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Coyote Run

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It’s raining when she saves them. Of course, they don’t know it is until they’re outside the Raft. Water streams down her face and hair as she moves across the black steel surface with urgency. The air itself is damp with the brine mugginess of the Atlantic that swirls all around them.

Steve and Bucky are stunned because somehow she’s sifted through a thousand guards and locked doors and managed to rescue them in the deep of the night all by herself.

“The others?” Steve asks as his breath puffs white in the cold, cold air.

“They’re fine,” she replies curtly as she strides towards the helicopter. She claimed she’d “borrowed” it from a friend in Prague.

“How do you know?” Steve presses because he’s worried for them. Wanda. Sam. Clint. Scott. He can’t leave them here to rot.

“They made deals,” she shrugs. Steve frowns.

“We didn’t get deals.”

“Would you have taken one?”

“No.”

“They weren’t going to give you or Bucky a deal,” she explains meaningfully.

She glances at Bucky and he looks away – the heat of her expression is too much for him.

Steve is still standing there like a dumb idiot.

She rolls her eyes, the brief curve of her lip creating a dimple. “Why do you think I’m here, Steve?”

No deals. No deals. It would be the Raft for them and nothing else.

Understanding finally unfolds across Steve’s face. He offers her an grateful smile.

“C’mere,” he motions with his hands and she goes to him.

He touches her forehead where the wound is still red and ugly –the stitches blatant against her skin. Vision had nearly killed her when he’d sent a car hurtling in her direction at the airport in Leipzig. Steve had been beside himself. Everything had stopped as he lunged for her and lifted her to him, cradling the broken bones in her wrist and holding her together. The thinnest stream of blood from her nose. Nearly delicate.

Before Bucky could help, the police had come and with them – the army trucks and all the chaotic rest. Steve had been dragged away from her roaring absolute hell.

Bucky hadn’t heard Steve curse like that since 1944 Germany.

In the end, it had ended up being a blessing since she was able to slip from the hospital where they had treated her. She’d been pumped with enough serum from her days as a Hydra assassin to heal within a week.

“Don’t be so sad, baby,” she teases. “I just saved your ass.”

He laughs at that and picks her up in the air. He kisses her hard.

Bucky stays quiet – he watches their lips move together beneath all that rain as the sea roars at their feet.

**

“What’s the plan?” Steve asks her.

After she lands the helicopter at some strange airport in some strange city, another mysterious contact picks them up and drops them off in Lansing, Michigan. She hotwires a car and Steve doesn’t even blink an eye.

“I have a house in Colorado,” she says. “Middle of nowhere. Insane security. Bought it, in case, something like this happened.”

“Becoming an International criminal?” Steve mutters – sounding a little pained.

She turns to both of them and Bucky realizes how tired she looks. There is a deep strain beneath the muscles of her skin. The cuts and bruises on her face more prominent than before. She needs rest but, he won’t say it out loud.

She doesn’t want that from him.

“Look,” she says pointedly. “Stark is not going to look for us and he’s going to make it very very difficult for Ross to find us. He told me he’d keep our scent off the trail – “

“Tony knows – “ Steve sputters before she interrupts him.

“Of course, he does! He got me out of the hospital.”

Steve collapses back against his seat – a little stunned.  Bucky guesses he’s about to start stewing in his own guilt for the next thousand miles.

“The plan is to lay low,” she says – ignoring him. “We stay at the house. We don’t make our presence obvious.” She glances briefly at Bucky. “Bucky and I know all about how to stay invisible. We’ve been bred to do it so, this will be a walk in the park.”

“And you think hiding out in America will be fine?” Steve presses.

“Yes,” she smiles as if this is all entirely entertaining for her. “Ross will think we are headed to the ends of the Earth and Tony is going to keep him in that mindset. He’s paying off people who look exactly like us to hang out in Bolivia, Sydney, Thailand, etc.”

Steve nods mutely.

She slaps her hands together. “Awesome.”

As she starts the car, she pauses before turning back to them again. “By the way, you should both grow beards.”

***

They bed down in a camp site area on the way to Colorado. There are primitive metal grills and a little water tap that is coated in moss. It’s rural and empty and Bucky wonders how the hell she knew this place existed to begin with.

“We could have just done a motel,” Bucky gripes as he tries to cook six sad little hot dogs on a grill. He makes a face as he pokes at the decades old black gristle.

She rolls her eyes, blows her hair out of her eyes. “There were tents in the back of the car. Thought it be better than possibly getting caught on a motel camera. Three extremely good looking people in the middle of bum fuck nowhere are going to draw attention.”

“Maybe, they’ll think we’re swingers,” Steve teases – visibly proud of his own joke.

She turns to him – slightly aghast. “They’ll definitely think we’re swings and when the fuck did you turn into such a lech, old man.”

Steve grins and Bucky turns back to the grill. His own awkwardness is stifling. He’s never seen Steve like this. He’s never seen her like this.

Blessedly, there are also three packs of beers in the back of the car. They drink them in addition to the hot dogs that Bucky manages to burn. Steve can’t get drunk but, it almost seems like he is as he sneaks his nose beneath the curtain of her hair and whispers something in her ear.

He’s affectionate when it just seems to be the three of them and that surprises Bucky a bit. Then again, Bucky didn’t really see Steve with tons of girls back in the day. During the war, the two of them certainly fucked around. The most Bucky saw of Steve was him with his pants around his ankles rutting into some bar maid in a bedroom above a bar in Paris. There had also been that Swedish dame in Italy.

Steve would blush and avoid Bucky’s questions afterward. It was as if he had thought he had done something wrong which, was entirely laughable since Bucky was bedding down five times as many girls.

Steve just kept things close to the vest.

Here, now, he seems perfectly fine with holding her to him and kissing her cheek or nipping her neck like he could suck her down right here in front of Bucky.

It’s alarming.

It’s so alarming that he half-wonders if it’s because Steve is somehow aware of exactly what they did together during their time with Hydra. Bucky knows that Steve knows that they were partners on missions but, he doesn’t know if Steve knows that they were partners in other things.

Christ. Bucky is in it. He’s fucking in it.

Perhaps, these public displays of affections are some subtle way of Steve displaying his dominance over her – his right to her.

You had her then. I have her now, pal.

No. No. Steve isn’t like that.

Steve would tell him if he knew.

Right?

Bucky bites vigorously into another hot dog as he watches Steve’s fingers trail over her thigh. Bucky looks down at his feet, watches a fly climb the tip of his muddy boot.

He wonders why he cares this much.

**

In the middle of the night, Bucky wakes up ready to burst. He climbs awkwardly out of his tiny little tent and finds a tree to piss against. On the way back, he notices the flap of Steve’s and her tent unzipped and billowing in the breeze.

It’s probably nothing. It’s nothing. Maybe, Steve got too hot since he has the body temperature of a volcanic radiator or maybe she left to go pee or –

He strides toward the tent and opens it up.

Shit.

It’s empty and Bucky begins to imagine Ross and all his goons dragging them off into the deep, dark woods. Or maybe a grizzly bear or that real big dude in the hockey mask or god forbid Hydra.

His steps stutter in one direction and then the next, his pulse fluttering with urgency. He takes a deep breath, closes his eyes and listens to the tremulous quiet of the forest. He doesn’t have to wait for long because he hears Steve groan, long and low, and in mere seconds Bucky is racing across the campground with his gun in his hands.

He comes to a clearing surrounded by sharp, dark pines. The silver of moonlight bathing the meadow iridescent. There are a bunch of picnic tables and on top of one is oh fuck

Bucky tucks his gun away and steadies himself against the nearest pine. His racing heart beating at its peak.

They’ve got an unzipped sleeping bag spread across a picnic table. She’s flat on her back – drenched in the moon and very, very naked. Steve is half-hidden between her drawn up knees. His big hands are gripping her hips. The broad expanse of his shoulders against the backs of her thighs.

Bucky can hear the sounds Steve’s mouth makes and his muffled, contented declarations. Dirty. Loving. The same kind of noises Steve makes during a rough shoulder rub when he’s wound too tight from a fight. Bucky watches her grind her lower body against Steve’s mouth – a shameless shove that he knows all too well.

Her magnificent breast rise and fall as her breath quickens.

“Steve. Steve.” She fumbles at his head, hitches long fingers into his hair.

