Title: A Good Old-Fashioned Beatdown
Fandom: Captain America/Avengers
Pairings: Gen or Steve/Bucky if you read it that way
Warnings: Violence, angry Steve
Word Count: 4612
Disclaimer: If I owned it, it would be bipolar.
Summary: People always seem to forget that Steve Rogers fought a war.
For some reason, people in the twenty-first century never seem to remember that Steve Rogers fought a war. His wholesome smile and old-fashioned manners blind them to the fact that he had been known as the perfect soldier for a reason, one that had far more to do with his kill count than his aw shucks routine.
To be fair, much of this confusion can probably be blamed on the films of Captain America’s Bond-selling days that Tony donated to the Smithsonian a few weeks after the Battle of New York. No one could take Steve too seriously after watching that performance – not even the people who had seen his skills in action – and Barton still hums the show’s theme song under his breath from time to time.
However, even those films are simply part of the larger fantasy that history created and which this new generation has revived enthusiastically. The public is obsessed with the idea of Captain America: the symbol of truth, justice, and good old-fashioned values who isn't supposed to enjoy punching assholes in the face.
Of course, in all honesty, Steve's nice guy aw shucks routine isn't actually a lie; he just has a few nuclear berserk buttons that reveal his vicious side.
The Avengers quickly learn to stay out of his way whenever something brings out that cold light in his eyes, whether it’s Fox news, twitter, or simply the latest villain to cross that moral line. Because there are certain things that make Steve very, very angry and his teammates can never be sure just what will set him off.
Actually, the other Avengers are pretty sure their captain's priorities got a little skewed while he was frozen since the things that irritate him aren’t the things that they expect. Because Natasha gets annoyed when people try to kill her and Thor tends to react to Tony’s science rants by smashing things, but every attempt on the life of Captain America is accepted with equanimity and Stark's caffeine-fueled early morning invention-mad bitch faces are treated as a normal part of Steve's routine.
However, the moment that someone hurts a bystander, bothers the blond before he's had his morning workout, or is rude to an old lady – well, that's when shit goes down.
Considering the location of the Avenger’s tower, quite a few impolite teenagers and angry businessmen have found themselves on the wrong side of Captain America, enough that Stark's videos now have their own hashtag.
In fact, they’re trending because the public finds something incredibly entertaining about watching Steve scold men twice his age; lawyers, doctors, and even CEOs ducking their heads like wayward children when faced with the captain's epic disappointment face.
No one can stand against that frown, a fact that many overbearing reporters have learned to their regret. Because no matter how many times Pepper reminds Steve that at least one of the Avengers should try not to piss off the media, the blond simply cannot let certain misconceptions stand. He actually makes one fresh young thing start crying after she assumes that he would be against benefits for veterans, an idea that Steve is quick to put to rest.
“I knew a lot of good men who were injured in the war, men who fought and died for Uncle Sam, and I see nothing wrong with the government returning the favor until those soldiers are back on their feet again,” the blond informs her fiercely. “I grew up dirt poor in Brooklyn and let me tell you, there's nothing worse than being unable to support yourself when all you want to do is work.”
With this kind of speech blowing up on YouTube, Pepper's worries about Captain America's image soon prove unfounded; the more the old guard grumbles, the more the public loves him, and the Avengers’ approval ratings go up with every angry rant.
People call Steve adorable, a breath of fresh air amidst the usual double-speak of politics and the blond quickly learns not to Google his own name. His teammates may be starting to see the man behind the mask, but the country is still caught up in Captain America’s fantasy and few things are more divisive then mentioning his name. Because Steve is either a beacon of justice or a corrupted hero depending on whom you ask and the only thing that everyone agrees on is that his endorsement would help their favorite cause.
However, no matter how angry Steve gets about ties or lies or fair-trade coffee, the man never crosses the line between words and violence when someone ticks him off. To be honest, the rest of the Avengers consider Captain America largely pacifist despite the brutal efficiency with which he fights their enemies. He is the nice one, after all.
Which is why it comes as such a surprise to Steve's teammates when he almost kills someone.
The Avengers have been running missions together for years by this point, their team fighting everything from aliens to shark tornadoes, and yet nothing has ever made Captain America snarl quite like that. His fury is all the more inexplicable because this job has been a joke from the beginning, their current villain little more than a man in a bad mask. He calls himself the Reckonator, a name that is somehow the least stupid thing about him, and the Avengers blew through his outer defenses easily.
