“Clint,” Bucky called, throwing a balled up sock at the back of his head. He spun around, face screwed up in confusion, still holding the spoon, which meant the idiot flicked marinara onto the kitchen floor in the process. Lucky viewed this as an opportunity, and volunteered to clean it up with his tongue, which was good, because no way was Bucky getting off his ass to do it.
“What? Why are you throwing things?”
“Get over here and remind me why I love ya,” Bucky said, taking care to enunciate and sign along with his words, smiling and waggling his eyebrows.
Clint stared at him for a beat, then tossed the spoon down, turned off the burner, and did the sweetest little backflip over to the couch, nailing the landing and everything, the showoff. A second later, Bucky had the air knocked out of him with a whuff as Clint flopped down on top of him.
Bucky continued to smile as Clint squirmed closer, wriggling around until they were eye to eye, then kissed him, all sweet and tender like he did sometimes. Unable to help himself, Bucky kissed back, wrapping his arms around Clint, then squeezed his ass, and gave it a little smack.
“Happy now?” Clint asked, arching an eyebrow and practically drooling his sarcasm onto Bucky.
Bucky had one of those moments where he felt a little like he was waking up, or had stepped into a cold shower. Sudden and sharp, and all of it just an overwhelming sense of how fucking lucky he was that they were both alive, and Clint was there with him, and being a sarcastic, beautiful bastard. You wouldn’t have known it from what came out of his mouth, though.
“No, you stupid fuckin’ sap, you were s’posed to bring me a beer.”
For just a second, Clint’s face scrunched up in adorable confusion, and then he just looked indignant, and tried to climb off of Bucky, who was howling with laughter, and also holding on tight, refusing to let him budge.
“What, c’mon,” Bucky swore, rolling them so Clint was wedged between him and the back of the couch, making it that much harder for him to escape. “You know I love you, don’t make that face at me.”
“I only got the one face, Buck.”
“Yeah, lucky for me I love it,” Bucky said, “even if it is a mess at the moment.”
Clint was trying and failing not to smile, so that his mouth was twisting one way, then the other, and so Bucky kissed him again, dragging his fingers through the awful nightmare of beard growth Clint was sporting, cupping the side of his face, and oh so gently brushing a fingertip along the sensitive skin behind Clint’s ear. He wasn't wearing his hearing aids, so that got Bucky the full body shudder, and Clint hooking a leg over him, dragging him all close.
“You’re jealous of the beard,” Clint insisted, his voice doing that little rasp that drove Bucky right out of his mind.
“No, I’m really, really not, sweetheart,” Bucky swore, his tone beseeching. “If I wanted a mouthful of hair, I’d just kiss Lucky. At least he can grow a decent beard.”
Clint propped himself upright, almost kneeing Bucky in the balls in the process, and stroked his facial hair as if to make sure it hadn’t gotten insulted and left. “What’re you smoking, dude, this thing is magnificent!”
“It looks like you’ve been creepin’ round barber shops and gathering up the leftovers so you can come home and glue ‘em on your face,” Bucky insisted. “You tried, I’ll give ya that, but it’s time to admit defeat.”
“Fuck yourself,” Clint countered enthusiastically. “Your beard makes you look like an extra from The Walking Dead. And you’ve got food it in, you animal.”
“If I have food in my beard, it’s ‘cause you transferred it there when kissin’ me,” Bucky swore, then proceeded to lose his upper hand in the argument when Clint began scratching beneath his chin, neat little fingernails working through the strands of facial hair and getting down to Bucky’s skin. Bucky straight up moaned, and tipped his head back to give Clint better access, and hummed contentedly.
“Lookit you,” Clint sighed, “powerless to resist. Your beard makes you weak, while mine makes me strong.”
“Mm hmm,” Bucky agreed, grinning dopily.
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“Seriously, though, these things fucking itch, man, and Steve’s starting to give me the stink eye at the shop. Why the hell did we grow them?”
“Bet,” Bucky reminded him.
“Oh, yeah,” Clint said. “Fuck it, I say we just shave already. Thor’s gonna win, anyway.”