He moves up her body with a controlled strength. He kisses her for a long time as she goes for his jeans. He turns his face a little to the side and pants – tries to find her mouth in between desperate kisses.

She yanks Steve’s jeans down around his thighs revealing his bare ass in the moonlight – pale and vulnerable. She gets his zip up half off before getting impatient – leaving him with only one strong arm exposed. They fit well together – beautifully well as she reaches down low between them and Steve is grunting.

She lets out a small, hurt whimper when Steve presses forward. Her eyes shut as it tips back and Bucky remembers – oh he remembers all about being inside her in the coldest rooms imaginable. He remembers plunging into her during stake outs and undercover ops and his mouth cupping her pussy in the dark.

“Do it harder,” she’d whisper into his ear. “Harder, soldat.”

He’d do it until it hurt – hurt them both. The two of them both waiting to die.

**

In the morning, Steve and she are handsy and affectionate over the small fire Bucky creates. They eat cold hot dogs and Steve kisses her open-mouthed when he thinks Bucky isn’t looking.

Bucky drinks enough watery instant coffee to kill a horse and demands that he get to drive.

**

They stop at a McDonalds outside of Denver. With his hat pulled down over his nose, Bucky orders at the window and they eat in the car. Steve leaves the two of them to go stretch his legs.

“Three days,” she says softly.

Bucky flashes a sideways glance at her, his brows knitting together. “Three days?”

“You haven’t spoken to me in three days,” she explains. “You haven’t even looked at me in five.”

He’s looked at her. He’s looked at her, alright. Just when she wasn’t looking at him.

It’s an obvious dance: avoidance mixed with acute awareness. Bucky didn’t expect that she’d actually bring it up.

He clenches his jaw, stretching his metal fingers over the wheel. The AC is blasting the both of them and his profile is burning beneath the onslaught of the sun through his window.

“Yeah, well,” he takes a long sip from his Dr. Pepper. “I didn’t realize I was doing it.”

Yes he did.

“Why do you hate me, Buck?” she asks softly with her eyes wide and big.

“I don’t hate you,” he replies because it’s the truth.

She laughs because he knows she doesn’t believe him. She reaches out for him and he flinches. He doesn’t meant to but, the tension between them has grown so intense that it shocks him when she breaks her hand through it.

She gets to him. That’s it.

Without even making an effort – just by existing – she gets right under his skin and into his brain and gnaws her pretty little teeth through all the soft parts. She accesses the pieces of him that he so desperately would like to ignore – the jealous parts, the parts that care deeply about her, the animalistic part of himself that thinks keeping her away from him is the dumbest idea he could ever have.

In the time after DC, he had come to remember absolutely everything about her. She had painted herself into his life –into his time with Hydra – with broad, bright strokes of paint. She was there – inside him – at the base of his brain and at the base of the soldier’s.

She was in his memories even more so than Steve had been which really, truly makes him resent her.

And it’s not her fault. It isn’t.

She falls back against her leather seat – the squeak of sweaty flesh and the thrum of the air conditioning the only sounds in the car.

When Steve hauls the door open, they both jump. Startled.

**

The house is a log cabin far, far outside Denver. The wood is light and bright – practically orange in the afternoon sun. It’s nestled in a valley– away from busy roads or prying eyes or really any human life at all.

“I was totally inspired by Stephen King’s Misery when I bought this place,” she proudly announces as they step into the front hall. “It doesn’t look like much but, it’s decked out with the best tech and security there is. Stark set me up.”

Steve smiles indulgently at her and Bucky finds it necessary to sulk.

Steve doesn’t miss it.

As she walks back to the kitchen to check supplies, Steve forces him into the next bedroom.

“What’s your problem, Buck?” he asks low and deadly. “You’ve been a total jack ass the entire trip here.”

“I’m not being a jack ass!”

“You are,” Steve snaps. “You’re being a total fucking asshole. She came to save us. She risked everything so, please be fucking grateful.

But, Bucky can’t be grateful for someone that kills him with kindness. Sweet words and sweet tongue and those eyes that blink like an owl and manage to peer deep down beneath his skin. He can’t be happy when he knows her in the most intimate ways. What really gets him going is the fact that Steve is desperately protecting her from him when, truly, it should be the other way around. He should be her lover – her protector – her boyfriend – her husband – her everything.

Timing had really fucked them. After DC, he had escaped with his memories of her hazy and muddled. The last wipe they did before he had tried to kill Steve had really torn his brain apart. She had escaped later – as soon as Hydra fell. Steve had broken her out of her prison because he had been searching for him. He had pressed her for information about a Bucky Barnes - a man she only knew as Soldat.

Then - he has also fallen in love with her and she with him. Tale as old as time, he supposes.

By the time, they had found him in Bucharest she was already consumed by Steven Grant Rogers. Bucky couldn’t blame her. Steve was better than him in every way imaginable.

For a moment, he had wondered if he should have made an effort – maybe flirted a little bit

“You’re a pretty girl, baby but, I’m prettier,“ he’d tease if he really wanted to hook back into his 40’s era James Buchanan Barnes.

He couldn’t though. He was too god damn morose to do anything but, brood.

He didn’t deserve her.

“Buck,” Steve says – eyes softening as he watches Bucky slump against the wall.

“Does this have to do with your past together?” he urges. “Did some memory come back or something because I know you guys did a bunch of unsavory things but, it’s not like I’m here to judge you.”

Unsavory things. If he meant the soldier rage-fucking Steve’s now-girlfriend in every motel, hotel, and mountain cave in Europe than he’d be right. But, Steve doesn’t know that. Steve’s probably visualizing beheadings and assassinations and poisoned meals for dignitaries.

“No,” Bucky replies. “I’m just – my head is really going crazy and everything has been a lot.”

Steve claps him hard on the shoulder. “Then go rest, pal. We’ll both be here when you wake up.”

It’s nice of him. Steve is genuinely worried and that kills Bucky a little bit.

If only he knew.

He heads up to one of the bedrooms before he catches her eye in the kitchen. She smiles sadly at him before turning back to the sink.

She did fucking save them. She saved him. She’d been saving him a million fucking times for decades.

**

Oslo, 1996

Really, he should be angry.

The stupidity of what she has done.

“You shouldn’t have come back for me,” he grits out, the pain in his side nearly unbearable.

“You were shot,” she says plainly. “I would not leave you here.”

“They’ll see it as a weakness,” he snaps – trying to reassemble the bandage that is partially slipping off his bloodied abdomen. “You have doomed yourself. They cannot know that we – “

“That we what?” she asks, eyebrows rising in surprise. Muddled amusement in her voice. “That we fuck? They probably know that already, moya dorogoy.”

He gives her an exasperated look as she shoos his hands away. “I am not talking about the – the sex.”

Her eyes briefly slide up to meet his, tongue caught between her teeth. “Would you like me to say it then?”

No. No he certainly would not. They cannot feel these things. It is dangerous. It is not appropriate for them.

Fucking is one thing. But, love

He shuts his eyes as she unwinds the cloth from his side. She sucks in a breath but, her fingers are gentle. She leans forward and his face grows damp and warm from her close breath.

“I know you hate my stitching but, it has to be done.”

He coughs – nods in agreement before turning his head. He’s grateful she didn’t speak it – didn’t say what is so unfortunately obvious between the two of them.

Feeling it is enough.

**

Bucky wakes suddenly – his heart hammering beneath his ribs.

He shifts restlessly on the feather bed, listens to the wind whistling at the window. A spiderweb is illuminated in pale relief against the pane – against the night.

The rest of the house is quiet. He must have slept through dinner.

When he falls into restless sleep again, he dreams fevered dreams.

He sees Steve open and bleeding – screaming for him. She’s above him and stitching patterns in his stomach. He moves closer and notices cursed Russian words interspersed between the lines of thread.

Желание. Семнадцать. Ржавый. Рассвет. Печь. Девять. Добросердечный. Возвращение на родину. Один. Товарный вагон

When she smiles, her teeth are gone. There is only blood.

**

The wind smells like apples and wild grasses and old wooden crates. The mountains are high and clustered – the air cool. It’s high noon and the sky is cloudless. This kind of blue does not exist and yet it is here and above them – the very color of bluebonnets. Almost purple.

