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Progress (The One With The Post-It Notes)

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Progress eight months ago was recognizing guilt when he hurt someone. Progress now is getting more than three hours of sleep two nights in a row.

Strictly speaking Bucky's body doesn't need it, not when HYDRA engineered him past that kind of weakness, but being constantly on edge exhausts him, constantly assaulted by bits of memory he has to work to place, flashes that come with surges of feeling he still struggles to identify. His enhanced endurance feels like another way for HYDRA to hurt him, keeping him awake when he can't get his head to shut up.

Sometimes it's enough to make Bucky miss the blank relief of the ice, when he's not panicking over the memory of the cold and that HYDRA's out there hunting him at at that very moment, ready to drag him back there.

Steve wants him to be calmer. Wants him to rest, wants him to not be on edge all the time and let go of all those instincts the enemy forced him to adopt because he has a new life now. Doctor Banner's solution was specially-designed sedatives that would work on Bucky's metabolism. It felt like going back to them, shutting off parts of him again, but Bucky gave in last night after a near breakdown on the couch that he would never stop being what they made him, that he's only keeping Steve with him for survival, to learn how to blend in with the civilian world, because he isn't human enough to see that it's wrong and that he should let Steve go. The last thing Bucky remembers is Steve rubbing a hand down his back and wishing the pills would hurry the fuck up so the anxiety crawling under his skin would stop.

Bucky glances at the clock on the nightstand. He didn't count on the pills knocking him out for ten hours. That means Steve is gone in Boston already and Bucky's left alone overnight in the apartment for the first time. The quiet gets under his skin and his chest gets tight thinking about how HYDRA could have burst in and dragged him back while he was unconscious.

That's part of what the dog is for though. Dodger would have barked, but Bucky rolls over and he's lying in his dog bed on the floor, looking up at him with Dollface perched on his back licking his gold fur. For having three legs and being nothing but a tiny scrap of cloudlike fluff, the cat does a good job of being the one in control when she wants.

Better than him.

Seeing that Bucky's awake, she springs onto the bed, purring and trilling like she's overjoyed he wasn't lying there dead after all. She stands on his chest, kneading her paws and Bucky runs his fingers through her long white hair while she scratches her cheek on the joins of his metal arm. It's Steve who named her, because she's tiny and delicate with huge blue eyes, and because he says that's what Bucky used to call every girl in Brooklyn. He seems sore about all these girls that Bucky can't remember.

Paper crinkles against the mattress and Bucky twists his arm to find a series of yellow notes stuck along the length of it. He plucks the top one and there's a message in Steve's handwriting.

There's cereal and strawberries for breakfast.

Yes. Breakfast. Identifying hunger is still like listening for footsteps in a room full of noise, after HYDRA programmed him to ignore most urges and eating was something he did only when ordered, but his stomach is rumbling and he's learned to eat on a schedule.

With Steve, he's learning about things that taste good too and that meals are made of choices. He's learning about what to do with himself when he's not going after HYDRA, and all the tasks it takes to assimilate into his new life like Steve and his friends.

Steve is helping him learn how to take care of himself instead of being maintained like a machine. At first, Bucky was afraid Steve would try to make himself another master, reclaiming him as a stolen asset for his missions because he used to be one of his commandos, but Steve won't shave him or brush his hair or wash him or cook Bucky's food unless Bucky says "Brooklyn" which means the chaos in his head won't let him just then.

He wants to use the word all the time, but HYDRA is his enemy and he sees now that they rendered him dependent as a weakness. They have enough power over him leaving his mind a fractured ruin. This morning it's cereal instead of his favorite pancakes because Steve doesn't trust him to turn on the stove the way he gets caught up in his head and blanks out of what's going on around him. Last night he didn't know whether he wanted to curl up in frustration or smash a window in anger because he was too tense on the edge of unexplainable panic to get hard in bed with Steve. That's what led to the breakdown in the living room.

Steve doesn't hit him the way Pierce did when he doesn't get the result he wants, but shame has become one of the easier emotions for to identify, and it's crippling feeling useless and inadequate.

Dodger barks by the sliding door and Bucky lets him out to the bathroom. Dollface rubs against his legs and he refills her food and water bowls. He's better at remembering to feed the pets than he is himself. He likes them.

The cereal and strawberries are almost as good as pancakes. Dollface sits on the stool next to him, in Steve's place and Bucky pets her in between mouthfuls. She's supposed to help keep him calm, and he had picked her out himself because of her missing left leg in front. Stark wanted to make her a metal one to match his, but she only likes him and won't understand why she's in a strange place having all these things done to her.

