Avengers-Steve Bucky past

Captain America MCU fic: Little Repairs

Title: Little Repairs
Fandom: Captain America/MCU
Word Count: 3100
Pairing: Gen
Summary: Tony repairs Bucky's arm; Bucky tries not to freak out about it. Set in some hypothetical future time after CA2.
Cross-posted: http://archiveofourown.org/works/1680554




Pain.

The world is pain. It arches his back, bursts behind his eyes -- hot and cold and electric blue.

"More of a response to that one than the last."

He can't see what they're doing. Can't move. Can't scream. They don't want him thrashing around. The screaming is a distraction.

"We need to know what his tolerances are."

There is pain and he bathes in it, falls into it, tries not to lose himself in it. If he can break through, break through the drugs, through the restraints -- if he can scream --

He screams.

"Bucky!"

He's out of the chair and up and standing and his back's against a wall, and someone moves toward him, and his metal arm won't work and he starts to swing but pulls the punch at the last minute, spinning around and cracking his knuckles into the wall hard enough to draw blood.

"Bucky," someone -- Steve -- says again. Steve's holding a hand out but he's not moving any closer, and Bucky takes a few slow, deep breaths -- Deep breathing stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, his therapist told him, minimizing the fight-or-flight response.

"Did it hurt?" Behind Steve, Tony looks desperately anxious. "I thought I had the nerve connections completely severed, but --"

"No. No, it didn't hurt."

He knows where he is now. He knows where he's not. And so he goes to the window to get himself under control. Tony's workshop in the Avengers Tower takes up an entire floor -- and this is just the upstairs one; Bucky gathers that there are subterranean lab levels as well. He's never been down there and never plans to go. The only thing that makes this one bearable is the huge window running the entire length of one wall, looking out over the city.

Tony always works on his arm here, where the window is readily available, the sense of space and depth to combat the feeling of the walls closing in on him. They've never talked about it. It's just something Tony knows to do. The more that Bucky gets to know the Avengers, the more he realizes that all of them have their cracks and sharp edges -- not quite to the extent that he does, but there might be nowhere else that he'd be more likely to find a group of people who understand him like these people do.

At least to the point that anyone can understand him. He's not always sure he understands himself.

His metal arm is deadweight hanging from his shoulder. It still hurts, but he knows that's phantom pain, strictly psychological. He glances over his shoulder and finds, to his relief, that Steve's not hovering; he's gone to help Tony pick up the tools and equipment that Bucky scattered in his panicked flight.

.... panicked flight that he doesn't quite remember, lost as he was in his own head. Right now the other memory is sharp and clear as a photograph; it's the world around him that seems dim and hazy.

What if this is the hallucination, and I'm really strapped down, with a needle in my spine and drugs to paralyze me so they can --

He shakes his head, hard, whipping his hair against his cheek. This makes both Steve and Tony look over at him. Bucky looks away, turns his back on them.

He's brought this up with his therapist before, this deep-rooted part of him that can't quite believe the world around him is real. She's a former SHIELD employee gone into private practice -- Sam helped him find her -- and she's used to dealing with deprogramming and PTSD. The various exercises they've gone through to help ground him and root out the dark tangle of weeds in his subconscious would fill a book, but the one thing that's always really stuck with him was something she said in one of their first sessions, when he was still an unshaven mess curled up in the most uncomfortable chair in the room.

"If you're not quite sure which reality to believe in," she said, "why not believe in the one that gives you happiness?"

And so he draws his fingers lightly across his own collarbone above the point where flesh and metal meet, grounds himself in the gentle tickle of his own nerve endings being stimulated. That's real, and so is the quiet murmur of Steve and Tony's voices in the background. He had lunch today with Sam and Steve along the waterfront, buying hot dogs from a vendor and then walking across the Brooklyn Bridge just for fun. That's his reality because he wants it to be.

He turns his back on the skyline and, sliding walls of willpower into place, he returns to Tony's worktable and the stool he was sitting on. Tony and Steve appear to be having a very quiet argument, but fall into a guilty hush as he approaches, which means they were talking about him. He's learned not to let it bother him. Mostly.

"Look, we don't have to continue today," Tony says quickly, heading off whatever Steve was about to say. "You can take a break, come back later --"

"My arm doesn't work," Bucky points out.

"Yeah, but that's only because I've flipped the kill switch on the nerve connections. I can put it back in about five minutes and you can go watch a movie or something --"

"I'd rather get it done now," Bucky says. "I'm already here."

