“He's a danger to wildlife” Bucky declares, showing up in the communal kitchen first thing in the morning, covered in blood and a dead pigeon clutched in his metal hand.
Steve shrugs and flips a pancake “Well, at least he's not a danger to human life anymore. It's progress.”
“Don't undermine wildlife, you insensitive fuel-burner.” Bucky says and, in a show of utter hypocrisy, throws the dead bird in the trash. “We have to give him something to do. I feel like he's about to get out of hand again out of sheer boredom.”
Steve frowns “You can feel it? Really? That's new”
Bucky hands him a piece of napkin, slightly spotted with blood and scribbled over with a blue pen, “I'm bored. Give me a mission or next time it's not going to be a pigeon.” Steve reads and scrunches up his nose. At least the note is in English. “Well, that's pretty straightforward, and you gotta give him credit, he wrote it in pen and not in pigeon blood.”
“Apparently it's not as easy as it sounds. There were at least dozen failed attempts scattered around my room. I think he got frustrated.”
Steve grins, obviously not taking the situation as seriously as he should, and motions for Bucky to get washed up for breakfast.
“What's up, buttercup?” Comes Tony's voice as he strides in, business suit on, the tie thrown over his shoulder and hair chaotically styled. He graciously waltzes around Bucky and steals a pancake from the plate Steve's been stacking them on.
“Well, aren't you unusually chirp for ass-crack in the morning?” Bucky asks, cleaning his hands. Damn blood, always so hard to wash off.
“Well, today's R&D meeting is with our green engine division. It's an experimental territory and I can't wait to see what my boys and girls came up with to show off to the boss.” He points at Bucky's hands “pigeon?”
“How did you know”
Tony snorts “Eeh… he dropped by last night. Gave me one too. Because you know, that's what any man needs to be charmed. – Fuck diamonds, dead birds are all the rage this year Valentine's. – Then proceeded to drag me over to a couch and sing to me until I pretended to fall asleep. Then stayed there staring until I fell asleep for real. See?” He leans into Bucky's space pointing under his eyes. “No bags.”
“He manhandled you?” Bucky dries his hands with a towel and then flops his palm over Tony's face to push him away. This is getting out of control. Winter's puppy-crush on Tony had been mostly innocent until now, just some longing staring from a distance and a number of inappropriate gifts left when Tony wasn't looking. But he never made contact so boldly before.
Well, it's not like it was the first time Winter refused to follow a pattern. Apparently he got some sort of twisted satisfaction from weirding people out with his behavior.
When Bucky first came to live in the tower there were quite a few precautions and a whole complicated alarm system in place for when Winter (as baptized by Clint) took over their body. They served their purpose well for the first couple of months, but Winter showed to be more than a mindless killer when he realized that:
1. There were no more missions or handlers.
2. If he wasn't being forceful towards other humans nobody hurt him.
3. If he didn't try to sneak around nobody restrained him.
4. His other identity was among friends and felt safe, which meant Winter, as inhabiting the same body, was safe from them too.
And after he injured his metal arm by, basically, being a dick to the elevator, Tony didn't even think twice (or hadn't had enough self-preservation instincts left after a two-day engineering binge) before pushing him into the couch and fixing it without causing any pain at all. Except that when he was finishing up he dropped the screwdriver and had to climb under the shelves to fetch it. After at least two minutes of staring at his – conveniently presented – hindquarters Winter came to his final realization.
5. Tony Stark; aka Iron Man, known enemy of his former handlers, was competent with technology, took into consideration Winter's comfort, and had a really cute butt that should be cherished and appreciated.
That was the first time he voluntarily made contact with Bucky. And it was a single paragraph in Russian entirely dedicated to the beauty of Tony's ass.
Bucky never replied.
In addition to his creepy stalking Winter would also watch a lot of British TV, glare and snarl at everybody, and sometimes harm gym equipment and furniture. He never spoke, but ate all the food in the fridge and then sat nearby, waiting for Clint to come in looking for the leftovers only to find them gone. He also sometimes wandered out of the tower and came back with food for himself or flowers/baked goods/lingerie that one time for Tony. The first time it happened everybody lost their shit, but they soon realized that the worst thing he did was leaving without paying. After a long scolding from Steve that accomplished absolutely nothing Tony gifted him with a credit card and made him promise to use it. Winter nodded and stuck by it.
So yeah, so far Winter hadn't been the most pleasant guy lo live with, but he wasn't near as destructive as everybody had expected him to be either.
Until, apparently, now.
“He needs a hobby or a job. Something to keep him entertained. The shrinks and doctors all say that I'm stuck with him for the rest of my life, and I can't keep worrying about waking up one day to find out he's done something horrible and assassin-like again.”
