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The lesser of two evils

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Bucky tossed and turned on bed, but no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t sleep. Before, he’d have just given up on the task altogether and just left the comfort of the bed to go lurk in the common areas, but he had been to enough therapy sessions to recognise it as a sign of anxiety, crawling under his skin.


Still, he wouldn’t let them win, not without a fight.  The red numbers on the clock by the nightstand says it's just past 2am. There will be a debriefing with Hill about the mission early in the morning, and, despite needing less sleep than your average human, Bucky just knows he’ll be dead in the morning. He already half was.


Memories from the mission won't let him sleep, hadn’t for the last two days since he came back - memories he’ll have to recount in the morning, in front of all of their teammates. They are just too overwhelming, and it's in the middle of the night that all dangerous thoughts are forged: They will look at him with disgust, and call him a monster.


Logically, he knows that’s not true, just as, logically, he also understands that he did what needed to be done, for the greater good, with consent , and no one would hold it against him. In fact, they might even commiserate, because they were good people like that. It was Bucky who couldn’t look at the mirror without disgust at himself and the monstrous thing he had done.




It was supposed to be a routine recon mission: fly over to Switzerland, verify the existence of a Hydra base in the Alps, call for backup in case it was still operational, which, if memory served him right, it wasn’t.


He was supposed to go alone, incognito, but Tony - the least indicated person for anything incognito - had made a very good cause in favor of accompanying Bucky on the mission, with promises of a romantic vacation in the Swiss Alps after the mission, and some unmentionable activities involving swiss chocolate and no clothes at all. Bucky had been sold.


On the first day of the mission, Tony had been spotted by a Hydra goon. Bucky should have known not to trust his memory, as it turned out that not only that Hydra base was still functional and they were vastly outnumbered, but they also had some nasty surprises hidden there. Not the chair - thank God, not the chair, but a little red book.


It shouldn’t have been a problem, as the triggers had been effectively removed, but that in itself posed as an issue: there were more Hydra agents than they could take on by themselves, and even though they had managed to send a distress signal to the team before being abducted from their hotel room, they would take longer than they had to arrive. The only reason he was alive was because Hydra thought they could have their little toy back, but that would change once they realized he had been freed.


Which meant he couldn’t let them know.


He shared a look with Tony. His boyfriend seemed to have reached the same conclusion.




A soft knock on the door of his bedroom, followed by the distinct sound of the digital lock opening, brought him back from his waking nightmare. There were few people who knew the password to his lock, and just two who would actually use it without waiting for permission. For once, Bucky wished it was Steve.


“You could help me out here, I just have one functioning arm” Tony joked from the doorway, raising the arm wrapped in a cast, the left one.


Bucky had been careful not to damage his dominant hand.




The leader of the base was a woman with blond hair that wore a suit similar to Natasha’s. She spoke on thick-accented english and perfect russian.


“Playtime is over” she decided, apparently done with the little game they had been playing and getting up from the fucking stone throne she had been sitting, like she was some fucking queen.


So far, Bucky had managed to buy themselves some time for the team to track them down and execute a rescue by pushing Tony around, and that alone was eating away inside of him. Tony, his beautiful boyfriend, who took it all in stride, the bravest of the two of them.


“Hold him back” She ordered, and that was when things started getting out of control. Bucky had no other choice besides grabbing Tony by his upper arms, holding his limbs back.


The woman landed the first strike against Tony’s face with a vicious blow. Bucky had been avoiding direct blows to the head, trying to avoid a concussion because he knew how much Tony hated feeling nauseated. ‘Reminds me too much of hangovers’, he had once said.


“What, no monologuing before the torture?” Tony asked, still trying to play the situation, and Bucky felt sick at the mention of what she was probably going to do. “No trying to recruit Tony Stark to your ranks?”


The woman snorted derisively, in clear dismissal of the idea.


“I’m not stupid, Stark. I know you would never join our cause” Another blow, and this time Tony’s nose made a sickening crunching noise, blood spilling down his shirt.


The next blow hit his ribs, and Bucky could do nothing but hold him back, open to the attack, and pretend he didn’t mind the way his boyfriend’s body convulsed against him in an attempt to dodge the punches once the pain started to overcome rational thought.


He thought it was luck that she had finally tired of abusing the prisoner.

“Break his arm” She ordered Bucky.




Two fractured ribs, another two bruised. His nose was also broken, and he had lost a molar. His body was littered in black and blue. And, of course, the broken arm.


“You should be in medical” Bucky pointed out as Tony stumbled towards the bed. He got up to meet him halfway, wanting to carry him, but also afraid of grabbing him the wrong way and making the wounds he had caused worse.


“I was feeling lonely there without my boyfriend” Tony pointed out, and that was a not so subtle accusation of Bucky’s absence. He tried to ease himself on the bed with a pained expression and a grunt to match. It was a painful descend, but eventually Tony was lying back on the bed.


Bucky, however, just stood dumbly by his side, until Tony raised one eyebrow at him, skeptical, until Bucky gave up and joined him on bed, awkwardly keeping one foot of space between them. Tony just sighed.


“Shall we have the ‘not your fault’ talk all over again?” He asked, tired.


“We seem to have had a lot of those” Bucky pointed out, resigned.


“Maybe I’ll have FRIDAY record it then, so I don’t have to keep on repeating myself” Tony complained, but it was half hearted exasperation at best.


He tried to reach out with his good hand, and Bucky grasped it. Tony’s gaze turned at him, and his tone was definitely more fond “Or maybe you could finally get that into your thick head, and stop blaming yourself for things that are not your fault.”


Bucky wanted to argue the point, but the sad look on Tony’s face stopped him. Tony, however, seemed to know what was going through his head. He always did.


“You did what you had to do. You bought us time until the team arrived. They would have executed us on the spot if they realized the words didn’t work anymore” He talked like he was pointing out the greatest feat of bravery he had ever witnessed. “The way I see it, you saved my life”.


“I stood there and watched her hurt you. I hurt you” his voice was breaking, and he realized there were tears in his eyes. He swallowed, and tried to blink them away. Tony would only get sad if he cried.


“That’s not your fault. Everything that happened there? That’s on Hydra, not on you. Christ, I feel like I’m having a deja vu here” Tony chuckled humorlessly, shaking his head, and then looking at Bucky again.


Bucky chuckled back. “Yeah, I may have heard that one once or a couple of thousand times before” he admitted, sniffing.


“Then you better start believing it” This time, Tony’s smile was more real, but strained still. “I need you, James. Please, don’t shut me out because of this”.


Bucky nodded, finding it easy to agree. But then, again, Tony could be very persuasive. He should learn to resist better when it was needed, such as taking him on an incognito mission.


“I won’t. I promise.” After a beat, he added “I’m sorry I wasn’t with you in medical”.


Tony just shrugged, nonchalant. “It’s not like I’d have stayed there much longer anyway” And Bucky laughed at the statement, for it was true for every single time Tony had been injured.


When he looked back at Tony, his boyfriend was giving him a true smile, more relaxed. Relieved , he thought.


“Now, I’m on all the good pain stuff and I don’t think I can stay awake much longer” Tony decided, leaning forward as much as he could until Bucky got the memo that he should lean the rest of the way to press his lips against Tony.


“Good night, love.” and he was asleep in a second. And this time, finally, so was Bucky.