Warnings: Some angst, sex, swearing
Characters: Bucky Barnes/Steve Rogers, Clint Barton, Tony Stark, Jarvis, Natasha Romanov
Word Count: 10,100
Summary: The Winter Soldier forgot what it was to feel...anything really, until he fell for his crime fighting partner Captain America. So Clint sets Bucky up with Steve on a blind date, cause he’s helpful like that, and also sick of their stubborn obliviousness. Things don’t exactly go to plan…or they do, eventually, but stuff happens in between.
Or, Clint is Bucky's best friend, possibly because he is the only person scarier than Natasha, Jarvis helps Bucky steal shit from Tony, and Captain America...well Steve may just be the best thing to ever happen to Bucky.
A modern AU...
Bucky didn’t know how he let himself get talked into this. Actually he did, he let Clint talk, always a bad idea. If there was a monument to bad ideas, it would be Clint Barton shaped. What the hell was he doing? A blind date....this was going to be disastrous.
The bar was half empty, its patrons scattered in small clusters of hipster types. Of course it was, Clint had arranged the damn blind date after all. This Steve guy he was meant to be meeting was probably some new age guru, or stockbroker… god he was going to be a banker, and give Bucky disapproving looks about living pay check to pay check. That sounded like something that would amuse Clint.
Bucky slid his right hand into the pocket of his black jeans, hunching his shoulders. He could just turn around and walk out, but then he’d have to put up with Clint laughing at him. Stubbornness won out over awkwardness. Bucky let out a huff of breath, just get it over with. Clint had been kind of vague about the description of the guy he had set Bucky up with, actually, intentionally vague in a way that only increased Bucky’s unease. He looked around, they were both supposed to sit at the bar with a copy of Moby Dick. Bucky’s fingers tapped impatiently on the copy he was carrying, there wasn’t anyone with a book in sight.
Great, either this guy was late, or a no show.
Bucky slid onto a stool, ordering the only half decent looking vodka he could see, swallowed it down in one gulp and ordered another. He waited ten minutes, resisting the urge to look around. He had spent entire nights in freezing weather waiting for targets to enter the scope of his sniper rifle that felt shorter. Thirty minutes, he’d give this idiotic undertaking thirty more minutes, then he was leaving. Bucky opened the book, it was years since he had read it. Despite Clint’s astonishment, Bucky was an avid reader, he’d never really got Moby Dick when he read it as a teenager though. Maybe it’d be better the second time around.
Bucky snorted quietly to himself at Ahab’s quest. He looked up in surprise at the sound of quiet laughter. Bucky blinked, took in the blonde sitting next to him with blues eyes alive with barely suppressed amusement. He had completely lost track of time, it was now cloudy outside, the late afternoon sun dimmed and dreary, in stark contrast to the sunny smile now edging in on the stranger’s lips.
Great, he’d been stood up, and now some fucking stranger was laughing at him.
“Not a fan of Ahab?” The smirking bastard said.
Bucky looked back down at the book, frowning. “He’s an idiot.”
“Not a fan of revenge either then.”
“Oh, revenge I get, just not sure how gettin’ eaten by the fucking whale is revenge.”
“Don’t think that was his intent,” the stranger said, lifting a glass of bourbon he had apparently ordered at some stage. Bucky didn’t watch as he licked his lips before taking a mouthful, not at all.
“Intent’s meaningless,” Bucky said without really thinking, still focussed of the glass in the man’s hands.
The blond looked at Bucky appraisingly. “You’re not Russian are you? That sounds suspiciously like something my friend would say, and she’s Russian.”
Bucky chuckled, not sure if that was an insult or not. “Brooklyn born and bred,” he said, tipping his glass to the bartender for another.
The blonde watched as the vodka was poured. “You sure?”
Bucky laughed again, posture relaxing. He sat back, taking a better look at the man, tall, shoulders that went forever, and sinful lashes framing those blue eyes. His gaze lingered, drinking in the curve of the man’s lips still tilted in a smile. A flicker of déjà vu danced away before it could be placed, a hollow pain seizing his chest with it, fingers aching like they wanted to reach out and grab hold of something just out of reach. The muscle in his jaw tightened until the feeling faded, while somewhere Clint’s voice echoed denial, denial, denial.
Fuck whatever idiot Clint had meant to set him up with, this guy was downright beautiful. However much Clint bemoaned the fact, Bucky didn’t do relationships, it was just common sense. How the hell did you keep a secret identity if you let someone get that close? Secret identity was kind of important when you were a super hero/vigilante by night. Bucky had not been mooning over a certain masked hero for years, he really hadn’t. What would be the point anyway? Bucky was a damaged, fucked up vigilante who would only bring down anyone stupid enough to love him back…Point was, he didn’t do relationships, but he’d do this guy in a heartbeat.
Bucky hadn't asked to be made into a weapon, to be mindlessly aimed by others, to have blood on his hands with no real idea whose it was, or why they had deserved to die. Hydra had taken his body, his mind, any sense of control or self. They made him forget he was a person, forget what it was like to feel. He had escaped though, spent years putting himself back together and remembering how to be a person again, free to make choices, good and bad.
All Bucky wanted was to feel something, anything. Bring life back to blackening embers, to feel like more than drifting smoke and shadows. His raw need to just feel, if even only for a moment overriding every other sense. He deserved that much didn't he? Just a moment...
“So, fan of the classics, or just dick in general?” Bucky asked, raising one eyebrow suggestively.
The guy laughed at him again.
Bucky would be insulted, but he wasn’t sure he remembered how to be charming anymore, and the laugh didn’t seem callous. He shrugged, going for nonchalant. “It’s late in the afternoon, and I have to be at work in a couple of hours," Bucky said by way of excuse for the lame line.
The guy looked thoughtful for a moment, eyes doing a sweep up and down Bucky’s body. “I can work with that.”
The remorse about what a bad idea picking up a stranger like this was could wait till later. Frankly it’d been awhile, more than awhile. It wasn’t like his life was exactly conducive to making meaningful connections, so what the hell. Gulping down the vodka, he savoured the burn down his throat for a moment before standing.
Bucky nodded his head towards the back door with a smirk. “If you’re game,” he said, almost daring the guy.
The blonde stood and started to follow, before Bucky turned, putting a hand on one muscled shoulder.
“You’re not a banker are you?”
