Return of the Winter Soldier

Title: Return of the Winter Soldier
Series: Winter Soldier
Fandom: Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man,
Year: 2013
Category: Drama, Angst, Action,
Ratings: PG-13
Pairings: Steve Rogers/James “Bucky” Barnes, past Tony Stark/Pepper Potts, past Tony Stark/Steve Rogers,
Spoilers: All Movies including Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Summary: Captain America and his sidekick, Bucky have gone missing. SHIELD is thinking HYDRA while Iron Man is pointing his finger at Bucky. The rest of the Avengers straddle the fence, wanting to do anything to find their wayward Captain and his oldest friend.
Words: 5,100
Notes: This started brewing in my head the second that I found out the title to Captain America 2…SQUEEEE!
Warnings: None
Beta: None

Avengers Tower, New York
Iron Man and War Machine landed on the pad that would disassemble their armor. Tony landed first and walked to the end before Rhodey stepped into the machine and did the same. Pepper and Bruce met them at the doorway into the actual tower but before they could speak a new voice spoke.

“Good evening, Sir. I hope that all is well. Should I make room for JARVIS?” Jeeves asked his American voice a start for Tony who forgot what Jeeves had sounded like. It had been so long since he had ever listened to him.

“No. Not yet at least. He might be leaving messages and want to talk to us but he will not become master of the Tower just yet. Just a visitor. I am sure that he has already downloaded a small part of his system into yours.”

“Yes, Sir. He has. Is there anything I can do for you?”

“No,” Tony said with a smile on his face.

“It’s odd. I never thought I would miss JARVIS,” Pepper said with a smile. She linked her arm with Tony’s and led him to where everyone was gathered. A new table had been installed into the dining room area. It smaller but still fit everyone at the table. Clint and Natasha were seated on one side with Thor at the head of the table. Tony sat at the end opposite Thor while Bruce, Rhodey, and Pepper sat in the chairs that were left on the side opposite Natasha and Clint.

“What do you know?” Tony asked.

“That when Steve and Bucky left Malibu, they went on a private plane that was supposed to be from SHIELD. The SHIELD plane came to get them and they were gone. SHIELD assumed that Bucky had talked Steve into taking a little vacation since they were not needed. It wasn’t until we came back and they had not checked in that red flags were thrown. No means of communication contacted us with the two of them and then we received word from HYDRA that they had the both of them,” Natasha slid a piece of paper over to Tony.

“What are their demands?” Rhodey asked.

“They want nothing. They are just stating that they have them.”

“No demands at all?” Pepper asked. She knew that was odd. Kidnappers always wanted something.

“They have what they want. They have their operative back and they have Captain America. Their worst enemy.”

Clint and Natasha just stared at him but Thor was the one who spoke. “Operative?”

“After you left, JARVIS brought some things to our attention. HYDRA had an operative that they kept in cold storage, a specialist if you will. The one to do what others couldn’t. This man was wiped of all of his memories and turned into the perfect soldier.”

“Winter Soldier,” Natasha said, her voice was bored but antsy. She knew all about him and he had nothing to do with the situation at hand.

“JARVIS?” Tony called. A screen dropped from the ceiling. The first thing that JARVIS pulled up was a picture of Bucky from the 60’s. It was easy to tell it was Bucky and very easy to tell the year from the surroundings. A cascade of pictures followed, some from before and some from after the 60’s. The final picture was of Bucky in the early 90’s, holding a gun and showing his victim.

“Why didn’t you take your suspicions to Fury?” Clint asked.

“JARVIS gave us this just hours ago. I wanted an airtight case against him. I wanted no wiggle room because Bucky is good at that. Look how quickly Steve dumped me in the relationship sense and in the friendship. Bucky broke my arm while he had no scratch on him.”

“We seriously fell for that?” Clint asked. He let his head rest against the table. No one tried to make him feel better. Everyone was feeling the same thing.

“I was on the fence about him. The Other Guy wasn’t. He knew from the start that he didn’t like Bucky. I knew that I should have been more vocal about it but I was treading water with SHIELD as it was.” Tony could see the guilt on everyone’s faces but there was nothing he could do to make them feel better. He wasn’t petty. That past long ago. He may dislike Steve at the current for falling for what the Winter Soldier was spewing but he didn’t want to see him hurt.

“Lay the blame where it belongs. At Fury and at Roger’s feet. He wanted Bucky so bad that he looked over a lot that he shouldn’t have. Fury had to have known about him being Winter Soldier and he told no one or if he told Rogers, Rogers didn’t tell us. We should have known about the fact before Bucky ever set foot in this tower.”

“I agree,” Thor said. Piping in for the first time since the meeting had started. Everyone looked at him. “We need to get our Captain back.”

“I agree. SHIELD is not going to be much help. They think that Bucky is not Winter Soldier anymore or they never would have let him out of SHIELD or they really don’t know. They will hold that HYDRA alone has the both of them.” Tony debated for a few seconds what to do. To reveal his new tech or not. Extremis was something that they would find out about, was it better going into a fight with them knowing or not knowing? Making the decision, Tony activated his link to JARVIS and the tower. The screen was hijacked in seconds and he was looking through security feed. He started with following Rogers and Bucky out of SI headquarters and traced them.

The gasps let him know that someone was watching the screen. He looked over at Pepper and saw that it wasn’t her. Tony looked over at Thor, Natasha, and Clint. Natasha was the first to recover. “You lied.”

“You had no reason to know at the time. I have no loyalty to the Avengers anymore. The only reason I am doing this is because of the friendships I once had will you two and Rogers. Thor will always be welcome in Malibu.”

