Bucky was busy doing his hair in the mirror of the tiny bathroom backstage when the door burst open to reveal Shuri, the club's stage manager.
Her eyes met his in the mirror as she grinned in delight. "Can you go on early?"
Bucky paused with both hands still up, one holding a comb. "Um... sure?"
Shuri pumped both fists excitedly. "Brother," she said into her headset mic, "I found him. He'll go on now."
"What's going on?" Bucky asked, following her from the bathroom down the narrow hall. He didn't mind a change in schedule, it happened from time to time.
"You'll see!" Shuri was grinning again. "Get onstage now and you'll see what I mean."
"Okay, let me get my sax," Bucky said, about to turn left to the green room.
Shuri grabbed his arm and tugged him right, toward the stage. "No, you're singing. Your favorite customer is back!"
"Oh," Bucky said, pleasantly surprised.
"Go on!" Shuri urged him on, so Bucky headed through to the black curtained space that led to the stage.
From the small gap in the curtain Bucky saw a couple members of the backing band, which was his usual spot when they needed a sax. They were playing a sultry jazz number, and while Bucky couldn't see her he heard Nakia singing, amazing as always.
Shuri and T'Challa, the club's manager, had been good enough to let Bucky try out singing a few songs lately, but usually reserved to the graveyard spots when the club wasn't as full. The patrons wanted their favorite singers: Nakia, Okoye, and M'Baku.
Bucky was just grateful for the regular gig and to work with such nice people. Shuri had become a firm friend, which was probably how she'd noticed Bucky crushing on a guy who'd started coming about three weeks ago. He was just very dreamy: a big blond brickhouse of a man in tight shirts and pressed chinos, with a classically handsome face and square jaw, neatly styled blond hair and a shy but quiet way about him that had made Bucky take notice.
Mr. Handsome tended to come to the club alone, sit at a table to watch the singers in a polite, attentive manner, and applaud after each song. He never heckled or drank alcohol: the bar staff had said that he even helped them throw out a customer who was rude to one of the girls one night, which had had quite a few of them Bucky included swooning over the display of chivalry.
Bucky, being totally gay, had tried a couple times to talk to Mr. Handsome at the bar. It hadn't gone so well the first time: Mr. Handsome had looked like a deer in headlights when Bucky had slid onto the bar stool next to him and said a mere hello.
Bucky didn't give up easily, though. The second time he'd decided to lead with casual banter, hoping to make Mr. Handsome feel more at ease. He'd slid along the bar until he was close enough, then started talking about the band playing some Nat King Cole numbers. Mr. Handsome hadn't looked quite so shocked nor run away this time, he'd simply blinked his very blue eyes at Bucky then eventually said that he liked Nat King Cole.
It wasn't much, but Bucky counted that as a conversation. Mr. Handsome even went on to mention that he liked Cab Calloway, and Bucky had recommended he stick around for the late night jazz set when M'Baku broke out the Calloway songs.
"Will you be there?" Mr. Handsome had asked.
"I'll be on sax," Bucky replied with a smile. "I only sing a short set in the afternoons, if there's time."
Mr. Handsome had given him a tentative smile in return. "I liked your set," he said.
Bucky had been thrilled, and also slightly distracted when he'd spotted Shuri at the other end of the bar watching them closely. Mr. Handsome had left soon after that anyway, but he visited the club a couple more times after that and always in time to watch Bucky sing.
Now he was here again, and Bucky felt just a tiny bit nervous going onstage. Nervous in a good way.
Someone stepped up behind him and Bucky turned to see T'Challa grinning at him.
"What?" Bucky hissed quietly, as they were close to the stage.
"Shuri told me," T'Challa said, and Bucky rolled his eyes.
"If it keeps her from teasing you about Nakia," Bucky replied.
T'Challa and Nakia had been dancing around each other for some time now, and T'Challa was clearly smitten. He rolled his eyes in turn. "Alright, alright. How many songs are you doing?"
