The Hawk and the Soldier were both legends in the community – as much as legends can exist in a world that flourished on secrets and silence. They both relied on anonymity and yet, without a reputation, they would never get jobs.
No one knew who they actually were.
The Winter Soldier wore a mask, didn’t speak, and either was in and out before anyone noticed, or caused enough havoc that the few who survived were hard pressed to say what happened, much less describe who.
And Hawkeye was a ghost, never seen, never found. Sniping from a distance, despite his signature weapon, which should have easily made him identifiable.
But you can’t describe someone you’ve never seen.
“Hey, Buck, you been in Afghanistan recently?” Steve asked, while Bucky was getting ready for his date with the guy he’d once mistaken for a coffee barista, because he was in the coffee shop down the block so damn often. Clint. A beautiful disaster that had Bucky mooning and sighing at the worst, most inopportune, times.
“No, why?” Bucky popped his head out of the bathroom into the living room. “You reading those newsboards again? You know they never get it right. Besides, punk, you book everything, you should know just as well as I do where I’ve been and when.”
Steve shrugged. “Yeah, I know. Still, gotta keep on top of the rumors, fan the right ones, squash the others, or your job prospects go to hell. Don’t forget that fustercluck in Budapest.”
Bucky groaned, pulling his hair back tightly as he left the bathroom. “How could I? Working opposite sides of the job from Widow and Hawk? That was a fucking mess. Nobody got out of there unscathed.”
“Well, at least you’ve got that rider out there now – “ Steve said, closing the laptop. “And your reputation is strong enough to pick and choose your jobs.”
That rider Steve was referring to meant that any job up against Hawk and/or Widow, the Soldier retained the right to refuse or walk away from or demand double his payment if he thought the job was important enough. Which, with Steve always scouting out his potential jobs, meant that they always were important. Steve was a ball of righteous fury, a goddamned champion of just causes and human rights, fighting a system that seemed to inherently promote injustices right and left – without the ability to back it up because of his health (though that, at least, had improved some once Bucky got his hands on enough money to cut through the bullshit of U.S. Healthcare).
And that’s where Bucky came in.
Had always come in.
Steve was like a brother to him and the two of them had had only each other to rely on for decades. Steve was always getting into trouble, getting hurt, but what could Bucky say when it was always for a damn good reason? Bucky backed him up, and then helped him when his health got so bad and the government made it even harder for Steve to get help.
Now, as a mercenary, Bucky didn’t lack for money and Steve definitely didn’t lack for causes, and between them both, they were sitting pretty, if a bit lonely.
He grabbed his jacket, the long, soft navy blue one with all the buttons, and swung it on. Steve looked up at him.
“You sure this is a good idea? This guy has no idea –“
“Can it, Steve,” Bucky grumped. “Doesn’t have to be a thing. I can do casual.”
“Riiiight,” Steve drawled, obviously not believing him. “Don’t stay out too late.”
“Sure thing, mom,” Bucky said with a wink, leaving the apartment and closing the door behind him.
Clint was a ball of nervous energy as he flew about his Bed-Stuy loft in his boxers, tripping over Lucky who was actually laying out of the way for once. Lucky raised his head and gave him an offended look.
Nat was watching him amusedly from the sofa, feet tucked up under herself, a paperback in her hands. “It’s just a date, Clint. I’ve seen you defy impossible odds without breaking a sweat, you’ve got this.”
“I don’t got this,” Clint whined, dragging his jeans over his legs and grumbling when they got stuck halfway up his thighs, pausing to unbutton them and pull them the rest of the way up. “This guy is fucking hot, and I haven’t had a real date in ages .”
“Yastreb, stop, go to your happy place and breathe,” she said calmly.
Clint stopped hopping about and crawled up onto the dilapidated couch – sure, he could afford better these days, but the couch was comfortable and he had better uses for the money he earned – and slumped against her, closing his eyes.
Fingers threaded through his still wet hair. “What are you doing?”
“You are my happy place, Nat,” Clint said softly.
She nudged him away with her toes. “Go, get ready. Be handsome. Be yourself. You’ll knock his socks off.”
“I can’t be myself, Nat,” Clint whined. “That’s why I’m worried. You know what we do – I can’t…”
Natasha pressed a finger to his lips, effectively silencing him. “Shhh… you’re thinking about this too hard. Go, enjoy your date. I’ll line up the next job.”
Clint sighed and backed up, falling off the couch but rolling to his feet with a fluid grace that usually made others stare in disbelief. How could someone that clumsy also be so graceful? Letting out another mournful sigh and giving Nat puppy eyes to rival Lucky’s, Clint shuffled back up the stairs to his loft to rifle around for an appropriate shirt.
He shouldn’t be so anxious about this, he knew it. It wasn’t like this could ever become a thing . Not with what he did and the secrecy needed to maintain a cover. Clint put the finishing touches on his outfit, made sure to grab his wallet and phone – the right ones – and thundered back down the stairs, slipping his feet into a pair of purple converse that didn’t match the rest of his outfit at all .
It was a comfort thing.
Nat raised an eyebrow and he looked back at her challengingly, but she let it slide and turned back to her book. He knew it didn’t look like she was looking for their next assignment, but Nat had her ways.
“Have fun, stay safe, and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” she called as he closed the door behind him. He let out a breath, then started down the stairs. He should probably fix the elevator, but even if he did, he knew he’d never use it.
He walked down the block to the bar he and Bucky had agreed to meet up in. From the outside, it didn’t look like much, but O’Shea’s Pub had the best sandwiches in addition to the usual pub fare and it rocked a dart board.
Not that Clint could really let himself show off, but he could make a game of being just good enough to beat the other guy.
Bucky didn’t get it. He was a goddamned sharpshooter (when he wasn’t getting up close and personal to relieve some pent-up aggression) and this clumsy guy who was almost always covered in bandaids hadn’t lost a game yet. And every time Bucky upped his ‘skill level’ thinking he had it in the bag, Clint would squeak out yet another win.
It was fucking amazing.
The whole date had, thus far, been just this side of perfect. Clint had been right about the pub, though beer wasn’t usually Bucky’s fare. The food was good, it was the right level of noise, the atmosphere was cozy and nobody cared that two guys were out on a date. From the way he’d been greeted, Clint was obviously a regular here but instead of making Bucky nervous, it had helped him to relax.
That Clint was in casual clothes and still hot as fuck without even trying might have had something to do with that. That Clint had a smile and a laugh for everybody but only eyes for Bucky definitely had something to do with that.
It was a sweet, sweet torture to watch him all night, drinking his beer, licking sauce off his fingers – it gave Bucky all sorts of dirty, dirty thoughts.
They were on their way out of the pub, Bucky just about to ask Clint if he’d like some company, when Clint froze. Turning away from Bucky, he pulled his phone out and answered it.
