Antarctica-or-bust (rata_toskr) wrote,

the streets I used to know - part II

Title: the streets I used to know
Fandoms: Captain America & Spider-Man Homecoming.
Pairing: None.  Just a couple epic bromances.
Rating/Warnings: So very gen. A bit of violence later.
Word Count: 4798 (10398 total)
Disclaimer: If I owned either of these, there would be more Bucky.
Summary: Bucky ends up in NYC chasing memories and forms an unlikely friendship while he's there.

Part I

Peter never actually gets the chance to find that deli. Spider-Man is heading home one afternoon when he hears what sounds like fighting from an underground garage. He follows the noise down to the second level, hoping that he'll be able to stop a robbery or something cool like that. But what the teen sees when he peers into the shadows makes him stop and stare in shock.

Because James is fighting with at least a dozen other men and the look on his face is like nothing that Peter's ever seen. His friend looks truly scary now, teeth bared and murder in his eyes, and the teen can see the soldier where he never could before.

That man is dangerous - truly dangerous - and Peter is abruptly overwhelmed by all the truths he doesn't know. What if James really is a bad guy? What if he's a criminal and he heads off to kill people whenever I go home? But at the same time, he's outnumbered and it's the other men with weapons: knives and chains and things that Peter doesn't even recognize.

The teen can't decide if he should help so he stands frozen, watching as James fights his way straight through the crowd. Every attacker that he touches crumples in an instant and once they're down they don't get up again.

"Goddamn it! Take him out!" one guy shouts and he must be the leader, hanging back even as his minions falter and their target shows no signs of slowing down. "I want his fucking head!"

The man - assassin? - pulls something from his coat and an arc of lightning roars straight through the air. Peter gasps in fear but James is already dodging; he dives down to the concrete as the bolt of energy passes through the place where he'd been standing, close enough that the back of his jacket starts to smoke. The lightning hits one of his attackers and the man just starts to scream. The sound goes on and on as his skin begins to sizzle, a high keening that makes Peter put his hands across his ears.

However, the men attacking James don't stop just because one of their own is roasting where he stands. One of them tries to tackle him even as the guy with the lightning gun pulls the trigger one more time. The teen ducks reflexively but the gun just sputters, jamming in a shower of sparks and purple smoke.

"Damn Chitauri tech," the stranger curses, throwing down the weapon. Or maybe he says, "Samuel, hit the deck!" Peter can't quite tell over the ringing in his ears.

Either way, the man pulls out a pistol and fires four shots at James' chest. There's no time for him to dodge even if one of his attackers weren't wrapped around his ankles and the teen is sure that he's about to see a good friend murdered. James is going to die and Spider-Man should have stepped in after all. But then the man throws up his left arm and the bullets bounce right off.

Everything happens so fast that Peter can't be certain, not until he's looking at the holes in James' jacket that the bullets left behind. Because there are holes, smoking ruined holes that show metal underneath and the man's entire sleeve comes off when he turns to block another dagger strike.

I guess I know why he never took the gloves off, the teen thinks a bit hysterically as he stares at the gleaming piece of metal where his friend's left arm should be. The tech in that must be amazing wars with fuck, that must've hurt, and by the time Peter gets his wits back, the fight is almost done. James lays out the last man with his own pistol, the weapon ripped out of his fingers and then slammed against his head.

Suddenly there's silence. Nothing but the faint sound of traffic as James stands triumphant amidst a crowd of broken men. Peter thinks that most of them are breathing - not counting that poor bastard who got roasted - but his friend barely seems to have worked up a good sweat. He took out a dozen men in fifteen minutes and the teen doesn't know how to reconcile this total badass - one with a freaking a metal arm - with the man who couldn't pick a sandwich and writes down his memories.

Peter must make a sound or something because James suddenly whirls around and the teen flinches back from the murder in his eyes.

