Steve stopped short in the doorway, confused by the sight in front of him. Bucky was at one end of the couch, legs pulled underneath him, and Tony was curled into his side, sleeping peacefully with his head on Bucky’s chest as Bucky’s hand carding through his dark hair. Steve didn’t even think they liked each other, much less willing to…snuggle.
Bucky’s eyes shifted from the tv to the doorway and noticed Steve. Steve cocked his head towards the sleeping Tony laid out next to him and Bucky half-smiled and shrugged. So this was a recent thing. Steve knew that Bucky and Tony had bonded while Tony was fixing Bucky’s arm but this? This was unexpected.
True, the trust that Bucky had shown with allowing Tony anywhere near his body in that vulnerable of a position had been surprising but Bucky didn’t even touch Steve this much. A lump rose in Steve’s throat and he swallowed hard, turning around and leaving quickly, refusing to observe the objectively adorable scene in front of him.
Tony was Bucky’s now and he just has to live with that.
Tony stirred, blinking awake with a frown. “Was Steve here?” he asked, pulling away from Bucky and stretching. Bucky nodded without looking at Tony, just reached over and tugged him by the waist until Tony was pressed up close against his side. Tony sighed, leaning his head against Bucky’s shoulder.
“Why did he leave?” He mumbled, Bucky’s warmth seeping past his clothes into his skin.
Bucky shrugged, jostling Tony’s head. “He just looked spooked and left.”
Tony grimaced. “Not a person comfortable with snuggling?”
Bucky shrugged again and Tony could sense the confused scowl on his face. “I think he used to be.” He said slowly, searching through the lucid memories that he had retained. “I don’t know what changed.”
Tony sighed forlornly and Bucky patted his shoulder. “I’m sure Steve will come around eventually.”
Tony stiffened and then relaxed with a sharp exhale. “I’m sure I don’t care.” His voice was stilted, as if even he didn’t believe those words.
“Bullshit.” Bucky scoffed. “Just like you ‘don’t care’ about Steve’s ass every time it walks by.”
“I am not that obvious!” Tony said defensively. Bucky patted his shoulder patronizingly.
“Sure you’re not.”
Tony narrowed his eyes. “Says Mr. when-did-Sam-get-those-tight-shirts. I distinctly remember listening to whining and complaining.”
“…….Fine, so we’re both lovesick idiots.”
Steve was on the roof, sketching the skyline when Sam found him. “Rough day?” Sam asked, plopping down next to him and leaning back on his elbows.
“You could say that.” Steve kept his eyes fixed on the skyline, hunched over his sketchpad.
Sam frowned. “What happened to you?”
Steve shrugged, attempting to look nonchalant but failing. “Can’t a man want to sit on the roof without anything being wrong?”
Sam rolled his eyes. “Sure, if this wasn’t said man’s hiding place. Not very discrete, mind you; I’m sure Tony knows you’re here.”
Steve stiffened and Sam cocked his head, studying the back of Steve’s. “So, this is about Tony?”
“No.” Steve’s voice was gruff and Sam rolled his eyes.
“What’d he do?”
“I found him and Bucky on the couch….cuddling.” Steve chanced a look back at Sam who was steadily regarding the horizon, his face blank.
“Oh.” He said eventually. He was silent for a moment before adding, “This does explain yesterday morning.”
Steve quirked an eyebrow questioningly. “They were sitting at the table eating breakfast. Tony’s head was on Bucky’s shoulder and Bucky’s hand was on his neck.” Sam told him. Steve digested this information silently and then took a deep breath.
“Well…” he faltered. “I guess we should be happy they found each other.”
Sam nodded, still staring at the skyscrapers dotting the view. “I guess so.”
Tony waved a hand in front of Bucky’s face. “C’mon, at least look like you’re not marching to your execution.” Bucky gave him a baleful look and Tony deflated. “I know you don’t want to be here,” he said quietly, “but thanks for coming anyway.”
Bucky huffed a breath and then pulled Tony into a tight hug, letting go just as Tony started to relax into it. “You can’t leave me here.” His eyes darted throughout the throng of people. “It’s so…crowded.”
Tony leaned next to him against the wall close enough that their shoulders bumped. “Of course I won’t leave you.” They stood there, watching the crowd, Tony occasionally waving hello at someone or smiling at a flirtatious look thrown his way.
“Really, James,” Tony said, “thank you for coming. This is really for you, Steve, and Sam.” Bucky eyed the ostentatious sign declaring this event to be a fundraiser for the Maria Stark Foundation and their new project: soldiers with PTSD.
“But mostly Steve.” Bucky nudged Tony’s shoulder with his own.
