The Night Marriage
By the time they get back to London, Bucky’s feeling a lot better. Whatever sickness he contracted in Schmidt’s prison seems to have worn off – thank God. The last thing a man needs in a war is to feel weak as a kitten. Particularly when his best buddy’s put on a couple hundred pounds and come to rescue him.
If not for the evidence, he’s not sure he’d believe what Steve’s telling him – a magical serum that just...made his friend into a soldier? Then again, they’re working with Howard Stark, who has a zillion girls and a flying car...so anything’s possible, right?
In the Intelligence Office in London, they get hot showers. Rationed, of course, but still, hot. And every last man spends to their maximum moment of time lingering under the spray and thanking God for heated water.
Steve and Bucky are among the last to arrive for their showers – the men of the 151st went before, and are doubtless even now asking for the nearest bar, or, given some of the comments Bucky overheard on the transport back, the nearest whorehouse. After a man’s been so close to death, cleaned himself up, and had his blood heated up, he wants a good drink, or some action for the old pecker.
Showering together is nothing new.
Neither is the way Steve washes himself – hands scrubbing, fastidious across his chest and down his belly, his mouth fixed in concentration as he soaps his legs, the narrowed eyes as he scrubs his hands through his hair, and the wince as the sharp stream of spray rakes his face.
But the eyes that open to catch Bucky staring are now on a level with his – perhaps even a little higher. And the body and the hands that move across it are bigger, stronger, more sure.
The expression hasn’t changed though – challenge, irritation, and the old laughter that Bucky hasn’t seen in Steve’s eyes since before the war. “What?”
“Did it take some getting used to?”
“Did what take some getting used to?”
“Not really.” Steve rinses out the soap in his hair. “I didn’t really think about it... Everything worked, and I...I was intent on avenging Dr. Erskine’s death. By the time I went back to the lab, it was just...the way it was.”
Bucky looks him up and down, blatant now that the last of the guys have headed out of the showers. “It suits you. No, really,” he protests when Steve’s eyes narrow. “It does!”
His buddy’s expression doesn’t change. “You used to say that you liked me exactly as I was.”
“And I like you exactly as you are now.” Bucky grins as he surveys Steve, not bothering to hide his rapidly stiffening pecker.
Okay, so he wouldn’t mind a bit of action—
And from the look of it, neither would Steve.
Bucky spins the taps off, and steps into Steve’s spray, not bothering asking as he grips hot hard flesh in his hands – and realises he doesn’t have to be gentle anymore – no more gentle than Steve’s fingers are as they wrap around Bucky and pump hard. Hot damn.
It’s fast and laughing, and a little bit rough, and they swallow each other’s moans, mouth to mouth, fierce and reckless as they learn all over again how they fit.
The end is a swift and brutal orgasm – although not quite fast enough to keep them from running out of hot water.
I have one last mission for you.
The mission is crap.
He doesn’t know where the thought comes from. It seems...out of place, like a pretty white summer’s dress fluttering in a slum window—
A shake of his head, of his body; clear his mind, focus his thoughts. He has a job, a purpose, something to do.
It’s a splinter in his mind, dividing up his thoughts as he hears the hard-faced man’s excuses: A hole in the bottom of the van. Must have been one of the guards. We didn’t have time to check them all—Not when there was a crew filming us from a chopper, sir—
They lost the man somewhere along the way, lost the redhead and the dark man with him, bright as daylight, scarlet and blue and white, smelling of honest sweat and that goddamned sour cabbage he loves—
Ciorbă de varză and the sour scent of slums in the summer—A hand closes over his, prying open his fist so the spoon falls to the floor, but there is no spoon, and no hand, and no hair of curling flame spread out across the pillow—
His mind and memories are fragments of things he doesn’t remember, things he doesn’t remember remembering, things he fears.
“Mission report now.”
Hell, Buck, are you always at attention?
Ah, shut your big mouth. Then he hisses when the mouth closes over him, wet and pleasurable, even if the memory can’t last long between wheezes.
A stinging slap across his face.
He can’t breathe. He can’t think. He’s not supposed to think. He’s supposed to do the mission—
He can’t—He needs to know—That man on the bridge—He’s your mission—But I knew him—
“Then wipe him and start over.”
He screams as they take everything he doesn’t have away, and his memories flee like Evening’s shadows in Morning light...
Steve doesn’t know what makes him blurt it out. Maybe it’s just a natural follow-on of the mess their lives have become.
I still did it.
Steve’s coming to realise that’s the crux of the problem with Bucky. He will never be forgiven, never be allowed to walk free. A gun may not fire itself, but it’s still a weapon designed and used with the specific intent to kill. So long as Bucky has the words in his head and no will of his own, he’s a weapon.
“She lived...” It’s less of a question than an affirmation.
