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The Skies Below Us

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Bucky almost laughed at how wretchedly stupid his kidnappers were.

Almost, because they had, in fact, managed to kidnap him.

But they didn’t really seem to have any idea what to do with him, now they had him. First, his only having one hand had confounded them in ways that were truly ridiculous; they couldn’t tie his wrists behind his back. They’d ended up wrapping the rope around him several times until he was more tied up like a rug than a prisoner.

He was also pretty sure as soon as they weren’t watching him, he was going to be able to get out of it.

The problem with that was that someone was paying them a ridiculous amount of money to keep an eye on him.

They hadn’t even searched him -- he still had two knives on him, one at the small of his back, and one in his boot -- and they certainly hadn’t secured him. He was maybe ten minutes away from being able to get out of the ropes.

But they were watching him.

Two years ago, he wouldn’t have hesitated. But two years ago he had both arms, and less motivation for living to retirement. He’d won a lot of battles on being willing to charge in first and make a plan later.

Right now, that seemed like a good way to get killed, and he was going to regret losing out on years and years of marriage.

He hadn’t even told Tony that he loved him.

And Bucky wasn’t going to die with that regret.

So he was waiting. Waiting to see what happened; waiting to get a better idea of where he was. Of who they were. Hydra, maybe? Independent mercenaries seemed more likely. Stupid, local help who wouldn’t take much convincing to do something so utterly against their own interests.

Eventually, Bucky thought, someone would come who would make threats or demands.

In the meanwhile, he was working his knife out of the scabbard at the small of his back. Slowly.

Someone knocked on the door. His watchers were instantly alert, hands at their hilts. Not expecting their employer to knock, then.

The knock came again, followed by a muffled, high-pitched voice. “The gentleman sent me up with lunch for you all!”

Two of the men, the ones who seemed to mostly be in charge, glanced at each other. One of them shrugged, the other took a position beside the door.

Not entirely stupid. But hungry, and just stupid enough to buy it.

Bucky had taken some prisoners in his life, and you didn’t do anything without having arranged it first. Not feeding, not going to the loo, not getting too close to someone who claimed to be ill.

Either the “gentleman” was also an idiot and had sent lunch, or this was someone’s idea of a rescue.

Bucky took advantage of their distraction to move his hand another two inches. He could brush the metal of the hilt with two fingers.

One of the men threw open the door and the second had his sword out, threateningly. 

Swords at least were smart. Close up weapons, not noisy.

Stop admiring your captors, part of his brain argued. 

Don’t underestimate them, the other part snapped back.

Bucky moved his hand again.

The opened door blocked Bucky’s view, but the voice was easier to hear, now. “I can’t push the cart in with you standing there in the way.” Definitely a child’s voice, and... horribly familiar.

Katherine. Bucky almost groaned. He should have known she wouldn’t do something smart, like go to the police.

Which left him in the uncomfortable position of having to back her play, whatever it was. Because if he didn’t, if he betrayed her in any possible way, there was a good likelihood that they were both going to die.

“Really,” Katherine said crossly. “This is quite heavy!” There was a soft grunt and a covered trolley was rolled into the room, Katherine shoving it for all she was worth, as if it were indeed heavily laden.

She looked around quickly and her eyes went round. “Brother!” Her shock wasn’t very well acted, but Bucky’s kidnappers probably didn’t know her well enough to tell the difference. She ducked under the threatening sword and flew at Bucky, literally tackling him so his chair toppled to the ground as she fell on him. She weighed... rather more than he remembered.

“What are you--” He was damned lucky he hadn’t stabbed himself in the kidney with his own fucking knife. On the other hand, the chair wasn’t made to hold one grown man, a mostly grown child, and the punishment of gravity. It splintered as it hit the ground. He got his hand on the knife and started to get to his feet.

Katherine shoved him back down -- when had she gotten so strong? -- and wrapped her arms around his head. “Now!” she shouted.

There was a split second of silence and then the trolley exploded, filling the room and Bucky’s kidnappers with wood and metal shrapnel.

No, not shrapnel. Nails.

“Kitty!” Bucky shouted. Dear God, what in the hell had she done? 

