They’d given each other amicable goodbyes for the ‘just in case’ but never divulging more than that as Steve mounted the platform to return the gems that had turned the world more than upside down.
It had been three days since the battle and either men had been able to exchange more than a few words. Bucky felt like perhaps Steve was keeping him at arm’s length, hell, maybe he was doing the same thing. They’d lost each other so many times since 1941 the mere thought of getting close again, like they had been back in that small, cold apartment, his heart would beat madly in his chest. He missed those days, he even thought, for only a moment that they could go back to that time before everything fell apart.
The past was always a part of his thoughts, every day, even when he was in Wakanda when he was simply hoping to cure his mind, hoping everyday Steve would return, and then he did, and it was for a battle. Not just him alone. Another chance at reconnecting lost.
Then lost again. It had been a whisper, Steve’s name, and the world went black.
The thought of the ‘dark place’, it was explained to him briefly that time did not pass where those had disappeared. But he called bullshit on that, because time had passed, he could feel it flowing now. All around him and even more so as Steve disappeared from his sight once more.
And everything still felt so horribly out of reach, his fingers felt numb from clenching them into the rough palm of his flesh hand. Said palm began to sweat just as profusely as his brow, he bit his lips near bloody.
Waiting, always waiting.
Then there he was, still clad in the space suit and looking more tired than Bucky could ever remember. A sob almost bubbled over Bucky’s lips but he swallowed it down, Bruce and Sam still present and he wasn’t sure he could handle either one seeing him lose it. What he couldn’t help from doing was crossing the space across the lush green grass of the forest air and gathering Steve into his arms, the same loose type embrace. Steve was holding back, that was as sure as anything right now. He gave a tight smile, a pat on the shoulder, and moved away.
“Well, that’s done,” Steve piped up, that sad smirk that had been dressing his face for days now shining prominent and loud. Before he could open his mouth Steve was interrupting, “Why don’t we head back to the hotel and get some shut eye…good meal wouldn’t hurt either.”
Oh, that was right, Bucky remembered, they didn’t have anywhere to go.
“Both of us?” Bucky asked tentatively and he knew he sounded as such and Steve simply nodded with an exhausted sigh.
“Yeah, both of us, think we’ve earned it.” Steve gave a wave to Sam, to Bruce, and nodded towards the rental car.
They did just that, Bucky’s heart continued to sink further into his stomach as they drove far too quietly, his hand itching to cross the space and grab onto Steve’s. It had begun to pour as soon as they left their car and with Steve’s injured leg they were practically soaked by the time they made it inside.
They carried their gear through the elevators, same kind of combo type satchels as they had in the army. Heavy, bulky, they had rooms across from each other and it reminded him of rare times in Germany when they got leave and were able to disappear from the world for a while.
This seemed different.
“You wanna help me with this?” Steve asked, fumbling with the card key and the awkward bag over his shoulder. The man was still healing up, no matter how much he wanted to deny it. He all but limped down the hallway from the elevator.
Bucky frowned and took the bag on his own, freeing Steve’s hands to open the door, he did just that opening it up to a fairly large living area, kitchen, bathroom. Guess they’d be here for a while, courtesy of SHIELD. Or what was left of it, he gathered.
He moved into the living area and plopped the bag down, turned to open his mouth as he heard the hotel room close. Despite everything being ‘okay’ or as okay as it was going to be, his chest felt heavy. “Well, there ya go…I’ll let you get some shut eye…”
Steve was suddenly in his space, wrapped around him so tightly, arms around his torso almost lifting him from the ground. His face pushed into the crook of Bucky’s neck and breathing insanely fast.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” was all Bucky could think to say, the breath knocked out of him as he stumbled backwards. And then it was like no time had passed at all, all the neutrality that they had been forced to display over the too many years sloughed away. It slipped with one simple endearment, “Baby-doll…”
All Bucky could compare it to was the words punched Steve right in the gut, cause the man lost it.
The sob was soft but not lost against the flesh of Bucky’s throat, muffled, wet and strong. He was murmuring fast nonsense apologies as he struggled for breath, “Buck, sorry, so sorry, oh God…”
Bucky was holding him up at this point, so he maneuvered them without thinking into the bedroom until his knees bumped up against the bed. It was hard to feel his body through the suit, he reached behind his back and undid the clasps, just enough to slip both hands beneath and run up and down Steve’s heaving back.
“Shhh, sweetheart, we’re okay…you’re breathin’ too fast, even for you, come on, just like old times. In and out, in and out.” Steve’s embrace tightened even more but he seemed to be doing as told. He heaved and cried and sobbed for countless intervals of ‘In and out’. As he cried the litany of apologies flowed like water, and he was sure it wasn’t just for him, it was for everything and everyone he’d lost.
All Bucky could do was talk him through it, murmur words of encouragement that they were safe and that this was okay. “It’s all over honey, everything is okay now…I know, God I know.” His own breath hitched when the cries grew in strength, sounding so utterly broken, “I know I know, just let it out, you deserve it. You’ve deserved it for a long time. I know you, you kept this bottle up until you almost burst and then you bottled it up again.”
