Who: James Buchanan Barnes and Brock Rumlow What: Something like a rescue mission When: After this and this. Rating: Yellow for swearing
Rumlow was a problem. Bucky was sure there was a lot more going on than just a spur of the moment decision. From Steve’s reaction to hearing Rumlow’s name, it was obvious there was some unfriendliness between them.
After Steve had told him about the incident, Bucky had found some information about it online. A lot of innocent bystanders had died, something that Bucky had always done his best to avoid, even while he was not in control of his actions. What little defiance he could mount was to hit his targets as precisely as he was able to. If Maximoff hadn’t controlled the blast, Steve would have died. Steve would be dead. Just like Rumlow had apparently died.
It never occurred to him to question what would drive the other man to commit suicide. He didn’t believe it was completely impromptu. It had to be one of a list of options, at least. In fact, it was more or less a standard operating procedure in HYDRA, that one option was always sacrificing yourself. For everyone but Bucky, of course, because they had too much invested him him. That was not allowed.
When he contacted Rumlow to work on getting his ID, Bucky felt a little like he was doing what he’d promised, fulfilling his word. Doing the right thing. When he realized Rumlow was well and truly loaded he knew that he was going to need to navigate this whole murky situation a lot more intimately than he’d hoped. Rumlow was no more guilty than he was. He tried to kill what was essentially a rival operative, which was a completely legitimate target, despite being personally indispensable to Bucky.
It wasn’t difficult to find him. He didn’t wander too far from the ‘nice’ hotel. He just checked in each bar within a couple block radius and eventually he stumbled on him.
Rumlow had started in his own room. He had money now, and he’d invested in the biggest, cheapest bottle of whiskey he could find. The cashier didn’t bother with any niceties; apparently his attitude—or his purchase— was enough to defer any small talk.
After he had his new face, though, there was no reason to stay in. Rumlow drank a lot—always had, apparently it was hereditary—but he preferred to not do it alone if possible. There was something about the cool darkness of a dive bar in the afternoon that appealed to him.
And there were always dive bars. The bartenders didn’t tend to ask too many questions as long as you were paying and not causing problems. Rumlow was good at being drunk. He could still speak clearly and walk a straight line. Could even shoot straight, though he didn’t have a gun any more. He missed his gun. He would have like to shoot something just then.
The bartender was following his instructions to “keep em coming” so he didn’t even have to order any more. Just sit at the bar, stare unseeing at the muted television and curse himself for not telling Barnes right away.
Why hadn’t he? Because he’d been so happy to see him. He’d wanted to pretend that Barnes was maybe happy to see him too. That conversation would have ended that pretty quickly.
And he was a coward. Plain and simple.
He ignored the door opening, though he heard it.
Bucky walked over to where Rumlow was sitting and took a seat next to him. The bartender came over and he ordered a beer, since he knew he had to buy something. He didn’t say anything for long minutes, just stared straight ahead at all the bottles lined up on the back bar. He thought of and discarded so many things. ‘I think you’ve had enough’, ‘you had to know I’d find out eventually’, or the most straight-forward, if coldest, ‘I have to take a picture for your license.’ None of them came out of his mouth, however.
Rumlow tensed when he realized who was sitting next to him. For all he knew Barnes was here to kill him, though he didn’t really believe that. Right now he didn’t much care if he died. He was a coward and an idiot and a murderer and he just wanted to drink himself into oblivion.
When it became clear that Rumlow knew he was there and had no intention of talking first, Bucky frowned. “Why didn’t you just tell me?” he finally said, still not looking over at him. “I mean, yeah, I would have been upset, but you had to know this would be much worse.”
Rumlow stared into his glass before draining it and setting it back down with a clunk. “I was gonna. The words wouldn’t come out.” He sighed. “For what it’s worth I really didn’t plan it. I didn’t see a way out. I didn’t care. And there he was. Looking all… perfect. I just… did it.” He snorted. “I even fucked that up.” He wasn’t going to apologize. Barnes wouldn’t believe it anyway.
