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Soulmates Never Die

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Sam Wilson cursed as he rummaged through his kitchen drawers looking for the utensil, he required to serve the dinner he had spent hours cooking for his girlfriend Sharon Carter. He could have sworn he had placed it on the countertop before getting the Shepherd’s pie out of the oven. Now it was nowhere to be seen. Sighing, he picked out something he hoped wouldn’t destroy the meal he had spent most of the day creating. He was fed up of things going missing in his apartment, only to turn up a few days later in the most random location. He was beginning to lean towards his girlfriend’s theory that the place was haunted, even though he didn’t believe in that kind of stuff.

He had lived in his apartment for three years now. It was in a grand looking old building that was once an impressive home for a wealthy family. The property had been divided up into apartments in the 1940’s and the grandeur of the place had been kept by the people who had carried that out.

After successfully serving the food onto the plates, Sam carried them into his dining room. It was part of his lounge, but he had sectioned it off using curtains after seeing it on some home decorating show. He placed a plate in front of his girlfriend and gave her a charming smile as he did.

“I hope this tastes as good as it does when Peggy makes it.” He said as he sat beside her and topped her wine glass up.

“Well it certainly smells delicious at least,” Sharon replied with a smile. “When did she give you her recipe?”

“The other day. I stopped by the nursing home after I finished at the gym.” Sam explained before he hesitantly ate a forkful of food. He smiled as he tasted the food and had to admit he’d done a great hob in making Peggy’s famed Shepherd’s pie.

“This is spot on,” Sharon said sounding impressed. “You did great making this honey.”

“It’s one of my many talents,” Sam said in a cheery tone as he laughed. “Along with misplacing things in strange places.”

“I still think you have a ghost,” Sharon told him. “Too many weird things have been happening here.”

“You know I don’t believe in that kind of thing Shar.”

“Just because you don’t believe in it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.” Sharon pointed out.

“That’s true I guess.” Sam conceded.

The two ate their dinner chatting about their day as they did. Sam told Sharon about his day at the gym, she told him about her day at the hospital. She worked as a nurse on the children’s ward. She found children to be much better patients than most adults. Sam co-owned a gym with his best friend, Riley. They had started it up after getting out of the army and they were both proud and relieved that the business was a resounding success. They specialized in helping wounded veterans. After they had finished eating, Sam cleared the table of the plates and cutlery, leaving the wine and glasses there. He loaded the dishwasher before returning to Sharon.

“You know, I realized I’m a lucky girl to have found a man like you sweetie,” she told him before she gave him a deep, loving kiss. “And for making my Aunt Peggy’s Shepherd’s pie so fabulously, you deserve a reward.”

“What kinda reward are we talking about here?” Sam asked before smiling widely. He had a pretty good idea of what she had in mind.

“Well good boys get good rewards,” Sharon said in a suggestive tone as she unbuttoned the top few buttons on her blouse. “And you’ve been a very good boy.”

As she leaned in to kiss him, the bottle of wine flew off the table and smashed against the wall that adjoined the neighbouring apartment. It was almost like someone had picked it up and thrown it. Sharon and Sam both looked over at the wall with shocked expressions. This was a whole new ball game for them. Their wine glasses were next, then the tablecloth was unceremoniously yanked to the ground.

“Still want to discount my ghost theory?” Sharon asked in a shaky voice.

“I take back everything I said about that whole thing.” Sam said sounding worried as he hurriedly put his sneakers on. Sharon slipped her own footwear back on and they grabbed their cell phones before literally running out of the apartment.

***

Natasha Barton couldn’t help but check her husband’s ass out as he stood up on the ladder painting the highest part of the last wall in their dining room. She and her husband, Clint, had moved into their apartment 2 days previous after they had returned from their honeymoon, and had spent that time making the place look like the home they envisioned.

“How’s it looking?” Clint asked as he finished the last paint roller stroke.

“Perfect,” Natasha replied with a smile as he came down the ladder. “The colour is perfect.”

“I have to admit you made a good choice on that,” Clint agreed as he embraced her. “I wasn’t sure on the deep red at first, but it’s grown on me.”

“You should know by now to trust me when it comes to interior design decisions,” she said in a teasing tone. “Who is the interior designer again?”

“You are. I’m just the renovator.” Clint conceded as he gave her right butt cheek a squeeze.

“Please tell me you didn’t have paint on your hand while you did that.”

“I can’t,” Clint said as he chuckled. His wife gave him a playful glare in response. “What? I have to show everyone this booty is off limits.”

“You know what this means right?” she asked as she arched a perfectly sculptured brow. Clint shook his head in response. “This means war.”

Clint looked confused for a moment before he felt Natasha’s hands slap both of his ass cheeks. He let out a surprised yelp, caught off guard by the action. She held up both of her hands so he could see they were covered in red paint. He grinned as he pressed his hands into the paint in the tray and then gave her a handprint over each breast. Natasha then retaliated by giving him a handprint over his crotch. The two became engrossed in their hand paint war, both laughing as they covered each other.

Their fun suddenly came to an abrupt halt as the can with the remaining paint in it flew through the air and hit the wall of the adjoining apartment with a loud thud. They turned to look and saw the paint dripping down the wall onto the, thankfully covered, floor. Both couldn’t help but notice that it resembled blood.

“Did you not put that on the ladder securely?” Natasha asked.

“Honey… it was on the floor next to the tray.” Clint told her with a concerned frown.

“Then how di-“ Natasha began but was cut off as the ladders went flying into the same wall that the paint had been thrown at.

Clint and Natasha shared an uneasy look before they raced through their apartment and to the front door. The hurried out into the hallway, just as their neighbours hurried out of theirs. The two couples shared startled looks.

“Did something… strange just happen in your apartment?” Sharon asked Clint and Natasha.

“Well… the paint and ladders just got thrown at the wall between us…” Clint began. “By something we couldn’t see.”

“Thank God it’s not just us.” Sam said sounding slightly relieved.

“We had wine glasses and a bottle go flying.” Sharon elaborated.

“Does this kind of thing happen a lot?” Natasha asked.

“No… before it was just things goes missing for a few days and then they would turn up in weird ass places.” Sam explained.

“Have you had anything happen?” Sharon asked in a curious tone.

“Now that I think about it, there were a couple of boxes that looked like they’d been moved when we were moving in,” Natasha replied with a thoughtful expression on her face. “I thought I must have imagined it. Now I’m not so sure.”

“So… what do we do about this?” Clint asked. “Is it even safe to stay in our homes?”

“Maybe Casper is just having a bad day?” Sam suggested, trying to break the tension with a stab at humour.

“I know somebody who can help us,” Natasha said as she remembered a design job she had finished before her wedding. She took her cell phone out of her pocket and smiled as she found the number she needed in her contacts. “I’ll give them a call.”

***

He floated through the rooms he had been trapped in for so long. He had seen many people come and go over his time trapped in the never-ending cycle of pain, loss and loneliness. It had felt like an eternity since he had been imprisoned in this perpetual hell. Seeing the happy couples, the happy families that had lived in these rooms that made up his jail added to his pain and suffering all the more.

The longer he was trapped, the stronger he was becoming. He found he could move things accidentally when he had kicked out in frustration one day when, yet another happy couple had moved in. From then on, he had begun to hone his skills more by moving various possessions. The practice had been worth it to lead up to this night.

He let out a sigh of frustration and looked longingly at the wall that was the source of his anger. The wall was what kept him from getting to his true love. If he couldn’t be happy with the one that had his heart, then he wasn’t going to let anyone be happy and in love. He floated closer to the wall and lashed out in frustration. He was so near and yet so far. He had been for an age. A large section of wallpaper fell from the wall, held in an arch by what remained stuck to it.

He stared at the bare plaster that hadn’t been there all those years ago and felt the desperation and isolation take over him once again. He bent and retrieved a shard of glass from one of the items he had destroyed earlier. He concentrated hard as he used his energy to carve a single word into the wall; Bucky.

He had cried every single day that he had been trapped. He didn’t think he’d ever stop. Dropping the glass shard, he allowed himself to sink down to the ground. His ethereal hand landed in the spilled wine. It gave him an idea and he floated up. Right next to where he had carved the name of his beloved, he pressed his hand to the wall. The magic that trapped him made it so his hand met it like he was a solid sentient being once again. He let out a loud, eerie sounding wail at the frustration of not being able to go through.

Outside the apartment, the four displaced residents heard the chilling wail of anguish and found themselves feeling empathy for the soul that was trapped.

***

It just wasn’t fair. He was doomed to spend an eternity trapped alone and in despair. And also, without half of his left arm. He wondered if his beloved was suffering the same fate as he was. To say it was mundane to float aimlessly from room to room was an understatement. The empty, endless nothing just made him think of the one he loved all the more and it just made his suffering all the more unbearable.

Watching the happy people come and go rubbed salt into his wounds, a feeling he literally knew thanks to the evil people who had left him to suffer for eternity. One family had acquired a cat in their time in his prison. He had always loved cats and had tried to make friends with it as he was convinced it could see him. The furball, a Russian blue named Igor, hadn’t been a fan of his at first. It had just hissed and spat and clawed at him. Until he had learned how to use his energy to give Igor treats while his owners were asleep. The two had then become friends and he would play with Igor while the owners were out or sleeping. He didn’t need to sleep any more.

He had been sad when the family had moved, taking his friend with them. He had been alone for a short time before the redhead and her husband had moved in. He couldn’t help but feel angry as the realization dawned on him that they were newlyweds and he just wished they would leave and let him suffer forever by himself.

He looked at The Wall sadly. He knew that his soulmate was just at the other side of it and hated that no matter how hard he tried; he couldn’t get to him. Each time he tried to get through it was like he was being electrocuted, another feeling he knew well from before this, and it would leave him zapped of energy.

He floated towards it, instinctively drawn there. He retrieved a discarded paint brush on his way. Concentrating intently on the brush, he moved the handle part against the fresh paint. He then proceeded to attempt to write a name he had been unable to for many, many moons; Steve.

Placing his hand against The Wall he found himself praying that one day this suffering would end, and he would be together with his true love once again.

***

A few hours later, Natasha and Clint returned to their apartment., as did Sam and Sharon. They had spent the time at the coffee shop down the street trying to find the courage to return home. Not that any of them wanted to admit it. They looked around at the damage that had been caused by their ghostly roommate. Natasha’s attention was drawn to a particular part on one of the walls and she found herself walking towards it. She saw the barely legible name, Steve, scrawled right next to a strange looking handprint. It wasn’t that the actual hand was strange, but there was a strange residue on the paint in the shape of the hand that had left it.

“Well this just got a whole lot creepier.” Clint said from behind her almost making her jump. She hadn’t heard him come up behind her with being engrossed in wondering what the residue was.

“Yeah…” she agreed as she stepped away from Clint and the wall. She looked around at their home, wondering where the spirit could be. She found herself asking. “Is Steve your name?”

“Can you do two knocks for no, one for yes?” Clint asked after a few moments of not hearing anything. They both heard two distinctive knocks coming from a decorative panel on another wall. “Was that in answer to can you knock or Nat’s question.”

“I swear you’re a dumbass sometimes,” Natasha replied as she gave Clint a fond smile. “It’s a good thing I love you.”

“So, the ghost isn’t called Steve,” Clint remarked. “Who is Steve?”

They both waited to see if there was any kind of response, both ready to run out again in case things got too scary for them. They both couldn’t believe their eyes when a picture of the two of them on their wedding day in a heart shaped frame came floating over to them.

“Steve is your sweetheart?” Natasha asked as she took hold of the frame. She found herself feeling less scared. Instead she wanted to help this spirit who seemed to be wanting to find their loved one. A loud knock came from the same panel.

“We have a female ghost?” Clint asked curious. Two loud knocks quickly followed. “Sorry, I meant no offense.”

“I have an idea!” Natasha said, as she quickly hurried to their bedroom, placing the picture back on the table on the way. She rummaged in a drawer and returned a few moments later holding a notebook and a pencil. “If I leave this by the panel, you’re using to communicate to us, do you think you could write in here anything you need to say that doesn’t require a yes or no answer?”

“How is he supposed to answer that?” Clint asked, just as three knocks sounded out. “Huh… good idea. I’m guessing 3 means I don’t know.”

