Bucky stares blankly into the fire pit at their barracks, running the day’s events over and over in his mind. Hydra had proven to be composed of some much more slippery bastards than they’d originally thought, but none had proven quite so difficult to track down as Zola.
They’d had him in their sights today, for the first time in a year, but Bucky’s rifle had malfunctioned, and he couldn’t take the shot when he had it. Of course the higher ups would prefer to take high-profile and highly-knowledgeable targets alive, but Bucky knows there’s an “if possible” clause in the official wording. And he fully intends to exploit that wording, after what Zola had put him through on that experiment table.
Bucky prays to a god he isn’t sure he believes in anymore, that it won’t be another year before they get a chance at him again.
With Steve being married, he’d pulled back from active military operations soon afterward, especially once little Sarah Rogers, named after Steve’s mother, was conceived. His tour had been up when Peggy was five months pregnant, and Bucky didn’t blame him at all for not reupping.
Now it’s Bucky that leads the Howlies, and they’ve been traipsing around Europe and parts of South America for the last four years, rooting out Hydra infestations that never seem to end. It all comes back to Zola. Every time he escapes, he has a chance to build up more Hydra cells. He’s the last closest thing to a leader that the organization has anymore.
Bucky has missed two of his sister’s weddings while still cleaning up these goddamned Hydra bastards. Thankfully, Steve had been there to give them away for him, but it still stung. Even though it was pretty minor in the grand scheme of things, it was another injustice that he laid among the many at Zola’s feet.
Maybe his prayers were answered, or maybe it was just coincidence, but only a month later, they get word of movement from Zola again. As soon as Bucky reads the message, he makes a new decision. With quick strides, he heads over to his quarters and pulls out a beat up travel trunk from under his cot. Even though he’s a Captain himself now, he doesn’t get any better accommodations than his men, not in this venture.
He pops the lid on the trunk and begins methodically pulling things out of it, placing them on his cot until he gets to the very bottom. He’s gathering the attention of his men now, but he doesn’t care anymore, not at this point. Not after four more years than he’d ever thought they’d have to spend snuffing out Hydra...
He pulls out the pieces of the rifle that future Tony had given him and starts laying them out.
Dum Dum whistles from somewhere behind him, “Where did you get that ?”
Bucky doesn’t answer him right away. He gets out his gun kit and makes sure every section is cleaned, oiled, and fully functional before starting to assemble it.
“That don’t look like no M1 Garand...” Dum Dum points out when Bucky still hasn’t spoken. A few of the other guys are starting to whisper the same things… Bucky knows he isn’t going to get away with not saying anything to them.
“This,” He says as he finally stands, “Is a Generation VI sniper rifle, made by a man who hasn’t even been born yet. And I got it from the future,” he says with a completely straight face.
Dum Dum and Morita share a look.
“You know, I think I almost believe you,” Dum Dum says, eyeing the gun speculatively. “I might be further persuaded if you let me fire it a few times,” he adds with a grin.
“Well unfortunately for you, I don’t give a shit what you think,” Bucky replies gruffly, pulling the gun close to his chest. He’s glad that all their tones are teasing. But at the same time, he really doesn’t have any intention of letting anyone else fire it.
“Suit up boys, we’ve got another lead on Zola,” Bucky says more loudly next, causing the troop to whoop and spring into action around him. “And he ain’t getting away from us one more fucking time.”
Sixteen hours later, Bucky puts a bullet through Zola’s head from over a mile away. By the time they get to the body, it’s already collecting a layer of snow.
No one questions if his gun was “from the future” again.
When Bucky finally lands back state side, his sisters and Stevie are all there to greet him. It’s almost enough to make a fella tear up after all this time away.
Rebecca Dolley was the first to marry, being the second oldest after him, and she’s already got two kids now that Bucky’s never met before. They’re a bit shy of him, but Bucky’s always been good with children, he knows they’ll warm up to him soon.
Hannah Martha’s only been married a year, and is heavily pregnant with her first, but still made the trip to see him anyway. Steve says both their husbands are pretty swell guys, they treat them right, and that’s really all Bucky can ask for.
