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Seven Year Plan

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Bucky’s relaxed, kicking back with a beer in one hand and Tony’s got a bag of popcorn in the microwave. The video feed’s been somehow switched to the frankly overly-indulgent big screen tv that Tony’s had installed in the lounge and Bucky’s still getting used to this century but he thinks he’s gonna like it.

“Feed’s live,” Tony says, dropping down on the couch best him. “They’ve got a certain amount of misplaced courage for that.”

In Bucky’s day, he wouldn’t have bothered to film an interrogation. Hell, in Bucky’s day, he wouldn’t have had the tech for filming, let alone live streaming.

And he certainly wouldn’t have been ballsy enough to do it unless he was damn sure he’d pull it off. These assholes, the ones who took Clint, they’ve got no idea what they’re in for, but Clint’s been profiting off other people underestimating him since he was a kid.

And Bucky’s lookin’ forward to seeing Clint show these assholes what he can do.

They’ve got Clint bound, hands behind his back, shoulders wrenched a bit, chest heaving just a little. He’s roughed up but not too badly — a trickle of blood down one temple, matting his hair on the other side, dried and crusting along the corner of his lips. Bruising around one eye, swelling too. His clothes are torn and dirty, dark with blood. He’s pale and looks strained but not unbearably so.

And Bucky can see at least three easy ways for him to get free and take out the four assholes standing around behind him.

So he’s not worried. Clint’s been in worse situations than this. And Bucky always does like watching him work.

Tony hands him a bowl of popcorn as the first assailant says, “Beg them to come for you.”

Bucky lifts an eyebrow as Clint tips his head towards the voice, his mouth screwing up into a smirk. “Begging?” he says, lisping a little because of the swelling in his lip. “That’s a little kinky for a first date. Besides, Bucky’s got a real nice dick and I can’t say I’m in the market for another.”

“Aww, Buckaroo,” Tony says, laughing. “That’s just about the sweetest thing.”

“Fuck you,” Bucky says, easy, as he shoves a handful of popcorn in his mouth.

But it’s true -- about Bucky’s dick, and about it being just about the sweetest thing. Clint’s idea of affection has always been a little off centre, a little strange, and Bucky finds it pretty fucking endearing.

They’re not dating, is the thing. Clint’s got a thing against labels and Bucky -- well, Bucky’s a year and a half into a seven year plan.

Bucky’s sure. Bucky’s so fucking sure. Clint’s it for him.

But he knows Clint and he knows at his core, he’s still a lost little kid who’s terrified of rejection, who doesn’t get attached because getting attached means getting left behind. So Clint’s not sure -- in fact, Clint thinks what they’re doing, what they’ve been doing, this riding off into the sunset thing they’ve got going on here, is just a friends with benefits kinda thing and Bucky knows about how important it can be to cling to your illusions to get you through scary shit, so he’s willing to wait.

He’s got a gold ring hidden away in his room and another six years to ease Clint into this without scaring him off, but he’s willing to wait.

Clint’s worth waiting for. And if he’s thinking about Bucky’s dick while being held for ransom by four off-brand Hydra assholes who don’t know that they’re in mortal fucking danger -- well, that’s practically a grand romantic gesture right there.

Yeah. Bucky’s so fucking sure. And seven years is nothing compared to a lifetime (or three) of waiting for something like this.

“Got a trace on the video stream?” Bucky asks, because he’s inherently confident in Clint’s skills and he knows Clint’s gonna get himself out of this scrape before he can even get the jet ready for launch. But if he thought it would get Clint home safe and sound a minute sooner, he’d be on his way to rescue him already.

Clint’s competence, though, is pretty much the first thing that managed to crack through the lingering remains of cryo-cold that Bucky hadn’t seemed able to shake since coming in from the cold and finding a place at Avengers Tower. All it had taken was walking in on Clint at the range, watching the way he handled a bow, and Bucky’s long-dead sex-drive had woken from a decades-long hibernation.

“Just about,” Tony says, checking a holo screen, frowning a little.

On the giant TV, someone’s backhanded Clint across the face and he doesn’t take the blow the way he should -- it’s like it catches him off-guard.

