“And make sure not to let her puppy-dog eyes fool you. She can only have one serving of animal crackers at supper. And she needs to eat all of her broccoli-”
“Tony, I get it. I know. I've got this,” Rhodey said, gently propelling Tony to the door. “I have three younger siblings you know. I can take care of Grace for a few hours.”
“I know, I just-”
“Tony, get out of the house. You've been talking about this date like it was the second coming for the past week. You'll be gone for two hours, maybe three.” Rhodey soothed, running his hands over Tony's shoulders and straightening his suit jacket. “Take a deep breath and go have fun.”
“Thanks Rhodey. I owe you one,” Tony said, turning to face Grace one more time. Her pudgy cheeks overflowed with animal crackers and she blinked at him guilelessly.
“Bye-Bye sweetheart. I love you,” Tony said. He swooped down to plant a kiss on her forehead and headed out the door.
“Love you, daddy!” Grace called out after him, her voice muffled by the food in her mouth.
Tony's heart gave a worried pang as he shut the door behind him. He hailed a cab and waited the fifteen minutes it took to drive to the restaurant, his right leg bouncing up and down the entire way. Tony's hands shook with nerves as he walked through the door and asked for table five, though he thought he hid it fairly well from the woman at the counter.
A semester ago Tony never would have seen himself here, palms sweaty and heart drumming an exuberant rhythm against his ribcage. A waiter led him to his table. He slid into the pleather booth seat, reminding himself of his mother's lessons to keep from fiddling with the silverware. He wanted to be polite, even though he figured it would probably go unnoticed in a restaurant this casual. Within moments he picked up a faint familiar scent and something in his chest eased.
Bucky came around the corner, hands tucked behind his back and a smile lighting up his face. Tony grinned back.
“Tony! Hi. I umm... Here,” Bucky muttered, a light flush staining his cheeks as he thrust a bouquet of three red roses at Tony. “I wasn't sure what you preferred, but I wanted something so I figured something classic might be nice.” Bucky trailed off, the end of his sentence tilting upward into a question.
“They're wonderful. I'm sure-” Tony cut himself off. He wanted to say that Grace would love them, but he wasn't sure it was appropriate to mention his three year old daughter on his first date. “I can put them in the windowsill of my workshop.”
Bucky brightened, pushing his ridiculously long bangs out of his eyes and waving at the boothseat across from Tony. “May I join you?”
“Hmm.... It would be an awful lonely and boring date if you didn't,” Tony teased, the twinkle in his eyes making sure Bucky wouldn't take him seriously. “Now sit. You're looming.”
Bucky sat, alternating glancing at his hands, the menu, Tony's face and the jukebox in the corner of the room. Tony looked down at the menu, peaking up every so often to watch Bucky.
Tony had sworn to himself to avoid alphas like the plague after the incident on his 15th birthday. Grace had come out of it, which made things a little better, but Tony remained wary. However, Bucky was unlike any alpha he had ever known. Where most alphas would have been yammering on and on about themselves and their fantastic, enviable lives, Bucky waited for Tony to lead the conversation.
“So, do you have plans now that classes are over for winter break? I know that I'm going to spend my days catching up on my tinkering time,” Tony said, fingers tapping on his thigh to an unspecific beat.
“That sounds nice. Steve recently dragged an old motorcycle out of a dumpster. We'd like to fix it up. I've got a part time job at a mechanics which should make it pretty easy to order parts,” Bucky replied.
“What kinda of bike did you get?' Tony asked, the hint of nervousness in his chest easing as the conversation took off. They chatted about the pros and cons of Harley Davidson, Yamaha and Suzuki bikes until the waiter came to take their order.
“Alpha.” the waiter bow her head towards Bucky, waiting for his reply.
“Oh um... I'll have Sheri's special. Tony?” Bucky asked. Tony blinked and glanced down at the menu. Alpha's usually ordered for the omega they took out so he hadn't bothered to actually decide on a meal.
“I'll try the grilled salmon sandwich,” Tony said, folding up the menu and handing it to the waiter. Bucky's approving grin made something warm curl up and settle in Tony's gut.
“Good choice. Sheri's salmon is incredible,” Bucky said.
“So... You're a regular I take it?” Tony asked, taking another look around the dinner. It was a wide open space, with a checkered white and teal floor and matching booth seats. There was a bar that stretched from one wall nearly to the door, with backless stools neatly lined up along it. “It's very...”
“Vintage, I know,” Bucky said with a smile. “When Stevie and I were kids my pops would take us here for milkshakes every Sunday after church. He said he found this place right before he shipped off to WWII and he stopped in first thing every time he came home.”