Rose Edith, the baby of the family, isn’t married, though she’s old enough to have been. Bucky hopes it wasn’t her enormous crush on Stevie when they were growing up that held her back from findin’ someone… They’ve traded a few letters back and forth while he was gone, but they were mostly about the acting career she was wanting to purse. He doesn’t detect any hint of jealousy between her and Peggy when they’re all together though, so that’s a relief.
God, he’s missed them all something fierce.
“Welcome home, Buck,” Steve says, hugging him tight, “Welcome home.”
“Thanks for watchin’ over things while I was gone,” Bucky tells him, his voice wavering with emotion.
“I’m the one who should be thanking you, Bucky,” Steve says, squeezing him tighter for a second, “You stayed over there and took charge so that I could be with Peggy and the baby. You know I wouldn’t have trusted anyone else but you to handle Hydra.”
They clap each other on the back a bit before letting go, and Bucky has to brush a few tears from his eyes, but he’s not ashamed at all.
“So, is it true you outrank ‘Captain America’ now, Buck?” Rosie asks him playfully, helping to keep things light.
Steve speaks up before Bucky can say anything though, grinning as Peggy chuckles from beside him, “Actually, your brother’s always outranked me.”
“Yeah,” Bucky smiles sincerely, “And don’t you forget it, punk.”
They all go out for dinner that evening, catching up with each other’s lives as quickly as possible. Rebecca and her husband live in Connecticut now, so they’ll be heading back in the morning. Rosie lives with Hannah, though she’s already planning to move out so the baby can have the spare bedroom in a couple months.
“You need a place to stay after that then, kiddo?” Bucky asks her.
“Actually, me and a couple friends were planning on going out to California and trying our luck at making it onto the big screen,” Rosie tells him.
“Yeah? Anyone I know?” Bucky asks. He knows she’s always been real independent, but California is an awful long way away...
“Betty Peterson and Jane Fitzpatrick. You remember them, right? We’ll be staying with Betty’s aunt and uncle, so there’s no need to get worked up about us girls being out on our own,” she says casually, as if she’s had this conversation a dozen times.
Bucky just nods then, seeing it’s already been taken care of.
“You got enough money to make a long trip like that?” he can’t help but ask.
“I do. And actually, that’s something I wanted to talk to you about,” Rosie turns a bit in her chair to face him. She looks stubbornly happy about whatever she’s going to say, which is an expression Bucky has become very familiar with in his life.
“You always sent your money home to us, all these years, even after Becca and Hannah were married, and I just… I couldn’t abide by sitting around, not contributing, with you off fightin’ overseas. You’ve given up so much for us, Bucky. I know you probably would have been drafted anyway, but you signed up on your own to help support us as soon as you could. Papa and Mama would have been so proud of you,” she adds, starting to tear up a little, which makes Bucky tear up too.
“I wanted to do something for you, to let you know how much I appreciate the life you made possible for me, for us,” Rosie tells him, chin held high, “So I’ve been working. I signed on at a factory while the war was still on and went into the typing pool after. Living with Hannah, it was enough to get by on for myself, so I’ve been saving up everything you’ve sent for the last few years,” she tells him proudly.
Rosie pulls out a bank register from her purse, handing it over with an excited smile. “I had them calculate the balance for you yesterday. This is yours, Bucky. You worked hard for it, you should get to keep it.”
Bucky accepts the booklet, because what else is he supposed to do?... He’s kind of in shock, so he moves mostly by habit to open it up.
“Holy shit,” he breathes out, seeing the number inside it.
“Language, Buck,” Steve says good naturedly, tilting his head towards the kids seated with them. The little tykes just giggle, so Bucky throws them a conspiratorial wink while Rebecca frowns at him. Steve and Peggy’s oldest daughter is only three years old and the swearing seems to have gone over her head. Their most recent baby girl, at only nine months old, certainly doesn’t care either, which is just as well. Peggy isn’t the sort of lady you want to get on the bad side of...
“Wait a sec,” Bucky says, looking down at the page again, “How long exactly have you been savin’ up?”
“The last five years, just before you were promoted to Lieutenant,” Rosie tells him.
