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Thread Contributor: Steve RogersHearts on the Line
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#1
“Language!”

Staying in the operating room would only put Tony in further danger, would serve only to distract Justin and Shuri.

That didn’t mean he was leaving. Not really. Steve waited until he couldn’t wait anymore. Until things were ready to get started, and then he looked squarely at Justin, blue eyes filled with quiet desperation, ”You can do this.” the words were spoken with the sort of confidence that Steve used almost exclusively as Captain America, but here in this room, in this situation, he was simply Steve Rogers, telling someone he had met less than a year ago that he believed in him. He turned to give Shuri a nod, and then moved out of the room, taking up residence in the hallway, back straight, a hair’s breadth of space between him and the wall, shoulders squared, jaw set, and those blue eyes focused beyond the door, on the man laying in there, waiting to be made well again.

Steve might not insist on waiting inside the operating room, but he’d be damned if he was going to leave Tony.

“That’s not going away anytime soon.”
*
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#2
Bucky had made his way over with expediency at the messages from Steve. Add in the fact that he had heard about the tower being on fire- and he was more than a little concerned for his best friend. He froze for a moment as he registered the full scene in the hallway. There, on the one side stood Steve, awkwardly trying not to be in the way, but not truly there. On the other side, was a very familiar face. After a beat, Bucky raised a hand in idle greeting that the other him returned. He had thought for a moment that his alter would choose to ignore him- but Bucky supposed it was easier to face himself from a different world than it was to face a person who he had wronged from a different world.

He did wonder what the hell this new version was here for.

It was hardly important however, what was important was the fact that his Best Friend looked like he was about to crumble. Returning to his walk with purpose, Bucky grabbed the back of Steve's head and pulled him into a hug. "Hey." He offered quietly. "I'm here. You know I'll never make you wait alone." Letting go enough for Steve to straighten back up and meet his eyes, Bucky squeezed the blonde's shoulder. "If I bring you a chair, will you sit down?" He asked seriously. "And when was the last time you had anything to eat or drink?"

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#3
“Language!”

To say that Steve had been through quite a bit over the last few days would be a massive understatement. He knew it, intellectually; he was aware that he wasn’t coping, that he wasn’t dealing with anything, but right now, he had no ability to start. Not with Tony in that operating room, undergoing heart surgery that had become an emergency operation because his faithful AI had seen ripping out his reactor to be his only option at getting out from the influence of the Soul stone. He didn’t lean against the wall, he was too stiff, too tense for that. Instead he stood directly across from the door, eyes pinned on the small window that showed far too little of what happened in the room beyond to satisfy the super soldier.

So distracted was he that Steve didn’t even realize that he wasn’t alone. He hadn’t noticed the other Bucky’s presence, and even when his own approached him, Steve didn’t budge, his eyes never moving away from the door.

For a moment, just a split second when Bucky grabbed Steve into a hug the blonde didn’t move, tension holding him rigid. But only for a second. When Steve relaxed into his friend’s hold, it was sudden and all at once, reaching to hug Bucky back, forehead dropping against Bucky’s flesh and blood shoulder. Steve didn’t sob, he didn’t let so much as a single tear out, but he took the comfort being offered, too close to falling apart to manage more strength than that in the face of his best friend.

When Bucky pulled back a little, Steve straightened, blue eyes bright but determined. He wasn’t going to cry over what amounted to be a damn dream. And he wasn’t going to cry over Tony, because that felt like giving up on him. And damn it, Tony was going to come out of this. He was going to be fine. ”I know you won’t, Buck. Doesn’t make the waiting easy, though.” For the first time since he’d arrived at the makeshift operating room, Steve tore his eyes off of Tony, away from the door behind which Justin was performing heart surgery on someone Steve loved. He looked at Bucky, his best friend, and offered a small, only half forced smile, ”I’ll try.”

Bucky’s question earned a frown, Steve’s eyebrows furrowing as he considered, ”I… Don’t know. How long ago did I go to the tower to see Tony? It was before that…” As if on cue, Steve’s stomach rumbled gently. Super soldier appetites weren’t meant to go hours and hours without food, but Steve frowned to his friend, ”I’m not going to leave him, Bucky.” Tony deserved to wake up and see that he hadn’t been abandoned. That he wouldn’t be ever again.

