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Stars and Stripes

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Gabriel Jones looks around himself in an alcoholic stupor, and struggles to remember the name of the pub he's in... was it called the Sticks and Stones? He can't recall, really. He turns his head back to his companions when Dum Dum Dugan makes a loud noise— it's somewhere between a laugh and a howl, and Gabriel turns just in time to see Dum Dum Dugan swing his pitcher of beer around merrily, and some of it sloshes from the top. Gabriel picks the napkin under his glass of whiskey to wipe away the beer on the table— and there it is! The name of the pub— it's called the Whip & Fiddle. Now Gabriel remembers... it's supposed to be the most popular pub in London for the soldiers. Gabriel looks around again and nods, this is a nice pub. His eyes stop at the face of Captain Rogers, not because there's something wrong with his face, but because he's grinning. Gabriel can't recall he ever saw the man smile, let alone grin.

He taps on the shoulder of Jim Morita, whose sitting next to him, nursing a half-empty pitcher of beer. Jim looks up, clearly drunk, and grunts questioningly. Gabriel points in the Captain's direction, "Am I too far gone, or is the Captain actually smiling?"

Jim grunts again and turns in his seat to where Gabriel's pointing, and finds Steve Rogers and James Barnes seated on the stools around the bar. Jim narrows his eyes against the overhead yellow lights and tries to focus on the Captain and his best friend. The two are apparently involved in a hearty conversation, if the smiles and boatload of expressions on each of their faces was any indication. Cap says something at that very moment, which makes Barnes laugh loudly and then lift a hand to clap Cap on the back— and he does not drop his hand afterwards. Instead, he keeps it there and rubs a slow circle or two on Steve's back.

Jim shrugs, turn back to his beer and takes a large gulp. "I suppose he is." There's something dismissive in his tone, like he doesn't care about what Cap and Barnes are doing. Gabriel wonders if he should be bothered about it either, and comes to conclusion, that no— he shouldn't.

"What're you two staring at?" Dum Dum asks— slurs, really, and turns to where Gabriel's looking. "Well, slap my ass and call me Sally." The rest of the Howling Commandos chuckle at his words and follow his gaze— and Gabriel wonders if he's unintentionally spilled the spotlight on the Captain and Barnes and put them on the spot.

They watch as Cap leans in a little closer to Barnes, whispers something to him and leans back. Barnes smiles—that self-certain smile of his that Gabriel is sure would have woo'd dames left and right in New York—and cocks an eyebrow at Cap. His tongue slips out of his mouth and he licks his lips. Cap twitches in his seat, leans forward and empties his glass of some amber colored liquid, down his throat. He leans back towards Barnes and they seem to have a rapid conversation with their eyes, as they stare at one another in what Gabriel can only assume is longing.

Dum Dum clears his throat and the rest of them turns back to face their beverages. Gabriel taps his foot against the hardwood floors to fill the awkward silence. Dernier is the first to break the silence, and asks, "Am I a fucking goner or are they—?"

"I think we should just ignore it, Dernier. It doesn't really make a difference. We're still a team, right?" James Falsworth cuts in, eyes flickering back over to Rogers and Barnes. He averts his eyes just as quickly, because there’s so much going on there; it’s in the way they move around each other, the look in their eyes as they stare at one another, unblinking, the way Barnes smiles at Rogers, full of love and want and so much emotion, and the way Rogers touches Barnes, soft, simple and meaningful brushes.

"I mean... does anyone here have a problem with it?" Falsworth asks. Morita waves him off in a way that tells them that he’s got no quarrel with it.

"Speak now or forever hold your peace, gentlemen." Dugan says, a little too loudly. All of them stay silent, and Dernier shrugs, then raises a glass. The rest of them follow suit.

"Swear yourselves to silence, gentlemen. Cap and Barnes deserve this. We owe ‘em that much. Those two saved all our lives."

"Hear, hear." Gabriel says, clinking his glass with the rest of theirs and downs the remaining whiskey, he then motions for the one of the serving girls to refill his glass. The rest of them drink their choice of poison too, and the moment passes over them.

Dum Dum begins cracking opens peanuts; Falsworth begins recounting the time he and his brother were chased out a neighbor's barn by the guard dog, which is how he acquired the nasty scar on his forearm; Morita begins nursing his lukewarm beer again; and Gabriel himself casts another glances at Cap and Barnes before he turns back to his comrades and he knows— the moment's gone forever.

