and reverent pleas and tightly-closed eyes. Eventually, Steve gasps a little louder, pelvis tilting up apparently without his control, and comes just as Bucky starts thrusting into him fast and uneven and jerky, grunting as he comes too, looking exhausted and sweaty and satisfied, hair falling into his eyes as he leans down to kiss Steve and Tony in turn. He pulls out and disposes of both condoms before getting back into bed and cuddling up to both them, making sure they’re both happy and well-taken-care-of.

After a moment, he asks "Good birthday?," echoing Tony's question a few months prior.

"Fuck, yeah," Tony says, still a little shaky but starting to manage coherence again. "Once I remember how my legs work, we should probably shower. Also, wow. That was pretty damn incredible. Also, speaking of birthdays, we should probably talk about Steve's at some point."

Bucky pushes his damp hair out his eyes and says “Have you noticed our special occasions have a way of turning kind of shit? My birthday, you were sulking in the labs ‘cause you thought we were going to leave you, and working eighteen-hour days on Egghead’s collars besides. Me and Steve's anniversary was that massive fight and then the shitshow under Poughkeepsie where I pretty much lost my arm again for the evening. Now your birthday’s been squarely in media-backlash-land, although I think we've neatly made up for that. So no. We are not doing anything for Stevie’s birthday. We are staying home and, I dunno, watching TV and waiting for the Assembly alarm to tell us Doom’s convinced Mr. and Mrs. Stretchy to join him in Evil and his bed.”

Tony takes the opportunity to quietly crow “Convinced another one! Tasha owes me twenty bucks, can’t-see-the-UST my ass” as Bucky continues.

“We should do something special, though. After. Steve deserves it.”

Steve, naturally, protests that “Really, I don’t need to do anything fancy, it’s just a birthday,” but quiets when Bucky and Tony shoot him equally unimpressed glances.

Tony points out “We already decided to push out our anniversary a month ‘cause of the, uh, okay, the break we took when I sort of panicked because you love Bucky too. I don’t want to skip it entirely. We could do a joint birthday-anniversary thing, maybe? How about, uh. Look, there’s going to be a gala anyway, so you don’t have to feel like we’re, I don’t know, ‘wasting’ the effort. Would you be okay with that, celebrating them by going to it together?”

Steve smiles sweetly up at him, looking delighted that Tony remembered their updated anniversary without any prompting, and says “That sounds wonderful. What’s, uh, what’s it for? The gala.”

Tony immediately answers “Presentation of this year’s Turing Grant,” because it's one of the few charity galas he actually makes a point to attend every year.

"Wait," Steve says hesitantly, "... you don't mean Alan, do you?"

Tony boggles at him before asking "How the hell do you know who Alan Turing was?"

Steve shrugs casually, and says "Met him a couple times in the war, when I was in London with Peggy and the SSR. Nice guy, if kind of weird. He was just a codebreaker, though, so how do you know who he was? And why do you have a grant in his name?"

Tony blinks for a second, because he occasionally forgets his apparently younger lovers were, in fact, right around Turing's age during World War II, and then says "He's pretty much considered the father of AI. Also, one of the first prominent queer computer scientists. The grant's full name is The Alan Turing Grant for GLBTQ Youth in Computer Science. Set it up shortly after I took over SI and came out, after so many of my engineer buddies got caught being not-straight and went through hell. Just, you know. Thought I could do some good," he finishes awkwardly. He hates talking about charity shit, this is why he has a foundation with PR people, so he can just give them money and the right place to throw it. Steve beams at him, though, and kisses him sweetly, and he still tastes faintly of sweat from their lovemaking, so Tony just blusters ahead before anyone can start talking about feelings, and asks "So, uh, yeah. I always go to the gala. Will you both come with me?"

Bucky murmurs "Yeah, of course. It'll be our pleasure."

