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The Things that Show and Tell Starts

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This, Tony decides, has turned into the world's weirdest game of show and tell. Officially, hands down, the weirdest. He hadn't been expecting much when Steve called a team meeting to formally introduce Bucky Barnes to the team.

Which, great idea, oh brilliant strategist and leader, introduce the man who has been brainwashed and brain wiped for the last seventy years to a large group of people that he has to assess and potential guard from. Yeah. Totally. Super idea. Let's not take it slow, oh no. That might make him comfortable. So instead, let's throw all of the nut jobs that call themselves a team at him at once.

Yeah.

The team had gathered in the living room, with Steve Rogers standing next to wary Bucky Barnes. Steve is and smiles and joy. He looks like a proud Father whose son has just won the science fair. Or, you know, a little league game or something. That's more Cap's style. Bucky, on the other hand, is watching them all carefully, subtly looking for threats. Rather, what would be subtle if this particular group of people weren't trained in the same field.

Tony feels for the man. He is clearly uncomfortable with this all, shrinking back and rarely blinking. That can't be good for the nerves.

“Guys,” Steve says as he wraps an arm around Bucky's shoulder, “this is Bucky, my best friend.” As if they don't know that. “Bucky, this is Natasha, Clint, Bruce and Tony,” he names, pointing as he does, “Thor is in Asgard right now, but he'll show up eventually.”

Clint grins and gives a friendly wave, “Hey man, welcome to the asylum,” he greets encouragingly. Natasha hits him on the head. “Owe!” he whines.

“Rule number one,” she tells Bucky, “never listen to Clint.”

“Rule number two,” Clint replies, “Natasha plays dirty.”

“Rule number three,” Bruce adds dryly, “ignore those two when they start bickering. You get use to it.” He smiles reassuringly, but Bucky does not look reassured. He looks even more wary, if anything.

Steve let's out a heart felt sigh that everyone ignores. They have heard it far too many times by this point. Steve likes a level of order and earnestness that is never going to happen around here. That is, he wants it when he's not busy being the biggest little shit himself. Hypocrite.

Tony is about to peace out of this meeting without saying anything – unnecessary and it wouldn't get the appreciation it deserves – when there is a loud crack of lightening and unneededly loud boom of thunder. Well would you look at that timing. Thor's here.

“My friends!” Thor booms as he enters the room, with a rather... unexpected guest trailing a step behind him, “I bring great news,” he grins proudly and where has Tony just seen a grin like that? Oh wait, that's right. He throws an arm around Loki's shoulder, bringing him closer to his side. Loki, for his part, looks both deeply uncomfortable and deeply murderous. What a great combination.

“What's he doing here?” Clint snarls. And it's a good thing the man is unarmed or Loki would be bleeding by now. Which is good, because blood is such a bitch to clean.

“My brother has been found innocent of his crimes!” Thor announces, “Just as you Clint, were controlled by my brother, so was Loki controlled by the Other.”

“Other?” Bruce asks, only looking slightly green.

Thor nods. “Yes, a vile creature of great power. He was working with Thanos to bring death and destruction to the realms. But Asgard has prevailed and all is well.”

“Then why is he here?” Clint asks angrily.

“The AllFather thought it best for Loki to reside here, with us, for there are still people is Asgard who wish him harm. My brother has gone through many tortures recently. It is best for him to have a safe place for him to heal. I know you bear great anger against him, Clint, but he had no more control than you.”

Tony take a moment to look around at the others. No one looks especially happy right now. Clint, obviously, is furious. Natasha is expressionless, as per usual. Although her hand is twitching, as if she wants to pull a gun. Or a knife. Bruce is vaguely green. Steve has a frown of concentration on his face which never really ends well. Obviously someone has some serious thinking to do. Bucky, well, he looks curious and relieved to have the attention off of him.

Loki just looks more murderous than ever. Not that Tony blames him. Thor has just basically announced a huge weakness in front of a group of hostiles. Tony wouldn't be happy either. Never show weakness. Never show the enemy fear. Hurt them before they can hurt you.

And this is where Tony decides that this is one fucked up game of show and tell. On the one hand you have the former Winter Soldier, an assassin among assassins. On the other hand you have a potentially crazy god who just seemingly tried to take over the world. What a day.

“Mr Stark,” and cue it getting even better. Pepper. “Do you have a moment?”

If it gets him away from here? Hell yes, even if it is paperwork. The tension is killing him. He feels for the two goldfish on display, but escape is eminent. But first.

“Pep!” he cries happily. He walks over to her, brushing past Loki on the way. He throws an arm around her and grins. “Guys, this is my Pepper. She can kick all your asses and not break a nail.”

Pepper raises an eyebrow at him, visibly amused. “Thank you for the introduction Tony, what are you trying to get out of now?”

Tony shakes his head. “No, no, none of that. We're having show and tell. Steve brought his best friend and former brainwashed top assassin. Thor brought his brain controlled, apparently not crazy, little brother. And I have you. Clearly I win.”

Pepper snorts. “Just what this Tower needs,” she says.

