Actions

Work Header

In the Interest of History

Chapter Text

“Alright so no one freak out,” Tony starts and then pauses. “No, hold on only some of you will freak out and I need you to hold it together.”

The team stares at him, all but Nat out of the loop. “You aren’t making sense, Stark,” Steve says.

Tony gives a dramatic roll of his eyes before crossing his arms and turning to Nat, “And I’m supposed to be sensitive to them?”

Everyone in the room fidgets as they wonder what’s going on. They were only ever called to the debrief room for missions. “You’re never sensitive Tony,” Nat says, glancing over the room. “Do you want me to do it then?”

“No,” Tony says a little too quickly. “I’ll do it.”

“Well is someone going to tell us or not? The only time we all go on missions together is when it’s something huge-,”

Steve interrupts Sam, “And why wasn’t I told? Missions usually come through me first-,”

Exasperated, Tony turns to Nat and gives her an ‘I told you so’ look. “Friday!” He says loudly, cutting off Steve who is quickly working himself into a righteous rage. Barnes sits beside him and eyes his friend with both anxiety and amusement. “Load the video but don’t play it just yet.”

“Yes, sir,” says the A.I. as a hologram appears in the center of the conference table.

“Now, this is a little sensitive but only to two of you. We all need to be aware though so here we go. If the two geezers down in front would turn their attention to their screens.” Steve and Bucky glance at each other nervously before looking to their shared StarkPad currently held by Steve. “Friday pull up the photos please.”

Two photos appear on everyone’s screens. Steve pulls in a sharp breath as Bucky goes deadly still. Nat watches Barnes reaction closely, ready to intervene if anything triggers him. “Why are we looking at this?” Steve asks tightly. He swallows thickly and glances at Bucky whose eyes are wide and body eerily still. “Bucky?”

His name seems to bring him out of some sort of trance as he stands and growls, “Why do you have her goddamn picture Stark?” If something had happened to her, some horrible thing like what happened to him…he doesn’t think he’ll be able to handle it.

“Calm down Frosty I’ll get there,” Tony says as Bucky sits and grabs the device from Steve’s hands. With shaking fingers he zooms in on her face. The first photo is of Bucky, Steve, and a girl. Steve is skinny and short and frowning at Bucky. Bucky is smiling large and looking right into the camera, his arm flung around Steve’s shoulders. The girl is on Steve’s other side, her hair a little bit of a blur as she hadn’t been able to hold still long enough for the picture. Her smile is also large as she looks over Steve’s head at Bucky, nearly as tall as Bucky himself. They're all around seventeen in the photo.

The second photo is of Bucky and the girl alone. They’re in a dense forest, dirty and bleeding, but still with their arms around each other. Bucky’s eyes hold the thousand yard stare as she looks up at him worriedly. “Hattie,” he whispers now, unaware that everyone is watching him. “Right after Azzano…Steve?”

Steve whirls, “Tony you better have a damn good reason-,”

“So, last week a video was posted on the internet claiming to have found the ‘decade hero’.” Tony bounces on the balls of his feet and rolls his eyes, “The video's poster came up with the name. It started gaining speed when people started analyzing the photos and, as it turns out, discovering that they aren’t photo shopped or faked in any way.”

Bucky growls, “Get to the point.”

“Play the video Friday.”

The video is simply a succession of pictures starting with a picture of Hattie and the boys on a snowy mountaintop. The words ‘A friend of Captain America’ is superimposed over the picture before the next one appears. Hattie at VE Day with the surviving Howlies. Hattie with Howard Stark and Peggy Carter at the SSR headquarters. Hattie in Korea in mission gear. Hattie in Vietnam in mission gear. Hattie at the March on Washington. Hattie at the destruction of the Berlin Wall. Hattie at the parade JFK was killed in. The pictures go on and on. She’s not the focal point in any of the pictures but she’s there all the same, never looking a day older than the picture before.

Near the end there’s a picture of Hattie and Nat and Clint at Shield Headquarters. Then a picture of Hattie and Howard Stark, baby Tony held in her arms. The last two pictures are of Tony with Hattie the day he left for MIT and then Hattie carrying two dirty toddlers in the rubble and aftermath of the Invasion of New York. In the background you can just make out Captain America and Thor.

Steve gapes as the video ends and proclaims Hattie the ‘decade hero’. The room remains dead silent for a second before Steve says, “That can’t be her…she-she-we-,” he cuts himself off. He and Bucky are here aren't they? Why not Hattie too?

“What happened to her?” Bucky asks hoarsely, fearing the worst.

Tony Stark shrugs, “She survived.” He feels a little bad as he watches Barnes restart the video, his eyes large and watery, Rogers looking much the same. “So-,” he chokes off in a grunt when Natasha steps hard on his foot. Her eyes say to give them a minute or he would pay for it later.

“You knew this whole time?” Rogers asks. “I’ve been out of the ice for four years!”

“Hattie asked me not to say anything.”

“Why would she-,”

“If you just let me-,”

Both of their voices are starting to rise and so Nat steps in, “She’s going to be on the news. We thought you might need a little bit of a heads up. Tony sit down. Friday if you would.”

“Yes, miss.”

Bucky’s heart lurches in his chest when the news finally comes on. She doesn’t look a day over twenty-five, long red hair freshly curled, dark eyes sparkling as she smiles at the host. “-say hello to America Hattie!” The host is exclaiming.

“Hey, America!” She says cheerfully with a little wave. And Bucky’s already fragile heart shatters as he hears her voice. Steve swipes at his eyes and pats Bucky on the back.

Because the whole thing, just like getting Bucky back, the whole goddamn thing is like watching someone rise from the grave.

Chapter Text


Bucky really wishes that he and Steve could watch the interview away from the rest of the team but it is Stark and he did kill his parents and so Bucky can’t ask for too much from the man.

The first bit of the interview he completely zones out of as he watches her mouth move and lets her sweet voice wash over him. There isn’t much he’s managed to recover in terms of his memories but she is one of them. Steve and Hattie and him had been so connected it would have been hard to remember one and not the other. But, he had assumed, for his own sanity, that she was dead. Clearly he had been wrong, so very wrong.

He remembers her. Not all of her, not even most of her, but he knows that she’s his. And he had been hers. He is hers. They zoom in on her face asking her something that makes her tilt her head to the side in curiosity.

“Why…why did I do all those things all these years? And am I tired? Yes,” she laughs, a sound like angels singing to Bucky’s ears, “I am very tired. I’ve been tired for a few decades. But I did it because it was the right thing to do. I didn’t like that thought…that maybe people were looking down on me and shaking their heads and wondering why I was doing nothing.”

The interviewer, a very neat looking blonde woman, asks, “Captain America?” Steve’s picture appears on the screen.

Hattie looks disgusted and says, “No, Steve Rogers would have been. He would have been disappointed in me. My family too.” There’s no mention of Bucky.

“Let’s talk about your family for a moment. You were always a wild one. They died when you were very young but you never went to another home but rather-,” there’s a shuffling of papers. “-lived in a rather crowded boarding house. Filled with French and Germans?”

Hattie’s smile is tight as something niggles at the back of Bucky’s brain, “Yeah, they got along surprisingly well. I think they knew if they didn’t then things wouldn’t go so smoothly.”

“You speak French and German?”

“Among other languages now.”

“Would you say that your campaign and service during a time where it was illegal for women to do so was out of the need to do the right thing or defy authority?”

Hattie’s anger flares visibly on screen and Bucky smiles, “No I wouldn’t. If it was unfair and unjust then I was there.” It hits Bucky then what’s bothering him.

Bucky turns to Steve, “We didn’t call her Hattie?”

Steve’s face is red with anger as he listens to the interview before he turns to meet Bucky’s eyes, “No, we called her Brooklyn. Everyone did.”

“Why?”

A muscle in his jaw jumps as he attempts to control his emotions, “Because she sometimes stirred trouble in Manhattan and everyone there called her Brooklyn and it just stuck.”

“-you worked three jobs at once is that right? Just to live in the tenements?”

Hattie threads her fingers together and says, “Yes.” An unspoken warning in her voice.

The woman seems to hear the danger lurking behind her words and quickly changes the subject as a picture of Steve and Bucky appears on screen, “Let’s move on to your friends, Captain America and the Winter Soldier. Does it bother you that you’ve been changing history actively for decades and they’ve just-,”

Hattie sits up straighter in her seat and says, “No.”

The picture on the screen changes to just one of the Winter Soldier, “What about that fact that you and your old flame were often on opposite sides of history?”

“Correct me if I’m wrong but he was brainwashed, yeah? Didn’t know who he was or what he was doing? So, what I hear when you ask that is nothing but victim blaming.”

The woman gives a tight smile, the interview clearly not going the way she was planning, “The Winter Soldier-,”

“Has a name. And you should use it. Bucky Barnes. So does the Captain. Steve Rogers.”

Hattie’s smile is terrible as the woman attempts to do damage control, “Right looks like we only have time for one more question-,”

Steve gives a chuckle as Hattie interrupts, “I figured.”

“I, uh, why haven’t you seen Cap- Rogers and Barnes? Rogers was found in 2012 and Barnes neutralized in 2014.”

Bucky waits with baited breath for her answer. She pauses and swallows thickly as tears fill her eyes, “No one recognized me, connected the dots because there wasn’t anyone left to. They were my family and I failed them. So, when I found out about Steve…and then Buck…I couldn’t make myself. I know that they must hate me.”

It’s quiet as she pauses and the interviewer says, “Why would they hate you?”

“I didn’t find them. They were there this whole time and I couldn’t find them. And that makes everything my fault.”

 

~

 

Bucky pleads with Tony to get Hattie to come to them. He could probably find her, get to her, but he doesn’t want to frighten her. After all, he looks different, sounds different, acts different. All the terrible things he’d done are now very public information. His chest hurts nearly all the time with an ache he hadn’t had a name for before.

Surprisingly it’s Sam who convinces Tony to go talk to Hattie about coming to the Compound or even the Tower. He had thrown a bit of a fit but went all the same, even if he grumbled more than usual.

“Where does she live?” Bucky asks Nat who seems to know a lot more about Hattie than she’s trying to let on.

Nat looks up from tying her shoes as she grabs her gym bag, “Brooklyn.”

Bucky perks up, “She moved back to Brooklyn?” Then his heart plummets, “Does she-,”

“Ask her when she gets here, Barnes.” Nat says none too gently.

It had been explained to them after the interview ended that Hattie has a power. Her power being that she hardly aged at all, that she could feasibly live for hundreds of years. She could be hurt, she could die. She just has a very long life span. Bucky thinks it’s a terrible and ironic power.

Hattie comes to Bucky in broken, fragmented pieces. Kissing in the rain in Brooklyn and making love in a European forest. Flashes of bright hair and sweaty skin from hours on her feet. Multiple languages spoken from cracked lips. Dark circles under her eyes and kind hands patching up Steve, and him too. But she too often had bleeding knuckles and black eyes. Outcast, is the word that comes to mind. She had not fit in with the time period.

He’s seen some of her life through pictures but none of them had been personal. None of them told him what sort of personal life she’s led. Whether she’d married or had children. Nothing to indicate who she had become.

Bucky paces the entry hall to the Compound nervously even though he knows they’ll come in through the garage. He wishes Steve wasn’t also a walking ball of anxiety. The man has been training nonstop in the gym for hours on end in nervousness.

When night falls and there’s still no sign of Hattie or Stark or anyone of importance Bucky goes upstairs to his and Steve’s shared apartment. Disappointment and relief weighs on him equally. On the one hand Bucky knows her, like he knows Steve, even if he doesn’t quite remember them. But on the other hand he’s different and foreign and broken. But, something inside him whispers, she defended you. And on national television no less. She had defended the hated and ridiculed and villainous Winter Soldier.   

But, maybe, Hattie had been like Steve in that respect. She didn’t give a shit what people thought.

He sets about making tea to help him sleep before he settles down on the couch. He doesn’t mean to sleep and he doesn’t mean to dream and he certainly doesn’t mean to wake up to dark brown eyes staring at him from the loveseat across from the couch.

Chapter Text

“They’re complete nervous wrecks,” Tony says to Hattie as they drive through the suburbs of New York. “And when I say complete I mean complete. Rogers has never worked out more in his life and Barnes is wearing a hole into my floors with the sheer amount of pacing he does.”

Hattie laughs and glances at Tony, reaching over to pat his hair affectionately as he pretends to look scandalized. “They’ll be severely disappointed when they see me don’t you worry, T.”

“Don’t call me that,” he says as they pull into a Starbucks drive-thru. “And seriously they’re-,”

She just smiles and says, “They’re my friends and they have a right to be nervous. I'm nervous too.”

“Barnes is a little more than that from what I’ve gathered,” he says bitterly.

Hattie turns away from him as the line moves up, “I didn’t know about your parents. We both spent a lot of time looking into Howard and Maria’s deaths. And my relationship with Bucky was before all that anyways. I doubt he remembers much about me. It was literally a life time ago.”

Tony doesn’t say anything for a moment, his grip tightening on the wheel, “You can’t honestly tell me it isn’t the same? That there aren't any feelings left over?”

“I don’t know how it is. I haven’t seen him. But he wasn't himself when he did those things. He didn't know what he was doing, Spark.” Her voice is gentle and soothes Tony just a little. Hattie had been like a second mother to him since he was born.

A long, deep sigh echoes around the car, “I know. That doesn’t mean I can’t be pissed. Wait ‘til you see the poor bastard though. He’s so sappy he’s kinda hard to look at.” He pauses for a second before saying, “And don’t call me Spark.”

She smiles nervously, “I can’t wait.”

 

~

 

When Tony pulls into the garage only Steve is waiting for them. He looks oddly small and anxious and it reminds her of a better time, a simpler time. And so when the car pulls to a stop and the engine shuts off she hardly takes a second to breathe before she launches herself out of the car and hurtles at Steve forgetting for just a moment her fears of rejection and hatred.

But Steve hugs her back tightly and the worry goes away for just a moment. The last time she had seen Steve he had been dangling out of a plane. The last time she had heard his voice had been over the radio as he said goodbye.

“I’m sorry,” Hattie whispers into his neck. “Oh, God, I’m so sorry.”

Tears drip onto her neck, “I missed you. We thought you were dead…you let me think you were dead.”

“I couldn’t bare you hating me,” she whispers as she squeezes him tighter. “I thought it would be better because I couldn’t stand the thought of you hating me.”

Steve just squeezes her tighter and whispers, “We could never hate you. Why would we hate you-,”

“Don’t,” she says. “Please, don’t try to make me feel better about this right now.” And so he just stays quiet and holds her closer, Tony leaves grudgingly as Steve glares at him over her shoulder. “Where’s Buck?” Her voice is small and concerned. Nervous energy radiates off of her as Steve runs his hands over her back, doing his best to soothe his friend.

“He paced in front of the door nearly all day until about an hour ago. Saw him sleeping on the couch before I got word you’d be arriving soon.”

Hattie is afraid. Afraid to pull back and look into Steve’s eyes and see something there that contradicted his words. Afraid that this is all some elaborate ploy to punish her for living while the two most important people in her life died and suffered worse than death. Bucky, tortured and alone for years, turned inside out again and again when she had been out there perfectly capable to come for him. And Steve…trapped in ice for decades but if she and Howard had just kept looking then maybe-

Maybe the reporter was right, maybe she didn’t do the things she did all these years to help. Maybe she didn’t do them to defy authority but maybe she did do it to assuage her guilt of failing her friends. She finally pulls back to meet Steve’s eyes, finding herself having to look up. Hattie laughs and presses a hand to his cheek, “I miss you being small.”

He sighs and laughs, “I miss it sometimes too.”

Tears stream down her cheeks as she chokes out, “And you’ve gotten old. But you don’t look a day over 70 so I guess you’re lookin’ pretty good.”

“What would you know about it?” His voice cracks horribly but he can’t bring himself to care, “You’re older than me.”

“Yeah but I always look good,” she whispers before pulling him in for another hug. “I’m sorry.”

Nothing is said for a while, the echoing silence of the cavernous garage amplifying their sniffles and tears. Steve wants to reassure her that what happened isn't her fault but he also knows she won't listen or believe him right now. His fingers rub up and down her spine in a calming way before he says, “Funny isn’t it? Me, you, and Bucky…that’s-that’s gotta be a one-in-a-trillion chance. Not even that. Larger.”

She nods against his shoulder, a little dazed that Steve is here, that she can feel and talk to one of her oldest friends again, “Sure is somethin’.”

Steve finally pulls away after twenty more minutes of just standing there holding each other, “C’mon. You need to see Buck.”

Fear must have crept into her eyes because he says, “Hey, c’mon now, he’s a little different, a little changed. But he’s still Bucky. He’s still there. Sometimes you can see it more than other times but…it’s him. It’s us. We’re here.”

That’s not why she’s afraid. Those things she had expected. But what did he expect from her? How much of her did he remember? How much of them did he remember?

“Okay,” she says, despite her best judgement.

 

~

 

Steve went to bed an hour ago but Hattie stays up, watching the person that once meant everything to her sleep. Relaxed in sleep the only thing that seems to have changed about him is his hair and the amount of facial hair he allowed. And the amount of muscle mass.

There’s an empty mug of tea on the coffee table in front of him which Steve had told her helps him sleep, and stave off nightmares. That had been when she decided not to wake him, sleepy and adorable as he is. His body wrapped in a hoodie and sweatpants as well as fluffy socks. It’s odd to see him like that, in modern clothes.

Slowly his eyes begin to blink open, a yawn and stretch running through him. Sleepy eyes meet her and he murmurs, “Brooklyn…what’re ya doin’ up?” And she can tell by the accent that he’s back in the forties, that no time at all has passed and its just another day. The drowsy calmness suddenly disappears as his mind catches up with him, his eyes snapping to alertness.

He shoots up and stares at her wide-eyed, his body stiff and tense. Hattie smiles, “No one’s called me Brooklyn in a long time.”

“Hattie?” He whispers, disbelief clear in his voice. “Are you real?” Her heart lurches in her chest at the full sound of his voice, sounding both different and the same.

“It’s me Buck.”  

Chapter Text

Hattie waits for Bucky to say something but instead he just stares. He knows he’s staring but he can’t much help it. She sits on the loveseat across from him with her legs tucked beneath her as she leans on the armrest. Her hands are twisted together nervously in her lap, her mouth a gentle, concerned frown.

“Bucky?” She asks after a few more minutes, her voice worried and gentle. “I’m sorry if I startled you. Stevie said it would be okay if I sat here. Said it wouldn’t bother you too much when you woke but-,”

His mind suddenly starts to work again. “No…” he breathes out on a soft breath. “No, I just…you’re here.”

Hattie lets her eyes drift over his body, taking in the added bulk and size, his long hair, his scruff, the exhaustion behind his eyes, the metal arm glinting dully in the dim light of the living room. “I missed you,” she finds herself whispering. “I missed you every day for nearly a century.” Tears burn at the back of her eyes and her throat aches, “I missed you every single day and you were there the whole time. Sometimes…we were so close. You were-,”

“Don’t do that to yourself, Hattie,” he says as he leans forward, bracing his elbows on his knees. His voice cracks, “Ya can’t do that.” The room seems too large as they look at each other from across the space. “I missed you too, Brooklyn, even if I didn’t know exactly what or who it was I was missin’.”

It's like speaking to someone who's programmed to be Bucky, only the creator missed a few details. She buries her face in her hands and lets out a desperate sob, shrinking further into herself. “Oh, God, you sound just like him,” she says, her voice a terrified whisper.

Ice settles in Bucky’s gut at her words, working its way up to grip his lungs in a tight fist. He struggles to breathe properly for a moment as Hattie tries to catch her own breath. He’s spent two years trying to figure out who Bucky is and recently he’s felt like he finally has a good grip on it. And now…Hattie didn’t see him. “I am him. I’m me,” he chokes out, needing her to believe it.

Hattie lowers her hands and looks at him, “No, God, yeah I know Buck. You just…you…I ain’t used to ya yet okay? I thought you were dead and I-,” She pauses and swallows harshly. "You're a little different but that's-,"

“I know I look different," his voice is desperate at first before it becomes quiet. "And…I know everything is different. But ’m him. ’m Bucky,” he mumbles the last bit and looks down, staring down at the floor through his parted legs. He lets his hair flop down from behind his ears to obscure his face. Which, he thinks a little belatedly, probably didn’t help Hattie reconcile who she remembered and who sat in front of her now. “I am Bucky,” he repeats, almost to himself. Sergeant James Buchanan Barnes, the 107th. Held by Hydra but free now. His best friend is Steve Rogers. He was born in Brooklyn in-

Movement makes him whip his head up. Hattie had shifted forward on the loveseat, making it creak. “In 1917,” she finishes for him quietly. “March 10th to be exact.” Had he been reciting it out loud? “Bucky…Steve said you don’t do well with people but can I-,”

“Yes,” he answers a little quickly but something tells him that closer is better when it comes to Hattie.

She stands and pauses, her anxiety showing clearly on her face. Bucky’s vision blurs as she walks across the room, blending past and present, as it often did with Steve. He sees her as she used to be for just a moment before the memory hides away from him again. Instead he sees her dark blue skinny jeans and loose fitting black t-shirt. Her shoes are on the floor by the loveseat where she had taken them off as she pads over on sock covered feet.

Carefully she sits down on the couch next to him, still a few feet away. “Do you know me? Do you remember me?” He turns toward her, scanning her face. Her bright red hair, more orange than Natasha’s, is up in a bun on the top of her head, the corners of her lips are pulled down in a frown as she looks at him, first at his face and then at his hands, which he had clasped together, metal and flesh. He quickly pulls them apart and jerks down his sleeve over his metal hand before meeting her eyes again.

“Not-not in the traditional sense,” he says. “I know you but the memories, I-they’re blurry. I know what you meant to me. I know what you mean to me, what you are to me.”

She stares at him with her dark eyes, a gentle sadness lurking there, “Bucks…I missed you.” The muscles in her neck work as she tries to hold back tears. “I really missed you.” She reaches for him and they’re suddenly wrapped in each other’s arms. Hattie wraps her arms around his neck, burying her face into his shoulder before she lets out a sharp exhale. “I never thought-never thought I’d see you again.” Bucky carefully wraps his arm around her back, keeping the metal one well away from her before he noses gently into her hair. It’s familiar, it’s good, it makes him want to cry.

 

~

 

Hattie wants to cry. He’s Bucky but he’s not. He’s some new hybrid person that feels intimately and intensely familiar but also foreign and different and not the same. He’s bigger and bulkier and his hair tickles the side of her face. The emotions inside her continue to roil as they try to spill over. Part of her wants to shove him away because it feels like she’s choosing some imposter Bucky. The real Bucky was lean and smiley. The real Bucky had short hair and a clean shaven face. The real Bucky would have had two arms around her.

She pulls away as the doubt and terror finally hook themselves deep in her. Because the truth of the matter is she let the real Bucky be taken away from her and there will never be any redemption for that, no way to ever make it okay that she could have saved him and simply didn’t. Her throat closes as she realizes what she has to do.

“What’s wrong?” His gentle voice, sounding so much like before, cuts into her thoughts.

Her hand is still on his bicep, feeling very unfamiliar beneath her touch. She takes a deep breath and starts to stand, “Well it was nice seeing you. I’m just going to be going-,”

“Going?” He asks, confusion thick in his voice, as her hands slip away from him entirely. “Where?”

She shrugs, lying, “Home..? I’ve got-,” Her voice cuts out and she jumps a foot in the air when his metal hand comes in contact with her arm.

“Sorry! I-I, God, sometimes I forget as unbelievable as that sounds,” he says, cradling the metal in his flesh hand. She wants to go to him, tell him that isn’t it, that she doesn’t care about the metal arm, that she'll always love him no matter what he looks like or who he is. But the guilt weighs on her again and instead she backs away from him before turning and bolting out the door. She killed him once and she can’t let that happen again, she won’t do it again.    

Chapter Text

*Brooklyn 1942*

Hattie flits around the diner, ignoring the rude customers and trying not to focus on the pain in her feet. She’s on the second leg of her double shift which had begun after her shift down at the docks had ended where she attempted and had so far succeeded in masquerading as a man. But that meant she looked a little worse for wear for her shifts at the diner and the men were never afraid to point it out to her. How her hair is mostly unkempt and her skirts wrinkled, while her calves and most of her arms were bruised all to hell from the nature of her job at the docks prompting inappropriate jokes about how she got them. How she might like it a little rough.

“Hey, sweetheart, over here a minute,” one man calls to her as she pours coffee for another table.

She takes her sweet time getting over to his and his friends' table, letting their jeers fall on deaf ears. “Well now how can I help you fellas?” Hattie asks in a falsely sweet voice when she finally gets around to them.

“C’mon now, Brooklyn, don’t be like that, huh?” One of them wraps an arm around her hips and jerks her close. “We know why they call ya Brooklyn. And we were wonderin’ if we could get the same treatment when you leave here later? Little fun, ya know? Been a real hard day a work n’ all that.”

Raucous laughter breaks out as she tries and fails to pull away, “You boys wish.”

Another one leans forward and whispers, “We sure do, sweetheart.”

She finally wrests herself away from the first man’s grip, “Yeah, well unfortunately for you, you aren’t-,” she pauses and looks them over as her voice takes on a cutting tone, “-up to my standards.”

“You better mind who you’re talkin’ to girl,” one of the others growls.

Hattie knows that she should shut up, that she’s an unattended female with a solitary walk home later but…she opens her mouth to tell this bastard what a misogynistic piece of shit he is, knowing that he’ll truly be shocked as it wasn’t common for many woman to look up and talk back, when the door opens. “Hey Brooklyn!” She turns to see the bright smile of Bucky Barnes, still a bit sweaty and in his work clothes. “Could I get a cuppa coffee, doll?”

