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The Switch

Chapter Text

It was just another day at the office when it happened… Well, when I say “office” I really mean “cell”... Okay, okay, it wasn't really a cell, more like a hospital room…

Let me start over.

I'm a mental patient. Or I was anyway, before it happened. I'd lived in Arabelle Asylum since I was 17 years old, so a little over ten years. I don't remember the specific reason that I was admitted, everything from that time is really blurry, but my parents had washed their hands of me long ago, so I guess it was home.

Luckily, the nurses took a liking to me early (apparently I'm “amusing”). So I usually filled my days helping them with the other patients. They taught me first aid, how to draw blood and sew stitches. It kept me busy, but it certainly didn't help with the nightmares.

They weren't really nightmares exactly, because they happened at any time of day. They were more like hallucinations, but they could get violent. When I had an episode, I tended to scare the other patients. I was asked to stay in my room to “relax” for a few days before I rejoined gen pop.

This was one of those occasions. I was sitting on my bed, twiddling my thumbs, trying to decide whether to read a book or masturbate, when at that moment, I felt my stomach lurch.

I was gripped by dizziness and I idly wondered if I forgot to take my medication, while trying not to throw up. I tried to get up, but I couldn't. Then suddenly, the bottom dropped out from under me and I disappeared.

***
Do you know what it's like to be sucked through an interdimensional portal? It's not fun. It feels like someone is trying to pull your brain out your butthole. It feels like every cell in your body is being ripped apart and then put back together. (I'll find out later that that is, actually - exactly what happens.) Basically it's like a rollercoaster from hell.

With a distinct pop in my ears, I was on solid ground. Well, kinda solid. The ground under me was shaking, and it was loud. And dark. I soon realized it was dark because I had my eyes squeezed tightly shut. My eyes flew open and it took me a second to understand what I was looking at.

I was in some sort of pit, surrounded by rubble. I appeared to be inside what used to be an office building. Bricks tumbled from the masonry, papers and garbage began to catch fire, and I was sitting in the middle of it. Through the sound of breaking glass and collapsing walls, I heard someone shout: “Are you okay???” I looked for the voice.

“Huh?” I said.

Two huge dudes were running towards me. One was fair, the other dark, both gorgeous. The blonde one was addressing me.

“Can you move??”

“Wha?”

The dark haired one rolled his eyes and reached down to grab me off the ground.

“Hey!” I shouted, but then realized I was dirty, bloody and covered in bruises.

The three of us climbed up a flight of crumbling stairs, navigating through the dust and fire to the relatively fresh air outside.

The guy who was carrying me put me down as I tried to contain my coughing, and regain my bearings through watery eyes.

We were somewhere in midtown, but it was a total shit show. People were running, screaming to get away from...something.

There was an unidentifiable flying object, hovering about 100 feet above the ground. It was about the size of a Dodge Caravan, but with a hell of a lot more flashing lights. It was also shooting beams of light out of the front end, each one creating an explosion of light and destruction wherever they hit. The building we were in, once a three story office building, had half collapsed and looked like the rest would come down any minute.

If that wasn't weird enough, standing on a pile of rubble, facing the ship head-on, was a man with a cape and very questionable facial hair. He was deflecting blows with sparkly rings of light, twirling around his head and body; it was almost blinding to look at.

“What the fuckity shit?” I said.

My brain was trying to reset itself after being bombarded with all of this perplexing information, so all I could do was gape.

“Run!” The blonde dude called to me, as a rock exploded close to me, but I was too stunned to move.

“I'm going to see if anyone else is trapped before it's too late!” The dark haired man shouted, and started to sprint towards the remains of the office building.

I screamed out, hardly recognizing my own voice. “James! STOP!!”

He spun around at the sound of his name and not a moment later, a huge beam of light collided with the foundation of the building, causing it to finally completely collapse in a dramatic mess of dust and fire. If he had walked one step further, the dark haired man would have surely been crushed.

I let out the breath I didn't know I was holding, and the last thing I saw before I lost consciousness was the dark haired man running towards me.

***
I recognized the smell. Disinfectant, bleach, sickness. I was in the hospital again. I opened my eyes and my head roarded with pain. The room was unfamiliar. There was a gizmo next to my bed quietly beeping. Also next to my bed, there was a man in a chair, hunched over, apparently snoozing. It was the same man as before, the one with the messy brown hair.

I reached out of my bed to smack him awake, but when my hand collided with his arm it was met with painful resistance.

“Ow!” I whined. That woke him up.

“You’re awake,” he mumbled.

“What the hell man, do you have a metal arm or something?” I waved my hand in pain dramatically.

“Yeah,” he said seriously, frowning, before ducking into the hall and calling to someone.

“Yeah, very funny, weirdo.” This guy was rude. Insanely hot, but rude.

“Oh good, you’re awake,” blondie walked into the room.

“That’s what they tell me,” I said.

Despite the violent building collapse that we had all almost been trapped in, both of the men looked completely unscathed. I looked down at my bruised arms and legs and frowned.

“My name is Steve,” he said, taking a seat, “and this is Bucky.”

“Really?” I said. Bucky just shrugged. "Am I back at Arabelle?”

Steve shook his head. “You're in intensive care at St. Mary’s Hospital. You got nailed in the head with some falling debris. We were worried you weren’t going to wake up.” Steve was so much more polite than his companion.

“I was never much of a sleeper anyway,” I said. “So who are you guys and what the hell is going on?”

The men looked at each other.

“You don’t know who we are?” Steve asked.

“You’re Steve and Bucky, apparently.”

“You don't recognize us?”

“Should I?”

Steve didn’t answer, but frowned. “Do you remember who you are?”

“Umm, yes....” I said mockingly.

“What’s your name?”

“Sara. Sara White.”

“Where do you live Sara?”

“Uh…”

“Are you having trouble remembering?”

“No, it’s just... “ I was unsure how to answer. I had no idea who these guys were, or why I had suddenly materialized in that office building.

“Did you work in that building?” Steve asked.

“No, I mean… I don’t think so.” If I was having a hallucination, it was a doozy. I was doubting everything around me. My eyes began to fill up with tears of frustration.

“Whoa, Cap,” said Bucky, “give her some air, she just got clobbered.”

Steve nodded. “I apologize, Ms. White. We’ll let you get some rest, and we’ll come talk to you tomorrow.” He smiled warmly.

Steve exited the room, but Bucky hesitated. Turning back to me, Bucky spoke.

“During the battle, you called out to me. How did you know that my real name is James?”

I furrowed my brow, “I have no idea.”

Chapter Text

I rolled over to be met with a pair of grey-blue eyes. I was warm, his body heat radiated off of him. He leaned down to kiss me and I let him. I tangled my hands into his messy brown hair, tasting him, trying to pull him closer. I felt his body on top of me and desire burned in my gut.

But all too soon, he pulled away, and I was suddenly alone, naked and cold. I searched for something to cover me, but instead I was blinded by an intense beam of hot light. Everywhere the light touched burned. I looked down to see my skin crack and bubble, exposing sinew and bone. I screamed out, but I had no voice. The light turned red and my vision tunneled, I was being pulled apart, pulled towards the light, into a pair of terrifying red eyes.

***
I couldn't move. I fought against the pressure holding me down, thankful that at least I seemed to have a body that was intact. The awful red light faded and my vision began to clear.

He was shouting, but it was muffled, I could barely make it out.

It was Bucky that was holding me down. I tried to fight, but my strength was waning. I caught my breath and his voice finally came through.

“Sara! Holy shit! Wake up!!”

I was back in my hospital bed, the sheets were tangled around me, my hair was wet and sticking to my forehead.

“James?” I croaked out.

Before he could answer, two nurses ran into the room frantically checking my vitals and trying to get me settled back on the bed.

“I'm okay, I'm okay…” I said. “It was just a nightmare…”

“Ms. White, we’re going to administer a sedative now,” one of the nurses said.

“Oh no, please, I'm okay now really.”

The nurse furrowed her brow but nodded. Once they'd hooked me back up to all the machines that I had apparently ripped out, the nurses left.

“That was some nightmare,” Bucky said when they were gone. There was a flicker of worry in his grey-blue eyes.

“Yeah, I must have hit my head really badly,” I lied. I'd had one of my episodes, I knew it. I had the tell-tale metallic taste in my mouth, and my muscles were tight and sore.

Bucky gave me a weird look, clearly he didn't believe me. But he didn't push the subject. I was starting to like him. God, his face was so familiar somehow. I was glad Bucky was there, even though I had no idea why.

“Sorry if this is rude but, why are you still here? Am I under arrest or something?” I asked.

Bucky shook his head. “No, nothing like that. I think it's best if you talk to Steve and the others…”

I tensed.

“Or I could take you home if you want…”

I shook my head.

“...you really don't know who we are?” Bucky asked.

I glared.

“We, I mean Steve and I, are part of The Avengers.”

“The A-Whatta?”

Bucky sighed. He clearly thought I had amnesia, or was crazy. Maybe he was right. But I knew in my heart that something wasn't right.

“We're a group of extraordinary...” he cringed at his choice of words. “or enhanced...” he made air quotes.

I snickered.

He rolled his eyes. “I mean, ‘gifted’ people. We help protect the world from unnatural and aggressive extraterrestrial, supernatural and domestic threats.” Bucky squinted. “That sounds ridiculous when I say it outloud.” He cracked a smile.

It made me happy to see him soften up.

“If you'll let me bring you to meet the others, they can explain things better than I can. We can figure this out together, okay?”

I nodded. I trusted him.

***

"You know I was just in the hospital for a head injury, right?” I frowned at the helmet being offered to me.

“I'm a really good driver, I promise. I won't knock you around.” Bucky said. I looked down at the big black motorcycle suspiciously.

“Alright, whatever. If I get brain damage it's on you, guy.” I said, and climbed onto the high seat behind him. I weaved my hands around his waist and squeezed, probably harder than what was necessary. But I was comforted by the rock hard muscle of his torso. I closed my eyes tight.

“You ready?” Bucky asked. He wasn't wearing a helmet.

“As I'll ever be.”

He was right, he was a good driver. In fact, it felt like the motorcycle was on rails. The ride was so smooth, it seemed like we were hovering. Wait, were we hovering? Before I could determine our proximity to the ground, we arrived at our destination.

The building was tall, lording over Manhattan. It's sign shone brightly over the city: Stark Tower.

“Well, that's subtle,” I said, “who does he think he is, Donald Trump?”

“Who?” Bucky asked.

“Oh god, you're lucky. Don't ask.” Bucky gave me a perplexed look, but let it go.

He lead me inside the posh lobby and waved to the security officers. Then we were whisked up in a see-through elevator to one of the top floors of the tower. The doors opened to reveal a stylish, modern living space.

“This is pretty swanky,” I said, feeling self conscious in my charred jeans and t-shirt. “Do you live here?” I looked at the comfortable living area, the couch could seat about twelve people. There was a small but efficient kitchen and suites of rooms off the main gallery.

“We all live here.”

