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Trust & Gentleness

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When the Avengers, the whole team, knew that Bucky was safe, buffeted by Steve himself of course, there was a collective exhale. And slowly, very slowly, he was introduced in his own right to each of them, not as the Winter Soldier but as Bucky Barnes.

When Clint knew it was the day he would meet the love of Steve’s life, he was nervous enough that it was tough to keep a lid on things. And Clint was proud of the lid he had on things–that most people didn’t guess his secret, at least not this one.

But when Bucky was standing there, right in front of him, he felt the slightly lost, maybe dizzy feeling of one of his people flitting across his face.

Maybe he didn’t have words for it, but he was an old man by now, having fought side by side with Steve for years for this moment, and he was used to the sensations of it, the ones he first started feeling when he was seven and his dad hit him so hard he thought he’d be slightly off balance for the rest of his life.

Clint regained his balance back then, but it was with the help of others, people no one but Clint would see or hear from.

He had discovered them one at a time, the way Bucky was meeting people now.

There was Mike, the loud one, who let Clint know he was right there in a pinch if Clint needed to fight hard enough to save his life. And there was Timmy, who had been the first and helped Clint get his bearings after the beatings, before Clint could find someone physically stronger.

There were some who seemed to come and go, and then, noticeable in a different way, there was Rosa.

All together they made seven, including Clint, who was still his own person and always handled the bow. But today he wasn’t sure what he felt, or what he was supposed to feel.

She slipped across his features, softening them, and Clint didn’t know what to do except let it happen. Even breathing was difficult today, so if Rosa wanted to take the pressure off of him in front of The Bucky Barnes then–

No.

Rosa!, he snapped internally.

What? Am I supposed to be blind? We’re Hawkeye! Try again!

No, but– He’s The–

Bucky, she said warningly.

Yes. The Bucky. That was what I was going to say. Don’t you get the idea what I mea–

Of course I do. I’m in here, remember?

Their internal dialogue was fast, but Bucky was watching Clint with a look in his eye. Both far away and familiar at once.

Shit.

There was no question that Bucky had seen this happen. Whether or not he could recognize it–

Well, the look on his face said–

Clint cleared his throat. “Uh. Hi.”

Steve smiled. “Hey there, Clint.” Steve emphasized his name just slightly.

Normally Clint appreciated being addressed properly, acknowledgment of whoever was in control, and Steve, gentle giant Steve, knew this very well.

But today his name stung. He felt wrong. He hadn’t expected to let himself be this visible and–

He didn’t let his thoughts stray too far into what it meant, but he couldn’t hold in a sigh of relief when he knew that Steve and Bucky were on the other side of the door again.

***

What he wasn’t expecting was for Bucky to come back.

In person.

Like the old man Bucky still was, no matter what he looked like to anyone else.

It didn’t take long, either.

One minute it was just Clint and his complicated tangle of internal people, and the next there was a knock Clint was completely unprepared for.

And then, Bucky.

“Hey, I, uh…”

“Hey,” Clint allowed, not sure exactly if he should be staring into Bucky’s eyeballs for it or what.

“This is going to… There’s no way this isn’t weird, okay, and I get that, and I’m sorry. I just thought… I saw this thing and I know you don’t want to answer questions about it. And I wouldn’t just ask Steve what I saw or anything. And I wanted to make sure I said it face to face but if you don’t mind…” Bucky winced. “I thought maybe I saw that…. soldier thing. Happen to you. Look, I told you I have no idea how to ask this and I’m sorry. But it’s a thing I did. I do. I uh, I haven’t even seen Steve do it since I’ve been back, so I thought…I should ask you directly.”

“Oh. Um.”

“I’m sorry. I know it’s weird. It’s…really weird, right, extra weird that I’m asking you.”

Clint sighed. “No. Not really. And don’t worry, Steve knows.”

Bucky smiled wryly. “Steve knows all. Sometimes, anyway. Hard to hide weird brain stuff from him.”

“Yeah. It is.”

“I don’t have to…you know, know, if you don’t want me to.”

“You already do. And holding it back was kind of the thing kicking my ass.”

Bucky’s face was nothing less than grim.

“Sorry, speaking of things I probably shouldn’t say…”

“I just felt like… I never saw anyone else, um, I don’t know, but I thought I knew what I saw.”

“You did. I mean, I hope I can say that– You’re one of Steve’s. You’re, I mean, you are...um…”

“Yeah,” Bucky said, quiet but certain. “I know. So, hey. Do you… want to talk about it?”

“Do you?”

“Kind of.”

“The hall’s always freezing or boiling. No in between. Come on. You can’t just stand out there.”

“Oh, trust me, I’ve done worse.”

“Funny. Come on inside, Bucky.”

And Bucky did just that, following after Clint.

When the door was closed behind him and he saw Clint visibly relax he was pretty sure he knew what that meant, too.