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We’ll Be Okay Someday

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— 2014. DC. 5 Days Ago. —

 

“Has he woken up?” The words are whispered - quiet and in the distance but not impossible to be made out. It’s a man, voice gruff and thick. 

Steve hears everything. He keeps his eyes closed a bit longer. 

“Not yet. But he will. Everything should be wearing off soon.” Another voice that’s attempting to tiptoe around Steve. A woman. 

Steve goes to lift his arm just ever so slightly and immediately feels the tug of wires and an overwhelming ache in his shoulder. Suddenly, the ache is everywhere - spreading and radiating heat throughout his body in a form of pain he’s not felt ever before in his life. He grimaces. His cover is blown clean. His eyes flutter open, lids heavy and squinting as fluorescent light floods in. 

He’s in a hospital bed. Cold. Stiff. 

“Steve Rogers.” The first voice says now from the doorway, immediately noticing Steve’s stirred and making his way through the room. He’s followed by three others, all dressed in formal attire and holding various documents. Steve recognizes no one. 

“Sir.” Steve replies back rather weakly, surprised by how broken his body feels. Even his throat feels clamped. He wiggles his toes from beneath the sheets just to prove to himself that he can. It dispels some of the fear settling in. 

“You gave some of us quite a scare, you know,” the man laughs, as if Steve should recognize him enough to feel obligated to apologize, “got yourself beaten within an inch of your life.” 

“Where is he?” Is all Steve can muster up as everything starts to connect. The last thing he can remember is Bucky - Bucky’s fists connecting with his face and beating him until his eyes have swelled practically shut. He remembers himself falling from the sky - the rush of water into his lungs upon impact... it all goes black after that. 

The man looks puzzled. “Captain Rogers, my name is Matthew Belle and I’m with Homeland Security. I’m here today to talk to you about your friend, James Buchanan Barnes.” 

Steve attempts to sit up, doing his damnedest to ignore the shooting pain in his abdomen. He’d been shot. Twice. He remembers that, too. He settles back against the pillows, nodding at the man. One half of his face feels much heavier than the other - like he’s stuck it into a beehive. Or been hit with a baseball. Either works. He feels slow. “Bucky.” He says quietly. 

“Excuse me?” Belle’s eyebrows go up. 

“His name is Bucky.” Steve amends with a sigh. “Where is he now?” 

“James is currently in a high security containment cell while we determine the best course of action.” Belle responds calmly, ignoring Steve’s commentary. His eyes dart down to the documents in his hands, fingers now lifting up a few of the pages until he lands on the one he is looking for. He slips it out from beneath the pile and holds it up for Steve. It’s Bucky’s military head-shot. His chest hurts just looking at it. “Is this the man that did this to you?” 

Steve is quiet at first as he takes the photo from Belle’s hands, fixated beyond words. He remembers this version of Bucky so well; every strand of hair on his head, the crinkles near his eyes, the dimple in his chin, the way his lips curve up when he’d talk... he knows without having to confirm it that the Winter Soldier is his Bucky. They’re one in the same. Whether Bucky himself knows it or not does not matter - Steve knows. He’ll make sure everyone knows. 

The rest of their conversation revolves around Bucky. What to do with Bucky. What the United States wants to do with Bucky. What Steve wants them to do with Bucky. Everything is Bucky. And when they leave him alone to rest and he feels a throbbing ache in his face - that’s Bucky, too. 

 

— 2 Days Ago — 

 

Steve’s healed up rapidly. His face is no longer swollen, only tinged in faint hints of yellow and green along his cheekbones and eyes, the splits in his skin now evening out and his jaw is no longer clicking, either. He’s able to sit up now, too, because his body has repaired itself at the cellular level, leaving only a shallow scar along his stomach that will eventually dissolve away. The super serum is exactly as advertised - good to know. 

The nurses that take care of him around the clock are fascinated. One asks to take a photo of him in the morning, just so that when she returns at night, she can have proof that the scars were still there when she last saw him. He doesn’t argue with her - just offers up a smile when she holds up her shiny, glass-backed cellphone, the flash momentarily making his vision blotchy. He really should consider getting one. 

Especially considering his new circumstances. 

Steve doesn’t know exactly how good of an idea it is - it probably actually isn’t at all - but he’s managed to convince the United States government that Bucky, while possibly a threat to society, can be rehabbed by none other than himself. He’d sat there with Belle and several other people, arguing back and forth for hours until a resolution was struck - Steve will live with Bucky in a government chosen location until he is determined fit for reintroduction to society... or until he murders Steve or someone else. And then he’ll be thrown away for life. So many variables. 

Steve’s not seen or spoken to Bucky since he’d fallen from the Helicarrier - he has no idea how both him and Bucky were found in the first place. How did he get out of the water? Where did Bucky go before he was captured? No one will tell Steve anything, just that he will go to the location first and then Bucky will join him. 

Bucky will be banded at his ankle, as a precaution. It’ll serve two purposes - the first being a tag to keep him within a defined geofence, assuring he can’t escape. He’ll have to remain on property at all times, less he wants to be shipped off to the Raft, which Steve just nods and pretends he understands. He even nods when he’s told that if he interferes or helps Bucky escape off property, that he will also pay for it. 

The second purpose of the anklet is one that Steve doesn’t want to think about, but Belle seems positive it’s a grand idea. The anklet is capable of producing currents of electricity between 10 and 10,000 milliamps; the latter - and Steve cringes at Belle winking as he says this - for when Bucky tries to kill him. All Steve has to do is press a button on a tiny remote. It’s slipped into his hand disguised as a handshake. 

Steve doesn’t even consider it an option, but he takes the remote and slips it gingerly into his shirt’s breast pocket. 

 

— Present Day — 

 

The car that takes Steve to his new house is a private stretch limo with an all black exterior and a matching leather interior. Steve sits awkwardly in the middle between two officers, both of which have handguns nestled at their sides, tucked away in visible holsters. Opposite of him, placed in its own seat is his shield and his gear that’s been washed and folded into a clear, plastic bag - his helmet staring at him as he swallows down his nerves. The only things he refused to pack away. The remote for Bucky’s anklet sits in his pocket. 

In the past two days, he’s been released from the hospital and been allotted time to collect his things from his apartment in order to move them into the new house, which he’s been told now is in Upstate New York. Homeland Security sends over a crew with two moving trucks and Steve insists on helping them pack his things into the back of one while he embarrassingly admits he doesn’t actually have enough things to warrant two trucks. The men seem unfazed and continue on their way. They settle for loading up his motorcycle into the unused truck to make Steve feel better. He does. 

“They found Rumlow alive, you know.” One officer says, disturbing the thick cloud of silence. The car ride has been nearing on almost seven hours now and Steve still remains clueless as to where they are heading. Upstate New York is a broad generalization that doesn’t quite paint a clear enough picture.

Steve’s ears perk in interest, almost like a dog, but he remains unmoved, eyes cast at the window as the trees continuously blur into a mass of green and brown. There’s less homes and more nature the further the drive takes them. “What will happen to him?” He sounds disinterested. 

“He will answer to the law. Like the rest of them.” The officer responds, a scoff following, “if Fury was alive, he’d be, too.” 

Steve’s eyes narrow. He wants to laugh. Maybe he can tell Fury that story someday. For now, though, he remains tight lipped and stoic. 

The next half hour is passed in silence, Steve falling asleep with his cheek lightly pressed up against the window. He only stirs when the car comes to a stop, sheepishly pulling away from the window to wipe at his face. His breath has fogged up the glass. 

“Welcome to your new home, Captain.” One of the officers chimes from his side. 

Steve is awestruck as he takes in the sight before him - the house is huge and grand, surrounded by nothing but trees and lush grass. The chauffeur comes to the passenger door and opens it, the first officer exiting before Steve does the same, stepping out onto the driveway to admire his surroundings, uniform tucked under his armpit while he holds his shield. It feels damn good to stretch his legs out.

“Where are we?” Steve asks quietly as he spins in place, blue eyes glancing up to the sky and then back to the house. It’s reddish-brown and finished entirely in wood, with large windows and a closed off patio that attaches to a gazebo hanging off the side. There isn’t another house in sight. 

“Lake George, New York.” Someone responds from behind him as the moving trucks pull into the driveway. “Population 3,495.” 

“Now 3,497.” Someone else chuckles. 

Steve arches a brow and turns towards the officers, “Lake George? There’s a lake?”

The first officer nods. “The property’s backyard is surrounded by water. There’s a dock for both fishing and boating.” 

Steve is pleasantly surprised. 

“If you’d like to head inside, the crew will bring everything in.” The same officer says. 

Steve doesn’t argue, instead he begins to make his way for the patio, admiring everything as he moves along. The trees are massive surrounding the property and as Steve looks up at the house again, he notices paneling along the roof - civilian owned solar panels, he’d been told once by Natasha after seeing so many in DC and wondering when they’d started becoming the new craze. Apparently, they’d become popular as a source of renewable energy within the last decade. He feels a small bit of happiness in knowing that his new home supports that. Tony would be proud. 

If he squints hard enough, Steve can see one single electrical tower in the distance, tall and prominent in the sky, bellowing over the trees. And when he makes the effort to glance around the immediate perimeter of the property, he also notices the small, blinking boxes that surround the house. The home is government property, after all. This must be how they intend to keep Bucky within their clutches. 

Steve bites his lip at the thought of speaking to Bucky again. He has no clue what to expect. What Bucky even remembers. Does he remember anything?

He gets to the front door, surprised to find that the door isn’t locked, and takes a hesitant step inside. 

The home is beautifully spacious and fully furnished, just like Steve had imagined it would be. Steve suddenly feels small as he takes in the large staircase, the open hallways that lead to a maze of rooms, and the kitchen with its dark, granite countertops. He carefully sets down his shield and uniform on the side table near the front door and then bends to unlace his shoes, setting them off to the side. 

“Captain Rogers, so glad you’ve finally arrived!” Belle’s familiar voice echoes from down one of the hallways, startling Steve into nearly hitting his skull on the table end as he stands to full attention. 

“Mister Belle, I hadn’t expected my first visitor to already be in my house before myself.” Steve responds, the slightest hint of annoyance laced in his tone.  

“My apologies, Captain, I’ve been here since the morning. I promise, the next time I want to visit, I’ll wait at the door.” Belle laughs as he walks up, a coolness to his voice that sends a shudder down Steve’s spine. “How do you like the place?” Belle approaches him closely now, slapping a hand to his thankfully healed shoulder. 

“The house is beautiful. Doesn’t quite feel like mine, though, sir. Have to say I’ve gotten used to the small apartments and cramped rooms.” Steve states honestly, hand coming up to run through his hair, pushing it away from his face before it can fall into his eyes. 

Belle laughs once more. “There’s enough rooms in this home for you to sleep in a different bed seven days a week.”

“Why do I even need a house that big, anyway?” Steve questions as he peels away from Belle, taking a few cautious steps on the hardwood floor. “Isn’t exactly hidden, is it?”

“You don’t and it isn’t. But this is a government owned home and it’s fully equipped with all the technology we need to assure your safety. It’s big but it serves its purpose. We don’t need to hide you from society, just society from James. The nearest store is about fifteen minutes out, no one is just coming down here.” Belle shrugs and smiles, “plus you have satellite television.”

“Sir, I don’t think having access to satellite television will stop Bucky from hurting someone if he wanted to-“

Another laugh, much more twisted this time. “No, it won’t. But that little remote I gave you will.” 

Steve doesn’t respond, just looks away towards the kitchen. He ignores the knot that forms in his stomach. 

“Cheer up, Captain. Here, catch.” Belle bellows out, now tossing something at Steve that he’s thankful his reflexes are sharp enough to respond to. 

It’s the keys to the house. 

Steve smiles, albeit small. “Thank you.”

The next hour passes and Steve has moved from the main entrance and into the living room, now staring at the roaring fire that crackles in the fireplace, seated comfortably on the leather couch. The moving crew sets down the last box of Steve’s belongings, while his motorcycle is parked at the top of the driveway. They exit, leaving just Belle and himself. 

“The kitchen is fully stocked. You’ll find a filtered water system attached to the fridge for your convenience. The house has been set up with voice activation - that includes the lights, the electronics, the window blinds, and the thermostat.” Belle explains while Steve nods along, unsure but not wanting to prolong the conversation any longer. He’ll figure it out. 

“There’s internet, too. You’re free to use anything and do anything in the household - that includes using the dock and the boat. We’ll have someone deliver groceries weekly, as well as any amenities you both may need. You’ll be able to create a list and text it to my assistant and he’ll make sure you get what’s on it. There’s a control panel in the kitchen that controls everything in the house as well.” 

Steve frowns at the idea of texting. It’s not something he really wants to do.

“Oh! And you’ll need this.” Belle says cheerfully as he reaches into his suit pocket and slips out a white box, offering it out to Steve. He must notice the confusion on his face before Steve even has to ask because he laughs and says, “relax, it’s just an iPhone. Everyone has one these days. Give yourself a day to sit down and learn how to use it. If you want to eat, you’ll need to learn. We’ve already set up a phone number for you - you just need to turn it on and set some preferences.” 

Steve takes the box, brows furrowed as he examines it. “So, I can’t get food if I don’t use this?” He questions awkwardly as he flips the box over to read the back. He has no clue what 64GBs of storage means, but it sounds like it’s important. 

Belle sighs out, “you can go into town, Rogers. But until we know Mister Barnes isn’t going to be a threat to society, we’d prefer you stay with him. Keep him in your sight.” 

Steve’s lips knit together tightly while he carefully pries the box apart, eyes widening at the glossy black phone encased inside. He glances back up at Belle. “When does he get here?” 

“Soon. Should be here tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow.” Steve hums back as he stares at his reflection from the phone’s shiny screen. “Can I have guests?” 

“Guests?” Belle echoes back, uncertain. 

“Visitors. Friends.” Steve lifts a hand to rub anxiously at the back of his neck. He has no clue who he's referring to - maybe Sam? Natasha? 

“I’m sure that’ll be okay.” Belle shrugs, as if shocked to hear Steve would even have such a request. 

Steve feels lame. He doesn’t even know if he has friends. He probably shouldn’t of bothered to ask. 

“House, please turn on the TV.” Belle announces suddenly, causing Steve to immediately lift his head towards the TV in curiosity. 

The TV is quick to respond - no sound in reply to acknowledge the request, but the television lights up soon after. It’s some random news channel. Steve’s never heard of it. Maybe it’s local. 

“That’s going to be a strange thing to get used to.” Steve sighs out, shifting around on the couch now. He much prefers the sound of the fire crackling than the loudness of the two TV news anchors bickering back and forth. 

“You can use the remote, too.” Belle winks, now moving to stand and lifting the television remote from the glass coffee table. He holds it out cheekily to Steve, who takes it and cradles it into his lap. “You have a nice night, Captain. We’ll be back tomorrow.” Belle smiles and then makes his way for the door. “With our special delivery and all.”

“I’ll see you out.” Steve abruptly stands, setting the remote down and following after Belle in a scenario that feels like he should be leaving as well. 

“Try to get some sleep. We’ll be here around noon.” Belle says as he gets to the door and suddenly Steve realizes Belle has had his shoes on this entire time. He decides that he’ll definitely make sure tomorrow that everyone takes them off. Including Bucky. 

“Goodnight, sir.” Steve states dryly, watching as Belle exits and begins heading down the porch. 

Steve notices that the two officers he’d sat with for the car ride have been outside, patrolling the entire time. When Belle passes them, the two officers follow behind. Steve wants to make a face but he resists. He counts to three in his head and then steps away and closes the door. 

He’s alone now. 

Alone in a massive home that isn’t really his but now it is. 

He locks the door. 

Steve pads back over quietly to the TV and grabs the remote to turn it off. The silence fills the room once more - leaving only the crackling of the fire that’s still burning strong. He plops down on the couch and decides to power on the iPhone. 

He’s not entirely sure which button does what, but eventually one of them does the trick and the screen lights up with a logo Steve’s seen before. Apple. The same store he and Natasha visited not long ago before everything fell apart. 

Thankfully, the phone prompts him with on-screen words and Steve’s able to get through the process - including connecting the phone to the home’s WiFi network using the password that he’s found scribbled down inside the box. Small victories. 

When the phone asks Steve for a 4 digit password, he contemplates his birth year but then decides, instead, to pad in ‘1917.’ He feels content. Kiddish. 

“Now how do I...” Steve mumbles aloud to himself as he swipes around on the phone, searching for the texting function. He finds the green thought bubble and taps it, surprised to already find a conversation tab has been started with the name ‘Thomas.’ He opens it, curiously. 

Thomas

‘Hello Steve! I’m Matthew Belle’s assistant, you can call me Thomas. I will be taking care of all your home requests. Feel free to ask me to retrieve specific brands, items, or shoot me ideas for things you’d like and I’ll collect them. Take care.’ 

The message almost seems fake. Like it may or may not of been written by a robot. 

Steve takes his time typing up a response and finally hits send after about five minutes of contemplating if it’s too passive aggressive or not. It probably is - but he doesn’t care. 

Steve

‘Hi. I would like a welcome mat that says take your shoes off. That’s all for now.’ 

He laughs to himself and then locks the phone and sets it aside. The digital clock on the television’s receiver box reads 21:00 while his iPhone had read 21:01. 

One of them is more right than the other. 

It doesn’t matter.

Not much longer now until Bucky is here. 

He wonders where they have him now. Steve remembers Belle mentioning a containment cell - which sounds awful. He hopes Bucky isn’t just handcuffed and locked up somewhere in a cage. He wants to believe that maybe Bucky at least has had a bed to sleep on. That maybe they’ve gotten him into some new clothes - something more comfortable - and maybe they’ve even fed him. He hopes they’ve fed him. He wonders if Bucky likes the same foods he did growing up. If Bucky will remember anything about their childhood together. Will he remember Steve before the serum? Does he even remember Steve now? 

This can all go so terribly wrong and Steve’s more worried about compromising Bucky’s chance at freedom than anything else. Steve is more worried about triggering Bucky into accidentally attacking him again and getting Bucky locked up for life in response. What if all of this hurts Bucky? 

Steve feels like the impending doom could swallow him whole. Like the hardwood floor could just split apart and devour him - drop him into the pits of hell. Maybe he deserves that for trying to take his best friend in like some variation of an adoptable ex-fighting dog. 

Steve wipes hastily at his eyes before the familiar sting can materialize into anything and then moves to stand. He promises to himself that he’ll never dare use the remote Belle has given him. He’d rather let Bucky split his skull in two than hurt him. 

It’s bedtime. He should sleep. He puts the fire out. Steve glances around at the boxes of his things scattered about near the front door, sighing in relief when he finds the one he’d labeled ‘bedroom 1.’ He picks it up and then begins his journey of finding a bed to sleep in. Belle hasn’t told him anything or even shown him around. His first thought is to head upstairs - because houses this big always put their master bedrooms upstairs, right? 

Steve’s right, thankfully. 

After poking around the upstairs hallway and checking out each bedroom, he finally comes across one with an attached bathroom that he likes. It’s beautiful. There’s a balcony that overlooks the lake in the backyard, closed off with a glass sliding door and Steve can’t help but stop and stare out of it for a moment. 

When he is satisfied, he steps away and looks over at the king size bed, surprised to see it’s been made up with sheets and a comforter, four pillows stacked at the top of it. He doesn’t really question it - he imagines Belle must’ve had something arranged. 

Instead, Steve heads over to his box and searches for his toothbrush, toothpaste, underwear for bed, and face wash. He’d like to shower, too, so he takes everything into the bathroom and attempts to set it up nicely. It feels weird - like he’s putting his things down in a hotel room rather than in his new home. 

But Steve manages. 

He showers, happy to find clean towels in the small closet, and then puts on a pair of fresh briefs. He goes through his nightly routine, coming out with a towel around his neck to catch the water that drips from his hair. He feels good. 

He hopes this won’t be so bad. He hopes it’ll be okay. 

Steve crawls into bed, staring up at the ceiling light. He sighs and then clears his throat. “House, turn off all the lights.” He says hopefully, cringing because he can’t believe he just did that. 

The house doesn’t judge. 

The lights turn out. 

Steve’s left in the darkness and he eventually, reluctantly, falls asleep. 

 

Chapter Text

The next day comes and Steve feels as if he’s spent most of the night tossing and turning.

When he finally forces himself up from the sheets, he feels lousy and restless despite sleeping through the majority of the night - like he’s had the same two nightmares on repeat for the last six hours.

The fight on the Helicarrier keeps playing over and over like a never-ending movie in his dormant mind. He sees the flash of anger in Bucky’s grey eyes - the confusion - the pain in his straining voice. He feels the knife press into his shoulder just as much as he feels the bullets tear through flesh and muscle. Over and over. Never ending guilt.

Almost as endless as the scream he still hears ringing in his ears as Bucky falls from the freight train in 1945 for the millionth time. The scream gets louder and more desperate in every nightmare he has. In every version of it, he sees Bucky’s stricken face and his outstretched hand, fingers spread wide in hopes of grasping Steve’s own but they never meet. Steve wakes himself up more often than not with hot tears streaming down his cheeks and Bucky’s name trapped in his chest.

It never gets easier. And after coming face to face with the Winter Soldier, Steve’s nightmares have been more vibrant and overwhelming than ever.

Steve sits there quietly, fisting gently at his eyes with his knuckles. He can already tell he’s sweated badly enough that his hair is clumped up randomly and will need to be washed if he wants to look presentable. He’s sure the rest of him could use another scrubbing, too. He’ll make it worth the trouble and fit in some early morning exercise before he showers.

He exhales a shaking breath and glances at the small clock on the wall.

06:23.

It’s early. He feels achingly hungry, suddenly. Remembers he hasn’t eaten dinner. He should eat. Then, maybe, he can workout and try to expel some of the pent up anxiety of waiting for Bucky.

Steve drags himself out of bed now, stretching like a cat once his feet hit the floor. The ceiling here is much taller than his DC apartment’s, he realizes, as he stretches out and his hands don’t scrape along the ceiling fan’s blades for once.

It’s a nice change - sure. But it still feels oddly like he’s in an expensive, private resort that he’d never personally pay for. Maybe if he starts decorating? Maybe if he puts up some pictures?

Steve pushes the thought aside and makes his way downstairs. He doesn’t even bother throwing on a shirt because the house’s temperature is perfectly comfortable. As he makes it to the base of the steps, he takes in the sight of the golden hues of light casting across the floorboards from the skylights just as the sun has begun rising. It’s beautiful, it really is. He appreciates it and lingers for a moment.

He pads his way over to the kitchen now, stomach growling the moment he glances at the stainless steel fridge. He laughs to himself and then pulls the doors wide apart, poking and prodding around until he finds something suitable.

Steve settles on whisking 5 eggs together in a bowl with the kitchen utensils he’d packed away in a box labeled ‘kitchen’ and then prepares himself a rather classic western omelette with just a pinch of cheese to top it off. The proportions are definitely not made for one person, and Steve wonders if the weekly groceries will need to be doubled - hell, maybe tripled - once it’s both him and Bucky eating. He’s managed to make a massive dent in the carton of eggs within one breakfast and he knows tomorrow it’ll probably be finished off.

He eats it fast, leaving nothing left over, and then proceeds to down a glass of organic orange juice he’s found towards the back of the fridge. So far, this beats any hotel Steve’s ever actually stayed in.

Not that he’s stayed in many. But still. The Avengers tower counts, right?

Now feeling better since he’s eaten, Steve quickly adds the dishes to the dishwasher and then wipes down the table, wanting it to look spotless for when Bucky arrives. Afterwards, he finds one of his wardrobe boxes and pulls on a pair of sweatpants and a dry fit shirt and then heads outside to try and squeeze in a 10 mile run.

He’s sure he won’t be beating any of his own personal records, but between the bright, hot sun and the quietness of being away from a hectic city or town, Steve’s not felt this good in a long time. The run doesn’t take him very long at all, and at the back of his head he keeps thinking of the first time he’d met Sam, trying hard not to laugh and trip himself as he recalls their encounter. He definitely wants to call Sam later. He still has his number memorized - but he’ll be sure to add it to his iPhone to be safe. Maybe he’ll invite him over. Maybe he’ll introduce him to the real Bucky and not what he’d seen of him the last time they met. With luck, Sam won’t entirely hate Bucky.

By the time Steve makes his way back around the block for about the fifth lap, he feels like he’s hit his goal, and judging by the pool of sweat clinging his shirt to his lower back, he’s sure he’s gotten in enough exercise for the moment. He quickly makes his way back inside the house, pausing in surprise when he sees a brown box waiting at the foot of the door.

Steve’s cautious as he picks it up, brows furrowing when he reads that the label is addressed to him with one day, priority shipping. The box is light. He brings it inside and closes the door and then opens it up.

“That was fast.” He blurts out in a laugh, one hand wiping his brow of sweat while the other reaches into the box and pulls out a rolled-up doormat with the exact words he’d texted to Thomas yesterday. Steve is all giggles now as he kicks the box aside and then reopens the door so that he can lay the mat directly outside. He knows Belle will see it and so he’s smirking the entire time now as he gets back inside and heads upstairs to take a shower and clean himself up.

When Steve steps out of the bathroom and into the bedroom, towel drying his hair, he catches a glimpse of the clock that now reads 09:05. He sighs out. He still has plenty of time until Bucky is supposedly arriving. But he should definitely consider clothing because walking around naked with a towel on his head isn’t going to cut it.

He ends up dressing himself in a simple pair of khakis and a form-fitting, navy blue t-shirt. It’s relaxed enough to not appear like he’s trying to impress Bucky, even though he sort of is. And he doesn’t quite know why either. He just wants Bucky to recognize him and smile.

Steve decides he’ll start unpacking as much of his boxes as possible - and he does just that. By time he unpacks nearly everything, save for one box of clothes that he’ll get to later, it’s almost noon. He makes another mad dash back into the bathroom, just to touch up the gel in his hair and to make sure he looks okay. He really has no clue why he’s so keen on looking presentable for Bucky. It doesn’t matter, he keeps telling himself. But then his stomach flips and his heart rate triples with every passing minute that he’s staring at the clock.

It’s 12:04 now. Steve’s sitting in the windowsill with a cup of coffee, staring aimlessly at the front lawn, just waiting for a car to pull up. He’s got his iPhone in his lap as a ‘just in case’ Belle calls.

Even though he’s staring intently at the front lawn, Steve still manages to nearly gag himself on the bit of coffee he’s begun swallowing when a large, black SUV suddenly pulls up to the curb. He nearly throws the mug in the process, sloppily hopping off the sill and setting down the mug on the nearest end table. He coughs a few times as he recovers from the coffee he’s managed to inhale and then rushes over to the door. He pauses right at the window closest to the entrance and peers out.

Before Steve can even think, the SUV’s driver side door is opening and the chauffeur, the same man he’d seen just a day ago, steps out in order to open the back door. Steve gulps.

Belle steps out first, followed by two heavily armed officers. Both are cradling AR-15s with tactical gear and bulletproof vests - it causes an uneasy drop in Steve’s stomach that he can’t quite describe. They definitely weren’t dressed like this for his arrival yesterday.

The next person out of the car is also clearly an officer, but instead of holding a gun, he’s clutching a chain between two hands. His gun rests at his hip, holstered.

Steve’s eyes go wide in horror.

Emerging from the SUV now, attached to the chains, is Bucky. Both his arms are handcuffed together to rest at his waist and connected to that is another chain that leads up to a large, thick metal collar at his neck. He’s wearing prison garb, a muted tan outfit that consists of pants and a loose-fitting top while his long hair is messy and knotted. Peaking out from his shirt is his metal arm, glimmering in the sun in a way that forces Steve’s breath to catch in his throat. His eyes are lost. His face appears vacant of emotion. Steve just wants to sit him down and brush his hair, thoughtfully and methodically.

Steve flinches when an officer suddenly jabs Bucky with the butt of his rifle, signaling for him to move and pulling Steve from his thoughts. Bucky makes no effort to fight, instead now following Belle and the others as they make their ways up to Steve’s porch.

“Captain!” Belle says gleefully just as Steve pulls the door open to reveal himself. “I have a gift!” He says as he points back at Bucky, the ‘gift’ saying and doing nothing in response.

“Is he okay?” Steve manages to ask, resisting the urge to gnaw a hole through his lower lip. He immediately steps aside from the doorway so that the officers and Belle may come in.

Belle stops at the door, however, as he acknowledges Steve’s brand new, passive aggressive doormat. He stares down at it, brows knitting together.

Steve swallows hard. He expects backlash. It’s such bad timing. Why the hell did he put that thing out today?

But, Belle, as if realizing Steve is looking on in terror, abruptly allows himself to laugh out like he’s just been told a joke. “Gentlemen. Take off your shoes for Captain Rogers. He’s already begun making some ground rules.” He says tauntingly, but to Steve’s surprise, Belle goes first and then glances back at his men expectingly until they awkwardly begin to comply.

“Bucky’s fine.” Steve says quietly, only out of fear of watching him possibly being manhandled to take off his shoes.

“Already getting the special treatment, huh?” Belle scoffs as he glances back at Bucky and Steve feels himself balling up his fists.

He won’t do anything.

He won’t.

He forces his fists to slack.

Once the men have taken their shoes off, rather reluctantly might Steve acknowledge, they quickly stack them up against the wall near the door and then one by one, march into the house with Bucky in tow.

For the first time since the Helicarrier, Steve locks eyes with Bucky and he swears he feels his heart stop in the process. He wants to so badly reach out and touch him - run a hand down his cheek - feel his body against his own just to prove he’s real - but he doesn’t. Instead, Bucky breaks eye contact and bows his head in silence.

“Bucky.” Steve says quietly in attempts to engage with him, but he gets no response at all. It’s heartbreaking.

“He’s been mute for two days now.” Belle sighs as he lifts a hand to run through his own hair. “Don’t take it personally. He’s not eaten, either. Think he’s on some hunger strike. He’ll come around eventually.”

“He won’t be wearing all of that while he’s here, will he, sir?” Steve questions as he takes in how beat up and broken his best friend looks. He’s soulless.

“No, no. Get that off him, will ya? We’re making Captain Rogers uncomfortable.” Belle suggests as he waves a hand in the direction of the officer that’s been designated as Bucky’s keeper. “Feel free to dress him however you like. He doesn’t seem to care much.”

Steve watches as one by one, the chains are undone and Bucky is finally able to stand up straight. The collar drops to the floor with a heavy thud near his shoes, which causes Steve to notice the slight hint of a black, bulky device wrapped securely around his ankle. Every few seconds, a red light blinks on it much like the blinking red lights that line the perimeter of the property. The officer picks up the chains, shooting daggers at Bucky as he steps away.

Bucky is silent. Doesn’t look relieved to have the chains off - doesn’t even look up at Steve or Belle as they continue to talk directly about him while he stands there.

They discuss things for another twenty minutes with Steve just asking question after question about Bucky’s situation. Belle isn’t very helpful. As far as Belle is concerned, Bucky was found at the Smithsonian and brought into custody the day after Steve was initially brought into the hospital. He talked at first and then suddenly stopped. He ate at first and then also decided to stop that, too. Belle swears they haven’t hit Bucky or roughed him up, but Steve thinks he can see faint, delicate purples and blues that follow along his cheekbone and to his throat. They’d apparently had a signal blocker in his arm at one point as well to stop him from being able to use it, but took it off when they realized he had zero intentions of fighting back.

He’s definitely not the same person that shot Steve. Least he doesn’t seem to be. And if he is, he’s doing a phenomenal job with acting like he’s not. For all Steve knows, maybe he’s just waiting until they’re alone and Steve’s guard is down. Then, maybe, he’ll take Steve out of his misery. Who knows.

“We need weekly updates on things. I’ll be hiring a psychiatrist to do weekly drop-ins to evaluate him as things move along. He’s been out of cryostasis for, maybe, over a week now and so we want to see the long term and short term effects and study them as closely as we can. We don’t know exactly what HYDRA’s cryo process was, but you were in a similar state, Captain, so surely you’ll be helpful along the way.” Belle says as he offers a smile both to Bucky and then to Steve. “I trust you’ll make the right judgement call if things get out of hand, won’t you?”

Steve fidgets in place, nodding as convincingly as he can. “Of course. I’ll keep things under control.” Steve says flatly, eyes casting to Bucky in hopes of catching maybe some glimmer of hope in the man’s eyes. But again, there is nothing but emptiness.

“Well, if there’s no further questions, I suppose we can head out then. Captain, you can always call me if things become too much to handle.” Belle is implying something - Steve isn’t entirely sure what, however.

“Right.” Steve murmurs.

Belle turns to Bucky, as if expecting to engage with him in a meaningful conversation. “This is your new home, James. Steve’s graciously decided to let you live with him so that you can recover. We expect you’ll behave yourself, alright? No funny business. You’re still on the nation’s most wanted list and we ain’t takin’ you off there any time soon. You can act like you’re not listenin’ to me, but I know you are.” Belle grabs at Bucky’s hair and it takes all of Steve’s restraint to not intervene. “You’re not to leave this property. If you even think about it, you’ll be shot on sight.-“

“-Sir, I think he gets it-“ Steve attempts to interject but is ignored.

“That anklet doesn’t come off either, Barnes. Not to shower. Not to swim. Not for nothing. If it comes off, this game is over. You go back into the cell and poor Steve over here gets to watch you get carried away in cuffs. That’s how it’ll end, got it?” Belle’s expression softens. “So, please, make this easy for us and behave yourself. Captain America is counting on you to make him look good.”

Steve is horrified. He isn’t looking at Bucky as a charity case, no, Bucky is his friend and he’s going to help him adapt to his new life. He’s going to help him figure himself out and keep him safe. That’s all he wants from this. He refuses to acknowledge that he could ever surrender Bucky back to the government, let alone cause him harm. He won’t give in to Belle’s train of thought. This isn’t to make himself look good. God, no. He loves Bucky. He wants to help. He wants to...

“Things will be great.” Steve says rather confidently, ignoring the entire situation that has just transpired, now following Belle and the officers to his front door. He watches in silence as they all step back into their shoes and then one by one, march out to the porch.

Belle lingers for a moment and clasps a hand to Steve’s shoulder, whispering, “you’re doing God’s work, Steve.” And then he breaks away and steps outside.

“I’ll be in touch with Thomas, sir.” Steve projects as Belle gets about halfway to the SUV.

“And we’ll be in touch with you.” Belle responds and then he’s getting into the SUV and the doors are all closing.

Steve swallows hard as he backs into the house and then slowly closes the door. He takes a cautious glance back, sighing when he sees Bucky hasn’t moved at all from the spot he was left. He takes a moment to lock the door.

“Buck?” Steve says softly as he takes a few steps towards him now. “I’m sorry Belle said those things...”

Bucky doesn’t acknowledge him at all, just stands there, fingers lightly twitching at his sides.

“What did they do to you, huh?” Steve frowns as he dares to reach out to touch at Bucky’s knotted hair. The hair he so desperately wants to run his fingers through.

But, before Steve’s hand can even make contact, Bucky’s own shoots up to block him and pushes the hand away. It’s not violent at all - just desperate.

Steve’s breath hitches in shock.

Bucky is wordless as he steps back and away, now heading towards the living room.

“Bucky...” Steve trails off as he stands in place, utterly stumped on what to do.

Bucky doesn’t seem to quite know where he’s heading but he finds the couch and takes a quiet seat on it, shoulders slumping and body caving in on itself. He’s got his back now to Steve, eyes either cast at the wall or closed. It’s hard to tell. He appears to have pulled his legs up to his chest, arms slinking to wrap around and bring himself into a ball.

“Don’t believe a word of what Belle said, Buck. You’re not here because I need to beef up my reputation. You’re here because you’re my best friend. I’m with you til the end of the line, pal. I mean that. And I know you meant that, too, all those years ago.” Steve says aloud, cringing a bit as he says the last few words because he still remembers the look of trepidation when he’d last said them to Bucky. He stands in place, hoping that maybe Bucky will respond but after a few moments, he loses that very small bit of hope. He sighs in defeat.

“This place will be good for you. I promise. I won’t let anyone hurt you again. I’ll make sure that... that... they can’t get to you. Not HYDRA, not the government...” It almost feels like Steve is talking to himself, the words echoing off the walls. “It’ll just be me and you. Like we always wanted.” The last words hurt and Steve has to stop himself at that point before he becomes way too emotional about it. There’s no reason to be crying over Bucky when it’s not about Steve at all.

Steve frowns and walks away, deciding he’ll give him some space instead of continuing to prod and poke at him. He walks off towards the kitchen instead, realizing that it’s already time for lunch and he should eat. He’ll make Bucky a portion as well - even if he won’t eat it. At least he’ll know someone cares enough to try and feed him.

“I’ll be in the kitchen if you need me.” Steve announces to no one in particular and then goes directly for the fridge. This time, he finds a package of uncooked chicken breasts and decides upon making some simple chicken salad sandwiches. He finds some celery and mayo and then gets started on preparing their lunch. As he’s cooking the chicken, Steve swears he hears Bucky sigh out - but it’s hard to tell.

After he’s cooked it and shredded it, he mixes in the chicken with the mayo and celery and then retrieves the bread from the toaster. He makes himself two sandwiches and then makes sure he saves two for Bucky. If he doesn’t touch it, at least Steve has a snack for later.

He eats it quietly by himself at the kitchen island top, trying his best to not stare at the back of Bucky’s head the entire time he’s eating. At least the food is good.

When he’s finished, he cleans his own plate up in the sink and then strategically leaves Bucky’s two sandwiches right at the edge of the kitchen where the room opens up to the connecting living room. He feels like he’s baiting an animal into a trap - sort of - but Steve just wants his best friend to eat.

“I’m going to head upstairs for a bit, Buck. If you need me, just say something.” Steve sighs out, keeping his frustrations at bay as he takes a few slow steps for the banister. He tries to go as slow as he can, partially hoping that Bucky will stop him by speaking or even with just an acknowledging glance, but neither happen and eventually Steve reaches the steps and trudges up them. It’s hard to not look back or to pretend his heart isn’t pounding in his chest, but he manages.

Steve gets to his bedroom and closes the door, breathing out raggedly to himself when he’s finally alone and out of earshot. His throat stings every time he tries to swallow. He feels like sobbing. Breaking down. He doesn’t dare.

Bucky will be okay.

Bucky will come around.

Steve collapses onto his bed, face first, and then rolls onto his back. Somewhere within the next two hours, he dozes off, lulled by the silence of the house.

When he wakes, Steve is drowsy and vaguely confused - it’s still bright outside, though, so he knows he couldn’t of been out for too long. He takes his time sitting up, running his hands through his hair in attempts to fix it, and then stands up and gives himself a glance over in the full body mirror across from the bed.

He decides he should check up on Bucky, even if expects to see him in the exact same position he’d been in before Steve left him downstairs by himself. However, when Steve makes his way downstairs, he’s surprised to see the plate that he’d left on the counter is no longer there.

His brows shoot up, taking a few glances around the kitchen now to see if he can find the plate. It’s not in the sink. Steve immediately turns on his heels, heart rate increasing at the realization, and then notices he can’t see Bucky’s head peeking over the back of the couch.

He resists speaking, partially panicking now as he rushes over into the living room to peer over at the couch where Bucky had been, nearly bumping his knee into the coffee table when he finds Bucky sleeping silently, a blanket pulled up to his waist and head pressed against the arm of the couch. His hair is splayed out, some streaks casting over his eyes and cheeks while the rest of it is fanned out against the couch. Steve even notices that Bucky has removed his shoes and when he takes a few steps away and cranes his neck back to look towards the front door, he’s astonished to see that Bucky moved his shoes to the wall, right next to his own pair.

Steve comes back over to the couch now and stills when he’s directly over Bucky. He realizes he’s staring but he can’t help himself. Bucky’s lashes are long and dark - heavy contrast against his cheeks. His lips are just slightly parted. Steve resists his urges to reach out and touch what isn’t his. He looks exhausted - like he’s not been able to ever have his guard down for a single moment. He can’t dare to disturb him now.

With a bite to his lower lip, Steve now glances down at the coffee table he managed to dodge and can’t fight the smile that tugs at the corners of his mouth when he sees the plate he’d set for Bucky - only crumbs left on its surface.

He’s eaten.

Thank god.

And now he’s asleep.

Steve instantly feels better. It feels like a massive weight has lifted from his chest, no longer crushing and caving him in on himself.

Bucky’s chest rises and falls so softly - so peacefully - that it’s almost too easy for Steve to pretend they’re back in their shared apartment in the late 1930’s. He’s daydreaming now - knows he is and that it’s dangerous - but he doesn’t fight it. He sees himself and Bucky after a long day of working, the two salvaging their weekly earnings together to share meals, sharing a bed together in the colder months - all of it comes flooding back to him. Steve can still recall memories of Bucky taking naps while Steve himself would sit and sketch his sleeping figure, trying and always failing to replicate on paper just how peaceful his friend looked. It feels like one of those times. He wishes it was.

Steve smiles to himself and then bends to pick up the plate from the coffee table. He shouldn’t stand here and stare at Bucky all day - he has things to do. And it’s not exactly acceptable behavior, anyway. He’ll leave Bucky to rest. Maybe Bucky will be ready to talk when he wakes up.

Steve holds onto that hope with everything he is.

Chapter Text

It’s later that night when Steve finally hears the faint sounds of footsteps coming from the living room. Steve’s decided upon setting himself up in the dining room, two rooms over, and has spent the last hour or so quietly sketching into his artist pad he’d unpacked the day before. 

Bucky’s been asleep since his arrival much earlier in the day - now it’s nearly 2 AM and Steve has been fighting the overwhelming desire to sleep with black coffee and granola bars, having spent the entire day waiting for something to happen with Bucky. Even if nothing will - or has yet - Steve still wants to make sure he’s awake in the event that Bucky needs him. He probably won’t. Doesn’t. But he wants to be sure regardless. 

So when Steve’s hypersensitive hearing picks up on the gentle sounds of Bucky’s feet padding against the wooden floor, he immediately sits up from his slouched position, breath hitching as he attempts to listen in more carefully. The floor creaks ever so slightly with the weight of his steps but Bucky doesn’t appear to be coming closer - just sounds like he may or may not be looking around. Maybe he has to use the bathroom? Maybe he’s hungry? Steve attempts to peer around the wall, as if he could actually catch a glimpse of the long-haired man, but he sees nothing. No shadow, nothing. 

He sighs out the breath he’d been dramatically holding, hand lazily using his pencil to scribble in some shading into the skyline of New York that he’s been sketching out. It’s terrible because he can’t focus - everything in his head is Bucky. He can’t even close his eyes without seeing his best friend’s face plastered against the back of his lids. The image changes - flickers between the clean cut, soldier of 1944 with his youthful, blue eyes and perfectly sculpted hair and then the version of him Steve had seen today. The long, knotted hair, the grey and cold stare... the still so, so beautiful face... the end of his pencil suddenly snaps, lead smudging across the paper. Steve groans softly to himself as he’s pulled away from his imagination. He shoos away the crumbled bits of lead with the side of his palm, jaw tensing as he tries to clear his mind. He sharpens the pencil again and tries to fix the shading, despite the mess he’s made. 

“Why am I here?” 

The pencil’s point breaks again, albeit much more violently this time from the shock that courses through Steve. The pencil rolls away, untouched. He looks up to the source of the question, eyes wide and heart hammering in his chest when he sees Bucky, arms folded across his chest, now staring back at him. Steve’s throat suddenly feels tight. He can’t believe he didn’t clock Bucky’s arrival in the room. 

Bucky shifts his weight between each foot, the plates in his metal arm visibly calibrating as he continues to stare at Steve expectingly. His face is emotionless - void of anything other than the icy stare he’s using right now to practically put Steve in his place. 

“I... Buck, I...” Steve’s words are stammered out as he attempts to form a coherent thought. “You’re here because I want to help you.” 

Bucky’s expression doesn’t change. Steve’s not even sure he’s breathing. “Help me?” He tuts, causing Steve to cringe. “What about this is helping me?” He says as a hand clings to the prison uniform, tugging it into Steve’s focus.

“I have clothes for you.” Steve attempts before he’s cut off.

“You have clothes for me? I’m still your prisoner, though, ain’t I? Blue jeans and a t-shirt don’t change that.” Bucky practically growls as he takes a few steps forward, actually coming closer to Steve now. He’s unrecognizable - he’s not the Winter Soldier but he’s also not the Bucky that Steve remembers, either. 

“It’s not like that, Buck-“

“Then what is it like? What am I doing here? I can’t leave. What do you want from me? What are you going to do to me?” Bucky’s last words come out quieter than the rest. Like he’s expecting something rotten to happen. 

Steve’s stomach is in knots as he tries to sort through all his thoughts. He feels like the world is closing in on him - like Bucky is going to burn a hole through his chest with how he’s looking at Steve. “I’m not going to do anything, Buck. I don’t want anything. I just want to help you. You’re my best friend. You’ve always been... I just want to have you back.” 

Bucky’s expression softens into something indescribable - Steve can’t tell if he’s hurt or confused or just pitying him now. “You’re lying. Just get it over with. What do you want me to do?”

“Nothing, Buck! Nothing!” Steve yells out a bit louder than he expects. Bucky flinches ever so slightly. He breathes out as he attempts to settle. He frowns. “Do you know me?” 

“You’re Steve.” Bucky answers softly, looking down at his hands and finally breaking the intense eye contact. 

Steve nods, a bit of relief at that. He hasn’t heard that voice say his name in so long. “Do you know who you are?” 

“James Buchanan Barnes.” The response sounds calculated, as if he’s possibly practiced this and isn’t entirely sure he believes what he’s saying. “We fought together in the war.” 

Steve sighs out, nodding again and sitting forward in his chair. “Do you actually remember that or did someone tell you that?”

Bucky is sidetracked now, thankfully, brows furrowing together as he analyzes what Steve’s just asked him. He shrugs, finally. “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?” 

“I read about it in a museum.” He admits and for the first time since the Helicarrier, a flash of pain is captured in Bucky’s eyes.  “But I don’t know what I actually know and what I just remember from the exhibit.”

Steve wants to so badly comfort him - to stand up and drag him into his arms and never let go. However, he resists in fear of spooking his best friend, considering he’s currently looking like a wounded animal ready to run more than anything else. “You and I... we grew up together.” He informs, words soft. 

Bucky’s jaw tenses. “That person you knew isn’t who I am now.” 

“And that’s okay, Buck. I just want to help you.” 

Bucky shakes his head, metal fingers flexing positions between an opened and closed palm. 

“No one’s going to hurt you. I’m not going to hurt you. I won’t let anyone.” Steve murmurs, eyes searching for Bucky’s own but they refuse to meet his anymore. 

“I don’t believe you. I don’t trust you.” Is all Bucky says before he walks away - he turns quickly on his heels and escapes from the doorway he’s entered from. 

Steve is silenced, eyes glassy as he remains completely still and contemplates what just happened. Suddenly, it’s like a switch flips on inside of him. He shakes away the guilt and stands up, pushing off the table to follow after Bucky, doubling up on his steps.

“Bucky, wait, talk to me.” Steve knows he sounds desperate, but he doesn’t care. He finds Bucky in the kitchen now - leaned up against the island, elbows on the granite counter top to support his hands that are covering his face. 

“Leave. Me. Alone.” He growls out, words muffled by his palms. 

Steve pauses a few feet away, hands coming up in a show of surrender - though Bucky isn’t looking at him at all. “I know you remember the Helicarrier, Buck. I know you remember that. What happened? I fell from the sky. I should’ve drowned. How did I get out alive?” 

Bucky shakes his head, fingers gripping at his hair by the root of his scalp. “I don’t know. I don’t know what you’re talking about. Leave me the fuck alone.”

“You do know. What did you do, Buck? What did you do after I fell?” Steve presses further, knowing he probably shouldn’t but he can’t help himself now. It’s like the floodgates have opened and it’s a rush of emotions he can’t keep trapped any longer. “Someone saved me. Tell me it was you.”

Bucky slams his flesh hand against the counter top now, loud and echoing off the walls. “Shut up.” 

“Buck... you saved me. Right? It was you. You saved me because you remembered me. You didn’t need to read about me in the museum to remember me - you knew in the Helicarrier.” Steve doesn’t waver, though he’s cautious. He’s treading on thin ice and he knows it. “You know who I am. You know I wouldn’t hurt you because I didn’t hurt you then.”

“Stop. I don’t know who you are - I don’t trust you! Stop!” Bucky’s voice is shrill and desperate, almost identical to his voice when he’d had Steve pinned against the glass, punching him repeatedly. 

Steve backs off, taking both a physical step away and a metaphorical one. He stands there in silence, arms crossed tightly over his chest as he tries to calm himself down. “Okay, Buck.” He finally sighs after a moment of silence between the two of them has passed. 

Bucky doesn’t move.

“I’m gonna go to bed now. I’ll get you a pair of pajamas to wear so you can change into something clean. I’ll put them outside my door. There’s a shower upstairs in one of the empty bedrooms - you can sleep in that bed, too, or choose a different one. I don’t care. Okay?” Steve begins, though he’s not quite sure if Bucky is actually listening to him or not. He doesn’t care - he keeps going. “Tomorrow, if you’d like, you can give me a list of things you’d like in the house and I’ll make sure you get them. Food, clothing, anything. If not, I’ll just guess and try to figure things out on my own. You don’t need to talk to me. You can just write me a list. My bedroom is the one at the end of the hallway upstairs.” 

Bucky sighs out quietly, body slumping further onto the support of his elbows. 

Steve licks his lips tentatively, giving Bucky a second to process what he’s previously said before he quickly tacks on more. “Have a good night, Buck. If you need me, my door is open.” And then he’s walking away, disappointed with himself for how things have went. He’s not sure if they really would have went any better - but he still feels at fault. After all, he’s the reason Bucky is here. He’s the reason Bucky is the way he is today. If he’d not dragged him along on that mission... if he’d just went back and looked for him in the snow... if he’d just...

Steve forces himself to focus, making his way up the stairs despite the gravitational pull tugging on his heart that wants him to stay downstairs. He gets upstairs and makes an immediate beeline for his bedroom, closing the door behind him hastily. He grabs the first pillow he sees and brings it to his face, shouting into it the moment he presses it against his mouth. It muffles everything - both the frustrated yell and the hollow sob that follows behind it. He holds the pillow there, knuckles white from how tensely he’s gripping at it. He can feel the wetness from his eyes seeping into the pillowcase now and he pulls it away to gasp for air. As he drops the pillow between heaving breaths, he catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror and has to look away out of embarrassment. 

This isn’t him. Steve isn’t supposed to fall apart like this. 

He straightens himself out, runs his hands through his hair - wipes away the wetness from his eyes. He breathes. He’s okay. 

He ignores the heaviness now settling in the pit of his stomach and goes through his dressers, finding a soft, cotton shirt, flannel pajama pants, and a pair of boxers he hopes will fit Bucky. He even takes the time to find the nicest pair of socks that he has, checking to make sure there’s no holes or stretches in them as he folds them on top with the rest of the outfit he’s created for Bucky. 

He then goes into his own bathroom and takes out a new bar of soap and grabs his own shampoo and conditioner. He doesn’t have a spare toothbrush for Bucky so he’ll have to make sure he tells Thomas about that tomorrow. 

Steve gives himself a quick once over in the mirror before he dares to step outside the bedroom, clothing and toiletries clutched to his chest, and then sets the bundle down carefully against the wall outside his door. He pauses in the doorway for a minute, peering down the hallway to see if Bucky has moved at all from the kitchen. With his serum-induced hearing, he really doesn’t hear anything other than slow, uneven breaths. He fights a frown and then slips back into his room, leaving the door cracked just a bit in case Bucky needs him. He knows Bucky won’t - he knows it this time. But he can’t stop himself from repeatedly having the thought. 

He falls asleep with an ache in his chest that he can’t seem to shake. 

 

— An Hour Later; Bucky —

 

The clock reads 04:00 AM. 

Bucky is deeply, truly exhausted. He knows the only person he’s hurting right now is himself by ignoring what his body is desperately begging him for. He knows he can sleep more - even if he slept most of the day. He should sleep more. He should shower, too. He remembers Steve’s words and hopes he’s probably fallen asleep by now. 

