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Star-Spangled Heart

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Steve is sitting stiffly in the chair for the interview. They have the set dressed like they are in a living room, except for the fact that they are twenty miles from his apartment in Stark Tower. This is supposed to be just a puff piece, an interview with the great Steve Rogers, get to know the man behind Captain America. It’s not working though, it’s been a tough month. He misses the way New York used to be, how his life used to be.

“Stories of you and Bucky predate the war, but what we want to know is who was Bucky Barnes to you?” The interviewer asks, Steve thinks her name is Cheryl, but he’s unsure. It’s not on her, not really, he’s just not here. Not really, he’s back in his tenement in the bad side of town in a time where the world seemed both larger and so much smaller.

He pauses at the question, the set lights causing sweat to bead on his brow. Thinking of Bucky soothes the ache slightly. The first thing he did when he finally got a moment alone and access to a computer were to look his best friend up. Bucky went down a war hero in the history books but was irrevocably another life lost in the war against Hydra. All the Howlies became, for lack of a better word, SHIELD agents after Steve went down in the artic, and all of them went missing on a mission five years afterward. They were presumed dead a few months later and laid to rest, empty caskets buried, just like his.

That fact aches in another part of his heart, mourning the loss of something more.

“Bucky was,” he starts, an excruciatingly small smile on his face. “Bucky was my best friend. The kind of person who had your back, even when the odds were stacked against you. I can’t tell you how many times my mouth got away from me, I’d have my back to the wall. No way out, and all of a sudden there Bucky’d be, fists swinging and mouth running. Usually saying something along the lines of “pick on someone your own size.” Steve shakes his head, lost in the memories. “You’d never know when anything was wrong either. The poker face that Bucky had. More than once we’d be out of money, I’d be sick, or my asthma was acting up and out of work because of it. And somehow Bucky would make it all fine before I had the energy to figure out anything was wrong in the first place.”

Steve shifts in the chair, eyes swinging to his knees as he smiles wide at a memory of Bucky bitching out a soldier in another unit. “Even in the war, Bucky didn’t change. That moral compass.” He trails off for a moment. “Everyone knows that mines rigid, black and white, good and evil. The wrong thing and the right thing. Bucky’s’ wasn’t like that, more like shades of gray. Something that helped more in the war than hurt, I think. Mine just got in the way, if I didn’t agree with something it wasn’t happening. Bucky just found a way to get it done that sat well enough, did what needed to be done and could still sleep at night.”

He stops, looking to Natasha. His modern-day moral support and read in on the situation more than the rest of the world would ever be. More importantly, a friend who knows just how much he has been struggling lately. She’s found him more than once in the communal kitchen just staring into his cup of coffee, willing to be an ear for him to talk to.

He has really good friends, even if he misses his old ones with every breath he takes.

She nods once, and the question he didn’t know he was asking is answered. “Bucky was everything to me. My best friend, my family, my second in command. Bucky was the love of my life.” He drags his gaze to stare pointedly into the camera. “But most importantly, Bucky was… Well, she was my wife.”

There is a murmur amongst the crew on set, none of them expected that revelation. All the history books had Bucky in there as a man. Natasha shifts slightly, more relaxed like the way the tight lines of his shoulders softens marginally. The slight curl of her lips is more telling, she’s happy for him.

Tony is probably shitting himself from where he is watching this, but also no doubt flooding the internet with the information needed to reveal this secret. Just like he said he would all those months ago when the genius had come to Steve with Howards files that most definitely had Bucky in there as a woman. Gave him some pictures that Steve didn’t know existed either.

The woman interviewing him, Charlene is her name, is sitting silently. Her mouth is hanging open, probably getting pointers from someone in charge through the earwig in her ear. Steve almost feels bad for dropping this truth on live television. Finally, after a long moment, she manages to ask her next question. “Well Captain Rogers, can you tell us about her?” She has a smile starting on her face though, so that’s promising.

Steve shrugs, “I can try. Just keep in mind that a large portion of what I know I learned second hand. Especially the parts of Bucky’s roll in the military before the Howling Commandos came together. But she sure was a spitfire, and she paved the way for a lot of women in the military. I guess you can say she got the ball rolling in a way. Bucky as a guy, well, that came about after the Howlies were officially a thing.” He sits up straighter in his seat, excited to actually be able to talk about his wife in public. To show that even today, all these years later, he worships the ground she walks on.

“Woman in uniform didn’t sit well with many people. It was already a political nightmare, so to preemptively soothe some feathers, on public record Bucky was a guy. The face in the pictures was going to be another soldier named James Neal, he was a fellow Brooklynite, and shared the same first name.” Steve settles in to give what is basically a history lesson, one that is entertaining for all. “Bucky had saved his life once apparently, and from what I’m told he jumped on the chance to help her in return. However, the question was raised about Neal being around at all moments that there could be a camera or something, especially since the injury he received made combat impossible for him. Bucky had worked down on the docks though, she learned to hide her gender to keep the wandering eye of sailors away. She was more comfortable in slacks and a baggy shirt anyhow. The only thing she refused to do was cut her hair, even though it was always pinned up. Either way, no one could tell that under the dirt and clothes was a woman unless they already knew.”

“Everything in the history books about us from before the war is true. We were childhood best friends, she got me out of a lot of scrapes. I wanted to serve my country. We got together in late 1940 and married a little over a year later. We had gone down to the enlistment office together, as her wedding gift to me. I went for the army, Bucky for the WAC. I got a 4F, she got her papers. She didn’t even have enough time to legally change her name. The Howlies jokingly called me Mr. Barnes for months after we told them the story.” Charlene gives a little chuckle.

He sighs, this part of the story is easy to tell, it’s the nitty gritty that get to him. “But she shipped out as Sargent, the W.A.C. was a recognized branch of the military by then, that’s why they had dropped the second A. And well, I kept trying to get in the military using fake names.” He shakes his head with a smile. “But this isn’t about me.”

“I guess you can say that Bucky’s real story starts in a hospital camp in 1942,” Steve says leaning back in the chair getting comfortable by crossing his leg over his knee and resting a hand on it. “Or, at least that’s where the story starts getting good anyways.”

Chapter Text

“Barnes!” General Edward Graves barks from the doorway. It’s really just a large rectangle cut into the side of an even larger tent. He’s a graying man, thick around the waist. And it’s only those who are awake on the beds that try to come to attention. All the nurses are too busy trying to save the lives of those in their charge. Ed isn’t one to care too much about the proper procedure or communicating with respect, especially from the woman of the W.A.C. who do more to save these boys lives than he’ll ever be able to. At least they’re no longer considered auxiliary. Some of his fellow Generals let the stars get to their heads with power, rank earned in a time of peace, but he earned his in a time of war just a gruesome as this one. He bypasses the beds, muttering a simple “at ease” when he finds someone trying to come to attention. He comes to a stop at a bed in the back, a brunette leaned over and suturing a leg wound closed.

“You’ll forgive me general for not standing at attention. This is quite delicate work, he’s lucky to still have a leg.” Bucky says without even looking up from her work, her victory rolls have long since deflated. The scrap of fabric she’s using to hold back her hair has bloody smudges on it, probably from adjusting it. It’s fared better than her shirt did though, the blood will never come out. It doesn’t seem to bother her though. She just keeps suturing. “What brings you to my corner of this hell hole.”

“I passed Sargent Walker, she was on her way off shift after twenty-five hours. Says you’ve been on shift longer.” He sits on the empty bed next to where she is working after a quick glance around to make sure no one is headed for this particular bed. The wound is mostly closed on the man’s leg, a Corporal Neal according to his name tag. “You trying to go for a headcase discharge? The burnout? How long have you been up?”

She knots off the string, it’s not medical grade. They ran out of that last week and a new shipment won’t be arriving for another week. He hands her the gauze from the tray on the bed beside him when she points to it. “Maria needs to learn to keep her mouth shut.” Bucky snaps, then sighs. “34 hours. I was just getting off shift when this wave of injured came in.” She wraps the gauze around the man’s leg with the practiced ease of someone who has been doing it for years, not just the months she’s been enlisted. It’s not the first time he has wanted to ask about the husband Bucky has only mentioned a handful of times. “One of the one who died on the way. He reminded me of my Steve. It wasn’t him, I didn’t even have to double check to make sure. Too big. But the image was there.” He hands her the scissors and tape from the same tray. “I figured if I wasn’t going to be sleeping, then I might at least help out where I’m needed.”

He knows about her sickly husband, she shared that with him a while back. He had asked after Steve, who he was stationed with. Ed’s big on rewarding the hard work of those in his command and Bucky had earned it real quick. Sometimes, when he lets his mind dwell on it, he wonders what made this hardworking young woman worry join something that was completely optional and leave behind someone she cares deeply about. “Get some sleep, Barnes. That’s an…”

He trails off, the order dying on his lips when her head swivels towards the open flap at the entrance of the tent, head cocked to the side like it does when she’s listening to something.

“What is it? More wounded Bucky?” Another nurse asks, having noticed the same thing.

It wasn’t unheard of for Bucky to know when air transports were incoming before the rest of the camp, their lookout tower left a lot to be desired when it came to confirming the identity of the incoming aircraft in a timely manner. Her hearing was just that good too, she could tell the difference between an English or an American med plane once it got close enough.

She shakes her head, a confused look on her face. It’s chilling to see that kind of look when she’s normally so confident. “It’s German maybe. I’m not sure, it doesn’t sound right.” She leans forward. “Whatever it is, it’s heavy though.”

The warning alarm goes off, it’s not the normal one they here for the wounded either. Within milliseconds Bucky is up off the bed and dousing the nearest lantern, just as fast as a handful of other nurses in the tent. “Carol, get the flap.” Bucky orders to the blonde nurse that asked her about the sound just moments before. Carol reacts to the command with the posture like it’s an order, despite the fact that she outranks Bucky. The whole tent is doused in darkness within moments of the alarm.

Then the first bomb falls.

++++

Ed’s disoriented when he comes to, the rock that his head is pillowed on is digging into his scalp. He’s sore and stiff, but nothing is screaming at him, so relatively unscathed. With a groan, he’s shoving himself up into a sitting position, bracing himself against the way his vision swims and his stomach rolls.