"Shuri didn't tell me," Bucky replied, smoothing down his suit jacket. "I can do four and stretch it into twenty minutes?"
T'Challa nodded, and when Nakia's song finished and the crowd was applauding, she walked offstage right past them. She wore a tight green sequin dress that flashed in the lights. T'Challa offered his hand to assist her down the steps, and they smiled at each other like two dorks in love.
Bucky smiled at his friends, and was about to step onstage himself. Nakia caught him on his arm. "Hey," she whispered, her lip shimmering with glitter lipstick, "I saw your favorite customer out there."
"That's why Shuri is shoving me onstage now," Bucky admitted.
Nakia winked at him. "Go get him."
Bucky smiled, feeling bashful, then jogged up the steps to get onstage. If he left the stage empty too long, Shuri would appear and start telling him off.
The backing band looked mildly surprised to see him, W'Kabi on drums. He made a face and Bucky, so Bucky held up four fingers and mouthed to indicate the number of songs.
W'Kabi nodded, twirling his drumsticks.
Bucky stepped up to the mic, a classic tooth-chipper, and took that moment to scan the audience quickly, looking for Mr. Handsome. The lights were bright in his eyes, but Bucky spotted the silhouette of Mr. Handsome and his broad shoulders sitting at a table.
And he had someone with him, Bucky noticed. A woman.
Oh, Bucky thought.
Well... that was disappointing.
The audience's applause was dying down, eager to hear something else. Bucky heard Io, on the big double bass, clear her throat at him, so he racked his brain for a song that they all knew.
"Is you is?" he said to Io, who nodded and began the bass intro. The band nodded to the beat, waiting for their cue.
Bucky took hold of the mic stand, moving it where he wanted as he smiled at the audience. "Good evening!" he greeted them while the band kicked in with the melody. "How y'all doing tonight?"
A few people in the crowd cheered in response, clearly enjoying the uptempo beat. Bucky gave it all he had and started singing: "I got a girl who's always late, every time we have a date." He twisted the mic to the side and crooned to a table of women, "But I love her!"
The ladies cheered and laughed in response, just as expected, and Bucky grinned at them. "I'm gonna ask her," he sang on, eyes glancing over their heads and searching the crowd. "Is you is or is you ain't my baby?"
He spotted Mr. Handsome, watching Bucky with a smile on his face. The woman next to him watched too, lounging back in her seat. Were they on a date? They didn't look too cosy, Bucky noted.
He straightened up and sang to the room, "The way you acting lately makes me doubt..."
Behind him the brass trumpet section belted out their parts. Bucky swung his mic to the side and crooned, "You are still my baby, baby!"
The crowd ate it up, and the band was on point all the way through as usual. Bucky had the time of his life singing up onstage tonight.
The only thought distracting him was, what was Mr. Handsome doing on a date?
Bucky's short set was over quickly.
After a quick bow and giving a shout out to the backing band, Bucky left the stage. T'Challa passed him on the steps, shaking his hand quickly and patting his shoulder. T'Challa was the emcee and would go chat to the audience while some of the band changed over and the next act would come on.
Shuri was waiting in the wings, pouncing on Bucky the second he was backstage. "Hey! Who's he with?" she demanded.
"Um, who?" Bucky asked, but he figured he knew who.
"Your crush!" she said, rolling her eyes dramatically. "How dare he bring a date in?"
Bucky grinned in amusement. "I know, right? How dare he."
"Listen," she said seriously, "you can take a break for a half hour, but then I need you back on sax."
"Sure thing," he said. "I'll be at the bar."
Bucky left the bustle of backstage and headed out onto the club floor. It wasn't a huge place, only a couple hundred cap with the tables and chairs out, and now the stage lights weren't shining directly into his eyes Bucky could see a little better.
He didn't spot Mr. Handsome at his table... but people often bum-rushed the bar during set changes so maybe he was there.
Bucky went to the bar too, squeezing in between customers eager to order their drinks before the next act started. A couple of eager ladies accosted him to tell him they loved his set. Bucky smiled politely and thanked them. They weren't regulars here, otherwise they'd know he was gay and not to bother hitting on him.
