It is my headcanon that there is a gun on the table in this scene because The Winter Soldier has been trained to arm any of his handlers who are not already armed while in his presence so that, if they so choose, they can put him down at any time.
Later, it takes Steve months to figure out why Bucky gives him a knife every time they’re in the same room.
#when i think I cannot have sadder thoughts about Bucky Barnes#something like this comes along [via feanorinleatherpants]
Here you go…
It takes Steve months—well, one month and three weeks and two days, one-three-two, numerical evidence of his failure—to realize why Bucky keeps handing him knives.
At first he’d thought the gesture meant tangible evidence of surrender. Or trust. Or, hell, a lack of confidence in Steve’s own abilities, which might’ve been insulting except that Steve’s so damned relieved that Bucky’s back that there’s no room for any insult.
He’d been accepting all the knives. Sometimes even guns. The weapons come in all different shapes and sizes. A slim straight stiletto, infiltration in a blade. A jagged-edged brutal thing that looks like the death of Viking warriors. A tiny derringer; a sleek black silenced professional bullet-deliverer. He doesn’t ask where Bucky’s getting them, though he does wonder, especially the time Bucky stares at him, makes an expression that would’ve been a sigh if the Winter Soldier went in for extraneous expressions, and shoves what looks suspiciously like a spear into Steve’s hand.
Steve, juggling groceries and unanticipated weaponry, had said, “Um, Buck? Planning on gladiatorial combat?” Bucky’d glared, muttered something undecipherable in Russian, vanished into his own room, and not come out for two days.
He’d been eating. Steve’d left trays. They’d been sitting empty outside the door every time he’d checked.
The pile of assorted death-dealing implements in Steve’s room grows day by day. Every time Bucky looks at him with exasperation and silently holds out another sharp edge. Every time they’re in a room together.
He asks Tony once, venturing into the bowels of that personal lab-slash-engineering explosion-slash-space where Tony can feel safe enough, whether Bucky’d ever given him a knife, when they were alone together. Tony snorts at him from behind what might be either a new element synthesizer or an extremely complicated still, and says, “Right, ’cause I so like being handed things by people with homicidal tendencies, and anyway, Spangles, have you noticed he’s never alone in a room with anyone else, he only hangs out with us when you’re there, what do you think that means, move those blueberries closer, they’re integral for the success of this test, thanks.”
Steve moves the blueberries. And tries not to hate the fact that Tony Stark’s noticed this fact about Bucky before he has.
He’s always had Bucky. He’s always been used to having Bucky, except when he hasn’t, and that’s a colder stretch of time than he wants to remember. Numb and chilly. Ice.
He’s so used to having Bucky that it feels natural. Bucky goes places with him, that’s right, that’s how it is. Bucky saved him because that’s what Bucky does, Bucky always saves him, Bucky saved him in fights on a million Brooklyn streets and again when the desperate shuddering need to find Bucky made Steve into Captain America in a way no tights and dancing girls ever did, Bucky saved him by giving him a reason and an anchor, Bucky saved him in the debris-field green-water deathtrap of the Potomac and saves him now with every evanescent memory-sketch of a smile.
Bucky doesn’t go places without Steve. Not now.
Bucky used to go dancing. Bucky used to find odd jobs, butcher’s-boy errands and dockworker’s wages and a few others that Steve wasn’t supposed to know about, the kind of jobs that involved squiring elderly ladies and sometimes elderly men on late-night excursions and looking pretty. Bucky always had been pretty, had been charming, had been good companionship.
Steve would’ve thrown his sketchbook at the wall, those nights, if he could’ve. Too busy coughing up every bit of his lungs. Dying inside.
Bucky these days is beautiful in the way obsidian is beautiful. Fantastical, unbelievable, and tempered by volcanic forces that’d make you shudder if you thought about them. Deadly and honed to an arrow-point.
Steve walks into the kitchen on that day, one month three weeks two days, just looking for some orange juice because he’s thirsty post-run, and it’s not any day in particular, just a day, just another day with sunlight and clouds chasing each other beyond the window and casting fluttery shadows over the countertops and his heart as Bucky whirls away from the refrigerator, juice in hand.
So damn beautiful. Steve’s heart skips a beat. Always has, always will. Everything else in the world can crumble and fade and get reborn and change, but not that. When it’s him and Bucky, it’s him and Bucky, and his heart’s well aware that they’re both a hell of a way from Brooklyn and it doesn’t think that the distance matters. So: beats, skipped. Forever.
Bucky holds out the orange juice. Of course. Steve generally wants orange juice upon coming home.
He takes it and says “Thanks” and all at once there’s a knife in Bucky’s other hand, flipped around so it’s hilt-first, plainly not a menace. It’s one of their kitchen knives.
“You know,” Steve says, eyeing the blade, eyeing Bucky’s face, “most people don’t need to cut the orange juice open, Buck.”
Bucky opens his mouth, closes it, grumbles something that sounds like “all the stupid” under his breath. “Take it.”
“If you’re worried you’re gonna hurt me, well, I’m not.”
“You’re not getting it,” Bucky says, now sounding frustrated. “What more do I have to do to—”
“To what?” Steve’s starting to feel ridiculous, post-run sweaty and holding orange juice, so he solves the latter problem by setting the carton down. “What’re we doing, here, again?”