It brings a sting of wistfulness. He has only truly known the deepest parts of dungeons and laboratories. Even when he had escaped, he had gone to ramshackle apartments where he curled in on himself on thin, old mattresses. He only left his warm, safe space for food.

He does not like being bare and open in the world.

But, here is different.

Bucky leans against the door frame as he watches Steve sit outside with her.

Steve is humming quietly as he sketches on a notepad. The melody is something familiar - nostalgic. He’d heard it once in a bar somewhere deep in Brussels. It makes him think of cheap whiskey and too many cigarettes and Dugan howling with laughter.

Steve’s legs are tangled with hers, his large booted feet between her ankles. She’s knocking her knees against his and when he looks up, he catches her gaze and smiles.

She tilts her head to the side and sees Bucky. Her smile falters and she turns back to Steve who’s gone back to sketching. The brush of graphite on smooth paper the only sound for miles.

It’s been a week and Bucky and her are at war.

Well, not war. More a silent duel in which one is waiting for the other to take aim and blow this safe house to kingdom come.

**

Oslo, 1996

They’re forced to go over a peak in order to get to the next Hydra station. It’s cold but, clear. Winter in full bloom.

He knows that she’s carefully watching every step he takes. He manages to barely stumble on the way down.

But, she knows him too well.

When they reach the bottom, she pulls apart his vest to check for swelling and redness and finds that he has bled through his undershirt. He’s been bleeding for hours.

She stares at him with something akin to revulsion. Real anger that would send any man cowering.

“I would like you to think about what would happen if you died,” she says as she busies herself with changing his bandages. “I need you.”

The soldier sways a bit, his hand wrapped around the trunk of a pale birch. “I will protect you,” he says. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”

“Good,” she says. “Because I will die with them if you leave me there alone. I will die and that is certain.”

He feels sick. He knows that she means it. She will either let them kill her or she’ll do it herself.

The soldier blinks momentarily – unable to wade through the heavy emotions that have now coiled around him like a python.

His life had once been simple: The mission. Kill. Don’t get killed. Mission report.

Her gaze is penetrating – hovering over his brow and it is impossibly hard. He touches her face and she softens…a bit.

“You’re quite good at that?” he muses.

“At what?”

“Making me admit things I don’t care to.”

She grins. “I’m very sneaky.”

She fixes his stitches and he bites his tongue through the whole ordeal.

Afterward, he thanks her by kissing her softly – a leisurely kiss that neither of them is used to. Their sex is usually sloppy and needy, pressed up against walls and stained tiles or quick and dirty behind the next motel.

With the world tasting like snow, he lifts her chin and presses his mouth to hers. Sweet, lazy and a little unsure.

**

It’s after dusk when Bucky walks into the kitchen and notices Steve is nowhere to be found. She’s leaning against the counter, her hair messily pulled away from her face. A pot of water boiling.

“He went to the market in town,” she tells him before he can even ask.

“That safe?”

“Safe as houses,” she shrugs. “He has an animal growing on his face. No one will notice him.”

Bucky self-consciously rubs his own jaw – his beard is thick as Steve’s. His hair is longer too and he’s now had to keep most of it up in a bun.

She leans forward to add salt to the pot and he catches the slip of pale pink panties underneath her loose shorts. He snorts and she turns around to look at him.

“What?”

“I just – I didn’t figure you for the pink kind of girl.”

Her eyebrows hit the top of her forehead. “Wow,” she replies sarcastically. “First of all, you’re a perv. Second of all, Hydra wasn’t big on letting me wear anything that wasn’t black, leather, or camouflage.”

He scoffs because doesn’t have an answer to that. He rests against the counter, folding his arms over his chest. They haven’t been alone since the car in the McDonalds parking lot.

But, that didn’t really count.

Truthfully, they hadn’t been alone since the safe house in Germany before the fight at the airport.

**

Somewhere in Schkeuditz, Germany

Bucky’s head is pounding. The injury he sustained from the helicopter crash has left him with a raging migraine.

Steve and Sam are calling every contact they have and he can hear their voices through the door: a panicked, stern, rapid hum of conversation that is needling his brain.

A soft knock and then the door slips open. She stands there, arms crossed protectively over her chest. A brutal bruise is forming across her cheek from when she went head to head with the panther guy back in Berlin.

She was protecting him. She had been protecting him as the soldier.

“Hi,” she mumbles.

“Hey,” he offers – his own voice hoarse.

It’s an awkward moment. The two of them trying not to stare at the other.

He’s looking down at his feet when he hears her sob. He doesn’t have time to think until she’s collapsing into his arms. He’s startled, the weight of her warm and new.

But, the smell. The smell of her is so fucking familiar.

Rose. Rose. The crush of rose.

“I looked for you,” she whispers urgently.

“I’m sorry,” he replies dumbly.

“They said you were dead. The guards that were left said you were dead,” she weeps. “I didn’t know and then Steve saved me and it took me so long to put it together!” And now she’s really crying on his chest and he’s holding her to him and it feels strange.

They don’t have time for this. The world had gone belly up with the four of them getting arrested, him turning into the soldier again.

Before he can reply, she pushes him violently away.

“And you had actually left?” she hisses. “You left me there!”

“I didn’t remember!” he utters defensively. “They wiped me before I got out.”

“You told me you’d never leave me alone that you – that you would stay there with me.”

He runs a shaky hand through his hair. The pain is nearly unbearable. He pinches the top of his nose as he exhales deeply.

“I’m sorry,” he says again. “I didn’t remember you. Honest to god, I didn’t remember.”

She smirks – lips receding and making her oddly ugly in the brief gold light from the bedside lamp. “I know when you lie, Soldat. You’re much worse at it now.”

“I don’t know what –“

She gets right up to him. Her mouth close to his.

“You did start to remember. Two years, Bucky. Two fucking years and I know you remembered me. But, you didn’t come back. You didn’t try.”

Her voice breaks off and she turns away from him.

Helplessly, he curls his hands into fists. He has no excuse for that.

He was scared. He was alone. He didn’t know the first place to start.

It had been the soldier that had kept her at the forefront of his mind.

Somewhere – deep down – the soldier had been raging inside him. He had been angry for months – desperately clawing at him, telling him to look for her. Return to her. Save her. Find her. She is yours and you are hers and there is no in between.

“Detka…” he begins but, is interrupted as Steve comes charging into the room.

He looks between them but, doesn’t catch the tension or the evidence of the fight. When Bucky glances at her, she’s smiling brilliantly at Steve. Her tears gone, she’s turned her head a certain way so, he can’t catch the evidence. A toothpaste commercial in real time. He almost laughs because she was always the consummate actress.

She always got the undercover jobs.

“Clint has Wanda,” Steve tells them. “Sam’s got his guy coming in. We’re meeting them at the airport in an hour.”

Steve pauses before looking more closely at her.

“You alright?”

She nods and move farther away from Bucky and towards him.

He sighs, “It’s going to be okay sweetheart.”

He tugs her to him and presses his lips to hers.

Bucky’s stomach drops.

He didn’t know…he didn’t realize.

Inside him, the soldier howls.

**

“So,” he begins as the edge of the counter digs into his back. “You and Steve?”

She sighs, pushing her hair out of her eyes and turning to him.

“You really want to start that?”

“Just curious.”

“I think there’s some bitterness there if I were to bet on it.”

“Bet away. I’m not mad.”

She rolls her eyes and that really digs into his chest.

“Steve was there for me,” she says. “He was there when I had absolutely no one in the entire world left.” She glances pointedly at him. “I didn’t know if you were dead or alive – “

“Hey,” he interrupts her. “Look you don’t owe me anything. I didn’t come back for you and it wasn’t like our relationship was all that healthy. We were prisoners and we were kind of forced together.”

Her eyes widen and her mouth parts. Her lower lip trembles and he realizes he’s said the worst thing possible. She turns back to the stove – shutting him out.

“Shit,” he mutters. “I didn’t mean that. I mean he – the soldier -  missed you. He wanted you. I could feel him – begging me – “

“You two are the same fucking person, Bucky!” She whirls around and shoves him hard. “And thank you so much for confirming the fact that you knew exactly who I was after you escaped and you still refused to come for me. For all you knew, I could have still been being tortured or stuck in the fucking cryo chamber, you bastard.”