“Wow. That's wonderful,” Tony said, feeling a pang of sadness. Grace would never have any memories of her grandparents. Yelling and the crack of a glass bottle shattering to pieces flitted through Tony's mind. Maybe that was for the best. “I never really got along with my grandparents. My mom's Italian. Her family was furious and cut off all ties when she married an American. My dad's family is... They don't approve of my lifestyle choices.”
“I'm sorry,” Bucky said, slowly reaching out to take Tony's hand. Tony stared at him. He had never heard those words fall so easily or so naturally from an Alpha's lips.
“It's ah- It's okay. It's not like I ever knew them that well. I saw them maybe once a year for Christmas dinner and the first chance I could I was out of the dinning room and tinkering with my grandfather's Victrola.” Tony said, squeezing Bucky's hand.
“That sounds like a good time to me,” Bucky said. “Are you staying in the area or are you back to living with your parents over the break?”
“I don't live- I'm here for all of break,” Tony said, his heart aching slightly. He tried to keep the feeling off his face, but by Bucky's sympathetic eyes he didn't quite manage it. “I've got a two bedroom apartment with two of my friends, Rhodey and Pepper. It's a bit of a squeeze, but it works for us.”
“Yeah, I know how it is. I've got a two bedroom with Steve and Steve's boyfriend Sam. Our friend Clint crashes on the couch most nights,” Bucky said. He gave Tony a considering look. “I'm going to assume you don't really want to talk about your parents?”
“Yeah,” Tony sighed. “I mean- It's just-”
“Not first date material. I gotcha, no worries,” Bucky replied, rubbing his thumb over Tony's knuckles. “How do your classes next semester look?”
Tony grinned at him and burst into a tangent about his upcoming engineering classes, excited to be moving away from the topic of family. He was so lost in a rant about the stories he's heard about his new computer science professor that he jumped when the waiter cleared her throat and set down their meals. Bucky thanked her and Tony dug in.
“Oh my god,” he moaned, clutching the salmon sandwich with both hands. “This is incredible. Jesus Christ.”
“I'm glad you're enjoying it,” Bucky said with a small laugh. Tony didn't miss the way Bucky's eyes darkened at his moan and Tony wanted an other excuse to moan to get that look to pass over Bucky's face once more. Maybe if they got dessert...
“Heaven on earth,” Tony said. “So what about you? Are you taking more classes next semester?”
“Well, I was just taking the one this semester to ease me back into... life, I guess,” Bucky said, tucking into his meal at a much more sedate pace. “I was serving and I came back because- Well I'm sure you can guess.” He glanced ruefully at his plastic prosthetic arm.
“So, I really was just taking the class to... reintegrate sounds so clinical, but I guess that's what it was. I'm doing a lot better now with handling everyday things,” Bucky said, sounding a little uneasy. “I'm not sure if I'll ever be back to 100% so I understand if that's off-putting and you-”
“Not at all. I should probably get Steve's number though, just in case I need to run any surprise romantic ideas past him,” Tony said, wanting more than anything to erase the understanding and resigned expression that had settled on Bucky's face. “I mean, I was never in war but I've grown up around WWII veterans all my life. I might not know your symptoms, but I know enough about PTSD in general that I should be able to handle whatever you throw at me.”
The cheery chime of Tony's phone broke the flow of their conversation. Tony's heart dropped.
“I'm so sorry. This is kind of awful timing but I really have to get this. My friend is- I- he wouldn't call if it wasn't an emergency,” Tony said, pulling away from the table, his shoulders hunched and his lips twisted in a worried smile. Bucky caught his hand with just enough force to grab Tony's attention.
“If there's anything I can do-”
“Thanks,” Tony said, impulsively brushing a kiss against Bucky's cheek. “I'll let you know.”
Tony swept through the restaurant, ducking out the door and sliding into an alley.
“Rhodey, what's wrong?” Tony asked, his fingers beating a rapid pattern against his chest. Sharp tingles of pain ran over his fingers when he hit the edge of the arc-reactor.
“I'm so sorry. Tony, I can't- I'm sorry. They took her. They took Grace,” Rhodey stammered, his voice coming out tinny and pained through the phone speakers.
Tony's heart stopped. His entire body froze. He dragged in a gasp of air.
“They took Grace. I don't know who they are or why. There were ten of them, in masks and goggles. They knocked me out and took Grace,” Rhodey repeated, his voice loud and echoing in the sudden silence of Tony's head. The words rattled around, not making sense. That couldn't be. They couldn't have Grace. That would-
Tony's back hit the rough bricks of the alleyway and he slid down, unable to care that the wall was tearing the fine fabric of his suit jacket. He stared blankly at the blurred words on a scrap of newspaper that was slowly decomposing in a small puddle. He could hear a buzz – Rhodey's voice? – in his ear and tried to say something reassuring but only a croak escaped his lips.
