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Learning To Say Hello

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Clint glanced up from cleaning his bow with a frown. He’d had a thought he probably should’ve had a while ago. “Hey Barnes?” Bucky looked up from the other end of the couch, lowering the book he was reading (Tolstoy, purposefully trying to fill a stereotype, if you asked Clint) and raised an eyebrow. “Uh, why are you here?” Clint asked bluntly.

Bucky frowned slightly. “You haven’t asked me to leave?” he offered, sounding unsure of himself.

Clint nodded. “Yeah, no, that’s cool, I don’t mean ‘get out’ or anything,” he said with a dismissive wave. “I mean like, why did you come here? To me, not like…” Clint nodded at the picture of all of the Avengers having a hot dog eating contest he had on the side table. “Somewhere with somebody that’s a real adult and stuff.” (Though seeing what the picture was of maybe ‘real adult’ was debatable for the whole group.)

Clint had woken up one morning about three weeks ago (Well, Clint guessed about three. Definitely more than one. Maybe.) and stumbled down to the living room only to realize there was a guy on his couch. The guy just happened to be the Winter Soldier, who Clint knew was actually Steve’s old best friend, Bucky Barnes.

Barnes had been having a staring contest with Lucky (one eye shut, to make it fair, Clint had noticed) and Clint had decided to just leave him to it and make decisions after he’d had some coffee. The first few days Bucky didn’t say anything, but Clint made sure to leave a clean towel and some clothes out and checked to make sure food was going missing (and just presumed Bucky was eating it, not feeding it to Lucky). After about a week, he started to interact with Clint, and it turned out he was kinda hilarious. Clint totally dug comparing weaponry (not a euphemism, thank you very much, they really did talk guns and bows and various other tools of the trade) and within a few days, Clint started teaching Bucky about modern TV and the wonders of Dog Cops and that has pretty much filled the time since Bucky showed up.

Now, however, Clint had an epiphany three weeks late (or something) that he never had bothered to ask why Bucky chose Clint’s apartment to hang for a few weeks. (Unless Nat decided Clint needed a babysitter and Bucky was secretly there to watch Clint, not for Clint to watch him.)

Bucky shrugged, tucking a stray strand of hair that had fallen from his bun (Clint totally remembered how to do ladies hair like he had learned in the circus and it came in handy) as he glanced at the book. “Reminded me of the building me and Steve lived in before the war.”

Clint grumbled. “I’m fixin’ shit up, it just takes time, ya know?”

Bucky shook his head. “Nah, not like that, you got plumbing that works in here, that’s already a big step up.” He nodded to the window. “We lived in a building in that was barely a building, but the way this one looks on the outside, that’s what ours looked like.” He tilted his head faintly. “And I always liked Bed-Stuy. My family lived in the slums in Williamsburg, but Steve lived in Red Hook so we’d meet up at Prospect Park sometimes so I’d come through these parts.” He snorted softly. “Was one of the better areas back then.”

Clint raised an eyebrow. “How’d you and Steve meet then? I always figured you lived in the same neighborhood.”

Bucky shook his head, a small smile playing around his lips (and God he looked funny smiling… and a little hot, but Clint shut that line of thought down immediately). “I actually met Steve when we was both out of our normal places.” He closed his book on his finger, leaning back some. “Pops delivered machine parts and sometimes his boss would let ‘em take me with him. He got to drive a delivery truck and that was the highlight of my month, gettin’ to ride in it with him.” The mental image of Bucky as a child riding in a truck suddenly gave Clint the image of Lucky when he went for a ride and hung his head out the window. “Well he was takin’ some stuff to Hell’s Kitchen and I really wondered about what all the fellas said. I wondered if the Irish Mob stuff was true-“

“Whoa, are you about to tell me Steve’s parents were mobsters?” Clint asked, then grinned scarily. “Please say yes.”

Bucky snorted. “No.” (Clint couldn’t hold in a pout. He’d gotten excited at that thought.) “Anyways, I went walking around while my father was unloading the truck and it was the slums man, looked even worse than our place in Williamsburg. I was heading back to where my old man was waitin’ and I heard somebody fighting. I figured I’d see what was goin’ down, you know how it is, curiosity and all.” Bucky grinned. “This skinny little kid was getting the life beat out of him by these two bigger boys, but every time one of ‘em kicked him down, he’d drag his scrawny ass back to his feet and raise his fists again.” He shook his head. “I came up on ‘em, told them to pick on somebody their own size, but I guess since they didn’t know me, they was scared I had a knife on me, so they just run off.”

Clint smiled. “And Steve thanked you for saving his ass?”

“Ha!” Bucky barked out a laugh. “Hell no! What them fellas I knew said about the Irish is true, they’re firecrackers. Steve was a little guy but he had all that Irish fire in him and worse, he was stubborn as a mule. He was bleeding all over his shirt and couldn’t open one eye, but he still marched up to me, looked up at me – he came to about my chest – and started yellin’ at me for interrupting his fight.”

Clint snorted. “Somehow I can very easily picture that. Rogers doesn’t give an inch when he makes up his mind.” Clint turned back. “So what happened? How’d you end up friends?”

“Steve told me he’d come to deliver some medicine his Ma had managed to get to this old lady that had been on the ship with her and Steve’s father when they came over. She’d kept in touch with a lot of people from then and she’d help them out since she had a job and a lot of these people were old.” He blew his hair out of his eyes. “This was before the depression, but old folks in poor slums didn’t have much even then.” He shrugged. “Steve let slip he didn’t have anybody to look after him until he got home, and I asked him where he lived, thinking it was a few streets over, but he said Red Hook. I talked to Pops and showed him how pitiful Steve looked, all bloody and banged up, and he let Steve ride back to Brooklyn with us and we had some time, so he drove him all the way to his street.”

Clint smirked suddenly. “You pestered him into being friends with you, didn’t you?”

Bucky smirked. “Damn straight I did. You don’t meet a little guy with such a big attitude and not come back.”

Clint’s mood dimmed some. “You moved in with him after his mom died, right?”

Bucky sighed and nodded solemnly. “Sarah Rogers was a strong woman, she raised Steve all by herself and kept a job even when men couldn’t get work cause she was a nurse and people didn’t want to be nurses, but they despised her for working instead of marrying a man to work instead. Steve’s father died when he was a baby in the war, and his Ma was a hell of a lady. Steve was sick all the time, but other than a healthy body, he never wanted for nothin’. She made sure he had food and got an education and always had nice, neat clothes, no matter how cheap the fabric was. She was smart and raised a smart kid,” he said with a distant fondness. “She died when Steve was twenty-three and he never could keep a job as sick as he was, and I had a job at the docks to help out at home, but my father was still working and without me, that’d be one less mouth to feed, so I figured if he wouldn’t come live with us, I’d get us a place and take care of him.”