Steve. 

The man from the Helicarrier - the same man from the bridge. The same man that called him Bucky; the first time he’d ever heard that name. The Smithsonian exhibit said they were childhood friends turned brothers in arms. 

Captain America. 

His faithful ally, Bucky. 

That’s supposed to be who he is. But it all seems foggy. 

He glances down at his ankle now, the heavy device that’s clamped to it blinks in red, vicious reminder. He’s trapped here. He knows Matthew Belle means business - he knows because he’s been trapped in a dark cell for the past three days with no food or access to the outside world. He remembers an agent hitting him so hard that he’d split his lip open on the cell bars and managed to form a gash on his cheek. It’s healed up remarkably - only bruising remaining and he knows it’ll be gone by the morning. He knows Steve saw it, though. He imagines Steve may eventually ask. 

He leans up against the counter and lifts his leg up, trying to get a better look at the device on his ankle. He has no clue if it’s waterproof. Can he shower with it? He takes a look around, now going through the cabinets and drawers in the kitchen. He sighs in relief when he finds Saran Wrap. He’ll wrap it just in case. He really, really doesn’t want to go on the run again - not tonight, anyway. He’s not in the mood to get sniped down or chased by federal agents. 

After he’s wrapped his ankle a few times with the wrap and seals it off, Bucky tiptoes through the foreign house like his life depends on it. With all the conditioning he’s had, he’s gotten good at blending in - being silent - unnoticed. He takes full advantage of that fact as he makes his way up the same stairs he’d watched Steve use and takes a heeding glance down the hallway before daring to walk down it. It’s dark. He makes his way towards the bedroom at the end of the hallway, just as Steve had told him. Bucky hopes that Steve has actually followed up on his promise and left him new clothing to change into. 

As he gets closer, Bucky spots the neatly folded pile on the floor, right beside the door Steve’s obviously left ajar on purpose. He’s surprised to find more than just pajamas. He holds his breath as he snatches the clothing and bathroom supplies up off the floor, slowly moving to walk away now. He pauses when he hears something faint coming from the bedroom. He leans in - just barely. 

Steve is snoring. It’s not intrusive or agitating, but it’s audible. He’s asleep. Bucky feels like he may have heard the same sounds before but he doesn’t know if he’s recalling a memory or making it up. 

Bucky swallows hard and pulls himself away, scurrying down the hallway to find the other, empty bedroom Steve had mentioned to him. He really wants that shower. 

It takes him two tries to find the room with the attached bathroom, and when Bucky finally finds it, he nearly cries tears of joy. He hasn’t truly showered by himself in... he doesn’t know. He actually can’t remember the last real shower he took by himself. The rest of his showers, previously, had been done by his handlers. He remembers his skin being rubbed painfully raw with old, pilling washcloths, his eyes burning from careless handlers rinsing his hair of shampoo directly into his face... the handlers that would keep the water running, hands grabbing at flesh but were no longer washing his body... he remembers all of it except for his own, private showers he knows he must’ve taken at one point in his life. How else would he remember what to do? 

Bucky sets the clothing down on the closed toilet seat cover, now searching for two towels which he is surprised to find stocked up in the small bathroom closet. He takes them out, letting them both fold over the door handle on the shower, and then takes what Steve’s provided him and puts the items inside the shower. 

It feels relieving to finally take off the prison outfit he’s been wearing for the last week. He feels grimy. He gets undressed as quickly as he can before he pauses in the mirror above the bathroom sink. It’s the first time he’s actually seen himself in... months? Years? Does he actually even remember what he looks like underneath his uniform? 

Regardless, Bucky thinks he looks god-fucking awful. His eyes are sunken in and the bruising sure is a damned looking sight. And then there’s his shoulder... where his metal arm meets flesh, half haphazardly connected to hideous scar tissue that looks more like railroad tracks than human skin. He doesn’t quite look like the man in the museum. Doesn’t even look like the photo the government had shown him of himself. 

He raises a hand to touch along his face, brushing away the strands of hair nearing his eyes. He almost expects the man in the mirror to not mimic what he’s doing - that’s how disassociated he feels with his reflection. He turns away. 

It’s enough for now. 

Bucky uses the bathroom - god - it’s been all day. And then he finally turns on the shower and hops in. The way the hot water beats down on his back is almost euphoric. He takes his time showering, only turning it off when he feels like he’s actually clean for once. It’s a strange feeling. He wraps the first towel around himself and pats himself down before grabbing the second towel to catch the water droplets from his hair. He unwraps the Saran Wrap from his ankle, relieved to see it did its job, and then tosses the sopping plastic in the trash bin. 

None of this feels real. 

He feels like at any minute, Rumlow could burst through the door to collect him, saying something along the lines of: “There you are, soldier. You’ve been missing. You’ve disappointed us.”

Bucky shudders at the thought, now quickly dressing himself. He feels strange when he steps into the pair of boxers he knows belong to Steve. They fit him just fine - yet - he feels odd about it. The pants and the shirt, too. Even the socks. They all belong to Steve. The shirt, Bucky notices, smells faintly like some sort of cologne mixed with a natural musk. It’s pleasant - in some oddly, possibly comforting way. He imagines Steve probably smells like this all the time.

He glances at himself once again in the mirror, noticing the way the t-shirt fits him just a tad looser than it probably fits Steve. It’s fine. He then attempts to run his fingers through his knotted hair while he continues staring himself down in the mirror. It’s no use. There’s no brush. He remembers his handlers roughly brushing through his hair - occasionally ripping chunks out when the knots would get too time consuming to remove. He doesn’t get why they didn’t just shave his head. He sighs in defeat and exits the bathroom. 

The bed is practically calling his name now as Bucky walks over to it. He doesn’t even bother to turn off the lights. Bucky collapses on the bed and breathes in deeply. He’s alone. No one is coming for him. It’s just him. No Rumlow. No Pierce. No one. He’s okay. For now. 

He keeps repeating these things to himself, over and over, in attempts to calm himself down. It doesn’t feel safe letting his guard down. Especially not in a bed in a house that he doesn’t know. Steve’s down the hallway. Steve says he won’t hurt him. 

He doesn’t trust Steve. 

But he trusts Rumlow, Belle, and Pierce a lot less. 

With that in mind, Bucky manages to fall asleep. 

 

— 09:00 AM; Steve — 

 

A scream echoes from down the hallway and Steve is woken up, completely startled by it. He shoots out of bed, tossing aside the bed sheets and practically sprints down the hallway. He doesn’t even bother to throw on a shirt or pants. 

By the time another bloodcurdling scream is heard, Steve finds the room Bucky is in and shoves the door open, slamming it directly into the wall without a second thought. 

“Buck!” Steve yells out, panicking as he finds Bucky splayed out in bed, tossing and writhing against the sheets. “Wake up! Bucky, hey!” 

He’s obviously having quite possibly the worst nightmare Steve’s ever seen anyone have. It’s gut-wrenching to witness. He rushes over to the bed now and begins to shake at Bucky’s shoulders, trying to bring him back into focus. He’s clammy and boiling hot to the touch. 

However, rather than waking up immediately, Bucky’s first instinct with his eyes still closed tightly is to swing at whatever is trying to grab him. He manages to connect a few metal fisted punches to Steve’s abdomen, though Steve doesn’t flinch. 

When Steve manages to climb on top of Bucky, pinning the man down, Bucky’s eyes finally shoot open to reveal two glassy, blood-shot baby blues. He’s pale - sweat forming at the brow and hair clinging to his face. He’s panting so heavily that Steve is afraid he’s going to hyperventilate. 

“You’re okay, you’re okay. Buck. It’s Steve. You’re okay. It was just a nightmare.” Steve attempts to coo to him as he continues to keep his hands wrapped tightly around Bucky’s wrists. “Just breathe. You need to breathe. You’re okay. You’re safe.”

Bucky is silent as he stares up at Steve in horror, trying to grasp the situation. He looks absolutely petrified. “Let me go.” He says finally, coughing on the words as they escape his lips. 

Steve obeys immediately, crawling right off his lap to sit off to the side on the bed. He can already feel the bruising that’s going to be forming across his stomach from the jabs. 

“Are you alright?” Steve dares to ask. 

“Leave me alone.” Bucky interjects before Steve can even get in another thought. He leaps off the bed, pulling the sheets down onto the floor with him as he rushes for the attached bathroom. He slams the door shut behind him without another moment to spare. 

Steve is stunned. He hears the door’s lock click into place and he knows that’s about as far as this conversation is going. 

“Buck.” He tries, voice waning. 

He gets no response in return.

Steve can hear the heavy breathing and if he focuses hard enough, he’s almost positive he can even hear the rabid ticking of Bucky’s heartbeat. 

He’s not going to do what he did yesterday and pry at Bucky again. Especially when he’s accepted the fact that this version of Bucky doesn’t trust him yet.

Steve lingers around in Bucky’s room for another moment, just to make sure Bucky doesn’t suddenly start panicking again and then quietly makes his exit through the door he’d slammed open. He trudges back to his own bedroom now so that he can dress himself and clean up the bedding he managed to toss onto the floor. 

The next hour passes in forced silence with Steve making himself breakfast and leaving a portion aside for Bucky. He places it in the microwave to keep it warm but he doesn’t have much of a bet on Bucky actually coming downstairs anytime soon. 

After he finishes eating and cleaning up after himself, Steve takes out his phone and shoots over a text to Thomas. He knows Bucky hasn’t written out a list of things yet, and who knows if he’ll actually do that, but Steve wants to make sure they get some things in the house sooner rather than later. 

Steve

‘Hi. Here’s a list of things we need in the house as soon as possible. 

-Eggs. 2 cartons. 

-Bread. 2 loaves. 

-Chicken. 5 pounds. 

-A wardrobe for Bucky. Lots of shirts, pants, shorts, boxers, socks, and a bathing suit. Not sure on measurements. Just get everything in a large and medium and we’ll go from there. 

-Toothpaste

-Toothbrush

-Shampoo/conditioner/soap - any works 

-Sneakers. Let’s try a size 9 and 10. 

-3 musketeers bars. Do they still exist? 

That’s all for now. Thank you.’

A few minutes later, a message pops up on the screen. Steve unlocks his phone to read it and reply. 

Thomas

‘I’ll make sure all of that is taken care of, Mr Rogers. 3 musketeers still exist. I’ll get a few. Take care.’

Steve

‘Thank you. They were Bucky’s favorite. I hope he remembers them.’

Thomas seems nice enough. He responds fast, is attentive, and seems to follow through on Steve’s requests, as proven by the doormat he still has outside. He briefly wonders how a guy like Thomas has gotten a job working under a man like Belle.

Steve suddenly remembers he’s forgotten to call Sam. He immediately navigates to the icon labeled ‘phone’ and dials the number he’s memorized. The phone rings a few times. Steve’s almost sure Sam won’t answer but then-

“Hello? Who is this?” Sam’s voice comes through on the other line. He sounds vaguely confused. 

Steve smiles to himself, swallowing down a chuckle as he replies. “It’s Steve Rogers. I told you I’d call you someday.”

“Steve! The hell! Where have you been?” 

Steve sighs out. “Life’s been... crazy. Homeland Security showed up at the hospital after everything went down. They were gonna take Bucky away and I couldn’t let them... I convinced them to let him live with me. They moved me out-“

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! What the hell are you talking about? Homeland Security? Bucky? Where are you?” Sam sounds worried now. 

“I’m... out in Upstate New York. The house is nice, though. They said you could come visit. They gave me this phone. New number and all.”

“Visit? Who’s they? Steve-“ 

“Relax, Sam. Seriously. Don’t worry. I’m helping Bucky. Supposed to be helping, I mean. He’s not really talking to me at the moment, though. It’s a tricky situation.” Steve is frowning to himself but he imagines that Sam can tell just how miserable he looks by the tone of his voice. 

“How’s he doing?” Sam finally asks, allowing the rest of his concerns to be put on hold. Steve’s thankful. 

“He’s... not doing that well, truthfully. He doesn’t trust me at all. But I probably wouldn’t trust me either.” 

“You really care about him, huh?” Sam blurts out the question randomly and it throws Steve off guard. 

Steve closes his eyes. “Yeah. I do.” 

“He’ll come around, won’t he? Won’t his memories come back eventually?”

Steve swallows hard. His words are trapped.

“Steve?” 

“I’m here.” Steve croaks, now blinking his eyes open. He hates thinking about Bucky like this. Like he may never be okay again.

“He’ll be okay, Steve. Give him time.” Sam murmurs into the phone. 

Steve nods, even though he knows Sam can’t see it. “I know. I know, Sam.” 

“I’ll have to come out there soon. Send me the address when you get a chance. I’ve got some stuff to do right now, though, so I have to hang up. You gonna be alright, man?” 

“Of course.” Steve answers, “we’ll talk soon. Be well, Sam.”

“You, too, Steve.”

The phone call ends. Steve locks his phone and puts it aside. He’ll just have to try and live his life as if he’s not completely trapped in a government home with nothing to do but worry about Bucky.

Chapter Text

It’s the start of a new week now; Bucky has officially been living in the house for 6 days and Steve’s been informed that his therapy will be starting this upcoming Wednesday. Steve isn’t convinced Bucky’s ready to talk to anyone yet, considering he’s not said a word to Steve since last week’s nightmare, but Steve doesn’t argue with Belle about it. 

‘A lot can still happen between now and Wednesday.’ Is what Belle says to Steve right before the phone clicks silent, leaving Steve sitting there wondering how he’s going to make Bucky talk to him. Or even convince him to sit with someone he doesn’t know for a therapy session he hasn’t consented to. It’s going to be great. Steve can already see it. 

Not much has happened in the house in the past few days, but Steve thinks nothing is better than something bad happening. Bucky hasn’t screamed out in the middle of the night since that nightmare he’d had - but Steve has no clue if that means he’s been sleeping better, or just being quieter. 

Slowly over the course of the weekend, boxes had begun arriving that Steve had ordered. Not everything had arrived on the same day - which is fine. Steve didn’t mind and he still doesn’t now. 

Steve manages to get a whole new wardrobe and accessories for Bucky brought into their home thanks to Thomas and whatever expensive delivery service Homeland Security keeps abusing to satisfy Captain America’s needs. It’s certainly a strange feeling. Steve’s almost positive he could request a pony and it would be at the door by sunset. 

Steve makes a point to mention to Bucky that he’s gotten him a bunch of things he may like and that he can return anything he doesn’t, but Bucky doesn’t say a word. 

Steve eventually gives up and stacks all the packages at the staircase, keeping the chocolate bars upstairs in his own room for now - only because he selfishly wants to be there when Bucky finally eats something in front of him. He wants to believe that Bucky will remember his own love for 3 Musketeers candy bars and maybe he’ll smile. Or laugh. Or thank Steve. Anything, really. 

It takes about a day, but eventually the boxes of clothing and various other items slowly migrate from the bottom of the steps where Steve had first shown Bucky, to upstairs nested away in his bedroom. None of the boxes have come back downstairs yet - either Bucky hasn’t tried on everything or he wants to keep all of it. Steve doesn’t care either way. He’d give Bucky the world if he could. 

Steve’s never able to actually catch Bucky in the act, but he knows that somewhere in between his own showering and sleeping and being outside the house, Bucky seems to occasionally move about the house and do things. Steve’s never seen Bucky eat something but he knows Bucky definitely is because the food Steve makes for him always vanishes by the end of the day and the plates are always left with crumbs. That... and Bucky hasn’t dropped dead yet either from starvation. It’s a relief. 

For whatever reason, be it not wanting to be left vulnerable, Bucky doesn’t do anything if Steve is around to potentially watch. Bucky won’t even move from one room to the other if he realizes Steve is nearby.

Steve’s gonna catch him one day. Even if it’s just Bucky looking out the window - he desperately wants to witness it. Any shred of normalcy. He’s aching for it. 

He just wants Bucky to trust him enough to know he can let his guard down. He knows it’s a pipe dream, but he still keeps hoping. 

It’s Tuesday now and Steve is absolutely dreading mentioning to Bucky that a random therapist is coming by to talk to him in the house, so he can feel even more like a prisoner without a say in what happens. 

Bucky spends most his time upstairs in his bedroom, so when Steve makes them lunch that day, he chooses to hide out in the dining room in attempts to stake him out. He goes back and forth with Sam through text, the two mostly just chatting about their days - mostly shallow conversation to pass the time. 

Sam 

`I was thinking I could come by this weekend if you’re up to it. Lemme know though. Don’t wanna intrude.’ 

Steve

‘I wouldn’t mind at all. It’s lonely out here considering Bucky pretends I don’t exist. But... he may not be ready for visitors yet. I’ll have to let you know.’

Sam

‘How’s he doing btw?’ 

Steve

‘Btw?’

Steve feels dumb having to ask. 

Sam

‘By the way. Sorry, sorry. Forgot you’re an old man. It’s texting lingo. Cool kids do it.’ 

Steve snorts. 

Steve 

‘Cool kids. Right. Bucky is OK. Not much else to say. He has therapy on Wednesday. He may try to kill me or the therapist, who knows. 😥’

Sam

‘Emojis???? Steve is using emojis??? Crazy. Tell Buck-o I said hi.’

Steve rolls his eyes, getting ready to type back a reply - he’s actually amazed he’s starting to get the hang of virtual keyboard typing - but then he hears Bucky’s footsteps and immediately sets the phone down. He cocks a brow in curiosity. 

“Hey, Buck?” He calls out softly, now moving to carefully stand up from the table. He pushes in his chair to walk around it, peering over the wall. 

Bucky’s jaw sets when their eyes meet. He’s awkwardly standing there, arms now folding up to his chest defensively. He looks like he’s been caught doing something he shouldn’t be doing. It feels like last week all over again, right down to the way Bucky is standing. 

“Hey.” Steve says again, softer this time as he pauses to lean up against the open doorway, offering a gentle smile. 

Bucky swallows - it’s audible. Steve’s pretty sure a normal human wouldn’t of heard it. 

“I’m sorry. I know you don’t want to talk to me. I get it,” Steve sighs, lifting a hand to rub at the back of his neck. He suddenly notices that, finally, Bucky is wearing something other than the pajamas Steve had given him days ago. He’s actually wearing one of the outfits Thomas had delivered. He looks good. His hair still needs some help - but Steve notices the clothing fits rather well. 

Bucky’s expression hardens up as he waits for Steve to get to his point. 

“There’s... a therapist coming on Wednesday, okay? I just wanted to tell you so it isn’t a surprise. It wasn’t my idea - I’m not trying to force you. It’s Belle. I just wanted to tell you.” Steve scrambles to find the words, worried that Bucky is going to run off before he can get everything out. 

But, instead, Bucky just remains in place and gives Steve a look. 

“And... you look good, Buck. A lot healthier.” Steve winces as he says the words.

“Thanks.” Is all that Bucky says. It’s quiet and mumbled - but he says it. He then cautiously takes the plate of food Steve’s set on the counter and turns on his heel for the staircase. 

Steve is starstruck, now frozen in place as he watches Bucky ascend the steps. He’s more surprised by the fact that Bucky said thanks than the actual acknowledgment of him speaking at all. It’s progress. He’ll take it. 

The next few hours are spent with Steve cleaning up the house. He goes through his internal list of chores, starting in the kitchen and emptying out the dishwasher. Once he’s got everything put away, he then moves on to wiping down the table and countertops. Considering he’s a rather clean person by himself and Bucky barely exists, the place is rather simple for Steve to clean. It takes him no time at all. 

For the first time since moving in a week ago, Steve even now has enough dirty clothing to run a cycle on the washing machine. The machine is way newer and fancier than the one he’d learned how to use back in his old apartment, but with his phone and the amazing invention that is Google, Steve actually figures it out. There’s a small part of him that wants to ask Bucky for his laundry to wash as well, but he decides against it for today. It’ll get done eventually. Maybe he’ll have to sneak upstairs and gather it up himself. 

By the time Steve finishes up, it’s still pretty early in the day so he heads outside to workout in the backyard. He gives himself a solid hour to do some cardio and then uses his body to do a few circuits of muscle workouts - starting with basic pushups and eventually ending with him using a lawn chair for several hundred tricep dips. He nearly flips the chair out from under himself a few times in the process. He’d normally be embarrassed but there’s no one to even witness it. 

He’s still amazed by the fact that it’s just them out here - not a soul to disrupt them. No city traffic, no chatter from people, no sirens, nothing. All Steve can hear is the light breeze and the occasional chirp of a few birds in the distance. It’s like some weird, hazy dream that Steve doesn’t quite want to wake up from. Like a happy, contained bubble. Minus Bucky… 

Steve puts the thought aside as he catches his breath. He’s dripping in sweat - his shirt is nearly clinging to him like a second skin. The lake is practically chanting his name. 

He peels off his shirt and steps out of his workout shorts. He probably should go inside and grab himself a bathing suit, but… there really isn’t anyone around. There’s no cameras, either, from what Steve has already seen. Just heat sensors and perimeter sensors for Bucky’s anklet, he reminds himself. He takes a few warning glances around - squinting back at the glass doors leading back into the house. Bucky’s not around either. He’s still upstairs. 

“Alright, Rogers, in and out.” He tells himself with a small laugh as he takes the risk and steps out of his boxers now, completely baring it all. Skinny dipping in your own private lake totally isn’t a big deal - right? Right. 

He kicks aside his clothing and then makes a mad dash for the lake, now running down the center of the dock and then leaping off at the edge of it. His body hits the water with a loud splash, the cool water rushing over him as he dives down further beneath the surface. Once he hits the bottom, he lingers for a moment to bask in the silence, and then uses his palms to push up off the floor and swims back to the top. 

He gasps out as he surfaces, hands coming up to wipe away the water from his eyes and then slick back his hair. The water feels absolutely perfect against his hot skin.

Steve proceeds to do a few contained laps around the dock area - switching between breaststrokes and backstrokes all while keeping a watchful eye on the deck. There’s nothing in the sky either - not even a plane. It’s mind blowing and suddenly Steve has the urge to come back out and do this at night, hopefully before the cooler weather starts sinking in. He wants to see all the stars - all the constellations. Maybe he’ll ask Thomas about getting a telescope and a few stargazer books. 

For once, he’s not needed by anyone other than his best friend… and in a way it feels like he’s come full circle. Bucky always took care of him as a child all the way into their adulthood and now it was Steve’s turn to fully reciprocate that and help Bucky regain himself. 

There’s no S.H.I.E.L.D. to guilt-trip him into more missions he doesn’t fully align with and there’s no imminent danger lurking that calls upon the Avengers either. Steve can just be… Steve. Or whatever Steve thinks he’s supposed to be. 

Why doesn’t that feel like enough? 

Why is this conflicting? 

He sighs.

He doesn’t have any other identity than Captain America. If he’s not out saving lives or doing what he believes is his civil duty - is he wasting away? But Bucky. Bucky needs him. That’s more important than anything else to Steve. 

Bucky is more important than Captain America. 

He dives back under the water, sinking down as far as he can without forcibly floating back up. He holds his breath and clamps his eyes shut. It’s dark. Silent. Steve holds it while he attempts to clear his head of all the confusion and cloudiness. He feels foggy. He does this to himself, he knows. 

A minute passes and Steve forces himself to resurface, even if he knows he could go for longer. His lungs have just barely begun to strain. When he comes up, he only lets his head up above the water while the rest of him remains beneath the surface. His eyes are closed still. 

“Steve.” 

He immediately whips around in the direction of the dock, eyes fluttering open to the sight of Bucky standing with a hand acting as a visor over his brow. 

“Bucky, hey, hey,” Steve sputters as he composes himself, completely taken aback that once again, Bucky has managed to sneak up on him. He’s not used to that. Never lets anyone passed himself and here’s Bucky doing it over and over. 

“I need help.” Bucky says softly, as if Steve isn’t actually swimming in their lake completely naked. Maybe he doesn’t realize. 

Steve furrows his brows. “Help with what?” 

“My hair.” He sounds frustrated. 

“Yeah? What’s wrong?” 

Bucky turns a bit, just enough to reveal the back of his head - the knots are still very much there. It’s not as bad, but it’s not better either. He turns back to face forward again. “It’s a mess.”

Steve gives a sympathetic smile - just barely there. “Okay, Buck. Give me a minute and I’ll come in.” 

Bucky just nods and then walks away. 

Once Bucky is back inside, Steve scrambles onto the deck and grabs his shorts, now forcing them onto his soaking wet body, despite how awful it feels. He doesn’t need to look in a mirror to know he’s blushing all over. His skin feels warm from his stomach to his forehead. He’s pathetic. 

He counts to sixty - slowly as he can - and then he wills himself to head inside. 

 

— Bucky —

 

Bucky isn’t really sure what’s come over him that he’s went and asked Steve for help. He still doesn’t trust him; doesn’t want to let Steve in so easily. But, fuck, his hair is driving him mad. Every night that he sleeps on it, the knots get worse and no matter how hard he tries, he can’t reach the back of his head properly to brush them out. 

He’s sitting down now on the living room couch, hair brush in his lap as he awkwardly waits. Bucky’s taken to worrying a hole practically through his lower lip from how anxious he suddenly feels. He doesn’t want to be touched, let alone give away his back to Steve. It’s rule number one. He knows that. 

Steve says he won’t hurt him. Steve says he doesn’t want anything. Steve says he cares. 

Steve says a lot. 

Bucky jumps a bit when the sliding door pushes open, Steve now slowly stepping inside. 

“Hey, gimme a minute to dry off. I forgot to bring a towel out.” Steve sighs as he walks towards the staircase. 

Bucky watches from the corner of his eye. He knows Steve wasn’t wearing anything in the lake. 

It doesn’t take long for Steve to reappear from upstairs, his feet padding against the wood as he comes back into the living room, a towel wrapped around his neck. He’s got a tight, white tank top on and a pair of grey shorts that also appear pretty tight. Bucky quietly wonders if Steve always dresses in form-fitting clothing on purpose. 

“I’ll have to get you some detangling spray. I googled it.” Steve says as he walks over to Bucky, keeping enough distance. “I’ll ask Thomas to get it.”

“Googled?” Bucky can’t help but ask. 

Steve smiles. 

Why is he smiling? 

“It’s… a whole new thing. I’ll have to explain it to you eventually. When you’re ready.” Steve shakes his head and then nods towards the open space on the couch, a short distance from Bucky. “May I?” 

Bucky swallows hard and then nods. 

“Okay. So let’s see what we’re dealing with.” Steve says softly and then reaches out to take the brush from Bucky, who willingly hands it off to him. 

Bucky uses his metal hand since his flesh hand will make it obvious he’s trembling with anxiety. He shuffles himself a bit closer to Steve and then turns bodily so that his back is to him. His heart is pounding. Bucky wonders if Steve knows he’s nervous now. 

“I’ll be careful, Buck.” Steve murmurs out and then reaches out slowly to run the brush through his hair. 

Bucky is holding his breath, trying not to pull away even though his brain is screaming at him to run. 

He suddenly remembers something, though. 

He had a dream last night. A memory. Him and Steve. Was it Steve? A smaller version of him… small and blonde. Petite. Frail. Them, together, laying down in a small bed. They were shivering from the cold - wrapped in blankets and thick, fleece pajamas. Steve’s arms wrapped around his waist, his head against his chest. He had a high-pitched laugh in comparison to his deeper voice. Bucky doesn’t remember why Steve was laughing. Bucky doesn’t even know what he was remembering. 

He’s pulled from his mind when he feels Steve tug on a knot. 

“Sorry, sorry,” Steve hisses out as he catches the brush and lets go of the knot before he tangles the bristles up in it. “Your hair got so long, Buck.” 

Bucky shrugs to himself. 

“Do you like it long?” 

“I don’t know.” Bucky answers, nose crinkling at the question. 

Steve doesn’t say anything else. 

A few minutes pass and Bucky finally feels himself settling down. Nothing bad has happened yet - Steve is just brushing through what he can, trying to pick apart the strands that are knotted together. Sometimes, he puts down the brush and uses his fingers instead. He’s careful. Slow. Gentle. So gentle. 

Bucky feels an odd tension in his stomach that he can’t explain. His face is warm. And every time Steve’s fingers drag along his scalp or touch at the back of his neck, gingerly caressing the skin there, his face grows even warmer. 

They spend forty minutes like this - Steve eventually getting out nearly all of the knots. Bucky knows it was really bad - he’s sure he would’ve had to of shaved his head if he didn’t have someone to assist him. 

And now… now… Steve is just brushing his hair leisurely - like this is something they just do

Bucky isn’t telling him to stop and Steve isn’t asking him if he should. 

“You know I love you, right, Buck?” Steve breaks the silence now, voice barely above a murmur. He’s brushing from the root of Bucky’s hair, all the way to the ends. It feels better than Bucky would like to admit. 

“I don’t know.” Is all Bucky can muster up, leaning back just enough so that Steve can take the hair from his front and pull it back and away from his face. 

“Well, I do. You’re my best friend and I’m really happy you’re back in my life.” Steve sighs out, finally setting down the brush on the coffee table. 

Bucky looks down as he does so and cringes at the sight of the small knots of his hair balled up on the table. 

“When I lost you... all those years ago... I lost myself, Buck. I lost my best friend and I didn’t know what to do with myself.” Steve adds on, unprompted. It makes Bucky feel anxious. He doesn’t stop. “Life didn’t feel worth living.” He admits and Bucky can’t help but suck in a breath. 

He doesn’t say anything - part of him wishes Steve wouldn’t either. But he hears him clear his throat and he knows it’s not finished. 

“It’s like a second chance.” 

Bucky nods stiffly. 

“I think your hair is officially knot-free.” He changes the subject now - snapping the sudden tension and allowing it to dissipate, much to Bucky’s relief. 

“Is it?” 

Steve runs a hand through the back of his hair to prove how effortlessly he can rake through it with his fingers. He hesitates at the back of Bucky’s neck, fingers grazing their warmth against his skin before they reluctantly fall away. 

“Okay.” Bucky answers. He awkwardly forces himself to shift away and stand up. When he turns, he makes eye contact with Steve. 

“All better.” He smiles all warm and syrupy. Why does he always smile - why? 

“Thanks.” Bucky mutters before he shuffles past Steve’s knees and makes his escape for the staircase. He swears he sees that stupid smile wipe right off his face - as if Bucky takes it with him. 

He ignores it. 

 

— Wednesday —

 

Bucky has another dream. Much more vivid than the last one. 

He’s with the same person again - tiny and delicate - younger than his first dream. Way younger. His collarbones are sharp and his waist is narrow. They’re at an amusement park. Coney Island? Is that where they are? 

‘Let’s ride the Cyclone.’ 

The kid looks terrified. ‘Don’t really wanna, Buck.’ It’s Steve. It has to be Steve. 

He’s laughing. Pulls Steve into his arms and hugs him into his side. ‘C’mon, promise. You’ll love it! Plus, you’re finally tall enough so we gotta celebrate!’

He pulls Steve into the queue line despite his protests and practically drags the younger boy onto the ride. 

It’s fun - he’s having fun. He’s laughing. He hears Steve begging to get off. He’s reaching out to grab at his thigh, squeezing it and telling him he’s gonna be alright in between hills and turns.  

The coaster comes back into the station and Bucky’s got tears in his eyes from his laughter. When he looks over at Steve, he’s paler than a ghost and trembling. 

‘I ain’t feelin’ too good, Buck.’ Steve is saying now and suddenly they’re walking off the line when Steve bolts for the nearest trash can. 

Next thing he knows, Steve’s vomiting into it and now Bucky is running up behind him. He’s still laughing, rubbing small circles into Steve’s back until he finishes and pulls away. 

‘Jerk. Can’t believe ya forced me on that! I coulda died!’ 

‘But ya didn’t, did ya?’ 

Steve narrows his eyes and spits. 

‘I love ya, kid. I’m sorry.’

‘Love you, too.’ 

The dream ends. Bucky’s eyes are wet with tears he can’t explain.

The day starts off much like any other day for Bucky, however, he remembers that there’s a therapist coming and he’s the central topic. He knows he has to participate. He knows. 

He gets himself out of his bed and takes a shower, tiptoeing through his room like he always does. When he brushes his hair this time, it’s smooth and without knots. He feels a shred of normalcy for once. 

After he’s finished admiring his hair, Bucky dresses himself in one of the various shirts and sweatpants Steve’s gotten him. So far, everything has fit fine. He doesn’t quite know why Steve’s being so nice - he doesn’t remember if that’s normal or not. He shrugs it off. 

He lingers in his bedroom for as long as he can. He can already smell the faint scent of breakfast that he knows Steve’s made him. For some reason, however, his stomach is the one that’s now in knots (ironic, ain’t it) and he’s not hungry. He opens his door and steps out into the hallway before pausing and turning on his heel to head back into his bedroom. Bad idea. He feels wobbly, like a baby deer learning how to walk. 

Ever since the bridge… he hasn’t been the same. He’s never had any issues. No emotions. No feelings. Nothing. For the last 50 years, he’s operated like a machine - kill, rinse, repeat. And now he’s nervous over talking to some therapist and feels like he may actually throw up like the kid in his dream. 

He sits on the edge of the bed, clutching at the sheets beneath him. 

Why is the room spinning? 

Why isn’t he breathing? 

Is he panicking? 

Holy shit, he’s panicking.

“Bucky.” He hears Steve’s voice - muted and far away sounding. And then Steve’s in front of him, waving a hand up to his face. It’s blurry. 

He doesn’t know when Steve walked in. 

When did Steve come upstairs? 

“Breathe, Buck. In and out, nice and slow.” 

He hears the words but they aren’t processing. 

“You need to breathe. C’mon, you got this. Come back, Buck. Focus.” 

He tries to follow along, letting Steve take his hands and cradle them in his own while he tries to regain his composure. 

Minutes pass. 

He settles. 

Steve is still holding his hands. “You’re okay. I came upstairs to tell you the therapist is here. I saw your door was open - I didn’t mean to intrude-“ 

“It’s okay.” Bucky says quietly, glazed over but conscious. He gently pulls his hands away from Steve’s. “I thought I saw something.” He lies, catching his inner cheek between his molars and gnawing at it. 

Steve’s concern remains eminent but he doesn’t push. Instead, he stands when Bucky does and follows behind him downstairs. 

Together, they come face to face with a young brunette woman. She looks elated to see them. 

Bucky stands aside awkwardly now as Steve moves passed to gesture towards the woman. “This is Doctor Cruz.” He announces to Bucky. 

Bucky’s eyes dart between Steve and the woman. 

“Please, you can both call me Lillian. It is wonderful to meet you, James.” She says with a grin and reaches out to shake Bucky’s hand. 

He doesn’t reciprocate. Instead, he furrows his brows. “It’s Bucky.” He tells her and then shoulder-checks Steve as he makes his way to the kitchen. He leans up against the island, eyeing the plate of food he knows is for him. 

“Oh, of course - Bucky. My apologies.” She says from behind while Steve murmurs some apologies to her about Bucky’s behavior. Like he’s some misbehaving child. 

“Buck. Doctor Cruz - I mean - Lillian… just wants to talk to you for a bit, alright, pal? Is that alright?” Steve sighs out and he can already hear the ache in his voice. Steve is so expecting of him and he doesn’t know why. 

He shrugs. 

“Is it okay if I take a seat at the table? You can stay right there if you’d like.” Lillian says, waiting for Bucky to acknowledge her before she begins to carry herself and her suitcase over to the kitchen table. 

Bucky watches from his peripherals as she unpacks a binder full of documents, a portable electronic device, a notebook, and some pens. He isn’t able to quite make out what’s in the documents but he knows they’re about him. Knows his portrait is attached to a small clip on the corner of a piece of paper. 

Lillian smooths out her dress suit and then sifts through her papers before stopping on the one she wants to reference. She clears her throat and then gives Bucky a smile. “So, today I want to talk to you about your memories and what you actually recall from the last fifty or so years. I want to understand what you remember so that we can process those emotions together.” 

Bucky’s lips thin out. He doesn’t want to do this. 

Steve is standing still. “Should I leave you two alone?” He asks and Lillian gives him a nod. 

Bucky doesn’t ask him to stay, even if he’s thinking about it. He watches as Steve exits for the back door. It’s just Lillian and him now. 

“I know HYDRA made you do a lot of things, Bucky. I know. I want to try and help you overcome that trauma.” She says softly, before pausing. “Can you tell me what exactly you remember from your time under them?” 

Bucky scoffs. He doesn’t speak. 

“Do you remember your former life?” 

Bucky looks down at the plate, keeping his expression as blank as he can. It doesn’t matter if he has answers to her questions. He doesn’t want to speak to her. 

Lillian sighs out, flipping through more pages and then opening her notebook to jot down a few sentences. Surely, she’s going to rat him out to Belle. 

“How do you feel about being here?” She tries again. 

Nothing. Silence. 

“Bucky… I’m here for one whole hour. That’s a lot of ignoring to do.” Lillian’s voice is kind. Too kind. “But if you don’t want to talk, I won’t force you. I just want you to know that everything we talk about is between us. It’s confidential. You have my promise.”

Bucky is completely prepared to stand and stare at the wall for the next hour. Confidential or not. 

“Can we talk about your last mission? That’s the only mission you ever failed, right? You were supposed to assassinate Steve Rogers. What happened on the bridge, Bucky? Do you remember that?” 

She strikes a chord with that one. Bucky immediately looks up at her and shakes his head. “I couldn’t do it.” He finally blurts out. 

Lillian looks surprised but then quickly recovers. “You couldn’t do what?” She asks as if she doesn’t already know exactly what Bucky is going to say. Is that how all therapists are? Do they always clarify things to death?

“I couldn’t kill Steve Rogers.” 

She purses her lips and presses him further. “Why couldn’t you?” 

He remembers Pierce slapping him hard across the face for not complying - knows he shouldn’t say it because he doesn’t want to be punished again for it. Wiped. “You aren’t going to hit me? Or wipe my memory again?” 

Lillian looks concerned. “Hit you? Wipe your memory? No, absolutely not, Bucky. You’re safe here.” 

For a moment, he reverts back into that same, scared person again - the Asset - restrained to the chair and begging for answers while he’s electrocuted over and over. His jaw feels tight, as if he’s clamping his teeth around the mouthguard. 

“Bucky, we can skip that-“ Lillian begins to say as she notices the change in his demeanor. 

But, it’s too late now. Bucky swallows hard, taking the bait. “Because I knew him.”

Chapter Text

— Bucky —

 

Bucky knows he shouldn’t have said anything. Knows he should have just stayed silent. 

He doesn’t know Steve. If he keeps saying it to himself, maybe it’ll eventually be true. It’s not - but he wants to pretend. Doesn’t want to accept this. 

He’s agitated - uncomfortable. Nervous. God, why is he sweating? Why is this a big deal? 

It matters to Pierce. To Rumlow. He’s not supposed to know Steve. Bad things happen when he admits he knows Steve. He knows better. 

“You knew him?” Lillian asks him quietly, trying not to press further. She knows she’s went beyond his comfort zone already given his responses - but now she has to follow up. 

Bucky betrays himself and nods, wordless. His mouth feels incessantly dry now - he licks his lips. 

“Who is he?” She tries, eyes narrowing a bit as she moves to write something down. Bucky isn’t paying her too much attention, but he assumes she’s writing about him. 

“Steve Rogers… is… someone from my past.” Bucky says awkwardly as he regains himself, fumbling on the exact words he wants to say. His thoughts are jumbled. He doesn’t know enough. He’s also being cautious; afraid to say too much. 

Lillian gives him a small smile, as if trying to coerce more information from him but not wanting to prod at him for it. It’s an invitation. Bucky knows this. 

“He… and I… grew up together. I don’t remember much but I know he’s the person that I dream about sometimes…” Bucky doesn’t know why he’s telling her all of this. He doesn’t trust her. Doesn’t want to end up being wiped again.

Doesn’t trust Steve, either. Never. No. 

He trusts no one. He can’t be sure of anyone. Not even himself. 

And yet… he wants to tell her because he needs those words to be spoken. He wants them acknowledged. He wants someone other than himself or Steve to confirm this was real. “Did we?” He questions now, lifting metal fingers to his hair in order to push it back and away from his face. He momentarily catches a few strands in between his knuckles and groans as he attempts to free himself. 

“Did you?”

“Did we actually know each other? Is that real?”

Lillian offers him a nod. “Yes. You two were a big part of history. You’re in museums. History books. Have you read any?” 

Bucky furrows his brows. “I haven’t. But… I saw the Smithsonian exhibit. I saw a version of myself in the photos.” 

“And what do you see in your dreams?” Lillian shifts the conversation now, leaning forward in the chair so that she can engage him more. 

Bucky sighs. Breathes in and out. This is okay. He can talk about this. 

“Bucky?”

“I see… us. Together. Steve is smaller, though. Younger. I've only had a few dreams. We...” He pauses because he doesn’t feel like explaining to her that he’s dreamt of them sleeping together. Doesn’t feel like explaining why he can’t stop thinking about that. He lifts a flesh hand up, now anxiously nibbling on his thumbnail. “We looked happy.” He concludes. 

Lillian smiles at that. 

Bucky focuses on the plate of food. 

“I just don’t know… what went wrong…or… how I got to this point...” Bucky says quietly now, a look of hurt overtaking his features. It’s overwhelming to think about. He doesn’t know how he got here. How he lived all these years. How Steve is also alive. What happened to them? 

“You don’t know?” 

“I don’t know.” Bucky answers immediately. 

“Did anyone ever tell you?” 

Bucky looks up at her finally, thumb still pressed to his lips. “No.” It’s muffled. 

“Do you know who Brock Rumlow is?” Lillian asks suddenly and immediately, Bucky feels a knot form in his stomach. 

He blanks out. 

“Do you know who Alexander Pierce is?” 

Bucky feels like the room is spinning again - just like it was upstairs. He doesn’t want to do this anymore. “I want to stop.” He murmurs out, shaking his head and leaning away from the island’s countertop now. 

“Bucky, we should really-“

“No. I’m done.” It’s hard to breathe. His vision is blotchy. He’s losing his fucking mind. 

“Bucky-“

 

— Steve —

 

Steve wastes no time in giving Bucky and Lillian the privacy they deserve. He’s not going to be nosy and linger around the top of the stairs in attempts to hear their conversation. No. He respects Bucky too much. 

He goes right to his bedroom and closes the door. His enhanced hearing wants him to eavesdrop so badly but he ignores all the muffled voices and instead goes over to his bedside dresser. Steve sighs as he opens it, shuffling aside the various pairs of underwear and socks that he’s put there to reveal both his lensatic compass from the war and the remote for Bucky’s anklet. He immediately covers the remote up with a sock and then grabs the compass and closes the drawer. 

Steve then backs up a few steps and plops himself down on the edge of his bed, cradling the compass in his lap. He’s slowly rubbing the pad of his thumb along the cool metal, circling it. 

A moment passes in silence. 

He delicately opens it now, revealing the photo of Bucky that’s nestled away inside of it; something Bucky never knew existed. He’s smiling in the photo - eyes crinkled at the corners and wide with joy. Steve doesn’t actually quite remember where the photo is from, just that he cut it out from a photo album he kept right before he left for the war. He can still remember all the times he’d look at it - on the battlefield, before bed… whenever he needed some renewed hope and purpose. He doesn’t think he could ever tell Bucky about it, especially not now. It’s embarrassing - he thinks. Bucky wouldn’t understand. 

He closes the compass tentatively and then brings it up to his mouth, letting the metal graze against his lips - ghosting there while he lets his eyes flutter shut. He sighs. 

Suddenly, there’s a loud crash followed by the sound of something - glass - shattering. He hears every shard.

“I said stop!” Rings out through the house, strained and desperate. 

Bucky. 

Steve’s eyes instantly go wide, adrenaline kicking in and telling Steve he needs to get down there now. 

He shoots up from the bed, setting down the compass behind him and taking a moment to contemplate his actions. For a second, he considers the remote… he feels guilty almost immediately. Drops the idea quicker than it surfaces. Absolutely not. 

He runs across the room and opts for his shield instead. Just in case. And then bolts out of the room and down the stairs. 

“What’s going on?” He yells out from the steps as he doubles down them. He rounds the corner, shield grasped tightly in his hand, and then stops at the kitchen. He’s half expecting to see someone has broken in, but the sight he sees instead causes an all too familiar ache in his chest. 

Bucky is on the floor in front of the fridge, back pressed up against the steel doors, face buried in his knees. 

Lillian is in front of the table, pale-faced and concerned, yet composed. She makes eye contact with Steve, her face riddled with worry. 

Steve glances around the room, finally finding the source of the crash. The plate that had Bucky’s breakfast on it is smashed across the kitchen floor, completely obliterated into a million tiny pieces. The food is everywhere, too. 

“Bucky?” Steve calls out, now setting down his shield on the island and rushing over to help. 

Bucky doesn’t answer; he’s completely shutdown it seems. Of course. Steve isn’t surprised at that.

“We… we hit a topic that he didn’t handle well and I didn’t read it right. Everything happened so fast. He panicked. The plate - I’m sorry-“ Lillian is speaking a mile a minute. 

Steve ignores her - all the focus is on is Bucky. He crouches down in front of the other man, keeping his hands on his knees so that he doesn’t immediately reach out and touch him. “Hey…” he starts off, voice soft, “Buck. It’s Steve. You’re okay. You’re safe.” He cooes, frowning when Bucky doesn’t even so much as nod or show signs of acknowledgement.

“I should have moved on. I should have stopped when he asked me to.” Lillian says quietly from behind, the sounds of her feet padding on the floor signal to Steve that she’s stepping closer. 

“Stay back.” He says calmly, craning his neck to glance back at her. He has no clue what Bucky will do - if he’s capable of hurting her. Would he? He can’t risk it. 

Lillian listens. Steve hears her swallow the rock in her throat and back away slowly. 

“Bucky… It’s me. It’s Steve. You’re okay, pal.” Steve tries again now as he refocuses his attention to Bucky. He leans in closer and then moves to reach out and touch Bucky’s shoulder. 

It’s the wrong move. 

Everything happens so quickly. 

Immediately, Bucky flings his metal arm out - wide and in front of himself in an act of protection. The metal elbow collides with Steve’s face, sending him backwards from the sheer force of it. Steve’s skull bounces off the floor and moments later, blood is pouring from his nostrils. It’s everywhere. He scrambles to sit up, touching at his nose and wincing. It’s broken. Holy hell - it is beyond broken. He feels around the bridge of it and clamps his jaw at how painful everything suddenly is. 

Steve can't help but let out a groan as he spits some of the blood that’s now dribbling down and pooling at the back of his throat. 

Bucky’s head shoots up in shock, making eye contact with Steve and gasping. He looks stricken with fear. Stunned. Like he can’t believe what he’s just done. “I didn’t-” He begins to say before silencing himself and clambering to his feet. He runs off, unbalanced and ducking down, as if he’s being shot at from above. He nearly trips as he runs for the stairs, getting to them and clutching at the railing for support as he climbs the steps. 

“Bucky! Wait!” Steve calls out as he raises his arm to wipe the blood, a trail of bright, viscous red smearing across his forearm in the process. It’s too late. Bucky’s already upstairs and seconds later, Steve hears the slam of the bedroom door. It feels like they’ve taken ten steps backwards after the small amount of progress Steve could’ve sworn they were making. “Shit.” He mutters. 

“Captain Rogers…” Lillian says from behind now, quiet. “Are you okay? Should I call for help?” She asks as she allows herself to step towards Steve again, reaching out in attempts to help. “You’re bleeding a lot.”

Steve waves her off, however, and shakes his head rather desperately. “No - no, I don’t need help. I’m okay - it’ll heal quick. I’ll be fine by tomorrow. You can’t tell anyone this happened.” As he says the last words, he lifts his head to make eye contact. 

Lillian bites her lip. “But, Belle-“ 

“You cannot tell Belle!” Steve interrupts the moment the name leaves her mouth. He doesn’t even realize he’s yelled until Lillian seemingly shrinks away. He forces himself to quiet down, apologetically running his fingers through his hair and sighing. “You can’t say anything to him. He will have armed officers after Bucky - I can’t let that happen. I won’t.” 

She looks down. 

“If he sends officers here, they aren’t coming to talk, Lillian.” 

“I-“ 

“If you tell him, and they come, they’ll have to kill me before they get to Bucky, ma’am. I don’t want to hurt people - but I will. I will if it means protecting him. You don’t want that.” Steve keeps his tone as even as possible. He’s threatening her but it’s disguised as advice. He knows it and she knows it. 

She’s left speechless for a moment, now looking around at the kitchen and then stepping away to gather her things on the table.

Steve doesn’t move from his place as he watches her, occasionally sniffling as more blood threatens to pool out from each nostril. Bucky hit him hard. He’s more impressed than upset at this point. 

“I won’t say anything, Captain. You have my word.” Lillian finally decides and Steve feels the immediate tension lift from the room. She stacks her papers and shoves them into her bag and then lifts it up into her arms. “Same time next week?” She suddenly asks, as if nothing has happened. She smooths her dress of any creases and begins to walk towards the front door so that she can slip her heels back on.

“Yes.” Steve says - everything tastes like metal now. He opens the door for her.

“I know I shouldn’t say this…” Lillian begins as she stands in the doorway. 

“Say what?” Steve asks, brows furrowed. 

“He remembers you.” 

Steve feels his mouth slack open, lips parted to say something but Lillian is out the door and down the stairs immediately after her confession. He stands there and watches her walk to her car, silenced and confused. 

Steve closes the door and takes a moment to glance around. There’s small shards of glass spanning all the way over into the living room - he already knows it’s going to take him forever to clean up. 

With Lillian’s words in mind, he tries his best to clean things up, including his face and all the blood he’s dripped around from the kitchen to the front door. It takes him forever, especially considering he keeps getting caught up inside his own mind. All he can think about now, of course, is Bucky apparently remembering who he is but not saying anything. 

Does Bucky remember everything? Does he only remember the last few weeks? Does he remember their childhood? Their time together in the war? 

There’s more questions than answers and it’s enough to make Steve’s head spin. He tries to let it go; tries to forget. 

But then he has one thought. 

Does Bucky remember falling from the train? 

Does Bucky know it’s Steve’s fault? 

Steve only stops thinking about it finally when his nose starts bleeding again. He carries his shield upstairs to put it back where it belongs. 

Dinner time comes and goes. Steve hangs out in the living room for as long as he can manage without falling asleep - all in hopes of seeing Bucky come downstairs to eat. He hasn’t moved from his bedroom since the incident in the afternoon. Steve feels awful about it; he almost wants to go upstairs and apologize for it as if it’s all his fault. He wishes he didn’t lean in so close. Wishes he didn’t reach out and touch him. 

He regrets it. So much. 

The cable box reads 23:58. He feels like he’s going to melt into the couch if he doesn’t peel himself off it to head into bed. The television has been playing random movies all evening - none of which Steve has ever seen before. 

He forces himself to sit up. “House, please turn off the TV.” He says - still awkwardly as ever about it - but the house complies and soon after, the TV shuts off. 

Steve goes over to the kitchen and wraps up the vegetables and pork chops he’s made for Bucky and puts them away on the middle shelf inside the fridge. Maybe he’ll eat tomorrow. 

He hopes. 

Steve heads upstairs now and takes a quiet detour in the direction of Bucky's bedroom, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. He leans in just enough to press his ear to the door in attempts to check up on him without actually making his presence known. 

He doesn’t hear anything. Just breathing. It’s soft and subtle. He must be asleep. 

Steve steps away and heads in the opposite direction so that he can try and do the same. 

When he gets to his room, he quickly takes a shower, towels off, brushes his teeth, and then contemplates shaving. He decides not to for once - only because he sort of likes how his facial hair has started growing in. He didn’t even know he could grow a beard. Steve before the serum didn’t stand a chance, even if he tried.

His nose even looks better now that he’s examining it again. The bruising under his eyes has already begun fading substantially. By morning, it’ll be like it never even happened. He won’t even have to tell Bucky he broke it. He smiles, albeit faintly, at his reflection and then shuts off the light as he leaves the bathroom. 

