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Hand in Hand Is the Only Way to Land

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Bucky doesn't even see it coming until it's already too late, and Steve is standing in the middle of the kitchen with a kitten in his arms.

“That's a cat.” Bucky states, as the white fluffy thing clings to Steve’s chest.

“It is.” Steve grins as he uncatches the kitten’s claws. “Or, you know, she is.”

“She.” Bucky repeats, eyeing it warily. Sure, it's just a tiny little thing, but it's not everyday he wakes up to a new animal in their kitchen.

Steve nods, and shifts it to his other hand. It looks unbelievably small in his large hands, and also unbelievably pleased with the improved view as he lifts he up. “We need to name her.”

“Name her?” Bucky repeats again.

Steve nods. “Of course. Can't just call her kitty forever, can we?”

Bucky doesn't see why they can't, but. “You got us a cat?”

Steve frowns a bit. “No, I got us a cat.” He looks pleased with himself for a second, before what Bucky had said catches up with him and he frowns. “Wait, uh, yeah. I got us a cat.” He strokes it a bit, trying to distract it from its apparent mission of wiggling it's way free from his grasp. “You love cats. And Dr. O’Brien thinks a pet is a great idea.”

Dr. O’Brien can go fuck herself, but for now, “Oh, I love cats, do I?” Bucky says, raising his eyebrows. He leans back against the island, eyes on the kitten as she starts to climb up Steve’s sleeve.

“Yeah,” Steve says distractedly, hand behind the kitten so she can catch her if she falls in the middle of her vigorous climb. He winces as her claws catch at his skin under the shirt. “Do you remember the Golde’s cat?”

Bucky thinks he doesn't at first, but then it comes back to him. “Oh,” he says with an exaggerated grin, which feels foreign on his face. “You mean the one who loved to piss on everything and sleep on my nice shirt?”

Steve winces again, though if it's because of the kitten’s claws or because of his mistake, Bucky can't tell. “Ah,” he says, hesitating. “He was old, you can't really blame him.”

“Watch me.” Bucky mumbles. “I'm 90-fucking-something and I don't go getting fur on a decent guy’s shirt.”

Steve gives him the look, and then shrugged. “Your shirt smelled nice, I still don't blame him.”

It didn't smell nice, Bucky knows he's lying. He's not going to argue with him about it, though.

“Who's gonna take care of that thing?” He changes the topic. “If we both have to go… somewhere.” He doesn't know what their future holds, sue him.

“Apparently you can hire people to do that now.” Steve informs him, cheering lightly when the kitten finally makes it to his shoulder. “Clint says, at least.”

Clint helped him conspire to do this? Noted. “Fine.” Bucky sighs. He doesn't even know why he's bothering to agree. Steve’s very clearly got his heart set on the… thing.

Steve grinning again. He's moved the kitten into his arms, and he's scratching her ears. “We still need to name her.”

"Snowflake.” Bucky suggests immediately.

“No.” Steve says emphatically. “She'll never make friends with a name like that.”

What the fuck.

“What about Buddy?” Steve offers.

Bucky shakes his head. “That's a dog's name, you're not naming your cat that.”

Steve looks strangely triumphant. “Our cat.” He reminds Bucky. Bucky rolls his eyes.

They stand there in silence for a few minutes, watching as the kitten realizes how absolutely fascinating the button on Steve’s shirt can be. She entertains herself by nipping at it repeatedly.

“How about снежинка?” Bucky suggest, with a serious look on his face. (Russian: “Snowflake”)

Steve cocks his head, trying to fend off the kittens attacks. “Russian?”

“Yeah,” Bucky nods. “It means ‘trust.’”

Steve smiles brilliantly. “Really?”

“Absolutely.” Bucky tells him.

Steve nods. “Hi snee-jhin-ka” He coos at the kitten.

“It's снежинка.” Bucky corrects his pronunciation, helpfully.

“Sure.” Steve says, but he's not really paying attention, instead tickling the cat’s chin. Bucky sighs, knowing this will be his life for quite some time.

Moving closer, Steve suddenly hold the cat up to him.

