Steve has been and always will be a little shit, no matter how much larger he is than Bucky. He says, “But who else is gonna do it, Buck?” with a little sigh on the end, big blue eyes watering just the right amount.
Bucky says, “Steve,” and barely resists pinching the bridge of his nose. That would give up the game too quickly.
“Bucky,” Steve says. And the thing is--the thing is, Bucky knows Steve doesn’t have any actual intention of marrying some strange yahoo on this bumfuck planet to save the summer goddess festival from demons or what the fuck ever, but Steve still believes someone has to save it anyhow. Fuck.
“Barnes.” Barton shifts his weight next to him. “No.”
Bucky turns to Barton, bares his teeth and says, “Oh, you mean you don’t want to marry me?”
Barton looks poleaxed for a brief moment before he grins wide and slightly manic and says, “Sweetheart, I thought you’d never ask.”
Over the five and a half months Bucky’s been on Atlantis, he and Barton have fostered a simple relationship that involves their mutual love of food and shooting guns and Natasha.
And pining. Bucky can’t forget the pining. He can never forget the pining, given Barton’s penchant for reckless heroism, shirtless acrobatics and skinny pants. No one over six feet should look that good in what are basically tights.
Stark says, “C’mon sunshine, woulda thought this was your dream come true,” as he straightens the fall of Bucky’s ‘wedding tunic.’
Bucky really wants to punch him, but he’s too preoccupied with something like… panic? It might be panic.
He’s been married 2.5 times before in the line of duty: Stark, though they were both drugged to their gills, a timid botanist that still giggles when she sees him in the hallways, and Dr. Banner, when the ceremony was stopped halfway through by a volcanic eruption. He handled all of those pretty well, so this should be a piece of cake--it’s not like any of this is legally binding without actually being processed through to Command.
Marry Barton, save the natives from metaphorical ruin, and live happily ever after with a minor checkmark in his file, so long as the aliens don’t make them do it. Which is a completely different worry, and usually ends with a STD test, mandatory therapy, and several of Biro’s sympathetic frowns.
Barton and Bucky aren’t friends, though.
Bucky once elbowed him in the face to get to the last pudding cup first.
Barton’s locked him in a utility closet to claim solo hangout time with Natasha.
Bucky’s been hit by a tranq dart on apple pie day that apparently no one can prove wasn’t an accident, despite the fact that Barton has the most suspicious shit eating grin even on days when he doesn’t do anything suspect.
There’s been tripwires and liberal use of smoke bombs and they’ve each had enough dressing downs from a generally bewildered Sheppard that under any other circumstances they’d probably have been sent home by now, but there’s a space vampire war going on, and also both Bucky and Barton are damn good at their jobs.
Steve ducks into the tent with a pleased smile that drops a little when he says, “Are you alright?”
Bucky might throw up. “Fine.”
It’s no big deal, you know, he’s just fake marrying the probable love of his life.
Bucky’s tunic is rough and uncomfortable. He focuses on the chafe of it against his skin instead Barton, slouched next to him, smirking. It’s hard to ignore the fact that he’s got a butterfly bandage on his jaw, though, and a shallow cut over his left eyebrow; Bucky has no idea how he could have gotten them in the five short hours they’ve had to themselves since last night.
It’s a warm dawn, light barely cresting the distant mountains of sand; the days here last eighteen earth hours, and by the time their sun reaches the middle of the sky, it’ll be too hot to step outside the underground burrows and tunnels that make up the bulk to the native’s villages. Bucky’s already sweating.
Someone nudges him in the arm, and he looks over at Barton, smirk now shaped more like a fond and worried smile.
He clears his throat, pushes his emotions way down deep--ignoring Steve’s you’re going to stroke out and die at some point, Buck face from behind the altar, because of course Steve talked someone into letting him officiate this farce. He’s only glad it isn’t Stark.
By the time Steve finishes reading the rites, the sun is nearly fully up, and a bead of sweat drips off the end of Bucky’s nose. The rough fabric isn’t breathable, and Bucky might die.