And he hasn’t gone for the easy move, hasn’t tipped his chair to reach the shard of glass on the floor that would have his hands free in seconds, hasn’t wrenched his feet free to kick at the asshole beside him, hasn’t swung his bound hands up and over the way Bucky knows he can.

He’s feeling a little uneasy -- just the barest hint of concern.

And on the screen, there’s blood running down Clint’s chin and one of the men is slamming his fist into Clint’s stomach, and Clint’s laughing, spitting blood, all bravado and cocky lack of concern.

But Bucky’s growing more concerned by the minute.

“What’s he doing?” Tony asks, as reports of the video stream’s location start popping up on his holo screen. “What sort of strategy is this, he’s letting them beat him. He’s not even ducking.”

And the interrogation is strange too, Bucky thinks.

They aren’t asking Clint anything. They’re not fishing for information, they’re not demanding Avengers secrets or locations or ransom or anything.

They keep telling Clint to beg for the Avengers to come for him and Clint keeps telling them to go fuck themselves.

“They’re not stupid enough to walk into a trap,” Clint says, and there’s a hint of something in his tone that Bucky doesn’t like. Like Clint isn’t talking to his kidnappers at all. “They’re not gonna come for me.”

“Where is he?” Bucky growls because something’s gone wrong and he can’t quite --

So far, only one assailant has spoken, and Clint’s kept his head angled carefully, the way he does in a crowded room where his hearing aids might not work their best and he wants to be sure he’s not missing anything, and at first, Bucky thinks that’s the problem. His aids have been damaged and he can’t hear properly.

But when the asshole on Clint’s left speaks for the first time, Clint doesn’t turn his head to look -- he tips his head. To hear better.

“If they’re going to leave you here to die,” he says, “Then we’re going to make it slow.”

He’s got metal braces on his knuckles when he slams them into the side of Clint’s cheek, cracking something, and Clint -- Clint doesn’t brace himself at all, doesn’t try to move out of the way, doesn’t lash out and try to catch him off guard.

“Stark,” he snaps, getting to his feet, already making a mental inventory of the weapons he needs, the ones that’ll do the most damage and cause the most pain, already calculating how many guns, knives and explosives he can carry on his body.

“Signal’s coming from an abandoned military outpost in Louisiana,” Tony says. “They’re not encrypting it at all, it’s like they want us to track it. Obviously a trap. Why isn’t he --”

“He can’t see,” Bucky says, grabbing the gun he keeps tucked away under the couch. He checks the cartridge on his way out of the room. “Call Natasha. I’m going after him and if she’s not on the jet in five minutes, I’m going without her.”

“He can’t see?” Tony sputters, but Bucky’s got no time for it.

He’d call Steve and Sam in on this mission, or any of the others, but they’re in Europe on some bullshit recon mission for Fury and wouldn’t make it back in time. He’s not willing to wait - hell, Natasha’s lucky he’s making an exception for her.

“Jarvis,” he says, quiet, once he’s got an arsenal on the jet. “Patch the stream through to my phone.”

Jarvis does.

Clint’s laughing with blood on his teeth, his cheek swollen and misshapen, one eye practically swollen shut. His hair is matted with blood and he’s listing to the side, trying to take pressure off one side of his rib cage.

And he keeps up his stream of smartass remarks, even though his voice is shot and reedy, even as he bites off screams when one of the men viciously twist and snap his thumb and then his middle finger and then his wrist. The men around him are growing more and more infuriated, more vicious and less strategic in their brutality.

And Clint keeps adding fuel to the fire.

“Just shut your mouth, for once in your goddamn life,” Bucky says, frustrated and furious.

Natasha slips onto the jet, already in uniform, looking grim. “He won’t,” she says, as she takes the pilot’s seat. “He’s going to keep it up until they forget that he’s the bait and kill him.”

“He hasn’t got a death wish,” Bucky tells her, words bitten and sharp. He wants to lash out at her, work out his frustration and helplessness through violence in a way that his therapist would despair over. He doesn’t, though, because he knows it won’t do any good.

