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Tabula Rasa • chapters 4-6

Chapter 4: Thread Count

When the elevator arrived at its assigned floor, it opened straight out into a sitting room area.

Stark stepped forward a bit rigidly, forcing Bucky to let go of him. With a leisurely pace, Bucky took in the details – wide windows, simple furniture; further off was an open doorway leading to a kitchen while another, in all likelihood, led into the master bedroom.

His companion was moving ahead of him, opening the bedroom door and disappearing through it. Bucky followed, cautiously checking out his new whereabouts.

In the bedroom the furniture was even simpler than in the living room, leaving most of the room bare around the large bed. It wasn’t a four-poster bed with a canopy, which would have looked tasteless in the surrounding environment, but a low, simple thing of dark wood with a matching headboard fastened to the wall and a padded bench of the bed’s width sitting at the foot of it. Two doors on different sides of the room stood closed: one of them was a bathroom and the other most likely closet space.

Bucky sat down on the bench, waiting. Stark was nowhere to be seen, but Bucky could hear him nearby and soon enough the man emerged through one of the doors – the one that did, indeed, lead to a bathroom.

Stark’s face was clean once again and his hair looked like it had been brushed. The effort expended on the latter was a little pointless, seeing as they were very likely to mess it up again in the next half hour, which led Bucky to wonder whether Stark was a little nervous.

“Nervous?” he asked, wanting to know whether his assumption was correct.

Stark frowned at him. “It’s… been a while,” he stated, which didn’t exactly invalidate Bucky’s hypothesis.

“I’m sure you still remember how it’s done,” Bucky noted.

The other man’s frown deepened. He didn’t come back at Bucky with a ‘do you?’, which was a little surprising.

Wanting to move things along – he didn’t like needlessly stretching out the anticipation – Bucky raised his left hand and motioned with his fingers. “C’mere,” he murmured, trying to make it sound like an invitation. He still didn’t know what Stark wanted from him, but perhaps there were ways to make it pleasurable for himself, too. He would like that.

Stark hesitated for a spell – enough to make Bucky wonder what the hell they were doing here if the man was acting like this – but then he took a step forward and lowered his hands to undo the button and zipper of his jeans, pulling them and his underwear down his thighs in one motion. He bent over to tug them off his legs, and Bucky wished he could have seen it from the same angle as he had watched him in his workshop before entering – then noticed a mirror on the wall behind Stark and smiled, getting a good look.

For someone his age, Stark was fit and quickly got rid of his pants and underwear, straightening again. His eyes checked Bucky, who was just a fraction of a second too slow to pull his gaze from the mirror, which Stark noticed. “Enjoying the view?” he asked, raising an eyebrow, some of his swagger returning. His erection had flagged a bit, cock now half-hard, and Bucky took the initiative to reach out for it – with his left hand, seeing as he had a feeling that was what Stark was after.

“You have a nice ass,” Bucky replied indifferently. It was pretty self-explanatory and Stark probably knew that already.

Stark hummed and shifted closer, one hand landing on Bucky’s right shoulder, staying there, doing nothing. It was a bit distracting, making half of Bucky’s concentration go towards it and not what his left hand was doing, eventually driving a soft hiss from Stark.

“The pressure’s good, but don’t twist so much,” he told Bucky.

Bucky felt like squeezing, just to make a point, but he fought off the urge and tried to do what Stark wanted him to, watching the metal digits slide up and down his length. Stark’s cock was cut, unlike his own, missing a layer of skin. It was aesthetically different and Bucky could see every little ridge and tested each of them for results. Stark was making a lot more noises than he had, his breaths louder. It made Bucky wonder if it was just for show, or if Bucky should have done more.

“Hold on,” Stark said after a while and moved his free hand to stop Bucky’s. “I’ll get some lube before it starts chafing,” he explained and began to move away, but Bucky grabbed him, keeping him from moving. Stark gave him a look, already frowning, but Bucky forced him closer until he had no choice but to place one knee on the bench beside Bucky.

Knowing what Stark thought they needed, Bucky held onto the other man’s waist with his right hand, keeping him in place, while he lifted his left from its place around his cock and raised it to Stark’s face. His lips were still plump from earlier, redder than usual, and the skin yielded beneath the pressure of Bucky’s touch.

Stark’s eyes narrowed a fraction but he opened his mouth and Bucky smiled. Part of him wished he could feel Stark’s tongue on his fore- and middle finger, more than the distant echo that it was. To satisfy his curiosity from earlier, he pushed the fingers a little deeper, seeing how far they could go. Stark’s teeth made a sound as they bit down on the metal, and then his hands were on Bucky’s forearm and wrist, pulling his hand back.