The camp is in ruins, most tents didn’t survive the attack. That’s what this was, an attack on relatively unarmed personnel. He hasn’t been out long enough for a majority of the fires to go out yet, it’s keeping things warm for now. But when they do go out, and they will, things are going to get cold. They’ll probably lose another ten percent of the survivors in the coming days. At least none of the people milling about are trying to put out the fires. The communications tower is useless now too, probably one of the first buildings to be targeted. A few people are digging through the rubble, probably trying to salvage anything. It’s all probably in vain anyway.

They’re moving with a sense of order, everyone he has observed is, so at least someone is put together enough to try and make headway of the situation that they are in. That’s good, an asset that just decreased their potential loss from ten to eight percent. He sees someone hand what looks like a collection of tags to a woman that’s kneeled over a prone body as he pushes himself up to his feet. He needs a moment to steady himself as the world spins again and tries to figure out if he recognizes the person that everyone is obviously deferring to. To no surprise, he doesn’t, not from behind at least.

“Sargent Barnes.” He greets when he gets close enough to recognize her. He’s never seen her with her hair down, even off duty when she doesn’t have to keep it above the collar. It’s a surprise that it reaches well past shoulder length.

“General Graves. Glad to see you awake.” She answers back, keeping the pressure on a wound in Carol's stomach. There is a pile of dog tags by one of her knees, a sobering sight.

“Give me a report.” He says kneeling into the mud, his uniform is already beyond salvaging. He might as well get his hands dirty, there is a particularly nasty gash on Buckys calf, it's bleeding faster than he would like to see. Especially since she’s been the one giving orders. He’s not professionally trained, only picking up some stuff since he was stationed with this camp. But he knows enough. “May I?” He gestures to the spool of thread and needle that she was using before the bombs. There is considerably less thread in it.

“By all means.” She says with a forced smile, it’s probably more for Carols’ sake than his. Somehow the blonde nurse is still awake, despite all the blood on the ground. “The communications tower is gone, as well as our surgery theater. And most of our doctors, who were performing surgery at the time of the attack. Those who did survive had no idea how to take command, the army is big on giving them rank just because the hold M.D.s” Carol cries out when Bucky shifts her grip after Ed pulls a little too hard. She spends a moment tending to her charge before continuing. “Those who are able bodied I’ve got scouring the camp, some I have salvaging what they can. Taking stock and whatever. Most of them are tending to the wounded, triaging. Little tags, or well scraps of cloth that are different colors pertaining to how severe their injuries are,” she quiets on the next bit. “Or if they are dead already, I’ve got them pulling dog tags if they are.” She nods to the pile by her knee, larger than he would like to see. “Some of them will have to wait until the fires go out before we can collect them. But that’s not my biggest worry.”

Ed ties off the thread and cuts it, she can fix it if she needs to later. He packs up the spool and needle neatly, so as not to lose either one. Bucky doesn’t finish her thought though. “What’s your worry, Barnes?” Ed asks. When she doesn’t answer again, he looks over to her. “Barnes?”

Carol has gone still, her color pale, eyes still open gazing up at the dark sky. Bucky is leaned over her, it takes him a moment to realize that she is praying. Her hair is curtaining her face while she delicately pulls Carol's dog tags off her body. When she looks back up after scooping up the pile of metal, her face is blank. Like her emotions are locked down. “We’re a week out until resupply, and I doubt the tower had a chance to get out a signal to anyone. We aren’t going to be saving anyone in these conditions.”

She’s right, even if they had enough tents to have shelter for everyone, all of their supplies were dangerously low. It’s been a hard month on the front. “Headcount?” He finally asks.

Her jaw tightens. “About one third, accounting for all the injured we had in camp after that last wave. Less are able to walk, we’ll have a real count soon hopefully.”

He hesitates on the next question, Carol was her commanding officer, but there were people ranked above her. As far as he knows though, most of them were in the surgery theater at the time of the bombing. “Your commanding officer in the W.A.C.?”

She shakes her head. “There’s a First Lieutenant and a Major, neither one of them likely. A couple of Sergeants across the ranks, just barely keeping it together. One of them is already gone into shock. None else tried to take charge while you were out, so I did.”

He nods, makes it a point to tell himself that whatever W.A.C. personnel that is in charge at whatever base they get evac’d to needs to know how well she kept her cool. If they get evac’d. “The cold’s going to be a problem, feels like snow.”

Bucky shakes her head at that though, even though he wasn’t looking for a response. “No, the fires should at least smolder through the night and keep the general area warm. The air isn’t right for snow, besides it’s still too early for it in this part of the world.” She shrugs. “I worked the docks in Brooklyn and went home to a drafty tenement with no hot water or heat. Those that survive long enough will make it through the nights just fine.”

“One of these days you’re going to tell me how a gal like you, with your kind of smarts, signed up for this.” Ed gestures to the ruins.

“It ain’t no secret.” Bucky shrugs, a frail smile on her face. “Steve wanted to enlist, wanted me to do it with him.” Her voice goes soft, and her hand subconsciously touches the rings she keeps on her dog tag chain. She holds it there for a moment, lost in thought before snapping out of it. “Anyways,” she tucks her hair behind her ear. Ed spots a trail of blood that he didn’t see before coming from her ear, but she’s reacting just fine to everything, so he’ll let it go for now. “You ever going to tell me why a general is slumming it out her at a hospital camp?”

Ed shakes his head, but he’s thinking about telling her sometime soon. “I cannot tell you that.”

She shrugs, probably expecting that answer out of him. She starts to move forward before stopping. When she turns to look at him her face is filled with horror. “General.” She starts. He’s so surprised by her open emotions all he can do is nod. “As far as I knew, Germany respected hospital camps. Just like we do to them. Field medics go down, that I know, I’ve patched a few up. But hospitals, usually barely armed and filled with wounded are left alone generally.”

Ed’s heart drops out of him. He hadn’t put that thought together. If Germany was crossing a line they have yet to, then something had to have changed. And it wasn’t because they were on the losing side, based on the influx of new wounded that had been coming through the camp, it is as if they are gaining power. All he can force out is, “their aircraft aren’t advanced enough to be able to reach us from their closest airstrip if they are loaded with bombs.”

Bucky is silent for a moment, she’s schooled her emotions back under control. She’d have made a great military commander if she was a man. She just nods once, breaking eye contact as she does. She squares her shoulders, turning back towards the camp. She’s made a decision, he’s not sure what yet, but it doesn’t look like even she likes it. “I’ll take care of the troops then.”

“Barnes?” Ed asks, unsure of what she means.

“You’re going, aren’t you? London needs that intel and we don’t have a working radio. Resupply is in a week, we may have contact sooner if there are wounded.” Her shoulders shake slightly, “but we both know the next people over that hill could very well be Germans.”

He should go, he knows that. The next camp is a few days hike away if he sticks to the road, far enough that they can’t all make the journey. But leaving his post, that doesn’t sit very well at all with him. “No.” He says firm, a command almost. “I won’t risk the chance that the information doesn’t make it there. If we’re out of contact for long enough they have to send someone out to us.”

She looks at him, a defiant look stamped on her face, but she holds her tongue at the command. “What’s the plan then sir?” She asks.

++++

The war headquarters in London is bustling and busy with people everywhere, a far cry from what the hospital camp was like. Three days they were stuck out in the cold, keeping the fires lit with whatever they could find. The dead outnumbering the living, and the number growing by the day. Bucky was wrong about the cold, there was snow. Ed lost his pinkie and part of his ring finger on his left hand to frostbite, vitals are easier to check without a glove and he’s right-handed.

The news that the Germans had better technology than they were supposed to was met with grim looks, at least they believe him. The again the ruins of the hospital camp that was far enough behind allied lines to be out of range to bomb runs is damning evidence. There were things brewing on the allied side as well though, some scientific movement. This war was going to be won from the labs though, that was for certain.

He rounds the corner to find just the women he was looking for. “Carter, Barnes.” He greets with a smile.

“General,” Peggy says with a nod; their working relationship is strenuous at best.

“Graves.” Bucky greets, a smile lifting one corner of her lips. Being in a city has done wonders for her.

Peggy stiffens slightly at the familiarity between them, many people do. The rules are followed much more closely here in London then they ever were in the camp, and three days in the cold at the ass end of the war zone completely cut off from the rest of civilization forged a friendship between them. One strictly designed to get as many people home alive as they could.

“Carter, our transport back to New York is scheduled to leave in the morning. Stark has something there that he would like us to see.” He nods to Peggy, before turning his attention to Bucky. “Barnes, congratulations on the promotion. When do you ship out?”

“I catch a flight out just after dark. I’m catching up with the 107th in Italy.” She doesn’t look excited, nor should she. It’s only been a week since they have returned to civilization, there hasn’t been any time for rest. How can there be? The world is at war.

Chapter Text

If London was overwhelming, then joining the 107th was similar to the docks back in New York. Rowdy soldiers were milling about, getting their entertainment where they could, it was every bit more chaotic than her last post ever would be. Medicine had order, even if it was the strange kind.

“You must be Sergeant Barnes with the W.A.C.” Colonel Phillips says approaching the jeep she is dismounting, uniform pressed and clean. He doesn’t offer her a hand down or with her duffle. The gold pin on her lapel catches his eye briefly before he is moving on, expecting her to follow.

“Yes, sir,” Bucky replies, shouldering her bag and matching his stride.

“Well Barnes, I have to admit, I’m not much of a fan of you being out here on attachment to the 107th.” They bypass cat calling men, Bucky doesn’t even give them a second glance. “But here you are, and it’s my job to keep you safe amongst a group of men who haven’t seen a woman in months, let alone an American one.” Phillips does nothing to stop the men from leering either as they traverse the camp. “Not to mention that they want you on the front line as well, like that’s going to actually happen.”

“Pardon me sir, but my orders are to be attached with the 107th.” Bucky says confused. “It’s my understanding that the field medics aren’t enough anymore. I’m here to bridge that gap between medic and doctor.”

“Now listen here Barnes.” Phillips stops and turns to face her. “I’ll let the fact that you just spoke out of turn slide on account that you are new here I don’t know how they ran things at your last camp. But if you think that I would ever for a moment hold the idea that a woman would belong anywhere near the front line is laughable.” He turns and starts walking again. “Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, sir,” Bucky says with a grimace.

“Where were you stationed anyways?”

“Camp Heldvig sir. 100 miles from the front line.”

The colonel stops in front of a tent. “Were you there during the bombing then?”

Bucky nods. “Yes, sir. I was in the triage tent when they fell.”

