Bucky didn't love protection missions. They were either boring or unnecessarily exciting (and in those cases, usually ended up becoming those rare failed missions). They often depended less on his skills and more on whether the person he was protecting had any amount of self-preservation. And they required him to spend time with strangers who sometimes understood his forced presence in their lives to be a free ticket to become his new best friend.
Bucky didn't love protection missions.
...He hated them.
Doctor Jane Foster was a reasonable human. Except for the whole 'dating an Avenger' thing, anyway; although Bucky supposed she couldn't help who her Soulmate was. Fate aside, Doctor Foster had a healthy concern for her own safety that made the first two weeks of Bucky's job easy. She was completely content to stay in her lab, and didn't even ask to set foot outside. It was Bucky's favorite protection mission ever.
And then suddenly one day, it was, "Let's go to France" and "Europe is beautiful this time of year" and "haven't you ever wanted to visit the Louvre?" To which Bucky answered: "Let's not and say we did," "who cares," and "not really," respectively.
But Doctor Foster was determined, and Bucky got word from Steve that the French trip was a go. They'd received some kind of intel that Thor was going to be back on Earth soon, plus he was assured that Jane's assistant would meet them there, and she would make Bucky's job "ten times easier."
Though how she was supposed to do that by meeting them in a public place with tons of people and even more exits and impossible-to-cover angles, Bucky had no idea.
He went. He went, kicking and screaming (inwardly, that is), but he went. He stood at the edge of the room, watching the crowd like a hawk while Doctor Foster pondered the Mona Lisa.
Something was going to happen. He could feel it.
And then something did.
A shot rang out.
People panicked, noise and pandemonium as they climbed over each other to get out of the gallery.
And Doctor Foster went down.
"Jane! Jane !" screamed a woman that Bucky had noticed entering the gallery just seconds before. She pushed through the few people separating her from Doctor Foster, falling to her knees and pulling the astrophysicist into her arms.
To Bucky's relief, Doctor Foster opened her eyes and looked up at the woman. "I'm okay," she was saying, as Bucky shoved several patrons out of his way to get to them. "My... bodyguard..."
"Bodyguard?!" the woman repeated, taking her eyes off Doctor Foster and scanning the room until she spotted Bucky. "Him?"
"Sergeant Barnes," Doctor Foster said, reaching out to him.
"Are you hit?" he asked, going down on one knee to render aid if it was necessary.
She shook her head, and Bucky let out a sigh of relief.
"That statue wasn't so lucky, though," Doctor Foster said, indicating a shattered piece of art nearby.
"A warning shot," Bucky realized.
"Well?!" the woman demanded, glaring at him. "Are you going to just sit there, or are you going to go kill someone?"
Bucky shuddered—the Words on his shoulder tingled, and he could swear he felt where they were traced across his upper arm, even though the arm itself was long gone.
"It wasn't my idea to meet here," he told his Soulmate. "But I'll get you both to safety anyway."
His Soulmate's mouth fell open in surprise, but there was no time for a meet-cute. He chivvied them both up and out an exit that wasn't ideal, but wasn't the worst, either.
After that, it was back to a safe house—but not the one where they had been staying, just in case—to give Doctor Foster a thorough checkup and make sure she hadn't been injured. She wasn't hurt; in fact, she seemed more upset about leaving her notebook at the other safe house than she was about being shot at in broad daylight. Her assistant got her calmed down, and shortly thereafter, Doctor Foster passed out in the safe house's one bedroom.
"Big day," Bucky's Soulmate said, shutting the door to the bedroom after making sure her boss was sleeping soundly. "I'm actually not sure which was worse for her: the assassination attempt, or not being able to distract herself with science to cope."
"'—For her own safety.' She knows. It doesn't really, help, though."
Bucky leaned against the kitchen counter. "I can imagine."
She nodded, and slowly began to make her way across the room toward him.
"So," she said when she reached the coffee maker. "I'm Darcy."
"Bucky," he returned.
"Um... this may seem like a weird question, but are we, uh..."
Relief washed over her face. "Yeah."
Bucky nodded again, and silence fell between them.
"So should we, like, shake hands or kiss or something?" Darcy asked.
"I guess," Bucky replied, cracking a smile.
He held out his hand to her, and she went to him, wrapping her arms around his waist and resting her head on his chest.
"This is pretty nice," she said when Bucky put his arms around her.
"Yeah," he agreed.
"Sorry I was so mean to you earlier."
"It's okay," Bucky told her. "I think you were supposed to be."
"I just didn't want you to think I think I know better than you how to do your job," Darcy told him.
Bucky shrugged. "It was fate, though, so..."
"Oh, right," Darcy said, "but you know what I mean."
Darcy seemed pretty content to stay where she was, so Bucky held her.
"You know," he said a few minutes later. "I hate protection missions."
"Really?" Darcy looked up at him. "Is this where you tell me you don't mind them so much anymore because I'm here in your arms right now?"
"No," Bucky laughed. "I still hate them." He held her a little tighter. "But I am glad you're here."
"Is this when we kiss?" Darcy wanted to know.
Bucky answered in the affirmative.
But not with words.