Actions

Work Header

Replace Me

Work Text:

 

            The Winter Soldier's name was James Buchanan Barnes.

            It wasn't until Steve got back from the mission he'd been on that day and collapsed down onto their bed when Tony began to worry. Steve held him close, telling him what had happened while he broke down. He let his boyfriend talk about his past, and the man he once thought to be dead, before he finally passed out. Tony rubbed his back and stayed snuggled up in his boyfriend's arms, barely able to sleep that night.

            The next morning, when Steve was set on tracking down the Winter Soldier, he stuck by his boyfriend's side, doing anything that he could to help out on the man's search. Each night, he was just happy that Steve came back to him, returned to their bed, curled up in his arms, and told him 'I love you.'

            But then things changed. Steve started going off for longer amounts of time, not coming back for days on end. When he did come back, he was injured, and there were some nights when he had to stay in one of the medical rooms. Tony usually slept in a chair beside his bed, or in the bed if Steve managed to drag him into it, but more and more often, he'd been heading back to their room, their bed, alone.

            And then one day, Steve didn't come back, and when the team went out searching for him, Tony saw on live television as the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier crashed into the water, after Steve had fallen first. They rushed over and found him onshore—obviously someone had gotten him out of the water—before he was rushed to the hospital. Tony broke down, his teammates stayed with him, and eventually he ended up passed out on one of the chairs.

            Sam Wilson, a friend that Steve had met and a man that Tony wanted to invite to the Avengers, was the one who was awake when Steve woke up. Tony had only heard about what he'd said, about how he'd chastised Steve for making Tony worry so much while still comforting his new friend after Bucky left again.

            After that, Steve stayed at the tower more often, and Tony noticed how sad he looked. He couldn't help but feel guilty now that Steve was staying home more often, because now he wouldn't be in danger. His super-soldier looked so depressed though, so Tony kept up his search even though he knew that finding Bucky would mean replacing himself.

            Every time he managed to locate the assassin, he told Steve, and while Steve always came home empty-handed he always had a smile on his face.

            So Tony stayed in the lab. He kept searching for Bucky, he kept sending Steve out to new places, with Wilson or Clint or Natasha. Bruce kept trying to pull him out of the lab, but he only really managed to whenever Steve wasn't home.

            It became a routine, a habit.

            And habits are hard to break.

 

            Steve was ready to crash after a long day of searching. His muscles were sore, he felt like he hadn't slept in a week, and somehow Bucky had managed to get away again. Of course, he didn't disappear until after they'd taken down the groups of Hydra agents that had been attacking them. He had a little bit of time to actually talk with Bucky—the man remembered him, his best friend remembered him!—and he learned that Bucky had been tracking down the Hydra agents, trying to stop them.

            He was also searching for something, Steve could tell, but he refused to say what.

            Regardless, Steve came home alone, again, and was expecting to just crash onto the bed and cuddle up with his boyfriend. Only... the bed was empty.

            "Hey Jarvis, where's Tony?" he asked. How long had it been since he'd cuddled up with Tony? He'd been gone for two nights now, and... Was he even in their room three nights ago? He couldn't remember...

            "Sir is in his lab," Jarvis replied.

            Steve quickly peeled his dirty clothes off, not feeling like he needed to get a shower just yet—he was too exhausted—so instead he just grabbed some new clothes and dragged himself down to the lab. What was Tony doing in the lab this late?

            When he finally made it to the lab, he was surprised to find that nothing was going on. A couple holographic plans were still floating in the air, so with professional ease Steve gathered them up—Tony had taught him how to manipulate the holographic screens he used long ago—before he looked around for his genius.

            A slight smile crossed his face when he found Tony passed out on the old couch he kept in the room, clutching tightly to a screwdriver like a child might hold a teddy bear. He carefully pulled the screwdriver from Tony's hands, placing it down onto a workbench, before he gathered the shorter man up in his arms. Tony mumbled something in his sleep and snuggled closer, pressing his face to Steve's chest. The super-soldier smiled as he carried his boyfriend upstairs to their room. It wasn't until he settled Tony down and pressed a kiss to his forehead when the genius stirred.

            "Where am I?" Tony mumbled, but Steve just settled down beside him and curled around the shorter man.

            "It's okay, darling, we're in bed," Steve murmured, nuzzling his nose against his boyfriend's neck. "Just relax and go back to sleep."

            "I need to get back to the lab," Tony whispered, trying to get out of Steve's arms.