Tony rolls his eyes. “C'mon. He's actually quite sweet, I don't think you should be taking it so seriously. I can have a talk with him about the pigeons if you want, maybe get him into a sport to release all that murderous energy.”
Bucky huffs “You seem to be taking it quite well for someone whom he's been obsessively harassing. Also yeah, sorry for last night, and all that.”
Tony shrugs. “Why? You have a nice voice. I haven't slept that well in weeks. Besides” he adds with a leer “I don't mind the, how do you old people say it, wooing.”
“What if he goes too far?” Bucky protests “What if he gets too intrusive and tries to do something more?”
“Then I can stop him.” Tony turns to him with a frown. “I have plenty of means. Iron Man, remember? But he won't act on anything I'm not on board with anyway, so don't worry, I won't let him do something you're not comfortable with.”
“Me?!” Bucky raises his voice, incredulous “This is about you!”
“No” Tony rolls his eyes “I told you, I don't mind his interest. But it's your body too, so I'm not going to accept anything from him, since that would be a dick move, literally and figuratively, even if you are not conscious at the moment.”
“Sounds like you thought this over” Steve says, pushing a plate with pancakes and a fork into Tony's hands.
“I did. And consulted with the gal that gives the annual sexual harassment speech at SI. So don't worry, your virtue is safe with me.” He winks at Bucky and shoves a big piece of pancake into his mouth.
His phone beeps and he swears at it before gulping down the rest of his breakfast and, accepting a to-go coffee cup from Steve, running out the door.
Bucky's left staring at said door until Stevie brings him out of it by putting his own breakfast and coffee on the table in front of it.
“Did he just…?”
Steve shrugs. “Well, he never complained about Winter's affections, did he? And physically you're kinda his type.”
“What's his type?”
“Human, legal and breathing.”
“Very funny, Rogers.”
The little shit grins and suddenly Bucky has the dire feeling that he's not gonna like what's about to come out of that mouth.
“You should ask him out.”
“Oh c'mon, Buck.” Steve backs away a few inches as Bucky snarls at him. “He's not that bad, and what other options do you have?”
Bucky keeps glaring and Steve sighs, his whole demeanor shifting into something more serious.
“Look, you said it yourself. What the USSR and HYDRA did to you caused this disassociation inside your head. Winter's here to stay and, unless you want to spend the rest of your life picking up one-night stands and hoping for the best, whoever you date must not only be able to deal with Winter emotionally but also be safe from him physically. I'm not saying you won't be able to find someone who won't mind him and whom he'll learn to like in due time, but it won't be easy, and the chances are too slim for you to cling to that possibility when you've already got someone in your immediate circle that's just perfect. Plus, there's also a matter of trustworthiness. We live a life where any bystander or waiter could be a spy or a saboteur or a triple agent, never mind any potential significant other. At least with Tony you know he is exactly who he says he is and you can trust him to have your back, heck, you do, every time we're in the field.”
Bucky rolls his eyes to hide how uncomfortably close to home Steve's words hit.
“Sorry to interrupt that Best Man speech you're already rehearsing in your head, pal, but you're aware that you're basically saying I should settle for convenience so I don't end up old, sad and alone, right?”
“I didn't say that. I said that if you're gonna fall for someone – Tony's your best option.”
“I don't want a best option, Steve. It doesn't work like that. You don't see a person and say “they are convenient for my future, I'm gonna love them now”, push a button in your brain and then boom! In love. Ready to have a life together, a middle sized dog and two-point-five kids. That shit ain't real.”
Steve throws his hands in the air in frustration. “I didn't say you should settle for him, or marry him or whatever you think I said. I just mean that you should consider him as an option instead of discarding him automatically just because Winter likes him. You two – well, three – could be really good together.”
“I'm not discarding him because Winter likes him, if anything that's the only thing he's got going in his favor. I'm discarding him because I do not like him. And what's equally important – he doesn't like me either.”
“He just said he does like you!”
“No. He said he wouldn't mind having sex with Winter. Which, considering the extent of their interactions basically means that he's wrapped up in a decent-looking package and Stark would hump anything with a leg. Hardly boyfriend material if you ask me.”
Steve looks at him disapprovingly and Bucky just shrugs. It's not like he has anything against Stark. The guy opened his home for him, pays for his food and fixes his arm. He's grateful and a little bit baffled by his generosity. But Tony's also obnoxious, loud, always a blur of motion and practically vibrating with restless energy. On top of that he's got that weird balance-thing going on between narcissism and utter self-loathing. And okay, yeah, Bucky's got a garden full of issues, but Tony's issues have issues that in turn have secret warehouses full of gold-covered mini issues. And despite Tony's claims that everything's ran by mathematical laws, Bucky's not delusional enough to believe that their issues would automatically cancel each other.
