Bucky was nervous.
He felt ridiculous being nervous. After all, he’d already been through hell. He lost his arm in the war, was abducted and tortured by HYDRA… and yet a damn military benefit was making him nervous.
Bucky had been shocked when he got the phone call inviting him. After all, the attendees mostly consisted of the rich and famous. While he wasn’t rich, he supposed he could be counted among the famous these days.
It had been three years since he was medically discharged from service, and two and a half years since he’d started a YouTube channel. At first, he did it to give him something to do. His gaming commentary gained him a few hundred thousand subscribers fairly quickly, much to his shock.
The first time he did a video where they could see him, though, his numbers skyrocketed.
It hadn’t even been a gaming video like all of his other content. Instead, he’d been talking about his experience with PTSD. Everything had just exploded from there. It turns out people were more than willing to listen to a veteran talk about PTSD when he was a (surprisingly good) gamer with an advanced metal prosthesis.
Since then, he’d done a lot of interviews. He was actually getting paid real money to make videos, which still sounded crazy to him. No, he wasn’t rich, but he’d also just finished paying off the last of his medical bills. Now that he could start saving, he probably wasn’t going to be hurting for cash like he was when he was growing up.
The interviews were one thing, though. What he was preparing for was another matter entirely. He’d been pretty outgoing before the accident, but ever since, he preferred to be left alone. Crowds gave him massive amounts of anxiety.
“You’re going to be fine.”
Bucky looked over his shoulder at his best friend, Steve. He owed the man his life. Literally. Steve had gone against orders and stormed the HYDRA base just to get him back, and when he was finally released from the hospital, Steve already had a bedroom set up for Bucky. Steve, along with a guy named Sam who ran a support group for people like him, had helped him recover.
“I feel like I’m going to throw up,” Bucky muttered. “I don’t belong at this event, Steve.”
“How can you say that?” Steve asked, coming over and fixing Bucky’s tie. “It’s a charity event to raise money for wounded soldiers and soldiers who suffer from PTSD. Explain to me how you don’t belong there.”
Bucky huffed and glared at the other man.
“You’ll be fine,” Steve said, patting Bucky on the shoulder. “You’ve come a long way in the past few years. Sam says you’re more than ready. Look at all the interviews you’ve done!”
“Those were all one-on-one or Skype interviews,” Bucky rolled his eyes. “I wasn’t in a room with oh, I don’t know, a few hundred strangers.”
“You’ll be fine. Besides, if anyone gives you a hard time, you can just smack them with that metal arm of yours. They’ll leave you alone.”
That drew a laugh out of Bucky. “Okay, you’re right,” he said, taking a deep breath. “I can do this.”
Bucky smoothed his tie and checked his hair in the mirror one more time before his phone buzzed. It was a text, letting him know the car the banquet had sent for him was waiting outside.
“Showtime, I guess,” Bucky said with more bravado than he felt.
“Just relax,” Steve reminded him. “You were invited because they already like you. You have nothing to worry about.”
“Right,” Bucky nodded, his metal fist clenching and relaxing. “Okay, see ya,” he said, walking out the door.
Outside was the nicest car Bucky had ever seen, with a man in a suit standing patiently next to the back door. “Good evening, Mr. Barnes,” the man said, opening the door for him.
“Good evening,” Bucky replied, resisting the urge to bite his lip – a nervous habit of his. He climbed in the back seat, jumping a bit when the door was closed behind him. In no time, the driver was climbing into the driver’s seat and starting the car.
"We will be at the banquet in approximately fifteen minutes if the traffic allows it," the man said. "Do you require anything before we depart?”
“No, I’m okay,” Bucky said. The man nodded and pulled away from the curb.
The drive to the banquet was silent, and Bucky couldn’t help feeling relieved when they arrived. The silence hadn’t done anything to calm his nerves. Unfortunately, the relief did not last for very long. There was a line of photographers waiting between the road and the door, as though they were waiting for celebrities. Then again, considering the event, that’s probably exactly what they were doing.
The driver rushed around the car and opened the door. Bucky emerged from the car, trying to will his stomach to settle as the camera flashes began. He had only taken a few shaky (not that he would admit that) steps before a man appeared at his side.
“Hey,” the man said, placing his hand high on Bucky’s back and leading him towards the door. “You were looking a little pale there. I thought you could use a hand.”
"Thanks," Bucky replied, relieved when they made it through the door. "I'm Bucky."
“Oh, I know,” the man replied with a grin. “I love your videos, man! I’m Clint.”