            "Nope, you need to stay here and get some sleep," Steve said, grinning when Tony turned around to face him. The shorter man pressed up against him, and Steve pressed a kiss to his lips. "I haven't had a chance to snuggle with you in days, and I miss it."

            Tony didn't reply, which Steve would've found concerning if he hadn't been so exhausted. So instead of worrying, he tightened his grip on his boyfriend and fell asleep with Tony in his arms.

 

            Upon waking, Tony found himself unable to move. Steve was still holding him tightly, and Tony was just happy that his boyfriend was still there. He was so close to getting Bucky back, and Tony was so sure that the second that Bucky was back, Steve would be focused on Bucky, and then the break-up would come, and...

            "Tony, what's wrong, darling?" Tony jumped a little upon hearing Steve's voice. "Did I do something wrong?"

            "No," Tony sighed, wishing that Steve would just fall asleep again.

            "Come on, what's wrong?" Steve asked, and he actually sounded very worried. Great, that was the last thing that he wanted. "I know I've been gone a lot. I promise, I'll stay here more. You'll see."

            "It's not that," he sighed, dragging himself out of bed. "I need some coffee. I'm exhausted. That's all, Steve, really."

            Those beautiful blue eyes stared into his, and for a moment Tony thought Steve was going to call him on his bullshit. But then the super-soldier just nodded. "Let's go get some coffee, and then how 'bout we go out for some bagels? I know a place about three blocks from here that has the best bagels in the entire city."

            "That's only because I showed you that place!" Tony laughed, but then he bit his lip. "I should continue trying to see if Bucky's anywhere near here. He couldn't have gotten far—"

            "Tony," Steve said firmly, and the genius froze in place. "Let's go get bagels, okay? You've been working too hard, and I haven't noticed enough... I need to be spending more time here, with you, outside of the lab. We can't keep searching twenty-four seven, and you need to destress. I've been working you crazy. And I'm sorry." Steve reached a hand out, and Tony couldn't help but take it. "Now, I'm pretty sure it's been a while since you've got a blueberry bagel, and I haven't had one of those cinnamon bagels in a long time."

            Tony couldn't hide his smile. They hadn't been out in a while, and it might be fun. After all, if Steve was going to leave him, he might as well get a few more good days in. "Okay."

            "Great," Steve said, grinning. "Coffee first."

 

            "We need to do this more often," Steve said, smiling as he walked down the street hand in hand with his boyfriend. While Tony had seemed a bit anxious earlier in the morning, he was just glad to see that his genius had calmed down. Whatever was bothering Tony would have to be talked about, though, because he hated to think that he was doing something that was making Tony feel bad.

            "Whenever you want, I'll never say no to blueberry bagels," Tony said. Seeing him smile made Steve want to never see that smile disappear. He couldn't remember loving someone else this much—he cared about Peggy, and always would, but he'd never actually gotten a chance to have anything more than a crush on her. With Tony, they'd spent time together, he'd fallen in love with the other man and he never wanted to let go.

            "Well," Tony said as they turned the corner. "I should head back to the lab, continue the search—"

            "Tony... no. Don't," Steve said, taking both of Tony's hands in his own. The brunet looked up at him with confused eyes and a slight frown on his face. "Please, just... don't think about that right now. I haven't been spending enough time with you, and I get that. I'm sorry. So please, can we go do something—"

            "But he's out there somewhere," Tony said. His eyes glanced down at the ground, and Steve realized that whatever was wrong with Tony was directly related with him being off searching all of the time.

            "And he doesn't want to be here. I... I can't force him to come back to the tower if he doesn't want to be here," Steve said calmly. He leaned down and kissed his boyfriend. "But that's okay, Tony. I'm not going to give up on being his friend, but I... I haven't been here for you. Last night you were alone in the lab, and I know why. If I was here, you would've been with me, not alone. And I'm sorry, Tony, I really am. But I'm going to make it up to you. No more searching. We're going to be spending more time together, as long as you want me."

            He was a little concerned when his boyfriend stared at him like he was crazy. "But... I thought you wanted to find Bucky."

            "You have found him... many times," Steve pointed out. "But he hasn't come back. But that doesn't matter right now. Please. Can I take you out to dinner tonight? We haven't done that in a while."

            "We can... do that," Tony agreed, and Steve grinned as he put an arm around his boyfriend's waist.

            "Before that, why don't we go do some hand-to-hand practice in the gym? I know you probably don't need it, but in case you're ever in a situation where no one's around to protect you... I want you to be safe," Steve said. Tony hadn't been ready to tell him about Iron Man yet, he supposed, so making sure that he was trained well just in case was something that he could definitely do. He didn't want to make Tony feel any more uncomfortable than he already did about the situation, so forcing him to reveal his secret probably wasn't the best thing to do.

