Chapter 1: Moon
It sits heavy in the sky, huge and white and perfectly round, the only source of light in this deserted place.
Putting one foot in front of the other is becoming a struggle, and no matter how much he presses his fingers -human fingers, flesh fingers- into the tender sides of his ribs, they still ache. The blood still slips between them and pools about, the torn leather of his vest failing to stem the flow.
It hurts, but assets are not suppose to feel pain, so he trudges onwards.
Just because they had trained his pain threshold though, it doesn't mean that he cannot experience the sensation.
He feels it, stabbing across the curve of his ribs, can feel the bullet still inside pinching at whatever it's caught on.
It is the first mission he's been seriously injured on, the first mission he can remember anyway. He can't remember many of them, if any.
And there are scars on his body, taunt evidence.
Mostly around the arm, the shoulder joint that connected it to his body. The metal was set to withstand this kind of punishment, to not freeze up under intense cold.
But just because the arm is functioning, it does not mean the rest of his body can progress with the same mechanical relentlessness.
His limbs, the three that are still made of flesh, are quivering now, and his breath, coiling about in the air before his lips like pure smoke, is coming quicker and quicker.
It's not a good sign, something in the back of his mind tells him, and the Asset would wince, if he remembered how to. But that instinct has been stolen from him, blacklisted, because it could affect his performance.
He staggers, managing to catch himself on his knee even as his side screams once again in protest. He doesn't end up face first in the snow though, so that's a plus.
The chill is starting to set into his bones again, and it's strange to experience this sensation without being in the container, the container that always brought the cold with it. That froze up his limbs, locked them in place and shut his mind down, teased him into sleep.
Still kneeling, the Asset finds he can no longer summon up the will to get up, that this body is betraying him. Wounded and tired, with no substance or sleep, it's grown weak, failing him.
The handlers had been picked off by the targets, but he'd taken care of the targets. Something inside him had told him to flee, so flee he had.
Now, struggling to even start to consider leaving this clearing, the Asset tilts his head back, looking up at the great big spot of wax in the sky, its pallid rays gleaming from the metal of his arm and disappearing as it touched the leather.
Before his eyes fall shut, the Asset turns to a side, and notes a figure highlighted by the soft glow of the moon.
Chapter 2: Cloud
Wherever he is, it is soft. It's not that warmth surrounds him, though certainly he is not cold. The temperature is neutral, it's the best description he can think of.
No, what is unusual is the tenderness of what surrounds him, the gentle scrape of cotton against his skin, the lack of restricting leather that usually encircles his torso. Delicately mild fabric clothes him instead, the Asset can tell without even opening his eyes that these are not his clothes.
That this is not a place he is suppose to be in.
But it's subdued, it's comforting, this sensation that has wrapped around him, emollient.
Like hiding in a cloud, far up and out of reach of all the horrors that would try and drag him back down to earth.
There's a sense of detachment that he's never been able to achieve before.
The isolation of a mission was different, removing himself from the lingering mindset that resides within the back of his consciousness isn't difficult, considering he never fully steps into it. So far back, HYDRA has pushed it, that he dares not approach.
All that rests down that route is pain, pain from remembering, pain as they steal all that he recalls.
This is a different type of disconnection.
He doesn't have to be aware, to be on guard at all moments. Instead, he can just remain coddled within the safety of the cloud that he has taken residency upon on. None can touch him here, here he is safe.
It's a tantalizing prospect, one that's been forever out of reach, or so it seems. The concept of safety, of being able to stop and rest, to not have to be on constant alert, is a strange idea. A foreign idea.
It stands out, a glaring oddity in the life he's been living so far.
He is the Asset.
Assets are not suppose to feel safe, to crave a lull in the constant fighting. He knows he's not suppose to wonder in regards to peace.
But it happens anyway; he considers it. Ponders over if this is what peace feels like.
A part of him just wishes to rest, to obliterate himself completely into that what surrounds him, to become one with it and to never have to emerge again.
No more missions, no more targets.
Just this sense of endless serenity.
Now that he knows what this feels like, what the absence of all he was before is like, he never wants to leave.
But that is not how this works.
He can already feel the conscious world beckoning to him, enticing him into its throes, extracting him from this place of tranquillity that he feels no urgency to abandon.
He doesn't want to leave, the Asset realizes. It has been such a long time since he has remembered wanting something, that the thought of such a thing is startling.
Yet, as the tattered remains of his memories suggests, he has no control.
And so, he wakes.
Chapter 3: Caress
He wakes to pain flaring in his side, burning and snaking into his innards with a fierceness he's forgotten, a result of his brief reprieve into unconsciousness.
The Asset cannot remember a time in which he was injured upon awakening.
There have been injuries during missions, during compulsory training, but it was always mended by the time he was awoken again. He was always fixed, charged and ready for the next mission, the next target. They make sure their asset is working smoothly, in order to ensure maximum success in regards to the mission.
Yet, he's conscious, with pain in his side and no ice in his veins. He hasn't been put under, he hasn't been drugged, he's still among the waking world.
And it's new, different.
Something isn't right.
His entire being shifts effortlessly into a state of utmost alertness, eyes snapping open to take in everything he can visually, even as his mind registered there's only one other human in the room.
Light breathing, soft footfalls; small, female, athletic but not trained. Not HYDRA.
This realization stumps him for a second.
HYDRA are more often than not made up of males -females are easier to emotionally compromise- who have been trained to fight, to survive. Spies or scientists, that is the company that the Asset is given.
The only time he meets civilians, he is there to become their end. To guide them out of the land of the living in as effective a manner as possible.
For he isn't human, he's the Asset, a ghost in a world of ghosts, creating wraiths and leaving spoors of blood as he goes. He is untouched by the world, but he is the one who shapes it, the tool, the weapon, within the hands of the creator.
Only now, someone else has picked him up, sought out the discarded instrument and taken him from the caisson that was HYDRA and stored him away in this new place.
A new handler?
The Asset is uneased, unsure of what is going on. Unsure if this is acceptable or not.
There are no protocols in the event of his kidnapping, for it was never predicted to have been a problem. He was a ghost, none could catch him.
Yet, here he lays on the softest support -a bed?- that he has ever been allowed near, with a woman -young, light, short- standing cautiously over him.
His vision's good enough to pick out the sharp contrast of her brilliant green eyes against the pale of her skin, the thick scarring that wraps around the upper half of her face like sharp lightning.
"Hey, it's okay, I'm gonna patch you up, okay?"
This is, new.
Comfort was never offered to him before.
A hand, thin and delicate, reaches out, a gentle caress against the bullet wound, and yet, smearing a foul scented concoction across the puncture.
All he can consider is how easy that dainty wrist would break beneath his hands.
Unconsciousness takes him again.
Chapter 4: Strain
The next time he wakes up, the pain is gone.
His body feels light, even the arm feels light, which is so abnormal that it's the first thing he notices when he snaps to attention atop the soft bed.
Not a table, not the unregenerately hard backed table that HYDRA always strapped him down to.
But a bed.
Sitting up is a strain on his abdominals, but he pushes past the pain like always to inspect his arm instead.
It's his greatest advantage, capable of deflecting bullets and crushing a multitude of objects with force that no normal arm would ever be able to replicate. It's fine, it still operates, but it's different too.
Unfamiliar symbols have been carved into the surface, likely with a laser. He can think of no other tool that would result in such straight, crisp cuts.
His flesh fingers carefully trace the outline of one, shaped almost like a lightning bolt, and something nags at the back of his mind, a persistent feeling of wrongness, of violation.
No one was suppose to touch the arm, no one that wasn't approved by the handlers.
But the handlers were all dead now, their brains decorating the asphalt with their limbs broken and twisted.
There was a new one.
Because he'd been picked up, fixed, which meant someone had need of an asset, of his skill set.
Frowning is beyond him, but the emotion it expresses is not, and the soldier slowly sits up, glancing around the room.
It's an old building, with antique furnishes from times long before he could remember, perhaps even before HYDRA. Victorian, a part of his mind whispers, but that's not quite right either.
There's items, objects, that he doesn't recognise.
The lack of shine, of metallic surfaces, isn't a relief, but it's something close.
The rugs, the dark wood of the floorboards, the patterned wallpaper, it's all foreign. It's...
Well, it's not good, but certainly it's not bad either.
It's been a long time since the Asset encountered something new.
Running the tips of his metal digits down the edge of the open door -not locked in, not contained- the Asset steps out into the hallway on silent feet, making his way down the corridor.
The wood in unnaturally muffled beneath his feet, though no substance lays upon its surface to suffocate the sound of his steps.
He glances left, then right, notes the light seems to emit from the room to his left, and he heads towards the source.
His guns have been removed, but the short hunting knife still remains strapped to his forearm; odd, the handlers never allowed him to carry weapons before, not unless he was off base, completing a mission.
They didn't trust him.
Given the fact the Asset is currently thinking, perhaps they were right to do so.
Slipping into the room through the open door, the Asset freezes as the woman from before looks up, hair like fire and smile warm.
Chapter 5: Water
Her voice flows over him like water.
Not like the gentle lapping of a calm lake shore, but as if it were the thunderous rumble of a storming ocean, the waves closing up over his head, body dragged under.
She commands attention in a way few others do, he knows little of those who can demand his attention without an order, with just an exclamation.
Snapping to attention, the Asset stills as the woman approaches, noting the distinctive scar upon her face -distinguishing mark- the soft curve of her lips -skin chapped, nervous habit- and the vibrancy of her eyes -uncommon feature- all at once.
There's a tilt of something to her lips, certainly not a smile, but not the stern line that all the handlers of the past wore.
Another way of asking if he were serviceable? The bullet wound was closed now, and while the surrounding skin was tense and taunt, it was nothing that would prevent him from functioning to full capacity.
"Operational," was his response, and the Asset observes how the woman's lips purse, brow crinkling with the action.