Bucky barely made it out the door before he was pushed up against the wall, the rough brick uncomfortable beneath his shoulders. He took a second to look around the alley to check it was clear, deciding they were hidden well enough by the drizzle that had begun to fall. Hopefully it would keep anyone out and about more concerned with getting to cover than perving on two dudes down an alley. Looking up into blue eyes half blown already, Bucky suddenly didn't give a shit if some blurry shot of them ended up on the net.
Half pinned against the wall, Bucky leaned in as much as he could, felt their breaths mingle together in the cool air as he caught the stranger’s eye for a moment, offering an out. He moaned shamelessly when lips crashed against his own. There was going to be no finesse about this, he could feel the other man already hard where he ground against Bucky. Not that he was any more controlled. Bucky pushed his hips forward eagerly, a jolt of need hit him low and unexpectedly hard when the other man gasped at the movement, almost growling.
Fuck...Bucky's thought process frizzled out for a bit, caught in a whirlwind of sensation. Lips and tongue, filthy and wet, shirt rucked up and the hot press of fingers against his ribs, his hips, pulling Bucky closer. He had barely started to process the flat, firm lines of muscle beneath his own fingers, when his fly was being opened. Never one to be outdone, Bucky pulled back, grinned at the blonde as wickedly as could, which wasn't hard when he was plastered against a wall in some nameless alley with an equally nameless man. Bucky almost felt like he was high, as the thrill of it all tore through his body like some maniacal, runaway roller coaster.
Bucky near ripped the guys belt off him, momentarily amused that someone dressed so straight laced was rutting against him out the back of some hipster bar. The hands on Bucky stilled as the blonde stared down at Bucky’s fingers where they were making quick work of his fly. Bucky looked up, transfixed by the sight of a full bottom lip caught between teeth, taking satisfaction in the way those long delicate lashes closed over blue eyes as Bucky took hold of the guy’s cock. The angle was awkward, but Bucky worked it best he could, not that it seemed to matter, the cock achingly hard and hot beneath his fingers. The blonde dropped his forehead onto Bucky shoulder, fingers gripping Bucky’s hip tight enough to probably leave marks.
After a few seconds the guy seemed to realise he had been stopped mid quest to getting his hands on Bucky. Strong fingers gripped Bucky’s cock with just the right amount of pressure. Both of their strokes were frantic, desperate, perfect. Bucky could feel the coil of tension at the base of his spine at the same time as the man’s cock hardened and pulsed, and he came over Bucky’s hand.
Bucky barely had time to capture the sounds coming out of the blonde’s mouth with his own, before he came as well.
Fuck…Bucky’s brain struggled as he lent bonelessly against the wall, taking the weight of the other man as they both panted, the cold damp air almost burning against Bucky’s too hot skin. Well that was unexpected. He watched the other man step back and tuck himself in, not bothering to hide his appreciation of the glimpse of toned abs and lean hip he caught.
The blonde smiled, almost shyly, which was absurd given what they’d just done. “Um…I really got to get going,” he stuttered, eyes wide and fingers twitching like he wasn’t quite sure what to do with his hands.
Bucky smiled at the odd endearing-ness of it. He couldn’t help himself from letting the smile become a little more smouldering, just to see what would happen. He still hadn’t made any effort to straighten himself up, jeans unzipped, shirt rucked up and mostly still relying on the wall to hold himself upright. The blonde’s eyes roved over Bucky’s body, widening even more, his mouth open just the slightest bit. Bucky would take pity on him, but dishevelled and flustered was a good look on the guy. Throwing an almost goofy smile at Bucky, the blonde honest to god waved as he shuffled backwards before turning and making his way out of the alley.
Bucky chuckled as he finally peeled himself of the wall once the blonde was out of sight. His relaxed mood dimmed as he zipped himself back up though, a slither of....shame? remorse? creeping in, leaving a trail of anger. Anger he understood. Bucky's jaw clenched, fingers curling and uncurling as he walked out of the alley, unconsciously slipping into what Clint called his 'stalking murder cat' walk, because Clint was weird.
Unease had Bucky wound tight an hour later as he ran across the rooftops, half hoping the night would bring something for him to punch, break, raze to the ground, half hoping for quiet, calm peace. The two opposing desires twisting and writhing in an all too familiar struggle for dominance.
It was almost midnight before Bucky saw the dark blue of Captain America’s suit in the darkness two roofs over. He watched for a moment, Cap didn’t seem to be doing anything more than Bucky, it was a quiet night. He shoulders loosened without thought. As much as he tried, his persona of the Winter Soldier had been caught in blurry video on too many camera phones saving the Captain’s life to deny that they were friends. They were actually a bit of an internet sensation, which Bucky hated. For years he had been little more than a ghost, taking down the worse of the worse where he could with no one ever really knowing. At least until he made the mistake of saving Captain America’s punk ass one night a few years ago. Against his better judgement, Bucky hadn’t been able to stop saving him ever since, and the Captain certainly gave him plenty of opportunities. Idiot could be downright reckless with little regard for his own life if trying to protect others.
Bucky crossed the rooftops, dropping down silently next to the Captain.
“Quiet night,” the other hero said, apparently unsurprised to see the Winter Soldier.
Bucky had a bit of a reputation these days as one of the deadlier heroes roaming New York. Cap never seemed concerned by that though. He took the Winter Soldier as he was, and Bucky appreciated that more than he could say. Not everyone was so accommodating.
Bucky shrugged, his body uncoiling as he leant back against the wall next to Cap, the war inside ceded to stillness and calm for now. Sometimes he liked the quieter nights. Perched on a rooftop looking over the city like this was nice. Cap tended to get restless though. Maybe it came from hours spent behind a sniper rifle, but patience was something Bucky had plenty of. He reached into a pocket on his tac vest, pulling out a small notepad and pencil.
Bucky waved the pad at Cap. “If you sit there all twitchy you’ll ruin my quiet night.”
Cap ducked his head, but took the pad and pencil with a quiet, “Thanks.”
He immediately turned to an empty page and started sketching. The punk was damn good at it too, and it was about the only time he’d sit still and just relax with Bucky, instead of running head long into danger. Watching him lately made Bucky feel....he wasn't sure, but something bigger, all encompassing, and more consuming than anything he had felt in a long time. It left him feeling light headed and queasy in the gut at the same time, so he had mostly tried to ignore it, push it all down to get lost in the darker places he was full of. But it was like whatever he felt was a beacon, throwing the shadows into darker relief while also bringing light.