“And they sent you even closer to the front lines.” Phillips says. “This is where you’ll stay for the duration of your time with us. There will be a M.P. posted but keep a wary eye. You’ll start training men in the medical tent in the morning.” He turns to leave.

“Sir?” Bucky says. Phillips turns to her. “If you would allow it sir, I just need a moment to change then I would like to get started as soon as possible.”

Phillips smiles. “If you insist sergeant. I’ll have men there in thirty minutes.” He nods before turning away.

++++

Barnes has been in camp for three days, she’s not making any friends, but she teaches with a deft hand and a tone that speaks of hard manual labor. “No. No.” She scolds, Philips cracks a smile as she pushes a larger man out of the way. She sets to work on a new dummy, speaking while she does it. “You’re moving to slow, if you’re in the situation that you have to apply sutures in the field then ain’t nobody gonna care that they ain’t pretty.”

“Excuse me, ma’am, it’s ain’t my fault that they’re not up to par. I ain’t ever been taught this before.” The man she pushed aside says crossing his arms. It’s Drake by the looks of it.

“Well that’s why you’re learning now.” Bucky says stepping back. “Try again, this time I’ve started it for you. See if that helps. We can work on the beginning another time.”

“I don’t know why we’re expected to know how to do this now.” He mumbles stepping up. “Especially learning from some dame that’s never seen gun in her life. Let alone any action.”

Colonel Philips shifts to step in. Private Drake has inches on the sergeant, as well as probably seventy pounds on her.

“They ain’t expecting you to know it. That’s why I’m here, so you can learn.” She points to the dummies. “I can’t say I’ve seen a front line, but I’ve seen the aftermath. A wave of wounded that need more help than your camp doctor can do, more wounded man than we’ve got hands for and having to decide who we spend time saving and who we have to watch die. So, take your frustration out on your sutures.”

“Barnes!” A camp medic calls ducking into the tent. “We got wounded incoming. It’s bad.”

Bucky mutters something that is unbecoming for the ears of most women to hear, let alone actually use, and is exiting the tent before the medic can. Neither one of them seem to notice the Colonel standing just inside the door way. If they do, they pay no mind to him. The two men Bucky was teaching moments before on the other hand do notice him and are standing at attention.

“Well don’t just stand there, either do what the Sergeant said, or go watch her in action.” He orders before exiting the tent to follow the two sprinting figures.

By the time he catches up, the tent is a flurry of activity and loud. Doctor Walters is their highest-ranking doctor. Another doctor was supposed to be arriving from Camp Heldvig, they got Barnes instead. Private Drake pushes into the tent behind him, hugging the wall so he will be out of the way.

“Sergeant Barnes, I trust you’ve worked a surgery tent before.” Doctor Walters calls across the room after turning away from a medic, his voice loud enough to pitch over the chatter. It’s the first time the two of them are working together.

“Part of standard training for every W.A.C. Sargent to have worked a surgery tent.” She calls back whilst scrubbing in. “Only once or twice though, I worked the triage tent. Stabilizing those that needed surgery and treating those that didn’t.”

Walters is probably smiling behind his medical mask. His next words sound far too happy for the situation he is in. “Excellent. That mean you think on your feet and get your hands dirty.” He points to a bed by the end, head craned to look at the injuries on a man’s chest. “Shrapnel wound to the arm, I need you to…”

“Remove the shrapnel and repair any damage I can. Keeping the soldier alive until you can get away from more pressing patients.” Bucky responds ducking under where a medic is carrying a tray as she moves towards the man.

“You are that mans surgeon Sargent. I am one man with many wounded, and you’re the next qualified person on shift.” Walters says making his first cut. “Private Drake! You are one of the men currently being taught by the Sargent correct?” He never looks up from where he is working.

Drake pales but nods. “Yes, sir.”

“Scrub in. The hands-on will be good for you.” Doctor Walters says before turning to take something from the outstretched hand.

“Yes, Sir.”

Bucky has fresh blood on the scrubs she stepped into already by the time Drake joins her across the man. She’s working quickly and near silent as she pulls metal from the arm of Sergeant Garret on the table. Her hands don’t shake as she works, despite the fact that Drakes' hands do shake on the off chance she has him hand her something.

“And now we chase down the rest of the damage. Once we get the bleeding to stop, we can close him up.” Bucky explains, she started doing that when Drake spaced out on her when she asked for a pair of forceps from him. It’s more calming than annoying to him in the chaos that is the surgery tent. Colonel Phillips continues to watch stoically from his place at the wall.

“Ah shit.” Bucky mutters. “Gauze.” She sops at the man’s arm, but it’s to no avail. The bleeding had gotten worse right before they were ready to sow him up. “Hey Doc, how’s your chest wound doing?”

“What’s wrong Barnes?” Walters says without looking up from where he is repairing damage in a chest still.

“Sergeant Garrets Radial Artery just gave. I’m trying to repair it, but I can’t get anything to take hold.” Barnes says swapping out the gauze with new ones. She’s moving with more urgency then she had been, but it’s not panicked. Yet. “Any ideas?”

Doctor Walters is silent for a moment, the whole tent has a hush, even if it’s not completely quiet. No one is talking between each other, the sound of the blood splattering to the floor turns Phillips' stomach. “Have you done an amputation before?” He finally asks, looking away from his patient for the first time.

Bucky freezes, the staff around her working to stop sop up the blood. “Once.”

“Can you do another?”

Bucky’s hands twitch as she takes stock of the scene in front of her. Finally, she holds her hand out. “Tourniquet.”

There is a grin in Walters' voice as he exclaims, “There you go. I’ll try and walk you through it if you hit a snag.”

She works even quieter after that, a hard glint in her eyes. She looks one second away from snapping and taking them all with her. Like something feral has taken control of her. Her technique isn’t technical, nor should it be with her being a triage nurse before. But it’s faster than what they use in a surgery setting, corners cut to save time, to save a life. Before long she has the arm detached at the elbow and is finishing the procedure. About halfway through the final sutures she handles the needle to Drake.

“You’ve got this.” She says the lighter tone she had before non-existent. “I’ll be right here if you hit a snag.”

“Tell me, Barnes.” Walters starts now that he is on the back end of his surgery and can make actual conversation. “What’s a triage nurse doing with the knowledge to amputate a limb.”

Bucky looks up to Doctor Walters. “I was stationed at Camp Heldvig before this. We were still working through a fresh wave of wounded when the bombs fell. One hundred and seventeen people survived the bombing. The surgery tent was one of structures directly hit. Most of the surgical staff was in there. Being a triage nurse didn’t matter so much anymore. Not when I was performing surgery alone in a cratered field.” Her eyes fall back to Drakes crooked sutures, she doesn’t correct his technique though. They get the job done and he’ll get better with time, and with more practice. “We were there for three days before help came. Fifty-five more people died.”

++++

Slipping into the tent, Bucky stands at attention. “At ease Sergeant,” Phillips says as the men who were in the tent start filing out.

Bucky watches them go. There is an air of respect between them, but not friendliness. The story of where Bucky came from spread through the camp like wildfire within minutes. Now days later, no one is jumping to sit with Bucky in the mess, but she’s still the talk of the camp.

“The 107th will be shipping out for the battle field in the morning. You’ll be going with them.” He gestures to a chair. “Have a seat Barnes.” She sits down stiffly. “You impressed me the other day, the way you reacted under that pressure.”

Bucky shrugs, “It’s what I’m here for sir, to react well under pressure. I react well under pressure.”

“It won’t be pretty out there. The front line.” The Colonel says sitting back. “But you have orders to be there, and for once I believe you belong there. Your job is to stay out of the way, stabilize the men, and not get shot.”

She nods. “Never expected it to be pretty sir, I’ve seen the aftermath.” She picks at her nails without looking down at her hands. “Was it the way I reacted in the operating room? Or was it the story of Camp Heldvig, sir?”

Colonel Chester eyes her. “Both.” He grunts out. “Most of the women I have met serving in either the Nurse Corps or the W.A.C. all have one thing in common other than being fantastic nurses. And that is the men here. I’ve been watching you Barnes. You’re different. Your eyes don’t wander on the men here in camp. You don’t take risks, you intend to make it home when the job is done. After the bombing, you could have yet here you are. Which tells me you understand that war is hell, yet you’re trying to do your job still. So, either you’re not into men, or he’s not over here.” He settles back into his seat. “Which is it?”

She shakes her head. “I’m married to a man named Steve, for his wedding gift I enlisted with him. I’m here in Italy, hopefully he’s in the shoebox I left him in back in Brooklyn.” Her eyes fall to the map on the desk. “If I went home now when there is a job left to do, he’d never forgive me. I just never thought I’d actually be good at this.”

“That’s good enough of an answer for me.” Chester says. “Dismissed, unless you have anything else to add.”

Barnes shakes her head before standing. “Thank you, sir.” She heads towards the exit of the tent.

“Barnes.” Colonel Chester calls, waiting for her to turn to look at him. “You aren’t being requisitioned a gun.”

The smile she gives him is borderline on cheeky. “Colonel Chester, the W.A.C is not allowed to carry guns. I thought you knew that.” Then she is gone through the flap of the tent.

Chapter Text

The staccato pops of gun fire were matched with the cloud of dust that was stirred up by the bullets landing near their heads. Corporal Tim Dugan watched as their new medic timed her jaunts from ditch to ditch to avoid being shot. She’s nearly unrecognizable as she drops into their ditch, bullets pelting the ground that she was just standing on. Her hair that is normally pinned back is sitting on her shoulder in a braid, mud caked into her pants from the knee down. There’s a smudge of dirt mixed in blood on her cheek, a trail of blood from her left ear. “Tell me what happened.” She shouts over the noise, already digging her fingers in the wound.

Dugan has to hand it to her, he’s seen higher ranked men crumble when faced with the front. She hasn’t even flinched yet, even with the threat of death looming over her. He was weary when he found out that the brass in London were sending out some nurse to do triage in the field, especially considering they had all heard the news about the med camp that was decimated not even two weeks ago. So were the rest of the men in camp. Bucky didn’t make any friends for herself in those first few days either, with the way she pushed the men she was teaching. Then the news broke about what she had lived through, and the attitude towards her changed. No one wanted to be her friend still, but she had the respect of the men in the 107th. Now Dugan regrets not getting to know her sooner.

“He was shot.” Corporal Mercer deadpans.