"Most people say thank you when you save their life."
She hadn't saved his life; he'd have been picked up and repaired either way.
Still, it is evident from her tone that he is expected to speak, to express some form of gratitude.
"Thank you," he parrots back, watching as the woman's face falls a little more.
What did he do wrong now?
He was addressing all the protocols, standing to attention, not mentioning the completion of the previous mission, waiting for the cool down that came before the freeze.
Only, she isn't running him through the correct procedures, none of the correct equipment is present, nor are there any others; no scientists, no guards.
"Er, do you wanna sit down?"
The Asset sits himself in one of the multitude of chairs present, noting the lack of restraints, of cords and leads.
Perhaps he didn't require a wipe now.
Strange, they usually notice when he starts thinking on his own.
Slowly, the woman edges into her own seat, and now he notes she looks cautious, wary. As if she's realised how much danger he actually poses to those around him.
There's silence for a few seconds, enough that he can hear the clock's rhythmic ticking three floors above him.
"Would you like some tea?"
The handlers have never offered him tea before, nor any kind of food either.
Standard operating procedure indicates he should be given specially blended shakes, so he's not slowed by the weight of solid food within his stomach.
Being given a choice, options, has never happened before either.
Slowly wetting his lips -testing the water, usually such a nervous disposition would get him backhanded- the Asset doesn't narrow his eyes, but he thinks.
An illusion of choice?
Should he pass or fail?
He quickly jerks his head in a sporadic nod, reflexively tensing.
"Alright then, I'll be right back."
Chapter 6: Righteousness
The Asset sits, mind whirling as the sharp clink of metal meeting china echoes through the air.
He's watching the teaspoon circle about in the cup, he's watching the steam curl up and over the swirling liquid.
But he's not stirring the tea.
The woman is not stirring the tea.
The tea is stirring itself.
The Asset may not have a solid understanding of the everyday world, but he is relatively certain that tea does not stir itself. That the spoons do not rise from the contents, only to throw in another cube of sugar without any form of human aid.
Evidentially, that wasn't the case here.
The Asset watches the woman constantly now that she is once again sat up to table.
Earlier, back before he'd known of her magic, he'd assessed her, and deemed her a threat level of two. The only thing preventing her from being a threat level of one was the fact she'd managed to kidnap him at all, even though she fails to speak of his retrieval in such a manner.
But now that he is no longer ignorant of her powers, of her magic, her threat level sits at a solid nine.
Able to kill with the gesture of a stick, that's what he assumes.
The only reason her rating doesn't stand at a ten is simply due to the fact he outclasses her in physical hand to hand combat.
Even then, the Asset isn't sure she doesn't have any tricks up her sleeve, some ability that she'd be able to use to take him out.
Were they to fight, the Asset is unsure of his victory, a novel experience.
Having finished explaining her magic, the woman is leaning back in her chair, one hand wrapped around her tea and a tight smile on her face.
"Sorry, I don't actually know your name? I'm Harry, by the way."
It's a question, phrased like one and with the high note to the end of the sentence indicating that the woman wishes for him to answer.
Only, the Asset cannot.
He is an asset, a tool, and they do not have names. He could lie, could select a name from the comprehensive list housed in his head, thousands of names.
But the woman also expects his honesty, and he has to comply.
Just because he cannot see the chair, doesn't mean that the device isn't present.
And a small part of him, minute really, wishes to continue thinking. To continue down this path and see where it would leave him.
Assets are not suppose to have such emotion, yet he does.
Is he truly an asset now? Or does this break him; is he less now that he ponders?
"I can't remember," he finally vocalises, and the woman's features go tight. Her eyes trace the lines of his face, brow heavy, before giving a determined nod.
And there's a finality to her words, a sense of righteousness, which confuses the Asset.
The woman, Harry, putters about, carrying commodities back and forth, placing them upon the counter, setting up a small cauldron, a tiny bunsen burner beneath a stand.
The Asset doesn't have the slightest clue what she's doing.
He can't quite figure out what the woman could possibly need mistletoe berries, glacier water, and a collection of brightly coloured feathers for.
It's a strange gathering of produce, and the Asset tilts his head to a side, as if a new angle will help in giving him the answers he seeks.
It doesn't, instead he only gets to witness the sharp, quick birth of a flame, coiling up from the etna before it disappears beneath the head sized cauldron.
He doesn't understand what the cauldron is required for; the woman owns a stove, for it sits between her kitchen worktops, though far older than perhaps it should have been.
Yet, she moves with a mechanical procession, the movements etched into her memory with no hesitation as she slices up the strange looking plant in her hands.
He wonders, feels cautious, over whatever it is she is preparing.
But he dares not ask.
Questions led to the chair, to forgetting.
He prefers this chair, with its lack of restraints, and the fact he is learning new things. Of magic, and the woman who controls it.
He prefers this place, where there are no reflective metal surfaces, no implements to cut him open, no generators to recalibrate him.
This is the preferred state, where there is no pain, where the cold doesn't seep into the very state of his being.
Yet, he still worries over what the woman is up to.
Is this a new method of control, of forcing him to bend his neck and present his weakness to her?
He doesn't know, and that more than anything sets him on edge, as if perched so precariously above a cliff face.
Thick xanthous liquid is dropping from the pipet that the woman holds high now, disappearing beneath the bubbling surface of the cauldron's contents and the Asset cannot stop his fingers from curling into a gleaming fist, metal hand resting atop his thigh.
"I'm making Forget-Me-Not," the woman -Harry- explains, looking over her shoulder at him with a sad tilt to her lips, "it's going to give you your memories back."
How did she even notice his memories were missing?
The Asset knows, because there's glaring gap, chasms of loss, seared into his mind.
It's his mind though, so the woman shouldn't know.
He doesn't startle, per se, but he does righten in his chair when the woman places a cup of frothing liquid before him.
Does he want his memories back?
Was he even allowed a choice in this?
If the new handler wants the Asset to have his memories back, they would be back on way or another.
Yet, no order has been given, no force has been used.
He doesn't want force to be required.
The Asset drinks.
Making the 'Forget-Me-Not' Potion, a newly invented potion that restores memories taken by non magical means.
Some Forget Me Not ingredients;
Boiled Mandrake pieces
Forget me not flower petals
I took these from what I felt were related potions, so, yeah. Aside from the forget me nots, that I just found amusing.
Chapter 8: Falling
The second he's drained the glass of all that it contained, the Asset's head throbs.
A strangled gasp escapes his lips, and he finds himself falling back, tipping as if the chair has been ripped from beneath and the shell of existence around him has disappeared, the illusion of everything shattering like the shards of a broken mirror.
It feels like he's slipping backwards, sinking further and further into obscurity, and yet, at the same time, he can feel everything.
The soft whistle of the cool air slinking in from the open window, the hard wooden flooring that rests underneath his body.
The woman's -Harry's- arms around him, having completed what would surely have been a spectacular catch when he fell from his chair.
She's cradling his head, whispering words of apology, promises that the sensation would be over soon and then he would remember.
If this is remembering, then he wishes to remain ignorant.
This isn't the pleasant disconnection from before; this is a sensation of detachment, floating in space and losing hold of the tether, left to flail about in a world of nothing, questioning if anything at all was real, if it were ever real.
He finds himself focusing on the woman, the only sensation he feels in this sudden divorce from reality.
His mind feels sluggish, heavy in a way it never has before, not even when his body had been injured.
It's disconnecting, uncomfortable and leaves him distressed.
These feelings are appearing far too quick, feelings he's not suppose to have; he's an asset, a weapon, a tool used to shape the world.
Never creating, but the cause behind the effect.
The causation, not the idea.
He doesn't know why he's so still; part of him wishes to reach out, to wrap his hands around the slim neck and squeeze, until the threat to his person is eliminated.
Another part, a stronger part, roars to life within his torso though; previously a carcass of an ember, now a blazing inferno of feeling, of human understanding and emotion.
And everything about those flames licking at the hollow of his chest cavity insists that to attack the woman is wrong, a paramount of an err.
She's worried, with compassion sitting heavy in her fantastically green eyes, the storm of cicatrix that crosses her face twisting about, flashing like the lightning it's modelled after.
None of the HYDRA bastards had ever bothered to care if he was injured, or scared or hurt. They'd never asked his permission for anything.
Then again, none of them had been quite like the dame in front of him either.
The Asset hisses at the strange, foreign thoughts, and realises that it's horror he's feeling, as he reaches the conclusion that he's a person too.
That he was once a normal man, with rights and friends and a life ahead of him.
Before they played God and ripped it away.
"Rest, let your mind heal."
The Asset wishes to fight, but Bucky obeys.
Pale, thin fingers trace around the edges of the plastic cup, fingernails trimmed short and neat, free of any dirt.
Teddy watches the woman he considers his mother brood over their latest predicament, while another part of him just takes the time to appreciate the fact he was allowed back in the kitchen again.
He knew Harry wasn't really his mother, but she was his godmother, and given the fact his grandma had died before he'd even reached his first year -dragonpox, the healers had whispered- she was the only family he'd ever known.
The guest that Harry had brought home had been moved to his own room, with wards set up to prevent the man from attacking them, should he turn violent.
Teddy was interested, really interested, in the man Harry had brought home though.
She'd only gone out for potion ingredients, somewhere in Russia and she'd come back with an injured stranger.
As a result, Teddy had spent the last few days barred from the third floor, where the guest had been resting.
But now, now he was back in his room and he wanted some answers.
"Is he a superhero?"
It was a reasonable question.
Ever since Harry had been adding to the Black wards two years ago, and accidentally thrown them into another dimension, Teddy had sort of maybe fallen in love with the place.
It wasn't his fault; here people didn't look down on him because of something his father couldn't control, there weren't any wars over bloodlines, people weren't constantly bothering Harry with their problems.
And here, there were superheroes.
