"Tell me about the first person you killed for HYDRA."
"Take the shot."
Politicians spill out of the National Council at the end of the day's session, but Bucky’s target is easy to pick out. He doesn't know what the Minister of Health has or hasn't done; all he knows is that Mentallo wants Minister Jurzyca dead—and as publicly as possible.
Clint looks through the binoculars again, then back at Bucky. "You're overthinking it. Just pull the trigger. You've done this sort of thing before. Stop fucking thinking and shoot."
He's done this sort of thing plenty of times, killed men on orders. But only for the US military, only on orders from commanders he trusted. He's killed terrorists and insurgents and HYDRA scum, and it felt good—or at least righteous.
Not like this.
"Reconfirm the wind speed," he says, licking his lips and shifting his weight on the warm surface of the roof.
"Still three clicks to the right. Bucky, come on. What are you waiting for?"
The minister is shaking hands, but his car is pulling around to the bottom of the steps. Time's running out.
This man is no one to Bucky. For all he knows, the politician could be in HYDRA's pocket; he may not be innocent at all. Bucky closes one eye and focuses his crosshairs on the man's bald head. He exhales.
And doesn't shoot.
"You have to," Clint insists, voice high and anxious. "You have to take the shot." Bucky's never seen Clint rattled on a mission. Mentallo's best sniper is all swagger and cocksure bravado in the field, not this spasmodic fidgeting.
"Wait," Bucky grunts. "Hang on." He shifts again, makes a show of resettling the rifle barrel a couple inches to the right.
Jurzyca's walking toward the waiting vehicle. It's now or never.
"He's leaving, you have to do it now. Bucky, please."
"I've got it," Bucky says. "Just another second."
Clint curses, finally guessing what Bucky's up to. He wrestles his own weapon up and shoulders Bucky aside, but he's too late; bulletproof glass shuts between them and their intended victim. "Shit!" he gasps. He goes utterly still for a moment, then shoves back from the edge of the rooftop, cradling his rifle. "Oh my god oh my god."
Bucky grabs him with the bionic arm and drags him up, concentrating to not squeeze too tightly. "Come on," he says, pulling him into the stairwell. "There'll be other shots, Clint," he says encouragingly, maneuvering them down the seven flights. "You can get him tomorrow."
"No, stop, Bucky. Bucky, what did you do?" Clint's breathing is loud in the claustrophobic space of the unlit stairwell.
Bucky says nothing and drags him onward. They'll be fine, he tells himself. Clint and Natasha can take out Jurzyca tomorrow.
Mentallo should have let Bucky continue as their getaway driver; Clint would have had no problem making the shot today. Instead, that bastard had insisted that Bucky deliver the kill shot himself. He should have known what would happen.
The daylight is briefly blinding as they burst out into the loading dock, Clint still leaning heavily on him.
Natasha spots them and hikes down her skirt, abandoning a come-hither smile for her usual neutral expression, already reaching for Clint automatically. Bucky doesn't bother explaining; from the lack of panic and bedlam around them, she’ll already know he didn't complete the mission. He passes his friend to her and doesn't watch as she braces him up with her deceptive strength.
There's a long car with dark windows waiting on the other side of a low, cement barrier, and Bucky throws their rifles in the trunk.
Natasha pushes an unresisting Clint into the back seat. She follows, and her hand fisted in Bucky's right sleeve pulls him in after them. Bucky blinks and gives her a hard look; they haven't ridden three to a seat before. Bucky's always ridden up front, even this morning when they were assigned a driver.
The car rolls out, taking them back to base, and Natasha tugs Clint's head down to her lap, fingers digging into his hair in a way Bucky knows Clint finds soothing.
"Didn't take the shot," Clint gasps, still hyperventilating. He threads his arms around her knee, fingers knotting white. "Shoulda known. Shoulda done it myself. Fuck. Fuck oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck."
"Shh, it'll be alright, solnyshko," she says, but her voice is rougher than usual. Her small, hard hand grips Bucky around the neck and drags him down to rest his head on her shoulder.
Bucky freezes, confused by her coddling. Natasha's never been physically affectionate with him—not like she is with Clint. They all share a bed, but Bucky's not the one she clings to at night.
Clint's not calm yet, and Bucky's never heard him so scared when he asks, "What did you do, Buck?"
Bucky smiles grimly and ignores how her bony shoulder digs into his temple. He knows exactly what he's done; he's refused to play Mentallo's sick game. He may be a prisoner, may have a collar around his neck and a voice in his head that prevents him from fighting back, but he's no man's puppet. He's no murderer.
Mentallo can rage all he likes, but Bucky will never kill for him. He'll take whatever punishment the villain doles out, but he won't cross this line.
Natasha's hand tightens in Bucky's hair, making his eyes water, and Clint whispers again, low and shaky, "What did you do?"
Bucky closes his eyes and focuses on their nearness. He's not afraid.