Your relationship with Tyson was so hot and cold, you were constantly out of breath trying to keep up with the sudden changes. As soon as you’d cozy into a thick wool sweater, he’d be a thousand degrees. As soon as you’d slip into a flowy summer dress, he’d be frosty to the touch. He was impossible, unable to make up his mind about what he wanted. You thought you were in love with him.
How could it not be love? You’d devoted years of your life to this man. This incredibly handsome, work-oriented, heroic man. If it wasn’t love, then you weren’t sure you would ever truly reach that coveted feeling.
Now, you were wiping your eyes as you headed to the compound. He had ended it once again. This was the third time he’d broken up with you, and as much as you told yourself to hate him, you couldn’t stop your heart from feeling a little hurt.
Sure, you had seen it coming from a mile away. He’d been so irritable lately, and nothing you ever said could appease him. You wondered when things with Tyson had grown so complicated. It certainly hadn’t been like this in the beginning, back when the two of you were new recruits at SHIELD and swooning over each other’s mere existence. And when SHIELD collapsed, it seemed only logical that you and Tyson stick together. You’d applied to work for the Avengers as a unit.
It must have been after joining this team of larger-than-life heroes that your connection with the man started to fall apart. He grew distant during long months, and then clingy as ever during others. He broke up with you the first time right after the Sokovia Accords. You went rogue with Captain America, and he stayed dutiful alongside Iron Man.
But you missed him while on the run, and when everything was sorted out, and Steve was allowed to return home with his pal and new member of the Avengers, Bucky Barnes, Tyson took you back with open arms.
That was three years ago. And now you were in this strange and dreadful place again. Separate from Tyson, the man you thought you were in love with. You willed yourself to be strong, to ignore the fact that you would have to work alongside the man. But part of you wondered if this was just another blip. If you would fall back together once more after this little rough patch. The other part of you wondered if that was something you even wanted anymore.
When you arrived at the compound, Bucky was waiting near the entrance with a delicious looking smoothie that he handed over to you. You took a sip.
“Bananas, strawberries, and blueberries?”
He nodded. “But also spinach, broccoli, and kale.”
You glanced at the glass and couldn’t spot a trace of green, nasty vegetables. “How do you did it?”
He grinned at you. “Can’t go giving away all my secrets, now can I?”
You let out your first laugh since Tyson had dumped you two days ago. It was moments like these when you realized that Bucky Barnes was just downright good for the soul. He’d been your training partner since returning from Wakanda, and he always made you start the day with one of his mysterious smoothies. You’d grown comfortable speaking with him about almost anything. He was practically your best friend these days.
“Have you been crying?” he asked, and it was only now that you noticed how intently he was studying your puffy eyes.
“It’s nothing, Bucky. Let’s get to the gym so we have plenty of training time before that briefing later.”
Maybe the breakup had hit you harder than you thought because you were currently whacking at Bucky with clenched fists harder than you ever had before. Taking out all your frustrations on the nearly invincible super-soldier.
“This doesn’t seem like nothing…” he said as he dodged another kick that you thrust at him with a guttural yell.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” you explained between punches.
“So you’d rather beat your training partner to death?”
You paused and gave him an annoyed look. “We both know I couldn’t kill you no matter how hard I tried.”
He snickered. “That’s beside the point. You talk to me about everything. Why won’t you talk to me about whatever this is?”
That was a good question. Why weren’t you just telling him exactly what terrible Tyson had done to you this time? A part of you hated talking about your complicated relationship to Bucky. He would never say anything mean, but you could see the judgment in his eyes. You could tell that he thought you were stupid for staying with the man for as long as you had. You worried he’d say “I told you so” about this breakup and would find it silly that you were crying over a man who had played with your heart so roughly.
Suddenly, the conflicting emotions overwhelmed you, and you collapsed to the mat on the training room floor. Tears leaked from your eyes yet again. You rushed to wipe them away, but Bucky’s arms were around you so quickly that you decided to let the waterworks fall freely.
“I’m so embarrassed,” you let out through sobs.
“Why are you embarrassed, doll? It’s just you and me, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about here.”
“He broke up with me again,” you said so quietly that you wondered if Bucky would even be able to hear it.
But he must have because his arms tensed and tightened around you slightly. “What was his shitty excuse this time?”
“He didn’t really have one… Just said things were becoming too complicated… But Tyson and I have been complicated for years now, so that doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me.”
