“I´m not Bucky!” The furious growl, the emptiness in his eyes; it hurt more than the blade that had just been pulled out of him. He could feel his breathing becoming constricted; a sensation not unknown to him. You never truly forget a feeling like that; the aching despair of forcing the slightest breath of air inside your own lungs. But not even that ached as bad as the void in his gaze while he stabbed him again. “I … am … sorry.” He forced his choked voice out. “For allowing them to do this to you” He screamed in his mind pained. “I …” The arrow flew between them.
“Bucky!” He yelled himself awake. His breathing agitated, his pulse erratic, his mind and eyes unfocused. A sudden pain forced him to bend over as a pair of hands stilled him. “Steve! You are safe! Come down.” A stern but concerned tone reassured him as the hands laid him down again.
He coughed hurtfully as he allowed himself to be guided back down closing his eyes overwhelmed. His eyes flickered several times until they adjusted to the light slowly recognizing the familiar figure standing beside him.
“Loki?” He frowned confused. How? No … “How long?” He asked in distraught.
Loki frowned equally confused by his question before asking in return. “Since you been stab?”
“I need to know, please.” Steve demanded anguished as he gave a small affirmation nod.
“Umm … a couple of hours, maybe a bit longer. I don´t know.” Why would that be important to him right then?
Steve sighed relieved, he could still be in time. He tried to sit up again despite the pain; trying to hide a scowl as he did.
“What do you think you are doing?” Loki scolded him harshly. “Are you out of your freaking mind? You barely made it this time. The doctor said …” He kept admonishing Steve as he forcibly tried to kept him still.
“I have to find him.” Steve exclaimed distraught in half a breath.
“Find who?” Loki inquired vexed. Who could be that important?
“Bucky” Steve volunteered leaning against Loki´s strong hold. Wincing at every move he knew there was little he could do to stop him from pushing him back to bed.
“Who?” Loki asked in disbelief with a deep frown.
“The soldier…” Steve huff in despair looking straight into Loki’s eyes in deep plea.
Loki´s expression changed from disbelief to pure anger. “Can´t you see you are in no condition to go anywhere? He almost killed you!”
“He … doesn´t know what he´s doing.” Steve offered distraught nodding his head negatively in disbelief.
Loki opened his mouth enraged for a second before clenching it close again. With a feral growl he stared vexed into Steve’s eyes as he asseverated. “I saw your wounds Steve. He knew exactly what he was doing! The only reason you are still alive is because of me!”
Loki´s ferocity startled Steve for an instant. He never thought he would really care that much. He closed his eyes biting his lip hard; he needed to find a way. Sighing he opened them again; misty eyes looked at Loki´s pleadingly as he begged him once more in a low tone. “Loki, please … let me go. You have Tony … please, let me go.”
Loki stared at him in disbelief. His plea hid a soft unsaid reproach. One that merciless pulled a threat on his mind. The same thread that made him run into his aid. He owed him; not only for saving his life and bringing Tony and himself together again. He had hurt him; both on purpose and unintentionally. And what made matters worse was that Steve had known it all along and he … he just allowed him do it anyway. There were a few handful of things he really felt guilty about and that was one of them. He had given everything back to him and in payment he had broken his heart. Maybe if he hadn´t … he wouldn´t have … gone away. He sighed nodding his head negatively. “ I can´t.”
Steve widened his eyes appalled. “Why?” He asked anguished.
Loki looked into his eyes bemused by the unexpected question. “Because … I actually do care if you live or not.” He answered with a frown before reproach him hurt. “What kind of question is that? Do you think I was lying last week when I told you …?”
“I wished you hadn´t.” Steve interrupted him shaken. “I wished you hadn´t meant a thing.” He regretfully, painfully lied. “We would be better off if you hadn´t say a thing … you would´ve just let me go …”
Not even Loki realized he had slapped Steve until he saw the hurt in his eyes as he nursed his throbbing cheek. He froze surprised by his own reaction. “I … I … I didn’t mean.” He leaned worryingly but Steve backed away from his touch.
“It would´ve been easier.” Steve acknowledged down casted. “I´m sorry but that´s the truth.” He sighed upset before continuing. “Loki I do understand you saved my life and I´m grateful about it. But you don´t ow me anything … I … I got to do this on my own.”
“Why?” Loki asked concerned.
“I don´t know what Hydra did to him; but he is … dangerous. I got to do this by myself. I don´t want anyone else to get hurt … If someone dies on my account … I wouldn´t be able to handle it.”
Loki smirked half amused, half annoyed. Like he hadn´t figured that part by himself. “No.” He added sternly. “Why is he so important to you?”
“Loki, we are wasting time.” Steve huffed distraught. “If his trace goes cold I´ll never be able to find him again.”
“And just where do you think you are going?” Clint ask with a frown as he walked on them. He had overheard Steve´s last words. “You are not going anywhere … not until the doctor says it´s ok for you to leave.” He ended as he crossed his arms with a determined look upon his face.
Steve facepalm distraught nodding in disbelief; as if nearly convincing Loki hadn´t been hard enough.
“To find his old team mate.” Natasha volunteered walking right behind Clint. Walking right to Steve she added. “I get he is an old friend Rogers and that you must feel guilty for what Hydra did to him; but he´s not the man you knew. That man is long gone. He just tried to kill you for God´s sake!”
“No …” Steve denied distraught. “Bucky would never hurt me. Whatever Hydra did to him … I got to undo it. “ He looked up at them with stern resolution in his eyes. “I´m not asking any of you to come with me. I´m just begging all of you to let me do this. Just let me go, it´s better this way.”
