There had been a time when Tony Stark could go seventy plus hours in between falling asleep. He could go days running on nothing more than caffeine, junk food he pilfered from Bruce’s no longer locked drawer in the lab, and the sheer stubbornness that came hand in hand with hyper fixations.
There had been a time when Tony was always completely, perfectly put together from his sharply tailored pants to his crisp shirts and coordinating accessories. His hair would have been slicked back, sunglasses set firmly on his face so no one would get too close, and god forbid anyone hand him anything, no thanks, Tony wasn’t interested.
There had been a time when Tony sort of enjoyed seeing his face on the cover of every magazine from technology articles to Sexiest Man Alive and right back to the tabloids for his latest scandal and exploits, a time when he smirked at the thought of love and never spent a full night in bed with anyone of his conquests…
...and thanks to a silver armed super soldier that was one half good ol’ boy from Brooklyn that kept Tony blushing and melting and head over heels in love, and the other half former Hydra assasination that left Tony in a constant state of scare-rousal every minute of his life, all those times were over.
Life was all sorts of different now that he was dating both Bucky and the Winter Soldier, all sorts of fairly weird since Bucky and the Winter Soldier were still technically sharing one body, all sorts of excellent because Tony had never been so happy in his entire life and he was more than ready to repulsor-pop anyone who so much as suggested otherwise.
“Mmmmblerghgoodmorning.” was the extent of Tony’s greeting this morning as he shuffled tiredly into the kitchen. His pajama pants were actually Bucky’s pajama pants and dragged a solid six inches behind him on the floor. The waist band was held up only by virtue of Tony’s butt and a super soldier sized hoodie swallowed him up, leaving nothing more than a few tufts of fluffy hair and the tips of Tony’s fingers exposed to the bright lights.
“Good morning.” came an amused answer from somewhere by the coffee machine, and Tony looked up real quick and hesitated, forced himself to concentrate so he could figure out which of his boyfriends was currently standing in front of him.
A red shirt usually meant Bucky, but it was dark enough to be almost black and Winter definitely preferred black. Shoulder length hair was loose and messy, but that might be because of the morning, not because Winter wore it down and Bucky always put his back in a bun off his face. Pajama pants belonged to Bucky but then again, Steve had been All American Disapproving of Winter’s general aversion to any sort of sleep clothes so maybe the pants were a necessary concession to having coffee in the public kitchen...
“You ready for coffee, sweet thing?”
...Oh it was Bucky this morning, so Tony pulled his hood a little tighter over his hair and gremlin shuffled his way towards the coffee pot and into welcoming arms, pushing tight into Bucky’s right side and sighing happily when the big brunette automatically dropped a kiss on his forehead.
“Mmmm good morning, Brooklyn.”
“Heya babydoll.” Bucky was soft with Tony, kept his left arm out of the way and used his right hand for gentle touches and an adoring ruffle of Tony’s hair. “I was wondering when you were gonna come downstairs. How’d you sleep last night?”
“Really really good.” Tony wrapped both arms around Bucky’s waist and plastered himself in tighter, soaking in the warmth pouring off his boyfriend and definitely slipping down to give a grope at that finely toned rear. “Would have slept better if you hadn’t gotten up at the butt crack of dawn to go running, though. I'm pretty sure you’re as fit as you’re going to ever be, so maybe stop wearing out shockingly expensive running shoes and try sleeping in with me in the morning, huh?”
“I would have loved to sleep in with you this morning.” Bucky said, but the words sounded off, melancholy and maybe even upset and when Tony pulled away far enough to peer up at Bucky curiously, the soldier made a vague motion towards his temple and clarified with a short, “It wasn’t me that decided to get up and go for a run, sugar. I opened my eyes about ten minutes ago and I was already in the kitchen halfway through the world’s worst cup’a coffee.”
Just like that, the morning went from easy and soft, to irritated and tense and Tony swallowed back a worried noise and shook his head quickly.
“Hey, don’t do that.” He put a hand to Bucky’s mouth to shush him, as if the motion would make any difference, as if Winter wouldn’t know what Bucky had said about him.
Just because Winter wasn’t present right now didn’t mean he couldn’t hear their conversation, or couldn’t at least feel the anger and upset from Bucky radiating through their core. They weren’t really sure how aware Winter or Bucky was when the other one was fully present, but the last thing Tony wanted was Bucky mad now and Winter self conscious and bitter later, so the smaller brunette moved quickly to try and diffuse the situation before it got any worse.
“Winter drinks his coffee black as night, you prefer half a cup of creamer and a smidge of espresso and both of you are wrong.” Tony tried for light hearted and teasing, trying to distract his soldier with another smile. “Neither of those are the right way to drink coffee, so you don’t be mad cos you guys drink it differently. Don’t be mad, okay?”
The muscle in Bucky’s jaw clenched when he ground his teeth together and Tony tried a different tactic to settle the moment, snuggling in closer and then closer again until Bucky had to either relax and hold him, or just push him away.
Tony knew Bucky would never push him away, but he was still gratified when a strong arm wrapped around his waist and hauled him in, when a rough kiss landed on his forehead and Bucky rubbed slow circles at his back through the hoodie.
This was better, and it was better again when Bucky cleared his throat and sounded at least a little calmer when he asked, “Alright sugar. If me and Winter drink our coffee wrong, what’s the right way to drink it?”
“Four days old and with a dollop of whip cream to make the sludge go down smoother.” Tony said automatically, and grinned when Bucky audibly groaned. “I only drink the stuff you guys make me to be polite, really I prefer it strong enough to grow legs and walk around byt its--”
“It really doesn’t bother you?” Bucky interrupted, and Tony muffled a curse when he realized none of his attempts at distracting had worked at all. “You fell asleep with me and woke up with Winter, Tony! It’s like sharing the bed with two different people! Why isn’t that weird for you?!”
Bucky was really upset about the switch this morning and that was never good. Most of the time he and Winter moved forward or back fairly seamlessly, usually during a short nap or even after too long being still during movie night or a long drive. Sometimes Tony would fall asleep with Winter and wake up to the Soldier for just a moment before it was Bucky blinking down at him, and sometimes it would be Bucky who kissed him good morning and then Winter who came out of the shower and got Tony coffee, but it had never happened like this.
Bucky had never gone to bed as himself, then woken up Winter only to shift back mid activity with no memory of how he’d gotten there or what he was doing.
A transition like that begged the question of whether or not the switch had happened before with neither party noticing, if it had happened without Tony noticing which of the men he was kissing or cuddling with… if it had happened or would happen in their more intimate moments, which brought up all sorts of issues of consent and privacy and other stuff that made Tony’s stomach swoop uncomfortable and uncertain..
Bucky was really upset and that was understandable, but there was no winning side to a discussion like this. Six or seven months had passed since first Bucky and then Winter had separately asked Tony to be theirs, six or seven months had passed since Tony had had soul searching deep conversations with both of them about how it would work and whether or not the other one would be jealous and Tony-- Tony couldn’t have chosen between the two of them if his life depended on it. He couldn’t pick Bucky over Winter, or say he preferred Winter’s kiss to Bucky or anything like that.
No, it wasn’t easy loving two men that shared one body, and no it wasn’t easy working through Bucky’s PTSD while dealing with Winter’s less obvious but still connected trauma, and yes it was understandable that Bucky was upset…
...but all Tony could think about was the way Winter’s eyes would shutter and fall away when he asked why Bucky had been mad, when he pressed a silver hand over his heart and wanted to know why he felt sick and achy and what Bucky and Tony had argued about that was still resonating in his head.
Bucky was upset, but Winter would be heartbroken at yet another reminder that he had come into existence as an unwanted monster and Tony’s heart was torn needing to comfort them both without making either feel somehow less.
So he reached for both Bucky’s hands-- the right hand that was yielding and human, and the silver one that was wholly Winter and held them both tight. “So you fell asleep with me, but it was Winter that woke up sometime in the night and got up for a run. You don’t remember any of that, not the run, not coming in for coffee. Nothing?”
Bucky shook his head tersely, and Tony continued quieter, “Has that ever happened before? Have you two every switched without you being aware? Winter says he can feel when it’s time for you to come forward, like someone knocking on a door and then stepping in. You said it’s more like a hand on your shoulder that pulls you away, so is this the first time that you didn’t feel like that?”
“You mean is this the first time I ever fell asleep with you in my arms and then at some point during the night had someone else take over my body and hold you instead?” Bucky’s voice rose a notch, that easy Brooklyn accent hardening in irritation. No matter how sweet Tony was, how good their cuddles were or how hilariously icky Tony’s coffee habits were, it wasn’t enough to distract from knowing that his body wasn’t even all the way his. “No, Tony! No, I haven’t ever kissed you good night and then had to wonder the next morning if he was kissin’ ya instead!”
And louder, “Did you even realize it, Tony? Did you know it was me last night? Did you know it was him this mornin’? When did you stop bein’ able to tell us apart?!”
“Please stop yelling.” Tony’s heart clenched in sadness and worry when Bucky’s pale eyes flared in anger. “I know you’re upset, but you don’t have to yell. Bucky, it was you in bed with me, alright? I know it was. I can tell you and Winter apart in an instant. You and me got under the covers last night and you held me till I fell asleep and probably for a long time after that. I was asleep when you guys switched and I really don’t remember if either of you kissed me goodbye before your run so it doesn’t matter. I’m happy to be kissed by either of you so it’s okay, it’s okay!”
“It’s not okay!” Bucky shouted and Tony jumped. “It’s not okay, Tony! Some other guy was kissing you! Holding you! Using my body to do--”
“--to do nothing, because neither of us do anything together!” Tony shouted right back. God, he was tired of having this argument. It was exhausting having to constantly assure both Bucky and Winter that he knew them individually, that he loved them individually, that the way they moved forward and back didn’t bother him. “Neither of us do anything together! Winter and I don’t do anything other than kiss just like you and I don’t do anything but kiss! I know you’re mad, but don’t accuse him of crossing lines like that when you know it’s not happening! I wouldn’t do that to you and neither would Winter!”
“WHY ARE YOU DEFENDING HIM!?”
“BECAUSE I LOVE HIM!” Tony cried, and just like it always did, the words shut Bucky right up, made him hunch his shoulders and turn away, arms crossed and left side hidden like it physically hurt him to hear it.
“I love him.” Tony repeated quietly, and all the fight rushed right out of him, leaving him tired and leaning against the counter in exhaustion. “Bucky, I love Winter just like I love you. I defend him to you because he hasn’t done anything wrong. I defend you to him because you haven’t done anything wrong. The only thing you guys do is love me and I can’t--”
He dragged his hands through his messy, morning hair. “Brooklyn, I can’t imagine how hard this is for either of you, but the moment we found out that Winter was a whole person inside you, you decided he had a right to exist, remember? You decided not to put in the mental blocks that would lock him away, or the electro therapy that would erase him from your mind. You decided that. It was your choice. Right?”
Bucky didn’t answer and Tony pressed, “Right? Bucky, that was your choice, right?”