Ironman was amazing, and Teddy knew that here, in this world where there was no magic other than he and Harry, he was going to be a superhero too.
A small smile is Harry's temporary reply, half hidden behind the cup of the mango juice she'd served up for the two of them.
Kicking his legs back and forth, Teddy drums his fingers against the table top, skin tingling as freckles broke out across his cheeks.
He misses the Weasleys, they always used to visit him and play with him, and he knows Harry misses them too.
But he knows she's also really pleased to be away from the Wizarding world, to be just Harry.
And Teddy feels bad, because he's pleased that here, Harry's just his godmother; she's not the Wizarding world's saviour or the best healer to ever serve in St Mungos. He gets to spend so much time with her, and he loves it.
"I don't think so Teddy. I think he's been, well..."
Teddy slumps a little at the thought.
The seven year old might not have seen much of the world, but he knows Harry still wakes screaming from war flashbacks sometimes. He knows he'll have to be careful around him, but-
"I want to help."
It was just him and Harry in this world, and come hell or high water, he was going to stick by her.
So now, here's a bit of a break from our lovely Soldier's POV. Teddy's here! And hey, there's the reason Harry and Teddy are even here. Harry mucked up wards on Grimmauld Place, transporting it and the two of them inside, to a new world. And she's given up trying to get back.
(I feel like the goblins would refuse to let her keep an account at the bank, so she keeps all her gold in house)
Chapter 10: Tastes
Waking up with his mind intact, with every last one of his memories present and accounted for in his head, tastes just a little bit like victory. Sprinkled with the unforgettable tinge of bitterness, of burning fury that coils about in his stomach like a caged dragon, thick smoke wafting about deep in his chest, to the point it's getting hard to breath.
He's Bucky Barnes, he will always be Bucky Barnes.
But now he's also got this monster in him, this emotionless, mechanical being known as the Winter Soldier.
It's like a separate mindset, and he knows if he reaches for it, he can slip back into the mask as if it were a second skin.
That he could hide behind the façade and never have to surface, to never let the world hurt him again.
It just means he has to be the one doing the hurting, and unfortunately, Bucky Barnes finds that option an unacceptable one.
He's always been brave enough to face the pain head on; though now that there's a way to opt out of it, an escape, he's not sure if he's strong enough to resist.
A knock at the door startles him into alertness, flesh arm reaching for a knife that has remained strapped to his right leg.
The dame, Harry, hadn't taken any of his knives, just the guns. Perhaps her magic doesn't work against guns, perhaps knives are just easier to stop?
He's not too sure.
But his heart's pounding, palpitating, against his ribs and his blood's rumbling about in his ears.
As the door opens, he tries to calm himself.
Harry's not a threat; she could have hurt him already, could have hurt him so much worse than HYDRA did.
But she hasn't.
She hasn't used him, hasn't tricked him, has done him no wrong.
She revived him, put the pieces back together, even though he's more than just one whole person now.
More like a whole person with a little extra on the side.
"How's the head?" She asks quietly, English accent heavy in each word and a nervous smile on her face.
She's mid twenties, and Bucky takes a moment to appreciate just how nicely these new-age clothes flatter the female form.
He's not quite sure how to word his response, how to tell her that there's more in his mind than ever before, but that it's the best he's been in near seventy years, so instead he just offers a grateful nod, trying not to wince when the woman's eyes flash with regrettable understanding.
She's seen war, bloodshed; the expression she wears hits far too close to home.
So, she'll know how he can start pulling himself together now that the war's over
it's been over for sixty five years.
"Would you like to come downstairs for dinner?"
It's a hesitant question, but Bucky already knows his answer anyway. His clenching stomach cries out for sustenance, and whatever that smell is, it's wonderful.
"I, er, yes, please."
Chapter 11: Erupts
Sitting down at the wooden table, upon the feeble chair that had just yesterday housed the Asset, Bucky Barnes takes a covert glance around the room, noting everything strange and unusual.
His eyes dart from the painstakingly cleaned windows featured on the southern wall, to the neat array of jars lined up along the secure looking spice-rack. His eyes linger on the photo frames and their contents, still significantly startled to see their figures moving.
The dame, Harry, is sat in one, a small child on her lap that shares none of her features -and he's politely ignoring the fluorescent blue hair-, but a smile of pure love matching the one upon her face.
Probably the same child that now sits across from him, with the same shockingly blue hair, covering a face that shares far more of Harry's features than Bucky's perhaps comfortable with.
It's not the fact that they could be mother and son; more that, if they do in fact share that close a relation, then where the hell is the father?
Because judging by their ages, then Harry would've been young, teenaged kind of young, when she had the boy.
Bucky doesn't realise he's staring until the boy wiggles his eyebrows, face steadily morphing until it's a match for the boy in the photo, just with curly, tawny brown hair instead.
His mind all but erupts with questions.
"Teddy, this is..."
The woman trails off, and Bucky pushes down a flush of heat upon realising he's not yet given her his name.
"James Barnes, Ma'am, but most call me Bucky."
She smiles at that, turning back to the boy -Teddy- and a stern look prompts him into returning to what appears to be his default form, the face from the picture with the same electric blue hair.
"Bucky, this is my godson, Teddy."
Godson, right, that explained it.
The kid could change his features, that was pretty swell.
And effective in the field, the Asset supplies from where he sits at the back of Bucky's mind, whispering into his ears. It'd make assassination missions so much easier...
Pushing that thought away -because he was never going back to that, because he was free now, no more war and no more HYDRA, it was just Bucky now- the dark haired male offers the duo as best a roguish grin as he can concoct.
"You're not worried about letting him near me?"
It was a valid question.
Hell, Bucky's worried about the kid -Teddy- being near him, given the fact he can feel the Soldier lurking in his mind.
"He's got an object on him that'll teleport him away if anyone ever makes an attempt on his life... I've, er, made one for you too. It'll bring you back here, if anyone tries to kidnap you."
A small necklace, with a little silver coin on a little silver chain is pushed across the table to him, and Bucky suddenly finds it very difficult to swallow.
"Thank you, Ma'am."
Chapter 12: Composure
Despite the fact she was walking down the street with the most famous ghost of an assassin to ever stalk society, Harry's composure is perfect.
One of her hands is intertwined with Teddy's, and he knows for a fact her other arm is free so that she can reach for her wand at a moments notice.
Bundled up in a jacket, Bucky stuffs his metal fist into the deep front pocket, making sure there's not the slightest glint of silver escaping the fabric cover.
While the reassurance of the teleporting necklace relaxes him significantly, there's still no reason to go out and chance fate. If he's not going to be staying inside, then he sees no reason to not take every single precaution he can, to ensure he brings as little trouble as possible to the woman that has taken him in.
Harry is far too kind, Bucky rationalises, given the fact she's supplying him with food, lodging and all the post-war care he could realistically need.
Insisting he gets out of the house, even though every part of Bucky Barnes wishes to do nothing more than crawl beneath the thick duvet of his new bed and ignore the world.
The soldier though, the Asset desires a mental map of their current location; to note all the points of interest, the most likely places for ambush and snipers.
It's for the best that Harry got him out, even if it's just to join her on the school run.
It's strange, tracking through the snow, watching his boots sink into the white mass and see the footsteps left behind. He's allowed to leave marks, evidence, that he's passed by now, that he exists.
A bark of laughter escapes him before he can silences it, when he notes that Teddy's boots leave behind wolf prints instead of human tracks.
The mouses haired boy, no longer sporting his blue barnet now that he's going out to interact with the rabble, glances over his shoulder and grins wildly at Bucky. It's the kind of smile he'd have worn as a youngster, and it pains him to know he'll never manage an expression of such innocence again.
"So, you're nearly seventy years in the future?" Teddy asks, shuffling his mother to the right so he could address Bucky.
He'd given the two the bare bones of his story, and while Teddy had absorbed it all with excitement, Harry's eyes had been alight with a pained understanding.
"Well the food's better here; there's no rationing, and we've got loads of chocolate."
Snorting, Bucky reaches over, ruffling the boy's hair with his flesh hand.
Wide, golden eyes glance back at him, before a bashful, pleased smile spreads across the boy's face.
"I'm looking forward to trying it all then."
"Right! Mom can make a chocolate cake for dinner!"
"Any excuse for chocolate," Harry confirms, lips tilting up in a smile as she throws him a look over her shoulder, and Bucky finds himself smiling back.
Chapter 13: Jaunt
The knife flashes through the air, sinking through the orange flesh in a rapid succession of slices.
Dicing up vegetables is so much more preferable to human fingers.
As soon as they'd returned to the house -12 Grimmauld Place, covered in wards, only one viable position for a sniper shot in through the first floor bedroom that wasn't in use anyway- Bucky had been put right to work.
While Harry went about mixing up a selection of ingredients for a chocolate cake, the former soldier found himself with a collection of vegetables, a knife, and the instructions to cut them all down to size.
For stew apparently.
The repetitiveness of the motions were calming, and Bucky knew as soon as he was one carrot in that Harry had given him this job for that exact reason.
A chance to get his head back on after returning from their jaunt outside.
Harry's whisking something now, the sound of the motion rippling through the room as Bucky finishes up on the last parsnip. He doesn't need prompting, sliding the perfectly square pieces into the pan of water that sits upon the stove.
"Take over with this?"
Harry presses the bowl of cake batter into his hands before he can agree, starting on the seasoning for the stew she's making.
It's an entirely domestic scene, and after the war, after being brainwashed, used and abused, it takes all his focus to adjust to this new setting.
He doesn't have time to even consider brooding over the past, not right now.
Now, in this moment, he can just be.
He's just Bucky, Harry's guest and her spare hands in the kitchen.
It's probably the most innocent thing his prosthetic has ever been used for, and he takes great pleasure in the fact HYDRA's greatest creation is being used for something as mundane as chopping up vegetables.