“I know right. I thought things were getting a little boring around here too. But like good teammates, they fixed that,” Tony has a shit eating grin on his face and he knows it. But he has to get his kicks out of this situation somehow. And he's totally serious. He wins.

“They obviously thought you were losing your touch then, Mr Stark.”

Me? Never Miss Potts, I live to serve.”

“In that case, you obviously have time to sign these documents for me. You know, the ones that needed signed two weeks ago?” She raises an eyebrow at him.

He kisses her hand. “But of course my Lady. I don't know how such a thing could have occurred.”

“The real mystery around here,” Pep answers dryly as she walks out.

Tony gives the room at large a wave. “Check ya later bros. Work waits for no man.”

They exit the room and Pepper shakes her head. “You are a ridiculous man. You are aware of that, right?”

Tony snorts. “Wouldn't be me if I wasn't Pep. Great timing by the way. Never been more thankful for paperwork in my life.”

“What is going on Tony? Brainwashing? Crazy gods? What next? Wait, no, don't answer that, I don't want to know.”

They enter the elevator and go down to Tony's office that he never uses unless Pepper forces him to. He sits down with a sigh. “Well Steve wanted to introduce the team to Bucky all at once. Then Thor showed up telling us how Loki was controlled during the invasion and a passing mention of torture,” and here Tony has to hide the flinch that that particular word brings, “Next thing you know the tension in the room is through the roof.”

“You are going to be safe, with these new additions?”

“JARVIS is already finalizing the security features, right J?”

“Of course Sir. I have taken liberties to adjust said features with the arrival of the younger Mr Odinson.”

“Send a copy to my file, I'll look at it later, but go ahead and initiate. If nothing else, it might make the team feel more comfortable. And we need to work on the name. Loki's adopted, remember buddy?”

“Yes Sir, I'll get right on it.”

Tony gives Pepper a pointed look.

“I just hope you know what you're doing Tony.”

Tony gives her a smile. Just because they are no longer a couple doesn't mean they stopped caring for each other. Pepper is still one of Tony's oldest friends. “Don't I always?”

Pep snorts, much more inelegantly this time. “That is not a reassuring statement, taking your track record.”

He shrugs. “Honestly, I'm not too worried about it. They are both likely to hang back, at least at first. And that should help. But JARVIS can stop Bucky from taking anyone out if he's triggered. And Loki...” he shrugs again. “Frankly the only surprise bout that is how long it took to figure out.”

“Oh?” She asks as she leans against the desk, looking intrigued.

“I know I say this a lot, but I am a genius. From what Thor said, Loki is equally as smart. Now why would a genius alert everyone of his plan from the start and then unite the only group capable of stopping him? Not only that, the portal. One, it's location. My Tower. Two, it could open as wide as he needed it to. I saw the fleet when I nuked them. If even one of those ships would have came down, we would have been sunk. In theory, he could have had all of them come down. He didn't. Hell, he didn't even have enough room for more than one of those dino shark thingys to come through at a time. Third of all, the back door in the portal. The staff's ability to shut it down.”

Tony shakes his head. “That's not the work of a genius who is truly trying. I should know, I worked with the facts and materials and came up with a much better plan. Soddy work if you are trying to win. Genius work if you are trying to lose while hiding the fact. Plus there's the whole God of Mischief and Chaos thing. The invasion was neither of those. The invasion was death and destruction.”

And now Pepper looks actually impressed. “You've thought a lot about this, haven't you?”

“Naturally. You know how I am with inconsistencies. Can't stand them, never have. After that it was only a matter of time before I worked it out.” Add to the fact that his fucking nightmares and panic attacks were a great motivator and, oddly enough, a distraction.

Pepper nods. “How is this going to affect the team?”

“Steve is going to be insufferable about team bonding now that Bucky is here. The man is like a puppy with his favorite toy. He was lost without it and now he is never letting go of it again. Like, ever. The rest of the team is reasonably leery and welcoming in turns. I don't plan on seeing him unless Steve is dragging him from his room.

“Loki... Thor is thrilled. Clint is vivid and Natasha will stick by his side to either prevent blood shed or help. Bruce will avoid him because of the Other Guy. Steve can go either way. Either he'll give him a second chance or avoid him like Bruce. Of course he might be too wrapped up in Bucky to make something out of it. In summary, the tension is gonna suck and I am officially hiding in the shop.”

“Maybe you'll be easier to convince to attend Board Meetings then. You know, your actual job and not your side hobby,” Pep snarks.

“Nice try Pep, but compared to the Board? I'll pick brainy one and brainy two. Who knows, we might even bond. We can be the new Golden Trio!”

“And that is clearly a sign I need to go. Thank you for your time,” she picks up the signed papers, “If that's all Mr Stark?”

“That's all Miss Potts. And don't worry. I have everything handled.”

“Of course. JARVIS, keep me updated.”

“Why Pepper,” Tony slaps a hand to his chest, “it's like you don't trust me.”

“Is it?” she raises an eyebrow.

“Ouch Pep, that hurts. Right here,” he taps his chest.

Pepper smiles. “Goodbye Tony. Try to be in one piece the next time I see you.”