“Yes, please,” Bucky groaned in relief, and Clint’s eyebrows scrunched together again, as if he was seriously beginning to worry about whether or not Bucky found him attractive. “Calm down, I’m excited about shaving me. I had someone dump a handful of change into my coffee cup when I was waitin’ for Sam this afternoon.”
Because he was the bright and shiny center of Bucky’s universe, he didn’t even get the tiniest bit upset when Clint burst out laughing, loud, with guffaws, and snorts and everything. “Oh shit, seriously?” he asked, wiping at his eyes, then losing it again at whatever look was on Bucky’s face. “They thought—you—oh fuck—I can’t—I can’t believe you actually told me,” Clint wheezed, kicking his feet and smashing his face against Bucky’s chest.
Sighing contentedly, Bucky scrubbed his hand back and forth across the back of Clint’s head, playing with the soft hairs there. It hadn’t been funny at the time, mostly because he’d still been feeling kind of raw from group, but as he’d started to get royally pissed, Bucky found himself thinking of the moment he was living through right now—the whole getting to tell Clint part—and then it’d seemed hilarious.
“I love you baby.” Bucky said the words against the top of Clint’s head even though he wouldn't hear them, breathing him in, and then hissing with discomfort when Clint accidentally kicked him in the shin, still flailing from laughter.
“Sorry.” Clint groaned, took a deep, shuddering breath, and seemingly managed to get control over himself. “That’s just solid gold, Buck, shoulda kept it in the vault. I’m never letting you live that down.”
“S’kinda the point of telling you.” Bucky’s heart was beating so fast it felt like he should be able to pull his shirt back and see the skin moving.
Clint rubbed at his eyes, still chuckling. “Huh?”
“I mean, unless you know about it, it ain’t shit to me. Nothing is, Clint. Good or bad or in between, none of it matters if I don’t get to share it with you.”
Bucky licked his lips, and swallowed, and kind of wanted to suspend the moment in time, because he could tell exactly when Clint got it, his eyes going just a bit wider, the laughter sliding away, morphing into shock. Bucky got his hands where Clint could see them, already signing even as he opened his mouth.
“I wanna share everything with you, Clint, for however long I got left in this crazy shitshow called life.”
“Holy shit, Bucky, what’re—”
“Marry me,” he said, and to his ears it sounded more like a dare than a proposal. “Officially, I mean, cause we both know we’re already married,” Bucky continued, watching Clint’s eyes, and his flaring nostrils. “In all the important ways. Whaddya say?”
Bucky had no idea why he was so nervous, why his heart was hammering in his ears, and his palms sweating. This was Clint, there was no way he was saying no. Bucky had no doubts that Clint loved him, and really, the only reason they hadn’t gotten married before was mostly because it had seemed kind of hokey to Bucky. They were joined at the hip and had been for years. It was redundant, or conformist, or so Bucky had told himself at the time.
Only, it'd been bugging him lately. He didn't know why, exactly, or when, just that it wasn't right that all these other clowns were walking around doing a shitty job, and making marriage look cheap, while he had a fella that'd stuck with him through losing an appendage (and they hadn't even been banging back then) and yet on paper their relationship didn't count for shit. It pissed Bucky off, frankly, and he'd been waiting for the right time to bring it up.
It wasn't just that, though, it was maybe a little bit of seeing what a mess Steve was making of things, and worrying about him, and thinking, “Thank fuck I’ve got you,” every time he saw Clint’s face. Love was literally the easiest thing in the world, and the best part of being in it, if you weren't a moron. And him and Clint were a lot of things, but they'd figured that out, and Bucky kind of felt like people should take a long hard look and aspire to be more like them. So, if Clint was the reason he wanted to keep breathing, why the hell was he wasting time not being married to the beautiful disaster?
“Yeah, okay,” Clint said, answering slowly, smiling almost as if he was waiting for Bucky to call him a sucker and take it back. “Sure, why not? I'll marry your dumb ass. No one else is gonna.”
Bucky smiled so hard it hurt his fucking teeth, and Clint smiled back, and shoved him, which quickly escalated to the two of them wrestling on the couch until they both fell off.
“Ow,” Clint whined. Lucky barked, trotted over, and licked Bucky's face. “Really? This oaf crushes me, and you take his side?”
Lucky barked an affirmative, tail wagging merrily, returning to the task at hand. Clint immediately started laughing again, shaking and shoving at Bucky.
