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No Sleep Til Brooklyn

Chapter Text

 

There are 5 more steps until he gets to the minivan.

Bucky draws his hood up over his head and hoists his bag higher on his shoulder, anticipation and anxiety coursing through him in waves. He stops in front of the car. This is it. He can do this. He can.

He unzips his bag and pulls out the door stop and the hanger, glancing around. He jams the wooden wedge in the crack of the door and keeps pushing, nearly desperately until it made a big enough opening. Then he untwists the wire hanger and slides it through the crack, maneuvering it around until...

The door unlocks, and Bucky can breathe again.

He opens the door, and tosses his bag in the passenger seat. Bucky mutters the steps under his breath, because he was going to get this right, dammit. He has to.

He pops off the the ignition lock with his knife, and slides his screwdriver into where the ignition belongs. He turns the screwdriver, praying to every deity he can think of.

The car starts, and Bucky can smile again.

He pulls out of the parking lot and drums his fingers on the steering wheel, cheeks aching.

He watches the city he'd grown to hate pass by him in the window and figures, objectively, that Washington D.C. was a nice place. Especially at 4 in the morning, when the monuments made eerie shadows with the street lights overhead. The statues’ expressions looked hollow, mirroring the faces of the men who pass by them everyday to go to work. Fake, with nothing behind the eyes. Empty inside. The comparison makes Bucky nearly giddy, and he laughs at himself for being so ridiculous. But he can be stupid if he wants to, because he's doing this. He’s out.

He passes the city limits, and Bucky is free. Shit, he did it. He's doing it.

He drives in silence, going over his plan in his head obsessively and glancing in the rearview window every few seconds.  He drives through back roads, going under the speed limit and pulling his hood down every time he passes a traffic camera, just like Natalia had told him to. He tells himself over and over that his paranoia isn't irrational, that it was gonna save his life.

Around the time he’s near Baltimore, Bucky feels confident enough shatter his safety net of quiet and turn on the radio. He hums along to Nicki Minaj, feeling more and more like his plan was actually gonna work, like he really has his freedom. He feels his confidence grow with each mile marker he passes

 

And then the blond in the backseat wakes up.

 

"Wait, what the-" the bleary-eyed guy says as Bucky yelps "Jesus fucking-!" And jerks the steering wheel, veering into the wrong lane.

"Why are you in my car?!" Bucky demands.

"Why are you in my car?!" The skinny blond exclaims. "Are you- are you kidnapping me?!"

"No!" Bucky stutters, and fuck, what the actual fuck? "I-I'm just-"

"Shit, look out!" The guy points at the road and Bucky curses, heart in his throat as he swerves out of the way of the oncoming car, and pulls over, cutting the engine as he tries to slow his rapid heartbeat, brain overloading.

"Look man," Bucky pants. "I didn't know you were in here. Why… why were you in here, anyway?"

"That," the guy gasps, turning blue. "is victim blaming."

He takes several ragged inhales before gesturing frantically to Bucky's cup holder, which holds a red inhaler.

Bucky's eyes go wide and he fumbles for it, thrusting it in the hand of his wheezing passenger.

He stammers slightly hysterical apologies as the guy struggles to get his breath back.

“I’m sorry- so sorry, god I didn’t know there was anyone in here when I took the car, oh god, please breathe, I didn’t mean to scare you, I’m sorry, I’m so-”

He holds up his hand to stop Bucky's sputtering and looks up with blue eyes filled with righteous anger.

"Let me get this straight," he starts, and Bucky shutters at his cold voice. "You stole my car."

Bucky's shoulders slump and he looks down at his hands. "Well, uh. That's pretty much the jist of it, yeah."

"And you didn't realize I was sleeping in here?"

Bucky shakes his head.

"And you, what, intended to sell my car!?"

Bucky looks up at that and snorts to himself.

"You really think anyone would buy this mom van?"

 Oh no. He’s pissed off the skinny little asthmatic.

"This is a great fucking car, thank you very much. You must of thought so, you're the one who stole it!" He says, turning slightly pink.

"Yeah," Bucky starts with an eye roll. "That's because minivans are 63% likely to get pulled over by a cop."

"So why did you steal my car?"

"I just told you-"  

"No I mean, if you're not gonna sell it, then why did you steal it?"

"Because I needed it."

The guy tilted his head. "But why?"

 

Christ, this conversation was getting tedious.

 

"Why were you sleeping in your car?" Bucky shoots back, turning his head away.

"Sorry, what?" The guy asked tilting his head to the side. "Can you speak up?"

Bucky furrowed his eyebrows and tried again, looking back at the guy. "Why were you sleeping in your car?" He said again, louder.

"Because student parking is cheaper than student housing." The guy shrugs. "Look, you clearly didn't expect a passenger, so how 'bout you just take me back to D.C. and find yourself another car to jack."

"I can't." Bucky says miserably, voice cracking on the word. He scrubs his palms at his stinging eyes, and let his head fall back against the seat. "Look, I feel bad about his, I do. I can head into Baltimore, I can, I can drop you off with money for a cab or somethin', but I don't have time."

The guy crosses his arms over his chest and looks at Bucky in the rear-view mirror, considering.

"My whole life is in this van," he states softly, "I live outta here, you understand? I'm not leaving it."

He sets his jaw and nods once with finality, like he had made his choice, and he was sticking with it.

"Well I'm sorry," Bucky said, starting the engine and pulling back onto the road. "But I gotta keep going."

 


 

"What are you doing?" Bucky glimpses in the rear-view mirror as movement catches his eye.  

The guy didn't reply, so Bucky reaches behind himself and feels out to grab his shoulder. The guy startles and looks at Bucky in the mirror.

"I asked, what are you doing?"

The guy glares. "I'm getting dressed. Watch the road."

Bucky turns his head around and sees an expanse of pale skin before snapping his head forward, cheeks burning.

A hand clamps on his shoulder and he nearly jumps out of his skin. He whips his head around to see the blond guy holding his hands up in a placating gesture.

"Easy, kid." The guy mumbles, climbing into the front seat and kicking Bucky's bag to the floor. Bucky thinks it's a little rich, this guy calling him "kid" since he's so fucking tiny, but Bucky doesn't wanna upset his guest more than he already has, so he doesn't say anything.

The guy reaches up to a compartment above Bucky's head and pulled out the thickest pair of glasses Bucky had ever seen and a hearing aid.

He slides the glasses on and hooks the hearing aid over his left ear. He turns and looks at Bucky, with his eyebrows furrowed. He’s studying him was such intensity it's making Bucky twitchy.

Bucky swallows and looks back at the road. The guy is still staring at him with his unsettling gaze. Bucky clenches his jaw and holds tightly on the steering wheel, fingernails digging into his palms.

"What?" He finally snapped.

"I'm Steve. Steve Rogers." He speaks softly, kindly, surprising Bucky.

Bucky looked at the guy- at Steve- and chews on his bottom lip.

"Bucky. I- I go by Bucky."

Steve breaks into a wide smile and Bucky ignores the weird feeling in his stomach at the sight.

"Bucky. I like it. What's it short for?"

"James."

Steve laughs. "Really?"

"Well, James Buchanan."'

"Like the 15th President of the United States, James Buchanan?"

"That's the one."

They sit in silence for a few minutes, and right as Bucky's fingers twitched to turn on the radio, Steve spoke again.

"Bucky?"

"Mmhm?"

"Where'd you get that bruise?"

Bucky's fingers fly to his cheek. He had forgotten about the ugly mark high on his cheekbone. He figured that after he got away that there'd be no one around to see it.

"I walked into a door." He lies through his teeth, just like he had a hundred times before.

"That's what I thought." says Steve, nodding, completely disbelieving. "So, you're what, 17? 18?"

"Seventeen." Bucky confirms, white knuckling the steering wheel. He really should have checked better, when he was casing this stupid fucking car. He’d just assumed it belonged to some mom, some lady who worked at the university, not this too curious good fucking samaritan who’ll fuck everything up, everything’s fucked up. God, how could he be so fucking stupid, he was so fucking stupid…

Steve Rogers, the homeless college student who had completely thrown a wrench in Bucky’s escape plan, gingerly places a hand on his arm, expression concerned. Steve squeezes his arm, once, twice, and then takes his hand back, dropping it in his lap.

They sit in silence like that, Bucky feeling more and more antsy. Steve was right when he said Bucky hadn't expected passengers. He hadn't been prepared to come up with a viable story for what he was doing.

Steve’s looking down at his hands, considering. It was obvious he has more questions. Bucky takes a breath and waits.

"So, how does a seventeen year old kid learn to steal a van?"

"How does a seventeen year kid learn to do anything these days?" Bucky counters. "Google."

Steve opens his mouth to say more, but Bucky turns on the radio, cranking the volume up.

 


 

By the time they were passed Baltimore, something started beeping. Bucky looks at his wrist, expecting to see his old watch. When it wasn't there, he glanced around the floor of the car for the source of the sound.

 "Sorry! Sorry, that's me." Steve says, pulling up his shirt and pushed a button on a machine attached attached to his stomach and pulled a small case out of the glove box and...

"You're diabetic?!"

Steve looks up from where he was sucking on his bleeding finger.

"Uh, yeah?"

"Shit! I kidnapped a asthmatic diabetic?"

Steve grins and turns his head, and taps on his hearing aid.

"Also partially deaf-"

"Well, yeah. I got that part."

"Aaand anemic, and arrhythmic, and chronically ill. Basically immunocompromised.” His voice takes on an oddly familiar tone. Fake confidence, Bucky realizes. With a strong undercurrent of bitterness. Bucky knows that voice. He recognizes it from himself.

"Fuck, how the hell are you still alive, dude?"

"Good doctors? Luck?"

"Some luck," Bucky mutters, feeling more than a little pissed on Steve's behalf. To what was a fairly strange degree. Maybe it’s empathy. Steve was dealt a shitty hand. Bucky can certainly empathize with that.

There’s a beat of silence as Steve checks his meter, then looks at Bucky.

"So, can we make a stop and get some food, or-?"

"Shit, yeah man. 'Course." Bucky shakes his head and turns onto the next exit.

 


 

They pull up to a Wendy's a little ways out of Bel Air. Bucky buys Steve's food, because really, it’s the actual least he could do after stealing his car and kidnapping him. They sit at a booth, splayed over the plastic seats with a pile of food in front of them. Bucky moans unabashedly as he bites into his burger.

"Were you raised in a barn? Didn't your mother ever teach you to chew with your mouth open, James Buchanan..." Steve stops and cocks his head. "I don't know your last name."

Bucky had a flash of panic, which was ridiculous.

"Uh, Barn!" He lies, terribly.

Steve raised an eyebrow. "Barn?"

Dammit, that did sound stupid.

Bucky shakes his head and tried to think of something better. "No, Barnes." He said, finger spelling the fake name, feeling immediately guilty about capitalising on Steve’s disability. "My last name is Barnes."

"Your name is James Buchanan Barnes?"

Bucky nods vehemently. "Yep. Bucky Barnes. That’s my name."

Bucky Barnes. He likes that. Bucky Barnes sounds like a superhero, not like some stupid, scared kid.

"So," Bucky starts nonchalantly, trying to change the subject. "You said you were in college, right? What are you studying?"

Steve narrows his eyes accusingly at the non-sequitur, but answers anyway.

"I'm undeclared, but I'm thinking of going into art. Or history. I don't really know." He shrugs.

Bucky pops a fry in his mouth. "You could always do art history."

Steve looks up at him and smiles. "You know, you sound just like my friend-"

Suddenly, Marvin Gaye's ‘Mercy Mercy Me’ starts playing and Steve went to his pocket to pulled out his phone.

"Speak of the devil." He mutters, and answers the phone.

"Hello? Sam? What? No, I'm fine. I just-"

He glances at Bucky and looks back down quickly.

"I decided to take an impromptu road trip. You and Peggy are always telling me to be more spontaneous, right?"

He laughs at whoever’s on the phone. "Yeah, I know. I'll call you when I can. Okay, you too man. Bye."

He hangs up and looks at the phone in his hand for a second before looking back at Bucky.

"So what's your plan here?" Steve asked coolly.

"Me?" Bucky asks, confused at Steve's sudden turnaround in emotion.

"Yeah, you. Where are you headed? What happens when you get there? When am I getting. My. Van. Back?"

Bucky leans away from Steve, heart racing. Logically, he knew there was no way that the skinny, sickly kid could hurt him, but his hostility put Bucky on edge. It really didn't take a lot.

"Sorry! Sorry, I'm uh, I'm going to New York. Brooklyn. I have a couple of friends there who said I could stay with them, so I guess you can head back to D.C. with your car then. Sorry."

Steve's glare softens slightly, then turned confused. "Wait, Brooklyn? If we're going to the city, then you're certainly taking the longest way possible."

Bucky shrugs and eats another fry. "Maybe I'm a scenic route type guy."

"Back road type, more like." Steve mutters to his soda, grumpy like a has a puzzle in front of him with half the pieces missing.

"Yeah, whatever man." Bucky says, standing up. "I'm gonna use the the bathroom, be right back."

Steve just crosses his arms over his chest and nods, turning his attention somewhere over Bucky's head, where the morning news was playing.

Bucky shrugs it off and heads to the toilet. He closes the door and looks at himself in the mirror.

"You can do this." He whispers to his reflection. "Everything's gonna be fine. You'll get to Natasha and Clint's and he won't find you. He's not gonna find you."

Unimpressed at his own glibness, he digs the heel of his palms into his eye sockets and then splashes water on his face, poking with distaste at the bruising in his face. He sighs and walks back into the restaurant.

Steve is watching the news with a look of disgust on his face. When he sees Bucky he gestures angrily to the television.

"Are you seeing this shit? I fucking hate this guy."

Bucky looks at the TV and feels the blood drain from his face as he watches Secretary of Defence Pierce at his press conference.

"Yeah," Bucky says quietly. "Me too."

The TV is muted, but Bucky could tell Alexander is talking about something the way he always does, directly, eloquently, and with a burning anger behind his words.

"God, Pierce is such an idiot! His 'Insight Program'? He's ignoring basic human rights!"

"You can tell what he's saying?" Bucky asked, weakly. His hands were shaking, so he curled them into tight fists.

"No, he just came on the news and his face filled me with unholy rage." Steve chuckles at himself, oblivious to Bucky's minor breakdown beside him.

Of course, Bucky knew about the conference. He had planned everything around the conference. The conference gave Bucky time, time before Alex realizes he’s gone. The conference is good.

Logic wasn’t doing shit for Bucky. Rationally, Bucky knows that the image of Pierce was just that, an image. But every other part of Bucky is irrational. And every irrational part of Bucky screamed that he had to go, that there was an immediate threat, and he needed to go, right now.

"We should go. Let's go." He grabs Steve's sleeve and tugs on it pleadingly, like a child. Steve looks like he was gonna say something, but whatever expression is on Bucky's face must have changed his mind, because he nods and starts shoving leftover food in one of the brown paper bags.

They get out to the van when Steve caught Bucky's arm.

"You should let me drive."

"What?"

"You look like you could use some rest. Let me drive."

Bucky is extremely hesitant. "You sure you're not gonna just turn around and drive us back around to D.C., right?"

"'Course not." Steve holds out his hand for the screwdriver to start the car. Bucky holds it to his chest. Steve rolls his eyes. "Bucky, I'm not gonna take you back there. I promise."

He looks genuine enough, and Bucky is tired. Really tired, actually. Should he be this tired? He shrugs it off as coming down from the coursing adrenaline high. He hands Steve the screwdriver and climbs into the passenger seat, drawing his knees to his chest and pulling his hood over his eyes.

Steve struggles to get the engine to start, and when he does, he looks over at Bucky. "Where to, Buck?"

Bucky hugs his knees and pulls his map out from his pocket. He practically has it memorized. That’s a lie, he completely has it memorized. He flattens it out on the dashboard and points to the highlighted route that made absolutely no practical sense. He had wanted to get to Brooklyn as fast as possible, but Natalia and Clint had explained the importance of back roads; fewer cameras, fewer people, fewer traffic cops. He had also designed the route so it was nearly impossible to guess which way he could be going. It would take two lefts instead of a right, go back on roads it had already passed, and so on.

Steve furrowes his eyebrows at the map, trying to make sense of it. Bucky wants to tell him it was a real spy map, made by real spies, but thought about how crazy he must already seem to Steve, and decides against it. Steve studies the map for a while, nods once, and pulls out of the parking lot.

They drive in relative ease, silent but not uncomfortable. Slowly, Bucky lets himself relax enough to doze slightly, resting his head against the cool glass.

 


 

He naps fitfully, starting awake whenever the car stopped only to be lulled back asleep by the car engine and Steve's tone-deaf crooning to whatever was on the radio. He dreams in flashes of blond hair and open road.

After almost 2 hours of this, the car parks and the is door opened and slammed. Bucky lifts his head groggily and groans at the crick in his neck. He looks around dazedly and sees Steve at the gas pump, putting the nozzle back in the machine. He catches Bucky's eye and walks back to the car. Bucky reaches over and rolls down the driver's side window.

"Yeah?" Bucky asks, yawning.

"You're paying for gas." Steve states, leaning on the door.

"'Course," Bucky said, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes and reaching down to his bag and pulling out a wad of bills. "How-" he yawns again. "How much was it?"

"68 dollars." Steve says, eyeing the bundle in Bucky's hands. Bucky nods, hands him a 50 and a 20, and then curls back up in his seat. Steve goes into the shop to pay, and comes back out with a packet of white powdered Donettes.

He gets back in the car and smirks at Bucky.  "You good there, sleepyhead?"

Bucky lazily gives him the finger and then sits up a bit, blinking away sleep dust. "You need me to drive?"

"No, you're fine, pal." Steve reassures, starting the car and pulling out of the gas station.

Bucky shakes his head like a wet dog, trying to get rid of the last vestiges of sleep. He blinks at Steve then remembers something important. "Hey, can I borrow your phone?"

Steve looks weary. "Why?"

"I gotta text someone."

"Can't you use your own?"

Bucky stretches out. "Don't got one." Which isn’t exactly a lie. His phone is still at the house. He had been too worried that it would be tracked if he took it, which was far more likely than not.

Steve still looks cautious, which, okay, was totally fair.

"Steve," he says, in his shmoozing slimey politicians voice, his "I'm a charming young man" voice.  "Just because I stole your van doesn't mean I'm a thief."

Steve sighs and reaches in his pocket to give Bucky his phone. He holds it out, but doesn’t let go of it when Bucky grabs it.

"You're just borrowing my van, so get your damn feet off the dash."

Bucky does so with a little salute. Steve rolls his eyes and relinquishes his grip on the phone with a muttered “little shit”

Bucky punches in the number he knows better than his own and fires off a quick text.

 

Soldier to Widow, come in Widow

He waits a few moments, bouncing his leg up and down. When he doesn’t get a reply, he texts again.

Widow, do you copy?

The phone pings.

The Widow is currently indisposed. This is The Hawk, over.

Bucky grins so hard his face hurts. If Natasha weren’t so damn terrifying, he would marry Clint.

I read you loud and clear, Hawk; over.

What is your situation, Soldier?

The phone buzzes again

Over.

SNAFU. Should reach your locale in 0800 hours. Over.

:) over

 

Bucky lets out a breath and leans his head against the headrest. He puts the phone in the cup holder between them and turns his grin to Steve.

"Thank you."  

Steve quirks up one side of his mouth, keeping his eyes on the road. "Happy to help."

And Bucky… Bucky believes him

 

Chapter Text

Steve isn’t really  sure what was going on with the kid in the passenger's seat, but he knows that he’s fucked. The kid he means. Or, well, if he’s being honest, Steve too.

Bucky, when he wasn't strung taut like a live wire and actually allowed himself to rest, was positively kittenish.

Which is propably terrible thought to have about one's kidnapper, but Bucky seemed to just be a scared kid.

Said scared kid is currently staring out the window with his stupid hood up over his head, yawning periodically and rubbing his face to keep himself awake. Steve thinks he saw Bucky even pinch himself once. He just looks so young when he isn't acting so goddamn shady.

Drumming his fingers on the steering wheel, Steve tells himself that his expanding curiosity is really only natural. Especially with the downright suspicious map. He glances at Bucky.

"Hey," he says, breaking the companionable silence and making the boy jump. "You wanna play a road trip game?"

Bucky eyes him suspiciously. "Sure?"

"How about..." Steve pretends to think about it, actually going as far as tapping his finger on his chin.  "20 Questions?"

Bucky snorts and turns back to the window.

Yeah, real subtle Rogers, he chides himself.

Okay, Steve was lying to himself when he said he doesn't know what Bucky's deal is. He knows what Bucky's deal is, he just doesn’t like it. The kid is obviously running from something, and with the bruise on his face and his skittish behavior, it really isn’t hard to tell from what. Steve knows the look, he had seen it plenty of times from the kids in his neighborhood. How Bucky's eyes flickers all around, like he’s expecting to get jumped. How he braces himself for a hit every time he says something cheeky. How much he flinches when Steve raises his voice. Steve knows what Bucky is running from, and it’s something really really bad.

Steve hands are shaking on the steering wheel. He isn’t sure if it was anger or something else.

"Look," he says, trying to put on his 'cute, pathetic, labrador puppy face' as Sam called it. "You don't gotta answer any questions you don't wanna. I just don't wanna feel like I'm driving around with the stranger who kidnapped me is all."

Bucky sighs despairingly and grumbles something Steve doesn’t quite catch. He turns to Steve anyway and holds out his hands in a gesture of surrender. "Fine. Whaddya wanna know?"

Steve taps his fingers on the dashboard, trying to think of a question that wouldn't spook the kid. "What's your favorite color?" Ugh. He winces at his own awkwardness. This is like trying to ask Sharon to prom and ending up having an asthma attack. High school all over again.

Bucky shrugs. "Blue maybe? What about you?"

"Oh," Steve says, sheepishly. "Um, I'm actually colorblind."

Bucky barks out a laugh. "Of course you are."

"I like the idea of red, though." Steve says thoughtfully.

That just made Bucky snicker more, which fills Steve with pride. He calms himself down and bites the inside of his cheek. "Okay, okay. Uh, what'd you want to be when you grew up? When you were a kid, I mean."

Steve thinks about lying, but he trusted that Bucky won’t laugh at him.  "I wanted to be a soldier." He tells him.

Bucky looks at Steve and nods. "I can see that. I went to military school for a year, y'know. Camp Lehigh."

Steve looks at Bucky, raising an eyebrow. Bucky laughs. "I know, I know. So not cut out for it. Me and these 5 other guys, we used to get in trouble constantly. We questioned orders, tried to instigate a coup, messed with the uniforms, even tried to start a rock band called The Commandos." Bucky is smiling effortlessly at the memory. "We were terrible. I was a pretty good shot though. The fact that I wasn't useless really pissed off Shmidt, the Major. He was a real sonavabitch. Though, to be fair, we completely tormented him. He totally had it coming though, anti-semitic bastard."

He leans back and looks at Steve. "But you, I bet you'd do real good there, Steve. Be a real leader."

