Tony Stark is the most manic superhero on the planet, and Bucky Barnes is the idiot who let him have a go at his bionic arm. In his defence, Steve had said Tony was the best there is at basically everything except people, and Bucky had trusted Steve.
In retrospect, trusting Steve has led to Bucky jumping into burning buildings so clearly that isn’t one of Bucky’s smarter decisions in life. Still. Bucky wants to stress that this is all one hundred percent, absolutely and forever, Steve’s fault. Steve’s the whole reason that Bucky’s arm is vibrating and Tony’s working away on removing it from the human being attached to it. Tony’s built a new arm and wants Bucky to try it on for size.
They’re currently inside the New Avengers Training Facility. In Tony’s personal lab, to be specific. Tony only visits the facility over the weekend, but that’s enough time to warrant a private lab. He may not be an Avenger anymore — a fact that Bucky knows Steve hates — but that doesn’t stop him from throwing money at the Avengers Initiative. Steve didn’t have to tell Bucky that, any idiot could figure that part out, amnesiac or not.
Bucky only came home — home being Steve— a few months ago, but that’s still twelve weekends of working with Tony in the lab. Twelve weeks of watching Tony build and build and build, and sometimes accept Natasha’s offer to come to movie nights. For the most part, Tony makes wondrous things for everyone on the team, and then hides away in his lab until it’s time for him to leave. Bucky may be new but he’s not unobservant.
Tony Stark is a lonely man with a gigantic heart.
Tony is a man who is used to people wanting to spend time with him for his money, but not just to spend time with him. It’s obvious in the surprise that he’d quickly masked on his face the first time Natasha had asked him to come up for movie night. Bucky knows how that feels. He was equally surprised the first time that the Avengers had invited him too. That had been the first step from being just Steve’s boyfriend to becoming their friend.
And it’s the memory of that shared feeling that makes it so easy for Bucky to open up. It’s why Tony knows about the first time Bucky kissed Steve — ironically in a closet while hiding from Rikki and his cousins. It’s why Tony’s the only one who knows that Bucky remembers teaching a little red-headed girl by the name of Natalia. He doesn’t know why, but after a while, Tony opens up, too. When Bucky had told him about his mother, Tony had told him about his butler, Edwin Jarvis. When that had triggered the memory of a car wreck and Howard and Maria, it was Tony who’d laid Bucky in his lap and ran fingers through his hair until he stopped sobbing and apologising.
The point being: Tony.
Tony is a maniac, and Bucky doesn’t actually regret asking for help with the damaged arm, except for the fact that Bucky knows Tony loses sleep working on ideas for it. He’d feel worse if it weren’t for the fact that if Tony weren’t working on the arm, he’d be designing new wings for Sam or weapons for Natasha. Tony’s method of showing that he cares is by designing new things to keep them safe. And despite his eccentricities, the truth of the matter is that Bucky is glad to call Tony his friend.
“Are you staying the night? The snow’s coming down pretty hard,” Bucky says. It’s Christmas Eve; Bucky and Steve had been hoping for snow. They’d even considered calling Thor back to make some weather magic. Well, Natasha had — Steve had shot down the idea despite the look on his face suggesting he’d been considering the same thing. It’s Vision’s first Christmas, and they want it to be perfect. They’d invited Tony to stay, but he’d declined. Steve had still put presents labelled ‘Tony’ under the tree.
Steve’s optimistic, and Bucky doesn’t like to deny him things. Even the little things.
“No, I’ve got the suit, I can leave the car and fly back,” Tony replies. He doesn’t say home. He hasn’t called the Tower home since the amicable if highly-publicized break-up with Pepper, who’s been running Stark Industries from Miami for the last three months.
“Or you could stay. That invitation is still valid. It’s Christmas, Tony. You should be here, with us.”
“I’m an atheist and Christmas was never a big thing in the Stark house. Here we go,” Tony says, finally pulling the arm out of the socket. “Jesus, that’s heavy. Alright let’s dump this Neolithic piece of crap in the garbage and never speak of it again.”
Automatically, Bucky looks at what’s left of his arm. He rolls his shoulders and it pops multiple times. He’s not sure how to react to this. According to his records, Hydra has removed the arm from repair multiple times. Bucky doesn’t remember the exact events, but he remembers the pain. Tony had made sure to use an anaesthetic first. Unfortunately thanks to Hydra’s version of super serum, the anaesthetic was already wearing off.
