“It’s gunna be okay Buck” the words replayed over and over in Bucky’s head as he stared at the old figure on the park bench. The burning in his throat becoming unbearable as Sam took off at a charge across the yard towards him. Fury radiating from the Falcon.
Bucky’s sniper eyes picked up on Banner’s trembling figure as he began to shut down the machine.
“You okay big guy?” Bucky kept his tone soft as he looked over at him. Large, heartbroken eyes met his and he swallowed thickly as the Hulk spoke softly.
“Better than you, but probably not much” Bucky let out a soft smile at the response. A smile which promptly died on his lips as an old voice called across the field.
“Bucky?!” he turned to see Steve standing, looking at him with hopeful eyes and Sam standing next to him, arms crossed over his chest and face pinched. Steve raised a hand and Bucky swallowed thickly as Banner spoke softly again.
“You don’t have to go over there if you don’t want to, you don’t owe him anything Sergeant” Bucky looked at him and watched the giant green head nod in reassurance. He let out a shaky breath, ignoring his name being called a second time. He felt his eyes sting and turned away from the voice calling him and reached for one of the boxes.
“D-do you need a hand with this stuff?” Banner clearly saw it for what it was and smiled gently.
“Sure, thanks man” Bucky tried to smile and if a tear or two escaped his eye as he piled into Banner’s truck, the scientist was graceful enough not to mention it.
“Bucky!” Steve gaped in fear as his best friend walked away, shoulders slumped and trudging steps as he piled into the old truck. He turned back to Sam who was absolutely fuming.
“Sam-“ Sam held up a finger and clenched his jaw.
“No. Right now, you don’t get to talk. We gotta get back to To- Pepper’s place. Whatever the hell your explanation is, they deserve to hear it from you.” Steve’s eyes filled with tears as Sam shook his head and began walking to his own car. The same one the three of them had driven to the funeral that morning.
He began following Sam to the car nervously. He thought they’d be happy for him, that he’d finally live the life that Tony and Natasha had been telling him to get. But now, surrounded by tension and that positively haunted look in Bucky’s eyes that he could see even from that far away. Steve realized that he’d miscalculated. Now, instead of being excited at the idea of going back and explaining the long beautiful life he’d had with Peggy, he was terrified.
Wanda was screaming – well actually she was crying but Steve preferred to call it screaming because the alternative hurt too much. Sam was in the kitchen, looking over the island counter as he pretended to wash dishes. Banner had left, not wanting to deal with the fallout and Dr. Strange was sitting on the couch staring at the cup of tea in his hands. Steve couldn’t decide who looked scarier, Clint or Pepper. The group all stared quietly as Wanda continued to spew out words, “selfish” and “uncaring” appearing several times in her tirade. Steve shuffled in his seat, old eyes looking to his best friend for some form of support.
When he finally looked in Bucky's eyes, he wished he hadn't.
Bucky's eyes were completely shuttered off, normally that would mean no one could read him. But Steve knew his best friend and knew exactly what that look meant.
He'd made a mistake.
A very big one.
He slowly leaned forward and scratched out in his old man voice as he reached out a hand. As much as he adored Wanda, she wasn’t his concern right now.
"Buck, I can explain-" Bucky lurched away as though he'd been burned and let out a cold snarl.
"Don't touch me" Wanda stopped mid-rant at the gutted tone and the group all looked over at Bucky as Sam slowly put it together, eyes widening in shock as he glanced between the two for several moments.
"Oh my God, you didn't know either, did you James?" Bucky shook his head tiredly and wrapped his arms around himself as he sniffed, looking up at Sam.
"You really think I would've just let him walk away without saying anything?" Steve's brow furrowed in confusion.
"Say what? What're you talking about Bucky?" Bucky let out a horrid imitation of a laugh and even Strange flinched.
"Nothin', doesn't matter now, you just kept me from wastin’ my breath is all" Steve looked at him as ice cold dread began to fill his stomach.
"Bucky, please, what were you going to tell me? I deserve to-"
"You deserve nothing!" The whole room froze as a distraught Pepper Potts paraded back into the room, cutting Steve off mid sentence as she finally snapped.
"You're fucking selfish Captain Rogers, and I don't want you in my home! What about your family here huh!? Why were we forgotten for you to go off after some girl you knew for what, a year!? How dare you abandon us - how dare you take her future from her to fill your own selfish desires. I used to dream that Morgan would find a man like you - one who respects people. Now, you're the one I should be warning her about, get out." By the time the rant was over Pepper's voice was dangerously low and the tears were sliding down her face and dripping off her chin. Bucky took a silent moment to be grateful that Happy had taken Morgan for a cheeseburger.
Steve made an aborted move to stand and Pepper set her jaw, pointing at the door.
"Get out, Captain" Steve gaped at her as tears stung his eyes and he choked out to his friend desperately.
"Sam?" Sam shook his head and that was when Bucky realized the veteran was crying as well.
"You know, I'm all for you hanging up the shield, getting that nice quiet life you deserved, but did you really have to do it like this? Why weren't we enough? Why wasn't Peggy's happiness enough? I don't understand why you had to walk away from the people who care about you to chase a ghost" Steve felt the wind knock out of his sails at Sam's soft tone. Bucky suddenly swallowed thickly and stepped forward.
"Sam, I'm gunna go. You gunna be okay?" Sam sent the Sergeant a grateful smile and nodded.
"Yeah man, you want a lift?" Bucky shook his head, pointedly ignoring Steve's desperate voice repeatedly saying his name with increasing panic.
"Naw, I'm good. I just – I can’t be here anymore" Sam nodded in understanding as Strange stood.
“Allow me to offer you a lift sergeant Barnes, we’re heading the same way and honestly I don’t care enough to be here” the doctor’s tone was passive, but Bucky could see the compassion in his eyes and smiled gratefully.
“Sure, if you don’t mind” Strange nodded and the two stepped outside, walking away from the commotion still carrying on in the cabin as they headed to his Jaguar. Bucky was at the door to the car before a broken voice echoed behind him.
“Bucky, please” he turned as Steve walked his way over as quickly as possible in his old age. He took a calming breath and closed his eyes, noticing that Strange had stopped from getting into the car, pretending to look out at the property as he remained a silent support for the man he barely knew.
“Not right now Steve-“
“No, Bucky, right now. I need you t-“ Bucky felt the last of his resolve snap as the tears he’d been fighting for the last several hours finally let go.
“And I needed you!” Steve stopped short and Bucky was faintly aware of the audience collecting on the porch.
“You promised, ‘Till the end of the line. You know, I could’ve accepted that you went back but – but look at me – did you even look for me?” guilt poured off the Captain in waves and Bucky sniffed in spite of himself, choking back a sob.
“I couldn’t, Bucky you know-“
“Bullshit” Steve Bucky both looked over as Strange interrupted him.
“If you can go back in time and take a woman’s marriage and family away, you sure as Hell can stop torture.” Steve inhaled sharply as Bucky looked up at him.
“Y-you didn’t even try?” tears slid down Steve’s face at Bucky’s broken tone. Bucky shook his head and wiped his eyes.
“Buck-“ the brunette’s gaze shut Steve up as he opened the passenger door.
“I never want to see you again” Steve let out a broken cry and grabbed him.
“No, Bucky please-“ Bucky lurched away again and looked at him.
“Was she worth it Steve? Was it all worth it?” Steve hesitated and Bucky wiped his eyes again, moving to get in the car.
“Goodbye Steve” Strange climbed into the car and revved the engine in warning as Steve began banging on the window, tears falling unabashedly from his eyes as desperation coloured his tone.
“Bucky!” Strange took off down the laneway, Steve’s cries fading into the distance.
The two pulled up to the Sanctum in silence, Bucky’s tears had dried but he remained a shadow as they climbed out of the car, following him into the building.
“Where would you like to go?” Bucky looked down at his hands and shrugged his shoulders.
“Don’t really have anywhere to go, thanks for the ride Doc, I’ll get out of your hair.” Strange gently placed a hand on his shoulder and gave him a smile Bucky didn’t even know he could give.
“How about Wakanda to start?” Bucky nodded and looked at him with an unspoken question.
“I won’t reveal where you are, if Rogers finds out, it was from someone else” Bucky nodded in gratitude as Strange opened the portal.
“Thank you Dr. Strange” he moved to step through the portal when the man’s deep baritone spoke again.
“Barnes, I know you don’t believe me right now, but I promise you, it’s going to be okay” Bucky gave him a sad smile and turned back to the portal, letting out a humourless laugh.
“No offense, but you’re the second Steve who’s said that to me today, forgive me if I don’t believe you.” Strange could only look on sadly as the broken man walked through, portal closing behind him.
“Good morning White Wolf!” Bucky’s lips quirked up in spite of himself as Shuri’s voice echoed from his left. He looked over from where he was attending his goats as she hopped the fence and bounced over. In the three months since his return, the relationship he had developed with the youngest member of the royal family ended up becoming the thing he cherished most.
She was the only one that could keep the heartache at bay most days.
“Good morning princess.” Shuri grinned and nudged his shoulder with her own as they watched the goats.
“You know, you may be the only person I actually let call me princess” Bucky breathed a laugh and sent her a gentle smile. The two stood in a comfortable silence before Shuri gently took his vibranium hand in hers. He furrowed his brows and looked at the girl in concern.
“Shuri?” she kept her eyes trained on the goats as she spoke softly.
“Wakanda was not immune to everything, as you know. My brother and my mother have been so busy trying to get everything going again, checking in on everyone-“
“Anyone checking in on you?” She smiled at the New Yorker’s kind tone and swung their hands.
“You are, I am grateful you came back Bucky. I’m glad you came home” Bucky gently pulled her into his side and kissed her forehead, she reminded him so much of Becca.
“As much as you’re filling me with warm and fuzzies, what brings you all the way out here, I know it’s not just a hello” Shuri laughed and nodded in agreement.
“This is true, I wanted to let you know that several of your friends have been asking about you” Bucky cocked an eyebrow as she continued.
“T’Challa gave permission to Sam and Wanda to come as his guests – but I wouldn’t let him invite Steve” Bucky felt his heart melt and swallowed thickly.
“I don’t want to cause any trouble.” Shuri’s sharp gaze shut him up and she suddenly became serious.
“This is your home too James, I won’t let you feel unsafe here. Besides, my brother is still salty over Steve’s choice too. Where do you think I learned how to be so petty?” Bucky barked out a surprised laugh and Shuri beamed, tugging his hand.
“Go shower because you stink, and then come to the city, there is a food festival on and T’Challa is too busy and Nakia and I don’t want to go alone” Bucky smirked and nodded, bowing in an exaggerated manner as she cackled.
“Who would I be to turn down an invitation to dinner with the Royal family, your highness” Shuri pushed him away and watched as he walked back into his hut to freshen up, gaze going soft and smile fading as she opened up her Kimoyo Beads and watched Okoye’s face appear.
“Your majesty” Shuri looked at the general and gave a sad smile.
“He’s lost more weight Okoye, he’s not well” Okoye nodded knowingly and gave the princess a sympathetic look.
“He has a broken heart. It will take time to heal, hopefully a visit from his friends can help. We are doing all we can” Shuri nodded and shut off the transmission as Bucky stepped back out, offering his arm to the girl as they headed towards her hovercar.
“He did not!” Nakia gasped, looking between the two as they munched away on some street food. Shuri raised her hand to the sky and slapped Bucky’s shoulder, causing him to choke on his drink.
“Hand to Bast, he just pointed a vibranium finger at that rhino and said no, I thought W’Kabi was going to faint!” Bucky blushed as the women continued to laugh.
“Hey! I thought we were going to gossip about T’Challa, not me!?” Nakia grinned and pulled him into a side-hug.
“But your stories are so much funnier!” the trio continued to walk down the street when suddenly Okoye rushed towards them, chest heaving.
“Okoye?” Nakia rushed towards her in concern and Shuri immediately went tense next to Bucky, who began to assess their surroundings. Okoye was clearly concerned, but there seemed to be no immediate danger. Bucky gently circled a hand around Shuri’s slim wrist in what he hoped was a comforting manner, hoping his own concern didn’t show as she reached up to gently grab his arm.
“My apologies your majesties, Sergeant Barnes. Your presence is required at the palace immediately.” Bucky gently pulled away from her and gave the young girl a comforting smile.
“I’m sure it’s fine princess, I’ll be home all night if you need anything okay?” Shuri nodded shakily, only to be cut off before she could thank him as Okoye stepped forward again.
“Apologies Sargeant, but you are needed there as well.” Bucky looked at her in concern.
“Why?” Okoye looked at him and suddenly the two were looking at each other as soldiers, not friends.
“It would be better if we just showed you.”
The hallway to the throne room had never felt so long as Bucky slowly walked towards the door. He could make out Wanda and Sam’s voices, but was surprised to hear Dr. Strange’s deep tone as well. As he walked Bucky could only make out bits and pieces of the dialogue, and found himself incredibly grateful for Okoye at his side. He also found himself reassured at the knowledge that Nakia, Shuri and T’Challa were on the other side of the door, but there was nothing to completely dissolve his nerves.
“Sergeant Barnes,” he turned to Okoye’s voice and saw her standing next to him, eyes steady.
“It’s bad isn’t it?” Okoye’s voice showed no inflection, but her words provided him with the comfort he didn’t know he needed.
“As far as I am concerned, you are a citizen of Wakanda, whatever lies on the other side of this door, know that I will protect you the same way I protect the rest of our people. You say the word, and we will leave” Bucky gave her a tiny smile and he chuckled gently.
“So it is that bad” the two shared a giggle and took a minute to compose themselves, Okoye nodding to the guard to open the door.
“We shall see.”
The voices all went silent as the two walked in, Okoye remained a steady presence at his side as he surveyed the room.
T’Challa was sitting on his throne, Nakia standing to his right and Shuri on his left as he kept his fist pressed to his lips. Shuri’s eyes were wide and Nakia was looking at Bucky with such compassion he had to look away, continuing his scan across the room.
Wanda was standing there with tear stains on her cheeks, immediately crossing over and hugging Bucky tightly. He embraced her immediately and looked over her shoulder at Sam who was standing with his hands in his pockets, body screaming wariness as they locked eyes. Sam heaved a sigh and shook his head as Bucky looked over at Strange, who was leaning against the window.
“Nice of you to finally join us Barnes” Wanda stepped out of his embrace and wiped her eyes as Strange pushed off the window. Bucky nodded at Sam in greeting and took the hand extended to him.
“Dr. Strange, long time no see. What’s going on?” he posed the question to the sorcerer, but his eyes locked on Sam’s as the room remained in a tense silence. Sam slowly walked over and clapped his shoulder.
“It’s hard to explain man, it may be better to just show you” Bucky furrowed his brow and watched as another member of the Dora Milaje moved towards the door on the opposite end of the room, looking to her King for the go-ahead. Okoye silently came up behind Bucky as T’Challa nodded and the door swung open.
A voice rang out down the hallway and Bucky felt his heart stop. A figure he’d recognize anywhere burst through the newly opened door in a filthy stealth suit and wild eyes.
“Where is he dammit- Bucky?!” Bucky’s jaw dropped open as he was suddenly tackled in an embrace, barely having time to react before Okoye was hauling the man off of him. The general pointed her spear at him and snarled.
“One more step and it will be your last” Bucky gaped, all he could hear was his blood rushing in his ears and he could feel his heartbeat in his throat.
“Buck, Bucky it’s me” unforgettable blue eyes bore into his and Bucky found he couldn’t catch his breath. Sam’s brows furrowed in concern as he slowly moved forward.
“Hey Barnes, you with me man?” Bucky blinked hard and shook his head, looking at him again. The young man stepped forward with tear-filled eyes and reached out to touch him again.
“Buck it’s me, it’s Steve.” Bucky’s world began to narrow as reality unfolded in front of him.
Standing in front of him was none other that Steven Grant Rogers.
A young Steven Grant Rogers.
Bucky began hyperventilating as his hearing faded and the last thing he remembered was Shuri’s scream of terror and the blurry sight of Sam rushing forward as his eyes rolled back, welcoming the darkness that consumed him.
**Trigger Warning: Mild Panic Attack**
This chapter is more of a quick filler/set up so I can move the plot along.
“Hey, hey easy man, you’re okay” Bucky blinked as he groaned, sitting up and taking in his surroundings. He was laying on one of the couches in the throne room, alone with the exception of Shuri, Sam and Wanda. He could hear Okoye’s stern tone through the door and suddenly the events of the day slammed back into him like a train. He lurched up and slammed his back into the wall as his eyes widened.
“What happened!? Where is he?! He can’t be here!” Shuri looked at him in concern and Sam gently shoved them out of the way, kneeling in front of the ex-assassin.
“Bucky, listen to me. You’re having a panic attack okay? I need you to focus on me, just breathe with me Barnes” Bucky looked at the warm face of his friend and began to focus on his breathing as Sam smiled encouragingly.
“Great, awesome man, that’s it” once Bucky got himself calmed down, Sam stood back up again as Shuri looked at the two guests, eyes suddenly steely and reminding everyone that she was, in fact, a princess.
“Mr. Wilson, I suggest you explain, now.”
Steve’s eyes were glued to Bucky’s face as Strange continued speaking.
“My best guess would be that this Captain Rogers is from another universe, and the me in that universe elected to send him here for whatever reason.” T’Challa furrowed his brow as Nakia spoke up softly.
“So, to make sure I understand. One of your own portals opened up, in your Sanctum and a young Steve Rogers fell out – and you have no idea why?” Strange gave a rueful smile and nodded.
“I’m afraid so, I only ever engaged in creating portals within our known universe, I confess I had no idea that this was possible until he fell into my lap – quite literally.” Bucky kept his face carefully blank as Sam continued.
“We weren’t even going to bring him here, but he said he would find you with or without us. At least if we’re here, you’re not alone.” Bucky couldn’t tell if the last bit was aimed at him or Steve, but he was grateful none the less. Steve finally spoke, voice rough with emotion as he never took his eyes off Bucky.
“Stop talking about me like I’m not right here,” he leaned forward and looked at Bucky earnestly.
“Buck, can we talk, priva-“
“No.” Bucky suddenly began shaking his head, standing abruptly and heading for the door. Steve jumping to his feet behind him.
“Bucky! Buck, please. I promise I can explain!” Bucky continued his charge to the door and Steve grabbed his arm.
“Don’t touch me” Bucky fleetingly wondered how many times he’d make that demand as Steve released his hand gently. Tears fell from shocking blue eyes and Bucky bit his lip nervously as Steve hovered next to him. The two gazed at each other for several moments and Steve whispered softly.
“I never thought I’d see you again” Bucky rolled his jaw and looked away.
“Don’t worry, you won’t.” Steve gaped as Bucky stormed out the door, Okoye following behind him protectively.
“Sergeant Barnes, I want to apologize-“ Bucky turned and looked at the general as they exited the palace.
“Did you know he was there?” Okoye blinked owlishly at him and swallowed before regaining her composure.
“I did, however-“ Bucky snarled.
“I thought you said you’d protect me. I asked for nothing when I got here, other than that I didn’t have to see Steve. That was all I asked you, and what did you do, you led him to my front door” Okoye held her head high as Bucky seethed.
“I’m sorry” Bucky heaved a breath and shook his head, resting his hands on his hips, looking away as he spoke.
“I’m leaving, don’t try to find me.” Okoye’s professional demeanour fell apart as Bucky turned on his heel, heading for the long path back to his hut.
“James, James!” Bucky didn’t turn around, not wanting her to see the tears streaming down his face.
Okoye watched him go, chest heaving and eyes filling with tears before turning and rushing back to the palace.
Shuri burst through the door of the hut, eyes filling with tears as she raced around the small abode, the others all standing in the door. T’Challa stepped forward and gently placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Shuri…” Shuri jerked away as tears fell from her cheeks.
“No! He wouldn’t just leave like this!” she tore through the hut to the bedroom and looked down at the bed. Bucky’s stuff was gone, but sitting on the pillow was a folded piece of paper, Shuri written on it in nice writing. She slowly sat down and wiped her eyes as she flipped it open.
Sorry I couldn’t say bye in person. Everything just happened so fast and I had to go. I wish I could’ve stayed longer.
Take care of yourself kiddo, you’re a damn genius and everyone knows it. But you’re young, you deserve to smile and laugh and be young. I’d like to think that our conversations helped in some way with that. I know you sure helped me.
Now, because you are a genius, I’ve enclosed my coordinates so you know where I am – I trust you’ll keep it between us, and that you’re smart enough to figure out how to reach me if you need me.
Seeing Steve again opened up a wound I had thought was healed, maybe some day I’ll be able to come back to Wakanda. But I need to be away right now.
Take care of my goats, and thank your brother and mother for me. I hope to see you again someday.
Shuri looked down at the coordinates scrawled on the bottom and smiled, tucking the folded paper into her pocket as the voices from the main room came back into focus. Her brother’s tone even and hard.
“So, would you like to explain to me why Captain Rogers is once again young and in my country?” Shuri stepped into Nakia’s embrace as Wanda spoke up shakily.
“That’s just it, it’s a different Steve” at Nakia’s confused hum and Sam nodded.
“Yeah, we got two Steves.” Okoye looked at them sharply.
“So where is the other one?” Sam crossed his arms and shook his head.
“DC. Do we have any idea where Bucky could have gone?” Shuri shook her head, biting her lip to keep from smiling.
Bucky sat on a bench, looking over the Vistula River as he looked down at his hands. He needed to work on his Polish, but he could make this work. He knew it wouldn’t be long before he heard from Shuri, she may be a princess, but she was still a child.
He remembered the look on that Steve’s face, a look he didn’t recognize on his former best friend’s features that kept him anxious. Bucky wasn’t stupid, he knew it wouldn’t be long before he saw that face again either. He sighed heavily and tilted his head up to look at the stars beginning to pop out in the evening sky.
He needed to find a place to live, he couldn’t hide in the Dragon Cave forever. He stood and smiled politely at the couple walking past him, shoving his hands in the pockets of his hoodie as he walked toward the main square, the elderly woman at the pretzel stand seemed to like him, maybe she’d give him a job.
Sam would be proud, he hoped Sam was okay. He hadn’t exactly been the best friend to him lately. But Sam had always stressed the importance of self-care, and right now, self-care meant staying as far away from everyone – as far away from Steve – as possible.
No matter which Steve it was.
“Excuse me, princess?” Shuri looked over with guarded eyes as Steve walked into the room, scratching his beard hesitantly. It had been just shy of a month since Bucky had taken off to Krakow – not that Shuri would tell anyone where he was. Steve stopped several feet away from her and looked at his shoes.
He’d been staying in Bucky’s hut, tending to his goats and doing a very good job of staying out of Shuri’s way. But she knew he’d been asking around.
“I was wondering when you would come see me” she turned back to where she was fiddling with her newest upgrade to the Kimoyo Beads. She waited for several moments before looking over her shoulder at him again and finding herself stopping at his demeanour.
He was pale, which was unbelievable given the fact they were in Wakanda. His beard almost looked scraggly and the dark bags under his eyes were so deep that they almost looked like makeup. She turned to face him fully and Steve looked at her with broken eye.
“Please, I just want to know if he’s okay – is he safe?” Shuri swallowed thickly as his eyes bore into hers.
“What makes you think I –“
“Because I know Bucky, even if he’s not mine. You’re like his little sister, there’s no way he would’ve just taken off without telling you where he was” Shuri looked away sharply, unprepared for the truth of the statement. Steve wrung his hands as he stepped forward desperately.
“I know he doesn’t want to see me right now, I don’t know why but I know. And I don’t want to push – at least not yet. But I can’t live like this, not knowing anything” Shuri could feel her resolve cracking and tried one more time to deflect the conversation.
“If you care so much, why don’t you go back to your own Bucky, and leave mine to find peace?” Steve wiped his eye as a tear slid down his cheek and gave her a broken smile.
“Because my Bucky is dead.”
Bucky hovered over the stove as he watched the pierogis boil, personally he preferred fried but in the cold November weather the steam was a welcome reprieve from his cold apartment. The pretzel lady, Martyna, had been more that happy to give the “nice young man” a job. And for the first time in a while he’d been able to reveal his arm without her balking in horror.
He suspected it had to do with the fact she was practically blind.
Now every day he got up at three in the morning and circled to all of her stands, making sure they were clean, functioning and ready for the day before going to her house to help her make them. He’d sit quietly and listen to her tell him stories of her great country, having no idea that he’d been there when it had all happened.
Now, hovering over his batch of boiled food, he was hit with nostalgia. Turning almost instinctively to yell at Steve to get his scrawny ass to the table. The pain of the memory caused him to gasp as tears built up in his eyes.
He missed Steve.
But thinking about Steve was dangerous, because now – God help him – there were two Steves. Sure, one was a wrinkled prune of a man who physically couldn’t cause anymore problems, but still.
Sam must be having a ball.
Bucky drained his food and slowly plopped them into a bowl, wishing fleetingly that he had something else to go with them before moving to sit at his rickety table.
His apartment wasn’t much different from the one he’d been squatting in in Bucharest, but he was happy to report that he had a real bed this time. He even bought bed sheets.
God, he missed Wakanda.
He bit into one of the soft, yet bland dumplings when a melodic beep echoed from the lone Kimoyo Bead on the table. Concern filed his features as he shoved the bowl to the side, rolling the Kimoyo Bead closer and opening the channel.
“Bucky! How are you?” Bucky smiled softly, defenses lowering as he realized she was safe.
“I’m well princess, just – are you in a bathtub?” Shuri giggled and nodded her head proudly.
“Last time we spoke T’Challa caught me walking out of the closet, now he has a habit of yanking every closet door open as he passes. But he’d never interrupt a lady in the bathroom” Bucky huffed a laugh through his nose and looked at her fondly, watching as she bit her lip. His eyes narrowed and she looked away awkwardly.
“Shuri, what did you do?” she looked at him in panic and put her hands up in a placating manner.
“You have to promise you won’t get mad” icy dread slid through Bucky’s veins as he struggled to stay calm.
“Shuri, what did you do?!” she bit her lip nervously and looked at him with big eyes.
“So uh, the other Steve kind of knows where you are.”
Bucky sat on his dingy old couch, staring down at his shaking hands. He could hear the Kimoyo Bead’s continuous beeping and he knew Shuri would be desperately trying to call him back. He sighed shakily and leaned his head back against the couch, closing his eyes and revisiting their conversation from just hours before.
“You what!?” Bucky knew he was yelling, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. It was one thing for Steve to figure it out himself, it was another thing for someone he trusted to turn around and sell him out.
Bucky was getting real tired of this betrayed feeling.
“Please! Just let me explain-“ Bucky barked out a hysterical laugh as tears stung his eyes. He’d heard that line a lot lately too.
“Explain what? I trusted you! Seriously, am I the only person in the world who understands loyalty-“
“Bucky-“ he turned sharp eyes on her and she shut up, looking at him in a way she never had before. It made Bucky’s skin crawl.
“You do realize this is just another one of his games right? That he’s here and oh poor Steve, then once he gets bored he’ll fuck back off to wherever he’s from with his own Bucky – his own Shuri – and I’ll be stuck picking up the pieces again, you know that right?” Shuri looked at him as ger gaze suddenly softened.
“You’re terrified, aren’t you Bucky?” he shot his eyes off to the side, refusing to let her see the truth in her statement. She lowered her voice and continued.
“I interrogated him – so did Nakia. It was a one-way ticket Bucky, he can’t go back to his world.”
“Well I’m sure his friends appreciated that” he snarked and Shuri sighed deeply, trying to maintain her patience.
“They’re the ones who sent him. I guess the Snap happened differently in his world – Bucky, the other you is dead. Like, permanently dead” Bucky’s jaw fell open as he gaped at her.
“W-what?” Shuri shrugged and nodded.
“He didn’t tell me what happened, said it was a conversation he had to have with you first. But he did say that in his world you were gone and he couldn’t bring you back, and it was decided that the best thing for him was to plop him in a world where you still existed.” Bucky could feel himself shaking as her words sunk in.
In another world, Bucky Barnes was no more.
And in that world, Steve Rogers couldn’t handle it.
Shuri’s voice brought him back to the present and he looked at her with big eyes.
“He won’t see you until you’re ready. He just wanted to make sure you were safe.” Bucky’s hackles rose again and he almost rolled his eyes. Steve could be a talking horse and he’d still know what that meant.
The bastard was probably already on the damn plane here.
“I have to go” Shuri snapped her gaze up at him and gasped.
“Bucky-“ he squeezed his eyes shut at the tone and reached for the bead, talking over her as she attempted to stop him.
“Take care of yourself princess”.
Lying to Martyna had been the hardest part, especially when she insisted on giving him his last paycheck. It took him a good ten minutes after he ducked around the corner to compose himself enough to get to the airport so he didn’t miss his flight back to New York.
If he had to deal with any Steve, he was going to do it on home turf.
After all, all roads lead back to Brooklyn.
Sam Wilson liked to consider himself a patient man, but the Lord was testing him. It was bad enough that Steve had fucked off to the forties for a woman that had moved on from him. But now, Sam was stuck in the worst version of The Odd Couple.
Not only was Old Steve, well, old. But since Bucky had taken off six months ago, walking around in his haze of elderly depression over his friend’s reaction. He constantly badgered Sam about him, and between a sulky Old Cap, a frenzied search driven Cap, and being the new Cap.
Let’s just say Sam Wilson was running out of patience.
He sighed heavily as he stepped out of the shower, he was so worn out from dealing with the Steves that he’d been off his game on the mission and was now “benched” for the next month. He stuck his tongue out at Steve’s closed bedroom door as he trudged to the kitchen to make himself some three AM dinner, opening the fridge to check for leftovers.
“You always let aliens get the drop on you like that?” Sam jumped about a foot in the air and let out a very un-Captain-America-like squeal as he lunged for the light-switch.
Sitting at the kitchen table, looking entirely too proud of himself, was none other than the Winter Soldier.
Sam clapped his hand over his chest and groaned.
“You sonuvabith, how did you get in here?” Bucky merely quirked an eyebrow and Sam rolled his eyes.
“Right, stupid question. You hungry?” Bucky looked at him for a moment before speaking softly.
“I could eat.” Sam snorted and began to rummage through the fridge as he spoke.
“So you were the sniper that took out tall dark and slimy today huh?” Bucky smirked, drumming metal fingers on the table as Sam pulled out leftover pizza.
“Thanks for that Barnes, I appreciate it” Sam’s gaze softened and Bucky looked away uncomfortably.
“God knows you need someone watching your back Wilson, you’re a disgrace with that Shield” Sam barked out a laugh and handed Bucky a beer, pulling the pizza out of the oven as they sat quietly at the table. Sam was on his second slice before noticing Bucky hadn’t touched his.
“You don’t like pineapple?” Bucky ignored the question and looked at him.
“You’re not going to wake up Steve?” Sam munched on another slice and shook his head.
“Nope, way I see it, if you wanted to see him you’d come during his soaps so you know he’s awake” Bucky gaped at him for a minute before he snorted his own laugh, sipping his beer.
“Steve Rogers watches fucking soaps, unbelievable” Sam shot him a shit eating grin and snickered.
“Coronation Street to be precise” the two sat in a silence before they both started laughing, struggling to keep their voices down in the early morning darkness.
“So how’s he doing?” pizza gone and each nursing their third beers the two continued to talk quietly in the kitchen. Sam sighed heavily at the question and looked down at the bottle in his hand.
“Which one? They’re both a mess” Bucky hummed in question and Sam looked off to the side.
“Our Steve – he’s got a lot of guilt man, honestly I think he regrets his choice. Won’t mention his life at all and he’s not wearing his wedding ring anymore. Asks about you daily” Bucky bit his lip and began picking off his wrapper. Sam watched him before speaking softly.
“Young Steve though, that’s a different beast man” Bucky’s eyes flashed over to his, calculating.
“He’s like a drowning man Buck, I’ve never seen anyone that desperate. I think you should talk to him.” Bucky swallowed thickly and looked at Sam nervously.
“I won’t be a substitute for his own Bucky, Sam. I ain’t worth much but I’m worth more than that” Sam nodded and reclined in his chair, folding his hands behind his head.
“I know that man, you know I do – no matter what I got your back. Just tell me you’ll think about it?” Bucky nodded and Sam smiled as he changed the subject.
“So how long you been back?” Bucky smiled at the reprieve and Sam watched his shoulders relax.
“Couple months, m’back in Brooklyn.” Sam nodded and hummed.
“No place like home huh?” Bucky nodded and smiled ruefully.
“S’bittersweet ya know? Before the War, livin’ with Stevie was all I wanted but I’d never let myself admit it. Then wakin’ up now, finding out what I did about guys like me – that there was even a word for guys like me. I let myself hope that maybe. As soon as we finished with that giant grape I was gunna tell him, didn’t guarantee anything, but I was so ready to just try you know? Let myself at least try for something I wanted. Clearly that wasn’t in the cards for me” Sam hummed and looked at him for several long moments.
“Maybe not with this Steve” Bucky sent him a warning glare and Sam stubbornly continued.
“Young Steve hasn’t met Old Steve yet, Old Steve doesn’t even know he exists,” Sam waited for the surprise to fade off Bucky’s face before he continued softly.
“Once young Steve realized what Old Steve did – Bucky he was livid. I’ve never seen any Steve like that before. He’s been following you ever since.” Bucky looked down at his bottle and looked up at him.
“Do you trust him Sam?” Sam thought for several minutes before leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees.
“As much as I trust you? No. But, do I trust him enough to hear what he has to say? Yes.” Bucky felt his eyes sting and Sam’s eyes softened as the Soldier cleared his throat.
“H-he broke my heart Sam.”
“He broke my heart and he doesn’t even know it” Sam nodded and cocked his head to the side.
“You deserve closure Barnes, you deserve to tell Steve what he did to you, and you deserve to figure out what this other Steve wants from you.” Bucky nodded and Sam cracked another grin.
“And I deserve to have a sidekick with amazing sniper skills.” Bucky huffed a laugh and looked at him sideways.
“Fuck off Wilson – but you’re right, you do need a babysitter.” Sam smiled and nodded.
“That’s the spirit, now, I’ll talk to Fury about getting you cleared for the field. You let me know when you’re ready to see Steve – whichever one. Don’t want you to do it alone” the two sat in a comfortable silence as Sam finished his beer and looked at the clock.
“Well, it’s five in the morning, and that geriatric disaster gets up at six. So I’m going to go to bed because I deserve to sleep in. I trust you can let yourself out?” he turned from where he was setting their dishes in the sink only to find an empty chair.
“Damn man, that’s so creepy!”
“Sam – Sam wake up!” Sam groaned as his shoulder continued to shake violently.
“Wha- what! What’s wrong?!” he sprung to his feet to see Steve looking at him, still in his pajamas with tears in his old eyes. Sam looked at the clock and whimpered, falling back onto the bed.
“Jesus Christ Steve, I’ve been in bed for literally one hour. One hour Steve-“
“Why didn’t you wake me up!?” Steve smacked him again and Sam winced, realizing that under all those years, that serum still held the strength it always had. Sam blinked and saw the fury and betrayal in his eyes as he rushed after the retired hero and into the kitchen.
Where the beer bottles and dishes still sat.
“Shit – look, Steve-“
“He was here! He was here and you didn’t tell me!” Steve’s eyes were wild as Sam let him vent.
“What the Hell Sam! You know how much I need to see him, and he was here and you didn’t say anything?!” Sam breathed deeply through his nose and looked at him patiently.
“He’s not ready to see you yet Steve, I won’t force him to” Steve gave him a hard look and slammed his hand on the table.
“Dammit Sam! I’m 180 years old, I can’t wait forever-“
“Well you’re just gunna have to suck it up then aren’t you!” Steve balked as Sam slammed his own hands down, leveling him with a dangerous look as he finally snapped.
“I’ve tried to be patient, I’ve tried to understand your position. But every fucking day I wake up and see you I’m reminded that I wasn’t enough, that our friendship wasn’t enough for you to stay. It kills me Steve. It kills me, and I’ve only known you for what, ten years maybe. Bucky’s known you your entire life, he’s fought for you and stood by you through everything – you said it yourself, even when I had nothing, I had Bucky. You walked out on him too Steve, your actions told him he wasn’t good enough. And to top it all off, you did nothing to save him. You went back and lived a whole life knowing exactly what was happening to him and you. Did. Nothing. You’re the one who walked out on him Steve, you don’t get to be mad that he doesn’t want you around!” Steve collapsed into a kitchen chair, suddenly looking his age as Sam heaved a breath, shaking his head and looking away as the tension in the kitchen built.
“So yeah Steve, when he shows up at three in the morning with dark bags under his eyes and looking a little under fed, you can bet your ass I’m gunna have some beer and pizza with him while you snore away in the next room, and no, I won't feel obligated to wake you up.” Sam turned and began to shuffle back to his bedroom, pausing at the doorway to turn around again.
“He saved my life yesterday. With Nat and Tony gone, and you retired, I’m in the field alone. If Barnes hadn’t shown up when he did, you’d be out a roommate. Thanks for checking in on me though” Steve swallowed as the gravity of Sam’s statement weighed on him. He’d completely forgotten about Sam’s mission. He rested his elbows on his knees and buried his face in his hands as his throat burned.
