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Burn Your Biographies, Rewrite Your History

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1942-1944

 

Bucky Barnes, time traveler extraordinaire ...

 

That’s the giddy thought that’s running through his head as he makes his way through the portal.  His emotions are all over the place from what he’s learned and experienced in the future. Or rather, the future of that alternate dimension…  It doesn’t show outwardly, the army trained him better than that, but inside he’s kind of freaking out over the whole thing…

 

He steps through into an open field just outside the town, only a couple hundred yards from the base he’d been held at.  Azzano being deserted seems almost too good to be true, but it’s actually one of the more believable things that’s happened to him lately.  

 

The little camera bot that scouted his way turns to scuttle through the portal again, back to its own home.  Bucky tips his head in thanks as the lens swivels toward him one last time.  Then it’s gone.  Which is just as well, Bucky thinks.  He stays put for a few minutes, to guard this end of the portal until it closes up, making sure no one else stumbles across it.

 

Once it winks out of existence, he goes exploring.  He finds the base trashed, but empty, with the signs of Hydra’s hasty retreat all around.  Just as he left it, then. Of course, he himself has head full of knowledge and a duffle bag full of futuristic weapons, so not everything is just as it was…  

 

He’d only barely began to get a grasp on the limits of his new enhancements in the week he was gone, but thankfully he has no cause to use them as he clears the base.  It’s obvious there was a battle here and that it didn’t go Hydra’s way. On one hand he’s supremely grateful that his unit seems to have made it out of their cells, likely following Steve if what he learned in the future holds true.  On the other hand, he cringes to think of what Steve’s going through right now, thinking he was too late to save Bucky...

 

Well, there’s only one way to fix that.

 

As Bucky treks across the Italian woods, heading for the front lines, there’s one particular thing that sticks out in his mind more than anything else.  

 

God, does he love the guns from the future.  

 

He’d always excelled at sharp shooting, but with this pistol, he could shoot the wings off a fly at twenty yards.  And don’t even get him started on the rifle…  He sleeps with it in his hands.  And that’s only half because of the constant danger.  The other half is because if he were to lose it somehow, have it stolen or have to run without it for some reason, he might literally cry.  A small percentage of that might be because his future alternate-timeline self’s fella made it for him, but that’s a very small part.  Like, ten percent.  Twelve at most.  The rest is just because of how amazing of a weapon it is.

 

Looking down at that sleek, futuristic rifle also reminds him that he’s not crazy, he really did wind up stuck in an alternate dimension for a while…  

 

It takes him two harrowing weeks on foot to make it back to Colonel Phillips’ camp.

 

He carefully breaks down future Tony’s rifle, stowing it in his duffel bag so as not to draw attention to it, before he hits the outer scout’s radar.  

 

They almost shoot him, untrusting, but Bucky doesn’t blame them.  He’s a lone man wandering through the woods towards camp, not part of the victory parade that had been described to him before.  Besides, he can take a shot or two and keep going now, be healed up in just a couple days even, as his journey here has evidenced...  

 

“I need to speak to Colonel Phillips,” he says first thing, “I have intel for him.”

 

The soldiers nod.  

 

But they don’t take him to the Colonel.  

 

He knows how this kind of thing works though.  Regular old grunts like him don’t get audiences with people like the Colonel just because they were POWs.  

 

“Tell me what you know and I’ll pass it on to the Colonel for you,” a red haired Major instructs him as he’s getting situated in the medical tent.  The part about ‘only if it’s good enough’ doesn’t need to be said.

 

Bucky is very careful to never actually say the words ‘super soldier serum’, because he’s not supposed to know about all that yet, but he makes sure his superior officer knows about the experimentation that was done on him.  About the injections and the other lab rats who didn’t make it.  Then he bends a lead pipe with his bare hands after he’s done, to make sure he doesn’t get discharged for insanity.

 

Colonel Phillips barges in not ten minutes after the Major leaves.

 

“Boy, you are either one extremely lucky , or extremely unlucky son of a bitch,” he says gruffly, shaking his head.  

 

“Remains to be seen, sir,” Bucky says tiredly.  

 

Both Margaret Carter and a familiarly unfamiliar blond are hot on the Colonel’s heels.

 

“Bucky!” Steve comes tearing in like the devil himself is chasing him.

 

And damn if that doesn’t drive home just how right they’d been in the future…  

 

Suddenly Bucky’s being engulfed in the strongest hug of his life, breaking his train of thought but not the emotion that was welling up inside him.  He puts the future aside for a moment to soak in the present.  He’s alive, and Steve’s alive, and by god, they just might make it out of this war alive in the end.

 

“I thought you were dead...   God , Bucky, I thought I was too late…  What the hell happened to you, where have you been?  How did you get away?” Steve asks without letting up on the hug.

 

“It’s a long story,” Bucky eventually manages to speak, which prompts Steve to finally let go of him a little.

 

“Give us the highlights then,” The Colonel says, his tone making it an order, not a suggestion.

 

“Uh, well, sir, I know it don’t sound too believable, but…  There was this portal that opened up just before the base at Azzano was attacked, and when things started going badly, Hydra decided to take their chances escaping through it instead of gettin’ caught by the allies,” Bucky explains, wincing a little at how ridiculous he knows it sounds.  The Colonel frowns, sharing a skeptical glance with Carter.

 

“They shot up a bunch of their goons with the serum that wasn’t working right and sent them through, then bundled me up along with them too…  When we got to the other side, there was a fight going on, I guess Hydra is Hydra in any dimension, and the people there managed to rescue me…  And, uh, one of them was Steve, from the future?… Although, I guess it was the one in the future of their dimension…  But they had a Steve there too, and he looked just like this,” Bucky waves a hand up and down at Steve.  

 

“So you mean to tell me that Hydra experimented on you, pumped you full of god only knows what kind of concoctions, and then sent you ‘through a portal to the future’…” The Colonel blinks at him blandly, “and it’s not possible that your experiences ‘in the future’ were hallucinations caused by their experimentation?”

 

“No, sir,” Bucky answers calmly.

 

Colonel Phillips rolls his eyes.

 

“If you had indeed been sent to the future in such a manner, Sergeant Barnes, how was it that you got back?” Carter asks him.  Her tone is nowhere near as harsh as the Colonel’s, but Bucky can already tell she doesn’t believe him. He doesn’t hold it against her though, he wouldn’t believe him either, if he was her.

 

“Hydra weren’t the ones controlling the portal, they just saw an opportunity and took it, ma’am.  I guess the portals had been popping up off and on already in the future, so I only had to wait about a week for one that lead back here to show up,” Bucky explains.  “As far as I know, they didn’t understand where they were coming from in the future of that dimension either…”

 

There’s a moment of incredulous silence before Steve speaks up.

 

“Well, all that matters is that you’re safe now,” Steve says, an arm still slung over Bucky’s shoulders.

 

“We’re still in the middle of a war, Steve, I ain’t exactly sure that’s the definition of safe…” Bucky gives him a tired half smile.

 

Steve looks a bit sheepish at the reminder, which is interesting, because Bucky expected him to bluster on about how he was here to protect him now…  Maybe not having been successful in his attempt to rescue his best friend was getting to him…

 

“Aw, look, Stevie, I didn’t mean to get you feelin’ down-”

 

“No, you’re right, Buck, there’s lots of things going on with this war that are unbelievable, seem like they’re straight out of a dime novel, and we’re all just trying to keep up,” Steve squeezes his shoulder.

 

“Well, unless you have any proof of your time travel, Sergeant Barnes, we’re going to have to hold you for medical evaluation,” Carter says, not unkindly.

 

“He’s an experimented on POW with super strength now, he’s being held no matter what,” Colonel Phillips overrides her.

 

Carter just tips her head in acquiescence.  

 

Steve promises to stay at his side while he’s recovering, also known as being tested out by the camp’s doctors.  Colonel Phillips gives him a nod, whether it’s because he knows Steve will stay whether he’s ‘allowed’ to or not, or because he actually wants someone around who has super strength and has already been proven to be sane , Bucky doesn’t know.  But he does know better than to look a gift horse in the mouth when it comes to military orders, so he doesn’t ask the Colonel to clarify his reasoning.

 

Bucky decides after that to keep quiet about the couple of main events in this war that he was warned about.  Future Tony had made it clear that they had no way of knowing how closely the events of their dimensions would line up to start with.  Just the way that Azzano and the serum had played out with Bucky was a little bit of a divergence from their own past already, so the warnings were more like things to watch out for, just in case…

 

Avoid trains, and don’t let Steve go down with the plane.

 

He could do that.

 

Steve starts talking his ear off about everything that’s happened while he was gone, including his own adventure with Dr. Erskine, and Bucky just listens, letting Steve’s voice wash over him.  

 

Carter excuses herself, offering as she leaves to have someone come for Bucky’s bag, presumably to take it back to his quarters for him.  He politely declines.

 

It isn’t until Howard shows up that Bucky realizes how much he was zoning out.  


“Alright Sergeant, me and the docs are going to run a few tests now, to see where your vitals are at compared to Steve’s,” Howard says, motioning the medics over.  

 

They don’t strap him down, which is good, and Howard isn’t anywhere near as abrasive as his Hydra captors had been, but he definitely seems more gruff than Bucky remembered from the few times they'd met before.

 

“Do I have something on my face, Sergeant?” Howard finally says, giving him a pointed look as he sets down his clipboard.  The medics have finished, now it’s just them and Howard looking over the results.

 

Bucky blinks in confusion.

 

“You’re staring, Buck,” Steve tells him, nudging Bucky’s shoulder with his own, “You doing ok?”

 

“Oh…  Sorry about that, Howard.  I just...uh, I heard from someone that you could teach me and Steve how to fly a plane?” Bucky tries to cover for himself.

 

“Someone from the future?” Steve asks right away, “Why would we need to know how to fly?”

 

Bucky sighs at Steve and rubs his face for a second, then drops his hands to see Howard’s raised eyebrow.

 

“Look, Stevie, I’m glad that you believe me, but you can’t go around talkin’ about something that makes me look crazy without askin’ first,” Bucky grouses at his best friend.

 

Steve blinks at him a couple times.  “But Howard’s a friend?...  You told Colonel Phillips and Peggy just a few minutes ago…”

 

“Yeah, and they both think I’m goin’ looney from what Hydra did to me now too,” Bucky says, giving Steve a frown.  “So no more blurtin’ it out, you got it, punk?”

 

Steve blushes a bit, but nods, “I’m sorry, Buck, you’re right, I didn’t think…”

 

“Well, it’s a good thing I’m back and you got someone to do your thinkin’ for you again,” Bucky says good naturedly, punching Steve on the shoulder.  

 

“So, the future, huh?” Howard interjects, looking amused, “Were there flying cars everywhere and people living on the moon?”

 

“Nah,” Bucky shakes his head, “You gave up on the flying car and went in to weapons manufacturing,” Bucky says nonchalantly, “But you’d already passed away by the time I was there, so we didn’t get a chance to meet.”  It would be nice if Howard did believe him, especially since he needs the man to teach him and Steve how to fly, but he doesn’t want to break his promise to future Tony to not show him the weapons if he can help it.

 

The small, slightly condescending smile that had been lurking on Howard’s lips drops off at hearing that.  He frowns, searching Bucky’s face for something.

 

“How far into the future did you go?” he asks, his casualness all feigned.  

 

“2015,” Bucky says, meeting his gaze calmly.

 

Steve whistles from beside him.  “Geez, Buck, you didn’t mention that!  I thought you’d meant only a couple years, maybe a decade or something…”

 

Howard continues to give him an appraising look.  “You know, just a few days ago, I was thinking to myself that the flying car wasn’t worth pursuing anymore…  I hadn’t told that to anyone yet though, I don’t like to drop a project permanently without knowing what direction I’m moving in next.”

 

“But you were considering weapons,” Bucky supplies.

 

“Yes.  After the success with Steve’s shield, and the other gear I’ve outfitted the troop with, it seems like a logical choice.  And better to get in on the ground floor while the army still needs them for this war.  But again, I hadn’t told anyone about that yet…” Howard trails off.

 

It could totally be coincidental, Bucky knows that, and he knows Howard knows that, so he just shrugs.  

 

“What else can you tell us about this future you visited?” Howard asks a moment later.

 

Internally, Bucky grins, because he knows he does have Howard’s interest piqued after all.  “Well, New York is going to change a lot. Skyscrapers everywhere , millions and millions of people all living jammed together, it was hard to believe they could all survive like that,” Bucky tells him.  He almost mentions that the building he stayed in had the word “Stark” emblazoned across it, but something holds him back at the last second.  He was given a lot of warnings about the future, but the timing in delivering them needs to be as good as he can make it.  Getting Howard caught up in his own name’s grandeur probably isn’t going to be helpful at this point...

 

“Overcrowding,” Howard nods, “It’s definitely a concern…  But that’s a long way off.  Your request to learn how to fly seems like a much more immediate issue though...” Howard prompts him.

 

Bucky sighs.  

 

Well, if he’s going to lay that out on the table, he’d rather it be to people who at least tentatively believe him…

 

“Apparently the leader of Hydra goes by the name 'Red Skull', and he has this glowing magic cube thing that turned him into a monster…  He’s going to use its power to make a bomb so destructive that it’ll take out the entire Eastern Seaboard in one shot.  He gets as far as launching a plane with the weapon on it, which Steve manages to get onto, but Steve doesn’t know how to land it, so he ends up ditching in the arctic and being frozen alive for 70 years.”

 

Both men stare at him.

 

“So I kinda want to prevent that from happening,” Bucky follows up with, “If we can.”

 

“I’ll second that,” Steve says, looking a little pale.

 

“And where were you when all that was happening, in the future?” Howard asks astutely.  

 

Bucky gives Steve a weary look, knowing how it would break his best friend’s heart to have failed him.  But he pushes ahead anyway. “I fell...  There was a mission on a train, and it went wrong…  I fell into a ravine and…well, I wasn’t there for the rest of it...” Bucky stops short of revealing the rest of his own fate to them, because hopefully they can all be spared the pain of that future.

 

“We’re not going to let that happen,” Steve says fiercely, right away.

 

Howard nods along, but he doesn’t look anywhere near as riled up as Steve is.

 

“Well, I guess there’s no harm in teaching you boys the basics of aviation either way.  Better safe than sorry,” he shrugs.

 

It’s easy to see that he hasn’t really made up his mind whether to believe Bucky or not.  But as long as he’s willing to help them, Bucky will count it as a win.

 

Later, when he’s finally alone, Bucky holds his head in his hands when he realizes that he won’t be able to use the guns that future Tony gave him for the duration of the war.  It’s not like he had infinite ammo for them anyway, but still…  He does his best to hide them in his stuff, hoping that if they both survive, he can eventually show them to Steve when the timing's right.

 

Steve and Bucky both take to their flying lessons pretty well, though Bucky is more of a natural at it.  He’s always worked well with engines and gears, ailerons are just the next step up from that.

 

The war moves on, year after year, with Hydra getting pushed back farther and farther by each Howling Commandos’ raid.  Bucky does his best to watch Steve’s back as the little punk gets into trouble left and right, but so far they haven’t come up against anything that the two of them couldn’t handle.  It seems like Hydra may have abandoned their own super soldier program, because they don’t end up coming up against any other enhanced goons.  They must be getting short on manpower by now, with all the followers that the Howlies have taken out, and not want to waste them on doomed formulas...

 

<//>

 

When the brass starts floating a mission to intercept a load of Hydra weapons while on rail-transit through the Alps, Steve vetoes a plan as being too risky for his men for the first time ever.  

 

<//>

 

A week later, Steve is still putting down Hydra bastards in the background while Bucky turns around the most futuristic plane he’s ever seen.  He lands it right back down at the Hydra base and cuts the engines with minimal fuss.  His hands are shaking when he’s done though, so he just sits there for a minute and breathes.

 

Immediately after they land, Howard and his team rush on board to make sure the bombs are disabled.  

 

They recover the blue glowing cube.

 

Bucky finally gets out of the cockpit, still feeling a little shaky, but he’s mostly just relieved that the worst of the future has been averted at this point.

 

“2015, huh?” Howard says as Bucky walks by, eyeing him up.

 

Bucky shoots him a roguish grin that is obviously an “I told you so” and keeps walking, wanting to get off this plane as soon as possible.

 

“Hey, Sergeant?  You make sure you come look me up in New York when we’re done with this war,” Howard calls after him, seeing that Colonel Phillips is approaching and deciding to leave it at that.  

 

Bucky just gives him a quick nod before coming to attention beside Steve and the few other Howlies that have made it onto the tarmac already.  

 

“Barnes, you’re getting a field promotion to 2nd Lieutenant, effective immediately,” the Colonel tells him.

 

“Uh, thank you, Sir,” Bucky stutters a bit, not having expected that.  

 

“Rogers, you’re getting a field promotion to Sergeant, effective immediately,” the Colonel says next.

 

Steve gets a confused frown on his face for a second, which the Colonel seems to have been prepared for.

 

“Don’t tell me that you’ve forgotten that your actual rank was still that of ‘Private’, Rogers,” Colonel Phillips says blandly, “And that ‘Captain’ is just a stage name?”

 

“Sir, no sir,” Steve has the self-preservation to say.

 

A couple of the Howlies snicker, but Bucky knows they already knew Steve’s history, and none of them will be any less willing to follow him for it having been said out loud.  

 

“Morita,” The Colonel continues in stride, “You’re getting a field promotion to Corporal, effective immediately.  The rest of you sons of bitches know you didn’t do anything special, get back to clearing up this airstrip,” he barks out, turning on his heel and walking away again.  

 

It takes a moment for his words to really sink in.  That, on top of the fact that they did it , makes Bucky break into a grin.

 

“Congratulations, Buck, you deserve it,” Steve says with a matching grin, pulling him into a hug.

 

“You too, punk, you too,” Bucky tells him.

 

Now all he has to do is survive to the part of the future where Tony is born and get a chance to see where that might go…  Should be a walk in the park compared to this, he’s pretty sure.  

 

<//>

 

It takes about a half a year from there for the war to officially be declared over, but as soon as it is, Steve and Peggy get married.  Even though they haven’t ever known each other outside the war, Bucky’s certain that their years of working beside each other will carry them through any hard times.  Steve may be a stubborn little punk at heart, but Bucky knows for a fact that that stubbornness carries over to the way he chooses people and sticks with them too...

 

Bucky is Steve’s best man.  

 

The wedding takes place in England, since that’s where the majority of Peggy’s family is from.  Steve doesn’t have any living family except for Bucky and Bucky’s sisters, so he invites them and the Howlies and Howard, and that’s pretty much it.  

 

It’s a lively affair, and Bucky regrets bringing his sisters.  Thankfully a few well placed reminders of his super strength keep the Howlies, and Howard, at bay.  Even so, Bucky still has a great time. Steve’s smiling from ear to ear, the war is over, and after a few more months of hunting down Hydra’s loose ends, they’ll all be going home for good.  

 

Bucky can’t wait to get back to New York City, the current one that he knows and loves.

Chapter Text

1948

 

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.  




1949

 

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.”

 

“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.




1950

 

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.





Chapter Text

1955

 

Peggy had drawn a line in the sand after her and Steve’s fourth kid, saying she wasn’t sure she would survive giving birth to another super baby.  Frankly, Bucky was impressed that she’d been willing to do it more than once at all, after seeing how hard they were on her.  He was 100% sure that any other woman wouldn’t have been able to survive even one ...

 

Sarah was in the 5th grade now, Eleanor in 3rd, Ruthanna in 1st, and Margaret Jr wouldn’t start kindergarten until next year.  They were all perfectly spaced out, just like Bucky and his sisters had been. It was also mostly him and Steve wrangling them, just like with Bucky’s sisters too.

 

Steve had always known Peggy was a career woman, and he had no problem with her staying in the intelligence community, even after the girls were born.  As the household got busier and busier over the years, both Steve and Peggy made a point to tell Bucky how glad they were to have him there. Bucky couldn’t even begin to count the number of times that Peggy would be out of town, and he and Steve would tag team getting lunches ready, hair done, and dresses secured before dropping all the girls off at school.  

 

When they were younger, Steve was always the one who was better at doing Bucky’s sister’s hair, and that holds true now as well.  He can do a french braid in 30 seconds flat, as long as Sarah braces her head first… Bucky is way better in the kitchen though, so he usually handles meals.  

 

They’re both extremely thankful when the girls reach the ages were they can be trusted to pick out their own outfits for the day on their own.  

 

There’s always the occasional meltdown over missing hair ribbons of course, or someone wearing someone else’s barrett's, or Steve having to put his foot down and insist that poodle skirts are for older girls...but overall it’s a pretty peaceful existence.  

 

Plus, Bucky and Steve already know most of the tricks of the trade, so it’s hard to surprise them.  Neither of them are looking forward to the girls hitting puberty, but Bucky is already preparing a small arsenal that could be conveniently laid out and cleaned at any time when the boys come sniffing around.  Because they definitely will be. Every single one of those girls got their Ma’s good looks and poise right along with their Daddy’s strength.

 

They’re all stubborn to a fault too, but it’s hard to tell if that came from Peggy or from Steve, to be honest…

 

If Bucky had ever been in a position to picture what his ideal life might be like after the war, he would have thought of something almost exactly like this.  

 

Getting to help raise Steve’s family is perfect for him.  He doesn’t see much point in pretending to settle down with a girl himself when he knows for a fact that he’ll live to see a time when he can settle down with a man.  

 

So even as almost everyone around them marries up and settles down, the Howlies included, he keeps to his quiet life as Uncle Bucky, content to have Steve and Peggy rely on him as a third sort of pseudo-parental figure in the household.  

 

<//>

 

Bucky’s heading into the kitchen on a Friday night when he walks in on the middle of an argument between Steve and Peggy.  

 

“No Steve, I don’t.  I don’t have even a single moment to look over the girl’s progress reports, because I’ve been dealing with petty, misogynistic bastards non-stop for the last two weeks straight.  I’m either sitting down right now to drown myself in this bottle of wine, or going down to the basement to shoot things.  Those are the only options.  You pick,” Peggy tells him, spreading her arms wide in a parody of offered choices to match her condescending tone.  

 

When Bucky had first moved in, this was exactly the kind of situation he would turn heel and flee from immediately.  Now, he knows this isn’t some sign of impending apocalypse in Steve and Peggy’s relationship, so he continues on toward the refrigerator like he planned.  

 

There was only one time that Bucky ever tried to intervene, when Steve once got so caught up in his own rhetoric, so far out of fucking line in what he was saying, that Bucky stepped up and slugged his asshole of a best friend for daring to speak to any woman that way.  

 

Then Peggy decked him for daring to think she couldn’t fight her own battles.

 

So Bucky just keeps quiet and moves around them as they continue to argue now, knowing that passionate, stubborn people are going to have passionate, stubborn relationships.  

 

“Back me up here, Buck,” Steve says out of nowhere, when Bucky had been doing his best to tune out their conversation .

 

He holds his hands up in front of him in surrender while still behind the fridge door, his bottle of coca-cola still grasped between two fingers, “You know I don’t get in the middle of things, Stevie…”

 

“But you know how important it is to Sarah that she brought her grade up in math,” Steve wheedles, the little jerk.  

 

“Oh…  Well, I do know she was real proud of bringin’ it up…  But Steve, you gotta keep in mind, it’s only a 5th grade progress report, it ain’t like she’s tryin’ to get into college next semester or somethin’...  Honestly, it sounds to me like you need to back off a bit, and maybe wait ‘til Peggy’s had a chance to unwind,” he tries to be diplomatic, “She and Howard have been workin’ themselves to the bone lately, you know that.  I can’t imagine starting up your own spy agency is an easy time...”

 

Dead silence hangs in the air after him.

 

If looks could kill, then Peggy would have murdered them both three times over with her eyes alone, flicking back and forth between them.

 

Steve just frowns at him at first, but then the color drains out of his face, and he turns back to his wife.

 

“Peggy, I know we may fight sometimes, we may get worked up about things, but you know I have never lied to you.  You know that.  And I swear to you, I did not tell him,” Steve says, eyes wide and earnest.  

 

“Uh, tell me what?” Bucky raises an eyebrow, closing the fridge slowly, because too quick of movement can set any of them off sometimes.   “Oh, you mean about the SHIELD stuff?” he realizes.

 

The anger in Peggy’s eyes takes on a different glint at that moment and suddenly she has a gun drawn on him.  

 

He’s a damn super soldier and it was still so fast that he barely saw where she got it from.

 

Bucky puts his hands back up in the air again, which had gradually fallen to his sides as he was speaking to Steve.

 

“Peggy, what are you doing-” Steve starts to say, but he isn’t stupid enough to make a move toward her.

 

“Shut up, Steven, I’m still deciding which one of you I’m going to shoot,” Peggy growls at him.

 

Steve just looks helplessly between the two of them, and a lot of good it’s doing them...

 

“What was the last thing you said to me, as Sergeant Barnes, before you were captured by Hydra,” Peggy demands to know.  

 

Bucky just blinks at her for a second, because the question throws him with how far back it was…  “I knew who you were, ma’am, but we’d never actually spoken before Steve came flyin’ into the medical tent with you,” Bucky tells her.

 

Slowly, she nods in agreement.

 

“Steve, ask him something that only the Bucky from before he was captured would know,” Peggy orders her husband, never taking her eyes off him.  

 

Her gun never wavers from Bucky's head the entire time either, which is damn impressive.

 

“How many girls had you slept with,” Steve asks, “Before you were captured?”

 

Bucky colors a bit, giving Steve a dirty look for asking that , and finally says, “Two.”

 

Peggy raises an eyebrow, looking to Steve for confirmation.

 

Steve nods.

 

“Really?  That’s it?” Peggy says incredulously, knowing all about his reputation and having seen some of it first hand.

 

Steve’s jaw twitches like he’s thinking of opening his mouth, so Bucky talks over whatever he might be about to say before he has a chance to say it.

 

“Don’t you fucking dare , Steve,” he glares at his best friend.  “I don’t know what the hell is going on right now, but I’ve had worse than a .38 special before, I’ll be alright.”  

 

“You really won’t, not if I shoot you through the eye,” Peggy frowns, “But I suppose that’s enough for now to prove you’re not some left over long-con Hydra spy,” she adds, finally lowering her weapon.  

 

Bucky sinks to his knees in relief as the adrenaline rushes out of him.

 

“Jesus, Peg, what the hell?” he asks her.

 

“If Steven really didn’t tell you about the new organization we’re trying to start, and tentatively name SHIELD, then who did?” she asks evenly.  She may not be pointing a gun at him anymore, but he can tell there’s still a lot riding on this conversation.

 

Bucky rubs a hand over his face, bracing himself.  “Look, I know you were always skeptical about the time travel thing, as Ms. Carter ,” he adds for emphasis on the war days, “But that’s where I heard about it, while I was in the future.  They said you and Howard founded it out of the remnant of the old SSR. Steve didn’t say a word to me. And I never brought up knowin’ about it to him before, because I figured as your husband, he’d already know.”

 

There’s a whole host of emotions on Peggy’s face, sadness, hesitance, and overall, disbelief.  Like she believes he’s him, but might also believe he’s crazy...

 

“Look, call Howard if you don’t believe me,” Bucky tells her.  “Steve here opened his big mouth about the time travel in front of him, so I told Howard more of what I’d learned there than Colonel Phillips gave me a chance to say, because he seemed a little more open minded about it…  Anyway, what I told him I’d been warned about ended up coming true, about the cube and Red Skull and the plane with the bombs, and there’s no way I could have just made that up. When he realized, he told me to come look him up in New York, after the war…  But I never really did. I figured, if he wanted to talk, he knew where to find me…” Bucky explains, giving a shrug at the end.

 

Peggy doesn’t comment, she just turns and walks briskly over to the phone on the wall, dialing Howard’s number.  

 

“It’s Peggy, Howard.  I need you to come down to the house immediately.”

 

She pauses for a moment.

 

“No.  You think I do either?  … Listen, I don’t care if you’ve already started in on your scotch, it’s only three blocks and I know for a fact that you drive inebriated all the time anyway.  You’d bloody well better get your arse down here right away, or else I’m going to have to go to John in the morning.  … Yes, it’s that serious. … Fine. … Goodbye.”

 

“He’s on his way,” she tells them.  “And for heaven’s sake, get off the floor, Bucky.”

 

Howard arrives seven minutes later, scowling and heading straight for the bar as soon as he gets in the door.  He pours himself a couple fingers of scotch and downs it in just a few quick gulps.

 

“Alright, what the hell is going on, that you think we might have to involve John?” Howard finally turns to Peggy.

 

“Bucky says that you believe that he went to the future, back when he’d been captured by Hydra,” Peggy tells him crisply.

 

Howard raises an eyebrow, shooting Bucky a look out of the corner of his eye.  “Well, I mean, he did make some pretty spectacular predictions about the war… I can’t say for sure that it means he actually time traveled though…”

 

“Aw, come on, Howard,” Bucky groans, “She pulled a gun on me, this is serious!”

 

“He knows about SHIELD, Howard, and Steven claims to have kept his silence…  So I’m running out of believable options here,” Peggy indicates.

 

Howard’s face does get significantly more serious after she says that.  He looks back to Bucky, giving him a thorough once-over.

 

“You guys need more proof, huh?  What about the cube?” Bucky says, running a hand through his hair.  He was told to try and keep certain things back unless necessary, but at the same time given warnings to pass on when the time seemed right…  Being trusted with all this is enough to make his head spin sometimes, wondering if he’ll mess it up…  But he supposes he can’t go too wrong from this point on though, since the worst has already been averted…  “Y’all figured out what it does yet? ‘Cause I could tell you, but I don’t necessarily want to spoil the surprise.”

 

Howard straightens right up at the mention of that, his eyes going flat and suspicious.  “I have a few ideas… But it’s theoretical stuff, the kind I’m not even sure about the math on yet,” he tells them, not giving anything away.

 

“In the future, they call it the tesseract,” Bucky says evenly.

 

Howard pales.

 

“Shit,” he says with feeling, “What...  What the hell are you doing, playing house over here, Bucky, if you know this much?” Howard asks angrily.  “We could be years ahead of ourselves in figuring this stuff out just from knowing that .”

 

“Because there’s some things that probably should take their time to happen,” Bucky defends himself, crossing his arms over his chest.

 

“What’s a tesseract?” Steve asks, looking lost.

 

“A tesseract is a mathematical theory on the plausibility of a fourth dimension in space,” Howard says, “But it hasn’t been proven yet.”

 

Bucky can see that that wasn’t very helpful at all.  “In layman’s terms, Stevie...it’s a door.”

 

All three of them look contemplative at that.

 

“A door to where?” Peggy asks.

 

“Anywhere in space.  At the drop of a hat,” Bucky snaps his fingers.  “It ain’t the same kind of portal I went through, it doesn’t do other dimensions, but it’s still really fucking dangerous.”

 

Howard looks like he’s about to fight Bucky on the virtue of potential danger versus scientific knowledge, so Bucky keeps going.  

 

“They showed me footage of what happened the first time it was opened.  It left a crater the size of a city in the ground. So you better be really goddamned careful about where you store that thing,” he tells them solemnly.  

 

There’s another few moments of silence while all of them absorb his words.

 

“I don’t suppose they told you how to activate it?...” Howard asks pointedly.

 

“No.  In fact, I don’t know that they ever figured out how to use it right themselves...  Once they realized the insane amount of risk the thing was, they-” Bucky almost says ‘gave it back’, but realizes that 1955 is way too early to bring up Norse mythology… “-they got rid of it.”  He waves a hand in the air, hoping they’ll assume it was shot into space or something.  And technically, it kind of was...

 

“So,” Peggy sighs, “I’m going to need a hard ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from you, Howard.  Is it in any way possible that Bucky could have known about the cube without having gone to the future?”

 

Howard vacillates for a second, which leaves a pit in Bucky’s stomach.

 

“Not short of having broken into my house, into my highly secured lab, and having read my own notes on it without me knowing.  Which by the way, he’d need a PhD in math just to be able to decipher… So, I’d say the odds are at least a strong 85% that he did time travel...maybe 88%...”

 

“88%?  Thanks a lot, Howard,” Bucky grouses, shooting him a dirty look.

 

“You’re a super soldier with more rumors surrounding his skills than the entire rest of the Howlies put together, Bucky, including Steve,” Howard hitches a thumb in Steve’s direction.  “And it’s not my fault that Peg’s the kind of woman that only operates on cold, solid fact. I’m not putting my neck on the line just so your best friend’s wife won’t think you’re crazy.”

 

“Look, guys, I think we all need to just take a deep breath, and calm down a little,” Steve interjects before Bucky and Howard can really get at it.  “All of us,” he reiterates, glancing at Peggy and down to the gun still in her hands.

 

Bucky catches the glance, his eye drawn to her weapon by the motion as well.  He makes a decision then, that keeping his friends’ trust has got to be important to the future too, considering the lives they all lead…

 

“Cold hard proof, huh?  Ok. I can do that, if that’s what it’s gonna take,” Bucky nods, tone reluctant.

 

“What?  You have actual proof , Buck, and never gave it before?   Why ?” Steve frowns at him.  

 

“Because the man that gave it to me asked me to make sure it didn’t fall into certain hands…” Bucky says with a shrug, still trying to hold back the little bits that he can.  “But I know they wouldn’t have wanted us to survive just for all of us to end up at each other’s throats,” Bucky adds, motioning between himself and Steve, and then to the room at large.  

 

Peggy frowns.

 

Huh.  Steve must not have ever talked to her about the future he’d told them he was trying to prevent…  Which isn’t surprising, now that Bucky knows she’s thought his head wasn’t on quite right this whole time.  At least, from more than just the usual after-war stuff…

 

“Is this about the rifle?” Steve asks.

 

Bucky raises his eyebrows.

 

“Me and Morita were talking once a few years ago, at one of those government shindigs, about all the crazy stuff we’d seen in the war…  He said you killed Zola with a gun from the future… And that you were a stingy bastard that wouldn’t even let them shoot it,” Steve smiles a little sadly at the end.

 

“Didn’t want to waste the ammo on those assholes,” Bucky says gruffly, nodding his head.  He isn’t going to let himself be made to feel bad about not sharin’ with Steve, not when there was no need to and so much was on the line.

 

“I heard that rumor from him too, but, well, he was pretty far into the bottle at the time…” Howard shrugs.

 

Bucky frowns.  “I hope you ain’t tryin’ to tap him to help in your little spy organization, since he obviously can’t keep his mouth shut for a damn.”

 

“Did you ask him not to tell anyone?” Steve wants to know.

 

“Yeah, of course I did, I swore all the Howlies to silence about it before we got back,” Bucky complains, “But…  Maybe… Well, I guess I can see how he might figure you and Howard didn’t count against that…” he realizes.

 

“Let’s see this gun then, and just how futuristic it is,” Peggy decides.  

 

“Yes, ma’am,” Bucky nods, giving her a salute before moving out of the room.  They all follow him, which irks Bucky just a little bit, but he isn’t about to complain about his privacy right now.  He heads for his bedroom, opening up the compartment he made under the floorboards behind his bed.

 

He keeps everything inside the original duffel bag he’d been given, inside another box, with the guns themselves broken down, for safety.  It’s highly unlikely any of the girls would ever come across his stash, but you can never be too careful with weapons from the future…

 

“Wow, ok, I know I’ve never seen anything like that before...” Steve says as Bucky begins putting things together.  

 

“Me neither…” Howard says speculatively, eyeing the rifle that’s coming together under Bucky’s hands.

 

“It certainly looks futuristic, I’ll give you that…” Peggy admits.  

 

“What’s the longest confirmed kill range on a sniper shot right now?” Bucky asks in general.

 

“It’s 827 yards,” Howard says immediately.  “But Morita said the shot you took at Zola was actually a lot longer than what you told the brass…”

 

“I didn’t want them askin’ questions…” Bucky says in a matter of fact tone.  “It ain’t the look of the thing I’m expecting you to believe,” he adds, meeting Peggy’s gaze.

 

“Howard, you own some property upstate.  I think we need to take a little field trip,” Peggy nods in agreement.

 

“In the morning,” Steve interjects.

 

All three of them look at him.

 

“It’s almost midnight, and we’re not leaving the girls asleep with no one here.  We’ll head out in the morning, make a picnic of it or something,” Steve says.

 

Howard nods along.  “I’ll bring Jarvis, he can look after the girls while we’re …” he waves a hand at the gun, never looking away from its sleek design.  

 

“Alright, it’s settled then.  Everyone off to bed, we’re up at oh-six-hundred,” Peggy declares, ending the discussion.

 

They all separate after that, with Howard grumbling about the time, and choosing to crash in one of the guest rooms rather than drive back home…

 

Bucky doesn’t sleep as much in general after becoming a super soldier, so the fact that he can’t fall asleep after all that isn’t surprising.  He heads down to the kitchen again, because he never did get his coca-cola, but is stopped up short in the hallway. He can see Steve and Peggy in the kitchen themselves, and Peggy picking up the girls’ progress reports from the counter, reading through them quickly and efficiently.

 

“Thank you,” Steve says softly, almost apologetically.  

 

“You know you and the girls mean the world to me, Steven,” Peggy tells him, emotion strong in her voice, “But making the world a safe place for them sometimes means sacrificing the time with them that I wish I could spend.”

 

“I know, Peg, I know,” Steve tells her, “It’s a decision I’ve come up against too, you know that.  Only I had Bucky to take up the slack for me, when our new family needed me, and the rest of Hydra still needed hunting after the war had wound down…”

 

“This,” Peggy tells him, indicating her job, her responsibilities, “May not ever wind down...”

 

“That’s ok, Peg.  I’m your husband, pickin’ up your slack is kind of what I’m supposed to do…” Steve answers, a slightly playful spin on his words.

 

Bucky hightails it back to his room when they start kissing, that’s one thing he’ll still retreat from no matter how long he’s been living with them.

 

The next day, Jarvis, Steve, and Bucky entertain the girls with a few games and an impressive picnic spread while Howard and Peggy set up a target range on the other side of his property.   

 

“Alright, it’s ready to go.  We can head over after lunch is done,” Howard nods when they get back, taking a seat on one of the blankets.  

 

Peggy tucks her skirt behind her knees and perches herself on Steve’s lap, much to his delight.  

 

When they’re done eating, Steve tells the girls to help Jarvis clean up while the rest of them do some “testing” with Howard.   

 

“We can take the car down to the bottom of the valley, that should be about a mile from the site we set up,” Howard indicates.

 

Bucky snags a pair of the binoculars they brought first, checking to see if he’s got line of sight on the targets from where they are now.

 

“Nah, that’s alright, we can do it here,” he says, finding the range easily.  

 

“From here?  Morita said the shot you took was only around a mile…” Steve says, squinting into the distance.

 

“Yeah, it was.  But you’re an even bigger idiot than I thought you were, Steve, if you think I didn’t take this baby out to see what her max range was after that…  We’re at about 2500 yards right here, should be fine,” Bucky says confidently.

 

“More like a mile and a half…” Howard mutters, eyeing the way across to the next hill.  

 

“A mile and a half?  I’ll believe it when I see it,” Peggy adds, a well known tone of challenge in her voice.  

 

Bucky unpacks the rifle, which he cleaned meticulously before bringing up here, and sets up a little impromptu snipers rest from the supplies they brought along.

 

“Now remember, Stevie, it’s gonna take a few seconds to hit at this range, so don’t take your eyes off the prize,” Bucky grins, finding the range in his sights.

 

“I know that, jerk, just stick to shootin’,” Steve says, kicking his leg.

 

“Give me a target, Peg,” Bucky says, once he’s settled down and ready.  

 

“The glass bottle,” she calls out, no nonsense.

 

Bucky relaxes, doing some quick math and finding that steady center inside him that always allowed him to pull off shots that most other guys would bungle.  

 

He lets out a breath, pulls the trigger, and starts counting in his head.

 

He gets just past ‘five Mississippi” before the bottle explodes in a shower of glass.

 

“Holy shit,” Howard exclaims, dropping the binoculars from his face, blinking at the distance, and then bringing them up again.

 

Peggy lowers hers much more sedately, giving Bucky an almost indecipherable look where he lays, still behind the gun.  

 

He grins up at her with his best “knock ‘em out with charm” smile, one he hasn’t used in a while, and she raises an eyebrow at his display.

 

“Careful, Captain Barnes, I’m not sure you should be smiling like that at a married women…” she says slyly.

 

“Don’t make me come down there, Buck,” Steve tells him, not even having looked away from the range.   “Hit that tin can next…”

 

“Aye, aye, Cap,” he says, rolling his shoulders and settling down again.  

 

He blows it away in one shot, just like the bottle.  

 

They call out a plethora of targets for him, because Peggy is nothing if not prepared, but they still run out eventually, and have to give a final verdict.  

 

“If I tell you I believe you now, will you let me take a look at that thing?” Howard says seriously, eyeing the rifle.

 

“Sorry, I can’t do that,” Bucky sighs, starting to disassemble it again right away.

 

“That thing is light years ahead of where we’re at right now,” Howard argues, “You just broke the current distance record three times over .  Think of how much good it would do our boys to have guns like that on the field.”

 

“I said no, Howard,” Bucky reiterates, “I promised I wouldn’t let you get your hands on it.”

 

“What?!  Promised to who?  And why specifically me ?” Howard scowls, starting to get seriously upset.

 

“It ain’t a trust thing, I can see what you’re thinkin’, so stop it.  It’s just…” Bucky gets up off the ground, wanting to have this conversation on his feet.  “I got the, impression , that you’d got a bit obsessed with weapons in that future dimension, built your whole company around them…  And it didn’t turn out so well, in the end…”

 

Howard continues to scowl, Bucky’s words obviously not placating him at all.

 

“And who the hell thought they should have a say in what I do with my own goddamn company, so much so that they tried to warn you off this?” Howard demands to know, obviously realizing Bucky never answered his question about “who” earlier.

 

Bucky takes a long breath, hoping he isn’t making a monumental mistake when he finally says, “…Your son…”

 

The anger on Howard’s face is replaced by shock so quickly that Bucky briefly wonders if the man is going to pass out…

 

“What?  You met our kids in the future?” Steve asks, looking slightly betrayed that Bucky never mentioned that before.

 

“No, Stevie, not ‘ours’, Howard was the only one of us who had one...  And he was the one left cleanin’ up the mess after Howard died.”

 

“What mess?” Howard asks, posture stiff.

 

Bucky just shakes his head and says, “Weapons weren’t the future,” and leaves it at that.

 

Future Tony hadn’t told him a whole lot about Stark Industries itself, but Bucky was a smart man, he could infer plenty from what he had been told about Howard’s involvement with SHIELD and the cube.  Plus, JARVIS had been very forthcoming in answering any questions Bucky had while he was in the future.

 

“In the future you went to,” Peggy asks solemnly, tipping her head toward him in an acknowledgment that she really does believe him now, “Was it I or Steven that was killed?”

 

“...Steve,” Bucky tells her, fiddling with packing up his gun, “Or at least as good as, cause no one knew he was still alive, frozen in the arctic for 70 years after ditching in a plane he couldn’t fly…”

 

There’s still something in him that doesn’t want to speak aloud his own brainwashed assassin fate, like saying it might give it the power to still happen, somehow...

 

Peggy is quiet for a moment, absorbing the information and putting two and two together.  

 

“So you asked Howard to teach you how to fly, and piloted it yourself…” she says more than asks.

 

Bucky nods in confirmation, just as a gentle breeze carries the sound of the girls’ laughter over to them from across the grass.  All of them turn that direction for a second, watching an extremely high energy game of tag be played, one that Jarvis is staying firmly out of.  

 

When Bucky turns back around, he suddenly has his arms full of one Mrs. Margaret Rogers, who’s hugging the stuffing out of him.

 

“Thank you,” she says earnestly, squeezing for all she’s worth and not letting up.

 

Bucky drops his bag on the ground and hugs her back, tucking his face into her shoulder for a moment.  

 

“You’re welcome, Peg.  Any time,” he says gruffly, tears pricking at the backs of his eyes.

 

When she finally releases him, she only takes a single step back, holding his face in her hands for a moment and just looking at him, as if realigning everything she knows about him.

 

“I guess I should say thanks too, Buck,” Steve says from beside him, sweeping them both into one big hug.

 

“Yeah, yeah, I know you’re thankful, Stevie,” Bucky jokes, patting his back with a little super soldier strength.

 

Steve is grinning from ear to ear as they break apart.  

 

Afterward, they all seem to notice at once the awkward distance that Howard is standing at.  

 

Steve shoots him a questioning look, at the same time Bucky holds out an arm in invitation toward him.

 

Howard takes another step back in recoil.  “I don’t do …” he waves a hand in their direction, shaking his head, ‘... hugs .”

 

“But Howard, if you hadn’t believed Buck enough to teach us how to fly, I’d have ended up in that iceberg just the same,” Steve says, inching his way over to him.  “So I owe you my life too, if you think about it…”

 

Howard frowns and rolls his eyes, but he doesn’t try to get away too hard when Steve swoops over and hugs him too.  

 

“Alright, alright, let me go, you big lug,” Howard pats him on the back as if he’s doing Steve some sort of favor by acknowledging him.  “So now what?” he asks after Steve’s finally released him.

 

“Now,” Peggy says, a calm authority in her voice, “You and I are going to read Bucky in on SHIELD, while Steve goes and relieves Jarvis of the girls.”

 

Steve gives her a salute that’s straight off the battlefield, and then turns at a jog to head back to the picnic.  The girls see him coming with a grin on his face, and Ruthanna points at him and squeals, “It’s Daddy! Get him!”

 

Jarvis takes another step back from the developing fray as all four of them pounce on Steve at once.  

 

The girls’ screaming laughter and Steve’s roars in the background make it a little difficult to have a civil discussion, but Bucky supposes it provides a good layer of sound cover over a classified conversation…

 

After they’re done, Bucky agrees to help them out in a pinch if they need it, but declines becoming an “official” member of the organization.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

1960

 

“You know, they make dye for that.  Jenny’s mom got her gray ‘dyed-away’ last Thursday, and she looks a whole decade younger now,” Ellie says casually as she’s watching Peggy straighten her hair in the hall mirror.  

 

Peggy freezes for a second, then slowly turns to face her daughter, the look on her face more appropriate for filleting a Senator than conversing in the hallway.

 

“Uh, run,” Bucky elbows Ellie in the side, mostly playfully.

 

Her eyes go wide, realizing what she’s just said and seeing the look her mother is giving her...

 

She drops her magazine and takes off, with Bucky blocking the doorway behind her, grinning at Peggy while he yells, “I’ll protect you!” over his shoulder at Ellie.

 

“But who is going to protect you, Bucky?” Peggy smiles sharply.

 

“Stevie?” Bucky hazards, hoping she really is just playing along with him.

 

The grandfather clock down the wall chimes the hour right then, and Peggy stops her advance to look at the time.  “You,” she says, “Are a very lucky man, Captain Barnes.” She goes back for her purse instead of beating him up, which Bucky counts as a win.  “But don’t think we won’t be having words about this later.”

 

Damn…  Just when he thought he was safe…

 

“Yes, ma’am.  You know where to find me...”

 

“Yes, I most certainly do.”

 

Miraculously, Peggy doesn’t actually say anything about it when she gets in later that evening.  

 

It’s not until after the girls are all in bed that she sighs and leans back in her chair, fixing Steve with a serious look.

 

“You know, it’s becoming too obvious to ignore any longer…  You and Bucky aren’t aging…” Peggy says softly, her eyes kind and yet sad all at once.  

 

Peggy always had the most expressive eyes of anyone Bucky’s ever met…

 

“We’re not talking about this,” Steve says suddenly, getting up from his seat and crossing the room to the bar.  He picks up a bottle and looks at the label, frowning as if it isn’t showing him what he wants to see.

 

“Steven…  You know that the reality of this isn’t something you can just turn a blind eye to forever…” Peggy presses on anyway.

 

“I said we’re not talking about this,” Steve repeats stubbornly.

 

Bucky stays quiet, not sure what to say, not sure if he should stay or leave...

 

“I know it’s difficult to think about, darling, but you-”

 

Peggy is abruptly cut off by Steve sweeping all the remaining bottles of liquor off the bar.  

 

The cacophony of shattering glass that follows is a stunning, unheard of sound in their house.  

 

He throws the one in his hand against the wall and then braces himself over the edge of the bar, leaning on it as if he’s having trouble standing.

 

The wood begins to crack and splinter under the force of his grip.

 

Steven… ” Peggy says his name with tears in her voice, but Steve doesn’t turn to look at her.  He marches away out the closest door, not looking back or saying a word.

 

Bucky just sits in shock, watching tears run down Peggy’s face.

 

He finally can’t stand sitting there anymore, so he gets up and gets a broom.

 

“Bucky,” Peggy tells him, “Don’t.”

 

He stops, even though he doesn’t understand why.

 

Peg must be able to read the confusion in him, because she pulls a handkerchief out of her pocket and says, “This is one mess that you can’t clean up for him,” as she begins dabbing at her face.

 

Bucky sighs, setting the broom and dustpan against the edge of the bar.  “I don’t particularly feel like goin’ after that jerk right now either though...” he admits.

 

“You know, this is probably the single worst possible moment for this to be pointed out to you, Bucky, but the entirety of your life does not have to revolve around Steven Grant Rogers,” Peggy tells him, starting to pull herself back together already.

 

“I know this may come as a shock to you, Pegs, but you ain’t exactly the first person to ever say that to me,” Bucky smiles at her sadly.  

 

Bucky sees a ghost of a smile start to flash across Peggy’s own face, just as Sarah’s voice calls out from the hallway, “Is everything ok, Ma?”

 

Both Bucky and Peggy glance at the shattered glass, realizing it must have woken her…

 

“Everything’s fine, girls,” Peggy calls out, tucking her handkerchief away again as Sarah rounds the corner.

 

The fifteen year old little hellion is wearing her nightgown and holding a handgun at rest, with both her hands still wrapped around the grip.

 

“Where the hell did you get that?” Bucky says right away, frowning at her.

 

“I dunno, I just found it,” she shrugs challengingly, not hesitating to meet Bucky’s gaze.  

 

“Well un-find it and go back to bed,” Peggy tells her, “As I said, things are fine .”

 

Sarah looks over at the pile of glass and alcohol and the cracking-off face of the bar.

 

“They don’t look fine…”

 

“Your father’s just being stubborn,” Peggy waves a hand at the mess, “What else is new…”

 

Sarah gives her Uncle Bucky an expectant look.

 

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll go after him in a minute,” he acknowledges.  

 

“I thought the house was being broken into or something…” Sarah confesses, finally letting go of her two handed grip.  She uses her free hand to signal “all clear” up behind and to the right of her, where it would be visible from the stairs.

 

“How many of the rest of you have guns?” Bucky asks, his eyes flicking up to where the stairs would be located behind the wall.

 

“None of us,” Sarah says, clearly lying.  

 

Bucky throws his hands up.

 

“Tell you what,” Peggy says, getting up from her seat, “I’ll deal with this, you go get some fresh air.  Whether or not that involves punching out my idiot husband for scaring our daughters is up to you.”

 

Bucky snorts, but he nods in agreement.

 

He goes outside, and it doesn’t take him long to find Steve, slumped against the edge of the garage, crying…

 

Bucky stands in front of him for second, and when the tears don’t let up, he decides it might just be time for desperate measures…

 

“Peg asked me to give you something,” he says, and waits until Steve is blinking and looking up at him in confusion, to sock him full on in the face.

 

Steve stumbles backward and falls on his ass from the force of it.

 

“That’s for scarin’ the girls,” Bucky scowls at him, “And be lucky I don’t give you another for freakin’ me the hell out too.  You’re better than this, Stevie.”

 

“I’m sorry,” Steve says, holding his face and still looking miserable, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare anyone…”

 

“Ain’t no woman should ever flinch away from a man like your Ma did, and I distinctly remember makin’ a promise to put you down myself if you ever turned out like your ol’ man,” Bucky says angrily.  “Don’t you dare make me keep it now, after all this.”

 

It’s exhausting sometimes, being Steve’s best friend.  

 

But he wouldn’t have it any other way, not really.

 

“I know.  I remember, Buck…  You know I’d never do anything to hurt them…” Steve says, the emotion seeming to just wash out of him suddenly, until he’s laying there empty, just staring up blankly at the night sky.  

 

Bucky lets him lay for a minute, to see what might come of it.

 

“We’re not aging…” Steve finally admits, his voice thin and tired.

 

“I know,” Bucky tells him, mulling over what else to say…

 

“I’m gonna lose her...” Steve adds, closing his eyes.

 

“Yeah, someday you will.  You were always going to. But I know you, Steven Grant Rogers, and there ain’t no way that Peg has been the only thing you’ve been livin’ your life for all these years.  You love those girls with every ounce of your heart, and you’ll never convince me otherwise. And even once Peggy’s gone, you’ll still have them. Hell, they’ll have kids of their own someday too, and even those kids will have kids…  Your family’s only ever gonna get bigger from here on out, Stevie, so quit your fuckin’ moping already,” Bucky tells him, debating on kicking him for good measure.

 

Steve opens his eyes, giving Bucky a searching look.

 

He eventually nods though, slowly picking himself up enough to sit.

 

“You’re right, Buck, you’re right...”

 

“Of course I am,” Bucky grunts as he sits down beside him.  They stay there in silence for a minute, just looking out over the moonlit grounds of the back yard.

 

“You’re part of this family too, Buck, you know that, right?” Steve asks him.  “You’re practically like a second dad to my girls…”

 

“It’s called an ‘Uncle’ , Steve,” Bucky gives him an exaggerated sideways glance, “Don’t be giving Peggy any ideas now…”

 

Steve bursts into laughter once he realizes what Bucky’s insinuating, bumping their shoulders together as he teases him, “Nah, you ain’t her type, Buck.”

 

“What?!  What’s wrong with me?” Bucky fakes puffing out his chest a little.

 

“Too obedient,” Steve tells him, a spark coming back into his eyes again.

 

Obedient ?!!’ Bucky practically shouts, honestly a little offended that Steve would go there , “I changed my mind, punk, no more talkin’ about feelings, I’m gonna kick your ass after all,” he says, shoving him hard.

 

Steve laughs, initially bringing his hands up to block any incoming blows, but then setting them back down again almost right away.  

 

“Yeah, you know what?  Go ahead. I deserve it…  I’m just glad you’re here to kick my ass when I need it, Buck.”

 

Bucky rolls his eyes at the display, not going to actually throw any punches if the idiot isn’t going to defend himself...  

 

“Always, Stevie,” he finally says instead, “I told you, I’m with you ‘till the end of the line.”

 

“Me too, Buck, ‘till the end of the line,” Steve answers back.

 

Somehow, even though they’ve taken on a whole new depth of meaning, the words are still just as comforting as before.  





1962

 

“You know you can still come with us, Bucky,” Steve offers one last time.

 

“Nah, you know I don’t mind signing a few comic books after a baseball game or somethin’, but glad-handing senators ain’t really my scene…”  Bucky declines for the fifth time.

 

“I know, Buck, but there’s a lot more people at these parties than just government bigwigs.  Maybe you might meet someone nice…” Steve prods him.

 

Peggy sweeps through the room at the same time, already half put together whereas Steve’s just starting.

 

“I can think of at least a dozen girls who’d be thrilled to make your acquaintance, Bucky,” Peggy adds, “And a few who wouldn’t just be in it for the fame either.”

 

Bucky raises an eyebrow at that, because he isn’t sure he’s really famous enough for anyone to want to take advantage of it…

 

“I’ll pass,” he tells them, giving Steve a look after Peggy’s out of the room, “I ain’t in the mood to have a bunch of girls bein’ thrown at me either.”

 

Steve nods in understanding, grasping his shoulder briefly and then turning to finish getting ready.

 

After they leave, Bucky lounges around for a while watching television, but he grows bored of it fairly quickly.

 

The girls are in London with Peggy’s parents for the summer, so the house feels huge and empty without them in it.  

 

The clock in the hall strikes nine, and Bucky sighs restlessly, pondering over how uneventful his life has become.  Not that he regrets having mellowed out since his war days. He just feels a little pathetic at the moment, staring down a wall on a Friday night, all alone.

 

He supposes he could still go out now if he wanted.  Maybe just to shoot some pool down by the docks. Even wasting money on alcohol that won’t affect him sounds better than sitting around doing nothing at this point.

 

When he thinks about it, he realizes he hasn’t gone anywhere that didn’t cater to a “family” atmosphere in at least a decade.

 

Hell, the old dive he used to drink in when the nightmares were bad might not even be in business anymore, for all he knows…  They had the absolute worst rotgut imaginable there, which was what he’d wanted at the time, since he was only drinking for the burn and the memory…

 

“Screw it,” Bucky says aloud, picking himself up off the couch.  He throws some jeans on and grabs his wallet, making sure he’s got enough cash on him to at least attempt to have a good time tonight.  Then he fires up his motorcycle and lets it purr a little before finally hitting the road.

 

When he gets there, the docks are crawling with navy boys getting ready to ship out to Vietnam next week.  

 

Bucky isn’t looking for trouble , so he hits up a few bars until he finds one named Carscallen’s that isn’t as packed to the gills as the rest of them.  He orders a few drinks and plays a round of pool with some guys who probably are the age Bucky should look by now…

 

And then a group of guys come in being louder than the general background noise, and Bucky looks up by force of habit, and he happens to catch on a pair of bottle green eyes that practically jump out at him from across the room...  And shit, he told himself he wasn’t lookin’ for trouble tonight, but damn is there a pretty face that goes along with those eyes…

 

Bucky isn’t as familiar with naval ranks, but he has a feeling this guy isn’t out on his first tour.  Those bright green eyes look him up and down, a little quirk ticking up on the corner of his mouth. Almost before he knows it, Bucky is returning the gaze, letting the other man see him drag his eyes over every well toned inch of him.  

 

It’s a dangerous game to play, especially with not knowing just what kind of establishment this bar is, but honestly that doesn’t deter Bucky much.

 

It’s been a hell of a long time since he felt a punch of lust in his gut like this, like there was an adventure waiting to be had if he just played his cards right.

 

Bucky bows out of starting a new round of pool and goes to take a seat at the bar.  He makes sure he’s got line of sight on the door and on the beautiful Irishman that just walked through it.  

 

Their eyes meet a few more times over the next half hour or so, each time a little more mischief, a little bigger smile exchanged between them…  Until finally green-eyes seems to have decided that the potential outweighs the risk, because he gets up from his friend's table and approaches Bucky.

 

“Now let me guess,” he says first off, “ You , look like an army man…”

 

“Guilty as charged,” Bucky answers, smiling wide.

 

Green-eyes smiles back, taking a seat next to him.

 

Their legs brush under the bar as he sits.

 

Bucky doesn’t make any move to pull away.

 

“Name’s Ian, by the way,” the man introduces himself.

 

“My friends call me Bucky.”

 

“Do they now?” Ian tips his head as if studying him seriously.  He reaches over, telegraphing his movements, and touches Bucky’s chin, turning his head at a different angle for examination.  After an exaggerated moment, he grins and says, “Hm… I guess you do look enough like him to get away with it…”

 

It makes Bucky pause for a second, because no one’s ever accused him of impersonating himself before.  

 

“Course, if you ain’t lookin’ to be friends, then I don’t suppose it matters much what you call me,” Bucky tells him.

 

“I have to admit, ‘friends’ isn’t what I was thinking,” Ian replies, his eyes settling on Bucky’s mouth.

 

“Let me buy you a drink,” Bucky says, licking his lips, “Maybe I can change your mind.”

 

They’re only into their second round when Ian leans into his space while the bartender is at the other end of the bar.

 

“I’m gonna hit the head in about 15 minutes…”

 

“Doll, you are way too gorgeous for the bathroom, let me take you down the street…” Bucky says back quietly, remembering a shady looking motel that he passed on his way here.  

 

Ian smiles, obviously liking the idea.  

 

“Yeah?  You gonna show me how they do it in the army?”

 

“It’ll be the ride of your life, sailor,” Bucky says smoothly, giving him a wink.

 

“Guess I’ll go get some fresh air after hitting the head then,” Ian agrees, giving him a long look.

 

“Sounds good.  I’ll meet you down the street,” Bucky indicates with a tip of his head.  

 

Ian gets up and heads to the bathroom.

 

Bucky throws some cash on the counter to cover their drinks, then shows himself out.  

 

The place down the block is disreputable enough to charge by the hour, but Bucky goes ahead and pays for a full night, just in case.  Then he goes back out to the sidewalk and smokes a real slow cigarette. He knows better than to stand right in front of a joint like this motel though, so he waits halfway between it and the bar to see if Ian shows.

 

Ten minutes later, Bucky grins when he sees that he hasn’t been blown off.

 

“Your friends ain’t gonna miss you?” he asks as Ian slides up, using the pretense of bumming a cigarette off him.

 

“Nah, they’ve found their fun already.  It’s just you and me, soldier,” Ian grins.

 

Bucky watches the way his lips curl around his cigarette for a second, then finally meets Ian’s eyes and says, “Perfect.”

 

He takes him back to the room, and the moment the door closes, they lean in and start kissing.  It isn’t desperate, just enthusiastic, with both of them seeming to enjoy the warm up. It’s been a hell of a long time since Bucky kissed anyone, and damn, has he missed it.  They’ve both got some stubble going on, which Bucky enjoys the hell out of, and he moans encouragingly into Ian’s mouth.

 

Hands wander up Bucky’s chest, then back down again, settling on his hip and his ass.

 

“What do you want, doll?” Bucky murmurs into those plump lips.

 

“How much time do we have?” Ian asks, rubbing his hand firmly over the swell of Bucky’s backside.

 

“All night, if you want it…” Bucky answers, leaning in to mouth at Ian’s neck.  He tastes like sweat and cigarette smoke, nothing sweet or soft about it, and Bucky’s arousal ratchets up another notch.

 

“Mm, you read my mind,” Ian tells him, planting a kiss under Bucky’s ear as he gives a good hard squeeze to the cheek under his palm.  “You gonna let me fuck you?”

 

“Well, I did promise you a ride…” Bucky grins, capturing Ian’s mouth again.  

 

Ian grins too, which makes it a little difficult to kiss, so they pull back and start undressing.  

 

“You can have me after too, if you want, I’m not picky,” Ian tells him as they’re tossing their clothes aside.

 

“I’ll definitely take you up on that, doll.”

 

They continue to kiss as they appreciate each other’s bodies.

 

By the time they tumble into the bed, Bucky is achingly hard.  Ian sucks at him a little while he stretches him out, which has always been one of Bucky’s weaknesses…  His cock is down Ian’s throat while two vaseline coated fingers are being worked in and out of his ass, and Bucky can’t for the life of him remember why he hasn’t bothered to get laid in a decade...  

 

He knows that these days he can get hard again real quick after coming, so he isn’t worried about going off too soon because of that, but he still doesn’t want to embarrass himself either.  Bucky manages to hold off while Ian’s mouth is on him, but it’s difficult with those bright green eyes looking up at him the whole time.

 

Ian guides him onto all fours on the sheets, asking him, “You ever done this before?” in a display of kindness that tugs at Bucky’s emotions just a bit.

 

“Too many times to count,” Bucky answers while Ian rolls on a condom, “Just, uh, not recently ,” he admits.  

 

“You want me to take it slow?’ Ian asks, nudging the tip of his cock against Bucky’s rim.

 

“Just at first, give me a second to get used to it again,” he answers.

 

Ian leans down over him and kisses the back of his neck, then rubs that spot with his thumb while he pushes in to Bucky's body.  It takes a good thirty seconds for Bucky to adjust to the intrusion, but it feels so amazing to be full like this again, he’s running so high on anticipation that his arousal never actually wains.  

 

“Fuck, that’s good,” Bucky groans, spreading his knees a little wider.  Ian’s already been bottomed out inside him, but he slides just a tiny bit deeper with the motion, making Bucky shiver with how badly he wants to be getting fucked all of a sudden.

 

“Jesus Christ…  Fuck me already,” Bucky tells him, arching his back in encouragement.

 

Ian obliges and starts thrusting into him, long slow strokes at first that have Bucky keening with the sensation.  

 

The room next to them is obviously a pair of fellas fucking too though, so he figures the noise ain’t going to get the cops called on them.  

 

As he picks up the pace, Ian slides a hand up Bucky’s spine and urges his head down, until only his ass is left in the air.  Bucky goes along with it willingly, knowing the angle inside him will be heaven like this…  And he’s not disappointed.

 

The sounds coming out of Bucky’s mouth are obscene as Ian really gets into it, pounding his ass so hard that the navy’s dog tags are bouncing off his chest with every thrust.  And fuck if that isn’t a sound that Bucky is intimately familiar with... It makes something inside him feel right at home with this perfect stranger.

 

“Don’t hold back, doll, come on, give it to me,” Bucky urges him, shamelessly moaning as Ian leans forward and puts his weight into it.

 

“You’re fucking loving this, aren’t you?” Ian groans, barely out of breath from the exertion, “You love a thick cock up your ass, don’t you.”

 

“Yes, yes,” Bucky gasps against the sheets as his toes start tingling, “You’re gonna make me fucking come, doll, don’t stop…”

 

Ian swears a blue streak as he grips Bucky’s hips, hard , keeping up the pace beautifully.

 

Oh god ,” Bucky doesn’t try to keep himself back off the peak of his orgasm this time, he lets it wash over him while Ian is at the height of his thrusts, relishing how deep and long and toe curling it is.

 

There’s honest to god Gaelic coming out of Ian’s mouth while he comes, nice and deep inside of Bucky’s ass.

 

The only thing Bucky’s ever hated about his super soldier body is that he won’t feel the remnants of any of this by the morning.

 

They share a cigarette in bed afterward, waiting for their bodies to be ready for round two.  Well, Bucky could go again right now with a little stimulation, but he’s content to wait and just drink in the sight of all the sculpted muscle in front of him.

 

Ian seems to have much the same idea, simply passing the smoke between them and letting his eyes rove.  He gets a thoughtful look on his face when his gaze travels over Bucky’s tattoo from the 107th. Bucky lets him have his moment, staring up at the stained ceiling and taking another drag.

 

When he looks back, there’s a question on Ian’s face.

 

Bucky gives him a smile with only a little “I told you so” in it.

 

“You aren’t the actual, real Bucky Barnes…”

 

“I can’t imagine there’s too many ‘James Buchanan Barnes’ out there…” Bucky answers, hoping he doesn’t scare the guy off.  He was really looking forward to spreading Ian open underneath him in a minute… But he knows public scrutiny can be real bad for fellas like them, so he won’t judge if it spooks him.

 

Ian runs a finger over Bucky’s tattoo, circling the outline of the shield that the Howlies replaced the traditional arrows and laurels in the eagle’s talons with.  

 

“You know, I just might believe you…”

 

“Is it gonna be a problem?” Bucky asks him, forcing his face to stay casual about it.  

 

Ian shakes his head.  “The only problem is believing that I just fucked a living legend…”

 

Bucky grins.

 

“Would it help your belief to get fucked by a legend next?” Bucky asks, going with it.

 

Ian grins back at him.

 

Bucky reaches over Ian to put the butt of their cigarette out in the tray on the other side of the bed.  Once he’s sure it’s out, he continues to hover over Ian, letting the sailor get a good eyeful. Calloused hands run up and down Bucky’s torso, bringing the mood back eagerly.  

 

He makes sure to take his time and make it good as he fucks Ian, especially now that his reputation is on the line.  Bucky takes him on his back, so he can watch those gorgeous green eyes while the other man is falling apart under him.  

 

Ian muffles a scream into Bucky’s shoulder when he comes.  

 

They kiss for a long time in that run down motel room, until Ian notices Bucky is hard again and jerks him off nice and slow.

 

By that time, the sun is starting to come up.  

 

He isn’t in a position to be asking for more or even wishing things were different, so Bucky stays quiet while they clean up, even though he feels like he and Ian could really hit it off if given a chance.  All he can do is give the man a look that he hopes conveys some of what he doesn’t feel like he can say.

 

Ian smiles kindly when he sees it, pulls Bucky in for one last kiss, and doesn’t say a word about it.  

 

And that right there just drives it home even harder, the fact that it’s a damn shame that he won’t get a chance to see where things could go with a man that is so much on the same wavelength with him.  

 

“When do you ship out?’ Bucky asks instead.

 

“Tuesday,” Ian tells him, pulling on his shirt.  

 

Immediately, Bucky’s first thought is that that’s three days from now, two and half if they actually slept…  Bucky mulls over how to ask for that time without implying anything more than that, pulling his own clothes on as he does.

 

Ian’s almost completely dressed now, so Bucky runs a hand through his hair and decides to stop being a coward and just say it.

 

“Look,” he starts, catching Ian’s attention, “I can’t promise you nothin’, you know that.  I can’t write to you or wait for you on the pier when you go, but I’d like to spend those three days with you, if you want.  If that ain’t something you want, that’s fine, just tell me to get lost…” Bucky trails off, feeling oddly like he’s holding his heart in his hands for the first time in a long time.  

 

“Spend them how?” Ian asks, looking thoughtful.

 

“Uh…  In a nicer room?...” Bucky suggests.

 

“I…  I wouldn’t be opposed to spending a few more days with you, Bucky, but I can’t go home with you…” Ian tells him, sounding slightly apologetic.

 

“No, I know, doll.  I just meant, maybe get a real hotel room?  You know, one with clean sheets and room service.  I’ve stayed in ones like those a few times, they’re actually pretty damn swell…  And I’d pay for it, if you’d let me treat you like that,” Bucky offers, figuring he’s got plenty of money in the bank that he never spends, it won’t hurt him to burn through some on a venture like this.

 

“I have to check in with my S.O. for inspection at oh-seven-hundred this morning…  But we’re free again until anchors up after that,” Ian tells him, his body language already agreeing with the proposition as he slots himself back into Bucky’s arms.

 

Bucky smiles at him, feeling a flutter of anticipation even though he literally just got done fucking this man all night.

 

“Meet me at the Waldorf after that?” Bucky suggests.

 

Ian’s eyebrows lift.

 

“You sure about that?”

 

“Yeah, I’m sure.”

 

“Well, I guess I’ll see you later, then.”

 

They part with a deep and lingering kiss.  Ian leaves first, to make his inspection, and Bucky waits a good twenty minutes after that before he heads out.  He remembers having to make the Howlies check in while on leave too, to make sure no one got into too big of trouble while they were gone.  Ian’s crew must be troublemakers too, Bucky thinks, and grins to himself as he starts up his bike and drives home.

 

He only plans on showering, shaving, and packing a small suitcase mostly for show, then heading back out.  

 

His plans are derailed by Steve reading the newspaper at the kitchen table when Bucky comes through.  

 

“Morning, Buck,” he says, glancing over the top of the paper with a knowingly mischievous look.

 

“It is a good morning, isn’t it?” Bucky grins back.

 

Steve snorts, setting down his paper.  “Did you have plans and just didn’t want to say anything, or was that a uh, spontaneous , outing?…” he asks, giving him only a slightly hard time.

 

Bucky shakes his head, grabbing himself the bottle of milk out of the fridge.  “Nah, didn’t have any plans, I just went to shoot some pool and things happened .”

 

“Well, it’s good to see you getting out of the house, Buck, regardless,” Steve claps him on the shoulder while he’s drinking, the jerk.  “Just make sure you shower before Peg gets up. You reek of...cigarettes,” Steve tells him teasingly.

 

“I was plannin’ on it.  That and a shave before I head out again,” Bucky casually drops into the conversation, rubbing at the stubble on his face.

 

“Yeah?  You got more plans?”

 

“Just a change of scenery for a couple days,” Bucky tells him.

 

Steve nods, giving Bucky a calculating look.  “Be careful.”

 

“I always am,” Bucky assures him.

 

“I guess we’ll see you Tuesday,” Steve says in a matter of fact tone.

 

Bucky frowns at him.

 

“I may not be active duty, but I still know when major deployments are happening, Buck,” Steve says blandly.

 

“You know what, fuck you, Stevie,” Buck grouses, feeling himself start to blush.

 

“No thanks, I’m a married man,” Steve replies.

 

Bucky throws the empty bottle of milk at his head.

 

Steve is still cackling in the kitchen when Bucky leaves to take his shower. He doesn’t cross paths with Peggy before he leaves again, which is just as well.  She picked the perfect day to have one of her “lie ins”.

 

Bucky’s out the door again a half hour later, but with his travel time to and from the house, and to pick up more condoms, he’s not surprised to see Ian waiting on the sidewalk outside the Waldorf when he gets there.  He goes up and bums a cigarette from him, and they casually work out a plan to get them both up to a room without drawing too much attention.

 

Bucky is extremely thankful that he had let Howard talk him into getting one of those newfangled American Express cards, because that’s the only way they’ll let him run a tab for his meals and miscellaneous at the hotel.  He makes sure to wink and tell the ladies at the counter to warn the kitchen, because he needs four or five times as much food as a regular fella.

 

Sure, he can go with less, go without entirely for days and be fine, but it’ll mean he can feed his sailor without arousing suspicion if he makes sure to point that out to them now.  

 

They assure him that it won’t be a problem, and run a carbon of his card, then have him sign a couple places before handing over a key.  

 

An hour and some discretely timed hand signals later, Ian is knocking on his room number, and Bucky reels him in eagerly.  The poor guy looks about ready to pass out from exhaustion though, so Bucky kisses him without any real heat to it as he pulls him toward the bed.

 

“Let’s get you out of this uniform, sailor,” he says, helping him undress.  Ian hangs his clothes up to keep them from wrinkling over the next few days, and Bucky notices that he didn’t bring anything else with him.

 

“Didn’t think I’d be needing much in the way of clothes,” Ian grins at him.  

 

“Doll, you read my mind,” Bucky nods as he undresses too.  “Why don’t we catch a few winks first, and then take it from there?”

 

They lay down, and Ian gives him a little bit of an intent look before scooting closer and resting against him.  Bucky encourages it, relishing the feel of skin pressed against his, warm and real, from chest to hip. While Ian’s nodding off, Bucky realizes he hasn’t ever gotten to do this before…  Fall asleep next to someone...

 

It’s nice.

 

Bucky spends the next three days indulging in whatever sexual whim comes across either of their minds.  He mostly lets Ian take him, knowing that it’d be a lot harder on him to be walking funny back to the ship.  But there’s also a copious number of blowjobs and fingerings and what Bucky hopes becomes a memorable first rimjob for Ian.  He almost can’t believe no one’s ever put their mouth on this gorgeous man like that, but Bucky is more that happy to oblige when he finds out.  From the way Ian has to muffle his moans into a pillow before he comes, Bucky guesses it makes a good impression.

 

When Tuesday finally rolls around, there’s that same heavy feeling of wishing things could be different in Bucky’s chest.  But they both know they can’t be. So Bucky just kisses him senseless up until the very last moment, and then lets Ian run off to catch his boat without ever even asking the man’s last name.  

 

It’s better this way.  

 

It doesn’t give either of them the impression that this is more than it is.  

 

Twenty years ago, Bucky wouldn’t have even given a second thought to seeing the same man twice.  He wonders as he heads home, if it’s him that’s changed, or if it was just that no one ever caught his attention like Ian had.  

 

Well, no one aside from the Tony he met in the future, of course.  But Tony isn’t even a gleam in Howard’s eye yet, and Bucky is finally admitting to himself, as he shuts off his bike in the driveway, that he’s lonely , and the potential he might have with Tony is still a long way off...   

 

As part of his new plan to be less old and pathetic, Bucky discovers that the bar he’d happened upon Ian in does turn a blind eye to his kind.  So occasionally he goes back there to relieve some tension.  He doesn’t rent any more hotel rooms, just getting on his knees in the bathroom and putting a cock in his mouth once in a while is enough to make him feel more alive.  And getting sucked off himself is always a plus when it happens, too.

 

But he never forgets those green eyes and that knowing grin.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

1964

 

A man who looks vaguely familiar to him comes up to Bucky in the grocery store and tells him under his breath that Carscallan’s got shut down last night in a raid.  Then he says, “Aisle six? Thanks, man,” more loudly and walks away again.

 

“What was he looking for, Uncle Bucky?” Marjie asks him.

 

Bucky’s mind races to remember what is in aisle six.  “Uh, laundry detergent.”

 

She rolls her eyes, “His wife must be out of town or something.”

 

“Yeah,” Bucky says, “Must be.”  

 

<//>

 

A couple months later, Bucky is scoping out the atmosphere in a bar in Queens when a lone sailor walks in, his hat tucked under his arm and a tired grief written all over his face.  As soon as he glances at the bar, his green eyes stop in shock on Bucky.

 

Bucky might have forgotten to breath for a second, because his heart is suddenly pounding way harder that it should be, for some reason.

 

“Ian…” he hears himself say.  A disbelieving smile spreads over his face of its own volition.  He sees a matching one on Ian’s even though a moment ago he looked like shit.  

 

“You come here often, soldier?” Ian asks him, his eyes soaking Bucky up.

 

“No, actually, it’s my first time at this particular establishment…  What are you doin’ here?” Bucky asks, motioning to Ian’s dress blues.

 

“Got leave early for my Da’s funeral,” Ian tells him with a sigh, “And my tour’s up at the end of it, so I’m tryin’ to decide if I can believe my Ma or not when she says she doesn’t need me at home…”

 

“I’m sorry, that’s awful...” Bucky says as Ian sits beside him.  He isn’t quite sure with everything he just said, if Ian would welcome anything resembling flirting, so he signals the bartender and buys him a whiskey without asking.  “You look like you could use it,” is all he says, tipping his own glass toward him in cheers.

 

“Thanks, man,” Ian says, sipping at it.  He does glance out of the corner of his eye at Bucky after a few minutes though.  “Honestly, I can’t believe you remember me…”

 

“Of course I remember you,” Bucky says, catching the “doll” on the edge of his tongue before it slips out.  He nudges Ian’s leg under the bar instead.

 

“You know, I could really use a distraction right now,” Ian sighs, “You ever been to the races?...”

 

“Can’t say that I have,” Bucky answers.

 

They don’t go to the races.

 

They go to a rundown room on the other side of Bedford where they can be as loud as they want and they fall into each other’s arms.

 

“I’m not hallucinating you, am I?...” Ian asks him afterward, brushing a hand over his cheek.

 

“If you are, then I must be hallucinating you too,” Bucky answers just as seriously.  They kiss for a few minutes after that, then Bucky sets to exploring the couple of new scars Ian’s gathered since their last time together.  “I think about you every time I jerk off…” Bucky confesses, mouthing at a thin white line that grazes Ian’s side.

 

Ian grins, running a hand through Bucky’s hair at the admission.

 

“The boys…  They were tryin’ to be nice and bought me a blowjob for my birthday over there in ‘Nam.  Only way I could get through it was to pretend she was you…” Ian tells him. His eyes are lit up with a strange sort of hesitant disbelief, comissuration, and humor all at once.

 

“...She must of been one ugly whore if you could pretend she was me,” Bucky can’t resist saying, a grin overtaking his face.

 

Ian laughs, reaching out and rubbing a thumb over Bucky’s mouth, “Nah, she was real pretty…”

 

Bucky kisses the thumb and moves up the bed so he’s hovering above Ian, keeping hold of his hand and rubbing his thumb slowly over the man’s palm.  “If you’re implyin’ that I am a pretty man...I’m gonna have to agree with you there, sailor,” Bucky says cheekily.  

 

“You’re gorgeous,” Ian affirms, pulling Bucky in by the back of the neck for more kissing.

 

This time that they spend together is different than the last.

 

For one, they talk, exchanging last names and everything.  There’s still plenty of touching, but there’s also Ian O'Flaherty trying to figure out what to do with his future, and Bucky struggling to describe how adrift he feels now that the girls are growing up and half of them are out on their own now.   

 

The same unspoken agreement they had to keep things simple before seems to be an unspoken one that they’re both wanting something more complex now.  Bucky can’t help but feel like them meeting again randomly like this is more than chance. Like he’s being given a second chance to have Ian in his life, if he can be brave enough to take it.

 

Bucky feels kind of bad for the time he steals from Ian’s leave, because his family is in mourning and he should probably be spending his time with them…  But he doesn’t ever tell him to stop, either.

 

They meet up for meals, and they see movies, and Bucky takes him to Coney Island on the weekend.  They date for the remainder of those two weeks, stealing kisses wherever and whenever they can get away with it, and spending almost every night together.

 

Two days before Ian’s deadline to re-enlist, he finally makes up his mind.  

 

“My brothers have things handled here.  Ma’s taken care of, even has a grandbaby on the way to keep her occupied…  But ‘Nam… ‘Nam’s turning into a clusterfuck, Bucky…” Ian tells him, moonlight playing over his naked chest, “My crew needs me over there…”

 

“Hey, I understand, doll, I certainly ain’t gonna be upset that your country still needs you,” Bucky tells him, holding him close.  

 

And he really does.  

 

“I don’t suppose you’re willin’ to wait four years on one ‘fella’…” Ian asks him, saving Bucky the trouble of asking to be allowed to.

 

“I am,” Bucky smiles, his heart leaping into his throat.  He kisses the closest patch of Ian’s skin that he can reach, which is the juncture of his neck and shoulder.  “It might be- Hell, we both know it would be risky, but I’d like to write to you, if you’d let me,” Bucky says, closing his eyes and breathing in the scent of his fella while he waits for an answer.

 

Ian’s hand comes up and clutches at the back of Bucky’s head, fingers strong and firm in his hair.

 

“Fuck it.  I’d love that,” Ian admits, throwing a fair amount of caution to the wind.

 

He’s definitely the one of them taking the bigger risk, since he’s still got an active career with the military and he isn’t a super soldier.  

 

“Thank you,” Bucky says, hugging him even tighter for a second.

 

They exchange addresses before they fall asleep that night, too excited to wait.  In the morning, Bucky gets them up early so they can make a trip to Sears-Roebuck before Ian has to go spend time with his family.  Especially since he’s taking off overseas again after all.