She swallows thickly at the silence suddenly emanating from the once rowdy table behind her. “Sure thing, Buck,” Hattie smiles at him and gestures around the small diner. “Sit anywhere ya like.”

Hattie passes by him and ducks the kiss he tries to press to her cheek. He frowns at her retreating back. But, she thinks, that table didn’t need any more ammo than it already had. From the kitchen she can hear the men call something out to Bucky, something that sounded uncomfortably like a warning. “…ya know what kinda woman she is. Little hard to control, y'know pal?”

“I don’t know what you mean and 'm not interested in controlling her,” comes Bucky’s quiet but sharp reply. “If you gentleman don’t mind I’m not much for talkin’ right now.”

When Hattie comes back with his coffee, made exactly the way he likes it one of the other waitresses is showing up for her shift, waving at Hattie before attending to the only other occupied table. The rude men are picking up their coats and hats and moving toward the door. “Hey Grace, mind if I take a quick break?”

The other girl looks back at her with a smile, “Take as long as you like!”

Hattie sets Bucky’s coffee in front of him before taking a seat opposite him. He takes a sip and watches her carefully before putting the cup down and sliding it across the table to her.

A noise of discontent leaves her, “Do you have to be such a mother hen?”

“Yes, you’re dead on your feet, doll.” He pauses and waits for her to drink a little, “Ya know…you don’t haveta do this. Work all these jobs. Me n’ Stevie have more than enough room-,”

“People already think I’m some harlot, Bucky Barnes. I don’t need to add fuel to that fire.”

He grins, “Since when d’ya-,”

Since,” she starts loudly and then lowers her voice. “Since we, since we-,” she can’t make herself say what they are and just catches the tail end of Bucky’s hurt expression. “I’m not embarrassed I just-,”

Bucky takes her hand across the table, both their hands rough from working nearly nonstop. “What?”

“If this doesn’t work out…your reputation is going to be ruined. I’m y’know, tainted, because they think I’m some woman of the night,” she says, gently. Because Hattie worked such long, odd hours many people around their neighborhood had the theory that Hattie worked as a prostitute, “People care a lot about that and-,”

He’s shaking his head, “But I don’t.”

“Bucky,” she says exasperatedly, looking down and shaking her head. 

“Hattie.”

“Don’t call me Hattie. You don’t call me Hattie.”

He rolls his eyes and smiles, “I also don’t care about what they think about me. I care about what you and Stevie think of me and my Ma and that’s about it. Besides I don’t have any money anyways.”

She purses her lips and looks away from him before pushing his coffee back to him, “It isn’t about the money. I’m poor and I live alone with French and Germans," she says pointedly. "And I work a lot and women aren’t supposed to and I never dress right and I hardly ever have money for anything nice…You could have anyone because you have the looks and the charm so money wouldn’t even matter-,”

“But I have you and you don’t care about any of those things,” the sincerity in his voice makes her heart hurt.

Hattie looks back to him, to the gentle frown on his face and the hurt in his eyes. She knows his mind is racing to the worst things, worrier that he is. Thinking that she might be breaking it off or some other horrible thing. But she can’t find it in herself to assuage his fears so she says, “Drink your coffee, Bucks. I’ll see ya tomorrow.”

He doesn’t let go of her hand though and so she doesn’t move, “I know you and I know you're a hardworkin' person. The last thing you should have to deal with are people thinkin' those things about you. So don’t worry about me. Okay? Now, how was my girl’s day?”

A shaky laugh makes its way past her lips. Most men would have a problem with their girl working, let alone multiple jobs so they could live independently, “You’re too good for me Bucks, for a lot of different reasons. My day was alright but it’s really good now that you’re here.”

Bucky positively beams. It’s like looking into the sun, a very smiley, handsome sun. She’s in love and wondering how someone so full of light loved two miserable pessimists like her and Steve.

 

~

 

He stays at the diner through the rest of her shift and walks her home but half way there she realizes he’s been leading them the wrong way. “Barnes, I know we aren’t going to-,”

“Which just proves how tired ya are. Took ya long enough to realize you aren’t where you’re supposed ta be,” he says, a slight bounce in his step and the ever present smile plastered to his face.

Lord, she thinks, never let anyone steal that smile. The world would be a worse place without it. “Yeah, maybe I’m tired but now I have a longer walk because-,” He slings his arm around her shoulders and chuckles nervously.

“Well doll, there’s the thing. Hardly anyone in our building is up at this hour and so-,”

“Yeah, I know where you’re goin’ with this. Guess I’ll just have to share with Stevie,” she smiles as he glances over at her and whines.

She wraps her arm around his back as they make their way down the silent street, “Steve? Doll, c’mon, you know me, you know ‘m, I’m uh-,”

Hattie pecks his cheek as he blushes and fumbles over his words, “Honorable?”

“Mmm, that one,” he says, face still tinged pink.

“Promise?”

He stops and pulls her to him to slant his mouth over hers. Her eyes flutter closed as Bucky holds her close. One thing he loves about Hattie is her height as he didn’t have to do anything but tilt his head a little to be able to kiss her. “Promise,” he says against her breathless lips a few minutes later.

Hattie smiles against him, “I trust you.”

“Let’s go home, Brooklyn,” he says, a smile of his own in place.

 

~

 

His hips roll into hers twice more before he spills himself into the condom. Bucky lets out a quiet huff of breath against her neck before Hattie tangles her fingers in his short hair and pulls him down to rest against her. “God, I wish I could hear you, doll.”

She chuckles and strokes her fingers through his hair, “We have to be quiet Bucks.”

“I know,” he whispers against her neck, kissing and licking the soft, delicate skin. Then, before he can stop himself, “I love you.” It slips out of his mouth and lies there between them, bright and new and waiting for the sentiment to be echoed back.

It’s something they’ve both known for a while but neither of them had said it yet and so when Hattie doesn’t immediately say anything he pulls away and takes off the condom under the guise of clean-up. His shoulders are tense but when she says his name softly he pretends not to hear. He doesn’t bother with clothes as he goes to the bathroom for a towel. When he comes back, avoiding her eyes while handing her a warm, wet towel, she puts a hand on his naked hip and pulls him forward until he kneels by the side of the bed.

Her hand caresses his cheek as she looks into his eyes and murmurs, “I love you too, Buck. How could you ever think I don’t?”

“Earlier you were-at the diner, I thought-thought you were…y’know what? Doesn’t matter. It’s good to hear either way,” Bucky leans forward and kisses her gently, his heart soaring.

She pulls back and pats the bed until he gets the hint and lies down in front of her, his back to her chest. Hattie snakes her arms around him before kissing the back of his neck. Hattie presses her mouth to his broad, muscular shoulders until the tension eases out of them and she knows he's starting to believe her words. 

Later after whispering to each other in the dark for a while Bucky says, gently and cautiously, “I want you to be mine forever, Hattie.” It’s serious, she knows, by the use of her given name, normally only used when she was in trouble or Bucky was saying something important.  

She kisses along his shoulders again until he shivers, “When you’re ready I’ll say yes but only if you’re sure.” She nuzzles into his back before she gives a soft laugh and says, “Reputation remember?”

Bucky gives a giddy laugh then and she knows he’s smiling so big that his whole face is crinkled up, especially his nose. “Really?”

“How could I say no? Handsome and charming catch that you are.”

He laughs again and tangles his fingers with her hand that rests against his stomach, “And here I thought you didn’t care about those things, doll.”

She pulls away a little to tug on his arm until he rolls onto his back and she can look into those big blue eyes. Hattie strokes his cheek and then kisses him again before whispering, “I love you, James Barnes. I love you Bucks.”

“I love you, Hattie.” Hattie giggles against his lips before pulling him to her in a heated kiss, limbs tangling together as they seal their promise, slow and sweet and gentle.

The next morning, Bucky’s draft papers come in the mail.

 

 

Chapter Text

“Not that I care that much, but Barnes is killing my mood,” Tony says from behind the welding mask he wears. He stops messing around with his suit long enough to lift the mask and look her in the eyes. “He’s mopey, Hattie,” Tony whines.

She rolls her eyes and continues to type on her computer, “He’s fine, Spark.”

“Don’t call me that and I hate to be the devil’s advocate but he’s not. He’s crushed actually and you’d know that if you talked to anyone but me or maybe talked to Rogers and Barnes,” Tony says, waving his hand in front of her face.

Hattie shakes her head and doesn’t look up from her computer, “I can’t.”

He rolls his eyes and puts down the blow torch he’s holding, “I thought you were supposed to be the wise old woman and I was supposed to be the rebellious child?”

“Well you’re older than me now so we might as well switch,” she says bitterly.

“Ready to die or something?”

“I’ve been alive too long.”

“You know I know someone else that might know what that’s like,” he says before she glares at him.

The lid of her laptop is slammed closed before she stands up and makes her way out of his workshop, “Hey, c’mon Hattie. He thinks you’re afraid.” She stops walking but doesn’t turn, ice shooting through her veins. It had been a few weeks since she had seen either of them, avoiding them like the plague, afraid that they would disappear again, that she wouldn’t be able to find them again. That she would hurt them again, let them be hurt again.

Time stands still for a second before she asks, “Afraid?”

“From what I heard you ran out after he touched you.”

“Jesus Christ, T,” she shakes her head and turns. “That’s not it at all…there’s so much he doesn’t know, doesn’t remember-,”

Tony abruptly hugs her, surprising both of them, “Then maybe you can help.”

She hugs him back, “He doesn’t know. He doesn’t remember what happened before-,” Hattie cuts herself off, swallowing back the bile that threatens to rise. She doesn’t want to think about what happened before the train. Or after the train for that matter. 

“You know I know a thing or two about guilt. And I know I’m about to give advice that I don’t follow but you have to let it go.” He holds her at arm’s length and then, with a roll of his eyes, says, “Now please get them to stop crying. They’re ruining the upholstery.”

Hattie reaches out and pats his cheek tenderly, “Drama queen.”

“Where have you been? This place is nothing but drama queens. Everything is a fucking ordeal.”

 

~

 

Hattie finds Steve in the kitchen making a sandwich post-workout. “Looking pretty good,” she says as she perches on a barstool. Steve jumps and turns as she says, “Little sweaty but still good.

Steve glares at her and turns back to his sandwich, “What do you want?”

“It’s gonna be like that then huh Stevie?”

He slams the knife down onto the counter before turning back to her, “He told me what happened.”

She steels herself and says, “He misinterpreted it.”

“Of fuckin’ course he did, Brooklyn! He thinks he’s a monster and then you run out on him when he-,”

“Would you stop being righteous for one goddamn second?” Steve snaps him mouth shut and waits for her to continue. “I was afraid, Stevie. It’s so hard to look at either of you. I keep thinkin’ you’ll disappear at any second and-and I couldn’t stand it a third time round.”

His eyes soften, “It isn’t your fault, Hattie. It had nothin’ to do with you. Bucky or me or any of it.”

She shakes her head and looks down at the granite counter in front of her, “I don’t have the excuse of age. I don't get older, I don't physically feel the years. I could have kept going but I just stopped looking.”

“You didn’t have a reason to keep looking. I would have thought we were dead too. I thought Bucky was dead. I thought you were dead.”

Her head snaps up as her red rimmed eyes meet his, “But I should have known, Steve. You have the serum and Bucky has some fucked up version of it, I mean I just gave up. How am I supposed to look either of you in the face and act like nothing happened? And then Bucky…he doesn’t remember. He doesn’t remember what happened before-,” Her breath hitches as panic settles in her bones. 

“And if he did it wouldn’t matter to him. After everything that’s happened to him he wouldn’t care,” Steve leaves his sandwich for the time being to walk over and wrap his arms around her.

She presses her face into his chest and wraps her arms around his back. Steve rubs her back gently and says, “He doesn’t remember us the same way we remember him but he does remember us. You’ve gotta give him time. The more time you spend with him the more the memories come back.”

“I’m sorry,” she murmurs.

“I know. Would you talk to him? I think he went to shower but he hasn’t been eating much. You could probably coax him to.”

She sighs and nods before letting go.

 

~

 

Hattie goes to Bucky’s room and sits on his bed. It’s made with a precision only those that have seen military service can achieve. She listens as the water shuts off and he towels off before slowly dressing. He can hear her, she’s sure of it. Her heartbeat, her breath, the slight shift of her body on his bed.

When the door to the bathroom finally opens Bucky is carefully dressed in long sleeves, his left hand fisted inside the black material of his shirtsleeve. They stare at each other again before Hattie carefully stands and moves towards her friend (her lover, her old flame, her everything). “Bucks,” she whispers when there’s maybe a foot of space between them. She longs to reach out to him, to touch him, to reassure him, but instead she only says, “I’m sorry for a few weeks ago.”

“I understand,” comes his low, gentle voice. “Makes sense. It’s okay.” Something in her chest cracks at his words, makes sense, as though he expected to be shunned and fearedThat something in her chest is the space that Bucky has lived in, in her heart, for nearly a century. Once an open, soft, comfortable place that had since been locked and sealed away. Something treasured and hers and sacred. It's breaking open because he's here. Flesh and blood and alive, no longer a horded memory, no longer only a smiling ghost in her mind. It's a place that will always be there specially reserved for him, Bucky Barnes of before, this new Bucky, even the Winter Soldier because all versions of Bucky are precious to her because its him. And he has always been hers. 

She shakes her head as she hastily blinks back tears, “I came to explain.”

For a moment she doesn’t say anything, his brow creasing when the silence stretches. “Brooklyn?” His voice is unsure and small, almost afraid.

Hattie shakes her head again and swallows thickly, “I, uh, y’know some times it’s like no time at all has passed and then other times you feel the weight of time and life and everything pressing in on you. And it was one of those times and I’m sorry. I still can’t believe you’re real. I…even though I’ve known since-since SHIELD fell. I still-,” She sucks in a long, steady breath. “C’mon, let’s eat somethin’.”

He shakes his head and starts to follow her out of the room, “Still so bad at communicatin’.” She freezes in the doorway (because the person that just spoke is not Bucky now but Bucky then) as he cautiously adds, sounding a bit disoriented, “It comes in bits and pieces. My memories."

Bucky stands still behind her when she whirls and wraps her arms around his middle, “Oh god I know. I know, I know. Do you know you were the only one to be able to get it out of me though? I’m not afraid of you, Bucks.”

“Was I?”

“Yeah,” she squeezes him a little tighter. Eventually he wraps one arm around her as she rests her chin on his shoulder. “Even though I knew you were alive…I still missed you. You were still my last thought before I fell asleep and my first when I woke up. And I still couldn’t make myself try to find you or Steve.”

He doesn’t say anything, just enjoys the presence and warmth of another person. Of his person, his girl, his somethingfamiliarsomethinghis. He tightens his grip on her carefully, lying his cheek against her hair so softly she can barely feel him there. Then, “Why did you run away that day?” Bucky shakes a little in her grip, “Is it…” he keeps the arm carefully tucked behind his back.

She pulls back a bit to look up into his eyes and runs one hand down the covered metal, “This?” He doesn’t dare move with her hand on it and steadfastly avoids meeting her gaze, afraid of what might be lying there, not knowing that the only things in her eyes are adoration and love and longing. 

“Yes.”

“No, Bucks. Never.” Her voice is reverent and adamant but he mistakes the slight shake in her voice for suppressed fear. 

He pulls away from her entirely, his features cold and hard suddenly, “You only say that because you’re afraid. I can see it. They were right on the news. We’re on opposite sides of history.” He backs her roughly into the wall suddenly, “I killed people. I’ve done horrible things. And you were right to leave me where I belonged, right where I deserved to be.” The metal fist collides with the wall next to her head and although she flinches a little she doesn’t scream or move away. Her eyes harden as she looks right back into his eyes, plaster crumbling to the floor beside her.

She often used her height to her advantage and this is one of those times. Hattie stands straight and moves forward until there’s no space between them, and although her eyes are stern her voice is soothing and gentle, “You forget Barnes. While you slept most of the years you were gone I was alive and awake. I’ve fought in more wars than you know. I’ve fought through the whole of them. I know violence and I know evil. You are not those things, you are not what they forced you to be, made you to be.” Hattie leans forward and presses her mouth very gently to his cheek, lingering much longer than she should. “I’m going to make lunch,” she says to the startled eyes and blushing cheeks when she pulls away. “And then we can talk. If you’re up to it.”

When she ducks under his arm and leaves the room his mouth twitches into a pained half-smile. Some of his memories of her were real then. The fierce and protective girl of his dreams not a complete hallucination. He also knows for sure that his memory and feeling of love for this person is also real. And maybe if he’s lucky it’ll still be reciprocated. Maybe if he’s lucky he can keep her safe, instead of the alternative.

Chapter Text

Bucky follows her out to their kitchen, Steve nowhere to be found, and stands just outside the kitchen area as she examines the contents of their fridge. Regret settles hard in his stomach as he watches her. He’ll have to explain the hole in the wall to Steve at some point and then to Stark, two conversations he isn’t looking forward to. It was a test, punching the wall like that. One that could have went horribly wrong, one that has his stomach flipping. He could have scared her off (really was that for better or worse?) or more terrifying, miscalculated the punch and hit her instead. But she had barely even flinched. Which of course led him to panicked thoughts of has he done this to her before?

No, he thinks, Steve wouldn’t have been friends with an abuser. Then, now, or ever.

“Bucky?” She’s been speaking to him, hands on her hips as she examines him from where he still stands at the edge of the kitchen. “What would you like me to make?”

He shrugs but doesn’t reply, watching her carefully as she watches him in turn. When the silence starts to stretch again and the fissures appear in her eyes, shoulders starting to slump he says, “Doesn’t matter, Brooklyn.”

“I want you to pick,” is her soft reply. It’s a sentiment Steve often pulled with him. Choice making. Decisions. Something that’s hard for someone who simply didn’t have choices for many, many years. He’s astonished at how quickly she’s managed to worm her way into his life, though he supposes she’s just been sleeping in his heart, now awake and kicking, abusing Bucky’s already bruised heart and soul with her soft mouth and gentle words, and eyes like every dream and desire he’s ever had is about to come true. Steve sometimes tries to make him pick and he’s always deflected it and eaten whatever’s been put in front of him.

Now though, with his heart swelling with love for a person he only half-remembers and has only met twice in this century, he says, “Chicken.”

“Chicken? What sorta chicken? Fried is better than that boiled shit we ate as kids. I dunno if you’ve tried it yet.”

He shakes his head, “Like you made it for me and Stevie that one Christmas. You fried it then.”

Hattie stares then nods slowly, “Yeah, I guess I did…Didn’t even remember that ‘til just now.”

And somehow that makes him proud, that he’s managed to get something right but also remember something that wasn’t on the immediate surface of her brain. It rarely happens with Steve for whom almost no time at all has passed between past and present. Hattie on the other hand has decades of memories to shift through and that fact eases him a little, makes him feel a little lighter with his shitty memory. “That happened?” He needs to hear it confirmed.

She smiles, “Yeah. It did. One of the best Christmases I ever had.”

“Why’s that?” He asks, hoping that the sad puppy-eyed look Steve does whenever he doesn’t remember something doesn’t appear on her face, as he edges slowly into the kitchen. Hattie just smiles again and turns back to the fridge.

“I didn’t have to work and neither did you or Stevie. And Steve was feelin’ good that day and…” she laughs, “the damn heating didn’t go out that night so it was good.” Hattie puts some ingredients on the counter before digging in the freezer. “Ah, good, you do have chicken.”

He smiles and leans against the counter, a sizeable distance away, wary to come any closer lest she jump away again and break his heart. “’Course. Fully stocked. That’s Stark for you.”

“Complaining?”

“Never.” He sighs, “Got lucky with Stark. It coulda been a lot worse.” She doesn’t say anything as she places the chicken on a plate before putting it in microwave to thaw a bit. “You were friends with Howard?”

She keeps her back to him for a moment, “I was. You were. We all were.”

Bucky swallows thickly, “Maria?”

Hattie turns, “I helped raise their son, Bucky. I came back from Vietnam for his birth.” Tension crackles in the air before she takes a deep breath and says, “I’m sorry. That wasn’t fair of me.” She continues to look at him before she asks, “C’mere? Help me with this food?”

Cautiously he straightens at his place at the far counter, “Are you sure?”

“Pretty sure. Heard you’re pretty good with a knife so chopping potatoes should be easy.” Her eyes follow him carefully as he starts toward her. Wide chocolate eyes that he would gladly drown in. Eyes that teased him from across a classroom, eyes that watched his little sisters when he couldn’t, eyes that were serious and watchful of people she cared about, eyes that sparkled when she laughed at his jokes. Eyes that sometimes shone so brightly it was like the whole universe was stored in them.

He stops walking and presses a hand over his eyes as pain rears up in his skull. A violent ache that subsides as quickly as it comes. A quick count to twenty and a few deep breaths help before he pulls the cool metal away from his face.

Eyes that are now fearful. His stomach clenches. And they were doing so well too… “Are you okay?” The question doesn’t click with him for a moment. Okay? Why would she… Then everything snaps into place. The fear wasn’t of him but for him. “You looked like you were in pain,” Hattie says carefully.

“’m okay. Sometimes...remembering hurts.”

“What did you remember?”

He shakes his head, “What do you want me to do, Brooklyn?”

Its possible Hattie won’t let it go and so he tenses for the onslaught of questions and demands that usually accompanied these episodes, especially from Steve, Wilson, and Natasha. Hattie just frowns however before gesturing around the large kitchen, “Find a good knife.” He goes about doing that, glad for the reprieve from questioning as Hattie starts to fill the sink with water. She sets him about scrubbing the potatoes she had found in the pantry. “Scrub ‘em up and then slice ‘em. Not too thin, not too thick.”

“Yes ma’am.” Taking orders is still easier than making decisions. He thinks Hattie understands.

 

~

 

“Smells good in here! What did you make Rogers…” Sam’s voice fades out as he walks through their front door. Hattie turns from the stove where the chicken is happily popping in the pan. At the bar Bucky tenses. Fucking Wilson. He had finally started to relax, having had a semi-normal conversation with Hattie while the crackling of the oil soothed him, something homey and warm and safe about the sound. “You must be the famous Hattie!”

Bucky has the strange urge to get up and place himself between the two as Sam comes closer, dumping his duffle bag on the floor by the door. Sam brushes by Bucky at the bar, shooting him a wink, before continuing on to greet Hattie at the stove. “Good to meet you Sam,” Hattie says with a smile as she reaches out with her unoccupied hand to shake Sam’s. “Bucky has told me absolutely nothing about you.”

He bursts out laughing, “Wouldn’t expect him to.”

“Well I’m sure he woulda but we’ve been doin’ a little catchin’ up. Right Bucks?” She smiles over at him, wide and genuine. And so Bucky can’t really help the smile he returns to her, only for her. It’s just too bad that Wilson has to be there to see it too. Surprise works its way onto his face, in the two years he’d known the guy he had never smiled so easily. “You’re welcome to stay Sam. This was supposed to be lunch but we got a little carried away. Bucky made the potatoes. Fried ‘em up and everything.”

“Bucky cooked,” he deadpans before turning to meet Bucky’s murderous stare. “Interesting.” There’s a pause as Bucky promises swift death with his eyes while Hattie’s back is turned before Sam exclaims, “I’ll stay! Steve here?”

Hattie gives him a smile over her shoulder, “In his room. If you two could go pick up a pack of beer?” She makes a face at him, “The super soldiers don’t have any.”

Sam hoots with laughter before leaning forward to press a kiss to her cheek, “Where’ve they been hiding you? I think you might be the woman of my dreams.” Hattie just smiles as Sam runs off to get Steve, patting Bucky on the shoulder as he passes.

“He’s fun,” she says when Sam’s gone.

Bucky rolls his eyes as Hattie takes the skillet off the stove, “He’s…annoying. They all are.” Even more so now that he’s flirting with his girl. They’re all more annoying now as they all seem to have some deep connection with Hattie. And Hattie is his. If she would let herself be. If she can trust him that much. His mind flashes back to that day. Oh, God, you sound just like him. And then the flinch and recoil from his touch from this damn arm.

She shrugs, “He seems friendly enough. Want the first bit of chicken while they’re gone? It’s still so ingrained to be polite but I wanted to talk with just you.”

His heart feels just a bit lighter as she sets a plate in front of him and sits close on his left side, seemingly completely at ease. Her smile is one he thinks he remembers as they share a plate of food and, the sparkle in her eyes he thinks might be just for him.

Chapter Text

After their dinner together, where Hattie had spoken at length with Bucky about anything and everything they both remembered, Hattie had left. They had carefully avoided straying into intimate memories of their relationship. It had been nice, comforting, sweet even. Bucky had thought that she would stay.

But she had left. Again. Though this time he had understood, though the kiss on his cheek before she left had baffled him a little.

At least he thought he understood, had thought it went well.

Weeks pass again and Bucky doesn’t see her. He’s afraid to ask after her however, afraid that the answer would be she’s not coming back, you’re too much and not enough, not who she remembers. But when the fourth week ends he can’t take it anymore and asks Steve.

It just so happens that Stark is coming into the common room right when he does. Tony rolls his eyes and says, “She’s on a mission, Mopey. Everything doesn’t come to a screeching halt because she decided to reach out.”

Bucky ignores him and addresses Steve, “Where?”

“Buck…” Steve trails off. Bucky knows his protective streak is a mile wide but he can’t be bothered to care as Steve avoids his eyes and deigns not to answer.

