My mama thought this drawing (I don’t own it but props to the artist who does) would make a good story.
“Come on Steve, you take longer to get ready than half the girls I know!” Nat yelled down the hall from the kitchens, “What the hell is taking you so long?”
A low chuckle escaped Bucky’s lips as he heard Steve call back for her to watch her language. It reminded him of a long ago time; a time when he was the one pulling Steve’s ass out of trouble. He never imagined it would be Steve saving his life. Sighing to shake free of the memory he looked once more at the person before him. They had his eyes and his face, but the set of their jaw, the hardness in those eyes, and the expression they wore had never belonged to him. The man he remembered was carefree and always wore a cocky grin, but these days his expressions were hard and emotionless, like he was carved from stone.
With a sigh he closed his eyes and ran a hand through his hair. Not that that helped any, every time he closed his eyes he saw it, everyone he executed in the name of HYDRA, the guilty and the innocent alike. They flashed through his mind like bullets from a gun. They wouldn’t stop; he just kept seeing them over and over again, the nails of his right hand digging into his palm. It still wasn’t enough; he needed action, something else for his mind to focus on. Without opening his eyes, Bucky slammed his fist into the cool glass.
“I know,” he heard Natasha’s voice say from the door behind him. “I know how you feel,” she continued, moving into the room. Bucky tracked each step she took, not moving away from the shattered mirror.
Her footsteps ceased a step or two behind him and he turned around to snap at her to leave him alone, but she just placed a gentle hand on his shoulder before continuing. “Like they took everything from you, your life, your memories… your choice. Like noting you can do can ever wash that blood off your hands, like you will never be anything but the monster they made you…”
“If you’re about to tell me that it’s all ok because they made me do it, that it wasn’t me, you can just fucking go,” he spat at her, turning on her with blazing blue eyes. “It was still my hands that killed them, just because they made me do it doesn’t change that, I still killed them all,” he got out through gritted teeth, his hands clenching and unclenching at his sides.
“No, that doesn’t make it ok, nothing makes it ok,” she snapped back, “Even if you didn’t have a choice, it was still your eyes that watched as you pulled that trigger; you who holds all those memories, playing them back every fucking time you close your God damn eyes,” she was almost whispering at this point, as if her own past was haunting her, But she blinked it away before continuing, “I can’t promise that the nightmares will ever stop or that the guilt will ever fully subside, but I can promise that it will get better, and that the person in the mirror will start to look less like a stranger.”
Searching her eyes, he looked for the truth in her words; finding it there, hidden just below the surface. Letting out the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding he tried for a reassuring smile, but even he knew it missed the mark.
Stepping back Nat grabbed his hand, tugging him toward the bed. Something about the look in her green eyes and where she was leading him caused his mind catch up with what his eyes were seeing. She was wrapped in a deep red dress, which seemed to fit her like a glove, hugging her curves perfectly. She also had on a pair of strappy stilettos, the colour an exact match to the red of her dress; her hair was done up on the top of her head and held together with jeweled pins, and a slash of blood red outlined her enigmatic smile to finish the look. The overall effect was… provocative, to say the least. Which he imagined was the point.
At the questioning quirk of his eyebrow, she only laughed, sitting him on the edge of his bed. Spinning on her heels she disappeared, her dress swishing around her ankles, into his closet. Still having no idea what she was up to, but knowing she was up to something, Bucky leaned back on his bed. After a few moments she re-emerged holding a crisp white dress shirt and matching black trousers and jacket, one of the many things in his closet he had not yet had occasion to wear. Looking up he raised another questioning brow I her direction, an amused smile pulling at the corner of his lips.
Her own smile grew saucier, “best thing for you right now is a distraction.” She threw the cloths onto the bed beside him, “put these on. Steve and I are going on a mission and your coming with us.” Bucky was in no mood to go on a mission tonight, but before he could say anything she turned to leave the room.
“Oh and you better hurry or we will leave without you,” Nat threw over her shoulder just before the door clicked shut.
For a moment Bucky simply stared at the closed door before he heard a muffled “Tic-tock Barnes,” from down the hall. Blinking he realized he had been running the pads of his metal fingers over the material of the white shirt. Another amused smile pulled at his lips as he stood up, pulling his shirt over his head and throwing it onto the bed.
“Well you do clean up good, don’t you Barnes,” Natasha remarked, her eyes running over him from head to toe and back up again, something Bucky couldn’t name, or maybe didn’t want to, lighting in her green eyes.
“Finally, can we get going now?” Steve said, appearing in the doorway, a hint of sarcasm in his voice. Steve’s face was turned down as he did up the buttons on his own jacket, but he could see the smile pulling up the corner of his mouth. Like Bucky, he was in black pants and jacket, but his shirt was grey instead of white.
“Where are we going anyway?” he finally asked as Steve entered the kitchens, walking over to where Nat was seated, “Nat said it was a mission, but she never said where.”