Honestly, the man could have at least put forth some effort; he's clearly more fanatic about his cause than skilled at villainy and Tony is tired of all these two-bit baddies making life difficult. But maybe he should have paid more attention to the man's evil speech of evil because something in the Reckonator's impassioned rant has clearly pissed Steve off.
“Hey, guys? I am seeing this, right? It’s not just a hallucination brought on by boredom and that week old pizza I ate on the plane?” Tony asks in a side-long whisper as Captain America slams through the Reckonator’s remaining minions without pause, his face contorted with fury as he does the Avengers' entire job pretty much singlehandedly.
It’s rather impressive if also slightly terrifying and most of his teammates are too busy gaping to acknowledge Iron Man. The only one who seems to be taking the change in stride is Barton, the archer following along in Steve’s wake and zip-tying each groaning minion to be taken prisoner.
“Seriously, guys. What the Hell is going on?”
“Weren't you listening?” Natasha whispers. Her tone is as superior as always even though Tony knows she has to be as shocked as he is by Steve's sudden hulking out. “The Reckonator over there insulted our captain's mother, brother, best friend, city, aunt and second cousin – though I'm not entirely certain which one set him off. Probably the best friend if I had to guess, what with the tragic death and all.”
“Must have been some friend,” Tony mutters, watching Steve toss another guy into the wall.
While their captain has always been willing to throw a punch in the line of duty, he isn’t usually this vicious and everyone winces when his shield slams into the Reckonator with an audible crack. Steve lays into the villain with fists and fury like they’ve never seen, Iron Man finally stepping forward when the blond grabs the Reckonator by the throat and shows no signs of letting up.
“Take it back! He was a hero!” Steve shouts, a mad light burning in his eyes as his fingers tighten inch by inch. “He died a hero and I won't hear you speak a word against his name.”
“Easy, Cap. This fool isn't worth killing for,” Tony says, grabbing the captain as he draws back his arm to punch the Reckonator in his smarmy little face again. “And while I would probably enjoy watching you beat the shit out of this dude, that's not Captain America. You're supposed to be a good guy, remember? Would your friend have wanted this?”
“Bucky would have shot him already,” Steve growls back and Tony really needs to know more about this friend of his. However, first things first, he needs to stop Captain America from cracking the Reckonator's skull like an egg. It's a close thing, closer than he likes, but just when he's preparing to do something drastic, Steve lets out a vicious curse.
“Fine!” the blond snarls, dropping the Reckonator on the floor. “Fury can have him. Knowing the Director, this fool will wish I'd killed him after all. And if he doesn't keep his mouth shut until we get back to headquarters, then all bets are off.”
“Fair enough,” Barton agrees. He climbs up on the dais and zip-ties the Reckonator's hands behind his back, gagging the villain for good measure before pulling him upright. “I have to say, Cap, it's nice to see that there's an actual person underneath the Boy Scout whom we've all come to know and love. Just watch where you throw those punches next time you go off.”
“Indeed. I would allow no one to speak so of my brother despite our recent troubles and you do well to defend this friend of yours,” Thor booms as he slaps Steve on the back companionably and somehow that is the end of that.
The Avengers do eventually find out more about this Bucky fellow, mostly because Steve gets tired of their poorly hidden curiosity. Honestly, it's not Tony's fault that the history books are thin on details beyond: “He lived. He died. How sad.” But after the second time that he tries to get Steve hammered and wheedle out his secrets, the other man summons the Avengers into the tower kitchen for a stern talking to.
“If you want to know something about Bucky, then ask me. You've got thirty minutes to satisfy your curiosity and you better do it now because the next person I find rifling through my room is getting tossed out on their ass.” Steve announces, everyone but Banner and Natasha trading identical guilty looks. Not that Natasha hasn't searched every inch of his apartment, but the redhead isn't one to feel guilty about doing stuff like that. Which is probably why she speaks up first.
“So this friend of yours, Bucky Barnes. Are you going to go berserk whenever someone mentions him? I'd like to know if I should be ducking every time I hear his name.”
She thinks it's a valid question considering the hurt that Steve put on the Reckonator and she's prepared to dive behind Thor if the blond goes off again. But he responds to Natasha's question like she just kicked a puppy, those big blue eyes looking at her mournfully.
“What? Of course not! Talking about Bucky doesn't make me want to hit people. Well, at least not anymore,” Steve says with a confused frown. “He was my best friend.”
