Bucky Barnes had twenty-three soulmarks when he fell off the train. His mom and Becca had written gold on him nine times collectively, Steve- fourteen.
I love you
Shut up jerk
You’re taking all the stupid with you
The ones from his family were sweet, more common but no less precious than Steve’s. Bucky hadn’t heard of anyone who didn’t have the basic ‘I love you’ on them and he cherished all three of his gold variations, more so when his mother and Becca both passed away and the only one left to say it was Stevie.
The Winter Soldier had zero soulmarks. The asset didn’t need gold or red words or a person attached to them; the asset was only the asset. Targets with more words on them gave into questioning earlier if someone was hurt in front of them. Red words were often found to be more effective-- use to full advantage when applicable.
The target dressed in blue with a star on his chest had gold words visible on the outskirts of his uniform but there was only the two of them present-- unusable. He looked at the asset with pleading in his eyes but it didn’t look the same as the others (others? There… were targets before. The asset didn’t remember them but knew they existed.).
“Please don’t make me do this.”
Something that felt the way buzzing sounded wrote across the top of
the asset’s his right arm. No injuries-- usable. Report possible malfunction at mission complete. Mission… complete?
The target tried to move past him and that was it. The asset knew this, he could fight.
His right arm broke and the sensation from earlier hovered at the edge of his mind.
The ship was taking fire, altitude was being lost. The orders were to extract and wait for handlers to collect him at a safe house. He was pinned beneath a pylon and struggled to escape but it wasn’t to follow orders. Memories of gold words that were no longer on his body flashed through his mind.
target man came towards him and lifted the metal enough for him to get out. He didn’t know what would happen to him. The mission was incomplete, the target alive, and a visceral fear overtook him without knowing why. The man wanted him but he refused to go, lashing out in blind panic.
“I’m with you to the end of the line.” The buzzing sensation from before happened again, just under the previous one.
He hesitated. This- it wasn’t- why?
When he pulled the man from the water, he dropped him on the shore and made to take a step away. He stopped, thinking of his arm. This man would have answers, he knew. Await extraction had been his orders. He wasn’t taking orders anymore. He wanted answers.
Bucky had slowly come back to himself, with Steve and his friends’ help. He forgot basic knowledge sometimes-- things he’d already remembered but couldn’t always access-- but it was never a big deal, the team demonstrating that with calm explanations and endless patience. The Avengers were an odd group, but odd in a way that meant Bucky fit in perfectly. Bucky felt like he should mourn the words he’d lost, but his sister and mother felt like they were from a different life and he no longer had a right to the loving words they’d said to him. As for Steve’s… well, he was replacing them, some of them new, some the same as the old.
Natasha understood that more than anyone. Do what’s good for you, she’d said, the first person other than Steve to make their mark on him.
Bucky had, at the time, thought she’d be the only one. He hadn’t expected Tony, with walls higher than the clouds for those outside the tower but free love for everyone in. Bucky was in, he just hadn’t known it until a month into their friendship and three weeks into Bucky falling for him.
“You’re a godsend,” Tony groaned after Bucky handed him a cup of coffee, having come down to the ‘shop to check on him-- a habit by this point.
Bucky felt the now-familiar tingle of another mark etching itself on his skin. It was on his ribs instead of his arm, but he didn’t think anything of the change, giddy that Tony trusted him.
Changing for bed that night, he looked down at himself, frowning. Red? They- they were supposed to be gold. Right? That was what his others were. Steve didn’t have any red, Natasha didn’t, Clint didn’t, Bruce didn’t- it- what was wrong? Those words were Tony’s why would they be messed up?
He didn’t notice the way his breathing picked up nor the way JARVIS tried to talk to him.
Was this from his time as Hydra’s weapon? He didn’t remember everything from then and this was- he couldn’t. What if he hurt Tony? Everything around him whited out until his vision was filled with nightmares of the Winter Soldier killing Tony, Tony laid in front of him, limbs bent at unnatural angles and blood coating Bucky’s hands.
He didn’t notice Steve entering or wrapping his arms around him. All he knew when he came back to himself was that his head was throbbing, his lungs hurt, and his face was wet.
Steve was murmuring soft things to Bucky, brushing the hair from his face.
“What happened?” he croaked out.
“I was hoping you could tell me. JARVIS told me you were having a panic attack. Bad memories?” he asked, voice impossibly gentle. They’d done this before-- Bucky panicking and Steve helping him, offering an ear and his presence.
Bucky shook his head. “They’re red,” he said, tears spilling out again.
He sensed more than saw Steve’s frown. “What’s red?”
He straightened, back creaking from how long he’d been in that position. Shakily, he loosened his arms from where he’d been hugging himself. He looked at the red writing, Tony’s cramped writing distinctive and damning against his skin.
Steve’s frown deepened and for a moment Bucky thought that this was it, this was the moment where Steve realized he wasn’t salvageable, but then he opened his mouth and spoke with the most innocently confused tone Bucky’d ever heard from him. “Why’s that bad? Do you not want it to be red?”
Bucky sniffled. “Isn’t it supposed to be gold? Your’s…”
“Gold is for friends,” Steve explained. “Red is for romance.”
He blinked. Looked down at Tony’s words again. You’re a godsend. “Oh.”
Steve didn’t say anything else, maybe sensing that Bucky wasn’t ready to talk, just folded him up in another hug.
The thing was, Tony flirted with Bucky a lot.
They made a bear after you, you should check it out, he’s adorable. I may or may not have had one when I was a kid, but you have no proof Terminator so don’t even try
What would I do without you
That’s it, I’m giving up coffee and taking you up as my new addiction
Did you know they made you a teenager in the comics?
If you were a supernatural being I’d offer you my soul, my firstborn, AND my most prized possession to keep you around
There needs to be a Winter Soldier bear
Bucky flirted back, but he didn’t think about the implications of it, of the fact that he must be leaving just as many marks on Tony as Tony was on him.
It felt like they fell together. One day they were flirting, and the next they were flirting and kissing and then they were having sex and when Bucky’s shirt came off, Tony looked with wide eyes at the dozens of marks littering his torso, all of them red and written in Tony’s hand.
“Jesus christ,” he cursed, fingers coasting over the sentences reverently. “I didn’t mean to monopolize your body,” he half joked, half apologized.
Bucky fingered the edge of Tony’s shirt, tugging on it questioningly. Cheeks pinking, Tony lifted it up and over, tossing it aside as if he didn’t care. Bucky’s eyes roved over the expanse of skin, taking in all the things he’d said to Tony that all meant ‘I love you’. “I don’t mind if you don’t,” he said hoarsely.
“I can think of worse things,” Tony said, poorly feigning indifference.
Bucky grinned, a laugh escaping him. “Keep telling yourself that doll.”
I love you
Bucky Barnes had more soulmarks than he could count at any given time. He counted sixty-seven once, but then he realized there were some on his back and he gave it up as a lost cause. His body was an exhibit of all the ways to say ‘I love you’ and there was nothing he would change.