“...then you can’t be mad when he exercises the chance to exist, Buck.” Tony whispered. “Christ, I-- I don’t know how awful it was to suddenly blink back into yourself pouring a cup of coffee you would never drink but you can’t expect me to be mad that I went to bed with you and woke up with him. I knew it would be like this when I fell in love with you guys it’s just…” he shrugged lamely. “It’s just how it is.”
“Just how it is.” Bucky pulled a hair tie from his pocket and wrapped his hair up in a tight bun, yanked the too dark shirt off because he hated that color and tossed it away. “Yeah well, excuse me if I don’t take real nice to my fella lovin’ my murderous, HYDRA created other half.”
“Bucky--” Tony reached for him, but the soldier walked right past, skirted around him and stomped out of the kitchen and Tony’s hand fell back to his side useless. “...Bucky, I’m his fella too.”
“Tony?” It was Steve coming in now, looking back in confusion over his shoulder at where Bucky had stalked off, then over at Tony in concern. “Hey, what’s going on? Did Winter and Buck switch again and freak him out?”
“Again?” Tony poured himself a fresh cup of coffee and wrapped his hands around it, trying to ward off the bone deep chill that always set in when he and Bucky fought about Winter, or when Winter got angry about Bucky. “What does that mean, again?”
“It happened earlier this week.” Steve got his mug down from the cupboard and reached for the coffee pot too. “We got up for a run and Bucky suited up with us, took off around the park and about halfway through Sam turned to me and goes ‘when did Winter show up?’ and sure enough, it was Winter running with us. They switched out so seamless, I didn’t even notice at first.”
Tony raised questioning eyebrows and Steve clarified, “When I first got Bucky back, he was more Winter than anything, so I got used to him being intense and sorta Russian and all that. It wasn’t until Strange told us Winter was a whole damn person that I realized I’d been talking to Winter, not Buck all that time. I figured it was his memory coming and going, but I was wrong. It had been me and Winter bonding and I got so used to talking with him, I didn’t really notice when it was him running with us and not Bucky.”
“Huh.” Tony frowned. “Bucky says it’s never happened before though, you must not have told him about he and Winter switching out?”
“I figured he either knew and didn’t want to talk about it, or that he didn’t know and I didn’t want to bring it up and start an argument.” the Captain drained a cup of coffee and went back for seconds. “It’s not good, is it? If they are starting to blend like that?”
“It’s not good.” Tony admitted, staring down into the dark liquid he still hadn’t managed a sip of. “It’s not good and the worst part is, it’s probably my fault.”
“How the gosh darn heck could this possibly be your fault?”
“I know you only talk old-timey to make me laugh.” Tony cracked a smile and Steve cheesed a grin right back at him. “And I appreciate it. Thank you and I love you, don't ever stop. But this is probably my fault because Strange told me Bucky and Winter would only stay separate so long as their lives were separate. They’ve got to have separate habits and friends and lifestyles, otherwise instead of Bucky and Winter taking turns being conscious in the same body, they’d start blurring lines and sort of merging into one person and one of the personalities would be…”
His voice trailed off, and Steve prompted, “Lost?”
“Is lost a nice way of saying dead?” Tony rubbed at his eyes wearily. “Strange said whichever of them wanted this life bad enough would be the personality that won out. But I feel like that changes day to day. If Bucky has a good day when they finally blur in together, I could kiss Winter goodnight and then never see him again because Bucky wants this life more. If Winter has a real good couple of days, then I could be hugging Bucky one minute and then only have Winter in the next. One of them could honest to God just disappear.”
“So how’s that your fault?”
“...because like an absolute moron, I went and fell in love with both of them.” Tony whispered, quiet and miserable. “I tried so hard to keep it separate, to spend time with Bucky as a friend and help him get back on his feet, time with Winter working on his arm and trying to help him adjust to civilian life. I tried so hard to keep it platonic, Steve but next thing I know, I’m head over heels for both of them. Nothing about Bucky and Winter can be separate if they’re both dating me. This is my fault.”
Steve swirled his coffee thoughtfully for a moment. “You know, I don’t even see how you do it. I can’t imagine dating two people at all, much less two people who share a damn heart beat. How do you love two guys in one body, don't you get them confused?”
“Sometimes for a split second in the morning.” Tony confessed slowly. “Like this morning, Bucky was wearing red but it was in a shade Winter likes, and that always throws me off a little. But I always figure it out real quick, they’re so different, you know? Winter stands different than Bucky and Bucky calls me sweet thing but Winter doesn't. Bucky is right handed while Winter always holds me with his left… they’re different. I hardly ever have a hard time telling them apart.”
“Okay well what about--” Steve cleared his throat awkwardly. “What about in bed? What about then? Is Bucky mad cos you and Winter were maybe doing--” a vague gesture. “--and you thought it was Bucky that you were--” an equally vague gesture. “--cos I could see how that would make one or both of them mad.”
“We don’t do that.” Tony shook his head negatively. “We don’t do bed stuff. Nothing more than kissing. Not cos I couldn’t tell them apart naked just cos it’s--” he made a face. “-- it’s icky, sort of. It’s their body, not just Bucky and not just Winter. So if we are together, than the other one is sort of… there… without being able to say yes or no to it and that’s…”
“...icky.” Steve finished. “Yeah. I get it. I mean, I don’t get it. I understand aliens but not-- not whatever you guys are doing. But yeah, it’s icky. Sure. Even if you all agreed beforehand, there’s still the matter of using Winter’s body when you’re with Bucky or using Bucky to do things with Winter and--”
The Captain blew out a deep breath, “Hey, that’s a lot of words I never thought I’d say. Yikes.”
The corner of Tony’s lips tipped up in a half smile and after another minute Steve decided, “Y’know Tony. I don’t think them blurring is your fault.”
“I am dating both of them.” Tony pointed out, and Steve was quick to also point out, “Yeah, but they both wanted to date you. It’s not like you were dating Bucky and then we found out about Winter so now you’re dating him too, right? They both separately love you, and you separately love them both back. That’s no ones fault.”
“Bucky just yelled at me for being okay with waking up to another man in my bed.” Tony stated flatly. “And later when I find Winter, he’s going to be sick with self loathing for coming forward and making Bucky upset like that, and he’s gonna be angry at Bucky for yelling at me, and he’s going to be sad cos it’s just another reminder that Bucky doesn’t want him.”
“What do you mean?”
“Bucky doesn’t want Winter.” Tony repeated, brow wrinkling in sadness. “To him, Winter represents everything Hydra did to him and everything Hydra made him do to other people. And Winter knows he was basically tortured into existence, he knows he’s more than likely a piece of Bucky’s mind that fractured off during cryo freeze and was only useful to command a violently modified body. They’re both real aware of who they are to each other.”
“Winter is everything Bucky has nightmares about.” Tony’s eyes filled with tears and Steve put a comforting arm around his shoulder, tugged him in close for a quick squeeze. “Can you imagine sharing space with someone that gives you nightmares and never being able to escape their presence?”
Then nearly inaudible, “Can you imagine living every day knowing you are the reason someone else hates themselves?”
“...I guess it’s a good thing they have you then.” Steve said after a moment of just holding Tony tight. “Cos I know you’re the reason Bucky doesn’t have nightmares anymore. And when Winter talks about you, his eyes light up and he smiles and I know you make him feel loved and welcome and like a whole person, not like some monster lurking in the shadows. Bucky’s my best friend but I care an awful lot about Winter too and I’m telling you?”
He waited until Tony looked up at him. “I’m telling you that whatever is going on with them isn’t your fault, alright? Tony, you’re the best thing to even happen to Bucky and Winter, separate or together and I don’t want you thinking anything different.”
“‘Kay.” Tony sniffed and finally managed a sip of his coffee. “By the way, you sound cheesy and patriotic and propaganda-y even when you’re trying to be comforting.”
“Yeah, I don’t know how to turn it off.” Steve shrugged and Tony hiccupped a laugh. “It’s like Captain America Speech Mode or something. I tried telling Tasha she was beautiful last night and she told me to try it again when I didn’t sound like a radio announcer from the 50’s.”
“That’s the best thing I’ve ever heard.” Tony decided and Steve chuckled down at him, then nudged him towards the door.
“Go on. Go find Bucky or Winter and spend some time with them. You need it and so do they. Go on.”
The Captain tossed him a salute, Tony returned it with a middle finger, then went on his way to try and find one of his boyfriends and figure out what the hell was going on with them…
… and what it might mean for their relationship moving forward.
Tony found Bucky downstairs in the gym, but one glance at how the soldier was standing working at the punching bag and he knew it wasn’t Bucky at all.
Brooklyn felt everything, his mood translating into how he walked and how he spoke, how he trained and even how he breathed. When Bucky was angry it flashed in his eyes, when he was sad, it showed in the set of his shoulders, and when he loved it was written in every touch and every smile and every achingly sweet kiss.
But Winter was cold-- no no he wasn’t cold, he was decisive. Every move the Soldier made was exactly the same as the one previous, the same focused intensity, the same carefully measured strength, the same purpose and intent. When he was on a mission with Steve, Winter was calm and collected and efficiently brutal. When he was angry, he was calm and collected and infinitely terrifying with nothing more than a shift in his position. And when he kissed Tony he was calm and collected and devastating with his mouth and the tiniest hitch of breath that was the only sign that the Soldier was close to losing control.
Tony could gauge Bucky’s mood just by the way he tilted his head and smiled, but Winter was so much more static that sometimes Tony didn’t know what he was thinking or feeling until the Soldier actually spoke. But that was okay. It was okay and Tony had adjusted to it just like he’d adjusted to everything else about being in love with both Bucky and the Soldier and it was fine.
He loved them both.
“Winter.” Tony closed the gym doors behind him and walked slowly across the mats to the Soldier. Winter wouldn’t ever hurt him, but all those HYDRA honed instincts were still up front and present and Tony knew better than to try and rush Winter or even to startle him. “You know, I told Bucky but I’ll tell you the same thing-- it wouldn't be the worst if you stayed in bed with me some mornings instead of going off on a run. You can’t get any more fit than super juiced super soldier, maybe stop the marathons before breakfast and stick around and cuddle.”
“Kotyonok.” Winter stilled the bag with his right hand and reached with his left for Tony, lips tipping just the slightest in a welcoming smile. “Kitten, I have to go running in the morning, otherwise the temptation to stay in bed and devour you would be too much.”
“Oh.” Tony couldn’t help his blush, or the way his smile stretched towards goofy when Winter hauled him up against his chest and covered his mouth in a firm kiss. He would never be over being called Kitten in that rough, Russian growl, he’d never be over the way Winter just sort of manhandled him into kisses and hugs. Bucky was sweet and charming and endlessly patient but Winter kissed Tony like he wanted to… well like he wanted to devour him and it never failed to leave him weak kneed.
“Devour me, huh?” Tony planted both his hands on Winter’s sweaty chest and squeezed admiringly at the bulge of his pecs. “I wonder what that super fun activity would be like.”