 

Bucky buys one of the new color Polaroids and a couple boxes of film.  Ian grins from ear to ear as they head to the alleyway behind the store, taking picture after picture of each other and themselves together.  Bucky even gets daring and takes a couple of them kissing, one for each of them. The rest could probably be rationed away as just being close friends, if you ignored the looks in their eyes, but not the ones of them with their mouths on each other.  

 

“I’m gonna miss you so damn much,” Bucky tells him as they divy them up.  “I’ll be lookin’ at these every day for the next four years.”

 

“Me too, every chance I get,” Ian assures him, though they both know his chances to pull out and look at something like these will be much fewer and farther between than Bucky’s.  “And you’re going to write to me…”

 

“All the damn time,” Bucky promises, “The postmaster’s gonna hate you.’

 

Ian laughs, pulling Bucky in for one more kiss.  

 

When he finally has to leave, it feels a lot less final than the first time they said goodbye, even though it will definitely be longer before they see each other again.  Bucky even still has a smile on his face afterward. He can’t help reaching up and touching the pocket his photos are secured in every few minutes, partly to make sure they’re still there, partly because he can’t believe how much his life just changed in the last two weeks.  

 

He’s no longer a single man.  

 

Not that anyone can know how in love he is, but it’s still a fact, even if it isn’t common knowledge.  

 

When he gets home, he goes right to his bedroom and puts his pictures of Ian in a safe place.  He starts to stick one of them in the edge of his mirror, but hesitates, and then realizes it probably isn’t a good idea, even here.  He does take one of them and stick it in his wallet though, one that’s of Ian only, just to be on the safe side.

 

He sits down and starts writing his first letter right then.

 

Steve comments on his dopey smile later that afternoon, which prompts Bucky to start a little good natured wrestling match with him.

 

Peggy gets home to toppled furniture and the girls cheering vociferously for opposite sides as Steve tries to rub Bucky’s face into his armpit, and Bucky tries to both escape and bend far enough to kick Steve in the head for it.  

 

A stern, “ Children ,” is enough to break them apart and promise to clean up right away.

 

Even a month later, Bucky’s still riding high, especially after having gotten a letter back from Ian.  Well, not back , it was obviously written before he got Bucky’s, but that honestly just makes it even better.  Because Ian obviously couldn’t wait either.

 

Bucky spends significant portions of his days wondering if whatever thing he’s doing at the moment is something Ian would want to hear about.  He’s actually kind of a boring person, he doesn’t have much going on in his life, aside from Steve’s family. And he doesn’t want to send letters to his lover that are full of stories about other people and their kids…

 

Eventually, Bucky just writes Ian that he hopes he doesn’t bore him with telling him about what he cooked for dinner that day, or what part of the car he worked on that weekend.  He remembers being overseas himself. It hardly mattered to him what his sisters said, just that they took the time to write at all. So he figures Ian probably won’t mind too much.

 

He gets a letter back that reassures him that Ian loves getting to hear about that kind of everyday stuff from him.  It helps him get to know Bucky better and helps with pushing through the living conditions in the navy too.

 

If Steve ever notices that Bucky has taken over the job of checking the mail every day, he doesn’t say anything about it.





1965

 

Ruthanna Rogers skipped a grade when she was younger, so at seventeen she’s already off to college, and Bucky and Steve have spent all day helping her get moved into the dormitory at Vassar.  It wasn’t overly exhausting per se, but it was certainly an emotional day.

 

Especially when Marjie declared later that afternoon that she wasn’t going to college, she was going to join the military.  Out of all of them, Peggy was actually the most against it, citing the war in Vietnam and how this was different than WWII. Bucky knows she has a bigger picture of what’s really going on in the world than the average person, so he backs her up.  

 

Besides, just from what he’s heard on the street, he knows they’re losing ground and the casualties are mounting by the day.

 

But Marjie is fifteen and stubborn as a mule, so she and Peggy end up arguing for hours about it.  Finally Bucky and Steve have to separate them, and do their best to talk down a riled up teenager and a riled up Brit, respectively.  

 

Bucky’s main tactic is to point out to Marjie that she’s still got years before she’ll be old enough to enlist, and the war could end before then anyway, especially with the way people are starting to actually protest against it…  So to not take Peggy’s opinion now as her opinion forever.

 

Eventually she calms down enough to be left alone to get ready for bed.  Bucky breathes a sigh of relief, heading out to the back porch with a tumbler of whiskey to relax a bit himself.  Steve is already out there, though he isn’t drinking anything.

 

“I don’t get why you keep drinking that stuff, when it hasn’t affected us for years…” Steve muses.

 

“Nostalgia,” Bucky answers right away.  

 

Steve snorts.

 

“We could never afford whiskey like that back when it did us any good,” he calls Bucky out.

 

“Maybe I’m making, new, better memories,” Bucky fires back, raising his glass in cheers.  

 

Steve just shakes his head.  

 

“You get Marjie calmed down some?” Steve asks eventually, once a comfortable laxness has settled over the backyard again.

 

“Yeah…  You manage to get Peg off the ceiling?”

 

Steve holds a hand out and tips it back and forth in a “sort of” gesture.

 

Even as rough as today was, Bucky’d rather be doing this than whatever it was that his other dimension self was enduring in the 60’s, that’s for sure.  

 

“Well, hopefully her blood pressure comes down soon.  You know, like, at least before the campaign season starts really ramping up,” Bucky jokes, “If not, I’m moving out...”

 

“Don’t even joke about that, Buck,” Steve groans, “It’s a good thing JFK’s a shoe-in for a second term, or I don’t know what I’d do…  It’s bad enough that this is going to be such a hot senate race.”  

“Eh, you can always come crash on my couch if it gets too bad.  Hypothetically, of course,” Bucky assures him.

 

“Thanks,” Steve says sarcastically, “You’re a real pal, Buck.”

 

“Don’t be like that, Stevie, if you want your dame to be happy, just promise her you’ll go to some fundraiser for her or something,” Bucky says, waving his glass in the air a little.

 

“Huh…  That’s actually not a bad idea…  There’s something for NASA on her schedule next week that might actually be interesting.  Not that they need extra funding, with how well things are going...”

 

“Someday, you’re going to get it through your thick skull that I’m the brains of this operation,” Bucky sighs, like Steve is a hard case.  “It’s gotta be something you would normally stick her with, or it won’t work. And no, before you ask, Howard’s Expo doesn’t count.”

 

Steve makes a sour face at him.  

 

Bucky just sips his drink, letting Steve think about it from there.  

 

“Well, thanks for your help with Marjie today, regardless,” Steve lets the subject of politics drop, “Sometimes I don’t know what I’d do without you, Bucky.”

 

Bucky shrugs off the thanks, because it’s no big deal.

 

“She’ll be off on her own in a few more years,” is all he says.

 

Steve gives him a thoughtful look.

 

“You know, you keep sayin’ stuff like that every once in a while, almost like you’re dropping hints…  You actually planning on moving out, Buck?” Steve asks.

 

Bucky shrugs again, keeping his gaze directed out over the patio.  “I dunno. Not right now or anything… But maybe someday, it might be nice to have my own place…”

 

It’s quiet beside him, so Bucky hazards a glance at his best friend.

 

“This wouldn’t have anything to do with the letters you’re always writing, would it?” Steve asks gently.  

 

It would have been easier if he was teasing him, but of course Steve Rogers picks this moment to be all respectful of the way Bucky is.  

 

“It does, actually.  I… I, uh…” Bucky takes a deep breath and then lets it out, hoping they have the patience for one more highly emotional conversation tonight…  He didn’t plan on doing this now, but with Steve having brought it up, he feels like he shouldn’t back down from it any more. “I’m a homosexual,” he says outloud, for the first time in his life.  “I like men. I mean, I guess I like women too, but not nearly as much as men...”

 

Steve is giving him a flat, unimpressed look.

 

“What?” Bucky asks, feeling supremely defensive.  

 

“Is that supposed to be news?  You know I saw you behind the grocer’s, making out with Benji Comstock when we were sixteen years old,” Steve tells him.  

 

“Well, yeah, but we ain’t ever actually talked about it out loud before…”  

 

“What is there to talk about?”

 

“I been thinkin’ about being more ‘out loud’ about it, that’s what,” Bucky tells him, “Times are changing, Stevie…  Or at least, they should be.  Or maybe I’m just gettin’ tired of waitin’ for them to change on their own...”  

 

“I guess you’re right…” Steve nods, thinking about it seriously, “...And now you’ve met someone that you want to change the world for?”

 

“Yeah,” Bucky clears his throat, “Actually, I have.  I know you’ve seen the letters in the mail… I’d like you and Peggy to meet him when his tour is over, if that’s something you think everyone would agree to…”

 

“We would love to, Bucky, any time.  He’s always welcome here.”

 

“Thanks, Stevie, that means a lot to me,” Bucky admits, tearing up a bit.  

 

“It’s what any brother would do, Buck,” Steve tells him, “Or at least, what they should do.”

 

Bucky dries at his eyes, nodding along.  “You’ll be with me when I tell Peg, right?”

 

“Heck no,” Steve raises an eyebrow, “When she finds out I’ve been lying to her for years to help cover for you, I’ll have to flee the state .  No way am I going to be in the same room with you when it all goes down.”

 

The hilarious thing is, Bucky can’t tell if he’s joking or not, and he bursts out laughing at the same time that he’s still casually wiping the tears from his eyes.

 

“Maybe Howard would take us in…”

 

“That’s only down the street, Buck, not far enough.”

 

“He does have some property in California…”

 

“You know, I think we might be kidding ourselves, thinking there isn’t anywhere in the world she wouldn’t find us…” Steve muses, a small smile on his face.

 

“She does run a covert spy operation…” Bucky adds.  “Huh… I wonder if she already knows…”

 

“I think they handle a little bit bigger things than whether or not you’re single,” Steve teases him.

 

“Jeez, I would hope so…”

 

“Don’t worry, Buck, we’ll get through this, either way,” Steve promises him.

 

Bucky just gives him a smile, infinitely glad that he befriended a scrawny blond with fire in his veins all those years ago.

 

<//>

 

Peggy ends up going on an emergency trip to Seattle the next morning, and then Howard almost burns his mansion down with some experiment and ends up staying with them for a few months while he and Jarvis are both in casts.  Peggy insists it’s too much to expect Anna to look after both of them all on her own, especially with the construction to rebuild going on.  

 

By the time Howard’s back in his own place, the campaign season really is ramping up, and Bucky keeps putting off and delaying bringing “it” up with her…  He’s not afraid , per se, he mostly just feels bad about the lying, like Steve pointed out.  But it isn’t the same as with telling Steve, where he knew there was already acceptance there…  So he holds his tongue for now and waits for a more opportune time to come along.

 

In the meantime though, he does take an afternoon to make sure that Ian knows how much Bucky has come to care for him.  He puts “I love you” in writing for the first time, his heart skipping a beat as he seals up the envelope, hoping it’s received well on the other end.

 

In the letter Ian sends back, he confesses that he’s felt that way for a while, but he didn’t want to be the one to say it first.  Ian tells him that he hopes Bucky will understand why, because with being overseas, it’s hard to tell if he’s clinging to the bit of home Bucky represents too hard or not, sometimes…

 

Bucky goes right up to his room to write him back the moment he reads that.

 

“Cling as hard as you want, doll, I’m a super soldier, I can take it,” he writes with a smile.

 

God, he’s in love...

 

And Ian loves him back.

 

Everything is right with the world.





1966

 

New York is brought to a standstill by four feet of snow that January.  Bucky writes to Ian, asking him how he’d feel about a road trip to California when he gets back.

 

Ian’s reply is incredibly enthusiastic about the idea, he tells Bucky that he’s always wanted to see the West Coast.  He was at Lemoore Naval Air Force Base for his basic training, but the Central Valley hardly counts, you couldn’t even see the ocean.

 

Bucky writes back and says sure, it’s a date then.  He also teases him a little, asks if he was one of those guys who joined the Navy for no other reason than that he liked the water

 

The letter he gets back after that contains a bit more profanity than usual, but it’s all in good fun.

 

<//>

 

That spring, Bucky briefly considers telling Ian about how he went to the future during WWII…  But he decides that’s the kind of thing he has to wait until they’re face to face for.

 

<//>

 

He’s very careful with his wording in the letter where he asks Ian if he ever told his family about “the way he is”.  

 

Being just as careful in his reply, Ian says no, he hasn’t, but when he gets back, he’d definitely consider it.

 

<//>

 

One day a man in a three piece suit knocks on the Rogers’ door, looking for Bucky.  He says he wants to write a book about Bucky’s life and is hoping to get his authorization, an interview, etc.  Bucky is hesitant, for good reason, because the “true story” of his life would probably get him locked up, the laws against being with another man being what they are right now…  And also because he’s not sure how many people would really care to read it. Maybe some military history buffs, sure. But even then, usually individual soldiers don’t get a whole book, they’re just a mention in the grander scheme of things...

 

They sit in the front parlor, sipping expensive alcohol while Bucky tries to find a way to politely refuse him.  The man’s main concern seems to be how much money they would make, which is already setting off Bucky’s alarm bells.  He just gets more and more belligerent as the conversation goes on too, so eventually Bucky screws propriety and just tells him no, and to get out.  

 

He writes to Ian about the experience though, which almost makes the whole thing worth it, to have something a little dramatic to share for once.

 

Ian tells him he should write his own autobiography, that people really would like to read that sort of thing.  Then he wouldn’t have to deal with pompous assholes trying to make money off him that way too.

 

Bucky did well in school, was always at the top of his grade, but he isn’t sure he can write well enough for publishing a book .  There’s a huge difference there, as far as he’s concerned.  It would be like a high school science teacher thinkin’ they could run one of Howard’s experiments…

 

Ian has much more faith in him than that though, telling him that he writes really well, and that he rereads Bucky’s letters more than any book or magazine he’s ever owned.

 

Bucky writes back that he might be just a little biased.

 

 

Chapter Text

1967

 

Mid-May, there’s a knock on the door during breakfast.

 

“I’ll get it!” Marjie is out of her seat before the rest of them have barely looked up.  

 

“Is she expecting someone?” Steve frowns, looking at the time.  

 

Bucky shrugs and stands up to get more orange juice from the fridge.

 

Marjie comes back looking disappointed.

 

“It was just the mailman.  You got a package that wouldn’t fit in the mailbox,” she says, dropping a large, oversized envelope next to Bucky’s plate and handing the rest off to Steve.

 

Everyone but Marjie is suddenly silent, staring at the bulk-returns envelope that every military family dreads receiving.

 

Peggy shares a look with Steve, a horrified heartbreak on her face on Bucky’s behalf.  But she doesn’t say anything. What could she?

 

Bucky freezes, his mind reeling as his body refuses to process what he’s seeing.

 

The orange juice falls out of his hands.  

 

“Margaret, go up to your room,” Steve says firmly but gently, the same tone of voice he used when they were camping one year and got word that a wildfire was headed their way.  

 

Marjie’s eyes are wide, but she nods and goes right away without complaining.

 

Bucky falls to his knees in the puddle of orange juice and glass, unable to take his eyes off the envelope on the table.

 

“Bucky…” Steve says, heading for him.  

 

Bucky shuffles a step forward, reaching for the envelope off the edge of the table.  Distantly, he feels glass cutting into his knees, but that’s the least of his concerns right now.  He tears open the seal with shaking hands, not bothering to get up off the floor.

 

Because he knows.

 

He refuses to believe it, refuses to let go of the desperate wheedling of hope in his heart that when he opens this package he’ll find something other than a bunch of his own letters being returned to him…  But he still knows , all the same…

 

There are four smaller envelopes inside it, all addressed in his own handwriting to Ian O’Flaherty, Ensign.  

 

Bucky sobs .

 

Steve kneels in the orange juice with him and holds him tight, rocking him back and forth while Bucky cries harder than he ever has in his whole life.  

 

Peggy leaves the room, giving him his privacy, for what little good it will do.

 

Bucky just cries harder, because it’s not fucking fair , it’s just not.

 

“I know, Buck, I know,” Steve murmurs to him, “I am so, so sorry, Bucky…”

 

“It’s only been six weeks since his last letter…  I wasn’t even worried yet…” Bucky chokes out, completely blindsided.

 

Steve doesn’t know what to say, so he just squeezes Bucky tighter.

 

Bucky doesn’t know how to stop crying, so he buries his face in Steve’s shoulder and just lets go, trusting Steve to hold on for him.  He cries and cries, his thoughts spiraling from the heartbreak of Ian suddenly being gone , to how long he must have been dead without Bucky knowing, to being afraid that he died in horrible pain, alone on a foreign battlefield…  Steve keeps shushing him, holding on while Bucky falls apart.

 

Ian’s funeral would have already come and gone by now, which makes Bucky’s heart squeeze up all the more painfully when he realizes it.  

 

“I’ll never even get to say goodbye to him, I-” Bucky isn’t able to finish the sentence, his body won’t cooperate with speaking anymore, it’s like it seizes up, overwhelmed by grief.  

 

Because of the secrecy they had to employ, his connection to the man he loved has been suddenly severed with no way to get any little part of it back without arousing suspicion.  Who would believe that Ian, a random navy ensign, had been Bucky’s “friend”, but never mentioned or talked about having known him before? No, people aren’t stupid, anyone with half a brain would raise an eyebrow and start to wonder just what their connection to each other really was…  And the absolute last thing Bucky wants to do is posthumously out Ian against his will. That would feel too much like betrayal just to ease Bucky’s own feelings. He’d rather just suffer in silence than tarnish other people’s memory of Ian…

 

“Fuck, Steve, he’s gone and I-  I can’t even leave flowers on his grave, I don’t even know where it is-  I can’t-” Bucky devolves into tears again that are too forceful to speak past as Steve continues to rock him gently.  

 

“I’m so sorry, Bucky, I’m so sorry,” he keeps saying over and over again, not really sure what to do with the intensity of Bucky’s grief.  Even at his parent’s funeral, Bucky was sad but resolute, maybe because he was trying to keep a brave face for the girls back then… But there’s no one Bucky needs to be brave for right now, no reason to attempt to staunch the flow before it starts.  The heartache is well and truly pouring out of him, raw and virtually unstoppable. Steve hates the feeling of not being able to do anything about it.  When it was Bucky’s parents, Steve vowed to do everything he could to help, but there’s no help to be had for this situation.  

 

He hugs Bucky tighter since he can’t bring back the dead.  

 

Upstairs, Peggy goes to talk to Marjie, knocking softly on her door before letting herself in.  She’s obviously distraught, and for good reason, with Bucky’s sobs still echoing through the whole house and her not knowing why.

 

“What’s wrong with Uncle Bucky?” she asks right away, anxious and hesitant all at once.

 

Peggy chooses her words carefully, because she suspects , but Bucky’s never confirmed anything to her.

 

“In the military, when letters come in for someone who’s deceased, they hold them for 30 days and send them back as one shipment, to save on postage…” Peggy tells her.  

 

Marjie is a smart girl, and she gets it right away, that whoever Bucky was writing to died months ago without him knowing it.  

 

“And that, my love,” Peggy tells her at a whisper, cupping Marjie’s face as her daughter starts to cry, “Is why I do not want you in Vietnam…”

 

Marjie nods, surging forward into her mother’s arms and hugging her a little too strongly for the average human.  But Peggy doesn’t complain.

 

Peggy holds her darling baby tightly, feeling immensely guilty at how relieved she is that Bucky’s pain might help save her from the same.  

 

Eventually, Steve gets Bucky out of the kitchen and up to his bedroom.  He has to sling one of Bucky’s arms over his shoulders though, because walking just isn’t happening on its own.  Bucky clutches the package of envelopes to his chest the whole time.

 

Steve sets him down on his bed, and Bucky just sits there in a slump, staring at the ground with red, swollen eyes.  

 

This isn’t like coming home from the war themselves.  Steve has no idea what to do, how to help him… There’s no shared experience here for Steve to draw on, which makes a gnawing fear of messing this up worm its way into his chest.

 

“I just want to be alone…” Bucky whispers, his voice too rough from crying to speak properly.  He can see Steve standing there, hovering, not knowing what to say. There isn’t anything to say though.  Bucky’s eyes start welling up with tears again, but they’re silent this time.  Even though his tear ducts replenish at super soldier speed, his emotions sure don’t, and he’s too wrung out for sobbing anymore.

 

“...Ok.  You let me know if you need anything, Buck.  And I mean anything , ok?” Steve tells him, a firm hand squeezing his shoulder.  

 

Bucky nods, unable to meet his eyes, just letting the tears spill freely down his face.  

 

Steve goes back to check on him a few hours later and finds him in the exact same position, unmoved.

 

“Come on, Buck, let’s get you some clean clothes, at least,” Steve says kindly, helping him get rid of his orange juice and blood stained khakis.  

 

Bucky doesn’t even apologize for the mess, not that Steve wanted or expected him to, but it’s just another sign of how badly he’s doing.  Like he’s in shock. So Steve makes sure there’s no glass embedded in Bucky’s knees for him, since he’s obviously not going to be able to do it himself.

 

Steve actually tucks him into bed this time, figuring there’s not much else for it at this point...  He hates leaving him alone, but Bucky said that’s what he wants right now… Part of Steve feels bad for intruding on his private pain as much as he has already, but the larger part of him can’t abide by completely abandoning his best friend to it either...

 

Bucky notices Steve coming back and checking on him a few times over the following days, trying to see if he needs anything, but Bucky just shakes his head each time.  Because there’s nothing Steve can do, not really. His visits to Bucky’s room break up the monotony of the same ‘what ifs’ running over and over through Bucky’s head, but there’s nothing anyone can do for a man long dead or the ache in Bucky’s heart.

 

At some point, Bucky gets up and finally pulls out his pictures of Ian.  

 

Fuck, does it hurt to see his smiling face in those Polaroids.  

 

The first time they said goodbye, they thought it was for good.  The second time they did, they thought they’d get to see each other again, and now they never will.  

 

While Bucky is re-memorizing Ian’s face in a photo, he’s suddenly hit with the thought of wondering if Ian died in the other dimension too…  Because… Because he knows things are different here, after everything he’s changed, but he’s always assumed all those differences were for good .  That him and Steve living and interacting with the world could only be for the good of it.  But what if Ian had lived in that other dimension?  What if Bucky being in his life changed things somehow so that he didn’t make it when he would have?  What if Ian was distracted, wishing so hard to get home that he wasn’t paying attention to his surroundings in the moment like should have?...  He doesn’t know how Ian died, and the possibility that it didn’t have to be briefly makes Bucky want to get up and destroy everything, just tear everything he can apart with his bare hands for the part he may have unwittingly played in this tragedy.  

 

But it passes quickly, the anger of a million unknowns seeping out of him as the overwhelming weight of known sadness presses down.  Bucky’s never been a particularly violent man, for all that his name is associated with war.  Instead he opens up the last letter Ian sent to him and reads it again, an intense feeling of unreality filling him as he reads Ian’s upbeat words.  Shouldn’t a last letter before being killed have some sort of somber tone? Shouldn’t there have been some sort of warning?

 

Of course, as soon as he thinks that, Bucky immediately feels guilty for even contemplating wishing that Ian had been in a bad mood before he died...

 

Bucky is crying again when Steve comes to check on him that day, pictures and letters spread out all around him on the floor.  

 

He turns away from Steve when he hears him open the door.

 

It closes again without a word.

 

It takes a week for Bucky to leave his bedroom.  And even then it’s only to grab some food and retreat, because the hunger is bad enough that he can feel it over the numbness.  

 

God, he wishes he could get drunk.

 

But he knows he can’t, so he doesn’t even bother trying.  

 

<//>

 

Bucky gets stuck in front of the pantry one day, because he came down to grab some food and happened to see a bag of popcorn sitting on the shelf.  He’s overcome with the memory of salty kisses exchanged with Ian in the dark of a movie theater, their fingers entwined together and neither of them paying any attention to the screen.  

 

There are tears running silently down his face when he hears Steve come in the room.  

 

“...Do you want to talk about it?” Stevie asks him hesitantly, not sure if it’s too soon.

 

It is.

 

Bucky just shakes his head, grabbing the first thing he sees on the shelf and fleeing.  He knows Steve is worried for him. But Steve’s concern is far and distant compared to the gaping hole in Bucky’s chest.  

 

<//>

 

It takes another month after that before he feels ready to even be in the same room with other people.

 

He waits until Marjie has left for a sleepover at her friend’s house before going downstairs.  Steve and Peggy are in the living room, watching television on a rare quiet night in. Bucky goes and sits in his normal spot in the armchair while they’re on the couch, hoping they won’t say anything, or at least not too much if they do.

 

“Hey, Bucky,” Steve says, the slightest glimmer of hope in his eyes.

 

“Hey,” Bucky says back, his voice a little rough from disuse, “Just, wanted to watch some TV…” he adds, nodding at the screen and not really meeting Steve’s gaze.  He sees Peggy give Steve’s hand a hard squeeze out of the corner of his eye.

 

“Of course,” is all Steve says after that, settling back into silence.  

 

It’s not the first time Bucky has been thankful for Peggy, and he’s sure it won’t be the last, either.

 

They all watch the television together quietly after that, with Steve and Peggy commenting to each other once in a while, but not addressing Bucky directly.

 

When the news comes on, and they start reporting on another big protest against Vietnam, Steve changes the channel.  

 

Bucky does his best to stick around for a little while after that, but he ends up retreating back to his room before the next show is over.  

 

The image of thousands of people gathered together, to try and get the government to put a stop to this war, sears itself into his brain and won’t let him go.  

 

Because what the hell did Bucky ever do to help?

 

He knew things were going badly over there.  And he knew that there was a question, as to whether this was a war they should even be fighting or not…  And he did nothing. He served his time in WWII, and so he didn’t get involved, and now Ian is dead , and it might not even be for a good cause

 

The next morning, Bucky marches down to breakfast, having found his resolve in the night.

 

“I need your help,” he says, looking at Peggy primarily, but glancing at Steve too.

 

“Of course, Bucky,” she answers right away, seeing his attention is on her.

 

Bucky smiles, only a little sadly, at the fact that she’d agree without hearing what he wants first.  

 

“I want to help end this war,” he tells them, back straight and voice firm, “I ain’t sure it’s something I can do on my own though, I wouldn’t even know where to start…  But I thought, that seems like somethin’ you could help me with, if you agreed… I’ll do anything. Whatever it takes,” Bucky says, to make sure they understand how serious he is about this.

 

Peggy is taking him very seriously.  

 

“Captain Barnes,” she tells him, “It would be my absolute pleasure.”

 

Bucky lets out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding.

 

The grief is still there, but Bucky is finally able to feel a little something else besides it.  Determination, anticipation, and the smallest sprouting of hope that he can be forgiven for what he hasn’t done up until now...

 

“I have to warn you though,” Peggy tells him as she stands, “This isn’t a conflict we can just drop you and Steve into the middle of and let you clean shop.  If you want to put an end to this war, you’re going to have to change the politicians’ minds.”

 

Bucky nods.  

 

“When I said anything, I meant anything.”

 

“Even getting up and speaking in front of a crowd?  One that included cameras and a potentially national audience?” Peggy asks him.

 

“If that’s what it takes…” Bucky confirms, a little skeptical, but willing.  “You really think that would help?”

 

Peggy shares a look with Steve.

 

“I do…  Because the problem with the Vietnam war isn’t that it’s unwinnable,” she tells him, “It’s that we’re already engaged in it.”

 

Bucky blinks, taking in her meaning.

 

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” he frowns, “You’re telling me the higher-ups know we can’t win, but they won’t pull out?  Because of what? Some kind of pride?”

 

Peggy gives him a look that lets him know that’s exactly it.

 

“Unfortunately for this situation, the type of men drawn to politics are usually the kind to never back down, especially when they feel it’s going to make them look bad.”

 

“But you think they’ll listen to me ?  Why?” Bucky asks.  

 

“Look, I happen to know that John is personally against the war and what’s happening,” Peggy tells him, “But he has too many people in his cabinet, in the senate, and even in the upper echelons of the military itself telling him that he can’t back out now.  There are the protests, of course, but it’s too easy to dismiss the opinion of a bunch of college students and youngsters, and write them off as uninformed or misguided,” Peggy sighs.

 

“But they’re the ones fightin’ it,” Bucky says sadly.

 

“Indeed.  But if someone like yourself were to speak up, publicly and as passionately as you can muster, it just might be enough to get him to realize that our boys’ lives are more important than our politicians’ pride,” she tells him.

 

Bucky tears up a little at her words, but he doesn’t run.  He’s going to do this, no matter what.

 

“I suppose you’ll want me to put on my uniform then.”

 

“Oh yes, and you’re going to take the shield too, when the time comes,” Peggy says, plans already forming behind her eyes.  “But first, sit down and eat, Bucky,” she directs him.

 

Bucky blinks at the change of topic.

 

“You’ve lost a little weight, darling, and we’re going to want you looking as healthy and heroic as possible for the cameras,” she says more gently.  

 

Bucky nods, sitting down to the breakfast table.  

 

“I’m going to make some calls,” Peggy tells them, her game face already on, “Steven, once you two are done eating, get Howard over here and see if he can finally get Bucky to understand how famous he is,” she says, squeezing Steve’s shoulder and giving him a peck on the cheek, “He’s going to need to, before we do this.”

 

“I already know Howard’s famous…” Bucky frowns.  

 

“Will do, Peg,” Steve agrees with a sigh.  “She means you , punk,” Steve tells him as she’s leaving.

 

“Oh.”  

 

When Howard gets there, he sits down and gives Bucky a long, evaluating look.

 

“You know how once a year, you go in and have a meeting with Mr. Rosenstein?”

 

“The banker guy Rosie set up for me when I got back from the war?  Yeah…”

 

“And when you have those meetings, does he ever have bad news for you?”

 

“No…”  

 

“Just between us, the three people in this room right now, how much money were you worth at your last review, Bucky?” Howard asks him.

 

Bucky only hesitates a little, because he knows Steve doesn’t care about money, and he knows Howard doesn’t care about how much money Bucky has in an entirely different way.  “Uh, it was a little under two million…”

 

“And where did the bulk of it come from?”

 

“Is this some roundabout way of you braggin’ on how well SI is doing?  Cause I know you’re making a lot of money, Howard, but I don’t see what that has to do with how supposedly famous I am,” Bucky tells him flatly.

 

Howard shakes his head, “This is actually the direct opposite of that.  I know exactly how much SI stock you own, Bucky, because I own SI. And there is no way that all came from your investment in the company.  Do you not pay any attention to Mr. Rosenstein’s presentations?...”

 

Bucky cringes a little.  “Well, I usually just ask him to boil it down for me, I don’t understand a lot of the contractual stuff,” Bucky admits.

 

“Ha!  Exactly!” Howard points at him, “Those contracts are what I’m talking about.  When you signed off on the Howling Commandos cartoon, they gave you royalties for the use of your name and image.”

 

“And the bears too,” Steve pipes up.

 

“Yes, thank you, Steven,” Howard says, “And the Bucky Bears too.”

 

“But that’s kid’s stuff.  If Mickey Mouse got up and said he was against the war, no one would give a shit,” Bucky points out.

 

“Mickey Mouse isn’t based on a real person.  Animal. Whatever. You know what I mean,” Howard goes on, “He didn’t volunteer for WWII, or become a POW super soldier, or save the entire eastern seaboard from annihilation, or spend four years leading the Howlies to root out the evil of Hydra after the war.”

 

“All that was a long time ago, though…  I thought that would have died down by now…” Bucky says uncomfortably.

 

“Not really, Buck,” Steve tells him.  “You know how I’m always going to these government events with Peg, attending fundraisers and stuff?  There’s not a single one of them that I’ve ever been to where the people putting it on didn’t wish you’d been there too.  On some occasions, instead ,” Steve adds.

 

“Think of it this way.  Those cartoons have been running for a decade.  Before that, the Bucky Bear eclipsed the Teddy Bear in popularity during its first year of being available to the public.  And that was twenty years ago…  Since the average age of the boys fighting in Vietnam is in the low twenties right now, that means that pretty much every one of them grew up hearing stories about you.”

 

“But Peg said it was the politicians’ minds that needed changing,” Bucky points out, struggling to push down the memory of Ian laying next to him and calling him a “living legend”...  

 

“Even the older generations, they lived through seeing your’s and Steve’s faces on the newspapers under every victory line and watching for clips of you in the newsreels.  Hell, half the little old ladies in Brooklyn probably still have scrapbooks with your face in them,” Howard muses. “The point is, that you have this huge amount of public adoration and capital, and you’ve never used it.”

 

“And if you get up and use it for the first time to take a stand against this war, that’s going to mean something, Bucky,” Steve assures him.  

 

“It’s the kind of thing that if we play our cards right on, you could have every politician who ever did support this war shaking in their boots over it,” Howard wagers, getting more excited as the conversation goes on.  

 

“What?  Why?” Bucky asks.

 

“Because even implying that they opposed you would be the death of their careers.  No one is going to vote for a man who thinks he knows more about war than Bucky Barnes ,” Howard tells him, matter of fact.

 

“I can’t even count the number of times I’ve had people ask me if you’d consider running for office yourself,” Steve adds, nodding solemnly.

 

“What, like Mayor?...” Bucky asks, knowing a lot of vets do end up getting involved in their local government.

 

“Mayor?...  No, for President , Buck,” Steve tells him in a sort of fond, half exasperated tone.

 

“What?!  Who the hell thinks I’d be qualified for that?” Bucky squawks, almost falling out of his chair.  

 

“You’re a decorated war hero.  Possibly the most famous American war hero ever,” Howard answers, “That’s plenty for most people.”

 

Most famous?  What about Steve?  Or, I don’t know, George Washington ?”

 

“I’m not as famous as you Bucky, partly because you played a bigger part in the war, and partly because I’ve been more visible since then.  People have seen me around, so it’s not as big of a deal if I make an appearance at something,” Steve explains. “And besides, America has a long tradition of electing war heroes to office.  George Washington himself was just a land surveyor with a middle school education.”

 

“And they wanted to make him King, but he declined,” Howard adds.

 

“If you did run for President, Buck, honestly, I can’t think of a single person who’d be willing to run against you.  They’d basically just be handing it over to you since JFK’s two terms would be up…”

 

“We will save that,” Howard says, pointing at Steve as if he’s right on the money, “For plan B.”

 

“What’s this supposed plan B?” Peggy asks, coming out of her office after what was probably a solid hour on the phone.

 

“Bucky running for President,” Howard tells her.

 

Bucky gives her a “help me” look.

 

“While I don’t think that will quite be necessary,” Peggy says, “I’d leave it for more of a plan C.  If Bucky’s initial speaking out isn’t enough, then I think a visit with Walter Cronkite might be in order before jumping straight to the Presidency.”

 

“You can’t honestly think I’m qualified for somethin’ like that, Peg,” Bucky asks her, dumbfounded.

 

“Of course not,” she says, immediately, “You’d make a horrible politician.”

 

Bucky sighs in relief, because at least one of them hasn’t completely lost their marbles.  Not that he wouldn’t do it if they thought it was the only way to get this war stopped…

 

“Which is why your Presidency would essentially be my Presidency,” Peggy continues, unabashed, “But as long as the public never found out, you’d be golden.”

 

“Right…” Bucky replies, slumping forward and covering his face with his hands.  “They should probably never find out that I like men either, then,” he sighs, forgetting for a second that he never got around to having that conversation with Peggy, let alone Howard...

 

When he looks up though, neither Peggy or Howard seem particularly disgusted with him…  Peggy is giving him a sympathetic smile, but her eyes are telling him that no, it really wouldn’t be a good idea...

 

“I would keep that to myself,” Howard tells him, “If you want any of this to play out like it needs to...”

 

“Howard’s right,” Peggy agrees, “Political capital works best on one cause at a time.  If you make this about your sexuality, it will detract from the effort to stop the war.  Supersede it even,” she says politely.

 

“There will be time for other causes after the war is over,” Steve tells him, “If you want there to be.”

 

“I ain’t…  That isn’t what I was tryin’ to imply,” Bucky confesses, blushing a little, “I just…  Hell, I don’t know what I meant, it just came out…”

 

“It’s alright, Bucky, you’ve been through a lot.  You’re allowed to slip up, now and then,” Peggy says.

 

Bucky gives her a grateful smile.

 

“Been through a lot?  What, did he lose his boyfriend over there or something?” Howard asks, frowning, completely missing the tone of the conversation.

 

Bucky just looks at him in shock for a second.

 

Everyone just looks at him in shock.

 

“Yeah.  I did.” Bucky finally disrupts the silence.

 

Howard blinks at him.

 

Bucky can see the moment the realization finally hits him.

 

“Shit…” Howard says, looking away and looking supremely uncomfortable at the same time, like he’s searching for an exit to get away from what he just did.

 

Howard ,” Steve says sternly.

 

“I mean, sorry,” Howard says, standing up straighter for a second, “I won’t bring it up again,” he nods, as if making an agreement with Bucky.  

 

“Thanks,” Bucky says flatly as he stands, needing to get out of this room before he loses it, “Let me know what you all cook up,” he says with a wave as he flees.  

 

His face is already falling apart before he reaches the stairs, so he knows it was the right decision to leave.  

 

In his room, Bucky pulls out one of his photos of Ian, one where it’s the two of them together, and hopes as the tears fall that he can pretend to be ok for long enough to do what needs doing.

 

<//>

 

Two weeks later, they have a plan and start putting it in motion.  

 

Steve rounds up the Howlies for him, telling them all where to meet and when, and the basics of what’s going on.  They’ve all kept in touch over the years, getting together every five or so for an actual reunion type thing among themselves.  But they aren’t phone calls that Bucky is up to making right now. Peggy handles the logistics, booking dozens of rooms for them all in D.C., arranging transportation, etc.

 

Howard pays for all the Howlies’ accommodations and travel, waving off any attempts to try and split the bill with Bucky or Steve.  Bucky isn’t sure if it’s because he actually feels bad about what he said, or because there just isn’t much for him to do aside from stand around when the time comes…  

 

Jarvis starches and presses Bucky’s uniform for him, and Steve takes their shield off the display rack in the living room.  

 

They’ve agreed, for Bucky’s sake, to not do any get-together until after their stand has been made.  They’ll all just arrive at once and head right to it. He isn’t sure he can handle the emotion of the moment itself, let alone if they had one of their reunions ahead of time…

 

There’s going to be a big protest on the National Mall.  The kind with an actual stage and people speaking to the crowds.  Peggy has tipped off every major news station that something big is going to happen at this one, to make sure they get national coverage.

 

Bucky just hopes he doesn’t disappoint everyone.

 

He’s got his speech memorized, what little of it there is, and all his props are ready to go, weapons resurrected from a very different war…  

 

Bucky can’t sleep the night before, staring at the other side of his empty hotel bed.  

 

It’s ok if he doesn’t sleep though.

 

It’s fine.

 

He’s a super soldier, he’ll be able to walk and talk like normal, won’t even have any bags under his eyes from just one night’s missed sleep.

 

His room adjoins Steve and Peggy’s.

 

When Steve comes to get him in the morning, he finds Bucky laying in bed wide awake, his arm stretched out to touch the empty side of the sheets, staring at nothing.

 

“Bucky?” he says, trying to get his attention when the door opening wasn’t enough.  

 

It doesn’t seem to work.

 

“Buck, are you ok?...” Steve takes another step forward.

 

Bucky blinks and looks over at him.

 

Steve isn’t sure if he should be relieved or not yet.

 

Bucky looks back to the empty sheets.

 

Then he blinks again more rapidly, seeming to finally come back to himself.

 

“Sorry,” he says, sitting up and rubbing at his face, “Sorry.  It’s just… The only time we ever had together was in hotel rooms…” Bucky tells him, motioning toward the other side of the bed.  

 

“I’m sorry...” Steve says, still not knowing what to do about the lost look on Bucky’s face.

 

“It ain’t your fault, Stevie,” he says, shaking his head.  With a sigh, Bucky looks over at his best friend. “It’s alright, I’m up now.  I’ll meet you guys for breakfast in a minute.”

 

“Ok, Buck, in a minute,” Steve nods slowly, showing himself out.  

 

Bucky can tell he’s trying to be quiet, but he can still hear Steve softly telling Peggy, “I’m not sure he’s actually ready for this, Peg…”  

 

Damn it.  

 

Bucky used to be stronger than this.

 

He needs to be stronger than this, if he’s going to keep what has become a silent promise to the memory of the man he loved.  

 

A promise to do everything he can to stop the war that ended his life.  

 

Because it could take a long time, it could take multiple protests, it could take news interviews and being in it for the long haul before he makes a difference.  Regardless of what Peggy and Howard hope.

 

Looking at his reflection in the hotel mirror, Bucky takes a deep breath and tells himself, “Put on your boots and get to work, soldier.”

 

And then he does.

 

They take multiple taxis over at once, with Bucky resting the shield at his feet on the floorboards.  

 

The taxi driver asks him for his autograph.

 

Bucky gives it to him, smiling and thanking him for the ride.  The man doesn’t want to let them pay, but Bucky insists.

 

On the sidewalk, he and the Howlies, plus Howard and Peggy, all shake hands and hug in greeting.

 

They’re already starting to draw attention and they’ve been here less than a full minute.

 

Pulling on a confidence he doesn’t feel, but knows how to fake well, Bucky starts to lead them through the crowd.  They stick close, because there are a lot of people here.  A veritable sea of them.  

 

But they part for him.

 

Bucky almost can’t believe it’s working this well, just walking up in uniform with the shield on his back and the Howlies behind him…  But a hush is falling over the crowd as they continue. Obviously the commotion they’re causing would be visible from the stage, but the speaker keeps going with whatever they’re saying.  

 

Honestly, Bucky’s too nervous to pay attention, though he feels bad about it on a certain level.   

About halfway to the stage, the speaker stops suddenly, almost mid-word, and says, “Is that Captain Barnes?...”, as if forgetting that they’re on microphone.

 

Bucky gives an exaggerated nod that he hopes they can make out from the stage.  The crowd is making them a clear path all the way to it now, like the damn red sea parting, as every television camera around swivels to catch their approach.  

 

A brave reporter steps out of the mass of people as they’re walking by, sticking a microphone and camera in Bucky’s face.  

 

“Do you have something to say, Captain Barnes?”

 

“I do,” Bucky says, tipping his head toward the stage, “And I’m gonna go up there to say it.”

 

He keeps walking as the reporter backs off.  

 

Bucky notices that he doesn’t ask any of the rest of them questions.  He supposes that if Steve was wearing his Captain America getup, that would be drawing more attention…  But he’s purposefully in the same standard dress as the rest of them today.

 

The speaker is silent now, watching them approach.  

 

No one tries to stop them, or even says anything at all as they climb up onto the stage.  

The man at the microphone steps back, motioning for Bucky to have it without question.

 

Bucky steps up, with the Howlies fanning out behind him, and remembers what he and Howard rehearsed.

 

Keep it short and sweet.  Look at the cameras, not the crowd.

 

“My name, is Captain James Buchanan Barnes,” Bucky says, pacing himself.  Howard also told him to go slow, to make sure his words have a chance to sink in.

 

“And I’m here with the Howling Commandos today, because there is a particular group of men whose attention I intend to get.”

 

Bucky pauses again, switching his gaze to look at a camera from a different network.

 

“Mr. President, Senators and Representatives of your respective states, …  You know this war is wrong,” he says, as if addressing them directly, “So why the hell are we still fighting it?” Bucky asks passionately.

 

The crowd erupts into applause.

 

A yelling, screaming, exuberant applause.  Bucky has to raise his hand after a minute to get them to quiet down again.  He doesn’t want his words to be lost, and repeating them would make them lose their impact.

 

“Sometimes, being the bigger man means admitting that you were wrong,” Bucky says, pausing again.

 

“Today, I am issuing a challenge to you, Mr. President, … Be the bigger man.  Bring our boys home ,” Bucky’s voice cracks just the tiniest bit.

 

He stops and takes a breath.

 

Bucky switches cameras one last time, pointing to it as he says, “I know you’ll see this.  And I expect an answer,” with all the command he can muster.

 

Then he turns around and marches back off the stage.  

 

The Howlies and Howard and Peggy all follow him, a display of loyalty and support that he’s been assured won’t be overlooked.

 

By the time their whole group makes it off the stage, the crowd is chanting Bucky’s name.

 

“I can’t-” Bucky says, gripping Steve’s arm fiercely, holding onto his composure by the skin of his teeth.

 

“It’s ok, Buck, you don’t have to go back up there.  You did enough, you did great ,” Steve says, pulling him into a hug.

 

Bucky nods against Steve’s shoulder, returning the hug for a minute until he feels like he can walk to the street under his own power again.  

 

He needs to be strong enough to get out of here without breaking down, for Ian, and for every person over in ‘Nam whose life can still be saved.

 

Bucky tries his best, but he’s sure the look on his face is fairly grim for the walk back.  Maybe it’s that, or maybe there’s some other reason, respect or who knows what...but the crowd leaves them alone.  

 

They get back into taxis and leave.

 

The Howlies come with them back to their hotel this time, and Bucky ends up breaking down in front of all of them , instead of the media.  

 

But they don’t judge him.  

 

“You did a good thing today, Captain,” Falsworth tells him, giving him a hug.

 

“I just hope it helps,” Bucky confesses.

 

Each of the Howlies hug him, telling him how proud they were to follow him one last time.

 

By the end of the day, Bucky is completely wrung out emotionally.  He even sleeps that night, because he’s so exhausted. And also because he doesn’t even try getting into the hotel bed this time, he just sleeps on the floor…  But the exhaustion is a definite factor too.

 

For the next three days, the only thing on TV is Bucky’s face.

 

On that third day, the normal evening news is interrupted by the seal of the President of the United States coming onto the screen.  

 

Bucky almost chokes on his drink.

 

Steve reaches over and grabs his shoulder, holding on tight while still watching the television.

 

“My fellow Americans,” John Fitzgerald Kennedy addresses them, head held high, “Today, July 3rd, of the year nineteen hundred and sixty-seven, at 3 o’clock pm, eastern standard time, I directed the joint Chiefs to withdraw from the Vietnam conflict.  By the power vested in me by the American people as their Commander in Chief, I am calling an end to all aggressions in the South Pacific theater, and bringing our boys home.”

 

The President signs a piece of paper laying in front of him with a flourish, then holds it up for the camera to see.

 

“You have your answer, Captain Barnes,” President Kennedy says, addressing him directly.  

 

Steve lets out a whoop.

 

Bucky starts hyperventilating.

 

“Holy shit,” he breathes out as Peggy has him put his head between his knees.  He stays like that for a minute, but he’s not sure it’s helping, because he still feels like he’s going to pass out.  

 

“You did it, Buck, you did it,” Steve says, getting on the ground next to him, a huge, joyous smile on his face as he hugs the heck out of Bucky.  

 

“I…  I can’t believe that worked…” Bucky admits, still shook up over the fact that the President addressed him on live television.  

 

Less than fifteen minutes later, Howard shows up at their door.

 

“The Mayor called me, he wants to know if you’ll be Grand Marshal of the Independence Day Parade tomorrow,” he says without preamble, speaking to Bucky.  

 

“Uh…  I guess I could do that…” Bucky answers, thinking about political capital , “It’s just sittin’ and wavin’, right?  I don’t have to give any speeches?”

 

“No speeches.  The Mayor gives one, but you wouldn’t have to be part of that,” Howard explains.

 

“Yeah, ok.  Sure, then,” Bucky agrees.

 

Howard uses their phone to call the Mayor back.  

 

“I’m proud of you, Buck,” Steve tells him, “For everything, all of this.”

 

“Thanks, Stevie, I…  I wouldn’t have been able to get through it without you guys,” Bucky replies honestly.

 

“Hey, you’ve had my back our whole lives, it’s about time I started returning the favor, right?” Steve says.

 

Bucky is a little overwhelmed with sentiment already right now, so he just says, “I didn’t think we were keepin’ track, punk…”

 

“We’re not, jerk.”

 

In the morning, Bucky smiles and waves to the crowds, sitting beside the Mayor in the back of a convertible.  

 

For some reason, the fireworks that day bother him more than normal though, and his nerves are completely shot by the end of it.

 

Bucky doesn’t agree to do any more public appearances after that.

 

<//>

 

There’s a knock on the door of the Rogers’ residence a few weekends after Bucky’s speech.  Ruthie, home from college for the summer, is the one who answers it.

 

“Can I help you, ma’am?” she asks the old woman on the step.

 

“I’m looking for Captain Barnes,” the lady tells her.

 

“Oh…  He’s tearing down an engine right now…  And he’s not doing any interviews,” Ruthie says apologetically, thinking that if there’s a stranger asking for him, they must be a reporter in some fashion.

 

“I don’t want an interview, just a minute of his time.  Could you please tell him that Mrs. O’Flaherty wants to speak with him?  It won’t take long,” the woman assures her.

 

Ruthie gives her a polite smile and says, “Of course.  Do you want to come in while you wait?” thinking to set her mother on her if she says yes.

 

“No.  I’ll wait here.”

 

Ruthie walks through the house and pops her head into the backyard, where Uncle Bucky is elbows deep in oil and grease.

 

“Uncle Bucky?  There’s a lady at the door lookin’ for you, a Mrs. O’Flaherty?  She said she just wants to talk to you for a minute, but it isn’t an interview…”

 

Bucky sets down his tools, going still.  

 

“Yeah, I’ll talk to her.  Be right there,” he says, his voice surprising him with its calmness.  

 

Wiping his hands off as best he can, Bucky heads for the front door, feeling almost like he’s walking to his own execution.  Because he somehow forgot in his grief that everything Ian had with him overseas would have been returned to his family when he died…  

 

Steeling himself, Bucky opens the front door, revealing a older woman of average height, with red hair and green eyes.  

 

They both just look at each other for a moment, her in her Sunday best, and Bucky in his grease covered t-shirt.

 

When the silence begins to drag on, and Bucky can’t take the scrutiny anymore, he clears his throat and says softly, “Can I help you, ma’am?”

 

She shakes her head.

 

Bucky isn’t sure what to do with that.

 

“I was mad, at first,” she finally speaks, looking him right in the eyes.  “So mad when they brought me my boy’s things, and you were everywhere in them.”

 

Bucky goes to open his mouth, to apologize for her finding out that like, but she cuts him off.

 

“I don’t want to hear anything you have to say, Captain Barnes.  You just listen,” she says, taking a breath as if to calm herself.  “I was mad, at first. But then I saw you on the TV, with so much pain in your eyes, demanding they stop this war…  And I couldn’t stay mad at someone who obviously loved my son so much...even if it was another man,” Mrs. O’Flaherty tells him, starting to tear up a little.

 

Bucky was told to keep quiet, so he cries silently in front of her.

 

“I’m tryin’ to do the right thing, Captain Barnes, but I don’t know what that is anymore…  If you’d been his sweetheart, I would give you your letters back...so that’s what I’m going to do.  But I need you to know, part of why I’m doing it is so that I don’t ever have to explain them to the rest of the family,” she says, picking up a duffle bag that had been resting at her feet, which Bucky hadn’t noticed until now.  

 

She hands it over to him and says, “I don’t ever want to see you again, Captain.  Is that clear?”

 

“Yes, ma’am,” Bucky says, accepting it gratefully, “And thank you, ma’am…”

 

Because it’s more than he ever expected from an Irish Catholic woman whose son never told her he was gay.  

 

Mrs. O’Flaherty nods, turning to leave without another word.   

 

Bucky goes back in the house, clutching a Navy issue duffel tightly in his hands.  He goes right to his bedroom, abandoning the engine for now. Realizing how filthy he is with grease and grime though, he changes as quickly as possible and washes his hands and arms up to his elbows, shaking the entire time.  

 

He sure as hell doesn’t want to get grease on whatever little bits of Ian he has left.  

 

When he finally sits down to open the bag, he’s sort of surprised at the sheer number of letters…  He knew that he was the one with the free time to write, so he always tried to keep up a steady stream of them, even though Ian’s were farther in between.  It was to be expected. He never once questioned whether Ian wrote him as often as he could.

 

Well, good.  

 

He’s glad he kept his word and probably did get him on the postmaster’s shit list.  There are worse things to be embarrassed about than having written your lover a mountain of letters.  

 

Some letters are more worn than others.

 

Like Ian opened them often and reread them.  The one where Bucky first wrote out that he loved him...  The one where he promised to take Ian on a road trip to California when he got out, just the two of them...  

 

As Bucky’s pulling everything out, he notices there’s an envelope in there that isn’t from him.  It’s from a nice floral stationary set, something no one at war would ever carry.

 

When Bucky picks it up, it jingles.

 

His hands are trembling so badly that he can barely get the seal broken, but he somehow manages.  

 

Ian’s dog tags fall out into his palm, along with a single piece of card stock.  The only thing written on it is an address in Arlington, Virginia and a plot number.

 

Bucky presses the dog tags against his chest and a hand over his eyes, crying as he thanks god for soft hearted mothers.  





Chapter Text

1969

 

Howard Stark marries Maria Carbonell, a young woman of high society, in the spring of 1969.  Frankly, Bucky thinks she’s way too good for Howard, the disparity in their finances notwithstanding .  But nobody asked him.

 

He’s one of Howard’s groomsmen, with Steve serving as best man.

 

It’s the largest, most elaborate wedding Bucky’s ever been to, ever heard of.  He’s pretty sure the Queen of England didn’t spend as much on her wedding as Howard did…  Even so, Bucky has a hard time getting into the mood of the event. He’s happy for Howard, of course he is, but watching him celebrate just dregs up all the emotions Bucky’s been trying to move past for the last two years.  

 

Ian would have been out of the service by now.  

 

And Bucky would have taken him as his date to this thing, no matter what people started saying…

 

As it is, he goes alone.  

 

He dances with Peggy and the girls, and has an obligatory waltz with the bride, but that’s it.  He isn’t up to his normal level of playfulness, or else he might have tried to take Howard for a spin, just to embarrass him.    

 

Bucky refuses a lot of dances that night, going home alone just as he came.

 

<//>

 

A couple months later, he and Steve are watching the news when they mention a riot at the Stonewall Inn not too far from them, in lower Manhattan.  

 

“I guess you were right, Buck, times are changing…” Steve says.  

 

Bucky doesn’t say anything back, he’s too busy choking down a swell of nearly overwhelming loneliness.  It doesn’t happen to him too often anymore, but when it does hit, it makes him feel like he’s right back at square one for a few days.  

 

He has too hard of a time working up the caring to get out of bed the next morning, so he just, doesn’t…

 

But he’s not down for a week at a time anymore when the reminders come, so he supposes that’s something.

 

<//>

 

“Get up,’ Steve tells him, throwing a towel at Bucky’s head.

 

“What the hell,” Bucky frowns, pulling the terry cloth off his face.

 

“You’re coming with us to Howard’s party.  No ‘ifs, ands, or buts’ about it.”

 

“Since when are you the boss of me?” Bucky grumbles.

 

“Since Peggy told me to make sure you’re there,” Steve answers, giving him a look, “Shower, change, now.”

 

“Yes, Ma ,” Bucky says sarcastically, but he does get up.  He’ll give Steve a hard time any day, but if Peggy wants him to go, then she probably has a good reason…

 

“I ain’t wearing a suit though, I draw the line at that,” Bucky sticks his head back out of his bathroom to tell Steve, who’s already on his way out.

 

“Of course not, it’s a garden party,” Steve says, like Bucky is daft or something.  “But don’t wear jeans… The Kennedy’s want to meet you,” Steve adds at the end, like it’s no big deal.  

 

“Shit…” Bucky swears, running a hand through his hair and thinking about how the hell to dress for meeting the former President…  

 

“You want me to lay something out for you?” Steve asks.

 

“... Please.”

 

Not only is John Fitzgerald Kennedy there, but so is his brother Robert, the current President.  Bucky wishes he’d just worn a damn suit.   Howard’s wearing one, even though it’s a “garden party”.  Although, come to think of it, Bucky can’t think of a time when he’s seen Howard in anything but a suit, no matter the occasion…

 

“Captain Barnes, I’d like you to meet John Kennedy,” Howard introduces them.

 

“It’s an honor, Mr. President,” Bucky says shaking his hand.

 

“Please, call me John.  And the honor is all mine, Captain Barnes,” John tells him, shaking firmly.  “Back in the War, even in the other branches, we all heard the stories about you and Sergeant Rogers.  Our country owes you a huge debt of gratitude.”

 

“Please, call me Bucky, everyone does.  And I was just doin’ my job,” Bucky tells him, a little awed by the praise from a former Commander in Chief.  

 

They talk about World War II for a little while, with everyone keeping a polite distance from their conversation.  John asks him if he thinks the army would be mad if he went on a little promotional trip with an ex-sailor, to visit the memorial in Pearl Harbour.  This December will be the 25th anniversary of the War, after all.

 

“The army ain’t had a claim on me for a long time…” Bucky tells him, feeling a little blindsided.  

 

“Excellent.  It would be good for the people, to see us side by side,” John adds.

 

“Yeah,” Bucky says, taking a deep breath, “That does sound like a good idea.”

 

Because he’s always planned on visiting it, but never got around to it, so it might as well be with JFK.  Sure, why not. He assumes there will be cameras and people and a big to-do, but he’s doing significantly better now than the last time he tried to make any public appearances.

 

“Bobby’s planning on doing something for the boys we lost in ‘Nam too, in Constitution Park.  It’s still in the planning and approval stages, but I know he’d like you to be there when they break ground.”

 

“That seems awfully quick,” Bucky comments, “It took almost twenty years for the World War II memorial to open...”

 

John sighs.  “I’ve been pushing for it.  The people need closure,” he explains, staring at the distance for a second.

 

“You’re a good man, John, for ending it when you did,” Bucky tells him, sensing a shift in the mood.

 

John gives him a tired smile.  “I try to be, Bucky, but war isn’t the only thing that can weigh on a man’s mind.”

 

“Well, just tryin’ is more than some ever manage…” Bucky says, seeing the haunted look in his eyes.  “I think you been doin’ pretty well, if you ask me.”

 

“Thank you, Captain Barnes.”

 

“Darling,” John’s wife, Jacqueline, interrupts them, which Bucky is infinitely grateful for, “You shouldn’t monopolize all of the good Captain’s time…”  

 

She whisks him away to some other party goers, leaving Bucky free to talk to a Colonel that’s been trying to get a minute with him…  

 

One thing leads to another, and before Bucky knows it, he’s met everyone there, including RFK, the Rockefeller heir, and a couple of Hollywood types that Bucky doesn’t recognize, but he assumes are a big deal, since they’re at Howard’s party…

 

Before dinner is officially served, Howard gets up and address the crowd.

 

“I’d like to thank everyone for taking time out of their incredibly busy schedules to be here,” he says, tipping his head toward the Kennedy’s table, “There’s an announcement that Stark Industries is going to be making in a few days that I think many of our guests here will be interested in.  Myself and one of my business partners, Anton Vanko,” Howard gestures to the man standing a few feet from him, “Have made a breakthrough that is going to revolutionize the energy industry.”

 

There’s a murmur that runs through the crowd at his words.

 

“You’ll all get the details during the official press release,” Howard says, giving the crowd a wink, “But I will tell you that it’s going to enable Stark Industries to move in a new direction...  Toward space exploration.”

 

Howard knows how to work a crowd, so he pauses for a second, grinning smugly while his guests start to clap.  He basks in it for a second before waving them off.

 

“Space exploration, with the eventual goal of a permanent settlement on the moon,” he adds.  

 

There’s louder clapping and a burst of exclamation as everybody starts talking at once.

 

“Holy shit.  That’s damn ambitious…” Bucky comments, knowing Steve will hear him even in the rukus.  

 

“Have you seen the energy thing they’ve been working on?” Steve asks, “It’s straight out of a science fiction novel…  It’s unbelievable…”

 

“The arc reactor?” Bucky asks.

 

Steve blinks at him.

 

“Yeah, I’ve seen it,” Bucky says, thinking back to the blue glow that powered all of Stark Tower in the future.

 

“Howard told me just this morning, that he’s still working on finalizing the name of it…” Peggy interjects, giving Bucky a look .

 

Bucky just smiles at her.  

 

Less than an hour later, Howard comes over to them, addressing Peggy directly with no preamble.

 

“Ok, I’ve decided on “Arc Reactor”, Anton’s right, putting the word “fusion” anywhere in it is just going to dredge up Cold War connotations, and that’s something we can’t afford with a new product line and company direction being announced at once.”

 

“That’s a smart decision, Howard,” Peggy says, very pointedly not looking at Bucky.

 

“Now, as long as no one here does any insider trading before the press release, we might actually get a trouble free launch…” Howard says, tipping back the rest of his drink.

 

“What’s insider trading?” Bucky asks.  

 

Howard laughs, clapping Bucky on the shoulder, “Ha, that’s a good one.  I knew I kept inviting you to these things for a reason.”

 

Something about the look on Bucky’s face must tip him off that it wasn’t a joke though.

 

“I…  Are you serious?” Howard frowns.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Bucky, insider trading is when a person buys or sells stock in a company based on information that isn’t publically available,” Howard tells him seriously, “How do you not know this?  You have an almost ten percent stake in the company. You could sit on the board if you wanted to.”

 

“I do?” Bucky raises an eyebrow.

 

Howard puts his hand over his eyes for a second, taking a deep breath.

 

“Do you remember from your meetings with Mr. Rosenstein, how your stock portfolio is managed?”

 

“Uh, he just increases my ‘holdings’ by a certain percent each year?” Bucky says.

 

Howard lets out the breath he’d been holding.

 

“Don’t ever change that.  No court of law would ever convict you of insider trading because you ‘went to the future’, but the trial would be a media circus, so let’s avoid that if at all possible,” Howard says, rubbing his temple.

 

“Well, technically it wasn’t even me that made the decision…” Bucky tells him, hoping it mitigates any wrong doing on his part.

 

Howard gives him a flat look.

 

“What?  It was Rosie that set everything up for me, while I was still fightin’, and I figured I’d just leave it since I knew you were going to do well…” Bucky rubs the back of his neck.

 

“You are a disgrace to the investing world, James Buchanan Barnes,” Howard shakes his head, grabbing another drink from a passing waitress.  

 

“Thanks?”

 

Howard just rolls his eyes.

 

<//>

 

A week after the official announcement, Howard bursts into the Roger’s house, fuming about some employee of his getting caught trying to steal the arc reactor design.  

 

“I told you that guy was bad news, Howard,” Steve sighs.

 

“Since when are you keeping tabs on Howard’s employees?” Bucky asks, continuing to eat his dinner.

 

“I’m not.  But Howard told me months ago that Stane was ‘hinting’ around at Howard cutting Anton out of the arc reactor project.  And I told him then, anyone who encourages you to betray someone else is going to end up betraying you too,” Steve explains.

 

“I know, I know,” Howard grouses, “But Stane had a lot of potential…”

 

“But you were still having him watched, weren’t you?” Peggy asks.

 

“Of course,” Howard scoffs, helping himself to a plate, “I’m not an idiot.”

 

Marjie bursts into the house next, running right up to her room without saying a word to any of them.  Bucky is just starting to wonder if something’s wrong, and if maybe they should go check on her, when she comes flying back down the stairs again, bag packed and purse in hand.  

 

“I’m going to the sleepover at Sarah’s now,” she says, popping into the kitchen and stealing a roll from the table.  

 

“Who all is going to be there?” Steve asks.

 

Marjie gives her mom an exasperated look.

 

Peggy must have already cleared it, but it’s obvious from the look she’s giving Marjie back that she expects her to humor her father.

 

“Janet, Wendy, Mindy, Sally, Georgette, me, and Sarah.  And Sarah’s brother, but he’s seven, so he doesn’t count,” Marjie says rapid fire.

 

Steve nods.  “Alright, have fun then.”

 

“Thanks, Dad!” Marjie smiles.  The she turns to Bucky. “Uncle Bucky, can I have some money to get a couple snacks to share with everyone?  Sarah’s mom always makes the weirdest snacks, but her family has a pool...” she says in explanation.

 

Bucky sighs, getting out his wallet.  He gives her five dollars and Marjie beams and gives him a kiss on the cheek.

 

“Wait, why did you ask him for money and not your dad?” Howard frowns.

 

“Because Dad would have said no,” Marjie says right away, matter of fact.

 

“And why did you think he would say yes?” Howard asks, jabbing a thumb in Bucky’s direction.

 

“Because I’m going to volunteer to go with him on the trip to Pearl Harbour and be super clingy and annoying the whole time, to keep all the ladies from hitting on him,” Margey answers without missing a beat.

 

“Really?  That would be awesome,” Bucky admits.

 

Howard blinks for a second before looking over to Peggy.  

 

“That kid’s going to go far,” he says, pointing to Marjie over his shoulder.

 

“I have no doubt,” Peggy says, smiling wide.

 

Bucky pulls another five out of his wallet and gives Marjie that too.




1970 - part I

 

Bucky gets in late from visiting Hannah’s family, so he tries to be quiet coming in the house, taking his boots off and leaving them by the door rather than stomping the snow out of them.  Thankfully, he’s able to make it to his room without waking Steve and Peggy. His suitcase gets set at the foot of the bed, leaving the unpacking for morning. He tries to visit each of his sisters at least once a year, but with them all spread out across the country, it’s a bit of an undertaking each time.  

 

Rosie married some actor and stayed in Hollywood.  Hannah’s husband moved them all to Missouri for his job a decade ago.  Rebecca’s the only one even sort of close to New York. Not that he sees her any more often for it.  

 

All his nieces and nephews are grown now, starting families of their own.  

 

Steve and Peggy’s daughters are all out on their own too.  Sarah is about to finish up graduate school, Eleanor is married and on her third kid, Ruthanna just graduated from college and settled down with a nice fella, and Marjie made good on her promise and joined the military right out of high school.  That was over a year ago now, but there haven’t been any wars or major actions since then, so Bucky isn’t too worried for her.

 

Hell, sometimes, he envies her.

 

Not that he misses getting shot at.  But the rest of it, the routine and training and clear cut expectations, all that made life easier somehow.  He remembers waking up to the ache of constant terror during the war, how it was paralyzing sometimes. But you pushed through it when your Lieutenant was coming down the aisle yelling for everyone to get up.  

 

Bucky aches in a very different way now, but he wonders if a bit of routine and doing something might help all the same…  There’s only a dull throbbing when he thinks of Ian these days, but it’s not just that.  He feels...obsolete, almost. Like he’s just kind of wandering aimlessly from day to day, not serving any purpose, not making a difference.

 

There’s any army recruiter’s office downtown that Bucky has walked passed a dozen times in the last month.  But he hasn’t gone in. Yet.

 

A week after getting back from his trip to Missouri, Bucky is over at the Stark’s house, wasting time, when Maria comes in with some sort of news for Howard.  She’s heavily pregnant, due in only a month, and she seems to have gotten a lot bigger in the small amount of time Bucky was away.

 

He knows far better than to say anything like that though.  He was around for two of Peggy’s pregnancies, after all.

 

But because of that it hits him strongly for some reason, as he’s making small talk, that unless he’s somehow completely screwed up the timeline with something he’s done or said, that’s Tony she’s carrying...

 

And suddenly it’s weird.  

 

Uncomfortably weird, because Bucky is in a position that will very easily make him like a second “uncle” to Tony, just like Howard was to Steve’s girls.  Being Tony’s uncle is not at all what he was hoping for, for the future, when he came home through that portal thirty years ago.

 

And on the back of that realization, the army is suddenly looking like a more and more viable option…

 

“Say, Howard, do you happen to have the number of that Colonel who was at your wedding and that party where you announced the arc reactor?” Bucky asks before he leaves.  

“Colonel Van Houten?  Why? He’s married…” Howard says, giving him a funny look.

 

“Jesus, I ain’t tryin’ to hit on the man,” Bucky rolls his eyes, doing everything in his power not to sock Howard in the face, “I just wanted to talk to him about a few things in the military these days, and I was being stupid and ‘lost’ his card when he gave it to me back then.”

 

Howard gives him an appraising look.  

 

But he does pull out his address book, flipping through to the end of it while still glancing at Bucky occasionally.

 

“Here,” he says, writing down the number and the Colonel’s name, “I hope you know what you’re doing, Captain Barnes .”

 

Bucky snorts.  

 

“More than most, actually,” he says, giving Howard a cocky smile before he leaves.  

 

He doesn’t meet with Colonel Van Houten in the recruitment office.  The Colonel invites him to his home, practically rolling out the red carpet for him.  When they finally get down to brass tacks, Bucky is a little worried that the Colonel is going to be disappointed by the smallness of what Bucky wants.

 

“I’ll be honest with you, Colonel,” Bucky says, setting down his whiskey, “I’m thinking of reupping, if the army would still have me, being fifty-four years old and all...”

 

“Without question, Captain Barnes,” the Colonel assures him.

 

Bucky nods his head in thanks.

 

“The thing is though, I don’t want to become some figurehead, some, promotional celebrity that they just parade out for functions and holidays.  I want to be on the ground, with the soldiers, fighting side by side with them again,” Bucky explains.

 

The Colonel nods along, “That can be arranged quite easily, actually.  What kind of compensation package are you looking for?”

 

“The standard one is fine,” Bucky says, “Whatever you’d pay anyone else of my rank.”

 

“You’re not exactly the average Captain, Captain Barnes.  You’d be wasted as a grunt.”

 

“Well, if you wanted to give me my own command again, I wouldn’t argue…  But honestly I should probably run through some sort of training program first.  I mean, I’m familiar with the weapons and all, don’t get me wrong, but I know strategy has changed a lot, after ‘Nam,” Bucky replies.

 

“You know, I think I have the perfect thing for you, Captain Barnes.  Have you heard of the Rangers?” Colonel Van Houten asks him.

 

“I have, Sir,” Bucky tells him, “But I thought those units were always deactivated when a war ended?”

 

“They have been in the past, yes.  But we’ve just gotten authorization to make the Rangers a permanent, peace time division, albeit with a little different structure than before, but still Rangers.  I can’t think of anything that would help galvanize a new permanent program better than to have you take part in it,” the Colonel tells him.

 

Bucky nods, because that sounds like almost exactly what he’s looking for.  Something that is going to be tough, enough so to get him out of his head, and something that will be making a concrete difference in the world.

 

“That sounds really appealing, Colonel.  I do have one condition though,” Bucky adds, “The army, government, no one, gets to do any sort of experiments on me or with my genetic material, as Howard calls it.  That’s going to have to be a hard and fast rule, and I want it in writing.”

 

“I thought Howard ruled out being able to replicate the serum from your’s and Sergeant Rogers’ blood decades ago?”

 

“He did.  And I’ve got enough bad memories between that and being Hydra’s captive the first time to last the whole rest of my life.  I don’t want any more.”

 

“We can do that, Captain Barnes.  I’ll have my secretary at the base start on a contract, if that’s amenable to you?”

 

Bucky takes a breath, letting it out slowly and hoping Steve doesn’t kill him.

 

“Yeah, that sounds good.  Let me know once it’s ready and I’ll have my lawyer look it over,” Bucky says, heeding Howard’s advice on all contracts in general.  There’s not necessarily ‘no going back’ from here yet, but he’s setting the wheels in motion, and he knows it.

 

“I’ll put a rush on it.  Training camp for the first Ranger class of the permanent division starts in two weeks,” the Colonel adds.

 

“Perfect.”

 

When Bucky gets home, he tries to act normal, but it’s obvious Steve knows something is up.  The jerk can’t act to save his life, not when it’s something he’s upset about, and Bucky has a feeling that ‘upset’ is exactly what he’s going to be.  

 

“Were you even going to tell me?” Steve asks, not waiting for Bucky to even finish his glass of water, “Or were you just going to disappear in the night?”

 

Bucky sighs, knowing dramatic Steve is not a Steve that’s in a good place in his head.

 

“I ain’t your Dad, Stevie,” Bucky tells him, “And you ain’t mine.  Don’t bring that bullshit into this.”

 

Steve actually deflates a little when he says that, so Bucky hopes he wasn’t as worked up as he’d been afraid he was.

 

“But you did meet with that Colonel, didn’t you?” Steve asks, his voice a touch less accusatory.  

 

“I did,” Bucky doesn’t try to deny it.  He never planned on lying to anyone, just maybe waiting until it was too late to be talked out of it…  

 

“And?” Steve asks, “I notice you haven’t said, ‘Don’t worry Steve, I didn’t do anything stupid, like re-enlist without you’ yet,” Steve says sarcastically.  

 

“I haven’t signed anything yet,” Bucky tells him, “But I’m going to, as long as they get the contract right.”

 

Steve just looks at him intently, almost disbelievingly, for a moment.

 

“You weren’t planning on asking me to go with you at all, were you?” he realizes.

 

“Aw, come on Steve,” Bucky says, getting a little upset himself now, “Why would you?  You’ve got a whole life here, Peggy, the girls, your grandkids… And this ain’t about fighting some evil Nazi cult that wants to take over the world.  You ain’t got no reason to reup.”

 

“What is it about then, Bucky?  Because I’m having a hard time understanding why you suddenly want to be getting shot at again, and you don’t want me there to watch your back,” Steve asks, fire in his eyes and tears forming in his voice.  

 

Oh.

 

“Jesus, Steve, I ain’t suicidal, if that’s what you’re implyin’, I’m just bored out of my mind and feeling goddamned useless,” Bucky says, giving Steve a shove for even thinking that.  

 

“Are you sure?  This isn’t about...him?  The fella you lost?” Steve asks, much more softly.

 

Bucky sucks in a breath, but he lets it out controlled, fixing Steve with a sern gaze.

 

“Don’t say it like that.  But no, I would never have…” Bucky trails off, waving a hand, “Not even back then.”

 

“How else am I supposed to refer to him, Buck?  You’ve never even told me his name. You’ve always been so secretive about it…  And you just got worse, after he died,” Steve says, looking infinitely sad.

 

“I had to be, and you know it, you know why ,” Bucky answers gruffly.

 

“Maybe with the outside world, Bucky, but even with us?  Even with me? This man was a huge thing for you, and all I know about him is that he was in the navy.  I barely even know how you’re doing anymore, not really. You’ve closed off so much since then… It isn’t unreasonable for me to be afraid, Buck,” Steve says earnestly.

 

Bucky takes a second to think over Steve’s words, realizing that maybe he has a point.  

 

“His name was Ian,” Bucky tells him, partly to prove to himself that he can say the name out loud without breaking down anymore, “Ian O’Flaherty.  He was an Ensign in the Navy, Irish Catholic, and a damn good kisser,” Bucky finishes off with. There are a few tears after all, but just the silent kind that you give up for something long gone.  

 

“Ok,” Steve says, looking Bucky up and down, “Ok, Buck…  He sounds like a hell of a fella…”

 

“He was.  And I’ll never forget him, but I ain’t about to go get myself killed on purpose over it.  I mean, it does still hurt… But I think going back into the army will be just what I need to get my mind off of things too.  I just sit around here all day, with nothin’ to do but think about how he ain’t coming back, and it ain’t helping,” Bucky both defends and admits.  

 

“You know, you could have just gotten a regular job…” Steve points out.

 

“Holdin’ a gun is what I’m good at,” Bucky shrugs.

 

“You’ve really got your mind set on this, huh?” Steve asks him.

 

“Yeah, I do.”

 

“How soon would you be leaving?” Steve wants to know, seeming to come around a little.

 

“The Colonel said training camp starts in two weeks.”

 

“Shit, you’re going to miss Peggy’s birthday in April then…  It’s her 50th this year, she’s going to be pissed,” Steve shakes his head.

 

“Maybe by the time I get out again, I’ll be tough enough to take her…” Bucky says somewhat sheepishly, hoping the joking doesn’t fall flat.

 

Steve crosses his arms over his chest.  

 

“I wouldn’t hold my breath on that, if I were you.”

 

“Yeah, you’re probably right…  Hey, how’d you know about my meeting with the Colonel, anyway?” Bucky asks, wondering if it was Howard who sold him out.

 

“Bucky, my wife literally runs a secret spy agency.”

 

“Yeah, good point…”

 

Peggy is mad at him, but it’s more over the fact that he’s joining the army and not coming to work for SHIELD.  

 

She doesn’t stay mad for too long though.  Instead, she gives him a crash course in current military politics, claiming he’s going to need it eventually.  Everyone shows love differently, Bucky has realized over the years.

 

Steve asks him if he wants to take the shield.

 

Bucky declines, telling him to leave it on the wall.

 

<//>

 

Three days before he’s going to head out to the base in Georgia, Bucky takes one last trip down to Arlington.  It also happens to be the anniversary of Ian’s death. He figures he won’t be visiting for a long while after this, so it’s kind of fitting.

 

He buys a single rose, shielding it under his jacket from the lightly falling snow while he treks out to Ian’s grave marker.  It hasn’t snowed for a week or so before this, which makes it easier to find the one he’s looking for.

 

He brushes the small amount of accumulation off the headstone, laying the rose at the foot of it and just staring for a long time.

 

“I’m shipping out in a couple days, so I won’t be able to visit for a while,” Bucky says.  “I’m… I’m tryin’ to move on. I know it’s time to stop moping around already… But you’re a hard man to get over…”

 

Bucky brushes his fingers over Ian’s name on the headstone one last time.

 

“Goodbye, Doll.”

 

As he makes his way back, he notices there are a few other people around, families braving the weather to visit their fallen loved ones too…  Bucky just keeps his head down and keeps moving forward. He supposes that’s all he can really do, in more ways than one.



Chapter Text

1970 - part II

 

Fort Benning, on the border of Georgia and Alabama, is too far south for snow.  Which Bucky is thankful for, being that it’s early March. He gets a haircut, packs a minimal bag, and puts on the standard issue gear that the Colonel supplied him with.  He says goodbye to everyone at the house before Steve drives him down to the bus stop.

 

There aren’t any tears when he leaves, which Bucky is thankful for as well.  

 

He doesn’t take any pictures with him.

 

Steve promised he would write, even though they won’t deliver any mail until the end of camp, so Bucky has a few pages of loose leaf with him, a couple envelopes and a pen, but that’s about it.  He leaves all of Ian’s mementos at home, packed away safely in a box in the closet.

 

Bucky’s a little stiff when he finally gets off the bus, but walking through town helps work things out.  Also, he’s a super soldier, so no pulled muscle or crick in his neck lasts long. On his way through, he decides to get one last good meal in a local diner before being subjected to the army’s cafeteria for the next four years.  

 

The waitress reminds him of his Ma, so he leaves her a 100% tip.  Considering how much food he ordered, it’s a substantial amount, so he takes off before anyone can make a fuss about it.  

 

After that, he figures there’s no point in dallying anymore, so he finally flags down a taxi to take him out to the base.  He doesn’t technically have to report in until tomorrow, but better safe than sorry.

 

The MP’s at the gate grumble a little that he’s coming in right at dusk, but then they salute him as soon as they realize who he is.  Colonel Van Houten also comes out to meet him and show him to the barracks personally. He does make a point to assure Bucky that he won’t get any special treatment from here on out though, which Bucky is thankful for.

 

“Oh, by the way,” the Colonel says before dropping him off at the door, “The brass decided that the standard Captain’s compensation wasn’t enough after all, so you’ve been promoted to Major, Major Barnes.’

 

“Yes, sir.  Thank you, sir,” Bucky says, giving him a salute.  It’s a tiny bit sneaky on the army’s part, but they probably figure that no man ever complained about a promotion...  

 

“Not sure what I’ve done to deserve it, Colonel, but thank you,” Bucky can’t help but add.

 

The Colonel gives him an appraising look.  “You single handedly put an end to the Vietnam conflict, James Buchanan Barnes, that’s worth at least a Major.”

 

Bucky never really thought of it like that.  

 

The Colonel claps him on the shoulder, then walks away and leaves him to it.    

 

There are a few other guys in the barracks already, but Bucky knows most of them will show up tomorrow morning.  He quietly goes to his bed, taking the top bunk and unpacking his duffel. He tries to sleep, but he’s kind of wound up, so it’s difficult to actually nod off.  Part of it is excitement, to finally be back , but part of it is nervousness too, to see how the other men treat him.  

 

Bucky’s spent many a summer evening on the porch with Steve, listening to him lament the fact that his fame makes a lot of military types treat him differently.

 

In the morning, men start pouring into the base, by bus, taxi, and some even hoofing it on foot.  Bucky still remembers the days when that would have been him, and quite vividly at that, so he doesn’t think any less of the ones that walk in for it.  In fact, he makes a note of them mentally, to see how they hold up during today’s activities after walking all that extra distance.

 

The Colonel did promise to let him hand pick his team after the training camp is over, after all.  With over two hundred participants, assuming at least half of them make it, that’s a massive number of men to try and weed through.  It’ll actually be an immense help to have been in the thick of things with them, to see first hand how they perform under pressure.

 

When they finally head out for role call, Bucky is as ready as he’ll ever be.  No more thinking too hard for a while. He knows how this goes. Once the drill sergeant makes sure they’re all accounted for, they’ll get a short motivational speech, and then get right into it.

 

“Corporal Abbot.”

 

“Present!”

 

“Private First Class Anderson.”

 

“Present!”

 

“Private First Class Antwerp.”

 

“Present!”

 

“Sergeant Ballentine.”

 

“Present!”

 

“Major Barnes.”

 

“Present!” Bucky sounds off.

 

“Sergeant Bentley.”

 

“Present!”

 

They keep going right along, without anyone so much as glancing his way.  There’s one other Major on the roster, which is an unusually high rank for elite force training, but there’s mostly Privates, Corporals, and Sergeants around him.  

 

Bucky wonders if the change in rank will help keep people from jumping to the obvious conclusion about his identity…  If so, he’ll certainly keep quiet about it for as long as possible. He’ll have to keep an eye out as best he can, to see if anyone is giving him funny looks throughout the day.  