He sits and uses his good hand to hoist his arm onto the worktable, elbow resting between a collection of soldering irons and screwdrivers with little odd-shaped tips. Then he glares defiantly at both of them, daring them to argue. He can see that Steve wants to, but then Steve sighs and reaches for a stool of his own, wheeling it over and plunking himself down beside Bucky.

"Did you ever win an argument with him when you were kids?" Tony asks Steve, picking up a soldering iron.

Steve grins, and Bucky says, "He could always out-stubborn me," a little absently. He's thinking about how much trust it must take Tony not to restrain him when they're doing this sort of thing. Human bodies are so fragile. All it would take is a single blow to Tony's throat or sternum --

-- which he wouldn't do, he wouldn't, but he's not always in full control. He hates that about himself, but it's not like hating it makes any difference. Identify the feeling, name it, and then let it pass through you, his therapist says, so he names the hate and then envisions it falling away, out the window, dropping toward the city skyline below.

Warm fingers lightly brush the side of his right hand, making him jump. Tony curses quietly as the tip of the soldering iron skips on the metal arm. Steve pulls back immediately, murmuring an apology to both of them, but his hand is still there, palm up, an open invitation. After a moment, Bucky initiates contact, lays his hand in Steve's palm, wraps his fingers around Steve's and lets Steve squeeze his hand back. The ball of Steve's thumb gently brushes over Bucky's scraped and split knuckles.

"So tell me about the past," Tony says absently, his nose a few inches from the inner workings of Bucky's arm. He's so damned close and Bucky can think of a dozen ways to kill him just off the top of his head without getting up from the stool. He wouldn't, of course.

Tony told him once, when it was just the two of them in the lab, about almost killing Pepper one time with the Iron Man suit during a nightmare. Bucky isn't sure if that makes it worse or better -- on the one hand, Tony gets it, but on the other hand, Tony gets it and does this anyway. Bucky's not sure what he ever did to inspire that kind of loyalty.

"The past is a broad topic," Steve remarks, rubbing his thumb in gentle circles on the back of Bucky's hand. "Narrow it down for me."

"Five foods you never tried 'til you woke up in the modern era."

"My life has now been reduced a Cracked dot com list," Steve says, sounding amused.

"Who told you about -- Okay, yes, I can see the look on your face that means you're about to say something along the lines of, Tony, I know what the Internet is and I actually spend a large portion of my waking hours on it."

"It's useful for research," Steve says.

"Yeah, research is absolutely why the network download traffic spikes every time you and the winter wonder are here."

"I have seventy years of pop culture to catch up on." Steve's voice has that particular singsong quality that Bucky knows full well is his "giving people shit" tone. The thing is, nobody ever expects it coming from Steve, and he can be so deadpan when he's being playful. He once managed to convince Clint, for the length of an entire conversation, that wolves still occasionally roamed Brooklyn in the 1940s.

Steve has shifted from lightly running his thumb across the back of Bucky's hand to massaging it, pressing his thumb between the joints and tendons. He gives Bucky a quick glance -- You want me to stop? -- and Bucky smiles slightly in response, so Steve keeps doing it. The changing sensations give him something to focus on. His arm still hurts, but it really is psychological and he knows it; the pain doesn't change with the things Tony is doing, and it's only really there when he thinks about it. Having other things to think about is helpful.

The other thing that's bothering him is the burning smell of the soldering iron. It reminds him a little too much of -- other -- burning things. But it's not too bad, because he can identify it and name it and figure out how it's making him feel, and then decide not to feel that way. Or at least decide to focus a little more on Steve massaging his hand, something nice that he wants to think about. He has control over that.

Somehow Steve and Tony have wandered on to talking about alcohol.

"You really can't get drunk," Tony says.

"No, my body treats it like a poison and metabolizes it out as fast as I can drink it."

"Handy," Tony remarks, teasing apart a delicate snarl of wires. "No hangovers."

"No temporary escape, either," and Steve's voice is quiet; he's clearly thinking of something in the past.

"Escaping into a bottle isn't the healthiest option." Tony sounds a little pensive too. "Take it from someone who knows. It's awfully easy to pack a bag and pull in the cork behind you. Say, this conversation got morbid really quick." He does something to Bucky's arm that Bucky can almost feel -- not directly, but in the form of a tug that pulls against something in his flesh-and-blood body, some ligament or muscle or bone that the arm is connected to. It doesn't hurt, exactly, but it's a weird feeling. Tony glances up and seems to see something on his face, because he says, "What about you, Winter Wonderland? Can't get drunk either? No wild parties in the Rogers-Barnes bachelor pad?"

