It started out innocently enough, just like most things in life: Stark convinced Steve and Bucky to finally upgrade to smartphones. Steve had his Avengers communication device for the field while both had been given a sort of electronic tablet which had a program for everyone in the compound to communicate as well as the internet. Really what else did they need?
It had taken a bit of convincing from Stark and surprisingly Bruce as well before they gave in. Soon though both of the super soldiers realized the benefits of individual chat logs. Especially after Clint mentioned loudly how nice it was going through the Avengers log and not finding a random grocery list from either super soldier. Or even worst, when they argued over said shopping list. For two days straight.
It was early May when Stark set the phones up and handed them over. Bucky didn't really see any use for them other than arguing with Steve and he could do that in person whenever. He was under house arrest at the Avengers compound in upstate New York and had been for the last three months. It wasn't like he was opt to get up and leave randomly. He couldn't ghost even if he wanted too. It wasn't as if he was arguing over the house arrest, it made perfect sense. He was a liability at best.
When Steve and Clint had finally found him after a year of searching, half frozen in a Hydra base in northern Italy, he had been confused and violent. Hell, he'd been sitting in the middle of days old corpses almost frozen to death. Not because he was wounded, no. He was just sitting there cross legged awaiting orders. Something one of the Hydra agents said had triggered the Soldier, mostly. He had realized severe sleep deprivation made it harder for Hydra agents to regain control of him. Trigger words had less affect that way. So the Soldier had been told to stand down and await orders which he did after he slaughtered a whole base of agents. Clint had told him they guesstimated that he had been sitting there for almost eight days because of the decomposition of the corpses. He was a liability at best.
Buck sat on the roof, with his legs through the railing as he fiddled with the small machine that Stark kept calling a phone. Just because he didn't find it necessary didn't mean he didn't like it. Wanda had showed him earlier in the day how to listen to music and watch videos. He had taught himself how to look something up on the internet and find articles, specifically those about advancements in science. It was easier to push aside the noise inside his mind when he was focusing on emotionless reporting, no current news, no special interest stories, nothing like that. Bucky felt comfortable reading was science journals, written in very complex jargon. Banner had suggested it the week before when the phones were activated. Said it helped him settle his mind when needed it. It was helping Bucky.
A soft ping sounded from his speakers as a small box showed up at the top of the screen. It was just a number with the text. "Where are you?" It took him a few minutes to remember how to switch over to the chat logs. He only had one, this new one. Since getting the phone the only one who had the number was Steve so he made a guess.
'Roof. Why?' Typing back was slow and it took a while to realize his metal hand had no effect on the phone. No matter how many times he tapped it nothing happened. Maybe Stark could do something about that. He had already helped the arm run better, figured the problem that was shooting pain into his spine and was even talking about replacing it completely in the near future. Hopefully the next one would be lighter.
'It's almost dinner time and I'm hungry. You coming in?'
'Eat without me.' The sounds and voices that always echoed in his head were especially loud today. A moment later Steve sent back a simple, 'Okay.' Buck leaned back and snorted out a laugh. He knew there was more to that 'Okay' than just 'Okay.' Steve hated when he missed meals and sectioned himself off but knew not to comment on it. They were all coping in their own way. Steve wasn't suffocating but he was trying to be as present as possible and sometimes that just felt off. Especially when they were close but Bucky's mind was screaming that they weren't close enough. An errant thought that Bucky could never grasp, like most of his memories after Azzano and before the train.
With a sigh he lost himself back into the latest discovery by NASA.
Three hours later, Bucky still sat on that roof with legs almost numb from the edge. His battery was running dangerously low when he got the text from Steve. A simple picture of a nice sandwich on the kitchen table. The message on the bottom was 'Dinner if you want it.' Buck looked at the picture with a puzzled expression. The picture was clear and surprisingly well shot, even if it did have a blurry top edge. If Buck had to guess that was from Steve's finger. It looked flesh colored enough. A soft chuckle fell from Bucky's lips as he stretched out for a moment before making his way down and towards the two bedroom apartment he was sharing with Steve.
He remembered that's kind of how they lived in Brooklyn way back when. Except back then they had one bedroom. The details were fuzzy but he remembers sharing the bed with Steve more often than not, even if their Landlord thought one took the living room and one took the bedroom. The living room was drafty and definitely no place for a constantly sick Steve but there were nights where Bucky's back ached so much from working two jobs that Steve would try to switch which just ended up with them crammed on that small, child's bed.
Now, the separate bedrooms were nice sometimes. It was nice to have a place where he could just shut the door and be left alone with his thoughts while not wearing pants. Most of the time, usually late at night, Bucky felt odd. Like he was too small for the room. There wasn't enough of him to fill up a whole room by himself. When this feeling hooked into his chest he didn't sleep. Instead he slide down the wall dividing him from Steve and listened. Most nights Steve would talk in his sleep. Buck could never for all his reasoning figure out what set it off but Stevie had been doing it since they were kids. Most of the times it was nonsense, funny little nonsense. Then they went to war.
