Bucky was alive. Bucky was alive and someone had him. Someone with his face. Someone with his voice. Steve’s blood was boiling, quaking and on the verge of exploding inside him. He felt inexplicably hot, like his skin would melt off and he’d look just like the Red Skull. He felt like the Red Skull, anger and madness all cycloned into one being. Someone stole his Bucky and Steve swore to the Almighty God…
He’d fucking get him back.
Steve would destroy the world for Bucky. He’d bend his morals, he’d compromise his convictions. He’d bring the world to its knees and he’d ask it to beg for mercy before giving none.
His Bucky. His. And someone else with his face had him.
Steve paced the long room, like a tiger in a cage too small. His throat was starting to hurt and each time he swallowed, it was like someone was shoving sandpaper down it. His hands were jammed into fists that just begged to slam into the man who took the one thing that meant anything to him. The one tether he had to everything he stood for. His other half. His heart. His goddamned soul.
Bucky Barnes meant everything to Steve. He’d lost him once. And in a desperate plea for redemption, Steve had kept on fighting the good fight. He had tried to die and when that hadn’t worked, he’d kept trying. Again and again and again. Nothing had seemed to work, so he’d kept fighting. He’d kept fighting so there’d be a chance that he’d find himself dying. But when Bucky had come back? Everything had changed.
Steve’s life had meant something again. He wasn’t just a symbol of American hope. He wasn’t just a lingering piece of memorabilia that stood for everything he actually stood against. He had become Steve Rogers again. He had found himself again. Steve Rogers– that boy from Brooklyn. He was alive and so was Bucky and Steve would burn the world and watch it suffer so long as Bucky was by his side.
“Steve,” Nat’s voice came, soft and timid. She reached out her hand, wrapping her fingers around Steve’s fist. “You okay? I’ve– I’ve never seen you like this before.” She leaned forward, her green eyes squinting at him.
Steve clenched his teeth. He could hear his blood rushing against his eardrum. He could feel every heated bit of anger he had ever felt all at once and it was enough to practically set him on fire. But he didn’t move. He let her peer into him like he was a monkey in a zoo. He’d spent a lifetime hiding his feelings. What was a few more days?
“We’ll get him back,” Nat continued, her eyes round.
Steve opened his mouth, sucking in a deep breath before letting it all out. He let his shoulders slump, let his fingers relax and let go of that burning desire to rip heads off spinal cords.
“We know he’s alive,” Sam said from across the room. He was in his full Falcon gear with his arms crossed over his chest. “That’s a plus.”
“But this guy was wearing my face,” Steve snarled. He tensed, but Nat’s hand squeezed around his wrist. He turned to look at her, watching those eyes say everything.
‘He’s your friend.’
Steve relaxed, slumping back against the window. He crossed his arms over his chest, tucking his hands beneath his armpits. He’d start throwing punches if he wasn’t careful. These were his friends. But none of them really understood. Steve lived in a world where he wasn’t supposed to. He was alive when he was supposed to be dead. Bucky was his only solace and he couldn’t even properly take care of that.
They lived in half-truths, going on missions and pretending it was like nothing bad had ever happened when it was anything but. Steve just felt so guilty. He didn’t know how to bring it up– the past. And every time he’d tried, Bucky had always been there with a smile and a pat on his back. How could he dive into the worst memories they had when Bucky was clearly desperately trying to avoid them? Bucky needed to move on. He’d suffered enough and the last thing Steve wanted to do was force all those memories back. The last thing Steve wanted to do was push himself or his guilt onto Bucky. Bucky had other shit to deal with; he didn’t need Steve’s baggage too.
And even if they got past that conversation, why would Steve think that a man like Bucky Barnes, a lady killer and stone-cold stunner, would want anything to do with Steve on any level that wasn’t brotherhood? They’d grown up together. They’d learned what boobs were together. Bucky had coached Steve on how to properly unhook a bra and why it was better to start with one finger instead of two to get a girl wet. Bucky had been straight growing up, he had been straight in the war and Steve was a fool to think he’d just suddenly change that.
Bucky had other things to deal with than chasing skirts or listening to midnight confessions out of Steve’s mouth. It was better if Steve just buried it and called the whole idea a shitshow. They were brothers. They had always been brothers. Bucky had made that clear as day and Steve wouldn’t dare do anything but respect it.
But even so. There was nothing wrong with having an unshakable familial bond. There was nothing wrong with loving someone so passionately that you didn’t dare want to get closer to them. Bucky’s blood didn’t need to flow through Steve’s veins. They were as close as close could be. And Bucky belonged to Steve. Just as Steve belonged to Bucky.
He didn’t know if they were still talking around him. Sounds echoed into Steve’s mind and reverberated right back out. He felt like he was in a tunnel. All he saw was Bucky’s face. His smile. His tears. His scream…
“He’s mine,” Steve said, stunning the room into silence.
“What?” Clint asked at the foot of the table.
“Bucky,” Steve answered. “He’s mine and I’ll destroy everything in my way until I get ‘im back.”
The room went silent. Scott dropped a pen he was holding. Sam and Nat both shuffled around awkwardly. Steve felt like he was about to burst. He was a geyser, trembling and quaking with anticipation for that release but none of his friends had ever seen that. Their strained features were evidence enough and Steve wasn’t so sure where he could run when he needed to blow.
It was Wanda who put her hand on his shoulder this time, Nat still flanking his other side. All the building worry about his friends dissipated, like steam in a dry room.
Steve looked at her, his gaze flicking to her long curls before he looked back into her face. She knew how Steve felt. God, she knew it even worse than Steve. Her twin, her very heart, had died and there was nothing she could do about it. Steve had gotten Bucky back. Wanda hadn’t been so lucky.
“We will do everything in our power to bring him back to you,” she said. “I swear it.”
Steve reached up, placing his hand atop hers. She was so dainty and yet the same anger that flowed through Steve raged within her veins. He nodded, never looking away from her face as red glowed behind her pupils.
“Do we have any leads?” Scott asked. “He dumped the quinjet, left Clint mostly unharmed except with a cute needle stick in his neck and that’s that?”
“Cute needle stick? That thing– really knocked me out…” Clint admitted, rubbing at his neck. “But no. Other than him dumping the jet, we ain’t got shit.”
“He didn’t kill you,” Nat observed. “That’s something to note.”
Clint looked positively scandalized. He puffed up his chest, his mouth opening and closing as he tried to formulate words that just didn’t want to come to him.
“The guy wears your face and he doesn’t kill your friends. That’s a lead, right?” Sam offered, shrugging. “Maybe he knows us all.”
“The last place we were,” Steve began. “That HYDRA base in Mlyn. There’s gotta be somethin’ there to give us a clue about this guy. It all started there.”
“Actually,” a deep female voice came from the door opening. Everyone looked over to see Maria Hill and Nick Fury, both clad in black. “That was a SHIELD base.”
“You’ve gotta be shitting me,” Sam professed, rolling his eyes. “Man, what part of ‘secrets are stupid’ do y’all not get?”
Steve ignored him, moving toward Nick and Maria. He looked at the files in Maria’s hands. They were browning, old and some had fire damage to them.
“I don’t keep tabs on much anymore when it comes to SHIELD now that Coulson’s running it,” Fury explained. “But I do keep tabs on one very specific thing.”
“Okay hold on, you can’t just drop a bomb like that and not expect us to be confused,” Clint rambled. “Coulson’s alive? Phil Coulson?”
If it had been any other time, Steve would stop to inquire too, but this was Bucky’s life on the line. Loki could be running SHIELD for all Steve cared and he’d still keep his focus on Bucky.
“SHIELD made some very interesting discoveries after its formation,” Fury explained. “Asgardians have been coming to this planet far before we knew they existed. Same with– others.”
“Others,” Steve replied, cocking a brow.
“There are an infinite amount of realities and hypothetically, we believe each reality contains some version of ourselves. After SHIELD was formed, it sent twelve agents on a mission to one of these universes in the hopes of gaining knowledge, making connections– peaceful connections.” Fury moved over to the table, sitting next to Scott and pressing a gloved hand on the table. “They were wrong. Very. Wrong.”
“Wait, other realities? Hold on, I know I went subatomic once but this?” Scott questioned, looking more like he was about to shatter from confusion than everyone else in the room, who just took it all in stride. “You mean to tell me there’s a ton of other me’s running around? Do you know how terrifying that actually is?”
Fury looked to Steve, clicking his tongue. “The program was headed by Agent Carter. Twelve agents went in, zero agents came back. We thought perhaps they never made it or got lost. It wasn’t till we did a little more investigating that we realized they had gone over and helped start that world’s very own rendition of World War II.”
Steve sighed, looking over at the wall-spanning window. “Jesus.”
“SHIELD sent two other scouts through, nearly twenty years later for a single hour. That’s all it took for them to figure out what had happened. All twelve agents had been executed. After that, Agent Carter ordered all the files to be destroyed and the program to be permanently shut down. These are all the remaining files we have.”
