Bucky tolerates diplomatic missions because their team's simultaneously the best at them and the worst. It's both a Steve thing and a Stark thing. Steve's got a sixty percent probability of becoming indignant on someone's behalf, and Stark's got a much higher likelihood of blowing things up. And that's only if he hasn't already accidentally insulted someone important on purpose. When things go well, they go great—one planet has a god damn statue of Steve, which Bucky finds hilarious and Steve hates with a fiery passion—which is the only reason they're still getting sent on these milk runs.
Bucky's got his palm along the outside of his P-90, pointed at the ground as he stands fifteen paces behind Steve, Stark, and Wilson.
The planet's delegation consists of two old pale guys in robes—par for the course—and a haggard nutbar that Bucky's pretty sure they're trying to sell as a wizard.
He notes Wilson watching all their hands, and scans the perimeter for threats.
The settlement is mostly a tent city built on the ruins of a more prosperous time. Half-crumbled brick and mortar, dull canvas tarps staked down over top.
For all the technology of the Ancients, the Pegasus Galaxy has basically been beaten back into the dark ages. He fucking hates the Wraith.
He's got his eyes on the sparse woods to their left when he hears a soft scraping sound. He barely tenses, forces a natural sweep of the tree line, back over the other three members of his team, and then lazily focuses on a narrow, dirt alley that snakes down behind a line of crumbling buildings. Out of the corner of his eye, he watches a thick stone slowly lift and shift. Grubby fingers appear, palms wrapped in worn cloth, gripping the edge.
Bucky forces himself to keep still, stance open.
A tuft of matted, brown-blonde hair pokes up, Bucky catches a fast look of blue eyes, busted nose and a split lip.
Graceful and quick, the kid—youngish, slim, rag-covered, barefoot—gracefully climbs out of the hole, and then promptly trips over his own feet. He catches himself on nothing, arms spread out with an almost silent whoosh of air.
Bucky spots what looks like a quiver of arrows on his back and a motherfucking bow, and rolls onto the balls of his feet, wondering if this is some kind of ambush. He slips his fingers down to lightly cover the trigger of his gun.
The kid just crouches down to heft the stone cover back over the hole, though, and when he lifts his head again, their eyes catch.
Panic moves fast over the kid's face before disappearing into a cocky quirk of lips. He winks at Bucky, lifts his finger in a 'keep quiet' gesture, and then flees around the turn of a tent before Bucky can even snap his mouth shut.
Bucky blinks once and says, "Yeah, Stevie," without looking away from the alley.
A hand lands on his arm, the one attached to the fingers still caressing his P-90, and Bucky looks up to see Steve's face schooled into Earnest Concern.
"Peachy," Bucky says. "Hey," he gestures to the hole the goddamn street urchin just popped out of, "where do you think those stone covers lead to?"
Steve shrugs. "Old sewer? Sophisticated Ancient underground bunker? Weapons store?"
Bucky feels his lips twist into a frown. Steve's eyes are twinkling.
"I know you're joking, Rogers," Stark says, swanning over, "but just because there hasn't been another Genii infestation, doesn't mean there won't be."
"I think calling them an infestation is offensive," Steve says.
"Are we done here?" Bucky asks. His skin is crawling. They're being watched.
"Nope." Stark claps Bucky on the arm and Bucky growls at him.
Stark tells him to, "Chill out, tiger," because he's a raging asshole, and the only reason Bucky doesn't punch him in the face is because Steve ducks his head to hide a smile.
Wilson moseys over, thumbs looped into his belt and gun draped across his back, even though he must notice Bucky's still on high fucking alert. "I don't know about you guys," he says, "but I can't wait to get off this weird-ass planet. I am not letting that grand high poopah dude read my chakra or whatever the hell he was twitching about."
Stark's face is practically plastered to a tablet but he waves a hand and says, "I believe the appropriate term, Wilson, is probe."
Over Steve's shoulder, Bucky sees the kid again, this time rapidly skirting the edge of the woods. He rolls his lips and doesn’t say anything and hopes it isn't a mistake.
Two days later, Bucky's cursing at the general motherfucking shittyness of their luck with his hands tied behind his back.