“Oh really?” Bucky snipes back, pulling a piece of ripped fabric from the pouch she is carrying. “I hadn’t noticed.” She ties off the rag above the wound and goes back to digging into it. “Yeah, he’s done here. Nico, Fitz, as soon as you get the chance you guys are going. The closest evac is back seven ditches or so and two the left. You’ll be able to see it.” She packs the wound and wraps it up while she’s talking. Leaving bloody smears behind in her wake. “Keep low and keep moving. I don’t want to be sowing you up next.”

“Yes ma’am” Fitz responds despite the fact she holds no power over them.

“Ok.” Bucky says looking out to the field. “On three you go. One, two,” A fellow soldier falls just out of reach to their ditch. “Go, go now. Mercer cover fire. Dugan, help me pull him in.” She springs up, scrabbling for a hold in the dirt as her head rings with the gunfire in close range. She barely manages to get a hold on the guys shirt to give a tug, moving him slightly more towards their ditch. Dugan’s fingers find purchase on the other side of his shirt and they both tug, pulling the sergeant into the ditch with them.

Larger bullets rain down on the area around them, making them duck further down into their ditch. “What the hell is that? A cannon?” Mercer asks jumping up to return fire.

“The Germans are getting new tech from somewhere.” Bucky says ripping into the mans pant leg. “It’s bigger, faster, and packs a bigger punch.” Her fingers searching for the source of all the blood. Mercer has his eyes on her when he drops back down. “They shouldn’t have been able to drop the bombs on us at all.” She wipes at her brow with the back of her arm leaning back. “He’s gone. Bullet tore through the femoral artery.” She wipes her hands on a rag she fishes out of her pants pocket. “Nothing I could do.”

She joins the men up against the wall, “we’re sitting ducks here. Everyone is.”

“The sarge here was a marksman, and that got him killed. I can’t get an eye on any others.” Dugan says jumping up to fire off a few shots before dropping back down. “Mercer how’s your aim.”

“Being raised on a farm didn’t help it any.” Mercer says. “That’s a small target with a lot of fire coming at you.”

Bucky picks up the gun that the fallen sergeant was carrying it, getting a feel for it in her hands. She gives it a quick shake and glances down the scope. “Aim for the can. Both eyes open.” She mutters before bouncing up, having to climb up a little bit to see over the mound. With a brief moment to aim she fires out a shot, ending the harsh gun blasts. She ejects the shell, before firing again, dismantling the gun. She slides back down, resting against the dirt.

“Gun’s down.” She says shooting the shocked men a feral grin.

++++

Bucky sets her tray down at an empty table in the mess, before propping her head up and yawning. They had made it back to camp just before dawn and had yet to go to bed after days on the front. She’s had a chance to shower at least.

A tray rattles as it’s dropped onto the table in front of her, Dugan following it. “That was some shot out there. You can shoot, patch a wound, any other tricks up your sleeves.”

“I can’t sing if that’s what you're asking.” Bucky says swallowing around a mouthful of food.

Dugan huffs out a chuckle. “I wanted to thank you.” He starts. “I wasn’t sure about you at first, even after I heard about Camp Heldvig. But you saved my life, saved a lot of lives by doing that.”

She shrugs, “I’m here to save lives. Patching up a guy or fire a gun. Don’t matter to me.” She shovels another spoonful of food into her mouth. “Just don’t tell the Colonel.”

“Why?” Dugan asks.

“Because Corporal Dugan, women in the W.A.C. don’t carry guns.” Colonel Chester says from behind them making the pair stiffen. Bucky shoots Dugan a look. “Corporal Mercer ratted you out.”

Bucky shakes her head. “You sendin’ me back then?”

Colonel Chester shakes his head. “I am not. Welcome to the U.S. Army Sergeant Barnes. You’ll report to the armory in the morning for training.” He waits until she nods at him before turning and leaving the mess. Bucky watches him go with her brow furrowed in confusion.

“The bleeding stop?” Dugan asks, pulling her attention back to him. He gestures to his ear with his fork. Her hand touches the victory roll that covers her ear. “Yeah, I noticed the blood.”

“It just hasn’t had a chance to heal yet.” She mutters looking down to her try. “It’s because of the bombing. It’s fine.” He gives her a searching look. “I was cleared by a doctor in London before they shipped me out. I told him about my ear.”

“I’ve got your number now Barnes.” Dugan says eyeing her as he takes a sip of his coffee.

With a smile she shakes her head before digging into her food again.

++++

“Shit!” Bucky curses ducking down. The private she’s trying to get back for med evac groans, he’s got a bullet lodged in his shoulder and only so long before he loses the arm. Her ear is bleeding again too. Dirt and mud cover her as the bullets hit earth, the momentum kicking up debris. She jumps up to fire back, not aiming first.

“I got your back, Sarge.” Dugan grunts, hitting the dirt next to her. His hat sitting askew on his head.

She gives him a tense smile. “Don’t get shot.” Shouldering her rifle, she ducks down gripping the collar of the private’s shirt and starts dragging him back. Dugan providing cover fire.

“’m not planning on it.” He smiles before turning his back on her to pay attention to what he’s doing.

Bucky shakes her head at him as she drags the man through the mud.

++++

“Let me take a look at your ear.” Dugan says ducking through the open doorway of her tent. Bucky has her hair down, running a brush through it. She’s showered and changed, the collared shirt and slacks clean and at least two sizes too big on her. She’s pilfered a mirror from somewhere, and a chair. “I noticed it was bleeding again.”

“I’m fine.” Bucky says. The bleeding’s stopped. Her fingers deftly roll her hair in the front like he is so used to seeing when she is around camp. She turns to look at him while pinning up the rest of her hair, having it sit above her collar. It’s weird for him to see it down, even briefly, longer than he expected it to be too.

“Yeah well, let me look at it anyways. It looked pretty bad.” Dugan says sitting down on her cot.

She rolls her eyes but offers up her ear to him anyways. True to her word, the bleeding has stopped, and the area is clear. If he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes, he might not have believed that she had blood staining her collar. “Colonel Chester know?” He asks leaning back.

“I assume so.” She shrugs. “I had to be cleared to come here, but I don’t know if it was included in whatever briefing he got about me.” Standing up she picks up her uniform jacket from where it was hung on the back of the chair. “Now if you would excuse me, I have briefing to sit in on. Apparently.” She slides into her jacket, buttoning it up.

++++

Dugan comes to with Bucky leaning over him, her brow furrowed. “I was really hoping that you would stay out for this part.” She says softly.

Before he can try to form a question, she yanks his arm, and something pops back into place. He gives a yell as the pain flairs up before dulling back out again. She settles back taking a look at him. “You got yourself banged up. Not bad enough for a ticket home, but enough to make me worry about you.”

“Wha happn’d” Dugan mumbles still riding the tendrils of pain.

She stares at him for a moment. “You tripped, on a rock. Popped your shoulder out. Hit your head pretty hard. The doc will have to check it, but it’s back in now.”

“I tripped?” He asks, trying to work through the confusion that is fogging his memory.

“Yeah, went right down like a sack of rocks.” She waves a soldier over. “I’ll see you on the other side. Try not to get shot on your way to evac.” The smile she gives him is tense, then she is gone leaving him with a dull ache in his shoulder and a splitting headache.

++++

Dugan is released before the rest of the 107th is back from the front, they gave him something for the pain and orders to rest, he would heal with time. It’s the commotion that wakes him up from the uneasy sleep that he had fallen into. The pain in his shoulder can be ignored, but his headache is back. He recognizes the men as they trek through camp exhausted, haunted by what they’ve seen.

Pain meds, then he’ll find the Sarge.

She’s in medical when he gets there, he doesn’t see her. But when they have him sit on a bed to check his pupils before they’ll give him anything, he hears her voice. It’s tinged with a little bit of pain, but she’s cheery otherwise.

She’s sitting on a bed when he rounds the privacy curtain, fully intact from what he can see, despite the flash of blood that he’s gotten used to seeing trickling down her left cheek and onto her collar. There’s one of the surgeons taking a look at the damage he knows hides inside her ear, they don’t just bleed. He knows she’s been hiding how serious it actually is. But they’re chatting about something that passes way above his head medical wise. Some of the tension falls from her shoulders when she sees him, and she shoots him a grin that has him settling in for the rest of her checkup.

++++

“What keeps you going?” Dugan asks one day out of the blue. They’re hunkered down in a ditch, have been for the better part of the day. What started as just grey sky and a few flurries this morning has turned into a blizzard, one of the last of the season probably. Occasionally there will be a couple of shots, but for the most part, both sides are just trying to stay warm.

She shoots him a look before going back looking at the small fire they have going. She’s quite for long enough that Dugan starts to think he crossed a line he didn’t know was there. “There’s this tenement in Brooklyn Heights.” She finally starts, eyes far away. “Four-story walk up, drafty little thing, no hot water. We had more when I was growing up really, even though we had all those mouths to feed. But it’s home, I moved in after Steve’s’ ma died. We weren’t married yet, but I promised her I’d look after him. Didn’t matter that it wasn’t a thing that was done, everyone knew we were practically married anyways. The neighbors didn’t care o’course, not in that neighborhood.” She looks up at him again. “Steve’s’ too sick to serve, maybe too sick for much of a life together. But he’s waiting for me back there.” She gives him a little smile.

He sees a flash of someone he’s never met before in her face, someone who is carefree and happy. Who she was before the war probably, she’s seen more death than he has, she's been closer to it.

“My ma cried when my number got called.” Dugan says. “I wasn’t courtin’ no one or anything. Wasn’t much for workin’ neither, still living with her. My brother dodged the draft, school and stuff. He had all the brains and drive, I suppose there wasn’t much left for me by the time I came around.” He nods, “I remember her face though, I wanted to go. Do somethin’ good with my life. Now I can’t wait till I see her again.”

++++

“They’re taking prisoners.” Dugan curses sliding back down into the hole. Fighting picked back up when the weather cleared yesterday.

“Shit.” Bucky says, twisting her fingers through her hair pinning it up on her head before shoving her cap over the knot of hair. She pulls her button-up shirt from where it’s tucked into her pants, unknotting it where she tied it together for it to be slightly more formfitting. Dugan looks up to the sky when there is a flash of her skin. She leans over to untuck her pants from her boots, “Jones, right? That’s your name?”