Clint gestured around them. “Hence the slum?”

Bucky made a derisive sound. “Two room apartment, bedroom and a living room and kitchen, shared bathroom for the whole floor with no hot water. No icebox in the whole building, forget a telephone in building like a lot of ‘em had, windows that wouldn’t open far enough for a breeze in the summer but wouldn’t shut all the way in the winter, bare bulb lights… all the luxuries of ‘at least we’re not in the Hooverville two blocks away’,” he said with a flourish.

Clint grinned. “I actually got ya beat,” he said and Bucky raised an eyebrow. Clint gestured around him. “First permanent home I’ve ever had in my life.”

“No shit?” Bucky asked, and Clint nodded.

“Yep. I mean, when I was real little we had a house – I’m from Iowa – but my folks beat the shit out of us, then when me and my brother got out – cause my parents died – we got booted from orphanage to foster home to orphanage. Then we ran away and joined the circus.” He shrugged. “You had no hot water, but we didn’t even have clean water all the time. I mean we had some to drink, but bathing? More like dip a rag in the horse trough and scrub down. Slept in the trailer we hauled the elephant’s food in when we were on the move, slept in the horse tent when we were performing.”

Bucky hummed. “What about since?”

“On the move since I was a teenager,” Clint said. “Then when SHIELD got me, they gave me a bunk at base. I had a ‘room’ after a while when things got good, but it was more like a cot, a desk, a chair, and a bathroom. Wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t a home.” He spread his arms along the back of the couch. “Now I’ve got my own building,” he said proudly.

Bucky chuckled. “You sound like Steve,” he said, shaking his head. “He got his own tent after he got to Europe, so he’d gloat about finally having a bed he didn’t have to share.”

Clint raised an eyebrow. “You moved in with him in your twenties and you shared a bed?” he asked, and Bucky shrugged.

“Didn’t have to buy a second bed, was warmer in the winter, didn’t have to buy extra blankets.” He looked down, clearing his throat. “Besides. Steve was tiny enough he wasn’t nothing, really. If I didn’t sleep with an arm around his waist to keep him from falling out of the bed, wouldn’t have ever even noticed him there.”

Clint’s eyes widened with unrestrained glee. “Captain America was the little spoon,” he whispered almost reverently. “Yeeeeeeesssss.” It was the best mental image ever. STEVE the little spoon. (Oh God, he had information nobody else on earth had. It was great! Clint couldn’t wait to tell Phi- oh.) Clint swallowed hard, squashed down that thought into the box of Things Clint Never Ever Thinks Of before fixing a smile on his face. “So Bucky.” He wiggled his eyebrows. “Little spoon, man. Seems to me you and ol’ Cap’n Fancy Pants got real close, if you know what I’m saying.”

Bucky looked up sharply. “What do you-“

Clint held up his hands. “Not that it’s a problem. It’s totally cool!” Clint hesitated. “You… do know that’s cool, right?” Bucky gave him a suspicious look. Clint gestured between them, then thought better. “Uh, the- the men thing.” He made a complicated hand gestured. “You know, peg b into slot a and all that? It’s totally fine.”

“Barton, what the hell was that, are you building furniture in your mind?” Barnes asked, looking at his hands curiously.

Clint sighed. “Oh for fucks sake- Look, it’s the twenty-first century. Men being with men and women being with women, all that stuff? It’s fine now. I mean some people are still asshats – mostly Republicans, they really suck – but like…” He shrugged. “I was in love with a man,” he admitted, once again shoving those emotions way, way down.

Bucky looked around the room, almost like he expected somebody to overhear. “Wait, so men who- homosexuals? That’s? It’s okay?” he asked, looking curiously hopeful.

“Yeah, Bucky,” Clint said with a gentle smile. “I mean, it’s not just that, there’s a whole bunch of different ‘insert word here’-sexual things. I don’t know ‘em all, don’t really care. Way I see it, you love somebody – or hey, maybe you just wanna fuck somebody, whatever – cause you just do. It ain’t no different than liking blondes. Some guys like blonde hair. Some guys like penises,” Clint finished simply.

Bucky chuckled in surprise. “Damn. This future thing doesn’t sound too bad,” he said and Clint grimaced.

“Yeah, well, don’t get too optimistic. Lots of other things still totally suck,” he said bluntly.

Bucky raised an eyebrow. “Brainwashed assassin you’re talking to. Trust me, I know.”

Clint smiled sadly. “I know how you feel, man. I mean obviously mine was a few days, not a few decades, but still. It sucks.” (God did it ever suck, even all this time later)

Bucky just turned back to his book, eyes shutting down some. Clearly the conversation was over. Clint could take a hint.

(Shut up, he could.)

~

Clint came in from target practice on the roof and stopped immediately when he saw Bucky looking at a photo Clint had purposefully left face down in his go-bag where he never had to look at it, but wouldn’t lose it either. “Is this him?” Clint shook out of his reverie and saw Bucky was looking at him. He waved the photo. “The guy? You said you loved a man…”

Clint deflated some, nodding sadly. He walked over, laying his bow on the arm of the couch as he sat down, eyes still on the photo. “Coulson- Phil.” It was the only photo of Coulson he had. It was him, Natasha, and Phil all dirty except for white rings around their eyes from the sand goggles they’d taken off just before someone snapped the photo with Natasha’s camera (Clint forgot who). They’d had the craziest mission – not dangerous, not confusing, just very weird – that involved riding camels in the desert, throwing grenades at dunes to try and cause sand explosions and blind their pursuers, and ended in Phil throwing a snake at the guys face, where it bit him and he immediately surrendered so they would get him to a hospital to stop him from dying.

Bucky hummed. “Looks like he’s old.”

Clint swallowed past a lump in his throat. “He wasn’t- He was in his forties.” He reached out and touched the picture. “Would’ve been fifty this year.”

Bucky looked at him. “Ah. I see.”

“I didn’t do it,” Clint said out loud, more for himself than Bucky. Bucky looked at him funny and he smiled tightly. “Brainwashing. I didn’t do it, but it- I gave the information that- to make it happen. So I just have to remind myself that I didn’t kill him.”

Bucky looked at the photo, biting his bottom lip in hesitation. “Do- does that work?” he asked and Clint shrugged.

“Worth trying?” he suggested.

Bucky nodded. “So. Tell me about him. And the girl – that’s Steve’s friend. The one with the zappy things.” He waved a wrist and Clint nodded with a smile.

“Natasha. She’s awesome. Totally my best friend. I brought her home from an op and Phil let me keep her as long as I fed her and took her for walks,” he joked and Bucky snorted. He looked at Phil’s smile in the photo and for a moment Clint almost forgot to suck back the overwhelming urge to cry. (He really fucking hated his eyeballs when they decided it was time to start leaking. It was just annoying.) “He was my superior. He was the first person to ever take a chance on me. He listened when everybody else told me to shut up.”