“Because he knows you’re watching,” she tells him as she fires up the engines and the roof above splits open for take off. “And he’s hoping you see him die before you walk into the trap.”

“Idiot,” Bucky says as the jet takes off, heading for Louisiana.

On his screen, brass knuckles slam into Clint’s temple and he finally falls blissfully, silent, blood running down his torn up face.

*

Clint’s been kidnapped before, too many times to count, and he’s always managed to get himself to safety before the rescue team moved in, whether by talking his way out, slipping out of his cell and into the ventilation system, or sheer flexibility and brutality.

He’s never been so incapacitated that he couldn’t see a way to safety.

“We’ll get there in time,” Natasha tells Bucky, halfway into the flight, when his pacing and rechecking his guns and knives gets on her nerves. “Iron Man’s flying ahead.”

“Iron Man’s retired,” Bucky snaps.

She shrugs. “Some things are worth coming out of retirement for. I’m sure Pepper would agree.”

She seems calm, unaffected, and Bucky knows it’s a front. He’s seen her fingers shake the tiniest bit on the controls, and she’s got a tell the Red Room never managed to cure her of -- the faintest tightening around the left corner of her mouth, just enough for Bucky to see that she’s chewing her lip.

He’s not going to call her on it, though.

He just… he needs to get there.

The video feed is still running, but Clint’s alone now, still tied to the chair and unconscious. He’d almost woken up at one point and his muffled, pained groans had made Bucky even more agitated.

He’s still now, though, and the only sound is the steady dripping of his blood.

“Tony better leave me somebody to kill,” Bucky says and Natasha just hums in agreement.

*

Bucky and Clint hooked up by accident.

They’d been high on adrenaline after a particularly shitshow of a mission, where they’d fucked up half a dozen times but still somehow pulled it off, stumbling back to the tower half-giddy and all keyed up.

And Bucky had spent damn near six months watching Clint when Clint wasn’t looking -- watching the way he moved and shot and smiled and growing stupidly infatuated and attracted to him.

His therapist had said it was natural to confuse his first real friendship since being rescued from Hydra with something deeper, something more than platonic.

But Bucky had never felt confused, not for a second.

And that night, when Clint had been unable to get a full sentence out around his hysterical laughter, Bucky had just looked at him, clutching his stomach with both arms like he thought if he held on tight enough, he could keep the laughter in, and he’d just thought, mine.

And he’d leaned over and tried to kiss the laughter off Clint’s lips like maybe that much joy could be contagious.

Hell, maybe it had been, because Bucky’s been feeling a shimmery, delicate sort of lightness in his chest ever since.

He’s going slow because he’s not gonna scare Clint off.

But fuck. Fuck, now Bucky’s the one who’s scared.

*

“Tony’s waiting for backup,” Natasha says as they enter Louisiana airspace. “By his count, they’ve got some pretty heavy fire power and more men than he thought he could handle alone. So how do you want to do this? We could --”

“Land the plane,” Bucky says, calmly slipping a knife into his boot. He adds another to his thigh holster and a spare pistol just to be safe. “I’ll handle the rest.”

“You’re not going in without backup,” she tells him, rolling her eyes.

“I’ll take them out. You follow me in. Make sure they’re dead.” He shrugs. “I’ll find him.”

“And the fact that he’s clearly bait in some sort of trap?”

“Don’t matter,” he says. “I’ll deal with it.”

“This is worse than any of Steve’s plans,” she says. “I just want you to know that.”

*

Clint wasn’t good at letting Bucky be gentle with him, not verbally, but he was also the first person in the entire world who trusted Bucky to touch him with any hint of gentleness after he was rescued, even with the metal arm.

If Bucky ever tried to say anything sweet or kind or affectionate, Clint shrugged it off like he wasn’t built for it, but Bucky’s touch -- he reacted to that with a sweet sort of acceptance that helped Bucky relearn the best ways to touch someone. The sweetest, softest ways, ways he hadn’t thought he was built for.

Seven years isn’t long at all when you’ve already been waiting seventy.

