Bucky had to admit that when he saw Steph after the serum, he’d immediately slotted her into the “dame” category. Even after finding out that sickly, boyish looking little Steph had turned into this stacked blonde goddess, the demarcation has been made and he couldn’t go back. Despite feeling ashamed of thinking of her as available, there was no way he could go back to seeing her as his fragile best friend that needed protection from the world and herself.
He loved how tough she was and how she was willing to not take anything from anyone. But he also hated it when she didn’t know when she needed to give up. He understood, he really did, when she had to give up on so many things: a marriage, a family and her dream to join the Women’s Airforce.
He would have wanted all of that for her and would have given it to her if he had been able. But he hadn’t been able to see her in that light. And if he was being honest with himself, he wanted a family. With Steph’s health being so fragile, he didn’t think he could have it with her. He couldn’t risk her to fulfill a selfish desire.
So he had looked elsewhere.
And now that she had gotten her wish and rescued his sorry self from the hands of Hydra, all he wanted was to have her to himself. To give her that family that she craved.
And even though it was something that he knew Steph wouldn’t be adverse to, he felt like the world’s biggest hypocrite for wanting it.
That was why he only smiled and half-heartedly embraced her. He needed to keep the illusion that he was the good man that had left his best friend behind to fight for her safety. He didn’t want Steph to ever know.
Unfortunately, she found out and badgered him until he finally just snapped and grabbed her, giving her the most scorching kiss that he had ever given a dame.
“Oh.” Was all she could say after they pulled away, her eyes wide and her mouth swollen with the ferocity of his kiss.
“Shut up and do that again, Bucky. you always did talk too much.” Steph cut him off as she wrapped her arms around his neck and returned the kiss a bit clumsily, but with the same scorching passion that had him pushing her into her tent, the world behind them forgotten.
She hadn’t done anything with a man before, her shy touches were enough proof of that and Bucky went carefully and gently, even though an army tent in the middle of war-torn Europe wasn’t the most romantic place for this to occur.
But Step didn’t care. She was happy to be there with him, to discover all of the planes of his body and touching him so that he would moan in pleasure while he did the same to her. She was wonderful and amazing and he wished he had more than just a camp lantern to take in the expanse of her skin. He could feel the softness of it under his fingertips and the faint smell of her Pond’s cream and rose water that he could taste when he kissed the valley between her breasts and when he kissed her hipbone.
This was the same Steph her hadn’t dared to touch before and he regretted he had wasted so much time, making excuses instead of lying with her like both of them had wanted from the very start. He wasn’t going to give up this chance though, he promised himself as he spooned behind her. They had wasted too much time as it was and he wasn’t going to do that any longer. Not when they were in the thick of war and mortality was a certainty rather than a possibility.
He wanted to make her happy after all those years he should have been doing that in the first place.
“I’m so sorry for being so stupid.” He whispered agains the tangled golden fall of her hair, making her stir, but not wake. He kissed her temple then as he also took the opportunity to go to sleep.
Peggy found her sitting in the bombed out bar that they had all gone out to after the first successful mission. She was trying to stifle the tears that were overflowing her eyes, but was failing miserably. All she could think about was failing Bucky and losing him forever.
And not getting the chance to apologize over the stupid argument they had had before setting out for that mission. Although it had seemed terribly important at the time, after she hadn’t been able to catch Bucky…it was clear how mundane and petty it really was.
Steph’s face burned in humiliation as she gathered up her discarded underthings and shoved them on without much finesse. Bucky sat on the camp bed with his hands folded behind his head and watched her. He knew better than to try to and get between Steph and her anger. Especially now, since she could knock him out with a well placed upper-cut if she really put her mind to it.
“Steph…I was an idiot. I didn’t mean that. It just came out wrong-”
“Save it, Barnes!” Steph hissed as she buttoned up her khaki blouse and tucked it into her blue skirt, the outfit she wore when she was technically off duty.
“I am far too furious at you basically calling me a trollop for agreeing to…fondue with you without getting your real intentions loud and clear.” She blinked once or twice as she pulled on her shoes and picked up her jacket, moving toward the entrance.
“Steph…No. I was just-”
Steph just shook her head and put up her hand to stall his words.