He drinks some orange juice and washes the dishes. He avoids coffee because it makes him too jittery. Next is washing up and getting dressed. He's used to having possessions now, comfortable clothes that aren't constricting combat gear. Steve tells him he used to like clothes, and dancing and science fiction, and girls. For now Bucky picks out some jeans and an oversized sweatshirt and ties his hair back in a "man bun" the way Natasha showed him.

When Bucky's done, he reaches into his sleeve and pulls another note from his arm.

Text me when you wake up.

He gets his phone from the nightstand.

Awake, he taps out with one finger.

Steve answers right away. He must be bored.

Sleep well?

Y, Bucky types back.

Remember to eat?

Y.

I got you a present.

Bucky doesn't know what to reply to that and asks instead, The enemy?

All safe, Buck, comes the quick reply, with a smiley face.

Bucky goes blank on anything more to say, so he texts taking Dodger for walk and slips the phone into his pocket.

He puts on his bracelet that says he has amnesia and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Maybe he doesn't get disoriented and confused, mixed up in his memories so much anymore, but the bracelet has Steve's number just in case. Bucky hopes no one gets that close though. In a panic, he's liable to lash out and send them flying and he understands now that he doesn't like hurting people who aren't HYDRA.

Dodger wags his tail the second Bucky brings out his harness and leash, but Dollface looks betrayed when they head for the door. Sometimes he uses the pets to practice recognizing what someone else is feeling. Fear is the only emotion his job with HYDRA required he recognize, but he picks up Dollface now, kisses her soft head and explains he'll be back soon. She can't understand; she just doesn't want Dodger stealing his attention from her, but he wants to comfort and protect and reassure her like he does Steve.

Before he leaves, he pulls another note off his arm.

I'll call as soon as I can. Don't forget to turn the alarm on.

*

They live in Brooklyn now. Steve told him he had moved to DC because it felt empty coming home when they couldn't do it together. Everything must have changed over the decades, but there's an aura of familiarity, a definite sense Bucky's been here before about the neighborhood.

For a while, he and Dodger just walk, but Bucky finds himself going the same route he can't help going lately, toward the little blue house with the rose bushes in front. He keeps the address he had carefully tracked down weeks ago in his pocket in case he forgets and when he gets there, the front blinds are open and the sturdy, ninety year old woman he came to watch has her back to him, stirring something on the stove that looks like it has to be carefully monitored. She's seven years younger than him, but her hair is gray and age has touched her. Bucky blinks and gets a flash of a little dark-haired girl he's prodding to hurry up and finish eating before she's late for school.

He takes a breath, and runs through the handful of facts he keeps close like checking weapons every time it's too overwhelming trying to connect with this life he's supposed to have come from.

He was born in 1917. He had a family who loved him. His mission with them was to look out for his sisters and work so everyone could eat. Steve had a different body then, but he was there and can verify that it's all read.

The woman turns to grab a spoon on the counter. Bucky inches closer to the fence where she can't see him, but every time he's turned and left before he's felt empty and this time he lets himself go to the door and ring the bell.

It takes a moment, but she answers. She shouldn't. What if HYDRA tracked his surviving family members down?

She looks up at him, and for a moment it's as if he's slammed a knife into an old wound of hers. But the flash of pain vanishes from her face and she's only polite to the stranger with the golden retriever at her door.

"Can I help you, son?"

Bucky swallows. He's thought carefully over what to say on nights when he couldn't sleep.

"I'm your brother—Bucky." She starts to shake her head and looks ready to slam the door in his face, but he hurries on. "I'm your brother," he repeats, more to reaffirm it to himself. "I wasn't dead. HYDRA found me and took me prisoner. They did experiments on me, that's why I didn't die, but they made it so I couldn't remember. I'm starting to, but I couldn't come before because I was dangerous."

It comes out so quiet and simple. It's the first time he's said it aloud, what happen to him. His eyes water and he wants to say the rest but his throat is too tight. The words race through his mind though. I was kidnapped and tortured and they erased who I was. I forgot Steve, and you. Bucky swallows the tears back, the need to say he's sorry.

She unlocks the screen, her movements slow she's so stunned. Bucky and Dodger step inside. A small furry blond dog comes yapping down the hallway, but it's tail is wagging and Dodger goes to greet it. Bucky's mouth curves up at how excited they are to meet each other and that tiny smile breaks the woman in front of him.

