Bone-tired, still warm from the day’s victory, Steve isn’t thinking much of anything when he walks into his home, nothing at all on his mind but his sweetheart and how sweet he’s going to kiss him in celebration of finally putting those Hydra fucks behind bars.
“I’m home, babydoll!” He announces to the apartment, smiling when he hears the sound of the shower running.
He has half a mind to strip out of this too small suit and climb into the shower behind Bucky, kiss his shoulders soft and easy, maybe help him get a little dirtier before they get clean.
But then he remembers why Bucky hadn’t been with him on his trip to D.C. why Bucky’s probably in the shower at five in the afternoon, why there are six dirty teacups stacked up in the kitchen sink. Steve snorts to himself at the thought of a bleary-eyed Bucky shuffling through the kitchen wearing nothing but his softest socks and the shirt he stole from Steve a few months back. Shaking his head with fondness, he walks over to scrub the cups so Bucky can have something clean to drink out of.
He hums happily to himself while he stands at the sink, his suit jacket now off and hanging off the back of one of his barstools, the sleeves of his shirt rolled up to the elbow; it’s not a tune he could specifically name, but it’s a light one, one that comes from deep in his gut, bubbling out as he swings his hips back and forth.
It’s odd. Before he met Bucky, Steve wouldn’t have thought of himself as a dancer. But in the half a year it’s been since they started seeing each other, Steve thinks there’s nowhere he’d rather be than in the arms of his sweetheart, slow dancing in the living room while some song from the period of time where he was in the ice plays over the radio.
He rolls his eyes at himself as he shuts off the water. Sap.
The shower’s still running, and Steve goes to change in the bedroom, loosening his tie as he walks. He opts for comfortable sweats and a loose shirt, knowing that Bucky will come out of the shower fully exhausted and ready for a nap, the hot water draining him as it usually has in the last few months.
Things haven’t been quite the same since Hydra, not that Steve would expect them to be. This week’s bout with the flu is just another injury in a pile of bullshit that’s fallen on Bucky since Rumlow orchestrated his capture back in March.
Bucky flinches at loud noises still, and -- even though Steve hasn’t drummed up the courage to talk to him about it yet -- often wakes Steve up in the middle of the night, screaming and sobbing and begging someone to stop hurting him. Bucky never seems to remember those moments in the light of day, and Steve knows he isn’t qualified for shit to talk to him about it, so he just holds him when clouds pass over his face, holds him in their bed when he’s trembling, holds him and kisses him and promises earnestly that he’ll never let him go.
He sits on the bed for a second and wipes his face, his own exhaustion heightening at the thought of drifting off for a nap with his boyfriend. Maybe when they wake up, they’ll both be up for a roll in the proverbial hay. It’s a tempting thought, and Steve immediately perks up; it’s helped along when the water shuts off.
There’s a soft thud, as though someone lost their balance and fell against the wall. Steve rises to his feet, frowning, but that’s the only noise before there’s the definite sound of the shower curtain being pulled back and feet on the linoleum.
Settle down, he thinks to himself, settling on the bed again. Half of him wants to be waiting at the door when Bucky comes out so he can scoop him up and carry him to bed, showering his face with kisses; half of him, the half that wins, tells him Bucky might find that infantilizing, even if Steve means it from an adoration standpoint.
There’s a prolonged silence in the bathroom, and Steve’s gut clenches at the thought of Bucky scowling at himself in the mirror. Whether or not his boyfriend has noticed, Bucky’s taken to being even harsher than normal about the scars on his shoulder, aggravated by his time spent with Hydra, and the new scars that litter his torso and chest, ones from weapons and some from surgery. Steve knows it’s not how self-esteem works -- and God knows, his own struggles with self esteem could fill a goddamn history book and probably should at this point -- but he wishes there was some way to project how beautiful he found Bucky, some way Bucky could see himself the way Steve did.
But it’s not how that works.
He pinches the bridge of his nose, and then his sensitive ears pick up on Bucky’s sharp, angry exhalation.
He is upset then.
Steve stands, intending on knocking on the bathroom door to see if Bucky wants him to order them something special for dinner, or if Bucky wants to go hang out with Lucky, Clint’s dog who has zero sense of personal boundaries, when he hears it.
A sharp snap and Bucky yelling in surprise.
