The first few days after the newly pardoned half of the recently reinstated Avengers returns back to the compound are kind of awkward. Which, admittedly, might be partly due to Tony greeting them with one of his fakest smiles, arms spread wide, and a biting, “Welcome back, traitors and backstabbers! I’d say it’s great to see you, but I think we’ve all lied to each other enough, don’t you?” before leaving the room, and slamming the door behind himself.
It’s a statement, all right? Tony might have worked his ass off, and pulled some—read: a lot—of strings to get the charges against his former friends dropped, but that doesn’t mean he’s forgiven any of them. Oh, no. Tony’s pissed, and he has absolutely no intentions of calming down any time soon.
Only, that doesn’t work out so great. Wanda’s just a kid who’s grown too used to being scared and alone, and Tony can hardly fault her for that. The first night they bump into each other, both being kept awake by nightmares, Tony takes one look at the pinch of her mouth, and the dark circles under her eyes, and shoos her into the kitchen to make her some hot chocolate from scratch, like Jarvis used to make for him when he was little. Clint sneaks up on Tony in the workshop, drops a slice of one of Laura’s strawberry-rhubarb pies on the table in front of him, and then bro punches Tony in the shoulder when Tony sighs, and takes a bite. Natasha curls up against Tony’s side while Tony’s grumbling over some paperwork, tucks her face into his neck, and that’s that. Scott helps Tony shrink one of Ross’ cars when Ross is being particularly obnoxious. Sam and Rhodey are hugging when Tony walks in on them in the gym, and then Tony’s somehow pulled in as well, and holding a grudge against Sam after that just doesn’t seem worth it anymore. Steve actually apologises using his words. He glares the whole time, and cries a little, and gives as good as he gets when Tony yells at him through his own tears, so Tony figures they’re okay.
And Bucky, well. Tony’s never really been angry at Bucky, as some time and perspective have made him realise, even if he isn’t ready to admit it to anyone but himself quite yet. Yes, beating the shit out of Cap and Bucky had been cathartic, and he still feels justified in having reacted the way he did, but there’s also guilt. Not directed at Steve—Steve’s a big boy, and can damn well learn to deal with the mess they’ve made of their friendship, just like Tony has—but Bucky is innocent in all this. Bucky has been broken, manipulated, tortured, and generally mistreated and abused for longer than Tony’s been alive, and Tony finds that he can’t blame him for Howard and Maria. Not anymore.
Besides, Bucky is doing enough of that himself. He barely ever leaves his room except for his therapy and trigger removal sessions, and on the few occasions Tony’s seen him skulk around the common area he’s kept to the corners, eyes downcast, shoulders hunched, and arms—both human, and gorgeous new vibranium one—wrapped self-consciously around his middle. Steve hovers worriedly in true mama bear fashion whenever Bucky is out and about, but the rest of the team keep their distance, treat him with kid’s gloves, like he’s fragile, or about to snap. And Tony remembers, the weeks after Afghanistan, when Pepper, Rhodey, and Happy had acted like that, and how much he’d hated it. How much he’d craved some normality, some basic human contact.
So Tony decides to take matters into his own hands. There’s nothing Tony can do for his screwed up—more screwed up—past self, but he can make sure Bucky gets the help he needs, and deserves. Tony Stark style.
Bucky looks weary, and extremely wary when Tony knocks at his door in the middle of the night, stance immediately going defensive. “Is something wrong?”
“Well, that depends,” Tony says, and grabs his sleeve, tugging him out into the hall, and towards the rec room. “Have you seen Star Trek yet? If not, there’s definitely something wrong, but don’t worry. We’re gonna fix that right now. How do you like your popcorn? Please don’t say sweet, because that’s disgusting, and I’m not sure we can do this if I have to eat sugary corn. Or we could order some pizza? Yeah, FRIDAY, let’s do that. Get enough to feed a super soldier. Cheesy bread, too.”
He deposits Bucky on the couch, then goes and grabs a couple of sodas before flopping down next to him. “Okay, let’s do this. Next Generation? Next Generation.”
For the first episode, Bucky watches Tony more than he watches the screen, brows drawn together in confusion. Then the food arrives, and once they’re stuffed to bursting, Bucky slowly begins to relax, even cracks a smile or two. Tony grins back at him knowingly, then laughs, and gently bumps his shoulder against Bucky’s arm when Bucky blushes. Bucky freezes for a beat, but then he practically melts, his whole body going slack, and shyly presses into the touch, so Tony throws an arm around him, and draws him in close, declaring, “I’m going to hug the crap out of you now. Resistance is futile, so don’t even bother.”
He can feel Bucky chuckle at that, his breath hot against the skin of Tony’s throat, and it’s unexpectedly nice. Comfortable. Leaning back, Bucky snuggled up against him, Tony says, “You’ll understand that reference once we’re done with this show, don’t worry.”
* * * * *
Tony wakes up with a groan, blinking blearily against the early morning sun, and hums at the warm weight on top of him. Bucky is awake, Tony can tell, holding himself rigidly, probably unsure about the morning after protocol for falling asleep on another guy during a sci-fi slash junk food marathon.
Being the asshole he is, Tony can’t help but tease, “You know, I usually demand at least three dates before I allow someone to spend the night.”
Bucky is quiet for a long moment, but then he props himself up on one elbow, free hand braced on Tony’s chest, and one corner of his mouth curled up into a lopsided smile. “How ‘bout breakfast, then?”
Laughing, Tony lets Bucky pull him to his feet, not bothering to disentangle their fingers as Bucky leads him to the kitchen.