“I’m going to bed, keep it down yeah?” Steve could do little more than nod around the lump in his throat as Sam shuffled back to bed. Once he was sure Sam was in bed, Steve buried his face in his arms and cried.
“Oh God, what have I done?”
“That is the last time I let you use the Shield!” Bucky howled a laugh as they exited the Quinjet, still dirty and bruised from their mission in Hungary.
“It’s not my fault you’re not strong enough to catch it.” Sam spluttered and playfully swung at him.
“Strength has nothing to do with it, you can bench press a car” their bickering was cut short as Wanda suddenly ran up, eyes wide.
“I had nothing to do with this! I tried to stop him I promise!” She gripped both Bucky and Sam as they looked at her in shock.
“What? Wanda what’s going on-“
As much as Bucky liked to tease Sam, he had to admit he really appreciated how the Captain suddenly stepped between him and their guests, chest puffed out and eyes steely.
He glanced over Sam’s shoulder and swallowed thickly. Standing in front of them was Nick Fury, Shuri and the young Steve Rogers.
Bucky heaved a sigh and patted Sam’s shoulder, stepping around him.
“Stand down Sam, couldn’t avoid it forever” Sam looked at him with piercing eyes and murmured softly.
“Want me to come with you?” Bucky quirked a smile and looked over at Wanda.
“I got a better idea, Wanda, page everyone. I think we’re all entitled to an explanation here.” Steve blinked at him nervously and Wanda glanced at Bucky, unspoken question hanging in the air.
“Yeah, get the old man too.” She nodded and swiftly walked out of the hangar, bodily shouldering Fury on her way out. Sam looked at him and sighed heavily as Steve shuffled self-consciously, watching as Bucky walked behind her, ignoring everyone.
“Rogers, you better have a damn good story.”
Pepper almost turned on her heel when she saw Old Steve on the couch, but one quiet “please” from Bucky left her falling heavily into the chair farthest from him. Bruce and Thor both stood off to the side, not fully understanding why they were asked to come back. Clint was channeling his inner Nat, picking his nails with a knife as he stared the old man down. Rhodey looked constipated and Strange looked bored.
Bucky took a deep breath before stepping into the room, grateful for Wanda and Sam on either side. Old Steve made an audible gasp and moved to stand, only for Wanda to shove him back down with a red tendril. Sam clapped his hands to get everyone’s attention.
“Hey guys, we got you all here because we have a development that we’ve been trying to deal with for a while and given the fact that it is now quite permanent and literally walked through the front door. We figured it would be best to get everyone together to all get the same info at once – because yes it does affect all of us.” Scott and Peter exchanged a quiet high-five at being included and Sam nodded at Fury.
Fury opened the door and Young Steve walked out as the room exploded, his eyes only leaving Bucky’s to look at his other self, lip curling in obvious distain. Clint’s knife clattered to the ground as he let out a yell.
“What the fuck is going on here!?”
“So let me get this straight, our Steve is still old, but this Steve is a real Steve from another world who was transported here by Stephen Strange – but not our Stephen Strange – to see Bucky but not his Bucky because his Bucky is dead.” Peter looked around for clarification and Scott pinched his nose.
“I have a headache” Rhodey nodded in agreement.
“We do have a lot of Steves now” the group all collectively nodded and Thor stepped forward.
“I propose a method of categorization, Old Steve, he shall be Steve One, Dr. Strange, you shall be Steve Two and uh, you, uh new Steve, you shall be Steve Three.” The group blinked and Strange let out a scoff.
“Absolutely not, I am a Doctor, so addressing me by my title should be more than enough. However you wish to distinguish these two means nothing to me.” Pepper nodded in agreement and Thor awkwardly stepped back to the wall, Bruce setting an enormous comforting hand on his shoulder.
“Well, how about this – to make it easier. New Steve, are you alright if we call you Steven? Just to keep things easy when the two of you are together?” Young Steve – or Steven nodded his head softly and Bruce smiled kindly.
“Thank you, now please, Steven, tell us what happened?” the bearded captain inhaled deeply as he spoke, eyes trained on his hands.
“Our worlds – according to my Dr. Strange – are almost identical, they just kind of swap I guess when it comes to the Snap” Steven fiddled with his hands nervously and looked around the room.
“Here, I guess it was Strange, Sam, T’Challa, Scott, Peter, Wanda and uh, and you Buck” he bore into Bucky’s eyes with his own and cleared his throat as they filled with tears.
“B-but in my world it was different, we lost Natasha, Thor, Banner, Rhodey, Clint, Okoye and Shuri. After, I was so torn down, so broken, Wanda had my Bucky take me away from everything. We uh, we just lived a quiet life until Tony made headway with the Stones. Once we knew what had to happen, we came right back – but we didn’t have all the info, and I lost everything. We beat Thanos but, my Bucky was gone and I couldn’t get him back no matter how hard I tried. I just gave up, so when the opportunity rose for me to live in a world where you were still here – God I didn’t even look back” his eyes begged Bucky to understand everything he wasn’t saying and Clint laughed harshly.
“Oh? So this is an all Steve thing, just fucking off and leaving everyone behind? And here I thought we were special” Steven turned around and pointed an infuriated finger at Clint.
“Don’t you dare compare me to him! Me leaving was Nat’s idea! She put it all together behind my back! I didn’t walk out on my team, they let me go! I didn’t lie my way here, I was gifted it!” Clint clicked his jaw shut and Steve snarled.
“Then why’d they send you here then? Huh, what made you so special they had to send you to another god damn planet so you could take someone else’s Bucky!?” the two squared off in a terrifying manner and the group looked at them nervously as Steve yelled.
“Everyone here is hating me for leaving to the past to be with the woman I loved – I’m the monster. But your team not only let you leave, they opened the God damn door for you?! What made you so special huh! What made it okay for you to leave and not me!”
“Because I loved him!” Steven’s straggled scream sucked all the oxygen out of the room and Bucky faltered, grateful for Sam’s presence. Steven stared his older self down as tears fell from his face, whispering brokenly.
“I loved him, and I walked away from everything and my team made me come back. We could have been happy, they saw that. I was nothing after – a liability. It was best for everyone.” He narrowed in on the older man and growled.
“So what makes me so special you ask? I’m special because Bucky made me special” Steve stumbled back and sat down again, the room staring in silence as Steven glanced around the room, eyes finally landing back on Bucky.
“I was special because I had you – and no one else needs to know about us than you and me, so before you ask, no I’m not going to parade his memory out like a damn show pony to prove my validity. He deserves more. I’m not here to cause trouble, I don’t want the Shield, I don’t want to fight. I just wanted to live in a world that still had the man I loved in it” Bucky stared at him and swallowed thickly as Steven wiped his eyes. He took one more look around the room before strutting out the door, leaving a heavy silence behind him.
"Steven Grant Rogers, even when you were 100 pounds soaking wet you were about as sneaky as a bull in a China shop." Steve froze, staring at the back of his best friend's head as he sat on the roof of the rebuilt Avengers compound. He slowly hobbled over and delicately sat down next to him, noting that - unlike everyone else - Bucky didn't ask of he needed assistance getting up or down.
He wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing yet.
The two sat in silence for several minutes, Bucky looking out at the trees and Steve staring at his estranged companion's face. There were new lines he didn't recognize, both laugh lines and lines of stress. Before, Steve would have quickly made a comment about Bucky aging. But he realized he didn't have the right to anymore
"Bucky-" Bucky held up his metal hand, tucking his chin down almost as though he was steeling himself for a blow. Finally he turned and stared right into Steve's old eyes, still bright and clear as always.
"I'm in love with you." Steve was sure his jaw was hanging open as he watched Bucky's entire frame suddenly lift, as though a monumental weight Steve had never realized he'd been carrying was suddenly lifted. He had already felt regret about Peggy, but now, hearing what he never believed he could from Bucky's mouth - and hearing what other Steve said.
Steve finally realized how wrong he'd been. He gaped as Bucky pushed forward, voice hoarse with just how painful his words were to get out.
"Been in love with you for as long as I can remember. But you got picked on so much already, couldn't risk you getting hurt even more cuz of me. Then, for a hot minute when you showed up and found me on that table I was so sure you felt the same way, that I could take that shot. But Peggy, oh God Peggy Carter. Who could ever compete with a woman like her, I just wrote you off," Bucky heaved a breath and Steve watched in horror as tears fell from his eyes.
"Who'd want a broken toy like me when they could have a dynamite gal like agent Carter? I had to let you go, it'd be damn selfish to ask you to stay with me when she was right there you know? That’d been fucking cruel. But w-when I woke up here, and not only was being Gay an actual word, it was okay, and you were still here too – God, I thought it was a sign. But then with Tony and the Accords and then Thanos, I tried to get you alone in Wakanda, but you were always so busy and you’d never let me come with you, said I deserved to rest,” Steve nodded in spite of himself, he remembered.
“Then I wake up, and I’ve been gone for five years – God I almost collapsed there and just cried, but then I had to go fight again and then Tony was dead and I couldn’t keep it in anymore and Sam made the mistake of asking me how I was doing and I just – “ Bucky barked out a hollow laugh and Steve flinched at the heartbroken eyes looking back at him. Bucky pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of his jacket pocket, making a noise somewhere between a sob and a laugh.
“Sam had me write it down, said it makes it seem “less big”, whatever that means. I thought it was so dumb, then when you said you were taking the Stones back, I knew, I knew I had to say it. S-so I wrote everything down, I was gunna look like a complete dumbass, standing there reading some stupid speech, shaking and stuttering in front of Sam and Bruce and God knows who else – and I had no idea if I even had a shot but damn I was gunna try because I deserved something good. But then, you weren’t back, and I thought you were dead and I had to walk away because I knew I’d fall apart.” Bucky shook his head and let out another self-deprecating laugh.
“Turned out reality was so much worse” Steve choked as Bucky looked at him with a sad smile. Steve wiped his own eyes and looked at him brokenly.
“Bucky, I swear if I’d known how you felt – I didn’t even think you were an option” Bucky pressed his tongue into his cheek and nodded.
“Because I wasn’t, not to you anyway”
“Buck-“ Bucky turned and looked at him sharply.
“You look me in the eye and tell me you’d give it all up for me – that you’d walk away from the life you had with her for me?” Steve wiped his eyes viciously and nodded.
“Yes, I would Buck. I swear-“ Bucky shook his head and looked out at the trees.
“You’ve always been a terrible liar Steve” Steve let out a pained sob and nodded. Bucky climbed to his feet and handed the letter to him.
“You keep it, I’ll always love you Stevie. But it hurts to much to be around you. S’the end of the line pal” Steve’s eyes widened in panic and he scrambled to his feet and grabbed him.
“No, no Buck please! I’m sure there’s something we can do, maybe Bruce can-“ Bucky pulled his hand back gently but firmly and shook his head.
“Naw Stevie, you made your bed, you don’t get to have your cake and eat it too” Steve clung to his hand and sobbed.
“Bucky I’m begging you-“
“I’m sorry Steve, let me go please” Steve heaved again and let him go. Bucky looked at him with anguished eyes and pressed a kiss to his knuckles.
“Goodbye Steve, take care of yourself okay?” he forced himself to keep walking as Steve cried out behind him desperately.
Wanda rested her head on Bucky’s shoulder as they sat on the couch in the common room, Shuri on his other side. Everyone else had filed out awkwardly after Steven's outburst, some torn with the new information about the relationship between the world's oldest BFFS, some confused with all the time travel.
But most of them were just too battle weary to care.
Shuri dozed lightly and Wanda spoke softly, ignoring the movie playing as she gently laced their fingers together.
“Are you alright?” Bucky hummed and nodded, pressing his lips to her hair and turning back to the screen.
“Yeah kiddo, I’m alright” Wanda waved her hand and the three of them were covered in a blanket.
“Are you gunna stay here tonight? Shuri leaves tomorrow” Bucky looked at her softly and smiled.
“Yeah darlin’ I’ll stay” Wanda smiled and curled up into his side and wrapped her arms around his waist. The two settled comfortably for several minutes and Wanda eventually whispered softly.
“I’m glad you’re here. It gets lonely.” Bucky looked down at the young girl as she watched the TV.
With Sam taking care of Old Steve and everyone else back to their lives, Wanda was completely alone in the compound.
“Hey, you ever been to Brooklyn?” She shook her head no and he could feel her smile against his shirt.
"Well, I gotta spare bedroom no one's using, and my place doesn't make as many bump-in-the-nights as this one. Why don't you come stay with me for a bit? Or at least until you find something better?" Wanda didn't argue and Bucky rested his cheek on her head, beginning to drift off himself as the stress of everything on top of just returning from his mission finally settling into his bones.
"Shuri was right about you, you know?" Bucky hummed in question as his eyes slid shut, feeling Wanda's arms lethargically squeeze around him.
"You really are just a giant big brother" Bucky smiled sleepily as Wanda flicked off the TV.
"Night ladies" Shuri snuffled closer in her sleep and Bucky draped both arms over their shoulders, one ear always alert as they curled in.
Hi everyone! Sorry for taking so long, I was in a mild car accident and have been recovering!
Here's two chapters to make up for it!!
Love you all<3
“Sam please” Sam looked at the old man with heartbroken eyes.
“Look man, I know you’re hurting. I do, but it’s his birthday, I’m not going to risk making him uncomfortable okay?” Steve sighed and nodded, sitting down in the chair as tears filled his eyes. Sam sighed heavily before closing the door, moving back to sit next to him.
“Did you read his letter yet?” Steve shook his head and gave a rueful smile.
“Don’t really want to, to be perfectly honest” at Sam’s patient expression Steve sighed and twirled his wedding ring.
“I loved Peggy, and I was happy Sam truly. But the whole time I was gone, my whole life, it felt like something was missing. It wasn’t until I got back that I realized it was him.” Sam nodded and Steve turned to him.
“Want to know the worst part? If I had’ve just looked, instead of clinging on to that memory of Pegs, it was so obvious. I never would have stayed.” Realization began to dawn on Sam’s face and Steve chuckled darkly.
“Yep, Captain America was in love with his best friend and still chose someone else – because he was too scared of rejection.” Sam’s gaze quickly turned hard.
“Don’t you dare disrespect Agent Carter like that!” Steve flung out an old hand and immediately back-pedalled.
“No, no! I just mean, I made a call because I was too scared of taking a risk. And I regret it Sam” Sam’s gaze softened again and he clapped his arm.
“I’ll try to see if I can mention it to him, see if he’ll budge on talking to you again. But Steve, read that letter. He clearly gave it to you for a reason” Steve nodded and Sam smiled as he headed for the door.
“I’ll be back around eight, maybe we can catch something on the TV when I get back?” Steve wiped his eyes and nodded.
“I’d really like that Sam, thank you” Sam quirked his lips as he walked out the door, smiled falling as he left the older man’s view.
“Lord give me strength.”
“There he is!” Bucky jumped in spite of himself at the sound of Wanda and Sam’s excited yells. He looked at them like they were crazy as Wanda rushed towards him.
“Happy birthday Bucky!!” Bucky’s eyes shot over to the wall and sure enough, the puppy calendar Wanda had hung up stated March 10th proudly. Bucky swallowed the lump in his throat and forced a smile.
“Thanks doll” he looked over at Sam who grinned and looked over at the large pot on the stove.
“Hey, uh Wanda? I think these plums are good” Bucky’s ears perked at the mention of his favourite food and Wanda pushed him back, scolding him gently.
“Nuh, uh. It’s a surprise! Go run with Sam” Bucky gaped at her sass and Sam howled.
“Yeah, you heard the missus, come run with Sam” Bucky narrowed his eyes and grabbed his runners, tying his hair back as he glared at him.
“Sure, I’ll go run with Sam” Sam’s laughter immediately died on his lips as Wanda snorted. Bucky raised his eyebrows in challenge and Sam groaned, climbing off the bar stool and stumbling after him quickly.
“Come on man, we’re just teasing! I hate you Wanda” Wanda laughed as the two bickered their way out the door. She hummed as she strained the plums and flicked the closet door open.
“You can come out now, they’ll be gone for a while.” Steve looked at her sheepishly as he stepped out of the closet. Wanda smirked and pointed to the stove.
“Pour some oil into the pot, I need to fry these” Steve nodded and watched her quietly for several moments.
“So what are we making?” Wanda smiled at him and gestured to the balls of dough.
“Packzi, they’re a polish donut, Bucky acquired a taste for them when he was in Poland and they aren’t a whole lot different than the treats we had in Sokovia – not to mention the fact that Bucky loves plums” Steve smiled and nodded, speaking before he could help himself.
“My Bucky used to make these honey roasted plums with ricotta. He’d make them on special occasions, it was how he got me into eating them to be honest-“ Steve trailed off as his eyes filled with tears. Wanda looked at him with soft eyes as he wiped the tears away.
“Today must be hard for you” Steve furrowed his brows and nodded.
“O-on his birthday last year, I took him to the Grand Canyon, everyone was still snapped so it was quiet, just us.” Wanda’s eyes suddenly went wide and she looked at him as his thoughts became too powerful.
“You were married?” It came out as a question, but they both knew the truth. Steve let out a wet laugh and shook his head.
“N-no, engaged. We – I decided to wait until after it was over, so all our friends could be there.” Steve let out a macabre smile and glared down at the pot of oil.
“Got all my friends and lost my groom” Wanda rubbed his arm comfortingly and smiled.
“I’ll make myself scarce tonight, you should come back and talk to him.” Steve shook his head.
“He doesn’t want to see me, I don’t blame him either” Wanda looked at him for several moments as the pastries floated in the hot oil.
“I need to ask you a question Steve.” He looked at her expectantly and she took a deep breath.
“I don’t have much in my life. I lost my parents, my brother, the man I loved and so much more. Bucky and Sam, they are the only two things I still have in this world. Our Steve, he hurt all of us badly, but no one as much as them. Now you’re here, chasing the ghost of the man you loved and I will not let my only friends be hurt in the process of you trying to reclaim a life you lost. So look me in the eye and tell me honestly. Do you understand that this Bucky is not your Bucky? That this Bucky is different and deserves to be treated as such?” Steve looked at her for several long minutes before slowly nodding, he rested his hand over hers and gazed deeply into her eyes.
“I know, I know he isn’t. Trust me Wanda, if there’s one thing that I am keenly aware of, it’s that he is not my Bucky,” Steve took a shaky breath and watched her fish the fried dough out.
“But it doesn’t change how I feel about him.” Wanda nodded and looked at him hard.
“Don’t you think he deserves to hear that then?”
Bucky sighed heavily as he sat down on the couch. Wanda and Sam had given him a great birthday. Even that Spider kid had called to say happy birthday.
But now they’d left, Sam heading home to the Old Steve and Wanda babbling excuses about some boy. Thus, Bucky was left alone on his birthday. He sniffed and wiped a rogue tear from it’s escape down his cheek, glancing to the side and biting his cheek. He could hear the words echoing in his head, a dark taunt as the memory burned into his brain.
“Happy birthday Jerk.” If he closed his eyes, he could still see Steve, tiny and sick in their little apartment, holding an orange he saved up for as a birthday treat for Bucky with a lop-sided smile on his face.
He stood up abruptly and stalked to the kitchen as he shook his head angrily.
“Get over it Barnes, this may be your first birthday without him, but it won’t be the la-“ a hesitant knock at the door stopped his musings and he took a swig of his beer as he walked to the door, plastering a fake smile on his face and praying his emotions were in check.
“Wanda, did you for get your-“ he froze as his eyes caught the piercing orbs in his and he dropped the bottle.
“…Keys…” Steve scratched his beard nervously, smiling sadly as he looked at Bucky, holding a shoebox firmly in one hand.
“H-hey Bucky, happy birthday.”
"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't put a bullet in your head" Steve's eyes went wide as his heart pounded in his chest. He looked past the barrel of the gun Bucky had magically pulled from his sweatpants and gazed into the slate eyes. Bucky was furious.
No, it was worse.
Bucky was terrified.
Steve nervously glanced over at the window as he caught his bearings. The last think he’d ever wanted to do was make Bucky feel uncomfortable on his birthday. He took a deep breath and pulled his eyes back to the brunette’s.
"Please, let me explain, and if you want me to leave I will. And I promise I will never bother you again." Bucky was shaking but nodded his head slowly, lowering his gun. Steve slowly stepped forward, gently placing the box on the table between them. Bucky lurched back and grabbed the gun in both hands.
"D-don't come any closer" Steve put his hands up in a placating gesture and smiled softly.
"Sure Buck, whatever you want" Bucky nodded and cleared his throat before speaking.
"Go ahead then" Steve took a deep breath and rubbed his palms on his jeans, clearing his throat.
"Let me start this by saying that I know I'm not your Steve. Dr. Strange brought me from my world to yours." Bucky swallowed thickly and nodded for him to continue.
"I-in my world, the Snap happened differently than it did here. As you already know. T-to reverse it, we had to go get the Stones from different timelines. To get the Soul Stone, you and I went to Vormir, not Nat and Clint. It was my idea, climb a mountain, grab a rock and go home, that we deserved something easy for once. When we got there, Red Skull-" Steve let out a wet laugh and tears slid down his face as Bucky watched in silence.
"God you beat the shit out of him. But then - then he told us about the trade and you, you figured it out before I did - you were always so much smarter than me Buck." Steve was openly crying now, and Bucky's eyes were taking on the heart wrenching doleful look that always ruined him.
"We fought - I've never hit you so hard in my life and I hated it, but I couldn't - I couldn't lose you again. But you cheated – you cheated and while I had you pinned you just looked up at me and - you looked up at me and-"
"I told you I loved you" Bucky murmured softly.
Steve nodded and sniffed, a horrible imitation of a smile on his face.
"Exactly, I froze. Of course, we – we were together and we were happy but, you had never said it. I mean, you never needed to, I always knew but saying it had never been something you were comfortable with. I was so shocked you pushed me away and ran. I grabbed your arm but I didn't have anything to grab and I was sliding towards the edge with you and you - you hauled yourself up and gave me just the smallest kiss and I thought that's it, I can pull you up we’ll go back and figure something else out. But I wasn't paying attention and you detached your arm and-" Steve heaved another gut-wrenching sob and hugged himself as he looked down, eyes fixed on the shoe box as tears flowed silently down his cheeks.
"I tried everything to get you back, I tried taking the Stone back, I promised Schmidt anything if he could bring you back. When that didn't work I went back and I killed every monster I got my hands on. By the end of that fight I couldn't even budge Mjolnir anymore and no one would look me in the eyes but I didn't care. You were gone, and this time no one was going to bring you back. When it was over and everyone was there I hoped, I prayed you'd be there but you weren't." Steve looked up at him again with sad eyes and Bucky swallowed thickly as he felt his own burn with unshed tears.
"I just gave up after that. Didn't eat, didn't sleep, fuck I don't even think I bathed. Sam, Nat and I had a funeral for your arm because it was all I had-" another sob ripped itself loose from the soldier's throat and Bucky finally stepped forward.
"Oh, Steve..." the captain collapsed into the awaiting arms, burying his face into his neck and clinging to him.
"Tony finally lost it. He said he couldn’t handle me like that anymore, so he started working on making more Pym particles. But I was getting so bad so fast, I'd lost so much weight not even the serum could really keep me going - so he talked to Strange, asked him if he could find a world where you needed me as much as I needed you and -" Bucky spoke over him softly.
"He sent you to me" Steve actually let out a giggle and moved back.
"Strange made me a deal, he said that if I got healthy again he'd find a universe with you in it for me to live in - he wouldn't promise that you'd love me, but that you'd be alive and okay, s'all I needed. When he finally found you and I was cleared by Banner - fuck I didn't even look back as I walked through that damn portal." Bucky let out a wet laugh and swallowed thickly, desperately trying to regain his footing.
"You kiss your mama with that mouth Rogers?" Steve allowed another wet laugh at Bucky’s attempted humour and reluctantly pulled away, wiping his eyes before turning serious again.
"That's the truth of it Buck. That's all my cards. I know you got no good reason to trust me. And I hate that man for hurtin you, because he did it wearing my face. But if you'd let me, I'm willing to spend every goddamn day for the rest of my life proving I ain't him." Bucky crossed his arms protectively over himself, stepping back and looking at him guiltily as he murmured softly.
"Steve I – I don't know if I can" Steve smiled sadly and nodded.
"I know, and if you're anything like my Bucky, this whole thing's gotta be tearing you right up inside and that's the last thing I want. So I'm gunna go now, I'm staying with Pepper and Morgan. If you ever decide that you'd have me around you just call okay? You're it for me Barnes" Bucky scrubbed at his wet face and looked at him sadly.
"W-what if I'm not?" Steve's swallow was audible as he shoved his hands in his pockets.
"You're alive Buck, s'all I wanted. Just take care of yourself. I'm as desperate as I am selfish. Won't live in a world that don't have you in it, and I'll live the rest of my life without ever seein’ you again as long as I know you're still kicking" the two stood in silence for several moments before Bucky looked hesitantly back down at the box.
"Your box?" Steve paused as he was turning to exit the room, looking back at him tenderly.
"S'for you Buck, like a birthday present. Is that okay?" Bucky nodded and bit his lip.
"Steve?" The young captain looked at him with soft eyes full of hope.
"Yeah?" Bucky fiddled with his fingers and looked up at him, heart racing.
“I’m sorry, I’m trying I –“ Bucky inhaled sharply as Steve looked at him.
“Don’t apologize for any of this. This wasn’t you Buck, this was me and – well me. You haven’t done anything wrong.” Bucky nodded and Steve steeled himself.
“Happy birthday jerk, I love you” the words hit Bucky like a truck, the missing part of his birthday slotting perfectly into place as Steve quickly exited the apartment, the ex-assassin collapsing onto the couch.
Wanda opened the door quietly, suddenly overcome with distraught emotions. She steeled herself and walked into the living room.
“Hey- oh Bucky…” she rushed over and knelt down next to the man, hand fluttering about him uselessly.
Bucky was sitting on the floor, knees hugging his chest as he stared down at the shoe box and contents scattered all around him.
“Bucky, what is all this?” he sniffed and wiped his eyes as he smiled wetly.
“My birthday present, f-from Steve. I-it’s my memory box – well other me’s. diaries, pictures, everything.” He handed a letter to Wanda and smiled ruefully. Wanda looked at the paper and he nodded.
I wanted to prove to you that I know you’re not my Bucky. I didn’t want you thinking for a moment that you are a replacement of him.
This box is the only thing I brought from my world. It’s my Bucky’s memory box, along with a few extra things I wanted to keep with me. I want you to have them, I won’t lie and tell you I don’t miss him – I do every time I breathe. But when I’m with you it doesn’t hurt as much.
As I said before, I want you safe and happy. If that doesn’t include me I accept that. However, should you decide you ever want to speak to me the phone included in this box is fully charged and has a number in it to contact me.
Call anytime Bucky, day or night. I swear I will always answer your call.
I truly do love you Bucky, and given the chance I feel that I could be in love with you. And call me crazy but I’d like to think you could be in love with me too. But please don’t think I expect anything.
I hope that if nothing else, this provides you with the closure you so strongly deserve.
Thank you for letting me stay long enough to give you this box.
Happy birthday Bucky.
All my love,
Wanda looked up from the letter and over to Bucky who was holding a photo in shaking hands. The photo was of Steve and the Other Bucky at the Grand Canyon, they were grinning ear to ear and Bucky had never seen himself so happy. So at peace.
“D-do you think it’s weird?” Wanda raised an eyebrow at the murmured question, posing one of her own in turn.
“What do you mean?” Bucky let out a humourless chuckle and scrubbed his face.
“Like, this can’t be healthy Wanda, he’s still Steve” Wanda nodded and shrugged.
“Yes, and you are still Bucky, so wouldn’t his pursuit of you be even more weird?” Bucky considered her for a minute before nodding, letting out a mirthless laugh.
“I don’t know what to do” Wanda smiled and wiped a tear from his eye. She looked at the man who had become her family and gazed deeply into his eyes.
“What do you want to do?”
Old Steve sat on his bed shaking, looking at the folded paper in his wrinkled hands. He was terrified to read the letter.
He loved Peggy, and he’d had a wonderful life with her – but he’d always felt something was missing. It wasn’t until Bucky’s refusal to speak with him when he returned that he realized the missing pieces was Bucky.
He wasn’t dumb, he’d been in love with Bucky for years. That was the only thing he and the other Steve had in common. Looking back on it, Bucky’s love had been so obvious, but between his own insecurities and then the dazzling attraction to Peggy, he’d let it go. He never needed to go to the forties for a happily ever after, he’d only ever needed to look to his right.
He remembered when Bucky had looked at him after the funeral, smiling softly and wordlessly pulling him into a hug while he’d cried. His softly murmured, “I got you Stevie” echoing in his ears over and over again. He remembered how Bucky had quietly looked over at him with a shy smile, quietly asking him if they could take a trip to the Grand Canyon together like they’d always planned. Steve remembered being confused about it, and how Sam had immediately supported the idea, reminding Steve that Bucky being able to ask for what he wanted was a huge sign of trust and improvement.
Steve had promised Bucky they’d go when he got back from returning the Stones.
Knowing full well he wouldn’t be returning.
He wiped his eyes and sniffed, unfolding the paper and blinking in confusion as he realized the note had been written the day they’d all been at the compound, right before he'd taken back the Stones .
I know you’re probably super confused right now, but Sam told me that if you write your feelings down, it makes it seem smaller and more manageable. Nothing about my feelings are small, nor are they manageable, but maybe reading this out loud will make it easier and my voice won’t shake as much.
I asked you to come to here with me because we always talked about our trip to the Grand Canyon. While my memories are still jumbled I remember that this was the one place the two of us always dreamed of going to. In my head I made this our place, and that’s why I want to use this place to tell you I love you.
When I say I love you, I don’t just mean it in the way we have always said it. I mean it in how I want you to be the last thing I see when I go to bed, and the first thing I see when I get up in the morning. I want to be the person you celebrate your successes with and the person you mourn your failures with. I want to know how it feels to hold your hand, and kiss your lips. When I say I love you, what I mean is I’m in love with you Steve.
I think I’ve been in love with you since forever, I know I felt it before the war, and before you say anything no I didn’t tell you. I didn’t tell you because you got beat up so much already Stevie, I couldn’t risk getting you into trouble because I was a queer. And I was scared too, I was so scared that maybe, maybe this would be the one thing you couldn’t get past you know? The one thing that maybe you couldn’t defend. I didn’t want to saddle you with that Steve, didn’t want to put you in that position.
I know I loved you during the war, and the pain of watching you with Peggy was the worst thing I had ever felt until Hydra told me you crashed that damned plane into the ocean. I liked Peggy, you know I did, and as much as it hurt, I was glad because I knew it’d never be me but I was glad that it could be someone like her, someone you deserved.
But then we woke up, we woke up here and I was messed up, but not because I loved you. That was okay I was allowed to love you here, I wanted to tell you so bad, but with the Accords and Stark and my brain being cheese it just wasn’t the right time. I didn’t want to mess up your thinking when you needed to be on your game. Then Thanos, it was just like we never got the chance.
But now it’s over, we can rest now Steve. I’ll never be able to tell you how sorry I am for Tony or Natasha, they deserved so much more. I wish I could change it to bring them back for you but I can’t. But now the stones are back, Thanos is gone and we can start over. I’ll follow you wherever you go Stevie you know that. Sam told me that it’s okay to ask for things, but I’ve never really asked you for anything before. So right here, right now Steve, I’m gunna ask you the first thing I ever really have. If it’s possible for you to feel that way for me Stevie, please choose me. I know I ain’t much, but I swear no one in this world will love you like I do.
Don’t lie to me though pal, if it’s not something you feel, tell me honest. We’re best friends, I won’t change that if you don’t want anything more. Just be honest with me Stevie, be honest and if you have it in you to take a chance with me, please do.
Love you punk,
Steve pressed his hand to his lips as tears fell down his cheeks. The words rang over and over in his head.
Please choose me.
Bucky had always chosen Steve, even when there was no way in hell he’d be anyone’s first choice. That was why Bucky had always been his best friend, Bucky’d always chosen him and had never asked for anything in return.
And when he finally did, Steve had made an empty promise in order to go back to Peggy.
He could picture Bucky sitting at the Grand Canyon, hands shaking and voice wavering as he read the letter to Steve, his slate eyes filling with tears that he wouldn’t let fall no matter the outcome because Bucky never cried in front of Steve. He could see him worrying his bottom lip between his teeth, waiting for the other shoe to drop, but in classic Barnes fashion he would be ready to rein it all back in at the drop of the hat, ready to assure Steve that if he didn’t feel the same way it was fine. They’d be okay.
Bucky’d gambled, because to him the chance of loving Steve had been worth the risk of rejection.
But Bucky’d always been the braver of the two.
Suddenly Steve could see with crystal clarity why Bucky didn’t want him around. Not only had he broken his heart, but he’d lied. Bucky’d stood at that platform waiting for him, and he’d never come. And he didn’t even have the consolation of knowing that in another world, Steve had been there when he needed him most.
Steve had failed Bucky many times in his life, but in that moment, sitting on the bed reading the letter, he realized that he had never failed Bucky more than he had in those five seconds.
“Thanks for the cheeseburger Mr. Steve” Steve smiled at Morgan as the two of them and Pepper hopped onto the Subway. Pepper didn’t come into the city often anymore, but with the new Steve around, Morgan had the father figure she’d been missing and Pepper wasn’t bombarded with heartbroken memories anymore.
“You’re welcome Miss. Morgan” the little girl grinned up at him as they sat down on the plastic seats. Morgan turned back to her StarkPad where Tony’s voice narrated a children’s book for her as they began the trip back to Pepper’s cottage.
“Any word from Bucky?” Steve’s eyes filled with tears in spite of himself and he shook his head.
“No, it’s been weeks. I don’t think he’s going to reach out” Pepper smiled and nodded.
“Just give him time, I’m sure he’s just trying to process everything” Steve nodded and she squeezed his hand in silent support.
“Thanks Pepper, I really appreciate it” he turned his attention back to Morgan as they rumbled towards their stop.
“So what are you reading Miss. Morgan?”
Bucky’s chest heaved as he sobbed into his knees. He’d honestly thought he was getting better, but after going through the box every day for weeks, reading and re-reading Steve’s letter. Bucky realized that there was nothing harder to recover from than a broken heart.
God wasn't that dramatic.
Sam had popped by several times pleading Old Steve’s case, but Bucky just couldn’t do it.
But now, sitting alone – again – Bucky just couldn’t take the crippling loneliness anymore.
I’ll always answer your call.
Bucky heaved a breath and reached into the box to pull out the phone. He opened it to the one number in the phone and typed out a short message with shaking hands.
“Come on Barnes, Sam said it’s okay to want things. You’ve fought in three – no four wars you can send a God damn text message.” He gritted his teeth in frustration as he stared down at the screen, thumb hovering over the send button, willing himself not to think about what happened the last time he wanted something. Willing himself not to think too much about what happened last time he took a chance. He rested his head back against the wall and closed his eyes.
“Quit being a teenager and hit the fucking button” he squeezed his eyes shut and slammed his finger down on the button, the screen groaning in protest.
I’ll always answer your call.
“Are you getting off here too Mr. Steve?” Steve smiled at the little girl and shook his head.
“Not yet Miss. Morgan, I gotta go visit a kid in Queens first, I’ll see you at home tonight though okay?” Morgan nodded and grabbed Pepper’s hand as they pulled up to their stop in Midtown, where they would meet Happy and enjoy a nice drive home. He waved at the little girl as they exited and rested his head back against the window of the Subway window.
There was nothing he wanted more than to see Bucky, he missed him more than he could ever imagine. He missed his smile, his laugh, his voice.
He knew that this Bucky wasn’t his, but it felt the same, and he knew that he could respect this Bucky enough to love him without imposing his memories of another Bucky.
He closed his eyes listening to the rumble of the train as he allowed his mind to drift to the man he loved, throat closing at the memories of the two of them. He would never be able to understand what this Steve had done, not with what he knew.
Maybe he should talk to that Steve, tell him how much of an asshole he was – he shook his own head at the thought. Even if he could trust himself to be in the same space as that Steve for more than five minutes, he’d only approach him if this Bucky said it was okay. He wiped the tears before they had a chance to escape, reaching for his phone out of habit just as it vibrated.
Steve stared down at his cellphone and felt his heart hammer. Reading and re-reading the text as the Subway slowed to it's next stop on the route.
Steve ignored the shouts of surprise as he shoved his way off the train at the last minute, racing up the steps and running back towards Brooklyn.
Bucky stared at the phone, faintly hearing it crack in his grip as a tear escaped his eye.
"Please, come back." He murmured brokenly. Suddenly there was a loud crash from outside his front door as it was flung open.
"Bucky." The two collided like locomotives, burying their faces in each other's necks as they clung to one another, stumbling back as Steve peppered kisses all over his neck. Tears fell from Bucky's eyes and he let out a shaky breath.