“ What the hell ?” There’s another slam, and the sound of plaster crumbling. “What the actual flying--”
The absolute worst is flying through Steve’s mind as he sprints to the bathroom, slamming into the corner when he rounds it, the thought that somehow Hydra is here, they were hiding in the bathroom, they’ve got him, they’ve got Bucky, no, not again, no, not him --
“Bucky?” His voice is tight with anxiety as he hammers on the door. There’s the sound of water flowing and spluttering, and someone’s heavy breathing. His knuckles soon grow numb from how hard he’s knocking, but Tony reinforced the walls in here for a reason, so he doesn’t relent.
“Bucky? Is everything alright in there?”
Still no response, and Steve thinks he might honestly be choking, he doesn’t know if he’ll laugh or cry if he opens the door and finds Bucky standing there with his headphones in, nursing a stubbed toe or something negligible, or if he finds Bucky with his head buried in the toilet bowl, still as sick as he was in the early morning. Nothing responds to the way he’s knocking at the door though, and that only drives his anxiety higher.
“Bucky! I don’t wanna scare you, sweetheart, but God, I’m going to bust down this damn door in a second, if you don’t tell me you’re okay. Even if you just knock, you don’t gotta say nothin’, just please, let me know if you need anything babydoll. Please. Say something.”
He rests his hand flat on the door and struggles to take a breath, his chest as tight as it would have been during one of his asthma attacks in ‘40.
“ What the fuck -” Terror is etched into every syllable of Bucky’s whisper, and that does it.
“I’m coming in,” Steve announces; something clatters against the opposite wall. He sets his shoulder along the seam of the door and heaves once, twice, and then the door bursts open, now hanging off its hinges in a way that will have Tony’s teeth grinding.
Bucky’s huddled against the wall, shivering, hair plastered to his head, wearing nothing but a towel.
“Jesus.” Steve dives down to kneel at Bucky’s feet and surveys the bathroom for danger, something he should have done before jumping in, but it’s Bucky - Steve doesn’t seem to be able to think twice where he’s concerned.
There’s a hole in the wall, about five feet up, pieces of plaster stuck to Bucky’s towel. When Steve turns to look at the sink, he sees it’s missing a handle, and somehow it’s got water pouring out of it, as though the actual pressure system had been busted.
“Buck?” Steve studies his face anxiously for some kind of sign of what happened, but all he can see is that glazed over stare Bucky’s been wearing more often than not in the last few weeks. Things had been better when he’d come out of surgery, but his quiet spells were lasting longer and longer.
Steve knows recovery isn’t linear; his own PTSD symptoms hadn’t really kicked in until after the Battle of New York. Soldiers did well when there were still obvious battles to fight. It was the forced return to normalcy that followed that had almost killed him.
Now that Hydra’s current leaders were in custody, Steve had been warned by Dr. Eva, the therapist he sees once a week, that both he and Bucky would be experiencing some emotional turmoil.
This doesn’t seem entirely internal.
“What happened, sweetheart?” Steve reaches out slowly to grab Bucky’s right shoulder, and he can feel the way he’s trembling.
“Sink.” Bucky’s eyes dart to the busted faucet, and Steve nods. It must have busted somehow, and scared Bucky shitless in the process.
“Do you need me to call Stark about it?” His eyes track the angle of the projected movement: if the missing handle had somehow exploded off the sink, it could have …
Steve frowns and restudies the angle.
Even if the handle had been somehow propelled, it wouldn’t have hit the wall there.
Bucky just shakes his head miserably and curls his knees up to his chest, shaking visibly now. Steve shuffles on his knees to where he’s just spotted the handle, peeking out from behind the trash can near the toilet.
“Steve.” It’s a plea. A warning. Steve looks over his shoulder at Bucky, who’s staring at him with open fear on his handsome face. “Please don’t…”
Steve grabs the handle, not fully understanding what Bucky’s asking for him; that is, not until he looks down at the handle in his palm, bent and twisted into a strange shape.
It looks like … Steve curls his fingers around the stainless steel, testing the theory and sure enough, it matches, only a little thinner than his own fingers.
It’s been molded to someone’s grip. And there’s only one person it could be.
Is Stark pranking us?
Not entirely out of the realm of possibility, but given that Stark was with Steve in DC all day, and often displayed a profoundly intense protective streak where Bucky was concerned, Tony was an unlikely candidate for trying to freak Bucky out while he was still recovering.