It seems like it's going to be easy to fall into a routine here, and perhaps that's what he needs right now.
No bloodshed, no battles of wit and war.
Just time to recover, to reorganise himself as a person.
"I tried to keep going after my war," Harry speaks quietly, never looking up from the collection of herbs she's sprinkling into the pot, but he knows he has her full attention, "but you just can't do it. I took a holiday, went away with Teddy just after his grandmother died. It was the best thing I could've done."
She turns the flame on, returning to inspect his work and giving a pleased nod.
"You can stay here as long as you like," Harry informs him resolutely, pouring the batter into a large cake tin.
A few flecks splash up at her slim fingers tips, but she pays them little attention, instead focusing on Bucky to make sure he understands the message.
And he does.
Though their situations may not be perfectly similar, she's here to listen to him, to offer him help.
And right now, that's enough.
Chapter 14: Hair
Winter blues remain locked in a strange dance with their perfect pair, as Bucky Barnes sits and stares into his reflection.
With the glow the old gas lamps -but not quite gas, magical light- give off, the light catches his eyes in such a way that when Bucky Barnes looks in, it's the Winter Soldier looking back.
It's a terrifying prospect, that the thing HYDRA made him into sits deep within his mind, lingers persistently, like a uncanny childhood fear resurfacing decades later.
A predator, waiting beneath the cover of night, to strike out at the opportune moment.
The image isn't helped by the fact he's got all this damn hair framing his face.
Gathering up the strands in both hands, Bucky twists it back, coming to rest just at the base of his skull and inspecting his visage in the mirror once again.
The shade that curve around his eyes is no longer as noticeable now, though the stubble that has collected over the past few days gives him a mean five o'clock shadow, one that does perhaps a bit too much to highlight his jawline.
Running his flesh fingers over the bristles, Bucky sighs, rummaging through the draws for a hair tie.
He'll have to ask Harry for a pair of scissors; he knows it'll probably be a better idea to let her cut his hair instead, but the idea of turning his back on someone holding a pointed object has the Asset screaming in the recesses of his mind.
He couldn't possible sit through a haircut with the Soldier stalking about in his mind, cataloging every which way he could defend himself, and then, go on the attack.
Bucky refuses to tempt it, to allow the Asset any closer to the surface.
Not when Harry had taken him in, nursed him back to health, and given him his life back.
She'd exposed her greatest weakness to him, informed him of Teddy's existence. Stupidly, she'd shown the Soldier the exact point to target, her soft spot.
While she might be powerful, strong, magical, her godson was evidentially not.
Perhaps he hadn't been trained, perhaps it was something that came with age, but regardless, he was the chink in her armour.
The only thing the Asset would even have to consider was the magic that teleported him out of a harmful situation. A way to circumvent that.
No, he didn't need to do that.
Shaking his head, Bucky glances in the mirror again, taking in the ever so light tan-lines that hinted at where the mask had been. The muzzle that HYDRA had made him wear.
It would be gone soon enough; he was free, no longer their prisoner. He would not be frozen, thawed out only for their own benefit.
The war was over, he was out of HYDRA's clutches; he didn't have to kill anyone anymore.
If he did, then it would be by his own choice.
Inspecting the ponytail once more, Bucky leaves to find Harry.
Chapter 15: Headache
Collecting Teddy from his school is a nightmare.
It sets every instinct within him on edge, all these people milling around outside of a building.
He doesn't know any of them, doesn't know their ties, where their loyalties lie. If any of them are at all aware of the games that are played with their lives.
Assessing all those around him, mind racing, deciding their threat level and all the ways in which he could eliminate them, Bucky tries not to let on to how badly his head is hurting.
He fails, because Harry pushes a small vial into his hand, whispering that it was for his headache.
She's done him no wrong so far, and he doubts that she'd undo all of her effort in rebuilding him through a distasteful a method as poison.
Uncorking the little glass, Bucky downs the substance, grimacing at the taste.
It's foul, but he can already feel it working, feel his head clearing.
Feel the Asset settling.
Now that he is back to working at full capacity, he calms, the beating of his heart lessening in its intensity.
Harry stares back at him with her bright green eyes, a puzzled little frown on her face.
It's only when he feels her thin, dainty fingers wrap around the metal of his own that he registers he was reaching for a knife.
She's stopped him from pulling the blade out, which is, evidentially, still frowned upon in public.
"You've got an out," Harry whispers, and Bucky feels he must give her credit for her acting. She's leaning into his side, really close after wrapping his metal limb around her body; to everyone present, they probably appear to be nothing more than a duo of lovesick newlyweds.
He grimaces at the idea.
"You've got an out. All you have to say is 'take me home', and it'll transport your right out of here."That is marginally calming.
Yet, he must grow use to living as a civilian, as a normal person, once again.
Though he is no longer fighting in a war, his mind is not yet acclimatised to such a state of being.
Logically, he knows that he has an escape route, one that none other than Harry and her godson can follow him on.
But, he sill struggles to accept the idea. So long caged, so long beaten down and trapped, seemingly without any way of moving forwards; it pains him.
Harry's thumb is still running over the metal of his knuckles, and though Bucky knows that her magic shields the shiny length, he still angles the arm in such a way that the sun does not gleam from its surface.
His headache might be gone, but a pressure still persists, still lingers, a phantom pain that has ballooned alongside his recently recovered memories.
"I told you earlier, but you're welcome to stay as long as you like," Harry whispers.
And while Bucky fails to quite manage a smile, he still feels warm inside.
Chapter 16: Sudsy
"Harry, doll, come look at this."
It's been six months since his unplanned rescue. Six months of being able to sit back and worry about nothing, knowing and trusting that Harry would keep him safe in her battlement of a house.
Six months of mundane, everyday life, and Bucky could not be happier He's adjusting, and he uses present tense because while he's good right now, he's still not fully there yet.
There are things he's still pushing down, things he's set aside and is intent on ignoring, until he can no longer avoid it.
This seems to be one of those times.
Sudsy arms resting on the back of the sofa, Harry leans over his shoulder, head tilted questioningly to a side with lemon scented fairy liquid staining her wrists.
He only sees this out of his peripheral vision though, because Bucky's riveted with the TV.
A crazed psychopath is terrorising Germans.
Or rather, he was, because a man in a skin tight blue suit, with a familiar, so painfully familiar, shield has engaged him in battle.
He doesn't dare hope.
"I think it's Steve."
His voice sounds raw to his own ears, he cannot even being to imagine how his vocals sound to Harry.
She's quiet for a moment, one damp hand stroking at a lock of the hair he's left down today.
Bucky enjoys the open affection she offers him.
They're one word away from an official, serious relationship. They hug, cuddle up on the sofa, kiss each other's cheeks, each other's lips, but they've never formally acknowledged it.
He can see Teddy's golden eyes light up each time he witnesses these little affections, and he knows the kid's hopeful.
Hopeful that he'll make Harry happy.
He wants to.
Harry's wonderful, and though parts of him say otherwise -the Asset insists she's a weakness, the broken Sargent insists she can do better- Bucky clings to her.
The Bucky Barnes of Brooklyn wouldn't have wanted her; she'd have been too much baggage for him back then.
But now, now she might as well be carrying a handbag compared to his suitcase.
"I'll call Mrs Carr, tell her it's a family emergency, she'll watch Teddy for the night."
Bucky swings around to stare at the woman, who just offers him a smile and a dismissive wave.
A silent request that he go off and get ready.
Hope is still boiling inside his chest, threatening to bubble over and pour out of him until it's drained from his body.
But God, could it actually be?
What were the chances?
He'd read that Steve had gone down with the Valkyrie, but he hadn't considered-
Stevie was alive.
Stevie was still alive and probably thought himself all alone in the strange, wacky future.
The punk was probably mourning him still, probably blaming himself for his fall off of that damn train in the Alps.
Well, Bucky'd have to go and correct his best friend.
Just like old times.
Chapter 17: Debris
The debris has finished falling, the dust is settling, and Steve hopes -perhaps foolishly- that things will be calm for the next ten minutes.
Of course, this is the point when there's an ear shatteringly loud bang behind the three of them.
The Captain spins on the spot, fingers curled around the edge of his shield and ready to just throw it as hard as he possibly can.
Okay, so perhaps he's a little stressed right now.
But the sight before him steals all the breath from his lungs.
Hunched over on the floor as a sympathetic woman stands guard over his form, is a face Steve thought he'd never see again.
His shield hits the floor.
The man on the floor, the man that bares James Buchanan Barnes' face, glances up at him with the same guilty grin that Bucky used to don when he was crawling into the apartment after an all nighter.
"What, you think you're the only one that can get frozen up like a Christmas turkey?"
He's got Bucky's voice, and Steve takes one step forwards, then two.
Suddenly, he's meeting Bucky with open arms and a solid grip and there's tears in his eyes.
He doesn't have the slightest clue as to how Bucky's here -and he'll need an explain action, God knows he'll need an explanation - but it's Bucky.
He's got the slight scar near his jawline from where he cut himself up rough shaving as a teen, his eyes are the same blue Mrs Mainprize used to paint her pawn shop, and he still has that crooked, smug smile.
"You jerk," Steve hisses, pulling back from the hug so he can take in Bucky's entire appearance, "I thought you were dead."
He doesn't mention the metal arm, but he's sure there's a hell of a story to that one.
"Nearly. We're here to help, if you'll have me under your command again, Captain."
Steve's eyes flicker over to the woman stood three steps behind Bucky, and he doesn't miss the fact his best friend has not only exposed his back to her -a gesture the former Sargent used to avoid with those he didn't trust- but he's put himself between the two unknowns as the dame.
She's a pretty thing, Bucky's type certainly, and Steve's head is still spinning, because holy hell, Bucky is right there.
"Er, is no one else going to comment on how they appeared, like, out of nowhere?"
Stark's voice grates, but Steve pushes it down, lets it wash right over him.
