They take Steve into a room behind a room. He stands before a wall that is a mirror, looking out. Looking in. Inside the smaller room a man is shackled to a chair.
His brown hair is unkempt and worn long, obscuring eyes with his head bowed. His body is sleek and immensely powerful, lined with dense muscles that have been built up over time. A complex musculature earned from years of hard labor is hunched defensively over itself. There's no hiding the metal arm: it spans from his shoulder, huge and silver, tapering to a flexing, menacing wrist.
Steve stares, and then he stares some more. He puts his own hand, flesh and too-warm blood, out against the table for balance. They had warned him, Natasha in particular had, but he still isn't ready. Not for this.
Bucky is sitting alive in SHIELD custody sixty years after Steve saw him fall. It's Bucky clear as day, Steve would know him in the dark, and it isn't Bucky whatsoever. All evidence would seem to prove this conflicting instinct incorrect. It's Bucky and it isn't.
He watched his best friend fall to his death almost a century ago in the height of war, and then Steve had taken to his own seeming frozen end. He opened his eyes to a new world that needed him and a team that had taken him on, a situation as improbable as the super-serum. Steve was used to the unexpected, to say the least.
But when Clint had drawn him aside and Natasha had given him a secret, puzzling, then mind-shattering briefing, Steve didn't know what to believe anymore. He had barely come to terms to living in the future, and now they were telling him the one person he saw when he closed his eyes at night was still alive.
And it's true. He knows that now. Has no choice but to believe.
Looking through the two-way mirror, Steve says to Nick Fury, “It's him. James Barnes. I don't know how, or what's been done to him. But that's him.”
Fury gives him the eye-over. “You're sure, Cap?”
“Sure,” says Steve. “I'd know him anywhere.” He paces towards the glass. Behind it Bucky scowls at invisible watchers, alert eyes glinting, chained to the single chair in the room. There are hard-bitten scars and lines on his once-smooth face, and roughened stubble marks his jaw. His blue gaze is steely as his arm.
It's him and isn't him. Steve has never seen the expressions he makes now, trapped like an animal under bright lights, and the man with Bucky's face speaks in streams of angry, fluid Russian when he speaks.
Steve is close to the wall with Fury watching. “Can I--” he starts, knowing the inquiry will go nowhere fast but needing to know he tried.
“Not yet,” says Fury quickly, and with finality. “We've only started the debriefing. We needed your I.D. along with Agent Romanov's.” His hand comes down heavily on Steve's shoulder. “I imagine that it's difficult, quite a shock. You're a good man, Rogers. One of the best. I understand your involvement in this. I'll call you in when we get to the level we need you at.”
Steve shakes his head, shakes off the platitudes. “With all due respect, sir. With your permission, I'd like to stay--”
“Permission denied,” Fury says, spinning them around and marching Steve unceremoniously to the exit. “He's in good hands, your friend is, and we'll involve you when we can. Those are your orders, Captain.”
Steve nods at automatic attention, his mind fighting his body's performance. His mind is shouting and kicking. He watches Bucky vanish over Fury's shoulder as he's ushered out and then his mind is screaming.
As he leaves Maria Hill tries to touch his arm, and her bold, pretty face is sympathetic; she reminds him of Peggy in her capability and Steve has long liked her. But today he can't return her greeting because she gets to go back in and see and touch and talk to Bucky who is shackled alone under harsh lights, returned to Steve against all odds and being kept from him.
He brushes Fury off and brushes past Maria and throws himself into the sleek black limousine outside the nondescript SHIELD building in lower Manhattan. Inside Clint is mixing dirty martinis.
Clint glances at Steve's face, which must look white and red and blue at once. “That bad?” he says.
“Worse.” Steve takes the closest drink and knocks it back, all the good it'll do. Clint is a great friend, the best kind of friend, and he has four more drinks already lined up and ready for Steve and his enhanced constitution.
Steve doesn't mind if he does, now. The big car crawls through midtown traffic and they're tipsy by the time they reach Central Park. They're drunk by the time they drive around and out of the twisty park roads with the old trees and sloping hills.
