The first time Bucky had met Tony Stark, he couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something… off … about the other man. He had shaken Tony’s hand and Tony had looked at him as if he could see right through him. Those liquid brown eyes spoke of unimaginable depths. It was unnerving, to say the least. Thankfully, Tony hadn’t seemed put off by his less-than-cordial greeting. He just smiled, razor sharp like he knew something Bucky didn’t, and returned to his workbench.
Bucky couldn’t shake the feeling even weeks later. Something wasn’t right, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on what. When he brought it up, the others simply shrugged and promised he would get used to it. It was just Tony.
Aside from the odd feeling, Tony was a great guy. Bucky would know; he watched him (no, not like that, Clint, get your mind out of the gutter). Tony was like something out of a Jules Verne novel. He was the very personification of the future with his shiny tech and the drive to make things better, faster, more efficient. The manic grin that frequently lit his face promised all kinds of hell and Bucky was absolutely certain he wanted to be along for the ride.
In addition to all that, he was kind, generous, clever, and he cared so much for everyone he considered a friend. Tony was the one who pulled Bucky out of his shell. He dragged him to movies and made him sit through marathons of this show or that. Tony snarked at him and expected Bucky to snark right back. It was refreshing and it felt… good. It felt human. Tony was the one who made him realize that he could live in spite of everything that had happened to him; that there was so much more to him. To them both.
Bucky probably wouldn’t have realized just how much more there was to Tony if it hadn’t been for Clint. Because of course it was Clint’s fault...
“So we know that the Norse gods exist,” Clint began at breakfast one morning. “Does that mean that the other gods are real, too?”
There was a collective pause as the others took that in. Bruce was the first to speak.
“It’s theoretically possible,” he said. “There are quite a few pantheons, though… most notably, the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians.”
“I’m not familiar with the Egyptian gods,” Steve said. “Someone wanna fill me in?”
“Let’s see,” Bruce began. “There was Ra, the sun god. Isis, Osiris-”
“What about Imhotep?” Clint asked.
“Imhotep was a character in ‘The Mummy,’ not a god,” Natasha countered. She flicked Clint’s ear casually.
Tony chose that moment to shuffle into the kitchen, making a beeline for the coffee pot. As Tony poured a cup and gulped it, Bucky took in Tony’s appearance; the bags under his eyes, the hair that stuck up everywhere, and the burns and grease stains from whatever he’d been working on. Thankfully, there wasn’t any of the tightness around his eyes or mouth that meant he was having nightmares. Bucky wondered how long it had been since Tony had last slept or consumed anything other than protein bars and coffee.
“Hey, this isn’t something I ever needed to know,” Clint said. “The only people I know from ancient Egypt are Imhotep and the one god with the dog head.”
Bucky frowned in confusion. “Dog head?” he echoed.
“He means Anubis,” Tony said. “And it’s a jackal, not a dog, Hawk-breath.”
“How do you know?” Clint asked.
“Uh, genius, remember?” Tony said, as if that explained everything. To be fair, it kind of did. “Egyptians aren’t actually the interesting ones, though. Have you seen the Greek pantheon?” Everyone was more familiar with the Greek gods, if only because ‘Hercules’ had been one of their movies the week before. As the conversation turned to the Greek deities, nobody except Bucky noticed when Tony slipped out of the kitchen.
It didn’t end there.
“Did you know that Osiris’s son Horus was conceived after he died?” Clint asked him at lunch the next day. Bucky paused in constructing his sandwich to consider that.
“How the hell does that work?” he asked. “Do I wanna know?”
“No,” Tony immediately answered around his own sandwich.
“Osiris was murdered by his brother, Seth,” Clint said. “Seth scattered Osiris’s body across Egypt and his wife had to put him back together. The only thing they couldn’t find was his dick because it got eaten by a fish or something.”
“That still doesn’t explain how he knocked up his wife after death,” Bucky insisted. “In fact, that makes even less sense than it did before.”
“No, it’s cool, because Isis made him a new dick out of gold,” Clint said.
“Aaaaaaaaand we’re done!” Tony declared. He gave an exaggerated shudder. “New topic, please!”
“Dude, you make dick jokes all the time!” Clint protested. “You can’t handle fish food penis?”