He was drowned out by the screams of the wounded. The air was filled with the stench of gunpowder and burning flesh.

No time for anything else, now. He gave her a quick look over -- she had a cut on her forehead that was probably more decorative than dangerous, even if it was bleeding profusely. “Can you stand? Fight?”

She gave him an offended look. “I am a Barnes.”

He shoved the knife at her and fished in his boot for the second one.

“So am I,” said another voice. From under the wreckage of the trolley crawled Tony, holding what appeared to be a miniature crossbow, pointed steadily at the nearest of the kidnappers. There was soot and grease smudging his face and hands, and his jaw was set dangerously. “That was even louder than I expected. We need to move fast.”

“Are you both crazy?” Bucky demanded. Katherine looked disturbingly happy for someone who was practically covered in horseshoe nails. He plucked one of them, expecting screams and blood, but it pulled free with a soft tink.

“Perhaps,” Tony said. “You can have us committed if you like, but not until after we’ve dealt with Obie.”

“I have armor!” Katherine told Bucky brightly, knocking on her own shoulder. It sounded like hollow metal.

“You have a hole in your head,” Bucky retorted, and then, catching movement out of the corner of his eye, flipped the knife in his hand and threw it, pegging one of his captors in the shoulder and causing him to drop the hold-out pistol. “Tony, do we have a plan to get out of here?”

Tony pointed at the window, then reached back into the wreckage of the trolley and pulled out a length of rope with a grapple tied to the end. “We’ve a small debt to the blacksmith,” he said calmly, unlatching the window and fixing the grapple’s hook in place. “I didn’t have enough cash on me to cover everything.” He threw the rope down. “I’ll go first so I can catch Katherine.” He tugged sharply on the rope and swung out the window as if he’d been doing it all his life.

“You’re insane,” Bucky told his sister. “Both of you.” Or maybe it was just him. Absolutely, he was going mad. This was what going mad felt like. He took the knife back from her before she fell on it or something equally stupid.

“Oh, so you’re allowed to run around doing heroic things, but I’m supposed to just--”

“Katherine!” Tony called from below. “Less arguing, more climbing!”

“Fine, but don’t think I’ve forgotten!” she said. She climbed out the window with somewhat less grace than Tony, then let herself down the rope in quick little sliding jumps.

Bucky scowled, then looked out the window. There was no fucking way he was going to be able to climb down a rope. “Clear--”

No choices.

He didn’t like the idea of falling, he’d had such a hard time with heights since the accident. Even being on the airship had been harder than it needed to be, even though he stayed well away from the rail. 

It wasn’t the same, when there wasn’t gunfire going off to force him to move.

He couldn’t do this.

He climbed out the window gingerly, sitting on the ledge. 

It wasn’t that far.

But it was far enough to break his neck if he landed badly.

A crowd was gathering, drawn by the noise. Tony grabbed someone out of the crowd, a man, and pulled him out, talking quickly. Another. And a third. They came to stand under the window, holding a-- was that a sled blanket? --stretched out between them. “Come on, sweetheart,” Tony called. “We’ve got you.”

He was going to die, that seemed almost a definite outcome. But at least he was going to die running toward something, rather than away.

Bucky took a deep breath, let it out, and jumped.

The blanket folded under him, his weight more than the hands holding it could bear, but it slowed him enough that when he hit the ground, it was only a little jarring, and not a shattering injury. When he looked up, Tony was next to him, one hand on his shoulder. “Are you okay?”

“I just-- jumped out a window,” Bucky protested. “After you blew up a warehouse? What part of okay does that relate to, in any way?” Whatever was inside was too big to come out, and rather than saying anything else, he hauled Tony in and kissed him like a blow. Hard and furious and desperate and relieved all at the same time.

Tony clung to him tightly, trembling minutely in Bucky’s arms as he kissed Bucky back, frantic.

“I thought I was going to die,” Bucky said, leaning his forehead against Tony’s. “I thought I was going to die, and that I was never going to tell you--”

“I love you,” Tony breathed. “I know, I’m sorry, it’s the least possible romantic moment but I was so terrified and I thought what if, if something happened and I never got to say it.”