Just thinking about it caused an extra weight to settle on his shoulders as his lungs tightened. His bones felt heavier as he placed his flesh hand against the panel on their apartment door. A soft whir as it scanned him before the sound of the lock clicking open reached his ears. He pushed the door open, meeting the dark hallway which soon opened up into the living room, kitchen, dining room area. He stopped, making sure the door was tightly shut behind him. Then re-checking it, twice, before moving to the living room toeing his boots off as he walked. A small end table lamp was on and in the chair next to it was Steve. Steve with all of his bulk curled up tight around a book. When Bucky got to the end of the couch Steve looked up with a soft smile before he opened his mouth to ask something.
"How did you send me a picture?" Bucky asked cutting him off.
"Wanda showed me earlier today." He paused, placing a sock of all things in the book to mark his place. An argument bubbled up in Bucky's chest, a familiar one. It stopped, getting stuck in his throat. He didn't quite know how to be 'familiar' anymore. Bucky put his hands into the front pockets of his jeans where his fingers brushed a scrap piece of paper he left in there yesterday, he note of some kind. A note that would make a better bookmark than a damn sock but he kept his hands in his pockets and his mouth shut. "Nat was texting me all day from London," Steve added when he noticed Bucky wasn't going to say anything. He dropped the book on the ground with a soft thud before shifting to grab his phone out of his back pocket.
Buck just stood at the end of the couch and watched as Steve unlocked his phone. With a furrow to his brow Steve scrolled through something, probably a message log. Nat often texted them both randomly, about random things. Nat had texted him earlier about finding this amazing sandwich shop just outside of London. She had been especially happy over the fact that one of their sandwiches was called the TARDIS. He had no idea what that was but she had been so excited about it that it had sparked a memory of a young red-headed girl. Eleven years old at best and dismantling a 40mm Grenade.
"She's been sending me all these texts about a doctor. I'm not sure who she's talking about or why she's excited about seeing a doctor in London. She hates going to medical when she's here." Steve looked up at Bucky apologetically. "Found them," he finally muttered under his breath as he pushed off the chair and held his phone out to Bucky who took it easily.
Bucky slowly scrolled through each picture. Most were of random buildings in London. Nat had mentioned earlier that this was her first time there without being on a mission. Her, Clint, and Banner had decided to randomly take a trip to England last week. The Avengers hadn't been called on in over a month so it made sense, timing wise. A few of the pictures were of Banner and Clint. The last two were of a bright blue police box with her excited face in the corner pointing at it. He didn't get it either.
"She looks like she's having fun." Buck paused, looking at her happy face in the few pictures she was in. He scrolled back to the pictures of Banner and Clint relaxing or excitedly pointing out their own things. It all looked so nice. He had no memories like these with Steve. The only ones they had were up in a museum. "Can you teach me how to do this?"
"Do what, Buck?"
"Send pictures?" It looked like fun, he thought and didn't dare speak.
"Jesus, Rogers," Wanda explained almost jumping out of his skin when Steve barked out a laughter that echoed off the walls of the cargo bay of the smallest of the Avengers jets. Stark was up front driving but he had put on some talk radio about bio-something or other, arguing back to it every few minutes. So him and Wanda had made it back to where it was quiet.
"Sorry," was all Steve said as he furiously typed back.
"Who are you texting with?"
She side eyed him a moment but let it go and went back to reading. Steve looked at the picture again as he tried to wipe the smile from his face. He couldn't though. The picture was actually really cute and it had relieved the tension that was pressing against his chest all day. Bucky hadn't come out of his room when Steve had announced he was leaving on a mission. It wasn't far. Just over the border in Canada where a small group of modified humans with bad values were causing trouble. It was a good trainer mission for Wanda so he had volunteered them earlier in the morning.
Sadly, Buck still wasn't cleared to leave the compound. It would have been nice to have him along again. It wasn't the first mission to pull him away since Bucky came back so he had been at a loss for Bucky's sudden isolation. It wasn't uncommon and every time Bucky hid himself away. A part of his heart felt heavier than the rest, the part that belonged to his best friend against his will. He had even asked Sam to check in on Bucky throughout the day if he could since Sam was visiting for a few weeks, getting an upgrade to his wings.
So the stupid picture of Buck complaining was enough to brighten his mood, immensely. It was taken with Bucky upside down, probably on one of the machines in the gym with the caption 'I'm going to kill Clint. He's playing that stupid Final Countdown song on repeat again. No jury would convict me.' He was probably right too. Clint had a playlist that was just that one song and he played it when he was feeling extra hyper.
Steve felt for Bucky. That was a special kind of hell to go through just to let off some steam, and even worse for a man who couldn't go running in the woods around the compound. He still wasn't allowed outside by himself and Steve was the only one who could keep up with him. So that picture meant more than Steve would have thought.
He sent a picture back of Wanda sitting across from him, reading her book cross legged on the floor. Below the picture he texted, 'She told me earlier I wasn't allowed to talk to her until she finished reading.' He sent that off and almost put down his phone before typing out a simple 'I'm bored,' before sending that and put his phone on his knee. Steve leaned back, head resting against the wall of the jet and eyes closed. They had another four hours until they got back to the compound and if Steve couldn't hold a conversation with his only sane traveling partner then really the only other thing to do was nap.