“That’s not going away anytime soon.”
*
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#4
Bucky wasn't surprised by the sudden weight of his friend as he relaxed- it was something that he had known about Steve for as long as he could remember. Steve did everything he could to say resolute in the face of pain. His mouth almost quirked when he remembered the last time he really saw this. When Sarah died. The words he had said that Steve had used to give Bucky back his life.

But then he remembered that there were almost certainly more that Bucky didn't remember. Because he wasn't there for Steve when he needed it. Still didn't stop him from patting his friend on the back and speaking softly. "Yeah. I know. But I'm here, and with you til the end of the line. No matter what."

He gave Steve the look when Steve said he'd try. "No you're gonna damn well sit, even if I have to sit on you to keep you down." Bucky offered easily, smacking his friend's shoulder. He turned to go find a chair when Steve reiterated what was patently obvious to anyone who had met the man for more than five seconds.

Bucky rubbed his forehead with a laugh and groan. "I've been you friend long enough to know a losing battle when I see one. I'm not trying to get you to leave. Just trying to stop you from needing medical care when this is over." Patting Steve's shoulder quickly, he wandered off for a moment, returning with three chairs, though the other Bucky waved the offered furniture.

Putting a chair as close as he could to opposite the door without blocking anything, Bucky more or less pushed Steve down into it. He followed that up by swinging off the bag he was carrying, presenting a few sandwiches, a thermos of soup, a few bottles of water, and like. Eighty percent of an apple pie. "Eat." Bucky ordered, staring down his friend even as he casually tossed a pb and j at his alter who caught it with a nod of thanks.

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#5
Bucky had been idly watching the not him and not his Steve having their emotional reunion. He'd be lying if he said it didn't make him a little sad knowing he would never have that again. He didn't care too much though, or at least he told himself he didn't. Taking a few deep breaths, he didn't even notice that the other him had left for a moment until he was being offered a chair. Which was lovely, but Shuri was mobile unlike Tony and Bucky needed to be able to get up and protect her in need be. He did catch the sandwich with ease and a nod of thanks.

Running into a burning building made him hungry as hell.

Taking a bite before swallowing It, he signed and spoke up. "For what it's worth, I've seen Shuri take apart a man's spine and put it back together. There's no one alive I trust more."

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#6
“Language!”

Of course Bucky wasn’t surprised when Steve all but fell apart into the hug, into the comfort that Bucky was offering him. Tony wasn’t dead, wasn’t (wasn’t wasn’t wasn’t!) dying. The tears that shone in Steve’s eyes weren’t for the loss of the man in the operating room, but instead for the loss of a dream, of a life that he could remember even now, that he wanted. The tension in him, though, that almost frantic energy that bottled up inside his still frame, that was all for Tony Stark, lying in the room across from them undergoing surgery to save his life.

Till the end of the line. ”I know you are, Buck. Thank you.” The other Bucky, the one from Tony’s world if Steve had it right, was nice to have around, sure, but the man wasn’t his Bucky, wasn’t the Bucky who had fought at his side for years, who had dragged him out of fights he was never going to win… No matter that he still found himself unbelievably fond of him or that the man’s presence was calming. Most of the time. In the face of his own version of Bucky Barnes, Steve knew that he was more comfortable with the one he knew than the one from Tony’s world. The Look. Normally, Steve would have flashed Bucky a cheeky smile at seeing that particular expression on his friend’s face, or at least had the decency to flush just a little bit, but today, Steve just gave a little shrug, his eyes a depth of tension that had no release. That was why yes, he would try to sit, but he wasn’t sure how long he’d be able to stay down. Steve wanted to move, he wanted to hit something as hard as he could… But he couldn’t do that. This wasn’t the tower, and he wasn’t going to leave to go find a gym. ”I’ll be fine, Bucky.” The serum would see him through any hunger pains he suffered, he was sure.