Bucky was always careful not to be caught staring, but watching Cap sketch was almost like soft core porn. Long, strong fingers moving so surely, head bent, eyes focused, so absorbed in the art it was like he forgot the rest of the world existed. Sometimes, like now, he’d even lean towards Bucky, as if seeking out warmth, or a connection to keep himself grounded and not get swept away by the graphite world coming to life beneath his pencil. Sometimes, when he was really lost in a piece, Cap chewed on his bottom lip and it drove Bucky crazy…..
Oh fuck no…
Bucky’s mind came to a grinding halt.
There was no way, the odds…
With wide eyes, Bucky looked at Cap, who was still oblivious to Bucky’s distress. The jaw was right, and those lips, the shoulders narrowing down to that lean waist, and his eyes… the exact same blue and those ridiculously beautiful lashes.
Bucky had shared a mutual hand job in some random alley with possibly his best friend (Clint didn’t count, Hawkeye had attached himself to Bucky at some point, Bucky’s not really sure how, or why). He’d been stupid enough to have a one-night stand with probably the only person he could see himself wanting...something with, and the one person who had shown no interest in anything more than just friendship.
Bucky jumped to his feet, knocking Cap’s elbow and sending the notepad flying. Cap looked up at him, head tilted in confusion.
Bucky cut Cap off. “I’ve got to go, I forgot…I was…” He shut his mouth, breathed out through his nose, trying to put a lid on his panic. “See you later.”
Any semblance of calm out the window, he jumped of the edge of the building. A little dramatic maybe, but he had probably just fucked up a friendship he had come to rely on, the one good thing he had built on his own since he re-joined the world. A little drama was called for.
If he’d stayed a moment longer, he might have seen Cap pick up the sketch book and stare at a half drawn picture of Bucky, leaning against a brick wall somehow looking blissed out and dangerous at the same time. Cap stared at the picture like it had just punched him in the gut.
“You didn’t know.”
Steve stared out the window. The cup of coffee he was holding had gone cold, but he didn’t notice till Natasha plucked it out of his hands. She tipped it out in the sink and set about making both of them another cup.
“If you’re going to keep moping, I’m leaving. Unless you want me to break his fingers.”
“What? Why would I want you to break his fingers?”
“Because this is the third cup of coffee I’ve made that you won’t drink this morning,” she said, setting the cup down in front of him and sliding into the chair across the table.
“How could he not know?” Steve looked down at the coffee like it might hold the answer. “He’s the Winter Soldier, I swear he reads everything about someone with just a glance.”
He looked up to see Natasha smirking at him. “What?”
“I don’t know...how many years exactly did it take for you to figure out you were in love with your best friend?” She said, all but laughing at him.
Steve glared at her, this time she did laugh.
“James is… complicated,” Natasha said after a moment. “I think it’s pretty telling he didn’t figure out Clint had set him up with the real you.”
“I’m not in the mood for riddles Nat.”
“Clint has a theory, and I think he’s right. When it comes to you, Bucky’s stupid.”
“If you’re not gonna help…”
“I offered to break his fingers.”
Steve gave her one of his patented ‘Captain America disapproves’ looks.
“If you change your mind,” she took a sip of coffee, going back to ignoring Steve.
Steve tapped his fingers on the table, caught between the image of Bucky smiling up at him between kisses, daring him with that cocksure charm he rarely let others see, and the horror on his face when he figured out Steve and Captain America were the same person.
“I fucked everything up, didn’t I?”
“You could just do what I’ve been telling you for years… talk to him,” Natasha answered without looking up from her phone she had started tapping away on. Probably texting Clint about what a disaster Steve was.
Steve still didn’t know how Nat had figured out their real identities. He certainly hadn’t known Bucky’s till last night. Watching him glare at the copy of Moby Dick he’d been reading like it had personally offended him, and Steve had just known. He had spent hours watching the Winter Soldier, knew how he moved, the curve of his lips, those eyes that looked like they had seen too much. Even Nat still didn’t know Bucky’s full story, but she had told Steve enough to know it wasn’t a happy one.
“You didn’t see his face. He was horrified when he realised it was me.”
“No offence Steve, but you’re pretty stupid when it comes to him too.”
Natasha picked up the paper and her coffee and walked out of the room, apparently done with Steve and his stupidity.
Bucky didn’t look up as Clint climbed onto the roof and sat down next to him. It was almost dark, the lights of the city beginning to glow. He had been sitting on the roof of Clint’s apartment building for hours, he wasn’t even sure why he had come here, it wasn’t like he wanted to talk. Clint swung his feet back and forth where they dangled over the edge, a bundle of energy as usual. Bucky oddly found him calming, his constant movement a contradiction in a trained sniper, but Clint was the only person he had met who was as good a shot as himself, maybe better. Clint didn’t say anything, another thing Bucky liked about the man, he could be almost manic and loved to take the piss out of Bucky, but despite appearances he knew when to shut up.
Clint pulled a flask out of his pocket and handed it to Bucky. The smooth taste of good Russian vodka was comforting. Clint had been fresh out of the circus when Bucky first met him almost a decade ago, back when Bucky was still trying to remember how to be human. The idiot had been pickpocketing in Chicago for amusement, and in a show of bad judgement had assisted Bucky in tracking a Hydra operative. Well, assisted may be a misnomer, he had tried to pick Bucky’s pocket and then followed him. He did put an arrow in the man who shot Bucky through the shoulder though, and dragged a half crazed Bucky to safety. He then proceeded to track Bucky across half of Europe, and for some reason Bucky let him.
“You’re not upset that it was Cap are you?” Clint said after several minutes.
Bucky looked down at his hands, feeling the smooth metal of the flask beneath his flesh fingers.
“This is a choice thing right?”
Bucky nodded, not able to answer with words. Clint knew most of Bucky’s history, and the hang ups he had about choice and free will. Realising he had unintentionally made a move on Cap, on Steve, was freaking Bucky out. The decision of when, or even if, in essence taken away.
“I’m sorry man. I really thought you’d recognise him, maybe get to know him without the mask.”
“S’not your fault.”
“I’m sorry anyway.”