He grabs her shoulders and pushes her back against the counter, his finger searing into her biceps. Her gaze is wounded – broken.

“I didn’t mean that,” he says again – truly realizing the cruelty of his words. “I’m so – so mixed up right now. I didn’t mean that.”

“Shut up,” she says, the words punching out of her mouth.

As she looks up at him, a memory hits him straight in the face.

Italy in 1999 and they had been tasked to kill a mob boss in Tuscany. They had snuck kisses in between gunning down their targets. She had ignored orders and bought him a gelato because he had wondered what it had tasted like. He had licked amarena cherry from her mouth as she laughed and his stomach had fluttered. She had shown him happiness then – the only piece of happiness he had ever, to his knowledge at the time, known.

Before he knows what he’s doing, he’s hauling her up against the far wall of the kitchen with his mouth closing over hers. His hands drop to her waist, fisting at the fabric of her tank top, pulling her to him, dancing over her hips as he pushes his tongue through her lips.

He’s enfolding her with his size, his frame pressed against hers with his fingers on her skin. For a moment, she’s still – stunned but, then her hands are roaming, raking over his chest and snaking around his neck and into his hair. She pulls his bun from the hair band and it brushes his shoulders. She tips her head, kissing him back and it’s all teeth and lips and tongue colliding desperately.

It’s clumsy. It’s awkward. It’s like they are learning each other again.

She whimpers into his mouth and he’s already hard against her stomach as his hips jut into hers, fingers dipping into the top of her shorts and just above her ass – tugging at that pink underwear. He groans as she leans further into him.

He had tried to forget her. He really had and he had been so wrong for it.

Here with her in his arms and her pretty pink tongue lapping at the roof of his mouth, it becomes so easy to forget Steve and all the reasons they are here in the first place.

She had been missing from him – that had been it. Bucky had felt empty and she had been the piece he had needed.

And God he wants her, he wants her so badly it aches in the depths of him. He is sated by her opening beneath him. The soldier croons – sings – hums in appreciation.

His ears catch tires rolling on gravel. She pushes him off of her, a string of saliva caught between them and she rubs at her mouth.

“Steve,” she says. “Steve.”

She fixes her hair and brushes past him without a second glance.

All that strength that he prides himself on suddenly crashes to the floor like a thick empty tumbler. It rolls around before settling someplace that he can’t get back.

He’s so fucked.

 

 

Chapter Text

There are some days when Bucky can’t even look at Steve and that’s really what kills him the most.

Fuck her and her pink underwear. Fuck her pretty lips and fuck her rose-smelling fucking hair. ‘Cause he and Stevie have never kept secrets, at least none that matter.

This matters.

Bucky is chopping wood as she watches from behind him. Her gaze is heated – burning holes into his back. Steve is sleeping peacefully in the blue hammock across the field. Bucky turns off the small portable radio for the first time in an hour.

It’s been two weeks since he kissed her.

They’re silent for a while – the quiet only pierced by the dull thwack of wood. The landscape is uncomfortably green – bright and buzzing with blue dragonflies and mosquitoes.

“You didn’t tell him, did you?” he finally asks, after making sure Steve is actually asleep for the fiftieth time.

“Tell him what?” she says, pulling at the torn hole in the knee of her jeans.

That’s all he needs to hear.

Buck turns the music on – let’s James Taylor rock him into pleasant thoughts.

**

Bucky goes out to get them all burgers. He and Steve can each put away ten Number Two combo platters from the drive-thru down the road.

He wonders if he’s getting fat and pokes at his stomach only to have the pad of his finger meet solid muscle. Thank God for Super Soldier Serum.

Another memory slips into his subconscious.

She’s straddling his waist, fingering the loose buckles of his leather uniform. Her hair is spilling from its usual ponytail and it tickles his lips. His metal hand grips her thigh hard until he feels her muscle twitch beneath Kevlar. He’s rutting up into her. They don’t have time to strip and so, it’s something quick and dry.

There’s smoke on her skin – ash from the bomb she detonated in Berlin. His hair is wet from sweat, brow prickly with grime.

She grinds down hard on him. Her mouth moving against his in a frenzy. She makes him come in his own pants and she looks moderately impressed with herself as he yanks her hair hard enough for her to squeal.

He’s hard again as he goes for the zipper of her pants.

“That serum is a blessed thing, soldat,” she croons as he makes her shiver by sucking a mark into her collarbone. “But, they will be here soon to check on us and we cannot risk that.”

He bites the thin flesh of her jaw in regret.

The wheel of the car is sweaty beneath his palm and he wipes it on his pants. He doesn’t need this – he doesn’t need these thoughts screaming their way through his already weary head.

He wonders if he’d erase them if he could – if he’d erase her if he could.

He already knows the answer to that.

**
Bucky doesn’t notice that the living room is empty when he returns to the cabin. He tosses his keys and the literal box of to go food onto the kitchen table. He only realizes he’s alone when he hears a crash coming from the bathroom down the hall.

He carefully slips down the corridor only to see her half naked form sitting on the counter through the half-open door. Her legs are wrapped around Steve’s waist, their mouths covering each others, too absorbed in their fucking to have heard him. She’s still wearing her bra and boots – denim skirt rucked all the way up – and the sight of those worn, dirty motorcycle shoes on her bare skin makes him hard as a rock.

She groans low and whimpers “fuck” as Steve moves in and out of her. Her fingers are digging into the sinews of Steve’s back muscles – her black nail polish act as tiny exclamation points against his pale skin.

Bucky flushes. He should turn around and walk away like he did back at the camp ground but, he is paralyzed – filled with both fascination and fear.

And somewhere in the pit of his stomach – anger.

She cries out when Steve pulls himself from her. “Steve, Jesus, please!”

He grunts – crushing his mouth to hers, silencing her. He pulls her off the counter before turning her around. He bends her over and hitches her hips toward his, plunging his cock into her from behind.

“Oh god,” she cries.

“That’s right, baby,” Steve grits out, bottom lip pulled white between his teeth. “That’s right.”

Bucky’s cock twitches at the sound of her pleasure – the familiarity of it bruising his insides.

“Fuck,” she growls as her fist slams down hard on the counter.

Steve is making all sorts of noises – calling her name in a desperate, pleading way that’s then followed by rough gasps – nearly feral. The kind of noises one makes when their entire body forgets all the show and circumstance of human decency and remembers that they are animals beneath.

It’s an intimate sound. Tender. Reserved only for her.

Not one that Bucky is meant to hear.

**
It’s quiet in the morning – the world outside is perfectly calm and still. Endless blue and green and summer is aching in the trees. They shovel forkfuls of eggs, bacon and pancakes into their mouths.

Bucky balances his knife on the top of his hand – flips it and catches it smoothly. He can’t look directly at her, can’t register the blatant hickey on the side of her neck. It’s purple – garish.

She seems to take notice of his avoidance and pulls her hoodie over her head, covering her throat.

“I spoke to Nat today,” Steve announces casually.

“And?” The last time Bucky had seen Nat, he’d tried to snap her neck.

The memory hurts him. The sharp edges of the soldier still dig around inside. He’s uncomfortable in his own skin. He doesn’t fit well with this.

“There’s an arms dealer not far from here that she’d like us to check out,” he says – the brief hint of excitement in his voice. “She asked us if we could take a look.”

“Aren’t we supposed to be in hiding?”

“We’ll be covert,” Steve shrugs. “I’m itching to get out of here. Do some good.”

She snorts – rolling her eyes before ruffling Steve’s hair.

Typical Steve – always begging for a fight.

“We can wear black,” she suggests. “No uniforms.”

“Good call,” Steve grins before clapping his hands together. “I’m gonna call Nat back – get some more info then let’s head out at sixteen hundred hours.”

She mockingly salutes him. “Aye Aye, Captain.”

He gives her a stern glance before leaning down and roughly pressing his lips to her mouth. Bucky stares down at his pancakes – watches the butter congeal into syrup.

After Steve leaves – the silence remains. It gets thick. Tension like a too-thin rubber band wrapped around something five times its size.

There’s the steady hum of bugs, the brush of wet grass against his boots as he shifts his feet beneath the table.

Suddenly, her hand appears out of nowhere – thumb coming up to rub at his bearded chin.

He looks up at her – eyes widening. If he parted his mouth and let his tongue slide out, it would press gently against her fingertip.