“What is going on?” Thor asked. He was looking at the screen.

“Extremis worked for me. I changed my file to make Hansen think it wouldn’t. She thought she was killing me. I changed the dose that she gave me though. I am not like Mallen. I kept the speed, healing, some of the strength, and the invulnerability. I also am able to interface with almost any tech out there. If it has wireless I can do it by that otherwise I have to touch it.”

“You really didn’t trust us did you?”

“Everything that you knew about me would help you attack me and I was sure that within a few years, SHIELD would see me as an enemy. SHIELD doesn’t trust many and I was OK when I was safe under their roof. They were biding time until such a time that they could take me out in one fell swoop. I could see it in Fury’s eyes at the meeting.” Tony knew the contingency plans that were made in conjunction with him. He had hacked and found them. he was sure that every time he created something new, the plans would change but he could deal with that.

“Bruce and I will stay here to coordinate,” Pepper said, taking over the group. “Thor, Natasha, Clint, you three work with SHIELD to see what leads they have. Check in every three hours. Rhodey and Tony will Bucky and try to find where he would take Steve.”

xXxXxXx

Tony spent hour upon hour searching for where the plane landed. He had hacked into SHIELD and taken over their cameras. He couldn’t find it at all. Cursing, Tony turned his eyes back to home. The plane hadn’t landed anywhere in Europe. In fact, the plane had never left America. Starting in Malibu, Tony started to search outward. He was going to find and kill Bucky Barnes if he had to die himself doing it.

xXxXxXx

Natasha accessed the SHIELD computers to bring up the files on HYDRA only to find them locked. Her access was not high enough to access them. That was odd there were very few files that she was not able to access. Sending off a text to Stark she found that the file opened just seconds later.

“You’re Welcome!” appeared on the screen with a little Iron Man head at the bottom of the exclamation mark. Clicking past that Natasha spent the next three hours looking at the HYDRA files. There was nothing in them except all the instances where they were able to connect Winter Soldier to deaths and stolen files from all around the world.

Closing down the files, Natasha cursed that she learned nothing. It was hours wasted. She only hoped that Clint had been able to find something. Thor was stalking around SHIELD keeping eyes on Fury so that Natasha and Clint could stalk around in secret with less eyes looking for them. Clint was in the air ducts, trying to listen in to Hill and Fury, hoping they would say something.

xXxXxXx

Tony nearly beat his head against the desk when he found where the plane landed. Everything always happened in New York. He should have started there. Sending out a ping to Jeeves, he alerted the Avengers that he had a location. It was just seventy miles away. Taking a SHIELD jet and they would be there in no time.

Tony just hoped they were not too late. HYDRA’s only goal was to kill Captain America.

xXxXxXx

Steve woke up, wondering where he was. The last thing that he remembered was getting onto the plane that SHIELD had sent and fund HYDRA troops with guns trained at him. The blow had come from behind, he knew that much. That meant they had to have taken out Bucky.

Bucky! Steve opened his eyes to find a bright light shining into them. It was so bright he could not see where he was. Trying to move, Steve pulled at one of his arms. It wouldn’t move. He was strapped down to some kind of table. He wasn’t able to move at all. He could hear movement around him.

“Hello? Who’s out there?”

“You are going to wish that you were dead, Captain Rogers. I may grant you that wish.” The voice was heavily accented. Steve hadn’t heard the accent in nearly a year but it actuality it had been years. It was a heavy German accent and Steve’s stomach fell at the sound of it. “Welcome to a new HYDRA base, Captain. This time you won’t get out. With your life or your buddy’s.”

Buddy? Bucky! That meant that Bucky was still alive. Another set of feet on the other side of the room crossed to join the speaker. Steve listened hard and found that the second person had something mechanical on him. He could hear the servos. He knew the sound. The rhythmic sound told Steve that this person was clenching and unclenching their fist. The exact same way that Bucky did when he was nervous. It was the exact same movement and hesitation that Bucky did.

Steve could only think of one thing. That meant that Tony had been right the entire time. SHIELD had told Steve that all of the Winter Soldier programming had been removed. They had been wrong. Steve had been drawn up in having Bucky back that he had let so much pass. He had wrecked his friendship and relationship with Tony because he couldn’t see what Bucky was like. The Bucky he had known in the war would have never broken Tony’s arm like that, he knew that but he was so hurt that Tony wouldn’t try to get along with Tony that he hadn’t cared.

“Just kill me,” Steve said in a whisper. He moved his head to look at where Bucky was standing. The light was so bright that he couldn’t see him but he could hear him. “Just kill me, Buck, get it over with. You won’t get anything from me.”

“So Captain America finally sees the truth of the situation. Your decision to follow me instead of Stark has led to Stark’s death. He was injected with something that killed him. Your Avengers will be picked off one by one. Stark was the first, you will be the second, Barton next, Romanoff and then Thor to follow. We have not found a way to kill the Hulk yet but all else fails we will send him off into space. This world will be ours.”

“You’ve gone crazy, Bucky.”

“My name is Winter Soldier, Rogers. You will call me that. You are nothing but a mission.”

“No, you are James Buchanan Barnes my best friend. They’ve turned you into Winter Soldier but it’s not who you are.” Steve heard it coming but he couldn’t dodge it. The whirring of Bucky’s arm got closer and then he felt the breeze before the arm connected with his face. His head was snapped to the other side of the table so that he was looking the exact opposite direction of what he had been. He felt part of his jaw break. It was painful but he had felt worse. The blood from his now split lip started to run down his chin.

“Be quiet,” the German told him.