            "I'm not sure you... Why would you want to train me? It's not like I'm..." He glanced away. "...going to get into any trouble."

            "People might try to hurt you to get to me," Steve pointed out. "Or to get to the team... We all care about you, Tony. Plus, you're a billionaire. I know you used to train with other people in case anything bad happened. I won't go easy on you, if that's what you're worried about."

            Tony rolled his eyes. "I'd be insulted if you did."

 

            "Okay, so I thought you were kidding at least a little bit," Tony gasped, sweaty and exhausted as his boyfriend dragged him to his feet. Again. He couldn't keep track of the number of times he'd been knocked to the ground. "I can't keep up with a super-soldier, Steve, I really can't."

            "I know. Believe me, I am going a little easy on you," Steve chuckled, keeping him standing. He handed him a towel, which Tony used to wipe his face clean. Yuck, so much for working in the lab after. He might just need to go get a...

            "Shower?" Steve suggested, and Tony smirked.

            "You read my mind," he replied, grinning. It wasn't like this was the first time they'd shared a shower, just as they'd shared a bed many times for reasons other than sleeping.

            Tony's heart ached as he thought about not being able to share a bed with Steve anymore. The moment that Bucky was back, Steve would spend all of his time with his not-dead-anymore 'best friend' (Tony was almost sure they'd been together before and during the war). He'd forget about their relationship (probably not, Tony presumed), or he'd break up with him as nicely as he could (because Steve was a nice guy like that).

            "Tony?" The brunet looked over at his boyfriend in confusion. "You're making weird faces again. There's something wrong, I know there is, and I don't know why you won't talk about it with me. What did I do wrong?"

            "You didn't," Tony insisted, because it was true. Steve hadn't done anything wrong, not in the slightest. And even when the super-soldier did break up with him, that wouldn't be 'wrong' at all, it would just be Steve's decision.

            "Please," Steve murmured, tightly embracing the shorter man. Tony just smiled, relaxing against his lover. He loved being able to touch Steve—he'd had some issues in the past with people touching him, or handing things to him, but with Steve it was different. He never had to worry about his lover hurting him, not like that past lovers had. Steve would never hit him or try to choke him or—

            "I don't want to lose you," Tony said before he could hold the words back. Somehow, Steve always made him feel so safe, even when he felt so vulnerable. Those strong arms of his would just stay wrapped around him, and he'd hold him, protect him, keep him safe.

            "You're not going to lose me," Steve murmured, loosening his grip on Tony just enough to be able to look him in the eye. "It can't be because I'm an Avenger. You've never had a problem with me being on the team before..." Tony could almost see it in his eyes as he tried to solve the problem. Solving problems was something that Steve was always too good at. "It's because of Bucky, isn't it?"

            Tony couldn't help but flinch away a little. Of course Steve would be able to see right through him. There was a pain that welled up inside when his lover's arms disappeared from around him. Well, at least until Steve cupped with face with both hands and leaned down to kiss him.

            "I'm not leaving," Steve whispered, kissing him again. "Why would you think that?"

            "Why would you need me around when you've got Bucky?" Tony said, internally cursing himself. Something about the kicked-puppy look on Steve's face just made him want to be honest with the other man.

            "I don't understand what you mean by that," Steve said after a moment. "I love you, Tony. Can't I have both of you in my life? Isn't that why we've been searching for him?"

            "I want you to be happy," Tony said, unsure of how to explain himself. "And you... you'll be happier with him than with me. That's why I've been searching..."

            Steve stared at him for a moment before laughing. Tony just bit his lip and tried to keep himself from frowning. He didn't succeed.

            "Tony, I love you," Steve chuckled. "I love Buck too. He's like a brother to me, that's all. I'm not trying to replace you." He looked a lot more serious when he put a hand on Tony's waist. "I love you, darling. That isn't going to change. You don't have to worry about Bucky. At least, you don't have to worry about me leaving you for him. It's never going to happen. He's basically my brother, and the thought of..." Steve shook his head, chuckling again. "Nope, that's not going to happen. And you don't have to worry about it, okay?"

            Searching his eyes for any hint of a lie, Tony caved in. Steve was telling the truth. "Okay."

            "Good," Steve murmured, kissing his cheek. "You don't have to worry about me leaving, because I'm going to keep reminding you that I love you until you actually believe what I'm telling you."