“The Avennnngerrrs?” I asked dramatically.

“Yep. But this floor is just me, Steve and Nat.”

Nat?

“The others are just finishing up with a meeting, then they'll be right up,” Bucky said. “Can I get you anything?”

“Do you mind if I get cleaned up?”

“Oh, of course, here, let me get you some clothes.” I watched him walk down the hallway. He came back a couple of minutes later, and placed a hoodie, some sweats and a fluffy white towel into my waiting arms.

“The clothes might be a bit big,” Bucky looked apologetic. “Nat's room is locked.” Separate rooms.

He gestured towards the bathroom and I thanked him. I closed the door behind me. My heart was beating a mile a minute. Sooner or later Bucky and the others are going to realize that I don't belong here, I thought.

I had no idea what was going to happen, or why this was happening to me. And even more confusing was the raging heart-boner I was getting for James “Bucky” Barnes. There was something about him (besides his slightly-emo-sex-god good looks). He made me...comfortable.

I turned on the shower and looked down at the pile of clothes. I picked up the sweater and held it to my face. It was clearly his, it smelled like him.

I was starting to creep myself out; I dropped the sweater and shook my head. I'm such a slut, I chuckled to myself.

***
I felt his hands wrap around my waist from behind. I leaned back, my head resting against his chest. He pushed aside my wet hair and kissed my neck nibbling little love bites along the way. I turned around in his arms. Even as I kissed him, I felt him change. His brown hair turned white, and grew long. And his blue eyes turned blood red. His arm clamped around my neck, and I screamed as water filled up my mouth.

Chapter Text

Just when I thought I would drown, I snapped out of it. Coughing, I stumbled out of the shower. I heard a faint knock on the door.

“Sara, are you alright? You've been in there for awhile.” Bucky asked softly on the other side.

“Yes,” my voice wobbled. “I'm okay, I'll be right out!” I didn't want him to know that I'd blacked out again. The images from my vision began to fade, leaving me perplexed like always. That might have been the most annoying part of my visions, I could barely remember them once they passed. But I did remember the colour red. And Bucky.

I emerged from the bathroom sheepishly, my hair wet, swaddled in Bucky's giant clothes. I could hear quiet talking in the living room. I took a deep breath and walked towards them.

Bucky, Steve and two others turned to face me when I walked in. “Tony Stark,” he held out his hand and I took it. “Pleasure to meet you, Ms. White.”

“Ah, Mr. Trump.” I said.

“What?”

“Never mind. And it's Sara, please.”

“And I'm Natasha,” the young woman shook my hand. She was gorgeous, just like the others. She smiled warmly and I felt like a bitch for being jealous of her.

“So, I understand that you are ignorant of your situation?” Tony asked. “And you don't know who we are?”

I shook my head.

“Well, allow me to enlighten you,” Tony gestured for us to sit down. I was grateful when Bucky sat close to me.

Tony spoke quickly and concisely. He told me about the Avengers, their powers and motivations. Black Widow: trained by Hydra, super spy. Captain America: enhanced golden boy. Iron Man: brilliant millionaire playboy type with a killer suit. Steve took over when it came to explaining The Winter Soldier. Bucky didn't meet my eyes while Steve talked, he just sat, clenching his jaw.

When they were done, I let out a breath. “Well, either I'm so crazy that I didn't notice there were superheros running around, or I don't belong here.”

Steve leaned in closer, “That place you mentioned earlier, Arabelle. Did you meant Arabelle Asylum, in upstate New York?”

I looked down and nodded.

“And you live there?”

“Since I was 17.” I replied.

Steve smiled kindly. “We looked up their records for the last 50 years, there hasn't been a Sara White that was ever a patient or an employee there.”

“There's more,” Tony said. He pulled something up on his iPad and handed it to me.

It was an employee ID for a SHIELD agent. The woman in the photo was me. I mean she wasn't really me, but she looked exactly like me, except her hair was blonde instead of brown. The name on the ID read: Sara White, Finance.

I stared at the photo, blinking. “Who is she? Why does she look like me?”

“We're not sure, but the place that we found you was her office. That burned out building was owned by SHIELD.” Steve said.

“What does she do there?” I looked back at the photo.

“She's an accountant,” Tony replied.

I looked up and screwed up my face. “Accountant?”

“SHIELD’s gotta pay taxes too,” Tony said. “So the question is, where did she go, and why are you here?”

“I have no idea,” I said. “That person you were fighting, the day you found me. The guy in the flying Winnebago…”

“Do you know who he is?” Nat spoke up.

“No, that was my first alien sighting,” I frowned.

“We're still trying to figure out who he is ourselves. Then we can determine if he is responsible, and whether we can get you back home. Doctor Strange is looking into it. He thinks you might have…” Nat paused.

“What?”

“...have been taken from another dimension,” she said delicately.

“Oh good.”

“We think you and Sara,” Steve gestured to the iPad, “were switched.”

I nodded. “And you have no idea why,” I asked.

Steve nodded.

“and you think I'm in danger?”

Steve nodded.

“and there's really an Avenger called ‘Doctor Strange’?”

Steve smiled.

“Badass.” I whispered. “Okay, so this Sara White. I mean, where are her parents?”

“Deceased,” said Steve.

I nodded. “Any friends, other family?”

“Not that we have on record. We have the address of her apartment downtown. We were just about to check it out.”

I looked over at Bucky, who looked me warmly in the eyes again.

“I'd like to come.” I said.

Steve, Tony and Nat exchanged looks. Steve nodded.

Before we went downstairs Steve took me aside. “It's going to be okay,” he said. “I promise.” He gave me a brotherly pat on the shoulder. “You know what? My mother's name was Sarah.” he smiled.

“I know. But she spelled her name with an 'h’.” I said.

“How did you know what?” Steve asked.

“I have no idea.” I replied.

*
We pulled up to a little brownstone on the south side of Chelsea. I was thankful that we took a car instead of Bucky's bike. I used my time alone in the backseat to try and get my head straight, but my thoughts were anxious and scattered.

Steve, Bucky and I walked into her apartment. It was stylish but old fashioned. There were doilies and granny quilts and many hanging plants. It was cozy, and lived in. The boys searched the apartment for clues, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. I was preoccupied by inspecting the ornaments on the mantle. There was a cat statue, a clump of amethyst, an antique gold thimble. The only picture I could find was a small framed image of a woman and her daughter. The woman was my mother. Her daughter had brown hair.

I felt a swell of emotion, and almost didn't hear the rustling coming from the plant in the corner. I went closer to investigate, when a flash of orange darted out and ran between my legs.

Bucky materialized from around the corner and swooped it up in his strong arms. “It's a kitty!” he remarked.

I started to laugh, “That bastard scared the shit out of me! Poor little guy! All alone, he must be so hungry and scared.” I took the little cat out of Bucky's arms and held him tight. He started to purr. “If we hadn't of come who would have looked after him?” Tears began to fill my eyes again.

“Does that mean we get to keep him?” Bucky asked.

*
I was quiet again on the drive back to the tower. I absently pet the purring cat curled up on my lap, it was comforting. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. It wasn't until we got upstairs that I realized I didn't have anywhere to go. I wasn't a patient at the hospital anymore, and that girl's apartment wasn't mine.

Steve must have read it on my face and said, “I think it's best if you stay here with us until we figure this all out. There's an extra room in our suite, if you don't mind sharing with Nat, Bucky and I.”

“I wouldn't want to disrupt your Three's Company dynamic that you have going on here.” I said.

Steve and Bucky looked at each other, perplexed.

“Do you not have 80s sitcoms in this dimension?”

“No, we just slept through the 80s.”

“Oh yeah,” I replied.

Bucky cleared his throat and stepped closer, “It would be a lot safer if you stayed nearby,” he said softly.

“...then stay I will.” I said.

*
The bed was too comfortable. It was made from some kind of space aged memory foam and it was hindering my nervous tossing. And the room was so damnably quiet. My mind was filled with troubled thoughts. My world had been flipped upside down. I didn't want to go back to the asylum, to that prison, but I didn't belong here. I didn't belong anywhere. I looked at the little orange cat curled up at my feet. At least someone is getting some sleep tonight, I thought.

I gave up trying to sleep and got up. I pulled on Bucky's roomy hoodie and padded out into the hallway. It was dark, but I could hear the muffled sound of the tv set in the living room.

Bucky cleared his throat and turned off the tv when he saw me coming. “Hi,” he said.

“Hi, sorry. I didn't mean to disturb you.”

“Not at all,” he said. “I could use the company.” He patted the couch cushions next to him.

“Why are you still up?” I asked, sitting down.

“You're not the only one who has nightmares, “ Bucky strained a smile.

I nodded in understanding.

“What's it like,” I asked. “Being thrown into this world, into the future I mean?”

“Well, it can be lonely,” Bucky replied. “But I'm slowly starting to catch up. My friends help. And it helps having Steve around. He understands. Though he's having a much easier time fitting in.” He looked down at his hands. “What about you? It must have been tough, growing up in that hospital.”

“Yeah, it wasn't great, but hey, at least I had the internet.” I chuckled.

Bucky smiled. “Do you mind if I ask, why were you in the asylum?”

I let out a deep breath, “Well,” I began. “Since I was a little kid I was prone to...hallucinations. Or strange outbursts. Kids at school said that I would shout out their secrets, things they didn't tell anyone. They said I was a freak. As I got older, it got more violent. My parents figured it would be easier to lock me up.”

“And where are they now?” Bucky asked.

“I'm not sure, I haven't seen them in five years.”

We sat in companionable silence for a few moments, then I asked. “So how old are you anyway?”

Bucky squinted. “I guess I'm technically about 102, but really I'd say...thirty...two, maybe?”

“You don't know for sure?”

“I'm afraid not, I'm unclear about how much time passed between freezings.”

“I'm sorry that happened to you.”

“I'm sorry too.” Bucky said. We looked at each other, a mutual understanding and empathy was being forged between us. I didn't realize I was holding my breath, until Bucky broke the tension. “Hey, you were asking how I cope. One of them is music. I've missed so much - but I've really enjoyed catching up.” He got up and walked to his room. I started to breathe again.

He came back to the couch with an arm full of records. Real vinyl records. He offered them to me to peruse. “Nat and Tony have been plying me with records. They said I wasn't ready for MP3s yet...whatever that means.” Bucky said. “These are some of the ones I like best. Are you a music fan?”

“Oh yes,” I was excited. “It's what kept me sane in hospital. I was the only punk in Ward D.” I said.

I sorted through the pile one by one. “New Order - fantastic! The Doors - classic. Sam Cooke - oh so dreamy!”

Bucky smiled at my reactions.

“Earth Wind and Fire?” I held up the sleeve.

“It's fun to dance to.” Bucky shrugged.

“Do you like to dance?”

“I used to.” Bucky said. Then he picked up the last record. “But this one is my favourite.” He walked over to the record player that I didn't even realize was there and turned it on.

“Won't we wake up the others?” I asked.

“Sound proof walls.” Bucky mouthed the words.