When Bucky came back with the chairs, Steve let him be pushed into one, no arguing. And surprisingly, when Bucky told him to eat, Steve did. Not as much as he might have under other circumstances, but he took the thermos of soup and half of what was left of the pie as well as the water. He tucked away a sandwich for later, knowing that while he really didn’t understand what, exactly, was happening, all of the intricacies of the surgery Justin and Shuri were performing, he did have enough knowledge to know that such an operation would take quite a while. And Steve would be here when they opened the doors to leave the room. He would be waiting for Tony to wake up. He wasn’t leaving, and evidently Bucky wasn’t going to try to make him.

The words from the other Bucky, standing across the hall next to the door, had Steve’s head snapping up, blue eyes finding Barnes’. Steve didn’t exactly smile, a shudder even travelled down his spine, but he appreciated the sentiment. Giving the other man a nod, Steve spoke quietly, ”That’s good to know. From what I’ve been able to learn, Justin is a very competent doctor. I have faith in him, too.” Tony was in good hands. He’d be okay.

He had to be.

“That’s not going away anytime soon.”
*
@moon
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#7
Bucky sometimes thought he could read Steve's mind, but this time? He had no idea what Steve had seen that had riled him up so much. There was no way he could connect with this other life that Steve remembered. It was a life that didn't have Bucky in it.

He ruffled his friend's hair, comforted to see him eating, even if he might eat more on a different day. "Nothing to thank me for. You'd be there for me if it were Nat in there. That's just friendship." He did pause at his friend's statement, sighing slightly before he returned with seating. "Fine isn't the same as okay- and your opinion of fine is different than mine."

Bucky gave his alter a look of gratitude for helping calm Steve- even if he personally might have worded that differently. "There you go Steve. You've got a good doctor and a great technician- and even if I can't say there is nothing to worry about, Tony is in the best possible hands."

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#8
Bucky winced slightly at the looks the others were giving him. Which was- well. Fair. He hadn't worded things particularly well all things considered. After the other him stopped speaking, which was strange in and of itself. Everything about them was identical except for the length of his hair and the material of his arm. It made him strangely happy to know that Shuri's bond with him was unique.

Which was beside the point. After the other version of him finished speaking, Bucky cleared his throat again. "Let me amend that statement- she took apart his spine in order to repair the damage he took from a bullet." He gave a small smile and tapped his head. "The Princess is also the one who gave me back this. She hasn't met a challenge yet that she hasn't defeated."

Bucky rubbed the back of his neck idly. "It would be ideal if we could bring him back to our own universe- but she has more than enough tech on hand to keep Tony stable. Keep his blood oxygenated despite the hole in his sternum."

Bucky peaked idly into the room, not looking for the man on the table, but for the tightly controlled braids that belonged to the Princess.

@eve (in which Bucky just thinks about shuri all day every day.)
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#9
“Language!”

The thing was, it had been Steve’s dream. In it, he had everything he’d wanted. Yes, Tony featured primarily in the dream, but Steve had had a sense of the others in his life, too. In the dream the Avengers had been whole again, they’d all been close again, and yes, Bucky was counted amongst their number. As much as Steve had known that he loved Tony in that dream, he had also known that he’d had Bucky and Nat and Sam and Clint and Wanda and Vision. The Avengers were his family, were their family, and they hadn’t been absent, just not present.

Steve nodded slowly, of course he’d be there for Bucky if it were possible. Of course he would go to great lengths to help his friend. He’d sacrifice his own happiness for Bucky. He had done so, once, and while he did regret hurting Tony, he didn’t regret protecting Bucky.

He should have just told him. Everything, all of it. About Bucky, about Hydra, the Winter Soldier and Tony’s parents and all he knew about it. About how Steve felt. Everything. He was fine. For Tony, he’d be fine. If he weren’t, the genius would blame himself and Steve didn’t want that. He stopped eating as they spoke of Tony being in the best hands. Who was he to know whose hands were the best?

”I still believe the best hands are our own.”

He’d been wrong though, hadn’t he? In his hands, the Avengers had fallen apart. In his hands, they had both lost to the soul stone, landing them in that fantastic dream world. Landing Tony in surgery right now, fighting for his life yet again. Closing his eyes against his own thoughts, against the description of a man’s spine being torn apart and put back together, Steve told Bucky (both of them) quietly, ”I’m fine. I’m uninjured. I just…” he sighed; how could he describe the sense of loss he felt at being pulled away from that perfect life? ”I’ll be okay. I just need to know he’s alright.”

