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Still Human

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20:27

You scowl at numbers on your digital watch, taking a shortcut. You had just finished work at the library, where the head librarian wouldn’t let you leave until you’d finished sorting the books and putting them in their respective places on the shelves. As a result, you’re late for dinner with your boyfriend, which is the reason why you took the shortcut.

You walk as briskly as possible, trying to keep close to the lampposts in the spacious park. The wind blows viciously, making the trees creak and moan, which may or may not have scared the shit out of you just now. You wrap your cardigan tighter around yourself, huddling into it for warmth. God, you chose the wrong day to come home late from work.

To the right of the pathway, you hear something that sounds exactly like a scream, but you dismissed it as a creepy tree noise and spur your feet on to walk faster, nearly breaking into a jog. The scream comes again and this time, you dive into the bushes that are conveniently located on the side of the pathway. But without thinking, you had just dived to the bushes on the right, where you got a sickeningly good view of the person who was screaming.

It was a woman, older than you were, clutching her abdomen in pain. She is already covered in blood – her own blood – but her assailant keeps stabbing her mercilessly through her chest with a long, jagged knife. The masked attacker does not stop until the woman’s white sweater is fully crimson, stained by her own blood. You can hear the attacker breathe in and out heavily, no doubt winded after the physical exertion. Sometime during this process, your hand has flown to your mouth and now, your other hand rummages through your bag, searching for your phone. Just as you were about to punch in the emergency number, your phone rings, the Super Mario theme song ringing out at full volume. It’s your boyfriend calling, no doubt wondering where the hell you are. Your shaky fingers are hastily trying to press the ‘Dismiss’ button, but you’re too late. The attacker has found you.

Stupid phone.

He – you can tell that the attacker is a ‘he’ from the ridiculous amount of men’s cologne he’s wearing – grabs you by your wrist, prompting you to drop your phone in the bushes and drags you out into the grassy area, right next to the bloody woman. Before he can do anything, you wrestle yourself out of his grip and try to make a run for it. You kick off your heels before getting any further and head towards the pathway, hoping that there would be someone to help you.

“Help!” you shriek at the top of your lungs once your feet hit the pavement. You wave your arms around helplessly, but there is no one in your sight. Not a single soul.

Except for the man, of course. The one with the long, jagged knife. What, he couldn’t use a pocket knife or something that doesn’t look like it comes straight out of a horror film? He’s standing in front of you after cutting through the bushes, obviously outrunning you. But he isn’t holding the knife anymore, he’s holding a gun. You freeze on the spot and back up towards a lamppost slowly.

“Please, don’t do it,” you plead earnestly, you fingers clutching onto the hard metal pole of the lamppost. “I’ll give you anything you want. I’ll give you everything. What do you want? Money? M-”

“Shut up,” the assailant growls in a gruff voice. You could tell that it wasn’t his real voice. It sounded more like a Batman impersonation, to be honest. Batman would be disappointed.

“What do you want?” you ask again, desperate for a way out. “You want me to not tell the police? I can do that.”

“They’ll find out anyway,” he snarls. His gun-holding hand is shaking, as if he’s never held a gun before.

“P-”

That was all you could say before you saw him pull the trigger, a loud bang resonating from the gun. Your body jerks backwards and a searing pain arises from somewhere around your stomach. Looking down, blood is spilling out of your abdomen. It isn’t spurting out crazily like you see in the movies, but it’s still nauseating. You bring a hand to your stomach and pull away. It’s instantaneously coated in the crimson coloured liquid. Your legs collapse under you, your back supported by the lamppost. The man takes his mask off and – he isn’t even a man.

He’s just a boy of about 14 or 15.

God, he’s just a boy.

The fear in his eyes is palpable. He clearly didn’t plan for another person to witness the hideous crime he was committing. The fear in his big, doe-like brown eyes is palpable and you can’t help but feel sorry for him, although he had just stabbed a woman multiple times to death.

“I-I-I’m sorry,” he mumbles in his normal voice – which is way higher than his previous Batman impersonation – and backs away, stumbling as he picks up an expensive-looking cream-coloured handbag, no doubt belonging to the lady he had just murdered. He looks back at you and runs for his life, leaving you to bleed out underneath the light shining from the lamppost.

Well, this sucks.

***

Your eyes flutter open and you’re greeted by the sight of a…gate? The gate is located at the exact same place as the exit of the park you had died at. Looking around, it would seem that you are still in the park. Although everything is surrounded by mist, it still looks exactly like the park. A hooded figure stands in the middle of the gate, clothed in a black robe. Huh. Creepy.

“Hello?” you call out, shakily getting up to your feet. You distinctly remember dying on the sidewalk and there had been no gates. “Who’s there?”

“Hello, (Y/N),” greets the cloaked figure in a woman’s voice. Creepier.

“Who the hell are you, how do you know my name and, more importantly, where the hell am I? Why am I still here? I thought I died!” You walk towards the black iron gate tentatively.

“I am Death.”

“Isn’t that what Smaug said in ‘The Hobbit’ movies?” Your feet keep moving slowly, bringing you to the woman. “First the kid with the frankly horrid Batman impersonation and now a cloaked lady quoting Smaug? Come on. I just died, for goodness’ sake.”

“My dear, I am Lady Death. I am also known as the Grim Reaper by the mortals.”

“Well, shit,” you groan, rubbing the back of your neck. “So I am dead. And you weren’t quoting a dragon.”

“That is correct.”

“Cool. Wait, no. Not cool. What about my family? My friends?” You can feel tears gathering in your eyes and you angrily wipe them away before they can spill. “Why did you let me die? Why didn’t you let me say goodbye?”

“Now that brings us to your current situation. You were a mere victim of circumstance – a person who was at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“What about that – that other lady who died? What about her?”

Death simply shrugs. “It was time for her to go.”

“God. Since when did you get to decide who dies and who doesn’t?” You’re angry at how suddenly you were taken away from your life. Who wouldn’t be?

“I am going to assume that was a rhetorical question,” she answers coolly. You get close enough and she swivels around to face you. Her face – to your surprise – is beautiful. She looks just like a human, or, as she calls them, ‘mortals’. This just got creepier. You expected the embodiment of Death to look more or less like a skeleton. But Death looking like a very good-looking human being? Never. Death could totally be a model, you think. “I haven’t finished.”

“Um…wow. Uh…your face…not to be rude or anything by pointing it out-”

“Yes, I am quite aware of my appearance. I find it easier to deal with mortals without looking like a skeleton. They find that form to be rather…frightening. I can’t blame them. Now, since you were a mere victim of circumstance,” she continues, clearing her throat. “I will give you another chance at life.”

It took a while for her words to be processed by you. “Wait, you’ll bring me back to life?”

“Yes.”

“Sweet!” you squeal. “So, when will I get back down there? Wait, do I say ‘down there’ or…‘up there’? Where am I, exactly? I’m not in, like, hell, am I?”

Death chuckles and weaves her hands around in fluid, graceful, hypnotising movements. You can feel your eyelids getting heavier and heavier until they flutter shut.

“Have a safe journey, my dear.”

***

WoofwoofwoofwoofwoofwoofwoofwoofWOOFwoOF

What the fuck? God, what is that noise? Why is everything so loud? Why does it smell like-

“Puppies!”

Your eyes spring open and you find yourself in a pen with four other puppies that are yipping and barking playfully, their little tails wagging with joy. How did I get here? You think, yawning and sitting up. Your tail wags absentmindedly as your tongue hangs out of y-

Wait.

Your tail?

You look at your behind and your behind stands as well and as you try to study the tail that is sticking out from your bum, you end up chasing it. It’s fluffy and golden and you’re pretty sure that humans don’t have tails of any kind. Which can only mean one thing.

You’re a puppy. A golden retriever, maybe?

Death. She won’t let you say goodbye, but she’ll gladly turn you into a dog. What a bitch.

The bell above the door jingles and you and the other puppies run to the edge of the pen, resting your front paws – yes, paws – on the edge of it. In comes a tall, muscular blond man whose attention is immediately drawn to you, the only golden retriever who is waiting by the edge of the pen. He looks familiar, like you’ve seen him before. You know, when you were human. The man resembles a non-bearded Chris Evans, which means that he’s a fine-looking specimen of a man.

Whoa. You’re a puppy checking out a hot, human guy. It can’t get any weirder than this.

The other puppies are yipping joyfully, excited. You, for some reason, can’t bring yourself to join them. How do I bark? Do I just say ‘woof’? you think, still confused. The visitor converses with the staff and one of them picks you up and hands you to him. You’re taken by surprise when you feel how warm the man is and you cuddle into his arms, sighing inwardly in content. His left boob sure is soft. The man keeps making cooing noises as he scratches a spot behind your left ear, continuing his conversation with one of the shopkeepers. For a man his size, he’s a big softie. You tilt your head back so you can look at his face and then it hit you.

Tall. Muscular. Blond. Baby blue eyes. Big softie. Chris Evans lookalike.

Shit.

You’re currently in the arms of Steve Rogers. Otherwise known as Captain America, of course. Last time you checked, Captain America wasn’t real. So how is he real now? Did fictional characters magically come to life after you had died, or something?

You’re freaking out inside, but, of course, Steve can’t see that. You find it weird that you can still think like a human when you’re stuck in the body of a puppy.

He finishes his conversation and takes you to the front of the shop, where the shopkeeper puts together some sort of ‘starter pack’ care kit for you. Steve is adopting you. Steve. Rogers. Is. Adopting. You. Now this moment is when you start barking happily in his arms, prompting Steve to laugh. He scratches the spot behind your ear again and thanks the shopkeeper before heading out with you.