Bucky scrubbed his hands over his face. “Okay well… I guess I can understand that. But… it seems like you hate him a lot more than just… an opponent. You wanna tell me what that’s about?” Because if there was any chance that Bucky wasn’t just going to completely walk away from someone who had no one else in the world on their side, he was going to have to know that at a minimum Rumlow wasn’t going to do anything to Steve in the future.
This time Rumlow did raise his bleary gaze to Bucky’s face. “Really? You gotta ask? Who wouldn’t hate Captain fucking America? In all his blue-eyed fucking perfection?” There were lots of levels to his hatred of Rogers, not all of which he was going to enumerate for Barnes. His glass had been miraculously refilled, for which he was grateful.
Bucky took a swig of beer, just to give himself something to do other than snap out an angry reply to that. He took a deep breath and told himself to try to see things from someone else’s point of view. “So that’s it. You hate him because he’s… good looking? Or maybe you think he’s lucky, because he can do a bunch of shit. Doesn’t matter than he went from expecting to be dead before the age of 30 to waking up to find out that everyone he’d ever known was long dead. But sure, he’s only lucky guy,” he said, scowling. “I got blue eyes. Do you hate me, too?”
Rumlow snorted. “Fuck that. I’m better looking than him,” he bragged, though he didn’t believe that. He was vain, but not that vain. And yeah. He was well aware Barnes had blue eyes. They were a totally different blue than Rogers’. “I was HYDRA. He was the enemy. Maybe I took that a little too seriously.” He briefly wondered if he told Barnes the real, root reason he hated Rogers if he would forgive him then. Probably not.
Bucky could tell that Rumlow was lying. It was personal. He’d killed dozens of people because they were his assignments and he bore none of them the slightest ill will. He understood the difference. “Fine,” he said, draining the rest of his beer. “I need a photo for your ID,” he said flatly, taking out his phone. If Rumlow didn’t want to confide in him, he didn’t feel like he owed him anything else.
Rumlow sighed. At least Barnes was still going to help him get his ID. Not that he cared all that much. “Sure, why not. Apparently I look pretty average. Just another reason to drink myself to death, right.” He swiveled to face Barnes. “You must be thrilled he’s here. Congrats to the two of you. Don’t worry. I’m not gonna try again. I’m quitting while I’m behind.”
Bucky took a quick photo of Rumlow’s face, then slid his phone back into his back pocket. “Do what you have to do. Just like always. It’s not like what I think about it matters to you one way or another, does it.”
Rumlow winced. Barnes’ tone cut him despite the padding of the whiskey. He didn’t want to beg for just a few more moments with him. He was almost ready to, though. “Why are you still helping me?” he said, barely above a whisper.
“Because I said I would. Because I thought we were friends. Or something. Whatever. I said I would help you and I’m not gonna back out on my word.” A part of him still wanted to help Rumlow. He’d been Bucky’s life preserver when Bucky was completely lost. Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference anyway, but it made a difference at the time.
Rumlow looked at Barnes. “I don’t deserve it. You should just walk away.” Like everyone else had. He knew he was wallowing but he wanted to. He’d gotten a second chance and he’d gone and fucked it up like he always did.
Bucky frowned. Jesus, he knew exactly how that fucking felt. Didn’t he say something similar to Steve before they made it to Siberia? “Is that what you want?” he asked quietly. “What you’d rather I was a fucking zombie who follows orders and doesn’t talk back?”
“You know that’s not true.” Rumlow had to look down now. “You know I tried my best to help you remember… in between.” Hed hated to see Barnes like a robot after they wiped him.
“Why?” Bucky asked. “Why did you bother?” He knew that Rumlow cared, at least a little. He was sure that Rumlow was just pushing him away because he felt guilty, because Bucky did the same thing. But if Rumlow genuinely wanted to be left alone, well Bucky wasn’t going to argue about it.