“Simone? What’s wrong? What happened? What? They did what? I’ll tell Nat – she’s not? Fuck, okay, I’ll be right there. Just hang tight, I’m not that far.”
Clint swung back around, his face falling as he saw Bucky. “Uh…”
“Everything okay?” Bucky asked, trying to keep the suspicion out of his voice.
Running a hand through his hair Clint nodded and shrugged at the same time. “Yeah, no, I guess not? Did I tell you? Guess I didn’t tell you, but I’m kinda the landlord for my apartment building – kinda by accident. So that was one of my tenants and it’s an emergency. Nothing I can’t handle though. Fuck,” he sighed and his other hand came up behind his head Clint groaned. “God, Bucky, I’m so sorry. I gotta run, but I had a lot of fun. Wanna do this again… um… Tues -no, um, Thursday, yeah, Thursday should work?”
Okay, well, if he was angling for a second date, then obviously he hadn’t asked a friend to get him out of his first one. Bucky ran the weeks schedule through his head. “Let’s make it Friday.”
“Deal,” Clint said, his face breaking out into a relieved smile. “Thanks, man.”
Before Bucky could even lean in for a kiss, Clint darted away, running down the road at the sort of speed that Bucky usually only saw when he was chasing someone.
He shifted his head for a better angle.
At least it was a good view.
When their second date was cut off by Bucky getting a call from his roommate about a family emergency, Clint didn’t feel quite so bad about having to bail the first night. But it wasn’t like he could have left Simone to deal with the Tracksuit Mafia by herself, could he?
And then, the mission on Tuesday had gone hilariously (according to Nat who was, according to some people – some people being Clint – 100 percent wrong, thank you very much) off track and Clint had to postpone their date on Friday.
He was sure if something had come up one more time, Bucky would have written Clint off in a heartbeat. Dammit, this was why dating was so hard.
Maybe he should have just downloaded Grindr?
Clint shook his head. Nah, maybe before Bucky, he would have considered it, but while he still had a chance at Bucky, he wasn’t going to be messing around with anyone else. He’d just have to cross his fingers that nothing else happened to make Bucky run for the hills.
At least Bucky hadn’t seen what a disaster Clint could be. That had to count for something, right?
Then Bucky had called five minutes before the rescheduled date on Monday to reschedule again , and Clint had started to think these dates were cursed. But it had been just as well, because right after Bucky canceled, Nat had shown up with a job and Clint had been too busy to mope about it.
But here they were, finally, all of Clint’s worst bruises and cuts healed up, trying out a pizza joint that Bucky had sworn up and down was better than any of those other places Clint had been frequenting.
Clint was not ashamed to admit that Bucky was right as he moaned around a hot, gooey, mouthful of cheese, bread and sauce.
And if Clint played his cards right, Bucky and him would be going back to his for dessert.
When Bucky sauntered back into his and Steve’s place the morning after his date with Clint, he knew he was in for some ribbing from Stevie. Not that he cared, because Clint had been just as fantastic in bed as Bucky had been fantasizing about.
But Steve said nothing.
He sat hunched at the little island in the kitchen with his laptop, a couple of mugs and a few notebooks and pens beside him. he was clicking away at the laptop, then making notations on the paper without even acknowledging Bucky’s presence and Bucky was instantly concerned.
That kind of fervor and attention usually heralded something bad, something life changing.
He stepped over to the coffee pot and noted it was cold so he swiftly cleaned it out and started a fresh pot, then turned to lean back on the counter and cross his arms over his chest. He watched Steve work for a few minutes, but Steve seemed no wiser to Bucky being home then when he’d first come in the door. Steve was muttering to himself and occasionally yanking at his hair and Bucky frowned.
When it was ready, he made two mugs of coffee, slid the other mugs out of the way and put one down next to Steve before sitting across from him at the little island table. Reaching out, he slowly pushed the back of the laptop down, watching amusedly as Steve’s head automatically tilted with it as he kept trying to work.
“Wake up, punk. Tell me what’s going on,” Bucky said.
“Someone’s using your name,” Steve said, after taking a swig of the coffee.
Bucky choked on his coffee. “What? Like identity theft or do you mean…?”
“Someone matching your description and tactics has been taking some less than savory jobs and going by your name. We’re starting to get some flack about it and the illusion of our ‘so called morals’ from our better clients. So I started crosschecking events, dates… even if I thought it could be you, which I don’t, it’s physically impossible. You can’t be in Afghanistan and Los Angeles at the exact same moment. Or gotten from Australia to Texas in less than 2 hours. Maybe Stark’s got something, but....”
Steve shook his head. “This is a problem, Buck. Whoever this is, we gotta find them and stop them. It’s hurting your reputation and other people.”
“Point me at them and I’ll take care of it. You know who it is yet?”
Shaking his head again, Steve said, “Not yet. I might need Starks help on this…” he raised his hands when Bucky growled at him. He couldn’t help it. Something about Stark rubbed Bucky the wrong way. Bucky was never sure exactly how much the billionaire could be trusted, even if he’d gotten Bucky his shiny new arm and knew exactly who the Winter Soldier was. Okay, fine, Stark could be trusted. Bucky was just going to have to get over himself.
Steve, in the meantime, kept talking. “I know, I know, you still hate him for that time he showed us up on that mission over in Moscow, but we can’t afford to let this go on much longer and Stark’s good at what he does.”
Bucky groaned and slumped against the island, cradling his mug of coffee. Steve was right. About all of it, actually. Bucky was still sore about that thing in Moscow. He had lined up the ultimate, most epic shot – which would have, incidentally, put him in the lead in the strange contest he and Hawkeye were having - when Iron Man had blasted in and obliterated the target without so much as a by your leave.
“Fine,” Bucky muttered with all the grace he could muster. “Call him.”
Clint sighed and scratched the back of his head with an arrow – not one of the explosive ones, of course. “Are you sure about this, Widow?”
“My information is always correct. The Winter Soldier is walking into a trap,” Nat said, sounding for all the world as if she was offended that he would doubt her.
Not that he did, but he was bored and he’d been on this rooftop for hours and he’d been riding a beautiful high that morning before Nat had dragged him off to – where the fuck were they, anyway?
“It’s just that the Soldier’s too smart for this shit. How the hell would he get caught in a trap?”
“HYDRA’s good,” Nat said. “Deception and infiltration is what they do. Too bad for them, I’m better.”
Movement across the rooftops a few buildings away caught Clint’s eye and he suddenly stilled, becoming all intent and focus. Careful scanning had him smiling appreciatively at the figure across the way. It was the Soldier, with that distinctive, sexy as shit walk. He sighed dreamily.
Him and the Soldier had had a thing going for years now. Not that they’d ever met in person, but a few times their paths had crossed or Nat and the Soldiers paths had crossed and communications had been started.