“Let’s get you home, buddy,” he chuckles. “Boy, Thor’s gonna have a field day with you. I hope Bucky’s okay with you. I mean, I kinda bought you for him to keep him company and all that since he doesn’t like interacting with us that much. He’s still recovering and he’s doing well, he really is, but I think he gets lonely in the tower. And I secretly hope that you’ll be able to infiltrate Natasha’s heart and make her melt and coo all over you, so don’t disappoint me,” Steve finishes with a cute little laugh.

This is too much for your tiny, fragile heart.

“So, we’re your family now. I’m gonna have to keep you away from Tony, or else he’d make you your own Iron Man suit. Bruce is okay. He likes dogs. I think. Clint has Lucky, so you won’t be alone when you’re sick of being around us humans all day. Vision…I don’t know anything ‘bout that guy. All I know is that he’s not allergic to dogs because he’s an android. The twins should be okay with you. Don’t make Wanda angry, though. She’ll blast you out of the tower if you do.”

You’re living in a universe where Marvel characters are real. Steve keeps rambling on and on about life in the Avengers Tower and Tony’s little shenanigans in a rather fond tone as you’re experiencing a small existential crisis. Is it even possible for a dog to have an existential crisis? Guess so. Seeing the Avengers Tower looming over the streets of the ever-bustling city a few blocks away, Steve beams at you happily, ruffling your little head once more.

“Let’s go home.”

Chapter Text

Here’s a recap of all the shit that just happened.

Firstly, you died and Death turned you into a dog, which was pretty nice of her to do, actually. At least she didn’t leave you dead.

Secondly, not only were you transformed into a dog post-mortem (can you use that word? You didn’t really die), you were also transported to another world – a world where superheroes are real. You’ve tried pinching yourself to wake up from this horribly realistic dream, but it’s hard to pinch yourself when you haven’t got any fingers. And you’re now convinced that this isn’t a dream. You really are a dog and superheroes really do exist. Shit.

And last, but not least, you’ve been adopted by Captain America. The more time you spend cradled in his arms, the more your existential crisis intensifies. Hey, at least you get to be near his boob.

Speaking of Steve’s boob, someone just rudely interrupted you from your thoughts and ripped you away from the warmth of his chest. It’s the receptionist at the Avengers Tower. Bleugh. You didn’t even realise you’ve entered the building.

“Aw, look at her! What a little cutie!” she squeals, nuzzling you. You’re so close to her face, you can smell her breath. It’s definitely not as pleasant as her bubbly personality. You ‘accidentally’ kick her face – come on, we all know it was no accident that you kicked her in the face, but you’re a cute puppy, you wouldn’t hurt anyone deliberately, right? – but she just laughs and hands you back to Steve. “Have you named her yet?”

“No, not yet. I was planning on giving her to Bucky and I’d help him train her, so I’ll let Bucky choose a name for her,” Steve replies, scratching the spot behind your ear and – oh, God, yes. Riiiiight there. That’s it. Oh, man. Yep. This is some good shit.

Where were you? Oh, yes. The super soldier bids the receptionist goodbye and enters an elevator that zooms upward so quickly, it makes you feel nauseous. You briefly wonder what dog vomit looks like.

“Good afternoon, Captain Rogers.”

The voice startles you and sends you into a barking frenzy before Steve calms you down. “Shh, relax! It’s just JARVIS. I know you can’t see him, but he’s not going to hurt you, trust me.”

You were actually barking due to excitement, not fear.

“I apologise for upsetting your pet, Captain. It will not happen again,” says the AI in a soothing voice.

“Oh, don’t worry about it, JARVIS. She’s probably just surprised because she can’t see you.”

“Well, that does surprise most people. It’s actually quite satisfying to observe the reactions of visitors.”

“You can see?”

“No, Captain. I merely sense their surprise from the tone of their voice and their movement inside the elevator.”

The steel elevator doors open smoothly and soundlessly, revealing a sleek and modern living room complete with a bar, which doesn’t surprise you in the least. After all, this is Tony Stark we’re talking about. Oh, and by ‘sleek’ and ‘modern’, you mean ‘everything is literally made out of glass and steel and it looks very futuristic and you’ve only seen shit like this on TV’.

“Have a pleasant day, Captain Rogers,” the AI bids the two of you farewell.

“Thanks, JARVIS.”

“Look who’s back,” a man with darker, honey-blond hair perching on the counter of the bar calls out, barely glancing our way. He has a bunch of arrows stacked on the bar and it looks like he’s wrestling with some…orange tape? Judging from the arrows, he’s Hawkeye. “Damn, tape,” he mutters under his breath. “I got enough problems already.” The man cuts the tape in a jagged line and wraps it around one of his arrows before settling it gently on the pile. He vaults off of the bar. “Thought you went on one of your longer jogs, Cap. Remember that time you went too far, you ended up in – whoa. Is that…?”

“It’s a puppy, Clint, yes.”

“Aw, sweet! I love dogs!” Clint races towards you with a look of excitement – bordering on overexcitement – on his face. He looks just like a child. You’re pretty sure he is. “What’s his name? Or is it a her?”

“I haven’t named her yet. I was planning to let Bucky name her.” Steve lets you move to Clint’s cradle, where he looks at you adoringly.

“ Aw, look at that. The sweet bromance strikes again,” quips a voice from the staircase. “What do the fangirls call you? Stucky? Yeah, I think that’s it.” A world-famous goatee struts down the stairs in the typical grandiose fashion of its owner. Tony bloody Stark. What a sight. But he isn’t wearing a fancy suit or anything close to ‘fancy’, which leaves you disappointed. Nevertheless, it’s still Tony Stark. “You bought a dog, Capsicle? Jeez, didn’t you read that sign downstairs? ‘No dogs allowed’.”

“Aw, come on, Tony,” Clint vouches for you. “It’s not like she’s gonna be someone’s random pet! She’ll be Bucky’s! You know, like those dogs that help veterans?”

Tony wipes his oily hands on a rag and heads over to Clint, where he squints at you, engaging you in a staring contest of some sort. You stare back, your gaze unwavering. Not out of the determination to win the aforementioned staring contest, but out of the sheer excitement of meeting Tony Stark. You let out a gentle ‘woof’ and boop Tony’s nose with your paw, making him scrunch his nose up.

“Well,” he starts, “she is pretty cute. I mean, if she were Clint’s, I’d object immediately because he’s already got one dog that he can barely control-”

“LUCKY IS A GREAT DOG!” Clint yells defensively, cradling you closer to him.

“-but since it’s for Terminator, why not? Should be good for him.”

“You hear that? Tony’s letting you stay!” The archer holds you up and nuzzles your nose.

“I’m starting to think that he’s a dog himself,” you hear Tony whisper to Steve.

“Hey, I have ears. I can hear you. With the help of my hearing aids.”

The bearded man’s eyes widen just a fraction as he starts backing away. “You know what, guys? I’ve got the best, idea. I’ll be back.”

“Where are you going?” Steve questions him.

“I-uh I got some science to do. And after that…more science. You know, science. Busy, busy. Gotta go.” With that, he leaves the room via the elevator.

Clint chuckles heartily and hands you back to Steve, although he’s unwilling to let go. “I’ll let you have her back. She can meet Lucky sometime later. Now, I gotta go finish labelling those futzing arrows. Later, Cap.” He pats your head gently. “And I’ll see you later too, you little cutie. I’ll be up in a second.”

“Let’s go and see what the rest of the team are doing,” Steve coos, cradling you in his arms once more.

The elevator takes you up to a higher level, which is really messing with the contents of your stomach, before the doors slide open, revealing a kitchen and a dining area, as well as a couple of sofas. Most of the Avengers are on the sofas, either perching on the armrests or sinking comfortably into the cushions.
“Hi-”

“Is that a puppy?” yells a silver-haired man from across the room. In a split second, he’s already in front of you, in a state of awe. You’re so close to his face, you can see his dark stubble and his startlingly blue eyes. “Is it a he or a she?”

“It’s a girl.”

“She’s so adorable!”

“I’m surprised Stark let you in,” quips a scarlet-haired woman with a wry smile as she is comfortably seated on the sofa. Natasha Romanoff. Jesus, she’s gorgeous. “How’d you get past him? I imagine the puppy in your arms played a big role in convincing him.”

“Right as always, Nat.”

“Can I hold her, please?” The speedster is thrilled to see you, that’s for sure. You recall seeing him from the second Avengers film. What was his name again? Pietro? That’s it. Pietro Maximoff, otherwise known as Quicksilver. He’s much more handsome when you see him face-to-face. Steve reluctantly hands you over to him, handling you in the same way he would handle a fragile object.

“Just don’t run around while you’re holding her, okay?” His voice is laced with concern.

“WHO ELSE WANTS TO HOLD HER?” It seems as if Pietro didn’t hear Steve or is just ignoring him.

“May I?” The voice comes from a man whose figure rivals a body builder’s. You can’t even compare his body to a body builder’s – it’s in a league of its own. This must be Thor, the Norse god of thunder. He’s even bigger in real life. “I am rather fond of these creatures. I would like to take one of its kind back to Asgard with me someday.”

Yes, please.

“Yeah, but not this one, okay? She’s for Bucky.” Steve looks almost nervous and you wonder why.

“For Sergeant Barnes?” Thor asks as Pietro carefully transfers you to his arms. “What a wonderful gift! He would do well with a companion, especially one as endearing as this one. What is your name, little one?”

Oh, how desperately you wanted to tell him. Yet, the Fates decided that you couldn’t. Damn.

“I haven’t named her yet,” Steve answers for you. “I was planning to let Bucky name her.”

“You and Barnes. It brings a tear to my eye,” Sam jokes. “Hey, how come you haven’t let me hold her yet? I’m hurt.”