“Really? Because you did try choke out the Reckonator for insulting him,” Tony pipes up from his seat at the table, returning Steve affronted gaze with an unapologetic shrug. “And if I remember correctly, which I do, you said that Bucky would have shot him. So he doesn't sound like a particularly well-adjusted guy.”
“He was a sniper; it was his job to shoot people and it's not like Clint doesn't take every excuse he can to use that bow of his,” Steve retorts, waving one hand at Barton where he’s perched on the fridge. Considering that the archer has just used a bow and arrow to grab an apple off the counter, the captain kind of has a point.
“Sure, Bucky wasn't a saint, but he was the most decent guy I've ever met and I wouldn't be alive right now if not for him. He deserves to be remembered as more than the teenage sidekick that those dumb comics turned him into; if anything, Bucky was the real hero because he could have gone home after he was captured and he stayed to watch my back; he fought everyone that I did and without the serum's help.”
It's hard to argue with that kind of conviction and the Avengers know better than to try by now. So instead Thor asks Steve for a tale of Bucky’s daring and the meeting quickly dissolves into an informal get together as the captain regales his teammates with stories from his childhood. By the time Banner gets up to cook dinner a few hours later, Tony and Barton have decided that Bucky sounds like their sort of guy and even Natasha has to admit to being slightly charmed. Privately, of course.
Although, to be honest, Bucky could have been a total bore and the other Avengers would have liked him because of the way their captain smiles at his best friend's memory. For once the blond actually looks his age and the next time that someone insults Sergeant Barnes on a mission, Captain America isn't the only one who has to be restrained.
Of course, a few months later, everything gets a lot more complicated when that same best friend turns out to be not so dead after all. But what's a little brainwashing and an attempted assassination between teammates? They've all tried to kill each other at least once before.
So the rest of the Avengers are there an instant once Steve finally has the chance to call them, arriving just in time to see the last of the Helicarriers fall into the Potomac and the Winter Soldier dragging Captain America to shore.
While the Avengers don't manage to stop Barnes before he rabbits – Tony really misses his suits, okay? – at least they have a scrap of good news to give Steve when he wakes. Which is a damn good thing because when he finally gets out of the hospital, their captain cycles between depression and a molten fury the likes of which they’ve never seen.
Honestly, the less said about Steve's rampage the better because the blond tears through what remains of Washington, D.C. like he plans to blow it up again. But luckily for everyone involved, Captain America only has to raze three Hydra outposts to the ground before the Winter Soldier finds him in Novosibirsk and they fight it out.
A little punching, a little crying, and a whole lot of swearing later, the Avengers finally have the introduction that they’ve been waiting for. Sure this Bucky is a bit rougher than the guy in their captain’s stories, his charm cracking in places to show the sharp edges underneath, but he still makes Steve smile like the world makes sense again.
Besides, the man is hilarious. Tony has never met anyone else who can match him bad joke for joke as easily. So on most mornings, he and Barnes can be found trading quips and awful puns while drinking expensive coffee in the kitchen and if he's lucky, he's in the lead when Barton drags the other man for a marksmanship competition that no one ever wins. Or if it's not Clint, it's Natasha because the Winter Soldier and the Black Widow spend far too much time trading tips on how to kill people over shots of vodka, a hobby that actually seems to function as a strange sort of therapy. It may not be the healthiest method of coping but Tony can hardly judge when he reacted to stress by building a robot army and it’s not like the other Avengers don’t have issues of their own.
Of course, the weirdest thing is watching Steve and Bucky interact since their conversations are filled with inside jokes, fond insults, and “do you remember when’s.” Sure things were a little awkward in the beginning because the other man, in fact, did not remember more often than he did, but the two of them found a new rhythm soon enough.
After all, the one thing that was obvious even in the days of murderous silence and panic attacks was how much Steve and Bucky still care about each other and at least the Winter Soldier's metal arm doesn’t try to kill their captain anymore.
In fact, the former assassin leans toward overprotectiveness now that he's regained his memories and this is the one thing Steve and Bucky really fight about because the captain’s nonchalant response to people trying to kill him drives his best friend nuts. The Winter Soldier tends to respond to these attempts with overwhelming violence whenever he's around. Indeed, the Avengers' regular opponents have quickly learned that targeting Steve is a good way to get shot in some non-vital extremity. The Winter Soldier is always watching even when you can't see him and those who didn't learn that lesson disappeared.