All Tony could think of was the first time he held Grace in his arms. She was no more than a month or two old, a light fuzz of blonde hair covering her fragile skull. She had blinked up at him and reached out to bat the light of his brand new arc-reactor. In that moment Tony knew he had to escape the warehouse, escape Ten Rings, if only to protect this tiny being.
“-ony?!,” Bucky's worried voice shot through the memory like a knife through his ribs, leaving Tony gasping for air. “Tony, breathe with me. In and out. Again. In and out. Good.”
Tony blinked at Bucky, unable to comprehend what was going on. Bucky held Tony's shaking hand in his own and gently pressed his forehead to Tony's.
“Hey, you back with me?” Bucky asked, his voice had an unusual, enchanting quality that made Tony want to do nothing more than answer.
“Yeah, kinda. I just- Oh god,” Tony cried as everything crashed down on him. Grace was gone, probably taken by the same people who had tried to engineer her in the first place. “Oh fucking shit. Hell, fuck, goddamn-” Tony continued, trembling all over, part anger part fear. His eyes snapped to Bucky.
“I have to- They took-” Tony shook his head. Bucky didn't need to deal with this. It wasn't his problem. “I have to get to my friend. Rhodey sounded hurt.”
“I'll come with you.”
“No!” Tony snapped, pushing Bucky off of him and stumbling to his feet. “It's fine. I'll take care of it. It's my fault anyway. Stupid, stupid, dumbfuck. This is all your fault,” Tony muttered to himself as his shaking fingers fumbled around the keys of his phone. He had to call a cab, he had to get home, he had to help Rhodey and- God. He had to find who took Grace and where.
Bucky managed to stay by Tony's side until he slid in the Taxi. Everything in Bucky's blood screamed at him that his omega was hurting, he had to guard, protect- He shook his head. First things first, Tony could look after himself. He may be young but he was whip smart and he had good friends he could rely on. This was their first date. If Tony didn't feel comfortable relying on Bucky, someone he knew next to nothing about, that was perfectly acceptable. Logically, Bucky knew that he was doing the right thing, seeing Tony off and reassuring him that skipping out on their date wouldn't be a problem.
Still, logic did little to sooth the deep-seated need to protect and care for Tony. Bucky sighed and ducked back into Sheri's to pay. He packed up the leftovers, his alpha instincts worriedly pointing out how little Tony had eaten.
“What happened to that cute brunet that was just with you?” Sheri asked, poking her head out of the kitchen doors.
“Family emergency,” Bucky supplied, stacking the food boxes on top of each other and pulling out his wallet. “How much do I owe you?”
“A twenty will be fine dear,” Sheri said, a small smile lighting up her worn, tired face. “And a hug.”
“If you insist,” Bucky said, knowing better than to fight with Sheri when she made her mind up. He pulled the thin, older woman into his arms and pressed a kiss to her hair. “I'll be back soon. Do you need me to bring my tools by to fix up any of the doors? How's my patch plumbing job holding up?”
“Just like your pops, aren't you,” Sheri teased. “If you could check the basement lights when you come around next that would be heavenly. And maybe teach Marie how you fixed the sink leak. I swear that little girl is going to be the best engineer if only we can save up enough to give her a shot.”
“If there's anything I can do to help-” Bucky started, feeling guilty.
“Oh hun, you've done more than I can thank you for. Just keep teaching her little things and encouraging her,” Sheri cut him off. She pulled away and patted him on the cheek. “Good luck with your man. He looks like a good one.”
“Thanks Sheri!” Bucky called out, heading out the door and walking back to his apartment.
It was empty when he let himself in. He pulled open the fridge and spent a few moments rearranging until he could cram in the leftover boxes. He flopped into his armchair and pulled out his phone.
Hey, I hope everything is okay with your friend. I can bring leftovers by if you need.
Bucky stared at the message. Was it too casual? Not concerned enough? He deleted it and tried again.
Let me know how you're doing. You left in quite a state. I have leftovers for you and if you, or your friend, need any help just let me know.
Bucky sighed and gnawed on his lower lip. He didn't want to seem like an overbearing alpha, but he needed to make sure Tony was okay. Maybe just keep it simple.
Are you okay? I have leftovers for you if you want me to drop them off sometime.