"Oh God... Bucky..." Her voice cracks and she's against his chest, crying into his sweatshirt. His hand comes up to rest in her gray hair and in his mind he's in the dress uniform he wears in Steve's pictures and she's a young woman, devastated that he's going off to war.

When he recognized Steve on the helicarrier when everything they had done to his mind came apart, there was nothing but horror that he shot, stabbed, and beat someone he wanted to protect. Now it's different, there's only anger that HYDRA stole something from him, the years between that young woman and this one now.

Becca pulls back, her age-withered hands gripping his arms. She glances at his left hand, covered by a glove, and can figure out easy enough that something happened to his arm.

"Has the Army been taking care of you since you were found? They owe you that." It's angry, though her voice still shakes with shock. "They should have gone back to look for you. We had a hell of a time getting answers from those SSR people. I'm starting to think somebody knew something." She wipes her eyes, smearing makeup. "They need to take care of you."

"Steve takes care of me," Bucky says flatly. "He's showing me how to live outside of-"

"Captivity?" She finishes for him. She must have seen enough about HYDRA on the news. "You know Steve never came to visit." She's angry about that too. "I'd see him on TV, but I guess now that he's Captain America and has his fame he can't be bothered to come by, nevermind that he got you killed."

Bucky goes blank on how to respond. He's used to everyone fawning over Steve. "Steve takes care of me," he repeats. "He helped me remember."

He glances around the living room. There's pictures everywhere, clustered on the tables and on the walls—children, weddings... Becca sees him starding and wipes her eyes again.

"Those are my kids. I have three, and they have their own kids, and now they're having kids." She laughs, but then sees her words haven't quite registered and adds, with the same sadness in her face that's in Steve's whenever he has to explain something Bucky should apparently know, "This is your family. They all grew up knowing their uncle was famous. They'll want to meet you."

Bucky swallows, tense at the idea of being bombarded with so many strangers. "I was dangerous," he says again. "I don't know if..."

She takes his hand, squeezing it tight. "We have to get you all the help you need. For now, you must be hungry. You have to stay and eat."

She's pleading, clutching his hand. He sees a little girl begging him to take her to ice cream behind this old woman who hasn't stopped looking at him like he opens a wound.

Bucky lets her lead him into the kitchen. He wants to know what family means, wants to gather these things of his back that HYDRA took.

*

Progress is giving Becca his address and phone number without her asking and wanting to come back. Not as a means of filling in the holes in his memory, but for the warmth she shows him, the way he feels like he belongs to her that makes this whole other life before HYDRA feel that much more real.

She says her great granddaughter will want to take him to school, that one of her children can bring him to where his mother and father are buried, that neither were the same after they heard he had died. She's intent that's he properly cared for, that her children can help him clean his house, can bring him food and take him to whatever doctors he needs in order to get better. She's insistent he come to Thanksgiving and Christmas, but she doesn't specify whether he's supposed to bring Steve.

She doesn't seem to like Steve. She blames him for what happened.

Bucky leaves in the late afternoon. Dodger is worn out by the time they return to the apartment and Dollface purrs and rubs against Bucky's legs in a frenzy as if she was afraid she would never see him again. Bucky scoops her up and sits down with her on the couch for a while, petting her and petting her, not realizing until then how wound up he is, how tense visiting his sister has left him.

It's like surveying terrain, stopping to assess his own feelings. He was afraid she would want nothing to do with him, afraid she wouldn't let him have that piece of his old life to go back to and there would be nothing of his left to take HYDRA's place except Steve.

Cleaning the apartment helps him calm down, making his home the way he wants. It reinforces that he has a home, that he belongs somewhere, and that Pierce and the screaming agony of the chair and the helpless claustrophobia of cryo sleep are over.

After he's vacuumed and dusted and wiped the counters clean, he pulls another yellow note from his arm.

Don't forget to heat up bread and make salad with your spaghetti, Buck.

It has another smiley face, and Bucky can hear affection in the reminder. He glances at the clock and the setting sun through the sliding door. He stops to listen to his body in a way that still goes against instinct and decides it's time for dinner.

He and Steve made the spaghetti together last night so he would have something left over. Bucky browned the meat and prepared the sauce like he saw on the cooking channel and Steve took care of the rest. Cooking, Bucky was picking up quickly; he had learned to pick up most skills quickly with HYDRA—new weapons and technologies as the world changed while he was put away. Steve said he had been a quick learner from the beginning.

