We’ll Meet Again (Loki x f!Reader)
hello hello hello let’s ignore the two incomplete series I have and just take a moment to celebrate loki and his premiere okay cool thank you
LOKI SPOILERS AHEAD!
summary: loki looks through the life he should’ve lived after leading agent mobius and the tva on a wild goose chase. he doesn’t expect to see the familial amends he makes in the future, and he certainly doesn’t expect to see your unfamiliar face.
warnings: I mean y’all have seen the scene, I did my best to not include details about the worst bits, so tread lightly; death, loki tears and sadness
word count: 2312
a/n: I officially made a ko-fi! I just graduated college and am poor as I search for a job, so if you like what you’re reading and are feeling generous, pls buy me a coffee/donate here: ko-fi.com/kayliaamil
GIF not mine!
After an attempted escape from the Time Variance Authority, Loki found himself back in the original time theater that Agent Mobius had previously led him to. Seeing that it was now empty, the god decided to let his curiosity get the better of him and take a glimpse of the life that he was meant to have according to this “sacred timeline” he kept hearing about.
Loki fiddled with the machine a bit as he took a seat, allowing the projection to skim through moments of his life. He pressed play at the scene of his mother bleeding out on the ground as the result of himself giving the enemy forces directions.
The mischievous god sat and began to let tears silently flow down his face as feelings of grief, regret, and longing stirred within him. He hit fast forward on the machine, skimming through more of his unlived future, before letting a scene with Thor and Odin play out in real time.
“I love you my sons,” Odin spoke, and both the Loki on the projector and the Loki in the time theater found himself shocked, nearly at a loss for words at the inclusion. After all he and Odin had experienced, after years and years of trying to prove himself worthy to his father, the Allfather had still accepted and cared for him to some extent.
Loki watched as Odin faded away into gold particles, speckles of beautiful dust to be lost in the wind, and began to let a few tears stream at the loss of his adoptive father. He then let the machine fast forward even more before it eventually landed on a face that was entirely unfamiliar.
“The grandmaster asked that I seeked you out to make sure your lodgings were up to par,” the figure with the h/c locks said after a small knock on the open door. Loki had only landed on Sakaar a few mere hours ago, but was quickly working himself into the higher class of the community.
Loki nodded and noticed that there was some sort of hesitation and nervousness that surrounded her. The god decided to dig into that as he responded, “The room will suffice yes, thank you. Do we happen to know each other by any chance? You seem rather on edge.”
“Not personally, no,” the woman replied before elaborating, “I was in New York a couple of years ago when you tried to take over my planet.”
Loki’s eyebrows furrowed on screen, as did the eyebrows of the Loki sitting in front of the holoprojector, though for two completely different reasons. The Loki in the sacred timeline was more curious as to how the Midgardian had made her way to the distant land of Sakaar, while the Loki variant at the TVA was more confused as to why this woman had made it into his “greatest moments” and what purpose she served in his life.
“And how did you wind up here?” the projected Loki asked as the Loki in the theater skimmed through a bit more in his life to discover what was so meaningful about this Midgardian.
He stopped at another moment in which her face appeared, the surroundings matching the room he was given in the previous clip. On screen, Loki sat comfortably on his bed with a book in hand, the unfamiliar woman removing a pair of earrings nearby. She took them out and placed them atop his dresser as she spoke, “I hear your brother arrived today.”
Loki’s eyes instantly travelled up from his book and towards the newest addition in his life after the mention of Thor. He shut his novel, placing it on his nightstand, as he asked, “And how did you hear about that?”
“It’s all anyone’s been talking about,” she replied, moving to sit beside him in his bed, “the so-called ‘Lord of Thunder’ warrior that was found out in the scrap yards, just as you. It wasn’t that hard to make the leap.”
“It’s been nearly six weeks since I've seen him last. I was almost convinced I wouldn’t be seeing him again, and definitely not here,” Loki confessed.
The woman nestled up beside him, stroking his hair slightly as she spoke, “So what happens now?”
Loki’s eyes met her e/c ones, noticing the same feeling of nervousness that was present when they had first met over a month ago. The god was quick to reassure, “You’re certainly not getting rid of me that easily, if that’s your concern.”
“Oh, well that’s a relief,” she sarcastically responded, a small grin gracing her face as she did so. A hint of a smile was displayed upon Loki’s face as well before the woman leaned in for a quick kiss. It only lasted a few brief seconds before she pulled away from him and said, “You promise he won’t whisk you away?”
The god chuckled a bit before replying, “Darling, it’s gonna take a lot more than just Thor to separate the two of us. I only just got you after all, and I intend on keeping you around for a while.”
Loki’s expression on his face had grown much softer as he watched the moment between himself and this mysterious woman play out on the projector. More than anything, the god was in shock. Not only had his estranged father accepted him, but he had found a lover who accepted him as well?
Another kiss was exchanged between the two on the projector as the variant Loki reached for the dials on the machine once again. When the clip began to play at regular speed, a conversation between Loki and Thor in an elevator was broadcasted.
The variant’s expression became something that nearly resembled fondness at his brother’s words on the screen, “Loki, I thought the world of you.”
“I thought we were gonna fight side by side forever, but at end of the day you’re you and I’m me,” Thor said, “And I don’t know, maybe there’s still good in you, but let’s be honest, our paths diverged a long time ago.”
Loki took a moment to take in and process what his brother had just said to him before, almost hesitantly, responding, “Yeah… It’s probably for the best that we never see each other again.”