And sometimes, when Clint’s sleeping, when his hearing aids are sitting on the table and there’s not a chance Clint can hear him and start up with his bullshit excuses about how he’s not good enough -- can’t start trying to run -- Bucky tells him all the shit he’s got building up inside. The feelings and the grand plan and the house they’re gonna have one day, and all the fucking dogs, and the pizza delivery guy on speed dial. How Bucky’s gonna teach him to dance the way they used to dance in the 40s, before the world went to hell. How Bucky’s gonna teach him to shut his goddamn mouth and accept it when Bucky says he loves him because Bucky does, he knows that more than he knows anything else.

He tells Clint when Clint’s sleeping because he’s gotta say it, if he doesn’t say it, sometimes he thinks he’ll go crazy with all the feelings and the words crowding their way into his chest.

His therapist recommended writing letters.

Bucky hadn’t had time for fuckin’ letters during the war, he sure as fuck hasn’t got time for letters now.

But Clint’s still unconscious and Bucky wishes he was there so he could tell him one last time, just in case it is the last time. And maybe this time, he’ll wake Clint up long enough to hear it.

It better not be the last fucking time.

*

They don’t bother with stealth because it’s a trap and they know it and Tony’s already gathered all the intel anyway.

There are gamma radiation signatures in a room nearby the one where the video signal’s coming from, and they’ve split up -- Tony and Natasha to fight their way to the source of whatever trap Hydra’s set, and Bucky to force his way through whoever’s stupid enough to get in his way to find Clint.

Tony made him promise half a dozen times that he wouldn’t go into the room until they verified that the trap was disarmed, and Bucky’s going to do his best to comply, but the video stream went dead ten minutes before, and he’s not sure what he’s going to find.

He’s glad, in a distant part of his mind, that Steve’s not here, because Steve’s never been great at doing what needs to be done if it leaves a trail of bodies behind.

But these fuckers knew what they were doing when they took Clint, when they used him as fucking bait for whatever juvenile, clumsy trap this is, when they live streamed as they hurt him and tried to make him beg.

They had to know what to expect.

And what they had to expect was Bucky armed to the teeth and walking through their fucking bullshit compound and killing anyone who got in his way. He’s never particularly enjoyed killing -- it wasn’t why he went to war and it wasn’t seen as a necessary aspect of the Winter Soldier’s job. He didn’t have to like it. He just had to be efficient and brutal and skilled at it.

He doesn’t have the luxury of taking his time, but part of him wishes he did, especially when he recognizes the face of the man who broke Clint’s wrist in the split second before his bullet tore through the man’s left eye. There was barely any time for begging at all, though the asshole tried it.

Bucky does not have time for begging and he does not have time for mercy.

He takes out a squad of four Hydra agents with a quick twist of a knife, a single bullet, and a blow with his metal fist that left the fucker’s face unrecognizable as he fell to the floor. He barely pauses on his way down the hallway, even as the floor grows slick with blood beneath his boots.

He loses count of how many he kills. He remembers Clint keeping count sometimes, cheerily announcing the targets he hits in the middle of battle, and the quiet in his comms just makes him angrier.

After that, he lashes out a little harder, leaves the bodies a little more broken, but he still doesn’t slow down.

And then he gets to the room where the video came from and Clint must be on the other side and the door is closed.

It’s quiet.

“Tell me you’ve disarmed it,” he says.

“Nearly,” Natasha tells him. “Patience, Barnes. Just… let me finish.”

She sounds winded, like she’s in the middle of a fight, and Bucky shifts on his heels and stares at the door and wishes he had a few more assholes to kill -- anything to keep his hands busy, because they’re starting to shake and blood is starting to dry under his nails and he’s never been good at standing still and waiting.

“We’ve got it,” Tony says. “But I’m not sure -- it’s too clumsy. Hydra isn’t this clumsy, this can’t be --”

“You shut it off?” Bucky snaps.

“Yes. But --”

Bucky doesn’t wait. He kicks the door down with a single blow.

