It had taken Steve and Loki nearly a month for it to dawn on them that this was really their home. There was no one else sharing their kitchen, their living room, or their bathroom. Yes, the girls all still had keys, but the dynamic had changed and the couple realised they could do things they had avoided before. Such as shower sex. The shower at the apartment was only big enough for one person and they had always been too aware of the others to try anything at the house.
Loki had Steve’s front pushed firmly into the shower wall, his head rested on Steve's shoulder and his cock still buried inside him. The pair were panting hard and floating with the power of their shared orgasm, even as the water cascaded down on their heads. Steve leant his head back and nuzzled into Loki’s temple, while the pair were a little reserved when around others, when they were alone, they were very affectionate.
The sound of the phone ringing was distant at first, but as Loki came back down to earth, it become more demanding of his attention. Especially as there were very few people who had the landline number.
After the incident with Brock, everyone had agreed to have the number changed and it would only be given to those who needed it, such as for work, so the fact that it was ringing made both Steve and Loki look concerned. Loki pulled out gently and after a nod from Steve, wrapped a towel around his waist and headed for the phone. It hung up as the answer phone kicked in while Loki was on route, but began again after only a few seconds. It only got to the second ring before Loki picked up the receiver. “Hello.”
“Is that Steven Rogers?” A female voice replied. No one he knew called Steve, Steven. The question was short, to the point and put Loki on edge.
“No, I’m sorry. He’s in the shower right now. I’m his partner, can I take a message or get him to call you back?” Loki asked, politely.
“I’m sorry, but the matter is confidential and urgent. I will hold for him.” The sharp voice replied again.
“May I at least ask who is calling?” Loki asked once more. He knew it wasn’t the woman’s fault, confidential information was just that, confidential, but she really wasn’t giving him anything to work with and it was started to get to him.
“The US Army. How long before Mr Rogers can come to the phone?”
That stopped Loki's next round of questions dead. There was only one reason the Army would be trying to get hold of Steve and that was Bucky. “I’ll get him now.”
Loki rested the receiver on the table before heading back to the bathroom almost at a run. He met Steve half way and didn’t waste any time. “It’s someone from the Army. They want to talk to you.”
Steve started towards that phone, his heart racing. He grabbed to receiver and said, “This is Steve Rogers.”
Loki headed off quickly to get dressed. He had a feeling that something was very wrong and wanted to give Steve a little privacy.
He came back into the room just as Steve put down the phone and sat on the couch. Loki took a seat next to him and waited. He was staring into space, clearly in shock. Just when Loki decided that it might be worth calling that girls, Steve blinked. When he spoke his voice was shaking.
“That was Bucky’s commanding officer. It would seem he was part of a group that was attacked behind enemy lines. They won’t give me any details, just that while they have recovered the bodies of the rest of his unit, they suspect that he may have be captured by whoever attacked them.”
Loki wrapped his arm around his partner’s shoulders. “Oh god Steve. I can’t believe it. Why did they call you?”
Steve seemed to come back to himself a little as he tried to think of the answer. “Ummm. His Mom and Dad died a couple of years ago and as he hasn’t got any other family, he listed me as his next of kin. God, I need to call the girls.”
“Take a minute. I’ll make the calls. Then I’ll order takeaway, we’re going to have a houseful tonight.”
Steve looked lost and yet grateful. He headed off to their room to get dressed while Loki made the calls.
Steve remembered very little of the next few days. The girls were devastated by the news and had camped out at the house that first night hoping for more information. Both Steve and Loki took a few days off of work and spent most of the time on the phone trying to find out precisely what was going on. After the initial phone call, the only people Steve was able to get hold of were secretaries, all of whom repeated the same speech of the nature of Bucky mission had been classified as were the efforts that were being made to find him.
Steve was going mad with worry. Bucky was his oldest friend and not knowing where he was or if he was alive was killing him. He was calling every day to try and find out if there was any news, but nobody was telling him anything, including where Bucky had been when he went MIA. It had occurred to Steve that Bucky’s emails had become increasingly vague recently. He had never been able to tell Steve much while he was on tour, but he normally knew where he was and what his squad members were like. Since he had got his promotion to Captain, he had been more distant and his emails stayed squarely on the topic of life back home. Steve kicked himself for being so wrapped up with his own life with Loki, he missed that his sort of brother was involved in something big.
The days became weeks and nearly everything in Steve and Loki’s life had been put on hold. They returned to work, but their planned vacation was cancelled and the talk about their wedding stopped. They still hadn’t told anyone about their engagement as they were enjoying the peace that came with the secret. So the pair had silently agreed that it was something that could be put off until Bucky was found and could share in their news in person.