“Oh, Steve’s just too scared than you’ll kidnap her and run away with Clint and Lucky, living happily ever after in a farm together as ‘Bird Bros’.” Natasha’s witty sense of humour is on fire today.

“It’s not my fault that I love dogs.”

“A farm with more dogs?” The idea seems to excite Thor, a dazzling grin forming on his handsome face. God, he’s so beautiful. No, you’re definitely not thirsting over him. “The prospect of that pleases me greatly. If you would like to hold her, I would gladly pass her on to you.”

“Sweet!” At some point, one of them is going to accidentally drop me on the ground, you think. You’re distracted from your newfound fear of falling by a young woman sitting much farther away from the rest of the team. She has long tresses of chocolate-brown hair and is picking on her nails, looking down at the polished floor. She seems sad, but more in a melancholic way than in a gloomy way. Or maybe it’s just the abundance of eye makeup. You can’t tell. You desperately want to go to her, but – obviously – you can’t. You’re stuck. So, you try to tell Sam what you can’t say by whining and nudging his arms.

“It looks like she doesn’t like you,” Pietro says, almost smugly.

“Hey, girl, where are you trying to go?” You point in the direction of the young woman with your nose. “Oh, to-” Before Sam finishes his sentence you’re whisked away and end up in Pietro’s outstreched arms, the woman’s face startled face right in front of yours.

“This is my sister Wanda!” the speedster introduces you to her in a rush. “Wanda, you wanna hold her?”

“I think it would be better if I didn’t,” she replies in a small voice. “I’m scared that I’ll hurt her.”

“Don’t be silly,” her brother chides her, still holding you.

Cap approaches her slowly and touches her shoulder in a friendly and warm manner, offering her a sweet smile. “Don’t be afraid, Wanda. We all trust you. Besides, you’ve done pretty well in controlling your powers during training. Now, would you like to hold her?” He speaks to her gently and with care, easing her through her fear of her own powers, unlike Pietro, who was rushed and excited. Yet another reason to love Steve Rogers.

She hesitates for what seemed like an eternity before slowly reaching out to ruffle your head timidly. You jump into her lap and she’s taken by surprise, but nothing happens. You plaster her in your slobber as she giggles and pats you, starting to warm up.

“See? I told you nothing bad would happen,” her brother pipes up with a proud smile on his face.

“She’s cute,” Wanda admits. “Did you say she was for Bucky?”

“Yeah, but we haven’t seen him yet. I thought he’d be up here, but it looks like he isn’t. Any idea where he’d be?” Steve unfolds his tall body from a crouch to stand up again.

“He’s in Stark’s lab with Dr. Banner,” she answers, absentmindedly playing with your paws. “They’re fixing his arm.”

“Thanks. Can I have her back, please?”

***

“Steve! Bucky’s not – is that a puppy?”

“Why, yes, it is, Dr. Banner,” Steve chuckles. “You still have to ask?”

“Steve, come on, we’ve been over this. Call me Bruce,” the scientist rebukes him amiably, removing his glasses to clean them with his lab coat. “Bucky’s not done yet. Tony’s still working on his arm.”

“Oh, well, am I allowed inside?”

You are. I’m not so sure about the puppy.”

“If I let you hold her, will you let her in?”

Bruce is silenced for a moment. “Dammit, Steve, don’t make me make that decision. I don’t like choosing between puppies and lab protocols.”

“Come on. Look into her eyes. Isn’t she just adorable?” You add a small pout and whine to convince Bruce, giving him your best puppy face. It works, because you’re an actual puppy.

“Fine.” With a big, shit-eating grin, Steve lets Bruce hold you. “Don’t tell Tony that I succumbed to her charms and ignored his rules just to let her in,” he warns Steve as he scratches your head. You can’t believe that this big ol’ softie is the Hulk. He’s so…unlike the Hulk. This man is an adorable science geek and has the softest hair ever (yes, you touched it), while the Hulk is…well, the Hulk.

“Will do. Now, can I go in, please?”

“I wasn’t actually done with her, but fine.” You wonder how many people have held you today as Bruce moves you to Steve’s arms once more. “Again, if Tony’s angry-”

“-it’s on me. Got it.”

Glass doors swoosh open silently into a sterile laboratory which, for some reason, gives you goosebumps. Can dogs get goosebumps? If they can, then you’re definitely having them right now. Maybe it’s because of your hatred of the hospital atmosphere. Hospitals just have that…aura that makes you really uncomfortable and awfully cold. They really need to fix their air conditioning. It’s always freezing, just like this lab is right now. Seated on what looks to be an operating table is the one and only Bucky Barnes, whose usually hard demeanor is broken by a series of winces as Tony continues probing and tweaking his arm with an endless variety of tools. You’re pretty sure he invented half of them.

“Why is she here?” a disgruntled Tony asks Steve with a grumble. “I’m not done here and you are not going to use her to make me leave so you can have some alone time with Terminator here.”

“Real original, Stark. Keep ‘em coming,” Bucky comments as Tony pokes his arm with something that produces electrical sparks. It’s pretty safe to say that you have absolutely no clue what that man is doing.

“I know you like my nicknames. Anyway, Grandpa, she stays outside until I’m done. I can’t risk her running around the lab, messing up my equipment.”

“Oh, come on, Tony. I’ll be holding her the entire time! Besides, would you really kick out a puppy as cute as her?” Steve – or as Tony calls him, ‘Grandpa’ – holds you up so you’re face-to-face with Tony again. But this time, instead of staring at him in awe, you give him your best puppy face. You can see the scientist’s frown waver a tiny little bit as he continues working on Bucky’s arm, but eventually, he falters and pats your head, groaning in defeat.

“You got me, you cute little bastard. I’ll be done with your boyfriend here in a sec, Cap. Also, I’ve got a surprise for you and the puppy later on. It’s still in its early, planning stages, but it’s going to be great when I’m done with it.”

“I hope it’s nothing dangerous.”

“Pshh, ‘dangerous’? Come on, when have I ever put cute animals in the face of danger and certain death?”

“Do you want me to answer that or is that just a rhetorical question?”

“…Don’t answer it.” Tony finally finishes tinkering around with Bucky’s arm and cleans his hand with an oily rag, smiling in satisfaction at his work. “There we go. Alright, don’t break anything in this lab or I will sue your asses off. Yes, I’ll sue your puppy, too.”

“Not mine.”

I know. I’m out.”

Steve turns to his best pal and offers him a warm smile, cuddling you even closer to his chest. “Hey, Buck. I know this isn’t really best place for gift-giving, but it’ll have to do. I don’t think I can wait until you get to the living room or the quarters.”

“A present? Is it my birthday or Christmas?”

“You’re old, but you’re not that old. Well, you are, actually. Never mind.” He holds you out to Bucky with outstreched arms, which prompted his lips to stretch themselves to their limit as well. “She’s for you.”

The look on Bucky’s face far exceeds the definition of astonishment. You didn’t even have the words to describe that look. It’s a mixture of surprise, joy, and, surprisingly, fear. Why on earth would he be scared of you?

“Me?” he asks in a hesitant tone. “Are you sure?”

“Am I sure? Of course I’m sure! You’ll even get to name her!” Steve can still sense his friend’s hesitation and he adds, “Buck, I trust you. I know that you won’t hurt her. You haven’t hurt anything in months! If it helps, I can help you train and take care of her.”

Bucky’s face brightens up a tad at that last sentence. He begins to process everything Steve’s told him carefully in his head. You can almost see his brain working. After an extended period of silence and deliberation, he finally nods. It’s a very slow nod, but you’ll take anything you can get. “Why not? Everyone’s been telling me about veterans and their dogs and it seems like an alright idea. But I’m still pretty scared of…accidentally hurting her.”

“You won’t.” Steve’s answer is rushed, as if he’s trying to convince himself more than he’s trying to convince his friend. He gently passes you to Bucky, whose cold metal arm sends shivers down your spine. Not because of the fact that it’s a metal arm, but because it’s cold. You lick his face with delight, trying your best to cheer him up. His frosty demeanour finally melts and he lets out a small laugh, patting your head with a gentleness you never knew existed in him.

“Thank you,” Bucky murmurs into your fur, holding you tightly. You don’t know if the words of appreciation are directed to you or to Steve.

Maybe dying isn’t the worst thing that could ever happen to someone. Or to you, at least.

Chapter Text

From: Nat
Meeting in 5. Stark doesn’t want you and Bucky there. Feel free to watch from the surveillance room. :)
Read 7:57 PM

From: Nat
Steve, why aren’t you replying?
Read 8:01 PM

From: Nat
Steve. I know you’re reading this.
Read 8:01 PM

From: Nat
ROGERS.
Read 8:02 PM

You observe Steve’s minuscule facial movements as he reacts to whatever’s on his phone screen with a slight tilt to your head as Bucky continues scratching behind your ear absently with his long fingers. What could that man be thinking about? His face falls into a tiny, almost unnoticeable frown and he begins tapping the top of his phone on his well-defined chin, looking like he’s trying to decide between two pizza types that are equally favourable in his eyes. Or maybe he’ll pick both pizzas? Who knows? Super soldiers have quite the metabolism. But from the look on his face, you guess that it’s not about pizza.

Steve’s phone begins to ring, startling him and almost causing him to drop his phone out of fright. “Shhhhhhhhhh-” he begins, close to cussing as he picks up. “Nat, no. That’s called spying! I am not a spy, you are! Go ahead, drag me into that room if you can. No, you’re not making Bucky drag me there. He’s busy.”

“Not really,” his best friend mutters from the sofa. “I’m here. Just sitting. With my new puppy. Staring at nothing. Not busy at all.”