“Steve. Tell me.”

It’s Tony who answers, “Where do you think? Or rather who, I guess. Hydra. Probably Siberia but she could be anywhere.”

Anxiety sticks in his gut and his throat as he struggles to formulate an answer to that. “She can’t. It’s too dangerous. I…Is it solo?”

Tony rolls his eyes again and Bucky has the strong urge to punch the man. The casualness about Hattie’s being on a solo mission irks him. Her face suddenly swims in his vision, in a forest, surrounded by laughing men he knows are the Howlies. Sitting at a bar in Europe with the Howlies. Walking in front of him with Peggy Carter at her side. “She,” he murmurs, almost to himself, “doesn’t do solo missions. She-,” God, I hate bein’ alone Bucks. I hate it. I’m so glad I’ve always had you and Stevie. “-she doesn’t like being alone.”

“Things change Terminator,” Tony says. “She prefers them now. It’s all she’s done for oh, I don’t know, seventy years.”

“Tony…” Steve’s voice is stern, a warning lurking there. Rage courses through him, first at Steve for treating him like a child, like glass, and secondly at Tony for taunting him, for his unconcerned attitude toward Hattie. His Hattie, his Brooklyn- C’mon Buck, I’ll be fine. I’m with all the guys and when we have you sniping for us we’re always okay ‘cause we know you’ve always got our back. Now let go of my hand you big baby-

Tony walks closer to Bucky, “Does it bother you? That we know her better than you? That we’ve technically known her longer than you? She’s like a second mother to me you know. I’d watch yourself around her, might get the urge to do something horrible.”

“Tony!” Steve says, stepping between the two of them. Tony’s gone in a second as Bucky attempts to stifle the conflicting emotions coursing through him.

Steve grips his shoulders tightly until Bucky meets his eyes and says, “He’s right.” And that’s really all he has to say about the matter as he shakes Steve off and goes back to their apartment.

 

~

 

A few more days pass in which Bucky can’t get Hattie or Stark out of his head. It’s Wanda that finally gets him to get out of the Compound to take a walk around the grounds. Wanda is one of the team members most sympathetic to Bucky’s moods and so she often tried to help him get out of his head as much as she could without her powers. He had had enough meddling in his head, he had said, and so she respected that.

“You’ve been doing well,” she says as they walk the grounds, warm sun shining down around them. A perfect day, a clear blue sky above them. “Considering everything that’s happened you’ve been no worse.”

He shrugs and bends down to pick a white daisy from among the grass, “I should be better. She keeps leaving.”

Wanda frowns and accepts the flower from Bucky when he holds it out to her, “She had to. It was short notice or I’m sure she would have said something.”

Silence settles between them, the only noise is the chatter of birds and the sound of running water of a creek nearby. “There are things I should remember.” Wanda doesn’t say anything, only waits as Bucky attempts to gather his once again scrambled thoughts. “Important things. I remember…I remember what it felt like to kiss her, but not how we met. I remember her hand in mine, but not a single date we ever went on. I remember finding her bloodied in an alley but not if I said ‘I love you’ the last time I saw her. I can’t remember…and she wants me to. There’s something important missing that’s making her hold back…only I can’t….”

“You will,” she says confidently. “Like with Steve. It’ll come back, the more time you spend together.”

Bucky watches as Wanda tucks the flower behind her ear, “I killed some of her best friends. She helped raise the man that ignores me at best and wants to kill me at worst.”

She stops walking and turns to Bucky, “She loves you. I know. I can feel it without even trying to read her. She knows it wasn’t you. And Tony loves her and so he’ll tolerate you if only for her.”

Wanda smiles suddenly and points over Bucky’s shoulder, “Here she comes now.”

Bucky whirls and there, indeed, is Hattie, still in mission gear, still covered in blood and dirt and limping just a bit, but headed toward them with a smile all the same.

“Brooklyn,” he breathes when she’s close enough.

“Hey Bucks,” she says with a large grin. “Wanda,” she gives the girl a nod. “Mind if I borrow Bucky?”

Wanda gives Bucky a look that says I told you so before she says, “Not at all,” and takes her leave.

Hattie holds out her hand tentatively, “Take a walk with me?” Her voice is unsure, her eyes wavering. He takes her hand, lacing their fingers together, noticing the grime there and not caring at all. A small seed of worry plants itself in his gut though as he watches her limp when they begin to walk.

“Are you okay?”

She ignores his question and says, “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you I was leaving. I didn’t know until that morning.” Hattie frowns at the ground, “Tony…tells me you were worried.”

His heart plummets as he realizes he isn’t the first person she came to see, even dirty and injured as she is. “Said that did he?”

“In his own way,” she says gently. “He always likes to meet me right off the jet and complain about anything and everything. How’ve you been Bucks? Not too worried I hope?”

Bucky tugs her to a stop and turns her toward him. He doesn’t let go of her hand, can’t make himself, too pleased with the warm contact, “You’re hurt. You should be resting-,”

“My bones aren’t that old yet, Bucky,” she says with a smile, only half-joking. “Besides, I missed you. Couldn’t even be bothered to change.” His heart soars as she smiles at him. Missed him. “’Course I missed you for decades so this was a little bit bearable.” When he doesn’t say anything and just stares at her, her face starts to fall. “Uh, sorry, that was kinda forward,” she tugs her hand away from his. “I know you don’t remember me and-,”

He shakes his head violently, “I do remember you, Brooklyn. I told you, I may not have the memories, but I remember you.” For a moment she looks as though she might reach out to him, Bucky fully ready to reciprocate, but then she gives a tight smile and only nods. “Let me show you somethin’, Brooklyn.” When she nods again, this time without tension around her eyes, he boldly takes her hand and tugs her in the direction of the tree line.

The feeling of her hand clasped around his feels right, whole. Their booted feet glide over the soft grass, like the gentle giants they are, as Bucky leads them through the trees and to the edge of the stream there. She takes a seat at the water’s edge, Hattie groaning in bliss at the weight coming off her hurt leg. Cool shadows embrace them as Bucky frowns at her. She’s wearing combat gear, looking more like a modern soldier than a superhero, though he supposes that’s what she is.

She never claimed to be a hero.

Black combat boots are laced tightly over thick black combat pants. Her shirt is a tight gray, long sleeved thing that shows her every curve. Bucky can’t help but stare for a second as he takes a seat next to her, “Let me look at your ankle.”

“’m fine.”

“Yeah, sure, now lemme look,” he says. She tries and fails to repress a smile as she turns to him and puts her injured ankle in his lap. Hattie leans back on her hands as she folds her other ankle beneath her opposite thigh.

As Bucky unlaces her boot she murmurs, “Always were a worrier Barnes.”

He nods at her as he gently works off her boot, setting it aside and prodding the delicate flesh beneath her sock. “That’s what Steve says. And Natasha. Even…as the Soldier-,” he hesitates telling her, he doesn’t want to scare her. A hand lands on his where it had paused on her ankle.

“You can tell me,” she says gently. Fire ignites in his hand and travels along his skin at her touch.

Bucky clears his throat and says, “Uh, even as the Winter Soldier, I was protective. Of the girls in the Red Room. And worried, as worried as the Soldier could be.”

“Do you remember ever thinking of me? Of Steve?” Her voice cracks and Bucky’s first instinct is to soothe, to rub her ankle and calf tenderly.

He meets her bright eyes as he says, “Must have. They only ever wiped me to make me stop remembering.” The warm hand on his is retracted and he looks back to her ankle, “You, uh, sprained it. You’ll need someone to wrap it for you-,”

“Would you? Please? It’s been a long time since I’ve had someone so gentle patch me up.”

Disbelief works its way into his blood as he scoffs, “Gentle-,”

Her fierce voice cuts him off, “You are gentle. Always have been and I can still see it. So gentle and kind. The kind of gentle that picks flowers for people.”

“Saw that did you?”

She smiles at him and scoots closer, untucking her leg, until her legs are practically wrapped around his hips from the side. “Can I touch you?” His body’s first reaction is recoil and get away. Touch isn’t good, touch is-

“Yes.” Touch was good. Touch was tender caresses in the dead of night. Touch was-

Her hand lands on his cheek, thumb stroking his cheek as he leans into it. Yes, this is what touch is. Gentle and tender and good. Soft and warm and safe. “My place is here. With you. I’m sorry I left you.” A few minutes pass before he fully relaxes into her hand and closes his eyes. “That’s it baby,” she whispers, pulling herself closer to him. “You’re okay. Can I see those eyes, darlin’?” He wraps his right arm around her and opens his eyes, “Never in all my years did I find a prettier blue.”

“You’re makin’ me blush,” he says back to her. “I missed you.”

“And I missed you, my solider.” She leans her head against his shoulder, “I missed you so goddamn much.” He can hear it in her voice that she just doesn’t mean the past few weeks.

For hours or minutes or maybe days they sit there like that until the weight of guilt starts to crush them both. Neither of them deserved this contact, this feeling, this bliss. But neither of them lets go. Hattie leans back and strokes his cheek again, taking in his eyes and lips and nose, his freckles and the creases by his eyes. He isn’t completely the same but he is hers, that Hattie is sure of. “Can I kiss you?”

The question doesn't shock him, it seems a natural thing for her to ask him. Bucky nods, drunk on Hattie’s kind touch, something he isn’t used to, even now, after two years of freedom. Touch deprived, Bruce called it. She leans forward, barely brushing their mouths together. But this he remembers and so he turns his head and takes her chin in his hand before pressing his mouth firmly to Hattie’s. She guides the kiss, carefully not pressing for too much, even though she wants everything, wants it all, wants him. The spark under her skin at the contact spurring her forward, closer, until what’s happening hits her.

A gasp leaves her as she pulls away and tears threaten to fall from her eyes. “Brooklyn?” His voice is pitched higher than usual in panic, his mouth red from the kiss, “Hey, I’m-,”

“We shouldn’t,” she says.

That gives Bucky pause, makes his head spin a little, “Doll, please, I don’t understand-,”

“I killed you,” she whispers, pressing her face into her hands. Her legs are still wrapped around his hips as the top of her head bumps into his shoulder. “And all these years I’ve been trying to make up for it and then you come back and you-you just…you don’t even, you just sit here with me like everything isn’t my fault. Like you might still love me and I-I can’t help but feel like I’m taking advantage of you. Or this is all some cruel joke to punish me and I-,”

At the word punish Bucky’s head snaps up before he pulls her into his chest, the position only slightly awkward as she’s still at his side. “Never. Never would I do that to you.” His mind threatens him with barely suppressed memories of the tortures and punishments he received. “Never, Brooklyn, never.”

“Tell me what you remember,” she murmurs. “Please?”

Carefully he lies his left hand on her injured leg, massaging it slowly, while keeping his other arm wrapped around her back. “I remember bits and pieces. There are hardly any…full memories.” She doesn’t say anything, only burrows into his neck, so he continues. “I remember coffee and early mornings. I remember two trouble makers. I remember three jobs and too many friends. I remember making love and holding hands and kissing. I remember bruises and I remember being poor. I remember loving you,” he says against her hair. “And I remember you loving me.”

“Hardly anything’s changed then,” her smile is tight.

“What are you so afraid I might remember?”

She meets his eyes when she says, “The day you stopped loving me.”

Chapter Text

*Brooklyn 1934*

“Ma?” Bucky asks as he enters the kitchen. “You seen Brooklyn or Stevie? They were supposed to wait for me outside the gym.”

His mother only turns from the stove and gives him a significant look, “Jamie, darling, you know as well as I do that if those two aren’t where they’re supposed to be then they’ve found their own trouble.”

And that is exactly why Bucky had asked them to wait outside and not move. But of course when he came back outside they were gone. “Yeah, Ma, I know.”

Becca bounces into the kitchen suddenly, “Hey Bucky can I help you look for them?”

His sister’s smile is bright and hopeful. Hopeful that her big brother will let her tag along on his expedition to find his friends. But knowing Steve and Hattie they were probably somewhere they weren’t supposed to be with bloody noses and bruised hands. “Not this time, Bec,” he answers. “It’s hard to tell what they’ve gotten into now.”

She frowns as Bucky makes his way back out of their small apartment, off to check their usual haunts. So, it only takes Bucky an hour to find them sitting in an alleyway. Steve is panting as Hattie rubs his back. They both look up when Bucky blocks their patch of sun, his shadow falling over them. He crosses his arms and glares down at them, “Didn’t I tell ya not to move?”

“Sorry Bucks,” Hattie squints up at him as she continues to rub Steve’s back. A hot stripe of jealousy licks his gut, Hattie never coddled him after a fight, in the ring or on the street. Then Steve starts to cough and worry overtakes everything else. “Got ‘im right in the gut, Buck,” she says worriedly.

He rolls his eyes before reaching down to help Steve up, wrapping one arm around his waist to help him along, “Did ya get ‘em then, Stevie?”

“Brooklyn did,” Steve says smugly. Bucky glances back at Hattie who is still picking herself up off the ground. She’s got bloody knees and fists, a bruise forming on her mouth.

Bucky stops with Steve jerking him back around wildly, “Did those bastards hit you back?”

“’Course they did Buck that’s the law of the land in back alley brawls,” she says as she walks to Steve’s other side. “Anybody is game.”

He expels a long breath as Hattie smiles and high-fives Steve, “You two will be the death of me.”

Hattie smirks at him, “Only if you’re lucky, James. Did you get the match you wanted?”

He shakes his head, “Still too light.”

“That makes me feel a lot worse,” Steve says from between them. “Not that I’d make a good boxer anyhow.”

“Sure ya would Stevie,” Bucky says. “If only ya stopped fighting in alleys. If ya just listened to me for once in your goddamn life. You too, Hattie. Between the two of you I’ll be gray before I’m twenty.”

Hattie hums in mock agreeance, “Well there’s a simple solution to that Bucks. Find more respectable friends.”

“Yeah, Buck,” Steve laughs and then coughs. “All ya gotta do is find-,”

Bucky rolls his eyes and drags Steve along as he and Hattie chatter on and Bucky attempts to tune out there self-deprecating humor. By the time they reach Steve’s apartment building he’s wheezing and struggling to climb the steps. Hattie helps Bucky in getting him up the steps, despite Bucky being more than able to do it himself. Thankfully Sarah Rogers isn’t home to witness the mess that her son has become.

Hattie takes up the roll of nurse in Steve’s bedroom while Bucky attempts to assist and only gets in the way. He watches her tender hands, gentle and careful, from a chair in the corner of the room when she finally tells him to lay off. When she’s finished Steve has fallen asleep, breaths rattling in and out of his thin chest. She brushes her fingers through his blond hair with a frown on her face and Bucky feels that strange, hot fire start in his gut again. When she turns to him, however, it disappears immediately. “I always worry about him so much,” she whispers.

“He’ll be alright,” he says. “Stevie always is.”

“Yeah,” she says. The crease on her forehead doesn’t go away however as she turns back to Steve’s sleeping body. It’s then that Bucky notices that she’s shaking.

He stands and makes his way to her side, “Hey, let me patch you up. Shakin’ a little. You can tell me what happened to piss ya righteous bastards off.” She sighs deeply and turns away from him.

“Fine.”

In the bathroom she sits on the edge of the tub and refuses to meet Bucky’s eyes. He blushes as he kneels on the ground and pushes up her skirt to tend to her knees. “What happened?” Bucky asks to distract himself from the thoughts running through his mind.

She doesn’t immediately answer, slipping into a melancholy that he recognizes easily. Both she and Steve had their moments, small, stormy rainclouds that they are. “You know I’m a girl right Bucks?”

The bandage roll slips from between his fingers. Yeah, he’s very aware she’s a girl, painfully so at the moment as he’s eyelevel with the tops of her creamy thighs. “Y-yeah, I know. Why?” He asks, focusing on her knees so she might not see his blush.

She frowns at him, how he refuses to meet her eyes, and feels her stomach swoop. He might know but he doesn’t see her that way. “Just wonderin’.” Hattie suddenly can’t stand his touch, that he might never touch her except to take care of her wounds. She reaches down and pushes his hands away before standing. “’m fine Barnes. I gotta go anyways.”

Bucky stands and meets her eyes confusedly, “You’re still bleeding. At least let me walk you-,”

“I said I have to go Barnes,” she responds viciously. Hattie can’t stand the thought of Bucky walking her home, only to call her pal and punch her shoulder, to promise a boxing lesson and then later that night have to sit alone with Steve while Bucky danced with all the most beautiful girls in New York.

He just stares, “Barnes? Are you mad at me, Brooklyn?”

“No, I just don’t have time for this,” she says. “I’ll see ya around.” But Bucky can’t just let her leave when she’s injured and something is so clearly bothering her. He grabs her wrist lightly, mindful of her injuries, to stop her leaving.

“What’s wrong?”

She stares at him for a long second, looking like she might rip her hand away, before she sighs and her shoulders slump. Bucky carefully pulls his friend into a hug, relishing in the fact that she hugs him back and rests her chin on his shoulder. “They said I wasn’t a real girl. Said a lot of nasty things. Nothin’ I ain’t heard before but it’s the first time Stevie’s been around to hear it and you know he can’t ever let anything go.”

Her arms tighten around him, “And I mean it must be true, right? I only ever get dates out of pity. I wear trousers half the time and do men’s work. I box and fight and my hands are rough. ‘m not delicate like girls are supposed to be and…so many girls are startin’ to get engaged and all ‘m doin’ is fightin’ and workin’. Who’s ever gonna want somebody like me? Tall as a man and rough and wild. No one wants a girl they can’t control.”

Bucky rubs her back gently as anger roils in his gut. She’s perfect to him, wild and rough and bright as she is, and no one should seek to control someone like that. “It ain’t true, Hattie. You’re just a different kinda girl. And some day you’re gonna find a fella who loves everything about you. Besides we’re only seventeen, there’s still time.” Please, let it be me that you choose.

“’m gonna be an old croon, Bucks.” She says with a slight laugh even as her heart plummets. If Bucky thought she had to find a fella that loved everything about her that meant that he didn’t. Still she says, “Thanks.”

She lets go of him not feeling the slight pull as Bucky attempts to keep her in place. He lets go reluctantly. “Want me to finish with these bandages now or are ya gonna try to run again?” Hattie just smiles and sits back down. No matter what happened, married or an old croon, she’d always have Steve and Bucky.

 

~

 

When Sarah Rogers gets home that evening she finds the three of them sitting upright on the couch, dead asleep. Bucky sits between Hattie and Steve, a book in his lap that he had clearly been reading aloud to the other two. Steve and Hattie are bruised and bandaged, making Sarah smile with affection at the two of them. She’s learned not to ask too many questions about it. She often thanked God however that Bucky Barnes had been put into their lives, keeping the two of them out of the worst of it.

Bucky’s head is tipped back, resting against the back of the couch, mouth opened wide as deep breaths leave him. Steve’s head is against his best friend’s shoulder, his chest rising and falling easily for once. Hattie’s in much the same position though Sarah notices Bucky’s hand on top of hers with a soft laugh.

“Mrs. Rogers?” asks Hattie’s sleepy voice.

“Sarah, dear, I’ve told you before,” the older woman says as Hattie slides her hand away from Bucky’s with a look of confusion on her face, as though she can’t fathom how her hand came to be underneath his.

Hattie looks back to Sarah, “Sarah, I’m so sorry for overstaying my welcome. I’ll just be going.”

She’s waved down, “I love having you and Bucky around. I could use a hand with dinner though, if you would be so kind.”

“Of course, ma’am,” she responds immediately and Sarah has to laugh. Bucky and Steve and Hattie had to be the most fierce but polite teenagers on the face of the earth. Following Sarah to the kitchen they work in quiet tandem for a while, Hattie kindly asking how her day was and how she was feeling.

“You know,” Sarah says after a while, when they finally sit down at the kitchen table to wait for the food to finish up in the oven, “I used to wish you would fall for my Stevie.”

Hattie stares at her in shock, her mouth working as she attempts to formulate an answer to that statement. “But now I see how that Barnes looks at you and I know I had it wrong this whole time. You two make a perfect pair and that is something that is so rare.”

“I-I-I don’t-,” Hattie looks like a dear caught in headlights and Sarah has to laugh a little.

“No, I suppose you don’t see it. But I do and someday so will you. And hopefully our Bucky finds his courage soon.”

Just then a sleepy looking Bucky stumbles into the kitchen, greeting Sarah, before his eyes land on Hattie, softening and lightening as though everything in the world is right again because she’s there. “Hey, Brooklyn, thought ya mighta left,” he says before taking a seat next to her. Hattie can only stare at the gentle, still drowsy look in his eyes before she stutters out a greeting. “Smells great in her ladies,” Bucky says when he’s satisfied with her response, a large, very Bucky grin on his face. Her heart falters when he meets her eyes again and starts chattering at her. Maybe, she thinks, maybe. Or maybe she’s reading into it now.

All through dinner Hattie can’t stop thinking about what Sarah had said and when Bucky walks her home that evening she has half a mind to say something, to ask him about it. But their conversation in the bathroom flashes through her mind and she knows it can’t be true, that Sarah must be mistaken. Bucky could not think of her that way, it was impossible that he saw her as anything other than his pal. 

Besides it was naïve of her to think that someone like Bucky, who had a chance to have a perfect, normal life, would choose someone like her. Outcast and alone and unfeminine as she is. So she smiles and lets him kiss her cheek, deliberately not looking at him when he pulls away and missing the blush on his cheeks and his poorly suppressed smile. She goes inside her overcrowded apartment building and dodges the different languages being hurled at her when she does, dressing quickly for work and desperately trying not to feel the burning sensation on her cheek.

Chapter Text

Adjusting to life at the Compound is both the easiest thing in the world and the most difficult thing Hattie has ever done. On the one hand it’s almost like living on a military base only a little more chaotic and a lot more disorganized, and living on military bases is something she is intimately familiar with. On the other had she’s had to leave Brooklyn behind again and that makes her more than a little anxious, to be sorta forced away from her home again. And maybe that wouldn’t be so bad if she were anonymous but she’s not. She’s the Winter Soldier’s girl. She’s a mutant suddenly. She’s Tony Stark’s trusted ally. She’s the fucking Decade Hero, even though in her eyes she’s never done a damn heroic thing in her life.

She’s all of these things and none of them at the same time. She’s anything but Hattie at the moment.

Hattie is also becoming increasingly pissed off by the amounts of people that call her Brooklyn. At one point that had been all people called her but that was a long time ago. And so now she only wanted to hear it from two mouths, those who understood the nickname and deserved to use it.

One by one she’s begun snapping at the agents that dare call her that. She’s damn near a hundred years old, didn’t she deserve a little respect? And so really Hattie can’t fathom how she ended up in this situation.

“What was Vietnam like?” The excited girl asks.

She rolls her eyes, “Humid.” Hopefully she’ll leave it at that, catch Hattie’s tone, and leave her to eat in peace.

The agent’s eyes are wide and curious, the face of someone in awe, “Was it as awful as they say?”

Hattie turns to the girl, disbelief etching her features, “Yes. It was hell.”

“Did you know Wolverine was in Vietnam too? Did you ever cross paths?”

“Once or twice.” Hattie says, more than a little horrified. No one has mentioned Logan to her in many years.

She gasps and leans into Hattie’s personal space where she’s been attempting to eat her cereal for more than an hour, “Did he know you don’t age? Like him?” Hattie doesn’t bother correcting the girl that she and Logan do age, just very slowly.

Hattie takes a bite of cereal and scrolls through the news on her phone with her other hand, doing her best not to think too much about her time in that area of the world, “I honestly can’t remember. Probably not.” She tries for a moment to recall and shakes her head, “I dunno, was a long time ago.”

The girl nods excitedly, a large smile on her face, “And you came home before the war was over to help with Mr. Stark when he was born. Are you his godmother?”

Slowly, Hattie looks away from her phone, milk dripping from the corner of her mouth. They’re in the empty common area, Hattie sitting at the counter, as the girl continues to bounce on her toes and glance around the sleekly modern, state-of-the-art room. Hattie swallows and narrows her eyes at the girl, “Don’t you have something to be doing or…anywhere else to be?”

“No, I’m on a bit of a break.” She says as she adjusts her long blonde ponytail in the reflective surface of the toaster.

“Jesus Christ, where do they find you people?” Hattie asks out loud, eyeing the girl warily. The girl turns to her with a confused look. “What’s your name?”

“Agent Olivia Johnson.” And before Hattie can ask Agent Olivia Johnson to kindly fuck off, she starts to ask her about another war. “So, how did you get to Europe to join the war, Brooklyn? Your history is virtually unknown. I mean I think we know more about Black Widow at this point than we do about you! Did you tag along with Steve? Were you a nurse? Did the Solider send for you? Did you make your own way- No! Howard and Peggy rig-,”

Hattie stands, spoon sharply clanging back down into the depths of her cereal bowl, “Ms. Johnson, if I may. First, you are working in a place with a lot of mentally unstable people, whose unstableness can be traced to various forms of PTSD. Please keep this in mind when speaking to them and asking them very personal questions. Next, you have no right to my history, no one does. It is secret because I have kept it that way. Also, you know what you do about Agent Romanoff because she wants you to know it. And finally, every person you mentioned is a superior and should be addressed as Captain Rogers, Sergeant or Agent Barnes, Agent Carter, and Mr. Stark.”

Olivia starts to stutter out an apology before Hattie leans close and says, “And never call me Brooklyn ever again. It’s Agent King to you.”

She leaves her bowl on the counter, only pausing to snatch her phone up before getting the fuck out of that kitchen. Air is suddenly hard to take in, the hallway too small, the buzzing in her ears too loud. Her back hits the wall of the darkened corridor as she tries to catch her breath while the room spins dangerously, memories long past flashing and fluttering through her mind. Praying that no one comes along the hall before she can get herself back under control.