“Oh that’s gross, do you have to do that?” Tony asks with a grimace. Bucky replies by cracking his spine. Tony rolls his eyes.
“Alright, where’s the new one?” Bucky asks. It’s easier to move forward than think about his body.
“Whoa, hold on a second,” Tony brings a gentle palm up against the vestigial arm. Electricity runs through Bucky in a way that only happens when Steve touches him. “This is inflamed. You’ve had this arm on for months now, the skin-to-prosthetic barrier is going to get infected or inflamed from the constant friction.”
“I’ve never had that problem before.”
“You’ve never been out of the ice long enough for it to become a problem. I’m speaking from experience here, old man.” Tony’s rubbing soothing circles into the scarred skin. He doesn’t look away from the ugly mess. Even Steve had looked away the first time. Tony doesn’t give a shit about scars.
“What do you mean?”
To Bucky’s dismay, Tony pulls away. Bucky hates how much he craves being touched. Tony turns away from him, beginning to disinfect his equipment. “You didn’t know me then, but I used to have an arc reactor in my chest, it used to get infections all the time. It’s the metal to skin connection; the barrier can be breached without proper care. And proper care was kind of impossible when I couldn’t take it out of my chest.”
Tony says that like it’s a joke, yet it does nothing to stop Bucky from frowning. “All the time? Tony—”
“I was fine, look it’s not a problem I have anymore, will you stop mother henning? Steve might like it, I don’t. Then again, he gets sex as reward so—“
“He hates it,” Bucky says absent-mindedly, more worried about Tony. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, promise. But you’re going to get an infection and it’s not fun. Super serum or not. So give it a break, yeah? Doctor’s orders.”
“You’re not a doctor, Tony.”
“Sure I am,” Tony’s grinning now, and Bucky can’t help but do the same. He really is a charmer, that one.
“The hell you are. Mechanical engineering doesn’t count.”
“Sure it does!” He waves his arms around the lab space. “This is my doctor’s office, and you’re my patient. And if you want a new arm, a work of mechanical engineering, you’re giving it a break. I’ll come back on Sunday.”
Steve and Tony are always fighting for the gold medal in stubbornness, but Bucky’s good at dealing with stubborn people. Bucky’s had years of working against that stubbornness, of finding one loophole or the other to have Steve get his cough checked out with the last of Bucky’s salary rather than buy a winter coat for himself. “How about a deal? I’ll stay without the prosthetic until Sunday, and you’ll stay here until then.”
“Or I could just refuse to do it until then and go home.”
“And I could try to force my old arm back in. I did just see how you removed it.”
Tony looks genuinely affronted at that. “You would not! That obscenity is a personal offense to… to science!”
Bucky refrains from rolling his eyes. “So you gonna stay or what?”
“Well, you’re not exactly giving me a choice here, are you?” Tony wheels away.
“Nope,” Bucky replies while pulling on his full-sleeved shirt.
They’re settled in the common living room, watching Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Bucky doesn’t understand why the first movie is titled episode four, but before he can ask for an explanation, Steve walks in. “So you’re staying then?” Steve asks Tony, from behind the couch.
“Under duress. Your boyfriend’s a dick.”
“Aww, but you love him anyway,” Steve presses his hand up against Bucky’s jaw and nudges his head up. Bucky obeys and lets Steve direct him until their lips touch. He melts into the kiss even as Tony grumbles a ‘no, that’s you. I hate him’. Steve laughs into the kiss, pulling away before coming back to steal one more kiss. Bucky lets him, and Steve runs his arms down Bucky’s shoulders, stopping when the hand reaches the point where the arm ends. A pause. “Everything good, Buck?”
Steve’s worried. It’s their code, for when Steve wants to know how Bucky’s doing mentally.
“No, I’m hungry. Feed me.”
“Okay, you’re fine.” Steve pulls away with exasperated amusement, walking off towards the kitchen. “By the way, Darth Vader is L—“
“Don’t you FUCKING dare, Steven! Go make him a sandwich!” Tony shouts over Steve’s laughter.
Bucky turns to look at Tony in bewilderment. “What the hell?”
“Star Wars is as close to a religion as I could ever have, he has no right to spoil it. What if you knew that Jesus was going to die before you ever read the Bible?”
Bucky laughs at that. “Tony, I learned that in Sunday School long before I could read.”
