“Bucky. Bucky, wake up.” The near-breathless whisper was accompanied by a hand shaking his shoulder. Bucky opened his eyes to see Clint only a few inches in front of him. “Time to take over.”
Bucky reached up to rub the sleep out of his eyes and then took the bow Clint was holding out to him. Clint gave him a quick smile, barely seen in the darkness, and climbed higher up the tree to where his kid sister was perched in the branches. Kate wasn’t really his sister, but she might as well have been for the way Clint took care of her.
Bucky stretched and resettled, holding the bow in ready position with the string loose between his fingers and an arrow knocked. He wasn’t as good with the bow as Clint was, but he didn’t dare use a gun when the noise could bring attention to them.
After a few minutes, Clint came back down to his level. “She’s still sleeping,” he murmured, as quiet as possible. Bucky nodded. They had used their sole blanket to rig a kind of sling to make sure Kate wouldn’t fall out of the tree while she was asleep. That left Clint and Bucky relying on each other for both warmth and gravity-defying. Bucky shifted forward, letting Clint slip between him and the trunk of the tree, then waited for the tap on his shoulder to move back. Bracing his feet on the branches, he’d use his body to keep Clint pinned to the tree, the way Clint had done with him before. His front felt cold, but his back now felt warm. Clint’s arms looped carefully around his waist and Bucky settled in for his turn on watch.
The hours passed slowly, Bucky being aware of every shift from Clint and Kate, as well as watching for movement on the ground and in the surrounding trees. At one point, a redheaded girl ran by under their tree, chased by a mutt. Bucky was tempted to help her, but mostly he didn’t want to give away their position. She threw a knife at the thing and got it in its eye, and then fled the scene. Bucky let out a silent sigh, glad he hadn’t had to intervene. The Games were hard on his heart; he wanted to help everyone, but most of them would be out to kill him and Clint and Kate, so he couldn’t. It was kill or be killed, and Bucky was just doing his best to avoid both.
Daylight gradually filtered in, and Bucky had to rub his eyes a few times to adjust from the darkness and keep the tiredness away. Between one blink and the next, a redheaded girl was standing beneath their tree, looking up at them. Bucky’s breath caught and he brought the bow around, elbowing Clint in the process. He woke with a snort and peered over Bucky’s shoulder. The redhead raised her hands.
“I come in peace,” she said, a little smirk on her face.
“Natasha?” Clint murmured.
“We just want to help you,” the redhead, Natasha apparently, said.
“Who’s we?” Bucky demanded.
Natasha looked over her shoulder and a big blond stepped into view, coming forward to stand beside her and look up at them. Bucky’s breath caught again.
“Steve?” he asked.
“Come down, Bucky, it’s okay,” Steve said with a grin. “We have a plan.”