Bucky stared out at the city, taking another sip of vodka. He could see Clint fidgeting out of the corner of his eyes, clearly wanting to say more. “What?”
“It’s just…you do realise Steve knew it was you right?”
Bucky’s head snapped around to look at Clint. “He did?”
Bucky’s shoulders slumped a little further. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of that. “Shit.”
“I promise not to ‘help’ anymore, just…maybe you should talk to him. I know this has screwed things up, but maybe it’s up to you how badly. You’ve still got control of that.”
Clint didn’t say anything else, just sat with Bucky till they were both nearly falling asleep. Bucky still didn’t know what he was supposed to do, but at least he felt less panicked.
“Come on, you can sleep on the couch tonight,” Clint finally said around midnight after he'd dozed off enough for his head to fall on Bucky’s shoulder.
“Okay…and thanks,” Bucky said quietly.
“I don’t know, being an idiot I guess.”
Two days later, Bucky had decided Clint was right. He really should just talk to Cap...to Steve. In fact he had his opening line thought out and everything. So of course, on his way to find Steve, someone decided to blow up Stark Tower just as he was walking past it. Well not all of it, but smoke was pouring out of the top floor through a sizable hole in the wall.
Bucky was distracted and not exactly prepared to deal with a crisis. So he didn't really think when he noticed a suited up Ironman, and walked up to him, dressed only in his civvies.
"Need a hand?" Bucky asked.
Stark jumped, head snapping around to give Bucky a look up and down. His face plate was open, and he looked slightly singed in places.
"Who the hell are you?"
Bucky tilted his head, wondering if maybe Stark hit his head in the explosion, before looking down, and realising he was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, not his Winter Soldier tac gear and mask. Shit...
Abort, abort, his brain was screaming, at him, but Bucky ignored it. He could just leave, but surprisingly, he didn't really want to. Stark was like that annoying uncle at Christmas dinner. The one who drinks too much and gets handsy, then surprises you with an expensive car with an obnoxious bow on top of it. Mostly harmless, and secretly has a heart the size of Texas.
"Um," Bucky said eloquently. Not entirely sure how to proceed.
Stark was starting to look suspicious. Fuck it...Bucky ripped the camouflaged sleeve off his metal arm.
"Oh, Winter's coming."
Bucky rolled his eyes. "What happened?"
"Explosive, came in the mail. Who even still mail bombs someone these days."
They both looked up at the smoke still drifting out of the top floor, though clearly less now. Bucky realised Stark must have been assisting in the evacuation of the tower, after putting the fires out.
"Anyone hurt?" Bucky said, noting the calm of those exiting the building. Hell, they worked for Stark, random explosions were probably common place.
"No, floor was clear. There was just me."
Something sounded off to Bucky, but he wasn't sure what. An explosive getting through Stark's security? Being detonated on Stark's personal floor, rather than in a mail room? He really couldn't imagine Stark opening his own mail.
"Hey, is that my sleeve?" Stark said suddenly, as if it had just registered.
Bucky shrugged. "Maybe."
"I don't remember giving it to you."
"You didn't. It was just lying there. Thought you wouldn't miss it."
"Just lying there...in my lab, in my personal, highly secured lab."
"Probably,” Bucky said.
"You broke into my tower," Stark said, waving his arms and looking around like he couldn't believe there was no one to witness this outrage.
"It wasn't hard," Bucky deadpanned, just to get under Stark's skin.
"Wasn't hard," Stark muttered to himself. "Jarvis, make a note...review all security measures."
"Because of the Winter Soldier's theft three years ago, or the current gaping hole in the 44th floor, sir?"
"Both," Stark said, giving Bucky another glare. "We also need to have another talk about your disturbing crush on tall, dark and frosty."
"Of course sir."
"Hey J," Bucky said with a smug smile. He liked Jarvis, he also liked how much it annoyed Stark that Jarvis enjoyed Bucky’s company.
"Good morning, Bucky."
"Wait, you're on a first name basis?" Stark said, eyeing Bucky like maybe he should be giving him some sort of fatherly warning about minding the ten o’clock curfew or safe sex. It was amusing, and absurd as shit.
Bucky just shrugged. It’d probably be best he didn't mention the prototype sniper scope, armour plating and comms units he had taken from Stark's lab over the years. Or the fact Jarvis now let Bucky in whenever he wanted something, and that he played chess every Thursday with the AI.
Apart from Clint, who still didn't count, Jarvis had probably been as close to forging a friendship Bucky had gotten until he met Steve. Which perhaps said more about Bucky's mental state at the time then Bucky wanted to think about.
"Not that watching you corrupt my AI wouldn't be fun, but..." Stark pointed up at his building.
"Okay. If you're sure you don't need a hand."
"I'm guessing Jarvis probably has your number if I do."
Bucky nodded, distracted, with his thoughts already back on Steve.
"Fuck me, I was kidding," Stark's voice trailed off as he took flight. "Words J, we're having words on your disturbing taste in..."
Stark was barely halfway to the top of the building when the missile hit him.
Jarvis was already calling Bucky's cell by the time he crossed the street. Bucky put in his Bluetooth, silently cursing his lack of tactical gear, not that he was unarmed. He was never unarmed.
"J, where is he?"
"Twenty-seventh floor. The elevators are down."
Bucky headed for the stairs, mind racing. North flight of stairs or east? Where the fuck had the missile come from? Three knives, no armour, unknown assailants. No matter what Clint said about his ass, buy looser jeans. Tony...Fuck.
"He is alive, but unconscious. May I suggest the North stairs. There appears to be armed men entering the tower on the south side. Still three floors below you."
"Fuck. Can you find Steve's, I mean Cap's number in my contacts...call him?" Bucky took the steps in easy, fluid bounds.
"Calling him now."
The line stayed open but Jarvis was silent, hopefully putting a call through to Steve for backup. Bucky had a bad feeling about this.
Steve was trying to decide between green or red apples when his phone rang. He frowned at the unknown number before answering.
"Captain Roger? This is Jarvis...."
Steve could hear what sounded like a small explosion, the line went quiet for a second.
"Jarvis, if Tony has forgotten he called me again, I'm hanging up."