Steve snorts self-deprecatingly. "Me? Who'd follow me?"

"I would, I think."

Steve looks at Bucky, who shrugs. "I'm just saying. You seem really.... capable."

"I can't even go up a flight of stairs without taking a breather. Kids literally used to steal my lunch money." Steve thinks back to Hodge and his gang, and can't help but clench his fist.

"That's not what I mean. I mean, like..." He thinks for a moment. "Like, you always fought back right? Even when you knew you couldn't win? And, and, you always stuck up for the little guy, even though you were, well,  a little guy."

Steve looks at Bucky and wonders how this kid knew him so well. This whole time Steve had been trying to figure Bucky out, he hadn’t even considered that the kid would be doing the same.  Steve nods.

Bucky smiles. "See? That's someone I would follow."

Steve clears his throat and stares at the road in front of him. "So," he says hoarsely, "Favorite movie?"

 


 

Bucky is hungry. He is hungry, but he doesn’t want to say anything, doesn’t want to ask Steve for even more than he’s already given Bucky. The leftovers from Wendy’s were long gone, and his stomach is rumbling in displeasure. He shifts in his seat and chews on the drawstring of his hoodie. Steve looks over at him and hums. "You wanna get some food, Buck?"

Bucky bounces his leg. "No, I'm good." Stupid. That was stupid. He knew it wasn't trick question, that Steve wouldn't do that, that Steve isn’t- he just isn’t.

Steve is half watching the road and half watching him, frowning. "Well I'm hungry. You mind if we grab some lunch, pal?"

Bucky shakes his head and taps his fingers on his knee. He’s chewing the inside of his cheek nervously, counting his breaths. There’s something wrong, has been since he saw Pierce on TV at the Wendy’s. He thought it had been nerves finally catching up to him, or maybe an adrenaline crash, but now he knows it’s something else entirely. Something worse. But not something he can’t fight, he tells himself.

He can feel Steve glancing at him from the corner of his eye.

They pull in front of a chrome diner of outside Wilksberry. When Bucky steps out of the van, he nearly falls over; his legs shaking and coltish. Steve rushes over and grabs Bucky's elbow as he slumps against the car. "You feeling okay, partner?"

Bucky smiles reassuringly at Steve's concerned frowning. The little blond was really warming up to him. He could tell, looking at both of Steve’s faces. Bucky blinks hard until Steve becomes one entity, and they start walking. The get into the diner and sit in a red plastic booth. Bucky sits on his hands so Steve doesn’t see them shake. Bucky starts running diagnostics in his head, trying to figure out how bad this was, if he could keep going.

The waitress comes by with lipstick stained teeth and cigarette stained fingers and gives them a big smile.

"What can I get for you, hon?" She asks Steve, flipping her dyed red hair over one shoulder. Steve eyes the menu, then looks up at her. "I'll have a banana pancake, no nuts? And um, coffee. Decaf please." He shuts his menu and puts it down on the table. The waitress turns to Bucky. "And for you, sweetheart?" Bucky picks up both his and Steve's menu, handing it to the waitress with a winning smile that never fails to please mom-types. "A huge stack of chocolate chip waffles with extra whip cream and a strawberry milk, please, Deborah?"  He said, reading her name tag. She smiles at him and walks away, tucking her pencil behind her ear.

There’s sweat beading at Bucky's forehead. He wipes it away and tugs the sleeves of his hoodie down farther. Steve looks desperately like he wants to say something, but before he could open is mouth his phone started ringing, the song upbeat and patriotic. Steve scrambles for his phone.

"Hello, this is Steve Rogers, how may I help you?"

Bucky snorts behind his hand at Steve's formal greeting, and then mouths a 'Thank You' to Deborah when she drops of their drinks.

Steve glances at Bucky with worried confusion and tells the person on the phone, "Yes ma'am, he's here."

Well didn't that just send Bucky's heart racing.

Steve looks at Bucky again and then hands the phone to him. Bucky accepts it cautiously.

"...Yeah?" He asks the person on the other end.

"James, why is there a third party answering the phone?"

Bucky breathes a sigh of total relief. "Oh Natshechka, thank fuck, I thought-"

"Russian, Yasha. I don't want your 'Steve Rogers' to know what we are saying."  Natasha hisses in her mother tongue. 

Bucky rolled his eyes and took a sip of his strawberry milk.

"Of course, Natalia. My apologies, Tsarina. And he’s not my anything."

Steve's eyes widen at Bucky's use of Russian and Bucky tries to smile reassuringly. He knows he’s being shady as fuck. Between his bruises and his shaking and now this; Steve probably thinks Bucky's some sort of druggie assassin. 

"Do not be petulant, Yasha. Who is the man you're with?"

Bucky winces at the implication heavy in her tone. "He is a civilian."

"Why is he with you, then? And you cannot be sure either way. He could be hired by your father."

"I'm certain of it, Natalia. I...." He can't think of the Russian words to describe his predicament. "I kinda stole his car with him still in it." He says in English.

Natalia sighs and he could actually feel the magnitude at which she was her rolling her eyeballs. She's probably thinking:'Never trust a boy to do a woman's job' or something equally as snarky and badass. Across the booth, Steve pours sugar into his coffee and snickers.

"You can at least beat him in a fight if it comes down to it?" She asks half-peevishly, half-amused.

"Oh yeah," he says, and then remembers himself when Natasha cut in with a "Russian, Yasha." He smiles and says "He is at most 100 pounds soaking wet and is an...."  He can’t find the word. "Breathing problem person."

Natasha scoffs and asks "Asthmatic?"

Bucky nods. He scrambles for words, but they're escaping him, which shouldn't- "He's very… ill. In his heart and pancreas."

Diabetic?” Natasha asks.

Bucky hums in agreement. It was weird that he could remember the Russian for 'pancreas' but not 'fuck off'.

She sighs into the phone and asks “How are you doing, Yasha?” Either she's caught on to his slipping, or she's worried. Or both. Or neither. Maybe Clint had her ask.

Bucky shrugs with one arm, even though she can’t see him. “I’m fine, Nat-”

She makes an irritated sound. “How are you doing, James?”

Bucky lets out a huff. “Not good.” He hates how small he sounds. “I’m tired, I’m sick with anxiety, and I think I should’ve have stopped taking the, uh,  the medicine sooner.

Natasha is quiet for a moment. “We knew this would happen, Yasha. You said that if you stopped, he would notice. Do you need-

No, I'm fine, I can keep going-” Bucky says, waving her off.

“Bucky.” She says, voice hard. “You’re going through diazepam withdrawal. It’s perfectly fine for you to take a break. We can afford it.

Can we?” He questions. “They could already know! They could be looking for me right now!” Bucky, doesn’t, whine.

“If they are, they haven’t made it public. Even if they are, you’ve taken all the precautions, yes?”

Bucky drags a hand down his face. “Of course.

We can afford it.” Natalia reassures.

Bucky breathes, and cradles the phone between his ear and shoulder so he can wipe sweaty, shaking palms on his thighs. It sounds like she's saying something more, but if she is, he doesn't catch it. He forces himself to finish off the last of his waffle, and tries to tune back in.

Natalia says “Okay, now hand the phone to Steve Rogers.” In English.

“What?!” Bucky squeaks, also in English, because one does not squeak in Russian.

“You heard me.” She said, a smirk in her voice.

Bucky hates spies.

He hands the phone to Steve Rogers, who looks about confused as Bucky feels.

“Hello?” Steve asks.

Bucky tries to hear what Natasha says on the other end, but can’t hear her, can’t hear anything over the sound of blood rushing in his ears.

He blinks, trying to force the black spots out of his vision, trying to stay the fuck awake.

“-ky? Bucky?"

There’s a cool hand squeezing his.

“Yep. I’m good. All good.” He reassures Steve, who is frowning at him, and when did Steve stop talking on the phone with Natasha?  

Steve reaches across him, and grabs the wad of cash from Bucky’s bag, throwing 25 dollars on the table. He’s somehow managed to box up all the leftovers when Bucky wasn’t paying attention, and is now pulling Bucky up, throwing one of Bucky’s arms over his too-thin shoulders. They’re standing flush together, all the strength seemingly zapped from Bucky. His head lolls against the place where Steve’s neck meets his shoulders. It’s a really nice place to loll.

Steve pokes and prods his side. “Not here, Buck. Not yet, c’mon, buddy.”

“Aye, aye, cp’tn.” Bucky says, composing himself, drawing himself together. This isn’t the worst he’s had. He’s pulled the pieces of himself together and walked off far worse than this, on his own. Certainly he can take a few steps with Steve there, literally supporting him.

Steve and Bucky get to the van, not without some difficulty, but they get there, dammit.

And then Bucky throws up on the ground right next to it, and he can't help but think Aww, waffles. In an internal tone that sounded a lot like Clint. 

As he emptied his stomach, Steve awkwardly rubbed his back and attempted to avoid the spray. You win some, you lose some, Bucky supposes.

Once they’re in the car and on the road, Bucky tries not pass out, angry with himself for not being stronger. For letting Alexander do this to him, even now.

Steve is talking to him, has been talking to him, in low tones, not really saying much. The kind of voice you use to talk to a feral animal. Bucky is surprised it took him this long to figure it out. That that’s what Bucky is. All Bucky is. A feral animal. He should just go back. He can’t believe he thought he could leave Alexander, that he could even think that he could be something, anything without him. Fuck, he should just go back.

The car stops. Bucky’s heart stops too, thinking Steve heard him. That Steve was taking him back. He couldn’t go back, Christ. He couldn’t go back…

“Hey, hey.” Steve says, and Bucky’s unsure if Steve heard him, if maybe he was talking aloud. “We’re going to this motel, okay? And only a little because I’m scared of your friend on the phone, but mostly because you look like hell, okay? And she, for whatever reason, said I couldn’t take you to a hospital. Said you just needed some rest.”

Steve gets out of the car, slamming the door behind him, and then going around to the passenger side to retrieve Bucky.

“She also said not to show my ID, and to only pay in cash. And, I don’t know what shady ass shit you’re wrapped up in, kid, but I was not cut out to be a criminal, okay?”

He says all this while helping Bucky out of the car, grabbing his back, and half-dragging Bucky to the motel help-desk.

He may not be cut out to be a criminal, but it doesn’t seem like he has any problems helping one. Supposed one. Well, no Bucky is a car-thief, kidnapper, and soon to be traitor, he can count himself as a criminal. But maybe that isn’t why Steve was helping him. That definitely isn’t why Steve is helping him.

Bucky usually tries to see the worst in people. Not because it’s something he wants to see, but because it was something he needs to in order to survive. If this were anyone else, Bucky would assume he’d be helping Bucky because of some ulterior motive. Be it the wad of cash in Bucky’s backpack, or Bucky’s position, or even Bucky’s body.

But this is Steve. Steve is helping him because he sees someone who needed help. Because Steve is good.

Steve is so good.

Bucky starts to shiver, and feels a hand in his, guiding him. Steve stops at one of the many vacant rooms and unlocks the door, practically pushing Bucky into it. Bucky goes diligently, sitting on the bed.

“You are real luck my Ma is a nurse, let me tell you…” Steve is muttering, moving through the room. He feels Bucky’s forehead with the back of his hand and frowns. Bucky leans into the touch and sighs, because Steve has cold hands.

Said hands cup his face ever so briefly, then push Bucky down gently by his shoulder, so that he’s laying down on the bed. He disappears for a few panicky seconds, then returns with a cool, damp cloth that he places on Bucky’s forehead.

Steve unlaces Bucky’s boots and slides them off, and then throws an old, perfect quilt over Bucky. It smells like a mother should smell, like old perfume, and cinnamon apples, bubblebath.

He feels the mattress dip slightly like another body is crawling on the bed, but Bucky can’t bring himself to care. He’s already lost to consciousness.

 


 

When Bucky wakes, it’s to the disgusting feeling of being drenched in cold sweat, and the amazing feeling of a hand carding through his hair.

On the one hand, he could stay like this for hours, the soft movement lifting every bad emotion off of Bucky’s shoulder with every ministration. A scratch of nails against scalp, there goes his boiling anger. A twirl of hair around a finger, no more anxiety. A soothing pet, and Bucky’s never felt pain in his life.

On the other hand, he can smell himself, and that’s never a good sign. Also, his mouth tastes like death. And he’s gotta pee.

There’s a slight tug on his hair that sends a shiver down his spine, and the hand on his head stills, then withdraws.

Yep, and now the cons outweigh the pros.

Bucky scrunches his nose, and slowly sits up, trying not to move too quickly and make himself pass out again.

He arches his back when he sits fully upright, popping his spine with a “it hurts so good” whimper and then, finally, he opens his eyes.

He blinks a few times, letting his himself adjust to the light. He smiles at Steve Rogers, who’s sitting on the bed, amazingly still here.

“Hey,” he says, sounding like a chain smoker.

It may just be the evening lighting coming through the window, but Steve looks a bit pink.

He’s resting a sketchbook on his knees and has a charcoal pencil in his hand. He smiles back at Bucky.

“Hey.” He says back, clearing his throat. “You look a bit better. At least, not like death warmed over, at least.”

“Yeah,” Bucky says, embarrassed. He scratches his jaw. “Yeah. Thanks for, ya know,” He waves a vague hand.  “You didn’t have to do that.”

Steve waves it off. “You would’ve done the same for me.” He states, dismissively.

Bucky is struck by the sudden realization that he would. Like this guy isn’t the absolute fucking stranger that he absolutely fucking is. Like they’re old pals that care about each other, that trust each other. That take care of each other when they’re sick.

“Well,” Bucky croaks. “Thanks anyway, while I’m lucid.”

Steve nods, and goes back to sketching whatever it is he’s sketching. Bucky shifts his feet, and shakes his hands, that are, annoyingly, tingling. Like some part of his body has to remind his that he skipped his meds twice in a row, and now he’s suffering the consequences. Like his body’s punishing him for trying to get rid of Alexander’s poison, for trying to gain some sense of agency for once in his fucking life.

He shakes his head, trying to shake the emotions out of where they don’t belong. “Anyway,” he tells Steve. “I’m pretty fucking ripe. Imma go take a shower.”

“Please don’t slip and kill yourself,” Steve calls after him, as he walks into the bathroom.

 


 

Steve watches as Bucky shuts the door and runs a hand through his hair, wondering how on Earth he got here. He tosses his (pretty incriminating) sketchbook into his bag, then reaches for the nightstand for the remote.

His jaw drops when he turns on the news and the first thing he sees is Bucky's face.

 

Chapter Text

Bucky turns on the shower spray until it goes from ‘defrosting lake’ to ‘mount doom’, and steps in under the only just not boiling water. He hisses through his teeth, but forces himself to relax. He had the grabbed one of the motel washcloths, which ew, unsanitary, he knows; and is currently rubbing his skin raw with it. He knows it’s really not doing much, but it makes him feel about 10 years lighter, washing off the sweat and grime and anxiety of the past few hours.

As he goes through the motions, he begins to assess, compartmentalize. Bucky is nothing if not pragmatic, if only by necessity. The tingling in his limbs is annoying but acceptable. There’s still a fine tremor in his body, like he had just done something rigorous and stopped abruptly, but it’s not overwhelming. The nausea is only a mild discomfort now, not like he’s in danger of hurling again, which is good, because Bucky doesn’t like hurling. The less hurling, the better. He’s still fairly light-headed, but only when he makes too fast movements, so it’s no big deal, really.

Still, he resolves to tell Steve and/or Natasha when things get to be too much for him. He read once that valium withdrawal can cause hallucinations and seizures, which are two things that Bucky doesn’t need in his life, so he won’t push himself. If he drops dead before he gets to Brooklyn, there’s pretty much no point.

So, yeah, communication.

 


 

 

Steve hears the shower shut off and lunges for the remote, shutting off the TV almost violently. He sits there, gaping, distantly listening to Bucky hum what sounds like the theme from Ghostbusters. He needs to confront Bucky.

That… that’s what he’s gotta do, because-

No, but if he confronts Bucky there will probably be yelling (on Steve’s side), and flinching (on Bucky’s side) and Steve… Steve really doesn’t want that. Steve has liked this twisted escapade in his own weird way. Just leaving without telling people, packing up and driving to New York. It gives him a sense of adventure, excitement. It's oddly cathartic. He was bored in D.C., and he didn’t even realize it.

But this now? This was waaaay too much adventure. Steve was happy before, knowing the only danger he faced was that of his traitorous body doing everything in its power to not work. Call him an old man, but he does not want to be on some government dude’s hit list.

But.

Bucky.

He likes Bucky. He likes Bucky a lot. And he liked Bucky a hell of a lot more when Steve thought he was just a jumpy, paranoid, freaking adorable runaway who was too smart for his own good, and was so freaking adorable.

Well, he still is all those things. And maybe, Steve can pretend that he thinks Bucky is just those things. He can pretend he never saw the news, and they can go back to bickering over the radio and trying to figure each other out.

The voice of his mother comes to Steve. “Communication is key in all relationships, sweetheart.”

Steve grits his teeth. His mother is always right.

Dammit.

Communication it is, then.

 


 

Bucky manages to find a disgusting motel towel underneath the sink, and really hopes isn’t plague ridden as he towels out his hair. He steps out into the room with the towel wrapped around his waist. He sees Steve pacing in the corner, muttering to himself, the weirdo.

“Hey, man. You, like, okay?”

Steve’s head shoots up and looks at Bucky, eyes trailing and then darting away. He turns an adorable shade of pink and then looks at his feet, then at the ceiling, then out the window. “Yeah,” he mutters. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

He finally looks at Bucky, focusing relentlessly on his eyes.

They stare at each other like that for what feels like a fucking ion.

“Hey, so what-?” Bucky starts. “So, Bucky, listen-” Steve says, stepping forward.

They both stop and look at each other, Bucky amusedly biting his lip and Steve looking strangely queasy. Steve waves a gesture as if to say ‘you first’.

Bucky twists the hems of the towel in his hands. “What time is it?”

Steve glances at his watch. “Uh, 6:45.”

Bucky sighs, relieved. “Great, I was only asleep for what, like, 5 hours?”

Steve’s face shuts down in what was not an encouraging way at all. “No, Buck-” He bites his tongue and looks down. “It’s, uh,  6:45 in the morning.”

“But- but,” Bucky stutters, heart in his stomach. “The sun is setting.” He says, pointing at the window, almost desperately.

Steve’s lips press together in a thin, unhappy line. “That’s the east. The sun is rising.”

“Oh.” Bucky blinks and sits down on the edge of the bed like a puppet with the strings cut. “Oh.”

He rubs a hand over his mouth. “Well, fuck.” He laughs, wetly. He swallows and leans back. “Um, okay. Fuck.” He shakes his head, trying to be sensible. He wrings his hands and stands, grabbing his backpack and pulling out new clothes, and shoving the ball of gross, sweaty clothes deep into the bag. He pulls the clothes on as quick as humanly possible and turns to Steve, who looks shocky and tired and sad, and self-flagellating!Bucky lets himself feel the pang of guilt before pragmatist!Bucky tells him he needs to move his ass. Bucky grabs Steve’s shoes and puts them in Steve’s arms, and then unplugs the weird machine on the nightstand that he assumes is Steve’s.

He turns it over in his hands. “What is this?”

Steve grabs it from him, cradling it to his chest. “It’s my nebulizer, I need it to breathe.”

Bucky nods, then starts shoving the rest of Steve’s stuff into his bag. “Cool.”

“Buck- Hey, Bucky.” Steve grabs his arm, and Bucky spins and hands Steve his backpack. Then shrugs his own over his shoulders and circles his wrist, tugging him towards the door. “Bucky, stop!” Steve turns his hand around so that he was holding onto Bucky’s forearm. Bucky finally looks at him and creases his brow.

“I kn- you were on the news.” He says, slowly, carefully. “You were on the news, because you’re missing, and your, um, your father was holding a conference. He’s looking for you. He, uh, seems worried. Thinks you were kidnapped."

For a moment, Steve is terrified that Bucky is going to pitch over. He is sheet pale, and has an expression like deer in the headlights. Then the expression morphs into a snarl and he careens into Steve’s space, ripping his arm out of Steve’s grasp.

“Alexander Pierce.” He spits. “Is not my father.”

He shaking now, with anger or with withdrawal, or with something else entirely. “He’s not worried, he doesn’t give a damn,  he’s just pissed that he lost his fucking property.”

His chest is heaving, but he’s not pulling any real air in. His eyes are wide with panic, and Steve is worried the kid was having an asthma attack. Then, he clenches his fists hard enough to draw blood from his palms and visibly collects himself. Steve swallows, eyes flicking over Bucky’s face. Maybe communication was not the best plan.

Shit.

Bucky opens his eyes, hyper-focused.”How bad is it?”

Steve blinks, concerned, confused, and kind of angry, but unsure with whom. “How- what?”

“The news. Is it everywhere? Will I be able to walk around without everyone noticing?” Bucky clarifies.

“Uh…” Steve gets his phone from his pocket, scrolling through and wincing every now and then.

“Well, uh, no. You’re basically on the front page of every news outlet, um, you’re trending on Twitter, and there’s an APB out for you in every state. So, um. Yeah.” He winces at Bucky’s blank face.

Bucky sighs in a way that ruffles his hair. He nods and grimaces bitterly. “Rich white boy goes missing, of course it’s national news.”

Steve chews on a fingernail and shrugs with one arm. “Doesn’t help that your d- um, guardian is the Secretary of Defence. Oh! And there are some texts for you from your scary friend.”

Bucky takes the phone eagerly, reading through the texts from Natasha and Clint. They all said reassuring things about him needing his rest, and everything would be fine, they had seen this probability coming and were prepared, everything would be fine, don’t panic, just get back on the road and stick to the plan, everything would be fine.

Bucky clenches his jaw and lets himself breathe. He looks back up at Steve, handing him the phone back. “I’ll drive.” He says.

 


 

Steve is frankly amazed at Bucky's ability to drive just like a mother of 5.

When Steve makes this known to Bucky, Bucky says something rude about Steve's van, when really, Steve was just trying to make him feel better by complimenting his blending skills. He lets it go, if only because Bucky's having a rough day.

They were sitting in silence. Bucky's anxious, and Steve's wary. Steve has questions. God, does Steve have questions. He has so many questions, he feels like he'll die if he doesn't ask just one.

But Steve has to respect Bucky's boundaries.

Bucky is vulnerable, and he obviously hates it. Steve is terrified of talking, because when he says the wrong thing, and he know he will, it's only a matter of time, he won't be able to stand watching Bucky shatter. He worried that he won't be able to collect all the pieces of Bucky, terrified that he can only do so much to put him back together. Because Bucky is already just glue and tape and broken bits.

And Steve's never been much good at repairing anything.

He sinks in his seat glumly and watches Bucky's white knuckles on the steering wheel and thinks of the ways he could make Bucky relax.