“One day soon I will find a way to have you, so you won’t have to wonder.” Winter’s eyes were paler blue than Bucky’s, glacial and cutting and hungry as they roamed over Tony’s frame, but the silver fingers at Tony’s waist were infinitely gentle, possessive but still tender because the Soldier knew how fragile his love was, how very human Tony was beneath the baggy pajama pants and oversized hoodie. He was intense, the Soldier was intense and focused with every breath and every movement, and so different from the way Bucky was warm and easy and Brooklyn that sometimes it made Tony’s head spin.
They were so different and Tony loved them both so much.
“You are sad, lyubimiy.” Winter pushed his hair out of his eyes and started unwrapping his knuckles, watching Tony closely. “Bucky is sad too, I can feel it here.” A brief touch to his heart. “He is angry, why were you fighting?”
“We weren’t really fighting.” Tony brushed it off, but Winter persisted, “I can feel it, Anton. Why were you and Bucky fighting? Is it because I went running this morning? Because I made the coffee wrong? What is it?”
“Winter…” Tony swallowed, then swallowed again. He’d much rather be staring at sweaty super soldier muscles than having this conversation but Bucky had been so upset this morning, and guilt was starting to eat at Tony’s insides. “...do you remember taking over Bucky for your run this morning? Or letting him come forward for your coffee?”
“No.” Winter’s full lips pulled down in a frown. “No, I do not remember falling asleep with you, but I remember waking up to run. I drank my coffee and--” he glanced around the gym almost curiously. “I do not remember coming here but here I am all the same. Why?”
Tony was quiet, and Winter’s broad shoulders set stiff and uncertain. “Anton? What happened?”
“Today you and Bucky sort of...blurred.” Tony spread his hands helplessly. “I went to bed with him, then at some point last night you came forward, woke up and went for a run. Bucky woke up halfway through pouring a cup of coffee and apparently came down here to work out and then you came back again. You two are blurring and neither one seems to be aware it’s happening.”
“Blurring.” Winter repeated. “What does that mean?”
“It means that even though you and Bucky are fully separate?” Tony made a wide motion with his hands, then brought them together slowly. “Sometimes you two are switching places without conscious thought. You’re two full minds in the same body and for whatever reason right now, you aren’t so much switching places inside this body as you are actually starting to blend in and out without making the choice to do it.”
“So the other night when you and I watched that movie and I made you try caramel corn?” Tony grinned when Winter made a face. “I promise caramel corn will grow on you. I promise.”
“I am sure I will only enjoy it kissed from your lips.” the Soldier decided solemnly, and there went Tony blushing again.
“Ahem. Anyway.” he flushed darker when Winter made rough, coaxing noise and tugged him in close again. “Anyway, I told Bucky that you and I had a date, and then it was you with me all night. During the movie, when we kissed goodnight, when we fell asleep and it was still you the next morning before you went for your shower and Bucky came back.”
“Yes.” Winter nodded shortly. “Yes, the shower is an easy space for us to share and switch because it is a place of transition, moving from one part of our day to another.”
“Right.” Tony sort of loved the way Winter’s speech was stilted. English was not the Soldier’s first language so every word was precise and carefully thought through with a near total absence of slang or contractions and Tony loved it just as much as he loved Bucky’s slow drawl and habit of running words together when he smiled.
“Right.” he said again. “Usually it’s the shower or sometimes on a long run when both your minds are at ease. But today and apparently a few days ago, you and Bucky switched and neither one of you were aware that it happened. One minute it was Bucky, then it was you and there’s no… no hesitation. No pause. Like lines blurring into just one thing.”
“Bucky is upset because he is afraid this blurring is happening in our intimate moments and you, our love, cannot tell the difference between he and I.” Winter guessed and Tony was quick to assure him-- “Which is crazy. I know exactly who both of you are, all the time.”
“I do not doubt that, we are easy to tell apart.” Winter clenched his left fist experimentally, and Tony reached to undo it, weaving their fingers together and placing the silver palm over the left over reactor scars at his heart. He wasn’t scared of the weaponized arm, he wasn’t scared of Winter, he trusted him with his heart and the Soldier smiled at the familiar gesture.
“So what do you think is wrong with us, Anton? Why are we blurring like this?”
“I-- I don’t know.” Tony denied haltingly, guilt clawing up his throat. This is my fault. “And I’m a little afraid to find out. I don’t want to think anything is wrong with you or Bucky or-- or us.”
“You think you are losing one of us.” Winter decided and Tony ducked his head to hide the truth in his eyes. Winter was so damn smart, so discerning, quick to read everything about a person in only a matter of seconds and Tony squirmed under the measuring expression. “The Strange Doctor told you to keep us separate or one of us will disappear forever, but loving you has brought us closer together every day. You are afraid we will blur and one of us will go and be lost forever.”
“He said… something like that.” Tony hedged. “I think this sort of thing is more magic than science, but there is a science behind two complete people being unable to exist in the same body I suppose. Something--” god, he hated this. “--something has to give?”
Winter cupped Tony’s chin in one big hand, tipped him up until they were nose to nose and staring into each others eyes. “Dorogoi, nothing has to ‘give’.”
“You don’t understand that phrase.” Tony questioned and Winter shook his head but his eyes glittered with purposeful intent as he repeated, “You will not lose us. You are brilliant, Anton and we will figure this out together. You and Bucky and I. We are not whole without you, and I will not stand idly by and watch your heart be broken. We will fix this so you are never left alone, yes?”
“...yes.” Tony wrapped both hands around Winter’s silver wrist and squeezed tight, stood on his toes to press their mouths together. “Not alone.”
Winter kissed him back, slow and drugging, holding Tony tighter and tighter until the little genius was squashed up to his body and gasping by the time they parted.
“Wow, Winter.” Tony gulped, eyes wide as all the individual plates in Winter’s arm clicked and realigned as he relaxed again. “That’s-- you are-- wow.”
“I love when you are speechless for me.” Winter’s smile was there and gone again, another quick kiss before he released Tony entirely, a quick grimace as he adjusted his pants where he was hard and wanting. Neither he nor Bucky were comfortable being with Tony when they shared a body, but it was getting more difficult to resist with every passing day, especially when Tony was so beautiful standing there kiss bruised, tousled hair and bright eyes yearning.
“You will tell Bucky I am sorry for the nightmares?” Winter cleared his throat to ask, put another foot of distance between them for sanity’s sake. “I know they have been worse lately. Tell him I am sorry.”
“My Soldier.” Tony’s heart sank, the heated moment cooling as the reality of their situation came back to the forefront. “Bucky’s nightmares aren’t your fault.”
“You are beautiful.” Winter turned back to the punching bag. “But you are a terrible liar, Anton. Tell Bucky I am sorry.”
That night in bed it was Bucky again, and Tony didn’t say anything about that morning or the fight or the way neither Bucky nor Winter had come to him at all during the day.
He only whispered, “I missed you.” when Bucky knocked at his door, only grabbed onto the soldier and tumbled him into bed, let Bucky drag him in tight to hide the way they were both trembling clear through to their core.
“I missed you.” Tony dotted kisses all over Bucky’s face and down to his throat, wriggled up in bed until Bucky’s head was resting over his heart instead of their usual snuggle position, ran his hand over the carefully done braid and over Bucky’s shoulders to soothe the shaking. “It’s okay, Buck it’s okay. Everything’s going to be okay.”
“I don't hate him.” Bucky said hoarsely, and Tony stayed quiet and let him spill it out. “I don’t hate Winter. I’m not mad he came forward when I was sleeping it’s-- it’s fine. You’re right, he deserves the chance to exist and I promised I was okay with it just like I promised I was okay with him loving you. I know you’re safe with him and I know he and I are still sorta the same person even though we’re not. It’s crazy but I’m okay with it, babydoll I just-- I just--”
Tony had to bite his lip to quiet a gasp when Bucky’s fingers tightened too desperate at his side. “Tony, I would give anything to just be me again. The real me. Everyone acts like it’s Winter sharing space in my body but it’s not. This is his body, not mine. Bucky doesn’t have long hair or a beard or a silver arm, Winter does. I feel like I’m just taking up space in his mind and if we blur too far and only one of us survives--”
“-- it should be him cos this is his body.” Tears, leaking hot onto Tony’s chest. “I don’t hate him, Winter and me are part’a the same person and I’d be lonely without him. Wouldn’t know who I was without him. But I’m using his hands and his body to hold you and I’d do anything-- anything to hold you with my own hands again, Tony. I don’t care that he woke up and kissed you good morning, I just wish I could do the same thing.”
“...sweet thing, I’ve been trapped in this body for so long. I’m so tired of looking in the mirror and not knowing who I am.” Bucky whispered. “It’s makin’ me crazy, makin’ me angry and m’sorry for taking it out on you and Winter. I just don’t know what to do anymore.”
Tony was quiet for a long time, holding Bucky tight until the trembling eased and the big brunette fell into an exhausted sleep in his arms. He stayed awake for hours afterwards, staring up at the ceiling and running through the day’s conversations over and over and over.
Winter was right, Tony was terrified that they would blur too far and he would lose one of them. And Bucky was right too, it was Winter’s body, not his but they were so closely connected that having Bucky without Winter or Winter without Bucky just didn’t make any sense.
I’d do anything to just be me again.
“Contact Dr. Helen Cho and invite her to spend some time in the laboratory with me and Bruce and Strange. I have a new project I want to work on. I’d like to keep it relatively quiet for right now, so be discreet.”
“I am never anything but discreet, and I’m offended you would suggest otherwise.”
“Of course you are.” Tony smiled up at the ceiling, then down at Bucky, but his eyes widened in surprise and anxiety as the soft features changed right before his eyes, nearly imperceptible shifts all at once that transformed his Brooklyn into his Soldier and he knew it was Winter now sleeping in his arms.
“Run some simulation models and get me a 3D render of Bucky during the war. Pre-Azzano, not post. As detailed a picture as possible and hurry, I don’t think we have much time.”
“Much time till what, sir?”
“...please just hurry.”
Winter calls Tony kotyonok/kitten, lyubimiy/my love, dorogoi/darling.
I sort of love that it’s Bucky who is aware he doesn’t belong in Winter’s body. I’ve seen some takes on this trope where Winter is the one that doesn’t feel welcome, but I really think because of body dysphoria issues it would be the other way around-- it would be Bucky feeling like he was living in someone’s body and taking up space and eventually in danger of disappearing especially since he’s barely thirty and the WS has existed for the better part of seventy years.
You guys know what Helen Cho works on right...?!
“Hey baby.” Tony looked up from the table in the lab with a brief smile when Bucky stepped through the doors. “How are you?”
“M’fine, babydoll.” Bucky tipped his head and narrowed his eyes at Dr. Cho and Dr. Strange, then the odd looking coffin thing in the center of the lab on a raised platform. “What’s going on in here?”
“I’m working on fixing our uh--” Tony coughed and cleared his throat. “Our situation. Dr. Strange and Dr. Cho are helping because I’m really great at blowing things up, not so great at creating life and weaving mystic red stuff.
