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This , Clint thought sullenly as he folded his arms and glared at the carnage on his shooting range, this was why you should never meet your heroes.

 

Especially if your hero happened to be a one-hundred-year-old sniper who had been brainwashed and turned into a super-assassin and used by a fascist organization for seventy years, and then turned up one day bleeding and dead-eyed asking to be executed because his programming wouldn’t let him kill himself and he needed to be eliminated because he was too much of a threat to humanity, and then he made Captain America cry, and yeah, tears of joy, but still, and-

 

The point was.

 

Heroes sucked.

 

Because they moved in and wrecked your schedule when all you - Clint - wanted to do was go shoot pictures of Loki at three in the morning, because going back to sleep terrified him and he could still feel the chill of space and see unending blue wrapping around the corners of his eyes and-

 

And just what the fuck was Bucky Barnes doing using a bow and arrow anyway?

 

“Hey!” Clint shouted when Barnes realized he was there and turned, arrow nocked and pointed not at the ground, but instead right at Clint’s head. And based on the way the targets had been shredded, Bucky had managed to become at least somewhat proficient with the weapon.

 

Clint held his hands up in a pacifying movement when Bucky’s gray eyes met his, but he was furious. His range. His weapon. And now the asshole was breaking the number one rule of all ranges anywhere and pointing a weapon at him.

 

It took a moment, Bucky blinking and then drawing in a shuddering breath, but he slowly lowered the bow until the arrow was pointing at the ground.

 

“What the fuck, man?” Clint demanded. And sure, antagonising the former (but was he really?) super-assassin who looked like he was in the middle of working out some serious issues probably wasn’t the best idea, but when had Clint ever been burdened with those?

 

“I’m sorry,” Bucky said, the words somewhere between a growl and a mumble. His shoulders slumped, and hell . He looked genuinely apologetic, genuinely adrift and-

 

“Just- don’t point that at people on the range. No one coming down here is gonna be a threat. Not unless like seven alarms are also going off at the same time.”

 

Bucky nodded, and Clint saw his cheeks hollow for a moment. He had noticed it was something Bucky did whenever he was stopping himself from saying something that he shouldn’t. It also-

 

“This weapon is shit,” Bucky said.

 

-only seemed to stop him from saying it about half of the time.

 

“Maybe you’re just shit with it,” Clint snapped.

 

Bucky arched an eyebrow at him.

 

“It’s not efficient. The amount of energy you expend on the draw - it takes too long and-”

 

“Again, those sound like your problems, not the weapon’s. Give it.” Clint held out his hand.

 

For a moment, Bucky glared at him, and Clint began to wonder if Natasha really would get the chance to follow through on her threat to put I’m a fucking idiot, and I deserved it on his tombstone.

 

But then Bucky’s cool, metal fingers were brushing against Clint’s as he passed over the bow and the arrow.

 

“It’s not inefficient if you do it right,” Clint said. He kept his attention entirely focused on Bucky as he nocked the arrow, drew and released in one smooth motion. He didn’t need to look to see that it had landed dead center on the far left target.

 

He reached out and plucked another arrow from the quiver strapped to Bucky’s waist.

 

“And it doesn’t take too long,” he added, sending that arrow off and grabbing another and another and another, until every target had an arrow stabbing through the center of the head.

 

Bucky blinked, and he looked dangerously close to being impressed.

 

“And it’s a hell of a lot quieter than any rifle,” Clint added.

 

Bucky nodded in slow agreement.

 

And then he left without saying another word.

 

Heroes sucked , Clint thought as he started to pull all of the arrows - his and Bucky’s - out of the targets.

 

Heroes sucked a lot .

 

-o-

 

Clint looked at the March Madness brackets pinned to the wall in the briefing room and crossed his arms over his chest.

 

Cap and Thor were already out - and okay, sure, one of them was an alien god and the other had been frozen for seventy years, but who the hell didn’t think Duke was going to make it past the first round?