Bucky says, “Forever and a day,” in what he’s only half sure is the correct place, echoing Barton, and the entire ceremony feels heavy, when it should be light.
Honestly, it’s goddamned stupid to feel this crummy about a ritual backwater marriage that everyone’s going to forget about in a couple days, once something else incredibly dumb happens - Stark’s just about due to set another part of Atlantis on fire.
“Did you tell him yet?”
Clint aims an arrow out over the water, eyes intent on the tiny buzzing drone target zigzagging across the sky. “Tell who what?”
The silence behind him is damning. Clint manfully ignores it and yells, “Ha!” when Stark’s latest attempt to stump him explodes into millions of pieces. “Tony owes me three hundred space bucks.”
“Romanov.” Clint sets up another shot, stepping on the little mechanical pedal that releases the drones - five at once, this time. Stark must’ve made it random.
Logically, Clint knows Nat is right. He needs to tell Barnes. Or not. Just because he got super drunk with Sam one night and hilariously sent all their marriage paperwork through to Command - Barnes doesn’t really need to know that, right? When would that ever come up in the Pegasus galaxy? Only when they were dead. Or one of them was dead. It could be a fun surprise! Barnes could have his memory foam pillow, and his weapons cache. No one needs to bring that up while the two of them are alive and there’s a high probability that Barnes will kick his ass. Clint can take it, of course, but would he really want to?
Nat sighs. She says, “Tell me again how you accidentally fake marry someone for real?” and Clint fumbles his shot, spins, and wisely thinks twice about tackling her to the ground with a hand over her mouth, even though she’s smirking at him like an asshole.
Instead he hisses, “Shhhhh,” and wags an impotent finger in her face while she smirks even harder. “God, I hate you.”
She arches an eyebrow.
His shoulders slump. “Fine.”
It’s not like it’s all his fault they got accidentally fake married for real. Clint can’t be the only one to remember that Steve’s actually ordained. Just because they tied the knot under duress and on foreign soil - Clint’s pretty sure it’s all in the paperwork. Which he filed. While drunk. So maybe it’s a little bit his fault.
Clint has a problem with Barnes.
Clint’s problem is that six months ago, Barnes stepped onto Atlantis with too-shaggy-for-regulation hair, a strained smile, and shoulders set for some kind of machismo fight that melted once Captain Steve Rogers wrapped him up in a hug so tight he lifted his feet off the ground.
Clint’s problem is that he’s immediately sure, down to his bones, as he watched everything tense about Barnes unwind as he gripped Steve back from across the length of the commissary, that he wants all of Barnes’s babies.
And then he finds out he’s snarky as hell, almost as good a shot as Clint, and he lets Clint pull shit on him without even threatening murder.
“You have problems with--”
“If you say abusive and controlling authority figures,” Clint crosses his arms over his chest and sinks lower into the couch, “we’re no longer friends.”
Bruce shrugs a shoulder. “I’m not actually your therapist.”
Clint’s head drops back, the hard length of metal nesting the couch into the wall digging into the base of his skull. “Besides, he’s not my superior. We aren’t even in the same branch. Technically, I think I’m in charge of him.” Clint’s government, and Barnes is Army. Clint has way more clearance than him.
“Sooner or later you’re going to push him too far,” Bruce says, shuffling paperwork on his desk pointedly.
Too far is probably this marriage business. Clint sweet talked the City into changing all of Barnes’s alarms to 3am last week, and Barnes only hip-checked him in the hallway.
Clint squints one eye and then the other, staring up at the cool blue glow rimming Bruce’s office ceiling. “How would you tell someone you’re in love with them?”
The shuffling stops.
It’s a good long moment before Bruce says, slow and drawn out, “Clint.”
“Don’t Clint me!” He flails upright. “You helped me and Sam stamp all the forms!” Sure he’d been silent and judgy about it, but he knew exactly what he was doing.
Bruce says, “I’m not going to tell you to tell him,” and Clint snorts, “Right.”
He pushes his glasses up his nose and stares right into Clint’s soul. “You should think about it, though. Would you want to know?”