Bucky allowed him to do it, returning the now-slick fingers to Stark’s cock before he could speak up in complaint. He made sure not to twist and mimicked the pressure from before, increasing it just a bit near the head. It made Stark’s hips buck in his hold and a groan escape him. The sound was not that of pain, and Bucky tried to repeat the stroke in order to sample it again. He could hear Stark’s breaths and the other man leaned a bit closer to him, left hand landing on Bucky’s shoulder again, smoothing the skin and the elastic tape. His right hand seemed to hover, not knowing what to do, and his eyes were trained on Bucky’s hand on his cock, his expression a little greedy.

The air between them grew warmer. Bucky could smell a faint aroma of sweat and the slick leaking from the head of Stark’s cock, adding to the slickness on his skin and Bucky’s hand. It was a strange mix that made Bucky’s cock stir all over again, hardening and arching up, so close to Stark’s body Bucky could almost feel his body heat. The hand he was still keeping on Stark’s hip clenched restlessly, and he thought he might as well enjoy this, seeing as Stark was getting what he wanted.

Shifting his grip, Bucky curled his fingers into the meat of Stark’s buttock and yanked him forward. The other man swayed, hand tightening on Bucky’s shoulder before he set his other knee on the bench as well and straddled Bucky’s legs. The nearness brought Bucky’s cock within touching distance and Stark glanced down, probably guessing the reason for the rearrangement of his position.

“You could just ask,” Stark mused and dropped his free hand between them, giving Bucky’s cock a firm stroke. “People tend to get a lot more accomplished when they cooperate.”

“Never took you for a team player,” Bucky teased. He had seen videos of Stark and that attitude didn’t give him the impression that he enjoyed playing with others.

Stark chuckled. “In bed, it’s a bit different.”

“I thought you were a little rusty on that front.”

“Just because it’s been a while doesn’t mean I’m rusty,” Stark hissed and pinched Bucky’s foreskin, making Bucky tighten both his hands in retaliation. As expected, Stark didn’t like that, but it was just to warn him against any tricks and Bucky went back to stroking him, knowing he didn’t want to sabotage his chance at another round.

“How about I make you a deal,” Stark mused after a bit. “I’ll get you off again if you put those fingers inside me.”

Bucky halted. He had a feeling Stark didn’t mean his mouth or something like that. Still, the appeal of getting off was substantial, and he supposed it couldn’t be that bad. “You think that’s safe?” he asked.

“Trust me, I’ve had stranger things up there,” Stark replied and moved off him before Bucky could stop him. “However, we’re going to use lube for that part.” Stark moved around the bed, hands tugging off the tank top he had still been wearing, leaving his body completely naked. Bucky made quick study of his entire backside while Stark reached into the drawer of a nightstand and retrieved a small, unassuming tube. “Get on the bed,” Stark told him then, and Bucky moved from the bench to the mattress, finding it surprisingly firm under his weight. For some reason he had expected to sink right into it.

Stark joined him on the bed, kneeling beside him. His fingers played with the tube of lube in a rhythm that appeared nervous to Bucky.

“How do you want to do this?” Bucky asked, to move things along, and Stark snapped out of it, his fingers stopping to hold onto the tube.

“Roll onto your back,” Stark instructed and gave Bucky’s chest a light shove to get him into position. Bucky didn’t fight it, seeing as things were moving in a mutually desirable direction. He even allowed Stark to tug on his metal arm and lay it out on the bed, his eyes following the other man as Stark opened the tube of lube, squeezed some out onto his fingers, then rubbed the slick substance onto the metal, coating the digit thoroughly.

Capping the tube, Stark tossed it aside and shifted forward so that he was straddling Bucky’s arm. He got the idea but wondered why they were doing it in such a difficult position. Dismissing his concern about the logistics, Bucky shifted his hand and boldly searched between Stark’s legs until he located the soft spot of his asshole and pressed one finger inside.

Stark’s breath caught, his body tensing. Bucky could feel it faintly around his finger – although he was fairly certain the sensation should have been much stronger – and he slowed down a bit, steadily pushing up until the single digit was within the other man’s body as far as it would go.

“This would be easier if I could see what I was doing,” Bucky pointed out.

“Just… stay like that for a moment,” Stark ordered and leaned forward over Bucky’s abdomen. “Fuck,” he murmured, the exhale of the word blowing air over Bucky’s hardening cock. Suddenly the position didn’t seem so bad after all – not when Stark shifted to the side and licked a bold stripe along the throbbing flesh, mouthing his balls briefly before traveling back up, his beard making Bucky’s dick itch for more. When Stark’s fingers moved to circle the base, the feeling was almost familiar from before – just like the first touch of Stark’s lips and tongue, welcoming Bucky’s dick back into his mouth.

Bucky found that he actually had to concentrate; he needed to hold his hand still, but with his hips yearning to buck up and get himself all the way into Stark’s mouth, it was like being pulled by two opposing forces.