“Boring. Now pay attention, that’s a Death Star. They have a habit of popping up at the worst moments…”
After dinner — which is awkward because Tony and Wanda haven’t really found their footing yet —Tony disappears into his personal suite. Bucky can see the gears in Steve’s brain turn as he wonders whether he should go after Tony or not. Their crushes on each other are more obvious than the red and gold of the Iron Man armour.
But that’s a problem for another day. For now, Bucky is happy to drag Steve into their apartment. “Shower?” Steve asks and Bucky shakes his head. He’ll have an arm again in two days. He can manage not to show it to Steve until then. Somehow. It’s winter. Maybe he can get away with wearing full sleeves. “Everything good?”
Bucky hesitates for just a little too long before saying yes; of course Steve notices. “Bucky.”
They’ve been working on honesty. Not because Bucky lies to Steve, but because Bucky prefers not to whine to Steve about every time something isn’t perfect. Steve would rather know everything, the good and the bad. Still, Bucky can’t face Steve when he says, “I don’t want you to see the arm.”
Steve sighs and comes closer, wrapping his arms around Bucky’s waist. “Buck. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. You know that right?” Bucky presses his face into the hollow of Steve’s throat, and nods. “Can I ask why?”
“You won’t like it. It’s ugly.” God, he sounds so vain, but in the end, Steve’s always been beautiful, skinny or not, and now Bucky’s this deformed thing that Steve’s stuck with loving. Bucky doesn’t know if he could handle Steve being repulsed. At least with the metal arm, that wasn’t a problem. Those early days, he’d been afraid of the damage he could cause Steve, but Tony had disabled its weapon capabilities. And whatever else the case, Steve loves the arm, loves holding that hand, loves having those fingers press inside of him. But this… this is what Bucky really is and he’s not sure if it’s enough.
Steve takes in a short breath and then holds him tighter. “Bucky, it’s a part of you. That means I love it. Period.”
Steve’s hand comes up to run circles against his skin, and it’s the same as with Tony; Bucky melts into him. The truth of the matter is that Steve is everything. He can have everything Bucky has to give. Bucky just needs to remind himself that Steve can be trusted with all that he is. “I think I’d like that shower now.”
They only let go for long enough to undress and step into the shower. Bucky reaches for Steve with the one hand available to him, and Steve embraces him, holding him tight under the soothing water. The shower and Steve’s presence lulls him, and he’s nearly asleep against the crook of Steve’s neck when Steve thrusts ever so carefully against him.
Soon enough, Steve is pressing annoyingly slowly into him, all the while peppering kisses down his left shoulder. Bucky pants and begs Steve to hurry, but he keeps his pace, taking his time to prove to Bucky with his hands and lips that he doesn’t care. Steve kisses the ugly thing like he always kisses Bucky’s skin — reverently.
Afterwards, they lie in bed, Steve spooning Bucky from behind. “I love you ‘til the end of the line, Buck.”
“’til the end of the line.”
Christmas morning comes too fast. Bucky’s been awake for hours, safe and sound in Steve’s arms. But the sun rises and the fresh snow is bright and sparkling and it awakens Steve. Neither of them are ready to unravel themselves, so they remain just so, with Steve’s fingers tangled in Bucky’s hair.
Hours pass, for all they know. And then Steve laughs silently. His chest vibrates and it echoes through Bucky, who looks up at Steve. “What?”
Steve looks down with a smile on his face. “Bet you a dime Tony’s still in the lab.”
Bucky grins back. “Cheapskate. What’s a dime worth in this century?”
“You’re sweet on him,” Bucky says, and Steve tenses. But Bucky pulls up and presses a reassuring kiss to Steve’s still lips, coaxing them open and licking into his mouth. “It’s okay. You’re the possessive one here, not me, punk.”
“Damn right,” Steve replies, flipping them over and kissing Bucky until Bucky knows exactly whom he belongs to.
Tony is actually in the kitchen, tapping his feet by the coffee machine as it filters water into the most sacred thing in Tony’s life.
“You owe me a dime, pal,” Bucky tells Steve as he walks into the kitchen, reaching for two fresh mugs. Tony doesn’t register their presence, but he hasn’t had any coffee clearly, so that’s understandable. Bucky watches in amusement as Tony pours himself a full mug of thick, sludgy coffee, and then puts the carafe back in its place. Bucky reaches for it but Tony holds on to the carafe even as he downs the hot liquid in one go, and then refills the mug.
And that must be when Tony finally realizes he’s not the only one in the room. “Oh. Morning.”
“Merry Christmas, Tony,” Steve replies, placing his arm on Tony’s shoulder.