"It doesn't affect me as much as it used to." No need to mention the time, before Steve and Sam caught up with him, that he decided to see if it was still possible to drink himself to death. As it turns out, it's not, or at least he wasn't determined enough to do it, but drinking himself to misery is entirely possible.

"You two are the team's designated drivers, then."

"Did Steve ever tell you about the first time he got drunk?" Bucky asks. This draws startled looks from both of them. He's not normally the one telling stories; he just listens, slotting other people's stories into place in his own past. He thinks maybe it's time for that to change. And this is something he remembers pretty well.

"I don't think anyone needs to hear about that," Steve says, but he gives Bucky's hand a light squeeze. On some level, Bucky hates it when he does that kind of thing -- he just wants Steve to be Steve, giving him shit and no respect whatsoever. However, he doesn't complain because Steve telegraphing social cues is actually pretty useful; he's still bad at picking up on conversational nuance and the finer points often fly right past him.

"Tell me this is actually interesting and not, say, you taking him out on his twenty-first birthday to get wasted," Tony says. "Or, wait, no, Prohibition."

"Nah, legal drinking age was eighteen then," Bucky says, and then shoots a quick sideways look at Steve to make sure he's remembering right, but Steve is busy giving Tony a pitying, "did you not pay attention in history class" look.

"I thought it was Prohibition then," Tony repeats.

"Prohibition was repealed in 1933," Steve says. "How old do you think we are?"

"I started losing track after the eighth decade, so sue me." Tony reaches for another tool on the worktable. "So basically what you're saying is you did take him out to a bar as soon as he was legal, and why are you telling me this when I was expecting good dirt on Rogers."

"Nah, we were seventeen," Bucky says. "I bummed a bottle of hooch off a guy I worked with. I don't even know what it was, some kind of home-distilled rot-gut."

"Possibly cut with kerosene." Steve makes a face. "I can still taste that stuff."

"You sure tasted enough of it."

"I don't actually remember anything after the ...." Steve looks uncomfortable. "-- incident with the fire escape."

"Really?" Bucky surprises himself with his own delight. "I remember something you don't?"

"When I'm ninety pounds and just drank half a bottle of white lightning -- yeah."

"Steve is hilarious when he's drunk," Bucky tells Tony. "You don't know what you're missing."

Tony seems to have temporarily lost interest in Bucky's arm. "Tell me more. No wait, tell me everything."

Something warm and pleasant swells inside Bucky's chest. It's nice to have a bit of memory about the two of them that he can give back to Steve for a change. "Well, Steve fell into the East River and I had to jump in after him."

"Is that what happened to my clothes?" Steve says. "I always kind of wondered about that."

Tony looks wonderstruck. "This is amazing. Please tell me you took pictures."

"It was the 1930s," Bucky says. "Cameras were big and expensive then, not tiny and everywhere." Also, what he mostly remembers after that part is not being able to wake Steve up and getting scared, which makes a less entertaining story. He'd ended up taking Steve home with him and they both spent the next day being thoroughly sick and getting mocked by Bucky's sisters.

Steve snorts. "I'm amazed we didn't both die. Or go blind. Or something of that nature."

"It was just one bottle. And I'd had some experience drinking before," Bucky adds for Tony's benefit. The more he talks about it, the more his memories settle into place, becoming firm and concrete rather than an ever-shifting set of puzzle pieces with half the pieces missing. "I'd knock back drinks with the guys after work, sometimes. I had a job loading crates onto trucks." The last part is almost for his own benefit more than Tony's. He remembers having a job as a teenager, but this is the first time he managed to recall what it actually was.

"I want to hear more about Steve getting drunk," Tony complains.

"I think we've heard enough about Steve getting drunk," Steve says, but the smile he's wearing is warm and fond.

"I'm done anyway," Tony says, pushing his stool back, and Bucky looks down in surprise. He wasn't even aware of the nerve connections getting hooked back up -- Tony is that stealthy about it. When HYDRA did it -- but no. That's not his reality anymore. He wiggles his fingers and then stretches the whole arm.

"Response time should be about thirty percent faster than what you had before," Tony is saying, "and the fingertip sensitivity ought to be a lot better too -- try it."

Bucky runs his fingers across the worktable surface. Tony's right; the arm feels lighter, more responsive. He can tell the difference between the smooth surface of the table and the fabric of his own jeans leg. "Yeah," he says, and Tony seems to like whatever is showing on his face, because Tony grins brilliantly.

"Excellent! Now I'm starving, so I'm going to go find out if Thor's eaten all the leftover pizza again. Call me if anything stops working, starts sparking, or picks up weird radio signals from Neptune."