Thinks of when he dragged his hands through dark, silky hair and got a contented sigh in response. Thinks about strong, capable hands and what they would they would feel like on his back. Thinks about features too soft, too gentle to look scared. Thinks about bitten lips, and warm skin, and perpetually damp eyes. Then he stops thinking, because Bucky is 17 and the son of a very powerful man that Steve hates and is obviously not in a very good place right now. Plus it's probably rude to fantasize when the object of said fantasies is sitting right there.

Steve shifts in his seat. Bucky's eyes seem glazed over, still paying attention to the road, but his mind somewhere miles away.

“Um, hey, Bucky?” he says uncertainly, throat clicking on the k sound.

Bucky hums and glances at Steve in question. Steve points the the cup holder in the driver’s side door. “Can you hand me my water bottle? Gotta take my meds.”

Bucky blinks and reaches into the door and handed the water to Steve with a “Yeah, ‘course… sorry.”

“What for?” Steve asks, digging through his duffel bag and pulling out a pillbox with the days of the week printed on each compartment. He retrieves his handful of pills and puts them in his mouth with a grimace, then swigs the water and swallows uncomfortably.

“Just for,” Bucky waves a hand. “Lying, I guess. And um, yelling at you. And dragging you into this mess with me, I guess.” He sighs and it sounds angry and tired and sad. “I’m just… sorry. Shit, I’m sorry.”

Steve cautiously grabs the hand that Bucky is clenching on his thigh and rubs his thumb over the knuckles. “Next time you apologize for something that isn’t your fault, you’re gonna owe me a nickel, Barnes.”

“My name’s not actually Barnes.” He mumbles guiltily.  “’m ‘Pierce’” He says the name with more than a little distain. “James Pierce.”

Steve shakes his head, and squeezes Bucky’s hand. “Nah.” He says. “You’re whoever the hell you wanna be, and if you wanna Bucky Barnes, then you’re Bucky Barnes, dammit.”

Bucky doesn’t say anything, doesn’t take his eyes off the road, but his hand relaxes.

 

Steve intertwines their fingers.

 

Chapter Text

 

Bucky wants to know what amazing thing he did to deserve a kidnapee like Steve Rogers.

 

When Bucky was younger, he used to believe that if he wished for something enough, wanted it so badly that it ached, that it felt like he might die without it, maybe he’d get his wish.

But Bucky was cursed, like a prince in a fairytale, so he stopped making wishes. Because every time he did, they’d go rotten; like a poisoned apple.

When he was 7, he wished for someone kind and rich and pretty to adopt him. Then, one day, a man with blond hair and blue eyes and a white smile and a limousine walked into the orphanage and called James perfect. He remembers thinking the same thing about Alexander, who would make every rotten wish come true.

When he was 9, James wished that his real parents would come back, say it was all a mistake, that they were here now, and they were going to be a family. Then Alexander had hired a maid named Winifred with dark hair that fell in her face and eyes that were pale like James’. She showed James that the best way to beat someone was to stand up every time they knock you down, by actually standing up against Pierce but never raising a hand when he did. She taught him to remember little things like photographs,  and she pushed the hair out of his eyes when he cried. She called him Bucky, and he had loved her. It might have been Bucky’s growing obstinance, or perhaps his growing adoration for the maid had Alexander jealous. Either way, she left with Mr. Rumlow and never came back. And Bucky had known, even then, what that meant.

When he was 14, he was desperately lonely and wanted a good friend more than anything in the world. That was the year Alexander was ‘too busy with work’ and sent him to military school. He didn’t get good friend, but 5 great ones. He was the happiest he’d ever been, acting out against and running away from authority gave him a thrill instead of a lurch. Of course, once Alexander finally got word of Bucky’s shenanigans, Bucky never got to see his friends again.

Hell, after that, he hardly got to see anything again. The evil king locked him in his tower, only to be let out to charm politicians at galas and to look pretty in his place standing next to Alexander, who put his arm around Bucky and called him his son, his pride and joy, his darling boy, his James, his.

When Bucky was 15, when wanted not to be able to feel anything. He tried to grant his own wish by downing a bottle of pills with a vodka chaser and deciding not to leave a note because , the only person this would hurt was Alexander, and Alexander would know why he’d done it.

Bucky lived, saved by Alexander. A fact that Bucky would always look back on with bitterness.

After his stomach was pumped and he was rested, Alexander and the good doctor Zola gave him more pills. Better pills. Pills that made Bucky numb, which is what he wanted in the first place. Pills that made Bucky complacent.

When he was 16, Bucky wished for a knight to save him from his tower. One day, Alexander had an old friend visit. His name was Nick Fury and he was the Director of SHIELD. Of course, Bucky knew about SHIELD, about how it was different than what everyone thought it was. Bucky knew a lot of things like that. Like how Alex was proposing an alleged surveillance system for the nation, swearing by its Minority Report-esque technology. Of course, Alexander hadn't told Congress about how his Insight Program would probably kill hundreds of thousands, or at least anyone he deemed a threat. Bucky’s head was full of information like that, but he was too busy drowning under the relentless sea of apathy caused by Alex’s pills to share any of it. Nick Fury had given Bucky his card when he left and said “We’ll be in touch”, which was strange, because he hadn’t spoken to Bucky once the whole night up until that point.

Bucky figured that he had literally nothing to lose, so he called the number.

This was how he met Agents Barton and Romanov.

They correspondent through a series of encrypted emails and phone calls over secure lines so that Alexander wouldn’t know about their communications.

They had figured out that something was wrong with SHIELD, and that Alexander was part of it. When Fury had visited, he had been trying to get intel and when he hadn’t, figured that Alexander’s miserable looking and bruised teenaged son wouldn’t have any problems selling him out. Of course, they never said any of this outright, letting Bucky make his assumptions about their boss. In turn, Bucky let them make their assumptions about Alexander.

They made plans for Bucky to come to New York, where he’d be safe. They designed the map together and talked about every possible outcome. They didn’t let Bucky tell him the information he knew. Natasha had told him it was because no server is ever truly secure; but some part of Bucky suspected it was so that they could protect him, that he had to come to New York, away from Pierce, and not just dump all of his knowledge on them and then never see them again, stuck in his tower.

It wasn’t all spy stuff and subterfuge though. Natasha taught him Russian, and Clint taught him ASL; both assassins impressed with his memory retention, Nat calling it “eidetic” and Clint calling  it "fucking creepy."

They decided on a day that he would leave, and Bucky made Natalia go over the plan with him nearly obsessively, and Natasha made Clint reassure Bucky again and again that he’d be fine.

 

Bucky was his own knight, rescuing himself from his tower.

The only thing wrong with his rescue, was that he had accidentally taken a dragon with him.

But, Bucky decided, it wasn't really a bad thing, having a dragon on his side.


 

A little ways out of Scranton, they pulled up to a red light next to convertible Mustang of an obnoxious color. The occupants were a group of straight white boys, Steve’s worst nightmare. They were all wearing backwards hats and sunglasses and muscle shirts, sitting on the backs of chairs and hanging out of the car in a way that could not possibly be safe. The hollered and whooped and the driver started revving the engine. Steve glared at them, and Bucky sighed and rolled his eyes, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. He clearly wanted his red light from hell to just turn green. As the fuckboys next to them grew rowdier and their engine grew louder, Steve was feeling less and less dignified, feeling like his honor was being expunged upon. He looked at Bucky, opening his mouth before Bucky cut him off.

“No, Steve.”

“What?” Steve says, feigning innocence. “I didn’t say a word.”

“You were thinking it. The answer is no.” Bucky says, final.

“But-!” Steve protests, sputtering.

“Steve, I am not drag racing in a minivan.”

“You have to defend Vanna’s honour!” Steve proclaims. “We have to put them in their place!”

“You named your van Vanna?” Bucky’s lip quirks up, then he shakes his head. “We’re not stooping to their level, Steven.”

Steve crosses his arms and huffs. They both turned to watch the red light. There’s silence for a moment.

“I’ll pay you.” Steve says, eyes still fixed on the traffic light.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Bucky bite his lip and shake with quiet laughter. “Look,” he says finally. “Does it really mean all that much to you?” Bucky asks.

“Yes! Yes it does. Bucky. So important.” He flails his arms, trying to illustrate the gravity of the situation to Bucky.

Bucky chuckles and pinches the bridge of his nose. He gives Steve a long considering look and shakes his head, smiling beautifully. Then he grabbed the wheel and began revving the engine.

Steve throws his arms in the air and cheers.

Bucky rolls his eyes at him, but he’s still smiling.

The light finally, finally turns green. And they’re off.

Bucky slams his foot on the gas, and Steve giggles at the sudden rush of adrenaline and speed. Next to him, Bucky makes race car noises, amazingly keeping neck-to-neck with the Mustang.  Bucky continues at top speed, his grin growing malicious. The Mustang slows slightly to switch gears, and Bucky takes his shot. He presses the gas all the way down and swerves in front of the Mustang. Steve thinks it’s the most badass thing he’s ever seen, even if Bucky did turn on the blinker first.

Behind them, the delinquents in the car yell profanities and flip them off. Bucky is laugh is like a bell, and Steve takes the chance, and throws his skinny arms around Bucky’s shoulders.

“That was amazing! You were amazing.” He tells Bucky, who’s face is pink, probably from the rush.

“I had to take defensive driving,” Bucky says, giddy. “In order to keep my license after I crashed Alex’s Bentley. I only got to do two classes before he found out though, so technically I don't have a valid licence and I'm breaking the law here.”

Steve snorts. “Which one? You’re up to like, 4.”  He can see Bucky go through a mental list, counting on his fingers. Steve watches his lips move, and lip-reads: kidnapping, grand theft auto, driving without a license, street racing, speeding, treason… Treason? Steve stops lip-reading. That couldn’t be right, and if it is, Steve doesn't even wanna know.

 

They're both drawn out of their thoughts by a flash of blue and red and a loud siren. Bucky’s eyes widen dramatically as he slows down and pulls over. He turns a terrified gaze to Steve, closes his eyes and breathes through his nose, and unbuckles his seatbelt.

“Switch with me.” Bucky tells him. Steve nods, understanding immediately. He helps Steve over the console, then slides smoothly into the passenger seat. The only sign of his anxiety is the obsessive wringing of his hands. Steve glances in the rearview where the police officer was checking the van’s license plate number on her computer, and his nerves rise. “Do you think she’ll notice?” He asks Bucky.

Bucky eyes him critically. “Maybe if you sat on a phonebook, then-”

Steve hits him on the thigh. The policewoman is getting out of her car. Steve heart jumps into his throat. “Bucky…?” He says, embarrassed as his voice rises in pitch. “What- um. What should I tell her?”

Bucky waves dismissively. “Make something up.”

“I’m can’t lie to an officer of the law!” Steve hisses through his teeth.

Bucky rolls his eyes and leans over Steve and reaches for his belt. “What are you doing?!” He squeaks.

“I’m sorry, just go with it.” Bucky says, unzipping Steve’s fly and then looking into the mirror, biting at his lips and ruffling his hair, making it look . Steve watches, hypnotised as Bucky sucks and bites and licks his lips, making them look darker and shiny and swollen.

Steve jerks his eyes away when a rapping at his window makes them both jump. Steve rolls down the window and tries to smile at the cop, face burning.

“Uh, there a problem officer?” He asks shakily.

She smiles politely at him. “You boys know how fast you were going?” She glances at Steve’s lap, then at Bucky who is- ohdeargod- wiping his mouth. Bucky smirks at the patrolwoman. “Not a clue.” He glances at Steve, mirth dancing behind his eyes. “Tell us.”

The police officer raises an unimpressed eyebrow. “Well when I caught up to you, you were doing 95.”

Bucky whistles lowly.

Steve blanches. “Oh, I’m sorry officer, I-I had no idea,”

She sighs and looks back to Bucky. “Of course you didn’t.” She looks at Steve. “Can I see your license and registration, please, son?” Steve nods a little too rigorously, and reaches over Bucky to get his registration from the glovebox, pushing his bag of pill bottles out of the way. He sits back in his seat and hands the papers to the officer. Then he checks his pockets and his cupholders for his wallet. He looks by Bucky’s feet at his backpack. “Buc- um, babe?” He asks Bucky, “Can you check the first zipper for my wallet, please?”

Bucky nods, looking a little too pleased at the endearment and reaches for the bag, handing Steve his wallet with a completely unnecessary drag of fingers along Steve’s wrist. Steve splutters, his ears burning. He gives the officer his license with a tight smile, and as she walks back to her car.

As soon as her back is turned, Steve backhands Bucky’s chest, then slaps at his hands when Bucky tries to stop him.

“Oh. My God.” Steve says, and then buries his face in his hands. “Oh my god!” He says again, slightly muffled.

Bucky cackles malevolently as Steve zips up his fly. Steve glares at him, buckling his belt. “You are a bad, bad person.” Bucky smiles at him, dimples flashing. “Pure evil.” Steve hisses.

Bucky combs his hair back into place, letting his head fall back against the headrest. “Aw, Stevie, don’t be mad.” He says. Then softer, “I really am sorry, Steve.”

Steve turns his head toward Bucky and leans in. “You owe me nickel.” He says, smiling gently.

The policewoman comes back, holding paperwork. She leans into the window, handing the papers back. “So, on your record, it says you’ve had charges filed against you but doesn’t clarify what they were. You care to speak to that Mr. Rogers?”

Bucky’s head whips around so quickly that Steve worries about the boy’s neck.

“Uh,” Steve says sheepishly. “Assault while intoxicated?” He admits only half to the officer. “But the charges were dropped.” He reassures hastily. Bucky’s eyes are practically bulging out of his head.

The officer sighs and fills out a form, and hands it to Steve. “I’m gonna let you off with a warning this time, hon. I also feel that it’s my duty as an officer of the law to inform you boys that driving while, uhm, distracted is very unsafe.” She looks at Bucky pointedly

Bucky nods. “Yes, ma’am.” He agrees solemnly.

The officer looks at him, contemplatively. “Anybody ever tell you that you look like the Pierce kid?”

Bucky shrugs and shakes his head. “Must be a good lookin’ fella.” He says, grinning a dangerously charming grin.

“Uh-huh.” She says. “Can I see some identification, please?”

Bucky’s grin tightens and he goes to his wallet, pulling out, strangely enough, an Iowa University Student ID. He hands it to her and asks, “Will this work?”

The officer looks at it, then back to him, then at it again, and nods once, handing it back.

“One last question Mr. Barton.”

Bucky nods, as if to say ‘yes, please continue’.

“Where’d you get that shiner?”

Bucky tenses slightly, and Steve can’t help but place his hand over Bucky’s. Bucky quirks his mouth up in an impression of a smile. “My dad.” He says after a bit. “He wasn’t to keen about the idea of me making an honest man outta myself if it was another honest man.”

The lie was so good that Steve had a hard time not believing it himself. Then Bucky pinches the skin of Steve’s palm, and Steve takes that as his cue to speak. “You told me you walked into a door!” Steve decides to say, because, well, it was true.

The police officer frowns. “I’m sorry to hear that, Mr. Barton. If you never need anyone, give me a call.” She reaches into her coat and pulls out a card. Bucky accepts it with a thanks. “Thank you, Officer Garcia,” He says, reading off the card. “But I think I’ve got everyone I’ll need right here.” He squeezes Steve’s hand, and the officer smiles. “You boys have a nice day.” She says, and walks to her car.

 

Steve and Bucky simultaneously let out a out a puff of air, and Steve starts the car, pulling onto the road.

“Assault while intoxicated?” Bucky finally asks.

“The guy was harassing a friend of mine,” Steve explains. “I eventually got fed up when he groped her. She looked so damn pissed that she hadn’t been the one to knock him on his ass that she didn’t speak to me for a week.” Steve laughs quietly of the memory of Peggy turning pink with drunken anger that was edging on righteous fury.

Bucky scoffs. “And you think my friends are scary?”

It was Steve’s turn to question. “Mr. Barton?”

Bucky huffs and looks at the fake student ID in his hand. “My friend’s idea of a joke. He said he wanted my cover story to be his imaginary brother who went to U of Iowa, because the school’s football team is “The Iowa Hawkeyes”, which is something of a nickname of his. It’s all very meta.” He says, waving a hand. “And he wanted me to have an ID if worst came to worst, so yeah. Aaron Barton.”

“You look nothing like an Aaron.” Steve amends.

“That’s what I said.” Bucky agrees. “Just like I never looked like a James. I was born to have a really stupid nickname.”

Steve smiles. “I think it suits you.”

 


 

As they get approach New York, Bucky’ stomach starts twisting itself into knots. He wasn’t feeling at all like he should. He should be excited, he shouldn’t be able to wait, he should be relieved that his freedom was fast approaching. Instead, a sense of dread was blanketing him, choking him with its irrationalities. He was terrified of so many things, but he couldn’t figure out just what it was that was scaring him about Brooklyn.

He needs to distract himself, he decides. The run in with the cop had just frazzled his nerves was all, and he needed something to keep him away from Bad Thoughts. He grabbed Steve’s phone and played sudoku for a while, going through all the levels that had Steve stumped and beating them for him as a sign of good will. After that he play solitaire for a while, which was a card game he hated, because there was nothing appealing about it, nothing shiny or fancy about it. No opponents, to bluffing, just yourself, your thoughts, and a deck of computer generated cards. He quickly got frustrated with that and moved on to Steve’s crossword game, complaining to Steve that his phone only had old man apps. He goes through the crosswords for a while but admits defeat when he can’t fit 15 Across: “Causes Disappointment” with any variation of his name. He sighs and gives up on Steve’s phone and the idea that his Bad Thoughts could be pushed away to be dealt with later.

So, in a move that is either entirely stupid or entirely masochistic, or possibly some variation of the both, Bucky turns the radio to the news.

“-and we’re all excited to see what Stark’s big announcement might mean for the future of clean energy. Back to you, Megan.”

“Thanks, Jeffrey. Now as many of you know, the nation is holding its breath as we follow the ongoing investigation of the disappearance of James Pierce, son of the Secretary of Defence,  Alexander Pierce.”

Steve makes a distressed noise in his throat and moves to change the station, but Bucky holds his hand up to stop him.

“Earlier today, Pierce came out with a statement addressing his son’s disappearance.”

Over the radio, came a familiar voice that never failed to make Bucky’s skin crawl.

“-If any of you are parents, then you know the constant fear I face everyday, worrying about my son. And now-” His voice falters and he draws a shaking breath. He’s good, the bastard. “And now I’m terrified for him. I don’t know where he is, who he’s with, or if he’s safe or not, and it’s killing me.”

The audio clip jumps ahead in the speech. “My son, James, is mentally ill-"

“Oh you fucking son of bitch-” Bucky mutters.

“-and he doesn’t have his medication that he needs with him. My baby boy-” his voice cracks and there’s wetness in his next words. “-could be out there, lost and confused. Or he could be hurt somewhere, and I wouldn’t know.” There’s a shuttering breath, and his next words are harder, and Bucky wonders if he’s imagining the hint of threat beneath the words. “I’m- we’re doing everything in our power we can to find James. We won’t stop looking until we find my son.”

The clip jumps ahead again.

 

“If my James is out there listening and I could say one thing to him, I would just let him know that everything will be fine. Let him know that I’m coming for him.”

 

Chapter Text

When they pulled into a White Castle by Edison, Bucky resolved to tell Steve everything. Almost everything. The PG version of everything. Also everything without the bits that involved things like spies and government toppling.

Bucky bounced on his feet while they waited in line. He feels like he had swallowed stones, a low feeling at the base of his stomach expanding and twisting balefully. He’s never told anyone about Alexander, not even Clint and Natasha.

When they get their food and find at the table, Bucky pushes his sliders away from him slightly, his anxiety combining with his residual nausea, making it impossible to eat. Steve looks at him, concern in his eyes.

“Are you alright? You look a little pale.”

Bucky smiles unhappily, running a hand down his face to collect himself. He takes a breath and looks Steve in the eyes.

“When I was 7, I was adopted by Alexander Pierce.” He starts calmly.

Steve’s eyes widen, his jaw going slack. He reigns in his expression after a moment and nods, pushing his own food away.

Steve listen as Bucky intently as Bucky told him what he could. He told Steve about living as Pierce’s puppet, about how Alexander rarely hurt him physically, but had Rumlow do it. How Alexander would come to him after, rubbing Bucky’s arms, telling him that he was forgiven. He told Steve about how Pierce would ignore him for days at a time, making Bucky desperate for human contact enough that he would actually seek Alex out. Then about his growing agitation with Pierce, his acts of rebellion at Camp Lehigh and then at home. About being shown around like an object, the possessive way Alexander always spoke about him. He told Steve about the pills with vodka and pills with pills and the engulfing apathy they caused. Then he told Steve about how he had planned to get away.

He talked for a good hour and a half, and Steve listened, nodding when appropriate, gasping with anger at times, and going misty eyed at others. By the end of the story, Steve’s hand had held Bucky’s, and they both let tears fall freely in the mostly empty White Castle with a pile of untouched food in front of them. They probably made a ridiculous picture to outsiders, but they didn't care. This was just them and the heavy air between them.

“So, yeah. That’s about it. Sorry for not telling you the truth before.” Bucky smiles self-deprecatingly and wipes his wet cheeks with the back of a hand.

Steve draws a hand over his mouth a breathes with some difficulty, like he’s trying to hold back sobs. “Thank you, Bucky.” He whispers. “Thank you for sharing that with me.”

Bucky squeezes Steve’s hand to reassure him and Steve chuckles humorlessly. “Let’s go wash our faces, c’mon.”

Bucky shakes his head and pushes a slider at Steve. “After you eat something,”

Steve wrinkles his nose and takes the sandwich, “Yes, ma.” He eats it quickly in just a few bites and then grimaces.

He stands and then grabs Bucky’s arm, tugging on it. “Come onnnnnnn.”

Bucky huffs and stands up, letting Steve drag him to the bathroom. They splash water on their faces, and then on each other, giggling. Bucky feels almost weightless, like telling Steve had taken half of the burden from his shoulders. He sighs, feeling almost bubbly with relief.

Steve slips in some water and goes careening into Bucky, making them both howl with laughter, clutching each other. For the first time in a long time, Bucky is thankful that his memory was a photographic as it was; because he wants to keep this moment with him as long as he can.

They dry off with cheap paper towels, and Steve pulls opens the door. Bucky’s smiles falls off his face and his good mood ends, because standing at the counter is Jack Rollins, and he’s probably there for Bucky.

Steve takes a step out, and Bucky pulls him back by the fabric of his shirt roughly and quickly covering Steve’s mouth with his hand before he can yell at Bucky.

Steve glares at him from under Bucky’s hand, and then crosses his arms over his chest and raises his eyebrows in question. Bucky looks at the door significantly, trying to communicate what he’s trying to say with the motion. Steve shakes his head as to say ‘what?’. Bucky looks at the door again and nods toward it for emphasis. Steve shrugs, not understanding and getting frustrated about it. Bucky shoves his head emphatically towards the door, eyes wide and communicative. Steve makes an irritated sound and licks Bucky’s hand. Bucky pulls his hand away with a disgusted sound and Steve rounds on him.

“What?” He hisses.