 

Natasha, as usual, was Clint’s stiffest competition. Ever since they had met, they had almost alternated on whose brackets won each year. Last year, it had been hers, and Clint really, really didn’t want to listen to her rib him if she won twice in a row.

 

Sam had a good eye for talent, Clint had to admit as he looked over the man’s picks. But Tony was hopeless - going for the underdogs even when there was no way Virginia Tech was going to win. Bruce’s picks were actually okay, but Clint was confident his Sweet Sixteen were going to be the end of him. Vision… well, if Vision did win, Clint wasn’t above calling bullshit. His picks were pretty close to Clint and Natasha’s, with some notable differences that had Clint and Natasha exchanging raised eyebrows. Wanda and Pietro had flat-out refused to participate - their loss, since the winner got to pick out the Cap-mandated weekly team bonding movie night movies for the next year.

 

And then Bucky.

 

Bucky fucking Barnes.

 

His picks were the exact same as Clint’s, except he had picked Chapel Hill to beat Michigan, and Clint was one hundred percent confident he had done it just to piss off Clint.

 

-o-

 

Apparently, Bucky hadn’t been cleared to use ‘actual weapons’, and that was why he was taking up paleolithic pursuits.

 

That’s what Natasha had told Clint after he found Bucky on his range for the third time. Natasha had also told Clint it wasn’t his range, and she had also put him in a chokehold when he took issue with her thinking that a bow and arrow wasn’t an actual weapon .

 

Whatever.

 

“You’re killing me,” Clint finally groaned. It was the fifth time his late night/obscenely early morning plans to shoot had been wrecked by Bucky’s presence on his range.

 

When Bucky turned to glare at him, he did lower the bow, which was nice. But Clint could still see the way his hands tightened on it.

 

“Is that an invitation, or an order?” Bucky asked.

 

It took Clint a moment to realize he was joking.

 

He hoped he was joking.

 

“Can I just- can I at least show you how to do it right ?” Clint gestured to Bucky.

 

Bucky frowned.

 

“I’m doing it just fine.” He indicated the targets that, sure, were definitely reflecting an increase in skill over the first night Clint had caught him here, but still weren’t good enough.

 

“Sure you are.”

Clint pulled his own bow out of the locker, strapped on a quiver, and proceeded to put arrows into each of Bucky’s targets, centered in the chest, and definitely an improvement over Bucky’s admittedly good marksmanship.

 

Bucky’s jaw clenched so tightly that Clint could see his muscles working.

 

“But fine and awesome aren’t the same thing,” Clint unnecessarily pointed out.

 

“And you think I can be awesome?” Bucky’s words might have been sarcastic, but then again, he could just be feeling bitter. Clint couldn’t decide.

 

He shrugged.

 

“Don’t see why not. You’re a great sniper, you’re strong. Sometimes, you’re patient.”

 

Sometimes ?”

 

Clint gave him a look.

 

“You’re too much like Cap, always itching for a fight.”

 

Bucky frowned.

 

“I’m not looking for a fight anymore,” he said, voice low.

 

“Right. Which is why you’re picking up archery.”

 

“Guess I can’t really escape my nature, can I?” Bucky offered up a bitter smile and left.

 

-o-

 

Some nights when he couldn’t sleep, Clint wanted to shoot things. Some nights, he wanted to grab a box of cereal and sit on the roof and let the sounds of the city wash over him and remind him that life went on.

 

This night was definitely the latter, but when he went into the common kitchen to pilfer cereal, someone was already in the space.

 

Cooking.

 

The metal arm was a dead giveaway, gleaming even in the low light of the under-cabinet fixtures that were the only illumination in the room aside from the glow of the gas burners. But so was the stiff set of broad shoulders, and Clint wasn’t surprised that Bucky had heard him approach.

 

Clint was good at being silent. Really good. But he had never been able to sneak up on Natasha, and it wasn’t exactly surprising that Bucky could hear him too. Must be something about being trained in Russia. Clint was fully aware that made no sense, but he was sticking with it.

 

Whatever Bucky was cooking smelled… amazing.