Everyone knew Tony Stark was Ironman, but outside of his super hero-ing, the man was a menace. Steve was pretty sure Stark didn't know the meaning of discretion, or subtlety, he lived in a giant tower with his name on it for Christ’s sake. The general drunken, and womanising behaviour had certainly lessened since Pepper Potts had come along, but Steve was still 85% sure Stark would one-day engineer some gadget that’d end civilisation. Worse of all, he had Steve’s private phone number. Given Steve's recent issues with identity, and anger at his own stupidity for not being more assertive, he was about to hang up when Jarvis spoke again.
"...under attack...soldier has....."
"Jarvis?" Steve said, tossing the apples back and heading for the door.
"Sorry, I have switched lines. The tower is under attack by unknown forces. The Winter Soldier has requested your assistance," Jarvis repeated on a clearer line.
"Bucky?" Steve had assumed Jarvis was calling on Tony’s behalf. What the hell was going on?
"Yes Captain. I would request you hurry. Mr Stark is unconscious, and Bucky has drawn the attackers away from him. He is vastly outnumbered."
Steve was out of the store by now, running towards his motorcycle, mentally calculating drive time and traffic patterns, determining if he had time to swing by his apartment to retrieve his shield and suit. The Winter Soldier and Captain America often backed each other up in the field, so he was trying not to imagine the worse. He hadn't seen or heard from Bucky since he dramatically jumped off the roof a few days ago though, and despite having had Steve's number for two years, he had never actually called, for backup or anything else. Bucky preferred to just show up.
"Jarvis..." No answer. "Jarvis..."
"Captain Rogers...I'm afraid Bucky has been captured."
Steve stumbled to a halt, heart racing, hearing nothing but white noise. He sucked in a harsh breath, lungs suddenly tight, throat burning, as he tried to think, to make his voice work.
He needed to focus. He forced himself to speak. "Is Tony okay?”
"Yes. His vitals are strong, and he appears mostly uninjured. I believe he is starting to wake."
That was good news at least. "I'm on my way…and Bucky?” Steve said, dreading the answer.
"Injured but alive last I was able to see,” Jarvis said. “I have lost most of the cameras on the lower floors. I am attempting to attain his location using traffic camera’s outside the building.” Steve was pretty sure the AI shouldn’t have access to those cameras, but really didn’t care at the moment. “If I may, I have Bucky's contact list. I believe the man you know as Hawkeye, would like to know what has happened,” Jarvis continued.
Randomly caught for a moment by how weird it was that one of the city’s most notorious vigilante, who hated the internet because of the numerous memes it contained of him saving Captain America with suggestive comments, seemed to have Stark's AI handling his contact list. Steve could all but hear the Winter Soldier's deadpan, I hate the idiots on the internet Cap, not the technology itself...and Jarvis is cool.
“Call him,” Steve said.
Bucky was friends with the other superhero, or at least Bucky complained a lot about Hawkeye in a non-homicidal manner, which Steve had taken to mean he liked the man. If Bucky was in trouble Steve would take all the help he could get, even if the most common adjective Bucky used to describe Hawkeye was idiot.
Steve was stuck in a loop of BuckyBuckyBuckyBucky as he mounted his bike, and screeched out into the traffic, cutting off another vehicle. Over the years they had known each other Bucky had taken over more and more space in Steve’s head. If he lost him now, really lost him, and not just whatever damage had been done to their friendship the other night…. He couldn’t even think it. Bucky would be fine. Steve would be at Stark tower in twenty minutes, Jarvis would have found Bucky, and Hawkeye and Stark would back him up. They’d get Bucky back. He’d be fine, the Winter Soldier was always fine. Beat up and bloodied maybe, but fine, grinning like the pain was nothing, because he was a little fucked up like that, but he would be okay, and next week they’d do it all again, because no one got into the super hero business who wasn’t a little bit fucked up…
Steve squeezed the throttle harder, weaving through the traffic. He could make it there in 17 minutes if he cut across 2nd.
Two gaping holes in the tower was the first thing Steve noticed when he arrived. One still had smoke billowing out of it. Emergency services were on the scene, and had the building cordoned off, but Steve easily bypassed them, heading for one of the Tony’s private garage entrances. As soon as he was inside he heard Jarvis.
“Sir is on the 40th floor, Captain Rogers. The private elevator has been repaired.”
“Thanks Jarvis. Any news?”
“I have tracked Bucky five blocks north so far, still accessing cameras to trace him further. I’m afraid whoever attacked the tower was well organised and trained. They have utilised security blackspots to transfer to a new vehicle.”
Steve stepped out of the elevator on one of Stark's private floors. There was debris scattered around from what was obviously an explosion, and leads dangled out of the ceiling menacingly, but Stark seemed unperturbed by them as he worked on his virtual interface that flickered intermittently.
"Cap, still looking for your boy, or Jarvis is," Stark said without looking up at Steve, waving his hand absently presumably to indicate Jarvis's presence.
Steve noted the extensive bruising on the side of Stark's head, he also looked a little singed in places. "You okay?"
Stark just waved again, dismissively this time.
Steve resisted the urge to jump. He hadn't seen Hawkeye perched amongst the debris above his head.
"Oh yeah," Stark said. "Birdman got here a few minutes ago. Apparently Jarvis is a worried hen, and wanted some avian company to sooth his nerves. You don't worry this much about me when I go missing, J."
"I'm sure that's not true Sir."
"Jarvis is tracking Bucky using every camera and social media site there is. He'll find him," Hawkeye said, wisely disregarding Stark.
Stark made a shooing motion before ignoring them and going back to his screen, he was probably busy with damage assessment. Steve fisted his hands by his sides, at a bit of a loss after his need to get here as soon as possible. His fingers itched, empty, and aching to just act. He really should have taken the time to get his shield.
He didn't do well with waiting. Bucky laughed at him all the time for it, carried pencil and paper for Steve, would unthinkingly put his hand on Steve's leg to stop it jumping, oddly patient, till Bucky's calm seeped into Steve and stilled his twitching muscles.
Steve hadn't realised how much he had come to rely on the steadying presence of the Winter Soldier, but his absence felt like a gaping hole right now.
Unable to just stand there doing nothing, Steve walked out of the room, trusting Stark would tell him as soon as there was news. He waited till he was out in the corridor before asking Jarvis where Bucky had been captured. The elevator on the right opened up for Steve, Jarvis taking him to the lower levels. The room was some sort of lab, but crowded like maybe it wasn't being used much. Right now, it was a shambles. Bits of glass and broken equipment everywhere, obvious signs of a struggle, to say the least.