“You came back” Steve nodded emphatically and winced as the metal arm tightened around him almost painfully.
“O’course I did Buck, I promised didn’t I?” Bucky let out a wet laugh and nodded into his chest as he whimpered.
"Stay?" Steve's face opened as he pulled away slightly, staring down at him.
"A-are you sure?" Bucky shook his head and let out a self deprecating laugh.
"Not at all, I just can't watch you walk away from me again" Steve looked at him and slowly pulled him back into his embrace.
"I won't, I won't ever leave you Bucky Barnes. I love you too much to walk away, I'll take whatever you'll give me" Bucky leaned until his forehead was resting on Steve's chest as the captain's scent filled his lungs.
It'd been so long.
A ragged sob tore itself loose from Bucky and he all but collapsed into Steve's arms, surprising the bearded man.
"It's been so long Steve" Steve cradled him close and kissed the top of his head.
"I'm so sorry Buck, please forgive me" Bucky clung to him, sobbing openly into his chest as Steve slowly maneuvered him back to his bedroom, noticing how light Bucky was. Taking him in he saw the dark circles under his eyes, his stringy hair and broken persona. A haunting reminder of Azzano.
He saw Bucky, even no one else did.
“C’mon baby doll, lets go sleep okay? We’ll talk in the morning” Bucky’s knees wobbled and Steve tightened his grip as he guided him onto the bed.
“Just close your eyes Buck, I’ll be here when you wake up” Bucky gripped his shirt tightly and looked up at him.
Steve gently carded a hand through Bucky’s hair as he slept next to him. Steve looked around the room and his heart broke once again. The two of them were currently squished into Bucky’s single bed, the room bare with the exception of a nightstand and a dresser.
Steve hated it, sure Bucky had a home and lived with people. But looking around it was clear that this was the worst he’d been since Steve had found him in Bucharest.
There was no life in the room, even in Bucharest Bucky had a few personal items, his notebooks, the go-bag he’d kept even after Thanos. Steve’s eyes stung with tears as he swallowed down the lump in his throat. Putting on a smile as the brunette began to stir next to him.
“Hey, it’s just me” Bucky’s brow furrowed and his eyes slowly blinked open, looking up at Steve with guarded eyes.
“Steve, y-you’re here. You stayed?” Steve nodded and continued to run his hand through the long hair.
“O’course, Buck, I promised didn’t I?” Bucky gave a weak smile and nodded, lying quietly for several minutes. Steve gently turned his head down to look at him slowly.
“Talk to me Bucky, what’s going through your head?” Bucky bit his lip and looked up at him with big eyes.
“I don’t – I can’t remember the last time I slept more than three hours” Steve risked a kiss to the top of his head and ran a finger along Bucky’s clothed shoulder.
“I’m glad, you clearly needed the rest.” Bucky nodded and Steve watched him try to organize his thoughts.
“How about I make us some breakfast huh? Get something into our systems before we talk?” Bucky smiled nervously and nodded as Steve slowly climbed out of bed. Bucky looked at him for several seconds before clearing his throat gently.
“You can use the shower if you want – borrow some of my clothes, probably more comfortable than what you’re wearing” Steve looked down at his wrinkled button down and tight jeans, eyes catching the red line of irritation where his belt had cut into his hip during the night. He gave Bucky a tender smile and spoke softly.
“Thanks Buck, I’d really appreciate that.” Bucky’s lip quirked briefly and he slowly crawled out of bed, heading to the second hand dresser and rummaging through the crooked drawers. Steve’s heart ached as he took the clothes, stepping into the bathroom with the sweatpants and tee provided to him.
“I made coffee” Steve looked up at Bucky who was sitting at the bar stool. Two cups of steaming coffee on the table.
“You still take it black with two sugars right?” Steve nodded and gratefully sat down, cradling the china in his hands.
“Thanks pal, what would you like for breakfast, I’ll cook” Bucky bit his lip as a blush danced across his cheeks.
“Don’t have any groceries” Steve’s face fell and Bucky played with his fingers anxiously.
“W-Wanda’s been away at Clint’s, and I haven’t been needed on any of Sam’s missions so-“
“So you’ve been sitting here trapped in your head” Bucky let out a mirthless chuckle and nodded.
“Somethin’ like that” Steve sighed heavily and gently took one of his hands in his own.
“Let me buy you breakfast”
“Steve-“ Steve squeezed his hand.
“Look, I’m hungry too, and I can’t leave knowing you have no food, we don’t have to talk about anything you don’t want to. Hell, we don’t even have to talk at all. You deserve to eat Bucky” Bucky looked up at him with wet eyes, whispering brokenly.
“Haven’t had much of an appetite lately.” Steve let out a wounded sound and squeezed his hand.
“You don’t gotta eat much, I just want to know you’ve got something in you, please pal, for me?” Bucky pursed his lips and nodded, allowing Steve to tug him to his feet and lead him towards the door.
“Were we the same?” Steve froze mid bite and looked across the table at Bucky, who so far had only managed a few bites of toast. He took a moment to take in the man across the table.
The mid-morning sun was coming in through the diner window, causing Bucky’s hair to glow even though the bags under his eyes were haunting. Steve gazed at him for a few moments and cleared his throat.
“Yes – and no” at Bucky’s intrigued look Steve cleared his throat.
“You remind me a lot of him right after the Snap – when we first started off together. Still kind of finding out what you wanted ya know? The big things are the same though, your selflessness, how protective you are-“ Steve slid his hand across the table to grab Bucky’s and smiled at Bucky’s self conscious look.
“Still don’t feel like me.” Steve ran a thumb across his knuckles.
“The first time my Bucky did something from before the war completely unprompted, it was two years after the Snap. You haven’t had that yet Buck, because you got Snapped – or Blipped or whatever they’re calling it. Don’t compare yourself to him Bucky, because I’m not” Bucky sat quietly for several minutes and looked at him with a soft smile.
“What did he do?” Steve leaned back in his chair and gave a small but real smile.
“We were on a road trip, we tried to go on one every summer when the weather was nice. We were driving through Arizona and we’d found this station that played old songs like what we used to listen to, Harry James, Sinatra, all that. He was driving and I was in the passenger seat. It’s been a Long, Long Time came on and you started humming along with it, like you used to back in Brooklyn.
We started to going out of range and the song started cutting out, and when it did you’d start humming louder – I’m sure you thought I was asleep because it was just loud enough to cover the static so we didn’t miss the song. Like when our shit radio would go at home and you’d start humming or singing along so I could still hear it.” A tear slid down his cheek and he smiled.
“It was something so small, but it meant the world to me. That such an innocuous, fundamental part of you was back. If I closed my eyes I could be back in Brooklyn, a hundred pounds soaking wet and just as in love with you then as I was sitting there.” Bucky looked at him and smiled nervously.
“You think I can find that again?” Steve brought his knuckles to his lips and kissed them gently.
“I do Buck, I really do. But let’s start with some good breakfast huh?” Bucky sniffed and nodded, tucking into his breakfast.
But he didn’t release Steve’s hand.
Sam and Steve were watching Coronation Street when his phone began ringing. Sam rolled his eyes and Steve looked at him sympathetically as he grabbed for his phone, he remembered when he was Cap, the never-ending ringing of his own phone.
Sam furrowed his brow in confusion and looked at him.
“It’s Pepper.” Steve immediately muted the TV and turned his attention to the phone as Sam answered, sliding it onto speaker mode.
“Hey Pepper, what’s up?”
“Hi Mister Sam” Steve and Sam exchanged looks of pure concern as Morgan’s delicate voice same through the speakers. Sam was already standing and heading towards his Shield as he kept his voice light.
“Hey Iron Girl, what can I do for you?”
“Have you seen Mister Steve? We was supposed to go see a movie-“ suddenly there was a light struggle on the end of the line and suddenly Pepper’s voice came through.
“Hey Sam, sorry about that. Is she asking about Steve?” Sam and Steve both let out relieved sighs as they sagged back against the couch.
“Hey Pepper, no worries. Is everything okay?” Pepper was quiet for a few seconds before speaking slowly.
“Steve didn’t come home last night, he was supposed to go see Peter and we left him on the Subway. I already called and May said he never showed up. I know it’s probably nothing just – with everything that’s happened, and Morgan clinging to some form of father figure-“ Sam smiled and nodded to himself, Steve watching him closely.
“I think I know where he is, but I’ll check in and get back to you” Steve swallowed at Pepper’s relieved sigh.
“Thanks Sam, we like having him around” Steve ignored the sharp pang in his chest at Pepper’s tone, knowing that he would likely never again hear it.
Sam hung up and walked to the door, shrugging on his jacket.
“I’ll be back in a bit, gotta go check a hunch. Want me to bring something back for dinner?” Steve remained silent for several moments and Sam turned back to him.
“Steve-“ Steve heaved a sigh and looked at him.
“He’s with Bucky, isn’t he?” Sam froze and the two held each other’s gaze for several seconds before Sam heaved a sigh.
“That’s what I’m hoping. He deserves happiness Steve, you need to respect that.” Steve let out a snort and looked at him, wounded.
“Which one?” Sam held his gaze as he spoke softly.
“Does it matter?”
“You went to Disneyland!?” Bucky huffed an incredulous laugh as Steve cackled.
“We did! The place was practically abandoned, and I’d been feeling rough…” Steve’s smile faded slightly and he cleared his throat.
“Do you remember when my mom died and you snuck me into The Meserole to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs?” Bucky nodded with a smile. It was a lot easier when the majority of their memories were the same.
Steve’s smile brightened again and he looked back at the photo.
“He surprised me by taking me to Disney, said that if the dwarves could make me happy before, there was no reason why it couldn’t again.” Bucky shrugged and glanced at him out of the corner of his eye.
“I mean, it's sound logic – did it work?” Steve nodded and looked at the picture. In it he was standing next to Bucky, but neither were looking at the camera. Steve’s beard was looking a little scraggly, and he was pale with dark bags under his eyes. Bucky honestly didn’t look much better, hair definitely needing a wash and five o’clock shadow proudly on display. But it was the picture itself that had Steve’s attention.
He remembered it like it was yesterday. Bucky hadn’t been one for pictures, but he’d never been able to deny Steve. He’d originally been smiling at the camera when Bucky’d murmured quietly...
“There it is” Steve looked at him in confusion, accidentally touching the screen and setting off the timer photo instead.
“There’s what?” Bucky blushed and looked down nervously. He’d never been a romantic and with all the adjusting he’d been doing, this new side of him was something they were both exploring.
He bit his lip and looked at him softly.
“Your smile” Steve’s eyes filled with tears as Bucky gazed at him.
“The dwarves always make you smile.”
The picture had been taken at the exact moment Steve had decided that kissing Bucky was more important than taking a selfie. His forehead at Bucky’s temple and their eyes both closed as they leaned into each other's space.
The photo was slightly blurry as Steve had been dropping his hands, but it was one of his favourites.
Next to their engagement photo of course.
Steve shook his head and looked at him.
“S’never the dwarves that made me smile you know” Bucky let out a confused noise and Steve swallowed, speaking with a thick voice.
“It was you Buck, sure it was always Snow White but it was you that snuck me into the movie, and it was you that decided to detour us by almost an entire State on the off chance you could sneak us into Disneyland. I wish I’d told you that” a rogue tear slid down Steve’s cheek and Bucky bit his lip, speaking before he even realized it.
“I don’t remember the movie. I’m sorry” he sounded so gutted, so guilty that he couldn't remember, that Steve’s heart broke all over again. He grabbed Bucky’s metal hand in his own and squeezed it. Bucky had yet to complain about him touching him, and Steve was fully aware that Bucky knew exactly how to vocalize when touch was unwelcome. So he was taking every touch he could get.
“Don’t apologize, we could watch it, if you want? Make some popcorn and have a movie night?” Bucky nodded slowly and squeezed his own hand.
“I’d like that. My Steve, h-he made a list of things to catch up on. Th-there’s a bunch of movies on there. We could watch them too, Wanda calls them movie marathons. If you want to?” Steve was sure he was grinning like a fool as he nodded vigorously.
“I’d love that Bucky. Maybe we can go grab some groceries and I can grab some clothes of my own so I don’t keep stealing yours huh, then we can come back and just spend the weekend in here?” Bucky’s eyes welled over with tears and Steve looked at him stricken. Bucky looked at him with big eyes.
“M’sorry, I don’t – it’s just. I never thought that we’d, that I would get to-“ Steve shushed him gently.
“Please Buck, stop apologizing to me. There’s nothing you can do that will annoy me, or scare me away, or whatever you’re thinking. End of the line right?” Bucky let out a watery laugh and allowed Steve to embrace him.
“I’m trying, I swear-“
“I know. I know you are.” Steve pulled back and pressed their foreheads together, fighting every urge to kiss him.
After the Snap, when he should have been helping his Bucky recover, he’d been reeling from the loss to Thanos. Bucky’d had to readjust on his own and take care of Steve at the same time.
But here, it was different. It was Steve’s second chance to do what he’d failed to before.
To be the man Bucky deserved.
“You don’t gotta go it alone this time pal. Let’s figure it out together yeah?” Bucky sniffed and nodded, pressing harder against him with closed eyes.
“Yeah.” The two sat quietly for a moment before they were broken out of their revere by a knock at the door.
“Bucky, you home man?” Bucky’s guard immediately went up. Sam only came over unannounced when it was something bad. He jerked out of Steve’s arms who followed him like a shadow as he threw the door open.
“Sam, what’s wrong?” Sam scanned him and quirked an eyebrow.
“You tell me,” Sam paused as he walked into the room, side-eyeing Steve who stood loyally behind Bucky, his tone and expression giving away nothing.
“I gotta call from Morgan Stark, apparently someone made plans to go to the movies with her today and he didn’t come home last night” Steve let out a sharp breath and dropped his face into his hands.
“Shit! I completely forgot” Bucky looked at him woundedly and stepped away, Sam watching the small spark he noticed extinguishing almost immediately.
“Y-you should go. You can’t break your promise” Steve looked at him mournfully before he suddenly jolted.
“Come with me!” Bucky balked and Steve nodded.
“Morgan won’t care, she’s even asked me about you. So has Pepper, come with us, go see a movie with her, then we can go back to our plans!” Bucky looked at him hesitantly and slumped his shoulders, shaking his head.
“I don’t know if it’s a good idea Ste-“
“It’s a great idea” Sam interrupted quickly and looked at him sternly.
“You need to get out, so take a kid to a movie. Go Barnes” Steve was grinning wildly at Sam’s support and looked between the two men almost like a child. Bucky looked at Sam and his stern look turned encouraging.
“Go have fun Barnes, I won’t let you back on missions until you do” Sam raised his eyebrows threateningly and Bucky knew he’d lost.
“Okay, but I want to freshen up first.” Steve nodded and Sam clapped Bucky on the shoulder as he walked past.
“And you Mr. Rogers, call your girl please - for my sanity” Steve darted back into the living room, snatching up his phone to make a phone call.
“And then he was like Woosh! Did you see that part Mister Bucky!?” Morgan yanked hard on Bucky’s metal hand as he and Steve walked her back to the car. Bucky smiled in spite of himself and nodded.
“I did, it was a really great Woosh wasn’t it Steve?” Steve nodded as he watched Bucky diligently fasten Morgan into her car seat, double and triple checking that it was correctly done up. The two men crawled into their own car seats as Steve pulled out of the parking lot, heading out to begin the long drive back upstate.
Morgan talked their ears off for the first twenty minutes, but by the time they’d hit the long country road leading to the Stark Cottage she was completely out cold.
Steve looked at him gently and slowly reached across the console to lace their fingers together.
“Sorry we couldn’t have our movie marathon” Bucky smiled and looked into the backseat at the sleeping child.
“S’okay, she’s sweet. You’re sure Pepper was okay with me being here?” Steve risked pressing a kiss to Bucky’s knuckles as it began to lightly rain outside, windshield wipers kicking on. Bucky flinched at the kiss and looked at him hesitantly. Steve looked back at the road but didn’t lose his smile.
“Sorry, couldn’t resist. I won’t do it again.” Bucky squeezed his hand in gratitude and smiled to himself as they pulled into the driveway. Bucky hopping out to scoop Morgan out of the backseat as Pepper greeted them at the door with a smile and wave.
“How was the movie?”
“Amazing but we are right tuckered out, aren’t we little miss?” Bucky didn’t even realize how comfortable he’d gotten with the little girl until she sleepily murmured into his neck.
“Will you read me a bedtime story Uncle Bucky?” Bucky looked at Pepper who shared a look with Steve before smiling warmly.
“Of course sweetie, you two head on up.” Bucky smiled timidly and hesitated a step before carrying her up the stairs. Pepper watched them go fondly before darting her eyes over to Steve, knowing smile on her face.
“So, you didn’t come home last night, should we discuss that?” Steve flushed red and followed her to the couch. Pepper cocked her head to the side and Steve bit his lower lip.
“He texted me about three stops after you two got off, he was a mess Pepper. I didn’t think of anything else I should’ve called I’m sorry-“ Pepper raised a hand, silencing him.
“Don’t apologize, I get it, I totally do. When Tony-“ Pepper shot her head off to the side as her eyes filled with tears and her voice broke.
“There was nothing that could get between me and him on that field. You don’t need to explain to me okay?” Steve nodded and leaned over to grab her hand gently.
“Pepper, I am so sorry-“ she looked at him and smiled.
“We both know the feeling – well, all three of us do in some way. Steve, here Tony never got the chance to talk to Bucky, to tell him that he forgave him. It’s hard for him to be here because he never got the closure your Bucky did. Honestly I’m surprised that you got him to come.” Steve smiled shyly and nodded.
“I may have bribed him with the promise of a movie marathon tonight, also Bucky adores kids, always has.” Pepper chuckled and looked out at the storm.
“Well, I want you to stay here tonight. I’m sure you guys could make the drive back no problem, but I don’t want to worry.” Steve nodded and looked up to where the bedrooms were, Pepper glancing up with him.
“Shall we go check on them?”
Steve and Pepper glanced silently from the doorway, Pepper smiling as she recognized the book, whispering to Steve.
“It’s Ferdinand the Bull, are you familiar with it?” He furrowed his brow and shook his head, refusing to look away from the scene before him.
Morgan’s hair was in a pathetic excuse for a braid – most likely Bucky’s doing – and her Disney Princes pyjamas. She was curled into Bucky's side who was leaning against the headboard, one leg on the floor and the other stretched out on the bed next. Steve swallowed the lump in his throat as he was suddenly transported to 1935, watching Bucky put his little sisters to bed before they could continue with their sleepover.
“It’s about a bull that’s forced to go to a bullfight, but he’d rather sit under his favourite tree smelling the flowers. Sound like anyone we know?” Steve’s eyes filled with tears again as he nodded, it sounded exactly like someone he knew.
Morgan twirled some of Bucky’s long hair between her fingers as she rested her head on his chest, sleepily looking at the pages as Bucky’s gravelly tone continued softly.
“He wouldn’t fight and be fierce no matter what they did. He just sat and smelled. And the Banderilleros were mad and the Picadors were madder and the Matador was so mad he cried because he couldn’t show off his cape and sword.” Morgan furrowed her brows.
“I don’t like him”
“The Mannator. Why’s he gotta make Fernand fight? Why can’t he just smell the flowers?” Bucky sighed heavily through his nose and when he spoke again, both Steve and Pepper could hear the exhaustion in it.
“I don’t know, doesn’t seem fair does it?” Morgan shook his head before tapping the book with her finger, getting him to continue.
Pepper and Steve took a moment in the hallway to clean themselves up, wiping their eyes as they listened to the story finish.
“And for all I know he is sitting there still, under his favorite cork tree, smelling the flowers just quietly. He is very happy… The End.” Pepper smiled and made her presence known, Steve trailing in behind her.
“Hello darling, did you have a good bedtime story?” Morgan nodded sleepily as Bucky sat frozen on the bed, clearly nervous at being so comfortable around Tony’s daughter.
“Uncle Bucky does all the voices” Steve grinned and Bucky flushed bright red. All the adults in the room acknowledging the title given to him. Bucky slowly slid off the bed and Morgan wrapped her arms around his neck, leaning up to kiss his cheek sleepily.
"Night Uncle Bucky, I love you" Bucky froze before the tension melted out of his body, Pepper smiling warmly as he hugged her back.
“You too, kiddo. Sweet dreams” Pepper tapped her blanketed leg and smiled.
“I’m just going to walk Uncle Bucky and Mister Steve out and I’ll be back to tuck you in okay baby?” Morgan smiled and nodded as Pepper escorted them out, leading them towards the back door.
“Steve, I trust you know how to get to the guest house? Even in this downpour” Steve chuckled and nodded as they stood in the little entryway. Bucky coughed and stepped forward nervously.
“Ms. Potts-“ Pepper looked at him and smiled, taking his hand in hers.
“Thank you for being here for my little girl James, I can’t tell you how much it means to me.” He flashed her a sad smile and squeezed her hand.
“If you two ever need anything-“ Pepper leaned in to kiss his cheek.
“You’ll be in my top three – I have to have Happy and Rhodey first, you know, Godparents” they shared a laugh and she looked at the two of them.
“Tony forgave you – both of you. He was too proud to say it, but he did. I just want you both to know that.” Steve knew it was more for Bucky as she said it, but he felt his own relief as well, knowing that even in this world Tony was still a friend. The two nodded at her as Steve opened the door to the thundering storm outside.
“Thank you Pepper, goodnight” Bucky nodded after him.
“Goodnight ma’am” she smiled and watched them walk down the pathway towards the guest house at the very back of the property before closing the door and heading up to tuck her daughter in.
Ferdinand was my favourite story when I was little, this a link to the pdf file I found to get the quotes. Any Ferdinand content is in no way mine and all credit goes to the original author: http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/arvindgupta/ferdinand-urdu.pdf
By the time the two made it to the small cabin at the edge of the property they were soaked. Steve flicked the light on and showed Bucky the one room accomodation.
“It’s not much, but this has been home for the past year” Bucky looked around at the kitchenette, small living-slash-dining space and the double bed and dresser in the corner, bathroom visible through the door on the left.
“S’nice” Steve yanked the dresser open and pulled out two pairs of sweatpants and t-shirts.
“Here, is it okay if we share the bed tonight, or would you be more comfortable if I slept on the couch?” Bucky looked at him with wide eyes.
“Don’t be stupid Steve, this is your house I’m sleeping on the couch. We won’t both fit in the bed” Steve gave him a look of pure irritation.
“Seriously? We slept on your twin bed last night Buck, you really gunna bitch about a double?!” The tone was meant to be sarcastic but Steve immediately remembered that this Bucky wasn’t on par with that yet. Guilt blocked his throat as Bucky flinched back with a broken look.
“Sorry, I’ll take the couch, you’re probably stiff from my place.” Bucky mumbled as he stepped into the washroom to get changed.
“Buck-“ the lock quietly clicked and Steve heaved a sigh, quickly changing into his own pyjamas and sitting down on his bed, placing his head in his hands.
Several minutes later, Bucky slowly walked out and Steve looked up at the sound of the door. The two remained in silence for several moments with Bucky looking at him hesitantly before Steve sighed and looked at him with a sad smile.
“Come lay on the bed Buck, I’m sorry. I meant it as a joke but clearly we aren’t in a place to tease yet. If you’re comfortable sharing the bed, I don’t mind sharing with you again.” Bucky pursed his lips in thought and took half a step towards him,
“You’re sure?” Steve smiled, raising his voice slightly to be heard over the thunder outside.
“Yeah Buck, come t’bed” Bucky slowly stepped towards him and allowed Steve to pull him into the bed, laying down rigidly next to him. Steve smiled and looked at him for several moments before sighing and closing his eyes, rolling to face the wall.
“Night Buck, sleep well” Bucky stared at his back and bit his lip sadly before curling the tiniest bit closer to the heat from the super soldier.
“Steve…” Steve looked up from where he was glaring down at Red Skull with his jaw clenched. Bucky gave him a soft smile from where he was sitting on a nearby boulder, extending his metal hand.
“In order to take the stone, you must lose that which you love. A soul for a soul. That’s what he said right?” Steve nodded, brow furrowed as he allowed his fiancé to pull him into his arms. Bucky cocked his head to the side and looked into his eyes adoringly.
“And you said whatever it takes right?” Steve nodded and a low feeling of dread began to fester in his stomach as Bucky’s smile turned wet, eyes filling with tears as he rested his forehead against Steve’s.
“I gotta feeling this wasn’t supposed to be a return trip pal” realization bloomed across Steve face and his eyes filled with tears.
“Yeah, yeah. I guess-“ Steve sniffed and nuzzled their noses together.
“Thought I’d get to marry you first” Bucky let out a wet laugh and they stood quietly for a few moments before he whispered softly.
“We both know who it’s gotta be Stevie” Steve nodded, but as they both stood there the peacefulness began to dissipate as the looked at one another, Bucky swallowed thickly and Steve instinctively gripped him tightly, nudging the brunette to look up at him.
“I think we may be thinking of different people Buck” Steve barely got the sentence out before pain bloomed across his cheek, knocking him to the ground and Bucky pivoted, rushing towards the cliff edge…
“Buck!... Stop, Bucky…” Bucky snapped awake as Steve’s voice slid into his subconscious. The rain was still pounding outside as he propped himself up on one arm looking down at Steve’s sleeping face.
He had tear tracks down his cheeks and his brows were furrowed as he jerked in his sleep. Bucky hesitantly reached out a hand and shook him gently.
“Steve… Steve wake up, you’re having a nightmare.” Steve let out another whimper and his hands clenched into fists as Bucky began to get nervous.
“Steve wake up!”
Steve couldn’t breath through the caked blood in his broken nose, one eye swelling shut as he pushed himself up on shaky arms as Bucky looked at him with broken slate eyes. Their eyes locked as Bucky sprinted past him again towards the edge. Steve threw himself forward in a last desperate lunge, gripping Bucky’s metal wrist as they slammed into the edge, Bucky dangling over the abyss as Steve’s body began sliding across the ground.
“Bucky! Hold on! Hang on I’m gunna pull you back up okay!?” Bucky looked up at him as Steve stared at him with wild eyes.
“Stevie, enough” the firm tone made Steve freeze as Bucky looked up at him.
“S’the end of the line baby doll” Steve began shaking his head.
“No, no we’ll go back. We’ll figure something else out! Now come on, give me some help here.” Steve could feel himself sliding closer to the edge, scrabbling his feet praying he could grab something. Bucky smiled and a tear slid down his face.
“S’okay. Let me go Stevie” Steve shook his head, locking his grip around the metal wrist desperately.
“Please, please no. Anyone else Buck – anything else.” He let out a sob and Bucky swallowed thickly.
“Steve. Let me go” Steve heaved a sob and shook his head.
“I can’t” Bucky nodded his head.
“Yes you can. I love you, it’s okay” Steve couldn’t see through his tears, couldn’t breath through his nose and could barely speak with how hoarse his throat was. His hips were now digging into the edge and he knew that within the next few seconds they’d both be plummeting to their deaths.
Steve wasn’t exactly considering that a bad thing.
Clearly, Bucky saw it too because he suddenly gripped the edge of the cliff with his flesh hand, swinging his body up as he growled.
“Goddamn punk” he pressed a fierce kiss to Steve’s lips, the blonde sobbing into his mouth as he moved one and from his iron grip to frame his face. Steve let out a wet laugh as Bucky held himself up shakily, one foot pressing into the cliff as his flesh arm moved.
“That’s it, come on, we’ll-“ there was a familiar click and hiss and Steve’s heart turned to stone. He’d know that sound anywhere. Bucky pulled his lips back and whispered softly.
“I love you” Bucky’s foot slid and suddenly he was plummeting away, Steve letting out a feral scream as Bucky’s detached metal arm dangled in his hand as he watched in horror as the love of his life plummeted to the rocks below.
“No!” Steve heard the thump and crack in his very soul as he screamed again, sobbing hysterically as the stormy sky broke through with light.
“Steve!” Steve jerked awake with a scream as lightening lit up the guest house. He looked over and saw Bucky staring at him fear – not his Bucky, but rather another Bucky.
Who was looking terrified, heartbroken and guilty as all hell.
Steve went to heave a breath to apologize and suddenly let out a sob. Bucky silently pulled him into his arms as he heaved against his chest.
“M’sorry, I’m so sorry Steve” Steve tried to assure him that it was okay, but he couldn’t get the words past his sobs. Bucky rubbed his back soothingly, rocking him back and forth gently as the rested his chin on his head.
“Shhh, I’m sorry, I’m so so sorry Stevie”
When Steve awoke the next morning, his head was pounding and his throat was raw. He slowly sat up and looked around the room nervously. He’d been so focused on connecting with this Bucky, he’d forgotten about his own nightmares.
That being said, he was also surprised it had been just the one, it was usually nothing – or a whole playback reel.
He straightened as he took in the one room guest house and felt his heart begin to race.
Bucky was gone.
Steve swallowed thickly and clenched his eyes shut against the new onslaught of tears, nodding to himself. He couldn’t expect Bucky to stay, not after that.
“Steve? You okay?” his head jerked up to the front door where Bucky was slowly peeking his head in, juggling a plate piled with toast and a thermos. Steve stared at him and he hesitantly walked into the room.
“You didn’t have any breakfast food, so Pepper let me use some of theirs. A-are you hungry?” Steve wiped at his eyes and sniffed.
“Sorry Buck, I really appreciate it, but I don’t have much of an appetite yet” he looked down guiltily and Bucky bit his lip, looking off to the side awkwardly. He remembered a conversation he’d had with Sam, back in Wakanda before Thanos and closed his eyes.
“Name one thing you know you’re good at?”
“Killing people” Sam looked at him with hard eyes and Bucky levelled it right back. Sam crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow, smirk tugging his lips.
“Okay, let me rephrase then. Name one thing you’re good at that doesn’t involve murder” Bucky snorted in spite of himself. Maybe he could like this guy after all. He sat quietly for several minutes as Sam waited patiently before whispering out.
“Steve. I’m good at Steve” Sam smiled gently and leaned forward.
“What about Steve are you good at?” Bucky fiddled with his fingers and shrugged a shoulder.
“M’good at taking care of him, makin’ sure he eats, patchin' him up after fights.” Bucky looked up at Sam hesitantly and the other man smiled reassuringly.
“That’s good man. And you’re right, you are really good at that” Bucky let out a tiny yet real smile as Sam grinned, resting his elbows on his knees.
Yeah, he could like Sam.
Bucky squared his shoulders and took a deep breath, he could do this.
“Well, tough shit pal, I just had to learn how to use that space machine Tony called a toaster so you’re eating” he immediately turned his back to set the plates and thermos on the table, going to the cabinet to pick out mugs so Steve couldn’t see how much it had taken for him to sound like that.
Steve stared at him for a moment before a surprised laugh escaped his throat. He scrubbed his beard and nodded to Bucky’s back.
“Yeah, okay pal. What’s in the thermos?” Steve had a suspicion he already knew, but wanted to see if he was right. Bucky didn’t turn from where he was unscrewing the lid, and Steve was gracious enough to pretend he didn’t notice how much Bucky’s hands shook at the attempt at being casual.
Steve couldn’t imagine how hard it was for him right now.
“What do you think stupid, hot chocolate obviously” Steve swallowed the new lump in his throat and shuffled off the bed, slowly taking a seat at the table.
“Just like my ma made when I was sick” Bucky nodded, face hidden in a curtain of hair but Steve knew that Bucky’s blush was body wide, all he had to do was look at the peek-a-boo collar at his neckline to know exactly was Bucky’s face looked like. He reached over and grabbed Bucky’s wrist tenderly.
“Thank you Buck” Bucky flashed a quick smile and Steve tugged gently.
“Eat with me?” Bucky nodded and sat quietly, refusing to plate up until Steve took his portion first.
The familiarity ached at both of them.
Steve broke off a piece of toast and dipped it into the drink, causing Bucky to smirk as they ate in silence for a moment.
“M’sorry about last night” Bucky looked at him for the first time that morning and Steve could now see the dark bags.
Suddenly it made sense why he’d only had the one.
Bucky sat quietly and moved his hands off the table and into his lap, Steve knowing full well he was fiddling nervously with his fingers.
“S’okay, I can’t imagine how hard it must be for you. Losing him like that” Bucky’s shoulders slumped and Steve felt his heart break, watching him desperately try to fit his cracked and broken mask over himself again. Like worn battle armor.
He missed his Bucky every single day, and of course there were things he’d do differently if he knew then what he knew now. But there was one thing that he knew with confidence. His Bucky had never needed to question the depth of his love.
His Bucky never had to doubt him.
God, he hated Steve.
He could hear his Bucky in his head clear as day as he looked at the broken man across the table. Come on you knucklehead, I taught you better than this. Quit being a punk and use your words.
Steve nodded and looked up at him.
“I won’t lie. Sometimes it really does suck,” he paused and waited for Bucky to look up at him and he smiled softly.
“But being with you makes it easier.” Steve watched Bucky’s chin lift and his posture shift. The blonde smiled and gently kicked his foot under the table.
“No one else knows how I like my toast” Bucky snorted and the two laughed softly. Bucky considered him for a moment and looked at him.
“I-if you ever need to talk. I know I may not be the ideal person but – but I’m here.” Steve swallowed thickly and bit his lip.
“Thank you. I guess, I just wish I could understand how he was so ready y’know? I mean, I would have gladly died in his place. But I didn’t want to die at all-“
“S’cuz he’s selfish.” Steve looked at him with confused eyes, fighting back the immediate need to get angry and defend as Bucky looked down at his hands, moving to wash the dishes to escape Steve’s gaze.
“I mean think about it. Every time we’ve had to live without you something bad happened. Azzano, Hydra… But every time you had to live without us, you thrived. Captain America, the Avengers. You’ll be okay without us, but we – we just fall apart,” Steve felt his eyes fill with tears as Bucky continued murmuring and could see it in the memories of his own Bucky as he spoke, painted like a tragic picture.
“Every time we got back together, we caused friction. In the War it was with Peggy – you know she didn’t get on with us well, probably because she could see how gone on you we were. Then I don’t need to mention everything with Tony. After everything we’ve done, everyone we’ve hurt. You were the one good thing we had. So yeah, if the option was living without you or taking a header off of a cliff, I’d swan dive without a second thought too” Steve let out a broken noise and suddenly lurched to his feet, legs taking minds of their own as he raced towards the brunette.
Bucky barely had time to turn around before Steve was slamming him against the wall, gripping his face and pressing their heads together as he gasped for air.
“Bucky” Bucky let out a soft sob as Steve crowded into his space. It was too much.
It wasn’t enough.
"M'not your Bucky." He whispered into their shared air as Steve plunged a hand into his hair and cradled him, broken sound echoing from deep in his throat.
"S'okay, I'm not your Steve." Bucky whined and gripped the blonde hair, crushing their lips together in what was a blinding first kiss.
Steve felt his knees buckling at the familiar yet different feeling of lips pressed against his, pinning Bucky against the wall in an attempt to keep them both standing as they kissed passionately. Steve pulled back, nuzzling their noses, no more than a breath away from each other as Bucky let out a devastated sound.
"Shh, honey you're trembling." Bucky huffed a laugh and clung to him tightly, kissing his jaw.
"So-so are you" Steve chuckled and buried his nose in his hair.
"Yeah, yeah I am". They moved together again and Steve felt the firm grip of a metal hand on his hip.
“You gotta stay with me Barnes, I can’t do it again. Can’t lose you again” Bucky nodded and leaned his head back against the wall as Steve attached his lips to his neck.
“You gotta promise, promise you won’t leave either” Steve shook his head and yanked them backwards towards the bed, pulling the assassin into his lap and pressing their arousals together through their sweatpants.
“Never, I’ll never leave you baby doll. I swear it” Bucky groaned low in his throat and pushed Steve flat onto his back, following him with his lips.
Steve watched with a smile as Bucky sat in the grass, Morgan darting back and forth handing him different flowers as Bucky patiently weaved them into a crown at her direction. He turned back to his sketchbook as he continued to shade Bucky’s form in.
“Hey Mister Steve! Look at Uncle Bucky!” Steve looked up and felt his heart melt.
The midmorning sun was hitting Bucky’s face, which appeared to be impassive if not for the tell-tale sparkle in his eyes. He smiled at Steve and shrugged a shoulder as Morgan pointed excitedly at the crown on his head. Steve felt his breath catch at the peacefulness coming off of him as Morgan waved her hands again.
“Isn’t Uncle Bucky pretty?!” a blush exploded high on Bucky’s cheeks and he looked at the little girl in surprise as Steve laughed warmly. He nodded and locked eyes with the man as his smile softened.
“He’s beautiful” Bucky rolled his eyes and pulled a squealing Morgan into his lap as Pepper walked out the back door.
“Okay missy, we gotta go see Uncle Rhodey. Say goodbye to Bucky and Steve” Morgan perked her head up and wiggled out of Bucky’s arms, turning to hug him tightly, slapping a wet kiss on his cheek.
“Bye Uncle Bucky, I love you!” Bucky smiled and kissed the top of her head gently.