The 'jail' is one of the few buildings mostly still standing; dim light filters in from the single high window, and also weakly beams through the gaps in the stone walls. A solid push would probably take them down, Bucky's got enough rage to really put his back into it, but he'd prefer to have his hands free.
"How's it going, Stark?" Bucky asks through gritted teeth. He's hot, he's sweaty, his hair's all over his face and all he can do is scrape at the ends with his shoulder.
The only good thing is that Steve and Wilson weren't served the same fate. Steve's probably still in the 'talking them around' stage of negotiations, where he tries to explain that Stark didn't really mean it, and Bucky wasn't trying to assassinate anyone by accident, and it's sweet the way Steve always always thinks that's going to work, even when it never does.
"It's going," Stark says absently. "Can't you bludgeon your way free with your robo-arm?"
"It's off," Bucky says.
At that, Stark lifts his head and an eyebrow, gaze slipping down the metal of his arm twisted behind his back.
"No," Bucky says, manfully resisting rolling his eyes. "They fucking turned it off. Nutbar wizard has the ATA gene."
"You mean old Turkey Face? Yeah, that guy's a treat," Stark says, and then his arms loosen and drop with a sigh and a tiny robot with a saw climbs up over his shoulder to say hi.
Just as the little gizmo starts in on the ropes binding Bucky, the door slams open and street urchin kid gets tossed in with a yelp, and a shouted, "Sure! Be that way! See if he doesn't eat you, now!"
A guard kicks him in the leg, but he bounces up almost immediately and clings to the small slotted hole in the wood. He says, "Kidding! I'm kidding, please don't hurt him," and curses under his breath.
"Hello," Stark says, like he's real interested.
The kid's tall, but probably not as tall as he will be. He swings his arms when he turns and then leans up against the door, watching them warily. His mouth quirks up in a smile, though, and he says, "Hi. What are you in for?"
"Treason, apparently," Stark says dryly. "And failure to acknowledge the royal 'we.'"
Street urchin nods a lot, says, "Sure, sure," and paces to the small window and back to the door again. His lip's crusted over and his busted nose has radiated out into a black eye.
The tiny robot finishes Bucky's ties and he shakes out his hand in relief while the street urchin keeps one eye on him, and the other on the door. He's backed himself into a corner, arms crossed.
Bucky silently moves toward Stark and shifts so he can still see the kid.
Stark says, "Did you forget how to use your words, Barnes?" but reaches out for the latch underneath his arm, the Ancient tech lighting up in response to his own ATA gene.
Bucky doesn’t have one, the synthetic never stuck, and he's never considered it a liability before.
Stark, frowning, says, "We need to get you better non-Ancient tech attached to this thing. Give me a week after we get back. You can be a little lopsided in between missions."
"Gee, thanks," Bucky says.
His arm powers up with a whirl and a few clicks of the plates shifting. He's highly aware of the kid gawking at him as he lifts his arm and folds his fingers into a fist.
Stark waves him forward and says, "After you."
Bucky grins at him, feral around the edges, and punches straight through the wall.
Shouting from the guards kicks up as soon as they crawl through the rubble.
The kid says, "What the fuck was that?" blue eyes big.
Bucky only feels a little guilty when the awe and hesitation are what get the kid caught.
"Aw, man, no," he hears faintly as he takes off down the dirt path, conscious of Stark keeping pace beside him, because that's his job. Not saving some raggedy teenager who doesn't even have enough sense to wear shoes.
He's gonna see those big blue eyes in his nightmares. Jesus Christ.
He slows to a jog and then skids to a stop.
Stark says, "Hustle up, Barnes," and Bucky shakes his head.
"I'm going back."
"You want me to tell Rogers I lost his best friend to a sad-eyed alien that looks like a half-grown man-child?"
"Steve would go back," Bucky says, because it's true. Mostly true. He's pretty sure if it were between Bucky and a stranger, Steve would unhesitatingly go for him.
But Bucky's always been the only exception that feeds his martyr complex, so whatever.
Stark sighs like Bucky's a heavy burden. He says, "You don't have any weapons."
Bucky wiggles his metal fingers.
Stark pinches the bridge of his nose and says, "Take Tiny with you."
Tiny shoots tiny missiles. Tiny is Bucky's new best friend. Stark is never getting Tiny back.
