Mornings are a bitch at the best of time and, honestly, if it was up to Bucky, he’d sleep in til noon at the earliest.
Steve likes to fondly reminisce about how Bucky used to do that, before Hydra, before the train, before the war. Bucky can’t remember it, though, and he knows now that any predisposition he’d had for sleeping in had quickly and entirely been removed from his personality.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t think it would be nice, when his body automatically clicks into wakefulness at 5 AM.
Steve’s usually the only one up that early, getting ready for a run, and he always, always asks Bucky to come along, but Bucky’s not a masochistic asshole, thank you, and running on purpose is for people who haven’t spent the better part of a century being chased.
Instead, he works out for a bit, because some habits are hard to break, especially those that come from years of conditioning, and then he wanders into the kitchen. It’s usually empty, because it’s not quite dawn yet, so he’ll fix himself a cup of coffee and curl up in the cushy armchair by the window and watch the sun come up.
On this particular day, his routine is derailed the tiniest bit because someone has already fixed him a cup of coffee, just how he likes it -- with too much sugar and too much cream for most people.
When he’d first come here, after Steve had hunted him down and dragged him home, Bucky had spent weeks experimenting with cream and sugar to relearn how he liked his coffee. His therapist likes to say things about how he’s slowly remembering what it was like before everything had went to hell, before the war, but Bucky can’t remember a time that his family had been able to afford to waste anything as precious as sugar in a cup of coffee. But now, surrounded by an embarrassingly large amount of luxury in Tony’s tower, too much cream and too much sugar is the tiny indulgence that Bucky’s willing to allow himself.
It melts on his tongue and makes waking up this early almost like something he’d choose for himself.
But usually, he makes it himself. And now, someone’s left a mug fixed just how he likes it on the counter, in his favourite mug. Like a gift.
Or a trap.
He dumps it down the sink in case it’s been poisoned and regrets every grain of wasted sugar while he fixes himself another mug and takes it to his favourite chair by the window, only to discover that somebody -- probably the same somebody who left him the coffee -- has left a soft, clumsily hand-knit afghan on the chair, folded over super casually.
It’s all different shades of purple and Bucky stares at it suspiciously, calculating the odds that it’s been doused in anthrax, but he’s pretty sure Tony’s got security checking for shit like that. It’s more likely that Steve left it -- it seems to be the sort of trash little old ladies like to send to Steve, to thank him for his service. And it would be just like Steve to start leaving his old lady afghans lying around to make the place a little more homey.
If he starts breaking out the doilies, that’s it, Bucky’s done. He’s moving away, he’s finding his own place.
It probably means that Steve also left the mug of coffee for Bucky, and now Bucky feels even worse about dumping it, but you can never be too careful when it comes to suspicious gifts of coffee.
He settles the afghan around his shoulders as a peace offering, because he honestly feels bad about the coffee, and settles into the chair sideways, tucking his toes under one of its arms.
The sun is already rising, painting the horizon in soft pinks and purples, and the afghan is heavy and warm in the best way, and Bucky falls asleep.
It’s fucking unprecedented is what it is.
He wakes up a short while later when there’s a thump, a gasp, and a muttered, “Oh Jesus Christ, what am I supposed to do with that?”
But it’s not the startled, quick jolt to wakefulness it should be, because people do not sneak up on the motherfucking Winter Soldier, who also does not fucking sleep without six locks on the door and at least three emergency escape routes planned out. He certainly doesn’t fall asleep in the common area where anybody could find him, snoring and vulnerable and just asking to be shot in the goddamn head.
It’s the fucking afghan’s fault.
It takes an embarrassingly long time to shake off the hazy, soft sleep and blink up at Clint, who’s a mess, as he always is at -- Bucky checks the time -- fucking 10 AM.
All he’s wearing are boxers, no shirt at all, so it must be laundry day, and his hair is a mess like someone’s been running their fingers through it all night, there are pillow lines on his cheek, and he’s rubbing at his eyes with one hand and hitching his underwear up with the other and staring.
“Got a problem?” Bucky snaps, kicking his way free of the afghan, nearly spilling his cold coffee, and scowling.
“So fucking many,” Clint tells him, exasperated. “You can’t just expect -- what are you doing?”
“Leaving,” Bucky says, abandoning his coffee and making it halfway across the room before he changes his mind, comes back, snatches up the stupid afghan, and leaves.
That night, he curls up in the afghan, burying his face in it, and he doesn’t wake up til nearly noon, when Steve panics and pounds on his door, sure he’s gotten ill or disappeared in the night or something more sinister.
Bucky spends the day in a daze, his body not used to feeling so rested. He’s sluggish and uncoordinated and sleepy and soft and it feels fucking amazing.
Clint keeps walking into things and stubbing his toes and cursing a whole lot and staring at Bucky who spends the day all stretched out on the sofa wrapped in his fucking afghan, dozing and watching Dog Cops, but that’s pretty much usual for Clint, so Bucky’s not too worried.