Bucky shakes his head, staring at the number some more. “This is more than I’ve sent you since then.”
“Well, I know Peggy’s family is used to having money, so I asked her what was best to do with it,” Rose explains with a grin. “That’s just the cash in your account, Bucky, it doesn’t count the value of your stock.”
“Howard may be an arse,” Peggy says calmly, “But he’s got an excellent business model and the brilliance to back it up.”
Bucky notices that no one at the table comments on her ‘language’...
“I’m invested in Stark Industries?”
“Yes,” Peggy raises her glass, with Rosie mimicking her beside him, “And you’re having a banner year.”
“Huh… I guess those government contracts worked out for him after all,” Bucky muses.
“They certainly have. Howard and I have quite a few irons in the fire and they’re all doing quite well,” she says, smiling brilliantly.
Bucky nods in acknowledgment, then turns back to Rosie, tucking the register away for safekeeping as he does. He pulls her into a tight hug, so tight in fact that she squeaks a little and demands he let up before he breaks her back. She messes up his hair for good measure as he pulls away, but Bucky couldn’t care less. It’s an affectionate teasing that he’s sorely missed.
“Thank you, Rosie, really, I… I don’t even know how to tell you how much it means to me, that you thought that much of me while I was gone. Thank you, to all of you,” Bucky says, looking around the table at the rest of his family, “I know it was Rosie’s initiative, but I’m sure you all helped her make it possible over the years too.”
Rebecca and Hannah and their husbands just brush it off, Rosie is family, and so is he, and they were honored to help her help him.
The next few weeks are a whirlwind, with Hannah’s due date coming quickly, Rosie getting ready to take off to Hollywood, and Bucky trying to adjust back to civilian life. He can’t quite wrap his head around not being poor anymore either, but that turns out to be the least of his issues.
He and Rose are walking along 7th Avenue, minding their own business, when a group of kids down the street set off some sort of whistling fireworks. Suddenly Bucky can’t hear anything but an incoming mortar shell and his instincts take over immediately.
He’s operating in a haze of take cover, wait, and assess the damage afterward, and he doesn’t even register Rosie’s voice until she barks a “Stand down, soldier!” at him in her firmest tone.
Blinking, Bucky focuses on her face, finding that he’s backed them both up against a parked car, and he’s shielding her with the decapitated top of a table from the coffee shop they were walking by.
“You can let go now, Bucky,” she says calmly, making Bucky realize he’s been gripping her upper arm to keep her in place. He lets go right away, but sets the table top down slowly, still blinking away the last of the battlefield from behind his eyes. Rosie reaches out and pulls his hand into both of hers, cradling it in her lap as they sit on the ground. “Are you with me now, Buck?” she asks.
It takes a second, but Bucky manages to croak out a “Yeah,” past the gravel in his throat, nodding in the affirmative.
The entire street is staring at them as he slowly stands up and helps Rosie to her feet.
“You alright, miss?” An older man asks, clearly concerned for her.
“I’m just fine, sir, thank you,” Rosie says, brushing off her skirt, “My brother just got back from an extended tour, he’s not quite used to the noise of the city yet, I expect.” She shoots Bucky a kind smile, reaching over and giving his arm a squeeze, “Steve was the same way when he first came back too… Just give it time,” she tells him more quietly.
Bucky nods, embarrassment welling up at the damage and spectacle he caused.
“I can understand that… My boy came back jumpin’ at shadows too,” the man says, white hair nodding, “But I’m still going to need you to pay for that table, Mister…?”
“Barnes, James Buchanan,” Bucky answers right away, standing up straighter. He’s never been one to balk at the consequences. He realizes this man must be the owner of the coffee shop he just trashed.
“ Captain Barnes,” Rosie adds for him, as if that information is somehow relevant to the situation.
“Captain? The Captain Barnes, leader of the Howling Commandos?” A boy from the crowd pipes up, clear excitement in his voice.
“Uh, yeah. At least, I was until about a month ago. The Howlies are disbanded now…” he answers.
A murmur runs through the crowd.
The shop owner suddenly has a very different look on his face now.
“My brother doesn’t realize how famous he is,” Rosie says for him, smiling and taking his arm.
