James "Bucky" Barnes

No one was expecting much out of Christmas that year.

Thor and Loki had been ordered back to Asgard for something. They were both a little shifty about sharing the details. Pepper had a conference on Christmas Eve that she couldn't get out of. Clint was going home to meet Phil's family (Finally.) for the holidays. And Sam decided to volunteer at the local food kitchen for the evening, and had convinced the remainder of the team to go along. Jane and Darcy were merely collateral at that point, and neither objected to spending the Eve helping those who needed it.

Tony served the guy the first time he went through the line. The second time, it was Jane. Both were so involved in a three-hour-long discussion with Bruce about the Bifrost and something science-y that they utterly failed to notice a familiar face under long, greasy hair and a beanie and worn jacket.

Darcy, on the other hand, took one look on the guy's third pass for food and froze holding out the sandwich. Then she dropped the sandwich, smiled widely, and held out a hand to shake. "Hi, Bucky. I'm Darcy."

When the scattered Avengers reconvened the next day, Clint pointed angrily at the glowering man with a metal arm. His hair had been pulled back in a loose half-ponytail and he was wearing a tank top and a pair of Captain America pajama pants that matched Darcy's.

"Why does all the good stuff happen when I'm not around?" the archer demanded.

Darcy sighed. "Shut up and sit down, sweetcheeks, we've got presents to open." Then she walked over to Cap, who had one arm around Tony, and with the other kept reaching out to touch Bucky in his spot beside him, and dropped a kiss on his cheek. "Merry Christmas, Stars and Stripes."

Tony rolled his eyes, but snuggled closer into Steve's hold, and -in an alarmingly high-pitched, mocking voice- announced, "And God bless us, every one."

Nat and Pepper, sitting beside each other and holding matching glasses of spiked eggnog, Bruce in an armchair where Darcy settled on to his lap, and Sam struggling to reach the last present under the tree without tipping the entire thing over, all simultaneously yelled, "Not Odin!"

Thor glanced up from fiddling with his first wrapped present and rolled his eyes. "It wasn't amusing the first time."

Loki, busy braiding a barely-awake Jane's hair, snorted. "Your sense of humor is simply unsophisticated enough to appreciate this joke, brother."

Thor grinned widely, more intent on the title than the insult to his father.

Waving an arm, Tony announced, "Queue up the Christmas playlist, JARVIS. Thor, go ahead and just open it. We don't stand on ceremony here. Right, Pep?"

The woman just sighed and took a bigger gulp of her drink.

And Bucky watched it all like some kind of stage show, wary and uncomfortable until Sam dropped a gift in his lap. He stared down at the blue and white wrapping paper and sparkly silver bow in confusion, then peered around.

It was Darcy who shrugged. "It's kind of last minute, since we had no idea we'd be finding you and kidnapping you from a homeless shelter yesterday, but it's from all of us."

Bucky carefully split the tape, folding up the paper and putting it aside in case they were going to use it again. Then he pulled open the cardboard box, stared, and began to chuckle.

"Well, would ya look at that?" He nudged Steve's knee with his.

Steve blushed bright red, while Clint piped up, "And it's signed!"

Bucky looked back down at the very first issue of Captain America, the same one that he had distant memories of complaining about to his best friend when the writers had turned him into "some punk kid", and he had to smile.

… …

a/n Happy Holidays, guys! Sorry it's been so long since I've updated. My stress levels have shot through the roof, and as a consequence I've been having a tough time writing. So, as a present to you, here's my version of how they brought Bucky home.

To anyone wondering about backstory in this 'verse, the team found out Bucky was alive when Hydra (NOT imbedded in SHIELD, just kinda around) sent him to kill Steve. Steve managed to make Bucky remember him, and that he wasn't always the Winter Soldier, but Bucky still ran. They've been looking for him since then, but it's been a while and everyone but Steve had begun to lose hope.