He pressed the send button, refusing to let himself over think this any more than he already had. Tony was probably fine. Still, the memory of Tony's panicked breathing made him restless. He rolled off his armchair and paced around the room. He's phone buzzed, snapping him out of his restlessness. He picked it up and glanced at the flashing SHEILD logo. Disappointing that it wasn't Tony, but at least he would get a mission of some kind that would keep his mind from worrying too much.
“Sir,” Bucky said, ducking into his bedroom and slinging his SHEILD duffel bag over one shoulder.
“You need to come in. We've called in Captain America and Falcon. Black Window and Hawkeye are on their way,” Fury said, the phone making his voice tinny but no less commanding.
“Yes sir, on my way,” Bucky reported, locking the front door behind him and thundering down the stairs to the underground parking garage. “ This mission must be a mess for you to call all of us in.”
“You're not getting anything until you get here. I don't care how secure our tech people have made these phones, I'm sure as hell not taking any risk,” Fury said. Bucky though he heard something grudgingly fond beneath the barking tone.
“Sir yes sir,” Bucky replied, snapping his phone shut and revving his bike.
It took him less than ten minutes to pull into parking at headquarters. He passed through the door scans and dropped by the Avengers room to grab his mask and goggles along with switching out his plastic prosthetic for his metal one. Minutes later he was stomping through the halls, a pleased smirk hidden beneath his mask as SHEILD agents moved out of his way.
Fury barely glanced his way as he walked through the room, heading straight for Steve. Steve clapped his shoulder.
“How'd the date-” Steve started, cut off by Bucky's sharp head shake. A quick glance around the room revealed that only Hawkeye was missing.
“Hawkeye was already briefed and is prepping the quinjet. As for the rest of you,” Fury began, tapping the screen in front of him and pulling up a photo. Bucky's heart lurched. What the hell did Tony and some little girl have to do with any Avengers related missions?
“This is Anthony Stark. Well, was. He goes by Tony Carbonell now. This is a picture of him and his three year old daughter, Grace Carbonell,” Fury said, waiting for the information to sink in before continuing. “We don't have the full story, but we do know that she is not his biological daughter. He rescued her when he escaped from Ten Rings three years ago. We have evidence that suggests that she was a successful attempt at integrating the serum into a fetus.”
Bucky was close enough to catch the way Steve's breath hitched and his entire body stiffened. Natasha glanced their way and Bucky gave a little shake of his head. This was shaping up to be a rougher mission than he was prepared for.
“So, we have been called in because...” Steve trailed off pointedly, his voice tight.
“She's been kidnapped,” Bucky said the moment his brain pulled together the pieces. Tony's panicked voice saying 'They took-' shoving to the forefront of his mind. He pushed it away. If he was going to be any help on this mission he had to keep his emotions in check.
“The Winter Soldier is right,” Fury said, pulling up another photo. “This is Zemo. He's the closest we have to a lead. He's holed up in a Hydra base just outside of Saguenay, Canada. The base is back up against the saguenay fjord. It's designed to have so many back doors as to be impossible to figure out where hostages are taken if the base is stormed.”
“So you called us,” Natasha said, flipping through the briefing packet and scanning the base's approximated floor plan. “But why all of us? You know I could do a stealth extraction of this scale on my own.”
“Yes, but you can do one thing, rescue the hostage. If there's any medical information that they have got out of her, blood, urine, saliva, we need it destroyed. We need the info on everyone who has had contact with this place. This is not only a hostage rescue, but could be a foot in the door to finding more Hydra bases. You can't do all of that if you're running like a bat out of hell with a child screaming her head off on your hip,” Fury snapped. “We need to strike fast, hard and all at once.”
Natasha tilted her head thoughtfully, her dark eyes not giving away whether she found Fury's point offensive or accurate.
“Besides, we may have an unwelcome guest. Stark also masquerades as Ironman from time to time,” Fury revealed. The room went eerily quiet.
“Son of a bitch,” Bucky muttered under his breath. Steve sent him a sympathetic glance.
“We don't know if Stark has found the base or how stealthy he is able to be,” Fury said, glancing at his pad. “Hawkeye is ready to go. I'll send you the rest of the info for you to read over on the plane. Top priorities are getting the hostage out alive and destroying any info the may have extracted from her.”
“What do we do if the hostage is dead when we arrive,” Natasha pointed out. A bolt of lighting shattered Bucky's chest. He hated to think about the possibility, but it had to be done.
“Then focus on tracking down any info that will allow us to burn Hydra to the ground,” Fury said. Bucky nodded sharply and Steve squeezed his shoulder.
“Let's hope it doesn’t come to that,” Sam said quietly and Bucky vehemently agreed.
