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Bucky lets out a short, disgruntled moan when the alarm goes off. He rolls over and props himself up on his elbows to see the burning blue lights on the clock. Five AM. Why the hell did he tell Steve he’d help him out with the early morning training runs?

“Turn it off,” Tessa mumbles into her pillow as the alarm continues to beep. Then, when he doesn’t move fast enough… “Kill it!”

He reaches across her to bat at the alarm clock on the side table, taking two swift thwacks to knock it into submission. “You could do it yourself, you know,” he mutters with a yawn. “It’s on your side.”

She rolls over to face him, and though the room is dark, the sun not even yet beginning to rise, he can still make out her irritated scowl. “Not my side,” she argues, words slurred with sleep. “I hate this side.”

It’s true. Technically, that’s his side of the bed… had been ever since he first started sleeping over at her place a little more than two years ago. But he made her switch with him when they first came home from the hospital several weeks back. He simply wasn’t able to sleep beside her knowing that her badly broken leg was laying prone between them, where he could so easily roll over and hurt her. “It feels weird. I don’t like it,” she had complained every night for the first few weeks. “This isn’t right.”

It did feel strange, that much was true. But he suspected that the main reason she didn’t like it was that the alarm clock – which Bucky very rarely even set – had remained to the left. “Deal with it,” he tells her now, leaning down and laying a giant, sloppy kiss on her cheek.

“Ugh,” she groans, swatting him away.

He laughs as he reaches out and grabs her hand, pulling it to his lips. “Be good.” He kisses her fingertips as he gently thumbs the giant gem on her ring finger back and forth. “Don’t lose this,” he says with a smile so wide it almost gleams, even in the pitch dark.

She pulls her hand away and folds it beneath her chest as she sleepily curls up in the center of the bed. “Don’t tell Steve,” she issues out into her pillow as she feels him pull back the covers beside her.

He frowns. “Why not?”

“Because,” she yawns. “I want to be there.”

Bucky huffs a, “Fine,” as he slips out of bed and sneaks from the room. He stops in the doorway and turns back to her, a sliver of moonlight reflecting off her naked shoulder, the only piece of her that isn’t buried beneath the giant quilt or her wild hair. “I’ll be back by nine,” he says, deep voice breaking through the early morning calm. “Be ready to go.”


They take the rookies out into the cold and make them run until the sun comes up. It’s dark enough in the beginning that no one can see the dumb, goofy smile that simply refuses to leave his face. But he feels it just the same, pulling at his lips just as it pulls at his heart. Once they take them all inside, they split the noobs into two groups – one to spar with Bucky, the other to hit the machines with Steve.

“You look like you’re in a good mood, Sarge,” Atkinson says with a gleam in her eye. She’s one of just four women here, a petite blonde who looks more like a kindergarten teacher than a field agent. But she’s scrappy as hell and smart to boot. “You have a good holiday?” she asks, settling into a fight stance across from him.

He tries to reign in the smile, but it’s useless. “Yeah, I did,” he tells her blithely before advancing and taking her to the ground.

She twists beneath him, quickly snaking her leg up around his shoulder and scissoring down to throw him to the mat. “Good,” she replies, flinging her tiny body on top of his chest. “We were starting to think you only ever had one mood – ” She narrows her eyes at him even as a wide grin splits her face. “Kill.”

He lets her pin him down for another few seconds before easily popping upright and throwing her off balance. He wraps his arms around her torso and rolls quickly into a seated position above her, the writhing woman trapped beneath him as he tightens his thighs around her hips and pins her shoulders to the mat. “Kill’s not a mood,” he tells her, leaning in close. She scowls at him, almost enraged by her inability to move. “It’s what you do.” He continues to pinch his thighs around her, but he drops his hands from her shoulders as he sits upright. Seeing her angry countenance, oddly, only makes his smile grow. “So do it,” he orders with a teasing wink.