 

“What the hell?” Clint asked, coming around the island in the middle of the kitchen to peer over Bucky’s shoulder.

 

Said shoulder rose even higher, almost to Bucky’s damn ears.

 

“I’m cooking. I’m allowed to.”

 

Clint realized he had, as usual, inserted his foot into his mouth. Good thing he was flexible enough not to strain himself when he did that.

 

“I just meant - you can cook ?”

 

“It’s an omelet,” Bucky said, as if any two-year-old should be fully capable of managing that feat.

 

Clint snorted, and pulled himself up onto the counter beside Bucky so he could get a better view of whatever magic was happening in the pan.

 

And then Bucky flipped it. Perfectly.

 

“Wow.”

 

Bucky shot him a glare, clearly thinking that Clint was messing with him. Clint absolutely was not.

 

He was someone who had spent the better part of his life living on MREs, pizza, Chinese takeout and table-scraps. The extent of his cooking abilities was sometimes making a decent cup of microwave ramen.

 

“You don’t know how to make an omelet.” It was a statement, Bucky realizing just how utterly useless Clint was.

 

“Nope,” Clint responded, even though it wasn’t needed. “I can boil water for Nat’s tea, and that’s the extent of my culinary skills. Well, I’m pretty handy with knives. Oh, and this one time, I got caught during a B&E - I was like… fifteen? Scrawny as fuck, and anyway, had to fight my way out. I’m very talented with a wok. And whatever that thing is that you pull the top down and it makes waffles.”

 

“A waffle iron?”

 

“That’s what it’s called? That’s not even… wow. That’s lame.”

 

“Sorry to ruin the mystery,” Bucky muttered.

 

Clint watched as he plated the omelet, and wow, it was so perfect, the way Bucky folded it over and there it was, all golden and-

 

Bucky held the plate up to him.

 

“What?” Clint stared between the plate and Bucky.

 

“Take it.”

 

“But- what are you going to eat?”

 

“I’ll make another one. It’ll take ten minutes.”

 

“That’s it ?”

 

Bucky gave him a look that, on Natasha, Clint would have labeled as fond, but on Bucky…

 

“Thanks?”

 

He hadn’t meant it to sound like a question, but it had, and Bucky shoved the plate into his chest and rolled his eyes.

 

He moved away from Clint, opening the drawer that held silverware and, not looking, tossed a fork at Clint.

 

Clint caught it in one hand, twirled it, and took a bite.

 

“Holy hell .” Clint leaned his head back against the cabinets and closed his eyes while he chewed. Garlic, cheese, ham, spinach and eggs and- wow.

 

Wow .

 

-o-

 

Natasha made them watch Say Anything .

 

Tony was… kind of adorably excited about the whole thing. Bruce was all eye-rolling and muttering under his breath about the research he could be doing instead. Cap had declared himself a John Hughes fan after Pretty in Pink two months earlier, and had adorably spent most of the movie looking between the screen and Natasha, a slight, goofy grin on his face that only Clint and Bucky had noticed. And not commented on at all, because they hated each other, and because Natasha would castrate them probably, and there were only so many times you could stand to see Captain America blush before you started to feel like you were corrupting him. The kids, as Clint thought of Wanda and Pietro because that’s what they acted like, and why was no one but him able to see that they needed a parent figure of some kind, had settled down with only mild grumbling, because no one dared to grumble more than mildly when Natasha gave them that look. Thor was off-world, which Clint thought was a shame because he was pretty sure that Say Anything was exactly the kind of movie he would love. Vision… well. He was there, but he didn’t really seem to be there, and Clint was fairly certain he was using his digital superpowers or whatever to surf the web for cat videos in his head. Or something like that.

 

And Clint…

 

Clint tried really hard not to think about the fact that he had tried to pull off the stereo over the head moment just a few years ago and been horribly, horribly rejected. And given a warning from the police for being a public disturbance. And ridiculed by some kids for still owning a stereo.