Steve bought the extra salad and bread for today and Bucky's orders—directions, not orders—are to eat all of it to satisfy his enhanced metabolism that's a side effect of the way HYDRA made him. He has to eat as much as Steve does—that's how he measures his portions, since Steve is the only one like him.

The food is good. Bucky's learning to look forward to food, to the pleasure he gets out of the flavors. HYDRA's nourishment had no taste to him at all, but spaghetti is one of his favorites and Sam even brought him an oregano plant to grow in the window that Bucky gets pleasure out of smelling and caring for.

Dodger likes bread. Dollface likes the leftover butter on Bucky's napkin. Even an animal gets pleasure out of eating. But with HYDRA he wasn't even that.

He throws up sometimes when anger or memories twist his stomach into knots. He throws up whenever he bleeds now because in his mind he'll see the horror of his half-severed arm painting the snow red, though he conceals this fact from Steve. He manages not to throw up now though, thinking about HYDRA. Instead, he pets Dollface in Steve's spot on the stool next to him until he's calm again.

Bucky washes the dishes and curls up on the couch with Dodger and Dollface to watch TV. He studies TV shows like intel. He can observe the behavior of men and women in various situations without having to be out among them. Steve bought him an oversized blue blanket as soft and plush and Dollfaces' fur. Bucky pulls it up and he's comfortable with the warmth of the animals against him, but he can't help glancing around, checking the doors and windows, tensing at every sound outside that could be HYDRA closing in to take him back.

He pulls another of Steve's notes from his arm to feel less alone and vulnerable.

Take a nice bubble bath. Relax.

Bucky smiles, and before long he's filling the tub in the bathroom with the peach-scented bubbles he likes. Sam laughs at him for buying something so "girly" but Bucky doesn't care whether something is for men or women. He likes the scent and he likes his shampoo that smells of cherry bark and to wrap himself in soft towels afterward too. Comforts have been a new discovery, his time with HYDRA made mostly of confusion and cold, the adrenaline of the mission, and pain.

There's two more notes stuck to his arm and Bucky saves them for when he goes to bed, laying them on the nightstand without reading them. He's chin-deep in warm water and bubbles when the phone finally rings.

"Steve..." His chest suddenly feels less tight and he feels less vulnerable in the apartment alone with Steve on the other end of the line.

"Finally got a minute to myself." There's noise in the background, though it's distant. Steve has snuck off, but isn't alone. "Doin' okay over there, Buck?"

Bucky nods, though Steve can't see him. "I went to see Becca."

There's a pause. Steve wasn't expecting that. "Yeah?" It's hesitant, wary, as if he'd rather Bucky not have done this by himself.

"Why didn't you visit?"

There's another silence. Bucky has gotten the feeling his questions are too abrupt sometimes, but Steve takes a breath.

"I thought I got you killed, Bucky. Didn't exactly feel like she would wanna see my face."

Guilt. Steve feels it strongly over what happened to him. Bucky doesn't know what to say, so he accepts that and leans his head against the back of the tub, letting the bubbles and the hot water pull him in deeper.

"The job?" he asks.

Steve is supposed to be opening a hospital for children with no money, like him back before, but he can't do anything without it turning into an event in front of the cameras, because like him and HYDRA, Captain America isn't just a weapon; he's often a tool used against his will for other people's ideals.

"Tiring," Steve sighs. He goes on to talk about the whirlwind of news interviews and meetings with politicians he had to endure, how at that very moment he was at dinner with the governor and had slipped away for a few minutes to call. The thing is, he wants to help others, but he gets no joy from the identity the nation has made him into.

Bucky closes his eyes and listens to him talk. Steve's voice is soothing and Bucky likes hearing his name thrown in here and there, the thing that helped him break free of the enemy. Steve vents about the utter disorganization of transferring the children from the old location to the new and Bucky only half listens to the words themselves. His hand slips under the foamy water, wrapping around his cock and stroking himself with Steve's voice in his ear. He's relaxed now, hard in a few strokes.

He doesn't realize how much his breathing has picked up until Steve stops what he's saying and laughs. "Having a good time there, Buck?"

Steve blushes easily at sexual remarks made to him, but Bucky sees no point when he shares his body with Steve all the time now. He just grunts and lets his hand slide up and down in an easy rhythm.

He can feel Steve smiling into the phone, can feel heat in Steve's voice when he lowers it to a near whisper and asks, "You taking your time? Making it feel good?"