“Thank you for that.” Natasha said as she placed the opened notebook on the other side table by the panel.

They both watched in amazement as the pencil was lifted into the air and then began to move like somebody was writing. Fascination overtook any lingering fear that they had as they watched the pencil work. A few minutes later, the pencil fell onto the table and the notebook came floating towards them. Natasha took hold of it and read the terribly scrawled writing.

“Steven G. Rogers, James B. Barnes, 1940, murdered, Mr. Pierce,” Natasha read. She then looked around the room as she asked. “You were murdered by Mr. Pierce?” One knock sounded out in response before the pencil floated through the air to the wall that adjoined their neighbours. An X began to appear on the wall as the pencil moved in a repetitive manner, gradually making the cross bolder.

“Please can you stop trashing our home?” Clint asked as he watched his hard work get defaced again.

“We’ll help you get peace and find what you need for that,” Natasha assured their spook. “I promise. But we would appreciate it if you didn’t throw things anymore.”

The pencil fell to the floor and for a moment, Natasha was worried she had upset their ghostly roommate. To both hers and Clint’s amazement, a cloth came floating from the kitchen area and proceeded to try and wipe the paint up from before. Natasha found herself smiling as she watched the clean-up process.

“Hey if he helps with the chores around here, I don’t mind him staying.” Clint said with a chuckle.

“Me neither.” Natasha agreed as she tore the page out of the notebook, folded it up and put it in her pocket. She decided to keep the information they had discovered to herself to see if the psychic who would be coming was genuine or a fraud. She then got to work helping their resident spook in cleaning up the paint mess.

***

In Sam’s apartment, he and Sharon were investigating to see if there was any more spook damage to be fixed. Sharon had swept up the broken glass and Sam had mopped up the wine. Sharon had then excused herself and left Sam to get a closer look at the wall. He saw the name scratched into his wallpaper and took a picture of it on his phone.

“Who the hell is Bucky?” he murmured to himself, making a mental note to try and look that up. He then inspected the ghostly handprint next to the name.

“Hey Sammy… I have an idea how we can communicate with your unexpected roomie” Sharon said as she approached him. He turned to look at her as she held up a hastily drawn Ouija board.

“Is that what I think it is?” he asked as he gave the sheet of paper a wary look.

“Yes, it is,” Sharon replied. “We can use one of your shot glasses at the planchette.”

“I thought you weren’t supposed to play around with that type of thing,” Sam told her as he arched a brow. He knew how much of a believer his girlfriend was. “What was it you said about attracting bad mojo?”

“There’s already a spirit here. What if they’re trapped and need help crossing over?” Sharon replied. “It will only get worse if we ignore this. Let’s help this pour soul.”

“Alright, but if we end up possessed by Satan himself, it’s on you.” Sam said trying to joke to hide his sudden nervousness.

Sharon put the paper on the dining table while Sam went to retrieve a shot glass from his kitchen. She took a seat and he came and sat next to her. She took the glass from Sam and placed it upside down on the paper before indicating to him to place his fingertip on the glass. Once they both had a fingertip on the glass, she began to ask questions.

“Are you still here?” the glass moved to yes.

“Are you Bucky?” Sam asked butting in. The glass moved to no. Before he could ask who Bucky was, the glass moved to spell out Bucky is my beloved.

“What happened to Bucky?” Sharon asked. Murdered, came the reply. Sam and Sharon shared an uneasy look, wondering if a murder had taken place in this very room.

“What’s your name?” Sam asked, curious to know what his ghostly lodger was called. My name is Steve Rogers, was then spelled out on the board. It was quickly followed up. James Buchanan Barnes, my friend, my lover, my soulmate ‘til the end of the line.

“When did you die?” Sharon asked softly. She wanted to try and piece together what had happened to see if there was any way she could help. February 14th, 1940. Same day as Bucky, was Steve’s reply.

“Was it… were you killed because you were in love?” Sam asked. A yes was the reply that came. Both Sam and Sharon felt empathy towards the ghost called Steve. Both couldn’t imagine what it was like to be killed for simply being in love.

“Where is your Bucky now?” Sharon asked. Trapped, like me. Not allowed to be together.

“Well that just sucks,” Sam remarked sadly. He couldn’t imagine how he would feel if he was forced to be kept apart from Sharon. “We’ll help you buddy. We will. We have people coming who will help us get you back to your Bucky.”

Thank you, was spelled out on the board in response. Sharon smiled at Sam; glad he was opening his mind up to something she had believed in for a while.

***

Sam tossed and turned in the throes of a nightmare. Flashes of being dragged down some stairs. Then being tied to a chair. Feeling nothing but despair and anguish and rage. Of feeling freezing cold. Sam bolted awake, a cold sweat covering his body. He looked to his right and was thankful to see Sharon sleeping peacefully beside him. He had asked her to stay over, not really wanting to be by himself after the events of the evening. He pushed the covers back and climbed out of the bed.

After using the bathroom, he made his way through to the kitchen to get himself a glass of water. His mind played over the nightmare that had felt so real and vivid. He wondered if it had anything to do with Steve Rogers. He headed over to the little nook in his living room that he had turned into a little office where he did all the paperwork and accounts for his gym. He pulled the chair out and sat down, starting his computer up in the process.

Once it had booted up, he opened his internet browser and typed in Steve’s name along with February 1940. He looked through numerous articles before he found something that looked promising. He clicked the link and it took him to an archived news report on an unsolved crime website. At the top of the page were two black and white photographs. One had Steve’s name underneath it, the other said James Buchanan Barnes. He read over the article which said the two had been working for a well-respected businessman by the name of Alexander Pierce as butlers and had disappeared right after a burglary at Pierce’s lavish home.

Further down in the article there were several more pictures. One was of Pierce’s home. On closer inspection, Sam noticed it was the building that now housed his apartment. The picture showed Pierce sat in a grand, luxurious office that was now in one of the downstairs apartments. He noticed that the staff members of the old Pierce household were stood in the background behind the sofa that Pierce and who Sam guessed were his associates. He zoomed in on the picture and saw Steve and his Bucky stood side by side in the centre of the staff line. He noticed how both looked completely different to the first two pictures he had seen of them. Instead of happy, smiling, healthy looking faces, they looked sullen, underfed and miserable.

There had obviously been something untoward happening behind the scenes at Alexander Pierce’s home. Sam couldn’t even begin to imagine how badly the staff were treated. His mind wandered to Steve and his Bucky. After what Steve’s spirit had told them earlier, it was obvious this old news story had been a ruse to cover up what had actually happened here. His eyes moved over to the right side of the photo. His eyes narrowed as he scrutinized them, immediately getting a feeling that they weren’t to be trusted.

“Steve, are you here?” Sam asked in a low tone as he felt a breeze behind him. He saw his glass of water lift briefly in response. “So, I couldn’t sleep, which you probably already knew and decided to do a little digging on you and your Bucky. I found this. Wanna have a read of it.”

Sam then remained silent as he went and got the makeshift Ouija board Sharon had drawn earlier. He headed back to his desk and placed it next to where his mouse sat, before putting the shot glass down on it. He waited patiently for Steve to make some kind of contact again. As if on cue, the glass began to move on its own and Sam read what Steve was spelling out.

All lies. We would never steal anything. They murdered us. Rumlow and Rollins, Pierce’s lapdogs. Not to be trusted. They hurt my Bucky.

“Rumlow and Rollins are these two, aren’t they?” Sam asked as he pointed to the two shady looking characters in the photograph. The glass moved to yes. “Thought so. Had a bad feeling about them the moment I laid eyes on them.”

Brock Rumlow. Jack Rollins. Both 22 in 1940. Maybe still alive. Get punished for what they did to us.

“I have a friend who can look into that,” Sam assured him. “But let’s talk to these people who are coming here first okay? One of them is supposed to be able to contact you guys better than how we’re communicating. She’ll be able to get your whole story.”

Thank you, Sam, was spelled out on the paper in response.

“You’re welcome. Let’s just hope we can find something concrete to make sure we can punish those who did you and your sweetheart wrong.”

***

Natasha was unable to sleep either. She too had been subjected to horrific flashes of a nightmare that had her waking in a cold sweat. She had retreated to the living room and had made herself some hot cocoa hoping it would help her get back to a sound sleep. While it had been cooling, she had asked their unseen roommate if he knew how to play chess. She had received an affirmative knock and one game had turned into two. It had led to a deadlock and they were currently on the deciding round. Currently, Bucky was in the lead and Natasha found it amusing that she was being beat by a ghost.

Her third cup of cocoa was long gone by the time Bucky won the last round and was officially the winner of their mini chess tournament. She fell asleep on the sofa, dropping her empty mug onto the floor. Before it could hit, an invisible hand caught it and floated it into the kitchen. The mug was then, cleaned and dried and put away in the correct cupboard. Moments later, a blanket floated down from the back of the sofa and covered the sleeping Natasha, before the chess set was carefully packed away and placed on the shelf where it belonged.

***

A few days later, the people Natasha had contacted arrived at the building. They carried their equipment up to the fourth floor where Sam and Natasha’s apartments were located. Everyone gathered in Natasha’s place for a chat over tea. Sam, Sharon, Clint and Natasha had agreed to keep the things they had discovered to themselves. The visitors were paranormal investigators that consisted of two scientists and a psychic.

“Hi, I’m Tony Stark,” one of the scientists said introducing himself. He shook everyone’s hands as he added. “I’m the leader and founder of Supernatural Haunting Investigators Exploring Lost Dimensions. I design and make all the equipment we’ll be using. I also know more than this guy over here so if you have any questions then come to me.”

“I’m Bruce Banner,” the other scientist said as he too shook their hands. His voice was softer and quieter than Tony’s. Natasha noticed he sounded a little on the shy side. “Don’t listen to him. He likes to brag a lot about his achievements unlike some of us. And we prefer to use S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s less of a mouthful.”

“I am Wanda Maximoff. I work with the science men when required,” the psychic told them introducing herself. Her accent was rich, smooth and clearly Eastern European. “I would like to say, for the record, that I am more than just a psychic.”

The seven of them sat in Clint and Natasha’s lounge as Natasha served them tea. She had gotten her best china out for the occasion and Bucky was under strict orders not to break it. They had barely started their tea when Wanda began to pick up on the spirit in Natasha and Clint’s apartment.

“He is extremely lonely,” she said as she got up from her seat on the sofa and walked around. Natasha thought her accent was rather soothing as she listened. “He has been trapped here by himself for many, many years with his soulmate just out of reach. He’s is in so much pain… poor James. I will help you. You and Steven.”

The four residents all shared a look between themselves at Wanda’s accurate information. So far at least. They remained quiet as they watched her walk around the rooms. She would stop occasionally and tilt her head like she was listening to someone talk. She then made her way into the dining room and to the wall that Bucky seemed to despise. They could easily see her through the open doors. She placed her hand on it and that’s when the residents knew that Wanda was the real deal and not some phoney.

The moment her hand made contact with the wall; it was like her body received an electric shock. Red wispy smoke like light began to emanate from her. It swirled through the air towards the people in the living room. Sam, Natasha, Clint and Sharon watched in surprise as it swirled around them. Only Tony and Bruce were unfazed, having seen this happen many times before and they braced themselves for what was to come. The residents of the building let out a gasp as the red smoke reached their faces, giving their eyes a red glow as they became witness to the events that had happened there over 70 years ago.

Chapter Text

Steve adjusted the place settings for what felt like the hundredth time. He was sick of Alexander Pierce nit-picking about the tiniest detail. Granted it was his annual Valentine luncheon gathering and everything had to be perfect. Members of the elite New York society would be arriving soon, ready for another year of gluttony and drunken debauchery. It angered him that the female members of the household staff would be treated like pieces of meat by them. The ones he knew of that had refused had never been seen again. He hoped that they had managed to get away to a place of safety. However, he had a feeling in his gut that said they hadn’t.

If he had known what lay behind the grand walls of the Pierce estate before he signed the contract for his job, he would never have done it. Then again, he hadn’t really had a choice about refusing to sign it. The only good thing that had come out of this job was meeting Bucky.  