 

Bucky watched the whole thing impassively, which was his usual, when he even bothered to make an appearance. After all, as he had pointed out once when Steve tried to convince him he needed to socialize with them more, he wasn’t on the team. He was under their custody, and it was a completely different thing.

 

As predicted, Steve loved the movie. Almost as much as Tony did. Bruce escaped to the lab as soon as the credits started to roll, and Pietro and Wanda made themselves suspiciously scarce while Vision just floated away.

 

Natasha just turned to Clint and arched an eyebrow.

 

“Ready to get your ass kicked, old man?” she asked him with a smirk.

 

Clint groaned and sank down into the couch.

 

“Why is it that these movies always make you so happy and so murdery?”

 

She pulled him to his feet, and he reluctantly followed her down to the gym.

 

They stretched and warmed up together, Natasha all the while wearing that sharp little smirk that meant she was about to kick ass, and Clint all the while wondering why he always got picked on by her.

 

“I didn’t realize there was a new member of your fan club,” Natasha told him, voice low.

 

Clint followed her eyes and saw that Bucky had wandered into the gym. He was leaning against a wall, arms folded, stormy gaze fixed on them, and Clint couldn’t tell what the fuck he was thinking.

 

“Yeah, he’s the president of my hate club, not my fan club, Nat.”

 

She lifted one elegant eyebrow in blatant disagreement, and then kicked him in the face.

 

“What the- That was so fucking rude !”

 

-o-

 

Two weeks later, and Bucky was once again using Clint’s range in the middle of the night.

 

He had gotten much better, Clint was forced to admit as he watched the other man for a minute before deciding fuck it and starting to shoot at the other end of the range.

 

After half an hour of silence, Bucky stopped shooting and just watched Clint.

 

In addition to watching Natasha kick his ass, Clint had noticed Bucky doing more and more of that recently. The first month that Bucky had been there, in Avengers custody, he had watched everyone with an expression somewhere between that of a dog that had been kicked too many times and Hannibal Lecter talking about fava beans. But this… this was different.

 

It wasn’t quite assessing, not always, but there was definitely some kind of motivation, some kind of calculation that Bucky was working on as he watched Clint.

 

It wasn’t creepy. It wasn’t even distracting, except for the fact that Clint really wondered why he was suddenly so interesting to the other man. And he at least had enough self-preservation to know that being interesting to the Winter Soldier wasn’t necessarily the best thing. Then again, it probably wasn’t the worst? Clint couldn’t decide.

 

“Something on your mind?” he finally asked after another half-hour of Bucky watching him in silence.

 

The other man looked startled, if a blink and a frown counted as being startled.

 

“I can teach you to cook,” Bucky said after a few more moments of silence between them.

 

Clint snorted.

 

“Pretty sure I’m unteachable. I’ve burnt rice before. I’ve actually burnt water?” Clint shook his head. “No need to waste your time on me.”

 

Bucky’s jaw locked, and his shoulders tensed. He managed what looked like the world’s most painful shrug, and then finally went back to shooting.

 

It wasn’t until later, when Clint was retrieving his arrows alone, that he realized why Bucky had offered to teach him how to cook.

 

-o-

 

Chapel Hill defeated Michigan in the NCAA finals.

 

-o-

 

Bucky made them all watch Up!, and the bastard actually smirked while everyone else - including Thor, poor guy and his awful timing - cried their eyes out during the first ten minutes.

 

-o-

 

“That’s not an omelet.”

 

Bucky lifted an eyebrow.

 

“Wow. Your powers of observation really are everything they said.”

 

“Wow- wow. Are you sassing me? Are you allowed to sass me?”

 

“Who’s going to stop me?”

 

Clint shrugged. That was a fair point.

 

He pulled himself up onto the counter, and looked down into the pan that Bucky was currently sprinkling with salt.

 

“What is it?”

 

“Do you even know what food is?” Bucky asked.

 

“I’ve heard of it. Seen it on TV. Seems fake, but…”

 

The right corner of Bucky’s mouth twitched upwards.

