Title: The Look in the Eye
Series: Winter Soldier Cycle
Fandom: Marvel Cinematic Universe,
Year: Winter 2012/2013
Category: Drama, Angst, Action, Tony Whump,
Pairings: Steve Rogers/James “Bucky” Barnes, Tony Stark/Pepper Potts, Tony Stark/Steve Rogers,
Spoilers: Entire MCU
Summary: When Bucky comes home alive, no one sees anything off. It’s up to Tony to show them that Bucky isn’t all that he appears to be and the only back up he has is the Hulk and JARVIS.
Notes: This started brewing in my head the second that I found out the title to Captain America 2…It hasn’t changed to match anything else we have gotten since then.
Beta: Mischa & Charlie_Remington
When the call came into the Avenger’s Tower, it was nearly five am. Steve was stretching, preparing for a run and Tony was getting ready to go to bed. The rest of the Avengers were not in the tower at all. Clint and Natasha were away on a mission. Thor was in Asgard, and Bruce was visiting Betty. Tony had been up all night fixing his armor after a fight with Doombots just a day before. All of the joints were messed up and needed many repairs. And he had only just repaired them to a usable state.
On the table were the remnants of Tony’s dinner and both his and Steve’s cell phones. The conversation was easy and enjoyable. Tony was comfortable around Steve in a way that he had only ever been around Pepper, Rhodey, and Happy. Steve had been brought into the future kicking and screaming but along the way of reintegration, Tony had started to fall for the man. It hadn’t been easy, accepting it but Tony had.
The relationship that had been between Pepper and Tony hadn’t lasted through the second time the Avengers had assembled to fight Doom and his bots. He’d come home to the– then being renovated– tower to find Pepper’s things moved to another room lower in the tower. Tony had accepted it with a grace that had been unknown in him before then.
Even after the disaster that was Tony and Steve’s first meeting, after the dust had settled they had gravitated to each other. That had formed into what was now a three date strong relationship that was as rocky as their friendship had been. Tony was trying to take the relationship slow because Steve had become something that Tony didn’t want to lose. While Tony was sure that Steve was taking it slow because there was still so much of the world that Steve was unsure of. How could he fall into a relationship while still trying to figure out his place in the world?
A phone ringing on the table brought both of the men’s attention back to the present. Two hands grabbing at the phones and Tony pulled his greasy hand back when he found it wasn’t his. Steve picked his up and immediately stood at attention. Tony knew it was habit, seeing the name of SHIELD on the caller ID was just like hearing a superior call his name. This had to be a non-Avengers related phone call. Otherwise Tony’s own phone would have gone off or JARVIS would have alerted him. Steve was so sudden in his movement that Tony was jerked from watching his face.
“Rogers…Yes, Sir…No…WHAT? Twenty minutes. OK.”
While on the phone Steve’s face had gone from puzzlement to bewilderment to pure happiness. Tony had never seen that look on his face before. Nothing that he had ever done had put that look on his face. A pit started to form in Tony’s stomach. This was not going to be good for Tony. There was something there on the face.
Steve took a few steps towards the kitchen door and then stopped suddenly turning to face Tony.
“They found him…Alive. Tony, they…” Steve stopped talking and hung his head for a few seconds. When he raised it back up, his eyes were shining with unshed tears.
“Bucky is alive.”
Tony nodded and as soon as he started to move his head, Steve was gone. Minutes later, Steve came back into the kitchen, changed from his running clothes and into a pair of slacks and a dress shirt. Tony stopped him as he tried to leave.
“How is he alive? Where was he?”
“SHIELD found him somewhere in Russia. Fury didn’t go into details but he’s the same. As young as me.”
“When do we leave?”
“Not we. Just me. Fury just wants me for now. Bucky hasn’t woken up yet and they want me to break it to him that he’s in the future.”
“Oh.” Tony knew that Steve couldn’t see the disappointment on his face because Steve was leaving the room. Tony was alone in the kitchen now. Tony was alone.