It’s pitch black in the room as he throws aside the towel and walks over to his dresser to find a pair of briefs. He puts on the first pair he touches and then gasps as he nearly goes to sit down on his compass. He picks it up in the dark, relieved, and presses a faint kiss to the exterior of it before he sets it down inside of the dresser. 

“‘Til the end of the line,” he breathes out to himself as he climbs into bed finally. The mattress engulfs him the moment he lays back, his body sinking right into the lush, thick sheets. It takes him no time at all to fall asleep.

It’s a few hours into the night when Steve’s woken up to the quiet padding of barefeet in the hallway. He knows without a doubt that it’s Bucky. He remains still as he continues listening - noticing the pattern between each step he takes. He’s pacing, obviously. Going in a small circle. 

A minute passes. 

Steve begins to drift off again, eyes drooping nearly closed once more when suddenly, his door handle jiggles and the entire door creaks as it’s pressed delicately open. His breath hitches. 

Bucky lets out a soft breath of his own - as if in relief. He’s tiptoeing. Coming closer. He stops. 

Steve’s heart is hammering in his chest now. He has no clue what Bucky is planning on doing. He decides to remain still, to pretend he’s still asleep. He keeps his eyes squinted as he looks into a dark corner while Bucky walks towards the bed. 

Bucky pauses right in front of the bed. It’s hard to see what he’s doing at this angle but Steve thinks he can sort of see that Bucky has got his arms wrapped tightly around himself. He appears hunched up. Is he just staring at Steve? 

Steve clamps his eyes shut. Shit. Is Bucky going to kill him? Suffocate him with a pillow? Choke him with his metal hand? 

Steve has no idea of what to do.

He’d honestly, probably, just let him. As horrible as that sounds. 

But then, surprisingly, Bucky tiptoes over to the empty side of Steve’s bed and then very carefully lifts the sheets and slides his body in. 

Steve has to hold back a gasp. 

The mattress sinks in as his weight presses down on it, Steve’s own body feeling the pull but not daring to move towards it. Bucky shifts around - Steve can’t see him but he feels the bed move and hears it creak as he turns onto his side. 

He then moves forward. Inch by inch. 

Steve’s heart is going to explode. 

He feels Bucky’s metal arm reach out and touch him - the coolness sends a shiver down Steve’s spine that he tries to desperately contain. The arm snakes around his waist, icy cold and yet just as satisfying as Steve could ever imagine. 

His mind is completely blank. He has no clue what is happening and he’s afraid to ruin the moment by accidentally alerting to Bucky that he’s awake. He feels like he’s playing dead. 

“Stevie.” Bucky mutters - quiet and barely audible. 

It’s enough to cause Steve’s eyes to prick with tears. He doesn’t answer. Doesn’t dare. 

Bucky’s metal hand cups loosely along his stomach, holding him while he presses his body fully against Steve’s back. He’s completely curled against Steve, his face against Steve’s upper back. He has a shirt and underwear on - no pants. Steve doesn’t care. 

Steve is fighting the tears now. Wants to break down into a full-on sob because he doesn’t understand why this happening. Because this reminds him of everything he lost. Everything he had. 

He swallows hard. 

Bucky is just holding him. That’s it. Nothing else. 

Steve feels the scruffiness of Bucky’s beard flush against his back and feels the long hair tickling along his arm. He could never imagine Bucky - his Bucky - with long hair or a beard. But he doesn’t care either way. 

He can feel all of him. From the warmth of his skin and the iciness of his arm, to the soft hairs on his legs that are curled up behind Steve’s knees like a puzzle fitting together. The anklet is just barely noticeable. Steve even swears he can feel those long, delicate eyelashes as his eyes flutter open and shut. 

God. He wants to say something. Wants to turn around and hold him back. 

But then he remembers this afternoon and what happened the last time he touched Bucky. 

He doesn’t want to ruin this. Not at all. So, instead, he remains still with Bucky holding him close, like his life depends on it. 

Bucky shifts again and nuzzles his face - all crinkled nose and full, soft lips - against the flesh of Steve’s back. He almost thinks he feels a wetness on the other’s cheeks but he’s not sure of anything anymore. 

He’s sixteen years old all over again. It’s just Bucky and him and no one else. They have no cares, no worries - nothing. They just have each other. And it’s all Steve could ever want. 

Steve keeps himself under control and fights back the tears. He’s not sure if they’re happy tears or sad, miserable tears. None of his emotions are comprehensible at this point and his chest feels heavy with an ache he can’t ever seem to describe. 

He forces himself to breathe through it - to pretend this isn’t a big deal. Even if his heart is begging him to turn around and say something. 

He wants to tell Bucky he loves him. Wants to at least let him know that. But he can’t. 

Not now. 

He falls asleep eventually, reluctantly. 

Bucky does, too - but much easier. 

When morning comes, Steve wakes up groggy and with heavier lids than usual. He forces them open and lifts his knuckles to rub away the sleep that’s still clinging to his lashes and then cringes as the sunlight floods into his vision. It’s bright and golden and on any other day, Steve would appreciate it, but right now he feels displaced and wants to crawl right back under the sheets to hide away. He just wants to disappear into the bed and sleep off whatever this feeling is. He doesn’t actually remember what time he fell asleep after… Bucky. 

Oh. 

His heart stops as he recalls last night. He realizes the metal arm is no longer touching him - the warmth of the other’s body is gone. Immediately, he scrambles and rolls over in hopes of seeing Bucky’s sleeping figure towards the opposite end of the bed, but instead there’s only a cold pillow and crumpled up sheets. 

Steve reaches a hand out to pull the opposite end of the sheets towards his face, breathing them in as if to prove to himself that Bucky was actually here. They don’t smell like anything other than Steve’s body wash and the faintness of laundry detergent. His expression crumbles.

Steve sits up in his confusion, hair wilder than ever as he looks around the room for literally anything. Any sign. Any. But nothing looks touched - nothing looks different. Even the door is closed now. He remembers Bucky had left it opened.

Suddenly, all the drowsiness is washed away by this fierce pain in his chest that feels like a knife going between his ribs. It feels strangely like rejection for all the reasons that Steve doesn’t fully understand. He’s upset. Let down. Confused. So fucking confused. 

Did he dream the entire thing? Did Bucky not come into his room last night? Did he not say ‘Stevie’ just like he used to?

Why doesn’t he know for sure?

Why can’t Steve tell if last night was real? 

He swears he felt Bucky holding him. Swears he felt the other’s skin. He remembers the warmth - the feel of them molded against each other. 

Steve quickly steps into a pair of flannel pajama pants and leaves his room on a search for Bucky. He doesn’t even bother with a shirt or with fixing his hair - he has to know now. 

It takes him a few minutes, but eventually he finds Bucky downstairs on the porch in the backyard. He’s wearing pants and a hoodie that seems to hide his entire figure. And surprisingly, he’s drinking a glass of water and reading from a book Steve’s not seen before. He assumes Bucky grabbed it off the stocked bookshelf that’s in the living room. 

Steve feels ridiculous as he slides open the glass door and steps outside, rather unannounced and obviously disturbing the peacefulness of the moment. “Buck?” He says softly, hands slipping awkwardly into his pajama pants’ pockets. 

Bucky sets the glass of water down on the patio table, his posture visibly stiffening. 

“Can we talk?” Steve adds on before Bucky can even say something. 

“Talk?” Bucky echoes, voice hushed.

“Yeah, I-“ 

“-I’m sorry about yesterday. I… please don’t tell Belle. Please. I didn’t mean to do that. I’m not… I’m not that person anymore. Please.” Bucky’s suddenly rambling and turns bodily in his chair to look up at Steve, eyes wide and pleading. 

Steve’s even more confused now. “What? Bucky, I wasn’t going to tell Belle anything. I know it wasn’t on purpose.” 

“Your nose looks better?” Bucky states as he notices, though the uncertainty in his tone makes it sound more like a question. 

Steve sighs and nods. “Yeah. No worries. Water under the bridge. I wanted to talk about-“ 

“I don’t want to talk about anything else.” Bucky says defiantly. 

Steve frowns and looks past Bucky - towards the lake as he tries to remain composed. “But last night?” He says quietly, fists balling up the material of his pajamas as his anxiousness kicks in. 

“I don’t know why I did that and you were supposed to be asleep.” 

The admittance feels like a surge of electricity through Steve’s heart. It happened. It really did. He licks his lips. “You remembered it from our past.” 

Bucky makes a noise. “No.” 

God, it’s frustrating. He knows Bucky is lying - knows what Lillian said. Bucky couldn’t of just did that on his own without a reason. “Please, Buck. I’m losing my mind here. You remembered. I know you did.” 

“I don’t know what I remembered.” Bucky answers, all shallow and stiff. He closes the book now and shifts to posture up in the chair he’s sitting in. 

“Don’t you want to remember, Buck? Why do you want to pretend you don’t know anything?” Steve finally snaps, the words coming out harsher than he realizes. “Why are you choosing to pretend I didn’t mean anything to you?” The words crack as he says them. 

Bucky shakes his head. “You have no clue what you’re talking about, Stevie.” He hisses and moves to stand now, trying to push Steve out of the way, only to have the larger man grab him by the shoulders to hold him still. 

Stevie? And you’re gonna tell me you don’t remember me?” Steve says back, gripping tight at Bucky’s hoodie while he tries to shrug out of the hold. 

Bucky looks visibly flustered at that. Probably doesn’t realize he’d even called Steve that until now. His face is tinted red. “I don’t remember you! Get off me!” 

“You’re lying!”

“Stop!” 

“Bucky!” 

“Stevie, stop!”  

Steve lets him go immediately - hands falling away. But instead, Bucky moves to cling to him and holds onto him with the ferocity of a once-lost child clinging to their mother. 

“I’m not supposed to know you! I’m not supposed to!” Bucky yells loudly - practically wailing the words as he buries his face in Steve’s neck and clutches onto him desperately. He’s crying and Steve is frozen in place momentarily, but he quickly pulls himself together and hugs him back tightly and securely and with everything he has. 

“It’s okay, Buck. It’s okay.” Steve murmurs but the words are lost under Bucky’s sudden crying and heavy gasps for air. Steve just holds him tighter. 

“I’m not supposed to remember you! I can’t!” He’s crying harder and now Steve knows he’s crying, too. But this isn’t about him. He doesn’t matter in this. 

“You’re alright, Buck, you’re safe…” He tries to comfort Bucky but his voice is hoarse and trapped in his own throat. 

“I keep dreaming of you and I just want it to stop!” Bucky hits his flesh fist into Steve’s back, hard and angrily. And then he’s clinging with an open palm to the skin there, blunt nails sinking and digging into him. Ripping at him. 

The two of them grasp onto each other with a desperation that Steve hasn’t felt in so long. 

Steve keeps himself tall and broad despite wanting to shrink away, his arms wrapped wide around Bucky in attempts to shield Bucky away from the world. Because he knows this world has done enough damage to James Buchanan Barnes. This world doesn’t deserve him anymore. Never did. Never will. 

Bucky cries for a long, long while.

But Steve never once lets him go.

Chapter Text

Steve doesn’t know how long he spends comforting Bucky. Doesn’t know how long he cries for either, or how long he grips onto Steve like he could slip away at any moment. 

Bucky is so fragile in this state and it doesn’t quite make sense to Steve or seem real. Bucky still reflects power and strength and guidance to Steve - he still feels like Bucky is supposed to be taking care of him. Like it’s still them as teenagers. 

Only now, he’s seeing Bucky unravel and it’s a lot harder to pick up the pieces than Steve realized. He’s never had to be there for Bucky the way Bucky always was for him. Not because he wouldn’t of been… but because Bucky never showed a weak side. He always seemed untouchable. Perfect. Everything Steve could ever hope to be. 

And now… it’s almost like seeing an idol fall from grace.

“You don’t get it!” Bucky says in between gasps, his words practically yelled into the crook of Steve’s throat. Steve’s entire neck is wet - he can feel Bucky’s warm tears as they catch at his collarbone. 

Steve gently peels Bucky away from him at this point - mostly because he’s afraid Bucky’s going to pass out from a lack of oxygen. “What don’t I get, Buck? What?” 

“You’re the reason for all of this!” Bucky’s eyes are wild as he stands on his own now, arms wrapping around himself - clinging to his hoodie. “I don’t know why I’m here! I don’t get why I can suddenly just do what I want when I’ve never been able to do any of that. The last time I admitted I remembered you, I got beat back into submission and had my brain wiped like I was worth absolutely nothing. And you were trying to ask me why I want to pretend I don’t remember you? Why I don’t care about you?”

“-Bucky…”

“No, shut up! All you do is talk!” Bucky snaps now, more tears spilling from his eyes. “I don’t have any other identity other than you! Your Bucky. Your best friend. Who the fuck am I, Steve? Why does every dream involve you? Why can’t I remember anything else? It’s just you and every person I’ve ever killed. It’s like I’ve done nothing fucking else.” 

Steve is absolutely silent, his vision blurring and shaking as he struggles to keep the tears from falling. He knows Bucky is right. He knows it. 

“I’ve got nothing but you and I don’t have a choice.” Bucky adds on, the words practically dripping with venom. 

“I’m sorry, Buck.” Steve whimpers out as he lifts the heel of his palm to his eyes. He swipes away the tears and forces himself to stand there and take it. He’s afraid to swallow because he knows Bucky will hear it. 

Bucky doesn’t answer this time. Steve can see his jaw clenching and releasing over and over while he thinks to himself. 

Time seems to blend together - from one moment to the next. It all just feels like a blur. 

One big, awful blur. 

But then, Bucky steps back into Steve’s space and hugs onto him again - arms slipping around his waist while he buries his face right back into that crook in Steve’s neck that feels like it was designed just for this. 

Steve can barely comprehend what’s going on - why Bucky is holding onto him again. Why Bucky isn’t talking anymore. Why he can’t stop crying...

Eventually, Steve is able to coax Bucky into coming inside. The tears haven’t necessarily stopped, but he’s no longer gasping and sputtering for air. 

He can stand up straight without clinging onto Steve for once and Steve supposes that’s progress, if anything. 

God, Bucky’s face is so red. His eyes are bloodshot. His cheeks are glistening. His lip is trembling. Steve just wants to touch it. He won’t, but he keeps thinking about it. 

All Steve knows is that he’s almost positive his heart has shattered onto the floor and the two of them have stepped all over it on their way back inside the house. 

He feels awful. Like this is, as always, his fault. Maybe he shouldn’t of snapped. Maybe he shouldn’t have said anything at all. 

Everything always has a maybe tacked onto it. 

He really wishes his mind would just shut up. 

“Sarah, right?” Bucky now says quietly to Steve while the two of them stand together in front of the downstairs bathroom sink. It’s sudden. It’s the first thing he’s said in awhile - he doesn’t sound angry. He isn’t yelling. It’s a complete 180. 

Steve’s head snaps up in interest as he shuts off the faucet and rings out a wet, cool towel. “Sarah?” Steve repeats, albeit cautiously. He’s not entirely sure where this is coming from or where it’s going. 

“Your mom, right? Her name was Sarah.” Bucky tries again, sniffling as he accepts the towel Steve’s rung out for him. He brings it to his face and blots gently at his eyes and cheeks. 

Steve’s expression softens. “Yeah. You remember her?” He whispers out, almost stunned into silence. He’s amazed he gets the words out as his eyes lock with Bucky’s through the medicine cabinet’s mirror. 

Bucky takes his lower lip between his teeth. He doesn’t break eye contact, for once. “I had a dream about her. I was… helping her put away groceries. You were…” He trails off. 

Steve picks up where he left off. “...Too sick to help out?” It’s merely a guess. 

But, Bucky nods and wipes again at his face, now obviously struggling to keep his hair away from his eyes. “Really sick. In my dream, you were coughing and wrapped in blankets on the couch. Sarah kept telling me you were gonna make it - cuz she said you always did.” 

“Yeah, that sounds like my ma. She was always so positive.” Steve sighs and reaches a hand out to try and push back some of the strands for Bucky but they immediately fall forward again, dark and thick in front of his eyes. 

“Don’t worry about it.” Bucky responds at the effort but Steve doesn’t take that for an answer. 

“I have an idea. One second.” He says before leaving the bathroom - Bucky glancing back at him in confusion. 

Steve goes right for the kitchen and opens the fridge. It doesn’t take him too long to find what he’s looking for, now taking out a bundle of asparagus and slipping off one of the rubber bands at the top. Steve tests it out to make sure it’ll work and then closes up the fridge and makes his way back into the bathroom. 

He smiles when he sees Bucky. “I got this.” He tells him as he holds up the rubber band. 

Bucky, as expected, doesn’t seem to understand. He doesn’t say anything, however, as Steve comes up behind him once more and dares to take his hair back. Bucky doesn’t fight him on it. 

“This’ll help, I promise.” Steve murmurs as he gathers up all the loose strands and then uses the rubber band to tie Bucky’s hair up into a simple ponytail. 

When he’s finished, he looks up at Bucky through the mirror and once again, the two lock eyes. Steve’s breath hitches in response. “Better?” He asks through his sudden breathlessness.

“Better.” Bucky echoes. 

Steve knows he shouldn’t be staring - but he is. It’s the first time Steve can actually, truly see his face without his hair hiding it away; his blue eyes… the small crinkles at the corners… everything Steve remembers so well. He looks like home. “I’ll make sure to get you some hair ties. The asparagus are gonna want that back.” It’s a bad joke - he knows. 

“Thanks...” Bucky sniffles and turns on his heels so that he’s directly facing Steve now instead of looking at him through the mirror. 

“You’re welcome, Buck.” Steve murmurs back, feeling the heat creeping onto his cheeks and down his neck. He remembers he’s shirtless and he’s almost positive Bucky can see his blush all the way down to his stomach.

“What happened to me?” He finally asks the question Steve has been dreading. 

He decides to play dumb. “What happened to you?” 

“How did I end up this way?” 

Steve fights the urge to look away. He won’t. “Do you remember the train?” 

Bucky’s brows furrow. “No. I only remember waking up on an operating table after they’d taken my arm. I don’t remember how I got there or why. I think they wanted it to stay that way.” 

Steve has a terrible gut feeling about this. About telling Bucky this story now. It’s not a good idea, that’s what he convinces himself. He shrugs. 

“You know what happened, I know you do.” Bucky mumbles as he picks up the cold washcloth once more and blots at his forehead. 

‘Yeah, I let you fall off the train. It’s my fault.’  Is what Steve wants to say - knows he should say. But he can’t. He can’t do it. If he has a chance to change things, maybe he can change this. Spare Bucky the pain. He nods when he decides he’s ready to speak. 

He clears his throat. 

“You and me… we were a part of the Howling Commandos. We were tasked with… taking in Arnim Zola, a scientist working for HYDRA. We infiltrated the train he was on - you, me, the guys… and…” Steve has to look down. “The train crashed with us on it. They - they thought we all died.” 

Steve is the worst person in the world. He knows it. God, he fucking knows it. He can’t go back now. This is final. 

Bucky frowns. “But me and you?” 

“Yeah, Buck. They found me underwater - in the ice in 2011. They found you… immediately after the crash. Your left arm was nearly off. HYDRA found you.” Steve wants to vomit. This is the worst kind of lie and he wants to convince himself it’s because he doesn’t want to hurt Bucky. But… it feels more like it’s about him. 

“Oh.” Bucky lets out a battered sigh. It’s defeated. He sounds exhausted. “I never stood a chance then, did I?” 

Steve cringes. 

“Either bleed out or become HYDRA’s lab experiment. I guess this was supposed to be better. But…” 

“Please don’t.” Steve says, shaking his head. “Please don’t say that.” He feels empty. 

“I think I want to go upstairs. Be alone.” Bucky decides suddenly, lifting his metal hand to smooth back his hair out of habit. It doesn’t budge. 

“Of course, Buck. Whatever you need.” 

Bucky takes his exit from the bathroom and then heads upstairs shortly after. 

Steve counts each step until he’s absolutely certain that Bucky is out of earshot before he closes the bathroom door and slinks himself down against it - his back to the wood grain. He’s crying again. He knows better. Knows he shouldn’t of lied. 

But he did. God damn. 

 

— Saturday —

 

It’s been raining for two days straight. 

Steve convinces himself it’s a punishment for his selfishness. For his decision to try and play God and manipulate Bucky’s past. 

The rain is loud and intrusive and every once in awhile, thunder claps and rattles the entire house. If it weren’t for them being off the grid and relying entirely on solar, Steve imagines the power would’ve already been out for hours. 

Steve has majority of the lights on in whichever room he’s in to try and make it feel less gloomy. It doesn’t entirely work, but at least he’s not sitting in the dark. 

Instead of braving the storm and risking getting struck by lightning while working out next to a lake and lots of trees, Steve does all his exercises inside. He really hopes it doesn’t rain like this tomorrow - he really wants to go for a jog. He needs a break. Needs some clarity. 

But, until then, Steve’s stuck in the house sketching useless drawings of landscapes and random objects until his wrist and fingers ache. He forces himself to not sketch Bucky over and over - mostly because he’s afraid Bucky will walk in and catch him. It’s not a conversation he wants to have. Not now. 

Suddenly, Steve’s phone vibrates on the table. 

Sam

‘Be there soon, big guy. Better be ready to let me in!’ 

Steve takes a moment. 

Shit. 

He entirely forgot he’d confirmed plans for Saturday with Sam the other day. 

Steve thinks it over. He obviously can’t tell Sam he’s not feeling up to it. It’s a ridiculously far ride. He plays along as if he’s remembered the entire time. 

Steve

‘Always ready! Be careful out there! See you soon.’

Damnit. Steve gets up and attempts to clean up now - just so he doesn’t look like he’s entirely forgotten that Sam is coming over. 

Bucky’s once again keeping to himself and avoiding interaction with Steve as much as possible, so there’s no sense in warning Bucky about Sam. He’s been spending most of his time upstairs and usually comes down to eat at least twice in the day. He probably won’t come down today until it’s much later given that he’s already come down to sneak his lunch. Steve mostly has his routine down like clockwork. He may be mysterious, but he is a creature of habit lately. 

Steve is still making his meals for him - he doesn’t mind. It’s the least he can do for Bucky. And if it in any shape or form helps to solidify some trust within Bucky that Steve obviously isn’t trying to poison him… well then it’s worth it. 

By the time Steve has finished putting away his pencils and his drawing pad and has moved onto cleaning the kitchen and the living room, the doorbell goes off. It’s the first time Steve’s actually heard it and he’s sure Bucky probably did from upstairs as well. He rushes over to the door, now smoothing back his hair, and then pulls it open just enough to let Sam in and not the rain. 

Immediately upon seeing Steve, Sam’s face lights up into a huge smile that warms Steve’s chest. Sam instantly steps into the house and pulls Steve right into his arms for a massive hug. 

Despite Sam being soaked from the rain, Steve doesn’t care at all and hugs him back as tight as he can. It feels good. He needs it. 

“Look at ya! Growing a beard? This is crazy!” Sam laughs loudly and cheerfully as he rubs a hand playfully against the scruff along Steve’s cheek. He’s the epitome of happiness and his presence seems to light up the room even more than the lights along the ceiling. The gloomy weather stands no chance. 

“I know, I know!” Steve is laughing now, too - it’s contagious. As the two break away from their hug, Steve closes and locks the door and then helps Sam set down his umbrella while he unties his shoes. 

“How are you, man? What’s going on?” Sam smiles once he’s put his shoes against the wall, now taking a few steps inside to look around. He looks amazed. “The place is beautiful - the government really hooked you up. You need another roomie?” He smirks and nudges Steve’s ribs playfully. 

Steve snickers. “You know, if my current roommate maybe was more social, I’d take you up on that offer. But… I think he’d never leave his room again if he saw you, to be honest.” 

Sam quirks a brow up. “Can’t tell if you’re calling me ugly or implying I’m just scary enough to keep Buckster locked away in fear.” 

“Both.” Steve chuckles and shoots Sam a look as he leads them towards the living room. “Can I get you something to eat? Something to drink? We have so much food.” 

“No thanks, man-“ 

“How are you? What have you been up to?” Steve follows up immediately. Mostly because he wants to stall on talking about his own problems. Doesn’t want to make it about him. “Do you need a change of clothes? I know the rain is pretty bad.” 

Sam snorts. “Geez, you’re running a mile a minute - relax! I’m okay, Steve. I’ll dry off. And… I’m good, I’m good. I’ve been worrying about you and dodging social calls from Fury.” 

Steve makes a face when Sam mentions Fury, now picking up a blanket and throwing it onto himself before he collapses onto the couch. “What’s he want?”

“Wants to know where you are, Cap. He knows you left the hospital and I think he was expecting a phone call. Natasha reached out to me, too.” Sam sighs as he plops himself down beside Steve. He looks good - happy. Steve’s glad. 

“Did she? You can give her my number. Fury, though, I don’t know. I’m not available, I’ve got my hands full.” Steve shakes his head while his hand plays with one of the ends of the blanket. 

Sam gives a nod - as if he understands. But then he tilts his head and turns himself inwards, to be facing Steve head-on. “So… are you going to just sit there and not tell me what’s been going on?” 

Steve lets out a groan.

“Seriously! Tell me, what’s up?” 

“I’m doing okay! As good as I can, I guess. It’s lonely. I know I really didn’t have much to begin with, but knowing there’s someone in the house with me that doesn’t want to talk to me… sort of makes me feel even lonelier.” 

Sam sighs. “How’s he doing then? Not good?”

“He’s… recovering. It’s hard. I can’t imagine what he’s going through. We had a bit of a moment the other day - a bit of yelling… but…” 

“A bit of yelling?” Sam asks, offering a look of concern as he reaches out to squeeze gently at Steve’s knee through the blanket.

Steve bites his lip and glances back towards the stairs. He’s worried Bucky is going to hear everything and he definitely doesn’t want him thinking Sam’s just here to talk about him. He sighs. “House, please turn on the TV.” He calls out and waits until the house complies, the television now filling the space. 

“21st century Steve over here.” Sam teases, breaking some of the tension. 

“I just don’t want Bucky to hear. You know?” Steve huffs as he leans back into the couch to try and make himself more comfortable. “Bucky is worth everything to me. I’d do anything to help him. And I know if he heard things, he may get the wrong idea.”

“But you said there was yelling the other day?” Sam interjects as he tries to ring in the conversation. Steve’s thankful because he knows he’ll just keep gushing over Bucky if he’s not prompted to stop. 

Steve looks down at his hands. “Yeah. The last few days weren’t exactly all that good. Bucky accidentally broke my nose because the therapist gave him a panic attack. He completely shutdown and I tried to step in…” 

Sam looks puzzled but doesn’t speak. 

“I deserved it, honestly.” Steve sighs, waving it off. “But then, Bucky was avoiding me after it. I felt pretty awful considering my nose was healed by the end of the day and I don’t think he remembers the serum and how it works - so Bucky thought he really hurt me.” Steve knows he’s getting to that point in the story and he pauses briefly. Does he really want to tell Sam this? 

Can he trust Sam? 

Is it actually a big deal? 

He knows it was back in the 30’s - knows he couldn’t tell anyone back then. Even if it never was anything. It was innocent. 

This was innocent, too, Steve convinces himself. 

Steve thinks it over and tries his best to ignore the drumming pulse in his ears. He’s nervous. 

“Poor guy.” Sam adds on when he notices the silence. Steve’s so thankful for him - he always knows what to do. 

“Yeah…” Steve begins, hands now coming to his pants and gripping at the fabric covering his thighs out of anxiety - it’s under the blanket so Sam can’t see. “Look, Sam… Bucky and I used to be really close. We slept together a lot growing up. We even shared a bed before the war because it would get so cold at night-“ 

“-You don’t need to explain anything, Steve. I’m listening - not judging.” Sam says simply. 

Steve smiles, relieved. “Right, right. Well. I think Bucky remembered that… because that same night, he came into my room and he crawled into my bed. He didn’t do anything. I was too afraid to say something, so I pretended I was asleep. He just slept. It was like we used to do… but the next morning, he was gone.” 

“Gone?”

“You know, like, he left before I woke up so I wouldn’t know. But I already did know. So I decided to go and find him and ask him about it. It led to a lot of yelling and crying… I basically got him to admit he remembers me but he doesn’t want to. It’s a lot to handle.” Steve groans as he recalls the memory. There’s so many things he wishes he would’ve done differently. Especially… “And then I lied to him.”

Sam frowns. “What?” 

Steve knows everyone has heard this story. He knows it’s written in the museum exhibit and in all those newspapers from that day that people have kept in their collections. It’s history. It’s not just a small lie. Sam will know, too. 

He’s ashamed.

“I lied. I lied about something I really shouldn’t have lied about. I… I told Bucky… the train crashed with both of us on it. Instead of admitting that I couldn’t grab his hand before he fell.” 

Sam closes his eyes - he looks disappointed. He brings a hand up to his face, fingers now pinching at the bridge of his nose. He gives it a moment before he finally speaks. “You picked a real dumb thing to lie about, Rogers.” 

Steve feels his face burning at the scrutiny. “I know.” 

“He’s going to find out.” 

“He doesn’t remember.” 

Sam shakes his head. “He will.” He sounds frustrated. “Why would you lie about that out of everything else?” 

Steve looks away. He can’t even make eye contact. “I just… I didn’t want him to hate me. All of this… everything that has happened to him… it’s my fault. If I didn’t… if…” Steve’s voice cracks. He breathes. “If… I didn’t make him go with me on that mission-“ 

“-Steve. He was a grown man. He made that choice himself. He knew what risks were there when he signed up.” 

Steve shakes his head fervently. “I know. I had a lot of people tell me that. I just… I can’t… I thought I could fix that ending. Make it better.” 

“You can’t rewrite history, Steve.” 

“I know. I made a mistake.” 

Sam must hear it in Steve’s voice - how broken he sounds - because he immediately scoots himself closer and pulls Steve into a sideways hug. Steve doesn’t resist, instead he lets his head bow into Sam’s shoulder and allows himself to be comforted for once. Sam doesn’t persist in his witch-hunt.

They spend the rest of the afternoon together on the couch with the conversation thankfully drifting away from Steve’s mistake. Instead, Sam expertly redirects things into happier territories and mentions to Steve all about the newest movies coming out. Eventually, Sam finds himself tirelessly explaining to Steve the importance of a movie coming out called Star Wars: The Force Awakens and when Steve doesn’t seem to understand, he even begins to explain the original movies, as well. Steve’s dumbfounded. Pop culture is something else entirely. 

Star Wars is important. Steve goes to add it to his list, only to find that he’s already written it down along with Star Trek. He really should actually look into these things instead of just saying he will. He makes a mental note to actually watch one of the movies soon.

The day carries on smoothly and when dinner comes, Steve has no trouble at all convincing Sam to stay. The two of them together decide upon yellow rice and grilled chicken with a mixed bag of steamable vegetables. Sam doesn’t even try to contain his amusement when Steve takes out nearly four pounds of raw chicken breasts. 

“Are you planning on inviting a huge family I don’t know about for dinner?” Sam snickers as he stirs the pot of rice. 

Steve rolls his eyes and laughs. “I will probably eat a pound and a half, and Bucky usually does, too. You eat whatever you want. We like leftovers.” He waves Sam off and then gets to cleaning up the chicken and butterflying the breasts. “The super serum really makes eating into a sport. Bucky has the serum, too - I read it in his file. HYDRA administered it at one point. He doesn't know it, but he eats just as much as me. We’re hungry guys.” 

Sam gives a lopsided grin and then sets down the spoon and covers the pot to let the rice cook. He turns down the heat on the burner and then heads over to the microwave to pop in the vegetables. “That’s really something. What are the odds? You and Bucky grew up together. Fought in the war together. And then, essentially, are both thought to be dead only to find out you both survived the impossible and now are both here. Together. You’ve got way more in common with Bucky than most people could ever hope to have with their own family members. You’re both super soldiers - both men stuck in a different time. It’s incredible.” 

“Sounds poetic when you say it like that.” A third voice says from the other side of the kitchen. It’s Bucky. Without a doubt. 

Both Sam and Steve turn immediately, Steve looking horrified while Sam is smiling and waving. 

“Buck, hey, hungry?” Steve says as he tries to collect himself, hands still deep in the chicken he’s preparing. His heart has its usual Pavlovian response to Bucky’s presence - now practically hammering itself to death against his rib cage. 

“I am, yeah.” Bucky answers as he narrows his eyes on Sam. “I didn’t know we had a guest.”

“Hey, do you remember me? I’m Sam. Sam Wilson. I’m a friend of Steve’s.” Sam offers himself up, his usual smile wide and happier than ever. 

Steve cringes. This could go so bad. He’s expecting the worst - like he always does lately. But instead, Bucky takes the walk over to the kitchen table and sits himself down right at the head of it. He’s never, ever done this before. Steve is stunned. 

“Sure. Guy with the wings. I remember.” Bucky says nonchalantly, “I thought I killed you.” 

Sam makes a face. “No, nope. Just broke a really nice piece of equipment and possibly my spirit.” He shrugs, “are you going to eat with us?” 

Bucky matches his shrug. “Maybe - if it’s any good.” 

Steve’s so confused. He can barely get Bucky to hold a conversation with him outside of the ones he starts first and here Sam is, getting Bucky to answer him. And it’s sarcastic and dry - sure - but it’s an actual response. A real one. It even possibly sounds like the old Bucky. 

“Oh, he’s feisty, Steve.” Sam scoffs, saying his words way louder than necessary, causing a scrunched up expression on Bucky's face. 

“Oh. He’s annoying, Steve. ” Bucky chimes back, response lightning quick. He puts a special emphasis on Steve’s name that causes a riot of butterflies in his stomach and a skip in his heartbeat. 

“Like I said, it was expensive equipment. I need some time to get over it.” Sam tuts - it’s playful enough but Steve is already fearing the worst. He can’t quite wrap his head around what’s going on. 

Bucky doesn’t respond. Instead, he turns his attention to his metal arm, checking each digit on his hand. It’s a good enough signal that he’s done talking for now - and both Sam and Steve respect it. 

The two carry on with their dinner plans with Steve finishing up grilling the chicken on the small, portable grill while Sam plates three portions of rice. They make a good team and Steve can’t help but think of how much better things would be if Bucky started helping in the kitchen. Not for the chore of it - but for the bonding. The sense of family. 

Sam helps set the table now while Steve gathers all the cooked chicken onto a serving plate and then retrieves their vegetables from the microwave. He quickly adds in salt and butter to melt in and then sets it on the table. Bucky is just watching them, silent still. 

Sam sits opposite of Bucky while Steve takes the middle of the table. Dinner is quiet but satisfying. Steve eats just as much as he’d claimed he would while Bucky also lives up to his expectations as well. Sam is amazed. Steve catches himself continuously looking over at Bucky in pure awe. He can’t believe that Bucky is eating with them. It doesn’t seem real. It’s an odd form of joy that Steve feels swell inside of him when he watches Bucky eat. It’s like… he’s okay. Like he’s coming back into himself. 

When they finish up, Bucky heads back upstairs, but not before telling both Steve and Sam a very quiet ‘thank you’ - it’s one that will sit in Steve’s chest for the rest of the evening. He’s astonished to the point of obsessively replaying the last hour over and over in his head. 

“I guess I should get going, huh?” Sam says suddenly after they’ve both retired back into the living room and he spots the time above the television set. It’s nearly ten o’clock. 

“No, no way. You could stay here. It’s still raining out - besides, I’d be an awful person to send you home after a seven hour drive.” Steve insists. 

Sam snorts and lets out a laugh - he sounds pleased. “Oh, thank god. I wasn’t sure what the protocol was. You live far as fuck now.” 

“Language.” Steve says coyly, earning a jab to his shoulder. “Geez! Don’t punch the guy who’s offering you a bed and a roof over your head.” 

Sam smirks. “I’ve got my bag in the car. I packed, just in case.” 

Steve just rolls his eyes and helps Sam to the door so that he can make a mad dash out into the rain to retrieve his bag. 

Sam ends up staying over for a few days, sleeping in one of the many other empty rooms and helping Steve out around the house whenever he can. Bucky doesn’t make too many formal appearances, but when he does, he actually interacts with both Sam and Steve. It’s a nice change of pace after everything else. 

For just this once, Steve feels like things are looking up. 

Chapter Text

— Some Days Later, 4:00 AM; Bucky —

 

- - -

It’s 1941 in Brooklyn. The stars are out tonight - not a cloud in the sky. 

“C’mon, Stevie, don’t be like that.” Bucky says with a teasing glimmer in his eyes. He’s standing in front of Steve, who sits quietly on the edge of their shared bed in their one bedroom apartment. 

They’ve been living together for a few years now. After Sarah had passed away and Steve had come to slowly accept it, he finally agreed to get a place with Bucky. A new place. A new start for them. This place is all theirs. It may not be much and it may not be the greatest but it’s theirs and they love it all the same. 

“Girls don’t like me like that, Buck. They just put up with me ‘cause they like you.” Steve sighs softly, lower lip pouting out. He has his arms crossed - he’s adamant about not going out tonight. But it’s Friday night and Bucky isn’t about to just throw away a good evening. 

Bucky groans and plops down beside Steve, nudging his much smaller frame with his own  larger stature. He nearly knocks Steve off balance, but he silently recovers. 

“Seriously.” He says, nose crinkling. It’s as if he knows Bucky isn’t buying it. 

“Seriously!” Bucky replies in an echo. “We promised we’d take the ladies out. We can’t disappoint them.”

“We didn’t promise them anything. You promised them! I never said nothin’, Buck.” 

Bucky narrows his eyes. “You’re bein’ a jerk.” 

“I ain’t bein’ a jerk, Buck. None of those dames want me. I don’t feel like being ignored all night while you proceed to double date by yourself. I’m just there so you don’t look like a bad guy for datin’ two of ‘em at once. You know I’m right, too.” Steve’s words are final - he stands up with a soft huff. “I’m gonna take a shower. You have fun. Be quiet when you come home - I’ll be sleepin’.” 

Bucky’s amusement immediately turns into annoyance. He doesn’t even need to reply for Steve to know he’s pissed off. He waits until Steve exists the room before standing up to head over to the closet. “Whatever.” He grunts to himself and then starts to change into something more appropriate for dancing. He’ll enjoy himself without Steve. The ladies will understand. 

Steve doesn’t know anything. Bucky doesn’t want to date both girls. He wants Steve to be there with him. He really does. 

Isn’t that clear? 

Why is Steve so difficult? 

The shower roars as the rusty pipes are put to work. Well, Steve’s actually serious for once. That’s that. 

Just as Bucky finishes buttoning up his shirt that he’s just changed into, he hears a loud bang followed by a thump and a bloodcurdling yelp. 

He’s never run so fast. 

“Stevie!” He screams out in panic as he slams open the bathroom door, only to find Steve - his Steve - on the floor, naked and tangled up in the shower curtain. The pole that was supporting the curtain is on top of his chest and there’s blood. His blonde hair is stained red. 

Steve doesn’t reply - doesn’t say anything. Doesn’t even speak when Bucky pulls the pole off his body and shuts off the water and not even when Bucky scrambles to lift him into a sitting-up position. He’s in shock and barely conscious. 

“You’re okay, pal, it’s okay. Just some blood. You hit your head, huh? You’re okay, hey. I’m here. Not goin’ nowhere.” Bucky coos as he gathers up the bath towels and uses them to compress the small gash at the back of Steve’s head. He lays him down into his lap - just in case. It’s not terrible - he knows Steve will be okay. But god, he wants to cry. What if he’d left by now? What if Steve was by himself? 

“Buck?” Steve finally says after some time. His voice is soft and quiet - long lashes fluttering open in acknowledgment as he stares up at Bucky. 

“Stevie, Stevie. I’m here. You’re okay. I got you.” 

“You got me?” Steve mumbles, still completely shell-shocked. He’s pale. 

“I got you.” 

Bucky doesn’t go out dancing that night.

Steve has that small, tiny gash for as long as Bucky can remember. 

- - - 

Bucky wakes in a startle, body shooting up from the bed in a cold sweat as he stares out into the darkness of his bedroom. He can feel his heart pounding, his pulse painfully loud in his ears. 

The dreams are getting worse. More emotional. More detailed. More and more… real. Everything about it feels real. He doesn’t believe his mind is playing tricks anymore - this is too vivid and specific. It’s the same version of Steve he always sees, small and helpless but strong all the same. 

It had to of happened. The blood. He could smell it. Steve felt so warm - so placid in his arms. So frail. He has to know if it was real. 

It’s haunting him now. The gash. The small, stupid fight they had. His own fault. 

Bucky climbs out of bed, terrorized by the image plastered in his mind of Steve staring up at him with wide, distant eyes. So distant. 

He has to know. 

“Shit.” He mutters to himself as he rubs a stray set of tears from his eyes and notices the time. Steve is definitely asleep. But this can’t wait.

Bucky tiptoes out of his own bedroom now, clad in just a pair of briefs and one sock that’s tucked over his ankle band. He’s not sure where the other sock is. Or why he’s even wearing socks to bed to begin with.

It doesn’t matter. 

He approaches Steve’s bedroom door and pauses as he feels an iciness flood his veins. One part of Bucky is telling himself to walk away; to go back to bed. Steve isn’t his problem. The other part of himself is begging to see Steve, to touch his head and to part his hair and feel that scarred-over gash. Just to prove to himself that maybe - just maybe - Steve is supposed to mean a lot to him. 

The latter wins eventually and Bucky delicately presses his metal palm against the door and slowly pushes it open. The door creaks and Bucky cringes, but he immediately hears the sound of Steve’s gentle breathing and settles his own. It’s different than the last time he’d come into Steve’s room at night. He’s actually asleep this time. 

“Steve.” He whispers, dumbly. 

There’s no reply. 

“Stevie.” He hisses out, more desperate this time. He’s just awkwardly standing there, with the only light in the room coming from the moonlight flooding in courtesy of the split in the curtains. He’s thankful Steve didn’t close them entirely because he can at least see Steve begin to stir from his slumber. 

“Buck?” He mutters out, voice thick and laced with exhaustion. His eyes slowly blink open until he suddenly registers that Bucky is standing in front of him in his bedroom. 

Bucky takes a few cautious steps closer to where Steve is in his bed. 

“What’s wrong, Buck? You okay?” He murmurs, now beginning to sit up. The sheets shift and slip off his bare chest and fall into his lap. His hair is sticking up in all directions. He reaches out to turn on the lamp, the warm yellow light filling the room now. 

Bucky squints as he adjusts to it, gulping. “I’m okay. I just… can I see you?”

Steve looks puzzled. “What do you mean?” 

“I just need to see you. Please.” 

“Sure, Buck. Okay. What time is it?” Steve yawns, now glancing in the direction of the analog clock. He gasps softly at the realization and lazily lays back down. Steve then pats the bed, waiting for Bucky. 

“Four. Sorry.” Bucky replies as he walks over to the bed and plops right down into the small, open crook on the mattress from where Steve’s body is bent into a C-shape. He nestles himself between Steve’s lap and stomach while Steve curls against him, eyes foggy with both confusion and sleepiness. 

“What is it?” Steve dares to ask again. 

Bucky is quiet as he extends his flesh hand out and gently caresses first along Steve’s fuzzy cheek and then leads his fingers back to his hair. He smooths some of the wild strands back behind Steve’s ear and then rakes his fingers through the back of his scalp. He feels for it - the gash - but doesn’t find it. He thinks he must be missing it and keeps searching, finger pads rubbing at Steve’s scalp with purpose. 

“Bucky, what-“

“-Shh.” 

“But I don’t get what you’re doing…” Steve whimpers. It’s so soft. 

“I can’t find it.” Bucky’s frustration is evident in his tone. He keeps gently searching over the same areas - over and over. There’s nothing. No scar. No dent. 

“Find what?” Steve mumbles, eyes half-lidded. 

“The gash. From the shower.” Bucky finally admits. “It happened. I know it did. Where’s the scar? It was there. It should be.” 

Steve sucks in a breath. “You remembered that?” 

“I dreamt it. It was real. Tell me.” Bucky pulls his hand away and Steve nearly whines at the disconnection. 

“It happened. I… I healed.” 

“You healed? Bullshit. It was always there.” 

Steve looks like he’s smiling. “Project Rebirth.” 

The name sounds familiar. Bucky huffs. 

“Do you remember?” 

“I… I don’t know if I do.” He's being honest. 

“Lay down. Sleep. I’ll tell you in the morning.” Steve decides, voice soft and endearing. He scoots away now - leaving a vacant dent in the mattress from where he’d been. 

“Here?” 

Steve lifts the sheets and holds them out with his arm extended in response. His eyes are nearly closed but his cheeks are pink with warmth.

Bucky swallows the lump in his throat. He considers his options. “Okay.” He finally says aloud, surprised with himself. He reaches out to turn out the lamp and then carefully climbs into the bed, now sinking into the heat of Steve’s body while Steve envelopes them both with the sheets. He settles with his back pressed up against Steve’s chest, one strong arm snaking around Bucky’s middle now. It’s territorial and firm.

It’s just bare skin on bare skin. It’s like electric. 

He feels safe for reasons he can’t explain. 

“Goodnight, Bucky.” Steve whispers, soft lips delicately catching as his words are spoken up against the crook of Bucky's shoulder. Bucky can already feel the goosebumps forming. 

“Goodnight.” Bucky replies, voice caught up in his throat. 

They fall asleep. Together.

Bucky thinks he’s never slept so well. 

When the morning comes, the two wake up early - and together, at that. Their positions remain the same as before, legs tangled and bodies still pressed together. Steve looks surprised to say the least and Bucky feels a tinge bad because he knows the last time, he probably hurt Steve by leaving before he’d woken up. He understands that now. But he doesn’t acknowledge it. 

Bucky puts that thought aside as they eat breakfast together for the first time since his arrival to the house. It’s nearly 8:00 AM now and Sam is still asleep. Bucky doesn’t mind Sam - not entirely anyway. He’s okay. Sort of. 

Steve makes Bucky poached eggs at his request. They’re perfect. Even the toast is perfect. It’s a weird morning filtered with rose-tinted glasses that Bucky can’t seem to shake off. 

The entire time they eat, Bucky swears Steve is staring at him. He tries to hide it between quick glances and comments, but Bucky isn’t dumb. Steve is smiling a lot today. More than usual. Bucky doesn’t really know why either. 

Steve tells him all about Project Rebirth and how he’d been specially selected after originally being denied when he tried to join the war. About Abraham Erskine’s super soldier serum and Howard Stark - all of it. It explains so much. It explains why every dream of Steve is of a much smaller version of him. Why he doesn’t look the same. Why he’s so much bigger now. The Steve in his dreams is also this Steve. He’s real. 

Steve even explains to Bucky that he’s also got a version of the serum inside of him thanks to Arnim Zola. He doesn’t say that name as kindly or with the same fondness as he does with Erskine. Bucky recalls Zola from Steve’s previous tellings. He’s not a good man. Steve also briefly tells Bucky what happened in Austria, too and it’s a lot to take in but he manages. There’s a lot of missing details. Bucky feels dizzy with the information. It sheds light on a lot of things for Bucky, however. 

Why he hears so well. Why he’s as strong as he is. How he can sense things the way he does. All of it. He’s not normal and neither is Steve. As Sam had said; they’re more alike than anyone could ever hope to be. They’re two halves that make a whole. Bucky feels weird accepting that. 

Steve is his star-crossed other half but they’ve found a way together again. And according to Steve, they will always find each other. 

It’s just how we are,’ Steve had said as he bit into a piece of buttered toast just moments earlier. Bucky didn’t bother to question him. 

Bucky keeps replaying it. His chest feels unmistakably warm. Breakfast is over now but Bucky has been sitting at the table by himself for ten minutes, just thinking. 

“How come you didn’t want to come dancing that night? Was it really because of the girls not liking you?” Bucky randomly asks as he watches Steve load up the dishwasher. He catches him off guard - he can see it in the way Steve’s posture suddenly stiffens. 

Steve turns to lean himself up against the counter, eyeing Bucky at the table. “Do you mean the night I fell in the shower? Like…70-something years ago?” He says teasingly. “I dunno, it was so long ago…” 

Bucky nods and scoffs, lifting a hand to absently twirl a few strands of hair that have, like always, fallen into his line of sight. He knows Steve got him hair ties. He keeps forgetting to use them. “Yeah, Yeah. So long ago but you knew what I was talking about.” 

There’s a long sigh. “Because… girls really never liked me. I didn’t lie about that. We’d go dancing and my date would somehow end up on your arm by the end of the night. Sometimes not even twenty minutes into the date.” Steve laughs as he says the last part, shaking his head now. “You always got both girls.”

“Really? But how come girls never liked you?” Bucky repeats, a bit surprised. 

Steve snorts. “Did your dream leave out the part where I’m 20 pounds soaking wet and can’t even do a few push-ups without getting winded?” 

Bucky smiles smugly to himself. He wants to laugh but he swallows it down. “But girls never liked you? Not even after… the serum?” 

“I guess it got me some looks.” Steve states with a shrug, a sheepish grin overtaking his expression. “But I never dated anyone like you did, if that’s what you mean.” 

Bucky furrows his brows. There’s no way. He can’t help it now - he has so many questions. It’s like Steve’s opened the floodgates. Bucky absently taps his metal fingers against the table as he considers his question. “You never dated anyone?” 

“No, geez. What’re ya, rubbing it in?” Steve huffs playfully, now crossing his arms over his broad chest. It only then really occurs to Bucky how wide Steve’s chest is in comparison to his waist. 

“How many girls have you actually kissed?” Welp. Now he’s just going with it. He’s being nosy - there’s no turning back. 

Steve groans. 

“Well?” 

“Three. Just three… and I barely count two of them.” Steve whines under the scrutiny. 

“Three?” Bucky resists a chuckle. “How many have I kissed?” 

Steve makes a face. “A lot?” 

“Who did you kiss?” Bucky doesn’t even know why he asks that - or why he feels a flush overtake his cheeks. He doesn’t even really care about his own track record. He doesn’t remember any of it, anyway. He cares a lot more about Steve’s for some reason, though. 

Steve seems to be flushed - a redness creeping all the way down his neck that Bucky wonders about… does it go past the collar of his shirt? “Uh… Peggy, once. And, uh, Natasha - you don’t really know her that well - you met her a few times, though, as the Winter Soldier. And then… Lorraine back during the war. She was a Private.” 

“Natasha? Lorraine?” He remembers reading about Peggy in the museum. The others, not so much. Not even Natasha rings a bell. 

“With Natasha… it was… it wasn’t anything. It was just to disguise us. It was work. And Lorraine came onto me and I didn’t know what to do. So I don’t count those. Peggy, though, I don’t know - it was once. It’s… that’s the only kiss I really consider to be real.” Steve is beyond red now. 

“So… you’ve only kissed three girls and you only count one of them - and it was only once… wow.” Bucky can’t help but smirk a little. He comes to his own conclusion. “So then…” 

Steve sucks in a breath. “Don’t say it.” He already knows exactly what Bucky is thinking. 

The little smirk on Bucky’s face is a full-blown, shit-eatting grin now. “You’re a virgin.” 

“Fuckin’ hell, Buck.” 

“Right?” Bucky chuckles. 

Steve is practically squirming. “Sure. Yeah - yeah, I am. Congrats, detective.” He drops his arms from his chest in order to run his hands dramatically down his facial features. “I’m going to go bury myself alive in the yard now, if you don’t mind.” 

“Oh, c’mon. It’s not that bad. I don’t remember ever having sex anyway - it’s sort of like I’m a virgin, too.” Bucky snickers, now eyeing Steve - delighted in knowing he’s got him cornered. 

“That’s not how that works, Buck.” Steve huffs. 

Suddenly, Sam comes down the stairs stretching and yawning audibly. “Hey,” he begins before noticing that Steve and Bucky are actually talking to each other. 

Steve visibly startles.

It’s the first time Sam has seen them actually conversing without him being the initiator or somehow being in the middle of it, which inherently leads to the two of them speaking. He raises a brow. “Whoa, you two are talking?” 

Sam’s introduction breaks the building tension like a thick sheet of ice. 