“Our situation.” Bucky looked exhausted, worn out and just about close to passing out, and for good reason. He hadn’t slept more than a few hours all week in an attempt to not slip between himself and Winter and it was wearing heavy on him.
The slip and shift was happening more now, Bucky and Winter switching places without meaning to sometimes multiple times a day, sometimes multiple times an hour. Just yesterday Bucky had been mid kiss with Tony and Winter had been the one to open his eyes as they were pulling apart and that sort of thing wasn’t going to be alright with anyone.
Winter had stumbled back as quickly as he could without knocking Tony right over, Tony had been quick to rush and reassure Winter that it was okay, that it wasn’t his fault and there was no reason to apologize, and Bucky had cursed and cursed and cursed when he slid forward again no more than a minute or two later and not only was the kiss over, but Tony looked like he was close to tears.
It wasn’t fair to Winter that Bucky kept trying to force him back, but it wasn’t fair for Bucky to miss out on more and more lucid moments, and with unsteady emotions and rising tempers, the last week had been one of the most difficult weeks since they and Tony had began this whole crazy thing.
“Our situation.” Bucky repeated wearily. “Okay. How are we going to do that?”
“...I need to talk to Winter before I talk to you about it.” Tony said softly, gently, eyes dimming in sadness when Bucky's shoulders slumped. “You know he does better with this sort of thing. Lab work and experiments… it’s easier for him than it is for you and I think if he is already accepting or understanding of the process, it will make you feel better about it too, y eah?”
“Yeah.” Bucky folded his arms in tight and Tony left his table to go and hold him, straining to get both his arms around Bucky’s bulk and squeeze at him. “Yeah, I know he’s better at it. That’s probably not a bad idea.”
Dr. Cho watched the interaction with a fair amount of interest, tapping at her chin and tipping her head back to ask Dr. Strange, “Why is it easier for Winter than it is for Bucky to deal with this sort of thing?”
“Because Bucky is the one who was tortured.” Dr. Strange was using his magic to adjust several pieces in the nearly finished Cradle, his accident damaged hands too shaky to be of much use on their own. “It was Sergeant Barnes that Hydra strapped down and broke into pieces, Sergeant Barnes that they force wiped anytime he showed any sign of humanity. Bucky was tortured and every time he broke, it was Winter that opened his eyes and carried out the missions. Winter doesn’t remember how the hurt happened, he only knows a life spent existing in a hurt body. Bucky is the one with memories of the pain and torture.”
“Incredible.” Helen muttered but she wasn’t awed she was disgusted, horrified, heart breaking for the still young Sergeant that was currently trying to disappear into his much smaller partner. “The depths of human cruelty--”
“--are balanced by the depth of human generosity.” Stephen steered her back towards their project with a hurried but not unkind gesture. “Your work with this Cradle and the improvements you made after Vision came to be will not undo decades of horror for those men, but it will give them a chance at a new beginning and that will have to be enough. If you would, Dr. Cho, help me with this next step.”
“Let me talk to Winter.” Tony said from across the room, and Helen paused to watch in fascination and a little bit of terror as Bucky shuddered and turned away, a million tiny changes rolling like a shiver over his skin until he was an entirely different person and Helen could scarcely believe her eyes.
“Hey sweetheart.” the way Tony kissed Winter was so different than the way he kissed Bucky, if Helen hadn’t watched the switch happen she would have sworn Bucky had simply stepped out and Winter had walked through the door. There was honestly two different men wrapped in one heavily modified, nearly century old body and Tony was so clearly in love with both of them…
“Dr. Cho.” Strange said again, and she tore herself away from watching Winter shake his hair out and gather Tony into a careful hug. “If you would please help?”
“Yes of course, sorry.”
The doctors went back to work and Tony wound his and Winter’s fingers together as he led the Soldier over to his desk and his computer.
“Bucky’s upset again.” Winter tilted his head to the side and frowned. “He doesn’t like the lab.”
“Bucky doesn’t like the lab.” Tony agreed. “And that’s why I wanted to talk to you first about what’s going to happen.”
“Because it’s going to hurt?” Winter’s first instinct was always that something was going to hurt, and that was why he’d been chosen. If Steve specifically asked for him for a mission, Winter assumed that it would be more deadly than most, if Natasha came and sought him out instead of Bucky for training, Winter assumed it was because she wanted to thrash on him .
His gut instinct was always hurt, and Tony’s immediate reaction was always to hug him fiercely and swear that nothing was ever going to hurt he and Bucky ever again. That’s what happened this time too-- “Because it’s going to hurt?” Winter asked and Tony tugged him in for a bruising kiss and whispered, “I’m never going to let anything hurt you again, babe. Not ever, don’t think that.”
“Tell me what it is, kotyonok.” Winter sat heavily in the computer chair and hooked his left arm around Tony’s waist, pulled the little brunette down into his lap and pushed his nose into Tony’s thick hair, exhaling in noisy contentment when Tony snuggled back into his chest. “But sit here. It has been days since I was able to hold you.”
“I know.” Tony tamped down the guilt, the sadness that lingered knowing that loving him is what was causing Bucky and Winter to blur, was causing Bucky to be so anxious and angry lately while Winter grew lonelier and more withdrawn. “I know. I missed you.”
“I missed you too.” a kiss at his temple. “Explain this. Please.”
Explaining what the Cradle was turned out to be easier than Tony thought. Winter wasn’t fascinated by science like Bucky was, but he had been present as both body guard and subject of enough of Hydra’s tests and trials to comprehend the idea of creating bodies, of activating a consciousness and bringing something that wasn’t quite human to life.
“You did this with the Vision.” he said at one point, and was rewarded by the beautiful genius lighting up with a smile of relief. “Took a computer and built a body and then connected the two. But the Vision is a robot, dorogoi. He is nearly a man but still wholly robot. Neither Bucky nor I are a…”
Winter’s expression stiffened only imperceptibly, nothing more than a furrow of his brow and slight set to his jaw and Tony’s heart plummeted when he realized what the Soldier was about to say.
“No no wait, Winter don’t think--” Tony tried to cut him off, but it was too late and Winter’s deep voice dipped in melancholy--
“You are building a body to transfer my consciousness because I am only part of a soul, part of Bucky born from torture. I am mostly machine so an android shell would not bother me like it would bother someone more human. It will be dangerous--” pale eyes flickered towards the row of computers ready to monitor vitals. “--and almost a guaranteed failure, so I will be the one moved because I have the least to lose.”
“Christ, I hate everything about what you just said.” Tony’s entire body went cold when Winter moved him carefully from his lap and stood to leave. “Please don’t leave. Winter, wait--”
“Anton.” Winter stood very still, shoulders straight and fists clenched. “I would never ask you to make this decision, so I will make it for you and for Bucky. Create a robot shell for my soul, and if there is any humanity in me at all, we will see how it adjusts to a new body. I am the part of Bucky that does not belong, the one that means Natalia cannot be in the same room as me without holding one of her knives, the part that makes the Captain sad when he sees me. I will do it, so tell me when you are ready.”
“Winter.” Tony jumped in front of Winter when the big soldier tried to move past him, put both hands up and stood his ground because he knew Winter would sooner stepin front of a damn bus than he would ever try to forcibly move him. “C’mere and look at me. Look at me.”
Winter’s jaw tightened but he didn’t meet Tony’s eyes and after a moment of frustration Tony dragged a chair over and climbed up on the seat, shoved both his hands into Winter’s long hair and forced the Soldier to look right at him.
“Look at me.” Tony pushed their foreheads together and tugged tighter at Winter’s hair. “Please don’t ever say anything like that ever again. I’m not going to create a shell and then shove you in it and see if there’s anything human left. Winter you are human. You’re a whole person, you matter beyond who you are as part of Bucky and I love-- Winter!”
Tony’s voice rose when Winter tried to pull away. “Winter, I love you.”
Up on top of the chair, Tony was a full foot taller than the Soldier and since being anything other than tiny compared to his boyfriend was a rare feat, Tony took full advantage of it to tip Winter’s head up and bump their noses together lightly, to dot a kiss on the wrinkle of Winter’s brow and to whisper again, “I love you. And I would never ask you to do anything that would make you hurt, I promised you when we met that I wasn’t going to let anything hurt you anymore, remember? Do you remember me promising that?”
“...I remember, Anton.”
“Okay.” Tony softened his grip in Winter’s hair and smoothed over the Soldier’s temples. “I wanted to tell you about the Cradle first so you knew what was happening and felt secure in it. Bucky likes science but talking about experiments and this sort of thing worries him after Hydra. You don’t care about the science but you understand the process without feeling horrified by it and I thought the reassurance from you would make it easier on Bucky too.”
He swallowed past the lump in his throat to finish, “Bucky is the one that wants the new body, babe. He told me the other night that he doesn’t want to look in the mirror and see someone else anymore so we-- I’m building a body for Bucky. Not you. I’m going to base it off his original look from the 1940’s before he fell off the train and before Azzano because he wants to feel like himself again. I can give him that, so that’s what I’m going to try to do. It’s Bucky that wants something different and even if he didn’t want it, I would always ask you what you wanted before making a decision.”
Winter was silent and Tony tried to ignore the clench of unease in his stomach. “Please don’t-- don’t ever assume I was going to use you for something that would hurt because I know you can take it. I know you can take anything, Winter, but that doesn’t mean I’d ever ask you to. Or--or expect you to.”
Winter flattened his left hand over Tony’s heart, pressed at the scars hidden beneath Tony’s shirt and in the saddest voice Tony had ever heard, the Soldier whispered, “Anton dorogoi, I wish you thought I was beautiful the way you think Bucky is beautiful.”
Stephen and Helen turned away from the scene when Winter left Tony standing there alone on the chair. JARVIS drew the window screen between the two halves of the lab and tinted it dark so they couldn’t see what was happening, so they couldn’t see Tony staring after the departing Soldier, so they couldn't see him press over the stitched together pieces of his chest like his arc reactor still hurt every time his heart broke a little bit.
“He thinks he is the part of Bucky that nobody wants.” Tony dug his spoon into the gallon sized tub of ice cream and shoved the whole heaping bite into his mouth. “He thimfsk hessugly--”
“Stop that.” Natasha took the spoon right out of Tony’s mouth and popped it into her own, cleaning the ice cream away before handing it back again. “Alright, start over. Winter thinks he is the part of Bucky nobody wants, so he wanted to be the one to risk being switched to a robot body?”
“It’s not going to be a robot body!” Tony cried, but Nat’s green eyes narrowed in a clear warning so Tony lowered his voice and tried again, “It’s not a robot body. I’ve collected several DNA samples from both Bucky and Winter--”
“--the usual way--”
“--By getting their hair after a trim and taking saliva samples.” Tony finished with a scowl. “Sheesh, Tasha. You know we don’t do anything naked, I collected DNA samples in a laboratory-style way, not a medical porno style way.”
“You have to admit it was a fair question.” Nat pointed the spoon at him, waited until Tony nodded reluctantly, and then went back to eating. “So you are going to combine the DNA samples with Dr. Cho’s nano tech and build a body that is actually, wholly Sergeant James Buchanan Barnes?”
