Bucky is rubbing a section of cloth between their fingers.
“Nah,” they call over their shoulder. “Too scratchy.”
Natasha nods sagely and turns back to the rack of clothes in front of her, starting to thumb through some more options. She eventually pulls out a shirt with a pattern similar to the dress Bucky is wearing now and raises her eyebrows. Bucky tucks the first garment back into their rack and walks up to her, feeling at the shirt with their flesh hand.
“Better,” Bucky says thoughtfully, chewing at the inside of their cheek. “Still a little rough. Is it the right size?”
“Of course,” Natasha smiles cooly. Then, she cracks a real one and hands it to them. “Go try it on; Pepper’s still by the dressing rooms.”
Bucky shrugs, taking the coat hanger from her. “Sure.” They then make their way over to the side of the store with dressing rooms. On the way they snag yet another leather jacket, briefly getting distracted by an obnoxious Captain America t-shirt with a sequin shield. They grab that, too.
Pepper is sitting by the dressing rooms as promised, tapping away at her phone with lightning speed. She looks up and smiles as Bucky approaches.
“Find anything good?”
“Yep. Tasha wants me to try on this shirt,” they show her, “and I picked out this jacket I think might look good.” They skip the Captain America shirt, suddenly feeling embarrassed. Pepper doesn’t seem to notice, or doesn’t mind, as she claps her hands together and beams at them.
“Great! I’ll be just out here,” she goes back to tapping at her phone.
Bucky hums their acknowledgement and heads to the rooms. Only… there are two different doorways - different than the store Steve and them usually go to. One is labeled “Gents” and the other “Ma’ams.” Why they have such obnoxious names, Bucky’ll never know. They bite their lip and look down at themself. They surely look like a gent, with strong legs and a flat chest. Their outfit, though, picked out this morning while feeling particularly feminine, says ma’am. They turn back around, frowning.
Pepper seems confused as she looks back up. “Change your mind?” she asks, turning off her screen.
“No, uh…” Bucky walks up, glancing over their shoulder. “I don’t, ah, know which one to go into.”
Pepper peers behind them just as Natasha walks over.
“Oh good, you haven’t gone in yet. I found some jeans that will probably match the shirt I picked out,” Natasha says. Then, “Something wrong?”
“No, no… I just. Don’t know what room to go into,” Bucky replies sheepishly, feeling embarrassed again.
Natasha frowns and sets down the jeans next to Pepper on the bench. She walks over to the desk between the dressing rooms, heels clicking. A disinterested store clerk looks up at her.
“Can I help you?” she asks Natasha, quickly putting on a smile.
“Yes, I was wondering if you had a unisex changing room. I’m uncomfortable using your current ones.”
The girl visibly fights the urge to roll her eyes and instead smiles wider. “I’m sorry, but these are the only ones we have.”
Natasha places a hand on her hip, obviously thinking as she messes with a perfectly manicured nail. Then she turns on the spot and clicks back over to Bucky and Pepper.
“Let’s go,” she says.
Pepper pockets her phone and stands up, ready to leave.
“What about these clothes?” Bucky looks down at their armful. They kinda wanted to buy the Captain America shirt.
“Just leave them here; we can get them online. I don’t think we should give our business to a store that doesn’t have gender-neutral options,” Natasha tells them, face calm but eyes fiery.
Bucky thinks for a moment. Yeah, that sounds like it would be best. Too bad about the shirt, though. “Okay.”
“I’m heading to talk to the manager, then we can go.” Then she spins around and starts toward the front of the store, Pepper following. Bucky smiles, getting a weird feeling in their chest not unlike pride.
Bucky is just leaving their therapist’s office at the VA when Sam calls out to them.
“Barnes!” he says, jogging up. “Long time no see; how are you?”
“Good,” they reply, a little worn down from their appointment. Sam seems to notice their mood and lowers his voice.
“I was just heading across the street to grab some coffee. Y’all drink that kind of stuff, right?”
Bucky gives a tired laugh. “Super soldiers need caffeine, too.”
They head to the café, delayed for a second by the crosswalk. Sam holds the door open for them. Bucky thanks him, and stakes out a table in the back corner. It has good vantage points.
As Sam orders, Bucky sends a text to Steve, letting him know where they are. They try to seem as chipper as possible, but Steve still sends back a knowing heart emoji. They’re turning off their phone just as Sam returns. He sets an icy drink with whipped cream down in front of Bucky, then slides into the booth across from them, hands curled around a latte.
“I’m guessing you like it sweet,” Sam tells them as they take a sip. “if your tendency to eat all Steve’s sugary cereal before I can get to it is anything to go by.”
The drink is extremely sweet, and extremely good. Bucky doesn’t lift off of the straw for a while, nodding.
Sam takes a drink of his own coffee, quickly checking his phone then putting it away. “What have you been up to?”