“What happened there?” Steve asked, following Fury over to the table. He didn’t sit. He was too antsy to sit. Fury liked his stories and Steve would play along as long as it meant the end of this conversation would result in how to get Bucky back.
“The twelve agents veered from the plan. Their world almost avoided World War II, so it started a few years after ours did. All we found was that the twelve were killed for being ‘other-worlders’ and that world held them accountable for the war.”
“And you think Bucky’s there now? In a world where people like us aren’t so welcome?” Steve concluded. “How do we get there?” He leaned forward, his fingers itching to punch something. Bucky was alone in a world that was hostile to him. But…
Steve inhaled sharply, his back snapping straight up as he stared off behind Fury.
“Steve, what?” Sam asked, taking a few steps closer.
“Bucky found another me,” Steve replied softly. “He– he found another me.”
Fury didn’t respond. He pursed his lips, looking over at Maria.
Steve felt hollow. Of course Bucky would trust anyone who claimed to be Steve Rogers. Of course he’d follow them. If what Fury said was true, then Bucky had to know he wasn’t in the right world. He had to know that Steve wasn’t Steve. But he was there, with him. Bucky was with another Steve…
Steve felt his limbs waver, threatening to give out like jelly out in the sun too long. Sam put his hand on Steve’s shoulder, just a curt short nod of sympathy. Steve nodded back, clenching his jaw.
“How do we get over there?” Nat asked, her voice tense.
“You don’t,” Fury replied. “The last person who went over fried out the machines. I thought it was a blip in the system so I ignored the initial fry, but when it happened again, I knew there was activity. HYDRA’s been bringing that base back up to working order. That’s why you thought it was HYDRA’s and not SHIELD’s. Our machines haven’t been upgraded since Agent Carter shut the program down. That mirrorSteve, he fried the machines when he went back over.”
“He has Bucky,” Steve professed hoarsely. He didn’t want to be touched. He didn’t want to be babied. There was only one person in the world that he’d allow to hold him up and care for him like a fragile child and that person was in another reality with another Steve and that was absolutely unacceptable. “He has my Bucky. Doesn’t he have his own?! Or…” Steve felt sick. His stomach rolled haphazardly inside him, squeezing and churning. His Bucky had died once; maybe the other Steve’s had too. Maybe since Steve’s had lived, that one’s Bucky hadn’t. “God…fuck!” Steve twirled around and punched through the wall. It broke all the way to the other room. He felt his knuckles bust open, the pain igniting like fire against his skin, but he didn’t care. He was breaking. He was shattering like an egg with too much pressure atop it. There was only so much he could take before he’d crumble into a mess of yolk and shell.
Another Steve had Bucky and he’d been smart– no, desperate– enough to know that Steve was the one tether to this world that Bucky had.
“I have to save him,” Steve whispered, staring at the hole in the wall. “Who can we get to fix those machines? I can’t ask Tony. Things’re...well you all know how things are between us.” He felt like a wild dog cornered in a cage too small. He was frantic and ready to do everything, anything to get Bucky back from a Steve that he didn’t belong to.
But fuck! He was with another Steve! Clearly the other guy cared about him enough to want to keep him, but why? What kind of intentions did he have? If he was that desperate, then that meant his own Bucky was gone. Was Bucky there under duress? Did he want to be there? Was he okay?! Jesus, Steve wasn’t sure if the ground was moving or if he’d suddenly lost the ability to stand upright. He brought his hands out, balancing himself against the wall and looking at his feet. He needed to calm down. He couldn’t shatter. Bucky’s life was on the line. Bucky’s happiness, his home, his goddamned memories.
‘I’d have done it too, if it meant saving Bucky… I’d have killed another me too…’
“HOW DO WE FIX THOSE FUCKING MACHINES?!” Steve shouted, his voice one notch away from frantic and crazed. He whirled around to stare at Fury with a madness he never thought he possessed. He was fighting himself… This other guy was him. It was clear as day that if Steve was willing to destroy the world, so was the other guy.
Fury looked at his gloved hands, then up to Maria and then what felt like an eternity later, he finally looked to Steve again. “We work with HYDRA.”
“Aw fuck this! Steve, there’s gotta be another way,” Sam began, coming to block Steve’s view of Fury.
“I mean, sure, we could invest billions of dollars we don’t have into technology SHIELD decided to throw the manuals out for,” Fury droned. “Hank Pym’s a smart man but he’d need years to figure this out. But that’s probably okay since we’d need time to get those billions of dollars anyway, since Rogers and Stark have iced each other out.”
Steve looked right past Sam, ignoring his words and focusing entirely on Fury’s. His mind was made up. He’d do anything… anything.
“No,” Steve answered. He couldn’t even recognize his own voice. It was the voice of a man so defeated that he clung to hope as if it’d keep his very heart beating. “We work with HYDRA.”
Bucky stared at himself in the mirror. He had bruises on his throat where Steve had choked him (consensually of course) and there were bite marks along his neck and down his shoulder and collarbone. He stepped back, looking at his torso. Love bites and marks were all over his chest– fingerprints, teeth, scratches. It was beautiful. His body would heal before nightfall, so Bucky soaked it all up now. He memorized each bruise and how Steve’s nails had sliced into him with ease.
Knock knock knock.
“Yeah?” Bucky answered, turning around and looking at the claw marks that went down to his ass.
Steve opened the door, licking his lips approvingly as he watched Bucky look at himself in the nude. “Did I go overboard last night?”
Bucky laughed. “No. I like it.” He slipped up against Steve, wrapping his arms around the man. He’d never considered himself submissive before. But it was nice, getting to feel like the only thing that mattered was Steve and what Steve was doing to him. It’d been a fun night and Bucky wouldn’t mind doing it again soon.
Steve pressed a soft kiss to Bucky’s lips. He let his hands trail down to Bucky’s ass and gave it a nice squeeze.
Bucky rolled his hips into Steve, pushing the man into the bathroom wall.
“Settle down there soldier,” Steve teased, nipping Bucky’s nose. “I’ve got duty.”
Bucky pouted, clicking his tongue. “Can I come with you?”
“This ain’t your war.”
“Yeah, I know. But if you want me to live here with you, I gotta do something. I can’t just be on the sidelines. I gotta be with you.”
Steve’s eyes opened, round and surprised. He swallowed loudly, his hands still firmly on Bucky’s ass. “You– you’d live here?”
Bucky shrugged, dropping his head on Steve’s shoulder. He’d be lying if he said he didn’t like getting to be so close to Steve. He liked standing here naked and adorned only with the marks Steve had left on his body. He liked the casual familiarity they had and how safe he felt in these arms. Steve was ruthless and honestly, Bucky liked that about him. If anyone would protect Bucky no matter what, it was the man standing before him.
‘He’d jump from a train if I fell…’
The thought made Bucky’s heart wring, but he set his jaw, looking up at Steve’s beard, his eyes that only saw Bucky, and the way those brows pinched together like a puppy’s. Bucky was in love with this man. He got to be in love with this man. He’d shared things with this Steve that he never got to share with the other one. It hurt, letting the man he’d loved all those years go, but maybe this is how it was meant to be. Maybe that other Steve was better off without Bucky’s baggage.
That Steve would look at Bucky and only see failure. Maybe it was a kindness to just simply go away.
“Lemme come with you,” Bucky tried again, getting on his tiptoes and pressing kisses all over Steve’s cheeks, nose and brow.
Steve laughed, gently prying Bucky back. “You need to shave.”
“What, you don’t like a little beard burn? I do.” He waggled his brows salaciously, earning a loud laugh from Steve.
“Oh I noticed,” Steve teased, running a finger between Bucky’s thighs. “Right here…” He trailed his fingers up to the crook of Bucky’s thigh, right next to his balls. “…and here…”
Bucky shivered, rocking his hips forward. He was already hard as a fucking rock. “Five minutes. Just fuck me for five minutes.”
Steve rolled his eyes. But instead of moving past Bucky, he just dropped his pants and pushed Bucky against the wall.
Bucky would shave after.
“Our scouts inform me that we’ve got ORS treading pretty close to our territory. Russia pays us a lot of money to keep dirtbags like that out. You wanna keep surviving? We gotta do our job. Our job is border protection. Annihilate the ORS operatives and loot any of their supplies.” Listening to this Fury reminded Bucky of the days he sat in the back of mission briefings in World War II. Except instead of the feeling that they were in a war for something right, Bucky saw everything here as something wrong. Their mission was to slaughter a bunch of people of a different military faction and take their stuff…basically. And of course it was all under the pretense of protecting Russia. Granted, Bucky didn’t know who ORS were or what they stood for, but he’d started to get a pretty good grasp on this world and nothing was as black and white as it seemed.