            "I believe you," Tony said, sighing. He leaned against Steve, smiling when the super-soldier hugged him close. "I just... I know I've fucked a lot of things up, Steve, and this is something that I really don't want to fuck up. Every day I wonder when you're going to wake up and see that you don't really want to be with me—"

            "I love you," Steve reminded him, and Tony chuckled.

            "I know, I heard you the first thousand times," Tony mumbled, though it did help. It helped a lot.

 

            The moment that they got back to the tower later that night after a wonderful, carefree dinner, Steve froze in his tracks. The last thing that he'd been expecting was to see Bucky waiting outside of the tower, leaning against one of the walls. His left arm was hanging limply at his side. From where he was, it was easy to see that it must've been broken. Beside him, Tony froze too, gripping his hand tightly.

            "Bucky," Steve said before he was able to even think about it. The other super-soldier, who'd been quite focused on the ground for a while looked up like he was startled, like he hadn't expected to see them outside the tower.

            "Steve," Bucky greeted, eyes glancing between him and Tony. "...Stark...”

            "I thought you... didn't want to come back. I thought you didn't want my help," Steve said slowly, not even sure of how to feel. Was Bucky here to stay, or was he just here to say something before he left again? He wasn't sure if he should feel joy or worry—was he finally able to relax and not have to go out hunting for his best friend, the man he thought to be dead for so long?

            "I wasn't going to come back," Bucky said, hanging his head a little. "Not until I figured out for myself who I was... and while I'm not ready to be back, I..." Bucky's right arm had been across his body, and Steve had just thought he'd been holding his mechanical arm. When he moved his right arm, though, there were two large gunshot wounds in his side. "The arm broke, I was injured, and I... I didn't know where else to go."

            Steve glanced over at Tony, wanting to make sure that he could invite Bucky to the tower. His boyfriend nodded. "Let's get you upstairs, Buck. You can stay, but I'm going to need to make sure my team's safe."

            "I understand," Bucky murmured, and he handed his gun to Steve. It seemed like a good sign of trust—though he knew that there was no doubt that Bucky had several more weapons, probably at least a few more guns.

            Steve gently squeezed Tony's hand before gesturing to the door. Tony hadn't actually said anything yet, and he knew that they'd need to have a long conversation about that. If Tony didn't want Bucky in the tower, then he wasn't going to stay. But if Tony didn't want him there... Steve wasn't going to leave his boyfriend. He wasn't lying when he said that he loved him, and he wasn't lying when he said that he needed to spend more time with him.

            "What happened?" Tony spoke up once the three of them were in the elevator. Steve made sure to keep himself between his lover and his best friend, just in case anything did happen.

            "I was trying to take down some Hydra bases they... they used to keep me at," Bucky mumbled, keeping a hand pressed to the gunshot wounds. "They weren't too happy about that."

            "I can see that," Tony commented. "Your arm, what's wrong with it?"

            "They shot it... and it stopped working," the ex-assassin replied.

            The moment that the elevator opened, Tony hurried out. "I'll go get Bruce," he said over his shoulder. "Get Bucky to the medical room."

            Without having a chance to say anything before Tony ran off, Steve decided to just listen and bring his injured friend over to the medical room.

            "I want you back here, Bucky, I really do, but I need you to understand that I'm not about to let you stay here if my team is in danger," Steve said, helping the injured man over to the medical room. The brunet nodded, wincing in pain as he laid down on the cot.

            "I know, Stevie," Bucky murmured, and Steve's heart swelled. Bucky used to call him 'Stevie' back in the forties.

            "I've missed you, you jerk," Steve whispered, and Bucky reached out to take his hand. Ignoring the blood that was so obviously on his hand, Steve took it.

            "I missed you too, punk," Bucky said, sighing. "I just... keepin' a lid on the Winter Soldier is tough. I think I've got it now... but I need you to lock me up if I lose it. I don't want to hurt anyone anymore, Steve, I don't."

            "I understand. If there are any other weapons you have," he said, and Bucky nodded.

            "I know. I already got rid of them on the way... 'cept the knives, those are in my boots," Bucky murmured. The pained look on his face worried Steve, because if he was actually showing pain, then it must've been real bad. Thankfully, it was only a moment before Bruce and Tony came running in.

            "We're going to need to get the bullets out of him so that it doesn't cause an infection," Bruce said, looking like he was trying to remain calm even though there was a chance that Bucky could lose himself to the Winter Soldier at any moment. "I know drugs don't work well on Steve—"

            "Painkillers won't work on me either," Bucky muttered, gasping in pain when Bruce started disinfecting the wounds. While he was gripping Steve's hand, the grip was weak, and it really worried the blond.