Why did these people have to ask such questions? About everyone she used to know, about the past, about wars. Why did they need to know? Couldn’t they just leave her the fuck alone? But no, she’s some new unknown and so everyone and their mother is suddenly interested in her and digging around in her life. Nearly every morning the news has a segment with new ‘information’ they’ve gathered about her and it’s starting to wear on her. She’s used to hiding in the cool darkness of history and to be so suddenly thrust into the spotlight and have missions taken away from her is nearly unbearable.

She’s been put on official leave for an undetermined amount of time and it’s quickly starting to take a toll, as she’s suddenly too ‘recognizable’ to do her job properly. “Brooklyn?” Hattie whips around, ready to rip out the person’s throat for calling her that, not recognizing Bucky’s voice in her current state.

The wall suddenly isn’t enough to keep her upright as she slides down it, burying her face in her hands. Bucky’s next to her instantly, carefully sitting down next to her. “I was just looking for you.” He chatters comfortingly at her as she calms herself down, unsure about what else to do as he prays that he isn’t making it worse. Then, after much time has passed and her breathing is once again normal, Bucky tentatively wraps his arm around her shoulders, tucking her securely under his right arm.

“Why do they have so many questions?”

Bucky lifts one shoulder in a half-hearted shrug. He asks himself the same question every time Steve makes him go to therapy. “Dunno doll, they’re just interested in us. They do the same thing to Steve.”

“Well I’m talkin’ to Tony about keepin’ ‘em out of our living quarters,” she grouses before snuggling into his side and pressing a kiss into his shoulder. They had become accustomed to touching one another slowly, mostly in quiet, private moments like these. Hand holding in public had become an issue much to the dismay of them both. It had attracted a lot of unwanted attention, even around the Compound, and then someone had asked Hattie how she stood to touch him and all bets had been off after that, prompting Bucky to suggest maybe they shouldn’t for the time being. That had broken her heart more than anything else.

He had smiled that day though, reminded that underneath all the anxiety and worry and botched memories, they were the same people. The only downside being a lack of physical contact and a very pissed off Hattie, and Steve, who of course had found out. The lecture the agent got already going down in history as one of Steve’s most righteous and passionate. Tony had had FRIDAY record it.

Her hand rests against his hip, stretched across his stomach protectively before she gestures at his metal hand. Carefully, he puts his hand in hers, making sure to hold as still as possible so the plates won’t shift and inadvertently pinch her skin. Not ready to move from the floor, securely wrapped in their own little bubble, which had been happening a lot lately, Bucky asks, “What happened? Who was it? What’d they ask?” He likes these moments, where it’s just the two of them, relearning each other and reorienting together accordingly. It’s comforting and comfortable and familiar.

She squeezes his metal fingers in hers, the sensation registering as more pressure than usual, “She asked if I knew fuckin’ Wolverine. Of course I fuckin’ knew Wolverine.”

“Doll.”

“Yes, baby,” she says looking up from his hand where she has been pressing the pads of their fingers together, cool metal meeting warm flesh.

“I don’t know who Wolverine is.”

Laughter bubbles up out of her suddenly, harder and harder until there are tears on her cheeks. She leans up and presses a kiss to Bucky’s cheek, cupping his face gently, “I’ll take you to the comic book store some time.”

“Comic book store?”

She only kisses his cheek again, smiling fondly at his confusion. “They all just ask a lotta questions I’d rather leave in the past. Like how I got to be in the War…I always think about Azzano. I just can’t help it. I think about you standin’ in that forest, searchin’ through the crowds lookin’ for me. Stevie told you I came with him but we got separated…I went with Dugan and the others in that goddamn tank. When you finally saw me…well, half the guys thought the world was endin’ again the way you were yellin’.”

Bucky nods and settles his chin on the top of her head. It wasn’t often that he got her to talk about the past despite everything, despite his memory, “Tell me more.”

“You don’t remember?” Her voice isn’t disappointed or accusatory, just asking.

“I do, darlin’. Just want to hear it from your side.”

That means he’s checking his own memories against hers. He rubs his chin against the top of her head as she starts again, “See, ya didn’t know if I’d made it. Just knew that I had been there when the fighting started. And…I didn’t know if Steve had found you alive, or if Steve had made it. I thought I might be all alone.”

She smiles, “But you ran to me, even if you were stumbling and unbalanced and injured, you ran and I just got my feet movin’ when you slammed into me. We nearly both went down and before I could say anything you were spinning me around and then plantin’ the grossest kiss I’ve ever received on me. And then everyone started howlin’ and cheerin’ and a couple of the fellas kept shoutin’: ‘That’s Barnes’ girl! That’s Sarge’s girl!’ And all I could do was laugh.”

Bucky chuckles against her before pulling her into his lap, not caring if someone came along the hall and found them. “Got most of it right then.”

“Most?” She asks worriedly.

“I remember giving you the best kiss I’ve ever given that day.” Hattie moves until her knees bracket his hips, fingers cradling his jaw. His body becomes pliant underneath hers almost instantly, her touch calming him like nothing else is able too, only made more intense by his refusal of nearly everyone else’s touch.

Hattie watches his eyes close, fingers digging into her hips, as his head falls back and his lips part in a soft breath. Long lashes lie against his cheeks covered in more than a little stubble, that Hattie strokes with careful fingers. She watches his soft mouth in particular, enraptured by the curves of his lips, that perfect cupid’s bow, revealing flawless teeth that she doesn’t remember as being perfect. They used to be a little crooked, something she had found cute and endearing. “Well now, I never said it wasn’t the best kiss I ever received. Just that it was gross as hell. Anyone that saw would agree with me.”

“How?”

“You led with your tongue, Bucks.”

He grins but doesn’t open his eyes, “Not such a bad memory after all then.” His body goes stiff suddenly and his eyes spring open, “Not that you’re being irrational. It was a hard day and if it hurts then-,”

“Bucky,” she forces him to look into her eyes, still stroking his scruff covered cheeks. “It’s okay. I don’t mind talkin’ about it with you. You always manage to turn it into a good memory.” Then she leans forward and presses her lips to his, carefully running her tongue over his bottom lip, before he opens up to her. They take the time to explore each other with a gentleness rarely seen in the world anymore. But Bucky would always be soft when it came to her, tender and careful, and the same is true for Hattie.

She pulls away too quickly for Bucky’s liking, a groan leaving his mouth, “Ask me about somethin’ else.”

Her hands thread through his hair, tugging, knowing he won’t be able to deny her then. “Only if you kiss me again, Brooklyn.” So, she does, deeply, fully, pouring as much love and devotion and gentleness into it as she can. She nips softly at his full bottom lip when he pulls back, whining at the loss. “I want you to tell me about you.” She doesn’t reply, only kisses him again, trying to tell him without words, how it hurt to be without him for so long. Long, languid, lazy kissing that seemed to last forever, the sunlight fading, plunging them from shadows to darkness, and still no one comes down the hallway. It’s theirs for the moment and the universe doesn’t want to interrupt them.

Bucky’s hands stray from her hips to her ass and then slide up her back while she keeps her hands cupped lightly around his neck, holding him still but giving him to space to pull away as well. When tears drip onto his cheeks he pulls back in horror. “Good tears,” she whispers when he tries to pull away. “I promise. You’re okay, baby.”

“Please tell me about you,” he starts to beg when a door at the other end of the hall is opened and light spills across them.

“Good lord, not on my floor for god’s sake,” Tony says as he struts toward them and Hattie wipes her tears away hastily.

Bucky lets out a low growl, clutching Hattie to his chest who only laughs and pulls away and stands, leaving Bucky very cold, “Sorry, Spark, we were just movin’.” She kisses him on the cheek as he blows by.

“Yeah, yeah, that doesn’t make it any better.”

When Hattie turns back to Bucky, a laugh still on her lips, she beckons him follow her before swishing down the hall. He really has no choice but to follow, keeping behind her all the way to her apartment.

It’s still sterile and clean, not yet personalized to her preference. Or so he thinks. When Hattie opens the door to her bedroom and ushers him inside he’s surprised there’s any room at all to move. “What d’ya just live in here?”

She shakes her head and squirms on the spot, “The rest of its too big…too open. So, I spend as much time as I can in here. I told Tony it’s too much space for one person but…he’s extravagant and so here we are.” They stare at each other for a moment before Bucky crosses the threshold and closes the door and pulls her back into his arms. “Now what d’ya wanna know, Bucks?”

“Everything about you,” he nuzzles into her neck. “Relationships, places ya went, jobs, people. I wanna know you again, darlin’. I used to be able to say I knew everything about you and that ain’t so true anymore. Maybe it’ll help me remember some things about us, about before.”

She nods and pulls him to the bed, carefully adjusting themselves so they were as close as they could be but not pushing anyone’s limits. When the last of the tension leaves Bucky’s body and he huffs out a sigh she says, “I didn’t date for a very long time after you fell. Every man felt wrong and different. One date and they thought they owned me. And then of course I was a pretty dame by then, knew how to half way conduct myself, and so they didn’t know how scrappy I could be or strong willed or that I had served and lost.”

“And by then it was also painfully obvious that I wasn’t aging as quickly as I should be. And so that became an issue. Howard knew and Peggy knew, a few others too but…I was ostracized for the most part and so I did the only thing I knew how and went back to war. Korea and then Vietnam, all the while dealing with the Russians too. Sometimes with things at home, for SHIELD.” She turns on her side and pushes a hand over his chest, “No one was ever good enough. No one ever understood me like you did, accepted me.”

He meets her eyes and refuses to believe that she hadn’t met a single person better than him, “C’mon doll…there had to be someone.”

“No, everyone thought I was a mean old bitch.”

You?”

She laughs against him, happiness suddenly swimming in her veins, “Yeah, me.”

“Don’t believe you, Brooklyn.” He murmurs, taking her hand from his chest and bringing it to his lips, “You’re the sweetest person I’ve ever known.”

“Maybe I’m only sweet to you.”

He kisses each of her fingers, “That’s okay then, as long as you stay sweet on me.”

It’s silent for a while and Bucky starts to nod off but she shakes him back into consciousness. He jolts awake, “Yeah, sorry, I know I can’t stay-,”

“I want you to stay,” she says immediately. “I want to know you’ll be here in the morning. And I don’t want to lie to you so I need you to know that there were people. But they came and went and nothing changed. I mean it when I say no one ever took your place. No one was ever good enough.”

Bucky wraps his arms around her and kisses her temple, “Okay, doll. I know.” But he can’t leave it at that, he needs to give back to her, so he says, “Do you know what I remember about that first morning after Azzano? I remember panic, pure, unbridled panic. Because we couldn’t find you but I was sure I had heard your laughter and there were so many people it should have been easy to find a woman but the opposite was true. They just looked at me like I was crazy.”

He swallows thickly and clutches her a little tighter, “And then I came around the side of that tank, Steve yellin’ at me to sit my ass down for five seconds, and there you were. They were jokin’ around with you and someone had just stuffed one of those helmets onto your head and your beautiful, long red hair was hanging down your back. You were smiling but I could tell you were nervous and lookin’ for somebody. It took me a second to realize it was me you were looking for.”

She rubs her face into his chest as he continues, “And then you turned and saw me lookin’. For a second I couldn’t believe it was you. Wearing a uniform that was too big on you. And then, yeah, I remember yellin’. The next thing I knew I was in your arms and I remember thinking that I was finally home.”

“Oh, Bucks,” she whispers.

“You were so beautiful, doll. I couldn’t help but lead with my tongue,” he grins and then tucks her closer to him. “I thought I would die there. And even after I told you what they did to me. Injected me with somethin’ horrible, changed me, you still loved me.”

“Of course I did, sweetheart. How could I not? I’ve never stopped.”

He doesn’t look at her as he swallows harshly, “But you say I stopped loving you. What sorta man does that make me?”

“Bucky…”

He shakes his head, “I’m sorry.”

“Nothin’ to be sorry for, baby. You’ll stay right?” He nods against her, he’ll always stay, if allowed, still so confused as to what could have happened to make him stop loving this girl.

Chapter Text

The cell is cold, dark, unforgiving. He’s been given nothing, told nothing. There is no window and no light and no one coming to find him. He fell from a train high in a cold mountain so why should anyone believe him to be alive?

Bucky repeats his identification number again, his name again, his rank and birthplace and friends again and again and again. He tries to hold on but more and more they slip away, into the spiraling darkness that his life has become. Mostly Bucky is left alone for which he’s grateful. But when they do come things become bad, worse. The infection in his shoulder is raging now, pushing him closer to death, closer to breaking. Something will have to be done soon if they’re to keep him, whatever their purpose for doing so may be. He hopes he dies before he can find out.

A sharp bang on the metal bars makes him look up from where he’s crouched on the floor. He’s commanded to stand and strip and when he doesn’t manage it fast enough, his fingers trembling, legs shaking, body trying so desperately to get him to stay down and rest, a bucket of ice cold water is thrown onto him.

Naked, freezing, and soaking wet he’s dragged out of the cell and down many corridors, sometimes shoved to the ground to the amusement of his accompaniment of guards. Often when he falls he’s held down by a boot placed painfully in the center of his back or on his neck or, worst of all, on the bloody, infected remains of his left arm. Screams and laughter mix evenly, until they’ve suddenly had enough and it becomes only screams once more.

What feels like years later, Bucky is shoved through a door into an empty medical room and left alone. He takes a moment to stand there and repeat what he knows about himself a few times over, shivering and cold and bruised. His legs threaten to give out again but he remains standing, not wanting to give the guards the satisfaction of finding him weak and on his knees. Don’t forget don’t forget don’t forget. His eyes snap open suddenly, her name is gone. Desperately he searches his brain, but it’s not there. His girl, the girl, the one he loves. It’s gone. And it’s important. How could he forget? Red unruly hair. Dark brown eyes. Full mouth and a light scattering of freckles on her cheeks. But her name? No, he doesn’t know that anymore. She has a scar on her right hand that runs across her knuckles from the time she attempted to punch someone, missed, and smashed her fist into a dumpster instead.

She had refused stitches.

But what was her name?

She has one single, solitary freckle in the center of her top lip, barely visible if you didn’t spend a significant amount of time staring at her mouth. But her name?

Despair overcomes him and he nearly crumples to the floor before the door is shoved open and Bucky is manhandled onto a metal table. He chants what he knows, wishing he had the girl’s name. But something tells him it doesn’t matter, because as long as he knows who he is, the girl will be able to find him. And she’ll know what to do. Maybe she and Steve both would come.

If he’s lucky.

But he’s never had much of that.

He’s strapped down, not sure why he is, bands fitted over his wrist and ankles and even his waist. It’s not like he has the strength to fight back, well, not enough to cause much trouble because he does fight them, constantly and consistently. Someone leans over him sporting a wicked grin, “Sergeant Barnes, we have someone we would like you to meet. But first there’s some really excellent news we must share with you.” A French newspaper is held over his head and Bucky had picked up enough of the language over the years to be able to read it. Captain America makes the ultimate sacrifice. The man’s other hand drifts up his naked thigh and along his waist but Bucky can’t much focus on the unwanted, soft touches as anguish floods his heart.  

“No,” he whispers. “No, please, it can’t be true.” He looks up into the smirking face of the doctor whose hand drifts up to cup his face, thumbing at his chapped lips. Rage thrums through his blood as he tries to break free from the leather restraints, tries to get away from that hand. “You fuckin’ liar!” Not Steve, not reckless, courageous, idiotically brave Steve. Not his small best friend. Not-

Then a more selfish thought hits him: Steve isn’t coming for him. And maybe that he could deal with, then at least he was alive and safe. But this, his best friend gone-

A howling sob breaks free from his chest, not giving a fuck who heard his grief and promising himself revenge on these bastards.

The doctor looks away as he takes his hand away from Bucky, still smiling, and says to someone he can’t see, “Oh, he’s going to love our next present. Bring her in.”

A woman is forced through the door and brought to stand near where Bucky lies. Her dress is torn and she’s crying, every part of her bruised and shaking, desperately looking anywhere but the man on the table before her. Then one of the guards shoves a gun into her back and she forces herself to meet his eyes. “Bucky!” she cries out but somehow it sounds insincere. Her voice however is so familiar and suddenly he’s blinking furiously, trying to get the tears out of his eyes so he can see her blurry form properly.

Her hair is red and unruly. Her eyes are dark brown and she has freckles. Her mouth is full. But it isn’t her. Bucky won’t let himself believe that it is. “What the fuck is this?” Someone digs something sharp into the top of his inner thigh for his trouble and he screams while the girl falls into hysterics.

“You don’t remember me?” She cries and then screams as someone twists her arm and growls something at her in Russian.

“You aren’t her!”

The doctor asks calmly, reaching forward to stroke Bucky’s cheek, “What’s her name?” When he doesn’t answer and his breathing becomes panicked the man says, “You don’t know. So, how can you be sure this isn’t her?” The man’s hand move up to his hair, softly threading his fingers there, making Bucky flinch. The fingers smooth through his hair as Bucky continues to pant and stare at the girl who won’t look away from him now, big doe-eyes pleading for him to say he remembers her, knows her, that she is indeed his girl.

“I would know,” he says fiercely. “I know her. I would know her anywhere and that’s not her.”

“Can you be sure? Doesn’t she look exactly like her? And if you can’t remember her name…what else have you forgotten?” Bucky stares at the girl who has been begging him in a very familiar voice, to please, please, please remember her. His heart cracks and then the possessiveness and protectiveness he’s always felt two-fold around her comes out.

He yanks harder on the restraints. “Let her go,” he growls. The fingers in his hair grow abruptly harsh, jerking his head back sharply to smash against the cold metal of the table. He groans, his scalp aching.

“No. Now take a good look, Soldier,” his head is twisted at an odd, uncomfortable angle back to meet the woman’s startled, terrified eyes. “Look her in the eyes and tell her she is not who you remember. How can you tell? How can you know what you remember is what’s real? James Barnes? Who is that? That is not you. You are mistaken about everything but this woman, this is the love of your life. You know her. Like you know that man in the paper.”

Bucky stares at her, everything in his mind suddenly seeming false and unreliable. “Please,” she whispers, straining against the man behind her. He remembers the scar on her hand suddenly, that would prove it. But they probably wouldn’t show her hand to him and what is he to do if it isn’t there? Or if it is? He’s unsure now. Either way, this is a person before him, whether or not it’s her, she has a life, one that’s hanging in the balance.

“Choose,” the doctor says. Will they kill her if he knows her? If he doesn’t? Will they keep her and torture her too if he says he does? Is death better than this hell? And if he says he doesn’t and it is her, then she might die thinking the love of her life had forgotten her completely.

She opens her mouth to say something but she’s gagged by another guard. And Bucky decides then that no matter who she is, death is better than this place. “No,” he whispers. “I don’t know her.”

The girl is forced to her knees as she sobs uncontrollably. Her arms are still held behind her back when the guard thrusts the gun into the back of her head and pulls the trigger without preamble. He knew it would happen but he still screams. The doctor turns to someone on the other side of the room, “See? Simple. A little gaslighting and deprivation is all it takes. He’ll be broken and ours in no time at all.”

As the girl is dragged away he thinks he sees a scar on her hand.

His body is covered with a sheet up to his chest as people start filing into the room, all in lab coats, all sinister looking. Tools, saws, nothing remotely medical looking. The girl though, he just killed her. “Would you have…killed her either way?”

“It all depended on you, Soldier,” the man says, leaning over him, and brushing his fingers through his hair. “You’ll be a fun one to break.” Fingers trail down his cheek before brushing over his mouth again.

The saw is laid against his sensitive, infected flesh. He stays awake a lot longer than a normal person would have been able to, most of the way through the bone in fact. The serum allowing him a much greater pain tolerance. In the coming weeks this would be a curse instead of a blessing. The pain will keep him awake at night when they aren’t torturing him. Spirits will haunt him as his brain falters and stumbles from the exhaustion, the sleep deprivation. They will caress him and he will forget their names but he'll find comfort in them until they too give up and stop coming to him entirely. He’ll forget their names and their faces but he’ll fight for them even though he won’t know why he’s fighting for ghosts.

The doctor leaves the room as his screams start to echo a little too loudly. He’d let Zola handle him from here. After all, the real fun would come when Barnes was a little more aware and a lot more pliable.

Chapter Text

Bucky jerks awake in bed, sweat coating his forehead, his back, his hair. He’s absolutely drenched and it’s embarrassing and he can’t stop fucking panicking and it only becomes worse when he reaches across the bed and finds it empty.

Goddammit, didn’t she promise to stop doing that? Hadn’t she promised to stay? And in that moment Bucky doesn’t give a shit about what she might be going through because he needs her and she’s not here and she said she would be.

Hattie!” He shouts hoarsely before rolling out of bed and stumbling down the hall. Steve meets him in the hallway, Hattie right behind him.

Steve braces his hands on Bucky’s shoulders, “Buck? You okay?”

“I need you to tell me if something is real,” he whispers, glancing at Hattie behind Steve.

“Okay. What is it?” Steve asks, not understanding that this isn’t a question he can answer.

Steve doesn’t seem to know what to with his hands, other than keep them on his friend’s shoulders, who now squirms under his grip uncomfortably and shakes his head, looking to Hattie again. Hattie steps forward and places a hand at Steve’s back. She leans up and whispers in his ear, “Let me help?” Steve has never exactly been the best at emotions, not that she was either. When it comes to Bucky though her gentleness comes out, whether she realizes it or not.

He removes his hands from Bucky’s shoulders, the other man immediately relaxing. Hattie reaches forward and takes his flesh hand, “Let’s go to bed, Bucks?”

Bucky nods despite himself, allows himself to be drug back down the hall to his room that they’ve been sharing for the past couple nights. “Why did you leave?” And really he can’t much help the way his voice cracks.

“I was just talkin’ to Stevie. Catchin’ up a little,” she says as they reach the bedroom. “Now what did ya need me to-,”

Bucky pushes her against the wall inside their door, kicking it shut with his foot before caging his arms around her head and closing his eyes. Instead of feeling fearful Hattie just wraps her arms around him, chin on his shoulder as he drops his face to her neck. A sharp lungful of air is released against her neck before she clasps her hands together behind him and rests them at the base of his spine. “What’s wrong, Bucks?”

There’s no immediate answer and so for an unmeasurable amount of time they simply stand there until Bucky takes his hands away from the wall and carefully, so very carefully wraps both arms around her body. “I’m afraid to look at your hands. I-I haven’t noticed since we’ve been back together but I haven’t been looking and it could have faded and…and I didn’t remember this ‘til just now.”

“Maybe it was just a dream, baby?” She presses closer to him now that his arms are tightly around her, wondering what the hell he’s talking about.

He huffs out a defeated, lost breath, “Maybe. Or maybe I killed that girl. Or maybe you were there and they did something to you. I don’t know, I-,” Bucky cuts off as Hattie starts moving toward the bed without letting go of him, making them waddle together awkwardly. A push makes Bucky fall onto the bed with a soft oof.

“On your stomach,” she instructs and Bucky follows blindly, placing trust in her he didn’t know he still possessed. Burying his face into a pillow and crossing his arms underneath it reminds him that the bed is a sweaty, very damp mess but Hattie doesn’t say anything, only sits cross-legged next to him. He turns his head to the side, peaking his face out to observe her. “Would you mind terribly if I touched ya?”

“Not at all sweetheart,” he murmurs, still trying to avoid looking at her hands, not sure why it matters so much. Obviously it hadn’t been her that day, but he supposes he still needs to know if that memory is false or not.

Gentle fingers trace his spine through his soaked shirt before she starts to work into his tense muscles. “What do you need to know is real or not.”

In a rushed mix of words and labored breathing he recites most of the details of his memory, sparing some bits from her. The soft touches they laid on his body were worse than the harsh ones half the time and so he leaves that out. When he finishes she doesn’t say anything for a moment but just keeps massaging his tense muscles. “Which hand?” She asks.

“What?”

“Do you remember which hand was scarred?”

Panic surges through him. No, of course he doesn’t. How could he remember something like that- “Right.” His mouth moves without his permission but now that he’s said it he’s sure it’s right.

She shrugs and looks down to meet his eyes, “So? Plenty of people are right handed. So, they’d punch with their rights.”

“Not you,” he murmurs, watching her lips, looking for that freckle in the center of her top lip. “You used both. Ambidextrous, so, it coulda been either.”

Hattie smiles and pulls up his shirt before dragging the knuckles of her right hand over the skin of his back. “Feel it? It’s there. That happened.” She lies down on her side and presses her face close to his, “Besides, I’m here now. It wasn’t me. And even if it had been…baby I wouldn’t have blamed ya.” Her hand goes back to his back to rub gently. “I wouldn’t have. I’m so sorry…that I never was that girl. That I never managed to make it to you. To save you.” Guilt pours off of her, that hidden something between them hiding in her eyes. “Wasn’t me, Bucks,” she says as her hand roves up his back before tangling in his damp hair.

Something that is often left out about night terrors is the sheer panic and the amount of bodily fluids that comes with that panic. The sweat and tears, the broken furniture and anger, the post-outburst sadness and guilt, the bruised skin and hurt feelings. 

Bucky is drenched, his skin sticky and slicked with sweat. Nightmares are always more than just the dream, they're reality too in more ways than one.  

“Do you know you’ve only gotten prettier, doll?” He whispers to her, trying to make that hurt and guilt and worry disappear. “You always were the most beautiful dame in the room but you’ve only managed to get…more gorgeous.”