The plane flight to the base was all business. After everyone had finished reading through the debrief and memorizing the floor plan they gathered around Steve. Steve and Natasha would sneak into the medical wing, close to the labs they suspected any medical discoveries would be saved. Once they cleared the info from any computers Natasha would leave Steve to destroy any hard copies. She would find contacts with other Hydra bases and info on any officers in high up in Hydra or any world leaders that were involved.
Meanwhile Clint and Falcon would be sitting back. They would be able to sweep in guns blazing if anything went wrong and they could keep an eye out for signs of Ironman. Bucky, despite all his protests, was put in charge of getting Grace out. Bucky argued, but he knew Steve's call was the right one. If Ironman swooped in Bucky could probably pull the 'Hi, I'm the guy you just went out on a date with about five hours ago, please don't shoot me I'm here to help' card.
It didn't sit quite right in Bucky's chest, but he knew it was logically the safest thing for all of them. Still, he wasn't good with kids. He never had to deal with younger siblings and Hydra use him as an assassin, not a babysitter.
He tucked a Potts Tech earpiece in his ear and stood near the back of the plane, ready to drop out the moment Steve called. Sam stood next to him.
“Break a leg,” Sam said, face deadpan.
“Fuck you birdbrains,” Bucky replied. Somehow the familiar insult soothed Bucky's nerves.
“No thanks, I've already got the prettier Super-Soldier for that. Besides, it looks like you have more of a robot fetish than I can deal with,” Sam snapped back, raising an eyebrow.
“You and Steve are such little shits. You deserve each other,” Bucky said.
“Come on you two. Aren't you supposed to get along terrifyingly well and gang up on me,” Steve called back to them.
“Hell no,” Sam said. “You need to get better friends for me to do that.”
“Hey, I thought we had a bond. A deep, bird bond,” Clint piped up. “You me and Nat have got to stick together. As the only animal themed superheros on this team it's a rule.”
“Hmm.... I still don't forgive you for killing my pet tarantula,” Natasha said.
“It was crawling on my face in my sleep!” Clint protested. “I though it wanted to eat me.”
“Probably wanted to get down and dirty with you. You manage to attract all sorts of spiders, god knows why,” Bucky said, one hand latching onto a post as the back of the quinjet opened.
“Aww spiders,” Clint said.
“All right, cut the chatter. Bucky, on my mark. Three, two, one.”
Getting into the base unnoticed was suspiciously easy. Bucky approached the base and the night crew never stood a chance. He was inside the main gate in fifteen minutes, closing it up behind him, but leaving everything unlocked for Steve and Nat. Only problem was they weren't sure where in the base Hyrda was holding Grace. Bucky headed for the medical wing first, passing through the hallways silently and quickly.
He checked the signs of each door he passed. Bucky hoped Hydra was feeling over confident about the security of this base. He noticed something promising, pulling out a few lock picks and slipping through the door. There was very little light, but enough to make out a small row of cells, with nothing more than a tiny cot, ragged blanket and a bucket in each.
Bucky heard a faint rustle and a muffled sound from the cell in the back corner of the room. He slipped along the wall until he brushed up against cold metal bars. There he paused, unsure what to do next. Make a noise so that Grace knows he's there or keep silent, clap a hand over her mouth and run? He hesitated too long. Could he be sure that the little girl in the cell was Grace?
“Is- is someone there?” a small voice warbled. Bucky heard her shift away from him into the furthest corner of the cell. He made a snap judgment.
“Grace, I'm here to get you out,” He said, trying to sound reassuring despite the mask muffling his voice. “I know your dad, Tony Carbonell. I'm going to take you back to your dad, but you have to be really quiet so the bad guys can't hear us.”
Bucky had no idea if she would understand or believe him, but it was the best shot he had. His ears strained for any sign that would tell him what to expect. Grace sniffled and crept closer to him.
“Where's daddy?” She asked, her voice closer to a whisper than Bucky expected of a three year old.
“He's coming here to get you, but there are a lot of bad guys and he's not very sneaky so he asked me to help you,” Bucky said. He had no idea if he what he was telling her was too watered down or going to fly over her head. Why the hell did Steve pick him for this? Oh right, because if Tony came crashing into them he might stop to ask why the hell his normal alpha date was in the middle of Canada rescuing his little girl from a Hydra base.
“Okay... I- I don't have any shoes, or my blanky and it's cold and-” Grace said. Without thinking about it Bucky shuffled off his leather jacket and set it down just passed the bars of the cell.
“You can have my jacket, okay. You keep my jacket until we get out of here. My jacket is kind of like my blanky so I have to help you in order to I can get it back,” Bucky said, hoping that that sort of exchange would convince Grace.
