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Boys of Summer

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Bucky missed his goats. There was nobody to tote around and tease. He wanted pets, and people were great but people didn’t quite fit the bill, and. Ugh.  

Nat was tiny, but more like a cat: not cuddly unless she wanted to be, and very claws-out if she didn’t want to be. Tony was even tinier, but vacillated between “Yes I do want to be a lazy shit and toted around on your back” and “I am dealing with daddy issues and you stress me out.” Which – fair.

Steve was too big now.

And there wasn’t anyone else he really knew on the Avengers. Steve was a given, Nat and Bucky remembered the Red Room, and Tony had been vid-calling every week while Bucky was in Wakanda because his therapist had recommended it. Everyone else was basically a big question mark in Bucky’s brain.

He missed his goats.

 


 

Bucky sat in the recliner and tried to focus on anything but the soldering iron Tony currently had in his arm. “Why is there a scorch mark on your ceiling.”

“Testing the boots for the second Iron Man suit.”

“Why didn’t you wash it off?”

“Like to remind myself I make mistakes.”

“I’ll remind you.”

“I bet you would.” Bucky glanced over just long enough to catch Tony’s smirk, and smirk back, before the soldering iron caught his eye and he had to look away again.

Something moved in his peripheral vision and he frowned, gripping the other armrest. “Tony?”

“Yeah?”

“Is someone else in here?”

“No. Unless you count the bots.”

“Bots?”

Tony sat back, putting the iron aside, and Bucky glanced over to frown at him, wondering why he’d stopped.

“I didn’t introduce you to DUM-E and U?”

Bucky stared at him. “What.”

“C’mon, you heap of bolts, get out here, stop creeping around and say hello like a decent hunk of metal,” Tony said fondly to the corner of the room. Bucky followed his gaze to frown as the same thing moved again and trundled forward. It was basically a metal arm, nothing like his own, on a wheeling base.

“What,” he said again, and the gripper-claw opened and closed with a little curious whee-whoo sound.

How did Tony make a robot sound curious. When had Tony made a little robot. How did Bucky not know about the robot previously. Did it play fetch.

“DUM-E, this is Bucky, your names rhyme and you’re metal arm buddies. Bucky, this is DUM-E, who may or may not be destined for a community college in the near future.”

DUM-E made a whistling noise again, and Bucky nodded, wide-eyed, before tilting his head. “What can he do?”

“Nothing useful.”

“Liar,” Bucky said, because he knew Tony didn’t keep useless things. DUM-E gratefully chirped and Bucky felt his lips twitch.

Tony made a raspberry noise and sat back, but he had his secretly pleased face on. He crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow. “He holds things. He’s no longer allowed to hold the fire extinguisher. He is occasionally allowed to hold flashlights.”

“Can he play fetch,” Bucky asked, and the bot made a shrieking squeal and rolled away quickly. Tony sighed.

“And he awakened a monster,” he muttered, but DUM-E was rolling back, arm waving excitedly with a small stress ball clutched in the claw.

“How many of these do you have,” Bucky said.

“Just him and U, who’s charging. Asleep for bots,” Tony added, as if Bucky didn’t own a phone.

“Damn. I want a baseball team.”

DUM-E went into a squeaking ecstasy of emotion, if Bucky was interpreting the flailing and beeping correctly.

“No. Absolutely not. No. Stop that,” Tony said.

Bucky grinned.

 


 

“No, your job is not to steal all the balls, you just catch them. I know it sounds like your job is to take them all, but that’s not really it,” Bucky explained to Bite-Size patiently, squatting to be on his level.

Bite Size squeaked and offered a ball.

“Thank you,” he said, smiling, but then Bite Size stole it back. “Not quite.”

Behind him, Cricket lobbed another ball in their direction. Bite-Size immediately whirred and zipped in front of him on his little wheels, catching it. “Okay. Yeah, that’s basically it but you have to stay behind the batter. The batter is me. Hang on.” He stood up and grabbed the bat. “You stand here.” He tapped behind the plate.

Bite-Size squeaked at him, but gamely moved.

“Right. Go ahead, Cricket,” Bucky called to the bot on the pitcher’s mound. Its insides made a clu-clunk noise and then a ball whistled toward him, and—

Bite-Size whipped around him and caught it. Bucky sighed.

“Oh boy.”

 


 

There was barking coming from Bucky’s baseball field.

Bucky knew that the field room on the gym floor was technically available to everyone, but he’d never seen someone on it before, and he’d certainly never seen a dog in the Tower before, but there was definitely barking coming from his baseball field.

He walked in to find a dog absolutely losing its mind with glee. Cricket was lobbing balls randomly throughout the room while Bite-Size, U, DUM-E and the rest all wheeled frantically to catch them, competing against the dog.

The dog only had one eye. Huh. Literally everyone in this place had issues.