Rumlow had to glance up now. “Why? Because… it wasn’t right. The way they treated you. Like a dog. Worse than a dog. Like a tool.” There had been something about Barnes that appealed to him… not just that he was a very attractive man. There was something about him that he wanted to protect.
“So why do you think you don’t deserve a little help? You helped me.” Bucky didn’t know if he was getting through to Rumlow or not. And he was still pissed about him not telling him about Steve. “But if you want me to leave you alone to drink yourself to death… that’s up to you.”
Rumlow wished he could tell Barnes the truth. That he had… feelings, for want of a better term… for him. How he still remembered the time that Barnes had offered to suck him off and he’d refused, even though he’d wanted it badly. Barnes hadn’t really wanted to. He’d thought it was expected of him. “You have helped me already and I am so very grateful. I should have told you right away. I regret that. Almost as much as I regret doing it.”
“You know people can be pissed at each other and still be friends, right? You don’t even wanna know how much Steve used to piss me off.” He sighed. “So what’s it gonna be, Rumlow? I’m pretty much the only person here who kinda knows where you’re from. Do you want to give that up?”
“No!” Rumlow said immediately, his minimal filter completely gone now. He hadn’t even begun to hope that Bucky might forgive him someday. The idea gave him faint hope. He turned to face Barnes completely. “I’m gonna try to make things up. I don’t know how. But I don’t wanna waste this chance.” He knew he sounded like an idiot. He couldn’t help it.
Bucky nodded. “Okay. I’m still pissed. Is there anything else you wanna tell me that I might hear from someone else? Now’s the time to get it all out there.” He wouldn’t have been angry at Rumlow if he didn’t feel something for the guy.
Rumlow considered. “I beat the shit out of several of the guys that used to… do stuff to you. But I don’t guess you would mind that.” He shrugged. “I probably took a lotta people with me in Lagos. But I can’t think of anything else you don’t know, no. That was the only time I tried to kill your bff.”
“I know you have more against him than just he was on the wrong side, but I guess you’ll tell me if you wanna tell me. But he is my best friend. We’ve been friends since we were little kids. And if you hurt him, you’re hurting me. Got it? You don’t have to like him, but hurting Steve is a deal-breaker. Now and always.” Bucky didn’t want there to be any misunderstandings about that. If he could count on Rumlow to have their back, that would be huge.
Rumlow took a deep breath. He looked up at the bartender and made a cutting gesture. He was done drinking. Then he turned to Barnes and nodded. “I got it,” he said solemnly. “So He ain’t coming after me?”
“Well he’s pissed that we’re friends, and I can’t really blame him,” Bucky said with a sigh. “I’ll figure something out, though. I’ll… don’t worry about Steve. If he thinks you helped me, he won’t lay a finger on you. Unlike some people,” he added with a glare.
Rumlow felt a weight lift off his shoulders. They were friends. He could live with that. He had to. “Understood. I’ll steer clear of him.” He was sure Rogers wouldn’t be eager to see him either.
“Let me walk you back to your hotel,” he said. “I think you’re pretty damn shit-faced right now.” It was difficult to stay angry at Rumlow when he was so clearly messed up. And not just messed up, messed up in such a similar way.
Rumlow stood a little unsteadily, pulling out a few twenties and laying them on the bar. “Nah. I’m fine. Been drunker than this on a mission before.” That wasn’t entirely true, of course, but he’d been much drunker on many occasions.
“Wasn’t really a request, asshole,” Bucky said, but there was no rancor in his tone. He was sure Rumlow could get back safely, but it seemed like a better idea to just be certain.
Rumlow raised an eyebrow. “Well. It’s like that, is it? Okay then. Guess I can’t argue.” Truthfully, he was a little pathetically happy to spend even a bit more time with Barnes. He was a fucking idiot. “Let’s go, then.”