“And you won't give me to the bad guys,” Grace asked, forgetting to keep her voice quiet as she gained confidence. Bucky made a little shushing noise, keeping still as his ears strained for any trace of movement.
“I won't give you to the bad guys. If you come a little closer I can give you a pinky promise,” Bucky said.
Grace crawled over, pulling Bucky's jacket over her small shoulders and reaching out along the wall. Bucky wrapped his hand around hers, wincing at how cold and tiny her fingers felt in his hand. He twisted his fingers, wrapping his pinky around Grace's and shaking their hands.
“I pinky promise not to give you to the bad guys and to get you back to your daddy,” Bucky said, infusing his voice with as much calm confidence as he could muster. “Can you sneak out of the bars or are they to close together?”
“I- I fit,” Grace said.
She squeezed herself through and pressed her entire body up against Bucky's leg, one hand clinging to his and the other keeping the jacket closed around her. Bucky knelt down, prodded her into fitting her arms through the sleeves and zipped up the jacket. He pressed his fingers against the cool stone floor. It probably would be safe to walk on, but he didn't want to risk Grace's feet, especially since she didn't have shoes.
“I'm going to have to carry you, I don't want to hurt your feet,” Bucky explained. Grace immediately lifted her arms in the air. Bucky ducked closer so she could wrap her arms around his neck, wrapped his flesh arm around her waist and stood. She clung to him and buried her face in his vest.
“Is it really far?” She asked, her voice shaky with fear and exhaustion.
Bucky hesitated. He didn't want to lie, the trip to get here had taken a while and there was little telling how everyone else's mission would play out and end up effecting his. If Ironman ended up blasting a hole through every wall to get to his daughter the trip could be very short indeed.
“Not too far,” Bucky said. He shifted Grace on his hip, giving himself a moment to get used to her weight before heading back along the wall, away from the cell.
“Like a trip to the zoo or like a trip to Zizi's,” Grace asked.
“Shush,” Bucky murmured, “no more talking until we get out. We don't want the bad guys to hear us.”
Grace whimpered a little and nodded, clutching at Bucky tighter. Bucky bit back a sigh and squeezed his arm around her waist, hoping that would be enough to sooth her at least a little bit.
The trip back down the medical corridors was eerily silent. Bucky was sure that Hydra agents would be around every corner, just waiting to attack. Worse still, he wasn't sure whether or not Grace was too valuable to be shot or deemed an acceptable loss. Bucky's breathing picked up, heart pounding rapidly against his chest. Normally a mission would never frighten him this much, but normally his missions didn't consist of keeping a three year old quiet and alive as he crept through a Hydra base on his own.
A small crackle sounded in his ear, making Bucky flinch and Grace muffle a cry against his vest. He reached over and ran his metal arm up and down her back, trying to be soothing.
“Avengers, come in,” he demanded, his voice short. He didn't appreciate this interruption and it probably meant nothing good.
“Change of plans.” Steve's voice sounded, clear and strong over the ear piece. Bucky had to hand it to them, Potts Tech was top of the line. “Rendezvous is off. Clint and Sam just spotted Stark headed straight for the medical wing. Nat is working on hacking into Stark's... machine so we can get him connected to our ear pieces.”
A light flickered three-fourths of the way down the hall, casting a warped rectangle of light against the pale blue wall opposite the door. Grace shook like a leaf in his arms and Bucky froze, then slowly shifted backwards to the nearest door. He peered in the window, the near darkness making it hard to judge the safety of the room. He could at least tell it was unoccupied and that would have to be good enough.
The door swung open silently. One point for Hydra, they kept their facility in tip top shape. Bucky slid inside, the door closing behind him with a small click. He heard Steve's concerned tone in his ear, but he had to block out the words. He reached for the gun pressed against his thigh, slipping the safety off.
Footsteps sounded against the linoleum, echoing down the empty hallway like bones cracking. Grace made a small sound and Bucky slowly set her down. He knew she was scared, but if it came to a fight he couldn't have her on his hip. Not if he was going to keep her safe and her safety was the main objective.
Grace's fingers twisted in the leather of his pant leg as he rose, shifting his body so that anyone coming in the door would have to aim through Bucky to get at Grace. The footsteps faltered and Bucky heard the being in the corridor take a long sniff.
“Someone's out of bed past their bedtime,” a deep voice called out, sing-songy and maliciously pleasant. “Come on out little girl. If you're good I'll give you milk and cookies and tuck you back into bed like nothing happened. If you're bad... Well you've seen what happens to bad little girls.”
