“Why are you bleeding on my dog?”
Bucky tried to keep his voice calm and non-threatening, just in case the battered and bruised man who was currently in his backyard wasn’t in the best mental state. Bucky found the chances of that likely; the guy was a wreck with one black eye and the other soon to follow suit, his t-shirt torn in multiple places and blood tinting his dirty blond hair a sickly orange-pink hue. If the stranger continued to stroke Lucky’s fur with his bleeding palm, they would soon match.
The man didn’t answer, didn’t even look up to where Bucky was standing in the gap of the open gate, grocery bags in both hands. He had only been gone for ten minutes, and apparently, that had been enough time for someone to decide to infringe on his property, dirty his dog and show off some of the most spectacularly rude social skills Bucky had ever been privy to witnessing. Bucky moved slowly as he lowered the bags of food to the ground and stepped toward the man.
It wasn’t until Bucky’s shadow covered Lucky and the stranger that the latter finally looked up, his eyes widening as though noticing Bucky for the first time.
“Oh, fuckshit, I know this probably looks real bad,” the man started, and Bucky jumped a bit at the loud volume of his voice. Was he...Bucky noticed small purple aids in the man’s ears now that he was closer to him, and oh. Bucky was a real prick, thinking extremely rude thoughts about a beaten up deaf man.
He’s an intruder on your property and probably a criminal, the voice in Bucky’s head reminded him.
The man continued after taking a ragged breath. “But I promise I’m not doing anything weird. Okay, so this is probably trespassing if you squint, but I’ve been having a shit day and this guy just looked so happy on the other side of this fence, and I tried knocking on your front door but you weren’t home, as you know, and so I didn’t think it would hurt to pet your dog just one time, but I can see how this looks now that he’s covered in my body fluids and I’m going to shut up and finish walking home now.”
With that, the guy tried to get to his feet and almost instantly fell over. Lucky lurched out of Bucky’s way as he lunged forward, helping the guy stay upright by grabbing his shoulders and steadying him with his grasp. He noticed the guy’s gaze flicker to his prosthetic, but he kept his tact by not mentioning anything about it to Bucky.
“Thanks, man. And my aids are busted, those ugly bastards got ‘em all futzed up, so I’m sorry about that too and I, uh, I should be okay now. Unless...do you want me to give you money, to have your dog groomed?”
The leery suspicion in Bucky’s mind evaporated quickly as the man continued to ramble on. This guy? Bucky pegged him as harmless. A little out of it, and seemingly down on his luck, but Bucky couldn’t detect any telltale bulges in the guy’s clothing where he might be hiding weapons, and he looked like such a mess that Bucky almost wanted to hug him rather than let go of his shoulders.
Huh. That was an...odd instinct. Bucky took his hands off of the guy as though he’d been burned.
Bucky shoved the thoughts aside and touched his fingers to his mouth.
“Can you read lips?” He asked slowly, watching as the man’s cerulean eyes tracked the movement of his mouth.
“Yeah, for the most part. But you don’t gotta threaten me or nothin’, I’ll just be on my way-”
“What’s your name?” Bucky interrupted. The guy paused and his eyes grew weary and shifted to the left. He was debating on lying, Bucky gathered.
“Clint. What’s yours?” Ah, the truth. Bucky accepted his name with a nod.
“James. What happened to you, Clint?” Bucky repeated the question again when he saw Clint begin to flounder.
“Just these fucking assclowns staking out my apartment building. Bunch of dick-bros in tracksuits, trying to get to me and my tenants. They, uh, didn’t take too kindly to a few of the words that I had for them. But it’s cool. Not a typical Tuesday without being kidnapped, beaten and left for dead, right?” Clint straightened, shrugged, and wiped his hands on his jeans.
Bucky gaped at him. “Should I take you to a hospital, or-?”
“No. Nope. I’m good. Looks worse than it is. I’ve got a tenant who can patch me up as soon as I get home. But thanks? For not killing me or calling the cops, you know.” Clint leaned down and patted Lucky’s side twice more, getting a lazy lick on the back of his hand for his troubles. “And thank you, uh?” Clint looked expectantly at Bucky, eyebrows raised.
“His name is Lucky.”
Clint’s face split into a wide grin, and though it looked as though it must have hurt, a small laugh escaped his lips. It was bright and airy, and Bucky cleared his throat in an effort to stomp down a smile of his own.
“That’s about right,” Clint said, walking past Bucky but still being cognizant to leave some space between them as he stepped out of the backyard. “I feel pretty lucky right about now. Thanks, handsome stranger James and awesome dog Lucky! Hope your day gets better.”
With that, Clint waved behind him without looking, and Bucky simply stared after him until he was out of sight.
“Hope your day gets better, too,” Bucky mumbled, gathering his groceries and whistling for Lucky to follow him into the house.
The next time Bucky saw Clint was nearly two months later, and he had all but forgotten about the strange encounter with the bleeding man in his backyard. It had taken him a few weeks to shake the feeling that he should be trying to hunt Clint down, to make sure that he was okay at the very least. Bucky refused to admit to himself that he also kind of just...wanted to see him again.
When he did next see Clint, Bucky wasn’t as relieved or as glad as he figured he would be. It could have had something to do with the fact that it was two thirty in the fucking morning on a Monday. Or, Bucky thought as he stared dumbly at Clint’s face through the peephole, maybe Bucky wasn’t feeling all too pleased because Clint had woken him and Lucky up by incessantly pounding on the goddamn door.
“What the hell?” Bucky yelled when Clint quickly pushed past him and into Bucky’s living room the split second that Bucky had cracked open the front door. “Clint, you can’t just-”
“I know and I’m sorry, I am! But they were trailin’ me and they were getting too futzing close for comfort, ya know, and I really don’t want another repeat of what happened last week.” Clint moved one of the curtains from the front window and peeked outside. Bucky went to correct him, to tell him that no, it had been nearly two fucking months since the last time this happened, but then Bucky clamped his mouth shut. He waved his arms over his head to get Clint’s attention, and Clint shot him a concerned look. It took a moment for realization to hit him, and he grinned.
“Nah, man. These aids work. Got my old pair replaced later that night. Thanks for trying to be considerate, though.” Clint drew the curtain closed, walked across the living room, and sat down roughly on Bucky’s couch.
“Okay, first of all, should I be calling the police?” Bucky asked, still trying to allow his brain to catch up to what was happening.
Clint shook his head. “Won’t do anything, they’re some kind of mafia I think? Anyway, I’ve got it under control.”
Bucky snorted. “Honestly, I was more wondering if I should be calling the police on you, what with you trespassing again and all. And also, this? This isn’t having anything under control.”
The blood drained from Clint’s face as Bucky spoke. “Fuck, yeah, I can see valid points to both of those things you just said. I just. I remembered that your place was nearby and you were pretty nice that other time, so I guess I was just hoping you would rather let me hide out in your house for ten minutes rather than letting me get the shit kicked outta me on your front lawn.” Clint ran his hands over his face, and for the first time since he had pushed Bucky out of the way, Bucky noticed how exhausted he looked. Fighting against the instinct to grab Clint by the back of the neck and quite literally toss him out the front door, Bucky reached over and locked the deadbolt.