“Bucky…we have to be ready for a mission. Let’s just…let’s talk about it later, all right? I just don’t have the time or energy to waste on this. I’ll see you when we leave.”
Bucky hadn’t said anything to that. He knew that she wouldn’t listen and that she was right. So he simply kept quiet and watched as Steph left.
Peggy didn’t say anything as she sat down across from Steph, who had angrily wiped at her face, leaving tear stains and dirt smudged across her cheeks. But the tears kept on coming until she had to accept the handkerchief that Peggy silently offered her.
“We had a fight and I let my pride get the best of me. I thought that we’d solve it when we got back.” Steph explained, her voice thick with unshed tears.
“But he didn’t make it back.” Peggy added softly, making Steph nod miserably.
“And all I can think of is that all he took with me was the memory of me being angry and stubborn and stupid and all I have left of him is the memory of seeing him falling and I can’t stop thinking about how stupid and petty the fight between us was and I can’t say I’m sorry because he’s gone and it wasn’t worth it. Not when he’s gone.”
Peggy got up and put her arms around Steph, who finally broke down completely in that bombed out pub she had celebrated with Bucky and the Howling Commandoes, all of them high on adrenaline and feeling invincible.
But now, Bucky was gone and they all felt the bite of mortality all too well and Steph was left weeping for a lost chance at making amends and for a love that was dead.
Steph woke up and knowing that nothing was right. From the nurse, to the bed to the game on the radio. It was not right. Even inside her own skin, inside her own body does she feel comfortable. She hadn’t ever felt this way and to wake up in a strange place and have two solemn looking men come into the room and sit down across from her…she knew that it didn’t bode well.
She was right to not give into her first impulse to run and just stay sitting on the bed. Her knees would have given out otherwise when Director Fury and the doctor tell her she’s pregnant and the baby will be due in seven months. As it was, she went boneless and had to lie down again in case she fainted.
They said other things. Practical things about making living arrangements and giving her income until she would be able to return to duty again. Even though she wanted to stubbornly protest that she could be on the active roster again, she couldn’t bring herself to truly be stubborn and argue against the decision. Not when it finally sunk in that she was carrying Bucky’s child.
She would have snorted at the cliche before. It had happened to other girls she had known. It wasn’t supposed to happen to her. Little skinny Steph Rogers that couldn’t survive a winter without catching one horrible cold after another and had been told by the doctor it wouldn’t be a good idea with her health to ever attempt to get pregnant.
She supposed that had been the reason they hadn’t really cared about contraception, what with the war going on and the scarcity of condoms. Even though it had fixed her on so many levels, she hadn’t truly believed that the serum had done its work all over. Saving the world from Hydra had been the priority, not whether she was fertile or not.
She was going to be a mother to Bucky’s baby. She was pregnant with Bucky’s baby. Steph couldn’t keep those thoughts from going around and around in her mind as she lay there and tried to not cry in front of those strange men. She wasn't one to show weakness to anyone, but the improbable news of her carrying a piece of Bucky were enough to undo her and the tears came.
At least they had enough tact to leave her alone with what they thought was her sorrow, but was actually her joy.
He spat out a mouthful of blood and smiled back at her, bloodied teeth making the gesture a feral grimace of defiance rather than one of friendliness.
She didn’t react to this. Just like she hadn’t when he had simply laughed at her when she started to speak to him in English, rather than the Russian that they used when he was off missions.
That had been almost a day or two ago. She knew that she was in for the long haul when she had embarked on this course of action, but she couldn’t stay neutral in this. Not when there was an innocent at stake that would be the key to bringing Bucky Barnes back from the Winter Soldier conditioning.
“I take it that was the wrong answer, then?” He asked, his English thickly accented. He could speak with a neutral accent as she had learned to do herself. He was just doing it to irritate her and to salvage some of his pride.
She had caught him in an embarrassingly easy trap and his masculine pride still smarted at how easily he fell for a pretty woman with long hair and sweet words. The hair had been wrong though. Should have been a honey blonde, rather than a red.
He frowned when that thought came into his head. Why would he be so specific about a hair colour? It wasn't as if he had any memories that were tried to that colour of hair. No mother or lover or sister or wife, as far as he knew.
Before he could ponder this, she drenched him in some kind of perfume. Rosewater, his mind supplied before he was engulfed by memories.
