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Fanfic / Ain't No Grave

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Ain't No Grave is a series of Marvel Cinematic Universe fanfiction by spitandvinegar. It focuses on the characters from the Captain America films, particularly Bucky and Steve and their relationship, but also includes characters from other MCU properties and a variety of Original Characters. The stories are set after Captain America: The Winter Soldier but ignore Age of Ultron and later movies. It can get pretty dark in places - Bucky has been through some horrible things and there's a fair amount of violence - but the series as a whole is not depressing. There's also romance, friendship, snark, and musical references. Lots of musical references.


There are also a podfic and illustrations for the main story. See also Except It Abide in the Vine, by the same author.


  • The '70s: The setting of The Needle And The Killing Done, complete with flared jeans, shag carpeting, heroin-addicted Vietnam veterans, and a cameo by David Bowie.
  • Abusive Parents: Bucky's dad, and Mikey and Lily's foster father before they met Bucky.
  • Accent Slip Up: As a young man, Steve worked hard to get rid of his Brooklyn-Irish accent because he was tired of people making fun of him for it in art school. The USO gave him elocution lessons to get rid of it the rest of the way, and as a result, he can now sound like a forties radio announcer (likely with a Mid-Atlantic accent) at will. Whenever he talks about Bucky, he lapses into a distinctly vintage-sounding Brooklyn accent. It reminds Daredevil of his late father.
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  • Alcoholic Parent: Bucky's father.
  • Alter Kocker: Bucky sometimes lapses into a strong Yiddish accent, which Daredevil likens to a 90-year-old man who still prepares his own gefilte fish. Bucky is technically 98 years old at that point in the fic.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Sarah Ruth Goldberg, the Hydra doctor. Lampshaded by Bucky in his "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Amnesiac Lover: Bucky and Natasha had a thing when they were both working for the Russians. Natasha remembers their relationship, Bucky does not, and by the time Natasha and Bucky get a chance to reunite after Bucky's free of Hydra, Bucky is already in a relationship with Steve.
  • Animal Motifs: Bucky and cats.
  • Archangel Michael: Steve's choice of theme for Sam's Catholicism-inspired portrait. Since Michael is the patron of soldiers and healers (and can fly, being an angel), and Sam is a former pararescue with a wing pack, it fits.
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  • Asian Store-Owner: Huang Fumei (also called Huang Ayi or Auntie Huang), the old Chinese lady who owns the dollar store. She's a POV character for part of the story and gets a bit of fleshing out.
  • Badass Boast: The Revelator delivers an epic one to intimidate an attempted-mugger.
    Bucky: "I'm saying, kid, that I don't have a mother. I'm saying that I was here before you were born, and before your mother was, and before her mother. I'm saying that I'm the thing you dream about when you wake up screaming and can't remember why. I'm saying that I am the fog rolling in, kid, that I am the fucking creep down your spine, that I am the darker part of a dark fucking night, and that if you fuck with me I will make you motherless, kid, I will make you fatherless, I will grind up your brains and your bones and your blood, I will drink up your very fucking name, kid, and the earth won't remember it. I will unmake you, kid, and if you don't want that to happen, you had best fucking run."
  • Big Eater: Steve, due to his enhanced metabolism.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Discussed, regarding Steve and religion.
    "Buck used to tease him about how he was born in the wrong era. “You shoulda been a knight,” he would say. “Jousting with black knights and winning the maiden fair and all that jazz.” Steve kind of agrees that he would have been good in the middle ages, but not at the jousting. He would've been a pilgrim. He wants to be one now."
  • Brainwash Residue: Bucky still slips into dehumanized-killing-machine mode sometimes.
  • Bullet Catch: Bucky-as-the-Revelator's first scene. He does it with his metal arm, which helps.
  • Buffy Speak: The Goddamn Kids, frequently. For example, "Bert-face."