Bucky nodded. “So… you’re like that? A- what’s it called these days?” he asked.

“Gay?” Clint asked, then shook his head. “No way. Phil’s the only man I ever had feelings for. Only one I ever wanted to be with.” He winked flirtatiously at Bucky. “I can appreciate a handsome guy, but doesn’t mean I’d wanna kiss one.”

Bucky hummed and nodded to himself. “Interesting. So what’s that one?”

Clint shrugged. “I guess bisexual? Don’t know really. It was only women and Phil for me. So don’t really feel like going with a label. I like women and Phil. No need to decide what box that puts me in.”

“I get that,” Bucky said, eyes soft as he touched the photo’s edge lightly. “Sorry about your fella,” Bucky muttered and Clint smiled.

“Wasn’t ever mine, but thanks anyways.”

Bucky frowned. “I thought that- it’s okay now, so why not?”

Clint chuckled. “Being gay is fine, but that doesn’t change the way that, since the beginning of time, there have been sad saps like me that fall for somebody who has somebody else.”

Bucky cringed. “Ah. I see.” He snickered. “I got in the worst trouble goin’ with girls who already had boyfriends, I didn’t have that problem really.”

“Harlot!” Clint gasped mockingly. He chuckled. “Nah, Phil had a lady. She was actually pretty amazing, so I wouldn’t have done that even if he did feel the same for me. Her name’s Audrey. They were great together.” He shook his head. “She was what Phil deserved, so I was happy for them. He deserved to be happy and she made him happy.”

“That’s what my sister said when she found out about me and Steve,” Bucky said, and Clint raised an eyebrow. Bucky blushed some. “Well, you assumed as much the other day, no reason to deny it.”

Clint smirked. “Well, well, well. I think I just won a bet about whether or not Captain America is a virgin,” he said smugly.

Bucky shot him an incredulous look. “Seriously? Why the fuck would anybody think that?”

“The stories say he wasn’t popular with the girls, none of them ever liked him, he’d never get dates, then it’s not like he had time to get it on with Peggy Carter in the middle of a damn war, and he sure as hell hasn’t shown any interest in anybody at all since he got defrosted,” Clint said with a shrug. “My bet was not a virgin, though.” He snickered. “Didn’t count on you, but I figured everybody was forgetting the fact he was touring the country with twenty beautiful women who probably didn’t have many men around and all wanted to climb him like a tree. I bet if he’d wanted to, he could’ve had at least a few of the showgirls desperate for sex.”

Bucky bit his lip. “He… he hasn’t gone out with anybody since he woke up?” he asked with a frown. “It’s been years since he woke up.”

Clint nodded. “Yeah, but he’s… well, I don’t know why, really.” He shrugged. “When he woke up, he seemed pretty well-adjusted, but Nat says I don’t know him so I don’t realize how different he’s been since the whole ‘Avengers’ thing. She says he’s actually really sarcastic. Which is very surprising.”

“Hell yeah, he is,” Bucky said with a snort. “Told you, smartass with too much attitude to fit that tiny body he had.” He gave Clint a sad smile. “So he hasn’t been doin’ to well, huh?”

Clint shrugged. “He wasn’t. For the first year at least he seemed alright but going by what Nat knows now, she says he was pretty much a giant ball of anger and pretty depressed. She worked with him for about a year real close and said he was a lot funnier and more fun to be around.” He shook his head. “Since DC though, he’s been bad. Really bad.” Bucky ducked his head. “Guilt mostly. I think he blames himself for what all happened to you-“

“I know he does,” Bucky grumbled, running a hand over his face. “Dumb punk, of course I’m the one that murdered dozens of people over seventy years and he blames it on himself.”

Clint looked at him closely. “Well how much different is him blaming himself from you blaming yourself?”

Bucky looked at him like he was insane. “I was the one pulling the trigger. Or slitting throats. Or smothering people-“

“Yeah, but you weren’t the one behind the wheel,” Clint argued. “You weren’t being Bucky Barnes. You were controlled and tortured if you didn’t listen. How is blaming yourself much different from Steve blaming himself for not going back to look for your body or for not catching you in the first place or for asking you to be on his team-“

“Fine, I get your point,” Bucky grumbled. “It kills me Steve’s spent the last few years angry at everything, then when things were finally looking up, he’s guilty over me.” He sighed, rubbing a hand over his eyes. “And not making friends outside of work, never going out, not enjoying the fuckin’ future. Jesus, Steve.”

Clint shrugged. “He… well Sam? Sam was a friend outside of work. I think he tried to get to know his neighbor, but she was secretly a SHIELD agent anyways.” He smirked. “Don’t think I missed the way you deflected the ‘me and Steve’ confession with PTSD.” (Not that he minded, Bucky clearly had some issues. Like… Tony sized issues. That was serious levels of issues.)

Bucky smirked. “What, you think men makin’ time with other men is a new invention, young man,” he joked, but his eyes showed a sadness that his words couldn’t hide. (Man, Clint was getting better at these ‘emotion’ things. Hard to believe he once didn’t even know he had a girlfriend until she dumped him.)

“You said your sister found out?” Clint asked, and Bucky nodded.

“Yeah, yeah she did.” He grimaced. “Man, for a minute I thought we were done for.” He rubbed a hand over his face. “She came over one morning after we’d been out late and I was hung over. Steve had already got up and he had let her in, but I didn’t know it. She was sitting on the couch, but the bedroom door opened facing the kitchen, so I didn’t see her when I got to the doorway and I leaned against the wall and said, ‘Stevie why’re you up? Come back to bed, it’s too early to do anything that involves clothes’ and well… Rebecca heard what I said, obviously.” He shook his head. “Steve looked like he was about to pass out and Rebecca gasped and I looked that way finally and when I saw her, she looked like she was about to cry. She started to get up and leave and I panicked and ran after her. I caught her in the hall and started rambling and she shut me up and said that if I didn’t shut up, somebody might hear, and she didn’t want me to go to jail so I’d best shut my mouth.” He smiled sadly. “She never talked about it. She never asked me or Steve anything, she never said anything to anybody else, but one day when I was visiting my folks and told them I had to go home early since Steve was sick she followed me outside and just looked at me and said, ‘All I want is for you to be happy, Bucky, and if you’re happy, I’m happy for you.’” He grinned. “She didn’t say what she meant, but I knew it was me and Steve.”

“Awwww,” Clint said, smiling. “That’s sweet.” He sighed. “Man, I need a girlfriend. Or just a friend that’s a girl. I like girls. They’re nice. Well, besides Natasha, she’s not very nice.” (Natasha was mean and teased Clint for everything. She was awesome, but far from nice.)