The dark-skinned man looks over, surprised at being addressed. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Donate your jacket to the cause soldier. I’ve got to look like a man before they get to us.” Bucky says running one of her dirt-covered hands across her cheeks.

“Ma’am?” Gabe says sliding out of his jacket even though he is looking at her confused. He hands it to her, goose bumps crossing his skin.

“It’s Bucky, private. Sarge if you must.” She says sliding into the jacket. Knowing that she’s a woman, he can tell just by looking at her, but the transformation is surprising anyways. “I am a woman in enemy territory. I’ve gone through training on what to do in this situation. But I don’t agree with it all that much.” She gives him a searching look. “Dugan. Tim.”

“Jane?” He asks confused. By more than just her addressing him.

“Thanks for making my time on the front bearable. I don’t know how I would’ve done if you weren’t my friend. I just wanted you to know, incase this is the last time I see you.” She gives him a sad smile.

It takes him longer than he likes to admit figuring out what she’s not saying. “You don’t think you’ll…” He can’t say it. They were just talking about what keeps them going not two days ago.

“I plan to.” She says, and there is a hard set to her jaw as she finalizes her disguise. “But your odds are better than mine. There’s a reason woman aren’t allowed on the front.”

He reaches out and grabs her shoulder, they won’t hug, that would just be a sign of defeat on both their ends. He lets go of her shoulder and they turn, waiting to be captured.

Chapter Text

He’s running a clock in his head as he searches through the compound. He doesn’t have much longer to search before he himself has to get out of the building and join those who he’s already rescued. So far everyone he has come across is dead, some long since, others not so much. He pushes through a set of double doors into some kind of lab, giving it a quick once over for anyone before turning to leave. His attention gets caught by a map on the wall of other HYDRA bases, memorizing where they are located. It’s a very human-like groan that makes him turn back to the lab. He steps farther into the room and around a metal table that has dried blood on it when he sees the crumpled form of a person on the ground.

“Bucky?” Steve asks helping the disheveled brunette up from where she’s splayed on the ground, still groggy and papers were strewn about her. “I thought you were dead.” His fingers lightly brush a forming bump on her head, the blood still tacky where it’s stuck in her hair. He hauls her up into a standing position, supporting her weight for the first time ever.

Her eyes are wide as she takes stock of the changes he’s gone through. “I thought you were…” She blinks hard a few times and swallows. “I thought you were smaller.”

Steve lets out a huff of relieved laughter and shifts her around so he can walk while supporting her. They’re moving much slower than he would like, especially with the fact that the building is about to be coming down around them in a matter of minutes. But Bucky has refused twice when he offered to carry her. “Wait, wait.” Bucky slurs. The egg on her head has him worried, but the fact that she’s up and coherent makes him stop with her. “The papers. Steve grab the papers, Zola’s notes.” She pushes on his shoulder to get him to move.

“Bucky, we don’t…” Steve starts to argue. But she just pushes at his shoulder harder and more urgently.

“Steven.” She grounds out, it’s the most put together she has sounded since he’s found her.

“Alright, Alright.” He concedes propping her up against the wall before doubling back to where he found her. He scoops up the papers grumbling under his breath as he does so, unable to believe that he is gathering paper on a time crunch. He pauses at a smear of blood on some of the pages. He bites his lip looking over to where Bucky is leaning against the wall.

She’s bent at the waist, supporting herself with a hand on one thigh. The other is pinching at the bridge of her nose. He’s never seen her hair this disheveled, long since fallen out of the victory rolls that she normally keeps it in, it’s gotten long since he’s last seen it down. Despite the egg on her head, she seems relatively unscathed, miles away from what he had been expecting ever since Colonel Chester gave him the bad news.

She pushes herself up as Steve approaches again, she looks a little more put together, steadier on her feet. “Okay, let’s go.” She says holding her hands out for the papers. He hesitates, but she just takes the papers from him and pushes out through the doors he came through. She folds them in half, shoving them into a pocket of the jacket that she’s wearing, it’s U.S. military issue, even if it’s a few sizes too big on her.

Her steps are certain as she leads him through the compound, steady on her feet in a way that surprises him after the state he found her in. What’s more surprising is that she seems to know where she’s going. “What happened to you?” She finally asks, breaking the silence they’ve been moving in.

“I joined the army.” Steve answers willing to follow her line of questions, just relieved that she’s alive.

“Did it hurt?” She asks pushing through a set of doors. She’s gaining strength the more time passes.

“A little.” Steve lies following her up the metal stairs she’s climbing. It’s not the way he came. The detonation must have started, the factory floor that he passed through earlier is a fire field.

“Is it permanent?” She asks letting him pass her while she catches her breath.

“So far.” They climb flights of stairs, aiming for the platform at the top that has a set of doors.

“Captain America.” A voice calls, stepping out of the dark doorway. “I’m a fan of your films.” Schmidt steps out into the light, Zola not too far behind him. Zola’s eyes aren’t trained on Steve though, they are fixed on something behind him. Someone behind him. “So, Dr. Eriskine was successful.” He steps down onto the plankway between them and the door.

Steve leads with a punch. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Schmidt’s face droops slightly under his right eye, he responds like he doesn’t feel it.

“Don’t I?” Schmidt asks, throwing a punch of his own. Steve barely manages to block it with the shield he’s carrying. “Don’t believe the lies he told you.” With a gloved hand, he pulls off the skin on his face, revealing a bright red skull. Zola’s attention is finally pulled away from Bucky and towards his boss. He reacts a moment later, pulling the lever that retracts the gangplank, their only way out. “I was his greatest success.” They disappear back through the doorway as the building is rocked with an explosion from somewhere in the building. The fire below them ramping up in intensity.

Steve is judging the distance between them and the other side when Bucky calls his name. She’s standing by an iron support beam, it spans the entire length of the building, supporting walkways like the one they are standing on. “You first,” Steve says giving her a hand up, not letting her argue with him.

The beam groans as another explosion goes off, this one closer. Bucky shoots him a worried look over her shoulder before she steps up the pace to get across. It groans and shifts once or twice, before letting go completely. Steve’s heart stops as he watches the beam fall out from underneath Bucky when she’s just a couple steps away from the other side. She’s made it though, when he looks back up from watching the beam disappear into the flames, she’s pulling herself up and over the guard rail.

“GO!” He yells, one of them needs to make it out alive.

“Not without you!” She yells back, leaning against the rail. She’s the only one who can match his stubbornness, and she really would stay and die with him.

He glances behind him at the walkway, then bends the guard rail out of the way. He backs up as far as he can go before taking off into a sprint, leaping off of the walkway at the last moment. He hits the rail with a grunt, scrabbling for purchase, aided by Bucky’s grip. She’s helping him up and over the rail before dragging him into the stairwell, slamming the door shut with her body as the factory floor explodes. He’s just getting his bearings again when she starts giggling, little uncontrollable sounds slipping out of her mouth.

She’s disheveled, her hair a mess of knots, dirt, and blood. In need of a good washing, her clothes are filthy, getting threadbare in spots and she’s lost weight, even under all the baggy clothes he can tell. But the smile on her face is real, and she’s never looked more beautiful. He can’t help himself. Steve hauls her up into a bruising kiss, pouring all of his relief into the action. She tastes a little stale, but she gives back as good as she gets.

They descend down the stairs when he can finally let her go, the sounds of fighting getting louder the closer they get to the exit. Steve adjusts his grip on the shield, bent from the punch, and opens his mouth to give an order to Bucky.

She pushes out of the door before he can even get a word out, the “stay here” dying on his lips. He watches her elbow one of Schmidt’s soldiers in the neck without hesitating, fighting with him for the gun. Steve blocks a shot with his shield, turning to take out the attacker, and when he turns back, he just barely catches the tail end of Bucky bringing the butt of the rifle down on the soldier’s head with a sickening crack. She pops back up, blood splatter across her.

He searches her face, every trace of the woman he kissed in the stairwell gone, left behind is the hardened soldier she’s turned into. Her eyes are dark, not a single trace of warmth or regret in them. He loses track of her after that, the enemy is thinning with no reinforcements, but there are still plenty to take out. She goes one way, and before he can follow her, he has to go the other.

He finds her later, leaning over a fallen man, fingers working deftly on a wound. In her letters she said she was a nurse; he’s seeing it now. She spins, picking up the discarded rifle as she does, training on him. The relief on her face is visible when she realizes it him standing there and not HYDRA. “Steve.” She sighs.

“Are you okay?” Steve asks, eyes assessing her for damage, there is a little more blood on her than he would like to see, but it doesn’t look like it’s hers.

“I’m f…” She starts but gets caught off.

“Bucky!” A man yells it’s the same one with the hat from that first group of people who he released from the cells.

Bucky turns at the call without hesitation, “Dugan!” She yells back, up on her feet within a second. He wraps her up into a bone-crushing hug, picking her up off her feet. Steve shoves the flair of jealousy down. When he sets her down, she’s assessing some of the other men visually, exchanging short words with a few.

“What’s the plan?” Dugan asks.

Bucky turns to look at him. “Captain?” She prompts, deferring to him, despite the question being directed at her.

He holds up his walkie, “My communicator is shot, I can’t call for a ride out. But there is a road, we can…”

“We’ll need a few trucks for the wounded,” Bucky cuts him off before stepping away. She’s holding herself tense as he watches her go. He’ll check on her as soon as he can.

“Right, does anyone know how to hotwire a truck?” A few men nodded, “Okay, gather as many trucks as you can. It’s about 30 miles back to friendly territory. I need some of you to get the wounded ready for transport. The rest of you gather food, water, medical supplies, guns. Anything you think we might need.” He nods.

“Sergeant Barnes will be your medical point of contact,” Dugan says, cutting Steve off even though he doesn’t have the authority, what authority does Steve have though? He’s not a real captain, he’s a glorified showgirl. “Those of you who aren’t in the 107th and don’t know. You just met her, and any of you who think your field medic training is better than her training can answer to me.” His eyes train on Steve as he says the next part like he’s challenging him. “She’s as much of a soldier as the rest of us.”

Obviously, they don’t know the relationship between Steve and Bucky. He can respect the fact that Dugan is laying down the law about Bucky’s standing in the military. Saves him from having to do it, and it carries more weight coming from someone that actually served with her.

He finds Bucky leaning up against a crumbled wall, pinching the bridge of her nose again. She knows he’s coming if the way she tenses up her shoulders and shoves the mask back in place is any indication. He was able to catch the flash of raw grief on her face for a moment. “Everything alright with you?” Steve asks, blocking her from the view of the other men in case she’s trying not to fall apart in front of them and wants some privacy to do so.