“Do you drink coffee?” Bucky asked, resigned. He started to pull his hair up until he could secure it into a messy and floppy bun at the base of his neck using the hair tie on his wrist. Bucky watched Clint track the movements of his hands, but he refused to be embarrassed about having his entire prosthetic on display. It was his damn house, it was the middle of the night, and he wasn’t going to change out of his damn tank top.
“Uh, yes? No, wait, that’s not a question. I do. Coffee is my one true love in this world, James, and if you’re offering to make me some right now, which I think you might be, then you can officially claim second place.” Clint shot a goofy grin over to Bucky, whose stomach warmed.
“I’m honored,” Bucky responded dryly. “And if this, you showing up unannounced and in trouble, is going to become a regular thing, then you might as well stay for a cup of coffee and tell me what the fuck you got yourself into last week.” Bucky motioned for Clint to follow him to the kitchen and Clint jumped at the opportunity, trailing him through the hallway.
“By the way,” Bucky said over his shoulder, trying to sound casual over the thundering of his heart in his chest, “you can call me Bucky.”
Clint smiled, and Bucky allowed himself to smile back, something small and just for a second.
“You don’t really get a lot of company, huh?” Clint asked half an hour later, sitting on Bucky’s countertop as though he hoisted his ass up there every day of his life. Bucky winced, couldn’t help it, and drained the rest of the coffee from his mug.
“That easy to tell?”
Clint shook his head. “Maybe not to most people, but I...I’m pretty observant, believe it or not. Have to be, for work.”
Bucky felt intrigued. “What do you do for work.”
Clint simply smiled and took a sip from his coffee. Ah, so either it was classified or Clint was embarrassed about it. Oh, well. Bucky shrugged it off.
“Truthfully, you’re only the second person I’ve had in the house since getting back.” Bucky turned to rinse out his coffee mug, more to avoid further questions than anything else.
Bucky turned around and met Clint’s gaze, then. “Yeah.”
Clint jerked his head towards Bucky’s arm. “Figured. I know Stark’s work when I see it. Believe it or not, I actually helped get the veteran’s prosthesis program running after getting my first pair of Stark aids.”
Bucky felt his eyebrows shoot up against his wishes. “No shit? Huh. I guess I should be thanking you, then.”
Clint simply held eye contact for a few beats before shifting in his seat a bit and looking away. The bags under his eyes seemed darker than they had thirty minutes ago, and Bucky wanted to ask...to offer? To offer Clint a place for the rest of the night, and the thought astounded Bucky to the point where he could feel himself start to shut down internally. Bucky gripped the edge of the counter with both hands and squeezed tightly, knuckles on one hand turning white and the knuckles on the other creaking.
“No need to thank me. After all, here I am, waltzing in uninvited in the middle of the night, invading the space of a dude who just got home from war and probably either wants to strangle me right about now or have a panic attack, based on the way he’s lookin’.”
It was definitely the latter, Bucky thought, a wet laugh escaping his throat, humiliation burning thick and hot in his face as his balance started to waver.
“Whoa whoa whoa, Bucky. You said I can call you Bucky, yeah? Hey, is it okay if I touch you?”
Bucky felt himself nodding through the rapidly enclosing fog in his brain and a second later felt Clint help him find purchase in a sitting position on the kitchen floor. Bucky breathed, remembered to do so, and listened as Clint called for Lucky. Lucky, who by the sheer instantaneousness of his response must have already been on his way.
Bucky buried his face into Lucky’s fur the instant that he was able to do so, his eyes clenched, counting his breaths until he started to come back into himself. The sensation of Clint rubbing small circles at the base of Bucky’s neck helped snap him back into reality and when he opened his eyes, Clint was right there, looking somehow wide awake and even more tired than Bucky had seen him yet.
“Should I go?” Clint asked, quietly.
Bucky hesitated. A large part of him wanted to say yes, yes of course you should go, the same thing that he would have said to anyone else aside from Steve. Instead, Bucky told him the truth.
“I started panicking because I was thinking about asking you to stay, offering you the couch until morning so that you wouldn’t have to worry about making it home.” Bucky paused and Clint continued rubbing his neck with one hand, his other raking through Lucky’s fur. Bucky huffed out a breath of laughter when he noticed. “I haven’t really...trusted anyone in my space yet, except for my best friend, so I think I kind of weirded myself out. But no, I don’t think I want you to go?” Bucky posed it as a question because he really wasn’t certain.
Clint simply nodded and didn’t say anything for a few minutes.
“I gotta say, my instincts told me to come back here but I’m questioning your instincts, offering your couch up to me. ‘M flattered and all, but I didn’t really think I made that much of a great impression. I’m kinda surprised you’d trust me to stay.” Clint withdrew his hand then and stood, facing Bucky and reaching down with his right hand to help Bucky up.
Bucky ignored the shock he felt, the jolt in his gut at the fact that Clint so readily accepted his metal hand in his own as he pulled Bucky to his feet. People usually avoided the arm, or asked questions, or showed some level of fascination that made Bucky uncomfortable. Clint didn’t do any of those things.
“What can I say?” Bucky said once Clint had dropped his hand. “I trust a guy who’s nice to my dog.” With that, Bucky stepped out of the kitchen to gather Clint a pillow and some blankets for the night.
“I’m telling you, the guy’s a fucking angel, Katie-girl. An honest to god anxiety riddled, hotter than sin angelic fucking cyborg.” Clint drained the rest of his coffee from the pot before setting it in the sink and turning back to Kate. “And he has a dog with one eye, and he is the best boy. The BEST boy.”
Kate rolled her eyes from where she stood, leaning against the open door to Clint’s apartment. “I got it, old man, you’ve got a giant crush on the dude whose place you keep breaking into. It’s cute, and nice, but all I wanted to do was drop off my damn rent and borrow a couple of beers if you got ‘em.”
Clint scoffed as though offended, but caught the envelope that Kate flicked over to him in mid-air before opening his refrigerator and pulling out a six-pack. Well, technically it was a five-pack, but it was the best that he could do.
“I gotta hear about you and America every damn day of my life, but you can’t listen to me wax poetic about the hot, nice and broody super-soldier? I see how it is. This relationship isn’t fair, Hawkeye.” He handed over the beer and Kate made a face.
“Ew, don’t call me that when we’re not at work. We’re off mission, Hawkeye, so I would appreciate it if you didn’t go all ‘work-Dad’ on me with the moniker.”
Clint flipped her off good-naturedly, a gesture that Kate returned with fondness before she turned out of Clint’s apartment and down the hall.
“Be safe! Use protection!” Clint called after her from his open door.
“Fuck off, Dad!” Kate called back, and Clint smiled before slipping on his boots and closing the door behind him as he left the apartment himself.
“Here. This is payback for the other night.” Clint thrust a brown paper bag and a cup of coffee into Bucky’s hands. The bag was spotted with grease stains and looked like something that Clint had picked out of the trash, but he knew that the eclairs inside were enough to melt anybody’s cold, black heart.
“You’ve got to stop doing this, Clint.” Okay, well, everybody’s cold, black heart, except for Bucky’s apparently.