“Bucky, please, for the love of God, stay out of this argument. No, Natasha, he’s not here.”

“I am.”

“Buck,” Steve sighs exasperatedly. “You know what, Natasha? I’ll go. But just this once. No, I’m not just doing this to shut you up. Okay. Bye.” With the tap of his finger, he hangs up on Natasha and yet another exasperated sigh escapes from his mouth, his body looking as if it is being slowly deflated as he does so. “Alright. Let’s go.”

“You hear that, girl?” Bucky talks to you. “We’re going to spy on Tony! Come on.” The metal-armed soldier refuses to let you go, so he scoops you into his arms and makes his way to the door. “Come on, Stevie. We wouldn’t want to miss the show, would we now?”

“If I didn’t love you so much, I’d kick you out of this room right now.”

“Aww,” Bucky drawls, almost like he's back to his old self. “You love me.” With a wink, he finally leaves the room.

***

From the surveillance monitor, the three of you can see that the dining table has been turned into a makeshift meeting table, with Tony presiding at the head of the table and the rest of the Avengers sitting restlessly around him. He bangs a gavel, taking everyone by surprise.

“I call this meeting to order.”

“Who the hell gave him a gavel?” Clint questions in an indignant tone.

“I run a multi-billion dollar conglomerate. Why wouldn’t I have a gavel?”

“I bet you bought it behind Pepper’s back because you knew that she’d be annoyed if she knew that you bought one.”

“Shut up, Barton. You live in my tower. By the way, where's Thor?”

“He left for Viking land, like, five minutes ago. I mean, Norway. And hey, I do not live in your tower! And I’m pretty sure that the tower has a massive ‘A’ on the side which stands for AVENGERS. Not STARK. AVENGERS. Plus, I have my own place in Bed-Stuy.”

“You mean that run-down dumpster you call home?” Sam adds, jumping into the debate.

STAY OUT OF THIS,” both Clint and Tony reply with raised voices. It’s so fun watching them argue like little children. It almost makes you forget that they’re the Avengers, the Earth’s mightiest heroes and whatnot.

“Tony. Meeting?” Natasha interrupts in a matter-of-fact tone.

“Right, right. This meeting concerns Bucky and Steve’s new puppy.”

“Which, may I remind you all, is theirs and theirs only.”

“Romanoff, are you the one sitting at the head of the table with a gavel? I didn’t think so. So, if no one has anything helpful to contribute to my opening statement, let’s continue.” The archer punctuates the end of Tony’s sentence with a heavy sigh, causing the gavel-wielding man to shoot him a warning look. He sure loves that gavel. “We need a name for the puppy. An Avengers-approved name.”

“I’m preeeeeeetty sure Natasha said that the puppy isn’t ours,” Bruce speaks up timidly. “And the owner – or, in this case, co-owners – has the right to name their puppy whatever they want to.”

This is weird. This is definitely weird. They’re trying to decide on a name for me. I already have a name! And I’m not actually a dog! But how am I supposed to tell them that when the only thing I can say is ‘bark’?

“If you’d like, I can scour the internet for popular female dog names,” a purple man wearing a sweater adds, no doubt attempting to be helpful. Heeeeey, look! It’s everyone’s favourite purple android guy! What’s his name again? Vision! He's so cool. Your tail starts wagging in excitement as you continue watching Vision contribute to the meeting.

“I guess she really likes Vision,” Steve says with a small chuckle. “Maybe she likes the colour purple.”

“But ‘popular dog names’ lists are always so...boring,” Tony complains, twirling the gavel around. “They always include generic names and I refuse to let this puppy suffer through her entire life with a generic name!”

“But thanks for offering, Vision,” Bruce hurriedly adds, as if he was afraid that Tony had hurt Vision’s feelings by saying ‘no’ in such a blunt way. Does Vision have feelings...? you wonder.

“It’s quite alright. I understand that...unique names are what is considered ‘cool’ nowadays.” You get a satisfying kick out of listening to him saying the word ‘cool’.

“What about ‘Speedy’?” Pietro offers from far end of the table. The silver-haired speedster is chewing on a protein bar with a thoughtful look on his face.

“Mmm, sounds too much like what you would name your dog,” Tony says dismissively.

“Well, it is what I would name my dog,” the young man agrees, “if I had a dog.”

“Wanda? Anything you’d like to contribute?”

She shakes her head. “I’m not very good at coming up with names for pets. When Pietro and I were children, we had a dog that I called ‘Wolf’,” the speedster’s twin sister replies. “And you said that you didn’t want generic names, so I left my suggestion out.”

“To be fair, it was a very big dog,” her brother adds. “It could’ve passed as a wolf.”

“That’s a great suggestion, Wanda. I like the name ‘Wolf’. We should put that on the list, Stark,” the Widow assures the newcomer and giving Tony a withering glare, indicating that he should take the name into consideration so that Wanda’s feelings wouldn’t be hurt. Tony nods immediately, not wanting to mess with Natasha.

You have the strangest urge to run to Wanda and cuddle her to death. She must be devastated after losing her home like that. Although the Avengers have taken her under their wing and although she is strong and has her brother for support, she still radiates loneliness and sadness, and you don’t want her to feel that way.

“Anyone else?”

“What about ‘Buttercup’?” Sam offers. “‘The Princess Bride’ is one of their favourite films. I caught Bucky smiling when he was watching it with Steve.”

“Sure. ‘The Princess Bride’ is a classic, so who am I to dispute that suggestion?”

“How about ‘Sirius’? Both Steve and Bucky like the Harry Potter films, and I’m pretty sure at least one of them shed a tear when Sirius died,” the red-haired assassin beside Sam suggests.

“I’ll put it on the list.” You catch a small smile blooming on Steve’s lips, and you find yourself understanding the reference too. “Ooh, I’ve got a good one. What about ‘K-9’?”

No one answers him.

“Oh, come on, people! Does nobody watch ‘Doctor Who’ anymore? Fine. But I’m still putting it on the list.” Clint mutters something that sounds suspiciously like ‘stubborn’. “Oh, really? You think I’m stubborn? Well, let’s hear a suggestion from you then, bird brain.”

“‘Snowy’. Or ‘Milou’. Y’know, Tintin’s dog? Maybe he read Tintin while growing up, so I thought it was a nice name. Names. Whatever. Also, ‘Snowy’ isn’t gender-specific.”

“She’s not a very ‘Snowy’ kind of dog. She’s a golden retriever. She’s pretty much just a pure ray of sunshine.”

All dogs are pure rays of sunshine. What’s your point?”

“Here we go again,” Natasha sighs.

“I’m just saying, she doesn’t have white fur, so it wouldn’t make sense to name her ‘Snowy’.”

“Then you name her, Tony Stark-genius-superman,” Clint shoots back sourly.

“At least I can do a better job than calling her ‘Lucky’.”

“Lucky was lucky! I rescued him from a bunch of bad people! At least I wasn’t gonna keep calling him ‘Pizza Dog’ or ‘Arrow’, which was his name.”

“You still do call him ‘Pizza Dog’.”

“Wow, Nat. I guess someone didn’t wake up in a helpful mood today.”

“Guys, come on!” the gavel-owning billionaire interjects. “We don’t want to keep them waiting. They’re probably already suspicious and sending out a search party after us. Bruce?”

“Um, ‘Joy’, maybe? Because she’s Bucky’s little bundle of joy?” the hesitant scientist offers. “I mean, she’s Steve’s too, but I guess she’s mainly Bucky’s.” You turn to Bucky, gauging his reaction to Dr. Banner’s suggestion. The brunet soldier cracks a smile, a proper smile that actually reaches his eyes and forms crinkles around them. His usually icy blue eyes are warm, the colour of the ocean as viewed from the beach on a sizzling summer’s day. This warms your heart, because you can’t bear it when he looks broken and vulnerable, like he did in the second Captain America film.

Jeez, (Y/N). This isn’t a film. This is real life now. Life as a dog. I always thought it would be easier. Y’know, without the superheroes surrounding me.

“Cute. Okay, anyone else?” Stark’s question is met with silence. “Alright, let’s start voting. You’re allowed two votes each, and only two. Anyone for ‘Speedy’?” The young speedster raises his hand immediately. “‘Wolf’?” Natasha and Wanda raise their hand, the latter doing so in a timid manner. “‘Buttercup’?” Sam, Bruce, Clint and Vision vote. “‘Let’s see...” Tony continues on and on until the entire team has voted twice, finally deciding on the name ‘Buttercup’.

“Buttercup,” Bucky says, testing out the name hesitantly, causing you to turn around in his lap. “I like that name. But I already have another name in mind.”

“Well, you could’ve told them and spared them from holding a meeting,” Steve comments, laughing. “What do you have in mind?”

His childhood friend looks surprised at the fact that he isn’t challenging him for the right to name you. After all, they had decided that they would take care of you together just a few minutes after Steve introduced you to Bucky. “Maybe...” he begins, hesitating. “Maybe ‘Laika’? I’ve always liked that name.”

The blond-haired super soldier rests his hand on his best friend’s shoulder, squeezing it gently. “I like that name, too. Like that dog that was launched into space, right?” Bucky nods enthusiastically.

Laika. Huh, I like it. As long as he’s happy, I’m happy. Plus, I’m named after, like, a SPACE DOG. How cool is that?

“We should probably head down to the living room before, you know, everyone finds out that we’ve been spying on them.”

“That would be best.”

***

“Oh, hey, Tony!” Steve chirps cheerfully, definitely sounding like he’s hiding something. You thought he’d be a better liar than this. Steve’s tone makes Tony squint suspiciously, studying both him and Bucky intently. The rest disperse around the room and settle themselves on various seats.