 

“Sass and meme knowledge. We don’t watch out, and you and Vision are going to take over the world.”

 

Probably not the best joke he could have made, but Bucky didn’t immediately go all tense and murder-eyes on him, so Clint counted that as his one free shot.

 

“It’s an egg in a hole. Fried egg in toast.”

 

“Oh. Is it good?”

 

“No. It’s unimaginably awful.”

 

Clint was slowly getting used to Bucky’s sense of humor.

 

“Sounds like my kinda thing then,” he said with a grin.

 

Bucky rolled his eyes, but after plating it, he passed it over to Clint before starting on another.

 

“So, uh… you offered to teach me to cook,” Clint said a few minutes later around a mouthful.

 

Bucky gave him a look.

 

Clint swallowed and repeated his words, now actually intelligible as English.

 

“You said no,” Bucky reminded him.

 

Clint lifted one shoulder in a shrug.

 

“Yeah, but now I’m saying yeah? If the offer is still on the table. You could teach me how to cook, I can teach you how to shoot better? Call it an even trade?”

 

Bucky looked considering as he finished off his egg in a hole - which, Clint hoped the god he didn’t believe in had noted, Clint did not even once make fun of the name. Out loud.

 

“Nothing better to do,” Bucky eventually said. “Get off the counter and grab the eggs.”

 

“What - like now?”

 

Bucky gave him a look that had Clint scrambling off the counter and heading for the fridge.

 

-o-

 

Bucky followed March of the Penguins up with March of the Penguins: The Next Step .

 

-o-

 

Sam and Bucky still didn’t get along, and whenever he came around the tower, Bucky usually made himself scarce.

 

But this time, after a mission that had taken Clint, Cap, Sam and Wanda to Mumbai for a week and ended with Cap having to be carried off the Quinjet by Sam and Clint, Bucky was not scarce.

 

Bucky hovered.

 

He looked pale and panicked, and he almost tripped them up twice as Clint and Sam carried Cap to his room.

 

He didn’t say a word though, even when Sam snapped at him to move out of the way, and even when Cap almost turned green and did a grotesque kind of sprint/crawl to the toilet to puke.

 

Bucky held Clint back while Sam went to help Cap up.

 

“What happened to him?” Bucky demanded, metal fingers digging into Clint’s arm hard enough to bruise.

 

Clint put his hand over Bucky’s, applying a fair bit of pressure himself.

 

Bucky blinked and loosened his grip, but did not let go.

 

“Food poisoning. I told him not to eat the street food. He ate the street food.”

 

Bucky’s face scrunched up in confusion.

 

“He can get food poisoning?”

 

“Apparently. He’s been like this since yesterday.”

 

“Are you sure it’s not poison-poison?”

 

Clint nodded.

 

“Yeah. Sam scanned his blood for all known toxins. Seriously. He’s going to be fine.”

 

Sam half-dragged Cap out of the bathroom and towards his bedroom, and Bucky stepped over to help.

 

He stopped, though, when Sam fixed him with a dark glare.

 

And then Cap made some kind of pathetic moan and Bucky moved to him, taking his weight entirely, and carrying him into the bedroom alone.

 

Sam glared after them until Clint grabbed his arm.

 

“C’mon. Let’s go to the kitchen and you can grab some Gatorade for him.”

-o-

 

“How are you with knives?”

 

Clint turned away from pulling his bow out of the weapons locker and looked at Bucky.

 

“Good?” he said, not really knowing where the question came from. They had been working on Bucky’s form for the past few weeks, and he had gotten to be pretty damn impressive. Clint was still better, but he figured that if he could convince Tony and Cap to let him smuggle Bucky out to the Renaissance Faire, he and the guy would totally clean up at the archery stands.

 

“How good?”

 

“Really good?”

 

“Better than me?”

 

“Are we throwing knives or fighting with knives?”

 

“Either. Both.”

 

“Um, correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t knives count as ‘real weapons’?”

 

“Not butter knives.”

 

Clint stared. Surely Bucky was joking.

