As it turned out, waking up with a sleeping Tony Stark next to you was just as wonderful as Steve had thought it would be. Better still, it was a sleeping Tony Stark with an equally asleep Peter in his arms. He had guessed that the little boy would wake up in the night again – if he woke up once, it was likely to happen a million times, after all – but he hadn't heard him calling, or even come into the room. He seemed completely content, resting in Tony's arms between them, so Steve wasn't too worried.
Lying back on his side, he settled in to watch them sleep for a while, not knowing when he might next get the chance. Half an hour passed before Peter began to stir, little face scrunching up as he snuffled himself into consciousness, and Steve was smiling helplessly by the time his eyes fluttered open.
“Hey, little man,” he whispered, opening his arms for the little boy to wiggle into. Without much effort, he rolled them both so Peter was laying on top of him, tummy to tummy. “What're you doing in here, huh?”
“I waked up 'n Iron Man's arm came'd off,” Peter told him seriously, digging around until he found the toy. Steve couldn't help but laugh softly at the bad duct-tape job on one of the arms. “Tony made 'um better.”
“He sure did,” he agreed. “Did you wake him up to do it?”
“He felled outta bed.”
“I thought so,” he chuckled, because only a Tony half asleep could have managed something like this.
“Den he said you wuz habin' uh sleepober 'n we felled 'sleep here,” Peter explained, fiddling with his toy. “Why y'habin uh sleepober, Papa?”
“Well... Tony was sleepy after reading your story, and he was closer to my bedroom than going all the way up to his,” he replied truthfully, though his throat suddenly felt a little constricted. “Do you understand?”
“Uh-huh,” Peter nodded, and then he yawned. “Tony can do sleepobers in my woom, too.”
“I'm sure he'd love that, baby,” Steve smiled, heart melting a little.
“Love what?” came a sleepy mumble from beside them, and Steve's heart melted yet further as he met Tony's gorgeous, half lidded eyes.
“Sleepober in m'woom,” Peter told him, resting his head against Steve's bare chest. “Pwees?”
“Sure, I could go for a sleepover,” the genius agreed easily, and, if possible, Steve fell a little more in love with him for it. He frowned a little, however, when the man's eyes took on a bit of a manic quality as he grinned. “Oh my God, Steve, we could build a fort. Please, Steve, please can we build a fort? We'll make it super safe, and we'll even invite stupid Barton inside if you really want, and -”
“Whassa fort? Papa, fort? Papa, Papa, Papa -”
“All right, all right, boys, calm down,” Steve laughed, squirming as Tony rolled towards them and tried to climb on top of him – Peter smushed between them, and giggling like a maniac. “We can build a fort later, okay? JARVIS, can you help Peter to the communal kitchen? Thor and Bruce should be in there by now. Me and Tony will be there in a minute, okay?”
“'kay,” Peter nodded, and allowed Steve to kiss him on the very tip of his nose before he slid sideways and clambered off the bed.
“Should I be worried?” Tony asked quietly as they watched Peter leave. “Usually, I'd be all for being alone and half naked with you in a bed, but this seems a little ominous, and -”
Steve shut him up with a sweet, gentle kiss, and found it was quickly becoming his favourite way to stop the genius from talking.
“Good morning,” he whispered, smiling at the brunet's dazed expression when he pulled away a bit.
Tony hummed in agreement as a dopey smile spread across his face. “The absolute best morning from where I'm sitting.”
“Sweet-talker,” Steve told him, and then indulged him in another kiss just because he could. “I just... can we talk? I feel like we need to talk before...this happens.”
“Sure,” Tony replied a little hoarsely, swallowing around what Steve realised was a lump of anxiety in his throat. “I'd prefer to keep kissing, but talking is good. We can... talk away, sure – let's... let's talk. Did you know that kissing releases endorphins in the brain that -”
“Tony,” Steve laughed, pulling Tony forwards to hug him close. “It's okay. This will only take a minute, and then we can go back to kissing. I just want to make sure we're both on the same page, is all.”