Because in this crazy future where they won -and thank god for that, he'd have broken if it'd all been for nothing- he'd been alone.
The last of a dying age.
Sure, others were still around, but, they weren't all there.
They weren't the same.
Only, he actually isn't the last.
Because by some miracle, some grace of God, here is Bucky.
Alive and happy and right in front of him.
Chapter 18: Smooth
Walking alongside Steve again, falling into step with the punk like nothing had changed, is amazing.
Bucky had been quick to introduce Harry to the three of them as soon as an awkward silence had descended, and oddly enough, it was Thor -the god damn god of thunder- that showed her the most respect. He had actually bowed at the waist to the girl, to which Harry had responded with a slightly confused curtsy.
He intentionally doesn't look over at Stark, can't summon up the courage to do so.
Because HYDRA killed his parents, but Bucky was the tool they used to make such a thing happen.
Harry seems to know what he's thinking, because she reaches out and wraps her fingers in his -in his metal digits, an action that should not leave him feeling accepted and comfortable- giving a little squeeze of reassurance.
Steve's watching the gesture, but Bucky refuses to place any more attention on its importance. His lips are pressed into a firm line as Harry ever so quietly brings Steve up to speed with the situation, how she found him, what was wrong.
She doesn't mention HYDRA yet, it's best to wait until they've dealt with one worldwide crisis, but Bucky still cringes at the summary.
The second brainwashing is mentioned, Steve's head snaps around to look at the only remaining stranger so fast that it sets Bucky's teeth on edge.
He really, really doesn't want to know why brainwashing instantly has Steve glaring at this guy.
And he really doesn't like how this bastard is looking at Harry.
His eyes are just a little bit too narrow, a careful consideration of his companion that sets Bucky on edge.
Harry can look after herself, he's well aware of that.
But a part of his -the part his mother nurtured with her murmurs on finding a good woman means being a good man- rears up, an offended stag before a threat.
He knows Harry can look after herself.
It doesn't mean that he can't feel protective over her though.
It's at this point that Harry's compact mirror starts vibrating, and with a sheepish, almost apologetic smile in their direction, she goes off to answer it.
Glancing up at Steve's questioning tone, Bucky smirks to himself, remembering his own confusion over half the things Harry owned, wondering if it was just what everyone in the future had.
It was just Harry's magic.
"It's like a communication, just fancier." For heavens sake, it's coated in gold.
Stopping as he caught sight of the pilot, Bucky freezes in place as his mind jolts, remembering the last time he saw that woman.
He'd shot her.
Hell, here comes another awkward situation.
Ignoring Steve's curious glance, Bucky sucks in a deep breath.
This was going to be about as far from smooth sailing as you could get, but in all honesty, to pull Steve's ass out of the line of fire, Bucky'd walk through it for the punk.
Chapter 19: Auxiliary
The woman meets him with a gun, and Bucky cannot stop the Soldier from taking over, from asserting himself because the mindset just switches too fast.
He's between Harry and the woman before he's even really thought about it, metal arm up to guard against bullets, flesh hand twisting for the gun strapped to his hip.
He registers Harry's hand resting on the biceps like curve of his left arm, and the Asset doesn't flinch away.
Harry is safe, Harry is a amiable auxiliary, an attachment of the Asset that can defend while he attacks. She is the defence to his offence, the sharp eyes that watches his back and covers for his blind spot.
"Bucky," Harry's whispers, words soft and cautious.
Stark has turned his weaponised suit upon them now, while Rogers and Odinson just look confused.
The Asset turns his head to look at Harry, and in the reflection of chartreuse the empty eyes of the Winter Soldier stare back.
Bucky Barnes cringes.
Dropping the gun to the floor, Bucky breathes slowly, the Asset still sharp, still focused on the fact the woman has yet to lower her weapon.
"Alright?" Harry asks quietly, one hand on the side of his cheek, fingernails returning the scratchy kisses his bristles pepper her with.
He exhales again, a steady thing, but slowly nods.
"Yeah- fuck, just, wasn't expecting her to be here."
Harry nods, a sympathetic look on her face and Bucky clocks the fact Steve has started talking to the redhead woman he's shot.
Her face twists, eyes flashing as her brain whirls.
He can all but here her deductions; crossing out the idea that he's here to kill them all -the Winter Soldier's a ghost, why show himself now?- and concluding that what she's been informed of is the truth.
A terrifyingly efficient woman, she reminds Bucky of Agent Carter.
Slowly, her eyes never leaving the two of them, she holsters her gun and folds her arms across her chest.
The Asset isn't fooled, he can see that her body is angled to flee as soon as it is needed.
Swallowing against the dry sand that seems to have appeared in his throat, Bucky strides forwards, determined, but not threatening.
The woman meets him with defiant eyes, hidden behind her pretence of a dead stare.
"Sorry I shot you," Bucky grumbles, ignoring Steve's choked breath and the raised eyebrow that Stark offers him.
Harry's hovering by his side, though from the way she keeps glancing to the God of Thunder, she's fighting between the option of satisfying her curiosity, and her loyalty to stand by him.
Bucky feels warmth seep into his ribs, because even though he slips, Harry pulls him back, and she's exactly what he needs.
Harry's already confessed that he's exactly what she needs; someone to treat her as normal.
"You okay, Buck?"
He nods to Steve, squaring his shoulders.
He'd help Steve out here, then get back in time to watch Teddy's football match.
Chapter 20: Savvy
The atmosphere on the odd plane is tense.
Or perhaps, that's just Bucky.
But he can see the bastard staring at Harry, and it grates.
She's sat beside him, one hand wrapped up in his, flesh against metal. He'd spotted the woman -Natasha, she introduced herself as- glancing at them in the reflection of the glass, her eyebrows puckering when she saw their adjoined hands.
Steve's also noted their tangled digits, there's no other reason for the punk to be wearing such a big, teasing smile.
They're shoulder to shoulder in this jet, which clearly wasn't built to support so many.
Across from them, Odinson and Stark both look serious.
It's the last one that's irritating Bucky though.
The trickster God, or so he claimed. Loki. Viridian eyes, still completely focused on Harry, continue to fuel Bucky's roaring temper.
As if she can sense it though, Harry leans her head on his shoulder, conjuring up a small, wooden figurine.
It's the spitting image of the one that sits on his window back home, the one Teddy painstakingly carved for him -under Harry's supervision of course- as a birthday gift.
A roaring grizzly bear, made of the same cherry wood as the stag, dog and wolf Harry has. Bucky clings to it like a lifeline.
It's the first gift that he was given since his memories returned. The first physical object that showed he was accepted somewhere.
Teddy, for all of his socially savvy ways, is still an innocent.
And if he can accept Bucky, then there remains hope for him.
Tucking the little figurine into his pocket, Bucky pays no attention to Steve's curious looks, and instead focuses on the gods before him.
They're both so attentive regarding Harry now that the most sensible response Bucky can manage is to throw his arm over Harry's shoulders and pull her in closer.
Harry falls into the affection easily, a craving left over from her lonely childhood, or so she'd said. She fits snugly into his side, her softer, shorter body tucking neatly against his ribs.
"So, are we gonna talk about the fact your best friend defied death and came to the future too, Cap, or is this a no go topic? Because I've gotta say, I'm really interested in that arm."
The Asset snaps to attention. The arm is fully functional, it is whole and undamaged and requires no assistance from a mechanic.
Bucky Barnes, on the other hand, cringes at the mention of the prosthetic.
"Later," Harry promises from where she's half buried herself into his bulk, "much, much later."
That answer is acceptable to the Asset.
Pressing his nose into the wild mane of red, Bucky takes a single glance at the one who's related to mind control, inhaling Harry's scent.
It's a covert gesture, but one with a significant meaning.
That he'll protect Harry, that he won't let her get hurt.
That the bastard has to go through Bucky to even get a shot at her.
Chapter 21: Insatiable
Harry's eyes are rounded with awe.
Under her breath, she whispers; "the things these Muggles come up with," as she tries to take in absolutely everything.
For the few years she's been living in this universe, Bucky knows she's made an effort to go out and learn about the world she is now living in. But this-
Well, even Bucky's surprised by this.
A floating air hanger.
Hundreds of feet in the sky.
Letting out a low whistle as they walk through the hanger, Bucky still has his fingers wrapped up in Harry's. It seems to be the only reason she hasn't run off yet.
She tugs, insatiable, at his arm, one thing after another capturing her attention, each as fleetingly as the one before it.
The odd collection of bodies habe moved in the capture Loki, enough for Natasha, the woman the Asset had once shot -It'd been a good shot, the Asset contributes, taken from a two hundred meter distance in strong winds; no one else would have made that shot- to lead them away.
Bucky follows after the redhead, trying not to clutch too tightly to Harry. To not be as clingy as he desires.
Bucky Barnes does not want to go back to that life, to being nothing but the Asset.
The Winter Soldier, that stalks the shallow recesses of his mind, wishes to remain with Harry too.
She gives him no pain, she heals his wounds, she makes sure he is always in working condition. Both mentally and physically.
She cares for him, for Bucky, but also, for the Soldier. They're still not the same person yet, still two different mindsets sharing own body.
It's the Asset that warns him, the cautions against continuing down this path.
That SHIELD have evidentially tangled with his before; that they would know what he is.
No, what Bucky was.
He isn't solely the Winter Soldier, the Asset, now.
He is a person too.
He likes Harry's homemade stew, he likes going to watch Teddy's football games, he likes being about to flirt with the elderly woman at the grocery store and having enough money to refuse the discount she offers him.
The idea of having to go back to being that husk, that shell, terrifies him.
But he trusts Harry.
He trusts in her ability to pull himout of it, to be able to snap him back to Bucky when the Asset steals him away.
To be able to jog his memories should they ever start slipping.
He trusts her to protect him from HYDRA.