 

But his face was deadly serious, and after a moment, he pulled two butter knives out of the waistband of his pants.

 

“What, are you serious?”

 

Bucky shrugged.

 

“I’m as good as I’m going to get with the bow.”

 

That was, Clint had to admit, true.

 

“So now we’re… moving on to actually useless weapons.”

 

“Anything can be a weapon.”

 

“Says the guy with a weaponized arm.”

 

“Because you can’t kill people with your left arm?”

 

Clint realized it was the longest conversation they had ever had.

 

And it was about butter knives .

 

As weapons.

 

“Sure. Throwing or fighting first?”

 

“Throwing,” Bucky decided, and without warning, threw one of the knives at Clint.

 

He managed to catch it, but it definitely didn’t look cool, and he definitely didn’t appreciate Bucky’s smirk as the other man turned away and called up two new targets for them.

 

The targets were set back only three meters, for which Clint was very grateful.

 

He was also grateful that he managed to sink his knife on the first throw so that Bucky didn’t get to gloat.

 

“Tony needs better flatware,” Bucky complained as they retrieved the knives. “These aren’t balanced at all.”

 

“Pretty sure he didn’t select them based on the ability to throw them. He’s got those palm laser beams.”

 

“While we have to make-do with piss-poor butter knives.”

 

“I mean…”

 

They both did better on the second toss - better still on their third and fourth - but it only took a few more throws for them both to feel like they had mastered it.

 

And then Bucky smirked at him.

 

It wasn’t an expression Clint had seen on his face - not directed at him . He’d seen it a few times, directed at Cap and even then, it had been fleeting.

 

This smirk… It was like the smirk Natasha wore when she was about to kick his ass.

 

It made Clint groan as he adjusted his grip on the knife.

 

“We’re really going to spar with butter knives? Really?”

 

“I’ll teach you how to make creme brulee.”

 

Clint cocked his head to the side.

 

“That involves a blowtorch, right?”

 

Bucky nodded.

 

“Which also sounds like a real weapon…” Clint muttered, but he wasn’t about to turn down the chance to use one.

 

He dropped into a proper fighting stance and prepared to get his ass kicked by a one-hundred-year-old man wielding a fucking butter knife.

 

-o-

 

“What- what’s going on here?”

 

In retrospect, the fact that their late-night cooking class hadn’t been interrupted by one of the others over the last two months was kind of bizarre.

 

That it was Sam , wearing the Rebel Alliance hoodie that Natasha had stolen from Clint two years ago and coming out of Cap’s room, was surprising.

 

Clint could see Bucky trying to process the same information.

 

He turned to Clint, one eyebrow lifted a miniscule amount.

 

“News to me,” Clint said.

 

“Huh.” Bucky somehow made the word sound both judgemental and impressed.

 

“Seriously, what the hell are you two doing?” Sam asked.

 

“What happened to your pants?” Clint gestured at the boxers that Sam was wearing. He didn’t know enough about Cap’s underwear preferences to know if they belonged to him or Sam. He bet Bucky knew and-

 

Bucky was scowling.

 

“Those are my boxers.”

 

Sam looked down at himself in horror.

 

“What? No, Steve said- Oh. You’re fucking with me. You’re a riot.”

 

Bucky nodded in silent agreement.

 

“Is that- Are you two baking ? Is he even allowed near the stove?”

 

Bucky tensed up, hand clutching the spatula so tightly that Clint was pretty sure the handle would now bear the imprint of his fingers.

 

“It’s not a weapon,” Clint snapped.

 

Sam arched an eyebrow.

 

“I meant are you allowed near the stove? I thought you were a safety risk in the kitchen. Didn’t Tony have a sign posted about that?”

 

“I took it down,” Bucky said, and Clint looked over at him in surprise. He hadn’t known that. He had known about the sign, of course. But it had disappeared not long after Bucky moved into the tower. Clint just hadn’t connected the two things before.

 

Huh.

 

“Wait, wait, wait.” Sam walked over to get a closer look. “Are you two baking creme brulee ?”