Stark sucked him, head moving up and down, getting him to harden the rest of the way. Perhaps the position was better or Stark was getting more into it, because Bucky noticed how his cock sank so much deeper in his mouth, past the rippling, squeezing barrier and into his throat. His eyes fixated on the spread lips and the remaining inch the other man’s fingers massaged before he shifted again and took Bucky all the way in, to the very root.

It made him groan, deep from within his chest. There was no point jerking up because there was no place further that he could go. His thighs felt like cramping as he held his legs still, muscles flexing, eyes unblinking as he watched Stark slowly rise up again and take a steady breath as he got his mouth free of his cock. Brown eyes checked Bucky’s face, a pink tongue licking the wet lips, and then Stark shifted his hips, reminding Bucky of the other thing he was supposed to be doing.

He moved his finger, shifting it inside Stark’s body, and he must have done something that was either very good or very bad because the other man started and moaned.

“Keep doing that,” Stark told him.

Good it was, then.

Bucky kept it up, glad that his metal hand didn’t tire like his real one would have. The strain of the position didn’t affect him and he found sort of a circling motion that worked for them both, the range of motion growing a bit easier after a while. Stark’s hips shifted to meet his finger, his legs spreading a bit wider on the bed, and Bucky shifted his other fingers, angling the middle one to join the forefinger already inside Stark’s ass.

The lube helped, he was sure. Stark hissed at the intrusion and stopped moving, but he didn’t protest. Rationally, Bucky knew that what they were doing was dangerous because he couldn’t really control his strength like this and could turn pleasure into a bloody mess in a matter of seconds.

He kept his fingers pressed together, mimicking that churning motion from before, and Stark was panting soon after, leaning over his crotch and licking and sucking on his cock, not taking it in for several more minutes. Bucky wanted to yank his hair and make him take him to the root like before while he had his fingers inside him, but he still wanted no tooth-marks on his dick and it looked like Stark was having a bit of trouble focusing.

“Fuck, that’s good,” Stark panted into his skin, hips jerking against his hand, grinding down, and Bucky debated adding another finger. He wasn’t sure it was a good idea, though, and slid his free hand to his cock instead, fisting it and tapping it against Stark’s lips, getting him to suck the head.

Bucky was starting to feel his pleasure climbing towards the satisfying end when Stark suddenly pulled off him and moved his hips up, Bucky’s fingers sliding out of him. Stark’s lips tightened as he arched his back and moved his weight to his left buttock, his right leg still stretched over Bucky’s metal arm.

“What?” Bucky asked, a little irritated.

“Nice as they are,” Stark said, nodding towards the metal fingers, “I’m not sure I thought this through.”

“Meaning?” Bucky demanded and kept sliding his right hand along his cock because clearly Stark wasn’t going back to sucking it anytime soon.

Stark’s eyes followed the motion for a bit before he shrugged. “My prostate is going to feel like one giant bruise tomorrow, if you catch my drift.”

“Told you it wasn’t a good idea,” Bucky muttered.

“It was a great idea,” Stark told him snappily. “I would just prefer to stop while it’s still fun.”

Huffing with disappointment, Bucky continued to yank on his cock, trying to bring himself to the finish line faster. Focused on his task and feeling like he had done his part, he didn’t expect Stark to lay a hand on top of his and stop him. With a growl, Bucky glared at him.

Stark had the audacity to raise an eyebrow at him as if Bucky were amusing, somehow, and once again Bucky battled the urge to smash his fist in his face and walk out. “There’s no need to rush,” Stark told him.

“I gave you what you wanted,” Bucky informed him. “I can rush if I want.”

“Or,” Stark said slowly, “we could both take our time and find something mutually enjoyable to wrap this up.”

“Such as?”

A faint purse of lips met his question. It looked like an invitation, although Bucky wasn’t sure he should follow it. “What’s your stance on fucking me?”

Bucky tried not to frown, in case it would betray his confusion. His brain supplied no ghost images to help him figure out what exactly the other meant, but clearly he was supposed to have an opinion and Stark was waiting for his reply. He must have given some kind of reaction, though, because Stark shifted suddenly, getting onto his knees and looking like he was going to leave the bed.

His hand shot out before he could help it, metal fingers squeezing hard around Stark’s upper arm. “I didn’t say no,” he spat out, deciding that even though he didn’t know what was going to happen, he had enjoyed the other things they had done and he could always stop and leave if he didn’t like what came next.

“No, you didn’t,” Stark replied slowly and moved closer to him. His movements were cautious, like he was aware that Bucky was seconds away from either fighting or fleeing – even with the hand still holding onto Stark’s arm, the last of the lubricant making his grip a little slippery and forcing him to squeeze harder to compensate.

Stark slid his left thigh over Bucky’s legs and then inched upwards, straddling his waist. Bucky moved his right hand out of the way, frowning, trying to guess the next part.

“Do you even know what I’m suggesting?” Stark asked, stilling, and gave a quick glance at the metal gripping his arm but not complaining about it yet.