Steve dozed, not quite falling asleep but not quite awake, for only a half hour before his phone buzzed against his leg twice. A small smile tugged on his lips as he held the phone up, opened one eye just enough to snap a picture of himself trying to doze. He quickly typed out 'zzzz,' which was the easiest response before he locked his phone and placed it on the seat beside him. This time he shuffled down in the chair, crossed his arms and actually fell asleep this time.
Night had fallen faster than Buck had realized. He was alone in the apartment and had been all day since Steve had left early this morning on a mission to, Italy? He couldn't remember. It hadn't been a bad start to the day, per say but his mind was a little off. Once Steve had bid him goodbye Buck had settled in with a book. It was one Wanda had lent him a week ago but he hadn't had time to read. It was thick, over seven hundred pages, and the world inside did not resemble their own. That helped greatly on days like these. He had started the book just about twelve hours ago, only stopping for a few short breaks so it was no surprise when he was almost done with it.
His head didn't feel as disjointed this time, but the prospect of finishing without another distraction to follow set his heart beating just a tiny bit faster. T.V. didn't work the same when Steve wasn't here. When Bucky didn't have him specifically to joke with. None of the others quite got his sense of humor, Steve did and mirrored it perfectly.
He could work out but that could also backfire, instead of clearing his head it might just be the silence that could make it worse. Finally, after sitting crammed up in the chair by the window not really reading for twenty minutes, the one Steve usually claimed for reading, Bucky decided to visit Wanda. Maybe see if she'd lend him another book after he finished this one.
It only took him another forty five minutes to finish the book. After that he made his way to Wanda's room. The main team members all had a small apartment, similar to Steve's, but the newest members got dorm style rooms. Buck only knew they were dorm style because that's what Nat had called them when she was giving him a tour. She mentioned these were much larger and had bathrooms attached but weren't complete apartments. When Buck had looked in a vacant one he couldn't really see much of a difference. The room was just about the size of his and Steve's old apartment in Brooklyn. It even had a tiny kitchenette off to one side. Since seeing those rooms he had almost asked Steve if they could have moved into one of them. At first having the big apartment felt off and foreign. Too much room. They had their own bedrooms which felt so odd. The first month Buck was back he stood outside Steve's door, fighting the urge to go in.
They had only the one bed in the old apartment for most of their time. At one point they had two but it was mostly broken when they found it and it had really only lasted a few months. It was smaller so Steve had claimed it, saying Buck needed more space for his big head. Then that winter Steve had gotten so sick that Buck had almost called the priest. The bed broke during one of Steve's real bad coughing fits. Buck had just carried Steve from the wreck to his own bed. His parents had bought it for him as a housewarming gift and it was solid. After that they most slept in the same bed. They kept the old broken one, propped up in a way to hide the fact that it was broken but that was only for the landlord's sake.
"Sergeant Barnes?" a small voice asked from his right. Bruce was coming down the hall with a Stark pad held loosely in one hand and a coffee in the other. He looked tired but not enough to cause concern. Or to put Buck on defense. He knew what the man turned into. Buck just nodded at him in greeting. "It's a pleasant surprise seeing you in this area. How are you?" His voice was soft and measured with a hint of uncertainty.
"Well," Bucky responded trying not to sound to short. He was still uneasy with interacting with most in the compound.
"What brings you to this side, if you don't mind me asking?" Bruce stepped closer, putting the pad down by his side and giving Steve a patient look.
"Wanda lent me this," he said holding up the book for him to see. He wanted to say more, about how much he liked the book, about the weather, about anything but the words kept getting stuck behind his teeth. Bruce's kind, patient smile only went so far. It kept him from bolting.
"Name of the Wind, good book."
"You've read it?" Bruce just nodded, as his pad started to beep impatiently. A sigh fell from his lips when he checked it.
"Seems I'm getting summoned. Tell Wanda I say 'hello' and it was good seeing you." Buck nodded as Bruce started off down the hall before stopping. "If Wanda doesn't happen to have the second in that series let me know. I do and more like it. The third one isn't out yet, unfortunately."
"When's it coming out?" Bruce just shrugged before waving goodbye and making his way back towards the labs. Bucky watched him go, letting him disappear through a door before he started off again for Wanda's room. He even stopped to double check with FRIDAY that she was even still in there.
From there it only took him another few minutes to arrive at her door. He paused, the door was closed and he hadn't asked if he could come over. Doubt started to eat at his insides. Buck knew you didn't just call on a gal randomly without notice that was rude and forceful. No, that was different. He wasn't picking her up for a date. He leaned back against the wall next to the door and waited for his head to stop. He blinked once and the world turned colder as he saw Daisy Ryan's front door. Wind blew in from the east and- No. This wasn't 1939. He wasn't in Queens picking a girl up for a date he didn't really want to go on to begin with. Not with Stevie home sick with the flu. Or was it a cold? Didn't matter both could almost kill him at any moment. What was he even doing out in Queens? He should go back to Stevie. He should go back.