Clint rocked backward on his heels where he stood on Bucky’s porch, doing his best to ignore the searing glare from the owner of said porch, who was standing in the doorway with both hands now full. Bucky sighed and stepped back, letting Clint into the house. Lucky bounded up almost instantly, interested in both the goodies in Bucky’s hands and also the many pets that Clint immediately bestowed upon him.
“At least I didn’t force my way in this time. Progress, right?” Clint asked, closing the door behind him as Bucky walked to the kitchen. He heard Bucky snort, and it sounded like the humored kind of snort, and so Clint followed him.
“You’re looking well rested.” Clint snatched a banana from the fruit bowl resting on the counter, cocking an eyebrow at Bucky, who nodded once and then started to devour his pastry. After he had wolfed it down in two bites and drained a bit of his coffee, Bucky licked the crumbs from his bottom lip, an image which Clint would never be able to scrub from his mind, so there was that.
“Maybe I look well rested because nobody came to my home in the middle of the night in peril,” Bucky finally responded, his voice lacking heat and tinged with teasing. Clint grinned at him around a mouth full of banana, though internally he cringed. It hadn’t been hard to tell that Bucky hadn’t slept a single wink the night that he had hosted Clint on his couch. When Clint had woken up after a few hours of shut-eye to see sunlight pressing behind the curtains in Bucky’s living room, he had tried to be sneaky about escaping as to not wake Bucky. It had been for naught, as it had only taken Clint three seconds to notice Bucky sitting awake at the top of the staircase, looking very much like the walking dead.
“I’m sorry,” Bucky had whispered, and Clint had known that he was apologizing for being paranoid, for not feeling safe with Clint there, for lowering his boundaries before he had been truly ready, for watching Clint sleep.
“Never be sorry,” Clint had responded. “You’re too good to be sorry. This is on me, but thank you, like a fuckton of thank yous.” And Clint had left, never planning on returning to bother Bucky again, guilt weighing on his shoulders as he had made his way home to Bed Stuy.
“Yeah. Fair,” Clint responded to Bucky’s point. “That’s what this is for. Food and fuel to thank you, again, and tentatively promise that I won’t drop in unannounced ever again, my state of mortal peril notwithstanding?”
“You mean like you literally just did?” Bucky quipped back instantly, and Clint kind of hated how attractive his dry wit was, how attractive the guy was in general. The last thing Clint needed in his life was an infatuation with a kind, grumpy, anxiety-riddled, supermodel, one-armed vet with a disabled dog.
Clint had never been the best at making good decisions, though.
“Well I would have announced myself if I had your number, which I don’t,” Clint pointed out. Bucky cocked his head, eyes narrowed at Clint as he took a sip of his coffee. Clint waited him out, giving Bucky ample time to decide how to respond.
“Are you trying to be my friend?” Bucky asked and oh, Clint hadn’t been expecting that, though maybe he should have. It was a fair question, after all. Clint wasn’t necessarily the type of person who was uncomfortable with ambiguity, but he knew that some people really, really were.
“Would that be so bad?” Clint asked. “You’ve already kind of seen me at my worst, what with getting blood on your yard and your dog, with busted aids, running from the weirdest and least efficient mafia known to man, clumsy, yadda yadda. But! But I’ve been told that I’m pretty loyal, and I’m good with being around for fellow human disasters because I’ve been there, pal. Also, I will walk Lucky every day and am usually surrounded with some kind of food and/or coffee, which I am always willing to share.”
Bucky’s smiled was hard to hide at that point, and by the time Clint stopped garbling Bucky was full out smiling, with white teeth showing and everything, and fucking hell.
“You sound like you’re at a job interview, Clint. Give me your phone.”
Clint did so without hesitation, wriggling a bit in elation. He watched Bucky punch in his phone number before handing the phone back. Clint quickly shot off a text, hearing Bucky’s phone chime in his pocket.
“Wow. Huh. That worked? That worked. Cool. Cool, cool, cool,” Clint said, and Bucky closed his eyes and shook his head. Aw, regret already?
“This was...a nice thing, thanks. I have to go to, ah, somewhere now, though. I’ll hear from you, I’m sure?” Bucky asked, pushing away from the counter. Clint nodded and tossed his banana peel into the trash bin.
“You betcha. Enjoy your...whatever you’re doing, man. And Lucky! My Prince!” Clint leaned down, allowing Lucky to lap a few huge kisses onto his cheek. “I will see you later! And I’ll walk you and bring you treats, too.” When Clint stood to let himself out, he caught Bucky staring, caught his eyes, which locked onto Clint’s own. Butterflies swarmed Clint’s stomach, and he chastised himself for their existence.
“Clint,” Bucky said, the second before Clint stepped out onto the porch. “Just...before you text me, just keep in mind that I can be difficult. If it takes me a while to get back to you, or if I don’t want to do things sometimes, it’s.” Bucky stopped, face red, obviously uncomfortable.
Clint jumped in. “It’s not me, it’s you. I know. Because I’m awesome and you’re a mess.” Clint winked at him, and Bucky’s shoulders relaxed as he smiled.
“Catch ya later, Bucky.”
Bucky was in the middle of his peer counseling session with Sam when his phone chimed in his pocket.
“Shit, sorry. Lemme just-”
“No worries, Buck. Tell Steve I say hello, if you’d like.”
Bucky swiped his screen open to do so and was startled to see that the message wasn’t from Steve. Clint’s name at the top of the screen, an image of a small golden retriever pup with his paw up and the words “You’re PAWSitively PAWsome!” glared up at Bucky from his phone. A laugh was startled out of him, and Bucky’s eyes snapped to Sam’s, who looked just as shocked at Bucky’s laughter as Bucky felt.
“Something funny?” Sam asked, a smile tugging at his lips.
Bucky nodded his head, putting his phone back in his pocket. “You could say that, yeah. Uh, it’s not from Steve, though.”
Sam cocked his head thoughtfully, and something sparked in his eyes.
Oh no, Bucky thought, here it comes.
“Oh really? Care to tell me more?” Sam asked, obviously trying to reign in his delighted interest.
“Hi yourself, Bucky. You ready to go?”
Bucky chose not to answer, mainly because he didn’t want to lie to Clint. Especially since Clint had taken care to not only plan that morning’s visit, but that he had also been perfectly punctual, down to the second. He looked relaxed, standing on Bucky’s front porch uninjured and comfortable for the first time since. Well. Ever.
Bucky took a moment to consider Clint, not only his mere existence but also what he was wearing. Snug black jeans hid the tops of scuffed boots, a soft looking lilac cotton t-shirt visible beneath a zipped grey hoodie. Clint’s hair was unstyled, the dark blonde strands moving with the warm breeze outside, and his eyes were dancing patiently, waiting for Bucky to complete his assessment. Bucky nodded to him and stepped outside, pulling the door closed firmly behind them.
Bucky had spent an inordinate amount of time choosing what to wear in the hours leading up to Clint’s arrival at noon. Lucky had been strewn across his bed, at times covered with clothes that Bucky discarded from his closet in frustration. Eventually, he had given up and called Steve.
“Well, what would you wear if I were coming over to hang out?” Steve had asked, annoyingly rational.
