AN: Hey! I'm back again! Another week, another chapter! And it's a pretty lengthy one as well! Lucky you!

Quick shout out for neforgesebla on Youtube. They do short marvel music videos and stuff. The poetry ones are fantastic for sparking creativity, most of this chapter was written listening to them.

Anyway Let's talk this chapter. The title isn't 100% accurate but I couldn't resist. You guys are getting a huge dose of Laura and Bucky with this one and a detailed look into how the two are thinking.

Enjoy :)


Chapter 14 - Caught Blue Handed

This wasn't going as smoothly as Laura had hoped. She could feel her own nerves stirring uncomfortably within her as she slowly browsed her way through clothing racks, Barnes following her every step of the way. It's was unnerving to have him acting like a guard dog but that wasn't the main issue. No, the main issue was the tension rolling off him. It came in waves, growing stronger when she moved and easing when she stopped. She could tell he was 100% on guard, pinpointing exits, analysing every person who entered the shop.

She wished that she could state that these actions were a complete shock to her. That she could never in a million years imagine him reacting this way. Truth be told, this behaviour wasn't unexpected or out of place for the man she once knew. But the man she'd once known was more machine than man, Winter calculated his environment constantly. Oh yes, she was very used to the Winter Solder acting this way but not this tense and never stressed out like he was now.

The phone in Bucky's coat pocket pinged once again, causing him to take it out and read the new text. "Steve wants to know when we'll head back" Bucky summarised his text in a monotone voice and Laura rolled her eyes subtly. The Captain was a good man but he didn't half fret over his friend. They had been traversing the city streets when the first text had arrived, followed stiffly by the second, third, fourth and fifth text.

Laura was convinced at this point that someone was continually talking the man out of coming and checking on them. She sighed "Tell him 'If they want to head back to the tower then we'll meet them there'". She waited patiently as Barnes very slowly texted her reply, adverting her eyes from him and examining the shop to put less pressure on him.

She had chosen a mid-range clothing shop, not too cheap but also not too expensive. They didn't really need to be escorted round by an arrogant posh person who was certain that they knew what they would want and 'X' was pretty sure that Stark would faint if they came back with anything that cost less than $20.

Bucky had only just sent his text when the response came through. He sighed "Tony must have hijacked Steve's phone, he wants to know if we want a lift". He could feel her eyes returning to him but he didn't meet them, too busy checking the main door and anybody who had entered while he was busy texting.

He wasn't even particularly sure what he was looking for. Guns, knives and ear pieces obviously but all those things could be concealed easily so what else? Anybody staring at them? Some had looked their way but had adverted their gaze the moment they caught him staring. Which was a normal reaction, or was it?

Laura's sardonic snort pulled him from those thoughts. "No thanks" There was dark humour laced into her reply as she toyed with the sleeve of a coat on the rack in front of her. "…knowing Stark, he'll have boobytrapped it in some way." She snorted again, causing a cautious smile to pull at his lips. "with bright yellow dresses or needles". The humour snapped at the end of her sentence and Bucky frowned as that word became tainted with emotions that he couldn't name. A small pit of dread formed in his stomach as he watched her move around the rows of hangers and clothes.

His mind slipped back to the argument yesterday and the way she had lashed out at Stark. The others probably saw it as a natural escalation but he knew differently. That rage was the same kind that had been locked behind her eyes in his memory, the same that she seemed to hide below her surface. Like a concealed weapon, ready to give someone the biggest and last surprise of their life. From what little he had seen he'd equate it to a bonfire or inferno but she seemed to have a good handle on it.

Yet, Tony had sparked it. The genius seemed to have a habit of riling people up but this was different. He hadn't just annoyed her, he'd angered her with something he'd said or done. Pinpointing exactly what the idiot had done wrong would be difficult but could this be Buck's answer?

Needles. He didn't like what that suggested, he didn't like it one bit.

He would even go as far to say that he hoped he was wrong but if he was right then he'd back her up. He was certain most of the team would, purely on principle alone. They'd have to avoid the genius billionaire afterwards but that was why they were there, wasn't it? 'Extra time away from the tower' was how Laura had worded it but what if what she really meant 'time away from Stark'.