“Have you two been up to something?” Tony inquires. “Oh, God. Oh, no. She pooped somewhere, didn’t she?”

“No, no, no,” Steve adds hurriedly. “Nothing like that. We were just sitting here, watching TV. Right, Buck?"

Bucky is stifling a laugh, passing it as a cough. “Yeah, we were just watching TV.”

“Really? So, what’s the show about?”

“Um...people?” You laugh inwardly at Steve’s description of the show. Of course, you know nothing about the show too, since the three of you just sat down 30 seconds ago and Steve had to hurriedly turn the TV on.

“You weren’t watching us, were you?"

“Pshhh, no."

“You’re a terrible liar, Steve. Whatever. Anyway, we just had a meeting.”

“Huh, you don’t say,” Bucky mutters under his breath, still hiding a laugh.

“And the meeting was to decide a name for your puppy. So, we came up with a bunch of names, everyone voted for their favourites, blah blah blah, and we finally decided on...drum roll please, Pietro...” The speedster beats on the kitchen counter rhythmically, then stops. “...‘Buttercup’!”

“‘Buttercup’, huh?” Steve pretends to ponder, resting his chin on his hand. “Nice name. From ‘The Princess Bride’, right? How ‘bout it, Buck? Do you like that name?”

“Sure, but I’ve already got a name in mind,” he tells the rest of the team. “I was thinking of...‘Laika’. I remember watching a TV broadcast about the Sputnik II launch outside of an electronics store back in...ahem, and I remember that they were talking about launching a dog into space. I mean, a dog! In space! I thought it was amazing, y’know? It still is, to me. It’s one of the nicer highlights of my life that I can remember, besides meeting Steve, of course. After that, I was brought back to the facility and they beat me up for escaping.” His happy tone falls and turns bitter.

Once again, Steve rests a broad hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I like ‘Laika’. And I’m glad you held on to that memory. It’s a nice one, even though it didn’t end well.”

“You can name your puppy whatever you want, Bucky. We would never object. Look, as long as you’re happy, we’re happy too. We’re glad you’ve got another friend to look after you,” Natasha adds in a gentle voice.

“And the best part is that Lucky gets a friend to play with if she gets bored with Buc – OW. Nat, was that necessary?” Clint rubs the shoulder that Natasha had jabbed viciously with her elbow.

“And maybe we can take turns taking her out for walks,” Sam suggests.

“We’ll take care of Laika, too,” Bruce assures Bucky. “It’ll be a team effort.”

“I’m okay with that,” Steve says, leaning back on the sofa. “What about you, Buck?”

“Yeah.” He pats your head lovingly, another one of his rare smiles form on his handsome face. “I’m okay with that.”

“WAIT! Before all of you disappear to your rooms to do God knows what, I have another announcement to make.” The genius-billionaire-playboy-philanthropist clears his throat before continuing. “I am currently developing an Iron Puppy suit for Laika. That’s what I’ve been working on in the lab lately, along with Brucey here."

“Please don’t drag me into this.”

“Too late, Banner. The spotlight's on us now.”

The room erupts, with each member of the Avengers voicing their opinions on whether or not it’s safe to give you an Iron Puppy suit. You thought it’d be pretty cool, to be honest. Who wouldn’t? Steven Grant Rogers and the rest of the Avengers, apparently. Almost forgotten amongst all the hubbub, a tired Bucky yawns and blinks blearily. You whine at Steve to get his attention.

“Look, guys, I appreciate your help in trying to find a name for little Laika here," Bucky starts. "But now that we’re done, I’m gonna head upstairs. Today’s been a good day. Thanks.”

“No problem, Buck. Get some rest, okay? We’ll see you later.”

The metal-armed man gently lowers you to the floor and you follow him to the elevator, your tail wagging happily at his previous words. Today’s been a good day. Your heart is bursting with joy.

“Do you hear the sound of her tiny little paws tip-tapping on the floor?” Sam practically gushes. “Man, I want a little puppy. How ‘bout it, Stark?”

“No. Two dogs are enough.”

“Lucky doesn’t even live here!”

The elevator doors close, enclosing you and Bucky inside the sleek elevator. The silence that ensues is comforting, not awkward. Well, any silence is a comfortable silence when you’re a dog, right? It’s not like you can initiate a conversation to any awkward silences. You catch a glimpse of a smile on Bucky’s face as he looks down at you, possibly bursting with joy too.

“I bet you’re tired too, Laika. The team’s a lot to take in, I know. But they’re friendly and they’ll look after you. Steve and I will, too. I hope you like it here.”

God, he sounds so hopeful and...happy. When was the last time he was truly happy?

He leads you to a room at the end of the hallway and turns the knob on the grey door. “Well, this is my room.” Opening it, you see that it’s not as messy as you thought it might’ve been. He has an innumerable amount of notebooks shelved in the bookcase across from the doorway, and when you step further into his domain, you note that he has yet another gigantic bookcase filled with novels, comic books, and DVDs of all kinds. A sleek, black laptop sits on a wooden desk, and judging from the fingerprints all over the device’s shiny surface, it’s been used very often.

Beside the laptop, one photograph sits there all alone. It's a picture of him and Steve, maybe from their earlier WWII days. Bucky is in his navy blue coat – the one from his Howling Commando days and yes, the one he wore when he fell off that damn train – and Steve is wearing his uniform. He has light stubble littering his strong jaw and his eyes have this mischievous twinkle in them. His arm is slung around Steve, whose jaw is clean-shaven and hair is neatly combed. You wonder what his secret to keeping his hair so shiny on the battlefield is. They are smiling at the camera – no, Bucky is grinning from ear to ear at the camera and Steve is beaming, but it’s not for the camera. It’s for Bucky. His eyes are trained on Bucky’s beautiful profile with a smile that lights up his eyes. Yeah, this is enough to make your chest hurt. Physically.

Ouch.

“Would you like to sleep on my bed or on the floor? I gotta tell you, the bed is much nicer.” You almost forgot that Bucky is in the room with you. How long have you been staring at that photograph for? Long enough. You jump onto the spot that Bucky was tapping on his bed, right beside him, and he breathes out a long, content sigh, resting his head on the pillow. “I hope you won’t take that Iron Puppy suit. I don’t want you to fly away and leave me.” Licking his face in assurance, your chest is hurting even more from his almost-whispered words. He laughs softly. “I know it’s a silly thing to be afraid of, because dogs can’t fly away in iron suits. But I don’t want you to leave me. It’s only been a day, and I already like having you beside me. So don’t you get any ideas, okay, Laika?” In response, you curl up flush against his side. “Stay with me, okay?”

Okay.

Chapter Text

“How do you train a dog?"

The two super-soldiers are standing in front you, clad in sweatpants. Bucky’s got his hair up in an adorable little bun, with loose bits of hair framing his handsome face. You may be a dog, but hey, you’re still allowed to appreciate human beauty, right? They study you intently as if you were a map, trying to figure you out. You cock your head to the side, imitating them.

Don’t just stand there. Go Google something, you dumbasses.

Bucky frowns for a second before shrugging. “I’ve never had a dog before. Didn’t you buy books on dog training?”

“No...? I mean, we’ve got the internet now.”

“As much as I love the internet, nothing beats an actual book. Also, the screen hurts my eyes if I stare at it for too long.”

“You want me to pick up some books from the library?

“Sure, if you don’t mind. I can come with you, if you’d like.”

“You can stay here with Laika. Besides, someone’s gotta look after her in case Clint steals her.”

Bucky crouches down to pick you up. You lean forward and lick his nose and he’s so surprised, he almost loses his balance and wobbles to stay in position, almost dropping you. He’s so cute. God. You’ve finally achieved one of your life goals – to lick Bucky Barnes’ face. Hallelujah. Anything is possible now. “Bird Brain doesn’t stand a chance against us, right, girl?” he asks you, a hint of playfulness in his voice.

***

“So...what now?”

You’d imagined living with the Avengers would be more exciting than this. Even as a dog. So far, you’ve spent most of your time sitting down and staring at Bucky’s face. You’re not complaining, but you thought you’d be at park by now, running after a Frisbee that’s basically a replica of Cap’s shield, albeit smaller. You wiggle your head under Bucky’s metal arm, encouraging him to stroke your head to kill some time while waiting for Steve to come home. Instead of indulging you, he pulls away almost immediately.

“Not this hand, Laika. You wouldn’t like it. Come over here.” He pats the empty spot on his right side, with a hesitant smile. You heed his words and snuggle up to his right side, feeling the touch of his coarse hand against your soft skin. Fur. Not skin. Damn it, you keep forgetting. “I wish you could talk. Sometimes, I just want someone else besides Steve to talk to. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love the guy. He’s my best friend, but...” Here he punctuates the unfinished sentence with a deep sigh. “He’s a little biased, I guess, because we’ve known each other for so long. He looks at me like there’s nothing wrong with me. Like he can’t accept the fact that I’ve done all those bad things.

“Trust me, I understand the circumstances, but that doesn’t make me feel less responsible. It’s like waking up from a bad dream and feeling a rush of relief, knowing that it was all just a dream, but then you realise that it was real. It wasn’t just inside your head, it happened, and you did it, but you couldn’t stop it. After you wake up and realise it, you’re just helpless, and the horror lies in feeling helpless.”

That was rather poetic. Before you could stop yourself, you nod. What were you thinking? Dogs don’t nod in understanding after their owner has just expressed his feelings to them! Dogs just stick their tongues out, because they wouldn’t understand what being a brainwashed assassin is like! Not that you do, of course. You’ve just read up on Bucky on the internet, that’s all. You’ve never experienced decades of torture and brainwashing and all you know about being brainwashed comes from the Captain America films, which just happens to (partially) tell the story of this man who is sitting right next to you, but you can at least offer some comfort, right?