The moment it caught sight of him, it barrelled toward him with happy yips, squirming around his legs and panting happily once Bucky reached down to scritch its ears.  “Whose are you?” he wondered aloud, and then paused. “Wait. We’re allowed pets? Why didn’t Stark tell me we were allowed pets? I want a goat.”

The dog panted up at him, tail thumping as it hit the ground. Bucky’s metal hand swung up reflexively, and he only registered that he’d caught a ball after it happened. He frowned over at Cricket. “No aiming at the head, we talked about this,” he scolded, and the bot whined.

Bucky absently tossed the ball in one hand. The dog’s eye followed it eagerly, and he huffed before giving in and throwing it.

The dog and nine bots barrelled after the ball, and Bucky figured his afternoon plans were made.

 


 

Lucky was getting out.

This was a big problem for Clint, because Tony hadn’t said they could have pets, and he’d maybe-kinda-sorta snuck Lucky in anyway. So Lucky needed to stay subtle.

Lucky was not staying subtle, and it was stressing Clint out.

So, he’d done what super-spy logic told him to do when a target kept escaping their acceptable range: he’d stuck a tracker on Lucky’s collar.

Now if only he knew how to read the data. Damn Tony and his Mark3002 tracking stuff.

“JARVIS?”

“Yes, Agent Barton?”

“Which floor is at –” Clint checked the computer. “65 meters up?”

“That would be about the level of the 21st floor, Agent Barton.”

“Thanks J.”

Clint got on the elevator and JARVIS got it moving before he even asked. “I assume you’re looking for your dog, Agent Barton? You could have simply asked.”

“Okay, this looks bad,” Clint said, holding up a finger, “but-”

 “I have no intention of telling Sir,” JARVIS interrupted him. “Your dog has been quite helpful.”

Clint hesitated, finger still in the air. “Uh. Are we talking about the same dog? Pizza dog? Missing an eye? Steals my sandwiches?”

“…distracts Sir’s bots when they’re being overly rambunctious, Agent Barton.”

“Oh,” Clint said. “Huh.”

“Indeed. I believe you may want to check the baseball diamond,” JARVIS said, letting him off on the gym floor.

“We have a baseball diamond?” Clint asked, stepping out to hear barking.

He followed the noise to the back of the gym floor and through a doorway to see – yeah, okay, that was a very large baseball diamond and a lot of robots and a lot of baseballs and….

The Winter Soldier. Well damn.

Clint had been avoiding the Winter Soldier, maybe. Not because he was afraid of him – that would be pretty hypocritical. No, he just maybe was a little tiny bit jealous because Nat was spending way less time on Clint’s floor lately and it was all one metal-armed jerk’s fault.

And now, apparently, he’d also stolen Clint’s dog.

Rude.

Clint folded his arms, watching quietly, but a moment later Lucky caught sight of him and bounded over with a ball in his mouth, enthusiastically bounding around him. “Yeah, you shit,” he grumbled. “I found you. How did you even find this place.”

He felt eyes on him and looked up to see the Winter Soldier staring at him, face unreadable. Barnes walked up to him, making eye contact the whole way. Clint refused to break first.

Barnes stopped about three feet away and said firmly, “You got the dog into the Tower.”

Clint frowned. “Ye-es?”

“Can you get. A goat.”

Clint blinked, but the grin spread over his face slowly without his permission. “Oh boy.”

 


 

They named the goat Trashcan, because it ate everything.

 


 

The thing about caring for two illicit animals and nine bots was that you had to be responsible about it. When Bucky was on mission Clint had the children, and vice versa, but that meant drawing up decent schedules and bribing JARVIS to find them a babysitter (MJ seemed like she had her feet solidly on the ground, Bucky liked her).

Steve stayed oblivious until month two, when he came in because Bucky was shouting curses, chasing Trashcan around the room because he was trying to swallow a sock. Bucky had to bribe him not to tell Tony by promising to do the clean-up after the next Doombot battle.

At first it was awkward, Bucky having to take Trashcan down to Clint before missions and Clint meeting him with a cracked door and narrowed eyes. But by the time Steve figured them out, Bucky could show up at Clint’s door and Clint would open in his boxers and bed-head to wave Trashcan in with a yawn, or Clint would wake Bucky with a midnight text and Bucky would buzz Lucky in without even bothering to get off the sofa.

Month four, Clint came over at 3 am, let himself in, flopped in Bucky’s bed and grumbled, “I hate missions in Albania, I missed the kids, and I get custody of Bite-Size for a week.”

Bucky paused, and bargained, “Three days.”

“Six.”

“Four.”

“Deal.” Clint yawned and squirmed under the covers, snoring in a few minutes.

Bucky stared at the ceiling and contemplated his life choices.

 


 

“JARVIS?” Bucky asked the AI two days later, as he watched Lucky, Trashcan, and Fidget (Bite-Size’s twin brother, outfield) chase after a Roomba on the kitchen floor.

“Yes, Mr. Barnes?”

