1. The beginning

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"Hi mom. Hi dad. I'm gonna be in New York for a while now. Got a new assignment here. Don't know what yet, but I'm gonna meet Steve and he'll explain me everything. I just came back from a mission in Brazil. It's a very nice place, you'd like it there. Tony is being Tony as usually, but I still love him. And Steve is still him. Nothing much has happened. Okay, I'm gonna be late. Till next time. Love you," Alice put fresh flowers by her parents tombstones and went out of the Green-Wood cemetery.
It's been almost six years since she visits her parents here. Alice was the only one to visit them frequently although her grandparents lived in Newark.
Girl has been friends with Steve for a few months although she had met him few times before. Tony she knew for about two years and it felt like eternity for her and not in a bad way.
After walking for a while, Alice saw a cab and hailed it. She named Steve's adress and sank in the seat. Her usual routine during a drive was listening to music and checking her 'Instagram' and 'Twitter' accounts. After a while the driver pulled over at the curb and she gave him money, getting out of the car. Girl went in the building and up the stairs to Steve's apartment, taking off her black aviator sunglasses. She lightly knocked on his door in the rhythm of the song she was currently listening to. After few seconds the blond opened the door smiling and shaking his head.
"Hi," Alice smiled, taking out one of her earbuds.
"Hi, come in," Steve stepped aside.
Girl went in, taking her phone out of her black jeans pocket to pause the song and took out the other earbud, then stuffed them in her pockets.
"So, what brings me here?" Alice ran her hand through her straight, light brown hair which was above the middle of her back, following man into the living room.
"Alice, it's Bucky. Bucky - Alice," Steve introduced her with a man who was sitting in the far end of his couch.
Alice stared at him for a few seconds. Man had brown, shoulder lenght hair, scruff, and empty grey-blue eyes. Bucky had pulled his knees into his chest and his bionic arm shone in the sunlight. He looked at her like he'd jump on her any moment and snap her neck.
"Hi, nice to meet you," she recovered from her shock meeting a person Steve could talk for hours, a war hero, and smiled at him.
Steve took her hand to stop her from going to him to shake hand like people usually do. But Bucky just glared at her not saying anything. Finally he turned back his gaze to TV where currently was shown 'Sponge Bob'. Little did they know that actually brunet was afraid of her. He couldn't know if she was from HYDRA and wanted to capture him again. But a small voice in his head said that he shouldn't worry about it.
"So, I talked with Fury and Hill and they agreed with me that you could help me with adjusting Bucky to this century and get back his memories," Steve stated, looking at Alice.
"Wow, it's... Sure. Yeah, I'll do it," girl exhaled, not knowing when she had held her breath.
Bucky didn't express any emotions and kept watching the cartoom, at the same time listening to their conversation. He was ready to fight if necessary and checked once again if there still was a knife right beside him.
"So, do you want something to drink?" blonde motioned to his kitchen.
"No, thanks," Alice shook her head.
"Okay, and you Buck? Do you want anything?"
Brunet lightly shook his head, keeping his gaze on the screen.
"Okay, I'll make a tea for myself."
Steve went to the kitchen and Alice sat on the armchair, giving Bucky his space, not because she'd be afraid of him.
"So, you like 'Sponge Bob', right? I like it too," girl broke the silence.
Man didn't answer nor showed if he had listened what she had told.
"Do you like other cartoons too? Like 'The Simpsons' or 'Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy'?"
Again she got no answer or reaction.
"Okay, I'm gonna shut up," she whispered and took her phone.
"Seriously, 'Solitaire'?" Steve looked over her shoulder, making her jump.
"So what? You're playing 'Galaga', 'Pacman' and 'Tetris' for like 24/7," Alice snorted.
"No, I'm not," Steve blushed bright red and sat on the other end of the couch.
Bucky looked at them from a corner of his eyes. At this moment it was something new for him to see the blond blushing.
"Do you want to play cards?" girl looked up from her phone, flicking her gaze between Bucky and Steve.
She had no clue what to do and she wanted to dispel Bucky's alarm. Brunet looked at Alice, trying to read her. He couldn't understand if her intentions were pure for real or she was just good at acting.
"Yeah," Steve put his mug on the coffee table and stood up to get cards from the shelf.
Girl stood up and sat back down opposite the couch on the other side of the coffee table. That's when Bucky saw something shining around her neck. He focused his gaze and saw a silver chain that ended under her white t-shirt. Man presumed it had a pendant because of how the chain had been tautened. Alice looked up at him and their eyes met, but soon Bucky looked away. Steve mixed the cards and dealt them. Brunet hesitantly took his cards and frowned, having no clue what to do.
"May I?" girl pointed at his cards.
She was ready to receive refusal, but did that to show her wish to help and support. Ex-soldier looked over at Steve, who reassuringly smiled.
"If you don't then it's fine. I'm not pushing you," Alice raised her hands in surrender.