“Nice to meet you,” Bucky replied, holding his hand out. Clint shook it, his grip strong. “I’m glad you like them.”
“Love,” Clint corrected. “They’re hilarious when you’re gaming. You’re pretty good; I’d love to play you sometime. You might actually be a challenge for me… although I’d destroy you at Mario Kart.”
“Are you another gamer?” Bucky asked, studying Clint more carefully. He didn’t recognize the man, but he hardly considered himself an expert on other YouTubers.
“Nah, nothing like you,” Clint laughed. “Look, I’d love to chat with you more, but I’m actually working security for this event. If you need anything, flag me down. I’ll be the guy lingering creepily in shadowy corners and staring at everyone.”
Bucky gave an amused grin and waved as the guy disappeared into the crowd. At least he knew the security at the event was friendly.
He looked around, feeling a bit lost. He didn’t know what to do, now that he was there. There was no speech for him to give, no assigned table he needed to sit at – it was more of a mingling event than anything, and he hated mingling.
“Okay, Bucky, your introvert is showing,” he muttered to himself. “You can do this. It’s fine. You can do this. It’s not a big deal.”
Bucky made his way to the bar, feeling like that was probably the safest place to go. The bartender smiled at him and asked what he would like. Since he hadn’t been a fan of drinking since he was discharged, he asked for water.
Nodding, the bartender tossed him a bottle of water.
Bucky stuck to the bar at first, but it wasn’t long before people started approaching him. Some of them wanted to talk about his gaming, but there were others who seemed entirely disinterested in that. Instead, they asked him about PTSD, which he supposed was natural considering the nature of the event. The constant flow of people coming up to him and asking him questions was both comforting and horrifying. Bucky hadn’t been around so many people at once in a long time.
After two hours, he was starting to feel like he was going to snap. There was still another two hours before the end of the event, and he was overwhelmed. When there was a break in the crowd, Bucky decided to excuse himself and try to find a moment of quiet.
He was on his way to a door leading to a garden when it happened.
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry!” Bucky gasped, reaching down and helping the man on the ground back to his feet. He felt absolutely mortified.
“It’s okay,” the guy said, brushing a hand through his hair. “I wasn’t watching where I was going. It was my fault.”
“I wasn’t watching, either,” Bucky replied, blushing a bit when the guy looked up and their eyes met. Dear lord. The guy was gorgeous. The other man smiled, and Bucky felt butterflies erupt in his stomach. Oh, what wouldn’t he give to have that man smile at him like that again?
They stared at each other for a moment, and then the other guy’s eyes widened. “Oh, I think I got my drink all over you.”
Bucky looked down to see his shirt sticking to his chest, the crisp white shirt becoming almost translucent and showing off his abs. His jacket seemed fine since he had unbuttoned it an hour ago when it started feeling hot, but the shirt was definitely no longer appropriate. “Uh…”
“Come on, I’ll get you a spare,” the guy said, grabbing Bucky’s hand. The metal one.
“Oh, your hand!” He exclaimed, forgetting about the shirt and examining Bucky’s metal hand. Bucky blushed again as the guy continued to gush over it. His prosthetic was surprisingly sensitive; the man might as well have been caressing his flesh hand, considering how much Bucky felt. “Wait a second. This looks like… where did you get this?”
“The hospital?” Bucky said, phrasing his answer like a question. Immediately he felt stupid, but there was something about the other man that flustered him. Trying to cover for himself, he continued, “Um, you said something about a shirt?”
“Oh, yeah!” the guy laughed. “I’m Tony, by the way,” he continued, giving Bucky that smile that sent butterflies straight to his stomach again.
“I’m Bucky. Bucky Barnes.”
“Nice to meet you, Sexy,” Tony replied with a wink, tugging Bucky out of the main event room. Bucky felt his cheeks heat up again.
I haven’t blushed this much since middle school, he thought to himself. This is ridiculous.
Bucky raised an eyebrow when they ended up in a private elevator. “Are we supposed to be in here?” Bucky asked.
“What are they going to do, kick me out?” Tony asked with a snort of amusement. “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”
“Okay,” Bucky replied quietly. He was further surprised when the man pulled him out of the elevator and into what looked to be an apartment. “Where are we?”
“Oh, I stay here sometimes when I’ve been working and don’t have time or energy to go home,” Tony shrugged. “It’s not much, but it works when I need it.”