“Sorry,” she murmurs, pulling her hand away as though burned. “You had syrup on your face.”

There are some days he’s desperate for her to leave him alone – for her to not exist.

Then there are days he wants her to stay. He knows it’s not worth it.

But, there’s something.

**
Bucky sharpens his knives as she takes stock of the bullets left in the weapons cabinet. The both of them are in full mission mode: their bodies in sync from the thousand or so assignments in their past life.

“Remember Cambodia,” she asks him out of nowhere.

He freezes. The back of his neck prickles with the ghost memory of a hundred mosquitoes at his ankles and the cloying heat of jungle. He’d fucked up that night – had blown his cover in order to save her from being held down and executed by a rival drug lord.

His handler at the time – some greasy bastard with an eye patch, had beaten the ever living shit out of him.

“You’re just a doggy,” he growls. “Do you not fucking remember? You live to serve Hydra. You have no purpose but, that.”

He points a finger at her and the soldier stiffens – he does not want the attention on her. He won’t stand for it.

Her face is marred by blood but, she’s staring at him in that pleading, pretty way she has.

“She is replaceable,” his handler hisses. “You do not put her before the mission.”

The soldier spits blood, feels a tooth loosen in the back of his mouth. A metal crow bar comes down hard on his back and he stumbles.

But, he does not make a sound.

Then he hears her speak and his heart sinks. No. Stop. It’s not worth it.

He sees her fly at the man, her small, strong fist landing against his jaw. He forgets how strong she is: a tiny juggernaut of hurt and rage exploding across the heartbreak in her face.

His handler is stunned – his nose pouring blood as he stares between the two of them.

“How interesting,” he marvels as the guards drag her away from him.

He doesn’t see her again for months and when he does, her eyes look broken.

“What about it?” he asks hoarsely, feeling his throat closing up.

She turns towards him: her skin smooth and lovely, her lips full as her eyes burn with shadows. She is not a broken thing anymore.

“I – “ she starts before Steve jogs inside the room.

He looks between the two of them, eyebrow cocked in question. “I overheard something about about Cambodia?”

She smiles – doll-like. Her eyes alarmingly black. “Nothing, babe.”

**
Bucky and Steve go ahead to monitor the grounds. The house is huge – turned gray in the dark. Windows lit up like candle flames. The glint of the moon hangs above them like a still orb of pearl.

Steve’s boots make little noise as he steadily walks behind Bucky. The heat of him pulses at his back, the quiet of his beating heart thrums steadily

As he stops at the tree line, the skin behind Bucky’s ear grows warm and damp with Steve’s breath.

“So what was the situation between you two back then” he asks low.

Where the fuck did that come from?

Bucky swallows, throat tight. He focuses his attention on the lit up windows in the big house before realizing he’s gone too long without responding.

“What do you mean?”

“Back with Hydra,” Steve says. “She won’t talk about it and I would never press her. I just am curious since you both worked together.”

Any minute, she’s going to stroll up to them and if Bucky sees her face he’s going to spill his guts. We are experiencing unexpected turbulence, Bucky thinks.

“Is that what she said?” he mutters, fiddling with his gun.

Steve shrugs but, there’s something there. Something curious or suspicious and Bucky has never been this out of sorts in terms of reading his best friend.

“She said you were both partners on missions and it was pretty bad,” he admits. “She said you helped her sometimes, protected her.”

Yes. Yes. I fucking loved her and loved fucking her and we were each other’s lifelines in the very middle of hell. And it was hell. It was hell even though it was so so cold.

Bucky brushes his hair out of his eyes – leans harder into the great tree at his shoulder. He wants to disappear inside the bark – he wants to swallow up the leaves.

“The soldier could be nice when he wanted to be,” Bucky concedes. “I don’t recall the details.”

Steve doesn’t reply.

**

It goes wrong. The guy in question has left by the time they get up to the house and ten armed guards crash their party.

That’s when it happens.

She’s not hurt but, she has a bloody lip and the wind knocked out of her. She lets Bucky help her up and his arms are around her waist and they haven’t been this close since that day in the kitchen. Their eyes connect just a little too long.

She doesn’t see it happen but, she hears it. Two whistles of a gun and all of a sudden he groans and grabs his side and then it’s her who’s holding him up.

**

Bucky wakes up twice before he really wakes up. The world is a thousand different blurs of color. The room is stifling and his skin hurts.

Steve is by his side and he grips his hand with a shocking intensity.

“Hey pal,” Bucky coughs, his side burning with unmitigated pain.

“You got shot,” Steve accuses. “Twice.”

“Not my fault.”

“You could have died,” Steve grunts.

“I know, jerk.”

Bucky lifts his shirt up to look at his abdomen. The stitches are hers. He recognizes the handiwork. He touches the black threads and winces.

“You’re a real asshole.”

“Because I got shot?!”

“Yes.”

“That’s kind of uncalled for, Stevie G.”

“I don’t need you dead, Buck.”

Bucky scoffs and rolls onto his side before hissing in pain. “Jesus Fuck!”

Steve goes quiet; he stares at him long and hard for an uncomfortable minute.

“She was really upset,” he finally reveals. “I’ve really never seen her that upset before.”

Bucky isn’t sure if Steve is trying to hint at something – if he suspects. He silently takes the pain pills Steve offers him.

He falls asleep before he can process anything else.

**

It’s three more days until he sees her. It’s a brief moment – the curve of her body through the door crack as she leans down to grab laundry that Steve must have left outside.

It’s brief but it’s long enough to know that she’s still alive – long enough for him to remember the reason why he’s laid up in bed filled with gun shot in the first place. Long enough for him to remember how he slipped up because  he had thought her injured and then proceeded to get a little too lost in her eyes.

When she glances at him through the slim crack of the door, he realizes that she knows all of this, too.

**
4 Days Previous

She places soft hands on Bucky’s side as he gurgles in pain. It had been awful – so fucking awful to see his eyes widen and then to have him fall into her. His white teeth like bones in the moonlight as he groaned and collapsed.

The blood – the darkest blood spilling onto her hands as she held him together.

“Will he be okay?” Steve urges, his palm pressed against Bucky’s hot forehead.

“He’s lucky he has the serum” she says. “He’ll heal.” She pauses, presses her knuckles into his cheek. “If he’d been normal we’d be burying him.”

Steve’s breath hitches and she moves to grip his wrist lightly, rubs her thumb into the thin skin where his pulse beats loud.

“I’ve done this with him before,” she reveals.

“Before?”

“Hydra,” she replies tightly. “He’ll be okay. I promise.”

Steve, blessedly, doesn’t press her.

“I’m gonna go get more bandages downstairs,” he calls over his shoulder as he leaves the room.

She tucks Bucky’s hair back behind his ears, touches the rough down of his beard.

“You’re a fucking idiot, Barnes,” she chastises. “I really can’t believe you sometimes.”

He doesn’t respond – merely turns his head into the pillow weakly.

She strips him of his uniform – gasps at the sight of the bullet wounds.

“Fucking idiot,” she rasps again for good measure. If she doesn’t act like she hates him right now she might burst into tears.

She glides her fingertips over the ruptured skin. She is sure the bullets went straight through him. She hopes at least. His mouth parts and he makes a broken sound – a kind of whimper.

“Baby,” she croons without thinking and cups his face. Her mouth brushes over his lips as she whispers, “I’m gonna help you, detka.”

He eases into her palms and she pulls away quickly.

She forgets herself. She forgets where she is and who she’s with.

“This feels awfully familiar,” she mutters to the empty room.

**
Oslo 1996

The soldat’s skin is a pale gray color – the same as the fat rat who scuttles around her cell at the Hydra base. He’s stopped eating and he’s stopped calling out for her which frightens her immensely.

She’s scared enough that she can’t think clearly through this. She can’t plan. She can’t get herself out.

She soaks a dirty cloth from her uniform in lukewarm water and presses it to his forehead. The sharp tang of iodine reeks from its folds. She lost contact with Hydra’s nearest station to Oslo two days ago.

She has no antibiotics, no surgical team and not even a bed with clean sheets. His wound looks deeply infected – it’s turning plum blue as red streaks and spiders up his torso. She wonders if she could debride his wound with maggots, if she could find some pale larvae and let them eat away at the rotting flesh.