“Bucky.” Steve crawls back over to his boyfriend, who flinches miserably away from him when he tentatively holds the handle out. “What happened?”
Fear makes his voice steelier than he intends, and Bucky winces. Steve continues to hold out the broken handle, and finally Bucky reaches out, fingers trembling, and grips it.
Like some horrible version of Cinderella, it’s a perfect fit, and Steve stares down, not really understanding, until he does.
He doesn’t get to finish the name before Bucky jumps to his feet and shakes his head.
“I’m sorry,” Bucky chokes out, gripping the wall behind him like it’s the only thing keeping him upright.
Steve stands as well, hands extended in what he hopes is a placating way.
“Bucky, sweetheart, it’s okay. We can - we can figure this out together--”
Bucky nods, but then pales and shakes his head. “I don’t - Stevie, I don’t feel right--”
Steve has to dive to catch him, and when Bucky doesn’t respond to the light shaking he applies to his shoulders, he looks around in panic.
“JARVIS, send Dr. Cho down immediately,” he barks at the AI, and he barely waits for the confirmation before he stands, lifting Bucky, and heads to the living room where he sets Bucky down tenderly, smoothing his hair back from his face.
“Bucky, please,” he chokes out, bowing his head and praying, not for the first time, to a God he thought he’d left behind in 1945.
Brock Rumlow tilts his head back against the padded wall, the same padded wall he’s been staring at for nearly two months straight.
It’s odd. He thought they would have killed him by now.
Not SHIELD, of course. They’re too goody-two-shoes for that shit, even if Brock has zero doubt that Steve Rogers would have taken his head off in the bunker if given half a chance. Thank God the twins were there - for whatever reason, they’d imprinted on Rogers, and he’d grown entirely too soft in the face of that trust.
No, Brock thought that Hydra would have found a way to him by now. The fact that he was still there, alive and in captivity, meant that they thought he was of more use here and in captivity. The only thing he’s waiting for now is his new orders.
He isn’t sure what they’ll be, but here, on this entirely boring June day, he gets a pretty good hint.
Brock’s sitting there, minding his own business, staring at his blank padded wall, when he hears raised voices. Well. Voice, singular.
It’s a passionate disagreement, whatever’s happening, but something gets slammed around, and eventually, the light over the door buzzes green, and Brock’s eyes flick over to the exit, eyebrows - or really, what’s left of them - raising ever so slightly, the only sign of his interest in the proceedings.
In marches Captain America himself, wearing too short sweatpants, his shield strapped to his back, no armor in sight.
“This really isn’t a good--” The SHIELD agent, Hill, hisses at Rogers’s back, but his face is transformed by rage, looking like one of those avenging angels in a Renaissance painting.
It’s a good look for him, Rumlow thinks dispassionately as the captain crosses the cell in a matter of seconds and grabs him by the neck, clearly not caring that he’s left his entire body exposed to attack this way.
“To what do I owe the pleasure?” Brock wheezes out, the hand tightening compulsively around his throat. He might actually kill me, he thinks with mild surprise. But no. He won’t kill him. He wants something.
“What did you do to him?” Rogers barks, shaking him like a rag doll by the grip he has around his throat. When Brock stares up at him, half in defiance, half in ignorance, he roars and throws him back on the bed.
“Steve--Captain Rogers!” Hill says angrily, but Rogers shrugs her anger off easily enough.
“What. Did. You. Do. To. Him.”
If James was missing, this would be a different conversation. There might be cuffs involved, Fury would make another appearance, a lawyer might even show up for the appearance of civility as they interrogated him.
This isn’t sanctioned. Something else happened.
The experiment must have worked.
Brock starts to laugh, delighted and almost proud that Jamie was as strong as he’d told his bosses he would be.
“Why are you--” Rogers makes a noise of aborted rage, and Hill comes to stand at his elbow, holding his arm back when he goes for the shield. “Answer me! What did you do--”
“Is he alone?” Brock lifts his eyes up and smirks. “Tell me you didn’t leave him alone. Thought you woulda learned your lesson by now, Cap.”
“Fuck you,” Rogers spits out. “He’s not --”
Hill shakes her head, and Rogers falls silent.
“Good. I’d watch out for him if I were you.” Brock feels laughter bubbling out of his mouth again, too tickled pink to contain it. “Hydra always collects on its investments.”
The last thing he sees is Rogers’ fist flying at his face.