“What?!” Clint yelled enraged. “you are barely waking up and you want to go after him … alone? Fuck no! You are staying in that bed even if I have to tie you to it.” He informed him vexed while menacingly approaching the bed. Loki stood up between them releasing Steve who seized the opportunity and swiftly hurled himself out of the bed falling loudly while almost knocking down the IV cart along with him.
Three worried faces ran to his aid while Steve pounded his fist against the ground frustrated by his own failed effort. His legs hadn´t been able to sustain his own weight. As two pair of strong hands tried to help him up he refused them.
“I can do this.” He growled through clenched teeth as eh laboriously sat himself up panting at the effort. He needed to get his strength back and fast.
“This is ridiculous Steve!” Clint scolded him running his hands through his hair in disbelief. “Just … just forget about him.”
Steve felt his blood boil at his words and clumsily, painfully dragged himself up using the bed as a support. “No!” He spat vexed.
“Why on earth no?” Clint spat back irked.
“Because I love him, that’s why!” Steve confessed abruptly.
“You what?” Clint asked bemused.
“Because I love him.” Steve replied astonished by his own confession. He had never voiced it out loud.
Loki´s eyes widened with the realization of who Bucky really was. “They are gone.” That´s why he was so desperate; he could hardly blame him.
“But … Peggy?” Clint frowned confused.
Steve snorted wryly. “What about her?”
“I thought you loved her … you …”Clint offered confused.
“And I did, deeply.” Steve admitted. “As it was expected of me. But … that doesn´t mean … I didn´t loved him too. But … it couldn´t be … not back then.” Steve added painfully.
Natasha frowned distraught as he informed the rest of the team. “It was illegal.”
Steve nodded affirmative biting his lip. “It was.” He sighed before adding. “I never ever told him. Even if he … they would´ve made an example of both of us if anyone had found out. So … I never said a word.”
“You would´ve gone to jail.” Natasha added helping Steve to stand up.
“Or worst.” Steve admitted through tearful eyes.
“I don´t understand.” Loki admitted confused.
Natasha explained quickly. “It was illegal for two men to be on a romantic relationship back then.”
“Actually it´s still illegal in some places.” Tony added walking to them. He had arrived a few moments before.
Loki looked at him shocked.
“What? I don´t do the laws.” Tony volunteered wryly. “Now, if you ask me I find it extremely … pleasant.” He winked an eye at Loki. “Now will any of you explain to me what´s going on and why is Steve out of bed after we almost lost him?”
“Please, we don´t have the time. Just give me some clothes and let me go.” Steve pleaded in a whining tone. “You can explain him once I´m gone.”
“You are not going anywhere!” Clint growled still very angry. “We are going to get your long lost boyfriend back! And you are going back into bed right now!” He took a step forward.
“But …” Steve complained distraught.
“Clint …. could we …. have a word?” Loki suggested sternly while he cut into his path abruptly.
“But …” Clint complained bemused.
“I insist.” Loki gravely added.
“Fine…” Clint agreed reluctantly.
Loki took Clint to one side of the room while Tony and Natasha were left to deal with an uncooperative Steve who refused to get back into bed.
“Clint.” Loki started calmly.
“I know what you are about to say Loki; but we can´t take him with us.” He eyed back at Steve who was laboriously walking away from Tony and Natasha while refusing to stay still.
Loki looked back for an instant before telling him gravely. “You know as well as I do that if we don´t take him with us he´ll find his own way out of the hospital. And then we won´t be able to stop him.”
Clint couldn´t deny it, Loki was right. Even if he ordered Steve to be in lock down he´d eventually escape. He sighed disgruntled. “You are actually suggesting we take him with us? In his condition? “He nodded in disbelief. “I don´t know Loki but it seems like a very bad idea.”
“At least we´ll be able to keep an eye on him. “ Loki suggested. “There´s no telling what kind of trouble he can ran into on his own. You know him better than I do Clint; tell me if I´m wrong.”
“I don´t like this.” Clint surrendered annoyed.
“You don´t have to.” Loki admitted; he wasn´t fond of the idea either.
“Don´t you just stand there stalling!” Steve reproached Tony and Natasha irked while dragging the IV cart with him as he ransacked the closet. “Help me find some clothes … and stop staring at my butt!”
Loki turned immediately at the sound of that and half amused, half annoyed called out. “Tony!”
“What?” Tony whined annoyed. “It´s not my fault hospital gowns don´t …” He made a grabbing gesture with his hands while pointing at Steve´s. “… cover that area.”
“Or that he has a really nice ass.” Natasha added shamelessly while smirking in complicity with Tony at the deeply offended scowl Steve was making.
“Fine!” He growled vexed while trying to close the gap in the posterior of the hospital gown with one hand. “As everything is a joke to you I´ll find some clothes myself.” Without waiting for anyone’s reply he directed himself to the door.
Clint stopped him hurryingly. “No, wait! Wait!” He sighed defeated. “I´ll find you something to wear. Just … stay right here.” He was about to step out when he turned and warned Tony and Natasha. “And will you two behave and stop trying to send Steve to an early grave? He has had a really bad day!”
“Ok mum, we´ll behave.” Tony replied with irony. Noticing Loki’s disapproval glare, he elaborated. “We were just trying to cheer him up. “Loki frowned. “All right we won´t do it again, sorry Cap.” He offered insincerely.
Within a few minutes Clint walked back with a standard SWAT SHIELD´s uniform, a pair of combat boots and his shield.
“Don´t make me regret this Steve.” He told the blond man sternly as he handed him the clothing.
Steve smiled warmly for the first time since he woke up. “You won´t. I promise.”