He doesn’t know why he even bothers to talk to Bruce at all. Shit.
Clint is chickenshit and doesn’t do anything but steal all the leftover vanilla pudding cups after lunch on Thursday--which is a risky move, but worth it for the one hundred and five cups he manages to fit into his mini fridge. If Corporal Manning finds out, he’s dead meat, but Clint’s sly enough to leave a couple dozen massacred cups in the walk-in so they can blame it on space rats.
Barnes eyes him up like he knows it’s his fault, but he’ll never prove it. Clint winks at him, internally winces, and ignores the heat flooding his cheeks.
“My what?” Bucky says, staring blearily up at the doctor. She’s new, and Bucky can’t remember her name. Granted, he’s concussed, and her face is kind of fuzzy.
She squeezes his arm. “Your husband. He’s on an away mission, but we’ve sent a transmission through.”
Bucky is fairly sure he doesn’t have a husband, but he’s also got a gash on the side of his head that needed twelve stitches. He’s not even sure it’s still Tuesday. Or if it was ever Tuesday.
He closes his eyes with a groan and slumps back onto the infirmary cot. He can’t turn his head without wanting to throw up, but he can feel Steve’s hulking, protective presence next to him.
“Steve,” he says, groping blindly for Steve’s hand. “Steve, when did I get married?”
“About a month ago, Buck,” Steve says gamely.
The next time Bucky wakes up, everything’s dark, and someone’s humming… ABBA? Bucky groans.
Someone says, “Still alive, Barnes?”
“No,” Bucky says. “Barton?”
Barton pats his shoulder. “You’re all right. Go back to sleep.”
Bucky wants to say no and what the hell are you doing here? and also did you know we actually got married? because he has no idea how that happened without either of them knowing. But then Barton starts the chorus of Fernando and he’s got a soothing baritone and Bucky’s too tired to give a fuck, right then.
On the day they got married, when the white-hot sun crested the mountain, making the day unbearable, they had to walk the long tunnel down to the village caverns hand-in-hand. They had to stand in a beam of sunlight, weakened by refraction, for what felt like hours, sweaty palms clasped together as everyone took turns chanting blessings.
Bucky had checked out for a while, too overheated to feel embarrassed. And then they drank too much and Bucky had curled into Barton’s side with a bowl of something that tasted a lot like ice cream but the texture was all wrong.
When they left the planet the next day, Bucky had a migraine and Barton wore dark shades and a grimace. Bucky had managed to not throw up on his way back through the ‘gate and trip Barton before he could get to Natasha first in the gateroom. A win all the way around.
So what doesn’t make sense--what actually makes the least sense, is how the fuck Command knows about any of it at all. There’s an unspoken agreement that what happens in the Pegasus Galaxy stays in the Pegasus Galaxy.
Steve has the means and the power, but he doesn’t actually think he’d betray Bucky’s feelings this way. Nat? Evil, but not too evil. But she’ll probably be able to figure it all out.
“If you try to spoon feed me, I’ll stab you.”
Natasha deftly flips the utensil and holds it out to him. He’s not an invalid. He’s got a little head wound. He was in the infirmary for one night. He’s not turning down Nat’s offer of soup though.
“Who let you make this?” Bucky asks. He’s not going to complain, but Manning and Finelli guard their kitchen like mama bears.
Nat just says, “That’s the question you want to ask me this fine morning?”
Bucky says, “Yes,” then, “No,” at her arched, disbelieving eyebrows, and then, “It was fucking Barton, wasn’t it?” when she continues to not say a word.
“Are you fucking kidding me, Barton?” Barnes hisses, shoving him back into his room when he opens his door.
Murder looks good on Barnes, Clint’s not going to lie, but he feels like this whole situation might have gone better if he’d followed Nat and Bruce’s advice and just fessed up well before this point. “Okay, but like. I was drunk? And Wilson’s an asshole?” He holds his hands up, palms out. “Just think, you’ll get all my worldly possessions when I die!”