He wasn’t even sure how long that ‘bottling time’ was. They’d been a part for so long. They hadn’t even had a chance to talk since he’d returned from the dusting. His existence had been suspended, but what had Steve survived? Alone? With a friend? How many of the Avengers had gone missing? Again, not a lot of time for explanation and still, even now, he was left in the dark.
“Jesus Darlin, you had no one to take care of you, did you. I’m so sorry.” And now he was pressing his lips firmly to the nape of Steve’s neck, then the hollow of his throat. His hands, both flesh and metal beginning to roam more than just under the suit, they found the lips of Steve’s t-shirt. Once he made contact with the actual flesh of Steve’s back Steve gasped, it didn’t deter him he continued to pepper kisses from there to the soft part of his throat, trailing along his jaw until he was successfully able to push back enough to capture his lips.
He happily swallowed up the weakening cries still trickling from Steve’s mouth, this seemed more helpful than the caressing of his back. Steve slowly but surely began to calm with each tender kiss, tears running down his cheeks between both of their lips. Bucky couldn’t take it anymore and cupped Steve’s face in both hands, carefully and more lovingly than he believed Steve had been touched since the last time they had touched like this.
“Buck,” Steve trembled, their lips still touching and he had yet to open his eyes until Bucky was searching his face.
“Look at me,” but Steve’s face scrunched, mouth, pink, plump and perfect was turned into a shaky frown. He shook his head. “Stevie…”
“I-I’m afraid,” he gulped, long lashes trembling just as fervently against his face as he kept his eyes tightly shut, “I-I’m afraid this isn’t real…I-I keep…losing you and I can’t…I can’t lose anyone else…not after everything that’s happened…all this time I’ve dreamed…”
“Not gonna lose me honey,” Bucky took a breath, “Open your eyes Steve…please…look at me. I need to see you.”
Steve was fighting it, that was clear as day, but blessedly slow his eyes opened. Revealing the crystalline blue he always adored, and tears began to tumble without knowledge, “Buck…” he croaked.
“Right here,” Bucky smiled softly, brushing away the tears, “Not going anywhere…not anywhere you can’t go…took us a long time to get here but we are…here…together.”
Steve took a deep quivering breath and on a whimper Bucky kissed him again, this time Steve was wholly participating and pushed back against Bucky’s lips with fury.
From there it was a mad scramble to remove clothes, too many clothes, too much armor. When Steve winced and limped just in the slightest as they stood momentarily Bucky took over. Time was still just as irrelevant as it had been before to Bucky because in very little of it they were both down to boxers and t-shirts and Steve had him pushed to the bed devouring his mouth. Bucky was elated, his heart soaring but Steve’s chest was still heaving and his movements were wild and frantic, so in a moment of distraction he flipped Steve to the bed instead and pinned him.
“Stevie, slow down, hey, hey, hey,” he spoke more firmly, “Look at me,” he said again and this time there was no hesitation and there was desperation dripping from Steve’s blue eyes in more ways than one. He ran both thumbs over the pulse points of Steve’s wrists, more soft hushing coming from between his teeth, “Not going anywhere, don’t act like I am.”
“You can’t promise me that,” Steve actually growled, struggling uselessly against Bucky’s hands, “I gotta hold onto ya while I still can.”
Bucky abandoned his hold, and boxed Steve’s head between both arms, the lightening from outside lit the room with an ominous boom. With the light present Bucky could see the naked horror dancing across Steve’s face. “We’re gonna take this slow and count every moment like we shoulda done before all this war business. Fuck, shoulda never left you alone for so long.”
Steve said nothing, still staring up into Bucky’s face as though he would indeed disappear without warning, “I love you…I love you and I’ve missed you so much I’ve barely been able to breathe.”
“I love you too baby-doll,” Bucky closed his own eyes and shook his head, “Not a fair hand we’ve been given but we’ve got all the time in the world now. So why don’t you let me take care of you, huh?”
Steve bit his still quavering lip, squeezed his eyes shut one last time and nodded, “O-Okay…okay…”
Bucky dipped down and pecked his lips gingerly before delving into his mouth with slow, lazy kisses, all the while his fingers threaded through Steve’s messy blonde locks, a lot shorter than last he remembered. He sat back on his haunches and brought Steve with him, just long enough to free him of his shirt before pushing him back down onto the bed. From there he traced his features with sure fingertips, remembering every detail, the curve of his jaw, the plumpness of his lips, the lines in his face that had found new homes.
He made slow, deliberate trails of kisses down his throat, savoring the salty taste of Steve’s flesh. As he grazed one already perk nipple Steve gasped, and it was just on the cusp of a sob but he gained control and watched Bucky make the descent down his body.
By the time Bucky made it to the sharp jut of his hip bones Steve was damn near vibrating, “Stevie…you okay?”
“It’s just a lot,” he choked, “But I’m okay,” he brought his hands down to brush the hair from Bucky’s face.
Bucky smiled in understanding and pressed a firm kiss to his clothed groin that hadn’t waned interest, “Just so we’re on the same page…”
“No one since you,” Steve panted the confession without prompting, “So…so I might….”