Bucky ground his teeth, not wanting to answer. Not knowing was a weakness and he wasn’t about to give Stark the satisfaction of having a leg up on him, so to speak. Still, his silence was a sufficient answer for the other man, who pursed his lips again; less like an invitation this time, coupled with the crease between his eyebrows. A soft sigh followed – and a slow roll of his hips on top of Bucky’s, his cock trapped between their bodies, delivering some nice friction.

“Ring any bells yet?” Stark asked after a while, his motions becoming deliberate.

Bucky wondered what piece of information he was missing, then ignored the question and focused on rocking his own hips, making the motions a little better, Stark’s skin warm against his. He quickly found certain things worked better than others, and he moved his hands to grab onto Stark’s hips, to move him a little higher, the soft valley of his buttocks a perfect design to give him pleasure.

It clicked, suddenly, like the clip being inserted into a gun. Phantom figures like shadow puppets played in tangled forms against the light switched on in his brain, muffled sounds panting in his ears, rough laughter echoing off the dusty walls…

His dick jerked and his metal hand surged up, taking Stark by the throat and pulling him to the side. He rolled to follow, right arm throbbing with sudden pain as he used it to push Stark’s lower body into the mattress, then sank his weight between his spread legs. Stark gasped, hands rising to the metal arm still holding his throat, and Bucky lessened his hold, letting him breathe.

With Stark preoccupied trying to draw air into his lungs, Bucky took himself in hand and followed the newborn instinct in his mind, guiding his cock to Stark’s ass. He could see the glistening of lube from before, the faint redness on the swollen entrance from his bionic fingers, and he drank in the sight of the first press of his cockhead against it.

He hadn’t felt the muscles before; the hot squeeze around his flesh was maddening, almost making him want to draw back and stick the fingers of his right hand in there, to feel what his metal ones could not. There was a resistance, as if Stark didn’t want him inside after all, and he had to push to get past it.

“Shit,” Stark hissed, a little breathless. Bucky glanced up at him, making sure he wasn’t squeezing his neck too hard. The other man groaned, legs twitching, and as Bucky pushed again, Stark’s body tensed, halting his progress.

“Relax,” Bucky told him. The squeeze around his cock was bordering on painful. He could get off on it, he was sure, but it felt like that wasn’t the point of this exercise.

“Fuck you,” Stark hissed and shifted again, grimacing as he did. “Anyone ever tell you about a thing called ‘prep’, or did it not exist in your day?”

Bucky frowned. “I already had my fingers in there.”

Stark wheezed out a sound that may have been a laugh, and Bucky moved his fingers from his throat, placing the hand against the bed to support his weight as he leaned in a little and tried pushing forward again. He got a bit deeper and closed his eyes as Stark’s body fought against relenting its desperate grip.

“Okay,” Stark finally grunted and shifted his legs a little higher, thighs brushing against Bucky’s sides. One of his hands moved between them to grasp his own cock. “Move,” he told Bucky, who wasn’t sure what had changed but wasn’t about to ask for directions: he inched back, then thrust forward, doing that a few times to wear out the resistance. Pushing harder made Stark let out a strangled groan, like he couldn’t decide if it hurt more than he could take. Stark was a big boy, though: he could decide whether it was too much, and until he did, Bucky was going to keep chasing the tide he felt rising deep inside him, so much better than the last.

It was easy to get lost in it, for a few minutes. He didn’t think of running and hiding, or of his lost identity. He didn’t worry about who James Barnes was, or what he had been – or what would happen when Steve Rogers caught up with him again. All the things that had been troubling him floated away, and while it was dangerous to let his guard down, he felt truly free for the first time in his life. He hadn’t expected to discover such a feeling with another person panting beneath him, and he thought he ought to thank Stark for it.

After a good, solid thrust as deep as he could get, Bucky moved his knees under him and sat up, hands grabbing onto Stark’s hips to drag him along. The motion drew a sharp groan from the other man, but Bucky was already letting his left hand slide from Stark’s hip to his cock, pushing away Stark’s hand and fisting the flesh hard as he started thrusting again.

For all his pained sounds and the way his body still didn’t fully yield to the intrusion, Stark came undone in minutes as Bucky pulled on his cock with the unyielding grip of the metal fingers. Stark twisted and moaned as he got close, then bucked his hips and hissed a sharp ‘yes’ as he came, his ass almost squeezing Bucky’s release right out of him.

As the other man panted, Bucky wiped his stained hand on the covers. His hips yearned to thrust again, to drive him the rest of the way to his completion. He waited, though, as if some part of him knew he should not be hasty. Stark eventually started to relax, inside and out, and Bucky smiled and leaned forward, then started moving again, in and out, sharp and hard, chasing the elusive thread until he seized it and rode it out against the pliant grip of the other man’s body.