“What? I can’t help it if I'm loveable.”
“He's trying to eat whatever’s in your beard,” Clint explained.
Bucky scrambled to his feet, and pulled Clint up after him. “Right, that's it, time to shave!”
“I'm growing the beard out for the wedding,” Clint announced.
“Stevie will help me tie you to a chair, and I'll have Tasha shave you if you try it.”
Clint stared at him, blinking a few times. “Holy shit, did we seriously just get engaged?”
“You said yes already,” Bucky reminded him, suddenly worried Clint was going to pick now as the time to surprise him and panic about commitment. “No take backs.”
“You're stuck with me,” Clint mumbled, looking dazed and confused. “This is. Hell, Buck, surreal. I'm getting married. We're getting married. Married we will be.”
Clint met his eyes, the smile small and growing slowly until Clint was kissing him roughly, and shaking him by the shoulders.
“This is awesome!” he shouted, clapping his hands together. “Wow, what the fuck, I never even thought I wanted to get married, and now I can’t wait! I'm gonna husband the shit out of you, Barnes.”
Bucky laughed and smacked Clint upside the head, and heard all the shit he wasn't saying. Like how once upon a time, he'd been scared to death, but still held Bucky in his arms while Bucky shook and cried and pumped ridiculous amounts of his blood out into the sand, Clint maintaining eye contact like it was the only thing keeping Bucky tethered to his body and life. Maybe it had been, and during the process there’d been some kind of magical transference, parts of whatever made Bucky alive leaking out and into Clint through the connection, while some of what made Clint Clint wound up taking root inside of Bucky.
“I'm right here, Bucky, I've got you, baby, you're gonna be okay, I'm right here, not going anywhere,” Clint had said over and over, holding his chin so he couldn't turn and look and see how bad it was, while Bucky blubbered and screamed and stared up into Clint's eyes, and thought, “This is the last thing I'm gonna see before I die.”
Everything was moving slow, sounds distorted from the explosion and shock, Steve shouting orders somewhere in the background, and Natasha taking up Bucky’s discarded gun when her own ran out of ammo, but for Bucky, the universe was nothing but Clinton Francis Barton. Sand and dirt and blood caked to his handsome face, all freckled and sunburned and stubbled, with his eyes that saw fucking everything, and Bucky thought he was luckier than most, if the last bit of life he had left was spent in Clint’s arms.
“In love with you,” he'd managed to huff out, not knowing Clint couldn't hear him anymore. He'd read Bucky's lips though, and leaned over, and kissed him quickly, his mouth dry and his lips chapped and then Bucky had wailed because he'd finally figured it out, what the hell it was between them that was way beyond friendship, and now he'd gone and gotten himself killed, and it was too late.
“Love you too, Bucky, you fucking asshole, can you hear me?” Clint was shouting, and maybe crying. “Your timing is shit! You couldn't have figured this out yesterday?”
“Sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, Clint, I'm sorry,” Bucky had babbled. He was cold, and everything was narrowing down to a crazy pinhole, like someone was pulling Clint away from him, and then he'd been swallowed up by the black, thinking, “Not yet, not, yet, not yet.”
Bucky hadn't been properly conscious for the rest of it, just fading in and out at times, enough to remember the bounce and agony of being thrown over and across Steve's shoulders while he ran somewhere, the sound of heavy gunfire becoming white noise. Screaming awake for a moment then passing out again when Natasha adjusted the tourniquet, making it even tighter. Someone shining a flashlight in his eyes.
Bucky remembered waking up in the hospital, stoned out of his mind, and finally realizing what had happened. To say he'd freaked out was an understatement. He'd tried to rip the bandages and tubes and wires and everything else off of himself, and Clint had surged up out of his chair, his clothes stiff with Bucky's dried blood, and grabbed his hand and it'd been horrible and confusing, especially since Bucky couldn't understand why Clint kept grabbing his chin and twisting his face around until the words being shouted at him made sense and he realized Clint couldn’t hear what he was saying.
Nurses showed up and he was sedated and tied down and Clint got kicked out, but then snuck right back in, but then a limping Steve had shown up and dragged Clint back out again because he still hadn't let anyone look at him and the fucker was full of shrapnel and couldn't hear.