Bucky goes for mass chaos over finesse, and has just enough time to grab the kid by the scruff of his neck and haul him backward before a wall falls on two of the three guards that were holding him down.
The shouts and explosions have brought out half the town and most of the diplomatic delegation, and Bucky sees Steve book it sideways in all the confusion, Wilson bringing up his rear.
This mission is officially fubar, unsalvageable, and Bucky just wants to get back to his tiny bunk in his tiny room with his own private tiny bath. Halfway down the street, he lets the kid go and hopes he just keeps running. It's not his problem anymore.
The Stargate is in an open field almost two clicks out of town. Bucky and Steve are the only ones not panting by the time they reach the dial.
"You came through the ring," the kid says, staring up at it with his mouth hanging open. "You came through the ring."
"Yep," Stark says, rapidly dialing out, sending his ID code through as it whooshes open. "What's your name, kid?"
"Clint." He rubs a hand over his mouth, staring at the rippling portal like he's never seen it open before.
"You going to be okay, son?" Steve says. He drops a meaty palm on join of his neck, squeezing once and then letting go.
"Oh yeah, sure," Clint nods, "but, uh," he drags his gaze away from the 'gate and up at Steve, "this place is really small, and they were gonna cut my hand off, so, you know, anyway you can see yourselves letting me tag along?"
Steve's face goes dark. "What." Oh no.
"And Lucky and me don't take up much room, swear, except for the fact that Lucky actually does, but, uh—what?" Clint seems to finally notice how Steve's gone expressionless.
Stark whistles through his teeth and says, "Are we in Aladdin?" and Wilson snorts a laugh even though he says, "Not funny, man."
Steve says, "They're going to what?"
"Uh." Clint darts his gaze from Bucky to Steve and back again, like Bucky can somehow stop this clusterfuck of a situation.
Luckily, Bucky speaks fluent Steve. He hitches a shoulder and says, "He means you're coming with us."
"Oh, but. I mean, that's great," Clint says, but he doesn't look like he thinks that's great. He looks wary. He looks like a kid who was hoping for the best but clearly expecting the worst, and doesn't trust an inch of it—or them. "Don't you want to know why?"
"It doesn't matter why," Steve says—it totally matters why, Bucky thinks darkly, but keeps his mouth shut—and claps Clint on the shoulder, urging him forward.
Clint staggers and stops, digging his bare heels into the dirt, and blurts out, "I was stealing food."
Steve's eyes go soft. "That's okay, Clint."
"No, but. I was stealing food for him." He jerks his chin to something behind them, and Bucky whirls around to see….
It looks like how a dog would look like, if no one had ever seen a dog. If someone had just said describe a dog to me, and then drew it with their eyes closed. It's… an approximation of a dog. Floppy ears, lolling tongue, tail that wags like a flag. Big, four-footed, furry all over, but with too many teeth for its mouth and eyes too wide-set on its pointed skull.
It is, quite frankly, disturbing as hell to someone who emphatically knows what a dog should and should not look like.
Clint's shoulders slump. They're ridiculously sharp under his threadbare shirt, and he's woefully underfed. This beast looks sort of fat.
"It's okay," Clint says. He's sad. Hell, Bucky's sad. But, like, that thing can't come to Atlantis. It might eat everyone.
Which is why he's actually too stunned to protest when Steve says with deliberate, forceful calm that Bucky knows is absolute bullshit, "He can come too."
Wilson squawks. He says, "Steve."
Bucky tries to murder Steve with a glare, but Steve doesn't take an order he doesn't believe in, and doesn't offer anything he isn't prepared to back up with his whole soul. It's one of the things Bucky both loves and hates about him.
"Sheppard's gonna have a field day," Stark says gleefully, bouncing on the balls of his feet. "C'mon, blue eyes, the first step's a doozy."
Clint throws up all over the 'gate room to absolutely no one's surprise.
Also to no one's surprise, a bunch of guns get immediately pointed in the not-dog's direction until it bounds over and licks Bucky in the back of the neck. Christ.
"I have to go debrief," Steve says. "Buck, can you take Clint and, uh…"
"Lucky," Clint says, swiping at his mouth while gazing narrow-eyed around them. Bucky doesn’t want to say he's casing the place, but he's a self-admitted thief.
