A/N: Here it is, the last chapter of the story! I will confess, I accidentally forgot to upload this to Fanfiction last night even though I did update it over on AO3. This was in part because this story has received a much better response over there, but mostly it was because it was late at night and my brain was scrambled. Anyway, hope you all enjoy the last chapter!
Chapter 3: Steve Reunites With Bucky
He'd once thought he'd never get used to this new time. Everything was so new, so big and expensive and loud and fast. He'd even thought once that he'd never get used to Tony Stark and all the things that came with him, (the money, the sass, the devil-may-care attitude) but flash forward a few years and here he was living in the same tower, fighting on the same team with him with almost eerie synchronicity, and doing interviews that went surprisingly well between the two of them. When he'd met Darcy Lewis he'd though much the same thing about her as he'd thought about Tony; she was a person of the future, so loud and busy and blunt.
But over time she'd crawled under his skin with her smile and jokes, her optimistic view of the world and her willingness to listen. She'd surprised him with stories of Dum Dum and his daughter, and when he'd finally taken her up on her offer of homemade cookies and followed her into her apartment, he'd been surprised when she presented him with several of his own drawings. He'd never thought he'd seem them again, but finding them on display in her apartment and hearing the story of how they'd helped her through so many rough times during her childhood, left him unable to take them with him when he'd returned to his own apartment later that night.
After that he found himself feeling much more comfortable with the sassy woman. Her jokes made him laugh and he never had to ask her to clarify pop culture references he didn't understand, she just did it all her own. In some ways he thought she ran the team as well as he did. He took care of them during missions, gave orders and watched out for them, but when they were home she took over, doing everything he does when in the field, only within the safety of their home.
Of course, besides all these virtues he'd come to recognize in his neighbor, Darcy's cooking certainly helped things along (somehow she managed to cook things that both reminded him of his childhood and showed off what the future had to offer, it boggled his mind). Her apartment nearly always smelt of some food or another, and more often than not that smell found its way into the hallway and all over their floor. (Clint argued that he could smell her food from anywhere in the building when he tried—which may seem unbelievable, but after months of watching the other man show up almost out of nowhere practically every time Darcy was cooking Steve could do nothing but believe.)
So it wasn't much of a surprise to step out of the elevator that afternoon to find his floor smelling like the most incredible stuffing he'd ever smelt. He grinned a little to himself as his stomach growled demandingly; he was definitely hungry enough for Thanksgiving dinner. Interviews tended to take it out of him and often made him feel both hungry and exhausted. He hesitated outside Darcy's door for a moment, contemplating whether to knock and go through their media debrief now, but ultimately he decided to come back after a quick stop at his own apartment.
He was just stepping out of the bathroom when he heard a knock on his apartment door. Already nearly certain it was Darcy, he pulled the door open with a welcoming smile, "Hey Darce," he greeted, "Come on in," he ushered her through the door.
It had taken some getting used to, but Darcy had established early on that her place was his place, and he'd come to reciprocate the feeling. On any normal day Darcy would waltz into his apartment, drop down onto his couch with no finesse chattering all the while about something that he didn't always understand (more because of the randomness of her topic than the relevance to pop cultural references he didn't understand). This time was different though.
While Darcy did greet him with a warm smile as she entered the room, there was some hesitance in her eyes and her posture was showed more defensive self-protection and anxiety. She shifted uneasily a few feet from the door as he shut it behind her, and he couldn't help but frown at her in confusion. (He'd never had to deal with a silent and uncomfortable Darcy before; she seemed to practically live on making things awkward for other people after all).
"Everything alright?" he inquired, moving closer to her, feeling a surge of protectiveness well up in him (and hadn't that surprised him the first time it happened, turns out she'd set up camp in a corner of his heart that had once been reserved only for Bucky's little sister Rebecca).
Darcy nodded her head, her teeth pulling at her lower lip with anxiousness, "Yeah, everything's fine, peachy keen," she tried to reassure him, wincing at the dated phrase as it slipped from her lips.
The reassurance wasn't working though, "You don't seem like everything is fine," he countered, "Did I do something wrong in the interview?" his mind was already turning over every memory he had of the conversation that had been broadcasted all over America; he couldn't find anything wrong with what he'd said or done, but there was a chance he'd managed to slip up somehow; the future was still a little complicated sometimes.