“We're both in our underwear in your bed. I think we're on the same page -”
“I'm serious about this, Tony,” he sighed. “I don't have the most experience when it comes to relationships, and it's not just me anymore. I have Peter to think about, too, and I can't... I can't let him get close to someone that's going to break his heart as well as mine. I hate to say it, but... he will always come first.”
“I know,” Tony replied quietly. “I don't – I would never expect anything else; you know that, right? I'll admit, I was a little jealous when he first arrived, but I... I love Peter. Kid's the single most adorable thing I've ever seen, Steve – it's crazy. You know I'm not totally okay with being relied on by anyone like that, but... I love you, Steve, and I want to be with you. If Peter is part of your package, I think... I think I can be what he needs me to be.”
“That's all I need to hear,” Steve whispered, not trusting his voice not to shake. “That's all I'll ever need from you, Tony; a promise to try.”
“I promise,” Tony nodded against his chest. “That might not always be enough, though, Steve; what if -”
“Hey,” Steve cut him off gently, using a finger to gently tilt his head up. “It's enough for me and Peter.”
When Tony finally gave him a little, jerky nod, he smiled – content, for now, that they both wanted the same thing.
“I love you,” he whispered, delighting in feeling a little shiver run through Tony's body as he leaned in close. “I can't believe I can finally say it.”
“Sap,” Tony managed, albeit weakly, as his eyes focused on Steve's lips.
“Sap who loves you, Tony Stark,” he retorted, smiling as he finally captured the man's lips.
“I have a heart condition, y'know,” Tony mumbled against his lips. “You can't keep saying stuff like that.”
“I'll say it as many times as it takes,” he replied, leaning in to lightly worry the man's bottom lip between his teeth.
“Jesus, please tell me this is happening now,” Tony groaned, rolling them until he was hovering over Steve.
“It's happening,” he nodded, capturing the man's lips again whilst simultaneously rolling his body up to meet Tony's.
They didn't speak for a while after that.
They decided not to tell the team. At least, not until they'd got themselves and Peter used to the idea. It was going to be bad enough trying to explain to a three year old that there was another man in Steve's life, never mind a bunch of gossipy superheroes.
“So, how's it feel to pop your cherry?” Tony asked, with no hint of sarcasm whatsoever, as Steve gently towel dried the man's hair.
He'd let that bit of information slip just before the main event. It wasn't for want of trying, of course, but he'd just... not had time. Tony had been surprisingly supportive about it all – the loveable fool must have asked him at least four times if Steve was really sure it was what he wanted – and, if he did say so himself, the end product had been pretty spectacular. They'd only talked a little more afterwards, and then showered (together, which Steve found he liked very much).
“I don't really feel any different,” he shrugged, then grinned when Tony pouted. “I'm glad I waited, though.”
“Jesus, you're like a living after school special,” the genius muttered, then caught Steve's arm as he went to dry the side of his head. “It was... it was good, though, right? You enjoyed it? I didn't hurt you -”
“It was perfect,” Steve told him, leaning down for a quick kiss.
“If I'd known in advance, I would have... with the flower petals, and probably some candles, and -”
“Tony,” he shushed, gently sweeping the man's damp bangs off his forehead. “I don't need any of that stuff. You're all I need.”
“You're sure -?”
Steve cut him off in his new favourite way, and spent a few moments just exploring the roof of the genius' mouth with his tongue. When he pulled away, Tony was, as he had intended, too dazed to speak.
“I'm sure,” he confirmed, continuing to dry the man's hair. “Now, what are we going to do about your clothes? I could run up to your floor and grab you some -”
“Nah, don't be silly,” Tony rolled his eyes. “I'll just borrow one of your shirts.”
“Oh,” Steve grinned, actually really liking that idea. “Okay.”
Tony just rolled his eyes again as he got to his feet to go fish out his pants from the previous day. “Stop being a sap and go find a shirt that won't bury me.”
“Yes, Sir,” Steve nodded, still grinning as he wandered over to his wardrobe. He dressed himself quickly in a pair of worn jeans and a white t-shirt, then spent a few minutes looking through his shirts for Tony – considering what he would look good in just as much as what might fit.
He decided on a long sleeved, forest green button down that he didn't think he'd ever actually worn, but looked small enough to maybe fit the genius. Happy with his choice, he carried it back out to Tony and bent down to press a soft kiss between the man's shoulder blades before he helped slide the shirt up his arms.