A door opened and Steve could hear the sounds from outside the room. It wasn’t a normal base of operations. Bucky and the German both walked out of the room. Steve was left alone to think. He would never be able to do enough to get Tony’s forgiveness. Steve had looked for a bully in someone who could never be that kind of bully. Tony pushed people to extremes but never those weaker than him. Bucky had become the bully. Pushing Steve so far away from the others that even now, Steve wouldn’t be surprised if no one came for him.

xXxXxXx

The small bunker was deceptive in its size. Tony had the plans pulled up on his HUD. This was only a tenth of the base. The rest was underground. There was only one entrance. Pepper had been left behind at the tower to watch from afar and alert SHIELD if something went wrong. Bruce was in his black pants, ready to Hulk out when needed. Natasha and Clint were putting the finishing touches on their gear. Rhodey was already in his armor. Thor was in his armor and Mjolnir was in his hand.

Tony was ready to go in but he had no way to see inside to know what they were up against. He was almost inside though. Their firewalls were pitiful. It was like they were not expecting him at all. What he found first was the security footage. He saw the footage of Bucky telling Rogers that he himself was dead. Tony watched as Bucky told Rogers that soon all of them were going to die.

If Bucky really thought that then he was not going to expect him to come in, armor blazing. Tony started to think his armor off, it fell around his feet. Iron Man was going to be too flashy. No one else going in would be able to go in. HYDRA would be looking for them. They would not be looking for Tony. They thought that Tony was dead.

“They think that I am dead,” Tony blurted out and everyone looked at him. He turned to look at all of them. “They don’t know that I survived Extremis. They think that I died. They have some kind of face recognition software. I can’t get to it because it’s not hooked up wirelessly. I can’t trick it. It’s not looking for me though. It’s looking for everyone but me.”

“How can we get in?” Natasha asked.

“I’ll go in first and try to disable the face software. If I can’t. I’ll pull power. Rogers is fine except for a busted up face. HYDRA reports he may have a broken jaw but they aren’t checking that as of now. Rogers knows that Bucky is not on our side. He’s begged Bucky to kill him.”

“He’s not in a good place then?” Bruce asked.

“He got a glimpse of his past, Bruce and that was taken away. How should he feel?” Tony spat as the last of his armor left him. “I have a plan. I’m going to get a hold of some of their gear and infiltrate the base. Leave my armor on the craft and let it be able to come to my call.”

“You can call it?” Clint asked, looking at Tony with surprise on his face.

“Yes, with Extremis, my armor is now at my beck and call. Just leave it accessible. I’ll do the rest.”

“We’ll hold for your call,” Natasha said as she checked the clip of her gun.

Tony motioned and the back hatch of the craft opened. He quickly exited and headed for the tree line. The others watched as he got to a guard station and overwhelmed a guard.

xXxXxXx

Steve was left alone for an unknown period of time. His jaw hurt him like a son of a gun. His lip had stopped bleeding but that was the only upside to this entire thing. The straps were too tight for him to be able to release himself. He wasn’t strong enough to snap them.

A noise alerted him to the fact that someone was messing with the door. He turned his head to put an ear on that side of the room. Someone was picking the lock to the door. He wasn’t sure who it would be. For a few seconds, he let himself think that it was Tony. Tony was coming for him. That could never be though. Bucky had told him that Tony was dead. Tony had been killed and had thought that Steve hated him. Steve could never hate Tony. He had been disappointed in Tony but he could never hate him. Tony had been his lifeline and he had let Bucky mess with that.

The door opening pulled Steve out of his reverie. He tensed waiting for something to happen. He could hear the person breathing but nothing else. The door shutting shut out all other noises and he could hear something else. Something normal that was always present and spoke of Tony. Steve jerked in his bonds. He was going crazy. He thought he was hearing Tony’s arc reactor. It couldn’t be though.

“Rogers?” Tony called out.

Steve didn’t answer. He didn’t react at all. A hand on his arm and still nothing. HYDRA had to have drugged him. That was the only explanation. Tony pulled his arm free of the binding and set about releasing the rest of the bonds.

“Don’t talk. HYDRA thinks they broke your jaw. I have you and I am signaling the rest of the team to come in and free us. I disabled the software that would recognize them.”

“How?” Steve whispered.

“How what? How am I alive after they told you I am dead? How am I signaling the team? I can explain later. I need you to walk. I know that the light is bright. We need to get out. Hulk is getting ready to wreck this place. We all want it gone and we don’t care how. Bucky left an hour ago. I don’t know where he went. I haven’t found him yet.”

An arm was underneath his shoulders, helping him to sit up. As he sat up, the room spun a little. Tony held him up, kept him steady. He was on his own two feet with only Tony steadying him a little. He started towards the door and Tony didn’t stop him. Instead he opened the door and waited for Steve to step out.

“Hey! Stop!”

Steve tried to backpedal into the room but Tony stopped him. Before he could try and shove at Tony, he heard a rattling. He turned to see a guard running and trying to get of the way of something. Tony pushed past him into the hall and Steve watched as the Iron Man armor flew through the hall in pieces. It formed around Tony in record time and then he was blasting his way through the guards now running at them. Tony grabbed Steve and pulled him behind him.

“Stay behind me. Hawkeye and Widow are just a minute out. Hulk started at a lower section and his ripping his way through. War Machine and Thor are dropping it from the top side. Just stay behind me. I’ll protect you.”

Steve nodded, knowing that Tony couldn’t see him but just saying the one word that he had spoken, hurt like hell. He stayed behind Tony the entire trek through the base. Tony dropped all the guards who tried to attack them. By the time that they reached the exit, Steve’s eyes had adjusted to the lower light. He looked around and saw the destruction from the Hulk. Tony led him over to the aircraft and put him in a seat.