Bucky panics, not wanting not make himself known. He grabs Steve’s wrists and drags him into the singular stall and locks the door shut, ignoring Steve’s protesting noises.

Bucky holds a finger to his own lips and hopes that Steve understands him when he signs.

OUT THERE MAN. WORKS FOR P-I-E-R-C-E.

Steve’s eyes widen.

WHAT WE DO?  He signs back.

Bucky pinches the bridge of his nose trying to think. OK, he signs YOU GO SEE.

Steve nods and unlocks the stall, and pads quietly down the bathroom. He crack the door open a sliver to check on Rollins. He turns to Bucky.

SITTING IN B-O-O-T-H. Steve tells him. CAN’T SEE US.

Bucky sighs. BACK DOOR? He asks.

Steve looks back into the restaurant and then nods once. Bucky walks up behind him, and Steve grabs his wrist. They sneak quietly and as quickly as they can through the storefront, going through the backdoor. Rollins has never been all that observant.

Once they’re outside by the dumpsters and the White Castle employees on their smoke break, the both let out relieved breaths. They start walking toward the parking lot, Steve’s grip on Bucky’s wrist loosening, but not letting go.

They get to the van and Steve walks to the driver’s side, getting in the van. Bucky throws open the passenger door and dives for something in his bag with a yelled “just two seconds!” at Steve.

He pulls up his hood and grabs the boxcutter from his bag- the sharpest implement Alex had left lying around, and therefore Bucky’s new makeshift weapon- and jogs over to the SUV that could only belong to Rollins. He slashes each of the four tires as fast as he can and runs back to Steve, throwing himself into the van when he hears a sharp “Hey!”

Rollins runs out of the White Castle, face livid with fury. His jaw goes slack, however when he sees Bucky’s face under the hoodie. Bucky smiles at him and waves his hand with a cocky, “HI, Jack, bye Jack!” As Steve burns rubber pulling out of the parking lot.

 


 

 

Jesus Christ, this kid was going to give him a heart attack.

Between Bucky’s heart-wrenching soul baring and then their near-miss with the terrifying agent guy, Steve wasn’t sure his heart would be able to take any more excitement.

Steve sighs and glances at the passenger seat, where Bucky was yawning and shifting to sit on his hands. Steve recognizes the gesture from the diner yesterday. And shit, had that only been yesterday?

“Hey, you okay?” Steve asks quietly.

Bucky grins wryly and looks at Steve. He opens his mouth, then shuts it, then opens it again. “Yeah, no.” He says finally. He pulls his hand up to show Steve. It’s shaking badly. Steve frowns at him, concerned.

“Maybe you should eat something? You didn’t touch any of your food at the White Castle.” Steve says. Bucky shakes his head, sitting back on his hand.

“No, if you make me eat, I will ruin your van’s lovely interior with my puke.” Bucky says seriously.

Steve’s frown deepens, and he brings up his hand to rest on Bucky’s forehead. Bucky slaps his hands away. “Hey- what- Stop that, I’m fine. Watch the road, would ya? You’ve already been pulled over once today.”

‘Technically,” Steve starts “You got pulled over.”

“Yes, fine” Bucky waves a shaking hand. “But only because of your weird competitive thing, and anyway, you’re the one who ended up with a warning.” He nods as if to say ‘so there’

“But I am okay, Steve. It’s just leftover withdrawal stuff combining with nerves. Nothing to worry about. If my symptoms get too bad, I’ll let you know, okay? I won’t wait until I’m ready to drop dead like last time. But I’m sure I just need a nap.” He says reassuringly.

Steve twists his mouth, but doesn’t say anything. He trusts Bucky to let him know if something’s wrong.

Bucky takes Steve’s discarded jacket from where it’s hanging out of his bag, and balls it up to use as a pillow. They stay in companionable silence like that for a while, Steve driving and letting his mind wander, and Bucky dozing lightly. Up until Steve’s phone rings, making them both jump.

The ringtone is Sam’s, so Steve picks it up.

“Hey man!” Steve greets with false cheer.

“‘Sup, Steve.” Sam says. “So: question.”

“What’s that?” Steve says, thinking of every possible horrible thing Sam could ask.

“So, like, have you been following the James Pierce disappearance at all?”

Shit, that had been one of the things Steve worried he would say. His heart drops to his stomach.

“Not intently, no. But I heard about it, yeah. Poor kid,” He tries with feeling, hoping to God that he’s convincing.

“Yeah, man. When I saw that on on the news, I thought of you, y’know? How much you hate Secretary Pierce and all.”

“Yeah.” Steve agrees warily. “Shitty guy.” He really means that last part. If Steve could, he would rip the man apart.

“Right, so, have you seen the latest bit of news, though?” Sam’s was going into his ‘I’m a psychology major, I’m psychoanalysing you’ voice. This couldn’t be good.

“Um, no?” Steve says cautiously.

“So, the kid’s been spotted apparently, with some guy they think is the kidnapper.”

Holy. Fuck. No.

“Yeah,” Sam continues. “Some government agent saw ‘em, I guess. Anyway, a sketch of the kidnapper guy is going around, right? And no shit, Steve? The guy looks just like you.”

“Is that so?” Steve says, weakly. Bucky is shooting him worried looks.

“Mm-hm. Pegs was like ‘Oh my god, is that Steve?’ And I was like ‘Naw, we’re talking ‘bout Steve “Helps Little Old Ladies Cross The Street Rogers”. He would never kidnap some poor, defenseless mentally ill little kid just because he hates the government! It’s just gotta be a coincidence.’   But then I was thinking to myself, ‘bout your impromptu visit to your mom, not telling anyone and missing class, even though you never miss class. So I just thought I’d call you up, make sure you’re not an actual kidnapper.”

Steve swallows.

“Crazy, right?” Sam continues. “Steve? Tell me I’m being crazy. Steven?”

“Shit, Steve, look out!” Bucky yells, jerking the wheel so that the van doesn’t stray into the wrong lane. 3 different people honk at them and Bucky flips them all off.

Steve switches the phone to speaker in order to keep both hands on the wheel.

“Steve?” Sam’s tone was light now. “Who was that?”

“Uh,” Steve glances at Bucky and licks his lips. “Um.” He looks to Bucky for help. Bucky just shrugs.

“I, uh, met someone and we’re running away to Vegas to get married?” He immediately slaps himself in the forehead for that one. Bucky gives him a sarcastic thumbs-up from the passenger seat and mouths ‘hang the fuck up’.

“Uh-huh.” Sam says flatly. Why couldn’t Steve just be a better liar? His life would be so much easier. “And what’s this person’s name?”

“Bucky.” Steve says immediately, ecstatic that he knows the answer to this one. “Bucky Barnes.”

“Bucky Barnes? And may I speak to ‘Bucky Barnes’, please?” Sam asks suspiciously.

“Of course!” Steve nearly shouts with relief that he gets to hand off this interrogation to Bucky. “He’s right here. Say hi, Bucky.”

“Hi, Bucky.” Bucky says, somehow putting his charming reassuring smile into his voice.

“Hello, sir, I’m Sam Wilson. Are you by any chance a son of a politician or kidnap victim?” Sam asks.

“I’m not a kidnap victim.” Bucky says, rolling his eyes.

“You sure? You haven’t been Stockholmed or nothing?” Sam presses.

“Not to my knowledge, no. Sorry to disappoint, I guess.” Then he stage-whispers so that he knows Sam will be able to hear him. “See? I told you your friends would hate me.” Damn, this kid was good.

Steve goes with it. “Sam doesn’t hate you. No one could hate you, Buck.”

“They’ll all think it was too fast-” Bucky starts.

“You can’t put a speed limit on love.” Steve says, because he’d read that somewhere. Bucky wrinkles his nose at it, and over the phone, Sam groans.

“So you really are making an honest man out of our Steve, huh?” Sam asks, not quite convinced, but distracted enough away from the kidnapping thing, that Steve counts it as a win.

“I think Steve’s gonna be the one making an honest man outta me.” Bucky confieds, and Sam groans again.

“Okay, that was way more than I needed to know. Ugh. Wait, is that the- shit. I have a class to get to, but this isn’t over Rogers. If you really getting married, you’re in deep shit because you didn’t tell anyone.”

“Fair.” Steve says.

“And, well, you just better not be kidnapping that boy, clear?”

“Crystal.” Steve answers.

Sam sighs. “Alright. Love you, man. Stay safe.”

“You too, Sam. Bye.” Steve hangs up and hits his head against the headrest 3 times.

“He seemed nice,” Bucky says, false-brightly.

They pass the “Welcome to New York, The Empire State” sign, and something akin to dread settles in both their stomachs.

 


 

As they get closer to Manhattan, Bucky gets more and more antsy, shifting in his seat and looking at Steve. He had texted his sketchy friends and told Steve that it would be okay, that they would fix it. Oddly enough, Steve wasn’t too worried about being wanted for kidnapping the child of a government official. He was worried about a litany of things at the moment, about what might happen if Pierce finds Bucky, about what waits in store for Bucky in New York if he doesn’t, about what the hell was making Bucky so damn fidgety. Steve chuckles to himself and wonders what the hell it means when a person you’ve only met the day before becomes the center of your thoughts. Nothing good, probably.

Steve looks to where Bucky is bouncing his leg up and down and biting at his nails. His about the ask what’s wrong, when Bucky opens his mouth.

“You’re not gonna like this, but-” Bucky starts and then stops, frowning like he’s trying to figure out what to say next.

“But what?” Steve asks, guidingly.

“But….. we’regonnahavetoabandonthevan.” Bucky says in a rush.

“What?!” Steve yelps angrily and then feels immediately bad when Bucky flinches. “Sorry, sorry, Bucky, I’m sorry. But, what? Why?”

Bucky takes a breath and starts wringing his hands. “If Rollins remembered your face, then it’s extremely possible that he at least remembered what the make and model of your van is, if not the license number. When we get to the city, they’ll be on the lookout for it. We don’t- you don’t have to abandon it completely, I’m not asking you to. But we just need to hide it for a while, and you can come back for once I’m-” Bucky waves a hand as if to signify: ‘safe, gone, not with you’  “We can put it in a parking garage somewhere in Manhattan and take the train to Brooklyn.”

Steve nods. “Yeah, okay.”

They sit in silence, both of them churning with emotion. Bucky moving restlessly in his seat, probably thinking of every possibility that his future can hold now, overly excited to get to Brooklyn so it could start. Steve, perfectly still, focusing on the road ahead of him, clutching at the wheel almost desperately, feeling so fucking guilty for the fact that the only thought overwhelming him is ‘I’m going to lose him.’

 


 

When they get to the city, Bucky’s eyes are out the window, head tilted up. He’s looking up, with a sense of amazement at all the beautiful sights of Manhattan. He strains to see the top of every skyscraper and watches the people on the street go by with wonder in his eyes. He ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ at every sight.

His face is the face of someone who’s never been to New York before, and Steve could stare at him for hours. He figures he’s desensitised to the place, having been born there, but it’s like he’s seeing it for the first time through Bucky’s eyes and he’s never felt closer to a person.

Tragically, Bucky’s vulnerability shuts off as soon as they find a parking garage.  They stash Vanna in a place nice enough that no one will try to steal her, but not so nice that they have to pay to park her.

When Bucky worries aloud that someone in the massive crowds might recognize him, Steve assures him that no one in Manhattan will give a damn, but Bucky pulls his hood up anyway.

They walk through the crowds together, Steve keeping a hand wrapped around Bucky’s in order to keep from losing him in the wave of people, especially at the speed Bucky is walking, holding onto the strap of his backpack and shouldering too-slow people out of the way. When they get to the subway station, Steve has to use his inhaler, suddenly remembering how terrible his lungs always were when he lived here; with the air pollution and the claustrophobia and the fast pace that makes it seem like the whole city has somewhere important to be.

Bucky keeps a hand on his back while Steve catches his breath. Once Steve has enough oxygen restored to his system, they get on the L train. They sit in silence, and unlike before where it was comfortable and friendly, it’s wrought with tension and unhappiness from both parties. They get out at the Bedford Avenue station and lethargically make their way up the steps.

Steve follows Bucky down the streets of Williamsburg, heart dropping lower with each step. They come to a stop in front of a shabby looking apartment building, and Bucky jogs up to the door to press the buzzer. A female voice comes from the panel.

“Yasha?” She says, staticy.

“Yeah, it’s me.” Bucky says, voice tired. They’re the first words he’s said since they left the van.

He steps back next to Steve’s side, so close that Steve can feel his body heat. Soon, the door swings open, and Bucky is accosted by a giant golden retriever.

“Lucky!” He squeals happily as the dog licks his face.

Then, the human version of the golden retriever runs up to Bucky and practically tackles him with a hug, slapping him on the back

“It’s good to see you in person, man!” The built blond man says, squeezing Bucky so tight, that it looks like Bucky is struggling to breathe.

Bucky laughs and pushes the guy away. “Clint! You’re way shorter in person!”

‘Clint’ chuckles heartily and slaps Bucky upside the head. “Ay, watch yourself kid. I’ve still got a few inches on you.” He gives Bucky another short squeeze and slap on the back and pulls away.

Behind them, the most elegant, beautiful woman Steve’s ever seen looks at the blond man with what looks like disgusted fondness. Then she looks at Bucky and smiles. She walks up to him and smooths his hair back in a way that looks strangely maternal and entirely out of place on her. “I’m glad you made it, James.”

Bucky gives her a soft smile that’s almost worshipful, and Steve feels bad for that pang of unjust hate he feels toward the woman.

Bucky clears his throat and shoves his hands in his pocket as both strangers look toward Steve. “Uh, Clint? Natasha? This is Steve Rogers.”

He gestures toward Steve and throws him a tight smile. “Steve, this is Natasha and Clint.”

The beautiful redhead smiles at him politely. “Thank you for helping James.”

Steve nods courteously at her. “No problem, ma’am.”

Something like amusement flashes across her features briefly, but is gone in an instant. She looks at Bucky, then at Steve, then back at Bucky. She elbows Clint in the side and gestures toward the door with her head. Clint looks at them and grins goofily. “We’ll let the two of you say goodbye.”

The couple go stand by the door and pretend to look occupied as they watch Steve and Bucky.

Bucky scratches the back of his neck and leans closer to Steve. “They’re spying on us,” He whispers to Steve.

“I know,” Steve whispers back. “They’re very obvious.”

Bucky snickers, but the happiness on his face fades quickly. “So. Um,” He sticks his hand out. Steve takes it, his cool hand gripping Bucky’s warm one. They shake, slowly. “I guess you’re gonna go back to your van? Back to D.C.?”

Steve nods. Their still shaking hands. “I’ll probably go visit my mom first.” He gestures with a nod of his head. “She lives in Park Slope.”

Bucky’s eyes widen. “You’re from Brooklyn?” He asks.

Steve’s smile is small. “Born and raised.”

“Huh.” Is all Bucky says.

They stay there, their hands still joined, but no longer shaking.

“So I guess this is goodbye.” Steve says finally.

Bucky’s jaw tightens unhappily. “Yeah, I guess.” He clears his throat. “Uh, thank you. For everything. Really, Steve.”

Steve shrugs. “I did what anyone would have.”

Bucky shakes his head. “You really didn’t. You did so much more. So… thanks. Just… thank you.”

“Yeah.” Steve says hoarsely. “No problem.”

Bucky looks at their hands. Steve lets go, his hand warmed from Bucky’s touch.

“Bye.” Bucky says quietly, almost a whisper. The he turns around and starts walking towards the door. Steve tears his eyes away and shudders, suddenly very cold. He takes a step away.

Then he hears a shout of “Shit, Steve, wait!” And suddenly has his arms full of Bucky.

Bucky is hugging him tightly, hands fisting in the back of Steve’s jacket, his face burrowed in Steve’s shoulder and arms wrapped tightly around Steve’s waist. Steve hugs back just as tight, breathes in the scent of Bucky’s hair, and just lets himself have this. They stand there forever, before Bucky pulls away too soon.

 

And then, in a moment faster than anything in the world, there’s a press of warm lips against his own.

 

The kiss stops as quickly as it had started, and Bucky pulls back, looking as startled as Steve feels. He licks the lips that were just on Steve’s and breathes, “Goodbye, Steve.” And goes to the door.

And then he’s gone.

Steve whispers “Goodbye.” To the empty air.

Chapter Text

That night, Bucky tells Clint and Natasha, and their two tape recorders, everything. All of everything. He means just to tell them the important stuff, the government conspiracy stuff, not the whining about his home life stuff; but it seems to come out anyway, like the floodgates have been opened and all of Bucky comes pouring out.

They stay up until 6 in the morning. Clint makes 2 pots of coffee, and Bucky has 3 separate panic attacks and throws up once. He’d be embarrassed if he weren’t too busy being proud that the number wasn’t higher.

Clint is grim-faced and soothing, while Natasha remains blank-faced and clinical. The two balance perfectly, but they’re not Steve. By the time the sun rises, Bucky doesn’t feel clean like he had after telling Steve. Just kinda numb.

Natalia leaves somewhere with one of the tapes, presumably to go looking for evidence to back them up. Bucky had told her about the HYDRA databases hidden in the wells of SHIELD protected tech, and Bucky had given her Alexander’s password.

Bucky glances around the apartment, taking in things he was too preoccupied to notice before. The place is lived in, small, and slightly dilapidated by Bucky’s observance, but what does he know? He’s been surrounded by lifeless opulence most of his life, so it’s not like he's in any place to pass judgement. Besides, he thinks it would be nice, living in such proximity to someone else, someone who cares for you. He tries to let himself imagine a life of domesticity, of bad coffee in the mornings and kisses as goodnights, but he can't picture himself in a setting like that, warm and safe.

He zones out like that, trying and failing to imagine himself in a series of normal, happy situations, and failing every time. This makes him despair even further, wondering if he was born to be miserable.

Clint, as if sensing his spiral of anguish, pulls him off the couch by the arm and pushes him towards the shower, muttering about him stinking up the apartment. Bucky takes a long, hot shower, and when he gets out, smiles at the clean clothes sitting on the closed toilet. He has to roll up the cuff of the jeans, and the sweatshirt is comfortably baggy, but it feels good being in clothes that Alexander didn’t buy for him.

He walks out into the living room and sits next to Clint on the couch, where he seems to be watching some novela. Bucky gestures to the purple target on his chest. “Is this your way of askin’ me to go steady with ya, Clint?”

Clint rolls his eyes and takes a swig of beer, not even dignifying that with a response. When he goes to take another pull from the bottle, Bucky eyes it and asks, “Can I have some?”

Clint scoffs. “Yeah, Imma go with ‘Hell, no.’ You’re just a baby.”

Bucky does not pout at that. Instead, he huffs and crosses his arms over his chest, and turns to watch the novela. It has Closed Captions on for Clint, but all in Spanish. He knows some of the language, but not enough to keep up with the storyline. To be fair, he doesn’t think he’d be able to keep up with the storyline if it were in English. He feels just slightly removed from everything, like he’s on autopilot. Bucky chews a drawstring, and wonders what Steve is doing. He brings a hand to his lips unconsciously and frowns when he notices what his arm is doing without his permission.  He squeezes his eyes shut and tries to push his feelings and memories of Steve back. He’ll put them in two different boxes on two different shelves.

The first box will have Steve’s smile, and his laugh, and inflated sense of justice. It will have how his hand feels in Bucky’s hair and how his lips feel on Bucky’s mouth. It’ll have driving too fast and skin too cold. That box will go on the shelf with the memories of his time at Camp Lehigh with the Commandos and of Winifred pushing his hair out of his eyes. Of how Natasha looks when she’s falling asleep over Skype, and how fond Clint looks when she punches him for trying to carry her to bed. The shelf of things that make him ache.

The second box will have how Steve had looked when Bucky said goodbye. It’ll go on the shelf of terrible things that are his fault for wishing. Of how Winifred looked when he last saw her being dragged away by the arm. Of the letters he got from Dum-Dum and Gabe, asking why he never wrote back. Of Rumlow’s steel-toed boots and how they felt against his rib-cage. Of all time spent as a pretty face for Alexander to show off. Of all the times Alexander hugged him after a beating whispering “I forgive you.”  Of Alexander handing him a pill after pill, checking under his tongue to make sure Bucky took it. Of Alexander, Alexander, Alexander. The shelf of things that make him raw.

Both shelves were locked in a tight safe in a dark room that Bucky never let himself open.

Clint reaches over and tugs the chewed drawstring out of Bucky’s mouth without looking. “No eating my clothes.” He says, mock-sternly. When Bucky doesn’t reply with something snippy, Clint looks at him, face rapidly shifting into a concerned look. Yeah, Bucky doesn’t know what his face is doing, but he bets it’s pretty damn tragic. Clint turns off the novela, and tracks to his bedroom, only to be back in a matter of moments with a giant bow and a quiver full of purple arrows.

He gestures for Bucky to stand, and then hands him the deadly weapon.

“Uh,” Bucky says, holding the bow aloft. Clint smiles, slaps an arm guard on to his forearm, hands him an archer’s glove, and then thrusts an arrow in his free hand.

“I saw your weapon scores from Camp Lehigh,” Clint says, like that explains anything. “You’re aim scores are pretty damn impressive.”

“Yeah,” Bucky says slowly, “But I was shooting guns.”

Clint sighs. He points to a target on the far end of the room. “Shoot that.”

“I don’t-” Bucky says, fumbling get his gear on.  He clumsily strings the arrow and pulls it back. He lets go of the string, and the arrow just sort of… drops, clattering pitifully to the floor. Clint sighs and looks at it. Then he goes to the couch and stands on it, retrieving the bow that rests on a hook above it. It looks fancy and hand-carved.

Clint holds his hand out, and Bucky goes to the counter to get an arrow from the quiver. He hands one to Clint, who shakes his head and hands it back.

“Not this one,” He says.

“Why not?” Bucky says petulantly.

“Cos’ it’s a ‘splodey arrow.” Clint replies, his eyes deadly serious.

Oh.” Bucky says, eyes widening. He  goes back to the counter, and just swings the quiver over his shoulder, taking it with him. Clint grabs an arrow from his back, and straightens his stance, gripping the bow like a life-line.

“Follow my lead, newbie.” Clint says. “Stand perpendicular to your target, feet shoulder-width apart.” He looks at Bucky’s stance, and kicks his feet a little wider. “Great, now nock your arrow. Whoa, whoa, point it at the ground, buddy.”

Bucky manages to get the arrow on its rest, and then looks to Clint for more instruction. “Right,” Clint says, as he nocks his own arrow. “Now I want you to gently tug on the string with the three fingers covered by the glove. Don’t lift the bow quite yet.”

Bucky experimentally tugs at the tight string, feeling it’s resistance. “Okay,” Clint breathes. “Now you’re gonna draw your bow. You’ll want to pull it back quickly and keep your arm holding the bow completely vertical, and you’ll draw the hand holding the arrow up to the corner of your mouth. Like this.”

In a fluid, graceful moment, Clint straightens, bow up, muscles tight, and face focused. He suddenly looks very deadly. “Now you.” He tells Bucky.