            "Sorry," Bruce murmured, concentrating. "But this is going to hurt. We didn't think you were ever going to come back to the tower. What changed your mind?"

            "I know it's been hurtin' Steve," Bucky said, gritting his teeth in pain as Bruce started removing the bullets. "And... to be honest, if I hadn't been shot, I wouldn't be here. They hit me with somethin' that's been tryin' to fight the serum in me, and I'm not healin' like I should be..."

            "He's going to need a transfusion," Bruce said once the bullets were out. Bucky was laying on the bed, still holding Steve's hand, but looking very out of it.

            "We're a match," Steve said quickly. "Buck had to give me one when I was younger—take my blood."

            "That might be able to restart the serum in his veins enough to aid in the healing process," Bruce mumbled, probably mostly to himself as he grabbed a needle and a bag. "Tony, can you keep pressure on the wound?"

            The brunet nodded and moved to take Steve's place so that he could get some blood drawn. The super-soldier was a little worried, since he knew that Tony wasn't exactly comfortable around Bucky—he should've noticed earlier, why wasn't he paying enough attention?—and he didn't want to keep Tony near Bucky if it made him so uncomfortable.

            While he hated getting blood drawn—if someone got ahold of it, someone bad, then they could create their own super-soldiers that could be used to attack his team—he didn't have a problem with giving blood to Bucky. It didn't take long before Bruce got the transfusion set up and to get the bullets out of Bucky. By that point in time, the ex-Hydra assassin had already passed out. The blond was a little surprised when his boyfriend didn't leave the room, instead choosing to stand by his side and keep a hand on his shoulder.

            "He's going to be fine," Bruce assured him, and Steve nodded.

            Bucky looked so pale, so exhausted yet still so... peaceful in the bed.

            "Thank you for letting him stay," Steve said, standing up so that he could hug his boyfriend. Tony turned his head a little so that he could kiss Steve’s cheek. "He won't hurt anyone."

            "I believe you. He's your best friend, and I'm not going to leave him out on the streets if I can offer him a place to stay," Tony murmured, and Steve hugged him tighter. Tony chuckled, "That arm of his is really bothering me... I hate broken technology. I just want to fix it right now."

            Steve smiled fondly at his boyfriend, rolling his eyes. He shouldn't have been surprised to find that Tony wanted to fix Bucky's arm because he loved working with technology. He loved watching Tony in the lab, watching his pure excitement as he worked with technology to create something even better. He kissed Tony again, wishing that there was a way to be able to take away his fear. He wasn't planning on leaving his genius at all, especially not for someone else, least of all the only man on Earth that there was no chance of anything romantic happening. Bucky was his brother, and somehow he'd be able to show that to Tony.

 

            "If something happens, I want you to lock me up right away," Bucky said. He hadn't once looked over at Tony yet, and he wondered if he was ever going to. The man had barely looked at Steve, and they were supposed to be the best of friends.

            "I doubt anything's going to happen, but we can do that," Steve assured him. "When's the last time you lost control?"

            "A couple weeks ago." The reply made Tony feel a lot better. Chances were, he wasn't going to go Winder Soldier on anyone, and they'd be able to figure out what happened to Barnes, and how to fix him. Tony couldn't help but look over at his arm again—he wanted so badly to just drag Barnes down to the lab and just fix it already. It was really starting to bug him.

            "See? That's progress," Steve said, and Tony noticed a small smile cross the ex-assassin's face. "The good news right now is that Bruce gave you an all-clear—the serum you've got is slowly coming back, and the bullets are gone, and you're all stitched up. The only thing that's left is that arm of yours."

            "I really want to fix it," Tony spoke up, and finally Barnes looked over at him.

            There was a look of surprise on his face, like he hadn't expected Tony to want to be anywhere near him, ever. "You want to... really?"

            "It's broken," Tony tried explaining, though he was honestly at a loss for words. He didn't want to be around Bucky too much, he didn't—what if Steve changed his mind? He was already terrified for the moment that Steve realized that he wasn't good enough and he'd rather be with someone better... like Iron Man, or someone. That would be hilarious in a rather ironic way.

            "I guess if you really want to," Bucky said, sounding suspicious. He looked over at Steve and relaxed a little, probably upon seeing the wide grin on Steve's face. "I mean, it's not like you could make it worse than it is right now, since it's basically useless at the moment."