“I’ll be back when we have emptied the place. I am alerting SHIELD now that we have you in our hands and they can send who they want to take care of HYDRA. You are coming back to the tower with us and Bruce is going to look at your jaw.”

Steve nodded, letting himself relax as Tony flew back out of the aircraft.

xXxXxXx

Tony dropped to his landing pad. He had been the last to leave the HYDRA base. The Avengers and Rhodey had left an hour before to take Steve back to the tower to get him looked at by Bruce, who had calmed down once he had run out of walls to smash. All of the HYDRA agents were now in SHIELD custody. Tony was tired and just wanted to go to sleep. He was glad that he at least still had his room at the tower. All he had to do was take his armor off and then he could crash.

Pepper met him when he entered the tower, she had coffee in one hand and wet rag in the other. Tony took the rag and wiped off his face, smiling at her when he was done. A large gulp of the hot coffee and Tony started to feel human again.

“Everyone is in medical with Steve. If you want to slip out, now’s the time.”

“I’m gonna crash in my room. I’ll have Jeeves lock it down so that only you and Rhodey and Bruce can get in. Wake me in the morning, if I’m not up already.”

Pepper smiled at him and kissed his cheek. Tony pulled her in for a quick hug before he went to his room. Jeeves opened the door before he even reached it.

“I already have the lockdown in place, Sir.”

“Thanks, Jeeves.”

“It is my will to serve, Sir.”

Tony shook his head to clear it. He had forgotten how Jeeves was and creepy he could be. The room was exactly like he had left it. It wasn’t even dusty which meant that Jeeves had aired it out earlier in the day.

xXxXxXx

Waking up hours later, Tony barely remembered his head even hitting the pillow.

“JARVIS, update,” Tony said as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. When there was no answer, Tony looked around. He wasn’t in…then he remembered. “Jeeves.”

“Yes, Sir. Miss Potts left to visit the Stark Industries branch in New York. She left instructions for you to be left to wake on your own. Doctor Banner is asleep, having stayed up most of the night working in the medical bay. Miss Romanoff and Mister Barton are at SHIELD headquarters. Mister Thor left stating that he was going to Central Park to think. Captain Rogers is in the kitchen, drinking a protein shake that Miss Potts made for him. She left one of your usual shakes in the fridge.”

“Thank you.” Tony rolled over onto his back and looked up at the ceiling. His stomach growling told him that he would need to get something to eat. He couldn’t remember the last time he ate. Deciding that he would have to brave going to the kitchen, Tony got up and started getting ready.

Half an hour later, Tony entered the kitchen to still find Steve sitting there. Steve jerked a little, surprised, Tony hoped.

“Hello,” Tony said as he went to the fridge and pulled his shake from the fridge. It was in a drink bottle like he liked it. He shook it up before he started walk out of the room.

“Please, don’t.” Steve’s voice was soft and Tony wasn’t sure whether that was because Steve couldn’t talk well or he was afraid to make Tony mad. Tony stopped but he didn’t turn around. He just stood there. “Can we talk please?”

“Why?” Tony asked. He heard Steve sigh and so he turned around. “Why do you want to talk now? You never made the time to talk to me before. I was yesterday’s news as far as you were concerned.”

“I know that I made some mistakes. I’ve paid for those don’t you think?” Steve asked, locking his eyes with Tony’s.

“Bucky is still out there. What do you think of that?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know if he can be helped or just locked away. I want to try to help him though.”

Tony nodded and didn’t say anything. Instead he just sat down opposite Steve. “Some wounds take time to heal. I don’t know that Bruce’s plans are but I am heading back out to Malibu.”

“The Avengers need you.”

“I know and I can be here in no time, if I am needed. I can’t move back here right now, Steve. I can’t.”

Steve nodded and looked away from Tony. Tony waited a few minutes, taking a few drinks of his shake before he left. Steve didn’t try to call him back.

xXxXxXx

Tony lay down in his bed after being back in Malibu for a week. His bruises from the fight with HYDRA were long gone. He was enjoying his time in R&D here at SI but he was getting bored. Bruce and Thor had both come back with him. Pepper was in contact with SHIELD about what they can do as a small group. A west coast Avengers as it were.

SHIELD didn’t like that the Avengers were split like that it was better than only having three Avengers total. Fury had not come forward with any type of apology for the situation but Steve had come clean about knowing about him being Winter Soldier.

A vibration jerked Tony into a sitting position. He looked around and saw his phone lying in the middle of the sheets; its screen was lit up. A shield was lit up as the caller ID. If the sound had been on the phone would have been playing Star Spangled Man. Tony grabbed the phone and pressed the answer button.

“Hello?” Tony asked. He wasn’t sure if this was a social call or not.

“Hi, Tony.”

“Steve,” was all that Tony said, waiting for Steve to tell him why he was calling.

“How have you been?” Steve asked cautiously. As if he was unsure if Tony was going to hang up on him.

“Been going really well. How about you?” Tony wasn’t sure what this was about but he could go with it for now.

“Well. Fury is still mad that you took Thor with you but I told him to get over it. Thor goes where he wants. Plus he’s closer to Jane. I think that’s the main reason he went with you.”

“Woe be the one who keeps an Asgardian from his love. Any news on Bucky?” Tony lay back down and pulled the covers over himself. This was probably going to be a long call. He might as well get comfortable.

“Nothing but I know that you know that. I wanted to tell you that Miss Potts told me…about the thing. SHIELD doesn’t know.”

“Good. I’d rather them not know, if it’s all the same to you.”