He wasn’t the one hurt. He wasn’t the one fighting for his life, so why was Bucky so concerned about him? He just needed… He needed to know Tony was going to be okay, and then… And then he didn’t know. He’d figure out something, though. Finally, Steve looked at the other Bucky, not his Bucky, but so very close, and told him, ”But he wasn’t safe to move that far. We didn’t have the time. So this is what we have.” Steve’s voice was tight, but not from anger. From worry. From an overwhelming sense of fear, not for himself but for a man he had still never told everything to. To whom he wanted to tell everything.

“That’s not going away anytime soon.”
*
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#10
Bucky would be comforted to know that even in his dreams Steve still thought of him as family, as important- if he had the first idea that Steve had had a dramatic dream of any variety. But Bucky knew how much Steve had sacrificed for him. Knew that Tony gave him looks that clearly implied he thought there was more to Steve's friendship with Bucky than there actually was. He knew that Steve had chosen Bucky over Tony, and that was enough for Bucky to wonder if Steve dreamt of a life where he chose otherwise.

He watched his friend in silence as the warring emotions crossed his face. Steve had never been great at lying, his face read too much like the open book he was. Bucky wished he knew the words to quell the turmoil his friend was obviously experiencing. Instead he bit his lip and accepted the reply with a nod.

He sighed and shrugged his arm over Steve's shoulder, squeezing tight in a one armed hug fashion. "He'll be okay Steve. I believe it."

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#11
Bucky had put up with a lot of Steve Rogers originated bullshit. More than enough to be able to know that this man was not 'fine,' despite all claims. He rolled his eyes, seeking patience from God- Bucky had lost his Steve- and the one thing he'd consider a benefit that occurred? Was that there was no more Steve and Tony relationship drama.

Not to be confused, Bucky would have spent thousands of hours listening to Steve talk about Tony in a heartbeat if it meant having Steve back- but still. "Cut the Bull, Rogers. Everyone present can see that you aren't fine. Bottling it up is how you get yourself killed." Bucky offered finally, voice rough with the sadness of experience.

He nodded at his reply. "I only say that because Shuri isn't content with machines she hasn't proved are absolutely one hundred percent reliable- so She'd be happier in a realm where the tech isn't actually just a memory made real." Bucky elaborated, his eyes softening at the thought of the princess standing in the room past. The strange perfectionist- and Bucky had never understood the total of Steve's desire for Tony until he had met his own absurd genius inventor.

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#12
“Language!”

Bucky would always be family and important to Steve. They were all but brothers, and for Steve, that distinction only counted where paperwork required blood or genetics to matter. Bucky had been there for him through thick and thin. But Tony was…. Tony. He wasn’t the same Tony that they’d both known in their home universe, he was… Steve looked through the window, eyes landing on the form lying prone on the operating table. He’d be okay. Tony would be fine, and then they could talk, they could figure things out. He just needed to be patient, or at least that’s what Steve kept telling himself. Patient and stay out of the way, let Justin and Shuri help Tony, let Tony heal, and then they could figure things out. They could talk about what had happened earlier.

Letting Bucky pull him into a side hug, Steve sighed. ”Yeah. He’ll be okay.” He was still worried, that wasn’t going to go away until after Tony was better, until this surgery was finished and the two inside taking care of him gave him the green light. Not just that he was through the worst of it, but that he was healed and healthy again. Which he knew wasn’t going to be for a while. Heart surgery like this wasn’t something that you just got better from. ”I’m not bottling it up.” The tone Steve used wasn’t argumentative; it was quiet, and it was sincere. ”I’m worried, Buck,” he wasn’t his Bucky, but he was still Bucky, ”I’m as fine as I can be with Tony in there,” he jerked his head toward the door to the operating room, ”Which is, all said and done, what can be expected. We all have people we worry about, people whose wounds and hurts affect us. And Tony is one of mine, so yes, I’m worried. Yes, I’m not going to go anywhere until they’re finished and I know he’s out of the woods, but that doesn’t mean that I’m lying. I’m just having a really rough day.”