“My damn PJ pants and a sweater with holes in it. Don’t be dumb, jerk. This is-” and Bucky had paused, not knowing why he was going to tell Steve that this was different.
“Ah,” Steve had said anyway, damn him. “Well. Just be comfortable, alright? We both know that making new friends can be hard after...after. But you said that he seems to know a little about PTSD, right? He helped you out?”
“Then he’ll understand if things get to be a bit much, Buck. And it’s not like this is a date, so just be comfortable, and be yourself.”
Bucky laughed. “Oh Christ Stevie, like I would have called you for anything remotely close to dating advice, oh wise one who can’t stop pining over my prosthetic engineer.” Bucky snickered when Steve shot loose a loving insult and hung up. Bucky breathed; Steve was right. It wasn’t a date, Clint was practically the most low-key person he had met since prior to enlisting, and Clint was barely holding himself together as it was. In the end, Bucky had slipped into a pair of jeans, comfortable sneakers, and a deep red, long-sleeved henley. Seeing Clint look so casual loosened a knot of anxiety in Bucky’s stomach as he followed Clint down the block.
“No Lucky?” Clint asked, keeping roughly one pace ahead of Bucky.
“No. Wasn’t sure what we’d be doin’, figured we might go somewhere not dog-friendly. Didn’t wanna risk it.”
Clint turned then, walking backward with surprising grace so that he could be face to face with Bucky as they spoke. “If you expected me to have a plan for today,” Clint said a bit slowly, “you’re going to be sorely disappointed.”
Bucky felt the tug of a smile at the corners of his mouth. “You, working without a plan? Color me shocked.”
Clint grasped a hand over his heart. “You wound me,” he stated, grinning. The goofiness of it made Bucky buckle, his smile becoming more pronounced.
“Did you have anything in mind? I know you said it’d be nice to get outta the house, so here we are, outta the house. I’m down for whatever, Barnes.”
Though Clint said his name in a friendly way, the absence of Clint using his nickname rubbed something wrong in Bucky’s chest. He glanced away from Clint quickly, focusing on the crosswalk quickly approaching.
“Oh, yeah. That was probably bad, huh? ‘M sure you heard enough of your last name in the service. Sorry about that, man.” The sincerity in Clint’s voice made Bucky glance back at him, the same sincerity even more evident on his face.
“How did you know? I mean,” Bucky licked his lips. “You seem pretty aware of some of the shit that I might be goin’ through. The panic, triggers, things like that. You former military?”
Clint snorted, turning back to face the proper direction as they crossed the street. Bucky could still hear his voice loud and clear over the traffic.
“Nope, nuh uh. Could you imagine me in the army? I’d trip over the first grenade I saw. Just, I’ve known a lot of folks who’ve been through the service, and I have a little bit of experience with...let’s call it work-related trauma.” Clint shrugged, and Bucky sped up a bit, trying to match pace by Clint’s side. Clint shot him a small smile after giving him a sideways glance. “You don’t gotta worry, though. I don’t know enough about psychology to be analyzing you or anything. Just playing you by ear.” Clint wiggled his eyebrows and motioned to his hearing aids, bright purple in the sunlight. “Don’t get offended if I get it wrong. Ears ain’t what they used to be.”
Bucky let out a huff of laughter at that. “What is it that you do, exactly?” Bucky asked, feeling a touch braver; being around other self-deprecating fools often made him feel bolder.
Clint didn’t respond, simply met Bucky’s gaze and shrugged with one shoulder.
Bucky nodded. “Government?”
Clint looked as though he was considering. “Something like that,” he said, and Bucky felt a slight touch of his previous anxiety returning, coiling coldly in the pit of his stomach.
“You should know, I don’t do the best with not knowing things. Part of the reason why I have one friend, probably.” Bucky tried to speak lightly, didn’t want to piss Clint off.
Bucky stopped walking. “What?”
Clint stopped walking as well. “You have two friends, now, so. You’re just gonna have to trust me, I guess.”
The cold snake in his gut uncoiled, just a hair.
“So it’s decided, then? I thought friendship was a partnership?”
Clint laughed at that, a full-bellied laugh that Bucky had heard once or twice before. He felt proud to have made it so that he was hearing it once more.
“Well, partner, I guess I made the assumption based on your grumpy one-word responses to all of my incredibly thoughtful text messages-”
“You mean memes, Clint.”
“-INCREDIBLY thoughtful text messages, plus you agreed pretty readily to hang out with me today. One might even have been led to believe that you were looking forward to it, based on the emoji that you used. So don’t be coy with me, Bucky. You’re ready. Full steam ahead on the Train of Friendship with yours truly.” There was mirth radiating from Clint’s eyes, and Bucky grinned, shaking his head.
“Can we just keep walking? People are gonna start to talk if we keep bickerin’ in the middle of the sidewalk.” Clint followed easily when Bucky started moving.
“Ah, let ‘em talk. I’d be lucky to get roped into some rumors with the likes of you.”
Bucky snapped his head up, mouth falling open a bit at the unexpected...compliment? Before he could respond, however, Clint continued to ramble on.
“Are you sure you don’t have any ideas of where we should go? If you leave it up to me, we’re going to wind up on the curb of 23rd with a hot dog hangover, cuz man, that’s where the best cart is, I’m telling you.”
Bucky thought for a moment, biting his lip. “Actually,” he started, before chickening out. “Nevermind. It’s not a great idea?”
Clint shook his head vehemently. “Look, pal. Free reign. You can make all the demands and I’ll try to make everything happen.”
The snake uncoiled completely, slithering away by means of the breath that Bucky released.
“Alright. We’re gonna have to take the subway.”
“I haven’t been to Central Park in fucking ages. That was surprisingly fun, zero complaints, but next time we should absolutely drag Lucky along. I was seething with jealousy at that one lady playing frisbee with like twelve dogs. Does Lucky like frisbee?” Clint’s mouth was spouting so quickly that Bucky felt dizzy with it as he unlocked his front door, grateful that he had had the foresight to turn on the porchlight prior to leaving with Clint for the day.
Grateful for the foresight, sure, but also entirely flummoxed at the fact that it had actually wound up being necessary. The time it had taken to get to the park and walk around the perimeter, their break for a late lunch at one of Clint’s favorite pizza joints, and the hours they spent people-watching from a park bench had flown by Bucky at a speed that he couldn’t even comprehend. When the natural end to their ‘hang out’ had started to loom over them and they had made their way back to the subway, Bucky had needed to take a moment to identify the emotion swirling within him.
It had been so long since he had felt disappointment at the idea of being left alone, and the moment the realization hit Bucky he had choked on air while riding on the subway, causing a moment of alarm and panic from both himself and Clint. The moment had ended with something akin to giggling from the both of them, and that hadn’t done a damn thing to assuage Bucky’s disappointment.
Bucky turned around, holding the door open for Clint, and startled to see that Clint was still standing firmly on the porch.
“You wanna come in? I was going to make myself some tea, and I’ve got beer in the fridge.”
Clint shuffled, opened his mouth for a few false starts, before visibly steeling himself, as though a decision had been made.