“It’s what you always wanted,” the god of thunder said, giving Loki a slight pat on the back before adding, “And at least you won’t be left here completely alone.”
At Thor’s words, Loki instantly casted his gaze towards the ground in a failed attempt to hide the sheepish smile on his face that he couldn’t help but produce anytime someone mentioned his beloved. Loki said to his brother, “I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about.”
Thor laughed at Loki’s words and rhetorically said to him, “I thought you were supposed to be good at lying?”
Loki let out a sigh and shook his head as his brother’s laughter only grew. Once Thor had quieted down a bit, Loki quietly and sincerely admitted, “I am glad to have her.”
“And I am happy for you brother. Really, I am, she seems to keep you in line… mother would have loved her,” Thor said, causing Loki’s eyes to immediately snap up at his brother. The god of mischief simply nodded in agreement, more at a loss of words than anything, as he imagined his two favorite women in all the nine realms meeting. Thor eventually pulled him out of his thoughts as he struck up a plan, “Hey, let’s do ‘get help.’”
Loki stared up at the projection in awe. His entire family, albeit adoptive family, all respected and cared for him despite all his past wrongdoings and shortfalls. On top of it all, he had found someone who genuinely cared for him that was never present out of a familial obligation, someone who genuinely got to know him and adored him for who he was, both inside and out.
Loki had found you.
You, the woman with h/c hair and beautiful e/c eyes that he could apparently read so easily. You, the woman who had somehow wormed your way into his heart within a matter of a few short weeks. You, the woman that he suddenly desired to meet more than anything, though he feared he may never have the chance to after deviating away from the supposed sacred timeline.
Would he ever get the opportunity to meet you? To live in a world where he and his brother could live in some semblance of harmony? Where he wasn’t constantly standing in his shadow?
Loki skipped a bit more of his film, eager to see how much the TVA had captured of his life and if it was at all possible for him to find a way back into the sacred timeline. He stopped to watch something that appeared to be a shipwreck, smoke and fire scattered in the distance as bodies were laid out on the ground. It took Loki a moment to realize those were Asgardians, and his mood shifted entirely when he saw the mad titan appear in the projection.
Thanos, Thor, Heimdall and even the Hulk were easily spotted in the frame, but Loki couldn’t find you anywhere in the shot. This caused the god to rewind the film some, curious to know what your fate turned out to be and desperately hoping it wasn’t the same fate Frigga and Odin had met. Loki rapidly found what he was looking for and watched it play out on the holoprojector.
“You’re getting on that ship,” Loki sternly said to you, making it clear this was something he didn’t deem as up for debate.
The moment Thor and Loki saw Thanos’ ship approaching, they did the best they could to save as many as they could. Their last minute plan involved getting as many people onto a stowaway ship led by Valkyrie to continue their journey to earth while Thor and Loki stayed behind to deal with titan.
Though Loki’s tone felt final, you still attempted to argue, “I’m not leaving you—“
“Sweetheart,” he cut you off, placing his hands on your shoulder, “I admire your will so much, but believe me when I say that you absolutely can not stay here. Thanos is unlike any being you may have met on Sakaar and I’ll be damned if I let him anywhere near you.”
“But then how am I supposed to know if you’re okay?” you softly asked, quite scared about what the future was about to bring.
Loki felt his heart break ever so slightly at your question, therefore moving his hands from your arms to cup your face in hopes to provide a stronger sense of reassurance. He carefully spoke, “I told you that you weren’t getting rid of me any time soon, remember? I still fully intend on keeping you around, darling, so trust that I will return to you.”
A few tears began to blur your vision as they formed in your eyes. You felt as though your voice may have failed you in the moment, so you simply nodded in agreement, prompting Loki to close the distance between the two of you and leave a tender kiss on your lips. When the kiss had ended, you managed to muster out, “Don’t leave me waiting too long.”
“I’ll get to you as quickly as I can, now go on,” Loki said, placing another kiss on your forehead before removing his hands from you, gesturing you to head down the hall and towards the getaway ship. You reluctantly started down the hall, Loki calling out to you, “We’ll meet again, dear!”
A breath of relief escaped Loki’s lips as he got some kind of pleasure in learning you had at least escaped safely. He fast forwarded back to the scene of the wreckage he had seen before to let that moment play out on the projector.
The words “end of file” made their way onto the holoprojector after Loki had watched the last few minutes of his life before his very eyes. A million thoughts ran through the god’s head as he attempted to wrap his mind around all the footage he had just seen. Above all, he simply wondered if there was any way back to this set timeline as he took a seat on the ground of the theater.
Agent Mobius eventually returned to the time theater and carefully approached Loki, “Loki… Nowhere left to run.”
“I can’t go back, can I?” Loki asked the agent, lifting his head up to speak to him directly, “To my timeline.”
The TVA agent didn’t offer any kind of reply as Loki dwelled on some of the footage he had seen. The god soon broke the silence, “That woman… the Midgardian… What was her name?”
With a small sigh, Agent Mobius informed Loki, “Her name is Y/N. One of the best things to have happened to you, in my opinion.”
“And I’ll never get the chance to meet her now, will I?” Loki questioned, being met with silence from the agent for the second time. After a deep breath, Loki decided to comply and answer the question Agent Mobius had posed earlier in the day, “I don’t enjoy hurting people…”
In the end, Loki agreed to help the TVA against their current problem, which had evidently been a different variant of the god himself. He did keep his true intention of assisting the TVA to himself though, leaving it buried under the surface as he navigated through his new future.