"Can you take Clint and Lucky down to medical?" Steve gives him puppy eyes behind Clint's back, which is the only reason Bucky says yes.
Stark says, "I'll be in my lab." He jabs a finger at Bucky. "Barnes, arm. Tomorrow or Wednesday, whenever you're feeling it."
Bucky's tempted to not feel it at all, but on the other hand it's his arm, and he'd like it to work better.
Wilson mutters something about taking a, "Goddamn bubble bath."
Steve lifts his fingers like a boy scout but says, "Two hours. Full reports or I'll make you go talk to Sheppard. He'll hate it just as much as you will."
Clint follows Bucky out of the 'gate room, and Lucky follows Clint until they're stopped by an over-excited scientist from the xenobiologist lab. Bucky has no idea what her name is, but she's really insistent on quarantine and scans and people not accidentally dying, so he lets them herd Lucky down a split in the hallway.
Clint says, "What are they—" before cutting himself off with a sharp clack of teeth.
"He's going to the animal med bay," Bucky says. "We're going to the people-shaped one." Can't say human, he guesses, but Bucky actually knows fuck-all about the genetics of the Pegasus Galaxy. Supposedly they were all cut from the same Ancient cloth, so who the fuck knows.
In the infirmary, Dr. Biro tuts over Clint's clothes, his dirty hands, his crud-encrusted feet, and shoves a pair of scrubs in his hands before flipping the curtain around him closed.
She says, "Well," to Bucky with her hands on her hips.
"I guess… call Captain Rogers when he's done?" Bucky says.
Her eyebrows deepen into a V. "You don't want to wait."
Did he want to? Kind of. He's just not sure he should. He didn't make the decision to bring Clint back to Atlantis. He's definitely not his responsibility. At all.
Bucky sits down on the edge of an empty bed with a sigh. He needs a shower, and he needs to write up his report, and apparently he needs to make sure a too-thin alien street urchin isn’t going to die on them, too.
A half hour later, Bucky's half asleep sitting up. But Clint's got a mostly clean bill of health—dehydrated, half-starved, lacking nutrients, but in great spirits!—and is eighty percent dirt-free. He needs a shower, but his nose is taped, a butterfly bandage on his lip that definitely won't last, and the scrubs show-off his lean build and the bruises on the back of his arms, like fingerprints. He looks older and taller, even though Biro says, "He's eighteen or nineteen, he can't remember, and age in years is an Earth construct I still haven't figured out how to apply to multiple planets outside our solar system."
Sitting on the edge of the bed, Clint wiggles his toes in the fuzzy socks Biro had given him. He grins, "Hey, look."
"Real fancy, Clint," Bucky says. He quirks an eyebrow at Biro. "So he's good?"
"For certain definitions of good, sure," Biro says. "I want him hooked up to a IV for an hour and then someone can come collect him."
"What's an IV?" Clint asks, watching curiously as Biro takes hold of his arm and starts tapping along the veins.
Bucky wants no parts of that. He nods at Biro, says, "Good luck," and then slips out the door.
Bucky has a routine in between off-world missions. Breakfast at 530AM, followed by a two hour sparring session, followed by a second breakfast of whatever fruit they have on hand, preferably sitting on the highest balcony he has access to.
After that, it's a toss-up between a nap and a run around the serpentine corridors on third floor. Lunch, usually with Steve, and then he reports for duty wherever he's being rotated in for the day—control desk, lab security, clearing out and constructions. He winds up the time before dinner swimming laps off the southeast pier, if it isn't crowded. Very infrequently, he's bullied into team movie nights by Wilson. It's nice. Structured, but not too structured.
His first job after the bullshit mission where they found Clint is to… find Clint.
"What do you mean he's gone?" Bucky asks Steve, falling in step next to him as they walk down the corridors toward the living quarters. "Can't you just have Atlantis pinpoint his vitals?"
Steve's mouth tightens. "Apparently his biometrics haven't been entered into her systems yet. No one's seen him since I dropped him off after medical."
Bucky stops. "That was two days ago, Steve."
"Yeah, I know." Steve swings on him, visibly irritated. "But Corporal Jamison didn't see him leave his room, and when he finally went in to check—"
"Finally?" Jesus, did they not think Clint was eating? Or his... not-dog thing?