“Ready?” he asked once they were both dressed and presentable.
“Please – I was born ready,” Tony replied, wrapping his arms around Steve's waist easily. “Are you ready? Will you be able to keep your hands off me for such a long stretch of time?”
“I've been restraining myself for weeks,” Steve told him with a smile. “I'm sure I'll manage an hour or so for breakfast.”
“After having had this body all over you? No, Steve, sweetie, you think you can handle it, but you can't. An all-consuming lust is going to creep up on you, and -”
Steve was laughing as he kissed the man, once again silencing him.
“Y'know, this kissing me quiet thing would be a problem if I didn't enjoy it so much,” the brunet grumbled, and Steve pecked his lips again just to prove a point.
They held hands as they made their way to the elevator – something that Tony whined about, but he didn't let go – and Steve made sure to kiss him as many times as he had the time for as they rose to the communal floor, so that, by the time the doors opened again, they were both slightly short of breath.
“I love you,” he grinned, still not over the flutter of excitement that lit up his chest at being able to finally say it out loud.
“Dork,” Tony mumbled, but it was with a goofy smile, so Steve didn't take it to heart.
The genius headed out onto the communal floor first while Steve loitered around the elevator so they wouldn't get caught arriving together and arouse suspicion. It might have been a little over the top, but he couldn't help but want to keep Tony to himself for a little longer before they let everyone else know.
He decided five minutes was long enough for Tony to settle himself at breakfast, and followed him in – whistling jovially to himself until he entered the kitchen, where he promptly froze in the doorway.
Everyone was there. Hell, Tony was even fawning over Lieutenant Colonel Rhodes, who Steve hadn't known would be paying a visit. It was unusual to find all the Avengers at breakfast together; they all had such different schedules that they tended to eat on the move, but even Clint had dragged himself out of bed this morning.
“Did somebody call for a team meeting?” he asked, momentarily worried that, in his newly love-drunk state, he had forgotten.
“No, but Pete over there was telling me all about your, and I quote, 'nakey sleepover with Tony' last night, and... well. News travels fast,” Sam replied, grinning mischievously as Steve felt his cheeks begin to heat.
So much for not telling the team.
“We had underwear on,” he grumbled, re-situating Peter onto his lap so he could sit down.
“Nope, nuh-uh, gonna need more information than that,” Clint shook his head, practically bristling with glee. “Did you finally do the do?”
“Can you please not say things like that in front of Peter?” he sighed as Tony seemed to choke on his own spit beside him.
“Don't you have anything better to do with your time other than enquiring about our -” Tony leaned over and covered Peter's ears, “- sex lives?”
The team paused, glancing at each other, and then, in unison, replied, “Nope.”
“Hey, don't look at me,” Rhodey put his hands up when Tony turned to glare at him. “I just had a couple spare days and thought I'd finally come meet the guy you can't stop talking about -”
“That's enough out of you,” Tony cut in smoothly, covering the man's mouth with his hand. “Just sit and bask in my presence like usual, stud muffin.”
Rhodey rolled his eyes, but ultimately sat back and kept quiet. Steve noticed the man kept glancing over at him – obviously watching for a sign that he was hurting Tony in any way – and he found himself actually feeling quite glad about that. Tony didn't usually have many people fighting in his corner, and Steve could see himself becoming very fast friends with the Lieutenant Colonel because they, ultimately, wanted the same thing – for Tony to be happy and loved.
“We still haven't answered the most important question, though,” Clint pressed, and Steve sighed, covering Peter's ears pre-emptively. “Did you guys touch wieners? Is this just a wiener touching situation, or -”
“You've been betting on it, haven't you?” Tony sighed, running a hand over his face.
“You guys are dicks -”
“Can we please watch our language around the breakfast table?” Steve insisted, kissing the crown of Peter's head. “There are very impressionable ears in range.”
“Sorry,” Tony replied, leaning over to – obviously, without thinking – kiss him softly on the lips.
A moment of utter silence rang around the room as the brunet pulled away again, then -
“Well, there it is. Pay up, boys,” Natasha was the first to crow, and then the whole room erupted into whines and groaning.