No, there's no way they would ever be a good match, no matter how much Steve wants to believe otherwise.
“You're awfully invested in this.” He comments when Steve looks like he's about to start on a tirade about how Bucky's not giving Tony enough credit, probably. “I get that you're happy and newly in love and think everyone should always feel that way, but why Stark in particular? I'm sure you could recruit Natasha and between the two of you you'd be able to come up with a long list of potential candidates by the end of the week. So why him?”
Steve hides half his face behind his giant “momma duck” mug (Clint's gift).
“Because you may be his best option too. He's a good guy and he deserves someone able to appreciate good things, even if they are damaged.”
Bucky frowns. “I don't think so. What he needs is someone stable and competent to handle him, patient too.”
“He's got Pepper for that.” Steve shakes his head. “And there's a reason why they didn't work out. Tony Is a grown up man. He doesn't need a nanny or a shrink, he needs someone who'll understand. He isn't going to miraculously get better if his partner holds him through his bad days, on the contrary, he'll spend so much time worrying that he's burdening them too much and will eventually drive them away. No, what he needs is someone as burdened as he is. And so do you, don't make hat face I'm being frank here, you never give me enough credit but I never had any trouble seeing the truth and calculating the odds, I just choose to ignore them half the time and take the risk. But in this case I'm fairly sure, if you don't want to date him, I think that at least it would do you both some good to be closer as friends.”
Bucky swallows uncomfortably and fakes a leer. “Sure it all isn't because you want us to leave you alone so you can spend more time with Wilson?” Eyebrow waggle, eyebrow waggle.
“You got me, I'm trying to get rid of both of you to get laid. From now on you are only gonna see me on double dates.” Steve answers, dry as the Sahara desert. If only all those young SHIELD agents new about how sassy and bitchy their idolized Captain America could be…
He drops it quickly tho, sighing and standing up to collect the plates. He bends down to kiss Bucky's forehead on his way to the sink and smiles wobbly at him. “Just promise you'll consider it, okay?”
Bucky rolls his eyes but nods.
Whatever, it's not like he has anything better to do.
“Steve is making me ask you out on a date.” What? He never promised he would put any effort into it!
Tony looks up from where he's hunched over a piece of circuitry, enormous goggles with three lens levels covering most of his face. He looks like one of these cartoon mole-men in kid's movies and Bucky has to suppress a laugh.
“I've gotta say Barnes, you are a true master of the act of seduction. This even tops the dead pigeon, don't tell your evil twin.” And then “Do you even want to go out with me?”
Bucky shrugs. “Not really. It's nothing personal, I just don't like you like that.”
Tony doesn't answer for a while, focused again on the piece of tech on his table. “Okay,” he says after a while “So tell Cap I said no and we're done with it. Your loss, tho.”
“My?… wait, do you want to go out with me?”
Tony shoves his glasses off his face and onto his mussed hair, giving himself a sort of crazy-scientist air. “Want is a strong word, wouldn't mind is probably more accurate.”
Bucky stares at him. “This is not how these things worked in my day.”
“True” Tony cocks an eyebrow “Back in your day you could be arrested for even thinking about asking me out. I'd say change is not always bad.”
“It's not always good either.”
“It is, actually. Bad changes don't stick for long, they prove to be inconvenient and in need to be corrected. Therefore they are good for figuring out the wrong way and re-direct the course towards an improvement. Depends of the scale it may take two hours or ten generations, but at the end the only thing that's bad is getting stuck in one point, unchanging forever. Populations that don't change and don't adapt quickly become obsolete and die out. It's the first law of nature.”
“Adapt or die, huh?” Bucky mutters, crossing his arms over his chest. He can't say that he agrees but… he glances at his metal hand distractedly “Spoken like a true futurist.”
“That I am.” Tony smirks. And then “Hey, Barnes!”
“You want to go to dinner tonight?”
Bucky huffs and shakes his head “I told you, I don't see you that way.”
“Well,” Tony winks “Give it a try. Who knows, you may even change your mind.”
And that's a challenge if Bucky's ever heard of one. He thinks about it for a moment, sweeps a quick glance over Tony's figure, from his shapely thighs to his mussed hair, and finally gives a shrug.
“Show me what you've got, Stark.”
Two hours later Bucky's regretting his decision.