Bucky just rolled his eyes. “Last week you said your friend who was a girl ran off with your dog and you had to go hunt her down to get him back. Clearly not all girls are nice. Not the best generalization to make.”

Clint hummed contemplatively. “This is true.” (It was. Damn Kate. Some friend she turned out to be.) “Fine, I need nice people in my life, not asshole superheroes and mopey superheroes. Basically I need friends who aren’t superheroes.”

Bucky grinned. “Well you got a supervillain now, does that help?”

Clint grumbled and stood up. “Your jokes aren’t funny, Barnes,” he muttered as he walked away.

(… okay it was funny, but it was depressing, so it didn’t count.)

~

Clint was drunk.

Well maybe.

Probably.

A little at least.

He looked at his beer bottle closely (because it had clearly betrayed him). “You’re not supposed to make me drunk,” he accused.

“Huh?” Clint looked up and saw Bucky looking at him funny, his own beer in his hand. “Say something, Barton?”

Clint sighed. “Nothing.” He looked at Bucky. “Hey Bucky?” he asked, looking at Bucky’s metal arm in all its glory since Bucky was just wearing a muscle shirt. “Why aren’t you the Winter Soldier anymore? I mean, what made you remember?” he asked, curious and too drunk for tact. (Not that he had a lot normally.)

Bucky picked at the label on his beer bottle. “Steve,” he muttered. He looked straight ahead, leaning back into the couch cushions, legs stretching out on the coffee table. “When I fought him on that bridge, I saw his face. I saw him before but it was dark. But when I saw him on the bridge I just… I knew him.” He shrugged. “I didn’t know who he was. I just knew I knew him.” He snorted. “He saw my face and said ‘Bucky?’ and I didn’t know who ‘Bucky’ was. I had no clue who I was. I didn’t know my own damn name until later.” He flinched. “When I told them I knew him, they wiped my brain again. I forgot him again. But then when I saw him the next time, again, I knew him.” He smiled to himself. “Steve kept telling me my name. He kept saying who I was, but I didn’t know who James Barnes was. I didn’t know who Bucky was. I didn’t know who he was, but I knew him,” Bucky stressed.

Clint hummed. “How though? Why do you think you knew Steve but didn’t know your own name?”

“Easy,” Bucky said, sighing heavily. “Even when I didn’t have anything, not a cent to my name, not a hope in the world, I always had Steve.” He smiled over at Clint. “Steve used to say we were the richest bastards in Brooklyn where it counted, because no matter how poor we got, we’d have each other, and that’s what mattered. ‘A belly full of food doesn’t hold a candle to a heart full of love’.” He snorted, taking another drink of his beer. After he swallowed he groaned. “He was such a sap sometimes, which was so contrary to the little shit he was all the rest of the times.” He shrugged. “Other than Steve, after what happened, I went and saw that exhibit to confirm I really was Bucky Barnes, then I left to find information on me. Along the way, all the conditioning started to break down. Took me months, but by the time I ended up on your couch, I was mostly me, just wasn’t sure how to be that anymore.” He smiled at Clint. “Thanks for helping a fella out, by the way.”

Clint downed the rest of his beer and leaned over to set it aside, only to stop when the bottle was on the table. He leaned over a little more and grabbed the photo that was still on the table after he had been unable to put it away again (in the middle so Lucky – who was lazy as shit – couldn’t reach it), pulling it into his hand. He smiled at how happy he looked with one arm around Nat and one arm around Phil. His finger ghosted over Phil’s face and he quickly put the photo back down (and fought to convince himself the churning in his gut was too much alcohol and nothing else). “Hey Bucky?” He leaned back, staring up at the ceiling. “You still love him, right?”

Bucky sighed heavily off to Clint’s right. “Yeah, Barton. I still do.”

Clint hesitated. “Do- do you think that.” He wasn’t sure how to ask what he wanted to know (and wasn’t that the story of his life). “Do you think maybe you should tell him that? You haven’t gone to see him. You’ve been in this apartment for ages except for trips down to walk Lucky with me. It’s not right to shut everybody out. Especially not him.”

Bucky made a soft, almost wounded sound. “He doesn’t need me comin’ back around, Clint. I- I had hoped he had somebody. Maybe Sam and him… Well, until you told me he hasn’t been out with anybody I assumed he’d found someone by now.” He snorted. “Same Steve. Too damn blind to see how a girl looks at him, too shy to look that way at somebody himself.”

Clint glanced at the picture, which was face down but still burned into his memory. “Bucky… take it from me. Chances are, if he was the one thing you always had when there was nothing else, chances are you were the same for him. And- and maybe he was getting around to it. Maybe being nice to his not-really-neighbor-like-he-thought was him trying to get to know somebody. But… then you came back.” He glanced over and saw Bucky was looking at him curiously. “You came back and I’m pretty sure all the ‘moving on’ he might’ve done in what was to him the less-than-four years since you died got shot to hell when he saw you.” Clint knew his voice being weak and hoarse was what made Bucky look at him that way, but he couldn’t stop. (Stupid beer.)

“Barton, he deserves so much more than a shell of the man he used to love-“

Clint cut him off. “Forgive me, but you don’t know what it’s like to lose the person you love, Barnes,” he said roughly, voice failing him. Clint shook his head. “He lost you. He watched you die and thought it was his fault.” Bucky looked like Clint had hit him. “He woke up in the future and the one thing he always had before wasn’t here and he probably dreamed about waking up and seeing you again but then he’d wake up and it was all a dream and it hit him again that you were dead and he’d never hear your voice again ever and he lived through that shit for so long that he never thought it would stop cause it doesn’t seem like it’s ever gonna stop and-“ Clint stopped abruptly, paling when he realized he’d quit talking about Steve somewhere in the middle of it all. (And his damn eyes were leaking, the bastards.) “Um, anyways.” Clint wiped at his face, figuring ‘fuck it’ because Bucky was looking right at him. “Point is, you’re not dead. You came back. You came back just like in all those dreams Steve probably had. You’re alive and you’re here again.”

Bucky looked almost ashamed of himself when he spoke. “I’m not the man he loved.”

“You think he gives a shit?” Clint asked bluntly. “Fuck it.” Clint grabbed the photo off the table and held it out, right in front of Bucky. “You see this? I can’t even fucking put the picture up again after you got it out. I miss him so much that I hid this picture so I’d never have to see his face again but instead I can’t stop picking it up and looking at it because I haven’t seen his face in two years and we were never even together. I loved him from a distance to the point I wasn’t even jealous of the person who got to have him love them back. I was happy enough just hearing his voice in my ear because that was enough. I didn’t have but half of what Steve had, but you know what?” He waved the picture slightly. “If I got the miracle Steve did, seeing his face again, hearing his voice? I wouldn’t care if he didn’t remember me at all, if he didn’t know who he was, if he was there to kill me. None of it,” he gritted out. “Because it’s been two fucking years since he died and not a week passes I don’t catch myself thinking about telling him something later or showing him something then I remember. He’s not there. I won’t ever tell him anything again. I won’t ever get to show him anything again. Never.”