“Clint and Natasha have kept it from the reports. It’s down that JARVIS did it all.”

“Is this line safe?” Tony asked.

“You know it is Tony.” Steve chuckled and the sound carried through the line. Tony smiled at the sound. He hadn’t heard it in so long.

“I know.”

“So, what are you doing?” Steve asked.

“Just laid down to try and sleep. Nanny Bruce told me I had to go to my room and wasn’t allowed out for twelve hours.”

“How long have you been up?”

“Two days. It’s not bad. I’ve been working on my armor. You saw the Mark 42 armor. This is the Mark 43. It’s made for my new enhancements fully instead of just adapted like the 42 was.”

“How is it coming?”

“Really well. Another few days and it will be ready to start forming.”

“Sounds like fun.”

“DUM-E enjoys it. Even Butterfingers gets excited.”

“What about Yu?”

“He couldn’t care less.”

“Only you Tony.”

“How is Jeeves working?”

“I know that you upgraded him before you left a week ago.”

“It was a parting gift. I hadn’t updated his software in years.” Tony rolled to his side and got even more comfortable. His phone was pressed to his ear that was up. “What are you doing?”

“I’m on the couch watching some infomercials on mute. No one is home right now. I guess Clint and Natasha are training a new group of spies.”

“More like scaring the shit out of them.” Tony laughed and thought the lights in the room down to ten percent. He could see shadows moving but that was it. It was all he needed.

“Probably. You should really go to sleep, Tony. I’ll call back tomorrow night.”

“That sounds good.” Tony waited to hear Steve hang up before he did. He rolled onto his stomach and pulled the blankets up around him tighter. He and Steve were on their way back to friendship. Tony wasn’t sure if he wanted something more than that.

The End

To Be Continued in Quiet Nights

Disassembled

Title: Disassembled
Series: Winter Soldier Cycle
Fandom: Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man,
Year: 2013
Category: Drama, Angst, Action,
Ratings: PG-13
Pairings: Steve Rogers/James “Bucky” Barnes, past Tony Stark/Pepper Potts, past Tony Stark/Steve Rogers,
Spoilers: All Movies up to Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Summary: Now living in Malibu, Tony Stark is getting on with his life as a former Avenger and new head of R&D at Stark Industries. He doesn’t dwell on his former life; instead he pushes forward with a new idea along with a new recruit to R&D Maya Hansen.
Words: 4,180
Notes: This was almost called “In Which SHIELD and the Avengers find out that Pepper is a BAMF when it comes to protecting Tony” in fact I still call it that in my head.
Warnings: This series gets worse before it gets better but please, I almost always do happy endings and this one will have a happy ending.
Beta: Charlie_Remington

“Tony, it’s a good thing that you put into your contract with SHIELD that all contracts with SHIELD were null and void if you were removed from the Avengers, for any reason. I don’t think that they could have used anything you had given them in your current state. Not safely at least.” Pepper’s voice was calm and serene even though Tony knew that she was really anything but that.

“Yeah.” Tony leaned back into Pepper, his head on her stomach. Pepper started to card her hands through his hair. She knew that he had been in the workshop for over three days but she knew when to pick her battles. JARVIS had brought up all the footage he had saved from Tony’s time the past month or so in the Avengers Tower in New York. At the end of it, she hated Steve so much. There was something else there but she wasn’t sure what it was. There were too many variables and she didn’t have all of them.

Pepper Potts was not a stupid woman. She knew going into the relationship with Tony that he loved someone else that he could never have. She hadn’t known at the time that it was Steve Rogers but she knew about the person in general. She knew the second that Tony got a call from Fury about Captain America, the way his face lit up and his body language changed, that this was the person Tony loved. It had been a shock but Tony was like the sun. Anyone would burn themselves to get a feel of it.

Hearing Bruce’s recounting of the first meeting between Tony and Steve, Pepper called him a dick to herself. Hearing the way that Steve talked to him for a long time after that, she still considered him a dick. Tony though fell more in love with him, he saw something in the man that no one else saw. When she broke things off with Tony, Steve had been the one to pick up the pieces and help Tony get sober. Tony, after that, had been good, and he got even better when he called and told her that Steve had agreed to a date. Three weeks of Tony at his best and then dropping to near his worst. The only saving grace had been that he’d stayed sober.

Then a broken Tony and a sad Bruce showed up at the mansion in Malibu, Pepper had brought them in and cared for Tony as best she could. Tony didn’t stray from his workshop and Bruce didn’t stray too far from him. Pepper still found it funny that the Hulk liked Tony and was worried about him.

Tony hadn’t told her how he had gotten his broken arm and she hadn’t pried, instead she just asked JARVIS. The AI took no compunction to hide anything from her. After watching what amounted to ten hours of footage, Pepper contacted Rhodey and sent him the highlights. Three hours and a million dollars later, Rhodey was no longer part of the Air Force and the War Machine outfit was back where it belonged, with Rhodey living in the mansion. Pepper hadn’t figured out why Rhodey wanted that outcome but she did what he wanted. There was something there as well.

The wagons were circling and she wasn’t sure what SHIELD was going to be in the aftermath.

Two days after that, Pepper had contracts set up with the United States government on contacting Iron Man, Hulk, or War Machine for duty to the United States. She was sure that Fury was still steaming over the costs and regulations on what the three of them could do. The meeting that took place that day with SHIELD, the Avengers, and the lawyers, along with Bruce, Rhodey, and Tony was a meeting to remember. Tony had been vicious and she was sure that SHIELD lawyers still wanted to smoke a cigarette when thinking of the way that she had gone after everything that was Stark Tech that was in their hands. Including their new repulsor engines in their Intercept Helicarriers, whatever that was. Protests had been made but everything had stood that the Stark tech went back where it belonged. SHIELD would have to find a new way to get their helicarriers in the air.

