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Tabula Rasa • chapters 7-8

Chapter 7: Stalling

After three more beers – Bucky helped himself to Stark’s workshop fridge while the other man worked – Stark finally showed signs of slowing down. His eyes began darting towards Bucky more frequently, yet he didn’t tell him to leave or stop chugging down his beer.

“Hungry?” Stark asked.

“A little,” Bucky replied, although he had eaten plenty before and wasn’t famished just yet. However, he should eat while he still could do it for free.

“J.A.R.V.I.S., order from that Chinese place I like.”

“Yes, sir.” The AI didn’t ask what Stark would like – just like Stark hadn’t asked whether Bucky liked Chinese.

Far as he knew, Bucky had never eaten Chinese, but it was food and he wasn’t picky.

Stark took another hour closing down his projects with a few more adjustments and orders to J.A.R.V.I.S., then went and washed his hands and cracked open another water bottle. He didn’t tell Bucky to pick up the empty beer bottles as he moved towards the door, waiting there for the other to catch up.

In the elevator, Bucky assumed they would be headed for the common floor, but they went up instead, without a verbal command or a push of a button. They arrived on Stark’s floor, like last night, and there was a smell of food in the air.

Bucky liked Chinese take-out just fine, he learned soon enough.

Stark got them both a couple beers without asking. They sat and ate in the living room, the TV turned on with nothing truly interesting on it. The multiple bags and cartons the Invisible Member of Staff had delivered contained several small portions of various different foods, and Bucky made a point to try each of them – and then ate all that was left when Stark was finished and sat back on the couch, sipping the last of his second beer, eyes on the TV.

Bucky wondered if this was a usual night in for Stark: work, take-out food, a couple beers. He wasn’t sure if that was a good routine in between saving the world, or a little sad, seeing as he hadn’t seen or heard a single other person besides J.A.R.V.I.S., and the AI wasn’t really a person to sit down with.

“This is a big place for just one person,” he observed finally although he knew he shouldn’t care about that.

Stark glanced at him, his expression revealing just how much he agreed with Bucky’s inner dialogue about not caring. “That really isn’t any of your business,” he said shortly, and Bucky knew not to ask about it again. Maybe it was a slow season – and it really wasn’t any of Bucky’s business.

He remembered his clothes, which must be dry by now. The smart thing to do would have been to get up and leave – maybe say a word of thanks for the food, although Stark would just shrug and wave him off, or threaten to make him pay half the bill. The couch was comfortable, though, and he still had some of his beer left, plus Stark seemed enraptured by the stock market news on TV and Bucky wasn’t sure what it was about that that made him want to stay.

There was time; he didn’t need to be anywhere. He could have another good night’s sleep, and then leave. If Stark hadn’t told anyone about his stay at the Tower by now, it was unlikely he would do it in the next twelve hours, either.

“Want another beer?” Stark asked when he finished his own and Bucky had just a few sips left of his. The question was almost instantly followed by a long look directed at him, halting Bucky’s answer. “You’ve had six by now. They really did something to you, didn’t they? I don’t think you’re even a little drunk, plus you finished off all the food with admirable stamina. Reminds me of this guy we both know…”

Bucky had an idea of whom he meant. “I could have another beer,” he answered, dismissing the rest.

Stark got up and got Bucky his beer, pouring himself a glass of something much stronger. He settled down on the couch again, shifted a little to get into a comfortable position, then surfed the channels for a bit before ending up on some music channel, letting it play.

Bucky opened his beer, twisted the cap in his metal grip, frowning at its mangled form before flipping it away. It was completely incidental that it hit Stark’s forehead and plunged down into his glass, floating there with the ice.

Stark directed a scowl at him and Bucky decided not to apologize. The way Stark fished the cap from his drink looked like it wasn’t the first time, oddly enough. He tossed the cap onto the table and kept drinking, a frown on his face, although it could have been directed at the absolutely ridiculous music video playing on TV, with costumes that made real-life superheroes look very cool and collected – even Captain America’s star-spangled red-white-and-blue uniform.

After it seemed the program was playing one ridiculous video after another, Stark reached for the remote and switched off the TV. “I should…” he started but stopped himself.

“Go to bed?” Bucky guessed. It wasn’t late, yet, just a little after ten.

Stark seemed to realize that as well, and he gave Bucky a searching look. “Wanna do something?” he asked, very casually like he was asking his friend for ideas on what to do. At the same time, last night still existed, and the possible double-connotation made Bucky hesitate.