They did not train her to be a world class nurse. They gave her basic first aid since there would always be a doctor on call.

Fools.

She hovers over him before dropping her forehead to his chin, the tip of her nose brushing his collarbone. She speaks into his chest – nearly inaudible.

“You can’t die, moy dorogoy.” She curls her hand into his hair, tugs it gently. “You can’t die like this.”

He grunts and his hands slide up her back, caress the nape of her neck before cradling it.

“I won’t die, darlin,” he murmurs.

Darlin? It’s strange – it comes out loose and casual. It comes out like he’s undressing the word with his tongue.

She gets up on her elbows to look down at him but, he’s already asleep.

Two days later, soldat cracks his eyes open and looks at her.

“Where’s Steve?”

His skin is thin and pale, translucent and she can see the webs of blue veins skittering beneath the surface. His cheekbones and jaw and eyeballs stand out in sharp relief against his face. The dark brown of his hair is near black from dirt.

“Who is Steve?” she asks as she gently forces his head into her lap.

“Steve,” he mutters again, eyes roving all over the tent. “Where’s he – I want. Did he? Steve?”

She smooth’s his hair back from his hot forehead.

“Everything will be fine,” she assures him. “You’re okay, my love.”

He nuzzles into her thigh, his other hand coming up to brush a greasy lock of hair out of her face.

“I love you,” he croaks – muffled and stricken. His chapped lips part as his eyes roll back again.

Before she can reply, a spindly helicopter buzzes into view. Black and loud against clear white-blue sky.

She nearly gags at the thought that she is so utterly relieved to see them. It doesn’t matter. She’d go back every single time if it meant his life.

**

The next time Bucky sees her, she’s sitting right beside him. She’s leaning on her knees – eyes bloodshot, lower lip swollen from where she’d bitten through it.

He doesn’t know where Steve is and he can’t bring himself to care. He has so much to say to her, to apologize for and yet the words are lost to him. He suspects that they would simply fall weakly from his lips and turn to dust.

He feels bare in front of her – raw and ugly as the wound in his gut. He fixes his gaze on her and thinks she’s just as naked as he is. She’s not great at hiding herself when it comes to him. He gets her – he understood her when she shivered beneath his hands in the kitchen as he kissed her. He understood her when she got lost in his best friend – a fact he couldn’t blame her for.

They sit in silence. He shifts beneath scratchy sheets as her eyes wander over his injured side. Finally, she frowns before getting up to leave, walks towards the door.

No. No. Not yet.

He stands, stumbles a bit, opens his mouth to call out for her before he realizes she’s right back next to him. She helps him back into bed, shushing him, her fingers laced with his metal ones like cool relief.

As she lowers him onto the sheets, his weight pulls her down with him. He doesn’t release her, just holds her there and against him until her chest rises and falls with his. She tries to untangle herself and he embraces her harder – makes a pitiful kind of noise that would be highly embarrassing if it was anyone else but her.

She shivers and her smile is absolutely pained – utterly sad. It’s then that he makes a decision. He doesn’t know if it’s the drugs or the remnants of the fever but, he doesn’t care at all.

He grips her face and lowers his mouth to hers – crushing them together. He pushes his tongue through her plush lips, tasting the dark cavern of her mouth and somehow, someway he wishes he could stop himself but, he can’t.

In his kiss, he is screaming I’m done pretending. I’m done.

And as she returns it with equal desperation, he guesses she is saying the same.

I’m sorry. I know. I missed you. Detka. Moy.

There is weight in their kiss – so much weight and he wonders if the two of them will crumple beneath it. His hands are in her hair and on her stomach and hers are on his face and his chest and his neck.

When they break apart, they’re breathing is uneven – wretched gasps pulled form their lungs as their hands continue to roam and wrangle the other’s body. He presses his forehead to hers, tastes her moans that are hot and wet.

The afternoon light slips evenly through the curtains – streaks wild across her hair and skin. He doesn’t touch her clothes quite yet, unsure if she still wants him to. But, then she’s tugging his shirt above his head and there is urgency there. Urgency in her gaze that is calling to him.

That’s all the permission he needs.

She straddles him on the edge of his bed – their lips colliding with no finesse at all. She grinds herself down on his clothed cock, grinning between his lips when he moans at the sensation. Her knee knocks against his wound and he yelps. He brings his hand to his side where his stitches are bold against his abdomen.

“Fuck, sweetheart,” he gasps. “I don’t know if I can.”

And he doesn’t mean that. He really doesn’t because he wants to so badly, so so badly but, his body might not let him.

She doesn’t respond – simply closes her mouth over his and moves her hand to his chest before pushing him down onto the bed. She cover his skin with spit slick kisses, drags her tongue down the lines in his abdomen – careful of his wound. She dips her fingers below his sweats and wraps her hand around the thickness of his cock. He bucks his hips and trusts into her palm – groans loud and low. The pleasure and pain all colliding together into one maddening stroke.

As her fingers move expertly over his cock, he realizes he’s not going to last very long and he fucking needs her. Needs her more than anything so fuck the pain. He grabs her waist, ripping at the buttons of her cotton dress so, her breasts tumble out. He glides his hands beneath the skirt and yanks her wet underwear to the side and then they connect again, hips and pelvises and lips and tongues.

His hand cup her ass as his trembling fingers graze the flesh of her pussy and she sighs into his ear and then he’s inside her and she arches her back, knees knocking against his waist as she holds back a scream because she wasn’t quite prepared for it.

He stops immediately, combing her hair back from her closed eyes. The feel of her is intense – exquisite – tight and wet and familiar. He brushes his nose against hers, asks her if she’s okay with his lips.

She nods, digging her nails into his lower back. He leans up off the bed and into her, gives a little nudge as he kisses her mouth, lifting her slightly before pulling her hips down hard again.

“Bucky,” she whimpers against his jaw, saying his name for the first time in days.

It comes out beautiful and soft. The odd intimacy of his own name falling from her lips while he’s inside her cunt makes him buck up into her. Their movements turn frenzied as she lifts herself off of him and back down again, the silence in the room now nothing but, their own panting, skin squelching against skin with the bed creaking.

Thrusts and pulls and pushes and then her shuddering around him as she comes, biting into his shoulder. She pulls him too roughly because his stitches come undone but, he barely feels it.

“Keep going,” he pants and she’s does – for him she does – quick motions of one two and three and then he is coming, spilling inside her as he gasps for air. She finds his mouth and kisses him harshly – slow tongue there as she lays him back against the pillows, blood now dripping into her cupped palm.

**

She fixes his wound, gives him more meds. They don’t kiss again because her mouth is painfully swollen looking already and their lovemaking is literally splayed out all over the bed.

Bucky notices her inner thighs are streaked in his own come and when he reaches for her she shoos him away.

“Steve will be back soon,” she reminds him gently.

Oh god. Steve.

Bucky imagines Steve’s face if he were to ever find out. He’d never seen Steve so painfully happy with someone and he’d just fucked her. A sickness – demented and green wriggles its way into his belly and chest. It grows heavy.

“He can’t know,” he replies quickly – apparently too fast for her liking because her brow furrows and he thinks she looks like she’s about to cry.

Fuck.

He reaches for her wrists – grasps it and savors the smooth flesh. “He needs you,” he continues.

“I thought you needed me,” she snaps and now tears are really coming fast and he thinks his heart is going to shatter down the middle.

“I do,” he replies. “I do need you, too. I – I don’t know what to do.”

“Do you want to stop?”

“No.”

“Do you love me?”

He chews on his lip, his skull falling back against the headboard.

“What do you think?”

She looks at him as she fixes her dress, arches an eyebrow.

“Say it.”

He glares at her. He doesn’t like her tone or the way she can look at him and seemingly look all the way through him. Guts and bones and flesh pierced by those jeweled eyes of hers.

Her expression softens and she makes her way over to him. She tenderly brushes his hair out of his eyes, caresses his cheek with her thumb.

“Say it, detka.”  

He feels the soldier inside him burn for her. He feels him ache for her, call for her, long for her. He’s doing it right then, pressing him to speak.

He had been in his head as he fucked her into the mattress. Calling her pretty words and loving her in ways that Bucky was just beginning to understand.

He reaches for her chin and mimics her actions, letting her cheek fall into his palm.

“I love you.”