“Barnes,” Fury said. Everyone turned to look at Bucky. He saw no one that offered any form of support. There was just anger. Natasha and Clint looked like they’d rather murder Bucky than anything else. Even Brock was looking at his toes as he curled into Jack Rollins.
“Since our fine Captain thinks you’re ready to see live combat with us, you’ll take point with him.”
“What?” A guy closer to the front shot up. He was blond and big, but size really didn’t matter to Bucky when he knew more than fifty ways to kill a man just with his pointer finger. “I’ve had Cap’s back since Ja–”
Steve cleared his throat rather pointedly and that seemed to shut the blond man up. He walked forward, raising his sword and pointing it at the blond. “Since when?”
“Captain, I just meant that I’ve got’cher back.” He raised his hands in surrender, looking at the sword as if it was a snake getting ready to strike.
Bucky watched, his mouth open in a stunned silence. Steve kept that broadsword in front of the blond, tilting his head to the side like he was just getting started with this conversation. It honestly reminded Bucky of a bird of prey getting ready to gobble down a weasel.
“Since when, Edward?” The words were venom spilling from Steve’s mouth.
“S-since James, sir,” the man replied, turning away and gritting his teeth.
Bucky couldn’t hold back anymore. He stepped forward, putting a hand on Steve’s shoulder and biting his lip anxiously. Steve turned to him, his nostrils flaring and anger blazing in those eyes. For a moment, Bucky was almost sure Steve would start the same song and dance he’d done with the other guy, but he put the sword down. It clacked loudly against the flooring.
“I’m out of line,” Bucky explained. “I know that. But he’s probably right. I don’t got a right takin’ point with you.”
There were murmurs that Bucky didn’t care to listen to. Steve bit his lip, staring at his feet.
“Well, Captain,” Fury said. “Looks like Barnes admits he’s not strong enough to run with the big dogs.”
Bucky glared at Fury. If Steve had taught him anything about this world, it was that weakness wasn’t tolerated and that’s what would get him killed. If he had any chance in hell of seeing his old Steve again, he’d need to survive and to do that, he needed to prove himself.
“Oh I’m strong enough,” Bucky snapped back. “What I’m saying is that I’ve not proven it. And if I’m gonna, don’t I need to show that you can trust me out there?”
Steve’s mouth dropped open. He looked to Fury, shrugged, and then cracked a smile at Bucky. “You sure you wanna do this? If you challenge someone, you die or they die.”
“No,” Bucky responded quickly. “I won’t kill them. I don’t need to kill them to show you how much better I am. You’ll just know.”
More murmurs through the crowded briefing room. Bucky felt like he was onstage, flouncing around in a skirt. He briefly wondered if this was how Steve had felt with the USO dancers. He felt naked and exposed, but there was some kind of courage swirling inside him. It was empowering to have so many faces look at him in awe and curiosity. At least they weren’t staring at him like they all wanted to murder him anymore. Just one of them was going to try to do that now…
Steve leaned back against the wall, his sword against his hip. He nodded in the direction of the people who had gathered. “Well, pick someone.”
Bucky didn’t have to think too hard about that one. “You,” he said pointing to the blond– Edward.
“You serious?” he asked, his brows rising. “You’re gonna try to challenge me, but you won’t kill me?”
Bucky didn’t want to kill anyone ever again if he could help it. But he realized the necessity of survival here. He had limited options and the way everyone looked at him like he didn’t deserve to be here made this all the more fragile of a situation. It was only a matter of time until someone challenged him, or worse, went after Steve instead. Bucky was always chasing after Steve and making sure he was protected. Now he was trying to protect a Steve that he was damn sure didn’t need his protection– but Bucky was nothing if not consistent. And he loved this man.
“You afraid?” Bucky asked, his face morphing into one of his dark, blank stares. He curled his fingers, listening to his arm whirr to life as the plates moved around.
“I get a weapon too,” Edward said. “If you get that arm, I get a weapon too.”
Bucky put his bionic arm behind his back. “I won’t have to use it. But sure, feel free to grab a weapon.”
Steve laughed, approval clear as day on that handsome face.
Bucky looked over at Fury. Even he seemed impressed with Bucky’s behavior. He wasn’t scowling. Bucky had to take that as some kind of backwards compliment.
Edward stood up, grabbing a knife from his belt. He twirled it around a few times before taking a fighting stance.
Bucky smirked. The guy’s legs were too far apart for his shoulder to waist ratio and he held his arms more like he was gearing up for a fist fight instead of a knife fight. Bucky guessed this did look more like a fist fight, though.
Edward moved in first, coming down swinging with the knife. Bucky kept on the defensive as he moved backwards, curving his body in the opposite direction of the swings from the knife.
Edward growled, using his other hand to land a punch in Bucky’s gut.
Bucky didn’t even groan as he felt his stomach get reacquainted with his spleen. The guy had one hell of a punch.
“Really, you gonna run from me?” Edward taunted. “James was good at that too.”
Bucky’s mouth dropped open in surprise. He looked over at Steve, watching anger turn that face a deep shade of red.
As Edward continued to come at Bucky, Bucky kept on the defensive, bringing up his hand to block punches and divert the knife away from himself. They hadn’t even been fighting for more than five minutes when Bucky lashed out with a foot and looked like he meant to trip Edward up.
Edward stepped back and that’s when Bucky leapt up, using his thighs to crush down and constrict the man’s windpipe. He still kept his metal hand behind his back as he squeezed his legs harder around the man’s throat.
Edward flailed backwards, slamming Bucky into the large board with the briefing information on it. He tried to shove his knife into Bucky’s thigh but Bucky used his flesh hand, letting the knife dig right into the palm of his hand.
Bucky only gritted his teeth, the smallest groan coming out of his throat as he let the knife get stuck in his hand. He yanked his hand back, curving his back and flipping Edward over and down into the floor hard.
He pulled the knife out. HYDRA had done one thing right. They had experimented on Bucky, over and over– again and again. They had made him into the most efficient and ruthless killing machine and pain didn’t bother him anymore. He jumped back onto Edward before the man could stand up, shoving his knee into the guy’s throat and using the knife to dislodge a knee cap.
Edward screamed out, jerking ferociously as his knee was mutilated.
Bucky threw the knife into the wall, watching it tremble as it planted itself.
“Good luck walking again,” Bucky hissed as he put more pressure on the guy’s throat with his knee. The guy’s face was going purple and his struggle was only speeding up the inevitable.
Eventually, he passed out. It was almost a mercy, considering Bucky had just severed the knee cap from the tendons. He could walk with surgery, but Bucky wasn’t really sure if BLADE bothered to patch up soldiers or if they just quietly did away with them.
The fact that Bucky didn’t care what happened to this man confirmed everything he ever thought about himself.
He was the darkness that plagued the world, and the Steve from back home was the light. Bucky would embrace his ferocity here. This Steve accepted him for it and that’s what Bucky was now. He’d been deconstructed and made into a machine to kill. It didn’t matter if it was by choice or not. He was a machine made to kill. A gun didn’t become friendly just because a murderer was no longer behind the trigger. It was still just as threatening as it was before.
Bucky stood up, taking a big gulp of air. He wrapped his bionic fingers around his flesh hand, watching the blood slip through. “I need some bandages.”
Steve came over to examine the wound. It was thin, but still all the way through. Luckily Edward got the meat of Bucky’s hand and didn’t entirely dislodge all the bone.
“That was…” Fury stepped forward, looking over Edward’s unconscious body. “…acceptable, Barnes.”
Bucky smirked. He wasn’t sure if he’d heard a true compliment even from the other Fury. That was probably be the closest he’d ever get.
“Patch ‘im up. You ship out tomorrow. That hand better heal like James’ body used to.”
“He’s got the serum,” Steve said, not taking his eyes off Bucky. His fingers were trembling. His eyes were almost all black and he couldn’t stop licking and biting his own lips. Bucky watched in amazement. Those beautiful lips kept getting redder, fuller and wetter. “He’ll be fine.”
Steve yanked Bucky out of the briefing room, pulling him along roughly.
“W-we goin’ to the med bay?” Bucky asked, looking at the elevator. He was pretty damn sure the medical floor was above them, but Steve was leading them over to one of the supply closets.
He opened the heavy door and shoved Bucky inside. Before Bucky had a moment to register his dark surroundings, Steve’s mouth was on his. He was growling and biting into Bucky’s lips– hard. He grinded his body against Bucky, his cock hard and pressing firm into Bucky’s groin.
“S-Steve,” Bucky gasped, as he felt his hands being pulled up above his head. “I’m gonna get blood on us.”
“Good,” Steve responded huskily, kissing down Bucky’s neck. “Fucking Christ, Bucky. Do you have any idea how badly I wanna get crushed by your thighs now? You were so goddamn beautiful. I’ve never seen something so fuckin’ perfect.”