"Bucky?" Who? "Barnes. Are you coming in or not?" The world snapped back. To his left was Wanda, sticking her head out of her room and looking at him quizzically. "FRIDAY said you were on your way. Did you finish the book?" It took Buck a moment, which Wanda graciously gave him but he soon nodded as he pulled himself off the wall before following her inside.
"I really liked it. Do you have the second one?"
"Yup. Though I have to warn you, the third one isn't out yet and no one knows when it will be out."
"Yeah. Um... Bruce warned me about that. Just now actually as I was on my way here. Guess he's a fan as well."
"Not surprised. Okay do you want to borrow just the second one or can I load you up?" Her question was innocent enough but her smile was wide and gleeful. He smiled softly in return.
"Load me up."
It hadn't even taken her a solid ten minutes to literally fill his arms with books. When she finally stopped he was able to order them into two stacks which he had to carry against his chest and keep them upright with his chin. She took one look at him and doubled over in laughter. He caught sight of himself in the mirror behind her, wide eyes in wonder clutching two large towers of books. Most were like the one he had read but she threw in a few curve balls for fun, as she said. In the end there were about twenty five books total. Some hardbacks, some paperbacks.
"Steve might be gone a bit this time. Did I go overboard?"
"No... I- I really appreciate this. Thank you."
"My pleasure. Seriously, Bruce is the only one that reads the same stuff but he's never around to talk about it." She paused and gave him a pointed look, up and down in a weird way. Buck's brow furrowed as he tried to figure it out. "I think you should take a picture for Steve. You look kind of adorable right now."
"Ah... Sure?" He paused and shifted his hips left and right before realizing it probably wouldn't be a good idea to try and grab his own phone. "It's in my right front pocket. Do you mind."
"Not at all." With deft fingers she snatched it quickly before stepping back and holding it up. He smiled softly, looking into the camera as she took the picture. "Want me to send a message with it?"
Buck stood there thinking for a moment before an evil grin spread his lips. "Yeah, type 'Wanda's my favorite now. You've been replaced.'"
"Like anyone could ever replace him ," she said softly giving him a pointed look from above his own phone.
"My phone won't let me take a picture," Buck stated angrily as he glared at his phone later that week. Steve was sprawled out on the couch behind him, reading. His only response was a soft 'mmm?' as he continued reading, attention still mostly on the book. "I think my phone’s broken." He paused before reaching back and whacking Steve in the thigh with his flesh hand.
"What, Buck?" He turned around just in time to see Steve's exasperated expression directed at him. He narrowed his eyes before raising his phone and trying to take a picture.
"See?" he said turning the screen around to face Steve. A small window had popped up with text that Buck hadn't actually read.
Steve leaned in, peering closer at it. "Say's your phone’s full." Steve paused. "We have the two biggest sizes. How did you fill it already?" He reached out to take the phone completely flabbergast. Buck pulled the phone out of his reach before quickly slipping it into his pocket and turned away, hoping that Steve didn't catch the blush forming on his cheeks.
"How do I un-fill it?"
"Ahhh." Steve looked up at the ceiling a moment before scratching his head. Buck twisted on the floor, placing his arms folded arms across Steve's thighs as he watched him think. His nose scrunched up twice as he slowly moved his head back and forth. "I think the only way is to delete some pictures? I'm not sure though. Maybe Tony can add more space?" They both knew the basics of how the phones worked. How pictures barely took up any space but apps and videos would eat up gigs faster. Tony had explained it to them the day he set up the phones but honestly, they got the gist. All the rest kind of went out the window.
"Is Stark here?" Bucky asked before pausing and tilting his head up slightly. "FRIDAY, is Stark at the compound?"
"He is scheduled to arrive later today at Fourteen hundred hours. Should I notify him of your inquiry upon his arrival?"
"Yeah, tell him I'll come find him sometime after that." A small smirk donned Bucky's lips. With that kind of wording it'd leave Stark frustratingly perplexed until he showed up. Buck turned just in time to catch Steve's eye roll at his wording. He just mentally shrugged. It was easy antagonizing Stark, just like it was easy antagonizing his father.
"FRIDAY, where's Stark?" Buck called out to the ever present AI as he set his book down just a little after six in the evening.
"Lab Alpha." He thanked the AI, still not sure if that was the appropriate response before grabbing his phone and heading towards science wing of the compound. As he quickly left the apartment he threw a goodbye over his shoulder to Steve who was still on the couch and still reading the same book as earlier. It had been a quiet day all around. Steve had only been called away to deal with Avengers business but had arrived back come around lunch time with a splint around one ankle and wrapped up ribs.