Oh shit, I'm gonna die, he thinks, panic sending him straight up in the air. Peter lands on the ceiling of the garage and sticks there, every muscle tensed for flight. But the moment that James sees him, his whole expression shifts.

"Fuck," the man says quietly. His shoulders slump and he falls out of his ready stance to run his right hand through his hair. If not for the metal arm and the blood splashed on his clothing, he could just be James again.

"I suppose you saw that, didn't you?"

The dejection in the words gives Peter the courage to drop back to the ground. He doesn't walk any closer, still prepared for a quick exit, but he doesn't think his friend is going to lash out.

"What is going on here?” the teen asks, waving at the men. “Who are they? Who are you for that matter? Have you had that arm this whole dang time?"

"You really don’t recognize me?" James replies, sounding honestly surprised. “You may not know my face, but the arm should be a dead giveaway. Seriously, kid, if you're gonna be a superhero, you should probably watch the news."

"Yeah well, whatever," Peter grumbles. "Will you please just tell me what is happening? Why were these people after you?"

"I told you I was a soldier. Most of it wasn't... voluntary and the men I used to work for want me back. Or dead; they can't quite seem to make up their damn minds," James says quietly. "But these are just the first. Now that one group has found me, others will come running. I have to leave New York tonight."

In that moment, Peter weighs what he's seen against the questions and he decides to trust the man he knows. James could well be lying; he could be some kind of criminal on the run. But the teen just doesn't think so. Peter has seen James offer too much kindness to believe the worst of him. Indeed, the thought of stopping the man barely flashes through his mind before he's dismissing the idea. Even if Peter wanted to, he isn't sure he can.

"So, should I call the cops or something?" the teen asks instead. "I can stay and watch these guys until someone takes them in. Or you could stay and we could fight them off together. You've seen what my webs can do."


The denial is instant, short and sharp and panicked.

"You see guys like this and you run, kid. Promise me," James orders fiercely. "Hydra gets a hold of you and they would have a field day. They'd carve out your mind and shove their hooks in deep. You wouldn't be a hero any longer; you'd just be a weapon to do their dirty work."

"Is that what happened to you?"

The man's silence is answer enough, the look in his eyes making Peter shiver with unease.

"Just promise that you'll run," James says eventually. "Anyone asks you about me or Hydra or you see the symbol that's on those pins right there and you run the other way. Get the hell out of dodge as fast as you can and don't even think of fighting because Hydra is far out of your league."

“All right, I promise," Peter tells him, honestly not sure if he wants to mess with people who come armed with lightning guns. At least not until he has a bit more practice anyway. "But what about these guys? You can't just leave them here."

"I… Fuck," the man sighs, looking at the bodies strewn around his feet. "Okay kid, I'll make it work."

James stares a moment longer and then snaps into action. He starts by removing one man's jacket to replace the one he ruined before getting down to work, stripping his attackers of anything that could be used as a weapon or to call for help.

Peter watches in awe as his friend crushes guns and knives to pieces with his left hand and the teen's fingers are inching for a chance to tinker with that machinery. James' arm must be a thousand times more intricate than anything that he's pulled out of dumpsters, cooler even then his web shooters and he's still way proud of those.

When the man has finished disarming his attackers, he moves them all into a pile and starts to tie them up. He uses a combination of their clothing, his ruined jacket, and the chains with which they tried to take him down.

"How long does your webbing last these days?" James asks Peter once the other men are tied so tightly that they can barely breathe.

"Um, maybe like four hours. But I've got an older batch that's more like ten, fifteen if they don't do much wiggling," the teen stammers, feeling a little awkward about the way that he's been ogling that arm.

"Do you mind?"

"Huh? Oh, of course not," Peter replies. "You know I want to help."

He swaps out his canisters and then starts shooting webbing everywhere. By the time he's finished, James's attackers are trapped in an enormous white cocoon. These guys won't be going anywhere.

"So, do I call the cops now?"