“Did you get any sleep last night?” Bucky asks as he pours coffee for himself and Steve.
“I had an idea for reducing reactor size without reducing the power output. It’s awesome.”
“So that’s a no, then.” Bucky follows as Steve guides Tony towards the living room.
“Yes, take me to your leader,” Tony says, laughing. “Oh wait, you’re the leader. Where are you taking me?”
“To the couch. It’s early. Rest. Bucky and I will get started on breakfast.”
“I need my tablet.” Tony makes grabby hands, and no one is ever going to find out how adorable Bucky finds that to be.
“You can have your tablet or coffee.” Oh, Steve is good. Tony clutches the coffee and settles back on the couch.
Soon enough, they have sizable platters of bacon and pancakes and scrambled eggs. When Bucky returns to the living room, he finds the others lounging on the various couches. The massive ground floor living space opens up to a snow-covered porch, and it’s bright as hell, but most of the Avengers are sleeping despite it. Rhodey naps beside Tony, who’s talking away, likely not having even noticed that Rhodey’s fallen asleep. Bucky nearly hands the mug to Tony before remembering not to hand him things. Instead he sets it on the coffee table in front of Tony, who quietens and reaches for the coffee.
“I used to make snow angels with Rikki,” Bucky says in a soft voice, coming to sit at Tony’s other side.
Tony turns to look at him in confusion. “What’s a snow angel?”
Bucky snorts. “Funny.”
“No, seriously. What’s a snow angel? Like a snowman? But an angel?”
Bucky stares at Tony. Tony’s not like Steve or him; he hasn’t woken up after seventy years on ice and missed life. But he’s missing things all the same and it leaves Bucky aching to his bones, makes him feel his age. “Let’s go.”
Bucky stands up and holds his hand out and Tony, still looking rather confused, takes it. “Okay. Wait-what?”
“Go get your shoes.”
“Come on, genius. Shoes? They go on your feet and protect you from shit like frostbite? You got a pair? Put ‘em on!”
“Calm your tits, old man,” Tony grumbles but follows him to the hallway closet to pull out a pair of loafers that look ridiculously expensive. Oh well, it’s not like Tony doesn’t own enough shoes. Bucky takes out his fleece jacket, pulling the empty sleeve over his shoulder. Then takes a look at the wool coat that Tony’s about to wear.
“Oh hell no, take that off,” Bucky says, reaching for Steve’s fleece jacket. Nothing happens. He turns back to look for it and realizes. Right. No left arm. He tries again and then hands the jacket to Tony. “That’s going to be useless in the snow. Wear this instead.”
“It’s red and blue.”
“Yes it is. Now wear it.”
“What the hell are we even doing?” Tony asks, accepting the gloves that Bucky hands over to him. “These are purple.”
“Yeah, I think Clint left them behind. Now wear them,” Bucky orders. Tony rolls his eyes and obeys before leaning forward to reach for Bucky’s jacket. Then he pulls back. And it’s so Tony, desperately pretending he doesn’t notice anyone’s need but his own, but being so considerate as not to make Bucky feel awkward about the whole fucked-up situation. So Bucky takes the first step, throwing up an overly embarrassed expression up as a shield before asking like a girl on her prom night, “Can you zip me up?”
Tony smirks at that. “I’m not sure if I understand the mechanism, I’m actually a lot better at unzipping things. Dresses, jeans—”
“Stop flirting with Steve’s boyfriend, Tony,” Natasha breezily interrupts, walking out of the hallway and into the living room with a knowing smile. When Bucky looks back at Tony, his face is one Bucky’s never seen directed at him before. Tony throws a media-smile at him and reaches over to zip up the jacket.
“Now you’re going to tell me what your ingenious plan is?”
“It’s a lesson.”
“In what? And I swear to the Force if you say patience, I will block your access to the training rooms.”
“In fun, moron,” Bucky says, and grabs him by the wrist to lead him towards the living room.
“Okay then, Jack Frost,” Tony replies, but allows Bucky to drag him back. Now there’s a reference Bucky understands.
Natasha watches them lazily from her spot beside Rhodey. Bucky pays her no mind and opens the glass doors. They open with a gush of fresh, biting air. The air is vibrant and moving, and Bucky is happy for a kind of cold that he can love. Tony follows him to a large patch of untouched snow, and then Bucky stops.
It’s hard to demonstrate snow angels without two arms to make two wings. An angel with only one wing is a falling angel, and an angel that’s fallen… Bucky decides he hates that comparison and focuses on Tony, who’s shoved his gloved hands into his pockets.