A smile tugged at his lips as he remembered earlier, just about to sit down to eat when Steve came hobbling in. With an exasperated groan Buck had quickly gestured to Steve's wounds before wondering out loud just how Steve could have gotten this injured in just four hours. It was supposed to be a quick trip to Canada and back again, grabbing a scientist from a safe house. Steve looked at him sheepishly before asking if he could have a grilled cheese as well. Buck wasn't supposed to know mission details, even the smaller ones but Steve still told him most of the time without thinking. It made him feel less left out of things. The world was spinning away and he was still locked inside these walls. For a while he wasn't even allowed out of a specially designed Hulk proof room but that hadn't lasted long. Steve had definitely fought for a little reprieve for him. Not much since he had spent two solid months locked in their apartment. Knowing mission details was a small way that Buck was able to feel connected. When he interacted with Nat, or Wanda, or Clint he could ask them how it went and not expect vague answers back.
From up ahead a loud crash echoed down the hallway from the slightly opened door of Lab Alpha. He paused a moment, tensed. An equally loud swear came from the lab causing Buck to relax. He didn't bother knocking, Stark was expecting him. The lab was a mess like usual. A few bots were moving around on the side, doing who knew what as Stark stood in the middle at the long work station cursing at a box shaped object. There were wires splayed out around it going off in random directions. One was hooked up to the large monitor which showed blueprints of some kind. A white noise filled Buck's ears for a moment looking at it all. A short flash of memory, someone speaking in German.
Stark cursed once more hitting the box with a wrench. Bucky's vision cleared and his head was quiet once more. Moments like those were happening less and less, thankfully but it still took his breath away. He stood just inside the door, trying to regulate his breathing for a few minutes before Stark even looked up and noticed him.
"How long have you been standing there?" Buck just shrugged in response. Stark hung his head and sighed before turning away to swipe some more items off the screen. "What's up, RoboCop?"
The reference went over Bucky's head. He was starting to pick up current pop culture references but there were still some that he had no idea. He made a mental note to ask Steve if he got it later. Bucky had made the mistake of admitting he didn't get a reference one time with Stark and- Well, never again. He just rolled his eyes as he made his way over to the worktable before waiting for Stark to stop grumbling at whatever he was seeing on the screen. Buck glanced over, blueprints for a new generator of some kind, was all Buck could piece together. Most of the blueprints were covered in handwritten notes. A pointless pen like object sat behind Stark's ear.
"Something's up with my phone." Buck's shoulders were still tense, probably always would be around Stark. One of the first assassinations he remembered was Howard's. Stark knew, had found out basically from the start but after reading all the files himself he understood. For the first few months that Buck was at the compound Stark made sure to avoid him at all costs but that wasn't helping anyone. Stark forgave him. Bucky just needed to forgive himself. It was the hardest one though since Howard had been a sort of friend. Sort of because Howard had a nasty habit of trying to test his latest inventions on or with Steve and the dumbass always agreed to it. The one that blew up right in both their faces , covering them in bright pink ink was worth it though.
"What are you smiling about? Stark asked cautiously as he moved around the table and held out his hand.
"Just remembered something," Buck replied softly as he handed his phone off to Stark who instantly brought it close and started to tap away at the screen. They stood in silence as Stark went through the phone trying to figure out the problem. Buck slide his hands into his pockets and furrowed his brow, debating for a moment. Austria, dead middle of summer. No running water for five miles and one broken transport. "It was about your dad." Stark froze and Buck regretted saying anything. Howard was a sore subject, obviously. What the hell was he thinking.
"Don't leave me in suspense." Stark's voice was tight as he peered up at Buck, trying to appear calm.
"Did he ever tell you about that time he had to hike just about five miles skin dyed bright neon pink?" Stark choked on a laugh as he finally relaxed and moved closer.
"No, no he didn't." Stark motioned for Buck to tell the story. He did but he was still hazy on a few of the details like what the invention was but he remembered enough. It had to be strapped to someone’s chest, Steve's, and had a small control panel. Howard was standing in front of him adjusting it. All he remembered was the man saying 'Should work now' then the explosion of pink ink fountained up from between them. A moment later the thing somehow caught on fire and Steve panicked and threw it into their transport instead of away where it landed next to their gas can. Boom.
"We had Dum Dum convinced for a week it was his fault the jeep burst into flames. He was smoking one of his cigars a few feet away, guess he just threw the match a moment before. His whole back was charred. Gabe tripped over a root, frightened at the explosion and got himself a concussion then you have Howard and Stevie covered in bright pink ink."
"What were you doing?" Stark asked in between bouts of laughter as he went back to looking through the phone
"Sitting about six feet away watching the whole lot of them." Buck paused before scratching his chin a moment. "The Howlies were a stupid bunch and your father was an honorary member on account of how stupid he could be."
Stark's laughing petered off as he kept going through the phone. "Didn't know that... Also," he paused and looked up at Buck. "I know what's wrong with your phone."
"Can it be fixed?"
"Easily." Stark walked back over to his desk and touched the phone on a smooth pad on the side of the screen. He pulled his hand away and the phone stuck. The screen lit up displaying Buck's home screen. "You just ran out of space. It's all the pictures."
"I'm not deleting them." Stark raised a brow and just watched as Buck suddenly got defensive.
"Didn't say you have to. We have a the ability to store them all somewhere else. Let me show you." He turned back to the screen and started to set up Bucky's phone for automatic upload to his own personal Stark Cloud. "It has almost unlimited space and only you can access it through here." Stark turned back and nodded making sure Buck understood each step that he did.