He scans the room for threats but doesn’t slow down, the shattered remains of the door crunching under his boots. The shadows are dark and oppressive in the room, the only light coming from a single bulb swinging on an exposed wire, which pulls shadows from the corners in shifting, sluggish waves. Clint’s sitting in the middle of the room, tied to a chair, slumped to the side, and there’s a metal table nearby with a computer and camera equipment sitting on it in a tangle of wires.

Clint’s still when Bucky kicks the door in, and for a moment, Bucky worries that maybe he’s too late. The thought doesn’t stick, though, because he refuses to even entertain it, to even think that could be a possibility.

And then Clint’s lifting his head, slow and clearly pained. A fresh trail of blood comes from his split lip and he runs his tongue along it, his teeth bloody when he says, “Back again? I already told you I don’t put out on a first date, so --”

“You’re an asshole,” Bucky snaps, falling to his knees in front of Clint. In his comms, Tony and Natasha are growing increasingly loud and Bucky just doesn’t have the focus he needs to pay attention. His handlers woulda been appalled -- would have had him wiped and reprogramed for the violation, but Bucky just. Can’t.

He turns the comms off as Clint’s head snaps back and his mouth quivers, all false bravado draining away until he’s just a pale, broken and bloody mess. His eyes are bright with tears -- the fucker didn’t cry while he was being beaten, but looks a few seconds away from it now.

“Bucky,” he says, voice cracking, and Bucky leans closer to reach around him, snapping the ropes binding his wrists and holding him steady with his other hand as he slumps forward after losing that support.

Clint’s forehead hits Bucky’s shoulder and he doesn’t make any move to push himself up, just shakes and lets Bucky hold him up while reaching for the ropes around his ankles.

“You shouldn’t have --” he says, reaching up with faltering hands to twist his fingers in Bucky’s shirt.

The fingers Bucky watched some asshole break a few hours before.

“Shut your mouth,” Bucky says, and it comes out a little harsher than perhaps it should have, but he has had a day. “You’re an asshole if you think I’m gonna sit back with a bowl of popcorn and watch you talk yourself into an early grave.”

Clint lifts his head and Bucky’s glad -- he missed Clint’s face, even if it’s currently a mess and it looks like his nose is broken again. He wants to reach out, to touch, like he can somehow soothe the mess of bruises and abrasions and cuts and broken bones, but first he’s gonna get Clint out of here and then he’s gonna clean him up and stitch him up and convince him how stupid he was to ever think Bucky would be willing to just let him die.

Idiot.

“You had popcorn without me?” Clint asks, trying to pout. Evidently it hurts too much because he winces instead and starts listing to the side, his balance clearly fucked. There’s a flash of panic but before it can linger, Bucky’s got him by the elbows, holding him upright, and Clint’s confessing, “I can’t -- I can’t see, Buck.”

“I know,” he says, grim. “We’ll get it fixed.”

“It’s like a concussion but it’s never been this bad before and I puked all over the guys who took me but everything’s blurry and I can’t -- I can’t -- It’s a trap, Buck. You shouldn’t have come, it’s a trap.”

“Your mouth,” Bucky says again, because Clint’s working his way into a panic attack and Bucky’s brain is slipping into mission-critical mode and he’s got to focus on one thing at a time -- getting Clint to safety. “Shut your mouth. Shh. It’s fine, I’ve got you, we’re going home.”

And then he can focus on putting him back together again.

“I don’t know -- I don’t -- Bucky, can’t you hear that?”

Bucky should’ve heard it, is the thing. He’s been trained for threat assessment and it’s a threat. But Clint’s been distracting him since the first time he glanced up over a cup of coffee early in the morning and offered a crooked, sleepy, bitchy smile of solidarity after Bucky’d said something sassy to Steve.

And he hadn’t heard it. Hadn’t even looked for it.

So he hadn’t seen the bomb.

Which in retrospect, is probably what Tony and Natasha were freaking out over.

But now, with Clint holding tightly to his shirt and looking lost and afraid for the first time since Bucky’s known him, Bucky lifts his head and he does hear it.

And he’s got about two and a half seconds to react and it’s just enough time to shove Clint to the ground and cover him.