I smiled as the sweet sound of Harvest Moon by Neil Young filled the room. Bucky sat down next to me, a little closer than before. We listened, our hands touching slightly, one flesh, one metal.

I fell asleep before side A was over, Bucky's body heat kept me warm. I had no dreams that night.

Chapter Text

I stretched and yawned, and my foot hit something soft. The small orange cat leaped off the couch with a meow, trotting towards the kitchen. Bucky emerged with two bowls.

“Morning sleepyhead,” he said, and plopped the bowls on to the coffee table.

“What time is it?” I croaked.

“10am.”

“Wow, I haven't slept that well in years.”

“Me neither,” Bucky smiled and sat down next to me.

“Where are the others?”

“Oh, they've all come and gone.”

“And no one woke me up?” I asked. He shook his head. “Was I snoring?” I asked.

“Little bit,” Bucky smiled. I groaned.

The orange cat jumped back on to the couch, and began rubbing his head against Bucky's leg. “We need a name for this little guy,” he said, scratching the cat's head.

I leaned down to look the cat in the eye. My chin rested gently on Bucky's knee. The cat purred and looked back. "We shall call him, Orange.” I announced, sitting back up.

“Whatever you say, crazy lady.” Bucky said, but then screwed up his face. “Sorry…”

“It's okay, when you're right, you're right.”

Bucky chuckled. “Orange it is,” he said and handed me a bowl.

“What do we have here?”

“Porridge. Eat up, it's brain food.”

“It looks suspiciously like gruel.”

“Try it, you'll like it.”

I tried a small bite. He was right. It was delicious. “Dude, this is cinnamony AF.” I said.

Bucky laughed. “Thanks?”

“Hey Buck,” I leaned back into the pillows. “Why are you being so nice to me?”

“Well,” he turned to face me, “ever since I saved you from that burning building, I feel kind of responsible for you, kiddo,” he said. “And well… maybe I like you.”

“Well maybe I like you too,” I said. “but I'm pretty sure that I saved you, remember?” I reached over to pinch him, but my knuckles ricocheted off metal.

“Damn!” I said, “I keep forgetting about that…” I looked apologetic.

“It's no problem really,” Bucky shrugged. “I'm used to it.”

“Do you mind… umm,” I wasn't sure if I was crossing a line. “Can I see your arm?” I asked.

He rolled up his sleeve and allowed me to inspect his prosthesis. I ran my hand across the smooth metal. I watched how the plates expanded and contracted as he clenched his fist; the seams in the metal where almost imperceivable. It truly was a beautiful creation, strong and frightening - and unbelievably sexy. I let go of his arm and flushed a deep red. “Neat.” I said softly, trying to hide my face.

Bucky was breathing hard, and he held my gaze just a moment too long before clearing his throat. “I almost forgot!” he said, “Nat and Tony left you some packages.”

Grateful that he broke the tension, I got up to inspect the parcels on the dining room table. Apparently Nat had acquired some items for me, including toiletries and clothing, some new jeans and T-shirts, underthings and my favourite - a fitted black leather bomber jacket. “Noooice,” I muttered.

Beside the parcels there was an iPad. I assumed that was from Tony. I opened it up to find the complete personnel file for the other Sara White. I sat down to read it. Birthdate: November 5, just like me. Graduated top of her class from Harvard Business school. Started working for SHIELD five years ago. No siblings. Parents Doug and Elizabeth White: deceased.

“It says here that her parents died in a fire when she was five years old.” I read, frowning. “Sara wasn't home at the time, she was at a friend's birthday party…but...wait…” I looked into the distance.

Bucky got up, “What?” he asked.

“I remember that day. I was at Becky Porter's sixth birthday party...I remember being there, but I don't remember coming home. I came down with pneumonia right after that party. I almost died,” I explained. “There never was any fire...my parents are still alive.” I said. They were still alive - but they had basically disowned me after throwing me in the asylum. Tears filled my eyes. I don't know who I felt more sorry for, myself or the other Sara.

Bucky placed a reassuring hand on my shoulder and squeezed gently. I couldn't control the tears anymore. They came out in a torrent of heavy sobs. Bucky reached down to gather me into his arm. “Hey hey, shhh…” he said.

“I'm so confused,” I said pathetically, gripping him tightly.

“I know, doll,” he gingerly smoothed down my hair and gently rested his chin on the top of my head. It was comforting. “We'll figure this all out, I promise.” Something about his tone of voice made me believe him.

*
Half an hour later, I returned to the living room, freshly showered but puffy-eyed.

“Feeling better?” Bucky smiled. I nodded and forced a modest grin.

“Let's do something to take your mind off things shall we? What would you like to do today?”

“Bucky, I really appreciate all this, but you really don't have to babysit me.”

“Actually I do,” he said. “Captain's orders. You could still be in danger.”

I nodded. It stung a little to learn that Bucky was obligated to hang out with me, but I decided to make the best of it. “Well, what would you be doing if I wasn’t here?”

“Well, first I would have woken up about five hours before you did…”

I rolled my eyes.

“...then I would go for a run…”

I scowled.

“...then I would hit the gym…”

“I'm sensing a theme here,” I said. “Hard pass on the calisthenics, soldier.”

Bucky chuckled. “Okay. Well, I like to go to the library. Reading helps me catch up on what I missed. And books - they never change.”

“To the library!” I exclaimed.

Chapter Text

I was more than happy to let Bucky drive us there on his bike this time. It gave me an excuse to wrap my arms around him. I tried to keep my emotions in check, because I knew my time with Bucky had an expiry date - but I couldn't help myself. In my limited experience, I'd never met anyone like him. He was so strong despite everything he'd been through, still so kind. And he was just broken enough to make me feel almost whole.

We alighted from the bike, and I took a moment to appreciate how smoking hot my companion was; his long brown hair always the right amount of messy, his beautifully sculpted chest and arms, his grey-blue eyes, shadowed by sadness.

I was trying to pick my jaw up off the floor when he spoke. “Sara? You okay?”

“Yes, yes I'm fine,” I gulped.

“Where did you go?” he asked gently.

“It's okay, I'm here.” I said with a goofy smile and began to climb the stairs of the New York Public Library. I held Bucky's arm and let him escort me. “You know, they filmed Ghostbusters here.” I remarked.

“Is that right?” Bucky said vaguely.

“You haven't see Ghostbusters have you?”

“Umm, no. I think I've heard of it.”

I gave his arm a squeeze. “Well, I know what we're doing tonight! Bucky my boy, you are in for a treat.”

*
I thought the most beautiful thing in the world must be shadow, the million moving shapes and cul-de-sacs of shadow. There was shadow in bureau drawers and closets and suitcases, and shadow under houses and trees and stones, and shadow at the back of people's eyes and smiles, and shadow, miles and miles and miles of it, on the night side of the earth.

“Boo!” he whispered in my ear, gently pinching my side.

I screamed and dropped the book I was reading. There was a chorus of shushes from the other patrons. I had been tucked away, deep in the stacks with my nose in a book. I thought I was alone until he snuck up on me. “You know there is some kind of alien threat after me, right? Is it really necessary to scare the shit out of me?” I whispered loudly.

“Sorry, it was too good to resist,” Bucky was laughing, “and I thought you liked ghosts.”

“I like Bill Murray, that's not the same thing.” My side tingled where he'd pinched me, and my cheeks burned red.

Bucky bent down to pick up my books and turned them over in his hands. “The Bell Jar,” he furrowed his brow. “I've actually read this one. It's pretty dark.”

“Nothing like a little Sylvia to make you feel better about your own life.”

“And Slaughterhouse Five.”

“That one is for you, actually. Have you read it?” He shook his head. “I hope it won't be too traumatizing for you, it's about the war,” I said, “and aliens, and time travel kinda...it's actually quite funny.”

“I'll look forward to starting it right away,” he smiled warmly and took it from me. “I actually picked one out for you, too,” he said, passing me one from his pile.

“A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.” I read the title.

“I actually read this when it first came out. Before... everything. It's very moving. It's about a very determined and bright young woman facing impossible obstacles. She reminds me of you, actually,” he said.

I held the book to my chest. “Thanks Buck,” I whispered.

“You're welcome.”

*
Later that night, I made good on my promise. Bucky was busy making a huge bowl of popcorn as I fired up Netflix. Steve and Nat returned just as we were getting settled.

“Hey, what are you guys up to?” Steve pulled a huge grin and flopped down on the couch next to me.

“We were just about to watch Ghostbusters, Bucky has never seen it.” I volunteered, then got up to grab the drinks from the kitchen.

Nat followed me. “Hey,” she said, “You okay? Is Barnes being nice to you?”

“Yeah, he's great. I had a nice day. We're both kind of fish-out-of-watery, so he's actually really comforting to be around.”

Nat raised her eyebrows. “I have never heard the term ‘comforting’ used to describe Barnes before. It's usually 'grumpy” and 'brooding’.”

“No, he's very sweet actually,” I said. “And thank you so much for the clothes and things, it was so thoughtful.”

“My pleasure,” she smiled warmly. “It can be a bit of a sausage party around here. We gals gotta stick together,” we laughed. The boys have us a weird look from the other room. “Let me know if you need anything else - I mean, anything,” Nat whispered conspiratorially, subtly gesturing towards Bucky. I blushed, following her train of thought.

We walked back into the living room where the boys were stuffing their faces with popcorn. “You're welcome to join us for the movie,” I offered.

Steve began to speak but Nat cut him off. “Sorry, we can't. We have plans,” she said, tugging at the shoulder of Steve's t-shirt and dragging him off the couch.

“We do?” he said, then finally clued in. “Of course we do! How could I forget?”

They grabbed their coats and were out the door in minutes. Nat winked at me one last time before closing the door.

“Wow, those two are dorks,” Bucky said, and pressed play.

*
I didn't really watch much of the movie, I'd seen it before many times; I spent most of the time looking at Bucky. He looked like a kid again, eyes full of wonder, laughing so hard that he cried. It was one of the most joyful things I had ever seen.

We had to pause it a few times so I could explain some cultural references, and each time we did, we got to talking, almost forgetting about the movie. We talked about ghosts, we talked about our childhoods, we talked about our fears and our doubts. He hung on every word I said with quiet interest, never judging, just listening. The movie took us about 3 ½ hours to get through.

When it was over, Bucky stretched and yawned. When be did, a small sliver of skin peaked out from under his t-shirt. I caught his yawn and he chuckled. “It's getting late,” he commented.

I was tired, but I didn't want to leave him. I also wasn't interested in sleeping on the couch again. We looked at each other. There was electricity between us. I was almost trembling. The sight of his grey-blue eyes looking into mine was like putting my soul on display. I wanted him to kiss me so badly I thought I would die.

Bucky took a deep breath then looked down, and the moment was over. “I'll see you tomorrow?” he said.

I took the hint and got up. My heart was beating so fast I thought I might fall over. “Goodnight,” I muttered and shuffled to my room in a daze.