            Tony couldn't help but smile a little at the thought of being able to work with the broken technology. He could make it better, far better than anything than anything that Hydra could ever make. He stood up, yawning as he stretched.

            "Well, I'm exhausted," Tony said, moving towards the door. Steve caught his arm before he was able to walk by, gently pulling him down so that he could kiss him.

            "I'll be up soon," Steve promised. The words made him feel relieved in a way that he hadn't been expecting. He gave a slight nod before hurrying out of the room, not looking over at Bucky once as he exited.

 

            "He doesn't like me," Bucky commented the moment that Tony was gone.

            "It's not that," Steve insisted quickly. How was he supposed to explain this? "He just... he's a bit insecure. He thought that I was putting so much time into tracking you down because I was in love with you, and that I was just going to leave him... and I can't really blame him for thinking like that, because I haven't been spending much time with him, and I was actually just telling him earlier today that I was going to stop trying to drag you back to the tower because I was basically ignoring him, and—"

            "Calm down," Bucky murmured, cutting off Steve's mad ramble. "I get it, you really like the guy. Me being here at the tower isn't going to hurt that, right?"

            "I hope not... he did say that you can stay," Steve said. It was a bit surprising, but he was really glad about it. "He was interested in fixing up your arm, which surprised me, but... Maybe you can try to make friends with him? Please?"

            "I can try," Bucky sighed. Despite what he'd been through as the Winter Soldier, Steve could really see that his best friend wasn't completely gone. The more he remembered, the more Bucky was back. "There's somethin' about him... I like him. I never thought anyone would able to get you out on a date, but it seems like you two have done a bit more than that."

            Steve rolled his eyes at Bucky's smirk. "I like him too, believe me."

            He stood up, moving closer. He wanted so badly to just hug his friend, like no time had passed since the two were just kids in Brooklyn, but he knew that so much had gone on. Bucky didn't remember everything, and he understood that it would take a while, but...

            "Come 'ere, punk," Bucky murmured, and Steve grinned, hugging him tightly.

            "I missed you so much," Steve whispered. "I thought you were dead... if I'd known before, I would've been searching for you. They wouldn't let me go on the search missions, and when they told me that you were dead—"

            "I understand. I'm not mad, Steve," Bucky said, keeping a tight grip on one of his hands. "They told me you were dead... They broke me. I remember that... There's so much that I've managed to remember, a lot of which I'd rather forget. But I remember you... and I'd never want to forget you."

            "I'm so glad you're back." Steve didn't want to leave, he really didn't. But he needed to go check on Tony.

            "I'm glad I'm back, too," Bucky mumbled, yawning. "I think there's something you need to go do, Stevie."

            "Please don't leave... during the night, when I'm not here," Steve whispered. If Bucky left now... he didn't understand why his friend had stayed away for so long, but if he left now, it would hurt that much more.

            "I won't leave, Stevie, I promise," Bucky said, pulling Steve down onto the bed, embracing his friend. "Quit worryin' about that, and go make sure your fella is okay. Go on."

            Steve smiled, hugging Bucky tightly before he left. Jarvis alerted him that Buck would be under careful supervision, and that if there was to be an incident during the night, he would be detained accordingly. The AI promised Steve that every measure would be taken to make sure no harm was brought to Bucky if something did happen, though the AI also didn't think that anything would happen.

            When Steve got to their bedroom, he wasn't surprised to find that Tony was already in bed. Now, he was easily able to tell that his boyfriend wasn't asleep just due to the pattern of his breathing as he wandered over, and the fact that Tony snored lightly as he slept.

            "I'm going to figure out how to show you eventually that I'm here, I love you, and I'm not going to be leaving you no matter what," Steve murmured, sliding into bed beside Tony, wrapping his arms around the shorter man's waist as he curled up around him, chest-to-back. He pressed a kiss to the back of Tony's neck, and the genius shivered with pleasure.

            "I love you too," Tony whispered, and Steve was a bit disappointed he didn't comment on the 'no matter what.' He still wasn't sure why Tony wasn't telling him the truth about Iron Man, but if he wasn't ready yet, then he wasn't going to bring it up. Eventually Tony would tell him, and (hopefully soon) he'd realize that no one would think less of him for it. In fact, Steve guessed that the team would be pretty happy if they knew the truth.

            Humming happily upon hearing those words from his lover, Steve tightened his grip a little before letting the sound of Tony's arc reactor lull him off to sleep.

