Bucky’s sitting on the floor in front of his TV, drinking coffee and absently eating softened leftover popcorn, when his phone rings. He’s watching the news, because apparently there’s a monster of the week wreaking havoc in Montauk, and the live camera’s zooming at Captain America running with-- is that a cell phone? Bucky squints at the TV as he answers without checking the number.
“Sam! Stop making cupcakes for the vets and get over here as soon as possible!” a voice yells in his ear, and he blinks, startled. There’s rushing, like a wind, and some muffled explosions accompanied by panicky seagull noises. On the TV screen, Captain America is definitely holding a phone to his ear.
“No Sam here, buddy,” Bucky says. “And in case you happen to be Captain America, take the next turn left; right’s a dead end.”
“What,” says Captain America, but steers left when the road splits.
“Wrong number,” Bucky replies and takes a sip of his coffee. “Next turn right, then two lefts and another right, and you can get behind that Pacific Rim monster.”
“I tried to call Sam,” Captain America says, bewildered. He’s sprinting like Usain Bolt and doesn’t sound even a little out of breath. Fucker. “Who’re you?”
“Someone who’s watching you live on TV,” Bucky tells him as the tiny patriotic figure on the screen takes the turns like he instructed. Bucky should probably be a lot more freaked out about this, but honestly? After a tour in the Middle East and six years as a nurse in New York, even this isn’t enough to ruffle him. One sees a lot of shit in the ER. “Also, you better hang up now, that thing is behind the next bend.”
“Uh, okay,” Captain America says. “Thanks?”
“Whatever,” Bucky says, disconnects the call and turns the TV off to get ready for his shift.
Three weeks later, Bucky’s taking his coffee break outside, basking in a sunspot in the ambulance bay, when his phone rings. It’s an unknown number, but Bucky accepts the call anyway.
“Sam, thank god,” Captain America’s frazzled voice says, and Bucky sighs internally. “What was the procedure for fucked-up ankles?”
“Still not Sam,” Bucky replies, grimacing at the bitter coffee. “RICE.”
“What? Who’s this?”
Bucky rolls his eyes. “The same guy as the last time. Montauk, wrong number, route directions. You can call me Bucky. Rest, ice, compression, elevate.”
“Thanks,” Captain America says, sounding a little confused. “Wait, do I still have the wrong number in my phone?”
“Since I’m not Sam or his booty call, yeah,” Bucky snarks, and Captain America huffs a laugh.
“Sorry about this,” he says and covers the mic briefly to say something to someone else. Probably the person with the fucked-up ankle. “Bucky, did you say?”
“Yeah,” Bucky replies, but then he hears a siren wailing in the next block, and gets up to go back to work. “I gotta go. Tell your buddy to take it easy with that ankle.”
“Nice talking to you!” Captain America chirps, before Bucky hangs up. What a weirdo.
Four days later, Bucky’s phone rings just when he’s gotten home, showered and collapsed on his couch in sweats. 12-hour shifts are brutal, it’s late, and Bucky groans when he checks the number.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” he says as he accepts the call, but there’s no real heat in his voice. “Do you realize that it’s almost midnight in New York?”
“Hi not-Sam,” Captain America’s voice says, amused. What a little shit. “Did I wake you?”
“No,” Bucky says, drags his hand through his hair. “It’s alright. Did you need something?”
“Do you know any good pizza joints that deliver at this time?”
Bucky should probably change his Twitter description from ‘a little tall for a stormtrooper’ into ‘reluctantly charmed by a national icon’, because that’s what he is. Who the fuck calls wrong number on purpose to ask about pizza places? Has this guy never heard of Google?
“Butternut Squash Palace,” Bucky says. “Don’t ask about the name, I don’t fucking know either.”
Captain America laughs, deep and warm. Bucky feels it in his poor, tired toes.
“Alright,” Captain America says, smile in his voice. “Thanks for the tip.”
“That’s what he said,” Bucky yawns behind his hand. “No prob, Cap.”
Captain America snorts. “Call me Steve,” he says, sounding amused again. “And go the fuck to sleep.”
“Go throw yourself into a dumpster,” Bucky mumbles back, hits ‘end’ and falls asleep on his couch.
By the time his phone rings again, Bucky’s already saved Steve’s number in his phone under ‘Captain Cellphone’ and set his ringtone to America, Fuck Yeah! .
“You know,” Bucky says as he picks up, “this feels a little like you’re more interested in talking to a random guy than your actual friend.”