That's his standard MO once Spider-Man has caught a criminal and he could use some familiarity right now. But James just shakes his head. He pulls a phone out of his pocket and enters in a number straight from memory.

"Tell him what you saw," his friend orders as he hits the speaker button and then holds out the phone. It rings twice before it's answered and a man's voice says, "Hello?"

He sounds strangely familiar and Peter ends up tongue-tied as he tries to place the tone.

"Is someone there? Who is this? How did you get my number?"

The questions pause for a long moment and then the same man whispers, "Bucky, is that you? Are you all right?"

The worry in his voice finally nudges Peter into speaking or maybe it's the frown that James is giving him.

"Sorry, mister. I don't know a Bucky. I'm calling cuz I saw this man... he was fighting all these guys in a garage. He had a metal arm and when they shot him, the bullets bounced right off like it was nothing. It was awesome. And there was this crazy lightning that lit one man on fire-"

"Was he injured?" the man on the phone interrupts, sounding almost panicked. "Did he get captured?"

"No, he's fine. At least I think so, the metal arm dude won," Peter continues, frowning in confusion when James mouths some words at him. "He's dawn... I mean, gone... long gone actually. But the guys that he was fighting, they're still here. He tied them up and left them and I don't know what to do."

"Okay. It's okay, kid," the man replies and the teen can't help believing him. "Tell me where you are and I'll take care of it."

"Queens, I'm in Queens."

"New York?" is the answer and the voice on the phone sounds like he's just been punched.

"Well yeah, New York. You know another Queens?" Peter asks before giving him the cross streets and the name of the garage.

"Thanks, kid. I'm a few days out, but I'll contact the local authorities and Iron Man will make sure that those men are put away."

"Iron Man?" he squeaks. "Like Tony Stark? Are you serious right now?"

Peter probably would have gone into full on fan-boy mode if James hadn't snapped the phone shut to terminate the call. For a moment he just looks at the device, his expression full of longing before his face smooths into blankness and he crushes the phone inside his fist.

"Time to go, kid. For both of us," the man says and his words have the ring of finality.

"Wait, is this forever?" Peter asks him. "Are you ever coming back?"

"Maybe someday, but I doubt it. I should never have stayed in Brooklyn for this long," his friend answers. "And now I've got to run again. As far and as fast as possible; you won't be safe otherwise."

He glares at the cocoon of webbing that's holding his attackers and the teen is struck by a sudden awful thought.

"Hey, James? What would you have done with them if I weren't here?"

At first Peter thinks that he isn't gonna answer but then he says quietly, "I would have killed them. A single bullet each. Men like that destroy every life they touch and I told you, I'm no hero. You need better friends then me."

"I don't think that's possible. You may not be a hero but that doesn't make you evil," Peter tells him and he means every word. If James were evil, he wouldn't have cared so much about the teen's opinion. He would have shot them anyway. "You'll always be a decent guy to me."

"Goodbye, Spider-Man," is the reply. "Try to stay out of trouble if you can."

"Same to you," Peter says but James has already disappeared and when the teen walks by the building the next morning, there's nothing left to show what happened there.

He does finally Google James - or actually, soldier-with-a-metal-arm - and after the first dozen articles, he understands why the man was so surprised that Peter hadn't heard of him. The teen has heard of Bucky Barnes, of course, he didn't sleep through history. But somehow he missed the whole Winter Soldier debacle in Washington DC.

Of course, in his defense, he'd been about eleven at the time and Peter does his research now. The teen has a minor freak out when he realizes that James' Steve had been Steve Rogers and Captain America had really talked to him. A need to vent his feelings sends him to the message boards, where he proceeds to get in fights with people who say that Bucky Barnes shouldn't be considered a war hero anymore.

Don't these assholes read? The evidence clearly points to brainwashing and no one would ever convince Peter that James was not a stand up guy. Honestly, Captain America wouldn't have been so worried otherwise.