Bucky shook his head and put the cards back on the table and turned his attention to the cartoon, wrapping his arms around his legs and resting his chin on his knees. The feeling of knife lightly digging in his hip, calmed man a bit. He was skillful with knives or anything sharp and could throw it at her in a blink of an eye, killing her immediately. But Bucky didn't want to kill anymore. He would do it only if someone would endanger his or Steve's life.
Steve and Alice played cards, exchanging few looks.
"Tony was ranting he feels lonely and that you don't spend time with him," blond picked up two cards.
"When was that?" Alice frowned and took a sip from his tea.
"Two days ago."
"Well, how could I been with him if I was in Brazil then. God, I hate when he acts like my husband."
"It's Tony. And since Bruce is missing he's pretty on his own."
"Since when you're defending Tony? You both usually are like cat and dog. I won. And Pepper?"
"Another. Someone has to run 'Stark Industries'."
"Ugh, I can try to visit him for a few hours, but we usually end up in his lab tinkering for a few days."
Bucky followed their conversation and watched them playing. He got confused about the mention of Tony as Alice's husband and Pepper.
"Who's Pepper?" brunet asked in a hoarse voice.
"Tony's girlfriend and CEO of 'Stark Industries'," Steve smiled at his friend.
"She's not his wife?" Bucky motioned with his head towards Alice.
"No, his very good friend of mine," girl shook her head, laughing softly.
"What you tinker?" brunet frowned.
"Mostly his suits, but sometimes other stuff too, like upgrading his cars or other Avengers' gear."
"What suits?"
"Tony Stark is Iron Man. Do you know who is he?"
Bucky shook his head, but that name seemed familiar. He knew he had heard this 'Stark' somewhere, but couldn't really tell where.
Then a flashback of a man with brown hair and moustache. He was in a building with not so very bright lights. People were wearing dark green uniforms. A map was lying on a big table with some kind of figures on it. There was a bunch of men around it and one of them was Steve. He was talking to Howard, who later patted his back and went somewhere. Then he was in some kind of cell. Few men were putting on his gear.
"Both Howard and Maria Stark will be in the car. Make it look like an accident," man with sand colour hair pointed at him.
"Bucky, do you hear me?" Steve was sitting next to his friend, gently shaking his shoulder.
"Говард Старк... Я убил его... Дорожная авария," brunet was hyperventilating, face buried in his hands and beads of sweat rolled down his temples.
"What is he saying?" Steve looked up at Alice, who had just returned from the kitchen with a steaming mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows.
"Howard Stark. I killed him. Car accident," she translated, placing the mug on the coffee table.
"Ты из ГИДРЫ? Я не хочу вернуться. Я не хочу убить больше," Bucky sobbed.(You're from HYDRA? I don't want to go back. I don't want to kill anymore.)
"No, I work for SHIELD. No one is going to take you, Bucky. And you definitely don't need to kill anymore. You're safe now," girl squatted down in front of him, but not encroaching his personal space nor touching him.
"She's right, Buck. I'm not gonna let anyone to take you or hurt you. It's over now," Steve carefully wrapped his arm around his shoulders, but brunet flinched, so he released his friend.
Alice tried really hard to suppress the urge to wrap her arms around Bucky and keep him in her embrace for a good while. She admired his strenght to survive all the torture and brainwashing for such a long time. Girl saw him as hero, which he definitely was. She didn't even think that all those things what did the Winter Soldier was his fault. Alice knew that HYDRA did that all.
Bucky sniffled and wiped his face in the sleeve of his sweatshirt. Alice gave him the mug, which he hesitantly took, not being used to that kind of gesture. Girl's phone buzzed in her jeans pocket and she took it out standing up.
"Excuse me," she went to the kitchen to answer.
"Yes," Alice picked up.
"Hey, sweetheart. Come over, I'm bored," Tony said.
She could even imagine him sitting on a chair and spinning it.
"Umm, I'm kinda busy right now."
"What can be more important than me?"
"How about my job?"
"Drop it. You know I got your back. I need your company and attention."
"God, you're so demanding and I feel like I'm married with you."
"That can be arranged. When and where?"
"Jesus, Tony. I still can't believe we're friends."
"Pretty please with a cheese pizza on top?"
"Seriously? You're bribing me with a cheese pizza to get me to your lab?"
"Of course not. I'm gonna buy it for myself."
"I'll call when I'm on my way to you. And no, it's not happening right now."
"You're awesome."
"Yeah, whatever. Bye."
Alice hung up and went back to the living room, running her fingers through her hair. Both men looked up at her. Bucky seemed a bit more relaxed and Steve as well.
"I don't know what you both think, but I could get some old files from SHIELD. Like mission reports and notes about 'Howling Commandos' and what not," she sat in the armchair, looking at both men.
"That's great, but I think a bit later," Steve smiled.
"What's 'Howling Commandos'?" Bucky frowned.
He asked questions about everything like a child. But both Steve and Alice didn't mind that. They were happy about his interest. And their enthusiasm just encouraged Bucky to ask more and more questions.
"The 'Howling Commandos' were a World War II elite combat unit of the 107th Infantry Regiment. I rescued them and other soldiers when I went after you in one of HYDRA's facilities. And you were part of it... Till I couldn't save you from falling off the train," Steve answered, but whispered the last part.