“I think I’m going to call it a night. I don’t want to, really, but today was a long day, I can kinda tell you’re tired, and I remember how uneasy you were last time I was here at night.”
“Ha! Ha, no. Don’t you dare. This is your space and I’ve already thrown a wrench in your daily routine or whatever, I’d rather not push you further than you’re ready to be pushed. Not that I’m assuming your...boundaries? Damn, I’m trying here, man.”
Bucky’s face went molten as he realized that tears were stinging his eyes. He blinked a few times, cleared his throat. “No, yeah. I mean, you’re fine. You’re right, actually, I’m feeling pretty worn out. Thanks, for. I mean. Thank you.”
Clint curtsied, Bucky laughed and then squeaked when Clint surged forward and slung an arm around Bucky’s back, squeezing him in a half-hug at lightning speed. Bucky fumbled, not knowing what to do with his arm or his prosthetic, and by the time he tried to return the action, Clint had already stepped back, face red.
“Should have asked first. Yep, that was. Okay. Bye!” Clint rushed out, reaching forward to take the doorknob in hand, closing himself out of the house and leaving Bucky standing there, staring at the closed front door stupidly, trying to catch his breath.
Too many thoughts and a maelstrom of confused affection swirling within him, all Bucky could manage was to mutter “Fuck” into his quiet house.
Clint leaned his back against Bucky’s front door, heart racing in his chest so quickly that it ached. He longed for so many things; to apologize to Bucky for whatever that weird hug had been, to throw out his phone in the nearest dumpster and get a new number, to pound on the door and wrap himself around the beautiful, broken man on the other side of the door. Clint leaned his head back against the door and covered his face with his hands.
“You’ve really made yourself a great friend, seems like,” Steve said, placing a plate of steaming chicken and vegetables in front of Bucky at the dining room table. Bucky dug in instantly; he cooked for himself most days, when he couldn’t gather up the wherewithal to deal with delivery people or restaurant workers. He was a decent cook, but there was something about Steve’s cooking that hit a spot that his own cooking never could. Something about eating food cooked with love, he supposed, burning his tongue on the oven-hot poultry.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Bucky eventually answered after plowing through half of his plate. Steve was watching him from across the table, amusement evident on his face, his own food untouched. Bucky rolled his eyes as he chewed another bite. “Save the oohing and aahing, Rogers.”
Steve laughed, finally picking up his own fork. “You know I can’t do that. I haven’t seen you get friendly with someone since Sam, and that was because you felt like you had to. Hell, you barely tolerate Tony.”
“Just because you think he hung the moon doesn’t mean we all swoon over his assholery.”
Steve rolled his eyes. “He’s really not that bad. You should be grateful, you have the best kind of prosthetic out there because of him.”
Bucky frowned. “You know I’m grateful, jackass. I thanked the man until he threatened to send a cease and desist. So you,” Bucky pointed at Steve with his fork threateningly, “can shut your trap.”
Steve raised his hands in surrender. “Fine. But tell me more about Clint.”
Bucky sighed overdramatically, giving up sooner rather than later. “Fine. He trespassed into my lawn, bled all over Lucky, then forced his way into my house because he was running away from some gangsters in workout clothes or something, and then decided that we would be friends and we’ve been hanging out since then. That’s it.”
Steve stared at him, unblinking. Bucky growled.
“What else do you wanna know, Stevie? His social security number?”
Steve chuckled at that. “No, you idiot. Just...what is he like? How does he treat you? Does he make you feel safe?”
“Oh my god,” Bucky groaned. “You’re worse than Sam. Fine. Uh. He’s kind of a disaster? He runs an apartment complex in Bed Stuy, and he’s always getting hurt but he seems pretty skillful at the same time, physically. Took me to an archery range the other day, and holy shit, you shoulda seen the guy shoot. Uhm, he’s tragic in a funny way, pretty smart, pretty considerate all things considered. He swears he’s never been in the service but I don’t know if I believe him, he seems to in tune to what it’s like, you know? Always seems to know what to do when I’m not doing so well. I guess I’m comfortable around him? I don’t know.”
Steve’s eyes were positively dancing at that point, and Bucky hated everything.
“You went to an archery range? How’d that go?”
Bucky huffed, a smile playing on his face. “Better than I thought. I was awful, but the range of motion in my arm ain’t as bad as it could be. It was pretty fun, did hurt the next day though. It was better than the axe throwing.”
Steve looked flabbergasted at that. “Okay, so I’ve been begging you for months to go to the art museum with me, but this guy has you going axe throwing and doing archery? Who are you and what have you done with Bucky?”
Bucky grinned. “One, he’s a lot nicer to look at, bruises and ripped up clothes and all. Pick something more fun than a museum, punk, and I might take you up on it. ‘Sides, you know I like your art better than that stuff anyway and I can see that for free.”
Steve smiled. “Sure, Buck, whatever you say. I think it’s good for you, anyway, Clint getting you out of your shell like this. I should meet the guy.”
Bucky’s brain short-circuited at the thought, and he sat for a moment in puzzlement as to why thinking about introducing Clint to Steve would feel too much like bringing a boy home to meet his parent.
“Sure thing,” Bucky said after clearing his throat, still in his head. “As long as you’re not a total dick like me and accuse him of being rude when he’s really just deaf.”
Steve opened his mouth as though to ask a question, but instead of speaking his mouth simply hung open. Bucky froze, a fork full of broccoli nearly to his mouth.
“Uh, Steve? Are you broken?”
Steve closed his mouth slowly. “Clint’s deaf? And from Bed Stuy?”
Bucky nodded slowly, a pit of unease opening in his guy. “Yeeees?”
“What’s his last name?”
Uh oh. The pit opened even wider, anxiety fluttering in Bucky’s stomach like mad.
Steve’s eyes widened to the size of saucers. “Oh my god. It’s Tony’s Clint.”
Now Bucky felt like he wanted to vomit, the implication of the phrase making him feel outrageously jealous and angry at the same time. “What do you mean, Tony’s Clint?! He knows Tony, they worked on a charity together once I think, but I don’t know that ‘Tony’s Clint’ means, so you gotta spill.”
Steve’s face split into the widest fucking grin that Bucky had ever seen, and oh no. That could only mean trouble.
“Clint is Tony’s friend, which means that you are Insanely Gorgeous Soldier Guy, and this is the greatest thing that has ever happened!” Steve sounded like an overexcited five-year-old, and Bucky startled as though slapped.
“....excuse me, but what the fuck did you just say?”
“Barton, how the fuck did you manage to break these ones with coffee?” Tony asked, staring at the hearing aids in the palm in his hand as though they were emitting radiation. Clint shrugged, reaching up to adjust the volume on his backup set. He’d had his backups for years, but at this point, they couldn’t even come close to comparing to Stark Aids and besides, they were on their last legs themselves.
“I thought I told you not to ask questions. Let’s just say that it was a long morning.” Clint hopped up onto Tony’s work desk, swinging his legs back and forth. “So how’s your boy toy? I haven’t seen him around in a minute or two.”
Tony reached over and smacked Clint’s knee without looking up from what he was doing. “Don’t call him that. He’s the pinnacle of human perfection, not a toy.”