“Do you--” Barnes cocks his head, eyes narrowed. “Do you think this’s a joke?”
“Oh no. I mean,” Clint swallows hard, “do you think it’s a joke?”
“Why the fuck would I--” He cuts himself off, breathes hard enough that his shoulders visibly heave as he pinches the bridge of his nose. “Clint.”
Oh no, Clint thinks.
“I need a divorce.”
The problem with getting a divorce is that Clint doesn’t really want one.
“You get that it’s not just your decision though,” Nat says. She’s right, but Clint isn’t very good at listening, or doing what other people want him to do.
He just has to figure out an angle. What would make Barnes want to stay married to him? He figures he’s got a small window of time before being stubborn turns him into being the bad guy. He’s not the bad guy right now. Despite being extremely drunk, he did not do this as a joke. He doesn’t think Barnes will believe him if he just says that though.
It’s a dark day indeed when Barnes doesn’t try to sabotage his morning coffee and muffin time with Nat. He must be really fucking pissed.
There’s something that’s implied, though. Something about all this anger. Something that Clint can only hope for, and can’t quite make himself believe.
“Wanna play a game of hot and cold?” Stark tells him, hunched over something big, with scary octopus wires.
Nat’s sitting cross-legged on top of a desk, handing Stark random tools whenever he snaps his fingers. It’s a toss up over whether they’re helpful or not, and Nat’s eating all of Stark’s Hershey Kisses.
“I don’t know what that means,” Clint says.
“You say something stupid, and I’ll tell you if you’re hot or cold. Spoiler alert,” Stark points a wrench at him, “if you guess Barnes has been in love with you for at least five months, you win.” He grins sharply. “Our esteemed Captain likes to gossip in bed.”
Nat hmms with a mouth full of chocolate and cocks her head at him.
“And,” Stark says, “you’re gonna have to drag that confession out of Barnes’s cold dead hands.”
Barnes is like an enigma wrapped in a caramel covered apple and buried under three feet of concrete. He can smile with his whole body at Steve. He can hug Natasha and not look like he wants to cut all his limbs off. He murder-stalks down hallways in the middle of the day, eyes glinting when grunts and scientist scramble to get out of his way. He handles knives like they’re part of his fingers. Clint’s seen his metal arm punch through solid rock. He carries chocolate bars on missions to give away to all the little village kids. He’s alternately sweet and really fucking difficult.
Clint decides to pick him flowers.
He probably shouldn’t have.
“Should we talk about it? I feel like maybe we should talk about it.”
“You’re bleeding,” Barnes says.
“Okay, but,” Clint holds onto the cloth Barnes presses up against his side. “I was only stabbed a little.” More concerning are the gathering angry natives.
“Less talking, more running,” Barnes says. He straightens up from his crouch and holds out a hand for Clint to take. “Ready?”
Clint isn’t really ready, but the natives are restless, and the apparently sacred flowers he’d stolen are crushed under their feet. While this stab wound missed everything vital, the large spears the natives are carrying might do a little more damage.
Too bad Clint isn’t allowed to aim to kill.
He uses Barnes’s grip to steady himself, then pulls out a few explosive arrows as a diversion. “You go on, I’ll cover you.”
“Absolutely not,” Barnes says. He grabs hold of Clint’s arm and takes off toward a stand of trees.
“I know you think I’m a dumbass,” Clint says, panting as he comes to a stop behind him, sharp pain making him out of breath.
Barnes whirls on him. “I don’t think you’re a dumbass.”
Clint makes a face. He says, “Oh, you do. Don’t worry, most people think I’m a dumbass.” He’s not. He’s just got dumbass-adjacent tendencies. He self-sabotages. Thus the picking of clearly labeled sacred flowers as a sign of his utmost and serious devotion. It seemed like a good idea in theory.
Barnes frowns and avoids looking him in the face. He backs him up against a tree, putting his hand on top of Clint’s and pressing down hard, making Clint hiss through his teeth, “ Ow .”
“Yeah, that’s what happens when you get fucking stabbed, Barton.”