Their faces were close to each other when Bucky started to come, Stark’s eyes wide and dark, lips open as he breathed hotly against Bucky’s skin. Bucky knew he could have kissed him – could have gotten away with it – but he groaned loudly instead at the blissful feeling shooting up his spine and dragged his face down, biting down on Stark’s skin at his shoulder.

Stark growled weakly an instant before Bucky tasted copper on his lips. Short nails dug into the back of his neck in warning, and Bucky swiped his tongue across the small wounds on the skin he had inadvertently caused, then sucked on the spot viciously, making Stark squirm and squeeze around his dick for one last time, milking the last of his cum out of him.

“Asshole,” Stark muttered when Bucky pulled back, easing out of his body as gently as he could.

“You’re one to talk,” Bucky shot back and rolled onto the bed beside the other man, steadying his breathing. For the first time since D.C. he felt like he could actually sleep instead of keeping himself half-awake, napping for minutes at a time, ready to jump into action at a moment’s notice. His body felt heavy and relaxed, and the sheets were sinfully soft.

Stark elbowed him before he could drift off, and Bucky’s instinctive reaction was to punch his teeth out for disturbing him. The other man evaded his lazy blow, however, leaning away and scooting to the edge of the bed. “Come on,” he demanded then, giving Bucky’s ankle a firm shake. “Get cleaned up.”

Bucky grunted, unhappy but knowing that he could benefit from a quick wash. As he tried to make up his mind between moving or just lying there on the bed, he heard Stark move around in the bathroom: running water, the quiet sputter of a plastic bottle, and the soft sounds of towel on skin. Said towel soon landed on his face and Bucky sat up, forcing himself up and into the bathroom as Stark padded back to the bed.

The shower stall was spacious. Bucky decided on a shower instead of a quick wash at the sink, to clean himself properly, and briefly considered the elastic tape on his right shoulder. A few pieces had definitely suffered from their latest activities, but most of them were still firmly attached to his skin and he decided to let them be.

Stark had a row of products lined up on several shelves and Bucky went through some of them, sniffing and checking labels. He ended up using body wash that actually smelled quite nice, then rinsed and stepped out of the shower, using the same towel as Stark had. He hung it up to dry inside the bathroom, though, seeing as there was a specific rail for it there, and stepped back into the bedroom.

Half the sheets had been changed while he was in the shower. The old ones were in a heap beside the bench at the end of the bed, waiting for another time to get cleaned. The room was also darker than it had been, lights set on dim, and Stark lay in bed, back to the bathroom door, clearly about to go to sleep.

Bucky could have easily taken himself back to the elevator and down to his own room, but there was a perfectly good bed right here. The sheets, when he ran his hand along them, were just as soft as the last ones. It could be the ones in his room were just as nice, but he wasn’t about to chance it.

Pulling up the edge of the covers nearest to him, he swiftly slid beneath them and onto the bed, finding the space pleasantly warmed by the other body already in there.

“What are you doing?” Stark asked, still awake.

“Going to sleep,” Bucky told him and settled down.

“I gave you a room of your own,” the other man reminded him.

“This bed is closer,” Bucky stated and inched towards the source of the warmth between the sheets. After all, his own bed might be just as nice, but it was missing Stark’s sweaty body, and strangely enough… Bucky knew which he would prefer tonight.

He had never wanted company before – not that he remembered. There had been a sense of safety in solitude, other people being a distraction and a problem he had to deal with, eventually. They slowed him down and if they didn’t serve a purpose, he would rather get rid of them.

A good thing, then, that Stark had been of use to him.

“J.A.R.V.I.S., lights off,” Stark murmured, giving in.

“Yes, sir,” the AI replied and the room went dark around them.

Bucky closed his eyes but remained awake, his mind counting Stark’s breaths and calculating every little shift until the other man stilled, his breathing deepening, and finally he was certain he was asleep. That was when Bucky relaxed, too, and allowed his mind to sink into the blank state of sleep.

to be continued…

...see all art here!

Chapter 5: Breakfast in 10

Bucky stirred to the sounds of a sleepy cough and shifting from beside him. A weight briefly pressed against him before rolling away, as if his bed-partner suddenly remembered he wasn’t alone.

Opening his eyes, he regarded Stark sitting on the edge of the bed, staring at him with a head of tousled hair and a frown already on his face. Whatever puzzle he was working to solve was clearly giving him trouble, and eventually he huffed and stood up, opening the door of the walk-in closet and fishing out a pair of underwear, sweats, and a t-shirt.

“Gonna lie there all day?” Stark asked once he was done dressing.

Bucky rolled onto his back, sat up, and threw the covers to the side, revealing his nude form.

The frown returned to Stark’s face.

“I don’t have any clothes,” Bucky reminded him of his dilemma from last night.