“Pinnacle of Human Perfection takes too long to say, Tony.”
“Shut up. Anyway, he’s been around. He’s having dinner with a buddy of his from the army tonight. It’s not like we spend every waking moment together or anything, though. Not like you seem to be doing with hot soldier guy.”
Clint grinned. “You wish you were, though. I swear to fucking God Tony, one of you has got to make a move sooner or later lest I choke to death on all of the sexual tension in this lab. But yeah, that’s been awesome. You can have your pinnacle of human whatever. My guy is like...a tornado of sexy brooding. Mine’s better.”
Tony shook his head as he took out a small screwdriver, piecing together pieces of a new set of aids faster than Clint could comprehend. “You’re a little fucked up buddy, you know that?”
Clint laughed. “Can’t deny it.” Clint thought for a moment. “Hey, do you do individual fittings for your prosthetic clients?”
Tony shook his head. “No. That’s the doc’s job, I just get the specs and take care of the engineering business, unless it’s a special favor. Why? Got someone who needs a special favor?”
Clint shook his head. “Nah. My soldier has one of your prosthetics is all.”
Tony made a humming sound and held out two casing towards Clint, one of them a deep violet and the other a brighter, truer purple. Clint debated for a moment before pointing towards the deeper colored aid casing. Tony went back to work.
“That’s neat, I guess. What kind of model?”
“Must be one of your newer ones, never seen one like it. It’s metal instead of silicone?”
There was a sudden and loud clattering sound as Tony dropped both the screwdriver and the aid casing onto the table, the items falling from his hands as he flailed. He pulled off his glasses and looked over to Clint, wild-eyed.
“...his arm? It’s like, metal plates, looks kind of like a steampunk fetishist’s dream?”
Tony’s face drained, all color gone in an instant. “What’s your soldier boy’s name?”
“James? But he usually goes by-”
“Bucky.” Tony finished with him, and Clint nodded.
“Uh huh. So you do know him.”
Tony didn’t answer him, just started laughing. He laughed until tears rolled down his cheeks, and Clint grew more and more confused and concerned as the seconds ticked over into a full minute.
“Mind sharing with the class, Stark?”
Tony wiped the tears from his eyes and looked positively gleeful. “Oh my God. Steve! You know? My Steve?”
Clint looked at Tony like he was losing his mind. “Uh, yeah? Kinda hard to miss, what with the hair and the eyes and muscles and-” Clint’s mind short-circuited. “Oh my god, what fuckery is this. Steve. Your Steve is...Bucky’s Steve?”
Tony simply grinned. Clint’s stomach swooped low to the ground.
“Oh, oh no. I’ve been gushing over the dude in front of his best friend for like two months! What the fuck Tony!”
Tony started laughing again before straightening up and clearing his throat. “I think you and your soldier should probably have a bit of a chat, Barton, cuz I’m not sure you’re the only one who caught feelings over there if Steve is to be believed.”
Clint gripped the side of his head with his hands and mumbled under his breath.
“Aw, gossip, no.” Clint couldn’t trust anything that Tony was saying, not at that moment. Not because he couldn’t trust Tony, that wasn’t it.
It’s because he can’t possibly think about me the way I think about him. Tony’s got it wrong, Steve’s got it wrong, and this is just so bad.
Clint: I found out some interesting news tonight
Bucky: You too huh
Clint: Wait what is yours
Bucky: Seems we have some mutual friends
Clint: oh god did you talk to Steve
Bucky: A bit, yes. How did we not put this together earlier?
Clint: Do you never want to see me ever again
Bucky: What? What is wrong with you
Clint: What did Steve say?
Bucky: He said. Things. This is stupid.
Clint: I know. I’m sorry.
Bucky: Don’t apologize you idiot. Can you come over?
Bucky: You got something better happening?
Clint: Season finale of Dog Cops as a matter of fact
Bucky: That the show you made me watch last week?
Clint: One and the same
Bucky: Come over. We can watch here. I’ve got beer.
Bucky: Yeah. I wanna see what happens to the St. Bernard.
Clint: On my way
Bucky greeted Clint as he normally would, nothing out of the ordinary, not even acknowledging the fact that Clint’s heart was practically pounding hard enough to beat out of his chest. Bucky had to be able to see it. Clint was sure of it, but okay, two could play it cool.
“How ya doin’ good, Buck?” Clint asked, and paused, realizing that he had accidentally amalgamated multiple questions and yeah. He kind of wanted to die.
However Bucky, amazing as always, simply laughed and jerked his head back, urging Clint inside. “Stop thinking so hard and get your ass inside. Show’s about to start.” So Clint followed him inside, this guy who he was ass over heels in love with, this guy who now had some kind of idea about that very fact now, since Clint hadn’t managed to keep his mouth shut and since apparently Brooklyn consisted of approximately a dozen fucking people.
It took no time at all for the two of them to settle in, Clint hopping over the back of Bucky’s couch in order to claim the first seat, taking the pressure off of himself to have to decide where to sit in proximity to Bucky. Bucky didn’t follow suit immediately, instead going to the kitchen, leaving Clint to fiddle with the remote. The theme song to the show’s intro was playing by the time Bucky returned, balancing two open beers and a giant bowl of popcorn in his hands. Clint thanked him with a nod after grabbing his beer and tried not to let out an audible sigh of relief when Bucky flopped down on the couch cushion closest to Clint, a few inches of space between them, which had become the norm over the last few weeks. It was easiest to share snacks that way. Something inside of Clint’s chest relaxed, and he shot Bucky a goofy grin. Bucky shook his head, returned the gesture with a lopsided smile, and turned his attention to the tv.
“Aw, what?! There’s no way the season can end like that! Cliffhangers are such bullshit, especially when it comes to pup lives hanging precariously in the balance. I’m writing to the station. Ridiculous.” Clint shook his head, draining the remainder of his beer thirty minutes later, and Bucky couldn’t tear his eyes away from him, his own shoulders shaking with mirth.
“Ridiculous is a word I would use, alright.”
“Hey!” Clint responded, offense bright in his tone as he spun his body, lifting his knee onto the couch and turning to completely face Bucky. “Don’t give me that shit. You were practically biting your nails when they were interrogating the golden retriever. You’re just as into it as I am, James Buchanan, so don’t even try me!”
Bucky’s belly squirmed and swooped as though he was gliding down a steep hill at the speed of light, the musical sound of his name slipping through Clint’s lips creating a delicious vice that hugged him tightly with a firm, warm pressure. A huff of breath escaped, sounding a bit like a laugh, and when Bucky opened his mouth his honest truth poured out without warning, the words flooding into the space between them without first bouncing off of a filter in Bucky’s brain.
“I might not want to have sex.”
It would have been comical, the look of confused surprise on Clint’s face, had Bucky not been doused with icy mortification at his sudden segue. He stuttered for a moment.
“Uh. I wasn’t aware that...that...was on the table?” Clint said slowly, his eyes looking somewhere over Bucky’s metal shoulder instead of looking at Bucky himself.
Bucky swallowed. “Sorry. Yeah, no. Sorry. That...we should start this over. Or I should. Start this over. Because that is not how I wanted to start this conversation.”