Clint let out a weak sound. “Take it from me. If you want it – and I’m not pushing you to get back with Steve if you don’t love him anymore, or if you want to try your hand at healing some before attempting love – but if you want it, I guarantee you that you could have him back in a heartbeat. Half a heartbeat. You tell him you love him and he would move mountains to be with you.”

Bucky swallowed. “I don’t- I don’t know if I trust myself with him.” He shook his head. “I love him. I want- I want to see him and I want to talk to him and I want to tell him that I’m sorry for leaving him. But what if I hurt him? I could hurt him so easy.”

Clint shook his head. “Nothing will ever hurt him as much as losing you,” he said and Bucky actually flinched at the truth behind those words.

~

(The next morning they both silently agreed to never speak of them getting all ‘heavy emotions’ on each other the night before)

~

Bucky came in from walking Lucky just as a woman was leaving Clint’s apartment. She stomped past him, not even looking at the ratty jacket, ball cap wearing guy in a building full of poor people. Bucky liked that nobody paid attention to him. When he walked into the apartment, Lucky rambled over to Clint and hopped on top of him on the couch, licking his face around the hand Clint had over his eyes.

“Who was that?” Bucky asked. “I mean none of my business, I know, but she seemed pissed.”

“Ex-wife,” Clint grumbled. He sat up, rubbing the slobber off his face. “Well, I think she’s my ex-wife. Fuck maybe not.” He counted something on his fingers. “No, yeah, we were married for almost two months, yeah.”

Bucky shot him a flat look, falling into the chair across from him. “You can’t remember if you’ve been married or not?”

Clint snorted. “Oh no, I’ve definitely been married. I just always forget if it was two or three times.” He made a face. “Technically the first and last one were the same wife, it’s a long story, we got married on an Op on a whim, then we broke up, then three years later we did it again, then we realized we were idiots.” He hummed. “Okay not the longest story. But that was second wife. She didn’t know I was a spy until it came out she was a spy too but for another organization and we got divorced after we tried and failed to kill each other.” He grinned. “It was kinda awesome. We fought for like six hours, chasing each other back and forth across the city to weapons caches before we finally just admitted nobody was gonna win and got divorced instead.”

Bucky snorted. “So what was she here and pissed about?”

Clint sighed heavily. “She wants me to join her group now that SHIELD is dead, she’s bugged me about it twice, but I don’t want to and it pisses her off.” He waved a hand. “I make terrible decisions regarding women. That is a fact of my life.” He held up a hand and ticked off things. “Great shot, shitloads of trust issues, seriously great ass, horrible boyfriend/husband/lover/ect.” (And God was that true)

Bucky smirked. “Awww and with that inviting face I’d have thought you had the girls all over you,” he teased and Clint flipped him off.

“Hey I’m great at the flirting and fucking part! I just suck at relationship things. I get really clingy and want to spend all my time with a girl and then she gets annoyed at me so I give her too much space until I forget we had a date that night and sit around watching bad television until after about four times of doing that they get pissed and dump my ass.” He pouted. “I fall way to fucking easy.” Bucky snickered and Clint threw Lucky’s chew toy at him, making him deflect it with his metal arm. “What about you, then? All the history books call you a ‘hit with the ladies’. Were you a smooth operator or is that exaggeration?”

Bucky shrugged. “I was pretty charming, I guess, but the kind of girl I got along with was the kind of girl that wasn’t lookin’ for a fella to land for good, if you know what I mean.”

Clint raised an eyebrow. “I thought back then it was all about finding a husband?”

Bucky rolled his eyes. “It’s like people this century think they invented meaningless sex. Trust me, the ones that wrote history books were the old men who were convinced their daughters were ‘good, Christian girls who saved themselves for marriage’. It’s not like nobody was having sex. Hell, in the Army our gear included condoms standard issue because so many soldiers visiting whorehouses meant a rise in diseases.”

Clint made a face. “Damn. I didn’t even know condoms existed way back then,” he said and Bucky shot him a flat look. “What?! I didn’t go to high school, I never took health classes, don’t judge me.”

Bucky chuckled. “Point is, girls I went with knew I wasn’t gonna marry them and they didn’t want a man that was gonna marry them, they wanted a man to give ‘em a good time.” He shrugged. “I had nice eyes and gave compliments like they were going out of style. It wasn’t hard to be popular with the ladies.”

Clint smirked. “What about the fellas? Were you as popular with them?”

Bucky’s smile slipped and he shook his head. “No way. Couldn’t afford to be. Mess up and get a girl pregnant, you get forced to marry her. Mess up and get caught with another man and you’d be lucky to go to prison. Guys like that ended up floating in the river. I took my chances on the first one, but I wasn’t gonna get beat to death.”

Clint raised an eyebrow. “Thought you said you and Steve were together?”

Bucky smiled sadly. “Yeah, but that’s cause we lived together and nobody was gonna catch us in a back alley or something. We never went to bars for other guys like us, we still took girls out on double dates and I just didn’t go home with mine, we were known to be best friends rooming together because Stevie’s Ma died and he needed somebody to look after him, and nobody ever had any reason to suspect we were like that.” He snorted. “Hell, we had to put up better curtains just so we could have sex and not worry about somebody in the next building over seeing and telling. Had to be quiet for the same reason. Usually had to turn on the radio if we didn’t want to do it on the floor cause the bed didn’t creak most of the time, but if it did for some reason, we were dead.” Clint snickered and Bucky shot him a look. “Hey, it isn’t funny-“

“No, no, the struggles of gay people in the olden days isn’t what I’m laughing at,” he interrupted and Bucky shot him a look. “I just keep thinking about all the times Natasha bitched about Steve sleeping on the floor when they were traveling somewhere.”

Bucky chuckled, shaking his head. “Pretty sure that’s leftover from sleeping on the ground everywhere for a while there, not the ‘good ol days’ of making love on the cold, hard floor so we didn’t give ourselves away and get killed by an angry mob.”

Clint snickered and wiggled his eyebrows. “Never know! Maybe you left a lasting impression. I’m sure all them girls didn’t go out with you cause they heard you were a terrible fuck.”

Bucky grumbled. “I better have left a lasting impression seeing as I’m the only one Steve ever slept with before I died.”

Clint stopped laughing. “Ah fuck, really? Shit.” Clint smiled apologetically.