“You’re not armed.” Bucky’s not exactly meeting his gaze. “We’re too evenly matched. You need an advantage. And you never keep them when I give them to you.”
“Where do you keep finding—no, never mind, tell me later. Why do I need an advantage, Bucky?” Name repetition. Not the Winter Soldier. Not the Asset. Bucky.
Who looks a bit helplessly, insofar as he’s ever helpless, at the kitchen knife. “If it’s already yours, will you keep this one?”
“It’s ours,” Steve says, no longer totally at sea and beginning to feel nauseated by the first little ripples of intuition about why. “Everything in these rooms is ours. Tony said. As long as we want. You think I’m gonna have to fight you.”
“I—” Bucky wobbles over the word think. Opts for, “You need to be able to. To handle me.”
“When you’re a threat? You’re not—”
“I am. And—no. Whenever you decide it’s the best option.”
That answer’s too fast, too easy, to be anything but painfully learned. Steve, afraid he is about to be sick, hating the tang of oranges on his tongue, gulps out, “How about never…”
Bucky seems nonplussed by this response. Steve tries again. “I’m not gonna just decide to stick a knife in you, Bucky!”
“I have to…” Bucky hesitates. The sunshine, beyond the window, cowers behind a cloud. “They told me…every handler has to be armed, they can’t take any risk…”
“I’m not your handler!”
“What the hell—no!”
“I didn’t mean it like that.” Bucky, in a rare indication of genuine emotion, tosses the knife into the wall and runs his human hand through his hair. Bucky has emotions. Steve knows he does. He just holds them close to his chest, like cards he’s not entirely sure how to play but that can’t be revealed in case the revelations’re used against him. “I meant—I trust you.”
“Do you even know what that means,” Steve says, standing brokenhearted next to the fridge with sweat drying clammy down his back. “I’m not—them, Bucky. Don’t trust me like you’d trust them.”
“I don’t,” Bucky says, “I trust you like I’d trust the only person who ever tried to save me, I remember that, I got broken pieces but I got a lot of ’em, and the good ones have your face, Steve, so yeah, I trust you, so take the damn knife already,” and then they end up looking at each other for a while.
The sunbeam wanders through the room again, and chooses to curl up on the table by the orange juice and watch. A golden audience. Morning painted in fruit and flavor. The knife, stuck in plaster, quivers happily.
Steve, very cautiously, hoping it’s the right step, hoping Bucky’ll comprehend the tone, hoping, says, “I don’t need a knife, I’m pretty sure I’d, y’know, win…”
Bucky’s expression displays a complicated rocket-swift series of reactions: startlement, rejection, consideration. Amusement. Grim and brittle and unaccustomed to existence, but clear. “Says you, punk.”
“Yeah,” Steve agrees, “says me,” and Bucky doesn’t laugh but the laugh’s painfully brilliantly present in his eyes. “Might always be a habit. Handing you something.”
“I can live with that.” When Steve takes a step forward, Bucky does too. They’re looking at each other now. “Dish towel could be a weapon. If you feel like helping out around here.”
“I did your laundry yesterday when Sam called and you forgot to start the load,” Bucky says. “I wanted to. A pen, maybe. Pencil. Could try handing you a pencil. Could still kill me with a pencil. Theoretically. If I let you.”
“You wouldn’t.” He’s close enough to brush that stray strand of hair out of Bucky’s eyes. If Bucky’d let him do that. His fingers tingle with the need. “I noticed you did the laundry. Why’d you leave it on the couch?” It’d been folded. Military-neat. Even his underwear. He’d stared at that for a good ten minutes. Bucky, folding his underwear.
Bucky shrugs. “Wasn’t sure I was welcome in your room.”
“You’re always welcome in my room,” Steve says, which is maybe a very stupid thing to say, but his mouth and heart are busy making decisions without him. There’s still a pile of collected weaponry in his room, too. He wonders dizzily what Bucky’d’ve done, encountering the heap. “Anywhere. Whenever, Buck, wherever.”
“If I handed you a pencil,” Bucky says, and then stops, eyes suddenly very far away—Steve holds his breath—and abruptly back again. “You used to draw.”
“I remember I loved every time you drew me,” Bucky says meditatively, and Steve chokes on his next inhale, like having asthma all over, this can’t be real, too breathless and giddy, “I remember thinking I could sit still all day if you asked, ’cause it was you asking. Anything, if you asked. Steve Rogers.”
“So,” Steve says, feeling like the earth’s dropped away, feeling like nothing’s real except him and Bucky and this strange bubbling-up effervescent sensation in his chest, scampering down his spine, billowing out to his fingertips, “so…if I asked…not an order, not here to give you orders, Bucky, but if I asked…you loved it, you said…anything, you said…”
“Start leaving pencils around,” Bucky offers, “and give me back some of my knives, if you’re not planning to use ’em,” and Steve whispers, “Can I draw you?” and lifts his hand, slow as a dream, not a threat, and when Bucky breathes back, “Yeah,” they both know it’s a yes to everything, to old and new habits and mingled breaths and Steve’s fingers finally brushing through Bucky’s wayward hair.