*
I tried to sleep, I really did. I was exhausted, but my mind wouldn't let me rest. I was emotional and raw and most of all confused. Bucky was being so kind to me, but I didn't know what that meant. The worst part was, all I wanted to do was go running to him. He was the only thing in this messed up world that gave me any sense of peace.

Finally I made up my mind. I walked back to the living room where Bucky was still watching tv. “Buck,” I said.

He started at my voice and turned around. “Everything okay, doll?”

“Not really, I can't sleep…” I looked down and held my breath. “Will you...sleep with me?” I asked timidly.

He let out a long breath. “I...don't think that's a good idea, Sara.”

“No, I mean, I didn't mean…” I mumbled. “I mean, can you just stay with me until I fall asleep?”

Bucky furrowed his brow, and didn't answer right away. He just sat there looking at me. Then he slowly smiled, but there was sadness behind his eyes. He got up and turned off the tv, took my hand and lead me back to my room, where he gently closed the door behind him.

Chapter Text

We lay together in bed. Me, under the covers and Bucky on top. I lay facing him while he lay on his back. I had trouble keeping my eyes closed. One eye kept sneaking open, mesmerized by the sight of his chest moving up and down slowly.

“Sara?” he said without opening his eyes. I flinched, caught. “Are you sleeping?”

“Yes.”

Bucky chuckled and turned to me. “I used to sleep like a baby when I was young. Now it's a constant struggle, so I know how you feel,” he said. “You just have to relax.”

It was hard to relax when I kinda wanted to jump his bones. I made an exaggerated attempt to get comfortable, then huffed out a breath of frustration.

Bucky snickered. “Here, lie on your back and close your eyes.” My heart raced, but I did as I was told. He pulled the covers up over my shoulders. “Now take a deep breath,” I took a shallow breath. “No, from here,” he said and gently placed his hand on my abdomen, just for a second. The deep breathing helped to slow down my heartbeat, but I wanted him to keep touching me. Instead he leaned back and quietly started to sing.

I repressed the urge to laugh, because I wasn't expecting it. Then I simply listened. It was so beautiful and so vulnerable.

“Podul de piatră s-a dărâmat
A venit apa şi l-a luat
Face altul pe riu, în jos
Altul mai trainic şi mai frumos
Face altul pe riu, în jos
Altul mai trainic şi mai frumos”

“What does that mean…” I asked when he was finished.

“It's a Romanian lullaby. My mom used to sing it to me when I was a kid.”

I was warm and I felt myself drifting. “So pretty…” I mumbled.

Bucky chuckled and said “Goodnight princess.” I didn't hear him, for I had already drifted into a peaceful quiet slumber.

***
The next day, Bucky was gone, and I wasn't surprised. His place on the bed was now occupied by Orange the cat. I patted him then stretched. For the first time in a long time, I felt refreshed. I bounced out of bed, ready to meet the day.

My anxiety shot up to 11 again when I went out to the living room. Tony and Steve were there, along with another man. Bucky was not in the apartment.

I approached them and they turned around. “Ah, the woman out of time, I presume?” he said. I recognized him at once, he was the one facing off with the alien after we'd escaped the burning building. He was dressed more conservatively this time, but there was something about his cheeky grin that lead me to believe he had a flare for the dramatic.

“More, out of place, actually.”

“They are more or less the same thing,” he mansplained. “Strange. Doctor Stephen Strange.” I shook his hand.

Tony spoke up. “Strange is our resident interdimensional timey-wimey...stuff expert,” he said. "Let's sit down and have a chat, shall we.”

As we walked to the couch, Steve whispered to me, “how are you holding up?”

“Not bad, actually pretty good.”

“Good! Bucky is out on assignment but he'll be back later this afternoon.” Steve said. I nodded gratefully and he gave my shoulder a squeeze.

“Have you figured out who's after me yet?” I asked after we'd sat down. Tony and Strange looked at each other and shook their heads. “What happened after I was knocked out? How did the alien vessel get away?” I asked.

“Whatever it was - it simply disappeared.” Strange said.

“None of your fancy technology can find it?”

“Unfortunately its cloaking device is of a peculiar nature. It can't be traced by our tech. It's not that we can't see it, it's that it won't let us,” said Tony.

“Allow me to explain. The cloaking device works on a telepathic level. If the vessel does not want to be seen it simply will not.” Doctor Strange said.

“Okay, so no help there.” I said. “What do you need from me?”

“We need you to think hard. If there is anything you can remember, anything you can think of - that might help us find whoever was in that ship.” Steve said.

“I'm afraid I have no idea,” I said, defeated. “You're going to have to ask the other Sara. This is her world after all.” The three men exchanged looks. “What?” I asked.

“Unfortunately it's not that easy. In order to bring the other Sara back here, we first need to locate her quantum signature - which is essentially finding a needle in a haystack,” Strange explained. “In addition, you two can not exist simultaneously in the same dimension.”

“Why not?”

“There must be a balance of energy or the whole system will collapse,” Strange said mysteriously.

“In order to bring her here, we'll have to send you back there.” Steve said gently.

“I see.”

“There's more,” Tony said.

“Of course there is.”

“We analysed your quantum signature and...well…”

“Spill it, Stark.”

“Your signature revealed that you actually come from this dimension,” Tony said. I gaped. “This is not the first time you and Sara have been switched. You actually belong right here,” said Tony.

“With us.” Steve added. My head was spinning. I was at a loss for words.

“...and one more thing,” Tony said, “did you bring a cat in here?” He sneezed.

*
Tony and Strange left the apartment then, insisting that they would continue to try and locate the threat. They encouraged me to be patient.

I wanted to be alone to absorb this new information, to try to understand the implications of what they'd said. But instead I agreed to go on a tour of the compound with Steve. We toured the labs and the library, the armory and the gym. He was trying really hard to put me at ease, but I couldn't help being downtrodden and grumpy.

“Try not to worry too much, Sara. You'll be safe here. And if you want to leave the compound one of us will go with you.”

“I know, it's just...everyone is treating me like I'm made of glass.” It came out a little harsher than I intended. “I just feel like it's opening night and I haven't read the script.”

“Believe it or not, I know the feeling,” Steve said.

I blushed. I almost forgot that Steve had been to hell and back, and I felt bad for snapping. “You just have to remember, for the time being, you are safe. And what's more, you're welcome here.”

“Really?” I was getting emotional.

“I know I like having you around, and I'm not the only one,” he said pointedly.

I suddenly crashed into him, hugging him furiously. Steve chuckled. “Thanks Steve,” I said. His words of comfort made all the difference in the world.

***
The fire hissed and crackled around me. After almost rolling my ankle, I slowed down and watched my footing. Panic bubbled keenly in my stomach. I had to find him. He had to be okay. My eyes searched the debris for clues: a broken frame, a piece of amethyst, a gold thimble...everything was strewn about like garbage. I turned around and saw him. He was on the ground, his brown hair caked with blood. His abdomen was scorched, bits of fabric and skin sizzled, still warm. His eyes were open but unseeing. I tried to scream but I couldn't, I started to choke and fell to my knees as I watched Bucky's eyes turn from grey-blue to red.

***
I sat bolt upright gasping for breath. The quilt was tangled around my ankles and I was coated in sweat. Orange meowed in alarm and hopped off the couch, scurrying to the kitchen.

“Sorry baby,” I groaned. My head was pounding. I shivered, and wrapped my arms around myself. It was evening and I was alone in the apartment.

I didn't have time to worry about where Bucky was, because at that moment the door opened quietly and he came in. He was still in his uniform, and though it was black, I could still see the unmistakable splatters of dried blood on the sleeves and chest. I was completely overwhelmed with relief at seeing him in one piece, I ignored the blood and ran to him, throwing my arms around him.

“Oof!” he chuckled and patted my back. “I thought you'd be asleep by now. Everything okay, kiddo?” he asked.

“Yes I'm just glad you're back…” I let him go and realized that Bucky was holding his hand firmly against the right side of his abdomen. I pushed his hand aside and pulled up his shirt. Wrapped around his waist was a dirty makeshift bandage, soaked in blood.

Chapter Text

Bucky winced as I pulled off the bandage carefully; it was sticking to the wound. The cut was deep and angry, about 9 inches across his midsection.

“What the fuck, Barnes??” I cried. “We have to get you to medical immediately!” I tried to pull him to the door but it was like trying to pull a boulder.

“No, Sara, it's fine...really,” he insisted.

“The hell it is!” I said. “You need stitches for sure.”

“No, no, it's healing already, I can tell.” he huffed as the flopped down on the couch.

“Well, if you're not going to let me take you to a doctor, at least let me clean it.”

Bucky nodded begrudgingly.

I ran to the bathroom to get the med kit. I sat down beside him. His eyes were closed and his breathing was shallow. I cleared my throat and he opened his eyes. Carefully, he peeled off his jacket and shirt.

I tried to keep my face neutral while I took in what I saw. The lean sculpted chest marked with scars, the rough skin where metal met flesh, he was battered and beautiful. I shook my head and got to work at once. I poured antiseptic on the wound, catching the dried blood and dirt in a fresh towel. It was soon dyed red.

“Are you going to tell me what happened?” I asked.

Bucky sighed. “It was supposed to be a simple interrogation. Ex-SHIELD turned Hydra Agent. He's been in lockup for awhile now,” he said and shook his head. “I was careless. He'd fashioned a shiv out of a hairbrush...a damn good one too.”

“I can see that,” I frowned. “What were you interrogating him about?”

Bucky seemed reluctant to answer, “He's had some experience with psychic tech. I thought he might be able to shine some light on what we're dealing with.”

My heart sank. He'd gotten hurt because of me.

“It was my own mistake, Sara,” he insisted. “I should have searched him more thoroughly. And it's not just about you. Who knows how many people are in danger?”

I wasn't convinced. I wondered how many 'mistakes’ Bucky would make for my benefit.

I had Bucky lean forward so I could wrap the fresh bandage around his torso. I was pleased with my work, he'd even let me use skin closures. The bleeding had stopped entirely.

I forced a smile, “I think you'll live, soldier. But for how long, I don't know. Because Tony is going to absolutely kill you when he sees his towels.”

Bucky laughed softly, “Ouch!” he held his side.

“Okay big guy, time for bed.” I said, unnecessarily helping him up off the couch. He put his strong metal arm lightly over my shoulder and let me lead him to his bedroom.

He lay down, wincing, not bothering to put on a new shirt. I made a show of tucking him in. My heart swelled. I was terrified. Not for myself but for Bucky. I felt more for him that I had for anyone else in my entire life. If he got hurt again, or worse, it would kill me.

I made sure he was safe under the covers and turned to leave. “Sara?” he said.

“Yeah?” I turned around.

“Can you stay?”

***
And stay I did. That night and the night after that and the night after that. We alternated between his room and mine, always sleeping, never touching. And he was always gone in the morning. As predicted, Bucky had healed almost immediately, but still neither of us wanted to sleep alone. As the days stretched into weeks, we stuck to our routine. In the beginning he'd always lie on top of the blankets, keeping his distance. Then gradually, he moved closer. Then under the covers. Then almost touching...