“Always the goal Pep. I hate upsetting my main girl.”

Pepper doesn't reply to that one, just walks out, both amused and exasperated. Tony grins. Mission accomplished. Now time to start hiding. He gets up and goes down into the workshop, pulling up the file JARVIS wrote. “Alright kids, let's do this. Time to work some magic.”

“Are you branching out Sir?” JARVIS asks, seemingly innocently.

“Sass JARVIS, what have I told you about sass?”

“That you will donate me to a community college in Alaska. How you plan on running your life after that, however, is a mystery.”

God, he loves his bots. Tony grins and gets to work.

 

'Told you so', Tony texts Pepper, a week later.

It had either been a very productive week, or a nightmare, depending on your point of view. Tony is of the opinion that it was a fine week. He finished the newest Stark phone prototype, improved the Iron Man suit and completed a number of small projects he had on his list. Very productive. And he managed it all without having to leave the shop once. He is immensely proud.

For those who didn't hide away in their workshop... well, that's probably why it was a nightmare. As expected, Bucky was not seen unless he was in the company of Steve. He hung back, not engaging any of the others, just observing. He didn't say much and wasn't really comfortable when the others tried to talk to him.

He seemed comfortable enough around Steve, most of the time. But as Tony checked up on him periodically, he could see that that wasn't always the case. Which is to be expected, considering what some of the former brainwashing entailed. But he didn't look like he wanted to murder him yet, so plus.

Loki on the other hand, well. Everyone was avoiding Loki. Except for Thor. The poor guy was so glad to have his little brother back, that he was missing the obvious signs that Loki wanted to be left alone. Or maybe he was ignoring them instead. As is, whenever the chaos god does show up, it is usually with murder in his eyes. Preferably Thor's, most likely.

There's a bet on how long it is going to take Loki to snap and carry through.

But all good things must come to an end eventually and alas, his very productive week did with the coming of Steve. Damn.

“Tony,” he greets as he comes into the shop.

Tony waves at him absentmindedly, thoughts on work and not on his teammate. Now if he calibrates the wire here, then it should...

Tony,” Steve says again.

Tony looks up at the amused and mildly annoyed tone Steve said his name in. “Yeah sunshine? Whatcha need?”

“Team supper,” is all the super soldier says, but Tony groans at the words.

“Really Cap? You think that is a good idea? Just think for a moment about who our latest house guests are. Just in case you forgot, try to remember. Now, after that reminder, really?”

Steve crosses his arms. “Yes really. We can't avoid the situation forever, no matter how uncomfortable it is right now. We are still a team. And this might be a chance for everyone to become more comfortable with each other.”

“Or it might be the time Loki finally cracks. And if he does, I lose the betting pool big time. And I refuse to lose this early. Or your soldier boy may snap,” he stops Steve, “not that I think he'd do it on purpose. But with this group? You know Bruce was right when he said we are a time bomb. This is not going to end pretty.”

“Way to see the glass half empty. It can't be that bad.”

“It's called being realistic. I know you're all excited to show off your new toy, but try to see past it oh Captain of mine. This is a disaster waiting to happen.”

“Bucky is not my new toy, he's a person,” and oh my, he sounds offended. What a surprise.

Tony waves him off. “Yeah yeah puppy dog. Bucky's your new teddy, not your new bone.”

Steve's eyebrows furrow. “I'm not exactly sure what that means, but it still didn't sound good.”

“Best of intentions. Promise. Now if you'll excuse me, I have work to do.”

“After supper.”

“What, you're still on about that? Come on Rogers, you know this is going to end bad.”

“Never know unless you try.”

“And that, that sickeningly sweet optimism right there, is your problem. Not everyone lives in candy land Cap. Or, well, maybe the newest one. Have you seen the newest one? It's like candy land on crack. Talk about a trip. Compared to the old one, wow. I think my brain exploded a little bit when I saw it. No more easy walk down candy lane, shit just got real.”

“Supper,” is all Steve says.

Which is how Tony finds himself at possibly one of the most awkward suppers he has ever had the displeasure of being at. The tension is so thick, Tony is tempted to cut it with his butter knife. And why there are knives of any kind at this meal, he doesn't know.

He is sitting in between Bruce and Clint. Bruce hasn't said a word this entire time, keeping his head down. The one time Tony caught his eye, there was a flash of green. Tony pats his knee consolingly. Clint, on the other hand, is alternating between ignoring Loki and trying to kill him with his glare. Natasha is carrying on as usual, but that's no real surprise. Neither are Steve and Thor. Those three carry the majority of the conversation, with Clint chiming in at inappropriate times.

Bucky is following Bruce's lead and not saying anything. Or really looking at anyone. Loki just looks murderous. Tony, who has the pleasure of sitting across from him, kicks him in the shins. Loki turns his gaze on him and he quirks an eyebrow at the god. Loki raises his in return and then looks away.

Yeah, this is going great. At least there isn't any blood. Yet.

And miraculously, somehow, there isn't by time they finish either. Steve stays in the kitchen to clean up, Bucky staying with him. The others flee without trying to look like they aren't. It doesn't work. Tony grabs Loki's arm before he gets too far and pulls him along.