He was happy and that surprised him. He was happy and warm, because he was lying next to someone he loved. Truly loved.
He couldn’t see their face, only long blonde hair that smelled of rosewater that she used to buy on the corner store for twenty cents-
“Wake up!” The slap connected sharply against his face, the force of it making his head jerk back. He tested his jaw experimentally before letting his head roll forward to look at her.
“Why are you doing this?” He rasped, straining futilely against the bonds that held him against the chair.
“You need to remember the truth. Not the lies that they fed you before it’s too late. So tell me, Bucky Barnes, what do you remember?”
He wanted to tell her to go to hell, but all she did was look at him. Again, he was rocked by the idea that the eyes should have been a dark blue and that they should have been crinkled in laughter while saying his name.
“A woman. She used to call me Bucky and wear Rosewater. And she had blonde hair.”
He rasped out, his eyes narrowing as the older memories came crashing through like meltwater breaking a dam. The memories, of being a boy in America while playing baseball, of a girl with blue eyes and blonde hair that grew up to be the woman cuddled up against him…they felt real. Too real.
She slapped him again, rocking his head in the opposite direction.
“That’s a start. What else?”
When she got back to headquarters, with him in handcuffs, Fury did more than just raise an eyebrow.
“Who’s this and is he the reason why you fell of the grid for several months?”
He greeted her as his eyes swept over the dejected looking man walking, or rather stumbling beside her.
“Yes. But not in the way that you think, Director Fury.” She replied, tugging her prisoner forward so that Director Fury can take in the cybernetic arm, the bright blue eyes and messy black hair.
“Director Fury, meet Bucky Barnes. Formerly the Winter Soldier and the father of Stephanie Rogers' child.”
Fury swore that there was a glimmer of black humor in her eyes when she dropped that bomb and made Bucky Barnes collapse at their feet. He wouldn’t ever admit it to anyone, but he was sure of it.
Steph was starting to chafe at being forced to stay out of the action. She knew about the Avengers initiative and she knew that she should be part of it. Would have been if it hadn't been for Bucky junior, who decided at that moment to punch her in the ribs as a response to her thoughts.
"Ouch. Fine. I'm sorry." Steph muttered as she rubbed at the sore spot before letting her hand rest on the large curve of her belly. She was big for eight months and she was afraid that she was having twins. The doctors had assured her that she just had one baby and he was big. Which made sense since Bucky himself wasn't a small man. Even after the serum, he had still stood several inches taller than her.
She just hoped that the baby hadn't inherited his broad shoulders and big head, or she would be in for an agonizing time of it when she finally gave birth. Something that she both looked forward to and dreaded at the same time.
"Enough of that." She said out loud and waddled (she wouldn't even pretend that she didn't anymore. Not when she hadn't been able to put on her shoes by seeing her feet for months) into the little room that she had designated her studio in the apartment that SHIELD had so thoughtfully furnished her with once they realized they couldn't keep a pregnant superhero underfoot at headquarters.
Luckily, Agent Coulson had been put on the task and had done a wonderful job of it. He had no problems locating a roomy three bedroom brownstone in Brooklyn close to all amenities and had single handedly furnished it with everything that she should need. Although she had wanted to be wary of him, She had been won over by his unabashed enthusiasm over her near mythical status.
She found that it was specially adorable when he had asked her to sign his near mint condition Captain America cards. She still was torn between amusement and embarrassment at having seen some of the pictures of her in the tight blue, red and white miniskirted outfit they had first put her in. At least until she put her foot down and had Howard design her something practical and not as revealing.
At first, she had been worried that it had been a sexual interest that kept him coming back with groceries and driving her around to the many doctor's appointments her condition required. After all, he had clearly babbled on how much he admired her and how much it meant to him to meet her. But it was quite obvious to her later that wasn't quite the case with Agent Coulson. It became quite clear to her when another agent abruptly appeared on one of the grocery deliveries and helped carry the bags up to her brownstone.
That was how she met Clint and later on, after sharing some decaffeinated coffee with him when Coulson was called away. She ended up discovering that yes, Phil hero-worshipped her, but his heart belonged to Clint. Who revealed himself to be a skillful master archer and Phil's agent to handle on the field. That had been the reason why they had ended up developing something more than just a working relationship.
