Steve winced as he sat up. He heard crunching moving away. Bucky!
“Wait.” His voice was weak, thready, but he had to reach for the man he loved more than anything. “Bucky…Please!” The crunching stopped.
“I don’t know Bucky.”
Steve felt the wet air scrape against his throat when he woke the next time. His ribs felt better, at least he wasn’t in danger of puncturing a lung anymore. His leg felt closer to normal also.
He huffed and pulled himself upright. Or at least, upright enough to look down the beach to see he was alone and hidden. At least Bucky had done that.
Glancing at his watch, he saw that it was still intact. Grimacing, he pulled his hand to it and pressed the hidden button on the crystal rapidly three times. He felt the button under the clock face pop up against his wrist. Closing his eyes to prepare himself for Tony’s ranting, he hit the watch face, pushing the button against his wrist and sending the signal.
When the green light blinked three times behind the clock face he smiled and lay back against the rocks again.
He floated in and out at that point. He knew Tony would be here soon. He used the time to recall what he needed.
When Nick had appeared in his apartment and indicated that he was under surveillance and in danger, Steve had been coming to terms with how much he trusted the Avengers. His new team, replacing the Howlies, had thrown him. Talking to Sam helped. He’d made the decision that he’d rather work with the Avengers than with SHIELD and whatever assignment they gave him. Working with SHIELD would have been easier. Just like with Col. Phillips, he went where he was needed with who was needed. But the Avengers were more like friends, family. Steve felt he needed that more than he needed help figuring out which way to aim his shield next.
So when Fury handed off the drive, and he had chased the assassin, he made the decision and hit the warning/recording signal Tony had set up for all of them.
Once that had happened, his watch began recording most of what he saw and heard. His interrogation, and subsequent chase until they ended up at Sam’s place. At that point he sent the information in a single burst to Tony.
That was all he could do while he tried to hold Natasha together. He was glad he’d already decided to not count on SHIELD to direct him. But Natasha’s mental crash was a lot sharper. Steve did what he could to step forward, be a rock for her when Clint and Phil were absent.
With his team in a different city, Steve reached out to the only other person that gave him the same feeling of belonging. Plus, he actually knew where Sam lived and SHIELD mostly didn’t. The fact that Sam could actually be a part of the crazy family the Avengers were building was icing on the cake.
Steve had been fine with helping Natasha chose a target. It helped Natasha, to have something to do. Her trust felt so violated by this betrayal.
Now, they had to trust Tony, after being betrayed by the very organization he had put all his trust in when he woke up in this new world. Steve felt the wind move as something landed near him. He was going to trust Tony with Bucky.
Who the hell is Bucky?
They couldn’t have hurt him worse if they’d tried. Steve’s mental flailing was the grey eyes that looked through him. When Bucky raised his gun, Steve was ready to let him shoot.
He’d always let Bucky do whatever he wanted. If Bucky wanted to end a fight for him, then that was what happened. If Bucky wanted to be their sniper, that’s what he did. If Bucky wanted to shoot him, then…
Sam and Hill forced him to survive when he could barely respond. He hadn’t even heard Rumlow growl at him. Natasha’s injury and Fury’s survival woke him up enough.
Steve could remember the fury that flooded his veins. Especially when Fury tried to save SHIELD. He could see the betrayal in Natasha, in himself. SHIELD didn’t deserve survival.
But some of the agents did. Steve hadn’t stopped to question what Tony thought of their plan once he had sent that to him. He hoped the genius would hack in and give them some computer aid. He might have, but Steve hadn’t noticed. That didn’t mean much though.
The fact that Tony hadn’t shown meant more to him than anything. It meant Tony trusted him. The trust had been hard to earn, but worth every bit. The trust he had misplaced with SHIELD, he would set to rest in Tony’s clever hands, sure in the knowledge that they belonged to family.
He knew the information recorded on his watch and Tony would download it once he got the chance. He’d take care of them. He’d look for Bucky.