A little creepy, sure. But the team can hardly leave Barnes in the tower when they go on missions; even if the thought of the Winter Soldier running around Stark’s lab unattended wasn't enough to give them chills, the other man would never stand for it.
In fact, the one time Steve brought up the idea, Tony had to remodel the entire 100th floor, and there is an unspoken agreement amongst his teammates to never mention it again. Though, oddly enough, as long as no one’s threatening Steve or accidentally hitting one of his remaining triggers, Bucky tends to be far calmer than his blond counterpart.
When he’s not being dragged off by one of the other Avengers, the man spends his down time watching old movies on the sofa – his stated goal being to catch up on every film made in the last seventy years. He goes jogging with Steve every other morning and stands on the sidelines grinning with amusement when his friend goes off on another dumb reporter, though Bucky will step in if the shouting lasts too long. No one is quite sure how he manages it, but the ex-assassin is the only one who can stop Steve when he’s ranting and he has a knack for telling reporters nothing while being seemingly sincere.
So while the public is slightly disappointed at the decrease in #CapRants videos and the internet goes mad with speculation about who #HotMetalSoldier really is, the rest of the team mostly just wants tips on his technique.
“Steve’s always had a temper,” Bucky explains with a shrug when Barton finally asks the sniper how he manages to talk their captain down. “Why do you think he used to get into so many fights? He’d get pissed at some punk disrespecting old ladies and forget that he couldn’t even throw a punch. But unless he’s really angry, you just need to remind him that he’s got better things to do.”
It sounds so simple and yet the other Avengers are soon convinced that Bucky left out some steps in there. Or maybe it only works for Barnes since that whole codependent BFF thing that he and Steve have going seems to allow him lots of liberties.
No one else would dare to steal the blond’s coffee, ruffle his hair, or sprawl all over him the way that Bucky tends to do. No one else can make Steve crack up with little more than a raised eyebrow and a smirk, and when the two men go into full old-timey slang, they might as well be speaking gibberish. But eventually the other Avengers get used to the incomprehensible stories, overblown prank wars, and random demands for foot rubs, and they can't imagine the tower without them anymore.
Though, of course, it’s not all fun and games, and even superheroes get hurt sometimes.
Clint is getting really tired of this Loki guy. Sure he’s Thor’s kid brother and he seems misguided rather than truly evil, but that’s like saying a forest fire doesn’t mean to burn. Besides, the archer is still a little bitter about that whole brainwashing thing and he hasn’t gotten to take his pint of blood out of Loki’s hide just yet.
Although, at the moment, Clint’s way more worried about losing the blood he’s got since Loki decided to go in for an army of alien wasps this time around. Alien because wasps aren’t supposed to be the size of a football and robots wouldn’t be able to make sharp turns like that. It’s all the archer can do to shoot them down before they reach his perch up on Coit Tower and really, what is with Loki and attacking famous cities all the time?
Clint takes out another cluster of wasps with an exploding arrow and then calls out a warning to his teammates on the ground. While the Avengers managed to isolate the invaders over the park before they did too much damage to San Francisco, the fight isn’t going well.
Their opponents are just too fast, zipping through the air like they’re on PCP, and it seems like three more wasps show up for every one they kill. The team really needs to destroy the massive metal ship/nest monstrosity that keeps spawning the foul creatures, but so far no one’s managed to get close enough to try. A whole swarm of the invaders is acting as a living shield around their base and even Tony’s missiles haven’t managed to get through.
So it’s not too surprising that the Avengers are starting to slow down; they may be superheroes but exhaustion and a thousand minor wounds take their toll eventually. However, Clint isn’t seriously worried about their chances since the team has beaten far worse enemies than this.
Sure things may seem bad right now, but Steve and Tony always manage to come up with some epic master plan eventually. Loki’s wasps will be toast after that. However, before Cap and Iron Man can do their thing, another swarm of insects rises from the ship and flies toward the Winter Soldier with an angry buzz. He's been sniping the wasps from his perch on the park fence – his aim with a rifle almost as good as Clint’s – but he can’t hope to kill the swarm before it reaches him and the other Avengers are too far away to help.
So Barnes swings his gun over his shoulder and jumps down off the fence, sprinting toward Coit Tower as quickly as he can. If he can get to shelter, then he might have a chance. Clint does his best to cover the other man's retreat, but the wasps are just too fast. They surround his teammate when he's still on open ground.
The Winter Soldier tries to fight but even supersoldiers have their limits and eventually one of the wasps slips past his guard. It jabs its stinger into his neck and he crumples seconds later, dropping to the ground with a choked off cry.