Steve stopped as he reached the middle of the room, frozen, eyes locked on the darkening blood on the floor, tables, walls. It was drying to black, splatters and spots, like some demented ode to Rorschach. Steve breathed through his nose, trying to stay calm, panic was no use to Bucky.
"It's not all his," Jarvis said, breaking the heavy quiet despite his gentle tone.
Steve just nodded, unable to pull his thoughts together enough for words.
He heard Hawkeye enter the room, obvious intent to the tread of his boots, like he wanted to be sure he wouldn't startle Steve this time.
"We'll get him back, J, " Hawkeye said.
Steve couldn't help a small, fond smile. The damn AI genuinely cared for Bucky, it was an odd friendship Steve found endearing.
He joined Hawkeye out in the corridor, away from the cloying smell of blood, too much, even if not all if it was Bucky's. Both heroes leant against the wall on opposite sides, waiting, impatiently in Steve's case. He could feel Hawkeye watching him, it felt almost like he was being assessed. He shifted his weight, uncomfortable, guilty, for some reason. He crossed his arms to stop from fidgeting.
“Sorry bout the whole date thing,” Hawkeye said after a few minutes, rubbing at the back of his neck.
“You been talking to Widow….or to the Soldier?” Steve asked, kind of confused.
“No, well yes, both of them but I mean, the thing was my idea. I really thought Bucky would recognise you.”
Steve felt a spike of anger, if this whole thing was just some joke to amuse Hawkeye….
“I got a theory bout Bucky…”
Wait, Steve suddenly felt really slow. “You’re Clint?”
“Um, yeah. I thought you already knew that.”
“No,” Steve said stopping to kind of gape at Clint. Shit. Of course Natasha’s Clint wasn’t going to be some run of the mill civilian.
“Anyway I got a theory…”
“That he’s stupid when it comes to me, I know, Nat already told me,” Steve said. His jaw tight and not in the mood for jokes.
“Well yeah, obviously. But I meant why he didn’t recognise you, and why he jumped your bones.”
Steve gritted his jaw tighter. He really didn’t need to hear this right now. “I know I probably fucked everything up. I really don’t want to think about it, not till we’ve got him back. Till he’s safe.”
Steve turned and walked away.
“I think he knew,” Clint called after Steve.
Steve stopped, but didn’t turn around.
“At least part of him did. He knew you, he had to, he’s the fucking Winter Soldier, about the only person who is scarier than Nat. He knew, he just...didn’t want to know.”
Steve’s throat felt tight, breath catching. All he could see was the horror on Bucky’s face, see him jumping off the building. He remembered the elation he’d felt in that alley, like he was getting everything he could ever want, and the hollow, consuming ache when he realised Bucky hadn’t known it was him.
What? Steve turned around. His own pain forgotten, crumbling to dust and scattering around his feet. “What do you mean?”
“I don’t know how much you know of his past, but I assume it’s enough."
Steve didn’t know everything about what had happened to Bucky. He had never asked, believing Bucky shouldn’t have to relive it just to sate Steve’s curiosity. Clint was right though, he knew enough.
"He….well it took him a long time to let himself feel anything again," Clint continued, "and when he did it just couldn’t stack up against all the horror he’d been through."
Steve swallowed, feeling a little empty, raw. Clint had known Bucky shortly after he escaped, saw firsthand the shell of humanity the Winter Soldier had been. Even now, Steve could see the shadow of the damage left behind.
"Then he met you. Remembered how to laugh, to let the good things in, and it terrified him, because suddenly he had something to lose again.”
Steve finally looked up at Clint. His chest physically aching at all that had been taken from Bucky, and the desire to make it right in any way he could.
“He knew,” Clint continued. “He’s just been terrified of how much he feels, and then you show up as his blind date, and for just a moment, wrapping it up in the safety net of a random encounter, he lets himself want more.”
“Then why…” Steve said.
“Why’d he run? Because he’s fucked up, he has issues with choices, he didn’t stop to think that you knew it was him. We’re all pretty screwy in case you haven’t noticed,” Clint said with a shrug.
Steve laughed, though it was completely humourless. They were all screwed up, wasn’t that the truth of it. He felt stupid, so self-involved in his own emotions. Bucky had issues about making his own choices. They had clashed, more than once, when the Winter Soldier had resented Steve making choices for him, little things, like deciding to keep Bucky out of the path of danger and taking it on himself.
Steve was pretty sure he had never seen the Soldier angrier than on a mission they’d taken together about a year ago when Steve had sent Bucky to clear an adjoining building, knowing full well that the one he was entering himself was rigged to blow. He had saved three people, but the building blew when he went in for the fourth. Bucky had dragged Steve out of the rubble, checked him for injuries, then punched Steve in the face before stomping off, every line of his body screaming righteous wrath. They didn't talk for a week.
In hindsight, that may have been about more than taking a choice away from Bucky. Maybe Natasha was right, he really was stupid when it came to Bucky.
“There you go,” Clint said smugly at whatever expression he saw on Steve’s face.
“Got him,” Stark’s voice echoed down the hallway, followed moments later by Stark himself, waving a tablet.
He looked between Clint and Steve, “Um…”
Steve grabbed the tablet, it was showing a location across the river in Jersey. “Let’s go.”
The room was musty, like it had been shut up for a while, the smell tickling the back of Bucky's throat. Resisting the urge to cough, he kept his breath measured, controlled, letting that fact settle amongst the others he had gathered. Six-man strike team guarding him, only one in the room with him, the others in the next room. At least one other team in the building, along with three injured, so about half of the force left that had attacked the tower. Injuries…a deep slash across his shoulder, multiple contusions, maybe two, three cracked ribs. Internal bleeding? Uncertain, if there was any, it wasn’t serious. Concussion was clearing fast at least. He could work with that.
The strike force was obviously Hydra. The way they had aimed for one of Tony's labs…they knew exactly where they were going and what they were after. They had recognised Bucky immediately, and switched targets though. Apparently recovery of the Winter Soldier was still considered a high priority. It was flattering really, even after all this time Hydra wanted their asset back.
Not terrifying at all.
Not even a little.
Panic and fear were useless, pointless.