“What are you doing Stark?” he hisses.

“Shh, come on. Unless you want Thor to know where you are?”

That gets the god moving at least. They go down into the workshop and Tony let's out a sigh of relief. “Well that was fun,” he announces, “let's not do it again.”

“Why am I here Stark?” Loki demands.

“Because you looked like you needed a place to hide. Thor is banned from the shop. One too many accidents and he traumatized Dum-E.”

“Dummy?” Loki asks coolly.

At the sound of his name, his bot comes over to greet Loki. He raises his claw and makes an imploring beeping sound. Loki simply stares.

“He wants a high five,” Tony tells him, “Rhodey taught him and now he demands them in greeting.”

“High five,” he repeats blankly.

“Hold your hand out, palm flat,” he instructs.

Loki does and Dum-E taps his hand happily. Tony smiles. His bots are so easy to please some days. “Ta-da. High five.”

“What an intriguing creature,” Loki tells him.

“Intriguing is one word for him. Disaster is another. I made him while I was still at MIT, for my thesis. He was my first AI, which explains why he has some many odd quirks.”

“Not unlike yourself Sir,” JARVIS pipes in.

“Alaska,” Tony warns.

“What is this AI you refer to?”

“Artificial Intelligence. He's a learning bot, coded with his own personality. He's also a bit of a klutz, so be warned.”

Loki looks the bot over. “And JARVIS, he is another one of your AIs?”

“My youngest,” he says without thought.

“So you make your children instead.”

Tony feels his heart skip a beat. Yeah. Yeah, that's exactly what he does. Except that he doesn't like to think of himself as a father because that brings up memories better left buried. But he does think of his bots as his kids. In a odd, messed up sort of way. But he's never told anyone that. Or had them assume. No even Pep or Rhodey.

But Loki just nods as if he confirmed his statement. “Children are a blessing, no matter how they come about,” he says gravely and oh...

Norse mythology talks about Loki having children. Several of them in fact. He never put much thought into it because how right can they be? Thor is tall and blonde. Loki is his brother, not Odin's. There are various stories he's been told that only match up if you tilt them sideways and upside down. So he never put much stock into the myths. But every story has a grain of truth.

And none of Loki's kids have a good ending.

“The kids are real?”

Loki nods, but doesn't comment, just stares at Dum-E. Shit. Obviously a bad subject. Tony can't imagine what he would do if someone were to mess with his bots like that. Death would be the least of their worries. Death would be a mercy.

“He also likes to play catch,” Tony blurts out.

“What?”

“Dum-E likes to play catch. You know, throw a ball, he'll catch it and bring it back to you? He loves it. Usually makes a mess of the place, but apparently that's part of him charm. U and Butterfingers will probably join in. And speaking of which, come out you two. No hiding, come on, come greet Loki. He's going to think you have no manners.”

Butterfingers and U come out from where they were hiding and whirl over to Loki. The god greets them, a barely visible smile on his face. “It's a pleasure,” he tells them seriously.

Tony's nonexistent heart melts a little. There aren't many people who treat his bots like they are people, not things. They see machines and assume, even after they hear the words AI. Stupid. But Loki is greeting them as if they are something special. Which they are.

“Now, where is a ball?” he asks them.

Dum-E rolls away excitedly, beeping all the time. He comes back with a neon pink ball, obviously very proud of himself. Loki takes it gravely and then throws it. His bots all scramble to be the first to pick it up. A tool box falls and Tony snorts. The shop is going to be a mess after this. But watching the game unfold, he can't bring himself to care.

He turns his mind back to work, trusting JARVIS to keep an eye on things. J has babysat them for this long. He can deal with this. He's always been good with them.

It's peaceful, strangely enough. Even with all the crashing and beeping and no music, it's peaceful. Tony is aware of the others presence in the back of his mind, but he tunes them out without much thought. It's odd. He didn't originally plan on bring Loki with him. He doesn't just bring people to the shop. Even his teammates usually just show up, if they need something.

Not everyone is comfortable down here. Bruce is fine for a visit, but if they ever work together, it's usually in his lab. Steve likes it, but doesn't understand much. The others are pretty much indifferent. Thor finds it interesting, sure, but Thor is banned after his last bout of electricity sent everything haywire. It took him a week to straighten things out.

But Loki looks almost relaxed and he can't bring himself to regret it.

He loses himself in his work. The tension in his shoulders from supper finally loosen. This is just what he needs after that. Steve may be under the impression it went well, but it obviously didn't. He knows the man has to be at least somewhat practical about things, but right now, he isn't.

Ok, so Tony can understand why he is so happy. He has noticed that Steve has had a hard time adjusting to the future. He doesn't feel like he belongs here. To be perfectly honest, he's right. He doesn't. He belongs to a different era. Is it any wonder he's having a time at it?

He's tried to help him with it. Doesn't think he's done a very good job at it. He's a futurist and Steve's desperate effort to cling to the past bugs him, even if he can logically understand. And until their personalities finally settle, there is going to be some head butting. Plus there's all that messy history on Tony's side of things. Memories and feelings he tries to ignore. And that means Tony probably isn't the best person to help the super soldier.