Last he checked, Clint was winning. And tonight would probably give him a significant lead by the time it was over. He watched the Soldier casually stroll across a roof and jump a gap as if there wasn’t a 140-foot drop to the street below it.
Clint flushed a little at the competence of the Soldier. Too bad they’d never meet. At least Clint had Bucky (for now, anyway, however long that would last with Clint leading a whole other secret, double life).
Huh, now that he thought about it, Bucky walked a little bit like that. Or maybe a lot like that. Guess he had a type.
“Eyes on mission, Hawk,” Nat said in his ear.
“I am!” Clint protested.
“Then why are you staring at the Winter Soldiers ass?”
“I mean… it’s a mighty fine ass.”
“You already have a boyfriend, Hawkeye.” Nat was always very careful not to use their real names over the comms, despite them being supposedly unhackable. Considering what they were about to do, he knew how very wrong that belief was.
“Hey, one - I’m a free love kind of guy. Two – I can admire from afar! And three – it’s been two dates and anyway, you know that’s not going to last, it never does. It can’t .” Clint felt like he was repeating himself, and it wasn’t like Natasha didn’t know.
She sighed. “You’re an idiot.”
Clint fumed. There was obviously something she thought he knew that he didn’t. Why didn’t she just tell him already? There was movement a few rooftops further away that wasn’t the Winter Soldier and Clint snapped back into focus. “Eyes on target – the Soldier is no longer alone. Looks like your information panned out.”
“That’s not a good thing, Hawkeye. We need to figure out what’s going on, before it gets us killed.” There was a pause. “You’ve got access to the Soldier’s com piece. Ready when you are”
Clint drew back his bow and aimed, focus narrowing down to the black clad figure 3 rooftops away and the sniper a little higher up than him, and waited for the right moment.
Bucky was sneaking along the rooftop, Steve occasionally piping up with directions in his ear, when another voice drowned out Steve’s.
“I think you’ve been double crossed, Soldier.”
The voice was vaguely familiar, a little deep, but Bucky couldn’t place it. All he knew was that the ear piece that only Steve had access to had just been compromised.
Or Steve had, back in the hotel room they were using for a base, which was pretty much as far as Bucky could ever convince him to stay when on mission (and sometimes, nothing would stop Steve Rogers from going with you).
“What the hell?” Bucky grunted, barely slowing as he moved to get into position. He couldn’t stop where he was, the timing was wrong, a light would fall on him, and he’d be made before he ever reached the target.
“Trust me, Soldier. I’ve got a Birdseye view and you’re walking right into a trap.”
“Who the hell are you?” Bucky snapped, slowing his advance without meaning to and double checking the area. Had he been made? Why would they warn him?
An arrow whizzed by Bucky and a body fell to his feet. He stared down at it, at the purple shaft and white and purple fletching. The arrow – even without the colors – was a goddamn calling card.
“Hawkeye?” he asked in disbelief.
“The one and only,” the voice proclaimed cheerfully in his ear. “You’re welcome!”
Bucky growled, keeping his voice low, though it was already muffled and distorted by the mask. Steve was tellingly silent – probably scrambling to find a way to disguise his voice – or even scrambling to find out how this had gone to shit. “This isn’t your mission and I don’t need your backup.”
“Aww, c’mon, soldier,” Hawkeye chirped mournfully as from the stairwell, several black suited figures appeared. Bucky pulled out his guns. Hawkeye kept talking, an arrow occasionally moving through space that Bucky had previously occupied. “Everyone needs a little help once in a while. How do you think I’m still alive?”
Well, he wasn’t wrong. That’s why Bucky had Steve and – wait -
“That thing in New York?” Bucky paused, taking time to aim and shoot at an advancing figure even as his mind raced through a million things at once. There’d been rumors, but in this line of work, who really knew? “You mean, that was true? Wait, no, you appeared in Los Angeles a week later. No way those rumors are true. You’d have been in no condition to -”
“Backup, remember?” Another arrow went by his ear, but Bucky didn’t flinch. He was getting used to the sound and feel of the arrow going through the air. His gun clicked on empty and he dropped it, swinging about to punch a guy in the face. With his metal arm. That guys face was toast.
Bucky couldn’t help the low growling rumble rising in him. This was an in and out mission. A grab and go, leave no witnesses, get the proof they needed that these guys had been using his name. For all these guys to be right here…
Hawkeye was right. He’d been double crossed, and he knew it wasn’t Stevie. They’d been through too much together. And as much as he hated to admit it, he also knew it wasn’t Stark.
He stabbed the last guy viciously in the gut and let him drop to the ground, content in knowing he wouldn’t be getting back up anytime soon. Or ever. Taking a cautious look around, Bucky checked to make sure he didn’t leave any evidence, then searched the men for information. There wasn’t much and Bucky didn’t torture people. He’d been through that. Wasn’t his thing. But one guy was still awake.
After he finished questioning the man – which didn’t yield much in the way of results, scary reputation or no, so this guy must have really not known anything – Bucky backtracked around the bodies, pulling arrows from the corpses. He knew Hawkeye didn’t care. Didn’t police his ‘rounds’ even though they were so distinctive, but it had become a habit Bucky had picked up so long ago, he wasn’t even sure when it started anymore. He bundled them all together, except for the first one, the one that had probably saved his life.
He kept that one separate, tucking it inside his jacket. Back home, he had a small collection of Hawkeye’s arrows. The first one he’d ever found, and any arrow that had directly saved his life. As much as he hated that Steve made fun of him for it, but it was just professional admiration. Right?
If it came down to another fight, he’d probably snap it in half, but for now, that was good enough.
With Steve and Hawkeye in his ear, Bucky got himself the hell out of there.
Clint twirled the arrow as he leaned back against the headboard of his bed. Nat was at a computer with a glare on her face.
The mission had gone well. Self-mission, anyway. It wasn’t like they were getting paid for this. Still, they’d arrived, saved the day and Clint had not gotten a funny little twist in his gut when he’d noticed the Soldier pocketing all his arrows, tucking one of them away almost gently. N-o-o-ope. Not one bit.
Dropping the arrow somewhat guiltily, Clint pulled out his phone and opened a text message to Bucky. There was no chance of anything with the Soldier, not if either of them wanted to keep their anonymity intact. And not if he actually already had something going on with Bucky, however long it lasted. And Clint intended to enjoy it while it lasted.
Bucky was hot and thoughtful and Lucky had certainly taken a shine to him, if the other morning had been any indication.
::Hey, what’re u wearing?:: Clint typed out slowly. Despite all of Nat’s teasing and deliberate misunderstandings of his texts, it had been Bucky’s wildly off the mark reading of one Clint’s that had him trying a little harder to be coherent when texting. It was harder than it looked.