The Loki in the sacred timeline had made a promise to you and this variant Loki decided it was his new goal to fulfill that vow to you.
The two of you would meet again, as quickly as he could manage it.
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New York, Interrupted
3B; Part 4 - Masterlist
Summary: Bucky is used to being alone, so is the girl living in apartment 3B. He keeps to his routine, to crossing off amends. But mutual loneliness forges an unlikely friendship. Alone and reclusive, sweet and incredibly strange, with deep secrets and regrets, 3B has more to reveal than meets the eye.
This Chapter: The reader confronts Bucky. They find out they have a common problem.
Pairing: Bucky X Reader
Word Count: ~6.9K
Warnings: Mentions of death, abandonment issues, mentions of racism, fatws series spoilers
A/N: This series from this point forward assumes that you've seen fatws. This will be 6 parts and will take place before and during fatws. Please let me know what you think!
August 2023 - 3 months after the return
She’s standing in the entrance to one of the reception tents for the camp that had sprung up just outside New York, trying not to scream. A hot breeze plucks at her skin, ripping her raw. It feels odd to be visible, to feel so seen, to know people are looking at her. Her sister stands at one of the many tables, signing paperwork, listening carefully to the aid worker in a crisp black t-shirt and jeans, just the right amount of sympathy on his face.
She digs her fingers into her palms in an effort not to fade and flicker and disappear.
My mother is dead, she thinks distantly. Not disappeared, not lost, not waiting to come home. She’s dead and it's her fault.
It isn’t your fault, you couldn’t have known. What were you supposed to do, stop living your life for five years and wait? Sit in the apartment and never leave? Her sister had asked on the car ride over, always the realist. The scent of the rental car, clean and sleek, and the pulse of guilt in her belly had made her want to vomit.
Maybe, she had said. Maybe I should have.
Standing straight-backed and strong at the table, she can see how her sister wants to cry, she can see it the way her shoulders slump slightly, in the way she breathes, shaky and hard, pretending to listen to whatever the aid worker is saying. It reminds her of the day their father died, how she had stood next to their mother and not shed a tear, not made a sound.
Her sister had been unfairly lucky. She had reappeared and found her family intact. Her husband and child remained unchanged, having been blipped away too. Their home was kept by her in-laws, who didn’t sell and had let no one inside. Her sister’s life was exactly the same as it had been the day of the blip, only she hadn’t been able to reach her sister at her Georgetown apartment, she hadn’t been able to reach her mother in New York.
“She told us that her apartment had been repossessed and she had nowhere else to go,” she can hear the aid worker recounting the story she already knew well. “No one was there and there was no contact information. The DC number didn’t work.”
Her sister touches his hand, “Thank you. I know that everything was done that could have been.”
“Well, hopefully people are able to go back to their homes soon. It’s crazy right?” He opens his hands in a gesture of exasperation. “You think everything is the same and then someone else is living in your house? I can’t imagine.”
She turns and walks away, not able to listen anymore. Her mother and sister had been blipped but she hadn’t been. The apartment was her property, gifted to her shortly before her graduation. New York was her home. She should have been in New York when the blip happened, she should have been in New York when the return happened.
She should have looked harder for her mother, as soon as people started showing up again. She should have been able to save her mother. She should have been there to do something, to help.
The grounds outside the white reception tent are filled with other people trying to find loved ones, some are hugging and crying, others carry sheafs of paper determinately striding away. Some look devastated. People that hadn’t been blipped away are arriving, receiving meager food, having been kicked out of whatever home they had made for themselves during the blip.
She pauses and crosses her arms over her chest, waiting for her sister to finish coddling the GRC rep and catch up.
She watches as a child is led by another aid worker toward a set of parents who fall to their knees in tears. How had they managed to go on all those years, their only child ripped away? Blipped to oblivion? How had any of them managed to survive the grief without end, the uncertainty of what had happened?
How was she supposed to go on now? How was she supposed to go on, after all that she had done, after the one failure she promised she would never commit? Letting her mother down was never part of the plan, no matter what other sins she had committed.
She thinks of all the disturbed lives.
Human lives floating by, bumping into each other and moving on, seeking something, the lives they led before, their friends and family and sanity.
“He would not stop talking,” her sister huffs as she approaches, shoving paperwork into her bag, her eyes rimmed with tears as she struggles not to cry. “Her...body,” her voice wobbles dangerously, “will be moved to a funeral home today. We can make arrangements tonight, sort out what we’ll do with the apartment-,”
“The apartment is mine,” she says sharply. “What would we do with it?”
Her sister stares at her blankly, swiping away tears from her cheeks. “Well...I thought maybe we would sell it. But it's such good property and rent controlled-,”
“And where would I go?” She asks, aware that she sounds unreasonable.
“You said it yourself, you haven’t been in New York in years.” She looks away from her sister’s earnest eyes searching her soul, a sharp pain wracking her chest, guilt settling snugly between her bones, making a home of her tired body. “Hey,” her sister takes her hand and she jumps so hard at the sudden contact that her sister tilts her head to the side in askance.
She isn’t used to touch anymore.
God, she is so tired. She wants to go home.
“Hey,” she tries again, slowly releasing her hand. “It's me and you, kid. We’re all that’s left now. I didn’t mean anything by it. I just don’t want you to be alone. I thought you could come live with us in Portland.”