“Yeah. I’m fine.” She says, words short and clipped.

“Bucky,” Steve sighs, “I know you’re lying.”

“What do you want me to say, Steve? I have a splitting headache, this is the first time in three weeks I’ve seen the men, my men, except for the ones that they’ve brought into the lab. I’ve held the hand of countless men as they have died, terrified, knowing that any day that could be me. Then you show up looking like this when the only thing that was keeping me going was the knowledge that you were safe at home in Brooklyn. So, all things considered, I’m doing okay.” She shrugs her shoulders. “I just needed a moment to myself okay. The first moment I’ve had alone for three weeks.” Someone calls for her. She gives Steve a look, shoving something into his hands before pushing off the wall and heading back towards the men.

He looks down to what she forced on him. It’s a bundle of dog tags, those who have fallen.

++++

Steve keeps an eye on her as they make the slow trek back through enemy territory and into friendly territory. She’s washed the blood off of her face, but there is nothing to be done about her clothes, they are beyond salvaging. It seems that either the further they get away from Azzano, or the more time she spends with the men, maybe both. Bucky slides further back into something closer to what he remembers her being back in New York. It’s for the best really even if this side makes him want to shield her from the gruesome facts of the war that he’s had to learn quickly in just a few short hours after coming to the camp the 107th was stationed out of, his first stop on the USO tour. It doesn’t matter that she’s been living in this kind of world for more than a year at this point. The look in her eyes when she bashed that man’s skull in was chilling.

She’s ruthless with the men too though, the first time someone tries to insinuate that she’s less because she’s a woman and test Dugan’s statement that she’s ranking medical officer. She’s got him on the ground, arm twisted behind his back before anyone can process what’s been said.

“Feel that?” She asks anger tinging her voice, but in complete control. “That pain right there is the only warning you get before your arm snaps, doesn’t take more than a few pounds of pressure either. I’d be able to set it back into place too,” She twists a little more, making the man cry out. Someone moves as if to step in to stop her. But the James Falsworth, the English soldier steps in and stops him from moving. “And not a person here would back up your story, they would all say you fell.” She lets go of him and gets up. “I’ve seen more combat wounds than you can ever dream of.” She stalks off, through the crowd and into one of the trucks to tend to the wounded like she was heading to do before.

Steve shoots Dugan a worried look, not having been expecting that out of her. But the Corporal looks unsurprised by her actions and isn’t moving to react. “She threaten the men a lot?” Steve finally asks once everyone has dispersed and they are back to trekking through the woods.

Dugan shakes his head. “No, not unless she has to. She came to us from a hospital camp that had been bombed. We didn’t know that at the time o’course. She rubbed this one guy the wrong way. Rubbed us all a little wrong I guess, a woman on the front lines. She carried herself stiffer too, never let her guard down. Private Drake was his name, big guy too. Nearly a hundred pounds heavier, few inches taller.,” Steve recognizes his name from one of the tags that Bucky handed him. “Didn’t think he needed to learn what she was teaching him, didn’t want to learn from a woman. Didn’t get better after she told the surgeon that she learned how to amputate despite not being a surgical nurse. Finally, he got too up in her space I guess, did the same thing to him too. Had him down in the dirt within moments. They weren’t friends after that, but he respected her. Best damn field medic we had beside her too. She only had to get physical one other time. A Corporal Mercer, but no one really got along with him.”

Steve nods, Bucky sometimes did something similar back in Brooklyn too. Usually when his mouth got away from him and she had to step in. She knew how to be big and scary if she needed to be.

The camp is a sight for sore eyes when they finally get back to it. He doesn’t mean to cause a commotion either, but the joy that the men who were camp get from finally getting good news about the rest of the 107th is unstoppable.

Colonel Phillips meets them halfway into the camp, eyes searching and taking stock of the people in the crowd around him, those that he brought back. Both Peggy and Stark at each shoulder.

“I accept any punishment you see fit to take,” Steve says, standing tall waiting for the wrath of the U.S. Military to come down on him.

“As much as I would like to bring the full force of the military against you for disobeying a direct order,” Colonel Phillips pauses, finally letting a smile crack, even if it’s a little thing. “You did just single-handedly rescue over two hundred allied men. I’ll see you in my tent for a debrief at 14:00.” He turns to go, muttering something about hope to Peggy.

Steve turns to Bucky, opening his mouth to say something.

“Let’s hear it for Captain America,” Bucky yells, causing the camp to break out into cheers. She disappears into the crowd while he is distracted.

Chapter Text

When Steve gets out of the briefing, he hasn’t seen Bucky for four hours. Steve knows that she has a briefing with Colonel Phillips at 17:00 that he’s been asked to sit in on, but that’s all he knows about anything.

He finds her in the med tent, attending to one of the men from Azzano. She’s showered and changed at some point, her hair is tamed and neatly pinned up. The color’s come back to her cheeks a little, she’s had something to eat if the empty food tray on the cart she has is any indication. Someone’s looked her over at least as well, there are two bandages on a cut along her forehead where the bleeding must have come from, as well as some cotton in one of her ears. She’s not doing anything medical, just reading the man’s chart.

Steve takes a moment to just take stock of the changes in his wife that have happened over the year plus they’ve spent apart. She hasn’t just lost weight, she’s toned up as well. Where Bucky has always been a little muscular under a small layer of fluff, she’s now hard lines and muscle. She’s always worn slacks, but the men’s clothes she has on made her look tiny. That thought is messing with his head, he’s always felt small next to her.

“Hey, Mark.” She calls, still absorbed in the chart. A surgeon excuses himself from a conversation with another medic and joins her, he’s grey at the temples and they move around each other with an air of familiarity. She points to something on the chart. “We need to keep an eye on that, it’s probably nothing. But I saw the same trend in a Sergeant we lost at Heldvig, he was bleedin’ out internally.”

Mark nods and barks orders out to the room, the medical terminology goes right over his head, but Steve’s not paying attention to the rest of the room. The respect that Bucky commands is a little jarring to see. She worked on the docks back home, as a woman in that field she was lucky to have a job, let alone anyone respects her opinion. It’s changed her. She’s standing tall, not hiding as she did back in Brooklyn, confident in her skin finally. He’s enjoying it if he’s being honest.

“Captain America,” The surgeon, Mark, says surprised as he turns, “what can we do for you?”

Bucky turns to look at him, he gives a nod to them both but keeps his eyes trained on her. “Pay no mind to me, I’m just checking in on the wounded.” Bucky smiles at him. The type of smile she used to give him before the war.

++++

“How are you doing?” Colonel Phillips asks as he settles into his seat.

Bucky is at ease with him, they’ve worked out a good working relationship between the two of them. “I’m doing alright. I’m happy to see familiar faces again.” She’s settled herself comfortably in the chair. Almost as if she has sat there many times before. Her hands are joined and resting on her knee, but she’s not sitting up straight or addressing him properly.

Steve takes stock of the other people in the tent, there’s the head surgeon, Mark. As well as Howard and Peggy. People who need to know what’s going on, as well as who need to know about her health. It’s only his rights as her husband that allow him to sit in on this debrief.

“I’m glad you made it back here safely.” Colonel Phillips says. “you understand why I couldn’t send anyone after you guys.” His tone is soft, and he’s treading carefully. It was his decision not to go in after them, to send men to rescue them. He was the one who chose to let them die there.

Bucky nods. “You would have been sending men in there blind, risking countless lives for what could have very well been a suicide mission. There was no intel, no maps, and no guarantee that any of us were still alive. As a prisoner it is not the answer that I like, nor can I say it sat well with them men. Or gave them courage and hope. But I understand it, the men understand it, war is hell, and we all have to make sacrifices. Some of us will have to sacrifice our lives. There is no getting around that.” She looks down at her knees thoughtfully. Chewing over her next words. “It…”

She looks up and meets the eyes of everyone in the tent. “The only reason that any of us came back alive is that my husband felt morally obligated to leave no man behind.”

Phillips nods. “I’m assuming you know why you’re here?”

She gives him a forced smile. “You want to know what I saw, and what I know.” She looks down her knuckles, the skin there is split in a few places.

“If you can,” Peggy says.

Bucky nods. “Three days after they took us, Zola came down demanding a medic. Two men had been taken already. They had us working on something in a factory, I’m not really sure what it was.” She shakes her head. “Zola was experimenting on people. Killing them by doing that. He had me treating them, I was providing medical attention to them. He also used me as an assistant.” She slides forward snagging the folded notes and dragged them towards the edge of the desk.

Steve can’t make heads or tails of them. He looked at them when he had his debrief earlier. From the looks of it, she can.

“He was trying to create something, superhumans I guess in between doing whatever he did when he wasn’t in the lab.” She rifles through the notes. Missing the looks shared between everyone else in the tent. “When I learned his code, he had me taking the notes for him.” She smooths out a page, it’s the one with the blood on it. “He was getting closer to succeeding. The last soldier survived two days after initial dosing. He was just about to choose another subject when the alarm went off.”

“Schmidt came down to collect him,” Bucky starts after a moment of silence. “He was in a rush too; I think that’s why he didn’t take care of me himself.” Her hand comes up to brush the bandage at her hairline. “The thing about Zola is that if you ignore the fact that he has complete disregard for human life, he has quite the morals. Wants the death of his experiments to be quick and painless, won’t experiment on women or children from what I can tell.” She goes quiet again, bringing her eyes up to meet Steve’s. “Unable to kill me himself. Schmidt told him to take care of me, but he was unable to pull the trigger. He just bashed me in the head instead.”

Steve clenches his jaw in anger, somewhere deep down he knows that Bucky was left for dead, but actually hearing her admit that she knows she made him want to string Zola up, by his toes preferably.

“His notes,” Howard starts leaning forwards. “Can you translate them?”

Bucky drags her eyes over to him. “Maybe, I don’t have the entirety of his code figured out. Only part of it.” Howard nods like he was expecting that answer from her, he sits back with a thoughtful look on his face.

“Bucky,” Mark chimes in hesitantly. He has a grim look on his face. “I hate to ask this, but I have to.”

Steve tenses, unsure about what the doctor is going to ask, but nervous, nonetheless. If it’s something the good doctor doesn’t want to ask, then it can’t be good. She was checked over by someone in the med tent, but she’s never been a fan of being looked over. With her pull, they could have just taken her at her word and sent her on her way.