Tony was in his workshop a week later when he saw movement on the screen that showed him the elevator that opened into the main Avenger area of the Tower. Standing there looking around was Bucky with Steve just behind him.
Bucky’s face was full of amazement at his surroundings. He quickly looked at a small part of the screen that showed the security for the workshop. The room was on lockdown with the windows tinted so that no one could see in. Only Pepper, Happy, and Rhodey were able to bypass lockdown unless Tony had a medical emergency and none of those three were there at that time.
No one had said a word about Steve coming back to the tower for the first time since that morning that he had gotten the call. No one had told him that Bucky was in good enough shape to actually step outside of a hospital without going crazy. Tony knew about the mucking around in Bucky’s head that various agencies had done over the years. It must have slipped all their minds. Tony usually texted Steve every morning to ask how Bucky was doing, even he hadn’t made the comment that Bucky was coming for a visit. Tony watched as the rest of the Avengers all crowded around the two anachronisms. He knew that he was being childish but he couldn’t help it, it was his default mode for things like this. If anyone had really cared, they would have told him about Steve and Bucky arriving. He wasn’t sure what to think about the fact that they didn’t.
After watching for several minutes, Tony touched the screen and the security feed disappeared and the Mark VIII designs popped up. If they wanted him up there for the meet and greet, they could come and get him. He wasn’t a mind reader. Two hours later, Tony came up out of the designs and repairs to the sound of JARVIS clearing his digital throat and the music sound lowering.
“Sir, Captain Rogers and Mr. Barnes are at the door. Should I let them in?”
“Yeah, sure,” Tony said as he turned to face the door, grabbing a rag as he did so and started to wipe the grease off his hands from messing with the foot joint of the Mark VII. The door slid open silently and in walked Steve followed by Bucky. Bucky was caught up in looking around the room. His face full of wonder as he took in the high tech equipment that was scattered around. Once though when Bucky did look at him, he caught something in the younger man’s eyes. There was a glint of something. He filed the knowledge away and made a note on a screen to have JARVIS watch Bucky and record all the facial movements. JARVIS sighed out loud but started to compile the data.
“Heya, Captain. Bucky. Didn’t know that you guys were here.” Tony watched Steve’s face fall at being called Captain and not Steve but he said nothing. Tony went to shake Bucky’s hand. Bucky smiled as he shook Tony’s hand but the look was still there. He knew better than most what Bucky’s actual role had been during the war. What his training had been. He had done the things that Captain America couldn’t, shouldn’t do. This was something different though. A very different kind of look.
“We’ve been here for two hours, Tony. I expected you to come up and welcome Bucky.” Steve’s voice was hard and nothing like the tone that Tony had been used to hearing after the Battle for New York. It was harder than the voice he had used the first time they had met. It made Tony’s heart ache. This wasn’t the Steve of just a week ago. This wasn’t the Steve that wanted Tony as more than a friend. This was Captain America, as he had been during Loki’s invasion.
“Sorry, Cap. Didn’t know that you were springing him today.” Tony stood up. He knew that the height difference wouldn’t make him taller than Steve but at least he wouldn’t be sitting. He did confrontation better when standing and the way this was shaping up; it was going to be one. Touching the corner of one of the screens, all of the screens in the room went black. He didn’t want anyone to see his plans for the Mark VIII just yet.
“I…” Steve stopped and looked around the room, taking the entirety of it in. The cot was messed up from where Tony had slept in it the night before. All the work spaces were covered in cups from coffee places and take out containers of food. Tony knew that it looked like he hadn’t been out of the room in a week and he really hadn’t. Trips for clean clothes and a shower every other day and that was it.
Tony had only ever done the team hanging out things when Steve was around as a way to be around Steve. Pepper and Rhodey hadn’t been to see him in a while and Tony liked the rest of the Avengers, he really did, but none of them were even asking JARVIS about Tony, so why should Tony care about them? Bruce was lost in his lab and that Tony didn’t hold against him. He did ask JARVIS for updates.