"I'm going to go ahead and explain this to Fury," Natasha speaks, and her tone is dead as her lips move, "maybe he won't shoot you on sight that way."
"The bullets'll just dissolve anyway."
Eyes narrow in Harry's direction, and she just taps at the little leather bracelet she wears. Bucky has a matching cuff on his flesh arm, and he knows for a fact Teddy has one too.
Chapter 22: Tenderness
Jasper Sitwell freezes in absolute terror when he recognises the man walking into the room.
He had been in the process of checking the internal security cameras when the Widow had returned, making a beeline for Director Fury. She had spoken low, far too low for him to attempt catching what she was saying.
But the man had sworn, loudly and violently, before leaving the control room. And now, ten minutes later, he'd stormed back in.
And in the wake of his displeasure, in had come the Asset.
Sitwell knows he's probably been noticed; knows it for certain when the ice blue eyes swing around to stare at him.
And Sitwell just knows, knows that the Winter Soldier remembers a little.
He's frozen in place, still under that sharp and deadly gaze.
But then a woman who is most certainly unfamiliar, who cannot possibly be HYDRA -he'd remember a scar like that- walks in with a significantly awed look upon her face, and the Asset's head swings around to focus on her.
Sitwell can see it, how the Soldier moves and positions himself in regards to the woman; she's throne he protects now. When he comes to rest beside her, the redhead reaches on and rests a small, delicate palm against the metal wrist and the Asset relaxes minutely.
There's so much wrong with this. The Asset is not suppose to relax at any given moment, not suppose to allow any kind of hands to touch his arm, not unless they are HYDRA approved scientists.
And yet, the woman runs her fingers around one of the metal plates, and the Asset carefully tucks a wild lock of curly red hair behind the woman's ear with a tenderness that should escape him.
There was so much wrong, so much incorrect with what he was seeing. The Asset should not be able to understand the emotions behind such a gesture.
But the eyes that had once been dead were now light, soft as the looked upon the woman that smiles and blushes so prettily.
Fury is scowling. Something fierce, and Sitwell internally panics for a moment.
Did the Asset remember anything?
He obviously remembered his previous mission, they hadn't gotten chance to wipe him.
But, but did he remember it was HYDRA that he worked for?
Did he remember HYDRA was still burrowed deep within SHIELD?
Surely not, otherwise he would have already attacked them.
Sharing a cautious glance with Jackson, Sitwell forces himself to return to work, even if he keeps the Asset in his sights at all time.
He watches with shock settling in his stomach as Steve Rogers approaches the Asset, clapping a hand down on his metal shoulder and offering the woman an exceedingly grateful smile.
Now that the hair is pulled up and off of the Asset's face, now that he's stood beside Captain America, Sitwell recognises him.
It appears James Buchanan 'Bucky' Barnes remembers exactly who he is.
The question is, does he remember HYDRA too?
Director Fury all but boils with rage as he storms into the central room of the floating craft.
Bucky has been sat up to the table for the past five minutes, brow furrowed and mind whirling in an attempt to take in all the relevant data.
The rest of the so called 'Avengers' had all retreated, to go and search for this glowing blue cube that had been stolen from them. Bucky doesn't care about that too much.
He's paying much more attention to Steve, who's sat across from him and bringing the two of them up to speed.
The Punk forgets himself sometimes though. He looks at Bucky from beneath those eyelashes that's always been impossibly thick, even back before that damn serum business, and there's nothing but wonder on his face. Sheer gratitude, and it makes Bucky as uncomfortable as a sinner in church to witness it.
Hell, if it weren't for Harry's hand, Harry's delicate fingers twisted up tight within his own, he'd probably have bolted by now.
Bucky doesn't like to think himself a coward, but the things HYDRA made him do weigh heavy on his shoulders, and he cannot allow Steve's joy regarding his return eclipse that.
As if able to sense the turn his thoughts are taking, Harry's head lolls to a side, resting atop the curve of the metal shoulder, nesting upon the thick mass of curly red hair.
The contact always helps to ground him, to centre his mind when nothing else will.
Because HYDRA never allowed such soft touches, such comfort, to be demonstrated to the Asset.
The Soldier in the back of his mind stirs, arching and snapping to attention at his musing.
The Soldier appreciates Harry too.
She keeps him at full functionality, and he likes the fluttering comforts too. Because no matter how hard they tried, they never quite managed to deprecate the Asset from the idea of being human.
The Asset had known he was human in the same way he knows the sky was blue, knows that twenty three weapons currently rest upon his person.
But it'd always been a background thought.
He'd been the Asset first and foremost.
Only, now, he is human.
Harry doesn't try to force the idea out of him, instead, she teases it forwards. It's acceptable to be human, to be what he is.
And the Asset is content with that.
Bucky Barnes loves her for that.
Steve's watching their interactions with a sad longing in his gaze, but none of them comment on it.
An agent passes by, eyes lingering on the Captain, before performing a double take at the sight of Bucky. Uncomfortable, and well aware that his bearded form looking a little like his old pictures, Bucky gives his best charming smile.
The man hesitates for a second, before sitting himself down and offering a greeting.
Sat up to this table, with his greatest friend and this lovely nymph of a woman, Bucky believes he can do this.
Sorry this took so long guys; been a stressful few days; had to make a presentation, and dear god, do I hate making presentations.
Also, that trailer. So much Bucky!
Chapter 24: Alongside
They're allocated a room, and disregarding the fact it's probably filled to the brim with all kinds of recording equipment, Bucky is rather thankful for such an action.
While he is overjoyed to see Steve, to hear him talk and absorb the fact he's most certainly still alive, the punk's intense. He's almost completely focused on Bucky and it makes him uncomfortable.
So, when Fury assigns them a room in which to sleep, given the fact it's probably been near twenty four hours since they last napped, Bucky is grateful.
Pushing open the door to the small room, Bucky pauses at the sight of them sole bed, what appears to be a standardised double mattress.
Harry doesn't even blink, however, stumbling into the room and pulling her sweater up and off her body. The jeans follow after, crumpling to the floor once they had finished descending the steep slopes of legs as Harry continued forwards to the bed.
She barely even paused to pull the covers back, crawling into the soft looking duvet and firmly planting her head upon the supple body of a pillow.
Bucky's eyes linger on the slip of leg just poking out from alongside the covers, before he glances up to Harry's face, assessing the situation.
Neither of them had officially announced they were a couple to anyone, hell, not even to each other.
But the gentle kisses, the comforting touches, the warmth that flooded his being whenever she was nearby, meant that perhaps they didn't need an official acknowledgement.
And while the boy Winifred Barnes raised balks at the idea of sharing a bed with a dame when he'd yet to make his intentions clear, even for something as innocent as sleeping, the Asset snorts.
Pushes him forwards, with the prodding reminder of how many times they fallen asleep in front of the TV, only to awake curled around one another, moulded to the other's form like wet clothes in rain.
So, Bucky follows the Asset's desires and strips down to the pair of black briefs he'd donned this morning, a part of his mind -so very far back in his mind- questioning if Harry had been brilliant enough to bring a change of underwear.
Harry flicks the covers over him, rolling closer and snuggling against the constant warmth of his chest.
The Asset doesn't hesitant to close his arms around her, forming a protective cage around the vast majority of her torso. For Steve Rogers is important, but he's also proven he can look after himself.
And for all Harry's magical ability, physically, she's soft.
She lets out a low steady breath, cold nose pressing into the flesh of his forearm.
The steady thrumming of her heartbeat fills his ears, drawing his focus until the whirling of the SHIELD base's four propellor engines are but background noise to the the symphony that is Harry.
She smiles against his skin, hair tickling against his chest.
"We're gonna do good here, Barnes."
And Bucky believes it.
Chapter 25: Shudder
They wake to the shudder of the aircraft and the ringing echo of an explosion.
Bucky springs up, crouching over Harry's startled form with left arm held up defensive as the Asset scans for any nearby threats.
When it is acknowledged the room is clear, Bucky slinks off the mattress, taking only a moment to offer Harry a grateful nod as she magics his tactical gear onto his body. Efficient, quick; the Asset is thankful, and Bucky's pleased that if he's going to be running into a fight, he's got the gear for it.
And Harry watching his back of course.
The dragon-hide armour that she'd shown him months ago now covered her form in a thick, protective layer. Acceptable tactical wear.
Jogging out of the room, Bucky takes the lead, already knee deep in his element. This was it, this was fighting and something close to war, and the Solider wasn't the only one who knew how to handle this. Sargent Barnes had seen his fair share of fights, after all.
As they swing into the main room, Fury spins around to look at the two of them, eyes narrowed in consideration.
"Barnes, Potter, we've got an infiltration team in the brig." There's a unspoken question there, glaring loudly in those words.
It's a test, of that the Asset is sure; a test of if they're helpful, if their loyal.
Fire roars to life in his chest and Bucky nods, twisting on heels to head back out the door. It's a cautious move from Fury, but Bucky isn't the Winter Soldier anymore.
At least, not just HYDRA's Winter Soldier.
He's James Buchanan Barnes, and he's going to help Steve keep the world safe, he's going to start paying off the debt he's accumulated.
With Harry's help, he's actually got a chance of pulling that off.
Sprinting down the corridors, Bucky makes sure to regulate his speed. It would do no good to leave Harry behind; she could only teleport to a location she'd been too after all, and while the Asset may have once worked alone, he doesn't dream of going into a fight without Harry now.
They twist down the corridors, Bucky taking the steps three at a time as Harry teleports by line of sight, hastily making their way towards their assigned task.
It's been a long time since Bucky was part of something bigger than himself, after years of being the solo assassin.
After six months of just being Bucky, Harry's house guest.
Right now is the perfect balance between Bucky and the Asset, and he feels useful.
They skid to a halt at the sound of voices, curls of red stopping half a second after Harry herself does. She huffs, snapping the strands up into a high ponytail as Bucky's sniper sharp eyes take in the men a single floor below them.