With narrowed eyes, Stark turned and reached back into the closet, then tossed a pair of underwear at Bucky – clearly aiming for his face but landing them on his chest instead. “Breakfast will be ready in ten,” he stated almost angrily and walked out of the room, leaving Bucky to wriggle into his borrowed underwear and use the bathroom.

Bucky debated just leaving when he finished flushing the toilet, but he could smell toasted bread and coffee when he exited the bedroom and turned towards the kitchen area instead, finding Stark browsing through headlines on a wide holographic screen while a coffeemaker hissed in completion on a counter near him. At a glance, the kitchen looked very high tech, and Bucky wondered if most of the functions were automated and controllable by Stark’s AI. He got his answer soon enough:

“The coffee is ready, sir – as is the toast,” J.A.R.V.I.S. informed just as the toaster finished.

Stark hummed in response and turned away from the screen, stepping over to a door at the end of the counter. It looked just like the other modern surfaces, yet it revealed a fridge and not a cupboard. Reaching in, he pulled out several items to make a sandwich, then closed the door again.

Bucky watched as the other poured himself coffee, pulled the pieces of toast out of the toaster, and laid them out on a waiting plate. Instead of going for the butter, cheese, or deli meat, Stark opened a plastic container and pulled out several slices of some kind of green vegetable or fruit and placed them on the toasts. “What the hell is that?” Bucky asked, pointing.

“Never seen an avocado before?” Stark asked, raising an eyebrow. “It’s good for you.”

Scrunching up his nose, Bucky highly doubted it – but he was hungry and so he snatched both pieces of toast, pressed them together with the avocado slices in the middle and took a big bite. It wasn’t tasty, but it was food, and the open-mouthed look Stark gave him was definitely worth it.

“In case you didn’t notice, that was for me,” Stark pointed out finally – simultaneously shifting his coffee cup away from Bucky as if he thought he would go for that next.

“I’m hungry,” Bucky shrugged his shoulder; it was his right one, instantly aching a little in response. “Should have made more,” he said then, finishing chewing and taking another bite, eating mechanically.

“What are you, five?” Stark muttered and turned away from him, getting another two slices of toast from a bag and dropping them in the toaster, pressing down the lever.

Bucky didn’t reply, focused on eating. “I don’t think I like avocado,” he decided finally.

Stark turned his head, scowling at him. “Then why the hell would you steal my food?!” he snapped.

“Why do you eat this?” Bucky asked, dismissing the other man’s attitude.

“I told you why,” Stark deadpanned.

“But you don’t need it,” Bucky motioned at him with what was left of the sandwich, then went on eating it since he was hungry and he wasn’t sure if he was going to be given anything else to eat.

Stark scoffed and looked away, swiftly picking up the new slices of toast as they became ready, making sure to keep the plate and the last of the avocado slices out of Bucky’s reach, as if thinking he wanted more. Still, some of the tension vanished from his shoulders as he registered the half-hearted attempt at a compliment – which Bucky most certainly had no reason to give in the first place.

“I’ll be going down to the shop now,” Stark informed him once he had finished preparing his breakfast. “Don’t come disturbing me again before you’ve found some clothes – and preferably not then, either,” he added, turning towards Bucky with the coffee cup and sandwich plate in his hands. He kept his gaze kept away from Bucky’s left arm, as if he might change his mind if he looked straight at it.

“I don’t have any clean clothes,” Bucky reminded him.

“Then wash the ones you have,” Stark retorted and walked out.

Bucky was fairly certain there was no re-visiting the subject.

- - -

J.A.R.V.I.S. helped him with the washing, telling him where to find the closest washing machine and giving him instructions on how to operate it. The AI made a disapproving sound when Bucky flung all his dirty clothes into the machine at once but did not stop him.

“Some of your clothing might have benefited from being washed separately,” the AI stated one the machine was working and the timer said Bucky had to wait 28 minutes until it was done.

“Don’t care,” Bucky replied, leaning against a wall, feeling mildly cold in just the pair of underwear Stark had thrown at him.

The next 27 minutes went by in silence until the washing machine was done and Bucky opened it, spreading the wet clothes out to dry on available surfaces, seeing as he didn’t see clotheslines anywhere. J.A.R.V.I.S. made a comment that some of his clothes could be put in ‘the dryer’ – which probably was the machine sitting beside the washing machine – but Bucky had never used one before and didn’t see why he needed to now, either.

He had time to kill, again, and he wasn’t sure what to do. Watch the clothes dry?

With pursed lips, Bucky sat on top of a counter, debating his possibilities, which were not many. He could go to his room or wander the halls, but just the same he could stay here until he could put on the clothes and… what then?

He would leave; that was the main goal. His stay at the Avengers Tower had always been meant to be a short one. He had caught up on sleep, cleaned his clothes, and had even stolen a bite to eat.