Bucky tries to mimic Clint’s action. He’s not sure he moves quite as beautifully, but he gets the job done.

“Okay, now,” Clint says, voice sounding rough. “I want you to feel the tension in the wire and the tightening of your back muscles. Slow your breathing.” Bucky complies, and it suddenly feels like being back in the shooting range and holding a rifle in his hands, high above everything else. The world tunnels in until it’s just him and the target. “Exhale.” Clint says. “And relax your hand on my count 3...2...1.”

Bucky lets go.

Two arrows go flying.

There’s a satisfying sound as both arrows hit the target at the same time. One, dead bullseye, and the other slightly to the left.

Clint cheers. “That was awesome!” He fist pumps the air with his bow. “I am an awesome teacher. Wait til I tell Kate I have a new protege, oh my god.” He wanders off in the apartment making excited noises.

“Clint?” Bucky calls. “Which arrows are safe to shoot?”

If this is what it takes to drown the world out, well, there are worse ways of coping.

 


 

Steve didn’t realise how badly he needed to see his mother until he was knocking on her door. Her accent lilts comfortingly through the door calling, “I’ll be right with ya!”

Steve stuffs his hands in his pockets and waits. When his mother swings open the door, he smiles the smile he saves just for her. “Hey, ma.”

She gasps delightedly and cups his cheeks. “My baby! Come in, come in.” She ushers, shutting the door behind him.

She’s a few inches shorter than he is, and just as frail, but she wraps him in a hug so bone-crushing, that Steve may see stars. Steve holds her back, not letting go when she does. She places her hand on his head, and when he does finally pull away, there are tears in his eyes. “I missed you, a mham.” He says, voice catching.

His mother frowns and leads him to the couch, sitting him down. “Now, what’s wrong, dearheart?”

Steve tries to tell her, but all he does it break down, sobbing into his hands. His mother’s arm wraps around his shoulders, pulling him in closer. “Oh, a thaisce.” She says sorrowfully, rubbing soothing circles into his back.

After he was done, after he had no tears left, his mother shooed him off to the bathroom to wash his face like she always does after he cries in front of her.  When he finally walks back into the living room/dining room/kitchen, she puts a mug of steaming tea in his hands and tells him her TV hasn't been working properly. He shows her how to connect to Netflix, he had installed the last time he was here. He feels guilty at how long ago that was.

His mother pulls him up on the couch and she makes him watch Casablanca with her, her favorite. He watches the movie with his head burrowed in her lap and her fingers buried in his hair. His eyes still leak as he mouths along to the movie. During a lull in the film, his mother speaks.

“I recognize these symptoms.” She mutters to him. “You have heart sickness.”

“‘M heart’s been fine, mama.” He mumbles. “No bad arrhythmias or murmurs recently.”

“No, Steve.” She says, laughing breathlessly. “I recognize it from myself, after your father…” She trails off unhappily. “You’re falling in love. And us Rogers’ always fall hard.”

“I haven't-” Steve stops himself, because he’s not sure he’d be telling the truth if he denies it. He swallows. “It doesn't matter. I’m never gonna see him again.” He says miserably, pulling up his mother's quilt to his chin.

“Oh, baby.” She says feelingly, with empathy only a mother can manage. “Tell me about him.”

“His name is Bucky,” he starts, smiling to himself.

 


 

Bucky thinks that maybe he should’ve done the paperwork before he shot 25 arrows into Clint and Natasha’s wall. Now his fingers are raw and aching, and the pen in his hand is rubbing against his skin in the absolute wrong way.

Also, if he has to read through one more legal document, he’s going to go cross-eyed. The words are already blurring together and duplicating themselves. He blinks hard to focus his eyes, then finds it difficult to bring them back up again. He rubs his face tiredly and yawns. Natasha nestles into the couch next to him and hands him a cup of coffee, apparently back from whatever spy stuff she’s been up to. He mumbles thanks and then looks at the paper in his hand.

When they had been first planning everything out, Clint and Natalia had asked him if he wanted them to set him up with a fake identity, a new start. Bucky had entertained the idea for a long time. Letting them move him out somewhere with a fake name and a government job, like witness protection. He thought about it for a while, the idea of starting over, erasing his past, and being hidden away. But then he thought of everything Alexander has stolen from him, and decided he’d be damned if he took Bucky’s identity too.

 

So now he’s filling out papers for emancipation.

 

He knows that this never would’ve worked, say, last week, or even a few days ago, when Alexander owned him. When he had lawyers and money and all the power in the world. But soon, Alexander will have next to nothing.

If this works. Dear God, please let this work.

Lucky’s head is in his lap, and the dog looks up at him and huffs, then licks his fingers. Bucky sighs and buries his head in Lucky’s fur. Lucky whines and licks his chin.

“You alright, James?” Natasha asks next to him.

“Nhhhhhuhhhh-” Bucky groans, scritching at golden fur.

Natasha leans over to grab the papers from him. “Barnes?” He can hear the question in her voice.

He pulls away from Lucky and the sneezes at all the dog hair on his face. “James Buchanan Barnes.” He confirms. “Sounds cooler.”

Natasha eyes him consideringly. “I thought you didn’t want a new identity.”

Bucky takes the paper back from her and stares down at them. “Not a new identity, just new name. Like… if I get my own name, maybe I can be my own person?” He hate that it comes out sounding as a question, that he sounds so small when he says it. But Natasha just nods and says, “Alright.”

She rubs a hand across Lucky’s head once, then stands. “If you put another hole in my wall, I will break your shooting hand. Ask Clint.” She pats his cheek and walks away. He sips his coffee and moans at the taste.

Spasibo, Natalia!” He calls to her retreating form.

 

After Bucky finishes the 2 metric fucktons of paperwork, he starts to get antsy. He flips through the TV channels quickly, never staying interested enough to watch more than a few seconds of any show. He wishes he could shoot more, but he likes his bones intact. He sighs disparagingly and actually wishes for more legal shit to sort through. He stands and starts pacing. Then he sits, bouncing his knee. Then he stands again and starts pacing again.

Clint observes him from his perch on the counter. “You’re wearing tracks into my floor.”

Bucky turns to glare at him. He’s crawling out of his skin, scratching at his arms and chewing on the drawstring of Clint’s hoodie. Truth is, he’s feeling cabin-feverish. He’d been trapped for 10 years in Alexander’s house, only to escape and find himself trapped again. Two days on the run, and he’s still aching for the open road, and for, for-

“Yo, kiddo.” Clint says, snapping his fingers at Bucky. “You good?”

Bucky turns to where Clint is twirling what looks like a knitting needle between his fingers, and Natasha is leaning over the counter; inexplicably eating a bowlful of spaghetti with a plastic spork.  “Can we go out?” He asks the pair.

They look at each other, and seem to have a conversation solely with their eyes and small nodding motions.

“Did you-” Clint starts, and Natasha cuts him off. “Yeah, I did.”  They both turn to Bucky.

“Get your shoes on, kid. We’re going dancing.”

 


 

Steve has changed 2 lightbulbs, fixed a leak in the fridge, and got the dishwasher to stop making 'that sound' for his mother when there’s a knock at the door.

He’s not fast enough to remember to tell his mother not to open the door, when she ushers in an older man, in his late forties or early fifties. He smiles at Steve’s mother with a “Thank you, Mrs. Rogers.” And fear settles itself deep in Steve’s stomach.

The man steps inside and looks around. He’s not who Steve pictured he would be. He had pictured a terrifying giant, built like a brick house with the personality of a bull. This man actually looks quite pleasant, with a non-assuming stature and a receding hairline. Maybe they thought they didn’t have to bring in the big guns to find Steve. Well, Pierce's assholes should've known that Steve wouldn't go down without a fight.

Wait, does this mean they’ve found Bucky? Steve lets himself panic at they thought. He had never been entirely sure what Bucky’s plan was beyond ‘Get to Brooklyn’.

Maybe he was halfway to Russia by now.

Steve hopes that’s the truth.

The man takes a step towards Steve, and Steve takes a step back, glancing around the room for possible weapons. He lunges for the lid of his mother’s pressure cooker, and holds it in front of himself like a shield, ushering his mom behind him.

“Stay back.” He hisses.

“Steven!” His mother scolds.

“It’s quite alright,” The man in the suit amends. He stretches his hand out to Steve. “My name is Phil. Agent Phil Coulson.” He smiles agreeably again, and Steve hates how nice the guy looks.

“I didn’t kidnap him!” Steve says, wildly flinging his makeshift shield, making both 'Phil Coulson' and his mother doge the lid. “He kidnapped me!”

“You were kidnapped?!” His mother asks, eyes wide.

“Yeah, but it was an accident, it was really no big deal, mama.” Steve says, keeping his eyes on the Agent in front of him.

“I’m not here to arrest you, Steve. I work with Romanoff and Barton.”

“Roman-” Steve trails off, confused. “Wait, you mean the redhead and her puppy? Bucky’s friends?”

This makes the corner of Agent Phil Coulson’s mouth twitch. “Yes.”

“Is Bucky okay?” Steve asks, lowering his lid slightly.

“As of now, James is fine,” The man allows. “But I need your help to ensure he stays that way, and Agent Romanoff suggested you.”

“Me?” Steve asks, incredulous. “But I'm-I have to take iron supplements!”

“Yes,” Coulson allows. “But you also impressed a friend of mine who is very difficult to impress, you have what has been described to me as having ‘a large heart and fierce protective streak’, and Barton reports that the young Mr. Pierce is miserable without your company.”

Steve mother makes an angry sound next to Coulson. “Will someone please explain to me what’s going on, here?” Her accent thickening with frustration.

“All in good time, ma’am.” Coulson says, smiling at her. He turns to Steve. “What do you say?”

 


 

Nat and Clint take him to a club. An honest-to-god club. With the flashing lights, and the pulsing bass, and the sweaty bodies grinding on each other. When they had arrived at the gate, Natasha had greeted the bouncer with a “Privet, Piotr.” And Clint had flashed a badge at him.

When they went inside and were immediately patted down for weapons, Clint had explained that the club was a sort of secret underground-type place that was solely for employees of various government agencies. They had strict no shop talk and no violence policies.

“This is a spy bar?” Bucky had said amazedly.

Clint had hissed at him to keep his voice down while Bucky whispered fervently about how much money they could make if they pitched that as a script in Hollywood. Hell, he would watch it.

Now, he and Clint are writhing in the middle of the dance floor, making absolute fools of themselves. Clint is making the ‘fishing and reeling’ move to Natasha, who is leaning on the bar, nursing a beer, and shaking her head at them.

Bucky bounds over to her, giddy with the energy of the room. He grins at her and pushes his sweaty bangs out of his eyes. His hair was getting kinda scruffy, and with a burst of excitement, Bucky realizes that he could grow it out if he wants to. Natasha passes him a glass of water which he drains quickly.

“Hey,” he breathes, putting the glass back on the bar. “Why don’t you come dance with us?”

Natalia rolls her eyes and finishes off the last of her beer, tapping the bar for another. “I don’t like to dance.” She tells him, catching the fresh beer that slides to her. Bucky pouts.

“'We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.'”  He leans in to to say in her ear. He pulls back to watch Natasha’s face with amusement, making sure to catch the barely perceptible shock that flashes across it almost imperceptibly.

“Did- did you just quote Nietzsche at me?” She yells over the bass.

Bucky grins his shit-eating grin, letting himself preen a little. She nods at him, impressed.

Pozhaluista, Natalia?” He pleads, not above puppy-eyes. Natasha scoffs, then looks past Bucky, to where Clint is fake-spanking his fake hoes, looking whiter than Bucky ever thought possible. She looks back to Bucky, then pounds her beer. Bucky throws his arms up and cheers, then  lets her grab his arm guide him back on the dance floor.

Natasha may not like to dance, but she is damn good at it. The way she moves her body- is beyond description. It’s like throwing a stone into water and like a flame flickering on a candle and like million other small beautiful things. The lights in the club flash across her skin, in a way that looks like she’s controlling the colors around her. Bucky is entranced.

Next to him, Clint has stopped dancing, riveted by her every move. She eventually throws her arms over his shoulders, forcing him to at least sway side-to-side to the music. Bucky wolf-whistles next to them and lets himself get lost in the sensations.

 

After a while though, he has to pee. He shoulders past where Clint and Natasha are necking like the horny teenagers they apparently are.

He manages to navigate through the sea of people and locate the bathroom. He nods awkwardly at the balding man at the other end of the line of urinals. He zips up Clint’s too-big jeans, and tries to hike them up so they won’t keep slipping while he dances. He walks to the sinks only to dispair when there’s no soap left. He scrubs his hand under the water for a bit, then goes to dry his hands, only to feel deeply betrayed when there are no paper towels left. He groans, then looks over at suit guy.

“No paper towels.” Bucky says, nodding at the dispenser. The guy looks vaguely amused and Bucky turns back, trying to dry his hands on his pants.

He pulls the hoodie sleeves over his hands to pull the door open, and immediately walks directly into a very muscular guy that’s probably government assassin. Oops.

He pulls back, frantically muttering, “Oh god, so sorry, didn’t mean to- fucking fuck.”

Because standing right in front of him is Brock Fucking Rumlow. 

Shit.

Bucky’s on the ground before he can react, sliding between his legs. It’s a trick Bucky’s been using since he was eight, and has never failed him yet. He hears Rumlow’s squawked “You little shit-” Before he’s running.

He doesn’t get very far though. Rumlow takes a few quick steps and has a grip on his hood. He pulls him back with so much force that it cuts off Bucky’s air supply for a terrifying moment before he collides with Rumlow.

“Fancy meeting you here, Brock.” He stutters out, rubbing at his neck. He starts wiggling around, trying to slip out of the jacket, but Rumlow just grabs a fistful of his hair and yanks. He pulls so hard the Bucky can feel his scalp tearing. “Ow, ow, okay, fucking, okay! Okay, Brock, you win, fuck.”

Bucky straightens up and brushes his hands down the front of his shirt, trying for some semblance of dignity. Rumlow wraps a hand around Bucky’s throat and keeps it there, squeezing lightly.

“You fucking bitch,” Rumlow spits, and starts steadily applying pressure to Bucky’s throat. “We’ve been looking for you everywhere. God, do you know how much I’m going to enjoy what’s coming next? After your Daddy-”

Natasha Romanov, Bucky’s newfound messiah, flies out of nowhere to deck Rumlow. Bucky collapses, coughing, but pulls himself up to his feet as quick as he can. Rumlow is on his feet again too, but has bigger problems, namely; Natasha’s thighs around his neck, to deal with.

Yasha!” She yells, hands clenched firmly in Rumlow’s hair. “Back door. Clint’s with Rollins in the front, run.”

He doesn’t need to be told twice.

Bucky runs through the agitated crowd, trying to focus on his breathing. He pushes his way through hoards of people, muttering apologies, until he bursts through the back door into an alley.

He hears an engine revving and sees lights approaching, and he knows he’s fucked. Because he’s quick, but there’s no way he’s gonna be able to outrun a vehicle.

The lights pull up to him and he balks.

 

Because there, sitting on a motorcycle like a knight on his steed, is Steve Rogers.

“Do you trust me?” Steve asks, breathlessly.

“What kinda stupid fucking question is that, Rogers?” Bucky replies.


He climbs on the bike.

Chapter Text

Bucky grips tightly to Steve’s narrow hips, terrified and exhilarated by the speed of the motorcycle and the feeling of wind on his face and the warmth of Steve’s skin underneath his hands.

“Please tell me you’re not a spy!” He yells into Steve’s ear.

“I’m not a spy!” He yells back.  “I met one today, though!”

“You met two!” Bucky says. “Clint and Natasha!”

Steve shakes his head. “I meant Coulson!”

The whip past a line of taxis and swerve between two buses. “And did Phil teach you this?!” Bucky yelps, clutching onto Steve a little bit tighter.

Steve shakes his head. “You’re not the only one who took defensive driving!” They round a tight corner, and Bucky buries his face in Steve’s shoulder so he doesn’t have to watch.

“This is so dangerous!” He squeals. “Where are our helmets?!” His voice rises in pitch.

“You sound like my mother!” Steve shouts back, and glances behind himself at Bucky and smiles at him beautifully. “Hey.”

“Hey yourself.” Bucky says, smiling back. He nudges Steve’s cheek with his forehead. “Watch the road, Rogers. Seriously.”

Steve revs the bike again, and speeds up further. Bucky giggles nervously, and rests his chin over Steve’s shoulder.

They get two a stoplight when two SUVs pull up on either side of them.

“Uhm, Stevie?”

“I see them.” Steve confirms. He looks dead ahead and speeds forward, ignoring all safety and traffic laws as he runs the red light. The SUVs follow closely, but Steve has more power to maneuver on his motorcycle, and he turns sharply and heads down an alleyway. Bucky does not squeak in terror.

They pull out of the alley on two a busy street. They keep moving quickly, darting past cars and weaving between traffic. There are sirens and flashing lights behind them, and when Bucky looks back, three SUVs have turned their lights on and were barrelling through the congestion of cars like a herd of rampaging bulls.

“Steve...” Bucky says cautiously.

“I’m working on it.” Steve says through gritted teeth.

On the street, rubberneckers have their phones out, filming the whole shitshow. Steve and Bucky turn again, only to be greeted by three SUVs directly in front of them, sirens on. “Fuck!” Steve yelps, and yanks the handlebars to the side turning all the way around. But behind them were three other SUVs. Steve tries to turn again, tries go between two of the cars, but overcompensates.

The bike goes flying. Acting on instinct, Bucky wraps himself around Steve’s even further, tucking his head in and shielding his tiny body with his own.

When they hit the pavement, Bucky absorbs most of the shock, grunting as the air is punched out him, as he clutches Steve and slides on the asphalt, trying to keep both of their heads from smacking against the ground.

When they reach a stop in the middle of the circle of government vehicles, Steve is on top of Bucky, and they’re both panting and hissing in pain. Steve pushes himself up to look down at Bucky.

“Are you okay?” He gasps, cupping Bucky’s face with one hand. Bucky winces.

“Let’s never do that again.” Bucky wheezes, ignoring the flashing lights and loud sirens around them, focusing solely on Steve. “This is why helmets are important, Steve.”

“This is why using not yourself as a freaking protective jacket is important, Bucky! You could've died! You’re gonna have road rash! That was so dumb!”

Bucky grins up at Steve, who was rubbing Bucky's cheekbone with a thumb. “Thank you for coming for me.” He tells Steve.

“‘Course,” Steve says quietly. “Wasn’t about to leave you behind now, was I?" He blinks rapidly, like he's trying to stop tears. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be, Steve. This," He gestures between the two of them. "Is the best time I've had in years. It was nice, having some one with me."

"I am with you, Bucky. Til- til- Oh fuck it."

He gives up and leans down, and brushes their lips together, tears on both their cheeks.

Bucky brings his arm up to hold the back of Steve’s neck. The kiss is soft and sweet and salty with tears and metallic with blood.

It’s perfect.

And then Steve is pulled off of him by two men in suits. Two other men pull up Bucky, each holding an arm.

“I’ll fix this!” Bucky yells at Steve, to where he’s being pushed into a car.

“I know! Bucky, I-” The car door slams and Steve is gone.

Bucky tries and fails to ignore the awful feeling in the base of his stomach. Steve will be okay. He has to be.

Bucky shrugs off the two men, and holds a hand over his eyes, trying to block out all of the bright lights and loud noises in order to disregard his nausea.

A figure walks forward, blocking out the light in front of Bucky’s face. Buck squints at the form, and tries to make out details. An expensive suit, styled hair, and a way of holding themselves with confidence.

Alexander.

Bucky takes a step back, but crashes right into the two agents behind him. Alexander approaches faster now, and when he reaches Bucky, he gasps, “Oh my sweet boy!” and then grabs Bucky in a full-body hug, playing the part of the loving father. Bucky glances around and yep, between the SUV’s and muscled agents are reporters and cameramen, cataloguing their every move.

Bucky knows not to pull away from the hug, but still stiffens at the contact. The only thing that could give Alexander’s charade away is the way his fingernails are digging ruthlessly into Bucky’s skin.

“Oh, James I was so worried. You don’t know how glad I am to finally find you!” Oh, just give this man a fucking Oscar. His fingers tighten and Bucky winces.

Bucky wants to scream. He could scream. He could yell and kick and cause a scene, but it wouldn’t matter. Alexander could pass it off as Bucky’s ‘mental illness’ and he would still have Bucky.

Alexander pulls back, but grabs Bucky’s face in his hands. Bucky is almost disgusted when his fingertips brush against the fading bruise on Bucky’s cheekbone, like he was wiping away Steve's touch. It feels like a threat. Alexander pushes the hair out of Bucky’s eyes, an imitation of the comforting gesture it was with Winifred.

“But, it’s okay. I have you back now,” He presses his fingers against the bruise and Bucky fights not to yelp. “And I’m not letting you out of my sight for a very long time.”

 


 

When they got in the back of Alexander’s transport, Alexander sat on one side with Bucky sitting across from him with two armed guards on either side of him, Bucky avoided any and all eye contact. He keeps his jaw clenched and his eyes fixed firmly on his scuffed sneakers.

“James.” Alexander says softly. Bucky doesn’t look up.

“James, look at me.” He says, voice hard.

Bucky flinches, and tilts his head up at Alexander. A hand flashes out quickly and strikes him across the face. The slap lands right where his bruise is and Bucky only barely manages not to make a sound.

He still doesn’t look at Alexander. You’re not supposed to look predators in the eye.

The guard on his left shifts slightly, and Bucky eyes his mask, then his gun, wondering if he’s SHIELD or HYDRA.

“You have to let him go.” Bucky says quietly, firmly staring at his knee, picking at a stray thread, and going through all the possible stories that could save Steve.

“I don’t have to do anything.” Alexander spits back.

“He’s innocent,” Bucky argues, steeling himself. Pierce scoffs. “And he’s a reporter.”

In his peripheral vision, he sees Alexander freeze. Bucky keeps his voice quiet, trying to think faster than he talks. “He works for The Bugle, Alex. And I told him everything. All of your dirty little secrets,” Bucky gestures to himself. “And the big ones too, the Global Panic ones. I told him about Insight and HYDRA. If he doesn’t get home tonight in time to cancel it, an email will be sent out to all the big news agencies. He set it up when we ran into Rollins.”

Alexander leans forward and slams Bucky's head into the metal wall of the transport. Bucky sees stars. “I don’t believe you.” He says simply.

“You don’t have to,” Bucky chokes out through bloody teeth. He must have bitten his cheek.

There’s a beat of silence and Bucky braces for whatever comes next.

“You ungrateful, selfish little prick,” Pierce starts, voice steady and filled with rage. “I saved you from that shithole of an orphanage. I fed you, put clothes on your back, bought you anything you ever wanted. I got you a tutor when school overwhelmed you, gave you medicine when you got sick,” His voice was rising in volume, and Bucky was cringing back as Alexander yelled at him. “I saved your life, James! I stopped you from killing yourself, and this is how you repay me? I am the single most important person in your life!”