Tick.

Tick.

Boom.

The room goes white and high pitched and then fades to nothing.

*

Bucky’s arm is malfunctioning, fried in some terrible way that’s sending white-hot shocks up his spinal column and into his brain in a throbbing, regular beat that’s just a millisecond off from his heartbeat and it’s that pain which wakes him.

His arm has gotten fucked up before. It’s been disabled, it’s been torn off, it’s malfunctioned -- fuck, before it was even a metal monstrosity, it was ripped off and left bleeding.

But none of that compares to the pain now, as if all the sensors in it have been fried and are still being fried, as if it’s burning up from the inside and he can feel every circuit going up in flames one by one by one.

It hurts even more than his back, which is shredded and flayed and possibly broken.

He’s buried underneath heavy stone rubble and his legs are pinned so he can’t tell if his legs aren’t moving because of a spinal injury or they’re just pinned in place and it’s hard to sort through the miswired pain signals firing in his brain so all he knows is that it’s dark and he hurts and he’s bleeding and he can’t move and -- and Clint is pinned underneath him, whispering over and over and over again, “I can’t hear -- Bucky, Bucky, I can’t see and I can’t hear, I can’t, I can’t.”

Hydra spent years upon years increasing Bucky’s pain tolerance, teaching him to compartmentalize the fuck out of it, using reward and punishment to train his brain to function despite increasing levels of pain.

So Bucky grits his teeth and exhales slowly, willing the pain to go with it, and says, “I’m here.”

Speaking means inhaling and the movement of his lungs causes something to grate together painfully in his ribcage, but Clint’s shaky, relieved exhale is worth it.

“My aids are fucked,” he says. “But I can hear you. I can -- oh thank fuck, Bucky, I was so worried.”

Bucky does his best to scan the area, looking for a way out. He can see pretty well in the dark, well enough to tell that they’re completely buried beneath heavy stone walls, and he might have had a chance of digging them free if he wasn’t as injured as he is. As it is, they’re pretty lucky that they seem to have gotten caught in a tiny air pocket -- and Bucky’s back took most of the force of the bomb, so Clint, pinned underneath him, somehow managed to survive.

“Tony and Nat,” Bucky manages to say, squeezing his eyes shut. “They’ll find us.”

“Okay,” Clint says. “Okay, good. We’re good. We’re fine. You’re all so stupid. You weren’t supposed to come. It hurts -- I mean, I’m sure you’re hurting too -- I think you’re bleeding.”

He sounds feverish, barely holding on, and Bucky just -- he should’ve seen the bomb. This is his fault, he was so fucking distracted.

“Not my blood,” he says, which is a lie, so clearly a lie, but Clint just ducks his face against Bucky’s neck and laughs shakily and says, “Yeah, no, obviously.”

It’s quiet for a heartbeat or two -- Clint’s shifting, like he’s running his hands along the stone all around them, looking for a way out, and Bucky would tell him not to bother, but his chest is aching and feels like too much movement might cause the bones to collapse entirely, and he knows how important hope can be in a situation like this.

And then Clint says, casual, like it’s not a big deal, “My, uh, aids are going in and out, so I think they’re gonna die, and. Probably so are we? So if there’s anything you want to say, it would probably be a good idea --”

“I got this seven year plan,” Bucky says, because fuck his ribs and fuck his lungs.

Clint goes very still, and then deliberately curls both hands up against Bucky’s chest, holding on. “You do?” he asks.

“Seven years,” Bucky pants. He shakes his head because it’s getting hard to focus -- he’s a motherfucking super soldier, he is supposed to be stronger than this. “Seven years to convince you.”

Clint’s voice is soft, uncertain. “Convince me what?” And this isn’t the time or the place for it -- Bucky had a fucking plan and it did not involve a feverish confession while buried alive and bleeding out, but plans never have a way of working out, so when Clint reaches out and touches his face with his broken hand, because he can’t see in the dark the way Bucky can even before his vision got fucked up by whatever Hydra had done and he can’t read Bucky’s expression so he’s tracing it with his fingertips -- Bucky just. Fuck the plan. Fuck everything.