The words twist sharp pleasure through Bucky's stomach and his hips arch in the water. "Yes," he rasps. His fist works faster, squeezing tighter, thinking about the way Steve would look at him right now if he could see him, hungry to touch him and draw eager sounds out of him, like he wants to make him his as a man and not a thing.

For a moment Steve just listens to him breathe. "Miss me?" he asks in that same low voice so no one can hear. Bucky groans, and can feel that Steve's smile hasn't slipped. "You know you could have come."

For a moment, Bucky's too caught up in the orgasm that shudders through him without much warning. It's not intense, not like when Steve's mouth is on him, but it drags the tension out of him and leaves him almost high afterward.

Progress is remembering what humor is.

"I just did." Bucky's voice is ragged as he catches his breath.

Steve laughs, but disappointment creeps in when he says, "I gotta go, Buck. I'm starting to get dirty looks from the staff. Get some sleep and I'll be home soon."

The apartment feels a little emptier when Steve hangs up, but the water has started growing cold. Bucky dries himself off, lets Dodger out one more time, and settles into bed in pajama pants and nothing else. The two notes he saved are still on the nightstand and he's careful to pick them up in order.

I forgot to tell you that book you're reading is complete fantasy, the first one says.

Sweet dreams, Buck, says the last one.

Bucky smiles and pulls his iPod from under the pillow anyway. Sam told him about audiobooks since his mind wanders too much to read for very long. He found one about the Howling Commandos that's supposed to be made into a movie next year. It's fiction, like the TV shows, but sometimes he remembers as he listens, or at least gets a strong sense something is told all wrong.

He curls on his right side with Dollface fitting herself against his stomach. Sleeping on his left feels too much like lying on a lead pipe, the arm is so hard and cold. It isn't until he pulls the covers up that he notices one more note stuck in between the blankets and the sheet that he must have knocked off in his sleep.

Unwrinkling it, Bucky holds it up to the light of the iPod.

I love you, Steve scrawls, and there's a hurried little drawing of Dodger and Dollface nuzzled together.

Bucky sticks that one back to his arm and runs a hand through Dollface's fur. He takes a picture on the iPod's camera of the two of them snuggled together.

I love you too, he sends in a text with the photo.

*

Progress is waking to noise in the apartment and knowing it's Steve. Dodger doesn't bark at Steve. Bucky hadn't expected to sleep, but opens his eyes to light coming in through the window and the creak of Steve turning off the faucet in the bathroom.

He comes out naked with a towel and something in his hand, hair and skin damp from the shower, a wet sheen to his muscular body like a glow. He breaks into a smile to see Bucky awake and comes toward the bed.

"Morning." He's climbing on to the mattress, crawling up to him.

Dollface springs off the bed in annoyance, but Steve's on top of him now on all fours, smiling down at him. Bucky puts his hands on his wide shoulders and can't help stroking Steve's clean-smelling skin.

"Miss me?" Bucky wonders if it hurts Steve's face to smile that broadly, but he nods. "Can a guy get a kiss?"

Bucky tilts his chin up, wrapping his metal hand around the back of Steve's neck and pulling him down. Steve's mouth is warm. It makes Bucky giddy, and kissing Steve feels the same as it always does now, like everything HYDRA deadened in him is waking up and remembering what it is to want things. He runs a hand down Steve's bare back, pulling him all the way down top of him.

He settles himself, his mouth making it's way to Bucky's neck, cheek pink from his stubble. Bucky tips his head back and lets Steve kiss his throat, lets him sink lower and rub his face in the hair on his chest, lets him kiss the swells of muscle and red scar tissue and flick his pink tongue against his nipple until Bucky's arching up and he's making a fist in Steve's hair. He has no trouble getting hard now, calm from sleep. Steve crawls back up, shifting to peel the covers out of the way so he can lay his naked skin against him, his cock flushed and erect, the towel and bottle of lubricant he brought from the bathroom pushed aside on the comforter.

He wants him. Steve didn't like being without him. Bucky rocks up lazily against him with the thought as Steve smothers his mouth with kisses getting deeper with urgency. His hand makes its way to Steve's ass, his cock getting impatient, and Steve pulls back.

"You wanna try something different?" It's low and he's smiling at him.

Bucky hesitates. He doesn't always trust new things. "Have I done it before?"

Steve's smile slips a little. "With me? Not often enough." He shifts so he's straddling Bucky's hips, pressing down on his cock, leaning down to kiss under his ear. "Want you inside me. I'll do all the work. You just lie there."