“About as close to a clone as we can get.” Tony confirmed. “He’ll have finger prints, be able to grow and cut his hair, all of that sort of thing. It will take about a week and a half to create the essential items in a lab and Bucky will be a little more android at first until the grown parts start regenerating, but eventually he’ll be about as organic as he is now.”
“Sounds like witchcraft.” She decided, and Tony agreed, “With Dr. Strange helping form the body like this, yeah it’s a little more witchcraft and a little less science. But hey, all science was once considered magic, right? It will be fine.”
“Well it?” Natasha pressed. “Or are you doing that thing where you say ‘everything’s fine’ and you’re bleeding out behind the Iron Man suit?”
“Sort of doing the bleeding out thing.” Tony pushed the ice cream away and scrubbed his hands over his face. “Tasha, Winter told me that he wished I thought he was beautiful like I think Bucky is beautiful. What does that even mean?”
“It means that Bucky has severe dysphoria seeing as how he’s trapped in an actual weaponized body, the same body that was forcefully modified while under heavy torture and then unleashed with enough brutal strength to make even Steve look like a pussy--”
“--so every time you catch Bucky pulling away or trying to cover up or not wanting to join the fight because the sort of war Hydra waged makes him sick to his stomach, you try to make him feel beautiful.” Natasha took the ice cream and ate what Tony wouldn’t. “We’ve all seen it. You tell Bucky he’s perfect and whole and that you aren’t scared of him. You tell him it’s okay that he bruises you up when you kiss, you bought him all that hair stuff because he likes to wear it back instead of just down, and you’ve gone out of your way to design six different photostatic sleeves to make sure Bucky can go out in public without feeling awkward about his arm.”
“Well yeah, I want to make sure Bucky feels as normal as possible.” Tony said in confusion. “I don’t see why--”
“When was the last time you bought something for Winter’s hair?” Nat raised her eyebrows. “When was the last time you designed a piece of clothing for Winter to show off everything you love about him-- his shoulders, his arm, those damn thighs that make me cream my pants a little bit?”
“Sorry, did you just say--”
“-- I said what I said.”
“You’re dating Captain America.”
“And I said what I said.” she finished calmly. “My point is, you do something every day to make sure Bucky feels attractive and wanted and pretty, but your focus for Winter is always about making him feel functional. No triggers, you’ve changed the lights and sounds in the Tower, you’ve re-done most of our menus so he doesn’t get overwhelmed with a bunch of little decisions… I’m sure Winter appreciates not having to worry about a bunch of tiny things that could go wrong at any minutes but…”
She shrugged, and Tony just looked at her. “But what?”
“But it’s the most unflattering thing in the world to be treated like a machine that has to be kept functional, instead of a sexy person who is simply cherished.” Natasha ditched their ice cream and grabbed for a bag of chocolate covered pretzels. “I had to kick Steve in the face three different times to get him to stop actually training with me when I told him I wanted to ‘increase my stamina’. He finally got it when I told him he needs to treat me like a beautiful woman who happens to be able to kill men between my thighs, instead of treating me like an assassin he also enjoys kissing.”
“How does Steve kiss?”
“Like I’m his grandma, but we’re working on it.” She flicked a piece of pretzel at him. “Do you see what I’m saying?”
“I emphasize that Bucky is a person first, and what Hydra did to him second.” Tony said slowly. “And I treat Winter like even though he is what Hydra did to him, he’s still a person also?”
“And that’s why Winter thinks I don’t think he’s beautiful, why he thought I was suggesting that he be the one to get into some robot body and live the rest of his life like that.” Tony’s face washed pale in horror, then grief. “Oh no. I am the worst boyfriend in the world.”
“Tony, you’re somehow dating a hundred year old super soldier and a seventy something-ish previously cryogenically frozen weapon of near mass destruction while they are sharing the same body.” Natasha sighed at him. “You can tell them apart with nothing more than a glance, you’ve abstained from anything remotely sexy because of consent issues which makes you a damn saint, and now you are literally creating a new body for one of them with nothing more than some spit, some witch craft and a few nanobites.”
“You’re wonderful and you need to stop blaming yourself for everything.” Natasha kissed his cheek, then kicked her tiny foot out and knocked him right off the couch. “Go find Winter and tell him he’s beautiful, go find Bucky and explain to him how cool the new body is going to be. Go do something besides sit here and eat all my snacks. Go on.”
“I love you.” Tony kissed her back and re-tucked her feet on the couch and headed out to track down one or both of his boyfriends for an important conversation and for some apparently over due compliments.
“J? Where’s Winter?”
“Currently, Sergeant Barnes and Winter are down in the laboratory with Dr. Strange and Dr. Cho.”
“Damn it, I didn’t want him in there yet.” Tony broke into a jog to get up to the bedroom and wrapped up in one of the generically blue long-sleeves that both Winter and Bucky wore some times. It was huge, even for super soldier standards and it fell down almost to Tony’s thighs, hung several inches past his fingertips. Neither soldier could resist Tony when he was snuggled into their clothes and it would be perfect for conversations that were guaranteed to skew difficult.
“Brooklyn?” Tony came up behind Bucky and snuggled into his side. “Hey, what are you doing down here?”
“Figured I’d come back and see what all th’fuss is about.” Bucky glanced down to see what Tony was wearing, then lit up with a soft, pleased smile before pulling him in tighter. “You look fuckin’ adorable, sugar.”
“Yeah, I know you like this shirt.” Tony stood on his toes for a kiss Bucky was all too happy to give, making up for the stress of earlier that morning with a slow, sweet embrace. “How are you feeling? When did you and Winter switch back?”
“I was in my room.” Bucky kissed him again, brushed his right knuckles over Tony’s cheek and nuzzled at his throat with a soft rumble that made Tony promptly forget the conversation and arch up into Bucky for more. “Guess Winter was hanging out in there, he’s never done that before.”
“Yeah that’s--” Tony chased the taste of Bucky’s tongue for just a few seconds before sighing regretfully and easing back. “That’s weird, usually he goes to his or my room but he was sort of sad earlier so maybe he wanted to feel close to...you?”
“I can feel it, right here.” Bucky tapped at his chest. “He’s sad and sorta… sorta discontent? Normally I can feel him right under my heart but today he feels further away. What’s going on?”
“God, I hate this.” Tony cleared his throat and linked their fingers, towed Bucky closer to the almost finished Cradle. “Winter feels further away right now because he made the decision to shift his consciousness into the new body we’re designing. He knows it’s dangerous and he’s trying to be reckless because--”
“Don’t let him do it.” Bucky interrupted, and Tony raised his eyebrows. “I want to do it.”
“I tried to tell him that, but I didn’t expect you to be so enthusiastic...?” Tony let the question trail off. “What has you so excited about it?”
“I already saw th’ideas you had for how I would look.” Bucky picked up one of the sketch pads where Tony had doodles and drawn and pulled ideas from Bucky’s WWII enlistment photo for the new body. “You even got my hair right Tony, I want it to fall just like that, to slick back a little and then fall all loose so I can push it outta my eyes when I flirt with ya.”
“You--you like it?” Tony’s eyes sparked in excitement, even though unease kept crawling thick up his throat. “I thought we’d do something a little less baby faced than your enlistment photo, something closer to Azzano but not like how you looked before you fell? And I figured we’d keep the scar from when you and Steve tried to steal those blueberries and you caught your side at the brick wall, that way everything still looks like you right down to--”
“--To my hands.” Bucky cut in again, looked down at both his hands and shuddered through a sigh. “Sugar, I can’t wait to hold you in my hands again. Can’t wait to grab ya up tight and not worry about bruising you, can’t wait to be able to--” he swallowed, gaze running hot and wanting over Tony’s frame. “--hell sugar, I can’t wait to put you in bed and love ya the way I’ve wanted to for months now. I’ll finally get t’call you mine and then do somethin’ about it. I can’t wait.”
“I-- I can’t wait either.” Tony hooked into Bucky’s belt loop and tugged at it teasingly. “So you talked with Dr. Strange and Dr. Cho? You understand the process?”
“I understand it enough to know I don’t understand nothin’.” Bucky tapped at the picture on the desk. “I understand it enough to know I want it, to know the Doctor with his magic and Ms. Doctor with that nano stuff can do it. I don’t know why you look so sad right now though, isn’t this what you want? Me and Winter separate?”
“I want you and Winter happy.” Tony corrected. “And I know that you two won’t be happy until you’re separate but--”
“But what?” Bucky pushed his hair out of his eyes, then felt around for a hair tie and wrapped it away in a bun. “But what, sweet thing?”
“But it’s really dangerous.” Tony finished worriedly. “Bucky this isn’t like uploading Vision into a new mainframe. We are creating a new you from you, then abracadabra-ing your mind into the new body and hoping everything syncs and melds and that when you open your eyes I’ll have Winter on one side and Bucky on the other. And it could go just fine but there’s so many things that could go wrong and I’m scared.”
Softer, as he finally admitted it out loud. “I’m scared, Bucky. What if I lose you? What if taking you away from Winter means I lose Winter? What if I lose you both?”
“S’worth the risk.” Bucky decided, and Tony shook his head, “It’s not.”
“Nah, it is.” Bucky watched as Dr. Cho hooked up several tubes to the Cradle and two screens behind it lit with energy outputs and warning screens for any potential issues. “It is, cos I’m pretty sure I should’a died when they strapped me to that table in Azzano and saw how many times they could kill me and bring me back.”
“I should’a died when I fell from that damn train.” Bucky kept watching the work on the Cradle and the 3D rendering of his new body. “I know there’s a real big chance that I won’t wake up from this whole thing, but it’s worth the risk.”
“It don’t seem fair that just when I’m happy again, I get a chance to fix everything that might end in losing everything, but it’s worth the risk Tony.” nearly inaudible now. “I’ve been waiting a long time finally die, and even if this kills me, I’ll just kiss ya goodbye before I go and that’ll be good enough. Won’t want nothin’ more before it ends.”
“I promise this won’t be goodbye.” Tony’s voice cracked. “I won’t let it be goodbye. We’ll get you the body you want but it won’t be goodbye. You’ll open your eyes and smile at me again, okay?”
Bucky nodded down at him, tipped Tony’s chin up and kissed him real slow. “Sure will, babydoll.”
There were logistics to this sort of thing that took most of a week, days spent finalizing everything down to the smallest detail, test runs and listening to every word Dr. Cho said about the process and the procedure and any and all expected outcomes.
Bucky and Winter shifted back and forth in the blink of an eye now, melding into one another mid sentence, mid kiss, mid breath and Tony didn’t let himself hesitate when he looked up and realized he was talking to Winter, or mid kiss when it was Bucky clutching him tight.
He wasn’t willing to waste time worrying about which one was in front of him when coming up very soon, he might only have one-- or neither.
“Be able to love you like I want here real soon.” Bucky promised and Tony countered, “I’d rather never be able to do that before risking losing either of you.”
“We will never leave you alone, Anton.” Winter rumbled and Tony scratched lightly at the rough beard before whispering, “I know you won’t. I love both of you so much.”