“Love you too sweetie, have fun” she scrambled over to Steve, delivering a similar goodbye.
“Bye Mister Steve, see you later!” he rubbed her back with a gentle hand and smiled at her brightly.
“Bye Miss. Morgan, be good for your mom huh?” Morgan nodded and scurried off to grab Pepper’s hand, reaching to grab Happy’s as he led them to the car. Steve turned back to look over at Bucky and his smile faded as Bucky looked down, pulling the crown off his head shyly. Steve inhaled deeply and scooted over to sit next to him, tilting his head down to look at him as he spoke softly.
“Where are you?” Bucky bit his lip and shook his head softly and Steve set his hand on his knee and waited patiently.
“Stop it Steve, we fucked like two hours ago. I think we’re past the softness huh?” Steve flinched at the tone and squared his jaw, he knew what was coming.
Bucky was trying to push him away.
Bucky’s energy was heartbreaking, how he was hiding away.
“You’re right we did, was I really that bad of a lay?” Bucky breathed out a laugh in spite of himself and Steve counted it as a win.
“No, you were decent” Steve snorted as Bucky volleyed back and the two fell into silence again.
“Talk to me Bucky. What are you thinking? Did – do you regret it?” Bucky began to nod, then abruptly shook his head, then finally let out a long sigh and dropped his head into his hands.
“Yes – no. I don’t know Steve! I mean, we’ve been talking for what, a week tops and we just fall in bed together!? We barely know each other!“ Steve shook his head, frowning.
“That’s not true, we do know each other. I know yo-“ Bucky shook his hands in front of him and let out a frustrated yell, Brooklyn drawl in full effect as his temper finally got the best of him.
“No you don’t! You know your Bucky. Newsflash pal, we’re from different universes, I’m me and he was him! A quick fuck ain’t changin’ that, and when you realiz-“ Bucky let out a shaky breath and cut himself off, dropping his hands into his lap again.
The sunny afternoon suddenly felt stifling as the two looked at one another and Steve swallowed thickly before speaking in a hoarse voice.
“And once I realize that I’m going to leave – just like he did right?” Bucky’s silence was enough of an answer and Steve scrubbed his beard in frustration.
“You want me to prove to you that I’m really in this with you, that I won’t leave. But Buck, I can’t do that unless you trust me enough to let me stay. I don’t regret making love to you this morning – because I’d never just fuck you. But I do regret that it happened before we got all this sorted out, that we weren’t able to just enjoy being together without this whole thing after.” Bucky sniffed and hung his head to hide his tears with his long hair, shaking slightly at Steve’s words as he spoke again.
“Let me take you home, then I’ll leave – not because I want to, because I really don’t. But because I think we need space away from each other, you need to be able to think Buck and you’re so goddamn busy taking care of everyone else you’ve forgotten to take care of yourself. Just like when your dumbass got pneumonia in ’38.” Bucky looked at him as he continued speaking, Steve’s eyes resolutely staring out at the lake.
“I know that you’re not my Bucky, I do. But maybe it’s better if right now we take some space, and when you’re ready to try this, whatever it is you give me a call huh? I’d love to take you on a date if you’d let me.” Bucky looked at him for several long minutes and nodded.
“I think you need to take me home Steve. I think I need to be alone.” Steve’s heart broke but he nodded, getting to his feet with the grace of a hundred-year-old-man. Bucky climbed up behind him and shoved his hands in his pockets, silently following him over to the car.
Sam rolled his eyes as his phone rang, already pivoting to head back into Fury’s office.
“Man, I just left-“
“Sam? Is this a bad time?” Sam paused at the shaky tone of his partner and sighed, shaking his head up at the sky.
“Not at all man, I was about to go grab some lunch, wanna join?” there was a hesitant silence on the other end of the line and Sam felt his own nerves acting up.
“Everything alright Barnes?”
“Yeah, but shouldn’t you be with Steve, I mean-“ Sam smiled to himself and laughed, only the world’s most dangerous assassin could get tongue-tied asking for help.
“Steve’s visiting with his grandkids this weekend. How about I bring over that Kung-Pao you like, because let’s be real I am husband material” his grin broadened when he heard Bucky’s soft laugh on the other end and he headed towards his bike.
“I’ll throw some beer in the fridge then, you can crash on the couch if you and – and Wanda says to bring egg rolls” Sam laughed and nodded.
“Of course she does. I’ll be there within the hour”
“Sounds good pal” Sam shoved his cellphone into his pocket, clipping his shield onto his back as he started towards Brooklyn.
What the Hell did Steve do now?
“You didn’t blow it” Steve groaned and dropped his head onto the back of the couch as Pepper smirked at him, continuing to chop the vegetables for dinner.
“Oh I really think I did, you should have seen his face Pepper” she smiled and set the tray in the oven, walking over with her glass of wine and sitting on the couch next to him.
“So you had sex too soon, do you have any idea how many lifelong couples do that?” Steve lurched back over and rested his elbows on his knees, dropping his chin into his hands.
“You didn’t blow it Steve, you just haven’t fully realized where he’d coming from.” Steve looked at her with big eyes and she sighed, setting the glass down.
“Think of it this way. You know everything about him, down to the most intimate detail. He’s never been able to experience that with anyone let alone you. You have a major advantage over him and that’s scary, you can manipulate him into anything if you wanted to because you already know how he ticks when it comes to romance and intimacy. Bucky has no clue with you, compound that with the fact that you openly talk about your past Bucky all the time. How would you feel if it was reversed?” Steve sighed heavily and looked at his hands.
“I’d probably feel really uncomfortable.” Pepper smiled and nodded encouragingly.
“He doesn’t know with you honey, he’s not sure where his footing is because you’ve come in knowing this whole other side of him when his Steve apparently didn’t even have him high enough on the list to even keep informed. He’s gotta have about seven different voices in his head right now.” Steve furrowed his brows and Pepper looked at him levelly.
“Think about for a second. He is devastated over our Steve’s decision, so he doesn’t trust you to stay, but he wants you so bad it hurts. Then, unlike in your world, he has Wanda and Sam to think about, because they were abandoned too so whatever decision he makes with you affects them because now they need to adapt to a new Steve. Then there’s our Steve who is still alive and living with Sam, so now Bucky’s going to be worrying about the position it puts Sam in because being exposed to both of you will take a toll on him and then there’s his own relationship with that Steve he needs to address,” Pepper let out a soft laugh and winked at him.
“Plus, you’re stuck with Morgan and I now, so he has to combat the guilt of being the person who killed Morgan’s grandparents and was one of the main factors in the huge falling out our Steve and Tony had.” Steve groaned and nodded, finally realizing just how many cards were at play here. He looked up at Pepper and gave a rueful smile.
“I was arrogant when I got here, I didn’t know what the Other Me did, I assumed it was similar to what happened to me. I just sort of imagined him falling into my arms and us getting our happily ever after. I shouldn’t have done that huh?” Pepper shook her head, still smiling kindly.
“Probably not. But we can’t change that now.” Steve looked at her helplessly as she sipped her wine.
“What do I do Pepper?” She squeezed his hand gently.
“Honestly, I’d start with therapy. Grieve your Bucky properly before pursuing this one, I’m sure Rhodey can find us someone who will be able to approach this dynamic – as odd as it is – how are you supposed to ask Bucky to love you without the hang-ups of the Other Steve, when you’re still hung up on your Bucky?” Steve nodded and swallowed thickly.
“I guess I’m just scared I’ll forget him.” A tear escaped Pepper’s eye and she shook her head.
“You will never forget him Steve. When you love someone that much, it’s impossible. But instead of looking for ghosts and chasing memories, you’ll be able to just smile and enjoy them instead. And it will leave you space to love someone else again – even if it is an alternate version.” Steve smiled, unable to vocalize his gratitude as the two sat in the living room, holding hands in a comforting silence as they waited for dinner to finish.
“And you’re sure you don’t want me to say anything? You know how persuasive I can be?” Wanda wiggled her fingers as she sing-songed, looking at Bucky from where she was perched next to him on the couch. He snorted a soft laugh and shoved a piece of chicken into his mouth as Sam immediately interjected.
“No, no. None of that! Now before Wanda gets all homicidal-“
“Too late” her thick accent making the two words much more intimidating than they had any right to be as Bucky and Sam both quirked an eyebrow at her. Sam eyed her before slowly dragging his eyes back to Bucky as he spoke.
“As I was saying. What is it that made you panic, exactly? What did he say?” Bucky glared into his take-out box and squared his shoulders as he spoke.
“That’s just it. He hasn’t really done anything. There’s just this Other Bucky, and I’m not him, no mater how hard I try to be-“
“Has he asked you to?” Wanda interjected gently and Bucky shook his head.
“No, not at all. In fact he regularly reiterates that he knows that were different, but, as happy I was when we were together. After we had – after this morning, I felt dirty, like he wasn’t there for me.” Sam nodded and looked at him patiently.
“You felt like a warm body” Bucky nodded and his eyes stung.
“The worst part, is I’m sure he’s not even realizing he’s doing it.” Wanda flared a red tendril and raised an eyebrow at him.
“I said none of that!” Sam yelled quickly, Wanda shooting him a dirty look as she curled into Bucky’s side. He studied the other man for minute and leaned back in the recliner, lacing his fingers behind his head.
“Can I give you my thoughts, or would you prefer I just listen?” Bucky nodded his head vigorously.
“Please share, some insight would be fantastic right now.” Sam smirked at him and glanced at Wanda.
“I think you’re completely right, that he doesn’t realize he’s doing it. Moreover, I don’t think it’s happening for the reason you think-“ Wanda hissed and looked at him harshly.
“You’re defending him-“ Sam immediately help up his hand in defense and Bucky gently squeezed one of her petite hands.
“Of course not! He’s being a bit of a dick, I totally understand that. But remember when he first got here. When Bucky was in Wakanda? When we told him no, he was livid. All he did was ask us about you, he wanted to know you. When you took off to Poland he was devastated, kept saying you shouldn’t be alone, that you’d get stuck in your head and wouldn’t take care of yourself properly and that he didn’t care if it wasn’t him but if someone could look out for you…” Bucky looked at Sam with wet eyes and Sam sighed.
“Honestly, I think he thinks that bringing up his Bucky helps you, that knowing how happy they were will help you get over this fear of him walking away like Steve did. The only problem is that a Steve is a Steve no matter where they’re from and he didn’t think the idea through enough to realize that that may be the exact thing that keeps you waiting for the other shoe to drop.” Bucky nodded and spoke softly.
“That makes sense, the way he brings him up anyways.” Sam nodded before continuing.
“He’s still grieving, and so are you. So mistakes, especially with the dynamic being what it is are definitely going to be made. Personally, I think that boy’s so busy trying not to compare you to his Bucky, he’s doing the opposite.” Bucky laughed in soft agreement and Wanda looked at him gently.
“I think you should talk to Our Steve” Bucky looked at her sharply and shook his head.
“No, I can’t. I tried at the compound remember?” Wanda nodded, hugging him gently.
“I know you did, and it was very brave. But you never got to hear his response about his decision, maybe it’ll give you the closure you need you know?” Bucky looked at her jadedly and growled.
“Yeah, let me go talk to the guy who fucked off and left me here, so I can properly talk to the guy who fucked off to find me here. By the way, they’re the same person.” Wanda rolled her eyes and looked at him sternly.
“I never made you for a coward Bucky Barnes” Bucky faltered and Sam spoked up softly.
“She’s right man, you’re still comparing them too, you need to be in a healthy place yourself before you can even start on this stuff.” Bucky looked up at them with red-rimmed eyes. Sam leaned forward and clasped his arm gently.
“I know he hurt you, and he hurt you real bad man. But aren’t you tired of carrying all that hurt around?” Bucky surprised himself when a sob erupted from his throat, Wanda quickly taking the box of food from his hand as he curled into himself protectively.
“M’so tired Sam” Wanda’s own eyes filled with tears as Bucky’s pain hit her in waves. Sam’s eyes softened and he crouched down in front of him, trying not to show how much watching the titan of a man fall apart in front of him was truly affecting him.
“I know man, I know you are” Bucky wiped at his eyes viciously and buried his face into his knees.
“I don’t understand what I did, to deserve all this. I was a good kid, ya know?” Wanda pulled him into her arms and kissed the top of his head.
“We know James” Bucky sobbed again and Sam gently rubbed his back, sliding onto the couch cushion next to him.
“Just let it out man, no masks in this house” Bucky heaved a great sob and clung to Wanda’s cardigan as he hummed gently, rocking him back and forth softly as she held him.
“Why can’t I want anything, why am I not allowed to just have something good. Something that’s mine?” Sam closed his eyes as he felt the anguish in his soul, he glanced over at Wanda as tears silently streamed down her face.
When Nat and Tony had died, Bucky’d been the one constant for the three of them, helping them in their floundering between the battle and Steve’s disappearance. After Steve’s return, he’d taken off, throwing himself into helping Wakanda, then upon his return, helping out him and Wanda.
Looking back on it, it was obvious that the only person Bucky hadn’t been taking care of was himself.
The two sat quietly on either side of the assassin as he sobbed into Wanda’s chest. Wanda peppered little kisses to his head as he slowly, slowly, began to calm down again.
“You need to talk to our Steve Bucky” she cooed gently. Bucky nodded and slowly pulled out of her arms and wiped his face.
“I know, it’s just- I’m so scared.” Sam nodded and looked at him supportively.
“Well how about you and I sit down and go over what you’d like to talk to him about, and then you can chat at my place, so you can leave whenever you want?” Bucky clenched his teeth and nodded his head nervously.
“Sounds good” Sam clapped his shoulder and nodded.
“Proud of you man” Wanda hugged him and Bucky gave her a soft smile, hugging her to his side, shoving the take-out boxes back into everyone’s hands.
“Okay, eat. We’ll do this later” Sam snorted and turned on the TV, propping his feet up on the coffee table as they all settled in to watch the baseball game.
“Bucky! Hey, hi come in please!” Bucky bit his lip as Steve stumbled over himself, old eyes lighting up like fireworks at the sight of his old best friend standing in the door.
“Calm down Steve, m’not the queen” Steve swallowed thickly and froze, nodding as he ushered Bucky into the living room, wringing his hands nervously.
“C-can I get you anything?” Bucky smacked his lips and shuffled nervously, rubbing his arm nervously.
“Glass of water?” Steve nodded and took off to the kitchen, coming back a moment later with two glasses. The two sat quietly for several tense moments and Steve finally looked at him.
“So, Sam said you wanted to talk?” Bucky nodded and stared down at the glass, Steve could see him shaking and tried desperately to control his own emotions.
“I slept with Steve – the other Steve I mean” Steve’s heart plummeted into his shoes as he gaped at Bucky, who was pushing forward.
“We’ve actually been spending a lot of time together, and – I’m happy with him Stevie, I mean yeah we got stuff to work through but. He’s you, but not you, y’know?” Steve blinked owlishly at him and Bucky fidgeted nervously. Bucky smiled wetly and let out a laugh.
“He’s so much like you – but at the same time he’s so not you. I think, I could love him too.” Bucky looked at him with hopeful eyes and froze.
Steve was furious.
“You, what?” Bucky bit his lip as Steve furrowed his brow and growled at him, clenching his hands into fists.
“Bucky, tell me you’re joking. Tell me you haven’t actually fallen for this guy!?” Bucky sipping the water nervously and Steve lunged forward, grabbing his hand almost painfully.
“Did Sam tell you why I was visiting my grandkids?” Bucky bit his lip and shook his head. This conversation wasn’t even remotely going how he thought it would. He’d even made a list in his head of topics.
“Before everything, Banner, Nat, Scott and I – when we were trying to move through time we accidentally moved time through Scott,” Bucky stared at him blankly and Steve gave him a shake.
“Buck, they can make me young again. You and I could be together properly, none of this settling for another Steve.” Bucky stared at him uncomprehendingly and Steve tucked a stand of hair behind his ear.
“I visited my grandkids to tell them that if you said yes, I’d do it – become young again. It was essentially a goodbye trip pal” Bucky gasped almost comedically and his eyes filled with tears. Steve nudged their knees together and looked at him painfully.
“I made a mistake Buck. I loved Peggy, and I had a good life with her, truly I did. But I was always missing something, it wasn’t until after when you wouldn’t talk to me that I realized just how big of a mistake it was. After I read your letter, God Bucky it ruined me, you said you were never an option for me and you were right – but not in the way you think. I loved you for as long as I could remember, but I never thought you would feel that way,” tears were sliding down both men’s faces as Steve stared at him.
“You tell me to take the jump pal and I will. Just tell me it’s what you want” Bucky looked down at the table, silence stretching out as he felt Steve’s eyes on him. Finally,
“Why didn’t you come back?” Steve looked at him in confusion and Bucky pushed forward.
“If you loved me, why didn’t you come back to me – tell me how you felt?” Steve looked away in shame and Bucky nodded to himself.
“You didn’t want to take the risk I’d say no did you?” Steve wiped a tear from his wrinkled cheek and looked at him.
“I couldn’t bear losing you over it.” Bucky sniffed and pulled his hands out of Steve’s.
“So you made me lose you instead. Don’t do the time jump Steve-“ Steve jerked away as though he’d been burned and glared at him.
“So, you’re going to choose him!?” Bucky shook his head and levelled him with his own icy stare.
“No you idiot, I’m choosing me. Why would I want to be your second choice, you had a great life with Peggy, you have kids and grandkids. Do you have any idea how much they’ll hate me if you do this? The man who took their father – their grandfather away? Not to mention they’d never forgive you, is being with me really worth losing all of them? Absolutely not, I’m tired of people hating me-“ Steve slammed his hands down.
“And I’m willing to take that chance-“
“It’s not a chance when the person you want to be with is a sure thing Steve! You didn’t take a chance when you went back in time for Peggy – that shit was strategic. You intentionally inserted herself before she met Daniel, of course she’d choose you. There was no risk there. Taking a chance would have been you coming back and keeping your goddamn promise, taking a chance Steve, would have been you telling me how you feel without knowing what my answer would be and being prepared to accept any outcome, like Ste-“ Bucky stopped short and realization dawned on both their faces. Bucky looked at him with big eyes and softened his tone.
“I came here to get closure, because I want you in my life – I miss you pal. But we missed our window, and it sucks. But you got your happily ever after, and sure I don’t know a whole lot about it but I know it was beautiful for you,” Steve nodded as tears slid down his face and Bucky coughed around the lump in his throat.
“I came here for closure, so I can move on. And I know everyone has an opinion about how I’m choosing to do that and that’s fine. I deserve a happy ending too, don’t you think?” Steve nodded and grabbed his hand again.
“Of course I do Buck.” Bucky nodded and looked down at their hands.
“Then let me have this, with him. I really think I want it – if he still does after my freak out-“
“Trust me, he totally does” Bucky breathed a laugh and wiped at his eyes with his free hand.
“I love you Steve, and I do want us to be friends again. But I won’t accept you going back like that for me, that’s not in our cards.” Steve gave him a defeated yet tender smile and squeezed his hand.
“Love you too Buck, friends is good enough for me.” Bucky let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding and Steve watched the tension melt from his body. Suddenly he fully realized just how hard it had been for Bucky to come here. Steve cleared his throat and looked around the living room.
“So, would you like to hear about my grandkids?” Bucky barked out a surprise laugh and nodded.
“Sure pal, tell me everything.”
“Uncle Bucky!” Bucky grinned as he walked through the door, a small brown blur darting across the floor and leaping into his arms, causing him to stumble slightly. He immediately cradled the little girl against his chest protectively and surveyed the room.
Shuri and Wanda were sitting on the couch, grinning ear to ear as Pepper sat on the lazy boy. Morgan wrapped her arms around Bucky’s neck and hugged him tightly before bending backwards, causing him to bend over to keep her from toppling out of his arms.
“I haven’t seen you in forever!” She groaned as he laughed in spite of himself. Pepper grinned and looked at them fondly as Wanda laughed.
“Two weeks is an eternity when you’re five” Bucky heaved her back up over his shoulder and looked at the women as she squealed over his shoulder in joy.
“Ladies, always a pleasure” Bucky flopped onto the seat and Morgan crawled into his lap, playing with his hair as Shuri looked at him sternly.
“Your arm needs maintenance, also you haven’t seen me in like a year and I wanted to see what you looked like” Bucky ducked his head shamefully and nodded.
“Sorry princess, it’s been a long few months” Shuri let out a low hum and her eyes darted to the other two women.
“So I’ve heard-“ Morgan suddenly turned so she was sitting in Bucky’s lap, looking up at him with squinty eyes as she crossed her arms.
“Did Mister Steve blow you?” Bucky choked and Shuri squealed in laughter as Pepper immediately engaged.
“No honey, Steve said he blew it” Morgan nodded sagely and turned back to Bucky, who was desperately trying to get a hold of his blushing as the women chuckled quietly behind him.
“Did Mister Steve blow it? He said he blew it and that’s why you left?” Bucky felt his heart break as Morgan looked at him with her father’s piercing eyes. He gave her a soft smile and shook his head.
“Naw darlin’, he didn’t blow it. He didn’t do anything wrong” Morgan cocked her head to the side and eyed him again.
God she was like her dad.
“Then why don’t you come over anymore? Mister Steve is really sad now” Bucky’s chest ached as the little girl’s eyes began to well over. She wasn’t talking about Steve.
“I missed you too Sweetie Pie, and I’m sorry I’ve been gone so long. I promise I’ll come back and visit real soon okay?” Morgan held his gaze for several moments and nodded.
“Good, cuz mommy doesn’t do the voices right in Fernand” Wanda cackled and Shuri shook her head.
“World’s deadliest assassin, uses different voices in children’s literature.” Bucky situated the little girl more comfortably in his lap as he shot a shit eating grin over his head at the princess.
“I’m a man of many talents.”
Sam and Steve were walking up the stairs to Bucky’s brownstone, the bearded man getting more and more nervous as he moved.
“Sam, are you sure-“ Sam rolled his eyes.
“You’ve been in therapy for almost a month Steve – and you literally go every damn day. He’s been talking with the other Steve regularly. I know neither of you are perfect yet. But you should at least have the conversation, besides, we don’t even know if he’s ho-“
“Nooooooo!!” Both soldiers froze at the child’s shriek of terror on the other side of the door, immediately bursting into action.
“What’s happening- What is happening?!” The men stood gaping at the kitchen, where the only word to describe it was pandemonium.
Bucky was sitting on the kitchen counter in a white undershirt, his arm removed and hair tied back watching the situation with a mix of confusion, guilt, and pure enjoyment.
Wanda was sitting on the counter opposite Bucky, tears streaming down her face as she held her sides against the onslaught of laughter bubbling out of her petite body, also taking in the scene.
The scene which consisted of a very irate Morgan Stark and her little fists of fury assailing the princess of Wakanda, who was holding Bucky’s vibranium arm as a shield while Pepper tried desperately to pull her off and trying not to laugh herself.
“Give back his arm!” realization dawned over the men’s faces and Sam barked out a laugh, Morgan swung around with tear-filled eyes.
“It’s not funny! Mister Steve you gotta save Bucky!” Steve looked at Bucky for a charged moment before turning his attention back to the little girl. He gently knelt down and looked at her seriously.
“Morgan, I promise you I won’t let anything happen to Bucky, I’ll keep him safe okay?” Morgan sniffed and nodded as he set his hands on her waist, giving the little girl a gentle shake to make her giggle. He glanced over her head at Bucky who bit his lip and quickly looked away nervously. Steve gently walked forward and took the arm from Shuri’s hands, giving it back to Bucky.
“Here, maybe we’ll revisit this when Morgan isn’t here?” Shuri nodded and began to pack up her tools again, looking at Bucky sternly.
“I fully expect to see you in Wakanda by the end of the month mister” Bucky nodded gently and smiled.
“You have my word” Shuri nodded and walked over to Sam, the two walking out of the room as Wanda watched the scene with guarded eyes. Steve shuffled awkwardly and smiled at her, speaking softly.
“Hey Wanda” her eyes were hard as she looked at him appraisingly, eyes flicking red in a quick warning before she shot her gaze over to Bucky.
“Steve, nice to see you again” Bucky rolled his eyes and let out a low warning sound, causing Wanda to roll her own eyes as she hopped off the counter, padding past Steve towards her bedroom. She paused and looked at him dangerously, using a red tendril to point towards her door.
“I’ll be in the next room” he couldn’t tell if it was a comfort for Bucky, or a warning for him. Either way, it worked.
Bucky watched her walk out, still awkwardly holding his metal arm in his hand as he glanced at Steve nervously. Steve looked at him hesitantly and looked at the arm, knowing it was much easier to take off than put on. He bit his lip and spoke softly.
“D-do you need a hand?” There was a beat of silence as Steve processed what he’d said. Bucky blinked at him before letting out a snort.
“Really Steve?” Bucky barked out a laugh and began to laugh loudly, Steve slowly joining in as he shook his head.
“I’m so sorry, that was worded so badly” the two wheezed in the kitchen, the tension not just breaking, but snapping clean in two at the unfortunate pun Steve had delivered. After several minutes the laughter finally died down and Bucky slowly handed the metal arm to Steve.
“Do you mind?” Steve recognized the open trust and vulnerability in the slate eyes and smiled tenderly.
“O’course Buck” Steve gently came around to the side, keeping his touches gentle as he slowly slid the mechanisms into alignment, cradling his shoulder as it clicked into place. He checked the pressure gage as he murmured softly.
“How’s it feel?” Bucky smiled softly and looked at him gratefully.
“S’much better, thanks Stevie” Steve smiled and nodded, stepping back and shoving his hands into his pockets. He hated this new awkwardness, the inability to just fall into each other like they always had. But he’d come here for a reason, and no matter how nervous he’d been when Sam had dragged him over, there was no going back now.
He’d gone to therapy, he’d done the workbooks and the group sessions. He was ready to move on.
And he wanted that to be with Bucky.
"Trigger Warning* This chapter deals with the mention of depression and mild symptoms of depression. Ie: lethargy.
Love you all
The two remained in a tense silence for several moments and Bucky finally spoke up, voice gravelly as he cleared his throat.
“So uh, h-how’ve you been?” Steve nodded his head emphatically and stuttered.
“G-good, I’ve been good. I uh, I started seeing a grief counsellor.” Bucky smiled and swung his legs against the counter as nervous energy came off him in waves.
“That’s great, m’really happy for you pal” Steve smiled and bit his lip.
“How’ve you been Buck?” Bucky shrugged self-deprecatingly and laughed through his nose.
“Can’t complain, met Steve’s grandkids yesterday – kinda weird that they’re practically my age” Bucky swallowed thickly before continuing.
“Hung out with the old man a few times, doesn’t hurt as much when I see him anymore I guess. But I’m prone to damage so what’s a little sting here and there right?” Steve shook his head and slowly stepped forward.
“You deserve better Bucky. You deserve not to hurt all the time - you deserve not to hurt at all” Bucky’s eyes darted away and Steve could see them fill with tears, with how much he wanted to believe the words. Steve cocked his head to the side and took a deep breath.
Now or never Rogers.
“I was wondering, uh – it’s been a while since we saw each other and I was hoping that maybe – that’s if you wanted – would you like to go out for dinner some time?” Steve was sure it came out as a rushed, bungled mess but from the way Bucky’s whole body changed he clearly wasn’t as unintelligible as he’d thought.
“Y-you mean like a date?” Steve nodded and waited for Bucky to look at him before he spoke.
“I want to get to know you, to do this properly. You deserve to have someone take you out and show you a good time without everything else hanging over you like an old dead goose. I’d like to start over, if that’s okay with you?” Bucky looked at him with big eyes and Steve could hear the counter groaning under his grip as the brunette attempted to remain impassive.
“I dunno Steve, you’ve left me with some pretty big shoes to fill and I don’t know if I can” Steve stepped forward hesitantly, moving closer but staying a respectful distance away.
“I screwed up the first time – I thought that by bringing him up, it would help prove how sincere I was. I understand now that I was doing the exact opposite, and it wasn’t fair to either of us – or his memory.” Bucky’s eyes darted away again and Steve took another risk, gently cupping his chin in his hand to force Bucky’s eyes back on him.
“But James is gone. I let him go Buck, I’ve got him safe in a corner of my heart where I can cherish my memories – but I don’t need him in my every day anymore. I want to move on with you, I know I’m gunna screw up here and there, I mean I’m Steve Rogers, I carry all the stupid with me ninety-nine percent of the time,” the two breathed a laugh as a rogue tear escaped Bucky’s eye, his white teeth making a brief appearance as he smiled.
“Only ninenty-nine?” Steve smirked and rolled his head, feigning thought.
“Okay, maybe ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the time.” He turned serious again and stared into the eyes he’d known all his life.
“I want to learn about you Bucky Barnes. I wanna take you out for dinner to your favourite restaurant, I wanna walk you to you door and hope that maybe I’ll get a kiss goodnight. I wanna sit down for the interrogation of a lifetime with literally the world’s scariest roommate and a literal princess to prove my intentions noble-“ Bucky laughed again and Steve continued, gaining confidence.
“I wanna know what your favourite movie is, your favourite song. I wanna know what vegetables you hate and what your alarm clock sounds like. I want to know what makes your eyes light up so I can keep it around as much as possible and know what scares you so I can keep it as far away as possible. I want to make you happy Bucky, because you deserve to be happy” Bucky sniffed and wrapped his arms around his waist.
“I just don’t want to be an afterthought. M’so tired of feeling like that.” Steve’s own eyes filled with tears and he dared to step between Bucky’s legs, resting their foreheads together.
“I know, and I am so sorry that I ever made you feel that way. Let me try again Buck, let me prove to you that there is nothing about you that is an afterthought – not to me.” Bucky wiped his eyes.
“I can’t promise it’ll be successful.”
“First dates are never sure things pal, I know that” the tension in Bucky’s shoulders slowly dissipated and he nodded, body curling into Steve’s chest as he immediately embraced him, holding him tightly.
“I gotcha pal, we’re okay” he felt Bucky’s body shudder and was suddenly transported to the Italian countryside, holding Bucky tightly in their tent as he shuddered against him. He pressed his lips to his temple – not a kiss, just a reinforcement of his presence as Bucky shuddered again, grabbing fistfuls of his shirt as he muttered into Steve’s collar.
“Feel like I’m fallin’ apart, like it’s all movin’ so fast I can’t keep up” Steve moved one hand into his hair, keeping his touch intimate but platonic.
“I know, the future’s wild innit?” He felt Bucky breathe a wet laugh against his neck and nod against him. He rested their heads together and tightened his old around Bucky as he felt the other’s grip tighten again.
“You’re not fallin’ apart pal, I’ll keep ya together.” He felt Bucky’s body give one more exhausted shudder before he all but melted into Steve’s arms. Steve rubbed his back, keeping his voice a low rumble.
“Been so strong for so long Buck, lemme take a lil’ weight off you yeah? You’ve been through so much, jumping through decades, then the Accords, Zemo, Wakanda, Thanos. Just need to get you still for a bit, s’just a little crash is all” Bucky nodded lethargically against him again and Steve smiled, his legs were starting to hurt from swaying back and forth in the same position but Bucky was finally relaxed. Steve closed his own eyes as Bucky whispered softly.
“I missed you too.”
“I’d like to go on a date with you some time” Steve laughed through his nose and nuzzled Bucky’s hair.
“I’ll show you a real good time pal, make it real classy” Steve refrained from comparing it to how well Bucky treated the girls back in the 40’s, unsure if shared pasts was a welcome topic yet and Bucky pulled his head back to rest their foreheads together again, eyes drifting shut.
“M’so tired Stevie” Steve swallowed thickly and rubbed his back again, he knew better now, after talking to his counselor and Sam.
Bucky wasn’t tired.
Bucky was depressed.
“I know you are pal, and I’m so proud of you for stickin’ it out this long. Why don’t I crash on your couch tonight huh, be right here if you need me, and you take a nice hot shower and curl into bed?” Bucky finally opened exhausted eyes and looked at him as Steve continued.
“Then in the morning, we can talk about what kind of things you like, so I can plan the perfect date” the humour worked and Bucky laughed as he slowly pulled away.
“Sorry I cried all over you” Steve shrugged and used a knuckle to wipe one of Bucky’s lingering tears away.
“I’ll be sorely disappointed if I’m living in the year 2024 and there’s no way to get boogers out of laundry” Bucky blew a raspberry at him and rolled his eyes.
“Easy now” Steve stepped back so Bucky could hop off the counter and watched as he walked down the hallway, stopping at his bedroom door. He turned around suddenly and looked at him.
“M’glad you’re here Steve, I know we’re both a bit of a mess but – m’really glad you came here” Steve’s heart melted and he smiled.
“Me too pal, now get off to bed before I knock you out myself” Bucky laughed and shook his head. Smiling to himself as he walked into his room. Steve stood there for a few minutes before going to the living room, dropping onto the sofa and curling in.
Tomorrow would be a fresh start and he knew two things.
One, his Bucky would not be mentioned – for both their sakes.
He was going to woo the absolute pants off of James Buchanan Barnes.
“Morning” Bucky blinked awake as he shuffled into the room, looking at Steve in drowsy confusion as he stood at the kitchen counter, the smell of coffee, bacon and eggs wafting through the kitchen. Steve smiled gently and cocked his head to the side.
“Mornin’ Steve.” Steve watched him with soft eyes as he sat down at the table, running a hand through his hair as Steve set the plate in front of him.
“How’d you sleep pal?” Bucky sipped the coffee and looked at Steve with sleepy eyes.
“Like the dead” Steve snorted and sat down across from him with his own breakfast. The two ate in companionable silence for several moments before Bucky’s head suddenly snapped up.
“Oh my god, Steve I am so sorry!” Steve looked up in confusion as Bucky stared at him with wide eyes.
“You slept on the couch – I didn’t give you a blanket or anything. Oh my God I’m such an-“
“Bucky!” Steve grabbed his wrist quickly to grab his attention.
“It’s okay, there was a throw blanket on the couch and I didn’t need a pillow with the armrest – it’s all good Bucky” Bucky stared at him with wary eyes and Steve smiled reassuringly.
“Honestly Buck, it’s all good. Please don’t worry about it” Bucky nodded and tucked back into his breakfast, the two sitting in a peaceful silence for several minutes before Bucky looked at him again, calculatedly.
“So about last night” Steve looked back at him and held his gaze.
“I meant what I said, I’d like to take you on a date Buck, but only if you’re ready to” Bucky gently nudged his foot under the table with his own and smiled softly.
“Gunna take me out and show me a good time huh?” Steve grinned and nudged his foot back.
“We’ll paint the town red” Bucky smiled in spite of himself and Steve caught the hesitation, gently reaching across the table to grab his hand.
“You don’t have to put on a brave face for me pal, but I want you to know that I’m in this. I ain’t leavin’ unless you want me to, we can go as slow as you need.” Bucky chewed on his bottom lip and gave a self-deprecating laugh.
“Famous last words, this whole thing could be a waste of time” Steve brought the metal digits to his lips and kissed them gently, holding eye contact.
“Not to me. Now, eat your breakfast, we’re not wasting the day indoors” Bucky nodded and squeezed Steve’s hand, holding it across the table while they finished eating.
Steve smiled as they walked through Central Park, trying to hide how giddy he was over the fact that he was on a date with Bucky. He wiggled Bucky’s hand as a food vendor came into view and smiled at him.
“Wanna pretzel? My treat” Bucky smiled at him softly and nodded, allowing Steve to pull him towards the vendor to order their snacks. Bucky watching him with gentle eyes as he was handed the two pretzels and water bottles. The two walked along until they found a bench in a quiet area overlooking the Onassis Reservoir. The two nibbled in silence and Bucky slowly melted into the bench, Steve grinning at the peace coming off his lover. Bucky cocked his head to the side and he looked at him with guarded eyes.
“I think I wanna cut my hair” Steve coughed on his pretzel and looked at him sharply, his Bucky had never considered cutting his hair other than the trim to keep it healthy. He caught the look in Bucky’s face and froze.
It was a test.
He nodded his head and looked at him earnestly.
“Yeah? Do you have an idea of a style you want?” Bucky blinked at the tone and faltered slightly and Steve smirked, knowing he’d caught his bluff.
“Uh, I was actually thinking of how I styled it before. Y’know, like shorter at the back but a little longer on top so I could style it.” Steve chuckled and nodded.
“Bringin’ back the forties huh?” Bucky nodded and smirked.
“Somethin’ like that, I just need to figure out how to not spazz in the barber chair” the statement was made in jest, but Steve saw it for what it was and spoked before he could stop himself.
“I could cut it for you” Bucky gaped at him and Steve tried to back pedal.
“I mean, it’s not like I’ve never cut hair before, and I know what you’re lookin’ for y’know?” He didn’t elaborate on the fact that it was Bucky’s hair he’d cut. But it didn’t need to be said. Bucky ducked his head as a blush danced across his cheeks and he fiddled with the pretzel wrapper.
“W-would you mind? I might need to tap out a few times” Steve’s smile turned gentle and his eyes softened.
“That’s okay, we could make it a date – order in, rent a movie or something?” Bucky let out a wet laugh and swallowed thickly.