"No!" she exclaimed, her hands lifting to touch his arm, "no, you did fine, great even…" she trailed off and her eyes darted to the ground momentarily before she snorted softly, "Though I have it on good authority that you don't actually like apple pie," she twisted her foot until it was leaning to the side before shifting back to land solidly on the ground.
Steve's eyebrows rose with surprise, before furrowing a little. There was only one person in the world who ever knew how much he hated apple pie; so how could she…His eyes dropped to her left wrist almost instantly. When he'd first seen the familiar cramped and spiky writing that looped around the younger woman's wrist he'd thought it was a coincidence, or that he was imagining how similar the handwriting was to his dead best friend's. But after DC and finding out that Bucky was actually still alive, he'd begun to suspect…he lifted his attention to Darcy's face again.
The more he'd gotten to know the snarky woman over the last few years the more certain he'd become that Darcy Lewis was, in fact, Bucky's soulmate. How else could she have known about the apple pie than hearing about it from the one other person alive who knew his secret? But was it possible?
"I met my soulmate today," Darcy blurted out, apparently unwilling or unable to stand the silence any longer.
He felt his eyes widen and his chest constrict with excited surprise, "You did," he commented as passively as he could manage.
She nodded, shifting around and tugging at her sleeves, "I was out tracking down another couple of boxes of stuffing stuff," she started her tale, "and after I'd found them I was waiting for Happy to come back with the car and he pulled me into the alleyway," at this Steve began to feel a twinge of concern, but Darcy seemed unaware, "I said my words to him, and he replied with his words," she lifted her wrist, "And then I figured out who he was."
Here she paused to pull in a deep breath and Steve braced himself, at this point he was almost completely certain that he knew who she was talking about but he didn't say anything. He waited patiently while she attempted to figure out some way to break the news to him.
"It's Bucky," she stated in a rush, "Your old friend, Bucky Barnes."
At this he felt a rush of air leave him, both out of relief and slight surprise (yes, he'd been pretty sure that was the case, but that didn't mean he couldn't have been wrong). There was no one he'd trust more with a woman he considered his little sister than Bucky; and there was no one he'd trust more with Bucky than Darcy.
"You don't seem surprised," Darcy commented suddenly, interrupting his thoughts, "Why don't you seem surprised? Did you know about this already?" she paused, her thoughts obviously racing, "Did Happy tell you?"
She frowned at him and turned to pace away for a few steps, "I suspected," he interrupted whatever she'd whirled around to say, "When I first saw your words," he gestured to her wrist, "I knew that hand writing, I know it almost as well as I know my own. And the words kind of fit the situation our world is in," he shrugged, "But I wasn't one hundred percent sure, so I didn't say anything," he offered her a small apologetic wince and smile, "I probably should have, but I didn't know how to bring up the fact that my previously dead best friend's handwriting was on your skin," he paused, "Especially with him being a brainwashed HYDRA assassin," he met her eyes and tilted his head, "And especially not after the whole thing with Ian."
Darcy gaped at him for a moment before she gave a great sigh of relief and surged across the open space between them to throw herself into his arms for a hug (yet another Darcy-ism he'd had to get used to but now couldn't live without). He pulled her into his chest and just held her, "We'll find him and bring him home," he murmured a moment later, "I promise."
Abruptly pulling back Darcy stared up at him with a confused expression on her face, "Why would…" and then dawning realization lit her face, "Steve," she hesitated, "I already brought him home."
Everything in him froze at her words. He could do nothing but replay them in his head, the words echoing and repeating like a broken record, "I…You…what?" he stammered, wondering if he'd actually heard those words right.
"Bucky…" she started, "He wanted help, he wanted to come in, to see you," she shrugged, "Finding out I'm his soulmate didn't deter him from that. He just…had even more reasons to come in."
Without conscious thought he brought his hands up to cradle her shoulders, "You mean Bucky's here?" he squeezed her shoulders a little, still careful not to hurt her even with all the shock and surging adrenaline, excitement, and nervousness surging through his veins, "He's in the Tower?"
Darcy nodded, "Yeah, he's in my apartment—" Steve didn't wait to hear any more. He turned and nearly sprinted out his door and over to hers. He scanned his palm impatiently and shoved the door open just as Darcy exited his apartment.