“Oh, no, no.” Bucky says. He tries backing up, but the island is in the way. “I'm not holding it, I don't like cats.”

“She, and don't be stupid. Just get to know her, c’mon.” He continues to hold the cat closer to Bucky.

“Steve!” Bucky yells. Surprisingly, the cat doesn't flinch, but Steve pulls her back a bit. He doesn't move back himself.

“Steve, I don't want to...” Bucky says quietly.

Finally, Steve seemed to understand. “Buck.” He said, stepping closer, holding the kitten in one hand. “You won't, trust me. Look, she likes you.” He grabs Bucky’s hand in his own and brings it up in front of the kitten.

The kitten sniffs the fingers of his right hand for a bit, before nudging them to see if they will pet her. Slowly, Bucky begins to scratch gently behind her ears. She starts purring loudly, and he smiles.

“See?” Steve says. He steps back a bit, and then gently places her on Bucky's chest.

Bucky crooks his right arm around her immediately, his metal arm staying stiffly at his side. Her claws are digging quite a bit into the thin shirt he slept in, but she looks happy.

“There.” Steve says. “Now you hold her while I go grab her food and stuff.”

Steve pops off to grab the stuff he left outside, and Bucky smiles down at the kitten.

“Hi, Snowflake.” He smiles.

☆☆☆

That night, Steve wakes up to find Bucky scrolling through his phone at some terrible hour when everyone else is asleep. It's not all that uncommon, considering the nightmares that he has will probably last him the rest of his life, but usually they wake Steve up even before Bucky.

“Buck?” He says sleepily, lifting his head from where he's face-planted into the pillow. “You ok?”

Bucky nods, the movement barely lit by the light of his screen. “Steve,” he says. His voice is steady, so Steve relaxes. “We can't put the water and food too close together, cats don't like that. They worry about contaminated water sources.”

Steve sinks back into the pillow, and whispers “That's great, Buck.” before falling right back asleep.

☆☆☆

When Steve returns from his run the next morning, he's greeted by an interesting sight.

Bucky is sprawled out on the floor of their living room - a much more vulnerable position than he usually allows himself to assume - watching the cat intently.

He raises his hand in a little wave to greet Steve, but doesn't turn to face him.

“Hey.” he says, almost whispering. “How you doing?”

“Good, good.” Steve says, matching his volume as he toes off his shoes. “Bonding with shee-jink-uh?”

снежинка.” Bucky reminds him, and it looks like he might be hiding a smile. “And no, bonding isn't necessary. I'm doing tests.”

“Tests.” Steve repeats in a very even tone. “Whatcha testing?”

Bucky finally looks at him for a second. “Watch this.” He signals for Steve to be quiet, and then turns his gaze back to the cat. After a few seconds, he let's out an incredibly high-pitched scream.

Steve manages to stifle his jump, but he's still startled. “What the hell?” He demands.

“Did you notice?” Bucky asks him calmly.

“Notice you screaming? Yes, I think I mighta, huh.” Steve responds. Bucky rolls his eyes.

“Not me, you idiot, the cat.” Bucky huffs, reaching out to gently stroke her back with one, solitary finger. “She didn't jump.” He rolls off his stomach and graceful gets to his feet. “Turns out, a high percentage of white cats are deaf. I'm pretty sure she is.”

Steve blinks a bit. “Oh.” He hadn't noticed.

“Yep.” Bucky says, averting his gaze.

“I didn't-” Steve trails off, gesturing to the kitten.

“It's fine.” Bucky interrupts him. “We've already started working around it. Watch.” He crouches down and taps the floor quickly, two raps with his knuckles. The kitten turns to look at him. He gives her a quick pet, which she pushes into, and then he stands again. “Vibrations.” He explains to Steve.

Steve nods, and then bends down to try it himself. It works, and the kitten ambles over to him.

“I'll be back in a few hours.” Bucky says abruptly, and he grabs his jacket before squeezing past Steve to head out the door.

Steve looks down at the kitten, who's made her way over to him. She's trying to climb his pants’ leg, and she's doing a good job.