“Caaaaaap! Clint’s talking dicks while we’re eating!” Tony yelled over his shoulder.
“Not at the table, Clint,” Cap called back. Tony grinned superiorly.
“Spoilsport,” Clint muttered. Tony just changed the subject.
“Hey, did you know Osiris and Isis were brother and sister?” Clint asked. Tony groaned from his spot on the couch and Natasha rolled her eyes.
Bucky blinked. “Weren’t they married?”
“Yup!” Clint said, nodding.
“That actually isn’t uncommon,” Tony said. “Lots of royal families married and bred within themselves. Osiris and Isis, Zeus and Hera, King Tut, Cleopatra, Henry VII kindaI, the Lannisters- hey, have you guys seen the new Game of Thrones episode, yet?”
“No spoilers!” Clint yelped.
Tony grinned a very sharp, predatory grin. “So you haven’t seen that-”
Natasha turned a flat, dangerous stare on Tony. “No. Spoilers.”
Sam appeared just in time for movie night. Steve, Natasha, and Bruce were getting the snacks while Bucky, Tony, and Clint got situated on the various couches and cushions. Bucky had managed to make it look completely accidental that he was sitting next to Tony. Thankfully, Tony didn’t seem to mind. He even leaned into Bucky a bit, claiming that he was leeching his warmth from him. As they waited for the others to join them, Clint caught Sam up to speed on his mythology research.
“So, the head honcho god’s name is Ra,” Clint explained. “He’s the sun god: the big guy, kinda like Odin.” Sam nodded his understanding. “Then there’s Osiris, and he’s a hawk. So that’s me, because, duh, Hawkeye.” Sam gave another nod. “There’s also Horus, and he’s the sky god. He’s got a falcon head, so that’s totally you.” Sam laughed, and Bucky snorted. “And that Anubis guy is the god of the dead, and he’s a jackal.”
“Anubis is the god of mummification, not the god of the dead,” Tony said, shaking his head. “The ancient Egyptians had problems with jackals digging up the bodies and eating them. So, fighting fire with fire, Anubis is a jackal. He’s the guardian of tombs and cemeteries.”
“So he’s not really associated with death?” Clint asked.
“Not so much death itself,” Tony replied. “He has more to do with funeral rites and tomb security.”
Clint gave Tony a considering look. “Didn’t you pay the funeral costs of everyone that died during the Battle of New York?” he pointed out.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Tony scoffed.
“He did,” Natasha said as she entered the room. She had a bowl of popcorn in each hand. Tony gave Natasha a dirty look and made a slashing gesture across his neck. Natasha ignored him. “He’s done it for everyone who died during an Avenger fight since then, too.”
“Thanks, Romanov,” Tony grumbled. “Ruin my dastardly name, why don’t you.”
“There’s nothing wrong with people knowing you’re a good person, Tony,” Steve said. He set a tray of drinks on the coffee table.
“I do nothing,” Tony insisted. “The Maria Stark Foundation does.”
“You own that charity,” Natasha reminded him.
“It’s definitely a worthy endeavor, Tony,” Sam said.
“So we agree that Anubis is Tony,” Clint said.
“That’s absurd,” Tony replied too quickly. “Can we get off the Egyptians, please? I thought we were watching Blade Runner? JARVIS, roll it!”
The movie began and the others got comfortable. Tony, however, looked tense and pensive through the whole thing. Nobody said anything, so neither did Bucky. He didn’t want anyone to peg his friendly concern as anything more, after all.
When Thor returned from visiting Jane, Clint, of course, asked if the pantheons were a thing.
“They are, indeed,” Thor confirmed. “To my knowledge, they are alive and well.”
“How many of them have you met?” Clint asked curiously. Beside Bucky, Tony tensed. Bucky leaned into him just a bit and felt Tony relax again.
“Not many,” Thor said. “Loki knew far more. I was not a traveler, as Loki was. He was good friends with several other trickster deities.”
“So wait, there was a trickster squad?! ” Clint’s face said he wasn’t sure if he should be excited or not.
“Aye,” Thor said with a nod. “Hermes, of the Greeks, Anansi, of the Africans, and Anubis, of the Egyptians.” Bucky felt Tony flinch. He frowned, looking at the genius curiously. Tony just patted his knee a bit stiffly. “Loki and Anubis were particularly close friends. Though I did not meet him myself, they spent a good deal of time together. Loki’s children even refer to Anubis as ‘Uncle.’”