She shook her head at the memory and carefully sat down in front of the half-finished painting that she had been working on and off for the past couple of months. She was planning to give it to Coulson for a birthday present, but it had been slow in coming. The baby had been keeping her up and making her very uncomfortable. He wouldn't settle and was constantly pressing down on her organs, it felt like. She was grateful he was energetic, but she was barely sleeping because of it.
Her back hurt and most food tasted awful to her. Only the fact that Clint was out of active duty with a broken leg and was willing to cook for her saved her from starving. He seemed to know instinctively what she needed and even though she knew that he was chafing at the enforced inactivity, she was grateful that he was there to keep her company now that Coulson was out helping with the Avengers Initiative more often than not.
She shook her head and tried to focus on the painting, rather than temporary discomfort and what she was possibly going to have for dinner. She could see where she needed to add more white and greys to make the subject more three dimensional and stand out. She saw some issues with the shades she had chosen for the seas and was suddenly hit with inspiration and picked up her palette and began to pick out the tubes of acrylic that she needed to start painting. She had just added the last dab of titanium white to the palette and was picking up her paintbrush when the bell rang.
She wanted to ignore it and did so for a few brush strokes before the insistent ringing got too much for her concentration and she threw her paintbrush onto her worktable and waddled down to the front door. She had reached the landing finally and turned the lock and wrenched the door open to reveal a sheepish looking Coulson and a man that she had seen fall to his death in the Swiss Alps.
Her first impulse was to slam the door on their faces. Her second impulse was to punch Bucky and yell at Coulson to never come near her again. The last impulse was to throw herself into Bucky's arms and hold him tightly like she hadn't been able to do that day seventy years ago.
She did neither. Bucky was the one who took the initiative and grabbed her holding her so tightly that she was afraid he would crush the baby.
"Jesus! Steph. Steph. Jesus. Steph."
Was all he could say as his tears soaked into her shoulder and she let it go.
Coulson and Clint were tactful and didn’t bother them as they started the awkward and delicate dance of getting to know each other again.
Steph, Bucky could tell as she hurriedly rushed around the kitchen to make coffee and something to eat, was itching to say something, yet was holding herself back and rubbing her stomach as it jumped under her hand. The baby was reacting to her nervousness and Bucky found himself worried she was going to have it right then and there.
“Hey…Steph. Please. Sit.” He found himself saying as he took the mugs from her, put them on the counter and made her sit down as he finished the task himself. Soon, there was coffee happily burbling in the french press and cream, milk and sugar had been laid out on the table.
Soon, they were drinking coffee quietly while Steph rubbed her belly in soothing motions until the baby had settled.
“I never thought that I would get to apologize for that argument we had before the mission.” Steph was the one that broke the silence first, making Bucky nearly choke on his coffee.
“I realized how stupid and how it was much more my pride talking that night. I just…I was sensitive that you only wanted to sleep with Captain America, rather than little Steph Rogers. I had seen the dames you used to date before me.”
Bucky winced and put his cup down. He had a sneaking suspicion that he wasn’t going to finish it without spilling it all over the table.
“I only went out with those dames because I was stupid and young and scared, Steph. I still am. You’re the only woman I wanted…but I also didn’t want to lose you. Not with how fragile you were. I figured if I kept you as a friend, then I wouldn't trap you and demand so much from you.”
He looked up at her and took in her surprised expression.
“Yes. I always liked you that way. I tried to pretend I didn’t…but it was always you and when the serum changed you…I was glad I could finally act upon those feelings. I didn’t give a damn that you were Captain America. I only cared that I didn’t have the fear of losing my Steph any longer.”
He stood up and embraced her, kissing her temple as he held her.
“I was an idiot for not telling you sooner. Just like you were an idiot for not letting me explain it all to you. We could have saved ourselves that much grief at least.”
He whispered, kissing her cheek and then going for her mouth.
“Steph…it’s done and we have a second chance. Do you want to destroy it even before we get the chance to do it right?”
Steph was quiet for several minutes. Despite the guilt and the remorse that was overwhelming her, she still could hear what he was telling her. She couldn’t live in the past. That had been all too painfully obvious. Especially since the past was closed to her. She had no one. Except Bucky and he had been one of the few people that she would have given anything to have had back.
And now he was here, warm and real and standing with his arms around her and…
She would have been utterly and completely stupid to give this up.