“Oh, we’re just hunting down some rogue HYDRA leader, heard they were gonna to be making a move tonight,” Natasha answered nonchalantly before Steve could. “As for where… you’ll find out when we get there,” she teased before standing up and walking off toward the elevator.
Bucky could almost swear that she was putting an extra swing in her step tonight and he turned to Steve with a raised brow. But Steve only chuckled under his breath, causing Bucky to break into yet another amused grin.
“You comin’ boys?” Nat called, leaning on the elevator door to hold it open for them; making both boys fall into another fit of chuckles as they started towards the sassy red head. “Oh and just so you know, I’m driving.”
“It’s a night club,” Bucky remarked as Nat pulled her Vette up to the curb. “Why is HYDRA attacking a night club?” he wondered aloud as he stepped into the crisp night air. “Not really their style,” he finished, resting a hip on the front fender, crossing his arms over his chest.
“They’re not,” Steve answered, the corner of his mouth twitching slightly.
“We handed the mission off to Wanda and Clint,” Nat continued, her own red stained lips starting to curl upward. “It was a simple track and capture mission anyway, nothing too exciting,” she finished with a shrug.
“That still doesn’t explain this,” Bucky replied, gesturing to the empty street around them. Something didn’t feel right, like he was forgetting something; no, not quite, like he wasn’t understanding something. After everything HYDRA had done to him, taking his memories, feeling that way always made him nervous. Like he was losing pieces of himself all over again.
Something must have showed on his face because Steve started explaining again. “It was Nat’s idea,” Steve stated as he placed a reassuring hand on his Bucky’s metal shoulder. “She suggested that maybe what you needed was a distraction, something to take your mind off everything.”
For a few moments Bucky didn’t say anything, just stood there, studying the cracks in the sidewalk. All he’d wanted for the last few months, since he had been freed from HYDRA’s control, was to be the man he used to be. To no longer be hunted by the ghosts of his victims or feel this ever-present fear that it could all be taken from him as easily as a few spoken words. He needed this, he realized, even if it was only for a few hours. “Well I don’t know about you, but I could definitely use a drink,” he said, raising his eyes and pushing off the side of the car; before starting off toward the entrance of the club.
The inside of the club was not what Bucky had expected. It was less ostentatious than what the rest of the team had led him to believe. There were also a lot fewer people than he had thought there would be, for which he silently thanked all the gods for. The space was cavernous, most of the floor space taken up by an enormous dance floor; the rest covered in a scattering of small tables and a large bar that took up more than half of the nearest wall.
Weaving between tables with a litheness, born from years of training, Nat started off towards the bar, leaving the two boys staring after her. Something about the looseness of her hips and the way that dress clung to her curves made it hard for Bucky to tear his eyes away. He found himself drinking in every movement, in almost the same way he would study an opponent, committing each move to memory. Although, he knew it had nothing to do with assessing weaknesses or finding a way to defeat her, he wasn’t even sure he could given half a chance; no it was about something else entirely. Blinking away the thoughts he glanced at Steve, who shrugged before turning to follow her.
“…Shots of whisky, thanks,” He heard Nat saying as he walked up behind her. She was leaning over the surface of the bar, Bucky’s smile growing darker at the angle.
“What if I don’t want whisky?” Bucky teased, coming up beside her, leaning his elbow on the bar.
“Well then I guess that means,” Natasha replied, picking up two of the shot glasses and throwing a smoky eyed look towards him, “more for me,” she finished before throwing back both shots, one after the other.
Bucky had seen Nat flirt before; he’d even been on the receiving end of it from time to time. But something about the look in her eyes and the curve of her painted lips felt different, less practiced. Almost like she was no longer relying on her training, like she wasn’t even fully aware she was doing it.
“One of those for me?” Steve asked, reaching in front of Natasha to grab the remaining shot. But Bucky’s metal hand shot out and snatched it up before ether of them could react and tipping it to his lips. His gaze growing darker, never leaving Nat’s face.
“Another round,” He called to the barkeep, placing the empty glass upside down on the bar, eyes still not straying from Natasha’s green gaze.
“Make mine a double,” Steve called to the bartender, rolling his eyes at the two of them. “Something tells me I’m gonna need it.”
The next round of drinks came and went, then the next, and the next; and the three friends drank and laughed and talked. Nat seemed very interested in what Steve was like back in the early 1900’s, and Bucky was all too happy to tell every embarrassing story he knew; although Steve had his own stories about Bucky that he was more than egger to counter with.
“… and that’s how I saved Steve’s ass,” Bucky remarked, taking another drink, “…again,” he added with a mocking smirk in Steve’s direction.
“Whatever,” Steve answered, rolling his eyes again, taking a drink from his own glass, “I had him on the ropes.”
“Ya, sure you did, Punk,” Bucky said, his own eyes rolling skyward at the decades old argument between them.