Bucky had been already working for Pierce when Steve had joined the work force when he was 17. Before that, Bucky had been working in another household as a trainee pastry chef. Bucky had grown up in the Strange household with both of his parents working there. His father a chef and his mother a maid; both had been there since before he was born. The Strange family were a long line of renowned doctors who all seemed to excel in their chosen field of medicine. Yet, they were also kind and fair to their staff, allowing Bucky’s parents to marry and have a family.

Alexander Pierce and his security detail had decided to attend a party that Eugene Strange had hosted to celebrate his eldest son Stephen’s new position as a surgeon. Pierce hadn’t been invited but had chosen to show up anyway. Eugene had allowed him and his security detail in, not wanting to cause a scene. Pierce had walked around like he had owned the place, sampling all the food and drink that had been provided. That had been the beginning of Bucky’s fate. Pierce had been that impressed he had demanded to meet the person who had created the delicious desserts.

16-year-old Bucky was scared and nervous when he was escorted to a study he had never been in before to meet Alexander Pierce. As soon as he laid eyes on the man, he immediately felt uncomfortable. Both he and the two rough looking henchmen either side of him made Bucky’s skin crawl. He graciously accepted Pierce’s compliments and quickly hurried back to the safety of the kitchen. However, a matter of hours later, Bucky was being bundled into a car and driven away from the only home he had ever known.

Pierce had kept slipping Eugene, the head of the house, copious amounts of alcohol without his knowledge. It led to a bet being made, one which Eugene had ultimately lost. One where Bucky was the prize. He wasn’t even given the chance to say goodbye to his parents, or gather his few belongings, before he was taken away to the new chapter of his life that would become a living hell.

Upon arrival, he was shown to a tiny room in part of an attic. It was reached by a narrow, winding staircase that led off a grand hallway that could have been a room in its own right given the size of it. His new bedroom consisted of a bed, a single chest of drawers and a stand that housed a chamber pot, jug and porcelain bowl for washing. He sat on the bed as he tried to take in the turn of events that had led him here. He noted that it was uncomfortable but a little wider than the bed he had slept on in his previous room. He went down the staircase and tried the door at the bottom and found it locked, something that he found would happen every single night. He headed back up the stairs and lay on the uncomfortable bed. The single light was switched off almost as soon as his head hit the pillow. He spent a restless night tossing and turning wondering what the next day held in store for him.

From that day on, Bucky was woken in the early hours of the morning and escorted to the kitchen by either Rumlow or Rollins. It was more than clear to Bucky that he was a prisoner and not an employee. Once in the kitchen, he was forced to bake all day every day. He found out the hard way that he wasn’t allowed to eat any of the things he made himself on the third day there. He was painfully hungry, the one meal he had been given at the end of each day that consisted of watery broth and stale bread was nowhere near enough to sustain him. Thinking he was alone; he sneaked an offcut of pastry away and ate it in his room that night. Moments after he had finished it, he was dragged down to the basement level and subjected to his first of many beatings in the punishment room. He was forced to remain in there for the whole night, then expected to spend all day in the kitchen as normal the next day.

After that, he knew better than to take any food that wasn’t brought to him. He was brought to tears many times at being so close to food he loved and not being able to eat any of it like he had been allowed at his childhood home. The weight fell off him quickly, not that he had been big to start with. His ribs became more pronounced as did his cheekbones.

One summer’s day when the heat had gotten up outside, making the kitchen like a furnace, Bucky had passed out. Instead of being given medical treatment or fluids, he was again taken to the punishment room and subjected to another day and night of beatings. The only thing he found solace in had been the fact that it was cool in the room. After that event, his left arm didn’t heal right and left him with limited movement. He was however, still expected to carry out his daily duties as normal.

Two years went past before Steve came to the household. Bucky was beaten regularly, and it was now clear to him that it wasn’t because he did things wrong, but it was because Pierce was a sadistic tyrant who was using Bucky as his personal punching bag. Ironically, it was Bucky’s 18th birthday when a tall, muscular blond came up the narrow stairs to his prison cell. It was still as bare as the day he had arrived. Rumlow had informed Bucky that Steve was to share the room with him and then promptly left.

Bucky couldn’t help but stare at Steve dumbfounded as he wondered how he’d even gotten up the narrow, winding stairs with his shoulders being as broad as they were. Steve had stood there awkwardly, holding a small bag that obviously held some of his possessions, as Bucky continued to gawp at him.

Steve couldn’t help but notice how pale and skinny Bucky looked, or the smattering of bruises that were in places the smart looking household staff uniform didn’t cover. He wondered what his new roommate had been forced to endure here. The other staff members that he had seen, aside from Rumlow and Rollins, all had the same haunted, tortured, empty looks in their eyes. All were painfully skinny always looked petrified whenever Pierce, Rumlow or Rollins came into the room. Steve founding himself wondering how long it would be before he was in the same boat.

“Hi… I’m Steve Rogers.” Steve finally said, breaking the awkward silence that filled the small space they would be sharing. He held his hand out to shake.

“James Barnes,” Bucky said in a voice hoarse from lack of use. “You can call me Bucky… just not in front of them.”

“Bucky?” Steve asked in a questioning tone. He smiled as he listened to the explanation as to how the name came to be regarding his middle name.

Bucky then showed Steve which drawer was free. The other housed a spare uniform and apron of Bucky’s. Steve noticed how stiff and precise his movements were. He was obviously healing from an injury. Steve’s jaw clenched as he guessed how Bucky had come to receive it. It took only moments for Steve to unpack his few personal items. Bucky watched feeling sad that he hadn’t been given the opportunity to bring anything with him.

“How’d you get unlucky enough to end up here?” Bucky asked. Steve was silent for a few moments before he took a seat on the bed beside Bucky. The frame creaked under his weight.

“My mom owed Mr. Pierce money,” Steve began, a sad expression on his face. “She got cancer… we needed money for the doc… I tried to earn as much as I could on our farm, but it was never enough. The bills kept piling up and my mom got sicker and needed more medicine. The doctor said he knew somebody who could give us a loan and introduced us to Mr. Pierce. He took the deeds to the farm as a bond and loaned us the money. My mom died, he demanded payment in full. I didn’t have it, so he sold the farm and brought me here.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Bucky said, genuine sadness in his voice. He then proceeded to tell Steve the story of how he had ended up here. “And that was two years ago… sometimes I lose track of the days… its easily done here. But today they made a point of telling me the date ‘cause it’s my birthday.”

“I’d wish you a happy birthday but given the circumstances I guess that wouldn’t be very nice of me to do so.” Steve replied with a sad smile.

“Honestly… it’s been better than most days,” Bucky told him. “I got a birthday cookie. And a new roomie. Wait… you don’t snore, do ya?”

“Not that I’m aware of,” Steve replied with a slight chuckle. “But I guess you can tell me the answer to that tomorrow.”

“I don’t think I snore,” Bucky replied shyly. “And I have no idea how we’re gonna sleep… there’s one bed that’s not huge and you’re… well… huge.”

“I only got like this when I started doing the farm work,” Steve explained as a light blush crept over his cheeks. “I used to be small and skinny before I hit the teen years… that’s when I started doing more farm work… we couldn’t afford to pay the guy who used to do it.”

“Ya think you could take down Rumlow and Rollins?” Bucky asked in a whisper. The idea had just popped into his head.

“I can hold my own in a fight,” Steve told him. “But I’m not so sure against guns.”

Bucky then filled him in on everything he had learned about the house and staff in the two years he had been there. Steve absorbed the information like a sponge. When lights out came, the two of them had no choice but to sleep side by side in the small bed. It took some adjusting, but they were eventually both able to fit on. Bucky revelled in feeling the warmth from Steve after years of feeling too cold while sleeping as they didn’t even have a blanket.

The next day, Steve had been put to work in the gardens, even if it was March and the grounds were still a little frosty. Digging frozen flower beds wasn’t easy work and by the end of the day, Steve was sore and hungry. Like Bucky, he was escorted to and from their shared room. He had also noticed Rumlow or Rollins watching him work throughout the day. Both had made it more than obvious that they had guns on them.

He headed up the staircase to his room and saw that Bucky was already sat there and that their food had been delivered. They sat side by side as they ate the meagre meal. Steve wondered how long it would be before the strength he had built up on the farm depleted with a diet that would barely sustain a child. They ate in silence and remained silent until their bowls were taken by a maid. Steve then had a quick wash while Bucky turned his back to give him some resemblance of privacy.

Once Steve was done, Bucky rummaged in a drawer and pulled out something wrapped in a kitchen cloth. Bucky signalled to him to get comfortable on the bed and once they were both seated, Bucky placed the bundle in this own lap and unwrapped it revealing parts of burned pound cake that he had made earlier. The edges had ended up burned due to a faulty oven handle and Bucky had been given the task of trying to salvage the cakes. He knew the cake would last a few days in his and Steve’s room and hoped he hadn’t looked too nervous when he had smuggled the contraband out of the kitchen under his jacket. They ate a small section of it and then hid the rest at the back of the drawer.

Their days together passed with the same routine day after day. They never had a day off. The nights they spent talking in hushed voices or Bucky would watch Steve draw in his old sketchbook. In one of their hushed conversations, Steve had admitted that he didn’t know how to dance. Bucky had taken it upon him to teach him at least one dance. In the limited space they had, Bucky taught him some resemblance of a waltz.

Some nights, Steve would spend tending to Bucky’s injuries when Pierce had had a bad day and taken it out on Bucky. Steve would sneak small amounts of herbs and plants in from the garden that his mother had taught him would help healing. He’d then make either a paste for a wound or put them in a cup of water for Bucky to drink. They became close friends extremely fast and after only knowing each other for weeks, it felt like they had been friends their whole lives.

July arrived and with it Steve’s 18th birthday. After their usual day of slave labour, they were locked away in their room. The room was now stifling hot due to the weather and the two of them spent most of their time in it stripped to their underwear to try and stay cool. After their same meagre broth, Bucky handed Steve a small cloth wrapped bundle. Steve had unwrapped it carefully and had smiled when he saw the small cake inside. He had thanked Bucky for it and then shared it with him.

It was the very next day when they both realized their feelings toward each other were more than friendly. They had been rudely woken two hours before their usual 5 a.m. start by Rumlow and Rollins barging into their room. Rumlow had grabbed Bucky by the hair and dragged him out of bed, while Rollins had hit Steve in the stomach hard with a baseball bat so he wouldn’t try to intervene. Steve collapsed onto the floor in a heap holding his stomach. By the time he was able to get to his feet again, there was no sign of Bucky and the door was locked.

Bucky had then been dragged to Pierce’s study instead of the punishment room and subjected to the worst beating he had endured in his time at the house. Once Pierce was finished, Bucky was forced to the kitchen and made to start his days work. It was the longest day of Bucky’s young life and he was relieved when he was allowed back to his room so he could see to his injuries. Steve had already been there when he had gotten back, and he immediately helped to patch Bucky up. Steve had asked what had happened for Pierce to do beat him and Bucky admitted it was because he took the cake, he had given Steve for his birthday. Steve immediately felt guilty and Bucky had assured him he knew this was a possible consequence when he took the cake. He had also told him that the events had now made it that he knew who kept telling Pierce when he took food from the kitchen.

“I was so scared for you when they took you,” Steve had said in a hushed voice as they lay side by side in bed that night. “I was scared they wouldn’t bring you back. I kept trying to get out, but the door wouldn’t open. I’m sorry I couldn’t get out and help you.”

“Steve you don’t have anything to apologize for,” Bucky told him. His voice was quiet and obvious he was hurting. “I knew there was a chance I’d get beaten for stealing the cake for you. I just wanted you to have something nice for your birthday.”

“As much as I enjoyed the cake, I’d have preferred to keep you unharmed Buck,” Steve told him as he tucked Bucky’s longer than was fashionable hair back behind his ear. “You mean too much to me to put yourself at risk for a cake for me.”

“It was worth gettin’ beat like this to see ya smile the way ya did last night Stevie.” Bucky said as his eyes closed. His brow furrowed in pain and Steve was immediately concerned.

“Where does it hurt Buck?”

“Everywhere,” Bucky confessed as he slowly tried to move into a position that eased his pain. He ended up on his side facing Steve. “I think I mighta broke somethin’ inside this time.”