 

“Alright, listen up, men,” Colonel Van Houten addresses them once roll call is done.  No one has been marked AWOL, so it’s a good start to the day and the camp. “Each one of you is here at the specific recommendation of your commanding officers.  You are the best the army has to offer. … But the Rangers will make you better. This training will squeeze every ounce, every drop, every molecule of mediocre out of your sorry asses, and replace it with pure perfection.  A lot of you will find, as we go along, that this a standard that is unachievable for you.  Feel free to get the hell off my base if so. Those of you who are not broken by the demands of this training will find yourselves part of the most elite group of soldiers that have ever graced the army with their presence.’

 

Bucky is in the front row, alphabetically, and he can feel the Colonel’s eyes on him when he says that.

 

“Because the Rangers are not the clean up crew.  The Rangers are not who you call when all hope is lost, to pick up the pieces of an operation that someone else has fucked over.  The Rangers are who you call when something is so important, when so much is on the line that you need something done right , and done right the first time , with no exceptions.  Because what do the Rangers do?” the Colonel asks them.

 

“Rangers lead the way!” they all shout in unison.  

 

“That’s right, boys, we lead the way.  When the Rangers were only a war time unit, and we were putting together the first teams to officially bear the name, I would run the course with my men, so that they understood the true meaning of leadership.  However, that was twenty years ago, and I am old, and my wife will kill me if I break another rib before our anniversary.”

 

There’s a up-swell of chuckling laughter from the trainees.

 

“I say that because I want you all to understand the level of difficulty we have achieved in the current iteration of this course.  A broken rib...is a daily occurrence. It’s nothing, on this course. Men have died trying to complete it.  They have been injured, and maimed, and will never walk, or see, or pick up a pencil again.  The risk is very real. But we continue to run it, because once the dross is cleared away, those of you that are left are the richest, most bountiful harvest the army has.”

 

The Colonel is quiet for a minute, scanning the crowd.

 

“I am required to tell you, that if there is anyone who does not want to risk permanent injury or death for their country, you can leave now.”

 

No one moves.

 

The Colonel grins, sharp and feral.

 

“That’s what I thought.  Alright, drill sergeants, take them on a tour of the base.”

 

The drill sergeants split them into groups of twenty five, color code their teams, and take them on a fifteen mile run around the base.  Bucky is a little winded after that, but not actually tired. He and Steve run, or rather, they used to run together, fairly often.  Most of the men look like they’re holding up well, which is good.  These aren’t new recruits fresh of the street, these guys should already be used to a certain level of exertion.

 

Only one of the men that Bucky saw walking in this morning is part of the “blue” group with him, and he’s doing just fine so far.  Bucky marks a point in his favor.

 

They run them all the time, in between the swimming and climbing and pushing and pulling and carrying heavy bullshit all around base.  They also dodge live fucking bullets on an obstacle course that’s so massive that it’s easy to forget that they aren’t on a real battlefield.  

 

Amphibious training is a big part of what they do too, with most army guys not having been huge fans of the water.  If they had been, they would have joined the navy instead. A lot of guys end up calling it quits during the water drills, because even though quitting any exercise means quitting , drowning is a horrible way to go.  

 

Bucky can hold his breath for eleven minutes before starting to black out though, so it doesn’t worry him too much.  

 

There is a guy who drowns, but he’s not part of the blue unit.  

 

Two weeks in, no one has really commented on Bucky’s appearance or name.  They all use their last names by default, so that helps. And even though showers are communal in the army, everyone has tattoos, so no one seems to realize his is a little more different than the rest.  Plus, everyone follows the unspoken rule to not look around too intently while showering as well.

 

One night, the sounds of someone having a nightmare pull Bucky to consciousness.  

 

“Breath, Hawkins, just breath,” one of the other guys is already talking him through the aftermath, so Bucky closes his eyes and pretends to be asleep again, giving him the illusion of privacy.

 

Once Hawkins’ breathing has returned to normal though, he starts worrying that the brass will kick him out for freaking out, which isn’t helping him calm down.  Psych discharge is a thing that happens sometimes, Bucky knows, but it’s more for the schizo’s and guys who are a danger to themselves and others… He’s seen plenty of guys with a thousand yard stare be let to reup because they had nowhere else to go.

 

Bucky speaks calmly and clearly, making sure his voice will carry throughout the darkened barracks, to all the guys listening in too, “If the army discharged for nightmares, there wouldn’t be anyone left in it.”

 

And he leaves it at that.

 

No one else speaks up, but Bucky can hear Hawkins’ friend telling him yeah, that’s right, so not to worry about it.  

 

Hawkins isn’t one that Bucky’s had on his tentative list, but the guy who talked him down out of his panic is.  He’s always on the lookout for men who are the first to do the right thing, so he puts another mental tally mark under Private First Class Coulson’s name.  

 

Two weeks after that, and halfway through the training camp, something goes wrong with one of the transport vehicles on base and it bursts into flames, right as Bucky is coming back from dinner.  Men rush into action, trying to grab hoses to put out the fire, but something that it was carrying inside it explodes before they can.

 

Shrapnel and fire and an entire metal panel come flying off of it, the panel heading right toward Corporal Scott, who is part of the blue unit with Bucky.  

 

Bucky doesn’t even think, he just reacts with superhuman speed, running over and pushing the Corporal out of the way, taking the hit himself.  There isn’t time for him to get out of the panel’s trajectory too, there’s barely enough time for him to get there at all with how fast it comes flying toward them.

 

The metal slams into him from the side, knocking him over and sending him sprawling with the force of it.  It would have killed Corporal Scott for sure, but it probably won’t even break a bone on him.

 

It does still hurt, though.

 

“Fuck,” Bucky groans, shoving the plate off of himself and rolling over onto his back.  His whole side is going to be one huge bruise for the rest of the day, he’s sure of it. His ears are also ringing something fierce, which isn’t surprising, given that they weren’t in full gear coming out of the mess hall, so he wasn’t wearing his helmet.  

 

“Jesus Christ…”

 

“How is he not dead…”

 

Men are stopped short in their rush to help him, seeing that he isn’t the smear underneath the metal that they’d probably been expecting.  Bucky can’t tell if they’re trying to whisper or not, but he can still hear them either way, especially since the ringing is already clearing up.

 

“That’s half inch ballistic armor plating, how the hell did he throw it off him with one arm?...”

 

“It would take two or three guys to lift a panel that size…”

 

Bucky sits up, slowly turning his head from side to side and rolling the shoulder that got hit.

 

“Yeah, maybe normal guys...” he says to the crowd in general, continuing his self-evaluation.  

 

A couple guys silently offer him a hand, which Bucky accepts, letting them pull him up onto his feet.

 

“Major Barnes,” Colonel Van Houten has arrived on the scene by then, “You alright, soldier?” he asks, looking at the metal panel and the fire being put out in the background.   

 

“Got my bell rung, Colonel, but I’ll be fine in a few hours,” Bucky tells him, standing as straight as possible.  

 

“The bruising notwithstanding, I’m sure,” the Colonel says blandly.  

 

“A little bruisin’ never killed anyone,” Bucky shrugs, then winces at the pain from the motion.  

 

“I guess we’re just lucky it hit you ,” the Colonel sighs, glancing at the still burning transport and the flurry of activity around it.

 

“Sir,” one of the men from blue unit steps up, “It wasn’t heading for him, he pushed Corporal Scott out of the way.  He outran the explosion before any of us could even register what was happening. I’ve never seen anyone move that fast…”

 

“That,” the Colonel tells him, “Is because you’re too young to have served in World War II.  Now, Major Barnes and Corporal Scott, both report to medical for evaluation, standard procedure.  The rest of you, back to the barracks.”

 

“Yes, sir,” Bucky gives him a salute.  

 

The Colonel turns and leaves.

 

Bucky catches Corporal Scott’s eyes and gestures for him to follow him.  The others are disbursing as ordered, but they keep glancing back at Bucky and whispering among themselves.

 

Well, it was nice while it lasted.

 

“You saved my life,” Corporal Scott says as they’re walking, “Thank you, sir.”

 

“You’re welcome,” Bucky says, trying to keep things casual.  

 

When they get to medical, the nurse on call sticks them on neighboring cots to wait for the doctor.  Corporal Scott flirts with her a little, but she’s an army nurse, she’s used to it and it shows.

 

“Holy shit,” the doctor says as soon as he comes in, looking directly at Bucky.  

 

Bucky gives him a hesitant smile.

 

“Captain Barnes?” he asks, heading right over.

 

“Uh, it’s Major now, but, yeah,’ Bucky says, standing up to shake the man’s hand.  “Do I know you?” he asks, thinking the doctor looks familiar somehow...not that he ever spent a lot of time in medical.  

 

“I was part of the team that looked you over after you escaped from Hydra.  That was thirty years ago, of course, I’ve finally grown into my ears since then,” he says, joking about having aged.  

 

“Holy shit,” Bucky agrees.

 

“Yes, holy shit indeed…  What the hell are you doing in my triage room?” the doctor, whose uniform reads “Sanderson”, asks him.

 

“There was an explosion, Colonel told us both to come get checked out, standard procedure,” Bucky says, waving a hand at Corporal Scott.

 

Dr. Sanderson nods, then looks down at the paperwork in his hand.  “It says here you were hit by a plate? What kind of plate?”

 

“The 400 pound metal kind,” Bucky shrugs, which no longer hurts enough for him to show it.  

 

“And what about you?” Dr. Sanderson turns to his other patient.

 

“He pushed me out of the way.”

 

“Ah,” the doctor says, going over to him right away, “Can you turn your head for me?  Is there any tightness here? What about here?”

 

“A little, now that you mention it…” Corporal Scott realizes.

 

Dr. Sanderson nods, “Well, you wouldn’t be the first person to get whiplash from being saved by a super soldier,” he says, glancing at Bucky, “And I’m sure you won’t be the last...  I’m writing you off for the rest of the day, come back in the morning and we’ll see how bad it’s gotten.”

 

“He…” Bucky pauses, knowing another man’s health ain’t technically his business, “He won’t be medical DQ’d because of this, will he?” he goes ahead and asks anyway.  When he was first getting used to his new strength, Bucky accidentally dislocated the arm of a man he was trying to save once, so he knows it isn’t a laughing matter, to be on the other end of his “help”.

 

“It depends on if it gets bad enough to impede his mobility.  If he can’t keep up with the training, the Colonel will send him packing.  But, if it comes to that, I will write him the medical DQ, so he can try again in the fall,” Dr. Sanderson assures him.  He gives the Corporal a look as he says, “But I’m sure he won’t hold it against you, Major Barnes.  Unless you’d rather be dead, Corporal?”

 

“Not at all, sir.”

 

“Good.  Alright, both of you get out of my hospital then.”

 

“What about me?’ Bucky asks with a smile, just to be difficult, “I was the one hit by armored plating...”

 

The doctor looks him up and down, “Is anything broken?  Dislocated?”

 

Bucky shakes his head, “No…”

 

The Doctor takes a step closer to him, meeting Bucky’s eyes directly, and says, “Then walk it off soldier.”

 

And suddenly Bucky is back in 1943, playing doctor in the back of the medical tent with a Private Second Class from Georgia, giving him a hard time about the limp he’s going to have when they’re done…  And the man giving him a hard time right back, telling him to walk it off .

 

Dr. Sanderson smiles at him and chuckles, obviously seeing the revelation on Bucky’s face.

 

“Uh, sorry, I mean, yes, sir,” Bucky stammers, looking down in embarrassment at having not remembered him to begin with.  

 

The doctor doesn’t seem offended by it though, he just hitches a thumb as he starts to turn around.  “The door’s that way, boys. I’d tell you to try and not get caught in any more explosions, but...this is the army,” he shrugs, then walks away.  

 

“You really are Captain Barnes , aren’t you?  Er, Major?” Corporal Scott asks him.

 

“Come on, we’re supposed to be back at the barracks.  We can talk on the way,” Bucky says, deciding it’s best not to dither when they’ve been told to go.  

 

He answers Corporal Scott’s questions as they head back, then a whole bunch more questions after they enter the barracks.  There are a couple guys who do seem a bit star struck, but for the most part, they take it well. He’s sure word will have spread to the whole base by morning, that’s just the way things go in the military.

 

“Is it true that you have a shield made out of vibranium , or was that just a thing they made up in the comics?”

 

“Yeah, it’s real.  Howard Stark originally made it for Steve, but he passed it on to me when I took over command of the Howlies,” Bucky tells them.  

 

“Are you really best friends with Captain America?”

 

“Yeah, more like brothers, since I’ve known the punk practically my whole life.”

 

“How many Howling Commandos were there?  Some books say they were a squad, but others say you were leading a whole company of a hundred men…” Private First Class Coulson asks him.

 

“Well, the Howlies were originally just a couple dozen guys, myself and Steve included, but they grew as the war went on.  After the war was over, our numbers varied some, when we were hunting down Hydra. But total over the whole time, probably a good hundred, hundred and ten men can claim to have been part of them.”

 

Hydra…  Jesus, how old are you, really?” one guy asks him, leaning in close and peering intently at Bucky’s face.  

 

“Careful, soldier, if you keep looking at me like that, I’m gonna think you’re about to kiss me,” he says, giving him a wink.  That gets a good laugh from the crowd and also lets Bucky get a read on a couple guys who he was pretty sure were not ok with that sort of thing.  His theory is proven correct by their facial reactions to even that small, joking comment, so Bucky crosses one of their names off his mental list.  The other wasn’t in the running, but it’s still a good thing to know about a man, how accepting or not he is.

 

“The truth of the matter is, I was born on March 10th, 1917.  You all can do the math, I’m sure,” Bucky keeps up his joking demeanor up by pausing and looking around, “Or maybe not…  I’m fifty-four,” he says with a grin, earning a round of chuckling again.

 

Eventually the questions slow down, and they all turn down for the night at Bucky’s insistence, because they all have to be up bright and early in the morning.  

 

He was right about the news spreading through the whole camp overnight.

 

But thankfully these men are professionals.  Bucky gets a lot of looks throughout the next day, but no one breaks formation or messes up because they weren’t paying attention to what they were doing.  It bodes well for them to be able to work under his command later too. And as the days go by, he gets less and less questions, and fewer and fewer looks.

 

By the time they start on their flight training segment, things have pretty much settled down.  

 

They’re broken up into different groups this time, based on who’s already flight certified or not.  Bucky may know the basics, or the basics as they were thirty years ago, but he’s definitely not certified , so he goes with that group to the classroom setting.

 

“Alright, before we get started, I need to know just what kind of knowledge level we’re starting out with here,” the drill sergeant says with a sigh, pulling down a chalkboard.  “How many of you are familiar with Bernoulli's principle?”

 

A few guys, including Bucky, all raise their hands.  The drill sergeant seems less than impressed with the showing.

 

“Have any of you been on a plane before?”

 

About half the class raises their hands.

 

“Have any of you ever flown a plane before in a pinch, even though you were not licensed?”

 

Bucky is the only one who raises his hand.

 

“Man, put your hand down , motherfucker,” the guy next to Bucky says as he rolls his eyes, his tone clearly teasing, “We all know you flew a plane, Jesus Christ...”

 

Bucky grins and flips him off.  “Fuck you too, Fury.”

 

The drill sergeant is not amused with their banter.

 

So Bucky and a bunch of other assholes all learn how to fly a plane, and how to jump out of one, and how to do some basic maintenance on them.  

 

They get put back into their color coordinated units afterward, to start on some team intensive training.  No man is left behind, after all.

 

The Colonel has revamped the obstacle course while they were all playing in the sky.  It now consists of walls too high for a single man to get over and mud pits that you aren’t allowed to get out of until every man has made it across, among other things.  And it’s still a live fire simulation, of course.

 

It kind of reminds Bucky of the obstacle course he and Steve put together for the girls one summer when they were having trouble getting along.  

 

Minus the live fire, of course.

 

“Up until now, each one of you has been being graded, been being scored, weighed, and measured on your own merit.  On your own performance and personal effort. For this next series of exercises, you will no longer be graded on your own performance, but on that of your group as a whole,” Colonel Van Houten tells them.  

 

“Major Barnes,” the Colonel spins around and calls out to him, addressing him directly in front of the entire crowd, “Do you think that is fair ?”

 

Bucky steps up from his place in line, but keeps his eyes forward as he replies, “Sir.  No, sir.”

 

“And why is that, Major?”

 

“Because any team I’m on has a distinctly unfair advantage, Colonel,” Bucky says honestly.

 

“That’s right soldier, it certainly does.  And what would you do, if you were me, to help mitigate this unfair advantage?” the Colonel asks him.

 

Bucky can tell that the thought immediately running through everyone’s head is that he’ll say he shouldn’t run it at all, for fairness’ sake.  

 

But sitting things out has never been Bucky’s style.

 

“If it were my call?  I’d have to run it over again with every team, to keep things fair.  I could use the workout anyway,” he adds, as retribution for the Colonel putting him on the spot to begin with.  He’d bet all the money in the bank that none of the Colonel’s trainees have ever called his course too easy before.

 

His super soldier hearing lets him catch a few quickly in-drawn breaths, even a few snorts that weren’t muffled quite well enough.  

 

“You know what?  That is an excellent idea, Major Barnes.  And for that little comment, the blue unit can run through first,” the Colonel tells him, smiling his sharp smile again as he gives them the “unlucky” honor.

 

“Any of the rest of you boys have a problem with that?” the Colonel asks, turning to address the whole blue unit.

 

As one voice, the other members call out behind him, “Rangers lead the way!”  

 

Bucky just smiles.

 

The Colonel yells at them to form up, to get ready for their run right goddamned now then.  But he doesn’t look angry.

 

So Bucky goes through the obstacle course eight times in a row that day, once with each team.  On his sixth run, with the green team, a sergeant named Johnson lands badly coming off the wall and breaks his leg.  

 

“Do you want to finish this course, or do we need to DQ?” he asks Johnson quickly.

 

“My leg’s fucking broken, how the hell am I going to finish the last obstacle?” Johnson asks him, holding onto his leg and grinding his teeth in pain.  

 

“Because I can carry you across, but it’s gonna hurt like a son of a bitch,” Bucky tells him.

 

“Do it,” Johnson says, steeling himself, “If we were back in ‘Nam, I’d have no choice anyway.  We all have to cross that finish line in order for it to count.”

 

Bucky nods, admiring his determination.

 

“Keep going, keep going!” Bucky yells when he notices the men coming down behind them starting to hesitate.  He takes the barrel off of his gun in six seconds flat, using it as a makeshift splint to hold the bone still.  Then he wraps his jacket around it and ties it snug, making Sergeant Johnson grunt with the force of it.

 

The last obstacle is a blind run through a smoke filled field, with the finish line on the other side of it.  The farther off course from center you are when you come out, the more points your team loses.

 

The Colonel says it is a metaphor for life.  

 

Bucky thinks about a portal in Central Park while he’s hauling Johnson in a fireman’s carry through the smoke, and knows that for most people, the Colonel would be right.

 

But he isn’t most people.  

 

When they cross the finish line, their team’s total time is only 45 seconds behind the previous one, broken leg and all.

 

And then Bucky has two more runs after that.

 

By the end of it all, he’ll admit, he’s a little tired.  He lays down on the ground after crossing the finish line the last time, just taking a second to breathe.  And it’s only partly because he feels he can get away with the dramatics of it.

 

After a minute, the Colonel comes into his line of sight, standing over him.

 

“You get yourself a good workout, Major Barnes?” he asks.

 

“Yes, sir,” Bucky says, continuing to lay on the ground.  

 

“You know, I ought to make you do it again, on your own, just to prove a point…” the Colonel muses.

 

“I think your point’s been made, sir,” Bucky says.

 

“I really don’t think it has,” the Colonel disagrees, “Get back to the start, Major.  Run it again. On your own this time.”

 

Bucky knows better than to groan or give him any back talk at this stage.

 

Because the point he’s trying to prove isn’t to Bucky.

 

This isn’t the way Bucky would have played things, isn’t the way he has been playing them, but he’s not about to disobey a direct order.

 

Some of the men are looking at the Colonel askance as Bucky heads back to the beginning obstacle.  There’s a murmur through the crowd as he lines himself up at the starting point, waiting for his signal.  One of the Drill Sergeants even steps up and says, “Begging your pardon, sir, but isn’t this course designed to need an entire team?”

 

“We’ll run it with him again,” several men from the blue unit volunteer at once.

 

“No you will not,” the Colonel barks.  He turns and looks out over the gathered soldiers, walking slowly back and forth in front of them as he begins to speak.

 

“It has recently come to my attention...that some of you have forgotten who we are dealing with here.  That is James. Buchanan. Barnes.” the Colonel punctuates each word like it’s its own sentence, “The myth and the legend.  The bane of Hydra. The man in your history books that inspired half your sorry asses to join the military in the first place.  He is going to run the course alone.  And you are going to stand here and watch him,” the Colonel orders.

 

“And Major Barnes,” Colonel Van Houten turns to him next, “You will run the course this time without holding back, and you will give it every ounce of your super-soldier-all, because if your time on your own isn’t less than half of what it was with the blue unit, I will flunk out every single member of the blue unit on your behalf.  Is that clear?”

 

Bucky looks the Colonel in the eye and says, “Crystal fucking clear, sir.”

 

The Colonel nods, raising his arm in the air for the drill sergeant to ready the timer.

 

“Go!”

 

By the time the Colonel’s arm has dropped back down to his side, Bucky is already over the first obstacle.  He uses brute strength to get past a lot of it quickly, like the mud pit, but his speed and balance are certainly helpful too.  He dodges, lifts, and throws his way through obstacle after obstacle, never slowing down once.

 

He jumps over the thirty foot wall entirely in one leap, hitting the ground running on the other side and moving so quickly through the smokey field that you can see the current shift after him in the air.

 

The blue unit’s time through the course was fifteen minutes and sixteen seconds.

 

Bucky does it in three and a half.  

 

On his ninth time through...

 

He may have broken an obstacle or two along his way, but he honestly doesn’t give a shit.  He’s been trying to build up a camaraderie with these men, to show them that he’s one of them, but the Colonel will have pretty thoroughly destroyed that now.

 

He goes and stands at attention in front of the Colonel when he’s done.

 

“Shall I go again, sir?” he asks.

 

The Colonel gives him an appraising look.

 

“Could you, Major?  If I wanted you to run this course another time, another five times, another dozen…  Could you do it?”

 

“I could do this all day, sir,” Bucky says, quoting his favorite blond headed punk.

 

“All day…  I bet you could.  I’m not sure the course would survive...but I bet you could,” the Colonel says, nodding his head.  “The point that I am trying to make here, gentlemen,” he says, turning back toward the awed crowd, “Is that none of us, not a one, not myself included, are fit to lick the ground that Bucky Barnes walks on.  And yet, he chooses to be here among us, doing his part, following orders, obeying the whims of a man he clearly disagrees with,” the Colonel gives Bucky a pointed look. “When he could very easily break me over his leg if he wanted to.  Because that is what is necessary when you are part of a greater whole. Those of you who do pass this course are going to be working with a wide variety of other units, commanders, and leadership styles. There may even come a day, when you get to thinking that you are better than the man giving you orders, for whatever reason.  And on that day, I want you to remember this one. When the greatest war hero the army has ever had followed orders , even though he didn’t like them, because they were for the greater good.”

 

Bucky looks straight ahead and doesn’t flinch under the gaze of all the men raking over him.

 

“Major Barnes,” the Colonel says casually, “Drop and give me a thousand.”

 

“Yes, sir,” Bucky says, hitting the dirt.  

 

He does a thousand push-ups while everyone is watching, and then Colonel Van Houten finally releases them all to the mess hall afterward.

 

Things aren’t really tense per se, but Bucky doesn’t know what to say after all that, so he just keeps quiet.  He dishes up in line with the blue team, sitting down next to Lieutenant Fury, and starts eating silently.

 

“Hey man,” Fury says, bumping their elbows together, “What’s the most push-ups you’ve ever done at one time?”

 

And just like that, the mood is suddenly easier.

 

“Twenty-five thousand,” Bucky grins, “But my arms were burning, after that.”

 

“Jesus, who does twenty-five thousand push-ups, just for the hell of it?” Corporal Scott asks in disbelief.

 

“Well, it wasn’t for the hell of it…  Colonel Phillips wanted to see how I held up against Steve, after what Hydra did to me,” Bucky tells them, knowing exactly what they’ll ask next.

 

“Yeah?  And who won?” Lieutenant Fury wants to know.

 

Bucky shakes his head, letting a big, shit-eating grin take over his face, “That’s classified.”

 

The whole table groans.

 

“It’s true!” Bucky insists, “The brass decided that it shouldn’t be common knowledge whose serum ended up working better, their own or Hydra’s.”

 

“Wait…  But that means it had to be Hydra’s then, or else they wouldn’t have cared,” one of the other men pipes up.  

 

Bucky fixes him with a look.

 

“Oh shit…” he realizes what he just said, “Uh, are we not supposed to know that?...”

 

“Jesus, you’ll be fine, Franks, that information was classified, but it was de classified in 1965.”

 

“Hey, quit spoilin’ all my fun, Coulson,” Bucky says, feeling a weight lift off his chest.  

 

He’s still one of them.  He still belongs, even after everything he’s been through.  It’s true he may not agree with the Colonel’s methods, but his message on being part of a greater whole still rings true.

 

<//>

 

When they reach the end of the Ranger training course, there’s a three day field reconnaissance operation for the final.  The exercise is designed to be as mental as it is physical, which helps level the playing field for everyone who’s not Bucky.

 

Bucky passes with flying colors, of course, but it’s not simply because he’s strong.

 

After the results have been announced, it turns out Bucky was correct in his initial assumption that only about half these guys would make it.  The rate of passing for the class overall is 53%. The Colonel gives them three days leave afterward, before their new assignments will be handed out.

 

Bucky knows better than to take off though.  He has a feeling he might end up spending those entire three days arguing with the Colonel over which men he gets for his team…

 

“Major Barnes, the Colonel wants to see you in his office,” a young private tells him while Bucky is packing up his things.  He nods in acknowledgment.

 

“You aren’t coming into town?  We can wait for you,” Coulson offers.

 

“Nah, go on without me, I’m gonna be a while,” Bucky tells him, “I’ll catch you guys later.”  

 

When Bucky gets to the Colonel’s office, he has a very large, very obvious stack of files sitting on his desk.  

 

“You sent for me, sir?” Bucky says, coming to attention.

 

“Have a seat, Major,” the Colonel motions him toward a chair, “The time has finally come for you to take your rightful place in this organization.  I’m assuming you have a few names picked out already.”

 

“I do, sir.  Fury, Coulson, Scott, Anderson, Blake, Mendez, Jones, and Aleman.”

 

The Colonel nods, reaching for his stack.  He pulls out all the files Bucky mentioned and sets them in a new stack.  They were all near the top already. “What about Sievers?” he asks, flipping open the next one down.

 

“I wouldn’t be opposed to it, sir.  I wasn’t sure how big of a group this was going to be, so those were my top choices,” Bucky explains.

 

The Colonel closes Sievers’ file and tosses it in with the other “keepers”, then leans back in his chair.  

 

“The new 75th Infantry is going to be comprised of three battalions, maxing out at 400 men each.  I will be leading one of them, Colonel Insley the second, and the third will be yours, Major Barnes,” Colonel Van Houten explains.

 

Bucky is a little shocked, but he takes it in stride.  Every other man his age who’s still in the army is in a position of leadership at this point.  But being in charge of a battalion doesn’t mean that he’s so far up that he doesn’t get his hands dirty.  

 

“Even though we’ve only got a hundred and six graduates from this class, there are plenty of men who certified as Rangers during ‘Nam, so we won’t have any trouble filling up the ranks after you get who you want from this class,” the Colonel assures him.

 

“Ok, I want Collins, Lacy, Simpson, Gray, and Washington too then,” Bucky says.  

 

“Not Pierce?” Colonel Van Houten asks him.

 

Bucky has already been trying to find a way in this conversation, to make it understood that he’s gay without actually saying it to the Colonel, for plausible deniability later if needed.  

 

It’s one of those unspoken rules, that you have to be married, have kids, be settled down before you can advance into the upper ranks in the Army.  And that isn’t happening with Bucky, so he doesn’t want the Colonel to be blindsided later, or be making decisions now based on incorrect assumptions.  His bringing up Pierce gives Bucky the perfect opportunity.

 

“Well, I overheard him bragging once about his cousin fag-dragging a boy from their hometown and getting away with it, so I don’t think he and I are ever going to get along,” Bucky tells him, looking the Colonel right in the eye.

 

The Colonel blinks, nods, and picks up Pierce’s file, setting it to the side in its own, separate pile.  

 

“Thank you for bringing that to my attention, Major.  You’re not the only man on this base who watches out for that particular brand of violent tendency in the soldiers around them.”

 

“You’re welcome, sir.”

 

“I want you to know that I would never say this to you, if certain things had not been divulged to me many years ago when it was irrelevant to your career…but Dr. Sanderson is a close friend of my family’s,” the Colonel says, holding Bucky’s gaze steadily.  “He and my wife went to medical school together.”

 

Bucky was not expecting that, and he’s a bit lost for words on how to respond, but finally he settles on saying, “She must be a real smart lady.”

 

He feels good knowing Dr. Sanderson will be warned about Pierce.

 

“That she is, Major, that she is…  Alright, let’s run through the rest of these.  I have an appointment for dinner.”

 

“Of course, sir."



 

Chapter Text

1973

 

Somehow, Bucky finds himself once again running one of the most unorthodox crews in the military.  They have discipline, don’t get him wrong, but it just seems like he always ends up with the guy who’s obsessed with alpacas, or the one who credits his lucky third nipple with all his successes…  As long as they get the job done though, Bucky’s not complaining. It keeps life interesting.

 

A year into his new command, Bucky is promoted to Colonel.  He and Colonel Van Houten take turns running the Ranger training now, in preparation for the Colonel’s upcoming retirement.  No one anywhere made a peep about Bucky retiring when he turned 55.  

 

“Colonel Barnes, I was hoping I could have a word with you,” the Colonel makes a surprise visit to him one day.  

 

“Of course, John, have a seat.  Whiskey?” Bucky offers, keeping a selection of finer alcohols on hand for this exact type of situation.  Colonel Van Houten is still stationed out of Georgia, but Bucky’s battalion resides in California, for the time being.  It’s understood they’ll be back in Georgia once Colonel Van Houten retires.

 

“Please,” the Colonel sighs, taking a seat.  “I’ll be honest with you, Bucky, I came here to ask a favor of you.”

 

“Fire away,” Bucky says, wondering what John could possibly want.

 

“You know the brass made us let that woman into the last Ranger course…”

 

“I heard about that…  Don’t tell me she passed ,” Bucky says, shocked.

 

“She did,” John confirms, “And I refused to give her any sort of handicap, either.  I figured, if the army wanted to experiment with mixed regiments, then they sure as hell better be able to keep up with one made up of all men.”

 

And , you didn’t expect her to be able to cut it…”

 

“No, not in a million years,” John admits.  “Granted, she’s a tall, amazon of a woman, but Corporal Smith didn’t have anything this intensive in her file before this.”

 

“Most men don’t when they come in either,” Bucky points out.

 

The Colonel waves him off.  

 

“The problem is, what do I do with her now that she’s graduated.  Insley won’t have her, even though she passed with flying colors. He flat out refused.  Colonel Bosse is setup to get his own command once I retire, and even though you’re replacing me in the hierarchy, he’ll be the one taking over my men once I’m gone.  He was one of the fiercest voices against allowing her to even have a shot, so I know he’ll destroy her entire career if given the chance,” John sighs.

 

“So you want me to take her,” Bucky extrapolates.  

 

“I’m hoping that with your reputation for leading, shall we say, unusual teams, that it will at least give her a shot to prove herself,” John admits.

 

Bucky immediately thinks of Peggy.  About Steve’s story of her knocking out a soldier during basic training, and all the nights she would come home ranting about the entrenched misogyny in politics, in everything everywhere …  He remembers her pulling a gun on him and being pretty much the only person he actually fears.

 

“I’ll take her,” Bucky says, giving John a nod, “She’ll get her chance.  I didn’t know you were into the whole women’s equality thing, though…”

 

“She passed,” John says, shrugging, but Bucky can tell it’s more than that though, that he’s begrudgingly impressed as well.

 

“Alright.  When will she be here?”  

 

“There’s a transport plane from Benning out here on the 5th, she’ll be on it,” John tells him, standing up.  

 

“I’ll get a space ready for her,” Bucky nods, knowing that all equality aside, she can’t be expected to bunk and shower with the men…  It’s not like they don’t already have other women on base though, so it’ll be doable.

 

The next day, so he has time before the 5th to figure out who’s going to be a problem, Bucky announces the new placement to his men.  There are 380 of them under his command right now. He gets just about the reaction he was expecting, which is immediate disdain and disbelief.

 

“I want to stress to you, as an entire group and as individuals, that Corporal Smith passed the Ranger training program.  With no handicap.  She has gone through the exact same thing that each and every one of you did to earn your spots here.  She has earned a spot here.  You will treat her with the same respect that you would any other soldier,” Bucky tells them, knowing it probably won’t be enough, but it’s all he can do.  

 

When the transport arrives on the 5th, Fury and Coulson have already helped him make a list of men to keep an eye on.  It’s a shame that it’s necessary, but at the same time, Bucky lives in the real world. He knows that not everyone who decides to “serve their country” is a good person.  This woman must be tough as nails to put up with not only fighting in the army, but the harassment of her fellow soldiers as well.

 

As the plane starts unloading, a lone soldier walks off it, dressed in standard camo with a duffel bag thrown over her shoulder.  The men Bucky told to be here, along with half the rest of the base, are standing around trying to catch a glimpse of her, so there’s a wave of murmuring that starts through the crowd at her approach.

 

Bucky is extremely thankful for his incredible eyesight, because it gives him a second to compose himself as Marjie walks up to him.  

 

She sets her duffel bag on the ground and comes to attention in front of him.

 

“Corporal Smith, reporting for duty, sir!” she says, eyes fixed forward.

 

Jesus Christ almighty…

 

“Huh, I guess Colonel Van Houten was right, you are tall as fuck,” Bucky says while he’s still gathering his whits.  

 

“Got my daddy’s height, Colonel,” she says, straight faced.  

 

And she has grown since Bucky saw her last, which was over four years ago, not that she wasn’t pushing six foot back then…  That’s right, she’s on her second tour now, Steve mentioned that in a letter not too long ago… Bucky didn’t realize she’d gone in under an assumed name, but he can definitely see the wisdom in it.  Hell, he might have considered it too, if he’d thought of it…

 

“Welcome to the 75th Infantry, Corporal Smith,” Bucky says, abruptly changing his plans.  

 

He was going to assign her to Anderson’s team, because he’s a good man and he trusts him to keep the rest of the men under him in line.  He felt like he couldn’t assign her to Fury’s, which is his own when he goes into the field, because it would look too much like he was trying to protect her.  Which he would have been.

 

But now…

 

Now , he’s going to put her on his team, after he shows these son of bitches that it’s because he only accepts the best onto his personal crew.

 

Bucky turns toward the crowd of gathered men and yells, “75th!   Fall in !”

 

He knows it will take a second for word to spread and the whole battalion to form up, so he adds, “Do not keep me waiting!” to show that he means it.  

 

Runners have already taken off to inform the rest of the barracks that they’ve been ordered to report to the air strip.  There are other infantry divisions on this base, so the men who aren’t under Bucky’s command are watching intently.

 

It only takes ten minutes for everyone to be in their lines, standing at attention.  

 

“75th,” Bucky addresses them, “We’re giving Corporal Smith a tour of the base.”

 

Nobody dares to groan, but Bucky knows they won’t be “happy” with the running.  

 

“Corporal Smith,” Bucky turns, a gleam in his eye, “You better bring your bag with you, I unfortunately cannot vouch for the morality of the men not under my command,” he says loudly, a reminder of what he expects from his men, and an indication that no, he will not be going easy on her.  

 

“Sir, yes, sir!” Marjie says, her eyes alight with mischief.  

 

It takes every ounce of Bucky’s self control not to grin.

 

This is going to be good.

 

As everyone is running, Bucky says under his breath to her, knowing she’ll hear it, “You fixin’ to hold back on me, soldier?”

 

“No, sir.  Not now. ‘Smith’ got me where I wanted to go, the way I wanted to get there, but I always planned on being an asset to this organization,” Marjie says back under her breath as well.

 

Bucky wishes he could ruffle her hair affectionately, but he knows it’s inappropriate in his position of command.  Plus, her brown ringlets are long gone, sacrificed to the gods of military conformity years ago.

 

“Well let’s give these boys a little glimpse at how much of an asset you are,” Bucky can’t hold back the grin this time.  He’s not even looking at her when he whispers it though, so anyone seeing his face probably just thinks he’s enjoying everyone’s pain.  

 

Bucky runs them for hours.

 

Until men are throwing up and one collapses in the heat.

 

“Anyone unable to continue running will report to medical for evaluation,” Bucky tells them all after the first guy starts losing his lunch.  He’s loaded into one of the trailing Jeeps and whisked away.

 

Slowly, more and more men drop out and report to medical, and Bucky just keeps running, tracking Marjie’s progress out of the corner of his eye.  She’s jogging along like she hasn’t got a care in the world, with all her worldly possessions on her back the entire time.

 

After twenty-seven miles there are only a handful of guys left, plus himself and Marjie.

 

By mile thirty, Alsterlund, who is one of the men on Bucky’s list to watch , stops running and collapses to the ground, practically yelling, “What the fuck ,” as he lays there.  

 

Bucky just grins and keeps going.  Both he and Marjie are breathing hard now, but he knows this is nowhere near her limit.  

 

He and Steve and the girls once had to outrun a wildfire while camping, which was a fifty mile sprint through the national forest.  And the last ten miles of it where with another family of campers on their backs. Marjie was only ten at the time, but she carried a three year old the rest of the way like it was nothing.

 

Howard lamented the complete lack of uniformity in how the serum manifested to Steve’s kids many times.  All the girls age, and they don’t heal quite as quickly as Steve, but they’re all as difficult to hurt in the first place, and just as strong.

 

Bucky waits until every single man has fallen by the wayside to halt the run.  Almost as a group, Fury, Anderson, Jones, and Mendez all collapse at mile thirty-five.  While the Jeep is pulling over to pick them up, Bucky turns to Marjie.

 

“You see where medical is from here?” he points.

 

“That building with all the assholes who couldn’t keep up streaming into it?  Yeah, I see it,” Marjie says.

 

Bucky laughs.  “I’ll tell you what, Corporal.  If you can beat me there, you’ll get double rations at dinner tonight.

 

“Deal,” Marjie says, and takes off running immediately.  It’s not that far, maybe a quarter mile at most, but Bucky is a full blooded super soldier, and he’s always been faster in a sprint, so she will need all the advantage she can get.

 

Just as Bucky’s coming up on her right side to pass her, he suddenly has a stomach full of very heavy duffel bag as she slings it around and knocks him off his feet with it.  He falls in a sprawl on the dirt, rolling a couple times with his momentum. Of course he’s back on his feet right away, but it’s enough to let her edge him out in their race.  

 

She makes it to medical first, grinning and giving out a whoop as she tags the side of the building.  

 

“I…  What just happened?...” one of the other men says, looking at Marjie like she’s got two heads.  Or maybe more like she has three tits, like he’s stuck between being weirded out and awed.

 

“Isn’t that cheating?” someone else says while Bucky and Marjie are both catching their breath.

 

“You never said I had to play fair, just that I had to win,” Marjie says, though it’s clear she’s addressing Bucky.

 

“Oh, I know.  You know what they say, there are no rules in war, just suggestions.  But seriously, what the hell is in that thing?” Bucky grumbles, rubbing his stomach.  But he’s grinning the whole time.

 

“Clothes, extra set of boots, a few books.  The usual,” Marjie shrugs.

 

“I’m gonna have a bruise,” Bucky shakes his head, still smiling.  He’s also a little more tired than he initially thought. He hasn’t exactly had anyone who could keep up with him in a long time.  

 

“Well, good thing we’re at medical.  Maybe you can get one of the nurses to kiss it better,” Marjie says, eliciting a round of whistling and hollering from the guys around them.

 

Bucky just shakes his head, brushing the comment off, but knowing Marjie made it on purpose.  “I’m pretty sure they’ve got their hands full with all these assholes already.” He takes a second to look around, taking in reactions, stances, etc.

 

“You remember where the women’s barracks were, from the tour?” he asks Marjie.

 

“Yes, sir,” she replies, all business again.

 

“Good.  Go unpack, get cleaned up.  Dinner is at eighteen hundred,” Bucky tells her, “I’ll make sure the cook knows about your extra portion.”

 

“Thank you, sir.”

 

“Welcome to the Rangers, Corporal.”

 

<//>

 

Looking back, it’s easy to see where the rumors started, right from day one.  Marjie is just too strong, too fast, and has too much endurance for a “normal” person.  The more and more she integrates with the team, the more obvious it becomes.

 

During her first month there, someone thinks they can get away with copping a feel of her ass in the cafeteria as she walks by, and her answering punch fractures the asshole’s cheekbone.

 

You know, little stuff like that.  

 

Bucky stands up from his table and walks over all leisurely, noticing Marjie didn’t even spill her tray in the process.  Sergeant Marzolf is laying on the ground clutching his face and moaning about overreactions.

 

“Sergeant,” Bucky speaks up, “You better believe that if you grabbed my ass as I walked by, you’d get socked in the fucking face too.”

 

He shuts up real quick after that.

 

Bucky turns to Marjie.

 

“You want to press charges for sexual assault?”

 

“Nah, as long as he quits bitching and never touches me again, I think we’re good,” she says, sneering at him on the floor.

 

“You don’t have any proof that I did anything,” Sergeant Marzolf glares, defiant at being called out, apparently.

 

“I saw Sergeant Marzolf grab her ass as she went by,” Coulson stands up, frowning at the fallen Sergeant.

 

“I saw it too, we all did,” Fury says, gesturing with his fork, “And I suggest you fucking drop it and get your ass down to medical, before you end up in an even worse world of hurt, Sergeant,” he adds, his eyes flicking from the prone man to Bucky and back again.

 

It’s at that point that Bucky realizes a lot of the men, and by a lot, he means pretty much all of them, have assumed that Marjie is his illegitimate daughter.  Not that they look a whole lot alike, but Marjie got her mom’s coloring, and Bucky has dark hair too, so combined with the questionable strength, it’s enough for them.  Plus, they still think her last name is Smith, so that only lends credence to the theory.

 

It’s a while before Bucky has a chance to talk to her about it though.

 

Partly because he’s trying very hard not to show her any favoritism.  Pulling her aside for a private chat would only add fuel to the fire, which he doesn’t want to do without having asked her how she wants to play this…  It’s a catch 22 if he’s ever seen one, so he decides to just wait it out.

 

By the time the opportunity presents itself, Marjie has been with them for almost six months.  She takes it seriously, which means she’s probably heard the rumors or already been asked directly herself.  

 

“It isn’t that I wouldn’t be proud to be your daughter,” Marjie tells him, which makes Bucky’s heart do funny things for a second, “But if we let this rumor stand, it’s Mom that will end up getting the worst of it, in the end.  There’s already rumors that run around in the circles back home, just because you always lived with us… I wouldn’t feel right throwing any fuel on them with what we do here,” Marjie explains.

 

“Yeah, I know what you mean…” Bucky sighs.  “And you’re right, your Ma would disembowel me, I didn’t think about it like that...”  

 

“And if you were disemboweled, then Dad would be sad.”

 

“Your Dad would be sad,” Bucky agrees.  “Alright, I guess that decides it then.”

 

“But what are we actually going to do about it?” she asks.

 

“Well…  Honestly, I been thinking about coming out to the men anyway,” Bucky confesses.

 

Marjie draws in a breath.

 

“I thought that was one of those things that everyone understood you just weren’t supposed to talk about , in the Army…” she says, her eyes showing her concern.

 

“It ain’t.  But, it’s just one of those things that everyone understands , that women don’t belong in combat either...  Sometimes, if you want things to change, you gotta give them a push,” he replies, squaring his own shoulders.  

 

Marjie nods with pride on her face, pride for both of them.

 

“Ok then.  You know I’ll back you up, Uncle Bucky.”

 

“Thanks, kiddo.”

 

The next day in the mess hall, Bucky makes sure to sit next to Corporal Collins, who is both a risk taker and a gossip.  Then he casually steers the conversation around him to family, spouses, children ...

 

“What about you, Colonel?” Collins asks him, taking the bait, “You ever been married, had kids?...”

 

“Nah, never been married, the history books are right about that at least,” Bucky says, earning a few chuckles and snorts.  Collins doesn’t look like he’s going to push , but Bucky’s come too far to back down now, so he keeps going on his own.

 

“Never had any kids either,” he says, a little wistfully, “And I never will.”  

 

He can practically feel everyone around him thinking of Marjie, of Corporal Smith , and yep, a few guys even glance her direction.  She’s seated at a different table down the aisle from them.  

 

“Are…  Are you sure?...” Corporal Collins asks, like he’s suddenly afraid he’s stumbled into some bizarre coincidental situation where Bucky himself doesn’t realize she’s his kid...

 

“Yeah, I’m sure.  The way I heard it,” Bucky pauses, waving his fork in the air a little for dramatic effect, keeping his tone playful, “You have to sleep with women in order for kids to be a possibility.”

 

A couple guys chuckle, like they’re reacting to Bucky’s tone but haven’t caught up to what he actually said yet.  

 

Once they do it’s quiet around him, but Bucky just keeps on eating like nothing’s wrong.  

 

“But I thought you had this whole ‘reputation’ , man…  Are you seriously telling us you’re a virgin?” one of the other guys asks.

 

“What?  No, of course not.  I meant that I’m gay,” Bucky says, giving him a wry smile, “You won’t find that in the history books.”

 

It’s dead silent around him for a second, and then the men far enough away from him that they think they won’t be heard start whispering .  Bucky doesn’t hear anything too bad, they’re mostly in shock as the news starts spreading, so he just keeps eating.  Once he’s finished his plate, he stands up, bidding the men goodnight and reminding them they’ve got a routine inspection in the morning.

 

As he’s walking out, he hears Fury telling Coulson, “Every time I start to think maybe he might be just a regular guy, he goes and does something so motherfucking brave…”

 

He keeps walking, but he smiles when he gets outside the doors, pausing to see if the noise ticks up now that he’s gone.  The chatter does indeed escalate, until one voice suddenly rises above the rest.

“Wait, if he ain’t Corporal Smith’s father, then what the fuck is she?”

 

There’s a bit of a pause, and then an “eep” in the silence that follows his statement.  Bucky would bet his left testicle that it’s because Marjie rounded on him in that time…

 

“Next time you get the urge to ask a woman what she is, do yourself a favor, and don’t ,” Marjie’s voice rings out, followed by a thump that sounds an awful lot like somebody’s boots touching back down to the ground again.

 

Marjie can definitely handle herself, so Bucky heads back to his quarters.  

 

There are no surprises at inspection in the morning.

 

He does hear someone else getting brazen enough to ask Marjie about her superior abilities later though, asking if she’s part of some secret new super soldier program.

 

“Maybe, maybe not,” Marjie shrugs, “But maybe you boys should stop worrying about where I came from and start being thankful you still have jobs at all.”

 

That shuts them up pretty quickly.

 

In the following days, a few men seem more curt with him than they have been before, but he supposes if that’s the worst of it, he’ll get off lucky.  Perhaps there’s something to be said for being “the greatest war hero of all time” after all…

 

“Colonel Barnes?” Coulson asks him, “You remember how Sergeant Jones decided not to reup when his tour was over?”

 

“I do, Sergeant Coulson.”

 

“Well, the guys are doing a little ‘going away’ thing, and we know he always talked about asking you to sign an old comic book for him, but he’s always chickened out when it came down to it…” Coulson explains.  

 

“He certainly wouldn’t be the first,” Bucky says, helpfully, “On either of those counts.”

 

“If you’d be willing to come by the barracks, everyone who wanted to is gathered up right now.”

 

“Of course, Coulson, no problem.”

 

Bucky heads over with him, not really suspecting anything, because Fury is his second in command, and Coulson is right after him in terms of trustworthiness and responsibility.  When they arrive, pretty much his entire battalion is present, crammed into one wing of the barracks.

 

Sergeant Jones comes right up to him, shaking his hand.  “The guys elected me spokesman, since I’m leaving tomorrow I can get all mushy tonight without it affecting my reputation too much,” Jones tells him.

 

Bucky just frowns slightly as they shake, but he nods.

 

“We just wanted to tell you that we don’t care that you’re gay, sir.  Every man here-,” there’s a pointed throat clearing in the crowd from Marjie, “-and Corporal Smith,” he adds, “Would follow you into the depths of hell without hesitation.  Some of us have .  And will continue to do so.”

 

Private First Class Blake speaks up next, “I had an uncle who was gay, and he was murdered for it, so I know exactly how brave it was of you to do what you did in that cafeteria.   I just wanted to say, well, thank you, sir, on behalf of his memory.”

 

“You’re an inspiration, sir,” Coulson tells him next, “Not just for every little boy who dreams of growing up and joining the military, but for those of us who have always had to hide what we are, as well.”

 

Bucky is getting a little emotional, but he’s pretty sure he’s understanding Coulson right, so he raises an eyebrow.

 

“I’m gay too,” Coulson admits, his cheeks coloring a bit.  But he stands tall though.

 

“So am I,” a few more declarations ring out as men step forward from the crowd.

 

Bucky really is tearing up now.  

 

They share some of their stories with him, which unfortunately are almost all universally that they joined the military to get away from disapproving family, except for Coulson.  He admits that his family doesn’t know though, so it’s not as if he’s some rarity.

 

“My parents died when I was a teenager, so I never got the chance to tell them.” Bucky discloses.  “I don’t know what they would have thought… But I try not to dwell on the past, it’ll only bring you down.  I try to keep pressing forward, toward the future.”

 

“Wise words, Colonel,” Fury nods.  “And on that note, gentlemen” he says, turning to face the crowd, “ In the future , I better not catch any gay orgies going on in the barracks,” Fury says, glancing pointedly at Coulson, razzing his best friend a bit, “It wouldn’t be allowed it if it was the nurses either, so keep it in your pants in public, boys.”  

 

“Aren’t you going to warn off the Colonel too?” some wise ass shouts from the back of the room.

 

Fury turns and gives Bucky a raised eyebrow.

 

“Hey, you don’t have to worry about me, none of y’all are my type anyway,” Bucky grins, holding his hands up.

 

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Corporal Collins pipes up, joining in the banter.

 

Bucky shrugs casually and says, “I prefer navy boys.”

 

The whole barracks boos him, but it’s the most lighthearted booing he’s ever heard.





Chapter Text

1977

 

Bucky is leading three squadrons on a mission in Sudan when their chopper, the first in the formation, gets hit.  Unfortunately for Bucky, he’s so used to being a super soldier that he takes risks no one else would pretty regularly.  So he’s not strapped in when they lurch to the side from the blast, because he’s been firing through the open door at the ground below.

 

He misses grabbing the edge of the door by a hair’s breadth as he tumbles out of it.  

 

And then he’s falling.

 

He sees the trajectory he’s on, but everything happens fast , and there’s not actually anything he could do about it anyway…  

 

Bucky slams into the tail rotor of the chopper behind them, which was taking evasive maneuvers.

 

The pain through his left shoulder is instant, which is bad , and he only hopes as he continues to plummet to the ground that he didn’t just kill any of the soldiers who are about to crash in that second chopper.  

 

The impact is too much for him to stay conscious through.  

 

When he swims back to awareness his left side is a blaze of pain and Marjie is kneeling over him.

 

“Oh, thank god,” she says, keeping the pressure on his wound.  

 

“This wasn’t supposed to happen,” Bucky slurs, his brain not working quite right yet.  

 

“Yeah, no shit,” Marjie says under her breath.

 

There’s yelling in the distance.  Bucky doesn’t know what they’re saying, but he hopes it’s because it’s not in English, not because his head is damaged that badly.

 

“Can you hold onto this?” Marjie asks him, gesturing to the wad of emergency dressing where his shoulder used to be.  

 

“How’d you get here?” Bucky wonders blearily, groping for the cloth.  

 

Marjie takes her spare pistol out and chambers a round.

 

“I jumped after you.”

 

“What?!  Are you crazy?” Bucky frowns, but it hurts, so he stops.  “Oh shit, we’re behind enemy lines… Fuck, you shouldn’t have done that.  Steve’s gonna kill me,” Bucky mutters.

 

“You’re kidding, right?  We all know my Dad would kill me if I let anything happen to you, old man,” Marjie says, putting the loaded handgun on Bucky’s stomach.  “I’m going to lay down some covering fire from that rock right there, you keep applying pressure. You don’t let off the pressure unless you are about to get shot.  Then and only then do you pick up this gun,” she instructs him.

 

“Yes, ma’am,” Bucky agrees, knowing he has no choice.

 

Marjie nods and goes up to the outcropping of rock that Bucky landed next to.  He’s starting to think a tiny bit more clearly, enough to be thankful that he didn’t slam into those rocks themselves, or he probably wouldn’t have been waking up again at all, super soldier or not.  

 

He tries to keep an eye on Marjie, to watch for any sign that she’s being overrun, but this is the worst pain Bucky has ever experienced in his life.  He’s having a hard time focusing out that far too. Jesus, he must have landed right on his goddamn head.

 

Shots keep ringing out as Marjie holds their ground, but Bucky can tell from her firing pattern that she’s trying to conserve ammunition.

 

Fifteen minutes later, Bucky catches movement out of the corner of his eye.  He lets go of the emergency dressing, which is so caked with blood that it doesn’t fall away, and he grabs the gun.  

 

Thankfully he recognizes Sergeant Coulson before he accidentally shoots him.

 

More men come up behind him as the rest of the squad fans out to help Marjie.  

 

“Jesus, how is he still alive…” Corporal Scott says as he and Sergeant Anderson start wrapping his shoulder up more thoroughly.

 

“Don’t think I’ll be walking this one off,” Bucky says, which Corporal Scott just looks horrified at hearing him say.  

 

Coulson snorts.  

 

“Your sense of humor is a little off today, Colonel.  That joke would have been much funnier if you’d lost a leg,” Coulson says, holding a bite guard up for Bucky.  

 

“Yeah?  I guess I’ll save it for the next time I lose a limb, then,” Bucky says, accepting the mouthpiece.

 

He screams when they tighten his bandage.  

 

“We need to move!” Marjie yells from atop her rock.

 

Men scurry into action.  She jumps back down to Bucky in one leap, throwing him over her shoulders in a fireman’s carry.  

 

He blacks out again from the fresh wave of pain.

 

Bucky comes to in an overloaded chopper, the last bird left, with Fury laying beside him on the floor.  His second-in-command has his head wrapped in gauze, covering his left eye completely, and his left arm is in a splint as well.  

 

“Marjie?” Bucky says, hoping with everything in him that she made it onto the chopper too.

 

“I’m here.  Just hold still, Colonel, we’re slow going at this weight, might not have enough fuel to make it back to base camp,” she tells him.  

 

Bucky lets his eyes fall closed again.  “Coulson, who all did we lose?”

 

“Only you, Smith, Fury and myself survived from chopper one.  Chopper two was able to crash land, but Sievers, Morehouse, and Collins were killed in the firefight on the ground,” Coulson tells him.

 

Bucky doesn’t ask if they were able to retrieve their bodies.  The living take precedence over the dead. He lays there with his eyes closed until they land.  They’re still a couple miles from camp, but Simpson isn’t about to risk them running out of fuel in the air.  

 

This time, Bucky doesn’t lose consciousness when Marjie picks him up, which he guesses means he’s starting to heal up, at least a little bit.  But it still makes him grunt in pain.

 

They make it back to base without further incident.  The scouts saw their chopper setting down, so an army ambulance meets them part way, with Bucky and Fury both being loaded in quickly.  The rest of the team is taken back in a regular troop transport. A plane is waiting on the tarmac, to take them both to Germany and the large military hospital there.  Both of their wounds are far beyond the base camp’s ability to deal with here.

 

Marjie and Coulson both insist on going with them, and miraculously, someone authorizes it.

 

On the plane, Marjie finally removes her helmet, tucking it under her arm.  She runs a hand over her face and up into what little hair she has, rubbing over it as if to get the feel of the helmet off..

 

“I need to make a call,” she says, getting up out of her seat.  Bucky watches her approach the cockpit from his stretcher, but he doesn’t say anything, too exhausted and in too much pain to argue about her chances of being allowed to do that.

 

“Look, the higher ups need to know what’s going on over here.  And I don’t mean Colonel Insley, I mean the real higher ups,” she argues with the co-pilot.

 

“All we have are standard radio communications…” the co-pilot hesitates.

 

“That’s fine, tune in to this frequency and it will get through,” Marjie says confidently, giving them a number.

 

The pilots both look a little skeptical as the co-pilot enters it in.  If there weren’t so many rumors swirling around about her being part of a new super soldier program, they probably wouldn’t believe her at all.  “That isn’t any command frequency I’ve heard of…”

 

“No, it’s not,” she says, picking up the mic.  “This is Little Sparrow calling the nest, I need to speak with Mamma Bird.”

 

There’s a few seconds of static, and then a voice says, “Code in, Little Sparrow.”

 

“Authorization juliet-oscar-tango-whiskey-six-niner.”

 

“Patching,” is all they say back, followed by some clicks and a minute or two of silence.  

 

“This is Mamma Bird, come in Little Sparrow,” Peggy’s voice answers.

 

“Tell Eagle One to get his ass to Germany, the Turkey lost a wing and damn near cracked his skull open, we’re en-route to Munich as we speak,” Marjie says.

 

“Confirmed.  Status report?” Peggy asks.

 

“Aside from that, everything’s fine,” Marjie says with a sigh.

 

“What’s your ETA to Munich?”

 

“Five hours.”

 

“We’ll be about three behind you, then.”

 

“Roger that,” Marjie answers, “Little Sparrow out.”

 

“Mamma Bird out.”

 

The line goes dead at the same time Marjie’s putting the mic back in it’s cradle.  She thanks the pilots and comes back to Bucky’s side. Coulson has been watching her intently the whole time.

 

“I got something on my face, Phil?” she asks, picking up Bucky’s remaining hand and just holding it.

 

Coulson’s gaze briefly flicks down to her hand, but then right back up to her face.

 

“Yeah...patriotism,” he says, squinting at her.

 

Marjie snorts, because while she got her dad’s height, she definitely looks most like her mom.

 

“Marjie’s not a nickname, is it?” Coulson asks, like he already knows the answer.

 

Marjie blinks for a second, but then she slowly smiles.

 

“No, it’s not,” she admits.

 

“It’s an acronym…” Coulson offers, but Marjie puts a finger over her lips, indicating for him to keep his silence.

 

Coulson nods.

 

Fury wakes up shortly after that and starts swearing up a storm, partly about Marjie jumping out of the chopper against direct orders, so that keeps the rest of the flight interesting.  

 

When they finally make it to Munich, Bucky and Fury both are taken into surgery, to see what can be done for them.  Bucky knows there’s only so much they can do for a missing arm, though.

 

The doctor starts peeling the dressing off and blanches, which is not a good sign.

 

“Someone should have thought of this…  Colonel Barnes, I’m afraid with your advanced healing factor, the skin has already started to heal around the fibers of the bandage…”

 

“I’ve never been hurt this bad before, it ain’t no one’s fault they didn’t think of it,” Bucky says, grimacing at the pain from just him tugging on the fabric.

 

The anesthesia won’t put him under.

 

The morphine they tried giving him on the plane didn’t do anything either, his metabolism is too fast for alcohol or drugs, apparently.

 

Bucky can sense that the doctors are running out of options, so he tells them, “Just do it.  When the pain gets bad enough, there’s a good chance I’ll pass out again anyway.”

 

The doctor looks horrified, but he eventually agrees there’s probably not going to be any other way...  

 

Bucky does indeed pass out about five minutes into the procedure.  

 

Out in the waiting room, Marjie and Coulson have been going on a full 24 hours without sleep when they land.  Which isn’t a huge deal for Marjie, but she knows Coulson is going to need some down time soon. While he goes to call Nick’s family, she rearranges a few chairs in the waiting room so several of the ones without armrests are in a row.

 

As he comes back, she sits down and kicks her own feet up onto a strategically placed chair, waving a hand at the row beside her.  “I’ll be your pillow just this once, Coulson, only ‘cause I know you’re smart and won’t get to thinking that it means I like you,” she tells him, smiling conspiratorially.

 

Coulson gives her a tired smile back, nods, and lays down on the chairs with his head in her lap.

 

“Were you able to get through to Nick’s Ma?” she asks.

 

“Yeah.  She thanked me for calling, said she’d be praying for all of us…” Coulson tells her.

 

She puts her hand on his upper arm, giving it a squeeze.

 

“Do you believe in God, Sergeant?” he asks her a second later.

 

Marjie herself has lead a pretty charmed life, and she knows it...up until she joined the army, anyway.  But she thinks about her Uncle Bucky, who has given so much for their family, for his country...and had nothing but loss in his life in return…

 

“I don’t know, Phil…  If there is a god, I don’t think it works the way the majority of people seem to think it does…” she finally tells him.

 

“Yeah…  I know what you mean,” he agrees.  

 

A couple hours later, there’s suddenly an uptick in activity around them, pulling Marjie out of her half dozing state.

 

“We under attack?” Coulson mumbles into her leg.

 

“No, I don’t think so,” Marjie smiles to herself, having a good idea of what the approaching ruckus is.

 

Within seconds, Steve and Peggy Rogers are sweeping into the waiting room, leaving a growing stream of gossip and chatter in their wake.  

 

Marjie nudges Phil to get up as she stands.

 

“Thank god you’re alright,” Steve says, pulling her into a hug immediately.  “Have you heard anything about Bucky?”

 

“No, just that they were taking him into surgery a few hours ago.  They only release info to a superior office or next of kin, neither of which we’re listed as,” Marjie says, indicating herself and Coulson.  

 

“I’m going to find out what’s going on then,” Steve nods, determined.

 

“Do either of you need anything, a hot meal, perhaps?” Peggy asks as Steve makes a b-line to the nurses’ station.  

 

“Maybe after we find out how the Colonel’s holding up,” Marjie says.  “Ma, this is Sergeant Phil Coulson.”

 

“Bucky says good things about you,” Peggy says as she shakes his hand.  

 

“Thank you, ma’am, it’s an honor,” Coulson nods.  

 

Peggy is excellent at making meaningful small talk to pass the time in tense situations, so she keeps Majie and Couslon’s attention until Steve comes back.

 

“The nurse said there wasn’t much they could do for him, wasn’t much to do at all aside from clean up the wound.  He’s in recovery, but hasn’t woken up yet.  I guess they had to do it without anesthesia, so he passed out part way through.  They decided to let him sleep as long as possible after they were done, since there’s nothing they can give him for the pain…” Steve tells them, scrubbing a hand over his face.

 

“You should wait with him, to be there when he wakes up.  I’ll take the remainder of his team to get fed and watered,” Peggy says.

 

Steve gives her a kiss, Marjie a hug, and shakes Coulson’s hand before heading down the hall.  The rest of them head in the opposite direction, toward the cafeteria.

 

When Steve reaches Bucky’s room, he takes a slow breath, steeling himself for what he knows he’s going to find.

 

It doesn’t help.  

 

Bucky’s left arm is just, gone , completely missing, not even a stump of it left.  The angle of the cut the chopper blade made through him makes it look like he’s lucky it didn’t take off part of his head too.  

 

As quietly as he can, Steve moves into the chair on Bucky’s right side.  He doesn’t want to wake him any earlier than necessary, since he’ll probably be in constant pain until he heals up enough on his own.   

 

It’s only about twenty minutes before Bucky’s eyes are blinking awake.  

 

Steve takes his hand, squeezing it strongly enough so that there will be no question who it is.

 

Bucky squeezes back.

 

“Hey, Buck,” Steve says, voice thick with tears, “It’s good to see you again.”

 

“What’s left of me,” Bucky sort of half grumbles as he wakes.  “They got any water in this joint? I just spent four months in the desert.”

 

Steve jumps up to get him a drink from the pitcher nearby.  

 

“How’s the pain?” he asks, concerned.

 

“It’s getting better.  This is already way less than when I came to the first time, on the ground…  Your daughter saved my life, by the way,” Bucky says, accepting the cup. He grimaces when he tries to move, but he still goes ahead with the motion.  “I’d have bled out on the sand, or been overrun, if she hadn’t jumped after me.”

 

Steve puts a hand over his eyes for a second, probably picturing his baby girl flinging herself out of an airborne chopper.

 

“I guess the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree...” Bucky says, “Or maybe that would be the eagle doesn’t land too far from the nest…” he teases to try and lighten the mood.

 

“Jesus, Bucky, I’m the one who’s supposed to be comforting you, here,” Steve says.

 

“It’ll be alright, Stevie.”

 

“Will it, Buck?  You lost an arm, your military career is over.  Forgive me for being worried,” Steve frowns.

 

“Wow, you really suck at this whole ‘bedside’ thing.  Remind me if Marjie ever gets hurt, to make sure it’s her Ma that sits with her,” Bucky frowns right back.

 

“Shit.  I’m so sorry,” Steve apologizes right away, looking horrified at himself.

 

“This is the risk every soldier takes,” Bucky says, “At least I’ve still got an arm left to wipe my own ass with.  It could be worse, Steve. It could be a lot worse.”

 

“I have no idea how you’re taking this so well, but it’s a good thing, I guess,” Steve rubs a hand through his own hair.

 

Bucky thinks about how the metal plates of the Winter Soldier’s arm shifted when he moved it and knows that he’s actually had thirty five years with the idea, to get used to it being a possibility.  He wonders where the prosthetic field is at in his own dimension…

 

And he wonders just how much of a man’s life is actually fate or not…

 

“Ain’t no point in getting worked up about it,” Bucky says, “It wouldn’t change anything.”

 

“You’re right, Bucky.”

 

“Why don’t you tell me how everyone’s been doing back home.  Might help take my mind off the pain,” Bucky asks.

 

“Sure thing,” Steve gives him a sad smile, “Sarah’s looking for another job, the school she’s at refused to give her the full raise at review, for her years of employment.  They said she didn’t need it since it wasn’t like she was responsible for supporting a family…”

 

Bucky can imagine perfectly the verbal lashing that the higher ups would have received over that…  He tries to relax as much as he can to the sound of Steve’s voice, focusing on picturing the events he’s describing instead of focusing on the pain.

 

It sort of works, up until the point where Steve sighs, a heavy hearted I wish I could fix this with my fists but I can’t sort of sigh.

 

“And then there’s Howard,” Steve grimaces himself.

 

“What’s going on?  He in trouble?” Bucky asks.

 

“No, but he should be…  He… I don’t understand how a man can be so disinterested in his own child.  For as intelligent as he is, as good of a businessman as he’s always been...he’s a shitty parent.”

 

“Those things don’t exactly go hand in hand, Steve,” Bucky says, thinking of the stilted tone that future Tony spoke about his father with.  

 

“He hit him, Bucky.  We were in the lab and Tony accidentally dropped something important, and Howard just… backhanded him, I…  I saw red, I don’t even remember doing it, but I picked Howard up by the front of his shirt and had him shoved up against the wall…  Tony was six when it happened , for fuck’s sake.  Six-year-olds drop things, they spill things, it’s completely unreasonable to think that they wouldn’t…”

“What did you do?” Bucky asks, hanging on Steve’s every word.

 

“I said something like, ‘If he ever laid a hand on Tony again I would give the same to him’…  It’s only the fact that Howard’s been my friend for thirty years that kept me from calling the cops right that minute…  Hell, maybe I should have anyway, maybe I made the wrong decision there… But it hasn’t happened again, so I guess only time will tell,” Steve runs a hand over his face.  

 

“How long ago was that?”

 

“It’s been a few months now.  I try to spend as much time as I can get away with over there these days, especially when Howard’s home,” Steve shakes his head slowly, as if he can’t believe the situation.  “And Howard knows too, what me and my Ma went through…  I just don’t understand how he could ever think that would be ok.”

 

“Tony’s lucky to have you around,” Bucky says, not even beginning to think he knows what’s going on in Howard’s head.  The guy has always been kind of an ass. An outright ass at times, honestly, so Bucky doesn’t think it’s too far of a stretch to say he lost his temper and wasn’t thinking at all...

 

“Thanks, Buck,” Steve gives him a weary smile, “Spending time with him is so different from the girls…  It’s unbelievable how smart Tony is. Not that the girls weren’t smart, but he’s an actual genius , I’m pretty sure.  He’s off the charts in his mental development.”

 

“Tell me something I don’t know,” Bucky smiles, even through the pain.

 

Steve cocks his head for a second, looking at Bucky as if just now remembering that he met a future dimension version of Tony.

 

“You son of a bitch, you couldn’t have said something?” Steve seems upset with him.

 

Oh.

 

“Hey, I didn’t know anything about Howard abusin’ him, or damn straight I would have warned you,” Bucky defends himself, “The Tony there didn’t really want to talk about Howard, but the little he did say was strained, which could have been from a whole bunch of other reasons.”

 

“Ok, ok, I’m sorry, Bucky, I know you would have said something…  But you already knew he was going to be super smart, then?”

 

“He’s the one who made the gun,” Bucky confesses, “And honestly, that was child’s play for him.  He’s going to change the world, Steve. And it may be cold comfort right now, but it’s Howard that will only be a footnote in Tony’s history.”

 

“I believe you,” Steve says seriously, giving him a nod.

 

The door to Bucky’s room opens and Peggy peeks her head inside, opening it up all the way once she sees Bucky is conscious.

 

“Your squad wanted to see you before Colonel Insley has them shipped back state side,” she says.

 

“That man is a goddamned menace,” Bucky mutters.  

 

Marjie and Coulson both come in after her, checking up on him and saying their goodbyes.  Bucky promises to relay any information he gets on Fury’s condition. Peggy can’t stay long either, so she leaves Steve with him and heads back for the states as well.  

 

<//>

 

The next day, a doctor comes into his room and wants to speak to him about an experimental procedure.  It isn’t something that the army’s been working on, but research done by an old colleague of the doctor’s.  

 

An advanced prosthetic, capable of the full range of motion that a normal arm and hand would be.

 

The problem was that none of the people who volunteered could handle the strain of it being wired right into their nervous systems, so the project was ultimately abandoned.  

 

“What do you mean they couldn’t ‘handle’ it?...” Steve asks skeptically.

 

The doctor shakes his head slowly, “There has to be a direct connection between the arm and the brain.  A normal human doesn’t have a great chance of surviving brain surgery, even just the insertion of a neural relay.  The one man who did survive the procedure wasn’t able to fully heal from the other extremely invasive surgery to attach the arm to his musculoskeletal structure.  His body rejected the foreign objects and he eventually died of infection.”

 

“But you don’t think I’d have that problem,” Bucky supplies for him, already knowing he’s going to agree.

 

“Exactly.  Plus, these days, we know that the body can accept titanium almost universally,” the doctor explains.

 

“How long ago were these previous experiments run?” Bucky asks, getting a weird feeling in his stomach.

 

“...  In the late 40’s, actually.  My friend was a student of the doctor who was in charge of the clinical trials.  He still works with prosthetics, he fell in love with the field back then, but he defected to the U.S. in the 50’s and basically had to start his life over again from the ground up.  He didn’t have the funds or connections to pursue an idea that seemed like a pipe dream.”

 

“And you’re willing to put me in touch with him?” Bucky asks.

 

“What?  No way, Bucky, this sounds half baked at best.  I thought you didn’t ever want to be a science experiment again?” Steve says, frowning in disapproval.

 

‘Could you excuse us for a minute, doc?” Bucky asks, trying to be respectful.  

 

“Of course, take your time to think about it.  I’ll come back tomorrow to see if you have any further questions,” he says.

 

“Thanks, doc, I appreciate you watchin’ out for me,” Bucky nods.

 

Steve raises an eyebrow.

 

Once the doctor is out of the room, Bucky cuts Steve off before he can even open his mouth.

 

“It ain’t an experiment if I know it’s going to work,” he tells him, staring his best friend down.

 

“What?...  You mean people had metal arms like that in the future?  Is that why you haven’t been worried about losing yours?” Steve asks.

 

“No,” Bucky sighs, “Not everyone.  Just me…”

 

“Just you…  Bucky, you told us you died in the other future, that doesn’t make any sense,” Steve says sternly.

 

“I never actually said I died…  I said I fell from the train and I wasn’t around when you had to fly that plane…” Bucky confesses, playing with the hem of the bedsheet with his fingers.  

 

“What the fuck are you trying to tell me,” Steve says, his gaze as piercing as Bucky has ever seen it.

 

“I’m tryin’ to tell you that I, he , survived the fall from the train, but was captured by Hydra.”

 

Steve sucks in a shocked breath.

 

“No one was around after the war to hunt the rest of ‘em down, so they set up camp in Russia.  They tortured and brainwashed him into becoming a...a machine, basically. One that was real good at killin’ and had a metal arm.  He spent 70 years under their control. They even found a way to put some sort of code words in his head that would revert him to the brainwashed mode when he would start rememberin’ he was a person and not a tool.  I met the guy, Stevie, I met the man and even years after being free from them, he was still just a shell of a man. I wasn’t going to tell you about any of that if I didn’t have to, come on,” Bucky goes on a little bit of a rant.  

 

It makes his blood pressure tick up and makes his shoulder throb a little worse.  He presses his good hand against his sternum, afraid to get too close to the actual wound as he lays his head back in pain.  

 

“Jesus, Bucky…  Is there anything else you want to tell me?” Steve says, still looking a little mad, but like he doesn’t really feel that he can take it out on Bucky right now...

 

“Yeah, there is,” Bucky says sarcastically, “Don’t count on the Cubs winning a World Series any time soon.”

 

<//>

 

Within a month, Bucky is on the operating table, being prepped for a mechanical arm that looks damn near exactly like the one his future counterpart had.  

 

Dr. Braslavski has come up with a concoction of mostly horse tranquilizers that was finally able to reduce Bucky to at least a semi-numb state, when given in massive doses.  He estimates around 20 hours for the surgery, with himself performing all the most delicate parts and an assistant doctor to handle the grafting of metal to his spine and rib cage.  

 

It ends up being closer to 24 hours all together.  

 

Bucky was afraid he would still be in a lot of pain once they got started, but it wasn’t as bad as he’d feared.  When they’re finally done, everything hooked up, grafted, and stitched together, they ask him to try moving the fingers on his metal hand.  

 

“You don’t want to aggravate the connections between metal and flesh yet, so don’t try lifting the arm at all for at least a couple days, even with your healing factor.  Just the fingers for now, so we can see if the relay is working properly,” the doctor tells him.

 

Bucky’s fingers tap in a wave pattern against the bed.  

 

All the doctors and nurses cheer.  

 

Maybe this procedure was a little more experimental than he thought…  Oh well, it’s done now.

 

As soon as he’s put into a recovery room, Steve is right there at his side.

 

“So now we wait, huh?’’ he asks.  

 

Bucky does the tapping thing with the metal fingers again, which makes Steve’s eyes go wide.

 

“Holy shit…”

 

“Yeah…  I don’t think we’ll have to wait long…”

 

“Colonel Insley’s going to be pissed ,” Steve says, his face breaking into a huge grin.

 

“Fuck yeah he is,” Bucky agrees, hardly even loopy from the ketamine anymore, “He’s been mad at me for getting command of Fort Benning since ‘75, I bet he thought he was finally gonna get his shot.”

 

“Maybe he’ll take this as a sign and just retire early,” Steve muses.

 

“Nah, I wouldn’t bet on it…  In fact, I hope not, ‘cause I want to see the look on his face when I show up on base with this puppy,” Bucky grins back.  

 

Not many people are in a position to be snickering away with their best friend after coming out of a 24 hour surgery, but Bucky has always been an exception to the rule.

 

<//>

 

Bucky’s review on whether or not he’d be returned to active status after his injury was delayed, enough so that they could be sure of the results from his experimental surgery.  He passes with flying colors, of course. It’s at that meeting that he also learns that the top brass have decided to rename Fort Hamilton, in Brooklyn, to Fort Barnes, in his honor.  

 

“Normally we would wait until after a leading military figure has passed away before naming anything after them,” a General tells him, “But at this rate…” he just shrugs and tips his head in Bucky’s direction.  

 

“Thank you, sir, it’s an honor, sir,” Bucky says.

 

After he’s dismissed, he gets dragged to a tattoo parlor by Steve, so they can replicate Bucky’s tattoo from the Howlies that he lost.  Since his ink from the Rangers is on his forearm, he’s able to still have the Howlies one on his shoulder, just the opposite side now.

 

The tattoo artist asks for a picture with them, which they agree to no problem.  He tells them he’s going to put this in his portfolio and also takes a picture of his and Steve’s tattoos side by side.  

 

Once they’re done there, it’s time for them to head their separate ways again.  They both have work to do, after all.

 

“See you soon, punk,” Bucky says, giving him one last hug.

 

“Try not to lose any more limbs while I’m gone, jerk.”

 

Steve punches him in the arm as he’s leaving, right over his new tattoo.

 

Bucky heals so fast that something like a tattoo isn’t even an issue though, so he just frowns and flips Steve off with his metal finger.

 

Damn, is he lucky to have that punk in his life.

 

<//>

 

The first thing Bucky does when he gets back on base is order the entire thing to be dressed out and in formation on the tarmac at eleven hundred sharp the next morning.  

 

Afterward, Bucky makes a visit to Marjie, casually handing off a fabric name patch to her.

 

“See if maybe Coulson will help you with it, I know you can’t sew for shit,” Bucky tells her.

 

“Yes, sir,” Marjie salutes him, a gleam in her eye.

 

“You sure you’re ready for this, soldier?” he turns around to ask just as he was about to leave.

 

Marjie runs her fingers over the word “ROGERS” spelled out in black stitching.

 

“Sir, I was born ready,” she says, giving him a smile that makes her look entirely too much like her father.

 

Bucky snorts.  “Yeah… You know, I’m pretty sure you were.”

 

Then he really does leave, going off to make trouble for Colonel Insley.  

 

Insley had been given temporary command while Bucky was out of commission and had used the opportunity to move his own battalion here.  Not that there isn’t room for them. It’s just the principle of the thing, in Bucky’s mind, that he would be all moved in before a decision had even come down…

 

But it means that the entire 75th Infantry is all gathered at once, since Colonel Bosse’s battalion was already in residence.  And that ends up suiting Bucky’s purposes perfectly, the way things have ultimately turned out.

 

At oh-six-hundred the next morning, he has some men set up about a hundred and fifty folding chairs and a temporary stage, complete with microphones and sound equipment.  By oh-eight-hundred, the reporters are starting to arrive. Bucky directs them into a designated press area where they start setting up video cameras and their own microphones.  Only a few select journalists have been invited, ones that Peggy assured him wouldn’t cause trouble.

 

“Do you really think all this is necessary just for a fancy prosthetic?” Colonel Insley asks him, watching the growing commotion.

 

“Contrary to popular belief, Colonel,” Bucky says, relishing every moment, “Not everything is about me .”

 

Insley gives him a calculating look.  “What exactly is going on then?”

 

“That information is on a need to know basis...and you don’t need to know,” Bucky adds, polishing a smudge mark off his arm instead of giving the Colonel his full attention.

 

Insley huffs and leaves on his own, without even saying goodbye.

 

Rude.

 

A little after oh-nine-hundred, the first taxi arrives at the front gates, carrying Dum Dum and his wife.

 

“Jeez, it’s good to see you,” Bucky says, giving him a hug.  

 

“Steve told me you were a goddamned android now, but I didn’t quite believe him,” Dum Dum confesses.

 

“I hear the technical term is cyborg,” Bucky says casually, grinning from ear to ear.

 

After that, the whole base is gossiping about what could possibly be going on as car after car arrives, spilling out more Howling Commandos and their families.  Ellie’s and Ruthie’s families show up closer to show time, taking the seats saved for them in the front row.

 

That’s nothing though, compared to the outright commotion caused later by Air Force One radioing in for permission to land right at eleven hundred.  Everyone is on the tarmac in formation as ordered, but Bucky hasn’t called them to attention yet when air control lets him know about the imminent landing.  

 

Those closest to where Bucky is can obviously hear what the runner tells him about Air Force One coming in.  He can see the news spreading from person to person in a ripple across the field.

 

Jimmy Carter is a Georgia boy, after all.  

 

Everyone on base is already at attention as the plane lands, but Bucky goes ahead and calls it out anyway, for the precedent.  

 

“Attention!” he orders before the door of the plane opens.

 

The President is the first person out, followed closely by his wife.  Then come Howard Stark and John Kennedy soon after, followed by Peggy, and then finally Steve.

 

Steve is in uniform, carrying an over large case in his hands.  

 

Bucky can’t help but smile.

 

He greets the current President first off, holding out his normal hand to shake, “It’s an honor to have you on base, sir,” he says, then adds, “Welcome home.”

 

President Carter smiles and chuckles, “It’s good to be back on the Georgia soil, I’ll tell you, Colonel Barnes.  As soon as I heard word about this from Director Carter, I knew I couldn’t miss the chance to witness such a historic event.”

 

“It’s our pleasure, Mr. President,” Bucky reaffirms.  He directs him and his wife to the stage, which is being flanked by secret service agents as they speak.

 

He shakes Howard’s, John’s, and Peggy’s hands, directing them to follow the President as well.  

 

Steve and Bucky salute each other.

 

“You brought it, I assume,” Bucky nods toward the case.

 

“Yes, sir.  I figured this looked more formal,” Steve tells him, grinning conspiratorially.   

 

Bucky nods in agreement, turning to head for the stage himself, with Steve following on his six.  

 

For the symbolism, and all that.  

 

Cameras are flashing and Bucky knows they will have started recording video as soon as President Carter got off the plane, so he makes sure to take that into account in everything they do here.  