::Are you trying to ‘sext’ me?::
::What, u complaining? Besides, Nat dragged me out and I’m bored as fuck::
There was a pause before Bucky answered and Clint started second guessing everything. ::Normally, no, but now’s really not a good time::
Aww, sexting, no…. Clint pouted, but felt relieved at the same time. Sure sounded like Bucky was still interested, at least. ::Everything ok?::
::Not sure yet. Working on it. I’m sorry, but can I get back to you?::
Clint bit his lip and suddenly all his doubts were back. Bucky wasn’t trying to brush him off, right? Was he being too clingy? He’d thought everything had gone great the other night, but maybe Bucky hadn’t thought so.
“Stow that, lover boy,” Nat said. “We’ve got a conference call.”
Clint leaned forward. “Did you –“
She rolled her eyes at him. “Yes, I did. Voices are disguised. I’m not a novice, you know.”
The speakers crackled to life. “So it appears that I have a problem,” the voice said. “Thank you for the assist earlier tonight.”
That was the Soldier. Sounding a little different then he had earlier through Clint’s comms.
“Hey, no worries,” Clint said back. “And according to Widow, we both do.”
“Right. She said there was another person going around shooting arrows?”
“Well, another another person, but yeah.” Oh shit, he probably shouldn’t have said that, but fuck it, they needed to work together, right?
“I timeshare the name with my old apprentice. Doesn’t matter who’s doing the job, as long as it gets done and we’re both equally good. They still go through Widow, though, so we can keep tabs on what’s being done and when. Nobody else knows, so it also helps keep up the appearance of being… invincible.”
“So that’s how you were in Los Angeles after almost dying in New York?” The Soldier mused. “How bad was it?”
Clint shuddered. “Bad. Just… bad.” He didn’t like to think about those times. Nat glared at him, cleared her throat.
“Well, if that’s out of the way…”
“Yes,” said another voice, one neither Clint nor Nat had heard before. “Back to business. We’ve got people out there pretending to be us, and that’s a problem. We thought it was a simple matter of someone trading in on our reputations to get the good money, but if tonight’s escapade was a trap, then that’s not what’s going on.”
“Thing is, if this was a trap, how’d it get sprung? I mean, Widow found out about it among her sources, so…”
“That’s what worries me,” said the first voice. “Our tech guy found the info for us. And trust me, we know he didn’t betray us, so how did we walk into a trap and who exactly are we looking for?”
“Yeah, we need to hunt these guys down and… discourage them,” the Soldier said. Discourage, sure. Clint couldn’t help the grin that spread on his face at that, cracking his knuckles with a chuckle he hoped couldn’t be heard.
“It was HYDRA,” Nat said.
The other side of the call was eerily silent before the other voice broke back in. “We’ll call you back.”
The call disconnected straight away and left Nat and Clint staring at each other, bewildered. Something had happened, something bad. These guys knew who HYDRA was – a secret organization who worked from the shadows, by proxies, surviving by never letting anybody know who was pulling the strings - by name , and the possible reasons for that were… not good, frankly.
Clint would ask what they’d gotten themselves into, but, considering that the Soldier wasn’t the only mercenary with a moral they’d been impersonating…
They had a real problem.
Bucky couldn’t breathe.
Steve cut the call, while Bucky curled in on himself, holding his head in his hands, memories flooding through him. He’d been captured by HYDRA once, back in the early days, when he was still a newbie at the mercenary business. He’d been taken under Rumlow’s wing, learning the trade, the contacts, methods… and slowly, Rumlow had brought him in on bigger and badder things till Bucky had balked, drawing the line.
Budapest had happened under Rumlow’s watch. Fuck, that had been such a shitshow, but even then he hadn’t realized what Rumlow was really into, not until he’d gone out on a mission with Rumlow and become a prisoner of HYDRA.
Steve hadn’t known until then what Bucky was doing. He’d suspected, had tried to discreetly look into things, but when Bucky had gone missing, he’d given up on discrete and gone straight to his employer at Stark Industries.
Which was when they’d found out who Tony really was. The fact that Bucky owed his life, sanity and his arm to Stark was sometimes galling, but he was really fucking grateful when it all came right down to it.
That HYDRA was trying to get him back…
Bucky was fucking terrified.
And pissed as fuck. He wasn’t going to let this stand. He’d burn them to the goddamned ground if he had to…
His fists clenched around his head, pulling at his hair and slowly, slowly, he managed to breathe again, finally registering Steve’s words, Steve’s hands on Bucky’s. Steve was Bucky’s safe space. Always had been. He took a deep breath, then another, letting go of his head and straightening up. He nodded at Steve.
“Just do it,” Bucky croaked.
Steve stared at him another long moment before giving Bucky a nod back and sitting back down in front of the laptop. Within seconds, the call had picked back up.
“Everything okay?” Widow asked, her voice cautious. Bucky snorted. Everything was not okay.
“Maybe not so much,” Steve said slowly. “There’s some background you need to know…”
Bucky let Steve talk, unable to chime in with his heart still pounding like it was. He had the sudden insane desire, the unwise wish, that he was still asleep in bed, with Clint wrapped around him, threading fingers through his hair, drooling into his shirt…
He pulled out his phone and looked at the stream of text messages from Clint and breathed a little easier. He closed his eyes, tapped the phone to his forehead, took another deep breath and tuned back into the conversation.
“I think somebody needs to ask the question – “ Steve said slowly. “I was going to suggest that If we’re going to work together, shouldn’t we meet face to face first? Determine that you’re the real deal and not the fake? You could be HYDRA, pulling us in.”
“And just how are you going to do that?” Widow asked. There was no judgement there, just curiosity.
“Simple, I’ve met all of you,” Stark said over the com. Bucky jolted at the sound of Tony’s voice.
When the hell had he joined the call? Goddamn Tony Stark, hacking into anything and everything whenever the fuck he wanted. Except, Steve wasn’t even surprised and there was no outcry on the other end from Hawk or Widow, so maybe he’d joined when Bucky had been lost in his head?
And, wait, what was he… What the - ? Stark had worked with Hawkeye and Black Widow too? How had Bucky never known that? How many other mercenaries and vigilantes was Stark working with?
At least they knew he was trustworthy, as he’d never spilled even the slightest inkling that he knew the other team the few times it had come up in a professional capacity.
“It’ll be easy enough to verify,” Stark reiterated. “I’ve been working with both your teams for years. And Hawkeye, I think we both know who your impersonator has to be. You studied under the same guy and you two could pass for each other easily with a mask on.”
“Fuck, you’re right.” Hawkeye swore. “Trickshot.”
“Exactly. Trickshot. He does not have your pretty morals, Hawk,” Stark said.
“He wasn’t always…” Hawkeye trailed off with a dejected sigh.
“You don’t have to defend him just because he’s-“ Widow was cut off before she could finish and Bucky found himself leaning forward. He was what? Bucky dearly wanted to know.