“Lived, started S.H.I.E.L.D...married...”
He doesn’t need to look at Buck to know his buddy is watching him. But if there are questions Bucky wants to ask, he doesn’t voice them, and Steve is glad. The loss of Peggy is still raw, and while he doesn’t know who sent him the message, he has his suspicions.
“Evening...” Bucky rumbles, then. “I found—Morning.” He clears his throat. “I think it was...Romanoff.”
Steve chokes. “Really?”
There’s a moment when he nearly asks, When? Then sense exerts itself. If Natasha encountered him once, then there were probably other times. And given how controlling the Red Room was of their operatives, it’s not a surprise.
“It wasn’t intentional. Pretty fucked, I guess.”
“Maybe a little.” Steve thinks about the complicated networks linking him and Natasha, and then, like a wound he’s taken which he doesn’t feel until the adrenaline fades, Maria’s there in his thoughts. “I found an Evening woman. She walked away. I haven’t heard from her in months.”
They drifted apart. He let them drift apart – it was too much to keep up the pretense that he didn’t want more – and Maria never questioned it, just let him go.
Steve snorts. “No. Not the blonde.”
He’s not going to think about Sharon and the situation he’s left her in. She’s clever and resourceful; she’ll work out how to get out and stay out of the hands of the CIA. And if not, well, what’s one more person to find after he’s located Sam and the others?
He doesn’t let him think about how Sharon might take Bucky’s presence, not just as Steve’s friend but as a lover. Sharon isn’t moiety like Natasha, like Maria. Acceptance of another lover doesn’t come naturally to her, and Steve already knows it won’t be easy.
They’re coming up to the Siberian facility, where five Winter Soldiers sleep, ready to be activated, ready to turn the world upside down. And Bucky’s been silent, lost in his own thoughts, his own memories.
He looks up, like he feels Steve’s gaze upon him. “We’re close?”
“Yes,” Steve says.
Bucky’s been out of cryostasis too long. His memory’s starting to go. He keeps on seeing a woman in a polka-dot sundress out of the corner of his eye, her heels clicking in his ears with an almost military precision.
It’s not one of the Wakandan women. They’re all black, and this woman is white - peach skin with a light summer’s tan that skims her shoulders beneath the halterneck sundress, like a fifties starlet with her sunglasses perched scarlet on the dark curls of her hair. Peggy, he thought at first. But it’s not. He never saw Carter in such a dress – too bright, too flowing for wartime.
Besides, he’s been seeing her since they reached Siberia, a splash of color in the bleak shadows of his mind, so his brain tells him she can’t be real, just a splintered fragment of his memory that won’t settle.
He probably killed her at some point.
Jesus, what a thought.
But if he did, maybe she’ll leave him alone after the cryostasis? He has vague memories of people crowding his edges, of hands clutching at him, of a woman sagging as blood spreads across her abdomen—Natalia—no, Romanoff—
Tell me you at least remember this...
He does – now. Crazy and confusing as it is, he remembers the taste of her, the sound of her voice, the scent of her perfume—
Movement in the doorway. Steve with his hands in his pockets, a thin veneer of calm layered over anxious concern.
“You’ll be okay?”
“Yeah.” He’s a weapon, and he’ll always be a weapon, but until he knows he can’t be picked up and used by just anyone, he’s not safe. And if the Wakandans aren’t entirely comfortable with him, they’d rather he was in their hands than anyone else’s.
Bucky would rather he was in their hands than anyone else’s; he’s pretty sure T’Challa could give Steve a damned good run in the ‘honorable nobility’ marathon, and if not, then Wilson will certainly be there to poke Steve when their buddy needs it.
Still, there’s a solitude around Steve that Bucky remembers from long ago – the skinny guy nobody wanted. And even if Steve’s not that guy anymore, it’s not as though that guy has ceased to exist.
“The blonde,” he manages.
“Promise me you’ll go find her.”
Steve blinks, and a slight smile twitches his mouth. “Seriously? I look that despondent?”
“You look like you did in New York after I’d signed up.”
“Ouch.” He rocks on his feet, as though thinking. “I’ll look her up. No promises.”
The Wakandan technicians come in, and the doctor checks on him, her gaze brisk and not unsympathetic. “Ready to go?”
He nods and climbs into the stasis chamber. It’s not like the ones in Siberia, not like the ones HYDRA put in him. It feels like a medical capsule, clean and quiet – a refuge, not a prison.
He meets Steve’s gaze, and closes his eyes on that last look.
The ice is temporary, his own choice, and it won’t be forever. Steve won’t let it be.
As the cold falls around him and he swirls into sleep, Bucky trusts in that.
I just want to say, good night, sweet prince,
May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
~ Harry Dean Stanton ~