Steve felt rough hands on his shoulders and blurbing that was probably talking. He blinked a moment, seeing Iron Man and Bruce picking him up. He saw Clint in the pilots seat and smiled.
“Can you lock down on that version of-“
“Got it already. Any more Jericho?”
“Nope. J redo your search for Stark Tech Logo.”
“Yes Sir. The search will take approximately 38 hours.”
“Good. Shall we check on our patient, Dr?”
Steve let out a groan when he heard them walking closer. “Hey Steve, waking up?”
“I could play the national Anthem if it would help.”
Steve smiled at the familiar bickering. “I’m good.” He saw them both come into his field of vision. Bruce was looking concerned and seemed to be evaluating him, while Tony simply looked amused by something.
Bruce frowned, but Tony answered. “SHIELD collapsed 4 days ago. DC’s almost back to normal, which could be considered a negative. Widow’s upstairs with Clint for the moment. Apparently OneEye is in Europe and left her with us for spider-sitting. She’s been grumpy ever since she had to talk to the scary politicians on live TV.”
Steve sat up, alarmed. “Is she okay?” Her past was not something she wanted to share much. Tony shrugged.
“Clint is teasing her into some sparing. I’d call that suicidal. For Clint, not Tasha. I caught most of SHIELD’s personal info on her before you guys opened the faucet. Thanks for the heads up by the way. Bruce and I were able to pull most of the Stark Tech schematics off the server as well as some of Clint’s and Tasha’s personal history and all witness protection type files. Your history is of course freely available at the museum, but we were able to grab Howard's notes on Erskine so don’t worry about anyone studying the serum too much. We also pulled all the undercover identities. Those, we were able to route to government agencies depending on the country. It won’t save everybody, but it gives people a chance.”
Steve sighed and lay back, giving in to the screaming pain lancing up and down his ribcage. “Thanks Tony.” The billionaire was actually silent for a moment.
“I honestly wondered if you’d sent it on accident at first.” Steve glanced at Tony to see his petting one of his robots, DUM-E he thought. Bruce was looking at his lab partner with a frown.
“Did you get enough?”
Tony nodded. “Yeah. We hacked in and started to delete the stuff that the public shouldn’t get from Stark Industries and we protected Clint and Tasha and as many undercover or relocated people as we could get to.”
“What about the last bit?” Steve nodded. Tony looked at him in question. “The recording of the fight between me and Bucky?”
“You mean when you realized the Winter Soldier was Sergeant Barnes?” Both scientists blinked at him in confusion. Steve frowned at Bruce.
“No, on the helicarrier, after they were taken out.”
Tony glanced at Bruce before shaking his head.
“I think we all need food, I’m ordering Pizza!” Bruce watched him go, amused.
Steve glanced at him, recognizing the hurt and embarrassed Tony act. “What-?”
“We didn’t download the rest of it from your watch.” Bruce’s gaze was steady as Steve blinked at him in confusion. “Steve, Tony gave those watches to each of us for our use, not his. He won’t take the information unless you want to give it to him. We thought you understood that. Tony was thrilled that you trusted him enough to send what you did, not that he'd say that.”
“I don’t understand,” Steve groaned as he sat up, thinking hard. “He hacked into SHIELD all the time. I doubt Fury liked that.”
“He liked Fury as far as that goes, but really, Tony also hates him a bit.” Bruce shook his head. Steve only had a moment to digest that before Bruce started talking again. “For Tony, privacy is one of the most important pieces of trust he can give someone. It means you are truly trusted. To my knowledge before the Avengers only 3 people had that: Pepper, Colonel Rhodes and Happy.”
“Steve, Tony trusts you to lead the group, to lead him. We were able to hack the list of targets from the helicarrier. Tony, Pepper and I were on the list. He trusted you to save our lives.”
Steve tried breathing through his emotions. “Thanks, Bruce.” He shifted, wincing. “What’s my status?” Bruce looked at the chart, not thrown at all with the change of topic. Then again he worked with Tony, the King of ADD.