  • Cast Full Of Hunks: Lampshaded by Mikey:
    “Lily, what the fuck, what are our lives, we're in like the Pinkberry of delicious men right now. There's, like, all of the flavors.”
  • The Charmer: Bucky out of combat, at least when his brain cooperates.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Steve and Bucky have known each other since grade school.
  • The Cloudcuckoolander Was Right: Mikey can be a bit ditzy at times, but his theory about their foster daddy dating Captain America was closer to the truth than any of Lily's ideas.
  • Comics Rule Everything Around Me: Inverted. Bucky is a superhero who likes hip-hop rather than a rapper who likes superheroes.
  • Commonality Connection: When Tony and Bucky discover each other's shared sarcastic tendencies and interest in machinery, they start to bond. And eventually, unlike in canon, they become pretty good friends.
  • Conversational Troping: According to Bucky, he is the Elite Mook, Tony Stark is the Smart Guy, and Steve is Ms. Fanservice.
  • Covert Pervert: Steve, a little. Not that his inner life is any kinkier than most other young men's, but his public persona is unrealistically wholesome.
    "It's not too fun, having people think that even your brain's all scrubbed clean and all-American. He's pretty sure that the stuff he thinks about is just as bad as the stuff that anyone else does."
  • Cuddle Bug: Bucky, at least with Steve. Fluctuates with Hates Being Touched when his mental health issues are acting up or he's going off heroin.
    • Steve as well, at least if you're really close.
  • Cultured Badass: Steve being an artist is Marvel canon, but this series explores his artistic side more thoroughly.
  • Darker and Edgier: The series contains Rape as Backstory, drug addiction, mental illness, more overt depictions of violence and sexuality, and other subjects that put it thematically closer to Marvel's Netflix series than the big screen MCU.
  • Dented Iron: Bucky is a lot more durable than normal people, but seventy years as the Winter Soldier still left him with some health complications. This is mostly due to Hydra's abuse - he has an easier time recovering from combat injuries.
  • Department of Child Disservices: While social services aren't directly portrayed as evil or incompetent, Mikey and Lily had a bad enough experience with them that they'd rather live with a homeless drug addict than go into the system.
  • Disabled Snarker: Bucky. He may be missing an arm and a big chunk of his memory, but Hydra couldn't permanently take away his capacity to be a smartass.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: What happened to Mikey's bio-dad, in Bucky's opinion. He got sent to prison for twenty years for selling weed (presumably not a first offense, but still) when Mikey was a toddler.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Hey, Hydra! Remember the brainwashed deadly cyborg super-assassin you spent seventy years abusing? Well, he isn't brainwashed anymore.
  • Drama Queen: When Mikey is upset or excited, he tends toward the melodramatic. To be fair, he is a teenager.
  • Easily Forgiven: None of the good guys seem to hold Bucky's past as the Winter Soldier against him, not even Tony. Although, since this universe ignores Civil War, Tony didn't find out about his parents' murder in an exceptionally graphic and upsetting way when he was already emotionally compromised, which probably helped him react with more equanimity.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Natasha appreciates the sight of Steve in his underwear.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Between poor nutrition, drug addiction, and his natural pasty half-Irish complexion, Bucky fits this early in the story.
  • Eloquent in My Native Tongue: Huang Fumei is a tough-as-nails self-made Chinese immigrant whose English still isn't very good after all these years, and is street-smart as hell after thirty years of running a dollar store in a poor area. Many people think she's stupid because of her poor English, and she's willing to make use of that assumption so she can get the jump on them.
  • Enter Stage Window: For Hydra-related reasons, Bucky is not a fan of doors.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Sam finds out that Bucky cleans up pretty well after he quits doing heroin, gets a roof over his head, and starts eating and bathing more regularly, especially when Bucky turns on the charm.
  • Experimented in College: Sam. Mostly into women, but he had a thing with a long-haired white guy in college (which comes back to haunt him when Bucky finds out about it).