“Were you…” He furrows his brow, trying to form his words so they land the best.

“Taken advantage of?” Bucky asks when the silence draws out for too long. Peggy and Colonel Phillips exchange a worried look. The same thing obviously on their minds.

The thought hadn’t even crossed Steve’s mind, the joy of finding his wife alive and mostly whole was still controlling his emotions. He takes a hard look at her, tries to see her without his emotions clouding his judgment. Out of everyone he would know the signs the best, he knew her the best. She had been somewhat distant with him since he found her, but nothing that wasn’t explained away by her injuries. She seemed fine, nothing like that six-month period in ’35.

“No.” She shakes her head. Digging at something under her shirt as she keeps talking. “I could tell it crossed Schmidt’s mind once, but ultimately I’m offensive to his Christian sensibilities.” She gets a thin gold chain free, dangling from it was a simple gold star of David. Winifred Barnes gifted that to her daughter shortly after the events of 1935, despite not being able to afford gold without it putting a strain on the financial situation of the family.

“Once Schmidt decided I wasn’t good enough for him, his goons followed suit. He’s godlike in their eyes.” She carefully tucks the necklace back into her shirt. “They left me alone mostly.

Steve thought she left that religion behind when they got married. “You lied to Father Matthews?” He asks in disbelief.

“That’s what you’re focusing on. Now?” She asks confused, looking at him again.

“I’m just surprised is all. You lied in a Catholic Church.”

“I wanted to marry you, didn’t really matter to me where. You were the one who wanted to get married in a church.” She shrugs as if it’s nothing. “Father Matthews knew that I wasn’t serious about switching religions’, but he had seen me around when I accompanied you to mass. He could tell that I loved you, so we made a deal.” She shifts in the chair so she can be facing him completely.

“So, our entire marriage has been a lie?”

“No!” She shakes her head. “We had a chat before he finally agreed to do it. If I could pass well enough to make it look like I switched religions, then he would get them to sign off on us having a wedding in the church. Just like you wanted, that’s what was important to me.” She reaches out for him, the first time since he found her in a heap on the floor.

“We could have gotten married somewhere else then.” Steve sighs, taking her hand.

She gives him a soft smile, “the church was important to you, think of it as my gift to you.”

“Buck.” Steve starts but doesn’t finish the sentence. He just holds her hand in both of his.

“She’s coming back to London with me.” Steve finally addresses the room.

“Steve,” Bucky starts pulling her hand away. “You don’t get to decide that. My orders are to be here.”

“Actually Barnes,” The Colonel starts. “The brass wants everyone rescued from Azzano in London. You included. The plane leaves in the morning.”

“Okay.” She nods, she doesn’t look happy.

“My guess is that you’ll want to share with your wife Rogers?” The colonel says addressing Steve.

“If that’s allowed, I would.” Steve agrees.

Colonel Phillips nods. He writes something on a piece of paper. “Her tent is the one with the private stationed in front of it. Give this to him, he’ll let you pass.” He slides it across the table. “Now if you would all give me a moment alone with the Sergeant.”

++++

The tent that Bucky has to herself is neatly organized and has small reminders from home. Colonel Phillips has obviously done everything in his power to make sure that Buck is safe when in camp if the guard at the door is anything to go by. He sits stiffly in the chair that she has commandeered from somewhere, taking in the space. He picks up the Sci-fi book that Bucky left home with and flips through it.

Not too long later there is a mumbled conversation outside of the tent that has him straightening up. He turns to face the tent's entrance just as Bucky is slipping through the flap, fingers working to tie it closed. “I told the guard to leave.” She says softly.

Steve nods, taking her in for what feels like the first time in the dim light. “Won’t that raise suspicion? It’s not as if the whole camp knows that you and I are married.”

She quirks her lips in a little half smile. “Let them think whatever they want. We won’t be here in 12 hours.” She passes by him, crowding near the desk as her fingers work at the pins in her hair. Steves' fingers itch with the need to reach out and run his fingers through it. “I suppose we should get the fight over with now. There probably won’t be time for it once we get back to London.” She asks conversationally, half distracted by running a brush through the knots that have formed.

“I don’t want to fight.” Steve starts, watching her.

“And I wanted you to stay home.” She says making eye contact with him through the mirror.

Steve sighs, it’s the same old fight. “I’ve told you before. There are men laying down their lives. I’ve got no right to do any less than them. Any less than you.”

Bucky slams down her brush on the crate tower she’s using as a table. She whirls on Steve. “You’re going to get yourself killed with whatever you’re trying to prove. This isn’t a back-alley Steve, this is war. It’s people killing people, and both sides think they are doing the right thing. Do you even know what losing you over here would do to me?”

“You didn’t even let me know you were on the front lines. I had to find out from Peggy when she went asking after you. How do you think that made me feel?” Steve asks, his voice rising as he stands. He has to look down to Bucky now. “I’m not trying to prove anything; I’m just trying to serve my country. Just like you and everyone else serving over here.”

Bucky doesn’t back down, not intimidated by Steve’s new imposing size. “You don’t have the high ground here. I told you I was taking on more responsibility in my letters. I told you I was getting my hands dirtier. But from you? Not a peep about the USO tour. Not a word about your new and improved body.” She steps closer to poke him in the chest when she says new and improved. It’s like words burn her. “You just let me keep addressing my letters to that hell hole in Brooklyn. I could have tried to get leave to see you. Hell, I could have stopped you.”

“Why in the world would you do that?” Steve roars, blood rushing in his ears. “You know all I’ve ever wanted was to serve.”

“You signed up to be a science experiment for a man whose only other successful go at it, has a red skull for a face and is challenging the Nazi party.” Bucky throws out her hands in exasperation. “I’ve lost count of how many men I have held the hands of whilst they died due to Zola’s attempt at recreating it. Painful, excruciating deaths Steve, and that could have been you.”

Steve snatches her hand up before she can poke him in the chest again, using it to pull her into an angry kiss. It’s terrible really, probably their worst one, all teeth and bad tempers. It doesn’t take long for them to be pulling at each other’s pants, he feels like a fumbling idiot despite it not being his first time. Bucky gets his belt, button, and fly undone before slapping away his hands on her own pants.

It’s hurried and angry, both of them only undressed enough to get at each other. Later Steve will feel embarrassed about the fact that his pants are slipping down his backside as he thrusts into his wife. But right now, it’s just about reminding each other that they are alive. The pace is far too fast and bruising, the sex over way too soon for it to be any sort of apology to each other.

“I used to think about you, that apartment, our life together.” Bucky starts, hours later. Neither one of them have slept, despite the fact that it’s starting to get lighter outside. She’s got her head pillowed on Steve’s chest; he’s got one of his hands on her back. “I didn’t at first, couldn’t. It made me too homesick for you, for our life. I talked about you sure, but I didn’t really let myself dwell on it.” She falls silent.

Steve waits her out. “Then the hospital camp I was stationed at got bombed sixteen hours into a bad wave of wounded. I worked every one of those hours in the triage tent. One of the dead looked too much like you, I couldn’t sleep. Afterward, I let myself focus on it, I used it to keep me going. When we were rescued three days later, I kept using it to get me through the hard times. Not a day went by I didn’t dream about waking up next to you when I was in Azzano.”

Steve rubs at her back. “I wished one of your letters said you were being shipped home, that your tour was done. Every time I got one, even after I joined the army myself, I had hoped that you were going to tell me you were going home.” He trails a finger down her spine.

“What would I be going home to though?” Bucky asks leaning up on her arm to get a better look at him, her hair falling to one side, brushing past his side and onto the bed. “With you in the army?”
Steve sighs, unable to answer that question. Bucky going home would just reverse everything. She settles back against him, listening to his new heart.

Sometime later, safely into morning now, even if it’s still early Bucky pushes up and away from him. Leaving him alone on the cot. He watches her dress quickly and quietly, efficiently. It’s not until she has sat on the chair and started to run a brush through her hair that he moves.

“I will see you on the plane?” He asks tucking his shirt into his pants, turning towards her.

“I imagine so.” She says softly, pinning her hair up at the base of her head.

Steve nods grabbing his jacket from where he tossed it the night before. He steps up behind her, resting his hands on her shoulders and looks at her through the mirror. He snags her cap off the table and affixes it to her head, letting his fingers trace down around the shell of her ear. “I love you.” He whispers, kissing her cheek. He doesn’t say anything else as he pushed out through the flap and into the sounds of a waking camp.

Chapter Text

“Hell, I’ll always fight,” Dugan says draining his drink. “But you have to do one thing for me.” He says leaning back in his chair.

“What’s that?” Steve asks.

“Open a tab,” Dugan says with a smirk.

Bucky rolls her eyes and sips at the beer she’s got in her hand. He hadn’t expected Dugan to invite her out, although he’s not sure why he didn’t. The two of them were attached at the hip most of the time, it would bother him if Dugan didn’t treat her like one of the guys most of the time. She looks good in a full uniform; he doesn’t get to see her in a skirt often. He’ll admit it, his eyes wandered a little when she entered the bar, searching for the group of them. He wasn’t allowed to sit in on the briefing she had to give about her time in captivity.

“Come with me to the bar, Sargeant Barnes.” He asks collecting the pitchers.

She nods, setting her glass down. She’s way behind everyone at the table when it comes to how much she’s had. She pushes away from the table gracelessly, never on to believe in trying to have beauty in the way she moves. Steve catches the eye of one or two soldiers’ eyes trailing up her legs the same way his did when he first saw her. What can he say? His wife is a beautiful dame, even in uniform.

He waits until the bartender turns to fill their pitchers again to address her. “I’m not taking you with us Bucky.” His tone pitched low as to not attract attention. Her eyes find him, unsurprised, mouth open to argue with him. “No. No. Don’t argue. I already told the brass.” He says putting a hand on her shoulder. “I’d worry about you too much out there.”

She shakes her head. “I’ve seen more battle than you have Steve. What if you need a medic? You’re going to trust the two days of training that Dernier has?” She crosses her arms and turns her body more towards him, gearing up for a fight.

The bar goes quiet around them. “Steve,” Peggy says cutting off his response. He glances at her quickly, noticing that she’s in red and not in uniform. He remembers her saying that she had a date with an English officer named Pete.