----

Two weeks later, Tony surveys the enormous ballroom with a sense of profound satisfaction. Bucky was indeed prescient -- or just had sufficient tactical genius to realize that Evil might want to mess with the symbol of America on its, and his, birthday. Sure enough, the entire week of the Fourth they’d been busy chasing the Punisher chasing the Wrecking Crew, because they were technically the good guys and didn’t approve of even villains being murdered, and really, Castle has an uncomfortably nonchalant stance on things like collateral damage and bystander injury. It took a humiliating nine days to track him down and pull him out… well, apparently humiliating, to the media. Possibly they were letting him do the legwork (which all of them were too high-profile for) to chase Crew members down and then conveniently showing up with Shield containment vans once he cornered one of them and the villain was all set to explain why superpowers beat conventional firearms, and even certain unconventional firearms, preferably via caving in Castle’s skull with a magic crowbar. But now the Crew were off to the Fridge, safely separated from said crowbar, and they’d gotten “Nnnnnn, you fight Evil with me, you can call me Frank, eeeeeeeeeven if you’re a wishy-washy do-gooder, Steve-o” booze, food, medical attention, and a room in the Tower for a couple days to try to discourage his more destructive tendencies via socialization. But now Evil was quiet, the city was safe, and Tony can spend Alan Turing’s 103rd birthday watching a roomful of people there to celebrate his good work, give to charity, and, okay, probably gawk at all the superheroes. Pep said that donations were up 28% from last year, once he announced that he wouldn’t be the only Avenger present, and that money was going to do an awful lot of good. He notices Natasha waltzing smoothly past in Agent’s arms, looking radiant and deadly as ever, and Bruce talking quietly with Helen in a corner while Clint perches casually behind the bar, watching over all of them and occasionally throwing cocktail olives down unsuspecting guests’ cleavage. Darcy is in the center of the floor, back from her extended research trip to Vanaheim (apparently, being the first recorded Midgardian to study the politics of another realm was going over really well with her Ph.D.’s Thesis Committee), trying to teach both Jane and Thor nearly any dance that would be appropriate to the all-Big-Band soundtrack Tony’d arranged for tonight and laughing delightedly when Thor just picks Jane up and spins around with her. Pepper and Rhodey are managing some fairly fancy moves, given Tony knows exactly how long ago that mandatory swing elective had been for Rhodey, but they look good, and even better, they look happy. Sam’s surrounded by half a dozen socialites, all of whom are apparently very interested in his, ahem, wings, and at Tony’s glance he gives a very subtle thumbs up. Tony grins at him and continues his slow sweep of the room, seeing everyone dancing, talking, laughing.

And then, there, just as the song changes to “Only Forever,” he circles a cluster of chattering glitterati and finds Steve and Bucky a few feet away, arms around each other as they stand proud in the middle of the floor, dancing for everyone to see. Bucky leads, just as he wanted to all those years ago, and as they dance the attention of the room slowly shifts more and more onto them, until during the last notes of the song it seems everyone in the whole grand ballroom is watching them, spellbound as they move together, so clearly made for each other, and when they fall still at the end of the song, their audience bursts into enthusiastic applause. They both blush abruptly, having apparently forgotten there was anyone around them at all. Tony smiles at them and turns to leave them to their long-awaited dancing, but Steve reaches out and puts a hand on his shoulder.

Tony looks back to him, confused, and Steve just smiles and says “May I have this dance?” Tony turns back towards him again as Bucky gives a high, piercing whistle and the music changes to something decidedly not Big Band, all airy acoustic guitar under male vocals, and Steve starts to lead him in a fairly straightforward foxtrot. Tony looks up at him curiously, half-following the lyrics, and just as he picks out Three -- doesn’t it seems like there’s no end to what we can be?, Bucky slides in behind Tony and Steve hands him off with a kiss, watching with evident satisfaction as Bucky leads Tony through a few more complicated steps than Steve tried, and Tony falls into it, follows as best he can and just focuses on Bucky, on being here with his lovers who really, really want him with them. The song swells and starts to ebb again, and as it does Bucky slows and Steve’s right behind Tony again. He rests his left hand on Tony’s waist and his right on Bucky’s shoulder as the song finishes with a light Basically three -- We’re basically three. Tony blinks a little, wondering where on Earth the technologically-stunted twosome managed to hunt up a song about a polyamorous triad, but then he notices that a crowd has formed around them just as they had for Steve and Bucky, and they’re clapping just as loud. And Tony thinks what a shame it was that he didn't see it at the time, nearly half a year ago, that the pang of horrible hollowness when he realized Steve was in love with Bucky didn’t have to be the end, after all. Maybe, he muses, looking back and forth at Steve and Bucky bracketing him as they all move together into the next song, the whole time it was just his insides shifting over to make room for something more. Something even better.