“Is there anything I can do to make it better?” Steve asked, his own brow was furrowed in concern.

“Jus’ stay with me Stevie,” Bucky murmured through a wave of pain that got increasingly stronger. “Don’ leave me.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” Steve promised him as he gently stroked his hair, making sure he didn’t put a lot of pressure behind it. “I’m with you ‘til the end of the line.”

Bucky managed a pained smile as the words registered, right before blackness overcame him.

 

It took Bucky several months to heal from that beating. It was almost Thanksgiving when he was able to move without pain. Steve had smuggled in as much of the healing herbs and plants as he could to try and help. The first few weeks after the beating ended up with them side by side at night with Steve stroking Bucky’s hair to lull him to sleep. Bucky was still expected to work as normal while healing and was grateful for Steve taking care of him when they were alone.

When the weather began to cool, Bucky was even more grateful that his body wasn’t as sore so he could take advantage of snuggling up to Steve to share body heat. It quickly became the favourite part of their day, falling asleep wrapped in each other’s arms. Waking up was their second favourite. It was now clear to the pair of them that something was happening between them that was more than just friendship or brotherly affection. They both got butterflies when they saw the other after being separated for their workday. And their hearts skipped a beat when they made the other smile.

By the time Thanksgiving rolled around and Bucky was almost healed, they both knew that they were head over heels for each other. Bucky was made to slave away in the kitchen on numerous Thanksgiving desserts. Steve had been brought inside as there wasn’t anything, he could do in the garden due to the weather. Instead, he was put to work answering the door and showing guests to the correct rooms. Both Steve and Bucky had been given new smart uniforms to wear and a barber had come and cut their hair to make them presentable for Pierce’s guests. Bucky had wondered why he had been given the makeover with him being confined to the kitchen. He realized why when he was escorted, by Steve, to the dining room so the guests could commend him for his culinary skills.

Later than usual, after being allowed to share the scraps of the leftover Thanksgiving meal with the other staff, Steve and Bucky made their way to their room. Surprisingly, they didn’t have an escort. They had learned from a maid that Rumlow and Rollins were busy celebrating the holiday with their own families. They walked into their room and were surprised to see their bed actually had a blanket on it now. Bucky stroked a hand over it and discovered it wasn’t as soft as it looked, but beggars couldn’t be choosers.

The two of them shared besotted looks as they stripped out of their uniforms and carefully hung them on the hooks on the wall. They then unfolded the blanket between them and laid it over their bed. Both were pleasantly surprised that it more than adequately covered the bed so they knew they wouldn’t be having a tug of war to keep covered. They shared another look once they had finished that small task and Bucky found himself blushing under Steve’s gaze. He looked at the floor a little bashfully and heard Steve walking towards him. He raised his head as Steve stopped in front of him and gently placed a hand on the back of Bucky’s neck. His thumb rubbed in a soothing rhythm over his jawline by his ear and Bucky found himself enjoying the sensation.

“You know what I’m thankful for?” Steve asked softly. Bucky shook his head in response. “I’m thankful to have you in my life Buck. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you.”

“I’m thankful to have you in mine too Stevie,” Bucky replied. His eyes were bright with happiness which had been absent for so long. “You don’t have to worry ‘bout losin’ me Stevie. I’m with you ‘til the end of the line remember.”

Bucky smiled brightly at Steve and Steve saw how it lit his whole face up. Before he realized what he was doing, Steve pressed his lips to Bucky’s in a loving, tender kiss. Bucky let out a soft gasp as the contact, a sound muffled by Steve’s own mouth. His hands found Steve’s shoulders, still broad but a lot leaner than when he first arrived. He couldn’t resist stroking his hands over the warm skin he was met with. Steve made an appreciative noise and the hand that wasn’t now buried in Bucky’s hair, went to his waist and pulled him closer.

The sound of the door opening brought their kiss to a halt and the two of them moved as far apart as they could. Both made it look like they were just about to get into bed as a maid came into view. She proceeded to tell them that they were expected to be up an hour earlier in the morning to help clear the mess left over from the party. She then quickly left, and the lights went out in their room and they heard the distant sound of the door locking.

Once they were in bed, they snuggled up close together and they enjoyed several more kisses, before falling asleep in each other’s arms. For the first time in years, both had smiles on their faces as they did.

 

Christmas Day was almost upon them, and Bucky and Steve’s friendship had now expanded to love. They had been courting each other in the ways they could in their room. They would do their slow waltz to no music, both moving in sync with each other without them having to share words. They would spend a lot of time kissing and cuddling wrapped up in their new blanket. The coarseness of it forgotten as they were too absorbed in each other to really notice. Their passion towards each other grew and they became bolder in their actions together. They both discovered how good they could make each other feel when hands and mouths began wandering and soon, they were curious enough to want to try more.

Christmas Eve found them on a shopping outing with several maids and of course Rumlow and Rollins. They had been given strict orders to follow and a list of what items to buy and where to get them from. Bucky couldn’t help but look around at the outside world he hadn’t seen in years. Christmas was one of his favourite occasions and he actually felt that this one would be the best one in years.

The small taste of freedom didn’t last long and sooner than any of them liked, they were on the way back to their prison. Bucky quickly headed to the kitchen to continue work on the many things he had been ordered to bake. When he was done for the day, he went to his room ready to see Steve, only he wasn’t there.

For several long hours, Bucky sat by himself worrying about what had happened to his best guy, until he heard the door opening and Steve’s familiar footsteps came up. Light flickered and got brighter as the footsteps got louder and then Bucky saw Steve was carrying a candle. He placed it on the dresser and then began to change out of his clothes. From what Bucky could see and hear, they sounded wet. Steve explained how he was about the come to their room, when Pierce had ordered him to shovel the driveway ready for him heading out to church in the morning. Bucky had never been so grateful to see Steve and spent the rest of the night holding him close while his exhausted boyfriend slept.

Christmas morning was always a good day for the staff of the house. It meant they got to spend a few extra hours in bed while Pierce attended church. However, Bucky and Steve still woke at their usual time, their bodies now used to the routine. They used their extra time together to kiss and make out. While they were taking a breather, Steve showed Bucky a small jar of Vaseline that he had manage to get while on their shopping trip.

“Where’d you get the money for that?” Bucky asked in surprise as he looked at the bottle.

“I found some coins in the snow,” Steve explained looking ashamed. “I was gonna put them all in the donations tin that Santa had, but I saw this and used some to get it. I put the rest in the tin though, Buck.”

“You don’t have to look so guilty with me doll,” Bucky replied with a smile and a wink. “You could look at it as a Christmas gift to you from the universe for puttin’ up with this place.”

“It’s worth it to be with you Buck.” Steve replied before kissing him deeply. Bucky eagerly returned the kiss and ended up a little breathless when their lips parted.

“Do you know what to do with that?” Bucky asked as he eyes the Vaseline and licked his lips.

“I have an idea,” Steve admitted. “I used to play in the hayloft in the barn when I was a kid and I fell asleep there one day. Woke up and heard a couple of the farm workers talking while they were taking a break. Let’s just say they were very detailed in what they got up to with their wives butts.”

“You’ll be gentle with me, right?” Bucky asked nervously. He trusted Steve with every ounce of his being but was a little scared of the unknown act they were about to do.

“Bucky, always,” Steve promised him before kissing him lovingly. “I love you. I’d never do anything to hurt you.”

“I love you too.” Bucky confessed before he broke out into a wide smile and then kissed Steve again.

Their kisses turned heated once again and Bucky moaned in surprise as he felt Steve slide slippery fingers into the cleft of his ass cheeks. Steve stopped kissing him for a moment and gazed down into his eyes to make sure he was okay as he eased a finger into him. Bucky’s eyes widened slightly at the strange feeling, but he encouraged Steve to continue. He wanted to experience everything he could with him. Steve began to kiss him again as he prepped Bucky with his fingers, hoping he was doing it correctly. The last thing he wanted to do was cause him any more pain. He was relieved when Bucky began to make small pleasure filled moans into their kisses. It let him know he was doing things correctly.

When Steve felt that Bucky had been opened enough, he spread some of the slick onto his shaft before lining up with his opening. He looked down at Bucky again, concern and love, along with arousal, clear to see on his face. Bucky gazed up into his eyes, his eyes shining with love and trust. Steve leaned down to kiss him again as he slowly began to enter Bucky.

Bucky couldn’t help but moan as Steve slid into his body, slowly and carefully. It was a strange sensation and Bucky wasn’t sure if he liked it at first. Then Steve hit a spot inside him that made him moan and want more. It seemed forever until Steve was fully seated within him and Bucky wrapped his legs around his waist. He kept kissing Steve as his body adjusted to the new addition. He’d never felt so full or stretched ever and it was almost too overwhelming for him. Steve must have sensed it as he made sure not to move below his waist and kept kissing and stroking his hair.

Eventually, Bucky’s body became accustomed to Steve and Steve gave into the instinctive urge to move. He began slowly and gradually built up his speed and force. Bucky had to bite his lip to stay quiet. He didn’t want to make a noise to draw unwanted attention from any of the maids who might walk past the door to their room. As it was, the bed was beginning to creak louder and louder. Not knowing what to do with his hands, Bucky gripped the blanket with one and held onto Steve’s back with the other as pleasure built up inside him. He managed to moan Steve’s name before he arched his back and came hard. His eyes clamping shut of their own accord as he felt the pleasure completely overtake him. Steve was close behind him. Bucky’s body clenching around him helping him reach that release.

Breathless and a little sweaty, Steve collapsed almost onto Bucky, his arms stopping him at the last second. They shared more kisses as Steve carefully pulled out. Bucky couldn’t help but wince as he did, and Steve gave him an apologetic look. He assured him it was worth it and they shared another kiss before Steve set about cleaning them both up. By the time Rumlow had come to get them, they were both presentable and the only trace of what they had shared was a faulter in Bucky’s steps every so often when his body reminded him of what had happened.

Christmas passed and 1939 turned into 1940. When the clock struck midnight Steve and Bucky shared a kiss in the pantry as they both had to work for Pierce’s New Year’s party. They had almost been busted by the maid that had informed Pierce of Bucky taking the cake for Steve. They had quickly made it look like Steve was helping Bucky lift something from a shelf, Bucky exaggerating that his arm was sore; his old injury playing up because of the cold.

The winter seemed to drag on, the weather getting worse as the days went by. January passed and February arrived with the same cold, snowy weather. Plans for Pierce’s annual Valentine’s Day luncheon were made, and Bucky was given his list of things he was going to make.

February 14th dawned cold and snowy. Steve and Bucky shared sleepy kisses in the warm cocoon of their bed before getting up to face the busy day. Bucky was slaving away in the kitchen, giving sympathetic looks to the maids who were trying to mentally prepare themselves for the luncheon. He knew what went on behind the doors of the dining room and wished there was something he could do to help them. He knew if he tried, he’d be sent to the punishment room, or worse, be made to take part in it in a role filled by one of the maids.

He looked up and couldn’t help but smile when Steve walked in after finishing setting the table in the formal dining room. Steve smiled back and quickly made his expression neutral as he saw Pierce’s informant watching them. She was the only one who seemed to enjoy the Valentines debauchery. Steve used the excuse of helping Bucky lift the heavy flour sacks as his excuse to be in the kitchen when Rumlow came to tell him to go and get some flowers from the greenhouse for decoration.

Steve obediently made his way there with the small list of flowers Pierce had decided he wanted adding to the table décor. Finding the pruners, he began to cut the requested blooms. As he was cutting the roses, he noticed one of the deep red ones was looking a little worse for wear. Rather than cutting it off and adding it to the compost pile, he cut it off, removed the thorns and hid it in his pocket. He was going to give it to Bucky later. He then continued gathering the remaining flowers before taking them to the dining room. He didn’t realize that Rollins had seen him hiding the rose.

The guests arrived and the luncheon got under way. Bucky, with Steve’s help, got all the food out of the way and then cleaned the kitchen. When it came to the dessert part of the gathering, Steve and Bucky wheeled the dessert trollies into the room and made a hasty exit. The doors were closed and locked behind them, trapping the maid’s inside with the guests. Rollins and Rumlow were in the dining room which meant they were left unsupervised to go to their room.