Bucky finally pulls pack from their straw, teeth aching. “Whole lotta nothing.”
“Yeah, I feel that.” Sam sets down his drink. “Hate to say it, but I could use some aliens.”
Bucky nods wisely and lifts some whipped cream out of their drink with the straw.
Sam gets a contemplative look, and doesn’t speak for a long while. Bucky doesn’t mind. They could use the silence after talking for an hour straight. The coffee shop they’re in is playing some kind of soft jazz, and Bucky tunes their ears in to listen for a bit.
Then, Sam asks, “How’s it been being out and proud?”
Bucky thinks on it for a minute. Then, they reply, “Confusing.”
“Confusing like you’re still questioning your gender, or…?”
“Not quite,” Bucky says, stirring their drink. “Confusing like people don’t know how they feel about me.”
Sam hums, taking another sip.
“That’s unavoidable, unfortunately. As accepting as the world is now, genderfluidity still isn’t a really talked-about concept.”
Bucky purses their lips. “How long’s it gonna take?” they joke half-heartedly. “It’s been what, 75 years?”
Sam shrugs. “Dunno. About time, if you ask me.”
They sit in companionable silence some more. Bucky’s phone buzzes with a few texts from Steve, but they’re just more emojis, so they ignore them. That man loves his emojis.
“Speaking of, how’re feeling today? I know you said you prefer they and them, but I didn’t really know how to reference you earlier when talking to a colleague of mine.”
“Neither,” Bucky tells him. “Male or female, that is. So anything woulda been fine.”
“Okay. Just wanted to be sure.” He thinks some more, then asks, “You feel like that often?”
“Sorry, that was kind of personal.”
“Nah,” Bucky downs the rest of their coffee. It didn’t last very long. “Yeah, I do. A lot. Feel like neither. Whatever.”
Sam nods again. “You know that has a word, right?”
Bucky blinks, setting down the empty cup.
“Nonbinary, is what they call it. Being neither male or female.”
Hm. Nonbinary. They mouth it, and it rolls off the tongue. “Oh,” they say.
“Yep.” Sam finishes his drink, too. “How you feel about it?”
Bucky tries the word again, feeling it out. “Good. Really good, I think.”
Sam smiles, and gets up to throw away their cups. Bucky realizes while he’s gone that he’s just extended their therapy appointment fifteen minutes. The bastard. But, Bucky thinks, they forgive him. Nonbinary. They mouth it again.
Bucky is exhaling, feeling their heartbeat slow in their ears. They wait for a moment, then fire, pushing back against the recoil. They watch their bullet hit its target several feet away and lower the rifle. Clint’s cheers are muffled, but become clearer as they take off their protective ear covering.
“Way to go Barnes,” he draws out the last word, cupping his hands around his mouth. He claps a few times, then hops down from his perch atop the table. Bucky reloads as he walks up. “Good shot.”
“Thanks.” They use sign language at the same time, then flip the safety of their gun on, shouldering it.
Clint holds out his hands for the ear muffs, “Gimme.”
Bucky hands them over, then sits down at the table. They reach in their pocket for a cigarette and watch Barton ready his own gun. As they blow their first exhale out through their nose, Barton fires a few rounds into his target. Bucky’s not going to lie; Clint has pretty good aim.
By the time Clint comes back over, Bucky’s finished their Lucky Strike and is dropping it on the ground to crush it under their boot. Clint takes off the ear muffs, grinning wildly. He plops down on the bench next to Bucky and starts to put back in his hearing aid. Bucky offers him a smoke, but he turns them down.
“No offense,” he messes with his ear. “But those are girl cigs.” He pauses for a moment, then, “Wait, are you a girl today?”
Bucky laughs at that. “More masculine, actually.”
“Ah,” he says. “Still girl cigs.”
They sit quietly for a while, Bucky starting on another cigarette. The only sounds are the flicks of their lighter, and the distant sounds of other people at the shooting range. Then, Clint speaks up.
“Have I come out to you yet?” he asks.
Bucky blows a smoke ring. “What do you mean?”
“Like have I told you I’m transgender, too?”
Bucky looks at him. “You’re trans?”
“I guess I haven’t, then.” He gazes over at the targets, leaning back into the table. “But I am.”
“So you were born female?”
“No,” he says, tilting his head. “I was born male. Doctors just got it wrong.”
“Hm.” Bucky leans back too, watching a couple of birds on the ground. “I’ve never thought of it that way.”
Clint sniffs, and watches the birds, too. They peck at a discarded sandwich.
“I guess,” Bucky starts. “My doctors got it really wrong. You know… Sometimes I don’t feel like a boy or a girl.”
Clint frowns at that, turning towards them. “How is that possible?”
Bucky shrugs. “Sam says it’s called being nonbinary.”