"Yeah." Steve looks real pissed about that, and it's only slightly mollifying. And then he looks hangdog and guilty, because of course Clint's their—Steve's—responsibility, and the thing Steve's gonna focus on most is that Clint hasn't been coddled enough to his satisfaction, and not the fact that he's a unknown variable in what is, technically, a hybrid civilian-military war zone.
Frankly, Bucky's more worried about that too. Not that he'd ever say anything about that out loud.
Steve says, "When he finally went in to check, there was zero signs of Clint anywhere. So that's where we're going to check first."
"The place where he isn’t," Bucky says, but follows Steve when he starts moving again anyhow.
"The place Clint somehow got out of without using the door."
Clint's assigned room is small, located on a less used corridor in the living section. It's sparsely furnished. There's a narrow bed, a round table with two chairs, and a postage stamp bathroom. The bed doesn't even look slept in. There's a pair of boots shoved into a corner. A folded pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt on a chair.
Bucky idly picks up the gray Air Force shirt and says, "So he's in sock-feet and the scrubs Biro gave him," hopefully, "and no one has fucking seen this guy for two days?"
One of the chairs is at a weird angle, spun around from the table and halfway into the cramped 'living space' that boasts a skinny tower bookshelf.
Steve places his hands on his hips and goes, "Huh."
Bucky skims fingers over a light dusting of debris on the shelf and then glances up at a roughly 12x24 vent in the ceiling. "D'you think his collarbones unhinge like a cat's?"
Steve says, "Well. Shit."
Clint could basically be anywhere on Atlantis. The main problem, though, as Bucky sees it, is that so could Lucky.
"So how can he hide a hundred and fifty pound… dog," Bucky generously allows, "in our recycled air system?”
The duct work threads all over the city, spilling out into every room, and god knows he's probably sleeping in there too.
Steve says, "Good question," and radios Colonel Sheppard, who lets out the longest, loudest sigh Bucky has ever heard in his life.
Steve and Bucky are unsuccessful in their mission that day, because a) the damn not-dog is still quarantined in the xenobiology lab, and b) Bucky almost punches Colonel Jamison in the face when he says he told Clint no when he asked for him.
"Now we know why he bolted," Steve says, looking like he wants to punch Jamison, too, "and we know where he was going. But we don't know why he didn't get there."
"Well," Dr. Simmons pushes her glasses up her nose. "The xeno labs are routed through a different ventilation system, since everyone was complaining about the smell."
Lucky is licking at the glass partition, staring longingly at Bucky, and he still looks like half a horror. An incomplete sketch. What comes for you in the dark and lives under your bed. Christ.
"So he's lost," Bucky says, which is why they had to end up gathering all two hundred and fifty three inhabitants of Atlantis in the 'gate room and commissary and then run a full scale vitals search on the rest of the compound.
No one is happy about it, even when Sheppard says everyone can get an extra jello.
Lost for two fucking days stuck in the vents without anyone knowing, and, god, Bucky just really hopes he got to sneak out to go to the bathroom.
An hour in, Bucky's lounging along the wall of the commissary, dreaming about all the ways he's gonna take Jamison apart in the gym, when Stark shouts, "Got 'em. Unless another bird got stuck in the tower again." He looks up at Steve. "The spire overlooking the west end."
Bucky swears under his breath. He's out on his Second Breakfast balcony. "Let me go," he says without really meaning to.
Steve looks as surprised as he feels. "You sure?"
Bucky nods. "Hold everyone from another twenty minutes, just in case he disappears."
"I'll let you know if he moves," Stark says, tapping at the tablet. He flicks his fingers over the screen and then spins it to show Bucky. "The transporter at the end of the hall only goes up to three, but it'll still be faster than going all the way around to the 'gate room. You might want to take the stairs the rest of the way."
If he thought he had the time for it, he'd stop and bring Lucky, too. He's only a little relieved that he doesn't.
He doesn't bother with stealth. He figures if Clint hasn't moved in the ten minutes it's taken Bucky to advance on his position, making noise isn't going to make a difference. When the door whooshes open, the high winds hit Bucky like a smack in the face. A storm must be heading in.
Clint's sitting on the ground with his legs dangling out under the railing.