Before Steve could think of anything else to say, JARVIS broke in. “He is correct, Sir. None of the rest of the Avengers has spoken to Mr. Stark in a week and none of your texts mentioned bringing Mr. Barnes home at all, much less today.”
Steve nodded, looking at the ceiling like a traitor. Tony wanted to smirk but he didn’t. While JARVIS didn’t always do what he wanted and could be a smart ass, his loyalty to Tony had no bounds. He was there to defend Tony when it was prudent to do so. At least to those who were not Pepper or Rhodey.
“Sorry. I guess I forgot to mention it. We are all heading out tonight to show Bucky some sights around New York. Did you want to go?” Steve asked. Tony could see the pleading in his eyes. He wanted Tony to get along with Bucky. Tony didn’t feel like going out and having fun though. He just wanted to sit and brood. “Bruce isn’t going. He’s Skyping with Betty tonight.”
“I’m kind of busy here, Cap. The suit is still buggy. The joints don’t want to respond right after the fight with the Doombots. I really need to finish it up before I can have any play time.”
Steve nodded but Tony could tell that he was disappointed.
“That’s too bad, Stark. Barton was telling me about some night outs drinking with you.” Bucky was talking as he looked Tony up and down. Tony was used to being looked at but this wasn’t Bucky seeing if he wanted in Tony’s pants. This was a soldier looking at a threat. That wasn’t good.
“Yeah. Barton has too much fun on nights out and not enough of a hangover the next day. Watch him.”
“Tony’s been sober for over a month now,” Steve pointed out to Bucky.
“Doesn’t mean I can’t have fun on a night out,” Tony said, his voice turning to ice in just a few words. He looked Steve hard in the eyes. “I really need to get back to work now. Bucky, welcome to the tower. If you need anything just ask JARVIS. He will gladly help you in whatever you need. I don’t know if Cap has shown you to your room yet but there are some things set up in there for you. A welcome to the future present if you will. Cap can show you how to work them. Have fun tonight.” Tony turned away as he gave a wave. “JARVIS, Iron Man playlist.”
Waiting to hear the door shut, Tony turned his back to the two other men. Johnny Cash started to talk about thunder and beasts. It was a playlist that he liked to listen to while working on his armor. Whether he was working on blueprints or just working on fixing the damages from the fights.
“JARVIS, place a pizza order. Just my usual.”
JARVIS alerted him that the pizza was there just as the rest of the Avengers were getting ready to leave to take Bucky out for the night. The pizza was delivered from a place just a block away. There was a running tab that was kept for deliveries and for eating in when Tony or the other Avengers were out and about. Every Sunday, Stark Industries was charged for the bill.
The delivery boy was the usual and looked to be relieved to be delivering only a single pie. Tony met him at the elevator with a twenty in hand for a tip. It was the smallest he had on him and knew from Steve that the boy was putting himself through school so Tony tried to tip well.
“Johnny thanks!” Tony said as he took the pizza from the boy and handed over the twenty. Johnny smiled and looked behind Tony. Tony turned to see Steve and Bucky standing there. Bucky had on a long sleeve dress shirt along with a glove. That’s when it clicked. Steve had mentioned that Bucky had been missing an arm. He had forgotten it until that moment. He knew that SI had been roped into making a new one for him. Tony found he had no urge to check it out, because that meant spending one on one time with Bucky. There was just something about the kid that made his skin crawl.
“Just yourself tonight, Mr. Stark?”
“Yeah. One of Steve’s friends came into town and the others are taking him out. I am slaved to work for the next two weeks it seems. You’ll probably see a lot of the tower and my mug.”
Johnny just smiled at him and waved to Steve before leaving. Tony shut the door and started back down to his workshop. He gave an absent minded wave to Steve and Bucky as he passed them, opening the box and shoving half a piece of it in his mouth. As he stepped onto the stairs that led to his workshop, he heard Clint’s voice ring down asking if he was going. He didn’t answer, just waited for the hushed tones of Steve’s voice answering.