It works and Bucky feels proud as a smile overcomes her face, a small blush too, “Liar.”

“Promise, sugar,” he whispers. “You’ll always be the most beautiful girl in the world to me.”

She wiggles closer until he moves his arm and lets her worm her way half underneath his body, “So sweet, Bucks. I’m sorry I wasn’t here when you woke up.”

His face is buried in her neck when he shakes his head, “It happens.”

“I got an idea.”

“Yeah?”

“Mmm,” she hums, still stroking his hair. “You go take a shower and change into some fresh clothes and I’ll change the sheets. Not good to sleep like this y’know?” When he doesn't reply she says, “Its okay, baby. I get ‘em like this too. It’s a part of night terrors.”

He grunts and shivers before Hattie pulls the duvet up around their bodies, “Not like this. All sweaty and-,”

“Yes, I do. It’s normal.”

Bucky lifts his head to look into her eyes, “What do you dream about doll?”

“Not the sun,” she whispers, taking in the purple circles under his eyes. “I dream of all the dark places I’ve hidden in. Now, c’mon, go shower and change and I’ll be here when you get done.” When he doesn’t look away from her eyes or move she strokes his face and whispers, “I’ll go with you.” He nods.

Five minutes later Hattie pulls her hand back from the spray of water, “Okay, it’s warm.” When he just stands there staring at the water still completely clothed as horror spreads over his features, she asks, “Gonna shower with clothes on?” She’s joking but her words hold concern, unsure why he isn’t moving or speaking. “Bucks?”

Slowly his eyes move over to her, “Did I do something wrong?”

“What?” She shakes her head, trying not to think about why he thinks he’s done something wrong. “It’s warm baby, I promise.” Hattie takes his flesh hand and pulls him forward until he can feel the spray. “I’d never do somethin’ like that to you." She whispers, taking a guess at what's happening in his mind, at what they might've done to him.

He nods and starts to get undressed, handing Hattie his sweat dampened clothes, pausing when he gets to his boxers. “Brooklyn-,” she turns her back and holds out her hand, waiting for the article of clothing, only turning back when she hears the shower curtain slither closed.

“’m gonna change the sheets and get you some new clothes.” He hums in agreement.

Steve pokes his head into Bucky’s bedroom when Hattie is halfway finished changing the sheets, “How is he?”

She shakes her head, “Hard to tell. Okay, I think.”

He nods, “Let me know if I’m needed.” He starts to leave but pauses when Hattie doesn’t go back to her task. “You okay?”

“I don’t know if I can do this Steve. I miss the dark, it’s hard to stand in the light again. And Bucky…he needs someone stable, someone that can give him the sun.”

Steve just shakes his head, “You are his sun, Brooklyn. You always have been.”

 

~

 

Hattie leaves Bucky’s fresh clothes on the closed toilette seat and then waits in bed for him, nearly dropping off when she feels his body curl around hers. A quiet, “sorry,” is whispered in her ear. “So, warm,” he murmurs against her skin. “It was so cold for so long.” The blanket is brought up around their bodies as he whispers sleepily, “Metal is cold and its attached y’know so it kinda hurts a lot. But I got used to it.”

He maneuvers the arm so she can touch it. It’s warm at the moment from the hot shower. “Maybe we can get Spark to work somethin’ out for you baby,” her body curling around it and pressing it to her body. “I’ll keep ya warm.”

“I’d rather ya keep other parts of me warm,” he says in her ear before reeling back. “I didn’t mean-I-uh, I meant-,”

She turns in his arms, wrapping her arms around his neck and squeezing gently, “I know what ya mean.” Her hands go to his hair, tangling there and massaging gently, “Sleep now.” 

Guilt eats at Hattie. Bucky deserves better, deserves someone more and whole and capable. She's none of these things and hates herself a little more. Maybe distance would do them some good, she thinks, but then she gazes at his face and her resolve falters. She never wants to be away from him again.

No good. Broken. Run down. Defective. 

That's what she is but she wants him and he seems to want the same. 

Hattie decides to let the morning sun decide for them and closes her eyes, basking in Bucky's addictive warmth and safety. For now she can pretend everything is okay.

 

Chapter Text

“I killed a man this morning.”

Hattie leans over the table, looking at Sam Wilson with every ounce of intensity she possesses. But he doesn’t even lower his newspaper, “Good for you. Not even 9am yet. Way to get ahead of the day.” She sits back with a whine and Sam lowers the top half of his paper with his index fingers to chuckle at her. “Don’t you have something to be doing other than threatening me?”

She heaves a deep sigh and sits down across from Sam, “No, since I don’t have missions.” The dejected tiredness tells Sam what, or rather who, is holding her back. That and the fact that she simply wasn’t used to such idleness.

“He doesn’t want you to be unhappy,” Sam says, once again behind the paper. “You should do what you want. If they let you back on missions you should go.”

Steve and Bucky walk into the kitchen then, smiles big and wide as they laugh passing by the table to get something to eat. Bucky notices Hattie’s miserable expression and pauses. Hattie barely notices as she stares at Sam with something like wonder suddenly in her eyes. “Sam?”

The newspaper is lowered again as he raises an eyebrow, “What?”

“Show me your wings?” When he doesn’t say anything she says, “C’mon, you’ve got the coolest gear of anyone on the team besides maybe Tony. I’m in awe birdman.” She pouts, “Soldier to soldier?”

He breaks into a sudden smile as he stands, “Yeah alright. Where did you serve? Recently that is?”

Hattie is about to answer, standing from the table, when Bucky interrupts, “Brooklyn.” His voice is a hard growl and she forces herself not to flinch at his tone.

“Bucks?” She turns to him when he doesn’t say anything more.

“I, uh, I was hoping you’d eat with me,” his voice is uncertain suddenly, almost a question there but not quite. Behind him Steve raises an eyebrow at his friend’s back.

Something strange passes between them as Hattie refuses to meet his eyes and shakes her head, “I already ate, baby.” The echo of his harsh tone makes her want to flee. “C’mon Wilson, you can tell me all about the wings.”

Bucky can only stare as they leave the room. If he didn’t know better he’d say that Hattie is running away from him.

 

~

 

For the next few days, things revert to being awkward between them, even more awkward than they had been since the morning after his nightmare. Hattie stays out of his room, their apartment, even their side of the Compound. She spends nearly all her time with either Sam, Steve, or Tony. And the day Scott Lang visits, Bucky is sure that the world is ending. He has no recollection of ever having seen Hattie laugh so hard or smile so much. He feels guilty, bad, inadequate.

Things only get worse when Clint visits the next day and he’s forced to listen to every dangerous thing Nat, Clint, and Hattie ever did together as they drink like it’s going out of style. He clenches his fists and stays quiet through the whole thing, afraid of his own temper and bad mood. But when Clint offers to ‘dance like they used to’ around the common room with Hattie, Bucky can’t keep the scowl off his face. Natasha puts her hand on his arm and leans close, “Jealous Barnes?” He shakes her hand off and looks back to Hattie and Clint, her usually reserved face loose and happy, unhidden.

He won’t admit it but jealousy does eat at his gut as memories flash in his mind.

C’mon, doll, just one dance. His heart clenches painfully as she refuses for the fifth time that night to dance with him, doing his best to keep a charming smile in place.

It ain’t right, Bucks, she says.

Why hadn’t it been right? It certainly seemed alright to her now. When the night finally comes to a close, after hours of watching her enjoy everyone’s company but his own, Steve commands him to help Hattie to bed. Hattie and Stark are asleep together at the kitchen table, heads pressed together, barely still upright as they lean on each other.

He’s afraid to pick her up at first as she tilts into his arm when Steve heaves Tony up and puts an arm under his shoulders. But then Hattie blinks slowly at him, lifting her arms to him when he continues to just stand there, silently asking for permission to touch her. Carefully he lifts her into his arms, flesh arm sensibly under her shoulders and metal under her knees, as he starts toward his room, Hattie settling into his arms easily. She presses her face into his chest and inhales deeply.  

“This ain’t m’ room,” she accuses when he deposits her as softly as humanly possible on his bed.

“No,” he agrees. “’m sorry, d- Hattie.” So stupid, he thinks, why would he bring her here when she’s so clearly been trying to distance herself from him?

She sits half up, leaning back on her elbows, and observes him with sleepy eyes, “Why do you do that? Call me Hattie like you don’t have any idea who I am.” Her fingers go to her jeans where she unbuttons them and attempts to wiggle out of them.

He glances away from her body and turns to search through his dresser for something for her to wear. “You’ll stay then?” It’s a quiet question, one filled with longing and hope, fragile, fickle hope.

“Mmm,” she agrees from the bed, sitting up and holding her arms above her head once her jeans are disposed of. Bucky stares at her, one of his shirts held in his hands as he makes his way back to her side. Gently he grasps the hem of her shirt and lifts it over her head. He pushes his shirt over her head and helps her get her arms through the holes before she takes off her bra under the shirt.

Hattie flops back down on the bed, directly in the center of it, completely spread out and relaxed. “Remember when you would sneak me into your apartment real late? And sometimes we’d make love ‘til the sun came up and sometimes we’d just lie there together.” Another giggle escapes her, “I loved doin’ that. Loved it Bucks. Loved layin’ there in your bed, smellin’ like you, you keepin’ me warm. Ya always ran hot and now that’s even more true.” A smile graces her face as she glances over at him.

Dark brown eyes seek his before she sits up and brings her knees to her chest, wrapping her arms around her legs. He sits down on the edge of the bed, facing away from her, slowly shaking his head, “You’re so hard to read, Hattie.”

“Ya don’t need to read me, Bucks,” she says, crawling over to him, frowning at the use of her given name.

“I do though,” he admits. “Dunno where we stand. You avoid me like the plague most days.” Bucky sighs and swallows before continuing, “And I know it’s because ‘m not who you remember. And I’m sorry. I’m trying to remember how to be him.”

It’s quiet for a long time as Hattie works through his words before she settles behind him, arms winding around his shoulders, cheek pressed against his, “It’s me. It’s not you.”

“How?”

Instead of answering she tilts backward and tugs Bucky with her, making eyes at him until he too sheds his jeans and lies with her. Once settled beneath the comforter she frowns at him, “What? What’d I do wrong this time?”

“Nothin’,” she coos, running her hand down his flesh arm. “You aren’t the same person. I can’t expect the same things.”

“What did I used to do then?”

She shrugs and fidgets, “Laid on me.”

“I laid on you?” He stares at the ceiling, “Why?”

“It made me feel safe and warm and you liked havin’ your hair touched. You liked to be petted and caressed and just loved on.” She swallows, “You were very affectionate.”

It’s silent after that, both hoping some awkwardness doesn’t creep in, until Bucky breaks the silence. It sounds nice, what she’s describing, like it might be good. “Can we try it?” She nods at him before spreading her arms and legs wide as Bucky lifts the duvet and settles himself between her hips, head pillowed on her stomach. Fingers weave in his hair as he nuzzles against her, happiness threatening to overtake him. He recognizes the feeling and he likes it. “Can you stay?”

She sighs and takes her hands away from him, “Mmm I guess so.” Her voice is still slurred from the alcohol but now it’s also sad. Her hand comes down on his covered metal arm, stroking gently.

He swallows thickly and says, “I don’t want you to be sad, doll. I want-I want you to want this, want me.”

Her body has gone deathly still and Bucky doesn’t dare look up at her. “We don’t belong together,” Hattie whispers suddenly, pushing him gently away from her body to roll away. She doesn’t leave the bed, only curls in a ball and faces away from him. “We may have both ended up in the 21st century together but it’s not because we belong together.”

Not entirely sure what she means, but feeling his heart breaking all the same, he sits up and looks over at her. “What other reason could there be?”

“To taunt me,” her voice is strained with repressed tears. “Revenge for all the bad things I’ve done. As soon as we get comfortable the world is going to be ripped out from under me again. You’ll remember why you don’t love me.”

He shakes his head and says what he knows is true, “I love you. I know that. Whatever happened…it’s the past.”

“Bucky…” she whimpers. “Just don’t…please-,”

He’s desperate for her to look at him but he doesn’t dare touch her and force her to look at him. “No, doll, you have to listen to me! I remember loving you. You say whatever happened, happened right before the-the fall, the train, but I remember loving you after that.” She uncurls herself, sits up, and turns toward him, “I couldn’t remember your name but I only thought of you as my girl, the girl that I love, things like that. So, whatever happened…it doesn’t matter because even all scrambled up and confused as all hell I knew that I loved you. And that you loved me.”

Hattie stares at him in silence for a long while, making his heart pound with anxiety, making the air a little hard to breathe. “I love you,” she whispers cautiously, her voice so low that if Bucky didn’t have the serum he probably wouldn’t have heard her.

“And I love you, Brooklyn. Always. On any timeline and in any century. I love you.”

Just like that she’s back in his arms, trembling and trying desperately not to cry, “I love you. I love you and I never stopped. Please always remember that.”

In response he kisses her, softly and reassuringly, promising that he would always know that.

 

~

 

He knows before he opens his eyes that she’s gone. The bed is large and cold without her, the whole world seemingly too large and cold. Fear grips his soul, he had thought everything okay between them last night but she had been drunk and there’s always the possibility that she simply didn’t remember his words, remember what they both admitted.

When he finally gains the courage to open his eyes it’s to a pleasant slight. Both his jeans and hers, as well as her shirt, have been picked up and folded over the back of the chair in the corner of the room. If her jeans and shirt are here then Hattie is also most likely still around.

He sits up and feels that horrid hope rising in his chest again, that she remembers and believes him and that she meant her drunken I love you.

Something flutters down from his chest with the movement, landing in his lap. It’s a post-it note with familiar chicken scratch handwriting. I did not leave you. You slept peacefully and so I let you sleep in. Me and Stevie are going to try our hand at making breakfast. I love you.

Chuckling, Bucky gets up and searches for some sweatpants, noting that a pair are missing, as he lets that hope swell openly in his chest. Listening carefully as he pulls on a gray pair and then adjusting his long-sleeve tee so his arm is completely covered, he hears two heartbeats, two voices, joking and laughing. He feels a smile tugging at his lips as he makes his way to the kitchen.

Hattie is wearing his clothes, the sweatpants tied tightly around her waist, his shirt that he put on her last night enveloping her frame. She isn’t paying attention as he makes his way closer to them.

Steve is buttering a stack of toast as Hattie keeps watch over a pan of eggs on the stove. “Morning Buck!” Steve says when he sees his best friend loitering at the edge of the kitchen.

“Mornin’ Stevie,” he murmurs back, shooting his friend a small smile.

“Got coffee for ya over there,” the blond says as he refocuses on the toast.

Bucky makes his careful way to the coffee pot in the corner, desperately wanting to kiss his girl good morning but not quite sure if that’s alright or not. She glances over before giving him a bright smile, “Mornin’ baby.”

Pouring a cup of coffee and refilling hers which sits by the stove allows Bucky to move closer without making his motives too obvious. She only laughs and bumps her hip against his when he’s close enough, “I remember last night, I thought my note woulda made that clear. And you’re horrible at hidin’ how you feel for an assassin.” She leans over and brushes her mouth over his cheek. “Love you.”

“That’s what the mask was for,” he jokes, his heart light in his chest. Her eyes dart away from his face as her cheeks turn rosy.

Hattie’s voice trembles a little, “God, ‘m sorry, I didn’t realize-,”

“Shit. Doll, it was a joke. It’s okay.” He presses the palm of his hand into her lower back soothingly. “S’okay.”

She takes a deep breath and turns the heat off, “Well the eggs are done.” Her voice is airy and she won’t look at him suddenly and Bucky could kick himself. “Could you get the bacon? It’s in the oven to keep it warm.”

“Sure,” he says, trying to give her his best reassuring smile. Hattie meets his eyes and takes a deep breath before leaning forward and pecking his lips.

“Give me a little time to adjust, darlin’.”

He wraps his arm around her and pulls her close, “Me too, sugar. We’ll figure it out, okay?”

“I love you.” She blushes again as she says it and his heart flutters.

“I love you,” he answers.

Sam rounds the corner into their kitchen just then, “Could you two not get so sappy this early in the morning?” Hattie laughs and pulls away from Bucky to get the bacon herself as Bucky rolls his eyes, used to Sam and Clint (when he was around) mooching their breakfast. As if on cue Clint walks into the kitchen and professes his deep love to Hattie as he takes the whole plate of bacon from her before she can stop him.

When she gives chase, a smile on her face, Bucky thinks maybe these people aren’t as irritating and annoying as he thinks they are.

Chapter Text

*The march back from Azzano*

Hattie is next to him when she should be next to Steve. She smiles, though something seems off about her smile, and walks tall, now slightly shorter than him thanks to whatever shit they pumped him full of. His body has never hurt so much but he tries not to let either of them see. The fact that Hattie is at his side and not at Steve’s shows how concerned she is for his wellbeing. Ever since he can remember it’s been Steve between them. But Steve is huge now, no longer the small, skinny guy he remembers. He wonders how long he was in that goddamn facility.

She’s still wearing that helmet someone gave her, more like stuffed on her head, the green contrasting with her loose, long red hair. The uniform she’s wearing is improvised, much like Steve’s, and overly large on her. What scares him most of all is the gun she carries, strap hooked around her shoulder, much like the one he carries. He wants to stop her and kiss her, her swollen lips calling to him, a reminder of their activities that morning. They should have slept, but he had missed her, needed to know she was real.

A glance over at him and a wink is all it takes to make his heart flutter. “You okay, Bucks?” Hattie seems at ease in this situation, like she’s at home, like war might be for her. Steve looks much the same. Bucky only feels nauseous.

“Yeah, doll, ‘m fine.”

She shrugs and walks on as someone comes up on her other side and starts a conversation. The general feel of the group is euphoric. They were nearly back to the camp after days and days of walking. They had been met with no resistance and most of all the men were free

He focuses on his feet, on keeping one carefully in front of the other, on not stumbling, on not showing the pain in his body. If he wasn't so invested he would have realized that the girl beside him is suffering too. “You aren’t fine,” Bucky looks over to find deep coffee eyes staring at him.

“I will be, darlin’,” he says, tightening his grip on the weapon in his hands. Hattie reaches out and pokes his shoulder, the small touch causing him to stumble into Steve and wince. Steve’s hands steady him as he looks down at his friend, alarm written on his face. “Jesus, don’t do that,” he grinds out.

Hattie and Steve are giving each other looks over his head before she winds her arm around his waist, allowing him to lean into her body. “Got a pretty girl right here to hold on to, make everybody jealous.” She leans up and whispers in his ear, “’m here, baby. You don’t have to be strong. Just pretend.” He winces again but nods and allows her to help carry some of his weight. He notices she’s sweating a little more than she should be, her breaths coming a little hard, but that could be from the adrenaline high everyone’s been on for days now. He dismisses it as nothing.

When they stop to make camp that night Bucky sneaks Hattie off somewhere again. But she only pushes him away when he starts to get too desperate. A briefly pained expression flits over her face as his hands grip her a little too tightly. “Please baby,” he whispers. “I need you.”

“Bucky…” she sighs before pulling him to the ground, groaning as pain shoots through her body. “Let it out, sweetheart. You’ve been through a lot.” They sit shoulder to shoulder with their backs to the trunk of a tree. He takes her hand and Hattie’s throat closes when she feels how badly his are shaking.

“’m okay,” he says, voice cracking horribly. “I am.” She only wraps her arms around him and tugs him close.

“It’s okay to not be, baby. Distracting yourself with sex isn’t going to help anything,” she strokes his short hair. “But I’m here okay? I’m here.”

He gives a bitter laugh, “Yeah. You should be at home. In Brooklyn. Safe. Now, you and Steve are both here…” Bucky settles into her lap despite himself. It’s then that the tears finally come, quiet, desperate sobs. His whole body shutters and Hattie can only sit and pet his hair and remind him that he’s okay. Her lungs burn and her body aches but she doesn’t let it show instead keeping her mind occupied with soothing Bucky, comforting and caring, not thinking about what just happened to her, what the implications might be.

Darkness presses in around them but neither of them are worried, the lookouts more than capable and ready to do anything to make Captain America proud. “How’d ya get here, doll?” His voice is cracked and raw but the tears have stopped for the moment replaced with a desolate tone.

“Little magic, lotta luck.”

“Really though?” he asks, needing something to distract him.

She sighs and presses one hand down the back of his shirt, massaging his back, and hoping that skin to skin contact helped him ground himself a little more. “Stevie told you about the serum. The program.”

“Yeah,” he looks up, rage suddenly in his voice. “How could you let him do somethin’ like that-,”

“You wanted to go dancing that night Buck, you left us there. Me and Stevie had been tryin’ to find a way over here since forever-,”

He sits up straight, jerking away from her, “Yeah, I know! You stupid-,”

Hattie pulls him harshly back, desperately keeping him close, “I’m sorry, Bucks. I really am. And I understand that you didn’t want this but we did. There was a chance so we took it. I’m so sorry you didn’t have a choice, baby.” When he doesn’t respond she says, “I tagged along on tour as a…coordinator of sorts as I also tried to get my qualifications to come over as a nurse. Never happened, tour came here before I got that far. And then…when we heard what happened with the 107th well, Steve knew there was no gettin’ me to stay behind like there was no gettin’ him to just believe that you were gone.” She shrugs and says quietly, “So here we are.”

“How’d you learn to shoot a gun?” Bucky thinks she’s leaving something out of this story but he doesn’t think he can take anymore truth about their desperation to get into a war.

She laughs, “Some of the boys have been teachin’ me. Say ‘m a real natural at it.”

“Don’t tell me that,” he whispers against her neck. “Oh God, don’t tell me that. That’s what they told me the first day of basic.” She puts a hand on his cheek and guides his mouth to hers, kissing him so gently and tenderly that the tears make a reappearance. “Please, doll,” he whispers against her chapped lips. “Please go home.”

She shakes her head, “I can’t now. But you can.”

“There is no home for me there without you and Steve.”

“Oh, baby,” she whispers before kissing him again. “You need to go home. Get rest. Recover.”

Bucky only shakes his head.

 

~

 

Once back at camp, after cheering for Captain America, Bucky gets examined. He seems to be running a slight fever but besides that he’s fine physically, as far as they can tell that is. Getting the minor scratches and bruises patched up is easy. They take some of his blood too after he's questioned about what happened to him while in captivity. For research purposes he's told.

When he’s finished he goes looking for Steve and Hattie neither of which seem to be around. He’s starting to panic and tired of acting okay whenever anyone stops him to talk to him. And just when he’s about to give up and go find a stiff drink instead he spots them coming out of another medical tent. His heart leaps in his chest, he hadn’t known either of them were hurt. Hattie’s face is contorted in pain as Steve keeps an arm around her waist comfortingly, his eyes focused on Peggy Carter as she too exits the tent. He spots gauze taped to the inside of Hattie’s elbow, much like the gauze on the inside of his own, before she rolls her sleeve down over it. She keeps rubbing her fingers over it though as though it hurts her. Carter has the air of someone giving a lecture as she talks to the two of them, who nod at whatever she says.

Peggy looks over and catches Bucky staring, suddenly bidding the two of them goodbye and pointing in his direction. Hattie’s pained expression is replaced with a falsely bright smile as Steve’s worry is hidden away in favor of a reassuring smile. He wants to ask what’s wrong, why they’re hiding something from him but he finds he no longer has the strength.

 

~

 

Two weeks later they’re given leave and put up in a small town. Bucky has been drinking and drinking but finds he can’t really feel it anymore. He’s been nursing drinks all night and still only feels the tiniest buzz.

He pulls Hattie away to his bedroom at the inn when Steve becomes wholeheartedly and singularly focused on Peggy and no one else. Bucky needs the distraction from the fact that he just willingly agreed to stay in the War despite the option to be sent home. She gives it to him, lets him manhandle her in whatever ways he wants to despite the fact that they both sort of hate rough sex. However, when he finds he can’t cum as his brain still whirls with too much, too many thoughts, too much anxiety and worry she pushes him away. “Stop,” she commands. “Lie down.” He lets her up from her position, bent over the end of the bed, and does as she says.

Bucky keeps his shirt on but kicks his pants off before lying down. He couldn’t say what happened to his jacket as he watches Hattie strip out of her trousers and shirt before coming over to the bed and leaning down to kiss him gently. “Let me get you out of your head, baby.”

“Please,” he begs, not caring if he sounds desperate. She straddles his hips and leans down to kiss him slowly and fully before she reaches between them and guides him back to her entrance, sinking down onto him easily, both groaning lowly when he’s fully inside her. She sets an unhurried pace, leaning down to whisper in his ear how much she loves him, how good he is. Eventually she just wraps her arms around his neck and brings him slowly to climax, their breath mixing in hot puffs. “Thought I’d never see you again," he whispers.

“I know baby.”

“I love you.”

“I know. Oh, f-fuck, I love you too.” Her hips stutter but she holds back, squeezing her eyes shut, ignoring the pain she’s been feeling recently threatening to take over the pleasure she feels. His hands go to her hips that he had bruised earlier in his roughness, massaging gently, apologizing without words.

“Please cum, doll. I can’t unless you do and I need to,” his voice is strained and needy. “C’mon, Brooklyn, cum for me.”

She presses her face into his neck and lets out a groan as she lets go, rocking her hips into his, chasing the fleeting pleasure. “That’s it baby,” he whispers as he thrusts up into her, her walls squeezing him until he spills into the condom with a low moan. Hattie braces her hands on his chest after a few minutes and sits up as he softens inside her. He reaches up for her as he comes down from his high, trailing his fingers over her jaw and collarbones, squeezing her breasts lightly before tracing down her arms. Before he can stop himself he finds himself asking, “Why were you in the medical tent?” One finger presses over the inside of her elbow where a bruise still looms from the needle that had been stuck there that day.

