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“We can do this, Bucky bear. ...you can do this.”

The electrodes firmly in place, Bucky just nodded. Whatever happened, he could survive this. And if it was too awful a memory, well, he could just forget it again. His brain seemed made for that. Okay, it would be recorded somewhere after this little exercise. Other people could go in and watch it, remember it. But that didn’t mean he had to. And what was privacy in the banks of his fractured memories anyway? Most of these memories were of someone who’d been state property anyhow, hadn’t been a person with rights or privacy. So what was the difference? Sure, he’d been there. He was responsible. But that didn’t make it private or personal.

Tony was watching him with that look. “We’re not turnin’ back, Tony.”

“No, I know. I was just thinking, you know. About what to order for lunch.”

That almost made Bucky smile. “Sure, lunch. Plan ahead.”

“Exactly.”

“‘Cause we could be here a while.”

“Nah.” He was shaking his head, nonchalant. “This’ll just take a few minutes. Then we’ll go grab some lunch. Whaddaya say?”

“Sounds good.” If Tony could act casual, so could he. Something inside Bucky was telling him not to do this without Steve or Sam here. But that was dumb. Tony was here with him. He could handle this. And whatever came out of it, he could go over it with Sam or Steve later. There was nothing to worry about, right?

“Okay, kid. You ready?” Bucky nodded. “Let’s fire this thing up. Oh, wait. You grounded?”

Bucky knew Tony was joking to try to break the tension. There was no equipment here capable of electrocuting him. But he raised a boot anyway. “Leather’s a poor conductor, right?”

 

*

 

“Yep.” Tony was nodding, flipping switches. “It’s the best. Nothing like skin at all.” But Tony was worried, too. He didn’t like the idea of sticking Bucky in a box, isolating him while he played out what was going on in some damaged part of his brain.

When Tony had done this, of course he’d done it alone. With J.A.R.V.I.S. He’d been standing in the image, able to walk around in it and look at it from all angles. But of course that wouldn’t work in this case. For Bucky to feel part of these memories could only be a bad thing. Might even regress him. Which was another reason Tony wanted to be inside the box with him, to make sure it was Bucky who woke up. But that wasn’t possible. The equipment was too sensitive. He’d have to work on that.

So he sighed, shook his head, and flipped the switch. “Here we go, sweetheart.” The knuckles of Bucky’s right hand were white where they gripped the arm of the chair, but he just nodded. Neither of Tony’s Brooklyn boys were ones to turn back from fear.

The simulation room was dark. At first, Tony thought it had failed, that they had come up against some part of Bucky’s memory that had gone dark from all the damage Hydra had caused over the decades, all of the cryo freezes and EST. But then he started to see the outline of shapes. It was just a memory in the dark--Tony supposed Bucky had a lot of those--not a dark memory. He hoped.

“You’ve done such a good job.” Tony narrowed his eyes. That shape was a bed. And there were two figures in it. Male bodies.

Well, well, Tony thought. Was he about to see one of the famous sleepovers Cap brought up from time to time?

“Your country thanks you. You shaped history today. Fought back against tyranny.” Funny, though, it wasn’t a voice Tony recognized. And he knew both of his boys by now, hair to toenails.

He hit a few keys, turned up the brightness, pushed in on the speaker. Handsome guy. Mid-20’s, maybe. With a military carriage, hard body. He reminded Tony of--right. He was like a poor man’s Steve Rogers. But there was something wrong with his face. It was Ivy League instead of Flatbush Ave. And his lips were thin, not pouty and judgmental. Other than that...strong jawline, blond hair, blue eyes...it was almost like someone was--

Oh god.

It was Winter Soldier lying there next to him on satin sheets. Where pseudo-Steve was covered from the waist down, like a man who’d just climbed in to do a bit of light reading before bed, the Asset was completely exposed, lying like an object tossed into surroundings into which it did not fit. He was trussed up like a Christmas goose, and what Tony had mistaken for a mask at first was a muzzle. Too much like the one Thor had stuck on his brother after the battle of New York. It gave him the creeps. It broke his heart.

What did they do to you, angel?

“I think that deserves a reward, don’t you?”