What did he want to do?

He was a free man, so he could do anything – anything he liked. He had eaten Chinese, which he had liked; he’d had plenty of good beer. If he wanted it, he could have Stark, too, but the other man’s words were not a direct invitation to his bed and Bucky wondered if Stark himself knew what he wanted.

“Maybe,” Bucky replied, considering that a safe middle-ground they could proceed from.

“Did you have something in mind?” Stark questioned.

“Did you?” Bucky shot back.

A vibe was definitely there, and Bucky felt his body respond to it. Not overwhelmingly intense, but definitely a tight cord, vibrating and itching to be stroked, coaxed to grow… bad puns kind of intended, considering where Bucky wished this was going.

Stark waited a few long seconds. It wasn’t hesitation, as far as Bucky could see; it was more like biding his time instead of rushing headlong into it, which didn’t seem like a characteristic thing for him to do but was probably a good idea, all things considered. “In the interest of not assuming too much and saving both parties possible embarrassment: we’re talking about sex, right?”

Bucky was tempted to shrug, to not reveal his intentions just yet, but just as Stark said, it was in both their interest to know where this was headed. “Sure,” he replied, which was closest to a very casual, indifferent ‘yes’.

Stark gave him a look but didn’t comment on his apparent reluctance. Maybe he saw through it, because they were both grown men and had already done this weird pre-sex dance thing the day before. “Okay,” Stark stated, a lot less eloquent than his usual responses went, which made Bucky feel like the other guy was imitating him. One of these days, he would punch him. He might even do Stark the favor of using his metal hand, seeing as he was so enamored by it…

Bucky finished his beer while Stark put away the empty food cartons and used cutlery. That bought them both some time – not that they should have needed it, after everything, but when Stark returned to the couch, there was a bit more sway to his hips, and Bucky had decided he would get nowhere by being bashful – and somewhere was where he wanted to go, so…

“Bedroom?” Bucky suggested. The couch would do, but it seemed a little pointless when the bed was just in the other room.

Stark raised him a teasing eyebrow, as if amused by his sudden forwardness, but he didn’t comment on it. “Time’s a wastin’,” he said instead, and Bucky stood up, agreeing more than Stark probably knew; he had stayed longer than he had intended, and any reminders of that made him feel restless. Still, he didn’t want to say ‘no’ to the chance of this – the last little thing that he could take just as selfishly as he wanted.

A sign of his freedom.

He reached out with his left hand, fingers curling around the back of Stark’s neck, pulling him closer. Their eyes met, and for a moment Bucky wasn’t sure what he was doing – what he had planned on doing when he pulled the other man in. However, when Stark leaned in, his fingers squeezed hard to stop him, just preventing the other’s lips from meeting his.

Stark let out a huff of air with a strange little sound and dropped his face a little, his teeth digging into the flesh at the curve of Bucky’s cheek. “You really need to rein in those mixed signals,” he said then, leaning back and putting some distance between them. He couldn’t go far, though, because Bucky still had a hand on the back of his neck, Stark’s weight pressing against it.

“Stop trying to read me,” Bucky told him.

“I would need a fucking manual for that,” came an almost irritated reply.

“Aren’t you supposed to be a genius?”

Stark snorted then pulled against his hand again, but he was leaning towards the bedroom door so Bucky followed his lead, for now agreeing with Stark’s direction.

The bedroom was dark when they entered it, but the lights came on low without prompting. It all looked the same as it had been the last time Bucky saw it, save for a change of sheets on the bed. That didn’t really interest him, though, and he shoved Stark onto the bed as soon as they were within its reach. The impact made the other man lose his breath for a moment, which gave Bucky time to land more gracefully on top of him, like a hunter approaching a defeated victim, ready for the final strike.

Once again leaning in crossed his mind, and he saw Stark take notice, but then Bucky’s fingers curled against the sheets and Stark pursed his lips and looked at some spot near his shoulder, clearly fed up with something.

Bucky ignored that; Stark being indifferent was better than the alternative of annoying commentary. He moved up, settling on his knees as he stripped off his hoodie and shirt. As expected, Stark’s eyes returned to him in a matter of seconds, taking in his left shoulder and the metal limb. His gaze wavered when Bucky reached down to undo his pants and yanked them as far as he could down his spread legs. He got his cock out, though, and gave it a few strokes, easing the tension he felt curling in his groin.

