Title: a taste of lightning

Fandom: Highlander/Avengers movieverse/Norse mythology

Disclaimer: not my characters

Warnings: schoompy, I think

Pairings: pre- & past-Steve/Bucky

Rating: PG

Wordcount: 1070

Point of view: third


Ash walks in the front entrance of Stark Tower and smiles at the man behind the desk. "I'd like an appointment with Steve Rogers, please," he says.

"Of course, sir," the man replies.

.

Two days pass before Rogers can meet. Ash knows that if he'd used his real name, there'd have been no wait. He could also just pop in whenever he feels like.

But he wants to do this right. Captain America believes his childhood friend is dead. And Black Widow will only confuse things, though Ash is sure she also believes the weapon she knew to have been used for parts years ago.

He's sitting at the table in the meeting room when Rogers walks in. "Ash," Rogers says, surprised, pausing in the doorway. He glances over his shoulder before sitting at the table. "How can I help you, sir?" he asks.

Such a polite boy. Ash grins. "You took a bullet for my son. I owe you a debt." He studies Rogers for a moment, and Rogers stoically looks back.

"I would've taken that bullet for anyone, sir," he says. "I didn't know it was Van, but that makes no difference."

Ash nods. "I understand that, Captain. It is… unusual." Ash has existed for a very long time, and knows exactly how unusual that is. He steeples his fingers and rests them against his lips, considering Rogers again. "Do you remember a man named James Barnes?" he asks.

Rogers' eyes widen and he flinches – and then he gets angry. Ash calmly looks at him, as Rogers leans across the table, fists clenched. "What are you after?" he demands.

"I owe you a debt, Captain," Ash says. "To clear it, I'll return James Barnes to you."

Rogers' fingers dig into the table. "What in the hell are you talking about?"

Rogers knows that Ash can raise the dead; he's experienced it firsthand. But Ash takes pity on the man and gently explains, "Your friend did not die, Captain. He was taken by the Russians, shattered, and pieced back together as the perfect weapon. I have custody of him, at the moment; I took him from his most recent would-be masters."

Rogers doesn't seem to be breathing, staring at Ash. So Ash says, "He's happy, at the moment. He doesn't remember anything before Red Room." He pauses, meeting Rogers' gaze. "Except your name."

The table splinters.

.

In his dreams, he's falling. Every time. He's falling, fingers grasping for something he can never reach. There's an icy wind blowing, and he's falling, and he wakes up before hitting the ground.

Ash has yet to tell him his name. Van happily shows him how the library is organized. Gunnar stalks him in wolf form, but eats breakfast as a man and politely asks him to pass the salt.

He feels safe in Ash's house. He never felt safe in Red Room. He had orders and he followed them; he had missions and he completed them. He had targets and he killed them.

His orders now are to loaf around and rest. His mission is to reclaim what Red Room stole, what he never missed before opening his eyes to a room full of corpses. His target is himself. Whoever he was.

In his dreams, he's falling and screaming, "Steve!"

.

You like him, Van laughs, poking at Gunnar's shoulder. Gunnar growls, flicking an ear his way before huffing.

I do not, he grumbles.

Van laughs again. We're not keeping him, he says. It has been fun, feeling like an older brother these past few days, but they cannot keep him. He has someone waiting for him, someone who loves him. Someone he loves. Van's fingers tighten in Gunnar's ruff, because there have been so many months he couldn't touch his wolf. When Gunnar was on missions for Hel, when he was hiding and fleeing realms.

I'm here, Gunnar whispers, pressing back so that Van could wrap his arms around him. I'm here and I'm yours.

Yes, Van murmurs, resting his head on Gunnar's flank. Yes. Gunnar is his, and Ash is his, and he is theirs, and nothing can ever be taken from him again.

.

He's sitting in the den, curled up with a novel about magic and teenaged heroes, when Ash knocks on the doorframe. "Kiddo," he says. "I have someone here who wants to see you."

He looks up, past Ash, but whoever's behind him is hidden by the wall, so he focuses back on Ash and closes the book. "Who?" he asks, his heart chanting Steve, Steve, Steve.

Ash smiles, stepping into the room. A tall blond man slips in behind him, eyes wide, mouth open, hands fluttering at his sides.

"Bucky," he whispers, then louder he says, "Bucky!"

"Steve," Bucky says, eyes closing as he sags down.

As he remembers.

.

Bucky is alive. Bucky was never dead.

Bucky is falling - so Steve lunges for him, and catches him, and clutches him close like he couldn't seventy years ago. He rests his cheek on the top of Bucky's head, and he apologizes, he begs for forgiveness, he promises and swears to never let Bucky go again, he squeezes so tight –

And Bucky's arms wrap around him, Bucky's fingers grip his shirt, and Bucky whispers into his chest, apologies and explanations, seventy years he did horrible things and Steve wasn't there, Steve wasn't even a ghost in his mind –

"You knew my name," Steve says, and Bucky quiets. "Ash said – you knew my name when you didn't know anything else."

"Steve," Bucky murmurs, leaning back just far enough to raise his head and meets Steve's eyes.

"Bucky," he replies.

Bucky's alive. Bucky's here and safe, and Steve pulls him back in, holding on as tight as he can.

He's never letting go again.

.

Ash backs out silently, smiling, and turns towards the kitchen. He feels like jambalaya tonight, and he's pretty sure none of his boys have had it yet.

He thinks about calling Amanda, telling her he's sending two kids her way for babysitting – but maybe he'll keep them for himself.

So… we are keeping them? Van asks sleepily, and Gunnar echoes the question in a rumble, mostly asleep.

maybe, he answers, pulling a pot out of the cabinet.

Brothers are good, I've learned, Van says.

Ash chuckles. His son has come a long way, since that bitter, terrified child he found. Yes, he says. Brothers can be a very good thing.