They talk about this thing or that, about who is waiting for them back home, about ladies and fellas, about cats and dogs, but they don't talk about Barnes and Rogers again.

Not until Agent Carter walks into the pub, and seemingly every patron stops whatever they're doing to ogle at her; she looks beautiful, wearing a form-fitting red dress, her brown hair coiled to perfection, sitting pretty atop her shoulders. She looks around, and heads straight for where Barnes and Rogers are sitting together: oblivious to the sudden change around them. And Jim can't help but smile, because why wouldn't they be oblivious? They're lost in one another; the whole pub can fall down around them, and Jim doubts they'd even notice.

"Look," Jim elbows Gabriel, which in turns, catches everyone else attention and they all simultaneously turn towards where Carter's headed towards Cap and Barnes, who still haven't noticed her.

A few paces away, Bucky's staring at Steve's lips— those full, red lips that Bucky just wants to capture between his own. He's missed Steve so fucking much, and he can't actually believe that he's here, with him. Bucky leans forward a little, so only Steve can hear him, "When the fuck do you think we can get out of here, Steven?"

"Just as soon as they guys pass out. I'm still bad at lying." Steve replies, grinning widely.

"Good thing, I'm not—"

"Captain." comes the voice of Agent Carter from somewhere near them. Bucky and Steve both move at the same time, turning to find Peggy Carter looking expectantly at them.

Steve stands quickly, but Bucky doesn't, "Agent Carter."

Bucky only gives a nod in acknowledgement, "Ma’am."

Peggy nods at both of them and says, "Howard’s got some equipment for you to try. Tomorrow morning?"

Steve nods, his hands coming to rest on the bar next to Bucky's, "That sounds fine."

A group of people starts singing. Terribly. Steve and Bucky both move at the same time again to find the source of the awful singing. It's The Invaders. Bucky grins and Steve smiles tightly.

"I see your crack squad is prepping for duty." Peggy comments, raising a brow.

Bucky asks, "You don’t like music?"
Peggy nods, "I do, actually." her eyes turn towards Steve, "I may even, when this is all over, go dancing."

Bucky grins and nods at the dance floor. "Then what are we waiting for?"

There's a pause. And Peggy's eyes never leave Steve's face, "The right partner." She smiles at Steve and begins to head out. Bucky stares after her, a frown on his face. She stops, and without turning around, says loudly. "08:00, Captain."

Steve nods as Peggy reaches the door, "Yes ma’am. I’ll be there." Even when she's gone, Bucky stares after her, his eyes wide and an unfathomable expression on his face. Steve's hand comes down on his shoulder, firmly, and he gives it a pat. "Maybe she’s got a friend."

Slowly, Bucky turns his face so he's staring at Steve, and raises a brow, "I don't think I want her friend, Steven," and he shrugs Steve's hand off. There's a pause as Bucky finishes off his drink and motions for another one, and Steve vaguely wonders why both of them aren't completely hammered at this point, "Is this what you felt like?"

"Oh, constantly." Steve replies, grinning a shit-eating grin and settles back down next to Bucky. The sniper turns slightly, so his back is to the rest of the bar and he's facing Steve, he leans forward and rests his arm on top of the bar.

"You know, I'm starting to feel really sorry for all those years."

Steve smiles, "You were sorry then, too."

Bucky nods, then leans fully in, so his mouth's right next to Steve's ear, "Here's an idea; you should let me show you just how sorry I am, huh?" And when Bucky leans back, Steve's red in the face and he struggles to finish his whiskey, so Bucky empties his bourbon. They stand together, and hurriedly Bucky picks up his jacket. They move towards the front door of the pub in unison, and Bucky nearly knocks the waitress over in his hurry to leave. The Howling Commandos are staying in tiny apartments along the same street, and Steve's nearly jumping out of his skin to get to the one Bucky and him are sharing.

Dum Dum Dugan lifts his head, catches sight of the Captain and Barnes hurrying out of the bar, like two men on a mission, and he ducks his head back down. James Falsworth notices their departure several minutes later.

"They're gone?"

"Yeah, they are. Left about ten minutes ago." Dum Dum says in a way that screams that he's not bothered by it.

James shrugs, "Ah, well."

Gabriel looks around. "Another toast to swear our secrecy?"

Jim Morita lifts his glass first, and the others follow suit. "To the Captain and to Barnes. To the Commandos and the secrets we keep."