Impossibly, or--no, it was predictable. Tony’s mind was solving the Rubik’s cube, and the picture was almost too horrible to look at. The Winter Soldier strained forward against his bindings, rubbing his cheek against the blond man’s chest. Like an abused dog, begging for affection from its master.

“If I touch you, you won’t tell anyone, right?” This sounded like a rehearsed line, like he was repeating something he’d heard someone else say. The beaten dog’s eyes just closed. Shame. Rapture. Relief. When the man reached for the scarred body Tony knew so well, he almost had to look away. Not for jealousy, but for horror. What he was doing to Bucky wasn’t love. It was pure manipulation.

What was worse, unlike the Soldier’s, Tony’s eyes were open. He could see how disgusted the false agent was by what he had to do. And that made Tony angry. If they were going to give him a false Steve, at least get a good actor. Get someone who pretended to love their secret weapon half as much as the real Steve did.

He realized the restraints weren’t just for safety, weren’t just part of the training, they were because this joker refused to be touched by Winter Soldier in return--not out of fear, but loathing. He probably went home to his wife after this and put her through the mattress to reassure himself of his heterosexuality. That made Tony angry. Dyed in the wool heterosexuals made him really angry. No imagination. But this guy, he took the cake.

“It’s just you and me, pal,” the false Steve was saying. “You and me, we’re in this together. Doesn’t matter if no one else understands. As long as we’re together.”

It was the words that were really doing it for Bucky, Tony could tell. This affection-starved animal that they brought out of the freezer whenever they needed someone important assassinated. There was still a person in there somewhere. A person who needed this: connection. Human contact. Even just this little bit.

Tony watched the creature’s body convulse. Even in the throes of orgasm, he made no sound. He had been trained well.

His trainer had done the absolute bare minimum to achieve the result. He took a moist towelette to wipe away the evidence of his unpleasant task, literally washing his hands of the animal before him. “Remember, no matter what happens.” He tossed the tissue aside, clearly having no intention of touching Bucky again. “I’ll always come for you.” Then he rolled away, slid out of bed with an undisguised look of disgust. Tony got an eyeful as he stood up and the sheets fell back. This guy was no Steve Rogers. He fell short by more than a couple of inches here and there.

Behind him, Bucky lay on the sheets, spattered with his own semen, knees drawn up as far as the restraints would allow, trying to curl into a semi-fetal position. His eyes were still closed, and Tony couldn’t blame him. He had to know something of what was going on, how he was being used, manipulated.  

“Take him.” At first, Tony was afraid the man was talking to him. He seemed to address the room, as if he knew he was being observed. Then a group of men in black entered to unfasten the winter soldier’s restraints and drag him away like a side of beef. They didn’t even bother to clean him up, Tony noted. He caught a glimpse of dead eyes as they dragged him out.

Wes Craven be damned, this was true horror. Having to watch, to learn about how someone you loved had been harmed. Taking a glimpse into the dark recesses of their mind and seeing why they needed a night light to sleep. Tony was overcome. Cap could never see this. He’d track Fury down, beg him to be a part of hunting down what was left of Hydra. He’d never be able to handle seeing this. Tony wasn’t even sure he could handle it.

He glanced into the box. Bucky was just sitting there, same as before. Something was wrong with that. Tony put everything on standby, rushed to get out of the control room and into the box. “Bucky bear? Sweetheart? Sugar pie? It’s Tony. Hey.” He fought with the door and walked, not ran to the chair, though he wanted to. Took his boy’s face in his hands, checked his eyes for signs of life. When he brought out the pen light, Bucky squinted and shoved at him, and Tony felt better.

“What? Tony, stop. ‘M fine.”

Tony just stared at him. “That’s not possible.” Bucky knew he’d just seen what was inside his head, right? There was no way. No damn way.

Bucky was shaking his head. He looked tired. “I’m fine,” he was insisting. “It’s fine.”

“No it is not fine!” Tony snapped. “There are a lot of words for what that was, but ‘fine’ is most definitely not one of them.” He was breathing hard. When had that happened? “I’m calling Wilson.”

“Don’t call Sam.” Bucky reached out and gripped his wrist. He was looking less fine by the moment. His shoulders drooped in defeat. “Please, Tony.”