“This is what you're gonna wear?!” Steve flails his arms around as he bulldozers into Bucky's room, a determined Sam at his tail.
“What's wrong with this?” Bucky looks down at himself and tugs at his black, nondescript shirt. “It's what I wear everyday”
“Exactly! You need to put a little effort into it!”
“But not too much” Sam cheeps in, “or you'll look desperate”
“I'm not desperate. He knows I'm not. The only reason he are going out is because he dared me to and he's taking me out for burgers.” Bucky explains, trying to pry Sam away from his closet. “Stop it.” He yanks his shirts out of Sam's hands.
“Dude, why do you only own black stuff? You're pastry white, start wearing some color or you'll end up looking like a chess board.”
“He never had any instinct for color combination. Please Buck, tell me you're at least gonna wear that leather jacket Tony gave you for your birthday. It'll make his possessive instincts flare up if he sees you in something he bought for you.”
“That's it!” Bucky snaps “Out of my room you two. Now!”
Sam looks at him with one sassy eyebrow cocked up and pity in his eyes. “Don't you even think about that, young man. We're investing a lot in you two. Steve, fetch him your medium blue button up, and my cologne. I'm gonna try to do something with that wet mop that he calls hair.”
“You barely have hair on your own!!”
“Why do you smell like Sam?” Is the first thing that Tony says to him as soon as he gets out of the elevator. Tony's wearing the same thing he was wearing earlier in his workshop, except that he changed his gray band t-shirt for a black band t-shirt. Meanwhile Bucky feels like he's been ran over by the fashion police arrest van.
“Can you do something about Steve and Sam's Project Runway addiction, please? It's starting to get out of hand.”
Tony shrugs. “Believe it or not this is better than the first two years, when Cap would only wear plaid shirts and grandpa khakis.” He walks them towards one of his most discreet cars. It looks like an average Audi, but somehow Bucky's willing to bet it cost more than his childhood apartment and all the food he ate in his life rolled into one. “That was a fashion crime on two legs.”
“Yeah, well. You didn't get anyone breaking into hysterics over your clothing choices an hour ago.”
“Natasha saw me and ordered me to take a shower. Does that count?” Now that he mentions it, Bucky notices he smells of shampoo, rather than a full day in the workshop. Still, no point of comparison.
He gets in the passenger seat and they spend the drive discussing their friends and how TV shows impact their lives. Apparently, Clint went through a Top Chef phase not long before Bucky moved in and almost burnt down the entire tower trying to make cheese on fire.
Natasha really likes Brooklyn Nine Nine, she feels a kinship with Rosa, and Bruce is a National Geographic kind of man.
“I tell you” Tony's saying as he pulls in front of the diner. “The History Channel did this thing where they advocated for the fifth of December to become the international alien day. So they put up a special programming; 24 hours of aliens. As opposed to the usual 14 hours of aliens. Which is only because the rest of the time it's Nazis. And sometimes they like to really pamper their audience and they give them aliens and Nazis. At the same time. It's an absolute hit.”
“I know. I saw one of these. They were trying to prove that Steve and the Red Skull were both members of eternally battling alien races. Also that Cap had me and the Commandos mind-controlled to follow his orders and keep quiet about his alien powers.”
They keep talking through dinner, even as the waitress brings their burgers and wow, not a date meal for sure, but damn those babies look able to feed a whole village.
“Damn” Bucky whistles, lifting the top, which is so wide he can barely fit it in his hand. “Keep feeding me these and I may even change my mind, alright?”
Tony grins and the corners of his eyes crinkle. He looks relaxed, Bucky notices, but his body language is casual and a little sloppy. He ends up with ketchup on his fingers and licks it off, not seductively but like one does when they are alone at home, nose scrunching up and too much tongue, instantly looking around to make sure nobody saw it. He's not acting like he does when he brings women home, not playing up his charm and natural grace. And that, more then anything, puts Bucky at ease. Looks like Tony isn't very interested in making it a romantic date either, but he's having fun, and so does Bucky. Steve was right at least in one thing. Maybe they could be better friends.
“So, what now?” He asks when the last piece of his burger is well settled in his stomach.
Tony looks up from his own plate and grins. “And now – we have some real fun.”
“So… this is awkward.”
Bucky wants to die. He genuinely wants to die. His head hurts like it's trying to jump off his neck and roll into the sunset, his throat's dry and sore and there's a weird, abrasive sensation over his tailbone.
Also, he's lying naked in bed. Tony Stark's bed. With the man in question equally naked and also staring at the ceiling of his bedroom, just besides Bucky.
“Yes it is. Also em… your hair is pink.”