 

Bucky swallows, and turns to look at Pierce. “No, Alexander, you’re not.” He croaks, holding Alexander’s homicidal gaze. “I am.”

 

Alexander is red with fury and he lunges across the transport. Then, nearly too quickly to catch, the guard on Bucky’s left brings up some sort of weapon and hits Alexander with it. It seems to send electricity through him like a taser. Alexander slumps over in his seat, and the guard swings around elegantly and jabs the weapon into the side of the other armed guard.

Bucky’s savior lifts their helmet to reveal a beautiful brunet woman underneath. “Ugh,” She says, throwing her helmet to the side. “That thing was squeezing my brain.”

Bucky is frozen in place, watching Pierce’s unconscious body. He nearly jumps out of his when she places a hand on his arm.

“James, right?” She asks.

“Bucky.” He corrects hoarsely. “Uhm, are you-”

“My loyalties lie with Nick Fury.” She tells him, as if that means anything. She leans forward and bangs her fist on the partition, making Bucky jump again. “Thompson! Take us to Barton’s place.”

“What about Steve?” Bucky says, resisting the urge to kick Pierce.

“Who’s Steve?” The woman asks.

“Uh,” He finally tears his eyes away from Alexander and holds up an arm. “‘Bout yay tall, blond, glasses, skinny, blue eyes-”  She give him a blank look. “He crashed a motorcycle just now...” He says, hooking a thumb over her shoulder.

“Oh! Rogers.” She says. “Yeah, he’ll meet us there.”

 


 

Steve was pretty sure he was gonna die. Not only did his body ache all over from hitting the pavement- he could only imagine how much Bucky was hurting, oh god Bucky had to be okay- but he was also sitting handcuffed, next to the most intimidating person he has ever met. The guy actually had an eyepatch. What the fuck.

Steve fidgets in his seat, feeling the man’s eyes- eye- boring into his skull. Steve wonders if Pierce’s men were actually going to take him somewhere to kill him. He thinks about how terrified Bucky is of the man, how pale he got when he saw Pierce on TV or heard his voice on the radio, and prays that Bucky is fine.

Who is he kidding? The poor kid had finally seen hope, finally had a taste of freedom, had finally cut his strings to become a real boy, only to have it ripped away in a heartbeat, to have his strings reattached by his puppetmaster, except now they’re probably shorter and tighter and wrapped around Bucky’s neck like a noose.

Now Bucky has lost hope, and Steve is gonna die. All because he couldn’t fucking drive fast enough.

Sounds come from a walkie-talkie somewhere and Steve can catch the word 'reporter' before it stops making sense. His hearing aid must have broken in the crash. Whatever. Not like it matters anyway.

Steve drops his head against the headrest of his seat and laughs humorlessly. Just yesterday morning- yesterday morning- he had realized the identity of Bucky’s father and jokingly thought about his sliding odds of death by bodily malfunction versus actual government conspiracy. He never in a million years thought he’d die in anyway other than his heart or lungs or pancreas or inept immune system finally quitting on him. Now he was being driven out in an armored car to his death, all because the wrong boy had stolen his van. He wishes he could find it in himself to be resentful, but mostly he’s just tired.

“Steve Rogers?” The eyepatch man asks.

“Uh, yeah?” He says, voice squeaky. He clears his throat and tries again. “Yeah?” He repeats, at a much lower pitch.

“My name is Nick Fury. I’m gonna take you somewhere safe.”

“What about Bucky?”

Nick Fury raises and eyebrow. “James, I mean.” Steve clarifies.

“He’ll be there too. As will Romanov, Barton, Coulson, and a few other of my best and brightest agents. You’ll both be perfectly safe there.”

Steve lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. Everything was going to be fine.


Everything was going to be okay.

Chapter Text

Turns out that the “safe place” was the rundown apartment owned by the spy couple. Steve groaned as Fury helped him out of the car, all of his poor, fragile bones screaming in protest. A second car pulled up, and Steve watched as a brunette woman climbed out, closely followed by Bucky. Both vehicles sped off, but Steve kept his eyes trained on Bucky.

The bruise on his face has darkened slightly, and the area surrounding his cheekbone is pretty swollen. There's a ring of bruises around his throat, and he walks stiffly, like an old man. He also looks really stricken and pale, the expression on his face one that Steve never wants to see again.

When he catches Bucky’s eye however, the boy’s face doesn't light up, exactly, but it gets less dark and he hobbles quickly to Steve. Steve opens his arms and tries not to topple over when Bucky crashes into him. Steve holds him and strokes his hair, because he can and because Bucky is shaking.

Steve swallows the lump in his throat and chokes out, “Thank god.” Bucky clutches to him tighter and and makes a sound like a sob into Steve’s shoulder. “Oh, Bucky. Oh, god Bucky. We’re okay. We’re both okay.” He chants, sounding a little hysterical and wondering if this is what shock feels like.

Someone places a hand on Steve’s shoulder, and he whips his head around, teeth bared, prepared to fight anyone else that tried to take Bucky from him; but it was only the muscular blond guy from before, holding his hands up in a placating gesture.

“Woah there, short stack.” The guy says, voice oddly calming. “I’m just trying to get you and Bucky inside. C’mon.” He nods his head toward the door, and Steve follows him, arm still wrapped around Bucky.

Bucky, who seems to be having a hard time doing much of anything. Who Steve needs to guide up the steps and through the door before he collapses on the ugly couch, heaving every breath like he had just been drowning. It made Steve want to reach for his inhaler.

“What’s wrong with him?!” Steve asks, panicked. “Is he hurt?”

The redhead is by Bucky’s side, gripping his hand and muttering to him in Russian. Bucky just shakes his head at her, looking like a china doll about to shatter. Steve covers his mouth with his hand and looks at the grim faces of everyone else in the room. He feels suddenly very young and helpless as he sits next to Bucky.

“Bucky,” He whispers, sliding his fingers through Bucky’s. “We’re okay. We’re okay, Bucky. I’m with you, remember? I’m here.” Steve says. “Come back to me, Buck. Please.”

Bucky, who drives too fast just to make Steve smile, who throws himself on top of Steve to keep him from getting hurt, who shakes and cries and gasps, who kisses like a promise, turns his head to look at Steve with wide, terrified eyes.

“Steve?” He whispers, voice sounding wrecked.

“You bet.” Steve whispers back, not sounding so great himself.

“Amazing,” The redhead breathes from next to them. “Last time it took 20 minutes to bring him down.”

“What just happened?” Steve asks quietly, trying not to display his alarm. “Bring him down from what?”

“Panic attack,” Bucky mumbles unhappily. “Clint, could you-” But the muscular blond guy is already pushing a glass of water into his hands. “Thanks sweetheart.” Bucky says, trying to wink. He drains the glass and Steve does not watch the motion of this throat as he swallows because this is a heavy moment, Rogers.

Bucky falls back against the couch, leaning heavily on Steve’s side. Unconsciously, Steve brings a hand up to his hair, and Bucky sighs against his collarbone.

“Thought I’d lost you,” Steve mumbles unhappily against Bucky’s head. “Again.”

“Can't believe you actually rescued me on a motorcycle.” Bucky bemoans, and Steve can feel the curve of his smile against his skin.

“It's not a motorcycle baby, it's a chopper.” Steve says, smiling back.

Somewhere in a place that’s outside of Steve and Bucky, Nick Fury snorts.

Bucky pulls back to stare at Steve incredulously. “Did- did you seriously just quote Pulp Fiction at me?!”

Steve shrugs and pulls Bucky back to him, needing the contact more than he would ever let himself admit.

Steve would've sworn that he was too keyed-up to sleep, but after all excitement had finished and he had Bucky, a warm weight in his arms, it was easier than anything.

 


 

Between all of the ridiculous fluctuations in his adrenaline and not sleeping at all last night and 4 panic attacks in less than 24 hours, laying against Steve and falling asleep felt like a reprieve.

So of course it couldn't last.

After a while, the buzzer rings, making a still-hypervigilant Bucky startle out of his sleep, which in turn wakes up Steve.

Clint grabs his bow from above them and slings his quiver of arrows over his shoulder, which has Steve making a startled noise. Natasha and Fury both grab guns from their belts, and the brunette woman who has yet to introduce herself goes to the panel and hits the button for the intercom.

“Identity yourself.” She barks authoritatively.

“It's Coulson.” The tinny voice says from the speaker, and all the spies relax, which is a good sign.

They're kind of like feral dogs, Bucky thinks to himself a little hysterically. You can gage the severity of the situation by how far their hackles are up.

Steve turns to him and whispers “What’s with the bow and arrow?”

Bucky shrugs. “It's his thing.” He’s never questioned Clint's fondness for the weapon out of the paleozoic era. It is a little weird now that he think about it though.

“It just seems impractical.” Steve continues. “Like, what does he do when he runs out of arrows?”

The door opens, and Phil is ushered in, followed by a petite blonde woman holding what looks like a medical bag. She looks a little confused, with her head tilted and her nose scrunched like Steve when he’s trying to figure something out.

Like expression he’s making right now, actually. Aw.

“Ma?” Steve asks.

“I figured she’d be safer here,” Coulson explains.

Steve blinks, and then stands to help his mother with her bag. “Yeah, uh, thank you Agent.”

The woman cups Steve cheeks and mutters something softly, but Bucky looks away.

Steve and his mother come to sit on the couch next to Bucky, and the woman holds her hand out.

“Sarah Rogers,” She says, with a ringing Irish accent that make Bucky smile in spite of himself.

“Bucky.” He says, taking her hand. “I'm, um. I’m Bucky Barnes.” And he means it this time.

That Bucky Barnes?” Ms. Rogers says, raising her eyes at Steve, who turns an adorable shade of pink.

“Well, Mr. Barnes, I’d like to look at your injuries. May I?”

“Oh, no ma’am, I'm fine, really. You don't need to-”

“Young man, I am a medical professional. Let me take a look.” She says with a no-nonsense tone.

Bucky blanches, thinking he must really look terrible if she was going to him first. Clint had a shiner and a butterfly bandage just barely holding his eyebrow together.

He doesn't want to, thinking of Doctor Zola and his cold clammy hands, but complies anyway, because he’s a trained people pleaser.

He lets her poke at the bruises on his face and throat, and declares that there he doesn't have any damage to his trachea or any broken bones. He could've told her that, Bucky thinks. He knows what a cracked cheekbone feels like.

She makes him pull off his hoodie, and when he does, there are 7 identical hisses of sympathy.

Well that’s not reassuring. Thanks, guys.

He looks down at his torso, which his black and blue from the crash. He tries to look at his back, turning around in circles like a dog chasing his tail before Steve puts out an arm to stop him.

Ms. Rogers prods at him and wraps his ribs that aren't broken, but are bruised pretty bad. She also covers his back, which is described to him as ‘one large scrape’, with ointment and bandages.

Clint tosses him another shirt, this one baggy enough that it hangs off of Bucky’s collarbones. Ms. Rogers looks at him with the same assessing gaze her son has. “Is that it?” She asks.

He starts to nod when the brunet from the transport cuts him off. “No, he has a head injury.”

Bucky frowns at her. “No?”

She nods, unfazed. “When Pierce-”

“Oh! Yeah…” He brings up a hand and cups the back of his head. It stings at the contact. “Guess I do.”

Everyone is looking at him with concerned expressions, at Bucky wants to tell them that it's fine, that he's had much worse, but somehow he doesn't think that would assure them.

Ms. Rogers feels around his head and shines a light in his eyes and makes him perform a few simple tasks and answer a few questions before deciding that he was concussion free. Clint still made him hold a bag of frozen peas to his head. Bucky wonders if being taken care of and pestered by Clint is what having a mom feels like, then nearly laughs at the image of Clint wearing a frilly apron and making turkey like a 50's housewife. 

Sarah Rogers digs through her bag and pulls out a bottle of pills. She pours two into her hand and holds them out to Bucky. He eyes them warily and she explains “For the pain.”

 

“They are for the pain, junge. You don't want to feel anymore pain, do you?  Take them, James. You will feel nothing at all."   

 

Ms. Rogers frowns at him. “They're just aspirins, dear.”

Bucky shakes his head and swallows down his nausea. “Um, no… no thank you. I-I can deal. Uhm.” His eyes flicker around the room, and he pushes her hand toward Steve.  “Give them to Steve.”

Steve blinks. “Me? Why would-”

“You've been groaning like an old man with back pain since you got here, don't even front, Rogers.”

Sarah Rogers turns her no-nonsense look to Steve who takes the pills and the water bottle from her almost instantly, looking cowed.

Bucky sits back down, tapping his fingers nervously against his knee. He thinks to the exhausting panic attack that had snuck up on him not even an hour ago. The sudden relief of seeing Steve had opened all sorts of floodgates, 90% of them Alexander Pierce related. He feels sick thinking about it now, that the main cause of it had been the way Alexander had just crumpled when he was struck. How he just keeled over, and that was that. Bucky had always seem Pierce as something inevitable, undefeatable. And then he was down so easily with just one strike. It made Bucky- It made him feel weak. Especially now that seeing Alexander get hit over the head didn't fill him with any vindication, only guilt and dread.

These are Bad Thoughts, he decides. He needs to refocus, immediately.

Bucky scans the room and watches as the group of spies huddle together and talk in low voices. Coulson hands Natasha a laptop and Clint hands her what looks like, adorably, a pair of reading glasses. She sits cross-legged on a chair, typing on the laptop with the glasses perched on her nose. Bucky wanders over to her and watches over her shoulder. She barely spares him a glance, before continuing her work.

Bucky watches as she slowly spills HYDRA’s secrets to the public, one by one. She unearths the organization ruthlessly, tearing it apart. She exposes Pierce for the snake he is, and unemploys 60% of the people in the room.

Bucky watches Natasha work, a strange feeling growing in his chest knowing that he did this. He paid attention enough, even when he was drugged up to the gills, to bring down a neo-nazi organization. It takes Bucky too long to recognizes the feeling of accomplishment, a concept that is completely alien to him.

Eventually Steve stands next to him, pulling at his arm. He turns and Steve takes his hand, squeezing it once in support, grounding Bucky.

 

Clint tugs them away from Natasha and tells them that they ought to get some sleep. They both agree wholeheartedly and Clint waves them in the direction of the guest room. Sarah makes both boys eat first, giving Clint a chastising look when all he has in his fridge is a frozen pizza. Steve demolishes it and Bucky picks at a slice, eventually sliding it over to Steve, not feeling very hungry.

Coulson leads Ms. Rogers to the Master bedroom and has her stay there, assuring her the whole way that she wasn't putting anyone out, that everyone was going to stay in the living room.

Clint tells them to go the hell to sleep, that everything was gonna be fine. He tells Bucky this several times. He tells him that Fury, Coulson, the brunette who was apparently called Hill, He, and Natasha would all stay awake and all guard the door, all fully armed. When Bucky joked about wanting to be a part of the Super Spy Slumber Party, Clint had picked him up and physically carried him to the guestroom.

He bounces slightly when Clint dumps him on the bed with a muttered ‘behave’ and stalks out. On the other side of the room, Steve smirks at him. Bucky flips him off, then throws himself backwards on the mattress, trying to take off his jeans without standing. When he finally succeeds, he throws the pants towards the wall opposite him, and turns to Steve.

Steve, who has lost his shirt and his currently struggling to tie the drawstrings tight enough on Clint’s borrowed and much too big sweatpants.

Steve who has fingerprint bruises on his waist.

“Did I leave those?” Bucky asks, sounding strange to his own ears.

Steve looks down at the marks and shrugs. “I guess so. They're probably from when you shielded my crash.”  

He finally ties the strings in a neat bow, and the pants settle to sag low on his hips. He turns around and bends over to get his meds from his mom’s bag, and Bucky flushes and redirects his stare to the ceiling.

Steve takes his handful of pills with a swallow, then offers his water bottle to Bucky, who just shakes his head. He sets his hearing aid on the night table, along with his weird sleep breathing machine.

Then Steve runs and jumps, catapulting onto the bed next to Bucky.

“Sorry,” Bucky says, once Steve gets settled next to him, throwing the blankets up over their bodies and pushing his freezing toes against Bucky’s calves. “About bruising you.”

Steve just rolls his eyes. “Nickle." He says and smiles. "I bruise easier than a peach, Buck. I'd much rather have a few little marks than be roadkill, so really, I should be thanking you, dumbass.”

He pulls the covers up over their heads and pushes the tip of his nose to Bucky’s. It's cold, and makes Bucky jump slightly. Steve carefully slides a hand over Bucky’s shirt, resting right over Bucky’s heart. The touch is light, too mindful of the bruises underneath. Bucky wants to tell Steve not to be so careful, that he doesn't need to be treated gently, but he does. He really does, and Steve had known before he had.

“Stevie…” He breathes. “I- thank you.” Their lips brush when he talks. Steve smiles against him.

“I can't hear a word you're sayin’” He says. “Too dark. Can’t read your lips.”

Bucky chuckles and pulls the blankets back down to just their shoulders. Steve’s glasses have fogged up from the heat of their combined breath, and he wipes them clean.

“I was just saying thanks, ya know… For, um, giving me my life back.”

Steve smiles at him softly. “I think that was mostly you and the Scooby Gang.” He says inclining his head to the door towards where all the spies were most likely doing spy stuff. Or playing videogames on Clint's X-Box.

“No,” Bucky says. “I mean yes, getting me here at getting me free, that was mostly them. But I meant me. Like,”

He throws his hands up in the air, getting frustrated trying to explain what exactly he means. “Like, thank you for me. I had mostly given up hope of everything. I’d forgotten that I could be my own person. That I belonged to myself, I guess. You reminded me. So… thanks.”

Steve doesn't say anything, but does take his hand and presses his lips to the knuckles. The motion makes Bucky stomach do a stupid flip-flopping thing, and Bucky figures that actions speak louder than words, at least where Steve is concerned. Stupid Steve. 

Bucky leans in to Steve and replaces his hand with his lips, kissing Steve good and properly. No running away this time, and definitely no getting dragged away by shady government agents. They kiss and kiss and Bucky tries to show Steve everything he feels about him with lips and teeth and tongue. He holds Steve’s bare waist as Steve cups his face and Bucky cannot think of any moment in his 17 years of life more perfect than this one.

Steve finally pulls away, resting his forehead on Bucky’s, rubbing slow circles on Bucky’s cheeks with his thumbs. “Bucky, I-” He starts, then shakes his head and leans in, kissing him again firmly.

 

Bucky realizes the difference between these kisses and the others. Those were both “Goodbyes.”  These are “Hellos”.

 

Bucky breaks the kiss this time. “Me too.” He whispers, not entirely sure what he’s agreeing to, but entirely sure that he means it.

Steve gives him a smile and one last peck before he’s turning to his nightstand, sliding off his glasses and picking up some tubes attached to his breathing machine.

He slides a mask on over his nose, and it connects to the machine in a way that makes Steve look vaguely elephant like.

SEXY? Steve signs, turning back over and waggling his eyebrows.

BIG TIME. Bucky signs back, tucking himself under Steve’s chin and wrapping an arm his waist.

Steve’s hands rest on his back, gently tracing patterns on Bucky’s shirt.

 

Bucky wonders what he’s drawing.

 

Chapter Text

Bucky can't sleep.

He goes over every possible scenario in his head.

What if HYDRA has a counter attack?

His whole life, Alexander had been 10 steps ahead in every game he played. He might have just allowed this to happen. He probably knew what they were planning the whole time. He could be up to something right now and no one could do anything about it, because Alex was unstoppable. The Insight technology had just been in prototype phases, but it’s so very possible that it could still work. Could kill hundreds of people just on command. Or someone could come pay them a visit. Natasha and Clint never did tell Bucky what they did with Rollins and Rumlow. Maybe they got away and were getting a STRIKE team together to storm the apartment. They could easily gas out the spies in the living room and move into the place, kill both the Rogers’ and drag Bucky back to Alexander. Or- or maybe HYDRA has some secret weapon that Bucky missed, that it could kill them all easily, like- like a cyborg super soldier assassin or something.

Bucky dismisses the idea. Too outlandish.

He worries about everything. How would the public react? What will happen to the world government, now that 25 % of the top global officials turned out to be part of some neo-nazi illuminati? Will Alexander face charges? Will Bucky have to testify? What does it mean for Bucky, to be fully emancipated? What will he do when he leaves the safety of Clint and Natasha’s place? What will he do when Steve drives back to D.C.? What will he do if he wakes up in Alexander’s house and all of this has just been a vivid Valium dream?

Every time Bucky thinks of something newer and more horrible, every time he tosses and turns because of stressful sleeplessness, Steve is there.

Steve is there with an arm flung over his chest and a puff of air from his nebuliser and a muttered “Too early, Buck”.

Bucky tries to refocus. Tries to turn his attention elsewhere. He wraps a hand around a delicate wrist and feels Steve erratic pulse underneath. He tries to count the heartbeats, but it's not enough. He listens to Steve mechanized breathing, feels the cool air against his skin, but it's not enough.

Bucky sighs and resigns himself to a night of worried restlessness. He burrows deeper into Steve’s arms and breathes him in. He might as well get comfortable, even if he can't stop his mind from torturing himself.

Around 5 in the morning, Bucky gives up on any semblance of sanity and carefully extricates himself from Steve. Steve makes a soft protesting sound, then pulls all of Bucky’s blankets on top of himself. Bucky leans down and kisses Steve above the eyebrow. Because that's something he can do now.

He walks out in Clint's purple shirt and his own black boxer briefs, rubbing at his eyes unhappily. His body is sore, he recognizes that now. Without the haze of adrenaline and Steve, he can feel the deep ache that goes beneath his skin, a screaming in his muscles and a groaning in his bones. He’s had worse, he’s had so much worse, but the perspective doesn’t make now hurt any less.

In the living room, the spy crew was lounging around, looking as domestic as possible when armed with deadly weapons. Clint and Natasha are nestled together on a large, comfortable looking armchair, one of Clint’s arms is thrown over Natalia’s shoulder and the other curled protectively over his bow and quiver. Natasha has one hand in the pocket of her hoodie, presumably holding a gun, and her head resting on Clint's shoulder. They’re passing a mug of coffee between them.

On the couch, Ms. Hill and Coulson are playing what looks like gin rummy, both still wearing day clothes. Their guns lie on the coffee table next to their cards. Next to them, Nick Fury is snoring, head thrown back and shot gun laying across his lap with his hand resting on it gently.

Bucky grabs himself a poptart from the box on the counter and looks around the living room for somewhere to sit. There’s a little room on the couch, but Bucky feels uncomfortable around the unfamiliar people there.

Natalia, like always, seems to sense this, and pinches Clint’s side until he moves over. Clint does, and opens his arm invitingly. Bucky climbs in between them, drawing up his legs, trying to be as unintrusive as possible in the snug space.  Natasha just throws her arms over him and Clint leans over to pass him the mug of coffee. On the ground next to them, Lucky snoozes, paws twitching in his sleep.