Two weeks after Bucky moved in was the first time that something came up that needed the Avengers. The strain that was in the personal lives of the Avengers was no longer there. Captain America and Iron Man worked together to take down the giant ape in Times Square while Hulk and the others took care of the little apes that were scattered everywhere.
When the fight was done and the apes had all been taken care of, the Avengers found that none of their team was hurt. Tony’s suit was barely damaged at all, just cosmetic damage. When the area was declared clear, Maria Hill brought SHIELD to start the cleanup and Bucky to check on Steve. The Avengers were relaxing and waiting to be cleared to head back to the tower. Hulk was on the side watching a TV that’d been loaded in the back of one of the SHIELD vehicles. It kept him calm until he could change back into Bruce.
No one was prepared for him to shift at the exact moment that he heard Bucky and Steve talking and yet took a leap and started to come down where Bucky was standing. “SMASH!”
It was the first time that the Hulk had ever seen Bucky but usually he took things like seeing different people better. Steve threw his shield at the precise moment needed to stop Hulk’s hand from smashing Bucky while Thor and Natasha stepped up to protect him.
Hulk stopped and stared at Bucky for a few minutes before he snorted and turned away from them all.
Tony, in his armor, stepped up to Hulk and started to talk to him. In a few minutes, Tony was flying a normal sized Bruce back to the tower.
Tony filed his report and sent it to all who need it before he started to work again on the Mark VIII armor. He knew that Bruce would show up at a later time and ask for a report of what happened. Bruce always came to him to find out what the Hulk did while on a rampage. Tony had always been the one to give him the truth without hiding and no half lies.
Two hours later, Bruce walked into the lab with Thai and several bottles of water. “Why did he do that?” is all he asked as he set the food down in front of Tony along with half of the water.
Tony doesn’t answer with words, instead he points at the screen and JARVIS cues up all the things that Tony has had him collect on Bucky so far. They eat slowly as they watch hours of footage. When JARVIS shut down the screen, Bruce turned to Tony and just stared.
“He’s rather adept at some of those things. I don’t think that I could so some of that.”
“Exactly, I had a few sets of spyware on his phone and computer. I know, just yell at me later. I wanted to make sure he wasn’t going somewhere he shouldn’t. I did the same with Cap back then. The first time that Bucky got onto them without Cap hovering, he removed them and flushed them.”
Bruce thought about that for several seconds before he asked. “Did you tell Steve?”
“Tried. He just said that someone at SHIELD must have done it and then yelled at me. He was in the tower with them when they were removed. I know the exact time it happened.”
“Do you have an exit plan?” Bruce asked. Tony looked at him like he was shocked but he really shouldn’t have been. Bruce knew him well; even with the short time they had known each other.
“Have always had an exit plan, Bruce. I have one for every situation. I just have to adapt one thing but I’ve done that several times already.”
“Has he talked about you guys?” Bruce asked, keeping it vague so that Tony could sidestep it if he needed or wanted.
“No. There’s been no mention. Hell, there’s been nothing. Nothing at all. We talk less now than we did when the team formed.”
Bruce nodded and turned back to stare at a blank screen.
Steve cornered Tony just a few minutes after he and Bucky got back from SHIELD with Bucky’s newest arm. From what Steve said the hardware and software were updated. “He wants to try sparring to check it out and I have to go back to SHIELD. He’d feel better if it was done sooner rather than later. Can you help him?”
Tony opened his mouth to say no but the look on Steve’s face had him nodding. Steve gave him a giant smile. It was the smile that he hadn’t seen at all since the morning when Steve got the call. No, those smiles were for Bucky now.
“He’s waiting down in the sparring ring for you. Thanks so much, Tony.” Steve threw a wave over his shoulder as he entered the elevator to take him down to the ground floor to leave. Tony shook his head and quickly went to change into his armor. He made sure that JARVIS was recording before he went into the room though.