When Tony Stark shows up in the teen's apartment roughly five months later, James is pretty much the last thing on Peter's mind. He's too busy flipping out over the fact that Iron Man is in his apartment, eating walnut date loaf, and talking with Aunt May.

Tony Stark knows who is, he knows about Spider-Man, and when Peter explains that he wants to help the little guy, Iron Man nods along like he completely understands.

“You've done some good work, kid, keeping the streets clean,” Stark tells him. “I saw your webs up close and personal when you took down those mercenaries and with my backing, you could do amazing things.”

“So you did put those guys in prison?” Peter asks. “Did they say anything?”

“Well, guys like that don't let themselves stay captured very long. Old school, you know, capsules of cyanide and then the frothing. It's a mess,” the man admits. “But they won't be hurting anyone and that's not why I'm really here. Sure it put you on my radar, but now I need your actual help.”

“Seriously? Of course!” the teen says. If the Avengers need him, he's totally on board. “Except... I do have homework.”

“Kid, this is bigger than your homework,” Tony Stark replies and Peter's pretty sure he rolls his eyes. “But if it means that much to you, bring your textbooks on the plane. I hope your passport's up-to-date.”

“My what?”

Suddenly the teen finds himself flying to Berlin - Berlin! - in this awesome private jet and he doesn't think he's ever been so stoked in his whole life. Sure the bit about Captain America going crazy kinda sucks but Stark said he wasn't psycho just misguided and Peter wants to help.

The teen grew up with the Avengers, they're his heroes, and considering the way that James used to talk about his best friend, he's sure that they'll be able to resolve this peacefully. Besides, the new suit that Tony built him is the coolest thing ever and the whole trip is worth it just for that.

Peter is a little nervous when he gets to the airport where there's gonna be some kind of showdown but that's mostly because Avengers! and he can't resist the urge to take a quick video. The teen almost misses his cue but then he's leaping into action, a well-placed web lifting Captain America's shield right from his hands.

I hope my camera caught that entrance, he thinks, opening his mouth to make a snappy comment. But then Peter sees a familiar face standing by Steve Rogers and what comes out is, "James? What are you doing here?"

Everyone turns to gape at him: Iron Man, Hawkeye, the Black Widow, and a bunch of other people that he doesn't recognize.

"Damn it, kid. I told you that you should watch the news more regularly," James says, recovering from his surprise a fraction sooner than the rest.

"Well sorry, I've been busy," the teen retorts. "Just give me the Cliff Notes version will you? Stark said something about Captain America going crazy but he didn't mention you."

"Of course he didn't," Steve Rogers mutters before James elbows him.

"I'm the reason that you're here, kid," the man says, sounding tired. "Someone framed me for a bombing and these guys want to lock me up and throw away the key."

"But what about a trial?"

"He does not deserve a trial," the guy in the black cat suit growls. Peter is pretty sure that he's the king of somewhere, but he hadn't been paying as much attention to Happy's explanation of his allies as he probably should've been. "The Winter Soldier killed my father."

"No, I didn't," James replies, though the teen doesn't think that he's expecting the words to be believed. "I was in Romania."

"Then why did you run?"

"No offense, man, but you're kinda scary," Peter interjects before his friend can reply. "If you came after me, I'd probably run myself."

"And that's exactly what you should be doing," James says a little sharply. "Sit this one out, Spider-Man. You don't know what's going on."

"Why are you always telling me to be careful?" the teen asks in irritation. “I may not know exactly who the bad guy is here, but I still know right from wrong. You deserve a trial; even the Nazis got a trial and they killed millions."

"…Please don't compare me to a Nazi, kid."

"Oh, right. Sorry, I forgot. How about a gangster? You can't be worse than Al Capone," Peter says. "Seriously, dude, I'm on your side. Why won't you let me help?"

"Because it isn't safe!" James bursts out before rounding on Iron Man. "And you! What the fuck is wrong with you? He's just a kid; he shouldn't even be here. You want to come after me, fine, but don't be... conscripting children to do your dirty work."