 

            "I never really got a good answer on why you'd want to fix my arm," Bucky said. He'd been at the tower for the past two weeks, and since there hadn't been a serious incident—and Steve still hadn't left him, that was a good sign—Tony decided that it would probably be a good time to fix up the man's arm. After all, he said he would, and the broken arm was bothering him. It was painful to look at, he could only imagine how it must've felt.

            "I like fixing things," Tony said, trying to concentrate on the busted arm and not on Bucky's face. "Your arm is broken, I want to fix it. What's so difficult to understand?"

            "I think it's more about Steve than you're willing to admit," Bucky said, and Tony couldn't help but look up at him, an eyebrow raised.

            "What does Steve have to do with broken tech?" Tony asked, turning his attention back to the wires so that he didn't accidently electrocute either of them. "The only connection this arm has to Steve is the fact that it's connected to you, and you're his..."

            "Best friend?" Bucky supplied.

            "Brother... he told me you're basically his brother," Tony mumbled, shrugging a little. He put a couple more wires back in place, watching as the man was suddenly able to move his arm again.

            "Glad to know he still thinks of me as his brother, even after all this time," Bucky said, and he could actually hear the quiet joy in his voice. "You do know that he's not going to leave you, 'specially not for me, right? 'Cause when Stevie loves someone... it's with all his heart. And it only took one look at him for me to tell just how much he cares about you."

            "I know," Tony snapped, though hearing it from someone else made him feel a little better. He wanted to hate Bucky—he wasn't sure why he wanted to, but he did. The issue was, the more he talked with the other man, the harder it was for him to hate him. He was actually an interesting man to talk to, and Tony learned quickly that they were more similar than he'd been expecting. They even had the same sense of humor.

            "So, you're some kind of genius, hmm?" Bucky asked, curling and uncurling his fingers, a smirk on his face. "Maybe I should've come to you earlier 'bout this—Hydra's not good at making things. It's been broken for quite a while now... How's Steve been doing?"

            "He's been anxious a lot, and really worried about you," Tony muttered, putting the finishing touches on Bucky's arm before he patted his shoulder and stepped back. "You've been making my job a lot harder—I've been tracking you down again and again, yet somehow it takes me not looking for you to actually get you back to the tower. I don't think that's fair, not with how many times I've managed to track you down."

            "Sorry 'bout that," Bucky sighed, testing out the arm. "If I knew the strain it was putting on your and Stevie's relationship, I would've come back sooner... This is amazing. How'd you do this?"

            "I thought you already knew this, I'm a genius," Tony said, chuckling. "You just needed a bit of a rewiring—sure, the outside of it still looks like shit, but it shouldn't be hurting anymore, right?"

            "That's incredible," Bucky murmured, mesmerized with the fact that his arm was working again easily and painlessly. "You're going to have to show me how to do that."

            "Depends—are you as bad with technology as Steve? Because if you are, then there's a chance that you might kill yourself trying to fix it," Tony said, not missing the way Bucky smirked.

            "He's never really been good with technology—I can assure you, I'm a lot better with it than he is. If I wasn't sent off ta war, I would've become a mechanic so I could work on all those high-end, expensive-looking cars."

            "Expensive cars, hmm? I could show you some of those," Tony said, rubbing his chin. Perhaps he could see just how good Bucky was with mechanics... maybe he could get himself a bit of a lab partner when it came to engineering. Bruce loved working with him on things when it came to chemistry and such, but he wasn't the best when it came to engineering and mechanics.

            So instead of getting back to work, Tony started testing Bucky to see just how good he was with everything in the lab. After showing him the more modern-age technology, he started catching on pretty quickly. He couldn't deny that he was impressed—he knew that modern technology wasn't exactly Steve's thing, though he'd tried helping him with a lot of it, but compared to Bucky... He just caught on so quickly.

            He didn't even realize how many hours had passed until he heard a familiar voice calling his name.

            "We're under the car," Tony shouted, slowly rolling out from underneath the vehicle that he and Bucky had been working on. When he managed to sit up, he wasn't surprised to see Steve standing there smiling.

            "I brought food... I didn't realize you two would be so busy," Steve said. The way he smiled, the way those beautiful blue eyes of his looked, Tony knew that he was happy to see them getting along.

            "Bucky was giving me a hand with this car... Figured I needed to see for myself just how good of a mechanic he might've been if things had been different," Tony said, shrugging. The oddest thing was that he hadn't thought about how much he'd wanted to hate Bucky until now, when he actually had to force himself to think about it. Huh, maybe he wouldn't have to think about that all of the time...

            "Good," Steve murmured, handing the both of them some towels so they weren't eating grease and oil. "I was a bit worried... that you two wouldn't be able to be in the same room together."