Bucky nodded with a sappy smile, eyes distant. “No idea why none of the girls I tried to set him up with saw what I did, but they didn’t. We moved in together and for a while nothing changed, because even though I loved him so much, and I had a feeling he loved me back, that was a death sentence, you know? I wanted to protect him so I kept going out with girls and setting him up with girls but they never liked him and I don’t think he liked them either. And every night I came home smelling like the girls perfume I’d been with, Steve would avoid looking at me but when he finally did look at me, it was like I’d did something to break his heart.” He shook his head. “Fuckin’ killed me. Every damn time. That boy has the eyes that could tell more stories than a book ever has, you know?” he said softly.

Clint nodded, thinking about Steve’s ‘I’m Very Disappointed In you’ face. (It was worse than Coulson’s- No. Stop it, brain.) “How’d you guys end up getting together then?” Clint asked.

Bucky’s distant smile grew into a downright filthy smirk. “Stevie decided he’d had enough watching me goin’ out with girls when he was smart enough to know good and damn well I wanted him, not a girl – Didn’t help that near the end there, seemed like every girl I went out with was skinny and blonde, not curvy and gorgeous like most of the girls I liked – and one night I got home from work and Steve said he’d make dinner while I went to get cleaned up, then when I got back to the apartment, that little shit was standing at the stove wearing nothing but one of my shirts and the smuggest damn look I’d ever seen.”

Clint barked out a laugh. “No fucking way!” he cried, trying to picture Steve Rogers doing something that daring.

Bucky nodded. “He was short and tiny, but he always had longer legs than most fellas would at his size, so my shirt only fell about two inches below showing me everything he had, but it was still big enough it slid off his shoulder and there was all this- this pale, gorgeous skin and his fucking nipple showing and I tried my best to act normal and not play his game, but he kept reaching for shit on the top shelf and pulling the shirt higher and higher and then asked me to get it for him so I had to walk over there and he didn’t move so I had to press right up against him to reach over his head and by the time I handed him the bowl, he looked like the cat that got the canary.” He chuckled and shook his head. “Stubborn little punk. He batted them eyelashes at me and was all ‘thank you, Buck’ and stood up on his toes and kissed my cheek and he knew he’d won because when I gave up and grabbed him around the waist and kissed him, he screwed up the kiss with a downright mean laugh.”

Clint snickered. “Now that I could buy. Rogers seems like he’d be a bad winner. He’d gloat like crazy.”

Bucky nodded with a small, sheepish smile. “We burned the potatoes but ate them anyways and didn’t even care cause we did it sitting naked on the kitchen floor where we’d ended up, and the whole time he kept smirking at me like he’d beat me in some game.”

“Oh buddy, that’s definitely a game he beat you at,” Clint joked. “That’s a man who knew what he wanted and fucking got it.”

Bucky sighed heavily, a smile painting his lips even though there was sadness in his eyes. “Steve always got anything he wanted when it came to me. No clue how anybody else ever told him no. I guess the way I loved him made me see him different, but he’d turn those big, blue eyes on me, bat those long eyelashes, poke out that pink bottom lip and I was done for.” He shook his head. “And that’s when he was putting on a show to get his way. If he was genuinely upset about something, I couldn’t stand it and I’d do anything to make him happy. He’d yell at me for it when I did something dumb to make him happy – like the time I used the money I’d been saving for a new pair of work gloves to buy him new pencils when his got broke in a fight - but I didn’t care as long as he was yelling instead of looking sad.”

Clint looked at Bucky curiously. “You know… I’m going to meet up with the other Avengers tomorrow,” he said slowly. “You could come with me?” he suggested. “I’m sure Steve would be happy to see you.”

Bucky shook his head, jaw clenching. “I- I want to see him again, but it just-“ He sighed. “I picked here because it’s far enough from Steve that I won’t run into him at the risk I could snap but close enough I can go to him when I’m ready.” He closed his eyes, running a hand through his hair. “I’m still scared I might become him if I see Steve. I’d rather die than ever hurt him again.”

Clint sighed heavily. “Bucky, you haven’t had a Winter Soldier moment since you got here. You’re never going to be more sure than you are now.” He saw Bucky’s shoulders droop and he shook his head. “I get it. You’re scared. And I won’t push you. But I really think you should think about it, okay?”

Bucky nodded. “Yeah, Pal, okay.”

~

Natasha put down her hand and they all cursed, groaning as she raked in her winnings. “Well, boys, one day you’ll learn.”

“I’m not,” Stark said, throwing more cash in. “I’m gonna get you this time!”

“Guys, guys,” a voice called and Clint looked up to see Steve and Sam coming off the elevator. “You should know better than to ever think you’ll crack Nat’s poker face,” Steve said as he walked closer to the table. “No matter how much you want it, you will never win.”

Clint had a sudden, vivid mental image of Steve seducing Bucky from the story Bucky had told him the afternoon prior and he spit his beer half across the table, choking as he doubled over laughing madly. “Ewwww, Clint!” Natasha complained, shaking off her cards. “You got beer all over the deck!”

“Wow, you got it on my glasses from way over there,” Bruce said, pulling them off to wipe on his shirt. “What the hell is so funny?”

Clint waved a hand, still giggling breathlessly. He only managed to calm down because he needed to breathe. “Oh God, oh Jesus,” he gasped as he fought to breathe. “Oh God, it’s Steve’s fault, I swear!”

Tony raised an eyebrow. “Uh, how? What’d he say? I didn’t hear anything that funny.”

Clint snickered. “Steve and ‘wanting it’ and ‘winning’ gave me the perfect mental image of Steve wearing nothing but a big, dress-like shirt and flashing some thigh to seduce a man and I couldn’t help myself.”

Steve flushed bright red. “HOLY SHIT why did nobody tell me THAT is a story people know about?!” he demanded, doing his best impression of a tomato. He put a hand over his eyes and fell into the empty seat that had been waiting for him beside Natasha. “Is that a thing everybody knows about?”

Clint waved a hand. “No way, that’s a Clint Barton Exclusive. I heard it straight from the source, no worries, Man. Nobody else knows that one in the general public.”

Steve lifted his head, frowning. “What do you mean from the source? What source?”

Clint raised an eyebrow. “Uh, Bucky told me when he was explaining how you two got together back in the day, how else did you think I heard it?” Everybody stilled and Steve paled rapidly, eyes widening. “Oh shit, did nobody else know you were gay?! Aw Steve, shit, I’m so sorry-“

“What the fuck do you mean ‘Bucky’ told you?” Natasha demanded suddenly. “How did you talk to him and why do you know him as ‘Bucky’?”

Clint paused, then raised his other eyebrow to give her his most perplexed look. “Uh, he’s been living with me for like a month and a half, why would he not talk to me and what else would I know him as?”

“THE WINTER SOLDIER HAS BEEN LIVING WITH YOU FOR WHAT?!” Tony cried, eyes bulging out of his head nearly. “Barton, holy shit, are you alright?!”