“Famous?” Bucky practically scowls in confusion, “Steve’s the dancing monkey, not me…”
Rosie laughs, and so do a few other people in the crowd, as Bucky hears someone say, “I guess that explains how he moved so quickly, I ain’t never seen a man move that fast before…” and a different voice say, “It IS him, I recognize him from the newsreels!” as the murmuring raises to active chattering.
“You, brother dearest, aren’t famous for selling war bonds, you’re famous for saving the entire east coast from Hydra’s super bombs,” Rosie says kindly.
“Oh,” Bucky blushes, “I didn’t know they made a big deal about all that, state side…”
“There’s no need to pay for the table, Captain Barnes. I and everyone else here owe you our lives. Forgiving one tabletop is the least I could do,” the shop owner immediately changes his tune.
“No, I’ll pay for it. I still broke it, it’s my fault you’ll lose out on the money from people sittin’ at it,” Bucky insists.
The coffee shop owner shakes his head, “I can’t take your money, Captain Barnes.”
Bucky is flustered and starting to get frustrated, which Rosie must be able to sense, because she puts her hand on his arm again in a calming gesture. “I have an idea, if you don’t mind, that might make the both of you feel better without any money changing hands.”
The old man tips his head to her, urging her to go on. Bucky doesn’t say anything, because Rosie knows she’s always welcome to speak her mind around him.
“If you were to hang up the remaining table top, say, on the wall as a ‘decorative’ feature, and have it signed by the leader of the Howling Commandos, I think that would draw in more than enough business to make up for the lack of seating it used to provide…” Rosie explains.
The coffee shop owner’s face virtually lights up. “Go get the Captain a pen, the good one from my desk!” he tells one of the waitresses, who scurries off immediately.
Before he knows it, Bucky is seated in front of the bare wooden circle that was originally hidden by a fancy cloth, expected to have his name alone be a help to this business somehow… He used to be able to be suave and charismatic at the drop of a hat, hardly ever at a loss for words, but his mind is drawing a blank now. With a sigh, he writes “Sorry about your table, - Captain James Buchanan Barnes, Howling Commandos, 107th Infantry” in a scrawl across it.
After he’s done, the owner beams proudly and shakes his hand, and a couple kids come up from the crowd, asking for his “autograph” too. He’s warming up to the situation a bit by then, this isn’t too far off from how it was when they would liberate a town that had been under Hydra’s siege during the war…
But it’s probably best if he doesn’t think about the war too hard right now.
Bucky plasters on a grin and confirms a few stories for the youngsters before Rosie finally drags him away, claiming they have other errands to run. She asks him if he’d rather just go home once they get down the block though, and Bucky nods, relieved at her understanding.
That night back at home, where he’s been temporarily staying with Hannah and her husband too, he discovers the bruises wrapped all around Rosie’s arm from when he grabbed her. They get into a huge fight about it, with Bucky mad at her for not saying anything, and even more mad at himself for doing it without realizing.
Hannah, ever the peacemaker, eventually calms them both down, but her husband doesn’t quite look at Bucky the same after that.
Two days later, Bucky puts multiple holes in the wall and breaks the couch he’s been sleeping on during a nightmare.
Breakfast is tense, with the girls trying to be understanding, but Hannah’s husband is on edge the entire time. Bucky can only imagine what he’d be thinking if he was in his shoes… Hell, he isn’t safe to be around grown adults, there’s no way he would want someone like him around the baby that’s due any day now…
“I’ll get you a new couch. Today.” Bucky says into the thick silence, “And fix those holes up.”
A terse, “I’d appreciate it,” is all he gets in reply.
Bucky goes out, alone this time, and buys the biggest, fanciest apology couch he can find. He even pays extra to have them deliver it to Hannah’s house right away.
He’s just finishing up replastering the last hole in the wall when he sees Steve’s car pull up through the living room window. He’s not sure if he’s going to get sympathy or a talking to from Stevie right now… And honestly he’s not sure he can handle either one of them.
It catches him off guard to see Peggy and the girls at the door when he opens it, with no Steve in sight.
