“Hey there, darlin’,” Bucky murmured against Tony’s temple as he wrapped his arms around the man and settled onto the bed. Tony tried to turn around so they could face each other, but Bucky just tightened his grip on that slim waist. Tony huffed a laugh, but stopped and relaxed against him.
“Finally decided to join me, huh? You were taking forever in that shower, thought I’d have to fall asleep all by myself over here. Either that, or stage a rescue,” Tony teased, to which Bucky responded with an affronted scoff.
“I’d never let ya go to sleep on your own, doll. You know I love it when you’re all tired and groggy and sleep-warm.” He pressed a kiss to the man’s exposed shoulder. “Love holding you when you’re relaxed like that.”
“Mm-hmm, sure,” Tony hummed, “you mean you like it when I’m all relaxed and blissed out after all the other fun things that we get to do in this bed.” To prove his point, Tony deliberately wiggled back against Bucky, his ass pressed so perfectly against Bucky’s groin that he had to muffle a groan against Tony’s back.
“Stop that, sugar,” he reprimanded, “you know we both have to be up early tomorrow. I’ve got, ah—” Bucky’s breath caught as Tony moved again, “I’ve got the newbies to train and you have to present that speech in front of the UN. And you know we won’t get any sleep if you keep this up.”
The wiggling stopped and while Bucky couldn’t see it, he would bet money that Tony was pouting. To distract the man and simply because he wanted to, Bucky sneaked his flesh hand just underneath Tony’s tank top so it could rest over the softer belly. Tony squirmed again, just a touch ticklish, but his mirth settled into a happy sigh and Tony’s hand found its own way to rest over Bucky’s.
“You always gotta have your hands on me, don’t you?” Tony murmured and already his voice was laced with the first hints of sleepiness and a relaxed sort of contentment, the same sentiment that filled Bucky the brim in that moment.
Even the Soldier was at peace in the back of his mind, but Bucky was hardly surprised. While the Soldier may have been a manifestation of Bucky’s anger and need for vengeance, there was no room for any of that here, not when they were about to fall asleep in the bed they shared with the man they loved more than anything in the world, their clever Tony Stark, their solnishko.
The Soldier nearly purred his happiness at the thought and Bucky couldn’t disagree. They were exactly where they belonged.
They were home.
Tony tried to move out of his embrace again and this time Bucky let him go, but only because he knew what would follow. His boyfriend flipped over so he could face Bucky and then those sure hands buried themselves in Bucky’s hair and guided him close.
Tony’s mouth on his, tasting of mint, with the scratch of that stubble a perfect contrast to those soft lips. Tony’s hand, skirting down to rest against Bucky’s jaw, to keep him exactly where Tony wanted him as the man kissed him, thoroughly and deeply. Tony’s body, pressed against him, warm and solid, a thigh wedged between his own, the uneven rise and fall of his chest as they both became breathless. Tony himself, pulling away just so he could smile that sly little smile and tease Bucky about the quiet, needy moan he may have let out when their lips parted.
Bucky didn’t mind. Kissing Tony, touching him, being with him… It was the most familiar thing and yet, every time, it felt a little like the first time.
And when Tony smiled again, this time with genuine, open affection, when he looked at Bucky with love in his eyes, Bucky’s chest ached and the warmth inside it expanded to take his breath away.
Another kiss, just a gentle press of Tony’s lips, and then the man was settling back and pulling at one of the blankets until it had covered them both.
With them pressed together like this, comfortable and warm, it didn’t take more than a few minutes for Tony to fall asleep. Bucky closed his eyes too, allowing himself to fall into restful sleep as well.
After all, he was right where he was meant to be.
The fact that his eyelids were as heavy as lead was the first thing Bucky noticed when consciousness began to filter back, slow as molasses. His eyes wouldn’t open and the darkness surrounding him clung to him, pressed down on him until it was inside him and he couldn’t pull in a breath.
The second realization was the fact that there was no warm, smaller body pressed against him, no steady hand settled against his hip, no steady rhythm of breath that woke him each morning.
Bucky was alone and it was so damn cold.