At the memory of sandwich, his stomach growled. He didn’t often feel hunger, too focused on what he was assigned to do. Right now, he wasn’t assigned to do anything, though, and not for the first time since the events in D.C. did he feel restless and edgy. He was lacking a purpose.

Fleetingly he wondered if everyone else felt like they should have a purpose, or whether it was just him and the things HYDRA had programmed him to do.


His left hand clenched and the countertop gave an ominous crunch as the metal fingers burrowed into it.

He didn’t have a whole lot of memories of that time, but the flashes came and went, like flippant dreams giving him the finger and laughing ominously when he failed to understand them. Like the man on the bridge… He had a name to go with the face, but the name didn’t match the feeling that had stirred within him, brief and feeble.

Bucky didn’t stop to analyze that feeling and what it could be called. It was hardly important to him now, when there was so much more to discover and unearth in order to become his own person.

“Sergeant Barnes,” Stark’s AI suddenly spoke up. “There are new clothes laid out in your room.”

He blinked. “What?”

“New clothes,” J.A.R.V.I.S. repeated.

“I heard that,” he retorted, frowning. “I thought Stark said he wasn’t… whatever he said he wasn’t.”

“Running a thrift store,” the AI supplied helpfully. “He did say that, yes.” It sounded like J.A.R.V.I.S. was leaving something out – like that Stark had decided to gift him clothes after all and had put his AI up to the task of informing him instead of telling Bucky himself. “Mr. Stark would also like to inform you that you can keep the underwear.”

Bucky snorted and felt the right side of his mouth pull up.

He got down from the counter, giving it a brief look. His fingers had ruined it, for sure, but he guessed J.A.R.V.I.S. had already informed Stark about it – or would inform him. The guy was loaded enough to buy a new one.

Deciding that he should seize the opportunity and check out his new clothes while Stark was in a charitable mood, he wandered out into the hall and into the stairwell, going back to his own room. Like before, he didn’t meet a single person on the way there. It was as if the top floors were completely deserted.

When he entered his small room – still much bigger than a broom closet, but small in comparison to Stark’s quarters – he found clothes neatly laid out on the bed. Someone must have come in, although Bucky hadn’t seen as much as a cleaning lady in the halls. He was also fairly certain J.A.R.V.I.S. was just a voice coming from the walls and not a physical being. That left Stark himself, or a very stealthy member of his staff.

Bucky picked at the clothes. They were nothing special, but that was the idea: he would blend in; a pair of jeans, a hoodie, t-shirt, simple boxers and socks. He felt the boxers, just for the hell of it, and decided to stick to the pair he was wearing. Say what you will about the eccentric tastes of rich people, but he rather liked the material of Stark’s underwear.

He got dressed in his new clothes, finding that they all fit him, and put the extra pair of underwear into a worn bag he had found.

“Is there more breakfast available somewhere?” he asked then, feeling like he could eat some more.

“There are ingredients on the common floor,” J.A.R.V.I.S. replied promptly.

“Lead the way,” Bucky accepted and followed J.A.R.V.I.S.’s verbal guidance a few floors down, to an area he imagined could be the center of the Avengers’ daily routines if they ever chose to stay here. As promised, there was food in the kitchen, and he helped himself to it generously. His brief freedom had taught him to be self-reliant and opportunistic, so he was going to take anything Stark was willing to provide.

The thought halted him as his mind jumped back to last night and the memory of what, exactly, Stark had provided for him. It made him feel oddly warm in places that had never been necessary before, and he smiled a bit as he dug into the stack of waffles he had discovered in the fridge.

to be continued…

Chapter 6: Routine Maintenance

After eating in the common floor kitchen, Bucky looked at the time, decided his original clothes were still drying, and chose to go and see what Stark was doing, even though the other man had strongly implied his desire to be left alone. Bucky wasn’t sure whether or not to take that personally. He didn’t really care either way.

The workshop walls were a transparent barrier between two worlds when he approached; the holographic screens that Stark seemed extremely fond of decorated the air. From where Bucky was watching, most of them seemed to blend together into incomprehensible combinations that were not quite art, but would probably pass for some if the right person looked at them.

Bucky didn’t knock on the glass. He waited, instead, watching Stark move in the midst of his screens, gesturing with hands like an eloquent puppet-master. The screens changed without being directly touched, and Bucky found himself staring, like watching an exotic wild animal in a zoo. For Stark, this was no cage, however; he was going about his business in his natural habitat, by the looks of it.

Minutes ticked by, and it must have been some kind of countdown because eventually Stark stilled, shifted his eyes to look directly at Bucky, and talked to him over the speakers: “What do you want?”

“I was wondering if I would need to get naked again for you to notice me,” he replied – not that he had wondered it. The words made Stark frown, though – and the workshop door unlock.

Bucky knew an invitation when he saw one and moved to the door, stepping through as it slid open.

“What do you want?” Stark asked again.