“What are we doing, Sergeant Barnes?”
“We are not doing anything,” Bucky says. “I’m the teacher. You do what I tell you to. And right now I’m telling you to lie down on your back.” And before Tony can give him a dirty answer about moving too fast, Bucky adds, “The coffee was foreplay. Now come on and do as I say.”
Tony bites his lip, obviously trying not to laugh, and then looks at him apprehensively. “This doesn’t look like fun. In fact it sounds like pain. Like highly unnecessary pain.”
“Just give it a try,” Bucky says. “I promise. It’s fun.”
“Then why aren’t you doing it with me?”
“Because you need two arms to make snow angels.”
Tony tilts his head to stare at him and it’s a little odd, until Bucky remembers that Vision is often seen making that very same expression.
“I’m not acting like a fool in full view of those dweebs,” Tony waves his hand erratically in the direction of the living room, despite the fact that Bucky can’t see in through the tinted glass, “they have enough ammunition on me as is.”
“Yes, we do!” Rhodey voice reaches them a moment before the snowball hits Tony right in the shoulder.
Soon, it’s a free-for-all with all the Avengers except for Steve and Vision. Natasha decides to have mercy and join Tony and Bucky, leaving them fighting Rhodey, Wanda and Sam. Natasha’s aim is great, which is a blessing because Bucky has always been left-handed and half his throws miss because his right hand is living in a different time zone from him. Tony’s accuracy seems to depend on whether he has an artificial intelligence doing the calculations for him or not. Which, at the moment, he obviously doesn’t.
When it’s over and they’ve lost horribly and embarrassingly, the winners and losers all lie down on the snow-covered ground in a scatter.
“Well, you took the long way around, but you certainly managed to get me on my back,” Tony gasps out, still recovering from the snowball to the gut thanks to Rhodey. Bucky turns his head to look at him and catches a glimpse of warm eyes between the scarf, hat and snow. “So how do I make this snow angel thing?”
“Well you just move your arms up and down and your legs side to side,” Bucky instructs, automatically showing him how.
Bucky hears rather than sees the movement of limbs and snow. It’s when Bucky stands up that Bucky remembers, and suddenly an awfully inaccurate facsimile of his angel meets him. Tony pulls himself up and stands by his perfect angel. It’s Tony who finally speaks.
“That is the laziest looking angel that I have ever seen. And you’re a shitty ass teacher.”
Bucky can’t help laughing at that. Suddenly there are tears in his eyes and he’s not sure if he’s sad or happy, so very happy for the fact that this ridiculous man exists.
“Let me see,” Natasha nudges him out of the way and peers down. Bucky laughs again and moves. “Yep. Tony’s right.”
And with that she walks back towards the patio entrance where Vision is sitting, having watched the whole thing unfold in amused curiosity. The others follow her in, but Bucky ignores them in favour of pushing Tony back in the snow. He may only have one arm, but it’s enough to keep him down, surrounded by a halo of powdery snow. Tony smirks at him, egging him to pay back in double, but his beard is dusted with snow and Bucky wants to kiss it until it melts.
“Guys?” Steve’s voice drifts out the open patio doors. “Where are you? Bucky?”
Tony pushes him, hard, and Bucky lands on his butt as Tony jumps back up.
“He’s making lazy snow angels,” Tony calls out.
“What?” Steve asks, standing at the threshold.
“Lazy. Snow. Angels,” Tony replies, walking towards Steve.
“Guy makes one single snow angel and suddenly he’s an expert,” Bucky grumbles, following Tony into the now empty living room. The others are already causing havoc in kitchen.
“You don’t fool me, pal.” Steve’s hand on his wrist pulls him back to the door. When Bucky catches his gaze, his eyes are bright and knowing. “You like him. And he likes you.”
Bucky swallows. It’s different from last time. Back then, Steve had wanted Peggy and Bucky had encouraged it because they were solid. They may never have had the chance to try, but Bucky hadn’t been afraid to share Steve. With Tony there’s no more hiding the fact that the three of them are obviously and pathetically besotted with one another. But the thing is that while Bucky may be willing to share, he remembers the way Steve used to stare at the women he’d take dancing, and how possessive he got in marking Bucky as his again the moment he came home.
They’re not as stable as they used to be. The balance that the two of them stand on is being burdened with their nightmares and fears and insecurities. Still, the current look in Steve’s eyes isn’t possessive. It’s happy and that makes Bucky brave.