 

From the front of the stage, he turns to the mic and to the assembled Rangers, calling out, “Sergeant Margaret Adeline Rogers Jr…  Front and center!”

 

Marjie steps out of formation in a perfect turn, marching up and onto the stage while the rest of the Rangers behind her struggle to keep it together.

 

“The rest of you, at ease,” Bucky calls out smugly.

 

So now they know.

 

Well, Coulson already knew, and from Fury’s lack of surprise, he’d probably already figured it out too.  Though, it could just be the new eye patch making him harder to read…

 

When Marjie gets on stage, she comes to a stop in front of Bucky and salutes him.  

 

He salutes her back, then steps to the side.

 

President Carter comes forward, pulling an envelope out of his suit jacket.  “Sergeant Rogers, this is an official dispensation, allowing you to carry your own personal weapon at all times, whether on the field or off of it,” he explains, handing it over.

 

“Thank you, sir, it’s an honor, sir,” she tells him, accepting the envelope.

 

Peggy quietly steps forward and takes it from her afterward, so her hands are free.

 

Bucky steps up again as the President goes back to stand with the others, making sure his words carry to the microphone.

 

“The United States Army has decided that the title of ‘Captain America’, being trademarked by them, cannot be handed down to another person.”

 

Steve steps up beside him, making sure the case will be visible to the crowd and cameras when it’s opened, and holds it aloft for Bucky.

 

“But the Army doesn’t own this,” Bucky declares, pulling the shield out in one smooth motion.

 

Steve steps back, snapping the case shut, his eyes fixed firmly on Marjie as Bucky stands in front of her with the shield.

 

“I’ll tell you the same thing that your father said, when he handed down this shield to me…  Give ‘em hell with it. And when you’re done, you hold onto it until you find someone else worthy of passing it on to.”

 

Bucky lets the words sink in for a moment, then flips the shield over smoothly, like it hasn’t been decades since he used it, and presents its concave side to Marjie for her to take.  

 

With just as smooth a motion, as if she’s been using it all her life, Marjie takes the shield and places it on her back, just like Steve and Bucky used to carry it.

 

“Sir, yes, sir!” she agrees, giving him another salute.  

 

The military precision of the moment is ruined by Steve going over and scooping her up, hugging her tight and then putting her on his shoulder.  Marjie gives out a whoop and a fist pump into the air, which the Howlies all echo, and suddenly the whole base is cheering and hollering at once with her.  

 

Bucky supposes he’ll allow it, just this once.  



Chapter Text

1980

 

Peggy discreetly asks Bucky if he would mind getting “caught” on camera supporting Jimmy Carter’s reelection.  As a member of the military she knows he isn’t supposed to give public opinions on anything like that, but if he were to “not realize” there were cameras still rolling after an event, no one could fault him there…

 

That’s fine with Bucky.  He isn’t sure what business an actor has running for President anyway, so he says as much to a Congressman’s aide while they’re conveniently still in range of a camera that’s supposed to be off, but is accidentally broadcasting live.  

 

Peggy tells him she owes him one after President Carter’s second inauguration speech.

 

Bucky goes down to SHIELD headquarters and slips her Lieutenant Fury’s resume the next weekend, which has already been rejected by every other intelligence agency around due to his lack of sight in one eye.

 

“If you’re vouching for him, then he’s in, no matter how many eyes he has,” Peggy tells him.

 

“Good, ‘cause Nick’s best quality has always been that he’s willing to do whatever’s needed to get the job done,” Bucky says, looking her dead-on so she will understand his meaning, “And ain’t nothing about that that’s changed by losing an eye.”

 

That is excellent to hear,” Peggy says, “But, Bucky, but this is hardly on the same magnitude as what you did for me, for SHIELD.  I’m afraid I’m going to have to still owe you after this.”

 

“What if I keep sendin’ a few more men your way…  Ones that I think you could use?” he asks.

 

“If you do that , Bucky, I’m going to end up owing you double.”





1981

 

Some lawyer types meet with Bucky, wanting to do a reboot of the Howling Commandos cartoons.  He figures it couldn’t hurt, it’s kids stuff, after all. But he does request that if he’s going to sign off on it, they make sure to not give him any love interests, like the nurses and townswomen they always had him romancing in the first version.  

 

He’s pretty sure at least one of the lawyers catches his drift, because he says that’s perfectly doable and then drops the subject completely.





1983

 

After three consecutive tours, thirteen years total back in the army, Bucky is getting tired of war again.  Marjie is a Captain all on her own now, with enough political clout built up to keep her safe from men who would want to cause her trouble just because she isn’t a man.  So Bucky’s not worried about her, if he were to leave and try doing something else for a while...

 

It’s hard to explain, but Bucky has been feeling kind of out of sync with the rest of the world, for some reason.  The army is kind of an insular existence, being built upon routine .  His feeling of disconnect might be partly because technology seems to be changing more rapidly than ever all around him too…  He tries to keep up with the basics on stuff like that, but there are some things he just doesn’t have time for.

 

Like space exploration.  

 

Howard made good on his promise to focus on colonizing the moon.  Stark Industries is at the forefront of pretty much all technology used in space flight, on top of having cornered the market on clean energy decades ago.  The papers are full of articles about revolutionary shuttles and finding ways to make the moon livable for people someday while plans for a permanent base are being finalized…  

 

Bucky reads an article about UC Berkeley being the first university to decide to offer degrees in the space colonization fields, like cryogenics and terraforming.  

 

It dawns on him then, that just because college was never an option for him when he was graduating high school, doesn’t mean it isn’t ever an option…

 

Although, his diploma is from 1935, so he might need to do some catching up before trying to enroll at a big fancy school like that…  

 

He finds out that they offer mail-order courses to get what’s called a “General Education Degree” though, and he finds himself filling out the order form almost before he knows what’s happened.

 

It takes two weeks for a thick, thick book to arrive for him, but once it does, Bucky abandons all pretense.  He reads through it during all his spare time, morning, noon, and night. Whenever anybody asks him what he’s doing, he just says, “Studying,” like they’re not too bright for not being able to see that.  

 

He’s happy to find out that he’s actually not that far behind current curriculum, if this book is to be believed.  Some of the higher math, well, at least the areas that don’t have to do with being a sniper, he has to learn over again, but it comes fairly easily to him.  Things like spelling and English haven’t changed at all, so he’s good there, and his knowledge of history is superb. Bucky is surprised to find that his knowledge level in the sciences seems to be above average as well…

 

Maybe he’ll do pretty well, in a college environment.

 

Bucky goes ahead and schedules an exam for his G.E.D., even though he feels like he may not actually need it after reading through the book.  He figures he might as well though, since maybe it will show a college how serious he is. Hopefully they don’t throw his application out right away as a lark when they see what year he was born in…

 

The timing would work out really well though, if he did get accepted…  Bucky’s tour is up this spring, so that would give him the summer to get moved and acclimated to a new city before classes started.

 

After passing the G.E.D. with flying colors, Bucky takes the SATs, applies to Berkeley, and files his paperwork for the G.I. Bill, indicating that he won’t be reupping again.  

 

He gets exactly two phone calls about this.

 

One is from a four star general, sad to see him go and wanting to know if there is anything the army can do to change his mind.

 

Bucky tells him there isn’t.

 

The other is from a disbelieving gentleman at the admissions office, who calls Fort Benning’s front desk and asks to speak with “Colonel Barnes” about his application.

 

His shock at actually being patched through is palpable over the phone, even more so when Bucky confirms that he did indeed apply.  

 

While his application is accepted on the spot, Bucky has a feeling it wasn’t because of his academic prowess…  However, as long as they’re willing to give him a chance, he has no problem with buckling down and proving himself.  

 

As soon as his tour is over, Bucky packs up and heads for California, feeling only a pang of heartache here and there along the way to be making the drive alone.  Maybe there is something to be said for time healing all wounds…

 

He makes a conscious decision not to go to Arlington before he leaves.

 

Someday he will go back again.  But right now it just feels like he’d be picking at a scab that’s finally healed over, after being an open wound for so long.

 

Bucky takes his time on the drive, arriving almost two weeks after he started.  He’d called around and found a rental that suited his needs ahead of time, so he’d actually have a place to land when he got there.  He hasn’t seen it yet, but he doesn’t need much. Just a roof over his head and a place to store his books, really.

 

It turns out to be a fairly decent house, which Bucky thinks is a good sign.  There’s not much yard, but he’s fine with that. Less yard work, after all. It comes with a bunch of appliances too, so all Bucky really has to do is buy a bed and a couch, maybe some dishes, and he’ll be all set.  Certain things he hasn’t had a use for owning before this, first because he lived with Steve, then because the army did all the cooking.

 

Thankfully a helpful stranger is able to direct him to a second hand store.  He does buy a bed and couch brand new though, since he isn’t a fan of sleeping on someone else’s used mattress…  Plus a department store will deliver, because there’s no way he’s getting either of those items into the back of his GTO.  

 

Once he’s all settled in, Bucky goes for a walk.  He takes a few days just exploring Telegraph Avenue, then wandering up and down side streets.  It makes him feel right at home to see all the different foods and cultures and peoples living together.  He’d missed that about New York when he was in Georgia.

 

Fortuitously, he likes the south side of Berkeley the best after checking out the whole town, since that’s where he’s staying.  Most of the campus is closed down for the summer, but Bucky still walks around and familiarizes himself with where all the buildings are.  

 

He takes a trip over to San Francisco, but there’s an awful lot of people doing drugs there, so he doesn’t really go back.  The fresh crab he had at the pier was good, but not worth sitting in a haze of marijuana smoke for. Not that there aren’t plenty of people doing that on the Berkeley side of the bay, but it seems more concentrated on the peninsula for some reason...  

 

By the time move-in day comes around, Bucky has already made friends with the owners of the good Thai restaurant, the manager of the pizza place that offers “New York” style slices, and the bartender at a sports bar who promises to always leave a screen on for the Dodgers if they’re playing.  

 

Bucky thinks about getting his own TV, but he kind of likes the social aspect of watching a game like this.  He may not have a whole lot of free time for watchin’ TV anyway, if what he’s heard about the difficulty of this university is correct.  

 

The number of people in town seems to quadruple overnight as the rest of the students arrive.  There are moving trucks everywhere, mattresses tied to the top of station wagons, and people double parked all over the place.  It’s a madhouse and Bucky is infinitely glad he got here ahead of time like he did.

 

Campus is swarming with people, making it seem alive in a way that had been lacking when Bucky walked through before.  There are tons of sports, clubs, fraternities, and sororities set up at booths in the main plaza for the first day of actual school.

 

Someone hands him a flier and asks if he wants to join the rugby team.  Bucky doesn’t even know what that is. When they describe it to him as a sort of Australian version of football, he passes, telling them he’s always been more of a baseball kind of guy.

 

Honestly, it wouldn’t really be fair for him to be on a sports team, he’d probably get kicked off or disqualified as soon as anyone realized who he was.  Bucky keeps his metal arm covered as much as possible while he’s out and about, mostly to keep people from staring and mobbing him. Thankfully the coast is cool and breezy enough even in the summer to get away with a light jacket.   

 

The only organization that actually catches Bucky’s eye as he’s walking is a booth with a rainbow on it that’s giving out government pamphlets on AIDS awareness.  He’s seen the posters around, hell, they had one hanging in medical back at Fort Benning, but this is different.

 

These kids are sitting here, openly proclaiming themselves to be gay just by being at this booth, and no one is making them leave, no one is threatening to beat them up or arrest them…  It’s astounding and astoundingly brave.

 

Bucky marches right over to them and looks around for a sign up sheet.

 

“Uh… This is the LGB club…” one of the guys says hesitantly, like he isn’t sure how Bucky will take being “corrected”.

 

“Yeah, that’s what the rainbow means, right?” Bucky says, pointing to the sign taped around the front of the table.

 

“Right…  Ok, are you a student here?” a girl asks him next.

 

Now, Bucky was 25 when he was captured by Hydra and stopped aging, so he’s been used to looking younger than he’s supposed to for a long, long time.  But apparently 25 around a bunch of college students actually looks too old. Huh. There’s a first time for everything, he guesses.

 

“Yeah, I am,” Bucky tells her nonchalantly.

 

“Like a grad student?”

 

“Nah, I’m undergrad.  Never got the chance to go to college until now,” Bucky tells them.

 

“Why not?” a girl with rainbow ribbons in her hair asks him.

 

Bucky blows out a breath, not quite a sigh, and says, “Well, mostly because I grew up poor, but then because of The War…”

 

“Ah,” the guy speaks up again, nodding sagely, “G.I. Bill, right?”

 

Bucky nods back, because he’s not wrong.  “So when’s your next club meeting?” he asks, checking the clock tower, which he’s been politely informed is called the Campanile , to see how much time he has before his first class.

 

“Oh yeah!  Here’s a flier.  We don’t really have any other vets?...  But everyone is welcome, uh, as long as you’re a student.  Because it’s a student club,” the guy rambles off.

 

“Thanks,” Bucky says, tucking the flier away, “I’ve got to get to my first class now, but I guess I’ll be seeing you all later,” he adds with a small wave.

 

“Wait, the war was like, twenty years ago,” one girl says as he’s leaving, “There’s no way he fought in Vietnam…”

 

“No,” Bucky says, turning his head so his voice will carry to them as he keeps walking, “I meant World War II.”

 

He grins a little to himself as he turns back around, picturing their confused faces.  

 

Bucky angles his path a little to head to the right building, which also lets him see one of the girls grab the sign up sheet and scrutinize his name.

 

“No fucking way,” his super soldier hearing lets him hear her say.

 

Bucky’s grin gets bigger.

 

His first class is a social studies, general education credit that it was recommended students take as incoming freshman.  As soon as they get in the classroom, there’s a little table with a sign set up to grab people’s attention before they sit down.

 

“Social Studies 101: First Assignment,” it reads in bold letters, “Write down the name of the person whom you feel has made the greatest contribution to the 20th century.”

 

There’s a stack of little papers and a pen sitting next to a bowl, with a few folded up papers already in it from the students ahead of him.  Bucky doesn’t have to think too long to come up with something, but some people stand there for a while. He wonders if the reason for the previous answers being hidden is to keep the people who can’t decide from just copying someone else’s response to get it over with...     

 

Bucky sits in the very back of the class, which has stadium style seating even though it probably only holds a hundred desks.  There’s a second door up at the top level, probably for fire hazard reasons.  So there’s only one corner where he can sit without having his back to a door.  And it keeps him from having to sit with people behind him too.

 

It’s not like he can’t see perfectly from back there anyway.  

 

When people are done filing in, the professor goes over and picks up the bowl and carries it over to the chalkboard.  

 

“Franklin D. Roosevelt,” he calls out as he opens the slip of paper.  He then writes the name on the board.

 

“Alexander Fleming,” he says next, writing that name down too.

 

“Ronald Reagan,” the professor lifts an eyebrow, looking out at his class, “I think you might have misread the question…” he says, tossing the paper aside.  There are a few giggles from the class, but no one speaks up to defend their choice.

 

“Now, this is more like it,” the professor says as he unfolds the next one, “James Buchanan Barnes.”

 

Bucky resists the urge to fidget in his seat while his name is being written on the blackboard.  

 

There are a few more names that go up, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Howard Stark…  But after a while there start being duplicates, so the professor starts making tally marks under each person’s name.

 

Bucky is slightly uncomfortable with the growing number under his own name, because he doesn’t think he’s anywhere near on par with people who lead civil rights movements and invented penicillin...

 

When the professor gets to Bucky’s own entry, he’s the only one to have picked Norman Borlaug.  

 

“Now this is fascinating,” he pauses, “And part of why I enjoy the social sciences so much.  Because I can make an educated guess as to what an incoming class of freshman’s answers are going to be to this question, but there’s always an outlier or two every year.”  

 

He opens up the last few slips quickly, tallying up the names without calling them aloud, since they’re all duplicates.

 

“Now, some of you picked political figures, scientists, etc., and there’s no wrong answer here, unless of course you thought acting counted as contributing to society…” the professor pauses as the class chuckles.

 

“It was a joke!” a guy from the other side of the class calls out.  

 

“I should certainly hope so,” the professor allows for the interruption with aplomb.  “But the point is that a case can be made for any one of these people having changed the course of history.  Without antibiotics, the most trivial infections would be potentially deadly. Without Hydra having been stopped, millions of lives would have been snuffed out in an instant by their super bombs.  And for that matter, we’ll never know how many lives were saved by Captain Barnes demanding an end to the Vietnam war. If there had been no civil rights movement in this country, many of you would not be here in this class today, learning how to make the world a better place yourselves.  But all of that, all the lives saved and changed are nothing compared to the impact Mr. Borlaug has had, and will continue to have on the entire world .  And I dare say most of you don’t even know who he is…”

 

The professor scans the class, as if peering into their souls for the knowledge.

 

“Who put Norman Borlaug down on this paper?” he asks.

 

Jeez, way to make an impression on the first day, Bucky thinks to himself.  

 

He raises his hand.

 

“Yes, in the back there,” the professor gestures to him, “Would you care to tell the class what Mr. Borlaug’s influence was?”

 

“Uh, sure.  He bred a strain of dwarf wheat that was hardier, more disease resistant, and produced higher yields than any other variety ever.  Then he took it to Mexico, Pakistan, and India, shared it with them so they could battle the hunger in those countries and be able to feed themselves.  He won a Nobel Peace Prize for it in 1970,” Bucky says, the whole class watching him.

 

“Excellent.  Yes, Norman Borlaug is one of the unsung heroes of the 20th Century.  Because of the global scope of his work, he will eventually be responsible for the saving of billions of lives,” the professor tells them all.  “The aim of this class is to get you all thinking about society on a wider level.  This isn’t your old high school civics course, where the world begins and ends with the United States and a picture of Captain America on the wall.  I am here to broaden your horizons, to get you to start thinking globally .  How many of you have ever been outside the U.S.?”

 

A few students raise their hands, Bucky included.  

 

“What countries have you visited?” the professor asks next, going back to the chalkboard.  

 

He points to the first student with a “go ahead” gesture.

 

“Canada and France.”

 

The professor nods, writing those down and pointing to the next student.

 

“Italy and France.”

 

“England.”

 

“Mexico.”

 

And then the professor gets to Bucky.

 

“Uh, I was in the military, so I’ve been all over,” Bucky says.

 

The professor makes a “go on” gesture, so Bucky takes a deep breath.

 

“England, Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Libya, Sudan, Egypt, Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, and Suriname,” he says.  “Oh, and Canada,” Bucky adds, almost forgetting this continent.

 

“That must have been an entire career…” the professor says.

 

“Yes sir, it was,” Bucky answers.

 

“Well, it’s nice to see the G.I. Bill being put to good use.  Tell me, did you hear about Mr. Borlaug on your travels outside the country, or was it here?”

 

“Uh, actually I met him at a fundraiser once.  Very humble guy,” Bucky nods.

 

“Fascinating,” the professor says, “I’d like a word with you after class, if you have the time, Mr.?...”

 

“Barnes,” Bucky says, having a feeling that this particular professor is not going to pass off his name as a coincidence like he was hoping most would.  He doesn’t mind if people know who he is, but he doesn’t want to get by on his fame.

 

“Barnes?  Any relation to the Captain?” he asks, a small smile on his face like he’s making a joke.

 

“Uh, yeah, actually…  And it’s Colonel now, just for the record,” Bucky says, smiling apologetically.  

 

“I wasn’t aware that Bucky Barnes had any children,” the professor says back, raising an eyebrow.

 

Bucky shakes his head, “You’re right, I don’t.”

 

The whole class starts talking at once, with everyone turning to look at Bucky more closely.  He knows this won’t stop until actual proof is presented, so he takes his metal hand out of his jacket pocket and gives the professor a lazy salute.

 

“Holy shit, his arm is metal!”

 

“It really is him!”

 

The professor looks torn between awe at him being there and irritation that his class is devolving into chaos.  

 

Bucky stands up and motions for everyone to settle down.  “Look, I’m paying to take this class to learn something,” he says, nodding to the professor, “Not to stare at the wildlife,” he adds pointedly, “So if we could all get back to the lesson, I’d appreciate it…”

 

He sits back down, the whole class going silent in chastisement around him.  

 

The professor nods to him gratefully and goes back to his lesson plan.  

 

Bucky does stay and chat with him for a few minutes after class, because he has a gap between this one and the next.  

 

He wonders if this is going to be a pattern though…

 

The next class on his docket is chemistry, but the professor doesn’t interact with them nearly as much, just taking roll call in a perfunctory manner and moving right into the syllabus and his expectations.  A few students look around a little when “James Barnes” is called out, but no one says anything or stares at him too long.

 

In Bucky’s last class of the day, pre-calculus, he outs himself all on his own by hugging the professor, which is Sarah Rogers .

 

“Uncle Bucky?” she says in disbelief as he walks in the door.  “Is everything alright?” she asks as they immediately make a b-line for each other.  

 

“Everything’s great, kiddo,” he says, beaming, “I can’t believe you’re one of my professors…”

 

“You’re going to school here?  That’s amazing!” she grins back as they embrace, not having seen each other in forever.  The other students are already wagging their tongues, but Professor Rogers has a beginning of year speech all planned out for them.  She simply adds Bucky into it as she explains that yes, she is related to that Rogers, and no, she will not accept questions about her or her family’s personal life.  They are here to learn .

 

Bucky stays after to talk to the professor there too.  

 

All in all, college is looking like it was a pretty good idea.




Chapter Text

1984

 

His sophomore year, Bucky ends up taking in a guy from the LGB club whose roommates kicked him out when they found out he was gay.  By the end of that year, he’s pretty much running a halfway house for at-risk gays and lesbians.

 

He also meets a gorgeous drag queen named Gilbert and has a little bit of a fling with him.  It’s not anything serious, and they both know it, but Bucky appreciates being able to ease back into the dating scene with him.    





1985

 

Bucky becomes the go-to guy for breaking up any potential brawls outside his favorite drag club. There’s a small incident where some bikers are harassing the performers as they try to go home after the show, and Bucky automatically puts himself between them and the trouble.

 

“You all need to clear the fuck out, right now,” Bucky tells them loudly, because it’s a large group, at least a dozen guys, and he wants to make sure they all hear him.

 

“Or what, you’re going to put on your heels and do a dance to scare us off, fag?” their leader sneers at Bucky, walking right toward him.

 

“No, I’m going to kick your goddamn ass, that’s what,” Bucky says, issuing his warning calmly.  

 

The leader chuckles, purely for the benefit of his followers, “Yeah?  You and what army?” he asks, gesturing behind himself.

 

Bucky takes off his jacket and tosses it on the ground beside him as he says, “Boy, I am the army,” revealing his metal arm.  “You want to go to war? Be my fucking guest,” he says, spreading his arms wide to show off that no, it’s not a trick, and yes, the arm is real.  They just threatened Bucky Barnes .  In their defense, Bucky has let his hair grow out in the past couple years, so he’s not as recognizable as before...  But still.

 

The leader stops in his tracks.  

 

There is no brawl that night.  

 

There are no brawls or attacks or misunderstandings outside that club for many years after that group turns tail and runs.  





1986

 

The Stark Industries partnership with NASA is all over the news in early ‘86, as ground is finally broken on the lunar base.  They’ve been shuttling materials up there for years now, laying plans for a structure massive enough to house dozens of full time residents.

 

But now there’s been a breakthrough that will allow for construction to begin decades ahead of schedule.

 

Anthony Edward Stark, the boy genius, has programmed machines that can think .  

 

Machines that don’t need oxygen, or water, or any food aside from an electrical charge, who can begin building right now, with only minimal supervision.   

 

The world, Bucky included, watches the press conference with awe as Howard explains their new plan and time frame.  There are a half dozen important people on the podium with him, but most of them don’t do any talking. Howard has a hand on Tony’s shoulder throughout pretty much the entire thing.  Bucky notices though, that when they play the recorded footage of a robot digging up the first shovelful of dirt, it’s Steve on his other side that Tony turns to and grins happily, getting a congratulatory hug from.  

 

“My question is for Anthony,” one of the reporters asks.

 

Howard allows it with a nod, watching his son carefully as he adjusts the mic.

 

“It’s Tony, please,” the teen says right away.

 

They all shift their questions to him, asking about the intelligence level of the robots, how confident he is in their abilities, and how likely the odds of a robot uprising are.

 

Tony laughs at that one.  

 

“Well, as long as Anton treats them right, he won’t have anything to worry about,” Tony says, giving the man a mockingly stern look where he’s standing behind them.   

 

Anton Vanko smiles back, putting a hand over his heart and nodding at Tony.  

 

“Do you think it sends the right message to be leaving the developing colony in the hands of a former Russian scientist?” the next reporter asks, as if the space race wasn’t won a long time ago.  

 

Howard looks like he’s about to step in, but Tony gets a determined look on his face.

 

“I think it sends the perfect message,” Tony says, “Because it sends the message that true science...pure, unadulterated science...has no nationality.”

 

There’s a murmur through the crowd.

 

“Science has no ethnicity, or race, or gender.  Stark Industries employs the best scientists it can get its hands on, as a rule, no matter where they’re from.  And Anton Vanko is one of the best. He’s also been a close, personal friend of the family for many years. And since Uncle Steve says I’m ‘too young’ to go to the moon by myself,” Tony rolls his eyes for dramatic effect, which causes the crowd to chuckle, “There isn’t anyone else I would trust more to be up there if it can’t be a Stark.”

 

That definitely shuts the reporter up.

 

Howard smirks proudly at Tony’s side, by all appearances on a much better track as a father since Steve straightened him out.  Bucky knows that a certain amount of this is all for the cameras too, but he hopes Tony is having a decent childhood behind the scenes...

 

<//>

 

That summer, Bucky gets a call from his baby sister, Rosie, who he’s kept in touch with the best out of all his siblings.  It also helps that with him being in California right now, she’s also the closest.

 

It’s not a happy phone call though.  

 

Rosie and her husband have always fought a lot, which Bucky didn’t like, but it wasn’t his life to be deciding how to live…  Well now Brett has apparently taken things to a whole new level. Some younger gal has caught his eye and Rosie caught him cheating.  When she tried to leave him though, he wouldn’t allow it, and he hit her.  

 

Bucky sees red when she tells him, asking for his help to get away from the bastard.  As independent as she’s always been, Bucky knows she must be in a bad spot to have resorted to calling in backup.  

 

He promises to be in Bel-Air that night and jumps into his old Pontiac with only the clothes on his back, his keys, and his wallet.  

 

In Paso Robles he gets a ticket for doing 95 miles an hour on the highway, but he speeds up again after only a few miles.  He can afford the fine. It’s actually the only ticket he gets, which Bucky doesn’t know if he should be happy or sad about.

 

When he finally makes it to Rosie’s house, it’s less than four hours after he left, which is record time.  

 

Her bastard of a husband is the one who answers the door, which is perfect, because it saves Bucky the trouble of hunting him down.  

 

He grins sharply and picks the asshole up by the front of his shirt.  “Hey Brett,” he says, holding him up with one arm and giving no care to the fact that his opponent is a sixty-five year old man, “I heard you laid a hand on my sister.  Oh, hi Rosie,” Bucky waves at her in the background with his free hand. “You got anything you want to take with you?”

 

“If you’ll keep him occupied, I’ll pack a bag,” she says, eyeing her husband warily.  

 

“Sure thing, sis.  Take your time. Me and Brett are just gonna have a nice chat while you do that.”  

 

Rosie nods and heads for her bedroom, leaving the two of them alone.  She moves slow since her hip needs replacing, but Bucky has all the time in the world.

 

“Look, I know you think you’re hot shit in this town, Brett, but let me assure you, you are nothing .  I don’t care who you know, the people I know are more important.  And more dangerous. You know men with big names, but I know men with no names.  Men who could disappear you in a heartbeat and make your own mama question whether you’d ever existed in the first place.  So remember that, the next time you’re thinking about my little sister and how you’ve treated her.”

 

Bucky lets him down out of the air, but he doesn’t let go of him until Rosie is in the car with her bag.  He drives at a much more sedate pace out of the city with her as a passenger.  They stop a few towns over to get a hotel and a bite to eat. Rosie doesn’t cry the entire time, she just looks exhausted.  

 

“Do you want me to kill him?” Bucky only asks once, because he’s serious.

 

Rosie takes a minute to think, before answering no.  “I wish there was a way I could hurt him like he’s hurt me, but he would have to have cared about me for that to be possible,” she sighs.  

 

“Everyone cares about something ,” Bucky points out, still offering.  

 

“Honestly, I just want to never have to see him again,” she says, resting her head in her hands on the diner’s table.  “But I’ll have to in court at the very least, when I divorce him.”

 

“What if you didn’t have to?” Bucky asks, knowing that papers and judges and due process are circumvented all the time, for certain reasons.  

 

“What do you mean?  I am divorcing the bastard, no matter what,” Rosie tells him.  Her hair may be grey and her face full of laugh lines, but she’s still the headstrong girl Bucky knows and loves.  

 

“Of course you are.  I just meant, we could probably get it done without you havin’ to see him.  I really do know someone, although she’s a woman, not a guy,” Bucky explains, “But Brett doesn’t need to know that.”

 

“Is she the kind who could get me set up with a different name somewhere?  Because honestly, Brett is a vindictive bastard, and I wouldn’t put it past him to keep trying to harass me if he knows where I am,” Rosie says.

 

“Trust me, if I ask her to get you a new identity, she’s the kind of gal who’ll have all your documents, a signed lease, and three ‘old childhood friends’ waiting to pick you up at the airport,” Bucky grins.

 

Rosie chuckles, which is the first mirth he’s seen from her, and says, “Alright then, take me to your friend then.”  

 

The next morning they fly out of La Guardia to New York.  Bucky makes a call when they land, dialing the number by memory.

 

“Hey, it’s Bucky.  I kind of need a favor.  … Well, that depends on how ‘big’ you consider setting up a new identity to be.  Oh, and pushing through a divorce without either of the parties being present. … What?  No! It’s for Rosie. … Thanks, this means a lot to me. Is it ok if I bring her down to headquarters?  … Alright, we’ll see you in a bit then,” Bucky says, hanging up the pay phone.

 

They hail a cab and head right over.

 

SHIELD is one of the few government agencies whose headquarters isn’t in Washington D.C., mostly because neither Peggy or Howard were willing to move there.  

 

Bucky is in civilian clothes of course, but it’s far too hot for a jacket, so his metal arm is on full display.  He figures it doesn’t hurt to be recognized in a place like this though. SHIELD agents are professionals if nothing else, so the worst that happens is that he gets a few blinking glances, as if the person is trying to convince themselves that they really are seeing him as they walk by.

 

“The Director will see you now,” a familiar voice says from behind where Bucky and Rosie are waiting.  

 

“Son of a bitch,” Bucky says as he turns, grinning from ear to ear, “How have you been, Nick?”  

 

“I can’t complain, man, can’t complain,” Nick says as they share a quick hug, grinning just as widely as Bucky.  “Coulson’s got a class in the gym, I’d have rounded him up if I knew you were swinging by.”

 

“It was a spur of the moment thing.  This is my sister, Rosie. Rosie, this is Lieutenant, or is it just ‘agent’ now?” Bucky asks and Nick nods, “ Agent Nick Fury then.”

 

“It’s a pleasure ma’am,” Nick says.  

 

“The pleasure’s all mine, Agent Fury,” Rosie tells him, “It’s always nice to meet one of Bucky’s old friends .”

 

Bucky gives her a look.  “I was his commanding officer, Rosie, give me a little credit,” he complains.

 

“Oh, I see,” Rosie says solemnly, nodding as if he’s speaking in some sort of code.

 

“He’s straight anyway,” Bucky waves off, not wanting Rosie to embarrass Nick at his workplace in her efforts to tease her brother.  

 

“And I have it on good authority that Colonel Barnes prefers navy boys anyway,” Nick throws his two cents in with a conspiratorial grin.

 

“Really?  That is fascinating ,” Rosie says, grinning widely.

 

“Oh, look, I think I hear the Director calling us,” Bucky says flatly, turning and starting to walk down the hall.  He knows their teasing is all in good fun, plus it will take Rosie’s mind off her current situation, so he doesn’t actually tell them to stop.  He waits down the hall for them to catch up, falling in step on Rosie’s other side once they do.

 

“So,” Rosie says, mercifully changing the subject, “How do you know the Director of a secret government agency?”

 

Maybe not so mercifully after all…

 

“Well…”

 

Thankfully Rosie isn’t too mad at him for keeping Peggy’s real job a secret all these years.  She and Peggy even hug right away, with Peggy expressing her condolences and offering to “disappear” Brett as well.  It turns into mostly a catching up session for the two of them, so Bucky and Nick sneak out while they’re talking, to go find Coulson and surprise him.  

 

His class is over by then, so the three of them head over to the cafeteria and catch up for a while.  

 

“So, you got any other promising new recruits?  Aside from Phil here, of course,” Bucky asks Nick after they’re done shooting the breeze.

 

“Nah, Phil’s wiping the floor with these guys, there isn’t a one of them that would have survived your school, Colonel,” Nick sighs.  

 

“Well, if you don’t mind me having to be a little cryptic,” he says, casually cleaning up the last of the food on his plate, “I can give you a couple pointers on people to watch out for…”

 

Coulson raises an eyebrow, sharing a look with Nick, who makes a “go on” gesture to Bucky.

 

“One of these days, you’re going to cross paths with a couple of, let’s say, ‘less than traditional’ recruits,” he tells them, deciding to take the opportunity presented to him, “An archer from Iowa...and a spider from Russia.  It ain’t going to be easy to bring them in, in fact, it’ll probably be the toughest thing either of you have ever done. But it will be worth it. They deserve a second chance,” Bucky tells them pointedly.

 

Nick gives him a very serious, searching look, which is enough for him to guess that whatever’s going on in the world, the Black Widow does indeed exist in it.  Because nobody would be giving him that look over an archer.

 

“A second chance is usually something the person getting it has to want ,” Nick finally says.

 

“Well, sometimes when you’ve had your head messed with badly enough, it makes it hard to do what’s best for yourself,” Bucky says, just as he spots Rosie and Peggy entering the cafeteria.

 

“...Alright, I’ll keep an eye out for them,” Nick says, giving Bucky an appraising look.

 

“Excellent.  Needless to say, boys, we never had this conversation,” Bucky says, winking and clapping them both on the back.  

 

While he makes his way over to the girls, the back of Bucky’s mind is churning with a decades old conversation that he had in the future.  

 

About how Clint’s only request had been that Bucky help out when the invasion happens, his voice hollow with loss as he spoke.

 

And how Natasha had said he was changing enough just by not becoming the Winter Soldier if he could help it...but she wouldn’t mind him putting in a good word at SHIELD for her and Clint, if he was feeling generous.  The smile she’d given him afterward set off every “You are in danger” alarm bell Bucky possessed, so he’d simply tipped his head and said, “Of course, ma’am,” at the time…

 

He figures he wasn’t going to get a much better opening than that, so might as well…  

 

“Hey, Rosie, you all set up now?” he asks, giving her a hug.  

 

“Yes, Peggy assures me that if I want to live somewhere green now, Oregon is the way to go.”

 

“Unfortunately, you won’t be able to go with her, since you’d blow her cover,” Peggy says, gesturing at Bucky’s arm, “But I’ll send Fury and Coulson to get her settled in, since I know you trust them.”

 

“Thanks, Peg.  I think we’re just about even for the Carter thing, now,” Bucky nods.

 

“We’re even when I say we’re even, Bucky,” she tells him.  

 

Bucky isn’t completely sure if she’s kidding or not, so he falls back on a tried and true response.

 

“Yes, ma’am.”

 

 

1987

 

Bucky calls Steve in the spring of ‘87, to catch up and to casually invite them to Bucky’s college graduation.  Steve starts in right away on telling Bucky all about this big trip he and Peggy have planned though, and how he’s been trying to get her to take a real vacation with him for years now.  He’s so excited that Bucky decides not to even bring up his graduation after he hears the dates they’ll be gone.

 

Instead he whistles into the phone, “Wow, six months is a long vacation.  Good for you,” Bucky tells him, genuinely happy for his best friend.

 

“Thanks, Bucky.  I had to play the ‘age’ card just a little to get her to agree to it, but it’s completely true that we’ll have more fun if we do this while we’re healthy and mobile.  You know I hate to think like that, but ignoring reality never changed it,” Steve says.

 

Bucky wholeheartedly agrees.  He also tells Steve to bring him back a souvenir.  

 

He knows Sarah will be there as a member of the faculty, so he calls the other girls to feel out their situations.  Both Eleanor and Ruthanna have children of their own graduating from high school, but Marjie assures him she can get leave to be there.

 

“You want me to scrounge up Fury and Coulson too?” she asks after realizing that her parents won’t be able to make it.  

 

“Sure.  I’m calling Rosie next, so I’m sure Nick will be thrilled,” Bucky says sarcastically.

 

There’s silence on the phone for a second.  

 

“Ok, now that is a story I have got to hear,” Marjie demands.

 

Bucky sighs, having walked right into that one.  He doesn’t get off the phone for nearly an hour with her, only hanging up when he starts to smell a faint whiff of smoke in the air.

 

“I gotta go Marjie, before Kao burns the house down...”

 

“Alright, see you in May, Uncle Bucky,” she laughs.

 

“See you then.”

 

<//>

 

Bucky feels a little silly in his cap and gown, but since everyone else is wearing them too, it’s not too bad.  He also has an extra golden rope and tassel thing, signifying that he’s graduating with Honors, which not everyone has.  

 

Thankfully this, as in all things academic, goes alphabetically, so he doesn’t have too long to wait before he’s up on the stage, shaking Chancellor Heyman’s hand and smiling for the photographer.  If people recognize him today, he really doesn’t care. Because he finally feels like he can hold his own in the world again.

 

Bachelor of Science, with a Major in Terraforming and a Minor in Social Studies.  He’s one of the first people to ever be awarded the degree. For terraforming, not for social studies.  Bucky just liked that first class he’d taken so much that he signed up for others like it, and had enough credits that his counselor said he might as well declare a minor in it.

 

Bucky can hear Marjie and the rest of his friends and family cheering in the stands, probably taking a hundred photos with the camera Nick ‘requisitioned’ from SHIELD for the event.  He feels like he’s walking on cloud nine that whole day. After the ceremony itself is over, Bucky takes more photos with the students from the LGB club, and some smaller shots with just his Rangers, and then just the girls, though Marjie is in both.  

 

They all go out to eat afterward, with Bucky treating everyone as thanks for coming to support him.  

 

“So…  I don’t suppose you’re planning on going back to the military again…” Marjie teases him.

 

“Nope, got a job all lined up in a research lab,” Bucky says proudly, “They’re a think-tank for NASA, since Dupont wouldn’t have me,” he explains.  “They were too afraid I was actually a mole for SI to hire me, even with my credentials, and they said so right to my face…”

 

Dupont ?” Sarah just about chokes, “You applied at Dupont and not Stark Industries?...”

 

“What?  You think I want to work for Howard ?” he tells her, grimacing dramatically.  

 

Everyone laughs.

 

“Oh my god, he’s going to kill you,” Rosie snorts, barely keeping from spilling her glass of wine.

 

“Eh, he can try,” Bucky waves a hand in the air, “I’m a pretty tough guy to take out though.”

 

“That you are, Uncle Bucky, that you are.”




1988

 

While he’s getting ready for work in the mornings, Bucky usually leaves the news on in the background.  He almost swallows his toothbrush one Thursday when he hears them reporting on the arrest of Tony Stark, heir to Stark Industries, certified genius, and patriot.

 

That last part makes him frown in confusion as he’s heading into the living room to look at what they’re showing on the TV.  Most of the time when famous people are getting arrested, it’s not spun in a positive light…

 

Bucky is just in time to catch a video clip of the offense in question.  Some sort of rally is being held on the MIT campus and a reporter is interviewing one of the organizers, a tall, skinny dude with a shaved head.  They’re obviously picking up part way through the guy’s speech, but even so, his political affiliations are abundantly clear when he ends his rant with a salute and says, “Heil Hitler!”  Then before he’s even had a chance to lower his arm, Tony comes into the frame and sucker punches the guy in the side of the head and yells, “Fuck Nazi’s!” as he jumps on him.

 

Jesus, the kid’s got a good swing for being so small…  

 

“Mr. Spencer,” the reporter says, “An avowed white supremacist, indicated that he will be pressing charges.  Since Mr. Stark was not deemed a flight risk, he was given bail, which was posted by Captain America only minutes later.  Some of Mr. Stark’s fellow students came to show their support outside the station upon his release, holding homemade signs that reiterated his ‘F- Nazi’s!’ theme.”

 

They show a still shot of Tony being walked out of the station by Steve, with Steve’s hand on his shoulder proudly, and the crowd holding their blurred out signs.  As the reporter finishes with the story and the station removes the picture from the screen, the reporter turns to his colleague and says, “Catchy slogan, hopefully it spreads,” before they move on to the next story.

 

Bucky chuckles and goes back to getting ready once the report is over.  

 

It’s the first time a young prodigy heir’s arrest scandal has caused the stock of his parent’s company to rise .  





1989

 

On August 7th, 1989, the joint NASA-Stark Industries lunar base receives its first full time residents.  Anton Vanko had been living out of a modified shuttle while overseeing the construction, so although he is credited in history as the first resident of the moon, he’s more than ready to come home to his wife and son by the time the base is finished, and he never actually resides in it.  

 

Sarah Rogers is one of the applicants lucky enough to be selected for the first batch of residents.  They’re all scientists by trade, there to begin the long process of making the entire moon habitable someday, through terraforming.  

 

The ideas and experiments and papers that Bucky’s been helping to publish for the last few years have all been leading up to this.  His theory on nitrogen fixation in low oxygen environments turned out to be correct, so NASA gave him a raise for saving them a lot of future time and heartache when they’re actually ready to implement these procedures on the moon.

 

Now if someone could just figure out the gravity problem, so they could get water to stay on the surface of the moon when they put it there, that would be great.  But that’s not really Bucky’s area of expertise. Hopefully someone cracks it eventually, because humans need water, and storage in tanks is limited by definition.  They’re only ever going to be capable of supporting a very small population level without being able to have a sea...

 

Bucky works out of the lab at the Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral, so he doesn’t have to go far to watch Sarah be launched into space.  Steve is there, and so is Marjie, and a couple of Sarah’s close colleagues from Berkeley.

 

The flight director comes over and talks to them for a while after take-off is successful, but it takes three days to get to the moon, so they all part ways eventually.  Bucky has taken time off to hang out with Steve while he’s here, since it’s been forever since they’ve seen each other.

 

Not until they get word that the shuttle has landed, safe and sound, does Steve relax.  

 

“That was even worse than when Marjie went off to war,” Steve confesses, holding his head in his hands and just soaking in the relief that she made it.  

 

The next day, Sarah’s face is all over the newspapers, magazine covers, and television spots.  She’s a new hero for the modern age, they say, a woman that all little girls who dream of the stars can look up to.  

 

“Did they do write ups like this when we handed down the shield to Marjie?” Bucky wants to know, because he had too much on his mind back then to pay attention to the media.  

 

“Yeah, Buck, they did.  It was a circus. And then incoming female enrollment in the armed forces doubled the week after that,” Steve tells him.

 

“I did know about the enrollment…  Just wasn’t sure how the media had portrayed it…  Hopefully colleges see an increase in girls enrolling in their math and science programs now too.”  

 

“You know, I’m pretty sure they will.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

1990 - part I

 

After almost a year of successful soil amendments, they’re finally ready to put in the first living plants on the moon.  They’ve been very carefully selected for the environmental factors present. This is honestly the most critical part of the process, because if they can’t get the right balance of atmospheric creation between the gasses they pump out and the flora they plant, no ozone layer will form and they’ll be screwed.  

 

The moon is going to look an awful lot like high desert at first, but that’s ok.  The desert is beautiful in it’s own way.

 

At their six month data point, oxygen and nitrogen levels are holding steady and the plants are thriving, so step two of phase one is declared a success.

 

Bucky receives a promotion, but it’s contingent on him being willing to move to a new, higher tech lab that’s opening up in New York.  

 

It’s been a long time since he’s been home, and the timing feels right, so Bucky accepts.

 

He doesn’t feel like mooching off of Steve again though, not after all this time living by himself, so he rents an apartment of his own not too far from the lab.  Bucky also doesn’t tell anyone about his promotion and move, opting to show up and surprise them. He hasn’t always kept in touch like he should, so it actually won’t be too out of character not to hear from him for a little while…

 

But that’s going to change soon.  

 

Bucky pays extra at his complex to have two parking spaces, so he can keep his old Indian with him and ride it when the weather’s good.  He’s gotten a little spoiled with the California and then Florida winters...or rather, the lack thereof.  Since it isn’t until the day before Thanksgiving that he’s finally settled in, Bucky’s pretty sure his chances to ride are dwindling rapidly.  He doesn’t smell any snow in the air the next morning though, so he risks it and takes the bike over to Steve’s house.

 

And no one is home.

 

Well, that’s what he gets for not calling ahead on a holiday...

 

Bucky fires up his bike again and heads down the street toward the Stark’s mansion, having a pretty good idea of where everyone is if they aren’t here.  Steve instituted joint holidays when he started taking a bigger role in Tony’s life, and from what he said, Maria never once complained about it.

 

Steve is tickling his great-grandchildren, while their mothers watch on in amusement, when he hears the sound of a motorcycle coming down the street.  

 

“Who’s riding a motorcycle in November?  It could snow at any moment,” Ellie frowns, her hearing having picked it up too.  

 

Marjie leans forward in her chair, listening, as she sets her drink aside.  She catches her dad’s eye, sharing a look with him.

 

Steve gets up off the floor, handing toddlers back to their parents as he goes, trying to tell himself not to get his hopes up.  He looks out one of the front windows just in time to see a lone rider punching in an access code at the gate.

 

“Holy shit,” he says, grinning and letting the curtain fall back.

 

“Uh, language,” Tony says sarcastically from where he’s sprawled over an armchair.  

 

Steve gives the girls a sheepish look, but the effect is ruined by how much he’s smiling.  He heads for the front door at a half jog while everyone else is still figuring out what’s going on.  

 

As soon as Bucky parks his bike, the front doors of the mansion open and Steve comes trotting out, smiling like a loon.  

 

“Hey Stevie, surprise,” Bucky says, swinging off the motorcycle and into a hug.  The rest of the family comes streaming out behind him, with shouts of “Uncle Bucky!” ringing through the air.

 

It’s nice when a plan finally comes together.

 

“I’m back, Steve,” Bucky says tightening the hug for a second.

 

“Back?  You mean it?” Steve says, squeezing him in return.  

 

“Yeah, got an apartment downtown and everything,” Bucky tells him as they finally let go.

 

“Did you hear that Peg?  Bucky’s back in New York!” Steve shouts as he turns around to find his wife, who’s actually closer than he thought she was.

 

“No need to yell, darling, I haven’t quite lost all my hearing yet,” she says blithely, coming in for a hug too.  “Welcome back, then, Bucky.”

 

“Thanks Peggy.  It’s good to be back.”

 

There’s a round of hugs for pretty much everyone, except for when he gets to Howard, who’s already into his scotch at one in the afternoon.

 

“You need a haircut,” is the first thing out of Howard’s mouth, looking at Bucky’s appearance disapprovingly.  

 

“You need to quit drinking,” Bucky says back, smiling a little too widely.    

 

Then they both nod at each other and go for a handshake.  

 

“What my husband means to say is, ‘Welcome’,” Maria says, giving Howard a look.  He shrugs it off. She sighs and gives Bucky a very polite, ‘what can you do’ sort of smile.  Then she turns toward the house and says, “Tony, come and meet Colonel Barnes.”

 

There are more than a dozen steps leading up to the front of the Stark’s mansion, which puts Tony far above him when Bucky gets his first real look at the guy.  

 

Which is fitting, because Tony Stark descends his front steps like a young god; one who’s still fascinated by humanity and is enjoying his time among them.  

 

Jesus, he’s gorgeous.  

 

Bucky may or may not be having a religious experience watching his lithe form get closer and closer.

 

Tony grins an easy, knowing smile, obviously looking Bucky up and down too as he approaches.  There is a definite spark in his eyes as he says, “You must be this ‘Bucky’ character I’ve heard so much about...”

 

“That’s me,” Bucky confirms, feeling a slow smile overtake his own features, “You must be Tony.”

 

“The one and only,” Tony tells him, bouncing on the balls of his feet a little, “So, you aren’t going to ask if the stories were good or bad?”

 

“Oh, I’ve got a fair idea of the stories that get told about me...the rumors too,” Bucky says, playing it up.

 

“Yeah?  Any truth to them?” Tony asks, as if he knows exactly which rumors Bucky is referring to.  He does absolutely nothing to disguise the want in his eyes as he looks Bucky up and down.

 

Bucky licks his lips and says, “Definitely.”

 

Marjie comes up beside Bucky and briefly puts an arm over his shoulders, interrupting the moment with a teasing, “Save it for dessert, boys, Jarvis is politely waiting to tell us dinner is ready, and I’m starving.”  

 

“Well, we wouldn’t want to keep the lady waiting,” Tony says, grinning at Marjie and not looking chastised at all to get caught flirting with her uncle.  

 

Maria gives Tony a look, but doesn’t say anything out loud.

 

Bucky doubts Howard even noticed the exchange, for all his showmanship with crowds he’s always been shit at picking up on social cues…

 

They all head inside, with Tony being first since he was the last one down the stairs before.  

 

And yeah, it’s definitely a new religion Bucky is finding as he watches that glorious ass work its way up the steps.  

 

“You know, I feel like we missed an incredible opportunity to be taking bets here...” Marjie muses at his side.  

 

Bucky elbows her in the ribs.  Not like super soldier hard, but just ex-Ranger hard.  She makes an oof sound and pushes him in retaliation, but suddenly Steve is there breaking things up with a hand on each of their shoulders.  

 

“Get along, kids,” he says pointedly, “It’s Thanksgiving, no wrestling in the house.”

 

Tony snickers ahead of them, leading the way to the dining room.  When everyone is done getting seated, Bucky is happy that Tony is only across the table from him, one chair down.  However, Steve is sitting directly across from Bucky, and Howard is at the head of the table like two seats away, so he vows to himself to try and keep the flirting to a minimum.  

 

There is an actual, literal feast prepared, with several turkeys, multiple hams, and mountains of side dishes all along the table.  It kind of has to be one, to feed all the super metabolisms present. Steve says grace even though it’s Howard’s house, then they all dig in.  

 

At one point Steve goes to get another piece of ham with his fork but is distracted by something Ruthie is saying down the table, and almost skewers Maria’s hand, who was reaching in that direction at the same time.  

 

Bucky’s reflexes are as fast as ever though, so he’s able to get his metal hand in between them in time for the fork to bounce off of it with nothing more than a clanging sound.  

 

Everyone looks at the noise, with Steve being especially confused until he realizes what he just almost did.

 

“I’ve been told it’s rude to stab your hostess, Steve,” Bucky jokes, pointing a metal finger at him, “Eyes on what you’re doing, punk.”

 

“I am so sorry, Maria, are you ok?” Steve immediately starts apologizing.  

 

“I’m fine, Steven, thanks to Bucky’s quick thinking,” she assures him.

 

“Of course,” Bucky waves off her gratitude, “Allow no harm even through inaction, and all that…”

 

Tony makes a small sound in his throat as he tilts his head, “Did you just quote Asimov?”

 

“Uh, yeah,” Bucky says, giving him a smile.  

 

“Huh.  I’m impressed,” Tony replies, taking the attention off Steve, who still looks mortified.  

 

“Well, the Doc who put on my arm said it was required reading for me now, so…” Bucky shrugs, but his grin gives away the joke.

 

Everyone chuckles at that, even Howard, and Tony is looking at him with a new, different light in his eyes afterward.  Not just lust, but genuine attraction .

 

And wow, does Bucky find that he likes that.  He doesn’t think he’s ever had a single person express interest in him because of his brains before…

 

“Well, you know what’s really impressive,” Bucky takes a more serious tone, looking at Tony directly, “Is your work on artificial intelligence.  You know, I don’t think Asimov actually ever envisioned it being a reality. A lot of the issues he presented were really just metaphors for how a parent fears their own child, or the younger generation in general.”

 

The look on Tony’s face is very clearly saying, “Oh shit, he’s hot and smart...”, which Bucky appreciates very much.

 

“Uh, thank you,” Tony quickly gathers himself together, “So, are you a fan of science, or just science fiction?” he asks, feeling Bucky out.

 

“Both.  My all time favorite is actually Dune though, so I hope you can forgive me…  But in all honesty, I’m really a huge fan of how most science fiction ends up becoming just regular ‘science’, you know, eventually .  I mean, humanity has dreamt up all kinds of crazy things over the years, but it can be a long time before people who are actually smart enough to make them a reality come along,” Bucky says, tipping his glass to both Tony and Howard, since he seems to have the whole table’s attention.  

 

“I think we’re still a ways off from making ships that can fold space,” Ellie’s husband says, reaching for another roll.  

 

Bucky glances at Howard, only to find that Howard glances at him at the same time…  They both look away without saying a word.

 

Tony is looking back and forth between the two of them with a thoughtful expression on his face, having caught their little exchange.

 

“I actually meant the terraforming,” Bucky says, deftly avoiding the tesseract subject, if he does say so himself, “Did you know Frank Herbert got the initial idea for the story because he was reporting on a community that was being lost to coastal dunes by erosion?” he asks.

 

“No…  Where did you hear that?” Tony wonders, looking like his sole focus in the room is now Bucky.

 

“From him.  I got the chance to attend a lecture in college once where he was a guest speaker, before he passed away,” Bucky explains.

 

“You went to college?” Steve says, frowning as he interrupts Bucky and Tony’s conversation.

 

“What?  You knew that,” Bucky says, giving him a frown back.

 

“No I didn’t,” Steve asserts, “You didn’t even tell me you were out of the army until like a year after you’d left it.”

 

“Oh…  I thought for sure I’d mentioned it…  I actually left the army to go to college…” Bucky gives Steve an apologetic look.

 

“Did you not graduate?” Steve asks, gearing up to either be sympathetic or more offended.

 

“Yes, Steve, thanks for the vote of confidence,” Bucky rolls his eyes, “But you and Peggy were off on your vacation thing that you took a few years ago, so I didn’t want to disturb you guys.”

 

“Oh…  You know we would still have made time to come see you, even so,” Steve says, his anger deflating.

 

“I know,” Bucky says, “And that’s why I didn’t mention it.”

 

Peggy reaches over and silently squeezes Bucky’s hand, which Steve of course sees happen, and decides to let the issue go.  

 

Maria interjects at the same time, helping to ease some of the tension that’s crept into the room.

 

“So, Bucky, what did you get your degree in?” she asks.

 

Peggy pats his hand and then lets him go, so Bucky takes a breath and moves on.  

 

“Actually, it’s in terraforming,” he tells her, smiling proudly.

 

Howard makes a noise in the back of his throat, which very much sounds like a scoff, but he could just be choking on something…

 

“Bullshit,” Howard says, looking right at Bucky.

 

Ok, so it wasn’t just some stuffing that went down wrong…

 

“Well fuck you too, Howard,” Bucky says flatly, holding his gaze steadily.

 

Howard stares him down for a moment.

 

Nobody says anything about their “language”.

 

“There’s only one university in the country, hell, in the world that offers a degree in terraforming,” Howard says like he’s passing the information out to all of them in order to set Bucky up for a fall.

 

“Yep,” Bucky replies with a smile, popping his “p” a little.

 

“You’re trying to tell me you went to Berkeley .”

 

“Yep.”

 

“That’s a top three school…”

 

“Yes it is.  Well, mostly, anyway.  Sometimes Princeton edges us out, we go back and forth, actually,” Bucky very humbly admits.

 

“What about Stanford?” Tony asks, a mischievous gleam in his eye as he draws Bucky’s attention back to him.

 

“You watch your mouth,” Bucky says in mock seriousness, pointing a forkful of turkey at him.  

Tony grins and his eyes drop down to Bucky’s mouth.  

 

Bucky eats his bite a little more slowly than normal, staring at Tony the entire time.   

 

“Really, Buck?” Steve says, looking at him flatly.

 

Bucky pretends he has no idea what Steve is talking about.  

 

“Why would you go and get a degree in terraforming just to sit around on your ass all day,” Howard says gruffly, completely missing Bucky and Tony’s interaction .  

 

Steve looks offended on Bucky’s behalf now, but Bucky speaks up before they go down the path of another Thanksgiving that ends with mashed potatoes on the ceiling.  

 

Sure, Bucky wouldn’t have to be the one cleaning them up this time, but he doesn’t want to do that to Jarvis either, since the guy is ancient now...

 

“Technically, Howard does have a point, I ain’t had a job for a long time before this.  Unless you count the army…” Bucky scratches his chin.

 

“Yes, Bucky, the army counts,” Steve tells him, like he’s talking to a small child.

 

“Who are you working for now ?...” Howard asks suspiciously.

 

“NASA,” Bucky says confidently, knowing it will irk him, “Just got promoted, too.”

 

“You did the paper on nitrogen fixation,” Tony says, looking at him like a light switch just came on, “You’re ‘J. Barnes’, aren’t you?”

 

“Nothing gets by you, does it, doll?” Bucky replies cheekily, giving Tony a wink.  

 

“Did you just call my son ‘doll’?” Howard asks, finally seeming to have caught on to their flirting.

 

“Yeah, I did,” Bucky says, not about to back down because of a little thing like Howard .  

 

There’s a moment of silence where everyone at the table is waiting to see what’s going to happen.  

 

“I’m too sober for this,” Howard mutters with a frown and an exaggerated sigh, standing up and walking away from the table.  

 

There’s a little bit of an awkward silence where Bucky can practically feel Maria resisting the urge to call ‘bullshit’ herself…

 

But then Marjie speaks up.

 

“Aw, you didn’t bring up Dupont…”

 

“Hey!  Shut your pie-hole, Marjie,” Bucky says, throwing a roll at her.  

 

Bucky ends up getting put in a time-out by Peggy, but Tony sneaks him a piece of pecan pie and they talk for hours about robots and science and the moon, so he feels like he actually owes Peggy one for that, when all is said and done.  

 

When things are winding down, and polite guests would be making a move toward the door soon, Bucky gets Tony’s attention for one more quick chat.  

 

“So, in my mind, dating is what people do when they want to get to know each other better,” he tells Tony, hoping he doesn’t get shot down in a moment, “So if us gettin’ to know each other is something you’d like too, then I have a brilliant idea I’d like to run by you, doll…”

 

Tony smiles up at him, his tongue darting out to wet just his bottom lip as he stands entirely too close to Bucky.  “I would like that,” he says, “Fire away, soldier.”

 

“Go out with me?” Bucky asks, settling a hand on Tony’s hip.  

 

Tony brushes their fingers together, curling them slowly until they’re holding hands, “I’d like that, but…  I have to be back at school on Monday. I’m still working on my second PhD…”

 

Bucky isn’t fazed.

 

“That gives us all weekend still,” he says, “That’s plenty of time to catch a show and grab a bite.”

 

Tony looks at him like Bucky just might be passing the test…  

 

“So you mean like an actual date , date…”

 

“Doll, you would be wasted on a quick fuck in the back of my GTO…” Bucky says, rubbing his thumb against Tony’s hip.  “Yeah, I want to date date you.  Dinner, dancing, looking at the stars, whatever you want.  I mean, not that we can’t fuck, if you want,” he says, watching Tony’s pupils dilate a bit, “But that ain’t what I’m after …”

 

“You do realize that Uncle Steve is not going to like this…” Tony points out.

 

“Steve is the king of doing whatever the hell he thinks is best and making everyone else just deal with it.  He’ll live,” Bucky says.

 

Tony chuckles, obviously from experience.

 

“Ok, let’s do a date, thing, then.  You pick,” Tony tells him, seeming to lose a little bit of the edge on his suave demeanor for just a second, like it’s actually hitting home that Bucky really is interested in him.  

 

“Is that place on 5th avenue, the one with the amazing steaks, still open?” Bucky asks him.

 

“Fermin’s?  Yeah, they’re still around.  That’s a five star restaurant...  Do you own a suit?” Tony teases him, looking at the jeans Bucky showed up to Thanksgiving in.  

 

“Actually, I own two ,” Bucky says with a dramatic pride, holding up two fingers as if it’s something that could possibly be impressive to a man whose father lives in tailored three-pieces.

 

That gets an actual laugh out of Tony, and god, is he gorgeous when his face is lit up with happiness like that…

 

“Ok, ok, stop trying to show off already...” Tony says with a chuckle, “Pick me up tomorrow at seven?”  

 

“You got it, doll.  Here, let me give you my number,” Bucky says, pulling out his wallet, “I don’t have it memorize yet, they just turned on the phone two days ago.”

 

“You’re not staying with Uncle Steve?”

 

“Nah, I’ve got an apartment a couple blocks from the lab,” Bucky tells him.  

 

“Good to know,” is Tony’s only comment as he accepts the number.

 

There’s the noise of a throat clearing as Marjie walks up, giving the both of them pointed looks.  “The rest of us would like to say goodbye to Tony too, if you guys are done making out now...”

 

“Making out was an option?” Tony says teasingly, looking at Bucky as if disappointed that they missed the chance.  

 

“There’s always tomorrow, doll,” Bucky says, giving him a grin and a wink as he steps back to let the rest of the family at him.

 

“Jesus Christ…” Marjie sighs as if to herself, but they can still clearly hear her.  

 

“Alright, alright, I’m going,” Bucky says, holding his hands up in surrender.  “Bye, Tony.”

 

“See you, Bucky,” Tony says back, watching him go with a thoughtful expression.

 

Bucky calls to get a reservation for tomorrow as soon as he gets home that night.  He’s very rarely as glad as he is in that moment that his name carries weight .  Next he gets his good suit out to make sure it’s going to be ready for tomorrow.  It’s clean of course, but he didn’t exactly check it over for wrinkles ‘just in case’ when he was unpacking.  

 

Damn it, he’s going to have to go clothes shopping if they go on more than two fancy dates…  Because no way is he wearing the same two suits over and over again to date a guy like Tony Stark.

 

By the time Bucky attempts to sleep, it’s past midnight.  

 

After an hour of staring at the ceiling with a grin on his face though, he gives it up.  God, he hasn’t been this excited about, well, anything in a long time…  

 

The next day, it takes everything in him not to be ready a million hours ahead of time.

 

“Get it together, Barnes, you ain’t some school girl with her first crush,” he tells his reflection seriously, taking a deep breath and letting it out slow.  

 

It helps a little bit, but he’s still a jangle of excited nerves while he’s shaving and slicking his hair back.  He pulls on his suit and his freshly shined shoes, then carefully does up the gold cufflinks Peggy gave him when he made Colonel.  He’s not used to using them, didn’t think when he got them that he’d ever have much use for them, but he’s glad to have them now.  

 

It’s only a twenty minute drive out to the Stark’s place, so before Bucky knows it, he’s ringing their bell. He learned long ago that it was ‘uncouth’ to knock on the door of a house like this.  

 

Tony himself answers, looking like a goddamn model in a suit that probably costs more than Bucky’s car…  

 

Instead of getting more nervous, the butterflies seem to melt away as soon as Bucky sees him.

 

“Hey, Tony,” Bucky smiles.

 

“Hey, yourself,” Tony smiles back, “My god, do you clean up well…” he adds, his eyes making an appreciative circuit up and down Bucky’s outfit .

 

“Tony?” Maria’s voice comes from the stairs, “I wasn’t aware you had an engagement tonight…”

 

“It was a recent addition to the schedule,” Tony tells her, right as she comes into view of Bucky.

 

“Colonel Barnes…  What a pleasant surprise,” she says, her eyes taking in his appearance with a sharp precision.

 

“I’m guessing Tony didn’t tell you I asked him out on a date…” he says, being upfront about it.

 

“No, he did not,” Maria says, motioning Tony over to her so that she can make microscopic adjustments to his tie and collar.

 

Tony puts up with the fussing without complaint.

 

Maria glances at Bucky as she brushes some non-existent dust off of Tony’s shoulders.

 

“Well, at least you don’t have to worry about him being after your money,” she finally says, which Bucky interprets as being her blessing.

 

“Is that actually a thing people do?...” he asks, looking between the two of them like she must be at least partially joking.

 

Maria gives Bucky a gentle smile.

 

Then she pats Tony’s cheek and says, “Bring him back in one piece, darling.”

 

“I make no promises,” Tony tells her with a grin.

 

Bucky feels like he might be missing something…  But then Tony is taking his arm and pulling him out the door, and asking in-depth, knowledgeable questions about his GTO, and Bucky has never been one to question the things over his head too hard anyway…

 

“What are the odds of you letting me drive this baby?” Tony asks, running his fingers over the hood.  

 

“Well that depends,” Bucky says, leaning against the car, “How well do you know your way around a stick?...” he asks, clearly not meaning a manual transmission.  

 

A slow grin spreads over Tony’s face as he puts himself right into Bucky’s space, leaning up to let his breath brush over Bucky’s ear, “Oh, I’m very familiar.  I’ve got years of experience…  But I could give you a little demonstration first if you’d like,” Tony offers, running a hand over Bucky’s hip, “Before you let me at your prized possession here,” he gestures toward the car with a small tip of his head.  

 

Bucky smiles, tucking his nose into Tony’s hairline as he says, “How about you demonstrate on the car, and if I like how you handle her, I’ll let you get your hands on my most ‘prized possession’ later…”  

 

Tony gives him a knowing look as he slips his hand into Bucky’s pocket, “I’ll accept that challenge, Colonel Barnes,” he says, pulling out Bucky’s keys.  

 

God, he is brazen and gorgeous and Bucky is falling so fucking fast…

 

“Call me Bucky, please,” he says on autopilot, getting lost in the warm brown eyes in front of him for a second.

 

Tony smiles a little differently, almost a little more happily, as he notices how Bucky is looking at him.

 

“Bucky?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Get in the car,” Tony says firmly, making Bucky realize that they’ll be late for dinner if they stand around flirting all night.

 

“Sure thing, doll.”

 

As they’re strapping in and Tony is getting the engine going, he asks Bucky, “Have you ever driven one of the European power houses?”

 

Bucky thinks for a moment and asks, “Does a tank count?”

 

Tony blinks at him and then bursts into laughter.

 

“No, a tank doesn’t count…  Jesus… Next time we’re taking the Ferrari, because that is a damn shame.”

 

“You won’t hear me arguing,” Bucky says.  

 

Now, he’s pretty sure that for all their bantering, Bucky wasn’t supposed to be actually turned on by Tony’s driving, but damn does he know how to handle a car.  He acts like he was born behind the wheel, and if he’s even half as good in bed as he is with this, Bucky will be an extremely lucky man.  

 

“Who taught you to drive?” Bucky asks as they’re getting out in front of the restaurant.  

 

“Aunt Peggy,” Tony says, handing the keys to a valet.

 

“I should have known,” Bucky realizes as he takes Tony’s arm to walk with him to the door.

 

“So you aren’t interested in pretending to be ‘friends’, I’m guessing,” Tony says, giving his arm a squeeze.

 

“Oh…  No, I’m not,” Bucky says, feeling like Tony’s coming a bit out of left field with that, considering the way he’s been acting up until now… “It’s just, I’ve had to ‘pretend’ all my life.  Only in the past couple years have I been able to be open about being gay, and I really don’t want to go back to hiding it…” Bucky explains, hoping this isn’t a “make it or break it” issue for Tony.  

 

“What?  Go back to…  Oh, no, I didn’t mean I thought we should , I meant that it was nice that you just took my arm like that.  I don’t want to hide either,” Tony tells him.

 

Bucky is relieved, pulling Tony in for a quick hug before they reach the doors, “Good.  Because you are definitely worth showing off, doll,” he says, brushing a thumb along Tony’s cheek.

 

“I usually am the brightest thing in the room,” Tony confirms.

 

Bucky laughs, “I bet you are…”

 

The maitre d' seats them almost as soon as the words, “Reservation for Barnes,” are out of Bucky’s mouth.

 

“Ok, I have a small confession to make,” Bucky says as they’re perusing the menu, “I don’t know shit about wine…  So I’m probably going to end up ordering a whiskey if left to my own devices.”

 

“You drink alcohol?  Uncle Steve doesn’t bother…” Tony asks.

 

“I like the taste,” Bucky says casually, “And the burn.”

 

“Huh,” Tony makes a noise like he’s fairly sure Bucky meant that as a double entendre.  

 

Their waiter comes up right at that moment though to take their order, which stalls that line of conversation.  After hearing his selections for the meal, Tony actually shows genuine surprise for the first time that Bucky’s seen.

 

“You do realize you just ordered like a thousand dollars worth of steak…” he points out.

 

“Uh, super soldier,” Bucky gestures toward himself.  

 

“Yeah, but Uncle Steve usually just orders a regular meal and then eats again later when he gets home…”

 

“Well, I used to do that too, up until I was joining the army for a second time and decided that the opportunity for good food was too precious to pass up.  And then I just kinda never stopped afterward,” Bucky explains.

 

“The waiters must love you,” Tony says with a grin, implying the size of tip that would go with those tabs.

 

“They did…” Bucky agrees, “And they loved the tips too,” he winks.

 

“Because they were both sizable?” Tony asks, not offended at all by the second hand mention of previous conquests.  

 

“Decent enough,” Bucky says, “Not too much to handle, but they were never left wanting…”

 

“In the tip department, of course,” Tony clarifies.

 

“Well,” Bucky says, staring Tony right in the eye, “Maybe not just the tip…”

 

Tony licks his lips and tells Bucky, “I really hope you didn’t plan on dancing or a movie or anything after this...because I’m thinking about exercising the GTO option.”

 

“Are you?” Bucky grins with a little half chuckle.

 

“You said I could,” Tony reminds him in a blasè tone.

 

“And I am a man of my word,” Bucky promises.  

 

They continue to flirt until their food arrives, at which point Tony lets out an impressed breath.  “Ok, ok, we should probably tone it down, just a little, if we want to make it through dinner without getting kicked out for being obscene …”

 

Bucky leans forward over their small table, motioning for Tony to do the same.  Telegraphing his intentions, he cups Tony’s cheek and gives him a soft kiss, holding it just long enough to get the feel of his lips.  Then he lets go and eases back into his seat, leaving a thoughtful Tony looking at him.

 

“It would be worth it.”

 

Tony doesn’t glance around to figure out who might have seen or not, he just keeps looking at Bucky with an almost hopeful light in his eyes.  He covers the expression up after a second though, and starts eating.

 

Bucky digs in too, especially since he has five times as much food to get through as Tony does, and he certainly doesn’t want to hold them up.  They continue to talk about more sedate topics, but the light never leaves either of their eyes the entire time.

 

When they’ve finished their meal and Tony sees the waiter approaching, he tells Bucky, “Don’t you dare order dessert.”

 

“Check please,” Bucky tells the man as soon as he arrives.  

 

Tony smiles.  

 

Bucky leaves a 50% tip, because New York has become a much more expensive town while he was gone, and he knows what it’s like to be just trying to get by.  

 

While they’re waiting for the car to be brought around, Bucky casually slips his hand into Tony’s.

 

“You want to drive again, doll?”

 

“How about you show me your skills this time,” Tony suggests.

 

“I can do that.”

 

They do drive around for a while, until it starts snowing, so Bucky heads back toward their end of the island before the roads get too bad.

 

“Nothing against your GTO, because it is a fine marvel of American engineering, but I’m not so sure the backseat looks all that comfortable...” Tony muses, glancing behind them.

 

“We could go back to my place,” Bucky offers, “If you weren’t wanting the night to end yet…”

 

“Yeah, that sounds a lot better, actually.”

 

“So…  Before we do this, there’s something I should probably talk to you about,” Bucky says, “Cause if you change your mind, I don’t want you to feel trapped into your previous decision or anything…”

 

They’re at a red light, so Bucky can steal a glance at Tony in the passenger seat.  He raises an eyebrow at Bucky.

 

“Wow, if you weren’t a super soldier I’d suddenly be expecting the STD talk right about now…”  

 

“Nah, nothing like that,” Bucky assures him, though he’s not sure his actual topic is going to put any less of a pause on things…  He realizes that he should probably be looking Tony in the eye when they talk about this, so he pulls over and parks on the street.  Bucky leaves the car running, because it’s freezing outside, but he half turns in his seat so he can see Tony better.

 

“So, this is going to sound crazy, and I know that, but I just want to preface it by saying that I have proof, and that a lot of other completely sane people believe me,” Bucky says.

 

Tony nods curiously as if saying “go on”.

 

“Uh, well, in 1942, when I was captured by Hydra, I kind of ended up in the future of an alternate dimension for a week.  They took me through this portal thing, and it spit us out into New York in 2015… I met a version of myself there, and of Steve...and of you…” Bucky tells him, holding his breath as he waits to get an initial reaction.

 

Tony blinks at him, searching his face for a second.

 

“Ok, I’ll be honest, I’m really clinging to that ‘I have proof’ part of your series of statements  there…”

 

“That’s fair,” Bucky sighs, “Peggy didn’t believe me until I showed her proof either.”

 

“Aunt Peggy believes you?” Tony asks skeptically.

 

“Yeah.  And Stevie...and your father.”

 

Howard Anthony Walter Stark believes you went to the future ?” Tony says in disbelief, like instead of Bucky being crazy, he thinks he might be having an elaborate prank pulled on him now.

 

“I’m not saying he wasn’t damn skeptical at first, but like I said, I have proof,” Bucky is thankful he’s learned to lead with that little tidbit after what happened last time…

 

“Show me.”



Chapter Text

1990 - part II

 

“It’s at Steve’s house, but I’m sure he won’t mind us dropping by.”

 

It doesn’t take long at all to get to Steve’s place, which is good, because the silence is a little awkward now…  But Tony doesn’t look completely wigged out, so Bucky’s still hopeful that he’ll give him a chance.  

 

Bucky knocks on Steve’s door, since he doesn’t live here himself anymore and he doesn’t want to get shot by Peggy for breaking and entering in the middle of the night.

 

When Steve answers, he frowns like he’s wondering why Bucky knocked.

 

“Hey, Buck, what are you two up to?”

 

“Got something I wanted to show Tony, if it’s still under the floorboards where I left it…” Bucky says.

 

Steve’s eyes get wide in surprise and he glances briefly at Tony.  “That’s a conversation you decided to have within two days of knowing each other?”

 

“Well, it didn’t feel right to sleep with him without him knowin’ the truth,” Bucky informs him.

 

Steve looks upward, like he’s praying for strength, and sighs, “You know, people used to date , they used to get to know each other at least a little before just jumping right into bed…” he says as he’s swinging the door open the rest of the way to admit them.  

 

“We are on a date,” Tony pipes up, smiling overly innocently.  

 

Steve gives him a look and snorts, knowing him far too well to be fooled, which is part of the point.  “Come on in, it’s all still where you left it,” he just shakes his head as he motions the both of them inside.

 

“People used to fuck on the first date back in the old days too, don’t let Steve fool you,” Bucky says to Tony, hitching a thumb at his best friend, “He’s just always been a stick in the mud.”

 

Steve grabs him in an unexpected headlock, messing up his hair, so Bucky jabs him in the side hard enough to actually bruise, making Steve grunt and lose his grip a little.  Before they can really get into any rough housing though, Peggy appears at the top of the stairs in her nightgown and a robe.

 

“Children…” she says with a fond sternness, not even raising an eyebrow.  

 

Both Bucky and Steve let go of each other and stand up straight though, apologizing at the same time.

 

“Sorry, Peg.”

 

“Sorry, ma’am.”

 

Tony looks at the both of them thoughtfully from off to the side of the foyer.

 

“Hello, Tony,” Peggy addresses him, “Is everything alright?”

 

“Just fine, Aunt Peggy,” Tony nods, “Bucky had something he wanted to show me, which is apparently under some floorboards…”

 

“Ah,” Peggy says, giving both of them calculating glances, “Good.  It’s about time you had an honest man in your life, darling,” she motions them all up the stairs.  

 

“So…  He said you and Uncle Steve already believed him, about the time travel thing,” Tony says as he climbs the flight to her side.

 

“I’ll admit, I did think he’d been knocked about a bit too much by Hydra for a long time, but that was before I had all the information,” she says as Steve and Bucky make their way to them as well.  Peggy takes Tony’s arm and leads him down the hall to Bucky’s old room.

 

“For how long?” Tony asks.  

 

“Oh, for almost a decade.  It isn’t the sort of thing that usually comes up in casual conversation.  It wasn’t until I realized he knew about SHIELD when he shouldn’t have, that it all came to a head.”

 

“Yeah, and you pointed a gun at my head,” Bucky reminds her.

 

She stops regally in front of the bedroom door and pauses to say, “Well, it wasn’t the first time.  And it may not be the last, if I ever find out that you haven’t treated Tony properly… Is that understood, Bucky?”

 

“Understood, Peggy,” Bucky nods solemnly.  

 

Steve squeezes Bucky’s shoulder as he goes past them to open the door, but it’s not a friendly squeeze.  It’s a squeeze that lets him know the man is completely on board with everything his wife just said.

 

Bucky gives Tony a smile, glad he has people who care about him so much to watch out for him.  

 

Inside the room, Bucky kneels down and pries open a couple floorboards, revealing the stash inside.  He knows firearms have advanced quite a bit since the 40’s and 50’s, but they’re still a ways off from being anything like this gun.  Especially since the Starks didn’t stick with weapons manufacturing in this dimension.

 

“Oh, wow…” Tony breathes out as the pieces of rifle come into view.  

 

Bucky hands them over to him and watches as Tony gives each of them what appears to be a cursory examination, but then is able to fit them all together seamlessly on his own right afterward.  

 

Tony runs his hands along the stock, examining the barrel and rifling.

 

“Who made this?” he asks, after holding it in his lap and just staring at it for a moment.

 

“He did,” Bucky says a little roughly, not having anticipated the emotion of seeing their Tony holding future Tony’s gun, “The version of you in that alternate dimension.”

 

Tony nods, “I can tell.”

 

“Yeah?” Bucky asks.

 

“Yeah.  I mean, I can see my own ideas brought to life in it…  I have ideas all the time about how to improve all kinds of things, but I’d need someone following me around 24-7 to write them all down, because I just don’t have time for all that…” Tony confesses.

 

“A person, or an AI,” Bucky says.

 

Tony gives him a look.

 

“Just A Rather Very Intelligent System…” Bucky says, remembering the seemingly offhand acronym from the future.  

 

Tony freezes where he’s sitting, giving Bucky an intense, searching look.

 

“Ok…  I think I believe you...” he finally says.

 

“What is that?  Another artificial intelligence thing?” Steve asks.

 

“Not ready yet, that’s what it is,” Tony says with a frown, looking between Steve and Bucky.  “I’ve only just started that project…”

 

“But you were already working on the acronym…”

 

“Yeah, I was…” Tony is obviously thinking hard.  “What are the odds that I would give it the same name in both dimensions?...”

 

“Well,” Bucky says, bringing his metal hand up in front of him and flexing his fingers, “Some things still seem to happen, no matter what…  Whether it’s fate or coincidence, I don’t know,” Bucky tells him.

 

“Wait, you’ve been actively trying to change certain things?” Tony asks, like he’s assuming that the people in the alternate future wouldn’t have approved of him using his knowledge like that.

 

“Doll, they gave me a list,” he says, flashing Tony a sad smile.

 

“Shit…  Was their future really that bad?” Tony wants to know.  

 

Bucky looks at Steve and Peggy, standing quietly near the foot of the bed.

 

“It was a goddamned nightmare,” Bucky says softly.

 

“Well, I for one have very much appreciated what you’ve done for our world, Bucky, but I’ve already heard this story.  I’m an old woman now, and it’s nearly midnight, so we’ll leave the two of you to it,” Peggy says, putting a hand on Steve’s arm, “Come along to bed, Steven.”

 

“Goodnight guys,” Steve tips his head to them, leaving them be as he follows his wife.

 

Tony and Bucky say their “good nights” back, still sitting on the floor.  

 

After the two of them are gone, Bucky and Tony sit in silence for a moment, just looking at each other.  

 

“What was he like?...” Tony asks, gesturing toward the rifle, “Do…  Do I even want to know?...”

 

Bucky sighs, knowing that he doesn’t want to hold back this time, but not sure what the repercussions will be…

 

“He was brilliant.  A genius far beyond anyone else up to that point.  He had multiple AI’s and treated them like his family…  I got the feeling they were the best version of family he’d ever had,” Bucky tells him hesitantly.  He looks at Tony and can see the gears turning in his head… “Maybe I should start from the beginning,” he adds, taking a deep breath.  

 

“Sure,” Tony says, setting the rifle aside.  He stands up and moves to the bed, with Bucky following suit.  “Not all of us are super soldiers,” he jokes about the comfort level of the hardwood as he settles back.

 

Bucky gives him an indulgent smile.  

 

“So…  The beginning…  When the Hydra base at Azzano was attacked, I had already been their prisoner for weeks...” Bucky dredges up those memories, diving right into it.  Maybe it’s because of the serum, but his memory of everything is still crystal clear, even after all this time. He tells Tony about all of it, being rescued by the alternate dimension’s “Avengers”, the Winter Soldier almost making a run for it because of him, the argument and the other Steve’s guilt, the week Bucky spent being warned while they waited for another portal to open up, all of it .  More than he’s ever told anyone else before.  

 

Tony listens attentively, asking a few questions here and there, but mostly just letting Bucky get it out.  It’s actually quite cathartic, in a way.

 

“I haven’t ever told anyone else that much about it, partly because they don’t usually believe me right away, and I don’t want to overwhelm them…”  Bucky admits.

 

“Yeah, I can definitely see how a normal person would be overwhelmed…” Tony agrees.  “So, let’s talk about this upcoming ‘alien invasion’ thing, tell me more about that,” he asks calmly.

 

“Well, I planned on bringing that up in a few years anyway…  It seemed like a couple decades should be enough to get ready, and I didn’t want to get Howard all riled up about it too soon,” Bucky says.  