Bucky goes warm in the pit of his stomach and his fingers slip on their own in the downiness between Steve's cheeks, thumb tentatively swiping over his entrance. Steve lets out a sharp breath, and he's slick with lubricant there.

"You planned this." Bucky's voice is rough, imagining Steve working his fingers into himself in the shower, thinking of him.

Steve's cheeks flush a pretty pink. "I watched you sleeping for a few minutes when I came in. I realized in the past I spent too much time drawing you and not enough time touching." He picks up the lubricant. "So how about it? Feeling adventurous?"

Bucky nods and Steve raises himself onto his knees so Bucky can untie his pajama pants and push them down. Steve's hand wraps around his cock and he pops the lubricant open with his mouth, pouring it onto his palm. He kisses him while he slicks him up, groans when Bucky holds the back of his neck and pushes his tongue into Steve's mouth. Then he's leaning back with his knees spread on the blankets, gripping the base of Bucky's cock in one hot big hand and sinking onto it.

The heat and tightness is so good it's almost too intense to take. Bucky throws his head back, crying out. His hips roll instinctively and he's completely sheathed in Steve, everything in him pounding with the newfound thrill of it. Steve's eyes are closed, pink lips open, the look on his face pure relief as if he's been needing this for a long time now. Bucky grabs his hips and Steve's hands find their way to his chest, and then he's moving, working his strong rippling body onto Bucky's cock like he can't get enough of it. Bucky watches him, hands wandering over his ass and along his thighs. Steve lets out a sudden, shaky moan, arching his head back, arching his whole body back and spreading his thighs wider.

"Right there, Buck," he pants out, skin flushed all over, though Bucky's not really doing anything like lying there like Steve said. Yet those emotions HYDRA couldn't stamp out well up in him and it's not enough to lie there and watch whatever is feeling is so good. He wants to be the one to do it, wants to take care of Steve.

He pulls Steve down to him, seeking the heat of his mouth. Bucky rolls them over and Steve's legs lift around him with a breathy moan as Bucky sinks deeper into him. He's clutching at Bucky's back, and then his hips, but Bucky hesitates.

"It doesn't hurt?"

Steve shakes his head against the pillow, but it takes him a moment to be able to speak. "No, Buck." His voice is thick. He licks his lips. "Do your worst. Please."

He needs it, needs him. Bucky lets out a heavy breath, his blood and his cock pounding. He sinks onto his elbows and he's thrusting until the bed creaks beneath him and Steve's legs are on his shoulders. The sheets are a wet patch of sweat underneath them both and it's hard to tell who's louder.

It's like spiraling toward a breakdown, the sensations are so violently intense, but instead of everything falling apart the two of them are only starved to fuse themselves closer together.

Steve comes splashing hot against his stomach, thighs shaking, his body clamping down. Release rips through Bucky until he can't hold himself up anymore. His body might be a souped up machine, but emotion and unfamiliar experiences overwhelm him easily.

He ends up wrung-out and panting on Steve's chest, plastered to the heavy rise and fall of Steve's breathing. Steve runs a hand through Bucky's sweat-damp hair, pushing it out of his face, and the moment he comes back to himself he's grinning.

"Have fun?"

Bucky nods, pulling himself together enough to slide off him, but not so far away that Steve can't cup his jaw and pull him into a lazy kiss.

He's sleepy again. Bucky didn't realize how much he had worked himself up all week, dreading all the things that could happen while he was left alone. But nothing happened and he can let himself sleep some more now.

*

Progress is the disappointment that Steve isn't curled against him when Bucky wakes up again. They had both fallen asleep that way, but missing somebody, the reminder that he's capable of emotional attachment, makes him feel more human than weapon or machine.

The shield is propped against the wall right where Bucky can see it though, and there's three yellow notes stuck to his arm.

Gone for a run, the first one says, even though Bucky figured as much. I'll bring us back lunch, Steve adds in the second note, and the third one, stuck to the back of Bucky's metal hand like a shy afterthought, says, You felt amazing, Buck.

His cheeks hurt with a sudden grin at the image of Steve blushing as he wrote it, of him running around the city right now in his smeared-on t-shirt, still feeling him inside. Bucky climbs out of bed and finds the pad of yellow notes and a pen on the computer desk.

Progress is seeing a game and wanting to play. He scrawls a note, complete with the wink face he learned from Steve's texts, and hides it on the underside of the shield.

I bet you would too.