He did take them up on their offer of buying him a drink, though. He took a bourbon on the rocks, for his throat he explained to the girls, as the bartender rolled his eyes at Bucky.
Three or four songs wouldn't hurt his throat, but Bucky intended to enjoy his bourbon anyway.
The next act was starting: Okoye had joined T'Challa onstage to whooping cheers and applause, and they were doing a bit of banter back and forth to get the crowd going. Patrons from the bar grabbed their drinks and hurried back to their tables, eager to see the show.
As the people thinned out, Bucky spotted Mr. Handsome standing at the other end of the bar, and the same woman beside him. He looked round and caught Bucky watching him, so Bucky did the polite thing and raised his glass in a toast.
He wasn't about to go over there and bother them, though. Not if they were on a date.
The woman wore a chic black dress, and she had wavy shoulder length red hair. She spotted Bucky looking at them, and leaned over to Mr. Handsome to whisper something in his ear.
Bucky made himself look away then. No point punishing himself by watching a happy couple whisper sweet nothings. He should probably take his bourbon and head backstage.
He was just taking a long swig of his drink when someone big materialised next to him at the bar.
"Hello, again," said a lovely deep voice.
Bucky managed not to choke on his drink as he lowered his glass, surprised to see Mr. Handsome standing right there.
"Hi," Bucky said, glancing around to check where the redhead was. He couldn't see her. Maybe she'd gone to the bathroom?
"Your set was great," Mr. Handsome said, seeming earnest.
Bucky smiled at him. "Thanks."
"You know, that's one of my favorite songs," Mr. Handsome went on. "Is You Is, I mean. You guys did it faster than what I'm used to, but I liked that too."
"Oh," Bucky said, taken aback. They were having a conversation now? Well, that was fine with him. "Yeah, we do the Ira Buck Woods version. It's a bit faster."
Mr. Handsome smiled, and it was a truly devastating smile. "I enjoyed it a lot," he said. "Reminds me of... well, it just reminds me of home, you know?"
Bucky nodded along. "Yeah, sure." He stuck his hand out. "I'm Bucky, by the way."
Mr. Handsome took his hand in a firm shake. "Steve. How do you do."
Bucky grinned at that. "Well, Steve, thanks for coming along. Did, uh, did your date enjoy the show?"
"Oh, we're not..." Steve's face went through several notes of surprise just then. "We're colleagues. Or, we are if I take the job, I guess?"
Bucky absorbed this piece of information with glee. "I see," he said, sliding a little closer to Steve along the bar. "Just a couple friends hanging out then?"
"Yes, just friends." Steve smiled, his cheeks pinking. "She came for moral support."
"Oh? Moral support?" Bucky grinned at him. "Do you need a drink or something?"
"I can't get..." Steve shook his head. "Actually, why not. I'll have the same."
Bucky signalled the bar tender and ordered another bourbon. Steve tried to pay but Bucky assured him it'd go on his tab. "My treat," he said, giving Steve a flirty wink.
Steve had that deer in the headlights look again, and Bucky wasn't sure if he was reading this right after all. Or maybe Steve was just shy.
"You local, Steve?" Bucky asked, curious.
"Same here," Bucky drawled. "Guess we didn't go to the same school? I would've remembered you otherwise."
This earned him a small, amused sort of smile from Steve. "I'm pretty sure I'm a bit older than you, but that's sweet, thank you."
Bucky wasn't sure what to say to that, so he fell back on smiling and fluttering his eyelashes. He'd been told it worked wonders.
Steve's smile grew as he watched Bucky, and something pinged in Bucky's mind making him think he'd seen Steve's face somewhere before.
"You know," Bucky said, tilting his head as he looked at Steve, "you remind me of someone..."
Steve lost his smile instantly and his back went ramrod straight. "Oh?" he said, looking everywhere but at Bucky now.
"Yeah, like..." Bucky couldn't quite place it. "Are you an actor, or something?"