“Get overwhelmed,” Bucky supplied, “We’ll take it slow and if it’s took much speak up.”
He gave Steve long enough to contest as he slipped two fingers under the waistband of his boxers and tugged them down, he tapped Steve’s hips and he complied lifting up. He didn’t move up from there, simply continued his path of kisses down his long legs, the muscles twitched with each motion his lips made contact.
When his tongue grazed Steve’s length the man jumped but never said ‘stop’, so in one bold and brave move he gave a testing swipe before taking him fully in his mouth.
It was a flood of both emotions and memories, all the times he had Steve pinned down making him writhe and moan and come undone. Now was no different, if anything else in the world had changed, this thankfully had not. If he hadn’t been Captain America he would have thought the man was damn close to an asthma attack.
“B-Bucky…close, can’t, please…” he choked out on a whisper, his fingers tangled in Bucky’s hair that had long fallen from the hair-tie, “Too much…I-I need…I need…”
He kissed Steve on the mouth with purpose, cupping his cheek, running a thumb beneath one still damp eye, “Whatta need, tell me.”
“Need you, just need you,” he shook his head, pulling Bucky down and joining there mouths, tongues pressing against one another. Bucky knew better, he knew when too much was too much, so he slickened them both up, lining them up together. For a simple awestruck moment the world made sense again.
“I’m right here, right here,” he stroked slowly at first building up the momentum and then he knew it was the right thing because Steve was soon rocking in tandem with his ministrations. Bucky didn’t believe he’d seen Steve this lost in a simple act of passion since their first time together, hell, this was like their first time together it had been so terribly long.
Steve’s arms were wound around his shoulders keeping them as close as possible while Bucky still had room to touch him. Kiss his cheeks, the soft place behind his ears, the lids of his eyes.
Steve’s moans began deep in his throat, his eyes screwed shut, he abandoned their kissing to hide his face in the crook of Bucky’s neck as his orgasm began to crest.
Bucky never stopped leaving kisses to Steve’s throat as he felt him spill into his hand, his moaning morphing into huffs of breath against his damp flesh. Bucky came soon after with the breathy pleading of his name on Steve’s tongue. His own chest felt tight with that sound and in the afterglow the room fell quiet, sans the rumbling of thunder just outside the window.
Steve had yet to let go, or look up, simply held tight, the cries from earlier making themselves known once more. “Don’t leave me again…please…I won’t survive it…”
Ignoring the mess between them Bucky pressed their foreheads together, chest to chest. “I’m never leaving you again, sweetheart.”
“I don’t wanna do this anymore,” he sobbed, bring one hand up to cover his face. “I-I just can’t…”
The lustful film around Bucky’s vision began to lift and was replaced with worry. “Do what anymore?”
“Cap…SHIELD…don’t wanna do it anymore…I’m sorry…” he continued to cry, “Jesus I’m sorry I’m so sorry…”
And they were back at ‘calm down’ mission, “Hey, you don’t gotta do anything you don’t wanna…you know what? Hey, look at me, you know what?”
And Steve did, schooling his face into some semblance of control and failing spectacularly. “What…”
“We can both quit all this bullshit…you and me…finally settle down somewhere like we deserved a hundred years ago. Just you and me…”
For the first time since they entered the hotel room Steve’s eyes lightened. “You would do that…”
“Are you kidding me baby-doll?” Bucky wanted to laugh, “I’d follow you to the moon and back, but since we don’t have to go that far I’ll settle for a nice house and a dog.”
It was like Christmas when Steve finally chuckled, just in the slightest, softly, a subtle vibration in his chest. He took a deep and unsteady breath, “I-I’d like a dog…”
“Then you’re getting a dog,” Bucky grinned, kissing him on the corner of his mouth, and to his cheek, “It’s time we take care of ourselves instead of everyone else.”
“Yeah,” he nodded, “I think so.”
They took a long shower after that, re-memorizing each other’s bodies beneath the hot water and hotel soap. Foregoing washcloths and using hands. It wasn’t until they were both lying in bed that Steve switched the roles and pulled Bucky into his arms, just enough to where Bucky could settle his ear over Steve’s heart. Steady, calm, and most important. Here.
“I love you Bucky. I’m so sorry I didn’t get you out sooner.” it was a quiet declaration in the dark, the storm had settled from flashing lightening to pattering rain against the glass outside their 5th story room.
Bucky turned his face upwards, balancing his chin on Steve’s chest. “How about we stop with the apologies, huh? You and I both know you did everything in your God-given power to get me back. So why don’t we leave it at that.” he moved up far enough to mimic what Steve had been doing earlier, pressing himself underneath Steve’s chin and relishing the warmth he found there. “And I love you too punk. Never a day went by I didn’t…even there.”
Steve’s arms went up around him, pulling the blankets up, tucking them over them both. Bucky felt lips in his hair and a peace he’d forgotten exist send ripples of goosebumps over his flesh as Steve combed through his damp hair with his fingers and a breath of whisper next to his ear. “Day didn’t go by I didn’t love you either…and it never will.”
And in the darkness of a strange hotel, despite the chaos that had reigned only a few days, the two found sleep.