Bucky sips the coffee and hands it back with a mumble thanks. Clint ruffles his hair lightly. Natasha rests her chin (which is kinda sharp but Bucky's not gonna say anything) on Bucky’s shoulder. “Nightmares?” She asks softly.

Bucky shakes his head. “Couldn’t sleep.”

Natasha pulls her hand out of her pocket and makes grabby hands at Clint, who passes her the cup of coffee. Clint’s arm falls to rest over Natasha’s across the back of Bucky’s shoulders. “Well, it’s been all quiet on the western front,” Clint reports. “No shoes dropping here, kiddo. Might even go so far as to say things are a-okay.”

Natasha raps her knuckles on Clint’s head. “Knock on wood.”

Bucky swallows. “And everything else? HYDRA? Insight? Alexander?”

From the couch, Ms. Hill shoots him an annoyed look, like ‘kid, we did our fucking job, just fucking trust us, goddamn’ but Coulson hops up helpfully and hands Bucky a tablet.

Bucky goes through the stories quickly, reading just the headlines.

 

SPY AGENCY RUN BY TERRORISTS

DOZENS OF GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS INDICTED

HYDRA-GATE: WHO’S TO BLAME?

NEO-NAZI ORGANIZATION EXPOSED IN WORLD GOVERNMENT

CONGRESS DEMANDS RESIGNATIONS

PUBLIC OUTCRY OVER EXTREMIST OUTFIT

SECRETARY-GENERAL OF KI-MOON CALLS FOR HEARINGS

HERO TURNED TRAITOR- ALEXANDER PIERCE UNMASKED AS HEAD OF HYDRA

 

Bucky stops on that one and looks at the picture of a younger Alexander with his arm wrapped around the shoulders of an nine year old Bucky.

Bucky remembers the day the photograph was taken, or course he remembers. He remembers everything, a cool seeming superpower, but a truly awful curse for someone like Bucky. Sometimes, he wished he had a machine that could just wipe his brain. Clean slate.  

The picture was from the first gala Pierce had taken him to. Bucky had felt so excited and grown up getting in the suit that matched Alexander’s. At the party, Bucky had played the piano for guests. He had played the piano for 3 hours. The last song he played was Orchestral Suite No.3 in D Major, Bach’s Air. It was his favorite song that he’d learned. It was soft and sweet and a little bit sad, like light rain on a warm day. Bucky had looked up and tracked Alexander across the room. He watched as Alexander talked with some foreign dignitary and watched as Alexander pointed to him and said, “That’s my son”. Bucky remembers the way in which his fingers fumbled over the keys, as if in slow motion and the ways Alexander’s head had whipped around as Bucky scrambled to correct himself. Bucky also remembers sobbing that night as Pierce stood by him in the hospital telling the story of how Bucky had slammed his fingers in a door. He remembers Rumlow’s smug look the next six weeks as Bucky fumbled with the cast on his broken right hand. He remembers getting nauseous every time he heard Bach.

Bucky chokes back the anxiety clawing at his throat and blinks away the stinging in his eyes. He thinks about skimming the article, but decides that it’d be a bad idea. He goes through the next few stories and sees that most of them read the same.

They all start by summarizing the massive information dump that had crashed the Internet last night, describing the giant conspiracy of HYDRA and their malicious influence over the government during the past 70 years. Some go into a few assassinations and wars caused, but most jump right into the history of HYDRA, explain their rise of power in Nazi Germany and its assumed fall at the hands of Isaiah Bradley and the 107th. Then they question how they were able to infiltrate the US government so smoothly, how they were able to maintain such a high level of control. Most name Alexander as the current leader and ask how such an upstanding man, such a pillar of society, could do something like this. As if they had any right to feel betrayed. The same stories also mention the leaker as Natalia Romanova, and question her history and intentions. One article calls her a terrorist, which makes Bucky itch to break something. The stories all go on to ask what this all means for the future of this country- and for the world.

Clint eventually pries the tablet out of his hands. “I think that's enough yellow journalism for us today, yes? Let's move our attentions to something happier. Nat-”

He tries to nudge Natasha, but since Bucky is tucked so firmly between them, all he does is jostle everyone on the chair and makes some coffee spill out of the mug.

Natasha rolls her eyes and goes to pull something out of her pocket. For a moment, Bucky thinks she's reaching for a gun, but instead she pulls out a small gift-wrapped box and hands it to Bucky.

“For being the best, most adorable informant we've ever had.” Clint says cheerfully.

Bucky frowns at the present and opens the lid. Inside is a Starkphone, and when he goes through it, Natasha, Clint, Fury, Coulson, Hill, and oddly enough Steve, are all programmed into the contacts. Bucky tries desperately not to let any of his emotions show on his face as he stares at the precious gift in his hands.  

Instead he leans back into Clint and Natasha and says, “Aw, you guys. I've always wanted to be someone’s Sugarbaby,”

Clint snorts and Natasha elbows Bucky’s arm gently. “No, seriously! If I were 10 years older-”

They both flick his ears and he giggles delightedly. He lets himself wonder if this is what family feels like; people you can trust and talk to and care for. People who make you feel warm and safe. He’s not about to ask Clint and Natasha if they’re his new parents or anything, but it feels like they’ve staked their claim to him somehow, like he’s been adopted. Readopted. Either way, he feels safe knowing they’re in his life.

Around 6 am, Ms. Rogers walks out in her scrubs and digs around the kitchen. She miraculously manages to procure a banana and some toast.

She comes over to Bucky and demands to check for concussion again and redress his back and torso. She also makes him eat a slice of toast, scolding him for not eating enough the previous night. She fusses over him almost angrily, standing on her tiptoes to point an accusing finger at Bucky’s face for not taking better care of himself. The move is so very Steve that Bucky nearly falls in love with her right then and there.

She turns around to the room at large and states, “I'm going to work.” And starts marching to the door. Coulson jumps up and says, “I'll escort you, ma’am,” and he blushes.

Bucky sends a wide-eyed look to Natasha. She sighs and passes a 10 dollar bill to Clint, who beams at her.

Clint and Natasha move to the couch and join Ms. Hill in a game of ‘who can put the most things on Nick Fury’s face before he wakes up’. Predictably, no one walks away a winner.

Bucky isn't sure how he feels about Nick Fury. The man is intimidating and has a manipulative sort of air about him. He’s also Pierce’s oldest friend, but turned around and helped Bucky expose him just like that. Bucky isn't really sure what that says about the man.

He plays cards with him anyway.

It's just that there's something hilarious about a man with an eyepatch and sawn-of shotgun saying, “Go Fish, Motherfucker.”

Eventually, Clint turns in his novelas and they all watch, riveted as Rosalia confesses that Raul es su hermano.

Ms. Hill mutters “Called it.” While Clint and Fury shush her furiously, but Natasha’s attentions are elsewhere as she frowns at the tablet in her hands.

“What's wrong, Natshechka?” He whispers.

“It's nothing,” she replies. “I just have to go to a tribunal in a few days. Standard procedure. They’ll question me about the leak, ask who my source was.” She looks up at him for that.

“But I’m  your source.” Bucky says, confused and worried.

“Yes, I know that Yasha, thank you.” She says, rolling her eyes.

“Are you going to tell them that?” Bucky says, voice growing smaller the more concerned he gets.

“I protect my sources.” She says firmly, her voice brooking no argument. Bucky sighs,  knowing he can trust her.

 

Finally, around 10 in the morning, Steve shuffles out of the guestroom, the bottom of his sweatpants covering his feet completely as he shambles into the kitchen. He’s holding a phone slightly away from his good ear as a tinny voice on the other side berates Steve loudly. Steve sighs into the phone and says, “I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about. Nazis?”

He peeks his head out behind the counter, glasses perched on his nose as he signs towards Bucky, ANYTHING D-E-C-A-F HERE?

Clint makes a disgusted noise at that but signs back. GROSS. WHY? MAYBE TEA. PANTRY. BOTTOM SHELF.

Steve startles a little and frowns at Clint. YOU SIGN?

Clint rolls his eyes. I’M DEAF, D-U-D-E. TAUGHT B-U-C-K-Y.

Steve’s mouth makes a small ‘o’ shape, and then he shakes his head and turns around, digging  through the pantry until he finds a dusty looking box of peach tea. “Of course not, Sam.” He says to the phone, unconvincingly.

Bucky hops up and goes to the kitchen as Steve fills up a kettle with water. He wraps his arms around Steve’s skinny back and puts his hands on the cold skin of Steve’s torso. Steve smiles and leans back into Bucky, and Bucky kisses the top of his shoulder in greeting.

“We’ve already gone over this man. I didn’t kidnap anybody. It's like you have no faith in me.” Steve says, turning around and rolling his eyes at Bucky as if to say ‘can you believe this guy’. Bucky takes the kettle from Steve and puts it on the stove.

“No Sam, what are you talking about? Motorcycle chase? Dude, I had to use my inhaler after we watched Die Hard.” Steve says, scooping sugar into a mug. “Oh, that? Um, we decided to call the wedding off. We’re gonna take things slow.”  Steve is an adorably bad liar. Bucky really likes that. 

“Uh, yeah, he’s here. Buck?” He hands the phone to Bucky, looking relieved. Bucky smiles at him, probably looking stupidly adoring.  

“Sam Wilson, right?” Bucky asks the phone.

“And this is Bucky Barnes?” Sam Wilson asks back.

“Uh-huh.” Bucky says. “What’s up?”

“Man, did you take down HYDRA in anyway?” He asks bluntly.

“Uh, no? I’m not Toro Raymond.” Bucky says. Steve snorts and mouths ‘You’re totally Toro.’ Bucky flips him off.

“I’m not talking about Isaiah Bradley and the Young Allies, here. I’m talkin’ Alexander Pierce and SHIELD. Haven’t you seen the news recently?” Sam Wilson’s voice rises in pitch with every word.

“It’d be hard not to.” Bucky murmurs. The kettle screams and he jumps a little as Steve hurries over to pull it off the stove.

“So uh,” Sam clears his throat. “‘The wedding’ is off, then?” He asks sarcastically.

“Yeah.” Bucky says quietly, and to his own surprise, his throat burns. “He’s got a life in D.C. and I’ve got one in New York,” He swallows and glances at Steve. Steve looks up at him and smiles at him softly. “It- we’ll make it work.”

Sam grows quiet on the phone, and Steve walks over to Bucky to rest his head on Bucky’s chest as he sips his tea.

“How’d the two of you meet?” Sam asks finally.

Bucky leans down and brushes his lips against Steve's hairline. “He gave me a lift.” Bucky answers.

 


 

Natasha goes to the tribunal. She’s calm and eloquent and effortlessly badass. Bucky and Steve can’t go at risk of being recognized, but it’s on C-SPAN and when Natasha flips her hair over her shoulder and walks away, Steve cups his hands and cheers and Bucky pretends to swoon.

She and Clint and all the other spies don’t come back for a while, and Bucky tells Steve that he figures that they deserve a break and waggles his eyebrows ridiculously. They decide to make-out on the couch for awhile before Lucky jumps up next to them and Steve starts sneezing, because Steve is allergic to dogs.

They don’t talk about when Steve has to inevitably go back to D.C.

Steve doesn’t even really want to think about it. He knows he’s gonna have to go back to Sam and Peggy and school and being boring and sleeping in a van. Not that Sam and Peggy aren't the best people in the world, it's just that they aren't... they aren't Bucky. Also, he was just getting used to sleeping in regular beds again. And heating. Dammit.

Bucky steals his phone and programs his new number into Steve’s phone with an obnoxious number of heart emojis by his name, pretending not to glance over at Steve worriedly.

The both have Steve’s imminent departure hanging over their head like a black cloud in a cartoon. Bucky has their fingers intertwined and has himself wrapped around Steve in a way that has nearly every atom of their bodies pressing together.

Steve buries his face in Bucky’s hair and rests his forehead there. He thinks sadly about how deprived for affection Bucky seems. How every gentle touch simultaneously surprises him and makes him lean in for more. It’s the kind of thought that has Steve feeling hot with rage and violence at Alexander Pierce but also warm with fierce protectiveness for the mending boy he’s holding.

Bucky’s nose touches Steve’s collarbone, and he makes a tired snuffling sound. Steve smiles and bites back a coo, sliding a hand into Bucky’s hair when Bucky huffs and starts snoring softly.

They stay like that for long enough that Steve’s arms start to go numb and he wishes he had his sketchbook. He wants to map out every eyelash fanning out over rosy cheeks and every freckle that marks milky skin.

Not that he hasn’t already sketched Bucky. He had, back in the motel; drawing Bucky’s pale, shaking, unconscious form. The line of his of his back and fall of his hair over the nape of his neck.

Steve winces and wonders if that’s creepy. It’s probably pretty creepy. But Bucky is such a classic beauty, like the paintings of Saint Sebastian in Sunday School. It’d be a shame not to have him down on paper, in charcoal. Steve reaches the remote and manages to turn on the TV, on mute. Infomercials flash on the TV, smiling faces and tools no one needs. Steve tightens his arms around Bucky and snuggles closer. He lets himself relax and slides his eyes shut, surrounded by chia pet commercials and Bucky.

 


 

They wake up slowly, in increments. There’s a sort of warmth about waking up with someone, like one of those cats lounging in a patch of sunlight. Bucky kind of reminds Steve of one of those cats, rubbing his face on Steve’s and making a pleasured groaning sound when he stretches. Steve chuckles and places a kiss on the crown of Bucky’s head. Bucky frowns deeply and opens his eyes. When he sees Steve, he grins and murmurs, “Hey.”

“Hey.” Steve whispers back.

He stands and stretches, back popping. Bucky makes a disgusted face, but takes the hand Steve offers him, and pulls himself up. He comes to wrap his arms around Steve, like the hands held between them isn’t enough. Steve puts an arm on his back as he pulls away and looks up at Bucky.

“Awwww.” A voice behind them says.

They both whip their heads around at the noise to wear Clint is wide-eyed and is holding a slice of pizza halfway to his mouth. Natasha, who’s standing beside him, smacks him upside the head.

“Sorry! Sorry, ignore me. I’m not here. Keep going,”  Clint says, waving the hand that’s holding the pizza.

Steve rolls his eyes, trying to hide the flush on his cheeks. “I’ve gotta go to the bathroom.” He tells Bucky, and stands on tip-toes kissing the corner of Bucky's mouth. Jesus, if it's this difficult to just walk away from Bucky to go to the bathroom, then he's so totally fucked. He turns, and tries to shake his head disapprovingly at Clint and Natasha, but he probably just looks like an embarrassed little kid, going by the poorly-hidden amusement on their faces.

After he uses the facilities, he grabs his stuff from the guestroom and slings his backpack over his shoulder. When he walks out into the living room, and when Bucky sees him, his eyes catch on the backpack and his face falls slightly. Steve realizes what he must be thinking.

“You wanna go to my mom’s house?” Steve asks lightly, trying to keep a comforting smile plastered on his face.

Tension falls out of Bucky’s shoulders and he nods, reaching out for Steve’s hand.

They stop for pizza on the way, at tiny place where the cashier knows Steve’s name and gets him his regular slice. It’s a little late for lunch, but Bucky eyes the food hungrily and finally picks the unhealthiest slice he can find, covered with three different types of cheeses and several types of meats. He emits frankly pornographic moans while eating it, making Steve a little hot under the collar, even when there’s grease running down Bucky’s chin and Steve has to reach out with his napkin to dab at his face.

They walk back to the apartment, their joined hand swinging between them.

When they get up to the building, Steve unlocks the door with the ease of familiarity and leads Bucky inside. He watches uncomfortably as Bucky looks around the small space.

Steve shifts from foot to foot as he imagines what splendor Bucky must have grown up in, tainted as it may have been. Steve’s home, even though it’s full of warm memories of his mother and of growing up, was small and a sort of ramshackle little place. They weren’t exactly poor when Steve was growing up, but that lower middle class that come with being a single immigrant mother and a child with a list of medical problems longer than the Empire State Building. Their apartment was just big enough for the two of them, the bare minimum of what they needed. A small kitchenette, an ugly little couch, a bathroom, two bedrooms, and a crucifix on the wall.

Bucky didn’t seem to mind though, a large smile on his face as he stares around the apartment. He walks over to the refrigerator where there’s a picture of 8 year old Steve with his front teeth missing and smiling like a loon. There’s also a drawing that Steve had won an art contest with in 9th grade that Bucky looks at with something like pride.

He turns to smile at Steve. “This place is nice. You grow up here?”

Steve nods and takes his hands out of his pockets. “Yeah, since I was a baby.”

“I like it,” Bucky says, eagerly. “It’s-”

“Nice?” Steve asks, raising an eyebrow.

“Nice.” Bucky breathes, sliding his arms over Steve’s shoulders. “It’s small and pretty, just how I like ‘em.”

Steve snorts unattractively, heat creeping up his face as he smiles at Bucky. “Yeah, okay.”

Steve gives him a short tour of the apartment. When he stops at the door of his bedroom, Bucky waggles his eyebrows inappropriately. Steve rolls his eyes and drags him inside, and makes Bucky sit on the edge of his tiny bed uncomfortably while Steve drops his backpack and pulls his shit out of his backpack. He finally finds what he’s looking for and yanks it out of the bag with a triumphant noise.

He turns back to Bucky, holding the sketchbook and his charcoal pencil in his hands. He sits at his desk chair and faces Bucky.

“Is it alright if I draw you?” He asks, then blushes because it’s an odd request and he didn’t really think about how Bucky would react.

Bucky just kind of cocks his head to the side like a confused puppy. “What?”

“I just-” Steve twirls the pencil between his fingers. “I want to-”

I want to have something to remember you by. Is what he doesn’t say. Bucky nods anyway.

“Uh, yeah, okay. Is, um, is there anything I should do?” Bucky asks, fidgeting nervously.

“No, just stay there, Buck. You- you’re perfect.”

Bucky’s cheeks darken, but Steve doesn’t say anything. Instead he looks down at the blank paper and furrows his brow in concentration.

They stay like that for a while, Steve drawing and Bucky playing with his new phone, or messing with little trinkets in the room, or watching Steve’s intense focus. He fiddles with a Rubik’s Cube that had been laying on the windowsill, and laughs suddenly.

Steve looks up. “What?”

Bucky holds up the Rubik’s Cube. “Aren’t you color blind?”

Steve rolls his eyes and goes back to the paper, leaning in towards himself when Bucky tries to get a glimpse. “My friend’s idea of a joke.”

Bucky chuckles and fiddles with the cube. “That’s either really cute or really cruel.”

Steve huffs, trying to get Bucky’s lips just right. “Both. With my friends, it’s definitely both.”

The quiet is comfortable as Bucky stubbornly tries to solve the Rubik’s Cube, listening to the sounds of pencil on paper. Steve is biting his lip now, and glancing up at Bucky every so often to make sure he gets every single last detail right.

Bucky finishes the puzzle only minutes before Steve finishes the picture, and seems to consider it some kind of victory, crowing in excitement as the thrust the cube in Steve’s hand.

“You know I can’t tell if you solved this or not.” Steve says drily, handing it back to Bucky.

Bucky sticks his tongue out, and Steve has to laugh at the childish gesture. “You’ll just have to take my word for it then. I’m awesome.”

He leans closer to Steve, trying to be inconspicuous, and Steve sighs and lets Bucky see the sketchbook.

Bucky takes in a sharp breath and holds the drawing carefully. “Wow… Stevie, I-”

He swallows and Steve twists the hem of his shirt in his hands.  “Yeah, I know, it still needs a few finishing touches, but-”

He’s cut off by a press of lips against his own, and he lets himself gingerly cup the back of Bucky’s head.

Bucky pulls away. “It’s beautiful.” He whispers.

“You’re beautiful.” Steve whispers back, because really, the portrait wouldn’t be half as good if he had any other subject in the world. The picture is filled with every ounce of Bucky’s beauty mixed with all the feelings inside of Steve.

Bucky places the sketchbook down carefully and pulls Steve up by his arms, dragging him into another kiss. Steve herds Bucky to the bed and falls back on it with a flop, tugging Bucky down on top of him. Bucky keeps kissing him, and moves to straddle his waist. Steve hastily tries to pull off his shirt, mindful of his insulin pump, аnd ends up struggling a bit when the shirt gets caught on his head. Bucky helps him tug it off, then runs his hands down Steve’s chest, following the splotchy blush that spreads down his torso.

Bucky lets out a breathless giggle as Steve tries to slide his hands under his shirt. “‘S cold.”

Steve blushes further. “Sorry.”  He retracts  his hands and rubs them together, trying to create friction. He brings them to his mouth and blows warm air into his cupped hands, making Bucky laugh again. He leans down and takes Steve’s hands in his, pinning them on either side of his head.

He brushes his nose against Steve’s, smiling brighter than all the stars in the sky. Steve wants to lean up and taste it. So he does.

Their teeth clack and Steve groans at the little shock of pain. He tries to adjust his angle, but ends up hitting his forehead against Bucky’s bruised cheek. Bucky hisses in pain pulls back abruptly and then chuckling lowly, resting his head against Steve’s collarbone.

“Smooth.” He says into Steve’s skin.

“Shaddup.” Steve says, pressing a kiss into Bucky’s hair. Bucky bites down on the skin by his clavicle, making Steve jerk and groan a little when Bucky soothes the sting with a smacking kiss.

Bucky sits up and pulls his shirt over his head in a graceful movement and throws it across the room. Steve settles his hands on Bucky’s hips, thumbs the edge of the bandages wrapped around his torso, and frowns.

“Hey.” Bucky breathes, bending down and pressing the corners of Steve’s lips up. Steve smiles softly at him and puts a hand in Bucky’s hair. Bucky smiles back and and reaches for the button of Steve’s pants.

“Is this okay?” He breathes, biting down on his bottom lip that makes him look completely irresistible.

Steve chuckles and grabs Bucky’s shoulders, then rolls them so that he’s kneeling over Bucky, between his legs. It’s a move he learned from back when Peggy taught self-defence classes.

He leans over him and braces his forearms beside Bucky’s head, bracketing him in. Bucky’s breath ghosts over his chin, and the gray in his eyes is swallowed by black.

“Is this okay?” Steve asks, repeating Bucky’s question from earlier, voice coming out much huskier than intended. Beneath him, Bucky swallows and nods.

Steve nips at Bucky’s bottom lip- because really, how is it even fair to have a mouth like that- and tugs Bucky’s jeans down.

Later, Steve will blame the haze of lust, or even his hearing impairment for not noticing right away when the front door slams open and shut and a familiar voice calls out. “Boys? I’m home!”

It’s not until his mother yells, “Put some clothes on before ya come on out here, would ya?” Before either of them react.

Bucky practically jolts up, trying to pull up his pants even with Steve as an obstacle in the way, and Steve flails so hard tugging his shirt back over his head that he falls off the bed with an audible thud.

Bucky rolls off the bed and stands beside him and helps him to his feet. He glances around the room a little wildly and hisses “Where’s my shirt?”

Steve looks around and shrugs at him. “How should I know? I didn’t throw it.”