“Well as much fun as it is to watch the two of you banter back and forth about how many times Barnes did… or didn’t save your life,” Nat added, trying not to laugh, as Steve cut her a warning look. “Are we gonna sit here? Or are we gonna dance?” she asked, raising a challenging eyebrow in Bucky’s direction.
Picking up his glass Bucky drained the last of the contents, “would you care for a dance, doll.” Standing he offered his flesh hand to her, a mocking smile on his face and an amused glint in his eye. Pretending, for a moment, that he was the man he used to be, once more. With an enigmatic smile painted over her lips she accepted the out stretched hand. Giving her hand a quick tug, Bucky pulled her to her feet and into his side; moving his arm round her hips.
Looking over to Steve, still seated on the bar stool, Bucky raised a questioning brow as if to ask whether or not he was coming with. A distant, unfocused look flashing through his blue eyes before he shook his head. “No, I don’t really dance anymore,” he explained, “not the right partner.”
Giving him a sympathetic look, knowing it was Peggy that was plaguing his mind, he and Nat weaved their way through the tangle of chairs and people. The dance floor was nearly empty at this point in the night, but Bucky grabbed her hand once more, pulling her into his arms. A proud smile broke over his lips at her surprised gasp. He didn’t recognize the song, that was playing, but that didn’t seems to matter. Nat came alive under his hands, moving against him, like a flame sparking to life. Every movement impressing itself upon his body, turning his mind to darker places.
The song ended far too quickly, and Nat was backing up a step, her breath coming slightly faster as she looked up at him through her dark lashes, a flirtatious little smile curling over her lips. The next song started and he pulled her close again, moving with her this time.
“Last call,” Bucky heard the bartender call sometime later.
“One last drink Barnes?” Nat whispered, looking up at him with another coy smile.
“I’d much prefer one last dance, but I’ll settle for a drink,” he replied, his voice coming out husky. Clearing his throat he stepped back, swooped down to pick up Nat’s shoes; which she had discarded about five or six songs back. Straitening he smiled at her, offering her his arm. With a smile she accepted, snuggling into his side as they walked back to the bar.
Steve hadn’t moved, he still sat at the bar nursing the same drink. Although at their approach he turned around, leaning an elbow on the top of the bar, no sign of the haunted look Bucky had seen earlier in his eyes.
“One last round?” he asked, pushing two glasses towards them.
Picking one up Bucky raised it, a crocked smile pulling on the corner of his mouth.
“To making peace with the past,” Steve toasted, holding his own glass toward Bucky’s.
“And when that doesn’t work,” Bucky started with a chuckle, “to friends who can make you forget about it, even if it is just for one night,” he finished, looking at both of them in turn.
“I’ll drink to that,” Nat claimed, raising her own glass.
“Me too,” Steve proclaimed, clinking his glass with theirs and throwing back the contents, slamming the empty glass on the bar seconds after Bucky did.
Thinking it strange that both him and Steve finished their drinks before her, Bucky glanced at Nat. Peering down he saw that she was seated on the bar stool beside him, her head resting on his metal shoulder. Her drink resting on the edge of the bar, her fingers still wrapped loosely around it. The corners of Bucky’s mouth twitched as he reached out with his other hand, gently lifting her chin. She looked so peaceful, her lashes fluttering lightly against her cheeks and her beautiful red lips curled into a relaxed smile.
Looking up he saw Steve placing a few hundred dollars under one of the empty glasses before standing and draping his jacket over his shoulder. At his friends questioning brow Bucky shook his head, “I’ve got her,” he whispered, gently disentangling her from his metal arm.
Gingerly he stroked the backs of his fingers across her cheek, “Nat? Nat you gotta wake up, doll,” he whispered into her ear. He felt her stir, her green eyes blinking open, looking tired and unfocused. “There you are, sleepy head,” he continued, a teasing note in his voice. The look she shot him at that promised pure bloody murder. He would have smiled, had he not known her better; luckily he did. “Alright, come on doll, I’ll carry you.” With that he grabbed her hand, pulling her onto his back. She made a small, incomprehensible noise as she snuggled into the back of his neck, her head coming to rest once more on his shoulder. Her arms snaking around his neck to hold her in place.
Looking over he saw Steve leaning against the bar, his arms crossed over his chest, an amused smile lighting over his lips. At Bucky’s own murderous glare he raised his free hand in surrender, stepping back towards the door. A soft chuckle escaped Bucky’s lips as he followed the other soldier out into the cool predawn air.
A few moments passed in silence before Bucky spoke up. “Thank you,” he murmured, peering at Steve as they walked.
A lopsided smile tugged at Steve’s mouth as he turned to look at Bucky, “we thought maybe you were in need of some good. After all the shit you’ve been through.”
“Steve!,” Bucky teased, feigning shock, “language!” he gasped before both of them burst into a wave of uncontrollable laughter. And for the first time in the months since he’d been liberated from HYDRA he didn’t feel like he was drowning on the guilt. At least for this moment the voices were quiet.