"Tony," Bucky says, and Tony stops and looks back. "Thank you." And he doesn't just mean for the repair job.

Which Tony might realize, because he says, "You can thank me by telling me the rest of that story sometime when Captain Killjoy isn't around to stop you," and then beats a hasty retreat.

Steve looks stupidly happy for some reason, at least until he notices Bucky looking at him. "You realize that I know plenty of embarrassing stories about you too," Steve says. "I don't know if you want to open that Pandora's box, Buck."

Bucky flips him off and then tucks his hands into his pockets, but he can't seem to stop moving the fingers of his newly repaired and upgraded arm -- just little motions, reveling in the new lightness and responsiveness.

"You feel like testing that out?" Steve asks, tipping his head at Bucky's arm. "Head down to the workout room, go a few rounds."

Sparring with Steve is fun. It took them awhile to work up to it -- Bucky couldn't stop flashing on the times he'd tried to kill Steve for real, and Steve, Bucky realized later, was afraid of hurting him. But, for the first time in their lives, they're evenly matched. All those years, Bucky never realized how much fun that could be.

The passing years stole a lot of things, but they gave things back too. Good things. Warm days in the sun on the Brooklyn Bridge. Little pieces of memory that are his and only his, that Steve would never have gotten back if Bucky hadn't kept them safe for him.

The feeling that's settled into his chest isn't quite happiness, but it feels almost like peace.

"Yeah," he says, and smiles, and means it.

~


This entry is also posted at http://sholio.dreamwidth.org/953637.html with comment count unavailable comments.
Oh, this is lovely! I love the care that everyone shows in their own way, and I really love the idea of Sam finding Bucky a therapist. Such a warm, thoughtful fic ♥
Thank you so much! ♥ ♥ ♥ If anyone in the MCU EVER needed a therapist, Bucky is definitely that person ...
Thank you! :) I'm having a lot of fun working with various aspects of his recovery.
I was just hoping you'd write something more (because I've read through nearly all your bookmarks on AO3, and most of them don't come near your work anyway), and here you went and did it! Yayz!

Tony's being pretty honest and considerate here. I'm not sure if the little digs are to cover the fact that he is, or because he can't stop himself or doesn't even notice them! I can easily imagine the latter, especially with the nicknames.

Of course Steve can string people along with that guileless face. Even if he's gotten them before!

It's lovely that the boys can spar again.

*hugs everyone*
Thank you so much! ♥ I'm having a lot of fun writing these people.

Yeah, I think Tony does both of these a lot -- he's actually pretty good at people wrangling (better than he knows; I think we see that quite a bit in the Avengers movie) but he doesn't really want to admit he cares, and being abrasive is pure habit for him now anyway.
BABIES. <3 I'd pick out pieces of this to quote but there is literally not the slightest bit of it I didn't love-- Steve holding Bucky's hand so he'd have something to focus on! Bucky having a memory Steve didn't! And now I'm really curious what the fire escape incident was. *g*
Thank you! <3 I decided to leave most of it to the imagination, in part because I was drawing a blank on what, exactly, had happened. I love that Steve finally has someone with him in the modern day who can tell all those embarrassing stories about him, though ...
How are you so awesome? Seriously. Just. Everything you write. <3

I love Tony's understanding, here, and ability to help Bucky. He really is remarkably well-equipped to get Bucky's issues, while not being emotionally wrapped up in them to the same extent that Steve is.

And oh, man, this - "He once managed to convince Clint, for the length of an entire conversation, that wolves still occasionally roamed Brooklyn in the 1940s."

DYING, here. XD It's always the quiet ones... no one suspects. (I can't tell you how many times my dad's messed with people, because they think he's serious all the time, and he's so deadpan about it.)

And reminiscing about drunk!Steve - :D Everything is wonderful, and I am ridiculously happy.
Awwww, thank you. :) I think Tony actually would get it pretty well, and while Tony can be INCREDIBLY abrasive, I doubt if it would bother Bucky all that much; he's prickly and obtuse enough not to mind. :D

Like I just mentioned in the comment above, I love that Steve now has someone with him in the present day who knows all those stories about him and can embarrass him in front of his new friends. XD
Aw, so many feels with this! Love how you write Bucky's inner thoughts--so many years being the killer, it's chilling, not to mention sad, to think he still has a sort of "default to kill" when it comes to his stream of consciousness. And Tony calling him Winter Wonderland... I nearly spit my beverage out at that. Steve taking Bucky's hand is very sweet and hence very Steve.

*flails*

The whole thing was really, really wonderful.