Two days later, there’s an Avenger’s alert and everyone’s called out except Bucky, still not cleared for duty. It’s happened a handful of times since he’s come to stay here, and at first, he hated it, felt claustrophobic and useless. He’s gotten used to it now, likes the quiet, the chance to spend a few hours lazing around in a bubble bath, reading -- all things on the list of self-care his therapist gave him, back in the beginning. He doesn’t like to do it when Steve’s around, because Steve tends to get worried if he spends too long alone, especially somewhere that might lend itself to self-harm.
He’s not trying to drown himself, he’s relaxing with a glass of red wine, a tub full of bubbles and the latest Nora Roberts book, and Steve’s already burst in on three separate occasions with flimsy excuses to check on his welfare, so now Bucky saves these indulgences for when no one else is home.
On this particular day, when he pops into the kitchen to fill up his glass while the bath runs in his own apartment, Bucky finds a partially burned grilled cheese sandwich on a plate on the counter, carefully wrapped up with his name written on a sticky note on top.
He freezes, does a quick risk analysis, figures it’s poison -- except after the coffee incident, he’d talked to Tony about the likelihood of poison, and Tony had reassured him it was pretty minor. Apparently Jarvis monitors for that.
Speaking of Jarvis --
“Yes, Sergeant Barnes?”
“There’s sandwich with my name on it.”
Bucky throws up his hands. “Why.”
“Because Agent Barton left it for you,” Jarvis says. “I believe with the intention that you should eat it if you were hungry.”
“Agent -- but. It’s burned.” Bucky frowns at the offending sandwich and says, “Why?”
“Captain Rogers was concerned that you wouldn’t eat while they were away,” Jarvis explains. “And I’m sure Agent Barton did his best, sir.”
Bucky eats the sandwich, scowling with every bite, and his bath runs over while he does.
Later, submerged up to his nose in hot water and bubbles, book tossed aside, Bucky thinks about things -- things like how baths like this are the only time he truly feels warm, right down to his toes. Except now, he’s also got that afghan, which helps at night -- even after he’s had a nightmare. Used to be, a nightmare meant he wouldn’t be able to shake off the chills long enough to get back to sleep, but the afghan helps with that, too.
Speaking of the afghan.
“Yes, Sergeant Barnes?”
“That afghan. The purple one. That I stole from the living room.”
“In the interest of full disclosure, Sergeant Barnes, I’m quite sure it was left there for you, so I don’t think it was theft.”
“Okay,” Bucky says. “Who left it?”
“Agent Barton, sir.”
Bucky frowns, batting at the bubbles absentmindedly with his metal hand, and saying, “Why?”
“I believe because he worried you were cold, sir.”
Bucky sinks back down until only his nose, his eyes, the tips of his ears, and his hair are sticking out of the bubbles and thinks about that.
No one’s ever tried taking care of Bucky, not ever. When he was the Winter Soldier, his handlers took care of his his very basic needs, kept him functioning at optimal level, but never with any intention of… of caring for him. And before that, in the war, everything Bucky had ever done was to keep Steve safe, to keep Steve as happy as Steve could be in a war zone, to increase the likelihood that Steve would get to go home one day. And before that, it had always been Bucky taking care of Steve.
So what did it mean that now, Clint was trying to take care of Bucky?
Fuck if Bucky knows.
He doesn’t get a chance to ask, because Clint ends up shipping out for some sort of SHIELD business right after the Avengers mission, and when Bucky makes his way to his own rooms that evening, he finds a dog.
A motherfucking one eyed golden retriever stretched out on his sofa and lazily wagging its tail.
“Jarvis,” Bucky says, voice tight. “What the fuck.”
“Good evening, Sergeant Barnes,” Jarvis says, sounding unusually chipper. “How may I assist you?”
“There’s a dog.”
“Indeed,” says Jarvis.
“Why is there a dog, Jarvis?”
“Agent Barton left him,” Jarvis says. “He said, and I quote, ‘Lucky’s basically a therapy dog, so Bucky’ll love this.’”
Bucky did not, in fact, love this.
“What the fuck,” he says.
“If I may, Sergeant Barnes, I believe Agent Barton was merely unable to find a dog sitter on such short notice and hoped you might oblige him. I can send for Agent Romanov if you’d like, she might have a better idea.”
“No,” Bucky says quickly. “Whatever. It’s fine. How do I keep it alive?”
Jarvis happily starts listing off the best way to care for and feed a dog, and Bucky grimly does his best.
That night, when Bucky jerks awake from another nightmare, he finds Lucky stretched out across his chest, a gentle, warm weight holding him down and instantly grounding him. It’s better, even, than the motherfucking afghan.
“Good boy,” Bucky whispers, tentatively petting Lucky’s back while his breathing calms and his heart rate slows. “Good boy.”
The next morning, at 5 AM, Bucky snaps into wakefulness and says, “Well. I’ll take the dog for a walk.”