"Um..." Steve sounded hesitant. "I mean..."
Bucky wondered if he was embarrassed or shy. But that had to be it, Steve was an actor or a model of some kind. Maybe he even did commercials, Steve had those kind of conventional good looks that could sell anyone anything. But he didn't look comfortable talking about it.
"Sorry," Bucky apologised, "I didn't mean to pry."
"No, it's fine," Steve said. "I, uh, wasn't sure if anyone would recognise me, you see."
"National secret, is it?" Bucky quipped, which earned a very dry laugh from Steve. "I promise I won't tell."
"I don't even know if you'd believe me," Steve replied with a chuckle. "Can I just be Steve for now? Is that okay?"
"Yeah, sure," Bucky agreed, "it's more than okay. So, Steve... you like the club, huh?"
"Yes." Steve looked relieved to move onto another topic. "I love it here."
"I'll be back onstage shortly," Bucky told him. "In the band this time, I mean."
Steve smiled at him. "You guys look like you have a lot of fun up there."
"I can't lie, this place is a blast," Bucky agreed. "Actually, if you stop by on Tuesdays, we do a surf night from six till ten."
Steve's brows drew together. "Surf?"
"Yeah, surf rock?" Bucky said. "Like the '50s and '60s."
"Oh," Steve said, voice somewhat flat. "Yeah, I, uh, don't really know that era."
"You'd probably recognise some of the songs from movies," Bucky went on. "Pulp Fiction?"
Steve shook his head. "Sorry."
"Well, in that case, you gotta come!" Bucky told him. "You'll love it, I promise. We do a great cover of Surf Rider and I do the sax solo."
Steve smiled at him. "Sure, sounds fun."
"Great! Maybe we can..." Bucky trailed off as the redhead appeared beside them, cell phone in hand.
"Steve," she said lowly, "something urgent's come up. We better go."
"Oh. Right." Steve seemed disappointed but he didn't argue. He gave Bucky an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry, Bucky, it's work. I have to go. But it was good to talk to you."
"Yeah, you, too," Bucky said, disappointed their time was cut short. "Thanks for coming by."
"Are you here tomorrow?" Steve asked. "I can come by tomorrow."
"Every night this week," Bucky told him, feeling hopeful again.
"Great." Steve beamed at him. "I'll come by tomorrow. Have a good night, Bucky."
"Nice to meet you," the redhead said politely, as she ushered Steve away.
"You, too," Bucky said to their retreating backs.
Wow, they were in a hurry. There'd been something about the redhead's urgency, and the way the two of them carried themselves that made Bucky wonder if they were off duty cops, or something along those lines.
What else work related would call them away at night? Or maybe they were doctors, Bucky thought. That would be infinitely better than cops.
Steve the surgeon. Or, Bucky thought, Steve the nurse.
Shuri found him daydreaming at the bar, and asked him where his crush had gone. Bucky simply shrugged. "Something about work came up, said he'd come by tomorrow night."
"And the woman he was with?" Shuri asked.
"Said she was a colleague, not his date," Bucky said, hoping it was true.
"Oh. Well, there's hope for you yet." Shuri patted Bucky's shoulder, making him grin.
"Yes, thanks for that," he said.
With any luck, Steve would come back tomorrow and Bucky could chat to him more.
The next day began like any normal one for Bucky, with rehearsals at the club in the afternoon.
It was important that the band practised enough and had plenty of songs memorised so they could perform whatever the singers needed at the drop of a hat. Bucky wasn't in his suit yet, he was in casual clothes of jeans and t-shirt, much like everyone else. He was in his place on the stage, sitting on a stool in the brass section with one horn player and two trumpet players.
They didn't often go onstage all at the same time unless they were doing M'Baku's set that needed the full orchestra.
Io was leading the practise today, making sure they all kept in time and knew their cues. Bucky played his parts, sharing sheet music when needed but they'd done most of the songs before so he knew the parts.
The overhead lights were on and the club was all lit up. Bucky saw Shuri over at the bar with her clipboard, talking to Nakia and Okoye. They were probably going over the sets for tonight.