Bucky gasped as Steve nipped at his neck. He felt blood running down his wrist but right now, he didn’t care. Steve was on him, pushing into him and claiming him with that mouth and beautiful beard. Steve was growling, kissing, sucking and God, did he ever feel good pressed so close. His beard pushed roughly against Bucky’s face, getting wetter and wetter as their mouths sloshed together messily. It was frantic and forceful and just the way Bucky liked it– rough.
“You’re so goddamned beautiful,” Steve continued. “Keep your hands above your head.”
“Jesus,” Bucky hissed, leaning back into whatever was behind him. It felt like shelving but it was blacker than pitch in here. He was only aware of Steve’s body because of how close they were. Other than that, it was a blank expanse and Bucky didn’t know where his body was or Steve’s, but that didn’t matter. They didn’t need to see. They only needed to feel.
“Wanna get my lips around you,” Steve husked out. He bit roughly at Bucky’s jaw before nuzzling into Bucky’s throat. “Fuck, wanna feel your come slip down my throat.”
“Fuck me.” Bucky dropped his head back. “Whatever you want baby, just don’t stop.”
Steve started tugging at Bucky’s belt, yanking it off with a loud thwick. It clanked to the floor, followed by Steve dropping to his knees shortly thereafter.
“Jesus, Bucky. You’re everything I’ve ever wanted.” He nosed along Bucky’s crotch. His breath was hot against Bucky’s groin as he panted. Bucky moaned, rolling his head forward. His hand was starting to lose feeling but he didn’t care. He was pretty sure Steve asking him to keep his hand above his head was to help it stop bleeding. They’d get it taken care of later.
Bucky was trembling with excitement at the results of showing everyone what he was really capable of. He’d gotten this man on his knees before him. Bucky had publically displayed what he was capable of doing, and that wasn’t even the tip of the iceberg. He knew his strength. He could probably take out half of this base before getting gunned down. He had the brawn, but he also had enough smarts to know that if he tried to mount a one-man mission to take this place down, he wouldn’t just eat a bullet; he’d be fed to the sharks. He didn’t exactly want to see Moose unless it was for a friendly swim after feeding time. But he knew he was stronger than these men and women. Not Steve, probably, but most of the others.
His display of strength had gotten Steve’s blood pumping and Bucky was more than thankful for the desperation he felt in Steve’s trembling fingers when Steve untucked Bucky from his briefs.
“Tell me to suck it,” Steve asked, his voice sharp and raspy. “Wanna hear you talk the way you did to Eddie.”
Bucky had to bite back a moan. He rolled his hips, bucking out into the open air before settling back against the shelving. “Suck it, Steve. Put it in your goddamn mouth before I shove it in.”
“Oh fucking Jesus,” Steve gasped. He pushed Bucky’s legs apart, wasting no time getting his wet mouth around Bucky’s dick. He reached around Bucky, curling his fingers into the dimples of Bucky’s back as he bobbed his head.
“Oh fuck me!” Bucky groaned. Steve’s mouth was absolutely downright filthy. He sucked hard and the sounds that echoed into the room were far beyond legal. His tongue teased at Bucky’s slit, flirting salaciously before Steve swallowed Bucky down. He gagged softly on Bucky’s cock, his throat muscles fluttering around the intrusion.
Bucky couldn’t help it. He snapped his hips forward, feeling his tip hit the back of Steve’s throat. He gasped sharply. It was soft and warm inside Steve’s mouth. Those muscles worked around Bucky’s length flawlessly and each dribble of saliva he felt cooling against his balls made his stomach flutter.
“Oh shit…oh fuck,” Bucky babbled, letting his head roll from side to side. He threaded his fingers through Steve’s hair, pulling roughly and earning an animalistic groan as Steve sucked his cock.
He wouldn’t last like this. It was quick, filthy, and by design meant to be brief. Steve’s tongue trailed along each curve and dip around Bucky’s tip, flicking out relentlessly. He rocked his head back and forth, making sure to drag those wet, swollen lips up and down Bucky’s shaft.
Bucky was panting heavily, pulling and tugging at Steve’s hair. He contemplated forcing Steve still to fuck into his mouth but that would require using his wounded hand and he needed to keep that above him. He sank back into the shelves. He knew for a fact they were shelves now. He felt little objects pressing into him with each thrust of Steve’s mouth, felt the way the shelves themselves pushed between his shoulder blades. Jesus, he hadn’t felt this alive since saving Steve’s ass from back alleys. It always got his blood pumping when he saw Steve fighting despite his odds of winning. It was poetic that it seemed to do the same to this Steve here when Bucky was the one fighting.
“Oh God,” Bucky moaned as Steve sucked forcefully at his tip. “Oh God, I’m gonna come.”
Steve just dug his fingers into Bucky’s back and continued thrusting his mouth. He rocked his head back and forth, letting his tongue slip around Bucky’s cock. He sucked hard on the tip, swirling his tongue to tickle at the underside and Bucky was a fucking goner.
He cried out, thrusting forcefully into Steve’s mouth as his come spurted into Steve’s throat. Steve didn’t miss a single beat despite how hard Bucky was moving his hips. He guided Bucky’s trembling cock down to touch the back of his throat and he held it there. His muscles worked around Bucky’s cock, pulling the come down his throat.
Bucky slumped over, his wounded hand dropping on Steve’s shoulder. He cursed but then decided it didn’t fucking matter. Steve probably liked the blood anyway. He dropped forward as Steve gave his dick one last lick before he pulled off.
Bucky fell to his knees, breathing heavily and leaning his face into the crook of Steve’s neck. “If all it takes to get you hot and bothered is me using my thighs, I’d have done it sooner.”
Steve chuckled, kissing the side of Bucky’s face. “You really impressed ‘em. And I’m proud of you too.”
“Yeah?” Bucky took in a gasp of air before slumping more into Steve. He felt those big arms curl around him, pulling him down into his lap. Bucky went pliantly, nuzzling into Steve’s chest. Steve’s heart was pounding so hard it sounded like it would explode right out of his sternum.
“You’re just so damn perfect,” Steve continued to praise, “you’re everything I wanted. Even Ja– I mean…”
“S’okay. You can talk about ‘im. You know I don’t mind.”
“But then I feel hypocritical,” Steve explained. “I hate listenin’ to you talk about my counterpart.”
“Steve,” Bucky said before pulling Steve’s face to his for a rough kiss. He could taste himself on Steve’s tongue but that didn’t stop him from getting his point across. “I love you. You. Okay? You.”
Steve sighed, readjusting so he was leaning back against something. Bucky squirmed along with Steve so he could nestle his head into Steve’s chest again.
“Talk to me,” Bucky pleaded. “You were proud and now you seem– sad.”
“I am proud. God, I wanna show you off to the world. We could rule this place, ya’know? You n’ me.”
Bucky quirked a brow that he knew Steve couldn’t see in the utter darkness. “Rule this place?”
“Ya’know,” Steve explained, fidgeting. “With you at my side, we could challenge Fury.”
Bucky wasn’t sure if his nerves suddenly shorted out or his blood ran ice cold. He stared up at where he thought Steve’s face was, his mouth hanging open in silence. Challenge Fury? The man who ruled BLADE with a hyper-ruthless thumb? His very glare sent some of the men scampering off in the other direction.
“I know you don’t like how we run things,” Steve kept going. “If we challenged him, we could change it, Bucky. I’d let you change it. Ya know, bring some of your world here.”
“I’m not done,” Steve quipped, although gently. “I know you hate how we do things. And I respect that you rose up and challenged someone. You made your point. I saw it. We all did. You ain’t a toy to be fucked with. You’re stronger than James ever was. But you refused to kill Eddie. Everyone’s gonna be talkin’ about that, and honestly? That’s great. It’s the perfect time to step up and change this place. Lead maybe by a little more forgiveness.”
“What’s gotten into you?” Bucky whispered. He reached up, finding Steve’s throat before slipping his fingers into Steve’s beard. “Steve I can’t– We can’t.”
“Why not? You’re strong enough. I’m strong enough.”
“Because–” But Bucky found himself at a loss for words. There wasn’t really any reason why he couldn’t. Hell, challenging Fury and making this place more like home didn’t really sound like a bad thing. In fact, it wasn’t. And therein lied the issue. Bucky didn’t want to be complacent here. He didn’t want to find himself being needed in this world. The only thing that kept him here was Steve, but there was a whole other world with a whole other Steve, and Bucky couldn’t lie to himself. He was tethered there too.
“You don’t have to say it,” Steve whispered. “I already know.” He gently unfolded Bucky from his lap. Light filtered into the supply closet. Bucky looked around it. Shelves, emergency equipment, some custodial items. But what was painted all over the room was the evidence that this wasn’t Bucky’s home. And both he and Steve knew it.