“Good evening Agent Carter.” Bucky greets. Her tone is odd, she’s closed herself off from Peggy. As far as he understood they were on their way to at least a friendship. They shared hushed words in a corner during the ride back to war headquarters, quiet enough that even his advanced hearing can’t make out what they are saying.

He looks back to Bucky, who has forced smile on her face. It doesn’t crinkle around her eyes like all of the smiles he has ever seen her give people. “Go. It’s fine. We’ll talk later. Duty calls.” She’s even short with him, which is unusual even when they are fighting.

He looks at her as if to burn the image of her in his mind. “I just can’t lose you Bucky. Not again.” He leans in and gives her a brief kiss on the mouth. They have been few and far between with the men not knowing that it’s him she’s married to. Reluctantly he follows Peggy out of the bar, wanting nothing but to stay with his wife and his new team.

++++

Steve is walking towards his briefing, mind lost, trying to figure out how just the news he broke to her was able to change her mood so terribly and quickly. He stands by his reasoning, she’s a nurse, not a foot soldier. She’s already done more than her fair share and been in more danger then she should have ever been. She’ll be safer here at the hospital in London then in the middle of nowhere with him, even if it means that he won’t get to spend any time with her before the war is over.

“Hello there, Captain.” A soft voice says from beside him. He feels a hand on his chest, pushing him back into a nook that hides them from prying eyes. She’s blonde, and despite the rolls she has near the top of her head, the rest of it is down falling just shy of her collar. She’s in uniform though, so unless the English have a different way of doing things, she’s in violation of dress code. “I just wanted to personally thank you for saving all those men’s lives out there. You’re a hero.”

“I was just doing my duty ma’am. No thanks necessary.” Steve says trying to step around her. She moves to block him. It frustrating, but he doesn’t want to hurt her by pushing her way too hard.

There must be something that I can do to show my thanks.” She practically purrs, running a hand down his chest. Her eyes follow the path that her hand takes.

“No really. It’s alright.” Steve says leaning back and away from her hand.

“Maybe just a kiss then. Since you won’t let me show my thanks in other ways.” She’s giving him what he assumes is supposed to be a seductive look. It’s a little jarring, and nothing he is used to. Or really attracted to, he’s not one to beat around the bush. He likes it best when Bucky just tells him to take his pants off and join her in bed.

“Really, I’m flattered.” Steve starts, leaning back even further from her. The metal shelves are starting to get painful where they are digging into his back. “But the thing is, I’m happily married. I don’t think my wife would approve of this.”

“What she doesn’t know, won’t hurt her. Besides, I don’t see a ring.”

The thing this is, something like that. Something as simple as another woman coming onto Bucky this strongly. A woman who obviously takes pride in how she looks takes time in the morning to do her hair and make-up. Even if he does nothing wrong here if she just knew something like this had happened. It would kill her. She’d be still alive, but any of the personality that she has that made him fall in love with her would be gone. It’s her one weakness other than him. The woman who takes the time to doll themselves up every day, “real women” were the words Bucky used. They’ve fought about it before. They’ll fight about it again.

“Yes, it would. And I’m not…” Steve starts, then there is a throat being cleared. Steve looks up, defense ready on the tip of his tongue for whichever brass member is standing there.

It’s Peggy, she’s changed back into her uniform. The gold S.S.R. pin shining from her lapel, an identical match to the one on his uniform jacket. She’s watching everything that is going on. The blonde woman steps back, Steve never got a name. “Agent Carter.” She greets, her voice weak now.

“Private Stoe. Captain Rogers.” Peggy says shortly. “Aren’t there places you need to be?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Private Stoe says before stepping away, a blush painted on her cheeks.

“I wasn’t… She just…” Steve stammers, trying to put his words into sentences.

“Save it for your wife,” Peggy says shaking her head and walking away.

++++

Bucky isn’t in her quarters when he finally gets out of the meeting. Her uniform is on a hanger, hung from the bar the blinds hang off of, her dress shoes by the door, her boots missing. But she’s not there and her bed looks untouched. He can’t go find her; he needs to get some sleep before he ships out in the morning.

++++

The men are all collected by the plane as it’s loaded with supplies. They partied late into the night, running up quite the tab for him to pay. They’re all there, even if somewhat subdued by hangovers.

“Barnes going to see you guys off?” Steve asks nonchalantly, still playing the ruse that they’re not married.

Dugan shakes is head. “Probably not. She said her goodbyes last night when she left the bar. There was a good chance she’d get reassigned first thing this morning.”

Probably not, since as of yesterday she was supposed to be shipping out with them. Until Steve put his foot down on that.

“It’s weird to think she won’t be out there with us. Right, Dum Dum?” Gabe says from where he’s leaning against the plane. “I’m so used to her barking orders. “

Dugan huffs a laugh nodding. The pair of them have attracted the whole attention of the group at the use of a previously unknown nickname. “The first time I met her, she dropped into our ditch amongst heavy gunfire. Stabilized a shoulder wound, had her hand in some guys thigh wound, then used his gun to take out the big one that was pinning us down.”

Steve hadn’t known that about Bucky.

“The other guy in your ditch ratted her out to Chester, right? Corporal Mercer?” Gabe asks. “Trying to get her shipped home?”

“Yeah. She wasn’t supposed to handle a gun.” Dugan nods. “She knew it too, but to her, it was more important to save lives then follow a rule as silly as that one.” He shrugs before ducking to check over his bag. “She’s a damn sight better than a lot of the men too.”

Mercer is the guy that Dugan mentioned Bucky had gotten physical with at one point.

“How’d you get the name Dum Dum?” Falsworth asks he’s sitting on the ground leaning against his pack.

“The Sarge,” Dugan says turning to him. “Tripped and fell over a rock. Popped the shoulder out of its joint and knocked me out as well.” He smiles at the memory. “She started calling me that in the mess that night. Said that I was the biggest dum dum she’d ever met, going to a warzone and being taken out by a rock instead of a bullet.”

“Are you all ready to ship out?” Colonel Chester asks from the doorway. He had landed last night; it was a shock to Steve too when he saw him in the briefing. He suspects the man has his fingers in more pies then he lets onto. The men jump up to attention from where they have been lounging around. The Colonel just waves them off.

“Yes, sir,” Steve replies.

“Strange Barnes isn’t here to see you all off,” Chester says, there’s something in his tone that’s directed at Steve. He was vocally against taking Bucky off the team. “Then again her new assignment is quite the task.”

“They didn’t waste any time then,” Morita says, slightly surprised. “Where she headed?”

Steve looks from Morita to Colonel Phillips, he assumed that he would be notified when and if they reassigned Bucky to another base. He had requested that she have a break from warzones and take a position in the hospital in London, the council seemed to agree with him. Even if they were somewhat reluctant to do so.

“Nowhere. She’s staying here in London. Someone with her knowledge is useful. She started last night, couldn’t wait to get into it.” It’s another dig at Steve, this one is obvious. He claps his hands and changes the subject before any of them could ask another question. “Alright, you best be off. Try not to get shot, Rogers.” Chester says with a nod.

“Yes, sir,” Steve answers, leaning down to pick up his bag. The rest of the men file in the direction of the door of the plane.

“Steve?” A voice calls hesitantly.

Steve turns to where his name was called, bags still in hands. There Bucky is standing, her clothes are rumpled, and her hair held up by a pen instead of the usual style she has it pinned up into. She looks like someone who’s been up working all night. She’s not in her uniform, just a pair of slacks and a blouse, but she’s looking at him the same way she did her last night home before shipping out.

“Bucky.” He says, turning towards her fully. He vaguely recognizes the other men stopping to pay attention to them. He’s never called her by her nickname before, just like she’s never called him Steve. Not in front of the men. Their unspoken agreement to let everyone believe they don’t know each other. Just knowing him, let alone being married to him would make things harder for Bucky.

“Be careful. Schmidt thinks he’s indestructible and better than Hitler. You don’t know him as I do.” She says wringing her hands together. “He’s got limitless resources.”

He nods. “Will do. Thank you.” He turns back to the plane and takes a step before he stops.

He drops his pack, turning back around. Bucky is standing in the doorway, watching them leave. Watching over them until she no longer can, despite it not being her job anymore. She looks soft and vulnerable right now, and the events of the night before drift through his mind. There are maybe thirty feet and twenty steps between them. He clears it within seconds, his new body carrying him easily. She watches him with wide eyes. He sweeps her into his arms, kissing her deeply. The pen in her hair is no match when his hand cradles the back of her head, the other wrapping around her waist. She’s up on her toes to meet him where he’s hunched a little bit. The height is new between them. She’s got both hands wrapped around his neck as he kisses the life out of her. She gives back just as much, it’s a conversation. Both of them pouring the words they haven’t said into the kiss. It’s a declaration of love, an apology, and a promise to not do anything too reckless all rolled into one.

They haven’t shared a kiss like this since the night that she shipped out. Still skin and bones, bad heart, all of five four on his part, Bucky larger than him in every sense of the word. She lets out a little whimper when he nips at her lip. Finally, they pull apart. Even his breathing heavy, holding the kiss longer than was probably smart. He rests his forehead against hers, just relishing in the feeling of having her in his arms again. “I love you.” He whispers.

She kisses him again, this one quicker, still out of breath from the toe-curling one he just gave her. “I love you too.” She answers back. After a moment she loosens her arms, “Alright, you best get going. Bases to hit, Nazis to kill.” She says to him softly.

“Yes. Leave me to fend for myself against your friends.” He complains, letting her go.

“You’re their Captain. So, lead them.” She says with a cheeky smile.

He rolls his eyes at her. “I’ll be back.” He gives her one last kiss before turning and leaving her on the stairs.

“Hey! Bring my men back in one piece. I just got them how I like it and I’ll be real sad if they come back riddled with holes.” She yells to him; he can hear the smile in her voice.

“Yes ma’am” He gives her a salute without turning to look at her.

Dugan is the first to recover from what they just saw, and even then, it’s not until the plane is in the air and London is far behind them. “You know she’s married right?”

Steve gives him a grin and digs out his dog tag chain. “I still can’t believe she said yes. I didn’t have anything, just my ma’s ring, and spotty work opportunities.” His wedding band is sitting on the chain his tags sit on. He holds it out for the whole plane to see.

Dugan raises an eyebrow, surprised. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Barnes,” Dernier says from where he is sitting across from them. The men dissolve into giggles around them.