Clint shifted so that his leg was now folded beneath him, his other foot planted firmly on the floor. “What conversation?” His voice was thick with innocence, and Bucky gave him his very best death glare. Clint’s shoulders sagged. “Oh, fine. Hit me with it. What did Steve tell you?”
Bucky thought for a moment before shrugging. “What Steve told me doesn’t really matter so much. I’d rather hear what you gotta say. He told me enough to know that you might have a few things that you’ve been keepin’ from me.”
Clint groaned. “Fuckin’ Rogers.”
Bucky laughed at that, grateful for the levity. “Yeah, pal. You’ve got no idea how many times I’ve said THAT in my life. Too many to count, that’s for sure.”
Clint was quiet for a few long minutes, and Bucky let him be quiet. With Clint focused on where he was picking a hole into his already fraying jeans with bandaged fingers, Bucky let his own gaze wander over Clint’s features. Christ, nobody should be allowed to be that fucking gorgeous.
“So,” Clint started. He licked his lips. Bucky zeroed in on the movement. “I’ve always thought that you were really, really, stupidly hot. Like, that’s a dumb word for it, man. You’re pretty, and don’t get mad at me for sayin’ that, because it’s true. You’re like the sun or some shit, hard to look at because it kinda burns my retinas how stunning you are? But then we started spending time together, right?” Clint looked up at Bucky then, and Bucky realized that it wasn’t a rhetorical question, and so he nodded, hoping that Clint didn’t notice how flushed he already was.
“And not only were you all that, but also really kind of badass, and strong, and really standoffish and an asshole in a way that I really, really like. And you’re weird like I’m weird. You’re just my kind of fucked up, Bucky, in that you don’t make me feel like I should be ashamed of my kind of fucked up. Hell, you don’t work over a decade in my field without making hard, messy decisions that haunt you, but you make me feel less haunted. And that’s. That’s a big deal.”
Clint stopped talking then but that was fine; he didn’t need to say any more. Because Bucky could fill in the blanks, and when all the tiles clicked into place he couldn’t stop himself from bursting out laughing.
Clint looked startled and Bucky wanted to stop laughing, he really did, especially when his eyes became stinging and wet.
“Well goddamn, you don’t gotta laugh at me. Dick.”
“No!” Bucky managed, reaching out and putting a hand on Clint’s forearm to try to make sure Clint didn’t stand up, using his metal hand to wipe the tears away from his cheeks. “No, not laughing at you. Just. This is shit.”
Clint’s face was stoic. “Oh, yeah. That’s much better.”
“Goddamn it, Clint. No. I’m doing an awful job. You. Me. You love me.” Bucky was surprised to hear himself say it out loud, but there was no doubt in his mind that it was true. Clint’s eyes widened a fraction, but he nodded all the same. Fireworks exploded in Bucky’s body, but he ignored them to forge ahead.
“You’re in love with me.”
“And you’re a spy for the CIA.”
Clint rolled his eyes. “Not the time, Christ. And also, you’re wrong.”
Bucky groaned. “Fuck! I was so sure I was right.”
That made the corners of Clint’s lips twitch, and so Bucky forged ahead.
“I wasn’t laughing at you. And you loving me isn’t shit. It’s just that this is usually the part that scares the shit out of me. Because of what I mentioned, uh, earlier.”
Clint raised his eyebrows. “The sex thing?”
Bucky nodded. “Yeah.” He removed his hand from Clint’s arm. “It’s...a thing. For me. Ah, fuck. It’s hard to explain.” Bucky faltered and looked at Clint helplessly.
“Are you a virgin?” Clint asked, and Bucky could tell that Clint was trying to be as neutral as possible.
“Oh, god, no. I’ve had a few partners. Just...I don’t always wind up wanting to have sex with the people I date? I know that sounds weird. I’ve enjoyed it with some people, and sometimes I’ve tried it with a few and I didn’t like it, and there have been others where I knew I didn’t want to try it with them because I didn’t feel...close enough, or connected enough, and I don’t know why and I don’t know if there’s something wrong with me or-”
“Hey, hey, whoa,” Clint said, leaning forward and swinging his other leg up under his body, sitting atop his heels. “Fuck that. There’s nothing wrong with you, Buck. Who said there was something wrong with you?”
Bucky smiled at Clint’s vehemence. “Why? You got an arrow with their name on it?”
Clint simply shrugged, and Bucky laughed.
“Some people I’ve dated have accused me of being uptight because I didn’t feel comfortable with them. Or safe. Or whatever. And all of this, it’s been since before the war, so it’s not trauma or some dumb shit like that. I just wanted to try to explain it to you if we...before we get into something, together, just so you knew. But I...Clint, I think I can see myself wanting that, with you, if you might be willing to...I don’t fucking know. Give me time? Tell me things about you?”
Clint felt flabbergasted. His blood sang beneath his skin, and there was absolutely no way that he was hearing Bucky correctly.
“You would be willing to try something? Like a relationship thing? With me? You do know that I trespassed on your properly like seven times.”
Bucky threw his head back and laughed, exasperated and fond at the same time. “Clint, you trespassed once, twice at best. Don’t over-credit yourself. And yeah. Because I might reciprocate a few of those sentiments that you spilled all over me a few minutes ago.”
Clint leaned forward, wanting nothing more than to curl his hands into Bucky’s hair because it always looked so fucking soft, but he managed to stop himself. He was an impulsive little shit, but he had always had a bit of a consent kink.
“Buck, if sex isn’t in the cards for the time being or possibly not for a long time or ever, can you tell me what is okay?”
The look that lit up Bucky’s features was damn near enough to make Clint cry. It was shock, with a hint of disbelief, and so much joy that it could have bowled Clint over with ease had Bucky not done so first, planting himself in Clint’s arms so quickly that the air left Clint’s lungs with an audible “oof” as he fell backward onto the couch. He wrapped his arms around Bucky and hugged him tightly, Bucky doing the same, one arm warm against Clint’s back and the other cool through Clint’s shirt.
“I like to cuddle an awful lot,” Bucky said into the crook of Clint’s throat. “I like holding hands, and I think about you playing with my hair. Think about touchin’ yours, doll. And I think I might want to try kissin’ you maybe, sometime soon.”
Clint whimpered, running his hands over Bucky’s spine, adoring the feeling of Bucky melting into him, his weight heavy and grounding.
“I like the sound of that, babe. Let’s start there.”
It is done! This final chapter is short and sweet, but I like it so I decided to stop fucking with it before I no longer liked it?
I hope you enjoy a ridiculous, fluffy ending because, well, that's what I'm here to deliver.
Thank you all for the ongoing support, kudos and comments! AUs are hella hard, so all of the love really helped <3
”Hawkeye, person of interest entering target floor through North terminal. Do you copy? Over.”
Clint’s pulse quickened, if only by a hair. This was his job and security breaches were part of his job, after all, but it had been ages since a POA had made it far enough into the building to reach the target floor before being noticed by security personnel. Kate’s voice was calm in his ear, ringing clear through his custom aid, and a surge of pride shot through his system. She had been his easiest student by far, and he was only half serious when he argued with her stubborn ass for having stolen his moniker for herself when it had come time for her to choose.
