There's An App For That

Author's Note: Quicky fic. This was supposed to be humorous crack, but my feels got in the way.


“He went on what?!” Tony’s voice sounded strangled and had gone up at least an octave, and his eyes were wide with shock. Jarvis, naturally, had sounded as calm as he always did, something Tony strangely resented, despite having been the one to program the AI to be unflappable. Why should he be the only one freaking out? This was a totally legit freak out, and Jarvis should be… flapping? flappable-ing? Whatever, Tony resolved to program Jarvis to be more emotionally aware - just as soon as Tony had regained his faculties. And dealt with the situation. And possibly gone into counseling, or at least told Pepper.

As it was, Jarvis obviously decided Tony’s exclamation had been a legitimate question and not a rhetorical one, and repeated calmly: “Captain Rogers made an appointment using the well-known dating app Grindr…”

Tony cut him off with the wave of a hand: “Yes, I got that. Grindr.” He took a deep breath and tried to collect himself. “And why are you telling me this?”

“Captain Rogers left instructions that you were to be informed should he fail to check in after eight hours,” Jarvis repeated patiently. “It has now been eight hours and three minutes since he left the premises and there has been no communication from him.” A short pause, then the AI added helpfully: “I believe he was following a common guideline for face-to-face encounters arranged over the internet. It is meant to serve as a safety measure for the person meeting a stranger.”

Tony shook his head, still somewhat disbelieving but willing to roll with it for now, even if his continued consternation made him sound short: “No shit. Did he by any chance tell you where this meeting was supposed to take place - and who with?”

“According to Captain Rogers he was to meet someone using the pseudonym of ‘winter_soldier44’ in a vacant dwelling in Brooklyn,” Jarvis replied, adding a street address, seemingly completely unaware that he was dropping another bombshell on Tony.

“What the… You’re telling me Steve used Grindr to meet the Winter Soldier, aka his long-lost boo Bucky Barnes. And you didn’t think this was important information, considering it’s the FUCKING WINTER SOLDIER?! Who tried to kill him last time they met?” Tony exhaled loudly, dragging his hands through his hair exasperatedly. Yes, he’d heard Steve’s version of events on the Helicarrier, but he didn’t share his friend’s conviction that Bucky was still in there, just waiting to be found. Tony Stark had never been an optimist, especially not regarding the Hydra assassin, since certain details regarding his parents’ deaths had come to light after Natasha released all SHIELD data to the public.

Jarvis at least had the grace to sound almost apologetic: “According to my databases, there are currently 23’185 users with Avengers-related handles signed up to the Grindr application. Until now subterfuge did not appear to be part of Captain Rogers’ usual modus operandi, and nothing in his manner led me to believe that the pseudonym was relevant.”

“Apparently our Captain is sneakier than we gave him credit for.” Tony sat down at the nearest terminal with a sigh and began scrolling through traffic camera footage surrounding the address Steve had told Jarvis. He was getting a headache, and a preliminary search only showed Steve arriving at the empty house, with no sign of his ‘date’ - and no sign of either of them leaving. Time to call in the cavalry.

“You let him go out to meet the Winter Soldier?” Natasha sounded decidedly unimpressed, and only snorted when Tony tried to justify himself. “You should know better than to let Steve’s innocent manner fool you. He always goes after what he wants, especially where Barnes is concerned.”

Still, even as they were talking she was en route to Brooklyn. While he waited for Natasha to reach her destination, Tony disabled the privacy settings on Steve’s internet and phone communication. Looking back he realized he should have seen something was up when Steve had come to him three weeks ago and asked Tony for his help getting rid of the software SHIELD had been using to monitor him. He’d looked all earnest, and Tony had figured that in light of recent events his request was reasonable. If he was honest with himself, he’d also been secretly pleased that Steve had come to him for help.

Now he scanned the logs on Steve’s Stark Industries-issued phone as well as his SI laptop and quickly noticed that the Winter Soldier had contacted Steve for the first time two days before Steve had come to Tony. The email from ‘James’ seemed innocuous enough, but there was a reference to an ice cream parlor in Brooklyn that Jarvis informed Tony had been out of business since 1939. Tony’s estimation for Steve’s intelligence rose even higher when, only a week later, they switched to Grindr, the perfect smoke screen for two men who wanted to arrange an anonymous meeting without anyone noticing.

See below for transcript.
Image transcript (Grindr chat window):
You up for some one-on-one time, handsome? Feels like forever since I got some, and you strike me as being just the ticket.

---And I bet you’re the right guy to warm me up - I’ve been out cold and feeling rather lonely. Give me a time and place and I’ll be there.---

It might have been Bucky’s idea, but Steve had been only a step behind and had easily adapted his speech pattern, seemingly completely unfazed when other men hit on him. Tony actually blushed bright red reading some of the texts, and almost fell off his chair at the sound of Natasha’s voice in his ear: “They’re gone. But Barnes has definitely been squatting here.”

Tony noticed that she said Barnes, not Winter Soldier, and he had to admit that nothing pointed to a design on Steve’s life. Still, it didn’t sit right with him that Steve had carefully kept his contact with his old friend a complete secret. Why do that if the man he was meeting was truly Sergeant Bucky Barnes, war hero? Not that it mattered, all that counted was that they had to get Steve back.

“Alright. Stay close, I’ll be there shortly,” Tony informed Natasha, already suiting up. He flew straight to Brooklyn, making sure to continue scanning all broadcasts for news about anything Cap-related. If Steve’s last face-off with the Winter Soldier was anything to go by, there was no way any fighting between those two would go unnoticed. Having downloaded the building’s blueprints, the moment he touched down Tony began to compare them to the existing structure. Since no one had left through any of the conventional exits, there had to be another way to come and go.