Stark’s lips parted a little with a slow inhalation – like an invitation. Bucky would have liked to comply, to force his hard cock past them into the other man’s mouth and down his throat the way he knew Stark could take him, but there were other things he wanted – that they had done before – and he itched for another round of that gripping warmth he could plow into without fear of an accidental bite of teeth or a gag reflex kicking in.

“Get your pants off,” Bucky growled and got up so that he could remove his own pants. Stark gave him a look and moved to comply, removing all his clothes while he was at it. Bucky didn’t complain or show that he preferred it either way, but pressing his body against Stark’s equally naked one sent a pleasant tremor through him.

He was sure he could have enjoyed that simple contact for much longer, but he wanted more and his time was limited. So, to get from point A to point B, Bucky yanked on Stark’s shoulder and guided him to roll over onto his front, not giving him a chance to protest.

Pushing down against Stark’s naked backside made Bucky’s dick jerk. He repeated the motion, grinding against the other man, a low growl working its way out of his throat. The swell of Stark’s ass was just right to rub his hard-on against, although he felt like some lubrication may have been in order to ease the way and make it even more pleasurable.

Luckily, the tube of lube was still on the nightstand and not stashed away somewhere, so Bucky reached up to grab it. His metal fingers squeezed around it a bit too hard in his haste, the top popping open and squirting the slick substance all over Stark’s lower back, making the other man hiss.

“That’s not how you apply it,” Stark noted, leaning up on one arm, looking at Bucky over his shoulder.

Annoyed, Bucky dropped the mangled tube in favor of sinking his fingers into Stark’s hair. “Shut up,” he muttered and shoved his face down into the covers. Shifting to the side, he ran his right hand across the slick mess that was already spreading as Stark made a show of struggling in his grip. His movements were not enough to remove Bucky’s iron hold, and after coating his cock with the unpleasantly cool lubricant, he reached out and coaxed most of the substance towards Stark’s ass, making it drip between his buttocks.

By the time his fingers made it to the muscled orifice, the crack of Stark’s ass was more than sufficiently slick to let him slide a finger in, then another. Stark twitched, his knees braced against the mattress, elevating his hips. Bucky worked a third finger inside with more force than probably should have been necessary. Stark groaned in response to it, his body clamping down against Bucky’s digits, and he eased the pace a little, shifting to drag his wet cock against the other man’s flank to ease his desire to proceed.

Waiting didn’t sit well with him, though – not when he already felt like he was dragging his feet about leaving the relative safety of Stark’s Tower. He was getting careless and carelessness opened a door for the enemy to get to him – whoever the enemy was these days. He had stayed under the radar since D.C. and wasn’t about to compromise that for a few hours of pleasure…

That was the core of the problem, though: he was free, so he could have all the pleasure he wanted – when he wanted. Stark was groaning into the bedspread, body tight around his fingers, and he stubbornly held onto this chance to have a taste of it, even if it would cost him extra time.

He had already stayed for a day so what did a few more hours matter, anyway?

Deciding to move things along even though he could spare a moment, Bucky pulled his fingers out and cleaned off most of the lube onto the covers between Stark’s legs, then moved himself behind the man, forcing Stark’s thighs further apart with his legs while still leaning over him, keeping his head down. He knew the other man would be struggling a lot more if he wanted to get out of the hold. Hell, it was possible Stark was getting off on the metal hand holding him down, and seeing as that didn’t hamper Bucky’s own pleasure in any way, he just grabbed his cock and lined it up with the slick hole, pushing in.

A tense heat was immediately around him and he pushed into it greedily even when he registered the pained edge in Stark’s next groan. There was plenty of lube to ease the way, though, and Bucky’s hips shoved his dick the rest of the way in; he figured it wasn’t going to get any easier even if he stopped to wait.

He did wait once he was fully inside, though, because the grip around his length was beginning to border on painful and Stark’s groans had transformed into sharp breaths loudly exhaled into the covers.

“Come on,” Bucky murmured, sliding his right hand up Stark’s flank and over to the lube-and-sweat-slick small of his back, rubbing his fingers into the tense muscles there. His metal hand released its grip a little, sliding from his hair to the back of Stark’s neck, squeezing lightly.