Steve leaned back, his head resting against the wall, his eyes falling shut, ”So, Bucky, you seem pretty sweet on Shuri.” It was an obvious ploy to change the subject, and he knew that both Buckys would see it for what it was, but some of the tension leaked out of his shoulders as he asked, his lips twisting upwards ever slow slightly…

“That’s not going away anytime soon.”
*
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#13
Bucky sighed, rubbing soothing circles on his friend's back. There wasn't a whole lot he could do here. Wait with Steve, absolutely, talk with him, sure, but it didn't seem like a whole lot would be changing the topic anytime soon. He gave his best friend an encouraging smile.

"Okay. But I retain the right to knock sense into you if you start acting dumb." He offered, the dry wit being rarely used outside of conversations with Steve. With Nat it was usually innuendo or gallows humour- and no one else was really close enough for him to try. He ruffled his best friend's hair as an afterthought, assuming it would annoy him more than anything.

Bucky's lips did quirk at the remark from Steve- not only pleasantly surprised to see Steve trying to focus on something else, but also because he had questions of his own about that.

Instead of voicing those questions, he just waggled his eyebrows at this other Bucky.

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#14
Though he had spoken somewhat, Bucky was quite content to listen for the most part, and so when this other James captured his thoughts- although Bucky didn't have the right to wail on this Steve himself- Bucky was happy to rest his eyes for a moment.

And then he choked a little at the abrupt change in discussion.

The other James was doing nothing to help Bucky fight back the small blush on his cheeks because hell he had not been prepared for that question or the eyebrows. Finally, swallowing to try and coerce saliva production in his suddenly dry mouth, Bucky decided to be honest. "I am. I haven't met a woman- or man- half as brilliant as she is. She's overwhelmingly intelligent and so creative and equal parts crazy and ridiculous- Hard not to end up head over heels for a doll like her."

Grabbing his own bottle of water he took a sip and a deep breath before turning his attention to the alternate James. "So. You and Romanoff, huh?"

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#15
Hearts on the Line
“Language!”

It had taken Steve an embarrassingly long time to realize his feelings for Tony. He had had to find himself in Hub, with a different but so similar Tony, to realize he had feelings for this Tony, (his Tony, some tiny, quiet voice in his mind supplied) to even come to terms with his emotions for the man from his own universe. And then he had been too late. So yes, when he had returned to Hub, disappointed but not as wrecked as he might have expected if he hadn’t already realized that the man he had known and the man he knew now in Hub were different enough that the feelings might be similar, but that this Tony (his Tony) was who he truly wanted to be with, he wasn’t going to give up on him lightly.

He was not, not even for Bucky, leaving Tony until he was absolutely certain the man would be okay. He’d gotten a glimpse into what life might have been able to be like for them if they had gotten together, if Siberia hadn’t happened, if they had been from the same universe, and he... He didn’t want it back, not exactly, but he wanted to try for something similar, maybe. Something that could be just his and Tony’s, something they made for themselves.

Of course Bucky would tell him he’d smack him if he did something stupid. Well, he didn’t expect anything less from his friend. ”Uh huh.”

He asked about Shuri because it was a new topic, and one that he thought might be welcomed. When you were sweet on someone, it was awful easy to talk about them. He didn’t expect the waggled eyebrows, or the near choke that the other Bucky gave, which earned a chuckle from Steve. Leave it to Bucky to get flustered over a girl.

But the thing was...Bucky’s explanation, his description of why he had fallen for the genius princess, hit very, very close to home. Steve blinked, his face falling into an expression that was soft but serious, ”It sort of hits you all at once, doesn’t it? How brilliant they are, how bright they shine...” His blue eyes were unfocused, but not distant; he was speaking to both Buckys now, ”And the next thing you know you’re in orbit around them, and you don’t know how you got there, but you can’t imagine being anywhere else, either.” And leave it to him to wax poetic about falling for a genius, he supposed. But the smile, no matter how soft, small, or goofy, was real.

Bucky and Shuri and Bucky and Natasha. Steve grinned sideways at the Bucky from his own universe, ”You and Nat?” He couldn’t help the amusement that was in his voice, but there was no judgement there. If they were happy, he was happy for them.

“That’s not going away anytime soon.”
*
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