Clint suddenly felt it connect and he turned to look at Natasha with a sheepish grimace. “Um… you didn’t send Barnes to live with me, did you?” he asked and she gave him her most flat, emotionless look ever. “What?!” He held up his hands. “What else was I supposed to think?! I wake up one day and the Winter Soldier is on my couch playing with my dog! What else would I assume besides ‘he needs somewhere to recover and the others picked my place’?!”

“You didn’t think for a second that we’d put in surveillance or at least ask about him?!” Sam asked incredulously.

Clint huffed. “Well, as someone who got stuck in a fuckin’ psych holding cell for four goddamn days after I got brainwashed for just a couple of days, maybe I hoped my friends had more decency than to treat him like a lab rat to be examined and chose to give him time to heal with someone who had the best idea of what he’s been through out of all the rest of you.”

“He told you to call him Bucky?” Clint looked at Steve, whose voice sounded so desperately hopeful but afraid at the same time. Steve’s eyes were wide and expressive, just like Bucky talked about them being back when he wasn’t Captain America. “He- he knows who he is?”

Clint nodded with a small smile. “Yeah, man. I mean at first he was real quiet, but the last few weeks we’ve been talking a lot about his life and his past and you.” He gave him an encouraging look. “He remembers most everything from before the war. He has more trouble with stuff after he got caught by HYDRA at that place you saved him from, the end of his time in the war and a lot of the Winter Soldier missions are jumbled and stuff, but he remembers before he got captured pretty good.”

Steve’s shoulders lost so much tension so quickly he nearly collapsed across the table, resting his head in his hands. He stilled and peeked up, cheeks showing spots of red again. “Um, so… going by that story, I’m guessing-“

“That I know all about you being the most presumptuous person in history?” Clint teased and Steve groaned. “I gotta say, man, there’s ‘forward’ and then there’s wearing a man’s shirt and nothing under it and then tricking him into coming closer so you can press all up on him until he snaps and has his way with you,” he said and Steve let his head drop to the table with a thud and a groan.

Natasha paused her fuming and smirked. “Damn, Steve, and here I was thinking you were some blushing virgin!” She turned back to Clint, all laughter gone from her voice. “But honestly, Barton, do you know how dangerous that was?! You were housing the most deadly assassin in history without even verifying that we put him there – which we didn’t – and you just what?! Sat around painting each other’s nails and talking about Dog Cops?”

Clint huffed. “Hey, we got drunk and talked about our feelings, too, don’t belittle our friendship, men share their feelings too!” he joked but she wasn’t laughing.

“Clint… he’s a loose cannon at best,” Bruce said gently. “What if he’d snapped into a flashback at the least? Even the most well-adjusted PTSD suffers have flashbacks this soon after his trauma ended-“

“Look, I get it now, it was a bad thing that I assumed what I did,” Clint argued. “And, okay, when I asked why he picked my place, I thought you guys let him choose me, and now ‘because it reminds me of where me and Steve used to live’ makes way more sense going with him just randomly deciding to come live with an Avengers while he heals, but guys he’s healing,” he stressed. “The man at my apartment is Bucky Barnes, not the Winter Soldier.” He shook his head. “He’s guilty as shit but he seems so relaxed when he’s playing with Lucky or when we get to talking about things. I now know, as we’ve all accidently discovered today, all about the epic love story that is Steve and Bucky, and Bucky knows shit I haven’t ever told a soul because him opening up to me meant I owed him something real too.” Clint looked around the table. “I may have read it wrong, but we’re not going to flip out over this.”

“Oh we’re not, huh?” Sam asked and Clint glared at him.

“No. I’ll go home like usual, encourage Bucky to stop hiding and come talk to Steve like usual, I’ll sit there on the couch and tell him something about my past at SHIELD like usual, and he’ll tell me some anecdote of a time Steve got his ass kicked or almost got Bucky’s ass kicked, then we’ll go to bed. That’s our normal rapport these days.”

Nobody reacted for a moment until Tony turned to Steve and smirked. “You know, that really explains so much about the stories my dad used to tell me,” he said and Steve held up one finger from the way he was hiding in his crossed arms on the table in reply.

~

Clint slunk in quietly, hoping Bucky was asleep so he could put off admitting he told the others Bucky was there, but Bucky was sitting with Lucky’s head in his lap laughing at something on TV. “Hey Barton, you ever seen this show? This little kid is a total asshole,” he said, chuckling at something the little girl on the screen said. He looked back at Clint and raised an eyebrow. “What’s with the face? You look like you ran over somebody’s dog.”

Clint huffed, offended. “Wow that’s a horrible thing to say,” he said, but sat down, sighing heavily. “Um, Bucky, I should probably come clean about something.” Bucky tensed and Clint grimaced. “I kinda… let it slip that you’re staying here to the other Avengers.”

Bucky looked at him closely. “How do you let that slip?” he asked and Clint frowned at how even his tone was.

“You’re not… mad?”

Bucky sighed heavily, running his metal hand over his face. “Well, I’m not happy about it, but I sort of figured you’d tell them sooner or later. It’s been a month and a half.”

“Dude,” Clint spluttered. “I swear to God, I thought they sent you here!” Bucky shot him a flat look. “What?! I interpreted the stuff you said as you picked my place over somewhere else! Why the hell else should I have thought you’d show up to hang out? I mean don’t get me wrong, I’ve never minded, but I thought they sent you to me cause I had a better idea of what you were going through!” He made a face. “Why the hell did you decide to come to me?”

Bucky shrugged. “I don’t really know. I remember thinking you were an Avenger, so you were good enough that if I freaked out I probably wouldn’t hurt anybody else before you stopped me. I didn’t want to be on my own cause if I snapped and killed an innocent person – after I’ve got ‘me’ back – it would kill me.” He shrugged. “I figured you had worked that out on your own.”

Clint gave him a sad look. “Bucky… you should really come with me to meet with the others. Hell, the only reason Steve didn’t follow me home after I let it slip you’re here is that Nat convinced him you might have a trigger to snap into your final mission again if you saw him and at my place, it’s too easy for you to escape.”

“I worry about that too,” Bucky mumbled. “I don’t think I will… but the last mission I was programmed for was to kill Captain America.” He looked up and shook his head seriously. “Clint, if I ever snap and go after him, take me out. I don’t care if you have to kill me, don’t let me hurt Steve.”

Clint shook his head. “I won’t, Buddy.” He smirked. “Besides, I’d just shoot you in the knees. Can’t go after Captain America if your legs don’t work.”

Bucky chuckled. “Well that is ideal. I’d like to stay alive now that I’m free.”

(Clint really hoped that Bucky was going to get his chance to stay free.)

~

In the end, Bucky didn’t get to come to the decision to go meet the Avengers in a normal timely manner. Only two days after Clint revealed to the others that he was there, Clint got a call that woke him up just seconds before he heard a clatter in the living room and Bucky’s feet thumping up the stairs. “BARTON!” he barked, flinging the door open.