Bucky sat above the sharks, watching them swim lazily beneath him. He’d learned all their names. Learned which ones knew how to jump and snap at limbs when hungry and which ones recognized humans as friend. His hand was patched and stitched up, courtesy of Jack Rollins of all people. He’d never made it to the med bay. After his romp in the closet with Steve, Bucky wasn’t feeling up to seeing a whole new floor and trying to navigate it. It’d occurred to him that despite being on this base for a month now, he still didn’t know a damn thing about it. He’d wanted to go on a mission with Steve because he’d wanted to see this world. But his reasons seemed to ring hollow now. He’d wanted to find a way to get used to this place. But now, now he didn’t want that. He loved Steve. He truly did. But he loved the other one too and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do to change that.
He tensed briefly, listening to someone walking on the rafters behind him. He turned, looking at Brock Rumlow. Every time Bucky looked at this man, he was completely astounded by the fact that he didn’t feel the need to pummel that face into an unrecognizable mush. This wasn’t the Brock Rumlow from home. He was a completely different person. Which begged the question on why both Steves were so similar. What made this Brock so good when the other one was so vile?
“Hey,” Brock said as he came to lean against the railing. “That was some challenge.”
“Yeah,” Bucky replied. “Guess I was sick of people thinkin’ I was just as weak as James.”
“They know you ain’t weak. They’re just pissed Captain Rogers ain’t sleepin’ with them.” He crouched down before carefully putting his legs over the rafters to swing them above the sharks.
“You know Foxy jumps right?”
“Foxy can’t aim worth shit,” Brock teased right back, cracking a smile.
They sat in comfortable silence, both staring out at the tanks, watching the sharks swim by. There was a little flutter from the water where Foxy seemed to pick on one of the other sharks but it quickly ended and the waters went quiet again. The only sounds were the creaking moans of the underwater base and the soft hiss of the overhead lighting.
Bucky sighed, leaning his forehead against the railing. “I fucked up.”
“I can’t let go,” Bucky explained. “I try to. I try so damn hard. But I can’t let ‘im go. I know that Steve loves me. I know I’d probably live a good, happy life with him. I know it. But I can’t get over the one I left behind.”
Brock nodded, pursing his lips. “So you’d rather go back to uncertainty and risk a lifetime of sadness than stay here and know you’d have happiness?”
Bucky banged his head on the railing a few times. “I’m an idiot, aren’t I?”
“Look,” Brock explained, scooting closer to Bucky. “If I were you, I’d wanna leave this place too. Fuck, I wanna leave this place. But the machines get watched like hawks and–”
“Machines?” Bucky asked, lifting his head from the railing. He blinked a few times, watching the confusion trickle into Brock’s expression. “What machines?”
“The ones– Wait. Wait, aw shit. No, I can’t do this.” Brock started to stand up but Bucky grabbed his wrist with his bionic arm. The plates shifted loudly, drawing Brock’s attention to it. “Bucky, please let go.”
“What…machines…” Bucky growled, his glare murderous.
Brock started to gasp. He looked around the room desperately, tears already starting to filter into his eyes. “He’ll kill me, Bucky…” he whimpered. “Please don’t make me do this.”
Bucky let go. It was bad enough he’d doomed a man he didn’t know to a death at someone else’s hands. He couldn’t let Brock be another body added to his body count. He stood up, brushing himself off and straightening his shirt– olive green. He was stuck in a world of deep blue, black and olive green. And he hated it.
“He’s with Fury,” Brock answered. “They’re picking a new team since Eddie and now you can’t go.”
Bucky ran toward the elevator. It was like he was freefalling. Something thunderous screamed in his ears and his whole body felt like it was being pushed by something. He slammed his hand into the elevator button, watching the little light crack and sizzle out. The doors dinged a few moments later.
Steve had lied to him. Steve motherfucking Rogers. The one person Bucky thought he could rely on. The one fucking person he’d given his heart in two unique worlds. He’d fucking lied. And there’d be some motherfucking hell to pay.
Bucky had learned that Fury’s floor was only accessible with a keycard. What he’d also learned was that life support had vents crawling through most of this place and it was almost laughably easy to infiltrate them and sneak up to Fury’s floor. It was almost like the man didn’t think anyone would try to assassinate him. Though in a world where public challenges were how to address the chain of command, assassination probably wasn’t a forefront way to deal with anyone.
Bucky dropped down onto Fury’s floor, his jaw clenched so tight that his teeth struggled not to shatter. His fingers were trembling and his arm couldn’t stop twitching and whirring as his brain sent out all kinds of frantic signals. The word pissed didn’t even begin to cover it. Black was clouding the corners of Bucky’s vision. That thunderous sound was still in his ears and his whole body felt like it’d been dumped into a tub of ice.
Steve turned, shock painted on his face as Bucky moved toward him.
“You wanna know what it feels like to get crushed by my thighs?” Bucky asked as he slammed his metal hand into Steve’s gut. “I’ll fuckin’ show you, YOU GODDAMNED LIAR!”
Steve collapsed onto the floor, gasping. He clutched his stomach, scrambling back up. He was breathing heavily but there was no anger on his face. He looked miserable. “Baby… Please just listen to me.”
“FUCK YOU!” Bucky wailed. “YOU FUCKING LIED TO ME!” Bucky charged at Steve. Flashbacks to a similar fight with a similar man filtered into his mind. Ruthless punches, extensive knife work and a desperate attempt to kill.
Bucky growled, backhanding Steve and watching him fly into one of Fury’s bookcases. He turned, peering through his hair as Fury just stood there, his face completely blank. “You!” Bucky proclaimed, pointing with his metal hand. “You’re the reason he’s like this! Steve would never–”
“Oh don’t give me that shit!” Fury announced. “You think I made your boyfriend be the way he is?” Fury spread his arms wide, looking around the large room. “Look around you, Barnes! This whole world is dog-eat-dog!”
Steve stood up, clutching his sternum and spitting blood. He wasn’t fighting back. Bucky wanted him to. He wanted to see Steve as the monster he truly was.
“This whole time!” Bucky announced, his voice cracking. “This whole time you knew how to get me back home!” He gasped, wavering on his feet. The adrenaline left his body almost as quick as it had come in. He was exhausted. And not just the type that required sleep. His brain wanted to just end. His heart struggled to keep beating. Every breath he took was a desperate last-ditch effort to just keep surviving.
“I know,” Steve said, holding up his hands to placate Bucky. “I know and I’m sorry! But I couldn’t let you go. I love you, Bucky! I love you so much and I couldn’t let you go back to a guy that don’t treat you right!”
“THAT WASN’T YOUR DECISION!” Bucky screamed, picking up a vase and throwing it at Steve.
Steve didn’t even move as the shards cut into his skin. He took the full brunt of the force and let it smash against him, the vase exploding like fireworks– wild and forceful.
Bucky wavered where he stood, allowing his knees to give in as he stumbled and collapsed onto the floor. “You lied…” He choked out a sob. He felt sick. The world was moving too fast, spinning at a velocity he hadn’t noticed before. Now here they were, tumbling around in a universe that he didn’t belong to and it was all so wrong! “I fell in love with you… and you lied.”
“I know,” Steve said, taking a step forward. “I know and I’m so sorry. But please, Bucky. Please listen to me. I need you. I can’t live without you anymore.”
Bucky stood up, his bones shaking inside his skin, rattling him around like rice in a maraca. He looked around the room. The vase was in a thousand pieces, one of the book shelves was busted and about a half a dozen things were out of order or destroyed. Fury was still just standing there, watching with that blank gaze that made Bucky’s skin crawl.
“So die,” Bucky said, turning around. “I’m leaving. And you can’t stop me.”
Bucky heard the click before he made it to the elevator to push the button. He froze as he felt the cold steel pressed to the back of his head.
“You think I’d let you tip those other-worlders off about us?” Fury asked, his voice ice and stone. “It’s bad enough Steve went over once. I can’t let you ever go back and have them finish what they started.”
Fury laughed. It was a bitter sound that rang hollow, like a gong with no one to hear it sing. “Since we’re in a sharing mood, I’ll fill you in. While you were prancing around with that urchin, Rumlow, Rogers was on a mission.”
Bucky tried to turn his head, but he just felt the gun press firmer to the back of his neck. He couldn’t outmaneuver a gun this close range. Even if he got away, Fury would be able to aim and take another shot to gun him down. He could disarm Fury. He should disarm him. But the words spewing hatefully out of Fury’s mouth were more important to Bucky than Bucky’s life right now.
“Didn’t you know? Your boyfriend went on a mission to go kill your best friend. There, now I’ve shared too.”
Bucky used to think that when a person passed out, they saw smears of color or maybe felt the ground as they hit it. No, not Bucky.
When he passed out? It was like death reached up for his throat and ripped it.
When Bucky woke, he was in the brig in a cell. Jack Rollins was standing in a corner of the room, his dark presence dark and looming. For half a moment, Bucky almost believed he was back with HYDRA and the real Jack Rollins. Yes, the real one… Because as far was Bucky was concerned, this place was just an illusion. Now that the veil had been pierced, there was nothing left but the pathetic tricks that these people had tried to play on Bucky’s eyes– but he saw now. He saw it for exactly what it was. A lie. A fraudulent existence.