They hold each other up when they get to Stark tower and Clint tells funny stories and they don't talk about what Steve saw downtown. They don't talk about why Natasha isn't there or where Natasha is, why Natasha isn't shit-faced on dry vermouth and singing between them.
In the elevator Clint presses the button for the very top and props Steve against him. Steve knows he's a burden but Clint is strong. When the door dings open at the penthouse Tony and Bruce are waiting and Steve is glad to see them and shows it by smiling winningly and flashing a thumbs-up.
“Oh, dear,” says Tony, as Clint leans forward to spill Steve into his arms and Bruce hurries to help.
“You have no idea,” says Clint, wiping his brow with a wrist-guard. “We're just getting started.”
“Hey,” says Steve, “I'm right here, you know, and perfectly aware although I'm very drunk.” Three sets of concerned eyes are on him, and Steve swallows. “I request another drink.”
“That's my boy,” says Tony, leading Steve in a fireman's hold over to the soft embrace of the leather couch. “I have a seventy-year-old scotch that's older than you are. It's got your name on it.” Soon a crystalline cup is being pressed into his hand and Steve swallows fiery warmth. Tony joins him, his hand warmer on Steve's knee.
“We'll figure this out, buddy,” says Tony, sounding sure, downing whiskey like water. “Nat's on the case, and you know Nat. And Clint and Bruce and I are here. It'll all be fine. It can't not be fine, there're too many of us and we're too awesome.”
Steve finishes his drink and fists his hand in the fabric of Tony's t-shirt. He doesn't want to talk about it. “Take me to bed,” he says instead.
It would be more appropriate to say that Steve begs but Tony's ever-moving eyes go wide and his spine goes straight and he looks so unexpectedly well-mannered at the request it reminds Steve about propriety. It makes Steve come back to himself enough to regard Bruce over the slope of Tony's shoulder. “I mean,” Steve amends, “If that's okay.”
Tony holds in a breath and shares a long sideways look with Bruce that's full of significance. Steve has been in bed with both of them before, been pinned between them while he admired their devotion, but that's not what he is asking for now. When Tony returns from looking at Bruce his eyes are bright and bold. It's the look of a hungry Stark that Steve has appreciated for centuries now.
“Yeah,” Tony says, “C'mon,” and his fingers curl coolly around Steve's wrist. They get up and go, just the two of them, with Bruce and Clint trying their damnedest not to watch their progression. There's always a spare bedroom at hand in Tony's suites and the one he guides Steve into is fresh and untouched as a luxury hotel, with a bedspread turned down by a maid long ago.
When the door hisses closed behind them Steve takes off all of his clothes and lies down on the bed. After a moment the weight shifts on one side and Tony's sitting next to him. Tony smooths an appreciative palm down his exposed flank but doesn't touch more than that.
“You gotta tell me what you want here, Cap,” says Tony, quietly. “You're all in pieces.”
Steve reaches for him. “I wish you'd fuck me,” he says, the words sounding sharp as he shapes them. There's no cloth for cover and it would take a saint to resist the golden cut of his muscles and the promise of his coiled strength and see-it-to-believe-it cock.
Tony Stark is no saint, and Tony has wanted him for a long time. Wanted him exactly like this, maybe, Steve with spread thighs and asking him for it. No one else here to see it. Steve has no hard feelings about Bruce but this time for the first time Bruce isn't here with them and that's important, tonight.
There's something between him and Tony, something combustible beneath their surface of shared sympathy, and that's what Steve needs now. Needs Tony's attention wholly on him because Tony can do enough thinking for the both of them so Steve won't have to think at all.
Tony understands him more than anyone in this new world because he's taken the time to try, has studied Steve from afar and close up. Tony would map him out in blueprints if Steve let him. But Tony's also the only one who fights with him on a consistent basis, often just because he can; and Tony challenges him and gets in his face and sometimes looks like he wants to take Steve apart to see how he ticks. Tonight that's what Steve needs; and he tells Tony some of that, and Tony, bless him, doesn't even blink.
Tony goes for the side-drawer, then is pushing slick insistent fingers into Steve. Tony doesn't hesitate at all. His fingers are as smart as the rest of him. “Like that?”