“Hm,” Clint says now. “I didn’t know there was such a thing.”
“Me neither. Didn’t exactly see a lot of people like me back then.”
“Was it hard? Being queer in the 40’s?”
Bucky bristles at the word, then remembers people are saying that again. “Yeah, I guess. Don’t remember much.”
Clint visibly shrinks, probably feeling bad. “Sorry,” he says.
Bucky waves him off. “S’alright. I remember enough to know that it’s a helluva lot easier now. People now only stare a little when I go out dressed like a doll.”
Clint smiles at that, relaxing. Then, he perks up like he’s remembered something, and reaches for his bag set on top of the table. “Natasha said you guys went shopping, but had to leave.” He rummages around, then pulls out a bunch of fabric. “She said you might want to have this.”
He hands them a shirt with a sequin shield on it, and if Bucky’s eyes water, well, it’s because of the gunpowder in the air.
Bucky is back at the tower, sitting in Stark Jr’s lab for a routine checkup. The man mills around, muttering to himself and JARVIS about this part, or that part. Bucky waits patiently, tapping a song onto their leg. It takes them a second to place the melody in their head, then oh! It’s from the 40’s, a big band piece they and Steve used to like. Tony returns, then, having found whatever piece he was looking for.
“Arm, please,” Tony rolls up to the side of the examination table (Bucky had shut down the idea of reclining in a chair as soon as Tony had first started working on their arm) and starts fiddling with the metal contraption in his hand, distracted enough to be polite. “Gotta open up the plates real quick.”
Bucky moves their metal arm so he can access it, then Tony’s unscrewing something and mumbling to himself some more. Bucky looks around the room, always secretly impressed with the amount of technology up here.
“Any phantom pains lately? Stiffness? Unexpected lasers?” He asks the last half-joking, but Bucky files away to check for hidden compartments later on. It’s just like him to reveal he’s put some weapons in there like that.
“Nope,” Bucky says, rolling their shoulder as they get used to the pressure at their forearm. “Nothin’ unusual.”
Tony nods, leaning in close to mess with some wires. “Hey JARVIS?” He calls. Bucky tries not to jump at the sound of the AI.
“Can you ready a hologram of Furiosa’s arm?” Bucky doesn’t even attempt to decipher his reference. “I need to see the joint of the…” He then starts rattling off some science mumbo jumbo that Bucky doesn’t try to follow either. Doesn’t mean they aren’t sorta impressed, though.
“Certainly, sir,” JARVIS replies, somehow making sense of what Tony said. A blue projection pops up from the desk beside Bucky’s table and Tony reaches over with one hand to start prodding at it.
“Say Barnes,” he says, still looking at the projection, voice slightly muffled through the pen he has in his mouth. “Have you thought any more about my offer?”
Bucky rolls their eyes. This again. “I don’t want your junk surgery.”
“Aw, come on.” Tony rolls back over, setting the pen down with a clank on the table. “It’d be really good junk surgery.”
“Believe it or not, I like my junk. I don’t want your creepy surgery robots anywhere near it.”
Tony places a hand over his heart - er, reactor - and leans back, giving them a hurt look. “You wound me.”
Dr. Banner walks in at that point, thank God, and heads over to his station in the corner. “Hey guys,” he says meekly. “I mean, uh, guy.”
Bucky smiles at him in greeting. “Hi Dr. Banner.”
“I’ve told you a hundred times,” he says good-naturedly, shuffling some papers. “Call me Bruce.”
Bucky shrugs, looking down at where Tony is now using some kind of device to scan their hand.
“Anything look strange?” Dr. Ba- Bruce asks, walking over to peer at the hologram.
Tony gives him a non-committal noise, tapping away at the device.
“Good, good… How are you feeling, Bucky?” Bruce turns to them. “Need to take a break?”
Bucky shakes their head. “I’m fine, thank you.” He’s always been considerate like that, where as Tony could just poke around in their shoulder for hours and not realize he even has company attached - not like Bucky’s unaccustomed to sitting still for that long - but they still appreciate it.
Bruce nods, giving a somewhat tired smile. He then heads to his desk to work, making a pit-stop at the huge coffee maker Tony keeps up here. Bucky goes back to watching Tony work. It’s fascinating, in a weird way, to watch him poke around down there.
After a few more minutes of examination, Tony sits back and turns off the projection. “All looks good to me. Wanna come back in like three months?” he asks them.
Bucky doesn’t particularly want to, but nods anyway, making a mental note.
Tony takes off his goggles, wiping at his face with a filthy towel. Then he closes Bucky’s arm back up, and shoos them off of his table.
Bucky hops down, waiting for their feet to regain feeling.
Tony gives them the usual spiel about maintenance, instructing them on what not to do, et cetera, et cetera, then he’s off, talking to JARVIS about a meeting. Bucky takes it upon themself to wander around.
