After giving them the lecture of a lifetime -despite neither Steve or Natasha being official S.H.I.E.L.D. agents anymore- Fury pulls some strings.
He'll bawl out Bucky later, when he's back to 100%. Nick's got a whole agenda of "Next time you have a possibly life-threatening health condition, you fucking tell someone, goddamit!" planned out.
The damages to the roof and the shattered window come out of Stark's near-bottomless funds and Bucky is quietly relocated to the Avenger's Tower for rehabilitation. The whole incident somehow stays out of the news.
The rehabilitation is much faster than a normal man's might be, but it's still excruciatingly slow and dull for Bucky. The restructured serum helps, but even a super soldier has to take a little time to recover after his body goes through a near-total shutdown.
For the first week, he can barely get out of bed. The itch has spread throughout his body as weakened muscle, tissue, and bone resolidify. Even his blood rebuilds itself, and the sensation is just entirely too creepy to describe.
The whole process is uncomfortable and annoying, and he's cranky and out of sorts for the duration. Most of the team finds a reason to be out of the tower for a while.
The following two weeks, he slowly begins to walk again. When he proves he can stay steady without falling or stumbling, Steve takes him for short-distance runs around the track in the training room. He doesn't go outside for nearly a month and it's another month after that before they'll let him anywhere near a weapon. Even then, his left arm has to be entirely recalibrated just to pick it up.
Tony lends him a DVD of a show called "The Six Million Dollar Man" one night as some kind of joke. Bucky doesn't think it's particularly funny. He uses the discs as target-practice a few days later. A neat ring of holes shatter each one in a very satisfying way.
It's about 4 months after his near-death before Bucky is finally allowed out into the field. He's practically vibrating with joy to be back in action again.
"How ya doing up there?" Steve's voice hums over the com channel.
A rifle crack echoes over the street and the shot drops an enemy sniper from the rooftop opposite them, 30 yards away. They crash unceremoniously to the ground at Steve's feet. He steps around them and keeps moving.
"Fine." Bucky ejects the spent shell, feeling a new round drop smoothly into the chamber. "Covering your ass like always."
Steve can almost hear him grinning.
"Yeah, well keep yours in one piece from here on out, will ya?" He slams his shield into an enemy combatant and sends them flying. Another sails over his head, compliments of Natasha.
"Yessir." Another shot, another agent drops into the street. "Oh, and Steve?"
"Thanks. For… y'know… everything."
"Awwww...You two are adorable. " Natasha's voice cuts in. "Now shut your face holes and focus on the mission."
"Way to ruin our male bonding time, Nat." Bucky sighs dramatically, prepping for his next shot.
"Save it for cuddles at home, boys. We've got work to do."
"I do not cuddle-!" Steve protests, but Bucky's laughing too loud to hear him. Steve just gives up trying to argue with them when Natasha joins in.
"You are a bitch, and I love you for it." Bucky finally responds. "Street is secure, kids. Move out."
"That was your one freebee, Barnes. Call me that again and you might just have another unfortunate 'accident'." Natasha informs him, as she neatly drops two agents and spiral-kicks a third into a nearby wall.
"She'll do it too." Clint chimes in.
Bucky can see him, covering their backs from the street below. Clint draws a finger dramatically across his throat and grins.
Bucky is pretty sure they're just joking, but with Black Widow… you never know.
He secures his rifle and leaps nimbly over to the next rooftop, scouting for more agents as he moves. Nobody is getting the drop on his team today.
It feels good to have a team again. Good to have a family. Feels good just to be alive, really. He plans to make the most of it.
And that's a wrap. Hope you all enjoyed it :) Reviews are, as always, appreciated :)