“Where’s Brock?” Jack asked.
“Where’m I?” Bucky asked back.
“Don’t fuck with me, Barnes,” Jack growled, his Russian accent thick and menacing. “He went to find you before all this happened.”
“What’s all this?” Bucky asked as he sat up. His head was throbbing and his mouth tasted like someone had stuffed cotton balls into it.
“Fury’s got us on lockdown. No missions. No one leaves and no one enters. The last time this happened, a lot of people died. So tell me, where the fuck was the last place you saw my boyfriend?”
Despite everything. Despite Bucky’s hatred for the Jack Rollins and Brock Rumlow he knew from home. Despite how angry he was at this world and at Steve for lying, Bucky couldn’t deprive this man of the one good thing this world seemed to have. And it was ironic as fuck that the best thing this world had going for it was Brock fucking Rumlow.
“Shark tank,” Bucky answered. “He told me about the machines back to my world.”
Jack let out a long string of curses in Russian. Bucky laughed. He hadn’t heard such language in a long time.
“You realize if Steve kills him, I’ll kill you right?” Jack’s voice was smooth as marble and as calm as a man in meditation. But Bucky heard the severity of that tone.
Bucky nodded, licking at his lips. “I’d help you hold the knife.”
Jack blinked, a flicker of confusion darting across his angular face. He tilted his head to the side, watching Bucky curiously.
“I want that son of a bitch to suffer,” Bucky rasped. Tears pushed behind his eyes. His stomach rolled in on itself, threatening to spew out everything Bucky had in him. It hurt. It physically hurt to be so angry at a Steve Rogers. Bucky used to get pissed to high heaven whenever Steve did stupid shit back in Brooklyn, but he’d never get like this. It was always out of love that he got so angry. This? This was a whole other level of anger and Bucky hated himself for how it was all directed at Steve Rogers. It didn’t matter which Steve. He loved them. And that was the worst part.
He still loved both of them.
Because had Bucky been in this Steve’s shoes, he’d probably have done the same. He’d have stolen a Steve Rogers away and wrapped him up in the most comfortable blanket and told him every sweet little lie that he thought Steve would need to hear. He’d do everything to shelter the man he loved above all others and that’s exactly what Steve had done to Bucky here. Steve was just desperate to keep his love alive. He’d lost James once. It would probably kill him to lose another.
Bucky rubbed at his shoulder where metal met flesh. He leaned back against the wall, watching Jack struggle to find words but coming up with none.
The door to their cell room creaked open and the man himself– Steve Rogers– slipped in.
“Get out,” Steve began. “Please.”
Bucky rolled his eyes. Manners were an afterthought.
‘But I still love him.’
Jack nodded before obediently leaving the room and closing the door behind him.
Steve paced in front of the cell, taking big breaths and wringing his hands.
Bucky just watched. He was used to staying silent until others spoke. He was used to not speaking at all. Thank you very much, HYDRA, you fucking assholes.
“Can I explain? Please?” Steve finally asked, stopping and leaning his forehead against the bars. He curled his fingers around them. Bucky saw they were trembling.
Bucky didn’t answer. He just kept staring at Steve. He just kept staring at a face he still wanted to smile at him. A face that made his heart spin happily and his tongue dance excitedly in his mouth. Fuck him. Fuck him for lying! Fuck him for making Bucky feel this way!
Bucky averted his eyes when he felt the tears. He scrunched in on himself, wrapping his arms protectively around his knees.
“I love you,” Steve whispered. “Please, please Bucky. I love you.”
Bucky closed his eyes. He felt the tears slip down his cheeks but he couldn’t muster up the strength to brush them away.
“I lost him, Bucky. I lost him because I wasn’t smart enough to realize what was happening. I chose to ignore every warning sign. Everyone saw my strength. They saw my potential but not his! I held onto James every night thinking that we were happy when he was living in misery.” He choked on a sob.
Bucky still didn’t look up.
“I…It’s my fault,” Steve continued. “It’s my fault. If I’d known… If I’d pulled my head outta my ass for just one second, I’d’ve seen it. I could’ve done something, ya’know? Then maybe–” He gasped, swallowing down a sob.
Bucky still didn’t look up. He couldn’t. He’d break if he did. He’d combust into billions of tiny glimmers of dust if he looked up. He loved this man. He loved him. He loved him.
‘But he stole me from my Steve…’
“Bucky please,” Steve implored, banging his head on the bars. “Please talk to me, baby.”
Bucky’s heart twisted painfully in his chest. Silent tears still continued to slip from his eyes.
“I need you. I fuckin’ need you so badly. You’re the only good thing in this whole damn world, Bucky. You’re the only thing worth– I didn’t realize how wrong everything was until I met you. I’ve been so wrong, Bucky. I’ve done things I ain’t proud of. I’ve hurt people I wish I didn’t. Please, Bucky. Please just look at me. Just look at me!”
Bucky did. His lips parted silent as he looked at Steve’s splotchy, tear-stained face. Steve was pushing his face into the bars so hard that his forehead was bleeding. His body was trembling like he’d been out in a blizzard. All Bucky wanted to do was hold him. Even after everything that had happened, after all the shit that this man had pulled, Bucky still wanted to hold him.
“You’re a foul piece of shit. You know that, right?” Bucky asked, his voice surprisingly steady.
Steve tried to crack a smile, but it was brief and strained. He nodded, clutching onto the bars tighter.
“So I’m finally the threat Fury thought I was?” Bucky tilted his head to the side, feeling his hair brush along his collarbone. It’d gotten so long since he’d cut it last.
“It’s just a misunderstanding,” Steve explained. “We’ll have you out in no time.”
“Don’t,” Bucky said, clutching his knees together.
“If you let me out, I’ll fight my way through everything you throw at me, to leave and go home.”
Steve whined. It was a long, strangled sound. He sounded more like a dying cow than a human being with broad shoulders and beautiful blue eyes.
“I would’ve given you everything,” Steve whispered.
Bucky took in a deep breath, nodding. “I didn’t want everything.” He met Steve’s gaze, watching the tears and the very soul of a man pour from those eyes. “I just asked for time. You took that from me. You took my choice away from me once with Tony’s father and you took it away again when you lied to me. I was kidnapped, Steve. I was kidnapped and brainwashed by HYDRA and they took all my choice away from me too!”
Steve clenched his jaw, swallowing.
“As far as I’m concerned, you’re no better than them.”
Steve nodded, dipping his head against the bars.
They stayed silent, nothing but the moans of the base and Steve’s sniffing to keep them company.
For every hateful word that Bucky spewed, he knew deep down that it was all a façade. He’d been lied to by Steve and now he was lying to himself. Love was a finicky thing. It didn’t just listen when Bucky wanted it to. It grew roots so deep that Bucky wasn’t sure where he could even begin digging. He’d been here a month. And in that month, he’d been given a taste of something he thought he’d never have.
He’d been given Steve’s warm mouth, his gentle hands and that beautiful chest. He’d been given a companion who didn’t just make empty promises. Bucky believed Steve would give up BLADE if Bucky asked for it. Bucky believed Steve would take control of BLADE and change it in Bucky’s image. Steve really would’ve given Bucky everything. But it wasn’t everything that Bucky wanted.
Bucky wanted one specific person. A person who looked like this Steve, but didn’t smile as easily. A person who sounded like him, but whose laughter was rare and timid. A person who looked like Steve, but carried so much sadness on his shoulders that he still appeared so fragile to Bucky.
He wanted his Steve. That little guy from Brooklyn. He wanted him. Bucky would give up a lifetime of kisses and gasps between the sheets with the Steve of this world, for a lifetime of watching his Steve’s back, even if he could never touch it.
Another sob echoed into the air and Bucky looked up. Steve had dropped to the floor during their long bout of silence. He looked like a shell of a man. Bucky could reach out and barely touch and he’d shatter.
“I’m sorry,” Steve whispered. “I’m sorry I messed everything up. I was just– I was just so afraid.”
Bucky scooted forward, crawling over to the bars. He held his hand out for Steve, watching as the other timidly laced his fingers with Bucky’s. His hands were so cold. He felt soft. Bucky was so used to Steve feeling solid and strong that it was a surprise to realize how soft his skin was. His body healed faster than it could callous, so his hands were never rough from his sword. His skin never scarred except for the brand on his shoulder, and that was only from the agony he had willingly subjected himself to. He was so soft.
“I know you were,” Bucky finally said back, giving Steve’s fingers a small squeeze. “S’not your fault.”
Steve let out a bitter laugh. “It’s all my fault.”
“I don’t blame you for being desperate,” Bucky explained. “I want to. I wanna hate you, but the longer I’m in here and the longer I’ve got time to think? I can’t. I understand, Steve. But I need you to admit it was wrong.”