As they headed to the staircase, they had to pass the front door of the house. Steve noticed it wasn’t being watched by anyone at that moment. He stopped in his tracks and grabbed Bucky’s arm. Bucky turned to look at him in confusion. Steve gestured his head to the door and Bucky looked. It took only moments for Bucky to register what Steve was insinuating.

“Let’s runaway from here,” Steve whispered. “Now is the perfect chance. We can take one of the guests’ cars and get miles away. Make our way to a place nobody knows us.”

“That sounds like heaven,” Bucky replied in a whisper of his own. He nodded as he quickly made his mind up. “Let’s do it. We won’t ever get another chance like this Stevie.”

The two of them then crept to the door and Steve tried the handle. He was ready to try and kick it down if it turned out to be locked. To their relief, the door opened smoothly, and they quickly crept out, making sure to close it quietly behind them. They then hurried to where the cars had been parked and tried the doors. They eventually found one that was unlocked and got in. Bucky watched Steve mess with some wires and then heard the car start. Steve quickly began to move the car along the driveway, hoping that the noise from the dining room would cover the engine noise from the car.

As they reached the end of the drive, Bucky couldn’t help but let out a happy laugh. The gates stood wide open and their stolen ride to freedom sailed on through. Steve reached into his pocket and pulled the rose out before handing it to Bucky. Bucky took it and held it to his nose, inhaling the sweet, delicate scent.

“When we have our farm in the middle of nowhere, I’ll get you better flowers.” Steve promised him.

“It doesn’t matter about flowers Stevie,” Bucky said leaning over to plant a kiss on his boyfriend’s cheek. “As long as I got my best guy with me, that’s all that matters.”

“Yeah it is,” Steve agreed with a nod. “Hey Buck, why don’t you look in the compartment there and see if there’s any money. We could leave this at the train station if there is and jump on a train to wherever we wanna go.”

Bucky did as Steve suggested, taking a few attempts to open the compartment. He rummaged inside and found maps and a scarf. Rummaging further he found a floral coin purse.

“Bingo!” he exclaimed as he opened it. Inside was more money than he had ever seen in his life. “We can go anywhere Stevie… there’s so much money here.”

“We’ll go wherever you wanna go Buck,” Steve promised him, reaching his hand out and linking their fingers together. “We’ll go somewhere where it’ll be just the two of us. Nobody to beat us or treat us like slaves.”

“That sounds like heaven,” Bucky said with a happy sigh. “Just me and you ‘til the end of the line.”

“Always.” Steve promised as he raised their entwined fingers and kissed the back of Bucky’s hand lovingly.

Bucky’s smile grew as he leaned back in the seat and closed his eyes. He couldn’t believe that finally after all these years, he was going to get his happy ending with the love of his life. He wondered if he should try stopping by the Strange’s to say goodbye to his parents. But realized it was too dangerous and that time was of the essence to put as much mileage between them and Pierce as they could.

Of course, he should have known that the universe was against him. As they were turning a bend, a sound like a gunshot rang out and their car veered out of control on the slippery road. Steve cursed, realizing a tyre must have blown out. He tried to regain control of the car, but it was no use. The remaining wheels didn’t make any traction with the icy road and they ended up hurtling off the road and into the line of trees that bordered a park. The car continued on for a few yards before smashing into a tree. Bucky went flying forward and went through the now shattered windshield. He landed a few feet away, still visible in the one remaining headlight of the car. He managed a groan of pain before everything went black. Steve remained unmoving, slumped against the steering wheel, a large trickle of blood slowly making its way down his face.

 

Steve slowly came to and found his whole body was sore. He also discovered he was secured to something hard. He opened his eyes and they widened in horror as his brain registered what he was seeing. Bucky was tied to a chair opposite him and was completely naked. He was also gagged. Steve’s still foggy brain took in the numerous injuries on his body that must have been from the crash. His eyes moved to Bucky’s left arm and saw a deep, nasty looking wound online with his elbow. The ropes that crossed his torso were obviously cutting into his skin painfully. His hands were trapped uselessly at thigh level and Steve couldn’t help but think that it must be an extremely painful position for Bucky to have his arm in. He tried to speak but found that he too had a gag tied tightly to silence him. It also registered that he was as naked as Bucky.

“So, you think you can run away do you?” Alexander Pierce said as he walked in front of Steve. “And think you can steal from a guest in my home in the process.”

Steve glared at the man in front of him and tried to yell expletives at him and demand that he left Bucky alone. It just came out as muffled nonsense, causing Pierce, Rumlow and Rollins to chuckle.

“It has also been brought to my attention that you were witnessed stealing a rose from my greenhouse earlier,” Pierce continued. “Only when we found you, your good friend James here was holding it in his hand. Care to explain that?”

“I think we got us a pair of queers here boss.” Rollins said as he yanked on Steve’s hair, forcing his head back sharply. Steve couldn’t help the pained noise that he made in the process. His actions and words seemed to enrage Bucky and he yelled against his gag. It earned him the same treatment from Rumlow.

“I have to be inclined to agree with you there Jack,” Alexander replied as he studied Bucky’s reaction to Steve’s mistreatment. He smirked as the perfect punishment came to mind. “Now your behaviour tonight was very disappointing boys. You showed me up in front of some very important people tonight. Not to mention you stole a unique car from a very close friend of mine and wrecked it. And then on top of all that, I discover this disgusting secret you’ve been keeping. It’s only fitting that your punishments fit the crimes you have committed.”

Pierce then walked away from them and Steve was able to see far enough to watch him walk down the hallway. It was then that he realized they were in the hallway just outside the doorway to their room. Pierce returned about 20 minutes later accompanied by two men. One was tall and looked like he had a skin condition. The skin on his face looked almost red and bone like. The other was shorter than the average man and was balding and wore round spectacles. Steve saw that Pierce was carrying a small wooden chest that was about the size of an average toolbox. He placed it on a table before he began to take his jacket off.

“Steven, James, I’d like you to meet the man who you stole the car from. This is my good friend Johann Schmidt and his colleague Arnim Zola. They’re visiting from overseas and were enjoying some good American hospitality until you two decided to pull your little escape stunt.”

“So, you are the arrogant specimen who decided to take my car and destroy it,” Schmidt said as he looked from Steve to Bucky. His accent was distinctly German and sounded a little muffled like he had a cold. “And you repay my good friend Mr. Pierce by trying to leave after everything he has done for you, bringing you into his home.”

Both Steve and Bucky remained silent, knowing it was useless trying to speak. But they glared at the three men they could see, the anger clear to see in their eyes. Pierce made a show of opening the chest and taking out several tools, placing them on the table beside the chest. Both Steve and Bucky’s eyes fell on the items and both felt dread sink into their stomachs. The items were obviously meant to be used for torturing.

“You’re very right to be scared,” Pierce said as he saw their expressions. “You boys have crossed a line that there’s no coming back from. Once your punishment is over, I’m going to have to look for another gardener and pastry chef… you have a sister don’t you James?”

Muffled expletives came from Bucky as he struggled against his bonds. Rumlow was still holding his hair keeping his head in position and the back of the gag caught against it and aided with the struggles, it slipped down to Bucky’s neck.

“You leave my sister alone!” Bucky demanded. “You’ve done enough to my family already!”

“You really are wasting your breath with your pathetic words James,” Pierce said before walking over and slapping Bucky hard across the face. His head jerked to the side with the force. “Once I am through with you and your boyfriend I’ll go and start on your precious family. And there’ll be nothing you can do about it because you’ll be dead.”

“None of this is Bucky’s fault,” Steve said, having been able to work his own gag off. “It was all my idea. Let him go and punish me. I took the flower; I came up with the idea to run away. I took the car and I was the one driving it when it crashed. Me. Not him, me Let him go. He’s innocent.”

“You are forgetting yourself,” Schmidt said as he studied the told Pierce had taken from the chest. “The best way to punish you for what you have done is to hit you where it hurts the most.”

Steve glared at Schmidt as he picked up a heavy looking hammer. He tested it in his grip and swung it in the air a few times. Steve saw Pierce give Schmidt a nod as he walked back and forth between Steve and Bucky. Schmidt nodded back at Pierce in return and then swiftly swung the hammer again, smashing it against Bucky’s right knee. Bucky’s scream of pain made Steve’s blood run cold. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Schmidt continued his assault on Bucky switching between the tools from the chest. Steve felt horrible as he struggled against his bonds, trying to get free to help him. He felt like he was to blame for the suffering his beloved was enduring because of his spur of the moment plan. He didn’t realize he was screaming and yelling for them to stop until he was socked around the jaw by Rollins and the gag was replaced.

Schmidt took a break and Steve looked over at Bucky through tear filled eyes. His body was a mass of wounds and marks. His chest heaved as he tried to regain his composure after everything Schmidt had done to him. He managed to raise his head and looked over at Steve. His left eye was swollen shut looking a nasty red and purple colour. The sight made Steve struggle even harder. All he succeeded in doing was making the rope cut into his wrists even more, drawing blood. He increased his effort to free himself when he saw Schmidt pick up a red-hot poker from the fireplace that was in the middle of the hallway. Bucky saw what was heading towards him with his one good eye and struggled as much as his tired, beaten body would let him. It was of no use and he couldn’t stop the extremely loud scream of pain coming from his mouth as Schmidt proceeded to brand him with the poker.

Steve’s struggles finally came of use and the chair he was tied to suddenly broke. He struggled to his feet from where he had landed on the floor and launched himself at Schmidt. He didn’t get far before he was retrained by both Rollins and Rumlow and pinned to the floor.

“You don’t give up do you?” Schmidt asked as he casually glanced at Steve. He then put the poker back in the fire before moving to stand in front of Steve. He then began to kick the restrained man. Steve let out a few pained grunts as he did, not wanting to give his tormentor the satisfaction of hearing him scream.

“Gentlemen, we might want to start wrapping this up,” Pierce said as he checked his pocket watch. “It’s getting late and we have a big day tomorrow.”

“Yes, you’re right,” Schmidt agreed as he stopped kicking Steve. He then turned back to the table and grabbed a hunting knife before marching over to Bucky once again. “For your insolence in trying to attack me, your punishment shall be to watch me do this.”

Rumlow held Steve’s head in a vice like grip so he wouldn’t be able to move his gaze from Bucky. Rollins was using his full body weight to keep Steve pinned to the floor. Schmidt told to Zola to come over and hold the upper part of Bucky’s left arm, right above the wound. Bucky let out a moan of pain as Zola carried out the request, his grip almost savage. Schmidt then made his way over and began to use the knife on Bucky’s arm. Steve was forced to watch as Schmidt severed Bucky’s arm. Bucky’s screams of agony filled his ears until a snapping noise echoed around the room and Bucky became eerily silent. He had passed out when Schmidt snapped the bone in his arm. Schmidt then waved the arm at Steve before walking over to the fireplace and casually throwing it into the flames.

Pierce moved behind Bucky holding a length of rope which he proceeded to place around Bucky’s neck, with some help from Zola. Schmidt then walked back over, and Steve was forced to watch as between them, they tightened to rope and strangled Bucky. Steve couldn’t help but let out a sob as they untied Bucky’s body and pushed it to the floor. He landed in a heap in front of Steve, his once beautiful steel grey eyes now lifeless and bloodshot.

Steve was then picked up and dragged along the room sized hallway and through a door. He saw that it was a bathroom. He was too numb from shock to even struggle in Rumlow and Rollins grip as they hoisted him up and dumped him into a bathtub. They secured his hands to the pipe that provided the water feed to the shower part before turning the taps on. Steve gasped as ice cold water began to flow into the tub. Pierce, Schmidt and Zola came into the room to watch. Rollins picked up one of several buckets that had been placed next to one of the walls and dumped that into the bath too. Steve let out a shocked sound as he was doused in melting snow, as well as the icy tap water. Rollins and Rumlow repeated the action until all the buckets had been emptied. Rumlow then turned the water off when the tub had been filled almost to the top and Steve had to strain to keep his face above the water level. Pierce then opened all the windows that were in the bathroom to let in the frigid night air.