“Yeah, okay Stevie. If you’re sure?” Steve laced their fingers together and nodded.
“M’sure. Um, I know it’s a little early for a second date, but maybe tonight?” Bucky nodded and pressed a kiss to their joined fingers. The first time he’d instigated the affection since that morning at the guest house.
“Just so you know, just cause it’s a second date doesn’t mean I’m putting out. I got class you know?” Steve barked out a surprise laugh and wiggled their hands on the bench. Bucky leaned into his shoulder and Steve kissed the top of his head.
“Wouldn’t expect anything less from a classy fella like you” Bucky laughed through his nose and Steve smiled into his hair as the brunette completely relaxed against him. Steve knew how much of an honour it was to have the ex-assassin completely relaxed against him, especially in public. Steve sighed and looked out at the Reservoir, happy to just sit with his loved one in the sun.
Hi everyone! I'm so sorry it's been so long! I was moving back for school and getting settled into classes but now I'm back and hopefully more consistent again.
Thanks for your patience! Love you all!!
“So… How was the date?” Bucky blushed bright red as Wanda cackled from her place on the kitchen counter as Bucky walked in.
“Shouldn’t you be off babysitting the Barton kids or something?” Wanda grinned smugly and her eyes lit up.
“So it went well! Tell me everything!” she handed over her small tub of ice cream and stared him down as he eyed it questioningly.
“Don’t question tradition Barnes, eat the ice cream and tell me about your date, like a normal sibling” Bucky snorted and grinned into his ice cream.
“It was nice, we grabbed a coffee in Manhattan then walked through Central Park, then we got pretzels and just talked for a bit by the Reservoir, then we talked about tonight and-“
“Wait! What do you mean tonight!?” Bucky had the decency to flush bright red as he stared into the ice cream tub, which Wanda immediately snatched back.
“He’s coming over, h-he’s gunna cut my hair” Wanda’s grin exploded across her face and she giggled excitedly.
“Oh my gosh Bucky! You’re cutting your hair!?” Bucky nodded and gave her a sideways smile.
“I thought it would be time for a change” Wanda clapped her hands and jumped off the counter.
“Are you going to cut it like before!?” Bucky shrugged, sliding off the counter and putting the ice cream away.
“I think so, I mean it might be nice, y’know with my Steve gone, it could be like a fresh start” Wanda shrugged and looked away innocently, popping one of the grapes from the nearby fruit bowl in her mouth.
“Well, New Steve New Me am I right?” Wanda froze as Bucky immediately tensed.
Clearly it was too soon to make a joke.
“It’s because Steve is the only person I trust with me with a blade and my Steve’s not quite so steady anymore.” Wanda hung her head as Bucky silently washed his spoon.
“M’gunna go freshen up – may not be a normal date, but it is still a date” Wanda forced her own sad smile as Bucky walked away.
This trial and error with Bucky’s emotional triggers was exhausting. She needed to talk to Sam.
“Hey” Bucky still froze for a moment at the look of Steve outside his door, shy smile on his bearded face as he stood in the doorway of the Brownstone.
“Hi” Steve walked in slowly and looked at Bucky, taking him in. His smile was genuine yet strained as Steve kissed his cheek tenderly.
Bucky was nervous.
“You still wanna do this?” Bucky nodded and nervously ran a hand through his hair.
“Yeah, s’gotta go sometime huh?” Bucky smiled up at him and stepped into his space, false bravado on display. Steve smiled and wrapped his arms around his waist.
“Yeah, we’ll just take it slow – got all night right?” Steve waggled his eyebrows in an attempt to lighten the mood and the breathless laugh he got along with the sagging in Bucky’s shoulders let him know he hit the mark.
“Sounds good, you hungry? I know a place nearby with great hot dogs” Steve smiled and laced their fingers together.
Steve damn near collapsed as they walked into Nathan’s, memories hitting him hard as Bucky rubbed the back of his neck.
“I mean, we can still barely afford it – but I’m not entirely sure what you like now so…” Steve pulled him in and nuzzled their noses together right there in the middle of the restaurant.
“S’perfect Buck, you gunna buy me the Chili Cheese Dog?” Bucky snorted and cuffed him upside the head.
“We still can’t afford it you punk, go grab a seat” Steve shot him a shit eating grin and tugged a long strand of his hair before going and sitting down at one of the tables.
“okay, so here’s my question,” Steve chuckled as Bucky leaned over again, scooping up a handful of his fries, his metal hand dipping his nachos into the cheese sauce and handing it to Steve thoughtlessly. He nodded and he looked at him with a smile: sitting in the back booth at Nathan’s ignoring the crowd of tourists around them. Steve could almost be in 1937 all over again.
“Have you ever talked to Wanda about your depression?” Bucky looked up at him and set his hotdog down, taking a sip of his Coca-Cola as he looked into his eyes.
“No, she’s got enough going on, doesn’t need to have me affecting her” Steve furrowed his brow and he looked out the window at the water.
“She’s just a kid, and she’s lost her lover, brother, parents and maternal figure in the past – what – five years not counting the Snap? I just need to get myself together better so she’s not having to deal with it.” Steve studied him for a moment and spoke softly.
“I hope someday I can help you realize you’re worth more than cracked masks and witty one-liners” Steve squeezed his hands as Bucky blushed, the two holding each other’s gazes in the restaurant.
Steve bit his lip as he locked eyes with Bucky in the mirror.
Bucky was in a black undershirt, Steve in his own white one as Bucky sat in front of the bathroom mirror on a kitchen chair. Laid out on the counter next to them were the items needed for the evening. Bucky swallowed thickly and Steve rested his hands on his shoulders, kissing the back of his head as they looked at each other through the glass.
“So, I’m thinkin’ I’ll snip as much off as I can first, then bring out the clippers and give it a quick wash so you can see it to decide the style we really want, yeah?” Bucky nodded and shakily handed Steve the scissors.
“If you need me to stop Doll, just say so okay?” Bucky nodded again and cleared his throat.
“I trust you.” Steve pressed another kiss before running his hands through his lover’s hair a few times before holding the hair as far away from Bucky’s body as he could, slowly beginning to cut.
“Here we go.”
It took a few minutes, but after about twenty minutes of Steve’s constant chattering, Bucky was chuckling back and by the time Steve was washing his hair they were acting just like they had when Steve would cut Bucky’s hair back in their little shitty apartment.
Steve finished toweling his hair off and looked into the mirror, biting back his own gasp as Bucky’s own audible breath became apparent in the small, tiled room.
It was like looking into the forties.
“Whattya think pal?” Bucky stared at himself with wide eyes and shakily brought up his metal fingers to touch it gently, eyes welling. He swallowed thickly and looked at Steve nervously through the mirror. Steve swallowed his own emotions and wrapped his arms around him, pressing a kiss to his temple before resting his mouth beside his ear.
“You look beautiful Buck” he whispered and Bucky’s smile lit up the whole bathroom as he brought his hands up to hold Steve’s forearms over his chest as they laughed into the mirror. Bucky’s eyes brighter than Steve had ever remembered seeing them.
“I love it.”
“I don’t think I understand this movie”
“Morgan swears by it”
“Morgan is also six” Steve laughed through his nose into Bucky’s hair, rubbing his hand across his back as they lay entwined on the couch watching Moana. Bucky rested his head over Steve’s heart as he lay on the couch, eyes on the screen as they lounged together. Bucky’s arm flexed against Steve and he let out a low hum, eyes sliding closed. Steve squeezed Bucky lethargically and kissed the top of his head.
“Tired doll?” Bucky shook his head and curled his fingers into Steve’s t-shirt. Steve smiled and turned back to the TV, scratching Moana off the list before he moved to the next movie, sighing at the feeling of Bucky melting into him. Steve knew he was falling asleep and let his own eyes drift shut as the next movie began rolling. Contentment radiating from both of them.
“Shh, it’s okay it’s just me” Steve blinked awake and looked at Wanda’s smiling face. A quick glance over at the clock revealed it was almost three in the morning.
Steve didn’t want to know how long the film’s main menu had been going.
Wanda knelt down next to the couch and looked at Bucky’s sleeping form with wet eyes.
“Since his birthday, I’ve always been so afraid of walking in the door. He tries so hard to keep himself in check but – when you can read emotions like they’re your own…” she trailed off and gently ran a hand through the short hair on Bucky’s head and smiled.
“Looks good, does he like it?” Steve nodded and whispered softly.
“His eyes lit right up” Wanda grinned.
“S’been a long time since our house felt like this” Steve furrowed his brows and Wanda stood again, straightening and heading toward the stairs.
“What do you mean?”
“Happy, it’s been a long time since our house was just happy. No dark clouds hanging out in corners” Steve smiled and Wanda waved her fingers at them as she headed up the stairs.
“Night Wanda” Steve watched her head up and turned the TV off, tightening his arms around Bucky’s form and resting his head back against the armrest, drifting back to sleep.
The next time Steve woke up, it was to lips pressing against his jaw. He blinked and looked down at Bucky who was smiling at him playfully.
“Hey” Bucky pressed a kiss to his neck again and whispered back.
“Hi” Steve rested his hands on Bucky’s hips as he moved up his body, moving to straddle the blonde’s hips as he rubbed their noses together. Bucky pressed their lips together in a slow kiss, languidly moving their lips together. Steve inhaled deeply and tightened his grip as Bucky began to move his hips against Steve’s.
“Bucky, honey-wait” he gently pushed Bucky up and looked at him carefully. Bucky looked down at him in confusion and Steve cupped his cheek gently.
“It’s getting’ pretty late pal, I should head home” at Bucky’s flash of hurt, Steve sat up and continued speaking.
“I mean, there’s nothing I’d rather do than stay here doing this with you. but I want to do this right remember? Besides, I don’t think Wanda would appreciate us making time on the sofa” Bucky snorted a soft laugh and nodded.
“Yeah, yeah I guess you’re right” the two sat up and Steve kissed him softly again. Bucky smiled against his lips and wrapped his arms around his shoulders as they kissed chastely. Steve pinched his side gently, earning a surprised giggle as Bucky finally climbed off of him.
The two walked to the door with their hands still entwined as Steve stepped onto the porch.
“I had a great day Buck” Bucky bit his lip and smiled shyly.
“Me too, thanks for the haircut” Steve gently ran his fingers through it and smiled.
“Looks good on you” Bucky flushed red and leaned in to kiss him again.
“Let me know you got home yeah?” Steve nodded and embraced him.
“Will do, night Buck, sleep well” he shoved his hands into his pockets and hopped down the steps, heading for the subway.
Bucky leaned against the door and bit his bottom lip, worrying it between his teeth as he watched him leave.
“Night Stevie” he breathed a laugh and looked down as a smiled broke out across his face.
He couldn’t remember the last time he felt this light. He turned around and closed the door, freezing to a halt in the doorway and the gleaming smile looking back at him.
“I thought he’d never leave” Bucky jumped about a foot in the air, swinging his metal fist back defensively.
“Jesus Christ Wanda, warn a guy will ya?” Wanda cackled evilly, contradicting the pastel pink silk housecoat she adored.
Bucky’d heard a rumour that it had been Natasha’s, he thought it rude to ask.
“Come on, I’ll make tea and you can tell me all about your date!”
“Mr. Rogers, Captain America Sir! Wow” Steve’s old eyes wrinkled with a smile as Scott floundered in the doorway, Hope rolling her eyes over his shoulder.
“Hi Scott, may I come in? Hope, lovely to see you again” Hope smiled warily and looked between the two of them.
“Well, I’d love to stay but I don’t think anything good is going to come out of this meeting given both your track records, so I’m going to go visit my father.” She clapped the elderly man’s shoulder and looked at him with piercing eyes.
“I trust you’re not going to do anything stupid, right Steve?” Steve smiled at her and glanced over her shoulder.
He’d never been a good liar.
“Of course not Miss. Van Dyne, just wanted to come say hi, tired of being on my own all day.” Hope eyed him and walked out. Steve looked at Scott with serious eyes and Scott squared his shoulders.
“She’s gunna be pissed isn’t she?” Steve smiled ruefully and wrung his hands.
“Scott, I gotta ask you the biggest favour I ever have, bigger than the Accord and Thanos – all of it. I need your help and I have no one else I can turn to. But you cannot tell a soul!” Scott’s eyes lit up in excitement and he nodded emphatically.
“Of course, when the OG Cap needs help I’ll always be ready!” Steve breathed a laugh and relaxed.
They could do this.
He’d get his best friend back.
The smut from "eventual smut" had now arrived.
Bucky let out a low whistle as Steve led the way into the steakhouse. He’d remember walking past Peter Luger’s when he was young, the smell of the grill haunting him as he’d make his way home to whatever pitiful broth Steve would have waiting for him after a long day at the docks. He glanced at himself to double check that he was appropriately dressed for the venue.
Wanda had been all too happy to dress him up, shoving him into a pair of tight-fitting dark jeans, a charcoal sweater and slicking his hair back almost exactly like he did in the forties.
Steve wasn’t looking half bad either, in a pair of acid wash jeans and navy button up. He kept his fingers laced with Bucky’s as he walked up to the Maitre’d.
“Good evening, we have a reservation for two under Rogers” Bucky grinned at him and squeezed his hand as the well-dressed woman looked through her list.
The past three weeks with Steve had been amazing. He’d been patient, learning Bucky’s likes and dislikes and only ever referred to the other Bucky as his “ex” or “James” making it easier for Bucky to separate from him. Bucky’d been doing his own growing too. He’d started seeing his own therapist and had begun to decorate his own place.
It also made it a lot easier for Steve to sleepover in a king size bed.
“Right this way Mr. Rogers” the two followed the confident woman to their table in the back corner next to the window. Steve smiled and murmured a thank-you to her as Bucky locked their legs together. Steve looked at him with a nervous smile.
“I figured after three weeks I should give you the classy time I’d been promising” Bucky laughed and cocked his head to the side.
“I liked our other dates too, but I gotta say it’s nice to see what this place looks like on the inside for a change” Steve barked out a surprised laugh and held his hand across the table.
“So how was Morgan’s first day of school?” Steve sipped his wine and his smile turned fond.
“It was good, apparently she got in trouble because she was getting annoyed at how ‘slow’ everyone else is. Pepper thinks they’ll probably bump her up a few grades” Bucky grinned and nodded.
“It’s true, she is a genius, I’d just be worried about how the older kids would treat her. It can be hard bein’ small” Steve nodded in agreement and spoke softly.
“She’d need a Bucky. Makes it a lot easier” Bucky flushed bright red and smiled into his own glass as their server arrived with their food.
“I’d rather she not need one at all” Steve squeezed his hand and nodded as they tucked in.
“Are you sure about this?” Scott nodded excitedly and slid the helmet over his head, clicking his Pym particles to his belt. Hope looked at him in concern and Steve began to feel his own doubts curling. He shook himself off and looked at the platform.
No, this could work. If Scott could find a way to bring back the other Steve’s Bucky, they could move time around so he’d never stayed with Peggy.
It would be like it never happened.
Hope looked between them again as she looked through their plans.
“Scott, I don’t know how sound this is, I mean based on what we kno-“ Scott grabbed her hands and smiled brightly.
“It’ll be fine, I’ll poke around as much as I can and use my last ones to get home! I’m just exploring anyways, not actually gunna do anything” Hope looked at him with furrowed brows and he shook her shoulders.
“It’ll be okay, I promise.” The two looked at each other for a long moment before she finally sighed.
“Okay, I’ll be your connection here then. Constant communication, got it” he pressed an excited kiss to her cheek and grinned.
“Yes ma’am you got it! See you in a bit Cap!” and with that, Scott was off, leaving Hope and Steve looking at one another uncertainly. Hope eyed him dangerously and spoke in a clipped tone.
“If anything happens to him, I will kill you” Steve gulped and nodded, sitting down and watching the monitors nervously.
It had to work.
“W-would you like to come in? Wanda’s babysitting for the Barton’s this weekend” Steve froze in the doorway as Bucky looked at him with hooded eyes.
Steve knew that look.
He swallowed dryly and let out a hoarse whisper.
“Yeah, I really would” Bucky pressed the door open with his back as Steve chased him up the steps, wrapping his arms around his waist and pulling him into a scalding kiss as Bucky slammed the door shut. The two collided against the wall and Steve began pressing kisses down Bucky’s neck, wedging his thigh between Bucky’s legs and pressing against the hardness he found there.
“S-Steve, fuck” Bucky ground against him and moaned loudly, gripping Steve’s hair and kissing him roughly.
“Tell me what you like baby, what do you want?” Bucky groaned in his throat and wrapped a leg around the blonde’s tapered waist.
“God, Steve anything, everything, just please don’t stop” Steve let out a growl of his own as he moved his lips back to Bucky’s, hoisting the brunette on his hips and pinning him against the wall.
Bucky let out a surprised laugh as Steve moved away from the wall, moving them down the hall towards Bucky’s room, bumping into a wall occasionally. The two laughed as Steve hit the doorframe.
“Oof – sorry, y’okay?” Bucky cackled and the two laughed against each other’s lips as they landed on the new bed.
“M’good, now less talking – more kissing” Steve nestled between his legs, propping himself up with one arm, sliding his other hand up Bucky’s chest to cradle his jaw as they kissed passionately, Bucky’s arms falling above his head as he planted one foot on the bed and began grinding up against him. Steve let out another moan and moved his hand back down to grip Bucky’s hip as Bucky sucked on his bottom lip. He pulled away and looked down at him with eyes blown wide. Steve ran the pad of his thumb over Bucky’s bottom lip and tried to catch his breath.
“You sure about this? I don’t wanna blow it again” Bucky smiled softly and cradled Steve’s jaw, running his thumbs over Steve’s bearded cheeks.
“S’different now, no comparing anymore deal?” Steve nodded and pressed their foreheads together, eyes drifting closed briefly.
“Deal” Bucky pressed a soft kiss against him again and Steve began to move back against him.
“We’re wearing too many clothes” Bucky snorted against his lips and began to undo Steve’s button-up. The two rolled as Steve shrugged the garment off, sitting up as Bucky straddled his hips, Steve helping him lift the charcoal sweater over his head. Bucky’s head dropped back as Steve attached his lips to a nipple, pinching the other with his fingers. Bucky began grinding down against him, kissing the top of his head and nudging at his face.
“C’mere” Steve smiled against him as he kissed him again, moving his hands back down to his hips and guiding Bucky’s increasingly erratic movements.
By the time they were down to their underwear, Steve had catalogued two major differences between Bucky and his late fiancé. Steve wasn’t intentionally comparing, but it was impossible not to notice when they were so similar yet so different.
One, this Bucky was obsessed with kisses. He absolutely loved them. Steve was convinced if they weren’t as hot and heavy as they were now Bucky would be perfectly content to just make out all night.
Since they’d become more affectionate, Bucky would kiss him every chance he got, any kisses. The two often spent the first two hours they were in bed making out leisurely. Steve had even invested in lip chap and a special beard moisturizer to try to keep the beard-burn to a minimum on Bucky’s face.
Steve considered them excellent investments because he would gladly kiss Bucky for as long as he wanted – whenever he wanted.
The second thing Steve noticed – because it was impossible not to – was this Bucky was submissive. His own Bucky had always been the strong, silent type, manhandling Steve into all kinds of positions and taking charge.
This Bucky melted under his touch, following Steve’s every move with his own accompaniment of breathy moans and grabbing hands. Steve was in total control in the bedroom.
Part of Steve was sure it had to do with Bucky’s lack of intimate experience, or at least lack of intimate experience with men. But Bucky was clearly all in and Steve would be damned if he ruined this because he wasn’t used to being the top.
“Still good?” Bucky nodded and bit his lip as Steve tucked his fingers into the waistband of his boxers. Steve climbed onto his knees and slowly slid his underwear down his legs, taking a moment to take him in.
Bucky’s firm abs flexed involuntarily with his heated breaths, eyes half-lidded and lips swollen. Steve’s breath stuttered and he felt his mouth go dry at the man splayed beneath him, his cock giving a painful twitch in his own boxers as he watched Bucky’s slap up against his thigh.
“Jesus Christ Buck, you’re a fucking sin” Bucky let out a breathless laugh and bit his lip shyly, blush high on his cheeks as he reached for Steve.
“Your turn” Steve unceremoniously wiggled out of his own underwear, watching Bucky lick his lips as he finally sprang free. He didn’t give Bucky much of a chance though, crawling on top of him again and pressing him into the pillows and beginning to run his lips across the tanned skin.
“So beautiful, can’t stop lookin’ at ya. Jesus Buck, y’got any idea what you’re doin’ t’me?” Bucky let out a whine as Steve licked and sucked his way down his abs, lost in his own haze of pleasure as he zeroed in on his target.
He could feel Bucky writhing against him, flesh hand carding through his hair as he got closer and closer to the heavy member lying against Bucky’s hip, the sheen of precum pooling in his Adonis Belt.
“S-Steve, fucking Christ Steve” Steve trailed his nose along Bucky’s treasure trail before running his tongue along that Belt, catching his lover’s fluids on his tongue before surging up to kiss him roughly again, hiking one of Bucky’s legs high on his waist to grind their arousals together desperately as he panted into his mouth.
“Lemme suck you doll, make you feel so good” Bucky gripped Steve’s hair almost painfully, biting at his lips and grabbing a handful of the Captain’s ass as he keened.
“Yeah, c’mon, want you so fucking bad” Steve pressed another bruising kiss to his lips, pinning his arms above his head with a murmured stay before getting onto his knees, shimmying back down his lover’s body.
Bucky planted his feet on the bed, knees falling open as Steve took him in his hand, Bucky let out a straggled cry as his cock was suddenly engulfed in the wet heat of Steve’s mouth.
Thank God Wanda wasn’t home.
Steve was sure that the two of them looked like they were straight out of a porno.
Bucky’s back was arched clean off the mattress, thighs clenched around Steve’s head in an almost vice like grip. His metal hand clinging to the headboard as his flesh hand gripped the back of Steve’s head, fingers digging into his hair.
And the sounds Bucky was making. A lesser man would die at those sounds alone.
Steve was barely hanging on.
He swallowed him down again, taking him as deeply as he could while slick fingers pumped in and out of the brunette readily. Making sure to hit his prostate each and every time.
“Steve, Stevie fuck me. I need you to fuck me now” Steve groaned and released Bucky’s cock regretfully, swearing that one day he would work the man dry with his mouth alone.
“Yeah, yeah okay honey. Need you to get me ready yeah?” Bucky fumbled on the nightstand for the abandoned bottle of lube, gently pumping Steve with his metal hand.
That was new too.
Steve was very quickly developing a kink for it.
He hissed at the cold wetness of the lube, Bucky shushing him apologetically as he worked his hand over him, slicking him up. Steve grabbed a pillow and shoved it under his lover’s hips, guiding one leg over his shoulder and the other around his waist. He pressed the tip of his cock to Bucky’s fluttering opening and the two looked at each other seriously.
“Still good Buck?” The phrase was so simple, but the weight hit both of them as they looked at one another. Bucky propped himself up on an elbow and cradled the back of Steve’s head, bringing him in for a breathtakingly soft kiss.
“M’good, you good?” Steve pressed their lips together chastely and smiled.
“M’good” with that, Bucky lay back and Steve laced their fingers together, other hand steadying himself on Bucky’s hip as he pushed home.
Chapter 26: Author's note
Hello! just a friendly reminder that this is a PROMPT, those of you who who have sent me prompts in the past know that I do like to check in to make sure that I am doing what they wanted with the story.
I'm getting really tired of these nasty messages I'm getting (all of which have been deleted without approval).
This is fiction, this is me working on my English. I've gotten these messages from people before. They hurt, I am hurt and I am once again asking you to stop.
You don't have to read my works if you don't want to. If you originally liked it but don't like where it's going now, I'm sorry and I'm sad to see you go.
This entire prompt is a way for someone to work out their own frustrations with Endgame.
Please stop insulting my IQ, my integrity and/or my ability to write in this language simply because you don't like the story line.
I don't do it to you, please stop doing it to me. For everyone supporting me and giving me back constructive feedback and ideas, thank you so much! Please keep doing so!
As always I love you all!!!
Have a great day ❤️
Steve breathed deeply as he rolled over, arm draping over Bucky’s waist and pulling him back into his chest. He smiled at the feeling of the sleep warm body pressing against his and rested his forehead against Bucky’s hair as he hummed into his sleep, curling against Steve and resting his head on his chest. He glanced over at the clock and smirked.
Seven-thirty. Bucky’d be waking up any minute now, he’d never been able to sleep in. Even when Steve was small.
Sure enough, Bucky soon began to move against him, eyes fluttering open as he looked up at him.
“Hey babydoll” Bucky smiled and rolled onto his back, stretching as he smiled at the blonde with sleep-soft eyes.
“Mornin’ Stevie” Steve grinned at the Brooklyn drawl and propped himself up on his arm to lean over and kiss him gently. Bucky grinned against his lips and wrapped his arms around his shoulders, pulling him down on top of him.
“Wanna grab breakfast?” Bucky shook his head and kissed him again, rolling his hips up against Steve’s so he could feel just how awake Bucky was. Steve let out a breathy laugh and pressed a firmer kiss to his lips.
“I’ve got a better idea” Steve grinned and settled between his legs, turning the kisses playful.
“Shall we work up an appetite?” Steve latched his lips to Bucky’s neck and Bucky let out a bright laugh, sliding his metal hand into Steve’s hair as his beard tickled his neck.
“Oh let’s” he moaned and pulled Steve’s lips back up to his, wrapping his legs around his waist.
“So I have to go to Wakanda this weekend” Steve smiled reassuringly at Bucky as he handed him his coffee. Bucky hummed in thanks and sipped at it. Steve cocked his head to the side and sat down across from him, locking their legs together under the table.
“Would you like me to come with you?” Bucky bit his lip and Steve felt an ache in his chest. Bucky hated getting his arm worked on, it always made him think of his time with Hydra – no matter how much he adored and trusted Shuri.
“I mean, if you want to – it’ll be boring, just me getting poked at” Steve leaned back in the seat and smirked, putting his hands behind his head.
“Free trip with you and I get amazing food, a nice tan and get to hang out with royalty – you make it sound like a hardship” Bucky laughed and ran his foot up Steve’s leg.
“I’ll call Shuri, let her know to expect two” Steve smiled and Bucky lunged across the table again, capturing his lips in another kiss. Steve let his eyes close, kissing him tenderly.
He could get used to this.
“Got any plans today?”
“I was thinking of taking a pint-sized genius to the Central Park Zoo, how about you?” Bucky grinned and his eyes lit up.
“I think that sounds like a blast.”
“Uncle Bucky look” Morgan yanked Bucky’s metal prosthetic as she pointed excitedly at the Snow Leopard exhibit. Bucky immediately knelt down next to her, scooping her up onto his hip to help her get a better view.
“Oh wow, isn’t she beautiful?” Steve shoved his hands into his jacket pockets as he watched Bucky walk over to the sign, reading off the information as Morgan rested her head against his.
“It says her name is Tundra” Morgan scanned the enclosure and looked at Bucky.
“Is there another one? Does she have a friend?” Bucky furrowed his brow and scanned the plaque as Steve walked over.
“It says there was another leopard in here before – Winter, but she’s gone now” Steve glanced over Bucky’s shoulder and read the plaque himself, resting his hand on the small of Bucky’s back.
Tundra and her litter-mate, Winter, were brought to the zoo together in the fall of 2017. Unfortunately, Tundra was a victim of The Blip and in the five year gap Winter passed away. We hope to find a new friend for Tundra very soon!
Steve felt a quick tinge in his chest as he looked over at the leopard, lounging on top of the den, eyes scanning the enclosure.
“Do you think she’s lonely?” Bucky’s eyes went sad for a minute and Steve felt him subconsciously step back and closer to Steve, who immediately slid his hand around Bucky’s waist, his way of saying I’m here. Bucky smiled at her and bounced her gently.
“Now, how could she be lonely when she has wonderful people like you come visit her?” Morgan grinned and giggled, turning back to wave at the leopard as the three began walking away, Morgan sliding down to grab Bucky’s hand as they walked away.
“Can we get ice cream now?” Steve came up on her other side and grabbed her other hand, he and Bucky swinging her to and fro as she laughed.
“I think ice cream would be amazing right now? Whattya think Steve?” Steve nodded.
“As long as I don’t have to share!” Morgan squealed in delight as they walked up to the snack bar.
“So when are you back from Wakanda?” Bucky fired his rifle again, taking out another droid as Sam flew over his head, catching the shield as it ricocheted across the warehouse.
“Probably in a week, gotta pass all Shuri’s tests and Steve and I were gunna just relax for a few days” Bucky heard Sam snort over the comm and rolled his eyes.
“Hey Birdbrain, on your left!” Sam barely ducked out of the way as Bucky sent another droid flying, turning to smirk at him.
“Maybe if you weren’t so focused on my love life, you’d have seen that one coming?” Sam barked out a laugh and crossed his arms, taking the quick moment to look at him.
“Fair enough man, I’ll just need to get my own blonde bombshell” Bucky began running back towards the fray and Sam fell in step with him.
“I heard Sharon’s still single” Sam spluttered and Bucky cackled as they began fighting again.
“Estimated arrival in Wakanda, estimated arrival thirteen hours and seventeen minutes. Autopilot engaged” Bucky got up from the controls to where Steve was lounging on one of the bunks, opening up his arms as Bucky curled in next to him. He kissed Bucky’s head and opened up one of the holoscreens, looking for a movie.
“So Shuri’s gotta recalibrate the arm?” Bucky nodded and sighed.
“Yeah, she’s gotta update the socket too, which’ll hurt like a bitch” Steve felt the minute tremor in his lover at the statement and looked at him gently.
“I could go with you – if you want?” Bucky curled even tighter against his side and smiled.
“I’d like that – if you’re okay with that, that is?” Steve smiled at him and they kissed softly.
“Of course, nowhere else I’d rather be” Bucky grinned and relaxed into his arms, watching the movie mindlessly as the Quinjet sailed silently through the sky.
“White Wolf!” Steve laughed as Bucky dropped to a knee once he stepped off the Quinjet, immediately tackled by several children.
“Hello there!” Bucky let them climb on him as Steve smiled, attention turning towards the royal family headed their way.
“James Buchanan Barnes” Bucky flinched as Shuri stormed down the runway. Steve walked up next to him and watched as she flew at him in righteous fury.
“Your hair! The disrespect! You cut it, I cannot believe you!” Bucky let out a surprised cackle as she grabbed at the shorter locks, tsking loudly.
“Ugh – did you have anything to do with this!?” sharp eyes immediately turned past Bucky to Steve and she furrowed her brow at him. Steve let out a surprised yelp and shook his head.
“No! I mean-“ Bucky whipped his own head around with wide eyes.
“No?! You’re the one that cut it for me!” Steve held his hands up in surrender as T’Challa finally addressed the group, cackling.
“Alright, that is quite enough Shuri. Gentlemen, how was your flight?” Steve shook the king’s hand and smiled in gratitude.
“Very nice, thank you for having me your highness” T’Challa smiled warmly and moved to shake Bucky’s hand.
“Please, you are always welcome here Captain” their eyes locked and Steve could see the unwritten message in his eyes. As long as Bucky’s happy – we’re happy.
“I’m sure you must both be hungry, dinner is prepared and afterwards your rooms should be ready” the two men nodded and Steve laced their fingers together as they followed them into the dining hall.
“Do you want to kill me!?” Shuri clicked her tongue as she ran the scanner over Bucky’s shoulder, ignoring Steve’s concerned gaze over his shoulder – and his own growing apprehension.
“Have you dislocated your shoulder recently?” Bucky bit his lip and nodded, swinging his legs nervously.
“’Bout a month ago? I was on a mission with Sam” Shuri pursed her lips and raised an eyebrow at him.
“And who set it?” Bucky flushed as Steve pushed himself off the wall, beginning to walk over as his own concern began to get the better of him.
“Uh, I did.” Steve inhaled sharply through his nose and rested a hip against the table, eyeing his partner.
“Pardon me?” Bucky let out a self-deprecating chuckle and looked at his feet.
“Sam and I were in the field, I didn’t have time to have it properly set because Sam had no backup so I did it. I didn’t even think about it after” Shuri heaved a sigh and looked at him.
“Well, you didn’t set it right and some of your muscle healed over the framing in your shoulder” Bucky blanched and Steve gently rested his hand on Bucky’s leg, looking at Shuri.
“What does that mean?” Shuri turned her body to the Captain, but kept her eyes on the sergeant as she spoke.
“It means he’s going to need surgery, nothing extensive, we just have to clean it off – nothing we haven’t done before” Bucky nodded and swallowed thickly.
“Although I confess I was hoping he’d learn by now!” Bucky smiled sheepishly and nodded, looking up at her through his lashes.
“M’sorry, you were right. I should’ve come in sooner” the princess’s gaze softened and she sighed.
“You should’ve, but you’re lucky I love you. I’ll call Sam and let him know, the sooner we get you in the better but it’s not urgent. When would you like to have the procedure?” Bucky sighed heavily and closed his eyes.
“Probably tomorrow, just get it over with” Shuri nodded and clicked her tongue again.
“You have no one to blame but yourself, I’ll call Sam. Have a good night gentlemen” she pranced out of the room and the two soldiers looked at each other gently. Steve gently took Bucky’s flesh hand and looked at him with a raised eyebrow.
“So, when you said you were stiff after that mission in Tangier?” Bucky blushed and looked up at him sheepishly.
“I didn’t think it was this bad, honest. I don’t want to have surgery” Bucky’s tone was flippant, but the tiny waver at the end let Steve know just how not flippant he was being. Steve stepped in between his legs, framing his face in his hands as he kissed his forehead.
“I know you don’t, Sam’ll be here by tonight and you and I can spend the rest of today and tonight just together. Surgery will only be about two hours then good as new.” Bucky pressed a kiss to his lips and nodded.
“What should we do today then?” Steve grinned and kissed him again roughly, earning a smile and chuckle from the brunette.
“Oh, I’m sure I can think of something.”
“Steve, you need to calm down man” Steve slammed his elderly hands onto the bed as he watched Sam calmly packed his go-bag.
“Calm down!? Calm down!? Bucky needs surgery Sam! That can’t be good” Sam rolled his eyes and pinched his nose.
“Lord give me strength, Steve it’s a routine surgery, two hours start to finish he’s going to be fine. You need to calm down, Shuri’s barely even phased by it, besides Steve is there with him, he’ll be fine.” Steve let out a derisive snort and rolled his eyes.
“Of course he is – I’m coming with you.” Sam immediately flung his hands up, shaking his head.
“Oh no, no way! I’m not starting the next Civil War in Wakanda between two Steves-“
“Sam-“ the two leveled each other with dangerous looks, Sam squared his shoulders as Steve lifted his chin. If he showed up with Old Steve he'd be in so much trouble.
“Nuh uh, no way, absolutely not! You are not going”.
Bucky smiled over at Steve as they watched the sunset. They hadn’t really done anything too exciting, merely reacquainting themselves with the locals and visiting the Border Tribe before having a quiet dinner at Bucky’s old hut.
The goats were gone, and as much as Bucky missed them, he had to admit he enjoyed the quiet of sitting in the grass next to his lover watching the sunset. He was suddenly hit with a pang as he remembered how much he’d dreamed of doing this with the other Steve – before he’d run off with Peggy.
Almost as if he knew where Bucky’s thoughts were going, Steve gently wrapped an arm around his shoulders and pulled him into his side, kissing the top of his head.
“You okay doll?” Steve felt Bucky melt into his side and smiled in spite of himself.
“Yeah, just thinking about tomorrow” Steve rubbed his arm reassuringly and pecked his temple.
“It’ll be fine, Shuri said you’ve done it before” Bucky nodded and pulled away, looking down at his hands.
“Yeah, it’s just – they need to use a pretty hefty anaesthesia on me, because I burn through everything you know? I just get nervous over how long I’m out” Steve heard the underlying message loud and clear and felt his heat ache. He nudged Bucky and looked at him gently.
“Hey, I’ll be there when they put you under, and I’ll make sure you wake up the same day” Bucky looked at him with wide eyes and Steve rested their foreheads together.
“I’ll be right there, the whole time. Nothing bad’ll happen, I promise” bucky let out a shaky breath and pressed his forehead back against Steve’s as he gently grabbed at Steve’s t-shirt.
“You can’t promise that.” Steve gave him a chaste kiss and ran his thumb over Bucky’s bottom lip, smiling as Bucky’s eyes became heavily lidded.
Steve smiled kindly as the member of the Dora Milaje helped him onto the plane, Sam groaning behind him.
“Way to stick to your guns Wilson.” He trudged up the ramp and plopped into a seat, sighing heavily as the jet took off towards Wakanda.
Young Steve was gunna be pissed.
Steve ignored the pull in his stomach as he looked at Bucky, dressed almost exactly the same as he had been when he had gone into Cryo. Bucky shot him a hesitant smile and Steve forced a warm grin, stepping into his space and framing his face in his hands. Bucky’s eyes closed against the gentle touch and Steve once again found himself wondering how long it had been since someone other than him had touched him gently. Bucky leaned into him and Steve buried his face into his hair.
