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Five Times Bartons Were Assholes (and the Only Logical Solution)

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The team is coming together now in ways that Bucky hadn’t been expecting.

Steve has devised a draconian training schedule, so it’s not so much a surprise that when he flips back, boots a shocked looking lizard-thing in the face, Sam is there swooping in to drag it hissing into the sky. It’s no big thing when something comes up behind him, close enough that its breath stirs the hair at the nape of his neck, and a hollow thud and sharp cry tells him another of Barton’s arrows has found its target. It maybe took him a little longer than the others to settle into this – he’s used to working alone, he’s been trained to work alone – but it’s working and they’re working it, and Tony keeps putting the awards and press clippings and medals in Steve’s room, ‘cos he’s the only one of them too polite to throw ‘em away.

Bucky hadn’t expected the rest, though. Hasn’t quite figured out the realities of working on a team, hadn’t thought about banter on comms and uniform design and a life in which ‘team breakfast’ and ‘family meeting’ would be used without irony.

He’s cautiously decided to like it.

So he gamely follows along when the street’s empty of anything save the green ichor that’s gonna be a bitch to clean. He slings his arm around Steve’s neck and grins for the cameras, keeps his mouth closed and lets those with media training do the talking. And if he’s reassuring himself at the same time, doing a subtle headcount and checking for limping, well that’s no one’s business but his. Bruce is absent, ‘cos he and journalists don’t so much mix, and the Widow’s glaring at paramedics. And that would usually mean an injured Clint nearby, being patched up and told off and giving everyone around him that particular sheepish smile, but it’s Sam on the step cautiously stretching out his shoulder. Steve and Tony are giving wide plastic smiles and robotic soundbites, and Wanda and Vision are deep in intense conversation; Thor’s in Asgard this week, so that’s another off the list. Bucky scowls and scans the street, looking for blond hair and sticking plaster. Where the hell is Clint?

After a moment, he spots him, and automatically shoves himself away from the wall he’s leaning against, starts in his direction. It’s not often that Clint looks genuinely angry, so the scruffy guy he’s talking to has to be bad news.

The man’s the same kind of solid as Clint is, wearing a cheap suit and a truly ugly tie. He talks with his whole body, gesturing – no, signing with his hands, his movements jerky and agitated. Clint makes a dismissive movement, turning away, and the guy grabs his chin and forces him to turn back.

“Hey,” Bucky yells, “hey!” He speeds up, jogging over, and when the two men turn to look at him it gives him a start – they’ve got different features, sure, but the expressions on their faces are so goddamn similar. Whoever the guy is – whoever he is to Barton – he’s not willing to face a charging Winter Soldier, though; he turns on his heel and disappears into the alley behind him.

“Thanks,” Clint says when Bucky stops next to him, and the tone of his voice is kinda hard to read.

“Who the hell was that?” Bucky asks, and Clint just looks so goddamn tired for a second.

“No one,” he says, and rubs his eye with the hell of his hand. “Some asshole.”

*

Things become a little clearer a couple weeks later. It’s dark out and the lights in the tower make it feel safe and warm in a way nothing with this many windows should ever feel. Bruce is in the kitchen putting together something ridiculously complicated – mortar and pestle complicated, Bucky is duly impressed – and Steve’s reading something on a tablet, curled into the corner of the couch. The rest of them are around the table, cards in hand and Jokers wild. Bucky’s slouched in his chair with his feet up on the corner of Clint’s, ‘cos he knows what he likes and what he likes he ain’t hiding, even if so far it’s gone no further than the pink in Clint’s cheeks when he smiles at him that way. Natasha’s perfect posture is in the seat next to Clint’s, and she’s focused enough on her hand that she maybe hasn’t noticed the way Sam’s taken to staring. Then again, she maybe has.

Wanda and Vision are playing as a team, ‘cos he’s the only one of them fast enough to catch her cheating, and Tony’s planted next to them at the head of the table, chewing on the end of a cigar for the aesthetic and raking in the goddamn chips.

“Yeah, I’m out,” Clint says abruptly, shoving back his chair so hard it scrapes across the floor. Bucky’s caught off balance in the moment, and his knee slams into the table as he jerks to right himself.

“Fucker!”

“Can’t take losing?” Tony says, smug asshole grin framed by the smug asshole goatee.

“Tapped out,” Clint says. “Some of us are still living pay check to pay check, can’t afford the rent on the yacht.”

“I’d tell you how many things are wrong with that sentence,” Tony says, “but it’d turn into some kind of proletariat uprising.”

“Power to the people,” Steve calls from the couch, and Bruce solemnly raises a clenched fist.

“Look,” Tony’s spinning a chip across the knuckles of his hand, ‘cos he’s incapable of doing anything without turning it into a show, “if we’d played strip like I suggested –“

There’s a chorus of groans. Natasha catches Clint’s arm as he passes her.

“Everything okay?” She asks, as Sam loudly protests that no one here wants to see Tony naked, they’ve talked about this.

“Fine,” Clint says, and when her fingers tighten a little, her jaw even more stubborn, he rolls his eyes. “Barney needed a loan.” She has nothing to say to that, apparently, and lets him go; he snags some elderly pizza from the refrigerator and heads towards the elevators.

“Who’s Barney?” Bucky asks idly, low enough for only Natasha to hear. She looks at him for a second, eyes narrowed, weighing up secrets and favors and costs. When she relents, it’s with a casual toss of her head.

“Barney Barton,” she says, “Clint’s brother. He’s - ”

Bucky thinks back to solid frames and identical expressions, the half-scared stubborn automatic response to a yell. Thinks about the way Barney’d grabbed Clint’s chin and hauled his head around, and how Clint had still stepped forward a little, between Bucky and him.

“Kind of an asshole,” he finishes. “Yeah, I figured.”