Bucky hoped they'd break soon, he could use another coffee. The band were usually allowed a quick break before they started rehearsing with the singers. It was still a few hours until opening.
T'Challa was lurking by the side of the stage twirling his phone in his hand, gazing across the club, probably at Nakia.
Bucky smiled to himself. At least he wasn't the only hopeless case in the club.
They did another two songs before Io called for a break, and they put down their instruments.
Bucky patted his pockets to check he had his wallet on him, then crossed the club floor so he could make a coffee dash.
"Are you getting coffee?" Shuri called, hurrying after him.
Bucky waited for her to catch up. "Yeah. Want your usual?"
"I'll come with you," she said. "I need fresh air."
They walked up the staircase together. The club was in the basement, with a separate bar on the ground floor. It wasn't open yet and was empty, so they had to put in the code for the door and let themselves out.
It was a busy afternoon out on the street with pedestrians pushing past, same as normal. Bucky and Shuri slipped past the crowds and started walking down the block to their favorite coffee place.
"Has T'Challa asked Nakia out yet?" Bucky asked, as Shuri groaned and rolled her eyes.
"I can't take much more of this!" she laughed. "No! He said he'll ask her this weekend."
Bucky smiled. "Well, good luck to them."
"How about you?" Shuri asked.
"You're literally up to speed on my lack of a lovelife," Bucky laughed.
"But that guy you like came to see you again," she pointed out. "And he said he'll come back tonight, right?"
"Yeah, we'll see." Bucky shrugged. He didn't have much luck on the dating front. "I don't know, I'm getting a vibe like he had somewhere important to be."
"Everyone in New York has that vibe," Shuri replied, gesturing around them. "Look! Everyone in a hurry."
Bucky had to laugh. "Okay, I guess you're..." A strange booming noise from the sky made him pause and look up. "What's that?"
A blue beam of light was firing out from a skyscraper nearby directly into the sky.
"I don't know," Shuri said, as they both stopped to stare. Others in the street were stopping too, some pointing and gasping.
Then a hole in the sky opened and... things started to come out of it.
Bucky had read enough Sci-Fi novels to presume they were under attack by aliens, and Shuri seemed to have the same idea. They looked at each other in alarm.
"Get back to the club," she hissed. "Now!"
They ran, grabbing onto each other's hand so they didn't become separated in the panicked crowd. People were running this way and that, screaming in terror. Bucky pushed his way through, Shuri behind him. They managed to get back to the bar, entering the code for the door.
"We'll be underground in the club," Shuri said, opening the door. "We should make space for more people to shelter with us!"
"Okay, go down and tell your brother," Bucky said. "I'll stay by the door."
Shuri ran down the stairs, and Bucky stayed in the doorway gazing up at the sky.
The things coming out of the wormhole, small dots from this distance, were zipping about in the sky like so many flies. A larger thing flew out of the wormhole too, like a fish-shaped dinosaur.
"Okay, great," Bucky said weakly, "definitely aliens, then. Good to know."
They were lucky, Bucky supposed, that the club was in the basement.
They also had a cellar down below, and once they figured out that the street above was definitely under attack with loud rumbling explosions, T'Challa and Shuri organised a line of people to clear the cellar of its store crates quickly and efficiently, making room for people to take shelter.
M'Baku and Okoye, armed with baseball bats from the office, were upstairs herding any civilians who ran past down into the club.
Bucky didn't want to go into the cellar: he had claustrophobia, could barely cope in the basement club on busy nights. Right now when there would be multiple panicked people cramming together for shelter? Definitely not. So Bucky went upstairs with W'Kabi and Io, and they helped make barricades from upturned tables, shoving them into place.
From the windows Bucky saw people dash past screaming. M'Baku was out on the side-walk, trying to herd them inside while Okoye guarded the door. Something huge flew past overhead, shooting at the fleeing civilians. M'Baku had to duck as chunks of building above were shot off and landed on the street, sending up clouds of rubble.
