PLEASE NOTE: I deliberately use an English spelling of the Russian form of Nat's name that has a Y instead of an I.
Story was deleted and reposted. Reviews from the original posting have been transferred as guest reviews, including the reviewers names for the sake of verification (the OPs of these reviews have been notified of this via PM).
1) This is a canon-divergent AU. Some elements from the canon storylines will still have taken place/be present, others will not. The specifics will become clearer as the story progresses. For MCU timeline reference, however, this plot initially occurred to me before Captain America: Civil War hit theaters (and before I'd sat through AoU). Additionally, please remember this is a peace-time fic, so while there will still be action and combat, that will not be the focus of this, so much as seeing how these individuals handle trying to be 'normal.'
2) Chapter lengths will vary, as I only make my chapters long as is strictly necessary to accomplish whatever they need to within the story—sometimes that will be over 4k words, sometimes it will be less than 2k, but the length of the chapter will never have an effect on the quality of the story.
3) As with all my fics, the status of this story is Updated Sporadically, because of both the number of fanfictions I have, and a need to split what writing time I have between fanfictions and novel work.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or any affiliated characters/canon components.
Sam exhaled through his nostrils as he shook his head, looking around at the team. Bruised and battered, only half of them were here, the rest in New York, still, but they'd all survived, and that was what mattered. Well, that and the whole winning the fight part.
Vision was assisting a half-conscious Wanda to sit steady, Clint had already nodded off in a dining room chair with a nasty black eye, Natasha was rummaging through some of his first aid supplies, and Steve paced, observing everyone as he carried on a hushed conversation with Tony—overseeing the team members back at what was left of Avengers Tower. The last-minute addition, whom Sam still didn't really consider part of the team, sat alone in the living room on the far corner of the sofa, looking around at everything, as though uncertain he should even be there.
Finally, something they could agree on.
Steve ended the call and turned his attention to Sam. "Hey," he said, patting his friend's shoulder. "You okay?"
"Yeah, yeah." Sam nodded, wincing as he stretched. "Few cracked ribs, but I've had worse. Just . . . pretty sure my house wasn't built for this."
"It's just for a couple of days. We lay low, recoup, wait it out. Tony and the others are doing the same."
It didn't escape Steve's notice that Sam's attention kept shifting back to Bucky. He knew Sam didn't like him very much—what with the whole brainwashed and trying to kill them thing, he was forced to admit he understood—but now was not the time.
"Hey, he helped us when he didn't have to," Steve said with a shake of his head. "Just try to remember he wasn't a willing participant in what he's done."
Sam rolled his eyes as he frowned. "I hate you."
Snorting a chuckle Steve said, "No, you don't."
"No, I don't. I'm going to go patch myself up," Sam said, waving toward his rib cage before he turned and started toward the bathroom, and the backup first aid kit. He winced, again, imagining the discomfort of binding his midsection with an ACE bandage—not that he could do much else for ribcage injuries—but, as he'd already said, he'd had worse.
Just as Natasha finished dabbing ointment around Clint's eye, his head fell back, his mouth open in a snore.
Snickering quietly, she nodded as she stood and gathered the first aid supplies. "Oh, yeah. Laura's so lucky."
As she turned away from her partner, she saw Wanda asleep. Poor thing was snuggled into Vision's side. She'd expended so much energy during that fight, they were all surprised she'd had strength left to walk. He caught Nat's gaze, and in a surprisingly human gesture, held a silencing finger to his lips.
Natasha nodded, quieting her footfalls as she walked by them. A flicker of movement from the far side of the living room caught the corner of her eye as she passed the small, arched entryway.
Pausing, she turned her head to follow the motion.
There sat the Winter Soldier, looking both misplaced and very uncomfortable as he sat on the edge of the sofa. Like he literally did not know what to do with himself. Bucky, she tried to remind herself, Bucky Barnes. He wasn't the Winter Soldier, Fist of HYDRA right now—he was James Buchanan Barnes, long-lost friend of Steve Rogers with a patchy memory.
And, right now, that friend of Steve's had a rather nasty gash on his right arm.
Shoulders slumping, Nat held the kit in front of her as she turned and stepped into the living room. Despite her cautious approach, he looked up, startled, his blue eyes wide.
Okay, so this was weird, she considered as she settled on the cushion beside his and shifted to face him. She imagined she was eyeing him as warily as he was her, even as she blindly opened the kit and started extracting bandages and peroxide ointment.