“Pft,” Steve says. “The number I got wrong was for Sam’s work phone, so I can still text him stupid questions about modern technology to his personal phone, just to rile him up.”
“Have you already asked him what to do when you accidentally program a wrong number into your fancy phone and call it twice, thinking it’s your friend’s?” Bucky asks drily, stuffing dirty scrubs into the washing machine. He’s glad he’s alone in the laundromat, because that ringtone is actually pretty embarrassing. Maybe he should change it to Beyoncé.
Steve sniggers. “Didn’t have this problem with landlines, I tell you.”
“You’re not even half as cute as you probably think you are,” Bucky says, lying through his teeth.
“Nah,” Steve says smugly. “But you’re probably twice as cute as I think you are.”
Then he hangs up, and Bucky’s left standing in the laundromat, staring at his phone and wondering where the fuck did Captain America learn to be smooth, because that? That was some A-grade flirting for a guy who’s in his 90s, and Bucky would be jealous, if he weren’t so baffled by the fact that Steve Rogers is flirting with him like a sex line gone wrong.
Bucky thinks he needs at least three venti lattes to get over this revelation.
When Single Ladies starts playing, Bucky pulls out his phone, tucks it between his shoulder and ear and says, “I’m busy, be quick.”
He’s in the grocery store, rushing through his weekly shopping before he needs to get to the hospital for his extra shift.
“James Buchanan Barnes, goes by the frankly pretty juvenile nickname ‘Bucky’, born March 10th, 1985,” says an unknown male voice in Bucky’s ear, and he freezes for a second. “Joined the Army after graduating high school with a 4.3 GPA, did a tour in Iraq in 2005, got an honorable discharge, graduated with honors from St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn as a Bachelor of Science, Major in Nursing, in 2010. Two years working as a registered nurse at a private clinic in Queens, before transferring to Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Centre in 2012. Unmarried, parents living in Indiana, two sisters who currently live in Boston and Philadelphia. They’re pretty, by the way.”
Bucky’s been listening to the elevator pitch about his own life with mild panic, standing at the frozen foods aisle, but the last remark jolts him out of it. His brain has already matched the voice to all the newsreels he’s seen, and Tony Stark definitely isn’t above digging out everything there is to know about Bucky and calling him just to let him know that he knows.
“Thanks,” Bucky says brightly, and scoops a tub of frozen yoghurt from the freezer into his basket. “I was just wondering what my high school GPA was, you saved me a call to my mom. Also, my sisters are married and so are you, and I really am busy, so have a great day.”
“Damn, Cap sure can pick them,” Tony Stark says, whistling a little, just before Bucky hangs up. Prick.
He speeds through the rest of his shopping without other incidents. Single Ladies starts again just as Bucky’s unloading the shopping bags in his kitchen.
“If you’re calling to tell me my HS GPA, Stark got you beat,” Bucky tells him as he picks up. “Also, I’m hella busy, so keep it short or I’ll send you the bill for my taxi ride to the hospital.”
“What?” Steve says confusedly. “Stark? And why you need to go to the hospital?”
Bucky slams the fridge closed and scuttles to his bedroom to change. His socks slip on the hardwood floor, and he grabs the door frame just in time to stop himself from falling over. He curses a little, puts the phone on speakerphone and throws it on his bed.
“Bucky?” Steve’s voice asks, sounding a little alarmed. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Bucky says as he opens his belt and pushes his horrible but oh-so-comfy mom jeans down. The belt buckle clinks loudly against the floor.
“...Bucky, are you stripping?” Steve sounds half-alarmed, half-amused.
“I didn’t tell you? I charge fifty bucks per minute and haven’t got the whole day, so get jerking, stud,” Bucky says and pulls a pair of sweatpants on, because he’s heading for a 10-hour shift and he can damn well be comfortable on his way there. Steve’s laughter is genuine and a little tinny, and for a second Bucky lets himself bask in the warmth of it.
“No, for real, are you hurt?” Steve asks then.
“Nah,” Bucky replies and pulls his sneakers on. “I’m a nurse, as your friend Stark kindly reminded me, when he called to quote my whole resumé to me and compliment my sisters on their looks.”
“He did what ,” Steve says and mutters something about nosy pricks under his breath. “I’m gonna have to call you back.”
“Not in the next twenty hours,” Bucky tells him. “I’m 10 hours on shift, and then I’m gonna have my eight hours of sleep without any superheroes calling and asking me to pant a little. Ask Stark to strip or something, he’s cheaper than me.”
Steve’s still snorting with laughter when he hangs up.
Two weeks later, naturally, someone tries to conquer the Earth.