“Ready pal?” Bucky nodded and wrapped his arm around his waist, smiling up at him softly.
“As ready as I’ll ever be. Sam here yet?” Steve carded his fingers through the fluffy hair and shook his head.
“Not yet, they’re expecting him in about an hour or so. He’ll be here when you wake up” Bucky nodded and swallowed thickly, Steve pressed their foreheads together, looking deeply into his eyes.
“I’ll be here too doll, remember, it’s just routine. You’ll be awake by supper” Bucky nodded and bit his lip gently, leaning in to kiss him and smiling softly at him.
“You gunna get me dinner?” Steve laughed through his nose and hugged him.
“I’ll get you a peanut butter sandwich or somethin’” Bucky barked out a surprised laugh and nodded, leaning back and gripping his hip teasingly.
“Aren’t you a swell gentleman” Steve smirked and shrugged.
“I try” Bucky kissed him again gently as Shuri walked into the room.
“Not to break up the snuggle session, but I need your boyfriend Captain” Steve reluctantly stepped away and Bucky stood, walking towards Shuri who smiled brightly and placed a hand on his back. Bucky turned back to Steve as they headed towards the operating suite and Steve smiled reassuringly.
“See you in a few hours?” Steve nodded and tapped the watch on his wrist.
“Watch is already synchronized sweetie, see you soon” Bucky nodded and squared his shoulders, extending his arm out and cocking his head at the princess.
“What is this” Sam groaned inwardly as Shuri flew down the runway towards him, fury radiating from every pore as Steve hobbled off the jet. He looked at Sam with wild eyes and Sam threw his hands up.
“Wait! I can explain!” Shuri stopped short, chest heaving in fury as Okoye suddenly appeared behind her, steel eyes narrowed in on the elderly Captain. He tried to give her a soft smile, her gaze didn’t falter and Steve realized just how unwelcome he was in Wakanda.
He was sure everyone could hear his heartbreak.
Shuri seemed unfazed, her body coiled like a protective snake as other members of the Dora Milaje began to advance forward. She pointed an enraged finger at Sam and snarled.
“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t have you both escorted back on that plane and out of Wakandan airspace!” Steve flinched back and looked at Sam with scared eyes.
Sam watched the exchange and spoke up softly.
“He was there when I got the call, he was just worried about Barnes. He’s not going to cause any issues. It’ll be like he’s not even here” the last bit was ground out between his teeth as Sam side-eyed Steve aggressively and he bit his lip as Sam turned back to the princess.
“How’s he doing?” Shuri glared at Old Steve for one more minute before turning to Sam.
“He’s good, they’re just finishing up now – which is the only reason I’m out here and not in there. Steve’s in there so, you know, behave” she turned on her heel and stormed back up the runway, Okoye watching them with a hawk-like gaze as the two men sheepishly followed. Steve glanced over at Sam and he growled.
“Next time I tell you to stay home, do me a favour and stay home” Steve bit his lip, nodding silently as he realized just how precarious of a position he’d put his friend in.
“Sam, I’m sorry-“ Sam shook his head and shoved his hands into his pockets, body language screaming how uncomfortable he was.
“Just do me a favour, stay in line so I don’t get in anymore trouble.” Steve swallowed thickly and hung his head as the entered the palace.
“Hey” Young Steve’s head jerked up as Sam slowly walked into the viewing theatre, looking down at the surgical team stitching up Bucky’s shoulder on the table. Sam sat down next to him and watched as he let out a tired sigh, scrubbing a hand across his beard.
“Hey Sam” Sam eased himself into the seat and the two sat in silence for a few moments before Steve spoke up quietly.
“I never realized how much metal was in there. How much reconstruction there actually is. Did you know he needs enough anesthesia to knock out two of these rhinos for three hours each in order to stay out for a two hour procedure? I need half of that. The amount he has in him right now could kill me” Sam pursed his lips, nodding silently and looked at him with gentle eyes as Steve snorted.
“And everything thinks our serums are the same.” Sam sighed softly and looked back down at his partner on the table.
“You didn’t have to watch it Steve – s’gotta be a hard thing to see” Steve let out a weak laugh and his eyes filled with tears. He rolled his head to look at Sam and smiled sadly.
“Yeah I did. I promised I’d be here.”
“Doesn’t mean you have to actually watch him be operated on.” Steve looked down as his hands and heaved a long sigh that made Sam ache in sympathy.
“I was catatonic for a month after The Snap. For a solid month, James had to physically get me out of bed, help me bathe, eat – basic human actions. He’d talk for days on end. About two weeks in he finally cracked. He literally fell to his knees begging me to give him something, a word, a nod, anything. And I just looked at him,” Sam listened with soft eyes as Steve wiped angrily at his rogue tears.
“James had to navigate his own PTSD, modern day New York, and the logistics of The Snap. All while taking care of me – and he never complained, he never asked for anything in return. He needed me Sam. He needed me and I couldn’t be there for him.” Sam swallowed thickly against his own emotions as Steve clenched his hands into fists, staring down as the team rolled Bucky onto his back, shooting a thumbs up at their audience.
“I failed him, over and over. And I’ve been given a second chance, to be better for him,” he looked at Sam with an earnest expression and nodded emphatically.
“So if being better for him means that I have to sit through two hours of watching him be operated on, yeah Sam, I have to watch.” The medical team began to move Bucky to send him to the recovery room and Sam rubbed the back of his neck.
“This is on me Steve, I shoulda been paying more attention in the field-“ Steve immediately shook his head.
“You had no way of knowing Sam, it’s only the two of you. I saw how you both looked after Tangier. You guys need better backup – no offense to Hill” Sam nodded and rested against the backrest, leaning his head up to the ceiling.
“You’re right – God Steve I have no idea what I’m doing” Steve looked at him with soft eyes as Sam felt the last bit of his control slip.
“I had no idea what the other Steve was gunna do. I wasn’t even remotely prepared for this. Barnes showing up like some goddamn angel saved my life more than once. But he’s so good at pretending he’s okay, at talking me down when I’m doubting myself. It get easy for me to forget he’s taken the same – if not worse hits than me in the field because he’ll always come sauntering up with his head cocked and that fuckin’ smirk.” The two shared a laugh and Steve patted his leg.
“That’s classic Bucky, you gotta learn his tells.” Sam looked at him and nodded as he smiled, raising his eyebrows.
“You know ‘em?” Steve nodded and shrugged.
“Most of ‘em anyway. I’ll give you a crash course sometime” Sam barked out a laugh and suddenly froze.
“W-would you consider working in the field with us?” Steve jerked and his jaw fell open.
“No, Sam, the Shield-“ Sam held a hand up and closed his eyes.
“No, no – I like that Shield thank you. But you’re a master technician and Barnes and I both trust you and the three of us are able to rely on each other. I know I’d breathe a lot easier having Steve Rogers back in action. It’s your decision man, but I want it perfectly clear that I personally have no issue with you joining on – in fact I’d probably breathe a little easier.” Steve smiled and scratched the back of his neck.
“Let me talk to Buck about it, I wanna make sure he’s comfortable with it first. It’d be nice, doing something good again” Sam nodded and stood, following Steve towards the door when he suddenly remembered who was outside.
“Shit! Steve wait-“ Steve entered the hallway and immediately let out a furious shout of surprise.
“What the Hell is he doing here!?”
“What the Hell is he doing here!?" Old Steve narrowed his eyes at his younger self and growled.
"I could ask you the same thing!" Young Steve glared and stepped forward menacingly.
"I'm his boyfriend, I'm supposed to be here - what's your excuse?" Sam immediately put his hands up and stood between the two, rolling his eyes at having to repeat what had happened a mere twenty minutes before.
"He's with me, when Shuri called we were together and I didn't want him wearing a hole in my floor with his nervous pacing." Steve snarled again and stepped back, crossing his arms as Shuri came in, Okoye at her side as she appraised the group warily.
"You’re all lucky my brother is away on his honeymoon, Bucky’s in recovery and he's just fine. He'll just be a little loopy from the anaesthesia because we needed so much of it, you can all stop fighting and go in now" the three headed to the door and Sam rolled his eyes as the younger Steve smirked, making it to the door first.
Steve watched as his younger self walked up to the bed. Bucky's foggy eyes zoning in on him immediately as a dopey smile crossed his face.
"S'tve?" Old Steve was suddenly blasted back to that table at Azzano, recognizing for the first time what had been in Bucky's eyes when he'd recognized him.
The younger Steve let out a soft smile and brushed some of the curls back, pressing a gentle kiss to Bucky's forehead.
"Heya cutie, do you know where you are?" Bucky's brow furrowed in confusion and he made a sloppy grab for Steve's hand, who immediately captured it and pressed kisses to his knuckles.
"S'fe?" Steve nodded and sat down, resting his other hand on his leg.
"Yeah doll, you're totally safe. Me and Sam are here, you just rest" Bucky hummed and looked at him with half lidded eyes as he began to drift off again.
"Stay?" Steve pressed his lips to their hands again, holding eye contact as he spoke against his skin.
"I'll be right here when you wake up" Bucky nodded and smiled softly, allowing himself to be pulled back into the medication induced slumber. Steve eased himself into the bedside chair and stroked Bucky’s hair, other hand still entangled with Bucky’s own as he watched over him. He scanned his eyes over Bucky’s face and the machines as he murmured again softly.
“M’right here doll.”
“So you’re leaving?” Old Steve whirled around on Sam as he headed out to the jet.
“Yes, clearly I’m not welcome here” Sam rolled his eyes and looked at him.
“C’mon man, the only one who’s made any attempt at burying the hatchet here is Barnes. And Shuri’s a child, why don’t you extend an olive branch?” Steve clenched his jaw in his trademark stubbornness and Sam sighed.
“Where are you gunna go?” Steve sighed and ran a hand through his gray hair and looked out at the Wakandan horizon.
“I’ll go check in on Scott and Hope. See what’s going on, his connection’s been unstable.” Sam crossed his arms and eyed him.
“I don’t know what you’re doing Steve, but I hope it’s nothing stupid” Steve gave him a smile that didn’t reach his eyes and nodded.
“Don’t worry Sam, I know what I’m doing” with that, Steve boarded the jet and Sam watched with suspicious eyes as it took off.
Whatever Steve was doing, it wasn’t going to be good.
“Well look who’s awake” Steve smirked over his shoulder as Sam walked into the room, dropping into the chair on Bucky’s other side. Bucky let out a tired smile and croaked out a soft hey.
“How ya feelin’ man” Bucky hummed as his eyes fluttered closed again and nodded.
“I can’t feel a damn thing” Steve snorted and looked at him gently.
“That’s because there’s enough drugs in you to knock out a heard of rhinos” Bucky snickered and rolled his head to look at Steve again.
“Don’t tell W’Kabi” Steve snorted and brought their hands to his lips. Sam smiled and cleared his throat.
“So has Steve talked to you about our conversation?” Bucky nodded and turned back to Steve with a soft smile.
“It’d be nice having someone else in it with us, at least so we don’t have to get covered in all the alien guts” Sam cackled and nodded, propping his feet up on the bed by Bucky’s knees.
“True, we’ll send him in first” Steve let out a scandalized sound as the other two laughed happily. Bucky looked back at Steve and his tone softened again.
“You gotta want it though Steve, you’ve been out. You don’t have anything to prove” Sam nodded in agreement and looked at him.
“I appreciate it, but I think I want back in. Don’t like sitting around waiting for his sorry ass to come home all battered and bruised – and maybe I’ll set his shoulder next time so it’s done correctly’ he eyed Bucky harshly and he had the decency to look chastised as he lay there smugly. Sam patted his leg and laughed before getting up.
“I’ll call Hill, see if we can get something set up for when we’re all back. What time do you think they’ll set you free?” Bucky shrugged and Steve spoke up.
“We should be home late tonight, we just gotta check to make sure all the drugs are out of his system – he’s almost completely healed already.” Bucky nodded and Sam smiled, climbing to his feet.
“Well, guess I’d better make a call. Glad you’re doin’ all right partner. I’ll check in again before I leave tomorrow” Bucky nodded as Sam clapped his shoulder.
“Thanks Sam, see ya tomorrow” the two watched Sam leave and Bucky turned to Steve with gentle eyes.
“Thanks for staying Steve” Steve smiled tenderly and leaned up to kiss him softly.
“You make it sound like I had other plans?” Bucky laughed and smiled up at him as he leaned up to kiss him again.
“Yeah, life’s pretty boring when I’m not around huh?” Bucky’s tone was light but Steve suddenly became glaringly aware of the truth of the statement, leaning down to kiss him a little harder.
“You’re right, it’s really fuckin’ boring” Bucky smiled as Steve rested his forehead against his briefly, closing his eyes.
“Yeah baby doll?”
“Not to ruin the moment, but I’m really thirsty” Steve snorted and Bucky grinned, watching as Steve grabbed the glass of water on the table.
“Thanks doll, you’re so good to me” Steve rolled his eyes as Bucky shot him a shit-eating grin.
“Shut up and drink your damn water Barnes.” Bucky snorted and Steve fell back into the seat, watching him with caring eyes as he sat up in bed, already beginning to show signs of being back on his game as Shuri walked in to run some tests.
“Aha! Look who finally decided to wake up! I was beginning to think your hair would grow back if you snored any longer” Steve pressed his thumb to his lip and watched as the two began to banter, settling back into the calm he’d missed so much in his other world.
“Wow, didn’t know you knew how to stand up” Bucky rolled his eyes as Sam walked into the hut. He looked around the abode as Bucky continued to wash the dishes one-handed.
“Where’s your nanny?” Bucky snorted as Sam came up to dry the dishes on his other side.
“I sent him to the market to get some food for dinner because he barely let me walk home” Sam cackled as Bucky smiled down at the dishes.
“I appreciate it though, it’s nice having someone else worry about me. I forgot-“ Bucky caught himself as his brow furrowed, looking for the words. Sam watched him for a minute and prodded gently.
“You forgot how it felt to be cared for instead of caring for all the time?” Bucky blushed and nodded, biting his lip. Sam grinned and knocked his shoulder.
“Awww, Barnes is in love” Bucky shoved him back and chuckled.
“Don’t read too much into it, I can still kick your ass” Sam nodded and the two finished the dishes in silence before Sam spoke up softly.
“So, Old Steve came by while you were in surgery. Well, actually he came with me because he was worried about you. He got into a fight with Young Steve and took off before you woke up” Bucky smiled softly.
“Of course he did, can you tell him I appreciate it. I’m going to try to get Steve to behave.” Sam snorted.
“Good, My birthday will be much easier for everyone if Steve doesn’t try to kill Steve” Bucky gave him a sideways look.
“Wait, when’s your birthday?”
“Next month, the fourth” Bucky nodded.
“Anything specific you wanna do?” Sam beamed and gaped at him.
“Wait, is the Winter Soldier offering to plan a birthday party!?”
“Watch yourself, I’m just saying you should plan something” Sam’s smile softened and he clapped his shoulder.
“Well if it makes you feel better, Wanda is already planning something, all you’ll have to do is show up and behave – both of you” Bucky nodded and grinned.
“I’m sure we’ll manage.”
“Will you just let me fuss!" Bucky snickered and dramatically dropped onto the bed in the small hut, leaving Steve alone to prepare food in the kitchenette.
"As long as you don't poison me" Steve flicked a grape at Bucky in annoyance and chuckled when he caught it quickly.
"I make no promises, you've been especially annoying lately" Bucky cackled and popped the grape into his mouth as he watched his lover.
"You know it was fully healed before I was even released right? She just didn't want the arm put back on right away so she could play with it?" Steve shook his head as he continued chopping veggies.
"Don't care Buck, surgery is surgery so let me make dinner" he glanced over his shoulder and smirked at him.
"I thought you'd want me to take of you, I figured it was romantic" Bucky rolled his eyes.
"Consider me properly wooed" Steve slid the tray into the oven and flopped down on the bed next to him, eyes turning serious.
"But you're feeling okay right? No funny business" Bucky kissed him softly and smiled.
"Yeah Stevie, I'm okay I promise" Steve nodded and laced their fingers together.
"So did Sam tell you that old Steve was here while you were in surgery?" Bucky nodded and smirked at him.
“Yeah, you scared him away?” Steve blushed and looked up at the ceiling as Bucky watched him.
“I didn’t scare him away, he was pissed off because I was here and – really – I figured between the two of us, I was more expected to be here than he was” Steve kind of faltered at the end and Bucky smiled, kissing his cheek.
“I agree. I’m glad you’re here – and I’m glad Hill okay-ed you coming into the field with me” Steve looked at him and smiled, squeezing his hand as his eyes crinkled.
“Me too, I’d get so worried when you were off grid” Bucky pressed his forehead to Steve’s temple and sighed, eyes drifting shut.
“M’sorry. I didn’t think it would bother you, what with this basically being our lives” Steve hummed and kissed his hand.
“Just because it’s old news, doesn’t mean I like it” Bucky nodded and smiled at him sleepily. The two kissed softly and Steve nuzzled their noses together.
“Dinner smells good” Steve snorted and his eyes suddenly went wide.
“Shit! The veggies!” Bucky cackled as Steve leapt off the bed, rushing towards the oven to pull out the tray before they burnt.
“On your left – ha! See what I did there?!” Steve rolled his eyes as Sam’s voice came over the comms, vibranium shields holding the alien still as Sam knocked it flying with his own shield.
“Oh ha-ha, how long have you been waiting to say that Sam?” the two continued bantering as Bucky’s chuckle echoed over the comms himself.
“Yeah, keep talking you two, I’m just over here doing my job” both captains let out surprised laughs and turned back to the fray.
“C’mon now, leave some for us!”
“Good job fellas” the men all shot Maria tired smiles as they climbed the ramp into the Quinjet.
“Thanks, now where are the snacks and water bottles?” Maria snorted and roller her eyes at Sam.
“Where they always are. You guys rest up, I expect a full debrief when we touchdown stateside.” They nodded and fell into their seats as the plane took off. Bucky leaned his head against Steve’s shoulder and closed his eyes, drifting off to sleep almost instantly. Sam chuckled quietly as Steve raised an eyebrow.
“What?” Sam finished his granola bar and crossed his arms over his chest, reclining back into his own seat as his eyes began to get heavy.
“Normally, he texts you immediately, and will try to keep himself awake to get home as soon as possible. It’s nice to see him relax” Steve blushed and kissed the top of his head. Sam watched and shot him a soft smile.
“M’glad you joined up Steve” Steve thought back to the Op they just had, briefly imagining how it could have turned out if there were only two of them there. He laced his fingers through Bucky’s metal ones as his lover’s breathing deepened and evened out.
“Yeah, me too.”
“Home sweet home gramps, time to get up” Sam playfully swatted at Bucky’s knee as he grumbled his way back into consciousness. Steve snickering as the three of them disembarked the Quinjet. Maria walking behind them as they made their way to the locker room, nagging Sam about a debrief.
“Agent Hill, if you can’t wait until I shower to get my debrief you’re more than welcome to shower with me” Maria scoffed and rolled her eyes, the tiniest of blushes on her cheeks as she walked towards her office.
“I’ll see you in ten minutes Captain America” Sam cackled as she walked away, shaking her head in playful resignation before turning to Bucky who was smirking at him knowingly.
“What?” Steve shared a look with Bucky as the Asset shrugged.
“You should ask her out, quit being a jerk” Sam faltered and Steve was sure he was blushing as the three made their way to the shower stalls.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about Barnes, I don’t have a thing for Hill” Bucky side-eyes him aggressively and Steve snorted.
“Sure pal, that’s why you just invited her to shower with you” Sam’s jaw fell open, unable to bring around a rebuttal as the two supersoldiers stared at him grinning.
“You know what, I hate you both. I’m gunna use the Big Shower” Sam turned on his heel and began walking towards the opposite end of the showers, Steve wrapping his arms around Bucky’s waist, kissing his neck as Bucky’s Brooklyn drawl echoed down the tiled room.
“Ask her out Wilson! Don’t be a chicken!” Sam raised the middle finger over his head as he walked into the large stall – which had been created for Banner.
“Can’t hear you from way down here! Bye guys!” Sam slammed the stall door and turned on the water, the two laughing as Steve began kissing down his neck.
“He makes it sound like not hearing us is a bad thing” Bucky let out a throaty laugh as Steve began to maneuver him into one of the smaller stalls, turning to kiss him passionately as he closed the stall door behind them and playing with the clasps on Bucky’s uniform pants. Bucky reached behind him to turn on the water setting and helped Steve out of his own gear as Steve wrapped his arms around his shoulders, pressing them together.
“Stop talking about Sam” Steve’s snicker turned into a gasp as Bucky took him in hand, stroking teasingly.
“Got it, shutting up now.”
“Uncle Bucky! Uncle Steve!” the little blonde bullet darted across the yard towards the two men who immediately knelt down, allowing her to throw one arm over each of their shoulders as she hugged them.
“Hello beautiful!” Morgan squealed as Bucky scooped her up, tossing her into the air as Pepper appeared from the doorway, smiling softly as she wiped her hands on the dish towel.
“You boys are just in time for dinner! Morgan picked it” Bucky looked at her with wide-eyed interest and she giggled.
“Oh, and what are we having Miss. Morgan?” Morgan threw her hands up in the air and grinned.
“Morgan, sit in your seat please, I won’t ask you again” Morgan furrowed her brows at her mother as she once again managed to slither out of her seat and into Bucky’s lap at the table, munching on his fries.
“It’s okay Ms. Stark, I don’t mind” Pepper grinned at him as Morgan smiled smugly.
“See? I’m Uncle Bucky’s favourite, aren’t I Uncle Bucky?” he rested an arm around her waist to keep her steady as he smiled at her gently, pressing a soft kiss to her temple as she reached for the ketchup.
“Oh absolutely, you’re my best girl” Steve let out a scandalized sound from his seat next to Pepper as she began laughing.
“Hey! What about me!?” Morgan giggled and stood on Bucky’s thigh, hugging his face as he mumbled out through squished cheeks.
“You’re my best guy Stevie, it’s different” Pepper looked at them as Morgan grinned at him happily. Steve watched Bucky interact with the little girl with warm eyes. Steve smiled at the interaction and bit his bottom lip in thought. Pepper leaned over and murmured softly in his ear.
“Paints a nice picture doesn’t it?” Steve nodded, blush high on his cheeks.
“S’always been good with kids” Pepper beamed and shrugged.
“Who knows, maybe someday?” Steve folded his napkin on his plate and watched as Bucky tickled Morgan’s side.
“If I’m lucky” Pepper turned back to the duo and tapped the table gently to get her daughter’s attention.
“Morgan sweetie, can you clear off the table for me please?” Morgan slammed back into her seat miserably.
“But mom, I wanna play with Uncle Bucky!” Pepper raised an eyebrow and Bucky immediately ran interference.
“Well, I guess I’m just gunna have to help ya with them!" Morgan leapt up, excitement filling her eyes.
"I don’t think you can handle my bubble making skills" she laughed brightly and raced with him into the kitchen, grabbing his t-shirt as they went. Pepper grinned and Steve cackled at the squeals emanating from the kitchen.
“So Christmas is in a few weeks, do you two have any plans?” Steve choked on his wine as Bucky looked up from his seat on the floor, braiding her hair.
“Yeah Uncle Bucky, what do you normally do for Christmas?” Bucky faltered and Steve leaned forward immediately.
“Well actually, I’m gunna surprise Bucky with Christmas this year” Morgan beamed and ripped out of Bucky’s arms and grabbed at Steve’s legs.
“A surprise?! Can I help too!” Steve grinned as she crawled into his lap.
“Of course! We’re gunna need to figure out something extra special” he turned to look at Bucky who was staring at him with wide eyes. Steve was suddenly hit with the reality that Bucky had likely never celebrated a proper Christmas. And with the upcoming excitement of Sam’s birthday it he hadn’t thought about how it might affect him.
“You can stay here! We’ll have hot chocolate and cookies and watch movies!” Morgan cannonballed back onto the asset and he grinned at her as she hugged him tightly. He smiled and kissed the top of her head playfully as she rattled off everything they could do together for the holiday.
“Thanks again for having us for dinner Pepper, we really enjoyed ourselves” Pepper grinned and shook her head.
“Please, with the two of you basically living together now, so I figured I’d have to start booking in time with the two of you” the two men laughed and she hugged them both.
“Have a good night guys, see you in the morning for waffles” the snickered and nodded, each kissing her on the cheek as they headed towards the guest house – which Steve hadn’t been staying in for several weeks. Bucky grinned happily and laced their fingers together as they walked into the hut Steve sliding an arm around his waist and pulling him in for a deep kiss as he led him back towards the bed. Bucky pulled away, gasping for air and pulling at Steve's t-shirt.
"You’re wearing too many clothes" Steve laughed breathlessly and began to kiss his neck
"Speak for yourself pal, three layers, really?" Bucky’s laugh turned into a long moan as Steve bit into his collarbone gently, the two falling onto the bed.
Bucky buried his face into Steve's shoulder as he continued to thrust gently into his body, his knees bent over Steve’s arms so he could get as deep as possible. Steve hit his prostate and Bucky gasped from where he was sucking yet another hickey into his neck.
"Stevie, fuck, please, h-harder, harder" Steve groaned and snapped his hips more rapidly, causing Bucky to jerk forward, pulling at Steve’s face to kiss him sloppily. Steve shifted and pressed Bucky’s legs higher, knees almost to his ears as he grinned against his cheek.
"That's it, like that doll?" Bucky let out a loud whine and grabbed the headboard, cracking it in his grip as he rolled his hips up to meet Steve’s, walls clenching around him every time he slid out. Steve groaned and buried his face into his lover’s neck, closing his eyes against the sensation. He looped his arms under Bucky’s back and gripped at his shoulders, gritting his teeth and babbling into the skin of Bucky’s throat.
"God, Bucky baby so fucking good, you're so tight, feel so good" Bucky scratched down his back and cried out again, arching up as he clenched around him again. Steve’s thrusts faltered and he gasped.
“So good Stevie, fuck love you. C’mon please. So close” Steve reared up onto his knees, causing bucky to slide up onto his thighs, he watched the brunette writhe underneath him and his eyes almost rolled back into his head, bringing a hand up to twist Bucky’s nipples as his other hand snuck down to stroke him gently, moving to fondle his balls.
Bucky flung his head back against the pillow, letting out a straggled cry as his vibranium hand came up to cover Steve’s on his chest. Steve gazed down at him with hungry eyes. He always thought Bucky was beautiful, but splayed out under him like this. He was goddamn breathtaking.
"C'mon Buck, you gunna come for me baby? Lemme see you come for me" Bucky threw his head back and slammed his eyes shut, screaming Steve's name as he came. He felt Steve empty into him as he doubled over, panting hard against his neck as he slowly lowered Bucky’s shaky legs. Bucky let out a low sound and wrapped his arms around the Captain’s broad shoulders and sighed as Steve dropped his weight onto him, breathing heavily. Steve pressed a kiss to his shoulder as Bucky gently ran a hand through his hair as he caught his breath.
Steve gently massaged his legs as the two looked at each other.
“You alright there pal?” Bucky snickered softly, giving him a sleepy smile and nodding.
“Yeah, you good” Steve grinned, rolling onto his side and opening up his arms to pull Bucky into his chest. Bucky nuzzled their noses together and their eyes drifted shut.
“Oh, I’m fantastic pal” Bucky snorted and kissed him softly.
“We’d better get to sleep so we can get up early enough to have another go before waffles” Steve smiled and chased his lips again, pulling his bottom lip between his teeth playfully.
“Sargent Barnes you are positively incorrigible” Bucky laughed and smiled playfully as he pressed against the broad chest.
“You love it Captain Rogers” Steve laughed and pulled the blankets around them, tucking them against his chest as they drifted off.
“Wait, chocolate waffles with caramel sauce?” Bucky groaned and nodded as he lay on the couch.
“Even super soldiers aren’t meant for that much sugar, I am hurting Wanda” Wanda giggled and set the cup of tea down in front of him, curling next to him as they turned the movie on.
“Just drink the tea and have a nice relaxing day with me-“
“Barnes! You home! It’s an emergency!” Bucky fell off of the couch in his rush to the door, Wanda scrambling behind him as Bucky pulled a blade out of his pocket.
“Sam! What’s wrong?! Are you hurt!?” Sam fell into a kitchen chair and raised an eyebrow.
“Why do you have a knife?” Wanda groaned as Bucky sighed heavily.
“Jesus Christ, he’s fine Wanda. What Sam?” Sam grinned widely and looked between the two.
“I gotta date with Maria, for tonight!” Wanda squealed and clapped her hands together, Bucky slapping him hard as he fell into the seat next to him.
“That’s your emergency? What the Hell Sam?” Sam grinned bashfully, looking at Bucky as Steve walked in the front door.
“Hell- Oh, hey Sam, what’s up?” Wanda threw her hands up as she flopped into another chair.
“Oh not much, just Sam scaring the Hell out of everyone” Steve raised an eyebrow in question as he kissed Bucky on the cheek, grabbing a few beer bottles out of the fridge.
“Oh?” Sam smiled and looked between him and Bucky with a growing grin. Bucky narrowed his eyes as he realized Sam’s look.
“I got a date with Maria, tonight, at this club she wants to try, you two should come with us, make it a double!” Steve’s eyes lit up and Bucky snarled. Wanda began laughing uncontrollably and Bucky shook his head.
“Nuh, uh, no way Sam, you go on your own, first dates should never be doubles” Steve slapped his arm and grinned, looking at him excitedly.
“Aw, c’mon Buck, it’ll be fun! We haven’t gone to a club yet, we could go dancin’!” Wanda snorted as Sam gestured to him wildly.
“Yeah! See? Steve’s got the right idea! C’mon man I need you here” Bucky looked at him firmly and let out a small “hmm”
“Dancin huh?” Steve laughed and squeezed his hand.
“Maybe it’ll be like the Stork Club?” Bucky’s lips quirked up and Sam leaned back nervously.
“Uh, not exactly”
Bucky could hear the base before he even got out of the car, Steve next to him while they all sipped their drinks.
Maria looked stunning in a skin-tight scarlet dress and black sandals. Her hair was done in loose waves and she was enthralled in whatever story Sam was telling her, who was looking very sharp himself in a tight white V-neck and dark blue jeans.
Steve was looking incredibly sharp himself, dressed in a black long sleeve tee and acid wash jeans. Bucky watched the group and tugged on the sleeve of his leather jacket, he was getting better at being out with his metal arm but he didn’t want his first time at a club to be remembered with him blinding everyone when the strobe lights bouncing off it. He bit his lip as the car pulled up to the entrance of the bar. Steve smiled at him and grabbed his hand as he followed the three of them out and up to the bouncer.
“This isn’t quite what I was expecting” Bucky couldn’t help but laugh as Steve pressed his lips to his ear.
“I can’t hear a word you’re saying pal” Maria leaned over and gestured to her ear.
“Press your finger against your tragus to cover your canal, it’ll be easier!” Sam cackled and wrapped an arm around her shoulder, mocking gently.
“Press your finger against your tragus-“ Maria cackled and looked at him, tipsy.
“Okay joker, let’s go dance” Sam gave a mock salute and winked at the guys as he was dragged onto the dancefloor. Steve raised an eyebrow and looked at Bucky in confusion.
“I don’t know if I’d call this dancing” Bucky cackled and kissed him playfully.
“Beats me pal, my moves are no good here” Steve sensed the tension in his lover’s shoulders and rested his chin on his shoulder.
“I think I prefer a good East Coast Swing personally” Bucky smiled softly and Steve kissed his cheek.
“Let me get us another drink, by then they’ll be so lost in each other’s eyes they won’t even notice us slip out. It’s not too bad though” Bucky hummed and scanned the exits again, ignoring the way the pounding base made his heart feel.
This definitely wasn’t his scene.
Bucky did a double-take as a curvaceous young woman sauntered towards him. He never should've let Steve leave him alone to get drinks. The club was impossibly loud and with Sam and Maria dancing he was completely left to his own devices. And not to be a downer but as better as he was getting, being trapped in his own head was still an ongoing battle, especially watching all the beautiful people eying his equally stunning boyfriend. He tugged the leather sleeve further down as the woman finally arrived at the table.
"Uh hi there" the woman twirled her hair and Bucky smiled politely.
"Hi" the girl giggled and blushed and Bucky cocked his head to the side, trying to hide how uncomfortable he was quickly becoming.
"Umm I noticed you're here with that guy at the bar - the one with the beard. I was just wondering if you think he'd like to dance with me?" Bucky's heart plummeted to his feet as the words sunk in. She didn't realize they were together.
Or she couldn't believe it.
She noticed Bucky's smile fade and bit her lip.
"You know what, never mind I'll go ask myself. Have a good night, uh-"
"James, my name is James" she nodded awkwardly and walked towards Steve quickly, pausing to ready herself before moving into a new saunter, running her hand across his back as she came up next to him at the bar. Bucky turned his eyes to his beer bottle, wishing to God he was still able to get drunk as he couldn't handle the scene unfolding in front of him. He'd always been the jealous type, at least that hadn't changed.
"Hi there handsome" Steve froze at the feminine voice as a hand ran across his shoulder blades. He turned to the woman and smiled kindly.
"Uh hi, can I help you?" She twirled a finger up his arm and suddenly Steve was looking into the predatory eyes of one of the USO girls from '44. She tossed her hair back over her shoulder and leaned in.
"Well, you could start with ordering me a drink. Then maybe a dance or two?" She batted her eyes and bit her sparkling gold lips and Steve furrowed his brow. Sparkly lip gloss. The future really was wild.
"Uh sorry, but I'm here with someone" she laughed like a bell and Steve felt his skin crawl, glancing over her shoulder to try to get Bucky's attention.
Too bad Bucky was glaring daggers at his empty beer bottle. He looked miserable. Not that Steve blamed him, this wasn't really his scene either. But Sam had begged them to go, and he had genuinely thought Bucky would have fun dancing, he always had.
That being said, this was no dance hall.
"Oh it's fine, I already talked to your friend, he's too busy brooding I'm sure he won't mind if I steal you away" her hand moved to his lower back and the fun was over as Steve suddenly realized why he was actually miserable.
"You know, Bucky's a great guy and I'm sure he wouldn't mind. But since he is my boyfriend I think I'd much rather buy him a drink," he shook the second bottle in his hand lightly for emphasis "and see if I can't get a dance out of him" he smiled politely as the girl began floundering.
"Wait - you two are - oh my god, I am so sorry" Steve smiled and slowly moved past her, wanting to get away from the humiliation coming off her in waves before she said anything else.
"Have a good night ma'am."
Bucky snapped his head up as the beer bottles clunked onto the table.
"We're leaving." Bucky's eyes went wide at Steve's dark expression and he nodded.
"Uh sure, if you want" Steve looked at him hard for a moment and sighed.
"How long have you wanted to leave Buck?" Bucky smirked and shrugged.
"Since we got here, you?" Steve laughed.
"Same, let’s give Sam and Maria some privacy and head home." Bucky stopped halfway out of the booth and looked at him.
"What about that girl, do you wanna dance with her. I don't mind" Steve sighed heavily and shook his head.
"Naw, much rather dance with you. But I've got some different music in mind for that" the two headed out of the bar and Steve laced their hands together.
"Wanna know the funny part? She said she'd talked to you, but didn't realize we were together. Any idea why that is?” Bucky blushed and shook his head.
“Couldn’t really get a word in with her to be honest” Steve let out an unimpressed sound as the grabbed a cab back to Brooklyn.
Bucky was sure Steve was pissed by the time they got back, not even kicking off his shoes before walking into the living room. Bucky hung up his jacket and slowly headed towards the living room.
“Steve, doll I didn’t mean to-“
Never thought that you could be
Standing here so close to me
There’s so much I feel that I should say
But words can wait
Until some other day…
Steve grinned, pulling Bucky into the living room and wrapping an arm around his shoulder, pulling him in tight and resting his lips against his ear.
“Hope you don’t mind, m’not that great a dancer so I had the band play something slow” Bucky let out a surprised bark of laughter and tightened his own grip on him.
“S’okay, this is more my pace anyway”
So kiss me once then kiss me twice
Then kiss me once again
It’s been a long, long time.
Yes! That ear trick works! I use it all the time!
“Hope” Hope turned back to the machines in front of her and furrowed her brow as the elderly man walked up next to her, looking over her shoulder.
“Is everything alright?” Hope looked at him and chewed her bottom lip.
“I’m not sure. His connection keeps cutting out – he keeps insisting on saying, says he’s got enough Pym particles for three more jumps.” Steve looked at her nervously and rubbed the back of his neck.
“He took all of them?” Hope nodded and pointed to another part of the lab.
“I’m working on making more, in case I have to go get him.” Steve swallowed at the severity of the situation and looked at her.
“I’m sorry, is there anything I can do?” Hope shook her head and sighed heavily, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth.
“I’ll let you know. I told you this was a bad idea Steve, I wish you two had’ve listened to me” Steve swallowed thickly as she switched her headset.