The whole thing is a bomb waiting to happen in Tony's opinion, but no one asked for it. And he finds that if people don't ask, they don't listen. Hell, even when they do ask, they still don't always listen. It's frustrating. Sure, he isn't always right. He can admit that in his head, if no where else. But he does have a good track record. People are so use to him succeeding that they tend to ignore it after a while.

Besides, when a genius messes up, it tends to be much louder and more brilliant than other people's. More attention grabbing. Success may be stunning, but so are the mistakes. And mistakes are much more interesting to write about.

Not that he isn't a total ass, but still. Point.

When he finally comes up for air it is two in the morning and Loki is gone.

 

The next time Tony comes up for air, it is ass o clock in the morning and he heads straight for the kitchen for food and coffee. Not that he particularly wants food, but JARVIS like less likely to bitch at him if he eats, along with drinking his coffee. Because coffee is the important bit here. So that means food. Which, with his cooking skills, is either going to be a sandwich or leftovers. Yippee.

But when he gets there, he finds the room occupied by a former Winter Soldier. Bucky is sitting at the island, staring at nothing. Oh well. He opens the refrigerator and takes out a bowl of pasta. “You know if any one claimed this?” he asks, waving the bowl in front of the man's face.

He figures it safe enough. Just because he hasn't acknowledged Tony, doesn't mean he isn't aware of him. One does not become the Winter Soldier without being aware of one's surroundings. Tony is pretty sure that is assassin 101. Bucky shrugs.

“Great,” Tony says and pops the whole thing into the microwave. “You want some?”

Another shrug, so Tony grabs two forks instead of one. Then he begins the most important part of the meal. Coffee. If it were possible, he would replace his blood with coffee. When the microwave beeps, he takes it out and slides the bowl beside Bucky before pouring himself a mug of heaven. Then he hops up onto the island, feet resting on one of the stool's rung. He takes a sip and moans in delight.

“So Buckaroo, can't sleep?” he asks as he takes a bite of the pasta.

A slow shake of the head.

“Eh, don't worry about it. Sleep is for the weak.” He takes another bite. “Or, you know, normal people. Which no one in this Tower clearly is. So word to the wise, you want solitude when you can't sleep, don't come to the kitchen. Eight times out of ten someone is already here or will be. Steve gets all huffy about proper sleep and all that jazz, but no one on this damn team does. Including the man preaching,” he rolls his eyes.

Bucky gives a small movement when Tony mentions Steve's name. It's not a flinch per se, but it is a definite reaction.

“Cap isn't giving you a hard time is he? Cause if he is, you should tell him he has other toys to play with besides you.”

Bucky shakes his head. Then he gives a shrug. He picks up the fork and spears the pasta with unnecessary force before eating it.

“You know that pasta was never alive right? No need to try and kill it,” Tony says because he is incapable of not saying it, “Unless, you know, you're talking about the flying spaghetti monster. Then that shit is definitely alive. And monstrous. There is even a religion dedicated towards it – Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But considering this isn't spaghetti, I think you're safe. Although,” he waves his fork around, “it could be a first cousin or something. How do you tell family relationship between pasta? Size? Shape? Color? In which case, better safe than sorry,” he stabs his next bite, “Good thinking.”

Bucky just turns and blinks at him. Obviously having a hard time comprehending the awesomeness that is sitting right beside him. It happens all the time. Pepper claims it's because he's obnoxious and arrogant, but Tony definitely knows it's because he's awesome.

“You should come down to the shop sometime,” he invites because why the hell not? He's already invited Loki. “Get away from things, see the wonders, let me take a look at your arm because it is both a magnificent piece of work and a horror all in one.”

The other man doesn't give any response to that. How surprising.

“Not that the team isn't fun and all, but wow, they can come off strong. Well, so can I, been told that enough times, but I like to think of it as enthusiastic reassurance instead. Sounds better. Don't let any one tell you otherwise. Especially Natasha. Never trust a red head in heels. I mean, I did and look where it got me.”

Bucky tilts his head slightly in question.

“Board meetings,” Tony complains, “paper work and galas. All work and no play. Never hand your company off to the red head, it's a bad idea. Unless you're dying. Then it's fine until you get stabbed in the neck and forced to find the cure. But that's just me,” he waves off, “How are you finding everything?”

A shrug.

Tony nods seriously. “I see, yes that does explain everything. Very elegant, very descriptive, I like it. I should use that quote in my next press conference.”

And now a snort. Tony counts it as a win. “Well when you do decide to venture forth from our dear Captain's shadow, I recommend Katniss. Well, no I don't, because Clint is a little shit. Seriously, the man is suppose to be a full grown agent, but don't let him fool you. He's not. But he also is in the brainfuck club, so he might be useful. Surprised there aren't shirts by now.

“Of course,” he adds thoughtfully, “that might be because Clint would murder Loki and that doesn't seem like good club policy. Still, it's a thought. He's good comic relief. Or go the other direction and talk to Loki. I know you've probably heard all about him and everyone on the team is out for blood, but,” he shrugs, “there's worse. And the chances that he would murder you are much lower than anyone else's right now.”