He turned back to the phone when he got the nod of understanding from Buck. A moment later he swiped his hand across the screen and a slew of photos spread out across the screen. There were a few random selfies or photos of objects but the vast majority were of Steve. Some Steve was looking at the camera with various expressions on his face from grumpy to ecstatic but most were actually when he wasn't even looking at the camera. A few were of him sleeping on the couch, some more he was cooking. Buck's eyes widened just as Stark's did.
"I can explain!" Buck stated quickly as he leap forward to block the screen with his body. Stark stepped back a few feet, eyebrows almost disappearing into his hairline.
"Oh... You and Cap, huh?"
"Stark, this isn't- It's not..." Bucky fell over himself trying to explain but he wasn't really sure how. A deep long ago fear gripped Bucky's insides. He remembered police raids, arrests, and beatings. He remembered friends selling out friends with gleeful disgust. He remembered looking at Steve to long in fear that it would damn them both, afraid he'd take Steve with him to hell. Guilty by association. Bucky realized the static was back in his head as his fear rose.
"Uh," the sound fell from Stark's lips as he crossed his arms and nodded. Buck backed a few feet away and watched him. "I feel kind of silly for not realizing it before." He paused and looked at Bucky. "By the way you have a good artist eye. I have an old 35mm camera hanging around the tower somewhere. It was Happy's when he first started working for me. I can ask him but I don't think he'll mind me giving it to you if you want it."
"What?" Buck stuttered as he stopped his retreat. "I don't understand."
"A camera. You might enjoy the old school non-digital- Wait. Did you want to talk about this?" Stark gestured to the very revealing pictures on display for all to see. "We- Um... We can? I'm not the best person for this but- Oh! Pepper! Pepper's amazing!" Stark snapped his fingers a few times as he looked around.
"What are you looking for?" Buck asked hesitantly. The static was still pulsing through his head but not as strong. Confusion was slowly replacing fear. This wasn't the response he was supposed to get.
"My phone... I'm thinking sushi. Do you like sushi? I feel like sushi is the best kind of food to come out over."
"Come out of where?"
"Screw it. JARVIS!"
"Yes, sir?" the posh voice that Buck was still getting used to asked from nowhere and everywhere.
"Where's Pepper? She's around. I feel like she should be around."
If a disembodied voice could sigh under their breath JARVIS could. "She's at the tower but her schedule is loose today, seeing as how it is Sunday. Would you like me to contact her."
"You can't leave the compound so she'd have to bring sushi here..." Stark muttered under his breath as Buck stood there still down right confused. "JARVIS ask Pepper to grab one of the helicopters and a ton of sushi. I've seen Steve eat sushi before. You're super serumed up so we'll probably need enough for a small army. Tell her, her presence is requested."
"Will do, sir."
"Now that's done- You okay, Ansel Adams?"
"Who?" Buck asked now even more confused.
"Oh, right. Ansel Adams. Great photographer. Are you okay?" They stood there just looking at each other.
"I don't understand."
"You're not angry? Or disgusted?" Each word left Bucky's mouth in a halting manner as if they were pulled from him with force. Stark seemed to be happy enough to ignore it but Bucky had seen first hand how that could backfire. Be all chumming up until they rat you out. He remembered seeing a broken man's body on the street and his once 'friend' bragging about it all the next day. Bragging about how he was the one to turn the pervert in when the day before they were as close as two friends could be. Stevie and him may have lived in the more tolerant of places but the rest of New York wasn't like that. He wasn't to sure right now how Stark was going to damn him for being what he was, for loving who he loved.
He watched Stark furrow his brow a moment, lick his lips, and glance around the lab uncomfortably. "Um... No? I'm really- Shit!" Stark's sudden change caused Buck to retreat two steps. "We haven't really allowed you access to the outside world. Okay, this, this right here. All makes sense right now."
"Yup. So first, welcome to the future. It's better than it was but keep in mind we have a ways to go. This?" Stark gestured to the pictures once more. "You being in love with your best friend who just happens to be the same gender as you is okay. Well, some people still think it's a sin but fuck them. They can rot for all I care. Men with men, women with men, women with women, hey single, there's nothing wrong with that, any of that. Hell, you and Stars and Stripes could even get married once you both get your heads out of your asses."
"I- Um.. What?" Buck paused a moment, taking it all in. "'Married?"
"Yeah, it's legal in the US now. A few other countries too but I'm not sure which. Except Scotland, they were the first if I remember correctly." Stark stopped, his usual confidence and swagger were lost a moment as his face softened. "There's nothing wrong with this. Nothing. We're your team and if anyone tries bashing you for this I'll personally hang them from the Empire State building by their underwear. You and Steve have nothing to worry about."
"Steve's... He's no queer." 'Unlike me' was left unspoken. The word falling from his lips so harshly Stark visibly flinched.