It started off slow and easy. Tony made sure that Bucky was used to his newest limb before they tried anything harder than just punching on a bag or a practice dummy. Tony was used to talking while he sparred, whether it was with Happy or Steve. Bucky on the other hand was silent. Tony would ask questions but the other man never answered.
A lucky swing by Bucky had one of Tony’s arm pieces buckling and Tony took a few steps back to get ready to call off the sparring. It was dangerous to spar with one of the arms buckled and he wasn’t going to take it off and start again. Bucky though stepped forward and grabbed Tony’s broken armor and squeezed with his mechanical arm. Tony brought his other arm up, aiming his repulsor at Bucky and then fired. Bucky dropped Tony’s other arm but not before one last squeeze that broke Tony’s arm.
Tony fired all his remaining repulsors to blast himself backwards from the fight that was probably going to end horribly. He took a breath to call for JARVIS to send for whoever was available but before he could get word one out, Hulk lumbered into the room and placed himself between Tony and Bucky.
“Leave,” Hulk spat out with as much force and wind as he could. Bucky paled and backed out of the room. When Hulk was sure he was gone, he turned to Tony. “Help?”
“No, Big Buy. I can take care of myself.”
“Need little guy’s help?” Hulk asked, acting like he wanted to touch the hurt arm. Tony didn’t flinch, knowing that the Hulk would never hurt him. He just stood there for a few seconds.
“I think that might be nice.”
It was just seconds and Hulk was getting smaller and less green and then standing in front of Tony was Bruce clad in black pants. Bruce looked at the arm and started to help Tony remove the destroyed armor without saying a word. Tony called for JARVIS to have a bot pick up the armor and take it down to the shop while the two of them went to medical.
Later that night, Tony was relaxing in the living room with his arm propped up on pillows when Steve came back from whatever SHIELD had him doing all day. He took one look at Tony’s arm and sighed.
“What did you say to him?” Steve asked.
They were alone in the living room but still Tony wished someone other than Bucky would enter.
Tony looked up at the camera in the corner and nodded. That meant that JARVIS would alert Bruce that Tony may need help. Tony could tell by Steve’s one sentence that he was not going to win this one.
Steve saw Bucky as a child and Tony as the bully. Steve hated bullies even though Bucky was the bully in this case. He couldn’t see past his friendship with the other man to see what was really happening.
“Nothing.” Steve jumping to the conclusion that this was done by Bucky meant that he had been expecting something to happen and he still wanted Tony to be the one to spar…
“Bucky would never hurt you on purpose, Tony. You have to have said something to him to make him mad to do that.” Steve waved at the arm.
“This is not the same Bucky that you knew, Steve. I think that he has some problems. This is coming from me, the king of problems; you know that there has to be something there.”
“No.” Steve took two steps towards Tony as Tony stood up. Steve stopped just inches from the darker haired man. “Bucky is fine. You have to see problems in everyone don’t you, so that you don’t see yourself as the messed up man that you are.”
“Messed up?” Tony asked. Never has Steve made mention of Tony’s problems in those words. Tony smelled Bucky’s influence there.
“Bucky is the same as before,” Steve said not even listening to Tony. “He always said when he got back from the war, we would be together. Then we were together over there. He died and I was left here alone. Now we can truly be together. Tony, I have to try it. I have to take that chance. I am sure you understand.”
Tony didn’t know what to say to that. He just shook his head and left the room. Steve didn’t even try to stop him or call him back. Tony went right to his lab and worked on fixing the arm of his armor. The Mark VIII was almost ready to start plating up but he still needed the VII for an emergency.
Spending most of the night fixing his armor, Tony only noticed the time when his stomach growled. He stopped what he was going and went to the kitchen to get some kind of dinner.
There was no one there when he entered, he was thankful. He had just about finished putting his sandwich together when a noise alerted him that he wasn’t alone. Before he could turn though someone started to speak,
“You know it’s kind of messed up when you tell a guy’s former boyfriend, that in your mind you and his former were still a couple, no matter what they told you. And that Steve wasn’t even going to love him the same again, since you and Steve had gotten together.”