“They needed to take some blood, darlin’. Don’t worry about it,” she says before she lifts herself away from him and goes to the small attached bathroom. He sits up and pulls the condom off before it can get uncomfortable and makes his own way to the bathroom, pulling off his shirt and dropping it on the floor on the way there. He stands in the doorway for a second, observing her, the dark circles under her eyes, the slump of her shoulders, the fact that her hip bones and ribs stick out when they didn’t much before he left home.

“Doll?” He asks, tossing the used condom away so he can wrap his arms around her and press kisses up the column of her neck. “Are you okay? Why did they need your blood?”

She turns in his arms and presses a kiss to his temple, “Just a precautionary measure.” Hattie looks into his eyes and he finds himself getting lost in their murky depths before she giggles, “You’re taller than me! When did that happen?”

He shrugs, “Y’know doll, either I grew or it was somethin’ they did to me.”

A searing kiss is pressed to his mouth as her fingers find his hair, “’m so sorry Bucks.” Her lips press soft kisses all over his face, “So, so sorry. You didn't want any of this.” Instead of letting her dwell he scoops her up, with his new found strength, and carries her to bed much easier than he used to be able to.

“Just lie with me, Brooklyn.” If he stays distracted he won't be able to think about it, he reasons, as he pulls her closer and begins kissing over her back and shoulders.

“Always.”

 

~

 

Over the next few weeks he can’t chase away the feeling that there’s something Hattie isn’t telling him. That there’s more to her being in the War than simple coincidence and Steve’s vouching for her. Or maybe that wasn't quite it, he can't be sure.

She seems at ease though, even if her features contort in pain when she thinks he’s not looking. Even if there’s something she’s hiding from him. Steve is also hiding something from him, probably the same secret and he can’t quite figure out why.

“I ain’t fragile,” he says one night after everyone else has turned in. The newly formed Howling Commandos tired after a day of hunting Nazis. Only Steve and Hattie remain awake as they go over a map of the terrain they need to cover tomorrow. “You can tell me about whatever’s goin’ on.”

They glance at each other and then at Bucky who sits across the dying fire from them. “Buck-,” Steve starts only to be interrupted.

He grinds his teeth, “I’m. Not. Fragile. I won’t break. Tell me what’s goin’ on.”

Steve opens his mouth when Hattie speaks over him, “No.”

What did you say?” His voice is a harsh rasp even to his own ears.

“I said no.”

Bucky stands and glares at her, the fire in his stomach that's been living inside him since they found him burning strong and hot. He’s been so angry and irritable and distant and Hattie can’t trust that he won’t blow up. “Baby,” she says. “You’re shell shocked. Or whatever they’re callin’ it now. Combat somethin’. But you’ve got it. You don’t need more stress.”

Steve looks shocked at this turn in the conversation, the possibility that his friend might be suffering despite being safe never having occurred to him. “Buck?” he asks.

He’s grinding his teeth again and not looking at them when all the fight seems to go out of him, “Yeah, alright,” he admits. Hattie scoots over and pats the space between her and Steve. Bucky walks over and plops between them on the dirt. They sit huddled together in warm companionship for a while before Bucky starts to relax, letting the two of them lean into him. The tension drains from his shoulders and he actually starts to fall asleep, a feat considering the past couple weeks.

They don’t talk about it anymore, about that secret, about whatever happened to Hattie because he knows that’s it, that something happened to her. Not that night and not the night after, not for many weeks. The pain slowly disappears from Hattie’s face and Bucky distracts himself as much as possible as the team grows closer and the dynamic between them becomes more familiar. It isn’t until Hattie nearly dies a few months later that he finds out what happened to her.

Chapter Text

Bruce hands her the paperwork and says, “It’s killing you.”

“Figures,” she doesn’t look at the papers in her hands and rolls her eyes. “It’s not surprising that it would be. Now, that is. When things are going okay for once.” Now that she has Bucky back.

He stares at her in disbelief and then glances at Tony who is gripping the edge of the medical table so hard his knuckles are bone white, his jaw clenched. “There isn’t a way to…remove it, reverse it,” Banner says, clarifying the gravity of the situation.

“I know. How long?”

Tony’s fist comes down on the table, making the tools there rattle and shake, “Can you maybe be a little more concerned?”

She sets the papers aside and fists her hands inside the sleeves of her sweater before looking away, “No point. If its gonna happen, its gonna happen.” Hattie turns to Bruce, “How long?”

Don’t-,”

“A year, maybe less.”

Goddammit!”

“Spark-,”

“Don’t Hattie. Just don’t.” He clenches his jaw again and turns to Banner, “How can we fix this? What can I do to fix this?”

Bruce gives his friend a sympathetic look before saying, “Well as it’s still unclear exactly what was given to her it’s all pretty much guesswork-,”

Hattie stands and moves closer to Tony but doesn’t touch him, “Tony, this is a long time comin’. It’s okay. I was lucky then that it didn’t just kill me.”

“You can say that because you won’t be the one left behind!” His voice is a harsh grind, full of anguish and disbelief.

She reaches out a pats his cheek, “Darlin’ I know what it’s like to be left behind. You’ll be okay. You’ll survive. We got a year.”

“That doesn’t mean I’m just going to let it happen. I can fix it!” He turns to Banner, “Tell her there’s a chance we can fix it, that we can help her.”

Banner looks as though he’s at a crossroads, between consoling his friend and telling the truth, before he shakes his head and looks down, “Less than 1% chance I’d estimate.”

Tony turns back to Hattie and raises his eyebrows, “There you go. A chance. Small, but there’s a chance.” She takes her hand away from his cheek and sighs.

“Just don’t lose sleep on this okay?” When neither of the men answers she leaves the lab, trying to control her breathing until she can get somewhere safe.

“Go with them Hattie. I’ll find you as soon as I can. With Bucky.”

“Okay Steve.” But once the battle began she became separated from the group. It was only a matter of time before someone caught her poking around.

“Goddammit,” she whispers to herself now as she makes her way back to the living quarters, not even realizing until she’s there that her feet had automatically carried her to Steve and Bucky’s door. If only, she thinks, she had had a sense of fear then, a sense of caution. Standing in the living room of their apartment, everything starts to become too real and she begins to let herself fall apart, panic starting to overwhelm her. She is going to die, after all this time, after getting her boys back, she is going to die. The front door opens behind her right as her breaths start to hitch horribly in her chest, tears rolling freely down her cheeks.

She turns, horror in her eyes, to see Bucky in workout gear, toeing his shoes off by the door. He wasn’t meant to be back for another hour, she thought she had time to hide her feelings, to process. Bucky looks up, smile on his face, “Hey Brooklyn-,” His face flits from happy to terrified to pissed off. His voice is a harsh growl, thinly veiling his panic, as he approaches her and begins searching for signs of injuries, “What happened? Why are you crying? Who hurt you? Are you-,”

“’m okay, baby,” she says, fitting herself easily in his arms when he stops checking her over. “’m okay. It’s just a bad day.” She sniffles against him and clutches tighter to his shirt, not minding the sweat from his run at all.

He wraps his arms around her, careful to keep his metal arm from grazing any exposed skin, “What’s wrong? Are you okay?” Bucky’s voice is gentle and soft as he pulls back and chuckles lightly at the irritated whine that leaves her, to look into her eyes and wipe away her tears with his thumbs. Hattie leans into his touch, particularly his left hand, the cool metal feeling good on her hot face, stunning Bucky that she trusts him that much. “Talk to me Brooklyn.”

Her hand comes up to cradle his metal one, keeping it pressed against her face, “I’ll be okay. Just, uh, emotional.” She gives him a small smile as something itches at Bucky’s brain. It’s a lie, one he’s heard before or told before. An inn flashes through his mind and a field, a fire and two people.

“Talk to me?” He asks causing her to shift away and shake her head. “Brooklyn?” His head swims with pain as something tries to surface.

Hattie presses herself back into his arms, she doesn’t want to tell him, can’t tell him, not when things between them were going so well. Soft kisses are pressed to her forehead and temples and the crown of her head as he holds her close and tries to ignore the pain thrumming through his skull.

You nearly died!

But I didn’t! I’m here! We’re okay!

That’s not what I mean-

He hisses in pain and pulls her tighter against his chest, deciding that he won’t ask about that as visions of Hattie bruised and battle worn jump in his head. I mean what you’ve been keeping from me! What was I supposed to do if it killed you?

“I’m okay,” she whispers again, cupping one hand behind his neck before connecting their lips. They move slowly together, each trying their best to calm the other. “S’okay,” she murmurs, leaning her forehead against his.

Bucky takes a moment to calm himself, to ground both of them, “D’ya still wanna go dancing tonight?” He decides to look to the normalcy in their lives for the moment. Hattie isn’t going to tell him anything for the time being and Bucky really doesn’t want to think about it anyways.

“Yeah, yeah,” she leans back from their embrace. “’Course I do baby.” Hattie gives him a watery smile, cradling his jaw between her hands as his hands go to her hips. “I think it would do some good.” She knows it’ll distract her from the news she just received.

When she pulls away to get ready for their experimental second first date Bucky can’t help but feel as though this has happened before, that there’s something here he should be recognizing as wrong. The memory flashes in his mind again but he pushes it away for once. It isn’t something he wants to focus on, a foreboding feeling swimming in his stomach.

 

~

 

Later that evening Bucky fidgets with his shirt one last time before he goes to the living room and lets Steve fidget with it for him. The collar of his shirt won’t lie quite flat and no matter what they do they can’t get it to sit right.

He doesn’t wear the suit jacket, only the white dress shirt and black slacks, keyed in by Stark earlier that the jacket and tie would be too formal for the situation in this day and age. Bucky had wondered at the other man’s fit of kindness toward him, his eyes slightly glassy and his usually exuberant behavior more toned down than usual. What looked like a pained and sympathetic smile had even been sent his way. It put Bucky more on edge than anything, knowing that Stark would only be so outwardly kind to him for Steve or Hattie’s sake.

The anxiety is driven away as Steve gives up on Bucky’s collar and their front door opens. Hattie has never looked so beautiful to him as she does then, wearing a soft gray swing dress with cutouts on the shoulders and black stockings, matching gray kitten heels on her feet. Her long red hair is loosely curled and hanging down to the middle of her back.

Steve gives him a shove forward when all he does is gawk as Hattie turns slowly turns red. “What?”

“You look beautiful, Brooklyn,” Steve answers for Bucky when he again says nothing.

He glares at Steve over his shoulder before stepping in front of Hattie and taking her hands in his. “Beautiful, doll. Stunning.” He hears Steve leave the room chuckling.

“Thanks. You’re lookin’ very modern and handsome yourself.”

“Think so?” He grins at her, so wide and genuine it hurts her to witness.

She reaches up and fixes his collar with expert fingers, making Bucky huff in annoyance, “Yes, very handsome. Ready to go?” Bucky is too busy ogling her legs to respond, imagining the garter belt and clips holding them up, making her laugh. “C’mon baby.”

 

~

 

He makes sure to watch her face when they walk into the dance hall, the light that sparks in her eyes, the recognition, the wistfulness and then the pure love that fills them. Love, that he assumes is for the nostalgia of the place he’s brought her to until she turns those big brown eyes on him and he realizes it’s for him. Having all of her being focused on him with such pure love is more than a little overwhelming and so all he can do is choke out, “Do you like it?”

“Baby,” she murmurs. “Yeah. Where’d ya find out about this place?”

“Little help from Stevie.”

She glances around the hall that is near identical to the ones they used to frequent back in the day, “’S perfect Bucks.” A grin suddenly overtakes her face, “We’re the youngest people in here!”

“Or the oldest. Depending on how you look at it.”

“Hush,” she says, stepping forward to take his face between her hands. “Are you gonna ask me to dance?”

Bucky chuckles and pulls her hands away, cupping his larger hands around hers, “Doll, would you do me the honor of dancing with me?”

“Well since you asked so nice, Sarge.” Hattie takes his hand when he extends it to her before he pulls her out onto the dance floor where he complains in her ear, good naturedly, that no one is dancing correctly.

“They’ve got it all wrong,” he says, watching one middle aged couple giggle together. “We’re the only good dancers here, doll.”

Hattie smiles and laughs as Bucky swings her around, making her dress swirl wildly around her hips, “I think ‘good’ is relative darlin’.”

He hums and pulls her closer until there isn’t any space between the two of them. “Right, I wouldn’t know. You never gave me the chance to dance with you.”

“I did so!”

He wraps his left arm around her waist before tucking his right hand into hers, resting his chin on her bare shoulder. A smirk graces his lips as he take in the way her dress lifts slightly with his arm pressed around her waist, bunching the material. “You did but only after I begged you for months and months.”

A shiver runs up his spine when she presses her mouth to his ear and says, “Well now someone had to make ya wait, didn’t they? You always got whatever, whoever, ya wanted-,”

“That ain’t true Brooklyn,” he says, nuzzling happily into her hair. “The girl I really wanted made me wait and wait and wait-,” Bucky’s cut off by a sweet kiss pressed to his mouth, one he immediately falls into, letting her explore him without interference. When she pulls back and hides her face in his neck he whispers, “All of it was worth it though. Both times.”

There’s no response from Hattie besides a small hum of sad agreement. Waiting all those years, thinking he was dead, was worth it if only for this moment. If this was all she got it would still be worth it.

After that they go through several songs in silence, enjoying the other’s presence. No words are needed, only the smooth flow of their bodies together and the reassurance of the other’s warm body pressed to theirs. When a familiar slow song comes on Hattie pulls back to look into Bucky’s eyes, pressing her hands over his hips and then his biceps and his chest. “What’re you doin’ doll?” He grins down at her, not minding the attention from her.

“Just lookin’. You have a lot more muscle.” She squeezes his right arm and smiles when she feels him flex, “Show off.” Hattie continues to run her hands over him in the dim hall as they sway together, “S’okay isn’t it? Don’t wanna make you uncomfortable.” Her arms find their place around his neck.

Bucky only shakes his head, “’m not uncomfortable, doll. You wanna get a drink?”

She smiles up at him, eyes tracing his lips before she meets his eyes again, “You can’t feel alcohol. Trying to compromise me, Barnes?”

A loud laugh leaves Hattie when Bucky’s eyes widen comically and he stutters out a no. “’Course not babygirl. I’d never do that to you-,”

Hattie kisses him quiet as her heart aches in her chest, that some innocence in him remained intact after everything is nothing short of a miracle. And then there’s the horrifying fact that after everything their time together is once again limited when Bucky thinks it’s forever. She pulls back from his lips and looks away, swallowing hard and blinking back tears before he can notice. She teases him a little, “You’re so precious baby. Did ya just call me babygirl?”

The blush that coats his cheeks makes her smile wider, “I-I-yeah, if you don’t like it I can-,”

“It’s perfectly okay darlin’,” she reassures him. “Let’s get that drink.”

Once perched at a table off the dancefloor Bucky goes to fetch drinks and is back before Hattie can much miss him. He hands her a glass of red wine for them to share, worriedly asking if it’s alright and if she might want something different. In response she takes a sip and tells him it’s perfect.

When silence settles over them again Hattie starts to reminisce out loud about their shared past as her mind once again strays to her time with Tony and Bruce in the lab earlier. “-and then we ran outta there as fast as we could. Steve started coughin’ though and you had to stop and throw ‘im over your shoulder cause they weren’t too far behind us.”

“I can’t believe you did that,” he says shaking his head and laughing softly.

“I can’t believe you followed me!”

“We musta knew you were up to somethin’ dangerous to follow you all that way,” he mutters as he shakes his head again, starting to pull something out of his pocket before he stops. “Uh, you mind if I write this down? It’s supposed to help-,”

She shakes her head, “’Course not, Bucks.” Hattie watches as he pulls out a tiny notebook and a pen to scribble down a few words.

“I’ll write it all out later,” he explains. “That way if I forget again…”

Hattie presses her hand into his then, squeezing gently, “You have people to remind you now. Tell me somethin’ you remember.” Her stomach flips as a feeling of dread settles in her bones, like maybe she shouldn’t have asked this.

For a few minutes they just hold hands over the table, Bucky rubbing small circles into her skin as he sifts through memories. He smiles and meets her eyes, “When we had our own place,” he starts, “And you came home from work and kissed me before we spent the whole night together, just the two of us, nothin’ else came up. We danced and the water was warm that night in the shower. We were hardly ever alone back then, hardly ever had time.”

Hattie frowns at him, “What’re you talkin’ about?” When he looks confused she clutches his hand tighter, afraid, “Baby think about what you just said to me.” He only shrugs, just as confused. “I…Bucky we never had our own apartment. After a while and much convincing I moved in with you and Steve but only for a few weeks before you shipped out. And…hardly anyone had showers then, especially us.”

“What’re you sayin’?”

She hesitates for half a second before telling the truth, “Baby…that never happened.”

He starts to shake his head, ready to tell her she’s mistaken when the memory comes into sharp focus in his mind, vastly different than what he thought he remembered.

“You’ll get to see your girl today,” the man says, patting his hair, fingers running through the greasy strands. “You see what happens when you’re good, when you do as we say.”

The apartment is nice, he thinks, familiar. He nods. He’s been good. Things are better when he’s good.

The door opens, “Sir? She’s ready.”

“Thank you. Be a good boy now,” one last pat on his head and then the man is gone. He hears a woman’s voice, the woman.

“I’ll be okay, Pierce. Honestly, I’m a fully-,” the door is shut before anymore words can be heard.

He goes to the window while he waits, something unfamiliar about the silver buildings and oddly shaped cars below. “Soldier?”

The Soldier turns, observing the woman, “Do you know me?” He nods. “Oh, good. I missed you, you know. But you’ve done so well. You’re doing so good, making a difference, making history.” There’s something odd about the way she’s dressed, about the placement of her freckles, the shade of her brown eyes too light, her speech a little too cultured and proper. But he knows her, even if she isn’t quite right.

“Come here,” she says. “You’ve done so well that they’ve decided you’ve earned a hot shower. Isn’t that good news? Let me help you with that?” He comes carefully closer to the woman, the woman who has no name, just like him. She used to have one, he thinks. She places a small kiss on the corner of his mouth and strips him of the TAC gear easily enough before taking him to the bathroom. “You’ve earned this. Enjoy it. They may let you stay in the bed tonight.” Before he gets in he catches her disgusted look. But that is normal too. This is normal. He’s been good. The water feels good.

 

~

 

They think he can’t hear them when they argue. He lies awake in the soft bed, wondering why they simply didn’t put the Asset away like they always do.

The woman agrees. “Why do we go through this? What’s the point? Put him back in the damn freezer where he belongs.”

“It’s a part of the conditioning, of the careful breakdown of the human psyche-,”

“Well get someone else to do it!” She shouts, “Just because I look like that whore doesn’t mean I have to be the one to placate the beast and be his damn reward!”

She had washed his hair, danced with him to music that stirred something in his heart and actually made him smile, had made love to him even though he had tried to stop her, say no before he remembered that ‘no’ was not allowed, and then tucked him into this bed, strangely warm and soft. He cries. The Asset doesn’t cry. He doesn’t understand.

The next morning the Asset remembers the warm wrench in his heart and the tears on his cheeks as some memory of another soft bed and three people smashed onto the too small mattress surfaces. He remembers the sound of their laughs, the feel of the sun streaming in the window, and the smell of fresh paper and colored pencils. He remembers that they are dead.

He kills the woman when she walks through the door. She is not her. She will never be his girl.

The Soldier is punished most severely for his trouble. This time the woman stays dead.

“Bucky?!” The woman asks, what seems like real fear and concern in her voice.

But he knows better. Those eyes though and her voice….

His hand closes around her neck as he sits up and throws the woman back onto the wooden floor, her head hits hard with an audible crack, squeezing hard, unsure how he came to be on the floor with the woman in the first place. Someone screams and something clatters to the floor.

“Hattie?! Hang on! I’m almost there,” the device is saying. That voice is also familiar. He only squeezes harder. Someone is trying to trick him again.

 

Chapter Text

Hattie swings her leg up as the pressure on her throat increases, kneeing Bucky in the crotch and using his momentary pain and distraction to roll him off of her. She braces her legs on either side of his hips and starts to swing her fist downward, panic and fear clouding her mind as her head swims and her throat burns. Her intention is to land one solid blow to the temple and knock him unconscious when he meets her eyes, “Hattie?”

“Bucks?” She keeps her fist raised as black spots dance in her vision. The room comes into focus then, people huddling together in terrified bunches, broken glass littering the ground, dark red of the wine coating her dress. Her head hurts and the light of the room is blinding.

“You’re bleeding,” he says, voice a terrified whisper as the door to the hall whips open and the sound of police sirens fill the space furthering the pain in Hattie’s head. Steve is pushing his way through the crowd, shouting at officers to let him through.

Cautiously she lowers her fist, “Its wine baby.” She flinches back when he reaches up and touches the back of her head. When he pulls his hand away it’s covered in blood.

“You’re bleeding,” he repeats as he stares at his hand in absolute horror.

She feels light-headed all of a sudden, swaying slightly before she tilts sideways, only to be caught by a strong pair of arms. “Thanks, Stevie.” Steve hauls her up, righting a chair as he goes, before carefully making sure she sits and that she won’t fall over. Then he pulls Bucky up from the floor and hands him off to Sam who has accompanied Steve. Hattie notes dully that they had come prepared for the worst.

A medic comes to attend to the back of Hattie’s head, which is already clotting, stemming the blood flow. A concussion definitely, the man is saying. Hattie knows she should respond but all she wants is to go to Bucky. To make sure he’s okay, and also to seek comfort, but she knows he’ll probably be very resistant to that sort of thing at the moment. She can tell by the way Sam is attempting to comfort him and the way that Bucky both resists it and lets it happen at the same time.

The medic is telling Steve how to take care of her, nodding along even though Hattie knows it’s pointless because he’ll make the medical staff at the Compound check her out again anyways. “Let’s go Brooklyn,” Steve says gently, sound coming back to her all of a sudden, wrapping his arm around her waist, to support some of her weight despite her protests to let her stand on her own, that she’s fine. “Would you just let me help you?” His voice is frustrated as she continues to struggle against him.

Her head hurts and her eyes burn and she wants to sleep even though she knows she can’t but still she tries to wiggle away from Steve’s arms. “I want Bucky to help me,” Hattie declares stubbornly, her voice harsh and rough. Her neck does rather hurt, she thinks, trying to remember why it felt so bad.

“Brooklyn…” he sighs as he bats police officers away from them, trying to leave before the press arrives. “I don’t know if that’s-,”

“I got her, Steve,” Bucky’s voice is suddenly behind them. “Let me help her.”

Hattie immediately pulls away from Steve’s arms when they loosen to fall into Bucky’s embrace, “Carry me.”

He picks her up bridal style and cradles her carefully to his chest, mindful of the position of her injured head against his shoulder. “You can’t fall asleep,” he says, absolutely terrified that she will and that she might not wake up if she did. She presses her face into his chest and nods.

“I won’t.”

“I’m sorry,” he says, voice monotone, not daring to look down at her. “’m so sorry, doll.”

“’s fine. No harm, no foul.”

His jaw tightens and his eyes harden, “Except I did, Brooklyn.”

“No,” she says, leaving no room for disagreement as her lids droop. “’m fine.”

“Brooklyn-,”

She falls asleep.

 

~

 

-let him hurt her?!”

“Tony, he didn’t-,”

“I don’t care what-,”

Hattie opens her eyes to a blinding white room and a distraught Bucky. He’s sitting next to her bed digging his hands into his hair, eyes squeezed shut as his palms clamp over his ears, looking every bit the terrified child. “Baby…” she murmurs. “What’re they yellin’ about?”

Steve and Tony are still arguing in the hall as Bucky shakes like a leaf and refuses to lift his head. Panic, she thinks as she starts to sit up, moving sluggishly. He’s panicking and can’t hear her.

Gently she wraps one hand around his flesh wrist, “Buck-,” He doesn’t look at her. The only indication given that he feels her touch is the start of his body rocking back and forth.

Bad,” she hears him mutter under his breath.

Hattie’s heart cracks and then anger overcomes her, pulsing hot and bright through her veins. Delicately she lets go of his wrist before she clambers out of bed and toward the door, jerking along an IV stand with her that’s connected to her hand. She flings the door open and the arguing immediately stops. “Go somewhere else and do that,” she hisses under her breath, squinting so the light doesn’t hurt her so much.  

“You shouldn’t be-,”

“Go!” She bellows suddenly. “Get out of here!”

“You haven’t told Rogers about-,”

“Anthony Stark, so help me God, get away from here and leave everyone out of my shit before I lose it.”

Steve looks like he’s about to say something but she only slams the door in his face. She stands at the door a few seconds longer to make sure they actually go before she moves back to the bed, already irritated with the IV stuck in her hand.

She sits in front of Bucky on the bed very slowly, careful not to startle him. “They’re gone,” she whispers. “I’m here.”

Slowly, and over the course of a few hours, she gets him to look at her, to see her. It takes a lot of coaxing and soft touches, gentle words and tender hands. Hattie tells Friday to warn everyone that Sergeant Barnes is in a delicate state and to enter at their own risk and so naturally no one comes in the room except for Steve who leaves again quite quickly when Hattie glares at him.

When he finally meets her eyes, it’s with calm breaths in his lungs and a steady heartbeat in his chest. His hands have stopped shaking and some color has returned to his features. “There he is,” she coos. “Hi baby.” She can only imagine what the yelling reminded him of, what this sterile room reminded him of, what the blame reminded him of.