“How much room is empty on my floor?”

“About 75% of your floor is unused, Mr. Barnes.”

“Right,” Bucky said, standing. “Hey, squirts.” The group skittered on the tile, the Roomba whizzing into a wall and ramming it before turning away placidly. “C’mon, let’s go steal shit.”

 


 

Six hours later, Bucky was setting up the coffeemaker when Clint burst through his door. “BUCK SOMEONE ROBBED – oh.” He looked around him, and Bucky shrugged.

“Seemed easier than trying to arrange a joint custody agreement.”

Clint stared at him, then looked around the kitchen and living room. “Huh.”

“I painted your room purple. There are targets on the wall.”

Lucky ran around Clint’s legs and snapped him out of the impression of a statue he was doing. Clint looked down at the panting dog and said slowly, “My life is weird.”

Bucky snorted and handed him a coffee as Trashcan started to eat Clint’s shoelaces.

 


 

“Shouldn’t you be married before you have a family?” Nat asked, and Clint paused in the middle of oiling Hamburger Helper, Bucky freezing in the act of filling Lucky’s dog bowl. “I’m just saying,” she said, petting Trashcan.

 


 

“Don’t forget to ask the kitchen for the vegetable peelings,” Bucky said, loading up Clint’s quiver with several new arrows. “Trashcan’s food bucket is running out.”

“Mhm.” Clint tugged on his tac vest.

“And we need to take DUM-E’s charging station down to Tony so he can fix the glitch that makes it stop after twenty minutes.” Bucky filled a coffee mug and screwed on the cap.

“Yeah got it.” Clint shoved his toast in his mouth, crunching down the last bite. “I’ll get it after I drop off Nat’s data stick.”

Bucky handed him the coffee as Clint strapped on the quiver, then grabbed his bow in the other hand, kissed Bucky lightly, and ran out the door.

Bucky looked at Trashcan, DUM-E, and Lucky. Trashcan was on the kitchen table, DUM-E next to it, Lucky underneath. All of them had the same expression.

“Oh, shut up,” he grumbled, and went to make Clint’s bed. He always left his blankets on the floor.

 


 

“What,” Tony said, and everyone in the room froze, “the hell.”

Bucky squirmed out from under Clint, who’d tackled him mid-slide into home. “He didn’t tag me out. Tell him he didn’t tag me out.”

“You have a dog and a goat playing baseball.”

Clint glanced outfield, where Trashcan was happily munching the grass. “He’s great at left field. And Lucky’s an excellent catcher.”

“Bite-Size never got the knack,” Bucky agreed, “He’s better as a bat bot.”

Bite-Size helpfully buzzed up to Tony as he was mentioned, handing over a glove.

Tony stared at his bot, then at the field, then at his bot. “Right,” he said slowly.

 


 

Clint did not – did not – tear up when Lucky caught Sam’s pop fly that decided the Avengers vs. Sniper Family ball game.

Okay, so maybe he did a little.

 


 

“What?” Steve asked, hair askew, wearing pyjamas that said I married a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist on the t-shirt, and had his shield on the butt of the pants. Bucky had bought the pants on special order. Tony had made the shirt.

Bucky shoved the babies through the door and handed Steve a baseball. “Here, keep them happy.”

“What?” Steve blinked.

“Steve. You know how cats will stare at you when you use the bathroom but if you don’t let them in they will claw at the door and squawk?”

“Yes?” Steve looked confused. Bucky levelled his gaze to meet Steve’s head-on.

“I’m on my third official date with Clint.”

“Oh. Oh,” Steve said, looking awake suddenly, and grinned. Bucky got in the elevator too late to escape the call of “Have fun and use protection!”

What a punk.

 


 

“Who’s going to be ringbearer?” asked Tony, and Clint stared at him.

“Uh, Bite-Size, duh.”

“Not Trashcan?”

“He’d eat them.”

“Fair.”

“Can you make some kinda ball-shaped projectile that releases flower petals when thrown?” Clint mused, watching Cricket.

Tony’s eyes widened, and he grinned.

 


 

Sam laughed so hard he cried when Cricket beaned Thor in the head with a flower bomb. #FairyPrinceThor trended for three weeks on Twitter, which meant Bucky and Clint actually had a pretty decent honeymoon.

 


 

“So, how did you two end up in a relationship?” asked the spotty kid with a press badge. Clint was certain he was too young to be a reporter, but it read Peter Parker, press photographer, and he seemed to know his way around a camera, at least.

“I wanted a goat,” Bucky said.

“Tony made Baseball Bots,” Clint said.

The kid stared at them. “O-kay. Smile!”

Bucky rolled his eyes, turned, and kissed Clint instead as the camera clicked.

 


 

AN AVENGERS ANNIVERSARY proclaimed the headline, and Tony cut out the interview and photo from the magazine and stuck it to the fridge.

 


 

Trashcan ate it.