Ground fighting, boxing, a little bit of Muay Thai… the group keeps at it for another hour and a half until Steve wanders over and dismisses them. He leans back, arms folded neatly over his chest, and observes the small group of sweaty, beat recruits. “They’re looking pretty good,” he says, turning to Bucky with a self-satisfied smirk. “You went hard on them today.”

Bucky nods, reaching over and grabbing a towel off the bench next to him. He glances over at the haphazard pile of limbs on the mat, all five of the spent soldiers splayed out in an exhausted heap. He narrows his eyes at them. “Captain said you’re dismissed,” he nearly shouts, causing every one of them to pop up and scatter from the gym.

“You like this,” Steve says with a teasing laugh, noting the glint in Bucky’s eye as he watches the team hightail it out of there. “And you’re good at it.”

He gives a noncommittal shrug, wiping the sweat from his brow as he drops down onto the bench. “If you say so.”

Steve stares down at him for a long moment before taking a seat by his side. “Good to be home?” he asks simply.

“Yeah,” he replies. “It’s quiet at least.” Steve sniggers at the remark. “You heading back out to… wherever you were in Africa?” he asks, shifting to look at his friend.

“Nah,” Steve breathes out. “Sam and Storm are keeping tabs for now.”

Bucky raises a brow. “That’s not gonna be a problem, is it? The two of them?”

Steve just laughs. “No. No, I think Storm’s too smart for that. Besides,” he starts with a sly grin, “Sam’s been seeing someone.”

“Yeah,” Bucky nods. “I know. Some bartender from Queens.”

Steve shoots him a look of utter shock. “He told you about her?” Again, Bucky nods. “When? I just found out a few days ago.”

He shrugs. “Couple weeks back… maybe more. He and Tess have spent a lot of time baking in the apartment. I’ve heard all kinds of things about his love life that I’ll never be able to unhear.” He shakes his head pitifully. “Makes a hell of an oatmeal cookie, though.”

Another chuckle rises from Steve’s chest. “Well, he should be back soon,” he says, leaning back to rest his head on the wall behind him. “Doesn’t look like Rumlow and his crew have anything going right now. I’m sure they’re planning something, but until we know what…”

“Storm,” Bucky begins, uttering her name slowly, cautiously. His forehead furrows, brows knitting together. “You said she’s smart. Got any more of a read on her?”

“Yeah,” he replies, eyes widening as he sits upright. “Yeah, actually, I got to know her a bit. Logan – that guy spent five hours sitting across from me at a café in Ibadan and didn’t say a single word. But Storm… she seems like good people.”

Bucky gives a curt nod. “Good,” he says a bit absently, his mind beginning to wander.

“You should hear her talk about her kids. I mean… the kids at the school.” He shakes his head distractedly. “It’s crazy, you know,” he starts, turning his gaze on Bucky. “When we were their age, people like them – people like us – that was just… stories. Books, movies, fairy tales. But they were out there then. We just didn’t know.” He releases a long, deep sigh. “I volunteered for a science experiment and became a star… a hero. They were born… super… and they had to hide to stay alive.” Bucky frowns over at him, a question in his gaze. “You remember that camp we liberated?” he asks, his face somber. “The one outside of Linz?”

He nods. “Hard to forget.”

“They were there,” he mutters, turning his eyes out toward the bay of windows across the room. “All of those people… the people Hydra pulled from other camps to bring there… they were all mutants.”

“She told you that?” he asks, wrinkling his brow once more. “How does she know that?”

He shrugs quickly, his shoulders sagging. “They’ve kept a history of their people.” He glances back up at Bucky, says with a soft, sad smile, “No one else cared enough to do it.”

Both of the men turn away then, working to focus their eyes anywhere else in the room. Bucky releases a shaky breath. “People are paying attention now,” he says. “Between science experiments like us and those… inhumans…”

“Yeah, I know. Storm said that their enrollment almost doubled last year. Parents trying to get rid of their freak kids.” He blows out an irritated breath. “Or… I don’t know. Maybe they’re trying to get them somewhere safe because they know what’s coming.”