Tony hadn’t looked at the Avengers at all through the meeting, hadn’t even said a word to any of them. After Tony had left the room with Bruce, Pepper made Rhodey stay.

“I also want to tell you, Fury, that if any word of any of this gets leaked to any press at any time other than the press statement that SHIELD and SI agreed upon, I will be filing with the federal courts a lawsuit against SHIELD on corporate espionage.”

“Corporate espionage?” Steve had asked. Pepper turned to him so quick that Steve could have sworn she should have gotten whiplash. Pepper hadn’t even looked his way the whole time. Now to have her full gaze on him, Steve felt the urge to just apologize but he wasn’t sure what for.

“Natalie Rushman was employed by Stark Industries for many months. SHIELD has the rights to many copyrights as far as technology goes. Natalie Rushman’s real name, at least as far as I know, is Natalia Alianovna Romanoff but she goes by Natasha Romanoff. She was around many projects of ours and could have taken what she wanted.”

“That would never fly.” Clint practically snorted.

“Actually it would,” Natasha said. She kept her eyes down the entire time. Clint looked at her before looking at Fury. “Stark didn’t say a word at the time but he knows that I stole plans.”

The lawyers sputtered at her answer but Fury didn’t care. He looked Pepper in the eye and nodded. Pepper gathered her things and was almost to the door, with Rhodey behind her when she stopped. “I have some of the techs from SI getting ready to head into the Tower at this time. Anything that is not commercially available to buy on the market is going to be stripped from the Tower except for Jeeves. Tony wants the Tower safe and that means Jeeves stays but remember this, he answers to Tony and I.” Pepper looked at Steve as she spoke.

Pepper had loved that day and was very happy that JARVIS had recorded the entire thing for posterity.

xXxXxXx

“Rhodey and Bruce want to head out on the boat to do some fishing today, I was thinking of some sunbathing. Want to join us?”

Tony smiled up at her and knew from her tone of voice that it wasn’t a request. It was masked as a request to give him the illusion that he could back out but he knew that she would make him.

“JARVIS lock down the workshop. I am taking a day for myself.”

“I will, Sir. Have fun.”

Tony quickly stood up, never quite moving far enough away from Pepper to stop touching her. Pepper knew that he didn’t mean anything by what he was doing. He needed comfort and it was as much as he was going to get from her and he knew it, so he took it.

xXxXxXx

“Are you sure about this project, Tony?” Pepper asked as she sat down in the chair. Tony was beside her looking out the window. He had taken to being the head of R&D really well and the production of the projects that he touched were moving along so fast that Pepper was afraid of running out if Tony stayed in one area too long.

“Maya Hansen’s Extremis has many applications. The first of which is one that SHIELD and the government would pay dearly for. It’s a nanotech version of the Super Soldier Serum. It’s the magic bullet that would give them the army they never got to make in World War II.”

Pepper stared at him shocked. “Can it really do that?”

“She says it can, and from what I have read of it…yes. There are other applications of it but that is what it boils down to. This would make Stark Industries the hottest commodity in the medical field. Fast healing, hell Pep, fast everything. Tailor designed to the needs of the person getting it.”

“What about misuse?”

Tony looked at her shocked. He knew what she meant but it still stung. “I would have it tested to the best of my ability. There would be constant upgrades to the tech as new batches are made but Pepper…This could cure so much out there in the world.”

“Go have your fun. I want constant updates, Tony. I mean it. Don’t make me have JARVIS stalk you.”

One Month Later
Pepper was standing in her office, with her back to the door looking out upon the city. She hadn’t slept in three days and finally several hours before, she admitted that she needed the help of SHIELD. She heard the office door open but didn’t turn around.

“Miss Potts, the Avengers are here.” Her secretary talked softly. Everyone was treating her with kid gloves but she didn’t mind. It meant they also left her alone.

“Send them. Please alert Rhodes that they are here.”

“He is with them now.”

“Thank you.”

When she heard the sound of six shuffling feet, Pepper turned. Natasha, Clint, and Thor were standing right behind the desk while Rhodey was between them and her. Steve and Bucky were at the back of the room. Rhodey was pissed. So was she.

“Thank you for coming as quick as you did.”

“Fury told us that we were needed but he did not say why,” Steve said as he moved closer to the desk.

“That’s because I would not say why, except to tell him that it was a matter of SHIELD security. Three days ago, while driving around the city, Tony was abducted. Rhodes and Bruce have been looking for him nonstop but have hit a block on all roads. His car was found three blocks from here with no damage to it. There were no cameras that recorded the abduction and since it was around three in the morning, there were no witnesses either.”

“He’s gone?” Bucky asked. Pepper could hear a small amount of joy in his voice. She didn’t like it. Bucky gave her the creeps. She knew why Tony didn’t like him. There was something about him that was just off.

“Yes. There has been no ransom demand or anything from the person or persons that took him. There were no prints and no clues left at the scene.”

“No idea at all on who would benefit from him being dead?” Natasha asked.

Pepper turned her cool gaze to the assassin before looking over at Bucky and not answering. Steve’s face darkened and he cleared his throat.

“I don’t want to start this.”

“I did not ask for him,” Pepper nodded at Bucky. “Nor you. I asked for Black Widow and Hawkeye only. I did not ask Fury for the entire Avengers team. I am sorry Thor I mean no disrespect but I don’t want to announce to the world that he is missing. All five of your here is too much.”