Right. Thankfully, he didn’t notice you nodding.

“I’m sorry for dumping all of that on you, Laika. I mean, you’re a dog. You don’t have to listen to me rant. But it’s not like you’d understand, right?”

Oh, how badly you want to tell him that you do understand and that he’s welcome to share his feelings with you, even though you won’t be able to respond or offer any helpful words. As a wordless reply, you pat his hand with a furry paw clumsily.

“Hey, Buck, I’m back! Did Clint try his luck at stealing Laika?”

Well, that was quick. Too quick – for a normal human being, anyway.

“Nope, but I think I heard someone sneaking around.” Bucky’s face has immediately reverted back to a slightly happier one – one that’s not reflecting any of his ongoing internal turmoil. His boyfriend – you’ve gotta stop calling him that, since they’re insisting on calling each other ‘best friends’ – has half the books in the library under one arm and a bag full of various fruits in the other hand. And he’s not. Even. Sweating.

“I got some plums for you.” That sentence brightens up Bucky’s face, as he scoops you into his arms and ambles over to the kitchen, like an excited puppy.

That sounded a little weird, considering that you’re a puppy.

“You ready to start reading?” Steve asks as Bucky sinks his teeth into the flesh of the plum and closes his eyes, savouring the exquisite taste. Alright, well, it’s not that exquisite, but maybe it is to him. Who knows? “Buck?”

“What?”

“Are you ready to start reading?”

***

30 minutes later...

You’ve fallen asleep. Don’t blame yourself. 30 minutes of silence is unbearable, especially while Steve Rogers is stroking your head, slowly helping you drift off into oblivion. A yawn startles you, effectively waking you up from your brief nap.

Bucky’s lying down on the carpeted floor with an arm under his head, propping it up so he can read another one of those ‘how to train your dog’ books, and he looks like he’s ready to die.

“Steve, why the hell did you bring home half the library? I don’t think we’ll even get through a quarter of these books in a year. Hey, here’s a thought: maybe next time, you can borrow the other half of the library.”

“Buck,” he admonishes him affectionately. “I just wanted to make sure that we had enough information, that’s all.”

“Aw, come on. I was joking.”

“You ready to start training her?”

“Well, it’s better than spending another second reading about...” he pauses and squints at a page here, “...dog psychology.”

“Alright, alright, we get it. You’re bored. I think little Laika’s bored, too.”

“Okay then. Sit, Laika!” Bucky drawls lazily, obviously joking and not expecting you to do anything.

You decide to amuse him by following his command, just to see how he reacts. You know that he was just fooling around and that he wasn’t actually expecting you to follow his command, but, heck, why not play around with him a little?

“Steve! Did you see her?! She sat down!”

Steve brushes his friend’s excitement aside. “Beginner’s luck, Buck.”

“No way was that beginner’s luck. I should try something else.” Bucky offers his hand to you. “Can you shake my hand, Laika?”

Yeah, why not? Your little paws thud softly on the carpeted floor as you make your way to him, offering your hand. Paw. Whatever.

“See? Oh, my God! Come on, we gotta show the others!”

***

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a happy Bucky Barnes is capable of putting a smile on your face. Okay, it might not be universally acknowledged, but at least it’s acknowledged within the fandom back on Earth in...whichever universe you were from. The normal universe? Ah, forget it. You’re stuck here now.

There he is, showing you off to the rest of the Avengers, almost like a proud father whose child had just taken their first steps.

“Do you know how long it takes to train a dog, Barnes? Hell, look at Clint. He’s had his dog for a while now and he hasn’t taught him much.”

“Stop picking on Lucky!”

“Well, you gotta see it to believe it.” A grin stretches Bucky’s face wide, almost to the point where it looks painful. It’s not every day that you get to see his perpetually broody demeanour replaced with a look of pure happiness. “Sit, Laika!”

You just stand there, staring expectantly at Bucky and pretending like you didn’t understand a single word that had just left his lips. Yes, you know that toying with the emotions of a man who has suffered too much is a slightly cruel thing to do, but you just couldn’t help yourself. The rest of the Avengers are laughing – whether at Bucky’s enthusiasm or at you, you don’t know – but Bucky looks crestfallen, and this is when you realise that, yeah, you’ve been kinda mean to him and you need to stop before his broodiness returns like a cloud to cast a gloomy shadow over his happiness. This man deserves happiness, damn it, and here you are, toying with his feelings. Who gave you the right to do so?! You internally admonish yourself for not thinking your actions through. This might be a minor thing, but big things start off small, right?

“Come on, girl!” he whispers encouragingly, wanting the team to stop laughing at him.

So, you sit your little butt down and wag your tail, hoping that a smile will replace the disappointment on his face. The Avengers cheer for the two of you and, just like you’d hoped he’d do, Bucky grins in pride. Even Wanda managed to drag herself out of the dumps and laughed.

“Come on, Lucky can do better than th- ow! Nat!” Clint’s criticism is interrupted by a vicious elbow-jab to his thigh, courtesy of Natasha. “I’m just saying!”

“Well, Laika can do more tricks,” Bucky bluffs, but the concern on his face is less than subtle to you. For a trained assassin, he’s not very good at lying about his own pet’s abilities. He turns to you and gives you a tiny panicked look, worried that he won’t be able to one-up his teammate. “Uh...lie down, Laika!” You do as he says. “Roll over!”

You continue following his commands until he runs out of ideas and the smug smile on Clint’s face is replaced by a slacked-jaw, gobsmacked look.

Beat that, Arrow Guy.

The entire team is gushing over you – whether about your abilities or your overall cuteness, you’re not entirely sure. Yet. But the one member who isn’t gushing over you is – no surprise – Clint.

“Aw, come on! That was just beginner’s luck,” the archer interjects. “You know what? Let’s train our dogs for a week and by the end of it, we’ll see whose dog can do the most tricks.”

“I’m all for it,” Bucky replies, grinning in a predatory manner at his challenger, already planning how to take him down.

“Are you...challenging the dude with the metal arm?” Sam questions.

“Oh, I wouldn’t do that, Clint. Barnes is very competitive,” Natasha adds.

“So am I, Tasha!”

“You’re not on his level.”

“That’s nice of you to say.”

“You’re welcome.”

“If Bird Brain and Barnes are competing, I’m betting on Barnes,” Tony calls out.

Thor, having just returned from Asgard, is eager to join in on the fun as well. “Barton, my brother, I have faith that you will do well in this contest. Although I suspect that Barnes will have a greater advantage, considering that our new friend Laika has just shown a considerable amount of skill, which is rather impressive for a beginner.”

“Thanks?”

“Hold on – Tony, did you just start a betting pool?” Steve asks incredulously.

“Sure did. We’ll talk about the money soon, I just want to know who’s betting on who first. Why, is Mr. Boy Scout not allowed to bet?”

“Very funny, Tony. You know who I’m betting on.”

“You know what? Sometimes, I forget that you’re loaded, old man. But, first things first – you gotta say his name if you want to join in.”

“Tony.”

“Come on, Cap,” he drawls.

“Tony, stop antagonising Steve.”

“And stop using your big words, Romanoff. So, what’ll it be, Rogers? Are you in or are you out?”

Steve breathes out a sigh of defeat and brings up a broad, calloused hand up to massage his forehead. He looks like an exasperated father dealing with his bothersome teenage son. Then, the name leaves his lips in a whisper, laced with vexation and defeat:

“Bucky.”

“Well, Katniss vs. Terminator it is. Guys, may the odds be ever in your favour.”

“For the last time, Stark, I am not Katniss.”

Chapter Text

For the first time in your life, you’re seriously considering living out the rest of your life as a dog. It’s definitely a first.

When you think about it, you’re definitely better off in your current situation. You don’t have to do...anything, really, and therein lies the beauty of being a dog. Or being a human who’s been turned into a dog. Whatever.

So far, you’ve spent your days doing absolutely nothing. You haven’t even left the damn tower. Sure, being cooped up all day long is boring, but not when you’re cooped up all day long with the Avengers. You’d be happy to spend the rest of your life in the tower if it meant you’d spend your time with them. Especially with Bucky.

God, where do you start? You love him. Not in a romantic way, because that’d be creepy. He’s a ray of sunshine who occasionally has rough nights, but that’s what you’re there for, right? To help him get through those rough patches.

Tonight’s been a bad one. Bucky’s been tossing and turning in his queen-sized bed for hours on end and, as a result, you can’t sleep. Selfishly, you whine at him, scolding him for keeping you awake. But, instead of settling into a restful sleep, his agitated movements get even worse. You feel like you’re in the middle of an earthquake – a Bucky-quake, triggered by his bad dreams. The bed is quivering underneath you along with his right leg, almost to the point where it’s practically vibrating.

By now, you’re fully awake, not bothering to try and sleep again. A sense of dread fills you, slowly racing up your spine like a line of ants marching up your backbone, deliberately stomping their minuscule feet, making you tingle and shudder at the feeling. You scamper up the bed to get closer to Bucky and wiggle yourself under his clammy arm. He’s been sweating.

This is not good. Not good at all.

You whine louder, pawing at his sweaty body repetitively, hoping that you can pull him out of the realm of nightmares and back into the real world, where the monsters and ghosts of his past can’t touch him anymore. But that’s where you’re mistaken – it doesn’t matter if he’s conscious or unconscious, the creatures of the dark will always be present with their claws and eyes like liquid black marbles, ready to yank him back into hell. He can never escape them. Well, he can, he hasn’t figured out how to just yet.

Your furry paw touches him once more and instead of thrashing around again, Bucky pushes you hard until you go flying backwards, hitting the wall with a thud. Oh, God. All the oxygen in your lungs has been knocked out by the sheer force of the blow. Your ribs are crying out in pain and so are you, your howls replacing your tears and cries of pain.