“You’re healing about as expected, x-rays show the bones knitting on schedule. Lay off another day and watch yourself another 3 days. Leg should support your weight, just no sprinting on it.” Steve nodded, letting himself stand as Bruce set the clipboard down and grumbled.
“I can’t believe I let Tony talk me into completing a biomedical degree. He knows a doctor!” Steve grinned at that. Tony could talk almost anyone into almost anything if he put his mind to it.
“Where would our resident engineer be right now?”
Bruce waved at the elevator. “Try the landing strip.”
Tony was, in fact, at the landing strip, staring over the city. Steve slowly sat himself on the chair nearby, mindful of Bruce’s orders. “How’s Pepper?”
He shrugged. “Healing. The extremis will never be completely from her body, but its been reduced to its most basic form. She’ll be fine.”
Steve sighed. “I heard about the break up.” He glanced at Tony, “Sorry about that.”
“I hope she doesn’t get any flack for that." Tony grimaced. "We thought it would be the best time to announce it.”
“Announce?” Steve blinked in confusion. “You sound like you received an award.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Tony, I trusted you with that information and I trust you with the information currently on my watch. I just didn’t have the energy to send it after the fight.” Tony seemed intent on looking everywhere except at Steve as he refused to respond. Typical emotional conversation strategy. If I don’t acknowledge it, it can’t see me. He rolled his eyes in amusement. “Aaaaanyway, how’s the info hunt coming? I heard a bit when I was waking up. Have I really been asleep for 3 days?”
Tony glanced at him now, safely in the normal conversation roll.
“We got the spec I knew SHIELD had. We are currently working on other specs they stole without permission. We’ve extracted a number of loyal SHIELD operatives, Clint being the first. What he was doing in a small town in Ohio, I do not want to know. Phil said he was safe where he was, so I let him be. Some of the weapons research, we outright tagged and corrupted. Some of the file properties are recoverable, but they wouldn’t be able to reconstruct the whole file.” Then Tony grinned.
“And, no, Sleeping Beauty. You woke up 26 times in the last 3 days, always just long enough to tell us that Bucky needs help and that you have a metal arm in your mind.” He grinned at Steve as Steve blinked at him in amused interest. “The first I get, but dunno what I can do about right now. The second, you better translate.”
Steve shrugged. “I don’t even remember waking up. Bucky has a metal arm and he can remember very little. But I-“
“That’s it!” Tony jumped up and raced for the elevator. “Bruce, I got it!” Steve blinked in surprise and then let himself relax in content amusement. That had been a frequent activity for Tony back when the team lived here. They got used to some little conversation thing sparking an idea and the 2 sci-bros, as Clint named them no doubt in revenge for the "assassitwins" thing, would disappear into the lab for hours.
“Did he actually get around to ordering pizzas?”
“I shall order the usual amount for the group.”
Steve grimaced as he made his way to the main room. His joints felt more stiff than when he had woken up. He let out a small groan.
“Serves you right for falling out of a helicarrier.” He spun at the cheerful reprimand, gasping as his leg and rib protested. Several hands grabbed him as he started to collapse.
“Easy, Cap. Bruce said you’d be on pins and needles for a few days. That twisting won’t do your ribs any good.” He grunted at Clint as they helped him to the loveseat.
“Sorry, Steve. I didn’t mean to startle you that much.”
“No worries, this is nothing.” Steve grinned painfully at Sam. He felt a chuckle bubble up in his throat and groaned as it aggravated his tender ribs. He heard Sam snort next to him.
“Yeah, Nothing. Remind me of that next time I break four ribs.”
“Don’t forget the leg.”
“No worries there Barton.”
“Will you two give it a rest!” Steve glanced up to see Pepper standing with Hill. Clint smirked as Sam grinned. “How are you actually feeling, Steve?”
Steve looked at Sam standing next to Clint smiling. Behind him, Steve saw Natasha hiding a grin behind a cup of tea. He knew two of the most brilliant scientific minds were downstairs working on ways to help people. He wasn’t sure where Thor was, but he knew he’d pop in sooner or later.
“I feel pretty damn good.”