“I get it,” Hawkeye bit out. “I know . You don’t have to remind me.”
Steve and Bucky traded looks. Then a sharp sound came over the call. If Bucky knew Stark at all, it was a clap. “Okay, an in-person meeting. How does my place, in two days sound? You all know my place is secure. I’m assuming from your current location that you can all get there in time?”
With a chorus of yes’s, the plans were finalized and Bucky and Steve logged off the call. Tonight sure had been a rollercoaster that Bucky still didn’t know how to feel about. But with two days, they could get back home with plenty of time for him to meet up with Clint for lunch or something before the meeting with Stark, Widow and Hawkeye. Being in Brooklyn again, in familiar surroundings and doing something as mundane as a date might help ground him.
Before he could second guess himself, Bucky had his phone in hand, composing a text to Clint. Clint answered almost immediately, eagerly agreeing to the idea, and relief tore through Bucky that he hadn’t put him off earlier.
Well, at least something was going right.
It was pushing it, but after he and Nat returned to New York, Clint went straight back to Bed-Stuy – ostensibly to check on his tenants and say hi to Lucky, if Kate hadn’t absconded with him at least, but also to meet up with Bucky.
He barely made it to the little café before Bucky walked in, taking in the atmosphere. As was usual for the kinds of places Clint found himself in, it was a bit eclectic with mismatched tables and chairs, dark wood paneling and old wood floors, with chandeliers made out of silverware hanging over some of the tables. The lighting was low as well, a few leather couches scattered about the place and the oddest assortment of art – landscape photography beside art nouveau prints next to band posters.
“Hey, you been waitin’ long?” Bucky asked as he drew near Clint, flashing him a smile. Clint wanted to melt under it, under his gaze. Suddenly, he wished they’d decided to meet back at one of their places.
Clint’s life was about to get really fucking busy and possibly even more dangerous than usual. He had no idea the next time he and Bucky would be able to get together.
He was already suffering withdrawal and Bucky was standing right in front of him. Oh god, Nat was gonna laugh her ass off. Clint was already in over his head, wasn’t he?
“Not long,” Clint said, almost breathlessly, staring at Bucky dumbly. He shook his head. Get it together, Barton. They stepped up to the counter together, Clint ordering a large coffee and a soup, bucky ordering a tea and a Reuben sandwich, then taking their orders toward a back booth when they were ready.
They ate in a strange, comfortable silence, stealing glances at one another, trading smiles, knees and feet touching. Clint could feel the heat from Bucky’s body seeping into his skin through the well worn jeans and couldn’t help the little blush at the memory of skin on skin.
Not that he’d seen all of Bucky, the other man being a bit gun-shy of showing his arm – an old injury, he’d said, from being in the service. He’d had a haunted look that Clint had more than recognized and Clint, with no few demons of his own, knew better than to push.
Clint had no shortage of things to chat about, what with the hijinks of his neighbors and particularly his dog, sending Bucky into chuckles and once, even, a full on laugh. Occasionally, Bucky would move or say something and Clint would find his eyes catching on him for different reasons. Huh, in this lighting, at this angle, Bucky really does remind me of the Soldier. Damn, I so have a type…
He refused to think of all the times he’d fantasized about how a real meeting with the Soldier would go, if it were face to face, with professional respect and mutual admiration melting into something more. That was in the past. Pre Bucky, so to speak.
This could work for him, as long as he didn’t fuck it up. Or the disappearing act he was maybe about to pull didn’t fuck it up. Who knew how long this hunt for HYDRA would take them.
After lunch, Bucky insisted on walking him back to his place, and Clint didn’t have the heart to tell him no, just as greedy for Bucky’s company as Bucky apparently was for his. All was going well, Bucky held Clint’s hand and Clint couldn’t wipe the dumb smile off his face. They stopped in front of his building and he turned, facing Bucky. Bucky reached out with his other hand, capturing both of Clint’s in his now and leaned in closer, eyes flickering down, then up.
Clint squeezed Bucky’s hands and nosed in, their lips gently brushing, electric –
And that’s when Clint’s luck once more decided to intervene. Because of course it did. Because of course this was the last precious minutes of time he had to spare to be with Bucky before the meeting he still needed to get to Manhattan for, so of course those fucking tracksuit thugs were making waves.
Right here, in front of Bucky, while Clint needed to maintain cover.
Bucky startled when Clint pushed back and the shouting began. “Run!” Clint said, pushing Bucky back a few steps. He was so surprised that he let Clint push him, though Clint seemed pretty strong himself.
“What the fuck?” Bucky spluttered.
“Hey, bro, you bring backup, bro? Why so lame, bro?” The one in front was talking, all of them looking at Clint menacingly and even sending a few glares Bucky’s way. Clint, he noticed, hadn’t even attempted to run.
“Clint, what’s going on?”
“Nothing. These guys were just leaving, weren’t you fellas?”
“Ain’t leavin’, bro. You stole from us.”
Clint snorted and crossed his arms over his chest. “I bought the building from you, fair and square. Go squat somewhere else.”
“Uh, Clint, these guys look fairly dangerous to me,” Bucky said, watching the advancing men closely. With a practiced eye, he sized them up. The thugs would be no match for the Winter Soldier, but they were still dangerous and he couldn’t exactly pull out the stops while being Bucky Barnes, while out in public.
“Nah, they’re harmless. They’re so pathetic they gotta beat on dogs and kick around women with kids,” Clint said, a sneer on his face.
“You really think it’s a wise idea to rile them up?” Bucky hissed, angling himself slightly in front of Clint and taking his arm to grab his attention. Not that approved of what they’d been doing either. Bucky would have made a stand too, in both those cases.
Already, he was calculating odds, weighing the force necessary to take out a handful of thugs without tipping anyone off. Not that he thought anybody in this neighborhood would make the connection, but the wrong cellphone video uploaded and seen by the wrong people – that would be all it took and his cover would be blown.
It was bad enough HYDRA was sending somebody out to impersonate him.
“You telling me to back down?” Clint asked, his glare shifting from the thugs to Bucky. “You think I should just let them terrorize the neighborhood?”
“No, of course not! I – “ Bucky hurried to explain. Obviously, his cautiousness - for perfectly good reasons that he couldn’t explain without outing himself - was being completely mistaken as something else, something undesirable.
Bucky broke off as movement caught his eye. The track suited men had gotten tired of being ignored and were now charging at him and Clint. There were only three of them, no guns but a couple of baseball bats and a lead pipe had made an appearance
Were these guys fucking serious?
Clint tripped the first guy and ducked the second while Bucky dodged, then close hangered the third guy, spinning to kick out at the first to make sure he went sprawling to the cement.
Despite his worry, it was – as Clint had predicted – pathetically easy. It was short work to knock the guys about so badly they’d turned tail and run, hurling insults behind them the whole way.