“Damn it, Bucky,” she breathes.

He hears a car roll up on gravel – the crunch shattering them in two as she they break apart.

Chapter Text

She drops to her knees, unable to stand any longer. She’s on all fours, makes a bloody hand print the gnarled roots of a tree as she tries to stand up. Her bones are searing. The pain is immeasurable.

She rests her cheek on the soil - crisp leaves cracking beneath her skin. It smells like autumn - like smoke and moss and damp foliage. She curls into a fetal position - wraps her hands around her stomach where the pain is at its worse.

She’s giving up. Steve will hate her for it if he doesn’t already for all the bad things she’s done to him.

She won’t be around for that particular lecture though, which makes her laugh in the cold, dank dark. At least, she killed the fucker who did this to her. She shouldn’t have come out here - she shouldn’t have left them. She shouldn’t have run.

But, she’s a stubborn girl who can’t face her own shit. She can’t face the fall out of her own failures.

Steve. Bucky.

She peers down at her belly - the blood is purple-black under the fall of night. The moon sits high - slips its pale face between the dense knots of trees. God, she would have given her left tit for the city right now. The smooth slope of asphalt and concrete. The immensity. The wild, ruffled energy. The others. The team.

A tear spills down her face - the salt a surprise when it hits her lip. Fuck. This is pitiful.

“Get up,” she tells herself aloud. “Get the fuck up!”

Her voice reverberates through the forest. Then it gets quieter - become useless. Broken. She really starts to cry, heaving and gasping for air. She wants to apologize. She wants to fix her entire broken, stupid life that had been nothing but, suffering until she had met Soldat, no - Bucky, in the belly of Hydra..

And then Steve. The two of them together picking her up from the floor and pressing the pieces of her back together like it was the easiest thing in the world - like it was an honor to do it.

She looks up at the sky - lets her head fall back into dirt. There is no where else to look. Blood is sharp in her mouth - chemical and unsavory. Copper. It dribbles down her chin. She raises her hand to wipe it away, but it won’t budge. It rests lifeless on the torn disaster of her stomach. She wonders how long it will take to die - if she will fade into it - if it will be lovely and warm or blue and cold. She wonders where she will end up. She’s done so many things and most of them bad.

Pity, she thinks.

**

Two Weeks Previous

He hears them and that’s the worst of it.

The soft breathing. Hitched panting. The husky, garbled words from Steve and her pleading replies. The slow, wet slap of skin and the headboard - that fucking headboard.

The walls are thin and so Bucky finds himself wrapping a blanket around his shoulders and stomping out into the great Colorado night nearly every other day. His body is a furnace and the cold grass seeps into the soles of his bare feet. The air is like a flood of frigid water. Silence aside from the velvet chirp of crickets and other nighttime creatures.

He supposes he’s nocturnal himself.

He can barely sleep because his dreams are hideous things - filled with all sorts of horrific scenarios where Steve murders him. He can’t bear it. He can’t bear any of it and yet he cannot stop what the two of them have begun.

He thinks of only her now. The way her lips fit his - the dry, chapped sensation of her mouth brushing his jaw or cheek or the expanse of his chest. She had made them fried chicken the night before. Flour dusting her cheeks, fingers caked in batter and that oily smell of sizzling chicken fat. Bucky couldn’t help himself. He’d tugged her into the cupboard, yanked her pants down and pushed his cock inside her.

He took her fast - metal palm fitted over her mouth as he felt her cunt squeeze him desperately.

It is always desperate with them - always dangerous and dark and half the time really nasty.

“Oh, baby,” he murmured against her cheek - her spine curved against his stomach. He licked her ear, pressed his hand down harder on her lips - gagging her. It was fucking hot and filthy and Steve was cutting firewood right outside the house.

Her fingers - thick with flour and egg - clung desperately to the shelves. Due to one jerking thrust, Bucky stumbled to the side and knocked over various cans. But, he kept going - he kept going because he could not stop when the sex was like that and when he had her at her most vulnerable. Wrapped around him and aching and panting his name against his metal hand - he could feel the vowel of it - the u - bouncing furious in his trembling palm.

Too much. Too much.

Later at dinner, Steve had lovingly complimented her on the chicken. He had nuzzled her temple, slipped his hands into the back of her jeans, pressing lightly against her ass - so close to the patchy, dry area where Bucky had spilled his come all over her back.

He hates himself. He really does.

But, he loves her more.

**
In the morning, Bucky wakes to a hand shaking his shoulder. He peers up and sees her concerned expression. It’s overcast and the grey shuffle of clouds paints shadows across her skin.

She narrows her eyebrows and it makes her look deceptively adorable.

“Bucky?” she says. “Why are you out here? It’s freezing.”

Bucky grunts - fixes the heavy blanket around his shoulders. “You know why.”

Petulant.

She stands up, shoves her robe closer. Her expression pained.

“What do you expect?” she whispers. “You told me to - “

He stands  up at that, hand wrapped tightly around her wrist. He hauls her back against the house - away from prying eyes. He forces her on the harsh wood of the cabin, hands cupping the back of her head.

He looks at her - watches the way her lip trembles. He can’t bring himself to say anything.

“I love him,” she declares. “I love him and you said I need to stay with him – I-I need to keep him happy.”

“I know I said it,” he tugs her hair a little, cradles her chin. “I know I said you could but, please don’t. It’s so hard.

“Buck…” she trails off. Bites her lip.

“Please don’t hate me.”

“I could never hate you.”

“This is so fucked,” he growls because he’s angry. He’s disturbed. He did not want this to happen.

“I know,” she replies. “I know.”

He leans against her - lets the whole of his body wrap around her. Her hands find his shoulders - her cheek pressed to his chest. It’s an embrace - innocent.

“I love you,” she reminds him. “I love you so much.”

**
Steve goes on a quick mission for a few days. Natasha and Sam need him in New Mexico. Something that has to do with military tech and terrorism and chemical warfare.

Decidedly, human issues.

In the driveway, she kisses him goodbye as dawn slinks like a blush pink bride over the hearty mountains.

“Tell Nat I miss her face,” she reminds Steve. “Tell her to come to Colorado. Sam, too.”

Steve grins. “No can do,” he teases. “I don’t need another mouth taking all the good food you make.”

“You just want me to get you fat.”

Steve looks down at his stomach - pokes a finger into the flat muscle.

“Is it working?”

She punches him in the ribs and he groans before lifting her up and kissing her chin. It’s cute. Bucky looks down at his boots.

He watches idly from the door - asks Steve for the fifth time if he’s sure he doesn’t need his help.

“Buck,” Steve laughs, clapping a hand down on his shoulder. “Just keep an eye on my girl.”

It’s not that Bucky doesn’t want to be with her for a few days. He’s just worried about what that could mean for them. Three days without the possibility of being caught - three days of living like a normal..albeit fucked up…couple?’

They have never been normal. Not at all. Everything they have done has been with the threat of death or being caught or punished or worse. Then and now.

He stares at her smiling face, the way the light clings to her hair and skin.

He’s already in deep.

He’s already fucking buried.

**
“This is delicious,” Bucky mumbles in between heavy bites of hot Carbonara.

The pasta is mouth watering. Hearty egg and Parmesan and thick, cubes of salty bacon. He’s in heaven.

“You know we ate this during the war,” he tells her, twirling noodles on his fork.

The table is decked in four short candles - the glow softening her face. She leans back in her chair. She sips her glass of wine before resting her cheek in her hand.

“Do tell,” she urges him - blinking tiredly.

“We were in Italy and craving some good ole American diner food,” he says. “Obviously, most things were scarce but, eggs and bacon were cheap. We made nice with some local families and they would make us this.”

“No kidding?” she grins, biting on the tip of her nail.

Bucky nods - stuffing more pasta into his mouth. “Was amazing,” he manages to choke out.

“You need to swallow before speaking, Bucky.”

He shrugs as his fork dances over his plate.

“Well, I mean the war wasn’t amazing,” he continues - decidedly ignoring her. “But, there were special moments like that. You just had to take what was given to you I guess.”

“Yeah, I suppose you’re right.” She is silent for a moment - the only sound the ticking of the weary old clock in the kitchen. “You know what’s weird?”

“Hmm?”

“I think this is the most talkative I’ve ever seen you.”