Loki was proving to be Steve’s rock. He was calm when Steve's frustrations over the lack of feedback from the army got the better of him and he shouted at the only person around, his partner. He knew that Bucky was a brother in Steve’s eyes and Loki could only imagine how it would feel if it was Thor that was missing. It still hurt Loki to see Steve feeling so helpless and finally refusing to wait for the army to follow procedure, he called in a favour.
Two days later Steve was called and asked to attend a meeting at Fort Hamilton. He sat with Loki in a large conference room and was joined by one Colonel Phillips and Sargent Carter.
“Well, Mr Rogers, it seems you have some very influential friends in the right places. Before we begin, I need the pair of you to sign a Non-Disclosure agreement.” Phillips remarked.
Steve raised an eyebrow in confusion but decided to say nothing. Whatever had happened, he was final getting some answers. Still he flicked a glance at Loki, who met his eye for a movement and turned his attention to the paper work in front of him. Steve followed his example and after a few minutes perusing the details, they both signed.
The Sargent took the paperwork and left the room. Colonel Phillips cleared his throat, before he began. “Gentlemen, what I am about to tell you is classified and disclosing any details to a third party will be in violation of the agreement you have just signed, which will result in your incarceration. Am I making myself completely clear?”
When both men nodded, the Colonel continued. “Now, after Captain Barnes’ last tour, he was ear marked to join and in fact lead an elite group under the code name Winter Soldier. Their assignments would be black ops and operating independently answering directly to me. Their sole object was to infiltrate and neutralise a new extremist group known as HYDRA before it became established, something they were very successful at. Now, the last time Barnes reported in, they had received intel of a cell based in just inside enemy territory. It was small and should have been a simple mission. When they missed their check in, a recon team was sent and found what was clearly an ambush. Of the 10 man strong team, only Barnes is unaccounted for. Given that the rest were killed at the scene, we can only assume that he was taken alive and will continue to operate on that assumption, until we have evidence otherwise.”
Steve was stunned. He knew that Bucky had risen quickly in rank, but he had no idea that his friend was such an effective killer. It took him several minutes to process everything before he said. “So your telling me that Bucky could be being held by religious nuts, doing god knows what to him. What the hell are you doing to find him?”
Loki reached over and grabbed his hand. “Love, hear him out before you rip his head off.”
Steve glared his partner, but remained silent, the Colonel looked sympathetic. After all this wasn’t the first time he had had to talk to loved ones, although never in this detail. “Son, this group isn’t the run of the mill terrorists nor do they follow a religious code. They seem to be taking advantage of the current situation and trying in impose their idea of Order on the world, which involves a lot of freedoms being removed. We believe that they would keep Barnes alive as a source of information. As for finding him, we are currently reassessing all of intel for the region. We think there is someone feeding us false information which led to the team being compromised in the first place. Until we have something concrete, from a reliable source we have no idea where to start to looking.”
Steve sat back in his chair looking defeated. “So your telling me to sit tight and hope for the best, is that it?”
“I’m afraid so.” The Colonel replied. “Listen, Rogers. Your friend is a pain in the ass but he is also one of the finest soldiers it has been my privilege to have under my command. I promise you that I will do everything in my power to bring him home.”
The meeting broke up not long after, with Colonel Phillips providing Steve with a direct number to his office and the assurance that he would kept in the loop as any new developments arose. The journey home in the car was quiet, with Loki giving Steve time to process everything. They arrived back to the house without saying a word to each other and Loki headed straight for the kitchen to make some coffee. He needed something to do and was so distracted he didn’t hear Steve come in behind him.
“Loki, what did you do?” Steve asked. “Phillips said I had influential friends which I don’t. Who did you talk to?”
Loki jumped and turned to face Steve. “I called Tony Stark. We broke ground on his new Mansion last month. He may be pulling away from the arms trade but he still has quite a few Military contracts and a big supporter of a number of people in high places. I asked him if he could pull some strings, get someone to talk to you. I never expected we would get the whole story.”
Steve reached out and took Loki’s hand. His voice was low and loving. “Thank you. But why didn’t you tell me and what does Stark wants in return?”
Loki laughed to himself. “Well I’m going to be attending fund raisers for the next 10 years and giving a lot of money to the charities. I wouldn’t worry about it. It will all raise the company’s image. Despite what the media says, Stark’s not that big an asshole. He was willing to help regardless. As for not telling you, I didn’t want to get your hopes up if he couldn’t help.”