And when Tony got tired and stretched out on the couch, Bucky curled around him and kissed all over his forehead-- “Sugar, when all this is over, are we all gonna move into your room or are you gonna make me and Winter separate rooms and then we’ll take turns in yours?”
“I want you both sleeping with me all the time.” Tony said firmly, and then almost uncertain, “If the two of you are okay with it, I mean.”
“Dorogoi, Bucky and I will be separate but our love for you will not change.” Winter nearly purred in pleasure when Tony slipped warm hands under his shirt and spread his fingers wide against the cold skin. “You feel so good, Anton, I cannot wait to have you.”
“I can’t wait to have you either.” Tony breathed into a kiss that turned sharp and heated and it was Bucky that took in the next breath and Tony only wriggled closer and held his love tighter. “I love you.”
“I love you.” Bucky whispered and Winter growled, “Ya lyublyu tebya.” And Tony closed his eyes tight and tried not to scream as terror and foreboding wound tighter and tighter until he couldn’t breathe.
When Dr. Cho was finally ready and Dr. Strange had muttered the last of his mystic words, Tony found himself sitting next to Winter and holding hands tight enough to grind bones together uncomfortably, biting at his lip until it bled and clenching his fist until nails bit into his palm and hurt.
“Let me see Bucky?” he asked haltingly, and Winter shivered, shuddered, moved back until it was Bucky smiling down into Tony’s eyes and murmuring “It’s gonna be okay.” into a terrified, tear filled kiss.
“It’s alright, Tony.” Bucky rubbed his thumb over Tony’s bottom lip and bumped their noses gently. “It’s alright. Stay here with Winter and I’ll be back in just a minute.”
“I’ll see you real soon, sweet thing.” Bucky promised, then turned to Dr. Cho and nodded. “I’m ready.”
“...Winter.” Tony whispered and the Soldier gathered him into his arms, into his lap, tucked his forehead into the crook of Tony’s neck and crooned quiet words of comfort until the beautiful genius stopped shaking.
“I’m scared too.” he murmured. “I’m scared--”
-- Winter shouted when Dr. Strange’s magic wove into his core and pulled at his soul, yanking and dragging and tugging until something red split aside from Winter’s body and hovered in the air above the Cradle for one, two, three heart stopping seconds.
“--Oh my god.” Tony choked out when a vague shape of Bucky formed in the red before Dr. Strange gathered it in and forced it down into the Cradle, into the body they had created. “Oh my god, Winter I’m so--”
“--scared.” the Soldier finished, and held Tony all the tighter. “Me too, Anton. Me too.”
*insert magicky hand waving things here* Ta-Da! This is how we separate super soldiers!
How much do we love Tony and Tasha friendship?
Winter breaks my heart in this, but Bucky being willing to die just for the chance to be himself again? Sheesh. I came for my own heart with that line, damn.
Progress 1, 2, 3%
“How long will this take?” Winter filtered silver fingers into Tony’s hair, wound through the loose curls and spread his hand as wide as it would go to cradle the back of Tony’s head. He knew his Anton had a migraine, he recognized the furrow at Tony’s brow and the tension lines around the perfect mouth-- he was in pain but there was so much at stake right now, Tony would rather suffer in silence then ever say a word.
So Winter scratched purposefully along Tony’s scalp, massaged at the base of his neck and behind his ears and bit by bit the tension drained from Tony’s shoulders and frame until he was limp, pliant in Winter’s lap and breathing slow as weeks worth of headaches finally started to ease.
“Mmmthanksbabe.” Tony mumbled and Winter settled his right arm a little firmer at Tony’s waist murmured something soft and sweet into his ear in answer. “I don’t know how long with this take. Thor helped upload Vision with a lightning blast, but I’m not willing to risk rushing anything and losing Bucky, so we’ll just have to wait.”
Winter rumbled in agreement and they fell quiet for a moment watching the progress bar inch higher.
“I didn’t know Strange was going to grab you like that.” Tony admitted, and his voice wavered so sad that Winter automatically curled tighter around him, held him closer over his heart. “Did it hurt? I promised I wouldn’t let anything hurt you again, but I honestly didn’t put any thought into how he was going to pull Bucky from you.”
“It didn’t hurt, dorogoi.” the Soldier assured Tony quietly, but he cut pale, angry eyes at Stephen Strange. “But I am not happy the moment upset you.”
Dr. Strange only barely refrained from rolling his eyes at the show of protectiveness, but managed a conciliatory tone to explain, “Both Bucky and Winter’s souls had to be at rest for the movement to work. If I’d warned either of you ahead of time, one or both would hold on to the other too tight and the extraction would have been painful, if not a complete failure.”
“You could have told Anton.” Winter insisted flatly, and Stephen answered just as flatly, “Yes, because the man that loves you both more than breathing would have been perfectly relaxed knowing I would have to reach into the center of your being and forcefully separate you from the other soul inhabiting your body. Tell me, Winter, how calm would you have been if Tony was stressed out?”
“Tell me if it hurt you.” Tony shut Stephen out and turned back to Winter, scratched his fingers through the coarse beard and looked deep into glacial eyes where only Winter was looking back at him. “Be honest with me.”
“It was only a pull at my heart, Anton.” Winter swore, and lay his palm over the arc reactor scars on Tony's chest. “My heart is not as fragile as yours, I can take it.”
Progress 15, 16, 17%
“I’m sorry I never told you you were beautiful.” Tony said later as he picked listlessly at one of the muffins from Dr. Cho's work station. Winter furrowed his brow in confusion and Tony reached to smooth it out, gentle gentle over the Soldier's forehead. “When we were talking about Bucky before, you said you wished I thought you were beautiful like I did Bucky, and I want you to know I'm sorry I don't ever say it.”
“Ah.” Winter's throat moved as he swallowed. “You were so quick to want something different. I was only wishing that I was the something different.”
“I wanted something different for Bucky, not for you.” Tony brushed his lips over Winter's cheek, down along his jaw line. “And I only want the difference because Bucky does. I wouldn't have changed anything about you and Bucky together, and now that you will be separate, I would never change a thing about you.”
“Not a thing, Anton?”
“Nothing.” Tony flattened his fingers to Winter's silver palm, smiled over the size difference and the way Winter instinctively turned their hands so his was covering Tony's, protective and safe. “Winter, I wouldn't change anything about you, I'm in love with every inch of you.”
“Even the inches you have not seen yet, koshka?” Winter was teasing, pale eyes sparking playfully and grip tightening at Tony's waist before sliding purposefully to his thigh, fingers spread wide and palm hot through Tony's trousers. “What about those inches?”
“Trust me.” Tony flushed to the tip of his ears, leaned in for a long kiss. Winter didn't tease often and it always caught him by surprise. “I'm even in love with the seven...eight? Maybe, hopefully nine? Inches that I haven't seen yet.”
“Ya tebya obozhayu.” Winter laughed quietly into another kiss. “I adore when you are blushing, Anton.”
“Mmm.” Tony sighed in contentment when Winter tucked him close again. “You are beautiful, sweetheart. From now on, I'll tell you all the time.”
“I do not need words.” Winter kissed Tony's knuckles and resettled them comfortably in the chair. “You are not afraid to be close to me, and that is enough. Your touch is praise enough.”
Progress 32, 33, 34%
Tony fell into a restless sleep hours later, and Winter sat stock still on the chair holding him, eyes blank as he stared unseeingly at the Cradle and the progress bar that inched too slowly towards complete, heart rate low enough to be alarming and chest barely moving with shallow breaths.
Tony was asleep but Winter was almost offline and it was eerie and unsettling and honestly, sort of creepy.
“When Tony isn't around, is the Soldier always like this?” Dr. Cho peered through the viewing glass of the Cradle to the still not quite human body inside. “Cold? Robotic? It's almost like he powered down the moment Tony fell asleep.”
“Captain Rogers has said many times that loving Tony gave Winter and Bucky a reason to be human.” Dr. Strange had woven a net of protection over the Cradle and was focused on holding Bucky's soul in tact while the body was brought into awareness. “Apparently even when Bucky is himself, he is never more himself than when he is with Tony, and Winter--” the sorcerer inclined his head towards the pair. “--well, you see how they are. He is human with Tony, and without Tony he is something else altogether.”
“I cannot imagine the pressure of keeping not one, but two other people fully functioning and fully happy.” she shook her head. “The stress on Tony must be unimaginable.”
“I am sure there are benefits to being the entire reason a hundred year old super soldier and his rather murderous counterpart have managed to turn their back on seventy years of instincts, skill and torture.” Stephen glanced up when Tony sighed and stirred, when Winter snapped aware and tucked Tony in closer, brushed over his cheek and into his hair and then smoothed down his back. “How many people do you know that turn to mush when their billionaire boyfriend makes sleepy noises?”
Helen just smiled and went back to work, and on the Cradle the progress bar ticked slowly, slowly, higher.
Progress 57, 58, 59%
“We are over halfway there.” Dr. Cho said quietly. “The next several hours are crucial. Any blip in power, any skip in the connection and we run the risk of losing Sergeant Barnes completely. Dr. Strange please reinforce your protective barrier, I will watch the vital statistics and power input myself. Tony--”
“Do not wake him.” Winter shook his head and held Tony closer. “He needs the sleep. Do not wake him until necessary.”
Helen and Stephen kept working, and Winter swallowed back the ever present fear in the back of his throat.
Please please wake up, Bucky. I and our love are not whole without you.
Progress 73, 74, 75%
Tony went through three cups of coffee in a matter of minutes, then slid off Winter's lap to go and find the restroom, ran back to Winter for a desperate, afraid kiss and ran as fast as he could to the bathroom so he wouldn't take too long and miss anything.
“I will be here, Anton.” Winter assured him softly. “No matter what, I will still be here.” and Tony squeezed his eyes shut trying not to cry and nodded.
Progress 88, 89, 90%
Tony watched as Winter unpacked a bag full of clothes and lay them precisely out over a chair close to the cradle. Soft underclothes and higher waisted, fitted trousers. A long sleeve red shirt and a blue textured jacket that tapered at the waist and fit broad over the shoulders. An old fashioned shaving kit, pomade instead of hair gel, a wood handled comb and a bottle of Sutton's aftershave.
“I could hear Bucky sometimes in my mind.” Winter arranged the toiletries on a tray. “About how he missed his clothes, how he wished he could shave, how hair gel felt different than pomade and how he missed the smell of his aftershave. I have adjusted to this world decade by decade as Hydra saw fit, but for Bucky even the basic things are different and gone.”
“You asked Steve for help.” Tony realized. “You asked him to help you with what Bucky would want to wear or finding things that he used to wear.”
“That’s amazing, thank you.” Tony picked up the bottle of aftershave and sniffed it experimentally. “This reminds me of what my dad used to wear.”
“Captain Rogers told me that all the Commandos wore that aftershave, Howard and associates included.”