Bucky cocks his head, glaring hard at Steve. “What’s coming?”

He drops a hand to his friend’s knee and gives it a sharp squeeze. “You should talk to them,” he says, eyes wide and knowing. “The X-Men have their finger on the pulse of the mutant community. They know about things going on that we… Let’s just say some things haven’t made it into the mainstream media yet.”

“Like what?” he asks, genuine concern rolling over his features.

“Canada’s about to announce plans for a registry. A mutant registry.”

“You’re shitting me?” he utters, sitting bolt upright.

Steve simply nods. “And there are a handful of US senators who are pushing for the same thing here.” He gives Bucky another sad smile. “Storm thinks it’s in part because SHIELD’s gone. They used to keep track of potential threats, so known mutants were already in their database. But now that they’re defunct, nobody’s keeping an eye on them anymore. People are scared.” He shifts suddenly, scrubbing his palms quickly along the tops of his thighs before hopping up and looking down at Bucky with an encouraging expression. “It’s all just talk right now, though.”

“Yeah,” he says pulling himself up off the bench with a groan. “It’s always talk. Until it isn’t.”

“I didn’t mean to bum you out,” he says with a crooked smile. “You were in such a good mood earlier.” Bucky gives him a confused look and Steve just laughs. “Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. You’ve had a giant grin on your face all morning.”

He turns to him with a teasing expression, his eyes crinkling at the edges as he works to hold back a smile. “I have?”

“Yeah, you have,” he nods. “Should I ask?”

He quirks a brow playfully. “Got lucky last night… must be that.”

Steve shakes his head as he sniggers. “Don’t tell me that. I heard enough about your sex life before the war.”

Unbidden, the big goofy grin rolls back over his face. “Not what I meant,” he says lightly, shaking his head with a chuckle.

Steve stops in his tracks, just before reaching the door to the gym, and turns a suspicious glare on his friend. “Okay,” he drawls out, seemingly intrigued. “What did you mean?”

He continues to shake his head, his cheeks turning a bright crimson. “I can’t tell you that,” he says with a lilt.

Steve stares at him incredulously, his mouth agape. Bucky’s always been a pretty straight shooter. He might tease when it suits him, but he never plays games like this. “Bullshit,” he says, watching the smile on his friend’s face grow even wider. “What?”

He clears his throat and does his best to bring his expression back to a stoic one. “If I tell you,” he almost whispers, leaning in conspiratorially, “you have to keep your mouth shut.” He leans back on his heels and asks, “Can you do that?”

Steve rolls his eyes, an impatient, “Of course I can,” quickly spilling from his lips.

Bucky looks at him assessingly, narrowing his eyes as he makes like he’s deciding whether or not Captain freakin’ America can be trusted. Then he blurts out, “I asked Tessa to marry me. And she said yes.”

He watches Steve’s face as it makes the slow transition from annoyed to intrigued to down-right elated. “I told you she would,” he nearly shouts before launching himself forward. He’s so quick to wrap his arms around him that Bucky doesn’t even have the chance to hug him back. Steve gives him a quick squeeze followed by a hard slap on the back, and then he lets go and teeters back on his heels, positively beaming at his friend. “I told you so.”

Bucky laughs as he says, “You’ve gotta stop saying that.”

“Sorry,” Steve chuckles. “How ‘bout congratulations… can I say that?”

Bucky’s face falls as he all at once realizes what he’s just done. “No,” he says with a sudden frown. “No, actually you can’t.” Steve’s brows pull together, utter confusion washing over his face. “You don’t know,” Bucky tells him, raising a single pointed finger. “I wasn’t supposed to say anything. Tessa wanted us to tell you together.”

“Oh,” Steve hums, nodding slowly. “Wow. You really screwed that up, huh?”

Bucky rolls his eyes and nails Steve with a swift punch to the shoulder before hissing out, “You punk.”

Steve sniggers to himself. “Don’t worry,” he says as Bucky moves past him and heads out to the hall. “Your secret’s safe with me.”