Hattie pushes some of his hair behind his ears as he swallows thickly and attempts to gather himself enough to speak. “Brooklyn.”

“Mmm,” she hums, stroking his hair again.

For a second it looks as though he might try to explain himself but Hattie meets his eyes again and lets him know that he doesn’t have to. “How are you feeling?” he asks instead, reaching up to pull her hand away from his hair and into his flesh hand. Before she can answer he shakes his head, “What a stupid question.”

“No,” she says. “It’s not. I’m feeling fine. Good, even. A little sore. Light hurts a little.”

His eyes drift from her eyes down to her neck. “Throat hurt?” his voice is exhausted. She knows if she looks down she’ll find a ring of bruises.

“A little,” she answers honestly. Then, “Do you trust me?” Hattie knows she has no right to ask him this when she’s hiding things from him, but she also can’t stand the guilt on his face.

It only becomes worse when he answers immediately, “Yes.” She’s dizzy and exhausted but she needs him to know that things between them are okay.

“Okay.” Slowly she uncurls their fingers and brings his hand to her throat. Hattie rests it there, “its okay.”

“This isn’t the hand that hurt you doll.”

“And if I woulda tried it with the other one?” She gives him a look, “C’mon Buck, give me more credit than that. I know you and I know you woulda been across the room before you ever let me bring your hand close enough to touch my neck. This,” she presses her own hand over the one resting on her throat, “is practice. You can learn that that arm can do more than bad. You can realize that you are gentle, and so is that arm, because it’s you. I know how you keep it away from people and me and…everything.”

Instead of answering her he takes his hand away and says, “So, we’re just not gonna talk about what happened?”

“Nothin’ to talk about. Unless you wanna tell me what happened to you.”

“I coulda killed you, Hattie,” he murmurs, now staring at the floor.

Well, she thinks, it's only a matter of time now anyways.

 

~

 

“He could have seriously injured you, or worse killed you.”

Hattie doesn’t look up from the screen in front of her, “Do you think this looks like Sam? I’m having the hardest time getting his smile right.”

“Are you even listening to me?” Tony’s tone of voice is that of someone who’s been both shouting themselves hoarse and repeating the same things over and over again.

She rolls her eyes and looks away from her computer where she’s playing an improved version of The Sims. “Are you listening to me?” Hattie pats the space next to her on the couch, hoping to get Tony to stop pacing in front of her. He sits and she turns the screen to him, “Sam?”

“Almost,” he answers before taking the laptop from her. “Did you make all of us?”

“It’s everybody,” she says quietly, watching Tony rotate through the characters. “Everybody who ever mattered to me.”

Tony pauses on his own avatar to make a few adjustments before finding Hattie’s, “You forgot the bruises.”

She groans and throws her head back which causes her to be cursed out about keeping her head still. “You have a damn concussion,” he hisses. “And you look ridiculous wearing sunglasses inside.”

“You’re insufferable and hypocritical. And I’m not supposed to look at bright things. Dim light even hurts so this is my solution.”

“Got one for that ring around your neck?” She doesn’t say anything this time, only fumes silently. The bruises around her neck are yellow and green at this point, much better than the purple and blue of the previous week where Bucky could hardly look at her without shame and guilt crossing his features. “Where is your shadow anyways?”

Hattie sighs and picks at the blanket that covers her lap, “Went runnin’ with Steve.”

“I know what’s wrong with Sam,” he says, handing the laptop back to her. “The teeth aren’t right. I’ll make another adjustment that allows you to change them.” She waits, knowing there’s more coming, “Hattie-,”

She waves one hand at him, “Please don’t. I’ve been alive long enough to recognize danger.”

“But your judgement is clouded,” comes a voice from the shadowy doorway to the common room. Natasha steps into the room and gives Hattie a sympathetic smile.

“Takin’ Spark’s side? That’s low, Nat.”

Nat perches on the other end of the couch, “But he’s right. Maybe for the wrong reasons but he’s right. ”

Hattie glances between them before shaking her head, “And to think I put the two of you in my game.”

Natasha glances at Tony and then back to Hattie, “He could seriously hurt you. Any normal person would have been dead instead of dealing with a concussion from that blow. There’s still a lot of dangerous things stuck in his head. You’re hurting him worse in the long run by staying with him. He gives in to emotion too easily when he’s around you.”

Hattie closes her eyes behind her sunglasses before taking a few calming breaths. “So what, I’m supposed to break his heart now and later?” She glares at Nat even though she knows the assassin can’t see her eyes, “I know you know. I know Tony told you. You know I’m dying.” She shakes her head, “I won’t do it. I won’t double that pain. Losing a person twice is too much. I would know.”

Neither of them say anything for a long minute before Hattie stands and wobbles on her feet a little, shutting her laptop a bit more violently than needed. “I’ll be in my room if I’m needed.”

“You should tell him,” Natasha says. “He deserves to know.”

Tony stands and puts an arm around Hattie’s waist when her head gives a violent throb and she tilts to the side as emotions gather and huddle and swell in her chest. “C’mon jackass,” he says a bit thickly.

Halfway back to her rooms they meet Bucky in the hall who carefully takes over from Tony. The two men nod at each other but don’t say anything before Tony carefully kisses her forehead and walks briskly away. “He doesn’t trust you with me,” Bucky says to her when he’s gone. “But he still left you here.” His brow furrows as he glances over at her.

“It’s ‘cause he trusts me, trusts that I know what I’m doin’. Even if he doesn’t like to admit it.”

“How ya feelin’, doll?” He asks as he allows Hattie to loop her arm through his.

She smiles, “Very good. I’ll be happier when it’s dark.” Bucky takes her laptop from her as she says, “I have somethin’ to show you on there. I think you’ll like it.”

“That so?”

“Hmm. ‘S you so I hope so.”

Bucky doesn’t answer as he opens the door to their apartment, quickly settling Hattie in what has very quickly become their room. While he showers she sets up her laptop on his side of the bed before taking off her sunglasses and basking in the blissfully painless darkness, with the screen facing away from her the room is a good reprieve from the echoing pain in her skull.

When he finishes showering Bucky makes tea to bring to Hattie. She has her eyes closed when he comes back into their bedroom from the kitchen, only cracking them open when the door is safely closed. “You’re such a sweetheart,” she murmurs when she sits up to take the cup from him.

“What’s this?” He asks, curiously picking up her computer.

“A laptop,” she says cheekily before sipping on her drink.

“Ha ha,” he deadpans.

Hattie grins at him, “Flip through them. You’ll see.” She watches his face as he does so. It’s clear when he finds what she wants him to see.

Plucking her glasses back up and scooting closer she leans in to look with him, “See? That’s me and you together back in the day, baby. Spark is always modifying the game for me so I have more freedom. Doesn’t it look just like us?”

He doesn’t say anything just flips to the next character, this time it’s Bucky alone. “God, doll, I look awful.” He pauses, “Accurate though. You got the Winter Soldier gear pretty good for being limited.”

“Thanks. Next.” Bucky smiles and shifts to the next one, examining a lone Hattie, looking equally as miserable in soldier-like clothes. “And next.”

Them, together again, as they are now. “Important,” she declares, “Because I love all these Buckys. And every version is important to me. Keep lookin’ though, maybe you’ll find some more familiar faces.” The message is clear, then, now, always, through whatever, she would love him.

He only sets the laptop on the bedside table, closing the lid, before taking Hattie’s face between his hands, “I love you.” The metal hand is so light on her face she can barely feel it.

“I love you too.”

“I’m going to kiss you.” He hasn’t since the accident and Hattie’s heart pounds against her ribs in anticipation.

“I would like that.” She says, looping her fingers around his wrists lightly. Bucky huffs out a laugh and pushes her gently back into the pillows, taking one of his hands away to take off her sunglasses.

He searches her face for any signs of hesitation before gazing into her eyes, carefully balancing himself on his elbows so she doesn’t feel any of his weight. “Kiss me.”

A soft laugh leaves him before he slants his mouth over hers, molding their lips together carefully but fully. Hattie spirals then as she kisses him harder, eyes clenched shut so the tears won’t escape. Guilty, guilty, guilty, beats her heart. All the things she’s hiding from him flashing through her mind. What happened before the train, what happened at Azzano, and her impending death.

She makes herself pull back from the kiss, pressing her hands to either side of his face so she can stroke her thumbs over his cheekbones. “Baby, I need to tell you somethin’. A couple of things.” Hattie pushes on his shoulder until he rolls onto his side and they can face each other on their sides. Tears pool in her eyes as anxiety overwhelms her system making her head throb again. Her fingers rake through his hair as Bucky pulls her closer, “Promise me you won’t hate me?”

Bucky leans his forehead against hers, “Never.”

As she opens her mouth, completely unsure where she’s going to begin, when Friday interrupts her. “Agent King?”

Bucky glares at the ceiling when Hattie winces at the loud noise. “Yes Friday?” He answers for her.

“Sir has requested Agent King’s presence in the Foyer. Immediately.”

“Why?” Hattie asks, confused as to why Tony wouldn’t just come up himself.

“There is a guest here for you Miss. It would seem he’s rather agitated and desperate.”

Chapter Text

“What the hell are you doing here?” Hattie asks, hand firmly clasped in Bucky’s, who stands behind her fuming.

The man shrugs and looks at the various Avengers standing defensively around him, “Heard you joined the dream team.”

“I didn’t,” she replies harshly, letting go of Bucky’s hand.

“Not what the news says, sweetheart.” Hattie stares at the man that used to be her partner for so long, someone she had thought she trusted. “And you know the funny thing? I thought you said you didn’t do teams?” He winks at her, walking closer, completely at ease around the tense superheroes. “Thought maybe you reconsidered some things?”

She stares him down, “No. Now what do you want?”

His head is shaven in a buzz cut, his jaw strong, and dark eyes piercing. Hattie doesn’t flinch as he steps right up to her, going toe to toe. “What’s with the sunglasses, hmm? Someone get a little…rough?” He peers around Hattie to look at Bucky with wide, falsely curious eyes.

“Alright that’s enough,” Steve speaks up. “You caused such a fuss to get in here, now tell her what you want or get out.”

Neither of them look away from each other nor give any indication that they heard Steve, “What do you want Will?”

“To talk. King.” He punctuates her last name while leering down at her before looking behind her again, “Alone. Without the boy toy here.”

Hattie sidesteps in front of Bucky as she feels him start to surge forward. “Stop it,” she hisses at Bucky. “And fine, William. Let’s go.”

She wobbles as she turns on her heel, cheeks burning as Will laughs behind her. Bucky tries to catch her eye, to stop her, but all she does is push past.

 

~

 

Will and Hattie used to work together, go on missions together for Shield. They had fallen out after Will decided he valued Hattie more as an object and bait than as an agent, after they both went through The Trials. Hattie leads them to a conference room and sits across from him, glaring at him from behind her sunglasses, first just for being there, second for being an ass, and third for ripping her away from Bucky when she was about to tell him the truth.

He peers at her and leans his elbows onto the table, “You fuck the robot yet?” Hattie doesn’t say anything, only crosses her arms, “Haven’t have you? I mean I don’t blame you. So emotionless and cold. A real, ah, cold-blooded killer huh? And that arm? What a turn off!”

“What the fuck do you want?”

“Your old lovers were so lively if I’m remembering right,” he smirks and leans back in his seat. “I suppose he must have been too…before, y’know, the tragedy.”

“Shut up,” she clenches her fists in her lap under the table. “Shut the fuck up and tell me what you want from me Will.”

He chuckles and purses his lips, “People whisper, Hattie. They whisper things like monster and robot and murderer and killer. Doesn’t that bother you?” Will doesn’t give her time to respond, “Oh and now they whisper about you too. And doesn’t that just piss you off? Right in the spotlight, the place you tried to avoid so hard, and all because of the Soviet’s favorite little boy out there. While I still sit in the goddamn dark. I wish I had a frozen ex-lover to put me where I belong.”

Will dives forward across the table and rips her sunglasses of her face. She forces herself not to squint, not to show weakness. He laughs and tosses them to the floor as her eyes start to water before settling back in his chair. A jerk of his chin is directed at her neck, “He do this to you? Rough you up a little, couldn’t control himself? That’s amazing. Truly it is. Does he know that if you were a normal fucking person that you’d be six feet under? Or did you not want to hurt the poor guy’s feelings? I mean what with the knock-off, knock-off, knock-off super serum, the mutant savior genes, and then The Trials? He woulda killed a normal person three times over.”

There’s a pause as he waits to see if she’ll say anything. But she just keeps her face neutral and says nothing, knowing Will is just trying to provoke her, “I know you’re dying.”

Real shock echoes through her muddled brain as the pain from the overhead lights increases but she manages to keep her surprise off her face, “What are you talking about?”

“Dying. You. You are dying. And lucky you I know how to fix you.”

“I’m not dying. I don’t know what you heard or-,”

He pulls a file out of his jacket and tosses it across the table, “I knew a long time ago, baby. I was just biding my time. Biding and waiting and watching for when it started to show finally. Nausea, migraines, stomach pains. Tell me, you been spitting up blood lately?”

“Do you ever stop fuckin’ talkin’? Goddamn, Will, you’re still just as-,” she cuts herself off and takes the file instead.

Hattie opens it cautiously. Sure enough, The Trials data is there. With the inclusion of one extra thing, one extra test she hadn’t known about, “Yeah that shit they hopped you up on is killing you.” He pauses dramatically, “And I know how to remove it. In exchange for-,”

“No you don’t.” She closes the file and slides it back across the table, “You might have known all this time but you don’t know how to fix it.” The team is listening and watching through the security cameras, she knows, but Hattie can’t deny it.

He opens his mouth again when the door to the conference room flies open, “Get out,” comes the guttural growl of Bucky Barnes. “Now.”

Hattie can see The Soldier sitting close to the surface of his skin so she stands slowly, the world tilting dangerously around her as she approaches him. She falls into his chest, Bucky’s arm automatically wrapping around her, to stead her, to cradle her. “Buck, c’mon-,”

He just shifts her behind him and reaches down to the floor to grab her glasses, never taking his eyes off Will, “Put these on baby.”

“Well isn’t this fuckin’ precious? The freak and the beast. Tell me Winter, did you know that your girl’s gonna be dead as the old Bucky Barnes in a matter of months? No? How tragic.” He stands and picks up the file. “Hattie, sweetheart, if you ever want a warm, human lover you just let me know, hm? You know where to find me. I promise I’m better than the broken-,”

She dives forward before Bucky can catch her and slaps him as hard as she can, grabbing him by the collar of his shirt and holding his face barely an inch from hers, “You’re lucky you were at those Trials too or your neck would have snapped. Don’t you ever, ever fuckin’ talk about him again. Got it? Or you will find yourself six-feet under. Don’t think for one minute that I forgot what you did to me, I’m still coming for you, biding my time as it is. Get out.” Hattie releases him and he stumbles.

“Glad to see some of that old fight is still in you darling,” he smirk and winks, recovering himself quickly. “I do miss that about you. Your fighting spirit.”

This implication in his voice is clear and so this time it’s Bucky that surges forward but Hattie steps in front of him and puts her hand on his arm before curling her body back into his, knowing he won’t dare move with her soft hand on his metal arm. “Now!” It’s hoarse, desperate, and cracking. She’s never heard Bucky’s voice like that, not ever. “Get the fuck out!

Steve arrives then, pushing past Bucky and Hattie to grab Will and force him out of the room. “Sorry, Buck. I couldn’t just sit there anymore-,”

Hattie, whose vision had been going a little fuzzy for the last few minutes, collapses to the floor suddenly, her hand finally slipping away from Bucky’s arm. Steve hauls Will away who beings laughing harshly as Bucky scoops Hattie up and makes for the med bay.

He wonders if it’s true on his way there, as Bruce rushes in, as the others arrive from the surveillance room where they had been watching the entire exchange. He wonders why she wouldn’t tell him if it is true. For a quick second he convinces himself that it isn’t true, that fate isn’t that cruel. But really Bucky should know better than anyone that fate is that cruel. And when Tony Stark walks into the med bay the answer is written plainly on the man’s face. His surrogate mother is dying and no amount of showmanship can hide that from his features.

Bucky’s whole world comes crashing down.

Chapter Text

Hattie is packing her bag when Bucky steps into the room. He freezes. “What’re you doing?”

“Leaving,” she grunts, not looking at him.

It’s tempting to grab her, shake her, scream. But he doesn’t. Instead he stands there in the doorway and watches the love of his life pack her bags. “Why?” He demands.

Her hands shake and when she turns her face is pale, dried blood on the corner of her mouth, “Because you deserve better. You always have. That and Tony won’t let me die in peace.”

“I’m not letting you leave and Stark won’t allow it either.” His voice is a hard growl, his whole body tense.

Hattie’s spine straightens as she looks him right in the eye, “No man tells me what to do.”

“For God’s sake Hattie we ain’t random men trying to control you. We’re concerned, we’re-,”

“Concerned men, that happen to know me, trying to control me,” she finishes, eyes blazing. “Don’t coat it any other way, Barnes.”

He takes two long strides forward, reaching out to cradle her face between his hands. “Aren’t you tired of keeping secrets?” Large brown eyes meet his, a challenge written in them. He releases her. “Fuck, Hattie, would you stop? Just let me care about you. Why has this always been such an issue?”

Her voice is cutting when she says, “Oh so you remember me now?” Bucky’s breath catches in his throat, taking a step back as though she had pushed him. “Do you know what it’s like to have you back and for you to be…this person, this killer, this broken man?” Tears burn the back of her eyes and her heart breaks at his shocked expression. She has to make him let her alone, hate her, forget about her. “You are not Bucky Barnes. He died and I don’t love you. I love him. So leave me the fuck alone.”

“You don’t mean that,” he accuses, but his voice shakes. Bucky won’t let her walk away and so he reaches out again and ignores the way she tries to push him away. “You’ve always gotten prickly and mean when you get scared and cornered, when you feel like you don’t deserve people. It’s why you always said no to me at dances. It’s why you said no to me for so long.” His hands travel down her arms to grip her hands carefully, “Please don’t say no to me again. Please don’t say I mean nothing, that you don’t love me. It’s exactly why you’re doing this. I mean a lot, you do love me.”

She bites her trembling lip and whispers weakly, “I hate you.”

Bucky only pulls her into a hug and sighs when she grips onto his shoulders as though her life depends on it, “I love you.”

A sob bursts from her throat as her legs give out, “I love you, Bucks.” He turns with her still in his arms and shoves her half packed bag to the floor before sinking down onto the bed.

“Hey, I know.” He pats her hair with one hand and massages her spine with the other. “I remembered somethin’ this morning. Ya wanna hear about it?”

She doesn’t answer and so he says nothing, letting her rest, ragged breaths echoing in her chest. He reaches up and wipes the blood away from her mouth. “Sorry,” she says.

The blood scares him. It’s been happening more and more lately, as Hattie tries to hide it more and more. It’s been three weeks since Will came to visit and things have been even more strained than usual. Her chest hitches with hiccups before she asks if he could help her to the bathroom.

He does and then waits patiently by her side as she brushes her teeth and splashes her face with cool water. When she’s finished Hattie stays leaning over the counter, breathing deeply. Bucky’s hand goes to her back and that’s when she says, “I know what it means to loose people. I don’t…I told Spark when we found out that it would be okay, that whatever happened to me he’d get over it. But, I don’t know if that’s true.”

Hattie chances a glance up at Bucky, who is watching her with kind blue eyes. All it takes is one look and she has her hands on his face, cradling his jaw as she strokes her thumbs over his cheekbones. “I’m scared. And I don’t want you to feel the way I did all those years. All that pain. I thought-I think it would be easier for you and me and everyone if I just left.” She pauses and looks away, hands falling back to her sides, “If you hate me for leaving it won’t hurt as much when I die.”

“Doll, it’s going to hurt like hell either way. I want-I want to enjoy the time with you that I have. Tony and Bruce and damn near everyone is lookin’ for some way to fix this. I haven’t given up yet. You shouldn’t either.”

She pulls him in for a kiss then, hoping she doesn’t taste too much like blood.

 

Chapter Text

Someone is poking him. He jolts straight up in bed and reaches out for the person, his hand halfway to their throat when he recognizes Hattie.

A sigh of relief leaves his mouth before irritation floods him. “You can’t do that! I could have-,” he stops, anger and fear that he could have hurt her draining away to be replaced with concern. Her body is shaking. Her pale, bloodless face etched with terror as she stares at him. “Brooklyn?”

The shirt she’s wearing is his and soaked through with sweat, her legs trembling beneath her. She has blood on her chin. Her eyes are wide in horror as the moonlight bleaches her features even more, beautiful chocolate irises swallowed by her pupils. “B-Bucky?”

He reaches out to her carefully, “’m here, babydoll.”

Instead of falling into his arms like she usually does Hattie pulls away, looking oddly small. Her voice is quiet when she asks, “Come walk with me? Outside?”

“Sweetheart you’re shakin’ so bad…I don’t think that’s a good idea.” She’s still quaking and glancing around the room as though she expects someone to jump out of the shadows. Nightmare, Bucky thinks distantly, but right now all he can focus on is Hattie’s breathing. The rattling breaths that now echo where strong lungs used to be frighten him, remind him of the way Steve’s lungs used to sound.

“Please?”

Her voice is a terrified plea and so he gets out of bed. Lately she hadn’t wanted to sleep in the same room as she claimed that she was disturbing his sleep with how often she got up at night, unable to sleep from the pain. He slips on a pair of sweatpants before grabbing two sweaters, one for himself and one for Hattie when she inevitably got cold.

Outside the compound Hattie finally allows Bucky to take her hand as she leads them where she pleases. It’s quiet, peaceful, the stars visible in the clear sky, a cool breeze blowing their hair softly as the year starts to turn toward autumn.

They walk in silence, hand in hand, for maybe twenty minutes when Hattie asks for her sweater and then asks Bucky what it was that he remembered the other day. It was nearly a week ago that she had tried leaving and she hadn’t asked about the memory he mentioned since.

“Wasn’t much,” he says now as Hattie looks over at him with her head tilted to the side. “It was…well I remembered something you already mentioned to me once.”

“Mmhm and?”

“Just, uh, just makin’ love,” he admits, glad she might not see his blush in the dark. “Lying in bed and takin’ all night, whisperin’ that is, even though we had to work early the next morning. Normal, nice stuff y’know?” He pauses and Hattie squeezes his hand tightly, “I remember before we were together, when we were just kids, that me and you and Steve would all sneak to each other’s houses sometimes. Just so we’d all be together in the same place.”

She brings his hand up and kisses his knuckles. “I’m glad you remembered somethin’ good baby.”

“Me too.” Then, “Are you okay?”

“I am.”

“Brooklyn-,”

“I have to tell you what happened with Will,” she declares unexpectedly.

The quiet night air has suddenly become tense silence. “Okay.”

“There’s a lot you don’t remember, Buck. I’ve-I’ve told you bits of this before.”

He frowns, “I don’t see how you could have. It was after-,”

“It all started before that, before the Trials. When we were still the Howling Commandos.” She pauses, “Even before that.” Bucky doesn’t say anything and so she takes a deep breath and continues, “At Azzano I was separated from the group. I was with Dugan and Jones and then suddenly I wasn’t. And being the dumbass I was, playing at war like a kid, I decided to poke around. But I guess somebody musta known who I was because the next thing I knew somebody had grabbed me and was whispering how they knew who I was. How-,” she stops and glances over at Bucky.

He swallows thickly, “You can say it. How I talked about you.”

Hattie drops to the dewy grass next to the path they’re walking along and tugs Bucky down with her. With a soft oof he lands next to her before Hattie crawls into his lap. “You didn’t know I would ever be there. You probably didn’t know you were even saying it out loud or that people were there,” she says against his neck. “Steve said-,”

“I know, doll, I know. It’s okay. Keep going,” he pats her back gently, not liking how tense her muscles feel under his fingers, like she doesn’t trust him enough to really be telling this story. Still he winds his arms around her and rests his chin on her head.

“He stuck a needle in my neck.”

Bucky’s whole body goes tense.

“It was one of the versions of the serum from before you came along. One that killed the other test subjects. Only he didn’t know I was…special. I didn’t know either at that point but its what saved me, my mutant genes. What let me get to the others in the tank. What let me survive the night and the next few days. It didn’t really do anything but make me sick for a few weeks and increase my stamina. I could stay awake for days or run for longer without getting tired but other than that…nothing.”

Hattie stays quiet for a few minutes to let Bucky process. “You were dizzy like me. You were…I thought it was the stress-,”

“You remember?” She asks, surprised.

“It’s coming back,” he replies heavily, head throbbing violently. She squeezes him tightly and let’s Bucky hold her hard, even if it hurts a little. “Yeah, you were breathing hard and sweatin’ and-,”

“Years later,” Hattie interrupts, because he’s straying into dangerous territory, into the day he learned about what happened at Azzano for the first time. “Years later, I was workin’ with Will and he said he knew some people that could…make us better, stronger. I-I agreed to go because…well, not because I wanted to be better or stronger but because I was hoping that it’d kill me. I thought with all the shit already inside me that my system probably wouldn’t be able to handle it. Will thought the same, he knew I was looking for a way out and he gave it to me. With eternity possibly stretched out before me, I just didn’t want to do it anymore. I had been doing it too long already.”

“But it was much worse than that,” she continues. “It was torture but I guess it worked. It made us strong and fast and nearly unbeatable in a fight. Where before I had stamina now I had the power to go along with it. What Will brought me the other day was a report…about how whatever they did to us there had reacted with the serum I was injected with in the 40’s. It’s only been a matter of time before it-before it finally did what I was hoping it would do then.”