Then one day I woke up and he was still there. I was on my back and he’d wrapped his metal arm firmly around my waist, his face nestled in my hair. I don't think I could have moved if I wanted to, but it was not unpleasant. I watched him sleep, his chest rising and falling. He looked like an angel. A super ripped angel.

Soon, I knew I had to get up. I ran my finger down his nose softly tickling him awake. “Morning James,” I whispered.

He grumbled. To my surprise, he didn't pull away. Instead he squeezed me closer. “You're comfortable,” he murmured.

I giggled and that seemed to break him out of his sleepy stupor. “Oh shit, sorry,” he said when he realized what was happening, and released me from his vice like grip. He rolled over and stretched. “Lord! I don't think I've slept in so late in my entire life!” he exclaimed.

“It's 7:30,” I chuckled.

“I know! It's practically lunch time!” he said brightly. “If I don't meet Steve soon, he will murder me.” He pecked me lightly on the cheek and sprang out of bed. “Later, doll,” he called on his way out of the room.

I was left momentarily stunned. Bucky had sporadic bouts of affection towards me, but be never stuck around long after they happened. I didn't have time to worry about what his problem was, because I had to get ready for work.

Since it seemed unlikely that I would get any answers anytime soon, Tony had secured me a job in the lab. My back-alley medical training proved useful, and I apparently had a knack for biology. I filled my days analysing samples and helping the other scientists with their research. I was learning a lot, and what's more, I was happy. I finally felt like I had a place, that I was contributing. I could never pay back the kindness that the Avengers had shown me, but it was a start.

If I could only figure out what Bucky's end game was. I was falling harder for him everyday, and it was like a rollercoaster ride for my fragile heart.

I got dressed and wandered into the kitchen with my head in the clouds. Nat was sitting, eating a bowl of cereal in her pajamas. Seeing the slick, impeccable woman in her comfys was a charming sight to behold.

We smiled at each other and I joined her. We sat in silence until finally, “so what's going on with you and Barnes?” she asked.

“What do you mean?” I feigned ignorance, looking down at my cereal.

“Sara, I'm a super spy remember? You can't hide anything from me. I see you sneaking out of each other's rooms in the mornings.”

“Nothing,” I blushed. “I mean, we're just sleeping together…”

Nat’s eyes bugged out and she dropped her spoon.

“No, no. I mean we're literally just sleeping.”

“Oh.” Nat frowned. “Why?”

I chuckled. “I'm not sure. It's comfortable?” I offered. “I mean, I really like him. More than like. But he's blowing kind of hot and cold. Or maybe he isn't. I don't know,” I plopped my chin on to my hands, exasperated. “I mean...does Bucky even like girls?”

“Oh, Bucky likes everything,” Natasha raised her eyebrows. “He had a real reputation before the war,” she said.

“Popular with the ladies, huh?”

“Not just the ladies,” Nat cracked a lopsided smile.

“Really?”

“Oh yeah! Didn't you know? Bucky and Steve had a thing…”

“Wow. Okay. That's intimidating.”

Nat chuckled, “Don't sweat it! That was years ago...I mean like a hundred years ago,” she assured me. “They're just buds now.”

“Still, those are some mighty big shoes to fill. I'm not surprised that he's not…”

“Don't be so hard on yourself, Sara.” she put her hand on mine. “Anyone with half a brain can tell he's crazy about you. And if he doesn't nut up soon, I'm gonna kick his ass,” she said and shoveled a huge spoonful of cereal into her mouth.

*
My work day passed pleasantly enough, but I was glad when it was over. Bucky and I met up everyday for dinner unless he was out on assignment. Sometimes we went out, sometimes he cooked for me. That day he wasn't going to be home until after 9pm. I thought it might be nice to make him a late dinner, and perhaps coax him further out of his shell.

Steve and Nat made themselves scarce, even though I insisted that it wasn't necessary. Nat was having none of it. “How are you supposed to jump his bones while his ex is hanging around?” Nat whispered.

I flushed hard. “I'm not going to jump anything!” I said.

“Yeah right,” Nat rolled her eyes. “Good luck!” she winked as she dragged a predictably clueless Steve out of the apartment.

I tried to calm my jitters. I told myself it was just another dinner with Bucky. My friend Bucky. My friend. Friendly-friend. Friendy McFriendface. It was no use. Deep down I knew it was something more. I was practically trembling with anticipation, so I concentrated on making dinner.

My heart jumped when I heard him come in, calling my name. “In here!” I replied.

“Hey doll, I thought I could take you out...are you cooking?”

“I'm attempting to, yes!”

Bucky's eyes lit up. “Whatchamakin?”

“It's a secret,” I said.

Bucky came up behind me and leaned over my shoulder.

“Hey!” I laughed. “No peeking!”

“I'm sorry, but I must know,” Bucky reached down and started to tickle me.

I put up a valiant fight, but I was helpless against his powers. I laughed and tried to deflect him, but only succeeded in getting flour all over the floor. “Look what you did!” I exclaimed after he'd finally relented.

“Hey, I'm innocent here! You're the one keeping secrets,” he paused to look at me. Then he raised his hand to brush some flour off my cheek. Our eyes met and my face burned where his fingers lingered.

My nerves got the best of me. I cleared my throat and turned back to my task. “They're almost ready,” I said.

Bucky settled himself at the table and waited with uncharacteristic patience while I fussed with the frying pan.

“Ta da!” I exclaimed when I was done, placing a huge plate in front of Bucky.

He cocked an eyebrow, “Pancakes?” he asked

“Potato pancakes,” I clarified.

Bucky was momentarily dumbstruck. He didn't say anything and I started to get worried.

“How did you know?” he said, his voice wobbled.

I shrugged. “It just seemed...fitting.” I said.

Bucky looked down at the plate and I saw a few tears escape and land on his plate. “My mother immigrated from Romania after WWI. She used to make these for me every Sunday. She said that the recipe was the only thing she took with her, but really, it was all up here,” he tapped his temple. “I never thought I'd see them again…” Bucky's voice was low and I could no longer make out what he was saying.

I wanted to go to him, to wipe away his tears and beg him not to cry. I would have done anything to ease his pain, even the pain of a happy memory; but I didn't have the chance.

He got up from the table and grabbed my hand, pulling me roughly against him. Before I knew what what happening, his lips were against mine. He kissed me like his life depended on it. I relished the feeling of his soft lips; he tasted like honey. Desire and adrenaline coursed through my veins, making me lightheaded. I clung to him like he was the only stable thing in a world spinning out of control.

I don't know if Bucky had gotten the opportunity to kiss anyone since the 40s, but in any case, he sure hadn't forgotten how. He took his time, his hands in my hair. But I had no patience anymore, not after all this time. I whimpered against his lips, pushing myself harder against him.

It was like the dam had broken and he couldn't hold back anymore. He lifted me up by the waist and pulled my legs around his waist. He pushed me harshly against the counter, causing pots and pans to come crashing to the floor.

He temporary snapped out of his frenzy, and I was allowed to breathe, though im pretty sure I didn't need oxygen anymore. I just needed him to keep touching me.

“Oops,” he said softly, observing the mess we'd made.

“So this is what I get for making you dinner? I hope to hell they taste good,” I said, gripping his neck tightly.

Bucky merely chuckled and kissed me again. His hands were everywhere, no longer careful, but rough and insistent. He hoisted me up, holding me firmly by the butt. He walked us over to the couch, never breaking our passionate embrace. He lay me down gently. The feeling of his body against me was intoxicating. He was heavy and warm, and I pushed my hips up to meet his. He nuzzled into my neck, and I inhaled the soft fragrance of his hair. He lifted his head and looked into my eyes. I thought I heard him say my name...

Suddenly, I was alone. Bucky had vanished. I was surrounded by fire. I found my voice and let out a savage, primal scream.

It sounded like glass was shattering around me, my vision turned white and blinding. Thousands of images flashed before my eyes: dreams, visions, feelings - too many to process. They rushed past me, sparking like static.

Until finally they stopped dead, and I felt a clarity that I had never known. Each fragment of reality was falling neatly into place. With this new sensation, my limbs felt heavy, and all I wanted to do was sleep. But someone was shouting at me.

Slowly I came to, and Bucky was above me. He had me by the shoulders and was shaking me, “Sara, oh God. Please open your eyes!” he said.

When I did he held me against him, rocking me like a child. “Jesus Christ, I thought I'd killed you. You just started screaming…”

“I remember…” I mumbled.

He pulled back and looked me in the eyes. “What?”

“I remember…” I said again.

“Remember what?”

“Everything.”

Chapter Text

“I remember it was raining the day of Becky Porter's birthday party. I was cranky and tired and I didn't want to go but my mother made me. She was worried that I was growing up antisocial. Becky didn't really want me there either, who would want a freak at their birthday party? I spent the party sitting on the Porter's front steps waiting for it to be over. Then a man approached me. He was tall, much taller than average, with ice white hair and red eyes. I remember thinking that I should be frightened, but I wasn't. My emotions were dampened somehow. He told me that my parents had sent him to take me home. My instincts told me I was in danger, but I didn't care, I wasn't able to care.

“We got into his vehicle, it looked like a van from the outside but inside, it looked more like a spaceship. He told me I'd been chosen. He said I was special, but I wasn't ready yet. He said he was going to hide me somewhere safe. Then he placed his long bony finger on my temple and I was blasted with a cold white light. The next thing I knew, I was back in my parents apartment, sick with a fever. It took me weeks to recover.

“I realize now that was the day I was switched. He abducted me, threw me into another dimension, and wiped my memories of him. And probably worst of all, he set the fire that killed my parents. But it was the other Sara who had to mourn them. She could have had no clue that she'd been switched too. Now she's trapped in another dimension, probably rotting in that hospital, confused and alone, and it's all my fault.”

“It's not your fault, Sara!” Nat placed a comforting hand on my knee when I'd finished talking.

“Ims dammm amemmns fathh…” Tony said. Tony was stuffing his face with the remainder of the pancakes. Bucky hadn't even had a chance to taste them. Tony swallowed. “It's the alien's fault,” he clarified.

Nat glared at him. She turned back to me. “And don't forget, Sara may be stuck, but she is still *you*, which means she is strong and clever. She will survive.” Nat said.

I looked at Bucky for comfort, but he was leaning against the wall, arms crossed, looking down. I put my head in my hands and tried to calm down. Everything had come to light so fast, my head was spinning.

“What brought this on, anyway? Why can you suddenly remember everything?” Nat asked.

Doctor Strange answered before I could. “It makes perfect sense actually. Psychic abilities usually develop with age, but since you were trapped in a dimension where those things do not exist, it makes sense that your abilities would manifest as hallucinations. Exposure to this dimension coupled with emotional trauma would naturally bring your true abilities to the surface.”

“But you've been here for awhile now, what changed? Did something happen?” Steve asked, concerned.

I flushed and looked towards Bucky, who simply clenched his jaw. I didn't answer. Nat rolled her eyes.

