“God dammit Barton, what are you doing?” Bucky looked down at Clint, who was laying on the couch face down. Clint didn’t so much as twitch at Bucky’s words but the dog draped across his feet looked up at Bucky and wagged his tail once before resting his head back down on Clint’s thighs. Bucky looked around the apartment, dirty laundry, empty pizza boxes and beer bottles scattered everywhere. The phone was unplugged from the wall, Clint’s cellphone laying on the coffee table with the battery pulled out and laying next to it, right next to his purple aids. Well that explains why he hadn’t been picking up when he called. No wonder he hadn’t responded, he couldn’t hear Bucky.
He looked back at Clint with a sigh, the t-shirt he was wearing was inside out and his sweatpants were stained and had a rip that showed off his purple boxers. His hair was a mess, and judging by the odor he hadn't showered in a while. With another sigh, Bucky set the bag of donuts and carrier with two cups of coffee in it on the table by the pile of discarded electronics. He pulled his own phone from his pocket. Thumbed through his contacts until he found a number he had never actually called. It only rang once before she picked up.
“Yeah, yes, yes captain sir?” She sounded torn between nervous and excited.
“Bishop, you’re friends with Barton, right?”
There was a pause. “Umm yeah, kinda, like we were for sure, and I love the idiot like an annoying older brother, but like, lately umm…” she trailed off, seemingly collecting her thoughts. When she continued her voice was sure and strong for the first time since she had answered, “Yes, we’re friends.”
“How long has he been like this?” As he spoke Clint made a snuffling sound and nestled deeper into his disgusting couch cushions.
“What do you mean?” The strength had left her voice; she sounded like she knew the answer to her own question. So he waited, he knew more than enough interrogation techniques, she would give in and fill the silence. It was barely 15 seconds before she started speaking again.
“Look, it's not that bad. Like yeah he’s a mess, but he’s always been like that right? And I go by every few days and make sure he’s got food in the fridge and we talk or watch dog cops or something. And I know he’s not happy about the whole being deaf thing but he’s better than he was right after. He’s healed up enough to use the aids Stark made him. And it’s not like he’s slacking on the whole Avenging thing, he helped you guys with that AIM thingy last week right?”
“How long Bishop?” He interrupted her.
She sighed and answered quietly, “Ever since Captain America...you know...Steve.”
He did know. There was another silence, this time it was him who was hesitating, but once again Kate filled it.
“He just really looked up to him, we all did, and yeah it was hard for everyone and like you’re doing great, don’t get me wrong, like seriously you're fine and all that, but it wasn’t just losing Cap for him, they were friends. And then there was all that shit with the Russians, and then his ears. It’s just been one thing after another and he is totally justified in being less than one hundred percent.”
“Alright, thank you Bishop. Stay out of trouble.” He hung up to the sound of an indignant sputer.
When Bucky first took up the shield they had gotten off to a rough start; Clint hadn’t hesitated to share his opinion on Bucky putting on Steve’s uniform. Secretly he agreed with Clint, he knew he wasn’t Steve, he didn’t think he’d ever live up to him, but he was determined to do his best to honor his memory. When he’d offered to let all the Avengers move into what had been Steve’s S.H.I.E.L.D. safe house and was now his, Clint had declined, saying he was happier in his own apartment. Bucky now suspected it wasn't necessarily a matter of being happier here, but that it was easier to hide here.
Bucky had come here this morning with coffee and donuts hoping to bury the hatchet, maybe see if Clint wanted to catch a game sometime, or go to dinner, whatever it was normal people did. The thing was, he liked Clint. He respected him, admired the way he mentored that group of punks. And impressively Clint had the trust of Natalia, that alone would have been enough to grab his attention, but combined with his impressive skills and a wicked sense of humor Bucky was fascinated. They’d worked well together last week when dealing with AIM, Clint had been difficult as always, but seemed to have decided to let Bucky lead. They had even bantered.
The part of him that was the leader of the Avengers wanted to haul Clint off the couch and take him home with him. Get him cleaned up, into therapy, make sure he was stable enough to keep suiting up and helping save the world. That's what Steve would do, but he wasn’t Steve. He decided to go with a more moderate approach. He started with picking up all the trash and shoving all the laundry in the washer. Clint continued to sleep while Bucky moved around the apartment, but the dog watched him curiously, he figured it had never seen what cleaning looked like. Once the worst of the mess was gone he left, went down to the corner shop and got some groceries.