But as he went to enter the apartment he stilled, what if Bucky was triggered by seeing him again? HYDRA had given the Asset the mission to kill him once, what if that mission still lingered? What if Bucky was mad at him for not looking harder, or trying to find him after he fell from the train? What if—
"You just going to stand out there all day Punk, or are you going to come in and say hi?"
That voice. That nickname.
"Just tryin' not to scare you off, jerk," he returned automatically, his voice thickening with emotions he couldn't even begin to name. Slowly he walked the rest of the way into Darcy's apartment and stood still. There, standing in the middle of the living room was his best friend. There was no more confusion or clouded vicious intent, just clear eyes and hopeful anxiety, "It's really you," he breathed, haltingly crossing the floor until he stood several feet from Bucky.
The other man nodded his head slowly, carefully maintaining eye contact, "It's really me," he agreed. They were silent as they stared at each other for a moment, both absently noting that Darcy had entered the apartment and was now resting against the closed apartment door, "I've killed a lot of people," Bucky broke the silence first, as if he had to get that off his chest before things went any further, "A lot of good, innocent people."
Steve bobbed his head in jerky acknowledgment, "You weren't you. You didn't remember what you believed or what you fought for," he took a small step forward, resisting the nearly overwhelming urge to reach out and make sure this was real, "That's not your fault."
Bucky swallowed and licked his lips, shifting his weight and shuffling back a few centimeters, "I don't know if I deserve your forgiveness," he murmured.
"Got nothin' to forgive Buck," Steve shook his head, "But if you need it, it isn't for you to decide if you deserve it, that's up to me, and believe me, you've got it."
The brunette glanced carefully over to where Darcy stood before looking back at Steve, "I still get flashbacks sometimes," he admits, obviously speaking to both of them this time, "I forget being Bucky, being your friend and only remember HYDRA and what they taught me. I could still be a threat."
Steve nodded, swallowing through the knot in his throat, "We can help you with that," he replied, "All you gotta do is stay and we can get through anything," he shifted forward again, "To the end of the line isn't just until things get hard, it means even when they get hard we're there for each other. You were there for me when no one else was," he blinked back the urge to let a few tears escape, "Let me be there for you."
"You want me to stay?" Bucky checked, his eyes almost instantly seeking out Darcy's form with some look of reassurance before returning to study Steve's face.
That look was enough for him to know that Bucky wouldn't be leaving any time soon, regardless of the answer. He smirked at his friend, "You really think you'd be able to leave your girl behind?" he arched a teasing eyebrow, "A fella might get confused about your intentions."
Bucky rolled his eyes in a motion so familiar that it was what finally brought tears to his eyes, "You ain't touchin' my girl Rodgers," he retorted, "You both know you got your own somewhere," his eyes dropped to Steve's chest where his soulmate's words were written over his heart. Bucky's eyes narrowed, "And somethin' tells me Darcy's more like a sister than a romantic interest," he took a careful step forward.
"She is," Steve agreed simply.
A dark eyebrow lifted with some amusement, "This the part where you tell me to take care of her or you'll kill me and give my body to Mr. Denali's Rottweilers?" his eyes sparked with a familiar twinkle.
Remembering the popular threat from when they were kids, Steve smirked, "Nah," he shook his head, "You hurt her and there's a whole team of superheroes that will be jumpin' in line for a chance at what's left of you after she gets done with you."
Bucky's amusement spread to the rest of his face as he shared a soft and adoring look with Darcy. He looked back at Steve and cautiously asked, "Can I come home?" (like there was any way Steve was going to be able to turn him away).
Steve rolled his eyes (those weren't tears, it was just…okay, so they were tears, but it was his best friend for cryin' out loud) and abruptly moved forward to jerk Bucky into his arms for a tight hug, "You're already home Buck," he stated, his voice thick, "You don't have to ask, you're already there."
A/N: Yay! This story is finished! So I'm thinking about doing a Christmas sequel where Steve meets his soulmate. Any takers? Full disclosure it would likely be a Steve/Skye|Daisy story (I'm in full Agents Of Shield mode right now and I LOVE Steve/Skye stories) but I am open to another pairing if people are interested.
Let me know what you think and drop a review!