“Wait, I thought Anubis was the mummification guy, not a trickster?” Sam asked.
“He is,” Tony said. Was it just Bucky or did he sound a tad defensive? “Who says gods can’t have hobbies? Pranks are fun, especially if you’re what passes for an idiot teenager with your friends!”
“Trickster Squad,” Bucky mused. “That… sounds kinda terrifying. Think of the prank wars…”
“Indeed,” Thor said. “I doubt anyone knows how much mischief they all got to over the centuries. However, after the incident with the Tower of Babel, the pantheons elected to keep their various tricksters separate, when possible.”
“Say what?! ” Clint demanded. He immediately demanded to hear the whole story.
“I just forgot that I have something in the lab!” Tony yelped. He jumped up from his seat and almost ran from the room. Bucky frowned after him.
Clint’s interest in mythology continued. Bucky, because he was observant (not because he was being a stalker, Steve!) noticed a pattern. Whenever anyone mentioned something about the Egyptian gods, Tony would roll his eyes, complain, and change the subject, particularly whenever someone brought up the jackal-headed god, Anubis. He didn’t do it with the Greek, Roman, Aztec, African, or Norse legends. In fact, he seemed to prefer talking about those over the Egyptians. When he brought it up to Steve, his friend just shrugged and chalked it up to Tony being Tony.
“Maybe Howard had a fascination with Egyptian myths,” he said. Bucky had to admit that that would make sense. Anything to do with Howard usually had Tony snarling. However, Bucky couldn’t find anything about Howard being interested in Egyptian mythology and culture…
It all came to a head, one day, when Clint was talking about some new fact he had learned. He and Sam were comparing notes, since both of them had been doing research and had found different versions of the story. Clint’s story named Anubis as the son of the cow goddess, Hesat. Sam’s story had the goddess Bast as his mother, who had the head of a cat. Throughout the conversation, Tony grew more and more tense, and his jaw seemed to get tighter with every passing moment.
“Give it up, man,” Sam said. “Bast has a cat head; the resemblance is obvious!”
“Just because Hesat’s a prey animal doesn’t mean she couldn’t give birth to a jackal,” Clint argued. “Anubis is supposed to be able to turn from a jackal into a human, so the head thing means nothing. Plus! She was the cow-goddess, so I bet she was a fantastic mother!” Sam was about to retort when Tony stood up, suddenly.
“Anubis is the bastard son of Osiris and Nephthys,” Tony said. His voice was carefully controlled, but Bucky could see the angry set of his mouth. His eyes glittered a bit. “Isis’s sister, Nephthys, disguised herself as Isis and tricked Osiris into sleeping with her. She became pregnant with Anubis, but when he was born, she abandoned him. Later, Isis found the child and adopted him. Neither Hesat nor Bast were involved.” With that, he strode from the room. The others could only stare after him, stunned.
“What… the hell just happened?” Clint finally asked. Bucky frowned, staring at the door Tony had left through. Something wasn’t right.
“Maybe dial back the mythology, everyone,” Steve suggested. “At least around Tony.”
Tony didn’t come up for dinner that evening. When asked, JARVIS simply said that Tony had started a new project and didn’t wish to be disturbed for the moment. Bucky was concerned, because he didn’t know of any reason for Tony to get so worked up over ancient dead guys. However, it was normal for Tony to lose himself in his work, so nobody seemed too concerned.
Later that night, Bucky made his way to Tony’s lab with a sandwich and a fresh cup of coffee. JARVIS opened the door for him. Tony was at his workbench while the bots zipped here and there. DUM-E hovered near Tony, watching what he was doing curiously. The music, which had been playing at its regular ear-shattering volume, lowered. Tony looked around, and when his eyes settled on Bucky, Bucky’s breath caught in his throat. The engineer’s gaze was like a physical weight. It passed a moment later when Tony smiled and waved him closer. Bucky ignored the warm fondness blooming in his chest and approached.
“Hey,” he finally greeted.