Stark fell silent, fingers losing their grip on the sheets that Bucky hadn’t noticed before. All the while Stark’s lower body stayed still, up until the death-grip on Bucky’s dick began to lessen and allowed him to shift back and forth in small circles that definitely felt better than staying still.

As he found his tempo, withdrawing a little further, Stark straightened his arms above him and pressed his face into his right bicep. He started making small sounds again, at every inwards push, and Bucky’s squeezed the fingers of his left hand some more and tried to fit them around Stark’s throat, holding but not making it impossible for him to breathe.

His whole body began to get into the forward motion, a warm tide rising within him. He knew he could go faster, but that would make it all end faster, too. That knowledge made him hesitate: a part of him wanted to get this over with so that he could follow his instinct and leave; another part was very keen on the idea of making his pleasure last longer.

It was the latter that prevailed, making him lean his weight on Stark and force him to lie down, his thrusts slowing down. His metal hand slid up to Stark’s hair again, tugging lightly, and he mouthed his shoulder, tasting the salt of sweat. Stark’s next groan became a moan and he arched a little beneath him, clearly enjoying the change of pace and the angle of Bucky’s thrusts. It seemed to make Bucky’s motions easier, his passage smoother, and he enjoyed every inch of it, slowly sliding back and forth, Stark’s little shifts delivering an extra spark down his spine.

His rhythm became more languid. Each thrust, each openmouthed touch of his lips against Stark’s back… It was calmer, yet made him feel a little shaky, as if he had been at it for hours and his body was getting exhausted. He was not weary – not even close – and he tried ordering his body to stop it, which soon started distracting his rhythm so much that Stark noticed.

“What are you doing?” the other man asked, shifting beneath him and started looking back over his shoulder.

“Shut up,” Bucky muttered and pushed the other man’s head into the sheets. “I’m fine,” he added. His outburst made the shaky feeling stop and he shoved his dick into Stark with a vengeance, banishing the last tendrils of lethargy from his body. It felt like he had allowed his guard to drop and it made him uneasy that it could happen so easily and without his notice.

As he proceeded to fuck the other man harder, tuning out the harsh breaths he forced out of Stark’s lungs while he still pressed him down, he began to notice a few crucial differences; he was getting off faster, no doubt about that, but it didn’t feel as good as before. It was as if the lazy pace had been comfortable and more fulfilling, and anything else felt like rushing.

Rushing was never good. It left room for slip ups that could turn into actual mistakes, and his allowance for mistakes had been low. Even as a free man, he knew he could not afford to make many, and so he forced himself to slow down again.

Stark groaned and Bucky was tempted to ask what his problem was this time, but no other comment came as he continued at a more languid pace, enjoying the in-and-out motion and the grip of the other man’s body every time he brushed past that spot that seemed to make all the difference for Stark.

Bucky let go of the pressing sense of rushing and leaned down again, draping his body over Stark’s. He could smell him, salty sweat and metal, and a faint sweetness of something that reminded him of some distant ghost of a mission he must have been on… Then, beneath it all, seemed to lie a layer of brimstone, hot and pulsing along his length where they were connected. He smelled no smoke, but the heat of it was beneath his lips and teeth as he kissed and bit Stark’s shoulder blade near his spine, a fire rising towards him when he pressed his teeth into the flesh.

He released the hold his teeth had on Stark’s back and brushed his nose against the indentations left in the skin. The spot appeared warmer than its surroundings, and for a brief second his eyes seemed to detect an angry splash of red before it vanished, leaving only his mark.

“Don’t do that,” Stark told him.

“Why?” Bucky asked, because certainly other people would have asked, too.

“Because I said so – and because I’m not going to pay for the reconstruction of your face,” he added, sounding like he couldn’t resist.

Bucky frowned and itched to bite him again, just to see whether it had been his mind playing tricks on him, but instead he bowed his head and kissed the bite mark, then swept his tongue over it. No blood.

Stark shuddered and bucked his ass, so Bucky moved his right arm to Stark’s hip, got up on his knees and yanked the other man’s body along with his, keeping himself firmly inside as he changed the angle. Stark shifted his legs, trying to brace himself as Bucky went on thrusting into him, his pace still slow and deep, and soon enough Stark found his balance and countered his every forward motion. Bucky’s hold on his hip ensured it didn’t get too fast, yet the slow pace was doing only so much to keep the burning edge of his release at bay forever.