"Come on, let's wait for Pepper on the roof." Stark grabbed Buck's phone and handed it to him before swinging an arm around his shoulder. "Heavy talk when we're eating. By the way, have you ever had sushi? No? Oh, this will be fun. Sushi is like a religious experience. I have this chef on call at the tower, brought him over from Japan." Stark kept talking a mile a minute as he guided both of them up to wait for Pepper.
It was also about the time Bucky had figured out how to edit them. He figured out how to make them look artistic but mostly he just liked to draw on them and add little emojis. Steve had a sneaking suspicion this was Clint's work which just made Buck smile innocently. It was actually Banner's work, surprisingly enough. Bucky had demonstrated his new ability by sending Steve a picture of himself sleeping awkwardly on the couch, sprawled out and now with added graffiti. Nothing too insulting, just a mustache and devil horns. Steve was not amused when he woke up and saw that.
Two days later, after arriving back from the most boring mission in history Steve finally caved, asking Nat to teach him how to do this. Bucky had been texting him almost known stop with his selfie stories, as Steve was mentally calling them. Most were funny little things about his day but always with a side of his dry humor which Steve loved. It perfectly mirrored his own. Stark always called them the Salt Twins and after it was explained to them he realized it really did fit.
Nat was sitting across from Steve at one of the cafes in town. It was about thirty minutes from the compound but their caramel scones were worth it. Spring had finally hit upstate New York and they had just come back from a mission that wasn’t anything more than surveillance. Nat did most of the work, Steve had just been along for backup if needed.
It was Avengers rule number one: No one went off on a mission by themselves. No matter what. Minimum number was two Avengers. The rule was put in place because both Steve and Nat had disappeared on individual missions at the exact same time. Steve had been looking for Bucky and Nat had... Well, no one really knows what her mission had been but they had both called in for backup within hours of each other. The team was split up and frantic so the rule was made.
Nat had been complaining about it as they walked in since Steve had been kind of a pain the whole time. It was a week's worth of waiting in hotel room and watching horrible T.V. since he had finished his book the first day. If he wasn't in the hotel room, he was following her to keep an eye out which wasn't as exciting as it sounded.
Steve just shrugged as he found them an empty table and put his lighter leather jacket across one of the seats. If he had known it was going to be like that then he'd have petitioned for Bruce or Clint to take his place. Thor and Stark would have been worst than him. Buck had been getting more social, spending more time in Stark's lab learning all the science he could. It was lost on Steve; he was a fine arts student back in the day. Nat had thought time away without worrying about Buck locked away in their apartment would do him good. Too bad he hadn't been needed even once.
"It's not like it was my fault, even. I had tried to get that red headed asshole to grab my ass so I could throw down."
"How was that suppose to alleviate my boredom?"
"You could have totally jumped in as a brave citizen defending my honor," she stated while throwing her jacket over the opposite chair. "Honestly, the guy's conversation skills were so mind numbing that's really all I could think of." Steve rolled his eyes before turning to the counter. Thankfully there was no line today so he quickly ordered two large coffees and four scones. He liked to bring one back for Buck whenever he came here.
"Nat, question. Do you think you can show me something on my phone?" he asked as he sat down. She had been scrolling through something on her phone and only responded with a raised eyebrow. "Buck's been sending me all these pictures with scribbles on them and he won't show me how he's doing it."
Steve unlocked his phone, quickly pulled up Buck's chat log and showed her one of the pictures. It was of Thor with a drawn kick me sign on his back talking to Stark who he had drawn dog ears on. For no reason really, the caption said he was bored since Thor had come in to talk to Stark about something or other. Buck hadn't elaborated. The picture had been sent two hours ago and he had only responded with a picture of himself with his palm against his forehead.
Nat laughed sharply before grabbing his phone and taking a closer of it. "How creative of Mr. Barnes," she said softly as she pulled back with the phone. A moment later the barista came up to their table with their coffees and scones, one wrapped up in a to go bag. How Nat did that, Steve still hadn't figured out. He thanked the barista with a smile, Nat just smiled up at her. The woman left just as a ping sounded from his phone. Nat's eyes widened before she starting almost howling in laughter while grabbing her midsection. She tried stopping her loud laughter, looked at his phone once more before throwing her head back and laughing harder.
"What the- Give me my phone!" It took Steve a moment but he reached across, planning on snatching it from her hand but she was quicker. She held the phone up and over her head. Steve just glared at her as she started to get control of herself. It took way longer than he would have expected and his growing curiosity wasn't helping. She breathed in deeply as the last of her laughter faded. "Can I have my phone back now."
"Sure, sure. Just one question." She giggled a moment longer before turning the phone around to show Steve. "How long has Stark been sending you pictures of Buck half naked and sweaty?" Steve's eyes widened as he reached across again to snatch his phone away. This time she let him.
Steve could feel his cheeks redden and burn with embarrassment. Stark had sent him a picture of Bucky working out in the communal gym. He was in the process of taking off a sweat soaked blue tank top that Steve was pretty sure was his. Buck's large chest was almost glistening with sweat and his hair was pulled back in a small ponytail, with a tendril that escaped the elastic framing his face. He was completely unaware of what Stark was doing or more likely Stark had had FRIDAY take it for him. Steve's blush deepened and spread as he realized how low Buck's dark gray workout pants were riding on his hips. It took Steve longer than he wanted to admit to recover before he swore under his breath.