Tony couldn’t climb into his lap fast enough. There was a distinctly ungraceful scramble of limbs, and then he was pressed against Bucky’s chest, holding him around the shoulders, legs curled in a not-optimal fashion in the super soldier’s lap. “Hey.” He petted the long hair, trying to get Bucky to look at him. “Hey, you know you can touch me, right? We’re in the future now. You’re a person--to me. And I’m right here. I’m real. Touch me, huh? Just a little, to show me you’re still in there.”

One arm slid reluctantly around him, his metal hand settling on Tony’s ass. That’s when he knew Bucky was going to be okay. He wiggled it a little against Bucky’s fingers. “You make me happy, you know that?” He leaned his cheek against Bucky’s in the way he’d seen Cap do, and he felt a gentle pressure in return. “I’m here now. We’re here. Together.” But Bucky wasn’t talking. He gently patted Tony’s ass, so Tony knew he was still listening.

“Hey, are you ready for that lunch? The shawarma place down the street should be open now--”

“Not hungry,” Bucky grunted, and Tony really couldn’t blame him after that.

“Alright, fair enough.” He slid out of Bucky’s lap, trying to pull him along when he stood up. “But let’s get some fresh air or something, okay? Get out of here for a little bit. Go for a stroll.” But Bucky was staring at the floor. Tony leaned down to try and catch his gaze. “Pretty please with sugar on top? Come on. Do it for me?”

Bucky looked up at him, then, and suddenly he was on his feet, and had picked Tony up in a needy hug. “Oookay. There we go. That’s better, huh? Come to Tony. Or, you know. Pick Tony up like a rag doll. I guess either way works.”

“Get me outta here, Tony.” His voice sounded small somehow. It broke his heart. “Somewhere...I don’t know. I don’t wanna think. Please.”

“Somewhere far away?”

“Yeah.”

“I think I know just the place.”

 

*

 

“Sorry, it’s a little cold.”

Bucky caught a snowflake in his palm, opened it to watch the delicate crystalline structure melt. “It’s not that cold.”

“I dunno, F.R.I.D.A.Y. says negative 3 Fahrenheit, so.”

“I had worse.” And for the Himalayas, this was warm. The warmest. “You okay there in your suit?”

“Yup, never better. Full life support system in here, you know. Heat included.” Bucky reached over and took his hand. Or the suit’s hand. It was okay, metal holding metal. “You don’t mind if I take a picture, do you?” Tony was asking. “This is the height of cyborg romance right here. I’m thinking of putting it on next year’s Christmas card.”

Bucky huffed a laugh, which is what he was meant to do. He leaned against Tony--or the suit--and watched the sun coming up over the mountains. The view was spectacular. And it was cold, Bucky couldn’t deny that. But worth it.

“You ever bring Pepper up here?” he found himself asking. Stupid. That was a stupid, mean thing to do to Tony right now.

He was quiet, maybe mulling it over. “Pepper’s...was never this adventurous.”

“Sorry, Tony.” Bucky had no idea why that had popped into his head. “You took her flying, though, right?”

“In private planes? Yes.”

Bucky turned to look at him. “Really?”

“You honestly wanna talk about my ex right now? Is that what you wanna do? Because I did tell you you could ask me anything, but now I’m kind of regretting it. Trying to think of a way to go back on my word and still seem like the good guy.”

“I don’t--” Bucky leaned closer. “Don’t wanna talk about your ex right now.”

“What do you wanna do?”

 

*

 

The rings in the ceiling were definitely not for handicap access. First of all, this particular country didn’t care about accessibility on the whole, couldn’t afford to, and second of all, the rings were positioned right over the bed. Say what you wanted about certain third-world countries, but they knew how to build an hourly-rental luxury hotel room. Tony had stopped being amazed by how strong Bucky’s thighs were five minutes ago, when he’d been dangling two feet above the bed for three minutes.

“You know what this makes me think of?”

Bucky was a little distracted. It took him a moment to open lust-blurred eyes and respond. “Huh?” 

“You know the suit comes off in pieces, right? I mean, I can control which piece comes off when.” He could see from the expression on Bucky’s face, he was too far gone. He wasn’t getting it. “As much as I like watching you play gymnast…hold on tight, sweetheart.”