“Scott, do you copy? It’s Hope, can you hear me? Over” Hope gestured blindly to the door, signalling it was time for Steve to leave as she spoke into the communicator again.
“Scott? It’s Hope Over. Are you there?”
“Stop it! Dammit Steve” Bucky cackled as Steve pressed up against his back, wrapping his arms around his waist as he kissed at Bucky’s neck.
“What, m’not doing nuthin’” he rubbed his beard against Bucky’s bare skin and tickled his sides as Bucky swayed slightly.
“Seriously doll, m’gunna burn the eggs!” he pressed back against Steve’s own bare chest and Steve allowed himself to rest for a moment, soaking in the domesticity of the moment.
The two of them in nothing but sweatpants reminded Steve of the early days in Brooklyn, where Bucky would make breakfast before heading off to the docks because you can’t cook for shit, Rogers!
Wanda puttered into the kitchen and smiled, leaning up onto her tip-toes to kiss Bucky on the cheek like she did every morning, patting Steve’s shoulder as she moved to the electric kettle to make some tea.
“Are you making some for me?” Bucky smiled and reached over for another few eggs and Steve laughed.
“I don’t know if you want any Wanda, I think he’s burning them” Bucky’s eyes went wide and he elbowed Steve’s stomach.
“Excuse me!? Watch your mouth Rogers before I shut it myself” Steve snickered into his ear and kissed the side of his head playfully.
“Promise?” Wanda snorted as Bucky rolled his eyes, turning to kiss him quickly before shrugging him off.
“Alright you big lug, get away from me and set the table” Steve snorted and scurried to the breakfast nook as Wanda slid up next to him. She rested her head on Bucky’s shoulder, watching him cook silently.
“I don’t know what to get Sam for his birthday” Bucky snickered and sent her a sideways look.
“Get him a dating guide, he’s a goddamn mess with Maria” Wanda giggled and shoved him playfully.
“Seriously Bucky, what should I get him?” Bucky shrugged and slid the eggs onto a serving plate.
“You’re throwing him a big party at the compound, I’m sure that’ll be more than enough” Wanda nodded and followed him over to the table, where Steve was setting down a large plate of toast.
“Steve, what are you getting Sam for his birthday?” Steve furrowed his brow.
“I know he mentioned running low on reading material on our last ride back from our mission so I figured I’d get him some books” Wanda nodded gently and hummed.
“Maybe I’ll get him some teas, you know, to drink while he reads?” Steve nodded as they started eating.
“Sounds like a good idea – what are you getting Sam Buck?” Bucky smirked.
“A new helmet because he always hits himself when training with that damn shield” Steve rolled his eyes and Wanda grinned into her toast.
“So, it’ll be you two, me, Maria and Sam – obviously. Pepper and Morgan, Dr. Banner and Clint and his family – I’ve been trying to get a hold of Thor as well.” There was a beat of silence and Wanda spoke again.
“The other Steve will be there too” Steve growled and banged the dishes together in the sink. Bucky swallowed and nodded.
“I’ve already talked to Clint and he promised he’d behave, Pepper too. We just need to make sure you behave Steve.” Steve grumbled under his breath and Bucky watched him with sharp eyes.
“I will if he does” Bucky growled and Wanda sighed.
“Well, Laura is picking me up then me and the kids are going to decorate the compound, don’t forget tomorrow at four-thirty!” Steve pulled the plug and walked away, muttering as he stomped upstairs. Bucky sighed and looked at her.
“Don’t worry, I’ll talk to him” Wanda smiled gratefully and bit her lip.
“Actually, I wanted to talk to you about something” Bucky nodded and she grabbed his hand.
“Laura’s pregnant – again. And with the farm they’re gunna need some extra help so-“ Wanda’s eyes welled up and Bucky squeezed her hand.
“They offered me Natasha’s old room, I’m already so close to the kids-“ Bucky squeezed her hand and leaned over to catch her gaze.
“Do it Wanda, I’ll be okay” Wanda looked at him with wet eyes and smiled softly.
“A-are you sure?” Bucky kissed her knuckles and winked.
“M’sure, you basically live there already anyways. It’ll be good for you” Wanda smiled and nodded.
“Her perfume is still there, and some of her old clothes” Bucky gently grabbed the back of her head, pressing a kiss to her forehead.
“Will you be okay Bucky?” Bucky smiled warmly as he heard the shower turn on upstairs, indicating his lover’s morning routine had officially begun.
“Yeah doll, I’ll be just fine.”
“Steve’s acting shady” Bucky looked up at Sam from where he was field stripping his gun. The two were on route to take down a trafficking ring, Steve taking more of a backseat role as their Man in the Chair as Sam had put it.
“My Steve? How so?” Sam shook his head and fiddled with his shield.
“No, Old Steve. He’s been sneaking off to tic-tac’s. But I haven’t heard anything from Scott in weeks. Even Hope seems off.” Bucky furrowed his brow and holstered the weapon.
“Do you think it’s something dangerous?” Sam looked at the sniper with tired eyes.
“Depends, what’s your definition of dangerous?” Bucky snorted but nodded in agreement as the plane touched down.
“Fair enough, do you want me to talk to him?” Sam shook his head as they disembarked, turning on his night vision and looking to Bucky one more time before turning on their comms.
“Naw, I’ll just corner him after my birthday, don’t wanna deal with all that shit with Wanda doing all this trouble for a party, she's excited and I don't want to risk that. Plus Maria says that stress makes my reports hard to read” Bucky barked out a laugh and popped his earpiece in.
“No Sam, that’s the travesty you call penmanship” Bucky cackled as they went online.
“You’re an asshole Barnes”
“Seriously you two? You just got off the plane and you’re already fighting?!”
“Hey handsome” Bucky smiled tiredly as he trudged in the door, dropping his bag in the entrance way as Steve walked down the hallway towards him. Bucky leaned back against the front door with half-lidded eyes.
“Hey, you didn’t have to wait up for me” Steve looked so soft in his grey t-shirt, dark sweatpants and thick socks. Hair fresh and fluffy from the shower he must’ve had.
Steve smiled and pulled him into his chest, feeling Bucky’s exhausted body fall against him, arms looping loosely around his waist.
“I wanted to. How was debrief?” Bucky groaned and Steve could feel him roll his eyes against the side of his neck.
“It’s so painful, the two of them are so awful at flirting, it takes forever” Steve snorted and rested his cheek on the top of Bucky’s head, inhaling the smell of dust, gunpowder, sweat and Bucky.
“Lemme go pal, m’gross and you’ve clearly just showered” Steve let out a dramatic sigh and began to loosely tug Bucky towards the bathroom, looking up at the ceiling forlornly.
“Well I guess I’ll just have to shower again, what a shame” Bucky snickered and leaned up to kiss him, smiling against his lips playfully.
“Your life is so hard” Steve smiled and squeezed his ass playfully as the shuffled off to the bathroom.
“I know, it’s tragic really. Hundred and six, no stable job, no home to own. What’s a guy to do?” Bucky responded before thinking.
“Move in with me” Steve immediately pulled away, traces of laughter gone as he looked at Bucky searchingly. Bucky swallowed thickly, he hadn’t meant to broach the subject quite like this.
But it wasn’t like he could take it back now.
Steve stared at him for another moment, breathing out Bucky’s name in a way that half sounded like a question and half like a prayer. Bucky chewed his lip and looked at the floor.
“I mean, you’re here all the time anyways, and Wanda’s moving out to go live with the Barton’s - move in with me" Steve smirked and gently bumped his nose against Bucky’s, taking on a high imitating tone.
"I love you Steve, move in with me" he teased and Bucky chuckled, kissing him again before pulling away slightly to hold eye contact.
"Stevie, I love you, move in with me" Steve laughed brightly and pretended to think it over.
"Well… Okay sure, why not" Bucky rolled his eyes and cuffed the back of his head as they stepped under the spray, Steve wrapping around him again and kissing his jawline.
"Punk, I already talked to Pepper, she’s got all your stuff in the guest house boxed up already." Steve pulled away and narrowed his eyes at him.
"You knew I was gunna say yes" Bucky shrugged and smirked at him, eyes mischievous.
"Maybe" Steve pressed his lips to Bucky’s cheek, reaching behind him for the shampoo.
Steve stumbled back into the bedroom sleepily, immediately freezing in his tracks at the sight in front of him.
Bucky was sitting on the bed, knees tucked to his chest as he cried silently, wiping his tears and shaking his head. Steve scrambled over, terrified.
“Bucky, baby doll what’s wrong?” Bucky let out a wet laugh and shook his head, smiling.
“S’okay, I’m not upset I promise” Steve looked at him in confusion and Bucky laid back down, patting the bed for Steve to crawl in next to him and wiping a stray tear from his cheek as he held his hand, looking at him in the moonlight.
“Wanna talk about it?” Bucky breathed another laugh at the question and nuzzled into the pillow.
“It’s stupid honestly” Steve kissed his knuckles and smiled gently.
“S’not stupid if it’s got you cryin” Bucky nodded and looked at him for a minute.
“I reached over and the bed was empty. You weren’t here and it woke me up and when I realized you weren’t in bed, I didn’t panic because I knew you’d be back” Steve smiled and Bucky let out another quiet laugh.
“For the first time, when I turned around and you weren’t there, my heart didn’t race, I didn’t need to go find you – because I knew you were coming back” Steve felt his own eyes sting as he smiled back at him, squeezing his hand.
“And I realized that I’m happy. Like I’m actually happy, I’m not waiting for the other shoe to drop anymore.” Steve released his hand to cradle the back of his head.
“And it’s kind of scary, that I’m not scared? Does that make sense? Like I never realized how it was until I noticed the absence of it” Steve pressed their foreheads together and nodded.
“Yeah, makes perfect sense” Steve sighed through his nose and looked at him.
“Sometimes when you’re asleep I just lay here and watch you breathe.” Bucky snorted and rested his own hand on the side of his neck, thumb brushing against Steve’s bearded jawline. He swallowed thickly and Steve spoke again softly.
“The day you were dancing with Wanda in the kitchen I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming about you being there” another tear slid down Bucky’s cheek and he kissed Steve’s jawline gently.
“I love you so much it scares me” Steve kissed his palm and pulled him against his chest.
“I love you too Buck, you got nuthin’ to be scared about” Bucky nodded against his chest, eyes drifting shut as he felt Steve squeeze him lethargically.
“Go back to sleep sweetheart, we gotta help Wanda decorate tomorrow remember?” Bucky wrapped an arm around the captain’s tapered waist and nodded.
“Night Stevie” Steve cradled the brunette to his chest, feeling a smile tug at his lips as Bucky’s words repeated themselves in his mind.
“I knew you’d come back”
“I’m not waiting for the other shoe to drop anymore”
Steve kissed the top of his head and closed his eyes.
“M’happy too baby.”
“You need to take two really fucking big steps away from me Rogers” Sam’s eyes were ablaze and the retired hero was more than happy to shuffle back quickly. The new Captain America looked back at the readings as Hope continued explaining.
“I’ve had zero communication for two days now, and I know that his suit has been compromised.” Sam sighed heavily and felt Maria place a hand between his shoulder blades briefly, entire demeanour professional as she read over everything.
“Why is he even there” Hope bit her lip and side-eyed the elderly man as Sam let out a growl.
“Man, I begged you not to do anything stupid. You said it was under control!” Steve put his hands up to defend himself, desperate for his friend to see his side.
“Sam, please, you gotta believe me. I thou-“
“No you didn’t!” even Maria flinched away from the yell as he rounded on the older man. Steve heard himself gasp as he looked at Sam’s face.
He was crying.
“That’s the problem, you never think! You get one idea in your head and the first line of trajectory that works is what you do! You wanted to get your Happily Ever After and you were handed the easiest option and you left a fucking disaster in your wake. You left everyone alone to go chase after some pipe dream about your best girl and never stopped to think about anyone else! Leaving Barnes alone didn’t cross your radar once – leaving me! Then you had the audacity to hand me that fucking Cross to bear because you lived your life and decided you wanted to settle down. Did you even think to ask whether or not I wanted it!? That any of us wanted it!? No, you didn’t. Then, when we stumble along trying to heal as best we can and it doesn’t fit into your plan, you pull this! You could get him killed Steve! Why? Because you didn’t think plan A through so now you think you get to just undo it because you don’t like the consequences!” Steve looked at his friend as he wiped at his eyes angrily, tear tracks down his face.
Steve had never seen Sam cry before.
“You gave me that fucking shield and I was so goddamn scared, I had no super serum – I’m not bulletproof. But you thought a smile and a ‘you’re a good man Sam’ would just make it all okay! Thank God for James Barnes because I’d long be dead by now if he didn’t show up to save my ass. Like he saved yours how many times?! And when we all have enough of your bullshit, because let’s face it Steve you have an amazing family now with kids and grandkids who love you. Instead of enjoying your golden years with them, you fuck around with the only one of us who hasn’t been so deeply hurt as your collateral you literally throw him into a time machine without any plan at all. Are you really surprised this has turned out like this! Do you have any idea what this’ll do to Bar-“
“No! You can’t tell him, Sam I’m begging you!” He grabbed at his arm and Sam jerked away.
“We’re going to go to the compound, for my birthday party that Wanda has worked tirelessly on. We are going to be polite, we are going to have fun. And then I will be informing Rhodey and Banner about this and if we as a group cannot figure out what to do, Barnes and Rogers will be notified. So we can all clean up your mess – again” with that, Sam stormed out of the room, leaving a tense silence in the air with Hope and Steve and Maria. The agent cleared her throat awkwardly and turned to Hope.
“Will you be okay staying here with the monitors? Or would you prefer I stay with you?” Hope shook her head and smiled.
“That’s alright, I can handle this here, I’ll call if anything chances. I think he needs you more than me right now anyways.” Maria gave her a soft smile and turned to Steve, eyes going sharp.
“Watch yourself Rogers, I have no issues with kicking the asses of older men – you’ve seen me do it” Steve swallowed thickly as she strutted out the door, looking at Hope as she continued to desperately radio to Scott, reminding Steve of Peggy when he’d crashed the Valkyrie.
Regret was a feeling he was far too familiar with.
“Oh thank God you’re here!” Wanda all but collapsed into Bucky’s arms as the two surveyed the common area of the compound.
It was a disaster.
Steve bit his lip and looked around the room with raised eyebrows as Bucky snorted.
“Uh, I thought you were decorating?” Wanda’s eyes flared red and Bucky immediately raised his hands in surrender.
“I was until Cooper and Lila found the silly string. I can fix this easy – but the kitchen…” She trailed off and Steve laughed.
“Here, you do this, we’ll clean up the kitchen” Wanda sighed and smiled warmly.
“Thanks, it’s a mess in there though, just a warning.” The two scoffed as they walked to the kitchen, Bucky waving a hand in dismissal.
“We ain’t worried doll, m’sure we’ve seen-“
“Oh my God!”
The party was in full swing by the time Sam, Steve and Maria arrived. Other members of the party happily greeting the old man with a genuine happiness which was still being relearned by their core group.
But after Sam had let loose in the lab, Steve wasn’t entirely surprised.
Perspective was a funny thing, it had a tendency to change at exactly the worst moments. Two days ago after finding out where and when Scott was in the timeline, he’d felt so confident that his plan was going to work. That he had it all figured out.
Now the ugly doubt that he’d been beating back for the better part of a month was encircling itself around his brain. Making a nice little home there and clouding every single thought he had.
Maybe if he just talked to Bucky? Got a gage of what the relationship truly was, he’d be able to understand why everyone was so mad at him for trying.
Bucky loved him. Not some alternate Steve who’d gone off and lost his own Bucky.
He began looking around the room and recognized Bucky’s black leather jacket hung up next to a navy windbreaker he knew all too well. He growled and began circling the party, finding Bruce and making small talk for a few moments before the green scientist smirked.
“They’re in the kitchen, you’re not listening to a word I’m saying right now anyways.” Steve mumbled an apology which he waved off, walking over to speak with Dr. Strange.
“I still don’t understand how he got invited?” Bucky smirked as Steve finished putting the last of the dishes away, Bucky finishing wiping down the counters.
Who knew two children could cause such damage.
“Because he’s Sam’s friend and lives with Sam – seriously, Morgan isn’t like this! This is ridiculous!” Steve snorted as Bucky scrubbed at a caked on substance he’d rather not try to identify.
“I’m pretty sure that has to do with the fact she’s a genius” Bucky nodded sagely and Steve cocked his head to the side.
“Though, I’m pretty sure she could flatten an entire city block and you’d still think she’s perfect.” Bucky’s face flushed red and he stared at the counter as he scrubbed.
“That little girl is physically incapable of doing anything wrong Steve and you know it” Steve cackled and grabbed at his left pectoral, leaning backwards from his position on one of the barstools.
“Remind me to warn our kids’ teachers that you’re going to be that helicopter parent-“ the two froze at Steve’s blurt and Steve swallowed thickly.
Bucky coughed and ran the dishcloth under the water again, face burning and lip firmly trapped between his teeth. He cleared his throat and stayed focused on his task, praying his voice didn’t shake as he spoke.
“I’d like to consider myself more of a Nighthawk parent – you know one of those stealth crafts? Kids’ll have no idea I’m meddling, but teachers will shit their pants – then again, my arm may do that by itself” Steve rested his chin on his hand and watched his lover, picking up on everything that wasn’t being said.
“That’s valid, I too get weak in the knees when I see that shiny vibranium – but I feel that it may be more out of –“ suddenly Morgan darted into the kitchen, Steve snapping his jaw shut as she clung to Bucky’s leg.
“Hi Uncle Bucky!” Bucky immediately dried his hands, scooping her up and balancing her on his hip to give her a quick kiss on the cheek as she hugged him tightly.
“Well, hello beautiful! And how’s my best girl today? Is that a new dress?” Morgan squealed and jumped out of his arms, spinning around shoving her hands in the tiny pockets.
“I got it for mister Sam’s birthday! Look it even has pockets to hold my tools!” she yanked out a small screwdriver from one pocket and some form of Stark-tech from the other. Bucky put his hands on his hips and grinned as she swayed the pink floral skirt back and forth.
“Well I’ll be darned, gorgeous and handy. You’re all set!” Morgan nodded excitedly and finally noticed Steve at the table, running over in excitement.
“Hi Uncle Steve! Do you like my new dress!” he knelt down and grabbed one of her hands, spinning her under his arm and tucking one of her little curls behind her ear.
“I sure do! Do you like it?” Morgan thought for a moment and nodded.
“Yeah, I just wish the pockets was biggerer so I could hold all my tools” Steve nodded in understanding and watched as Nathaniel toddled into the room.
“Hi Morgan!” Morgan scurried off again after the little boy, uncles forgotten in her search for adventure. Steve hopped back onto the bar stool as Bucky turned back to his task.
“So anyways, about the old guy.”
Old Steve had finally managed to get away from the party, turning down the hallway to the kitchen when he began to hear Bucky’s gravelly Brooklyn drawl.
God he missed that voice.
“If you can’t play nice. Spend the day in here by yourself, I won’t have you causin’ a scene on Sam’s birthday.”
“I just don’t want him to try anything with ya, don’t wanna see you get hurt.”
“I’m a big boy pal. And it’s not like he and I don’t get along – I just needed a little space is all. I appreciate it sweetheart I do, but please don’t go bothering trouble.”
Steve prickled hearing his own voice and slowly stepped around the corner, looking into the kitchen from a dark part of the hallway.
“I’m not making any promises, every time I see him I hate him all over again. You didn’t see what he did to you, I did” Bucky swallowed thickly and looked at him, smiling softly.
“Steve, I ain’t asking you to be his best friend. M’just asking you to be nice for Sam’ birthday. Sam deserves us not pulling him into our shit, he’s got enough stress as is” Old Steve swallowed thickly as Sam’s outburst quickly replayed in his head.
“Thank God for James Barnes”
He turned back and watched as Bucky moved to the island counter, Steve watching him with loving eyes as he scratched his beard.
“He’s a part of my life now Steve, m’gunna need you to respect that okay?” The younger Steve nodded and sighed, leaning back slightly as he appraised him. Steve thought that would be the end of it, clearly they were already starting to bicker. And here Sam thought he didn’t think things all the way though.
He began to shuffle his way back downstairs when his own voice hit his ears again.
“Okay, okay fine. What if I spit in his coffee?-“ Bucky barked out a surprised laugh, dropping the cloth in shock.
“He won’t even know! Besides technically it’s his own spit anyways!” Steve grinned devilishly and Bucky tossed the dishcloth into the sink, placing one palm flat on the island counter and pointing into Steve’s face with his other hand, eyebrow raised in warning.
"I mean it, behave" Steve shrugged innocently before locking eyes with his lover, suddenly serious as Bucky began to turn away again.
"I'll behave if he does" Bucky turned to him sharply and furrowed his brows in warning.
"Steven Grant, this is Sam's birthday and he wants you both there. You will behave and you will not throw yourself out the upstairs window - got it!?" Steve rolled his eyes and got up from his seat on the bar stool, grabbing one of Bucky's hips and pulling him into his arms as he groaned playfully.
"Aw c'mon Buck, just a little slap - I'll make it look like an accident" he peppered kisses to Bucky's neck, squeezing his hips as Bucky snorted against him, slowly bringing his arms around the blonde's shoulders.
"No, you won't - you're shameless and you know it. Just be cordial, please?" Bucky pulled away and rested their foreheads together, nuzzling their noses. Steve heaved a long put upon sigh before smirking back at the brunette.
"Fine, I'll be good" Bucky pressed a kiss to the corner of his mouth and murmured a soft thank you. Steve raised an eyebrow and pulled him closer.
"Not even a real kiss?! You're a damn tease Barnes" Bucky laughed brightly and planted a big kiss on his lips.
"Oh, you wanna real kiss Rogers? Alright then!" The two laughed against each other's lips as Bucky kissed him, leaning back against the kitchen counter.
From his hiding place, Old Steve watched with tear filled eyes.
Bucky was so happy.
He had to get a hold of Scott, they had to call the mission off.
Steve needed to let go.
“Steve.” Young Steve glanced over at the old man and sighed. This was going to be harder than he thought.
“Hey, Barnes! I was wondering when you were gunna show up!” Bucky cocked his head as he strutted over to Sam, clapping him on the back just this side of too hard.
“Wow, Sam the years have not been kind – is that a grey hair already?” Sam rolled his eyes and shook his head as Bucky shoved his hands into his pockets, snorting as Wanda walked out with a massive birthday cake.
“Happy Birthday to you…”
“Eight ball, side pocket” Sam lined up his shot and Bucky suddenly leaned it.
“Don’t botch it pal” Sam jolted and scratched the shot, Bucky throwing his head back and cackling as Sam whacked his arm.
“You ass! I had it! And on my birthday too, c’mon man” Bucky snorted and lined up his own shot.
“So it’s true, the first thing to go in old age is your coordination” Bucky nailed a shot and grinned over the table at him. Sam groaned and sipped his beer, lining up his next shot.
“I think I hate you.”
“We’re not sure yet, it’s too soon. I’m hoping it’s a girl though” Pepper smiled and nodded at Laura as Morgan crawled out of her lap, going over to Old Steve with her head cocked to the side.
“Hi Mister Steve, can I sit with you?” he nodded eagerly and she curled into his side, fiddling with her Iron Man doll.
“Like my new daddy-doll, Uncle Steve and Uncle Bucky got it for me for Christmas” Steve nodded gently and wrapped an arm around her little frame as she leaned into him.
“I do, it’s very nice” Morgan smiled and waved at the young Steve as he walked into the room, resting a hand on the small of Bucky’s back as he handed him a beer, watching the pool game briefly before taking a deep breath and heading towards the little girl, sitting down on her other side.
“Hey sweetie, what’s up?” Morgan held up her Iron Man doll and gave a bright grin.
“I was just telling Mr. Steve about my daddy-doll. He likes it too” Steve smiled and tried to keep his face open as he looked at his older self.
“It was Bucky’s idea” Old Steve smiled and nodded.
“He’s a great guy” Young Steve nodded and looked at Morgan.
“Hey doll, d’you think you could go give Mr. Sam some birthday pinches for me?” Morgan grinned devilishly and nodded, half leaping up before freezing.
“How many though?” The Steves smirked and said in unison.
“As many as you can” Morgan giggled and scampered off, leaving the two to sit awkwardly on the couch for several moments before the younger spoke.
“Bucky wants us to get along” the elder nodded and swallowed thickly.
“I know – “
“I don’t trust you. I need you to know that, I’m not happy with you and I don’t know if I’ll ever be comfortable with you – every time I look at you I question everything and I get unsure of myself” Old Steve nodded as his younger self scratched as his beard. He looked over at Bucky who was cackling as Morgan wailed on Sam’s legs.
“I love him, so fucking much and I don’t understand why you left him here. But I don’t know if I’m in a place where I can talk to you about it, someday yeah, but not now. I just need you to understand that I love him, and I need you to stay out of our relationship. Whatever friendship – whatever it is between the two of you, keep it with you. I won’t deny him that because whether I like it or not, he still cares about you. I’ll stay out of your relationship – you stay out of mine.” Old Steve nodded kindly and tried to swallow down the anxiety in his throat, aware of what was going on, on the other side of the compound.
“Steve?” The two men looked up at the cautious tone and Old Steve smiled gently at Bucky, patting a hand on the Young Steve’s knee.
“Hey pal, having a good time?” Bucky’s entire body deflated as he relaxed, tension seeping from him as he plopped down on the couch between the two, Morgan rushing up to jump into his lap.
“Has anyone seen Morgan?” Pepper glanced around, curious but not yet concerned by her daughter’s disappearance. She shrugged on her coat as a glow from one of the upstairs rooms caught their attention as she smiled, noticing Bucky was already making his way up the stairs, unaware of the room he was heading to.
“No worries, I think Bucky’s got her.”
“Hey princess” Morgan yawned and blinked her eyes open from where she was dozing on the leather couch.
Tony’s office had remained untouched after his death, the subtle smell of his cologne still lingering in the room. The Arc Reactor on her Iron Man doll giving the room a soft glow as she curled under one of his old sweaters she’d likely found in the closet.
Bucky knelt down next to the couch and gingerly ran his fingers through her hair as she murmured softly.
“Hi Uncle Bucky, is the party over?” Bucky nodded softly and smiled.
“Yeah baby, your mommy’s waiting for you downstairs.” Morgan nodded but curled more under the sweater, eyes welling up in her sleepiness as she cuddled with the doll. Bucky swallowed down his panic as she nuzzled into his face.
“I miss my daddy” Bucky’s heart shattered into a million pieces and he breathed deeply through his nose as she reached up to squeeze his finger in her small hand.
“I know you do darlin’, I wish I could bring him back for you” a single tear escaped her eye and she looked at him.
“S’not fair that Lila and Cooper get their daddy and I don’t” she sniffed stubbornly and Bucky gently pulled her off the couch, keeping her wrapped in Tony’s sweater as she curled against his chest.
“I know it’s not sweetie, and I know how much you miss him. You and your mommy are so brave” she held the little doll and tilted her head to look up at him.
“Uncle Rhodey always tells me stories about him, do you have any?” Bucky froze, what could he tell this little girl? That her father successfully managed to blow off his metal arm in a fit of rage after finding out he killed his parents?
“Well, I didn’t get to see your daddy very much before, I wasn’t as good a friend with him as Uncle Rhodey is. But I met him once when he was fighting bad guys” at Morgan’s perked interest Bucky began to try to spin his only experience with Tony in a way that made him seem as brave and noble as possible.
From the way the weight of her little body fell against his and with how her breathing evened out, clearly he’d made it work. He gently scooped her into his arms and carried her down to the car, Pepper smiling as he tucked her into the seat under Happy's watchful gaze.
"'cle Buck?" Bucky smoothed her hair back and pressed his lips to her forehead, tucking the sweater and doll securely around her as he fastened her seatbelt.
"Shhh, we're okay darlin' just go back to sleep" she nodded sleepily and hugged the doll.
"Love you" Bucky smiled as her eyes drifted shut.
"Love you honey."
“You did what?” Steve jumped back as Rhodey whirled into the old man’s face. Bruce looked over the scans and scrubbed a massive hand over his face.
“Can we argue about this later? We have bigger problems” Hope looked at him with wide, terrified eyes and gripped the Hulk’s arm.
“Can we get him back?” Bruce adjusted his glasses and looked over her at Sam.
“I think so, but you’re not going to like it” Sam sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.
“This is gunna kill Barnes”
“So I was thinking…” Bucky rolled his eyes at Steve’s tone as the captain looked over at him, playful smile on his face.
“Because that’s a good idea” Steve snorted and swatted at him from his position at the end of the couch.
“Jerk – As I was saying, I was thinking maybe you and I could go on a little vacation together?” Bucky’s head snapped over to him and he smiled.
“Yeah?” Steve nodded, grinning widely at the clear excitement on his lover’s face.
“Yeah, I mean it doesn’t have to be anything too special, just a little weekend getaway or something that doesn’t involve our friends, just us” Bucky’s grin opened up his entire face and he beamed.
“Where should we go?” Steve considered him for a moment, remembering that unlike he and James, Bucky hadn’t had the opportunity to travel since he was freed from Hydra. While he could definitely hold his own here on the East Coast, the vast majority of the country had yet to be seen by the ex-assassin.
“I was thinking you could pick doll, ya gotta list right?” Bucky nodded, reaching into his wallet to pull out a creased notebook sheet.
“Gotta few I’d like to cross of my list, maybe we could take an extended vacation and do a road trip?” Bucky smirked and Steve’s eyes lit up.
“Sound fantastic pal, lemme grab a map and we’ll see how much we can hit on your list!”
“Send me” Bruce shook his head sympathetically at Rhodey’s desperate tone.
“It’s too risky, you were Snapped in that universe, if anyone saw you, we’d completely mess up the Space Time continuum! I’m sorry Rhodes, but it can’t be you” Sam stepped forward, eying the only Quantum Suit left.
“How about me? Can you send me through Bruce?” Bruce shrugged and looked back at the screens, his anxiety beginning to show as he tugged on his hair.
“I mean, yes but I don’t know how comfortable I am-“ Hope slammed her hands down, fury taking over her normally composed demeanour and causing Old Steve to flinch from his position next to her.
“No one is comfortable right now Bruce! My boyfriend has been missing for three weeks. We haven’t heard from him in almost three days now! We have one shot, one suit. Who is our best bet to send!?” Bruce stood quietly for several moments and Steve could feel the dread pooling in his stomach.
Please don’t say it, please don’t say it, please don’t say it.
Bruce finally heaved a devastated sigh and looked at the group in exhaustion.
“It’s gotta be Steve.”
“Youe logic is flawed” Steve turned the map again as Bucky stood and headed for the kitchen, pulling out two bottles of beer. Steve shook his head and opened his mouth to argue.
“No it’s not, we’d just have to get up-“ a knock at the door stopped him mid-sentence and he furrowed his brow, looking towards the entranceway.
“Are we expecting someone?” Bucky popped his head through the doorway, eyes wary but posture relaxed.
“Don’t think so?” Steve shrugged and stood as the knocking started again, slightly more urgent.
“Maybe it’s one of those door-to-door guys?” Bucky shrugged and moved back into the living room, unfazed by the door as he scanned the map again.
“Steve, there’s no way we’re going to-“ Suddenly Steve’s own shocked voice echoed from the doorway.
“So who’s gunna tell them?” Old Steve wiped his eyes and stood.
“I will, this was my fault-“ Sam let out a low snarl as Rhodey squared his shoulders, speaking furiously.
“You’re fucking right it is. Personally I think we should just send you” Bruce interjected immediately, although it looked like it pained him to do so.
“Our Steve is too old, his body can’t handle the jumps. It had to be the Other Steve” Rhodey scrubbed his hands over his face before looking at Steve harshly.
“Y’know, when Tony said he wanted to punch you in your perfect teeth I didn’t fully get it. Now – now I do” Sam grabbed Rhodey’s arm to calm him down and sighed.
“I agree, Steve should be the one to explain, but I’m not sending him to get them. I’ll bring them in – try to prepare them for it.” Sam turned to Rhodey and nodded.
“You see if you can’t get everyone back here. I’d rather us be prepared with a team in case something unexpected happens” Rhodey nodded and stormed out of the lab, Hope biting her bottom lip nervously. Sam turned to her and Bruce, still ignoring Steve.
“Bruce, you monitor Scott. Make sure everything’s still reading okay other than him getting stuck. Hope – go get some rest, don’t know how long you’ve been doing this alone but you deserve a long nap and a good meal alright?” Hope hesitated for a moment and nodded.
“I’ll be down the road at the compound. Get me if anything happens” Sam and Bruce both muttered affirmatives and Hope slowly shuffled out, repeatedly looking over her shoulder at the machine.
Steve watched her go and stepped forward.
“Sam-“ Sam finally turned his attention to him and pointed at him harshly.
“You. You will sit here and think about just how you’re going to explain this to them, complete with apology and then you’re going to call your granddaughter in Maine who’s been begging you to move in with her and take her up on her offer. Because you have a goddamn family and I can’t believe it had to come to this in order for you to realize how wrong you were. Got it?” Steve spluttered and Sam raised an eyebrow.
“I said, got it?” Steve nodded and swallowed thickly, looking over at Bruce who was resolutely ignoring his gaze as Sam walked out, shoulders slumped in defeat.
“We have a problem” Steve turned from the door to look at Bucky who had followed him into the hallway. Bucky walked towards the door as Sam stepped in, Steve immediately wrapping an arm around his lover's waist.
“What happened?” Sam shook his head, in full Cap gear and all business. Bucky looked at him with searching eyes and saw the sadness hidden in Sam’s gaze.
“Sam?” Sam heaved a wet sigh and rubbed at his eyes, turning back to look at them apologetically.
“I’m so sorry man, I’ll explain in the car but I need both of you to come with me to the compound – now”
Steve and Bucky looked at one another nervously, throwing on their shoes quickly.
It was bad.
They slipped into the backseat of Sam’s car, Maria at the steering wheel as she began racing through traffic back to Upstate New York. She had a grim expression on her face and spoke in a quiet, clipped tone.
“Clint and Wanda are already there, Pepper insisted on coming as well and Thor and T’Challa are en route” Sam nodded and looked back at Bucky, reaching over in an uncharacteristic move and clapping a hand on his knee, sniffing.
“Barnes, I need you to know – I am so sorry. I did everything I could to keep you both away from this” Bucky looked at him in confusion and shot a quick glance to Steve. Whatever was going on, it had Sam devastated.
“S’gunna be okay Sam, we’ll figure it out” Sam nodded but his eyes were wet, and he wiped at his face as he turned back to face the front. Steve gently reached over and grabbed Bucky’s trembling flesh hand in his warm, steady one, running his thumb across his knuckles. Bucky looked up at him and he shot him a soft smile, repeating Bucky’s words back to him.
“We’ll figure it out”.
***TRIGGER WARNING: PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT THIS CHAPTER CONTAINS AN ILLUSTRATION OF A PANIC ATTACK. READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED***
Just a little reminder based on earlier chapters: Bruce refers to Young Steve as "Steven" and Old Steve as "Steve" because that's how the group decided to differentiate them when they were in the same room!
Bucky froze as they walked into the main lab at the compound. Everyone was there, Bruce, Clint, Thor, T’Challa. Even Hope Van Dyne and Old Steve. Steve’s eyes were on the floor and Hope’s face was tear-stained. But that wasn’t what had Bucky freezing in the doorway.
It was the giant white platform in the middle of the room. He’d know it anywhere.
Clearly Young Steve did too as he immediately turned around, looking at him with soft eyes as he spoke so only Bucky could hear him.
“S’okay doll, m’right here okay?” he reached over and squeezed his hand, looking unbearably soft in his white t-shirt and acid wash jeans. Bucky forced a smile and laced their fingers together.
“I know” Steve gave their hands a little shake and finished walking into the room, Bucky trying valiantly to hide the dread slipping through his body.
“So Scott’s been missing in the Quantam Realm for how long?” Clint had his arms crossed over his chest, eyes continuously darting back and forth from the platform, whole body screaming discomfort.
Bucky was glad he wasn’t the only one harbouring bad feelings towards a hunk of steel.
Hope rubbed her hands together where she was sitting, already in her Wasp uniform, shaking her head slightly and sniffing.
“Just over a month I suppose? Communication shut off two days ago – I didn’t know what to do” she looked up at them and Rhodey knelt down next to her, resting a hand on her shoulder. Bucky noticed Pepper in Tony’s old office, playing with Morgan while continuously looking out the window at the group. He found himself subconsciously moving closer to Steve, who bumped his shoulder gently.
T’Challa gave her a sympathetic look and spoke gently.
“Do you know why he was in the Quantam Realm?” Hope suddenly shot her head over to Old Steve with sharp eyes.
“Steve – Old Steve I guess asked him if there was a way to go back, either make him younger or go back to see if they could reverse his decision to stay” Steve went rigid against Bucky who immediately gaped at Steve.
“What?!” Old Steve looked up at Bucky with desperate shame.