He ripped himself away from those his internal dilemma as Laura sneezed suddenly, He muttered a quick 'bless you' before noticing that she had moved a little too far away from him while he'd been caught up in his head. He cleared the space swiftly, eyes scanning the shop quickly. Had he missed something while he was daydreaming? Who didn't he recognise from before? Was someone watching them? The shop was pretty big, could someone be hiding just out of his sight?

Laura rubbed at her irritated nose, trying to rub away the scent that was assaulting it and the smile that was playing with her lips. It amused her greatly. Even here, on edge and stressed out of his mind and the fool still "blesses her" for sneezing.

She managed to school her features as he returned to her side. It quickly became very easy to hide her amusement, watching it dissolve as she felt his fingertips ghost around her elbow. Her eyes snapped to his face, observing his frantic eyes and clenching jaw muscles. He probably wasn't even aware that he'd almost grabbed her arm, he was too far gone for that.

She was no longer dealing with stress or tension, this was panic. She mentally kicked herself for moving away from him while he was so clearly lost in thought. Her own eyes quickly scanned their environment, knowing full well that they were safe but his panic was making her stressed and she couldn't be 100% certain anymore. While it was a hindrance, it was also a good excuse. She could fool herself into believing that she wasn't searching for threats. No, she was searching for the source of the odour blocking her nose up.

It should be easy enough, it was a smell she knew quite well. Blue ink. It was bitter and thick, clogging up her senses. The exact type they put into security ink tags. Her eyes swept towards the changing rooms, a smirk stretching across her face as her stress melted away. She knew they were safe, it was stupid to think otherwise. The worst thing in that shop was a complete amateur.

Calmly she manoeuvred her arm away from Bucky's grasp and instead softly laid her hand over his. The feeling of her hand touching his skin got his attention, dissecting eyes zeroed in on her face. Questions like 'Why is she getting my attention?' and 'Has she seen something I haven't?' were rushing through his head but they were quickly silenced by the amusement in her eyes.

He was about to question her but it died in his throat as she reached up to whisper in his ear. "Someone's shoplifting" He had to lean down a tiny bit to hear her properly but when he did he frowned deeply.

The fact that he hadn't seen anybody shoplifting entered his mind briefly but it was massively overshadowed by the deep confusion born from her clear amusement over someone committing a crime. "Where?" He questioned, looking around the place once more.

"Changing rooms is my best bet" Laura stated but it was just a guess. The moment the tag had activated, the stench had attacked her senses leaving her unable to discern it's original. The changing rooms made the most sense to her, if it had activated on the shop floor then they'd be able to see the commotion.

Bucky kept his eyes glued to the archway that lead to the changing area, still confused as to how 'X' knew this was happening but trusting her judgement. He watched people come and go, analysing every inch of them. Less than a minute later, he spotted a suspect leaving. The young woman seemed calm enough, passing over the clothes she had tried on to the shop assistant to be placed on the rack, hoisting her stupidly large handbag onto her shoulder, walking towards the exit. But everything about her body language screamed guilty. "That's her".

Laura followed his eyes to the culprit, examining the woman carefully. She looked to be earlier to mid-twenties, light honey brown hair, manicured eyebrows and nails, nicely dressed and designer handbag. 'X' paid close attention to her hands and fingers noticing how they were clean with no trace of blue staining. Either Barnes had the wrong girl or this thief was in for one hell of a shock. Laura personally preferred the second option, it amused her more.

"Probably has no idea it's gone off in her bag" She'd feel bad for the thief but the woman clearly didn't need to steal. Judging a book by it cover, the stupid girl probably knew nothing of real hardship and was probably doing this for some sick thrill.

He stared curiously at her, searching her features for answers to the questions floating around his head. "How did you know?"

Laura went to answer but stopped herself. Blue ink was practically odourless to normal people but If she remembered correctly Barnes still had enhanced senses. Nowhere near as enhanced as hers but still better than average. She tilted her head slightly, watching him curiously. "Can't you smell it?"

Bucky blinked at her. Smell it? He looked at her sceptically but still took a deep breath through his nose. However, all doubt left his mind as his nose caught a whiff of some odd odour. It was faint, very faint but it was there. Was that what she was talking about? How on earth had she noticed that?