 

*

 

“Why do I feel like you’re not concentrating?”   

“I’m doing five things at once. That’s the definition of concentration.”

Bucky sat back, panting and smiling. “Only in Tony Stark’s World of ADHD.”

“Hey, I don’t appreciate the insensitive way you’re bringing up my unsatisfactorily-diagnosed special need.”

“Let’s talk about your special need…” Bucky clenched, and they suddenly dropped 20 feet. “What was that about concentrating?”

“Has anyone ever told you you’re unusually strong?” Tony tried not to let his voice show he was panting.

Bucky sat back grinning. He knew Tony was fine. “What, Stevie’s never done that to you before?”

“Okay, 1) let’s not talk about sex with Cap when he’s not here to be embarrassed by it and 2) you know how selfish and unimaginative he is in bed.”

Bucky couldn’t really argue with that. “He just needs a little help. Suggestions from time to time.”

“Are we still talking about Cap, because considering our current juxtaposition, I’m starting to get offended.”

“Okay, how about this?” Gripping Tony’s ankles, Bucky swung his legs up and flipped around, giving Tony a great view of his cock pushed into that muscular posterior.

“Ooookay. Better. That’s better.”

“Take us down closer to the water?”

“What, are we giving the fish a show? Payback for 50 years of Sea World?”

Bucky looked back over his shoulder to grin at Tony. “Yeah, maybe.” They were flying over the jet stream, so the water was warm as could be. He felt Bucky shift forward, curious what he was up to. The sun was blindingly bright on the water. Good thing he could adjust for that.

“A luxury liner just two miles off, boss.” F.R.I.D.A.Y. warned.

“Yep. I see it.” Well, Bucky had said he wanted to put on a show. There was a metallic knock on his inner thigh that made Tony blink. That was honestly a first, and he didn’t have many of those these days.

“Open,” Bucky said.

“You want me to get saltwater on my ass?”

“Open!” Bucky demanded. “Or I’ll just pull it off.” Considering Tony’s jewels as well as his sceptre were exposed right now, any sort of forceful pulling down there sounded like a bad idea to him.

“Okay, okay. But, hey, I thought I was supposed to be the bossy one. We might need to go over that later.” He adjusted his armor, and quickly found out what Bucky had been doing. Warm metal fingers invaded him and Tony’s dick jumped inside Bucky.

Then they were suddenly underwater. Maybe autopilot while they were having in-flight sex wasn’t such a bad idea. They burst back out two seconds later, and Tony looked down, frantic, to make sure Bucky hadn’t drowned on their little undersea adventure. He was bent forward, gripping Tony’s knees, shoulders trembling. “Sugar? You okay down there?”

Bucky sat up, inhaled a sharp breath, and howled with laughter. He laughed so hard, Tony fell out--though after a scare like that, erection was not his natural state anyway. Tony let out a giggle. Bucky’s hysterical laughter was infectious. He’d never seen him laugh like that. He flipped around, gripping Tony’s hips with his legs, and fell forward on the Mark L’s chest, breathless with laughter. “Oh my fucking god!” he wheezed. “Can you picture the news headlines?”

“Iron Man Found at the Bottom of the Sea in Compromising Position with Former Hydra Agent.” Tony said it with his newscaster voice, which had Bucky in stitches again.

“Tony Stark Drowned, Balls-deep in World’s Most Wanted Terrorist.” Tony started to laugh again. He didn’t think Bucky was going to be able to stop.

“Wait. Hey. Did you just pee on me?” He was red-faced, tears streaming down his cheeks. “Because I didn’t ask for that. I mean, I’m not saying I never will, just don’t get ahead of yourself. What, you think this is funny? You think it’s funny to urinate on one of earth’s mightiest heroes?” But he couldn’t keep the grin off his face. He was so proud right now. This was a joke he could come back to for years.

“Luxury cruise liner at one hundred meters and closing.”

“What?! Did you do that on purpose?” Could an AI get jealous? Tony was starting to wonder...

“I didn’t want to interrupt.” She even sounded sarcastic.

Bucky looked up. “Ummmm, Tony...”