For a moment, she imagines it. Selling the apartment, packing away their childhood home, moving to a new start, away from the stalking past and haunting future. But the future is dimmed in her mind by dust and ash, by neighbors and friends and family disappearing again and again and again. The future is darkened with a stain, that she will become something terrible again, that she didn’t deserve to move on.
“I can’t leave New York again,” she shakes her head. In New York she knew who she was supposed to be, what she was supposed to do. “I should never have left.”
“You couldn’t have stopped this. Mom wouldn’t have expected you to remain exactly where you were. She would have wanted you to live, to move on and-,.”
“You don’t know what it was like,” she whispers, eyes jerking up from the ground to meet her sister’s gaze. “You weren’t here, you don’t know what I did. You didn’t have to see people lose everyone, you didn’t hear the screaming, or feel the confusion. You didn’t have to lose everyone. You didn’t-,” she stops, throat working hard, trying not to cry. “All I ever wanted was to be enough, to do the right thing. For mother, for everyone. I did what I thought I had to, and I was wrong. I ran away.”
Her sister reaches out and pats her cheek. Her sister who used to be five years older, but who has suddenly become her twin. She never realized how similar they looked. “You’re right, I don’t understand. But, I know you have always been enough. We were never ashamed of you, we were afraid for you. We never wanted you to have to make those choices. Whatever you did or had to do these last couple of years, it was what you thought was best. You have always wanted to do good.”
She feels her face contort with grief, with unshed tears and regret, and thinks of the comic books slipped under her door, of pretending at being an avenger during the Battle of New York. “But I did make those choices,” she whispers, “And if I were in New York, mother wouldn’t have come to this camp. She wouldn’t have died. I didn’t need to be a hero like you always let me believe, I just needed to be here. And I wasn’t.”
She pulls away from her sister’s hand. “Go ahead back to the apartment. I’ll catch up.”
Her sister says her name, gentle and tired but she can’t look at her and eventually she walks away.
For a moment, she stands in silence, letting the grief circling her heart sink into her bones, wash her in regret. She watches her sister pass through the crowd and through the gates, back to the parking lot beyond where they had left the car. The sun is high overhead, the day already hot and humid.
“You’re her aren’t you?” Someone asks close by her shoulder.
She flinches away from the sudden presence beside her and turns.
A man stands there, assessing her, eyes flicking over her before he grins. “It is you,” he confirms, sounding impressed. He says her name and she feels dread settle over her.
Layered over her intense sorrow, it's almost enough to make her vomit. She steadies herself against one of the tent’s wooden poles. “How do you know my name?”
“Vanish,” he says. “That’s what people called you. Vanish.” He sounds almost reverent and it makes her take a step back.
“I know what you did. I heard you talking to your sister. She’s right, you did the right thing. You helped save a lot of lives.”
She scoffs and rubs one hand over her forehead. “What I did was terrible.” Those first few horrible, confusing days after the blip, where the whole world felt like it was burning down, suddenly doesn’t feel so distant. The days where she hadn’t been able to return to reality, where she tore and ripped and burned, just to be felt, just to not feel so alone.
The man doesn’t reply for a moment, only stares at her. “If you hadn’t killed those people, many more would have suffered and died. You saved people. They were able to keep going because of you.” He gestures out at the crowd, “Now look where we are. People like you in a place like this. We kept the world running and now we’re being kicked out of it again.”
“My mother died.”
“And this place killed her. We could use someone like you.”
She glances over at him, suddenly afraid, wishing she could crawl back inside her own skin, disappear from this stranger’s prying eyes. She’d been apart of something before and didn’t care to do it again. “And who is we?”
In response, he hands her a square of paper, a red handprint against black, the outline of a world. “The Flag Smashers. You wouldn’t have to kill. We aren’t killers. But we could use someone with your gift.”
She doesn’t have to ask what their mission might be.
She crumbles the paper in her hand, “Telling yourself that you know better, becoming judge, jury, and executioner for everyone around you is a dangerous road to go down. It eats your soul. Everyone coming back isn’t going to be an easy transition but you have to give it some time.”
“They already want us kicked out and I know you don’t stand for things like that. We just want to keep our homes.” He nods to the paper, “Offer’s always good, if you want it.”
When Bucky makes it back to the apartment building, he knows he’s fucked up. There’s been a roaring in his ears, a rage cutting around the edges of his heart, since he saw the goddamned announcement. John Walker with Steve’s legacy like it belonged to him.
He knows he should have texted 3B, but by the time he missed their dinner he was already out of New York, on his way to DC, nothing on his mind but confronting Sam Wilson. But getting the shield back to who it rightfully belonged.
And then so much else had happened.
The Flag Smashers, and the supersoldier serum making its rounds in the world again, and John Walker and the shield.
He doesn’t want to think about any of it. He doesn’t want to think about how he will have to face Zemo in a couple of days, how the serum always brought death. He doesn't want to think about a stranger carrying around the last memory of his oldest friend, his only connection to his past and who he used to be.
But Bucky really doesn’t want to think about how he just left 3B without warning, without so much as a word, without so much as a text.
He tells himself he hadn’t had a chance, not until they were on the jet back to DC and then Baltimore. And then it had seemed wrong, like he was too late anyways. He told himself he might as well wait until he was back in New York, so he could properly explain where he had been, why he hadn’t been around, in person.
He’s afraid that it will be too little too late, that she might not want to hear from him at all. That he’s broken the thing between him that they had crafted so delicately and with such care, that he’s lost her before he ever really had her.