Breath slow and steady, relentless beat of his heart even, constant. He was the best damn sniper in the army even before Hydra got their sadistic claws into him. He’d been in worse situations. Hell, that one time in Karachi, with Clint and the private stock of black market whiskey more expensive than some cars, now that had been far worse, especially the headache the next morning, and the unexplained bruises and worse of all, Black Widow standing in the doorway with an unimpressed glare.
Shit, they’d been lucky to get out alive.
Bucky kept his eyes closed, he couldn't see anything anyway, the blindfold tightly bound. They had injected him with something, he could feel it, like flashes of fire searing along his nerve fibres in random patterns. If they thought pain would keep him down, they'd made a fatal mistake. The cuffs on his wrists were strong, unlikely to break, the plastic zip ties around his ankles less sufficient. They had taken his arm into account, but not his flexibility. He could reach them, he just had to time it right.
Bucky blocked out everything else, his enhanced hearing picking up the minute sounds as the man in the room with him shifted his weight. The way he adjusted his hold on his weapon, and the gentle slide of material over body armour. He waited till the tell-tale shuffle and scrape of boots on concrete indicated the man was facing away. Contorting his body, Bucky reached down with his left arm. He could only just get a single finger around the bindings, but it was enough.
Almost silent, just the soft snap of plastic.
Legs free, swiping at the man, taking his feet out from under him.
Cushion the fall with his own body, stifle as much sound as possible.
Thighs around the man's neck. One quick jerk.
Seconds, that was all the Winter Soldier needed.
Not waiting to see if the others had heard, Bucky quietly rolled, sliding his cuffed hands down till he could pull them past his feet and bring them around to the front. He pulled the knife out of the guard’s vest. It was useless on the bindings still on his hands. The gentle hum coming from them indicating some sort of electro magnet locking system, and they were made of some metal he couldn't easily break, his flesh and blood wrist would give first. He'd keep that option as a last resort.
Jesus Buck, you're not ripping your own hand off…the voice in his head sounded a whole lot like Steve's…Yeah well, wait and see. Bucky would never go back, he'd die first.
He had to get out now, before they took him somewhere more secure.
He slipped the guard's hand gun into the band of his jeans, and kept hold of the knife. With hands bound this wasn't going to be easy. The voices of the five men outside the door sounded relaxed, they hadn't heard anything. One of them was wondering if they'd get a bonus for bringing the Soldier back to his masters.
Bucky smiled, cold and feral. Don't count your eggs yet, fucker.
He burst through the door, elbow to the face of the man in the right, knife thrown into the jugular of one across the room, before they could even react. Bucky was swift, brutal, efficient. He used that to his advantage. Swayed to the left, a bullet narrowly missing his head, metal fist slamming into solar plexus with enough force to throw the man back into the wall. Spun, bringing a fist around, feeling the crunch of bone beneath metal. Four were down. He pulled the hand gun. Emptied the clip, and all six were down.
Bucky tossed the gun. He found the key to the cuffs on one of the men, before following the first corridor he saw, aiming for natural light to lead him to an exit. The complex was large, sprawling, and certainly abandoned, with nothing to really indicate the best way to go. Of course he would choose the wrong way.
Rounding a corner, the remaining men were expecting him. There’d be no element of surprise to aide him this time. A bullet pierced his thigh. He didn't let it slow him, dropped into a slide, taking out the legs of the first two men. They fell in a heap, Bucky snapped one man's neck, the other got a shot off that grazed Bucky's ribs before a fist to the face stopped him. Bucky rolled, lifting one of the bodies as a shield.
Footsteps pounding on concrete, closing in fast, a lot of footsteps.
They must have been waiting for backup before moving him. Recalculation required. Bucky tossed the body at the nearest Hydra agent and sprinted back the way he had come. He took a few turns, this place was like a fucking maze, before he had put enough space between himself and his pursuers. Bucky jumped, punching a vent cover in, and swinging up into the ventilation.
Bucky had recognised what the Hydra agents had taken from Stark's lab. If he could circle back to it…
It was a crazy fucking idea, but just maybe…
Wind buffeted Steve. They had taken Stark's quinjet. The flight to Jersey only minutes, but it had already been two hours since Bucky was taken and those minutes felt eternal. Telling himself he was overreacting, really wasn’t helping. Not when Stark had reviewed the footage and determined it was Hydra who had attacked. If they got Bucky out of the city....
They circled the building, ramp already down ready for a hot drop. Stark was scanning the building, while Clint piloted, looking for Intel and a landing site. If they took any longer Steve was just jumping, as soon as Stark confirmed Bucky was inside.
“Ahh,” Stark said looking at the tablet. "Okay, that’s…weird.”
“Weird good, or weird bad?”
“Hard to say, but…”
Stark turned the pad so Steve could see it. One dot on the screen was systematically eliminating the other dots.
“Seems like as good an assumption as any.”
There were at least twenty dots. Now, nineteen. A single dot moved away from the vanishing twentieth, it was on its own, the others moving in groups.
"That's him," Steve said, pointing at it. Dead certain. Relief and anxiety churning in his gut. Bucky was up and moving, but fighting for his life while they circled looking for a place to land. “Okay, looks like he's moving to the south, this exit here."
Another two dots fell, the remaining ones between presumed Bucky and the exit. The mass of other dots were converging on Bucky though, fast.
Clint started to bring the quinjet in to land on the southern side of the building in a position with a good visual on the exit. Sure enough, it was only seconds before the door splintered as it banged open with incredible force and Bucky strode through it. Still forty feet from the ground, Steve jumped. The jet following him down at a slightly slower pace. Steve ran towards Bucky, but Bucky waved him off. Steve ignored him, but only got a few more steps before the entire building seemed to shudder, and then exploded.
Wind blasted Steve, heat prickling along his skin.
Smoke stung his eyes, everything blurring as they watered. He couldn’t see a damn thing.
The air felt like it was being sucked from his lungs as everything suddenly seemed to reverse, and the explosion imploded in on itself. The fires extinguishing, with very little of the building left behind. The surrounding area though was oddly untouched.
"Hey, I think that's one of mine," Stark said, now standing next to Steve.
Steve didn't really hear him, caught instead by the sight of Bucky.
Oh, thank fucking Christ.
Steve was rooted in place, like his feet were locked in concrete, heart thumping in his chest. Bucky was walking towards them, calm, steady, streaked with ash and blood-soaked. A satisfied smirk on the Winter Soldier's face that should probably be cold and dangerous, but Steve found hot as hell. He wanted to taste that smile. He wanted to build a wall around just the two of them so no one else could ever hurt Bucky again, snap and snarl at anyone who dared try.