“Hold on tight, sweet cheeks.” And he knew Bucky could. Which was good, because they were suddenly shooting straight up at 150 miles an hour. As soon as they were hidden by the clouds, Tony leveled off. Bucky’s hair was...interesting. “You okay, sugarbear?”

Bucky sat back, smiling. “Yep. Fine.” He passed a hand over his face. “Man, I hope we weren’t close enough for anyone’s phone camera to grab video.”

“I guess we’ll find out in the newsfeed in a couple of hours.”

“What’re we gonna do until then?” But Bucky was already scooting back. Tony wasn’t ready again, but he sure was. Bucky arched his back and started to put on a show.

‘You’re shameless, you know that?”

Bucky smirked. “I learned from the best.”

“God, you’re beautiful.” It was frustrating trying to touch him with the gauntlets on. Made Tony think of Bucky’s old metal hand, that had had no feeling in it.

“Fuck me?”

He traced a metal finger over Bucky’s collarbones. “I thought you’d never ask.” One of these days, Cap was going to catch them. Or ask the right question. And they would have to tell him. But for now? This was their secret. Like Bucky said, it was his fault for being away so much. And they could hardly be expected not to switch in his absence.

“Tony…?” His tin soldier was a deadly top, but that didn’t mean Tony couldn’t enjoy being inside him, or watching him ride his cock like Tony’s own little buckaroo.

“Yeah, babe?” An occasional boot-thrust seemed to do wonders, and Tony had set it on a timer. Because focusing on sex while flying was a little tricky, even for him.

“Let’s get somewhere you can concentrate, huh?”

“Your wish is my command.”

“Hurry.”

They almost made it. Bucky came over Long Island. So close. Then they were on the Tower landing platform. That was fun. It engaged a lot of Tony’s brain, this half-in, half-out of armor, and wanting to pound Bucky into next Tuesday but needing to be careful he didn’t crush him with the power of the suit. The balancing act as well as the sexual act was driving him wild.

“More,” Bucky begged. “Harder...Please, baby--” It was rough. Tony worried the extra friction was going to hurt him. But Bucky seemed to like it this way. Tony could relate.

“God, honey. You drive me crazy, you know that? You’re so gorgeous, so accommodating...I bet I could do anything I wanted to you and you’d say thank you...but I love to make you come. Make you happy like you make me happy...oh god, inside you--so kinky--Christ, I’m close!”

“Yeah, come for me. Come for me, Iron Man. Ooo, your armor’s so cold against my bare skin--” When Bucky started to go on about what it was like to fuck the Mark L, Tony lost it. Bless finally having a partner for his fetish. Bless it.

When he collapsed, Bucky carried him inside like he weighed nothing. With F.R.I.D.A.Y.’s reluctant help, he got Tony out of the suit and bundled up on the couch. “No, not finished,” Tony mumbled half-asleep.

“Quiet. Nap time.”

“Noo.” Tony whined, falling sideways on the sofa. “Need my Bucky bear.”

“I’m comin’, honey, I’m comin’.”

But Tony wanted him now, and whined until Bucky came back. Curled up next to him. “Hey, sexy.”

“Hey yourself, beautiful.” They’d finally gotten to the point where Bucky didn’t have to argue every time he called him beautiful.  

He snuggled up next to Tony, took a sip of his orange juice. “How was that for you?”

“You can’t see it now, but I’m keyboard mashing. Because there aren’t words to describe it, angel. Not one.”

“That good, huh?” Bucky smiled, hesitantly proud.

Tony nuzzled into his neck, gently kissing it before using him as a pillow. “Marry me. That’s how good. You’re not allowed to leave. Ever. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.”

 

*

 

Bucky was very quiet. Tony was joking. Right? Sure he was. He tried to laugh. “Not sure how Steve’s gonna feel about that.”

“He doesn’t like it, he can just marry me, too. Hell with ‘im.”

Bucky was chuckling. “What country do we have to go to for that ceremony?”

“I dunno.” Tony was slowly fading. “But I’ll find it.”

He huffed a laugh, stroking Tony’s back as he listened to his breathing even out in sleep. Bucky relaxed back into the couch. And a thought struck him: there’s no time like the present. Maybe he could move on someday. Leave the darkness behind him. With Tony close by, he felt like it might actually be possible.