A thread of anxiety wraps itself around his lungs and pulls taut, razor wire against the soul. Bucky hasn’t been able to properly breathe in hours, the fear circling him making it impossible.
Sam had looked at him curiously when he said he had to take care of something in New York, that he’d be back in DC in time to make their flight to Germany. Even after their confrontation in the police station, Sam was still courteous and hadn’t asked, promising to text details when he had them.
He should have texted her the second he walked out his front door, he knew how spotty communication could be out in the field, whether from signal or opportunity. He should have stopped in at her place before he left but the blind panic and rage hadn’t let him.
Jogging up to the third floor he comes to a stop outside 3B’s door, looking at the brass lettering against the dark wood.
He imagines her mother and sister, her father, all the neighbors that used to frequent the quiet apartment standing outside the door as he is now, laughing and mourning, carrying food and gifts, arriving for dinners and birthdays and holidays.
Bucky can’t help but feel inadequate, like he did not belong, did not deserve to be there.
Two minutes pass, then three.
Anxiety squeezes his heart, chews into the middle of the softest parts of him. He knocks again, reminded of the first time he had called on her, how she hadn’t answered right away.
When ten minutes have passed and pounding on the door has yielded nothing, he resolves to pick the lock. He could just snap the bolt but decides against it, decides that breaking down her door would likely not gain him any favor.
Five seconds later, the door swings open under his hand to an empty apartment, though he does have to break the security chain.
He calls her name, silence echoing back at him.
3B hasn’t left the apartment since their outing to 7-Eleven, aside from her occasional appearances at his own door at all hours of the day. A fear of the likes Bucky has never known reaches up and crushes his heart in an icy fist. Someone could have taken her, something terrible could have happened to her, but a quick check proves all the windows untampered with and the security chain had been in place before he ripped it out.
Was she gone or invisible, silent and waiting for him to take a hint and leave?
“3B, please,” he says. “If you’re here, please sweetheart. I’m so sorry. Something came up, I had to go. I should have let you know.” He turns in a slow circle, hands spread wide in supplication. “I didn’t get a chance to reply and then by the time I did I was already on my way back.”
Bucky tries not to think about her texts, the missed calls.
Bucky Barnes, you’re late. That means whatever counter argument you have for me is automatically wrong.
Will you be here soon? This is one of those times you should text me back.
If Bucky Barnes doesn’t arrive on time and only his neighbor is around to notice, is he still late?
Please message me back.
I’m so worried, please just let me know not to worry.
Eventually the messages had tapered off into nothingness and silence. No more missed calls. No more texts.
The room is still and hushed as a morgue. Empty, dead space choking him.
Bucky crosses the room and sits on the couch, elbows against his knees, pressing his fingers into tired eyes. “I’m sorry,” he whispers, regret suffocating him. This was her unforgivable sin. He knew, he knows, that this is her greatest fear. Being left behind, the dead and disappeared and gone trailing behind her.
“Lemme tell you about where I was.” A headache is forming at the base of his skull. He’s exhausted and bruised, but he’ll sit there all night if that’s what he needs to do. He can’t have fucked this up, he can’t have fucked up the only real connection he’s managed to form, this thing between them that was so good and real that it shakes him right in the center of his soul.
“They gave Steve’s shield to John Walker and named him Captain America. It was supposed to be Sam’s. Steve gave it to Sam. I was so fucking furious, I was gone before I knew what I was doing. I-,”
3B suddenly materializes in the center of the room, a wave of hot emotion accompanying her. Where before the room had been empty of any presence, as though no one was in the apartment, the room is abruptly bathed in tension. Anger, grief, hurt.
She flickers just a little with the force of her pain. It crackles in the air, spiderwebs through the room and punches him square in the chest, knocking the breath out of him.
“Have you ever considered, James Barnes, that the world does not revolve around you?” He flinches at the use of his first name. “Did you even consider me? Did I cross your mind? You had to walk past my door to leave. Was I not worth telling? Have I ever mattered to you? I wouldn’t have tried to stop you. Am I-,”
Her voice trembles dangerously. She isn’t looking at him but her eyes are blazing. Her normally calm, inquisitive aura is gone, replaced with something unrecognizable. The room is tainted with the stickiness of fear. “Perhaps I’ve become a bit overbearing. I’ll stop bothering you. I promise I will. But I need to know, I need to know to stop looking and waiting.”
Bothering him? She was his whole world at the moment, his whole irritating, frustrating, wonderful, unbelievable world. And she thought she was bothering him?
Though, what else was she to think? He left her. She was afraid of being left behind with no explanation and he had done just that.
She was terrified of being forgotten and that is something he knows too, feels deep inside of himself like a never ending well.
Bucky’s never seen her like this, has never known her angry. Guilt drowns him, gnaws at his veins. “I-,”
“No,” she whips toward him. “You must listen to me. I am alone for a reason. I didn’t seek you out a second time, you sought me. You chose me. I thought we would never speak again after you left me at my front door that first night but you came back. You don’t just get to leave me behind.”
She shakes her head, “I let you choose me and I trusted you not to leave me alone, Bucky Barnes. I trusted you to let me know not to wait, not to worry. And you didn’t. Three days?” Her voice cracks open, splinters raw, a wide river of hurt pouring out, “I thought you were never coming back. And if you were never coming back, then I made a mistake because you should not have been allowed in in the first place. People who are gone for three days never come back, they-,”
She cuts herself off, anxious nails digging into her palms.