 

“No,” Clint growled. “Bucky is baking creme brulee, and I’m making sugar-coated scrambled eggs.”

 

“Right.” Sam looked between them with something approaching alarm on his face.

 

“Was there a reason you’re parading around in the middle of the night wearing Nat and Cap’s clothes?” Clint asked.

 

“Yep. We’re thirsty. Came out to get water for us because Nat and Steve are being all cuddly. But we need to hydrate before we have more sex. Which we plan on spending the rest of the night doing.”

 

Clint had forgotten that Sam gave back as good as he got.

 

-o-

 

Bucky made them watch Love & Basketball, and Clint wondered if someone had told him that it was Clint’s actual favorite romantic movie of all time. Or maybe he had used his super-assassin spy skills to figure it out. Either way, Bucky definitely gave Clint a knowing look when the credits started.

 

-o-

 

“Dude, just spit it out already,” Clint panted.

 

He was laying on his back on the mats in the gym, out of breath and sore.

 

Bucky was laying down next to him, head close enough to Clint’s that his hair was actually tickling Clint’s ear.

 

“What?” Bucky didn’t bother to look at him.

 

“Whatever’s been on your mind. Just- say it already.”

 

Bucky was silent for several more minutes, and Clint was about to give it up as a lost cause.

 

“My sister’s granddaughter is getting married next week.”

 

Clint tried to wrap his head around that.

 

“That’s fucking weird,” was all he could say.

 

Beside him, Bucky nodded.

 

“She’s getting married in Savannah.”

 

“Is that where she lives?”

 

“No. Her mother - my niece - lives there.”

 

Clint had no idea what to say or do in this situation. He couldn’t even begin to imagine what it would feel like to have not only missed so much, but then to not be able to be part of anything.

 

Not for the first time, he felt a wave of anger over the absolutely shitty hand that Bucky had been dealt.

 

“Um. I could take a few days off and… go down there?” Clint offered, not knowing if it was at all what Bucky wanted.

 

“Yeah?”

 

The other man rolled his head to the side, and Clint turned his head enough to hold his gaze.

 

Bucky looked painfully close to being hopeful.

 

“Yeah. I mean, it’s August in Georgia, so it’s going to be hot as balls and I’m going to complain about it the entire time, but I can go and… take pictures? Maybe some video? Do you want me to-”

 

“Don’t say anything to them. To anyone. But I’d- Pictures would be nice. No video.”

 

Clint nodded, and then finally got to his feet.

 

He offered Bucky a hand up.

 

-o-

 

Homeward Bound was just as painful to watch now as it had been when Clint had first seen it, and he wasn’t sure he could forgive Bucky for making him relive that pain.

 

-o-

 

Six months after turning himself in, the US government finally decided what to do with James Buchanan Barnes.

 

When Clint went down to the range that night, he wasn’t really surprised to find Bucky already down there. He also wasn’t surprised to see that the weapon in his hands was an M40 rifle.

 

“So… welcome to the team,” Clint said.

 

Bucky nodded, but didn’t look at him. He didn’t raise the weapon in his hands either.

 

“I’m still just a weapon,” he said, voice low and rough. “After everything, that’s all I’m ever going to be.”

 

Clint’s hands clenched into fists at the raw emotion in Bucky’s voice.

 

He knew it wasn’t what he had wanted. Hell, it wasn’t what any of them had wanted. Even Cap, who wanted nothing more than to have Bucky safe and close by, hadn’t wanted this.

 

“You are still a weapon,” Clint said eventually, and Bucky looked up, gaze hard and sharp and almost as empty as it had been the day he arrived. “But you aren’t just a weapon,” Clint added.

 

Bucky swallowed hard, and shook his head in disagreement.

 

“I’m serious, Bucky, you’re more than that. Yeah, you- you still have this job. This job of being a weapon. But you’re more than that. Look, at the end of the day, you get to cook and pick out the most unfair fucking movies for us to watch and- and you’re more than a weapon, Bucky. You can leave the tower now. You can see the world. You can meet Marissa and Kevin - you can go down and see Abby and tell her all kinds of stories about Becca. You get to be more than a weapon.”