“Shut up.” Tony said, without heat. They both chuckled and Tony stood, straightening his suit jacket and turning to face Bucky. “C’mon, Barnes, it’s time to mingle. Wipe the murder off your face but let it linger in your eyes.” Bucky gave him a questioning look and Tony grinned. “That way the conversations won’t last long.”
Bucky laughed and they walked into the crowd, still close enough to touch.
Steve watched Bucky and Tony discuss something with a businessman standing far too close together. Occasionally one of them would casually touch the other, a pat on the shoulder, a hand on the small of their back, a nudge with an elbow. Steve turned away, unsure of how to deal with his feelings in the face of their happiness. Sam handed Steve a glass, leaning against the tall table on the side of the room. “Looks like you could use it.”
Steve side-eyed Sam. “As if you’re not going through the exact same thing.”
Sam pointed an accusatory finger at Steve. “See, Rogers, this is why no one likes you.” Steve’s face went blank and Sam hurried to correct his comment. “I just meant…” He huffed. “Aw hell, Steve, you know I didn’t mean it like that.”
Steve’s mouth twisted. “Yeah, I know.” They stood watching Tony and Bucky interact for a moment, admiring the cut of their suits and the sparkle in their eyes, evident from even this distance. Tony whispered something to Bucky and he laughed, head thrown back. Tony looked delighted and something jerked at Steve’s heart. Bucky didn’t laugh very often.
“They look good together.” Steve observed. Sam nodded and they fell back into silence, mutually yearning for that which was out of reach but refusing to compromise friendships over it.
Tony looked over and noticed them, a smile crossing his face. He raised a hand in greeting and both Steve and Sam lifted their glasses back at him in acknowledgement. Bucky said something to Tony and they got into a small argument. Bucky huffed and slipped his arm through Tony’s, practically dragging him over the table where Steve and Sam were standing.
Bucky pushed Tony over towards Steve and he nearly fell, grabbing onto Steve’s coat and cursing. Steve reached forward to help him but caught himself and stood still as Tony straightened and let go of Steve’s dark blue suit jacket. Tony glared at Bucky who looked pleased with himself.
“I swear to god, Barnes.” He muttered and Bucky’s smug grin only widened. Steve shifted, uncomfortable with this display of familiarity and inside jokes. He mumbled some excuse and left quickly, searching for the nearest escape route. He could deal with this; it would just take some time and brooding. Lots of brooding.
He heard a sudden call from behind him just as he stepped out one of the side doors of the large conference hall. “Steve! Wait!” He stilled, knowing he could get away from Tony but finding that he really didn’t want to.
Tony rushed out into the hallway, hair mussed and coat disheveled from his dart after Steve. “What’s wrong? Why did you leave?”
Steve looked away from Tony’s bright eyes and mumbled something about not feeling well and needing some air. Tony’s face took on a concerned look and he stepped forward, searching Steve’s face. “You really don’t look well; I’ll make your excuses.”
Without thinking, Steve placed a hand gratefully on Tony’s shoulder. “Thank you, Tony.” He said earnestly, knowing that despite not returning his feelings, Tony would always have his back. To his surprise, Tony leaned into his hand, a look of pride and happiness on his face. Steve snatched his hand back as if it had burned him.
“I have to go.” He fled, berating himself. You will not be that friend. He thought harshly. Bucky is finally happy and you will not destroy that.
Bucky passed the mostly empty wine bottle to Tony who was wrapped up in a blanket on the couch, a desolate look on his face. Tony took a long drink and then went back to ranting. “The first time in weeks! Weeks without touching me at all! Not even a hug or a good morning pat or a brush of shoulders! Nothing! And then he touches my shoulder and freaks out!”
Tony hugged his knees close to his chest. “What is wrong with me?” He moaned piteously. Bucky rolled his eyes, taking the bottle from Tony and setting on the table.
“Nothing is wrong with you.” He said, confidently. “You’re attractive, smart, bit of an ass.”
Tony peered at him, vision just hazy enough to slur Bucky’s profile. “Then why doesn’t Steve love me?” He whispered, resting his forehead on his knees.
Bucky slid closer to him, murmuring, “I am way too sober for this.” before curling an arm around Tony’s shoulder and leaning into him comfortingly. The only sign that Tony was crying was a slight hitch at the end of every breath and Bucky felt completely out of his depth. Tony didn’t cry often and never cried in front of people. He must be really drunk, Bucky thought.
“Look,” he began, attempting to find something reassuring to say. “If Steve doesn’t like you, we can always find another person. You know, lots of highly attractive individuals. We could, uh, go clubbing?” He said awkwardly, completely unsure of how modern dating was conducted.