“What's up with him?” Steve asks her, deaf or not.

She snags a claw in some of his skin.

Steve sighs. She has a point.

☆☆☆

When they go to bed that night, there's a cat bed sitting on the floor, very clearly placed at the centre of the foot of the bed. Steve raises an eyebrow and glances at Bucky, who's currently pointedly fiddling with something across the room. He decided not to mention it.

Just as he's drifting to sleep, Bucky pokes him.

“I just didn't want her alone, ya know? If she can't hear she needs someone to watch her back, so, I put the bed in here, but we can move it, or get rid of it or something if you don't thing she-”

“Buck.” Steve interrupts him. “It's great. I'm sure she'll love it. Don't worry. Go to sleep.”

Bucky stares at him for a bit, and then seems to give it up. “Night, then.”

☆☆☆

Their third night with the kitten, Steve wakes up to a ball of fluff sitting on his chest, staring at him almost ominously.

A quick glance to his right confirms that Bucky’s still asleep. Steve considers waking him up to show him, but it's rare enough that he gets a good sleep so he passes on the idea.

As it is, the cat decided to move to a new perch anyway. Walking precariously along the bed, testing each step to see if it's something solid or just a lump of blankets, she slowly makes her way over to Bucky's sleeping form.

She climbs on top of him, like she had Steve, and balances on his side.

Steve can pinpoint the moment when Bucky woke up, but only because he had been watching his face. He makes no change in position or breathing pattern, first trying to identify and classify the reason he woke up.

“Hey,” Steve says to him, quietly. “Don't worry. It's just the kitten.”

Bucky relaxes minutely, and slowly opens his eyes and tilts his head so he can glance at her. She starts purring, and greet him with a little chirp.

Steve reaches over to brush the hair from Bucky’s eyes so he can see a bit better, and then moves to stroke the kitten.

“You gonna get her off me?” Bucky asks him, but he doesn't seem to care much either way.

“Nope.” Steve tells him. He settles back down ignores Bucky’s little huff, and drifts off to sleep while watching her knead Bucky’s shirt.

☆☆☆

“I didn’t ask for this.” Bucky informs Clint as he accepts the call.

“What?” Clint asks, confused. “Where are you? You said you were gonna be here ten minutes ago.”

Bucky nods, and says “Yeah, well, something came up.” He’s sitting on the couch on his and Steve’s floor, and he stares at the white ball of fluff curled up on his lap, but doesn't touch it.

“Oh,” Clint tone changes immediately. “Yeah man, don't worry about it then, I'll catch you anot-”

“Clint,” Bucky interrupts him gravely. “Shut up.” He angles the phone and snaps a picture of the cat, and sends it to Clint. “See?”

Clint doesn't answer for a second, presumably looking at the picture. “So, you got a cat then?”

Bucky shrugs, knowing full well Clint can't see him. “Wanna come up? I don't think she’s moving soon.” He pokes it gently with his finger, and it erupts in purrs. “Yeah, no, I think she’s asleep.”

“Sure thing, I'll be there in a minute.” Clint promises. He sounds disproportionately excited to see the cat, and Bucky resolves to tease him about it later.

“Please don't come through the air vents.” Bucky requests.

“...I'll be there in five.” Clint corrects with a sigh.

☆☆☆

Clint is there in five, and he brings Nat with him.

“She didn’t believe you had a cat.” He says by way of explanation, plopping down on the sofa so suddenly that the kitten’s head pops up in alarm. He laughs a bit, and stretches his hand out so she can smell him. “Hi, sweetheart.”

“Hi to you too, Clint.” Bucky deadpans, watching the two of them interact. She’s alert, but hasn’t felt the need to leave Bucky’s lap, so he thinks it’s going ok.

Clint snorts and rolls his eyes. “ Only reason I’m not getting you for that is I don’t want to commit an act of violence in front of her innocent eyes, Barnes.”

“Please,” Nat scoffs before Bucky can retort, sitting herself down at their feet so she can reach out her hand towards the kitten. “She eats the likes of you for breakfast, birdbrain.”

The kitten rubs up against her hand as if in thanks.