“No, I was just leaving.” Bucky shrugs as he takes Sam as his cue to evacuate the situation immediately. He’s done enough damage - it’s written all over Steve’s face. Bucky stands up and pushes the chair back into the table and pushes past Sam as he makes a beeline for the staircase. He’ll shower. Possibly with cold water. 

Right before he gets to the banister, however, Bucky swears he sees Steve frown from his peripherals. Big and mopey, too. He feels accomplished. 

 

— Wednesday — 

 

Much to Bucky’s surprise, Lillian actually shows up at the house for his next therapy session. Part of him was expecting it to either be canceled or to have someone new entirely - but Lillian is all smiles and cordial as she steps in and removes her shoes. She greets both Steve and Bucky. Sam is outside in the yard for the moment at Steve’s request. Yes… Sam is still here. 

Bucky knows Steve has that silly mat outside the house and he even remembers being the only one to not have to take his shoes off. It seems Lillian isn’t a part of that exclusive club - nor is Sam. 

Nor is Steve? 

“Bucky, how are you feeling today?” Lillian says with a sugary-sweet voice. 

Bucky doesn’t answer at first, a hand loosely coming up to his lips so that he can nibble on a hangnail dangling from his thumb. “I’m okay.” He finally answers - it’s within a sigh. 

Steve is off to the side, a look of relief overtaking his visage when Bucky actually responds. “We’ve been pretty good. Bucky’s been eating and talking more - we ate together a few times, too. Right, Buck?” 

Bucky looks over at Steve with narrowed eyes, almost as if silently calling him a traitor. He nods. 

Lillian lights up at the news, as predicted. “That’s wonderful to hear! I’m glad things are going well this week. I want to make sure it stays that way. Should we set up again in the kitchen?” 

Bucky shrugs. “We can sit in the living room.” 

“I’ll be outside with Sam if you need me, okay, Buck?” Steve says, lifting a hand to gently squeeze at the base of Bucky’s neck. “You’ll be okay - I promise.”

Once he’s outside, Lillian and Bucky make their way over to the living room - Bucky taking a seat at the far end of the couch, while Lillian sits herself down in the leather chair. Just as she did last time, she sets her things down and begins to sort through papers and powers-up a large electronic device. 

“So…” Bucky begins, awkwardly. 

“I just wanted to first apologize for last week, Bucky. I should have handled things differently and it led to you responding accordingly. Anyone else would have done the same. I’m sorry I pushed you.” Lillian says with a softness to her voice. As if she’s trying to be quiet, despite it being only them. 

“It’s okay.” Bucky murmurs back. He doesn’t want to relive it. 

Lillian nods and grins. “Okay, Bucky. I’ll take your word. I wanted to do something different this week - something more ‘hands-on’, if you don’t mind.” 

“Hands-on?” Bucky asks. 

Suddenly, Lillian takes out a stack of different papers and newspaper clippings. She leans out of the chair so that she can scatter them out on the table in Bucky’s direction. “I did some homework for today.” She smiles. “I found every article I could about you and Steve. I found newspapers, museum pamphlets, and a couple of excerpts from history textbooks.” 

Bucky blinks in surprise. 

“I know you had questions and I’m sure you still do - you’re living with someone you’re told you know, but maybe you don’t remember how you know him. I wanted to help you with that. Would that be okay?” 

For once, Bucky nods and means it. He scoots closer to the table and props himself at the edge of the couch so that he can lift up a colorful picture of himself and Steve. He looks it over; it’s the two of them together laughing and hugging. 

“That’s a colorized photo from November 4th, 1943. That’s the day Captain America arrived with nearly 400 liberated soldiers after the Battle of Azzano led to you being captured and sent to HYDRA’s weapon facility in Austria. November 3rd, he stormed the facility and saved you. You were all presumed dead up until this moment. The photographer that captured this photo titled it Best Friends Reunited.” Lillian informs Bucky, now watching as Bucky flips the photo over in his hand to confirm the title and the date written in script. 

He’s taken aback. Steve left that part out. “I was captured?” 

Lillian offers a quiet ‘yes’ and then leans back into the couch. “You and members of the 107th Infantry Regiment were captured after being overwhelmed by HYDRA soldiers. You had no other choice. When Captain Rogers was informed of your status as presumed dead, he chose to go against orders and enlisted Agent Peggy Carter and Howard Stark to help him infiltrate enemy lines. He went in by himself.” 

Bucky’s lips thin into a line. “So he did all of that to save me?” 

Lillian smiles. “He saved a lot of men that day. But every news article I could find about it makes a strong point of acknowledging that you were the catalyst in his decision to go in. He would’ve been dishonorably discharged and he knew that.” She hands off two small news articles to Bucky as she says that. 

The first reads America’s own Captain: 400 Prisoners Liberated as the title. Within it, Bucky reads: 

‘When Captain Steve Rogers went against orders to save best friend, Sergeant James Barnes, he never anticipated finding 400 men locked behind bars in a secret HYDRA weapons facility.’

The second article is very similar. Bucky barely reads it because he feels suddenly lightheaded at the confirmation. Steve really cares about him. 

He sets down the articles and picks up another photo - this one being tattered at the corners and ripped and taped back together. They’re younger in this one. It’s from a class picture. “School?” He mumbles. 

“Auburndale Art School, class of 1938. You both attended George Washington High School together from 1932 until 1936 and then went to Auburndale to study fine arts.” 

“I knew how to draw?” Bucky questions as he sets the photo down on the table. 

Lillian shrugs. “You’ll have to ask Steve that question.” She smiles and then sets another photo, this time of them together in a boxing ring, right on top of the class photo. “After the United States joined World War II, both you and Steve decided to join the army. This is a photo donated from the gym you boxed at. You trained Steve here to try and prepare him to enlist. Here’s you two after a few rounds.” 

Bucky looks down at the photo in amazement. He doesn’t remember any of this - not that he’s surprised. But it stings. Steve is holding his hands up, wrapped and gloved, while Bucky himself has an arm around him - proudly. Like a trainer supporting his fighter. They’re both shirtless and donned in shorts. Steve is so fucking small. “He enlisted like that?”

There’s a laugh and then it’s stifled. “I’m sorry - I shouldn’t have laughed. But, yes, he did. It didn’t work out as you’d imagine. It took him quite a few attempts to finally get approved, and it was under the guise of Abraham Erskine for-“ 

“-Project Rebirth.” Bucky interjects, eyes lighting up. For once - he’s got a connecting train of memories. He remembers Steve telling him this.

Lillian smiles and then files through another few papers before setting down various certificates - all rejections from the Department of Selective Service. Each one has a dried ink stamp that reads 4F and Steve’s name. Each one also has a different city as the place of living. “These are all the various rejections Steve got while trying to enlist. This one however…” She trails off as she hands over one directly into Bucky’s open hand. “...Is yours. You were approved the first time you registered.” 

Bucky swallows hard as he reads the paperwork. He has no ailments - no medical conditions. Perfect health, it reads. An easy approval. When he looks at Steve’s, he can’t help but notice the large summary of health issues. He sighs. “Asthma, scarlet fever, high blood pressure…” he rattles off random words that stick out, “heart trouble… has had household contact with tuberculosis… that was Sarah, right? His mom?” 

Lillian nods. “Yes.” 

Bucky frowns and then returns the papers to Lillian. 

“Should we keep going? Are you doing okay?” 

“Keep going.” Bucky pleads, “I want to see more.” 

Lillian gives a trying expression and then hands over what looks to be a page ripped from a book. “This is from a 1978 United States history textbook. It was in circulation for nearly twenty years. You can read it.” 

Buck gives her a look and then lets his eyes trail to the words on the paper. He reads to himself, quietly. 

‘Best friends since childhood, Bucky Barnes and Steven Rogers were inseparable on both schoolyard and battlefield. Barnes is the only Howling Commando to give his life in service of his country.’

“I heard those exact words in the museum, too.” Bucky says flatly, mouth agape. “It was weird hearing someone say I was dead… and it’s even weirder seeing it typed out on paper.” 

“You were dead. That’s what everyone thought.” 

Bucky grimaces. 

“This is a newspaper article from the day you died.” Lillian informs as she hands over another clipped article, this time with bold, large letters that read Sergeant James Barnes killed in action.

It’s enough. Bucky politely pushes the paper back towards Lillian’s end of the table. “I think I want to skip that. For now. I’m not ready.” 

“That’s perfectly fine, Bucky. Thank you for letting me know.” Lillian doesn’t skip a beat as she swipes up the paper and neatly tucks it away. Instead, she replaces it with a sketch of himself. 

Bucky picks the drawing up cautiously. It’s of him - just him. He appears to be sleeping. “What is this?” Bucky asks with a hint of confusion to his tone. 

“This was donated to the Smithsonian a few years ago by a private collector. What you’re looking at is a 1936 sketch done by Steve, of you. It’s done in graphite. If you look at the corner, you’ll see Steve’s name signed and dated.” 

“A private collector? A stranger had this in their house?” 

Lillian chuckles and shakes her head. “Not necessarily. This sketch was likely recovered either from your school or from a home previously lived in. The collector likely found it and decided to donate it. I guess there is the slightest chance it was in someone’s house at one point, but that’s not the case now.” 

Bucky’s heart is pounding now - hard and fast like a rabbit escaping a predator. “Steve really drew this?” 

“He did.” 

“Can I keep it?” 

Lillian smiles and nods. “You can. This is a replica of the original. I had it copied for you - all of this is yours to keep. To look over. Everything that was from private collections was copied from the originals for you.” 

Bucky bites his lip and sets the drawing beside him on the couch. He wants to fold it up, but he’ll wait. 

The rest of the session goes smoothly. Bucky doesn’t even realize it’s been over an hour until Lillian’s alarm goes off and signals the end of the session. He’s surprised - nothing bad happened. He didn’t freak out. Things went well. 

When Lillian leaves, she reaches out to shake Bucky’s hand and for once, he actually shakes back. He feels good about it. Like this was helpful. He follows her to the door and she leaves without incident. She’ll be back next week, she says. 

Bucky sighs as he locks the door now and walks back over to the couch. He collects all the papers and photos and shuffles the sketch of himself into the mix of it. He doesn’t want to show Steve. Not today, anyway. He puts everything away upstairs and then decides to head outside and inform Steve and Sam that they can come back inside. 

The rest of the day goes just as smoothly as the therapy session with Lillian. Steve makes them lunch and dinner and Sam tries to teach Bucky how to use a smartphone. It doesn’t make sense but eventually, Bucky is able to search the internet and pull up photos of himself from the war. It’s strange. He doesn’t get how it works at all but he doesn’t keep asking Sam the same things, either. 

“The internet is super helpful, you know. Can do a lot more than just lookup photos of yourself.” Sam snorts as he looks over at the screen.

“Like what?” Bucky scoffs as he gives a sideways glance to Sam. 

Steve is quietly sipping at a mug of coffee as the three of them sit in front of the television. The fireplace is crackling in the background. 

“There’s an endless amount of porn. Possibly the greatest gift the internet has ever given us.” 

Steve nearly spits his coffee.

“Porn? Seriously? It’s just on there?” Bucky asks with a raised brow. 

“Yep. You just search for whatever you want and then… it’s just there. Most of it’s free. Only suckers pay.” Sam chuckles. It’s hard to tell if he’s being serious. 

Nonetheless, Bucky makes a point to nudge Steve’s leg gently with his outstretched toes. “You hear that?” He isn’t going to outright say it, but he knows Steve picks up immediately on what he’s putting down. 

“No.” Steve says way too quickly. 

“Steve’s a prude. Excuse him.” Bucky quips. 

Sam laughs. 

Steve makes a sour face. “I’m not engaging in any of this.” 

“Alright, alright. What else is the internet good for then, Sam?” Bucky sighs dramatically. 

“Everything. Anything you want to know - you can search. Need to know how to make a cake? The internet knows. Want to know what movies are playing? The internet has got it all written out. You can probably find your entire life story on there if you wanted to read about it.” Sam shrugs, “I’m sure there’s a million articles about you.” 

“Good and bad, I’m sure.” Bucky says softly. He imagines there’s things about the Winter Soldier on this internet-thing, too. Maybe he’ll look that up someday. 

For some reason, Steve seems visibly agitated. Flustered, maybe. Bothered. He’s gripping at his coffee mug. 

“You okay?” Sam is the first to ask. 

Steve nods. “I’m okay. Just not feeling too good.” 

“-So I could just find articles about myself?” Bucky says as he reels the conversation back in with Sam. He can see the tenseness in Steve’s jaw from his peripherals. 

“Definitely. You’d just need to search your name. Google does all the leg work for you. It’ll display every result that mentions your name. There’s a great thing called Wikipedia, too, that-“

“I’m going to head to bed. You guys have a good night.” Steve abruptly says, cutting Sam off mid-speech. 

Bucky doesn’t even get a chance to say anything before Steve gets up and darts off for the staircase. 

Sam gives a concerning glance to Bucky. 

“Don’t worry about him.” Bucky says nonchalantly. “He’s just an old man.” 

Sam laughs and they continue on with their night. Bucky feels good and he refuses to let Steve dampen his mood. Not tonight. 

Chapter Text

— Steve —

 

What the fuck is Wikipedia? 

That’s the only question running through Steve’s head as he runs upstairs and locks himself in his room. He knows it’s suspicious. Knows it looks bad on his part. He’s sure Sam and Bucky are just sitting downstairs staring at each other in confusion. Or maybe Sam is letting Bucky use his phone right now and maybe this is already the end. 

“House, what is Wikipedia and where do I find it?” Steve asks aloud as he fumbles for his phone and plops himself down on the bed. His skin is crawling from the panic setting in. 

“According to my search results: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia, created and edited by volunteers around the world and hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation… You can access it through your phone’s internet application or through me by asking me to use it when answering questions.” The AI responds. Its voice is not quite as charming as the one used by JARVIS, but it’s natural-sounding enough. 

Steve immediately gets to work on googling Wikipedia - the phone pulling results nearly instantly. It’s a website. Just like Google. He pauses for a moment and breathes. “James. Buchanan. Barnes.” He says to himself as he slowly types in Bucky’s full name into the search bar. 

Within seconds, the page loads the results and an image of Bucky dressed in his uniform loads at the top of it. Wikipedia has all of his information listed out, like a database. As Steve scrolls, he reads Bucky’s name, age, date of birth, and even his presumed death which is officially listed as MISSING IN ACTION.

Oh.  

It’s like a stab in the chest all over again to relive the memory. Steve wishes he could do it again… that he could have jumped off the train after Bucky instead of taking the cowardly route and choosing to mourn someone he could’ve saved. He hates knowing what he knows now - that the serum Zola gave Bucky allowed him to survive. That he probably laid there in agony for hours without anyone to help him. That when he was probably waiting for Steve… he got HYDRA instead. 

And to make matters worse, the general population doesn’t even know Bucky is the Winter Soldier. As far as the public is aware, Bucky is dead. Lost at the bottom of the Austrian Alps - decomposed after all this time. A part of the earth by now. All because of Steve. 

The page isn’t filled with that much information, Steve notices. There’s small mentions of his childhood whereabouts, his time in school, and his friendship with Steve. He’s referred to as a war hero. A man of honor. Captain America’s best friend and closest ally. 

Steve has to wipe away the familiar sting of tears as he reads a small paragraph about their friendship together and all the ways Bucky saved Steve growing up.

Bucky truly is the perfect human being. The greatest friend. The most precious form of intricate skin, bones, blood, and tissue fastened together that humanity has ever taken the shape of. He is everything to Steve. 

And then... Steve scrolls to the bottom and finds a tab labeled Death and nearly chokes. All the airiness and butterflies evaporate from within him and leave him with stones in his stomach. He’s suddenly glad he’s sitting because the room immediately feels like it’s spinning off its axis. He clicks the title and inhales a sharp breath as he reads the text that appears. 

‘Barnes, along with the rest of the Howling Commandos, fought alongside Captain America in the fight against HYDRA and disrupted many Nazi-operated plans. In 1944, while taking part in an ambush meant to capture HYDRA scientist, Arnim Zola, Barnes plummeted to his presumed death from an explosion on the Schnellzug EB912 that sent him off the side of the train. No body was ever recovered and Barnes has officially been declared MIA since the traumatic event.

Following his presumed death, Captain America vowed to avenge his fallen friend and take down HYDRA and the Red Skull.’ 

Steve can feel his fingers trembling as he drops the phone into his lap. He’s fucked. That’s it. All Bucky needs to do is read this page and Steve’s horrible, selfish story will be completely ripped at the seams. 

Bucky will never forgive him. He knows that. It’ll be as awful as the fall from the train itself - it’ll be like losing Bucky twice. And Steve can’t handle losing Bucky twice in this lifetime. He can’t. He knows he won’t be able to handle it. He’d rather go back into the ice. 

Steve forces himself to pick the phone up again - now closing out the tab and opening a new one to google Bucky’s name by itself. The search engine pulls up different images and websites all related to Bucky. 

Steve feels like he’s going to throw up. 

He decides to narrow the search, this time adding “death” to the end of Bucky’s name. Hundreds of pages come up. Hundreds. He doesn’t need to read a single one of them to know they all confirm Steve is a fucking liar. 

He is going to throw up. 

Steve throws the phone onto the bed and darts for the bathroom. He barely makes it to the toilet before he drops hurriedly to his knees around it, dry heaving and gagging. Everything hurts. His head. His heart. 

Steve knows this won’t end well. He knows it won’t. 

Even after he’s positive he’s no longer going to spill the contents of his stomach any further, Steve still can’t be bothered to push himself up off the cold tile floor. He deserves this - clearly this is just the start of a long line of due punishments. 

After a long while, Steve finally forces himself up on wobbly, aching knees and goes over to the sink to rinse his mouth and wash his face. When he sees himself in the mirror, he notices how red and blotchy his cheeks are - how terrible he looks. He needs to sleep. 

He undresses entirely, far too lazy to shower or change into a fresh set of clothes, and drags himself into his bed. The sheets feel cool and welcoming against his naked body and Steve practically buries his face into his pillow. He wants to drown in it. 

The door is locked so he knows Bucky won’t be making any surprise visits for tonight - and with that thought in mind, he calls out for the house to turn off the lights. 

The house complies and Steve eventually falls asleep, riddled with guilt but driven by exhaustion. For the millionth time, Bucky’s death replays like a movie over and over.

When he wakes that morning, he feels heavy with the realization that yesterday actually happened. That maybe by now… Bucky knows the truth and wants him dead. 

He sighs and rolls out of bed. His phone appears to have two text messages - one from Thomas and one from Sam. 

Thomas 07:43 AM:

‘Good morning, Captain! It’s been a few days since we last spoke so I’ve gone and made the executive decision to re-order last week’s groceries. Please let me know if you need anything else. Take care.’ 

Steve would be lying if he said he hadn’t forgotten about ordering more food for the house. He texts back a simple ‘thank you’ to Thomas and then grits his teeth as he reads the message from Sam. 

Sam 02:31 AM:

‘Hey buddy hope you’re ok. Hope we can have breakfast together in the morning. I’m going to bed now. Talk in the am.’ 

Steve doesn’t reply. He’ll just make sure he shows his face today - that’s all. Sam will understand. 

As Steve contemplates it, he wants to be mad at Sam for last night. For even introducing to Bucky the possibility of looking himself up. But then he quickly shuts that idea down when he realizes his lies have nothing to do with Sam and that Bucky shouldn’t be lied to by anyone. Not by Steve or Sam. Sam was only being nice and trying to help. 

Well… sort of. Whatever form of help porn is supposed to be categorized as, Steve hasn’t figured out yet. 

Steve knows Sam mentioned porn to be funny. He knows Bucky thought it was amusing, anyway. 

Himself… not so much. 

He’s never watched it online - let alone thought about doing so. He remembers it being illegal and hidden away in brothels before he went into the ice and somehow, when he came out, it was completely normal to society. And a lot more explicit.

Steve stands up and stretches his arms up to the ceiling. He needs to shower. Needs to wash his hair and clean himself up. Maybe even shave the beard while he’s at it. 

Steve trudges into the bathroom and sets his phone down on top of the counter before he climbs into the shower and turns it on. He sets the water as hot as he can handle - his skin instantly reddening as the water pulses down on him. It feels good. Relieving. 

As Steve starts to lather himself up with a bar of soap, he can’t help but think about what kind of porn he could possibly find on his phone. He remembers Sam saying it’s as simple as searching. 

And it’s free. 

God, why is he considering this suddenly? 

He has never in his life thought of watching porn. Steve has barely even touched himself since coming out of the ice. He knows that the involuntary response from kissing Natasha was natural and even though he thought about it later - he didn’t dare give in to it. 

He remembers doing things to himself at a young age. Remembers the doctor explaining to his mother that his body’s lack of age-appropriate development meant a lack of ability to ejaculate at 15. He cringes at the memory. Remembers the first time he was actually able to reach a release - and it had happened in his sleep. He was practically 17. It was less embarrassing to convince Bucky he’d somehow wet the bed from drinking too much soda before sleeping than to mention anything else. 

Bucky didn’t tell his mom and Steve never had to explain to Bucky that he dreamt about him, either. 

It was a relief. 

After the serum, it felt better to masturbate but nonetheless, confusing and awkward and shameful. He went longer. His releases were more… involved. But Steve never found a reason to do it aside from when he’d wake up in the middle of the night, starved of touch and already achingly hard.

But it didn’t really matter. His own needs were far outweighed by everything else going on around him. And it wasn’t something people spoke openly about, anyway. 

He bites his lip as he betrays himself and reaches around the tempered glass of the shower door and picks his phone up. He holds his arm out to keep the phone from getting wet as he unlocks it and then awkwardly stares at the internet icon. He presses it and Google immediately loads. 

Steve is embarrassed for himself as he anxiously types ‘porn’ into the inquiry bar and then hits search. Moments later, the results are returned and there’s at least ten different websites for Steve to choose from. He picks the first one and nearly drops his phone in shame when the page loads. It’s naked women - everywhere. He almost wants to shield his eyes and apologize but there’s no one to apologize to. 

“Geez.” He mutters to himself as he cautiously scrolls through the website. It gets filthier and filthier and Steve is just about to chicken out and close everything when he stumbles upon a video of what looks like a normal couple in the midst of the intense videos above and below it. He nervously taps the video. It loads. He hits play.

Suddenly, the bathroom is echoing loud moans and screams and Steve practically smashes his phone in the process of muting the video. He silently curses to himself as he regains his composure and then tries to force himself to watch it while he leans up against the shower door. 

It’s a lot of touching and rubbing. A lot. The camera keeps changing angles. This is a lot different than the scantily dressed pinups the soldiers would leave up on their walls during the war. Steve is completely overwhelmed but he tries to follow along, free hand now gliding down his stomach and gently wrapping around himself. He strokes himself slowly at first - just trying to get into it. He goes from base to tip, fingers fumbling around to find the right pressure. He barely knows his own body and it’s obvious. 

Eventually, his body reacts and he can feel himself hardening - but it’s not quite because of the video and more so because he rarely does this. Suddenly, Steve clicks out of the video and tries searching for another. He goes through pages and pages - occasionally opening a new video but then clicking away moments later. Nothing catches his eye until he comes across a video of two men. He glances around the bathroom as if someone could barge in at any moment, and then opens the video. This isn’t illegal, he tells himself. 

It’s not professionally filmed at all - it’s clearly just a camera propped somewhere in a bedroom. The two men are just kissing… touching each other slowly and tenderly. They appear to actually care about each other. One of them has dark hair - the other is closer to a dirty blonde. Sort of like Steve and… 

Steve doesn’t even realize his hand is moving until his wrist hits the shower door from the awkwardness of the angle. He’s fully hard now, his cock plump in his hand as he continues his slow but thoughtful pace. He wants to want this. 

He continues watching as the brunette wraps a hand around the blonde’s length and strokes him with purpose. Steve tries to copy his every move, eventually eliciting a quiet moan from himself when he mimics the video and circles his thumb over the slit of his erection. He shudders. 

He can feel a dampness beading at his tip, eyes glued to his phone as he watches the two men tangle in each other. They’re kissing passionately now, the blonde climbing on top and thrusting into the brunette. The video is muted but Steve knows they’re moaning. He’s moaning, too. 

Steve sighs out as he uses the water from the shower to aid in stroking himself, now picking up the pace and squeezing himself just a bit harder. His stomach feels tense - his thighs are starting to tremble. He feels so slick and engorged in his own hand and he desperately wishes he had somewhere to put it - someone to do this with. He tries to wrap his hand tighter and fucks into his palm, desperately trying to chase the pleasure that keeps climbing and climbing. 

“Fuck… fuck…” He whimpers out as he now sets down the phone and uses that hand to brace himself up against the shower wall. He doesn’t need the video anymore. He closes his eyes and lets his mind do the work while he thrusts against the wall and into his hand, toes practically curling from how good it feels. He sees that brunette spread wide and crying out while the blonde takes him hard and passionately, thrusting in and out. He wants to be them so badly. He wants to pull at that dark hair and bury himself so deep inside that he’s lost forever. He wants to feel that heat. Wants it all. Wants to hear his name being shouted. 

Suddenly, his mind thinks of Bucky. Bucky is the brunette. He’s the blonde. It’s them. He wants to shove Bucky down on the bed and have the other’s legs wrapped tightly around him. He wants to give it to him so hard and desperate that they’re both sobbing by the end of it. Wants to fuck into him and claim him and stretch his hole until he’s screaming. Wants to bite at his throat and tell him how much he loves him - how badly he needs him. 

“Bucky, shit,” Steve stammers out in between soft moans as he keeps going, forehead now pressed against the tiles for balance. He’s so close. So fucking close. He’s shamelessly rutting into his hand like a teenager discovering pleasure for the first time. He’s pleading for it. 

It only takes another few deep strokes before he’s spilling out all over his palm and the shower wall. He cries out as he comes, now rocking his hips into it as his orgasm overtakes him. It’s the most intense orgasm he’s ever had - his vision nearly going black. Every nerve feels like electric as he slowly pumps himself through it, Steve whining at how sensitive he suddenly is. He’s shaking and he’s surprised his knees don’t buckle and give out right then and there. 

The world around him slowly returns. 

He can breathe again. He hadn’t even noticed he was holding his breath. 

He looks down at his hand and bites his lip at how much come is all over him and the shower. He silently blames the serum and lets the shower wash all the evidence away. His vision returns to normal - he returns to normal. 

The pleasure dissipates and instead of lingering around in a cloud of euphoria, it’s immediately replaced with guilt and shame and what the fuck is wrong with you, Rogers? 

Bucky is all he can think of. He doesn’t know what’s going on anymore. He’s disgusted with himself and he knows Bucky would be, too. 

He showers as quickly as he can and then turns off the water and wraps himself in the towel. He’s embarrassed - doesn’t even want to touch himself now. 

What starts out as Steve trying to trim his beard, turns into him spontaneously deciding to shave himself as close to the skin as he can get. He has no real reason for it but when he looks in the mirror and sees that version of himself that came out of the ice, he feels more in control. Like he can disassociate from what he just did in the shower. 

He dresses and checks the clock. 09:05. Still early enough to make breakfast for everyone. 

Just as Steve is about to venture out into the hallway and goes to open the door, he unexpectedly walks directly into Bucky - the two nearly knocking each other over. 

Steve stumbles back and recovers, eyes wide and jaw slack in surprise. “Buck!” He says breathlessly, his heart hammering in his chest. How long has Bucky been out there? Has he been upstairs this whole time? Did he hear anything? 

“Steve.” Bucky replies back calmly, brows knitted together in confusion as he brushes himself off and then leans up against the doorway. He’s got his hair up and he’s dressed in his pajamas still - a soft pair of pants that are a navy blue and hide his anklet and a black tank top that seems to fit him perfectly. It just so happens to show off the metal arm in a way that makes the scars obvious. 

Steve can see all the raised marks and the exact areas where metal and skin fuse together. He wants to ask one day. Wants to know. But this isn’t the time for it.

“I thought you died up here. I was coming to get your body so you wouldn’t stink the place out.” Bucky smirks, nonchalant about the entire situation. 

Steve, on the other hand, is internally panicking over the possibility that Bucky may or may not have heard him in the shower. He knows Bucky hears well. He knows Bucky sleeps down the hallway. He’s so stupid. Stupid. Stupid- 

“-Oh, wait… wow.” Bucky suddenly says, voice soft and airy, pulling Steve away from his inner turmoil. 

“What?” Steve squeaks out. 

“Your face.” 

“My face?” 

Bucky steps forward cautiously and then lifts his flesh hand up to gently touch it to Steve’s cheek. Steve flinches involuntarily and Bucky silently apologizes with his lips thinned together. 

“What about my face...“ Steve begins quietly, resisting the urge to sigh out at how good it feels to have Bucky’s hand against his freshly shaven skin. 

“You shaved.” Bucky admires, fingers delicately grazing along the hollow curve of Steve’s cheek. 

Steve swallows hard and closes his eyes as he leans into the touch. Bucky’s hand is soft despite everything he’s been through. Warm. Steve is trying so hard to relax but he’s nearly positive Bucky can hear his heartbeat - loud and wild and frantic. “I did…” He trails off, unsure of where this is going. 

“You look like the Steve I used to know.” 

Steve bites his lip at the admission, eyes still clamped shut. “Yeah?” 

Bucky’s thumb gently skirts up to his eye, now brushing against his lashes and then dropping back down to his lower cheek to trace the shape of his jaw. “Yeah… this… I feel like I remember this version of you. You look like my Stevie.” 

“I am your Stevie, Buck.” Steve practically whimpers, voice wavering. He feels hot. Like he’s going to overheat from the attention. His pants suddenly feel tight, too. 

“And I’m your best guy, right?” Bucky asks just as his thumb circles over Steve’s chin and then gingerly catches at Steve’s lower lip. 

Best guy. 

It’s something Steve hasn’t heard since the war. 

Steve has no thought process anymore. He knows his body is betraying him - knows he can’t do anything about it now. He is so guilty. Horribly fucking guilty. 

“Right?” Bucky questions again when he gets no response, voice firmer. “Look at me.”

Steve’s eyes flutter open to meet Bucky’s. They’re so blue. He’s lost. “Of course you are… when did you remember that?” 

Bucky shrugs. He lets his hand fall away now and Steve resists frowning at the loss of contact. “Just now.” Bucky says bluntly, eyes searching Steve’s face. “The way you look… it reminded me. I don’t know. I saw you without the beard and I just… I don’t know where that came from but it felt right.” 

“You were always my best guy.” 

“Still am?” 

“Always will be.” 

Bucky smirks. “Good. Because I’m hungry and don’t feel like cooking.” He then turns on his heel and flashes Steve a look before he goes for the stairs. “Maybe after breakfast, you can help me shave, too. Since you did such a nice job and all.” And then he’s gone. 

Steve exhales sharply once Bucky vanishes around the corner, a hand shooting down to his groin so that he can press the heel of his palm against the ache between his legs. He moans out faintly, a spark of pleasure shooting through him. 

He’s so stupidly high strung now because of Bucky. Wants to just get himself off and embrace it. But he doesn’t. He’s got more willpower than that. He can’t do that again. It’s wrong. 

He really hopes it wasn’t obvious. He’s never had this problem before. 

Steve gulps and then gives himself a minute to settle before he even dares to descend the stairs and meet his two friends in the kitchen. 

When he arrives, Sam and Bucky appear to be bickering over who gets to sit where at the table. It’s absolutely ridiculous and yet it’s exactly the kind of distraction Steve needs from life. 

“How about I sit at the table and you both sit on the floor instead?” Steve says teasingly as he eases himself into the middle of their argument. He feels better, if only for the moment. 

Sam looks over with a scoff at the sudden intrusion. “That’s not very ‘Steve’ of you to suggest.” He then pauses as he takes in the fact that Steve obviously looks different. “And - whoa - someone’s a fourteen-year-old boy all over again. Look at those dimples. So boyish.” He baits. 

“Fourteen? I was hoping I’d at least pass for eighteen.” Steve groans sarcastically. 

“Fourteen or eighteen, your comment was still not very Steve-ish of you and I’m appalled.” Sam taunts.

Bucky smirks. “Yeah. Totally not very ‘ Steve’ of you, Steve. We expected better.” 

“Hey, I can be mean, too, you know. I just choose not to be.” Steve says with his hands defensively on his hips as he begins to walk to the fridge and cabinets to gather ingredients together for breakfast. He’s been craving French toast, so that’s the plan. 

Both Sam and Bucky laugh, as if it’s an inside joke. 

“Oh, sure.” Sam smiles, now sighing and taking one of the seats at the table. Their bickering is over for the moment. “You keep pretending you’re not the definition of wholesome and we’ll keep pretending Bucky isn’t annoying.” As he says the last few words, he offers a taunting eye roll to Bucky. 

Bucky nudges Sam with his elbow and then walks over to the stove, where Steve is, and starts helping him crack eggs into a bowl. 

As they start preparing breakfast, the three of them find out Bucky’s metal arm is very capable of being gentle when necessary. That he can crack an egg without crushing it but apparently isn’t skilled enough in the cooking department to keep eggshells from landing into the egg yolks. He scoops them out with his metal fingers while Steve argues with him that he’s going to have bacteria growing in between the plates of his digits. 

It’s just the right amount of dysfunctional to have Steve’s heart swelling with an odd sense of joy and pride. 

Together, the three of them manage to have breakfast made and the table set. Sam doesn’t even flinch anymore as he watches both Steve and Bucky consume an entire loaf of bread’s worth of French toast. He doesn’t even look surprised to find all sixteen pieces of bacon are gone by the end of their meal, either. 

“So, do you guys shit like elephants?” Sam randomly blurts out just as Steve gulps down his orange juice. 

It’s timed perfectly enough to have Steve nearly spitting it all over the kitchen table. He manages to only spit up into his hand and the plate, now coughing and laughing. Bucky is a mirror image of him. 

“What? I think that’s a completely valid question. All that food has to go somewhere. I’m just saying.” Sam chuckles and then reaches out to playfully pat Steve’s back. “I bet Thor takes some crazy shits.” 

“Thor?” Bucky says. 

Steve’s nose crinkles. Nothing is surprising anymore, right? Bucky’s seen a lot so he shouldn’t be too thrown off. “Thor’s the, uh, God of thunder. He’s from Asgard.” 

Bucky glances over to Sam, as if expecting him to say something that’ll explain what the hell Steve is talking about. “Where is Asgard? Is that a new country?”

“Asgard… is… a planet? No… it’s like… a place in the sky. Sort of? I’ve never been there. Haven’t met Thor to ever ask.” Sam says, rather uncertain. 

Steve’s no help, either. “Yeah. Like. Outer Space stuff, Buck. Thor’s a God. Like from mythology class? But he’s real.” He shrugs. “Thor would probably love to explain it to you, some day.” 

“You’re friends?” 

“Yeah?” Steve isn’t exactly positive, if he’s honest. They’re friendly? That counts? “We… worked together. As the Avengers.” 

Bucky leans back in his chair. “The Avengers?” 

Sam smiles. “You’ve missed a lot. Steve’s at least ten perfect cooler now than he was during the war.” 

Steve rolls his eyes and finishes off his orange juice. “It’s a lot of information to take in, Buck, I know. Basically… when I woke up from the ice, I was brought on board to help defend the world from high level threats. Things that normal civilians wouldn’t be able to handle. There’s me, Tony Stark, Natasha Romanoff, Bruce Banner, Clint Barton, and then there’s Thor Odinson. We were all brought together for our different abilities. We helped save New York from… aliens.” 

Bucky narrows his eyes the moment Steve mentions aliens. “You’re a liar.” 

Sam snorts. 

“No, seriously! I know it sounds insane.” Steve whines. “But there were aliens and Loki - Thor’s brother - and the tesseract-“ 

“-My head’s going to explode.” Bucky groans and then waves Steve off as he stands up to start cleaning off the table. “I barely remember my own life and you’re trying to tell me you and a bunch of random superhero friends fought some aliens alongside a God?” 

Sam clicks his tongue in amusement, “bingo.”

Bucky groans. Steve smiles. The day goes on. 

The trio clean up together and then split up to do what they’d like. Steve ends up drawing in the dining room, as per usual, while Sam takes to the living room to watch TV. Steve doesn’t quite know where Bucky goes, but it’s upstairs and he likes to have his alone time. Steve won’t prod. 

Eventually, as the day progresses, Bucky reappears and finds Steve still sitting at the table. He’s gone through a few pages in his sketchbook - none quite up to his standards, however, and so most of the sketches have been crumpled up. 

“Why do you do that?” Bucky randomly asks as he comes up behind Steve. 

“Do what?” Steve asks, now setting the pencil down to glance over his shoulder. He’s not as startled for once by Bucky’s unannounced arrival. 

“Crumple up all your art.” 

“None of it’s good enough.” Steve sighs. 

“None of it?” 

He shrugs. 

“I’m sure there’s some nice things you’ve made.” Bucky says softly, as if he’s implying something that Steve doesn’t quite grasp. Steve’s rather surprised by it. 

“Thanks, Buck.” He says and then offers a faint smile. 

“Think you could help me shave still? I know we didn’t exactly agree to it - or you didn’t - but I was serious.” Bucky suggests suddenly, arms crossed over his chest expectantly. “Please?”

Steve licks his lips as he pretends to contemplate it. He lets the silence linger for a moment before he acts like he’s made up his mind. “Sure. Okay. Let’s go.”

In the midst of it all, Sam somehow gets dragged into the event as a spectator. 

“So, where should I sit?” Bucky asks Steve now as the two of them stand in his bathroom together, Steve with a razor in his hand. Sam’s hanging out on the closed toilet seat, watching them in amused silence. 

“Uh. I guess you could sit on the sink?” Steve suggests as he anxiously grabs the shaving cream from within the medicine cabinet. 

“You’re just shaving his face, right? Not the other thing?” Sam suddenly asks, earning a look from Bucky. 

“No, I figured I’d split up the workload for you both. Steve takes my face and you take the other thing, right? That’s what you’d prefer?” Bucky grumbles, now hopping onto the edge of the sink and folding his hands into his lap patiently. “You know, at this angle, Sam, I could very easily kick you in the face.” 

“That’s not very ‘Steve’ of you.” Sam says in callback to their breakfast conversation, brows raised in feigned shock. 

Bucky tries to hold his scolding expression but fails moments later, snorting and laughing. 

Steve doesn’t even acknowledge them. He’s far too nervous to process things right now. “I’m just gonna run some water into the sink.” He blurts out, mostly for himself, but Bucky appears to nod anyway. 

“I feel like… maybe if I shave, I’ll recognize myself. Maybe remember something about myself, too. Like I did with you.” Bucky sighs as he watches Steve run the water to a warm temperature and then plugs the drain to let the sink fill.

Steve smiles and turns off the faucet. “I hope you do.” He says and then opens the can of shaving cream to pour a dollop into one palm. He sets the can down and wets his hands so that he can rub them together and create a lather. He takes a few steps closer to Bucky, practically standing between his open thighs. “Good?” 

“Yeah.” 

Steve gently extends his hands forward and touches them to Bucky’s cheeks, now rubbing the shaving cream in and trying to cover his entire lower face as evenly as possible. He’s careful around Bucky’s nose and mouth and can’t help but laugh seeing Bucky look more like Santa Claus now than some supposed ruthless assassin. 

“I say we leave him like that.” Sam proposes with a chuckle. 

“It’s a good look.” Steve says softly in amusement, trying to ignore the heavy drumming of his heartbeat in his ears. Once he’s satisfied with his work, he sloshes his hands around in the water, pats them both dry, and then picks up the razor. 

“Just don’t cut my face up.” Bucky mutters, a cautious look to his visage.

“I could never.” Steve tuts and then gets to work on gliding the razor over Bucky’s left cheek. Steve doesn’t take too long as he works on one half of Bucky’s face and then slowly crosses over to his chin. It’s weird at first - doing this for someone else - but Steve quickly settles into it and eventually, like everything they’ve ever done together, it just feels right.  

“How do I look?” Bucky questions as Steve finishes off the very last bit of stubble on Bucky’s neck and cleans the razor off in the now dirty water. 

Steve’s silent at first - eyes transfixed to Bucky’s now clean-shaven face. He can see every detail - his jawline, the sharpness of his cheekbones… even the dimple in his chin. It’s all Bucky. And not a single drop of blood, either. 

“Earth to Steve.” Sam says suddenly, pulling Steve from his trance. 

Steve flushes. “Sorry. Sorry. You look good. Better than good, uh, great. Yeah.” He can see from his peripherals that Sam is smirking.

“You’re a big doof.” Bucky says - it’s charming. He isn’t being mean about it. He hops off the sink and then takes a deep breath before he slowly turns around to face himself in the mirror. He’s quiet. 

“Buck?” Steve mumbles, gnawing on his lower lip. 

“Yeah?”

“Ringing any bells?” 

Bucky turns back around to face Steve and shakes his head. “Not yet. But I look pretty decent for being nearly one hundred years old, huh? I was worried the beard was hiding wrinkles or something - can’t even see one line on my face. Smooth as a baby. You did a good job.” He teases and then breaks into a laugh. 

Steve sighs out in relief, smiling. “As good looking as you always were. I’m glad.” 

“Oh, yeah? You think so?” Bucky says coyly. 

“I know so.” 

Sam coughs. “If you two are done with your moment, I’d love to… not be a part of it, anymore.” He chuckles and then gets up from the toilet seat. “You look good, Buckster. Didn’t know you had a butt-chin, though. Have you considered a goatee for the future?” 

“Everything you say, I wish you wouldn’t.” Bucky groans in reply, now waving Sam off with his metal hand. 

There’s a chorus of laughter that erupts from the three of them. It’s turning out to be another good day - and it stays that way, too. The guilt goes away for now. 

Sam jokingly mentions to them that he’s not going to be the third person Steve shaves that day - and Steve keeps his word on that. 

Steve wonders how long these good times can possibly last for - because he knows everything always has to go wrong eventually. He knows life is all about balancing the good and the bad. And sometimes the really, really bad. He’s aware that eventually Bucky is going to find out the truth about the train. 

He’s going to find out and he’s going to hate Steve. 

But at least Bucky’s smiling right now. 





Chapter Text

It’s early Saturday morning when Sam finally decides he has to leave, despite Steve’s protesting that he doesn’t need to. He has work to do unfortunately - that’s what he tells Steve. The VA needs him back in DC, Steve knows that. 

“I’ll come back to visit soon, Steve. And I’ll let Natasha know you’re around, too. I just gotta get back to work - those guys need me, you know? It’s my duty.” Is what he’d said while tying his shoes when Steve seemed to be leaning up against the wall, pouting down at him. 

They hug goodbye. Bucky offers a small wave from the staircase. Steve watches Sam get into his car and drive away - Bucky sighs out and disappears upstairs. 

The day goes on. 

It’s the middle of the night now - technically - it’s early Sunday morning almost, and Steve can’t stop thinking about what Sam had said about having to go back to work because he was needed. Sam has a purpose in life and has people who need him. He has places to be. And as for Steve… he doesn’t know what he should be doing. 

He’s supposed to be a soldier of war. Defending the world and keeping peace. But every time there’s peace… it just feels like a pause in the war machine. A cog in a never ending wheel that always comes right back around with Steve dangling onto it. 

Bucky needs Steve - right? That gives Steve purpose. This is what Steve needs to be doing. But he can’t help the anxiety that sits in the pit of his stomach, telling him that eventually, one day, Bucky won’t need him anymore. 

And then Steve won’t have an excuse for doing nothing. For sitting around and letting the world pass him by. He’ll need something to need him back. 

His head hurts from it. 

It’s enough to have woken him up and taunted him out of bed. He’s in the kitchen now, sipping slowly at a mug of tea he’s quickly made in the microwave - eyes fixated out the small window overlooking the front lawn. 

He’s standing around in a shirt and a pair of boxers, somewhat regretting it now because it is sort of cold in the house. The days are still warm but the nights have gotten cooler. Soon, it’ll be the fall and the leaves will start turning color from lush greens to golden yellows and vibrant reds. Steve’s excited about that, if he’s honest. He can’t remember the last time he was ever surrounded by so much nature. He’s so used to the city - to the concrete jungle. 

He takes a sip of his tea, sighing at the warmth that blooms in his chest as he swallows and then tries to clear his mind. 

He’s trying to convince himself that Bucky won’t just stop needing him. That, perhaps, even after all of this is over and done… Bucky will still want him around. Like old times. 

It feels weird even considering that it’s been nearly 70 years since ‘old times’ - since things were normal. Before everything went to hell. 

Just as Steve sets down his mug onto the granite island top, he feels someone - obviously Bucky - press his chin into the crook of Steve’s neck from behind. His facial hair has just started to come back - only faint prickles of hair starting to come in now that tickle Steve. “Buck, oh, hey.” He says quietly, words hissed out as he tries to settle. His heart is now rioting in his chest. It’s nothing new. 

“‘M sorry.” Bucky murmurs, voice silky and low. He sounds exhausted - like he’s just woken up, too. “I couldn’t find you.” He adds on, arms now stretching out on either side of Steve’s waist, palms resting up against the island. 

Steve’s trapped in Bucky’s space, breath hitched in his throat as he acknowledges what he’s just said. “You were looking for me?” 

“Yeah. You weren’t in your bed.” 

“What’s wrong?” Steve asks now, allowing himself to lean back ever so slightly. He has no clue what to call this - what they’re doing. What Bucky is trying to accomplish. 

Bucky seems to press forward, nose nuzzling into the side of Steve’s head, up against his hair. “I had a nightmare and was gonna come lay down with you. But you weren’t there so I… came downstairs to find you.”

Steve feels himself flush red. “You were gonna come lay down with me?” 

Bucky makes a wounded noise, as if he doesn’t quite want to admit it, but he does. “Yeah. I know… I shouldn’t just sneak in, but-“ 

“-No, Buck, it’s not that. You don’t ever have to ask. You’re always welcome, I just… I’m surprised…” 

Bucky’s quiet for a moment. He swallows loud enough that Steve can hear it. His mouth is so close to Steve’s ear that he can feel warmth every time he exhales. “Well you weren’t there so it didn’t matter, did it? You’re here… so I came here, too.” 

Steve closes his eyes and fully leans back now, his back pressing into Bucky’s bare chest. He’s shirtless and ,god, is he warm. Even the metal that’s soldered into his shoulder feels warmer than usual. 

Bucky seems to respond wordlessly, moving his hands off the island top to instead slip around Steve’s hips, fingers curling into the bone that juts out on either side. He’s not doing anything other than letting Steve have this moment. 

“I couldn’t sleep either because of a nightmare.” Steve finally admits, sighing. 

“Look at us, two losers who can’t sleep.” Bucky hums out, sarcastically. “What was your nightmare?” 

“Don’t wanna talk about it.” Steve murmurs, “yours?”

“Don’t wanna talk about it.” Bucky echoes, not missing a beat. 

Steve swallows down a laugh and then bows his head forward so that he can take another sip of his tea. He wants to say something - maybe touché - but he doesn’t. He leaves it alone. 

“Do you wanna come back to bed?” 

“With you?” 

Bucky shrugs. “If you wanted to.” 

Steve smiles to himself. “Yeah, okay. Let me just finish this off.” He says in reference to his tea, now taking another, larger gulp of it before he sets the mug down and pushes it towards the center of the counter. 

The two of them are silent as they make their way back upstairs. Steve leads the way, but Bucky stays close behind - like a lingering shadow. 

When they get into Steve’s bedroom, Bucky is the first to collapse dramatically onto the bed, very much on Steve’s side. He nuzzles and presses his face into Steve’s pillow, sighing out. 

“Move over, that’s my side.” Steve groans quietly as he lifts an arm out to nudge Bucky’s own, only to be taken off guard as Bucky suddenly rolls over and grabs his wrist with his metal hand, pulling Steve down and climbing on top of him with a yelp. 

Steve has absolutely no time to react as Bucky wraps his hands tightly around both wrists, now holding them up and above Steve’s head. He’s pinned. 

“Got ya, Rogers.” Bucky laughs while Steve squirms to escape, Bucky shifting to sit himself directly on top of Steve’s lower belly. 

“No, you don’t.” Steve huffs out with a playfulness to his tone. He fights to wriggle himself from Bucky’s grasp, now bridging upwards and sending Bucky right back onto the bed with a soft ‘oof’. Steve gets on top now, mirroring exactly what Bucky had done to him. 

“When’d you get so strong, huh, Stevie?” Bucky teases as he tries to escape, laughing while Steve holds him down. 

“When’d you get so weak?” Steve smirks, though it’s quickly wiped off his face when Bucky uses his hips and bucks Steve’s entire body forward. Their foreheads nearly smack together in the process as Steve fails to brace his hands onto the bed in time. 

There’s a few seconds where Steve swears his heart stops - his face just inches from Bucky’s own while the two stare at each other, silent and wide-eyed like two deer caught in the headlights of a pickup truck. Steve still has Bucky’s body pinned beneath his own. It’s the exact thought he’d created in his mind in the shower the other day. Bucky below him. Held down. The two out of breath and clinging to each other while he thrusts down into him… all he wants to do… 

“Stevie.” Bucky says softly now - words cutting through the tension like a knife. 

Steve suddenly comes back into himself. He scrambles off Bucky, throwing himself bodily onto the open spot on the bed. He lays there, heart pounding and groin aching with humiliation. “I’m sorry - I didn’t-“ 

“-It’s okay.” Bucky mutters back, cutting him off before he can even finish his thought. “You don’t need to apologize. I started it.” 

Steve sighs and resists the tension he feels in the pit of his stomach. “We should sleep, yeah? Before the sun comes up.” He croaks out.

“Yeah.” Bucky replies and then turns himself inward towards Steve. “Goodnight, Stevie.” 

Steve doesn’t answer, just sighs out and tries to ignore the heaviness now building in his chest. All the blood has gone south. He palms himself as discreetly as he can - just to help the ache. 

He eventually falls asleep - he assumes Bucky does, too. 

When the morning comes, Steve is surprised to wake up to Bucky curled up into his side, his face pressed into Steve’s shirt. He resists a laugh when he notices the small, wet spot on his t-shirt from where Bucky’s been drooling for god knows how long. It’s comforting. He doesn’t want to move and risk waking him but when he looks at the clock and notices it’s 11:06 AM, he panics. That’s the entire morning gone and wasted. 

Steve slips out of Bucky’s grasp with as much stealth as he can muster together through his sleepiness, now tiptoeing away from the bed and grabbing a change of clothes so he can shower. 

Bucky is still laying there - heavy like a pile of bricks. His body has shifted so he’s on his stomach now, face pressed into Steve’s pillow.

Steve will wake him up when he finishes up in the shower, if Bucky hasn’t already stirred by then. He makes his way to the bathroom and glances back. 

“Christ.” Steve mutters quietly as he finds himself unable to stop staring at Bucky. He’s pathetic already - he knows it. He forces himself away with a gentle slap to his own cheek and locks the bathroom door as he slips inside. 

Once he’s by himself, Steve strips down and goes through his usual routine. He showers, shaves, and then washes his face and brushes his teeth. He may or may not have touched himself between soaping up and rinsing off. He blocks it out. When he’s all cleaned up and ready for the day, he unlocks the bathroom door, only to find Bucky sitting there at the edge of his bed, hair wild from his sleep. “Hey.” Steve says smoothly as he steps out, running his fingers through his damp hair. 

Bucky looks up, quietly studying him. “What’s this?” He holds up something from his lap - Steve narrows his eyes as he tries to see it. The room is still dark since neither of them bothered to part the curtains or turn on the lights. 

“What’s what?” Steve hums out, taking a few steps closer. 

“This.” Bucky says clearer, now holding the object up higher. 

Steve’s throat immediately constricts and he stops dead in his tracks when he sees it. It’s his compass. His lips part in utter terror, words escaping him. 

“It was sitting on the dresser.” Bucky states, as if Steve doesn’t already know. 

He’d forgotten to put it away and now Bucky is holding it and looking at it - looking at the inside of it. He looks so god damn confused. 

“Steve?” 