“What? What, no, no, you are not allowed to spoil my big moment by being all over-eager,” Bucky said, huffing. “I was the one tied to a chair, I’m the one who gets to make the big, dramatic declaration. That’s how it’s done in all the stories, and I am not going to let you steal my moment.”

He took a few deep breaths to try to calm his scattered wits, aware that he was acting like a fool, and a lovesick fool at that.   

“Oh, right, yes, of course,” Tony said, and he sounded contrite, though there was a spark of humor in his eyes. “By all means, then, you first.”

“All I was thinking about,” Bucky said, and then paused, waiting to see if Tony was going to interrupt him, “was you. That I hadn’t been scared of dying, not until I had something to lose. I love you, husband.”

Tony’s expression softened, as if he might actually have been surprised by that. “Do you?” He examined Bucky’s face, then pressed another kiss to Bucky’s lips, sweet and searing. “I love you, too.”

Bucky hauled him in for a hug, even more tender and warm than the urgent kisses. “I seem to have heard something about that,” he said. “It’s okay now, we’re okay. We’re okay.” He wasn’t sure who he was reassuring, Tony or himself. “Everything’s okay now.”

“I told you!” Katherine said crossly from somewhere behind them. “I told you I wasn’t some hysterical child!”

Tony broke away with a soft laugh. “We need to go save the constabulary from your sister,” he murmured. “And arrange for some arrests, as well.”

“At some point,” Bucky said, “I am going to want an explanation.” But at the moment, it didn’t even seem to matter. He was alive, Tony was alive, his sister was alive, and even the aggravated constable was alive.

They could figure the rest out later.

Tony didn’t release Bucky’s hand as he went to talk to the policeman, providing a summary of events and showing off a letter he took from inside his pocket. The policeman glanced at Bucky, did a double-take, and assured them that he’d take care of the miscreants.

Sometimes, it was good to be a war hero. At least he didn’t have to explain who he was.

“Your uncle,” Bucky said as they headed back to the sled, “is still on the loose.” Because that seemed to be the take-away from all this. 

“Not for long, hopefully,” Tony said. He was still trembling slightly as he leaned into Bucky’s side, smiling wanly as Katherine proudly described her role in the rescue.

“I think you have far surpassed me for being Katherine’s favorite brother,” Bucky said, then decided to go ahead and drop the bag of bricks on Tony’s foot. “So, explaining what happened to my mother? Is all on you.”

Tony gaped at him, then glanced at Katherine, then sighed and slumped further into the seat. “Yes, I suppose so.”

“Let’s go home,” Bucky suggested.

“Nothing could sound better,” Tony agreed.

 


 

“I am not that kind of lawyer,” Ms. Potts told Tony severely.

“I know,” he protested. “But he was trying to muscle his way into my business, and you’re my business lawyer, so...”

“Also,” Bucky contributed from the chair where he was lounging, chin on his hand, “he doesn’t want to deal with anyone else.”

“That’s true,” Tony agreed. “You know who the good lawyers are, here. You put together the team to prosecute Obie, and I’ll just deal with you!” It sounded like a perfectly reasonable solution.

“I can liaise with your legal team, Mr. Stark,” Ms. Potts said, sounding a little desperate. “But I’ll need your approval on who to hire, and they’re probably going to want to speak with you at least once. I am still working on being accepted in my profession, given that I was born with the unfortunate condition of being female.”

“You do the interviews,” Tony said. “Don’t recommend them for the team if they’re not going to listen to you. I’ll sign off on whoever you want. I can talk to them if they want to talk -- I’m sure someone will need a statement about Obie at some point -- but I’m leaving things in good hands, here.”

She stared at him for a moment. “You-- I need a bonus.” Ms. Potts turned to Bucky as if for support. “I deserve a bonus.”

“Of course you do, right Tony?”

“Of course you do,” Tony agreed. “Also, I looked at the last invoice you sent for services rendered and it’s criminally low. I don’t know if that’s because you’re new or if that’s really what lawyers are paid here but I won’t stand for it. Double the next one, please, or-- maybe I should just put you on retainer?” He glanced at Bucky “Yes? Yes, I like that. What about it, Ms. Potts?”

“It would make it easier,” Bucky decided. “Assuming you agree, Ms. Potts, you’ll be the duchy’s official representative in all matters legal?”