“Hey,” Tony said. He sounded tired… Bucky set the plate of food on the bench next to where Tony was working. Tony saw the coffee and made grabby hands for it. “Ooh! Gimme!” Bucky handed him the mug, unable to help the fond little smile that appeared on his face. Tony took a drink of the brew and let out a noise that was almost indecent. “Oh, I needed that. You are my favorite.”
“Are you talking to me or the coffee?” Bucky asked.
“Hmm, not sure,” Tony said. He took another sip and his eyes slid shut. “Mmm… Actually, the coffee. Definitely the coffee.” He looked back up at Bucky. “Sorry, Buckaroo. You’re definitely next, though.”
Bucky laughed. Tony set the mug down and turned his full attention to Bucky. Their eyes met and Bucky’s breath stilled again. Tony had such beautiful eyes… he dropped his gaze to Tony’s lips for half a second before he forced himself to start speaking. He had more important things to focus on than Tony’s very kissable lips, right now...
“You okay?” Bucky wanted to know. “You sounded really upset earlier.”
“I’m fine,” Tony said, waving a hand dismissively. “Nothing to worry about. Really, it’s nothing.”
“It’s not nothing, Tony,” Bucky pressed. “Something about the Egyptian mythology talk is upsetting you. You don’t get annoyed when other gods are brought up; just the Egyptians.” He paused, staring at Tony for a moment. “What’s wrong?”
“Just… bad memories,” Tony sighed, leaning against his workbench and running his hand through his hair. It was already sticking up in every direction. “Old memories. Old feelings. Ones I would really rather leave buried.”
Bucky frowned. Steve’s theory seemed more and more correct. Bucky didn’t want to ask about Howard directly, though. Doing so would only make Tony clam up.
“I don’t like seeing you unhappy, Tony,” he confessed. “If you want to talk about it, I’m here.” Tony’s lips quirked up in a little smile.
“Maybe someday,” he said. “For now, I have work to do and you’re in my space.”
“You need to eat,” Bucky reminded him.
“And I will,” Tony said. Bucky raised an eyebrow. “What is that look for? Don’t give me that look.” Bucky’s other eyebrow joined the first and he tilted his head in the direction of the plate he had brought down. Tony glared at him, then sighed. He picked up the sandwich and took a bite out of it. “There. Happy?”
“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” Bucky teased. Tony snorted and gave him the finger, but the tightness in his shoulders had lessened a bit. “I’m not tired, yet. Mind if I play fetch with your bots?” DUM-E let out an excited whistle and zoomed around. The bot soon approached with a rather worn tennis ball in his claw. He offered it in Bucky’s direction eagerly.
“You’re going to spoil them,” Tony chuckled. “Knock yourself out. It’ll keep DUM-E from spraying me with the fire extinguisher.”
Bucky took the ball from DUM-E and tossed it into the workshop. The bot raced after it gleefully. They played for hours, Bucky discreetly watched Tony as he worked all the while.
Life continued on like that. Bucky finally admitted that he totally had a crush on their resident engineer and resolved to find a way to ask him out. Steve had just about beamed with pride when he had been told. His suggestion was to get Tony flowers, the damn romantic punk…
Before anything could happen, someone unleashed another horde of weird animals on the city and the Avengers were called in to deal with them. “What the hell are those?” Clint wanted to know. Bucky honestly had no idea. The things looked like dogs; greyhounds, to be exact. However, instead of the floppy ears a greyhound usually had, they stuck straight up and were flat along the tops. Their noses were wrong, too; they curved down instead of up. Their teeth and claws were too sharp, resembling wolves more than dogs.
Thankfully, they didn’t seem interested in most of the citizens. They simply rushed through the streets, damaging property and causing general mayhem. The animals moved in groups of three and four, obviously hunting. What Bucky wanted to know is what they were looking for...
“Hey, Cap, maybe if you throw your shield like a frisbee they’ll chase after it,” Sam said over the comm.
“Somehow I doubt that,” Bruce said. He had stayed in the Quinjet, waiting to be called if needed. “The pattern they’re following suggests that they’re hunting.”
“Barnes, there’s a group headed in your direction,” Clint warned. Bucky grunted his acknowledgement. A few minutes later, the animals came pelting around the corner and down the street, straight towards him. Bucky aimed and fired at them. The things seemed to need at least four shots to put them down. He had only managed to drop two of them by the time he needed to move. One of them leaped at him. Bucky caught it, using its momentum to throw it over his head.