Steve feels himself paling. “It’s… I…” He has to close his eyes. He’s far too embarrassed to even acknowledge it. 

“My picture is in here-“

“-Yeah, Buck. I know. It’s mine. I put your picture in there…” Steve finally says, shamefully. “It’s mine, okay? It’s nothing.” 

“It’s nothing?” 

Steve still hasn’t opened his eyes. “It’s… it’s just…” 

“Why can’t you look at me?” Bucky huffs out. Steve hears the bed shift and he knows Bucky has stood up. He hears him taking steps closer to Steve. 

“I’m… I don’t know… I…” Steve really wants to disintegrate into the floorboards right now. Wants to just sink into the wood and soak into the soil and never exist again. Maybe drop off the face of the earth while he’s at it. Float endlessly through space. Yeah. 

Bucky makes a soft noise - an exhale. “It’s a nice picture of me, I guess.” 

Steve opens his eyes, brows furrowed. “Can I have it back? Don’t worry about it. It’s nothing, really. Nothing.” 

Bucky is staring him down. He thinks it over for a moment, as if allowing the silent scrutiny to break Steve down. He finally shrugs and then hands the compass off into Steve’s open palm. “Really must be nothing for you to just have it sitting out on your dresser.” 

“Buck-“ 

“-Don’t worry about it, Steve. It’s nothing; you said so yourself.” Bucky hums out, and then turns on his heel for the door. “I should shower.” And then he’s gone before Steve can even get out another word. 

Steve looks down at the still open compass, Bucky’s face staring up at him - smiling and dazzling as ever. It’s the complete opposite expression in comparison to the death glare Bucky has just given Steve as he left.  “Shit.” He groans out as he closes it and then rushes over to his dresser, now shoving it back into the top drawer where it should’ve been all along. 

Steve always finds a way to ruin a good thing. 

 

— Bucky —

 

Bucky feels this overwhelming dread as he storms down the hallway. He’s angry - confused - hurt. He doesn’t understand why Steve has his photo in the compass. Doesn’t understand why Steve can’t even look him in the eye and tell him what it means. 

It isn’t nothing. 

He remembers something - a sudden flash of a memory in his head. It’s him. It’s Steve. They’re in some tavern that Bucky can’t recall the name of. There’s people everywhere. His people?

Someone’s playing the piano. It’s loud. People are singing. Bucky has a seat at the bar - he’s saving the other for Steve. 

“See, I told you,” Bucky says as he looks over his shoulder and sips at his drink. “They’re all idiots.”

Steve offers the faintest hint of amusement as he takes the seat beside him at the bar. “How ‘bout you? You ready to follow Captain America into the jaws of death?

“Hell no. That little guy from Brooklyn who was too… dumb not to run away from a fight…” Bucky pauses and smiles. “I’m following him.” 

Steve doesn’t say anything, though Bucky can see from beneath his lashes that he gets the slightest tease of a smile out of him. Bucky sips his drink once more while Steve looks ahead. 

Bucky leans in, using that liquid courage he has surging through him now. “But you’re keeping the outfit, right?” It looks good. He can’t deny that. 

“You know what,” Steve begins and then raises a brow towards the poster of himself clad in the Captain America outfit hung up on the wall. “It’s kinda growin’ on me.” 

And then the singing stops - hushed down as someone catches the patrons’ eyes from the hall. Bucky and Steve can’t see who - but they both quickly lean out and catch the sight of a brunette in a sharp, red dress. They both stand without having to think. 

“Captain.” The woman begins and suddenly Bucky feels this surging heat rise in his face. She knows Steve. 

“Agent Carter.” Steve replies right back - smooth and controlled. He knows her, too. 

Bucky looks on as she walks right by him and into Steve’s space - bypassing and closing Bucky out of the conversation. He clears his throat. “Ma’am.” He mumbles but doesn’t receive even the slightest acknowledgment. 

“Howard has some equipment for you to try, tomorrow morning.” She says and Bucky can’t help but feel his stomach flip with anxiety. They really know each other. They have mutual people in common. They’re conversing about something they both have previously spoken about - something Bucky has no part of. 

“Sounds good.” Steve answers. 

Bucky looks between them. Back and forth. He can’t read either of them. 

“I see your top squad is prepping for duty.” Agent Carter hums out, red lips pressing together. 

Bucky finally gets the opportunity to interject. “You don’t like music?” He questions, trying to be coy. 

“I do, actually. I might even, when this is all over, go dancing.” Her words are spoken to Steve - only to Steve. As if Steve has asked her the question instead of Bucky. 

Jealousy spikes in Bucky’s gut. “Then what’re we waiting for?” He tries - as if to reel in the conversation. To at least break their never-ending eye contact. 

“The right partner.” Agent Carter responds, again, to Steve and Bucky swears he sees Steve smiling and everything in him is telling him to scream ‘I’m the one talking, not him!’ But he doesn’t. He won’t. 

Bucky’s so dizzy with it that he doesn’t even hear the end of their conversation. Doesn’t even process she’s left until she’s back down the hall. He looks at Steve, trying to hide his hurt. “Who is she?” Bucky asks. 

Steve smiles. “A friend.” 

“A friend?” Bucky doesn’t like the answer. Doesn’t like thinking Steve has other friends - friends Bucky isn’t around to witness interactions with. Doesn’t like that Steve with the serum suddenly has eyes on him. 

“Yeah. No worries, Buck. She ain’t takin’ me from ya.” Steve coos and then let’s a palm delicately squeeze at Bucky’s shoulder. 

Bucky makes a face. “You’re gonna take her out dancing?” 

Steve sighs. 

They turn back towards the bar and Bucky is thankful. He grabs for his drink again and finishes the last of it. 

“I never said that-“ Steve begins. 

“She sounds like she’s gonna ask ya. You know. After the war.” Bucky’s jealousy is rearing its ugly head and he knows it. 

Steve handles it like a champ and then leans in, long full lashes fluttering. “I don’t even know how to dance, Buck. I wouldn’t be too worried.” 

Bucky doesn’t respond. Doesn’t know what to say. 

 

Bucky wipes his eyes at the memory. The angry sting of tears. The jealousy. It’s all there and as raw and awful as it was back then. 

He showers in silence, trying to scrub away 70 years worth of jealousy over someone who probably doesn’t even exist anymore. Why is he even jealous?

He dresses and then heads downstairs, catching the sight of Steve on the couch - face deep into a random book he’s grabbed off the bookshelf. They don’t acknowledge each other, at least not yet. 

Bucky wants to say something. Wants to open up that conversation from before - pull that ‘it’s nothing’ out of Steve like a rotting tooth. But he waits. 

Another memory hits Bucky as he opens the fridge. 

 

They’re in a small kitchen in Brooklyn - Steve’s sitting at the table, small and pale and compact. Bucky’s rummaging through the fridge. 

“Buck, I’m fine. It’s just a-“ Steve’s cut off by a fit of heavy, thick coughs. They rattle through his chest like wind chimes in a storm. 

“Yeah, okay, Stevie. Just a cough. Listen to ya!” Bucky scolds as he looks back at Steve, waiting until the coughing stops before he turns back towards the fridge. He’s looking for the prescription cough syrup with ‘Steven Grant Rogers’ written on the side of it from the pharmacy. When he finds it, he swipes it up and then quickly pours it out into the lid. 

“Buck-“ 

“No, you ain’t gettin’ outta this. C’mon. Real quick.” Bucky groans and then holds the liquid out to Steve like he’s his mother. 

Steve coughs a few more times before he finally accepts the liquid from Bucky and knocks it back. Bucky can’t help but laugh as he watches Steve shiver dramatically and then twists his face up into knots. 

“That’a boy.” Bucky cheers as he collects the empty lid and rinses it off in the sink. He recaps the medicine and then puts it away with a smirk. 

“God, that’s so gross.” Steve whines between more coughs. He hops off the chair and rushes over to the kitchen sink, now getting onto his toes so that he can stick his face under the faucet and drink the water. 

Bucky just laughs and comes up behind Steve now, waiting until he’s finished drinking before he envelopes the smaller man into a tight hug. “I love you, Stevie. I just wanna make sure you’re here with me for a long time. Can’t lose ya. Especially not to a cough.” 

“Ya ain’t gonna lose me.” Steve sighs as he buries his face deep into Bucky’s chest. 

“You’re stuck with me forever. ‘Til the end of the line, you know?” Bucky murmurs. 

Steve pulls back - just enough to lock eyes with Bucky. His eyes are so big and sincere. So blue. So honest. 

And then Bucky is being real dumb. Doing something he shouldn’t be doing. He dips down and in, hands moving up from Steve’s back to cradle his face. He holds Steve’s cheeks, fingers caressing gently. 

Steve is silent. Doe-eyed. So fragile. So petite. 

Bucky closes the gap between them and brushes his lips up against Steve’s - kissing him as softly and as gently as possible. Steve’s lips are so soft and warm and perfect… they mold right to Bucky’s. 

Their lips separate. They separate. 

“Bucky-“ 

“Stevie, shit, I-“ 

 

Bucky shakes himself from the memory when the fridge suddenly beeps loudly - signaling to him that it’s been open for too long. He closes it fast, internally panicking now as he swallows down the thoughts. He doesn’t even remember why he’d opened the fridge in the first place. 

They kissed?

Steve hasn’t said anything. Hasn’t even hinted at it.

Bucky remembers teasing Steve about his virginity - about who he’d kissed. Bucky never even came up. Steve never even suggested it. Did he lie?

“Buck, you okay?” Steve suddenly asks from behind. Bucky hadn't even realized Steve had moved from the living room. 

Bucky swallows hard. “I’m fine. Leave me alone.” He says sharply, now pushing passed Steve in a rush to escape. 

“No, c’mon, talk to me. Don’t push me away.” Steve says as he stumbles back but catches himself on firm footing. “We’ve been doing so good - c’mon. Please.”

“Oh, now you wanna open up?” Bucky tuts as he stops and turns to glare at Steve, arms crossing over his chest defensively. The plates in his metal arm shift and calibrate and he catches Steve’s eyes staring. 

“What does that even mean?” Steve asks, brows knit together in obvious confusion. 

“You wouldn’t talk to me upstairs. Couldn’t even look me in the eye when I asked ya to, but now you’re gonna try and play therapist.” Bucky growls and as he’s saying the words, he can’t help but think that maybe Sam was the glue that kept the dam shut. He remembers all the fighting before Sam came and now it seems to be resurfacing. 

Steve makes a face - as if hurt. He quickly recovers. “Bucky, I… my compass. Is that what this is about?” 

Bucky shrugs. “I don’t know, Steve. It’s nothing.”  

Steve sighs. “It really is nothing, Buck! It’s just young Steve loving his god damn best friend too god damn much. It’s not anything serious - I just kept that with me during the war. Made things easier. When I thought I couldn’t go on anymore, your face kept me going. That’s all it was - a-all it is…” Steve’s face is red. Bright fucking red. 

“Did I know about it?” Bucky asks after a few moments of silence. He lets his arms fall away and to his sides. 

Steve takes a step closer to him, shaking his head. “No. I never told you. I never… never thought I had to… it was just…” Steve trails off. “It was just for me. I was embarrassed.” 

Bucky narrows his eyes. “Why?” 

“Because I… I don’t know. I didn’t tell you - I didn’t think it was a big deal.” Steve looks terrified now, like he’s wearing his heart on his sleeve and Bucky’s about to rip it off. 

But instead… Bucky frowns. “You didn’t have it because of something?” It’s a hint. Bait. Whether or not Steve will take it, he’s not sure. 

Instead, Steve looks confused. “I told you, Bucky. I had it because it was you. It just reminded me of home. It got real hard sometimes - and I took that compass with me everywhere. All the battles. All the fights. You always came with me.” 

Bucky can feel the tears welling up in his eyes now and he can’t even explain to himself why it’s happening. Why he suddenly feels so attached to Steve. He swallows hard. “I always came with you?” 

Steve smiles sadly - a hint of shyness to his expression. “Yeah, Buck. Yeah. Always.” 

“What about Agent Carter?” Bucky suddenly asks, gnawing at his lower lip. His anxiousness is telling him to run upstairs - to hide away in his room. That this isn’t worth the pain. But instead, he remains planted firmly. He can’t stop thinking about the tavern. The memory of Steve and Agent Carter.

The right partner.

“Peggy? What about Peggy?” Steve says breathlessly, as if he’s surprised Bucky has mentioned her. It finally connects. Bucky suddenly remembers Agent Carter is Peggy - he’d just forgotten in his whirlwind of jealousy. She’s the same Peggy that Steve kissed. 

“Was she the right partner?” Bucky mumbles now. 

Steve’s brows shoot up - he’s momentarily caught off guard. “You’re talking about the bar? With the Howling Commandos?” Bless that super serum and Steve’s enhanced memory. 

Bucky shrugs and turns so he can run the sleeve of his hoodie across his face, catching any tears before they can surface. “I don’t know, Steve. I guess. She wanted to go dancing after the war - did you ever take her dancing?”

“No, Buck. No. I never took her dancing - I never had the chance. Why is this bothering you? What’s wrong?” 

Bucky shakes his head and sniffles. “‘Cause why am I in the compass and not her?” 

Steve pales. “Because she’s not you, Buck.” 

“But what’s so special about me?” He wants to so badly outright ask Steve - to beg Steve to admit they kissed. That there’s something more to them. But he resists, only for the fact that he can’t handle it. Can’t handle what may happen. 

Maybe Steve’s ashamed and that’s why he never acknowledged it. Why he didn’t count Bucky in his short list of people he’s kissed. 

“You were my best guy.” Steve says softly, now looking down at his feet. “I couldn’t replace you with anyone. Not Peggy. No one.” 

Bucky has to walk away - if only to hide his face better because now he’s sure his cheeks are red and that his eyes are probably a glassy mess. 

“Bucky…” Steve whispers out, “come here. Please.” 

And for some reason, Steve’s voice is like a magnet drawing Bucky in. He turns back around, hiding his face within the depths of his sleeve covered hands and then allows Steve to pull him into a hug. Tight and secure. His hands fall away from his eyes to instead wrap around Steve’s body when he’s sure Steve no longer has the opportunity to see his swollen face. 

“You’re alright, Buck. It’s okay.” Steve coos, his large hand coming up to Bucky’s back and rubbing soothing circles into it now. 

Bucky won’t cry. Won’t allow himself to.

“Maybe I should’ve showed you that compass sooner.” Steve sighs out as he murmurs the words into Bucky’s temple. “Like, 70 years sooner.” 

“But you kissed Peggy.” Bucky mutters, “she should be in the compass.”

“Peggy wasn’t my home, Buck. You were.” Steve tries to reason, voice delicate and warm against Bucky’s face. “You still are.” 

“But…” 

“There isn’t anything else to say, Buck. I chose you. I will always choose you.” Steve says it so surely - so confidently. “In every single lifetime, I will always choose you.” 

Bucky just clamps his eyes shut and nods.

He quietly thinks that in his past life, he chose Steve, too. 

Chapter Text

— Bucky —

 

“I pulled you out of the river.” Bucky randomly blurts out on a Tuesday morning. It’s nice out - warm and golden. 

His words are enough to startle Steve into dropping the screwdriver he’d been using to build the frame for the punching bag he had shipped to the house. Bucky still doesn’t quite grasp the idea that Steve tells his phone to get him something and it appears the next day, outside the door. It’s weird, but he doesn’t question it anymore. 

Bucky is just sitting on the floor, hands gripping at the small booklet of directions that neither of them really bothered to look at… because who needs directions on how to build a punching bag, anyway?

Steve turns on his heels and looks down at Bucky, eyes wide while the screwdriver quietly rolls away. “What did you say?” 

Bucky clears his throat. Licks his lips. Thinks about it some more. “I said… I pulled you out of the river.” 

Steve’s expression softens into something Bucky can’t quite decipher. Maybe it’s relief? Shock? Adoration?

“You asked me a few weeks ago… about what I did… and I… I didn’t really want to talk about it then. But I guess…” Bucky is all over the place. He sets down the directions somewhere onto the hardwood floor and peers up at Steve. 

“You feel comfortable talking about it now?” Steve says with a breathlessness to his voice that sends a shiver down Bucky’s spine. 

“Y-Yeah. I did it. You fell and I jumped after you. You were passed out.” Bucky mutters, shaking his head as he recalls everything. He remembers the confusion and absolute terror he felt. He remembers feeling compelled into the water. Remembers Steve’s pale face as he dragged him out onto the dirt. “I wasn’t sure if you were gonna be okay. I stayed until I knew you were breathing and then I left. Couldn’t stick around.” 

Steve’s eyes are trained on Bucky as he moves to sit down beside Bucky on the floor, legs crossed. “So, you saved me? It was you.” 

Screw the punching bag. 

Bucky offers the faintest smile he can muster up through his sudden sheepishness. “I guess so. I didn’t know why I did it then. But I think I do now.” 

“Why?” Steve murmurs. 

“Because you’re Steve.” Bucky says coyly, a small smirk playing on his lips now. 

Steve sighs and smiles. “You’ve been saying that.” 

“Yeah, but it’s true. You’re my Steve. And I guess… you saying those words… it got through to a piece of me I didn’t know still existed under all the conditioning.” 

There’s a look in Steve’s eyes now. Bucky can see the blush creeping from his neck and up to his face. It’s endearing - endearing like a lot of what Steve does. “I would’ve let you kill me, you know.” He says quietly. 

There’s a sudden tightness in Bucky’s chest at the admission. “You don’t mean that.” 

“I do.” 

“Steve-“

“-Bucky. I was fully prepared to let you take me under that day. I wasn’t going to fight you anymore - I told you that and I meant that. You had your mission. If I couldn’t stop you, then that was it…” 

Bucky swallows hard. “Then I guess I’m glad I failed.” 

Steve laughs softly. “Me, too, Buck.” 

“You’re the only mission I ever truly failed.” Bucky admits quietly, chewing on the inner part of his cheek. He looks down at Steve’s hands and then reaches out for one. “I… I’d occasionally not get the job done the first time - but I never needed more than a second chance. With you, though, I failed. I failed and that was it.”

Steve doesn’t even blink an eye as he holds a hand out, palm up, for Bucky to take into his own metal one. “Do you remember the other missions?” 

Bucky frowns and tries to ignore the emotional baggage that comes with the answer. He’s tracing random shapes into Steve’s palm, dodging the question. “Yeah.” He finally says. 

“Yeah?”

“I remember them all. I remember every face. Every scream. Every shot.” Bucky says quietly and then moves to lace his metal fingers with Steve’s. 

Steve’s quiet, brows furrowed tightly. He looks pained. Bucky can see every fine line across his forehead. He doesn’t have much - really - he’s as young looking as Bucky can remember. Hasn’t aged a day. But Bucky can see the worry in his expression. He’s trying so hard to keep a straight face - to not show his cards. “I didn’t know you remembered-“ 

“-HYDRA took you from me. Took my childhood. Took my family. My life… but they left me with all my victims. Sometimes, they’d wipe me clean and I’d forget everything for awhile. Just exist as the Asset. A clean slate with no clue of what my purpose was other than to please.” Bucky shakes his head and then shrugs bitterly. “But then, if they left me out for too long, everything would slowly come back. They wiped me after we met on the bridge, you know? I was all messed up over you.” The last words come out quiet, Bucky now feeling his heart jump. “They beat me because I failed to kill you the first time. Wiped me clean. I wonder what they’d do to me now if they could find me…” 

“They wouldn’t do anything. I wouldn’t let them touch you.” Steve practically growls as he turns their hands over and squeezes. It’s obvious he’s not quite satisfied with the metal hand, however, because there’s no give when he applies pressure. It’s like holding a brick for comfort and Bucky knows it - so he turns in towards Steve and offers his flesh hand for Steve to take into his other. Steve grips that one, too. Real tight. Like a scared child getting a shot at the doctor’s office - only Steve isn’t scared right now. He’s stone-faced and consumed with sudden anger over HYDRA. Bucky sees it in his eyes. 

“I hurt a lot of people, Steve. The Winter Soldier may of did the work but I remember it all. There’s only one reason the Winter Soldier was as good of a shot as he was - and it’s ‘cause I helped.” Bucky mumbles the words - like he’s afraid that if he speaks them too loud, Belle will come slamming into the room with a pair of cuffs to take him away to jail. 

“No. You didn’t do anything. You were a victim, Buck. They controlled you.” 

“I know.” 

“I’ll never let them get to you again.” Steve says as he once again gives both of Bucky’s hands tight squeezes. 

Bucky just nods. Because he really doesn’t know what else to say. He wants to believe Steve. He wants to. 

Eventually, the two get up off the floor and the punching bag gets built. But all the while, Bucky is stuck inside his head - repeating their conversation over and over again. 

He’s been having more and more flashbacks - more dreams and more memories about Steve. Sometimes, Bucky does something simple - like brushing his teeth - and suddenly he’s remembering Steve and himself in a bathroom, fighting over toothpaste inside a tiny apartment in Brooklyn. 

Other times, Steve gives him a certain look and Bucky is trapped inside a memory he can’t even begin to explain to Steve. He’s too embarrassed. Too confused. 

Just the other day, he’d dreamt of them in Steve’s bedroom, laying together on Steve’s bed while they listened to the baseball game broadcasting on the radio. Bucky’s not sure how old they were - but he knows it was before Sarah passed away. Knows because it was Steve’s place and not theirs.  

Bucky doesn’t remember too much but he does remember the warm touch of Steve’s hand wrapped around his erection and Bucky having to shove his fingers into Steve’s mouth to keep him quiet. 

And when Bucky had woken up in the morning, flustered and dripping with sweat, he was just as close in reality as he had been in his dream. 

Bucky doesn’t dare tell Steve about that. Doesn’t tell him about the countless other dreams he’s been having either. They all just stay locked up in his head, where they belong. 

He’s thankful that none of these dreams have happened while sleeping beside Steve. He doesn’t want to find out what would happen if one did. 

When Wednesday comes, Lillian returns once more and this time she comes with another set of gifts for Bucky to cradle in his lap. Instead of old photos or articles from textbooks like the previous week, she brings an empty journal with a small lock and key as well as a set of pencils and pens in different colors. Bucky isn’t entirely sure how he feels about it, but when Lillian explains that it’ll give him a chance to express himself and collect his thoughts, it maybe doesn’t sound so bad. 

“You can write down anything. Absolutely anything. And then you can use that lock to keep it safe from prying hands.” She says while Bucky raises a brow to her.

“You’re talking about Steve Rogers, you know, right?” Bucky responds with a smirk, now resisting a snort.

“Yes?” 

“Steve’s the kind of guy that knows he can pry - hell, he could rip this thing right open key or no key - but he wouldn’t. Because he respects people. Respects me.” Bucky says - confident as ever. 

Lillian only smiles. Bucky can’t help but notice how fondly she smiles, too. It’s real and genuine. 

The session goes by quickly. By the end of the hour, Bucky is up to walk Lillian out and promises he’ll try and write a few pages in the journal. 

That same night, Steve and Bucky eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with a lot more peanut butter than jelly per Bucky’s request. They each have three sandwiches and proceed to laugh because they know Sam would’ve commented about it if he was still staying over. Bucky doesn’t want to make it entirely obvious, but he does ask Steve if Sam is ever going to return. Steve grins wide and promises him he’ll see Sam again, all the while he washes the dishes and Bucky props a leg up on the table and watches. After all, he doesn’t want to submerge the metal arm in soapy water. It’s a good enough excuse. Steve just rolls his eyes and his sleeves up to his elbows and cleans up after them both. 

It’s another day to add to the pile of what Steve refers to now as ‘good days’ - and Bucky agrees. No crying, no yelling, no fighting… no problems. 

The middle of the night, however, isn’t as forgiving to Bucky. It’s nearly two in the morning and Bucky has been asleep for just over two hours when he finally begins to dream. While he’s come to expect that Steve is the first thing his mind conjures up, tonight it happens to be Rumlow and Pierce. 

 

2010.

“When you’re done with him, prep him. I’ve got business to attend to. I trust you’ll handle him?” Alexander Pierce’s voice echoes out through the facility. 

The Asset is quietly sitting in the lab, arms chained together and legs kept at shoulder distance with a metal bar locked between both ankles. He has no plans to run - knows better than that. He’s learned from past mistakes. 

“With pleasure.” Brock Rumlow, one of the Asset’s many handlers, responds from somewhere behind his back. Rumlow is the scariest. He always hurts the Asset. The Asset doesn’t like him at all. 

The Asset won’t dare to turn around when he isn’t spoken to. He keeps his eyes locked and trained forward, staring at the wall. 

Pierce just nods and leaves the room, closing the heavy door behind him. He offers a quiet, “be good” to the Asset as he exits. 

It’s just Rumlow and the Asset now. 

“Asset, mission report.” He says nonchalantly as he shuffles around in the background. He appears to be gathering things. The Asset can’t remember what, though. 

Immediately, his training kicks in and he’s forced to word vomit: “mission failed. Target evaded execution. New plan to be carried out.” He responds, throat dry as he says the words because he knows he’s done an awful job. Knows he’s failed and knows he’s not allowed to. There’s no pass or fail for the Asset - it’s do or else. 

Immediately after he’s spoken, Rumlow comes up from behind him and pulls him back into the chair by his throat. The Asset’s head hits the headrest and he scrambles to move forward, only to be held back tightly in place by a hand hooked under his chin. “Say that again, Asset. Mission report.” 

“Mission failed. Target evaded execution. New plan to be carried out.” He sputters, coughing on the words as he tries to breathe in - tries to slip away. 

“A god damn disappointment, you are.” Rumlow growls and then lets the Asset’s neck go with a rough, exaggerated release of his grip. “Get up. Let’s go.” He commands and then comes around to pull the Asset up out of the chair by his hair. 

He hates this. Hates Rumlow. 

He holds back any noises as he’s hoisted out of the chair and roughly shoved forward. It’s hard to walk. Hard to move with the spacers between his ankles. He wants to be somewhere else. Anywhere else. 

Rumlow takes him into another room - a room he knows he’s been in before, but can’t remember because they keep wiping and erasing everything. It’s cold and hollow and dark. There’s one single drain in the center and no windows. 

Rumlow suddenly turns a faucet on and water comes rushing out from a hose attached to a hook. 

It’s a makeshift shower. 

The Asset stands there, silently staring. 

“Let’s go. Clothing off, Asset.” Rumlow asserts as he comes over and then violently removes the restraints before getting to work on the Asset’s gear. 

He doesn’t fight it as Rumlow undresses him down to absolutely nothing - doesn’t even make a sound when he’s shoved forward into freezing cold water and barked at to wash himself. 

He tries to - he really does. But there’s no soap and he has nothing but his hands. He wants to sink to the floor and curl into a ball… but then Rumlow is screaming at him to hurry up and he tries so hard to fight the cold and do as he’s told. The water is rough and pummels against his body, feeling more like bullets raining against his skin than a shower. 

“Don’t you want soap?” Rumlow suddenly asks from the sidelines, a devious grin to his visage. 

The Asset nods. Nods because he knows there’s no other answer. 

Rumlow shrugs and then lifts up a bar of soap from the pile of things he’d gathered before. It was for the shower, the Asset realizes now. Stupid. 

Rumlow tosses the bar at him and the Asset catches it, now fighting back pathetic tears as he uses it to clean himself. 

It’s not even a minute later when Rumlow abruptly comes over and shoves the Asset from behind, the bar of soap flying across the room and the Asset stumbling to his knees. Rumlow is laughing. “Go get it.” He barks out as he sends a kick into the Asset’s ribs. 

The Asset does as he’s told - scrambling over to the bar of soap and trying to pick it up and get back to his feet, but he’s immediately shoved back down. And then he’s kicked and kicked, over and over. 

“You like that don’t ya, Asset?” Rumlow taunts from above him. 

He doesn’t answer. Won’t. Can’t. 

Rumlow won’t stop laughing now as he unhooks the hose from the wall and then proceeds to spray it at the Asset as he balls up on the floor, trying to shield himself and his face from the blast of water. 

He’s so cold. Everything hurts. It feels never ending. 

The Asset doesn’t know how long it goes on for before he finally disassociates. Doesn’t even remember the overlap of it stopping and him being forced to dry with a hand towel. But it eventually stops and he’s eventually redressed. 

Rumlow drags him back into the lab and shoves him back down into the chair and then locks him in, dripping wet hair and bruised ribs ignored. 

The Asset clenches the mouth guard between his teeth hard. He remembers this part. He hates this part. 

He screams. It’s all he can do. 

The mission is successful the next time the Asset is sent out.

 

Bucky wakes up screaming, loud and panicked. He has no perception of reality as he lunges out of bed and stumbles through the darkness. He’s tripping and stumbling as he fumbles around the room, stricken with fear as the memories keep replaying in his head.

Rumlow is waiting for him. Pierce knows where he is. 

They’re going to find him. He needs to get away. 

Bucky immediately spots the window and rushes over to it, now pulling at the curtains and ripping the rod right out of the wall from the strength of his tug. He then gets to work on trying to break through the window, repeatedly hitting his metal elbow against it. 

The glass is thick. This isn’t a normal house. 

Where the fuck is he?

“Bucky!” A voice cries out from behind him, desperate. 

The lights suddenly turn on. 

“Stay away from me!” Bucky yells out, frantic as he keeps hitting at the window before giving up and turning to grab the metal rod he’d ripped from the wall. He holds it out and turns to the voice. 

“Bucky! Stop! You’re okay - it’s Steve!” The man cries out, eyes wide when he realizes Bucky is absolutely going to throw the rod at him. 

And he does. 

The man just barely manages to dodge it before he’s trying to run over and stop Bucky from doing something else - something more damaging. 

“Bucky, it’s Steve! You’re safe! You’re in Lake George, New York. Your name is James Buchanan Barnes!” The man - Steve - pleads with him now, reaching out to try and stop Bucky. 

“Stay back! Stay away from me!” Bucky screams, voice echoing off the walls as he tries to dodge Steve. When he finds himself suddenly cornered, he lunges forward with his metal hand and takes Steve by the neck - now shoving him up against the wall. 

“Bucky!” He gags as he struggles to fight back, hands clawing at his throat for release. “It’s Steve! Your Steve! Stevie!” 

“Stevie?” Bucky repeats, eyes wide with horror.

Everything fades away. His hand releases from Steve’s throat and Steve slumps to the floor, gasping for air. 

Bucky just stands there, eyes glazed over with confusion and absolute fear. He doesn’t understand what’s just happened. “Stevie?” He says again, albeit much more softly now as he crumples to the floor and collapses into Steve. 

“You’re okay, you’re okay…” Steve hushes as he forces himself to sit up and pull Bucky into him, arms wrapping around him tightly. He’s breathing heavily.

“Rumlow… he's gonna find me. He’s gonna-“ 

“No. No, Bucky. They caught Rumlow. He’s not coming for you. You’re safe. It was a dream. You’re okay…” Steve coos, a hand coming up to cradle at the back of Bucky’s head, now soothingly running his fingers through the long strands of hair. 

Bucky winces as he realizes what he’s done. “I choked you… oh god…” He forces himself to pull away so that he can see Steve’s throat - it’s red and bruised. It’s Bucky’s handprint. His heart drops into the floor. 

“No, I’m fine. Don’t worry. Everything is okay. We’re okay. You’re safe.” Steve pleads with him, “I’ve got you.” 

“I’m sorry, Steve. I’m sorry...” Bucky murmurs as he let’s Steve pull him back into his body - carefully letting his head rest along Steve’s shoulder now. 

Bucky doesn’t know how long they spend together on his bedroom floor, but eventually, he falls asleep with his face pressed deep into Steve’s t-shirt. It smells like him - all soapy clean and hints of cedar wood mixed with the laundry detergent that Bucky’s come to associate with all things Steve. 

When the duo wake up, they’re still on the floor and the room is still an embarrassing mess that reminds Bucky of his episode. But Steve shows no signs of judgement as he helps put things back into their rightful places. He even manages to put the curtain rod back onto the wall with the leftover screws from the punching bag because Bucky really only ripped it out of the wall rather than actually breaking it. Go figure. Small victories. 

He feels better about it. The room looks better, too. 

Steve makes them breakfast and then the two of them exercise together afterwards. It almost feels like the old days he sees in his flashbacks. But… It’s oddly distracting watching Steve do push-ups now. More distracting than Bucky’s ever remembered. Steve’s able to do things with his body that Bucky could never have imagined. He suddenly remembers small, frail Steve dipping down to do a push-up and failing to rise back up. Coughing. Practically wheezing through any form of physical exertion. 

And yet he always found himself getting beat up and in the middle of fights. Fights Bucky would constantly have to break him out of. He remembers that. 

But this version of Steve does push-ups so easily - repeatedly and without fail. Each dip down is lower than the last. And then he puts one hand behind his back and suddenly he’s doing push-ups with just one hand and Bucky is staring like an idiot. 

He watches the angle of Steve’s back - straight as an arrow. He can see from beneath that stupid tight shirt that each muscle is working. Contracting and pulling. Filling with blood. And as his eyes move lower to Steve’s equally stupid tight shorts he can clearly see that Steve’s got an ass. It’s round and toned and is stupidly fighting against the stupid material of his stupid shorts. 

Stupid. 

Dammit, Bucky hates himself for thinking like that. 

He minds his business as best he can, but he knows Steve catches him watching more than once. 

But, thankfully, Steve is too prudish to ever actually say anything. 

Afterwards, they split up to take separate showers and then meet up downstairs in the living room. Steve’s on his phone while Bucky stares at the TV screen. 

Bucky’s awfully quiet and caught in his head. Steve notices. 

“What’s up?” Steve finally asks as he sets down his phone into his lap - blue eyes wide with curiosity. 

Bucky shrugs. “You have a phone. I kind of… want to have one for myself?” 

Steve makes a face. 

“I know - stupid idea. Sorry.” Bucky says quietly, now shifting awkwardly on the couch. 

Steve immediately softens his expression. “No, no - not what I was going to say. I just - you think they’ll let you? Is that allowed?” 

Bucky licks his lips at the question. “No. You’re probably right about that - it’s probably not allowed.” 

“Maybe I could ask Sam. Or… Natasha. To get you one. Keep it off the grid.” Steve suggests with a smile, and then moves his foot forward to gently nudge Bucky’s thigh. “It would be a secret.” 

Bucky laughs, suddenly smiling. “Oh, yeah? I like secrets.” 

“Do you?” Steve snickers, shaking his head. “Good. I’ll ask Natasha then. She can probably get me something fancy and encrypted.” 

Bucky’s brows furrow suddenly at the flash of jealousy that radiates through him. He remembers Natasha. Steve kissed Natasha. “She’s the one you kissed right? One of the three?” 

Steve sighs out - exaggerated and loud. “Yes. Yeah. If you mention that to her… ever-“ 

“You’ll what?” Bucky scoffs. 

Steve’s face reddens. “I don’t know, Buck! Just don’t!” 

“Do you like her?” He’s being nosy again. 

Steve’s clearly blushing now. “No. No. Jesus Christ, no. Natasha is a friend. That’s it. I thought I made that clear the first time this was brought up. She’s just a friend.” 

“Like me and you?” Bucky hums. 

“What?” 

“We’re… friends, too. Like you and Natasha.” Friends that kiss and then apparently never talk about it ever again. Something he and Natasha clearly have in common. 

Steve’s lips part to say something, but he stops himself. Pauses. Breathes. “Yeah, Buck. Just friends.” 

Bucky nearly grumbles at that. 

Steve swallows hard and looks down at his phone again, using it as a crutch to exit the conversation. But Bucky isn’t finished. He’s going to pry this out of him, even if it takes all day. 

He’s got nowhere else to be, anyway. 

“So… you never got to dance with anybody, did ya?” Bucky suddenly says as he raises his metal arm out to poke at Steve’s shoulder. 

Steve looks up from his phone, nose crinkled. “No…” 

“Do you still want to?” 

“Want to what?” 

“Dance, you idiot.” Bucky groans. 

Steve’s blush has only gotten worse. It’s up to his ears now. Bucky wants to say something but he knows better than to do that. Especially if he intends on this conversation going anywhere. “Yeah. One day.”

“What about right now?” Bucky says coyly. 

“With… you?” 

“Yeah. I could teach you. I danced a lot. Not sure how much I actually remember - but you do deserve a dance. At least one.” Bucky says softly as he turns in towards Steve’s body on the couch. “What do you think?” 

“I don’t-“ 

“You’re not gonna tell your best guy no, are you?” Bucky questions, feigning shock. 

Steve’s Adam’s Apple visibly jerks. “Bucky, I-I don’t think I want to make a fool of myself right now...” 

“I won’t laugh at you, if that’s what you’re thinking. I may of made a joke or two in the past, but I can be serious. Let’s dance. C’mon. Please? Your best guy is beggin’ ya.” Bucky pouts out his lower lip real far and then moves to bump his shoulder directly into Steve’s. 

Steve closes his eyes and groans. He’s given up trying to deny he’s blushing now. It’s everywhere. His nose, his forehead, his cheeks… “Fine. Fine. But I swear, Buck, if you laugh, I’m never cooking for you again. You can go do photosynthesis out in the backyard for all I care.”

Bucky snorts at that and then immediately catches himself before he can fully laugh - Steve giving him a raised brow in response. “That doesn’t count, seriously! You said photosynthesis and I had to laugh. That’s the last one - I promise.” He clears his throat and then moves to stand up from the couch. He holds an extended arm out to Steve, who, surprisingly, takes his arm and stands with him. 

Steve is all wide-eyed and red-faced as he puts the phone on the table and then steps closer into Bucky’s space. “What do I do?” 

Bucky laughs quietly. “Let’s go over the dance first and then we’ll get some music to go with it. You be the big man - put your arm around my waist.” He instructs with a small, lopsided grin. 

Steve nods and lets out a shaky breath, now moving to extend his arm out and catch at Bucky’s waist as asked. He lets his fingers press and hold firmly. 

“Good. Then I put my hand behind your neck,” Bucky says as he does so, voice soft, “like this.” 

“And then?” Steve murmurs, entirely uncomfortable and fidgety and god does it feel good to make Steve squirm. 

“And then… you take my hand and hold it out like this.” Bucky smirks as he laces his metal fingers with Steve’s and holds their hands out at chest level. They’re close. Close enough that Bucky can smell the mint on Steve’s breath. 

“And we just… sway?” Steve mumbles as he makes eye contact with Bucky and then quickly looks down between them to hide his flustered expression. 

“Yeah. Sort of. We can do that, sure. Just real slow. Like you’re tryin’ to romance me.” Bucky hums like the tease he knows he is. “You lead. I’ll follow.” He offers, now waiting for Steve to take that first step. 

And he does. 

After a few seconds of deep breaths, Steve takes a very tiny step backwards and Bucky follows directly in line with him. They mostly stay in place because Steve doesn’t exactly have a clue what he’s doing and truthfully, Bucky doesn’t remember much about dancing. But he’s trying to pretend he does. 

“Just like that. So good, Stevie.” Bucky whispers between them as he lets Steve guide them in their swaying, the two just gently rocking together in the room’s silence. “Bein’ all sweet on me.” He coos playfully. 

“Always sweet on you.” Steve laughs softly, like he’s letting his anxiety escape. It’s a nervous laugh. “Geez, Buck. I didn’t think you could be a romantic.” 

“I can be with the right person.” Bucky responds as confidently as he can muster. If this doesn’t get Steve to admit to all those memories they had together, then Bucky really doesn’t know what else to do. 

Steve looks down between them and gives Bucky’s waist a small squeeze. He feels each finger press into him and the heat practically radiates through the material of his shirt. 

“So, now that we’ve got this down… got any music?” Bucky suddenly asks with a grin as he brings them to a halt. 

“Uh… music? I could… see if there’s an app.” Steve mutters before he gently pulls himself away from Bucky. Just for a second. He’s a bumbling fool and Bucky has to keep up his promise of no laughter despite how amused Bucky is watching Steve acting all shy and lost. 

It takes him a moment, but eventually he downloads some application called Spotify that plays music through the phone and searches for ‘dancing music.’ 

Both Steve and Bucky are arguably very naive to how much music is actually out there these days and so when some loud song starts playing with buzzing and whistling that Bucky’s never heard before, they both look incredibly confused. 

“Try another one.” Bucky suggests as he cringes. It’s definitely not the kind of dancing music Bucky was expecting. 

Steve bites his lip and tries another song. It’s equally loud and techno-like. 

He skips to the next one. 

And the next. 

He ends up skipping through another five songs before finally something else comes on. It’s much softer - a piano coming through crisp and clean. 

“This?” Steve says awkwardly. “It’s called All of Me by John Legend. It sounds okay, right?”

Bucky shrugs. It's the only song so far that hasn’t made him want to slam his own metal fist into his face. It’s dance-able, he thinks. “Sure, yeah. Put the phone down and get over here, Cap.” Bucky practically demands, now holding both hands stretched out and waiting. 

Steve takes the cue and sets the phone down before coming back over to Bucky and sheepishly wrapping his arm back around him. “Sergeant Barnes.” He says softly - voice endearing and charming as he attempts to situate himself. “Same thing?”

“Same thing.” Bucky smiles, giving Steve’s hand a squeeze of assurance. 

 

What would I do without your smart mouth?

Drawing me in, and you kicking me out.

Got my head spinning, no kidding, I can't pin you down.

What's going on in that beautiful mind?

I'm on your magical mystery ride.

And I'm so dizzy, don't know what hit me, but I'll be alright.

My head's under water,

but I'm breathing fine.

You're crazy and I'm out of my mind.

 

Bucky’s eyes are wide as he listens to the lyrics. He has no clue if Steve is also listening and Steve’s face shows no signs of answers. Is this totally a mistake? Should he be fumbling for the phone and changing the song? Is this now the most obvious thing Bucky’s ever done for a kiss?

Bucky doesn’t remember much about himself but he feels like he was good at wooing people. 

He doesn’t feel like he’s doing so good now. 

 

'Cause all of me,

Loves all of you.

Love your curves and all your edges.

All your perfect imperfections.

Give your all to me,

I'll give my all to you.

You're my end and my beginning,

Even when I lose I'm winning.

'Cause I give you all of me

And you give me all of you.

 

“This song’s, uh, pretty deep, huh?” Steve randomly blurts out as the chorus finishes, popping the bubble of tension that had been slowly building up between them. 

They’re chest to chest. Practically groin to groin. 

Bucky wants to smack himself for thinking like that.

Heart to heart. That’s better.  

Bucky laughs soft - real soft. And then catches himself. “Not laughing at you, sorry, no… just yeah - it is.” He whispers and then leans in a little, just enough to let his cheek touch up against Steve’s. 

Steve flinches just a bit before he settles. 

Bucky closes his eyes and smiles. “Sometimes, people dance like this, too.” 

“Really close?” Steve replies, voice trapped. 

“Really close.”

They sway. 

 

How many times do I have to tell you?

Even when you're crying you're beautiful, too.

The world is beating you down, I'm around through every mood.

You're my downfall, you're my muse,

My worst distraction, my rhythm and blues.

I can't stop singing, it's ringing in my head for you.

My head's under water,

But I'm breathing fine.

You're crazy and I'm out of my mind.

'Cause all of me,

Loves all of you.

Love your curves and all your edges,

All your perfect imperfections.

Give your all to me,

I'll give my all to you.

You're my end and my beginning,

Even when I lose I'm winning.

'Cause I give you all of me,

And you give me all of you.

Give me all of you.

 

Steve feels tense now. His shoulders are stiff. Bucky swears his heart is at the back of his throat as he tries to keep up with the song. He pulls back just enough to force Steve to check on him - they make eye contact. 

“Okay?” Steve murmurs, pupils blown. 

“Okay.” Bucky assures. He drops his eyes to stare at Steve’s mouth.

His lips look soft. 

Bucky wants to lean in. Wants to…

“Think this song is about someone?” Steve questions as he draws Bucky back into him. They’re cheek to cheek again. 

Bucky groans softly. “Sh. You talk too much. Dance. Be in the moment, will ya?” 

Steve chuckles at the back of his throat. Low and amused. 

 

Cards on the table, we're both showing hearts,

Risking it all, though it's hard.

'Cause all of me,

Loves all of you.

Love your curves and all your edges,

All your perfect imperfections.

Give your all to me,

I'll give my all to you.

You're my end and my beginning,

Even when I lose I'm winning.

'Cause I give you all of me,

And you give me all of you.

I give you all of me.

And you give me all of you.

 

Just as the song is about to finish, Bucky pulls himself away from being cheek to cheek with Steve, just enough to have them nearly inches away from each other. They’re staring. Or maybe just Bucky is. His heart is so loud that he can hear the palpitations in his ears. 

“Buck?” Steve mumbles out anxiously when he feels Bucky’s body has stopped following his lead. 

“Fuckin’ hell, Steve.” Bucky finally says, exasperated as he pulls his hands from Steve’s body and instead firmly plants them onto Steve’s face and draws him inward. 

“Bucky-“ Steve is about to say but then Bucky cuts him off. 

Bucky kisses Steve hard. As passionately as he can. He can taste him - the mint - the warmth. All of him. It’s perfect. Better than he’s dreamt. His lips are so fucking soft. His hands caress at Steve’s cheeks, holding him there in the moment while Bucky closes his eyes. 

The next song suddenly comes on and it’s loud and bass-heavy, causing Steve to pull back from the kiss immediately, panicked. He stumbles away from Bucky to grab his phone and with shaky hands, he pauses the music and then sets the phone back down. 

Bucky is staring, lips parted. He can still taste Steve. 

“Thanks for that, Buck. Thanks for teaching me how to dance. Uh. Shit, I’ve gotta, uh…” Steve stammers now, lifting a hand up to touch delicately at his lips. “I told Sam I’d call him.” He gasps and then moves to turn as if he’s going to run off. 

Leave it to Steven Grant Rogers to treat a kiss like he’s trying to get out of a door to door salesman’s pitch. Of course he’s going to excuse himself with some made-up lie while he’s at it before he slams the door in Bucky’s face. 

Bucky reaches out and stops him with a metal hand to his wrist. His pulse rattles through Bucky’s fingers and all the way up his arm. “Wait.” He calls out. 

“Yeah?” Steve practically whimpers. He’s lost - Bucky can see it in his eyes. His face is completely crestfallen. Steve has no clue what he’s doing. 

Bucky feels his heart drop into the earth when he realizes he’s caused this. 

He lets Steve’s wrist go and Steve pulls it back to his chest, as if burned by an open flame. Bucky doesn’t understand why. 

“Steve…” He starts to say. 

“I gotta call Sam.” Steve interjects once more, but this time when he turns away, Bucky doesn’t stop him. 

Bucky watches in silence as Steve rushes for the front door. He grabs his keys on the way out and slams the door sloppily behind him. It echoes through the house.

Bucky looks down at the table and swallows down the urge to yell when he sees Steve’s stupid phone sitting on the table, untouched. 

“God damn Steve Rogers.” Bucky mutters and then collapses back onto the couch. 

He can still feel Steve’s lips lingering over his own. It’s all he can think about. 

Chapter Text

— Steve —

 

One minute Steve is dancing with his hands pressed into the small of Bucky’s back, the next Bucky is pressing his lips firmly against his own. 

It’s unreal.

Everything happens so fast that Steve can barely process what’s happening until the music changes and snaps him out of the moment. 

He forces them apart, fumbling for his phone. He can’t handle this. He doesn’t know what is going on or why he suddenly feels like all the air in the room is gone. 

He panics and says the first stupid thing that comes to mind and he knows it’s a slap in the face to Bucky - knows it because he sees the dumbfounded look he gets in response. 

Steve heads for the door despite Bucky’s protests. Doesn’t even stop when Bucky grabs him by the wrist. 

He has to call Sam. That’s what he keeps echoing to himself - the words bouncing off the inside of his skull. It’s the only thought he currently has. 

Bucky lets him go and he bolts for the door. Nearly closes it on his arm on the way out. Stumbles down the porch. He’s so fucking lost. 

He’s definitely not calling Sam. 

“Shit.” He mutters to himself as he gets to the sidewalk and then has to stop to bend at the waist, letting his hands rest against the tops of his thighs as he tries to catch his breath.

He feels like he’s just run a marathon. 

Steve can feel himself boiling underneath his clothes and knows his face is probably the deepest shade of red in existence. 

His lips won’t stop tingling. 

All he can taste is Bucky. And it’s everything Steve had ever thought it could be. The soft, warm lips. The feel of Bucky’s face against Steve’s. It’s everything he’s ever cried over as a teenager. Everything he’s wanted since his childhood. 

All the jealousy and all the pain he’s swallowed down watching Bucky date every dame in sight has all been buckled down for so long - it almost feels foreign to Steve now that it’s risen up to the surface. 

He’s controlled these feelings for so long. Ignored them and pinned them down so well that for awhile, Steve believed his own lies. 

And now… everything is bubbling up and he doesn’t know what to do or how to handle it. 

He can see Bucky’s face. His big, steel-blue eyes. The confusion and the hurt and all the emotions Steve’s managed to cause. And he doesn’t even know why he did what he did. Or why he left. Or why he can’t just go and walk right back up to the porch now.

Why can’t he just go back into the house and tell Bucky he wanted that, too? That he’s been a mess over Bucky for his entire life… 

Steve suddenly notices he doesn’t have shoes on. 

He. Fucking. Forgot. His. Shoes. 

Why is Steve like this? 

He straightens himself out and wipes at his face and then glances over at his motorcycle. He hasn’t even touched it since the day Belle moved him into the house. He knows there’s a town center fifteen minutes out, just as Belle had told him. 

He gives a glance over to the watch on his wrist and then gets on the motorcycle, testing the feel of the pegs against his socked feet. He looks dumb, he’s sure, but there’s no turning back. Not yet - anyway.

He's got plenty of daylight left. Maybe it’ll help clear his head. Maybe when he comes back, he won’t be such an idiot. 

The wind feels good on his face as he rides down the street. There’s nothing but trees and road for miles and the further Steve rides, the better he starts to feel. Even if everything is temporary and Bucky will be waiting for him at home - at least he has this for now. 

Eventually, the scenery begins to change and Steve starts to notice parked cars and people walking along the sidewalks. No one seems to be paying him much attention, thankfully, but it’s hard to say if he’s even recognizable at this point. Do people even care about who he is? Do people care if you don’t have shoes on?

He throws the thought aside as he pulls into an outlined parking spot in the street, now kicking out the stand for the motorcycle and hopping off. He takes the keys out this time because he knows he’s not at home anymore. Knows he can’t trust everyone the way he trusts Bucky. 

The town center is overwhelming yet quaint in its own regard. It’s filled to the brim with different stores - all small and colorful and old-fashioned. As Steve stands there in the middle of it all, he feels out of place. 

People don’t seem to be paying him any attention, but all he can notice is how out of time he is and how stupid he probably looks. The women he sees are all wearing trendy clothing - jeans with rips, shorts with pockets peeking out the bottoms, and low cut shirts. The men, too. Basketball shorts, the same ripped jeans, and shirts that are colorful and bright and everything that Steve has never considered owning in his life. He nearly blushes when he notices a man’s boxers are high above the waistline of his pants. 

He doesn’t remember seeing such bright colors back then. Life seemed a lot more dull, the more he considers it. 

Steve glances down at himself - he’s wearing a white and blue plaid shirt buttoned all the way to the collar, khakis, and a brown leather belt with white socks. He needs shoes. 

He sheepishly attempts to blend himself into the small, bustling crowd of people - tourists - he thinks, and then tries to start looking for a store that may have shoes. 

It doesn’t take Steve too long to find a mom and pop shop with clothing propped up on mannequins in the windows, but it takes even longer for Steve to realize he doesn’t even have his wallet. Seconds after that, it even occurs to him that he doesn’t have his phone either. 

He brought nothing. Absolutely nothing. 

No wallet. No shoes. No phone. Nothing. 

He wants to hide away in his embarrassment as he stands at the counter trying to pay for his shoes. They’re a cheap pair of sneakers - only thirty dollars - and the woman at the register seems to be confused when Steve tells her he doesn’t have his wallet. 

He tries to play it off. 