“I told you no. I said not to play with this, that I was happy. You told me you wouldn’t, you promised me Steve!” Bucky’s voice was getting high-pitched, blind panic starting to take over as the situation began to make itself known.
Scott was missing, for Steve, because of Bucky.
It was all his fault.
“Let me explain-“
“Oh Hell no, you’re done talking!” Bucky blinked in surprise and looked at Young Steve, who was now rapidly advancing on the centenarian, fury radiating from his body.
“Ste-“ Old Steve immediately stood. Levelling his younger self with a steely gaze.
“You need to stand down” Young Steve barked out a harsh laugh and continued moving forward, unfazed by Sam who was now desperately trying to hold him back.
“Are you kidding? This won’t be the first time I kicked my own ass – only I’ll enjoy it this time.” Old Steve squared his shoulders, never one to back down from a fight and set his jaw.
“Alright then, if yo-“
“Uncle Bucky?” The room froze as Morgan walked in, smiling at her Uncle Rhodey as she shuffled towards the sergeant shyly, bright blue sundress swaying slightly.
Bucky immediately dropped to his knee, putting on what he hoped was a reassuring smile as she walked right into his chest, hugging him gently.
“Hey darlin’ what’s up?” she buried her face into his neck and whispered into his ear conspiratorially.
“Mommy said to come save you” Bucky darted his eyes up to the window as Pepper winked at him, slowly making her own way to the door. He scooped the little girl into his arms and smiled, kissing her forehead tenderly.
“Well consider me saved” Morgan smiled and rested her head on his collar-bone, looking over at the two Steves who had stepped back. Unable to fight in front of Tony’s daughter.
Thor looked at the group and glanced at the platform.
“So, how exactly are supposed to get him back?”
“It’s gotta be you” Bucky’s ears were ringing and the only thing grounding him right now was the little girl still wrapped around him.
Young Steve shook his head rapidly and gestured to Old Steve.
“Send him! He got us all into this mess” Banner stepped forward and looked at the group sadly.
“Steven,” he started, referring back to the first time they’d had to differentiate the two Captains.
“He’s too old, he can’t make the jumps. And you’re the only one who’s able to slip into that universe without causing alarm, as long as you don’t run into yourself that is” Steven let out a slow snarl and Bucky stepped forward, gently setting Morgan down.
“I’ll go with him, we can cover more ground that way” Steven nodded and Hope suddenly shook her head, looking at them sadly.
“We only have enough Pym Particles for one, and two extras for both Scott and whoever goes. Plus there’s only one functioning suit left after Thanos” She looked at them with desperate eyes and a sob escaped her.
“Please? I’d go myself if I could but-“ her eyes darted to the side and tears welled over, she set her jaw and looked back at them.
“Please Steven” Steven heaved a heavy sigh and nodded in resignation.
“Fine, I’ll-“ a loud crash echoed behind them and the group turned just in time to watch Bucky slam through the door out into the sun, bumping into things in a desperate attempt to flee the room.
Steve felt his heart break as Steven spun around, Pepper scooping up Morgan as she attempted to run after him. Steven broke into a jog and rushed out the door after him.
Bucky’s chest stuttered as he desperately tried to get air into his shuddering lungs, he was freezing but the sweat was pouring from him as he staggered down the old driveway, his eyes were filled with tears and his vision was spotty as the buzzing in his ears thrummed throughout his body.
He hit a piece of uneven pavement and went down hard into the grass next to the lane way, barely propping himself up before he vomited. He was shaking so much he couldn’t hold himself still, starting a slow crawl just to keep himself from completely giving out.
Someone was yelling his name, but he couldn’t hear it over his own thoughts. He just prayed it wasn’t Morgan.
He’s leaving. Hesleavinghesleavinghesleaving. You lose. Youloseyouloseyoulose. You’re gunna be alone again. Aloneagainaloneagainaloneagain.
“Bucky! Bucky, babydoll hey, hey look at me. Come on honey look at me.” Bucky’s vision swam as he looked up at the bearded man in terror. Steve smiled at him wetly and framed his face in his hands, praying that his fear of finding his love in such a state wasn’t showing on his face as he slammed his knees into the gravel driveway, ignoring the little shoots of pain.
“Come back to me sweetheart, I’m right here, can you feel me? Just breathe with me Bucky” Steve took one of Bucky’s filthy hands, setting it against his chest over his heart as he breathed in deeply.
“See, just like that okay? You match with me yeah?” Bucky stuttered and gagged again as he tried to match it, clinging to the steady thump-thump, thump-thump under his palm.
Steve held his gaze with his own as he continued breathing.
“That’s it, that’s it baby. So good, there we go, come on back now. M’right here, m’right here” Bucky could feel the panic seeping out of him, the rest of his emotions slamming into his exhausted body as the reality replayed in front of him. He looked up at Steve with devastated eyes.
“Y-you’re leaving me.” Steve’s face shattered and he gripped Bucky’s head almost desperately, thumbs stroking over his cheeks.
“No, no honey never. But Scott needs help, I just gotta bring him back” Bucky let out another sob and shook his head.
He was an absolute mess, he needed to go shower.
But Steve would leave if he let go.
Bucky began hyperventilating again and Steve rocked them desperately, running out of ideas.
“Shh, none of that, we’re okay. We’re okay honey just breath. Stay here, stay here with me okay?” Bucky nodded as he desperately tried to focus on the warmth around him.
Now Steve was going to need to shower.
He closed his eyes at the sound of footsteps coming towards them, he already recognized the gait.
“Hey Buck, why don’t Steve and I get you inside yeah? The two of you can get cleaned up while we figure out what to do?” Sam’s voice washed over Bucky, bringing him further out of his head.
“Nothing’s set in stone yet man, let’s not get too worked up here.” Bucky appreciated Sam, but he knew the decision had already been made.
He was losing Steve again.
“Hey honey” Bucky blinked his eyes open and looked around him in groggy confusion. The bedroom was dark and the compound was quiet. His hair was still damp and he and Steve were curled around each other in bed, clad in nothing but underwear. His head was pounding, his throat was thick and his limbs felt like lead.
God, he hated panic attacks.
“Hey” his voice sounded positively wrecked and Steve propped himself over Bucky to reach for a glass of water and some pills on the nightstand.
“Here, can you sit up for me? Get you rehydrated” Bucky shakily propped himself up just long enough to take the medication and water before laying back down. He wasn’t sure why Steve even bothered with the pills, knowing he’d burn through them way too fast.
Steve set the bottle back down and lay back next to him, stroking his hair gently.
“H-how long was I out?”
“About four hours, everyone’s gone to bed. We’ll try to figure everything out tomorrow” Bucky closed his eyes as they began burning again. Steve curled around him and nuzzled their noses together.
“I’m here Buck” Bucky nodded and curled his metal hand against Steve’s pectoral. Bucky gave a watery smile and sniffed.
“Yeah, for now” Steve buried his hand into Bucky’s hair, scratching at his scalp lightly.
“Hey, look at me” Bucky looked up at the blue eyes he was so in love with and Steve stared right back.
“M’not him Buck, remember what we said? No comparing remember?” Bucky nodded and looked down shamefully.
“Kinda hard when history’s repeating itself pal” Steve pressed his lips to Bucky’s forehead and held them there for several seconds.
“Don’t give up on me Bucky. I don’t want to go, but doesn’t Scott deserve to come home, be with his daughter, be with Hope?” Bucky nodded and Steve pressed their foreheads together.
“I love you Bucky, I got plans with you pal, can’t be runnin’ off and getting lost” Bucky gripped his shirt and swallowed thickly.
“I could go instead, I can handle it” Steve sighed heavily and hugged him close to his chest.
“I know you can baby doll, but a Steve got us into this mess, it needs to be a Steve that gets us out of it” Bucky shook his head as Steve pressed forward.
“S’gotta be me Buck” a sob escaped Bucky’s throat and Steve felt his heart break. Bucky buried his face into Steve’s chest as his shoulders shook with his cries.
“M’so sorry Buck, I’m so sorry.”
“So where is he?” Bucky stood off to the side, hands shoved deep in his pockets as he watched Hope adjust his suit.
He fucking hated that suit.
Bruce was silent for a few moments and when he spoke his voice was hesitant.
“He’s uh, he’s in your timeline, before the Snap was reversed” Bucky felt his knees buckle as Steve gasped.
Morgan walked up and tugged on the leg of Steve’s suit
“Uncle Steve?” Steve knelt down and smiled at the little girl. She looked up at him with big eyes and bit her lip nervously.
“Yes, sweetie?” Morgan swallowed thickly and looked at him.
“Why are you wearing that suit? Are you going away?” Steve ignored the pang in his chest and rested his hands on her shoulders.
“Do you remember your friend Cassie?” Morgan nodded and rubbed her eye.
“Well, Cassie’s dad is in trouble, and I gotta go find him” Morgan sniffed, eyes filling with tears.
“Did he get lost?” Steve’s eyes got wet and he nodded.
“Yeah honey, he did. And I gotta go find him” Morgan let out an uncomfortable sound and looked at him harshly.
“How do you get back though? How do we know you won’t get lost?” Bucky let out a straggled sound and both of them turned their attention briefly to the brunette, who immediately turned his face away. Steve looked at him with heartache and turned back to Morgan.
“I won’t get lost, you see this here? This is how I get home. All I gotta do is punch in our time and I’ll be right back here like I was never gone”
“And Cassie’s dad too?” Steve nodded and kissed her forehead tenderly.
“And Cassie’s dad too” he confirmed, getting back to his feet and turning his attention to Bucky.
“Buck…” Bucky squeezed his eyes shut tightly, shaking his head and casting his head down into the side. He clenched his fists in his pockets so hard he could feel his nails breaking the skin on his flesh hand. Steve slowly walked towards him as Pepper scooped up Morgan.
“No” the word was nothing more than a broken whisper but it rang as loudly as a gunshot in the lab.
Old Steve closed his own eyes against the broken sound, a rogue tear leaking down his cheek.
“Bucky-“ Young Steve gently touched Bucky’s arm and Bucky flinched away.
“Hey… look at me, please?” Bucky swallowed thickly, eyes focused on the floor as Steve gently grabbed his chin. Bucky looked at him with betrayed eyes and Steve rested their foreheads together.
“Don’t” Bucky jerked in an attempt to escape his arms but Steve wouldn’t budge. Steve pressed his lips to Bucky’s forehead and a sob finally escaped his lips, hand reaching out to grip at the suit. Steve held him tightly as Bucky murmured softly.
“Please, just stay.” Steve squeezed his eyes shut and breathed heavily though his nose, trying to keep his own emotions in check.
“I’ll be back. I’ll be back I promise. Just a few hours, I’m coming home to you I promise” Bucky let out a ragged sound and shook his head against Steve’s shoulder.
“S’not fair” Steve cradled him and rocked them gently, ignoring the looks they were getting.
“I know baby, I know it’s not. But this is it okay? I promise, this ends here” Bucky gritted his teeth and tried to hold himself together.
“When I get back, you and me are going on a nice long vacation okay? Just you and me, sound good?” Bucky went rigid against him and shook his head. Steve sighed heavily and looked at him.
“I know you don’t believe me, but I swear on my life I’ll be back” Bucky pulled out of his arms and nodded, still refusing to look at him. Steve wiped at his own eyes and sent a glance to his older self as he stepped onto the platform, realizing that was all he was going to get from the broken man.
“When I get back, you’ll be gone – and we will never see you again” Old Steve gaped at him and looked at Bucky, who was still glaring at the wall, clearly trying to distance himself from the situation.
“That’s not your call-“
“It is now. You blew it Rogers, now it’s time for you to go” with that, Steve hopped onto the platform and nodded to Bruce, who turned on the machine.
“Okay, according to our calculations, it should only be about twenty minutes our time at most, you remember the coordinates?” Steve nodded confidently and locked eyes with Bucky as his helmet slid over his head.
“Twenty minutes” Bucky looked at him with devastated eyes and murmured softly.
“Twenty minutes” Steve nodded and winked at him, playful smile on his face as Hope began the countdown.
“Okay, jumping in three… two… one” there was a zap and a flash of light.
And Steve was gone.
The moment Steve materialized he darted into a nearby alcove, hidden from sight. He looked down at his tracker and it confirmed the date and time.
May 28th, 2023
In twenty-three minutes, he and the love of his life would be boarding a shuttle headed for Vormir.
And Bucky’s certain death.
He closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath, steadying himself. He focused on the memory of short hair and devastated eyes as he squared his shoulders before double checking that he still had the Pym Particles and the equipment needed to repair Scott’s suit. Then, he snuck off, following Scott’s tracking device down a dark corridor of the compound.
Navigating the compound was eerie for Steve. The familiarity of the compound contrasting with the reality that it was no longer his home. Ducking into the shadows, he felt his eyes fill with tears as his Other Self walked by with Natasha.
God he missed her.
“So, you’ve got the plan? You and Barnes’ll be good?” Natasha looked at him with concerned eyes, braiding her hair as she appraised him. The Other Steve nodded and smiled at her.
“Of course, thanks for trading with us again. I just figure we deserved something easy you know?” Natasha smirked.
“You mean, Bucky deserves something easy?” Other Steve nodded and barked out a laugh, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Yeah, when this is all over, I think we’ll retire. Get married, have a honeymoon-“
“House, dog, two-point-five kids huh?” Natasha’s smile turned soft at Steve’s blush.
“Good, you two deserve it. Come on, I’ve got some charts I want you to go over with me one more time just to be safe” Other Steve nodded and the two got into the elevator.
Steve watched from his place in the shadows, smiling gently.
“I hope you got the happiness you deserved Nat. Thank you” he began rapidly moving down the hall, zoning in on Scott’s location.
“Did he get there okay?” Sam stared at Bruce as he looked over the scans.
“He appears to be there alright, we’ll wait until they both get online before I say anything for sure, but everything appears to be going smoothly.” Bucky relaxed a fraction and looked at Sam, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth.
“He’s still online?” Sam smiled and nodded.
“Yeah, man, it’s looking good here. He should be back soon” Bucky let out a relieved sigh, tensions slowly melting from his body as he walked towards the control panel.
“Hopefully sooner rather than later” Sam clapped his arm and smiled.
“I hear you Barnes.”
"Cap!? What are you doing here?!" Steve let out a sigh of relief as he finally found Scott. After roaming around the grounds for the better part of three hours he was more than happy to finally find Ant-Man.
"I'm here to get you, come on, were gunna resync your suit and get home" Scott's shoulders slumped and a smile graced his tired face.
"Yes please" Steve ushered him into a nearby alcove, resolutely ignoring Tony's voice as they walked by. Given his relationship with Morgan and Pepper now, he didn’t trust himself to see the genius.
He immediately set to work repairing Scott’s suit, ensuring that he was still able to secure the Pym Particles and communication devices to the suit.
“I gotta tell you, I’m really happy to see you sir! It’s been a long year” Steve looked up at him with sad eyes.
“You’ve only been here about a month Lang, but we’re gunna get you home okay?” Scott nodded and sighed heavily, leaning his head back against the wall as Steve stood up again. The two looked at each other and Steve looked at him seriously.
"Okay, all set. Ready?" Scott gave one firm nod.
"Ready. Jumping in three... Two-"
"Stevie, honey we gotta go what are you doing over here?" Steve froze and locked eyes with Scott, who had already pressed his button.
"Ste-" Steve watched him disappear and stood still, too afraid to turn around at the gruff voice behind him.
"Steve? Everything alright pal?" He slowly turned and couldn't help the desperate noise that escaped him. He clapped his hand over his mouth, suit and coordinates forgotten as his knees buckled at the sight before him.
There, dressed in a white quantum suit, hair pulled back into a ponytail stood Bucky Barnes.
His Bucky Barnes.
"Scott!" Hope rushed onto the platform as Scott reappeared, looking haggard and flustered. Bucky's eyes went wide and Old Steve watched as his head immediately scanned the platform.
"Where is he!? Where's Steve!?" Scott tried to catch his breath and pulled out of Hope's death grip, looking around himself with wild eyes.
"I don't know, we were together and then just as I hit the button the Other Bucky turned the corner and he froze." Bucky's arms dropped to his side, face shutting down in a way Old Steve had never seen.
It made his soul ache.
Sam suddenly charged over, shaking Scott by the shoulders in a desperation which was so out of character everyone was shocked.
"What do you mean Other Bucky!?" Scott flustered as he tried to answer, tripping over his words.
"W-we ended up in his timeline, right before they left for Vormir. They were just getting ready to go." A heavy silence filled the room as the reality of the situation sunk in.
Steve had found his own Bucky.
A hollow thump caught everyone's attention and Morgan let out an uncomfortable whine as Bucky fell to his knees, hands still limply at his sides as he stared unseeing at where Steve had been standing several minutes earlier. Sam slowly walked towards him as a solitary tear slid down his cheek, body ramrod straight and still as stone.
"Barnes?" Bucky turned and looked at Sam with a horrible imitation of a smile and when he finally spoke his voice reminded Steve of nails on a chalkboard, Morgan hiding her face in Pepper's neck as a darkness crept across Bucky's features.
"It was never gunna be me, was it?" Almost as though his own voice broke through to him, Bucky began gritting his teeth, chest heaving as the tears began to stream down his face. Old Steve fell into a chair, clapping a hand over his mouth to keep his own sobs at bay.
He'd never seen anyone so broken.
"It's never me." The life drained out of the brunette and sat on his knees, hands limply in his lap as he stared down at them, tears dripping from his cheeks.
But he didn't make a sound.
Steve was sure the sound he made wasn’t even human as he threw himself at his fiancé, tears streaming down his face as he clung to him.
He didn’t even realize he was saying Bucky’s name over and over again like a mantra until Bucky locked his arms around him, dragging him over to a nearby bench and sitting him down.
“Okay, okay, easy now, Jesus Christ sugar you’re shakin’ like a leaf” Steve heaved a shaking breath and scrubbed at his eyes as Bucky knelt down in front of him. However, as he looked at Steve’s face he began to furrow his brow.
“You’re not my Steve, are you?” Steve began nodding his head desperately.
“No, I am! I mean, I was – I mean-“ Bucky quirked an eyebrow and smiled softly.
“Take a breath pal, we’ve got time.”
"Mommy, when's Uncle Steve coming back?" The group of superheroes all turned to Morgan who was gently tugging on her hand, looking up with her father's big brown eyes. Pepper wiped a tear and sniffed, crouching down to smile at her comfortingly.
"We don't know sweetie, hopefully really soon." Morgan looked out the window where Bucky was still knelt on the platform, Wanda sitting faithfully next to him with a hand on his back.
"Did he get lost?" Pepper furrowed her brow, trying to think of the right words.
"Something like that, we just have to hope he chooses to come back" Morgan's eyes filled with tears and she stomped her foot, face reddening.
"No! He has to come back! What about uncle Bucky? He can't just leave him here!" Morgan sniffed and looked out at the broken man again. Old Steve felt his heart break as he allowed the horrible reality to sit in his soul. He'd ruined his best friend - again. Because he'd been selfish - again.
Only this time, there wasn't a portal to open up and send in another Hail Mary.
Bucky was alone.
And it was all his fault.
A little sob escaped Morgan and Pepper pulled her into a hug.
"He loves Uncle Bucky, he wouldn't just go away, right mommy?" Tears were silently sliding down Pepper's cheeks as she buried her face into her daughter's hair.
"That's what I thought too baby" Morgan looked down and wiped her eyes with a little fist.
"He's so sad." Pepper nodded, looking at her daughter with wise eyes.
"Do you remember how you felt when daddy went to heaven?" Morgan nodded
"And remember how you and I sat on the couch every night for a week waiting for him to come home, just in case?" Even Rhodey's eyes were wet as Pepper spoke.
"Yeah" the red head nodded out the window of the boardroom down to where Bucky and Wanda were knelt, Sam sitting behind them with his head in his hands, completely lost.
"Well that's how Uncle Bucky feels right now" Morgan mashed her face into Pepper's collarbone.
"I don't want him to"
"Me either baby, but sometimes we just have to let people feel sad" Morgan sniffed and clutched her toy Iron Man doll on her hand, wiggling out of her mother’s arms and shuffling towards the door.
“Where are you going sweetie?” Morgan looked at her as she opened the door.
“M’gunna go sit with Uncle Bucky, in case Uncle Steve comes back” with that, the little girl marched out the door and Pepper wiped her eyes, smiling at her little girl’s retreating form.
“So let me make sure I understand you, you’re my Steve from this timeline. Only today actually happened over a year ago and you went to live in a different timeline but now you’re back in this timeline?” Steve nodded as Bucky furrowed his brow, lips pursed as he considered him. The brunette suddenly snickered and shook his head.
“Fuckin’ time travel” Steve deflated at Bucky’s relaxed tone, smiling himself as Bucky moved from his position kneeling in front of him to sitting on the bench next to him. The two looked at each other and Bucky laced their hands together.
“So, now that you’ve told me the logistics, why don’t you tell me what happened?” Steve wiped at his eyes and sniffed. Bucky looked at him and smiled softly, eyes turning sad.
“This mission, it’s a one way trip for me ain’t it?” Steve looked at him stricken and Bucky ran a metal thumb over his knuckles.
“I had a hunch when that Quill guy got all angsty over it.” Steve looked at him, eyes big.
“We could find another way-“ Bucky kissed their joined hands and swallowed thickly.
“I notice you’re not wearing your engagement ring anymore” Steve flinched and Bucky smiled reassuringly.
“They treat you right Stevie?” Steve thought back to soft eyes and short hair, shy smiles and never ending kisses and nodded.
“Yeah, he does” Bucky rested his head back against the wall, eyes closing as a soft smile crossed is face, shoulders relaxing.
“Good” Steve rested his head on his shoulder, sighing heavily. Bucky kissed the top of his head and the two sat in silence for several minutes before Bucky cleared his throat.
“You’re probably looking for me. I think it’s time you headed home there darlin’” Steve nodded, small whimper escaping him.
“I know, I just - I wish I got to marry you” Bucky wrapped an arm around him and nodded.
“Me too, but c’mon pal. Whether or not I ever wore a wedding ring didn’t change nothing. Let’s be real doll, we’ve been married since thirty-two” Steve breathed out a laugh, nodding his head.
“I’m always right” Steve broke into a fit of laughter and Bucky looked at him for a moment.
“Hey,” their eyes met and Bucky ran a hand through his hair.
“I love you Steve, you know that right?” Steve nodded and Bucky rested their foreheads together.
“And you know that I love you right?” Steve let out a sob and pressed against him tightly.
“Stevie – you know I love you right?” Steve finally forced a nod and Bucky pressed his lips between his eyes.
“And I know you love me. We were happy, I was happy okay. And I’m good with this okay? It’s okay” Steve squeezed his eyes shut and nodded. Bucky stood up and slowly began to walk down the hall.
“So I’m gunna walk down this hallway, and when I get to the end I’m gunna turn around, and your dumbass better not be here when I turn around, capiche?” Steve wiped his eyes and nodded, pulling him into a hug.
“I love you” Bucky cradled him tightly and kissed his temple.
“I love you too baby doll, thanks for an amazing ride. Wouldn’t have it any other way” Steve nodded into his shoulder and kissed the side of his neck. Bucky sighed heavily and looked away.
“Gotta go find my Steve” Steve began replugging his coordinates through tear filled eyes as Bucky began walking away.
“Oh, wait – I do have a question?” Steve looked up at him and Bucky smiled softly.
“Yeah Buck?” Bucky looked at the ground and bit his lip.
“D-do we win?” Steve nodded, smiling at his love reassuringly, needing him to know that he didn’t die in vain.
“Yeah, we did, we won” Bucky smiled as a look of peace fell over his features.
“Good, good-bye Steve”
“Good-bye Buck.” Bucky got to the end of the hallway, turning around and smiling at the empty hallway.
“Good job pal-“
“Hey Buck! There you are, I’ve been looking everywhere for you doll, ship’s ready to go” Bucky turned as his own Steve rounded the corner, immediately grabbing him and kissing him passionately. Steve pulled away and looked at him.
“Everything okay?” Bucky smiled and nodded.
“Yeah, just wanted to kiss ya” Steve smiled softly and rested their foreheads together, kissing him again.
“Well, why stop at one?” Bucky grinned and the two kissed lightly a few more times before the blonde finally pulled away.
“We gotta go pal” Bucky nodded and slowly pulled away, allowing his Steve to guide him by the hand to the ship.
“Ready to go to space Buck?” Bucky nodded as Steve began setting the coordinates into the shuttle.
“Hey Stevie?” Steve hummed and looked over at him.
“I love you.” Steve’s face melted and he leaned over to kiss him again.
“I love you too baby, ready to blast off?” Bucky grinned and relaxed into the seat, allowing himself to silently acknowledge his fate as Steve began chatting about their wedding.
“Ready baby doll.”
“Shut it down” everyone looked over as Bucky slowly staggered to his feet. Sam rushed over and Morgan looked up from where she’d been lying next to him.
“Woah, woah – what are you talking about!? We can’t shut it down!” Bucky looked at Sam with lifeless eyes, shoulders slumped in anguish as he spoke in a cracking voice.
“He’s not coming back Sam” Sam shook his head, eyes beginning to feel with tears.
“No, he wouldn’t do that to us. He promised he’d come back” Bucky looked at him with sad eyes.
“Sam, he’s got his own Bucky and Sam, plus Tony and Natasha – what does he have here?” Sam swallowed thickly, scrubbing a hand over tears that stubbornly escaped.
“I really thought-“ Bucky nodded, shoving his hands into his pockets and letting out a ragged breath. Sam squared his shoulders and rolled his jaw.
“I’m going to wait a little longer, I’m not giving up on him yet” Bucky flinched at the statement, the voice of his lover ringing in his head.
“Don’t give up on me Bucky” Bucky scrubbed his eyes and nodded.
“Do what you need to Sam, I’m going to bed” Old Steve gently grabbed his forearm as he walked by.
“Bucky-“ Bucky looked at him with flat eyes, Steve’s blood freezing in his veins. The last time he saw that look, Bucky was the Winter Soldier.
“Congratulations pal, m’all yours” Steve jolted back as if he’d been burned at the flat tone. Bucky looked at him for another moment before slowly trudging out of the lab.
For the first time in her life, when Morgan called after her Uncle Bucky, he didn’t answer.
It was well after midnight when there was a loud bang from the platform. Sam jerked awake from where he was sitting by the controls as a bright light blinded the lab. Sam grabbed his shield, ready to face whatever had found its way through the portal.
“Don’t move! Hands up!” the light faded and there on the platform with his hands above his head, was a very concerned.
“Sam? It’s me it’s Steve!” Sam dropped the shield and the next thing Steve knew Sam had his arms around him, face into his shoulder as he breathed heavily.
“Sam, Sam what happened, where’s Bucky?” Sam finally pulled himself together as Steve looked around the room. It was completely empty other than him and Sam and it was clear it was late.
“Wha-Sam, how long was I gone?” Sam stepped away and looked at him.
“Almost ten hours – everyone else left, they wanted me to shut down the portal” Steve let the gravity of the statement settle in his shoulders.
He was late. So everyone had given up on him.
Steve grabbed Sam by the shoulders, giving him a quick shake.
“Sam, where is Bucky?!” Sam gestured to the door and looked at him with sad eyes.
“He went to bed about five hours ago, he’s in your old room” Steve nodded and took off down the platform, suddenly turning and rushing back up to Sam and hugging him tightly.
“Thank-you Sam” Sam nodded and gripped his friend tightly.
“Thanks for coming back. Now, go get our man” Steve breathed a laugh and tossed him a salute, taking off towards the living area.
Sam watched him go and finally shut down the machine.
“I never want to see this piece of shit again.”
Bucky looked at himself in the mirror, his eyes were lifeless, dark bags and haggard expression on his pal face.
He looked down at himself and noticed the welts on his bare knees, a reminder of how he’d spent the last six hours. He turned on the shower and braced himself over the sink, looking harshly in the mirror.
“Just fuckin’ look at you Barnes…” he glared at himself in the mirror and gritted his teeth angrily.
“Who in their right mind would’ve chosen you?” he looked down at the angry scar tissue on his arm and suddenly let out an anguished cry, rearing his flesh hand back and slamming it into the mirror full force. Breaking into sobs as his bloodied hand fell back into the sink around the shattered glass.
Steve stepped out of the gym showers, changing into a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt before heading towards his room.
He never wanted Bucky to see him in that suit again.
He remembered his own Bucky’s soft eyes as he’d told Steve what he’d never known before. He’d always known that he wasn’t returning from Vormir, and he’d been okay with it.
But most importantly, he’d known that Steve loved him, and he had died at peace with that.
Steve smiled wetly and laughed to himself. That one piece that had always plagued the back of his mind was finally put to rest.
Now, to take care of Bucky.
Steve slowly walked into the bedroom and clapped a hand over his mouth to keep his gasp at bay.
Bucky stepped over the splintered remains of the dresser as he headed towards the bed, the only part of the bedroom that had escaped his breakdown.
He crawled into the bed, ignoring the fact that he was still dripping wet in ice cold shower water and naked.
It’s not like he had anyone to impress anyway.
He curled into his side of the bed, burying his face into Steve’s pillow at he hugged it to his chest, body wracking with sobs as he curled around it, ignoring his injured hand.
It wasn’t like it mattered anyway.
Steve had to wipe at his own eyes as he took his lover in, surrounded by the carnage which represented his own heartbreak.
“Oh darlin’ I hurt you so bad didn’t I?” it was clear Bucky had fallen asleep, occasional breath stutter making it clear that even in his sleep, his devastation was a tangible force in the room.
Steve gingerly crawled into the bed beside him, noticing in the moonlight the small cuts on his hands and the still wet tracks down his cheeks. A quick glance into the en suite confirmed Steve’s suspicions.
He no longer had a bathroom mirror.
He gently ran a hand through the limp hair and murmured softly.
“Buck, hey doll wake up” Bucky whimpered in his sleep and Steve wrapped an arm around his bare waist, pulling him to his chest and kissing the back of his head.
“M’here baby, I’m home” the tug seemed to be what woke Bucky up as he murmured groggily.
“Wha-“ Steve shushed him gently, leaving his lips pressed against the base of his skull.
He felt Bucky gasp and go rigid in his arms, and when he spoke his voice was so small it broke Steve’s heart all over again.
“S-Steve?” Steve squeezed him lethargically and nodded against him, moving to kiss his neck and shoulder delicately.
“Yeah honey, it’s me. Sorry I’m late” Bucky’s hands grabbed at him blindly, Steve feeling his wrist bones groan under the desperate grip.
Steve wasn’t expecting the absolute wail that fell unchecked from the brunette’s lips, suddenly breaking into uncontrollable sobs as he pressed back against him.
“M’so sorry Buck, m’here now. It’s all over. I’m home, I’m home”
Steve couldn’t do more than just hold him, allowing all the anguish and relief to work its way out of Bucky’s system in the only way it knew how. He clung to him and continued whispering soothing words against his skin, choking back his own tears as Bucky’s raw throat unleashed those heart wrenching sounds.
“I’m here now baby doll, I love you, I’m here, I got you honey, I got you.”
When Steve opened his eyes, he was staring at the red-rimmed gaze of his lover.
“I’m here” tears escaped his eyes again and Bucky dug his nails that much harder into the skin of Steve’s arm. Steve reached over with his other hand and gently framed his face. Bucky let out another soft sob and Steve’s heart clenched tightly.
“Shh, c’mere honey, m’sorry I was so late” Steve guided him back to his chest and held him tightly as he began crying again.
“Y-you’re here, you came back” Steve nodded and peppered kisses all over his head and face.
“I did, of course I did. I promised you baby doll remember, we got plans” Bucky let out a wet laugh and nodded, burying his face into his chest and sniffing.
“But you saw your Bucky” Steve nodded, even though it clearly wasn’t a question.
“I did, and we talked – that’s why I was late. I wanted to say goodbye properly” Bucky looked up at him and risked letting him go to rub at his eye, hissing when the salt from his tears got into the small slices decorating his hand. Steve furrowed his brow in concern and gently took the busted hand in his own, inspecting it thoroughly.
“We gotta clean this honey, you’re not gunna heal until the glass comes out” Bucky swallowed thickly and nodded, but didn’t move. Steve sighed heavily as he realized that Bucky was still scared. He knew he had to get Bucky’s hand cleaned.
But he also knew Bucky wouldn’t be letting go.
Steve began to slowly slide his arms up to Bucky’s biceps, slowly guiding them from their iron grip on his torso to loop them over his shoulders. At Bucky’s involuntary whimper Steve hushed him gently, kissing his forehead as he slowly moved onto his knees, hooking an arm around his back and the other under Bucky’s knees.
“Shh, I got you” Bucky pressed his face into Steve’s neck and his heart broke.
All that work Bucky had spent rebuilding himself back into that charming, charismatic man Steve was so in love with.
All for an extra fifteen minute with his own Bucky.
Steve climbed off the bed, carrying him bride style to the hall bathroom, not trusting his own ability to avoid all the shattered glass in the en suite.
“I got you.”
Steve hissed in sympathy as Bucky’s hand twitched, the only movement he made as Steve slowly picked out the glass with a pair of tweezers.
“Jesus doll, you really did a number on yourself huh?” Bucky nodded, looking through his eyelashes at Steve as he picked up an alcohol swab.
“This is gunna sting” Bucky inhaled sharply through his nose and Steve hushed him gently, pressing a kiss to his knuckles.
“There, all set” Steve leaned back from his position perched on the side of the tub and looked at his lover as he sat on the lid of the toilet seat. Steve watched him with a patient gaze as he looked for his words.
“D-did it work?” Steve looked at him in confusion and Bucky bit his lip.
“The rescue? Did it work? Did you get your wedding” Steve heaved a sigh in realization and reached a hand out to grip at the short hairs on the back of Bucky’s head, forcing him to look at him.
“I didn’t marry him Buck, I didn’t even stop him.” Bucky gasped and Steve looked at him as his own eyes filled with tears.
“I saw him, he turned the corner just as Scott and I were about to jump. I froze, I had been trying to ignore everyone else and it was okay – except I was prepared to hear him, not see him. I’d been so intentional with avoiding where he’d be, I forgot on when he’d be,” Bucky let out a weak smirk but the shadow didn’t leave his eyes.
“We talked, for a long time. Longer than I anticipated. And you’re right, I did want to save him, I did. But Buck, I never intended to stay” Steve pushed as much earnestness into his voice as possible, tilting his head to force eye contact. Bucky’s sorrowful eyes gazed back and Steve felt his chest hitch when the saw the tiniest glimmer of hope in them. Steve allowed his tears to fall down his face as he pressed their foreheads together.
“I was always coming back you babydoll. It was never a question. I’m sorry I got held up so much longer than I planned. But I was coming back – and I wish I could find a way to make you believe me” Bucky looked at him as Steve sniffed in frustration, realizing how much damage he’d done.
“God Bucky, I’m so sorry” the guilt festered it’s way around Steve’s heart as Bucky looked at him with guarded eyes for several long minutes, scanning his face.
“I believe you” Steve’s jaw fell open as Bucky swallowed thickly, his eyes filling with tears as he gave Steve a wet smile.
“I believe you Steve.” Steve laughed and leaned over, pulling Bucky into a hug as he buried his face into Bucky’s neck, peppering it with kisses as he threaded his fingers through his hair. Bucky clung to his t-shirt and pressed his lips to Steve’s temple.
“I believe you Steve.”
Bucky was probably freezing, sitting naked on the closed toilet seat and Steve’s sweatpants had him slowly sliding off the cool edge of the bathtub. But neither would let go of the other.
Steve was sure that if he ever told Bucky that he purred, he’d very likely end up with some form of physical injury.
But there was no other word to describe the sound Bucky was making as he continued to run his hand through his hair.
The two were laying on the couch with the TV playing quietly in the background, Bucky sprawled over Steve’s broad chest as they cuddled. Steve pressed his lips to the top of Bucky’s head, Bucky squeezed him lethargically and Steve smiled into his hair.
“You hungry babe?” Bucky glanced up at him and smiled.
“A little bit, you?” Steve nodded and reached for his phone.
“Let’s order something, don’t feel like cooking” Bucky smiled and nodded in agreement.
“M’glad you’re here Stevie” Steve sighed happily and set the phone down after placing the order.
“Me too honey” Bucky turned back to the TV and spoke softly.
“Did it help? Getting to say goodbye?” Steve swallowed thickly, nodding.
“Yeah, I think it did. Made sure we were all on the same page, closed that last door I didn’t know was still open” Bucky nodded and hummed, kissing his chest lightly.
“Good, happy for you pal” Steve gently guided his chin up to press a soft kiss to his lips.
“Thank you, but I‘m done now Buck. No more jumpin’ or time travellin’ or whatever they wanna call it. I’d rather sit here and grow old with you, if you’d let me?” Bucky slid up to frame his jaw, straddling Steve’s hips as he leaned down to kiss him.
“Sounds good to me pal.” Steve smiled against his lips, deepening the kiss just as there was a knock at the door.
“Damn, that’s the food” Steve grabbed Bucky by the hand, the two attached at the hip as he went to get the food, still unwilling to be apart for very long.