“I thought you were dead, or gone. Or disappeared. I thought maybe you just left and I wasn’t worth explaining to.”
He licks his lips, shakes his head, “Never. No, never, 3B. I didn’t. I didn’t, 3, I promise. I came back. I was always going to come back.”
Bucky expects her voice to turn cold, but it's wounded and small instead. “How was I to know that?” She whispers. “All you had to do was tell me and I would have understood. I would have known to wait, that you were coming back eventually, maybe not even soon. But you couldn’t be bothered.” She shakes her head. “I knew better than this.”
His eyes snap up, “What does that mean?”
“It means you didn’t care enough to warn me and I was stupid enough to believe that you did.”
For a moment it’s quiet, so quiet she could hear a pin drop. Her heart is banging against her ribs.
She’s said too much.
He hates her.
Bucky sighs and gets to his feet heavily. Her heart drops, seizes violently in her chest, but she lifts her eyes and meets his gaze. She won’t hide, stare at the floor while he leaves and confirms everything she’s always known.
She was not enough, she was too much. She was delusional and opinionated. She was clingy and flighty and irritating. She was not worth the trouble of sticking around.
And now she’s made him realize it, realize his mistake in ever letting her close.
Why else would the universe have blipped away everyone in her life and left her alone if she wasn’t meant to be that way?
But his blue eyes are ablaze, fierce and all consuming. He stops in front of her and she wouldn’t be able to look away if she wanted to. She juts her chin out, squares her shoulders, prepared for whatever goodbye is about to happen between them.
“Sweetheart,” he begins. “I’ll apologize forever for leaving you in the lurch like that, everyday for the rest of my very long life if I have to. But I’m not fucking going anywhere. I’m sorry to say you are very much stuck with me. Ask anyone, I’m the unlucky penny you can’t seem to get rid of.” He pauses and turns his right hand out to her, palm up, “But if you’re expecting me to go willingly, you’ve got another thing coming. You’re going to have to tell me to go. I care about you, much more than I probably should.”
Bucky shakes his head but stands firm. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t leaving you behind but you didn’t know that.” He swallows thickly. “You’re right, I picked you that day and you’re mine now. You are stuck with me. I’m still not used to not always being alone either.”
She blinks, shock shattering her resolve.
There’s anxiety in his eyes, shivering out of him in waves. He thinks she’ll do it. He believes he’ll be tossed away.
Maybe she wasn’t the only one afraid of being forgotten and lost and alone.
She bites her lip and looks at his hand, still in the space between them. “Bucky Barnes,” she says. “I do believe we’re becoming rather co-dependent.” She reaches out and touches her finger to the center of his palm, just as he had done to her the day he fixed her coffee table.
Hope and duct tape.
The act of not leaving someone behind, trust.
The tension floods out of his shoulders in a violent wave, the sharp lines of him softening. But when he turns his hand to circle her wrist, she pulls away. “I don’t trust you. You walked past my door, you could have let me know,” she says, honesty sticking heavily inside her mouth. “But please don’t go. Please don’t leave.”
Maybe she loves Bucky, maybe she loves him more than she should, faster and harder than expected. But she wouldn’t be disposable, and he should know that now.
This was her life that she had let him into, despite everyone that had come and gone.
She had still opened the door for him and she wasn’t ready to see it closed.
Bucky closes his eyes, his jaw clenched tight, and for a moment she thinks that he’s angry with her. He apologized and she wasn’t accepting it, not yet. She feels heat spool out inside her veins, embarrassment and fear, her skin going translucent, when he lets out a long breath and nods. “Yeah, figured so, 3B.”
All she finds in his eyes is self-loathing and regret and heartache. She recognizes it well.
She curls her fingers into her palms, fighting the thing inside her trying to swallow her, take her away from the world. Bucky makes her shaky, makes her control and resolve crumble. It's with great effort that she doesn’t disappear.
“I trust you though,” he says her name gently, “and I can say that about almost no one. I’ll prove it to you again. I got you. I won’t let you go. I won’t leave you. I won’t let you disappear.”
She wants so badly to reach for him, but doesn’t, holds herself carefully away. All she wants is to disappear inside his skin, into the safe cocoon of their world together, to pull him close and kiss him, let him press his nose against her neck, to hold his hand while they ate something good.
But she doesn’t, she can’t.
“Would you like to know how you can start?”
“Anything,” he says, desperate.
She can’t help it then, looking into solemn eyes, she reaches out and pats his cheek. “Get me some food.”
He gets 3B her food.
After returning with french fries and pizza from two different joints, he settles down at her coffee table, like before, and tells her everything that had happened.
He doesn’t leave anything out, because he meant it. Bucky trusts 3B more than he cares to admit, and as he watches her delicately fold a slice of pizza in half with fries smashed in the middle, and try to take a bite without making a mess, he can’t help but feel like it's more.
The feeling inside him is more. He trusts her, maybe he loves her. But it feels like more, more than words can capture. More than trust, more than love. What should he call that?
He tells her about the shield, about Sam and Steve.
“Sam is right,” she says, licking sauce from her thumb. “This country has never been kind. A Black man with the shield? That is a heavy load to carry, a load I don’t envy.”
“It wasn’t his to give.”
“Sure it was. Steve gave it to him, Steve is gone. It was Sam’s to give. Especially if he thought he was doing the right thing.”
“So John Walker should have ended up with it?”