Her smile tugged at her lips as she watched his nose twitched at the scent, brows pulling together in concentration, eyelids blinking in confusion. It took these observations for her to remember that he had yet to step out of her personal space, leaving them standing a little less than a foot away from each other. It wasn't purely his doing, he'd had to shift closer to her to allow her to whisper to him and her hand still softly grasping his wasn't helping.

She took the initiative, moving to the side and examining another jacket as an excuse. Her façade of self-satisfied amusement remained in place as she spoke "Should we do something about that?"

The loss of skin contact was what dragged Bucky away from the unpleasant odour but he didn't have much time to think about it as she posed her question. He watched her motion towards the shoplifter who was getting close to the exit. They wouldn't reach the woman before she made the door but they could easily chase her down.

That thought caused him to pause. He'd been ready to grab Laura and escape a few minutes ago, now he was prepared to go chasing after a thief? When had that happened? He decided to answer her before he got lost down that rabbit hole "The security guards have it covered" He had spotted them before, standing ready at the door.

Laura noticed them, her smirk returning properly as she realised that a shop like this probably had CCTV in the changing rooms. Amateur. That was what Laura thought of this woman, sloppy amateur who was in over her head. Dipping her toes into a lifestyle that she doesn't even understand. So, she took a certain amount of pleasure in watching her being escorted away in tears, ignoring the tiny part of herself that felt pity for the crying girl.

Bucky missed the shoplifters arrest, having already sipping into his mind as he watched the green-eyed girl. She'd done it. She'd stopped him from pulling them from that shop. Stopped him from falling further into that mindset that he hated so much. She'd pulled him away from the panic, the pressure, the paranoia and he was pretty sure that she hadn't even realised it. He went from believing that everything around him was turning against him to focusing in on the most mundane problem. A shoplifter of all things.

He smiled to himself at the absurdity of it as Laura went back to browsing the different coats in the men's department. He knew he couldn't even begin to explain what she'd done, he could hardly understand it himself so instead he put forward a question that he hoped she would explain to him. "How did you catch that?"

She glanced at him briefly before concentrating on the item of clothing in front of her. It was a nice coat, she guessed. Grey, warm, somewhat tailored, something her father would never be caught dead in. But was it Barnes? Would it fit him? Both physically and style-wise? "Easily". She replied to him simply as she searched for a size that might fit him. There was no danger in discussing such things.

He frowned softly at her as she gently took a coat off the rack and stare at it as if trying to suss it out. Her words or word wasn't a dismissal, not like the other times he had asked questions but then again this wasn't about their past. You couldn't get more present than literally a few minutes ago. "How?" He pushed carefully. She was still absolutely impossible to read but her reply had felt like a challenge to him, seeing how hard he would work for an explanation.

Laura barely heard him over the questions running through her head. Would a medium fit him? She was pretty sure that medium fit Logan but that didn't mean it would fit Barnes, did it? She glanced at the man, trying to judge his size. He was as broad in the chest as her father's but Logan was a bit shorter than Winter.

Sighing, she pulled it off the hanger. She wasn't even sure it would fit her old man and she'd drive herself mad if she continued. It was as she patiently waited for Barnes to get the hint and take off Rogers's coat that she remembered that he had said something. "Same way, I know that's Captain Rogers's coat you're wearing"

Buck paused in the removal of his coat at her response. Slowly he continued, glancing between her waiting hand and the coat itself. She was right, of course. Steve had handed it to him in the elevator, stating that it had gotten colder since his last journey out of the tower. He'd accepted it and then completely forgotten about the interaction until Laura brought it up.

He was seconds away from pushing his question once more when she beat him to speaking. "My senses are stronger than most. Sight, touch, taste and smell, all heightened. It can be pretty handy when it wants to be" She explained pensively, taking the borrowed coat from the metal armed man before handing him the new one to try on. The topic of her senses was safe as far as she was concerned. "When it activated, the smell hit me. Blue ink has a very recognisable edge to it."

He shrugged on the coat, noting that while it was pretty sturdy and ridged, it was still fairly comfortable. It was not too thick, thick enough to warm him not bake him which was good for now. His hoodie and the shops AC was doing a fine job at that. It wasn't as padded as Steve's coat and it was grey whereas Steve's was a dark blue but he didn't hate it. What could he say, it was a coat, it felt like it would keep out the cold well enough. He focused back onto the topic of discussion as he buttoned the grey coat. "And the coat?" he could understand the ink but how did she know that he was wearing Steve's coat?