There’s shouting in the distance, and they’re still a half mile away from the ‘gate. Here’s hoping Steve and Stark figure out what happened and raise holy hell, otherwise there’s no way they’ll make it out of there without casualties. This was a peaceful planet. Coulson’s gonna be so disappointed.
“Look,” Clint says. “It’s too far for me to run. You’re going to have to go get Steve--”
“I already radio’d Steve, Barton. If we can’t make it, they’ll come for us.” He steps in front of Clint, like his sheer bulk will stop razor sharp spears from flying at them. “But if we just stop here, we’re gonna have to kill them before they kill us.”
“Are you,” Clint squints at him, “are you mad about that?”
“I’m mad about everything!”
“I get that. I truly do, Barnes, but I’m trying--”
“I mean, if I die, you’ll get all my fancy knives.” He doesn’t think he’s actually going to die. He hasn’t bled through the cloth yet, so that’s a good sign. He can still breathe. He can shoot his bow, in a pinch.
Barnes scowls up at him. He says, “Shut the fuck up, Barton,” and kisses him.
It’s too much. Bucky cycles through several panicked scenarios, clutching at Barton’s jacket, but he puts his heart into it anyway--working with Clint’s slack-jawed yokel surprise with enough enthusiasm for both of them. Might as well be all in if he’s going to make this kind of mistake.
And then Barton murmurs, “Fucking now?” into his mouth, and manages to drag him closer.
Bucky wants to lean his head into his shoulder and he wants to say, I don’t really want a divorce, and he wants to know every fucking crazy thing that’s running through Barton’s mind right now, but then the angry natives break out of the clearing.
Later, Stark says, “You two sure were cozy,” and Bucky wants to punch him in his smug, stupid face, but Steve would be mad at him.
He wants to sit by Barton’s cot in the infirmary while he gets stitched up. He wants to hold his hand. He wants Barton to talk to him, instead of just switching all his uniforms with Steve’s to make Bucky think he somehow woke up smaller.
He drives Bucky absolutely fucking nuts, and Bucky loves him. Jesus.
“Hey,” Stark says at Bucky’s continued silence, nudging their arms together. “He’ll be fine. Barton’s got more lives than a cat. Did you see him fall off that tower last month? Caught himself on the weather drone.”
Bucky glares at him in disbelief.
Stark nods. “Yeah, I get that it probably doesn’t help.”
Bucky certainly isn’t stalking the infirmary radio frequency, so it’s pure coincidence that he overhears Barton’s release at 2 AM. Usually, they wait until morning, but Clint probably bugged the shit out of them so they’d let him go. He figures--Barton’s still up, he’s still up, why not go yell at him some more right now, and get it out of the way.
Barton’s quarters are three corridors down from Bucky’s. He answers the door in a scrub top and boxers, and Bucky determinedly does not stare at his legs.
“Bucky,” he says, sounding tired, a little wary.
Bucky honestly doesn’t know if that means he’s upset about the kiss or not. Bucky doesn’t know if he’s upset about the kiss or not, or if he still needs to be mad about the stabbing, and the way sometimes Clint doesn’t seem to give a shit about his own life. He clenches his teeth and can’t figure out what he wants to say.
Clint shifts on his feet. The room behind him is dark. “Barnes?”
“You wanna explain to me,” Bucky says, finally pushing his way into Barton’s room, “really explain to me, what the fuck you think you were doing?”
“Uh.” Barton steps back. “Are we talking about the accidental flower stabbing or the whole,” he wheels his hands around, “filing marriage paperwork fiasco? Because I gotta tell you.” His shoulders slump. “They both kinda mean the same thing.”
Barton looks wrong, curled into himself, like he’s bracing for Bucky to punch him.
Bucky sighs. “You know. I kissed you, Barton.”
There’s a flash of a smile. “I have really good feelings about that.”
It’s like pulling fucking teeth out. “Okay. Okay, so, if we were having a conversation. And you were telling me what you want,” Bucky says leadingly.
“Uh.” Clint’s voice lilts up. “Yeah?”