He chokes on his food, arching an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

“C’mon, Buck,” she says. “We weren’t exactly having long deep conversations when we were in Hydra.”

“We talked,” he replies defensively.

“I talked. Soldat was very stern - very no nonsense.”

Bucky scoffs - grabs the bottle of red and takes a hearty gulp.

“I mean until you got him in bed and then he made lots of noises,” she teases - eyes glimmering.

Bucky feels the heat of a blush flooding his cheeks. “I remember,” he coughs.

She sighs - the memories between them suddenly thick and hot. Bucky feels himself get hard and adjusts his pants as he reclines in the dining room chair.

“Wanna do a puzzle or something?” she suggests - the spell broken.

**

It’s probably the last thing Bucky expects them to do. She’s in a pair of sweats and fuzzy socks and he’s in an old ratty t-shirt and boxers. The two of them are hovering over a coffee table - diligently putting parts of a thousand piece puzzle together. It’s not really a challenge.

They’re enhanced. They’re made to assess situations and find the best routes of attack. It’s a game to see how fast they can complete it.

The games before just had more blood involved.

“Aha!” she exclaims. “Just found that last fucking piece for the sky. Take that, Hasbro.”

“Bravo,” Bucky drawls, clapping his hands together. She glares at him.

“You’re not pulling your weight, krasivyy.”

He freezes - the pet name latching to his insides and tugging down low.

She doesn’t seem to notice - instead she returns to scanning the piles of pieces - the greens and blues and pinks that make up the Monet garden.

He swallows instinctively - his heart thudding in the cage of his chest.

“Do you think we’re bad people?” he asks softly - his palms shifting on his thighs.

She bites her lip - tossing the precious puzzle piece onto the table. Her expression is unreadable when she says, “For what we did before? No. For what we are doing now? I don’t really know.”

“I don’t either.”

She sits up - her expression suddenly troubled. “I need to say something to you and maybe - maybe - it will sound less crazy out loud but, I don’t know - I have to get it out.”

He nods.

“After you left Hydra - I hated you. I needed someone to hate and it had to be you because I really thought I would die in there. I was so sad. I was so upset because I couldn’t bear the thought of never seeing you again. You were the only thing I had ever loved - the only kind thing I had known in that place - “

“Doll,” he croons - his heart practically snapping in half. She grasps his outstretched hands, stopping him.

“Please,” she begs. “Let me finish.”

He sits back but, his palm remains on her thigh.

“We were all we had there - I- I felt like you were a part of me. Then, Steve came and he rescued me and told me all about Bucky Barnes. I was so shocked - I was so confused by it all. I decided to mourn you then - to release you because my heart couldn’t handle the idea that you had just left me there to rot. And as I mourned you - Steve was there for me. He was the second kindest thing I had ever known and as a result it was just - it was just so easy to love him.”

A tear falls down her cheek - wets the top of her t-shirt. Bucky doesn’t move.

“And then,” she swallows thickly. “And then - you came back and as soon as I saw you, I knew it wasn’t fucking over. I knew it deep in my gut. I love you in ways that I don’t even understand and it’s wrong and it’s terrible and we are going against a man that both of us adore and yet - “

“And yet?” he presses.

“I can’t stop. I can’t.” She reaches for him and he pulls her into his lap. His cheeks are rough with stubble as she touches her forehead to his. “Bucky, it’s you. This - whatever it is. This is why I can’t let you go.”

“Damn it, darlin,” he whispers against her mouth before pressing his lips roughly to hers and wrapping his arms around her waist. She whimpers quietly when his tongue finds entrance, his hands on her ass forcing her closer to him. He kisses her for hours - or maybe minutes - and it is enough. He doesn’t need to fuck her - doesn’t need to take her violently on the couch. Right now, the simple act of kissing is all the intimacy he requires.

She breaks away, rests the side of her head against his shoulder like a child. “I often wondered…”

He tucks his nose against the soft flesh of her ear. “Wonder what?”

“I used to overhear the lab guys talking about us - saying we were connected somehow. What if we had been - I don’t know - made to need each other? It was a great way to control us.”

Bucky freezes - glancing down at her. “Thus implying this isn’t real? You and me?”

“No,” she says quickly, sitting up. “I don’t know - I’m being an idiot. I’m trying to make excuses for inexcusable behavior.”

“I think,” Bucky muses. “That you and I were two very lost souls stuck in a horrible place who found comfort in each other. Somewhere along the way we fell in deeper.”

“You should write for the movies,” she jokes - kissing his chin.

“I was a real romantic back in the day,” he reveals, squeezing her hips. “Girls couldn’t get enough of me.”

“I’m gonna have to fight some old broads, huh?”

He smirks and nuzzles her shoulder - listens to the soft pounding of her heart.

In the Hydra cells, he used to listen to it, too. A lullaby of sorts. The promise of life in his arms.

There’s another beat of silence. The clock chiming in the kitchen. The wax most likely melted down to the wick. The chill from the open window. Pasta drying in its bowl.

She cuts the quiet.

“I love Steve, too,” she admits, running gentle fingers through his hair.

“I know, detka,” he assures her. “I know.”

**
“How is this so wrong?” he growls against her ear, kissing her neck and thrusting in again.

Her hands are holding onto the railings of the headboard - her lips rounded out in an O.

“It’s not,” she breathes. “It’s not. I love you.”

He wants to bury the whole of himself inside her - feel her come undone beneath his weight. What may happen after is unavoidable. Inevitable. This kind of betrayal cannot be erased and Steve,forgotten, brother, Steve, means so much to him. But, in this moment, Bucky is nothing but, irrational thoughts and a desperation that has hounded him since he lost her after DC.

He holds her down - holds her open as he continues to thrust into her - walls contracting and the painful, engulfing heat of her destroying him beautifully.

**
Steve begins to understand. He’s not an idiot. He’s not slow or simple or completely unaware.

He’s more a soldier than a spy- sure. But, contrary to popular belief, his poker face has gotten pretty damn good.

Until, it doesn’t. Until, he can’t hide the fact that he knows. He really really knows.

When he gets back to the house, something’s not quite right. He doesn’t know what it is. There is something gnawing on his brain - a sly rat in the pantry.

He can’t stop watching Bucky and his girlfriend.

There are tethered moments: Bucky’s lips pressed against her ear as he reminds her of some old shared memory, the way she speaks to him in a soft, sweet voice, the quips that fly back and forth between them like wildfire.

It’s heated. Electric. Bucky went from ignoring her to chasing her like a lost puppy and Steve is certain - very certain - that something has happened.

He’s been back at the house for two days. She’s grilling them steaks as Bucky sits on the picnic table beside her. He’s cleaning his guns methodically, hand smoothing over the sleek black barrel - the curved handle. She turns to Steve and smiles at him before moving around the porch area with care - slow graceful movements - as she sets down a bowl of salad and steaming truffle orzo. She hands Bucky an icy beer, slick with condensation, and Steve catches the slight flick of Bucky’s thumb on hers - the brush of skin.

She beams and Bucky’s cheeks grow red as though ensconced in some heated recollection.

Steve takes a step back - runs the heel of his hand over his eyes. He drops down into one of the Adirondack recliners, his muscles still aching from the mission a few days earlier. He’s out of it, he thinks. He’s just tired.

The smell of woodsmoke takes over. He peers up at them, blinking blearily. The fire pit is burning low - barely illuminating the two of them.

They’re standing some distance away. Bucky’s hand on her shoulder as he ducks his head to speak to her. He tips her chin up with a finger and says something that makes her grin.

Ah

Steve wasn’t the best at math. He had no natural talent for it. He was more accustomed to history and art and the courses that allowed him the space to breathe and analyze and use his own experience to reach the answer.

However, when forced, he can stare at an equation long enough and eventually - inevitably - his mind will catch up with his eyes. He will see the answer strung along the variables and numbers and diagrams. The answer has been right in front of him all along.

Steve stands up and walks slowly over to where Bucky is still talking to her. He focuses on the back of Bucky’s neck - a neck he knows so well. A neck he followed into the dark forests of Europe. A neck he followed into exile.

He has to plant himself right between them  in order for either of them to actually notice him. Bucky jumps and Steve can’t help but smirk at that.

Polite as ever, Steve asks him, “Bucky - are you sleeping with my girlfriend?”