“This isn’t fair.” Clint complains, leaning back. “I helped Steve decide to get her, I’m like her godfather or some shit.”

Bucky shakes his head, and scratches at her favourite spot behind her left ear. “Yeah, you wish.” He grins. “She’s Steve’s and mine, so no, I say you aren’t.”

An idea pops into Clint’s head, and he’s too distracted to even complain about Bucky’s decision. “Waiiiiiiit,” He says, smiling to brightly for Bucky to feel comfortable. “Does that make you and Steve her dads? That’s so fucking adorable Barnes, starting a family already, isn’t that right sweetheart?” He coos the last bit at the kitten again, who has decided this is a good time to clean one of her legs, and so has it stuck up high in the air.

Bucky doesn’t even bother responding to Clint, and instead pokes the kitten’s outstretched leg until she looks at him, and then pretends he’d never touched her.

“What did you name her?” Nat asks, still sitting on the floor.

снежинка.” Bucky informs her with a smirk.

She laughs. “Original, Barnes.”

Bucky shrugs. “Steve and I had trouble agreeing, but that one worked.”

Nat makes a face, but doesn’t say anything more.

☆☆☆

“Stark Jr.” Bucky says, walking into Tony’s lab.

Tony doesn't even look up at him. “Stop calling me that.”

“The junior Stark.” Bucky intones. “I need a favor.”

“Absolutely not.” Tony says, with his back to Bucky. “You're bullying me. Did they not have anti-bullying campaigns back in your day? I guess not. Well you should kn-”

“I need some help with my arm.”

Tony swings around to face him. “Metal or flesh?”

Bucky rolls his eyes. “Metal, what the hell do you think.”

“Great.” Tony says, and looks around. He finds the area he wants to work in, and shoves everything on the counter to the floor. There are a few small crashes and the like, but the counter is clear. He taps it. “Hop up.”

Bucky does, and holds out his arm to Tony.

“So what's wrong with it?” Tony asks as he fishes around for the tools he wants.

“Fur.” Bucky states simply.

Tony turns to him. “Fur, you say?”

Bucky nods. “Fur.”

“Of course.” Tony says. “Why is that a problem? And whose fur?”

Bucky rolls his eyes. “Steve’s, obviously.”

Tony’s eyes widen. Bucky rolls his.

“No, it's the kitten’s.” he explains. “She sheds like crazy, and it keeps getting caught in my plating.” He gestures to a little tuft of white fur sticking out from his arm.

“Have you considered,” Tony says as he gets to work, “not picking her up so much?”

Bucky glares at him, and clenches his arm so it gives a little whiz. “I don't even pick her up that much.”

Tony begins prying the plates of the arm up. “You better not be whizzing at me, Barnes.”

Bucky whizzes harder.

☆☆☆

Bucky might or might not have a problem.

Normally, they don’t let the kitten leave their floor. It’s large enough for her to get all the exercise she needs, and eliminates all the risks that come with letting her outside.

But, like. Bucky doesn’t want to leave her this evening. She’s surprisingly cuddly for this time of day, and he wants to take advantage of that. But it is movie night, and everyone’s expected on their common floor in about five minutes.

So, Bucky goes for the obvious solution. He slips on the largest hoodie he has, and slips the kitten into the pocket in the centre.

She’s used to being in there, and is purring quite loudly as she makes herself comfortable in there. He thinks she won't panic too much, but he resolves to bring her right back up if she becomes agitated.

With his flesh hand in his pocket, playing with her fur, he heads to the elevator to go downstairs.

Steve’s already there, chatting with Sam. When Bucky catches his gaze, Steve almost immediately glances at the pocket and snorts when he looks back up at Bucky. Bucky’s not sure how he knew, or how he knew so quickly, but Steve doesn’t seem to have a problem with it.

It goes pretty smoothly at first, the kitten sleeping soundly. Bucky and Steve sit on the loveseat, pressed together comfortably. Every now and then Steve will stretch his hand into Bucky’s pocket and give her a bit of a pet, which causes her to purr loudly for a few seconds before she falls back asleep.