“Bucky!” Steve screams and then completely loses it, the nearby wasps disappearing in a whirlwind of metal, paint, and blood until he has some breathing room. Yet the captain doesn't run toward his friend, no matter how much he obviously wants to check on Barnes right now.
There's no point. As long as the wasps are still swarming around the other man, anyone who tries to get close risks getting stung themselves. So Steve snarls something at Tony instead, Iron Man snapping to attention beneath that burning glare. He removes one of his gauntlets, splicing a few wires together before handing it to the captain carefully. The blond lashes the glove to his shield with what looks to be a shoelace and one of these days, Clint is going to have to ask him why he carries that kind of thing around.
But not right now because the look on Steve's face is frankly chilling and the archer is busy shooting as many wasps off Barnes' body as he can.
“Everyone, get down,” the captain shouts once he's finished his preparations. The shield should look ridiculous with Iron Man's gauntlet tied down in the center but somehow it just looks dangerous instead. Really fucking dangerous once Tony paints fire on the rim. A new trick that, some kind of liquid napalm which attacks the air itself, and the fire only flares up higher when Steve throws the shield. It streaks toward the wasps' base like a comet and the living wall that protected the Avengers' enemies disappears in a burst of ash and flame.
The shield strikes its target, the metal disc slamming into the nest and lodging there. For one brief moment everything is still, the world waiting breathless in anticipation before Iron Man's glove does what it was meant to do.
It explodes, the nest shattering outward like a landmine, and only Clint's quick reflexes keep a piece of shrapnel from taking off his head. All of the other Avengers have hit the ground already, faces pressed into the dirt until bits of flaming aliens stop raining down on them. But Steve ignores the wasps even as the insects shriek and die around him; his gaze is focused on the Asgardian coughing limply where the metal nest had been.
Loki had been hiding within the structure and now he's lost that protection. Steve crosses the distance between them in five long strides, rolling the Asgardian over and then planting a fist across his jaw. Once he starts, he can't seem to stop, each blow landing with a sickening thud of flesh on flesh and when his hands start to weaken, the captain grabs up his shield from where it fell.
Steve is shouting, Clint realizes as his hearing starts to recover. He is shouting and the Avengers can only stand frozen as their leader goes berserk.
“I don't care what kind of fucked up childhood you had. I don't care if you have issues big enough to drive a tour bus through!” Steve screams, slamming his shield down on Loki's chest. “If you ever hurt Bucky again... if you're ever the reason that he's injured, I am going to rip you limb from limb! I am going to dismember you, carve you apart piece by piece until not even the magic of Asgard can put you back again. Have I MADE MYSELF CLEAR?!”
Steve stops then, tossing his shield aside and staring down at the damage he has done. There is no guilt on his face, no remorse for his actions, and Clint is certain that the blond could have killed Loki without a second's thought. If Barnes had been dead, Steve would have slit the Norse god's throat and done it gladly, Captain America's hands as bloody as the Winter Soldier's then.
But he didn't, not this time and hopefully not ever if his team has a choice. Tony is the first one to step forward, drawing the captain away from Loki while Thor puts his brother in cuffs again. However, the tension in Steve's shoulders doesn't ease until Bucky groans behind him, Natasha helping the sniper to sit up. While he's obviously still weak from the wasp's poison, he's alive and that's the only thing the Avengers care about.
That's all Steve cares about, the blond forgetting about his anger as he rushes over to make sure his friend's all right. Although Bucky feigns annoyance with the captain's worry, he submits to Steve's inspection willingly enough and no one could miss the way he leans into the blond's chest.
Fucking co-dependent idiots, Clint thinks fondly as he watches the two men reassure each other, the rest of the Avengers slowly gathering next to him. The sight is rather adorable even with the burning scent of wasps and molten steel around them and the whole team is relieved that Bucky is okay. Although, after this, Clint might have to add an entry to the list of things that make Steve flip out; a very important, bolded entry that everyone should memorize.
“Well, that was kind of terrifying. Next time Barnes gets hurt, I’m hiding behind the Hulk until things stop blowing up. Anyone with me?”
The archer’s suggestion is met with unanimous assent from his teammates, even Banner agreeing to the plan with a shrug. Because if the Avengers have learned anything since they started working together, it’s that Steve Rogers is a scary bastard when he wants to be and hurting Bucky Barnes is a good way to die.