Bucky dashes to the area he threw the shirt and starts digging through stuff, looking for his missing article of clothing.

“Just wear one of mine!” Steve stage-whispers, but Bucky shakes his head.

“There’s no way one of your shirts could fit me Steve. You’re just so tiny.”

Steve crosses his arms over his chest. “Y’know, I resent tha-”

“Found it!” Bucky calls, waving the shirt over his head cheerfully.  

He pulls it on and walks over to Steve, and Steve reaches for the door.

“Steve, wait.” Bucky says, then tilt down to kiss him. His hands reach for Steve’s crotch, and then there’s a zipping noise.

Bucky pulls back, smiling dopily. “You’re pants were undone.”

He pulls open the door, holding on to Steve’s hand kind of tightly. Steve’s the one who actually has to drag Bucky out into the apartment, one hand behind him, being clutched by Bucky, and the other pulling his shirt down lower to hide the awkward tenting in his pants.

His mother is in the living room, holding a hand over her mouth in the way she does when she’s trying not to laugh. She glances between the two of them, Steve standing there uncomfortable and flushed, and Bucky looking down at his feet like a guilty puppy.

Sarah claps her hands together and both boys look to her. “You lads want to help me make dinner? It’s Beef Bourguignon, so it will take a while.”

Bucky looks relieved and nods, like he’s grateful to her for not mentioning anything about their compromising position or possibly because she didn’t yell at him. Steve just follows his mother into the kitchen and starts helping her take out ingredients.

Bucky looks a little bewildered by each task laid before him, and Steve realizes he’s probably never cooked for himself. He watches as Bucky peels carrots slowly, inspecting each one to make sure it’s absolutely perfect in a way that is either really cute, or really heartbreaking.

Steve’s mom narrates each step of the process to Bucky as she goes along, patience like steel as she shows Bucky how to chop and cube and stir, making his eyes light up every time she praises him for his quick learning or skilled hands.

Once the stew is finally declared ready, Steve goes to the cupboard to pull out glasses for drinks, and Bucky moves to set the table, almost on automatic. The work in tandem to get the dinner on the table and Sarah commends them, murmuring things about “Such polite boys, what did I ever do to deserve-” as they place a plate in front of her.

Dinner is quiet in a familiar domestic way, Steve downing his meds after they say grace and listening to his mother talk about her exhausting day at the hospital while intertwining his legs with Bucky’s when the boy starts to look unsettled. Bucky stares down at his meal, looking a little lost, like he’s out of place in this scene.

When the food is all finished, Steve feeling the warmth that can only come from having a full stomach and a content family, Bucky collects the plates from the table, muttering, “The meal was lovely, Ms. Rogers, thank you.”

Steve’s mother throws her head back and laughs, cheeks a bit flushed from her glass of red wine. “You did most of the work, dear boy.  Ya certainly don’t have to do the dishes.”

Bucky just smiles at her. “Please let me. It’s the least I can do.”

She opens her mouth to protest, but Steve stands and rests a hand on her shoulder. “I’ll help. It’s fine, a mham.”

Steve mother always hated to be rude, especially to guests. Steve wonders if it’s part of the same compulsion that made Bucky so quiet and polite around strangers. He takes the glasses from each plate and leads Bucky to the sink.

“You don’t have to-” Bucky starts, pushing up his sleeves and reaching for the first plate.

“Shut up. You wash, I’ll dry.” Steve takes his place beside Bucky and throws a dishrag over his shoulder. On impulse, he stands on his tip-toes and kisses Bucky on the cheek.

They finish the dishes and their efficiency is near frightening. Every time Steve’s done this with someone else- well, with Sam- there’s always one person faster than the other and arguments about who gets to do what and always water being splashed everywhere. But with Bucky, they’re like a well-oiled machine.

It’s about 7:45 now, and Steve figures if he wants to go back to D.C. in time to sleep and shower before any of his Monday classes- is tomorrow is Monday? Maybe he can stay another day.

“Is tomorrow Monday?” Steve asks Bucky as they walk out of the kitchen.

“Yeah.” Bucky says, voice heavy with emotion.

“Fuck.” Steve sighs, dragging a hand down his face.

“Language!” His mother calls from the living room.

Tá brón orm!” He calls back, treading into the living room. “Mama, I’ve gotta head back tonight.”

“Steven, you know how I feel about you driving in the dark.”

“I’ll be careful, ma, promise.”

She sighs and stands to cup his cheek. She gives him a hug and a stern look. “Remember-"

Steve rolls his eyes and recites with his mother, even mimicing her slight accent. "Stop if I need to stop, eat if I'm hungry, and never pickup hitchhikers, yeah, ma, I know."

Sarah just smiles. "Ya call your mother when you get back, ya got it?”

He smiles cheekily and retorts, “Yes Captain.”

She pats his cheek and leans in. “And you hold on to that boy you’ve got. I like how he makes you look.” She whispers.

Steve tilts his head. “How do I look?”

She smiles and kisses his forehead. “Whole.”

Steve swallows around the sudden lump in his throat and nods at her. “Love you, Ma.”

“I love you too, Steve.”

Steve ducks into his room to grab his stuff, only to see Bucky there, sitting on his bed, clutching Steve’s backpack to his chest looking small.

“Come with me to D.C.” Steve hears himself say, shocked at the words leaving his mouth without permission.

Bucky looks up, and he looks completely devastated. His eyes glisten wetly and he shakes his head before speaking. “I can’t.”

His voice sounds so broken that Steve has to sit next to him and take his hand.

“I can’t.” Bucky repeats. “I can never go back to that place Steve, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, but you don’t know what it was like, Don't ask me to-” He breaks off and Steve makes soothing noises, leaning his head against Bucky’s.

“It’s okay, Buck, it’s okay.” He murmurs, screwing his eyes shut.

They sit there for what is probably too long, holding each other and rocking back and forth on the bed. Bucky collects himself eventually, straightening his spine and wiping his face, and plastering on a smile that looks slightly wrong. He hands Steve his backpack and Steve double checks that he has everything before grabbing Bucky’s wrist and pulling him out the door.

They get on the street and Steve says, “Walk me to my van.” When Bucky looks confused.

They walk through the streets, Steve covertly taking the longest way possible to get to the parking garage so that he can spend more time holding Bucky’s hand.

They talk about everything and nothing while they walk, Steve pointing out landmarks around Brooklyn and Manhattan, be it the Chrysler building, or alleyways where he was beaten up. Bucky mumbles about what it would’ve been like if he had been there as a kid, if they had grown up together. Bucky talks about beating up the bullies that messed with Steve and about going to prom together, nevermind the fact that they would’ve been grades apart. He fantasises the way only someone his age can, someone with a whole future ahead of them and nothing to lose. It makes him kiss Bucky again, heady with the rush of BuckyBuckyFutureWithBucky.

When they get to the parking garage, Bucky’s grip on his hand is almost painful. They walk up to the van slowly, like it’s a wild animal that might attack them if they approach too quickly.

They finally get near enough that Steve unlocks the door and throws his bag inside. He turns back to Bucky, who looks pale and unhappy, and Steve hates himself for putting that expression on his face.

He cups Bucky’s clenched jaw. “I’ll call everyday.”

Bucky barks out a wet-sounding laugh. “You fuckin’ better!”

Steve smiles, rubbing his thumbs over Bucky’s cheeks. “And I’ll text. Every waking moment. And- and Skype. We can set up Skype. And we can- can Snapchat.”

It’s like the 21st Century was built for long-distance relationships.

“And I’ll visit. Every weekend I can. Bucky-” He stops, sounding choked to his own ears. “I’ll be with you, okay? Every step of the way. You won’t even be able to miss me, because I’ll be there the whole time.”  

They’re both crying now, fat tears rolling down both their faces obnoxiously, as if they needed to be reminded of their grief.

Steve leans up and kisses Bucky, slow and sweet. Not chaste like when Bucky had said goodbye to him in front of Clint’s place, and not fervent like when they were being torn away, not reverent like when they were in the guest room, and not filthy like when they were in Steve’s bed. This kiss isn’t a hello, or a goodbye. It’s a prayer, a promise. It thuds along with the beat of their hearts and sings along with the hymn in their brains. It’s torture and paradise and too much and not enough.

When it ends, they lean their heads together and breathe as one.

“I don’t want you to go.” Bucky whispers.

“I don’t want to go either.” Steve whispers back.

He opens the car door behind him and goes inside. He shuts the door and Bucky leans into his open window.

“Look after yourself, Barnes.” He says gruffly, clearing his throat.

“Stay safe, Rogers.” Bucky replies.

I didn’t know I needed you.

Bucky leans in and presses a soft peck on Steve’s lips. “See ya later, pal.”

“That’s a promise.” Steve says, and starts the car.

Bucky steps back and pats the top of the van, his own little thank you to his get-away car. The wings of his fire-breathing dragon. The noble steed of his knight in shining armor.

Steve pulls out of the parking space and and drives off, not taking his eyes off Bucky in the rear-view until he can’t see him anymore, an odd feeling settling in his gut.


Bucky stands there, watching the direction that Steve drove off in for a really long time.

Chapter Text

Starting over is paradoxically both simpler and more difficult than Bucky had imagined.

Now that he’s legally his own person and has his own name, his first order of business is getting his own place.

He looks at ads, but decides he doesn’t want to move in with a stranger. Natasha helps him canvas apartments in the cheaper areas of Brooklyn that are close enough to Williamsburg that he can get to Clint’s place quickly if he needs to. He researches almost obsessively until one day, Sarah Rogers mentions in passing that one of her neighbours just moved out.

Bucky gets a tiny little place in the same apartment complex as her, leading to bi-weekly dinners at the Rogers' residence.

Once he’s moved in, Bucky gets to work on getting his education. He adamantly does not want to go to any high school for just the last year, figuring he’s maladjusted enough and he doesn’t need that kind of pressure in his life. So he does online courses, speeding through quickly, getting his diploma before Halloween.

Sarah also helps him get a job at the hospital. He takes a six-week class and starts working as a medical assistant. It’s mostly grunt work, book-keeping and cleaning up bedpans and sometimes if they’re swamped, vital-taking and drug-giving and blood-drawing. It’s not glamorous, but he feels good to be useful and great to be helping people. The pay isn’t great, but it’s enough, and he has a tendency to work overtime. He and Ms. Rogers usually get off work at the same time, so he’s able to walk her home at night.

His apartment starts to gain personality, starts to gain furniture and posters and things. Natasha insist on helping him shop for and pay for his new wardrobe and Clint gifts him a gun with a silencer for “safe-keeping”. He also starts to buy stuff for himself, because he can. When he was living with Pierce, he never had stuff, never had things of of his own. Now he has a crappy little T.V.  and an X-box and ugly Craigslist future and a Star-Wars comforter and a few framed photographs;  a picture he had snapped of Natasha and Clint and Lucky all dozing on a couch after they had come home from a mission; a selfie he had taken one weekend that Steve had visited, of Steve smiling at the camera and Bucky kissing his cheek, with Sarah photo-bombing in the background; and a seemingly inexplicable framed photograph of a mini-van, hanging above the mantle.

He kind of loves his little home. It’s not the beautiful palace he grew up in, not by far. It’s tiny and frumpy and it’s his. Everything, from the malfunctioning refrigerator to the stained rug, is his. He even has a welcome mat with his name on it.

 


 

Not everything is easy, not by far. More than once, Bucky has seen patients in the ER, and seen them reflected in himself. Broken fingers, glass embedded in skin, and a “loved one” standing there, gripping their shoulder, and telling the story of what had happened. It makes Bucky physically ill sometimes, an irrational fear that will probably stay with him his whole life because of Alexander. Every time a man yells, Bucky’s heart races. When there’s someone wearing a suit and a sense of superiority, he walks the other direction.  He still gets tremors from the valium withdrawal. Sometimes he has nightmares, and he wakes up, choking on air and fighting for every breath. The sharpness of everything is dulled, however, by the people around him. His own Super Support Group.

Sarah has almost a sixth sense for when he tenses up in the hospital, seeking him out and forcing him to take a break.

Natasha seems to have some experience with whatever it is he’s going through; PTSD, maybe. He does ask her, but she assures him that he’s not healing wrong, that the jagged pieces of him that he’s putting back together have no way to fit perfectly, and that it’s fine.

Bucky knows that whenever his panic creeps up on him, he can call Steve, day or night. That he’ll always answer, no matter what. Bucky may or may not abuse that privilege, just slightly.  

 

As promised, Steve does call everyday. Bucky usually hangs out on the fire escape, legs swinging over the sides as they talk for hours. They talk about their days (which is largely redundant, because they text each other near constantly), and about their plans, and about when Steve comes up to visit next. More than once, Bucky has fallen asleep with a phone to his ear, or listened as Steve tapers off into quiet snores.

One night, Bucky is sitting outside, quilt thrown over his legs, half-asleep, and on the other side, 280 miles away, Steve is yawning.

“Better go to bed.” He had said.

“Yeah.” Bucky said, pulling himself inside, eyes lidded.

“‘M. Night. Love you.” Steve muttered into the phone.

“Love you too.” Bucky said, ending the call.

It had taken them a week to realize that it had been the first time they had said the words.

 

Steve visits as much as their combined schedules allow, and demands to takes Bucky on dates around New York. Bucky argues that he doesn’t need to be wooed, that it’s fine, that’s he’s pretty much a sure thing, but he lets Steve court him anyway. It’s a nice feeling.

Sarah complains that Bucky gets to see her own son more than she does, but she’s busy enough with her own visitor, a certain well-dressed agent whose name rhymes with Bill Moulson. Bucky and Steve tease her about it endlessly, and Bucky can only imagine what kind of ribbing Natasha and Clint give poor Phil.

Bucky goes over to Natalia and Clint’s every weekend that Steve’s not over. He either hangs out with them and helps them with information collecting and loses video games, or he dog-sits Lucky when they’re out on missions. They haven’t told him exactly what they’ve been doing, but Bucky is smart, he figures it out. Clint, Natasha, Fury, and Hill have been systematically hunting down the remaining agents of HYDRA, making sure that there aren’t enough left to form a retaliation, figuratively cutting off each head of the serpent.

 

Bucky lets his hair grow out.

It starts because he doesn’t have time to get it cut, but once he realizes it’s length, when a bit falls into his eyes at work and he has to keep pushing it out of his face, he loves it. It’s not an appearance thing, because frankly, the hair doesn’t look all that good. It’s in that awkward place between short and long and he doesn’t know how to maintain it. Everyone around him doesn’t like it much either, Natasha curling her lips in distaste, Sarah offering to cut it herself, Clint calling him a “dirty hippie”.  But he likes that extra bit of petty satisfaction it gives him, knowing that Alexander would hate his hair like this, call it “sloppy” or “unrefined”.  Bucky’s had the same Cary Grant-esque hairstyle that Alexander admired since he was eight. He likes the way it curls around his ears, or how it looks when he pins it back, or when Natasha made him sit down so she could braid it. He loves the way it feels sliding between Steve’s fingers, artist’s hands twirling strands lazily while they talk about nonsensical things.

Steve comes down for the holidays, the back of his van filled with presents like Santa’s sleigh. They have Christmas at the Rogers’ place with an old little tree and dusty ornaments. It’s stressful for Bucky, who’s never really gotten presents for other people before. He makes lists and charts for each of his friends, and frets frantically over every present being perfect, without going completely bankrupt.

Bucky buys Sarah a new set of cooking pans that he’d seen her gaze longingly at in the holiday Crate and Barrel catalog. It’s expensive, but he owes her so much that it doesn’t seem like enough. He gets Natasha a silver necklace with an arrow on it, and he gets Clint a chain with a tiny red spider because he ships Clintasha harder than no one else. He also gives them a pizza-shaped squeaky toy for Lucky. He gets Phil a book of pick-up lines, because it makes him laugh. He buys Hill and Fury Starbuck gift cards, because he doesn’t really know them, but feels like he should get them something. He even wraps one gift with a tag to Vanna, with flame decals inside.

He worries for weeks over what to get Steve. He thinks about getting him a set of charcoal pencils, because he’s heard Steve complain many times about their price. He thinks about getting him some of those patriotic World War II propaganda comic books that Steve wrote his Art History research paper about. He thinks about going with the old, classic, dick in a box. In the end, he does all three.

Sarah hugs him over the kitchen appliances, and Bucky flushes with pride and happiness, holding the tiny woman hanging off of him. She hastily gives him her present, which he unwraps under the scrutiny. It’s an old polaroid camera, for making new memories, she explains. He’s embarrassed when his eyes well up, so he hugs her again, lifting her off her feet with a muttered “thank you”

Steve gets Bucky a guitar, having learned about Bucky’s love of playing music but his aversion to pianos.  It’s an old, secondhand thing, with worn wood and a tired sound. It’s the best thing anyone has ever gotten him, and Bucky learns “You Are My Sunshine” by the end of the day, playing it for Steve.

Steve geeks out hardcore over the comic books, which is adorable and he draws a picture with the charcoal pencils Bucky got him, to give it to Bucky as a thank you. It’s a picture of Steve as a knight in shining armour, with a fat steed with “Vanna” embroidered on its saddle. Knight Steve is gripping Princely Bucky, decked out in royal clothes and brandishing a sword. When he hands it to Bucky, Bucky laughs out loud, covering his mouth with a hand. Steve smiles and Bucky keeps the picture to put on his fridge.

Dinner arrives, Bucky helping Sarah in the kitchen and Steve helping her set the table. Phil comes first, bearing a present for Sarah. When she unwraps it, it’s a beautiful cashmere scarf, probably imported. It makes her blush and babble, like Steve does when he gets flustered. She runs into her room and pulls out her present for Phil, which happens to be, hilariously, a hand-knitted scarf that she must have made herself. Phil puts it on, and the top of his head turns red.

Natalia and Clint come next, a little banged up from their last mission, but smiling in the holiday spirit. He gives them their gifts, which they predictably love, and they give him their present which turns out to be a beautiful hand-carved bow, made by Clint’s “bow guy”. Natasha also gives Sarah a bottle of expensive red wine that she practically coos over. Bucky hands them the gift cards, and they promise to give them to Fury and Hill with his thanks

Dinner is an oddly normal affair, with ham and potatoes and pies and Christmas crackers filled  with paper crowns and knock-knock jokes and tiny trinkets. They laugh and eat and sing carols drunkenly, high on holiday spirit, good company, and red wine.

Bucky squeezes his eyes shut and revels in the new feeling of warmth and family. There’s a hand grasping his, and Bucky opens his eyes to see Steve smiling reassuringly and mouthing “you okay?”

Bucky smiles and nods and mouths “more than okay.”

After everyone leaves and the dishes are all done, Steve goes with Bucky back to his apartment, which is just a few doors over and and a floor up. Once they get there, Bucky gives Steve his third present. Twice.

 

The morning after, Bucky wakes before Steve, getting up to make breakfast. He can flip a mean pancake, with blueberries and everything. When he finishes, he takes two plates with him into his bedroom, because he’s an awesome, adult boyfriend that brings breakfast in bed to his sleepy partner. But, when he steps into the room, Steve is still asleep and has turned onto his stomach, sheets pooled around his hips, dimples of his back peeking out. The morning light is shining through the window, making his freckled skin glow, and his hair gleam in a way that makes it look golden, reflecting the sunshine off of his head like a halo. Bucky puts the plates on the dresser and pulls out the polaroid camera that Sarah had gifted to him. He snaps a picture of Steve and smiles as the camera spits out the photograph. It comes into focus slowly, and Bucky watches as the ink fades into place, almost doing justice to the scene before him.

Steve grumbles and turns, looking soft in Bucky’s sheets, and slightly ridiculous with the nebulizer strapped to his face. He pulls it off with a huff, messing up his bed-head even further. He crosses his arms and raises an eyebrow at Bucky. Bucky puts down the camera and crawls back into bed.

Breakfast gets cold.

They don’t mind.

 


 

PIERCE TRIAL OVER, HEAD OF HYDRA FOUND GUILTY OF ALL CHARGES

Alexander Pierce, former Secretary of Defence was sentenced last night to multiple life sentences in prison for his crimes against the United States as well as other serious charges. He will be offered no chance of parole.

According to the head attorneys for the prosecution in this case, Matthew Murdock and Franklin Nelson, Pierce pled not guilty to all charges, but because of the insurmountable evidence to the contrary, he was found guilty for every single charge.

The list of Alexander Pierce’s crimes is staggering.

He has been convicted with countless war crimes, including aiding of enemy forces, inhumane treatment of war criminals, among several grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions while he was a Lieutenant General in the United States Army.

Pierce is also being charged with treason against the United States, the first person to receive this charge since 1952. His work as the leader of HYDRA manipulated many countries, encouraged war, funded terrorists, and caused the deaths of several high authority political figures.

He was also charged with many domestic crimes, including the abuse of his adopted son, money laundering, political bribery, and the sexual assault of one of his former employees.

To quote the Honorable Judge Lewis, the presiding Judge in this case, “Alexander Pierce is a snake of a man. He is manipulative, he is iniquitous, and he is vile. Though it may not be my place to say, I personally could not agree more with the verdict of the jury. He deserves to rot in prison more his crimes.”  (story cont. on page 18)


THE MYSTERIOUS CASE OF JAMES PIERCE

Now that the excitement of Alexander Pierce trail is over, I wanted to take a look at one of the key character witnesses for the prosecution, James Barnes, née Pierce. His testimony swayed many jury members, tugging at the public’s emotions, convincing the world that Alexander Pierce was not only a political criminal, not just another rich white man in a suit and a charming smile, but a monster that had betrayed millions, including his adopted son.

Last the world saw James, Alexander Pierce was searching for him, telling America a sob story of a missing, mentally ill son. He played the part of a concerned father, holding press conferences and sending out a nationwide manhunt for James. He was found mere hours before the evidence of Pierce crimes and connection to HYDRA was spilled onto the internet and Pierce was arrested. Many people have questioned James’ connection to what is now infamously known as HYDRA-gate. Though Natalia Romanova, the former SHIELD agent who leaked the files refuses to reveal the identity of her source, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that James seemed to escape Pierce’s grasp just days before the man’s career came to a fiery end (quite literally, the Insight prototypes were blown from the sky). Coincidence? We here at The Pulse don’t think so.

Since then, James Pierce dropped off the map completely, until his father’s trial. He was called upon as a character witness for the prosecution, lead by the prodigal (and quite charming) duo, Murdock and Nelson. James Barnes appeared on the witness stand, a handsome young man who bravely delivered his testimony and looked his abuser in the eye. His testimony was as eloquent as it was shocking. The defence sputtered through cross-examination, and after a grueling 2 hours recounting 10 years of maltreatment and neglect, James was allowed to leave the stand. The testimony was so emotionally draining that Judge Lewis had to call a recess in order for the jury to collect themselves.

James Barnes was legally emancipated late last year, graduated high school, and is currently working at New York Memorial Hospital as a medical assistant. He lives in Brooklyn. We were unable to get an interview with Mr. Barnes, but we at The Pulse wish him the best in his endeavors.