While everyone else was arguing over money, Steve turned to focus on little Peter, who had an uncharacteristic frown on his face.
“What's wrong, sweetheart?” he asked, fearing the worst. What if Peter didn't like the direction Steve and Tony's relationship had gone in? The little boy was his number one priority, after all, and he honestly didn't know what he'd do if Peter didn't approve.
It turned out his worrying was for nothing, though, because Peter just looked between him and Tony, who had somehow managed to get caught up in the arguing over money, and just asked, “Where're my kissies?”
Laughing aloud in relief, he lifted the little boy straight over his head, angling him so his face was within kissing range so he could smother the giggling toddler in them. After a moment, Tony leaned over and joined in until they were all grinning, giggling messes.
“Jesus fucking Christ.”
“Clint!” Steve snapped, pulling away to glare at the archer. “What did I just say about your language?”
“Sorry,” Clint mumbled, staring down at his bowl of oatmeal as he handed a wad of cash over to Natasha.
“Time out, Unca Cwint!” Peter called, accentuating his command by pointing towards the door.
Clint glanced at Steve, obviously looking for validation that the little boy was just playing around, but he held firm. After Peter's first temper tantrum, they'd set up the time out system pretty quickly, and it seemed to be doing its job, because they hadn't had a repeat performance since. From Peter, at least.
“You're not serious, right?” the archer asked, and Steve shrugged.
“This is your third warning,” he replied.
“But that's not fair! Tony was doing it, too, and I'd have to sit on the naughty chair for thirty five minutes -”
“You should have thought about that before you used bad words,” Bruce chipped in, rolling his eyes. “You're a grown man, Clint.”
“Exactly!” Clint whined, even as he got to his feet. “Peter only has to do three minutes!”
“It'll be double time if you keep whining,” Steve told him, and grinned as the archer ran out of the room before he said anything else to offend.
“Now I see why Tony likes having you guys around,” Rhodey sighed. “You're all fruit loops.”
After breakfast had finished (and Clint had served his time on the naughty chair), everyone went their separate ways. From what he could tell, aside from some friendly jibes, the rest of the team were just relieved that he and Tony had finally gotten their acts together, which was a relief, and Peter was fine with it – with what he understood, anyway, and Steve wasn't sure how much that actually was.
He had been prepared for Tony to go play with Rhodey in the workshop – he didn't see the man very often, after all – but, instead, the Lieutenant Colonel decided to pay Pepper a visit (no doubt to tell her all about Steve and Tony's change in relationship), so Tony suggested they take a trip to the park with Peter.
“The restraining order went through, right?” he asked. “It'll be great – we can get the kid his first questionable vendor hot dog, maybe stop for ice-cream -”
“Is this your way of asking me on a date?” Steve grinned.
“No, I... is it working?”
“It sounds wonderful,” he replied, leaning in for a kiss, and then he called, “Peter? Go get dressed, buddy; we're going to the park.”
They both grinned when an excited squeal filtered through to the kitchen from the living room, followed by the pattering of little feet racing across the room.
“Be careful!” he called again, then turned back to Tony. “When he starts kicking and screaming because it's time to come back, you're dragging his scrawny little body home, y'hear?”
“That seems marginally unreasonable. We can just wait until he starts to fall asleep mid-afternoon, and then there'll be no struggle -”
The genius was still attempting to finish his sentence when Steve covered his mouth with his own, and he grinned into the man's mouth when he let out a little indignant huff before kissing back with gusto.
“All this time, the only thing I needed to do to win an argument was kiss you,” he was still grinning as he pulled away, and gently brushed his thumb over Tony's bottom lip. “I've found your kryptonite, Stark.”
“You're my kryptonite, doofus,” Tony mumbled under his breath, and Steve laughed happily.
When Peter appeared around twenty minutes later, it was obvious he'd tried to dress himself. To be fair, the kid hadn't done that bad a job of it – he'd managed to get the clothes on, after all, and even match them to a certain degree – but his Black Widow t-shirt was on backwards, and tucked into his underwear. It looked like his shoes were also on the wrong feet, which meant he wobbled a little as he walked.