“I think I forgot it on my motorcycle.” He says softly as he looks down at his hands. He tries to laugh about it. “That’s my mistake. I’m sorry for wasting your time.” 

“You’re, uh, Captain America, aren’t you?” The woman responds after a moment, her hand on the shoebox. 

Steve sighs. “I am.” 

“No shoes? No wallet? Everything okay?” She insists now, expression softening. 

Steve fights the urge to show any real emotions. He’s better than that. He just smiles. “I’m okay. Just… having that sort of day, I guess. I’m sorry again, ma’am.” He answers and then goes to turn away. He won’t bolt out of the store, but god, does he wish he could. 

“Wait.” The woman interjects, causing Steve to turn back to her. She pushes the shoes towards him. “I’ve had those sort of days before, too. Take the shoes. If you’re ever back in town, you can make it up to me.” She offers with a smile. 

Steve flushes. He doesn’t know what she’s implying. 

“I mean, with money, sir. You can pay the store back.” She smirks and then pushes the box directly into his hands. “Consider your tab opened.” 

Steve can’t help the small shock that flashes across his face for a moment. He doesn’t remember ever being treated like this. Certainly not back during the war. He takes the box from her and puts the shoes on. They’re not much and they don’t quite match, but at least Steve can walk without having to brush off small pebbles between his toes every five seconds. 

He thanks the woman a million times over before he’s shooed out of the store. 

He leaves feeling better. Not much better - but it counts. 

Considering he has no money on him, Steve now settles for sitting himself down in a small cafe he’d found walking. He orders a glass of tap water - the only thing that’s free. 

The barista seems confused as he hands off the glass from behind the coffee bar. 

Steve just takes it apologetically and takes a seat. He doesn’t even have a pen to write out a pathetic ‘sorry’ on a napkin. 

But...

It’s a chance to think and be alone. 

And of course - everything is immediately Bucky. Bucky’s face. Bucky’s hands. His hips. His waist. His lips. Every part of him. Steve is infatuated in the worst ways possible. 

And they kissed. Steve really doesn’t have words for that - none that form a coherent sentence, anyway. 

He doesn’t know how it happened. Doesn’t know if he did something that confused Bucky. That made Bucky think they should kiss. He knows he’s probably inadvertently flirted with him once or twice since things have gotten better between them - and he knows that their behavior hasn’t always been what friends do. Or what’s normal. 

But they were always like that. And nothing ever happened. 

So why now? 

Ever since he’d told Bucky about who he kissed, Bucky had become hyper focused on the subject. On Peggy. On Natasha, even. 

And Bucky’s never actually asked him to dance - even when Bucky knew way back then that Steve had never danced. Steve just doesn’t understand why everything has suddenly happened now. 

“Bein’ all sweet on me.” Bucky’s voice echoes through Steve’s head. Steve can still see that smile - the purity of it. It’s enough to melt his heart down like a wax candle burning at both ends. 

“Always sweet on you.” Steve knows he said it back. Knows Bucky was teasing but Steve wasn’t.

Half of him is saying to embrace what happened - this is everything you’ve ever wanted. Bucky kissed you first. This is okay. 

And the other half is ruthlessly denying Steve of this. You don’t deserve Bucky. You’re taking advantage of him. He doesn’t remember everything and you’re taking advantage of that. You were never supposed to be with Bucky. 

Both halves seem reasonable, which is why Steve decides he won’t do anything. 

He won’t acknowledge this. He’ll just move on. Bucky will get over it and Steve will stop sending mixed signals. 

It’s the conclusion Steve comes to as he finishes up his water and lifts his wrist up to glance at his watch. It’s nearly 5 PM. He can see from the window that the sky is a mix of beautiful hues of purples, oranges, and pinks scattered across the horizon line. The sun is blazing a trail through the clouds as it slowly begins to set.

Steve knows he needs to get home. Bucky’s probably wondering if he’s coming back and he knows he can’t leave Bucky alone like that. Knows that even if he’s too afraid to currently look Bucky in the eyes, he still has a promise he’s kept. 

And even if Bucky never wants to talk to Steve again, Steve isn’t going to ever give up on Bucky. 

Steve’s rather positive he’s got everything worked out in his head right until the very moment he pulls back into the driveway. Suddenly, all the embarrassment and shame comes crashing through him once again like a tidal wave and Steve’s right back where he’d started, face down in the sand. Drowning in it all. 

His hands are shaking. 

He can’t do this. 

He isn’t ready to face Bucky again. 

He suddenly realizes he doesn’t even have the keys to the house, which means he has to knock and wait for Bucky to let him inside. This really does get worse. 

Maybe Bucky will spare him the drama and just let Steve sleep outside. Maybe Bucky won’t even answer the door. Maybe - 

The door opens before Steve can even make it to the doormat. 

“Bucky-“ Steve gasps out softly the moment they lock eyes. He can see it - the redness - the puffiness. The flush on Bucky’s cheeks. 

“You’re a real piece of work, Rogers.” Bucky growls out from the door. 

Steve’s heart nearly ejects itself through his chest cavity. 

“Stop fucking looking at me like that.” Bucky snaps and then turns away from the door, leaving it open for Steve to come inside. 

Whether that’s actually a good idea is yet to be decided, but Steve follows suit. Awkwardly as ever, eyes cast to the floor like a dog being scolded. 

Steve clears his throat as he bends to slip off his shoes. “Bucky… I didn’t…” 

“How was your call with Sam, huh?” Bucky asks now from the staircase banister. He isn’t climbing up the stairs to disappear, but rather just leaning up against it for leverage.

Steve swallows hard. “It was fine-“ 

“-You’re a liar. Are you serious? You left your phone on the table.” Bucky interrupts, nostrils flaring as he extends an arm out towards the living room. “And no, I didn’t try to go through your phone. No need to worry about that, either. The password made it obvious enough.” 

Steve is stunned into silence for a moment. His head is swirling. “I - Buck - I… the password isn’t because of you - it’s just - I…” Steve shuts up. He’s not making sense. He tries again. “I’m sorry for lying. I just… I had to leave. I freaked out.” 

“Why?” Bucky’s voice doesn’t waver. He may look like he’s on the verge of a meltdown, but his tone doesn’t give it away. He’s stronger than Steve and Steve knows that. 

“Because… I don’t know. I don’t do that sort of stuff. I don’t know how to feel or what to say, or… why it happened. I just… I’m sorry, shit.” Steve frowns as he says the last words, now lifting a hand to run nervously through his hair. He wants to so badly walk over to Bucky and hold him, but he won’t. 

“But I remembered, Steve! You don’t get to just… pretend it never happened in the past. We kissed! I know we kissed!” Bucky yells, “stop pretending it didn’t happen! Stop playing games with me!” He’s off the banister now and walking directly towards Steve. 

Steve’s breath hitches in his chest at the accusation. For once, he’s legitimately confused. Steve remembers everything thanks to the serum. All the good times and even the bad times, too. He certainly doesn’t remember any of what Bucky is implying. “Bucky, no, we never kissed. That never happened - I don’t even know what you’re referring to!” He says, trying to defend himself but cringing as Bucky comes up and bawls a fist in his shirt. 

“No! I remember!” Bucky cries out as he clings to Steve. “I remember all the different times. The time in the kitchen - the time in your room -“

“-None of that ever happened! I don’t know what you’re remembering, but we never kissed, Buck! I’m not lying to you!” Steve gasps out suddenly when Bucky lets him go. Steve takes a moment to brush himself off, anxiously gnawing at his lip as he eyes Bucky. 

Bucky’s looking down at the floor, voice low. “But I can see it. I can see us. The first time… you were just… I poured you the medicine and you hated it so much, you had to go and drink the water from the sink. And then… I kissed you…” 

Steve’s expression crumbles. “I don’t know what time you’re referring to because I always hated medicine. But, Buck, I promise you - we never kissed. I wouldn’t lie to you about that. There’s no reason for me to lie about anything.” Just as Steve says those words, he realizes that even if he isn’t lying about this, he knows he’s lying to Bucky about being honest with him about everything.

Bucky shakes his head. “So you’re saying I’m just… remembering things I wanted to happen?” 

Steve finally lets his lower lip go out of fear he’s going to break skin. “I didn’t say that…” 

“It’s what I wanted to happen, Steve.” Bucky says, voice practically in a whisper now. 

“I didn’t know you wanted that.” Steve whispers back. 

Bucky’s hands are back on Steve’s shirt, though this time he’s not gripping at him. Instead, he’s got both palms pressed open against the expanse of Steve’s chest. 

Steve’s sure Bucky can feel the spastic rhythm of his pounding heart.

Bucky sighs. “I didn’t know I did either, until I started having those dreams. And now they’re all the time. I can’t look at you now without thinking about those dreams.” 

“I’m sorry-“ 

Bucky groans. “Rogers, why are you sorry? Why are you so stupid?” 

Steve flushes, eyes fluttering shut in shame. “I don’t know. I don’t know what to do. What am I supposed to do?” 

“Well, for starters, you could at least tell me if you liked the kiss.” 

Steve still hasn’t opened his eyes. He feels as if he’s at the edge of a cliff, about to fall backwards into the abyss. “I did…” 

“You did?” Bucky murmurs out, flesh hand lifting gently off Steve’s chest to instead cradle at his face. Steve feels himself flinch as Bucky’s thumb gently grazes over his eyes and against his lashes. 

“Yeah.” Steve responds, voice nearly lost in his chest. 

“Then why did you run? Do you know how awful that was?” 

Steve nods into the warmth holding his cheek. “I didn’t mean to run. I just… I didn’t know what to do. You know… you know I have zero experience with any of this. I haven’t had a proper kiss in 70 years, and I wasn’t any good at it then, either.” Steve finally wills himself to open his eyes, now locking stares with Bucky. “Can we start over?” He asks, surprised that he’s even able to ask such a question. 

“As in…?” Bucky trails off, brows furrowed. 

“As in, you… kiss me again… and this time, I won’t run away like a coward.” Steve whimpers the words, forcing himself to not hide his face. To not pull away from Bucky’s hands. 

Bucky licks at his lower lip. “I don’t know, Rogers. Think I’m over it.” He trails off, though the moment he sees the fallen expression on Steve’s face, he lets off the slightest hint of a smile. “I’m kidding. Relax. I clearly can’t get over you. Not even HYDRA figured that one out yet.” 

Steve sighs out in relief, pressing himself into Bucky's palm, as if trying to hide his face. “I’m sorry, Buck. I’m sorry.” He murmurs out, sheepishly. “I’m a virgin for a reason.” He groans, the softest laugh eliciting from his throat. 

“Just kiss me and make it up to me, Stevie. We’ll deal with that later.” Bucky laughs in response, now drawing Steve into him before Steve can even question what he’s implying. 

When their lips connect it’s like pure electricity to Steve - there’s no other way for him to explain it. It feels right - perfect - like this is exactly what it should be. This is what a kiss is meant to be like and Steve immediately wants more of it. He presses himself firmly up against Bucky now, lips molding against Bucky’s while he closes his eyes and allows himself to get lost in this. 

Bucky’s metal hand comes up to Steve’s face now as well, holding Steve there while he gently parts his lips. 

Steve doesn’t actually know what to do, now whimpering into the kiss when he feels Bucky’s tongue gliding against his lower lip. He’s probably awful at this - god - Bucky is a saint for dealing with him. Steve’s hands move to grasp at anything they can, finding Bucky’s hips and holding there as if he could fall away. 

Just as he feels Bucky’s tongue massage against his own, Bucky pulls back and breaks off the kiss. He’s breathing heavier now - audibly. Steve is, too. 

“Stevie.” Bucky pants out as he leans in, letting his forehead press up against Steve’s. Their noses are practically touching. 

“Buck.” Is all Steve can manage to reply, both lightheaded and drunk with desire. He wants to tilt his chin forward again - to reconnect their lips. But he waits. 

“You’re okay with this?” Bucky questions, the warmth of his breath tickling at Steve’s face. 

Steve doesn’t even need to think about it. Doesn’t hesitate at all. “Yes, Buck. Yes.” 

Bucky smiles, cheeks rosy from his blush. “Come here.” He says now as he pulls away and then reaches for Steve’s hand, lacing metal fingers possessively with flesh. 

Steve’s head is a blur of fog as he allows himself to be lured into the living room and then gently pushed back onto the couch with a gasp. 

“This okay, too?” Bucky questions as he slips onto the mass that is Steve’s body - legs straddling Steve’s thighs and feet hooking under his knees. He lets his hands lay palm-down against Steve’s chest. 

“Y-Yeah.” Steve manages to reply, now extending his neck out to meet Bucky’s lips in the middle for another searing kiss. 

For a moment, they stay just like this - soft, meaningful kisses and Bucky’s hands holding Steve down and in place.

But Steve’s stiff as a board and he knows it. He’s awkward. His heart is throbbing so loudly he can barely focus. He wants this so bad that he can’t even comprehend it’s happening. 

Bucky eventually pulls back, slowly, and then presses a light kiss to Steve’s chin. He looks mildly concerned. “Relax. It’s just me. You’re so tense. You’re sure you’re okay?” 

“I am.” Steve croaks out, groaning softly at the pressure building below his belly. “I’m just… I have no clue what to do and I’m nervous and I like this so much and-“ 

Bucky smiles and presses another gentle kiss to Steve’s already reddening lips. “Easy, Stevie.” 

“Tell me what to do.” 

“Just relax.” Bucky sighs out, shaking his head in amusement. His hair has fallen into his face, framing around his cheeks and eyes. He’s damningly beautiful. 

Steve tries to do as Bucky says. Just relax. He nods. He’s back in Brooklyn. He’s suddenly fifteen all over again. He wants to worship Bucky - to do whatever he asks. Steve is so innocent in all of this. He knows Bucky knows, too. Knows everything. 

Bucky leans back down and in, but this time his lips connect to Steve’s jaw, along his beard that’s started growing back in. Bucky nuzzles his nose against the scruffiness and then kisses a line all the way up to Steve’s chin before he crosses to the opposite side. His lips press warmly right below Steve’s ear and Steve fights a moan. 

“Christ…” Steve whimpers out. He’s completely under Bucky’s control. He’s never had anyone touch him like this before. He’s never even considered it. 

“Does that feel good?” Bucky asks, low and playful as he licks along the shell of Steve’s ear. Bucky doesn’t even wait for Steve’s answer as he continues down along Steve’s throat, licking a stripe all the way down to the very top of Steve’s shirt collar. He chuckles. “You always dressed like a proper gentleman.” 

“I am a proper gentleman.” Steve sighs out, letting his head loll back against the couch cushion. He can feel Bucky’s fingers fidgeting with the buttons on his shirt. 

Bucky suddenly undoes the top five and then slides his metal hand beneath, feeling the hot skin beneath and eliciting a groan from Steve in response. “So warm.” Bucky hums out as he peels back the now opened material, just enough to reveal more bare skin that he can kiss. And he does. Painfully, erotically slow. 

Steve writhes beneath Bucky as he feels wet kisses trail along his collarbone and then down over the top of his right pec. Steve is going to die. This is it. This is how he goes out. Not by nosediving the Valkyrie into the ocean but by Bucky kissing him. It’s absolutely pathetic and Steve just wants more. 

“Good?” Bucky asks, voice muffled as he peppers even more kisses across the expanse of Steve’s chest. Whatever he can reach - he’s kissing. 

“So good.” Steve replies, now kicking a leg out against the couch. 

“Touch me, Stevie. Use your hands.” Bucky says now and it suddenly occurs to Steve that he’s been awkwardly holding his arms down at his sides this entire time. 

“Where?” Steve asks, shyly - like the inexperienced child he suddenly is. 

“Anywhere. My neck. My shoulders. You can glide your hands down my back. My ass. I don’t care.” Bucky assures as he brings his own hand to Steve’s jaw to turn Steve’s face into his, lips kissing hungrily at his jaw again. “I just wanna feel you touching me. Grab me. Dig your nails into me. Anything, please.” 

Bucky’s words do something to Steve - something that makes him feel hot and tense and has him fighting the urge to press his groin up against Bucky. He attempts to do as Bucky’s asked, his hands now anxiously coming up to cradle at the base of Bucky’s shoulders. He rubs his fingers into the points there before he slowly slides them down, now feeling the outline of Bucky’s torso as he glides his palms slowly up and down his back. He can feel the muscles contracting and the tenseness and it occurs to Steve that this is really all happening. This is real. Bucky is real. He’s tangibly there and Steve’s actually doing this. 

“Mm, that feels good, Stevie. So good. Just like that. Keep touching me. Let me know I’m doing a good job - tell me with your hands.” Bucky coos - voice all breathy and airy and Steve’s stomach flips in response. 

His best friend is arguably the most attractive human being on the planet. Steve has always known this. But suddenly, Bucky is even more attractive. Bucky is all Steve can fathom. All he can think about. 

His hands continue roaming until they come to Bucky’s lower back. He halts. 

“Go ahead, Stevie. You can touch.” Bucky moans out, soft and encouraging. 

Steve nods and swallows the lump in his throat. Slowly, he leads his hands further down until they come to swell of Bucky’s ass and gently caress him through his sweatpants. He squeezes cautiously, as if testing a reaction from Bucky. He cannot believe he’s doing this. 

“So good, Stevie. You’re so good.” Bucky murmurs as he sucks a dark bruise into the crook of Steve’s neck. He’s practically purring against Steve. 

Steve is absolutely intoxicated with his desires. He suddenly has these flashes of urges. He wants to grab Bucky. Grab and manhandle. But he doesn’t. He won’t. His mind and his own actual abilities to act out such desires aren’t even close to being on the same page and he knows it. He massages his hands gently into Bucky’s ass, feeling how perfectly round it is - how nice and firm it is. How great it feels to hold. 

“You’re killin’ me, Stevie.” 

“I’m already dead.” Steve manages to reply, a soft laugh eliciting from the both of them. 

Bucky kisses him again - hard and lustful. It’s wet and slick and hot and Steve moans directly into Bucky’s open mouth now. 

Steve has no clue where this is going to lead or what’s going to happen. He isn’t sure if he has a limit. Or if he could even last much longer. He already knows he’s painfully hard - already feels that his briefs are wet, too. “Buck…” He whispers out into the kiss, now pulling away gently. “I’m getting really worked up. I don’t know if I’m gonna last much longer just doing this.” He admits, sheepishly. He’s like a horny teenager and he hates admitting it. 

Bucky laughs out, soft and pure. He pulls back just enough for them to lock eyes. Steve can’t help but notice how blown out his pupils are. The usual, crisp blue is practically swallowed up by the black of his pupils. His lips are red and his cheeks are too - likely from rubbing up against Steve’s beard. “But there’s so much I want to teach you.” He says with a teasing glimmer to his eyes. 

Steve gulps. “Like what?” He asks. 

“Like-“ 

Suddenly, there’s a light knock at the door and the two immediately panic. Bucky rolls off Steve and hits the floor with a thump while Steve shoots up and attempts to smooth back his hair. 

The knocks continue, louder. 

“One second!” Steve calls out, breathing heavy as he jolts to his feet and tries to force his erection into the waistband of his briefs. 

Bucky remains on the floor, wiping at his face and trying to comb through his hair with his fingers. 

“It’s Matthew Belle.” The voice chimes, muffled but clearly identifiable. 

Steve and Bucky both glance at each other, eyes wide with horror. 

“Go upstairs.” Steve immediately says and Bucky obeys, now shooting up from the floor and scrambling for the staircase. 

Steve rushes over to the nearest mirror and attempts to fix himself. To at least look semi decent. He nearly forgets to button up his shirt and hide the small collection of purple bruises scattered across his neck and chest before he comes to the door and pulls it open. “Belle.” He says, feigning a smile. His voice is hoarse. He looks like he’s been through the ringer and he knows it. 

Belle is standing outside the door, dressed in a suit and tie with a single gun holstered at his belt. “Hello, Captain. How are you?” Belle asks, brows furrowing as he obviously takes in Steve’s appearance. “May I come in?” 

Steve takes one glance back at the living room. The couch is a mess. There’s pillows on the floor. He bites his lip and steps away from the door, gesturing for him to come in. “Sure, sure. Was just gonna get started with dinner, actually. Anything wrong?” 

“Oh. I won’t stay too long. Just coming by to do a wellness check. Make sure you’re still alive. See how the prisoner is doing.” He laughs. 

Steve grits his teeth and nods. 

“You don’t mind, do you?” Belle says as he steps in and begins to take his shoes off. 

“No. Not at all.” Steve replies. 

Fuck. 

Chapter Text

“So, have things been going well?” Belle asks, voice gruff as he eyes Steve and settles himself into a chair in Steve’s dining room.

Steve has purposely directed them in the furthest direction away from the living room. They’re both sitting on opposite sides of the dining room table now, Steve doing his best to pretend the last twenty minutes with Bucky didn’t just happen. He needs to focus. Needs to ignore the drumming pulse between both his legs and his chest. Is it just him or does the place completely reek of sex? Can Belle tell? Holy hell. 

“They’re going well,” Steve begins to say as he pulls himself from his racing thoughts, though he immediately stops himself as Belle ever-so nonchalantly removes his glock from his waist holster to set it down on the dining room table.

It’s an intimidation tactic and Steve knows it. He doesn’t let any hint of emotion show on his face, though his eyes do cast to the gun momentarily. It’s a long-enough glance that Belle catches it with a smirk. 

“Don’t like to sit with a gun holstered against my stomach.” Belle acknowledges as he scoots himself forward in his chair, palms now resting against the table. 

“Don’t usually like guns on my table, sir.” Steve answers sharply, “but wouldn’t want you uncomfortable for your drop-in, I suppose.”

Belle laughs. Steve can’t tell if it’s forced or genuine anymore. “Those stories from the war always did say you were a hard-ass.” 

“Not a hard-ass, just don’t like bullies.” Steve retorts. He hates feeling like he’s negotiating in his own home, or whatever this place is now supposed to represent. As far as Steve is concerned, if Bucky is here, it is  home. 

“Right, right. My apologies.” Belle concludes, now glancing around. “Let me try that again, Captain. I really do want to know how things have been going. Has food been arriving promptly? Any issues with plumbing? The cell service is good?” 

Steve lets an uneasy sigh out and starts to adjust his collar before he catches himself and stops. “Everything’s going great. I don’t have a single issue to report.” 

Belle makes a face. “Everything okay?” He questions as he seems to notice the bruising along Steve’s neck now. 

Steve wants to slap himself. “All good.” His skin is crawling. He feels it. Feels Bucky’s mouth. His warmth. Everything. 

Belle doesn’t seem at all convinced.

“Tripped going for a run earlier. Bruised myself up. It’ll be gone by tonight. Maybe within the hour.” It’s the first thing Steve can think of. He sounds dumb saying it - but it’s all he has. 

“That’s quite the story-“ 

“Yeah.”

Belle shakes his head, clearly not understanding but not wanting to further discuss it. It’s irrelevant, as far as Belle is concerned. 

Steve reminds himself to yell at Bucky for all the hickeys. Not to mention, Steve’s too god damn pale to stand a chance at hiding anything. 

“So… Nothing? No issues with Barnes?” Belle says, a vague expression of disbelief overcoming his visage as he settles back into the topic.

“Bucky is doing wonderfully. Getting better everyday.” Steve responds - and he means it. He sees the improvements. Sees the way Bucky is smiling now. The glimmer in Bucky’s eyes that’s starting to remind Steve of the 1940’s. It’s getting there. 

“No incidents? He’s not had any episodes?”

Steve shakes his head. Even if there have been a few hiccups in this so-called journey, he isn’t about to admit to them. “None. Bucky’s therapy sessions are even going well - they talk about a lot of things each week. I speak to Lillian every week and she sees vast improvements each time.” 

Belle nods. “Have you seen him today?” 

Steve swallows. He can still feel Bucky’s lips at his throat. “Of course I have.”

“Can I see him?” 

Steve shrugs. “He may be asleep. May be busy. I can see if he’d like to-“

“-Bring him down, Captain. This isn’t a social call.” 

Steve’s jaw sets. With one swift movement, he pushes himself up from the table and moves towards the entrance of the room. “I’ll go get him.” 

Steve holds eye contact with Belle as he exits the room and then makes a beeline for the stairs. He doesn’t want to waste any time or leave Belle with any opportunities to snoop around. Once upstairs, Steve immediately heads for Bucky’s bedroom, making no announcement as he pushes the door open. He assumes Bucky is just waiting around. 

“Buck, do you see what my neck looks like?” Steve begins to say, a drop of annoyance to his tone as he rings the material of his collar forward. But, what Steve expects to see and what he actually sees are on two completely different levels. 

Instead, Bucky is in bed with a sheet thinly veiled over his lower half, his hand moving obscenely in his lap. The moment he notices Steve, he shouts and rolls onto his side - into a ball. 

Steve gasps out and immediately lifts a hand to his face to cover his eyes. “Jesus Christ, Bucky, what the-“ 

”Did you forget how to knock?” Bucky yelps, voice squeaking as he shifts around to pull up his pants. He’s not moved to face Steve yet, instead just breathing heavily and facing away, still curled up. 

“I didn’t think you’d be…!” Steve trails off, mostly because he’s too embarrassed to even say the phrase. He sighs out into his hand. “You know!” He concludes and then turns around completely so that he can drop his hand away. “Make yourself decent and come downstairs. Belle needs to see you.”

“You didn’t think I’d be jerking off?” Bucky scoffs as Steve hears him move off the bed. 

Steve is visibly cringing at the mention of jerking off. His mother would literally shove a bar of soap in his mouth if he ever said that. 

“Yeah, well, thanks for the boner and the second round of blue balls, Steve. Don’t act all prudish on me now.” He taunts and then comes up behind Steve to flick at the back of his head, Steve ducking in response. “Go. I’m behind you.” Bucky huffs. 

“You’re not gonna wash your hands?” Steve groans as he glances back at Bucky now, both their faces blushingly red. 

“I will, mom, god.” Bucky smirks before he turns on his heel to quickly wash his hands in the bathroom. When he reappears, he waves his cleaned, still-wet hands in front of Steve’s face. “Better, ma?”

“Yeah, better.” Steve groans. 

Bucky just laughs and heads for the stairs, passing Steve in the doorway.

Steve’s stomach flips like he’s on the Coney Island Cyclone, but he follows nonetheless. 

Once the two arrive downstairs, Belle stands up from his chair. “Mister Barnes.” He says, voice even.

“Sergeant.” Steve corrects. “If you’re going to call me Captain, you can respect his title, too.” 

Belle raises a hand in defense. 

It’s like a switch within Bucky goes off and suddenly, he’s a lot more quiet and stiff. Steve immediately notices the change.

Bucky remains behind Steve, his metal hand coming up behind the small of Steve’s back to gently grip at his shirt, like a child hiding behind their parent. Steve presses himself back against the metal fingers, as if to try and ease him. He’s still amazed at how gentle the metal touch can be - it’s almost human in nature. 

“I know you talk. Steve already told me.” Belle says, unamused with Bucky’s silence. 

Bucky sighs. “Me being able to talk and wanting to talk are two different concepts.” He finally says.

Steve wants to slap the mocking expression off of Belle’s face the moment he sees it.

“So he does have a voice.” Belle says as he extends a hand out towards Bucky, for him to shake.

Steve feels Bucky’s grip tighten at the back of his shirt before Bucky finally relents and hesitantly extends his hand out. They shake hands for a moment before Bucky pulls away.

“What did you want to talk to Bucky about?” Steve interjects, arms coming up to cross at his chest. 

Belle sighs, “This house and this… rehabilitation is costing the government a lot of money, Captain. Surely you can understand my concerns and desires to actually see progress firsthand.” He waves towards Bucky, “the government deserves to know where its tax dollars are going.” 

Steve shoots a glance to Bucky who appears mostly unphased. “Well, you can clearly see Bucky is doing well. He’s healthy and healing.” 

“For now.” Belle concludes, “but lots of people are concerned. Some are even lobbying for the death sentence.” 

Steve’s face twists up at that. “Who?”

Belle shrugs. “You know how politics work, Captain. Eventually, people are going to find out Mister - Sergeant - Barnes is alive… just like you. And eventually, they’ll piece together that he’s the Winter Soldier. Everyone’s going to be fearful. Afraid. A murderer is walking amongst them. An expert, brainwashed rifleman. How will the people forgive?”

Bucky shakes his head. “I’m not a murderer.” 

Steve instinctively steps ahead of Bucky, as if to shield him. “Belle.” He says, stern. 

“The files are out there, Cap. You haven’t seen them have you?” 

Steve is quiet at first. “What files?” 

“Every confirmed assassination linked to this man is all written down. Nice and neatly. Your friend, Miss Romanoff, leaked a lot of important S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA files. It’s only a matter of time before people start connecting the dots.”

Bucky sucks in a breath. It’s harsh and shaky. 

“You’re not going back on your word. You told me I had this chance. Bucky hasn’t done anything wrong. We’ve played by every rule. Don’t you dare try and spin this around on us.” Steve says. He can feel the anger. The tension.

“Relax, Captain. I’m not here to cuff and lock up your Bucky. Not today, anyway. I just thought I’d give you the news before the news came to you.” 

“What news?” Steve snaps. 

Belle slips a folded up Manila folder out from his jacket’s interior and holds it out to Steve, who takes it with caution. “The people are going to start finding this online. He’ll be on the news. They’ll dissect everything. The missions. The reports. All of it.” Belle sighs, as if he’s burdened with the task of informing Steve. 

Bucky swallows loud enough that Steve can hear it.

Belle then points towards the anklet wrapped securely around Bucky’s ankle. “You haven’t had to-“ 

“-No.” Steve interjects way too quickly. Bucky has no clue there’s a remote or that Steve has the remote upstairs in his bedroom. He has no plans of telling him, either. “We’re fine. He’s fine.”

Bucky’s brows furrow together in silent confusion. 

But before Steve can say something, Bucky finally looks fed up and exaggeratedly sighs out. “You’re cutting into our dinner. I’m right here if you want to actually talk to me, instead of Steve. Stop pretending I’m incapable. You came here to try and turn him on me. At least speak to me like a man.”

Belle laughs as he turns his attention towards Bucky. “That’s funny. Just a few weeks ago, you were incapable. Wouldn’t even eat, let alone say a word.” 

Bucky’s face heats up. Steve feels metal fingers curl into his back - into a fist. 

Steve wants to say something - but he doesn’t. He resists because he doesn’t want to overstep Bucky and make him look inferior. Instead, he tries to redirect the conversation. “Are you staying for dinner? We really do need to eat. We have a pretty monastic ritual for dinner. Always at the same time.” Steve informs as he steps away now and begins to push in the direction of the kitchen. He won’t leave Bucky alone in the room, but he’s trying to guide the conversation into the kitchen, with or without Belle being on board.

“No, that won’t be necessary.” Belle states, “as I said, the government wanted to see proof that its little project was up and running. Your success is our success, Barnes. I’m glad to see you’re not withering away in here. And I’m even more glad to see you’ve not been reduced to a murderous animal - the people will need some convincing, though. I was afraid Steve was going to be a bloody mess-“ 

“-I’m fine. Jesus.” Steve breathes out as he walks into the dining room now and swipes the gun off the table. He holds it by the muzzle - commandingly - and then extends it out to Belle as he walks back over, jaw tight with tension. “Your gun.”

Bucky is silently standing in the background, eyes wide. 

Belle raises a brow before he hesitantly collects and secures it back to his waist. “I’ll take that as my exit.” 

“Like we’ve both said, dinner is important. If you’re not staying to eat, we’re not waiting to eat.” Steve concludes and then makes a nod towards the door. “No offense, sir, but this is my home.” 

Belle seems amused as he allows Steve to walk him to the front door. He chuckles to himself as he slips on his shoes and then stands up, straightening his tie. “Don’t forget I’m doing you a favor, Captain. You and Barnes. He’s government property and I’m simply lending you one of my toys. You keep that in mind. Read that file. It’s important.” It’s a clear threat like the rest of Belle’s behavior. A promise without having to spell it out. He could easily take Bucky away. Lock him up. Throw Steve in jail, too, for resisting and harboring a criminal. It would be a bloody fight. 

Steve knows. He nearly crinkles the folder from how tightly he’s holding it. 

“You have a nice night, won’t ya?” Belle says with a charmed smirk. 

Steve gulps down the venom at the back of his throat. Resists. “Have a safe trip.” 

Belle leaves. The door closes. 

Bucky suddenly exhales out audibly and then rotates his metal arm at the cuff of his shoulder, the mechanics of the arm humming in response. “Well.” He begins.

Steve glances back at him, a brow raised as he awaits Bucky’s next remarks. 

“I’m a dead man walking, aren’t I?” 

Steve shakes his head. “Don’t ever say that. He’s bullshitting.” 

Bucky shrugs. “You’re gonna read the file, aren’t you?”

“I won’t if you don’t want me to.” 

Bucky nods. “Okay.” He looks at the ground. “Am I allowed to kiss you now, or?”

Steve just gawks. 

“Yes? No?”

Steve swallows hard as he double-checks the lock on the front door. He sets the folder down. “Yeah. Yeah, Buck.”

“Okay.” Bucky says again, voice soft as he takes a step into Steve’s space and then presses a gentle kiss to his lips. 

Steve’s eyes flutter shut, just for a moment, as he wills himself to kiss back. He tastes just as sweet as he did before. 

Bucky pulls back seconds later and then quietly walks away, towards the kitchen. 

Steve is left in the wake of Bucky’s wonder.

Eventually, the two actually get to start on preparing dinner. Steve gets to choose tonight via victory at rock, paper, scissors - because that’s how they’ve decided to do things suddenly - and decides he’s really been craving pasta with marinara sauce and a lot of bread. Two full loaves covered in butter, to be exact. 

It’s a carb-heavy sort of day, something Steve feels he needs after everything that’s transpired today. He’s surprised hes not passed out from the sheer shock of it all. 

He kissed Bucky. Hell, every time he passes a mirror, his neck makes that very clear. He’s marked. There’s no going back on that. 

As the two sit down to eat together, Bucky is the first to ask the question that Steve knows they’ve both been pondering. 

“So what now?” Bucky says in between forkfuls of pasta. “What are we?”

“We aren’t anything… that I know of.” Steve says awkwardly as he sets his fork down and goes to sip at his water. 

Bucky seems to frown. “We have to be something, Steve.” 

“Like what?” 

“Didn’t you like kissing me?” 

Steve tries to distract himself with a piece of bread. “Of course I did, Buck. You couldn’t tell?” 

“I can’t tell anything with you. You looked disgusted with me upstairs-“ 

“-I wasn’t disgusted. I was shocked. I’ve never caught anyone doing that!” Steve corrects, face nearly as red as the marinara sauce now. “And Belle was downstairs! Can you imagine what would’ve happened if he followed me upstairs to your room?”

Bucky sighs. “Fine, I get it. Look. I really liked kissing you. And I really want to keep kissing you. So why can’t we be something? Something more than… what we’re supposed to be?” 

“You mean, like, together?” 

Bucky nods as he stabs a piece of pasta. 

“Nothing has to change?” 

“Nothing has to change. It’s just us. You and me.”

“We can be.” Steve says quietly, voice nearly lost. He’s on his third piece of bread now with no signs of slowing.

Bucky smiles at that and god, Steve feels weak. 

“Does that make you happy?” Steve asks as he reaches out, fingers just delicately scraping over Bucky’s knuckles now as his hand sits out in front of him on the table. 

Bucky’s smile seems to grow. He turns over his palm for Steve and their fingers link together. “Yeah.” He says, without hesitation. 

They finish eating, hands remaining linked together and undisturbed in the center. 

After they wrap up dinner and leave no leftovers, Steve cleans off the plates and loads them into the dishwasher, flinching just a bit when Bucky comes up behind him and snakes his arms around tightly at Steve’s waist. 

“Sam showed me a… uh… me-me of you in your Cap suit, you know. From the Battle of New York. The internet says your back is shaped like a chip called a Dorito.” Bucky teases as he nestles his chin into the crook of Steve’s shoulder and suddenly, it feels just like that time in the middle of the night when they’d both woken up from a nightmare.

This is familiar. 

But this time, when Steve presses himself back into the embrace, he’s more forward. He turns his face inwards and allows himself to press the tip of his nose against Bucky’s cheek. “What is a me-me?” Steve questions with a stifled laugh. He happens to know what a Dorito is. One point for Steve. 

“It’s an internet thing. I don’t know - I think I’m saying it wrong. But Sam said your back being a Dorito is one of ‘em. And the internet is right.”

“I look like a Dorito?”

“Yeah! Because your waist is so tiny in comparison to how wide your shoulders are.” 

Steve scoffs. “Is that so? You and the internet think so?” 

Bucky gives Steve’s waist a squeeze in his arms, as if to prove a point. “Yep. Human Dorito. Don’t exactly know what a Dorito tastes like but I bet you taste better.” 

“Jesus Christ.” 

“Gonna keep saying his name when I’m right here, hm?” Bucky laughs, now pressing a wet kiss to Steve’s neck. He lets it linger. 

“I’ll have to get you some Doritos. You can let me know.”

“You know, I didn’t get to thank you.” Bucky says suddenly now, quiet and muffled as he mouths at Steve’s skin. 

“For what?” Steve questions, now tossing aside a hand towel. 

“For defending me. In front of Belle.”

Steve sighs and spins around in Bucky’s arms, now bringing them face to face with each other. “I’ll always have your back, Buck. ‘Til the end of the line, remember?” 

Bucky nods and then dips down to connect their lips. It’s another shock to Steve’s system - one he’s not sure he’ll ever learn to accept. 

“We should go get ready for bed.” Steve suggests suddenly, words spoken against the warmth of Bucky’s mouth. None of this feels real, even now. 

Steve feels like he’s waiting to wake up from a dream. 

“I can sleep in your bed?” Bucky asks hopefully as he pulls away. 

Steve rolls his eyes and laughs. “As if you weren’t already.”

It doesn’t take them too long to make their way to Steve’s bedroom. Before they do, however, Steve insists on cleaning up the living room first while Bucky heads upstairs to take a shower. It feels like a routine for them. Like this is normal.  

It’s starting to feel like the longest day in history for Steve, he’s sure. He’s never had to juggle so many emotions at once. He’s drained. 

Just as Bucky comes out of the shower, dressed in a soft shirt and boxers, Steve is just coming upstairs. They seamlessly trade places with Steve hopping in the shower now and Bucky getting the bed ready to sleep in.

Steve swears he doesn’t take too long - though he would be lying if he said he didn’t take a few extra minutes to stare longingly in the mirror at the hues of reds and purples all delicately scattered from his neck to his collarbone. He feels weird to admit it, but he likes it. Likes the connotation. Likes the memory. He’s almost saddened to see them starting to fade. Even more so saddened when he throws a shirt on over majority of the evidence. 

When he comes out, freshly shaven face and wet hair slicked back, Bucky is laying in bed eating something wrapped in silver. His own hair is wet and pushed away from his eyes. 

Steve’s eyes narrow.

“I hope you don’t mind.” Bucky says with a bat of his lashes. “I found it on the dresser.”

It suddenly clicks. 

The chocolate bar Steve asked Thomas for. 

He grins as he walks over. “I see you found the 3 Musketeers bars I got for you. Do you remember those?” He asks as he comes over and plops down on the opposite side of the bed. 

Bucky looks surprised. “I didn’t until I saw the name on the wrapper. I’ll tell you what, it doesn’t really taste the same - but I still like it.” Bucky laughs now as he holds it out for Steve to bite into. “They got rid of the other two flavors. You remember them, Stevie? The strawberry one? And the vanilla one? Gone. It’s just one big piece of chocolate!”

Steve smiles. “I remember them. Just brushed my teeth, though, Buck. I got that for you - they’re all for you. You enjoy.” 

Bucky snorts. “Y’know, me too. Maybe that’s why I don’t like it as much. Maybe I’m tasting toothpaste.” He makes a face and then wraps the rest of the chocolate up to set aside on the dresser. “I’ll have to eat the rest tomorrow. Compare results. Science and shit.” 

“Science and shit?” Steve snickers. 

Bucky smirks at that, now extending his leg to gently kick at Steve’s ribs. Playful and harmless. “You know what I mean. Thank you for being so good to me.” He hums out and then pushes a hand back through his hair. “So tell me where you went today.” 

Steve makes a face. “The shoes gave it away, huh?” 

Bucky laughs. “My Stevie left the house shoeless and returned with a pair of running sneakers. Do fill me in.” 

Steve sighs out and allows himself to plop back against the bed, a soft ‘oof’ escaping his lips as his head hits the pillow. He turns immediately onto his side so that he can see Bucky. “I rode into the nearby town. Took me a bit, but I got there. It’s nice. Lots of people. I found a small shop that sold clothes and then got myself a pair of shoes without money. Though, I gotta pay the lady back. She was really nice. Recognized who I was. It was weird accepting that people know who I am.” 

Bucky raises a brow as he turns in towards Steve as well, hand resting between the pillow and his cheek. “No one thought it was weird you were walking around without shoes?” 

“I’m sure they did. But no one said anything. The lady in the shop was way kinder to me than anyone has ever been in awhile.” 

“I’ve been kind to you, doofus.” 

Steve laughs, loud and honest. “You don’t count.”

Bucky makes a face. “How do I not count?” He gasps. 

“‘Cause you don’t! You’re different!” 

They laugh together for a moment, though, when it dies down, Bucky’s expression softens into something more sincere. “You always deserved kindness, Stevie. Even before the serum. You were always deserving.” 

“I know, Buck.” 

“No, Stevie. I mean that. I’m sorry it took the rest of the world twenty-something years of your life and a bottle of super serum to see what I always saw. You always deserved everything and I’m sorry it took so long for people to give that to you.” 

Steve feels all weepy at that and Bucky immediately notices and reaches out to cradle at his face. He doesn’t say anything. Neither of them do. 

“I’d love to take you into town someday.” Steve finally says after a few moments of silence. 

Bucky frowns and lets his hand fall away. “Don’t think so, Stevie.” He gently extends his leg out and allows the anklet to graze up against Steve’s calf. 

Steve jumps when he feels it. The reality of it sets in like a stone dropping to the bottom of a pond. “One day when that’s off then. I promise.” He sighs and then calls out, “House, turn off the lights and close the blinds.” 

The room is instantly dark. 

Bucky doesn’t seem all that convinced but he lets it go. “Maybe one day, when this is all over, we’ll get to go back to Brooklyn. Maybe I can visit my parents, you know? My sisters… maybe I could find where they’re buried.” 

Steve scoots forward in the dark and envelopes Bucky into his arms, now sinking into his warmth and holding him close. Tight. Like he could slip away. “We’ll do that, too, Buck. We’ll do everything. Everything we never got the chance to do. We’ll have our own lives - away from all of this.” 

Bucky doesn’t fight him on it, instead he buries his face deep into Steve’s chest, breathing him in. “But the world needs Captain America still.” 

“It won’t always.” Steve murmurs and then moves to nuzzle his face against the top of Bucky’s head. His hair is still wet but it doesn’t faze Steve. “Can I tell you something?” He asks into the dark, suddenly biting at his lip.

“Anything.” Bucky whispers back. 

“I love you, Buck. I don’t know if I ever said that enough, but I always did. I always will.”

“I love you, too, Stevie. But I know you already knew that.” 

“I did.” Steve says coyly. He lets them lay there in silence again. Just for a minute. His eyes are closed. “You know what else?” Steve asks quietly but all he can hear is soft breathing now. 

Bucky doesn’t answer. 

Steve just sighs and closes his eyes. He falls asleep soon after.

 

— Bucky —

 

It’s around 07:00 when Bucky stirs from his sleep, blue eyes hazy and cloudy as he blinks them open and then lifts a hand to wipe the sleep from them. 

“Hey, Stevie,” Bucky coos out into the still very dark room - thanks to the blinds being shut. He extends his arm forward, as if to touch Steve but he immediately realizes Steve isn’t even in bed anymore. 

Bucky pouts and then lazily drags himself out from beneath the covers so that he can sit up. He clears his throat and then awkwardly says, “Uh, House, open the blinds.” He smirks proudly when it actually works, though the light instantly comes flooding in and he immediately regrets his choices. 

“Holy shit.” He groans into the sheets as he buries his face into them in an attempt to shield himself. 

“Captain Rogers has requested your presence downstairs in the kitchen, now that you’re awake.” The house suddenly says and Bucky nearly falls off the bed in response. 

He looks around, as if Steve is hiding somewhere in the room, and is confused when he can’t seem to locate neither Steve nor a camera. 

“Creeper.” Bucky scoffs aloud as he gets to his feet and then pads his way into the bathroom to go through his morning routine.

Once finished, Bucky exits the bathroom and then grins deviously as he decides to just grab one of Steve’s t-shirts from the top drawer of one of his dressers. He could make the unnecessary trip to his own bedroom, to put on his own clothes… but Steve’s are right here. And they fit fine. 

Bucky ends up dressing himself in one of Steve’s too-small SSR shirts that seems to fit Bucky just right and a pair of his grey sweatpants that also seem to fit Bucky better than they do Steve. Everything smells like Steve. Bucky can’t help but pull the collar of the shirt over his nose just to shamelessly breathe it in. 

He then sighs out and begins to make his way out of the room and down the stairs. The first thing he notices is the smell of breakfast and immediately his stomach is growling in response. 

He’s pretty sure he smells bacon. A ton of bacon.

“Steve!” He calls out as he hits the bottom of the steps with an exaggerated stomp, now turning the corner for the kitchen. He pauses in the walkway as he catches Steve over the stove, using a spatula to move something around in a pan. It’s definitely eggs with cheese. Definitely. 

Steve turns now to glance at Bucky from over his shoulder, grinning and looking refreshed as ever. “Seems you got my message.” He teases. 

Bucky makes a face. “Yeah, you’re a creeper. You didn’t tell me there were cameras-“ 

“-There’s no cameras, Buck. You just happened to tell the House to open all the blinds when you woke up. Including the ones in the kitchen.” Steve snorts, as if it’s so obvious. “So I immediately knew you were awake. Process of elimination.” 

Bucky’s eyes narrow. “And then you just told it to relay a message to me?” 

“I just assumed you were in bed still.” Steve flashes him another million dollar smile before he turns back to the stove. “Breakfast is almost ready. Wanna take out the plates and silverware?” 

“Of course.” Bucky says softly, but not before coming up behind Steve to press a soft kiss to the back of his neck, right where his hair line has started to grow out. 

Steve practically purrs at the touch, like a cat. 

Bucky can’t help but laugh as he pulls away and then sets the table, as asked. 

Steve finishes up breakfast soon after with his impeccable timing that Bucky can’t seem to process and the two eat happily together at the table. 

Bucky wants this everyday. He thinks that this is actually how things should be. That… if the war never happened, this is exactly what their lives would’ve been like. Maybe just not as fancy. Maybe still in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn.

“Natasha is gonna come out here on a jet.” Steve randomly says as he sets down his fork on his now empty plate. “I texted her earlier about seeing if she could pull some strings and get an encrypted phone for you. She said she’d talk to Tony.”

Bucky tilts his head in curiosity. “When? Today?” 

“She’ll get here tomorrow. Tony’s gotta set up the phone first. I told her to bring some Doritos.” He smirks before his brows raise suddenly. “You’re wearing my clothes?” 

Bucky laughs. “Glad you noticed. They fit me better than they fit you.” 

“Sure do.” Steve coos before he pushes his chair out and moves to stand.

Bucky blushes at that. He wasn’t expecting such a simple response. He wishes he could hear Steve’s inner thoughts - because he knows he’s gotta be thinking something. 

He moves to follow Steve to the sink, passing over empty dishes now to try and help him clean up. In between plates and forks that he passes to Steve, Bucky presses delicate kisses to Steve’s cheek. Bucky can’t help but laugh at how red Steve is by the time they finish loading the dishwasher. 

Afterwards, they settle in together in the living room - just to digest - Steve says. It’s only 09:00 AM now and they still have the entire day. 

Bucky takes to sitting curled up on the couch, now quietly writing a small passage into his journal that Lillian had given him. He hasn’t really started using it yet, but he thinks now may be a good chance. Part of him doesn’t want to disappoint Lillian, for some strange reason. 

“What’re you writing about?” Steve asks softly as he lifts his head up from the drawing pad he’s been buried in for the last twenty or so minutes. He has his legs stretched out and over Bucky’s lap. It’s endearing. 

“You.” Bucky says simply as he dots a period on the page and then sets down his pen. “What’re you drawing?” He counters. 

“You.” Steve replies with a toothy grin. “But you can’t look yet. It’s not done.” 

Bucky furrows his brows and then uses his metal hand to squeeze playfully at one of Steve’s socked feet. “You’re such a ham.” He groans out. 

“Yeah, well, you’re the one writing about me. That’s pretty ham-y if you ask me.” Steve says with a laugh. 

“Lillian told me to write about my life for our therapy sessions. So I guess… that’s what I’m doing.” 

“Are you going to tell her about the other day?” Steve asks now as he taps his pencil eraser against the paper. 

“No.” 

“No?”

“I’m just writing about how things are good. She doesn’t need to know the details.” 

Steve shrugs. He doesn’t seem bothered. He goes back to his drawing - Bucky can see the intensity in his eyes. The focus. 

Bucky suddenly realizes that all the hickeys he’d left carelessly across Steve’s pale skin are gone. Gone like they never happened.

He bites his lip. 

He looks back down at his journal and sighs as he reads it back to himself. 

 

Steve Rogers is a dork. A big dork. But I love him. When all of this is over and I’m no longer a slave to the government… I just hope Steve still chooses me. I don’t have anyone else in this life. And that’s not me complaining. I just… don’t know what to do without Steve. 

Maybe that sounds extremely mushy and crazy but it’s true. 

I should’ve died all those years ago. Steve should’ve, too. 

And if us both surviving death and meeting again in a completely new life isn’t a sign that Steve Rogers is my soulmate, then I really don’t know what else to think. 

That just doesn’t happen. Life doesn’t do shit like that. 

But it did for us.’ 

 

He’s not very elegant. It’s whatever. 

Bucky shifts around quietly as he sets the pen down again and looks over at Steve, who doesn’t appear to notice. Only this time, Bucky doesn’t say anything to disrupt him. Instead, he just watches in silence as Steve’s hand moves along the paper, delicately and with purpose. 

He’ll just have to give Steve more hickeys later when he’s finished his drawing, because right now he looks way too peaceful for Bucky to disturb. 

Until then, Bucky’s content to just watch him all day. 

 

Chapter Text

Bucky is the first to wake up bright and early the next day, body still tangled up with Steve’s own from the night before. Bucky sighs and makes an effort to stretch himself out like a cat, now attempting to wiggle free from the grip around his waist. 

Steve grumbles in his sleep and seems to hunker down even more on his hold, arms snaking around even tighter. More possessively. 

“Steve.” Bucky whispers, a small laugh eliciting from his throat as he hears a huffing breath from behind - hot against his ear. 

Steve holds tighter. 

“Wake up.” Bucky murmurs, laughing more.

“No.” A husky voice finally rumbles from behind him. Deep and laced with heaviness. It’s beautiful. 

“You’re gonna suffocate me if ya squeeze any tighter, Rogers.” Bucky whines, now feeling Steve loosen up just enough so that he can wriggle and spin around to bring them face to face. Bucky’s breath immediately hitches in awe of the man before him. 

“But you’re so warm.” Steve says softly now as the two finally make eye contact. Steve is squinting from the light, golden locks of hair messy and misplaced from being pressed into the pillows. 

Bucky wants to say something coy, but he doesn’t. Instead, he lifts a hand out from beneath the sheets to push his fingers through the hair, trying to tame it back into place. 

“Happy Saturday.” Steve hums out softly now as he begins to come into himself. His fingers press delicately into the lower portion of Bucky’s bare back. They’re low enough to tease, but Steve is far too respectable to grab without direction. Bucky will have to work on that. 

“Happy Saturday, Stevie.” Bucky smirks as he leans forward and presses a warm, wanting kiss to Steve’s lips. They’re soft and pliable against his own. Bucky’s amazed by the fact that Steve doesn’t have morning breath and he laughs as he pulls back. “Is there anything not perfect about you?” He asks aloud. 