“Well I'm glad we sorted that out,” Tony said hurriedly. “Now can you please tell us the name of this psychic alien before he blows up another building?”

I looked up. His name was burned in my mind. It almost hurt to say it. “Vorta.” I said, “Rai Vorta.”

Tony tapped away on his tablet. “There is a something here matching your description, but SHIELD's files are encrypted,” he said. “It's going to take me a few hours to get through the firewall.”

Suddenly Bucky spoke. “I suggest that we all get some sleep and start our search tomorrow morning,” he said authoritatively. “Sara's exhausted, she needs time to process.”

He was right, but I didn't want to admit it. I wanted to find that mothefucker right away and make him pay. Or at least make things right.

I made my way to my room like a sleepwalker. Bucky followed and closed the door behind him. Before I could speak, he wrapped me up in his arms. I couldn't help but tense at his touch. He either didn't notice or didn't care.

“Dammit Sara, when you started screaming...I thought I'd killed you,” he pulled back to look me in the eye. “Why didn't you tell me that your visions were getting worse?”

I pulled away, I didn't appreciate being scolded like a child. “I don't know...I guess I didn't want you to know...how broken I am.” I lay down on the bed and put my hands over my eyes. Bucky chuckled at this, which annoyed me.

“I know a little something about being broken,” he said.

“Look, Bucky, I just want to be alone right now, okay?”

“Not gonna happen, doll.”

I sat up. Now I was pissed. “And why not?” I asked tersely.

“I might not be the psychic one, but I know what you're thinking.” He crossed his arms. “You're thinking that you're going to find this Vorta character by yourself.”

“Wouldn't you?” I asked exasperated. “He's clearly trying to use my abilities, or steal them. The only reason he hasn't already is because I'm under your protection. I'm the only one who'll be able to find him.”

“Not gonna happen.” Bucky set his jaw. “He could kill you.”

“I wish he would,” I regretted it as soon as I said it, yet I continued, “at least then this would all be over.” Bucky was visibly shaken by my comment. “If there is any chance I can save the other Sara, bring her back where she belongs...I have to take it.” I said. I was close to tears. “Don't you understand?”

“I do understand, more than you know. But I will not let it happen.”

“It's not up to you!” I shouted and stood up to face him.

“The hell it is!” Bucky shouted back. “I haven't let myself get this close to someone in a hundred years, and I'm not about to let you go!”

I was sobbing by this point. “Why not?” I said meekly.

He took a step towards me. “Because I love you Sara. I'm crazy batshit in love with you. You know that.”

“It doesn't matter…” I cried.

His face fell. “You don't mean that.”

I shook my head.

He stepped towards me and touched my face, swollen and red from crying. My tears poured down on to his hands. “Tell me you don't love me and I'll let you go, right now,” he said.

I shook my head again.

“Tell me, Sara! Tell me this means nothing to you! If you're so eager to go back to that hospital, after everything we've been through!” Tears fell from his eyes now too. “Just say the word.”

I couldn't speak. But I didn't have to. Bucky violently crashed his lips onto mine. I gave myself up to it completely. I didn't want to fight with him anymore.

I was so overwhelmed with emotions; his love for me seeped through his skin, his desire caused tingling pleasure to linger everywhere he touched. I just needed him to keep touching me…

He tossed me down on the mattress and was soon on top of me. I pushed my fingers through his thick brown hair, tugging him gently closer. He kissed me long and deeply, careful not to crush me under his weight. But I needed him closer.

I pulled his head down to my neck, where he sucked gently. I wrapped my legs around his waist and squeezed. He pushed himself down on me with a twist of his hips. I let out a heavy breath at the sensation.

“Draga mea...ingerul meu,” he whispered in my ear. “Te iubesc, te iubesc…”

I reached up and pulled off my shirt, followed by my skirt. He hovered over me and watched as I exposed myself to him. I pulled his shirt over his head and pressed my chest against his. He held my head to his throat, caressing my hair.

His hands moved to touch my breasts, and his mouth left wet kisses along my collarbone. He ran his metal hand down my side and over to spread my legs. My thighs were wet and I shivered.

I unzipped his pants and took his heavy cock in my hand, encouraging him. I leaned back as he pushed into me deeply, my eyes squeezed shut. I held my breath, getting used to the feeling of being stretched. He rocked into me gently, slowly, and I opened my eyes.

He looked at me, his grey-blue eyes were fiery with lust and adoration. He was so beautiful in that moment...sweaty, breathing heavily, making love to me.

Soon neither of us could keep up the gentle rhythm. He slammed into me, making me moan until I was hoarse. He touched me with his warm hand, pulling and pushing until I vibrated with sweet climax. I kept expecting the waves pleasure to end, but they didn't. He kissed and he sucked and he fucked the breath out of me.

Soon I thought I would die - suffocate beneath him but I didn't care, I just wanted him to have me. He held me to his chest as he came inside me, placing soft kisses in my hair.

When it was over, I lay on my side. He wrapped his metal arm around me and held me against him. “I promise I'll protect you…” he whispered. I cried myself softly to sleep as he sang me a Romanian lullaby.

*
It was 4:17am. I knew that because I'd managed to squeeze out from Bucky's metal grip to check my phone. There was a notification from Tony.

I sat up and looked at Bucky. He was fast asleep, his long lashes danced against his face in a dream. I could sense that his dreams were happy, and I hoped he'd stay there for awhile.

I got dressed quietly. Before leaving the bedroom, I took one last look at Bucky. How did I manage to make this gorgeous, loyal, brave, sweet man fall in love with me? Me - the girl from the mental institution, the freak, the nobody. I watched him sleep for a moment before leaving him.

On my way out, I checked Tony's email.

Sara,
I broke through the encryption and this is what I found: The Raith were a race of humanoids that lived on a small planet on the outer reaches of our solar system. Though they were few, they were a powerful psychic race. With a mixture of intuition, empathy and psychic ability, they could easily bend people to their will. Eventually they decided to use their powers for their own gain, and began to enslave nearby worlds. They incapacitated and exploited less evolved beings. When the Raith set their sights on earth, SHIELD mobilized. With the help of the Sorcerer Supreme, they were able to strip the Raith of their powers. As suddenly non-psychic beings, their society fell into chaos and they started to turn on each other. Their world was left a smoldering rock, with nearly all of their people dead.

Nearly, but not all. The ruler of the Raith - Rai Vorta - managed to escape. SHIELD thought he had relocated, or was hiding somewhere in the galaxy to escape capture. We now believe that this whole time he's been searching to replace the psychic power that the Sorcerer Supreme stole from him.

We believe that he found you and hid you in that other dimension until your powers were strong enough to be useful to him. If he finds you he will be ruthless.

We believe that you're in real danger, kid. Danger of having your eggs scrambled. Stay with Bucky and the Cap. We will find this asshole together. Hang in there.
~Tony

I turned off my phone and grabbed my leather jacket. Though I knew the walls were soundproofed, I still shut the door to the apartment slowly and silently behind me.

Chapter Text

It wasn't about finding Vorta. It never was. I knew now the only way he would expose himself is if I called to him. It was up to me and only me. He was waiting.

I climbed the stairs to the old brownstone slowly, already aware of what I was going to find when I opened the door.

I walked into Sara's apartment. The once cozy space was half destroyed already. The hanging plants were scorched, the curtains were torn and pulled off the windows. Sara's things were strewn about the floor, burned and broken. I almost rolled my ankle, so I slowed down to watch my footing.

He emerged from her bedroom. He was tall, taller than average, with ice white hair and deep red eyes. He looked exactly the same as the day I first met him. I wasn't scared anymore, now that I knew what I had to do.

He smiled brightly. “My dear Sara,” despite his somewhat startling appearance, his voice was smooth and calming. “I'm so glad that we're finally meeting again. I see you received the messages I sent to you.” He was talking about the disturbing visions I had been plagued with since I arrived in this dimension.

“Yeah, I'm here. So what do you want from me anyway? I mean, besides my psychic abilities - which you clearly want to exploit.”

He chuckled. “It's not that simple, my dear. When my people were stripped of their powers, they were denied their very nature. Only I escaped - with a fraction of the powers I once possessed. You, on the other hand, were born with powers equal to those of the Raith, or perhaps even stronger.” He walked slowly towards me, but I didn't flinch.

“So, are you going to suck my brain out my nose, or what? Whatever it is, just get to it would you? But first, I need you to set things right.”

He tilted his head to the side, questioning.

“I need you to bring the other Sara back to this dimension. She doesn't deserve this. She deserves her life back.”

“You know I won't do that Sara. I will make sure that she does not have a life to come back to.”

“Is that why you're torching her apartment?”

“Yes, and it creates a certain elegant symmetry to the situation doesn't it?”

I clenched my jaw, thinking of the fire that killed my parents. “Why are you torturing her...I mean me?” I cursed my voice for cracking, I wanted to stay strong.

“You must have figured it out by now,” he said, a perverse little smile touched his white lips. “Don't you know who your real mother is?”

I searched his veiled thoughts and it came through. “The Sorcerer Supreme,” I finally said.

“Yes, the one who destroyed my people. The one who abused her power and wiped out nearly my entire race. She may be dead now, but I can still utilize her daughter,” he said, exposing his straight ice white teeth.

My body shuttered and I was gripped with a sudden fear. Not from Rai Vorta, but something else. Someone was coming. Bucky was coming. I could feel him.

“Sure, whatever,” I tried to hurry. “Get it on with it then, I'm ready.”

He laughed. “I'm surprised to find you so willing. Considering that boy that you love so dear is headed here as we speak.”

I started to panic. “Leave him out of this!”

“Oh, I very much will not leave him out of this. I couldn't possibly leave him alive with the pain of seeing his girlfriend mated to a monster. Hasn't the little soldier been through enough?” he said mockingly.

“Hold up,” I said. “Mated?”

“Of course! What did you expect? That I would place my bony white finger on your forehead and steal your powers?”

“Ummm yeah basically.”

“Nothing so easy, my sweet! You will come with me and we shall return to my home world. There, we will repopulate the planet. With your abilities, we shall create a race that is even more powerful that ever before!”

“The hell you are!” Bucky suddenly cried. Doctor Strange, in his full regalia, stood tall beside him.

“Do you really think you can stop me, boy??” Vorta said, pulling a weapon from his belt. He pointed it at the ground, and blasted a white hot light, creating a flaming barrier separating us from Bucky and Strange. Then he grabbed me by the neck and held the weapon to my head. “What makes you think she'd even want to stay with you? When she can have an advanced creature like myself?” Vorta laughed.

“Get real, creep!” I wiggled to try and get out his grasp.

“Sara!” Bucky cried.

“Don't even think about trying anything, boy. Or I'll set her pretty little head on fire.” He held my neck with tight fingers, but something wasn't right. I sensed hesitation.

I looked at Bucky through the wall of flames. His eyes met mine with a look of desperation.