“What?” Tony turned around in the kitchen to find both Natasha and Clint standing there. Clint was glaring at him so hard that Tony was sure that he would be dead if Clint could have gotten away with it. Clint had been the one to speak.
“Don’t act stupid, Stark. Just stay the hell away from Bucky,” Clint said as he and Natasha turned from the room.
Tony just stared at where they had been before he left the kitchen, his sandwich left behind. He wasn’t hungry anymore. He went to his lab and locked it down. Lying down on his cot, Tony fell asleep, numb.
Steve stopped him just outside his workshop a few days later. Tony’s hadn’t even had time to open it for the day; JARVIS had convinced him to sleep in a bed that night. “We have to talk.”
“Do you want me to leave the team?” Tony asked turning around to face Steve. He felt a little bad for the look of shock on Steve’s face but he couldn’t help it.
“Why can’t you accept this?”
“We were really good, Steve. It was slow and wonderful and the best time of my life. Then there was nothing. I got a few texts and I know that your world was rocked but I wanted to help and there was nothing. I wasn’t even on your radar. I wasn’t even informed that we were not even a maybe couple anymore.”
“You hated him from the moment that I brought him down to the workshop for you to meet him.”
“No, I never hated him. Even after…I don’t hate him. I didn’t then and still don’t. I don’t trust him. Everyone puts me not trusting him down to being the jilted boyfriend but the Hulk still doesn’t like him much less trust him.”
Steve gave a wry laugh at Tony’s words. “The Hulk doesn’t like a lot of people still. That is no proof.”
“He’s not a mindless beast.” Tony laughed that Steve still thought he was. “He sees all that Bruce does and sometimes even more than he does.”
“Will you ever be able to accept Bucky as an Avenger?”
“No,” Tony said simply.
“Then on Fury and my order, you are no longer an Avenger.”
Tony looked at Steve in shock. He was sure that his face was full of hurt but Steve’s never changed. It was his Captain America face of ‘I am doing what’s needed.’ There was no way to change his mind when he was in this mood. “What press release do you want?”
Steve looked taken aback, probably because Tony wasn’t fighting it. “I am sure that SHIELD will come up with something.”
“Fine. Have a nice life, Captain.” Tony mock saluted him before turning to his workshop door. He could see the windows around the door darkening as the door was opened for him. He silently thanked JARVIS.
“Tony, you don’t have…” but whatever Tony didn’t have to do was lost to the shutting of the door.
“JARVIS notify Pepper to have my wing opened in the Malibu house. Get a hold of my movers and prep yourself for removal.”
“What A.I. should I prep to take my place, Sir?”
“Load up Jeeves. Give him a good shakedown before you let him take over fully. He should be enough to take care of the Avengers. I want to be out by the end of business tomorrow. Once all of my things are removed from my rooms, lock them down. Have an alert set up in case someone tries to or does succeed in breaking in.”
“Doctor Banner would like a word.”
“Let him in.”
“Tony, think it through,” Bruce said as the door was opened, before he even set foot in the workshop.
“I have. Captain Rogers can’t even look at me anymore and contrary to what everyone thinks, I don’t like to be in pain. I can’t look at him every single day and have my heart break all over again. I think that I spent most of my life in love with him from the stories dad told me. He always told me more about Steve than the Captain. I fell so hard that night after the battle. I can’t do it, Bruce. Rogers doesn’t want me around, neither does Bucky. Clint and Natasha are just waiting for me to do something to give them the right to break my other arm or something worse. How can I live like that?”
Bruce’s face fell and he nodded. Bruce could understand that.
“Going back to Malibu?”
“Yes. The main part of Stark Industries is still there and so is Pepper. There’s room for you.”
“I think that distance between Bucky and the Other Guy could be a good thing.”
“You know, the Big Guy is a good judge of character.”
Bruce smiled but nodded. “Yes, he is.
Next Part: Disassembled