He couldn't forgive that to himself. And probably never will. With Bucky he lost everything and now when he got him back, it was the best that had happened with him in a very long time.
"And then?" brunet asked, wanting to know more.
Alice saw that Captain was on a verge of tears so decided to continue.
"Everyone thought you were dead. But you survived the fall and lost your left arm. HYDRA found you and I think you know the rest," Alice calmly answered.
Steve was so thankful to the girl that she answered in his place. She gave him a sympathetic smile.
"And you?" Bucky turned his attention back to Steve.
"After a while I crashed HYDRA's plane, which was headed to New York with bombs, in the ice and got frozen for almost 70 years."
"Who found you?"
"SHIELD. And I still work for it. Technically."
"Can I go to sleep?"
"Of course. You don't have to ask permission," Steve smiled at his best friend.
Bucky stood up, slipping the knife in his sleeve and went to his bedroom. He climbed on his bed and pulled the duvet over him, before putting the knife under his pillow.
"When did you find him?" Alice quietly asked, when brunet closed the door behind him.
"Three days ago with Sam. His arm was clasped in some kind of machine. He's not talking about that," Steve rubbed his face and deeply sighed.
Alice stood up and went over to him. She sat right next to him and wrapped her arms around blond's muscular frame. Steve turned to her, returning the gesture and burying his face in girls hair by her neck. He was happy to have his friend back, but seeing Bucky practically without any emotions, not used to the simplest and most common gestures, broke his heart and at the same time made him angry.
"Oh God. I didn't know it's that bad," blond choked out, breaking in sobs.
"You'll fix Bucky. I know you will. I believe in you. Everything is going to be fine," Alice whispered in his shoulder, trying to hold back tears and rubbing man's back in soothing circles.
"Thank you," Steve uttered, hugging girl tighter.
They remained like that for a while.
"You will be okay or should I stay?" Alice pulled away.
"Yeah, I'll be fine," blond wiped his eyes.
"Call me whenever you need me, okay? And that also means in the middle of night," girl gently squeezed his hand, looking in his clear blue eyes.
"Okay," man chuckled.
"I'm gonna give Tony some of my attention before he creates another killer robot," girl stood up and stretched, before ruffling Steve's hair.
"That's not funny," he poked her side.
"I never said it is."
"You sure you don't want to stay for dinner?"
"Thanks, but no. I gotta go."
Steve escorted girl to the door being the gentleman he was. They gave each other last quick hug and Alice went out. Walking down the stairs, she pulled her phone out of her black jeans pocket and dialed Tony's number.
"Tony Stark. How can I help you?" he picked up.
"Order the pizza. I'm on my way to you," girl smirked.
"God, you're so demanding. I feel like you're my wife," Tony tried to sound offended.
"I'm not gonna say that. Be there in like fifteen minutes," she hung up and hailed a cab, and named her destination.
The drive was fairly quick, but Alice had enough time to contemplate her new task. She didn't really want to call Bucky as her mission, but also didn't know how then to call that. Of all the stories she had heard about him, Alice had learnt he was a great man. Girl understood that he will never be the same again, but he can still become a great man. Seeing what HYDRA had done to him, literally made her stop believing in humanity. Alice still couldn't believe how someone can be so cruel and treat Bucky like that.
The cab stopped in front of the Avengers Tower and she got out, handing driver the money. She felt so excited going in like it was in the first time Alice came here. She greeted the woman sitting in the administration and went to the elevator.
"Hi, Veronica," girl greeted Tony's AI.
"Hello, Ms. Scott. Sir is already waiting for you. How was your mission in Brazil?"
"It was okay. I'd like to return sometime there on a holiday."
"I hope you'll get that chance."
Elevator stopped and girl went out. She went to Tony's lab, where was loudly blasting AC/DC.
"Pass me that wrench," man pointed to his desk by the door.
"What you'd do without me," Alice sighed, handing him it.
She was one of the rare persons Tony let hand him something. Every time she asked why he doesn't like being handed things, brunet just shrugged and carried on whatever he was doing.
"Then I'd think about that," he smirked and turned back to his suit.
While Tony was fixing it, Alice viewed his new design and improvement blueprints. Mostly they were how to make his suits lighter, faster and more powerful.
"I'm done for now," man tossed his wrench and wiped his oily hands in a towel.
Alice was so focused on the blueprints and other stuff that didn't hear that. Tony chuckled and went over to her.
Man wrapped his arm around girls shoulders, pulling her in his side.
"Fuck! You scared me!" Alice elbowed his side and turned to hug him properly.
She rested her head against his shoulder, tightly wrapping her arms around his torso.
"It's a pleasure that you find those sketches interesting," Tony wrapped both his arms around her in bear hug.
"Dude, I'm hungry and I can't breathe," Alice uttered, that's how tightly he was hugging her.
"'Dude?' Don't call me like that. It makes me feel cheap," he released her, but took her hand and lead to the lounge room.
"Oh, I'm definitely gonna call you like that," girl laughed, following him.


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