Steve pulled Loki in close and kissed him. “I love you.”
Even with the intervention of Tony Stark, it was still a waiting game. Phillips kept in regular contact, but they still hadn’t received any intel about where Bucky was being held, although they had heard that HYDRA did indeed have an America soldier prisoner.
3 months after he had gone MIA, there was another phone call. Loki was alone in the house, but Steve had given Phillips authorisation to talk to him on his behalf.
“Mr Borson, this is Sargent Carter.” The voice on the other end of the phone said.
Loki just put down the phone, when Steve came home. One look at his partner told him something was up. “Loki, what is it?”
“They found him, and he’s alive.”
There was a rush of activity as Steve called the girls in rapid succession. Only after that, did he get back on the phone to Phillips to try and find out some more information. Unfortunately, Phillips’ own intelligence was sketchy as best. He knew that Bucky had been found, but not what condition. It seemed that that he had been tortured but that had been expected. Phillips promised that when he had more information, he would be in touch.
Three days later, Phillips came to see them in person. “Captain Barnes will be landing in US tomorrow and be taken straight to a military hospital in Washington. Now, I know you want to come and see him as soon as possible, but please, son, give us some time. He’s not going to be the man you knew for some time and I have to inform you that he received some pretty severe injuries. As a result, he has had to have his left arm amputated, almost all the way to the shoulder joint. As well as that, it likely that he will need counselling possibly for years. When he is released from hospital, it is probable he will be medically discharged with full honours.”
They were all sat in the living room, Phillips on the single chair, with Steve and Loki sitting on the couch, Loki arm wrapped around Steve shoulders.
“So he’s home, but we still can’t see him. Colonel I understand that you’re doing everything you can, but it’s not just me and Loki. There are the girls, I mean Jane’s 7 months pregnant and she is so stressed that the doctors are starting to get worried about the baby.” Steve stood and moved towards the kitchen, trying to give himself some space.
Phillips’ got up as well but kept his distance. “Rogers. Steve, he needs time to heal. We’re not talking about his physical injuries. We’re not sure what their end game was but the indications are that they were trying to break him mentally, possibly to condition him as a sleeper agent. Right now, we don’t if he would recognise you or the rest of your family.”
When Steve didn’t reply, Loki asked. “So what do you suggest we do?”
“Hate it all you want, but waiting is all I can recommend. There are the best Doctors treating him and as soon as they give us the ok, I will arrange a visit. Long term, he’s going to need a lot of help and somewhere stable to live. We have ex-military accommodation but he would be better somewhere more permanent sooner rather than later.”
“He’s coming here, if that’s what he wants. This was his home before and it’s his until he is ready. He’s already got a room set up.” Steve answered. They had already discussed it and Loki was in full agreement.
Phillips nodded, having expected this response already. This was possibly the closest group of friend he had ever met. It proved that family didn’t depend on blood. He just wished there was more he could do.
A week later, Steve got the call that he could visit Bucky, with one other. Loki offered at once, but Steve felt it would be better if one of the girls came with him instead, having known him the longest. Jane would have been the idea choice, but her own Doctor had just put her on bedrest, advice that Thor was making her follow. Natasha was always the most level headed of the girls, so she went with him.
Sitting in the waiting room was painful. Every time someone in a white coat entered the room, they jumped in their seats to be disappointed again. They had been there for an hour, when finally Sargent Carter came in.
“Sorry about the wait. The psychiatric team wanted to make sure he was up for visitors, but it’s fine now.” She smiled at Steve as she led them down the corridor. Steve didn’t ever notice and while Natasha did, she didn’t draw attention to it. In any other circumstances she would have laughed to herself about the poor girl wasting her time.
Sargent Carter stopped outside a side room. “Ok, Captain Barnes is well on the road to recovery in terms of his physical condition. He is still a little disoriented and has had some flash backs. He is displaying all the signs of PTSD and as the Colonel explained, he going to need counselling for a quite a while.”
Steve nodded. “Can I see him now?”
The Sargent opened the door. Bucky was lying in the hospital bed, staring out of the window. “Captain Barnes. You have visitors.”
Steve watched at Bucky sighed, possible expecting to see more military brass or doctors, before he turned to look to the door, seeing Steve first. He blinked a couple of times before saying “Steve?”
Steve smiled. “Yeah, Buck. It’s me.”
“Go away.” Bucky replied flatly turning back to the window.