Steve nodded, licking at his lips before pressing them together. “I know it was. I know everything I did to you was wrong.”
Bucky sighed, giving Steve’s hand another squeeze. “I forgive you.”
“Please don’t leave me,” Steve begged. It was now, in this dark room, that Bucky finally saw Steve through all the hardships and brief moments of happiness he’d ever experienced in this world. Under all that muscle, under all the power– there was still that skinny boy he used to be. And here he finally was. It was easier to find in Steve back home, but it’d been almost impossible to see here. But now, here on this cold floor? Bucky saw the image of a frail boy clinging onto the one good thing he had left in his life. He saw his Steve.
“I love you,” Bucky whispered, pressing his head against the bars. “But you need to let me go.”
Steve let the tears fall silently as he nodded. He squeezed Bucky’s hand, his whole arm trembling with desperation. Bucky realized it was like asking the moon to leave the Earth. What purpose would it have if it didn’t have the Earth? What would the universe be if there was no Earth to guide the moon home?
“Please,” Steve began, his voice raspy and broken. “Please let me hold you. I’ll let you go after, I swear.”
“Okay,” Bucky responded quietly. He swallowed thickly, watching as the moon struggled to keep its grasp on the Earth, but it was losing and the big black universe was encroaching to gobble it up.
‘I feel like I’m dying…’
Steve stood up, dusting himself off. He took a few gulps of air before his face turned to stone and he was every bit the supersoldier these people feared again. He left, only to return a few minutes later with a keycard. He swiped it over the locking mechanism and the thing popped open with a screeching cry.
Bucky stepped out past the bars, licking his lips timidly. He looked up at Steve with a pinched brow, his hands hanging stupidly at his sides.
Steve just grabbed him. He wrapped those big arms around Bucky and cupped the back of his head and cried.
And he cried.
…And he cried.
Brock was still missing. According to Jack, no one had seen him since he’d gone looking for Bucky. Even Steve had sworn up and down that he hadn’t gone looking for Brock. Fury had even curtly replied that if he’d wanted Brock dead, he’d have done it by now.
Jack was preparing to do another sweep of the base when Bucky and Steve finally decided to retire for one last night in their room together. The dark expanse of the ocean that Bucky had once found beautiful now felt claustrophobic. Every shadow that moved in those waters made him tense and he half expected to see Brock’s body floating out there, only to be eaten by sharks.
The door creaked before clicking shut, startling Bucky.
“Hey,” Steve said, setting down a plate of various fruits. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
Bucky shrugged. “S’okay.”
Steve stood there, running his fingers through his hair so much he was getting the strands all matted into each other. He had longer hair than the Steve back home, but Bucky liked it. It gave him something to hold onto when they…
No, Bucky wouldn’t think about that anymore. This man, no matter how much Bucky loved him, was still a liar. He’d manipulated Bucky, had lied and avoided truths until Bucky was bribed into complacency. Bucky loved him, but that didn’t absolve Steve’s crimes. Bucky would still leave in the morning.
“God,” Steve sighed. “It’s our last night together and I can’t even think of a single thing for us to do.”
Bucky tried to smirk but it ended up as more of a twitch. He looked at the fruit platter, opting for one of the cut up starfruit. Of course Steve would bring starfruit. After nibbling on it all through that vacation, it had become a silent symbol to them of a love they’d created together.
Of a love that Bucky would violently rip from this man’s hands…again. He’d walk out of Steve’s life and he’d shatter everything Steve had worked so desperately to build up after James. Every bit of hope, every tiny glimmer that things could turn out okay– Bucky would destroy it all.
“We could just talk?” Bucky offered. “Like, what’ll you do– after?” He leaned back on the bed, flicking his ankle absent-mindedly.
Steve was still standing, staring at the fruit platter. Bucky noticed the sheen in his eyes. He was crying again. He cried so easily…
“I dunno,” Steve admitted, moving to sit at the desk. “Nothin’ feels right anymore. Took you to teach me how fucked up this whole world is.”
“So change it,” Bucky suggested. He scooted to the edge of the bed, sitting upright. “If anyone can change it, it’s you.”
Steve smirked. He scratched at his eyebrow before clearing his throat. “No. I’m part of what’s wrong with it.”
That pulled on the heartstrings in Bucky’s chest. He cupped his sternum, massaging it idly. “People change, Steve. I’ve seen you change.”
Steve just shrugged.
“You have,” Bucky pressed. “When we first met, you were so sure of this world. You loved its brutality but now? You knew Brock told me about the machines, didn’t you?”
Steve laughed. “Of course. He’s your only friend here.”
“And you didn’t go try to kill him.”
“Yeah well,” Steve deflected. “I was more worried about you.”
“You made a choice not to kill him. I’m proud of you.”
Steve took a big sigh before slinking from the chair and crawling over to Bucky on his knees. He wrapped his arms around Bucky’s waist, his head coming to fall into Bucky’s lap.
Bucky hesitated, watching silently as Steve clutched onto him in a silent plea. He was still begging for Bucky to stay, although he’d given up on voicing it. Bucky ran his fingers through Steve’s hair, brushing his finger along the man’s ear and down his hairline. Steve shivered, but he didn’t pull away.
“You’re not all bad,” Bucky teased. “Most of you’s quite good.”
Steve grunted. It was the closest thing Bucky would get to any kind of affirmation.
“I am proud of you, Steve. This isn’t easy for you, but you respect me enough to let it happen.”
Bucky felt his heart clench.
“If I hadn’t lied,” Steve began. His voice was so small that Bucky was genuinely shocked it was Steve’s voice. “Would you be staying?”
Bucky chewed his bottom lip, watching the way the strands of hair fell back into place on Steve’s head. “No.”
Steve nodded, rubbing his face into Bucky’s thigh.
Bucky could feel the warm wetness of tears pressing into his pants. He hated himself. He was slowly destroying Steve. He was ripping open every wound that this man had struggled to sew close and the second Bucky left, he’d be a complete and utter mess again– just like he was when James died. Bucky couldn’t rationalize it with the simple ‘oh he’ll get over it’ idea. He knew that Steve would never get over the loss of Bucky, not after the loss of James.
Two James Barnes’ had come into this Steve’s life and now two James Barnes’ would leave it. It was cruel, really, to destroy a man like this. In what universe did Steve really deserve so much sadness? It seemed to be the only thing reality ever gave any Steve Rogers– sadness.
Steve pressed his face flush to Bucky’s thigh, kissing it through the fabric. He squeezed his arms around Bucky’s torso tighter, but otherwise, he didn’t move.
Bucky just kept petting Steve’s hair. He stared out the window into the black ocean. He looked at the desk, the floor and the window itself. They’d made love against each of those surfaces. Real love, passionate, fiery, but honest. It was honest love. He’d never see this room again after tomorrow. He’d never see this Steve Rogers ever again.
“I’m sorry too,” Bucky whispered. “I’m sorry I led you on.”
“You didn’t lead me on,” Steve answered quickly.
“I dangled myself in front of you like a piece of meat before a dog,” Bucky rationalized. “I’m a piece of shit for what I did to you.”
Steve stayed quiet.
“But, I do love you.” Bucky gently removed one of Steve’s arms and brought the man’s fingers up to his face to kiss. “Please remember that, after I’m gone.”
Steve hiccupped. His hand trembled near Bucky’s face. He squeezed his arms around Bucky, burying his face into Bucky’s lap. So damn small… Why couldn’t Bucky see him for anything other than the skinny boy he used to be? So damn small.
“Always,” Steve replied, so soft it was barely inaudible.
Bucky tugged Steve up onto the bed. They folded into each other, limbs tucked up and around each other, cocooning themselves from the world around them. Bucky pressed his face to Steve’s chest, listening to that fast heartbeat. Bucky would never get to hear this beautiful music ever again. He’d try to remember its pattern, but he knew that over time, that steady badum badum badum would sound just like any other heart and not Steve’s heart.
Bucky closed his eyes, feeling the tears slowly trickle down his face. Tomorrow, he’d leave and go home.
Tomorrow, he’d rip this man’s heart out.
At least this world had proved one thing right– Bucky was every bit the monster he thought he was.
When Bucky woke, the spot beside him in bed was cold. He sat up, letting the blankets pool around his hips and blinked into the room. The light from outside was shining, spilling faint light into the room but other than that, Bucky had no idea what time it was.
He swung his legs over the side, seeing a bowl of fruit on the desk. He meandered over to the bowl, picking up a strawberry to nibble. He assumed it was morning. But why would Steve be gone when this was the last time he’d see Bucky?