It shouldn’t be this hard. They’re already married, for fuck’s sake. Bucky loosens his stance, forces himself to relax, standing in front of Clint. He tips his head a little and stares at him. “Clint,” he says. “What do you want?”
“Oh, uh.” He fidgets a little, brings a hand up to wrap around the back of his neck, looks everywhere but at Bucky’s face, and each second that ticks by makes Bucky feel a little sad.
“You,” Clint blurts out. “If you’re, uh, asking what I want.” He closes his eyes, a hard squint, like he’s expecting the worst.
Bucky exhales, heavy, and then reaches out to cup Clint’s face, and when his eyelashes flutter a little, when he still won’t look at him, he says, “You’re a goddamn idiot,” and, “Are you going to stand there like a hulking dumbass or are you going to kiss me?”
A smile blooms over Clint’s face, bright and wide. “I can do both. I’m talented like that.”
The best part about having a dangerous husband is that Clint can yell about having a dangerous husband and really mean it. He’s had his life in peril several times on missions, and Clint can definitely take care of himself, but seeing grown men weep when threatened by Sergeant James Buchannan Barnes is one of the greatest things that’s ever happened to him.
“How?” Bucky says, cutting at the ties around his arms.
“It wasn’t my fault! Nat saw him kick a dog.” Clint cocks his head. “A dog-like thing. It has a tail and floppy ears.”
“So it’s Natasha’s fault,” Bucky sort of half-smiles, rubbing at the slight red marks on Clint’s wrists, “you’re going with that.”
Clint is not actually going with that, but luckily Nat isn’t around to hear, right then, and Bucky’s not going to tattle on him. Probably. He nods, but says, “I mean, you could blame the asshole who kicks dogs, but they’d probably sacrifice us both to… whatever was in there.” He leans a little, trying to see into the giant dark pit without letting go of Bucky. “Space worm?”
Bucky sighs and says, “Sheppard’s not going to let you keep the dog.”
“What if we got Steve to ask?”
Bucky hmms. “Sheppard might let you keep the dog.”
“Would, uh,” Clint clears his throat. Bucky’s hands are still warm on his arms and his eyes are fond, and it’s like the ring of disgruntled villagers around them aren’t even there anymore. “Would you mind if we had a dog?”
They haven’t talked about cohabitation yet. It takes a while to requisition joint quarters, first of all, since a good third of Atlantis isn’t even running. And they sort of did everything backwards, what with the accidental marriage, and the hostility, and now most of their nights are spent, uh, really making up for that. But it hasn’t been official, and Clint never knows what to say about it.
Coulson told him there’s a tower room opening up, though, after Pepper leaves, and Clint doesn’t know Bucky’s opinion on heights yet, or if he wants pets, or if he’d mind if some mornings Clint scales down the outside walls instead of using the stairs. This might not be the place to talk about it, with angry natives breathing down their necks, but they have to wait for Nat to get back with Stark and Steve, anyhow, and the back of Clint’s neck is itchy, and the dog is staked out by a bonfire, whimpering.
But Before Clint can open his mouth again, Bucky says, “No, Clint. I wouldn’t mind having a dog.”
“Really?” Clint needs to be sure. “That dog?” He points to the sandy-brown mess of fur. It stops whimpering and starts wriggling around, tail thumping, as soon as it notices them. It has one eye and an overbite with fangs and barks like a screech owl.
Bucky winces a little. He says, “Sure.”
It’s not that Clint thinks he’s lying. He’s just… skeptical. It looks like an oversized muppet. “Why?”
“This better not be a test, Barton,” Bucky says, and tugs on the collar of his jacket, a silent demand, Clint has come to learn, for Clint to kiss him.
Right here. In front of this horde of angry villagers. Clint’s totally game.
When Clint gets close, though, when he leans in and rubs a thumb along Bucky’s jaw, Bucky says, “Because I love you, asshole. And if you want a fucking… eldritch horror in our rooms, it better be housetrained.”
Clint grins into the press of their mouths and thinks: I love you, too.