He’s tense, his arms tightening around her, “Why? Why would you do something like that?” Bucky can’t understand it, not after what he’d been through, how she could sign up to be experimented on.

“At best,” her voice is hard and irritated that he doesn’t understand it without her explaining it aloud. “I would get to see you and Steve again.” Her voice cracks horribly and Bucky feels guilt settle hard in his bones when she continues, “My mother and father too. At worst I would be better at my job.”

Bucky opens his mouth to say something, to apologize maybe or to reprimand he isn’t sure, but she cuts him off. “Will had been my partner for years. I trusted him. But as the Trials came to an end and only a few of us were left standing in that damn place, he betrayed me.” She pauses as her mouth trembles dangerously, eyes brimming with tears. The breeze is soft, the grass sways, and the moon is full as she says viciously, “He violated me. After the brutal training and they sedated me and he was there and I…c-couldn’t move, the drugs they-,”

She cuts herself off and shakes her head. Rage thrums through Bucky. That man had been right in front of him, taunted her, hinted at what he’d done to her and Bucky had done nothing. Hattie continues, “And when we got out I promised him that one day I would come for him and he warned that it would be the other way around. And I guess maybe he’s right about that too.”

She’s shaking in his grasp, shivering hard, a violent tremble that has nothing to do with the cool breeze. Bucky knows that feeling. Lungs that didn’t get enough air, skin that felt too tight. He shifts her in his lap so he can get a good grip on her before he stands and starts back toward the Compound.

He’s angry with her. But that is a conversation for another time and so he takes her to his room and tucks her safely under the covers. Sits with her until she falls asleep and then paces the floor in anxiety every time her breathing gets a little labored in her sleep.

When the sun rises he writes a note and leaves it on the bed next to Hattie’s hand as he presses a careful kiss to her temple before he goes to find Steve and Stark. He wonders if Stark knows, he wonders if Steve does.

 

~

 

Bucky changes his mind halfway to Steve’s room. And instead stands in the cool morning light filtering through the living room windows. He isn’t sure how long he stands there, or when the tears start.

His mind whirls a thousand miles an hour, questions about the Trials swimming in his brain. And thoughts of Will’s head on a pike.

Bucky keeps on standing there until Steve comes in from his morning run with Sam. Luckily Sam isn’t actually with him because as soon as he lays eyes on Steve the tears begin again. To be honest he hadn’t realized they’d stopped. “Hey Buck,” he greets cautiously. “You okay?”

He takes a few steps forward and then collapses at their dining room table. The sun is higher outside, letting him know that Steve had been gone longer usual and that Hattie had slept in way longer than usual. “It’s Hattie.”

Steve pales as Bucky puts his head in his hands. “What’s wrong? Is she-,”

“She’s okay. Sit down. I-I need to ask you about some things.” He repeats Hattie’s story, Steve asking the same questions Bucky had been thinking of all morning. The bedroom door opens then revealing a pale but otherwise fine Hattie.

“What?” She asks, voice indignant.

Bucky turns in his seat and reaches a hand out to her, “Come sit with us a minute, sweetheart.”

“Only if someone gets me a cup of coffee.”

Steve smiles and gets up from the table, going to start a pot for all three of them. “What?” She asks when Steve is gone and she’s seated at the table. Bucky only looks at the clean white surface of the table and so she accuses, “You told him.” Her voice is tight. “Why would you tell him?”

Bucky looks up and finds her eyes once again swallowed by her pupils. “I needed to talk about it.”

“I’m here,” she looks at him as though he’s grown a second head. “It’s my story.”

“Who were they?” he asks in a tone that sounds like he’s interrogating her.

Hattie reels back and stares. “I don’t know. I never knew.”

“And they didn’t want anything from you at the end of it? They just let you go?”

Her brows lower and her mouth makes a hard line. “Are you accusing me of something?”

Bucky sighs exhaustedly as Steve returns with the coffee. And really he could never believe that of Hattie, that she might’ve been working with those people. “No Brooklyn. I-I’m just wonderin’ how-,”

“Will and I fought our way out,” her voice is emotionless and dead and makes Bucky wince and Steve frown as he sets down the cups of coffee. “He never intended to work with them and I never intended to leave at all. Half of them were dead when we made it out. We went our separate ways in the forest somewhere outside that place.” She sucks in her cheeks and cradles her hands in her lap, not meeting their eyes. “Needless to say our partnership was over at that point.”

Steve glances at Bucky and then reaches over to take one of Hattie’s hands. “Brooklyn,” he starts, swallowing loudly. “Why would you go in the first place? It doesn’t make any sense-,”

She lets out a sob suddenly, “I know. I know, I know, I know. But it’s the only thing that made sense at the time. I was so tired.” She holds his hand like it’s the only thing tethering her to the Earth. “I-I-I was too much of a coward t-to do it myself and fuckin’ Will knew it. I think he knew all along that I’d survive and make it out and he could torture me the way he’s doin’ now.”

Silence settles for a moment and just when Bucky is reaching out to her to pull her into a hug she sniffles again and looks to Steve. “Those French bastards in the boarding house raised me Catholic.”

She stares intensely at him, hoping he’ll get it. A soft, “Oh,” leaves him before he nods. “Oh Hattie.”

Bucky, who had not been raised Catholic, and who had not paid attention in church the few times he did with Steve as a kid, is lost. “What?” He asks, a little jealous at the unspoken understanding between the two of them and the fact that Steve is holding her hand and not him.

Slowly she pats Steve’s hand that cradles her own before releasing him and turning to Bucky. “They teach-they teach that if you take your own life that you go to hell. And-and I knew if I did that I’d never see you two ever again.” She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. “It’s stupid. I don’t even believe it. But I thought if I just died then maybe I’d go to heaven, then at least there was a chance.”

It’s quiet for a while after that. The only sound is Hattie’s breathing and the whir of the air filtration system. She takes one of Bucky’s hands and one of Steve’s and whispers an apology.

Neither answer but both squeeze her hands.

“What did you do after you and Will separated?”

“I went back to my godson and did my best not to leave his side again.” She glances up with a smile, “And with Tony I’ve hardly been successful.”

“Where did Will go?”

She swallows thickly, “Off to some other war-torn part of the world. He convinced himself he was going to be a hero. A real hero.” Hattie nods, seemingly to herself, before releasing their hands.

Bucky looks at Hattie and the way she sways on the stool, the pallor of her face, and the blood that has slowly reddened her cracked lips throughout the conversation and says, “Let’s go lie down, babydoll.”

“She should eat,” Steve says, nodding at Hattie.

Hattie smiles weakly, “Don’t think I’m gonna manage that right now, Stevie.” She has good days and bad, and they can both clearly see what sort of day this one is going to be. But Hattie can also see the concern etched on both their faces and so she tilts her head to the side and asks, “Could you maybe ask Wanda if she could make some of that lovely soup she made last week? I think I could handle soup, so long as Vision doesn’t go near it.”

“Yeah,” Steve nods and stands, picking up the still full mugs of coffee.

She manages to get to the bedroom unassisted and then makes Bucky let her brush her teeth even though he’s fussing at her to lie down like the mother hen he’s always been. Once settled in a sitting position against the pillows on the bed she reaches out to Bucky and curls her fingers around his arm. “Baby,” she murmurs, rubbing his arm.

“I’m sorry for accusing you of-,”

A smirk forms on her lips, “Thought you weren’t accusing?”

He sighs and a reluctant smiles works its way onto his face, “Nat knows?”

“Natasha knows everything. Whether you want her to or not.”

He turns and scoots closer to her, capturing her hand in his, “That bastard will pay for ever laying a finger on you.” He closes his eyes and feels Hattie lean forward until her forehead is braced against his. “What does he want from you Brooklyn?”

“He wants my recognition. That’s why he was biding his time, knew it would happen sooner or later with the people I always surrounded myself with. He probably wants me to fight with him again. That’s why he’s pretending to have a cure. So I’ll cooperate. So he can be a hero.”

Bucky has to swallow back nausea at the thought of someone like Will thinking themselves a hero. “And if he does have a cure?” They’re so close they’re breathing the same air, hot breaths mixing together.

She can’t help herself as she leans forward and presses a gentle kiss to his bottom lip. “He doesn’t. There is nothing in the world that Will can figure out and Tony Stark can’t.”

Bucky really can’t argue with that and so he just leans forward to kiss her properly as the sounds of Wanda and Vision talking to Steve in the kitchen echo down the hall. He reaches up to cradle her face and kiss her harder, mint from the toothpaste and coffee from the few sips he’d had in the kitchen mix together. She lets out a gentle whimper when he bites at her lip, saliva stretching between them for a second when he pulls away.

“You still haven’t told me about the train.”

Steve, Wanda, and Vision are coming down the hall now. “I know.” Hattie takes his hands away from her face, instead reaching over to draw him into her. With his face pressed into her neck and his arms around her waist she whispers, “One thing at a time.”

The door is opening. Bucky is making a small sound of agreement. And Hattie is hoping that she’ll never have to repeat those words again.

 

Chapter Text

*Brooklyn, Summer of 1937*

 

“There is, y’know, a simple solution to this problem,” Steve says as Bucky tapes his hands, preparing for his boxing match as they stand at the side of the ring.

Bucky isn’t paying Steve the slightest bit of attention as he watches Hattie on the other side of the room. A woman is talking to her and Ruth, Hattie’s only female friend, her only friend besides Steve and Bucky. The older woman is probably berating Hattie about wearing men’s trousers based on Hattie’s dead-eyed expression, that of someone who’s heard this particular speech many times and is trying not to laugh, and Ruth’s amused look and bell-like giggles echoing across the room. Becca comes in the entrance behind them and rolls her eyes at the conversation taking place.

Steve waves a hand in front of Bucky’s face. “Are you even listening to me?” He asks, swiping his hair out of his face.

“Sorry, pal, what was that?”

“I said, pal, that you should just ask her out.” He smirks when Bucky jolts and turns pink around his ears.

He scratches at the back of his neck and finally looks away from Hattie, “Ya say that like it’s the easiest thing in the world ta do.”

“Well isn’t it?” Asks Steve, who is sure he’s never seen Bucky turned down in his life. Now Steve…that was a different story. But Bucky? He’s muscular and strong, a good dancer, charming as can be, and gave away smiles like it cost him nothing. Practically every girl in New York had their eye on him but he just so happened to only have eyes for one girl.

Bucky looks away from Steve, to glance over at Hattie once more, to see if she might be watching him for once (she isn’t and he sighs longingly), before he answers Steve, “Not exactly.”

To ask Hattie on a date, one of his best friends since he was a baby, a stubborn mule of a girl, who thought she deserved nothing and no one, would be damn near impossible. Not to mention the possibility of running her off entirely. Steve just groans in response and leaves Bucky standing there to find somewhere to sit before the room got too full. He ends up next to Becca on the bleachers, who asks to see his sketch pad.

 

~

 

The woman hasn’t shut up in a good five minutes and Hattie is wondering how she still has enough air in her lungs to carry on like that.

Ruth, the pretty girl from the diner she works at, is giggling next to her and Hattie is about ready to scream and leave. She could always tell Bucky that she had been tired and feeling sorta sick, and sorry for leaving. But then she looks up from the woman’s shoes, which she had been examining to avoid looking at her face or Ruth’s because then she would have started laughing, and glances Bucky by the ring, now alone and looking pretty nervous. She can’t leave and she hates him for it just a little.

The woman finally runs out of air and shoves past them to get a seat. It’s her grandson that Bucky has his match against today. Ruth reaches down and takes Hattie’s hand, giving it a squeezing and giggling like no tomorrow. Hattie adores Ruth and so she smiles back and laughs with her. “Whoever thought trousers could cause such a fuss? And here I thought you looked absolutely charming,” she whispers to Hattie. “You Yanks sure are somethin’.”

They find seats soon after that and Hattie attempts to catch Bucky’s eye but he seems to be steadfastly avoiding her gaze. “Ruth,” Hattie starts, breaking her out of the story she’s been telling about something her mother said on the phone the other day. “Save my seat would ya, darlin’? I need to tell Bucky good luck and the bastard won’t look over here.”

Ruth titters again. “Now quit flirtin’ with me, Hattie King. And you are the only woman I know that can use the words darlin’ and bastard in the same thought. ‘Course I’ll save your seat either way,” she says in that adorably southern accent of hers.

“I’ll be back,” she rolls her eyes.

Bucky is facing away from her, twisting his hands together from nervousness when she approaches, making the tape come loose and dangle between his fingers. “Bucky,” she says and he whirls.

“Brooklyn!” He greets cheerfully, smiling wide at her. She only frowns back. Bucky’s mother once told them that for every smile of Bucky’s Hattie had already frowned twice. She only really liked to smile at Steve and Bucky and Ruth anyways.

She reaches out and takes one of his hands, carefully rewrapping the tape. “I came to say good luck. Not that you need it, but I may. I think I have a fight with his grandmother in the parking lot over trousers the second this thing is over.”

Bucky searches for the woman in the crowd, “That was his grandmother?”

“Sure was.” She switches to his other hand.

“I’ll back you up,” he says, watching her fingers circle his.

She rolls her eyes without looking at him, “I’m glad I’ll always have you then, Bucks.”

In that moment his brain decides it’s a good time to make good on Steve’s advice, only what comes out of his mouth is, “Ruth is very pretty.” Her fingers still and she lets go of his hand suddenly. “Think you can put in a good word?” He could kick himself because he really does not want to take Ruth out. God, all he wanted was this girl in front of him and he’s just asked her to put in a good word with her best female friend. He bites his lip so hard he tastes blood.

“Sure thing,” Hattie says, meeting his eyes and taking a few steps back. She smiles at him but it isn’t one he recognizes. It’s strained and awkward, not at all like the smiles she usually shoots at him, reserved only for him.

It makes sense of course, Hattie thinks. Ruth is pretty, with her bright blue eyes and blonde hair. She’s as sweet as can be and wears dresses and gets her hair done at the salon regularly. Of course Bucky would want to have her on his arm.

It’s just too bad, she thinks as she turns on her heel and walks away, that Ruth is gay. She settles back in her seat next to Ruth who looks at her with concern. “What did he say to you? You went all tense and stiff all of a sudden.”

“He wants to take you out.”

She snorts and leans close, giggling again, “And I wanna take you out.”

“Alright, alright,” she mutters, pushing Ruth away who only laughs and straightens a nonexistent wrinkle in her skirt.

Ruth observes her friend for a second and then says, “Well why don’t we go out?” Hattie freezes as Bucky and the rude woman’s grandson step into the ring, now with boxing gloves on. Ruth pushes her arm through Hattie’s and says, “C’mon, it’ll be fun! We’ll go to one of those boring old dance halls and then we’ll go where my crowd is and have a real good time.”

The boys are circling each other now and Hattie hears herself agreeing to Ruth’s suggestion, who gives a quiet squeal of delight and then settles down to watch the match. The room is hot and everyone is sweating and fanning themselves by the time the match is over, even with the doors propped open. Ruth is the only one not sweating by the end of it. Her only comment is, “Oh Lord, you poor babies better never come to Louisiana. This ain’t even that bad!” She pauses and watches as Steve and Becca go down to congratulate Bucky on his win as the grandmother helps the other boy, who is stumbling quite a bit, out of the ring.

“Wanna go down and say congratulations to your boy?”

Hattie watches as a flock of admirers slide up to Bucky practically knocking Steve and Becca to the floor. “No. Let’s go get some ice cream or something.”

“With what money?” Ruth asks bewilderedly as she follows after her friend. Hattie only grins.

“Don’t you worry about money. I got us covered. Just promise not to tell.”

Ruth gives a wicked grin as they step out onto the street, “Oh, never.”

It’s the first time since Bucky has been boxing that she doesn’t go down, kiss him on the cheek, and tell him she’s proud, no matter the outcome of the match.

Bucky looks for her and waits and when she doesn’t show up he and Steve go back to the apartment. He thinks about it for the rest of the day, the rest of the week.

 

~

 

About a week later Ruth and Hattie do go to that dance hall but not before Ruth takes Hattie to a salon, buys her a new dress, and does her makeup. With a combination of Ruth’s southern charm to work down the price and Hattie’s hustled money they come out on top.

She stands in Ruth’s room at the boardinghouse as Ruth puts the finishing touches on Hattie’s makeup. A squeal leaves the other girl and Hattie rolls her eyes.

“Look!” she shouts before stepping out of Hattie’s line of vision so she can see herself in the mirror.

Hattie frowns at herself for a second and then smiles widely, swishing her hips a bit just to see the material of her dress move. “Looks great Ruthie. You’ve made me feel real pretty.”

“Beautiful,” she corrects before going to dab more lipstick onto her already pink lips. “But I have to say I prefer you in pants myself,” she admits.

“Me too.” She watches Ruth twirl before the mirror in delight and asks, “Which hall are we going to?”

Ruth tells her the name and Hattie nods, relieved. All the years that she’d been going with Bucky, only to be left behind at a table with Steve, they’ve never gone to that one. She hadn’t minded sitting with Steve, she loved Steve. It was just always hard to watch Bucky dance with anyone but her. To pay attention to everyone but her.

They leave the house together, shouted at by one of the French mothers as they do so. “What did she say?” Ruth pretends not to understand, scrunching her nose as Hattie bumps her shoulder into hers.

“Shouldn’t you have learned French, Southern Royalty?” Hattie teases her.

She sticks her nose in the air playfully and says absolutely not. But Hattie knows that Ruth knows perfectly well that the woman told them to be careful and not to bring any babies home.

 

~

 

Bucky is bored and lonely. He misses Hattie and Steve is sick. And really beside those two he doesn’t much care for anyone.

He hasn’t danced with anyone all night and has only had one beer as he wonders why, for the hundredth time this hour, Hattie suddenly stopped coming around. It’s been a week and two days since he last saw her. Now that he thinks about it, he hasn’t seen Ruth since that day at the gym either.  

Neither of them have been at their jobs. Hattie had been saving that time off so they could take it off together, Steve and Hattie and himself. He grips the empty beer bottle tight as a hatred for Ruth suddenly burns inside him. Or, maybe it wasn’t hatred, but jealousy. He feels replaced.

It’s then that the sound of laughter catches his attention. He’s been sitting at a shadowy table across from the bar where the sound had come from. There sits Ruth with a friend, several boys surrounding them. She has them hanging on her every word as she smokes a cigarette and strings them along. Her friend has her back turned and is nursing a glass of something as she tries not to laugh at Ruth’s antics. One of the guys has an arm slung around Ruth’s friend’s hips as he leans in to whisper something in her ear.

Heat flares in Bucky. Ruth is here and Hattie is not which means she must’ve been ditched somewhere at some point. And he hasn’t seen Hattie in a week and two days so who’s to say when that happened.

He seems to forget that Hattie is as tough as nails and that Ruth would never do something like that to one of the only friends she has in New York or anywhere really. Not to the girl who had discovered Ruth’s best kept secret. Not she who had not only not told anyone, but had continued to be her friend, wipe her tears, and tell her everything would be okay. It was then that Ruth decided both that Hattie was her best friend in the world but also a woman out of time.

“Ruth,” he starts when he marches over to the counter. “Where’s Hattie?”

Ruth stares at him and then glances behind him at her friend, looking very confused.

“Are you drunk, Barnes?” She asks carefully. So maybe he had had more than one beer. But what did that have to do with anything?

“Did you just leave her somewhere?” He accuses, stepping closer.

Now Ruth looks offended, “Excuse me?”

“Bucky!” The other girl says, sounding very familiar.

He turns and comes face to face with Hattie herself. Her lips are red and her lashes darkened, only making her brown eyes appear darker and wilder. Hattie’s hair is done, not its usual long mess lying down her back. It’s pinned in an intricate knot at the base of her skull. She’s wearing a floaty, floral dress and flats. The man with his arm around her hips says, “Leave it, sweetheart. He’s an ass for not noticing you.”

But Bucky doesn’t even really hear the man. He’s staring in awe at Hattie who is looking at him with large eyes and full lips. “Hattie?”

She grits her teeth and glares at him, “Just because you forget about me all the time doesn’t mean that everyone else does.”

He reels back as if slapped. “What?”

Hattie slips off the stool and starts to pull away from the group, tugging along the man who follows easily, as she mutters a goodbye to Ruth. She doesn’t get very far when Bucky snaps out of his stupor and darts after her.

“Hey buddy, back off,” the man says when Bucky reaches out to Hattie. His temper flares when Hattie doesn’t say anything at all, won’t even look at him.

“How about you stay out of it? That’s my best friend.”

The man’s hand dips lower on Hattie’s waist, gripping tightly. “Yeah? Well she doesn’t seem to want anything to do with ya so why don’t you-,” and that’s when Bucky slugs him. His hand possessively on her hip and the thought of Hattie not wanting him around anymore sends him over the edge of reason.

The guy punches him back, draws blood, and looks triumphant as he lands a second hit when the guy’s knocked out cold. He never saw Bucky’s fist coming. Bucky is breathing hard and starting to smile when Hattie socks him on the jaw, anger flaring in her eyes. He feels that one, stumbling a few feet.

“What in God’s-,” she grabs him by his shirt, her hand fisted in the material and around one suspender as she yanks him across the hall and out the door before anyone can ask too many questions. She knows Ruth’ll cover for her.

In a darkened side street she shoves Bucky into the brick of the wall and crosses her arms. Its night now and city sounds and music from that hall are the only things that surround them for a few seconds. “I missed you,” is all his mind seems to be able to come up with when she just stares him down. Still it lessens the tension in her shoulders and she sighs.

“Let’s get you patched up I suppose.” Neither of them move. She sighs again and reaches out to take his chin in her hand, tilts his head from side to side like she’s done a million times before.

“He had his hands on you.”

She lets go of his chin, “I wanted his hands on me.”

Bucky stares at her, “What did you mean I always forget about you? Why are you dressed like that?”

Her jaw clenches and then her eyes start to water. “You are such an ass!”

“I-what?” He gestures at her, “You never dress like this Brooklyn and I-,” To Bucky Ruth had taken his friend and changed her. His friend who he considered perfect the way she was.

“Yeah I know! Just because you never look at me and just because you don’t see me like that doesn’t mean anyone else doesn’t! Just because it’s easy for you to leave me. I-I-,”

“Why do you keep sayin’ that?” He asks softly. “See you like what?”

She slaps him and whirls away, angry tears slipping down her face. “Like a damn girl. Like, like I’m not-,” She starts to walk away. All Ruth’s hard work gone to waste, she thinks, when someone grabs her wrist. “What?”

Bucky pulls her around to face him, “She made you into someone I don’t know and Brooklyn…you were perfect before.” He reaches out to cradle her face and Hattie freezes, eyes wide, “You have always been perfect.”

And suddenly it’s been too long. He’s waited too long, said nothing for too long, ignored his feelings for too long, danced with and kissed the wrong people for too fucking long. He takes her face between his hands and kisses her hard. Their noses bump and their teeth clack and for three agonizingly long seconds Hattie doesn’t kiss him back.

Then tentatively when Bucky starts to release her, realizing that he’s holding her rather hard and kissing her even more brutally, she kisses him back. It’s very soft and slow and makes Bucky match her pace. His arms wind around her waist but Hattie’s go to his chest, fisting in his button-up.

He doesn’t try putting his hands anywhere other than her waist and lets her lead the kiss until she gently lets go of him and pulls back. He takes in her appearance then, hands still on her waist. Hattie’s lips are swollen and red, both from the lipstick and his kisses. Her eye makeup has run a little but not much and he thinks she still looks beautiful. She sniffles and then hits his shoulder half-heartedly, “Please tell me you meant that?”

Bucky lets out an exuberant laugh and her face falls before he murmurs, “Yes. Yeah, God, I-I-I never thought that you might-,”

She brings him in for another kiss, stepping back until her back hits the brick wall, and lets him lead this time, opens her mouth for him when he runs his tongue along her lip. “Brooklyn,” he whispers against her breathless lips a few minutes later. His lips are tingling and swollen and he loves it. “I’ve tried to say somethin’ for so long but I never had the courage.”

Hattie realizes then that she’ll have to be better for him. Do more good, stop hustling people, stop causing trouble where she had no business causing trouble. She leans forward and kisses him again, “Bucky you need to think about this. You’re twenty years old and-,”

“Think about what?” He leans back to look at her, confusion written on his face. Hattie finally looks up at him, at his bloody lip and bruised cheekbone from Frank, the man she had been with. And then at the bruise forming on his jaw from where she had punched him.

She pats his cheek and whispers that she’s sorry. “Nothin’, don’t worry about it,” she decides to enjoy this while it lasts because she can’t much believe what just happened.

“I really like you.”

“I do too.”

“I always have.”

“Me too.”

“I really wanna take you on a date.”

“Okay.”

She smiles widely and Bucky kisses her again, holding her so hard it nearly hurt. “To Coney Island.”

“No money for that,” she says, heart soaring above the clouds. She’s never seen Bucky look so happy either and that was saying a lot for a person that looked like sunshine.

He chuckles, “Good thing we know ways around that.” Bucky nips at her lips again, just because he can and says, “And for the record doll, I never forget about you. I could never forget you.”

Hattie pulls him close, smiling at the pet name, and lets him bury his face in her neck. He inhales deeply, feeling very settled all of a sudden. “I know. Promise me we’ll always be friends?”

“I promise.” He pulls back and kisses her again.

They don’t separate for a very long time not even when Ruth stops to coo at them before heading out to her own lovely friend. Ruth smiles to herself, proud.