Bucky grunts and pulls at a stand from his head, grunting again as his traitorous eyes confirm Tony's words.
“What the hell happened?!”
“Tequila. And then that weird Chinese concoction with a white snake. How much do you remember?”
“Too much.” His fuzzy memories are starting to sort themselves, making it clear that it was him who lived one of the craziest nights of his life. “How much will it cost me if you tell everyone it was Winter?”
“I don't think he'll be thrilled if I do. Specially once he looks in the mirror.”
“He won't do anything to you. Well, unless he takes this” he waves a hand around, indicating their position. “as blanket permission.”
“You said the same when you asked me out.”
Tony looks like he's about to protest further but as he tries to shift upwards his face contorts in a grimace. He blinks, surprised and then his face goes pale.
“No, no no no, no no, no... I'm way too old for pulling this shit while drunk.” He trows the covers out of the way and turns his back to Bucky, jumping on his toes. “Please tell me I've got a rush or something.”
“Get your ass off my… oh, this is bad.”
Because right on the small of his back, over an – admittedly cute – rack, he's got a red star with Bucky's initials in it. Under the J.B.B is a W between parenthesis. Bucky doesn't know if he should laugh or cry, except that his own lower back itches more now and he has the vague recall of laying on a table and holding Tony's hands and telling someone that he's sure… Fuck.
He sits up too and turns around. Tony picks up the clue and looks down, giggling almost maniacally. “Oh my god it's the Iron Man helmet. You've got a tramp stamp of my helmet.”
“Shut up! You aren't any better.”
“Don't yell, my head is killing me. And at least my hair is the same color it was yesterday.”
They sit on the bed looking at each other. It hurts to use his brain mass but Bucky still wonders how they fuck did he think yesterday that any of that madness was a good idea. He remembers the first few drinks, and then going to another bar, laughing, they were having fun, and then… oh, and this he remembers well, him thinking that he feels more at ease with Tony than with anyone else these days, and how Tony doesn't care about his identity problems, and how Tony's eyes sparkle when he laughs, his pretty mouth so inviting... Bucky had taken the lichee cut from the plate that came with their snake liquor shots and offered it to Tony, holding it between his own teeth. Tony giggled and took it from him, spitting it out and kissing him. They spent the rest of the night making out like teenagers, constantly touching and groping each other as they sauntered from bar to bar. Until Tony pulled him out into an alley and sucked him against a wall. After that Bucky only remembers the highly questionable tattoo parlor, more making out in the taxi, and finally coming back and humping Tony until they both came, between sweet promises and more kisses.
Bucky's pretty sure he still doesn't like Tony that way, but his traitorous dick twitches at the memory. Except that then he opens his eyes and okay, yeah, naked Tony is not a bad sight at all. He maaaaaybe can get why drunken him might have thought sex with the guy might not be that bad of an idea.
Still, that doesn't explain the pink hair.
“I need to fix this before anyone sees it.” He tugs at it again. “Or Steve's never letting me live it down.”
Tony nods “Jarvis, take pictures-”
“Wait NO YOU ASSHOLE!-”
“- and order Buckster a couple of bottles of hair-dye that looks most similar to his natural color.”
Bucky glares mistrustfully and crosses his arms over his chest. Which, considering he's still buck naked, must present quite a picture, because Tony' eyebrows shot up and the tips of his ears go darker.
“Well, as sexy as this is, you won't dissuade me. Now I'm the only one who knows your secret, so I, James Barnes, owe your ass. I have these pictures and the surveillance videos. I don't know when or why, but I'll use them if I need to.”
“Are you blackmailing me?”
“I prefer 'exchange of future favors for the gift of discretion'. Blackmail is too ugly of a word.”
“Your face is ugly” Bucky, very maturely, snarls back.
Tony looks way too gleeful for somebody with a killer hungover. “You seemed quite fond of my gorgeous face last night.”
“I'll let you know the only reason I'm putting up with you right now is 'coz I need your help to dye my hair back.”
Tony shrugs. “Well, it could be worse.”
Tony lifts the corner of a bed sheet, twisted over Bucky's lap, and tugs at one of the curly hairs over Bucky's pubic region. “You could have gotten a dye-job here too.”
Bucky swats his hand away and covers himself up again. “Or we could have gotten tattoos of each other's superhero signs- Oh! Wait!”
“Fair point” Tony grins. “I'll make an appointment somewhere discreet to have them removed.”
“At least they're in intimate places, so nobody's gotta know 'bout them. Now, as long as nobody sees me before my hair is fixed we can put this whole mess behind us and pretend like nothing happened.”
And of course, of course, that's when the Avenger's alarm goes off.