“That’s a false equivalency, Bucky Barnes. I didn’t say that. I’m saying Sam made the choice he thought best. Did Sam hand it to John Walker? No, our bastard government did. I’m saying that we live in a very racist country and I wouldn’t want to carry a burden like that shield. How can someone be expected to take up a mantle that so many will hate you for just for the color of your skin? It's something you’ll never understand. It's something many will never really understand.”
There’s no argument to that and so he lets it lie. “The shield is the last part of who I used to be. It's the only thing left from my past.”
“Maybe you should explain that to Sam so he doesn’t think you’re just being an obstinate ass. And Sam didn’t put it in a museum to spite you. Not everything is about you.” She leans forward and for a moment he thinks she might kiss him. His heart thumps a painful beat, and he tilts his face to hers but she just presses a finger into his chest. Her hand lands against the hard metal of his dog tags hidden beneath his shirt. “And it's not the only thing. You still have you.”
“Yeah,” he deadpans, lungs tight. “Fantastic.”
She leans back abruptly, looking embarrassed, the warmth of her hand disappearing as she puts space between them and tucks her feet beneath her, eyes wandering to the window. It's dark outside, and Bucky is exhausted. But he doesn’t want to stop looking at her, he doesn’t want to tell her that he has to leave again in the morning. His heart hurts, his eyes ache.
But he keeps talking and after the last few days of speaking as little as possible, it's a relief. His mouth is dry but 3B’s curious eyes are on him, head tilted to the side as she listens to every word like it's precious to her, and so he continues on.
He tells her everything. Jumping out of the plane, the fight on the trucks, talking to Walker and Lemar, Isaiah Bradley and the police station.
Her gaze doesn’t waver, eyes soft as she watches him talk.
Maybe it hadn’t only been anxious waiting and worrying.
Maybe she had missed him, maybe she cares about him just as much as he cares about her.
It's a funny, fickle thing but he still has to wonder, did she care about him or had she been alone for too long? Would anyone have done? Would anyone else be better?
Bucky thinks he already knows the answer.
He glances away, leans back against the sofa from his place on the floor. “Those people we fought, they call themselves the Flag Smashers. The serum is making rounds again, especially in their circle, so we’re going to talk to Zemo, see what he knows about it since he wants the damn stuff destroyed.”
Silence rings, tense and harsh. “What did you call them?”
“Flag Smashers. Why?” She inhales a sharp breath and stands. “Hey,” he says, watching her twist her hands together, watching her pace, “what’s wrong?”
Her fingers dig into her palms again. “I think there’s something I need to tell you.”
Some days later
When Zemo walks ahead of them toward the jet on the runway, his back firmly turned, Bucky reaches out and tugs at Sam’s sleeve.
He motions for him to hang back and stop which Sam does without hesitation. “I have to tell you something.” Sam’s eyes immediately flick to the plane Zemo has just disappeared into, concern sweeping over his face. “Not about him,” he tries to reassure.
“You sure, Bucky? Because we’re about to get on a plane with that man.”
Bucky rolls his eyes, “And of the two of us, which can fly? It's not about him.” He pauses and then crosses his arms over his chest. “I brought someone with me from New York.”
He knows how crazy it sounds, all things considered, that this person would not have materialized at any point from DC to Germany, from prison breakout to airport.
After the impromptu prison riot, Bucky hopes this is something else Sam will take in stride.
The worry that crosses Wilson’s face tells Bucky he thinks he’s lost his fucking mind. “And can you see them right now?”
Bucky huffs, annoyed. “I’m not fucking hallucinating.” He glances around, Sam following his gaze, truly alarmed now. Bucky can hardly blame him. “3B, it’d be really helpful if you could show yourself now.”
“3B?” Sam asks, “What, like a droid?”
The air beside them suddenly splits open, energy lancing through both of them as she reappears. “Not a droid,” she chirrups. “That would be much cooler. 3B is only an unfortunate nickname I’ve been saddled with.”
Unfortunate nickname. It's like a punch to the gut. Maybe he should stop calling her that.
Sam looks between them for a moment, shocked though not as surprised as someone who wasn’t constantly bombarded with new strangeness would be. “Who is this? What the hell, Bucky?”
3B takes the opportunity to stick out her hand to shake and introduce herself by her real name. When she takes her hand back she twists her fingers together anxiously in front of her, glancing over her shoulder.
Bucky wants to push her between him and Sam, so at least she doesn’t feel so exposed. But he doesn’t dare touch her. It was obvious his touch wasn’t exactly welcome anymore. She jerked away from his hand anytime he neared her, not a flinch precisely but something close.
He clenches his jaw, looks away from her, and resists the urge to reach out to her.
“My neighbor. She’s had run-ins with the Flag Smashers before,” he tells Sam instead. “I told her to stay put in New York but she wouldn’t have it. She would have just followed anyway.” And Bucky would much rather have her where he can see her, protect her, instead of floating in the background somewhere unseen and unknown.
Besides, he doesn’t want her to have to erase herself from the world, especially not on account of him.
“Sam Wilson,” she says, interrupting Bucky before he can continue. An unwelcome and unexpected flash of jealousy darts through his veins. He’s never had to share 3B’s attention with anyone, has never had to watch her interact with anyone else. Maybe her naming tick wasn’t just a peculiarity reserved for him.
Bucky Barnes, Bucky Barnes, ricochets around his brain. Apparently not particularly important after all.