The animal hit the ground hard. As it struggled to its feet, it let out a howl. The other animals joined in. The sound reverberated through the city, harsh and unsettling. Bucky shivered.
“They found whatever it is they’re hunting,” Bruce said. “Bucky, any ideas?”
“Uh…” Bucky replied. The animals were beginning to stalk towards him, eyes intent. “I think it might be me.”
“What?” Steve demanded.
“They’re converging on him,” Clint said. “You should maybe run?”
“If I run, they’ll chase,” Bucky countered. He leveled his guns at the animals as they advanced.
“But if you stay put, they’ll swarm you,” Natasha pointed out. Bucky opened his mouth to reply, but before he could, Iron Man landed in front of him. He was between Bucky and the animals. A piece in the neck of the suit began to move. It unfolded from around Tony’s head and formed a new shape, wider than before, with pointed ears and a long snout. Bucky’s eyes widened, because he knew that shape. It was the head of Anubis… The armor turned towards him and Bucky stared. He was vaguely aware of voices shouting into his comm, but Bucky couldn’t make them out. The jackal’s eyes glowed the same color as Iron Man’s.
“Don’t freak out,” Tony ordered. He turned back to the animals. The things had stopped advancing as soon as Iron Man had dropped from the sky. “Begone, foul beasts.” Bucky shivered again for an entirely different reason. Tony’s voice was infused with power and authority. He barely sounded like himself. “You are not welcome here.”
“Holy shit! ” Clint shrieked.
The animals bared their teeth and snarled, moving around Bucky and Tony. The armor of Tony’s right arm shifted until Tony held an Egyptian-style flail. It crackled with energy.
“Shoo! ” Tony ordered, brandishing it at the things. “This city is mine. I have claimed it. If Seth wants my attention, he can come and visit like a normal person. Leave this place, or I won’t hesitate to slaughter you all.”
The animals backed away, still snarling. Finally, they turned and ran off, disappearing into the city. Tony waited until they were out of sight before he relaxed. The jackal head unfolded from its shape and began to retreat into the ring around Tony’s neck. The flail disappeared back into the armor’s arm. Bucky, for his part, hadn’t stopped staring…
“What the actual fuck just happened?!” Clint demanded.
“Um…” Tony said. “I can explain?”
With the battle ended, SHIELD swept in to perform clean-up. The Avengers were cleared to leave the scene. Tony zoomed off, ignoring Steve calling after him. Bucky hitched a ride back on the quinjet with the others. When they got back to the tower, Tony had disappeared into his workshop. JARVIS informed them that pizza had been ordered and would be arriving shortly. Tony would join them then.
The pizza arrived, and Tony appeared with it. The silence that ensued while everyone gathered sustenance was awkward. Finally, everyone was seated, eating pizza. Tony wasn't eating, Bucky noticed. Instead, he was fidgeting nervously.
"So… questions?” Tony finally asked.
“Are you actually a god?” Clint immediately demanded.
“Yes,” Tony said. “Specifically, Anubis.”
“How old are you?”
“Really fucking old,” Tony sighed. “Something like four- or five-thousand years.”
“And you called me old,” Steve snorted.
“Hey, for a human, you are old,” Tony said. “For a god, I’m honestly not.”
“What were those things that attacked us?” Sam asked.
“Seth beasts,” Tony said. “Nasty little creatures. They’re Seth’s creations. He uses them as messengers, attack dogs, whatever he needs. They were likely hunting for me, trying to draw me out.”
“So why did they go after Bucky like that?”
“Probably because Bucky and I spend a lot of time together,” Tony said, shrugging. “They caught my scent on him and that’s all they cared about.” He let out a groan. “Seth only does shit like this when he wants my attention. He’ll probably visit, soon. That will be a disaster…”
“Why did you not reveal yourself, Friend Tony?” Thor asked.
“There wasn’t exactly time,” Tony said with a shrug. “When we first met, we were kind of in the middle of an invasion. I had to watch as my best friend try to take over my world. And before I could figure out what was wrong with him, you dragged him back to Asgard.” A pained expression flashed across Tony’s face and it took everything for Bucky not to go and hug him. “And then he died.” Tony’s face went neutral again, and he shrugged. “And then it wasn’t important.”