“Good try, sweetie,” he praised the boy as he righted his shirt and shoes. “You got your pants and Pull-Ups on just right, too!”
“Can we goooo?” Peter whined, squirming back into his t-shirt when Steve pulled it over his head.
“Sure can,” he nodded, and grinned when the little boy threw his arms up excitedly to be picked up.
Tony insisted that they have Happy drive them to the park – which, with the laughably conspicuous number of people with cameras wandering around outside the tower, was probably a good idea – and they arrived in no time.
“Go, run, be free, child,” Tony laughed, letting go of Peter's hand so he could go toddling over to a family of ducks by the lake.
“Just be careful near the water, okay?” Steve called after him, but was pretty sure the little boy wasn't listening as he happily chased the birds around. “We should've brought some bread for him to feed them.”
“Pretty sure you're not allowed to feed the ducks, actually,” Tony grimaced sympathetically as they took a seat on a bench nearby.
“What? That's crazy! My mom used to bring me to feed the ducks all the time!”
“Steve, your old man is showing,” the genius smiled softly, and Steve found himself pouting in spite of himself.
“If anyone's the old man in this relationship, Stark, it's you,” he huffed, then frowned in concern when the genius' expression blanked over for a moment. “What? Are you okay?”
“We're in a relationship, huh?” Tony whispered, the beginnings of a smile spreading across his face.
“Well, I thought I made it clear that that's what I wanted, but if I didn't -”
“No, no, it's what I want, too,” the genius cut him off, and quickly took his hand in both of his. “It's just strange to hear it, after wanting it so long. It's... I like it.”
“Oh,” Steve replied intelligently, then smiled as he leaned forwards to press a kiss to the man's lips. “I'm glad.”
“You know,” Tony mumbled against his lips, “that the paparazzi are probably lurking in bushes with their long distance lenses, right? They can't take photos or come within fifty feet of Peter, sure, but that won't stop them snapping us.”
“I don't care,” Steve replied decisively, but then pulled back again as a thought hit him. “Do... do you care?”
“After you showing that photo of me and Peter on Ellen – which I went back and watched, by the way, and you were great – I don't think there's a person alive that doesn't already know,” he shrugged, smiling. “Pepper seems to be under the impression it was some kind of love letter – sounded like she was tearing up a little when she called me – but... no, I don't care. Kinda like it, actually.”
Steve knew what he meant. He liked the idea of being able to show the genius off to the world as his, too. They really were very similar people.
“Good,” he whispered, leaning in close. “Let's give them a show, then, huh?”
Tony shivered a little against his body when he pulled him close and kissed him senseless. They were in quite a secluded spot, thank God, but Steve made sure to make their kiss a spectacular public display of affection anyway. He just couldn't help himself – he would probably never get over the fact that he could kiss Tony, any place, any time, and not only not get sent to prison for it, but know that Tony loved him back.
“Did I tell you about my heart condition?” the brunet panted. “'Cos you're killing me, here.”
“You love it,” Steve replied, pecking him on the lips again.
“Love you,” was the mumbled reply, and they both reluctantly pulled away when Peter came running up to them, cheeks ever rosier than usual from the exertion, and a Cheshire cat grin on his little face.
“Need help,” he told them, face becoming serious. “Duh duckie got losted.”
He turned and pointed, bringing to light the tiny duckling with a deformed foot at the pond's edge. The little thing was cheeping weakly in distress, and, as he scanned the scenic view in front of him, Steve realised that its mother and siblings were already halfway to the embankment at the other side of the pond.
“Her mama's gone, Papa!” Peter squealed, toddling back over to the duckling. “Come back, duckie!”
“Jesus, your kid's giving me diabetes,” Tony muttered, getting to his feet. “I got this. Peter, be careful with her, kiddo!”
Steve watched with a smile on his face as the genius jogged over to the little boy, who was crouched down next to the duckling. After a moment of watching them together, he reached into his bag and pulled out a sketchbook and pencil case. It didn't take him long to get lost in the drawing, occasionally glancing up to catch the look of wonder on Peter's face as they tried to usher the duckling into the water, and the little slither of Tony's tongue peeking out as he concentrated on not tripping over boy and duckling alike.