“What does that mean?” Steve questions in a laugh as he licks his lips, eyes crinkling at the corners.

“You don’t even have morning breath. You’re not human.”

“Neither do you?” Steve says with a pondering look.

Bucky rolls his eyes, “hush, I’m admiring you. Leave me be.” 

Steve snorts, and even that sounds cute coming from him. Damn.

“I still wanna see that drawing you did of me, you know, yesterday morning. You said you’d show me when it was finished.” Bucky randomly blurts out as he shifts around and nuzzles his face into Steve’s chest. He’s so glad they’d both elected to sleep shirtless last night.

“It’s still not finished.” Steve says simply, his voice echoing through his chest in rumbles that Bucky can feel against his face. “Beauty takes time to capture.” 

“Corny.” Bucky answers with a groan and then turns to press his lips over Steve’s bare sternum. He lets the kiss linger momentarily before he follows it up with another, this time over Steve’s heart. 

“Did I already mention that I really suck at flirting? ‘Cause if you haven’t noticed-“ 

“-Shh. I like it.” Bucky affirms with a smirk as he lifts a hand up to Steve’s lips and teasingly presses his flesh index up against them to silence him.

Steve’s eyes are wide with wonder and uncertainty now. His visage holds a childlike innocence that Bucky just wants to absolutely wreck. Bucky already knows with or without all his memories that Steve’s never been in bed with someone like this, other than himself. Probably hasn’t had anyone do this to him either. 

Bucky smirks in amusement. “Open your mouth, Rogers.” He says in a coo, now curious to see what Steve will do. 

Somewhat surprisingly, Steve listens and slowly parts his lips, stupidly long lashes fluttering in confusion when Bucky presses the tip of his index into Steve’s mouth.

“Suck.” Bucky purrs out the order, now hooking the digit into the warmth of Steve’s mouth. 

Steve seems to hesitate at first - as if wondering if Bucky is playing a prank on him - but then he complies and does as asked, tongue gliding around Bucky’s finger and gently bringing it further into his mouth. His blue eyes go even wider - blown out suddenly - as he forces himself to maintain the intense eye contact that Bucky has started between them. 

“So pretty.” Bucky whispers as he props up onto his metal elbow to better angle himself. “Your lips look real good around my finger, Stevie. I bet they’d look even better around my-“ 

Steve suddenly gasps and lets Bucky’s finger release from his lips. “Buck.” He says, voice wavering and eyes looking between Bucky’s face and his hand. His cheeks immediately redden. “Sorry, I just, wow.” Steve laughs out now, a nervousness to his laughter that causes it to be higher pitched than usual. 

Bucky smiles and then dips back down to kiss him again, apologetic. “What am I going to do with you?” He groans playfully, now sliding a knee across Steve’s belly to pull himself on top, as if mounting a horse. And he really ought to be with how wide and big Steve is. He hooks his feet under Steve’s knees, holding himself there as he dips back down and reconnects their lips. 

And just like every time they’ve kissed for more than two seconds, Steve instantly seems stiff. But at least his hands have taken to rubbing along Bucky’s thighs. It’s certainly progress. 

“My ass. Grab it.” Bucky finally says in exasperation, reaching out to take both of Steve’s hands into his own and then dragging them backwards to plant them onto his backside. He’s being a lot more forward this time around. “Squeeze. C’mon.” He directs, voice practically lost in Steve’s mouth as he keeps kissing him.

Steve follows along obediently, large hands palming over Bucky’s ass now in a way that has Bucky arching himself into the touch. “Like that, right?” He asks breathlessly as he pulls away from the kiss to search Bucky’s face for a response. 

“Mhm. Harder this time. Give it to me, Rogers. Claim me.” Bucky assures, his own hands moving back up to grab at Steve’s face and hold him still - tender and possessive all at once - while he kisses Steve with as much passion as he can muster up this early in the morning. “You can do,” Bucky purrs between rough kisses, “ anything you want to me.” 

“Anything?” Steve whimpers out, now grabbing a little harder at Bucky’s ass. His fingers are kneading into each cheek, causing a low moan to erupt from Bucky.

“Mhm.” Bucky responds before he grinds himself down into Steve’s lap, the two of them gasping in response. 

Steve must get an ounce of courage from somewhere because, suddenly, he dares to drag his fingers beneath the waistband of Bucky’s briefs and lets his hands caress the hot skin, once again squeezing. 

Steve’s fingers knead inwards, until Bucky’s breath hikes into a gasp when he feels fingers dip between and graze at his hole. Bucky practically sputters into their kiss, shocked. 

Steve immediately stops and breaks away from the kiss, as if he’s done something wrong. He looks horrified with himself and, fuck, Bucky wants to beg him to keep going. 

“No, no, it’s okay!” Bucky groans out, his hands on Steve’s face holding him still and forcing him to maintain eye contact. He won’t let Steve look away like he so badly wants to. “I wasn’t expecting that. It was good. I promise.” He tries to assure, now peppering kisses all over Steve’s face - from his forehead to his jaw. Anywhere he can reach. 

“I… you’re sure? I didn’t-“

“It was good. I said you could do anything - I meant that.”

Steve sighs out in relief and nods. His Adam’s apple jerks in his throat from how hard he seems to gulp. “I’m so bad at this, Buck. I ruined the moment, didn’t I?” 

Bucky pouts. “No. The moment isn’t ruined. You didn’t do anything wrong, Stevie. You’ve gotta relax. Be easy on yourself.” 

Steve nods again, but he’s unconvincing as ever. “I’m sorry, I know I sound like a broken record already with this… but I really just have no clue what I’m doing. Or what we’re supposed to do…” His hands gently return to Bucky’s ass, just holding him there. 

Bucky smiles and presses back into the touch, trying so hard to show Steve that he likes this. Hell, that he really fucking wants it. He sighs. “We don’t have to do anything if you’re not ready for it, Stevie. I don’t even know what we’d be doing - honestly - I’m really not sure how any of this works. But we can figure it all out together. Google it, right?” Bucky hates to admit it, but he’s not entirely sure how things are supposed to work between them. Or what will feel good for either of them. His experience ends with women and he remembers… not a single one. 

Google, it is. 

Steve groans out, closing his eyes from the embarrassment in usual, true Steve fashion. “I watched a video.” He admits and immediately, Bucky is sitting up. 

“A video? Of what?” Bucky asks, brows raising. 

“A porn video - I shouldn’t have watched it, shit, why am I even telling you this!”

“Steve, you watched porn?” Bucky snorts, a hand coming up to try and contain his laughter. 

“Yeah, yeah, I know. I shouldn’t have-“

“What kind?” Bucky stifles his laughter now. 

Bucky feels Steve kick a heel into the bed in embarrassment. His eyes are still closed - clamped shut - and his hands have come up to cover his face. “Twoguys.” He mutters, the words coming out mushed together.

“What?” Bucky asks, the tip of his tongue pressed against the inside of his cheek in amusement. 

“Two. Guys.” Steve forces himself to answer. “It was two guys. I watched it. I felt really bad after-“ 

“-We should watch it together.” Bucky says decidedly. It doesn’t take him too long to come to that conclusion at all. It makes perfect sense to him. 

It’s obviously not what Steve expects to hear, because his hands instantly fall away from his face and his eyes open to stare up at Bucky, looking incredulous. “What?” 

“I said, we should watch it together. Maybe we’ll learn something. Figure some things out.”

Steve shakes his head. “That sounds mortifying-“ 

Bucky sighs and rolls off Steve, plopping down beside him again. He’s staring up at the ceiling now. Leave it to Steve to continuously demonstrate that he’s actually the biggest virgin in the entire world. “It’s not supposed to be mortifying, Steve. It’s supposed to be… I dunno… sexy? Hot? Like maybe we watch it together and try to copy the video. Did you watch it and hate it?”

Steve is silent for a moment before he quietly says ‘no’ and seems to recoil into the sheets. 

“So, if you liked it, maybe you’d like to try what they did, yeah?” 

Steve nods. 

“Good. So then that’s what we’ll do.” Bucky smiles and then moves to roll himself out of bed. Just as he does, he spots Steve’s phone on the dresser, lit up with what appears to be several notifications. “Think you’ve got something on your phone.” Bucky informs as he stands up, watching with an endearing sigh as he waits for Steve to regain his composure and finally reach for his phone. 

“Thanks, Buck.” He says softly as he picks up the phone and begins to read something. He’s silent for a moment as Bucky moves around the room, looking for a shirt to wear. “Looks like Nat will be here in a few hours. She’s getting on the jet soon.” Steve pauses. His expression drops. “Shit! I’m not even showered! We have to clean up the house, Buck! And cook breakfast!” 

Bucky can’t help but scoff as he grabs one of Steve’s shirts - because this is becoming a recurring thing Bucky does now - and pulls it on and over his head. “Why do you care what she thinks?” Bucky asks as he smooths his messy hair and then checks himself over in the mirror. Another too-tight shirt for Steve that fits Bucky just right. And it smells amazing, too. He finds a simple pair of sweatpants discarded over the hamper, gives it a smell-check, and then pulls those on as well. 

“What do you mean? We can’t let Nat think we live like uncivilized pigs out here.” Steve groans as he peels back the bed sheets and then climbs out of bed. 

Bucky looks over at Steve, eyes dropping to his groin and smirking at what he notices. “Nice boner.” He’s big. That’s the only thought Bucky has now. 

Steve glances down at himself and then groans. “Ignore that!” 

Bucky just blows him a taunting kiss and then makes his way out of the room and saunters down the stairs so he can try and help Steve “clean” their already clean house. 

While Bucky is making himself busy with rearranging couch pillows and smoothing out corners of the various area rugs in the house, he hears Steve running the shower for himself. He doesn’t take too long at all because nearly twenty minutes later, Steve is already doubling down the steps to rush into the kitchen. 

Bucky turns on the television - because that seems like a normal thing, right? - and then follows after Steve. He pauses in the open doorway when he sees him. 

Bucky immediately notices Steve has cleaned up his hairline and definitely cut an inch or two off his hair. It’s slicked back with gel - but not too much gel. Steve’s always been good at that. And it looks like he may of went over his face again, because the slight shadow of hair growth he had coming in on his cheeks just thirty minutes ago is completely gone. He looks a lot like he did that day on the bridge in DC and it causes Bucky’s heart to skip a beat at the thought. 

Steve is dressed nicely, too. Tight grey t-shirt and a matching dark grey and white patterned cardigan with dark jeans to match. He’s even bothered to find a pair of nice, black socks. 

Bucky is pouting as he looks on in the doorway, arms coming up to cross over his chest. 

Steve tries to make it obvious that he doesn’t notice Bucky, but Bucky knows Steve is aware. Cap notices everything - hears things a mile away. Steve can pretend all he wants but Cap gives it all away. “What’s wrong?” Steve finally sighs out as he turns on his heel to glance back at Bucky.

“Nothing. Just wondering why you’re so dressed up.” Bucky mumbles, tilting his head. 

“I’m not dressed up, Buck, I just wanna-“

“-Because Nat is coming. Right.” Bucky answers over him with a huff and then moves to swiftly exit the room. So he’s jealous suddenly. So what?

If Steve answers, Bucky doesn’t hear it - or maybe he just ignores it. He heads back into the living room and tries to repeat the busy-work he’s already completed. He’ll just sort pillows all day. Hell, maybe he’ll just do that the entire time Nat is here, too. 

Bucky doesn’t even know what Natasha looks like. He sort of remembers a redhead from a few weeks ago. Sort of. But it’s nothing solid or memorable enough to put a name to a face. She’s probably pretty. 

Probably.

And Steve probably likes working with her. They probably have some sort of connection, too, because that’s what makes people work together well. Especially if they’re both a part of what Steve and Sam referred to as the “Avengers.”

It’s around an hour later when there’s a knock on the door. 

Bucky and Steve have both finished eating, thankfully, and Steve has calmed down since the morning. The house is clean. They look good. All is well. 

Bucky follows behind Steve like an obedient dog at his heels, remaining quiet and cautious of what will be on the other side of the door. 

When Steve opens it, he’s instantly smiling - composed and calm. “Natasha.” He says evenly as he steps forward to pull the petite woman into a hug. 

“Rogers, you don’t look a day over 95.” Natasha croons, one slender arm wrapping around Steve and delicate fingers gripping gently at the back of his shoulder. Her other arm remains at her side, holding a black duffle bag close to her leg. 

Bucky stands there quietly and awkwardly as he watches them. His stomach clenches up seeing how beautiful Natasha is - how strangely familiar, yet distant, she seems. He’s silent as he waits for them to pull away from each other. 

Steve is the first to step back, now reaching around to close the door behind Natasha. He laughs and then motions towards Bucky. “This is my best guy… Bucky. You remember him, yeah?” 

Bucky’s stomach flips at the pet name perfectly weaved into Steve’s sentence. 

Natasha offers a grin and an extended hand to him. She nods and her slick, straight hair follows her motions. “Nice to finally meet you, Bucky.” Her voice is so tranquil. Peaceful. Controlled.

Bucky feels weird. 

He swallows hard as he shakes her hand and then pulls back. “Yeah. You, too.” He then looks to Steve. 

“Come, I’ll show ya around the place.” Steve suddenly says and then begins walking towards the kitchen. “You hungry?” He asks. 

Natasha begins to follow, but not before slipping off her sneakers and tossing them aside. “Maybe in a little bit, but I’d love a glass of water.” She says with a smirk and then immediately turns to Bucky. “I have so many questions for you. You and Steve.”

Bucky just follows along, quiet and concerned. He keeps telling himself he shouldn’t be jealous, but he is. 

Steve kissed her, after all. 

“So, Steve, this is where you’ve been hiding since the Helicarriers went down? Fury has been asking about you, you know.” Natasha shrugs as she sets down the duffle bag on the island’s countertop and then leans up against it. She looks down at the granite and smiles, appearing to be admiring the kitchen.

“In the hospital, I worked out a deal with Homeland Security to put me out here with Bucky. I know you know some of the story.” Steve begins as he pours out a glass of water and then passes it off to Natasha. He makes eye contact with Bucky - as if silently asking if he’d like something.

Bucky shakes his head. 

“As for Fury, yeah, Sam told me all about him and you looking for me. I’m not interested. Not right now, anyway. Bucky comes first. Made that clear.” Steve responds and Bucky can’t help but smile to himself. 

Natasha nods as she sips at her glass. “I know, I know. But you know how Fury is. Even Tony asked about you. Are you sure this is the best idea?” 

Steve shrugs. “No. No, I’m not. But it was this or lose Bucky and I can’t lose him again. The choice is simple when you look at it that way.” 

Bucky chews on his lip. 

“And if the Avengers are needed?” Natasha asks, a curl to her lips. 

“Then I’ll be there. But until then, Captain America isn’t available. Not for children’s birthday parties or for special ops.” Steve concludes, firm and authoritative.

Bucky’s stomach admittedly knots up at the thought of Steve leaving him alone to go and fight alongside the Avengers again. 

She laughs and nods. Seems to take that answer for what it’s worth. She then turns her attention to Bucky. “So, Bucky, how are you?” 

Bucky feels Steve come up behind him now, a firm hand coming to squeeze at the base of his flesh shoulder. It’s intimate yet harmless enough that Natasha doesn’t seem to bat an eye. 

“I’m okay. Taking things one day at a time.”

“How’s your memory?” 

“Splotchy.” 

She gives a smile that Bucky can’t quite seem to place and then moves to open the bag on the table. “Well, even though you don’t want to see Fury, Fury was still kind enough to help out.” She begins as she pulls out two boxes. “Two new phones. Fully encrypted. Untraceable. Paid for by Fury, tweaked by Tony.” 

Steve looks puzzled. “Nat, I didn’t need a new phone-“

Natasha laughs, amused. “Rogers, you especially needed a new phone. We can’t be sure that they’re not reading every message you send or tapping into every phone call you make. You’ve gotta be more careful than that. You weren’t planning to give Barnes a phone and then text him with your government issued number, were you?”

Bucky shoots worried glances between the two of them. She has a point. 

Steve makes a face, clearly not entirely understanding - and honestly, Bucky doesn’t quite either. “So, what do I do with the old phone?” 

“As far as Homeland Security is concerned, that’s your only phone. Use it to communicate with them and them only. This new one Stark set up for you - that’ll be how you talk to us. It’ll be safer, trust me.”

Steve just nods. He’s out of his element and it’s obvious. They both are.

“By the way, catch!” Natasha abruptly calls as she pulls a small, cellophane bag from within her duffle bag and tosses them towards Bucky. 

Bucky’s left hand catches the bag without struggle. He looks down at it, a brow arched. “Plums?” He questions as he untwists the bag and reaches his metal hand in to pull one of them out. 

“They’re supposed to help with memory. Maybe it’ll help yours.” Natasha smiles, white teeth flashing. 

Bucky glances back at Steve, as if studying his reaction before his own. Steve’s grinning, too. 

“Thanks, Natasha. Didn’t know that.” Bucky says as he gently sets the plum back into the bag with the others. He twists the bag back up. “I appreciate that.”

“Oh,” Natasha starts as she reaches into the bag again, “And I was also asked to bring these.” She teases as she pulls out a red, crinkly bag of chips. 

Bucky laughs almost immediately when he sees they’re Doritos. Bless Steve for actually telling her. 

“Not the greatest housewarming gift, I know.” Natasha chuckles as she pushes them in Bucky’s direction. “But they’re pretty good.” 

“Sam showed me a photo of Steve with a Dorito over his back and told me it’s a pretty popular thing on the internet.” Bucky acknowledges now as he looks over the bag, still laughing. 

Natasha smiles and then makes a nod towards Steve. “Alright, Steve, let’s do a comparison. Take off the man-sweater.” She teases. 

Steve furrows his brows and laughs. “You’re funny. Totally not happening. I said get ‘Bucky the chips,’ not that I would participate in this.” He moves towards the doorway now, clearly trying to escape. “Besides, I wanted to show you the rest of the house.” 

Natasha grins in Bucky’s direction and quietly says, “my number is saved in your phone. I expect photos later.” She then leans off the counter and follows after Steve, lugging the duffle bag over her shoulder. Bucky can’t help but notice the way she carries herself - light and feminine, yet dangerous all the same. 

He huffs and stays behind. 

 

— Steve —

 

“So, what about Sharon now?” Natasha suddenly comments as she walks a few paces behind Steve into the living room. 

Steve’s in the middle of passively fixing a crease in a blanket hung over the couch when he hears the question and looks back, confused. “What about Sharon now?” He repeats, earning a laugh from Natasha. 

She offers a rather devious grin. “She’s pretty badass, wouldn’t you say? You should date her. I bet she wouldn’t mind spending some time away from work.” She suggests as she walks over to the bookcase, fingertips grazing along the spines of the books.

Steve sighs almost instantly. 

“I put her number in the phone already. Don’t even need to do anything but say hello.” Natasha muses. 

Steve shakes his head. “Nat, I just don’t think I’m ready to date anyone.” Not to mention, Bucky is right over in the next room. Christ. 

“Not ready? You’ve been out of the ice for years now. What’s the plan? Punish yourself for the rest of your life for something that you couldn’t change?” 

Steve lifts a hand to run it through his hair - to keep himself from fidgeting too much. “I’m just not interested. Not punishing myself… just content with how things are. I have Bucky.” He says and he immediately tenses up. Doesn’t know why he needed to add that on. Geez, he wants to smack himself. 

Natasha doesn’t seem to catch on. “You deserve to be loved, Steve. In any lifetime.” She sighs as she walks back over to him. “You’re a good guy. Any girl would jump at the chance to show you that.”

“I know.” Steve responds, voice quiet. He’s almost afraid that Bucky is listening in from the kitchen. He has no clue. His heart is pounding. 

Luckily, Natasha drops the topic and turns towards the staircase. “So, show me where I’ll be sleeping, Rogers. Please tell me it’s an actual bed and not the floor.” She smirks. “Is it upstairs?” 

“Yeah, yeah.” Steve laughs in relief and then leads her upstairs and gives her a quick tour of each of the rooms, including both his and Bucky’s. 

Natasha looks on curiously when she notices Bucky’s bed is made and Steve’s isn’t, but she doesn’t actually say anything. 

Steve internally scolds himself for forgetting to make the bed. He never forgets. 

As they come around the corner, Steve stops them in front of the spare room he’s chosen for her. It has its own shower, a queen sized bed, and lots of natural sunlight. And, somehow, it’s not the same room that Sam stayed in, either. 

“You can stay as long as you’d like, you know.” Steve says as he sets down Natasha’s bag for her at the edge of the bed. “Sam must’ve stayed for a week.”

“Sam doesn’t have the government on his back, though.” Natasha sighs as she takes a seat beside the bag. She pushes her hair over to one shoulder and combs her fingers through it, gingerly. “They tried to threaten me, you know. They think I belong in a penitentiary. Sam got off with a slap on the hands.” She chuckles. 

Steve makes a face. “I’m sure they want me in one, too.” 

“And Bucky.” Natasha adds on quietly, biting her lip. “Have you seen the news?” 

Steve feels a pang in his chest at that. “No. We’ve been keeping the television off those channels. Matthew Belle, our main contact, dropped off some files yesterday. Tried to scare us. Or me. I’m not sure.”

“Are you scared?”

“Of what?”

“Bucky.”

Steve shakes his head almost immediately. He doesn’t even need to consider it - it’s not a thought he’s ever had. “No. Never.” 

Natasha purses her lips. “Steve.”

“Nat.” 

“What if he-“

“Bucky would never intentionally hurt me.” Steve interjects, “the only people I need to worry about are Matthew Belle, HYDRA, and anyone else who thinks they’re going to try and tear us apart again. It’s not happening.” 

Natasha nods and puts her hands up in defense, as if surrendering. “You’re very passionate about him, Steve. I could only hope to care about someone the way you care about him.” Her words are soft, as if she’s afraid to even admit them. “I just want you to be careful. Bucky, too, then.”

“We will be.” Steve murmurs. 

“Mind if I get settled up here? I’ll come down in a bit.” Natasha suddenly says, lips curling at the corners. “I’ll help you two grandpas set those phones up, too. Promise.”

Steve’s mouth drops into an ‘o’ and he gasps dramatically. “Did you just call us grandpas?” He scoffs, feigning offense. “Fine. Don’t mind me, I’m just gonna go break my hip or something. Maybe I’ll go clean my dentures.” 

Natasha quietly snickers to herself. “Go take some fiber, old man.”

Steve just waves her off and exits, gently closing the door behind him. He’s still laughing to himself even as he heads for the staircase.

Just as he gets to the steps, his phone suddenly vibrates in his pocket and Steve pulls it out, curious. It’s Sam, thankfully, rather than Belle. 

Sam

‘Hey Cap. How you doin?’

Steve

‘Hey! Doing good. You?’

Sam

‘Busy couple of days. Lots of work to be done. How’s bucket?’

‘Bucky***’ 

‘But bucket is funny.’ 

Steve snorts when he reads the string of texts, now making a mental note to definitely call Bucky that one day. He sighs and replies back as he gets to the last step and then walks off towards the living room. 

Steve 

‘Bucket is doing good, too. We’ve been getting along pretty well.’ 

‘See what I did there? Bucket was on purpose. ;)’

Sam

‘You’re so olddddddd. But glad to hear. He sleeping in bed with you still?’ 

Steve

‘Yeah. Think it’s bad?’

Sam

‘No? Just asking since you told me that was a thing between you two. Maybe the routine is helping things between you guys.’

Steve bites his lip at that. He could tell Sam what happened between them. With the dancing and the kissing… and everything else. But what if that bothers Sam? What if Sam tells someone else? 

Steve won’t say anything. Not yet, anyway. 

Bucky suddenly comes up behind Steve and presses a kiss to his cheek, sneakily. “Hey.” He coos out. 

Steve can’t help but gasp, eyes darting around as if he’s expecting Natasha to be somewhere in the room. “Hey, hey.” Steve answers, as calm and collected as he can manage. He slips his phone back into his pocket and then turns himself to face Bucky. “What’ve you been up to?” 

“Waiting for you.” Bucky says honestly, blue eyes wide and puppy-dog like, aided by an equally damning lower lip pouted out for effect.

“Buck.” Steve sighs, giving a quick glance to the staircase - one that he’s sure Bucky doesn’t even notice - before he dares to dip himself forward and actually initiate a kiss between them, hands coming up to caress at Bucky’s cheeks. 

It’s the first time Steve has taken the lead in a kiss and it’s evident in how shocked Bucky is before he slowly allows himself to melt into the kiss. When they pull away a few moments later, Bucky is smiling. “Who are you and what have you done with my Stevie?” He asks in a laugh. 

Steve can feel a blush coming on just from Bucky’s comment and drops away one of his hands while he lets the other remain, rubbing small circles into the arch of Bucky’s cheek. “You know, I’m sorry if I upset you before.”

“You didn’t upset me…” Bucky trails off, leaning his face against the warmth of Steve’s hand. 

“No?”

“Maybe just a little…” Bucky amends. “But it’s my own fault. For being jealous.” 

“I could’ve done a better job making you not feel that way.” Steve murmurs, now leaning in again to press another kiss to Bucky’s lips. He pulls back. “I know you too well. Seen it before with Peggy and you. I was too stupid back then to acknowledge why though.”

“It’s okay, Steve. I’m just glad you’ve got another friend here - someone you can trust. That means I can trust her, too, ‘cause you always have good judgement.” 

Steve drops his hand away from Bucky’s cheek now and pulls him into an embrace. Tight and strong. “It’s you and me, Buck. No one’s getting between us.” 

Bucky seems surprised by the hug but he grips Steve just as tightly. “I... I wish I could remember everything between us. All the memories. I feel like you’re the biggest piece of my life and yet... I can’t remember much of anything. But I know you’re important to me. I feel that without knowing why.” 

“Because, I told you already, we’re always going to find our way back to each other. That’s how soulmates work. That’s just how we work.” Steve buries his face into Bucky’s flesh shoulder, words muffled into his shirt. “Everything will come back. It’ll take time, but it’ll happen. I know it will.” 

“Well, aren’t you two just the cutest?” Natasha quips from behind, causing the both of them to immediately jump and let go of each other. 

“Nat-“ Steve begins, a bit of panic laced in his tone. 

“-Sorry for scaring you two. I wasn’t eavesdropping, promise. Just came down to show you two the phones, if you’re ready.” She says as she walks towards the kitchen. “I’ll go get them. We’ll do them in the living room?” She suggests. 

Steve and Bucky both nod, waiting until she vanishes into the kitchen before looking to each other. 

“She’s good at sneaking up on people.” Steve whispers, earning a look of concern from Bucky. 

When Natasha returns, boxes in hands, they all make their way over to the couch and claim their spots. Bucky and Steve arguably sit a bit closer to each other than normal, but again, if Natasha notices anything, she’s got one solid poker face. 

Natasha opens the boxes and then passes one to Steve and one to Bucky. “We were able to recover the number you previously had before your last phone bit the bullet.” Natasha says to Steve with a laugh. “You’ll find this phone is rather similar to it, too. Same interface and still runs off S.H.I.E.L.D. technology.” 

“But S.H.I.E.L.D. is no longer in operation, yeah?” Steve says as he looks over the phone. Natasha is right - it’s the same as the one given to him by Nick Fury, just without all his saved photos and information. 

Natasha smirks. “Don’t twist my wrist, Rogers.” 

He laughs as he looks down at the phone, now unlocking it and going through the contacts in it. He nearly groans when he spots ‘Hot Nurse’ saved into his favorites, alongside ‘Your Favorite Redhead,’ “Falcon,’ and ‘Mysterious Friend With Metal Arm.’ 

Natasha must know what he’s looking at because her smirk is even wider now. 

Bucky, on the other hand, hasn’t even gotten the phone unlocked yet. He looks over at Steve. “Seriously, what the hell am I doing?” He asks while Steve laughs and helps him unlock it. 

“Side button to wake it up and then you swipe upwards. There’s no passwords on them yet, but we can add them.” Steve says with a smile. 

“Steve Rogers is teaching someone else how to use technology? I’m witnessing history.” Natasha teases. 

Steve just rolls his eyes and tries to help Bucky navigate the phone. Despite not fully understanding things, Bucky appears to catch on quickly. They also learn pretty quickly that Bucky’s metal fingers don’t work on the touchscreen. 

Bucky doesn’t look too caught up on it, but Steve can see it in his face that he’s a bit bothered. His expression smooths out moments later. 

For the next hour or so, the two of them remain seated comfortably beside each other on the couch while Steve teaches Bucky how to access the internet and how to send messages. 

Once Bucky’s got it down, they all move into the kitchen and settle into making a quick lunch. Just something to get into their stomachs - mostly because Steve is already starving again. 

Natasha sits in the spot that Sam did and the three of them eat in silence with the occasional comment or laugh shared between the trio. 

Steve is just finishing up his own plate when he notices his new phone vibrates in his lap. He raises a brow as he slips it out, trying not to be too obvious about it, and then reads the message. 

Mysterious Friend With Metal Arm

‘How about we go upstairs for a little bit?’

Steve immediately shoots a glance to Bucky, who appears stone faced as ever as he continues to eat. 

He quickly edits Bucky’s name in his phone - mostly because it’s ridiculous -  and then sends a reply back. 

Steve

‘And do what?’

He hears the quiet vibration of Bucky’s phone now. He’s sure Natasha doesn’t. 

Bucky fights a smirk as his hand slips under the table. 

My Best Guy

‘Touch each other, duh.’

The next message comes in before Steve can even process the last one. He gulps. 

My Best Guy

‘Let me kiss you all over.’

Steve

‘and what do I tell her???’

My Best Guy

‘I don’t know. You’re smart. Think of something.’

Steve

‘No way.’

Bucky kicks him playfully under the table, causing Steve to look over at him, shooting him daggers now. 

My Best Guy

‘Stop being lame. Live a little. We’ve got like 90 years of built up sexual tension to make up for.’

They lock eyes for a moment. Steve’s mouth feels dry now. 

My Best Guy

‘I’ll excuse myself. You follow.’

Steve doesn’t respond. He slips his phone back into his pocket as he watches and waits for Bucky to actually follow through. 

“You two okay?” Natasha finally asks, a manicured brow arched in curiosity. She sets down her fork and looks between them. 

Bucky immediately looks to Steve and then swallows the bite of food he’d been chewing. “Yeah. Just feeling a little nauseous. Think I may go upstairs and lay down for a bit.” He suddenly claims and then gets up from the table and makes his way to the staircase. It all happens so fast. 

Natasha looks concerned. 

Steve watches him leave, his own heart pounding now because this is messed up. Natasha isn’t an idiot. 

“Steve, can you get me my glass of water? I’m already halfway up the steps and left it.” Bucky whines. “Just bring it upstairs.” He calls. 

Natasha’s brow is still arched.

“I, uh, guess I should bring him that water?” Steve says awkwardly. He can feel his ears burning red. He’s sure Natasha knows something is up. “I’ll be right back. Feel free to do whatever you’d like.” He adds on and then quickly swipes the glass off the table and makes his way up the stairs. 

Both of their plates are left abandoned at the table.

“Take your time!” Natasha calls out. 

Steve doesn’t know if he intends on yelling at Bucky or what, but all bets are off when he arrives at his own bedroom and Bucky immediately takes the glass from him and sets it down on the dresser. As quickly as that happens, Bucky then pulls Steve into the room by the collar of his cardigan and then closes the door behind him. 

“Bucky, that wasn’t appropriate at all-“ Steve begins to scold, but is silenced seconds later by lips pressing up against his own. His breath hitches instantly. 

“Yeah, yeah. She’ll get over it.” Bucky murmurs into the kiss. His lips are so warm. So perfect.

Suddenly, Steve’s entire mind is blank. 

Chapter Text

Bucky is everywhere all at once. His hands are on Steve, pulling and tugging while one leg is nudged between Steve’s thighs, holding him in place against the closed door. Grinding against him. Taunting him. 

Steve feels breathless and trapped but in all the right ways. In all the ways he could only ever beg Bucky for. 

“Buck,” Steve manages to choke out as one of his hands comes to clutch at the back of Bucky’s head, gripping and fisting at the long, dark locks. His other hand takes solace at Bucky’s shoulder, holding tightly, as if he could fall away.

“I know, I know.” Bucky murmurs as he trails kisses down along the side of Steve’s jaw, nose nuzzling against the silky skin as he moves. “I’ve got ya, Stevie.”

For someone that’s spent a lifetime not knowing who he is or what he actually wants, Steve finds it hard to believe that it’s him Bucky seems to be so attached to suddenly. It’s all come on so strongly that it scares Steve. Scares him to the point where he’s more worried that this is all a dream than anything else. 

Or that Bucky will snap out of whatever this is. 

Because in no version of Steve’s life did he ever think this would happen. Thirteen year old Steve only ever dreamed of this.

Twenty year old Steve cried over this. 

Twenty-five year old Steve told himself this wasn't even possible. 

And twenty-seven year old Steve nosedived the Valkyrie into the arctic with glassy eyes staring at Bucky’s beautiful face taped into his compass. 

He holds on tighter, teeth gritting together as Bucky pushes him up against the wall, his leg forcing Steve to stay still. “Natasha is going to hear us-“ Steve whines, voice as soft as he can manage while he’s fighting pants and gasps. 

“She won’t if you stop talking.” Bucky answers back, coy and devious as he finds Steve’s pulse at the point between his neck and ear and sucks - sucks hard enough that Steve can’t help but groan in response. 

“I can’t stop talking.” Steve admits, practically whimpering when he feels Bucky’s metal hand slip beneath the fabric of his cardigan and right under his thin t-shirt to grasp at his bare hip. “Bucky…” He pleads again. His mind is rattling off thoughts at a mile a minute. 

“We can find ways to shut you up then.” Bucky whispers against his ear before he pulls off and away. 

Steve gasps once more, eyelids suddenly feeling heavy. He can feel the heat all along his face and down his neck. He’s flustered beyond belief. “What does that mean?” He asks, confused and sheepish. 

“It means I’m going to either shove something in your mouth or the threat of doing so will make you comply.” Bucky says, nonchalantly. He’s smirking as he lowers his leg away from Steve’s groin and then starts kissing him again - feverishly and intensely. 

Steve’s eyes are closed now as he feels Bucky’s tongue lining at his lower lip. It takes him a moment of catching up before Steve finally parts his lips to allow him in. He’s an awkward kisser - he knows that - but Bucky doesn’t say anything. Doesn’t even miss a beat as he leads the kiss and glides his tongue up against Steve’s. Steve wants to argue - wants to comment on what Bucky’s just said to him. That he’s definitely not letting Bucky shove something into his mouth, but then… he’s not really sure that’s actually what he wants. How he feels about that. Does he want that?

Steve is a fucking mess. He feels his knees buckle in just a bit, but he collects himself. Forces himself back up. 

“Can you stand?” Bucky suddenly asks as he breaks the kiss, lips red and slick with saliva. 

“Can I stand?” Steve parrots, hazy. His eyes just barely flutter open to catch the lust-blown look on Bucky’s face. He doesn’t even realize it, but he’s still gripping at the back of Bucky’s head. 

Bucky licks his lips. “Can you promise me you’re not gonna buckle out on me?” 

“What are you going to do to me?” Steve asks now, heart pounding so fiercely in his chest that he’s positive it’s going to impale itself on his rib cage. 

“Gonna make you feel good.” Bucky purrs out simply, leaning in to press another wet, warm kiss along Steve’s jaw. “But if you’re gonna end up on the floor-“ 

“-I won’t end up on the floor, Buck. I won’t.” Steve stammers out, the words coming out way faster than Steve can even comprehend. “I won’t, fuck, I won’t.” 

“Mhm.” Bucky responds, smirking as he presses another kiss to Steve’s jaw and then one more to his chin.

Steve doesn’t actually believe himself or even trust himself. He wants to keep talking - keep saying things. Just to push Bucky. To make him prove himself. To see what he actually meant before. What happens if he falls? What happens if his legs give out and he ends up on the floor? Then what? 

“Bucky.” Steve says again, achy and desperate this time. 

“Quiet. Told you, don’t talk anymore. I ain’t speaking to you, so you don’t need to talk.” Bucky scolds him and suddenly, Steve is feeling a certain pool of heat in his stomach that he’s felt before. 

Steve groans but listens, hands falling away and to his sides. A captain taking orders from his sergeant? Quite the sight, he thinks. 

“Easy, Stevie.” Bucky hushes him, both hands coming up to his cardigan and then slowly pushing it towards his shoulders and down. “Take this off.” He says as he tries to slide it down each arm.

Steve doesn’t fight it, instead helping Bucky to get it off. When the cardigan hits the floor and he’s left in his t-shirt, he suddenly feels a lot cooler and more self aware. 

“You always wear these stupid, tight shirts.” Bucky comments, hands now moving to the base of Steve’s shirt. 

Steve gulps. He’s not sure what’s next. He anticipates Bucky trying to remove his shirt, but instead, Bucky’s hands only slip under and glide up, palms pressing and feeling at Steve’s stomach. The cold, metallic fingers offer a strange contrast compared to Bucky’s other, warm flesh hand but Steve remains silent. His breath hitches and he knows Bucky hears that, though. Knows because Bucky is smirking again. 

“Easy.” He hums out again, hands now blindly grabbing at Steve’s chest, fingers molding into the muscle there and then teasingly pinching at his nipples. Both at the same time. Jesus fucking hell. 

Steve whimpers at the touch, head lolling backwards and suddenly hitting up against the door. Steve groans out at the sharpness that shoots through the back of his head, immediately biting at his lip to try and silence himself. 

But, of course, it’s loud enough that Bucky makes a face and pinches harder. 

Steve feels himself go up on his toes - for no reason that he can even explain. “Buck.” He whines. 

“No.” Is the reply he receives, though Bucky’s hands splay out again, rubbing soothingly along the expanse of his chest and then back down along his abs and then lower to his hips. He can feel Bucky rubbing small circles along each hip, following along his v-line and trailing lower. 

“Buck…” Steve moans out this time, nearly kicking a heel through the door when Bucky bends and starts kissing down his neck and right over the material of his shirt. His shirt is thin enough that he can feel Bucky’s lips wetting through it as he peppers kisses across each pec. 

Steve just about loses his mind when Bucky goes lower - lips now moving further south.

Down his stomach. Along his abs. 

Bucky finally sinks down to his knees now, looking up at Steve with glassy, wide eyes. It’s a look Steve can only describe as pure adoration. Obsession, even. 

“What’re you doing?” Steve whimpers, shaky hands moving to clutch again at Bucky’s head. At his hair. It’s the only thing he can reach. He grips tight. 

Bucky leans into the touch and then pulls forward, nose nuzzling along Steve’s thigh. He presses a kiss, warm and wet against it and Steve swears his chest is going to burst. “I’m sure you know.” He says, words muffled into the material of his jeans. “You watched that video, right? I’m sure they must’ve done something like this…” 

“Please…”

“Please what?” Bucky asks as his hands move up to Steve’s jeans - at the top of the waistband. 

But Steve doesn’t have an answer. He doesn’t even know what he wants. Or what he’s asking for. He thinks he knows where this is going. Thinks, because he’s heard of this before. Seen this before in the videos he’s watched - and Bucky seems to be implying it. “I don’t know, ah, fuck-“ Steve moans out now as he feels Bucky’s warm mouth ghost between his legs. 

Bucky isn’t supposed to know what he’s doing. Isn’t supposed to be good at this. 

Fuck. 

Why is he so good at this? 

Bucky’s mouth is kissing him through his jeans - mouthing at his now very painfully obvious erection, trying to make Steve ruin himself before this even goes anywhere. 

“Doing good?” Bucky murmurs as he sits back on his heels, a smirk playing on his lips. 

“Yeah.” Steve breathes, one hand brushing through Bucky’s hair and then moving forward to cup at his cheek. 

Bucky leans into the touch and turns his face inwards, lips peppering kisses all along Steve’s inner palm and his thumb. “You make me so fucking nervous, you know,” Bucky says with a hint of a laugh. It’s the first time since he’d went and pushed Steve up against the door that his face appears conflicted. Anxious, maybe. “I-I have an idea… because I kind of remember having women do this to me, but I’ve n-never done this before-“ 

Steve is panting, lashes fluttering as he hears Bucky talk. “You don’t have to…” He begins. 

“No, I want to…” Bucky assures, “okay?” 

Steve smiles, hazy and weak. “Okay.”

Bucky snaps back into it now, leaning off his heels and moving his hands outwards. He starts with bringing one hand over Steve’s outlined erection, palming at it gently, before moving onto unbuckling his belt. He then finds the top button of his jeans and unhooks it, before moving onto the zipper and sliding it down. 

Steve’s pulse is drumming in his ears as he watches. Feels everything. Waits. Holds his breath. 

“Never, right?” Bucky questions now as he slowly drags Steve’s jeans down, letting them get about halfway to his knees before he leaves them be. 

“Never.” Steve responds, hands stroking through Bucky’s hair, as if for comfort. Maybe for himself. Maybe for Bucky. He’s just standing there now in a pair of briefs with his pants at his knees and it’s enough to have his head spinning. 

Bucky dips forward and brings his lips to Steve’s exposed thigh and then slowly kisses up until his nose is nuzzling up against the outline of Steve’s cock. 

Steve feels himself twitch under the touch. Feels himself becoming even harder. He groans and continues carding his fingers through Bucky’s hair. 

“Can I?” Bucky murmurs as he stares up at Steve now with wide blue eyes, his cheek pressed against Steve’s groin. He’s a pretty thing.

Steve nods, despite the lack of air making it into his lungs. He doesn’t have the words to say, but Bucky seems to accept his response and brings his metal hand up to the waistband of Steve’s briefs and then slowly drags them downward. 

So slowly. 

And then, Steve’s cock slips right out and he’s whimpering under the scrutiny. Bucky is staring, wordless and mouth ajar. Fuck. 

“Stevie. God, look at you.” Bucky manages to say before he leans forward and his lips are just grazing - hot and just as wet as before - against the head of his erection. Like he’s worshipping Steve. 

Steve’s knees nearly buckle right then, but he forces himself to steady. Forces himself to relax. He really can’t fucking handle this. He’s sure he’s glowing red all over. 

Bucky is cautious in his actions as he lets his tongue glide along the shaft now, following along a protruding vein and following it all the way before coming back to the head again. He licks his lips, smiles - fuck - and then he bows his head and parts his lips and takes Steve into his mouth. 

“Bucky!” Steve hisses out, all restraint thrown out the window now. 

Bucky’s lips are wrapped around him - taking him further into his mouth. Sucking. Swirling his tongue. 

Steve can feel everything. 

Steve really is losing his fucking mind. 

Immediately, every nerve ending in his body is reacting. He feels his stomach clenching. His adrenaline pumping. It’s euphoric in a way Steve’s never experienced before. “Oh god.” He whines out, one hand shooting up to clasp over his mouth and bite into his knuckles. The other hand remains gripping at Bucky’s hair, holding him up and in place. Attempting to guide. To lead. 

Bucky isn’t supposed to be a professional by any means, but god, does he look good doing this and god , he’s doing a damn good job. His lips are red and stretched so perfectly over Steve’s shaft that Steve could care less about anything else. Nothing else can possibly matter right now. 

Bucky pulls off for a moment, only to immediately move in again to lick obscenely at the tip of Steve’s cock, precome now surfacing and glistening as Bucky laps it up. He’s smirking despite the glassy expression on his face. His cheeks are red but he looks confident as he takes Steve back into his mouth and attempts to bring him further in this time.

Steve feels himself hit at the back of Bucky’s throat, warm and tight, and then Bucky gags and lifts off. He’s laughing and momentarily wiping at his face. “Fuckin’ shit, Rogers.” He says and Steve feels himself flush. 

Should he apologize? “I’m sorry-“ He starts. 

“-Don’t you dare.” Bucky objects. He’s back on Steve again, head bobbing and flesh hand coming up to slowly massage at Steve’s balls now. His metal hand finds a grip at Steve’s hip and holds him still against the wall - just in case. He must be able to tell Steve is getting wobbly. 

“Jesus Christ, Buck...” Steve chokes out as he feels Bucky sucking him to the back of his throat again - this time much more prepared for it with only tiny gags escaping him between gulps of air. Steve can feel sparks of pleasure beginning to spread throughout his abdomen. His stomach feels tighter. His thighs are shaking. Everything is warm.

“Mm, you taste so good, Stevie.” Bucky coos to him, now lifting off so that he can spit into his palm and then use it to stroke Steve from base to tip. He does this over and over to the point that Steve’s not sure he’s breathing anymore. “Feels good, huh? Doing okay, Stevie?” Bucky teases now as he brings the head back into his mouth and sucks. His eyes are locked on Steve’s face now. 

“F-Feels amazing.”

Bucky is humming around him now, the vibrations shooting through him in a way he’s never felt before. It’s unreal. 

Steve is gasping. His muscles are spasming. He’s on the edge and immediately has to guide Bucky off - only because he’s afraid that he won’t be able to hold on. “I’m not gonna last much longer, Buck,” he pants out. 

“Where do you want it?” Bucky is suddenly asking, taking a moment to catch his breath before he’s wrapping a firm hand around Steve’s base and squeezing gently. Steve notices he’s palming himself with the other. 

“Where?” 

“My face? My mouth?” 

Steve is dizzy with the possibilities.

“Your face.” He decides, unsure but unable to think straight anymore. He just wants to come. Needs to. 

Bucky smirks. “Whatever you want, Stevie.” He purrs and then starts on jerking Steve off - fast and deep and just like he’d do to himself. Only, Bucky is better. More confident. He has Steve right on the edge and right when he’s sure he feels Steve tense up, Bucky closes his eyes. 

Suddenly, Steve’s orgasm is hitting him hard, body spasming and legs nearly giving out as the pleasure cuts through him like a searing knife. It’s too much and not enough all at the same time. “Please!” He cries out as he feels himself coming - spurts hitting all over Bucky’s face in round after round of release. 

Bucky takes everything Steve is willing to offer him, eyes clamped shut but lips parted as he tries to make sure he catches everything. And he does. “So good, Stevie. So good. All for me.” He coos out, words breathless as he strokes Steve through his orgasm. “You did so good.” He praises and all Steve can think is that he should be telling Bucky these things. 

But instead, Steve is silent and panting heavily, head now pressed back against the door for support. His legs are shaking and he’s amazed he’s not fallen on the floor by now. 

“God damn.” Bucky mutters after a moment, hand slowly falling away from Steve’s shaft now. 

“Yeah?” Steve asks, hazy and distant. His body is still high off the pleasure and he’s positive he’s soaring into space. 

“You’re still hard.” Bucky comments, breath heaving. 

Steve manages to bow his head forward and look down, now biting his lip at the sight of Bucky covered in his release. He sees exactly what Bucky is talking about and laughs, weak and watery. “Yeah, I feel like I’m ready for round two.” He admits. “I don’t think that’s supposed to happen…” 

“No.” Bucky quips, laughing as he falls back onto his heels, chest heaving and face blotchy from the exheration. “Maybe it’s the serum.” He suggests. 

“Maybe.” Steve’s entire head feels cloudy. He’s not processing anything anymore. He just wants to wrap Bucky up into his arms and hold him forever. 

He can’t believe what’s just happened. 

“Come here.” Steve finally pleads, waiting until Bucky’s dared to stand up again before he pulls Bucky into his arms and then into a kiss, all tongue and teeth.

When they break apart, Bucky is smiling. 

Some of Steve’s come has started dribbling down Bucky’s chin and Steve can’t help but reach out to catch it before it drips down. 

Bucky snorts. “Such a romantic.” He comments before he tilts his head, akin to a puppy awaiting praise. “How did I do?” 

“Amazing.” Steve says immediately, without hesitation. “You’re so amazing.” He adds on as he attempts to lean off the door now. To stand up straight. 

Bucky hugs onto him tight. 

The two stay like this for several minutes, with Steve trying to calm down and Bucky trying to catch his breath. When they’re both sure they can handle walking - especially Steve - they shuffle off into the bathroom and Steve helps Bucky clean himself up. 

Bucky keeps commenting on the fact that Steve is still hard. Steve doesn’t know why, either. 

“It’s definitely the serum.” Bucky says as he finishes washing up his face and pats his skin dry. 

Steve’s trying to zip his jeans and buckle his belt when Bucky comes over and kisses him. Warm and meaningful. Steve feels like he’s on top of the world. 

“Aren’t you glad I texted you?” Bucky says with a smirk now as they both exit the bathroom. 

Steve’s never-ending erection has finally subsided. He finally feels like a functioning human being again. “I am.” He answers, sheepishly laughing. “So now what? We just go back downstairs and pretend that everything's normal?” 

“Exactly.” Bucky says as he twirls a few strands of his hair with his right hand. “Like nothing happened. I just wasn’t feeling good.” 

“Right.” Steve says softly.

They look themselves over and give each other the approval. They look good. Like it never happened, they confirm. 

“Almost forgot the cardigan.” Steve notices as he scoops it up off the floor and then quickly slides it back onto his arms and smooths it out.

“Can’t forget the cardigan.” Bucky coos. 

They both move for the door and Steve gently twists the knob to open it. 

“Hey, fellas.” Natasha’s voice immediately registers and Steve’s jaw drops - as does his stomach. Into the fucking floor. Every good fucking thought he has evaporates into the sky. 

Both Steve and Bucky are standing in the doorway now as they look out and see Natasha with a leg perched up on the wall in the hallway. She’s got the bag of Doritos in one hand while the other is guiding a handful of chips into her mouth. She’s smiling. 

Steve contemplates death. 

“I’m guessing that’s a firm no on Sharon, huh?” She tuts, lips curled up into a knowing smirk. 

“Natasha, what the-“ Steve begins, only to catch himself. 

“You’re both terrible liars. And incredibly loud.” She makes a face as she says the last few words, brows shooting up in amusement as she chews on more chips. She then holds the bag out teasingly to them. “Want some?”

Bucky takes a step ahead of Steve and reaches into the bag, doe-eyed as he pops a few chips into his mouth. “They’re actually pretty good.” He comments and glances back at Steve, brows wiggling. 

But Steve isn’t exactly ready to acknowledge what just  happened and move on. He’s still stunned into an awkward silence. He doesn’t get how the two of them - Bucky in particular - are turning this into a joke. 

“I’m more offended, you know, that you two used me to get phones so you could sext each other at the table-“ Natasha starts but Steve immediately cuts her off. 

“That is not what we did!” He blurts.

Bucky is quiet.

Natasha bats her lashes and pops another chip into her mouth, a purposefully vexing glimmer to her eyes. “You could’ve just told me, Steve. It totally makes sense now why you were so awkward when we kissed. Everything makes sense now.” She laughs and then turns for the stairs, “come downstairs, please.” 

And then she vanishes. 

Steve can feel Bucky burning holes through him with how intensely he’s staring. 

“What?” Steve finally caves and asks, groaning aloud as he takes a step into the hallway, now mentally preparing himself to head back downstairs. 

He’s still tingly. Still floaty. 

“I think Natasha just called you a bad kisser.” Bucky suddenly smirks, nonchalant. 

Steve wants to rip that smirk right off his face. He doesn’t even fight the eye roll that he offers Bucky, nor does he fight the beyond-obvious blush that follows suit. 

They head downstairs together with Bucky just a few steps ahead of Steve this time. 

Steve’s head feels like it’s been stuck into a fishbowl. 

“So I may or may not have done some digging around.” Natasha announces from the dining room once she hears footsteps at the bottom of the steps.

Steve stops. He really doesn’t want to talk right now, let alone face Natasha after what she’s just gone and heard. Steve doesn’t even know how much she’s heard or how much she actually knows. It’s a horrifying idea to grasp. 

Bucky makes a face. It’s hard for Steve to pinpoint the exact emotions that he’s trying to convey - or the lack of emotions, at that. It’s sympathy - maybe even a hint of ‘I’m sorry’ that Bucky’s too afraid to actually say to Steve in the moment. 