“Let’s see what finishes you off first shall we?” Pierce asked with a smirk. He had an evil glint in his eye as he added. “Will you drown, or will you freeze? I guess it’s just a matter of time before we find out.”

Pierce, Schmidt and Zola then left the room, leaving Rumlow and Rollins to keep watch over Steve. After 10 minutes, they decided to take it in turns so that they could warm themselves by the fireplace as the bathroom was becoming more like a freezer by the second. Both found it amusing to watch Steve shiver and struggle to keep his head above the water.

It took less than an hour for Steve to succumb to the cold.

Chapter Text

The red mist cleared and everyone in Clint and Natasha’s apartment sat in a stunned silence. Tony helped Wanda over to a chair and she slumped into it. She was drained from the power she had used to show everyone what had happened to their ghostly residents. Sharon had tears streaming down her face from what they had been witness to. Sam was trying to comfort her; his own expression looking grim from the horror he had seen through the magic. Natasha sat in silence looking shocked, her eyes red rimmed. Clint was holding her hand looking deeply disturbed himself. Tony looked at Wanda, a concerned expression on his face as Bruce brought her some water. They both shared a look as she took the glass with shaky hands and drank it. In all the years they had worked with her, they had never been witness to anything like this. They hadn’t seen something exhaust her the way this had.

“There is bad magic keeping them trapped here,” She said sounding as exhausted as she looked. “It is preventing them from being together.”

“What happened to them after they were killed?” Natasha asked as she looked over at Wanda. Natasha’s notebook floated over and she saw there were three scrawled words on the page. She read them aloud. “In the wall.”

“Oh my God,” Sharon murmured as she looked at the wall that Wanda had placed her hand on. “They’re buried in the wall?!”

“Yes,” Wanda confirmed. “The wall is the source of the magic that’s keeping them trapped too. There must be wards there to stop them leaving the places where they were killed.”

“I thought there was something off about that wall,” Tony said as he sat back down. “I researched the building before we came here, but I didn’t tell Wanda anything. She prefers to be in the dark about a place we investigate. The things we saw correlate to the research I did. Everything except that wall. The original plans show no wall there. Yet plans from late October in 1940 show the wall and state that it’s a structurally supporting wall.”

“When I first moved in here, I was talking to the building caretaker and he said that the place was converted into apartments in 1940,” Sam said as he recalled that particular conversation. “So, Pierce obviously cleared out after what he did and fed that phoney story to the press so that people wouldn’t question where Steve and Bucky went.”

“How do we help them?” Natasha asked. “Do we take the wall down between the apartments, clear all the stuff out that’s trapping them here and then they’ll be free?”

“Then they can be reunited and cross over together?” Sharon asked. She wanted them to have a happy ending.

“Doing that will reunite them,” Wanda confirmed. “There is too much of their blood soaked into this building to let them cross over to the other side. The only way to free them completely would be to cleanse everything with fire.”

“You mean burn the place down?” Clint asked as he raised his eyebrows.

“That is a blunt way of putting it, yes.” Wanda confirmed.

“They’re stuck here for eternity then. Or until the place goes up in flames?” Sharon asked softly, feeling bad for them.

“Yes,” Wanda confirmed. “It’s so sad that they have been stuck here alone for so long.”

“Well… once they’re reunited, they can stay here,” Natasha said. “As long as you boys behave and there’s no more destroying things.”

The notebook floated into the air again a few moments later. Natasha couldn’t help but smirk as she read Bucky’s now familiar scrawl; we be good ghosts.

“I will reunite you and Steve, Bucky. I promise,” Wanda told him. “I need to see what wards are in the wall to see how to reverse their power.”

“I’ll go get my tools out the truck,” Clint said as he stood. He looked at Sam as he asked. “You don’t mind having a shared apartment for a couple days, do you?”

“Not at all,” Sam replied with a smile. “The main thing is reuniting them.”

Clint then headed out of the apartment and down to the residents parking area where he kept his van that had his tools in it, He got out the ones he needed and headed back up. When he went back into his apartment, he saw Natasha putting dust sheets over the floor and the furniture in the vicinity of the wall. Sam and Sharon had gone through to next door to do the same. Wanda was running her hands over the wall again. She stopped at a certain spot and tapped her finger against it.

“You need to break here. The magic is weakest.” She told him as he headed over. It was right where Bucky’s right hand print still sat.

“Okay people… stand back. It’s about to get messy in here,” Clint told them as he put on a pair of safety googles after putting his other tools down. “You too Bucky… I don’t want to accidentally hit you.”

“So considerate,” Natasha said with a smirk as a jar of Nutella floated. It was obviously Bucky’s way of showing them where he was. “Oh no you don’t. No messing with my Nutella mister.”

Clint chuckled, knowing that messing with that would earn you the wrath of his wife. He picked up a sledgehammer and walked over to the wall. He lined it up at the spot Wanda had indicated and swung. He was a little sad that all his painting efforts had been for nothing as the wall began to come apart. Dust and debris filled the air as Clint made swift work of demolishing the wall. The flimsy nature of the construction confirmed that it definitely wasn’t a structurally supporting wall.

It didn’t take long for a section big enough for a person to walk through to be demolished. Clint set the sledgehammer down and grabbed a flashlight. He switched it on and shone it into the hole. He peered inside and shone the torch around wincing at the smell that hit him. Clint noted that the space couldn’t be more than a meter wide. He jumped back as the light fell on human remains. Two skeletons lay in a pile on the floor of the makeshift room, one on top of the other. Wanda came over and looked into the sectioned off segment. Her eyes moved over the strange things that were drawn on the wall in what looked like blood.

“Is that blood?” Clint asked trying to keep his eyes off the human remains on the floor.

“Yes, it is,” Wanda confirmed. “It will be a combination of Steve’s and Bucky’s blood.”

“So, Pierce was into some weird black magic stuff?” Sam asked as he peeked into the space. He grimaced as he saw the skeletons. “Poor guys…”

“The good news is it will be simple for me to undo this,” Wanda told them as she turned to face the living apartment occupants. “I just have to get some specialist things first.”

“Should I call my cousin Maria?” Sharon asked. “She’s a cop, she can investigate and punish the people that did this.”

“If they’re still alive honey,” Sam said softy. “It was like 70 years ago.”

“Even if the story gets out and clears their names. That’s something.” Sharon added before she got her phone and dialled her cousin.

 

A few days later, Clint and Natasha were allowed back into their apartment. They had been staying with Sam and Sharon while forensics gathered the evidence and the remains. What remained of Steve and Bucky’s physical forms were now with the county coroner. Wanda returned to the apartment, by herself this time. She had told them she hadn’t needed Tony and Bruce with her for what she had to do. Natasha, Clint, Sam and Sharon were again gathered in Clint and Natasha’s apartment. They remained quiet, at Wanda’s insistence, as she carried out the ritual to free Steve and Bucky.

“It is done,” she told them as she wiped some powder from her hands. “Now all that needs to be done is to remove the walls.”

Clint picked his sledgehammer up and walked towards the wall. He and Sam had agreed that the walls would be coming down and Clint would build another. Sam headed back to his own apartment where there was another sledgehammer waiting on him. They were to destroy the walls from both sides to end the black magic the trapped their ghostly roommates. Getting into position, Sam began to swing the hammer as did Clint on the other side of the void of death.

 

***

 

Bucky watched as Wanda performed the ritual that would hopefully re-unite him with Steve. He felt himself feeling giddy and hopeful as he did. He was excited that within an hour or two, he would be reunited with his soulmate. He found himself doing a little happy dance around the room. His actions caused a curtain to move and when he did a spin, he accidentally collided with a small table that had a vase of flowers on it. The vase fell from the table and luckily, he was able to catch it before it hit the floor and shattered. He placed it back where it belonged before floating over to the notebook and scrawling an apology in it. As he did, he wondered if he would ever get used to having to use his right hand for writing. He looked at where his left arm used to be and felt sad that he was going to be without it for however long he existed. He shook that thought away as he realized it didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was being reunited with Steve.

He floated back to where he had been watching before he started to dance. The walls were getting smaller and smaller He could actually see into what was now the other apartment. He hadn’t seen that area since it was an insanely sized hallway that Pierce had sometimes used to entertain his guests when there had been far more than planned.  He found himself floating closer to the diminishing walls, wanting to be close by when he and Steve were finally free.

 

***

 

Steve floated back and forth, like he would have done when he paced when he had been alive. Finally, after all these years, he was going to be with Bucky again. He watched Sam destroying the final barrier that kept him from his love, wishing that there was some way he could help. 70 years of grieving what his actions had ended up causing had felt like an eternity. All those years spent longing to be with his Bucky, having him so close yet so far had been like torture; like what they had suffered that had ended their lives hadn’t been enough of a punishment from Pierce and his associates.

He continued to watch Sam work tirelessly to bring the wall down. He was sweating from the exertion and Steve sent him a silent promise that he would do everything he could to be helpful around the place. He felt like it was the least he could do after everything the living residents of the two apartments were doing to reunite him and Bucky. He found himself feeling excited to be able to see outside of the place he had been trapped for so long. Wanda had told him that he and Bucky would be able to go anywhere on the property; even the grounds. Steve was looking forward to floating hand in hand through the grounds with Bucky.

The last of the walls fell away, making the two apartments one. If Steve had a heart that could beat, it would be pounding as he laid eyes on his Bucky for the first time in decades. He floated forward and over what was once the end of the line of his world. He found himself smiling widely as he floated straight to Bucky and embraced him in his arms. Wanda waved her hands and her magical red mist danced around them. She was making it possible that everyone could witness the beautiful reunion of two soulmates. The two clung to each other for a long time, both not quite able to believe they were finally together after all this time apart. Eventually Steve pulled back slightly and gazed into Bucky’s eyes as he gently stroked his hair.

“I’m so sorry for causing this Buck,” he told him. “I’m sorry for coming up with that failure of an escape attempt. I’m sorry this happened to you.”

“Stevie, none of what happened to us is your fault,” Bucky reassured him. “What happened to us is down to Pierce and his minions, not you.”

“I could have done better. I should have protected you,” Steve said. His eyes shone with tears and they fell down his face. “My actions caused them to hurt you so much. I don’t deserve you Buck.”

“You deserve everything Stevie,” Bucky told him as he reached up with his hand and wiped the tears away. “Your actions brought me love, happiness, warmth, care. Hell, you gave me a reason to get through those shitty days. The thought of getting back to our room and being in your arms gave me a reason to carry on.”

“I just hate that you had to go through all that pain Buck.”

“I know you do,” Bucky replied softly. “But I think it’s turning out good in the end. We’re finally free of them Stevie. We’re free of being their slaves. Yes, we were apart for 70 years but look on the bright side. That’s nothing compared to eternity of being together.”

“You’re right. We do have an eternity to be together,” Steve realized as he smiled widely. “And we have our new friends to thank for helping us.”

“Yes, we do.” Bucky agreed as they both turned to face their new friends.

“We can all see you and hear you,” Wanda wold them before giving them a smile. “It is wonderful to see you both happy.”

“Thank you so much for helping us be together,” Steve told them as he looked at them all. “You’re all very kind.”

“Yes, thank you,” Bucky said as he smiled. “And I promise we’ll be good ghosts. And I won’t touch that Nutella stuff.”

“Better not.” Natasha said in an amused tone before smirking.

“We’ll let you have your privacy,” Wanda told them. “Rest assured, I have something with me that will make it easier for you to communicate with Natasha, Clint, Sam and Sharon.”

“Thank you again,” Steve said in a sincere tone. “We owe you so much.”

“You don’t owe me anything,” Wanda assured them. “Just go and be happy together.”

With that, she slowly ceased her magic. Steve and Bucky disappeared from view as Wanda’s magical red mist evaporated before their eyes. She turned her attention back to the others and saw that Sharon was wiping her eyes.

“That was so beautiful,” she said as she sniffled. “They finally got to be together after so long. I’m so happy for them.”

“Me too,” Sam agreed as he handed her a tissue. “Here you go babe.”

“What is it you have that will make it easier for them to communicate?” Clint asked in a curious tone. Wanda walked over to where she had left her shopping bag that had the things in she had needed to unseal the wards. She rummaged in it for a few moments before producing a box.