The panic had come for him, the sense of loss, and every other awful thing you'd expect after what he'd been through, but the next time Bucky had opened his eyes, Clint was back, all cleaned up and sleeping in a chair with his feet up on Bucky's bed, and Bucky had started bawling like a baby because he was still alive goddammit, and so was Clint, and they'd finally figured it out and it wasn't too late after all. He could work with that, Bucky could get through anything, if the payoff was Clint.
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“Best husband ever,” Bucky said, holding Clint’s face between his hands, the one he was born with, and the one he'd gotten the hard way. “It's crazy how much I fucking love you, Clint Barton.”
“Roger that,” Clint answered. “I'm right here, Buck. Not going anywhere.”
“Except into the bathroom, to shave.”
Which they did, taking turns and shaving each other, Clint singing him one of those sappy old love songs Steve was always playing in the shop.
“Living for you is easy living. It's easy to live when you're in love. And, I'm so in love, there's nothing in life but you,” Clint crooned, and Bucky still didn’t get that, not even a little, because for the amount of time his idiot brother spent listening to those sappy songs, he sure hadn’t bothered to hear what they were saying.
“Yeah, okay, you win, this is much better,” Clint admitted after Bucky was done kissing him stupid. “I'm telling you I could pull one off, though. I just need a strategy.”
Bucky dragged his teeth over Clint’s chin, then kissed along his jawline. “Maybe a little Three Musketeers style thing, with the mustache and pointy chin hair,” Bucky agreed, moving his mouth back to where Clint could see it, “but it's gotta be neat and tidy for it to work, doll.”
“I'll ask Tony for tips,” Clint said. “He probably has a whole team of scientists working on new beard tech.” Bucky snorted, and Clint grinned lopsidedly. “What kinda wedding are we having?”
“Whatever kind we want, sweetheart.” Bucky's heart swooped with delight. “No beaches, fireworks, or jumping outta airplanes, but otherwise, start dreamin’.”
“Outside would be good, so Lucky could come,” Clint pointed out. “Maybe at your folks, just do up the backyard all nice? It ain't big or fancy, but it's home, and we’re not exactly gonna invite a hundred people or anything.”
“Sounds perfect,” and Bucky could see it in his head, the backyard strung up with lights, the two of them surrounded by friends and family. Feeling happy to the point of distraction, like it was going to start spilling out of his ears or something, Bucky patted Clint’s smooth cheeks, and said, “C’mon, let’s get dressed up, go out, celebrate and shit. We can make the rounds, blow everyone’s mind.”
“You’re not even gonna put out?” Clint crowded him against the sink, groped him a bit, grinning like a lunatic. “If this is a sign of things to come, I take it back, marry the dog.”
“Gonna make you wait, so it’s romantic, you dope,” Bucky explained patiently, snatching Clint’s roaming hands and pinning them behind his back. “Torture myself all night, tryin’ to keep my hands off of you, then bring you back home and fuck you into the mattress.”
Clint laughed, and licked Bucky’s nose. “Bullshit, we’ll both get tipsy, you’ll start groping me as soon as we’re in a booth at the bar, Steve’ll get all righteous about indecent exposure, and if I’m lucky Tasha will only dump beer in my lap like the last time.”
“Right, and then we’ll share a cab home, and I’ll fuck you into the mattress.”
Bucky’s heart swelled with love and happiness as he watched Clint shrug, and nod, and say, “Alright then, as long as there’s a plan.”
“Only plan I need is right here,” Bucky swore, wrapping Clint up in the tightest hug he could manage.
“Sheesh, and you were calling me a sap,” Clint muttered, but he was shaking the tiniest bit in Bucky’s arms, and holding on tight, his fingers dragging along the seam where Bucky’s shiny, newly upgraded (courtesy of one Tony Stark) prosthetic joined up with flesh and blood. He disentangled himself, brushed Bucky’s shaggy hair out of his face, and kissed him all sweet and tender again, saying, "Love you, Buck."
And somehow, they managed to get gussied up, and out the door, holding hands as they went, Clint futzing with his phone, letting Steve know they were stopping by, and Bucky took a deep breath of awful New York city air, and whooped with delight, feeling happy and alive down to the tips of his toes.