”10-4, Hawkeye. Locked and loaded, approaching target from terminal hallway M, sight lock within 15 seconds. Hold visual on screen until told to stand down. Over.” Clint kept his hand at his hip, hand wrapped firmly around the safety mechanism of his pistol holster. Well within his estimated time frame he had eyes on the security target, and sure enough, he could see a figure through the sea-blue glass of the hallways making their way toward the office, heading toward the door, about to make their way through in a matter of seconds. Quickening his pace by a minute amount, Clint rounded the corner, unclasped his weapon and raised it without hesitance.
“Freeze where you stand! Clint Barton, Head of Security. You don’t have clearance to-” Clint’s voice faltered, tapering with slow uncertainty as he spoke. He lowered his gun by a fraction of an inch and squinted, though he knew full well who he was staring at.
“What in the motherfucking, schnozberry-licking hell, Bucky?!”
Bucky’s eyes were huge and round, even after Clint clumsily snapped his weapon back into place safely at his side. It would have been comical had it not been so fucking awkward.
“You. Here. You’re. This?” Bucky stuttered out, motioning vaguely around the office. Clint swallowed. It made an audible noise.
“Uh, yeah. Surprise?”
When Bucky started laughing, Clint didn’t know whether to join him in relief or take major offense. “What? I don’t know how to read this situation, babe. Throw me a bone, here.”
“You’re head of security for Stark Industries?” Bucky flicked away a tear from the corner of his eye with his prosthetic, wincing as he did so. Clint stepped forward quickly, helping Bucky lower his arm back down to his side. Bucky smiled softly in thanks.
“It would appear so, uh huh.”
“I’m not laughing at you. Just, this whole time I thought you were either a government sniper or, like, a fast food manager and just didn’t want to tell me for some stupid reason that made sense in your adorable brain. Why didn’t you just tell me?” Bucky reached up with his flesh hand to ruffle Clint’s hair before tucking a tuft back behind his ear.
“Tony makes us sign non-disclosures,” Clint mumbled grumpily. “Believe it or not, dude gets more death threats than you’d expect. We’re not supposed to let anyone know.”
Bucky sighed and leaned forward, bumping his forehead into Clint’s. “Ah, well. Can’t blame him, I guess. I suppose I should tell him that he’s got a ridiculously loyal head of security. Been my boyfriend for five months and I’ve been none the wiser. Assholes, the lot of ya. Stevie knows, I expect? Since he basically lives here now that the two of them have finally started bumpin’ uglies?”
Clint barked out a loud bit of laughter and pecked Bucky on the cheek. “Yep. Sorry, you’re the last in the know. I’m gonna go out on a limb...sorry, thoughtless, and guess you’re here to have that looked at, so I’m gonna let you get to it. Also, I’m still on duty so I shouldn’t be, you know, distracted by your beautiful self. And also also, I have to go murder Kate because she made me think that you were someone who needed shooting at, so.”
Bucky grinned. “Better hop to it.”
Clint leaned forward and met Bucky’s lips in a quick kiss. “Love you. See you at home?” He turned and started back down the hall before Bucky responded, but smiled when he heard Bucky respond.
“Sure thing. Love you too, Doll.”
Bucky wondered how long he stood in front of Tony’s office door with a look of utter confusion and dumbfoundedness on his face before the glass door swung open, nearly smacking him in the shoulder.
“Hey-oh, Bucky! Long time no see! Sorry to hear that the arm’s on the fritz, Steve says that the elbow joint keeps locking up on ya? Oh, sorry, I saw you out here with loverboy and didn’t want to interrupt, but it seems as though I’ve still somehow managed to interrupt...something.”
Bucky shook his head, looking over to Tony. Hesitating for a moment, he felt his cheeks flush when he finally responded.
“No worries, Stark. I just, ah, realized that Clint might have moved in with me without me noticing? So.”
Tony clapped Bucky on the back, eyebrows raised. “Oh, boy. So you were having a moment.”
Bucky sighed, and surprised himself by not leaning away from the friendly contact.
“Yeah, I guess you could say that.”
It was nearly nine o’clock and dark by the time Bucky heard Clint slide his key into the front door deadbolt. His skin crawling with nerves, Bucky stood up from where he had been sitting on the edge of the couch (but only for the last five minutes, because he had spent the previous hour pacing a path into the wood of the living room floor, the hour before that a beaten path into the carpet of the upstairs hallway).
“Hey hot stuff. Do I smell food? And most importantly, did you save me any? Because I’m-”
“Did you move in without me knowing?” Bucky blurted out, interrupting Clint and instantly feeling bad about it. Instead of apologizing Bucky clamped his mouth shut, and Clint visibly winced at the loud clack of Bucky’s jaw.
“Uh,” Clint said, closing the door behind him before toeing off his shoes. He took off his coat and hung it on the coat rack before hanging up his keys, tossing his wallet in the bowl on the stand by the door, and plugging his phone into his charger by the couch. After completing his nightly ritual Clint suddenly stood stock straight and spun around, eyes as wide as saucers, and glared at Bucky as though Bucky had somehow magically spoken the words aloud and made them come true.
“What the fuck.” Clint said, no question in sight. Bucky folded his arms and Clint followed suit.
“You were about to go to the fridge and get a beer, and food, and sit on your side of the couch to eat dinner before doing the dishes,” Bucky accused.
“And then I was going to brush my teeth with my toothbrush, take a shower because I have shampoo here, and get dressed from clothes from my drawer!” Clint said in disbelief.
“And I would have shut the lights off down here, let Lucky out, come to bed and made sure you took your aids out before getting into the left side because that’s my side.”
“And the right side is mine.”
“And you have your own parking spot.”
“And my own keys.”
“We go grocery shopping every Saturday.”
“I feed Lucky every morning.”
“How long have you lived here?”
“I don’t fucking know!”
“Do you still have your place in Bed Stuy?”
“Of course I do! I have some clothes there. I think. And a first aid kit or two? Possibly three. Likely four. I fixed Ms. Jenkin’s hot water heater like three days ago.”
“What do you want to do?”
Clint stopped then, and screwed his face up in the way that always delighted Bucky because Bucky loved to watch the gears turn behind Clint’s gorgeous eyes. He watched the lightbulb go off above Clint’s head.
“We have a lot of space. Can we adopt, like, twenty-seven dogs?”
Bucky felt illuminated.
“That seems like an overabundance of dogs, Clint. What the fuck would we do with twenty-seven of them?” Bucky tried not to smile. He failed. Miserably.
Clint rolled his eyes. “Fine. We can start with one and work our way up to twenty-seven? The pound is open all weekend and I don’t work tomorrow.”
Bucky thought about it, glanced over at where Lucky was laying in his corner, watching their banter with feigned disinterest. Bucky looked back over to where Clint was standing, leaning his hip against the back of the couch, smiling and breathing in and out as though he wasn’t the very center of Bucky’s entire fucking world.
“Sure, sweetheart. We can start with one,” Bucky said, whispering even though it hadn’t been his intention.
Clint smiled, blew Bucky a kiss, and sauntered his way into their kitchen to grab a beer and food from their fridge.