“Seven years to convince you I’m not gonna leave you,” he says. Clint’s hands are still on his face and consciousness is moving like a mutable thing, in and out and swaying like a boat on the tide. “Got a ring,” he mumbles, blinking slow.

“A ring?” Clint asks, with a hysterical, pained bubbled of laughter. “What’d you get a ring for, you asshole?”

“Because I love you,” Bucky tells him, simple.

“Bucky?” Clint asks, fingertips trembling on Bucky’s cheeks. “What-- what did you get a ring for? I can’t -- I can’t hear -- Bucky, I can’t hear you. My aids are -- I just. I can’t hear and I can’t see. I can’t --”

Staying conscious is hard and moving is harder, but still, Bucky slides his broken, malfunctioning, burning hand up onto Clint’s chest, every movement sending shockwaves flaring through his bones and lighting up his brain. He presses as firmly as he can, to make sure Clint can feel him, right above Clint’s heart, and then Bucky carefully taps out the reason he bought that fucking ring in morse code.

I’M GONNA MARRY YOU, DICK.

“Oh god,” Clint says, but he sounds calmer, wrapping one hand around Bucky’s and holding tightly. “Oh god, you’re such an asshole.”

Bucky presses his cheek against Clint’s so Clint can feel his smile, and the last thing he feels at all his Clint’s hand smoothing his hair back and a careful, clumsy kiss and then Bucky loses the fight to stay conscious.

*

They don’t die under the rubble, which is good. Steve woulda been so judgemental if Bucky had survived all the shit he’d survived only to finally die because of a cheap bomb in an abandoned bunker somewhere, pinned on top of Clint while confessing his love in the most cliched and ridiculous way possible.

Steve’s been telling him to get his shit together and tell Clint he wants to be more than fuck buddies for the last year, give or take.

Bucky’d never have heard the end of it.

As it happens, Tony was far enough from the blast radius that his suit only sustained mild damage from it, and he was able to dig them out before Bucky bled to death.

It was close, though, Steve tells him, when Bucky wakes up in medical after having five blood transfusions and a trip through Dr. Cho’s creepy-as-fuck Cradle, which repaired his mangled back even more quickly than his accelerated healing could.

Clint’s been through the Cradle too, which is great -- he looks much better and apparently most of the damage has been healed, but the brain damage that had compromised his vision is a trickier thing and Clint hasn’t actually woken up yet, so.

So Bucky is well enough to sit and wait for him and that’s what he’s gonna do -- and what he has been doing for going on four days now.

Patience, he knows, has never been his strong suit. But he was willing to wait seven fucking years, what’s four days?

It just. Better not take too much longer.

While he waits, Bucky wonders where this whole misadventure puts him on his seven year plan, whether he’s on an accelerated timeline now, whether the whole plan is shot, whether Clint’s even gonna remember the plan exists at all.

He’s kinda leaning towards complete and total and convenient amnesia, probably on account of the head injury. Which means he’s still got seven years to gradually ease Clint into --

“Asshole,” Clint says, and it’s faint and rough and he’s grimacing and barely able to open his eyes, but he’s awake and Bucky kinda wants to shout at him for scaring him like that.

But Clint is glaring at him, and Bucky doesn’t know if Clint’s angry that Bucky willingly walked into a trap for him, or if he’s remembering the whole seven year thing, or if he thinks Bucky kicked his dog or what the fuck ever.

But it doesn’t matter.

Fuck seven years.

If Clint doesn’t realize yet that Bucky’s willing to follow him anywhere -- fucking stupid and obvious traps included -- by now, then Bucky’s just gonna have to spend the next seven years convincing him.

“You wanna marry me, sweetheart?” he says, as he holds a cup of water with a straw up for Clint to drink.

Such an asshole,” Clint grumbles as he takes a careful sip, but he reaches out with one hand and finds Bucky’s, tangling their fingers and holding tight, and it’s a much better reaction than running, so Bucky’s willing to take it.

And if it takes seven years or longer, then hell. Bucky’s willing to wait.

The End.