It's after the movie that things start happening.

It was a long movie, so when it's done no one feels quite ready to move. Jarvis shuts it off, so the room is relatively silent. Bucky can feel Steve nodding off on his shoulder. Then, Tony asks, “God, who's snoring like that?”

Everyone seems to rouse themselves at that, but the sound continues. Bucky presses his lips together, trying not to smile.

They all look around, but seeing as they're all awake there's no one to pin the snoring on.

“Barton,” Tony groans, looking up. “What did you put in my vents? What are you storing up there? You know you can't have living things up there, right?”

“There's nothing living up there.” Clint says, shaking his head. “Well, nothing currently living.” He amends. He ignores the look everyone sends him.

“Well then what is it?” Tony says. “Alright, I'll just-” he stands up, and closes his eyes. He appears to listen intently, and then tries to follow the sound.

He almost trips over the leg Clint extends for that very purpose, but Nat pinches under Clint’s kneecap and Clint pulls his leg up at the last second.

Bucky watches, amused, as Tony actually manages to follow a path that more or less does lead him to stand in front of Bucky and Steve. He opens his eyes, and looks as them suspiciously.

“Is your arm acting up again?” he asks Bucky. Bucky shakes his head, but doesn't say anything.

“Again?” Steve questions, and turns to Bucky. “When was your arm acting up?”

Bucky smiles. “Don't worry, wasn't really acting up. Just had bits of fur stuck in it, I got Tony to clean it out.”

Before Steve can respond, Tony shouts “Ah ha!” Bucky, his flesh hand still in the hoodie pocket, felt the kitten nose at his fingers.

“Fur!” Tony continues, excitedly. “That's it. Both of you, empty your pockets.” He looks at Bucky's hoodie pocket specifically.

Neither Steve nor Bucky make a move to do so, but Bucky gives the kitten a little nudge towards the opening. She seems to agree, and steps out cautiously, sniffing all the new scents available with her new location.

Tony seems to practically melt at the sight of her. “Kitty, kitty,” he coos, making little kissy sounds with his mouth. She pays him no mind, and continues to climb to a more secure place on Bucky's lap.

Tony looks at him upset. “Why doesn't she like me?” He asks. “I haven't even done anything yet.”

Bucky laughs a bit. “She's deaf.” He explains. He sees Clint perk up a bit, out of the corner of his eye. “Just go ahead and pet her.”

Tony smiles again, and he reaches out, slowly so the kitten could see, and starts petting her back.

She reacts immediately, purring loudly and pushing up into his hand. He grins.

“Can I pick her up?” he asks, hands already hovering to scoop her up. When Bucky nods, he carefully lifts her up and places her against his chest. He starts rocking back and forth a bit, like you would with a baby, and although she isn't the biggest fan of the movement she doesn't complain.

Tony continues to pet her, and asks “So, what's her name?”

“It's снежинка.” Natasha answers, the amusement evident in her tone.

“Snowflake?” Tony asks, translating.

“No, Snowflake is what I wanted to name her.” Bucky inserts, quickly, with a glance at Steve. “Steve said no, so we agreed on снежинка. It means ‘truth.’”

Steve just looks confused. “I thought you said it means ‘trust?’” he says to Bucky.

Bucky looks like a deer caught in the headlights, but only for a second. “It has many meanings.” He says.

Tony, watching this exchange with obvious amusement, hands the kitten back to Bucky.

“Here, take снежинка.” he says. She curls up happily in Bucky's arm, and proceeds to clean her tail.

After that they disperse, each heading to their own floors. Bucky tops up the kitten’s food and water while Steve gets ready to sleep, and then joins him. The kitten is already settled in her favourite spot, right between them, comfortably ignoring her own bed.

“G’night, Steve.” Bucky mumbles as he drifts to sleep.

Steve hums. “Night. You know, Я научился говорить по-русски.” he whispers. (Russian: “I learned to speak Russian.”)

“Mmhm.” Bucky. He's just about to fall asleep when it clicks.

He sits bolt upright. “Wait, you did?”

Steve just laughs, and closes his eyes.