“Don't know how I feel about my boyfriend smelling like my dad.” Tony remarked, and when Winter's expression flickered uncertainly, he rushed to clarify, “It's a joke, Winter. This is all perfect, you did exactly the right thing and I'm so glad you remembered, cos I didn't think about it at all.”
“You have too much on your mind to think about clothes, Anton.” Winter gestured briefly towards Tony's current wear of borrowed pajama pants and what must be the Widow's sparkly t-shirt. “And Bucky has been a part of me since the very beginning. I wanted to give something to this moment.”
“How...” Tony picked at one of the sequins on Tasha's shirt. “How do you feel without him there with you?”
“As if I am waiting permission to exhale.” Winter finished setting everything up and returned to sit next to Tony. “As if I have breathed in and cannot breathe out unless he is there to complete the motion.”
“...You love him?”
“Your name is the only name that means love to me, milaya.” he corrected softly. “But I am not whole with out Bucky.”
“You're worried he will be whole without you.” Tony realized in a wash of grief. “You think Bucky will wake up and walk away and never look back at who the two of you used to be.”
“I am the super soldier.” Winter reached for Tony's hand and for the first time maybe ever, his steady grip was shaking. “But Bucky is the stronger of us two. I am preparing myself for when he turns his back and leaves me behind.”
“Bucky wouldn't do that!”
“You wouldn't leave your nightmares behind if you could?” Winter asked, and Tony just frowned, sat back and frowned because he didn't know what to say.
“It is alright, Anton. All we can do now is wait and see.”
Progress 96, 97, 98%
Here we go.
The lid of the Cradle opened with a hiss, with a cloud of steam and a wash of heat and slowly slowly, the form inside moved, shifted, the chest rose once, twice with new breath and red lips parted in a noisy exhale.
Then the body sat up, Bucky sat up and swung his legs over the side of the Cradle, flattened bare feet to the cold floor and flexed his toes, reached with trembling fingers to feel his hair, his face, his left arm...
“Bucky?” Tony couldn't look away from his boyfriends, from Winter pale and glacial, black pants and black shirt and black hair down over his eyes, silver arm gleaming in the bright lights and from Bucky who was flawless and tan and glistening with sweat, a chiseled jaw and tousled hair and blue green eyes wide with wonder.
“Tony.” Bucky's voice was different now, tenor pitched and smoother with none of the growl that marked Winter's words, the roll of a Brooklyn accent that Tony had only ever heard a few times before. “Tony, what---”
Bucky stopped, paused and sucked in a quick breath and clenched his fists hard when he finally met Winter's eyes, when he was looking at the man who had been himself sitting a few feet away, close enough to touch...
...or close enough to kill if that was anger burning in newly opened eyes.
“A moment, dorogoi.” Winter murmured after Bucky kept simply staring, when the new body remained impossibly stiff, tense and wary and all the other emotions Winter had been afraid Bucky would rush to feel. “Give Bucky and I a moment together.”
“No, I don't want--” Tony covered his mouth with his hand when two sets of blue eyes swiveled his way, one silently pleading and the other still shocked enough to be almost vacant. “Okay.” he nodded. “Okay okay. Just a minute though, okay? Please come find me?”
It took every bit of Tony's strength to walk out of the lab, to order JARVIS to draw a wall around Bucky and Winter so they had some privacy. Dr. Strange and Dr. Cho were still monitoring vitals but with the wall drawn and tinted dark, the soldiers couldn't see anyone except each other.
They really were different now. Bucky was so young, while Winter had the decades of stress carved into the lines at his mouth, the wariness in his eyes. Bucky's hair was close shaved at the sides and longer on top, falling over his forehead and into a more deeply colored gaze, and Winter's shoulder length hair fell in a wash past his jaw and shading over his face. Winter was dark and still, dressed in black and as static as the night and Bucky was bare skin, golden skin, long lines of warm, perfect skin except for a white line at his side from that one time with Steve...
...and a patchwork of scars along his left shoulder...
“Tony.” Natasha was curled up in Steve's lap in the living room, but she moved over and made room for Tony when he stumbled through the door and made a beeline for their couch. “How are you? How are they?”
“Is Bucky...” Steve held Natasha tight with one hand, rubbed the other over his face in obvious worry. “Is Bucky back again? Is he okay?”
“He definitely looks like Bucky.” Tony burrowed into the Captain's side and closed his eyes when Natasha clicked her tongue and murmured something in Russian, reached for a blanket and covered him up gently. “But I don't know other than that. He and Winter needed some time alone...”
“Yeah.” Tony bit at his tongue and tried not to give in to the fear strangling him from the inside out. “Yeah, I don't know what that means, or what to think, or anything.”
Down in the lab, neither Bucky nor Winter knew what to think either.
“Why did you keep these?” Winter pressed at his own left shoulder, over the scars and marks left from the removal of and subsequent replacement of Bucky's left arm. “I thought you would want to be perfect for Tony. I thought you would want to be in the body you remember before me, not the one we share.”
Bucky mirrored his motion, flattening his hand to his matching scars. “These are us.” his voice hitched over an uncertain breath. “You and me. Winter and Bucky. This-- these scars, this is where we began. I asked Tony to keep them. I-- I wanted to keep them. To remember.”
Winter swallowed hard but didn't say anything, the simple admission that Bucky hadn't rejected everything, that Bucky hadn't rejected Winter enough to render the Soldier speechless. He had expected anger, perhaps even a punch and Winter would have taken a hit if that was what Bucky wanted, but instead the Brooklyn soldier had kept their scars, their mess, their hurt.
Bucky had kept them even after being given the chance to reject everything that was even slightly Winter, and the acknowledgment of their bond, of their entwined souls and shared hearts had the Soldier stunned to silence.
Neither soldier said anything for a long time, then it was Bucky who broke the stare, it was Bucky who reached out to touch Winter's face just lightly. Winter flinched away out of habit, out of fear, maybe because he thought it was a mistake and Bucky wouldn't actually want to touch him, but Bucky persisted until he could brush his knuckles across Winter's cheek and then push the long hair out of Winter's eyes.
“I used to think I was looking at a stranger in the mirror.” Bucky whispered and dragged Winter in closer and then closer again until their foreheads touched. “I used to think you were a stranger, but Winter I'm so glad to know you. I know you. I know you and I'm so glad.”
“I know you too.” Winter answered softly, silver fingers flexing at the base of Bucky's neck and holding him just there. “I know you too.”
For too long Bucky and Winter had struggled with feeling like they were each only partial, each only borrowing space and lucidity as they moved back and forth into consciousness in their shared body. But now they were separate and whole and apart but they knew each other and it was a relief.
Like the lines that had blurred between them and caused so much angst had both sharpened and also melted away all together.
“I am sorry for the nightmares, Bucky. I am sorry my memories hurt you so badly.” Winter said sometime later, and without moving away, without lifting his forehead or loosening his hold at Winter's shoulder, Bucky returned, “I'm sorry my nightmares are your memories. I’m sorry I hear echoes of what would have been the worst times of your life. Thank you for holding the worst of them, for letting Tony hold me when I woke up screaming. I know those nights you wanted to scream too.”
“Now our Anton can hold us both when the nightmares and memories come haunting.”
“Now we can both hold Tony when the days are long and the nights are even longer.”
They were quiet again, breathing in sync and letting Bucky's heart rate settle to something more mortal, his body cool as the effects of the Cradle lessened.
“Our Anton will want to see you.” Winter broke the silence yet again, and Bucky shook his head, held on a little tighter-- “I want to see Tony, but I just need some time. Will you stay with me?”
“You want me?”
“It's easier to breathe when you're here. Easier to-- to exhale.”
“...then I will stay.”
Tony didn't sleep at all that night. He spent the hours tossing and turning and staring up at the ceiling, rolling over to look at the pillow where Bucky and Winter had slept, asking JARVIS for updates every twenty minutes just so he knew everything was okay down in the lab.
The minutes crawled by endless, the digital seconds ticking away at Tony's clock painfully slow and when the first rays of sunrise hit the window and neither soldier had come to find him, Tony gave up on sleeping and dragged himself into some clothes to go find some coffee.
He could respect Bucky's need for space, he would make himself be okay with Winter not wanting to come to him right away. They were very suddenly two different people and Tony couldn't expect everything to be resolved immediately, he couldn't expect Bucky to be himself enough to come and find Tony for a kiss or Winter to be settled enough to feel comfortable being in the same room with Bucky and Tony...
It was fine. Tony would make sure it was fine, he would make himself be okay and he'd just go squeeze in between Steve and Natasha again if he started feeling too lonely and anxious and worried--
“You ready for coffee, sweet thing?”
Oh oh oh it was Bucky standing in the kitchen this morning, tall and lean and gorgeous as he held up a cup of coffee prepared exactly the way Tony liked it. He looked perfect with messy, sleepy hair and blue green eyes lit with a smile and when he put down the cup and reached for Tony with both hands, Tony just ran for him.
“C'mere sugar.” Bucky caught him easily, swung Tony around in a hug and then wrapped him up tight, held the little brunette close to his heart and then framed Tony's face in both hands and crushed their mouths together in a too sweet, too long awaited kiss hello.
“Hey, I know you.” Tony hiccuped a laugh. “You taste the same as you always did.” He coaxed Bucky back down, sifted through the shorter hair until he found a handful to pull and used the leverage to push the kiss long and then deep, shoving his tongue into Bucky's mouth and moaning out loud when Bucky kissed him right back, wet and filthy and so so hungry.
“Brooklyn.” Tony gasped when they tore apart for a split second. “Oh my god you-- you're okay? You're here with me and you're okay right? Can we do this?”
“Babydoll, I'm more than okay and we can definitely do this..” Bucky was lighter in this body, moved without thinking about whether or not he'd frighten someone, grabbed Tony up without worrying about bruises. Dr. Strange had explained there were still traces of super soldier serum in his blood, just enough to help him heal better and maybe age a little slower but nothing like there was in Winter or Steve, nothing that meant he couldn't cling to Tony just as tight as he wanted and feel his love breathe against his mouth.
“I love you.” Bucky whispered then, brushing his knuckles over Tony's cheek and marveling when he could feel everything, when silver fingers didn't dull the sensation. “Oh Tony, I love you so much. Thank you so much for this, for me. I can finally love you the way I want and I can't wait--”
He glanced up and over Tony's shoulder, and then corrected. “--we can't wait to do all somethin' about it.”
“We?” Tony turned around but Winter was already there to catch him, easing Tony through the movement and bringing him up against his body, solid muscles wrapping gentle around the smaller frame, rough stubble scratching Tony's lips just a split second before their mouths met. “Oh—oh we...”
“Dorogoi.” Winter crooned, tipped Tony's chin up and tapped coaxingly at his jaw, “Let me in, Anton, let me have you right here.”
Tony opened obediently, instinctively and for a long moment it was just Winter around him-- calloused fingers and heavy hands, big shoulders and a thick thigh that shoved between Tony's legs and brought him in closer, tighter, lost in a kiss that they would have pulled away from before, the sort of kiss where Tony would have cursed and wiped his mouth and forced himself back, where Winter would have gone down to the gym or out for a run to sweat the need out from his pores before they crossed a line that had been set in stone to protect them all.