I reached inside myself, mustering up all the strength I had left. With every fibre of my being, I concentrated on Bucky, and him alone. I pushed my thoughts towards him. He won't hurt me. He needs me alive. I repeated in my mind until it reverberated in heavy vibrations around my skull.

Suddenly, Bucky's expression changed. There was a ghost of a smile behind his eyes. He'd heard me.

It all happened so fast, it couldn't have been more than a few seconds. But to me, it felt like slow motion.

Bucky lunged towards the fire, but at the last second ricocheted off the side of the wall, skillfully avoiding the blaze. Vorta momentarily removed his weapon from my temple, and shot white hot blasts of light at Bucky.

He dodged the blasts, some of them bounced off his metal arm, others grazed his body but missed him, causing explosions of fire to erupt wherever they hit. While Bucky distracted Vorta, I wasted no time.

“Now!!” I screamed to Strange, not bothering to use my telepathy. Doctor Strange's face hardened and he waved his hands in a series of intricate movements. Soon, a portal opened in front of him, crackling and sparking with gold light.

“Hey! Ballbag!” I screamed. Vorta looked back at me for a split second. And while he did, Bucky swung off the exposed beam in the ceiling and slammed his legs into him from behind. Vorta choked, the air knocked out of him, and went careening backwards, through the fire and straight into the mouth of the sparking gold vortex.

Strange waved his hand and the portal closed, but as it did, an identical gold portal opened beside it. It swirled more violently than the other, it seemed unstable. Strange grunted with effort and then something flew out of the portal, hit the wall and collapsed into a pile of debris. The portal closed.

At that moment, Tony, Nat and the Cap burst into the apartment, fully suited and ready to fight. “Aww, did we miss the fight?” Tony said through his mask.

“'fraid so,” I said, coughing at the dust and ash falling around me.

Steve and Nat were busy stamping out the fire that still burned. I started towards the being on the floor. Whoever had come through the portal was coming to.

“Sara, wait!” Bucky tried to hold me back but couldn't.

I dropped to my knees in front of her as she coughed and lifted her head. She was wearing a dirty sweatshirt and her blonde hair was tangled and full of ash.

It was me. She was me. It was her.

“Sara?” I asked.

“Hey girl,” she smiled, coughed then looked around, confused. “What the hell happened to my apartment?” she said, getting to her feet.

“Little bit of a scuffle I'm afraid,” I said. “Are you okay? Do you know what happened?” The others gathered around us.

“Yeah, I was sucked into another dimension. I managed to piece it together,” she snickered. “These kinda things happen all the time… well in this dimension anyway.” She picked up one of her belongings from the floor, but then tossed it aside, frowning. “But there weren't any Avengers there to help me out. Hello, Mr. Stark.” Sara nodded at him.

“Nice to have you back, Ms. White,” he said. “And don't worry about your apartment, SHIELD will cover the damage.”

She thanked him, then her face flushed with panic. “Wait, where's my cat??!”

“Don't worry!” I touched her shoulder. “We have him at our place. He's a sweetie. What's his actual name anyway?”

“Her name is Pinky.”

“Like Pinky Tuscadero?”
“Like Pinky Tuscadero,” we said in unison, then started to laugh.

Tony rolled his eyes. “Dear God, there's two of them.”

Sara and I clung to each other, finally safe, caught up in giddy hysterics.

“Wait, I thought you said that the Saras couldn't both be in the same dimension at the same time?” Steve asked, directing his question to Dr. Strange.

“I was able to make some quantum...cellular…shall we say, 'adjustments’,” Strange replied.

“And you couldn't have told me about this yesterday?” I said.

“I wasn't sure that it could be done. I was merely being cautious.”

“That doesn't sound like you,” Nat snickered. Strange glared at her.

“I'm just glad it's over…” I sighed, and was comforted by Bucky placing a gentle hand on my shoulder. He'd been surprisingly quiet throughout the whole exchange.

“Well, allow me to escort you to the Tower so you can get cleaned up,” Tony said, being surprisingly gentlemanly. “Would you like to follow me, Ms. White...I mean the new Ms. White? Or I suppose it would be the old Ms. White?”

“Hey!” Sara exclaimed.

“He doesn't mean 'old’... It's just..a little confusing,” Steve reassured her.

“Yeah,” Nat said. “There can't very well be two Sara Whites running around… especially when you look almost identical.”

“Hmmm…” I scrunched my nose. “Well, I don't really want to change my first name, but I suppose I could start spelling Sarah with an 'h’.” I winked at Steve.

He smiled and nodded approvingly.

“But as for last name…” I continued. “Hmm...Black? No, that's dorky. Ummm…”

“What about Barnes?”

I swirled around to face Bucky who was looking at the ground.

“...are you saying what I think you're saying, soldier?” I said softly.

“Well… uhh… I mean, I know people in this day and age wait a long time but… I just…” Bucky was muttering.

I walked towards him slowly, and wrapped my arms around his neck while he spoke.

He was flushed red. “But… dammit,” he said. “I used to be much better at these things.”

He gave my waist a little squeeze and trained his grey-blue eyes on mine. “I'm sorry but I'm just looking for the right words to say… they aren't coming out the way I planned them to be… but if I have to walk the world to make you fall for me… I promise… I promise you I will...”

My eyes were full of tears and I let them fall freely down my face. I pulled his lips to mine and kissed him like it was the first time.

“Oh Jesus,” Tony said and turned away from us.

Nat giggled.

“I think that's a 'yes’ Buck!” Steve shouted, laughing.

“Yes James,” I said, catching my breath. “Barnes will suit me just fine.”

Chapter Text

“Am I crazy?”

“I think it's long been established that you are,” Nat said, fussing with one of my brown curls that just wouldn't behave.

“I mean, I've only known him for like, three months!” I said.

“You've been locked up for half your life! That mental hospital was no picnic - I should know. It's time you started living, girl!” My doppelganger Sara exclaimed. She was already three sheets to the wind on the fantastic - and I imagine very expensive - champagne that Tony had given us.

I followed suit and took a swig from my glass. It felt like overnight that I'd gone from a hopeless mental patient to a powerful psychic warrior. What's more, I’d fallen so hard for this man, this mysterious, brave, sweet, damaged man. I felt things for him that I didn't even think I was capable of. But with nothing to compare it to, how did I know that my feelings were real? How did I know that his were real? The glass of champagne started to shake in my hand.

Nat took my glass away from me and put her hands on my shoulders. She looked me in the eyes, serious. “Do you love him?” she asked.

“More than anything,” I confessed.

“Then snap out of it before I have to slap you!” she smiled widely. “Seriously though, Barnes is...well he's amazing. And he worships you. You're going to be really happy, I promise.” She gathered me into a hug, and my heart finally began to slow. She meant what she said.

I turned to the mirror and smoothed my dress. It ended just above the knee, and was made of cream vintage lace. It definitely matched the 1940s aesthetic that I was going for, but my bright red lips were set in a frown.

I wished I could see Bucky. I wondered if he was having cold feet. I wished I could be close to him so I could read his mind. I was getting good at it. But our friends had kept us seperated, and I hadn't seen him since the previous morning. They had snatched me out of his arms, laughing and blaming “tradition”. But damn, I missed his face. I missed his bright disarming smile...his full lips, red from kissing me...his strong hands lifting me up and throwing me on the bed...

“Yoo hoo! Sarah? You okay?” Nat waved her hand in front of my face. I blushed and nodded. Nat rolled her eyes. “Good, because it's time.”

*
Nat drove us in Tony’s silver Audi e-tron Spyder and Tokyo drifted into the parking spot in front of the little church.

“Really, Nat?” I cried, trying not to puke.

“Sorry, hon. I had to. Tony never lets me drive this car,” she smirked. Sara was laughing hysterically in the back seat. “But it got your mind off things, didn't it?” she smiled.

“Yeah, because I thought I was going to die.” I said, frowning and checking my makeup in the mirror. My face still appeared to be where it was supposed to be.

“Mission accomplished then!” Nat said and got out of the car.

She came around to the passenger side and helped me out of the car. I smoothed my dress nervously and looked up at the church. It was beautiful, a small stone building just outside the city.

Bucky had insisted that we get married in a church. I was more than willing to elope at City Hall, but Bucky was having none of it.

“So much of my life was taken away from me...so much was tainted and marred...I want to do this properly,” he'd said. “I want to make you my wife in front of God and our friends… I need to do this right.”

He'd been so earnest, how could I say no? One of the many things I'd learned about my future husband was that he was raised Catholic, but hadn't been to church since before the war. My parents never had any use for religion, but I was happy to oblige. Honestly, I would do anything that he asked of me.

Outside the church, Steve was waiting for us, wearing a somewhat worried expression on his face. As soon as I looked at him, I knew.

“Where's Bucky?” I asked, my voice wobbled.

Steve rushed over to me and pulled me into a big bear hug. “You look so beautiful,” he said.

“Don't change the subject, Rogers. Where's Bucky?”

“Umm…” Steven said and pulled Nat to him, whispering something in her ear.

“Oh, for God's sake.” Nat exclaimed. “I'm going to wring his neck.”

“What's going on?” I was close to tears.

Nat grabbed me by the shoulders. “Sarah. Breathe,” she said. “Just give us a minute, okay? We'll be right back, I promise.” She grabbed Steve's hand and rushed into the church, with Sara following just behind.

I was alone. But before I could descend into full panic mode, someone grabbed me tightly by the waist and yanked me backwards, pulling me towards the small wooded area just behind the church. I almost fell off my blue high heels, but then two strong hands steadied me.

I was ready to scream but then I recognized him. He was wearing a slim fitting blue pinstripe suit, his hair was clipped (not too short) but tidy and pushed back from his forehead. He was clean shaven and his grey-blue eyes sparkled like ice in the sunshine. He looked like a GQ model.

I stared at him for a moment then mumbled, “You look...beautiful.”

Bucky chuckled and pulled me into his arms. “Hey, that's my line…” he said softly into my hair.

I came back to my senses when he released me, swatting him on the shoulder. “What the hell, James?” I said. “You sure do enjoy scaring the crap out of me, don't you?”

Bucky's eyes fell, “I'm sorry,” he said.

“What's wrong?” I was almost afraid to ask.

“I...I just needed to see you,” he said. I could feel that his mind was a mess of confusion and anxiety. I waited for him to go on. “I'm worried…” he was searching for the words. “I mean...I feel like a jerk.” he shook his head.

“What do you mean, Buck?” I could feel the tears begining to rise to the surface, but Bucky cupped my face in his hands and kissed me softly.

“Oh, no, please don't cry,” he said. “I just...wanted to make sure that...this is what you really want.”

“What are you getting at, Barnes?”

“I feel like I'm rushing you. Asking you to marry me after a month...making you get married in a church. I couldn't sleep last night worrying…are you sure you want to do this? I won't be mad if you want to wait...or call it off…” he frowned.

“Do you want to call it off?” I asked, tears freely falling.

“No! No, of course not,” he shook his head. “I just don't understand why...why you would want me…” he said softly.