“These are communication devices designed especially for you by Tony Stark,” Wanda explained as she opened the box and showed them. “There is one for each of your apartments in case you want to communicate with Steve and Bucky. It’ll just be like talking to a living person.”

“Sounds like a ghost version of Siri.” Sam said as he chuckled. Wanda smiled as she handed a device to Sharon and one to Natasha.

“They’re best placed in the middle of your apartment so you can hear it in each room,” Wanda explained she then handed them an instruction booklet. “Tony had these printed just this morning.”

“We’ll make sure to read them,” Clint promised her. “In-between rebuilding the wall and decorating the new tenants’ bedroom.”

“If you ever need my help with anything again, you still have my number,” Wanda said as she put her bag over her shoulder. “Now I will go home and relax with some tea. It took more out of me than I thought using the magic before.”

“I’ll walk you out.” Natasha told her, wanting to make sure she was okay.

 

***

 

Later that evening, Natasha and Sharon were making dinner in Natasha and Clint’s apartment. Sam and Clint were working together to rebuild the wall. They had also figured out how to use the communication devices and each apartment had one sat on the mantelpiece above the lounge fireplaces. None of them had seen or heard Steve and Bucky since Wanda had used her magic. Natasha was beginning to think the devices didn’t work. Sharon looked at the batter she was attempting to make for  a cake for dessert and pulled an expression of disgust.

“I don’t think it’s supposed to look like that.” She told Natasha as she showed her the congealed mess in the bowl. Natasha couldn’t help but laugh at what she saw.

“I don’t think this chicken is fairing much better if I’m honest.” Natasha replied as she revealed a charred looking shape that resembled that of a chicken. Sharon burst into laughter at the sight of it.

“We should have just ordered take out.” She said as she put the bowl of cake mix on the counter.

“Gee what are you dolls doin’ in here?” Bucky’s voice asked. Natasha raised an eyebrow. “What that chicken ever do to you Nat? And what did you put in this cake mixture?”

“Hi Bucky,” Natasha greeted with a smile. “I was beginning to think that those box things didn’t work.”

“Me and Stevie had a lot of catchin’ up to do,” Bucky explained. There was a happiness to his voice as he spoke. “Then I decided as a thanks for reunitin’ us I’d help you make some scoff. It’s a good thing I floated my ass down here when I did. You gals seem to need all the help you can get.”

“He’s quite the chatterbox, isn’t he?” Sharon asked in a fond tone. She couldn’t explain it, but it felt like Bucky was the younger brother she never had.

“You sound so happy Bucky. It’s clear to hear in your voice.” Natasha said as she threw the chicken into the trash.

“I have never been this happy before. I’m free to do what I want, when I want. It’s swell not havin’ to answer to someone’s every whim,” Bucky replied as he opened the fridge door. “Uh Stevie give a guy a hand here… I only got one remember.”

“What do you want help with?” Steve’s voice asked. A breeze brushed past Natasha, obviously caused by Steve going to help Bucky.

Sharon and Natasha watched as several contents from the refrigerator began to float over to the counter. The refrigerator door closed, and the pantry door opened. More items came floating over to join the steadily growing pile on the counter next to the ruined cake mix.

“Okay, so I’m gonna make you spaghetti and meatballs like how my momma used to make it,” Bucky explained. “Then I was thinking I could make a chocolate cake for your dessert.”

“You don’t have to do that.” Natasha and Sharon said in unison.

“Please I want to,” Bucky assured them. “Call it a thank you dinner from me and my assistant chef Steve.”

“Buck… I can’t cook to save my life.” Steve told him sounding sceptical.

“Well it’s a good thing you’re already dead huh punk.”

“Jerk.” Steve replied, but there was a fondness to it.

“Why don’t you ladies take a load off your feet. Stevie get ‘em some wine.”

“Sure, thing boss.” Steve replied sarcastically.

“You know I think this whole situation worked out well for all of us.” Sharon said as she and Natasha headed over to the sofa and took a seat. Several moments later, the front door to the apartment opened and an old dusty bottle floated in. After a few more moments, two glasses of wine floated in and each took one.

“Thanks Steve,” Natasha said before taking a sip. “Mm this is nice. Where did you get this?”

“Pierce’s old wine cellar. It’s still fully stocked,” Steve explained. “There’s a whole bunch of stuff. I’m surprised it’s still there, but then the door was securely locked before I died. I guess they didn’t know where I hid the key when I locked it last.”

“So, we have our own secret wine hoard that’s probably worth thousands of dollars?” Natasha asked as she smiled.

“Maybe even millions,” Sharon added. She too had a smile on her face. “Today keeps getting better and better.”

“Good job on the sneak there Steve,” Natasha said as she smirked. “I hope Pierce was pissed that he couldn’t take his alcohol with him.”

“Stevie float your ass on back in here. I need ya to help the one-armed chef make a culinary masterpiece.”

 

A few hours later, dinner was done and dusted. Bucky’s spaghetti and meatballs had been a huge success. The chocolate cake, an even bigger one. Steve had shown Natasha where the key to Pierce’s old wine cellar was and then to the actual cellar itself. She had taken pictures of the contents so she could find out the value of what lay in there. Sharon and Natasha cleaned up after dinner while Clint and Sam did a little more work in getting the wall rebuilt. They called it a night when Natasha opened a bottle of vodka she had stashed in the freezer and the four friends spent a few hours playing some drinking games. By 11pm, Clint and Natasha had passed out on their sofa and Sam and Sharon had gone through to Sam’s apartment.

Sam woke up with a start in the early hours of the morning. He lay in bed for a few moments, wondering what had jarred him from his sleep. He looked at the time and it was almost 3 a.m. That’s when he heard the noise that woke him up again. It was a loud moan. He climbed out of bed quietly, checking to see if Sharon was still sleeping. She was and he wondered how she hadn’t been woken up too. He walked out of the bedroom and down the hallway to the living room. The moan sounded again. He stopped in his tracks as he heard it.

“You have got to be kidding me,” Sam said as he looked around. “I know you two have been separated for a long time but really? Waking me up with ghost sex moans?”

“We’re sorry.” Steve said sounding a little out of breath. Sam wondered how that was even possible with him being a ghost and not needing to breathe.

“We didn’t mean to.” Bucky said sounding wrecked.

“Just keep it down, would you?” Sam asked them. He felt a little bad for interrupting what was probably their reunion sex, but he was usually cranky when woken.

“We promise.” Steve and Bucky said in unison.

“Alright, thank you.” Sam said before turning and heading back to bed.

 

The weeks passed in a blur. The living residents were busy with work and then coming home to continue the renovations. Clint had turned the decorative panel that had blocked off the stairs to Steve and Bucky’s room into a door. Natasha had then cleaned the space thoroughly of 70 years of dust, debris and cobwebs. Natasha had placed a brochure of things she was thinking of putting in the room onto the dining table and had told Steve and Bucky to look through it and circle what they wanted. It had amused her to see the pages turning by themselves, sometimes being turned back quickly like one of them hadn’t finished looking. When she had picked it up when they were done, she couldn’t help but laugh at some of the things she saw. Some items had been circled and then crossed out with ‘nope’ written in capital letters next to it.

Natasha had been measuring in the room and had noticed that the panelling by the window was only superficial and had proceeded to remove it. It gave her more space to work with and she had come up with the idea to put their bed in the now larger alcove. She knew they probably didn’t need a bed with them being ghosts, she just wanted them to have a nice place to be together after having been through everything they had. While clearing out the old furniture that was now beyond repair, she came across Steve’s old sketch book. She had asked if it was okay to look at the drawing and Steve had given his consent. She had been surprised of the skill he had with just one pencil. He’d managed to capture numerous shades that had brought the subject to life on the paper.

She had given them paint swatches to look at and had expected them to act like they had with the brochure. She was pleasantly surprised when they had both decided on a colour in a matter of moments; sky blue. Their once dark, dismal room was now a bright, calm, welcoming space. A cosy bed was in the alcove underneath a newly double-glazed window. Natasha had dressed the bed with pillows, cushions and super soft blankets. She remembered how they had felt when they had nothing to sleep under and then she had felt how horrible the itchy blanket had been for them when Wanda had shown their past. At the foot of the bed, built into the wall was a television. Steve and Bucky had become keen viewers since Clint had taught them how to use the controls, so she had put a TV in their room where they could watch things together in private.

After seeing Steve’s sketchbook, Natasha had created a little artists workshop in one corner of the room. Steve had been overjoyed when he had seen it and hadn’t wasted any time in creating beautiful pieces of art for everyone in his newly extended friend circle. She had also discovered that Bucky had a passion for reading and had gotten him an electronic reading device. She had shown him how to use it and as a thank you, Bucky had watched a cooking show to learn how to make her favourite cake.

Since they had moved to their little love nest, there hadn’t been another incident of anyone being woken up by ghostly sex moans. Much to everyone’s relief. The nights that had happened, Clint, Natasha. Sam and Sharon had been woken to an apology breakfast made by Bucky the next day. Bucky and Steve made themselves useful while everyone was at work. They would do the household chores before doing any of their newfound hobbies.

When their remains had been released for burial, Sam, Sharon, Natasha and Clint had planned a funeral for them; with Steve and Bucky’s input. Neither of them had any remaining relatives, so it had just been the 4 apartment residents that knew them, along with Tony, Bruce and Wanda. Steve and Bucky had decided on a cremation rather than a burial and their ashes were kept in an urn they had both picked from a brochure. They had decided to pick a cremation to see if Wanda’s theory was right about the building holding too much of their DNA for them to cross over. Both were secretly glad that Wanda was right. They weren’t ready to say goodbye to each other just yet. The funeral had been financed by selling some of Pierce’s wines. Sam had pointed out it was the least he could do after what he had done to them.

Investigations had revealed that Pierce had died several years before. Schmidt had died in 1945 and Zola sometime in the 70’s. Rumlow and Rollins were still alive and in their 90’s. No solid proof could link them to the bodies hidden in the wall, so the case remained unsolved in the eyes of the police.

Sharon moved in with Sam over the July 4th weekend. Moving in day was topped off with a proposal from Sam which Sharon had accepted. Bucky had then floated out the cake he had made especially for the occasion. The couple also revealed that they would be welcoming an addition to their family at the start of the New Year as Sharon revealed she was pregnant. Even though Natasha was happy for her friends, a small part of her was sad that she would never get to experience the joys of motherhood herself.  A doctor had given her the heart-breaking news while she had been a teenager.

Natasha volunteered to help decorate their nursery. Sam and Sharon gratefully accepted. Steve overheard Sam and Sharon talking about how they wanted a cute mural on a wall in the nursery and he had begun to draw one at his desk so that he could show Natasha. Natasha had loved the picture, Lions, elephants, zebras and monkeys were gathered by a watering hole to drink. Some were taking refuge in the shade of a large tree. Steve had then begun to paint it on the wall that Natasha had instructed. She had also told Sam and Sharon she and Steve had a surprise planned and they weren’t allowed into the nursery until it was done. On seeing the finished room, Sharon had burst into tears at how perfect it all looked.

Halloween arrived and with-it Natasha’s annual Halloween party. This year however, she had asked Steve and Bucky to help her with certain aspects of the party. When she had told them of her plans they had immediately agreed. They were going to make things move and float to either impress or scare her guests. Bucky helped Natasha and Sharon with the catering and Steve helped Sam and Clint with the decorations. When everything was ready, Natasha had to admit the place looked amazing and she knew that it was going to be her best Halloween bash so far.

They guests had had a blast. The scares courtesy of Steve and Bucky had been successful. The highlight of the party was when Steve and Bucky had made two fake skeletons move from where they had been laid out for a scene to the middle of the room. They had then made them dance. Natasha’s guests had asked her how she had managed the elaborate display and she had smirked and told them it was a secret.

Thanksgiving came and went. Bucky spent weeks planning the perfect Thanksgiving meal for Sam, Sharon, Clint and Natasha and they had enjoyed every morsel that had passed through their lips. Bucky found that cooking and baking for them had made him enjoy doing it once more like he had before Pierce had taken him. While he was under Pierce’s command, it was more of a chore than something he enjoyed; especially when he was so hungry and was forbidden to eat any of it. Steve and Bucky had joined in when everyone had said what they were thankful for that year. Both had said that they were thankful for their new friends and how they had helped them reunite.