They'd never been in close quarters like this during a calm moment, and she wasn't certain how that made her feel. He was likely thinking the very same thing, she was aware.
Dropping her gaze to the bandages, she cleared her throat. "You, uh, should take that off, so I can see how bad the damage is."
Bucky opened his mouth to protest, but only shut it again, shaking his head. He knew all about the Black Widow. Her training, her conditioning, her genetic augmentation—not entirely dissimilar to him and Steve—meant she knew he didn't actually require medical attention, as the others might, for such an injury.
But he also knew it would take at least a little time to heal, and any assistance could only speed the process. Also, he was pretty sure she was not going to hear any arguments.
He shrugged out of his vest and peeled of his ruined shirt. Giving himself a once-over for further damage, he extended his arm at her instruction.
"This looks like it's the worst of what you got," she said, her gaze on her work as she cleaned the wound.
Bucky nodded, still wildly uncomfortable to be here with them—with Steve's team that he wasn't really part of.
Even more so, though, he was unsettled by how careful she was being with him. Given the similarity of their backgrounds, he expected the same cold, clinical, even careless treatment he'd have received from any HYDRA doctor.
Natasha was aware—acutely so—of Bucky's still-wary gaze on her as she dressed his injury. Frowning thoughtfully, she nodded. She understood his train of thought; she knew his programming. It had probably been a long while since he'd been considered anything other than a weapon.
He seemed so . . . skittish, almost. Bucky Barnes was a million miles away from the Winter Soldier, right now. She understood how that felt. Yet, he would always be both, and she understood that, too.
She sighed, her shoulders drooping a little. God, she was beat after that fight. Giving her head a shake, she focused on finishing up. "So . . . when is the last time someone treated you like you were human?"
He jutted his chin toward the entryway—she knew he was indicating Steve, who lingered somewhere beyond—as he asked, "Other than him trying to jog my memory?"
His eyes clouded over as he tried to recall any scrap of gentleness, or consideration. Finally, he shook his head. "I can't remember."
"Funny, isn't it?" She patted the bandage, smiling sadly as she watched him sink back into the sofa. "How we were treated most like monsters by the people who made us this way?"
Bucky held her gaze for several heartbeats before he could ask, "So, you think we're not?" This confused and surprised him—how could they be anything else?
She tried to hide the little smirk that curved her lips as she noticed that, as he asked that, his eyelids were drooping. She didn't know if he'd finally relaxed enough to fall asleep, or was simply that worn out from the combat—though, knowing what she did of him, she doubted the latter, despite that she felt ready to just topple over, herself.
"I think we can be, sure," she said, as she closed the kit and then shifted to sink into the sofa beside him. "But I also think we can choose not to be."
He let his eyes drift closed, and stay that way. How strange, but he felt . . . safe right now. He couldn't recall the last time he'd felt that—hell, he couldn't recall the last time that had even mattered to him.
Nodding, his voice came out in a sleepy tumble. "I hope you're right."
She nodded before dropping her head back against the cushion behind them. "Me, too."
Sam shook his head as he crossed the dining room. Clint was still passed out in that chair—he did not envy the archer the cramps he'd have when he woke up—and Vision was still carefully guarding Wanda from any noise that might cause her to stir on the window seat.
Steve was still on edge, standing sentry by the window, despite knowing there wasn't anything to be on the look out for, right now. Sam, knew, though, with the others to watch out for, Captain America wasn't going to be able to rest for a while.
Shaking his head, Sam proceeded into the living room . . . and stopped short.
Backpedaling a few steps, he called over his shoulder. "Oh, you gotta come see this."
Glancing away from the window, Steve asked, "What's wrong?"
Sam opened his mouth to answer, and then closed it, again. Flicking his attention toward the sofa, he pursed his lips and then looked to Steve, once more. "I'm not even sure how to elaborate on that. You're just gonna have to come and see for yourself."
His massive shoulders slumping, Steve crossed the floor to stand beside Sam. Following the very not-subtle nod of Sam's head, Steve's brows shot upward.
"Oh," was all he could manage for a moment.
Nat had pulled her legs up onto the cushion in her sleep, curling herself into Bucky's side. Her head was down on his shoulder, and his cheek rested against the top of her hair. They both looked peaceful in a way Steve wasn't sure either of them had in far too long.
If any two people deserved a peaceful moment . . . .
Smiling, though still surprised—and just a bit confused—Steve nodded. He turned away, motioning for Sam to follow as he walked away, leaving them to rest.