“It's very much a pleasure to meet you. Don’t blame Barnes for my being here, as he said I would have followed. I’ll try to make this brief. I’ve been approached by the New York group several times. I’ve always said no to joining their ranks but as you can imagine I have a skill set they find very useful. For many reasons, I’ve been a recluse since the return, but also because of this. I don’t know what they know about me. And I think the circulation of the serum would be a mistake.”
Sam looks suspicious, but she only tilts her head to the side and waits patiently, blinking at him. “Why are you here?” He asks eventually. “This doesn’t have anything to do with New York.”
“Ah, but what’s abroad always makes its way home. This group popped up almost as soon as the return happened. They don’t do much now in New York, but I think they follow cues from leadership abroad.” She lifts her shoulders, “New York is an attractor of problems. It's always been the case.”
“You're worried they might distribute the serum in New York eventually.”
“Perhaps. I think New York needs no more supersoldiers. If it can be contained, it should be. Bucky mentioned that the serum tends to invite new death.”
With no small amount of effort she pulls her hands apart and tucks them inside her sweater sleeves. She’s riddled through with anxiousness, while her voice is sure, she trembles violently with suppressed worry and fear.
Bucky again feels the urge to shield her, though from what he can’t say.
“I don’t think they’re bad,” she says suddenly. “I think they aren’t being properly listened to or addressed. They’re witnessing terrible things everyday in these camps. Heading them off, that’s what’s most important. They steal medicine and food for people who need it. How can I say that’s bad?” She looks up and squares her shoulders looking from Sam to him and back again. “You should know that’s something I’ve assisted them with before.”
Sam raises an eyebrow, “I thought you weren’t one of them.”
“I’m not,” she answers, smiling at Sam, “They don’t know I did it. Just happened upon a few security guards on shift at the storage facility and made sure they were...otherwise occupied.” She only has eyes for Sam at that moment. Bucky furrows his brow as he watches them, she’s marked Sam out as leader of their group. She isn’t wrong. “I only tell you this so that you can make the best decision. I am clearly not unbiased.”
Sam sighs and glances at the waiting jet. “Yeah, well, I think we’re well past unbiased. Zemo’s not exactly balanced.”
She presses her lips together, suppressing a smile. “Yes, I’d agree with that.”
“Do you have any training?”
“I can handle myself,” she answers and Bucky wonders for the millionth time what her past held, what she did during the blip.
“Great, let's go.”
She falls in beside them as they approach and board the jet, Sam making quick work of the introductions. 3B takes the seat across from Zemo, their eyes meet and neither of them look away. Zemo is holding a thin book in his hands.
Bucky had started to explain who Zemo was to her back in New York, but she had already known. She knew her modern history well. I wanted to be a foriegn service officer, of course I know about the man who destroyed the accords, she had said.
“Who are you?”
“Oh, just the neighbor.”
A full minute passes in silence, their eyes locked, before Zemo looks to him, “Your girlfriend, James?”
Bucky glares but remains silent, not giving Zemo the benefit of drawing his reaction. Even so, something hot rises up inside him, though he’s not sure what the feeling could be identified as. Shame that she wasn’t or stupid fucking hope?
“Excuse me,” 3B says.
Zemo looks back to her.
“His name is Bucky Barnes.”
Sam suppresses a snort and Bucky has to look away.
He catches her cock her head to the side in that slightly aggressive, challenging way of hers, waiting to be disagreed with.
Something about it reminds him a little of Steve.
Zemo inclines his head slightly in acquiescence and she settles back into her seat looking out the window, satisfied. He turns his attention toward the book in his hands.
“Why don’t you tell us about where we’re going?” Sam says, trying to diffuse the tension.
Bucky’s watching 3B, not paying much attention to Zemo, but he notices her head suddenly tick to the side as though sensing something. “I’m sorry,” he says, flipping the book in his hands open, “I was just fascinated by this. I don’t know what to call it, but this part seems to be important.”
There’s a slight pause, Bucky can’t see what he’s looking at.
“Who is Nakajima?”
Rage sparks, snaps, and breaks free, racing along his veins before he can reign it in. The stress of the last few days, his anxiety over 3B coming along and where they stood with each other, and the fact that he still wasn’t sleeping culminates to a breaking point as his hand presses around Zemo’s throat.
“If you touch that again, I’ll kill you.”
Bucky wants to kill him, can feel it in his bones. And he hates himself for it. He doesn’t want to feel out of control, he doesn’t want to feel like his past, murderous and hateful, hated.
Something about the man drives him up a wall. Zemo knows exactly which of his buttons to push.
In the split second it took him to lunge across the aisle, 3B had reached across in the same instant and snatched the book out of his hands, landing a hard kick against Zemo’s shin in the process. “Oops, very sorry about that Zemo,” she says, sarcasm heavy on her tongue.
Bucky releases him, prying his fingers away with deliberate slowness before he sits back down, not taking his eyes off the other man.
3B reaches across, and for the first time in more than a week willingly touches him. She presses her fingers to his wrist, saying more than her voice ever could, it's okay it's okay it's okay I’m here, and hands him the book. A hard wave of guilt washes over him. 3B was always there.
It only serves to remind him that he hadn’t done the same for her, that he had just shown the worst parts of himself to her, the dangerous sharp parts of him.
Bucky tucks it into his jacket as her touch disappears.
Tension melts out of his shoulders and Zemo coughs and rubs his throat. “You two have quite the hive mind.”
3B juts her chin out, “I don’t like you.” The protective edge in her voice lightens his guilt just a little. Even upset with him, she still cared.
Sam looks like he might be regretting every decision he’s ever made.
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