Bucky gasped, the thought punching him harder than he’d expected. He didn’t want to go. Well, he did want to leave here, but he wanted to stay with Steve. He’d been given a small treasure here and regardless of how deep Steve’s lies went, Bucky couldn’t hate him. He refused to. He knew the argument. Steve was a liar, a manipulator and that honesty that Bucky thought was there? Well, it wasn’t really there. But that man was still Steve Rogers down to the core. Everything he did, he did for Bucky. It’s why he tried to keep Bucky ignorant of the machines to get him home. He just wanted to love Bucky. And Bucky selfishly wanted to recognize only the good in this Steve.
He sighed, grabbing the fruit bowl and going back to bed. He wondered if Steve would come back soon. Maybe the fruit was meant to tide Bucky over and they’d do one last thing together before Bucky would leave? Bucky wanted that. He didn’t want frantic sex or even soft lovemaking. He just wanted Steve’s arms around him. He wanted to cry into him and tell him that he’d always love him. That he’d always remember him. Bucky just wanted to cry.
He had to leave. Steve had lied. Bucky’s Steve was waiting. It wasn’t right to stay here anymore. Bucky had been in a dream, and now it was time to wake up. Maybe the Steve of this world could visit Bucky sometimes. If travel between the two worlds was possible, then maybe seeing each other again would be possible too.
Bucky wanted that. The faults that Steve had here, none of it deterred Bucky from wanting to try and keep him. He was, at his core and in his soul, Steven Grant Rogers. And Bucky couldn’t stop loving him even if he tried.
Bucky finished off the fruit and waited silently for around an hour. He lay on the bed, staring up at the ceiling and memorizing all the little details of the room. And then when his gaze settled on the corner where Steve’s sword was supposed to be– everything changed.
Bucky shot off the bed, moving to the heavy door and tried to open it. When it didn’t budge, he started banging on it with his metal arm, but all that did was send the vibrations up into his shoulder. He stood back, breathing loudly and looking around the room for anything, everything…
And there it was. On the floor was an envelope with his name on it.
I’m sorry. I know you’ll hate me for this. But just hear me out.
I couldn’t sleep a wink last night knowing that our time was coming to an end. I love you. I love you so damn much that I can’t let you go. It’s not fair. It’s not fair that he gets to have you and he doesn’t even know what he’s got! You love him so much. You’d die for him, you HAVE died for him. Well, I’d die for YOU, Bucky. It’s not fair that I’m here loving you with everything I’ve got. I’ve been fighting for you since the day you fell into my life. I’ve done everything to show you I’ll love you forever. What does he have that I don’t? He and I are the same person, right? So why can’t you love me the way you love him? This has been eating at me for so long now. I hate him. I hate him so much. You tell me how you two dance around each other and avoid your problems. I told you that you’d never have to apologize for who you are. I accept everything about you. Everything! He doesn’t. Why else is he holding back from the best thing he’s got?
Why am I not good enough? Tell me and I’ll change it. I’d do anything for you...except give you back. I can’t. I’ll kill myself if I don’t have you. I know that’s dramatic and insane. And you know what? I am insane. I killed James. I killed the man I loved more than myself and my soul was cursed. I did go mad. I wasn’t always the thing you’ve seen. You even pointed it out yesterday about me changing. Well the thing is, I didn’t just change… I changed back. I wasn’t always heartless.
When I was six, there was this dog in my neighborhood. People would kick him and feed him rocks and laugh when he ate them. He was so hungry and abused and you know what I did? I marched right up to Felix, kicked him in the balls and I took that dog. I brought him home and he stayed in my room and I gave him half of every meal my ma made. I got fleas from that mutt. My ma was pissed to high heaven. But she let me keep him. I raised that dog from skin and bone into a beautiful fluffy, chunky lil thing. He lived a long life with me...till someone killed him.
I used to do good. But being a bleeding heart was weak. I got beat up all the time for it. I was crying over a baby bird that died one day when I was ten and a man– not even one of the kids in my neighborhood, a man – came up to me and called me weak. He kicked my face and then my ribs.
I saw a girl getting...well you know… I was in high school and I’m pretty sure she was actually older than me. I tried to stop it. They beat me up, tied me to a telephone post naked and made me watch as they finished off.
I’ve got countless of stories of the good person I used to be. I played piano. I drew sketches. I carried grocery bags for women too old to carry in one trip. I used to be a good person, Bucky. But how was that received? I was abused. Insulted. My ma was attacked. My dog was murdered. I was helpless Bucky. I was helpless because I wanted to do so much and I couldn’t do ANY of it. I was so small. I was so damn small, Bucky. I became what I became because I HAD to. Kill or be killed. Only the strong survive and Bucky, I know it makes me weak but I needed to survive. So yeah, I went mad the day James died. The monster that had been sitting inside me finally fully woke up and I let it consume me. But you changed that.
You’re kind and stronger than anyone I know. I’ll bet you could go toe to toe with Nat and give her a run for her money. You’ve shown me that kindness isn’t weakness and I want… I want to be that again, Bucky. I want to be the boy I used to be before the world chewed me up and spit me back out. Just...I don’t know how.
I know you hate me right now. I know you’re angry and you’re probably screaming or clenching your jaw like you do when you get ticked. Don’t think I haven’t noticed. I’m sorry I find you so beautiful when you’re angry.
I’ve gotta prove it to you. I’ve gotta prove that I’m good enough. Everything you want me to be, I’ll be it. I just can’t give you back. I know you’ll hate me. God, it hurts so much knowing you’ll hate me but I can’t lose you. Please I’m begging you. Give me a chance. Please give me a chance.
I’ll be back in three days. Brock and Jack’ll bring you food. If you try to leave...well...please don’t try. Please. I’ll be back in three days and we can talk all this out. I’ll be 100% honest with you. Please let’s just work this out.
I love you. I love you so much.
Bucky stood there, staring in numb silence. The pages slipped from his hand and fell to the floor. He didn’t feel anger. He didn’t feel sadness. He didn’t feel happiness.
It was numb acceptance. Who was he to think that this Steve wouldn’t do everything possible to keep him here? Maybe Steve was insane, but it was only aimed at Bucky in his desperation to keep him.
The memories that Steve had shared in those pages were heartbreaking. And Bucky’s mouth hung open at the sudden realization of what made his Steve different from this one.
Bucky was there to protect his Steve from all the harms this Steve had to face alone. Bucky was there to stop the punches of larger men when they tried to attack Steve. Bucky was there to stitch up his friend, kiss his wounds and hold him as he cried. Bucky had been there for that Steve.
This Steve was alone. He’d found one good thing in James. He’d allowed himself to indulge in one thing that had brought him happiness and then it had turned on him. James had never been there to protect Steve. How could a James Barnes exist without loving Steve Rogers the way Bucky did? How was it even possible?
Bucky fell to the floor, staring at the words on the spilled pages. This was the man that his Steve could’ve become if they hadn’t grown up together. And maybe Bucky would’ve become the man James had been if he’d not had Steve…
“Holy shit,” Bucky breathed out. “Holy...shit…”
He closed his eyes, letting the tears fall silently onto the pages around him. He was a prisoner to a man he loved. To a man he’d failed.
A man he’d failed...
It took eight hours for HYDRA and the Avengers to come to an agreement, and the settlement left a bitter taste in Steve’s mouth. In the end, Steve had to promise not to sever the worlds’ connections and allow HYDRA to mine the other world for supplies ranging from weapons to even food. Fury had drawn the line at people. No people were to be brought unwillingly to this world. Steve was still considering that HYDRA would start requesting volunteers instead. But the deal was done, and in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t the worst deal.
HYDRA had set about fixing the machines with Hank Pym’s assistance and two days later they were all ready to go.
Steve stood in the middle of the large, humming machines. Apparently bringing over too many bodies would short the system before they could all make it, so he’d had to select a small team.
Sam, Nat, himself and Scott. They had no idea where they’d be transported to on the other side or what they’d be up against. Thus, they were decked out in all their gear with additional supplies at the ready. Thankfully, with Pym’s knowledge, they had been able to shrink a stealth jet that was stuffed to the gills with supplies in the event something went wrong or if they needed to travel.
Steve took a deep breath, staring at his feet. Finally, finally after all this time. He’d get Bucky back and maybe...maybe they could finally talk to each other about how they felt. Just hash everything out from the good to the bad. Steve was ready. Maybe Bucky was too.
“Steve, you ready?” Pym’s voice came over the coms.
“As I’ll ever be,” Steve replied.
Nat squeezed Steve’s hand, offering a reassuring smile. He stared at her, nodding.
“We’ll get ‘im back,” she whispered.
The machines started making a strange screeching sound. Steve’s mouth went sweet with the taste of electricity and then there was a strange sensation of weightlessness.
He blinked back into awareness, staring at a room full of soldiers in heavy gear. They were shouting in English and holding their guns up.
Sam was already in the air, Nat was lunging at someone and Steve? He was ready. He’d fight anyone he needed to bring Bucky back home. As his shield banged into walls, crushed into bodies and snapped spinal cords, all of Steve’s thoughts were on one thing and one thing only…