 

Tony snorts, rubbing his face.

 

“Yeah, ‘riled up’ would be putting it lightly…  Dad… Well, you know him,” Tony says tiredly.

 

“I do,” Bucky nods, knowing exactly what he means.

 

“Do we have to tell him at all?” Tony asks, thinking about how close his dad is to working and drinking himself to death already.  

 

“I don’t know…  Do you think you could handle it on your own?” Bucky asks seriously, not wanting to put all that pressure on Tony, but at the same time, having supreme faith in his abilities.  

 

Tony is quiet for a second, obviously giving the idea some serious thought.  

 

Then he runs his hands through his hair.

 

“If the chitauri’s tolerances are fairly similar to a human’s, like you said, then 20 years is plenty of time…  It’s the logistics that we’re going to hit a snag on… Damn, we need the moon colony up and running like, yesterday ,” Tony says, his mind racing.

 

“You thinkin’ to get them in a surprise attack from behind?” Bucky asks.

 

“Well, that’s part of it, yeah.  An aerial counterattack from an orbiting satellite is going to be much more effective than ground resistance…  Plus, if we can hide the weapons buildup on the moon, then there’s less chance of them falling into government hands in the meantime too…”  

 

“You don’t trust the government?” Bucky asks, half joking.

 

“I know Aunt Peggy said you usually stayed out of political stuff, so trust me, they’re mostly a bunch of power hungry warmongers,” Tony sighs.

 

“Hey, I’m not arguing.  I spent decades in the army, Tony, I understand exactly what you’re talking about,” Bucky explains.  

 

Tony gives him a slightly sheepish smile.

 

Bucky reaches out and takes his hand, rubbing his thumb over the back of Tony’s knuckles.  

 

“You would really trust me with all this, with the defense of the entire earth, just like that…” Tony comments, looking up searchingly at Bucky’s face.  

 

“Well, I plan on helpin’ too, where I can...” Bucky smiles back, “But yeah, if you tell me you can handle it, I believe you.”

 

“You don’t even know me,” Tony argues, but it’s lacking heat, more inquisitive in nature.

 

“I don’t.  But I know what you could be,” Bucky says quietly, “And everything I’ve seen or heard of you here makes me think you’re just as smart, if not smarter than the Tony I met 50 years ago.  And in that dimension, when people heard the name ‘Stark’, it meant Tony .  I’m not really a bettin’ man, but I’d put money on you passing him up before 2015 rolls around.”

 

“You are kind of giving me a head start, though,” Tony points out with a hint of mischief in his tone.  

 

“A head start doesn’t mean anything if the person getting it ain’t smart enough to know what to do with it,” Bucky says back.  

 

Tony leans forward and kisses him.  

 

It takes Bucky a second to catch up, but then he enthusiastically gets with the program.  

 

“This is still on the table, right?” Tony breaks the kiss off momentarily to ask.

 

“Yeah, doll, definitely,” Bucky assures him, helping Tony into his lap.  

 

Tony kisses with a hungry passion, exploring Bucky’s mouth shamelessly.  Bucky kisses him right back, sliding his hands around Tony’s waist and rubbing gently.  

 

“That’s good, because I’ve been imagining what you’ve got hidden underneath this suit all night,” Tony says in between kisses, peeling off his own jacket.  

 

“Yeah?  You want to get a look?” Bucky asks, leaning forward so Tony can help him get his suit off too.  

 

“Oh, more than just a look...” Tony answers in between kisses.  

 

Their shirts come off without any tearing or popped buttons, but Bucky feels a larger than normal thrum of anticipation anyway.  

 

“Jesus, you look like you were carved out of fucking marble,” Tony says half in complaint, half in awe.  

 

“Marble and titanium,” Bucky corrects with a grin, running his metal hand up Tony’s stomach and chest.  “God, you’re gorgeous, doll.”

 

Tony shivers under the touch, his pupils blowing wide with lust as Bucky traces his collarbone.    

 

Bucky gives him a pleased smile, pulling Tony back in for more kissing.  

 

God, the tongue on this man…

 

He’s always enjoyed kissing, but Bucky’s rarely been in a position to just take his time and savor it.  Tony is obviously a little more impatient than he is, but their mouths keep finding their way back to each other even as the rest of their clothes are shed.  

 

“Mm, very nice,” Tony tells him appreciatively once Bucky is naked, not hesitating at all to get an eyeful.

 

Before his own pants hit the floor, Tony pulls a condom and a packet of lube out of them, tossing them on the sheets beside him.  

 

“I like how prepared you are,” Bucky confesses, skimming his lips along Tony’s jaw.  He runs his hands up and down Tony’s body, getting a good feel of all the deliciously warm skin in front of him.

 

“Well, the odds were like 75% that this was going to be happening in the backseat of a car, and I don’t leave safe sex up to chance,” Tony tells him, slowly starting to stroke himself.  

 

“Fuck, I can’t wait to have you inside me, doll,” Bucky licks his lips, going back in for another kiss.

 

“Yeah?” Tony asks, smiling into the exchange.

 

“Yeah.  I mean, if you don’t mind…” Bucky responds, rubbing his thumbs over Tony’s hip bones, “It’s been a while since I’ve been with anyone as confident as you are with a stick shift ,” Bucky winks at him.  

 

“You like that?   A confident guy filling you up with his cock?” Tony asks him, pushing Bucky to lay back on the bed.

 

“I fucking love it,” Bucky says, going easily.  He spreads his legs so that Tony can kneel between them.  “I love everything about cock, and damn, do you have a nice one...”

 

“Thanks,” Tony tells him, opening up the packet of lube, “It’s nice to see you weren’t kidding about your own either.  Very nice indeed. You were practically made to be blown, weren’t you?” Tony asks, rubbing a finger over Bucky’s entrance.

 

“Was I?” Bucky asks, not really having given his own cock much thought in that regard.  

 

“Oh, definitely,” Tony says, slipping a finger into him as he leans down to tease at Bucky’s dick with his mouth.

 

Jesus ,” Bucky groans, grabbing a pillow for his head so that he doesn’t miss a moment of this…  Damn, Tony’s tongue is just as talented at this as it is at kissing… Bucky settles in and relaxes as Tony simultaneously stretches him and gives him a frankly amazing blow job.  He can’t help but run his hands through Tony’s hair encouragingly as the man sucks on him. God, he’s always loved getting fingered and blown at the same time, and Tony is fantastic at it.

 

“If you keep that up too much longer, I’ll come,” Bucky finally groans while Tony is three fingers deep inside him, “Not that I can’t get hard again pretty much right away, but I don’t want to surprise you, doll.”

 

Tony pauses and licks a casual stripe up Bucky’s length.  “Yeah? Now that is some fascinating information…”

 

“More fascinating than time travel?...” Bucky teases.

 

“A very close second....and something I may need proof of to believe as well,” Tony replies, his gaze heated as he slides his mouth back over Bucky.  

 

“Whatever you need, doll,” Bucky exhales, moaning as Tony picks up the pace again.  Almost before he knows it, he’s coming down Tony’s throat, words of praise falling liberally off his own lips while Tony’s are stretched around him.  

 

“Fuck, that’s so good, Tony, you’re goddamned amazing at this…”

 

“Well, I do pride myself on my workmanship,” Tony grins after he finally releases Bucky.  He also slides his fingers out of Bucky’s ass and moves upward so they can kiss again. “So how quickly is ‘right away’, hm?” he asks, rubbing his own hard length against Bucky’s crotch.  

 

Bucky can feel himself starting to fill up again already, so he just rocks into it, letting Tony feel it as well.  

 

“Jesus, you weren’t kidding…  Ok, forget super strength, I think I’ve found the real best part of being a super soldier,” Tony mutters as he kisses and bites at Bucky’s neck.  

 

Bucky laughs and smooths his hands down the plains of Tony’s back, stopping to grab a handful of his round, deliciously shaped ass, massaging it a little while they rub against each other.

 

“It’s definitely a perk,” Bucky admits, “You gonna fuck me until I come again?” he asks huskily.  

 

“Fuck yes,” Tony agrees, reaching for the condom.  Bucky helps him get it open since his fingers aren’t all slippery with lube.  They use the last of the packet to get Tony slicked up so he can slide in easier.

 

“God, now that is one of the best inventions of the 20th century,” Bucky sighs as Tony presses into him with one slow, smooth, virtually frictionless motion.

 

“You heard it here first, folks,” Tony chuckles, “With all the decades worth of innovation he’s lived through, Bucky Barnes’ favorite product is lube .”

 

“That probably ain’t going to be much of a surprise, at least not to a certain segment of the population,” Bucky says, chuckling along with Tony while he adjusts.

 

“Oh, did you just admit to having a reputation , Colonel Barnes?” Tony asks, his eyes alight with mischief.

 

“For loving a lubed up cock inside me?  Hell yes,” he answers, tipping his own hips up a little to get a feel for how close he is to being ready.  And, oh, is he ready.

 

“Mm,” Tony settles into it, rocking his hips in time with Bucky’s and just feeling him out, “I can definitely work with that.”

 

Bucky lets out small gasps and breaths as they warm up, encouraging Tony and not holding anything back.  He even finds himself groaning a little when Tony gives him his first full thrust, the movement perfectly timed and in concert with their rhythm.  Bucky groans again as Tony starts sliding right over his prostate, working him up slowly and surely with his steady pace.

 

“Damn, you’re good at this,” Bucky says, the pleasure as obvious in his voice as it is in his body.  

 

“Like I said, I’ve got plenty of practice,” Tony smiles down at him.  “Do you mind if I try something?”

 

“Jesus, whatever you want, doll,” Bucky agrees, knowing there’s only so far they’re going to get with this leisurely fuck, even for how good it feels.  

 

“How flexible are you, soldier?” Tony asks, grinning.

 

“Pretty damn flexible,” Bucky says, his voice half a moan.

 

Tony buries himself deep inside Bucky and halts his movement, reaching to pull Bucky’s legs up to rest on his shoulders.  “Tell me if this is ok…” he says as he slowly leans forward, keeping Bucky’s legs trapped so that he’s bent in half by the time Tony’s done.

 

“More than ok, fuck, that’s fucking incredible,” Bucky gasps as Tony starts to move again.  Bucky’s fingers curl into the sheets as he holds on, but he moves them to Tony’s arms when he realizes he could be holding on to the man above him instead.

 

Tony’s pace is merciless this time, giving him the fuck he alluded to earlier and living up to every insinuation and innuendo.  Bucky moans as his prostate is hit head on with every thrust. This angle is fucking perfect and Bucky makes sure Tony knows it by how vocal he’s being.  Tony breathes a litany of his own pleasure into Bucky’s ear, mostly the word “fuck” and a string of grunts and panting moans.

 

“Holy fucking hell, I’m gonna come, doll, don’t stop, don’t stop,” Bucky practically begs as he rushes toward another orgasm with blinding speed.  This one is so much more thorough than the last that it makes him forget it’s his second of the night. His body spasms around the hard length inside him as the pleasure washes outward, all the way to the tips of his toes, making Bucky cry out with its intensity.  

 

“Yeah, come for me, come on my cock,” Tony practically growls, “God you’re beautiful when you come, look at you,” Tony says, talking him through it.

 

Bucky must have closed his eyes at some point, because he feels more than sees Tony come.  He thrusts deep and strong into Bucky, holding it for a second with a pointed groan.  Bucky squeezes down on him, earning an appreciative, “Oh,” from the man above him. Tony releases Bucky’s legs soon after that, lowering them gently back to the bed after kissing each ankle.  

 

Then there are fingers sliding into Bucky’s hair and turning his face back up toward Tony’s with a firm authority.  

 

Bucky is surprised at how much of a turn on that is, but maybe he shouldn’t be.

 

They kiss for a few minutes while Tony pulls out and takes the condom off with one hand.  He has to let go to dispose of it though.

 

Having been down this road a few times, Bucky knows this is where things have the potential to get awkward if they aren’t both on the same page.  He has a pretty strong feeling that they are though, after all this, and he wants to make sure Tony knows that.  Rolling onto his side, he traces a hand down Tony’s arm as he’s getting off the bed and says, “Hurry back, doll.”

 

The happy smile Tony gives him upon hearing it makes Bucky glad he did.  When he comes back, he has a warm washcloth with him, and helps Bucky clean up with it.  Bucky’s kind of surprised Peggy still keeps his old bedroom stocked with linens, but he certainly isn’t complaining.  

 

“Ok, get back over here,” Bucky says, opening his arms with an expectant smile, “Time for the best part.”

 

Tony laughs, settling into his arms again and slotting their legs together.  “So Bucky Barnes is a cuddler , huh?”  

 

“Damn straight,” Bucky says proudly, burying his nose into the crook of Tony’s neck.

 

“This isn’t exactly what I was picturing when we were talking about your reputation ,” Tony teases, stroking lightly over Bucky’s back.  

 

“Well, one night stands usually don’t go for the whole cuddling thing, so I’m actually pretty deprived,” Bucky says, running his fingers through the little hairs at the back of Tony’s neck.  

 

“Mm, that is a damn shame,” Tony says, scooting a little closer so their chests are actually touching.  

 

Bucky lets out a pleased sigh, which makes Tony chuckle, which makes Bucky smile against the skin of his shoulder.  

 

They stay like that for a long time, though neither of them falls asleep.  

 

Eventually the light of dawn starts to creep in behind the curtains, and Bucky knows they’re out of time, for the time being.

 

“I should probably take you back home...” Bucky says quietly.  

 

Tony has been tracing patterns and equations over his skin, keeping contact that’s anything but awkward as Bucky soaks in the moment.  He doesn’t falter, just nods and tilts his head up for another kiss as he finishes his string of numbers.

 

“So, I don’t have to head back until Sunday,” Tony says as they’re sitting up to get dressed, “What are the odds we’ll be able to get in another date before then?”

 

“I’d say they’re fantastic,” Bucky smiles.  

 

“Excellent.  Give me your address, I’m picking you up this time,” Tony says, wiggling his eyebrows.

 

Bucky laughs and does, and gives Tony another kiss on top of it.  

 

As they’re leaving, Bucky glances into the kitchen, but Steve isn’t up yet.  His relief must show in his posture or something, because Tony nods toward the room.

 

“Uh, I’m pretty sure Uncle Steve knows what we were up to already, even without seeing us leave together…”  

 

“Of course he knows ,” Bucky says, “But that don’t mean that I want to talk to him about it.”

 

“...You have a point.”

 

After Bucky drops Tony off at the mansion, he heads straight for their own kitchen, because dinner was eight hours ago and there’s no way he’s falling asleep right away after a night like that anyway.  

 

Predictably, Jarvis is already up, getting preparations together for breakfast.  

 

“You seem to have had a good night, sir…” he says as an inquiry more than a statement.  

 

Tony is almost glad he’s here to “grill” him, because it means he has someone to gush to.

 

“Jarvis.  Jarvis. He let me drive his car, Jarvis.  He kissed me in the restaurant where anyone could have seen, like it was nothing.   He paid for dinner .  Who goes out with a Stark and pays themselves?” Tony says, throwing himself into one of the kitchen chairs and laying his head on the table.  

 

“A good man, that’s who,” Jarvis says with a bit of a sigh, as if that’s all the commentary needed on how rare they are.  

 

“And I know you don’t want any details, but let me just say, the sex was phenomenal .  And we’re going out again tonight.”

 

Jarvis glances over at Tony, able to see the smile on his face even though it’s mashed against the tabletop.

 

“Very good, sir.”

 

 

Chapter Text

1990 - part III

 

Their next date is just as great as the first, though they go back to Bucky’s place afterward instead of Steve’s.  That’s definitely for the best. By the time Sunday rolls around, Tony has given Bucky his phone number and address in Massachusetts, so they can keep in touch.  You know, since they’re dating and all.    

 

He hopes it’s not too much since this is so new, but Bucky asks if he can come visit Tony at his campus in between now and Christmas, because there’s no way he’ll survive going a whole month without seeing him again.  

 

Tony blushes for the first time Bucky’s ever seen when he asks, but he says yes.  

 

When Bucky gets to his on-campus suite a couple weeks later though, he has to knock a few times before he gets any response.

 

“Go away, Rhodey,” Tony’s voice says from inside, though Bucky would never have heard it if he wasn’t a super soldier.

 

“Tony?” he calls out through the door.  There isn’t any response, which starts to really worry him, so Bucky tries the handle.  Thankfully it’s open, so he doesn’t have to decide whether or not to break in.

 

The living room is empty, so Bucky heads for the door that’s ajar on the left, since the other is wide open and obviously a bathroom.  The whole place smells like someone’s been throwing up very recently.

 

“Tony?  Doll? Are you in here?” he asks, giving a knock against the frame.

 

“I’m here?...” Tony’s voice says in confusion, which Bucky takes as permission.  He goes ahead and pushes the door open, revealing a very sick Tony collapsed on his bed with a trash can nearby.  The smell is a lot stronger in here, which probably means there’s already bile in said trash can.

 

“Bucky?  You’re not supposed to be here,” Tony frowns, but doesn’t move.

 

“Actually, I am,” Bucky says, setting the flowers he brought on Tony’s dresser.

 

“No.  You’re not supposed to see me,” Tony mutters, curling his blanket around him ineffectually.  “I’m going to call you tomorrow and tell you not to come.”

 

“That would be a little late, doll,” Bucky says, sitting beside him and putting a hand on his forehead.  “You’re pretty warm… Have you taken anything?”

 

“Threw it all up,” Tony tells him, closing his eyes and leaning into the touch.

 

“How long you been like this, doll?” Bucky asks, worried about dehydration.  

 

“Two days.  Started throwing up Wednesday,” Tony groans.  “Why are you early? You’re not supposed to be here,” he mutters again.

 

“I’m not early, Tony, it’s Friday.  I drove up as soon as I got out of work, just like we planned,” Bucky says soothingly, running his hand through Tony’s hair.  It’s greasy and sticking every which way, but Bucky doesn’t care. He remembers when he used to be able to get sick, how good a caring touch felt.

 

“Friday?” Tony frowns, but then it melts under Bucky’s fingertips.  “Damn it. Three days then…”

 

“Ok, when’s the last time you were able to drink anything?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“I’m going to get you some water then, and we’ll see if you can keep it down,” Bucky tells him, “I’ll be right back.”  He goes to the kitchen area, which is strewn with old pizza boxes and fast food wrappers, hoping there are at least a few real dishes in the cupboards…  When he opens them he finds an entire shelf of real crystal, a china dinner set, and real silver silverware, all completely unused.

 

“Poor Maria,” he chuckles, having a very good idea of who must have stocked this kitchen for Tony.  He takes a crystal glass down and fills it with tap water, hoping that what she doesn’t know won’t hurt him.  

 

“Ok, honey, I know you probably don’t feel like it, but I need you to try and drink some of this…” Bucky says gently as he goes back into Tony’s room.  Tony groans and hides his face under his arm. “If you’re still throwing up this badly after this many days, we may need to get you to a hospital, doll.  Just try and take a few sips for me, ok?” Bucky coaxes him.

 

Reluctantly, Tony gets into a half sitting position against his pillows.  It’s a good sign that he doesn’t need Bucky’s help, but he is a little shaky when taking the glass.  Bucky keeps his hand hovering nearby in case he needs to catch it.

 

Tony only takes a few minuscule sips, maybe a teaspoon of fluid altogether, before giving the glass back.  He just lays there afterward, expecting the worst while Bucky cards his fingers through his hair again.

 

After a good ten minutes have gone by, Bucky ventures to ask, “When you threw up before, was it right away after eat or drinking?  Or did it take a while to hit you?”

 

“Ugh,” Tony complains at being forced to remember, “Right away.”

 

“So this might be a small improvement,” Bucky says reassuringly.  

 

Tony just whines pathetically.  

“Here, I bet the smell ain’t been helping any,” Bucky says, reaching for the trash can beside the bed.  

 

“Don’t,” Tony says suddenly, reaching for it blindly.

 

“Are you going to throw up again?” Bucky says, stopping right away and getting ready to hold Tony instead if he needs it.  

 

“No.  I don’t know.  I just…” Tony’s face crumples.  He turns and buries it against the sheets as he starts to cry.  

 

“Doll?  What’s wrong?  Does it hurt?” Bucky asks, placing a hesitant hand on Tony’s arm.

 

“Shit, I’m sorry.  I’m sorry,” Tony says, trying to force himself to stop the tears, “If you didn’t want to break up with me already, you probably do now, damn it.”

 

“What are you talking about?  I don’t want to break up with you, Tony, we just started seein’ each other…” Bucky says gently, having a feeling that he knows what this is about now.

 

“I’m a fucking mess…  You can’t… I can’t let you clean up after me,” Tony says, gripping the edge of the trash can tightly.  “I’m disgusting and we were supposed to be flirting and having fun… I didn’t want you to see me like this…” Tony mumbles, looking despondent.  

 

Bucky hums thoughtfully, trying to think of how best to tackle this.  “Life ain’t always pretty and charming, Tony. I have no doubt that you are, most of the time, but I ain’t going to be scared off by the fact that you’re human.  Honestly, if we knew each other better, I’d be offended that you thought I was that shallow…but I’ll give you a pass this time, ‘cause it’s only been a couple weeks.”

 

“How can you not be grossed out by me?” Tony asks, seeming to have calmed down some.

 

“I ain’t saying that throwing up isn’t gross, but it certainly ain’t the end of the world, or some deal breaker either,” Bucky assures him.  “Back during the War, World War II, that is, Steve and I ended up being the only ones in camp who weren’t sicker than dogs during July of ‘43…  There were five hundred men in Colonel Phillips’ camp, and let me tell you, that was the summer that we learned that being the only people around who couldn’t get sick was not necessarily the blessing someone might think…”

 

“Ew,” Tony grimaces.

 

“Yeah, it ain’t exactly a fond memory.  But if you ever want to see Stevie go real pale, just bring it up in front of him.  The guy has no stomach for that kind of thing, he was almost as queasy as the rest of them the whole time, super soldier or not,” Bucky chuckles.

 

“It’s different when it’s war though,” Tony says, still not meeting Bucky’s gaze and looking miserable for it.  

 

Bucky decides to switch gears then.  “Well, who would normally take care of you when you’re sick?  Your mom or Jarvis, right?” he asks.

 

“Jarvis,” Tony nods.  

 

“Does Jarvis think less of you afterward, for needing help?” Bucky asks.

 

Tony doesn’t really answer him, but they both know the answer is “no’.

 

“You know, I took care of him once, after your dad nearly killed them all in that explosion,” Bucky brings up.

 

“What?!  What explosion?” Tony says, sitting up quickly and swaying a little.

 

“It was before you were born, doll,” Bucky explains, steadying him.  He takes the opportunity to hand the glass of water back to Tony, who looks at it dubiously, but does accept it.  Bucky motions for him to take a drink, implying that the rest of the story is contingent on it. Tony sighs and takes a few more small sips.

 

“See?  Progress already,” Bucky smiles fondly.  “You know, I’m actually not surprised your dad didn’t tell you about that, now that I think about it,” Bucky realizes.  “It was the summer of ‘65, and he was still working on the arc reactor, before he brought Vanko in on the project. Something went wrong, I never asked for the details, but half the mansion ended up in flames, and both he and Jarvis were hurt in the blast.”

 

“Oh my god, what about Anna?” Tony asks, looking horrified that he didn’t know about this.

 

“She was at the other end of the house, from the way I heard it.  She helped get them out and called the fire department. Peggy knew it would be too much for her to take care of them both by herself, especially since Howard broke an arm and a leg, and Jarvis had a broken a leg and a cracked rib,” Bucky explains.

 

“Yeah, I guess I can see why he’s never brought it up,” Tony grumbles, “Heaven forbid dad tell a story that makes him look like anything less that the smartest man alive…”

 

“He was pretty damn embarrassed about it, that’s for sure.  If it hadn’t been me and Steve, I don’t think he’d have accepted the help…  Though, I made Steve do most of the takin’ care of him and stuck to helpin’ Jarvis myself…  And now the labs are underground and reinforced and don’t share any air with the rest of the house,” Bucky finishes.

 

“Was it the west wing?” Tony asks, frowning.

 

“Yeah, it was.”

 

“Huh, I knew there was something off about the crown molding in that part of the house,” Tony mutters.  

“You seem to be holding down that little bit of water,” Bucky says, bringing them back to the topic at hand, “Do you think you’ll be ok while I wash this out, or should I bring something else to replace it first, just in case?...”   

 

Tony thinks about it for a second and grimaces.  “Maybe bring something else first…”

 

“Ok, doll, I’ll be right back,” he says, thankful that Tony is willing to accept his help.  

 

He spends that night and all of the next day taking care of Tony, until Sunday he’s finally feeling better and is actually able to keep solid food down.  He’s no longer hesitant about letting Bucky help him, especially once the throwing up parts are over. Tony’s well on his way to a full recovery by the time Bucky has to leave again Sunday night.  

 

“Thanks again, for everything,” Tony tells him, “I mean, I still feel bad that we didn’t get to do anything fun...but...I’m glad you were here,” he confesses.

 

“I was happy to do it, doll,” Bucky says, giving him a kiss, “I…  Well, I haven’t actually gotten to do a lot of this kind of relationship stuff before.  I mean the stuff outside of sex, the real parts where you get to know each other through the good and the bad… I like the way it feels, to have you trust me,” Bucky gives him a confession right back.  

 

“You are a very trustworthy guy,” Tony says, “Historically and now empirically.”

 

“It’s tough living up to a legend like mine,” Bucky sighs teasingly, “But I try.”

 

Tony snorts and pulls him in for another kiss before they finally have to say goodbye.  

 

After Bucky’s gone, Tony leans against his door with a goofy grin on his face, just reveling in the fact that Bucky didn’t run when the going got gross.  Not that he would ever plan to let someone see him like that, but it’s actually really comforting to know, now that it’s happened…

 

“Ok,” Tony says to himself, pushing off the door, “Back to science.  You can worry about whether or not Bucky Barnes is your boyfriend later…  This PhD isn’t going to earn itself.”

 

The point becomes a moot one anyway a few days later when they’re talking on the phone and Bucky asks Tony to be his boyfriend, in plain English and everything.  

 

“I guess maybe that isn’t the sort of thing a person should ask over the phone, but I didn’t want to wait any longer,” Bucky explains, “And this felt less creepy than just showin’ up at your door unannounced…”

 

“Just for the record,” Tony makes sure he knows, “You should feel free to show up any time, it’s totally not creepy and very romantic when the person you’re surprising is already in a relationship with you.  And also, yes, I’m your boyfriend now. You’ve actually shown remarkable restraint in waiting this long, considering what an amazing catch I am.”

 

“It’s been a constant struggle,” Bucky admits, less teasingly than his tone would assume.

 

“You fought the good fight, but there’s no shame in giving in.  You’re mine now and you’ll just have to learn to live with it,” Tony rambles as his heart swells.

 

“Yeah?  I think I could get used to that, doll,” Bucky grins from ear to ear as he lays over his couch while they talk.  “I can’t wait to see you at Christmas. I hope you’re prepared to snuggle for three weeks straight.”

 

Tony laughs, but he kind of hopes there’s a little truth to that statement too.  Bucky is definitely a tactile person, just like he is, and Tony immensely enjoys the casual touch he’s always offering up.  

 

“I’ll make sure there’s a blanket ready to go,” Tony assures him.

 

“You’re the best, doll,” Bucky replies, the smile palpable in his voice.

 

When they finally hang up that night, Tony suddenly realizes that he only has ten days left in which to procure a Christmas present for his new boyfriend .  

 

“Jarvis!  I need your help!” Tony exclaims as soon as the phone at the mansion picks up.  “What? No, I’m not actively bleeding… I need to figure out what to get Bucky for Christmas, this is serious !”

 

Jarvis doesn’t consider it quite the same caliber of emergency situation that Tony does, seeing that it’s after ten o’clock on a week night, but he does manage to give a few suggestions that calm him down somewhat.  

 

The very next morning though, Tony goes out on the most stressful shopping trip of his life.  Ugh, who knew that shopping for someone you cared about and wanted to impress but not overwhelm but not underwhelm to the point of breaking up with you could be so nerve wracking.  

In the end Tony decides to go with one of Jarvis’ suggestions, which was a nice men’s watch.  The man has never lead him astray before. Plus Tony hasn’t seen Bucky wearing one, even when they went out to nice places, so the odds are he probably doesn’t have one already…   

 

The shop offers to gift wrap it for him, which Tony is extremely grateful for.  

 

Now all he has to do is not die of anticipation before the actual holiday rolls around.

 

<//>

 

Steve has always been the type to decorate for Christmas right after Thanksgiving is over.  It’s a big house, so it takes a few days to get everything put up. They have a large, real tree in the living room that he takes special care with, but there are also a few smaller trees around too.  In Peggy’s office he always puts up a tree that holds all the handmade ornaments from when the girls and Tony were little. There’s also a tree on the upstairs landing, because they had the room and the area looked barren compared to the rest of the house.  

 

He used to have more help with everything when the girls, and Bucky, were still at home.  But he’s not complaining. They’ve all grown up and moved on and have their own lives they’re living.  This is the life Steve chose. He’ll continue to live it, here with Peggy, for as long as he possibly can.  

 

When Christmas finally arrives, he’s as ready as he’ll ever be for the influx.  As the girls and their families start arriving, Steve can’t help but feel like things are more normal with the house full to bursting.  With a whole new generation of kids running and playing in the halls.

 

Bucky and Tony arrive together.  

 

Steve wasn’t sure how to feel about them in the beginning, only because he cares so much about both of them, and doesn’t want to see either of them get hurt.  Not that he thinks either is likely to break the other’s heart… It would just be awful trying to comfort both of them if things did go awry.  But actually, the two of them look happier together than Steve has ever seen them be on their own.

 

Even though he hasn’t met a whole lot of Tony’s conquests , there was never this relaxed aura about him before when he was dealing with someone he was involved with.  There was always this careful barrier of self-protection between Tony and them. Steve has watched Tony grow up from a curious infant into a confident man, and he knows exactly when the walls that a life with Howard instilled in him are up.

 

Those walls are hesitantly yet happily down when Tony is around Bucky, from what Steve can see.  

 

And the difference in Bucky…  Steve doesn’t realize until he sees Bucky playfully pulling Tony back under the mistletoe, that he’s never actually seen Bucky be in love at all.  He’s never brought someone home before.  Granted, Tony would be here whether he was involved with Bucky or not, and Howard and Maria will be arriving later for dinner, but that’s beside the point.  

 

The point is, that Bucky gives Tony the kind of smiles that Steve hasn’t seen on his face since 1934, carefree and holding nothing back.

 

“Alright, it’s just about time for a beloved Rogers’ family Christmas tradition,” Peggy says, sitting down on the couch with a bowl in her lap.  She rummages around and pulls two slips of paper out as everyone’s attention instantly focuses on her. “This year’s team captains are… Oh dear god…  Bucky and Marjie,” she says dramatically, sighing in the middle of her proclamation.

 

“Yes!” Marjie pumps her fist, “Ladies first, I call Dad!”

 

“I’ll take Tony,” Bucky says right away, giving his boyfriend a wink.  

 

Tony rolls his eyes, but he’s actually extremely pleased to have been a first pick, for the first time ever, and his grin shows it.  

 

“Ruthie.”

 

“Ellie.”

 

“Jackie.”

 

“Paula.”

 

They both call out names as sides are drawn and snowsuits put on the younger kids.  Some of the really young ones are on their parent’s teams by default, but everyone except any actual babies gets on their jackets and hats and gloves.  

 

“Remember, you have twenty minutes to construct your forts, then battle will commence,” Peggy says as she pulls on her own overcoat.  She and Jarvis and Anna serve as judges these days, since their advancing age makes it difficult to participate. But snowball fights are a highly subjective sport, so they’re definitely needed in a judging capacity.  

 

After they all rush into the backyard, Bucky starts delegating jobs and showing the smaller team members how to make a good snowball.  From what he remembers, things could get a bit competitive between the bigger players, but they always made sure that things started off light and fun while the little kids were still out there.  They would get tired after not too long though, and then the snowballs would start flying a little faster and with a little better aim…

 

Bucky didn’t realize how much he missed this until he gets in a freakin’ golden shot at Steve, nailing him right in the face as he’s turning from talking to Marjie.  Tony busts up laughing, as does their whole side of the yard, and most of the other side too…  Steve wipes the snow off his face and then nods at Bucky, the look in his eyes very clearly conveying, “I see how it is now.”  Bucky just waves at him with a twirl of metal fingers, beaming.

 

It’s on after that, with the two of them waging very specifically targeted campaigns at each other, the way that best friend super soldiers do.  Even though Marjie is ostensibly leading the other team, it ends up being Steve and Bucky that are rolling around at the end of everything, trying to rub each other’s faces in the snow.  At least the team divisions make it easier for everyone to decide who to cheer for.

 

“You’re out of shape, Stevie,” Bucky teases after he finally wins, shoving some snow down the back of his shirt just for good measure.  

 

Steve swears a blue streak as the icy cold hits his spine, but he still isn’t able to get Bucky off.  

 

Finally Peggy calls an end to things, being a much more gracious loser than her husband.  

 

“There’s always next year,” Bucky grins, shaking Marjie’s hand and sticking his tongue out at Steve.  

 

“I am not out of shape…” Steve grumbles as they head back toward the house, but it’s all in good fun.  

 

Bucky picks Tony up in a hug and swings him around in a circle, singing, “ We are the champions ,” as Tony laughs.  The rest of their team is cheering too, even as they head inside for hot cocoa.

 

“I’d accuse you of hitting the eggnog a little too hard, but we all know that wouldn’t affect a super soldier ,” Tony teases, stealing a kiss as he’s set down.

 

“Nah, I’m just drunk on the thrill of victory,” Bucky replies, keeping Tony close.  

 

“How ‘bout we break out that blanket I promised and sit by the fire for a while, it’s fucking freezing out here,” Tony says, keeping his voice low.  

 

“Doll, you sure do know how to commemorate a moment, that sounds fantastic.”

 

“Well, it’s either that or we can build a statue to your prowess, right here at the scene of your epic victory.  I’m thinking at least seven, eight feet tall, with a little plaque at the bottom describing the exact way you shoved that snow down Uncle Steve’s shirt…”

 

Bucky’s face scrunches up at the mention of a statue, and he shakes his head, even though he’s grinning.  “Nah, I think gettin’ warmed up with you is all the reward I need.”

 

“Yeah?” Tony asks, leaning up closer, inviting Bucky to kiss him again.

 

“Yeah, definitely way better than a statue,” Bucky affirms, kissing Tony softly.  They keep things fairly chaste, but there are some moments when Bucky just can’t not kiss this amazing man in his arms.  

 

From the back porch, Jarvis comments to Peggy as they’re getting up to head inside themselves, “I’ve not heard Colonel Barnes sing in many years…”  

 

“Decades, really…” Anna adds.

 

“Yes, you’re quite right.  I’ve not seen him this happy in a long time,” Peggy nods, watching the two of them still wrapped up in each other’s arms as they stand in the snow.  “Or Tony either…”

 

“Indeed,” Jarvis agrees.  

 

The three of them head inside, leaving Bucky and Tony to wander back on their own time.  It’s only a few minutes later though that they make their way in, grinning and keeping close to each other’s sides.   

 

After they get all their snow gear off, Bucky heads for the den and claims a spot on the couch where is left arm can be next to the fire.  He doesn’t make a big deal, or really any deal about it, but the metal doesn’t do so well in the cold.  It’s his first year back in a long time though, so he wasn’t about to skip out on the annual snowball fight.  

 

Tony goes to get the promised blanket, returning with not only it but a heating pad as well.

 

“I work with a lot of metal,” he explains, plugging it in, “And I know sometimes it conducts heat a little too well for comfort.  You’ve got to be freezing, babe,” Tony says, arranging it over the area where flesh and metal would be meeting underneath Bucky’s shirt.  

 

God, that’s good.  

 

Bucky sighs in contentment, not really having been in pain , but feeling relieved nonetheless.  Tony sits next to him and puts his legs over Bucky’s lap, pulling the metal arm in close and hugging it to his torso.  He gives a little shiver at the temperature difference.

 

“Alright, let’s get you warmed up, soldier, share some body heat and all that,” Tony grins as he arranges the blanket over both of them.  

 

Bucky smiles and snuggles in, tucking his fingers along the inside of Tony’s thigh since they’re hidden by the blanket.  He leans into Tony, resting his head against his boyfriend’s shoulder and letting his eyes slip closed for a moment.

 

“Are you alright, Buck?” Steve asks as he comes into the room, having heard their exchange.  

 

“Hm?  I’m doing great ,” Bucky says, nuzzling against Tony and not opening his eyes.  

 

Tony chuckles.

 

“Don’t tell me playing in the snow wore you out,” Tony teases him.

 

“Nope, just saving my energy for later,” Bucky says, giving Tony’s thigh a squeeze where no one can see it.  Bucky is discovering that he is a huge fan of blankets, he had no idea they could be so amazing before this.

 

“I guess this means you won’t be watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ with us?...” Steve asks, raising an eyebrow as if he knows exactly what’s going on under that blanket.

 

“I can hear it from here,” Bucky tells him, as if it’s some sort of compromise.  

 

“I’m sure you can…  Just remember, I can hear from in there too,” Steve says, giving the both of them a warning look.  

 

“I’ll make sure he behaves,” Tony nods solemnly.

 

Steve snorts.

 

“Don’t forget, your parents will be here in about an hour.”

 

“Steve,” Bucky cracks his eyes open, “It’ll be fine.  I really am just getting warmed up. We ain’t gonna do anything inappropriate.  The whole family’s here right now, forget Howard and Maria showin’ up later...”

 

“I know, I know, I’m just giving you a hard time, jerk,” Steve says, already turning to go.  

 

“Jeez, get out of here already, punk, and let me take advantage of having such a hot boyfriend,” Bucky grins, choosing his words purposefully.

 

Tony snickers at the double meaning, and Bucky joins him, and Steve rolls his eyes as he finally leaves, but he’s smiling as he goes.  

 

After he’s gone, Bucky and Tony do make out for a little while, but they mostly just snuggle and move the heating pad around Bucky’s arm until it’s back up to body temperature.  By the time Howard and Maria do arrive, they’ve thrown the heating pad over the edge of the couch and are just laying in each other’s arms.

 

“What’s going on in here?” Howard asks, frowning from the doorway when he sees them.  

 

“It’s called ‘cuddling’ , Howard,” Bucky tells him sarcastically, “You should try it some time…  Your wife will thank me.”

 

Tony makes a choking noise that sounds an awful lot like a suppressed laugh, hiding his face against Bucky.

 

Howard seems to decide the conversation is no longer worth pursuing after that, and continues on his way down the hall.  Their arrival is a signal that it’s going to be time for presents soon, so Bucky and Tony reluctantly pry themselves off the couch after a minute.  When Maria passes by with Anna, they join them in the trek to the living room.

 

“Oh, good.  I was afraid I’d have to send Peggy in to get you two,” Steve says as he’s helping arrange presents under the tree.  

 

“Not cool, Steve,” Bucky admonishes, “Sending your wife to do your dirty work...”

 

“Please, we all know my wife is the only person you’ve ever actually feared,” Steve says back in a blasè tone.  

 

Bucky sneaks a glance at Peggy.  

 

“Well, I’m smarter than I look,” he says, tipping his head to her.

 

“And that is why you’ve lasted this long,” Peggy nods.

 

Bucky starts to nod in agreement with her, but then realizes that her agreeing that he’s smarter than he looks is actually an insult…  Peggy’s eyes are shining with mirth as she starts laughing.  Everyone else joins in or at least chuckles at Bucky’s expense, but he just laughs too.  He doesn’t mind having a little fun poked at him, especially by family. And he did set himself up for that pretty perfectly, after all.

 

“Ok, ok, everyone take a seat,” Steve says, “Or wait, should we do the family photo first before presents?...” he teases, causing the kids to groan.

 

“No, grandpa!”

 

“Presents now!”

 

“We waited all day!”

 

Bucky knows that they all would have done their “Christmas mornings” with their immediate families at home earlier, so it isn’t like they haven’t gotten to open anything at all yet today.  But they’re still kids after all… And it’s abundantly clear that Steve is joking anyway, playing up the crowd.

 

Thankfully grandpa gives in quickly and starts passing out beautifully wrapped packages to eager hands.

 

“Did you already get anything this morning?” Bucky asks Tony while they watch the unfolding melee.  

 

“Mom got me new furniture for my apartment on campus and dad got me a particle accelerator,” Tony tells him.  “What did you do this morning?”

 

“Eh, I called a few old friends, wished them ‘Merry Christmas’, then came to get you,” Bucky tells him.  “Your present’s on the mantel, by the way, whenever you want to open it,” he lets him know, giving Tony’s hand a squeeze.  

 

“Ok, so, I had no idea what to get you, so I hope you don’t think I went overboard…  I kind of want you to open mine first so I can gauge your reaction, but then I kind of want to open yours first so that I know just how badly I did or not, compared to what you got me…” Tony sighs, burying his face against Bucky’s shoulder..

 

“Why don’t we open them at the same time then?” Bucky suggests.

 

Tony gives him a look like he thinks that’s the worst possible solution to the problem.  “You may like that sort of danger in your life, Colonel Barnes, but I am a mere civilian, a lowly, completely human man , I wasn’t built for those sort of rigors,” Tony grumbles, “Here, just, open mine first then, let’s get this over with.”

 

“You’re a true romantic, aren’t you doll…” Bucky chuckles, accepting the box Tony hands him with a kiss to Tony’s temple.  

 

Tony waits with bated breath as Bucky peels off the wrapping paper.  He sees the grin that spreads over Bucky’s face once he realizes what it is though, so Tony breathes a sigh of relief.  

 

“Oh wow, this is amazing, Tony,” Bucky says, taking the watch out of its case right away, “I’ve seen Submariners before, but hadn’t gotten around to picking up a watch yet.  We couldn’t have wristwatches in the Rangers, so I got out of the habit of wearin’ one. Hey, it goes with my arm!” Bucky says delightfully, holding it next to his metal wrist even though he put it on his real one.  

 

“You really like it?” Tony asks, like he just needs to be completely sure.  

“I love it.  It’s perfect, doll, thank you,” Bucky leans in, giving him a kiss.  

 

When Bucky gets up to retrieve the envelope from the mantel, Tony gives Jarvis a quick thumbs up and mouths ‘Thank you’ to him from across the room.  Jarvis smiles back warmly, giving him a nod.

 

“Now, I want you to know I picked out your gift,” Bucky says, handing over the envelope, “But I did run it by a few people to see if it would be something you’d like first...”

 

“Of course,” Tony nods, wondering who Bucky went to for advice…  Hopefully it was Uncle Steve or Aunt Peggy, because there’s a good chance he might actually like it then…

 

He opens the envelope and pulls out a folded up piece of paper that has what look suspiciously like tickets wrapped in it.  Being a well raised man of society though, he reads the writing on the paper first before inspecting them. It says, ‘One all expense paid trip to see-’

 

Metallica ?!!” Tony practically shouts, jumping out of his seat.  “Are you serious?!”

 

“Completely serious, babe,” Bucky grins, chuckling as he watches Tony.  Pretty much everyone’s eyes are on them, after a reaction like that.

 

“This is amazing.  Oh my god, these dates are two weeks from now,” Tony realizes, looking at the tickets more closely.

 

“I figured you wouldn’t want to have to wait very long,” Bucky explains.

 

Tony throws himself at his boyfriend, with Bucky catching him easily and maneuvering him into his lap.

 

“You are the best .  The absolute, most fantastic, most incredible boyfriend ever ,” Tony says in between kisses, peppering Bucky’s lips with them.  

 

“I’m glad you like it,” Bucky says, accepting the kisses happily.  

 

“Wait, you know who Metallica is?” Tony asks, wondering if Bucky is just doing this for him, or if he actually has an interest in that kind of music.

 

“Doll, I saw them play at Oakland in ‘85 and I’ve been hooked ever since.  Trust me, it’s no hardship to take you to L.A. for a weekend to see them,” Bucky reassures him.  

 

“Oh my god, you’re the perfect man,” Tony says, half in wonder, half in jest, holding Bucky’s face in his hands.  

 

That actually makes Bucky blush a little, but it’s not too far off from how he feels about Tony either…  “Takes one to know one, doll.”

 

They refrain from a full on make out session there in the living room, but only just barely.  Steve helpfully clears his throat after a few seconds and mentions that other people have presents for them too, so the unwrapping continues.   

 

They spend all of Christmas dinner playing footsie under the table.

 

When it’s finally time to leave, Bucky doesn’t even have to ask if Tony wants to go home with him.  Tony says all his goodbyes at the same time, puts on his jacket, and gets into Bucky’s car.

 

That night when they have sex, Bucky thinks it’s the closest he’s ever come to ‘making love’ to someone.  




Chapter Text

1991 - part I

 

The Metallica concert is a huge success.  Bucky wears a tank top to it, and once the event staff see who he is, they have no problem letting them backstage after the show.  Bucky makes sure they get a couple of the band’s shirts before the end of the night too. Tony wears his for the whole rest of the weekend.  

 

At least, for the parts where they’re clothed, anyway.  

 

They definitely get their money’s worth out of the hotel, lounging around the next morning and having sex three different times before checkout.  

 

“It’s a shame we came all this way and didn’t plan on going to the beach,” Tony laments as they’re finally packing up.

 

“January’s a bit cold for going to the ocean, doll, even in southern California…” Bucky points out.

 

“We’ll just have to come back in the summer then.  You totally owe me a walk on the beach now, by the way, the holding hands, the linen shirts blowing softly in the breeze, all of it,” Tony informs him.  

 

“How about for your birthday?  It should be warm enough by then,” Bucky says, thinking ahead.

 

“Really?” Tony asks, seeming surprised that Bucky just immediately agreed with his idea.  

 

“Oh yeah, it’ll start warming up in April, by May it should be pretty perfect, actually,” Bucky says, intentionally pretending that Tony’s question was over the weather.  He pulls Tony into his arms, giving him a quick kiss. “If you want to wait until school’s out, maybe we can make a whole week out of it.”

 

“I will be done defending my dissertation by then…  I was planning on going back in the fall for one last doctorate in pure mathematics, you know, in case we need to attempt to communicate with an alien race someday.  A friendly alien race, anyway…  But yes, my birthday. Done.  Glad that’s settled,” Tony says with an emphatic nod, smiling happily.  “What about for you? Yours, I mean. March is, not that far away, actually…”

 

“I kind of already promised Steve I’d be around for a family celebration this year.  So we’ll have to stay in New York...but I’m sure we can find something fun to do afterward ,” Bucky says suggestively.

 

“I will put my not inconsiderable brain power to work on the problem right away,” Tony says flirtatiously.  

 

“Mm, I can’t wait to see what you come up with, doll...”

 

They miss the deadline to check out, so the hotel charges Bucky for another whole night, but he really doesn’t care.  

 

<//>

 

“Steve!” Bucky comes bursting into the Rogers’ house.

 

“Kitchen,” Steve calls out, glancing at Peggy.  They both look curiously toward the doorway, having heard the excited tone in Bucky’s voice.  

 

“Steve, oh my god,” Bucky says, a stack of papers clutched tightly in one hand as he collapses into one of the chairs.  “He’s so smart, Steve. Have you read this? I can barely get through it, and I mostly know what I’m doing when it comes to physics.”

 

“No, I haven’t, but only because I don’t understand a single word of it...  You know Tony didn’t go to MIT at 14 because of the ‘family name’, Bucky,” Steve replies, grinning at his best friend’s awestruck state.

 

“I know that, I do.  But I hadn’t actually read any of his papers before.  Steve, this is light years beyond the rest of the field.  And he’s not only a genius , he’s so funny too.  And handsome. And kind, and generous…   Steve .  I’m so in love, it’s ridiculous,” Bucky says, leafing through the pages, “Look at this equation.  This is fucking beautiful. Einstein would weep if he was still alive.”  

 

“Would he?” Steve chuckles.

 

“He definitely would.  I feel like tearing up a little myself.  How the hell did I get this lucky to have a guy like him interested in me ?...”

 

Steve and Peggy share a smile while Bucky continues to gush.

 

“You deserve to be happy, Buck, I’m glad you’ve finally found someone who lights you up like this,” Steve tells him, motioning toward Bucky with his coffee cup.  

 

“Thanks, Stevie.  I don’t know that I ‘deserve’ him , but I know what you mean…”

 

Bucky stays for the rest of breakfast.  Steve gets to hear all about his plans to surprise Tony at MIT the next weekend while they do the washing up.

 

“I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to see you, Buck.  He said before it was fine to surprise him, didn’t he?” Steve assures him.

 

“Yeah, I just worry I’ll overwhelm him, sometimes…”

 

“Tony is a difficult man to overwhelm, Bucky.  And frankly, I’m sure he loves the attention.”

 

Bucky smiles, thinking of a time before when he showed Tony attention , and says, “Yeah, I guess you’ve got a point...”

 

<//>

 

“Uncle Steve!” Tony jogs down the hallway, barging into the study after hearing a response from that direction.  “Ok, I really need your help here,” he says, running a hand through his hair as he starts to pace back and forth in front of the desk.

 

“Tony?  What’s wrong?  Aren’t you supposed to be in school right now?” Steve asks.

 

“I skipped my last class to come down and surprise Bucky this weekend,” Tony waves off his concern over class .  “That’s not the point.  The point is, I need you to talk me down right now, or just, talk to me,” Tony rambles.  

 

Steve starts to open his mouth, but Tony goes on, so he just sits back and lets him get it out.  He knows Tony gets like this sometimes, so excited and almost manic that he has to talk practically a mile a minute while he works things out.

 

“Or maybe just let me talk, and then tell me what you think at the end, because honestly, I can’t tell if I’m panicking or having an asthma attack or what.  You had asthma before, right? Breathing just feels weird, I don’t know, everything feels weird,” Tony says, putting a hand over his chest.  

 

Before Steve can even ask him why he thinks he might have suddenly developed asthma, Tony stops pacing and braces himself against the edge of the desk, looking at Steve almost accusingly.  

 

“He came to my campus last weekend, Uncle Steve.  He came and surprised me, and I was busy with this project the whole weekend and he was fine with it.  He sat with me in the lab and brought me food and played fetch with DUM-E ,” Tony starts tearing up.  “He… He said ‘goodbye’ to him every time he left the room,” Tony stops because his voice cracks dangerously at the end there.  

 

Steve gets up and comes around the desk, pulling Tony into a hug.  

 

“I know he said he technically already met DUM-E once before, but, that’s just it, he met him , he talks about him just like you would any other person and I…  I was driving down here, and I realized I love him, Uncle Steve, I love him, and I can’t fucking breathe anymore,” Tony says, returning the hug tightly.

 

“You don’t have asthma, Tony,” Steve chuckles kindly, squeezing him extra hard for a second before releasing him.  “Love is notorious for making people feel out of breath.”

 

“Tell me it’s too soon to propose to him.”

 

“It’s too soon to propose to him, Tony,” Steve says dutifully, understanding what his job is now.

 

“Do you think…  I mean, it’s only been a few months…  It’s probably too soon to say ‘I love you’ too, isn’t it?” Tony asks hesitantly.

 

“I don’t think so.  If that’s what you feel, I think he’d love to know,” Steve tells him, not wanting to betray either of their trusts.  He knows for a fact that Bucky loves Tony, but it isn’t his place to be the one to divulge that.

 

“Yeah?...  Ok. That’s probably a good idea, start smaller, work up to the whole ‘spending the rest of our lives together’ thing later,” Tony nods, as if pep-talking himself.  

 

“That’s a solid plan,” Steve agrees, smiling.

 

“Thanks, Uncle Steve.  And hey, who knows, maybe this, thing , will get better after I tell him,” Tony motions toward his chest.

 

“You know, it just might,” Steve chuckles, glad to be Tony’s confidant.  

 

“Ok.  Ok. I’m going to go tell my boyfriend that I love him now,” Tony takes a deep breath and lets it out with determination.

 

“Good luck,” Steve nods solemnly.  

 

After Tony’s gone, Steve sits back down at his desk.  He remembers what a treat it was when Peggy would come home early unexpectedly, and how her face would light up when he’d surprise her with dinner down at SHIELD while Bucky watched the girls…  

 

Glancing at the clock on the wall, Steve picks up the phone and places and order to go at Peggy’s favorite restaurant.  It’s early still, but he knows for a fact that she planned on working late tonight since she’s getting ready to transition things to a new Director when she retires.  So it’ll be good if he shows up before she’s had a chance to eat.

 

While Steve’s picking up his food, across town Tony is smooth talking his way into a government lab that he technically, no, does not have authorization to enter, but come on, he’s Tony Stark , his security clearance is higher than anyone else’s in the whole building...

 

“I’m pretty sure Colonel Barnes has a higher clearance than you do...” the guard tells him.

 

Tony resists the urge to smile, because he knows he’s got him now.

 

“And that is exactly who I’m here to see.  Look, I promise I’ll file the proper paperwork to get a badge and all that first thing in the morning.  And by morning, I mean Monday, but there’s got to be a visitor’s pass or something you can hook me up with just on an interim basis…”

 

Ten minutes later, Tony is bursting into Bucky’s office, where the man in question is hunched over the results of their latest lunar atmospheric readings.

 

“Tony?” he says quizzically, a smile already forming at the sight of his boyfriend.

 

“I love you,” Tony says right away, only realizing once it’s out of his mouth that it might seem like a bit of a non sequitur in this situation.

 

The smile spreads further and takes a permanent hold on Bucky’s face.  

 

“I love you too,” he says, standing up from the desk, “Did you come all the way down here just to tell me that?...” he asks as he meets Tony halfway across the room.  

 

“Um, maybe?” Tony confesses, the feeling in his chest melting into an entirely new sensation at hearing Bucky’s response.  

 

“God, you are so amazing, doll,” Bucky says, wrapping his arms around him and kissing Tony thoroughly.  “There were so many times I wanted to say it last weekend, but I didn’t want to distract you from your project,” he admits.

 

“Oh…  I’m not distracting you , am I?” Tony suddenly worries.

 

“Doll, you are supremely distracting…  But my work ain’t delicate like yours.  Besides, I don’t take it home with me on the weekend either,” Bucky says, stealing another kiss.  

 

“I see…  So what are the odds of your manager letting you sneak out,” Tony checks the time on the watch he gave Bucky, “45 minutes early?...”

 

“Tony, you know I am the manager,” he responds playfully.  

 

“So, pretty good then?...” Tony asks, playing right back.

 

“Yeah, pretty damn good.”

 

<//>

 

A couple times a year, Bucky gets together with his old Ranger unit, just like he does with what’s left of the Howlies.  Only himself, Marjie, Nick, and Phil are left from the original assault force, so it makes working out schedules for that group pretty easy.  Bucky and Marjie stay in close contact all the time, and Nick has enough seniority with SHIELD now to get him and Phil pretty much whatever days they need.   

 

They have a get-together planned for Marjie’s next leave, which is at the beginning of March.  Bucky takes Tony with him, introducing him as his boyfriend right off the bat. Nick and Phil obviously know who Tony is, but they haven’t met before this.  

 

It goes pretty well, with Tony’s running commentary making it one of the livelier meet ups that they’ve had.  Nick pulls Bucky aside right before they’re leaving to let him know that the hawk hit their radar a few months ago.

 

“Good, you’re gonna need him to bring in the spider,” Bucky claps Nick on the shoulder, then pulls Tony with him out the door before the man can ask any questions.  

 

<//>

 

Bucky gets the opportunity to meet Tony’s best friend by chance the very next day after that, when Rhodey surprises Tony while on a layover in Boston.  Bucky just happens to be hanging around Tony’s suite and delaying going back to New York when the man knocks on Tony’s door.

 

Sergeant James Rupert Rhodes, Air Force, is the first person to threaten Bucky in a long, long time, but he appreciates the gesture.

 

“My uncle owns a wrecking yard upstate,” Rhodey tells him first thing, as they’re still shaking hands, “And super soldier or not, you aren’t getting away from a magnet strong enough to lift a Lincoln Continental.  Not with this puppy grafted onto your spine,” Rhodey pats Bucky’s metal shoulder, “And if you ever hurt my Tones, your final resting place is going to be as the gooey center of a compressed Gremlin and Pinto, got it?”

 

Bucky nods, taking a minute to process the total validity of said threat.

 

“Have you been drinking , platypus?” Tony rolls his eyes at the posturing and hugs Rhodey like a limpet.

 

“Of course I’ve been drinking,” Rhodey scowls at him, “You think I’ve been working up the courage to threaten the greatest military figure of all time while sober ?”

 

They all have a good laugh at that, and the mood lightens considerably, which is good, considering how much Rhodey’s opinion means to Tony.  

 

By the time Rhodey has to leave again to catch his flight, he’s threatening the both of them in an entirely different manner.  

 

“Jesus Christ, I do not need to see this,” he groans.

 

“What?” Tony asks, his tone accusatory.

 

“All this sappy shit, the goddamned hearts in your eyes like a cartoon character.  This is disgusting,” Rhodey answers, grinning from ear to ear, “I’m never dropping by ‘unannounced’ again if this is what I have to look forward to...”

 

“I do not have hearts coming out of my eyes…” Tony grumbles at the teasing.

 

“Maybe you don’t, but Barnes does,” Rhodey nods authoritatively.

 

Bucky shrugs and nods, because it’s basically true.

 

All threats aside, Rhodey seems like a good man, and Bucky’s glad that Tony’s had at least one good friend like that in his life.

 

<//>

 

Bucky’s birthday party goes off without a hitch.

 

Afterward, Tony comes back to his place with him, ties him to the bed, and makes him come over and over again until he’s fucking dry .  All as part of his present, of course.  There’s actually a fine tremble running through Bucky’s limbs by the time Tony’s done, but Tony soothes it away with a gentle massage and a litany of loving words.  Bucky passes out in his arms afterward and sleeps for almost 10 hours, which is practically unheard of for him.

 

They both agree the next morning that while they loved the experience, they aren’t going to necessarily be up for something that intense all the time.

 

<//>

 

When Tony has been awarded his Doctorate in Physics, and they go to spend their week at the beach, they decide on as laid back of a vacation as possible.  Tony is pretty exhausted, not just from school, but his responsibilities to SI and the plans he’s working on for the future too.

 

“You know it’s really not a surprise if I know we’re going to the beach,” Tony points out, his hand stretched across the console of the rental car to rest on Bucky’s thigh.  

 

“Yeah, but you don’t know which beach, or where we’re staying,” Bucky replies, unperturbed.  

 

“Will there be sand?”

 

“What?  Of course there will be sand…”

 

“And one of those huge over sized umbrella setups?”

 

“Yeah…”

 

“And we’ll be right on the water, right?  Like, open the door and step out onto the beach, no taking a cab or walking three blocks surrounded by scantily clad strangers?  Not that I mind the scantily clad part, it’s just the dealing with people I’m not too keen on right now,” Tony sighs.

 

“Doll, you’ve going to love this set up, trust me,” Bucky says, finally exiting the freeway.  

 

Their destination is down a private drive, which immediately piques Tony’s interest.

 

“Did you rent out a whole house for us?...” he asks as they pull to a stop in the driveway of a lavish beach property.  

 

“Yeah, it was the only way to get all the amenities I wanted,” Bucky admits.  

 

“Oh yeah?  Like what?” Tony asks, grinning slowly.

 

“Like a private beach,” Bucky says, giving Tony a wink before he gets out of the car.  

 

“Really?  As in, no one else around, why did I even pack a swimsuit, private?” Tony verifies, climbing out of the car as well.  

 

“Yep.”

 

“Have I told you how much I love you lately?  Because I really feel like it bears repeating,” Tony sighs happily, interrupting Bucky’s opening of the trunk to slot himself into his boyfriend’s arms.

 

“You did mention it a couple times on the drive…  And the flight before that… And when we were packing…  But you know I never get tired of hearin’ it, doll,” Bucky chuckles, hugging Tony tight.  “I love you too, babe, welcome to Malibu.”

 

Tony grins up at him, nearly as happy as Bucky’s ever seen him, and he can’t resist sealing the moment with a kiss.  

 

They check out the house with a near giddy excitement, dropping their things in the master bedroom and then going exploring.  Once Tony has declared the inside acceptable, they head down the well kept path to the accompanying beach. They walk back and forth along the edge of the water for a while, checking out how secluded it really is.  

 

Not that Tony hasn’t been caught getting up to naked shenanigans before, but he isn’t quite sure where Bucky’s comfort level is if there’s outright  exhibitionism involved.  

 

Things look set up pretty well though, with a rock bluff to the north and a gentle curve to the beach that means no one farther down it would have an easy time seeing them.  There are a few other private beaches, but their stretch runs for a good mile according to the brochure.

 

“I almost want to just strip down and say ‘fuck it’, no more clothes at all for the whole rest of the week,” Tony ponders while they catch the beginnings of sunset.  

 

“You won’t hear me arguing,” Bucky says with an exaggerated leer.

 

Tony laughs and pulls off his shirt, giving Bucky a quirk of his eyebrow as if daring him to join him.  Pretty soon they’re both naked and playfully chasing each other over the sand. Bucky offers to move things inside though when they almost fall, citing the “sand in places it shouldn’t be” excuse.

 

“Admit it, Colonel, you just want to get me in bed,” Tony teases him.

 

“Guilty as charged,” Bucky confesses readily, sweeping Tony off his feet and into a princess carry.  Tony shouts in surprise at being picked up, but he throws his arms around Bucky’s neck without complaint once he realizes what’s going on.

 

“What about our clothes?” Tony laughs as Bucky carries him back inside.

 

“I thought we already established that we didn’t need them…” Bucky says blithely, leaving them on the beach.

 

Inside the house, Bucky sets Tony down on the sofa facing the panoramic windows in the living room and proceeds to blow him to within an inch of his life.  Tony comes hard a half hour later, his fingers curled in Bucky’s hair while the sun sets behind him.

 

“Jesus, and it’s not even my actual birthday yet,” Tony says afterward, laying limply against the couch.  

 

“It’s your birthday week,” Bucky says, his voice still rough from having Tony’s cock down his throat.  

 

“Birthday week?  Is that a thing?” Tony questions.

 

“It is now,” Bucky tells him confidently.

 

The next day they spend the majority of on the beach, taking down lounge chairs, huge umbrellas, coolers, etc., but no clothes.  Tony works on his tan for a little while, but retreats back to the shade of the umbrellas before getting too crispy. Thanks to his Italian heritage, he turns a nice golden brown in no time.  

 

“You awake, babe?” Tony asks, running his hands down Bucky’s back where he’s stretched out over the lounge chair.  His eyes are closed, but his breathing isn’t rhythmic enough for sleep.

 

“Yeah, I’m just relaxing and enjoyin’ the atmosphere,” Bucky says, cracking an eye open to look Tony up and down.  

 

Tony smiles and slides his hand down over his boyfriend’s ass, giving the cheek a squeeze, “You need any help relaxing further?...”  

 

“I might…  You’re nice and warm from the sun,” Bucky sighs as Tony’s hands glide over him.

 

“Mm, you know, they say that orgasms can be very relaxing,” Tony says informatively.  

 

“Do they?” Bucky plays along, “Maybe we should try that out…”

 

“Did you bring the lube down here?” Tony asks, the grin audible in his voice even though Bucky’s closed his eyes again.

 

“Yeah, it’s in with the snacks.”

 

“Hmmm, are you trying to tell me something?” Tony teases, going to retrieve it.

 

“Well I certainly wasn’t going to put it in the cooler with the drinks,” Bucky says, “But if you want to read more into it than that, feel free.”

 

“So what I’m hearing is that you don’t want to get eaten out?...”

 

“I didn’t say that …”

 

Bucky spreads his legs as best he can on the lounge chair, but he can tell it’s not going to be enough, so he adjusts a little so one knee can rest in the sand off the edge.

 

“I love how willing you are to just, spread your legs for me, anytime…” Tony says, climbing behind him with a kiss to Bucky’s back.  

 

“It’s my pleasure, doll,” Bucky says, as if he’s the one doing the other a favor.  

 

Tony chuckles and spreads Bucky’s cheeks the rest of the way, putting his mouth on him with a lavish enthusiasm.  Bucky moans unabashedly at the attention, rocking his hips back against Tony’s face.

 

“God, I want to eat you all afternoon, until you’re sobbing into your towel,” Tony pulls back long enough to confess, “But I also want to fuck you until you come screaming on my cock.”

 

“We-  We’ve got all week...” Bucky’s voice cracks a little with the anticipation of which one Tony will choose in the moment.  

 

“That is an excellent point…” Tony says, moving around behind him.  

 

Yes , Bucky is going to get fucked hard, he can hear it in the timbre of Tony’s voice.  Tony urges Bucky farther down the lounge chair, then does something to it that makes the lower part for the legs bump up into a V shape.  His hips are aligned right at the top of it after Tony’s done, so Bucky braces himself with his arms, having a good idea of what’s about to happen next.  

 

“There we go, that’s perfect,” Tony mutters almost as if to himself, “Nobody advertises ‘extra study lounge chairs’ unless they’re expecting people to fuck on them.”

 

Bucky chuckles and rocks his hips a little, checking out the friction level of the towel he has spread over the chair.  It also serves the double purpose of bringing Tony’s attention back to the matter at hand, which is Bucky’s ass.

 

“Getting impatient already?” Tony teases, taking position.

 

“For you?  Always.”

 

“Sap,” Tony chides lovingly, placing a kiss on Bucky’s lower back before lining himself up.  

 

He’s pleasantly surprised that Bucky agreed to get fucked out in the open like this, so he wants to make sure he has a good time during it.  Tony slides in nice and easy, giving his boyfriend time to adjust before getting to the main event. When Bucky starts getting mouthy again, he knows the man is ready to move on.

 

“What are you doing back there, paintin’ a picture?  Fuck me already,” Bucky sasses him.

Tony leans forward, changing his weight distribution significantly and placing a hand square between Bucky’s shoulder blades to compensate.

 

“Oh…” Bucky lets out a little noise of happy surprise, like Tony hadn’t figured out a long time ago how much his boyfriend likes being held down…

 

“Let’s see just how much these chairs can take, hm?” Tony purrs, digging his foot into the sand.  He keeps his weight as far forward as he can while still having the leverage to thrust. And then he thrusts .  He puts his fucking back into it, coming at Bucky hard and deep from this angle.  

 

Bucky shouts underneath him as he takes what Tony gives him.  His arms practically flail for a moment, trying to find the best way to hold on.  Jesus, he’s getting fucking pounded, and the sounds coming out of his mouth support that.  Tony wasn’t kidding about putting the chair through its paces…

 

“Oh, Oh , Tony!” Bucky cries out as the intense pleasure of getting fucked this way starts to become overwhelming.

 

“Are you going to come already?  Do you like that? Getting fucked out in the open where anyone could see you?  See how you take my cock?” Tony growls at him, never slowing his pace.

 

“Yes, fuck ,” Bucky practically shouts as Tony fucks him right through his orgasm, which happens in record time under his skillful assault.  Tony doesn’t let up for a second though, pistoning in and out of Bucky’s body with the same rhythm until he himself comes, and Bucky is writhing from the over stimulation.  

 

Oh , there you go, there you go,” Tony groans as he sheathes himself as deeply as possible inside of Bucky to come.  

 

Bucky whines, and Tony figures that if he has enough energy to whine, then he has enough for what Tony plans next.  

 

Once the glow has faded a little, Tony puts a hand on Bucky’s hip.

 

“Stay on your knees,” he instructs, lowering the leg piece of the lounge so that it’s slotted back into the flat position.  Then he drapes himself over Bucky’s back and reaches around between his legs, taking a hold of his cock.

 

Bucky gives a cry that sounds an awful lot like Tony’s name, and makes an extremely half-hearted attempt to get away from the friction.  

 

“You’ve got another one in you, don’t you babe?  You’re getting hard again already… Do you want my fingers in your ass when you come again?” Tony asks him, stroking firmly.

 

Bucky nods yes, whimpering as he juts his hips backward.  

 

“God, you are so fucking gorgeous, Bucky, love you so much,” Tony says as he slides two fingers into him and puts a little twist into his stroke.  

 

“Love you too, Tony, God ,” Bucky replies, thrusting into Tony’s hand now.  

 

Tony smiles against the skin at the back of Bucky’s neck, letting him bear his full weight while his arms are busy stroking and pumping.  For his part, Bucky’s vocalizations get louder and louder, until he comes again into Tony’s talented hands.

 

It takes him a while of laying there under his boyfriend to find his voice again.  

 

“Ok, now it really is nap time…”

 

Tony chuckles.

 

“We forgot to bring anything to clean up with…”

 

“Eh,” Bucky says, making the absolute minimum movements necessary so that Tony can lay on his side next to him instead of on top of him, “We’ll worry about it later.”  

 

“You say that now…”

 

Bucky sighs, realizing he’s right, but burrowing closer into Tony’s side all the same.  “Fine… We’ll clean up in a minute then…”

 

“In a minute?  Exactly one minute?” Tony teases, holding him close, “But that will cut into our cuddle time.”

 

“...Five minutes then.”  

 

Twenty minutes later, they both call an end to the immediate cuddling, because things are starting to dry in the heat.  They go for a swim instead of going back to the house though, and share the one remaining clean towel to dry off afterward.  

 

That evening Bucky grills some chicken in the outdoor kitchen, since the place comes fully stocked with food.  Tony chooses the wine, and Bucky teaches him how to steam asparagus, since he’s been slowly showing him how to prepare a meal or two for himself.  You know, in case he ever gets stuck somewhere without Jarvis or Bucky or any restaurants around…

 

“You can just admit it, my collegiate culinary habits disgust you, and you’re afraid I’ll die of scurvy without an intervention,” Tony says as he’s stabbing the asparagus experimentally with a fork.  “Uncle Steve already gave me this talk, by the way. He pretty much gives me all the important talks. Don’t take candy from strangers, the birds and the bees, proper flag etiquette… Does this look done to you?  It feels done to me…” Tony asks, continuing to poke at the asparagus.

 

Bucky smiles and kisses his temple, “It looks good.  I trust your judgement, doll.”

 

Tony beams at him, turning the fire off.  

 

They eat on the patio overlooking the rolling waves, leaning heavily into each other’s sides as they watch the sun go down.  





Chapter Text

1991 - part II

 

The next day is Tony’s actual birthday, which Bucky wakes him up for with a long, thorough blow job.  Bucky also makes them mimosas with lunch, wanting to ease him into it now that Tony’s old enough to drink, and gets a good laugh for his joke.  His present to Tony is this whole trip, but he still gets his boyfriend a sappy card and they make a cake together that afternoon.

 

After dinner and cake, Bucky asks Tony to humor him by taking their showers separately that evening, so that Bucky can set up one last surprise while Tony’s taking his.  Tony thinks about rummaging around for clues while Bucky’s showering, but he honestly doesn’t want to spoil things. He loves Bucky’s surprises.

 

It’s difficult to keep his mind from racing a million miles an hour while he showers himself.  Should he take longer than normal to give Bucky extra time? Is he trying to take the same amount of time, but actually going quicker without realizing it because he’s excited?  In the end, Tony just takes the amount of time he takes, and decides to ask Bucky through the door if he’s ready.

 

“Is it alright if I come out now?” he calls.

 

“Yeah, I’m ready,” Bucky tells him.  

 

As Tony turns the knob, he can hear music playing from inside the bedroom, soft and gentle and nothing like the metal or hard rock he and Bucky normally listen to...

 

“Is this Boyz II Men ?  Did you fall and hit…” Tony’s teasing dies on his tongue when he sees the candles lit everywhere and the open windows letting in a soft ocean breeze that gives a gentle billow to the linen curtains.

 

“It is,” Bucky says with a smile, stepping toward him, “I hope you can forgive a change in soundtrack, just for tonight…”  

 

Tony stands frozen on the spot, blinking in disbelief as Bucky puts his arms around his waist, his boyfriend’s eyes full of love and devotion as the chorus of I’ll Make Love to You starts.  

 

Tony blushes , blushes so hard he can feel the heat of it in his own face, so he buries it against Bucky’s chest in a futile attempt to keep him from noticing.  “Oh my god, are those rose petals on the bed?” he finds himself saying, having caught it out of the corner of his eye.

 

“Yeah…  I hope you’re not allergic or anything…” Bucky says gently, swaying slightly with Tony in his arms as the shorter man composes himself.  

 

“You unbelievable, romantic sap ,” Tony accuses, holding him tightly.  

 

“Well, I just wanted to make love to my fella, if that makes me a romantic sap...so be it,” Bucky runs his hands up and down Tony’s back.  He has a feeling that Tony had never been in a relationship where he’d been treated as being precious to his partner before, and Bucky will be damned if he lets that continue.  

 

He cups Tony’s face and kisses him softly, putting every ounce of feeling he can into it.  Tony responds beautifully, opening up and just letting Bucky worship his mouth.

 

“Wow…  Ok, so making love , let’s do this,” Tony says breathily, blinking a few times as if hazy from the kiss.  

 

Bucky grins, smoothing his hands down Tony’s body until he he can get a grip on the backs of his thighs, lifting him up.  Tony automatically wraps his legs around Bucky’s waist and his arms around his neck, letting himself be carried to the bed.  

 

“So is this how it’s going to go?” he asks, getting a little of his normal teasing demeanor back.

 

“It’s going to go however is good for you, doll,” Bucky says, going to his knees to carry him to the center of the bed.  He lays Tony down gently, staying embraced with him as they settle. “I do have a bit of a confession to make… I ain’t ever made love to anyone before, so I’m kind of winging it.”

 

This is winging it ?” Tony says incredulously.

 

This , is just ambiance so far,” Bucky points out, “For the actual lovemakin’, I thought I’d take you apart real slow, make sure you really feel it, you know?  Then when you’re aching for it, I’ll slide in nice and easy, make sure you’re comfortable the whole time, kiss you, touch you all over this gorgeous body of yours, make you forget about anything and everything outside of my arms, at least for tonight,” Bucky drawls, peppering gentle kisses across Tony’s lips and jaw while he talks.  

 

Tony, for his part, clings to Bucky, his heart racing with anticipation the entire time.  “Y-Yeah, that sounds good, um, spectacular, even. I want all of that,” he finally says more forcefully.  

 

“I love you so much, Tony,” Bucky whispers in agreement before putting his mouth to better use than talking.  First he gives Tony another bliss inducing kiss, putting his absolute heart and soul into it, until his boyfriend moans into his mouth just from the devouring he’s getting.  Then Bucky breaks away, tipping his head up to leave a soft kiss over each of Tony’s eyelids. He knows that’s not a traditional erogenous zone, but the intimacy of it seems right in line with the tone he’s trying to set.  

 

Tony hums in pleasure, so he must be doing something right.  

 

Bucky trails his lips across Tony’s hairline, leaving another kiss at his temple.  Then he darts the tip of his tongue along the shell of Tony’s ear at the same time that he starts playing with his nipple, causing Tony to shiver beneath him.  He sucks the lobe of Tony’s ear into his mouth, running his teeth over it lightly as he rubs his hips a few times against Tony’s.

 

During their months together, Bucky has learned that only multiple points of stimulation will truly distract Tony from the inner workings of his own mind.  He makes sure to caress Tony’s stomach, playing his fingers lightly over his abs and navel at the same time that he sucks a mark into the base of Tony’s throat, rubbing his foot along Tony’s calf all the while.  

 

Then he switches it up before his lover can become accustomed to the sensations, moving down to draw a pert nipple into his mouth at the same time that he reaches up to massage his fingers along Tony’s nape.  He shifts his legs too, so that the rubbing is now happening between Tony’s crotch and Bucky’s thigh.

 

Tony moans, his hands roaming and grasping at Bucky’s back in response to the changes.  He does use a firm hand in Bucky’s hair to direct him from one nipple to the other when he feels it’s being neglected though.  

 

Bucky grins and drags open mouthed kisses over it, letting his teeth catch and pull at the tender nub haphazardly, driving Tony crazy with the lack of steady rhythm there.  

 

Bucky ,” he whines, trying to press his boyfriend’s mouth more firmly against him as he bites his bottom lip.

 

Bucky smirks, mostly to himself, because he’s not really sure if Tony can see his face or not at this exact moment, and finally takes the nipple into his mouth properly.  Then he holds it with his lips and just a hint of teeth, flicking it with his tongue like you would a very different piece of anatomy that neither of them posses.

 

Tony jolts and moans as the firm, wet, flicking sensation continues.

 

Tracing is hands over Tony’s arms, Bucky captures his hands one by one and pulls them out of his hair, keeping them down at Tony’s sides and rubbing one flesh and one metal thumb over the centers of his palms, respectively.  

 

Then Bucky moves farther downward, again, never staying in one place long enough for Tony to get used to it.  He kisses and nips and bites his way over Tony’s abs, leaving more than a couple marks and letting his tongue circle and dip into his navel.  

 

“Jesus, that shouldn’t be so hot…  Why is that so hot?...” Tony asks breathlessly, not trying to get out of Bucky’s hold in the slightest.  He does rock his hips upward at the same time though, getting friction against Bucky’s chest while Bucky lavishes his stomach.  

 

Bucky makes sure to leave one more good mark where it will show if Tony’s shirt happens to ride up at all the next time he wears one.  “If it feels good, that’s all that matters,’ he answers, tracing around Tony’s navel again before gently biting it this time.  

 

Tony keens, closing his hands around Bucky’s thumbs and squeezing firmly.  “I want you inside me already.”

 

“But I ain’t even gotten below the belt yet,” Bucky chides him playfully.

 

“I’m not wearing a belt, and you’ve been rubbing against my dick this whole time, so I’m a little worked up already…”

 

“Ain’t nobody ever died from a little delayed gratification,” Bucky chuckles.

 

“I could be the first,” Tony fake grumbles, sticking out his bottom lip.

 

Bucky reaches up and runs his thumb over that plump lip, which Tony chases with a swipe of his tongue.  “You’re thinkin’ too much doll… Luckily, I know just the thing,” Bucky grins. He crawls briefly up the bed, giving several quick kisses to Tony’s body as he does, and grabs the lube from under the pillow where he stashed it earlier.  

 

“Damn, and here I was hoping you were going to shut me up with your cock,” Tony says, eyeing where it hangs thick and full between Bucky’s legs.

 

“Making love, remember?  Not face fucking,” Bucky admonishes, but there’s no heat in it whatsoever.  

 

“Can we do face fucking tomorrow?” Tony asks.  

 

Bucky thinks about it for a second while he’s getting back into position and then says, “Yes.”

 

Then he slides a slicked up finger into Tony’s ass.  While he opens Tony up nice and slow like he promised, Bucky sucks love bites into his thighs, making the man moan and whine for him before he’s done.  

 

There’s a faint smell of roses in the air, from the crushed petals, while Bucky gently, finally pushes into Tony inch by inch.  

 

“Wondered what you would look like, in the candlelight,” Bucky whispers like it’s a secret as he slides that last bit home.  “You’re so beautiful, Tony. Brilliant and beautiful, my gorgeous engineer. Any future I get to spend with you is a fantastic one,” Bucky tells him, spilling his heart in between the sound of the waves crashing outside.  “I love you so much, more than I’ve ever loved anyone else. I never knew I could be this happy, but every moment I’m with you I just get happier and happier. Tony, God, I… I wish we could be together forever, doll.”

 

Tony wraps every one of his limbs around Bucky tightly, hardly giving him any room to move because of it, but that’s fine.  He stays there sheathed inside the man he loves while Tony tries to keep from crying.

 

“I’ve never been in love before.  I thought I had,” Tony says, finally unburying his face from Bucky’s neck to look him in the eye.  He runs his fingers through Bucky’s hair, tucking an escaping strand behind his ear for him. “But after being with you…  I realize all those other people were just lust, maybe a crush or two when I was a kid… You- I love you so much, I don’t even know how to describe it.  You just make everything better by being here. I think about you all the time, but like, I never have to worry about you,” Tony tells him, the look in his own eyes making it obvious that he’s afraid he’s not making sense, not being eloquent like Bucky was.

 

“Hey, I get it, doll,” Bucky rests their foreheads together briefly, “I know what you mean, and no, you don’t ever have to worry about me.  My biggest concern is making you feel good, feel loved,” Bucky says as he begins to gently rock in and out of Tony, drawing a happy moan from the man.  “I don’t care about your money, or your family, or the prestige of your name. I just want to have you smile at me, hold me close, maybe listen to me rant about my idiot coworkers once in awhile,” Bucky adds, smiling down at Tony as Tony smiles up at him.  Both of their eyes are a little watery, but neither of them could care less about hiding their emotions right now.

 

Bucky continues to pump in and out of him slowly, working Tony up bit by bit, refusing to let him come too quickly after all this.  Every time Tony asks him for more, to speed up already, Bucky does, but only for a minute. Just enough to get him really going before he eases up again, slowing down to a leisurely, all-night-long pace.  

 

By the time Tony starts actually begging, it’s been over two hours since they started.  Bucky’s nerves can’t take much more either, not of this continuous stimulation without release, so he finally decides to give in under the force of those beautiful brown eyes begging him.

 

Please .  Please, Bucky.   Please , I need to come, I need it, I need you, fuck, I can’t…  I can’t anymore, it’s too much,” Tony pleads beneath him, panting in desperation as his hips try to force a rhythm that Bucky’s been refusing to pick up, at least not for long enough to bring relief..  

 

“Shh, I got you, doll, I got you,” Bucky says, making sure to get his knees under him.

 

“Please,” Tony says again, knowing better than to believe he’ll actually get to come now just because Bucky’s heeding his call to pick up the pace.  

 

“I want to see your face when you come Tony, want to look into your eyes, ok?” Bucky tells him.  

 

Tony floods with hope and a fresh wave of arousal at the declaration.