He shifted his left arm, bracing it against the bed, fingers curling into the sheets and the mattress below. The closer to the finish line he got, the more he had a taste for it, but once he got there… it would be over. He had made up his mind about leaving, and as soon as he shot his load, he would be out of this bed and the Tower.

His cock twitched but he wasn’t convinced it knew what was going to happen; out there, something like this wasn’t an option. Even fooling around with Stark may have been a mistake, and he had already found it threatened to leave him vulnerable. Outside these walls, he could not risk it.

Not even if he was a free man and could do what he wanted. There was a fine line between stupidity and bravery, after all.

Stark’s breaths were getting louder and he turned his head, leaning his face against Bucky’s metal forearm. Had it been skin and bone, he could have felt his hot exhalations and his tongue wetting his lips, so close that it actually dragged against the metal. If Bucky felt vulnerable, Stark was even more so, but he hadn’t seemed concerned. Perhaps it was the illusion of safety inside the Tower and the presence of his AI – or perhaps it came from that faint odor of brimstone and the fire beneath his skin, a heat which he hadn’t felt the first time but which seemed to be pooling in Stark’s groin now and warming Bucky’s cock at the same time.

Or maybe he imagined the heat as he got closer to his own climax, thrusts getting a little faster, shallower. Stark was clearly trying to keep himself quiet and Bucky moved to help him, sinking his left forearm onto the bedding in order to turn his palm up. Whether Stark saw the offer and accepted it or merely nuzzled into his hand, he didn’t know, but he slowly closed his fingers against his face, making sure not to squeeze too much; he knew he could break a human skull and fracturing a jaw didn’t take nearly as much force.

He moved harder, body draping against Stark’s again as if wanting to be closer to him, and the heat spread from Stark’s groin to his and onwards, flaring up for a moment until pumping out through his shaft and into the sudden clamp of Stark’s body, as if the man knew he was coming.

Distantly he thought that perhaps he felt the pressure of Stark’s teeth on the metal of his palm, and his thumb stroked his skin as he breathed hard through the last pumps of his hips and then drew back, dragging Stark up with him as he sat on his haunches. His hand still clamped down on Stark’s face, muffling the startled breath, and then he reached around the other man’s body with his right hand, finding his hard cock.

It felt like the first time touching Stark with his real hand. He could feel a wetness on his fingers, the frequent beat of his pulse jerking the firm flesh, and he slid his hand over it, again and again, until Stark’s body tightened against him and he came with an exclamation muffled into the metal, nostrils flaring above the grip.

Bucky eased the hold of both his hands but didn’t let go just yet. As long as he didn’t, he could still pretend it wasn’t over – that he didn’t need to start packing.

Stark slumped against him heavily and Bucky sat still, leaning his face on Stark’s shoulder, breathing him in. Not an unpleasant smell, but not something to stir a memory within him, either. He liked that. It meant that this memory was his and his alone and didn’t belong to the ghost life of James Buchanan Barnes. He would hold onto this.

Stark’s breaths slowed down and stirred Bucky out of his musings. For a second he wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but the other man was asleep in his arms, despite the awkward seated position.

Bucky moved slowly, removing his hands from Stark’s face and spent cock. He wiped his right hand on the sheets and told himself to get up and leave. Instead he lay back, Stark’s body following the motion. The change in position made the other man stir, but just enough for him to roll to the side, off Bucky’s body. He looked content and tired, completely unafraid of Bucky’s presence.

An illusion of safety…

Bucky supposed he could share in that illusion for a few more hours and take a nap before leaving. That way he would be well-rested on the road.

Content with his decision, he shifted around to wrap half the sheets over his body, then took pity on the other man and arranged them so that Stark was covered as well. He got a muttered complaint for all the jostling but nothing more than that, and the warmth of Stark’s naked body in front of him was like a barrier, tricking him into fall asleep faster than usual.

to be continued…

Chapter 8: Decamp

Four hours after falling asleep beside Stark’s spent body, Bucky extracted himself from the sheets and collected his clothing. He would go to his own room, shower and get the rest of his things, then leave before sunrise.

He halted in the doorway of Stark’s bedroom, looking back at the man. The sheets were no longer covering him after Bucky’s escape and with a small scowl, Bucky went back to the bed and lifted the sheets back in place. It was ridiculous and he knew that, but Stark would sleep longer if he didn’t get cold so it was rational to aid that cause and keep him from drawing out Bucky’s departure.