"M'Baku, get out of the way!" Okoye shouted. "Take cover!"
"Holy shit," Bucky murmured, unable to look away from the windows.
The flying aliens came back around again, on some glorified hovering surf board, and this time M'Baku threw his bat at them.
"What is he doing?" W'Kabi hissed, crouched behind a table next to Bucky. "He's going to get himself killed!"
The aliens began firing lasers, and with a shout M'Baku dived out the way. An almighty roar made everyone look up, and Bucky's eyes widened in disbelief as a huge green figure leapt from building to building, smashing glass and rubble as he went: he took a flying jump and landed right on the aliens, smashing them into the building above.
The bar's windows shattered into pieces from the impact, and with a mighty roar the green figure leapt away again, right into the path of more aliens flying past.
"Was that who I think it was?" M'Baku asked, picking himself up out of the debris.
"Quick," Okoye ordered, "get the barricade more secure. Nothing gets past us."
Bucky dutifully helped push up more tables for a makeshift barricade. "What are we gonna use against aliens with laser guns?" he said, mostly to himself.
T'Challa, Nakia and Shuri joined them in the bar. "What happened?" T'Challa asked Okoye. "We felt the building shake."
"They're starting to attack," Okoye informed him.
"Yeah, and then the Hulk attacked them!" M'Baku added.
Shuri came and crouched beside Bucky, offering him some sort of long stick with buttons on. "Here," she whispered.
"What is it?" he asked.
Shuri gave him a look of surprise. "Bucky, seriously? It's a taser."
"I don't know how to use a taser," he said. "I'd rather you kept it, anyway."
"Alright." Shuri drew out a second taser so she had one in each hand. "We need a better defence formation than this. Move these tables and get more on the other side."
Shuri directed them where to set up their barricade, a couple yards from the now open windows. Okoye, W'Kabi and Io went upstairs so they could provide cover from the windows, that left the rest of them in the bar to defend the club.
"I can't believe I missed the Hulk," Shuri said as they crouched down behind an upturned table together. "What did he look like?"
"Big and green?" Bucky smiled weakly. "He seemed to be smashing aliens."
"Good." Shuri checked her flip-phone. "Apparently there's a group of people in costumes including the Iron Man fighting aliens by the Stark Tower."
"That's only a few blocks from here," T'Challa said. At his side, Nakia nudged him.
"Don't get any ideas," she said. "We need to take shelter here."
"Uh, guys?" M'Baku peered over the barricades just as they heard shots fired. "Aliens outside."
Rubble and stones were hurled from above, with Okoye shouting at the aliens to get away.
"Their guns are big," Shuri said, taking a look around the barricade. "If they open fire on Okoye and the others, they'll be blown away."
"Then let's distract them." T'Challa nodded to M'Baku.
Bucky watched as the two of them bravely ran out from the barricade into the street, M'Baku wielding a bat, and T'Challa drop-kicking the nearest alien. Okoye and the others continued dropping debris from the upstairs window, throwing them at the aliens below.
"Yes, get them!" Shuri shouted.
All the commotion must've attracted more aliens as soon there was more than they could handle. T'Challa was knocked down and Nakia ran out from the barricade, flicking out a baton in her hand.
"Get away from him!" she shouted, whipping her baton across the alien's face. She kicked it in the gut, and M'Baku swung in with his bat.
Another alien jumped in through the open window, charging toward Bucky and Shuri.
"Bucky, run!" she said, dashing out and tasering the alien. It squealed and dropped to the floor.
"Shit!" Bucky exclaimed, and looked around for a weapon of his own. He picked up a chair and ran outside to help the others. Bucky held his chair legs out and ran at an alien that was coming up behind M'Baku. The chair wedged around the alien and Bucky pushed, but the beast wouldn't move.
This was probably the single scariest thing Bucky had ever done, and the alien was built like a tank. Bucky grit his teeth and tried to drive it back with the chair. The alien roared in his face as Bucky squinted his eyes against the force of it and the spittle.