 

“Ok, yes, just please don’t stop, please ,” Tony moans as Bucky begins to piston in and out of him more quickly.  “Oh, Ohhh, fuck yes, don’t stop, please don’t stop, oh my god,” Tony exclaims as their bodies finally start making the slapping sound he’s used to hearing.  “Oh my god, Bucky… Bucky!” Tony cries out as his balls start tingling and his legs honest to God shake from the force of the orgasm building up inside him.

 

“Yeah, that’s it, Tony, come for me, come long and hard on my cock, you’re earned it, doll.  God, I love you so much,” Bucky tells him.

 

Tony keeps up his litany of “ please ” and “oh god ” right up until the moment he actually tips over into orgasm, lost in the throes of it.  Pleasure bursts outward from his groin where Bucky is joined with him, down to the tips of his toes and fingers, stealing his breath and bowing his back.  

 

Through it all, Bucky’s hands keep Tony’s face turned up, looking right into his eyes as his body shudders and convulses with the force of it.  

 

Bucky’s gaze during that moment feels almost more intimate than the act of letting him inside his body in the first place, Tony realizes with a sudden clarity.

 

And if Tony ends up crying after being made love to for the first time, that’s just between him and his boyfriend.

 

<//>

 

After their vacation is over, Bucky drops Tony off back at the Stark’s mansion, since he and his dad have a press release to do in the morning.  As Bucky’s driving home, he reaches with his metal arm for the turn signal and feels a jolt of electricity through his shoulder and up his neck. He barely even has time to frown at the implication before his arm shoots out straight in front of him, the force of it ripping the steering wheel off and sending it flying through the windshield.

 

Bucky slams on the breaks as his arm convulses further, hoping he doesn’t hurt anyone because he drifted over the center line.  The traffic in town isn’t moving fast, it’s New York after all, so the oncoming vehicle does manage to stop in time too.

 

Throwing the GTO in park, Bucky gets the engine shut off with his good hand just as the pain in his shoulder and spine starts to increase exponentially.  

 

With a muttered, “Fuck,” he has to take a second to get the door open with his far hand, and once he does, he basically falls out onto the concrete.

 

“Hey man…  Jesus, is he drunk?...” the driver of the car across from him says as he watches Bucky hit the ground.  

 

“Stay back!” Bucky shouts as a stranger moves toward him in concern, “Something’s wrong with my arm, I, can’t control it,” he adds as the appendage clenches up tight and starts making a clicking sound.  Then it slams backward against the ground, cracking the pavement in a spiderweb of excessive force.

 

The people gawking scurry backward after that, starting to realize exactly who he is at the same time.  

 

There’s a throbbing building at the base of Bucky’s skull, right where he remembers them putting the neural implant, and god, that cannot be good.  

 

“Should we call an ambulance, or...maybe the fire department?…” the driver of the other car says.  

 

“What is the fire department going to do?” someone else questions as Bucky begins panting from the pain.

 

His arm looks like it’s trying to cycle through the motions of flipping a burger or something, continuing to make that clicking noise that it never has before.  

 

“Call Steve,” Bucky groans, “He’s the only one with a chance of holdin’ it down long enough to get it shut off.”

 

“Steve?  Steve who?”  

 

“Are you an idiot?  He means Captain America .  What’s his number?” the stranger asks him, keeping his distance as Bucky requested.  Bucky rattles it off to him and the man takes off to find a phone right away.

 

While Bucky is laying there, his arm picks up a chunk of the cracked pavement and launches it right into the side of his GTO, denting in the entire driver’s side panel.  Then it shocks him with a jolt of electricity and repeats the throw in the opposite direction, shattering the window of a nearby store.

 

That’s the same point that one of the local mounted police makes his way to the scene and starts evacuating the surrounding area.  

 

Bucky tries to curl up over his arm to keep it from throwing anything else, but it’s strong and he’s in so much pain that he’s having trouble thinking clearly.  He ends up punching himself in the gut a couple times and getting another jolt of electricity before Steve finally arrives. His arm doesn’t really stop moving the entire time, but the rest of the motions it tries to make don’t damage anything.  

 

“Bucky!” Steve calls for him as he runs across the cleared out area, “I brought Tony to help get it shut off!”

 

“What!  Are you crazy?  He could get killed, don’t-” Bucky sees Tony following behind Steve, “No!  Stay back! Please ,” Bucky wasn’t quite crying from the pain before, but he feels tears of frustration welling up at the prospect of accidentally hurting Tony during any of this.  

 

“Bucky?” Tony calls out to him, stopping where he is at Bucky’s request.  “I tried to get a hold of Dr. Braslavski on the way here, but he died two years ago…”

 

“Shit…” Bucky says, clutching at his arm while it tries to climb a ladder or something, his hand opening and closing rhythmically as it goes.  Steve approaches him the rest of the way and Bucky’s fist slams back into the ground right by his feet. There are craters in the pavement all around where he’s laying, which should clue them in to just how serious the situation is.  

 

“You know I don’t know enough to get it shut down on my own, Bucky…” Steve says, kneeling next to him in entirely the wrong kind of concern.  “Even if I did know what wire to cut or whatever, I still couldn’t do that at the same time I hold your arm down, and we’re going to have to hold it down to do any work on it…”

 

Bucky glares at him, pissed at the logic and hating that it’s Tony who’s put in the most danger by this.  

 

“It’ll be quick, Bucky,” Tony tells him, a few car lengths away still, “I just have to open the A3 panel in your shoulder and disconnect the bio-electric feed, that will cut the power to the whole setup.”

 

“You been lookin’ at my schematics, doll?” Bucky says, the trace of teasing in his voice sounding tired through all the pain.  He’s stalling, trying to think of some other way to do this without risking Tony’s life by him getting too close…

 

His arm swings over and out, like he’s sweeping something off a table, and Steve catches it with a grunt to keep it from colliding with his stomach.  

 

He catches it and holds it , straining a bit, but having the advantage of two super strength arms to Bucky’s one.  

 

“Let us help you, Buck,” he pleads, looking pained to see his best friend suffering.  

 

Bucky grimaces, the feedback to his brain not liking whatever’s going on inside his arm while Steve keeps it from moving.  He finally meets Steve’s eyes, challenging him with an ultimatum.

 

“Don’t you let me hurt him, Steve.  You hear me? Rip the fucking thing off if you have to, if it comes to that, but don’t you dare let go,” Bucky says, letting Steve see a little bit of the fear in his eyes.

 

“I promise, Buck,” Steve says, nodding firmly and holding his gaze, “I swear it, I won’t let him get hurt.”

 

“Ok,” Bucky breathes out, half in defeat, “Ok.”

 

Tony rushes to his side as Steve keeps Bucky’s arm immobilized.  He already has a couple tools in his hands, getting the plate off Bucky’s shoulder in what seems like hardly any time at all.  

 

“Just for the record, there’s a case study about you that every engineering student on the planet takes as part of their undergrad,” Tony tells him as he works, “Dr. Braslavski revolutionized the world of robotics almost as much as I did.  Hell, there’s a blow up of your arm’s schematics in the teacher’s lounge at MIT, just for decoration.”

 

Tony tugs on something that is blindingly painful for a split second, then the entire sensation in his arm stops and it goes limp.  Bucky sobs in relief, both that the pain is gone and that he didn’t hurt anyone during the ordeal.  He curls toward Tony instinctively, feeling fingers being run through his hair as he just takes a moment to catch his breath.

 

“Let’s get you out of here, Buck, cameras are starting to go off…” Steve tells him, tapping an ear to indicate he can hear the shutters.  

 

“I’m gonna need a tow…” Bucky mumbles, not wanting to move his head out of Tony’s lap yet.

 

“What?  Is there something wrong with your legs too?” Steve asks, thinking he’s making a joke in light of the situation.

 

“No, not literally me , Steve, I meant for my car .”

 

“Oh.  Is it not drivable?”

 

“Well, it ain’t got a steering wheel anymore, so you tell me…”

 

“You must be starting to feel better, if you’re able to be sarcastic again.  Come on, up and at ‘em,” Steve encourages, getting Bucky’s good arm over his shoulder as he stands shakily.  

 

They walk him over to Tony’s car so he can rest out of direct sight while everything else is being taken care of.  Steve tells Tony to just stay and keep Bucky company in the back seat of the Jaguar, setting up the tow and giving Bucky’s information to the officers.  He also retrieves the missing steering wheel from down the street where it ended up and assures the owner of the shop with the broken window that Bucky will pay for it.  

 

While Steve is dealing with the clean up, Tony straddles Bucky’s lap so that he can hold him properly, letting Bucky lean against him heavily.  

 

“You should come home with me, to the mansion,” Tony tells him, still stroking Bucky’s hair soothingly, “Between mine and my dad’s labs, we should have anything we need to get you fixed up.  I mean, if you’re ok with me working on it, that is, I know this was an emergency situation…”

 

“Hm, let me think, do I want the world’s foremost robotics expert and certified genius working on my arm…” Bucky says sarcastically, nuzzling closer against Tony’s neck.  

 

“Well, Uncle Anton does know his way around a robotic arm too…  And his hourly rates are a lot cheaper than mine,” Tony teases him.

 

Bucky huffs a laugh against Tony’s skin.

 

“I don’t suppose you’ll accept payment in the form of sexual favors?...” he asks with a grin.

 

“Unfortunately, SI has a strict policy against the exchange of sexual favors for work…  But I might be persuaded to do a little work, uh, under the table ,” Tony tells him.

 

“Pretty sure I’m the one who should be getting on their knees in this bargain,’ Bucky says back, nipping at Tony’s neck.

 

Steve, bless his heart, knocks on the glass of the tinted window before attempting to open the door, giving them enough time to pause their conversation and for Tony to slide innocently into the seat beside Bucky.

 

“The police want to take a statement from you, Bucky,” Steve tells him, looking half surprised, half concerned that they aren’t up to anything.  Like Bucky must have had an even rougher time of it than Steve thought if they aren’t getting even a little frisky back there…

 

“Sure, do they want me to go to the station?” Bucky asks.

 

“No, officer Chen is here to record one now, then we can get you home.”

 

Bucky nods along, then tells the officer everything he can remember about what happened.  Tony frowns when he hears about the neural implant throbbing, but he doesn’t interrupt the recording.  As soon as he’s done though, Tony insists on them leaving right away.

 

“Look, throbbing at the implant site could just be a feedback issue, but it was also the single  most reported symptom of the first experimental patients right before they went brain dead.  So even though you’re a super soldier, it would significantly ease my mind if we got you checked out right the fuck now, ok?” Tony says seriously, climbing into the driver’s seat.  

 

Tony rolls down the window to get Steve’s attention.

 

“Is there anything else you need to do here?  I’m taking Bucky to get checked out.”

 

“No, I guess we’re done here…  Why, is he still in pain?” Steve asks.

 

“He said the neural implant was throbbing earlier, and that is not a good sign.  Wait,” Tony turns to Bucky in the back seat again, “It’s not still hurting, is it?  You be honest with me, James Buchanan Barnes.”

 

“No, it stopped at the same time you shut the arm down, I promise,” Bucky tells him, feeling a little prick of worry at how seriously Tony, who is arguably the only one of them who knows what he’s doing, is taking this.

 

“Ok, that’s good.  But still… Uncle Steve, get in the car.  We’re still going now, we’re just not in so much of a hurry that we can’t obey traffic laws,” Tony tells them.  “No, go sit in the back with Bucky, just in case.”

 

Tony doesn’t quite peel out or anything, but the Jaguar jumps into motion the moment Steve gets his door closed.   

 

“I thought we were in a hurry to get home?” Steve asks, frowning at the turns Tony is making, “You’re going the wrong way.”

 

“I love your faith in me, Uncle Steve,” Tony starts off, sounding at first like he’s going to be being sarcastic, “But the lab doesn’t have a CT machine in it, we aren’t set up for medical emergencies, only mechanical ones,” he finishes seriously.  

 

Bucky isn’t too keen on being stuck in some hospital downtown for the immediate future, but he supposes he really doesn’t have a choice...  

 

“Here,” Tony tosses a weird looking chunk of plastic to Steve, “Call Aunt Peggy and let her know what’s going on.”

 

“Call her?  From here in the car?” Bucky asks as Steve starts pressing buttons.  

 

“Satellite phone.  Howard has them in all their-  Hello? Hey Peg, yeah, no, this isn’t Howard.  Listen, Bucky’s arm started malfunctioning while he was driving, no one else was hurt, thank god, but Tony’s worried about the neural implant, because Bucky said it was throbbing until we got his arm shut down.  … We’re on Park Avenue, just past the diner. … He mentioned needing a CT machine?” Steve says, and Tony nods in confirmation. They hang up a moment later, and Steve tells him, “She said thanks for the advance warning.”

 

“Is it really that bad, that we need to start callin’ all my next of kin?...” Bucky asks, only half joking.

 

“What?...  No, I had him call her so she knows we’re on our way,” Tony explains, cutting off a car in order to be able to turn at the next light.  There’s some honking and swearing from the surrounding vehicles, but it’s kind of par for the course in New York.

 

“To SHIELD?  I thought we were going to an emergency room…”

 

“If you think I’m letting some ‘C’s get degrees’ resident doctor put a single finger on you, then you need that brain scan worse than I thought,” Tony raises an eyebrow at him in the rear view mirror.

 

“I thought a brain scan was an MRI?” Steve asks, ignoring Tony’s slight against the medical profession.

 

“Usually.  But MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, which doesn’t mix so well with having titanium grafted to your spine…”

 

“Oh.”

 

Then Tony flips a bitch and parks illegally on the other side of the street, right in front of SHIELD headquarters.  They all get out and head up the flight of steps, completely ignoring the “Tow Away” zone.

 

“Uh, I don’t know if you guys have just got me psyched out now or what, but it might be aching again?” Bucky says, reaching his good hand toward the back of his neck.

 

Don’t rub it,” Tony admonishes him quickly, sharing a worried glance with Steve.  

 

Bucky drops his hand, nodding and continuing toward the door.  

 

Then he trips on the last step, stumbling forward a little before he can catch himself.  Steve quickly braces him though, slinging Bucky’s arm over his shoulders while the other metal one hangs useless.    

 

“Keep going, come on, get him inside,” Tony runs and opens one of the glass doors wide so that Steve can maneuver him through.  

 

Bucky’s still able to walk, but he will admit his coordination is a bit off.  And he’s starting to get a headache. Not just where the implant is either.

 

“Head’s up,” Bucky mumbles, then frowns, because that didn’t come out right, he meant to say his head hurts.  “Water rail,” he tries again.

 

“What?” Steve says.  

 

Tony just gives him a stricken look and then turns to the SHIELD lobby.  He puts a couple fingers in his mouth and gives a shrill whistle.

 

“You, run and hold the elevator to medical,” Tony orders the nearest agent, who immediately takes off at a run, “You, go tell the Director we’re here and it’s getting worse.  Uncle Steve, come on, just pick him up if you have to, let’s go!”

 

At that, Bucky is swept up the rest of the way from where he was leaning against Steve, and is carried down to medical.  They put him right into the CT scan, with Tony standing over the doctor’s shoulder as the images come in.

 

“His brain is swelling,” she grimaces, “The implant is going to have to come out.”




Chapter Text

1991 - part III

 

Tony looks heartbroken, but then takes a breath and settles a forced determination over his face instead.

 

“I’m going to need to see Dr. Braslavski’s original notes, all of them,” he realizes as the doctor’s calling for a surgical room.

 

“Consider it done,” an agent says from off to the side of the room.  

 

“Phil?  Jesus, I didn’t even notice you there…  Thanks, the sooner the better, obviously,” Tony tells him, never questioning for a moment that he’ll be able to acquire such a thing.  

 

Phil nods and steps out of the room, with a sandy haired junior agent trailing along in his wake as he strides down the hall.    

 

Tony turns back to Bucky, who’s being helped off the CT machine and into an actual hospital bed.  Once he’s successfully laying down, Bucky reaches toward Tony, silently asking him to come closer.  

 

“Powers it lemon moonbeam,” Bucky tells him, looking supremely frustrated.

 

Tony takes his hand as soon as he’s close enough, squeezing it tightly as they begin to wheel him out of the room.  Bucky clings to his hand like he’s afraid Tony won’t go with him, but Tony keeps pace along side the bed and no one says a thing about either his or Steve’s presence.  

 

“Beretta upping… argyle ,” Bucky tries again, looking desperate.

 

“What are you trying to say, Buck?  Do you think you could write it down?” Steve asks.

 

Bucky spares him a single glancing frown before looking back to Tony.  He rubs his thumb over Tony’s palm and looks at him beseechingly as tears gather in the corners of his eyes.  

 

“Oh,” Tony says, leaning in close as they come to a stop in the surgical theater, “I love you too, Bucky.”

 

Bucky smiles in relief and nods, pulling Tony down the rest of the way for a kiss.  

 

The doctor comes into the room a moment later as nurses start wheeling in extra equipment.  “His file says anesthesia doesn’t work on him, so we’re waiting on some ketamine to be brought in,” she says, addressing Steve, who is his medical proxy.  

 

“That’s right, it won’t…  How long should it be before it gets here?  How much time do you think he has?”

 

Right as the doctor is answering, Peggy sweeps into the room, going immediately to stand beside Tony and Steve without a word of interruption.  She just nods at the doctor to continue.

 

“We should have time,” the doctor nods back to the Director, “It should be here in about twenty minutes or so.  His swelling isn’t life threatening at this point, but if it gets worse he could start having seizures,” she tells him.  “The main reason to rush is that we aren’t sure what the rate of deterioration is, since we aren’t sure what caused it to begin with.  He should be able to heal any damage done, in theory, because of the serum, as long as we can indeed get the implant out successfully.”

 

“If he starts seizing, can you still operate at that point?” Tony asks, concerned.

 

“At that point…  Well, I’ll be honest with you, if he were to seize while I’m actively inside his brain, that would be something a normal person would never wake up from.  The ethical practices doctrine wouldn’t allow me to do a surgery under those conditions.”

 

“For a normal human…” Peggy murmurs.

 

“Right.  But we’re talking about 20 minutes here, not a couple days of waiting, he shouldn’t deteriorate that quickly, should he?” Tony asks.  

 

Bucky squeezes his hand.  

 

“No, I wouldn’t think so, not considering that his healing should be continuously fighting it already.”

 

“Perhaps we should give our words of encouragement to Bucky now, and then let the medical staff do their prep, so that they’re ready the moment the drugs arrive,” Aunt Peggy points out.  

 

Tony doesn’t waste his time whispering, he kisses Bucky thoroughly and tells him over and over how much he loves him.  Bucky wishes so badly that he could return the words, but all that comes out is, “Lock-pick in is attention.”

 

“I know, babe, I know, I love you too,” Tony tells him reassuringly, their kisses just a touch desperate.  “Ok, I’m going to let Uncle Steve, uh, wish you well, now,” Tony says, not moving at all for a good ten seconds and stealing two more kisses.  He finally makes himself step back a few feet while Steve goes up to clasp Bucky’s hand next.

 

Aunt Peggy holds her arm out for him in case he wants the contact, so Tony lets himself be reeled in and hugged.  He also cries a few tears into her shoulder, though he didn’t mean to let himself do that at all.

 

“Just a few more minutes now, and the docs will get you all fixed up, right as rain,” Steve tells Bucky.  “And then we’re going to start keeping enough ketamine on hand at all times to put down a hold herd of horses, you stupid punk.”

 

“Crabs,” Bucky says with feeling, knowing Steve will understand what he really means.  

 

Steve nods and gives him a watery smile, then steps away, leaving an opening for Peggy if she wants it.  

 

She makes no move to let go of Tony though.

 

“We’re going to have words after this, James Buchanan Barnes, about you making Tony cry,” she says in a matter of fact tone, completely assured of his survival.

 

Bucky gives her a curt nod which conveys all the “yes, ma’am” he can’t get out right now.  His headache is starting to worsen, but he doesn’t really have a way to effectively tell anyone.  Tony comes over and kisses him one more time before they all leave. Bucky savors it as much as he can in the moment, wiping the tears out of Tony’s eyes for him.  He gives him a smile and points to his own chest, then makes the sign for “ok”.

 

With a vigorous nod, Tony takes a step back one more time, giving Bucky’s hand a kiss as he finally pulls away and leaves.  Steve and Peggy follow him out in a silent agreement not to let him be alone right now.

 

Once they’re gone, the nurses help Bucky into a hospital gown, because he can’t even sit up on his own without lilting to the side.  They’ve already given him a double IV, one in his arm and one in his foot, and moved him to the operating table by the time the drugs arrive.  

 

Bucky doesn’t know if it’s because they’re winging it on the dosage, or because the implant was already inflamed, but this surgery is more painful than he remembers the first one being.  

 

He can feel it when the doctor finally pulls the sliver of the implant out of him.  That part itself doesn’t hurt per se, it’s just really fucking weird. Apparently your actual grey-matter doesn’t have pain receptors in it, the doctor explains afterward, the headache and the mixed up words were both results of the overall swelling.  

 

As soon as he’s been stitched up, they wheel him in for another CT scan to check on the swelling.  Bucky can feel Tony take his hand, but he can’t see him while he’s laying on his stomach with his face through the little donut opening.  He squeezes gently, still hooked up to the IV’s and feeling pretty out of it.

 

“The swelling’s already gone down some,” the doctor breathes a sigh of relief at the results of the new scan, not even having changed out of her scrubs yet.  

 

“Thank god,” Tony and Steve both say at once.  

 

They leave him on the drugs for another hour or so while Bucky’s body heals the worst of the damage from the emergency surgery.  Tony stays with him, holding Bucky’s hand, and doesn’t even have to be asked to keep a running string of distracting commentary for him.  He talks about their vacation, the progress being made on the moon, and school, telling him all over again about J.A.R.V.I.S., his thesis project finally completed.  Bucky squeezes Tony’s hand at appropriate intervals, not trusting his brain to reply yet.

 

It’s frustrating and kind of terrifying, not being in control of himself.  He can’t even imagine what his other self, in the other dimension, must have gone through with having been brainwashed ...   When they prompt him to speak, which Bucky has made no move to do on his own, the first word out of his mouth is, “Tony.”

 

“Is that what you meant to say?” Tony beams hopefully, gripping his hand extra tight.

 

“Yeah, it sure is, doll,” Bucky smiles in relief, squeezing Tony’s hand in return.

 

Once they take him off the IV’s, he’s healed enough to turn over and lay on his back.  His metal arm is completely unresponsive now, so the nurses help him get it into a sling.  His over all motor control is back where it should be, it’s just a difficult if not impossible task to complete on your own with only one arm.  

 

Normally, after brain surgery, a patient would be kept at least overnight for observation.  Bucky’s swelling has completely gone down after only a few hours though, and there’s no reason to think it would come back now that the implant is out.  

 

“Jesus, this thing is fried,” Tony says after seeing what they took out of Bucky’s brain.  “There would have to have been a massive surge to do this… It definitely would have killed a normal person.”

 

“I did get a couple good shocks from my arm before you guys got there, one of them must have fried it…” Bucky muses, extremely glad to be able to convey his thoughts and feelings again.  

 

“But it shouldn’t be able to do that at all,” Tony frowns, rubbing a hand over his face, “The power source is a bio-electric system that harnesses your body’s existing electrical impulses, just like a muscle would.  Because you’re a super soldier, it’s able to draw enough to be self sustaining, where it wouldn’t be with a baseline human… But there shouldn’t be a way for it to just, short out like this, not without outside interference.”

 

“You said you wanted to try and fix it back at the mansion anyway, right?” Bucky says, rubbing his thumb over Tony’s knuckles, “I’m sure you’ll be able to figure it out, doll.”

 

“Yeah, once I get it opened up I’ll have a better idea of what went wrong,” Tony sighs.  “When Phil gets back with those notes, can you guys have him swing by the mansion?” he asks one of the nurses, assuming they would be in the loop.

 

“Phil?...”

 

“Agent Coulson,” Bucky helpfully supplies, “He went on a special mission to get Doc Braslavski’s notes for Tony.”

 

The nurse’s eyes widen a fraction, but she nods in agreement.  

 

Huh.  Phil’s connection to Bucky must not be a widely known thing…  Which kind of makes sense, seeing as how he was always one to prefer laying low and staying in the background.  Nick always had a flair for the dramatic, but Phil was more the type to get things done so well and so seamlessly that you didn’t even notice them happening.  

 

“Alright, let’s get you discharged, soldier,” Tony says, giving him a quick kiss.  “Uncle Steve gets to drive this time while I’m in the back with you. So we should have about 45 minutes, the way he drives, to cuddle before we get home,” Tony assures him.

 

“Lookin’ forward to it,” Bucky says, accepting a stack of paperwork with the SHIELD emblem stamped across the top of it.  

 

By the time they get back to the Stark’s mansion, they’re both so exhausted that they head right for bed, forgoing the lab.  Bucky has Tony to help him out of his clothes and get toothpaste on his toothbrush for him, so there’s not a huge hurry. Realistically, it could be weeks before his arm is operational again anyway.  It took over a month for it to be put together initially.

 

When they head down to the workshop the next day, the first thing Tony does is start opening up the metal plates all the way.  They have to come off in a certain order, but Tony is already grimacing before he gets down to Bucky’s forearm. After he loosens the elbow piece, a trickle of water starts leaking out of it.

 

The look on Tony’s face is a mixture of heartbreak and devastation.

 

“Hey, is it that bad, doll?’ Bucky prompts him, steeling himself to the possibility of life with only one arm after all.

 

“It’s...  Well, I’m still not sure yet how extensive the actual damage is, only what caused it…” Tony says, looking as if he’s bracing himself, “All that time we spent in the ocean…”

 

Bucky takes in his meaning immediately.  “No, doll, don’t you think like that, even for a second.  If some seal or somethin’ was going to fail, it was going to fail.  It would have still happened whether we went to the beach or if I was just takin’ a shower,” Bucky points out, cupping Tony’s cheek with his good hand.  “Hell, I’m just glad it didn’t go haywire until I’d already dropped you off… If it had happened while you were in my arms…” Bucky trails off, not wanting to think about the possibility too hard.

 

“Hey, that’s not going to happen, ok?  After I’m done with this thing, you’ll never have to worry about another glitch or malfunction ever again,” Tony assures him, sincere promise radiating from his eyes.  “Plus, we can actually do, like, routine maintenance , just to be on the safe side too.”

 

“I believe you, doll...  Yeah, I don’t think anyone’s taken a look at it since I left the Rangers,” Bucky realizes.  “I guess I thought that without being on active duty, there wasn’t a chance for it to get damaged,” he adds sheepishly.  

 

Tony gives him a determined smile, then goes back to pulling the plates apart.

 

Around noon, Phil shows up with a stack of notebooks and binders, turning them over to Tony’s eager hands without a word.  Bucky’s leaning back in his chair, arm in pieces all over Tony’s workbench, so he doesn’t make a move to get up.

 

“Thanks, Phil, I knew you’d come through,” Tony says as he starts leafing through them right away.  “And thanks, uh, Phil’s assistant,” he adds to the junior agent behind Phil, giving him a nod.

 

The junior agent blinks, like he isn’t sure if he’s being insulted or not by being called an “assistant”.

 

“You’re the Amazing Hawkeye, right?” Bucky asks, not wanting them to get off on the wrong foot.  

 

Junior agent blinks again, only this time it’s in skepticism.  

 

“This guy?” Tony whirls to face Bucky, looking for confirmation.  Bucky nods, giving him a confident smile.

 

“You know who I am?” Clint frowns in disbelief.

 

“Oh yeah, I’ve seen you in action before,” Bucky bends the truth just slightly, “It’s always good to meet another expert marksman.  We’re a rare breed,” Bucky says congenially. From what he understood, Clint Barton was already worthy of an army sniper designation, as far as his skills went, when he was a young teen.  Not that he’d take a bet on whether or not the version of the man in front of him is old enough to drink yet, but it’s got to be close.

 

“Uh, thanks…” Clint clearly doesn’t know what to do with the praise, at least when it’s so genuine and coming from someone like Bucky Barnes .

 

“I hate to break up the party,” Phil says, causing Clint to snort, “But we need to get back to headquarters ASAP.”

 

“Jeez, are we still doing Bogota?” Clint sighs, bordering on a whine.

 

“Colombian drug cartels aren’t going to take themselves down,” Phil says briskly, motioning him out the door.  He gives Tony and Bucky a nod as he turns to go. “Get better soon, Bucky.”

 

“Thanks, Phil, don’t worry, I’m in good hands.  And Hawkeye, if you’re on Phil’s crew, I’m sure I’ll be seeing you around,” Bucky says as goodbye.

 

Clint gives a mock salute before leaving the room.  Bucky can tell Phil’s rolling his eyes at the younger man’s actions even though he’s not facing them anymore.  

 

“So that was Hawkeye?  He seems like as soon as he lets his guard down, he’d be a little shit,” Tony comments after they’re gone.

 

“Pretty much.  I’m sure you guys will get along,” Bucky teases.  

 

“Hey, you maybe might not want to insult the man who’s going to be inventing a brand new nerve interface from scratch for you,” Tony teases back, wagging a screwdriver at him.

 

“...Love you, doll.”

 

<//>

 

When Bucky goes back to the business whose glass was shattered during his arm malfunction, he sees that the window has already been replaced.  That actually might make this easier. Hopefully the owner will already have a number ready to go, of what Bucky owes them for the repair.

 

He goes in with a sheepish bend to his head, ready to apologize profusely for the damage he caused.  The girl behind the counter blinks at him disbelievingly though when he says he’s Bucky Barnes.

 

Tony removed most of the non-working arm while he’s building a new one, so Bucky has his sleeve pinned up on that side to keep it out of the way.

 

“Normally I’d show off my arm as proof,” Bucky tells her, tipping his head toward the sleeve, “But it goin’ haywire is what busted out your window last week, and it’s still bein’ worked on…” he says, giving her an “aw shucks” smile.  

 

The girl frowns at him, glancing behind him, presumably at the window.  “Ok, let me get the manager for you…”

 

Which is fine.  He asked to speak to the owner, but he has no problem working his way up.  

 

The manager asks him for identification.  Bucky is still struggling a little with the with the whole one hand thing, but he does eventually manage to get his driver’s license out of his wallet.  

 

The manager looks at it, frowns, looks at Bucky, then looks at the front of the shop, behind him.  Bucky just waits patiently for a verdict.

 

“Let me call up the owner for you, he just lives upstairs, so it shouldn’t be long, sir,” the manager says, tacking on a completely unnecessary honorific now that they believe who he is.

 

“No problem, I ain’t in a hurry,” Bucky assures them.  

 

When the owner finally appears from the back of the cafe, Bucky feels a flash of hesitance, because he looks familiar somehow, but Bucky can’t quite place why…  The last time he met a vaguely familiar old guy, it turned out to be one of his former hookups, and he’s not really sure that would be a good thing in this particular situation…  

 

The man shakes his head and gives Bucky a conspiratorial smile upon seeing him.  

 

Bucky smiles back apologetically, which is appropriate, all things considered.

 

“Well, well, Colonel Barnes…  You know, when I read the police report, I could barely believe it,” the man says without introduction, “Don’t think you’re going to get out of this one just by signing the glass though,” he chuckles, obviously trying to make some sort of joke.

 

“Signing the glass?” Bucky asks, confused.

 

The owner blinks at him.

 

“Oh, um, well, my grandfather always told this story, and with the signature, I guess I always just assumed it was true?…  He said you broke one of the outdoor tables here, over forty years ago now, and signed it in apology…”

 

Holy fucking shit.

 

“I-  What?  Are you kidding me?” Bucky says, floored, “This is that same place??”

 

The owner nods, his smile returning at hearing Bucky’s confirmation.  He gestures behind Bucky with a wave of his hand.

 

Bucky spins in place, his eyes searching, and easily finds the old wooden table top mounted on the wall.  He’d completely glossed over the decor when he came in, being so focused on finding the owner of the place.

 

“Oh my god…” he says, walking right over to it.  His signature is faded, but still clearly visible.  It looks like the whole thing was sealed with some sort of varnish to protect it at some point.  There are other “Bucky Barnes” mementos on the walls around it, now that he looks. An awfully candid looking photo of him from back in WWII, one of the official ones where he’s holding the shield, a signed comic book, etc.  There’s even an original, first edition Bucky Bear in a shadow box mounted to the wall.

 

“Where did you get this photo?” Bucky asks, knowing it had to have been taken by one of the Howlies themselves.  

 

“Back in, oh, ‘79?  Sergeant Dugan came in with it, said he’d been in for a cup the day before and seen our display, which was just the table, the comic book, and the promotional photo at that point, and he wanted to make a donation.  He said that table was one of the most realistic tributes to you he’d seen, and that people should have a real face to go with it.”

 

Bucky stares long and hard at the photo of himself sitting by a campfire, not long after he’d come back from the future.  It’s obvious he was laughing with Steve about something, you can just see the edge of the man’s shoulder in the photo, but the focus is Bucky.  His appearance hasn’t changed much, but to Bucky’s eyes he can see how young he was back then...

 

“Yeah, that sounds like somethin’ Dum Dum would do…” Bucky says, getting a little misty eyed at the memories, “Sorry I didn’t recognize the place, it’s changed a lot since the last time I saw it.”

 

“Oh yes, we did a major renovation in ‘85,” the owner confirms.  “I’m Samuel Higgins, by the way, just realized I forgot to introduce myself.”

 

Bucky shakes his hand, and they talk turkey for a little bit, with Bucky writing out a check a few minutes later.  He poses with Mr. Higgins for a photo in front of the memorabilia wall before he leaves, and signs a piece of paper saying, “Sorry about your window, -Colonel James Buchanan Barnes, 75th Infantry, Rangers,” for them to hang alongside it.

 

When he gets home, the first thing Bucky does is make a phone call.

 

“Hey, Rosie.  You ain’t gonna believe what just happened…”

 

<//>

 

It actually takes most of the summer, but Tony does some research into what he deems “the squishy sciences” and comes up with a way for the new arm to connect to Bucky’s existing nerve network, instead of bypassing it all and going straight to the brain.  

 

“That was always the major issue with Dr. Braslavski’s original work,” Tony says as he’s bent over his workbench, “The connectivity.  I mean, we’re obviously going to upgrade your power source as well, but that part isn’t going to be available on the general market.”

 

“Market?” Bucky asks.

 

“Yeah, I mean, robotics-wise, this arm is different enough that I’m not infringing on any patents.  And with this completely different neural setup, it’s going to make bionic limbs accessible to pretty much everyone.  They’ll have to charge theirs each night, of course, where you won’t, but still, way better than the non-responsive prosthesis that are out there right now,” Tony explains.

 

“That’s amazing, doll,” Bucky says, constantly in awe of his boyfriend’s genius.  “Do you have any idea how much it will cost yet?” he asks, knowing most vets aren’t exactly rolling in dough.  Dr. Braslavski didn’t charge him for his time, because of being an experiment, but he did have to pay for the materials, and it was not cheap...

 

“Well, to keep costs down on the public version we’ll only make the internal grafts out of titanium, instead of the whole arm, but even then, we’re probably looking at over 100k a pop,” Tony sighs.  “I’m working with mom’s foundation to try and get some grants setup or something, because I know that’s still completely out of reach for most people…”

 

“Is that something I could get in on?  Like, make a donation to?” Bucky asks.

 

Tony perks up immediately.

 

“Of course you could, babe.  But if you really want to help, you’d probably be almost more effective by being the representation for the line, you know, getting other people to donate to the cause.”

 

“You mean like doing commercials and stuff?” Bucky asks.

 

“Well, maybe, eventually.  Starting out it would be more like going to fundraisers, putting your name behind the brand, so to speak.  Not that you’d be an employee,” Tony hurries to add, knowing Bucky is invested in his current job, “But more like a spokesperson, you know, the proof of concept.”

 

“Might cut into our date nights…” Bucky pretends to muse, “But since it’s for a good cause, I guess I could do that.”

 

“Um, excuse you, were you planning on taking someone else with you as your date?” Tony asks in mock indignation.

 

“Of course not, doll, I just know you’re a busy man, is all.  If I need to go stag to something like that now and then, I’ll understand,” Bucky replies.

 

“What?  And let all those strangers drool over you without me there to fend them off?  Not happening, Buck-o,” Tony reprimands him, snapping a couple connections together.  

 

“My knight in shining armor,” Bucky grins.  

 

Tony grins back, then sits down and wheels his chair across the lab with a kick of his feet, sending himself spinning toward a workbench on the other side.

 

“And speaking of armor,” he says casually, picking up a small case and wheeling himself back over in the same manner, “In this world’s political climate, I can’t see justifying taking the time to invent a flying suit of armor right now, not when we have the invasion to prepare for…  But this will be super helpful to our efforts on the moon, and for powering your arm, so I went ahead and looked into it…” Tony says, opening the latch to reveal a soft blue glow.

 

“Is that an arc reactor?” Bucky guesses immediately, his voice filled with awe.

 

Yep .”

 

“Wow…  See, I told you you’d pass him up, doll,” Bucky says proudly, nearly transfixed by the sight.  “The other you was in his 30’s by the time he did this…”

 

“Well, again, you gave me a head start…  Hell, with SI not even in the weapons industry here, this may never have come to pass at all without you putting the thought in my head,” Tony points out.

 

“It better not…” Bucky makes a point of grumbling loudly enough that Tony will be sure to hear it

 

Tony gives him a fond smile, then picks up the miniaturized reactor.  “I’m right there with you on that one,” Tony confirms, “We’re just going to pretend the sole impetus for it was to make a power source for your arm though, because you know my dad will ask.”  

 

“No problem, you know I can keep a secret,” Bucky winks at him.

 

Tony finishes up wiring and mounting the arc reactor in Bucky’s shoulder fairly quickly, the whole arm coming to life shortly afterward.  Once it’s sealed up, you can’t even see the glow anymore, which was purposeful on Tony’s part when he was designing it. They run through a few test drills after the final install, not that they haven’t been extensively testing along the way.  

 

“I can already tell my range of motion is greater, moves smoother too…  God, you’re amazing,” Bucky says, pulling Tony in for a kiss.

 

Tony opens up willingly for him, wrapping his arms around Bucky as he’s kissed.

 

“Ah, ah, Colonel Barnes, remember what I said about SI’s sexual favors policy…” Tony teases him as he’s backed up against his workbench by an eager Bucky.

 

“To completely ignore it?” Bucky asks.

 

“Eh, close enough,” Tony shrugs happily, leaning back into the kissing.  

 

Thankfully DUM-E is in sleep mode in his charging station, or else he might have been scarred for life by the “payment” Tony receives.  

 

<//>

 

In December of 1991, the entire nation mourns after a NASA spaceship explodes in the air only 73 seconds after take off.  A second batch of permanent moon residents were on board, twelve in total, and all were killed instantly. The investigation clears Stark Industries of any wrongdoing though, as it’s discovered that NASA had substituted cheaper Hammer Industries parts on the pieces that failed.  

 

The mood among the general public has already been shifting though, to not viewing space exploration and settlement as so high of a priority.  It’s been an ongoing project for decades, which may be why it’s starting to lose its luster.

 

It’s a horrific tragedy, and Tony gets physically ill thinking about what could have happened if Sarah had been on that flight...but he knows this is the perfect time to begin to make a break from government affiliation as well.  

 

He argues with his father over things like sentiment, and the changing tide of public opinion, trying to get him to see that they’d be better off running the show entirely.  Nothing good ever came of being beholden to the government. He certainly understands all that, but doesn’t quite believe the need is as dire as Tony thinks.

 

It isn’t until Aunt Peggy takes his side that he really gains any traction on the idea with Howard.

 

By the end of the month, they start drafting a bill to introduce to Congress that would give SI full control, and full financial responsibility, over the lunar base.  The more and more Tony thinks about it, the more he realizes that they’ll essentially have to become their own country in order to do this right...

 

It takes him about fifteen minutes to calculate how much the government’s “investment” into the existing program and structure is.  While it’s nothing to scoff at, it’s still less than SI makes in a year off its energy division. Totally doable.

 

The moment the government’s existing investment comes up in negotiations, Tony casually spouts off the exact number, easing his sunglasses down his nose, and asks, “Do you guys take American Express?”

 

Congress isn’t exactly pleased with his antics, but someone at C-SPAN must have found it humorous, because the clip runs on all the major news stations the next day, usually with the caption, “Starks buy the moon” underneath it.  

 

“Just don’t expect me to start calling you King Howard,” Bucky jokes, tipping his glass to Howard once it’s clear that negotiations are actually going in their favor.

 

Howard makes a dismissive motion and says, “President is fine.”



Chapter Text

1992

 

It takes half a year to finalize, but eventually the moon bill passes.

 

Howard writes a check instead of paying with plastic.  With the US government fully reimbursed for their efforts thus far, there’s really nothing left for their detractors to say.  

 

The papers all run headlines like, “Stark Dynasty Furthered” and “Heir to the Stars” above Tony’s picture, since he was the driving force behind it.  If Howard is upset by it, he doesn’t say anything. He confesses to Steve and Bucky later, in a rare display, that he’s been more focused on his legacy lately anyway, and that legacy is Tony.  

 

Steve nods in agreement, but Bucky’s never had his own actual children, so he doesn’t quite get it on the same level.  He figures his pride in Marjie and having handed the shield down to her is probably as close as he’ll ever get.

 

<//>

 

“We can’t just keep calling it ‘the lunar base’, even if it’s the only one up there for now,” Tony argues, “A real name will go a long way in making it more legitimate in the eyes of the people too.”

 

“And what exactly did you have in mind?” Howard frowns, “Stark 1?  Stark Prime?”

 

Bucky stifles a snicker at his unimaginative guesses.

 

“Actually, I was thinking something more along the lines of ‘Maria Nuova’,” Tony says passively, almost daring him to get upset by how calmly he’s presenting it.

 

Howard must be in a more amenable mood today, or maybe it’s the fact that Steve’s face softens in approval at the suggestion, but he waves a hand at Tony and says, “Whatever.  Just make sure it’s something the tabloids can’t make fun of too easily.”

 

Tony gives him a curt nod in agreement, already having decided that “Maria Nuova” is exactly what it will be.

 

<//>

 

The good thing about Bucky losing his job when NASA downsizes is that he has a lot more free time to spend with Tony.  It’s nice not to have to worry about getting back to New York at any certain time when an early snow storm rolls in that October.  Bucky doesn’t even have his snow tires on yet, so he’s not going to risk it.

 

“Maybe I should just move to Boston…” he says casually, to gauge Tony’s reaction to the idea.

 

“Are you sure the timing is right for that?” Tony asks, causing Bucky’s heart to drop momentarily, “If you get into a year lease right now, then you’ll still be stuck in it when I’m done with this doctorate…  I mean, uh, assuming you wanted to live together after I was done with school?...”

 

Bucky’s face lights up with a grin.  “Yeah, you’re right, that’s definitely something I want.”

 

“Ok, good.  Great. That’s, um, a good plan then,” Tony sets his textbook aside and crawls into Bucky’s lap, “We’ll move in together next summer.”

 

Tony kisses him eagerly while Bucky holds him tight.  

 

No more studying is accomplished that evening.  




1993 - part I

 

Unfortunately, Bucky does eventually find himself being employed by Howard.  SI’s first priority after breaking off had been to ensure that all their legal ducks were in a row, and terraforming the moon’s surface had been put in a holding pattern over the last year.  But now that they’re ready to move forward, there’s no way they aren’t going to go after the top experts in the field.

 

“I mean, the degree is impressive, don’t get me wrong,” Howard says blandly, “But you only have a couple years of experience in the field...”

 

Bucky gives him a flat look, because the field itself is only a few years old.  

 

“Tell you what, Howie,” Bucky says, knowing how much he hates that nickname, not that many people have ever been close enough to him to bother trying to give him one, “We can end this interview right now if you want, and I can go start my own company that specializes in terraforming.  Then after I scoop up all the other qualified, loyal people who used to work under me at NASA, you can just pay me an exorbitant ‘consultation fee’ instead of offering paid vacation leave.”

 

Howard rolls his eyes.  

 

“Jesus, Bucky, I’m just pulling your leg.”

 

“Yeah?  Guess I’m just not used to dealing with you sober anymore,” Bucky gets in another jab.

 

“Well, the doctors keep telling me that it’s a lot harder to create an artificial liver than a limb, so I have to cut back if I want to live to see any grandchildren.  Oh, wait…” Howard gives Bucky possibly the most deadpan look he’s ever seen.

 

“You know what?  Fuck you, Howard,” Bucky says calmly, not rising to the bait of raising his voice.  

 

Jarvis comes in with a tray of refreshments just then, sighing at the bits of the exchange that he heard.  “Perhaps Steve should have been asked to mediate the interview after all…” he comments, giving them both disapproving looks.

 

Howard waves him off though.  

 

“We’re fine.  We all know this is just a formality.  We won’t have to actually work with each other day to day anyway, since Tony’s in charge of the entire moon division now.  Of course, since the two of them will be seeing each other every day, it remains to be seen how much actual work will get done…” Howard says in a put-off manner.

 

Bucky stands up out of his seat.  

 

“I’ll be at SI headquarters on Monday, thanks for the opportunity,” Bucky says sarcastically.  

 

“I better not catch you fucking my son in the labs, Barnes, or I will fire you,” Howard calls after him as he’s leaving.

 

“You know, catching us would imply that you actually come down to the labs yourself once in a while,” Bucky grins back.

 

Howard throws a stapler at him.  

 

Jarvis just sighs again.

 

Bucky lets the stapler bounce off him and hit the ground, more to prove a point about how completely ineffectual the move was than anything else.  Then he picks it up and tucks it into his pocket after waving it at Howard. “You know what? I’m keepin’ this for my own desk.”

 

“Get the fuck out, Bucky, before I actually put some thought into whether or not to hire you.”

 

Bucky flips him off on his way out the door.

 

Tony is completely un-casually waiting in the hallway outside Howard’s office when Bucky walks out.  

 

“Huh, you look like you’re having fun...  I take it you got the job?” Tony asks.

 

“Oh yeah, best interview I’ve ever had,” Bucky smiles, pulling the stapler out and clicking it a few times at Tony without actually dispensing any staples.

 

“...Is that my dad’s stapler?” Tony frowns, confused.

 

Bucky nods, pleased as punch.

 

“What are you doing with it?”

 

“It was a gift.”

 

“Why would my dad give you his stapler?”

 

“Well…  It wasn’t so much of a gift as it was that he threw it at my head…”

 

Tony pinches the brow of his nose.  “You guys have the weirdest relationship.”

 

“True.  Hey, are any of SI’s board members up to retire soon?” Bucky asks, thinking ahead.

 

“Oh my god, please do not try to give my dad an actual heart attack,” Tony says, laughing because he knows exactly what Bucky means by asking that.  

 

“Alright, alright,” Bucky says, dropping it, “Only since you asked, doll.”

 

“Thanks.  And just for the record, I think we’re going to make a great team,” Tony says confidently.

 

“I believe it, doll.  Hey, maybe between the two of us, we can figure out the gravity problem,” Bucky muses as they head back down to Tony’s personal lab.

 

“What gravity problem?  We already have a whole system in place to make sure people and bots don’t accidentally launch themselves off the surface of the moon…”

 

“You mean no one at NASA ever brought it up with you guys?” Bucky frowns, because that would have been the first thing he’d done, if he’d been one of the higher ups…  

 

“Not that I know of…”

 

As Bucky explains the water storage issue, he can see the wheels turning in Tony’s head.  

 

“Well, I guess I’m going to get some use out of this PhD in math sooner than I thought…” Tony muses.  

 

“I can’t wait to see what you come up with, doll,” Bucky says, supremely confident in his boyfriend’s abilities.  

 

“Well, I have an idea already, actually, but I’ll have to run some numbers to see if it’s possible.  Tell me, have you ever watched any anime? Saturday morning cartoon kind of stuff?” Tony asks.

 

“Uh, not really…  Not since the girls became teenagers and started sleepin’ in on the weekends…” Bucky tells him, not fazed at all by the change in topic, not after having been with Tony for this long now.

 

“So not since the 60’s, got it.  Well, you’re missing out then babe, because you would love Dragon Ball Z,” Tony grins at him.  

 

“I take it that has something to do with your idea?” Bucky guesses.

 

Yep .  Remember how you like seeing science fiction become science fact?” Tony asks him.

 

Bucky grins wide, stepping in close to peer down into Tony’s eyes. “I sure do, doll,” he says, voice a little gruff.

 

“Well, I’m going to do my best to make all your dreams come true,” Tony says, starting out flirty but finishing with a seriousness in his eyes.

 

Bucky cups his chin, pulling him in for a kiss as he says, “Tony, you already are a dream come true.”

 

From his freshly upgraded sensor array that Sir so helpfully installed in his lab, JARVIS is able to detect not only the outward appearances of happiness in his creator, but new internal metrics as well.  Namely elevated heart rate at this point, but Sir has talked about giving him the ability to monitor brain activity as well in the future. He files away the data being presented as Sir engages in this human display of affection with his partner.  

 

Conclusion:  James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes makes Sir happy.

 

<//>

 

Howard wishes he could roll his eyes at the board like he can with more informal meetings, but he has a certain level of professionalism to maintain.  Tony will be here soon so they can actually get things started though, so he knows his son’s... demeanor , will definitely change the atmosphere in the room.

 

“I still maintain that taking over the lunar base was a mistake,” Mr. John C. Edwards, Esquire, tells them, “I know that technically it’s a Stark family holding the way the split was made, but the draining of SI resources to support an unsustainable project of that magnitude is going to catch up with us eventually.”

 

“John, we all knew going into this that it would be decades before the moon would be able to support life on it’s own,” Mr. Sean Prescott argues back.

 

Thank god they haven’t actually started the meeting and are keeping minutes yet…  Howard’s newest secretary, or, excuse him, “personal assistant”, is already taking notes anyway though, which he appreciates.  Sometimes things said unofficially can become just as important as the things on the record, it’s good that he doesn’t have to explain that to her.  Sometimes he swears HR doesn’t screen these people at all, just throws a pretty face at him…

 

“That’s not what I’m talking about,” Edwards asserts, “Who cares if it can sustain life, how are we going to make any profit off of it?”

 

Howard is just about to open his mouth when the doors to the boardroom open and Tony finally arrives.  “Better late than never,” he sighs, changing what he had been about to say.

 

“At least until we perfect that time machine,” Tony shoots back with a smile, unruffled by Howard’s comment.  He has a cart wheeled in behind him that has a few different contraptions sitting on it, but his assistants leave right away afterward.

 

Several board members look at him askance, partly because they’re never really sure if Tony is joking or not when it comes to his science projects.

 

“Alright, let’s get started then.  Ms. Potts, open the minutes for the board’s quarterly science review,” Howard instructs.  She nods in agreement, setting the recording and then turning her attention to Tony.

 

Tony takes his place at the front of the room right away, knowing the drill well after all these years.  

 

“So,” he claps his hands, getting everyone’s attention if he didn’t have it already, “After collaborating with the scientists we poached, or excuse me, acquired , from NASA,” Tony smirks, “I’m happy to announce that we have solved the gravity problem.”

 

Howard groans internally, hoping Tony doesn’t start to go into any detail about the exact method of his and Bucky’s collaboration .  He’s aware of the gravity issue of course, after having reviewed NASA’s project notes, but he hasn’t seen Tony’s solution in action yet.  

 

“I give you the Localized Gravity Bifurcation Terminal, or L.G.B.T. for short,” Tony winks at the assembled group.  

 

The acronym sounds vaguely familiar to Howard, enough so that he can tell Tony is probably pulling one over on them by naming it that…  But most of the board members don’t react to it, so Howard lets it go.

 

“Gravity Bifurcation?...” someone asks.

 

“Allow me to demonstrate,” Tony says, gesturing to the cart.  He takes one of the devices off of it and sets it on the edge of the conference table.  “You all renewed your indemnity waivers before this meeting, right?” Tony jokes.

 

Nobody laughs.

 

Tony just rolls his eyes though, because he’s used to dealing with stuffy old men.  He still tries though, he still tries...

 

“Alright, so when I say localized, I mean confined to the area I specify in the device settings, so the gravity of the surrounding one foot radius is all that will be affected in this demonstration,” he explains.  “Now, this demonstration is interactive, so raise your hand if you know how to fold a paper airplane,” Tony queries the group.

 

Howard sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose when no one raises their hand.  He doubts that there’s not a single one of them that doesn’t know how to fold a paper airplane, but audience participation isn’t exactly a requirement for these things...

 

“Mr. Stark, Tony,” Mr. Edwards clarifies, “This isn’t some college course that you’re graduate teaching to get those last few credits,” he says, managing to make higher education sound condescending somehow, “If you don’t have all the, supplies , necessary to give the demonstration on your own, perhaps we should just move on to the next item.”

 

There’s a ripping sound from the other end of the table.  Everyone looks to see that Ms. Potts has torn a sheet of paper out of her legal pad.  She carefully folds it into a paper airplane and then sends it sailing through the air toward Tony.  Just before it would have hit him, the plane snaps downward onto the table as it enters the field being generated by his device.  

 

Tony grins.

 

“Thank you, Ms. Potts.  Are you new? I feel like I would have noticed a P.A. with an actual backbone in these meetings before…”

 

“I was just hired last week,” she informs him.  

 

“Hm, hang on to this one, dad, she’s obviously got a unique skill set,” Tony teasingly recommends.

 

“Oh yes, Vasser prepared me with a variety of skills,” she fires back, ignoring the unspoken rule that the P.A.’s really shouldn’t speak during the meeting, “I can even tie my own shoelaces and dress myself in the morning.”

 

Tony laughs, because as a skill set it perfectly matches the developmental difficulty of his airplane request, and makes the rest of the board look like morons for not claiming it.  “Well, you’re certainly going to go far with a foundation like that, Ms. Potts,” Tony tells her, switching off the machine. “Thankfully we have a few capable people like you here at SI.  Now, as you all saw, gravity is my bitch, water storage solved. Any questions?”

 

“Practical applications?” Mr. Curry asks, thankfully keeping things from escalating with Mr. Edwards, who looks ready to comment again.  

 

“Only on the moon, really,” Tony says right away, “Or, at least until we have any visiting alien princes who want to get a good workout,” he adds.  

 

Not even Ms. Potts seems to get that one though...oh well.

 

“What about as a non-lethal deterrent?” Howard speaks up, his mind racing now that he’s seen what it can do.

 

“...Like a moat, but with no water...” Tony says, obviously thinking it over and instantly on the same page with him.  

 

“Exactly.  You could install a gravity field generator-”

 

“Ah, ah, an L.G.B.T.,” Tony corrects the name.  

 

Howard gives him a long suffering look.  “Install an L.G.B.T. around secure facilities, effectively trapping and preventing the escape of any one who tried to gain unauthorized access.”

 

“We’d have to do some human trials on how much ‘surprise’ gravity is acceptable before straying into lethal territory…  But that could definitely work,” Tony agrees.

 

“How did you build it without getting in the field yourself?” Mr. Prescott wants to know.

 

Tony pulls a remote out of his pocket and switches the machine on again, obviously to a much higher number of G’s, because the paper airplane still sitting on the table flattens out and the wood itself gives a small creaking sound.

 

“Actually, Bucky’s the only human who’s ventured into the active field at anything more than a G and a half, but he doesn’t really count…” Tony explains, switching it back off again.  

 

“Ms. Potts, make a note to approach the FDA on trials for this.”

 

“Of course, Mr. Stark.”

 

“Are you absolutely set on that acronym, Tony?” Howard asks, having a feeling that his feeling from earlier is going to come back to bite him…  But it’s not strong enough to risk looking like he doesn’t know what’s going on by asking what else it stands for.  

 

“Well, I do have a backup acronym in mind, we could call it the ‘H.O.M.O.’ instead if y-”

 

“The L.G.B.T. is fine, Tony” Howard sighs, “Let’s move on to the next project now.”

 

“Sure thing, pops,” Tony grins at him.  

 

Howard’s bad feeling intensifies.  

 

<//>

 

Once they start looking, it takes three weeks for Bucky and Tony to find a place that meets all their requirements to move into.  They end up going halves on a penthouse near Stark Industries’ headquarters. The whole thing makes Tony grumble about the inefficiency of having to commute to a lab, but he certainly doesn’t want to move back into the mansion full time.  

 

He has JARVIS make a note to get in touch with SI’s commercial real estate department, to run an idea for a new development by them.  There are tons of mixed commercial/residential use buildings in New York, so he doesn’t see why SI can’t get in on that. It would be a huge incentive to be able to offer centralized living facilities to their employees too...

 

The first thing Tony does after they sign the papers is install JARVIS into their entire property, everywhere but the bathrooms.  He gets an upgrade at the same time, so the servers housing him now only take up one of the three bedrooms the place came with.

 

Bucky thinks about hiring movers to cart all their stuff over, but Tony points out that anyone helping them with their things now needs at least a level three security clearance.

 

“Level three, huh?  Do you think Steve even has a clearance anymore?” Bucky wonders.

 

“Well, I know for a fact that he’s been dragged into more than a few SHIELD operations over the years, so I’d say the odds are pretty good,” Tony tells him.  

 

Steve is more than happy to help.  As a surprise, he brings Nick, Phil, and Marjie along too.  Marjie tells them she just let her enlistment with the army go a few months ago, and is “training” to be part of Phil’s crew as well now.

 

“Just like old times,” she grins, clapping Phil on the back.  

 

Nick and Bucky share a look.

 

“I’m just glad they’re your problem now,” Bucky says, shaking his head.  

 

“Says the man who has caused more trouble for me than anyone else on the planet, ever,” Nick says pointedly.  

 

“So where’s your hawk-shaped shadow?” Bucky clears his throat and turns to Phil, completely ignoring and thus verifying the truth of Nick’s statement.  Everyone chuckles a bit, because it is true, before Phil finally answers him.

 

“He’s only a level two, Barton doesn’t have a high enough clearance to be here.”

 

“Level two?  Is that even high enough to know where headquarters is?” Marjie jokes.  

 

“Didn’t you just start at SHIELD too?” Bucky points out, only a very mild reprimand, all things considered.  Marjie doesn’t look offended at all, just like the wheels are turning the way Bucky meant for them to. She shrugs in acceptance of what is obviously a prompt from him to be nice.  Steve’s the one who actually ends up replying to him.

 

“Buck, the girls have all been level two since they graduated from high school.”

 

“Hah!” Tony interjects, “My clearance was a level four when I graduated high school.”

 

“Was it a competition?” Marjie asks, going over to Tony and pretending to rough him up.  

 

“Hey, it isn’t easy growing up being compared to a bunch of super soldier half breeds all the time, I have to take it where I can get it,” Tony replies, slipping out of the headlock Marjie is trying to get him in and jumping on her back.  

 

“Alright, come on kids, quit rough housing and let’s get this move going,” Steve says good naturedly.

 

Bucky raises an eyebrow at him.  “Who are you and what have you done with Steve Rogers?” he asks.  

 

“Hey, I’m on a schedule here, Bucky,” Steve says, raising his hands defensively, “I’m supposed to meet Peggy today at 3pm in midtown, that’s kind of why I brought help in the first place.  Do any of you want to be responsible for making me late?”

 

Tony lets go and hops off Marjie’s back right away, all of them sharing quick glances between each other.

 

“No sir,” Bucky answers for the group.  

 

Thankfully Bucky is already completely packed up, it’s just a matter of moving it over to the new place.  Tony’s stuff was never unpacked from when he left MIT, so that makes moving him pretty easy too. Between the six of them and three nondescript SHIELD trucks, they manage to get everything up to the penthouse by one in the afternoon.  Plenty of time for Steve to shower and change for his meeting.

 

Everyone else stays for pizza after the heavy lifting is done.  Marjie offers to help them unpack, but Bucky declines. He’s kind of been looking forward to doing that with just Tony, merging their two lives and households into one.  

 

They’ve had a good break by the time the rest of the gang leaves, so they prioritize getting their bed set up, then start on the kitchen after that.  Bucky makes sure that Maria’s good china is on display through the glass cabinets while Tony arranges the appliances. Not that he owned much more than a blender himself, which was mostly just for making margaritas…  But Bucky is fully prepared to feed himself, so there’s a small amount of vying for counter space that has to be done.

 

It takes a good few hours, all in all, so they call it a day after that, showering and climbing right into bed.  

 

Bucky runs a thumb over Tony’s cheek as they’re laying there facing each other.  

 

“What’s up?” Tony prompts him, since Bucky is obviously thinking hard.

 

“Just realizing that I get to wake up to you every morning from here on out,” Bucky tells him with a tone of awe.  

 

“And fall asleep next to me, too,” Tony beams, scooting closer.  

 

“To be honest, I ain’t quite ready to go to sleep just yet…” Bucky says as he slides his thigh in between Tony’s legs.  

 

Tony responds eagerly, rocking his hips against Bucky’s and moving in for a kiss.  Things become heated quickly, with Tony rolling on top of Bucky as they make out under the sheets.  Bucky slides his hands up and down Tony’s body, caressing all the lean muscle his boyfriend has to offer.  

 

Grabbing the lube, Tony hesitates for a second before quirking his head at Bucky.  “So, do you mind if I try something, babe?”

 

“You know I’m pretty open minded, doll,” Bucky reminds him, nodding his consent.  

 

Tony pauses again for half a second.

 

“I want to fuck your thighs,” he says plainly, looking into Bucky’s eyes for a reaction.

 

“My thighs?” Bucky grins.

 

“I know we already showered, and it’s bound to be kind of messy,” Tony admits, “But I will totally clean you up afterward, warm washcloths, lots of pampering, the works.”

 

“Sounds like you’ve been thinkin’ about this for a while...” Bucky says, “How do you want me?”

 

“Um, on your side, will probably be easiest,” Tony says as he helps maneuver them both into position.  

 

“Well, you know me, I’m a slut for cuddles,” Bucky says, wiggling his butt against Tony, “You say the word ‘pamper’ afterward and I’ll do pretty much anything…”

 

“Does it sound weird?  I mean, I know it seems awfully vanilla for us, but, my god, you have the most glorious thighs I’ve ever seen on any man or woman…  I can’t get them out of my head lately,” Tony confesses as he runs his palms over the firm muscle there.

 

“It ain’t weird,” Bucky assures him, lifting his leg so that Tony can coat the lube along the inside of his legs.  “Is it weird that I want you to tie my arms up while you do it?” Bucky asks.

 

“Not weird at all,” Tony answers right away, “You want the silk tie, or just a rope?”

 

“The silk,” Bucky says, his breath coming a little faster just thinking about it.  

 

“You got it babe, anything for you,” Tony says, placing a kiss behind Bucky’s ear before rolling off the bed to retrieve it.  “It’s a good thing we very clearly labeled this box,” he adds, popping the lid on the cardboard with “Sex Toys” written in six inch sharpie across all sides.  

 

“What can I say, I’m a planner,” Bucky says from the bed, laying there happily with his eyes closed.  

 

Tony comes over and secures one end of the tie to Bucky’s wrist, loops the fabric through the headboard, and then fastens his other wrist with the end that’s left.  It’s nothing that would actually hold the super soldier if he put too much strength into it, but Bucky just enjoys the feeling of being secured, the feeling of trusting Tony with everything that it gives him.  

 

“You comfortable, babe?” Tony asks, making sure Bucky is taken care of before moving on.

 

Bucky shifts a little on his pillow, but ultimately smiles and says, “Yeah, I’m good, doll.”

 

Tony gives him a smile back before moving around into position behind him again.  The lube is nice and warm between Bucky’s skin, and when he slides in, Tony groans in delight.  He gives a few experimental thrusts, gliding in and out easily.

 

As if reading his boyfriend’s mind, Bucky flexes and squeezes his muscles while Tony’s rocking in between them.

 

“Oh, oh fuck,” Tony groans, “Keep doing that.  Fuck, babe, you’re so fucking gorgeous. These thighs are killing me,” Tony says, gripping the meat of Bucky’s upper leg tightly.  He rocks back and forth a few more times before letting go of Bucky’s thigh and reaching for the lube again. He doesn’t really ever stop the movement of his hips, because he’s an excellent multi-tasker, especially when it comes to sex.

 

Tony warms some lube up in his free hand and then snakes it around to grip Bucky’s cock.  He’s already full and straining toward his abdomen, so Tony has no trouble getting right into a swift pace.  Bucky’s hips jump when Tony starts pumping him, and he gives a little shout as he pulls on his restraints. He’s careful not to pull hard enough to damage anything, but the shock of the sudden quick friction makes his whole body jerk.  

 

“Jesus fuck, Tony,” Bucky exclaims, his own hips getting into it now too.  The pace Tony sets with his own body is much slower, to the point that Bucky is doing most of the work, chasing the feel of Tony’s hand on him.  Tony thrusts almost lazily as he works himself up, fully intending to have Bucky come twice before he himself finishes.

 

As Bucky finally shouts his release, Tony bites at the back of his neck, hard enough to leave an impression in the moment, but not to break skin.  

 

“Oh, oh, holy fuck ,” Bucky groans as he comes down, with Tony being merciful and letting go of his cock for a moment.  

 

Sometimes Tony will pump him straight through to another orgasm, but that’s not the head space he wants him in right now.

 

“There you go, there you go,” Tony whispers to him, kissing over the bite mark he made.  He slides his hand up to play with Bucky’s nipples as he keeps thrusting into the perfect pressure of his thighs.  Bucky makes little pleased noises as he slowly gets hard again from the continued attention. Plus, every thrust Tony makes glides right under his balls, so Bucky’s still getting stimulated from multiple ends, so to speak.  

 

He gives a startled grunt of pleasure when Tony pinches his nipple tight after all the gentle rubbing leading up to it.  Tony kisses Bucky’s shoulder and slowly moves his hand down to palm at Bucky’s renewed erection.

 

“So fucking hot that you can come so many times for me,” he says, starting out with a much slower stroke this time.  

 

Bucky just moans in response, loving every minute of being at Tony’s mercy.  

 

When Tony’s finally ready to come himself, he picks up the pace of his thrusts and adds a little corkscrew motion to his wrist as he continues to jerk Bucky off.  He kisses over the back of Bucky’s shoulders, sucking a love bite into the side of his neck as he spills himself between Bucky’s legs. He keeps stroking until his boyfriend has once again come all over his own abs, keeping a firm hold on him until Bucky’s cock is thoroughly spent.  

 

“Are you still with me, babe?” Tony teases afterward, seeing that Bucky is making no move to get out of his position.  

 

Bucky just grunts at him, which totally gives Tony a boost to his ego.  He loves reducing the man he loves into a satisfied puddle, he’s glad this little experiment was apparently a hit.  

 

“Shh, just relax then, I’ll take care of you,” Tony tells him, “Let’s get you untied.”

 

“Can you leave that for last?” Bucky asks.

 

“Sure thing, babe,” Tony agrees, smiling to himself, “You know, I think one of these days we’re going to have to have the ‘serious’ bondage talk…”

 

“Mm, it can wait ‘til tomorrow,” Bucky tells him, not opening his eyes.

 

“True.  I’ll be right back with a washcloth, ok?” Tony says as he pulls away.

 

“K,” Bucky says sleepily.  

 

Tony brings a couple washcloths, because Bucky is rather spectacularly dirty between all the lube and the come of three orgasms all over him.  He wipes him down gently, sparing more than a few kisses for Bucky’s skin as he goes. Only once he’s completely done does he untie Bucky’s hands, which come down immediately in a “hold me” motion.

 

“Ok, ok, I’m right here,” Tony grins, dropping the washcloths off the edge of the bed and settling into Bucky’s arms, “Prepare to get the shit cuddled out of you, you were so good for me, Bucky-babe, come here,” Tony murmurs.  

 

Bucky sighs happily as he burrows into his boyfriend’s arms.  Tony’s hands make a circuit of stroking his back and running through his hair over and over.

 

“You’re the one who’s good to me,” Bucky argues blissfully.

 

Tony chuckles.  “Can’t we both be good for each other?”

 

“I think there’s enough evidence to support that,” Bucky agrees, stealing a kiss with his eyes still closed.  

 

Tony’s heart soars as they fall asleep in each other’s arms.  




Chapter Text

1993 - part II

 

The next morning, unpacking efforts continue.  

 

They arrange all their mismatched furniture in the living room in the morning, with JARVIS helpfully guiding their staging to make the easiest pathways possible.  Not all spaces are large enough to warrant both their efforts at once though, so while Bucky sets up the guest bathroom, Tony tackles the rest of the master.

 

It doesn’t take him too long, since he already knows how Bucky likes things.  Once he’s done there, he heads back out into the bedroom and decides to pop open a few boxes marked “closet”.  The first is a shell for the lock box that contains Bucky’s mementos from the future. Tony doesn’t bother opening it the rest of the way, just carries it out to the office.

 

“You want the ‘guns’ in the safe, right?” he asks as he passes Bucky in the hall.

 

“Yeah, that would be perfect, doll,” Bucky leans in to give him a quick peck on the cheek as they pass.  

 

Tony sets the whole thing on the floor of their massive gun safe, which was custom installed by a highly recommended company that would have no record of who the new purchaser of the property was.  Even aside from the mementos , Bucky has a wide variety of guns, sniper rifles, and knives that probably shouldn’t be left just laying around, so the safe was necessary.  

 

Back in the bedroom, Tony discovers some old WWII stuff in another box, setting it apart to see if Bucky might want to put any of it on display.  The last “closet” box has a large duffel bag in it, but it’s odd because it isn’t an army bag, it’s blue like the navy’s colors.

 

Tony pulls the drawstring open and finds that it’s stuffed full of envelopes, the smell of paper hitting his nose in a way that reminds him of the old, virtually untouched books in his dad’s library.  At second glance though, he notices a stack of polaroids mixed in with them, and pulls them out.

 

He’s immediately greeted with Bucky’s face, smiling wide for the camera.  There’s also pictures of some other guy too, dressed out in a navy uniform, and things are already clicking in Tony’s head before he even gets to the ones where they’re kissing.

 

Almost on autopilot, he reaches for one of the letters, finding it’s addressed to Bucky in a unknown handwriting.  He runs his his thumb over the return address where it says, “Ensign O’Flaherty” on it.

 

“His name was Ian,” Bucky’s voice says from the doorway of their bedroom, practically giving Tony a heart attack even though his tone is soft.  

 

To his credit though, Tony doesn’t jump much, because he doesn’t really feel guilty per se, for going through his boyfriend’s ‘private’ things, since there was no way he could have known what was in this box.  

 

“Yeah?  Ian O’Flaherty…sounds Irish,” Tony comments, setting the pictures and envelope down.  

 

Bucky comes over to his side, sitting down on the floor close enough so that their legs are touching.  He picks up one of the photos again, holding it so that Tony can see it at the same time. “He was. And he was the only other man I’ve ever loved,” Bucky tells him sadly, reaching over to squeeze Tony’s knee.  

 

“What happened to him?” Tony ventures to ask, hoping he isn’t overstepping his bounds.  It’s obvious from the postmarks on the letters that this was a long time ago, so Tony doesn’t feel threatened, or even necessarily jealous.  But he is incredibly curious, especially since Bucky lead with the having loved him tidbit.   

 

“He was killed in ‘Nam,” Bucky says, taking a deep breath and then letting it out slowly.  “I ain’t looked at this stuff in a long time, partly because it took so long to move on… But it actually hurts a lot less now, after all these years, just like they said it would...” Bucky confesses.  

 

“Where you guys together for a long time?” Tony asks, wrapping an arm around Bucky’s midsection.  He seems to be willing to talk about it, but he’s leaning into Tony pretty heavily at the same time.  

 

“A couple years.  We… We actually didn’t have much time face to face, he was deployed and we spent almost all that time writin’ letters to each other,” Bucky adds.  “I guess it might seem to some people like it wasn’t that deep of a relationship… But I really did love him… It might have been that the wishing and hoping and waiting all the time made things seem more perfect than they were though…  I don’t know that I’ve ever admitted that to myself before now,” Bucky realizes, frowning at the duffel bag.

 

“Hey, if you loved him, then you loved him,” Tony squeezes Bucky tighter for a second, “You don’t have to quantify it.”

 

“Thanks, doll,” Bucky says, getting a little misty-eyed at the memories and the acceptance, “I’m kind of relieved that you’re being so understanding…  It can’t be fun to stumble onto a box of your boyfriend’s old lover’s things…”

 

“Well, this was obviously from a long time ago…  I mean, if you had hidden love letters postmarked from two weeks ago, I’d be pissed, but, this is different.  Way different. This was before I was even born ,” Tony realizes.  

 

“Still, I appreciate it.”

 

Tony gives him a sad smile.  

 

Bucky takes the photos and sets them aside, pulling out a chuck of letters to leaf through.  He doesn’t open any of them, but certain ones he doesn’t have to in order to remember what’s in them.  “I hope you don’t mind me hanging onto this kind of stuff…” he asks, glancing at Tony.

 

“Of course not,” Tony assures him, squeezing Bucky’s hand, “This is part of your past.  Your past just happens to be a lot longer than mine. I found some of your stuff from WWII too, I wasn’t sure if you wanted to put any of it on display...” Tony tells him, giving him an easy change of topic if he wants it.  

 

“Nah, that stuff should probably be in a museum if anywhere,” Bucky sighs, “Maybe someday I’ll get rid of this stuff too...but for now, I don’t think I’m ready to get rid of it just yet,” he explains, running a hand over the faded material.  

 

“What?  You shouldn’t just get rid of it.  Hell, any museum on the planet would want these letters and pictures just as much as your old boots and dog tags,” Tony tells him.  

 

Bucky raises an eyebrow.  “I’m not sure I’d want all my personal business out on display like that…”

 

“Fair enough…  Maybe if you ever write a memoir or something…  You might want to include a few of them then...”

 

“I guess that’s possible…  I mean, technically him dying did have a major impact on history, in the end,” Bucky says remembering his shock at JFK’s answer to his demands.

 

“How so?” Tony asks.

 

“It was before your time too, but me and the Howlies, Steve, Peggy, and your dad all got up on stage at a protest and demanded an end to the Vietnam War,” Bucky tells him, stacking the letters back into a pile and putting them back in the duffel.  He scrubs a hand over his face at the memory of how fragile he’d still been back then.

 

“Oh…  I’ve seen video of that speech,” Tony says, “That was for him…”

 

“Yeah.  Your dad coached me on what to say.  And Peggy handled all the logistics of gettin’ everyone there.  God knows I was too much of a mess back then to have handled it myself,” Bucky explains.  

 

“Well that settles it,” Tony says authoritatively, “You can’t throw these things away, they’re part of history.  Honestly, you should probably be storing these on like, acid free paper or something, for posterity,” he adds, picking up the pictures again.  

 

“If you would like, Sirs,” JARVIS interjects, “I can research an appropriate company that specializes in the preservation of historical documents.”

 

Tony gives Bucky a questioning look.

 

“I guess it would be nice to have everything all in one album or something…” Bucky says.  Then he takes a deep breath, as if steeling himself to the decision. “Alright, go ahead, J.”

 

“Very good, Master Barnes.”

 

“Thanks for that, Bucky.  I just hooked him up to the world wide web a couple weeks ago, and he’s been itching to show off ever since then,” Tony tells him with a smile.

 

“No problem, doll.  I’m happy to help.”

 

They get the duffel bag put back away after that, leaving it in the actual closet for the time being.  Bucky’s mood does seem a little down for a few hours afterward, but by the time lunch rolls around, he’s smiling and laughing again.  The hugs Tony gets for the rest of the day are a little longer than normal, as if Bucky is taking an extra moment to savor them each time.

 

Tony certainly doesn’t complain though.

 

<//>

 

“Yes, I understand what symbolism is, mom.  … It’s not that we don’t want to- … Yes, we have talked about it.  We just have way too many other things on our plates, neither of us can take the time to plan some sort of mock ceremony right now.  … No, you cannot, because I’m pretty sure Rosie would skewer Bucky alive if we didn’t let her help. … That was not an invitation to call her up!  We’re just not ready to get married and have kids yet! … I didn’t mean to raise my voice, I’m sorry, I’m just frustrated that you won’t let this go.  … Yes. … Yes, I know, we’ll be at the fundraiser this weekend. … I love you too, mom.”

 

<//>

 

“You know your mom’s going to kill us,” Bucky points out as they pull up in front of the tattoo parlor.  

 

“Matching tattoos are every bit as much of a declaration of commitment as rings,” Tony says blithely, “Maybe even more so…  I mean, people take off their rings all the time, but your name on my ass is going to be forever .”

 

“Is that where you decided to get it?” Bucky chuckles.    

 

“Well, it’s either that or over my heart…  Over the heart is certainly more romantic, but the implication of ownership is just as true either way, so…”

 

“You know, we could do both, and then just tell people about whichever one we feel like in the moment,” Bucky suggests, a slow grin spreading over his face as he says it.

 

“You mean give different people conflicting locations, but with proof to back it up, so that when my mother talks about how romantic the tattoos are, she thinks they’re over our hearts, but Uncle Steve will have seen 100% proof that yours in on your ass, so he’ll be totally thrown by her comments…  The history books just do not do justice to your genius, babe, I’m going to write to Scholastic first thing tomorrow,” Tony tells him, grinning back mischievously.

 

“Steve’s the tactician, I just point and shoot,” Bucky says as if by rote while they finally get out of the car.

 

“Did you know in the Howling Commandos reboot they did a few years ago, they made him into more like your sidekick?” Tony asks.

 

“What?  I didn’t sign off on that ,” Bucky frowns.

 

“I mean, it’s not like he’s the comic relief or anything, but instead of him starting out leading and then handing things over to you part way through, they have you leading the Commandos right from episode one…  You really never watch any of the stuff about yourself?”

 

“Not really…  Does Steve know about this?” Bucky asks him as they’re heading up the steps to the parlor.  

 

“I’m sure he does.  He was watching it with Ruthie’s grand kids last weekend when I stopped by.”

 

“Why would the shield be red, white, and blue if it hadn’t belonged to him first?” Bucky questions, shaking his head at such an obvious plot hole.  

 

“I think they just kind of imply that it looked too plain as just a metal circle, so since Captain America was your best friend, you went with something patriotic.  I don’t know, I doubt the seven year olds watching it are thinking that critically about the thematic symbolism,” Tony points out. “And speaking of thematic symbolism,” Tony interrupts himself as one of the tattoo artists approaches them, “We’re here to get our undying declarations of love for each other tattooed on our asses.  If that’s going to be a problem for you guys, let us know up front.”

 

“That’s no problem, man, we never turn away a paying customer,” a man who’s almost completely covered in tattoos tells him.  

 

“Excellent, we already know what we want, each other’s names over our hearts and on our asses, but maybe you could show us some different fonts or something.”

 

Bucky slips his hand into the back pocket of Tony’s jeans while they’re standing there, just to make sure there’s absolutely no mistaking their intentions.  Tony flashes him a quick grin, but the tattoo artist doesn’t say a word about it.

 

“Wait, you want the whole thing?” Bucky asks as Tony’s writing out their names for the man.  

 

“It’s my body, and if I want the short novel that is your full name written on me in two places, that’s my decision,” Tony says haughtily as he finishes writing out “James Buchanan ‘Bucky’ Barnes” for the man.  

 

“Ok, Anthony Edward Stark ,” Bucky says with a hint of teasing.  

 

Tony’s face scrunches up in displeasure, because it’s well known how much he hates his full name.  

 

“On second thought, you know it’s actually the other of us that will be seeing these most often.  I mean, not that I don’t occasionally check out my own ass, because it is a marvelous ass, but you’re the one who’ll be reading it most of the time…” Tony capitulates.  

 

“Whatever you want, doll,” Bucky chuckles.

 

They hold each other’s hands while getting the tattoos done.  

 

Tony looks around at all the pictures and artwork on the shop’s walls while he’s getting his own ink.  The pain isn’t unbearable, but he doesn’t let go of Bucky’s hand, since he always maintains contact with him whenever he can, for even the flimsiest of reasons.  Tony discovers a picture as he’s looking around that shows a pair of military tattoos which seem oddly familiar.

 

“Uh, babe?  Did you and Uncle Steve visit this shop before, or are those just a pair of extremely beefy shouldered copycats?”

 

Bucky grins and turns around to look at the spot on the wall Tony’s head is pointed at.  

 

“Yeah, actually, that is us. Steve took me here to get my Howlies tat redone after losin’ my arm,” Bucky says, looking at the photo fondly.  “They did a good job, so I figured they could handle this.”

 

“You should sign it for them or something,” Tony suggests.

 

“...It’d probably be weird for it to only have mine and not Steve’s,” Bucky muses.

 

“I can forge his, if you want,” Tony offers nonchalantly.

 

“You can forge Steve’s signature?” Bucky asks, wondering why that would even be a skill relevant to Tony’s life experience.  

 

“Sure.  Just write out his name and think of apple pie and baby bald eagles and stuff real hard while you do it,” Tony grins, giving Bucky a wink.

 

Bucky just rolls his eyes and gives Tony’s hand a squeeze.   

 

He does sign the photo before they leave though, after the owner asks him to.





1995

 

Thanks to the miniaturized arc reactors Tony came up with, travel time from earth to the Maria Nuova moon base is cut down to three hours, instead of three days.  Tony specifically builds the new power supply to be exactly twenty four times faster than the old jet propulsion engines, because he likes the way the phrase rolls off the tongue during the marketing meetings.  

 

He also comes up with a way to allow the human body to withstand that kind of force, which turns out to be a full body compression suit that is monitored and adjusted by an A.I. in real time according to that individual’s vitals.  

 

Bucky’s first trip to the moon is also Tony’s, when he goes to install the new A.I. on the base.  FRIDAY will have complete run of the place, freeing up a lot of time and hassle for the residents.  There are a lot of safety redundancies that were built into the building back when the moon had no atmosphere that would be another multiple-year project to try and renovate.  So for now, FRIDAY will run all the air locks, open doors, provide two person authentications that are no longer necessary, etc. She’s also a learning program, just like JARVIS, so her uses will only grow from there.  