“Well, he likes you too! Do you have any idea how often he looks at your butt?”
Steve snorts. “That means next to nothing. Everyone looks at my butt.”
“Well, it is a great butt,” Bucky says, his lips curling into a smirk. Then he turns his wrist until they’re threading their fingers together, trying to be serious. “Steve, he looks at us like you used to look at Peggy and me.”
Steve winces at Peggy’s mention, and then leans in, pressing his forehead to Bucky’s left shoulder. Bucky wraps his other arm around Steve, pressing a gentle kiss to the side of his head. Steve mumbles, “You’re okay with it?”
“Back when you told me you had feelings for Peggy, I was balled up,” Bucky whispers into Steve’s hair. “You hated sharing me. You hated me going dancing with Clara and all the others even though I never even fucked any of ‘em. Even though it was you I came home to. And it was okay, I didn’t care because you were mine. And then suddenly there was this woman and you loved her.”
“You’re the one who wanted me to woo her,” Steve says, pulling away to look at Bucky. “You said it was okay.”
“I know, and it was okay.” Bucky wishes words weren’t so hard to catch. “I loved you and I wanted you to be happy, and Peggy was one hell of a dame, so believe me, it was okay. I knew you loved me just as much.”
“I do, Bucky, I—“
“Will you let me finish, punk?” Steve smiles a tiny smile and nods before pulling him back into a warm embrace. “I was okay with it, but I didn’t understand. What it meant to love two people at once. I just figured you had a lot more love in you than me. It’s why you never ran out.”
Steve tightens his grip around Bucky. The words come out easier when he’s safe in Steve’s arms. “I get it now. You can’t run out of love. I thought I’d given all of it to you and then I turned and I looked at him and somehow there was even more and Stevie, here’s the other thing.”
“I told you to go but you didn’t and you missed that chance with Peggy, but we can’t do that with Tony. We’ve wasted enough time, don’t you think?”
Steve answers with a kiss that sears him to the bone, one that’s spilling with affection, and a promise.
By the time they make it back to the kitchen, an unrepentant-looking group of Avengers look up at them, and then at the empty plates.
“Steve, make me more eggs,” Natasha orders.
“You ate like half of everything he made! I didn’t even have any!” Tony turns to Steve. “Steve, make me more eggs!”
“Or, here’s a novel idea, make it your own damned self,” Bucky tells Tony and is shot back with “No!”s from every other person in the room.
After Steve — who feeds Tony because Tony’s charm is likely how he’s managed to keep himself from starving to death for the last four decades — the team follows Sam to the Christmas tree. Bucky sits down by the pile and starts handing things out with Sam while the others relax on the couch. Steve comes to sit next to him, and he’d shoo him away, but Steve’s warm and hard to say no to.
“I didn’t get anyone anything, because I don’t celebrate Christmas, and also I’m being held here under duress,” Tony declares before lying down in Rhodey’s lap.
“Well, I got you something anyway,” Rhodey says. “Sam, could you please get me that—“
Sam passes him a thin gift wrapped package and Rhodey passes it to Tony, who rips it open. “Go the Fuck to Sleep?”
“Consider it your new bedtime story, Tones,” Rhodey teases. “God knows you need to sleep.”
“Okay fine, read it to me then,” Tony commands, passing the book to Rhodey before turning and pressing his face into Rhodey’s belly.
The crinkling of wrapping paper stops as everyone settles in to listen to Rhodey. “The cats nestle close to their kittens. The lambs have laid down with the sheep. You are cosy and warm in your bed, my dear. Please go the fuck to sleep…”
Somewhere between handing out presents to others and opening up his own, Bucky finds a small rectangular package with his name scrawled on the label in Steve’s familiar writing. Everyone else had received the folded books with their names on the inside — from both Bucky and Steve, because folding paper into that many intricate designs takes time. But this gift is small, too thin to be a proper book. Bucky pulls apart the wrapping paper and then he stops.
He takes a moment to trace the faces in the black and white photograph before putting aside the photo and frame to cup Steve’s face with his hand and kiss him for all he’s worth.
“Where did you find it?” Bucky asks, his voice raw. It’s faded and blurry but there’s no denying his own face, or little Rikki’s, or that of his parents. This is the only family photo they’d ever taken.