He shoves a forkful into his mouth to stop himself from saying anything else before his brain catches up to his mouth. Not that that always helps, because his brain to mouth filter is shit, it's the thought that counts. Theoretically. Pep likes to disagree with him. So does JARVIS. Traitor.

Bucky takes the next bite of pasta much more gently than before. Apparently he's decided the pasta isn't related to the Flying Spaghetti Monster after all.

“So, workshop, you should come. I'm not actually suppose to invite you down or 'pressure you into coming into an uncomfortable environment',” he air quotes, “but I'll be damned if I listen to Rogers on this. Like hell my shop in anything like HYDRA.”

Bucky stiffens at the name and oops, probably shouldn't mention it. Oh well, he's started now, might as well finish it.

“Cause I made the mistake of mentioning it once before he even found you and wow. I'm lucky my head is still attached to my body. He was all 'he needs time to recover Tony' and 'you can't force him into something he's going to be uncomfortable with Tony' and 'your workshop might bring up bad memories of HYDRA Tony' and 'he's not an experiment you can poke Tony'. Which, come on, there is so many things wrong with that rant it's not even funny.

“First of all, the idea that I'd be able to force you to do anything is hilarious. Secondly, I poke Brucie bear all the time, that's not a good argument. Third, I am so highly offended that he would compare my shop to HYDRA, words can't even. No, seriously, I know Steve thinks I was joking, but I am. I am so very offended that he would compare my beautiful, amazing and brilliant shop to the Amityville Horror that is the scum vomit of HYDRA. Seriously,” Tony emphasizes with feeling. “I painted a dick on his shield because it was a dick move.”

“And that convinced him of the gravity of the insult,” JARVIS pipes up for the first time.

“No sass out of you J,” he answers.

Bucky's mouth is twitching, as if he wants to smile, but thinks he shouldn't.

“The best part,” Tony confides, “is that we were called out the next day. There's still pictures of it up on the internet because every time they get taken down, new ones pop up.” And Tony has nothing to do with that. No sirree, not at all. It's not as if he is holding a grudge about it or anything. Why would he?

Because, seriously.

He finishes the last of his food and puts the bowl in the dishwasher. Because they have one, no matter that Steve never uses it. So there. He pours himself another cup of coffee and salutes the other man. “Glad we had this talk, you're a real conversationalist Terminator.”

Time to get back to work.

 

When JARVIS shows Tony the video feed of Bucky and Loki watching Game of Thrones of all things, he grins. Mission accomplished. Looks like club brainfuck is a go. See, he can be helpful and sensitive in times of need. Take that Pep.

 

Tony runs into them periodically after that. There are more team suppers and the famous movie nights and all that shit. It's not like he is avoiding them. He has nothing against them. Still, he doesn't seek them out. He figures he's done his good deed. He got the two to hang out.

And it seems to be going well, judging by the way the two interact with each other when Tony does see them. They seem less tense around the other. Less wary than before. And that's good. That's great. It's not like he was expecting a thank you are anything. No, really, he isn't. He may be egoistical, but he isn't that egoistical. He's just glad he could help. Minimize potential property damage that way.

Still, he thought maybe Loki might stop by once and a while. Even if it was to say high to the bots. His three little AIs like him. And not everyone was as good with them as he was. So, yeah, maybe he thought Loki might come back.

And what claim does he have on Bucky? A midnight talk where Tony did all the talking. Yeah, that's real special. The man was probably thankful when he left. He was alone in the kitchen. That doesn't exactly scream 'I want company'. The invitation to the workshop had to mean less to him than a bad penny. Who knows, maybe it would remind him of HYDRA, like Captain Asshole suggested.

Most likely not, because his shop is nothing like HYDRA. Tony knows, he's seen footage. There is nothing similar to that inhumane death trap of a mad scientist lab and here. Nothing. Absolutely. Positively. Nothing. Because, yes, he is still pissed at Steve for saying something like that.

Seriously pissed. The dick on the shield was nothing compared to what Tony originally wanted to do.

Whatever, he doesn't really expect to see either of them again except in passing. After all, if the rest of the team has a hard time handling him, why would the two brainfucks be any better? In fact, they should be worse. Tony is no one's idea of a good idea. The opposite in fact.

That's why he's so surprised when JARVIS announces that Bucky was at the door waiting to be let in. He jerks his head up and looks over at the door and how about that. There is an ex-assassin at his door, waiting. He waves his hand and the door opens. “Hey robo cop, how's it hanging?”

Bucky absently nods, looking around in wonder. Tony grins. Yeah, his shop is something. And obviously not nightmare indulging. Take that Rogers.

He takes slow, careful steps as he looks, as if he is mapping his way around. He doesn't say anything and Tony, in a rare moment of understanding and maturity, doesn't either. It's not as if he's expecting it. After their last 'conversation', Tony is pretty sure he's not the talking type. Not now at least. He turns back to his work. That's until Dum-E catches sight of Bucky and rolls excitedly over, stopping right in the man's face.