But there was no line now, no issue of consent or question of whose body was being used while which conscious was in control.
No lines and no space between them and Tony's head fell back, his mouth open in a surprised, helpless pant when Bucky crowded up behind him and mouthed a hot kiss down to his pulse.
“Let's go to our room.”
Our room, and Tony found himself breathless and almost delirious as he was hurried out of the kitchen and back towards the bedroom. He was surrounded on either side by soldier-- Winter's bulk at his left, silver arm like a steel band around his waist and metal palm sweeping low over Tony's rear as they walked, and Bucky at his right, warm and real and almost too good to be true as he coasted over the front of Tony's pajama pants, dug his teeth into Tony's throat until a bruise bloomed purple beneath his tongue and Tony stumbled and nearly fell until Winter caught him easily.
Our room, and Tony felt like this had to be the best dream ever when the door clicked locked behind them and Winter stripped off his shirt and dragged Tony up into his bare chest, asking in a hoarse voice, “Touch me, koshka, touch me before I burn for want of you.”
Bucky was next, stripping down to next to nothing because he knew his body now and he knew Tony would moan if he rubbed the bulge of his cock into that ridiculous rear, if he pressed a hand at Winter's left shoulder and pushed them all towards the bed until Winter hit the pillows and Tony could climb up over him.
Our room, and the lines between them blurred as they kissed and touched and learned each other, first Winter and Tony gasping and licking into each others mouth and then Bucky taking over, turning Tony's head so their lips could meet and tongues could tangle as Winter tugged Tony's pants down to his hips and Bucky helped pull them off.
It was Winter staring up into Tony's eyes, but then he looked over and saw something on Bucky's expression that had him rolling, had the super soldier holding Tony secure and grabbing at Bucky with the other hand and simply rolling them in the bed so Tony was straddling Bucky's thighs now and Winter could loom over them both.
“Oh god, do that again.” Bucky thrust up against Tony's weight, cursed when skin met skin and he could finally feel Tony throbbing against him, leaking against his stomach, hot and hungry with every kiss and every stuttered breath.
“Do that again.” he hissed, but the words weren't for Tony, they were for Winter who had dragged his teeth down the gorgeous arch of Tony's back and then circled silver fingers around Tony's cock and stroked once, twice and it had been Bucky who saw the way Tony's eyes rolled back, the way kiss swollen lips had parted in pure need.
Winter did it again and Tony arced up into it, thrust forward into the tight grip and tried to turn so they could kiss and kiss and kiss while Bucky ran new hands up and over his hips and waist and chest, up into his hair and down again to connect with and then skip away from Winter's hands following the same track.
“Again, like that.” Winter growled and Bucky went back to tease and pluck at Tony's nipples, using his thumbs over the sensitive nubs, leaning up and fastening his mouth around them to suckle and pull and try to wring every high pitched cry from their loves mouth. Winter had heard it first, caught the hold in Tony's breath and the nearly inaudible eep! and he wanted to hear it again, again and again so he kept Tony close with one hand and drove the other into Bucky's hair to hold him there at Tony's nipples until the little brunette was squirming and writhing and grinding down against Bucky's lap, pushing back to rub into Winter's cock where it lay heavy at his lower back.
“Tony, you're so beautiful like this.” Bucky praised and Winter echoed, “Ty krasivaya, Anton. Tell us what you need, tell us what you want.”
“Just you.” Tony panted, and everything blurred all over again when he wasn't sure if it was Bucky or Winter stroking at him, if it was Winter or Bucky circling his entrance with suddenly slick, knowing fingers, if it was Bucky or Winter who coaxed him through that first shattering orgasm when he came around their fingers, surrounded by their arms, held safe between their heartbeats.
“Mine.” Bucky said first, and Winter nodded because for so long it had been this body that had been able to kiss and hold and know Tony and Bucky deserved the chance first.
“Tony?” Bucky stopped to ask because he would always stop to ask even though Tony had never once told him no. “Sweet thing, can I--”
Winter held Tony steady as Bucky pulled him down and down over his cock, the tip disappearing into Tony's body with a jolt that made all three of them groan, the first stroke inside after being so careful for so long intense enough to make Bucky gasp and thrust up too fast. It was Winter that quieted Tony's answering shout with a messy, dirty kiss, Bucky with both hands on Tony's ass coaxing him to move, Winter's huge hand planted on the bed next to Bucky's frame that kept them all together.
“C'mere and kiss me, sweet thing, can I kiss ya?” Bucky asked over and over as their mouths met time and again, as Tony opened up gorgeous around his cock and the edges of the room got hazy, blurry with the heat pouring off their bodies. “Babydoll, I want you so bad.”
“Give me your mouth, lyubovnik.” Winter growled into Tony's ear after Bucky had pulled out of Tony to make room for him, after Tony had bit out a curse and stretched wider around Winter than he had around Bucky. “I want your mouth.”
Winter didn't just want Tony's mouth, he wanted Tony's very center of being and Bucky was right there with him stealing soul shattering kisses and scorching possessive trails down their love's body, filling Tony to the point of seeing stars and then swearing and grunting for the few seconds they were apart, the barest breath that they weren't connected, bottomed out, driving into the one man whose name was love in both their minds.
“I love you.” Tony gasped ragged through another orgasm, filled Bucky's palm and dripped over Winter's fingers when they brought him to the edge and over again.
“I love you.” Bucky murmured when the feel of Tony writhing on top of him, spilling over him and thrusting through the slick mess tore pleasure from his veins and he came with Tony's hands on him and Winter's mirrored eyes flickering bright.
“Ya lyublyu tebla.” Winter groaned, shredding sheets between his fingers so he didn't crush Tony in his grip, groaning louder when Bucky pushed Tony back further into him so Winter's hips could stutter, snap forward and the Soldier could lose himself deep into Tony's core.
...and later when Tony was lying spread eagle on the blankets and still leaking from between his thighs, when Winter lay on one side with a sheet pulled up to his hips and Bucky sprawled on the other nude and lax, Tony closed his eyes and shook through a sigh-- “I thought we would have a conversation before ending up in bed together. I didn't even think the three of us would end up in bed together, I thought it would be one at a time or maybe we would have to switch and share...”
“Regrets, Anton?” Winter brought cool fingers between Tony's thighs to where he was slick and sore, and Bucky propped up on his elbow to nuzzle at the darkening hickey's at Tony's throat, to brush just gently over the swollen and sensitive nipples-- “You wanna take all this back and jus' talk for a little bit, sugar?”
“Not in the slightest.” Tony's smile was so self satisfied, so pleased, so damn happy that neither Bucky nor Winter could resist kissing him, the moment blurring between the two soldiers until Tony didn't know who had kissed him first or last, just that he'd been kissed and kissed and loved until his heart was pounding and body stirring all over again.
“There is plenty of time for talk.” Winter again, linking their fingers and kissing Tony's knuckles. “Now that we are all together, we will have hours for talk. Days for conversation and nights for--”
“--this.” Bucky wove their legs together and Tony sucked in a harsh breath when he felt his Brooklyn hard at his thigh so quickly. “I told you I'd been waitin' too long to love ya like I wanted. You're never getting' outta this bed, Tony.”
“I told you sometime soon I would find a way to have you.” Winter growled and Tony turned nearly scarlet when the Soldier led their linked hands down below his waist to where he was hard again too. “You will need help walking when we are done with you.”
“Christ.” Tony flopped back onto the pillows and threw his arm over his eyes, forcing out a shaky breath and suddenly much closer to tears than he wanted to admit. It felt foolish, felt embarrassing to want to cry when both his boyfriends were so eager for a different sort of activity, but Tony couldn't help it.
“Koshka, do not cry.” Winter pulled Tony's arm away and kissed both his eyelids. “Everything is alright.”
“Everything's okay, Tony.” Bucky smelled like that old school aftershave and Tony snuggled into his hug, pushed his nose into Bucky's throat and quieted a whimper when Winter immediately curled around behind him and held them both. “Ah sugar, it's okay. I know you were real stressed about this but hey, it worked out. I'm okay and Winter is okay and now we both get to hold you....s'all good things, babydoll. All good things.”
“I feel like getting naked right away and coming my brains out twice should have happened like, three months down the road.” Tony sniffed, but he smiled a tiny bit when both his soldiers shook with laughter around him. “I kept trying to figure out what to say or how to address any issues that would come up or god forbid one of you wanting to leave--”
“Neither one of us are going anywhere.” Winter checked on Bucky over Tony's head, and the corner of his mouth ticked up in a smile when Bucky nodded firmly. “And any issues that come we will face together.”
“Together.” Bucky agreed. “We're not goin' anywhere Tony. You'll never be alone, alright? Promise.”
“I love you.” Tony finally finally relaxed, finally finally closed his eyes without being scared that he would wake up and one of his boyfriends would be gone, finally finally slept held by both the men he loved instead of just one at a time...
….and downstairs in the kitchen, Natasha sipped at her coffee and glanced over at Steve, sipped at her coffee and cleared her throat, sipped at her coffee and when Steve finally threw up his hands in exasperation and asked, “What Tasha? Just say it already!”
“...when Bucky and Winter fuck Tony, do you think they also fuck each other, or is it a 'Tony loves them and they only love Tony' sort of thing?”
“...I...” Steve went very white, then very red. “Ms. Romanoff, I don't know how to respond to my sort of girlfriend asking me if my best friend and the alter ego of my best friend have sex with each other and with my co-worker and teammate Iron Man. I don't-- I can't do that. I can't do that.”
“I'm just saying.” Natasha lifted a shoulder casually as if she hadn't just blue-screened her sort of boyfriend. “Do you think those are firmly drawn lines between Tony and Bucky and Tony and Winter, or do you think they... blur?”
“Normal couples in healthy relationships can talk about things like this!”
“Steve! I thought you wanted me to be more open and honest with you!”
“Yeah, I'm going to go bleach my ears.”
“Yep. We're breaking up.”
“... is it weird if I want to see you guys kiss?” Tony asked sleepily. He’d been all but comatose for a moment there but then Winter had gone tense and Bucky had straightened up and now all three were listening to the sounds of Steve shouting downstairs about breaking up and inappropriate conversations and ripping his ears out.
“You want me and Winter to kiss?” Bucky asked in surprise, and Winter raised skeptical eyebrows. “Why?”
“Cos who wouldn’t want to see the two most beautiful men in the world kiss?” Tony stretched and yawned and burrowed back between them. “M’just saying, maybe we should think about it. It’s not like it would be the weirdest thing to happen lately, right?”
I'm obsessed with this dynamic. Bucky being sweet and charming and Winter just straight up "I want your mouth". Excuse me while I fan myself.
Natasha and Steve are hilarious here, we need a side story of them with Winter/Tony/Bucky figured their stuff out.
...where'd we land on Winter and Bucky kissing??
I hope you guys loved this verse as much as I did. Always and forever grateful for readers who commission me and then give me free rein to write whatever I want and fangirl cheer me on the entire way. #lovemyreaders
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