Bucky raised an eyebrow. That was weird. What kind of person had a random place to crash in what was primarily an office building? If the apartment wasn't much, he wondered what Tony would think of his own place with Steve. The apartment was gigantic by his standards and decked out with the latest… well… everything. It was sparse, but everything looked incredibly expensive. Bucky was almost afraid to sit.
“Come on, I keep a few changes of clothes here for meetings and stuff in the bedroom,” Tony continued, dragging Bucky into the bedroom. Bucky’s stomach twisted, unable to block out the thoughts of Tony and the massive bed taking up a majority of the room.
Bucky jumped when Tony’s hand slid to his waist and slipped under the hem of his shirt. “See something you like?” Tony whispered, leaning in close and whispering in Bucky’s ear.
Bucky blushed again, embarrassed that he’d been caught staring at the bed. “Um…”
Tony chuckled and pressed a kiss to Bucky’s cheek. “God, you’re adorable,” Tony murmured. “I might have to keep you.”
Tony placed the fresh shirt on the bed and looked at Bucky expectantly. “So, want any help getting changed?”
Bucky laughed at that. “You’re not very subtle, are you?” he asked, sliding his jacket off.
“Not when I see something I want,” Tony replied, looking Bucky up and down. “And trust me, I’m loving what I’m seeing right now. A shy, sweet guy with a beautiful body – it doesn’t get much better than that.”
Bucky tried to fight the blush off, but it didn’t work. “You’re pretty attractive, yourself,” Bucky said, looking down nervously and fumbling with the buttons of his shirt. He didn’t normally have a problem, but with his shaking flesh hand, he couldn’t seem to unbutton the damn thing.
“Here, let me,” Tony said easily, taking the few steps forward until he was standing in front of Bucky. “Do you normally have trouble with the fine-motor stuff?”
“The buttons, Sexy, the buttons,” Tony said, another chuckle escaping his lips.
“Oh, uh, no, I’m just…”
Tony looked up from Bucky’s chest, where he’d already undone the top three buttons. Tony smirked playfully. “Do I make you nervous?”
Tony laughed. “Please tell me you’re single.”
“W-why?” Bucky asked, eyes wide.
“Because we’re going to dinner,” Tony replied easily. “I didn’t have time to eat before I came, and you looked earlier like you needed a break. You’re adorable, and I’m doing that carpe diem thing Pepper is always telling me I need to do with my personal life.”
"She's my assistant. Or maybe she's my boss. She's bossy. I'm supposed to be her boss, but I think she got that backward somehow."
Bucky laughed at that. Tony was… Well, Bucky didn’t really know what to make of Tony. The confidence the man exuded was almost a slap in the face, but not necessarily in a bad way. Sure, he brought out the inner-teenager in Bucky that he thought was long-gone, but the man was attractive.
“Oh,” Bucky said, having forgotten about the question. “Yeah. Very.”
“You shouldn’t be,” Tony said, and Bucky jumped in surprise when Tony slid the shirt off Bucky’s shoulders and picked up the fresh one. “Damn, you’re gorgeous,” Tony breathed. “Come on, turn around. If we don’t get you dressed, we’re not leaving this room, and I actually want to talk to you.”
“Talk to me?” Bucky asked, confused, as he turned around. Tony slid the shirt up his arms and over his shoulders, pulling Bucky back around to face him again. Tony began doing the buttons as Bucky continued to stare at the man, watching his nimble fingers do up the buttons with ease.
“Well, yeah,” Tony said. “Normally, I wouldn’t care, but you’re adorable. I’d like to see you more than once, and that usually requires at least dinner, so…”
“So you want to… get to know me?”
“Of course!” Tony replied with a grin. “So, what do you say? Dinner?”
“Excellent!” Tony beamed. “Do you like Italian?” At Bucky’s nod, he continued, “JARVIS, reserve us a table for that little Italian bistro I like. They know which table I prefer.”
“Yes sir,” a voice sounded, making Bucky jump.
“What the hell?”
“Oh, that’s JARVIS,” Tony said as he grabbed Bucky’s suit jacket and helped him into that, as well. “He’s an AI.”
“Oh,” Bucky replied. “Oh, wait, I’m supposed to be here for another two hours, and then that driver was supposed to take me home. I can’t just— “
“I’ll take care of it, Sir.”
“See?” Tony replied, looping his arm through Bucky’s and leading him back towards the elevator. “You don’t have to worry about a thing. Just let me take you to dinner.”
“Okay,” Bucky replied, still feeling a little unsure of himself. What was he getting himself into?