They’re admiring some kind of machine - printer? Coffee maker prototype? - when Bruce walks up and quietly coughs, getting their attention.
“I was just wondering,” Bruce says, a little shy, “If you’d like to talk more about possible treatment.”
“Sure,” Bucky says, setting down a gear they probably shouldn’t be touching.
Bruce leads them over to the lab’s small sitting area, stopping by his desk to grab a few folders. Then, the two sit and start to look through some pamphlets.
“I looked at your charts and you should be okay to start taking Estrogen. Is that something you want?”
Bucky flips over the brochure in their hands, eyeing the long list of effects. Softer skin would be nice, and so would some actual hips, but other things like breasts and decreased libido don’t look as appealing. “Are there other options?”
“Yes, you could start taking Anti-androgens. I have a… Here it is.” Bruce hands them another booklet. Bucky opens it, scanning the pages.
Okay… Okay. This one seems better. “What’s, uh… Spiro... “
“Spironolactone. Most commonly used anti-androgen. You can keep that, if you want.”
Bucky nods, pocketing it.
“You don’t have to make a decision now,” Bruce tells them. “But if you have any questions in the meantime, I’m only a call away.”
Bucky gets that weird proud feeling in their chest again and smiles, nodding.
Bucky is curled up on the couch, nearly on top of Steve as they flip through TV channels before bed. They land on some kind of documentary and leave it, setting down the remote and snuggling back into Steve.
Steve strokes at their hair and starts to braid it, sighing contentedly. “How was your day, Buck?” he asks.
“Good. Busy,” Bucky replies, closing their eyes.
They listen for a second to Steve’s chest. That’s something they’ll never quite get used to, his new heartbeat. It used to be more of a freeform beat, but now it’s steady, like a waltz.
“Me too,” Steve tells them, voice rumbling in Bucky’s ear. “So many meetings.”
Bucky hums their acknowledgement, already starting to drift off.
“Natasha said you guys went shopping? How was that?”
Bucky sits up, suddenly full of energy. “Wait here,” they roll off of him.
Steve looks like the embodiment of a question mark but doesn’t say anything, turning towards the TV.
Bucky jogs to their bedroom where they stashed Clint’s shirt and pulls it on. It’s a little short, but Bucky kinda likes how their stomach peeks out. They comb out their hair with their fingers, stop when they realize they’re primping for a silly reveal, then walk back into the living room.
Steve turns to look at them when they enter the room, and immediately starts laughing.
“What!” he manages, gripping at his own shirt, “Is that!”
Bucky grins and does a spin. “Like it? Look, look,” they place a knee up on the couch, running a hand down the front of their body. The sequins all flip, changing from red, white, and blue to pink, purple, and neon green. Steve laughs harder, falling back against the cushion and squeezing his eyes shut in a really cute way. Bucky starts to chuckle, too, watching him with heart-eyes.
When Steve can breathe again, he reaches out and flips the sequins a few times. “Wow,” he giggles. “That’s somethin’ else.”
Bucky flops back down onto the couch and nuzzles up to his neck. “Knew you would like it.”
Steve calms down eventually, letting out little hiccups of laughter every now and then. He rubs a hand up and down Bucky’s back, still smiling.
“Anything else happen?” he asks, changing the channel when their documentary ends.
Bucky thinks back. “Yeah,” they say. “Went to therapy, and went shooting with Clint. And I had that check-up with Tony.”
“Oh? Everything look good?”
“Uh-huh. Goin’ back in three months. Also, I talked to Bruce.”
“He told me about this stuff called Spironolactone.”
Steve makes a confused sound.
“It’s an anti-androgen.” Bucky hands him the booklet still tucked in their pocket. “Seemed kinda cool.”
Steve flips through it for a moment, the only sounds in the room the person cooking on TV and the rustle of paper. “Huh,” Steve finally says. “Looks interesting. You wanna use this?”
“Don’t know. Still need to think about it.”
Steve sets down the paper and kisses the top of their head. “Okay.”
They relax for a while, Bucky starting to get sleepy again as they watch the on-screen cooking. Then, they remember:
“Ever heard of bein’ nonbinary?”
“Hm?” Steve hums, obviously having been woken up.
“Oh, sorry. You can go back to sleep.”
“No, s’fine. Nonbinary, you said?”
“I think I saw it online at some point. Why?”
Bucky makes an I-don’t-know sound. “Sam was tellin’ me about it. Seems a lot like how I feel most the time.”
“Yeah,” Bucky says, thinking back to their day some more. They think about that weird feeling of pride. “I really like your friends,” they add quietly.
Bucky lifts their head, resting their chin on his chest. They lean up to kiss his cheek, then lie back down, settling in. They can tell him in the morning. They close their eyes, and fall asleep smiling.