Lucky is not on board with that idea, though, because it’s too fucking early and the dog refuses to wake up.
Bucky considers getting up anyway, but his afghan is warm and the dog is warm and after a few moments, he closes his eyes and he sleeps.
Bucky’s phone lights up that afternoon, while the Avengers are all at a meeting with Fury.
It’s Clint on the phone, which is weird, because as far as Bucky knows, Clint’s still away on top secret SHIELD stuff, but Bucky answers, after only the briefest hesitation.
“Bucky! Hey! Hi! It’s Clint. Barton.”
There’s a beat of silence, except that Bucky can hear noise in the background -- a lot of noise. Clint’s breathless when he comes back on the line. “How’s Lucky doing? I’m so sorry for dropping him on you, this mission was so last minute, and I couldn’t get in touch with Kate, and Nat’s told me she’ll castrate me if I dump Lucky on her again, and I -- fuck, what the fuck, okay, sorry, I’m back, is he doing okay? I left pizza in your fridge to feed him.”
Bucky has not opened his fridge in days and, according to Jarvis, pizza is not on the ‘approved foods for dogs’ list. Bucky doesn’t say any of that, though. Instead, he says, “Are those gunshots?”
They are gunshots, of course. Bucky would recognize gunshots anywhere. He can even tell the caliber, the make and model.
“A little,” Clint says. He’s still panting. “Listen, do you know where Nat is? She’s not answering her phone and my handlers aren’t answering their goddamned phones and I could use extraction--” He yelps, there’s a crash, the pounding of footsteps.
Bucky’s already on his feet, tugging a jacket on, shoving his feet into his combat boots. “Where are you?”
“Yeah, in your fucking dreams, motherfucker!” Clint yells. He sounds a bit distant and tinny, and Bucky’s gonna assume Clint’s not talking to him. There’s a muffled thump and then Clint says, more clearly, “Me? I’m upstate. Hydra facility -- do not come here, Barnes. Listen to my words. Do not. It’s fucking Hydra. Except, like. Also Rumlow? Just. I need Nat. I need -- can get Nat, or --”
“Jarvis,” Bucky says, shoving a gun into his thigh holster. “Can you trace his phone?”
“No, Bucky, c’mon, you can’t--” Clint says, but Bucky doesn’t care.
“I’ve sent the coordinates to your phone, Sergeant Barnes,” Jarvis says. “And also alerted Captain Rogers.”
“Give me twenty minutes,” Bucky tells Clint. “Don’t die.”
“Bucky! You can’t--”
Bucky hangs up.
Bucky’s been to that particular Hydra facility, he realizes when he’s halfway down a particular corridor, a trail of neutralized Hydra agents behind him.
He’s feeling good -- his muscles remember how to do this, how to neutralize a threat without causing a fatal injury, how to do a risk assessment and react accordingly, how to systematically remove all potential threats. And he’s in control.
It’s almost fun.
And best of all, Clint manages to stay alive for the twenty minutes it takes for Bucky to steal a jet and fight his way through the Hydra facility.
He’s dirty and bloody and breathless and when did Bucky start finding all of that beautiful? Probably about the time he fell asleep wrapped up in a purple afghan, but now is not the time to think about that.
“You’re alive,” Bucky grunts, dragging Rumlow’s prone body into the room Clint’s barricaded himself into.
“Jesus Christ, Bucky,” Clint says, staring at Bucky with his mouth hanging open. It’s a good look on him. One of Bucky’s favourites. “You can’t just -- what if -- why would you --” he stammers.
“You gave me an afghan,” Bucky says, like it’s simple.
“I’m a terrible knitter, though.”
Bucky frowns, thinking back, because yeah, that afghan’s a bit of a mess, some holes bigger than others. “You -- you knitted me an afghan?” he says, because he didn’t know what to do with receiving an afghan, nevermind the idea of Clint making it for him.
“You always looked cold,” Clint says miserably.
“I was always cold,” Bucky agrees. He stares at Clint and Rumlow moans, starting to come around. A quick kick to the head and he’s out again. “Your dog’s been sleeping with me,” Bucky says.
“Lucky dog.” Clint blinks. “I mean --”
“There’s room for you too. If you want.”
Clint blinks again. His cheeks, under the grime and dried blood, flush. “Yeah?” he says, standing up. He’s bleeding from a gash on one arm, probably a bullet graze, and limping a little, and Bucky’s entire body brightens up at the idea that now, suddenly, it’s his turn to take care of Clint.
“Yeah,” he says, stepping closer just as Clint’s legs start giving out. He catches him before Clint hits the ground, and it’s not too hard to scoop him up, one hand under his shoulders, the other under his knees. “Yes. We can take care of each other.”
Clint lets his head fall against Bucky’s shoulder, letting out a tight, pained breath, twisting one hand in the front of his shirt, and holding tight.
“I’d like that,” he says, and Bucky presses a careful kiss to his forehead.
“I’ve got you,” he says, before carefully stepping over Rumlow and making his way out of the room.