Laura evaluated him as he did up the last black button. The fit was okay, she guessed. It was a bit too big around the waist but the smaller size would be way too tight on his shoulders. In the end, she reckoned it was better to buy something with wriggle room than something that would restrict movement. Her eyes quickly scanned the rack again as she answered him. "It has the Captain's scent on it..." She paused for a second, noticing that the coat also came in black. She grabbed a medium in that colour as well before turning back to him "What do you think?"

It took Bucky a second to realise what she was talking about. He examined the coat on his frame. He hadn't looked in a mirror but he doubted it would change much. It was a coat, it did its job. The only issue he was having was he didn't really need it but he stopped himself from saying this. She had just pointed out that he was wearing Steve's and that thought got him thinking. He hadn't told her he needed anything and yet here they were, shopping in the men's section for coats. He blinked a few times in sudden understanding, his worries over her avoiding Stark calmed. This wasn't for her, it was for him?

She watched him battle with his thought, taking note of how his brow creased in concentration. Overall, he was reacting to making a decision better than he could have been. Sure, he had yet to make a decision or even talk but at least he wasn't panicking. It was a good sign "It can always be returned later if you change your mind and we can also take a black one, you might end up liking it more" She encouraged, draping the black coat over her arm before grabbing the hanger of the one he was wearing. "Plus, it's not like Stark can't afford it, right?" She smiled as she waited for him to take off the coat. Now they just had to find a good leather jacket.

Bucky took in what she said, chuckling lightly at her joke, before just generally taking in her. He was half convinced that the smiling woman in front of him and the one he'd fought with yesterday were completely different people. Both confused the hell out of him but he could live with this kind of confusion. It was, dare he say, nice. He took her prompt and removed the grey coat, his mind going back to the previous topic that he'd been side-tracked from. He didn't know if she had done so purposely but he wasn't about to drop it so easily. He had her talking and he wanted it to last at least a little while longer. "His scent?" Bucky asked handing her the coat so she could put it back onto the hanger. He expected her to give him Steve's one back but she didn't.

Once she had the new black and grey coats draped over one arm and the Captain's coat held securely in the other, Laura let her eyes hunt the shop for any signs of leather. They had to have at least one leather jacket on sale, all half-decent shops did. She did, however, spare Barnes a glance at his question. He didn't say much, she noted, pushing away the fondness that came with it. She decided to wander a bit and hope that a leather jacket would jump out at her as she began her explanation. "Exactly what it sounds like. Everybody has one and they are unique to each individual. It gets altered by fragrances and environments but it mostly remains consistent".

Following her as she went back to browsing, Bucky thought about what that could mean. She said everyone had a scent and that it was unique to each person. Almost like a personal barcode, he guessed. But one only she could detect. He could see how such an ability could be useful in the long run. He remembered doubting 'X' in his memory/dream, being uncertain if she would be useful but he could see now that his uninformed mindset had him blinded. With the abilities he knew of, Laura could be a valuable ally in the field or a terrifying opponent. But he wasn't all that concerned about that right now as he watched the woman search each rack, frowning at the clothing as if she could intimidate it into revealing the location of whatever she was looking for. A smirk pulled at his lips "Go on then, what's Steve's scent smell like?"

Her eyebrow raised at the tone of his voice, looking back at him with a smile of her own. She had really only just noticed how he was calmer now. Had talking about her senses really distracted him this much? It couldn't have but Laura couldn't think of anything else they had done that would make him this relaxed. She put those questions away for another time, choosing to reply before his anxiety returned and ruined his mood.

It took her a second to organise her thoughts and find the right words. "It's strong, stronger than most but that's probably because the man works out so damn much." She smirked and continued to look for the elusive leather jacket. She'd caught both of their scents that morning after they went to the gym or whatever. She was actually pretty sure that it had woken her up. "Clean, neat and very uniform. Overpowers anything that tries to alter it. He wears cologne but not often and its old-fashioned cologne, nothing flowery and sweet, sharp and musky." The coat itself faintly smelled of it but it wasn't applied recently otherwise it would be a hell of a lot stronger. She knew it was old-fashioned simply by the fact that she'd smelt similar fragrances on Logan the few times the mutant had bothered to put some on.