"Uh," was all Nat said with a smirk before taking a sip of her drink. She was watching him closely.
"Don't say a word." Like that would ever work, commanding her not to make a smart ass comment.
"You going to save it?" Her smirk turned evil. "Also this isn't the first picture someone has sent you with Bucky boy half naked, huh?"
"It's mostly Stark," Steve groaned out as his usually rigid posture slumped back into his chair.
"Mostly?" Steve could hear the laughter threatening to spill just by her tone but she was keeping it at bay, but just barely.
"Clint's done it a few times as well." Steve paused before narrowing his eyes at Nat. "Did you put him up to it? Because I already questioned Stark. It wasn't him." Nat couldn't help it this time, she threw her head back and laughed.
"I wish I had. This is amazing." Steve just continued to glare at her. "How long has this been going on?"
"A few weeks," Steve answered shortly before crossing his legs and taking a sip of his coffee, angling away from her now.
"This is the greatest thing I've heard all month."
"It really isn't and can we please stop talking about it."
"Nope," she stated, popping the p . "So I'm really curious here. Out of the whole team Stark and Clint are the least observant. Granted, Rogers, you're really obvious but that's besides the point. I'm really curious to know how those two dumbasses figured out your secret little crush. Well, crush is putting it mildly, huh?" She stopped and quirked a brow. Steve's jaw clenched, not in anger but in panic.
"You're in love with Barnes. Don't give me that look, I'm not going to tell anyone. Not like most don't already know. Though I think Thor might not but he hasn't really been around a lot since Barnes came back so he gets a pass." Her tone was light and teasing. As she spoke she leaned back in her chair and crossed her legs, mirroring Steve's position but while his was back to rigid and tense, hers was languid and relaxed.
"Are you finished?"
"Buried the question. How did those two figure it out."
Steve sighed before reaching over and breaking off a bit of scone. He held it in his hand a moment before popping it into his mouth. He used to time to think. It wasn't a very flattering story on his part. He still feels shame all over again just thinking about it. Nat waited as he chewed, occasionally taking sips of her coffee.
"Clint, I'm not sure," Steve started before taking a large gulp of his coffee. "Stark, though, he saw Buck and I outside one day."
"That's it? He just saw you? What were you two doing?"
"Yoga." Nat's face lit up with glee. Everyone knew they had taken it up to aid with Buck's recovery but almost no one actually saw them doing yoga.
"Ah, you got excited, huh?" Steve could feel his face start to burn again. That wasn't exactly what happened but close enough. He still felt like a creep, even now and it wasn't a new thing. Back when they had lived together in Brooklyn Steve used to watch the way Bucky's body moved. At times it had been down right torture living together, knowing he wanted nothing more than to grab Buck by the hips and- Steve cut that thought off with a forceful sigh before draining the last of his coffee. He looked at the empty cup and then the bored barista, wondering if he should get another one. It would stall this conversation for a little longer.
"You want another?" Steve asked, watching as Nat took another sip of hers. It seemed she hadn't downed her nearly as fast. She just smiled before getting up, pushing him back down into his chair when he tried to follow, and going up the the counter. A moment later she sat back down and continued to sip her coffee.
"I ordered us both another one. You paid the first time." She paused and smirked again. Shit. "You going to tell him?"
"Why would I tell Stark? He already knows." Steve was purposefully playing obtuse. Nat just rolled her eyes. "Fine, no and I don't plan on it so just stop."
"Is this why you never wanted to start dating?" Steve blinked and startled slightly at the sudden change in topic. "You've known him since you were what? Five? Six? I can't remember. Anyways, judging by how head over ass you're in love with him I'd be surprised that this was a recent development."
"Truth?" She nodded before leaning back and finishing off her drink. "It's one of the reasons why I never started dating again. The other was Peggy. I lost Bucky and then when I came out of the ice I found out I lost Peggy too. It's really hard to get back into dating when the two people you had feelings for were gone. I loved Peggy in a different way than Buck but I still did love her."
"She was the safe love. The one you could have." Steve just nodded, placing his hands on the table. The half eaten scone almost completely forgotten.
"Safe love or not I did love her. Buck and I though… We lived in a progressive area. We were friends with people in the queer community so I never had a fear that Buck would up and leave me if he found out I swung that way. Still didn't want to tell him because then it'd come out how I figured it all out."
"Why would that be a bad thing?"
"Buck's straighter than an arrow. He would have just felt bad and if I told him now then that would just be cruel. He needs a safe place where no one is demanding of him at all. He doesn't need my feelings complicating his recovery." Steve shrugged as a sigh fell from his lips. The barista came over to deliver their second coffees, this time Nat thanked her while Steve just smiled softly. Words felt hard right now. He had already said so much.
"Oh, Steve." She put her hands on top of his and squeezed. "You poor blind bastard," she whispered almost soft enough he wasn't sure if he had heard correctly.