Grace sobbed and Bucky felt his stomach drop to his feet. Grace was alone in her cell when Bucky found her, but he wasn't so sure that was always the case. A nearly overwhelming protective instinct roared through his chest. This was his mate's child and no one on earth would get away with threatening or harming her. He wanted to tear the door off and fire a full clip into the head of whatever monster was out in the corridor. He held back, only the knowledge that Grace's safety was more important than revenge keeping him grounded.
“Now now, I know you're out there. You can't hide from me. I'll sniff you out sooner or later,” the voice continued. Slow, delibirate footfalls cracked down the hallway towards their hiding place. “If you don't come out by the count to three I'll make you regret it.”
Bucky could feel Grace shaking against his leg, desperately holding in sobs. He reached up to tap SOS in Morse on his earpiece, hoping to heaven, hell and whatever other all-mighty beings may exist, that the teams earpieces had the emergency alarm update.
The lights in the hallway flicked halfway on.
A shadow of something impossibly large and thin flitted into view through the window.
The door handle moved. Bucky raise his gun. Grace cried.
“Get away from my daughter you fucking bastard,” a robotic voice shouted and the sound of repulsor blasts broke through the terrible stillness. Bucky flicked the safety off, shoved his gun in it's holster, snatched Grace to his chest in both arms and ran through the lab. The sound of metal tearing against metal and flesh hitting drywall sounded behind them.
“Stevie, tell me how to get the hell out of here,” Bucky barked, throwing his back against a locked door and plowing out into an empty hallway. Lights flickered to his right and he took off to his left, feet pounding against the floor.
“Nat's got the info. I've got two rooms to search for biological material and research papers then I'm headed your way. You want to go south-west and up as many levels as you can. That should lead you to the roof and balcony system closest to the Saguenay. Sam is on his way,” Steve commanded.
Bucky ducked through hallway after hallway, the sound of fighting echoing through the corridors. More lights flickered on, doors snapped open and shouts sounded from behind them. Looks like they rattled the wasp's nest.
“I can't get to the building. I repeat, I can't get to the building. There's some kind of force field,” Sam started.
“That will be taken care of sir, just a moment,” A calm British voice said over their earpieces.
“Who the fuck are you,” Sam demanded.
“I am Just A Rather Very Intelligent System. You may call me Jarvis. I've hacked into the Hydra system and the field should be down shortly,” Jarvis said.
Bucky panted, freezing and back tracking as he saw a platoon of Hydra soldiers marching up the hallway towards him. He ducked into a stairwell and raced up the stairs, bursting out at the highest level. He took off down another corridor, he couldn't stay still for a moment. Grace was crying against his chest, no longer making any effort to keep quiet.
Bucky leaped around a corner and jumped back. Ten soldiers guarded the doors to the roof. Bucky dropped Grace to the ground. Bullets pinged against the wall in front of them.
“Stay here. Stay still. I will come back for you,” He said, his voice sharp. Grace looked at him wide-eyed and nodded.
Bucky took a deep breath, grabbed a light grenade, pulled the pin and flung it into the mess of soldiers. He followed moments later, snapping the neck of the nearest guard and twisting the gun of the guard next to him. He shot until the gun ran out of ammo then slammed the but into the head of the man holding it. Three soldiers were left standing, the rest lay on the floor. One soldier raised his pistol, hand shaking too much to aim.
“Son, just don't,” Steve said from behind Bucky, his shield poised. The soldiers turned to face their new opponent and Bucky threw himself into the middle of them, one foot snapping an ankle, his metal arm head locking one and throwing him into the last guard.
Bucky looked down at himself. He had a cut on his flesh arm that was bleeding, but nothing that would incapacitate him. He was smeared with blood and he looked up at Steve. He couldn't go back to Grace like this. Steve gave him a nod and knelt down where Grace had curled up against the wall.
“Hey, Grace I'm going to help you up and we're going to get out of here now, okay?” Steve asked, giving the little girl a small smile.
“No. No no no. Don't touch me,” She screamed. “I have to stay right here. He's going to come back. He has to. I have his jacket.”
Steve backed away, his hands held up placating. “Bucky, I think it's best if you come over yourself.”
Bucky almost shook his head, but Grace's panicked breathing forced him forward. He sat in front of her and she crawled into his arms, hiding her face against his neck.
“You smell like daddy, he doesn't,” She said, glaring at Steve suspiciously.
“Well then,” Bucky said, exchanging a glance with Steve. At this age Grace shouldn't be able to pick out smells that faint. Bucky had not even spent an hour with Tony and that was five hours ago. “Lets get going.”
Bucky stood when Grace nodded. Steve took the lead, breaking through the doors and leading them out into the cold night air. Snow flakes drifted around them, dancing in the flood lights that lined the roof.