  • Extended Disarming: Appears in the leadup to a sex scene.
    He isn't sure whether or not the sight of him pulling all of his concealed weapons out of their hiding places and lining them up on the coffee table is sexy. Steve doesn't seem to have a problem with it, at least.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The Needle And The Killing Done can't end happily because it's set in The '70s and Bucky was the Winter Soldier in 2014.
  • Gentle Giant: Steve, as in canon. Sam compares him to a human version of Ferdinand the Bull.
  • Going Cold Turkey: How Bucky quits doing heroin. Even with his enhanced constitution it is very unpleasant.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Bucky. If he likes you, he's charming and kind as long as his brain cooperates. If you're an innocent bystander, you'll be safe enough. Seriously antagonize him and you'll be lucky to get away lightly maimed.
  • Good Parents: Bucky has a lot of issues that keep him from being the perfect dad by most standards - drug addiction, severe mental illness, substandard housing situation due to being a homeless wanted terrorist, Roaring Rampage of Revenge taking him out of the house - but despite this, he is a surprisingly conscientious guardian. He feeds them healthy dinners, makes them go to school, and helps them with their homework.
  • Guy-on-Guy Is Hot: Bucky wants to kiss Sam at midnight on New Year's Eve. Claire, Sam's girlfriend, is all for it.
  • Handicapped Badass: Even with the missing arm, brain damage, and fairly serious mental illness, Bucky's a One-Man Army.
  • Has Two Mommies: After Bucky decides to stay with Steve for good, Steve turns into the Team Mom, essentially becoming all but Mikey and Lily's second dad.
  • He Cleans Up Nicely: For Bucky and Steve's first Christmas together, he shows up ready to go to Christmas Eve mass with Steve clean shaven, his hair cut short into a fashionable modern cut, dressed in a bespoke three-piece suit, with a photostatic veil over his metal arm to make it look human, all courtesy of Tony.
  • Hip-Hop: Once he gets a chance to start developing his own tastes in the 21st century, Bucky becomes quite a fan of hardcore hiphop and gangsta rap.
  • I Am a Monster: Bucky thinks this a few times when he's feeling down on himself.
    • Played for laughs when Mikey accidentally interrupts Steve and Bucky's Almost Kiss.
    Mikey: “Lily! They were about to kiss and I ruined it, I'm an actual monster, it's going to take them like another eighty years to get to first base again!”
  • I Have a Family: A villainous example, when a Hydra doctor tries this on Bucky. Unfortunately for her, she's dealing with an Unscrupulous Hero who had experienced Hydra's terrible medical ethics firsthand, so he's not inclined to be sympathetic.
  • I Have Many Names: Bucky's not all there at the best of times, so throughout the story, he has variously gone by John (for John the Revelator), the Revelator (his new superhero name), James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes, Sasha (from Aleksandr Kropuskov, an alias he was given when he was with the Red Room), and the Creature (when he's really feeling dissociative). And after Tony shows him Inglorious Basterds, he wants "The Bear Jew" as his new callsign.
  • Informed Deformity: In-universe. Steve and Bucky both know that Bucky's nose is completely normal. That's why it's funny when Steve makes fun of it (especially since Steve had such a nose even before the serum).
  • Informed Judaism: Bucky, sort of, with in-universe justification. Bucky's mom was Jewish, and he identifies that way, but he doesn't have much grounding in Jewish religious practice or traditions because his dad was a Gentile and didn't approve.
  • Insistent Terminology: Steve does not like it when people call Bucky his boyfriend. It's not a straight-up case of He Is Not My Boyfriend, since it's the word itself that bothers him, not the romantic implications. Maybe Steve just thinks that "boyfriend" sounds too juvenile for two men in their late nineties.
  • Irishman and a Jew: Steve and Bucky, respectively, although Bucky is also half-Irish on his dad's side.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: "The creature" (Bucky's dehumanized-killing-machine side) does this to his/its self when narrating.