Steve frowned and took a step closer to the bed. Bucky must have caught him in the corner of his eye and his head snapped back to his best friend. He grabbed a cup from the night stand and hurled it at Steve’s head, using his remaining arm. “I said GO FUCKING AWAY.”
Steve ducked, the cup missing him by a few inches. He just stared, unable to believe that Bucky would do something like that. “Bucky?”
“Just leave me the hell alone, Steve. I don’t want you here. Just go home.” Bucky growled before turning away again.
Steve didn’t know what to do. He went to move forward again, when Nat grabbed his arm and dragged him from the room.
“Nat what you playing at?” Steve yelled, pulling his arm away from her, intending to go back in.
Nat got in front of him, blocking his way. “No you don’t. he said go away and that what we are doing, for now. He’s hurting and he’s ashamed of us seeing him like this.”
Steve slowly processed what Nat was saying to him and then sank down to the fall, his head in his hands. “He must hate us all right now.”
Nat joined him on the floor. The doctors and nurses that were walking passed them paid them no mind. After all they had seen all sorts of reaction from family members before. “He’s in pain, that’s all. And I imagine that seeing you right now is going to hurt him more than anyone. He’s always been the strong one in his head, always been the one keeping an eye on you. Now, as far as he is concerned, he’s not.”
Steve nodded. While the girls were important to both men, there was a connection between him and Bucky ran deeper then all of them, even Loki, in its own way. He had been the first person to not to get put off by the walls Steve had put around himself, the first to encourage him when he was exploring his sexuality. Bucky had got his mom and dad to help prove Steve was able to look after himself, getting him out of the foster system.
Not that Steve hadn’t been there for Bucky in return. Steve had sat with him for hours, working on his grades until he got what he needed for university. They put in hours of practice on the football field to ensure Bucky qualified for a sports scholarship and he had been there when his parents had died only within a few months of each other. This was a friendship build on years of joy and heartache.
“So what now? If he doesn’t want me in there, I’ll wait here, but he might let you in. I mean, he loves you but……” Steve stammered.
“But he’s never made the mistake of been over protective of me. It’s alright. A little bit distance might be what we need right now. Let’s give him some time to calm down and I’ll try again.” She replied, thinking that distance was the last thing on her or Bucky’s mind right now.
It took them a little while to find a coffee machine and then Nat steeled herself to see Bucky. This wasn’t going to be pleasant and for reasons that Steve wouldn’t understand. Still, she hoped that she could get through to him. Nat didn’t bother to knock on the door, instead walking straight in.
Someone had been into see Bucky since Nat and Steve left, as he was now sat in an armchair, once more staring out of the window. Nat didn’t wait to be invited but sat in the chair opposite. Bucky flicked his eyes at her but that was it. She took a moment to really look at him, noting that he looked thinner then before, paler and the were dark shadows under his eyes. He also had the start of a beard, something that never happened before as he always preferred to be clean shaven.
They sat there for ten minutes, then Nat said. “So you throw a cup as Steve and give me the silent treatment. Wonder what you would do if it was Jane or Darcy sitting here?”
“Darcy would talk herself horse, so I wouldn’t have to say anything. Jane would try to out think me.” Bucky relied flatly. He knew he could shout at her as he did with Steve but that would bounce off Nat.
“Bucky, don’t push us away. We are here for you, especially Steve.” Nat said, as she reached out for his hand.
“Right, your all here for me. You were all off living your lives, shacking up with warm bodies, while I was in a tiny room, waiting for the next beating.” Bucky snapped, glaring at her which made her stop.
Nat glared right back at him. “I hate to point this out, Bucky but you knew the risks before you enlisted. You’re alive and we are all grateful for that.”
Bucky laughed sarcastically. “Right, alive. That’s what I’ve been told, Nat. Well I don’t feel alive. I don’t feel anything. I’m not even whole anymore. They left more than my arm back there.” Bucky’s eyes dropped to the empty sleeve resting on his lap
“Don’t call me that. You don’t get to do that, not anymore.” Bucky pushed himself up to his feet and edged slowly to the bed. He had been kept in a freezing room, so small that he couldn’t stand or stretch out and as a result he would need a lot physical therapy before he would be steady on his feet again.
“So how is lover boy?” Bucky asked suddenly, turning back to face her. “I mean, Steve tells me all the time about how ‘wonderful’ life is like with the perfect Loki, but you never tell me about Barton. Things not going so well?”
Nat narrowed her eyes. “Ja….Buck, you know that I love him. That he makes me happier than anyone else has.”