“Why is it that I did not sense anything from you?” Thor wondered. “Even knowing what you are, now, I still do not sense anything out of the ordinary.”
“I am hidden,” Tony explained. “I like it that way. The most anybody gets is a vague sense of unease, and most people don’t even get that.” Tony shrugged. “Those that do chalk it up to me being an eccentric billionaire. I get away with a lot, like that. In this day and age, me being Anubis is less important than me being Tony Stark.”
“How does that work, by the way?” Bruce asked. “Is this like a Twilight thing?”
“Brucie, you wound me! I should shoot you for comparing me to that horrendous excuse for literature,” Tony scoffed. “No, it’s not a Twilight thing; I’m not perpetually forty-five years old. It’s a form of reincarnation. While I, as a god, am less susceptible to death than your average human, it can still happen. After I die, my soul is transferred to another living being and life begins anew. In this life, I was born to Howard and Maria Stark. I am Tony Stark. I’m just also Anubis.”
“So the arc reactor?” Natasha asked.
“That actually happened,” Tony said. “The palladium, too. Like I said: less susceptible to dying, not immune.”
“And your feelings on Howard?” Steve asked.
Tony nodded. “Howard was… not one of the better fathers I have had.” He didn’t go into more detail, and everyone knew better than to push.
There was an awkward silence for a few seconds before Clint spoke up again. “What did you mean when you said there was something wrong with Loki?” His gaze was intense as he waited for an answer.
“Loki and I have been best friends for thousands of years,” Tony explained. “I know him better than anyone, and vice versa, yet he showed no recognition when I confronted him. Something was wrong with him. I think he may have been under some sort of control, as well.”
“Got any other evidence other than a gut feeling?” Clint asked, voice hard. “You’ve been reincarnated, after all.”
“I look the same,” Tony replied, waving his hand dismissively. “Always. And yeah, sort of. When I got close enough to see, Loki’s eyes were blue.” Thor stiffened, but Steve frowned.
“Why is that significant?” he asked.
“Loki’s eyes are green,” Thor said.
“I sent word to Asgard as soon as I could,” Tony continued. “But it wasn’t soon enough.” He scrubbed his hands through his hair. “Anything else?”
“Is that story with Isis making Osiris a golden dick true?” Clint immediately asked.
“Okay, I need you to never, ever mention my father’s dick. Ever again.”
Later that evening, Bucky went down to Tony’s workshop with a cup of coffee. Once again, JARVIS let him in. Tony was leaning against the bench, head in his hands. He looked exhausted… he looked up when Bucky approached him. Bucky put the mug on the counter and slid it in Tony’s direction. Tony gave him a weak smile, but picked up the drink and sipped it.
“So what’s the Egyptian pantheon's stance on dating mortals?” Bucky asked.
Tony nearly choked on his coffee. “Uh… what? I mean, seriously-”
“Because I’ve been wanting to ask you out for a long time, and I’m not too inclined on letting the fact that you’re a god mess that up,” Bucky continued.
“You really want to- I mean-” Tony babbled. “Are you sure? I mean, I come with a lot of baggage. Like, thousands of years of baggage. And I’m horrible with relationships. I won’t remember birthdays or anniversaries and I’m shit at providing comfort or stability-”
“You’re perfect,” Bucky insisted. “I gotta tell ya, Doll, I got a ton of baggage, too. Maybe not thousands of years of it, but a ton…” He stepped closer to Tony and took the engineer’s hands in his own. “I could barely remember who I was, a few months ago. I’ve done a whole ton of murdering. I’m a big mess of nightmares and broken pieces… but I don’t feel broken when I’m with you. And I would love to see how we do in life walking next t-mmmph!” He suddenly had his arms full of Tony, and Tony’s lips on his. He floundered for a second before his brain got with the program and he kissed back.
When they pulled apart, both were breathless and pink-cheeked with exhilaration. Bucky grinned. “Is that a yes?”
“Yeah, it's a yes,” Tony said breathlessly. “You know this means you'll have to meet the god side of my friends and family, right?”
Bucky’s grin was a bit feral, he knew. “I can’t wait.”