“Y—Yes.” And Steve opens for him. With this happening, with Tony on him, he doesn't have to think about anything else. He's far away for a while. Somewhere along the way Tony has lost his clothing save for the thin top that mutes the glow from his chest; even with his fingers twisting deep and his strong body belting Steve's hips Tony Stark is bashful about the arc reactor. Steve doesn't laugh, Steve pulls him up and close, pulling Tony up to block out the light above him, substituting Tony's.
Tony looks down at him and licks his lips. “God, you're gorgeous,” he says. “You don't mind that I'm taping this, do you? And that I'm going to watch it a lot? JARVIS, could you zoom in a moment on Captain Rogers' gorgeous fucking face?”
Steve laughs and it feels good to laugh, and he still feels drunk and that feels good too, and he tugs Tony even closer and Tony lets Steve kiss him. Probably permission to do that had been included in his encoded stare with Bruce.
Bruce likely transmitted something generous and Bruce-like in genius Morse code, like, Give the poor dear whatever he needs, my love, and here Tony is doing that. But Steve doesn't want to think about life outside the door right now so he thinks instead about what Tony Stark tastes like, which is expensive cologne and more expensive alcohol, with an undercurrent of mint and a lot of tongue.
It's good that it's Tony for lots of reasons. Tony calls himself a playboy because he is and had spent some years, he told Steve once over bourbon, as little but. He is masterfully excellent in bed, a champion of indoor sports. He knows bodies the way he knows machines and mathematics and metals, and Steve's is a body that particularly fascinates him. Tony works him over with eyes and teeth and tongue and clever mouth like he's going to rebuild Steve from the ground up.
When he finally enters him Steve is more than ready and he takes all of Tony in on the first thrust. It drives the air from his lungs.
Tony slides into place with a groan and says, “God, you're tight. Why're you so tight? When did we last have you in bed?” His brows are knit together in contemplation as he rocks out and then in again. “What about Barton? I thought you two--”
Steve shakes his head, minutely, and he wraps his arms and legs around Tony and pushes up from under him to prove he can handle it. It's true it's been a while; a month or more since the last time with Tony and Bruce, and Thor, who called Steve his favorite shieldbrother, had left long before that. Clint is one of his best friends but they are only friends. If they had let their teammates draw other conclusions while Clint nursed a variety of complex emotions about Coulson and Natasha, what did it matter?
All it gets is Steve unexpectedly tight around Tony's cock and Tony doesn't mind that one bit, gripping Steve's hips and then his ass for greater purchase as he fucks him at just the right angle, sparking with every incursion. Steve hears himself grunting and asking for more, and more, and his ankles hook insistently around Tony's lower back to keep him anchored deep.
Tony draws Steve's wrists above his head and holds them there while he moves, and though Tony can't really keep him down if Steve flexes Steve appreciates the gesture. He likes being confined like this with Tony sliding in and out, finding and keeping a relentless rhythm. He closes his eyes and all he can feel is fucking and it's all that matters for a long time.
Tony thrusts to a explosive finish, and Tony can never keep quiet, his tone as heightened as his body. His head is back and his dark hair is tousled; Steve puts his hand up and feels the cut of Tony's beard under his fingertips.
“Good lord,” Tony breathes, coming as far into Steve as their bodies will allow, his teeth sharp against Steve's ear, “Christ. You're lucky I'm too old for you. If I'd met you ten years ago--”
But the thought drops off unfinished, and Tony is pulling himself out of Steve and sliding down Steve's body to swallow his straining cock without a pause between movements. Tony's suctioning mouth is hot and wet, and his tongue wickedly precise. His hand tightens around the base of Steve's cock, fisting the flesh his mouth can't reach.
Steve's eyes are round watching him do it and he fights his body's urge to rut. His hips go up only a little and Tony tips his head and swallows more of him down. “Tony,” Steve says, “yes yes yes,” and Tony sucks and licks and jerks at him and takes more cock. It's ridiculous how much he's taking, almost obscene the way Steve's girth stretches his lips and distends his cheek, but Tony is also smiling around him, and it feels so good Steve holds himself very still and Tony keeps on going.