Bucky drops down next to him and nudges him back a little, just for his own peace of mind. Clint doesn't react other than shifting further away, bringing his legs up to hug his knees.
"So," Bucky says after a long, quiet moment, "Jamison refused to bring you your dog and you go off and sulk, making the entire fucking city of Atlantis waste hours searching for you."
Clint glares at him. "What." He scoffs. "If I asked you, you woulda just let me have him?"
Bucky opens his mouth to say yeah, except who the fuck knows what he would have done. He would have at least asked the xenobologists if he was safe.
Clint snorts like a punk.
Bucky wants to wring his skinny neck and also, inexplicably, make him eat an entire plate of mashed potatoes.
He says, "Have you eaten anything?"
Petulance melts into a smirk. He says, "Maybe," which Bucky is taking for yes, and also the high probability that he’s been breaking into their food stores.
Bucky sighs. This is going to be a full time fucking job. "Come back to your room," he says, "and I'll see what I can do about Lucky."
Clint makes Bucky feel old.
"You're not old," Steve says, determinedly sawing into his too-dense waffles. "We're not even thirty yet."
"Steve," Bucky says seriously, reaching across the table to cover his hand with his. "Steve, you're thirty-two."
Steve's mouth drops open, then snaps closed again. "No, I'm…. am I?"
"No," Steve says, scandalized.
Clint befriended Romanov five days after he stopped hiding in the vents and they’ve been running rings around every single other person in the city since.
Clint can shoot an arrow at a bullseye two hundred feet away with his eyes closed.
He's bendy. He does handstands and walks across tables. He swings up into the rafters of the ‘gate room because using stairs takes too long.
Bucky's knees crack when he crouches down to pick up a dropped fork.
He's in shape, he's in great shape, and he's more active now than he ever was on base back on earth, but he also wears a brace on his left knee, and reading glasses for books, and if he were at home he has a sneaking, depressing suspicion that he'd have trouble driving at night.
Clint makes him feel old, and the only fucking reason that it matters at all is because he's definitely, maybe gotten a little crush.
It's been two months and Clint's filled out considerably and apparently has the arm strength to climb up the outside of Atlantis all the way up the second breakfast balcony—on a dare, because he's also reckless and young—and it's fucking with Bucky's head.
Competency is hot. The fact that Clint trips over Lucky whenever he goes to open his room door and routinely falls off chairs like it's his job—he tilts them back way too far and can't seem to help himself—sadly doesn't detract from this at all.
Bucky wishes it did. In fact, it should. There's nothing sexy about a lap full of tough chicken, gravy and rehydrated rice, and yet…
So Bucky feels beat and old, even though he's twenty-nine and lied like a rug to Steve about it—Steve's hilariously susceptible at 5:30 AM—and Clint’s probably a good ten years younger than him and also an alien.
It's never going to work.
Romanov has been on permanent team rotation ever since she justifiably shot Rumlow and sent him hurtling into space out the back of a puddlejumper. She subs for people stuck in the infirmary or if teams need an extra assassin on hand.
She teaches Clint how to fight dirty and gives him a gun and not even Sheppard has the balls to complain about it.
Bucky turns down every single request to spar with him because he's not a masochist, but he still manages to claim the seat next to him on the movie nights Wilson guilts him into going to.
He knocks their shoulders together and watches Clint's eyes light up when he says, "Hey."
Clint sits like an acrobat, knees and elbows in weird places, and Bucky feels all the points that press against him like fire.
They're watching an old action movie and Clint's breathing is fast, but Bucky can't tell if that's an alien thing or a something is wrong thing, and he nudges his fist into the side of Clint's thigh.
Clint turns to look at him, pupils blown in the half-light. "What?" he asks with a lick of his lips.
"Um." Bucky wants to reach out and curl a hand up under the hinge of his jaw. Without the tape and bruises and swelling, he's got smooth cheeks and a slightly crooked nose. "Are you okay?"
Clint's grin blooms across his mouth in honest, open affection and Bucky feels like he's been donkey kicked in the chest. He's luminous.
Bucky scrambles to his feet and ignores half the room staring at him like he’s lost his goddamn mind and books it out of there like a coward.
The next time Bucky sees Clint, he’s sitting on a table in Stark’s lab, swinging his feet and humming what sounds like Chariots of Fire.