“Of course she agrees,” Tony said. “We’ll need to set aside a suite for you at the palace, of course. You don’t have to move in if you’d rather not, but I imagine you’ll be there often enough to want an actual office and a place to rest. Also, you’re going to love Becca, the two of you are going to be fast friends immediately, I can tell.”

“I feel like I’m being badgered here,” Ms. Potts complained, “for a better paying job and less annoying clients, and yet, somehow I feel like I’m losing.”

“Nonsense. Everything is delightful when you’re working with me. Isn’t that right, darling?” Tony batted his eyelashes at Bucky.

“He’s delightful,” Bucky said, his tone saying exactly the opposite, but in a fond way, which was some sort of vocal talent. Tony wasn’t sure what sort of talent, exactly, but it was one.

“No, really, we’ll let you think about it,” Tony said. “Come up to the palace for dinner tomorrow and you can tell us what you’ve got in mind, yes? And in the meantime, we should get back. It’s been a very long day.”

“It’ll be fine,” Bucky said, reassuringly. “Tony’s more than fair about making sure you get everything you need.” He rolled out of his seat, looking like some sort of large cat that wanted you to know he meant to move out of your way and you had nothing at all to do with his decision.

Tony shook Ms. Potts’ hand once more, then tucked himself against Bucky’s side as they made their way back out to the sled. “I could sleep for a week.” But at least he could sleep, now, knowing Obie was behind bars, where he belonged.

“I’ll let you-- for a few days,” Bucky said. “But then you should probably get up and bathe, have something to eat, and tend to your languishing spouse. He gets lonely, or so I’ve been told.”

Tony rounded his eyes at his husband. “Surely, he’ll be sleeping with me?”

“Sometimes,” Bucky said. “The rest of the time, I have got a load of work to do. This whole retirement thing, I think, was Fury’s way of getting me to stop arguing with him. I might be willing to go back to war rather than discuss the tax code with the House of Lords any longer.”

“There will be no going back to war,” Tony said firmly. “I’ll take up the tax code with the chamber if I have to.”

“You’ll have us arrested in no time flat,” Bucky said. “I dare you to come along one day. It’s murder.”

“Only because you’re trying too hard not to step on anyone’s toes,” Tony guessed. He had no doubt that the politics were cutthroat, but that was a game he knew how to play. It shouldn’t take him overlong to pick up the local variants. “I’ll pack us a picnic luncheon, and we’ll be so utterly in love that they’ll give up and send us back home again.”

“That sounds lovely,” Bucky said. “If I have to call someone out for a duel because they insulted you, you’d better craft me a very nice pistol that I can shoot right handed.”

“Or maybe I’ll simply craft you a new left arm,” Tony returned. He brightened. “With a built-in pistol!”

“That seems unnecessary,” Bucky said. “It’s always a good idea to be able to put the gun down.”

“Hm. I suppose I wouldn’t want you to accidentally set it off in the midst of lovemaking.”

“You do tend to set me off without any help at all from firearms,” Bucky said. He tucked the blanket around Tony’s shoulders. “One day, your blood will get thick enough to bear our winters.”

“Perhaps. Until then, I shall rely on you to keep me warm.” Tony smiled up into Bucky’s face even as he pressed close against the heat of Bucky’s body. “And since it gives me an excuse to be close to you, I’m not sure I’ll ever admit to any such adjustment.”

“You could just admit you like to be coddled,” Bucky said. “Anything you want.” He yawned. Despite his protestation, Bucky looked like he could sleep a week, too. In fact, he looked like it might be a necessity. 

Tony made sure the blanket was tucked securely around both of them. “When we get home, I’m ordering us a tray for supper and we’re going straight to bed,” he decided. “You were kidnapped right off the street; the lords can give you a few days to recover and reassure your new spouse with his delicate Avalon constitution.”

“I don’t know that your Avalon constitution needs to be improved,” Bucky said. “You seem quite vigorous to me. But straight to bed sounds like an excellent plan.”

“We could go straight to bed and I could show you how vigorous my constitution is,” Tony suggested with a wink.

 

“We could do that,” Bucky agreed. “I think I’d like that quite a bit.”