I looked into his eyes. “I’ve never needed anyone like I need you, James.” I hadn't realized it until that moment, when I thought he might bail, how much I needed to be his wife.

Bucky smiled and rested his forehead against mine. “Thank God,” he chuckled “I don't know what I would have done if you'd said otherwise.”

I swatted at him again, “Then why did you say anything, you goon? I'm wearing the dress ain't I?”

“Yeah but...especially this morning...I was gripped by this feeling...that you were having cold feet.”

I pursed my lips. Doctor Strange had said this could happen. Not only could I sort of read minds, but sometimes, others could read mine. Especially when they were someone close to me. And noone was closer to me than Bucky. I hadn't figured out how to shield my emotions yet, but I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to keep any secrets from my husband.

“Okay, full disclosure, I was feeling nervous this morning. But, not any more,” I smiled. “And never again.”

Bucky flashed me his million dollar smile, the one that knocks the breath out of me. He pulled me into his arms and kissed me. I was just so giddy to be his arms, I didn't realize how long we were out there, making out like teenagers.

I pulled back, catching my breath. “We better get in there! Nat is going to seriously rip your throat out.” I giggled.

Bucky just pulled me closer. “Not yet, please. It's worth getting my throat ripped out.” He kissed me again, harder this time. I felt the heat rush to my face, making me dizzy. He ran his hands down my back, and hoisted me up so I could wrap my legs around his waist. He pushed me backwards until my back collided with a tree.

“Oof!” I grunted.

“Shit, sorry doll,” he said. He didn't look sorry. His eyes were aflame with desire.

I had completely forgotten where we were, in a forest behind a church, and that we were late for our own wedding. Bucky had a way of turning my brain into mush. I wouldn't be able to function until he fucked me thoroughly.

I reached down and fumbled with his belt. He was kissing my neck and I enjoyed how his clean shaven face felt smooth again my skin. All I could do was mumble his name as he reached down and relieved me of my panties.

Without warning he was inside me, causing me to cry out softly, my voice echoed, bouncing off the trees around us.

“Shhh…” Bucky whispered in my ear, “You don't want to get caught, do you?” He smiled at me and kissed my lips before I could cry out again. He was enjoying the slow torture, moving in deliberately measured thrusts. He hoisted me higher, and the angle was so intense, I almost screamed, but Bucky easily silenced me with his mouth.

I pulled my face away for a moment, “Harder!” I whisper-shouted.

“Shhh!” Bucky scolded, but then chuckled and did as he was told. “As you wish, princess.”

It was so intense, I could feel him in my throat. My eyes rolled back into my head and I went limp as he pounded into me. It felt so dirty, fucking me out in the open, where anyone could find us. Just when I thought I couldn't take any more, he pushed his hand down between us and started to rub my clit. I loved it when he touched me with his metal hand. It felt so exciting, foreign and dangerous, as if he could split me in two any second. It caused me to come completely undone, coming hard against his hand. After a few more determined thrusts he came too, unable to keep his moan from escaping and echoing through the forest.

He nuzzled into my hair and we erupted into ecstatic laughter. He set me down gently, and I leaned against the tree until I was no longer dizzy.

Bucky gazed down at me with an expression so soaked with love and devotion I thought I would burst into tears. I stood up and smoothed my dress. “How do I look?” I asked. I knew that my lips were red and swollen, my curls had escaped from their pins and were hanging in my eyes. He just chuckled and pulled a leaf out of my hair. “You are the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.”

Once we'd suitability composed ourselves, Bucky grabbed my hand and pulled me along to peak around the front of the church, thick as thieves.

The coast was clear, so we jogged towards the entrance, just as Nat burst out and charged towards us. Bucky stood in front of me protectively, never underestimating the power of a pissed off Romanov.

“Well, well. You two are in big trouble,” she tried to keep a straight face, but instead cracked a smile. “If you guys can find it in your busy schedule to get married, everyone is waiting.”

Bucky and I looked at each other. “Yes?” he asked me.

“Yep,” I replied.

“Good, now get in there before I knock your block off,” Nat said to Bucky.

“No,” he said.

“Pardon me?” said Nat.

“No, I don't want Sarah to walk down the aisle alone. I'll escort her there myself, thank you very much,” Bucky said.

Nat rolled her eyes but smiled. “Suit yourself!” She threw her hands up before walking back into the church.

“Ready?” he asked, squeezing my hand.

*

“It doesn't work like that, Tony!”

“Oh, come-on! Read my mind...PLEASE.” Tony whined and I laughed.

We'd had a small but very emotional wedding. A quiet reception followed, back at the Tower. It's not like Bucky or I knew many people anyway, just a few of my friends from the lab and some of the friendlier agents. But now the last of the guests had trickled away, leaving just me, Sara, Tony, Steve, Nat and Bucky alone, getting drunk on the couch. Tony had decided it would be funny to treat me like a circus sideshow.

“Okay, fuck, I'll try,” I sat up and wobbled a little in my seat, I was pretty tipsy. I stared at Tony hard. “Oh, Christ!” I swatted at him. “Tony! That's gross!!”

“What??” he looked innocent.

“Don't think about me...her...like that!” I cried.

Sara perked up. “What??? Was he thinking about me?”

“He was wondering if the carpet matches the drapes,” I said, gesturing to her blonde hair.

Tony smirked and put his arm around Sara. “Honey, this is a dye job,” Sara explained. “But if you want to find out for yourself…” she winked and leaned back into Tony's arm.

“Oh, gross. Guys, if you're going to hook up, please leave me - and my mind - out of it!” I said.

“Are you guys harassing my wife?” Bucky said, handing me a glass of water and flopping down next to me on the couch. He'd taken off his suit jacket and loosened his tie. He looked so smoking hot I almost tackled him right then and there. Instead, I settled for a kiss that lasted a little bit too long to be appropriate in mixed company.

The others whooped and threw popcorn at us until we finally separated, giggling like idiots.

Steve leaned forward. “So, that's all there is to it? You can read minds?” he asked, genuinely curious.

“Not exactly. It's not like I know everyone's deepest darkest secrets. I just sometimes get a sense about what people are thinking. Things that are just below the surface. Things that they aren't very good at hiding,” I explained.

Steve cleared his throat, “Oh,” he smiled. He seemed relieved.

I let it go and continued. “And I can kinda see the future… I mean sometimes I can tell what people are going to do before they do it...and sometimes I get visions of what will happen in the future, or things that have happened in the past. But it can be difficult to distinguish which is which...does that make sense?”

“No,” they all said in unison, then erupted into laughter.

I joined them. “I know, it's confusing. But Doctor Strange promised me we would work hard on my psychic skills, so I can make myself useful.”

“You are useful,” Tony said. “In fact, you better not work too hard with Strange, you're needed in the lab. Your coworkers tell me you're indispensable.”

“And you have to help me find a new place!” Sara insisted.

“Am I ever going to see my wife again?” Bucky frowned.

“Damn right you are,” Steve said, looking at the others. “Should I tell her?” The others nodded.

Steve raised his glass high, “I would like to propose a toast. Not only to the happy couple, but to the newest Avenger!”

I looked around while the others cheered. “What...you mean me?” I asked.

“Yeah, you, dummy!” Nat cried.

“But I'm not ready!”

“Is anyone ever ready?” Steve chuckled.

I looked at Bucky, “Did you know about this?”

“I'm afraid I did not. I would have heartily protested. It's much too dangerous.”

I pursed my lips.

“But, it was just a matter of time. That's what I get for marrying a badass.” Bucky chuckled and kissed me on the forehead.

“Before I forget! I also have an announcement!” Sara announced. “I've decided to change my name. There are too many Saras running around - I don't care how you spell it. It's too fucking confusing.”

I laughed, “You're right. So, what shall we call you?” I asked.

“Marie. Marie White,” she replied.

“Oh, I love that!” I cried. “Marie is my middle name!”

“I know, doofus. It's mine too,” Sara (Marie) said. “Barnes, your wife is drunk.”

“I'm not drunk!” I said, hiccuping on cue.

“Time for bed?” Bucky asked.

“Oh, let's stay a little longer!”

Bucky looked slightly disappointed but replied, “Anything for you, doll.”

*
I was jostled awake by Nat flopping down on the couch next to me. I rubbed my eyes and observed Steve and Bucky hanging out by the stereo, laughing and flipping through records.

“So, I guess you didn't really need my help to calm down this morning, huh?” Nat wiggled her eyebrows. “You two seemed pretty.. relaxed...during the ceremony.”

I flushed from head to toe, “How much do you know, Romanov?”

“Only everything. I figured it out in like, two seconds. I don't know how many times I have to tell you. I. AM. A. SUPER. SPY.”

“Sorry, we couldn't help ourselves,” I said. “I'm so embarrassed!”

“Don't be!” she waved her hand. “I won't tell anyone.”

“Well thank you. And don't worry. I can keep a secret too.” I smirked.

Nat tilted her head to the side, waiting for me to go on.

“How long have you and the Cap been knocking boots?” I asked.

She blanched, “Dammit.”

I tapped my temple and nodded knowingly. Nat rolled her eyes and we laughed, causing the boys to look our way.

“Shhh…” Nat said. “It's still new, okay?” She was doing a poor job hiding her coy smile.

“But it's good right?”

“Real good… But never say 'knocking boots’ ever again,” she said, flicking my arm.

“What are you gals yakking about?” Steve said, wandering over.

“God, you're such an old man,” Nat said.

“You love it,” he muttered, then cleared his throat and stood up straight.

I giggled but it turned into a yawn.

“Alright Princess, bedtime.” Bucky said, and in one swift motion, swooped me up in his arms.

“But I'm not tired,” I whined, burying my face in his neck.

“Good.” Bucky said, slamming the door shut with his foot.

*
I insisted that Bucky make love to me twice more before we went to sleep.

He moved inside of me, unhurried, languidly kissing me and drawing out every second of sweet pleasure as long as possible. It was different, as we usually fell into bed so quickly and were so consumed by passion that we almost tore each other apart. Now we had all the time in the world.

The last thing I saw before I fell asleep were a pair of grey-blue eyes, slowly closing, and I was comforted by the knowledge that I would see them again tomorrow.

 

**********
“So you're telling me you don't know where he came from?” The doctor’s patent leather shoes clicked ominously on the polished laminate floor.

“Ummm,” his assistant flipped through his clipboard and adjusted his glasses.

The doctor peeked through the small windows of the isolation cells one by one, surveying with satisfaction the docile patients within. “Who signed the transfer order?” he asked, annoyed.

His assistant frowned. “There was no order,” he said.

“Someone will be fired for this,” the doctor said sternly.

He stopped at the last cell in the hallway, peering through the glass. “Just fix it,” he frowned. “The reputation of this entire facility is at stake.” The doctor shook his head. “He clearly belongs here, but we need to know what we are dealing with…” he said, looking back through the glass with an expression of disgust.

Inside, a man sat hunched, his long white legs pulled tightly to his body. His red eyes stared straight ahead as he muttered, over and over...

“I'm coming for you, Sarah…”