She paused for a second, remembering something she had vaguely picked up on at the tower. "He… he must write or something because he smells faintly of graphite but it is pretty faint so it might just be an occasional thing" She looked back at Barnes briefly, seeing that the smirk had dropped and in its place, was a curious look directed at her. "Apart from that, it's just the basics really; Soap, shampoo, body wash, deodorant, fabric softener". She stopped her list as her eyes looked past Bucky's large frame and landed, finally, on what she'd been searching for.

She squeezed past him and Bucky watched her go, blinking for a second before he snapped out of it and went after her as she purposely strode toward a rack of leather jackets. Most of what she'd said had made sense weirdly enough but what had really stunned him was how she had actually done a good job at describing Steve. Not just his scent, but the man himself. The graphite had really floored him though. There was no way she would know that Steve could draw, he didn't openly advertise his talents and she'd only known him two days.

Her sense of smell had to be insanely enhanced. His was strong but he had never picked up on such things. He was even beginning to believe that if pushed, she would be able to name what type of shampoo Steve used. He was distracted from his amazement when Laura held a black leather jacket out for him to try on. He continued to wonder as he pulled it on, if she could get all that about Steve just from his scent then what could she gather from his?

'X' assessed how he looked with a critical eye. It looked good but something felt off about it and she couldn't figure out what. It irritated her greatly because it looked nice on him, it fit well from what she could see and black was always a safe option. But something just wasn't right. She paused, realising that the collar was folded down instead of standing up which wasn't that big a deal.

Except that when her eyes connect with the space between the offending collar and his long brown hair, she became overly aware of the issue. He looked like Remy. Which wasn't a particularly bad thing per say and the issue could easily be ignored by simply focusing on him as a whole instead of that single spot. But Bucky so wasn't Remy. The Cajun's face was longer and thinner. Bucky's eyes were softer. They just weren't the same person at all, it was almost funny how extremely different the two were.

Almost, being the crucial word because while it was amusing, the resemblance did leave her a little perturbed and she didn't know why. Instead of dwelling the feeling she decided to simply solve the problem, she leaned up and adjusted the collar. Once it was fixed the uneasiness still lingered but was nowhere near as bad as before.

Bucky had been too busy putting two and two together, and realising that he'd worn Steve's leather jacket to the Black Out club, that when Laura reached up to mess with the jacket he'd jolted a bit before settling. It was a little unnerving, knowing that she could discern so much with such little information. Then the question came of what would she do with the info she could gather. He tilted his head slightly as he watched her mess the jacket zip and pockets. Buy him clothes apparently. "And what about mine?" his curiosity overruled his anxiety at this point.

'X' rushed to secure her façade when her amusement dropped out from underneath her. So much for being a safe topic. She knew that there was only one way to answer that question and that any lie or half-truth would be insufficient and weak. He'd be able to tell that she was holding something back and that could lead to his good mood abandoning him like hers just had. She couldn't do that to him, not after deciding to help him. She'd just have to bit the bullet and hope this road wasn't going to turn into a shear drop. She adverted her eye slightly, pretending to examine the jacket again. "That depends, do you want to know how it is now or how is used to be?"

The tone of her voice changed, Bucky noticed. Despite her attempt to offset it, her query was softer and somewhat toneless. Almost as if she would break something if she spoke any harder. Break what exactly? Bucky wasn't sure but he did know his answer the moment she'd asked. He was seconds away from replying, aiming for a similar tone to preserve whatever amount of transparency she was allowing when she cut in abruptly. "Do you like the jacket?" Buck was glad that she had specified what she was talking about because the sudden undisguised change of topic left him with whiplash and enough disbelief and amusement to make him snort.

She watched him rein in his outburst with a smirk. She knew it was a long shot but you can't blame her for trying. It had been worth it just to break the tension her little slip up had created. "Yes" His voice echoed the small smile that still graced his features.

Bucky watched her thoughtfully as she turned back to the rack, picked up the jacket's hanger and reached into the mass of leather jackets to fish out something else. "Then we'll take it and a brown one as well" She considered the dark brown leather in her hands and Bucky wondered if she was intentionally avoiding looking at him or if she was truly that invested in buying him clothes. He could understand her hesitation, he shared it to a degree. She was giving him the option to cross the line between present and past, and even though it seemed harmless, Bucky didn't know if he would be able to drop it so easily after getting a taste of the answers he craved. But he had to take that chance. "Is both an option?"