 

The first time Bucky sets foot on the ground he’s been helping to make habitable for the last decade, he tears up a little.  

 

Sarah assures him that’s a common reaction.  

 

<//>

 

Edwin Jarvis passes away in his sleep that fall, with Anna lasting only a few scant weeks after that before passing herself.  

 

They’re buried side by side in a New York cemetery, with the most elaborate, expensive headstone that probably any pair of “servants” have ever had.  

 

Tony feels more like he lost his grandparents than his butler and maid.  Bucky holds him through numerous crying spells, reminding him that it was the Jarvis’ wish to keep working, to stay in the mansion to the end.  They’d refused to retire multiple times, and Edwin was one of the few people Howard could never unduly influence , despite the fact that he took Howard’s orders.  

 

That year Christmas is a subdued affair.  It would normally be the Stark’s turn to host it, but Steve volunteers to have it at his house again, knowing how much harder it is on the whole family to be over there without Jarvis’ presence.  

 

Oddly enough, Tony actually spends more time at home “visiting” since Jarvis died.  Bucky would bet money on it being because his boyfriend has suddenly realized that his father and Jarvis were basically the same age, but he doesn’t speak it out loud.  It feels like talking about it would make Howard’s increasing frailty more real somehow.

 

If Tony wants to sit around and actually listen to Howard’s ranting about different SI board members, or war stories, or half drunk ramblings about the “empire” he built, Bucky doesn’t begrudge him it.  He just nods along and drinks Howard’s whiskey, and helps maneuver the man to his bed once he’s had enough.

 

They need another butler is what they need, but apparently Maria hasn’t liked any of the candidates yet who’ve been able to pass SHIELD’s rigorous background check.  Bucky would bet they’ve “ordered in” every meal they’ve eaten since Jarvis’ passing, but if that’s how they want to spend their money, it’s no skin off Bucky’s back.

 

He has a feeling that Maria sees exactly what’s going on as well, but she doesn’t say anything either.  She just soaks in her son’s presence in much the same way Tony soaks in Howard’s, as if knowing this time is brief by nature.  Tony’s been well and truly moved out for years now, kind of avoiding the place if truth be told. What will happen after Howard actually passes himself is anybody’s guess.  

 

Howard gets so drunk on New Year’s Eve that Bucky has to completely carry him to his bed, halfheartedly grumbling the entire time about how this should be Steve’s job.  Howard comes to just slightly when Bucky sets him down, mumbling something about radiation and then frowning and rolling over.

 

“Happy New Year to you too, Howard,” Bucky sighs, hoping that if the bastard does drink himself to death, that Tony isn’t the one who finds him.  He supposes Howard must be dealing with his own grief over losing Jarvis, and maybe the in-your-face reminder of his own mortality too… Either way, it was enough to push him off his brief stay on the wagon.  It’s a shame the rest of the family are the ones left cleaning up after him, but Bucky knows for a fact that it could have been a much bigger mess that Howard was leaving behind, so he doesn’t say anything about the man’s life choices.

 

 

Chapter Text

1996 - part I

 

“Look, there’s no way anyone’s even awake right now, and if my dad ever notices a few of the rare earth elements he had on hand missing, he’ll probably just think he destroyed them during his last drunken workshop binge,” Tony says with a roll of his eyes as the mansion’s garage door closes behind them.  Tony cuts the engine and hops right out of the car, heading for his dad’s lab and leaving Bucky to either follow or not.

 

Bucky follows.

 

“My actual point, doll, was that maybe you should sleep yourself, since you were at a stopping point, materials wise…” Bucky shakes his head fondly.  His exasperation doesn’t stop him from checking out Tony’s ass as he walks. “We could be in bed right now, is all I’m saying…”

 

“There will be plenty of time for that later,” Tony waves him off, “I’m so close to finishing this project I can taste it, I won’t be able to focus on anything else until it’s done, you know that.”

 

“Yeah, I-” Bucky pauses, because his first thought upon hearing the footsteps of multiple extra people in the mansion is that he and Tony aren’t supposed to be here right now.  “Tony,” he changes tracks instantly, his tone of voice losing all playfulness, “There are other people here, at least six,” he tilts his head, focusing on his enhanced hearing in a way he rarely does outside of combat.  

 

Tony stills instantly, his pulse jumping with a shot of adrenaline as he notices the shift in Bucky’s demeanor.  

 

Bucky knows what it sounds like when a person is trying to move quietly, and if it was just Steve and Peggy having crashed overnight, or some other guests, they wouldn’t be trying to not be heard.  And they certainly wouldn’t be spread out like they are throughout the whole mansion.

 

“One of them’s heading our way,” Bucky says, pushing Tony up against the wall.  “Pretend we’re making out, just in case it ain’t what I think…” Bucky says, brushing his lips over Tony’s.

 

“And if it is?” Tony whispers, wrapping his arms around Bucky’s waist.  

 

“Then you stay close to me,” Bucky orders before sealing their lips together and preventing Tony from arguing.  He casually moves his metal arm to lean against the wall next to Tony’s head, effectively protecting it from anything that might be coming toward them, while looking like he’s just boxing in his boyfriend.

 

Bucky can hear the person heading toward them stop before turning the corner.  They’re obviously trying to check out the situation before revealing themselves, and that more than anything seals it in Bucky’s mind, that whoever they are, they’re definitely up to no good.  

 

One moment Tony is fake-making-out with his boyfriend on an adrenaline high, the next he’s leaning against the wall by himself and there’s a series of muffled thumps coming from down the hall.  

 

“Jesus, I’ve never seen you move th-” Tony starts to say, only to be cut off by Bucky.

 

“Do you have your cell phone on you?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Call Steve.  Now. These guys are Russian special ops,” Bucky says, stripping off the fallen soldier’s weaponry.  

 

Tony nods and pulls out his phone, his hands only shaking slightly.  He’s had plenty of training for kidnapping, espionage, and hostage situations from Aunt Peggy, but the only real attempt he’s ever been through was the failed one when he was six years old that prompted the training in the first place.  And that was two decades ago.

 

“Tony?” Aunt Peggy’s voice picks up on the first ring.  She’s had caller ID since before it was available to the general population, so it’s no surprise that she knows it’s him.

 

“The mansion’s under attack, Bucky says they’re Russian,” Tony blurts out right away.

 

“Steven’s already on his way over, they tripped the silent alarm and he was in closer range to go check it out than any of SHIELD’s teams,” she explains.  

 

Bucky motions for Tony to give him the phone and hands him a pistol in return.

 

“Peg, there’s at least six of them inside, possibly more, they know Tony and I are here, we walked right into-” Bucky drops the phone and fires in rapid succession down the hallway as more intruders round the corner.  Tony drops to a crouch immediately, holding his gun out in front of him but not firing. Bucky’s expert aim takes care of them quickly, so he isn’t going to bother wasting the bullets.

 

Two intruders go down from Bucky’s shots, but the third was hiding around the corner and he advances on them, engaging Bucky hand to hand.  Tony keeps his eyes peeled while he watches them fight. A fourth person tries sneaking up on them from the other direction, but Tony notices him and starts firing on him right away.  He isn’t a sniper, and while Aunt Peggy’s certainly shown him how to use the business end of a gun, it isn’t exactly something he practices with a lot.

 

The guy Tony was shooting at finally falls to the ground, and Tony is pretty sure his own arm was grazed by one of the bullets flying back and forth, but he isn’t sure if it’s a smart idea to go check and see if the guy is really dead or not.  Bucky did say to stick close to him, after all.

 

There’s a huge crashing noise that comes from outside the mansion while Tony’s assessing the situation, which he hopes to god is the cavalry and not more bad guys.  When he glances back at Bucky, there are three more intruders fighting with him. So more than six after all. Great.

 

A handful of seconds later, there’s another noise that sounds suspiciously like the front door being ripped off its hinges.

 

“Howard!  Maria!” Steve’s voice shouts.  He must head right for the commotion Tony and Bucky are a part of at that same superhuman speed though, because he rounds the corner so quickly afterward that Tony almost shoots him.  Thankfully he backs off the trigger just in time, letting out a tense breath of relief at seeing him. Steve kicks the guy on the floor as he goes by, hard enough to incapacitate him if he wasn’t already, and then heads to help Bucky.  

 

“Your parents?” Steve asks as soon as the bad guys are down.

 

“I don’t know, we came in from the garage and headed right for the labs,” Tony tells him, grimacing in worry.  

 

“Oh, don’t worry, your parents are right here,” a man’s voice says, coming around the other corner.  Half a dozen more men come into view, two of them holding guns to Howard and Maria’s heads. Both of his parent’s are in their pajamas, with Howard looking more sober than normal, probably from the adrenaline of the moment.  

 

Tony realizes that Bucky and Steve are between the bad guys and his father’s lab, which must be their goal if they bothered to drag the two of them along this far as hostages.  The lab needs a key code and biometrics to open, which only Howard, Tony, and Steve are authorized for.

 

“I will not hesitate to put a bullet through their heads.  The death of a Stark is just as much a success as obtaining what we came for,” the man continues.

 

“What did you come for?” Steve asks, which is obviously a stalling tactic to Tony, but the man goes along with it.

 

“Access to the lab.”

 

“Don’t give it to them,” Howard hisses, before his air is cut off by his captor’s choke hold.

 

“Maybe you would rather die than give it up, but do you speak for your wife?  What about your son, hm? Would he rather see the both of you dead?”

 

“Dad, no,” Tony says, taking a step forward, “There isn’t anything in there that’s worth your lives .”

 

Howard glares at him, obviously trying to tell him he’s wrong.  

 

“How about you let Maria go, then Howard can bargain or not with you for his own life...” Steve suggests, perfectly rational.  

 

“You take us for fools, but the only way this night will end is with our victory!” the man seethes.  Whether it’s out of a sense of desperation or fanaticism, who knows.

 

“Howard!” Maria says, trembling with fear.

 

The man releases the tightness of his hold around Howard’s neck so he can breathe again, which is when Steve strikes.  By some unspoken agreement, Bucky moves toward Maria’s captor at the same moment. Or maybe it’s just because they’re so goddamned fast that the fraction of a millisecond that it takes Bucky to notice that Steve’s moving toward Howard is all that it takes for him to back him up and move toward Maria, looking like a seamless motion to bystanders.  

 

The goons not holding captives open fire on them, but Steve and Bucky are fast enough to keep the Stark’s brains from getting blown out.  Howard and Maria both stumble to the ground and start to crawl away as the men holding them are ripped backward by the force of the super soldier’s attacks.  Bullets fly everywhere as the men try to hit targets they can’t keep up with, shattering a vase, splintering the wood of a door frame, lodging into the carpet, etc.

 

Tony’s bending down to help his mom get off the floor and run away properly when it feels like he gets punched in the gut.  

 

“Tony?  Tony!” Maria shouts as he stumbles to his own knees instead.  

 

The whole fight lasts mere seconds, but the damage is done.

 

Howard takes one look at the blood seeping through Tony’s shirt, meets Tony’s eyes as he stands up the rest of the way, then turns on his heel and runs for his lab.

 

Tony just blinks at him as he goes.  

 

“Tony!” Bucky’s voice is filled with an anguish and a fear that Tony has never heard before.  Strong arms, one flesh and one metal, press the wad of Bucky’s own shirt against the wound in his stomach.  

 

Somehow Tony ended up laying down.  

 

Huh, he doesn’t remember that happening...  

 

He reaches up and cups Bucky’s cheek, feeling tears sliding down it already.  

 

“Tell me you love me,” Tony asks, “You know, just in case.”

 

To Tony’s dawning horror, Bucky’s face crumples as he nods.  “I do love you, Tony, you know it. I love you so much, doll.  More than I’ve ever loved anyone else before.”

 

Maria is bawling at his side, holding Tony’s free hand.  

 

Shit.  

 

“Oh, that serious, huh?” Tony says, feeling the pain of the wound finally start to hit him.  “I, I love you too, Bucky. And mom, and Uncle Steve. Love all you guys…”

 

“Where the fuck is Howard?” Steve says under his breath, glancing around, but in his regular voice he tells Tony how much he loves him back.  

 

Maria is sobbing almost too hard to speak, smoothing her hand over and over through Tony’s hair as she tells him she loves him too.  

 

“SHIELD’s on their way, right?  There’s still a small chance, even with a stomach wound, if he gets help right away,” Bucky says, almost like he’s talking to himself.  

 

“Stay with him, I’m going to find a phone and get an ETA from Peggy,” Steve says.  

 

Before he even stands up though, Howard comes bursting back out of his lab, moving as quickly as a man in his late 70’s can.  

 

He’s holding a syringe of bright blue liquid.

 

“What-”

 

“Give me his arm.  Steve, give me your belt,” Howard says, dropping to his knees with a wince at Tony’s side.

 

Tony’s eyes are wide, looking at the glowing liquid.

 

“What the hell is that?” Bucky asks for him.

 

“It’s a serum,” Howard says curtly, holding his hand out and snapping his fingers at Steve to hurry up.

 

Steve pulls off his belt and gives it to him.

 

“This version doesn’t cause a drastic transformation, like the original did, it’s more focused on an enhanced strength and healing factor,” Howard says as he tightens the belt around Tony’s upper arm.

 

“Oh...  Ok. Jesus, dad…  I guess I’m finally going to be able to keep up with the Rogers’ girls,” Tony jokes weakly, looking a little pale already from the blood loss.

 

Howard gives him a look, then injects the needle.  

 

“How much testing have you done on this?” Tony asks in a weakened version of his normal bravado, after it’s already in his veins, “What are my odds here?”  

 

“Seventy-nine percent chance of success,” Howard says immediately, “...in primates.  We haven’t moved to human trials yet,” he adds, very purposefully not meeting the intense stare Steve is giving him.

 

“If he dies,” Bucky says calmly, “because these goons were after the new super soldier serum you were cooking up in your house , I’ll kill you myself, Howard.”

 

Steve doesn’t admonish him.  

 

Howard doesn’t look up at either of them, just counts off the seconds in his head and then releases the improvised tourniquet.  “It’s going to hurt, but that’s normal,” Howard says. He almost hesitantly picks up Tony’s hand afterward, giving it a squeeze.

 

Fire flows through Tony’s arm and spreads through the rest of his body quickly.  It’s not like screaming thrashing bad, but he does pant with the intensity of it.  Just as it’s finally, slowly fading, his dad says, “Time. It worked then,” with a relieved sigh.

 

“Are you sure?” Bucky asks, still holding the wad of t-shirt to Tony’s stomach.  

 

“He didn’t go into convulsions and die, which was the alternate outcome in 100% of failed cases, so yes, I’m sure,” Howard tells him.  

 

Bucky slowly removes the pressure off the bloodied cloth, finding a small patch of it fused into the newly healed skin over Tony’s entrance wound, just like what happened when he lost his own arm.  

 

“Oh thank god,” he practically collapses over Tony, pulling him into his arms and hugging him tight.  

 

Maria is crying again, in relief this time.  

 

Bucky sits up, keeping Tony in his arms but getting them off the floor, so that Maria can hug him too.  Even Steve and Howard get in on it, though Bucky still wants to sock Howard in the fucking face for all this.  

 

“I’m ok, it’s alright,” Tony whispers to him over and over.  

 

Nobody lets go until the SHIELD team arrives a few minutes later, with Marjie, Phil, and Clint leading the charge toward the lab, which is the most likely route of resistance.  They realize once they get there that the fight is already over though.

 

Phil radios it in and other agents start sweeping the whole house, top to bottom, making sure there aren’t any lingering threats.  

 

“Jesus, Tony,” Marjie says, horrified at the blood he’s covered in and what it implies.

 

“He’ll live,” Howard sighs, rubbing a hand over his face, “Take off your shirt, Tony, we don’t need anyone else figuring out what happened here.”

 

“Why?  What happened?” Marjie asks, taking a knee next to him in her tac gear.  

 

“Promise to arm wrestle me later and I’ll tell you,” Tony grins at her, already making light of the situation with jokes and a glib attitude.  He tries to remove his shirt at the same time, but the fabric having healed in proves a problem. Phil produces some scissors, so they can cut the fabric around it and worry about the rest of it later.  

 

Howard gives them a glimpse of the now empty syringe before tucking it away.  “You three have already seen that Tony was injured, but no one else can know exactly what happened here tonight,” he orders.  

 

“Why, because you don’t want it getting out that you’ve been trying to make more super soldiers?” Steve asks.

 

Bucky knows that tone of voice well, that’s Steve’s picking a fight for a just cause voice.

 

Phil blinks, nods, doesn’t say a word, and drags Clint away with him to seal off the rest of the team’s access to the hall.  Marjie clears her throat and goes to get Tony and Bucky some clean shirts.

 

“This isn’t the time or place to discuss this, Steve,” Howard says pointedly.  

 

“Bullshit.  Tony almost got killed because of your reckless stupidity,” Steve says, a storm brewing on his face that’s way past just a frown of disappointment.

 

It may be the first time in his life that Howard has been called stupid.  

 

“Look, you think I don’t know that you’re pissed?” Howard says quietly, meeting Steve’s gaze with more defiance than most people with any common sense ever do when Steve has that look in his eyes.  “I know, alright? I also know that it is a matter of national security that we not get into a yelling match about this while there are dozens of people, no matter their clearance levels, combing the place right now.  Save it for later, Steve, I mean it. Or word will get out, and this will only be the beginning of the threat.”

 

Before Steve has a chance to answer, Peggy walks in.  

 

Phil gives them a shrug from the doorway and says, “I wasn’t about to be the one to tell her she couldn’t come down here, even if she isn’t the current Director…”  

 

Howard actually looks sheepish upon seeing her, scrubbing a hand over his face as if resigning himself to his fate.  

 

Steve keeps his voice down, as requested, while he recounts the details to her of what happened.  

 

Marjie comes back with a couple shirts for Bucky and Tony just in time to see her mom slap Howard full across the face.  Everyone just freezes for a second, waiting to see if she’s going to follow through with anything more.

 

“We will finish this discussion later, Howard,” she says, as prim and proper as if they were simply scheduling lunch.  

 

“You’re not the Director anymore, Pegs,” Howard sighs, almost more of a mumble under his breath.  

 

“Perhaps not.  But Michaels certainly won’t be for long if this is the kind of organization he’s trying to turn SHIELD into,” she retorts.  

 

Howard wisely says nothing to that.  

 

As Tony accepts the clean shirt from Marjie, he tries to break the tension by asking her, “So, where’s Nick?  I’m surprised I didn’t see him bursting in here alongside you guys…”

 

“Fury’s Assistant Director now, he doesn’t make house calls,” Marjie tells him, deadpan, but then she grins after a second, causing Tony to grin back and then start laughing.  “Damn it, I should have had Phil say it, I can never keep a straight face like he can,” she laughs with him.

 

As Tony’s pulling the shirt on, she frowns though.

 

“Hey, wait a minute, I thought you said you and Bucky got each other’s names tattooed on your asses, not over your hearts .  You sappy, lying asshole,” she teases.  

 

Steve turns and frowns at Bucky, noticing his tattoo of Tony’s name over his heart as well.  

 

“What the hell, was the other one you showed me a fake?” he asks, “No wonder Maria didn’t seem upset…”

 

“Nah, they’re both real,” Bucky confesses, shooting Steve a grin, even though it’s a slightly tired one from the night’s events.  

 

“You got Tony’s name tattooed on you twice .  Just to pull a prank ,” Steve gives him a look like he might finally be a lost cause.  

 

“Technically we both did.  And not just for the prank.  We really did want the show of commitment, but couldn’t decide which location, so we thought, why not both?...” Tony pipes up, sharing a smile with Bucky.  

 

Tony ,” Maria admonishes him, even while still wiping the tears from her face, “On your ass?  That’s unbelievably tacky…”

 

Steve motions toward her in a “see, I told you so” manner.  

 

“Couldn’t you have just gotten rings like a normal couple?...” she sighs.

 

Bucky and Tony both burst into laughter.  It has a slightly hysterical edge to it, mostly because of the roller coaster of emotions they’ve been on tonight.  Bucky reels him back into a hug once they’re properly clothed again. He keeps a hand on him, or an arm through his, or some kind of contact the entire rest of the night, even though his boyfriend is now probably just as indestructible as he is.  

 

“Alright, we’ve cleared the mansion and secured the grounds, teams three and four are going to maintain a perimeter outside, but we’ll pull back from the house now and let you folks get to bed,” Phil finally tells them.

 

“Would you mind giving me a ride back to headquarters, Phil?” Peggy asks, “I do believe the Bel Air is totaled…”

 

Phil gives a nod right away, “Of course, ma’am, it would be my pleasure.”  Peggy takes Phil’s offered arm and motions for him to lead on while Steve explains himself to the rest of the crowd.

 

Steve waves goodbye to Peggy and then rubs the back of his neck sheepishly.  “I heard shots being fired while I was still down the street, so I kind of just rammed right through the gate when I got to it…  The front end is completely trashed…”

 

Bucky pats Steve on the back in a “there, there” gesture.  

 

“Thank you,” Maria tells him sincerely, giving him a smile that’s still a bit watery.  “Don’t worry about the gate for even a moment, Steven.”

 

“Yeah, thanks Uncle Steve.  This would have ended a lot differently if you hadn’t been here.  No offence to your military prowess, babe,” Tony tells Bucky, squeezing his hand, “But even a super soldier can only be in so many places at once…” he says, picturing the gun to his mother’s head.  Tony reaches over and gives his mom another hug. She makes a bit of an “oof” sound though, and Tony releases her right away. “Sorry! Sorry! I guess I don’t know my own strength anymore… Literally…

 

“Yeah, that’ll take some getting used to…” Bucky says, remembering what it was like trying to figure out his new limits while in the future.  At least Tony will have people he knows and loves around him to help him adjust.

 

“You’re very welcome, Maria,” Steve says, “And you, Howard, don’t think you’re off the hook for the night,” he adds as Howard hovers toward the edge of the group, looking like he’s trying to slink away unnoticed.  

 

Now that the SHIELD agents have disbursed, Steve gets right into it.

 

“What the hell were you thinking, working on something like that in your house ?  Did you learn nothing from almost killing everyone and burning the place down in the 60’s?”

 

Howard’s face remains blank, not giving up an inch.  “You don’t know that the serum is what they were after.  There could have been any number of proj-”

 

“Bullshit,” Steve interrupts him, “I may not be a genius, but don’t you dare talk to me like I’m an idiot, Howard.  Even aside from the danger you put your family in, how could you be part of a new super soldier program? How could you ?  You know what Bucky and I have gone through over the years.   You know what I’ve gone through with knowing I’m losing Peggy, with watching everyone else around me age and die.  Half the Howlies are gone, you’ve got one foot in the grave because you can’t let go of the bottle, and Peggy-  … Peggy’s starting to get confused , sometimes, and I…  I’m still in my twenties, Howard.  How could you think it was a good idea to do that to more people?” Steve asks, looking both angry and on the verge of tears at the same time.

 

Everyone else is frozen to the spot, not particularly wanting to draw attention to themselves, but wanting to see what’s going to happen.  

 

Howard looks down and away, unable to meet Steve’s eyes.  

 

“It was a challenge, alright?  It… It was the ‘unfinished thing’, and I just…  I don’t know, I thought I’d be helping move humanity forward, to evolve,” Howard says in possibly the shakiest defense ever.

 

“Clean energy helped humanity move forward.  Space exploration and colonizing the moon helped move humanity forward, Howard.  Building supercomputers and robotic limbs helped move humanity forward,” Steve says, gesturing at Tony, “But making people functionally immortal isn’t helping their humanity, and you know it.”

 

“There could be something to be said for having a segment of the population that were descended from super soldiers though,” Howard points out, somewhat bravely or somewhat foolishly, depending on your viewpoint, “Your kids age, but they’re stronger, faster, tougher…  We could increase the hardiness of the entire human race, after enough generations, if we had more super soldiers.”

 

Steve just looks at him for a second, then sighs, rubbing a hand over his face, then up through his hair, before letting it drop to his side limply, as if in defeat.

 

“You know, if someone had told me exactly what the serum would do all those years ago, that I wouldn’t age…  I wouldn’t have done it,” Steve tells him softly, as if confessing his greatest sin.  

 

Howard looks up at him sharply, as if stunned by the admission.

 

“I don’t blame you, not for that,” Steve tells him right away, “No one knew what would happen, because it had never worked before…  They didn’t even have me sign a waiver,” he muses somewhat jokingly, but the sadness is still there. “But these days you’d have to.  You’d have to tell the people signing up exactly what to expect… And I want you to think about the fact that most good men wouldn’t want to live forever, not if they thought about it, and then think about what that leaves you with, as far as volunteers for your project go.  The kind of men who would want to live forever are exactly the type you wouldn’t want to give that serum too,” Steve helpfully spells out the logic for him.  

 

Maybe it’s the lack of yelling, or the bone deep weariness that’s evident in Steve as he speaks, but it’s obvious Howard really listens to him.  

 

It’s almost enough to make Tony jealous, but he pushes that emotion aside as not helpful in the moment.  

 

“I’m sorry, alright?” Howard finally capitulates, “It’s already done, but for what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”

 

“You said you haven’t started human trials,” Steve frowns.

 

“Well, we haven’t.  But the serum’s mostly functional, the ratios are high enough for success that they’re pushing for trials to start soon,” Howard grimaces.  

 

“Then it’s not too late,” Steve asserts.  

 

Howard blinks at him.

 

“Look, you and I have been friends for decades, Howard, but this is a deal breaker,” Steve tells him, squaring his shoulders, “Either you destroy that serum and everything related to it, or I will .”

 

“I don’t particularly want to have to fight a bunch of other super soldiers that have gone power hungry,” Bucky pipes up, “Because you know it’s us that’ll be left dealing with it even after you’re gone.”

 

“Oh, am I going to die soon, Barnes?  I’d never have guessed...” Howard huffs, obviously referencing the fact that he’s pushing 80.

 

“No idea,” Bucky says casually, “You didn’t make it this long in the other dimension.”

 

Howard glares at him, as if daring him to go on.

 

“Drown in your own vomit when Tony was fifteen,” Bucky says, looking Howard right in the eye, “Was probably for the best there though, ‘cause that you was an abusive asshole.  Funny how two worlds can be so similar and yet so different,” he adds, completely un casually.  Future Tony never actually told him that, but there was plenty of evidence in what Bucky did see, to make that assumption.  Especially with what he’s heard from Steve over the years about their own Howard’s tendencies.

 

Silence reigns for a moment, with Howard looking away from Bucky almost guiltily, only to be caught up by Steve’s expectant gaze.  Finally, he nods in acquiescence. A good deal of the tension drains out of the air at that, with Steve’s shoulders relaxing and his arms uncrossing from his chest.  

 

“I feel like I might be missing something,” Maria speaks up, looking between the three of them questioningly.  

 

“Oh, uh…  I kind of visited the future of an alternate dimension, back in WWII,” Bucky says, blushing at little at the fact that everyone knew this except for her.

 

Maria raises an eyebrow at him, then looks to Tony.

 

“Aunt Peggy knows too, but it’s one of those classified, hush hush things, sorry mom,” Tony tells her, giving her an apologetic smile.  

 

That seems to be enough for her, so she nods in acceptance.  “Well, I suppose that doesn’t really change anything right now.  You boys should get cleaned up while Howard and Steve go down to the lab,” she suggests.

 

“But mom, I want to help destroy things!” Tony fake wines.  

 

Maria plays along and sighs, giving him a look as if she’s beyond dealing with a young toddler anymore.  

 

“Might not be such a good idea right now, babe, at least until you get a handle on your new strength,” Bucky points out, tossing Maria a conspiratorial smile.

 

“There are some extra clothes in your old room,” she says, smiling back, “I’m sure neither of you are in any shape to drive.  You should just stay the rest of the night.”

 

“What are the two of you doing here, anyway?” Howard grumbles, just to be argumentative.

 

“Uh, I was going to steal some scandium from you for this project I’m working on,” Tony admits easily, “But I’ll just grab it in the morning.”

 

Howard rolls his eyes, but he doesn’t say anything else as Steve tugs him along down the hall toward the lab.  

 

Bucky has a feeling that the debate over all the issues that were brought up tonight isn’t over, but they’re all kind of agreeing to let things lie for now.

 

Back in Tony’s old room, they both strip down and get in the shower.  Bucky takes care washing Tony up, making sure every speck of blood is scrubbed away.  He runs his fingers over and over the spot of fabric healed into his skin, until Tony gently takes hold of his hand and guides it away.  Bucky kisses his shoulder in apology.

 

They don’t really speak as they dry off and pull on some spare pajamas.  It isn’t until they’re laying in each other’s arms in Tony’s old bed, holding each other in the growing light of dawn, that Bucky finally says, “I almost lost you.”  A few tears leak out onto Tony’s neck where Bucky’s face is tucked against it.

 

Tony runs his hand through Bucky’s hair comfortingly.

 

“I’m not going to lie, almost dying was terrifying.  And becoming an impromptu science experiment of my dad’s?  That definitely was not on my ‘to-do’ list,” Tony says, letting out a shuddering breath.  

 

Bucky scoots up a little and rearranges them so that Tony’s head is pressed against his chest, holding him tight, tighter than he’s ever dared to before.  Tony reciprocates, squeezing Bucky without worrying about hurting him. Tony doesn’t cry much, but there are a few tears just from the overwhelmingness of all the emotions they’ve cycled through tonight.  

 

Maybe it just hasn’t set in yet, but Tony isn’t really lamenting his lost humanity or anything.  Like apparently Uncle Steve has been for years now… But he supposes his situation is vastly different than Uncle Steve’s too.  The person he loves isn’t doomed to age without him while he’s stuck permanently at twenty-six. Tony tries to imagine what it would be like if it were he and Rhodey that got turned into super soldiers, and Bucky was going to age and die...and he doesn’t like that feeling at all.  

 

“So, I guess that whole ‘loving you forever’ thing is looking a little less like hyperbole now,” Tony says, eyes closed and face still buried against Bucky.  He releases the intensity of his grip a little, mostly to try and gauge if Bucky’s ready to let go yet. Bucky does loosen his hold on him in return, pressing a kiss into Tony’s hair.

 

“It wasn’t ever hyperbole, for me,” Bucky says softly.

 

Tony looks up at him, his face so open and trusting that Bucky just has to kiss him.  They fill the next few minutes with sweet, gentle kisses, eventually falling asleep with their foreheads touching and breath mingling.  

 

There’s no Jarvis or JARVIS to wake them later, so they end up sleeping past noon.  Steve is still there too, joining them for a late lunch. It’s a quiet meal. It mostly consists of Tony and Bucky being unable to keep their hands off each other, in a totally non-sexual way, of course, and Steve watching the both of them as if continually trying to make sure they’re ok.  

 

“You should come by the house this weekend,” Steve tells them, “Marjie was already planning on coming over, you can make good on your promise to arm wrestle her.”

 

“I am kind of looking forward to seeing how well I can hold my own against her now,” Tony agrees, mischief in his eyes. He looks to Bucky to see what he thinks of the idea.  

 

“We might have to get the old sparring mats out, it’d be good for you to get a feel for your new strength as quickly as possible.  I don’t even know how many spoons I bent, back when I was adjustin’ to it,” Bucky agrees.

 

Steve leaves shortly after that, to check up on Peggy and make sure she hasn’t decapitated Director Michaels and/or taken control of SHIELD again overnight.  

 

Tony isn’t too keen on just hanging around the mansion for no reason at the moment, so he goes to find his mom and tell her goodbye, while Bucky decides to be the bigger man and at least attempt to check up on Howard.  

 

He finds him in his study, already halfway through a bottle of Macallan’s.  

 

“We’ll see you around, Howard, Tony and I are taking off now,” he says, sighing internally and not able to keep all of the disappointment out of his voice.  

 

“Great.  Thanks for the warning ,” Howard says sarcastically.  

 

Normally, Bucky wouldn’t rise to the bait when Howard’s this far into his scotch, but there’s something about his tone that makes it abundantly clear that he’s decided to blame Bucky for not warning him about all of this.

 

“You know, you’re probably too drunk to remember this, but I did give you a warning.  Right after I finally got you to really believe me, standing on a hillside upstate with a row of shattered glass across the valley as my proof.  Do you remember that , Howard?”

 

“I remember,” Howard practically sneers, “I also remember you told me I’d have a son.  I don’t remember you telling me he’d be a fag and you’d end up fucking him,” Howard adds, barely even slurring for all that he reeks of alcohol.  

 

Bucky has been called a lot of things in his life, and he hasn’t ever let the bad ones get to him too much, mostly because he knows he could end the idiot calling him them in a heartbeat if he wanted.  But it’s different to hear Tony being insulted. And by his own father at that.

 

Unfortunately, he can’t throw Howard through the window of his study like he wants to without killing him, which Tony would probably frown upon.  

 

Probably, anyway...

 

“I told you the only thing you needed to know, which was that building weapons wasn’t the future.  Maybe I could have said more, but I’ll tell you what, Howard,” Bucky says calmly, the same stillness settling over him as when he lines up to take a mile long shot, “I’ve changed this world so much that the people from the other dimension wouldn’t even recognize it, if they saw it.  But there’s one thing that I know for a fact will be the same, no matter what.  When people in our future hear the name ‘Stark’, it’ll mean Tony , and you’ll never be anything more than a footnote in his history.”  

 

Howard’s face darkens, to the point that Bucky would be concerned for his blood pressure, if he wasn’t holding himself back from giving the man a spontaneous flying lesson in the first place.

 

Bullseye.

 

“Fuck you, Barnes.  What the fuck have you ever done?  Playing house with your best friend and his wife, then dicking around in the army, fucking your way through the Bay Area while you ‘got your degree’…  You went to the future! You saw things that most people couldn’t even comprehend existing! And all you used it for was to save Steve and stop SI from making weapons,” Howard continues to sneer, his tone angry and disbelieving of Bucky’s stupidity.  

 

“Oh come off it, Howard, you have no idea how many things are different.  Your own ungrateful ass still being alive is one of them. What do you think the world looks like when it’s full of the most futuristic weapons possible?  A fucking war zone, that’s what. And you’ve been in one, so I know you know exactly what I’m talking about. Sometimes you have to put the good of the world ahead of your own personal gain, asshole.  And you’re still rich as fuck anyway, so I don’t get what the hell you think you have to complain about,” Bucky says, or rather, practically shouts back. They’ve both raised their voices at this point, and this is way past the sort of mildly irritated arguments they’ve been getting into for years.

 

“You could have warned me about the serum,” Howard spits out, which makes Bucky boil .

 

“Well I didn’t know about the new serum, because future Tony never knew about the serum, because you died in that dimension before you had a chance to fuck that particular piece of it up,” Bucky glares at him.  

 

“Oh, so everything that’s wrong with that future was my fault, that’s great to know,” Howard says sarcastically.

 

“Not everything, but close enough to that I couldn’t just sit around and let you help burn the world down,” Bucky fires back.

 

“And if I’ve done so much better here, then why the hell do you still hate me?” Howard asks, spilling a little of his drink as he slams it down on his desk, “Because it’s obvious you do, don’t even try to deny it.”

 

“Howard, I don’t hate you, but you make it real hard not to sometimes,” Bucky admits.  “Yeah, things are a hell of a lot better here than they could have been, but you still ain’t no fucking saint.  A man’s still accountable for his own actions, even if they weren’t as horrible as they could have been,” Bucky tells him, “And you, Howard , are a drunk and an asshole, and you show so little affection to the people you claim to care about that it’s a wonder Tony even exists .”

 

“Wow, as much as I would love to just jump right into this conversation,” Tony says from the doorway, raising an eyebrow, “I’m going to have to be the voice of reason here and tell you guys to cool your jets for a bit.”

 

Howard starts to open his mouth, but Tony cuts him off.

 

“John’s limo just pulled up, probably to check on you after last night’s little assassination attempt ,” Tony says, referencing their official story, “So splash some water on your face and pretend you give a shit about living again for a little while, dad, because Bucky and I are only going to be able to stall him in the foyer for so long.”

 

“Which John?” Howard asks with a frown.

 

“Kennedy,” Tony says pointedly, daring his dad to contradict his suggested course of action.

 

Howard looks mulish, but he waves them off and heads for the hidden bathroom attached to his study, slamming the door to it.  

 

Bucky turns to Tony, pulls him into his arms, and lays a toe curling kiss on him.  

 

“Jeez, you going to throw me over your shoulder and carry me off caveman-style too?” Tony teases, obviously not upset with however much he heard of Bucky’s tirade.

 

“Over the shoulder is a little undignified, I was thinking more like princess carry,” Bucky smiles back.  

 

Tony laughs.  “Well, we do have a former President to stall…  Dignified it is!”

 

Bucky sweeps him up and carries him out of Howard’s study, both of them grinning as they go.  It’s probably not the right tone to present after a supposed assassination attempt, but Bucky’s so fed up with Howard’s bullshit right now that he doesn’t care if his actions don’t line up exactly with the cover story.  

 

“John, what a pleasant surprise!  You know Bucky of course,” Tony says as casually as if he had walked in the room under his own power.  

 

Maria, who had answered the door already, gives them an exasperated look, but doesn’t comment on their positions.

 

“Of course, it’s been a while, but it’s good to see you again, Bucky.  I’d offer to shake, but…” John says, chuckling a bit as he looks at Tony in Bucky’s arms.  

 

“It’s good to see you again too, John.  How’s Robert doing?” Bucky says cordially, tipping his head to him in lieu of a handshake.

 

They talk about various family member’s political ambitions, or lack thereof, for a few minutes, before propriety dictates that they not stall any longer.

 

“Well, it’s been real swell catching up with you, but I think Howard’s probably had enough time to sober up a little now, so we’ll leave you to it,” Bucky nods.  

 

Tony puts a hand over his eyes dramatically, still in Bucky’s arms of course, and says, “I think you’re missing the whole point of ‘causing a distraction’, Bucky.”

 

“Oh, trust me, I’m sure John’s seen Howard plenty inebriated at two in the afternoon before,” Bucky says.

 

“You’re not wrong…” John agrees.

 

“Well, I guess you have the situation under control, then,” Tony says, holding out his own hand to shake John’s, still ensconced in Bucky’s arms.  

 

After they say goodbye, John shakes his head as he lets Maria lead him down the hall, chucking as he goes.  

 

Bucky and Tony make their escape while everyone else is occupied.  

 

“Did you ever get your scandium, babe?” Bucky asks as he deposits Tony into the driver’s seat of the Ferrari they came in.  

 

“As a matter of fact, I did not,” Tony sighs, “But I really just want to go home at this point…”

 

“No problem, whatever you want, babe.”

 

They have a fundraiser to go to the next evening.  

 

Howard gives Bucky a gruff apology and doesn’t drink anything but sparkling cider the entire night.  

 

Bucky will eat his boots if the apology is genuine or Howard’s own idea, he bets it was at Maria or even Steve’s insistence…  Either way he accepts it though, for Tony’s sake.



Chapter Text

1996 - part II

 

By the time they head to Steve’s place that Saturday, Tony has broken three toothbrushes, two glasses, ripped their bedroom door off its hinges, and accidentally snapped the TV remote in half.  Thankfully JARVIS is able to hijack the cable box and change channels for them. Tony also completely destroyed a set of Bucky’s clothes while trying to get them off him, but that one wasn’t exactly an accident…  

 

“Hey, Stevie, you got those mats setup?  Tony’s itchin’ to have a go at your girl,” Bucky grins, seeing Marjie’s car is there already ahead of them.  

 

“Oh, we’re all set, I hope you don’t mind a bit of an audience,” Steve warns them, giving both Bucky and Tony hugs before letting them in.  Life threatening experiences do tend to make Steve more touchy for a while.

 

“Uh, how much and what kind?” Tony asks.  He’s not exactly one to shy away from the limelight, but he’s actually become a bit afraid of hurting people over the past few days, which is totally understandable.  Bucky runs a hand soothingly up and down his back.

 

“Just Nick, Phil, Clint, and then Ruthie’s family showed up too, spur of the moment…” Steve tells them.

 

“Oh, that’s fine,” Tony nods, “As long as it’s people I know…  Wait, is Nick supposed to know about the whole serum thing?”

 

“Peggy read him in,” Steve says as they head down the hall, “She said it was just a matter of time before it became ‘need to know’ for him anyway.”

 

“Huh, she was serious about Michaels being ‘out’, wasn’t she?” Bucky asks.  

 

“He’s getting his gold watch on Monday,” Steve says with an approving nod, “They asked me to deliver it myself.”  

 

“Nice.  Hopefully someone gets a good shot of his face through the security feed when you hand it to him,” Bucky chuckles.  

 

“I’ll put in a request,” Steve grins.

 

“Tony!  Alright, let’s get this party started!” Marjie woops when they enter the family room.  All the furniture has been cleared back to the edges of the room, except for a card table and two chairs.  The practice mats have already been laid down in the open area. She sits herself down in one of the chairs and puts her elbow on the table indicating she’s ready to arm wrestle as soon as he is.  It’s clear there will be a whole lot more than just arm wrestling going on today though.

 

Tony laughs and pulls up the other seat right away, waving a general hello to everyone else gathered.  “You’re awfully eager to get your ass kicked,” Tony shoots her a grin as he positions his own arm on the table.  

 

“What can I say, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a challenge,” Marjie says as they grasp hands.  

 

In the background, Clint sighs as if remembering just how much of a challenge he wasn’t for her.

 

“Should somebody count us down, or should we just?…” Tony squeezes Marjie’s hand playfully without trying to actually push it down.  She gives him a warning look, squeezing back and acting like she might push back at any moment too.

 

They conscript Ruthie’s granddaughter, Tina, who is six years old and can reliably make her way all the way to a hundred, to count them down.  When she finally says, “GO!”, Tony starts out at about what he figures is half his full strength. Although he isn’t sure what his actual limits are yet, which is part of the point of this whole exercise...

 

Marjie’s eyes widen when he holds his own against her.  

 

Tony grins.

 

Then he slams her hand down onto the table, cracking the plastic of it in the process.  

 

“Holy fucking Christ on a cracker,” Marjie swears, rubbing at her shoulder afterward and giving Tony a disbelieving look.  

 

“Language,” little Tina says, giving her a frown and making all the watching adults chuckle.

 

Tony’s moment of triumph is short lived though, because he immediately feels bad for having hurt her.

 

“Yes!  Oh, uh, sorry…  Are you ok?” he asks.  

 

Marjie’s look turns flat and offended.  Then her eyes sparkle, and that’s all the warning Tony gets before she rips the table out from between them and tackles him.  They wrestle around on the floor for a bit, but it’s just playful, neither of them are really learning anything.

 

Since he’s used to having to depend on his wits when roughhousing, having the extra strength on top of that gives Tony a clear advantage in their scuffle.  He gets Marjie pinned twice in a row. The third “round”, he bends her arm behind her back to get some leverage, and she cries out in pain. Tony lets go of her right away, but ends up pinned himself a second later when she flips their positions.

 

“Hey!  You’re a lying, faking, cheater , Marjie,” he grumbles with his face pressed against the mat.  

 

“Yep,” she says without a hint of remorse, letting him up after only a few seconds.  She ruffles his hair as he sits up, “And you, Tony, are still a soft hearted fool.”

 

He bats at her hand in annoyance, but it’s with fondness more than being truly upset.

 

She puts her hands on his shoulders for a moment as they’re sitting on the mat.  “Never change,” Marjie says, squeezing gently to reinforce her words. Then she drops her hands and stands up.  “Alright, it’s dad’s turn to have a crack at you, so if you need a moment to prepare yourself, no one will judge.”

 

“Ugh.  Alright.  At least he’s not a cheater like you,” Tony says dramatically, letting the seriousness of the moment pass.  

 

“When’s my turn then?” Bucky asks as Steve heads for the mats and Tony gets to his feet.

 

“We can have a turn after I show Tony a few things,” Steve answers.

 

“I didn’t mean with you , punk,” Bucky rolls his eyes.

 

“You and Tony don’t need to wrestle, jerk, we try to keep family gatherings rated PG ,” Steve says sarcastically, causing Marjie and pretty much everyone but the little kids to snicker.  

 

“That’s fine,” Tony quips back, throwing Bucky an exaggerated wink, “We already wrestled this morning anyway.”  

 

Steve blushes, but it’s the only ‘win’ Tony gets out of him that afternoon.  

 

While Tony tests the true limits of his new strength with Steve, Bucky finds himself unexpectedly cornered by Peggy and Nick in the kitchen.  Peggy pulls a noise cancelling device out of her pocket and sets it on the table, motioning for him to come sit in the range of the field it produces.  

 

“What’s up, guys?” Bucky asks after he sits, knowing immediately that they must want something from him.  

 

Nick, bless him, cuts straight to the chase.

 

“You know, the way I figure it, I never would have lost my eye if your dumb ass had been strapped into that chopper properly,” Nick says casually, no heat to it, “So you owe me, Colonel.”

 

Bucky blinks at him.  

 

“Jeez…  You know, you can just ask nicely, you don’t need to go all guilt trip-y on me…” Bucky mutters, fiddling with the tab on his coke-a-cola.  

 

“In less than 48 hours, Nick is going to become the new Director of SHIELD,” Peggy says, no nonsense, “And he’s going to need all the eyes and ears on his side possible.  Steve has already agreed to finally take a full time position within the organization, but I’m sure he would appreciate any support you could give as well,” Peggy tells him.

 

“I have a job,” Bucky points out, partly just to see how far they’re willing to go with this.  

 

“A job working for Howard ,” Peggy says, her tone full of a disdain Bucky’s never heard her put in his name before.

 

“A job working with Tony,” Bucky corrects, giving her an expectant look.  

 

Tony’s part in this is beyond reproach,” Peggy says, “It’s his father whose actions have all been suddenly cast into doubt.”

 

“You don’t trust him anymore,” Bucky realizes, “After the serum thing…”

 

“The serum thing , as you so eloquently put it, made a review necessary.  It would be beyond foolish to just go blithely on as if nothing had changed,” Peggy says, posture stiff.

 

Which means they must have found something.  

 

They let him sit and think for a moment, but Bucky doesn’t need it.  What he needs are answers.

 

“What else have you found?” he asks.  

 

“Nothing concrete yet, but…  Things aren’t adding up, on the moon…” Peggy shares a look with Nick.  

 

Oh.

 

Oops.

 

“Uh…  What kind of things?...  Bucky asks, rubbing the back of his neck.  

 

Peggy gives him a look that’s as flat as it is threatening, because she lived with him for twenty years and can read him like a book.

 

“What do you mean, what kind of things ?” she asks.  

 

“I mean, uh, there’s this project I’ve been workin’ on with Tony, off the books , and, uh, it might have made a few shipping manifests seem wonky…  And a few storage units look like they were mislabeled…” Bucky admits.

 

“What kind of project?” Peggy asks, looking angry at him yet relieved that Howard wasn’t dealing behind their backs in yet another area.  

 

Bucky glances down at the noise canceler to make sure it’s still on.  Nick leans back in his chair and crosses his arms over his chest when he sees the action.  Peggy just waits expectantly, knowing she will be answered.  

 

“The ‘thwarting an alien invasion’ kind,” Bucky says sheepishly.  

 

Dead silence reigns for a second, before Peggy breaks it.

 

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

 

“It’s just a small one!” Bucky defends not having told her before, holding up his fingers with about an inch gap, which also serves the purpose of having his arm raised defensively between them.  

 

Peggy closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, looking like she’s mentally restraining herself from causing Bucky physical pain.  

 

He appreciates that.  

 

“How long?’ she asks, eyes flying open once she’s composed herself.

 

“In the other dimension, it wasn’t until 2012,” Bucky tells her, “It may not line up exactly here, but that’s what Tony and I have been shooting for…  They only hit New York there, before they were stopped. If things play out the same here, they won’t even get that far, but, you know there’s a lot of variables to somethin’ like that,” Bucky shrugs apologetically.  

 

“No shit, Sherlock,” Nick says, staring him down in disbelief that they weren’t informed of this.  

 

Bucky isn’t affected by it though, the helicopter thing was a much better angle on him, as far as guilt trips go.  He did eventually tell Nick and Phil about his time travel adventure, but only the barest outline. He doesn’t owe them anything in that regard, that’s for sure.

 

“Does Steve know?” Peggy asks, drawing Bucky’s attention back to her.  

 

“No.  The only person I’ve ever told everything to was Tony,” Bucky tells her.  

 

She nods, letting out a relieved breath.  “Why him?” she asks a second later.

 

“Because…  He’s the one who’s going to be the most help.  If we do this right, it won’t even come to a ground fight, which is the only thing everyone one else could hope to be helpful in,” Bucky points out.  

 

Peggy gives him an evaluating look, but eventually she nods in agreement.  

 

“There’s more you aren’t telling me, isn’t there?” she says.

 

Bucky looks down at his metal hand, flexing it open and closed.

 

“Yeah.”  

 

“And you’re not going to, are you?”

 

“No, probably not…”

 

“I kind of want to shoot you, just for holding so much back,” Peggy says, in the same tone one would use to talk about what they’re thinking of having for lunch, “But then that makes me no better than Howard , in terms of anger toward you…  And plus, Steven would be sad…”

 

“Yeah, and we can’t have that, now can we,” Bucky says, feeling a sense of déjà vu as he nods along.

 

“I suppose if I didn’t want to live a life filled with secrets, I shouldn’t have become a spy,” Peggy sighs.  

 

“I guess I could maybe do a part time thing, for SHIELD,” Bucky acquiesces in apology, “Start off just trainin’ new recruits or something.  I ain’t exactly spy material in this dimension, people kind of know my face,” Bucky says with a self-deprecating smile.  

 

“I’d appreciate it,” Peggy says tiredly, but still kindly, in the end.

 

“So, who will I actually be reporting to, you or Nick?” Bucky asks, scratching his chin.  

 

Peggy and Nick share a look, then they each turn back to him and say, “Both,” at the same time.

 

“Ok,” Bucky snorts, “Glad we cleared that up…”

 

“Hey,” Steve knocks on the side of the door frame leading into the kitchen, obviously able to tell they’re using the noise canceler, “Is it ok if we grab something to eat?  Tony and I pretty hungry…”


“My stomach is going to eat its way through my spine , no wonder you guys have like fifteen meals a day,” Tony says, clutching his middle as he comes in behind Steve.  Steve chuckles and puts an arm around Tony’s shoulders, giving him a sort of half hug. Tony beams up at him, basking in the implied approval.  

 

Bucky knows Steve would never say it, because there’s absolutely nothing wrong or lacking with any of his girls, but he knows that Steve has always felt like Tony was the son he never had.  

 

“Of course, darling,” Peggy says after turning off the device, “We’re done here anyway.  Bucky’s agreed to help out at SHIELD on a part time basis, going forward.”

 

“Yeah?  That’s great,” Steve smiles, happy to be working with his best friend again.

 

Tony is already in the fridge by then, rummaging, and his head pops up over the door while he points a cheese stick at Bucky.  “Uh, this better not cut into our wrestling time,” he says with a raised eyebrow.  

 

“Of course not,” Bucky assures him, “Besides, SHIELD has training rooms and mats too, we could always wrestle there if we need to,” he adds with a grin and a wink.

 

“Oh, hell no.  You motherfuckers will not fuck on SHIELD property,” Nick speaks up, scowling at them.

 

Bucky rolls his eyes playfully.  “Now who sounds like Howard…”

 

“What?!  Did my dad threaten you about having sex with me at SI?” Tony asks, his interest instantly piqued.

 

“Oh yeah, threatened to fire me and everything,” Bucky says.

 

Tony tilts his head.  “But we have sex at SI all the time…”

 

“Well, he said only if he caught us,” Bucky grins.

 

“You know, that puts the copier incident in a much different light now,” Tony says thoughtfully.

 

“I changed my mind, I don’t need your help after all,” Nick says, sounding completely serious.  

 

“Overruled,” Steve says before anyone else can chime in.  

 

Peggy just smiles and gives Nick a “what can you do” shrug.  

 

Nick sighs and rubs his temple.

 

“How about this, we’ll make a game out of it there like we do in the labs, where getting caught means you lose,” Bucky offers.

 

“Yeah, I bet we could give Phil and Clint a run for their money,” Tony agrees, peeling open a yogurt and handing one to Steve too.  

 

“Phil and Clint are not fucking,” Bucky says, frowning, because he is 100% sure Clint and Natasha were an item in the future...

 

“Uh, they totally are, babe, try to keep up,” Tony insists, matter of fact.

 

“Phil’s gay?  Didn’t he and Marjie have a thing a few years ago?” Steve asks.  

 

“Some people like both,” Tony points out.  

 

“Actually, ‘Marjie and I’ was just a cover for my parents that year while my dad was dying of cancer,” Phil says as he comes into the room, Clint and Marjie both trailing behind him.

 

“Yeah, I thought about becoming a professional beard for a while, but SHIELD pays better,” Marjie says nonchalantly, heading for the fridge herself.  

 

“And you get to shoot things,” Phil adds.

 

Marjie gives him double finger guns in agreement.  

 

“I’m going to regret this,” Nick says, as if talking to himself.  

 

“Nah, you already regret this,” Bucky grins as Tony comes and sits in his lap.   

 

“Regret what?” Clint asks, stuffing his face with leftover pizza even though he isn’t a super soldier.  

 

“Bucky’s coming to work for SHIELD,” Nick tells him.

 

“Didn’t he help found SHIELD?” Clint frowns, speaking around his mouthful.  

 

“Not officially,” Phil answers.

 

Clint just nods as if that explains it.  

 

Bucky’s pretty sure that doesn’t explain anything, because he didn’t have anything to do with it, officially or not...

 

“So, what’s this contest we’re having?  I think we missed that part when we came in…” Phil asks.

 

“Whoever gets caught fucking at SHIELD first, loses,” Tony tells him.

 

“What’s the winner get?” Clint wants to know, “And if you say ‘respect’, I will sock you in the face, fair warning, dude.”

 

Tony grins, “How about the losers agree to ‘owe’ the winning team a favor?”

 

“Collectively, or individually?” Phil asks.  

 

“What the hell, let’s go for individually, we all live high stakes lives already,” Tony says.

 

“Sounds good to me,” Bucky agrees.

 

“You’re on then,” Phil says, tipping his glass of water in Bucky and Tony’s direction.

 

“Sweet,” Clint echos, shooting Phil a lascivious grin.  

 

Nick threatens to shoot them, any of them, if he finds out they’ve been at it in his office.  

 

Later that afternoon, Steve pulls the future Director aside and uses Peggy’s noise cancelling device to make their conversation private.  

 

“I’ll bet you ten bucks that I can keep both couples from having sex at SHIELD,” Steve says, grinning conspiratorially.  

 

Nick squints his one eye at him, “Yeah?  For only ten bucks? You’re on. You might have the pull with Bucky and Tony to get them to stop, but Clint was already a menace before this, and he doesn’t look up to you like Phil does.”

 

“I guess we’ll see, won’t we,” Steve says as they shake on it.  

 

He hasn’t worked much with Nick, but they’ve seen each other around occasionally, so Steve looks at this as an opportunity for them to get to know each other better.  

 

The next morning, Nick has an email from Steven G. Rogers in his personal account, with two files attached to it.  They’re separate video clips of Steve pulling each couple aside and pointing out to them that the most sure fire way to not be the first ones caught having sex at SHIELD is to not have sex at SHIELD at all.  

 

“Motherfucker…” Nick says to himself as he watches each couple grin and agree.

 

The body of the email just says, “I hope you didn’t think Peggy kept me around because I was a pretty face - Steve.”

 

Nick gives things some time to actually play out, to make sure neither couple backs out of their strategy…  But as far as he can tell, and Nick can tell a lot of things, there have been no sexual encounters going on in SHIELD’s halls for the entire first six months that he’s Director.

When Christmas rolls around, Nick catches Steve’s eye and puts a ten dollar bill in his stocking.  Steve laughs as he walks over and says, “I knew you’d pay up eventually.”

 

“What’s going on over here?  Is Nick giving out cash bonuses?” Tony says, having seen their little exchange.  

 

“Do I look like motherfucking Santa Clause to you?” Nick asks.

 

Steve puts a hand over Tony’s mouth as soon as he opens it.

 

“Don’t answer that.”





1997

 

Stark Tower is opened for business in the fall of ‘97, sleek and modern and sophisticated.  JARVIS has been up and running in the building since before it was even technically completed.  Tony has to completely revolutionize the semiconductor and circuit board industries in order to give J the capacity he needs to be able to do everything Tony envisions, but it’s no big deal.  He can take a weekend out of his life to give the world a jump start into the 21st century, no problem.






1998

 

“It really doesn’t bother you, does it?”

 

“What, that?” Tony glances at the tabloid headline that declares “PRINCESS TONY” in three inch font.  He scoffs and picks it up off the rack, grabbing a snickers from the candy display too. “If I’m offended, it’s only because they never manage to get my good side in these things,” he says, flipping through it.  “Look at this, this angle is horrid,” he frowns, “If they wanted pictures of me having sex that badly, they could have just asked .”

 

“And you would have delivered.”

 

“What makes you think I don’t already have 8x10 glossies ready to go?” Tony grins at Phil’s newest recruit.  

 

“Ok Boss, we’re all topped off and ready to roll,” Happy says, coming into the gas station after them.  

 

“Excellent!  Snickers for the road?” Tony asks.  Both of them decline. Tony shrugs, because it’s their loss.  He grabs like six more of them from the display and throws a hundred dollar bill at the cashier on their way out.  

 

“Hey, I’m not the one who’s going to be trying on gowns all afternoon,” Tony says in response to the disapproving glance he receives as he shoves the first one in his mouth.  

 

“This whole outing is pointless.  SHIELD can provide me with sufficient attire for the op.”

 

Tony puts a hand over his chest, offended.  “Natasha, my definition of ‘sufficient’ and SHIELD’s are two vastly different things.  You’ll learn.”

 

<//>

 

“Your mom’s going to kill you,” Bucky chuckles, watching the footage from the press conference over again.  

 

“She’s just upset that I wore it better,” Tony says, sticking his nose in the air snootily.  

 

“That tiara was handmade for her and Howard’s wedding, you probably should have at least asked first,” Bucky says, grinning as the collective room of reporters loses it when Tony walks in wearing said tiara.

 

“And I had that suit custom made to match it,” Tony says, defending his stylistic choices.  “Even the respectable news outlets have referred to me as ‘Prince Tony’ more than a few times over the years, you know, what with the whole ‘moon being its own country’ thing…  Never mind that we never actually established a monar-”

 

“Tony, if you keep ignoring your mom’s calls, you know she’s just going to call Steve,” Bucky points out as Tony’s phone once again rings through to voicemail.  

 

“Sir, your mother has requested that I inform you that if you do not call her within the next two minutes, she will sell the video of you from Christmas of ‘75 to the tabloids herself,” JARVIS relays politely.  

 

Tony springs up out of his seat, stabbing the speed dial on his phone as he heads for the kitchen.  

 

“JARVIS, what’s this video from ‘75 about?” Bucky asks quizzically, watching him go.

 

“Forgive me, Master Barnes, but I’m not entirely sure.  Such a video has not ever been uploaded into my data banks,” JARVIS apologizes.  

 

“Huh…  Christmas of ‘75…  Tony would only have been four, almost five years old…”

 

“That is correct, Master Barnes.”

 

A grin spreads over Bucky’s face when he realizes that far from being anything scandalous, this mystery video probably contains something ridiculously cute .  

 

“J, call up Steve for me, would you?” Bucky requests.

 

“Placing the call now, Sir,” JARVIS responds.  

 

“Hey Buck, what’s up?” Steve answers.

 

“Got a quick question for you.  Do you happen to have a copy of the video from Christmas of ‘75?” Bucky asks him.

 

Steve chuckles into the phone.  “I sure do. I was thinking of saving it for the reception though, if Tony ever decides to make an honest man out of you,” Steve tells him.  

 

“Apparently his mom thinks it’s good enough to use as blackmail material,” Bucky informs him, grinning to himself at the thought of what it might contain.  

 

“Yeah?  I guess it could be…  You guys should come by this weekend and we can all watch it together,” Steve offers.

 

“I just might have to take you up on that,” Bucky agrees.  

 

“Excellent.  I’ll let Peggy know you’ll be swinging by.”

 

“Let’s make it Saturday, Tony and I will bring dinner with us.  That way you don’t have to cook after training those SHIELD kids all day.”

 

“Half of them are in their 30’s, Buck,” Steve points out, “but yeah, that would be great.”

 

“Steve, I am eighty-one years old, they’re kids if I say they’re kids.”

 

“As if your batch is any better,” Steve taunts him.

 

“I guess we’ll find out at the end of the year, won’t we?” Bucky says with a little hint of challenge in his voice.  Tony must be done talking to his mom, because he comes back into the living room then, no phone pressed against his ear.  “I’m gonna have to let you go, Steve, we’ll see you Saturday.”

 

“Is that Uncle Steve?  Bye, Uncle Steve!” Tony sing-songs, dropping back onto the couch next to Bucky.  

 

“Bye guys, see you then,” Steve says, no indication of their original topic in his voice, god bless him.  

 

“How did it go with your mom?” Bucky asks Tony as he flops back down on the couch.

 

“Ugh, I have to help her plan SI’s annual ‘Gala for the Arts’ this year to make it up to her.  Pepper is a horrible influence on her, I’m just saying…” Tony groans. “I bet it was her idea to blackmail me with that video too…”

 

“I thought you liked Pepper?” Bucky asks.

 

“Of course I do, she’s intelligent, efficient, and down right ruthless when she needs to be.  I just don’t like it when she’s helping my mother be ruthless to me .”

 

“I guess you should just be glad she’s your dad’s PA, and not yours…” Bucky tries to help him see the bright side.

 

“Did I tell you he showed up drunk and then passed out during the last board meeting?  Just straight up started snoring in the middle of it, and she ran the rest of it for him, wouldn’t let any of them leave until they’d signed off on the expansion of the robotic limbs division?   Pepper is amazing ,” Tony tells him.  

 

“SI’s lucky to have her,” Bucky agrees with a chuckle.  

 

“Hell, maybe I’ll make her run it and deal with all those ‘old fashioned’ bastards on the board after it passes to me…  God knows I don’t want any part of being stuck in an office all day…” Tony muses.

 

“Although,” Bucky says, “At that point, I could take that seat on the board everyone always jokes about, and we could flirt increasingly brazenly until the more homophobic members just quit…”  

 

“I like the way your mind works, babe,” Tony grins, “Good plan.”

 

<//>

 

There’s a media storm near the end of the year, but this time it’s not about Tony.  

 

It’s about Matthew Shepard.  

 

Bucky’s still riding on the lingering disgust he feels at some of this country’s current leadership over the appointment proceedings this summer for Hormel, the first openly gay man to be nominated as a U.S ambassador.  

 

When he sees the breaking news over Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder, he’s sick to his stomach for the first time in almost sixty years.  

 

Tony sits beside him, equally stone-faced at the news.  

 

“I forget sometimes, how bad it still is out there for some folks,” Bucky says quietly.  

 

“It’s different when you’re rich and famous, it’s…  There’s a layer of protection there, even when I wasn’t a super soldier myself,” Tony agrees.  “So much of that stuff, we just don’t worry about as much...the violence…”

 

Angry tears slip down Bucky’s face at the injustice and outright hatred still so present in their world, even as they’re about to enter a new millennium.  “I can’t not do something about this, or to help, you know? I, feel like I need to do something ,” Bucky says, frustrated but too emotional in the moment to focus on the bigger picture.

 

“I know, babe, I know…” Tony says, squeezing his hand, “We will.  And more than just holding hands when we go out. I mean, everyone knows I’m gay, but a lot of people refuse to ‘label’ you with it still.  Usually out of some sort of misplaced sense of respect , but still…  If you came out, officially, just that would go a long way toward helping change people’s views on being gay.”

 

“You think so?” Bucky asks.

 

“Definitely.  I mean, if you made a big enough splash with the ‘announcement’, you might even get it put into a few history books, eventually,” Tony tells him.

 

“History books…  I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to just finally let them do that biography of my life, but, you know, an honest one…” Bucky says.

 

Tony runs his fingers through Bucky’s hair soothingly.

 

“If you included Ian in it, and how you stopped the Vietnam war for him, they wouldn’t be able to ignore that…” Tony points out.  “That’s a huge historical narrative that there’s been question about over the years, why you just suddenly appeared at a rally one day with such a passionate demand, when there wasn’t anything ‘on record’ of you being against the war before that…  People wouldn’t be able to sweep that under the rug, if you know what I mean.”

 

Bucky nods solemnly, realizing he’s right.  “It wouldn’t feel right to out him like that without talkin’ to his family first though, even though he’s gone…”

 

“If you would like, Master Barnes,” JARVIS interrupts kindly, “I have enough available information between the scans of Ensign O’Flaherty’s letters and his military identification number from his dog tags to begin a search for remaining next of kin.”  

 

Bucky stares at the TV for a second before answering.

 

“…You know what?  Go ahead, J. That seems like a good first step to refusin’ to hide anymore.”

 

“Of course, Master Barnes.”

 

“Just don’t get caught hacking the Pentagon, J,” Tony reminds him.

 

“I would never , Sir.”




Chapter Text

1998 - part II

 

Now that Bucky’s ready, he’s the one who auditions biographers.  He wants to make sure he picks someone who’s on the same page with him and will present the reveal of Bucky’s sexuality to the masses in a positive light.  His first choice to interview for it would have been William Manchester, but he’s had a couple strokes in the last decade and basically retired from writing, so Bucky doesn’t even approach him.  

 

Of the five writers that Bucky does meet with, only one outright refuses to work with him when he says that he wants the focus of the project to be his homosexuality.  There’s also only one who actually smiles, his whole face softening in understanding when Bucky says he wants to make it clear throughout the whole book that he’s gay. And that’s Andrew Hodges.  Bucky goes ahead and tells him he has the job then, if he wants it.

 

“But I wanted Andrew Hodges to write my biography,” Tony says in lieu of a greeting when Bucky introduces them.  

 

“Well, our stories are actually pretty intertwined, maybe he can use some of the notes for both,” Bucky suggests with a grin.  

 

Mr. Hodges laughs and says it’s an honor to meet Tony , and does promise to write his biography as well, if he’s still alive when the time comes…but he can’t promise how long he’ll last.

 

“Hm, preemptive biographies, are those a thing?  We could make them a thing. Tony Stark, the young years.  Portrait of a young genius, and all that,” Tony rambles, “Honestly it’s just such an honor to get to meet you, I mean, Alan Turing was like, my hero growing up.  Aunt Peggy met him a few times when she was at Bletchley Park, but she didn’t know him know him.  Oh my god, you have to meet JARVIS, I bet you’d get a kick out of that.”  

 

Mr. Hodges is blown away by the bits of JARVIS’s code that Tony lets him see, and the cold room where his servers are stored.  

 

When he’s finally leaving Stark Tower again, Mr. Hodges thanks Bucky for the opportunity.

 

“Well, you’re welcome.  You were the only one to react positively about me being gay, so you actually owe it to yourself,” Bucky tells him.  

 

Mr. Hodges nods.  

 

“You know, I need to ask, Colonel Barnes, are you really ready for this?  The potential backlash could be, well, huge , with this sort of thing…”

 

“Yeah, I know.  That’s kind of the point,” Bucky tells him.  “Because I can take it. I can take it a whole hell of a lot better than most other guys out there.  And if people see how a person can be gay and still be an upstanding citizen, contribute to society, and be a benefit to mankind, then maybe it’ll help change how they see being gay in general,” Bucky supposes.  

 

“Well, just be careful not to set the bar too high, Colonel Barnes, because if you come off as too perfect in every other way, then it’s not going to be believable,” Mr. Hodges warns him.  

 

“Oh, I ain’t perfect, not by a long shot…  You’ll see. I might have to go look up if certain incidents are still classified or not though…”

 

“You do that,” Mr. Hodges chuckles, “I’ll be back on Wednesday with a tape recorder and an open mind.”

 

“That’s all I ask,” Bucky smiles, appreciating his willingness.  

 

<//>

 

Their first session they spend going over Bucky’s childhood.  Growing up in the Great Depression, working jobs as a child that would be illegal now, meeting Steve and becoming best friends…  Steve’s reaction to stumbling across him kissing a boy in the 30’s.

 

“If this is going to be the first mention of your sexuality in the book, then you should think very carefully about how you want it told,” Andrew tells him.

 

“I just want it told truthfully, that’s all.  People can make their own decisions from there, I figure.  They’re kind of going to anyway,” Bucky answers.

 

“True.”

 

They end up having sessions at least twice a week, sometimes three, because there’s a lot to go over.  Tony is there for most of them, though sometimes he has project deadlines that pull him away.  As they start getting close to the time when Ian entered Bucky’s life, he knows he can’t put off going and talking to the man’s remaining family any longer.  

 

“I’d like to get it out of the way before the holidays anyway,” Bucky decides, “That way we can go into the New Year knowing which way things are going to go.”

 

“Whatever you want, babe,” Tony agrees.

 

<//>

 

Before they make the trip out to Portland, Oregon, where Ian’s brother and his descendants are all listed as living, they take a trip to Arlington first.  

 

It’s snowing again this time.  

 

Tony asks on the way if Bucky wants to stop and get flowers.  

 

“I do kind of want to...but I wasn’t sure if it would be weird for you…” Bucky answers.  

 

“Just because mom finally hired a new butler doesn’t mean I’m going to stop leaving flowers on Jarvis’ grave,” Tony replies.

 

“That ain’t exactly the same thing, doll...” Bucky says, glancing at Tony’s face to see if he can catch any hesitance there.  

 

“It kind of is though…  If you need me to spell it out for you, I will, I was just trying not to be that guy who goes overboard in a delicate moment,” Tony tells him, his face completely open and honest.

 

“It might help if you did, to be honest,” Bucky admits.

 

“I’m not upset, or feeling weird, or even mildly put out by the fact that you want to leave flowers on your ex-lover’s grave.  Because he’s gone, so even though part of you still loves him, I know that you’re with me now and love me , and he’s not a threat to that,” Tony tells him, “That was blunt enough, right?  I mean, I could be a little blunter if I tried, but not by much, not without going full-on asshole…”

 

Bucky cracks a smile, leaning over to give Tony a kiss.  He’s glad they had Happy called in to do the driving on this trip, because it means they can focus on each other and not worry about the road.  

 

“That sounds like something Steve would say,” Bucky says as he bumps their noses together affectionately.  

 

“Well, he is responsible for like 90% of my maturity growth, so I guess it was bound to happen eventually,” Tony says, stealing a couple more kisses.  

 

“J, can you find us a flower shop nearby and send the coordinates to Happy up front?” Bucky asks.

 

“Of course, Master Barnes.  There are three within a five block radius, do you have any preference?” JARVIS asks from the speaker in Tony’s phone.

 

“Any place that has roses is fine,” Bucky tells him.

 

Tony gives Bucky an understanding smile and Bucky falls just a little bit more in love with him.  He didn’t think that was possible at this point, they’ve been together for years and Bucky thought their bond was as strong as it could be, but he guesses he must have been wrong.  His heart swells to new heights there in Tony’s arms, with Bucky just basking in the feeling, hoping it will help hold him up through the uncertainty of what’s to come.

 

“I love you so much, Tony,” Bucky whispers to him.  

 

“I know.  I love you too, Bucky,” Tony replies, hugging him more tightly for a moment.  

 

They pretty much stay like that until they reach the florist.  Tony raises an eyebrow at Bucky purchasing only a single rose, because he’s more the type to have gone for multiple dozens himself.  But Bucky assures him that’s what he’s always done, he isn’t holding back because of Tony’s presence.

 

When they finally arrive at the cemetery, Bucky has a strange moment of feeling like he’s gone back in time, because everything looks so identical to the last time he was here.  But then he turns and looks at Tony at his side, and is able to remind himself exactly what timeline he’s living in.  

 

He brushes the falling snow off of Ian’s grave, cleaning it up a little where some dirt has accumulated in the lettering.  

 

“Hey, doll,” he says, his voice already catching with emotion, “I, uh…  I brought someone to meet you. This is Tony. He… He takes real good care of me.  I thought you’d like to know that,” Bucky says, squeezing Tony’s hand.

 

Tony doesn’t speak, he just nods respectfully at Ian’s grave.  

 

“There’s something else I wanted to tell you too,” Bucky goes on, taking a deep breath.  “I’m comin’ out to the world, about the way I am, and, well, that’s going to include you too, because you were such a big part of my life.  I hope you would have been ok with that. It… It’s gonna end up helping a lot of people, I think. I’m going to have that story of my life written that we talked about, I just won’t be the one doin’ the writin’.  And however much money it makes, I’m goin’ to donate it to a charity to help people like us. I hope your family ends up bein’ ok with it. I’m pretty sure you would have approved…”

 

Bucky runs his hand over Ian’s headstone one more time, the marble icy to the touch in this weather.  

 

“Goodbye, doll,” Bucky says after just staring at the grave for a solid minute.  He lays the rose down at the base of the marker and then turns to Tony. His boyfriend must be able to see how badly he needs a hug, because he opens his arms right away for Bucky to step into.  They hold each other tight for a few minutes before Bucky says, “Ok, I think I’m ready now.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Yeah.  Let’s go shake up the world.”

 

“You got it, babe, I’m right there with you on that.”

 

“Knew you would be,” Bucky smiles.  

 

“Well, shaking up the world is one of the few areas I can be predictable in,” Tony smiles back.

 

“And I’ve always appreciated that about you, doll,” Bucky tells him.  

 

Tony would normally quip back with something about appreciating his appreciativeness, turn things flirty, etc., but he lets the moment stay a little serious, a little somber this time.  He doesn’t want to push it, with the head space that Bucky’s in right now.

 

“Come on, let’s get going then, Happy’s napped in the limo long enough.”

 

“Actually, maybe we could stop by Dum Dum’s and Morita’s graves too, since we’re here?  The Howlies’ section ain’t too far away,” Bucky asks.

 

“Of course, yes, we’re not in any hurry.  Happy does need his beauty sleep, after all,” Tony nods, totally willing to change plans as needed.  

 

They head off hand in hand to visit a few more graves.  It’s not until over an hour later that they finally leave.  But Portland will be there. It’s going to be a multiple day journey by driving anyway.

 

When they do finally arrive at the address listed for Patrick O’Flaherty, Bucky realizes that maybe they shouldn’t have taken the limo, if they wanted to keep from drawing attention to themselves.  They definitely stick out in the residential neighborhood.

 

But it’s too late now to change things, in more ways than one.  

 

Bucky’s palm is honest to god sweating as he knocks on the front door.  Tony’s waiting in the limo, to be there for emotional support afterward, but this was something Bucky felt like he should do on his own.  

 

He has copies of a few of his photos of Ian with him, for reminiscing or for proof, if it’s needed.  He also has copies of a few of their letters, in case things go well and the family wants to read them.  

 

It’s a week before Christmas, and the wreath on the front door jingles when it’s finally opened.  

 

“Can I-  Holy shit, are you Bucky Barnes?!?” a teenage boys says as soon as he sees him.  

 

“Uh, yeah, actually.  I am,” Bucky nods, waving his metal hand at him.  

 

The boy turns and yells into the rest of the house excitedly, “Grandma!  Bucky Barnes is here!”

 

Well, that’s an auspicious start, at least they recognize him...  

 

“Come on in, Captain Barnes, er, I mean Colonel...sorry...  What are you even doing here?” the boy asks him, never taking his wide eyes off Bucky.  

 

“Uh, it’s Colonel, yeah,” he says, seeing an elderly woman coming toward them down the hall, “I was actually lookin’ for a Patrick O’Flaherty, if he’s around?”  

 

“Grandpa’s in the backyard, I’ll go get him for you!” the boy runs off immediately.  

 

“Yes, go fetch him, Oscar,” the woman says calmly as he’s already racing down the hall and is basically gone.  “I’m Elizabeth O’Flaherty, his wife. I must say, I’m quite curious what business you could possibly have with Patrick...” she says as they shake hands in greeting.  

 

“Bucky Barnes, ma’am,” he says by way of introduction, “And I ain’t actually ever met your husband before…  I’m here because of his brother, Ian.”

 

“Ian?  He died in Vietnam…” she says, confused.

 

“Yes, ma’am, he did,” Bucky says, swallowing thickly.  “It’s about his life before that, that I wanted to speak with your family about.”

 

Mrs. O’Flaherty’s demeanor shifts, becoming more pensive at hearing that.  “Would you like some tea, Colonel? It might take a minute for Patrick to clean up after being out in this weather.”

 

“That would be great, ma’am.”

 

She leads Bucky into the kitchen, which is clean but bears obvious signs of teenagers in residence.  The refrigerator is covered in kitschy magnets and report cards, and there’s a calendar on the wall marking sports games and a school dance coming up.

 

“Is it just Oscar, or do you have more grand kids?” Bucky asks politely.    

 

“He has a sister, Inda, who’s a grade older than him.  Patrick and I are raising them,” she adds, but doesn’t offer why.

 

“I’m sorry for your loss,” he says anyway, figuring whether it was death or just severely screwed up life decisions that ended up with the kids’ parents out of the picture, it hurts pretty much the same.  

 

“Thank you.  Do you take cream or sugar?” she asks, getting out supplies as the tea steeps.  

 

“Both, thank you.”

 

It’s silent for a little while, so Bucky tries to keep a thread of conversation going.

 

“Seems like it’s been raining non-stop since we got into Oregon, maybe it’ll let up soon…”

 

“This is Portland, Colonel, it’s always raining,” Mrs. O’Flaherty chuckles.  

 

They talk about the weather, like civilized adults, until Patrick finally appears a few minutes later.  Oscar and a teenage girl that must be Inda are right behind him, staying as close as they dare without getting in the way.  

 

“Wow, you really are Bucky Barnes…  Thought the kids were pullin’ my leg a bit to start,” Patrick says, holding out his hand to shake, “I’m Patrick O’Flaherty.”

 

Bucky stands right away, suddenly nervous again, but he shakes hands firmly with the man who is so obviously Ian’s brother that it hurts.  That’s an emotion he’ll have to leave for another time though, seeing what Ian probably would have looked like at this age.

 

“Bucky.  And, no, sir, they were tellin’ the truth,” Bucky confirms.  

 

“I have to admit, I’m mighty curious to know what brings a famous war hero like you to my door,” Patrick asks.

 

“Actually, it’s about your brother, Ian,” Bucky says, summoning all the courage he can muster.  

 

“Ian?...” Patrick’s face immediately takes a sad turn, remembering his lost sibling.  

 

“Yes, sir.  I, uh, I knew him, back then,” Bucky says, doing his best to keep meeting Patrick’s eyes.  He doesn’t have anything to be ashamed of, and he knows that, but he just hopes he doesn’t upset the remaining few people who remember Ian either.

 

You knew him ?  How?  He wasn’t even in the army, he joined the navy…” Patrick asks.

 

“We didn't meet in the service, no.  We met in a bar on the docks, just before he was set to ship out to ‘Nam, the first time, in ‘62,” Bucky clarifies.  He can see that Mrs. O’Flaherty gets it right away, her eyebrows raising as she sets down the teakettle.

 

Patrick looks like he’s just absorbing the information, nodding along.  Since his wife doesn’t seem to be immediately freaking out, Bucky takes that as a good sign, and presses on.  

 

“And then, when he was back for your dad’s funeral in ‘64, we, uh, met again…  And it was during those two weeks that I asked him to be my fella, my boyfriend,” Bucky adds, to make sure there’s no confusion.  

 

And then he waits.  

 

He can see it in Patrick’s eyes, when it all clicks.  

 

He doesn’t look mad, which Bucky is infinitely relieved for.  He does look shocked though.

 

“I-  Oh my god, you’re the reason he was gone all the time during those two weeks…  We all figured he had someone, and we all figured it was someone Ma didn’t approve of, because she refused to talk about it after he died…” Patrick just stares at him for a moment.  “You have his dog tags, don’t you?” he asks.

 

“I do,” Bucky says gruffly, his voice filled with emotion.  

 

“I can’t believe Ma would have given them to you, she was always so against all that,” Patrick tells him, disbelief still coloring his words.  

 

“Well, she said after she saw my speech on TV, that she was torn, didn’t know what the right thing to do was anymore, ‘cause she could see how much I’d loved him.  She just showed up at my house one day out of the blue and handed everything off to me, his tags, all my letters,” Bucky tells them, feeling more confident as he goes on.  

 

“Your speech?...  Oh my god, you stopped the Vietnam war for my little brother…” Patrick says, looking a little pale.  

 

“Maybe we should sit down?...” Bucky suggests, ready to catch him if he does pass out.  

 

Patrick nods, heading for the nearest chair as the kids race to get seated too.  

 

“It’s always been somewhat of a family mystery, what happened with Ian,” Mrs. O’Flaherty tells him while Patrick is shakily getting himself some tea.  “Patrick and I were there when his things were delivered by the MP’s. There was this huge box with his effects, his duffel bag stuffed full with a mountain of letters, but Ma kept it in her room and wouldn’t let anyone else see them.  She passed of a heart attack only five years later, but no one could find the majority of Ian’s things afterward. We all assumed he’d been involved with a girl she hadn’t approved of and had gotten rid of the letters, but that didn’t account for the dog tags being missing too…”

 

“She told me when she gave me back my letters, that she was doin’ it partly so that no one else would ever see them.  I got the feeling like she didn’t like what she was doing, but that she wasn’t sure what else to do…” Bucky says, “I was just so grateful in the moment that I didn’t question it too much.”

 

“You left the rose, didn’t you?” Patrick speaks up, having pulled himself together a bit.  

 

“At his grave?  Yeah, uh, that’s, that was me,” Bucky says, giving him a sad smile.  There’s no way he could know about his and Tony’s recent visit, so he must be talking about a time in the past.  