“Fury wants him found, Ma’am and he wants him found now. Stark has too much in his head that could cripple SHIELD if it was found out.” Bucky looked pissed as he talked.

“I understand that but I also want him back alive. I don’t want Mr. Barnes anywhere near him.” Pepper turned her eyes back to Bucky. “I know the truth of that incident, Barnes. I have the footage. Leave now.”

“Miss Potts, Mr. Barnes is a member of the Avengers.”

“And I did not call for the Avengers. You have two choices, Captain Rogers. You can take your new boy toy and leave the premises or I can have you thrown in jail for trespassing. I am sure that Fury will get you quickly but not before a reporter snaps a picture. We can’t have Captain America getting thrown in jail can we?” Pepper leveled her best gaze that made Tony run and hide at Steve’s face. Steve held her gaze for several seconds before he looked away. Without a word he turned, grabbed Bucky’s arm, and left the room. “Thor, I have thought of a way that you could help but it would involve you changing into normal clothes.”

xXxXxXx

“Why don’t you trust him?” Natasha asked Pepper later that night while everyone else was eating. “What incident were you talking about?”

Pepper turned to look at Natasha. She sighed and leaned back in her chair in the living room area. The others were across the room talking tactics and what to do to find Tony.

“What happened to Tony to have Barnes break his arm?” Pepper asked.

“Steve told us that the two were sparring and Stark was running his mouth about…things to Bucky.”

“And you never asked to see the footage?”

“Why would Steve or Bucky lie?”

“It was the reason that Tony left. Wouldn’t you like to know what caused such a rift?”

“Stark hadn’t been in the best mood for weeks. I…Bucky said it was because Tony didn’t accept their relationship. I never took Stark to be so jealous. They had only had a few dates, Steve said.”

Pepper snorted interrupting Natasha.

“The relationship was going well from what I had heard from Tony. Then the call came through and for Steve, Tony no longer existed. Even the rest of you didn’t even stop in and say ‘Hey, Steve’s bringing Bucky home today. Don’t you want to meet him?’ Instead Steve brings Bucky to Tony’s workshop and jumps on him for not being happy that the love of Steve’s life is back from the dead and Tony should be so happy at losing someone he cared for.”

Natasha ducked her head. Pepper didn’t stop though.

“Then Bucky breaks Tony’s arm and everyone sides with Steve and Tony is thrown from the Avengers. If you want to see the footage, JARVIS can cue it up. In fact, JARVIS bring it up but don’t play it. I want everyone to see it.” Pepper stood up and moved over to where the boys were eating and talking. She cleared her throat and Clint and Thor looked at her. Bruce and Rhodey just kept their heads down. JARVIS lowered a screen and started up the footage from the sparring incident. Once Tony was out of his armor, JARVIS brought up the fight between Steve and Tony that night when Steve had gotten home. Clint sucked in a breath when his little confrontation with Tony came up. Then there was the last time that Tony and Steve talked, when Steve told him he was off the Avengers.

“If that is how all of you treat your teammates, I don’t want to see how you treat your enemies.” Pepper stalked out of the room, heading up to her wing of the house. Bruce and Rhodey followed behind her, taking her dinner and theirs so they could eat together.

Back in the living room, Thor, Clint, and Natasha didn’t say a word nor did they eat. The silence dragged out for the entire night. None of them felt welcome in what had become Tony’s protection from them. Instead Clint and Natasha slept on one couch together while Thor slept on the other.

xXxXxXx

The first breakthrough that came was two days after the Avengers arrived in Malibu. There was a warehouse on the edge of town that had received a supply of medical equipment along with computer tech and was using much more power than it should have.

That was also the same time that Maya Hansen was brought to Pepper’s attention due to the fact she hadn’t been in for the past two days. Natasha and Clint were sent to the warehouse while Pepper and Thor checked out Maya’s house which was empty of everything. She had skipped town.

Pepper alerted Clint and Natasha what they could be facing and then went to pick up Rhodey and headed to the warehouse.

The first thing that Pepper saw upon arriving at the warehouse was the man who was trying to kill Rhodey. Rhodey had only arrived minutes before them and he already looked worse than he had after Vanko. His helmet was missing as well as most of his weapons.

“Situation?” Pepper called over the radio.

“The man that War Machine is fighting was released by Hansen just seconds after War Machine arrived. I have no eyes on Stark but there is a second looking ready to come out of the…cocoon?” Natasha called over the radio.

“Pepper, I read something heading our way in the air.”

“Just get away Rhodey. Thor!” Pepper called and Thor entered into the fray with the other two men. The second that Thor got the man’s attention, Rhodey pulled himself out. He braced himself to fight whatever was coming their way. He kept his eyes on the sky and nearly cried when he saw that it was the carrier of Tony’s armor. The carrier went straight through the wall and into the warehouse. Under a minute later, Iron Man burst out. Rhodey had never seen that version of the armor before and wondered which version of the armor Tony was up to.

“I’ve got this, Point Break!” Tony yelled before he blasted himself right at the enemy. The fight was over in minutes, with the enemy dead on the ground. Tony’s armor was barely damaged.

Pepper was the first to approach him.

“Tony?”

Tony popped the faceplate up and it retracted back so that his whole head was visible. He looked no worse for the wear.

“Miss me?” Tony asked. Pepper started to cry and ran forward to him. Tony pulled her into a hug. “Where’s Bruce?”

“We didn’t know the situation and he stayed back. If Thor hadn’t been able to push the man back, then he would have stepped in.”

“What about the rest of the Avengers. I know the assassins are here but we are missing Stick Up His Ass and the one who likes to put it there.”