"Hey! I'm not a child," the teen protests, but no one is listening.

You're judging me?" Stark growls. “You're an assassin, a murderer. How many people have you killed?"

"How many have you, asshole?" the other man growls back. "I may be a murderer but I didn't do it willingly. I spent seventy years being tortured and brainwashed to obedience; I know that doesn't change things but what's your damn excuse?"

Instead of answering, Iron Man fires off his thrusters and suddenly the fight is on. Captain America rips his shield from Peter's hands with some sort of magnet as everyone else joins in the fray. Spider-Man tries to stop them, using his webbing to disable where he can. But the Avengers have experience that he simply cannot match and he spends the first part of the battle dodging frantically.

The teen is in way over his head and so maybe James was right. Maybe he should be running while he can. But Peter doesn't want to let down anyone - not James nor Tony neither - and he's honestly afraid that his childhood heroes are gonna kill each other now.

So he keeps on fighting, trying not to pick a side. The teen uses his webbing to trip the Black Widow when she gets the upper hand on Hawkeye and yanks Panther Man from danger when he's about to catch a truck right to the face.

Oh my god, this is amazing, part of Peter's brain is screaming as he watches James and Captain America toss his shield back and forth. The rest of his brain is just trying to survive this and when one of James' allies suddenly grows into a giant, the teen doesn't have time to think about much of anything at all.


When the dust finally settles, both Steve and James have disappeared and War Machine is injured, bad enough that no one will tell Peter what's happening. He gets sent to his hotel room and told to stay there like a child, Stark clearly still quite pissed off about him sort of changing sides.

"I'll deal with you later, Spider-Man," he snarls before stalking from the room and leaving Peter there to worry on his own.

The teen paces back and forth, afraid to remove his suit in case someone comes to send him off to jail. This whole experience has left a bad taste in his mouth. Superheroes are supposed to help people; they're supposed to fight with villains, not each other and their friends. Indeed, Stark had been his hero and now he isn't sure.

When someone knocks on Peter’s door, the teen rushes to answer it. He's hoping for news of War Machine or his ticket home or something. But while he's expecting Happy, instead the teen finds Panther Man standing in the hall.

Unlike Spider-Man, he isn't actually wearing his costume anymore but Peter still can't remember his name so Panther Man it is.

"Um, hello, can I help you?" the teen says, honestly not sure what this guy could want.

"I hope so. I would like to speak with you about James Buchanan Barnes."

"Okay, I- I guess that should be fine. You- You wanna come in?" Peter stammers. "I don't- I mean, I don't know him all that well."

"And yet you still believed him when he said that he was framed," the man replies as he sits down on the couch. "I wish you to tell me why."

"Well, because he wouldn't... He wouldn't set a bomb off so it has to be a lie," the teen says, flushing a bit when his visitor raises one skeptical eyebrow. "Look, have you even read the stuff about the Winter Soldier? He was clearly brainwashed and I wouldn't wish the kind of torture that he went through on my worst enemy."

"That doesn't make him innocent."

"No, but see, it doesn't make him guilty either. Would you be so quick to judge if not for his history? Once an assassin, always an assassin; isn't that what you've been thinking?" Peter asks, warming to his topic. "He's the perfect man to frame because no one even cares if he might be innocent. And why is everyone so determined that he shouldn't have a trial? If he's guilty, then he's guilty and a trial shouldn't hurt that. I think the people calling the shots are more afraid of the secrets he might spill."

"And what might those secrets be?" Panther Man replies.

"I have no idea," the teen tells him honestly. "It's not like we ever talked about that kind of thing. I didn't even know who he was when we first met."

"I admit that your theory has some merit," the man says grudgingly. "But you still haven't told me why you believe in Barnes' innocence. Deserving of trial or not, what makes you so certain that he's left his past behind?"

"Because he helped me with my Spanish."