He wanted to say something, call out for Tony or ask Friday to adjust the temperature, but just like his eyelids, his lips wouldn’t— couldn’t— move. Everything was stained with the darkness pressing against him.
His third moment of consciousness was punctuated by a jolt of fear— panic— as tension ran throughout his entire body.
He just needed to open his eyes—
There were distant murmurs, voices he couldn’t recognize. Shuffling of shoes against the floor, mechanical beeping—
No, no, no, it couldn’t be.
Bucky just needed to wake up, it was all just a nightmare. All he needed to do was open his eyes.
A nightmare, just a nightmare.
Panic clawed at his insides, even as the darkness finally began to recede, taking the bone-chilling cold along with it.
Warm air washed over his exposed skin, heat flooding back into his body, but something— everything— was so very wrong. Someone else called out his name now— no, not just someone, he knew that voice, but it couldn’t be him, why would it be—
Bucky opened his eyes and that panic turned into terror.
Above him, a sterile, white ceiling intercepted by the worried, but smiling face of his once best friend.
“Hey, Bucky,” Steve said, but then that smile pulled down in a frown, “hey, hey it’s alright. You’re okay. I know it’s a little disorienting, but I’m right here.”
He must’ve see the fear in Bucky’s eyes, but all of those reassurances barely registered over the roar in Bucky’s ears as his brain tried to process the scene around him. His breath picked up, short bursts as he tried to pull in air. Adrenaline flooded his system the next second and he was scrambling up so he could get off the bed—
Pain flared in his right arm— why were there tubes connected to him?— but neither the pain nor the blood stopped him from ripping out the IVs—
“Mr. Barnes, stop this! You are hurting yourself!”
T’Challa, his brain registered, but this was wrong, everything was so fucking wrong—
He scrambled off the bed, pushing away at Steve, but then Bucky lost his balance, tripping and failing to catch himself, dizzy from the blood pounding in his head and disoriented from the dozens of pounds missing from his left side.
What the hell was happening?
“Bucky! Bucky, stop this, it’s okay!”
There were hands on him and on sheer instinct, Bucky scrambled back, each move still uncoordinated and barely under his control. His eyes darted wildly between Steve and T’Challa who stood further away with several other men and women in white coats. Steve had his hands outstretched as if trying to reach out.
“What the hell—” was all Bucky could manage before he was overcome by a painful coughing fit. God, those three words felt like goddamn knives against his throat, but he tried to ignore the pain. “What the hell is going on?”
Bucky finally found the courage to look down to confirm what he already knew. “What happened to my arm? Where’s—” This time it was sheer panic choking the words back. “Where’s Tony?”
Steve’s face contorted into a grimace.
“Tony’s not here, I promise. You’re safe, Bucky, he can’t hurt you anymore. You lost your arm in the fight when Tony blasted it off. That was over a year and a half ago. You’re safe,” he repeated, but all the words did was dial the panic up a notch.
“What happened to me?” Bucky demanded again, giving the small white room around him another wild glance. “Why the hell am I here?” He kept backing away because Steve kept trying to approach him, but now his back hit a wall and he pressed against it, feeling like a caged animal. “This wasn’t— I fell asleep—”
I fell asleep next Tony, at home, in our bed.
The words got lost in his throat as pain, wretched pain, shot up his spine and he curled in on himself. He cried out and stars danced before his closed eyelids. For a moment, it felt like every damn atom of his body was on fire and out of place, as if someone shoved every broken bit of him into wrong places.
“He’s in pain, why is he in pain like this?” Steve’s worried voice barely filtered through over the blood pounding in Bucky’s ears.
“The awakening after cryostasis is a delicate period, he should not have gotten up so quickly. Mr. Barnes,” T’Challa was addressing him now, “you must calm down. Your body needs time to adjust. You are safe, you are in Wakanda—”
“No, no, no,” Bucky shook his head desperately, “how can I be in Wakanda? I fell asleep— I was with—” Another wave of pain and then he was throwing up, but there was nothing in his stomach, so it was only acid that burned his throat as his body expelled it. He choked on the acrid taste, but his body continued to dry heave.
