Leaning his head against the window, Bucky watches the snowy landscape drift by and thinks about his last conversation with Fury. They’d both been angry, and while it wasn’t the first time the two of them had gone head-to-head, this time feels different.
Bucky drops the file on Fury’s desk, blood boiling. “When were you going to tell me about this?”
“When you needed to know.”
“This is--” Bucky turns and stares out the window. When Maria dropped off the specs for the helicarrirers this morning, she’d done it with a grimace. It took Bucky all of two minutes to realize why. Turning he looks back at Fury. “In what scenario do we need to kill three thousand people in a single minute? Because that’s what these are capable of. That’s almost two hundred thousand people in a single hour, Fury.”
Fury shrugs at him. “Two hundred thousand Chitauri.”
“You were there and so was I. They didn’t have even close to those numbers and you know it.”
“You’re right, they didn’t. Last time. I’m not worried about what happened before. I’m keeping my eye on what could be coming.”
“Now you sound like Pierce.”
“I’ll take that compliment.”
“It wasn’t one.”
Fury stares at Bucky, inscrutable, before sighing and turning away. This isn’t the first time he and Fury have butted heads, and it won’t be the last. Sometimes Bucky thinks the only reason Fury keeps him around is to argue with him.
He knows better, but still. This isn’t something he can back down on. If Fury can’t see Pierce’s slide toward fascism, then it’s Bucky’s job to point it out.
“I hear your concerns,” Fury says. “The World Council approved Project Insight, and they have full oversight, every step of the way.”
“That’s not a comfort,” Bucky says, shaking his head. “How long until their priorities change? How long before those weapons are aimed at China? At India? At any country that has resources we want? It can’t be allowed, and you should damn well know that.”
“What I know is that we’re rebuilding from an attack six months ago. One where we lost three hundred and forty six civilians, and…”
“And Captain America,” Bucky finishes. “You weren’t responsible for that,” Bucky says.
“I know,” Fury answers, but Bucky knows he doesn’t believe it.
Cap had been out of the ice for all of two months before Fury called him in on what would eventually become the Battle for New York. Bucky’d met him once. They shared a moment in the Avenger’s locker room just before the Battle for New York. Steve tried giving Bucky a pep-talk, Bucky told him to can it, and the two of them had laughed together sharing shy smiles that made Bucky sometimes wonder ‘what if?’ There was something about him, a vulnerability when he looked at Bucky that made Bucky feel seen. Bucky, like everyone had been devastated, but not surprised, when Cap took over one of the Chitauri vessels and secured the nuke, flying it into the wormhole.
He’d never come back out.
“This isn’t the answer,” Bucky says.
“This is the direction that SHIELD is taking. I suggest you get with the program.”
“And if I can’t?”
The two of them stare at each other, heated, before Fury breaks eye contact. “It’s three weeks until Christmas, Barnes. Take a break, get out of town, and decide what you want.”
“What?” Bucky asks, incredulous. “You’re suspending me?”
“If you were suspended, you’d know it.” Fury opens his desk drawer and pulls out a set of keys. “There’s a place upstate. It’s quiet. Protected. Go up and get your head straight. Come back in January and tell me if you’re still working here.”
Now on the train, watching the scenery go by, Bucky turns to the task at hand. Is SHIELD’s new direction something Bucky can live with? He can’t talk it over with Nat. She has too much guilt over her past to ever be disloyal to Fury. Maria...Bucky knows she doesn’t agree, but he also knows she’ll go along with it. It’s part of the reason she’d given him the file. She knew he’d go to Fury with it.
Maybe it is time to quit, he thinks. Maybe it’s time to figure out his act II. His mother and Becca, he knows they’re both proud of him, but they’ve also been pestering him about starting a family, settling down.
But who the hell is Bucky supposed to settle down with? His security clearances mean he either has to date someone high up in SHIELD, or lie to his partner about who he is and what he does. Given the dearth of prospects in option A, and his unwillingness to enter into option B, well, it’s no wonder Bucky’s thirty-three and single.
It would be nice though, he thinks, having someone. He thinks about lazy Sunday mornings in bed with the stereo playing something soft. Maybe pushing back the coffee table late at night, slow dancing as their socks slide easy over the smooth hardwood floors. Or--
“Last call for Utica, next stop Rome.”
Bucky startles and grabs his bag from the space overhead. There’s an old pick up waiting for him in the parking lot; the keys are on the same ring as the ones for the house, and Bucky plugs the address into his phone.
According to his StarkTek Nav, he should be at the house inside of an hour.
Bucky has no idea what he’ll find once he gets there. He knows that Fury hopes it will be Bucky’s sense of purpose, sense of loyalty to SHIELD.
Bucky hopes at the very least he’ll leave in a month feeling a whole lot less burnt out, but he also knows what he’s about. He’s not sure what a future with SHIELD would look like, and he’s even less sure about a future without it.
Watching the icy scenery from the train window, Bucky hopes that either way, it’s worth it.