Clint nudged Steve with his elbow. “Like I said, scariest fucker I know.” The words completely serious.
Steve ignored Clint, his feet finally obeying him as he moved towards Bucky.
“Isn’t the winter wonder your best friend?” Stark said.
“Yeah,” Clint answered, voice full of manic delight.
Steve's eyes roamed over Bucky now he was closer, there was a lot of blood, some of it dry, some still fresh. A wound on his thigh was bleeding sluggishly and a trail of blood was oozing down the metal plates of his arm from somewhere. The way he was holding his right arm stiffly was all to recognisable from the times Steve had had broken ribs himself, pain all too obvious, despite the smile on Bucky’s face. He was beat up and bloodied, but didn't look like he was dying. Mindful of Bucky's injuries Steve reached out, hand hovering before he took hold of Bucky's right arm, fingers wrapping gently around bare skin. Warm, solid, safe. Steve breathed in deep for what felt like the first time since Jarvis called.
Bucky looked up at him, crooked smirk still firmly in place. "So, there's this little place on Washington Avenue. Best damn fries in the city, and they make a mean milkshake."
Steve studied Bucky's face, did he miss a head injury? There was a fading bruise along the side of his head. "You...want a milkshake?"
"Yeah, a big one. And fries, a burger, maybe even pancakes too."
"They do these cartoons on the big chalk board menu. You'll love it."
Wait...Steve smiled, suddenly feeling like he would float away if it weren't for his hold on Bucky's arm. "You askin’ me on a date Soldier?"
"Fuck yeah, I am."
"You crazy..." Steve leaned in, fingers moving to grip Bucky's jaw.
He tasted like ash and blood, with something sweeter underneath that was all Bucky. The kiss was more triumphant than anything else, both grinning too much. He really didn't care. The taste of that smile on his tongue perfect, even with the blood and ash. It seemed fitting. It was them.
Blood, pain, violence. You didn't put yourself between trouble and the world without coming away a little mangled.
Steve pulled back just enough to rest their foreheads together, both still grinning, even though Bucky was gripping Steve tight just to keep himself on his feet, sheer, stupid, stubbornness wearing thin now the danger was past. Steve kissed Bucky again, just because he could, shifting his hold to support him better. With a mass of bruises and cuts standing out on his ashen skin, for once, the Winter Soldier let himself lean on someone else. After defending the tower and rescuing himself, a little help staying on his feet on the way home was the least he deserved.
"Jarvis is going to be heart broken," Stark said from somewhere behind them.
"On the contrary sir."
"If you love someone set them free?" Stark said, sounding sceptical of the concept.
"Something like that sir."
"I was always more into spiteful indifference.”
Clint scoffed. "Please. Barnes will probably end up in some polygamous three-way with that fucking AI of yours."
Bucky rolled his head to look at Stark without pulling away. "What d’ya say J?"
"However I can be of service Bucky, as always."
Stark threw his hands in the air. "Unbelievable."
Bucky's face lit up with a grin, and Steve couldn't help laughing.
Bucky pulled himself up onto the slim ledge, unconcerned by the five storey drop below. Steve slept with his window open now the summer nights had turned warm, making it easy to hook a leg over the window sill, and watch Steve sleep. The muted light filtering into the room fell across Steve's face, blonde hair a mess, sticking out at odd angles, his face relaxed. The sight a far cry from the clean cut, stoic look of Captain America.
It still floored him that he got to see Steve like this.
"You know, normal people call, or use the front door."
Bucky shrugged, since when had either of them been normal. "Didn't want to wake you."
"Do I need to get dressed?"
Bucky smiled, getting Steve out of bed usually took an act of god, or aliens, robots, general calamity. "No, you're good."
That was one of the surprising things he had learned in the last three months. Captain America was a grump in the mornings. It took three cups of coffee to get him to stop scowling and grumbling. He complained it was unnatural the way Bucky was wide awake the second his eyes opened. Finally, something Steve and Tony agreed on...strong coffee and the evil of cheeriness first thing in the morning.
"You okay?" Steve said, rolling onto his side so he could look at Bucky.
Okay? Depends on your definition. After the run in with Hydra, the nightmares had come back full force again, so he rarely got more than a couple hours sleep a night. He never had less than three weapons on him, and circled past Steve and Clint's apartments at least once a night, just to confirm they were okay. He even had Jarvis update him on Tony regularly.
Steve scowled at him. In his sleep mussed state, it came off as more petulant than Steve was probably aiming for.
"I'm okay, just...couldn't sleep,” Bucky conceded.
Steve lifted the sheet. "Get in already. Watching me sleep is weird, just so you know."
Bucky climbed into the room fully, kicked his boots and jeans off, and slid into bed next to Steve. The warmth of Steve's arms wrapping around him settling the jitters he'd had since he woke an hour ago, drenched in sweat and screaming.
Steve pulled him closer. "If you ask Jarvis to hack the security feeds in mine and Clint's apartment, he'd do it for you. Save you prowling round like a creeper."
Bucky elbowed Steve in the ribs.
Steve laughed, low and soft against the back of Bucky's neck. "Just saying, Natasha's going to stab you one day if you keep creepin on her and Clint."
Bucky elbowed him again, harder this time, before rolling over and pinning Steve to the bed, rocking his hips into Steve. "You worryin’ bout me Rogers?"
Bucky stared down at Steve for a moment, caught by the sharp line of his jaw, the warm curl of his mouth. He leaned down and brushed Steve's lips in a ghost of a kiss. He would tear the world apart for the man beneath him. The depth of emotion terrifying and calming all at once, a chaotic rush of contradictions. It was so much more than he ever imagined or dared hope for, and he would do everything he could to show Steve that. In the gentle brush of fingers over bare skin, wordless whispers and the sweep of his tongue. The Winter Soldier layered warm kisses on heated skin, met the arch of Steve's body with his own. Smiled lazily at the noises he drew out with teasing touches.
Caught in the feel of Steve beneath him, Bucky forgot for the moment that there had ever been anything other than this. He was all warmth and easy contentment, as Steve’s touch left a trail of blazing want like untamed wildfire across his skin. He felt…he felt everything, and it was the best damn thing in the world.