A solid, warm hand on his shoulder, but it might as well have been a red hot iron and Bucky swung his arm out on instinct, trying to fight off that weight. He didn’t want to be touched, he just wanted—
“Where’s Tony? I need— Please, I need to—”
I need to speak to him, he’s looking for me, I need to find him.
Why couldn’t he get the words out? Why did it feel like every movement, every word, every breath was wrong and out of place? Every damn part of him, out of alignment.
Steve was way too close when Bucky managed to open his eyes again— eyelids so heavy that even that one simple act was a struggle— but Bucky couldn’t get away. There was nowhere left for him to go, crowded as he was on the floor against the damn wall.
He heard a keening, desperate noise and his sluggish brain took far too long to realize that he was the one who made it
Pity. There was pity in Steve’s eyes as the man lowered himself onto his knees in front of Bucky. Not a scratch on him— must’ve dodged Bucky’s poor attempt at a swing— with his hands outstretched again, still treating Bucky like a spooked animal.
Bucky’s barely focused gaze darted back to T’Challa. The doctors from before were gone, replaced by several of the Dora Milaje, who now flanked their King on each side. One of the women was holding a syringe.
“We need to sedate you, Mr. Barnes,” T’Challa said, likely in response to Bucky’s expression contorting with fear. “Your panic is causing too much stress on your body. We have no intention of hurting you. We are only trying to stop you from hurting yourself further.”
Bucky kept shaking his head. “I need to get back home, I need to find Tony,” he mumbled, but the words came out as slurred nonsense. Even his damn tongue refused to cooperate, but miraculously, he finally found the strength to get back up on his feet (his legs barely held him up).
“Please, I don’t need—” God, why were his legs shaking as if he hadn’t used them in months? “I don’t need drugs, drugs don’t work—”
Tony smiled and shook his head. “Your resistance to drugs is ridiculous. We could pump you full of horse tranqs and all it would do is make you groggy. Good thing we have Strange to give us a little magical assistance with your arm surgery.” The smile widened as Tony’s eyes sparkled with excitement. “Can’t wait to see you put that bad boy into action.”
“Buck, it’s okay, we just want to help you calm down, you’re hurting yourself—”
“Who brought me here?” Bucky demanded, forcing some semblance of coherence into his words. “Was— was there a fight? My arm— and Tony—”
Steve shook his head and there was that pity again. “Honey, you’re just confused, that fight was over a year ago—”
“Did you miss me, honey?” A soft press of lips and wandering hands finding their way to Bucky’s waist. “Sorry I had to spend the night down at the lab, but Pepper has herself a brand new product line and you… well, you have me all to yourself now.”
“—Tony’s clear across the world, he can’t hurt you anymore, he’s not here—”
“Stop saying that,” Bucky managed through gritted teeth, nearly choking on the lump in his throat. Everything was so damn wrong and he didn’t understand why— “Why do you keep saying that? I was— I was in New York, I had my damn arm, I was with—”
“He’s obviously remembering things out of order,” Steve ignored him to turn to T’Challa, “he’s remembering things before the war.”
T’Challa sighed, but nodded his agreement and motioned for his guards, who moved as one as they approached Bucky. Steve moved as well, albeit trying to look less threatening.
Five against one were the kind of odds Bucky beat all the time, but here and now—
The Soldier was a muted shadow of anguish and confusion at the back of his mind, his body refused to cooperate, his arm was gone—
Steve and one of the women pushed him back against the wall and Bucky didn’t bother fighting them. There was no point, not when he could barely think.
The sharp pin prick of the needle in his neck barely registered and whatever drug they used on him, it spread quickly because it only took seconds for Bucky to feel his body give up entirely, filling with lead as the drug coursed through his veins. His legs collapsed under him, but two strong arms around his shoulders caught him and lowered him gently onto his knees.
“It’s okay, I got you, Bucky, I got you,” Steve kept repeating, brushing a hand over Bucky’s hair. Words of comfort, but they didn’t help and Bucky tried to shake his head. Small, weak movements was all he could manage.
“Help me, please…”
The words slurred yet again as a haze descended over his already fragmented mind. He closed his eyes and the rest of the tension drained out of him, the entirety of his weight now held up by Steve.
“Tony…” he tried to say, but his lips wouldn’t move.