            "What? Why'd you think that?" Bucky asked, throwing an arm around Tony's shoulders. "Why wouldn't I want to spend some time with your fella, Steve?"

            Steve's focus stayed on Tony, probably trying to make sure that he was okay. He smiled at his boyfriend—if he'd known how well he'd get along with Bucky, then... No, he wasn't completely convinced yet. But perhaps... Bucky wouldn't tear him and Steve apart. It didn't seem like it, at least, which was nice.

            "I guess I shouldn't be surprised, he is pretty wonderful," Steve murmured, leaning down to steal a quick kiss from Tony. "Though I have to say, it's been many hours and I think it's time for a break. You two need more than just a little food—some rest would do you good."

            "But Steve, it's not even late yet," Tony murmured, smirking when Steve wrapped his arms around him, resting his chin on Tony's shoulder.

            "Yeah, but I'll be lonely up in that big room all by myself," Steve teased, and Tony rolled his eyes. While he couldn't see Steve's expression at the moment, he could only imagine the sad puppy-dog eyes that Steve would be giving him.

            "You haven't changed a bit," Bucky chuckled. "Can we finish this car tomorrow?"

            "Sure," Tony said. "Just a warning, I sleep late."

            "Something else we have in common," Bucky said, heading over towards the elevator. "Don't stay up too late you two—I wouldn't want that beautiful car to get messed up if you're too tired to fix it correctly."

            Tony grinned, leaning back against Steve's chest. The moment that the elevator doors closed, he looked back at his boyfriend. "I like him."

            "Good, I was hoping you would," Steve murmured, pressing a kiss to his cheek. "Now, I was serious about you needing some sleep—you haven't been getting enough of that in a long time, and I'm making sure that you're going to get some tonight."

            Tony rolled his eyes but didn't argue as Steve led him over to the elevator.

            "I wasn't sure I'd like him," Tony said after a moment. "A-and I think I'm starting to get past the whole... 'you're going to leave me for him' thing."

            "Good, because it's not going to happen," Steve murmured. Tony gasped when Steve sneakily swept him off his feet. Now, while he acted like he didn't like it when Steve did that, he couldn't help but love it. His super-soldier was very comforting—just being there made him feel relaxed and happy. He hadn't felt that around someone in a long time.

            His team was nice—despite him 'not being an Avenger' since none of them knew the truth, they still treated him like he was family. And Steve never tried to make him feel less for 'not being a superhero' like the rest of them. He was so used to being told what he was and what he wasn't—he wasn't good enough, he was never good enough, he was a playboy not a lover, a troublemaker and killer not a hero—but his team never treated him like that.

            For the longest time, Bucky had been told what he was and what he wasn't—he was an assassin, a weapon, not a human, he didn't have free will, he was a bad person, he wasn't Bucky Barnes—except he didn't have anyone. Knowing that by him rejecting Bucky was making it harder for him to be a part of the team, it hurt a little.

            "Tony..."

            Maybe he really should try harder to accept Barnes. He could relate to the man a lot...

            "You in there?" Steve whispered, kissing his cheek. "Tony, you're zoning out on me."

            "Sorry," he whispered, snuggling up against his super-soldier's warm chest. "Just thinking... Bucky needs the team just as much as I needed them... I want to be his friend, Steve."

            "I'm glad," Steve said, carrying off towards their bedroom. "I know that it hasn't been easy... especially after all those days of searching... I really owe you, Tony. You've done so much more for me than anyone else... You gave me a home, you gave me a chance—"

            "I was surprised you even wanted to go out with me," Tony mumbled. "But I'm glad you did, 'cause I'm not sure I've ever been happier, having you at my side and the team all 'round me..."

            He wasn't exactly sure why that pained expression crossed Steve's face, but he was pretty exhausted, so he couldn't really worry all that much.

            "I'm going to do better, Tony, I promise," Steve whispered, kissing his forehead before setting him down onto their bed. Better? What did he mean by he'd do better? He'd never had someone who cared about him as much as Steve did—in the past, his relationships hadn't always been very good. Sometimes they'd turned a bit abusive, sometimes the person was just using him for his money or fame or whatever... But Steve had always treated him kindly. Steve never used his for his money, Steve never hurt him, Steve never did any of that.

            It felt so nice to have Steve curl around him. He was already pretty exhausted, so it was easy to just snuggle up against him and listen to his heartbeat.

            "I'm going to do so much better Tony, you'll see," Steve whispered as Tony fell asleep, safe in the arms of the man that he loved.