  • Keet: Mikey, one of Bucky's unofficial foster kids, who is short, very gay, and extremely excitable.
  • Lean and Mean: Bucky early in the story is an antiheroic example (not evil, but ruthless and unstable). Justified because heroin addicts tend to be scrawny. After he kicks the habit and moves in with Steve, he develops better eating habits and mellows a bit.
  • Looks Like Jesus: Bucky before he shaves off his hobo-beard.
  • Loud of War: Steve uses The Pirates of Penzance to wake the kids up.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Mild example, with the Goddamn Kids. Lily has a tougher attitude, Mikey is more sensitive and flamboyant.
  • The Mentally Disturbed: Seventy years of torture and having his brain fried have not been kind to Bucky's sanity. He's dealing with memory problems, dissociation, occasional hallucinations, and various PTSD-related triggers and phobias, and he spends most of Chapter 9 of Ain't No Grave (Can Keep My Body Down) in an apparent depressive episode.
  • Monochrome Casting: Averted and then some, despite the MCU being notorious for White Male Leads. The ensemble is realistically diverse for something set in a big multiethnic modern city.
  • Mook Horror Show: Bucky's assault on the Hydra office/secret base.
  • Morality Pet: The Goddamn Kids, at first. As Bucky's mental state improves he becomes nicer to people in general, at least if they aren't Hydra or particularly unpleasant criminals.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Hydra physicians have terrible medical ethics. Sometimes overlaps with Mad Doctor, but not always. Sarah Ruth Goldberg committed her share of casual human rights abuse during her Hydra career, but she appears to be perfectly stable apart from some deficiencies in empathy and morality and, apart from her Hydra work, looks and acts like a completely normal upper-middle-class professional woman.
  • New Old Flame: In-universe, Bucky's past relationship with Natasha is this from his point of view. Because his memory's been scrambled so much, the last thing he remembered about Natasha was being her Big Brother Mentor when she was a pre-teen.
  • The Nicknamer: Bucky, but mostly toward Steve. He also uses Ghostface as a nickname for Tony.
  • No Antagonist: None of the Hydra operatives featured last long enough to qualify as plot-driving villains. Bucky's own issues and the possibility of being tracked down by the wrong people are bigger threats.
  • Noble Male, Roguish Male: Steve and Bucky, respectively, with Steve being more polite and idealistic and Bucky more crude and cynical.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Humorous example. Bucky's intact pre-war memories seem to include all the ways Steve managed to embarrass himself as a child.
    Sasha's memory is kind of all over the place, but one of its more fun quirks is how that half-scrambled brain of his turns into a damn steel trap the instant the memory in question involves Steve Rogers being ninety pounds of hilarious tragedy.
  • One-Man Army: Vengeful Super Soldier versus a base full of Hydra Mooks: not pretty.
  • Parental Abandonment: Mikey's mom is dead and his dad's in prison, and Lily's parents are meth addicts and apparently not in any fit state to raise her.
  • Parental Substitute: Bucky for the Goddamn Kids, his unofficial foster kids. Steve eventually gets in on the act as well.
  • Patron Saint: The inspiration and theme for Steve's Catholic-inspired portraits of his friends. Bucky gets Saint Sebastian, doubly fitting as both the patron saint of snipers and a gay Catholic icon, who also shares a name with Bucky's actor in the MCU.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Bucky's MO when going after Hydra.
  • Pop-Cultured Badass: Bucky is a big fan of modern music.
  • Precocious Crush: Poor Mikey. Why did his foster daddy and his foster daddy's friends have to be so damn handsome?
  • Quirky Household: Two WWII-veteran Super Soldiers (Dad #1 is a patriotic icon, Dad #2 spent the Cold War as a brainwashed minion of evil), their unofficially-adopted former homeless runaway teenage foster kids, and a really ugly cat.
  • Raised Catholic: Steve.