While he was there, he took notice of Stark’s phone on the nightstand – that and his wallet.

Deciding that he needed money, he picked up the leather wallet and browsed through it, finding more cash than he had thought likely with one such as Tony Stark. He took the money and put down the wallet, then shifted his hand and grabbed his phone, too, supposing that he could use it at least once before dumping it.

He turned, stashing his findings in his pants pocket, then gave the sleeping man one last look. He could break his neck and not have anyone know he had been here, but there was no real heat behind that thought.

Still, to figure out if he wanted to do that after all, to cover his tracks, he reached out with his left hand and allowed it to hover over the relaxed face, tracing the now-familiar features before softly brushing against his lips.

No, he decided. He wouldn’t kill him. Not unless he became a problem. Stark had given him many lessons during his stay and had helped Bucky discover parts of himself he wouldn’t otherwise have gotten to know for a long time to come. He wouldn’t go as far as to say he was in the other man’s debt, but killing him didn’t appeal to him.

Moving his hand back, he took a step to leave, already taking inventory of all the things he needed to pack before he left – then backpedaled and turned towards the bed again, staring intently at Stark’s face.

That thing he had thought to do before, but hadn’t… it was clear in his mind now. And, just like he had been trained, thought became action before his body was consciously aware of it and he leaned down, pressing his lips against Stark’s, soft and careful not to wake the other man up.

Baffled, he straightened again, frowning deeply. It eluded him, the real reasoning behind the action, so he eventually let it go with a shrug and walked out, not looking back this time.

- - -

The sun was coming up as he walked across the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade. There were only a few other people around, cars driving past him on both sides. A few seagulls lazily hung in the air, barely flapping their wings at all.

In the relative silence, the buzz of the phone in his pocket was loud, and his hand instantly grabbed for it as if it were going to reveal his position to the enemy. His eyes scanned the screen and the text announcing an ‘incoming call’.

Suspicious, he slid a finger of his right hand across the screen to accept the call.

“So,” Stark’s voice greeted him before he had to come up with something to say, “you steal my lunch money and disappear into the night,” the man stated snidely.

“At least I didn’t beat you up before I did,” he retorted.

“I also hope you realize that you stole my phone; I can track it anywhere you go.”

Of course he had known that, but he had still taken it. He had half a mind to toss it over the side of the bridge and let Stark fish it out of the East River. Instead, he selected another reply: “That was the point.”

Stark hesitated for a moment. “Good,” he decided then, and instantly continued: “Are we still not telling Rogers about this?”

“Do you want to tell Rogers about this?” Bucky wasn’t talking about his visit but the other things that had happened.

“He doesn’t need to know,” Stark decided.

“That’s what I thought,” Bucky hummed and kept walking. Stark didn’t ask where he was going to go. He didn’t need to, seeing as he could track his phone. The idea made Bucky uneasy, but he still held onto the device instead of throwing it over the side of the bridge. “Thanks,” he finally grumbled. “For… whatever.”

“Whatever? Is that what we’re calling it now – or is that what you were calling it back then?” Stark huffed back.

“Shut up,” he snapped. “I’m getting tired of this conversation.”

“You’re welcome,” Stark told him swiftly, as if sensing Bucky was going to hang up on him. “I would tell you to stay out of trouble but I would be wasting my breath, right?”


“Okay,” he said, sickeningly chipper. “Keep in touch, if you feel the need. You can use this number: it will route through J.A.R.V.I.S. and keep your call nice and private.”

“Why would I call?” Bucky asked, trying to sound like he couldn’t think of a single reason why.

Stark chuckled and hung up.

Bucky lowered the phone from his ear and checked the screen. He could see a number now, more complex than a usual phone number. He pressed it to save it, and after a brief debate wrote ‘TONY’ as a contact name.

Pocketing the phone, he resumed walking, the sun warm on his face as it climbed higher in the sky. Near the end of the bridge he turned briefly to look back towards Manhattan, fairly certain he could see Avengers Tower’s windows glittering in the sunlight – then a stream of red and gold shooting up towards the brightening sky until his eyes could no longer follow it.

He turned and kept on walking, with no actual goal in mind, but he was surprisingly fine with that. For a little bit back there, he had been who he wanted to be, and that felt good. All he had to do now was keep at it, and keep knocking down the walls in his mind, and eventually, he would be his own man again.

The End


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