Clint blinked at his screen then up at Bucky. “Whassamatter?”

“They need you bad right now,” he said, going over to what Clint thought was the secret panel behind his bedroom door and pressing on the corner to open it. “Get dressed,” he said, throwing Clint’s uniform at him. It’s bad. They’re on the Manhattan bridge and I just watched a fuckin’ news helicopter get shot down by some of those HYDRA bastards. Banner and Stark aren’t in the state, Thor isn’t even on the planet this week, so they’re getting their asses handed to them.”

Clint groaned. “Noooo, it’s too early to be a superhero,” he whined but sat up and started taking off his sweats and tee-shirt to put on his uniform.

“Come on, Barton. Two normal humans and one Steve are not enough to stop a fuckin’ heavily armed HYDRA strike team. If you don’t hurry, you’re gonna be down a few friends, and doesn’t seem like you’ve got many as it is,” Bucky said. (Wow, harsh much? Clint could’ve done without that particular jab)

“Yeah, yeah, if you’re so damn worried about my friends count, why don’t you put on some boots and grab a gun, too?” Clint said, zipping up his vest. He ignored the funny look on Bucky’s face and strapped on his quiver, checking everything was in place before checking his phone.

Need a little help. Could use eyes up high. Falcon will be on your roof in 5.

“Oh fun,” Clint said, showing it to Bucky as he walked past him. “I’ve gotta fly in with a bird.” Bucky just clapped him on the shoulder as he ran up to the roof to meet Sam.

~

Things were pretty bad.

Even Clint could realize that there were about thirty guys on the bridge and at least a few of them had shoulder fire rockets, so Sam was grounded as soon as they landed on one of the towers and flew back down to the deck. Clint had been spotted, so he was left running around dodging rockets and trying not to die. In the end he had to jump off the tower and slide down a wire to land on the bridge and fight with the others on ground level. It was far from ideal.

“Not good, not good, not good,” Clint muttered as they found themselves back to back, him and Natasha facing off against four men with guns on them and what he suspected were at least six on the other side facing off against Steve and Sam. “Um, hey, so, anybody want to sit down and talk about this?” he asked out loud, glancing over his shoulder to see Sam reaching back, ready to open his wings and try and make a run for it if they opened fire.

“You know, Clint, it’s gonna suck if I survived Manhattan and DC and get killed by ten guys,” Natasha said and Clint chuckled.

“Yeah, this doesn’t look good at all-“

Suddenly, and without warning, there was a gunshot and one of the men in front of them dropped. The HYDRA goons looked at the four of them, none of them holding a gun, and hesitated. That hesitation was followed by four more shots and four more HYDRA guys dropping. It gave Clint and Natasha time to run to each side and jump over a car and for Sam to grab Steve and take off before the remaining men could open fire. With them out of the way, Clint only had time to fire one arrow and hit one guy before rapid gunfire dropped the others.

Clint and Natasha stood up, peeking from behind their hiding places, and Sam touched down, dropping Steve. They walked out, carefully looking around for the source of the gunfire, and looking out for more HYDRA agents, but when they met up, they all just looked at each other with confused frowns. “Uh… so. That happened,” Sam said, pushing his goggles up onto his head.

Clint raised a hand. “Okay, that wasn’t me. I don’t have magical guns somewhere. So who was it?”

Natasha huffed when they all turned to her. “Yeah, right, like I did that.”

Steve frowned. “If it wasn’t you, who was it then?”

“Hey Barton!” They all looked up and Clint blinked when he saw Bucky up on the tower.

Clint frowned. “Bucky?! What the fuck are you doing up there?”

“Bird watching,” he called back. “The fuck do you think I’m doing?! I saved your ass! Now if you’d be so kind, I need a fuckin’ rope. If I jump from this high I’ll definitely break a leg. Climbing up’s easier than gettin’ down.”

Clint laughed. “Damn, I didn’t think you’d actually put on your boots and grab a gun to come help. Thanks, man! We were totally fucked for a minute there.” He pulled one of his arrows with a zip line and fired. Bucky looked at it anchored a few feet away and walked over, grabbing and testing the wire with his metal hand before hopping off the tower and sliding down. He landed in front of Clint and Clint threw his arms around him, slapping his back. “Nice shot.”

Bucky smirked and handed Clint the rifle he kept in his closet. “Nice gun. I need me one of these, Pal.”

Clint realized as he backed off that the others were all standing a ways behind them staring. “Uh, hey, so. Bucky’s awesome, right guys?” he tried.

Natasha was staring Bucky down when she said… well something Russian (Clint’s Russian was shit, if he was honest), and Bucky just shrugged and muttered something back that made her raise an eyebrow in surprise. “Good answer.”

Clint frowned. “Uh, yay?” he tried and she rolled her eyes at him.

“Bucky?” Clint turned, his chest tightening when he heard how small Steve’s voice sounded. He watched as Steve pushed back his cowl and just stared at Bucky with wide eyes, looking almost afraid he was dreaming. (Clint knew all about that one)

Bucky smiled sadly. “Hey, Stevie.” He pushed his hair back nervously, shifting some where he stood. “So… does saving you from getting’ shot make up for shooting you that last time you saw me?” he asked with a sheepish smile and almost immediately Steve closed the space between them and threw his arms around Bucky’s shoulders, pulling him into a hug that looked painful.

Steve sighed out a weak laugh, pressing his cheek to Bucky’s shoulder. “Oh my God, you’re still such a jerk.”

Bucky slid his arms around Steve’s middle, relaxing into his hold. “Yeah, well, you’re still a dumb punk that needs me to save his ass,” he accused, and Steve let out a wet laugh, shoulders shaking as he pulled back and looked Bucky in the eyes. Bucky shook his head slightly and reached up to curl his hand around the side of Steve’s neck. “Stop that, now, there ain’t no reason to go cryin’ over me,” he said, and Steve laughed roughly.

“Shut up, Buck,” he choked out, moving to press his face into the curve of Bucky’s neck. “Shut your damn mouth, you don’t know what all you’ve put me through, you’re lucky I didn’t punch you, you bastard,” he babbled, voice muffled.

Clint just beamed, a warm feeling settling in his chest when he met Bucky’s eyes over Steve’s shoulder and saw tears in Bucky’s eyes too. “Feel like you’re gonna snap?” he asked and Bucky shook his head minutely, curling his hand into Steve’s hair, holding the back of his head.

“Not unless somebody tries to make me move from this spot,” he said in an almost warning tone and Steve laughed against his shoulder, visibly tightening his hold on Bucky’s waist.

(Clint was pretty sure Bucky had to be struggling to breathe, but by the looks of it, a little strangulation wasn’t much trouble from where he was standing.)