Hidden in the shadows, the group cannot possibly see Bucky, but Bucky can sure as hell see them.
And he breaths, "they're HYDRA."
Chapter 26: Ink
Scowling down at the sixth question on his homework sheet, Teddy Lupin scratches lightly at the side of his temples, wishing not for the first time, that Harry hadn't had to go off somewhere. To go off somewhere for Bucky.
He doesn't begrudge the older male the chance to track down what could be the only person from his past; Teddy knows for sure if someone from their old world turned up he'd want to go racing after them too.
He's pleased that Bucky's going to be spending more time with Harry, and he really hopes that when they get back, they'll acknowledge the fact they've got something great going on.
Even as a kid, Teddy could recognise that.
Bucky'd make a good uncle, a cool uncle. He was teaching Teddy how to defend himself without magic, and he had all these great stories from back when he worked with Captain America and he made Harry happy.
That was a big, key point, right there.
He wasn't even upset that they'd had to have a very quiet Christmas last year, back when Bucky had first joined them.
It just meant there's be three of them this year. Which meant more presents and more holiday cheer.
"Teddy?! Finished your homework yet?!"
The tawny haired wizard jolts in surprise, scowling harder when his grip on the pen split the plastic right down the middle.
Ink pours out, splattering across the page, across his hand, but by the mercy of God, misses his answers.
Pushing the sheet away, Teddy leans back in his chair, looking at Maise Carr as the smiles back at Teddy.
He likes Maise, she's always happy and friendly, and she's never had a mean moment like all the other kids at school. She's on the swim team like he is, and she's good at what she does. Teddy does it because he likes winning, but Maise swims because she likes to swim.
The fact she always wins against the other girls is just a bonus.
"Just one more question," Teddy murmurs; Harry had sheepishly admitted she'd never put in too much effort when it came to school, and she had always just asked Teddy to try his best.
But since Bucky joined them, he'd sit down with Teddy and help him with anything he could.
Part of it was Bucky readjusting to the new time, but Teddy knew the other male liked to learn new things.
They'd been to more science museums in the past six months than all the years they'd been here before.
Bucky liked it, and Teddy had quickly grown to like it too.
Fingering the compact mirror that rests in his pocket, Teddy considered ringing Harry again.
She'd already called Maise's mom to say she was going to be late, and Teddy hopes that they'll both make to his match.
More than that, he hopes neither of them will get injured, that they'll both come back okay.
Even if it means missing his football game.
Chapter 27: Ambrosia
HYDRA don't even get a chance to figure out what descends upon them.
There's a flash of light, and Harry has stunned three of the Strike Team before they've even realised what's happening.
Bucky goes for the rest. They've got knock out gas, guns, tranquilliser bullets. But they don't stand a chance with him close up, not when he has Harry protecting his back.
He's punching the first one, metal fist meeting skull, before they even realises his dropped between their ranks.
The Soldier bristles within his mind, and he ducks out the way of a tasers prongs just in time, the electricity taking out another HYDRA agent instead.
Bucky doesn't bother to move when the shoulder of his metal arm 'tingles', the runes Harry had long since carved into the surface for warning him of and incoming attack.
The Soldier whips to a side at the last second, and Harry's spell catches him in the chest, pulling him up and away from the group, at the same time her curse hits home.
Blood pours from the vicious slices that appear on one agent, and several of them swear.
The Soldier grins, and as Harry taps the tune on his elbow, the one that distorts his form to the human eye, he drops back into the battle with a renewed sense of justice.
The victory is like ambrosia on his tongue, sitting heavy and pleasing on his palate.
Three are dead, bullets'll having passed through their brains, put their by their on teammates. HYDRA never was one to look out for friendly fire.
The rest are all unconscious, tied up by Harry's magic as she stands and frowns over them. With her hair falling around her face in a wild mane of fury, she looks like an avenging war goddess.
The Soldier approves.
What he does not approve of, is-
"There's a HYDRA agent upstairs, in the control room."
Harry's teeth work her jaw, the muscles clenching as her face reflects her anger, her rage.
The Helicarrier shakes as another blow is dealt, and Bucky effortlessly keeps his footing, flesh arm shooting out to steady Harry's wobbling form.
For a moment, the ferocity of her emotions disappears, as she sends his a soft and grateful smile. But it returns, as powerful as the burning sunrise, when her eyes land upon the agents once again.
"I think we should see how well Fury lives up to his name, no?" Bucky agrees.
While HYDRA can run, while they can hide, they'll never manage to survive the wrath that Harry no doubt has planned, never-mind what Fury would attempt.
The Solider purrs, a rumbling sound of approval that trembles through Bucky's chest as his eyes scan the surroundings for any trouble that could possibly appear.
He didn't want to drag Harry into this mess, but it seems she was going to invite herself in anyway, wading in so that she could help.
So, they might as well start by cleaning out this ship.
Chapter 28: Wraith
Harry's a wraith of righteous vengeance as she moves through the halls, steps soundless and shoulders squared.
Bucky slinks alongside her, an ever present shadow, the cold expanse of space that presented the burning sun.
Her strides are purposeful, butter soft leather boots dancing quick across the floor, whereas his own thunder, announcing his fury with ever step he takes.
Two agents take one look at them and scramble out of the way, ducking into the smouldering wreckage of what had once been some form of scientific laboratory.
Bucky doesn't care.
He takes a moment to register Steve's presence, -Steve, safe and sound and right in the thick of things, as always- before he tore across the control room, allowing none to hinder him.
Metal fingers curl into the sharp cut suit, and the Soldier throws the HYDRA mole right across the room, until he lands right before Harry's feet.
There's guns on the two of them now, but the mole's already far too close to Harry.
"You've got a mole, Fury," Harry snarks, face tight and frown stern.
Bucky orbits, drawing closer and closer, the ever vigilant presence that rests within the hazard of his mind sharp and clocking every twitch around him.
"What are you tal-"
The HYDRA agent doesn't even get a chance to finish his sentence, Harry points her wand at him and then he screams.
Steve surges forwards, a look of horror upon his face, but Bucky catches him.
The Soldier surges too, but it's with pleasure, delighted to see the ones who hurt him suffer so.
In all honesty, Bucky's not too upset over this turn of events either.
"What's the matter? You didn't seem to have much trouble bragging to Bucky when you had him tied down, shocking his brains out."
Steve goes stone cold. He's not even breathing, Bucky's got his arms wrapped around his chest, he'd know.
"What." It's not a question that leaves Captain America's lips, it's an order.
He's marmoreal, but it's the stillness of a bomb before the explosion. Bucky yearns to see it.
"Yeah, slapped me 'round a bit, seemed pretty dead set that I wasn't getting out of it. Funny how five hours later Harry's plucking my half dead body out of the snow."
Harry looks magnificent, with her myrtle eyes ablaze and the light of war gleaming within, she has a heavy, dangerous mien. She was probably a sight to see during her war.
The Soldier is conflicted, because while the ferocity excites him, another part remains mournful. She's done enough fighting, he's done enough fighting.
They shouldn't need to be here. They could just leave, fortify Grimmauld Place, ignore the rest of the world.
The Soldier likes that plan; Bucky Barnes doesn't mind it.
Harry will dislike it though, so Bucky tempers his tongue from spewing forth such ideals.
Instead, he releases Steve, who socks the HYDRA mole in the jaw. Huh, that looks fun, maybe they'll let him get a punch in too.
Chapter 29: Buckles
Sitwell is the mole's name, Bucky learns.
He watches, eyes alight with feverish delight, as the man is pulled away, still shaking in the aftermath of Harry's curse.
And then, Fury does the unthinkable.
He releases Bucky upon his minions.
While the rest of the hodgepodge team gathers together to collaborate their response to the latest attack, Bucky has been unleashed upon the mass of SHIELD agents. He stalks down the lines, truculent eyes taking in the lines, edges and curves of each agents face.
Harry stands back, a grim set to her face even as her eyes gleam with the lustre of justice.
Her hands are tight on the railings, lace white skin taunt as it draws across her knuckles.
His lips quirk up in a predatory grin, before quick as a viper he snatches the second HYDRA agent from the crowd.
It's the only other one he knows of, Fury has done well to pick such a group, only two rotten.
The female instantly starts to sweat beneath his cold metal hand, he can smell the perspiration in the air, beneath the smoke and oil of the Helicarrier.
The Soldier wants blood.
Bucky desperately hungers for it too, but he knows, deep in the cockles of his heart, that he needs to be the bigger man.
It doesn't restrain him from kicking at the nearest console, and the hyaloid metal gives a rueful screech of protest as it buckles from the force.
A multitude of agents jump in fright.
But then Harry's right there, threading her fingers through his and pulling them to her face, where she wraps her lips around one knuckle and gives a quirky suck/kiss combination.
God, he's got no idea why he just doesn't ask her to go dancing, not when ardent eyes glance up at him from thick lashes, worry laced into her brow.
They live with one another, shower each other with as much affection as they held within this hollowed bodies, she is everything his family would have approved of. The words catch in his throat though, encumbered by the weight of his tongue and the gravity of his feelings.
Instead, Bucky presses his forehead to hers, nipping lightly at the soft skin of her knuckle before she lowers their hands.
"We have an alien invasion to kill," Harry whispers, voice low, though the words echo like rain on asphalt.
Up close, the aroma of home clings to her form, and Bucky wonders if he too smells of Grimmauld Place. If the scent of fresh apples, mud from Teddy's trainers, and homemade stew embraces him as much as it does her.
He seems to be stuck, to be in a constant loop, fighting bullies, fighting interlopers who threaten his way of life. The assholes of Brooklyn, the Nazi, now goddamn aliens.
But, he seems to gain something to fight for as well.
So, whatever madness that continues to barrel his way, it's clearly worth it.
Chapter 30: Smoke
They're heading off to fight aliens. Aliens.