“No. I don’t. I want this. I want you.”
Bucky sighed and moved away, only letting go to pull her to feet and embrace her again, both of them not caring that the coffee they had was getting cold.
Bucky hadn’t been able to sleep that night, even with the warmth of Steph’s back flush against his chest and her ass pressed into his groin. Although the warmth and closeness was more than welcome, he couldn’t relax enough to sleep.
It had been a few weeks since he had been brought by Coulson to Steph’s brownstone and he was still shocked at how fast they had settled into a routine. Just like the old days, they had settled into their old dynamic. Except this time, he didn’t sleep in the living room and Steph wasn’t shy about vocalizing all her wants and needs inside and outside the bedroom.
In the day time, it was easier to get used to this new life. But at night, his doubts always crept in between some of Steph’s nightmares about his fall. But they could usually get through a night without too much of their past coming to haunt them.
Except for tonight.
He was overwhelmed at finding Steph, his little Steph again and finding out that he was going to be a father to her child. It was everything that he had ever hoped to have with her and now that it was in his grasp, he didn’t know if he was ready for it. And there wasn’t anyone that he could really turn to on how to deal with the situation.
Although he was thrilled…he couldn’t help but to feel that he didn’t deserve his good luck. To be given a second chance when he had his hands stained with so much blood.
He understood that it wasn’t all his fault. He had been twisted and manipulated after the fall had left him frozen, brain dead and broken in Switzerland. He knew that if he had even possessed a shred of his old life, it would have gone differently. He would have damned well made his way back to the States and to Steph and helped Howard look for her while she lay frozen in the Arctic. He would have. He knows that with a certainty like he used to when they were children and he would hunt down any bastards that had hurt her. She was his Steph, his other half that made it all worth it.
But now, he had too much blood on his hands and he wasn’t sure that he could be the right kind of father for the child that lay in her belly. A child that he had hoped for so long. A child that he was sure was conceived when they had that terrible row that Steph had never fully forgiven herself for and would take time to do so.
He hated to admit it, but he was scared of not measuring up as a father. Steph’s father had died when she was a baby and his own had disappeared when he was five. Both had gaps in their knowledge and he wasn’t sure that he was emotionally and mentally stable enough to take on the task.
His morbid train of thought was cut short when he felt Steph jerk and wetness around his groin.
He had no choice now. He was going to have to man up.
“I can’t. Not right now. Steph just had our son.” Bucky protested to Natasha as they stood outside Steph’s room, arguing in whispers as she slept the sleep of the drugged. Beside her in a plastic bassinet, lay James Roger Barnes and Bucky was determined to not leave them. Not after he had witnessed the effort, blood, pain, and tears that it had taken to bring his son into the world.
A squalling, loud, and healthy infant that still didn’t seem like something real until James was placed in his arms. He was sold when James looked up at him with blue eyes the exact same shape and colour as Steph’s. All his fears and hesitations were gone the minute their eyes had met.
Holding his son and kissing Steph, cuddling them both after the birth had cemented his desire to never be out of their lives ever again.
And now, the Winter Soldier was being called out of retirement by one of his proteges and the one person apart from Steph he couldn’t very well say no to.
“I know. But this is bigger than we had expected. Much bigger and in need of our skill set, rather than the Avengers.”
Bucky raised an eyebrow. “Wetworks?”
Natasha nodded, crossing her arms over her chest.
“Again. I can’t. I’m not going to leave Steph and James unguarded.”
“SHIELD has already taken care of that for you. Steph’s a target. So is your son, once word leaks out. Think, Barnes. Why would I be calling you into a wetworks job so soon after James’s birth?”
Bucky’s blood froze at Natasha’s words.
Natasha nodded grimly. “I’ll give you ten minutes. Meet us at the roof. Clint’s coming along.”
Steph woke up to the sound of James fussing. She opened her eyes with effort and nearly jumped out of her skin when she saw Coulson instead of Bucky sitting in the chair next to her bed. A piece of paper in his left hand.
“He left this for you.” Coulson told her, handing her the slip of paper.
Steph took it with a trembling hand and read the message.
“I will come back to you and James. As fast as I can, once it is done. Have faith in me.-James Buchanan Barnes”
She closed her hand over the paper and wept.