“Tony helped me track it down. Rikki’s daughter had it. They live in Philadelphia.” Steve whispers. When they turn to look at him, he’s fast asleep in Rhodey’s lap. “I was just hoping for a copy. But Jamie let me keep it in return for a few stories about her uncle whom she never got to meet.”
Bucky closes his eyes. When he’d last seen her, Rikki had been twelve.
“I’m sorry. Bucky, is everything goo—“
Bucky answers the question by kissing him again and again and again until they’re both breathless and blinking away tears. Finally, he moves away to grab Steve his present. “Open it.”
Steve peels the paper carefully off of the strangely shaped gift. Inside he finds a mason jar full of little pieces of paper.
“I’ve been writing down my memories. Of you. And me.”
And then it is Bucky’s turn to be kissed within an inch of his life.
This is good, Bucky thinks. He could spend his life like this. It’s almost perfect.
In the afternoon, Rhodey and Sam leave to visit their families, and Natasha takes Wanda to the Barton farm where Pietro is buried. This leaves Vision, Tony, Bucky and Steve working together on Christmas dinner. Bucky hasn’t asked Vision if he actually needs to eat, but he seems to enjoy it, so he figures it’s a question not worth answering. Christmas dinner becomes a boisterous affair despite the Avengers being half their usual number — the sole reason being one Tony Stark.
Bucky regrets getting the caffeinated maple syrup for Tony but hell if he’s admitting that out loud even as Tony tops Bucky’s turkey with it. He just washes it down with scorpion vodka and makes a mental note to thank Natasha. After dinner, Steve drags Tony, the only one who’s actually done zero work so far, into the kitchen and they get a head start on the dishes.
The Vision heads off to somewhere — and Bucky, with nowhere to go, follows his boys into the kitchen. Tony’s already chatting up the toaster AI while towel drying plates and Steve’s watching in adoration, nearly breaking one of the wine glasses he’s supposed to be washing.
Bucky’s going to sprain something if he has to keep rolling his eyes at Steve’s mooning. Not that Bucky’s not staring, because Tony’s a vision — all soft curves and jagged edges just in the right places. But everyone else is out of the way and Bucky’s had the conversation with Steve and he’s getting tired of waiting for Steve to make a damn move. So the next time Tony turns to put a plate away, grumbling about slave labour, Bucky grabs Steve’s soapy wrist to gain his attention, and mouths, “Oh kiss him already.”
“You first,” he says. Out loud. Bucky grins, ignoring Tony’s look of confusion while walking towards him, trapping Tony between him and Steve. .
“My pleasure,” Bucky says, pushing Tony back until he’s pressed against Steve’s chest.
“Oh crap,” Tony says, trying to wiggle his way out. “Is this punishment for the flirting? Because I do that with everyone — ask Natasha. She could kill me and still I flirt with her — it’s a fatal flaw. I can’t hel—”
Bucky realizes he likes the sound of Tony’s sharp inhale as Bucky’s thumb comes to rest at the corner of Tony’s lips and his hand comes to cup Tony’s jaw.
“Punishment?” Bucky asks, deepening his voice on purpose. It always makes Steve weak at the knees, and it seems to work on Tony, who lets his jaw hang open, making it easy for Bucky to trace his lower lip with his thumb. “Hell no. This is the reward.”
And with that, Bucky lets Steve hold Tony steady, and leans in to kiss him.
Bucky’s spent a lifetime kissing Steve, everything from gentle chaste baby kisses to sordid make out sessions. Steve used to taste like asthma cigarettes, but now that’s gone and he tastes fresh and soothing, like mint and honey. Tony tastes like coffee — like the rich bitter stuff they drink nowadays, not the watered downed crap they used to call coffee. When he finally begins kissing back, it leaves Bucky at sea. Bucky’s spent a lifetime kissing Steve but he’s never felt this new at something in his life before. Tony kisses like he could do it every moment of every day, and when they finally pull apart, all three of them are breathless. Steve has both of Tony’s hands in his own and when Steve catches Bucky’s eye, he smiles at him, cheeks rosy and eyes bright. Bucky throws his arms over Steve’s shoulders, or at least, he tries.
He’s gone and forgotten about the arm again, and ends up unstably pushing his entire weight onto Tony, and subsequently Steve, who nearly buckles against the weight, leaning up against the counter. Bucky pushes himself off and catches Tony, whose expression he can’t define.
“Oops. Sorry. That was a dumb mistake,” Bucky says, and then suddenly Tony’s face is like a blank sheet of paper in one of Steve’s sketchbooks. Cherry lips press together thinly.