Tony’s shoulders shook and Bucky was worried for a moment before realizing Tony was laughing, a small chuckle that grew until he loosened his grip on his legs and raised his head, laughter bouncing through the room. Bucky relaxed, a slight grin on his face at the reaction he had elicited.
“Don’t ever try to be comforting again.” Tony said, pointing a finger at Bucky, his potentially offensive words undermined by his jovial tone and smile. Bucky shrugged, removing his arm from Tony’s shoulders and knocking his jean-clad knee against Tony’s sweatpants. They were quiet, processing the emotional roller coaster of the evening.
Tony broke the silence. “So how’s it going with Sam?”
Bucky grimaced. “Every time I get close to him or ask him if he wants to go somewhere, he looks spooked and runs away. Those stupid workout shorts aren’t helping either. Or that pool party you insisted we have.” Tony patted his knee empathetically, reminded of the flashes of gleaming skin and blond hair shining in the sun that had commandeered his dreams for weeks. “I don’t know what I keep doing wrong.” Bucky sighed, slumping back into the couch.
“Yeah.” Tony said softly. “I understand that feeling.”
Bucky shook himself, determined to throw off this sad demeanor. “Wanna eat ice cream and watch Star Trek?” Tony brightened visibly, throwing off the blanket to rummage around for the DVDs while Bucky got up and walked into the kitchen to find some ice cream.
They had started the Star Trek marathons while Tony was working on Bucky’s arm, occasionally stopping to exclaim over a particular scene he enjoyed. One evening, they had fallen asleep on the ratty couch in the workshop. They woke up pressed together with Star Trek still playing in the background and there was a mad scuffled to put space between them. There was a long moment of awkward silence until Tony blurted, “I don’t like you like that.”
Bucky had raised an eyebrow and Tony flushed. “I-I mean, I like dicks but just not yours.” Bucky’s other eyebrow joined the first and Tony threw up his hands. “Just! I’ve got someone else in mind, okay?”
Bucky gave him a shit-eating grin. “Have you told Steve yet?” Tony’s mouth fell open momentarily before he snapped it shut, his cheeks reddening.
“No.” he muttered and Bucky smirked. Tony leveled him with a look and sniped, “Told Sam yet that you’re lusting after his ass?”
Bucky shot him a glare, crossing his arms and looking away. “It’s not just his ass.” Tony heard him mumble.
“Well.” He said, standing up and offering a hand to Bucky who scowled and stood, not taking the offered hand. “Looks like we’re both idiots.”
They both thought it was the end of the unusual cuddle session but several nights later, Bucky came stumbling down to the workshop and found Tony tinkering with bloodshot eyes. Bucky collapsed on the couch and woke up to Tony sitting next to him, running long fingers through his hair.
It became sort of an unspoken thing between them. They both craved physical contact but were afraid to ask the ones they really wanted to snuggle with. “You’re my Steve stand-in.” Tony told Bucky one day, causing him to snort into Tony’s jean-covered thigh.~
Sam flopped down next to Steve, telling him, “You really need a new hiding place.” Steve shrugged.
“It calms me.”
Sam watched Steve sketch for a minute before stating, “Leaving tonight was a dick move. Tony looked so devastated when he came back that Bucky made him leave.” Steve winced under Sam’s judgmental gaze.
“I just…I look at him and I want. When we go out to lunch and he laughs at something I say or when he comes to the gym late at night and we just talk, I can’t –“ Steve stopped and took a deep breath, clenching the pencil hard enough to break. Sam leaned up and laid a calming hand on his shoulder.
“I get it, man.” He said. Steve choked out a laugh.
“What a pair we make,” he looked at Sam with a resigned smile. “falling for the idiots who fell in love with each other.” Sam mirrored Steve’s smile before standing, balancing himself with the hand resting on Steve’s shoulder.
“You have to come down eventually.” He told Steve. “Neither one of us can avoid this.” Steve nodded absently, gazing out into the darkened sky. Sam shrugged and walked through the door back into the Tower.
Steve stared down at his sketchpad, flipping through the pages. Drawings of Tony’s hands, Tony’s eyes, Tony laughing, Tony’s ass in those –
He flipped it shut, standing swiftly and walking towards the door purposefully. He could deal with this. He had to.
Steve awoke to a loud knocking at his door. He stumbled out of bed, pulling on sweatpants and scratching at the hair sticking up on the side of his head. The knocking became more insistent and Steve jerked open the door, frustrated.
“What in god’s name – oh, Bucky, hi.” Bucky snorted at Steve’s lackluster welcome and strode into the room, pushing past Steve.