“You find anything?” Natasha inquired, dropping from a second floor window and landing gracefully on her feet next to Tony. “All I can tell is that Barnes has been roughing it. For what it’s worth, it doesn’t look as if he set a trap and there are no traces of violence. Wherever they disappeared to, Steve went along willingly.”

Tony was almost sure he wasn’t imagining the unspoken the sentimental idiot at the end of that sentence. However, just then he finally found what he’d been looking for, and he gestured in the direction of the basement he’d been scanning for heat signatures: “Ah, I think that’s it - there’s a utility tunnel beneath the building. Ugh, I hate tunnels!”

At least it wasn’t the sewers, Tony figured. Despite what he considered an entirely reasonable dislike of being in confined spaces underground, he quickly followed Natasha when she set off at a brisk pace. As expected there was a concealed hatch in the basement, and they dropped down into the tunnel, which thankfully turned out to be a comfortable height and not too disgusting.

Without another word, they split up, each one heading in a different direction, and Tony just hoped there weren’t too many side tunnels or this would make the Minotaur’s labyrinth look easy. And his suit really wasn’t made for confined spaces, forcing him into an ungainly half-flight as he tried hard to stay parallel to the much-too-close walls surrounding him. The only saving grace was his infrared vision, so he didn’t have to bother with flashlight. Grumbling, he contacted Natasha, who was probably running effortlessly and gracefully, the perfect height for these damn tunnels.

“Did you know he was still looking for him?” Tony didn’t bother to elaborate, figuring his meaning was obvious.

Natasha replied instantly, predictably not sounding out of breath at all: “Did you think he’d stop? I thought you were supposed to be a genius, Stark.” She paused and added, contemplatively: “Although I must admit, his use of Grindr was rather clever. Even if someone had noticed him using it, they would probably have been too embarrassed to ask about it.”

Tony’s brain still did a weird denial twist whenever the word Grindr was mentioned. It seemed somehow deeply wrong to associate it with Steve’s squeaky clean Captain America image. Not that Tony was in any position to judge anyone for getting their kicks in whatever form suited them. The fact that it had just been a smokescreen for Steve and Bucky should have made it better, but it really, really didn’t.

See below for transcript.
Image transcript (Grindr chat window):
You ready for me? I’ve been told I’m a lot to handle.

---Oh, I’m ready. I can take anything you want to throw at me.---

Yeah? You got something to prove?

---Only that I’m with you ‘til the end of the line. Think you can handle ME?---

Tony replayed the conversations, hoping to get some information where they might have gone, but was only left with the feeling that there was a lot being said without words here. Also, although it had been a ruse, Tony knew come-ons when he saw them, and that was some heavy-duty flirtation. He wondered whether Steve even realized it. Back in the War, being gay was probably not even an option, and of course there’d been Peggy Carter. One hell of a lady, that one. Tony had even met her a couple of times before his dad died.

All of this flashed through his mind just before he reached a junction point. Cursing, Tony scanned the city schematics, then came to a quick decision. He was almost under the river, and Jarvis informed him that there were two abandoned subway stations on the other side. Both City Hall and Worth Street had been open when Steve and Bucky lived in New York, and Tony figured he’d followed his gut into less likely directions in the past. Ignoring the mental image of the tons of water above his head, Tony filled Natasha in on his hunch.

She sounded almost impressed: “Go with it, Stark. There are guided tours to City Hall, so I’d head for Worth Street if I were you.”

Tony didn’t bother asking how she knew this, although the idea of Black Widow playing tourist was strangely disconcerting. He had almost reached his goal and slowed down, careful to avoid any noise as he left the utilities tunnel for the subway tracks. He needn’t have bothered, a train was approaching and drowned out everything. Tony flattened himself against the ceiling, then continued on his way, the subway tunnel feeling almost spacious.

His sensors saw Steve and Bucky long before he reached the station, Steve running hot as usual, and Bucky’s prosthetic arm being slightly cooler than the rest of his body, although not as much as Tony would have thought. A part of him was dying to get his hands on that piece of tech, but he pushed it back down and focused on the sight before him. Which was… nothing like he’d expected, if he’d expected anything. Steve wasn’t tied up, and there were no sudden movements from either one of them that pointed towards a scuffle - but they stood so close it was difficult to tell one from the other. Tony figured that Steve had lost any right to privacy the moment he met the Winter Soldier behind everyone’s back and boosted his hearing.

“I don’t care what you say, where I’m concerned you’re Bucky Barnes. You could have killed me, but you didn’t, and then you decided to come to me. Tell me how that is part of any damn programming!” Steve’s voice was low and intense, and almost in spite of himself Tony slowed down, wanting to hear Bucky’s response.

When it came, however, it was without words, and Tony almost came crashing in before realizing that Bucky wasn’t attacking Steve. No, he was kissing him like a man drowning, and Steve not only let him but responded in kind. Their heat signatures combined, but Tony could still hear them, the slide of lips, the half-sighs, and low groans. And then Steve went to his knees, easily, gracefully, and Bucky did say something, fierce like a prayer: “Missed you so much, Stevie - and your fucking mouth!”

Which was when Tony told Jarvis to use the suit sensors to keep an eye on things, but he himself determinedly turned his back on whatever Captain America and his Hydra assassin boyfriend were up to and called Pepper instead. For the first time in his life he realized that there was in fact something like too much information.

See below for transcript.
Image transcript (Grindr chat window):
Hey, got any plans tonight? I’m unexpectedly back in town.

---No. My boyfriend’s away on business and I’m feeling kinda neglected.---

Aww, I’m sure I can make you forget about him. 😉

---I doubt it, he’s a hard act to follow. But you’re welcome to try.---

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