“I think we're gonna have to carry her round the long way and drop her off at the other side, buddy,” he heard Tony sigh, and glanced up to watch them. Carefully, so to not scare the little thing, Tony ducked down and scooped the duckling up gently to sit in the cup he had made out of his hands.
“Can I hol' her?” Peter asked, peering up into Tony's hands in awe.
“Uh, okay,” Tony nodded, grimacing a little, “but you've got to be really careful, all right? You can't drop her, Peter, and you have to watch her leg.”
Slowly, the genius transferred the duckling into Peter's cupped hands. The little boy was much too small to be carrying her – she was bigger than his hands put together – but he gripped her carefully around the middle so she didn't fall, and followed along behind Tony as he made his way around the pond to the opposite bank.
Steve jerked, breath leaving him in a rush as the voice that had just spoken resonated in his head. Chest constricting almost painfully, because he must be dreaming, he had to be, he swallowed thickly and slowly turned his head to the left. Where Tony had been sitting, now sat -
“Buck,” he whispered, blinking rapidly to both bat away tears and ensure the sight before him was real. “You're... are you okay?”
Bucky shrugged with one shoulder, his real one, and refused to look at him.
“We... we looked for you,” he continued, because he wanted that point to be made very clear. “I tried to find you, I -”
“Didn't want to be found,” the man replied softly, fiddling with a rip in his tattered jeans.
“Oh.” Steve didn't know what to make of that. He swallowed thickly again. “Where... where did you go?”
“Had some stuff to figure out,” he replied. “Some things to learn.”
“And are you...” Steve had to clear his throat before he continued, barely suppressing the urge to reach out and draw the man into his arms for a fierce hug. “Do you remember...?”
Bucky shook his head sadly, and Steve let out a shaky, disappointed breath. “I was told stories, read some files, but... that's all they are. I know they're true, but I don't remember them.”
“Well, that's... it's a start,” Steve told him, trying for reassuring, but he was more than aware of how desperate he sounded. “That's good, Buck -”
“I don't remember you,” the brunet whispered, and Steve's words clogged in his throat. “You were my mission, but... I didn't kill you.” When he turned to him, his eyes were shining with a burning, child-like confusion that Steve had seen in Peter's eyes, too. “Why couldn't I kill you?”
“Because,” Steve sniffed, eyes burning with unshed tears, “you're my best friend, Buck. You're my brother -”
“You're my mission,” the man repeated stubbornly, but he still looked confused, “and you wouldn't fight back.”
“Because you're not my enemy, Buck,” he told him firmly, “and I... I didn't give up on you, y'know? I just... I just couldn't find you, and then...”
He looked up, wiping the tears from his eyes, and stared out across the pond to watch Tony and Peter for a few moments while he collected himself. They looked so happy, so carefree, and he couldn't help but smile just a little as he watched them trying to get the mother duck to take its baby back.
“Cute kid,” Bucky grunted, and Steve smiled proudly.
“Yeah, he is,” he nodded. “He's my son, Buck.”
He didn't even think about the consequences of telling the man that – knew, with all his heart, that Bucky wouldn't hurt Peter. If he was still the Winter Soldier, he wouldn't have stopped to talk in the first place. Sure, he wasn't quite Steve's Bucky, but he was getting there.
“Are you... coming home?” he asked quietly, and his heart sank when the brunet shook his head. “Buck -”
“I'm not done yet,” the man sighed, cutting him off. “There are things I still need to know. People I still need to find.”
Steve understood, of course he did. Bucky needed that sense of closure, and that was perfectly fine. That didn't mean it didn't hurt, though.
“Then can I... will you at least stay in touch?” he asked quietly. “I hate not knowing if you're okay.”
Bucky looked confused by the mere concept of Steve caring about him, but took a deep breath, and then nodded. Shoving his metal arm into a pocket, he rummaged until he pulled out a small, cheap looking phone.
“We can exchange phone numbers,” he muttered, navigating the phone like a pro. “Here.”
He handed it over and Steve quickly keyed in his number, followed by keying Bucky's number into his phone, and then handed it back. He stared at the little digits for a few moments, unable to believe that his best friend, after so much time, was now just a phone call away.