“Hello, Bucky. Steve’s in D.C. today for an appearance he couldn’t get out of,” she says right off the bat, “So I came instead. You’re lucky I was able to work you into my schedule.”
“I’m not sure I follow you, Peg…” Bucky admits, confused as to why she’s here.
She gives him a look that he saw often during the war, which meant that a man around her was being exceptionally dull, though in his defense it wasn’t often aimed at him…
“Pack your bags, Captain, you’re coming to live with us, effective immediately,” Peggy orders.
Bucky has never been one to balk at orders, not like Steve, but he digs his heels in at this one.
“You know I can’t to that. You got little ones too, Peg,” he argues sadly, motioning at the baby in her arms.
Peggy raises an eyebrow at him.
It takes everything in Bucky not to visibly flinch.
“Sarah, you remember your exercises, darling?” Peggy asks, brushing a hand over her daughter’s hair.
Sarah nods, looking up at her mother.
“Excellent. I want you to punch Captain Barnes in the leg, as hard as you can. And don’t worry, he’s just like your Papa, he’s much tougher than he looks.”
Sarah gets a huge smile on her face, then marches up to Bucky while he’s still processing what the hell is going on, and socks him in the leg so hard that it actually takes it out from under him.
“Jesus Christ!” he yells, grabbing his thigh as he falls to the floor.
Sarah giggles, covering her mouth with both hands.
Bucky just stares at her with his jaw hanging open.
“What the hell, Peggy?” he says when he manages to find his words again, “What was that for?”
“You should have seen the bruising I had while carrying them,” Peggy waves him off, unimpressed with his pain. “The point is, Bucky, that you aren’t going to hurt my children, and I am not afraid of you. So go pack your bags and quit gaping like a fish out of water. I told Steve I’d have you moved in before dinner,” she says, checking her watch absently.
Bucky watches Sarah go back to her mother and be picked up, balanced on the opposite hip as her baby sister.
Bucky gets off the floor and does as he’s told.
By the time Steve gets back from D.C. that evening, Bucky has his meager possessions all put away in one of the guest rooms. Peggy’s family, in addition to being British, is pretty damn wealthy as well, and her and Steve’s New York home is more like a mansion than a house. Apparently there’s also a property in London that they visit a few times a year... So they definitely have the space for him without being put out like Hannah was...
This area of the city is so nice that there’s only two or three houses on each block. Bucky’s visited Steve quite a few times before, obviously, but he still feels slightly out of place under these vaulted ceilings.
“Your daughter gave me a bruise the size of a watermelon,” Bucky tells Steve first thing when he gets in the door.
Sarah giggles and says, “Bucky lose!”
“How did I lose? I don’t even know the rules of the game!” he grouses teasingly, a big grin taking over his face.
Sarah just laughs some more while Steve scoops her up into a bear hug.
“Well, the rules vary from moment to moment,” Steve says, unapologetic.
Jesus, they’re going to make one dangerous family…
“Yeah? Alright then. I’m usually pretty good at thinkin’ on my feet,” Bucky starts off humorously, but the weight of the day hits him unexpectedly mid-sentence, “I just, uh, I’ve been feelin’ a bit off-kilter, lately...” he shrugs, his voice wavering a bit outside his control.
Steve hands Sarah back to Peggy as Bucky starts to crumble under the emotion of why he’s been taken in by them.
“It’s ok, Buck, I’ve got you,” Steve says, hugging him tight. “We’re brothers , Bucky, and we’ve been through hell and back together. I understand, Buck, and so does Peggy. We understand everything you’re going through right now, and we’re not letting go. You live here now. Not for now, not until some magical moment when you get your shit together down the road… Hell, I’m still a mess myself half the time, wake up screaming thinking people’s faces are melting off… But we’ll get through this too, Bucky, I promise,” Steve says vehemently, crushing the air out of Bucky’s lungs with the force of his hug.
It’s exactly what Bucky needs right now, and he clings to Steve just as tightly, trying as hard as he can to let himself believe that Steve might be right.
Both Bucky and Steve receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for their service during World War II.
They also both receive very lucrative offers to re-enlist, citing the looming Korean conflict, but they both decline.