"James helped me study Spanish and talked down this old lady who tried to hit me with her cane," Peter says, trying to get the man to understand. "He was in New York then and he used to tell me all these stories about Captain America when the two of them were young. Some of them were things that he'd forgotten - that Hydra had burned out of him - so he always had a notebook to write down his memories."

"He didn't try to use you for your abilities?"

"Use me to do what?" the teen asks, honestly offended on his friend's behalf. "James wouldn't even let me buy him sandwiches. Seriously, the guy is nice. He gave me advice on how to capture criminals better; he wasn't planning sabotage."

"So you think he isn't dangerous?"

"I never said that," Peter retorts, starting to get annoyed by Panther Man's refusal to listen properly. "And I knew he'd been a soldier, James told me that right off. He told me that he used to do bad things. But the only time I ever saw him hurt another person, they'd tried to kill him first. There was a whole group of mercenaries with this whacked out lightning gun. Their leader lit one guy on fire and the way that poor man screamed...."

The teen shivers remembering that sound.

"James could have killed them but he didn't because I asked him not to. Instead, he tied them up and had me call the Avengers to make sure they were brought in. Does that sound like an assassin?" Peter asks, not expecting a real answer and indeed, his visitor just keeps on watching him. "James left New York that evening. He said more attackers would be coming and he was afraid that they would hurt me if he chose to stick around. So tell me, why would a guy like that suddenly decide to set off some massive bomb? The man I knew was interested in hiding, not in killing people, and if he had gone psycho, you honestly think that he would have gotten caught? Even the dumbest robber knows how to wear a mask. It just isn't logical."

Panther Man doesn't reply. He just sits there like a statue, long enough that the teen is starting to get worried before he stands up suddenly.

"Thank you for your insight. You have given me much to think about," the man says before starting toward the door.

"Wait! You aren't gonna hurt him, are you?"

"That remains to be seen."

"And the others?” Peter asks. “I know they're not bad people. Sure they helped a fugitive but that's just because they just wanted to see real justice done."

"Should I forgive their crimes that easily?” Panther Man replies. “Whatever their motivations, they broke the law and you are lucky that you are not sharing in their fate. Your friend James is a criminal whether he set that bomb or not. What about the blood that stains his hands?"

"What about it?" the teen answers. "Maybe I'm missing the point here, but it's not his fault that he was brainwashed. Blaming James for the Winter Soldier's actions is like blaming kidnapped children when they get Stockholm syndrome. Sure it might make you feel better, but the only people who deserve to die are the evil bastards who turned the guy into a weapon. James doesn't need a jail cell, he needs some therapy."

"I wish I shared your certainty."

Panther Man gives the teen a regal nod and then strides out of the room. As soon as the door clicks shut behind him, Peter stumbles to the bed and flops down on the mattress, his heart beating wildly. He feels like he just faced down a tiger and he's so ready to go home.

Peter wants to go back to New York where things aren't so complicated. Where all he has to deal with is school and bullies and Aunt May's expectations, where a criminal is a criminal and Spider-Man can actually do some good.


Three weeks later, Peter gets a postcard. There's no stamp, return address, or signature - it must have been hand-delivered - but the teen still knows exactly who it's from.

Practice your Spanish, kid, and don't let bullies get you down, the postcard reads in blocky lettering, Thank you for your help scrawled underneath this in a much smoother hand. The rest of the card is covered by an intricate drawing of a deli and Peter can't help grinning when he sees that it's named Saul's.

Whatever happened after the teen was sent back to New York to "think about his actions," both James and Captain America managed to survive. They're alive and this postcard is a promise that they're coming back to visit. Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not this year. But Peter knows that someday, he'll see his friend again. Someday the three of them will sit out on a fire escape, trading stories about their boroughs and eating sandwiches.


Tags: avengers, canon!au, crossover, fic, gen, mid-series, minor pov, poignant, streets i used to know*
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