“Yeah, it’s fine. I should get back to the city,” Tony mumbles. And then Tony’s walking away and Bucky’s cold all over and he doesn’t know how to move his limbs anymore. His eyes are focused on Steve though, and thank fuck for that. It’s that look of utter heartbreak in Steve’s eyes that brings Bucky out of the shock. A quick backtrack and suddenly everything makes much more sense; if Bucky had his other arm, he’d smack himself with it because that would hurt more and he fucking deserves it.
“Tony no. I meant sorry for nearly crushing you and Steve,” Bucky says as he catches up to Tony and makes a grab for Tony’s wrist. “Don’t go. Let us explain.”
“What’s there to explain? Threesomes are fun, believe me, but we work together. Sleeping with me tends to result in transatlantic moves, and West Coast Avengers seems like a terrible idea. Let’s just pretend this never happened, okay? The two of you are solid. Take it from an engineer, reinventing the wheel’s a complete waste of time.”
Bucky has no words, and he hates that his brain fails him because he wants Tony to stay and Tony wants to, it’s so obvious he wants to stay, but Bucky doesn’t know what to say to make him stay.
“Is that what you think we want from you? Three way sex?” Steve finally asks.
“When a guy kisses me in front of his boyfriend, that’s kind of the only logical explanation that comes to mind, Capsicle.” Tony pulls his hand out of Bucky’s grasp, but it’s all in the eyes, the way his gaze trails from Steve to Bucky with a longing that makes Bucky ache.
“You idiot,” Bucky says. “You fucking idiot. We don’t just want to have sex with you, though that would be a great bonus.”
Bucky turns to looks at Steve. If Steve doesn’t say something clever soon, Bucky might open his big, fat mouth and say something dumb like that he wants to spend the rest of his life with him. And that would be just the kind of moronic thing that would make Tony Stark run away.
“We want a relationship with you, Tony,” Steve speaks gently, as if he were speaking to a spooked child. A few heavy steps and he’s coming to stand beside them, hand coming up to rest on Tony’s shoulder. “We want to go on dates, all three of us. We want to watch movies together and go to bed together and yes, we want to make love with you — but also so much more. We want a relationship with you.”
Tony stares at them in bewilderment. “Okay, excuse me if I sound like an idiot — in my defence, you called me that so it’s in my right to do so. But you’re already in a relationship — with each other. You’ve fought too hard for that, I know. I watched you go through hell and back for each other. And I’m good at wrecking relationships. I won’t be what comes between the two of you.”
“And have you considered that between the two of us is exactly where ya ought to be?” Bucky asks, risking a step toward Tony. “That between the two of us is exactly where you belong?”
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Tony whispers, but his shoulders sag. “But right now all I can think of is how unfair it is that I’ve only kissed Bucky so far.” Bucky laughs as Steve surges forward to capture Tony’s lips, and then nearly chokes at the sight of them.
Steve may be the artist but right now he’s become art in the way he holds Tony in place, and Tony’s joined the glorious painting with his tight grip on Steve’s apron. Bucky finds himself content to just watch, his only participation the gentle weight of his hand on Steve’s neck.
“Well Shellhead, I’ve got a great feeling about this,” Steve finally says when they pull apart for a breather.
“So do I, so that’s two against one and you lose,” Bucky teases, but Tony doesn’t look particularly disappointed about losing that battle.
“So what now?” Tony asks once the trio settle on the couch in a jumble of limbs. Tony sits in the middle, with Bucky and Steve curling on their sides towards him.
“Empire Strikes Back shall we now watch,” Steve says in a weird creepy voice. Bucky decides it must be a reference and refrains from correcting Steve’s grammar.
“If this punk can keep his pie hole shut long enough,” Bucky answers.
Tony smirks and cups Steve’s jaw, thumb teasing at Steve’s mouth. “I’ll have to find a way to keep that mouth of his occupied then.”
And he does.
Later, long after Vader does the thing and Bucky screams along with Luke, when the credits are scrolling and they think Bucky’s fallen asleep, Steve says to Tony, “I’ve seen you make snow angels with Lila and Cooper. You just wanted him to have fun, you sap.”
“Yeah, but don’t tell Metallica here or I’m a dead man,” Tony replies, head resting on Bucky’s left shoulder.
Bucky keeps his eyes closed. If either of them knew he’d heard Tony, Bucky would have to kill him, and what a shame that would be.
This is good, Bucky thinks. He could live the rest of his life like this. It’s perfect.