Her carefully placed smile became sardonic in nature. How easy it would be act like he was still talking about the jackets? How easy it would be to make a joke out of it? But she'd just be stalling, doubting that she could avoid getting into it at this stage. She softened her smile before meeting his gaze and nodding in reply. She barely needed to think about his scent before she knew how she wanted to word it. "Warm and musty. Metallic. The main source of it would shift, between your arm, the environment, guns, knives, blood. Your scent always smelt of gunpowder, leather, sweat and stagnant water whenever they defrosted you and it would linger for a few days after the fact". She eyes became unfocused as her memories washed over her like a cool breeze. Winter's scent had always been an easy one to sense. Everyone else in the compound were doctors or agents, all crisp and clean, The Soldier was anything but. That wasn't to say that he wasn't allowed to wash because he was and did but his scent always clung to him. Like a brand, marking him as different.

Her gaze slowly slide from his, drifting to the space just past his shoulder. Misty vision was a dead giveaway that she had tumbled into thoughts of the past. It was a familiar sight to Bucky, having spied the same look many times in the mirror and through Steve's eyes. The only problem was he didn't know if he should be worried or not. She was there, back when they used to know each other, back when he was the Winter Soldier; a machine, a weapon. The things he had done, the people he had hurt. Yet, she just remained the same, staring off into space. Bucky braced for the hit to his gut, waited for fear or anger to appear in her bright green eyes but it never did. Seconds felt like hours but it never showed. Instead the mist began to fade gradually, revealing her hardened, unreadable eyes. "And now?" He prompted, wanting to scrape the last of that perilous cloud away from her gaze and restore the survivor he had come to scarcely comprehend in the last two days.

Barnes's question brought her back to the present, focusing in on his steely grey gaze. His voice had been firm, reminding her of the past him. The person he used to be but wasn't anymore. The man in front of her wasn't the same as the one she had fought beside all those years ago. They shared a body and a face but Barnes wasn't Winter, simple as that. He was more. She allowed a real smiled to tug faintly at her lips. "It's all still there. Scents don't change too much… but it's faded. No more stagnant water and trace amounts of gunpowder. You haven't fired a gun recently but you have held one at least" She fiddled with the hanger in her hands, her faint smile quickly morphing into a confident smirk.

Now that had Laura had returned to reality, Bucky let his gut settle, taking note of the emotions that swirled deep in his stomach. He didn't know how to feel about what she'd said. On one hand, his scent was stained by what he'd been through and what he'd done. His past still clung to him; tainting his mind, his dreams and now his scent. But on the other hand, she'd said that it was faded, hopefully disappearing for good. It felt like wishful thinking to entertain the idea that someday he'd be rid of it, that one day in the future his scent would reflect the smells of the tower and not his nightmarish past. The thought, while more than a little odd, sparked a strange kind of optimism in him.

Either way he was grateful that she had willing indulged his curiosity and had been forth-right about it. The moment of companionable peace was interrupted by his stomach loudly protesting the lack of food in it. Apparently, emotions weren't the only thing disrupting his gut, hunger had been clawing at him since they'd left the cafe. Any hope that maybe Laura had missed the loud grumble was quickly dropped as his brain pointed out the topic they had just been talking about. Enhanced senses be damned. "Not hungry, my ass" Her tone was more sly than irate but Bucky had the sense not to counter her. Laura shook her head lightly, still smiling at the fool's stubbornness before motioning to the leather jacket he was still wearing. "Come on, let's pay so we can get out of here. Hopefully before you waste away and before the Captain sends out a search party".

Buck chuckled light-heartedly, quickly removing the jacket and handed it over to her to put back on its hanger. He was looking forward to eating and despite their impromptu trip being surprisingly pleasant, Bucky was looking forward to going back to the tower and away from the chaos that was New York shops.


AN: SO how was that? Laura's opened up a bit and Bucky got some new clothes. What's you thoughts on some of the things that happened this chapter? Tell me, people!

Hope you enjoyed the chapter! Please Fav, Follow and Review!

Feedback will hopefully remind me that Gambit's name is Remy, not Remi. Stupid spelling mistakes!

See you next week!