"Back off, you big asshole!" he grimaced.
Thankfully M'Baku came to his aid, taking hold of the chair and giving the alien a mighty shove. It threw the alien back a few steps, but only seemed to piss him off and he roared again.
"Think you made him angry," Bucky quipped, certain these were his last moments alive.
Then a flash of red, white and blue shot out of nowhere: a circular disc smacked into the alien, knocking it clean to the ground.
The disc bounced back up as a figure in a dishevelled blue suit caught the disc and landed on the ground beside them. "Great job there," said a familiar voice, and Bucky looked up to see it was Steve. His usual neat blond hair was a mess, and there was soot on his cheeks, but it was definitely Steve.
"The National Guard is on its way down the block," Steve informed them. "Take cover and we'll try to keep these bastards off you." He glanced around at the defeated aliens already littering the street. "You guys seem to be holding your own though. Stay safe." He looked at Bucky for a moment, flashing him a soft smile. "I'll come by later, okay?"
"Um, sure?" Bucky said in a daze, then watched him jog away.
A roar from above drew their attention, and Bucky saw the Hulk leaping from building to building like a very angry Tarzan, punching aliens as he went.
"Holy shit," Bucky murmured, totally blown away.
"Hey." M'Baku nudged Bucky in the ribs, gesturing to the side.
Bucky looked round, saw Nakia and T'Challa was busy making out, victorious after defeating the aliens. Bucky smiled and looked at M'Baku. "Finally," he mouthed.
Shuri ran up to join them. "Did I miss the Hulk again!" she complained, then spotted her brother and Nakia. She gasped audibly and pointed her finger. "Finally!" she called to them. "But can't you do that indoors where it's safer!"
The Avengers had won.
Or, so the news reported. All Bucky knew was that the wormhole had closed up, and all the aliens had dropped down dead.
M'Baku and Okoye had gone outside to kick at one of the corpses, checking it was definitely dead, but Bucky didn't want to get that close again. Once was enough for him.
The bar on the street level was trashed, but luckily the club downstairs was relatively unharmed. Everyone who'd taken shelter bravely came back up, thanking T'Challa for taking them in. T'Challa was grinning from ear to ear, with Nakia holding his hand and sticking close beside him.
Shuri took charge in organising clear up, getting everyone to help pitch in. The entire street had taken hits, with businesses all around them trying to clear up the debris. Shuri sent Bucky and some of the others outside to help their neighbors, and they spent a few hours clearing rubbish while being thankful to be alive.
Bucky was stood in the rubble of a cafe entrance when a pair of red boots stepped into his line of sight. Bucky looked up to see Steve before him, still wearing that gloriously tight fitted star-spangled suit. He had the red white and blue shield strapped to his back now, and his face had been cleaned up some. He grinned happily at Bucky.
"I'm glad to see you're alright," he said. "How's the club? Is everyone okay?"
"Yes," Bucky replied, still somewhat bewildered. "We were lucky. Just helping our neighbors clear up now."
Steve nodded, looking pleased. "That was brave of you, going up against those aliens. They packed a wallop."
Bucky laughed nervously. "They sure did. What about you? Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Steve told him. "Takes a lot to keep me down."
"Yeah..." Bucky couldn't help looking Steve over. Damn that suit was nice. "Um, so... you're with the National Guard or something?"
Steve's lips quirked into a small smile. "Something like that. Listen, I've gotta go debrief, but how about after we can go get a coffee, or dinner? I mean," he added with a wry chuckle, "if somewhere's open, of course."
Bucky blinked, pleasantly surprised. "Like, just us?"
"Yeah, just us." Steve smiled at him.
"Sure!" Bucky beamed in delight. "I'd like that. Will you be wearing this?" He gestured at Steve's outfit.
Steve laughed wryly. "Probably not! Is that a deal breaker?"
"No," Bucky laughed too. "I'm just teasing. You look good though."
Steve made a considering face. "Maybe I'll keep it on then." He shot a very flirty look at Bucky as he walked away. "I'll be back later!" he called over his shoulder.
