Fandom: Marvel Universe (both comics and movies)
Pairing: Natasha Romanoff/James “Bucky” Barnes (aka Buckynat, Winter Widow, Soviet Spouses, etc.)
Manifesto by: stars_inthe_sky
Spoilers: Spoilers for all published comics, all released movies, and casting announcements for upcoming films
Blurb: The Winter Soldier and the Black Widow are a whole other level of OTP, so get ready to get hooked.
The short version of why I love this pairing is this: they’re everything you ever wanted your spy/action/superhero ship to be—and then some.
The longer version is this: They love each other fiercely and unambiguously, and they operateas equal partners on just about every level. They fight together like a matched pair and have insanely, lamp-breakingly athletic sex.They support each other wholeheartedly—even when it means having to let the other go for a bit—and they don’t put up with each other’s self-flagellating or self-sacrificial bullshit, even as they both
take insane risks to make sure the other is okay. They have a passionate, if at times tragic, history together, and they work together to overcome that and to help each other do so on their own terms. They’re each other’s heroes and best friends. They understand each other in a way no one elsedoes, and they are always there for each other…even when one doesn’t remember the other (which happens sometimes). The only way to break them up is to force one (or both) of them to forget the other.
They’re also just really nice to look at as a pair, especially when they’re looking at each other.
Buckynat is also a pairing that gets under your skin, because there are so many unexplored possibilities, even within the extensive bounds of comics canon. We know that they met in the 1950s in the comics—where Natasha’s unaging due because SCIENCE, and the Winter Soldier is molded by the Soviets—and were separated when their affair was discovered, then reunited in the wake of tragedy decades later for several really delightful years, before being torn apart by a villain’s convoluted scheme that ended with Natasha’s memories of Bucky having been erased.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we have almost no information to go on: he shot her in Odessa, they did a great job of trying to kill each other in the middle of Captain America: the Winter Soldier, and supposedly MCU!Natasha was born in 1984. Fandom has run in a lot of directions with so little, though—perhaps Natasha had her reasons for not telling Steve about her history with his friend, or perhaps she herself doesn’t remember any of it. Maybe they don’t even share a history in that continuity…but they still share so much, from their lives as weapons of the bad guys to their desire to do good with the skills they have as a result (as well as a wry sense of humor and an outsize desire to keep an eye on Steve Rogers).
Going forward, it’s not clear what the future holds. On the comics side, the current Black Widow line has emphasized Natasha’s self-isolation…and shown that Bucky is keeping an eye on her anyway, sometimes at a distance and sometimes in person. In the movies, it’s even less clear, given the number of competing storylines and prominent characters in limited space—but, if Captain America: Civil War takes any inspiration from its comic origins and leads to a Buckycap storyline, which seems within the realm of possibility…well, it’s hard to see that happening without Natasha by his side, watching his back, keeping him sane, and occasionally saving his ass.
Even Sebastian Stan ships it!
And now, fic...
Rec #1: The Semiotics of Comestibles (aka the Roast Chicken Caper)
Author: Domenika Marzione
Rating/Warning(s): Teen and Up
Word Count/WIP?: 3,177 (complete)
Why This Must Be Read: The MCU iteration of Winter Widow isn’t really complete without Steve hovering in the background (or foreground), and this story is a lovely example of how things should be. The author weaves the couple’s professional lives together with their personal ones nicely, and it’s a great read for anyone who enjoys their Steve-Bucky friendshippy times angst-free.
Rec #2 Tumble Dry
Word Count/WIP?: 1,461
Why This Must Be Read: This is so hot, and so delicious, and so beautifully in-character that I almost can’t talk about it coherently. Come for the smut, stay (or come again) for the sweet-but-sexy established-relationship dynamics.
Rec #3: Memory’s Voice series
Word Count/WIP?: 9,919 (part 1 is complete; part 2 is WIP but hasn’t been updated in a while)
Why This Must Be Read: One of my chief beefs with the comics at the moment is that apparently no one has told Natasha that, though she doesn’t remember it, she spent quite a long time in love with, living with, and fighting alongside a guy who still loves her. Not that she’s obligated to anything, but you’d think one of her friends would let her know who the hell Bucky is (to her). This fic is a really solid fix for that problem; in it, Natasha’s given the truth from the get-go, but she isn’t about to act on feelings she doesn’t have. As a result, the pair have to navigate the ghost of their past relationship and each other, and uminoko’s take on what follows is incredibly satisfying.
Rec #4: Some of the Colors Have to Fade
Word Count/WIP?: 23,762 (complete)
Why This Must Be Read: This fic is the second half of a two-part series called “Murder Road Trip” (the first is also great if nonessential to this one, but it’s Steve/Sam slash and so not appropriate for this community), and the title is pretty appropriate. Here, the author layers on Bucky and Natasha’s shared past slowly and carefully, focusing more on their present-day motives and states of being in the immediate aftermath of Captain America: the Winter Soldier. Natasha is at the terrifying top of her game here, leading a barely-human Bucky on, well, a murder road trip, taking out Hydra operatives left and right while helping him figure out who he is in this uncertain future—and vice versa. There’s also, you know, some pretty great smut, Clint and Steve doing their best not to mess things up for their friends, and a lot of guns. Like, a lot. It’s a great read; read it.
Rec #5: no longer will i curse the bad i’ve done
Word Count/WIP?: 1,784 (complete)
Why This Must Be Read: A sort of Bonnie and Clyde AU, this dark, bloody masterpiece will quietly lodge itself in your mind. It’s amazing how much the author accomplishes in so little space, and the AU setting and takes on the various characters are sparse, effective, haunting, and utterly intriguing.
Rec #6: I Remember, There Was Snow
Word Count/WIP?: 2,625 (complete)
Why This Must Be Read: This is admittedly more of a character study of Bucky than a full-on het fic—Natasha isn’t even mentioned by name—but it’s a must-read if you’re interested in understanding who the Winter Soldier is, ultimately. And the passages involving the woman he dreams about are gorgeous, if too short.
Rec #7: Bedroom Hymns
Word Count/WIP?: 3,166 (complete)
Why This Must Be Read: Surreal and violent, this is probably one of the most honest—however dark—takes (and there are many) of what might happen post-Captain America: the Winter Soldier were Bucky to seek out Natasha for help rather than Steve. It’s vivid and unnerving in all the best ways.
Rec #8: I Think We Kissed (but I forgot)
Word Count/WIP?: 1,018
Why This Must Be Read: I swear, this pairing makes me want to read more smut than just about any other, and this fic does a great job of weaving in the sex with some really beautiful character touchstones and some lovely romantic moments, too. The author also toys nicely with the canonical fact that she calls him James.
Rec #9: Moving Pictures
Word Count/WIP?: 3,001 (complete)
Why This Must Be Read: This story is sweet and simple—date night at the movies, with all the action-sequence critiques, complaints about concessions, and walks home in the rain that you’d hope for—and lends a bit of normalcy to a very unusual pair. I hope all my OTPs get more nights like this one, you know?
Rec #10: by the world forgot
Word Count/WIP?: 2,600 (complete)
Why This Must Be Read: This is a light fusion with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, so you can probably guess where it’s going—Bucky decides to erase his memories of Natasha after her memories of him are already gone. But to think this story is that simple would be to miss its understated elegance and how insightful it is, even in its negative space.
Want more? Good, because ten recs isn’t nearly enough to encompass my feels, either. Check out other Buckynat recs in this community, as well as the Natasha/Bucky tag on my personal rec blog and the fanfiction tag at fuckyeahbuckynatasha on Tumblr, which is a fantastic resource for all things having to do with this ship in any medium.