 

“I was in Charlottesville for a training course one year…  Oh, back in ‘71, I think? And I figured I’d visit him, since it overlapped with the anniversary of his death.  When I got there, someone had already cleared the snow away and laid a single rose on his headstone… I just stood there, staring at it for so long, eaten up by guilt that he had this person out there who’d cared so much, still cared years later, and we had no way to figure out who they were…  It wasn’t right for her to do that,” Patrick says, tears in his eyes as he meets Bucky’s, “She shouldn’t have kept you from us, she shouldn’t have hid the evidence of you away.”

 

Bucky accepts the tissue Mrs. O’Flaherty offers him when he starts crying as well.

 

“I have some pictures of him, copies of ones we had of each other, if you want them,” Bucky offers, “I brought a few letters too…”

 

Patrick nods enthusiastically right away, “Please, I’d love to see whatever you have.”

 

Bucky didn’t copy any of the ones where he and Ian were kissing, but he did of all the rest of them, even the ones of them by themselves.  “We took these behind a Sears Roebuck three days before he headed back to ‘Nam,” Bucky tells him as he pulls them out.

 

“Oh god, they’re in color,” Patrick says, tearing up again.  It takes him a moment, but he finally tells Bucky, “We only ever had two photos of Ian, one when he graduated from high school, and one in his uniform when he enlisted.  Both of them were black and white.”

 

“Color polaroids had just come out that year.  I went into that Sears just to buy one, just to take these photos,” Bucky says.

 

“God, look at him.   This was my brother, Lizzie, look at how happy he was…” Patrick says, showing them to his wife.  He motions the kids over too, and they get out of their seats to gather around and see their great uncle Ian.  

 

“Those are for you, I, I still have the originals,” Bucky tells him, “And these aren’t all his letters, since I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I copied off a few of them for you…”

 

“Colonel Barnes, I’d be happy to have any piece of him you’re offering,” Patrick tells him, accepting the letters thankfully.  “This, finding out all this, that he was happy and loved, it’s a dream come true for me, for our whole family.”

 

“That kind of brings me to the rest of why I’m here, actually,” Bucky tells him, “I feel bad now, for waitin’ all these years, so I apologize for that.”

 

Patrick waves him off though, understanding Bucky’s trepidation.  

 

“I’m havin’ a memoir done, like a biography type thing, and I wanted to include what I shared with Ian as part of it,” Bucky says, “I want to tell the truth, I want people to know that I’m gay, and that I loved him, and that I stopped a war because of him.  I don’t want them to be able to ignore it, and being able to talk about my relationship with Ian will make it so they can’t. Or at least, it would make it real difficult…”

 

“People have been wondering for years about that speech,” Oscar speaks up, “That’s insane that it was because of uncle Ian…”  

 

“So I’ve heard,” Bucky agrees.  

 

“If approval is what you’ve come here for, Colonel Barnes, you have it.  I’ll sign whatever you want me to,” Patrick offers.

 

“I appreciate that, a lot.  I didn’t actually bring anything legal with me…  Tony’s lawyers said it wasn’t actually required, since Ian’s passed, but it didn’t feel right to me to out him like that without talkin’ to you first,” Bucky replies.  

 

“Oh my god, you really are dating Tony Stark , aren’t you?” Inda speaks for the first time, her jaw dropping open.  

 

“Uh, yeah…  We’ve been together for quite a few years, actually,” Bucky confirms for her.  

 

“Isn’t he a bit young for you?” Mrs. O’Flaherty says, raising an eyebrow.  

 

“Beggin’ your pardon, ma’am,” Bucky says, “But everyone is…  Even Ian probably was, back then… I know I don’t look it, but I’m in my eighties.”

 

“I guess I see your point,” she concedes, tipping her head to him and letting it go.  

 

“Will you sign my trading cards?” Oscar interjects, seeing that the heavy topics have wound down.

 

“Sure, of course,” Bucky says right away.

 

Oscar springs up from the table, presumably to go get them right away.

 

“Only your best set!” Mrs. O’Flaherty calls after him.

 

“I know , Grandma,” he shouts, not slowing down.

 

She sighs and turns to Bucky, “I had to check, he must own a hundred of the things by now, and we don’t want to impose on your goodwill, Colonel.”

 

“It’s not a problem at all, even if he wants me to sign all hundred,” Bucky assures her, “And please, call me Bucky, ma’am.”

 

“Then you should call me Lizzie, everyone does,” she replies.  

 

Bucky ends up staying for a good hour, signing cards and hearing stories about when Ian was little.  He tells them the stories of his dates with Ian in return, the few that they had. They exchange contact info as well, and Bucky promises not to be a stranger.  He also promises them an advanced copy of his biography, so they can look it over before it goes to print.

 

It’s a bit of a time squeeze, with the holiday fast approaching, but Bucky manages to get a trust set up and funded in time for Christmas, to pay for Inda’s and Oscar’s college educations.  He figures that even if Patrick and Lizzie don’t really need any financial assistance themselves, no one turns down free college.



Chapter Text

1999

 

“What about, ‘Bucky Barnes: The Gayest Ranger’, that’s catchy, right?” Tony suggests, grinning.  

 

Mr. Hodges gives him a look, having grown well familiar with Tony’s antics by now.

 

“That might be a little too in-your-face for this project,” he says, shooting Tony’s idea down gently.  

 

“Hmm, what about ‘Bucky Barnes: A Homosexual Military History’?” Tony says next.  

 

“Perhaps you should leave the naming of the book to your better half,” Mr. Hodges suggests back, though it’s with a chuckle.  

 

“Speaking of,” JARVIS interrupts, “Master Barnes is currently on his way up from the garage.”

 

Bucky is apparently “boring” however, and decides to just call the book, “James Buchanan Barnes,” and leave it at that.

 

<//>

 

After the O’Flaherty’s metaphorically sign off on the finished version, the official biography of James Buchanan Barnes goes to print.  

 

Since his proceeds from it are going to charity, Bucky hopes it sells well, but he worries that it won’t, because of being controversial .  

 

His publisher orders a first print to run at a million copies, and assures him it will sell well, because it’s controversial.

 

They arrange for Oprah to get an advanced copy, not for her book club per se, but because she’ll be doing his first promotional interview for it.  But after she’s read it, she assures him she’ll be using it for her book club as well. She normally only does novels, but for this , she’s making an exception.  

 

They’ll record the interview early, so that it can air the day before the book is released.  Bucky lets Tony dress him, putting him in a suit that isn’t even available to the public and shoes that were hand made in Italy.  He also gets his hair professionally styled for the first time.  Bucky’s never had a manicure before either, but Pepper assures him it will go a long way in making him look refined.  He does have to admit after all is said and done, that he does look pretty good…

 

Pretty good?   Pretty good ?  Bucky, baby, love of my life, apple of my eye, Achilles to my Pericles, you look so far beyond good that science has not yet been able to measure this level of hotness before.  Men and women alike will swoon, even the straight guys are going to be questioning their sexuality after you walk out onto that stage,” Tony assures him, offended at his word choice, “... Pretty good …” he mutters again under his breath.

 

“Alright…   Really good, then,” Bucky says teasingly.  

 

“Normally I’d rough you up a little for that comment, but I don’t want to wrinkle your suit,” Tony says, as if he’s doing Bucky an immense favor.  

 

“Oh, I’m sure you’ll rough me up good once we get home again…” Bucky leans over and purrs in his ear.  

 

“I hope you realize that there are any number of recording devices trained on us right now, even though we’re only ‘backstage’,” Tony reminds him.  

 

“Eh, this isn’t the worst thing I’ve purposefully accidentally done on camera,” Bucky says, turning his head to make their whispered conversation into a kiss.  

 

“Ok, you cannot just leave me hanging like that ,” Tony pouts afterward.

 

“Remind me to tell you how I helped Peggy throw a Presidential election once,” Bucky winks at him as he pulls away to take his mark.  

 

“What!  Whose?” Tony fake whispers as Bucky’s walking away.

 

Bucky turns one last time, walking backwards as he presses his finger to his lips in a “quiet” motion.  He passes the edge of the curtain though and is visible to the audience while still doing it, so he sheepishly turns back the right way and walks normally up to Oprah’s desk.  

 

“Damn, he’s good…” Tony says appreciatively as the crowd goes wild.  

 

As they get past the introductions and get the audience settled down, Oprah gets right into it.

 

“I’ll admit, Bucky, when my producers came to me with your book, I didn’t want to read it.”

 

The crowd laughs, because she’s obviously not done.

 

“Military history?  Not really my thing, it’s not my forte.  I thought, ‘oh god, I’m going to be sitting through a battle by battle recount of WWII, there’s no way.  There’s just no way ,” Oprah says, the audience agreeing along with her like they’re supposed to.  

 

“But Stedman insisted.  He insisted .  So I pick up the book, and I notice there’s a picture section in the middle, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘ok, let’s skip ahead and see what all the fuss is about’, because you know how it goes, if a publisher is going to put in pictures, then they’re going to be worth it , they’re going to be the things that are the main focus of the story,” Oprah says, lifting out the section of full color photos that are embedded within the book’s pages.  

 

You very cleverly cannot see any of the pictures, with the angle she’s holding the pages at to the camera.

 

“And when I’d looked at the pictures, I knew immediately that this was a book that I needed to read.  Possibly more than any other before in my life,” she says seriously, almost quietly, making the audience focus to hear her.  

 

She and Bucky both just look at each other for a few seconds, before Oprah closes the book up and says sincerely to Bucky, “Thank you for your service, Colonel Barnes.”

 

The audience claps, their attention rapt, and damn, even Tony is hanging on every word now, and he already knows what’s in the book...

 

Oprah was an excellent choice, he’s going to give Pepper a raise as soon as they get back.  

 

“You’re welcome,” Bucky nods seriously.  

 

The crowd immediately hushes, not wanting to miss a single moment.  

 

“Your story obviously starts before the military part of it that we’re all familiar with, but it’s easy to look at you, sitting here in this chair, in these modern clothes, which are fabulous, by the way, and forget that you lived through the Great Depression,” Oprah prompts him.  

 

“Yeah,” Bucky says, shifting in his seat to be a little more comfortable, “People tend to focus on Steve’s part in my life before the war, because we’ve always been so close, he’s like the brother I never had, but it wasn’t all scrapping in alleyways and tryin’ to keep the punk from dying of pneumonia,” Bucky says.  

 

“You had three sisters as well,” Oprah adds.

 

“Yeah, all younger than me.  All but my baby sister, Rosie, have passed on now, ” Bucky says, going into what life was like helping to raise them in such hard times.  He talks about Steve too, but that’s been done a million times, so he tries to focus on the parts that aren’t well known or ever expounded on.  Like how his parents died right after he graduated from high school.

 

“What did you do?” Oprah asks, “Three younger sisters all still in school, a best friend who constantly had one foot in the grave, and then your parents both die in a train derailment…  What did you do?”

 

“I got a job,” Bucky says, shrugging as if that was the only possible answer, as if a million other men wouldn’t and hadn’t just walked away in scenarios like that.  “And then when that wasn’t enough, I got another one too. And dabbled in boxing sometimes between shifts. Honestly, I don’t think I slept at all during 1936, and I wasn’t even a super soldier then,” Bucky chuckles.  

 

Oprah allows him the joke, but she keeps things serious.  

 

“Tell me why you joined the army.”

 

“Well, contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t out of some overwhelming sense of patriotism, like Stevie.  When the U.S. joined the war, I joined the army for the same reason that most men did back then, because my family was starvin’ and they paid better than anything else around,” Bucky confesses.  “A lot of guys these days, they go to basic and they really trim down, the army hones them into lean, mean, fighting machines. But back then, every single guy in my unit put on weight during basic.  We filled out, from the regular meals.”

 

“And then there was Hydra,” Oprah says, leading him onward.

 

“Then there was Hydra, yeah,” Bucky breathes out a long sigh, “That’s been gone over a thousand times though, I’m sure you all know the stories.”

 

“Even though I’ll admit I wasn’t initially as interested in the military parts, it was fascinating to see your own first hand accounts of some of those major actions included in here.  It just seems so much more real, so much more visceral the way you talk about it,” Oprah compliments him.

 

“Thanks,” Bucky blushes a little, “Andrew, Mr. Hodges that is, he recorded me talking to him about a lot of the stories we included, but I didn’t know he was going to basically transcribe a lot of those parts…  He said he really hadn’t meant to either, but when he was going back through things, it just made sense to.”

 

“So this is almost part autobiography too,” Oprah says.

 

“Kind of…  Andrew did an amazing job though, I certainly wouldn’t, couldn’t have done it on my own.”

 

Oprah nods along, happy to let him give credit where credit is due.

 

“Let’s talk about what a lot of people call ‘The Lost Years’, where you had defeated Hydra, come home, and basically fallen off the map.  You didn’t make any public appearances, didn’t do any interviews, nothing. What was going on for you during those years?” Oprah asks.

 

“Well, even super soldiers can suffer from PTSD,” Bucky says plainly.  “Of course, we didn’t call it that back then…”

 

Bucky talks about how Steve and Peggy took him in, how he destroyed furniture in his flashbacks and became an expert at patching plaster walls.  

 

“Some men, I know they never get over it.  It doesn’t just go away a lot of the time. Maybe it’s because we had the serum, I don’t know, but eventually Steve and I did.”

 

“You mean Captain America suffered from PTSD too?” Oprah clarifies.  

 

“Yeah, of course.  You can’t live through the things we did and come out the other side just fine and dandy.  War leaves a mark on people,” Bucky confirms.

 

“Hm, maybe we’ll have to get Captain America on the show next,” Oprah suggests, which the audience claps enthusiastically for.  

 

“I’ll pass on the message,” Bucky laughs.  

 

They talk some more about Bucky helping to raise Steve’s girls, and how they took him into their family just like Bucky had taken Steve into his.  

 

Tony can practically feel the audience waiting for Oprah to ask him why he never started a family of his own.  But she deftly jumps around the topic in a way that Tony knows is meant to highlight Ian O’Flaherty in a moment.

 

“So for those decades where you didn’t make any appearances, you were living with Steve’s family, just recovering and minding your own business.  And then in the summer of ‘67, you suddenly stand up in front of tens of thousands of people and call the President out, demand an end to the Vietnam war...  It had already been going on for years. You’d already served your time in the military. What changed, in 1967, that made you jump into the spotlight so passionately for that cause?” Oprah asks.  

 

Bucky listens to her lead-up very seriously, then he motions to the copy of the book on her desk, if he can have it.  Oprah hands it over without a word, watching him closely. She knows what’s coming, but Tony can tell she’s still fascinated to know how he’s going to choose to do it.  

 

Flipping through to the photo section of the book, Bucky picks out a page to open the book up to, and holds it up for the camera to see.

 

“In 1967, my boyfriend was killed in ‘Nam,” Bucky says softly but firmly, “His name was Ian O’Flaherty.”

 

The picture is one of him and Ian kissing, with one that’s of them just smiling at the camera together on the page across from it.

 

The studio is completely silent in shock.  

 

“That’s why I got up on that stage, even though I was barely keepin’ it together, to demand an end to the war.  I did it for him, for his memory, so that hopefully he’d be proud of me, for ending the conflict that ended his life,” Bucky tells her, setting the book down in his lap and staring solemnly at the photo for a moment.  

 

“I’m so sorry for your loss, Bucky,” Oprah tells him kindly.  

 

Bucky nods in acknowledgement.  

 

Tissues are passed out and the audience is still quiet as she starts to go on.  

 

“You had Steve and Peggy there with you, I’m assuming they knew…  What about the Howling Commandos? What about Howard Stark? Did all the people standing up there with you that day know why you were doing it?”  

 

“They did,” Bucky answers.  “In the War, people tended to turn more of a blind eye to men being with other men, just cause of the circumstances, and you can bet I used that to my full advantage back then,” Bucky grins, still somewhat sadly.  “So yeah, all the Howlies knew I was gay, even though I hadn’t specifically told them about Ian. Again, it was different in the War, and so it was different when we weren’t in the War anymore too... The only person I’d really told about Ian at all was Stevie, and he’d known I was gay since forever.  The Howlies didn’t know I’d actually had a fella until right when things were being put together for meeting at the protest.”

 

“And what about Howard?  Most accounts don’t put you as having been as close to him as with Steve…”

 

“No, I wasn’t.  He didn’t even know I was gay until I accidentally outed myself while we were brainstorming how to go about ending the war,” Bucky explains.  

 

“Accidentally?” Oprah asks.

 

“Well, I was an emotional wreck for a long time after I’d found out Ian had died, so I blame it on that,” Bucky prefaces the story with, “But yeah, Steve was talking about how I could run for President as a last resort, if protesting didn’t work, and I was tryin’ to convince him that was a horrible idea, because I’d make an awful politician.  Peggy came in and agreed, and she said that my Presidency would essentially be her Presidency, which would have been completely true, by the way, and Howard chimed in and said yeah, that would be fine, as long as the public never found out, and I just kind of groaned and put my head in my hands and said, ‘Well, I guess they should probably never find out that I’m gay either’,” Bucky mimics covering his face with his hands without actually doing it.  “I’d totally forgotten that I’d never told him… I mean, he handled it fine,” Bucky lies, for Tony’s sake more than anything else.

 

Because it’s well known that Tony is gay, and obviously Howard is his father, and Bucky doesn’t want to start any media drama there that he doesn’t have to.  It’s also well known that Howard doesn’t handle embarrassment well, and if Bucky were to tell the full story of Howard’s faux pas in that moment, he would retaliate.  

 

“But in the political climate back then, he did basically tell me that yeah, I should keep that to myself if it came down to it.  I’d like to think that things are different now, at least a little bit. Not that I’m running for office or anything,” Bucky frowns, realizing how that sounded.

 

“But the protest did work,” Oprah says, bring him back around, “And in a big way.”

 

“Yeah.  To be honest, I was so surprised when JFK addressed the nation, I almost hyperventilated and passed out.  Which is especially remarkable considering I’m a super soldier,” Bucky grins, having no trouble telling stories that are humorous at his own expense.  

 

“And all that is just in the first half of the book.  That was over thirty years ago. You’ve lived so much, done so much since then.  I had no idea you went to Berkeley.  I mean, I remember hearing about your name connected to NASA, but I always thought, I think a lot of people assumed, that you were kind of on loan to the air force from the army, that sort of thing.  But you weren’t at all,” Oprah says, “You were one of the first people in the country, in the world, to earn a degree in terraforming.”

 

“That’s right.  I graduated in ‘86, with honors, and went to work for NASA right away,” Bucky says proudly.  

 

They talk about the moon, and Bucky’s love for science fiction, and some modern topics for a while, including his charity work with the robotic limb industry.

 

“I know you’ve been approached before, you even mention it in the book numerous times, about doing a memoir...  Why now? A Bucky Barnes biography would have sold just as well at any time in the past, maybe even better in the 50’s and 60’s.  Why did you go to Andrew Hodges last year and say, ‘I want to tell my story now’?” she asks him.

 

Bucky takes a deep breath and says, “Because of Matthew Shepard.”

 

Oprah’s face twists in sadness and she nods in understanding.  

 

The audience murmurs in sympathy, with the camera panning to show a few different women in it that have started crying.  

 

“When I saw on the news, what had happened to him, I realized that this country hasn’t come as far out of the ‘30’s as it should have.  We ain’t made enough progress yet. Maybe some people are still ignorant, and hate-filled, and backward, if shit like that still goes on.  And I realized that there was still a cause left that needed fighting for. So if anyone out there reads my biography, and is disgusted by the fact that I love men, you can come fight me.  I live a 1 Stark Tower, New York City, New York. Feel free to bring any of your other homophobic friends with you too, not that it will help,” Bucky grins sharply at the camera.

 

“You live in Stark Tower?” Oprah asks, completely ignoring the threat he just issued, and thereby implicitly condoning it, “Is that to say the rumors that have surrounded you and Tony Stark for years have some truth to them?”

 

Bucky looks over to the spot where Tony is waiting off stage, which Oprah is well aware of, and gives him a raised eyebrow.  

 

Tony grins and nods, knowing exactly what Bucky means with that eyebrow.  

 

Bucky gives him a “get over here, then” motion with his head, so Tony walks out from behind the curtain with a smile and a wave to the crowd.  The audience erupts into clapping and cheers as Tony makes his way over to the row of chairs, sitting down and immediately taking Bucky’s hand.  

 

“Tony and I have been together for eight years now,” Bucky says as soon as Tony has settled in.  “He’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

 

Oprah smiles and asks them a few questions about their combined charity work, and announces that all of Bucky’s proceeds from the book will be going to charity.  She also gives out a free copy of the book to each audience member before the show ends.

 

The first printing of “James Buchanan Barnes” sells out in one weekend.  

 

Bucky is catapulted to the top of the New York Times Bestsellers List.  The publisher orders a second printing at two million copies, which sells out within a week of being restocked.  Every newspaper, magazine, radio program, and television show across the country is talking about it. Bucky has so many requests for interviews that he can’t possibly accept them all.  

 

“It’s a good thing I’ve got you to keep track of me, J,” Bucky says as he’s hurrying to dress for an interview he missed realizing he’d accepted, “Or I’d be in a world of trouble…  I wish I could return the favor, somehow.”

 

“Your continued assistance in watching over Sir’s health and welfare is all I ask,” JARVIS responds easily.  

 

“Consider it done then,” Bucky grins and winks up at one of JARVIS’s cameras.  

 

Over the course of his many interviews and appearances, no one ever takes up Bucky’s offer to fight him if they think being gay is wrong.  Weird.

 

His most memorable interview, aside from the very first one, is when the host decides to take questions from the audience.  Bucky assumes they’ve been pre-screened, but nothing gets ratings better than a little drama, so he prepares himself for there to be a few less than wholesome questions.  

 

However, he was not prepared for an older gentleman with a rainbow scarf to stand up and say, “I’ve been sent here to ask Colonel Barnes the burning question that’s been on the LGBT community’s mind for decades.  Because you know it’s not a surprise to any of us that you’re gay, Colonel,” the man adds, giving Bucky a wink.  

 

Bucky just smiles and hopes this doesn’t turn into a ‘you slept with me twenty years ago’ type of situation…  Or even worse, a “you slept with my father sixty years ago” type of one…

 

“Did you have an affair with JFK?” the man asks seriously.

 

“What?!?” Bucky just about falls out of his chair when he realizes what he was just asked, his face slack with shock.  “Why the hell would anyone think that??” he asks back. “No, of course I didn’t. I wouldn’t sleep with someone who was married .”  

 

Not that John ever had a problem fooling around, which the whole world knows about for certain now after Jackie’s tell-all a few years ago…  

 

“I think he’s referring to the photos, can we, we have them, don’t we?” the host asks his producer.  

 

Several pictures of Bucky and John come up on the screen, standing close and talking about something very seriously.  They’re from Howard’s garden party decades ago when Bucky was first introduced to the former President.  

 

“And then the two of you went on that tour a few months later,” the host helpfully supplies.

 

“Yes, the WWII commemoration,” the man in the audience adds.

 

Bucky is feeling distinctly set-up at that point, as official photos from the tour go up on camera, him and John smiling side by side with Marjie in the background looking mulish.  

 

“I’m pretty sure people standin’ next to each other isn’t grounds for assuming an affair, no matter how much has changed in the last 80 years,” Bucky says, shaking his head.  

 

“There’s also a bit of an urban legend, if you will, that you once told an entire class of Rangers that ‘you prefer navy boys’,” the man in the audience says with a grin.  

 

The rest of the audience exclaims at the revelation, with gasps echoing all around.

 

Bucky leans forward in his seat, meeting the man’s eyes firmly.  “There’s only one navy boy I’ve ever been with, and that was my boyfriend, Ian O’Flaherty.  You may have noticed I mentioned him in the book.”

 

The audience gets even louder after hearing Bucky’s response, hooting and hollering as the man who questioned him raises his hands in surrender.  

 

“I did make out with Walter Mondale once though, but it was in the 50’s, before he was married,” Bucky says with a grin just as the commotion is dying down.  

 

The rest of the interview is virtually chaos after that, with audience members shouting out the names of famous people and asking if Bucky had been with them or not.  Bucky just shakes his head for most of them, but there are a few , “I can neither confirm nor deny” comments that get people riled up again.

 

When Bucky gets home, he has a message waiting for him that was left with JARVIS.  

 

“Former Vice President Mondale wishes to inform you that he is taking your divulging of your former liaison as permission to include the encounter in his own memoir,” JARVIS relays to him.  

 

“That’s fine,” Bucky chuckles, “Hey, J?  Can you let him know I’d be willing to write the forward for it, if he wanted?”

 

“You are seriously not not-flirting with Walter Mondale , are you?” Tony asks, coming up from the workshop elevator to greet Bucky.  “Why couldn’t you have made out with like, Freddie Mercury or something? That would have been way cooler,” Tony pouts.  He comes right over to Bucky and hugs him, leaning up for a kiss at the same time to make sure Bucky knows he’s just playing around.

 

Right before Bucky kisses him, he says, “Who said I didn’t?”



Chapter Text

2000 part I

 

There’s an assassination attempt on President Clinton that spring.  She and her family are leaving a fundraiser when a man in the crowd pulls out a gun and starts shooting.

 

Peggy may not be active duty anymore, but she still puts herself between the Clinton’s daughter and the danger without hesitation.  It’s just instinct, even at her age, to protect that child no matter the cost to herself.

 

The secret service agent who attempted first aid tells them later that her last words were, “Make sure the little girl is alright.”

 

The funeral for Director Margaret Adeline Rogers, Sr., shuts down the entire nation.  

 

Politicians, foreign dignitaries, and many many nameless agents are in attendance, over a thousand people total.  It’s televised though, so it’s actually like the whole country is there with them, watching.  

 

Steve remains stoic, eyes vacant with grief throughout the service, and Bucky sticks close to his side.  He knows his best friend better than anyone, and the fact that he hasn’t cried yet since finding out just means that when the tears do come, they’ll be virtually overwhelming.  

 

It isn’t until the service is over and they’re lowering the casket into the ground that Steve breaks down.  Bucky completely understands, it feels more real to him too all of a sudden, when they start shoveling the dirt in.  He pulls Steve into the tightest hug he can manage while they kneel beside Peggy’s grave, letting the man sob as hard as he needs to for as long as he wants.  He’s pretty sure Stevie didn’t cry this much even when his Ma died, leaving him an orphan at fifteen.

 

“I know, Stevie, I know,” Bucky says, hushed and reverent, “She’s gone, but she went the way she always wanted to, on her feet.”

 

Steve nods against him, his tears soaking into Bucky’s shirt unashamedly.  

 

When he’s eventually ready to stand up again, Tony hands him a handkerchief and helps Bucky steady him.  The girls and their families all gather close too, taking turns hugging Steve afterward, sharing their grief together.  

 

Bucky takes a leave of absence from Stark Industries, because he can’t abide by Steve being left all alone in that huge house all by himself.  He doesn’t intrude right away, he gives Steve about a week to grieve on his own, however he wants to. But then Bucky makes it a point to show up and just hang around everyday, even if they don’t do anything.  

 

Sometimes they just watch TV, or rather, Bucky watches TV while Steve stares at it without really absorbing anything.  Sometimes they talk, sometimes Steve wants to reminisce about the woman he loved, who brought so much fire to both their lives.  Sometimes Bucky just holds him while he cries again, rubbing Steve’s back in a way he hasn’t since the threat of congestion was life threatening.  

 

The girls all visit often, and Tony comes over for dinner whenever he can.  Bucky always makes a point of going home at night whenever he knows Tony will be there.  He’s always had a crazy schedule that takes him out of town a lot though, so Bucky just bunks in his old bedroom on those nights, rather than driving back through downtown.  

 

One day, after a couple months have gone by, and Steve is doing measurably better, he turns to Bucky with a frown on his face.

 

“Did you move back in?”

 

Bucky raises an eyebrow at him.  “Nah, I’m just keepin’ an eye on you, punk.”

 

Steve nods, looking thoughtful.  “I’ve really appreciated the company.  I… I don’t know what I would have done, all on my own in this place, with nothing but her memory…”

 

“Everyone handles loss differently,” Bucky says, continuing to skim his eyes over the newspaper like he’s actually reading it, “At least, according to JARVIS.  I know just cause I couldn’t handle being around people for so long after Ian died, didn’t mean you’d want that same kind of isolation too,” Bucky shrugs.

 

“Remind me to thank JARVIS then, next time I’m at the tower,” Steve gives him a maybe-sort-of-might-be-joking-around smile.  It’s still overwhelmingly colored by sadness, but Bucky isn’t going to push him. Steve will heal at his own pace and Bucky is here for however long of a ride that is.  Until the end of the line.

 

“No problem, you know you can come by anytime,” Bucky says, offering a smile of his own back.  

 

“Is Tony even home right now?” Steve asks.  

“He should be this afternoon.  Since we got that jet it’s really helped cut down on his travel time.”

 

Just then the phone rings, interrupting their conversation.  It’s times like these that Bucky wishes JARVIS had been installed in Steve’s house, because he’d never have let the line sound during an emotional moment.  

 

Steve gets up to answer it.  Bucky can hear the conversation perfectly, thanks to his super soldier ears.

 

“Rogers’ residence,” Steve intones automatically, even though he can see it’s the Starks calling.

 

“Steven?”

 

“Hi Maria, what can I do for you?”

 

“You know I absolutely hate to bother you, and I wouldn’t if there was any other way…  But Howard’s been locked in his lab for the last five days without surfacing. If I had the override code I’d just march in there myself, but I don’t, and after this long, I’m starting to worry .”

 

Bucky’s face sours, because he knows exactly what her worry is when it comes to Howard, and Steve walking in on his friend’s body is the last thing he needs right now…  

 

“I’ll go with you,” Bucky volunteers as soon as Steve hangs up with her, “No sense in me just sittin’ around twiddlin’ my thumbs ‘til you get back.”

 

It’s a short drive, and though they’ve made it thousands of times in their lives, somehow Bucky feels a lingering apprehension during the whole thing.  

 

Bucky and Maria both look politely away while Steve punches in the override code that only he has, with not even Tony being privy to that .  Not that Tony couldn’t hack the mechanism in just a few minutes if he wanted to, but it’s the principle of Howard’s assholishness that gets to Bucky.  

 

As soon as the door is cracked open, the smell makes Bucky feel retroactively bad for thinking ill of the dead.  Well, to a certain extent...

 

“You stay here, Steve,” Bucky says, putting a hand up to block his movement through the door, “Maria needs your company right now,” he adds pointedly as she coughs and covers her face with a handkerchief.  Bucky knows from experience that it won’t help, so he doesn’t even bother trying to cover his own.

 

“I…  Are you sure, Buck?” Steve asks him, looking torn.  

 

“Yeah, I am.  Been steeling myself for this moment for a few years now,” Bucky shrugs, “I’m just glad it ain’t Tony finding him.”

 

Steve nods, giving him a grateful look, and turns his attention to Maria.

 

“Oh…  That smell isn’t from an experiment, is it?” she realizes as he takes her hand comfortingly.

 

Bucky leaves Steve to it and ventures down into Howard’s lab.  What he finds is a mess, with Howard’s body sprawled on the floor next to one of his workbenches in a puddle of urine.  He doesn’t particularly want to touch him, because in Bucky’s professional opinion, it’s way beyond that at this point… But he goes ahead and checks for a pulse, because he can’t not ...  

 

Just as he thought, Howard’s body is cold to the touch and no pulse to be found.  Bucky looks around and gathers up any notes that the man had laying around, putting them away so they won’t be seen by prying eyes.  Then he takes out his cell phone as he heads back to the door.

 

“And to what do I owe the pleasure of a call from Bucky Barnes?” Nick’s voice answers, tired but still sarcastic.

 

“Howard’s dead,” Bucky says with no preamble.

 

“Shit.”

 

“Yeah.  He’s definitely been dead for at least a few days too,” Bucky sighs, “He had himself locked in his lab and Maria finally called Steve after five had gone by without hearing from him.”

 

“Any signs of foul play?” Nick has to ask.

 

“Not that I can see, but I’m sure your boys will run a toxicology panel, the works.  You think I should call the sheriff, or will SHIELD tell them when they’re ready to?”

 

“Let us handle it.  This is Howard Stark we’re talking about, no local mountie is going to give us shit about keeping the investigation in-house,” Nick tells him.  

 

“Alright.  I’ll wait by the door to the lab to let the team in.  I hope you understand that they’re not doing anything but cleanin’ him up and getting him out of here, right?  He may have been SHIELD, but everything in this house is personal property,” Bucky points out casually.

 

“Damn it, Bucky, you’re honestly going to pull that shit with me at a time like this?” Nick asks.

 

Yep .  Tony will look through all the current projects and let you know if anything is salvageable, but as of right now, everything here belongs to him, and you know it,” Bucky holds his ground.  

 

“Salvageable?”

 

“Nick, Howard’s blood alcohol content ain’t been below the legal limit for over a year and a half, you tell me if you want to trust anything he cooked up while seein’ double,” Bucky says with a sigh.  

 

“Point.  A team will be there in twenty minutes.”

 

“I appreciate it.”

 

Bucky leaves the lab and confirms the bad news to Maria and Steve, letting them know SHIELD is on their way to assist.  

 

Maria doesn’t cry, she just grimaces.  

 

When the SHIELD team arrives, none of them are agents Bucky is close to, but he can’t decide if that’s Nick being petty or not.  Cleaning up after and bagging Howard’s decaying corpse isn’t exactly a fun social call. Bucky keeps an eye on all the agents while they work, just to be sure they do their jobs and only their jobs.  

 

Once the team is gone, Bucky and Steve do their best to air out the lab, turning the emergency ventilation on and just leaving it run for a while.  

 

Maria had dinner plans, but she cancels them, citing not feeling well.  They don’t want it out to the public that Howard is dead yet, not until they’ve completed the autopsy.  

 

Bucky goes and meets Tony’s plane at the airport, waiting on the tarmac for him to touch down.  

 

“Is Uncle Steve alright?” Tony asks first thing, seeing the seriousness written all over his stance.

 

“Steve’s fine.  We… We found your dad in the lab today…” Bucky says.  He can tell that Tony understands his meaning right away, from the way his shoulders drop and his face pinches.  “He’d locked your mom out, so he’d already been dead more than a couple days, it looked like… I had SHIELD come in and take his body to verify, but I made sure they didn’t touch anything else while they were down there.”

 

Tony lets out a long breath, too controlled for a sigh, and runs a hand through his hair.  “Yeah… Thanks for that, I’ll need to look things over to make sure they don’t get their hands on anything they shouldn’t…  You never know, with Howard…”

 

“Yeah…” Bucky knows that Tony and Howard’s relationship was beyond complicated, so he doesn’t think anything of the fact that there are no tears.  

 

“Is mom doing alright?” Tony asks.

 

“Yeah.  She cancelled her dinner plans though.  Steve’s still over at the mansion with her,” Bucky informs him.  

 

Happy is standing off to the side with Tony’s car, waiting to see if he’s going to leave with Bucky or if he still needs him.  

 

“We should probably head over too then, don’t you think?” Tony asks, almost like he wishes Bucky would say no.

 

“Probably, yeah,” Bucky says, ever the mature, responsible adult.  He starts to pull Tony in for a hug, but is stopped halfway.

 

“Uh, no hugs yet, I-   I’m not ready for that, sorry.  There’s just a couple things I need to do first, ok?” Tony asks of him.  

 

“Of course, doll, whatever you need,” Bucky says, JARVIS’s words about processing grief differently running through his head.  

 

Tony pulls out his cell phone, asking JARVIS to call Pepper as he puts it up to his ear.  He motions to Happy that he’ll be riding with Bucky, and Happy nods and goes to open the passenger side door of the GTO for him instead.

 

“Pep, yeah, you’re going to need to cancel the board meeting on Thursday,” Tony tells her as he’s getting in the car.  Bucky gets in as well and gets the engine going, having a feeling Tony’s ‘few things’ might involve pushing things down through the next couple days entirely.

 

“What?  Why aren’t you coming?  You know this is the science review quarter, Tony,” she starts in right away.

 

“No, I mean cancel it entirely, or delay it, or whatever.  Howard’s dead, so, you know, out of respect or something, we should probably wait on it,” Tony says, his tone even and measured.  

 

“Oh, Tony…  I’m so sorry,” Pepper says, immediately changing tracks, “Of course, I’ll take care of it, consider it done.”

 

“Thanks,” Tony says, taking a deep breath and letting it out.  “You’re going to get some information and action items from JARVIS, I’m re-positioning you to be my P.A. temporarily until we can work out something more fitting.”

 

“Of course, Mr. Stark,” Pepper says professionally, picking up on the tone Tony is setting.  

 

“Excellent.  Well, uh, thank you, Ms. Potts, you’ll be hearing from JARVIS.”

 

“I’ll look forward to it, we’ve always worked well together in the past,” Pepper says kindly.

 

Tony nods and hangs up, forgetting she can’t see him, but Bucky is pretty sure she’ll forgive the abrupt disconnect.  Tony doesn’t dive into Bucky’s arms or anything, he just tips his head back against the seat and stares at the ceiling for a second.  

 

“Ok, let’s go,” Tony tells him to go ahead and drive as he starts giving JARVIS orders.  “Activate the ‘Long Live the King’ protocol, J, and have the September suite aired out, fresh linens, all that.  Oh, and cancel Howard’s weekly scotch delivery, while you’re at it.”

 

“I think SHIELD was hoping to keep his death from the general public until they could verify there was no foul play…” Bucky interjects.

 

“Delay that cancellation on the delivery, then.  And let Pepper know to keep things under wraps for now.  Howard not getting his scotch delivery would be almost as big of news as him dying.  He probably kept on going right through his liver actually stopping functioning on him, the fucking bastard,” Tony says.  Then he pinches the bridge of his nose and takes a couple deep breaths. “How long to get toxicology back?” he asks.

 

“The standard poison panel would need 36 hours, Sir,” JARVIS replies, his tone soft in a way Bucky’s never heard before.  

 

“Ok, we can work with that.  JARVIS, get what you can of his files, I know Howard kept some things on paper, but prioritize what you can for me.  I have no problem playing nice with SHIELD, but only up to a certain extent. With Aunt Peggy gone, the list of people keeping the organization honest is just too short these days…”

 

Bucky isn’t sure if he’s talking to JARVIS or to him, or to both at that point.  

 

“For what it’s worth, I agree,” Bucky says.  “SHIELD ain’t the be-all-end-all of covert organizations, there are other powers above them that we have no hold in, no control over, and you bet your ass they’re trying to meddle with SHIELD from the top down.”

 

“The World Security Council, yeah, I’ve heard of them.  They’ve been pushing for us to ratify a treaty with them regarding the moon’s security , but Howard managed to be too drunk to work with for the last few years,” Tony huffs, “So at least there’s that.”

 

“Have they approached you ?” Bucky asks, keeping his eyes on the road but hanging on to Tony’s answer.  He’s heard of the WSC through his work with SHIELD and they’ve always sounded like an organization that was too full of themselves, had too much power for their own good…

 

“No, not directly.  But I’ve, uh, intercepted a few of their communications with Howard, so I already have a pretty good idea of what I’m going to say when they do,” Tony tells him.

 

“Yeah?  And what’s that?”

 

“That the only way the moon is joining their little security organization is if we have our own seat at the table.  It’s highly unlikely they’ll agree to letting me sit on their council, especially with my track record of shaking things up at SI, but there’s no way I’m getting the moon involved without it.  That shows them I’m not just blindly saying no, but makes it clear my actual answer is a ‘no’, by demanding something they aren’t willing to give in exchange for a ‘yes’.”

 

“Anyone ever tell you you’re pretty smart, doll?” Bucky jokes, understanding now that Tony needs to keep from thinking about the emotion of everything that Howard meant in his life, at least for a little while longer.

 

“It has been suggested before,” Tony smiles back, but it’s strained.  

 

By the time they get to the mansion, Tony’s plan is in place, with JARVIS working away at the details in the background.  By Friday they should be able to start making it known through the official channels, law enforcement, lawyers, etc, that Howard is gone.

 

“Honestly,” Tony says as they sit in the garage for a moment without getting out of the car yet, “I’m not even sure we should expect any drop in the stock at this point.  Most people already assumed his control over SI was more of a figurehead position anyway.”

 

“You’ve been the brains of the place for a long time, now,” Bucky agrees.  

 

“I guess it will depend on if people have noticed how I’ve settled down in the past few years, or if they still think of me as a rambunctious kid building robots in the basement…”

 

“I think they’ve noticed,” Bucky says firmly, giving his long term boyfriend a nod.  

 

“Well, there’s no real point worrying about it.  There’s no way the company’s going to go under or anything, a blip is all it’ll be if there’s anything,” Tony says.  He just sits in the passenger seat, staring out the front window for a moment. Bucky gives him whatever time he needs.  

 

“Did she cry?” Tony asks, not having to clarify who or why.

 

“No.  No, she didn’t,” Bucky answers quietly.  

 

Tony seems relieved, relaxing a little in his seat.  “Is it weird that I don’t feel sad? I mean, I feel kind of guilty...but it’s more like I feel guilty for not being sad, than that feel guilty because I wish I’d ‘done things differently’…” Tony says, matching Bucky’s quiet tone.

 

“Maybe it’s crass, maybe it makes me an asshole, but honestly, I’m just glad it’s finally over,” Bucky admits, knowing that honesty here is crucial to their relationship.  Bucky isn’t any good at hiding things from Tony, and if anybody expects him to mourn Howard, they’re going to be disappointed.

 

Tony snorts.

 

“Fuck, I know exactly what you mean.  All I can think about right now is that I probably shouldn’t bring up the “Uncle Steve” game during his eulogy,” Tony says bitterly.  

 

“The Uncle Steve game?” Bucky asks, not having heard him talk about that before.  

 

“One time when I was little, he forgot Uncle Steve was there when he hit me, and of course, Uncle Steve being Uncle Steve, he flipped out.  He told Howard that if he ever laid a hand on me again, he’d give the same to him. And I was still standing right there, so I heard everything,” Tony shakes his head slowly at the memory, “So of course the next time Howard got mad and looked like he was about to lay into me, I told him I was going to tell Uncle Steve on him.   And it worked .  It was like a magic key that opened the door to a world I hadn’t even known existed, where there were no slaps or burns or broken arms...  I started saying it all the time, anytime he’d hit mom too, or even just yell at us. Apparently it was too difficult to interact with me without being able to abuse me though, so he just stopped having anything to do with me at all.  The whole rest of the year between six and seven, I didn’t see him once. Not once , Bucky.  And then at seven he sent me off to boarding school.  Then after boarding school was M.I.T. It was like I stopped existing to him until I was old enough to become useful to the company.  Sure, things were a lot better once I was older, considering where they’d started, but Howard was still one of the most selfish assholes on the planet even then.  I mean, you know that, you dealt with him all the time too...” Tony trails off.

 

“Jesus, Tony…  He wasn’t my father , though...” Bucky’s heart breaks at hearing his confession.  He kind of knew already, at least that there had been one incident, but he’d had no idea how bad things really where.  

 

“Uncle Steve was my father in every way that counted, and Jarvis too.  Howard was just the sperm donor,” Tony tells him. “I don’t even want to think about what my life would have been like without Uncle Steve in it.”

 

“Me neither,” Bucky says, giving Tony’s hand a squeeze.  

 

“You see that car right there?” Tony says, pointing to the other side of the garage and the Duesenberg parked there.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Howard never liked me driving his cars, for whatever reason, maybe because it was just one more thing I was better at than him…  But that car in particular, I asked him on my seventeenth birthday if I could drive it, just here on the grounds, because he knew how much I loved the look of it.  I thought, maybe with how ‘proud’ I’d made him with the robots for the moon, that he’d let me. I never asked for anything else aside from that. But he said no, wouldn’t even consider it.  He scoffed at me and said it was way too much machine for me. I kept asking, every year, and it became almost like this game to him, to say no. I got a Ferrari, a McLaren, cars with as much horsepower as possible, to show him I could handle it fine, but still, every year, he said no,” Tony tells him, starting out the windshield with very nearly a glare on his face.  “And you know what? It was never even about the fucking car. I knew it, he knew it, mom knew it the few times she tried to bargain with him for me…. I know, I know, spoiled little rich boy didn’t get to drive daddy’s car, so sad…” Tony adds, wiping discreetly at his eyes.

 

Before Bucky can assure him that’s not the case in this scenario, Tony goes on.

 

“Tomorrow, I’m going to take the keys to that car and I’m going to wrap it around a fucking tree,” Tony says, continuing to glare at the machine from across the garage.  

 

“Doll…”

 

“Look, I’m not even ‘mortal’ anymore, thanks to him, so it’s not like it’ll kill me,” Tony rebuffs before Bucky can even get his argument out.  

 

Bucky takes a deep breath.  

 

“You need a copilot, then?” he asks, instead of trying to talk him out of it.  

 

“You-  You aren’t going to argue with me?” Tony seems surprised at Bucky’s change in track.

 

“Hey, I learned a long time ago, that sometimes when someone stubborn as hell insists on doing somethin’ stupid, all I can do is stick close and try to help out when it all goes south,” Bucky tells him fondly.

 

It’s an obvious reference to his friendship with Steve, and the comparison of Tony to him is enough to tip Tony over into full-on tears, though that wasn’t what Bucky was aiming for at all…

 

“Shhh, I’ve got you, doll,” Bucky whispers as Tony cries against him.  It takes a few minutes for him to get it all out, but they’re not in any hurry.  Bucky would spend the rest of his life holding Tony, right here in the seat of the car, if it would help ease the ache in his heart.

 

When they finally do go inside, Maria seems surprised to see Tony’s eyes red and swollen.  He smiles when he hugs her though, and says, “I’m fine, mom, really. Just Bucky being awesome, that’s all.”

 

“Alright, as long as you’re ok, darling…”  

 

The next morning, Tony and Bucky walk away unharmed from the crash that totals the Duesenberg.  Since it doesn’t burst into flames or anything, he leaves it where it is, smashed against one of the old oak trees on the grounds, like a giant lawn ornament or maybe a monument to Howard’s emotional maturity.   

 

Maria doesn’t comment, she just asks their new butler, Orville, to move her Mercedes into the parking spot freed up by it.  

 

“Actually, that leads me to something else I wanted to bring up,” Tony says, taking his mom aside, “I think it would be smart if you came and stayed with Bucky and I at the tower for a little while.  At least until I have a chance to get JARVIS back online here, and upgrade the security to the rest of the house, not just the labs. Who knows what kind of people might decide him dying is a good opportunity to come after any secrets he left behind…”

 

“I suppose that does make sense, but only temporarily of course, darling.  I know how attached you are to that tower, but I just can’t see myself living in that giant monstrosity permanently,” Maria says.  

 

Tony grins, because he’s well aware of her opinion on the aesthetic of the tower, but she’s agreeing anyway.  “Excellent. Orville and the rest of the staff will need to come too of course, I have a floor set up already.  And don’t worry, I let Pepper decorate it for you, I didn’t touch it,” Tony assures her. “It should only be for a few weeks.”

 

“Well, I suppose if Virginia was involved, it can’t be too bad,” Maria replies, ordering the servants to start packing right away.  

 

“Ugh, don’t call her Virginia , mom, it makes her sound like 90 years old.”

 

“It’s her name, Tony.”

 

They go on like that back and forth for a while, their banter worn and familiar, until Ellie’s family shows up for a visit to see how Maria and Tony are doing.  The world at large may not know about Howard’s passing yet, but family is different.

 

Both Tony and Maria appreciate the distraction of their company greatly.





Chapter Text

2000 part II

 

It takes a few trips to get everything Maria thinks she’ll need for an extended stay over to the tower, but they get it done.  She gives an approving nod at the decor once she steps onto her floor. Part of Tony wishes she would just stay, but he knows the mansion is home for her in a way that it just isn’t anymore for him.  

 

Howard’s funeral comes and goes, with all parties looking appropriately solemn during it.  

 

No tears are shed though.  

 

A few days later, they have the official reading of the will.  Apparently, his will hadn’t been touched since 1970, right after Tony was born.  Howard left everything to him, which just serves to piss Tony off, even though it’s what most people would have expected Howard to do.  

 

“How could he do that to his own wife?  To not even mention you, to not leave you anything?  Did he not even-” Tony stops himself, not wanting to get overly emotional in front of the lawyers, for his mom’s sake if nothing else.  Maria gives him a smile tinged with sadness, accepting the hug he reaches for readily.

 

“I’ll fix this,” Tony tells her softly, “You deserve to not have to be dependent on someone else’s goodwill, even if it’s mine.”

 

“I know you will, darling.  Thank you. Plus, it’s not as if everything of mine won’t be yours eventually too, when I go,” Maria points out.

 

“Ugh, you better not make me take the art collection.  Give it to Pepper or something. She could use a bonus for having dealt with our family all these years.  Besides, that’ll be a long way off,” Tony says pointedly.

 

“I should certainly hope so,” Maria confirms.

 

“The only thing I ask is that if you feel the need to get a cabana boy or something in the meantime, that he at least be a couple years older than me,” Tony grins, lightening the mood.  

 

Maria swats at his arm ineffectually.

 

Tony sets the lawyers to working on getting things with the will finalized as soon as possible, so that he can transfer the mansion and a chunk of funds back to his mother once it’s done.   

 

<//>

 

It takes three weeks for the mansion to be upgraded enough for Tony to feel comfortable with its security.  A lot of that time Tony spends personally installing fiber optic cable, sensors, and cameras into it. Maria doesn’t complain at all about the “invasion of privacy” that having JARVIS watching everything might make the average person feel.  Maybe because she’s had servants all her life, she’s never truly been alone to begin with…  Plus, JARVIS is already familiar to her as her son’s creation, and she was pleasantly surprised to find out how much more he was capable of now, as opposed to when he was just a feature of Tony’s lab.  

 

A couple days after his mom moves back out, Tony wakes up early, even before JARVIS is set to rouse him.  He watches Bucky sleeping next to him in the morning light, everything quiet and still around them. When Bucky awakes, the feeling of being watched finding him even in his sleep, he gives Tony an indulgent smile.  

 

Tony reaches over and tucks a strand of Bucky’s hair behind his ear.  

 

“Marry me,” he says, his fingers running over his boyfriend’s brown locks.  

 

Bucky draws in a sharp breath, blinking back sleep at the same time.  

 

“Are you serious, doll?”

 

Tony nods, watching Bucky’s face serenely, like he already knows what the answer will be.  And he does.

 

“Yes, of course I will.  … I know Howard’s gone now, but I thought…  I thought you still wanted to wait though, until everyone like us could?”

 

“I did, and I do…  It… It would be a ways off, before we could actually get married , but I wanted you to know that’s still what I’m working towards.  I want to be engaged to you while we wait,” Tony says, running his thumb over Bucky’s cheek.  

 

Bucky nods, still completely in agreement.

 

Tony smiles brightly.  “I did get you a ring, by the way, I just, uh, jumped the gun a little, because you were just too gorgeous to wait any longer.”

 

Bucky laughs, pulling Tony into his arms.  

 

Later that afternoon, DUM-E delivers a velvet covered box to him while Tony officially gets down on one knee.  Bucky cries, even though he didn’t in the morning, and Tony teases him about it for the rest of their lives.

 

<//>

 

They wait a few days to tell their friends and family about them being finally, actually engaged now.  Most of that time is spent having enthusiastic sex on every available surface, even some highly questionable ones that lead to an order for more than one piece of replacement furniture afterward.   

 

In a display of his ever advancing maturity, JARVIS offers his congratulations and doesn’t comment on the rest.  

 

Bucky goes out and gets Tony an engagement ring too before they do any announcing, so they can match when delivering the news.  

 

Getting everyone together at the mansion for a family dinner takes hardly any prompting at all.  Tony even gets a satellite uplink going through FRIDAY to Sarah on the moon, and to Rhodey at Edwards Air Force Base.  

 

Steve immediately gets a thoughtful look on his face when Rhodey is patched in, but Bucky and Tony took off their rings before they got here so they could keep people guessing until it was time.  

 

“Alright everyone,” Tony stands up and draws all the attention in the room, “Bucky and I have an announcement to make.”

 

Bucky puts his hand into his pocket as he stands up, deftly slipping his gold band onto a metal finger.  He puts his right arm around Tony’s waist at the same time, a diversion and a show of solidarity all at once.  

 

“We’ve gotten another set of tattoos-” Tony says, grinning wildly.  

 

Everyone boos him, playing up the funniness of the joke out of a hope that he’s really going to go where they think next.  Maria in particular looks like she’s holding her breath. Marjie throws a roll at Tony’s head.

 

“Just kidding, just kidding!  Jeez, you guys are a tough crowd, you know that?” Tony laughs, dodging the bread.

 

Tony gets serious again, turning his head to look at Bucky as he says, “The truth is…”

 

Bucky pulls him back in close to his side and takes his left hand out of his pocket.

 

“Tony proposed,” Bucky finishes, just like they rehearsed, holding up his hand.

 

“And Bucky said yes,” Tony adds, holding up his own ring as well.  

 

Everyone’s exclamations are a riot of noise around them, mostly clapping and whistling interspersed with shouts of, “It’s about time!”

 

Tony and Bucky grin at each other for a moment, their smiles going from ear to ear as they soak in the pure happiness the other is radiating.  They didn’t plan on a kiss per se, but one is abundantly necessary, now that they’re here.

 

“You couldn’t have waited two days?” Steve grouses good naturedly, digging out his wallet.  

 

Maria holds her hand out smugly as Steve drops a ten dollar bill into it.  

 

Tony stares at her in disbelief.  “You had a bet with Uncle Steve on when I would propose?  For only ten dollars ?”  

 

“If it makes you feel any better,” Marjie says, pulling out her own wallet as well, “Our bet was for a lot more than that,” she says, handing over two hundred bucks to Phil.  

 

“Damn, Happy’s going to gloat about this for a long time,” Rhodey sighs.

 

“What?  You too , platypus?” Tony says, spinning toward the camera projecting them to him, “I thought you learned your lesson about betting against Happy after the fiesta shrimp incident?”

 

“...He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

 

“Like what ?”

 

“The terms of our arrangement don’t allow me to say,” Rhodey intones dutifully.  

 

Tony narrows his eyes at him.  “ Oh , I see…  We’ll speak about this later, pudding pop,” Tony says, making an, “I’m watching you” gesture with his free hand.

 

“The rest of you better give me details then.  Two days? We really cut it that close for you, Uncle Steve?  How did you end up with ‘the day after your birthday in the year 2000’ as some sort of arbitrary cut off for our engagement?”

 

“It wasn’t arbitrary,” Steve says, looking somewhat abashed, “And it didn’t have anything to do with my birthday…’

 

“Steven and I were conversing, and I happened to mention that I wouldn’t be surprised if the two of you finally got engaged now.  He seemed to think it would still be a while, so we placed a small wager,” Maria explains, handing the ten dollar bill off to Orville for safekeeping, “If the two of you got engaged within 30 days of Howard’s death, then Steven would owe me.  But if you waited until after July 4th, then I would owe him.”

 

A little bit of an awkward silence hangs in the room at the...well, the crassness of such a wager coming from Howard’s wife, because not everyone in the family knows the full extent of what Howard put her and Tony through.  

 

“You know,” Bucky says, breaking the silence, “Maybe you’re the person to ask about this, since we’re here,” he says, addressing Maria, “What do you think would make Howard roll over in his grave more: if Tony took my name or if I took his?” Bucky says, grinning unrepentantly.  

 

Maria folds her hands in her lap daintily and raises an eyebrow, “Why Colonel Barnes, I believe you’re overlooking the completely ridiculous, new age, and unnatural practice of hyphenating ,” Maria tells him, a smile in her eyes.  

 

“You’re right, I’m an idiot, how could I have forgotten Howard’s irrational hatred of people who hyphenate,” Bucky shakes his head.

 

“I’m sure you’ve had a lot of other things on your mind,” Maria smiles, waving him off.  


“Well, hyphenation it is,” Tony confirms his agreement.

 

Ruthie looks like she’s going to say something, confusion showing on her face, but Steve meets her eyes and gives a shake of his head, saying, “Leave it,” under his breath.  

 

Orville comes in with champagne, and everyone gets distracted by toasting the engagement, letting the topic of ‘Howard’ lay.

 

<//>

 

Exactly one month and one day after Howard’s death, Tony holds his first press conference as CEO.  He talks about the Stark legacy, and how Howard left a lot of things ‘unfinished’. It’s clear from his tone that he’s using a euphemism, but no one calls him out on any lack of respect.  The public has become pretty disillusioned with Howard’s drinking problem over the last decade or so.

 

“One of the things still left in limbo was the government of the moon and the Maria Nuova lunar base,” Tony says, piquing the interest of every journalist in the room.  Usually at a first press conference, it would be all platitudes, with the public being assured that nothing was changing too much and the company was still perfectly stable.  For an item of this importance to be addressed is uncommon.

 

“Which is why effective immediately, I’m announcing that the moon is officially a transitional monarchy.  It doesn’t have the infrastructure, resources, or self sufficiency to survive without SI funding its every move, but my goal is that someday, it will.  That’s why I’m not establishing a hereditary monarchy, because I expect the moon to be fully habitable and self sustaining in my lifetime. When I’m gone, the citizens at that time will elect their own leader as they see fit,” Tony says, not mentioning that he will probably live a lot longer than the normal human lifespan…  He can always abdicate later if needed.

 

There are a flurry of raised hands and people shouting “Mr. Stark!”, trying to get his attention for questions.  Tony raises his hands and hushes them all politely.

 

“In conjunction with that, I’m also announcing the beginning of two new construction projects on the moon.  A larger, upgraded living facility that can be expanded on over time, which will be called the Margaret Rogers Center,” Tony pauses for the applause that follows.  He has projections of the building being thrown up behind him, with people oohing and ahhing over it’s futuristic design. “And secondly, a building for the temporary short term housing of visitors and guests, which will be called the Ritz-Carlton Luna.”

 

Tony answers a cacophony of questions over the next few minutes, because the building of a hotel implies that visits to the moon won’t be restricted to just residents and employees of SI any longer.  It’s huge, world changing news, to think that someone could just go for a weekend trip to the moon soon.

 

“Our projected completion date is in late 2001, unless there’s a robot uprising between now and then that slows down construction,” Tony quips, harkening back to his very first press conference.  People chuckle, but they get right back into their questions afterward.

 

“Does construction of additional living quarters mean you’ll be expanding the moon’s citizenship?”

 

“Yes, actually.  Maria Nuova will begin taking applications for citizenship as early as this fall, and preference will be given to any applicant whose name actually is ‘Maria’,” Tony says with a smile, knowing that will throw the powers that be for a loop.  There’s a swell of chatter and exclamation as what that means sinks in for the crowd.

 

“Mr. Stark, what kind of cost will be associated with taking a trip to the moon?” one of the reporters asks next.  

 

“I’m glad you asked that, because it ties in with my next announcement,” Tony says, grinning at the crowd.  “I am officially declaring, as the regent and sole proprietor of the moon, that from this day forward, gay marriage is legal there.  I mean, technically it was never illegal there, since we didn’t have any real laws before this, but that’s going to be the first one.”

 

It’s chaos in the conference room, but Tony manages to bring them back down by starting to talk over them.  They certainly don’t want to miss a word of what he’s going to say now.

 

“Any same-sex couples who apply for travel visas to the moon for the express purpose of getting married there will have their application approved.  And in an effort to promote tourism and all that jazz, once the hotel is completed, airfare, or should I say spacefare to the moon will be an even $100 per person, round trip.”  

 

The shouted questions are so loud that you can barely hear Tony as he goes on.  He has to raise his voice a little to make sure the microphone picks him up properly, but he doesn’t let it stop him.  

 

“Also, I’m appointing Pepper Potts as regional governor of the moon, and I’m re-branding Stark Industries,” Tony says, almost laughing in his glee at the commotion he’s causing.  “From now on SI will stand for Stark Interstellar .  Please direct any further questions to Ms. Potts.”  

 

He smiles and waves, blows a kiss to the crowd, and then walks away from the podium.  

 

<//>

 

Three board members retire in the wake of Tony’s changes.  And although it means he won’t get to try to force them out through strategic flirting with Bucky, Tony’s still perfectly fine with it.

 

<//>  

 

“Tony?  What the hell are you doing in my office?  How did you even get in here?” Nick frowns when he comes back from lunch and finds the man lounging in his chair.  

 

“I walked in through the front doors, actually,” Tony says, perking up from his laid-back position.  “Nobody even asked me for I.D. either, I’d look into that, if I were you. What is government security coming to these days?  Honestly.”

 

“I assume there’s a reason for your visit?” Nick says, looming over him with the implication that he should definitely be getting up now.  

 

“Astute as ever, Nick-e-lodeon,” Tony says, making no move to get out of the chair.  

 

They have a little bit of a stare down as neither one of them budge from their positions.

 

“Did you know, there was some truly fascinating reading in my dad’s things, in particular the part about how SI has a special deal with the government to get to write-off any and all SHIELD ‘donations’ on their corporate taxes?  Because I did not know that.  Did you know that, Nick?”

 

“I did.  You never had much care for the ins and outs of corporate tax filings though, so I can see how you would have missed it,” Nick says easily.  

 

“I mean, I wondered, over the years, how it was that you guys managed to fly so much further under the radar than the rest of the alphabet soup agencies,” Tony says, swinging his feet up so that they’re resting on the edge of Nick’s desk.  “Turns out it was because you never had to make concessions, you never had to go begging to the powers that be for funding, or for approval of expansions, or to get a new coffee maker in the employee lounge, et cetera et cetera. Because whatever you needed, Howard would just pay for.  I wonder, did he actually write you out a physical a check, or was it debit?”

 

“Get to the point, Tony,” Nick says with a sigh.

 

“Pepper needs an assistant.  She can certainly run the moon by herself, of course, it’s not the bureaucracy part of it that worries me at all.  It’s the fledgling nation just starting out part of it, combined with the fact that she’ll be traveling back and forth so frequently.  There’s a lot of weak spots, a lot of places where someone who wanted the moon to flounder could slip in and cause trouble,” Tony admits.  

 

“You want a bodyguard who’s smart enough to pose as a high level corporate P.A., with no family to complain about the constant travel, and who’s trained to watch out for people who don’t belong…  That’s a pretty specific skill set,” Nick says.

 

“And preferably this person of indeterminate gender should be a redhead too.  I mean, we can’t have them and Pepper clashing , we have standards to uphold here,” Tony adds, hand pressed over his heart dramatically.  

 

“And what does SHIELD get in return for providing this service?...”

 

“Uh, aside from being the only ‘agency’ with a foothold on the moon?  You get to keep two thirds of your budget right where it is, that’s what you get,” Tony says, raising an eyebrow.  “I could dump that money into any number of charities instead and still get the write off, and you know it.”

 

There’s a knock on the door before Nick can respond.  

 

Tony reaches over and hits the button to release the lock on the door.

 

Natasha comes in, obviously fresh from kicking ass on the practice mats, and takes a parade rest stance in front of them.  She doesn’t even blink at Tony lounging in the Director’s chair.

 

“Colonel Barnes said you wanted to see me?” she intones, eyes staring at a fixed point directly in front of her.

 

Nick sighs.

 

“Yeah.  You’re being reassigned, agent Romanoff.”

 

“Sir?”

 

“To the moon.”

 

Natasha's eyes flick down to Tony, appraising.

 

“To Pepper, on the moon,” Tony clarifies.  

 

“I see.  Mission parameters?” she asks.

 

“Protect and serve, watch for moles from other agencies and for threats to her person, with other duties to be assigned as needed,” Nick says.  

 

“I’m going to need a new wardrobe for that,” Natasha says, just a hint of a smile quirking over her lips.  

 

“Stark’s good for it,” Nick says as he crosses his arms.  

 

“Oh, I certainly am.  Are you free this afternoon?  Because I promised my mom the new Valentino bag, so I have to swing down to Rodeo Drive anyway,” Tony asks, sitting up and finally vacating Nick’s chair.  

 

“I’ll clear my schedule,” Natasha says.  

 

“Excellent!  I’ll go round up Bucky and Phil, I think he’s hitching a ride with us to LaGuardia.  Meet out front in half an hour?” Tony says, giving her some time to shower and change.  

 

Natasha nods, finding his proposal acceptable.  

 

“And you,” Tony says to Nick even as he’s walking backward toward the door himself, “We’ll see you this weekend at the picnic, right?  Bucky’s gotten this weird idea that you can put raisins in a salad, and I’m thinking if we all sit him down, and explain how concerned we are, that maybe we can get through to him, let him know how worried we all are for him,” Tony says, not missing a beat.

 

“Has that boy lost his damn mind?” Nick makes a sour face.

 

“I know, right?  It’s an affront to nature,” Tony gives a shudder.

 

“Oh, I’ll be there, if for no other reason than to kick some sense into his ass,” Nick says, uncrossing his arms and moving around the desk to sit down.  

 

“Perfect.  I knew I could count on you!” Tony half shouts as he’s already leaving.  

 

Nick shakes his head once Tony’s gone, frowning at the smudge mark that was left on the mahogany by Tony’s shoes.  He wipes it off and tosses the tissue into the wastebasket without looking. As he sits back down, he mutters to himself, “ Raisins…  Jesus Christ…”

 

<//>  

 

When Bucky and Tony show up at Steve’s house to help him get a jump start on the Thanksgiving cooking, they find him in the living room crying over the pictures from Peggy’s 50th birthday party.  Apparently he’d run out to the grocery store for a few last minute things that morning, and one of the ladies there in the store had hit on him.

 

“Peg hasn’t even been gone a year,” Steve says through his tears, angry and grief stricken all over again, “Everybody knows that.”

 

“I know, Stevie, I know.  Some people got no sense of propriety…  Things are different these days,” Bucky says with a sigh.  Steve doesn’t look like he desperately needs a hug, like when Peggy first passed, but Bucky can tell it’s going to be a little while before they get to the cooking.  It’s fine though, the only person who would have cared about there being a delay on the meal is dead too.

 

“If you want, JARVIS can hack the cameras at the store and find out who she was, then, oops, surprise, the IRS decides to audit her this year, totally randomly, of course,” Tony offers.  

 

Steve looks at him like he’s crazy, but then he laughs at the absurdity of an A.I. siccing the government on some poor lady just because she hit on him.  

 

“That wouldn’t fuel the rumors that I secretly control the government through a shadow presidency at all…” Steve chuckles, wiping at his eyes.  

 

“Hey, I’ve heard that conspiracy theory, and let me tell you, it holds a lot more water than the one where you’re secretly a clone of George Washington.  You look nothing alike,” Tony scoffs.  

 

“Tony, you started that one,” Steve reminds him, shaking his head.

 

“Well yeah , if every single theory on the website was well thought out and insightful, it wouldn’t be realistic, now would it?”




Chapter Text

2001

 

When the Ritz-Carlton Luna is three months from being fully operational, Tony and Bucky publicly announce their intent to marry in six.  Preparations and shipments have already been happening behind the scenes, but now the invitations can officially go out.

 

“Hey, now my name is just as much of a mouthful as yours,” Tony points out as they finalize the design on them, with Maria and Rosie making helpful suggestions in the background.  They have a holographic display of the words, “His Royal Highness, King Anthony Edward Stark,” floating in front of them, courtesy of JARVIS and his new holographic projection upgrade.

 

“True.  Why does it matter what font we use in the first place though, I mean, can’t we just print them in ‘Times New Roman’ and call it good?” Bucky asks.  

 

Maria looks pained, like she might actually be sick at the thought.  Rosie reaches over and flicks Bucky’s ear, admonishing him to not give Maria a heart attack with his joking.  

 

“Jeez, ok, ok, no need to get violent ,” he says, rubbing at his earlobe.  He has a grin on his face though, and he apologizes right away for scaring her.  

 

<//>

 

Bucky thought that Howard and Maria’s wedding was huge and lavish, but it was nothing compared to his own to Tony.  Not only is it a destination wedding, it’s also the very first one to be performed on the moon. The very ground itself has been tailor made, so it doesn’t get much more extravagant than that.  

 

About a third of the moon is terraformed at this point.  The air is breathable, though thin, but they have oxygen on hand just in case.  Tony’s L.G.B.T. machines have been strategically placed all over the surface, generating normal earth gravity on the much smaller satellite.  

 

Under Maria and Rosie’s direction, everything is cream white and gold for the ceremony, elegant and sophisticated, with a pop of color being provided by the machine that Tony rigged up to produce a perpetual rainbow in the sky over the Sea of Tranquility.  

 

They’re going to get married right on the edge of the crater turned actual sea, with the earth hanging in the sky behind them.  

 

At first they were going to buck tradition by only having one room and getting ready together, but Steve looked horrified at the idea, so they end up in separate suites with teams of people fussing over them.  Bucky’s gotten more and more used to getting fancied up over the years, but this is beyond what he’d do to even meet the President, and he says as much.  

 

Steve swats him.

 

“Let Carlo work, you’re marrying a King ,” Steve points out.

 

“Yeah…  But he’s still Tony ,” Bucky raises an eyebrow.  

 

“True.  But he’s going to be wearing a crown , Buck, you can’t show up to the altar with split ends,” Steve argues.

 

Bucky sighs and continues to hold still for the stylist.  

 

“Even if I did, Tony would still marry me,” Bucky assures him.

 

“Yes, but this is a historic event!  Not only is it the marriage of the first King of the moon, but the first marriage on the moon.   And it’s a huge step for gay rights too.  This is going to go down in the history books as one of the most important weddings of all time,” Steve says.  

 

“I’m already in the history books,” Bucky grumbles, more for show than anything else.  He gives his stylist, Carlo, a conspiratorial wink, letting him know he’s not really upset to be under his care.  

 

“Are you really not taking this seriously?” Steve asks him, “Or are you just messing with me?”

 

“I don’t know,” Bucky replies, “Are you really trying to help, or are you trying to make me nervous?”

 

“Ugh, I can’t believe you’re not nervous,” Steve says, scrubbing a hand over his face.  “I was a mess before I married Peggy… Remember?” he asks without lifting his head, just holding it in his hand for a second.

 

“I remember…” Bucky says, “But you were 26 then, and had only ever known Peg in the military way …  I’m 84, and Tony and I have been together for a decade…  It ain’t exactly an across the board comparison.”

 

Steve nods, still looking emotional.  He takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly.  Then his face shifts as he realizes, “Oh. You’re not the one who needs me, are you?”

 

“Nope,” Bucky says, popping his “p” a little, “Get out of here, punk, and go take care of your boy.”

 

“Jeez, I’m going, I’m going, jerk,” Steve says as he stands.  He does give Bucky’s shoulder one last encouraging squeeze before he goes though.  

 

In Tony’s suite, things are nowhere near as sedate.  The man in question is pacing in front of a huge vanity, looking like he’s about to vibrate out of his own skin.  

 

“Uncle Steve!  I’m glad you’re here, maybe you can clear something up for me,” Tony says, gesticulating wildly.  

 

Steve is clearly walking into the middle of a conversation that has gone on too long already.  Tony has that desperate, almost manic look in his eyes that usually precedes either an emotional breakthrough or breakdown.  Maria looks sad, guilt ridden, and almost helpless, with even Pepper and Rhodey seeming morose.

 

“Tony?...” he says questioningly, but Tony talks right over him.

 

You know.  You know how much I want to marry Bucky.  I’ve wanted to marry him since 1991, remember that?  Of course you do, you and your super soldier memory. I mean, neither of us was ready for that, at all , back then, but that’s not the point.  The point is,” Tony pauses briefly to run his hands through his yet-to-be-styled hair, “That I’ve been dreaming of this day, imagining this day as often as I could let myself, just waiting for a time when it would be possible, for so long, and Howard’s still managing to ruin it even from beyond the grave,” Tony says, tears filling his voice.  

 

Steve takes a step forward, not sure what needs to be done, but vowing silently to do whatever it takes to make sure this wedding happens.

 

“What?!  What’s going on?” he asks, his eyes moving from Tony to Maria to Rhodey and Pepper and back again in concern.

 

“He’s dead!  That’s what’s going on.  I waited, Uncle Steve, I waited so long for him to just, remove himself from the equation naturally…  I know it probably wasn’t fair to Bucky, to have to wait so long for me to be ready, but I just couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t marry him with Howard being drunk and belligerent in the background, I didn’t want to get called a fag at my own wedding, ok?  So I waited the bastard out, so that I could have a nice, non-Howard wedding in peace. Because he was a bastard, and we all know it.  He was an asshole. An unrepentant asshole.  So why do I miss him, Uncle Steve?  Why do I miss him?  Why do I feel bad that he isn’t here?  Why, when I know for a fact that he just would have made the whole thing miserable?”

 

Tony is practically yelling at the end of his tirade, as Steve pulls him into a tight hug.  

 

Then Tony is crying against him, holding on to Steve for dear life.  Everyone in the room is crying after that.

 

“Shh, shh, I know, Tony.  You feel that way because even though he wasn’t, you are a good person.  That’s why. It’s perfectly natural to want your parents to be there on your wedding day.  I want you to remember though, it’s Howard’s own fault that he isn’t here, not yours.”

 

“But I purposefully waited-”

 

“Honestly?  I think you did the right thing,” Steve says, easing up on the hug enough to see Tony’s face.  It’s tear streaked and puffy, and his stylist is going to kill him, but that’s ok.  It’ll all be ok.

 

“What?  You do?” Tony asks, looking more vulnerable than Steve’s seen in a long time.  

 

“I do.  He didn’t deserve to have a son as amazing as you.  He was a horrible father and a horrific role model. You’re completely right, he would have just ruined things with his insults and his drinking and his snide attitude.  It’s his own fault that he acted that way, not yours. Never yours, Tony,” Steve assures him.

 

“I shouldn’t miss him, I know that,” Tony nods, wiping at his eyes with tears still in his voice.  

 

“But nothing and no one is ever all good or all bad.  Yeah, he was mostly a jerk, but he had moments where he was, well, I won’t say good , but, um, more like tolerable?” Steve tries to joke a little.  The mood desperately needs lightening, and soon.

 

Tony makes a choking, half of a laugh sound.

 

“Tolerable might be being too kind,” Maria interjects, coming closer.  There’s an unspoken apology in her eyes, but she doesn’t speak it aloud, not here, not when they’re trying to push past this and get ready for the happiest day of Tony’s life.  “I’d go with ‘less inconvenient than usual’, if it were me,” she adds, offering him a tissue.

 

Tony gives her a rueful smile, accepting it and dabbing at his face.

 

“Hey, you know what we should do?” Steve says, his face lighting up as if he’s just had a brilliant idea.  “FRIDAY is monitoring the whole wedding, right?”

 

“Yeah…”

 

“So, if anyone says anything about it being a shame that Howard isn’t here, we can have her give their names to JARVIS and he can randomly mark their taxes to be audited.”  

 

Maria, Rhodey, and Pepper all look confused and slightly uncomfortable with the egregious abuse of power Steve just proposed, but Tony bursts into laughter, so they figure it must be a joke they’re missing out on…

 

“Oh god, their taxes…  For mentioning Howard... “ Tony wheezes, laughing almost as hard as he’d been crying a moment ago.  

 

“I have to admit Master Rogers’ plan does have some merit,” JARVIS says from the speaker in Tony’s phone.

 

“But not all attendees are U.S. citizens…” FRIDAY questions, being a few years younger and not as exposed to Tony directly as JARVIS has been.  

 

“Oh, uh, well, that was a joke, FRIDAY,” Steve explains, looking sheepish that anyone would take him seriously.  

 

They get Tony calmed down the rest of the way after a few more minutes, but unbeknownst to them, JARVIS is communicating silently with his baby sister, to go ahead and give him that list of names afterward, just in case.  One never knows when one will be called upon to keep score , after all….

 

Tony is still ready in time, even with the minor meltdown.  

 

Rhodey is Tony’s best man, with Pepper, Happy, and Clint rounding out the ‘groomsmen’ on his side.  Bucky’s best man could never be anyone but Steve, and he has Nick, Phil, and Marjie standing for him as well.  

 

They have eight flower girls, because girls run in Steve’s family and every single one of his great granddaughters wanted to get to be involved in Uncle Bucky’s wedding.  And it would have been rude to say no to them. Besides, with having as many guests as they do, it’s a long aisle, so the double column of little girls spreading petals doesn’t seem over done at all.  

 

DUM-E’s chassis has been retrofitted with all-terrain tires, so that he can get around more easily on the grass and up the aisle.  He’s their ring bearer, which was only fitting since he helped deliver the ring during the proposal in the first place.

 

When the time finally comes, Tony and Bucky walk down the aisle together, for the symbolism, and then turn to face each other in front of the altar.

 

Both Bucky and Tony cry as they say their vows, their first kiss as a married couple tasting of salt and pure joy.  They both call each other nothing but ‘husband’ for the rest of the day, and damn, could Bucky get used to that…

 

Hours and hours are spent taking photos with prominent guests, from family and friends to celebrities to other royalty.  Bucky doesn’t even mind though, since he gets to be right at Tony’s side through it all. They spend a good chunk of time talking to Princess Diana, who they’ve met before through Tony’s clean water project in Africa.  

 

Sir Elton John gives a small performance to entertain the 2500 people in attendance, with Maria having immediately vetoed asking Lars Ulrich to play.  It’s fine though. Bucky has to admit, everyone’s having a good time, and most people aren’t exactly looking to headbang at a reception anyway.

 

Dinner has eleven courses.  They have to have multiple, multiple wedding cakes in order for there to be enough for everybody, so Tony has them arranged in a walk through exhibit to showcase their different themes.  Tony’s favorite is the futuristic one, which Bucky has to admit is impressive. He can appreciate all the time and effort that went into the four seasons one as well though.

 

DUM-E, after having successfully performed his duties as ring bearer, wheels around shaking people’s hands with his claw, trying to meet everybody in attendance.  

 

“Now I feel bad, keeping him cooped up, all alone in the lab this whole time.  Who knew he was such a social creature?...” Tony says to Bucky as they watch him charm the Emperor of Japan and Ellen DeGeneres at the same time.  

 

“Maybe he could use a brother or something,” Bucky suggests, wrapping his arm casually around Tony’s waist.  

 

Tony looks up at him, his expression both flirty and curious.  “Oh? What exactly are you suggesting, husband of mine?” he asks.

 

“I’m suggesting, husband, that after this whole party thing is done, you and I go back to your place and work on makin’ him a sibling,” Bucky says intimately, staring right into Tony’s eyes with a small, knowing grin on his face.  

 

It’s a ridiculously tame innuendo, all things considered, but the delivery coupled with the theme of the day, and the fact that Bucky is one of the few people in existence that understands just how much DUM-E is part of him, makes Tony get a little misty eyed in the moment.  

 

“That-  That sounds amazing, actually.  I mean, we’re still going on our honeymoon, of course, but um, when we get back to the tower…  I’d like that…” Tony confesses, “I’d love that.”

 

“Yeah?  You wanna make some robot babies with me?” Bucky says, holding Tony close.  

 

Tony buries his face against the side of Bucky’s neck and nods.  

 

Bucky breaks out into a huge grin and squeezes him tighter.  

 

One of the many photographers on hand happens to get a shot of them like that, and it becomes one of the most famous pictures of the event.  Even though you can’t see Tony’s face, Bucky’s is so genuinely, blissfully happy that it captures people’s attentions and hearts right away.

 

Afterward, for charity, they release a coffee-table style book commemorating the wedding, with that photo on the cover.   




2005

 

“I and my team of expert lawyers have refuted every single point of objection brought forward by this committee.  It’s time to end this charade and admit that the only thing holding back a decision in my favor is your own narrow minded prejudice,” Tony asserts, standing tall.  

 

There’s applause from the observatory.

 

“King Stark, you may be able to just decree whatever you want on the moon, but here on earth, in the United States, we have rules to follow,” Senator Stern argues tiredly, having acted put out by having to chair these proceedings from the very beginning.

 

“Well your rules in this particular case are outdated and unable to handle the full scope of the reality of the future,” Tony tells him.  “That’s what we’re trying to do here, to get them updated.”

 

“They don’t have bodies!” Senator Stern says, raising his voice and losing his cool, “And don’t give me that software versus hardware mumbo jumbo.  They don’t have bodies, they are machines, they will never grow old, and age, and die like the rest of us real humans.”

 

Tony’s face is visibly upset by the Senator’s outburst, but it’s a clinical, intelligent anger.  He doesn’t raise his voice, or even let any of that anger into it. The heat of it is solely in his eyes while his tone stays so light that it’s almost playful, almost mockingly so.  

 

“Neither does Steve Rogers,” Tony says, the atmosphere becoming instantly charged at his words.  Silence reigns in the wake of them, with the Senator just gaping at him in his inability to come up with a response.  “Age, I mean. Steven Grant Rogers has not aged a day since he stepped out of Project Rebirth in the 40’s.  Are you suggesting, Senator Stern, that his citizenship be stripped from him because of it?” Tony asks, driving his point home.  “What about my illustrious husband, Colonel turned Consort James Buchanan Barnes, whom Congress issued a formal ‘thank you’ to for keeping his U.S. citizenship even once he obtained one on the moon?  If you’re going to deny citizenship based on not aging, then-”

 

Senator Stern bangs his gavel down, interrupting Tony’s line of reasoning and speaking over him, “All committee members in favor of granting person-hood and citizenship to the entities known as DUM-E, JARVIS, FRIDAY, and… U , please raise your hands,” the Senator says in a rushed yet virtually flat tone.  

 

Everyone, including him, raises their hands.  

 

“Let the record show the committee has voted in favor, meeting adjourned,” he says in the same annoyed rush, then he bangs his gavel again, standing up and leaving immediately with a scowl fixed firmly on his face.  

 

The cheering and applause lasts a long time while Tony hugs his lawyers and waves to the crowd.  After coming out victorious from any other senate hearing, Tony would normally be smug as he smiled, but today it’s just pure happiness that radiates from him.  





2008 part I

 

“Consort Barnes, there’s a priority transmission coming in from earth, call sign, ‘Eagle One’,” FRIDAY says, explaining her authorization to put through a message while they’re asleep.