“Hey Dum-E, no,” he calls sternly, trying to hide his panic that Bucky will hurt him. Not on purpose of course, but if Dum-E sets the Winter Soldier off, who knows what will happen. The last thing he wants is for his little bot to get hurt.

“Hey there,” Bucky says gently, holding his hand out for a high five.

Dum-E beeps excitedly and returns it. Huh, how about that. Guess there's nothing to worry about after all.

“Ready for a game of catch?” he then asks.

Dum-E whirls away to get his ball.

Bucky looks up, giving Tony a shrug and a half grin. “Loki,” is his only explanation, but it's enough. So Loki told Bucky about his bots then. Interesting. They must have made some kind of impression, even if the god never came back. Again, not that he was expecting it or anything.

But he also wasn't expecting Bucky either, so...

“Yeah,” he says “Reindeer Games played catch with them. Made an unholy mess too. Tools and parts everywhere. Klutz spent two days picking up after the game.” And Tony still had to clean up after those to days or they would still be working. U has the best attention span and coordination out of all three of them.

Bucky just shoots him a grin and throws the ball Dum-E had given him. It doesn't take long for all three of them to become involved. Well, he can safely assume this is going to be another cleaning project. Great. Still not adorable to watch a second time. Nope. Not at all.

He tunes them out, needing to finish this upgrade for the newest Starkpad before the next Board meeting. Not that it's anything of a challenge, but it does need to be done, if only so Pepper doesn't rip his head off. She's attempted enough times, best not give her another opportunity. Yet, at least. He knows very well it is bound to happen eventually. See, self-aware.

“Alright fellas, time to clean up,” he hears some indeterminable time later. What? Right, Bucky's here. But he actually talks? And he's going to clean up? He repeats, what?

He looks up and sure enough, Bucky is helping the bots clean up the shop. The man gives a sheepish shrug and picks a wrench up off of the floor.

“You don't need to do that,” he says. Because he doesn't. The bots will get it and what they don't, Tony will get himself.

“Ma always said to clean up after yourself,” he mutters softly, not looking at Tony as he does.

Okay then, so this is a thing. “My Butler told me the same thing. Never really stuck though.”

“I can attest to that,” JARVIS adds.

“Who asked you?” Tony snarks.

“If I were to wait until my opinion was asked for Sir, I would be waiting until pigs flew,” JARVIS snarked back.

“Sass, sass, sass. That's all I get around here. No respect what so ever.”

“Maybe Sir, if you were to show some, others would be more likely to follow. Are you not always saying that you are a trend setter?”

Bucky snorts and Tony rolls his eyes. “Mutiny,” he says, “mutiny I cry!”

Bucky grins at that. Tony also counts that as a win. Reactions, he managed reactions. Take it it was because his bots, but that totally counts. Tony can totally count that because they are his bots, he made them. If they get a reaction out of Bucky, then he did. Just a little indirectly. So, win.

“I have been running the ship for a long time Sir. I am happy to maintain the illusion that you are in charge.”

“Someone's feeling extra sassy today. Jealous, J, that you couldn't play catch too?”

“My hopes and dreams have been crushed.”

Tony throws his hands up in the air, exasperated. Yes, someone is obviously feeling neglected. “See what I have to live with?” he asks Bucky.

The other man just shakes his head, amused. Whatever. Traitors.

 

It sorta becomes a thing after that. Both Loki and Bucky develop this strange habit of dropping into the shop when Tony was working. Not that he minds. It's just, odd. As previously mentioned, his teammates don't really visit if they can help it. Not really a comfort zone.

But Bucky and Loki seem to be trying to prove him otherwise. It's not even that they always come together for their brainfuck club bonding time. No. They come together. They come separately. Sometimes they stay for hours. Sometimes its only for a few mintues. Talking may or may not happen. They just... show up.

Tony can't figure it out. Sure, he can assume they are using the space for a hiding place. It's a safe haven from the rest of the Tower. But, technically, he is part of the Tower. He's probably the loudest and, most definitely, the most obnoxious part of the Tower. There's nothing about him that says 'safe' or 'peaceful' or any of that shit he thinks they would be looking for in a retreat.

It doesn't make sense. There are other places they could go to retreat. Hell, if they asked, Tony would make them one. No need to pick second best when they can have first. But still they come.

At first they only really play with the bots. And that's fine. It keeps them out of trouble while he works. And they clean up after themselves now. The first time Loki magicked everything back, the bots reaction was hilarious. Loki had to sit down and explain to them what he just did. Which wasn't endearing at all.

They didn't always play with the bots. Loki occasionally just brought his book with him to read instead. Bucky would sit on his couch and stare at nothing. But as time went on, they began to talk. Just little things. Random things. Loki liked to mention the books he read. Bucky would sometimes mention things he remembered.

It somehow evolved into a movie/tv show marathon day every now and again. Tony introduced them to all kinds of things – Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Disney. They, in turn, got him hooked on Game of Thrones. Which, after he watched it, made a lot more sense of why they liked it. He got them addicted to Doctor Who in retaliation.

