It’s not that he hasn’t tried; Bucky’s gone out with his share of beautiful girls and a handful of good-looking fellas. It’s just that nothing ever clicked. For a while, he thought it was just that he was waiting for the perfect someone. But he always figured, if even Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter don’t do it for him, it’s probably just that he’s not interested in general.
When Tony asks if he’s into any of the Avengers and Bucky says he’s not into anyone, he laughs and claps him on the shoulder and tells him that the HYDRA brainwashing must have gone pretty deep, which hurts in some deep, inexplicable way. Clint’s reassurance that even if he’s not into any of them, there’s a plenty big world out there and there’s bound to be someone rankles a little bit more. He doesn’t want a specific someone - it’s kind of the point! But when he tries to correct them, Tony just smiles and says, “Don’t worry, Barnes, you’ll come around sooner or later. Everyone loves me,” and even if it’s a joke more at his own expense rather than Bucky’s, it hurts enough that he stops trying to explain anything.
Steve supports him, of course; he’s known Bucky long enough to know that it wasn’t just Bucky being picky or waiting for someone special. But Steve’s got plenty of catching up to do before he’s an expert on anything twenty-first century, and neither of them are sure what to google to find words to put to it.
Natasha shrugs and tells Bucky that sex is complicated and she doesn’t put much stock in labels. Bruce says, “Maybe you just need time,” in a gentle, kind voice, and that almost hurts worse than Tony’s crack, but he follows it up with, “or maybe you don’t, and that’s all right,” and it’s the first time Bucky’s felt accepted by anyone other than Steve. They sit in companionable silence for a while, and Bucky feels just a little bit more comfortable around Bruce than he did the day before. It gets better when Sam comes over for a movie night.
“Oh, that?” Sam says, leaning back further into the couch and staring at the ceiling for a moment. “Nah, it’s not that weird. Some people just aren’t into other people.”
“Is there a word for it?”
“Yeah. Asexual. There’s aromantic, too, which is where you’re not really into romance with other people, basically. Dunno if that’s you or not. Natasha’s right about sex being complicated.”
And Bucky grins and snuggles in closer to Sam, and Steve on Sam’s other side reaches around to ruffle Bucky’s hair and says, “There you go, Buck. You got a name for it and everything.” Maybe Natasha is right about sex being complicated, but it doesn’t matter. For the first time ever, Bucky has a word for it, and he feels just a little bit less isolated.
“Okay,” he says, resting his head on Sam’s shoulder. “So I’m asexual. Not too sure about the romantic thing, just yet. Guess I’ll have to figure that out as I go along.” At least now he’s not alone, and it doesn’t seem quite so daunting.
I love the bit where Steve is supportive, but he can’t help find the words either because a world where all the words are available is still new to him too.