“I have to go,” Bucky mumbled, and Steve looked up, heart constricting.
“Really?” he asked. “You can't stay just a little longer? Have you been eating properly? We were going to get hot-dogs – I could get you one, too -”
“I really have to go,” the man reiterated, getting to his feet. In a last ditch effort to get him to stay, Steve stood up, too, and, probably unwisely, grabbed Bucky around the shoulders and hugged him tight.
“I miss you,” he whispered against the brunet's shoulder. Bucky didn't hug him back, but he didn't throw him off, either, so that was okay. “Just... you can come back, okay? Any time, Buck. I'm sure Tony would let you move in in a heartbeat.”
Bucky sighed deeply, and Steve knew he was being pathetic, and needy, but he couldn't help it. Bucky was here, right in front of him, and he just couldn't help himself.
“If you're not my mission...” the man whispered, and Steve's breath hitched. “What are you?”
“I'm...” he swallowed around the lump in his throat, and, for once, thought about trying to put it into words that this Bucky would understand. “I'm an ally.”
Bucky seemed to freeze in his arms, and then slowly lifted his arms and wrapped them gingerly around Steve's middle. Choking on a sob, Steve hugged him back harder, and when the brunet dropped his arms again, he felt strong enough to do the same.
“Love you, jerk,” he whispered, the ghost of a smile on his face. After a moment of quiet contemplation, Bucky whispered, “Punk,” and he choked on a new set of tears, because he remembered at least that much.
Before he could ask Bucky what else he remembered, Tony's quiet, unsure voice cut through their moment, and he turned to them. The genius had Peter – who was still holding that damn duckling – behind him, and had taken up a protective stance as he eyed Bucky warily.
“Is everything okay?” he asked calmly, but Steve could see the fear in his eyes. With the knowledge that the man in front of him had killed his parents, Steve couldn't really blame him.
“Everything's fine,” he reassured, at the same time that Bucky murmured, “I should go.”
He turned to the man, hoping for a goodbye at least, but he was already slinking away, back into the trees and out of sight.
“Steve?” Tony asked softly.
“I'm – I'm...” But the truth was, Steve didn't know how to feel, so when Tony moved forwards to steer him back to the bench, he went willingly, vaguely aware that he was swaying a little on the spot.
“Just sit down and take some deep breaths, okay?” the brunet told him. “Hey, Pete? Why don't you go play with the duckling on the grass for a couple minutes, 'kay?”
“I'll get your hot-dog, I promise.”
Steve didn't know if the little boy had done as he was told, because tears were blinding his vision. Tony was there in the next second, though, wrapping him up in his arms and holding him close against his chest, and he found he could breathe a little better again.
“Did... did he hurt you?” the genius whispered, and Steve took a deep breath, shaking his head. “Good. That's... good.”
“I just wanted him to come home,” he replied, sniffing back yet more tears, “but he has stuff to do first.”
“It'll be okay, baby,” Tony breathed, leaning down to press a feather-light kiss to his forehead. “He'll figure it out. It's okay.”
After a moment, Steve reached out and wrapped his arms around Tony's middle. “Thank you,” he whispered, meaning every word. “Thank you for being so understanding.”
“We all have stuff, Steve,” the brunet replied, running a soothing hand through his hair. “You more than most. It's nothing to be ashamed of if it blind-sides you.”
“Okay,” he sighed, taking a deep breath as he sat up properly. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” Tony replied without hesitating, but he still looked worried. “Are you okay?”
“No,” Steve replied honestly, looking over to where Peter was gently stroking the sleeping duckling's beak where it had perched on his lap, “but I will be.”
“All right.” Tony didn't seem totally convinced, but he obviously decided to let it go as he leaned in for a soft, reassuring kiss. “I gotta go get the kid a hot-dog.”
Steve laughed softly, and wiped the tears away from his eyes. “I don't know about you, but I'm pretty hungry, too. Let's all go.”
“Great,” Tony smiled, clambering to his feet. “Oh, and, uh, I don't think we'll be leaving without that duckling. They've imprinted on each other.”
Steve just sighed. “Well, it's not like the tower could get any more crazy.”