“Tony…” Pepper chastised but smiled. “I sent them packing back to New York. I wasn’t going to have either of them around you.”

“You protect me so well.”

“Tony…”

“It was Maya. When she found out that the Avengers were in town, she destroyed Extremis after creating Mallen here. She was going to kill me as well but I was able to hide.”

“The cocoon is gone,” Clint called over the radio.

“I destroyed it. Extremis Project is mothballed. Why don’t we all head back to the mansion and we can debrief there?”

xXxXxXx

“I told Hansen the other day that the Project was going to be mothballed. The first set of test DNA used for it, died. Further testing showed that only two point five percent of the population worldwide would be able to have Extremis in them. I was not one of them and that was how she was going to kill me. I stopped her. I had just hacked her systems and called for JARVIS to send me my armor when Clint and Natasha arrived. That distracted her enough that she had to release Mallen to protect her. She wasn’t counting on me at all. I wiped the drives she was using and she destroyed the rest. She didn’t expect to not have her research. She had a gun pointed at me when my armor burst into the room. When I was fully outfitted, she had turned the gun on herself.”

“Who’s doing clean up?” Rhodey asked as he placed an ice pack on the back of his head. Tony was on the couch looking fine. In fact, other than few scratches on Thor, everyone was unscathed except for Rhodey, who looked like we went seven rounds with a giant robot with no protection.

“The military. I had JARVIS call them as soon as I could access him and he had the armor on its way to me. I will give SHIELD my files as soon as I pull all other information out of them. Extremis is not to be used for anything ever.”

“Agreed.” Natasha and Clint spoke at the same time.

Tony spent an hour talking with all of them before he went down to his workshop to check up on his robots. Dum-E was the first to greet him and Tony patted him on the head. Butterfingers and Yu were hanging back. Pepper watched from outside the room as Tony talked to his robots. Sometimes she thought that even though he had Rhodey and herself and now Bruce, robots were the only friends he would ever have that didn’t disappoint him and they were never disappointed by him. That broke her heart.

xXxXxXx

It was that evening when Tony was fixing himself some food that Pepper noticed he moved better than he ever had. While he acted young, Pepper knew that he had a few aches and pains. The others were all asleep in rooms waiting to go back to New York in the morning.

Tony was cutting up an apple when he cut his finger. Pepper watched him jerk and stick the finger in his mouth. Pepper moved forward grabbing a towel and pulling the digit out of his mouth. She went to wrap the finger to apply pressure but when she looked she noticed that the finger was now mostly healed. Pepper wiped the remainder of the blood off and she stared.

“Shush,” Tony said. Tony grabbed Pepper and pulled her close kissing her. It wasn’t until she heard a set of soft footsteps that Pepper started to kiss him back. Whoever they were cleared their throat and Pepper knew it was Natasha. Tony pulled back, giving Natasha a look of disdain for interrupting them.

“Fury called. He wants us home now. Thanks for letting us stay. Clint and Thor are already in the car. I just wanted to say goodbye.”

“Thanks for coming to my rescue, Agent,” Tony said pulling Pepper back close to his body when she started to pull away. Natasha nodded and Tony gave her until she got out the door before he let Pepper go. “I didn’t think she would tell me goodbye.”

“Tony, what is going on?”

“I only want to do this once Pep so let’s go to Rhodey and Bruce. Both are in Bruce’s lab.”

“How do you…Tony!”

“She thought she was killing me. I hacked the records and changed what version of Extremis she gave me. I am not Mallen, Pep.”

“What did it do to you?”

“I am still me. I just have some upgrades.”

xXxXxXx

After all of them woke up in the late afternoon, Tony decided to treat them all to a nice big dinner.

“JARVIS, protect my house!” Tony called as he shut the door behind him.

JARVIS watched as his charges left the house before he brought up a screen in Tony’s workshop. He queued up the older footage of Bucky’s room in the Tower. Whenever the house was empty, JARVIS queued up the room to watch. He could do it without having it on a screen but having it up, made it all feel more real.

JARVIS had started a search of all known databases for a match for Bucky’s face in their systems over a week ago. JARVIS didn’t trust Bucky as far as he could throw him without the use of a robot and since he was an AI, that wasn’t any distance at all.

It was an hour later that the database found a hit. Winter Soldier. JARVIS started to hack through the files that SHIELD had on Winter Soldier and found that they knew of him but knew nothing concrete on him.

When Tony and the rest returned home that evening, JARVIS had a printed out file waiting on the coffee table for all four of them.

Bruce was the first to see them but Tony was the first to look at the files.

“Is this all?”

“All that I could access, Sir. Your new touch is needed for much more of the files.”

“I don’t want this going anywhere. I want to present an airtight file to SHIELD. Does it make me a bad person that I want to shove this in all their faces?”

Bruce laughed a small, derisive laugh while Pepper and Rhodey smiled at him.

Before anyone could say anything, a chirp from Tony’s phone alerted him to the fact that someone was calling him. He looked at the number frowning but he answered.

“How can I help you, Agent Romanoff?”

“Stark, Rogers and Barnes never made it home. We received a letter from HYDRA. They have them.”
The End

Next Part: Return of the Winter Soldier

The Look in the Eye

Title: The Look in the Eye
Series: Winter Soldier Cycle
Fandom: Marvel Cinematic Universe,
Year: Winter 2012/2013
Category: Drama, Angst, Action, Tony Whump,
Ratings: PG-13
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.
Words: 5,044
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.
Warnings: None
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.

xXxXxXx

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.

xXxXxXx

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.

xXxXxXx

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.

xXxXxXx

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.
The End

Next Part: Disassembled