Returning to the building he held the door open for a young women with green hair. He couldn't help but inquire about the fact that the door’s lock was broken.
“Ah na, I know what you're thinking, but this is the safest building in New York, nobody messes with Hawkguy’s people.” She smiled, and hauled her bike up the stairs.
He followed more slowly, contemplating this piece of information; maybe Clint wasn’t just hiding here. Making it back to Clint’s door he let himself back in, better understanding the fact that it was unlocked. Clint hadn’t moved, but this time the dog got up and trotted over at the appearance of grocery bags. Setting everything down on the counter he stooped to rub the dog's ears. Now up close and noting the golden mutt only had one eye, he checked his tags and straightened.
“Okay Lucky, you gonna supervise while I do some cooking?” Lucky's ears perked up at the sound of his name, Bucky couldn't help but smile. He turned and got to work.
He’d lived off military rations his whole life it seemed, as a kid living on base with his Pa, following Steve, and then as the Winter Soldier. When he’d finally settled down one of the first things he’d wanted to do was learn to cook. Sam had given him his first lesson, pancakes and bacon, so that's what he made now. It was nearly noon by the time Clint stirred, likely roused by the smell of cooking meat and brewing coffee.
He rolled off the couch on to the floor, grumbling and cursing, slowly staggered to his feet before stumbling and weaving his way to the counter where he dropped himself onto a stool. Bucky finished plating the bacon before taking the coffee pot off the burner and putting it in front of Clint with a purple mug. Clint merely grunted, filled his mug, and then drained it. The second time he filled it he added some cream. After the second mug was emptied, slower this time, he looked up at Bucky.
“You get the good syrup for those pancakes?” Clint rasped.
Bucky gave him a look that clearly communicated how ridiculous he found that question. Then he walked around the counter and sat on the stool next to Clint. They both focused on filling their plates, the only sound the scraping of silverware. When Lucky whined Bucky gave him a strip of his bacon, then Lucky nudged Clint’s knee with his nose and a syrup-free pancake was handed over. Lucky, content with his haul, returned to the couch where he stretched out and fell asleep.
The food finished and the coffee pot emptied, they moved into the kitchen where Clint washed while Bucky dried. When the work was done Clint leaned back against the counter, crossed his arms, and looked at Bucky with a raised eyebrow, clearly asking what it was he was doing here. Bucky figured honesty was they way to go, but with Clint’s aids still sitting on the coffee table and Bucky’s asl still basic he settled for a shrug and a sheepish smile. He could feel a blush creep up his neck when Clint laughed.
“Aww, Bucky who knew you were such a softie?”
Bucky retaliated with a jab to Clint’s gut, but it only made him laugh harder. It quickly escalated, Clint giggling while dodging Bucky’s grabs. Lucky lifted his head to watch them chase around the apartment. They both knew if Bucky really wanted he could catch Clint, for all of his skill he wasn’t a super-soldier, but he let him drag it out until he finally had him cornered. It was Clint who closed the distance between them, his arms snaking around Bucky’s waist. Bucky’s breath caught as Clint wiggled closer, his face only inches from his own, he could smell the sugar and coffee on his breath. Time seemed to slow as Clint leaned in, Bucky was frozen watching Clint’s lips spread in a grin.
Then Clint betrayed Bucky’s trust in spectacular fashion. Instead of a kiss he got tickled, right above his jeans on his hipbones. How did Clint even know that was his weakest point? Had he been studying Bucky as close as he had been watching him? And taking note of things like his ticklish spots? This time it escalated into grappling, Bucky trying to get ahold of Clint’s hands to stop this offencive assault. Somehow they ended up on the ground, crammed between the couch and the coffee table, Bucky draped over Clint, pinning his wrists above his head. Lucky peered down at them, letting out a confused woof.
“Looks like you’ve got me” Clint grinned up at him.
Bucky’s own smile faded as his expression turned serious, his hands on Clint shifted until he wasn't pining him so much as holding his hands.
“Yeah Clint, I’ve got you.”