  • Real Men Eat Meat: Averted. Bucky is a first rate badass, and also mostly vegan because after seventy years of freezing and thawing and being forced to live on Hydra nutrient slurry, he can't properly digest meat and dairy anymore.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: Steve in this story is a fairly devout practicing Catholic.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Steve helps Mikey with his fashion illustrations and is a big fan of Call the Midwife.
    • Literally, with Bucky's pink sweater.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: "John the Revelator."
  • Reality Ensues: Bucky loses his dollar store job because he dropped off the face of the earth to finish his Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Hydra and then recover from the effects of quitting a heavy heroin habit.
  • Reference Overdosed: To 20th and 21st century popular music, to the point that a fan compiled a playlist of all the songs mentioned.
  • Reluctant Psycho: Bucky's attitude toward his mental problems ranges from self-deprecating humor to I Am a Monster, but he's well aware that he has them.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Bucky vs. Hydra. Unfortunately for Hydra, nothing they have left in the New York area is capable of effectively battling an extremely irate former Winter Soldier.
  • Scenery Porn: Second-hand: Natasha talking about Bali and Bucky describing his first impression of Vietnam.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm A Senior!: Huang Ayi is very blunt.
  • Sherlock Scan: Performed by Matt Murdock.
    Matt is standing on top of his building, listening to the city, when a strung-out homeless cyborg crashes onto the roof next to him and says, "Jesus fuck." Cyborg, because there's an unnerving mechanical whirring emanating from where the guy's left arm should be. Strung-out and homeless because he smells like it: clothes that have been slept in, the breath of someone whose body is digesting itself, and the distinct vinegary smell of heroin.
  • Shipper on Deck: Mikey for Steve/Bucky.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Claire and Sam.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Bucky.
  • The Snark Knight: Lily, who is very smart and cynical for her age, and, yes, snarky.
  • Speech Impediment: Bucky has a stutter sometimes, as a result of brain damage sustained while he was with HYDRA. The only times when he doesn't have it, however, are when he's in Winter Soldier mode.
  • Sweet Tooth: Bucky. Justified in the present because he has an enhanced metabolism and needs the calories, but he was like that before the war, too.
  • Team Dad: Bucky was this for the Howling Commandos during the war.
  • Technical Virgin: Steve, as of the beginning of the story.
  • Terror Hero: Bucky as the Revelator doesn't object to killing people, but when he's dealing with normal criminals instead of Hydra loyalists, he's willing to settle for scaring the bejeezus out of them if that does the job.
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: Lily. She's more tomboyish in term of her general attitude, but she is also "very dedicated to hygiene and beautification procedures" and has a collection of nail polish.
  • Trauma Button: Dogs, at least big dogs, for Bucky. Which is a real shame, because Bucky likes animals.
  • Unscrupulous Hero: Bucky as the Revelator, on a good day. He wants to help people, he just has a very lethal skillset that he isn't afraid to use. Verges on Nominal Hero when he's holding up drug dealers for smack and grocery money.
  • Vigilante Man: Bucky as John the Revelator. He has some superficial resemblance to The Punisher note , minus the moral absolutism, but is actually coming at it from an opposite angle: Frank Castle is a former soldier and family man who lost everything and dedicated his life to violent revenge, whereas Bucky is a former Human Weapon making a life for himself after seventy years of brainwashing and trying to do some good in the world with the best skillset he has, which happens to be brutally efficient violence.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Steve and Bucky love each other dearly - and bicker like a couple of twelve year olds.
  • World of Snark: Even Captain America gets a turn.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Bucky. Would Kill A Noncombatant Woman He Knows Personally, even. Although the reason Bucky knows the woman is because she was the Winter Soldier's doctor for over a decade, so he has some justified hostility built up.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Bucky has killed a lot of people, but when a spectacularly dumb teenager tries to mug him, he scares the kid off without hurting him.

Who's that writin'?
John the Revelator...


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