Clint was no longer glaring at Bucky, which was a plus, but now he just looked confused. Sighing, he shook his head and ran a hand through his short-cropped hair.
“Thanks for the assist, but you didn’t have to. I had it handled,” he said.
“Maybe, but I mean, is that a regular occurrence around here? Why haven’t you called the cops?” Bucky asked at Clint’s nod.
“Nah, they’re dumb as shit. Don’t need to haul in the big guns,” Clint said, looking away. There was something odd in his glance and then looked at his watch. “Hey, I gotta get going. I need to meet up with Nat and she’ll kick my ass if I’m late again.”
“Oh, right.” Bucky had heard of Nat. She sounded like Clint’s version of Steve. “Stay safe.” He paused, wanting to lean in and kiss Clint but unsure where they stood after their not quite an argument. Clint shifted away and Bucky backed up reluctantly.
This was why dating someone who didn’t know who you were was a bad idea.
“Okay, well, see ya ‘round, then,” Bucky said, a sick feeling hitting his stomach. Somehow, he had a feeling this might be the last time he saw Clint. If things didn’t go spectacularly bad clearing his name, if the time away didn’t put him off, the apparent – but incorrect – appearance of cowardice might.
Bucky couldn’t even blame him.
He turned and walked away. He had to be getting to Manhattan anyhow, and he still needed to grab Steve before he did.
Clint was feeling oddly disappointed as he watched Bucky walk away. He’d thought – no, it didn’t matter what he thought. Bucky had seemed reluctant to fight, but he had fought and Clint was no longer sure about anything.
Not that it mattered. He had to get going.
The flash of disappointment, of resignation, in Bucky’s eyes when Clint had effectively stalled a goodbye kiss – and what the fuck had he been thinking, passing off what could have been his last chance for that? – had made him second guess himself.
Fuck it. He had a meeting to go to. He quickly climbed the stairs, grabbed his bag, gave Lucky a belly rub and got moving. He hit the subway into Manhattan and walked the rest of the way, lost in his thoughts. Nat joined him a block out from Starks Tower and together they entered the lobby.
Already keyed in with the AI that pretty much ran the building, Nat and Clint were waved through to the back bank of private elevators. Nat eyed Clint as they boarded the elevator.
“Is that a new scrape on your jaw?”
“Clint…” she started, stopping when the elevator doors dinged and opened, dropping the subject – for now, but he knew it was only a matter of time before the line of questioning was open again.
Clint got two steps off the elevator when he froze – Stark wasn’t the only one there and it looked like Clint and Nat had been the last to arrive. Standing and turning from the plush couches that littered Starks floor was –
“ Bucky ?” Clint asked incredulously.
“Clint?” Bucky blinked back at him.
“Wait, what?” said the shorter blonde standing next to Bucky. “You two already know each other? No, hey, aren’t you that guy Bucky met at the coffee shop? Haven’t you two been going out on dates?”
Stark burst out laughing and Nat snorted softly beside Clint.
“Uh… “ Clint said, unable to get his thoughts in order. Why was Bucky here, in Starks Tower, when they were about to have a meeting with –
“Holy fuck! You’re the Winter Soldier?” Clint blurted.
Bucky blinked. “ Hawkeye?” he blinked again. “No, no this can’t be happening. You’re Hawkeye?”
Stark’s laughter had him doubled over but Clint was still too dumbfounded by the knowledge that Bucky and the Soldier were one and the same person.
“Oh, my, god… this is… this is comedy gold. You just… hahah, you just can’t make this shit up! You guys… you guys already know each other? Oh man… that’s just… whoo, you shoulda seen your faces!” Stark fell backwards onto the couch.
Wait, if Bucky was the Soldier, that would explain why he kept his arm hidden, even when they’d gotten a little ( a lot ) frisky. Bucky had just heavily implied some accident in his past with his eyes showing just how much he did not want to talk about it and Clint had gone right along with because, well, shit, he had plenty of his own scars and things he’d rather not talk about.
Especially to someone who wasn’t in the know.
Then there’d been all the scheduling conflicts on both their parts. In hindsight, it made so much sense, as well as the fact that Bucky hadn’t seemed too put off by Clint’s own. And, of fucking course, that’s why he’d been so uneasy about getting into anything with the tracksuit mafia earlier that day – it wasn’t that Bucky was a coward or some shit, he just couldn’t afford to draw attention to himself. Clint knew how that was, and he still stepped up to the plate when it mattered.
Clint stared at Bucky and Bucky stared back. Then something seemed to occur to Bucky, his eyes widening. “Oh, no fucking way. You never miss.”
“What?” Clint was thrown by the non sequitur. Of course he never missed. He was Hawkeye. What did that –
“Our first date. Those fucking dart games,” Bucky groaned, “Did I even stand a chance?”
“Dude, you made me work really damn hard for those games,” Clint assured him. “You’re no slouch yourself.” Clint blinked and let a slow smile work across his face. “Actually, now that our secrets are out, we should really have a rematch. You’re not legendary in the community for nothing, after all. I’d love a true test of skill.”
Bucky grinned back. “Hey, I may just take you up on that,” he said.
“As sweet as this all is,” Nat said, “We do have more important things to do.”
Steve, Nat and Tony did most of the planning. Which was good, because Bucky still couldn’t wrap his head around the idea that Clint and Hawkeye were one and the same person, and from the glances that Clint kept passing his way, he was maybe having the same problem.
On the one hand, the coincidence of this revelation was staggering.
On the other hand, it meant that maybe this… thing… between them, whatever it was, maybe it had a chance? Oh god, let it have a chance. Clint was funny, sexy as fuck and the night they’d spent together had been the best Bucky could remember in a long damn time. Add to that, his admiration of Hawkeye, and of his skill. The fact that they both were mercenaries with morals – which was almost unheard of in their line of work and sometimes a little difficult to work around – had always left Bucky with a lot of respect for Hawkeye.
Hawkeye had saved his life more than once, too.
Hell, Steve had teased him more than once about his crush on Hawkeye, though Bucky had denied the crush even to himself. But with Clint right here in front of him, with the knowledge that right now Bucky had a collection of specific arrows stashed away in his room, stored in one of the secret compartments he and Steve had created throughout their place, Bucky was finding it a hell of a lot harder to deny the truth of Steve’s statement.
Nor, he was finding, did he want to any longer.
“So that’s that, then,” Tony said suddenly and Bucky blinked, dragging his eyes away from Clint. Shit, what had been decided when he’d been too busy mooning over his maybe boyfriend? Steve and Widow – Nat , he reminded himself – were giving both Bucky and Clint knowing and exasperated looks. From the blush on Clint’s cheeks, Bucky’s sudden embarrassment was mutual.
Biting the bullet, Bucky reluctantly admitted to needing them to repeat the plan.
Steve was never gonna let Bucky live this down, was he?