Bucky stared after him as he went. Yes, he liked that suit on Steve very much.
He was so busy watching Steve until he disappeared from view that he hadn't noticed Shuri, T'Challa and Nakia sneak up behind him. Bucky jumped when he saw them there.
"What?" he asked, looking at their grinning faces.
"Bucky," Shuri said flatly. "Did you know?"
"Know what?" he asked, confused.
"Who Steve was," Nakia clarified. "It's all over the news."
"What? What news?" he asked, as Shuri rolled her eyes and handed over her flip-phone. Bucky took it and looked at the screen. There was a news headline about The Avengers, the superhero team that had apparently saved the day.
Hulk, Iron Man, Bucky read. Yes, he knew them. Captain America...
Bucky squinted, and read the headline again. "Oh, is Steve dressed as Captain America?" That made sense, he supposed. Every couple of decades the government seemed to wheel out some new guy dressed as Captain America, usually during ball games.
"Some of the news sites are claiming he is Captain America," Shuri said. "What do you think? You've talked to him the most."
"What?" Bucky made a face, and scrolled down the page. "Well, yeah, the Army does that sometimes, right?" He kept scrolling then stopped on a section that showed an old black and white photo of the original Captain America, a close up of his face.
Bucky stared at it, and saw that was clearly Steve. "Oh," he said, as things started clicking into place. "Oh..."
"Isn't it exciting?" Shuri exclaimed. "If it's true, he's a time traveller!"
"Shuri," T'Challa said, "that is highly unlikely."
"Uh, hello?" Shuri gestured around the ruins of the street. "Aliens just tried to invade us? Unlikely doesn't mean it's not true, brother."
Nakia laughed as T'Challa pulled a face. "She has a point."
They debated it a while longer as they got on with the clear up.
When they went back to the club for a rest and refreshments, Bucky took a few quiet moments to himself to soak it all in.
Whether Steve was the real Cap or not, one thing remained certain: Bucky had a date with a handsome man later, and he needed to fix his hair, stat.
Bucky thanked his lucky stars that all his gear was safe inside the dressing room, including his favorite dark suit with the subtle pinstripes. Bucky cleaned up as best he could, put on his suit and fixed his hair into its style.
For the finishing touches he applied a small bit of cologne to his skin, and put on his hat carefully to not to squash his hair.
Shuri and the others had gathered around a couple tables with take-out boxes of pizza. "You joining us?" M'Baku called over.
"He can't!" Shuri said gleefully. "He has a hot date!"
Bucky blushed at that and tipped his hat as he walked past. "I'm gonna go wait upstairs."
"You want to take a drink with you?" T'Challa offered. "On the house."
"I wouldn't say no. Thanks." Bucky gratefully took the bourbon T'Challa poured for him, having a small sip as he headed upstairs.
They'd had to board up the windows of the bar for safety, so Bucky couldn't see outside. He let himself out the door and decided to go wait at the cafe across the street, where he'd seen Steve earlier.
Some places were open for business, despite still being a bit of a mess. T'Challa had said he might open the club up later, if anyone wanted to come in to unwind and let their hair down. Bucky wondered if Steve would like to go back there with him later, depending how their dinner date went.
He sipped his bourbon as he sat on a spare chair, the owners of the cafe happy for him to hang out. There was a strong sense of camaraderie on the street, having made it through a potential invasion. New Yorkers were a tough bunch.
Bucky had just finished his bourbon, with the sun starting to set in the sky when Steve appeared, walking down the street toward the club.
Bucky waved to get his attention, and walked over to meet him. Steve had changed into civilian clothes, his tight shirt and chinos combo again, this time with a brown leather jacket over the top. He'd restyled his hair too, and he looked pleased to see Bucky, giving him a big smile.
"Wow," he said, looking Bucky over appreciatively. "You look like you just stepped out of the '40s."
Bucky grinned back at him. "Is that good?"
"Yeah, it is." Steve smiled warmly. "I like it a lot."