Bucky’s having a day off and braving the masses in Central Park, when there’s a faint explosion, and smoke starts to rise in the direction of the Rockefeller Center. People glance around nervously, but Bucky’s already moving, heading south with a brisk pace. It might be anything - a fire, a gas explosion, a terrorist attack - but Bucky’s never been one to shy away from danger, and he’s also always been a noble idiot who recognizes a possible need for his skill set.
By the time Bucky reaches the edge of the park, there’s a second explosion, then third, and Bucky watches in mute horror as tiny, flying robots start to swarm from ahead.
A block closer he hears the screaming and starts to run. A flash of red and gold soars overhead, and for once Bucky is glad for Tony Stark.
Bucky gets a first aid kit from a bank on the way, and tries to help as many as he can; he patches wounds, sets dislocated joints, holds hands, all the while dodging the nasty robots. It’s like being back to Iraq, and he braces himself like he used to do there, shuts off the emotional response in front of suffering and panic.
Single Ladies starts to play in his pocket as he’s stitching up an old woman behind an upturned tourist bus. He doesn’t have hands to pick it up, so he wishes that Steve’s safe, and goes back to work.
Somebody, probably The Avengers, are picking off the robots, and slowly, slowly the streets starts to look less like a war zone and more like the aftermath of it. Bucky’s tired and sore and dirty, a bleeding gash on his cheek where it caught a shard of glass from a minor explosion, but it’s almost over. It’s almost over. Someone tossed him a baseball bat two hours ago, and his flanks burn with the exercise of bashing the robots in the midst of doing his job.
He’s on his third first aid kit, this time from a Starbucks, and the supplies are running low, when Bucky sits down behind a car, leans his back to it, and sighs. He’s exhausted, but there’s still people needing his help. It’s been only three or four hours since the attack started, but it feels like he’s been doing double shifts for a week.
Bucky closes his eyes, still clutching the bat, but snaps them open, when something ricochets from the car right next to his ear.
There’s a decapitated robot lying in front of him, and behind it stands Captain America, holding his shield. It’s not exactly rocket science to deduct who killed the robot that clearly was on its way to end Bucky.
They stare at each other mutely for a minute, before Captain America - Steve, shit, Steve - blinks, motions at the wound on Bucky’s cheek and asks, “Are you hurt?”
Bucky shakes his head, tongue-tied for the first time in a long while.
“Okay,” Steve says, sounding tired. His uniform looks a little singed around the edges. “Try to head east, it’s cleared.” Then, he starts to jog away, pulling his phone out.
Beyoncé sounds loud on the empty street. Steve stops on his tracks, and turns slowly around.
Bucky pulls the phone from his pocket with a trembling hand, and answers without taking his eyes off of Steve. His voice wavers just slightly. “If you want me to talk dirty to you, it’s hundred bucks per minute. I’m tired.”
There’s a stunned silence. Then, Steve starts to walk back towards him, tall and imposing in his suit. “You do look pretty dirty to me,” he says to the phone, uncertainly, and Bucky snorts out a weary laugh.
“Look who’s talking, Captain Dustamerica.”
Steve comes closer and takes off his helmet with his free hand. His hair is sweaty and unruly, and Bucky wants to card his fingers through it. “I was actually trying to reach my friend Sam,” he says, less than twenty feet away. “But I probably have the wrong number.”
“Nah,” Bucky says, his heart beating madly in his chest. “Pretty sure my number is the right one. You keep calling it, after all.”
Steve’s smile is bright and crooked, and he looks so much younger in person than on the television. “Yeah,” he confirms. “I kinda like the asshole who always picks up.”
Bucky smiles back, and Steve drops his phone and helmet, takes Bucky’s hand to tug him up and into his arms. His grip is tight on Bucky’s waist, and his eyes look really blue up close, twinkling with joy.
“Captain Rogers,” Bucky drawls, scandalized, and tosses the baseball bat to the side so that he can push his fingers into Steve’s disgusting hair. “Are you implying that you’ve been calling me just for my ass?”
Steve snorts out an undignified laugh, says solemnly, “What can I say, it’s a great ass,” and kisses him.
Kissing Steve is pretty nice.
“You haven’t even seen it yet,” Bucky says when his mouth is unoccupied again.
Steve laughs, his eyes crinkling adorably in the corners. His hand migrates south and pats Bucky’s ass consolingly. “Yup, worth the phone bill,” he says, smirking, and pulls Bucky in for another kiss.
Bucky pulls his hair a little, just because he can.