Someone bursts into the room, almost taking the connecting door down with him. It’s Steve, of course. Who else would have a room connected to Bucky’s? He probably heard something hit the wall from the other side and came to check up on his friend, though you really didn’t expect him to almost break down the unlocked door. He must’ve forgotten it was open.

“Buck? Bu – oh, no. Laika!” Steve scampers to you, picking you up in his strong arms and cradling you as he murmurs words of reassurance. He gently prods sections of your body, checking for any injuries. When his fingers ghost over your abdomen, you howl in pain, waking Bucky from his slumber.

Awake and in an unconscious, nightmare-fuelled rage, Bucky begins attacking his best friend. His fingers make their way to Steve’s throat, choking the life out of him. Out of surprise, the soldier drops you, Bucky’s name escaping his lips in a plea of desperation.

“Buck!” he splutters, helplessly pinned against the wall. “Buck, it’s me! It’s Steve!”

You can see a flicker of consciousness in Bucky’s eyes, and the stern line of his lips wavers. He slowly eases out of his trance and his eyes widen as realisation dawns on him. Out of horror, he softens his grip on Steve’s neck and backs away. “Steve? Steve...oh, God. I’m so sorry.” With that, he takes off and doesn’t look back.

***

Being a former Soviet assassin, Bucky’s unbeatable at hiding. Natasha might be able to beat him, but no one’s ever pitted them against each other in a game of hide-and-seek, so the champion remains unknown. You know that Bucky has a number of hidden hiding places around the tower, and now that you have an unbelievably powerful nose, you can track him down.

His scent is strong and almost tangible, leaving a trail for you and a bewildered Steve to follow. It snakes through the hallways of the tower, leading you from the living quarters, to the living room, past the laboratory, and into the elevator. That’s it. That’s where his scent ends.

If you could scream in frustration, you would. But, you can’t, so you settle for some distressed whining instead. You’re running through a list of his hiding places when a familiar, disembodied voice speaks up.

“May I help you, Captain Rogers? It’s past midnight. I suppose you’re looking for Mr. Barnes.”

“JARVIS, you got any idea where he is?”

“Of course, Captain. He’s on the 52nd floor.”

“What the hell’s he doing on an abandoned floor?” Steve muses under his breath, fingers fidgeting with themselves in an effort to keep himself calm.

The 52nd floor is one of the many empty floors in the Avengers Tower. Tony claims that he’s saving all these empty floors for something, but honestly, what else does he need them for? He’s already got too many employees packed into the floors below, while the Avengers occupy the top of the tower. You think that he simply overestimated the amount of floors needed, but come on, he’s Tony Stark. Would he get his calculations wrong? No way. Calculations are kinda his thing. Or maybe he just wanted the tower to be taller than it needed to be. Who knows?

The elevator descends into parts of the tower that are unknown to you until it arrives at its destination – the 52nd floor.

“I do hope Mr. Barnes is alright, Captain. He seemed rather agitated. I scanned his vitals and they showed an increase in his heart rate and blood pressure.”

“I hope so too, JARVIS. Thanks again.”

“It’s always my pleasure, sir.”

The elevator doors glide open, revealing an entire floor dissolved in darkness. The city lights glimmer in the distance through the windows, which seem so far away, almost out of reach through the darkness. You’d be lying if you said you weren’t scared. You may not know what the maximum heart rate is for a dog, but right now, you little heart might just be exceeding the limit.

“How you doin’, Laika? You okay?” You simply stay close to Steve, not brave enough to even let out the tiniest of whimpers. A minute in pitch black feels like an eternity in the void. Does Steve not know how to use the flashlight on his phone? Tony’s gotta educate this guy.

Wait. Unless you’ve started hallucinating in this dark dungeon, you can see a silhouette of a man up ahead against the background of the city. That has to be him. You abandon Steve, pitter-pattering over to Bucky. At least, you hope it’s him, not the fucking Demogorgon from the Upside Down.

The myriad of colours of city lights reflect on a metal arm. That’s him, alright. And good news: you’re not in the Upside Down. Bucky is entranced by the lights outside and he doesn’t notice you making your way towards him until you yap and bump his calf with your head, jostling him out of his thoughts.

“What are you doing here?” he picks you up. “How the hell...?”

“JARVIS. Always helpful,” Steve pipes up from the darkness, emerging into the dimly lit area with tentative care. “What are you doing here, Buck?”

“I needed to be alone.” Bucky’s words are laced with sadness and resignation. “I’m sorry for hurting you. Both of you.” He sinks to the dusty floor, expecting Steve to take you away from him and leave.

“It wasn’t you, Buck. It wasn’t you.” Steve repeats the words under his breath until you can’t decide if he’s trying to comfort his best friend or if he’s trying to convince himself. His words are fuelled by his denial – he can’t accept that his best friend had done horrible things. It’s complicated and you certainly understand that.

“No. It was me. And you have to accept that, Steve, because it’s the truth.”

Bucky, on the other hand, has fully accepted his actions and the consequences that came with whatever violent deed he had committed. He wants Steve to understand that even though it wasn’t him, he still did it nonetheless. By accepting it, they can finally start moving on from the past and into their new future, side-by-side. It’s hard, he acknowledges that. But it’s necessary.

Steve takes a seat on the floor beside Bucky and runs his fingers over the ridges on the metal arm. “This is all my fault,” he whispers, still tracing the intricate lines. “If had reached a little farther, we wouldn’t be here.”

“Don’t say that. Never say that. Hell, Steve, I thought you came here to comfort me. Now you’re crying on my shoulder.”

“I’m not crying.”

“Well, now we know that you’re a horrible liar too. I mean, I’ve known that since we were kids, but-”

The Steve Rogers Dam breaks and tears are coming out of him like there’s no tomorrow. He plants his face into Bucky’s neck and weeps.

This took an unexpected turn.

He combs his fingers through Steve’s hair lovingly, caringly. This is the Bucky Barnes who was inseparable from his best friend on both the schoolyard and the battleground - the Bucky Barnes who will always be with Steve Rogers until the end of the line. “It’s not your fault, Stevie. You should never say that.”

“If I had reached farther-”

“Both of us would’ve fallen off the train. I ran that memory through my mind a million times, Steve, and every single alternate ending that I thought up never ended with both of us alive.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry, too. I’m sorry for hurting you.”

Steve hiccups. “It’s not your fault. Bad dream. You wanna talk about it?”

“Trust me, it won’t make you feel any better.”

“But it’s important for you to tell someone.”

“I can’t tell you. I just, I can’t explain what goes on in my brain at night.”

“You can try.”

He hesitates, his fingers still intertwined with the locks of golden hair. “Almost every night, I dream that I killed you. I had my fingers around your throat and I was choking the life out of you. I could feel you dying. You were saying my name, but...you know, I couldn’t hear it. It’s like I’m there, but something else has taken over me. I just continued what I was doing. At some point during the whole thing, I guess Laika tried to wake me up. That didn’t end well.” You nudge your way onto the other side of his neck, nuzzling him comfortingly.

“It’s okay,” Steve’s lips quirk into a smile. “She’s pretty quick to forgive people.”

“Well, I’m glad she’s here. People need to learn how to be like her.”

After a shared moment of mutually appreciating your presence – which made you wag your tail so hard, you felt like it was going to fly off and slap someone in the face – it’s Steve’s turn to comfort his friend. Bucky lays his head on Steve’s lap as the blond gently takes hold of his metal arm and presses small, gentle kisses on it. “We’ll find a way to help you. I promise. It may not be a quick solution, but we’ll get there.”

“You know, sometimes, I dream that someday, I’ll get to close my eyes and see nothing when I go to sleep. No dead people. No blood. Nothing. I just want to sleep. Is that really too much to ask for?”

Chapter Text

Hi, everyone!

I know it's been nearly two years since I last updated this story but don't worry, I do plan on writing some more chapters. I've been busy with my exams and I've still got more to do this year and next year because I changed my plans for university. Now that I'm planning to study in the US, I have to take the SAT and I'm also studying for the APs. I'm freaking out.

I'm just posting this to tell you guys that I'll most likely start writing again after Infinity War. I haven't really been into the Avengers lately, so I'm just waiting for IW to come around and inspire me. The good news is that my writer's block is partially gone. I just started writing non-fanfic stuff again and I've also got more ideas for fics, so stay tuned.

Thank you so much for reading this little story. I really have to thank Ocean_inthe_Sun for requesting this.

See you after Infinity War.

Chapter Text

You weren’t expecting to wake up in an empty bed. You weren’t even expecting to wake up in a bed at all. The last memory you can recall while still in your sleepy haze is of you falling asleep on the floor of an empty level of the tower, next to Bucky and Steve.

How did I get here?

Shaking yourself out of the haze, you try to sort through your memories from last night – or this morning, technically. The soreness in your little doggie torso is a painful reminder of last night’s events. You move with care as you stand to stretch. A throbbing pain shoots up your hind leg, making those muscles seize up into the worst cramp of your life, eliciting a whimper from you in the process. Being thrown across the room by a man with a metal arm really does suck, but you’re trying not to hold it against him.

You’d expected Bucky to sleep in after the night he had, but judging by his absence and the now-cool sheets, he’s been up for a while. Lazily, you flop back onto the bed, contemplating whether to stay in bed or to make sure your human roommate is doing well. You could just stay in bed, nobody would even judge you for it, or you could be a decent person and check up on Bucky...

...But maybe after ten more minutes of sleep. After all, it is only eight o'clock in the morning.