Christmas arrived and it turned out to be a snowy one. It was another occasion where Bucky’s meticulously planning had paid off. He made more food than was necessary and Sam and Sharon had taken a lot of leftovers to the retirement home her Aunt Peggy stayed in when they went to visit her and take her gifts. They had planned to bring her to the apartments, but her health, the weather and the fact she would have had to climb a lot of stairs all went against that decision in the end.

The New Year began and with it came more snow. Steve and Bucky waited until everyone had retired to their beds and all the lights were out in the apartments before they headed out into the snow. Both were glad they couldn’t feel the cold anymore as they had a snowball fight under the silvery light of the moon. Both couldn’t help but laugh as they did, enjoying their freedom to do something they had missed out on when they had been alive. The snowball fight ended abruptly when Steve mis-aimed and hit the window of a ground floor resident. They quickly floated up to their little room, even though they knew that they wouldn’t have been seen if anyone had looked out. Steve had then made sweet love to Bucky and held him in his arms afterwards as he slept.

On January 4th, Sharon gave birth to a baby girl who she and Sam named Danielle. They brought her home the next day and Bucky had melted over seeing the cute little bundle. They instantly became her invisible protectors; almost like her Guardian Angels. They began a new routine of helping with the baby along with the other things they still helped with around both apartments. They would watch Danielle while Sharon would get a much-needed nap when Sam had returned to work after his paternity leave was over. When she woke before her parents, Steve and Bucky would keep her amused by making her toys put on little dancing shows for her.

Steve and Bucky’s presence came in very useful one night when a dark, shadowy figure slipped into Sam and Sharon’s apartment after picking the lock on their front door. Both ghosts had been checking on the sleeping baby after finishing their latest binge-watching session of a crime show they had become engrossed in. They heard the faint click of the door lock as it was unlatched and had floated over to see what it was. On seeing the intruder, Bucky went to Sam and woke him by almost pulling him out of the bed. Sam woke with a start and was about to ask if something was wrong with Dani when he felt what must have been Bucky’s hand over his mouth. The baseball bat Sam kept under the bed for occasions such as this floated out and Sam took it before creeping out of the bedroom. He made it to where the intruder was and flipped the light on.

The sight that greeted him actually made him laugh. The intruder had plastic wrap around his torso keeping his arms pinned to his sides. There was more around his ankles and some had been used as a makeshift gag. He was also suspended in the air as Steve had hold of collar and had lifted him from the ground.

“You guys are better than guard dogs.” Sam said as he put the bat down and dialled 911.

 

***

 

A few weeks after the encounter with the intruder, Valentine’s Day arrived. Steve and Bucky had mixed emotions about the date. They couldn’t help but think over the events that had ended their lives. They spent the day together in their room, lying on their bed in each other’s arms. They talked to each other about how they had felt being kept prisoner, both finally feeling ready to do so. The months spent together since their reunion having helped heal some of the old emotional wounds.

When dusk fell, Steve told Bucky to stay in their room as he had a surprise. He then floated through the wall to the outside and made his way to the flower garden. He smiled as he saw the winter rose bushes, he had planted all those years ago. They were thriving and quickly picked the biggest one he could find before floating back up to the outside of the room. Bucky had opened the window at his request, and he had handed the flower to him before floating inside and closing the window. Bucky had sniffed the rose and smiled at the delicate scent it gave off before he put it in the little vase that Sharon had gotten them as a gift from Danielle. The vase already had a few single stemmed blooms in it that Steve had already brought him.

 

Later that night when most of the residents of the building were sleeping, Steve and Bucky were disturbed from their reading and drawing by the smell of smoke. They put their things to one side and floated out from their little sanctuary to see what was causing it. As they emerged into the living area of Clint and Natasha’s apartment, they discovered that it was filling with smoke.

“You wake everyone up in here, I’ll see what’s going on.” Steve told Bucky before he floated through the wall. Bucky quickly made his way to Clint and Natasha’s room. He woke them by pulling the pillow out from under Clint’s head and hit them with it.

“Wake up! There’s a fire!” he yelled. He waited until both had opened their eyes before he quickly made his way through to Sam and Sharon’s apartment, doing the same to them.

By the time Steve had come back, the residents of the two top floor apartments were gathered outside Natasha and Clint’s door.

“Looks like a kitchen fire from apartment 4 on the third floor,” Steve told them. “The smoke is pretty thick though so I don’t know how we’ll get you through it.”

“Why don’t we just float them down?” Bucky suggested. “We can do it through the big fancy window in Clint and Nat’s bedroom. Nobody will see us on that side.”

“Is that safe?” Sharon asked, her voice think with worry as she cradled Danielle close to her. She had been able to hear them as Natasha had brought one of the communication devices with her.

“A lot safer than walking down four storeys in a smoke-filled building,” Steve told her. “I promise you’ll be down there where it’s safe in seconds.”

“Okay, let’s do it.” Sharon said now sounding determined. The others couldn’t blame her though as the smoke was rapidly thickening.

They made their way back into Clint and Natasha’s apartment and to their bedroom. Natasha pulled the curtains back and Clint opened the window.

“Sharon and Dani are going first,” Natasha insisted. She wanted to make sure her best friend and Goddaughter were out and safe first. Sharon suddenly began to float and looked like she was being carried bridal style. Natasha gave her a reassuring smile as she said. “See you in a minute.”

Steve then carried them out of the window and down to the ground. The whole process taking seconds. He went back and brought Natasha down to join Sharon and the baby. Sam was next. He was carried in a typical fireman’s lift manner, but over both Steve and Bucky’s shoulders. Clint was last and was glad to be on solid, smoke free ground. They made their way round to the front of the building where the other residents had gathered in the allocated fire assembly point. From their view, they could see the window of Sam and Sharon’s bedroom on their floor.

“Did Steve say apartment 4 looked like the cause of the fire?” Clint asked as he watched the fire engulf more of the building. He had his arms wrapped around Natasha as he did, relieved to have her safe and sound.

“Yes, he did,” Sam confirmed. He was in a similar pose with Sharon. Baby Dani was bundled up snugly in her crib blanket. “And if your next thing to say is that apartment 4 is empty then you’re right.”

“Do you think this was deliberate?” Natasha asked, her eyes widening in surprise.

“Maybe, maybe not. It’s just a little suspicious is all.” Sam remarked. Sharon stayed quiet as she cuddled Dani and watched the flames.

“Oh no…. you know what this means,” she suddenly murmured as she turned to look at the other three. “If it spreads to our apartments, it’ll burn everything there. Remember what Wanda said about Steve and Bucky.”

“Oh my God!” Natasha said, now looking more worried than before. She had to admit she had gotten close to Steve and Bucky and the thought of not having them around anymore hurt.

“Stevie?” Bucky said, his voice sounding quiet over the communication device. “I don’t think I’m ready to say goodbye.”

“Me neither Buck,” Steve replied. He sounded emotional as he continued speaking. “We still have so much to do. We planned so much. God what if we don’t get to be together when we cross over?”

“I’m scared,” Bucky said with what sounded like a sniffle. “I don’t wanna lose you again Stevie.”

“I don’t wanna lose you either Bucky.” Steve told him. It was clear to hear that they were now both crying.

“Something’s pulling me back.” Bucky announced in a fear filled tone.

“Bucky!” Steve exclaimed before a wounded noise was heard.

Natasha, Clint, Sharon and Sam all shared a look, fearing the worse. Especially when no more noise came from the device. Natasha began to cry, missing them both already. Clint held her again as their eyes fell on the building that was their home. They saw flames begin to dance up the curtains at Sam and Sharon’s window, announcing that the flames had reached their floor. Natasha gasped as she saw two figures stood in the window.

“That’s Steve and Bucky!” Sharon exclaimed causing Clint and Sam to look too.

The four of them watched as Steve and Bucky waved from their spot at the window. They waved back, knowing instinctively that it was their way of saying goodbye. The two of them then shared a sweet, tender kiss after they murmured what looked like ‘I love you’ to one another. They embraced each other as the flames engulfed the area, they were stood in. Natasha let out a sob, feeling like she just watched part of her family die.

After a few moments, what looked like two golf ball sized orbs of light came through the window. The four friends watched as they danced around each other in an almost playful manner. They continued to watch as the orbs went higher and higher, getting smaller the further they went until they could no longer be seen.

“I’ll miss you guys.” Natasha murmured still straining her eyes to see if she could see them. She knew that was them finally being freed from everything that had happened to them. She hoped that whatever lay in store for them wherever they were now, that it was something beautiful and that they were together.

Chapter Text

Natasha still couldn’t believe what she was seeing. In the year since their apartment building had been burned to a crisp, so much had happened in hers and Clint’s lives. Sam and Sharon had relocated to Washington D.C. with Danielle. Sam had been offered a job at the V.A. and had accepted after long discussions with Riley. Clint and Natasha had stayed in New York, moving to Brooklyn. Both had enjoyed the stories Steve and Bucky had told them about growing up there and thought that they might as well go and see for themselves.

They had found an apartment overlooking a park two months after the fire. They had been desperate to get out of the hotel they’d been staying in. The apartment was on the ground floor and they even had a yard. They had become good friends with their neighbour on the same floor. Her name was Carol and she had moved in a couple of months after they had.

The biggest shock they had received came around the same time as when Carol had turned up. Natasha had been feeling off for weeks and went to the doctors to get checked over. She hadn’t wanted to risk it in case she had breathed in some toxic fumes from the fire. She was stunned when the doctor had told her she was pregnant. She had asked the doctor to double check and it wasn’t until she had the sonogram picture in her hand that she actually believed it was happening.

When they had made their happy announcement, they had discovered that Carol had recently found out that she was pregnant too. The two women became even closer as their pregnancies progressed. Carol was glad of having found a new friend with her heading into the unchartered waters of parenthood alone. They both had discovered they were having boys and joked that it was a good thing that they had different tastes so their baby things wouldn’t get mixed up.

Carol’s due date had been February 10th and Natasha’s was February 18th. Both had gone into labour on the 13th and had given birth to their boys in the early hours of Valentine’s Day. As soon as Natasha held her son in her arms, she knew the reason why she had been blessed in becoming a mother. There was no mistaking the familiar features of Bucky. She and Clint had named him James Buchanan Barton. Both had agreed that it would be too strange for them to call him anything else. When Carol had introduced them to her son, Natasha couldn’t help the happy tears that escaped her eyes. Carol’s son was Steve. Carol had even named him Steven Grant Danvers. Clint and Natasha had shared a knowing look when they heard Carol tell them that the name had just came into her head when she held him for the first time.

“I still can’t believe this has happened to us.” Clint said in a awe filled tone as he too watched their miracle sleeping in his hospital crib. He was right next to Steve’s.

“Me neither,” Natasha replied. The smile hadn’t left her face since the moment she had held James in her arms. “I think this is fates way of thanking us for helping Steve and Bucky.”

“Me too,” Clint agreed as he kissed her cheek. “I’m glad he’s not going to be alone though. The thought of Bucky without Steve is just strange to me.”

“Me too,” Natasha replied as Carol returned from the bathroom. Natasha’s smile grew as she saw her. “I was just saying to Clint that I think our boys are going to be the best of friends.”

“I agree,” Carol approved as she returned the smile as she carefully sat back on her bed.

The three then moved their attention to the babies. They let out a collective gasp as both babies moved in their sleep. The arm that was nearest the other moved towards the side of the crib. Their little hands lined up perfectly together against the clear sides of the cribs. Carol put it down to a fluke, but both Clint and Natasha knew better. They knew that it was Steve and Bucky re-affirming their connection; their way of communicating that they were reunited once again.

It didn’t take Carol long to fall asleep, still exhausted from labour. Clint and Natasha were still enthralled by what fate had given them.

“I’m gonna make sure both these boys are protected from anything bad happening to them this time around.” Clint murmured softly to Natasha, not wanting to wake Carol.

“They’ll be alright this time around. We have their backs. And more importantly, they have each other,” Natasha replied in the same tone as she reached down and stroked Bucky’s cheek. “And it’s good to see that soulmates never die.”