Bucky was silent. He often was when you spoke about Tyson. It sometimes made you lie awake at night, curious about all the things he was thinking in that lovely brain but not saying because he didn’t want to hurt your feelings.
“I don’t understand why love has to be so difficult and painful,” you admitted as he continued to hold you close and rub circles on your back. It was a pattern he always returned to when you needed comforting. A figure-eight of metal, and then one of flesh, and then metal again. He paced it perfectly with your breathing, and it brought out the peace in you faster than anything else. Soothing your soul.
“Is it love, though?” he said in that gruff tone, the one that told you he’d had to fight with himself to force those words out.
You pulled away to get a good look into his steel-blue eyes. “Of course it is. What do you mean by that?”
He scratched the back of his head nervously. He was worried about angering you. “I just think that if he loved you, he wouldn’t have been treating you so poorly for so many years… And I think that you continue to go back to him because it’s all you know, it’s what you’re used to, but you don’t really love him either.”
You stared at him, speechless. Feelings of hurt swelled up inside of you, but there was something else there as well. Something that felt like recognition, like agreement with what Bucky was saying.
Could it be true? Had it never really been love in the first place? Had you been trying to force Tyson into your life despite him clearly not fitting there so well? Had it all been a pathetic waste of time?
“I’m sorry, Y/N. I’m not trying to be harsh, I just think it’s something you need to hear and remember for the next time he’s trying to get back with you.”
You needed air and space and time. You got up from the mat and silently walked out of the gym. Bucky didn’t follow you.
Three days later, you were searching for Bucky. He’d left you be after that tense moment in the gym. Tyson hadn’t spoken a word to you these last few days either. Now, you’d fully come to terms with the dynamics of your relationship with that man, and you realized that Bucky had been completely right.
It had never been love in the first place.
The acknowledgment of this fact made you feel numb at first, but then you realized that you needed to speak to Bucky, to your best friend, and he’d know just what to say to put you at ease from your despair.
He was in the gym again. Of course he was. That man worked out even more than Steve. He was bench-pressing humongous weights when you approached him.
“You were right, but that doesn’t make this easy for me.”
He continued to lift the bar and then ease it back down. A perfect repetition of glistening biceps on display in front of you.
“What would make it easy, then?”
Lift. Drop. Lift. Drop.
“I can’t help feeling that Tyson was my only shot at having happiness. As terrible as we were together, what if that was my only option? What if I’m destined to die alone now?”
He placed the bar in its rest, but remained on the bench, staring up at the ceiling. “What if there’s someone else? Someone better?”
“I’d say please enlighten me because I don’t see anyone waiting in line to be with a mess like me.”
He sat up and pinned you with his eyes. It almost made you stumble backward, the way he was looking at you. “I think I could be someone better.”
Your heart quickened. Surely this wasn’t happening. Bucky was a lot of important things to you, but you never dreamed that a love interest would be one of them.
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that I want you. I have for a long time now, but you’ve always been so convinced that you had to make it work with Tyson.”
You hadn’t heard him right. He was speaking nonsense. “What?” Maybe if you made him repeat it a million times, it would start to make some sense to you.
He stepped forward and gently pulled your hands into his. “Y/N, I want you. All of you, and not just halfheartedly, wholly. And maybe that’s selfish, but I don’t care.”
And you felt it again then, how good for your soul this man truly was. It made you feel lighter than air to hear him confess his devotion to you like that. You noted that not once had you ever felt this blissful in Tyson’s presence.
“Bucky, I… I don’t even know if I’m capable of being in a healthy relationship. I’m so fucked up at this point… But I feel a lot of things about you, and all of them are good. I can’t deny that I’ve had a desire for you as well, and I think it might be nice to try and see what we have between us.”
He pulled you into a tight hug. “You sure you’re not just saying that so you don’t have to die alone?”
You chuckled. “No. You make me really happy Bucky, and I was stupid not to realize exactly why that was before. I see it now though. We could be great together, and I think it would feel really natural. We’d fit well, like two perfect puzzle pieces, and there wouldn’t be anything that had to be forced.”
He placed a gentle kiss to the top of your head. You hummed contentedly.
“We’ll take it slow, yeah? I want you to be sure that this is what you want,” he suggested.
“Slow sounds good. But I’m thinking I could fall in love with you pretty easily, Bucky Barnes.”