***

You slide off of the bed and land on the floor with the same loud thud you made when you were slammed into the wall last night and it brings the painful memory flooding back. Every step you take hurts, but the pain wasn’t the ‘holy fuck this hurts’ kind of pain, it was more like the vague soreness you get the day after a hard workout. Not that you’d even remember what a hard workout would feel like, considering the fact that you’d hardly ever engaged in any form of physical activity when you were still human. It’s a little too late to start going to the gym now. An occasional trip to the dog park wouldn’t hurt, but would it even feel the same as working out?

You manage to reach the elevator, where a friendly voice greets you as the doors slide open.

“Well, hey there!” Clint croaks, having just woken up minutes ago. “Where’s Bucky?”

You reply with a bark, entering the elevator.

“I don’t know what that means, but I’ll help you look for him. He should be downstairs.” He reaches down to stroke your little head and you cover his calloused hand in your slobber because that’s the only way you can show your gratitude now. Inconvenient, but you really weren’t expecting anything to be convenient ever since you were transformed into a dog. As the elevator glides down, a comfortable silence envelops the two of you, since you both have nothing to talk about and the conversation would be very one-sided.

Ding.

The doors open and the first person you see is Bucky, sitting at the table, his back facing you. He’s hunched over something – his food, presumably – and hasn’t moved a muscle. The rest of the Avengers glance over at Clint before noticing you, which is the exact moment when they turn into giant softies.

“Holy shit,” Sam starts, “the puppy’s a genius.”

“Haven’t I told you? I had sensed that the pup is an intelligent one. I was correct, of course, since I form bonds with dogs very easily. It’s because I understand them.”

“Alright, Thor, you better slow down ‘cause you’re one comment away from kidnapping her and taking her to Asgard. And can someone give Clint some coffee before he crashes again?”

“Y’know, it’d be better if I could get coffee through an IV,” he mumbles to Sam, plopping down onto one of the empty chairs. “Everything hurts and I think I’m dying.”

“You’re being dramatic,” Natasha admonishes him playfully as she hands him the pot.

“How are you not hurting everywhere?” Clint is still so sleepy, he misses his mug and splatters coffee on the table before Nat rights his aim. “You were there with me!”

“It wasn’t even that difficult.”

“God, I knew I should’ve stretched before fighting.”

You make your way to Steve, who’d already finished his breakfast and is reading the newspaper. Upon seeing you, he gives you the sweetest smile and folds his newspaper. “Hey, girl! How’d you get down here by yourself?” He bends down to pick you up, but when he wraps his hands around your body, the pain returns with a vengeance and you jolt away from his touch as if he’d just given you an electric shock. Your ribs hurt like a motherfucker but you have no way of intimating it to him.

Steve frowns. Did he do something wrong? “What’s wrong, Laika?” He reaches for you again, but this time, you bare your teeth and snap at his hands, making sure you didn’t actually bite him.

“Is she okay?” Bucky’s forehead creases with worry and confusion as you continue to refuse to be picked up.

“I don’t know. When I tried to pick her up, she flinched away from me. She’s never done that before.” Steve finally gives up on trying to lift you up and crouches down to stroke you instead. Maybe he’ll take the hint this time. His hand makes contact with your torso once more and you resist the urge to snap at him again, opting for a pained whine instead.

“I think she might be hurt,” Wanda pipes up. “She sounds like she’s in pain.”

“Pain?” Thor questions them. “What happened?”

You can see the guilt washing over Bucky with your own eyes. The expression in his eyes changes subtly from concern to realisation. It’s obvious that he wants to apologise, but feels that another apology would be meaningless and that you wouldn’t understand him anyway (of course, you do understand him, but he doesn’t know that). Before he can get a word out, Bruce inserts himself into the conversation.

“I could scan her in the lab to make sure that she isn’t suffering any major injuries,” he says, getting up to clean his bowl. “If she is, we’ll take her to the vet straight away.”

Bruce’s offer is reassuring to the three of you. Steve breathes a sigh of relief and Bucky’s shoulders relax a little bit, with some of the tension still evident in his contracted back muscles.

“We’ll take you up on that offer, if you wouldn’t mind,” Steve replies.

“Not at all. It’s still early and Tony and I haven’t got much to work on today. Just...” he pauses and clears his throat. “Just keep her still while we’re there, okay? I know that puppies get excited over everything really easily and we’ve got important projects in the lab that would take way too long to redo, so...”

“Got it. We’ll keep her in check.”

“Can I watch?” Bucky asks.

“Of course,” Bruce answers without hesitation. “I mean, she is yours.”

“No, I know, it’s just that I don’t know if she’d want me in the lab with her.”

You amble over to Bucky a little clumsily and lick the fingertips of his dangling left hand, hoping he’d get the message.

Bruce gives him a soft smile. “I don’t think she’d mind.”

***

You’d forgotten how cold the lab was. You’ve got an actual coat of fur and yet you’re still freezing. The lab is vast and blindingly white, with a sparse amount of lab assistants in equally blinding white coats occasionally moving from station to station, working on stuff that you wouldn’t even understand unless someone dumbed it down for you. Bruce leads the three of you into a room with a table and a glass screen.

Wait, that’s it? you think. I thought it’d be bigger. It’s just...glass.

“Are you sure this is the right room?” Bucky questions Bruce, stopping at the threshold of the room to examine the futuristic-looking scanner. “I thought x-ray machines were supposed to be bigger.”

“We just finished working on this new scanner that works a lot faster than the average ones.” He picks up a tablet and activates the scanner, gesturing to Steve to put you on the table. “This also doubles up as a screen, so after Laika’s been scanned, we can take a look at the results through here. It’ll also give us a short summary of her injury.”

“Is it safe for her?”

“Guaranteed. We’ve already tested this and none of our subjects have developed any side effects. It’s just like a normal x-ray machine, but fancier.”

Steve shoots you an apologetic look. “Sorry, Laika, but I really do have to pick you up right now.”

Ah, shit. This is going to hurt. He better make it quick.

The good thing is that Steve didn’t try to pick you up like he previously did; he scooped you up with his arms instead, supporting your body from below. It definitely hurt less that way. He gently sets you on your side and tells you to stay still so Bruce can scan you. The screen suddenly moves, startling you and causing you to let out a bark reflexively, but you calm down quickly when you see that the screen has just moved above you.

“Stay still, okay? It won’t hurt you at all.” Bruce assures you.

He taps on his tablet a few times and you hear a vague buzzing noise from the scanner above your body. It only takes a few seconds until the buzz turns into silence again and the glass returns to its initial position to report its findings.

“Well...” Bucky starts, dumbfounded. “That was fast.”

“A little too fast.” His best friend adds. “So that was it?”

“Yeah, why? What were you expecting?”

“To be honest, I don’t know. I just expected it to take a little longer than that.”

Bruce merely smiles at their wonder and brings up the image of your scan on the screen. “The good news is that she hasn’t got any fractured ribs. It’s most likely mild abdominal trauma, but you might want to go to a vet to get a proper diagnosis. She hasn’t shown any signs of bruises, though, so that’s good.”

“If she’s suffering from abdominal trauma, shouldn’t she at least be a little bit bruised?”

“Dogs have thicker skin and a coat that provides extra protection from bruising. And, like I said, the trauma is very mild.”

Oh, thank God. The relief that you’re feeling right now is just overwhelming. Mild abdominal trauma sounds way better than a fracture. Both Steve and Bucky have relaxed considerably, no doubt comforted by the results of the scan.

“That’s great. We’ll take her to the vet later. Thanks, Bruce.”

Bruce nods in reply. “Of course.” He walks over to the table and ruffles your little head with affection. “Thanks for staying still. You’re a good girl. I’m sorry that I don’t keep treats in the lab, because you deserve one right now.” You stand up and respond by licking his hand and giving him a happy wag of your tail to demonstrate your appreciation towards him. He laughs warmly. “I’ll take that as a ‘thank you’. See you later.” And with that, he exits the room.

“Well, I feel terrible.” Bucky purses his lips and processes the information that Bruce had just given him again. “Abdominal trauma sounds bad.”

“It is mild. At least she hasn’t got any broken ribs.”

“Yeah, that’s great, but I still feel bad.”

“Hey, it’s okay, Buck. Laika’s already forgiven you, remember? And I don’t think she’d be evil enough to take it back.”

“I don’t know, Steve. We’ve fought some weird evil creatures before. An evil dog wouldn’t even be the strangest thing I’ve seen.”

“Let’s just hope she isn’t harbouring any thoughts of revenge, then.”

Bucky makes a beeline for you and crouches so he can face you at eye level. “I really am sorry, Laika. I know you’ve forgiven me, but I’m just apologising again in case you’re still mad at me and are planning to kill me in my sleep tonight.” You stand on your hind legs and rest your front paws on his cheeks, leaving him absolutely confused. “Uh...Steve? What’s she doing?”

“Maybe it’s her version of a pat,” he chuckles.

You then begin patting his face with one paw, coaxing a laugh out of both the men. “It’s like she understood you!”

“She really is smart isn’t she?”

“And as much as I’d hate to exploit her intelligence, we’ve got a bet to win.”

“After she rests,” Steve reminds him.

“Right. But we’ve still got a bet to win.”

 

Chapter Text

Hi, everyone!

I've been on a break from writing because I had a lot going on in life. Now that I've gotten through my IELTS and uni entrance exams (I have one interview left on Monday, though), I'm going to start writing again. I'm hoping to finish one of my ongoing series before uni starts and it'll most likely be my Sam fic (which I will then start rewriting because those early chapters were SHIT). I have an Endgame fic lined up, it won't be very canon compliant because I'm still angry and sad!! It'll be from Natasha's point of view.

So, yeah! Expect a new chapter for this fic soon.