Bucky shakes his head again, but it still doesn't compute, doesn't register fully within his head.
He remembers reading War of the Worlds, remembers finding it all pretty damn interesting.
Bucky Barnes likes science, has always liked science. The Soldier sees the advantage it can give, and he too pays it attention.
Aliens though? Really?
Bucky grimaces, and while the Soldier completes his third weapons check -total stock; 7 guns, 12 smoke bombs, 15 knives, 23 magazines, 1 soldier- Bucky looks to Harry instead.
She's sat opposite him, face so devoured of emotion he wants to pick her up and leave.
The Soldier seconds that action, but Bucky protests.
He can't leave Steve. Can't let others fight for a good world when he can actually help too.
Everything in him rebels at the thought of deserting.
Harry feels the same, he can read it in the lines of her shoulders, the sharp contractions of her ribs as she breaths.
She doesn't want to be here fighting, but an even bigger part of her protests fleeing. Protests cowardliness.
He hates this, the tension that descends like death in the night, the preemptive thoughts before battle.
It sits heavy, and they all should have the atlantean shoulders bear this burden.
Certainly not the whipcord thin expanse that Harry passes off as shoulders, he can completely cover then just by cupping his hands atop them.
"ETA five minutes," Barton speaks front he cockpit, a confirmation of what Bucky already knew. He was watching a digital representation of their approach upon one of the small tablet screens, a miniature jet approaching New York at speeds he'd have believed impossible, were he not currently residing in the future.
He speaks before he can stop himself, now that another battle is imminent, now that there's another chance he's going to wade into a war he can't pull himself out of.
But he's got a good team, a team that can do extraordinary things and there are no mountains for him to fall off in New York.
And that, is why he asks.
She looks up, green eyes keen and body relaxed. The kind of relaxed that comes from being ready to move at a seconds notice. The Soldier appreciates her readiness, her survival instincts.
"If we make it through this, wanna go out dancing?"
Somewhere to his left, Steve groans in exaggerated disbelief, but right now, Bucky only has eyes for Harry, she's not changed her facial expression, but something about her suddenly seems so much brighter.
Like a star that's suddenly not fighting with light pollution, and can now shine as nature intended.
"I'd love to go dancing when we get back." She says it with such finality, with such emotional force behind her words, that Bucky can do nothing but grin.
Because once this is over, he's going to have Harry twirling about in a pretty dress.
And that's something to look forwards to.
Chapter 31: Bones
It's fighting. Constant fighting and constant movement and if Harry hadn't long ago charmed his guns, hasn't fixed up a supply of never ending bullets, he'd have run out a long tim ago.
But it goes on and on and on, and he listens to Steve over the comm, watches the flash of spellfire as Harry does what she does best.
And alien and alien falls beneath their blows, but for each they take down, two more seem to appear -'cut off one head, two more shall follow'- and Bucky's fighting harder than he ever has in his life -'Sergeant Barnes, 32557038'- and even the Soldier feels wild eyed -'target, elimination, target, elimination, target, elimination'- when confronted with this unfathomable situation.
But then, it seems to end just as swiftly as it started, Stark flying up into the portal and returning just as it closes.
And Bucky finds himself limping over to Harry's side -ankle injury, sprained shoulder, multiple lacerations- as she warily takes in all the dead aliens that now litter the stretch of concrete.
His bones feel as if they're falling apart beneath his skin, and exhaustion sits heavy in his limbs, but Bucky still finds the strength to pull Harry into a tight embrace.
Harry returns the gesture, whipcord arms right around his shoulders before she throws all caution to the wind and mashes their lips together. It is perhaps the sloppiest kiss he's ever had, not just with Harry, but with all the dames he's ever taken out dancing.
It's also the most passionate.
Even weighed down with exhaustion, he supports Harry's small frame, holds her up against him and takes the pressure off her tiny feet as their lips slide against one another, sucking and biting and nipping.
They only break apart at the sound of a low whistle, and Bucky snaps to attention, icy blues narrowing in on the source of the sound. Barton grins back at them, just as tired, but evidentially not above playfully tormenting them.
Bucky parts his lips, to throw a retort back at the man, when Harry's small silver earrings gives a low, thrumming buzz.
"Teddy's football match starts in ten minutes," Harry murmurs, frowning as she does so.
Her teeth graze absentmindedly against the plump flesh of her lower lip, which is dark and swollen from the attention he paid it not moments ago.
Harry's godson that he is coming to adore, like a nephew or something similar.
Not a son, not quite yet.
Bucky's not sure if he'll ever be able to love a child like they were his own, if he'd be able to truly love any child he had.
A distraction, the Soldier whispers, a weakness to be exploited.
But Harry and Teddy have fallen through the cracks of his fissured heart, nestled deep inside to become it. Were there room for anything else, he doesn't wish to chance it.
For now, it is he and Harry and Teddy, with Steve orbiting.
Chapter 32: Runway
People are staring.
Honestly, Bucky can't fault them.
Their trio looks like something the cat dragged in. After some bird of prey had finished regurgitating them.
Steve's got an abrasion on his cheek, there's burns and cuts all over his uniform, and he's smothered in gravel and dirt.
Bucky's not much better, though he has the helpful addition of alien blood and a shiny metal arm to reel in even more attention.
By comparison, Harry, with her heavily enchanted battle-suit, is practically runway ready. There's no tears, no blood; only her face has a few smudges of dirt and tiny bits of dust coat her usually vivid hair.
Unsurprisingly, when they'd announced their departure, Steve had given him that look, the one the punk had developed because it was so damn hard to say no to. And, truthfully, Bucky wanted to talk to him too.
But right now, Teddy's football game is a little more important.
Dropping down onto one of the wooden benches that had been laid out for the visiting parents and guardians, Bucky let out a low moan of relief, Steve echoing the noise as he sat beside him.
Scowling at the sheer amount of room their enchanted selves seemed to take up, Bucky pulls Harry down until she's sat quite neatly in his lap, ignoring the looks from all the parents and Steve especially.
No, the Soldier's idea of wrapping his arms around Harry's waist is a much more interesting, and Bucky complies, pressing his face into her shoulder.
One of Harry's hands is in his hair, the arm resting on his metal shoulder, and the sharp, gentle relief of her fingernails against his scalp is wonderful.
"We were fighting aliens five minutes ago," Steve grumbles beside them, and Bucky feels only the tiniest bit of guilt for regulating the punk to third wheel ice again. Just like old times.
"And now we're here for Teddy's match," Harry replies, her torso shifting about against his.
It takes Bucky a minute to realise that she's waving towards Teddy, who must have arrived on the field by now.
Pulling his head free, Bucky plants his chin upon Harry's shoulder, waving with his flesh hand and despite how fatigued he feels, he can't stop the grin when the kid -and all the other ones- gapes at Captain America.
Steve, looking awkward and clearly not having practiced his dancing monkey routine in a while, offers a stiff wave towards Teddy before sinking a bit further into the bench. A bench which groans in protest.
He can tell that every adult present knows exactly what they've been up to in these past few hours, and he knows that as soon as they get over the shock of them actually being present at this football game, one of them was going to summon up the courage to approach them.
And then they'd be surrounded by the lot.
His fingers coil a bit more into the fabric of Harry's top, and Bucky frowns.
As soon as the match is over -a win for the home team- Teddy throws himself at Harry.
Consequently, this knocks all three of them off the bench, landing in a heap of Barnes-Lupin-Potter upon the damp grass.
Steve's startled laughter echoes through the air, but Bucky's attention is focused solely on keeping Harry in his arms, even as the woman draws Teddy into a bone-crushing hug.
"You're back!" Teddy's high voice rings in his ears, and the Soldier scowls at the attention it draws, even as Bucky preens under the clear affection in they boy's tone.
"I said we wouldn't miss your match, didn't I?" Harry asks with a quirk to her smile, the tired pinches that surrounded her eyes disappearing in Teddy's presence.
"And you brought Captain America!?" Teddy points out, swinging his head around to glance at Steve, scrambling off of Harry's lap in the process.
Steve balks under the sudden attention, though is quick to gather his wits when faced with Teddy's shrewd eyes.
"Son, it's just Steve."
Teddy nods, clearly approving of the man and something relaxes in Bucky's chest, something he didn't even know had tightened. Steve means a lot to Bucky; he's his best friend. Teddy's important to him too though. It's... Good to know they'll be getting along.
"Right. Hi Steve. Thanks for killing the aliens. And, you know, the World War Two thing."
That startles a laugh out of Bucky's throat, a distraction Harry uses to slip from his arms and instead captures his hand. Right, probably a good idea given how it looks like they're about to be mobbed by the general public.
"Home time." And Harry teleports them away.
Landing at Grimmauld Place, upin it's dark porch, feeling like a homecoming.
Like a large, stoic guardian, it holds the promise of true home and sure safety, more so than any other physical place Bucky can recall. It's a grand building, offering the sensation of home that eclipses even what he recalls of his Ma's place.
Cheeks tinged a bit green beside them, Steve cocks his head back to take in the sight of Bucky's new home. Bucky wonders what he sees, if he sees gummy handprints from Teddy that haven't been wash off the windows yet, when he was pressing up against the glass at the sight of winter snow. Or if he sees the sheen of bulletproof glass that the Soldier had insisted. Partially scrubbed away permanent marker from artistic endeavours, or strategically placed pot plants to drop on invaders.
Stevie won't notice the gleam of magic that Bucky's sharp eyes are now trained to acknowledge, the winking movement of the figures from hung photographs, the clock that records location and wellbeing, the teapot that shall forever remain self sufficient.
There's a lot of things mashed together in this place Bucky calls home, a hodgepodge of miscellaneous nicknacks thrown together that to any outsides make no conceivable sense.
Perhaps though, if he sticks around, Steve'll come to understand.
I have no excuse. Other than I forgot all about this.