“Good morning to you too.” Steve muttered, closing the door. Bucky stopped in the middle of the lounge and whirled around to point an accusing finger at Steve.
“What the hell did you do to Tony?” Steve stared incredulously.
Bucky scoffed, disbelieving. “He got drunk and ate ice cream last night after you stormed out of the gala so I repeat: what the hell did you do to Tony?”
“NOTHING!” Steve yelled, throwing his hands up in the air. Bucky narrowed his eyes, hands on his hips in a confrontational manner.
“Look, I don’t know what’s up with you two and I was going to stay out of it, but dammit Steve, Tony thinks you hate him.”
“What? I don’t hate him!” Steve crossed his arms defensively across his bare chest, feeling vulnerable under this sudden attack.
“Well you’ve sure been doing a great impression of someone who does!” Bucky gestured at Steve wildly.
Steve tensed, jamming his hands into the pockets of his sweatpants. “Leave it alone, Buck.”
Bucky stepped forward. “No, I am not having my two closest friends acting like this. Especially since you’re practically in love with the guy who thinks you hate him!”
“I don’t – I wouldn’t – I’m not – “ Steve looked away, struggling to find the words and returning to his closed off position.
Bucky stepped closer again, adopting a less threatening posture. “C’mon Steve, stop denying everything; just go for it!”
“I can’t!” Steve blurted, hands fisting at his sides, every line of his body thrumming with tension. “Do you really think I could do that to you, Buck? And how could you do that to Tony?” Bucky stared at him, a frown creeping over his face as Steve started to pace, gesturing forcefully. “I mean, I know that maybe you don’t love each other like that, but I’m not going to be some….some homewrecker!” Steve spit the last word out in distaste.
Bucky held his hands up. “Woah, Steve, do you think Tony and I are dating?” Steve stopped short.
“Aren’t you?” he asked carefully. Bucky guffawed.
“Sure, he’s attractive but also definitely very in love with you, idiot.”
“But, the cuddling?”
Bucky rolled his eyes. “We’re both physical people and we like cuddling. Dating Tony would be like…dating my pillow.” Steve raised an eyebrow. “Fine, maybe that wasn’t the best analogy but Steve, there’s no attraction there. For fuck’s sake, he looks at you like he has hearts in his eyes.”
Steve blushed, a kernel of hope kindling in his heart. “You mean…?”
Bucky stepped forward, turning Steve around and pushing him towards the door. “I mean that you have a hungover Tony to kiss awake and soothe with breakfast foods.” Steve nodded, face flushed with a combination of trepidation and excitement.
“Oh!” He exclaimed, slipping out of Bucky’s forceful shove and turning around. “Sam’s in love with you.”
Bucky peered at him for a long moment before nodding. “Good. Now go talk to Tony.” Steve beamed and rushed out of the room.
Tony woke up to morning kisses and a generous glass of water. He hummed, burrowing against the warm pillow along his back. The pillow huffed out a laugh and lightly kissed him on the cheek, brushing his mussed hair back. Tony frowned; pillows don’t have hands.
He cracked an eye open to see Steve’s blue eyes shining down on him. He slammed it shut again. “This is my punishment for drinking so much.” He moaned. “Dreams about Steve.”
Tony heard a soothing chuckle and then a warm press of lips against his forehead. “Not a dream, Tony.”
Tony opened his eyes and squinted. “Steve?” he asked hopefully.
“Yeah.” Steve breathed, looking down at him with warmth.
Tony frowned, thinking. “Why are you here? You were mad at me. You don’t...hug me anymore.” He said sadly.
Steve hesitated before answering. “I’m not mad at you, Tony. I just…misunderstood.” Tony blinked up at him. “I thought you were dating Bucky.”
Tony laughed loudly and then gasped, “You’re serious.” when he took in the expression on Steve’s face. Steve nodded grimly. “We’re definitely not dating.” He told Steve seriously. “I am a free genius.”
Steve’s face lit up with a bright smile, his eyes crinkling with the force of it. “So I heard.”
Tony licked his dry lips and watched Steve track the movement, his eyes darkening. “Are you going to do anything about it?”
“I thought maybe we’d have breakfast and a shower. And then go out to dinner? At maybe 6:30?” Steve murmured, moving close and wrapping an arm around Tony.
Tony nodded happily. “I think I could work that into my schedule.” He grinned, shifting around so he was pressed against Steve’s chest, looking up into his face with what he was sure was a dopey, lovesick smile.
When they passed Sam and Bucky cuddled on the couch on their way to make breakfast, a large bite mark displayed high on Bucky’s neck, Tony held out a fist and Bucky bumped it, mirroring Tony’s happy expression.