“Everyone ready for pick up?” Sam asked, swooping down and landing next to them. He brushed a hand over Steve's chest, looking for injuries. Steve smiled and pressed a kiss to his temple.
“Buck and Grace need a lift to the jet. I'm going back to help Nat and Ironman clean up,” Steve explained. He reached out to wrap Bucky in a one-armed hug, freezing when Grace made a frightened sound. He settled for clapping Bucky on the shoulder. “There should be blankets in the jet for her, but I'm afraid we don't have any shoes.”
A crash shuddered through the building and Bucky saw Ironman's hot rod red form shoot from the building.
“Go. I've got this. Go,” Bucky demanded. “Sam will take us, we'll be fine.”
Steve nodded and ran as Ironman stabilized in the air and dove back into the fight. Sam grabbed Bucky under both arms and took off, his jet pack straining under the added weight. The flight was freezing, but fast. Sam dropped them off and Bucky staggered up the jet's ramp.
“Clint, blankets,” Bucky called out, shuffling through shelves with one arm and holding Grace with the other. She wasn't shivering anymore which terrified Bucky.
“Here,” Clint said.
Bucky quickly wrapped Grace in the blankets.
“Sit up in the cockpit, I'll close it off and blast the heat,” Clint said, pushing Bucky forward.
“Good. Now all we have to do is wait.”
Tony shook in his armor as the dust finally settled. He turned to Captain America. God, he couldn't believe he had been fighting next to Captain America.
“Where is my daughter?” Tony demanded, the armors voice modulating making it sound strong while he was hardly able to keep from sobbing.
“The jet. She's safe. The Winter Soldier says she's fallen asleep and Hawkeye reports that she has no sign of frostbite,” Captain America said. “If you can carry me there it will be faster.”
Tony grabbed Captain America around the waist and blasted off, not wasting a moment. He tried to keep in mind that his passenger didn't have protection from the wind so he should go a little slower, but was difficult. He desperately wanted to hold Grace in his arms, to feel her heartbeat and know, without a doubt, that she is safe. To see it with his own two eyes.
He landed when Captain America pointed out the jet, nestled in a small, flat clearing in the forest. He jetted down, letting Captain America hop off before touching the ground. A nod had Javis packing up his armor into a carry-able brief case. He grabbed it and stalked up the ramp, heading for the cockpit. The moment he saw who was there he froze.
Bucky, his Bucky, sat in the co-pilot seat a pair of goggles pushed up his forehead and a mask dangling from his neck. He wore a blood splattered leather vest and in his arms- Tony held back a sob of relief.
Grace was there, chest rising and falling calmly, asleep, relaxed, safe. Bucky looked up at the sound, his eyes widening at the sight of Tony. He reached out, carefully shifting so that Grace wouldn't be disturbed, opening the door. Tony''s head whirled, his eyes flicking back and forth between Grace and Bucky.
“Uh... hi,” Bucky started, sounding unsure, his shoulders hunched up to his ears.
“Can I?” Tony asked, voice cracking as he reached out for Grace.
“Of course,” Bucky said quickly, settling Grace in Tony's arms. Tony held her close, focusing on the way she breathed, her heart beating strong and true against her ribcage.
“Oh thank god,” Tony said, his chest swelling with relief.
His knees buckled and before he knew it he was caught up in Bucky's arms, pressed tightly to his chest. Tony leaned closer, pressing his face against Bucky's neck.
“Thank you,” He murmured, feeling Bucky shiver against him slightly.
“You're welcome. Come here, let's sit down,” Bucky said, backing up into the chair and pulling Tony down into his lap.
“I- I don't even know where to begin,” Tony whispered, running his hands up and down Grace's back. “You- We just had our first date and now I-”
“Hush. Don't. We can talk about that later. Right now me and the Avengers are going to get you and Grace back home. I'm going to come over with our leftovers and you and Grace can just relax,” Bucky said. He hesitated slightly before running his hands over Tony's back. Tony shuffled closer, his eyes fluttering closed.
He's never liked alpha's ordering him around. It always felt patronizing, like they knew how to do everything better than Tony. But something about Bucky's tone, the way his voice trembled slightly, made Tony breathe easier.
“Okay. That sounds good,” Tony managed, his head drooping. Now that the adrenaline rush from battle has worn off his body felt weighted down with stones. Bucky's chest vibrated under his cheek as Bucky chuckled.
“You should get some sleep. You're safe here with us. I'm pretty sure this is only the beginning of our story,” Bucky said, running his hand through Tony's hair.
Tony hummed out an agreement before letting himself drift off to sleep, lulled by the steady rise and fall of Bucky's chest and the solid beat of Grace's heart.