Bucky shrugged one shoulder – the taped one, because the metal arm, as firmly as it was connected to him, rarely felt like a natural extension of himself.

As always, Stark’s eyes began straying to his metal limb, and Bucky got an idea. He lifted his left hand and wriggled the fingers. Stark’s eyes widened like saucers as if he could no longer look at them without remembering how they felt around his dick – or in other places. “You should clean this up,” he informed the other man. There was no need to elaborate on how it may have gotten dirty, and in what way.

Stark didn’t blush or stammer; he was completely at ease with the idea, by the looks of it, and nodded approvingly. It made Bucky wonder if he had ever wanted to do those things with one of his suits – or was going to, now that he had gotten a taste of it. “Sure. I wouldn’t mind taking another look at it while I’m at it,” Stark mused.

Bucky didn’t protest. He didn’t particularly like the idea of someone touching his arm, but so far Stark hadn’t tried to trick him, hurt him, or use him, and Bucky felt like Stark was handling him like something precious and intriguing that he wanted to preserve and study. Well, his metal arm, at least.

Once again Bucky sat down on a stool while Stark sat on another. There was no comment about Bucky wearing his new clothes or what had transpired less than a day ago in this very same room. Bucky’s mind didn’t get distracted by it, either; it was a pleasant memory, but he was occupied watching Stark fetch tools – some familiar, some new – before settling down and directing some of the lights so he could see better.

“Lay your forearm on that table,” Stark instructed, and Bucky did, adjusting his stool height a little to make it the perfect height.

Stark rolled over, looking at his arm, then rolled away and fetched a pair of glasses from another table. He slid them on and rolled back, eyes already trained on Bucky’s arm. He went to work briskly and thoroughly, with tools he may have used to clean up his armor. It was slow and very effective, getting into every little groove, with pressured air and what looked like water but smelled a little different, and various tools designed just for this by the feel of it.

Bucky kept an eye on the progress, moving his arm whenever Stark told him to, but in the end he began looking at Stark himself, relaxing as the other worked and there was not even a single hint of pain from the procedure.

The glasses, he noticed, looked a lot like normal glasses; he hadn’t noticed Stark wearing a pair before, so he didn’t think his eyesight was bad. His eyes looked larger through the lenses, which led Bucky to imagine they had a magnifying effect. It also looked like tiny flickers of color danced across the lenses, so perhaps the glasses worked like one of Tony’s holographic screens, giving him additional information on what he was doing, seeing as he didn’t actively talk to J.A.R.V.I.S.

Stark’s hands were firm yet gentle as he worked, not tugging or forcibly pulling as he coerced Bucky to move nonverbally. He didn’t stop or hesitate, and his fingers always found the right tool on the table beside him. His expression was one of concentration, without any tension, relaxing into the calm, efficient pace faster than Bucky did.

Truthfully, it was the best maintenance Bucky could remember. Hell, he didn’t have to remember – he knew it in his gut.

After cleaning every square inch of his arm, Stark moved onto more intrusive work. Still there was no pain, no haste, like Stark was truly enjoying this and taking pride in his ability to do this for Bucky, even when he was clearly doing it for his own benefit, too.

When Stark was digging in, lifting the surface panels and poking in with various tools, he occasionally asked Bucky if he could feel something – pain, tension or tickling. One-word answers were usually fine, or just grunting. It wasn’t that Bucky didn’t want to participate, he just wasn’t sure if he was supposed to be a part of this phase, even when the arm was part of his body. Maybe this was the first time the person working on his arm wanted his input.

“Okay,” Stark said, many hours after Bucky’s laundry had dried and normal people would have paused to eat, drink or go to the bathroom, “I think we’re done here.”

Bucky sat up and rolled his arm. It wasn’t a huge difference to how it had been before, but the change was for the better. “Thanks,” he offered.

“No problem,” Stark nodded and rolled back, taking off his glasses and putting away some of the tools before moving over to a small fridge and pulling out a bottle of water. There were various drinks inside, Bucky could see, and he perked up a bit.

“Could I have a beer?” he asked.

Stark gave him a look, then opened the door again and grabbed a bottle, tossing it to him. Bucky caught it, metal and glass clinking together when he used both hands to secure the bottle, his newly cleaned fingers easily prying the top off. Stark watched with poorly concealed fascination.

Bucky tasted the beer, finding it acceptable, and Stark veered away, continuing with his previous project by the looks of it, summoning up several screens and babbling to J.A.R.V.I.S. in ever-increasing tempo as he went. It was fascinating, to be there and watch him, seeing as Stark seemed to have completely forgotten Bucky was there. Maybe working on his arm made Stark feel like Bucky didn’t exist, as a person, but only a hunk of meat attached to the piece of tech he liked.

Seeing as he was content to sit there and drink his beer, Bucky didn’t hurry to remind Stark that there was another person in the room.

to be continued…


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