This was a fucking mess.
Clint scrubbed his face with a sigh. Only two days ago, the four of them had been conference calling each other, with Steve (not Bucky. The Soldier had been noticeably silent) explaining the Soldiers history with HYDRA.
Bucky’s history. And ow, that shit hurt even more as Clint realized exactly how close to home all that trauma was. It was horrible stuff to have happened to anybody , much less a fellow mercenary you were on good terms with (and sometimes had a few fantasies about), but it was another level entirely when you realized that all that shit had happened to somebody you knew and cared for.
Steve’s voice, even through whatever tech he had used to modify it, had been rough with emotion, and Clint couldn’t blame either him or Bucky for how it had affected them.
HYDRA was bad news.
Which made him wonder – HYDRA was sending out impersonators of both the Soldier and Hawkeye. Was it part of some bigger scheme? Were they hoping to capture Clint (or Katie-Kate) too? Or had they been a red herring to throw folks off the trail in their effort to get Bucky back in their clutches?
Not that it mattered. Either way, even if they had no personal stake in Bucky’s situation, even if they were just collateral damage, Nat and Clint had to do something or they were sunk. While they normally stayed well away from HYDRA, that really wasn’t much of an option anymore.
And, to add fuel to the fire, the Soldier had turned out to be Bucky , of all people (Sue him, he might still be a bit flabbergasted about that). So Clint, at least, had even more reason to want to stop HYDRA.
Dammit. Bucky. Bucky was the soldier.
Clint still wasn’t sure what to make of that… it had only been a few hours since the revelation, but it wouldn’t stop turning ‘round and round in his head, full of disbelief at the odd coincidence because when were such things in his line of work ever just a coincidence?
But there was also an odd swirl of hope. Bucky had been just as much in shock, so Clint knew this wasn’t some ploy to expose or take advantage of him or anything. And that meant that Bucky now knew who he was and what he did. Clint wouldn’t have to lie to Bucky if they chose to pursue a relationship.
Hands shaking at the thought, Clint pulled his mask over his head, grimacing as it fell into place. He hated the feel of it on his face, how it felt like he had blinders on, despite designing it so it wouldn’t interfere with his sight. He’d never been caught, but technology was getting better all the time. He was sure Stark had satellites with enough hi definition zoom to pick his face out if they knew where to look and everyone’s phones these days seemed to be able to pick up things better than the cameras of only a few years ago, even without the telephoto lenses.
No need to take unnecessary chances.
After a lot of talk and a lot of planning – mostly between Nat, Tony and Steve, to be honest, as Clint and Bucky hadn’t been able to stop staring at each other in a mutual, stunned silence - they’d figured out a potential source to go after.
Now here they were, on the outskirts of DC, and Clint couldn’t believe this was happening. At least it wasn’t a big fucking skyscraper, but it was still plenty big enough to hold way more people then Clint was comfortable with. They’d be going in at night, which was good, because the sightlines would have them screwed with all that bare ground around it.
But they were four people against however many folks were inside the building, with no guarantee that the majority of them went home at night. This wasn’t a grab and go. This was a smash and burn.
This had the potential to go really bad, really fucking fast.
Nat and Bucky would be going inside, Clint would be backup, ready to go in if they needed him. Steve was… well, Bucky had tried to get him to stay back with Clint but apparently that had been a lost cause, so he’d be going in with Bucky.
Clint wished they’d had time to call Katie-Kate back, or that Stark hadn’t been detained by very visible, very public commitments. He’d rather be in there too, watching everyone’s back. Not like he wasn’t still watching their backs from out here, but he’d rather be on hand, just in case shit hit the fan.
An explosion hit the entrance.
Bucky was amazed at how flawlessly Widow seemed to fit in with him and Steve. Steve wasn’t as skinny and small as he used to be, either, now that he wasn’t so sick all the time, though he was still smaller than her. But Steve was good at taking advantage of things, and this was no different, his size allowing him to creep up on people who weren’t expecting him.
Which was good. Bucky fought big, fought large, keeping the attention on him, and Nat and Steve flowed around him, around the edges, taking people by surprise. Occasionally, even inside the building, an arrow would whizz through the air. Bucky grinned. Hawkeye – Clint (Fuck, Bucky still couldn’t get over that) - hadn’t wanted to sit back, hadn’t wanted to let his partner go in alone, but he was making the most of it and Bucky was impressed - as usual - at the skill he had.
He didn’t think even he could have aimed through a random open window and into the thick of a fight from a completely different building. Sniping an unsuspecting target was one thing, firing into the constantly shifting mass of bodies was something else entirely.
They made their way through the building, floor by floor, their advantage of surprise long gone. Steve was laying charges as they went, linked to a remote Clint held. Nat stopped occasionally at a computer, withdrew something and moved on.
When they got to the top floor, Bucky wasn’t surprised to find the way blocked by Rumlow and his squad. Rumlow grinned, slow and awful. Bucky’s stomach dropped, but he refused to show it.
“Well, well, well, look who’s come home to roost,” Rumlow drawled out. “Looks like our plan to draw you out, bring you home where you belonged not only worked, but you brought friends for us to play with, too.”
The guy next to him frowned, looking around at the group. “Half worked. Someone’s missing…”
Bucky’s eyes narrowed. So HYDRA had been after more than him. They wanted Clint too. Hawkeye. Stark had even mentioned a name –
“Trickshot,” Nat snarled. “I knew you’d sunk low, but this is…”
A growl came over the comms and Bucky had to hold back the flinch.
“Where is that sonuvabitch?”
Bucky’s eyes flicked around the anteroom they were in and noted how Trickshot was well out of the window sightlines. Smart. Bucky grinned behind his own mask. But maybe he could draw him out into range for Clint to take a shot.
“Ah, Widow… and where is my little brother hiding anyway? Or did you finally get tired of him and throw him to the wolves? Trade in for better partners?”
Trickshot had barely stopped speaking before Nat was surging forward and that was the jolt Bucky needed to shake himself out of his shock and spring into motion a half second behind her. He could deal with the revelation of Trickshot and Hawkeye being related later.
Despite the numbers being more even this time around then it had been throughout the rest of their rampage through the building, the battle was tougher, harder fought. Rumlow had always been good and Bucky wound up facing off with him himself, while Nat was dodging around Clint’s brother with lightning strikes. Bucky lost sight of Steve and almost panicked before another agent suddenly went down to reveal Steve behind him, looking a little out of breath but none the worse for wear otherwise.
Close quarters such as this at least meant that Trickshot wasn’t using his bow and the other HYDRA agents were disciplined enough not to discharge guns and Bucky grinned, thinking they’d gained the upper hand.