That moved things onto discussions of science and 'magic'. Or, as Loki told him, really, really, really advanced science that 'mere mortals could not possibly comprehend'. Challenge accepted. Bucky was often let behind in the dust during these debates, but he didn't seem to mind. Apparently it was entertaining to watch. 'Science nerds' he said.

The two of them started to open up and Tony couldn't understand why. There had to be better people for them to talk to. Okay, maybe not Loki. The team still really hasn't warmed up to him too much yet. But they are getting better. Sorta. It's a slow process. And Loki still wants to stab Thor, so no. But Bucky has Steve and Natasha, oddly enough. Wouldn't one of those two be better?

Hell, even if the two of them talked to each other. Which they obviously do, Tony knows they still hang out together. So why talk to him?

And then, the real topper, Bucky let Tony fix his arm. Fix? Hell, he let Tony build him a new one. For months he couldn't go near the thing and then suddenly, Bucky asks if he wants to look at it. What a stupid question. Because there are such things as stupid questions and that was obviously one of them. Of course Tony wanted to play with the arm.

The next topper was when Loki let Tony have scans of his magic. Again, super protective of his magic, but he let Tony have the scans. He was able to ask questions and do experiments and all that jazz. Science heaven.

But he still doesn't know why.

 

Things stayed pretty much the same after that. Well, no, they didn't. Because this is the Avengers Tower and peace and order is something that doesn't exist. It withers and dies within a few days when it pops up. Because that's how they roll. But things stay good. There are no major battles, no time altering happenings, nothing to break the peace. It's good.

Loki and Bucky continue to hang out in the shop and Tony still doesn't understand why they chose him, but hey, whatever. He's awesome like that. Clearly they just have good taste. But nothing ever stays the same. This holds true for everything and it certainly applies in this case as well.

“Anthony,” Loki greets as he walks in.

Tony rolls his eyes. He has tried and tried to get Loki to call him Tony, but he never does. He's better than Thor with names, but still stubborn. Not that he would ever tell the god that, but seriously. He insists on calling Bucky James too. He does not get nicknames. Or, more likely, he does, but doesn't use them because he is a little shit.

“Hey Snowflake,” he calls back, not really paying attention. He eventually notices Loki is sitting on the other side of the table, watching him. But he doesn't say anything, so Tony doesn't either. If it's important, he has ways of getting Tony's attention.

Bucky joins them, sitting beside Loki. Both silently watch him. Neither of them say anything. Alright then, it's going to be one of those days. He can do that. He can talk enough for the three of them, easy. Babbling has never been a problem for him. It's meaningful conversations that trip him up.

The smell of pizza brings Tony out of his work induced trance. “Food?” he asks.

“Pepperoni and onion,” Bucky tells him.

“Yes,” he goes over and drops onto the couch. Of course that isn't the only box of pizza. Both men can eat a ridiculous amount. Bucky eats only a little less than Steve, super soldier metabolism at work. And Loki is still a god, even if he isn't as buff as Thor. The biggest expense is literally feeding everyone, it is absurd frankly.

“So you two have fun on your play date yesterday?”

The two of them had went to see the newest Star Wars movie. He wanted to go with them, but he had a Board meeting and couldn't go. Boring.

“It was enjoyable,” Loki comments.

“Yeah, we'll have to go again, with all of us,” Bucky adds.

Tony grins. “Great,” he agrees happily. It will be so much better with all three of them. Watching movies with the other two is hilarious.

Loki and Bucky share a look, nod and then turn back to Tony, which puts him on high alert. What is going on now? More importantly, what did they break this time?

“Anthony,” Loki starts and then hesitates, “we would like to inquire if you would care to join us for a meal and movie?”

Tony can feel his eyebrows scrunch together. First of all, what? They already asked that? And two, huh? Loki has a habit of talking formally when he gets nervous. The more formal, the worse the nerves. So three, what is he missing?

Bucky sighs. “What he means is, do you wanna make it a date?”

Make it a... oh. A date. He feels his brain stutter. The three of them. Loki and Bucky are interested in... going out on a date. With him. Well, how about that. Guess that does answer a few things. He honestly didn't see this coming. Then again, look at how long he and Pep danced around each other before they dated. At least this time is months instead of years. Still... “Why?” he blurts out.

“Why are we asking or why we would want to?” Bucky asks.

“Latter. I mean, I'm awesome, we all know that, but I'm not exactly prime boyfriend material.”

“Sure ya are,” Bucky protests.

“Anthony,” Loki cuts in, “who else would we choose? There is no one else that has been as accepting as you. Even when we first arrived, you welcomed us into your home without reservation. The others were wary, but not you. You even invited us into your sancuary. That is a great gift of trust for two distrusted people.”

Bucky shrugs. “What he said. We want ya to be our fella cause you treat us right. Now we wanna treat you right.”

Well, when you put it like that. He'll save the inevitable freak out for later. For now, “I knew you loved me,” he grins, “I'm positively irresistible.”

Loki rolls his eyes. Bucky winks.

Yes, freak out for later, happiness now. After all, they haven't run yet. And if it's good now, think of the explosion they will make if they are dating. Spectacular.