“Aww it’s love is it? And what about us, Natasha. Didn’t I make you happy?” Bucky growled.
“What? Bucky, that was two nights a long time ago. We both knew it wasn’t right, that we were better the way we are now.” Nat sounded surprised, but the fact him bringing up their very brief fling didn’t really surprise her at all.
Bucky came closer again. “Being locked up alone gave me a lot of time to think. I don’t think it was so wrong. I mean, I know I was joining the Army and that the distance would have made it hard, but that’s all changed now. Dump Barton and we can be together.”
Nat saw red. “Not a chance. Even if Clint leaves me tomorrow, I still wouldn’t be interested in being anything more than your sister.” With that she decided that this may not have been a good idea after all. She got out of her chair and headed to the door. Bucky's hand shot out, catching her arm. “Get you hand off me, Barnes. Or you will be on your arse in the next ten seconds.”
“Does he excite you, Romanov? Does Clint make you hot? For three months, you were all I could think about, getting back to see you again, to touch you again.” Bucky whispered.
Natasha eyes went wide. This wasn’t the Bucky she knew, but he had to be there somewhere. “No. We don’t belong together. We agreed to keep things the way they were. We were so good at it no one has ever suspected. It meant so much to you then that you never even told Steve, your best friend who knew everything about you.” She nearly shouted at him.
“We didn’t want anyone to know.” Bucky replied.
“That’s what YOU wanted Buck. I didn’t care either way. You knew it was a mistake and didn’t want Steve to know. What we were to each other mattered less to you then what your best friend thought of you. And you just treated him like shit.” Nat insisted.
Bucky snarled and let go of Nat’s arm. “Steve, Steve. Everything is about him. We spend all our time sorting out his problems. Look at him, the perfect boyfriend, the perfect home, the perfect life. What do I get? My girl’s with someone else, I’m homeless and so damaged that I’ll always be alone.”
There was a tray of food on the night stand and with a sweep of his arm, Bucky sent it flying into the wall. However, the movement was too much for his shaky stability and he hit the ground hard.
Nat went to help him up but he flung his arm at her, forcing her to keep her distance. Using his one arm, he pulled himself up on the bed. “I can manage. I don’t need yours or anyone else’s help. Can’t get used to having people around.”
For Nat that was the final straw. “You are an asshole, James Barnes. Steve has put his whole life on hold for you. He spent weeks trying to find out was happening and somehow he got the Army to give him access to classified information about what you were doing. He and Loki have been excited about something important for weeks but that vanished to second you disappeared. They had a room already set up for you at the house and have made it clear that that’s where you will be going if you want to. We are all there for you, god Jane’s doctors were within in an inch of putting her on mild sedatives, she was that worried about you.”
Bucky was stunned into silence. In his mind, Steve and the girls had simply carried on with their lives, not caring what he was going through. He even thought that they would push him away now that he was damaged goods. But time in that cell had made him forget how tight they were, how much his family loved him and each other. And in his heart, he knew that Nat was right about them. He cared for her deeply but they would likely kill each other, rather than be happy.
Bucky hadn’t realised Nat had come closer until she sat down next to him. “Bucky, no one is expecting you to be ok. You’ve been through hell and you’ve changed because if it, but that won’t make us love you any less. It just means you get a little leeway every now and again when you’re being a dick.”
Bucky laughed, but this one was lighter. “I was scared, Nat. I was scared that I would going to die alone, that I wouldn’t see Jane’s baby, see Steve finally man up and marry Loki. They wanted to cut everything out of me that was me and it was working a little at a time. What if there isn’t enough left?”
“There is.” Nat replied. “Now, do you want me to get Steve or see him tomorrow? He’s desperate out there.”
Bucky leant in and gave Nat a peck on the lips, both knowing that it would be the one and only time. “Go get the Punk. Hate to see the hole he’s worn in the carpet.”
Nat smiled and headed to the waiting room. Steve took one look at her and shot passed without a word, knowing it would all be ok.
The door to Bucky’s room was open and a nurse was clearing up the mess. She shot Steve a warning before leaving them alone. Bucky was back in bed but his body langue was far more open than before.
Steve smiled. “Hey Bucky. You ok? Nat wasn’t too hard on you, was she?”
The comment broke the ice. “She was her normal subtle self. Look, Steve, I’m sorry for before. Things aren’t good right now and I can’t promise I won’t be like that again. I’m going to lash out and you're likely going to be my biggest target.”
Steve nodded. “I’m here for you Bucky, 'til the end of the line.”
I couldn't resist the final line. :)