When another man appeared in the doorway across the room from them, gray suited, hands in his pockets, Bucky’s gaze was caught and dragged away from Rumlow. Strangely, Rumlow didn’t pursue the opening Bucky’s inattention gave him. The older man looked familiar in a way that made Bucky stumble and the unworried look on the mans face made the cold feeling in the pit of his stomach return.
A voice came over the PA and this time Bucky froze as every joint in his body locked up.
“Shit, shit, shit.” He could hear Steve panting and cursing from somewhere behind him as the unknown voice continued to speak, words that painted pictures in his brain… memories… orders… conditioning…
Oh god, no, Bucky thought frantically, trying to move, to fight. But every move he tried to make only felt like he was stuck in molasses, slow and impossible.
“Shut down the PA!” someone shouted.
Glass broke and something whizzed by Bucky’s face, something long, purple and familiar and there was static as the overhead voice stopped. Bucky felt his knees go weak and he stumbled back, breathing hard and glancing around frantically.
Had he – but no, he’d only frozen, he hadn’t turned on his friends as he’d feared. Relief flooded him just as he realized the arrow that had silenced the speaker was attached to a lightweight black cord and Rumlow was heading straight for it with a knife.
Bucky launched himself at Rumlow, pulling his own knife out of the sheath on his thigh and flipping it for a better grip, better angle. Rumlow lurched back just in time to fend him off and Bucky pressed his advantage.
The fight was hard – he’d gotten better since the last time he’d fought Rumlow, but he was still shaky, wobbly to his core from the words they’d used against him, programmed him to listen to. They needed to end this, and soon. The longer they were trapped here, the longer this battle was prolonged before they reached their real objective, would only mean more people joining the fight.
A slash of the knife sliced through the sleeve of his flesh arm – Rumlow knew better than to go after Bucky’s left one – and Bucky gritted his teeth, whirling and slashing his own knife at Rumlow’s face. Around him, Nat and Steve fought –
And a body crashed through the window, shattering it completely, already weakened as it was by the arrow that had punched through it only seconds - moments? – earlier. It slammed into Rumlow with enough force to send him flying far past Bucky and giving him a second or two to breath, and take stock of the situation.
Hawkeye rolled, bow coming up and letting loose another arrow.
Straight at his brother.
Whom Nat was keeping so busy that he’d had no chance to dodge. A net exploded from the tip and wrapped its way around Clint’s brother, who snarled, whipping his head around to face him. He opened his mouth and Nat slapped him upside the head, her hands holding an arc of electricity. Trickshot eyes rolled up and his body slumped to the ground.
Nat nodded briefly at Clint, who nodded back and the two threw themselves back into the battle. Bucky shook his head. He should do the same. He scanned the battle and saw plenty of openings but then his eyes locked on the other man, the one across the room, still standing in the doorway with that bored look of his.
Pierce, his brain suddenly supplied and Bucky shuddered. Pierce was the one in charge here. Pierce had been the one responsible for what had happened to Bucky. For the things he’d made Bucky do.
Bucky swept forward through the combatants, making his way unerringly toward Pierce. He didn’t notice as the sounds of battle died behind him, didn’t notice Clint, Nat or Steve falling into step with him, one by one, as the rest of the agents went down.
He did notice the air of nervousness that suddenly surrounded Pierce and Bucky couldn’t help the immense satisfaction that ran through him when Pierce suddenly backed up a step. Then two.
Then Bucky was on him. it took only one punch with his metal arm to knock Pierce out. He could have killed him. Probably should have, but they had other plans for him.
Steve was instantly at his elbow as soon as Bucky slung an unconscious and bound Pierce over his shoulder.
“Hawkeye’s got Trickshot and Widow’s frogmarching Rumlow. Fury pinged me – he, Hill and Coulson are waiting to take the lot of them. Coulson has men sweeping the building to make sure it’s empty, then we’re good to blow it. Take out all the labs, all the brainwashing research – all of it.”
Bucky grunted. Iron Man hadn’t been able to come in person, but he’d done what he’d said he would – using his extensive contacts to make arrangements. Bucky had never worked for Fury or his people himself, but the man had a reputation that Bucky mostly trusted.
They made their way out of the building together, in silence.
There’d be plenty of talking later.
Clint stared at his brother through the glass of the holding cell Fury had put him in. Trickshot was staring into space blankly in a way that was overly concerning. When Tony had first suggested it, Clint hadn’t wanted to believe it, but here he was.
Footsteps approached him in the long hallway. Without looking, Clint realized it wasn’t Nat, whom he’d expected, but Bucky.
“They haven’t finished running the tests but,” Bucky finally said, breaking the silence, “But he’s got the look about him.”
Clint turned to face him. “The look?”
Bucky shuddered. “Brainwashing. Mind control. Whatever he was doing… it wasn’t him.”
Clint’s stomach rolled and he swallowed. Of course, Bucky would know. Jesus. But Bucky wasn’t even looking at him and Clint noticed how tense he was, how on edge.
He expected Clint to judge him. Judge him for the things he’d done when he’d been in Barney’s place. But Clint – he couldn’t do that to Bucky or Barney. Or to anyone, really, who’d been caught in the same trap they had.
“Fury offered us a job,” Clint said instead, bumping his shoulder with Bucky’s.
“Yeah, us too,” Bucky said.
“Think you’ll take it?”
“I mean, I dunno. That’s a lot of oversight, people telling me what to do, what jobs to take. I like making my own choices.”
Clint nodded. He could see that, especially after HYDRA had tried – not once, but twice – to take Bucky’s choices away. “On the other hand, we get backup and support whenever we need it. Like tonight. And, real paid vacation. Not to mention, peers that we don’t actually have to lie to on a regular basis.”
“I can think of a few I don’t have to lie to these days, even if I don’t take Fury’s offer,” Bucky said, a new tension rolling into his shoulders.
“Oh yeah?” Clint said, “Y’know, now that I’m thinkin’ ‘bout it, I got a few new folks that come to mind. One in particular is… pretty special, as a matter of fact.”
Tentatively, he reached out, snagging Bucky’s hand with his and giving it a squeeze.
“Yeah?” Bucky asked, his voice gone hoarse, thick with emotion.
“Mmmhmm,” Clint hummed, brushing his thumb along the back of Bucky’s hand. He slid a look over to find Bucky blushing, a small smile nevertheless tugging at the corners of his mouth. Suddenly, Bucky tugged on Clint’s hand, turning to face Clint fully. Bucky’s other hand came up to cup Clint’s cheek.
“We take the offer or not, what we do is dangerous,” Bucky pointed out. “We start this, one day one of us might wake up to the other being dead or worse.”
“Maybe so, Buck, but I do good,” Clint shrugged. “The world could do with a bit more of that, regardless of the means. So, I plan to do so as long as I physically can. Wouldn’t mind if you did it by my side.”
“Y’know, doll, I think I might just take you up on that,” Bucky breathed, seconds before slotting his mouth over Clint’s in a deep kiss.