Once he's swallowed more than should be anatomically feasible Tony starts to move on him, bobbing his head up and down, his hand insistent as his mouth. Steve stops struggling against the urge to move his body so he does, his hips making tiny circles, his cock pressing forward, so close.
Tony doesn't gag; Tony's tongue is flicking, and when his free hand cups Steve's balls and tugs with delicate pressure it's too much. Steve goes off in Tony's mouth with a growl for warning but Tony practically unhooks his jaw to pull him deeper and he comes halfway down Tony's throat making noise about it.
The noise Tony makes after he swallows and draws his head away is practically as satisfied. He drops next to Steve on the bed with a sigh and an indulgent sprawl.
It's hard to know what to say to something like that occurring so Steve says, “Thanks,” and he touches Tony's sweat-slicked shoulder.
Tony snorts. “Yeah, a lot of skin off my back, that. If JARVIS didn't get my best angle there's going to be hell to pay.”
“I mean it,” says Steve. They stare at the ceiling for a while, unhurried.
Tony says, “You don't have to stay away, Steve. You know you're always welcome here with us.” It's kindly said and offered, back to being the pair of them, Tony and Bruce. Welcoming, and so partnered it was as though they were bound by invisible steel.
“I know,” says Steve. It doesn't do to demur around Tony and he appreciates the open invitation more than he can say, even if he can't bring himself to take them up quite as much as he'd like. He can't help but feel intrusive even if they say otherwise, and there is no denying to Bruce's brilliant gaze that Steve's attention is primarily for Tony. It's better for all of them if he stays away.
He doesn't say that, though. He and Tony talk easily about mundane things, and Tony is an excitable story-teller; in the middle of a long twisty tale Steve falls asleep. He wakes up a few hours later according to the bedside clock and Tony is gone and it's quiet beyond the doorway. Steve resettles his pillow and tries unsuccessfully to turn off his brain.
He's still running mad circles in his mind when the door slides open and Bruce steps in. He's in dark blue boxers that look soft and a white t-shirt. His silvered hair is rumpled and his glasses are gone.
“Hi,” says Bruce. He leans against the doorjamb. His big eyes take in Steve's nearly naked state. “Thought you might be awake. Bad dreams?”
It's an intimate sort of question but the kind expected from Bruce, with only sympathy and no judgment on his face. Bruce looks like he knows enough about bad dreams.
Steve says, “Can't get there to tell.”
Bruce nods. “Will you come to bed? I've got Tony on anti-snoring meds.”
Steve grins despite himself. He thinks he should say no but then he wonders why. Better to pass a night next to his friends, protected and warm, then to be prone and alone and thinking too hard, making himself dizzy.
“Thanks,” Steve hears himself say. “Maybe I'll take you up on that.” He pushes the cover away, glad he'd slipped into his briefs as Bruce's eyes track him with thoughtful consideration across the room.
Bruce says, “I haven't seen Tony so happy in while. You gonna teach me your moves?”
Steve blinks back at him, and Bruce cracks a grin. “I'm teasing, Cap. But not about the first part. Why don't you visit us more often?” It's as generously offered as Tony's offer, Bruce's open handsome features calm and interested.
Steve has to turn his head away, shaking it. He doesn't know what to say. Finally he says, “Isn't the right time,” and Bruce looks at him and then puts his arm around Steve when he gets to the door.
They walk through the silent hallways like that. Tony and Bruce's bedroom is huge and the bed spans nearly a quarter of it, a solidly-built massive thing better made for an orgy or, Steve realizes abruptly, an inadvertent hulking-out. Tony is asleep at one end but he wakes up when they come in.
At Bruce's prompting Steve climbs into the bed and under the sheets, scooting over to the middle. Tony turns his head and smiles. “Hey,” he says sleepily, and then goes back to sleep.
Bruce turns off the light and slips in next to Steve. There's a beat, and then Steve feels Bruce's hands on his neck and shoulders, soothing and considerate in the dark, working some mystical hippie massage artist magic. Steve feels tightly bunched muscles starting to unlock under the steady touch. He hadn't realized how seized up he'd been.
He goes to sleep to Bruce rubbing circles into his back, next to Tony not snoring, and though his mind is overfull Steve sleeps without waking and without dreaming for the first time since the time before.