Bucky winces at the volume, and Stark puts a hand on Clint’s knee to get his attention and mimes dialing it down.
Clint points at Stark and says, “Tony’s fixing my ears.”
“I didn’t know anything was wrong with ‘em,” Bucky says, watching the way Clint carefully watches his lips.
“He’s got truly horrendous tech in them that someone cobbled together out of what looks like twigs and bubble gum,” Stark says.
Bucky peers over his shoulder. It looks like regular wires and doodads to him, but he knows fuck all about that kind of stuff. “Those were in his ears?”
Tony hmms absently, but then he pins Bucky down with a look and says, “I haven’t forgotten about your arm either. Who made that crap, anyway? Hammer? Ancient tech is good, but mine is better.”
Clint stares curiously at his arm, but doesn’t say anything.
Bucky was down here for a reason, but now he can’t remember why. He’s losing it, mind and body. This is the worst.
Suddenly Clint waves his hands and says, “Oh! Guess what?”
“Uh… what?” He swears he’s usually more suave than this. He used to have game. He used to charm the pants off of ladies and men alike. His mouth feels too big.
“I’m 22 earth years,” Clint says proudly. “Tony figured it out.”
“Clint,” Bucky says, throat dry. “You weren’t even sure how many of your years you were.”
Clint shrugs. “Eh.”
Bucky takes a deep breath. “Okay, so…”
“Barnes,” Stark says, clacking what looks like a pair of tweezers together, “take the kid to lunch and a slow bone before I choke and throw up on all this tension.”
Bucky freezes. “Did you just. Did you just say slow bone?”
“What’s a… slow bone?” Clint says, head cocked, and this is when Bucky realizes that Stark hadn’t been facing Clint but Bucky is, and now he has to kill himself.
Stark arches an eyebrow at him. “That is not my fault.”
Bucky ignores him and rolls his shoulders and bites out, “Lunch.” He jerks his head toward the door and mans up. “Coming?”
There is a single glorious planet in the Pegasus Galaxy that boasts no less than fifteen different kinds of dinosaurs, and the fact that they have to keep going back to it to get a certain herb that both the botanists and medical doctors go gaga over is a source of unending joy to Bucky.
He fucking loves Dinosaur Planet.
He keeps trying to convince Steve to let him bring back an egg.
He knows the only reason Steve volunteers their team for these missions is because of Bucky. Stark usually insists on sitting them out, which is why they have Romanov with them this time instead. He has absolutely no idea what military organization she’s a part of, but she’s definitely not a scientist. No one’s willing to fuck with her after the Rumlow situation.
She’s got a cold, calm eye that gives Bucky the willies, but he doesn’t have a problem with her. They don’t have problems with each other.
Except, apparently, for right now.
Romanov has her arms crossed. “Well?”
“You realize you’re ruining Dinosaur Planet for me, right?” Bucky could be getting run down by a T-Rex right now.
“Answer the question, Barnes.”
Bucky could have lived his whole life happily never having heard Romanov ask him if he was interested in boning Clint, Jesus, and he knows this entire clusterfuck is Stark’s fault.
“What answer is the one least likely to get me stabbed?” He’s not above lying to Romanov if he has to.
Luckily or unluckily, Romanov seems to take that as whatever she actually wanted to hear, so she nods smartly and then gestures over his shoulder with a lazy, “Incoming,” and that is how they spend the rest of the day dodging pterodactyls.
Bucky can’t wait to come back.
Clint doesn’t hesitate. Whether it’s shooting an arrow, sparring, eating, swimming, talking—Clint just goes for it, all in, even if he ends up making a fool of himself.
Bucky admires that.
He’s also extremely tired, hot off the Dinosaur Planet, and three minutes ago he was dead to the world face down on his bunk.
He scrubs a hand over his eyes until the blurry shape in his doorway in front of him resolves into Clint’s grinning face. “Huh?” He’s almost entirely sure it’s the middle of the night, but the city does weird things to his circadian rhythm.
“Sam told me what bone means.”
All Bucky’s body parts wake up and freeze at once. “I’m going to murder him.”
Clint says, “I hope it can wait,” and then lunges forward and kisses him. Kind of. It’s aggressive enough that Bucky thinks maybe it’s his first kiss, which is goddamn charming and almost irresistible. He’s just so enthusiastic.