 

“What if I can’t do it?” Bucky asked, and he sounded even more despondent now. “What if I can’t pull the trigger? I don’t- I don’t want to be him again.”

 

This, Clint couldn’t help but feel, was something like a million times above his pay grade.

 

He crossed the room to stand beside Bucky, and he reached out and put his hands on Bucky’s shoulders.

 

The other man relaxed into his touch, and lifted his head to meet Clint’s eyes.

 

“Then we’ll deal with it. But you don’t have to be him ever again. No one is asking you to be him. No one is telling you to be him. Bucky, I- I know. I know that fear. But you aren’t him. You aren’t.”

 

“You’re that sure?” There was a sour twist to Bucky’s lips.

 

Clint nodded.

 

“Yeah. I’m that sure.” He didn’t let Bucky look away from him.

 

After a moment, Bucky nodded, and he leaned forward until his forehead rested against Clint’s.

 

Clint could feel him take in a deep, shuddering breath, and then another and another, until his breathing was even and Clint suddenly realized his hands were in Bucky’s hair, combing through the strands, petting him.

 

-o-

 

“Hey, I owe you a drink.”

 

Bucky frowned at Clint across the passenger bay of the Quinjet.

 

“Why?”

 

“Cuz you saved my ass out there,” Clint said. “Those robo-terrorist bastards had a bead on my position, and you took them out. So I owe you one.”

 

Bucky shrugged one shoulder, as if it had been nothing, as if he hadn’t been looking pale and nauseous for the entire fight until that point, and then, after blowing up the cadre of threats trying to kill Clint, he had jumped into the fray and done a damn fine job on his first outing as an official Avenger.

 

“It’s an ass worth saving,” he said, lips curved into a smirk.

 

-o-

 

The Neverending Story.

 

Clint hated The Neverending Story . Actually hated it.

 

Bucky noticed, and spent more of the night watching him than the movie, and when Clint fled as soon as it ended, Bucky followed him up to the roof and sat with him and didn’t ask him why.

 

-o-

 

Cap finally walked in on them baking one night.

 

Bucky was sitting on the counter wearing one of Clint’s favorite, worn to the point where it was almost threadbare but not quite there yet, purple hoodies and sweatpants, while Clint crouched in front of the stove and anxiously watched the cake rise.

 

“What- I thought Sam was making it up,” Cap said as he looked between them.

 

“Nope,” Bucky grinned. “Clint really can cook. It’s a minor miracle. Kind of like you surviving 1939.”

 

Cap looked from Clint to Bucky, back to Clint, and then to Bucky again. His eyes narrowed as he noticed just what Bucky was wearing. He looked back at Clint.

 

“Please, please don’t give me a shovel talk,” Clint said. “Natasha already did.”

 

“She knows?” Cap sounded both surprised and hurt.

 

Bucky nodded.

 

“She walked in on us in the shower. Clint, you need to take it out now.”

 

“She also walked in on us that time on the range. And no, Bucky, it needs to stay in for another ninety seconds according to-”

 

“She also caught us making out in the med bay that time. And recipes are more like guidelines, Clint. If you leave it in too long-”

 

“Oh, remember that time when we were on the couch and-”

 

“That couch?” Cap interrupted, pointing behind him to the large couch in the living room.

 

“Yeah. Well, and the other one that one time,” Bucky shrugged.

 

“And the armchair,” Clint added.

 

“And the loveseat. Take it out.”

 

“So fucky bossy,” Clint muttered, but he did as he was told and removed the baking tin from the oven.

 

Cap continued to watch them, the look on his face akin to the expression he had worn when Clint had introduced him to Candy Crush years ago.

 

“What kind of cake is it?” he eventually asked, reaching out a hand towards it.

 

Bucky slapped his hand away.

 

“The kind that you need to teach your own boyfriend how to make.”

 

-o-


The end.