Bucky slides his hand up to cup Clint’s cheek, rests his metal one on the small of his back, settling him into slowing down. He eases out of the kiss with, “It’s the middle of the night, Clint, and Stark’s probably watching us through his peephole.”
Clint’s mouth is red and his eyes are wide. “Oh,” he says, but looks out of it enough that Bucky’s ninety percent certain he hasn’t understood a word Bucky’s said.
Bucky says, “Go to bed, Clint.” His legs hurt from running from dinosaurs all day and he needs at least another four hours of sleep before figuring out how to handle… this.
“Right,” Clint says, but doesn’t move.
Bucky reaches out and squeezes his hand. “G’night,” he says, and the steps back and slides the door closed behind him.
The only thing that Clint loves more than Lucky is pizza, and the only thing Lucky loves more than Clint is also pizza, so Bucky sweet talks Corporal Lovett into making him a pie in exchange for three chocolate bars he’d been saving. It’s an approximation of an earth pizza, and it’s only 9 in the morning, but he’s due for second breakfast anyway.
Bucky rings the bell on Clint’s quarters and tries not to be skeeved out by the echoing woof from Lucky, like he swallowed an actual dog and that dog is making that sound from the bottom of his throat. Lucky’s cool. Bucky gets along great with Lucky if he doesn’t think too hard about him.
Clint’s normally open face is wary when he sees him. He’s wearing shorts and an old t-shirt that has ‘Barnes’ across the right breast that Bucky’s been missing for over a month. He’s still wearing the fuzzy, slouchy socks from that first day in medical.
Bucky says, “Pizza?” holding up the tray, and Clint’s grin finally reaches his eyes.
Clint takes the pizza with a too-subdued, “Uh, thanks?” and Bucky swoops in oh so suavely and slides a hand onto the nape of his neck, tugging him into a swift kiss.
If they’re doing this, Bucky’s gonna do this right—they’re gonna date first, second breakfast, lunch, dinner—and then they’re gonna bone.
Chapter 2: Outtake
Because this is Atlantis and because Bucky’s luck is phenomenally bad, before he can do anything about Clint, Stark and Banner decide to gleefully play with Ancient unknowns and suddenly Steve, Bucky and Wilson are all hormonal teenagers again. It’s fucking ridiculous.
Bucky had basically blocked out how harrowing his teenage years were. Teenage Steve was skinny, sickly, asthmatic, and had the worst fight-me attitude in the entire planet. God, Bucky loves Steve, but he honestly didn't think he was going to survive growing up with him. He’d pick fights that Bucky always had to help finish, against bigger, badder dudes than either of them put together. Steve was a ball of righteous fire and Bucky loved him for it, but he also routinely got black eyes and busted noses and split lips and the only reason they ever won fights at all was because Steve could be a vicious little asshole and everyone always underestimated him.
So now Steve, swimming in his BDUs, has his arms crossed, daring anyone to laugh at him.
Stark keeps opening and closing his mouth. He settles on, “Huh,” and Steve glares at him.
Wilson flaps his arms, and Bucky tries and fails not to find his awkward lankiness hilarious. “What the fuck?” His voice breaks in the middle.
Bucky hides his face in his sleeve.
“Oh, you think this is funny, Barnes?” Wilson says, but he rolls right into, “I’m gonna kill you, Stark.”
Steve says, frowning, “Nobody’s killing anybody.”
“Especially not you,” Stark finally manages to say. “Wow. I mean, I read your file, but it did not do teenage you justice, Rogers. I’m having a little mental disconnect.”
“Obviously,” Bucky mutters.
Later, after getting checked out by Biro, Bucky stares into the mirror in his quarters and thinks… maybe fifteen. The long hair is throwing him a little—he’d always been neatly trimmed for his ma. But, yeah: fifteen, a little gangly, but mainly short. Ugh.
The arm—that's new. Stark said it's proof that whatever the fuck it was worked, because their entire molecular structure was recalibrated, Ancient tech right along with it. So, you know, at least he's not 120 pounds of teenager lugging around a full grown metal arm.
He makes a fist and thinks about all the bullies he could have flattened if he'd had this back then, too.