And part of Steve is upset with Bucky for his grand idea. And then the other, larger part is more disgusted and humiliated with himself than he’d ever like to admit. Because Steve doesn’t want to actually take ownership of such an action. Doesn’t want to accept that Steve Rogers - Captain America - can even have flaws like this. He’s supposed to have flaws, sure, but Steve doesn’t think they should revolve around sexual feelings and desires.

He feels wrong for it. 

Bucky seems to notice the eternal conflict going on like a war zone in Steve’s head and chooses to carefully take Steve’s hand, as if to ground him back in reality. “The world hasn’t ended, Stevie.” He tries but Steve just offers him a stare and gently unlaces their fingers. 

Bucky’s lips thin into concern. He pulls back his hands, a wounded look to his eyes. 

Steve leads them into the dining room now and clears his throat, awkwardly. “Nat-“ He begins, not even processing what she’s previously said or what she’s currently doing. He wants to say something. Maybe an apology? Maybe just an explanation? 

Does it need an explanation? 

“Steve.” She counters, now waving around a piece of paper. Drawing paper.

Steve’s brows go up as he notices she’s holding out his sketch pad, presenting a scribbled drawing of herself that Steve’s made of her in the past. 

“When did you make this?” She asks, words delicate and voice almost alluring in nature as Steve walks over to her at the table. Maybe she’s trying to lessen Steve’s reaction by playing up her strengths.

Steve grabs at his forehead in embarrassment with one hand while the other reaches out to try and swipe the pad from her fingers. “Can we not do this?” Steve groans out, “isn’t what happened upstairs enough padding for your book of blackmail on me? Need me to put in a foreword for it, too?” 

Natasha’s expression doesn’t waver, instead she just pulls back the drawing pad out of Steve’s reach. “That’s not what this is about at all, Steve. Relax. You left me alone down here and I decided to look around. This isn’t my fault. You left all of this out on the table for anyone to find.” 

Bucky shifts between his feet awkwardly. Quietly. Trying not to be a part of this. 

Steve sighs out, hands falling to his side in defeat. 

“Look, forget upstairs happened, alright? I can forget.” 

“I’m not worried about that.” Steve says, defensively. 

“Then what are you worried about?” Natasha questions as she gently sets down the drawing pad. It’s still open to the sketch she’d been referring to. 

Steve blanks. He pauses to think. “I don’t know.” He finally says and he nearly cringes when he hears Bucky sighing out beside him. 

“Then tell me about this drawing.” She tries again, smiling innocently. 

Steve doesn’t even need to look at it to know exactly what she’s referring to. It’s the redhead sitting peacefully in front of a huge, glass window overlooking the city. She’s got her feet pulled up to her chest and she’s wearing pajamas with a mug of coffee in one hand. 

“It was when we were both still living in New York and bouncing in and out of the Avengers Tower after Tony finished the redesign. You were one of the nicest things in that big eyesore of a building.” Steve decides, voice quiet. “I valued your friendship and that’s how I expressed it to myself. By drawing you.” He feels entirely way too exposed right now. Like every nerve ending within him has been peeled back. 

“And all of these drawings of Bucky?” She adds on as she flips through a few pages. 

They’re all sketches of Bucky now. Bucky watching TV. Bucky laying on the couch. Bucky sitting at a table, eating something that’s not even sketched out - because the most important part of the drawing is Bucky himself. 

Bucky looks immediately to Steve. 

“I draw what I care about. What I like. I don’t know.” Steve admits. “Sometimes, moments will burn themselves into the back of my eyelids and if I don’t get them onto paper, I can’t focus. I’ll just keep thinking about it. I’ll see it when I sleep. It’ll haunt me.” 

Natasha smiles. “So I guess it’s safe to assume you really value Bucky, huh?” 

Bucky is nervously biting at his thumbnail now, eyes locked on Steve. 

“You already know that answer.” Steve murmurs, hand coming up to nervously rake through his hair. 

“So then what’s the big deal? Smile a little. At least.” 

Steve shakes his head. “It isn’t that simple, Natasha. I’m not just going to go and tell everyone about… this… or just acknowledge it like it’s nothing. It’s a lot. It shouldn’t of happened. It’s not something I’m ready to just go and-“

Bucky interrupts now. “So you’re ashamed?” 

Both Steve and Natasha glance over at him. 

“I didn’t say that, Buck.” Steve begins, cautious. 

“You didn’t say it, but that’s what you were implying.” Bucky retorts. His metal arm seems to whir quietly, the plates shifting themselves around. Steve imagines it’s a stress-induced reaction. 

Natasha quietly sets the drawing pad down onto the table, lips parted as she sneaks glances between the two of them. 

“Am I not allowed to be bothered that I was talked into something I’ve never even done before and now it’s suddenly someone else’s business, too, because you chose to make it as obvious as you did?” Steve snaps back. 

“Seriously, Steve? It’s not like I forced you. You and I both know you could walk all over me if you wanted to. You’re not that frail little kid anymore. You didn’t have to come upstairs and you didn’t have to let me do anything.” Bucky answers, hands coming up in obvious frustration. “I’m trapped in this house, you’re not. You can run all over the fucking world if you wanted to. Where do I go? My room? You’re just as responsible here.” 

“None of this was my idea. You kissed me. You asked me to dance. You asked me for all of this! I wouldn’t of ever-“ Steve takes a step back, as if trying to collect his thoughts. He knows he’s suddenly on slippery territory. 

“Don’t say anything else, Steve. You made your point.” Bucky growls back. Harsh. Hurt. His lower lip is trembling but he doesn’t falter as he drops the last words. “Loud and clear, Cap.” 

Steve watches in silence as Bucky storms off, eyes now falling to Natasha. 

They both sit there, stewing in the heaviness of everything now. 

Steve’s afraid to speak. 

He hears the slam of a door upstairs. His heart pangs. 

“I’m sorry, Steve.” Natasha sighs, now pushing the art pad in his direction, as if silently asking him to take it back. Like he’s won, though it doesn’t feel that way. 

Steve is quiet as he takes the seat at the table across from Natasha, his eyes cast to the sketchbook now. “I’m really awful at everything that involves my own personal life…” He mumbles, “like pathetically awful. I can’t get anything right.” 

“You’ve never had to make these mistakes before to have already learned from them like you’re hoping. You can’t just know everything. Especially the unknown.” She says softly as he extends a hand out to gently grasp at Steve’s forearm, trying to comfort him. 

“Yeah, but, that’s what Captain America is supposed to be good for. The unknown. Facing the unknown, without fear. Without stumbling. ‘Not a perfect soldier, but a good man’ - that’s the exact words told to me by Abraham Erskine. That wasn’t a good example of either of those things.” Steve sighs out, closing his eyes now. Just for a moment. 

“You are a good man, though, Steve. Good men don’t always make good choices. Sometimes, they make the wrong choices, too. Sometimes they think they’re making the right choice but it’s not always true. But it’s good men that realize that. It’s good men, like you, that realize they’re only human and that they can make mistakes, too. We all make mistakes. You know I know that well…” 

Steve swallows. “What’s my mistake then?” 

“You know what your mistake is, Steve.” 

Steve nods solemnly. He thinks he knows. Isn’t actually sure anymore. 

“...And agreeing to a blowjob while I’m downstairs isn’t the mistake I’m referring to, you know.” She suddenly adds on, just the slightest hint of a smile to her face. “We’ve all done stupid things. Some more stupid than others, but a lapse in judgement over a good time… well… you’re not the first or the last person to experience that, Steve.” 

Steve frowns. “Feels like I am.” 

“How long have you known?” 

“Known what?” 

“That you loved him.” 

“I’ve always loved Bucky.” Steve answers, blinking a few times in quick succession. 

“But how long have you loved him?” Natasha amends. 

Steve shrugs. The answer doesn’t seem to feel any different. “Always.” 

Natasha smiles. It’s a sad smile. “And you’ve waited until 2014 to finally act on that?” 

“Bucky is the one who acted on it… I would’ve went my whole life without ever acknowledging it. I couldn't risk losing him. Our friendship. Losing it was scarier than Bucky not feeling the same.” 

She sighs out. 

“My mistake is that I’ve gone and pinned my own feelings onto Bucky and blamed him for them.” Steve suddenly states, as if it only just then occurs to him. 

Natasha seems pleased and leans back into her chair. She brushes her hair behind her ear, tucking it neatly away. “And my mistake is that I egged you on with something that you weren’t comfortable with. I tend to forget that we’re from different worlds, you know? Growing up in the 20’s when things weren’t so progressive… I forget you’re not someone I’ve known my whole life. You’re more old fashioned.” She gives his forearm a tentative squeeze. “I’m sorry.”

Steve looks at her. Wants to say something. All he can manage is a soft “it’s okay.” And it is. This is Steve’s problem. Not Natasha’s. He knows that. 

It’s enough for Natasha, however, who appears to light up now. 

“How about we finish up that house tour then? I’d love to see outside. It’ll give you a chance to get some fresh air.” Natasha suggests with a grin and then moves to stand, now holding a hand out for Steve to take as she comes around to his side of the table. 

And he does. Slow and cautious - but he does. When he stands, Natasha very quickly pulls him into a hug and then presses a small, delicate kiss to his cheek. 

Steve feels heat rise to his cheeks. “Sure.” He says as Natasha slips away, now following her to the back door of the yard. 

“It’s beautiful out here, Steve, wow.” Natasha admires now as they step out onto the deck. She twirls herself around in the still-warm air of the early fall season. The leaves are still green and high up on the trees and the lake is still a beautiful, deep blue reflecting the orange and yellow tones of the sun. 

Steve smiles as he glances over at her from where he is leaning up against the railing of the deck. Natasha is beautiful - he couldn’t deny that if he tried. And seeing her practically glowing underneath the sunlight, red hair contrasting with the green of the grass and the deeper red wood of the deck, has him momentarily at a loss for words. 

“Thinking of something, Captain?” Natasha snickers as she catches his stare, now giving him a smirk as she moves towards the dock. 

“Nothing you don’t know.” He laughs, and for a moment, he’s entirely forgotten about what just happened upstairs. With Bucky. 

“Do you ever swim out here?” She calls out as she saunters down the steps and walks onto the dock, feet pattering gently against the planks as she goes. When she reaches the end, she rolls up her pant legs and removes her socks before sinking down to sit at the edge, allowing her feet to graze the surface of the water before settling into it, ankles deep.

“Not very often, if I’m honest.” Steve sighs as he follows after her, rolling up the sleeves of his cardigan as the sun’s heat starts to settle onto his skin. When he reaches the end of the dock, he makes a point to mirror her and sits as well. “Shouldn’t of worn socks.” He comments aloud as he slips off his own socks and then rolls his jeans up as much as he can get them. His calves aren’t quite as forgiving as Natasha’s, however. 

The water, thankfully, feels amazing. Way worth the trouble of his jeans digging into his skin and cutting off his circulation from being forcibly cuffed. 

“I agree.” She laughs as she waves her own pair of socks in Steve’s face, playfully. 

“You know, I swam out here once completely naked when Bucky still wasn’t really talking to me much. I really didn’t think much of it - I was like, ‘well, Bucky won’t come out here, it’s fine’ - and then as soon as my naked body hits the water, Bucky comes outside and scares me.” Steve chuckles as he recalls, almost groaning at the embarrassment of the memory. 

Natasha looks shocked. “How scandalous. Captain America swimming naked in a backyard lake? What would the media think?” 

“They’d probably think I should go tanning, or something. I am blindingly pale.” Steve smirks. “But, Bucky didn’t seem to notice I was naked. Or maybe he did and was trying to spare me the humiliation. We really weren’t speaking all that much at the time. Now… all we do is talk.” 

Natasha waves her feet around in the water, nodding in acknowledgment as she listens to Steve. She gives him a grin. “Well, you’ve got a lot of time to make up for, right?” 

“Sure do.” Steve nods. 

“You’ll talk this out and be back to normal in no time.” 

“Think so?” 

“Last I heard, it wasn’t easy to just toss out 90 years worth of love for someone.” Natasha suggests with a shrug, now leaning off towards the side to gently rest her head along Steve’s shoulder. 

Steve immediately leans into her, embracing the touch and dipping his shoulder down to accommodate her. He smiles as he overlooks the water. “I used to purposely pretend to be sick, you know, just to make Bucky stay home with me sometimes. I was always sick so it wasn’t all that surprising if I was sick an extra day or two.” Steve admits quietly with a chuckle at the recollection of the memory. 

“He would stay home with you? How old were you two?”

“Buck always took care of me, but I could’ve been eight when that habit started. My ma would go to work at the hospital and Buck’s ma would think he was at school. He’d come runnin’ over with soup an’ blankets and we’d just lay in my bed all day… he’d rub my head and tell me everything was gonna be okay… that he’d never let nothin’ hurt me...” Steve trails off. 

Natasha giggles. Steve feels the vibrations right through his shoulder. “There’s that Brooklyn accent. Comes right out of you.” 

Steve groans.

“No, I like it.” Natasha swears, reaching a hand out to pat at Steve’s thigh teasingly. “Bucky was like your shield before the shield was, hm?” 

Steve pauses at that. His brows go up in thought. “I don’t think I ever looked at it that way.” 

“Bucky protected you when you couldn’t protect yourself.” She says softly. “I don’t think I have anyone in my life that would waste a day away with me sick in bed.” 

Steve shrugs. “I would. Love comes in many different forms.” 

Natasha just smiles and leans into Steve a little more. 

“What about you, though? What’s life been like for you? Anyone special?” Steve dares to ask, trying to reel in the conversation a bit. It’s his turn to play matchmaker. It’s payback. 

Natasha makes a noise in amusement. “Me? Someone special?” She leans off Steve now to make eye contact. “The Black Widow bends to no one.” She answers, jokingly mysterious with her tone and Steve can’t help but chuckle. 

“The Black Widow needs to get a life.” He argues. 

“You first.” Natasha huffs and gently splashes Steve now with a kick of her foot. 

“Hey!” He calls out as he splashes her back. 

They laugh together - real, honest laughter. 

It quiets down. 

“I’m serious, you must have something going on in your life right now. You can’t possibly work 24/7. What’s your plan?” Steve insists. 

“My plan is to… not get in trouble for awhile. Lay low. I blew all my covers. Need to find something new.” Natasha answers coyly. 

“You could always hang around here. I know you already told me you can’t - but I’ll still keep making my offers. Can’t help myself.”

Natasha reaches a hand up to pluck a hair - her hair - from Steve’s cardigan and tosses it over the dock. She’s trying to keep herself guarded. “Don’t worry so much about me, Rogers. I like to keep my cards close to my chest. Can’t make moves if everyone knows what’s next.” 

“Not even me?” 

“Especially not you.” 

Steve appears offended, huffing. “Promise me you’ll tell me if you ever need something?” 

“Like what?” Natasha asks, genuine curiosity to her expression. 

“Anything. Someone to tie your shoes. Someone to talk to. Someone to help you out. Someone when you need someone.”  

Natasha gives a lopsided grin and then pulls Steve into a hug, slender arms holding on tight. 

They stay like that for awhile. 

———

It’s later in the day, when it’s finally time to eat dinner, that Steve starts to feel anxious. He knows Bucky is mad - knows it without a doubt. But he’s still surprised when Bucky doesn’t come downstairs to eat with them. Steve even tries calling Bucky’s name from the end of the staircase, but doesn’t hear a response. 

He’s learned from the last time he barged into Bucky’s room that it’s not the best idea, so when Bucky doesn’t answer, Steve doesn’t push. 

Natasha attempts to convince Steve that it’s okay. That maybe Bucky isn’t hungry. Or maybe he’s just asleep. 

Or… well… maybe he’s still mad, and that’s okay, too. 

It’s okay to be mad for awhile, she assures Steve. 

People can be mad and still come back to each other. It’s all a part of the process.

Steve’s just not patient enough for it. 

They eat with minimal conversation. Mostly because Steve’s anxiety over the situation has made him a lot less entertaining and a lot more distant. Natasha doesn’t seem to mind at all. 

After they eat, Steve fixes up a plate for Bucky and then proceeds to clean up by himself and shoos Natasha’s helping hands away. She does stay, however, to offer advice. 

“Just go knock on his door. Go and talk to him. And even if he doesn’t open up, just keep talking. And then if he tells you to leave him alone, that’s when you do.” Natasha whispers to Steve as he puts away the last of the dishes he’s cleaned by hand. 

Steve pats his hands dry on the towel next to the sink and visibly frowns at the idea of Bucky telling him to go away. He’s like an open book and Natasha can read him immediately. 

“You could text him, too, you know.”

“Text him what?” 

“That you’re sorry and have dinner for him, Steve. C’mon now. Be romantic. I know you can be - I know Steve Rogers understands romance.” Natasha sighs dramatically and then nods towards the staircase. “Let’s head up. I’ve been awake since 4 AM this morning and my body is begging me for a recharge.” She snickers softly. “You’ve got this, Romeo.” 

“Wow, a reference I actually understood. Amazing.” Steve sighs out, deflated yet attempting to offer a smile. He takes a fork and stabs it into the bowl of pesto-covered grilled chicken and cellentani pasta he’s set aside for Bucky and picks it up into one hand while the other slips into his pocket. His body is buzzing with panic. His fingers feel clammy. And to top it off, his stomach has raging butterflies that feel more like stupid birds flying into windows more than delicate fluttering insects. 

He feels sick. 

Steve doesn’t like fighting with Bucky. 

When they get upstairs, Natasha and Steve hug for what feels like an eternity. She wishes him luck, offers a wink, and then disappears down the hallway towards the room Steve had previously showed her. 

He waits until he hears her door quietly click shut before he turns on his heels and starts in the direction of Bucky’s room. His feet like they’re tied to bricks as he drags himself down the hallway, stopping quietly in front of Bucky’s room. 

He gulps and then slips out his new phone and opens up his conversation with Bucky. He sighs as he reads over their previous conversation before he types out a simple message.

Steve

‘Hey, you. I missed your face at dinner.’ 

‘Oh, and I brought you up something to eat. If you want.’

He sighs as he stares at the phone, silently begging for a new message to manifest itself. 

But it doesn’t. 

He gently taps his knuckles against Bucky’s door now before he lightly presses an ear up to the frame. “Bucky.” He calls out softly before he gives another knock. “Can you open the door up? Please?” He pleads. 

Silence. 

Not even a sound. Not a sigh. Not a groan. Nothing. 

“I’m so sorry.” Steve tries again, now staring down at the bowl of food in his hands. “I’m sorry for what I said. I didn’t mean it and I shouldn’t have said it. I should’ve… I should’ve chose my words better. I didn’t. I’m sorry I hurt you.”

His phone buzzes in his pocket and Steve nearly drops the bowl in surprise as he hurriedly pulls the phone out of his pocket. 

He frowns when he sees it’s only Natasha. 

Your Favorite Redhead

‘Tell him you’re going to stay there all night til he tells you to leave. :)’ 

Steve sighs. He still can’t believe he got a blowjob and pissed Bucky off all in one afternoon. 

Steve

‘Okay :(‘ 

“Bucky?” Steve says, a tad louder and a tad more confident. “I… I’m gonna stay out here all night if you don’t tell me to leave. You’ve gotta at least tell me to leave.” 

He pouts to himself. 

“I know you’re in there, Buck.” He adds on as he quietly slides down against the frame of the door, until he’s sitting on the floor with his back to the wood. “I mean it. I’ll just sit out here all night.”

He sets the bowl down beside his body and then pulls out his phone and navigates once again to his conversation with Bucky. 

Steve

‘I’m going to eat your dinner if you don’t answer me. :(‘

Just as Steve goes to set down his phone, it vibrates. 

My Best Guy

‘I’m in your room, dumbass.’ 

Steve’s eyes go wide as he immediately looks down the hallway and notices the small crack of light bleeding out from beneath his door. Holy shit.

How did he miss that? He must be getting rusty. 

He shoots up, food now in hand, and immediately walks over to his own room. Before he can even knock, the door is opening as he arrives and there Bucky is, pouty lips and furrowed brows. 

“Bucky-“ Steve begins, heart pounding in his chest as he goes to recite what he’d just previously said to an audience of absolutely no one. 

But Bucky reaches out and puts a finger to his lips. It reminds Steve of the morning. “Save it. Heard every word.” Bucky tells him, sighing and then letting his hand fall away. 

Steve is stunned into confused silence as Bucky steps away from the door and allows him to come into his room. He looks around, surprised to see Bucky’s been reading in his bed. 

Or is it their bed now? 

“Give me.” Bucky huffs as he pulls the bowl from Steve’s hands and then walks over to the bed and plops himself down. He immediately picks up the utensil and brings a forkful of pasta up to his lips. He must be starving. 

Steve takes the opposite side of the bed, sitting cautiously away from Bucky as he watches him eat from the corner of his eye.

Steve doesn’t care if they talk - he’s just happy to see Bucky eating. 

And luckily, that’s enough for Steve because Bucky doesn’t say another word to him for the entirety of the time that he eats. 

Steve resorts to playing some strange game on his phone that he doesn’t really understand. Despite that, it does take away some of the anxiousness he feels as he waits, considering he feels more like he’s in the waiting room of a hospital than his own bedroom.

It’s only after Bucky has finished and read an additional page or two from his book that he finally utters a word. “I’m going to bed.” He announces and Steve nearly jumps. 

“In here?” Steve asks, clueless. 

“Yes.”

Steve swallows. “Am I allowed to sleep in here?” 

He can’t even believe he’s asking for permission to sleep in his own bed. 

Bucky just gives him a look. Doesn’t say anything. And then he proceeds to get up and slip off his pants and tosses them aside. 

Steve doesn’t think Bucky is saying no, because he thinks Bucky would outright tell him if that was the answer. He hopes, anyway. 

Steve gets up and gathers clothing from his dresser before he heads to the bathroom so he can quickly prepare himself for bed - as to not further irritate Bucky by taking too long. 

He showers as quickly as he can manage, not even caring that he’s showered twice in one day now. When he steps out of the shower, skin pink and raw from his worried scrubbing, he suddenly gets an idea as he glances to the fogged-up mirror. 

It’s definitely a corny idea, but it certainly doesn’t stop Steve from walking up to the mirror and then using his index finger to write out ‘Until the end of the line’ into the condensation.

He steps back as he finishes the last word and bites his lip.

Bucky will either love it or hate it - because Bucky really doesn’t half-ass any of his emotions. It’s always one or the other. 

Steve nervously moves onto brushing his teeth and then changes into a pajama shirt with boxers and puts his worn clothing into the hamper before he emerges from the bathroom. 

Immediately after he exists, Bucky steps right in and closes the door behind himself. He doesn’t lock the door. 

Steve just sighs and fixes up the bed for them both, now smoothing out the sheets and tucking them back in from where they’d pulled up from the previous night’s sleep. He imagines Bucky won’t want him to wait up for him, so Steve doesn’t. 

He tosses both of his phones onto the nightstand and crawls into bed, careful to stick to his usual side - and not an inch over - and then lays down and pulls the sheets up to his chest. 

He leaves the lights on and tries to close his eyes. 

It’s only about twenty minutes later when Bucky quietly exits the bathroom, freshly shaven face and moisturized skin glowing as he walks to the bed, shirtless. He plops himself down and Steve feels the weight of the bed shift in his direction. 

“House, turn off the lights.” Bucky says aloud. 

The room goes dark. 

Bucky gets into bed now - keeping a slight distance between himself and Steve and then sighs as he settles into the dark. 

Steve swallows hard as he murmurs out, “goodnight.” He doesn’t get a response. He figures he deserves that. 

He shifts and curls up on himself and closes his eyes. Things will be better tomorrow. Bucky doesn’t hate him. Bucky wouldn’t sleep beside him if he hated Steve.

Right? Right. 

Steve tries to sleep. 

“I don’t want to be mad at you anymore.” Bucky finally blurts out after a few painful moments of awkward silence.

Steve’s eyes are closed and he’s nearly half asleep when he hears Bucky. He immediately turns over in bed, bringing them face to face, eyes fluttering open. His breath hitches. “I’m sorry.” He responds, voice soft and whispered into the dark. “I’m so sorry.”

“I know you are. I know.” Bucky acknowledges, a heaviness to his voice that Steve can’t quite place. Something else is bothering Bucky. 

Steve tries again. “I’m so sorry for today. I reacted so stupidly. I wish I never said any of that. If I could take it back, I would…” 

“I know.” Bucky says again, shallow. 

“Buck…” 

“Can I tell you something?”

Steve’s chest tightens. “Anything…” He murmurs as he tries to ignore the absolute fear pulsing through him. He doesn’t like open-ended thoughts. He doesn’t like not knowing what comes next. 

“Are you sure?” Bucky murmurs now, the slightest hint of a frown on his visage. It’s hard to see in the dark, but Steve’s almost positive he sees the sadness etched there. 

“Of course I’m sure, Buck. You can tell me anything.” Steve assures, heart jumping a bit in his chest as his anxiety kicks up even more at the delay. He can’t help it. He’s worried to the core. 

Is Bucky going to tell him he doesn’t want to do this anymore?

Is that too dramatic? 

Is that warranted? 

Is Steve going insane? Absolutely. 

“You know how I said… before… when I was, uh, sucking you off… that I never did that before…?” Bucky is fumbling over his words. 

Steve’s throat seems to run dry. This isn’t what he expects Bucky to say. “Yeah?” He breathes out his reply, shaky and afraid to hear what’s next. 

“Well… I-I know I did that before. You weren’t the first person I did that with.” Bucky admits into the dark. Steve can feel Bucky’s leg that’s closest to him shaking beneath the sheets. 

“You've done that before?” Steve questions. “Like… with another man?”

“Yeah.” Bucky answers, breathing heavy and ragged. He’s nervous - beyond nervous. Steve is sure he can hear Bucky’s pounding heart. “B-But it wasn’t… it wasn’t something… it wasn’t with…” He trails off and after a moment, Steve hears him sniffling. Sees the shapes shifting in the dark as Bucky wipes at his face. “It wasn’t with someone I wanted to do it with.”

Steve feels like a ton of boulders have been dropped onto his chest at the revelation of what Bucky is trying to say. He doesn’t even want to ask. Doesn’t want him to confirm it. 

“I’ve been… thinking about it… all day…” Bucky stammers, sniffling again. He pauses. Breathes. Starts again. “Wondering why I… why I remembered… and it’s because Rumlow… he…” 

“Rumlow…” Steve echoes. There’s a sudden boiling rage inside of Steve - suffocating him. He’s gripping so hard at the bed sheets that he knows his knuckles are white. Feels his barely-there nails digging crescents into his palm. He wants to kill Rumlow. Kill all of HYDRA. 

“I didn’t want to, though, Steve, I promise.” Bucky whimpers, “I remember… being forced. Forced to comply or they’d just wipe me anyway. Either way, I would end up doing what he wanted. What they wanted.” His words sound watery. “And you know what?” 

“What?” Steve is barely able to respond. He’s consumed with anger - swallowed whole by this miserable, awful fucking feeling of being absolutely useless.

“I remember thinking about this small, beautiful blonde boy with a scrawny neck and a big nose and these huge, blue eyes and I never knew who he was - or why that’s what I would think about while these things were happening… and… fuck…” Bucky cuts himself off when a sob bubbles up in his throat. 

Steve feels Bucky ball up and shield himself off and Steve immediately reaches out to grasp at Bucky’s shoulder. “Buck…” He tries.

“I realize now it was you. I realize that and - and it’s so fucking awful. I’d just - I’d vanish inside myself and think of that scrawny kid and I’d tell myself I’d be okay if I just did what I had to do.” He’s shaking beneath Steve’s grasp as he sputters and gasps between words. “I have these scars, too… on the back of my thighs. Big scars - like slashes. And I just… I… it’s just so much shit, Steve. I had to do so much shit for them. For Rumlow. For Pierce. For every handler I’ve had in the last seventy fucking years. All of it’s fucking shit. But that scrawny kid from Brooklyn never gave up and I knew I couldn’t either. Knew I couldn’t because then what would I do? What would that scrawny little punk think of me then?”

“I’m so sorry, Bucky.” Steve says and he hates himself for saying it because it’s the only thing he can keep saying. “You’re so strong. So brave. You’re so much stronger than you know.”

His chest hurts. 

His heart hurts. 

Everything hurts at the thought of Bucky thinking of him during any of this. He’s not flattered. No. He’s horrified. “I’m so sorry I couldn’t protect you from them. That I couldn’t be there to stop them and to take you away from all of that. That I couldn’t save you… I should’ve went back for you… I shouldn’t have left you...” he trails off, eyes going wide in the dark when he realizes what he’s gone and said. He pulls Bucky into him now and holds onto him with everything he has to offer, hoping to god that Bucky doesn’t question it. 

This isn’t the time to explain that.

But, instead of speaking up or questioning Steve, Bucky just hurriedly buries his face into Steve’s chest and clings onto him desperately, hands gripping at Steve’s back so harshly that he’s positive he’ll have marks. Bucky cries softly - hiccups and soft gasps of air escaping him as he tries to settle. 

“I’ve got you, Buck. I’ve got you now. Never letting you go.” Steve whispers to him, pressing a chaste kiss to the top of his head and feeling the soft, silky hairs against his lips. He allows himself a moment to breathe Bucky in.“You’re okay now. You’re safe…” 

He repeats these words over and over again, hoping that eventually Bucky will believe him. Hoping that Steve will eventually believe himself. 

“You - you’re not disgusted with me?” Bucky quietly asks, tears soaking into Steve’s shirt.

Steve grasps at Bucky’s shoulders and lifts him away, gentle yet firmly. “Disgusted with you?” He asks, voice laced with shock. “How? Why?” 

Bucky’s eyes are wide with fear - more visible in the dark now that Steve’s started to adapt. He can see his trembling lower lip. The deep frown lines. “Because of what I did with them…” Bucky suddenly pushes himself free of Steve’s grasp that’s holding him away and immediately pulls himself right back in, hiding in Steve’s arms. As if he’s afraid to actually face Steve now. 

“Never, Bucky. Never. No.” Steve tells him, voice rough. “There’s nothing you could do, Buck, nothing… I could never be disgusted with you. I love you, you know I love you.”

“I know. But…” 

“No buts, Buck. There’s nothing. You saw what I wrote on that mirror just before, yeah? In the bathroom?”

Bucky sniffles against his chest. “Y-Yeah…” He’s on the verge of breaking down. Steve can hear it in the way his voice is wavering. “I saw it and I… I smiled. I was so mad at you… and when I read it… I wanted to go and kiss you and…” He cuts himself off before he gets too lost in his head. Swallows hard. Sniffles again. 

“Then you know there’s not a damn thing you could do to keep me away. I’d follow you to the edge of the world, Buck. Nothing will ever change that.” 

Bucky finally breaks down, the walls crumbling as he clings to Steve for comfort. Soft whimpers and full-body trembles wracking through him. 

Steve cradles him through it all. 

When all is said and done, they fall asleep - Bucky with his cheeks still wet with tears and Steve with a gaping pit of guilt in his stomach that feels like it’s consuming him. 

It is consuming him. 

Chapter Text

— Bucky — 

 

—-

1944.

It’s cold. Bitterly cold. 

And it’s dark, too. Cloudy and icy - everything is cast under a grey sky. 

Bucky wakes in a haze, eyes fluttering open as momentary confusion immediately settles into panic. 

Where is he? 

Where is Steve? 

He was just on the train… 

“Steve?” He croaks out into the nothingness surrounding him, voice heavy as it leaves his lips. He licks them - they’re chapped. His teeth are chattering from the cold; he can hear it. 

And then he feels it. 

The pain. 

It floods in. Something is wrong. So very wrong. 

Bucky looks around, neck stiff and head pounding as he takes in where he is. He’s laying in a pile of snow. 

“Stevie?” He tries again, panicking as he attempts to shift and sit up. 

The pain shoots through him - his nerves are on fire. He doubles over. He can’t sit up. Fuck. Why can’t he sit up? 

Everything feels broken. His back. His legs. His feet. Nothing wants to move. He’s not even sure he can move his toes under the heavy leather boots. 

Bucky lifts his head just enough to glance over his chest and sees something laid out a few feet away from him. It’s bloody. Red. It’s not a person. He knows it’s not a person. 

It’s… 

He finally looks to his left shoulder… 

His arm?

He manages to lift his right hand and attempts to touch his left arm. It’s warm and wet. It’s ripped off from the shoulder down. It’s not sinking in just yet. 

He lifts his hand away, fingers bloody. 

He looks again to the stump. 

It’s his fucking arm. 

“Steve! Help!” He screams out now as the horrors overtake him. His arm is completely off - ripped at the bicep and laying in the snow, bloody and lifeless. 

The pain is everywhere. With each second passing, the pain increases. 

He’s crying now. Bucky can feel the tears silently gliding down his cheeks, clinging to his skin, and freezing before they hit his jaw. He’s screaming in agony. 

Everything starts to come together in his mind. He’d fallen off the train from the blast. He didn’t make it. 

He fell. 

Steve couldn’t catch him. 

He hears Steve screaming in his head. Hears the painful ‘Bucky! Grab my hand! No!’ before it all fades away. 

“Steve!” He yells again in desperation, voice raw as he tries to project it over the snowy Alps. It echoes for a moment before vanishing into the wind - forgotten and lost. 

There’s no sign of life. It’s just him. Just him and the snow and the trees and mountains that surround him. 

This is it. He knows this is it. 

He knows Steve must be looking for him, though, so he uses what’s left of his energy to keep yelling out to him.

“Steve, please, please! Steve! Where are you?” Bucky cries out now as he tries to sit up again - but he can’t. He can’t get up. The pain is too much. 

He’s dizzy. 

He’s losing too much blood. 

He can’t stop crying. Can’t stop the trembling.

He closes his eyes. Tries to pretend he’s somewhere else. Somewhere with Steve. Tries to focus on his breathing. Keeps telling himself that panicking will only pump the blood out of him faster. 

He’ll only die sooner if he keeps this up.

He imagines it's the summer again. 

Steve is by his side. 

They’re okay again. He’s okay again. 

Before the war. Before this. 

He just wants to hold Steve. Just wants Steve to tell him he’ll be okay. 

He’s sobbing now, blood curdling cries and hiccuping gasps. It’s all too much. 

It hurts. He hurts. He’s giving up. He knows Steve wouldn’t want him to - knows Steve is probably searching still - but he can’t hold on like this. 

His vision goes black. He feels himself fading away. 

Time passes. 

When Bucky reawakens, clinging to life at its last strand of thread, he sees a man through the haze.

It’s not Steve. He knows it’s not Steve. 

And then he’s suddenly being dragged through the snow. 

He’s too weak to look up. Too weak to fight. Too weak to do anything other than stare at the bloody red trail he leaves in the snow as they move through it. 

He fades away again. 

—-

 

Bucky startles awake, eyes opening to the sunrise illuminating the bedroom. His heart is pounding but he’s okay. He knows where he is. Knows it was a dream. 

He’s in Steve’s bed, warm and safe. Nowhere near the Alps. 

Bucky lets out a heaving breath as he lifts his right hand up to tentatively skirt over his metal bicep - just to confirm its there. 

It’s cool and metallic to the touch and unlike the bloody stump he remembers from his dream.

It was just a dream, after all. 

He slowly sits up, just enough to see the time and sighs out when he sees it reads 06:07 in the morning. 

Steve’s already out of bed, not entirely surprising. 

Bucky looks around for a moment, eyes squinting as he spots Steve’s shadowy figure outside on the balcony, sitting back on the lounge chair overlooking the yard. He’s all shoulders now - wide and broad and powerful even when his guard is down. Not like the little Stevie he remembers, where his personality was far larger than his stature. 

Bucky thinks nowadays that Steve is just… large everywhere. Big and powerful and sharp both in mind and body. 

And even now, in the silence of the sunrise, Steve still represents that. 

But Bucky knows just hours ago, things weren’t so serene. Weren’t so peaceful. He knows he cried himself to sleep. Knows Steve probably didn’t sleep much better. 

His heart still hurts from it. From the truth. 

He wills himself out of bed now, dragging the comforter with him and wrapping it around his bare torso to try and trap in the warmth as he pads gently across the cool wooden floor and towards the balcony’s sliding glass door. 

When he gets there, before he can even get a hand on the door’s handle, Steve turns around in the lounge chair and spots him. 

Bucky huffs at being caught. 

Either Bucky’s conditioning is starting to wear off or Steve’s super serum is working on overdrive this morning.

Steve offers him a concerned smile. One that says both ‘Hi, Bucky!’ and ‘Hi, Bucky?’ at the same time - because Steve’s poker face is god-awful.

Bucky smiles back, lopsided and soft, as he pulls open the door and quietly steps outside into the coolness of the morning. He closes it behind him. 

“Hey, honey.” Steve says, voice gentle as the two lock eyes. 

There’s a small skip in Bucky’s heartbeat at that.

“Hey, you.” Bucky answers back as he holds the comforter close to his body and makes his way over to the open lounge chair just right beside Steve’s own. “What time did you wake up?” 

“Just about half an hour ago.” Steve replies, now turning himself inward, towards Bucky so that their closest legs just gently graze up against each other. Steve doesn’t even jump at the coolness of Bucky’s anklet touching up against him. “Are you okay? Do you want me to come back to bed?” He questions, brows furrowing with worry. 

“I’m okay, no, we can stay here. Had a bad dream. Really weird.” Bucky says, a bit of shame to his tone. He hates admitting it, but it seems that all he does is have nightmares lately. 

“I’m sorry, Buck. Wanna tell me about it?” 

Bucky shakes his head. He doesn’t want to concern Steve further than he knows he already is. They already had an awful night - there’s no need to push it.  

Steve sighs out, now reaching out to take Bucky’s flesh hand out from beneath the comforter and then brings it up to his mouth, lips gingerly kissing along the top of his palm before moving to press warm kisses to each knuckle. 

Bucky is momentarily taken aback, eyes wide as he watches. “You’re being…” He trails off. 

“Trying to be a better boyfriend.” Steve answers quietly, head ducking at the admittance. 

“Boyfriend?” Bucky asks, blinking. He’s surprised to hear it. 

“Aren’t we… together?” Steve pauses, a hint of fear to his visage now. Nervousness. Like the world could crumble away. 

“Yeah, yes. Yes. You’re my boyfriend.” Bucky answers quickly - surely. “Yes.” He says again, “boyfriend. Right.” It doesn’t feel real saying it. Bucky can’t seem to wrap his head around the idea. Steve’s his.

He knows they just had that talk, too. Knows he instigated it and knows Steve agreed. But it still doesn’t feel tangible. 

Steve’s face immediately smooths out and relaxes. Bucky’s sure he may even hear a breath of relief. “Good.” There’s a shyness to Steve’s face as he speaks, long lashes hiding his eyes as he squints just a bit - akin to a submissive dog. It’s precious. “After what happened before… when you fell asleep… I felt really awful. About what I did to you. How I acted. I know you said you forgave me… but…” 

“But…” Bucky parrots, quietly. Steve’s lips tickle against his skin as he holds Bucky’s hand up against his mouth. Bucky can feel the warmth of each exhale. 

“But you deserve someone better than who I was yesterday.” Steve murmurs out as he presses another kiss to Bucky’s hand, this time to the underside of his palm. 

Bucky bites his lower lip at the swelling feeling now blooming in his chest. 

“And I’m going to try and be that better person. Starting with… trying to be better at this. At us. Being more confident with my feelings.” Steve finishes, now letting Bucky’s hand go. 

Bucky’s a blushing mess suddenly. His hand, instead of returning into his own lap, settles into Steve’s and stays there. He gives a smile. “Okay.” He answers. It’s all he can say - he’s literal puddy in Steve’s hands. Melted into a puddle of adoration. He couldn’t stay mad at Steve if he tried. 

“Okay?” Steve echoes, smiling. Bucky can’t help but notice how beautiful Steve’s eyes are with the sunrise practically mirrored in them. Big and blue with the entire world reflected in them. Bucky’s entire world. 

“Yeah, okay.” Bucky says again, laughing softly. 

“And… I know… you probably don’t want to talk about it again, but I… I just wanted you to know how strong you are and how much I care about you. And how thankful I am to have someone so brave in my life. I’ve looked up to you my entire life, Buck, and I know it wasn’t easy telling me what you did. I just… I love you, Buck. Always will.” Steve’s quiet as he says the words, as if afraid he may be saying too much or maybe even too little. 

Bucky swallows hard as he nods and gives Steve’s thigh a small squeeze. “I love you more, Stevie.” He answers, eyes casting to the view of the lake now. 

Bucky doesn’t actually know what they’re admitting anymore. What they’re saying. Are they in love? Is that what this love is? Bucky doesn’t know. Doesn’t know if he’s saying what he thinks he is - or if he knows what Steve is saying when he does either. 

He doesn’t ask. Doesn’t need to. Love is love, right? 

Right. 

Bucky glances back over to Steve, another flutter of emotion erupting in his chest when he catches the blonde just… looking at him. He smiles sheepishly. “I wanted to ask…” 

“You wanted to ask?” Steve responds with a tilt of his head. 

“Did you actually enjoy… what we did yesterday? Forget, uh, Natasha walking in… forget everything else… just… did you enjoy it?” 

Steve goes red. He has to look away. “Oh.” He says, suddenly vulnerable. “Yeah. I did. I really did.” 

Bucky chews on the inside of his cheek at that. Smirks a little. “You’d let me do it again?” 

“You’d want to do it again?” 

“Obviously.” Bucky tuts. 

Steve glances back at him, the redness to his cheeks now creeping down his neck and to the very tips of his ears. “I thought you wouldn’t want to after-“

“-Don't worry about the past. Trust me, I’d want to do it again.” 

“If you’d let me… I’d do it for you, too.” 

Bucky gives Steve’s thigh another squeeze, shaking his head in amusement. “Rogers, don’t go around saying things like that. You’re gonna get my hopes up.” He laughs.

Steve whines. “I meant that! I’d do it.” 

“Do what?” 

Steve makes a face. “You know what I’m talking about.”

Bucky hums out. “Yeah, but you should say it anyway. Don’t they say you’ve gotta speak what you want into existence?” So, he’s being a tad jerkish, but he sort of likes seeing Steve sweat. Sort of really likes it. Oh well.

Steve’s lips part in silence, as if the words are trapped in his chest. He closes his eyes, just as Bucky has come to expect, and then mutters quietly under his breath. “I want to… suck you off and make you feel as good as I did.” His eyes then flutter open, as if looking over for approval. 

Bucky smiles and lifts his hand up to gently rub at Steve’s shoulder. “So sweet on me, Stevie.” He says as he calls back to their dance together. 

Steve’s eyes light up - he knows immediately. Knows exactly how to reply. “Always sweet on you.” He says without skipping a beat. 

“Keep calling me honey like you did and I’ll be sweet on you forever.” Bucky comments with a laugh, slowly letting his hand move from Steve’s shoulder and up to his cheek to cup it. The way Steve leans into the touch is enough to make Bucky’s breath hitch.

Bucky thinks to himself that this is exactly what happiness is.

The two remain outside on the balcony for a bit longer, until Bucky is able to cheekily convince Steve to come back to bed - just for a few minutes.

It’s disguised as Bucky claiming to be cold and Steve wanting nothing more than to help warm him up. It goes exactly as Bucky expects and ends with them tangled up in each other and lips pressing against skin. 

The next time Bucky is able to glance at the clock, it reads 07:54 AM and he has to force himself out of bed, a newly-sleeping Steve curled up into his side still. 

“We gotta get up, Stevie. We fell back asleep.” Bucky groans softly as he presses soft kisses all along the arch of Steve’s cheekbone. 

Steve’s eyes flutter open, confusion etched across his expression. “We did?” He asks, voice muffled into a pillow. 

“Uh-huh. We gotta go eat breakfast. Can’t forget Natasha is here.” Bucky reminds, yawning to himself as he wiggles free from Steve and slowly rolls off the bed with a quiet ‘oof’ as he gets to his feet. 

“Natasha is probably awake and waiting for us, too.” Steve sighs, a grogginess to his tone that elicits a laugh from Bucky. 

It doesn’t take them too long to get dressed - Bucky opting to actually run into his own room and put together a quick outfit for once. Just because Steve’s going to run out of a wardrobe real soon if Bucky keeps his stealing ways up. 

Once dressed and finished with their morning routines, the two head downstairs closely linked together and neither are surprised when they find Natasha dressed and smiling at the kitchen island. 

“Good morning.” She hums out as she sips at a mug of coffee she’s made for herself. She gives a simple wave with her fingers as both Steve and Bucky approach her, hands held. “You two look…”

“Like we made up?” Bucky quips as he lifts Steve’s hand up into the air with his own, as if showing off. And he sort of is. If anything says ‘back off, he’s mine’ to Bucky, it’s definitely a public display of hand holding. 

Not that he still thinks Natasha is someone to be jealous of, or anything. 

Steve’s reaction is a complete 180 from yesterday - he doesn’t pull his hand away, nor does he shy away from smiling in return. Whatever version of Steve that went to bed last night certainly isn’t the same version of him that woke up this morning - and Bucky’s entirely okay with that. 

Natasha laughs as she sets the mug of coffee down. “Happy to hear. Steve was a worried mess yesterday.”

“Was he?” Bucky asks, a brow raising in curiosity. He shoots a glance to Steve, smirking. 

Steve nods, sighing out audibly. “She’s not lying. I gave myself a stomach ache worrying over yesterday. And I rarely get stomach aches.” He says as he gives Bucky’s hand a squeeze. 

Bucky just smiles. 

“Natasha, you hungry? I’m thinking omelets. Maybe bacon? Sausage? Bread? Some fruit?” Steve suddenly asks as he lifts Bucky’s hand to kiss it and then gently unlaces their fingers so that he can cross over to the fridge. 

Bucky watches in lovesick amusement now, completely beside himself. He swears his hand is tingling. 

Natasha makes a face. “That sounds like a lot of food. If you’re going to try and plump me up and then cook me over an open fire, I’d like to be warned now.” She teases as she hops off the stool she’d been sitting on and saunters over to Steve and the fridge. “Let me help.” 

“I’ll cut up the fruit.” Bucky chimes in, now heading over to the fruit basket near the sink. 

Steve immediately gets to work on whisking all the eggs - using an entire carton, of course - while Natasha does as she’s told and cycles an entire loaf of bread, four pieces at a time, in and out of the toaster.

It’s like an assembly line and Bucky can’t help but laugh to himself at the ridiculous amount of food as he removes the pound of bacon from the microwave and carries it over to the table, sitting it beside the fruit he’d also gone and cut up. 

Just as Bucky sets down a plate of cooked sausages, Steve finishes up the omelettes and Natasha carries over silverware and dishes for them. 

By the time they sit to eat, Bucky’s stomach is growling and he’s sure Steve’s equally as starving. He knows the two of them could easily plow through the food, but Bucky sees that look in Steve’s eyes - the one that says ‘be good’ and Bucky resists grabbing for everything at once. 

Instead, Bucky goes for a plum first and watches with a smirk as Natasha’s eyes seem to light up. 

“Everything looks amazing.” She notes as she turns her attention to her plate, stabbing at the omelette with her fork and picking up a piece to eat. 

“Breakfast here is like Thanksgiving every single morning.” Steve chuckles as he sips at his orange juice and then starts on a buttered piece of toast. “We’re making up for all the missed meals we couldn’t afford growing up.”

“I may have to come by more often then.” Natasha laughs as she collects various pieces of bacon and sausage from the center of the table. 

Bucky waits until she’s gotten herself a decent amount of food before he finally reaches for a solid eight pieces of bacon. It smells good - he can’t help himself. 

Steve just quietly laughs, head shaking knowingly while he munches away at his toast. 

After the three finish off breakfast, it becomes another vigorous assembly line as the three sort the dishes and pass them between each other to be cleaned up. Of course Steve takes the lead, as always, and loads up all the dishes into the dishwasher before he shoos both Natasha and Bucky away from the table to wipe it down and finish cleaning. 

It’s both the routine Bucky has come to expect and the routine he adores. It’s consistent. It feels real. It’s something to look forward to. 

Every day, Bucky revels in the normalcy of his new life. Gone are the days of cryo prepping and punishment - gone are the days of torture and missions. Gone are the days of not knowing who he is or what his purpose is. 

It feels good. 

After cleaning up, the three move into the living room, Natasha now holding the television remote as she tries to find something for them to watch together. She’s looking for a movie, though she doesn’t seem to have anything in particular in mind. 

“So, where actually is Fury these days?” Steve asks as he leans forward on the couch opposite of where Natasha is sitting. He’s right beside Bucky, nestled there closely enough that their thighs are touching. He doesn’t seem apprehensive at all with the close contact. 

“Fury is… in Europe, for the moment. Hence, the lack of push on his end to get in touch with you.” Natasha notes with a chuckle as he she picks her feet up to drape her legs across the couch. “You and I both know he’d of already broken into this place if he was still close by.” 

Steve rolls his eyes at the reference. “Oh, don’t I know. Had Mister Sniper over here stalking my place, too. No peace for Steve Rogers.” He comments as he playfully jabs a finger into Bucky’s side. “Almost killed the man, you know. Bloodstains are hard to explain to your landlord, too.”

Bucky jolts at the touch. “Yeah, maybe someone should let him know I’m sorry? Also… sorry I destroyed your apartment.” He murmurs with a small smile. “Was quite the sight seeing you run at me, though. I still remember that look in your eyes when I caught the shield. Like ya saw a damn ghost.” 

“It was like seeing a ghost.” Steve says, “people don’t just catch my shield like that - like it’s easy. Just like people don’t just… run across roofs and take million dollar shots like the one you got on Fury.” 

Natasha nods as she chooses a random movie. “Mhm. Bucky, you’re a special guy. I guarantee Fury would love to have you on the team. He’s pretty forgiving.” She says with a wink. “Two super soldiers and a Hulk? The Avengers would be unstoppable.”

“You’d… they’d… let me join the Avengers?” Bucky suddenly asks as he realizes what Natasha’s said. 

Natasha shrugs. “I think you’d be a perfect fit. It’s not my call, but Fury isn’t too hard to convince.” 

Steve sighs out, obviously not as eager to accept such an offer. “Bucky’s dealt with enough war. He’s earned his peace, Nat. Let’s not turn this into a recruitment.”

Bucky glances down at his lap at that. He’s not actually sure how he feels about it. 

Does the world actually deserve his help? After everything it’s put him through? 

“I know.” Natasha acknowledges, suddenly leaning back into the couch so that she can turn her attention to the movie. “We’re all tired of war, Steve. Doesn’t mean we can’t be ready.” 

Steve nods and turns his face inwards, just to press a simple kiss to Bucky’s temple. When he pulls back and the two lock eyes, Steve just offers him a look. 

He doesn’t have to say it, but Bucky can just hear Steve in his head, saying ‘I’ve got you, Buck.’

—-

The next day, Natasha leaves right after lunch. Steve helps her pack and then walks outside with her to help load her things into her rental car, even forcing her to take a wrapped up plate of food for the road. 

Bucky doesn’t make it obvious as he stands in the doorway, but he can clearly hear their conversation as Natasha climbs into the front seat and rolls down the window. 

Steve leans up against the car door as he closes it for her, like the god damn gentleman he always is. “You’ll be okay out there on your own?” He says with a raised brow, offering her a charming grin. 

“Of course I will. I’ll stay in touch. Maybe I’ll try and get the whole gang together to come out here. Say hello. You know.” Natasha responds as she starts up the car, the engine temporarily blaring over their conversation. 

“That would be nice.” Steve responds as he leans off the car and shoots a glance back to Bucky, smiling at him. 

Bucky just waves back. 

“So, when are you going to get married, Rogers, huh? You’ve got the time to settle down now… you could live that 40’s dream.” Natasha suddenly asks and Bucky immediately sees the confusion on Steve’s face. 

“I don’t intend on getting married, Natasha. I have Bucky, you know that.” Steve murmurs, a bit more hushed. 

Natasha laughs as she shifts the car into reverse and slowly begins to back herself out of the driveway. “I know.” She says, loud and clear, eyes darting between her rearview mirror and Steve’s face. “It’s legal now. That’s all.” 

Steve is silent as he watches her reach the end of the driveway and then cuts the wheel. 

“Be good!” Natasha calls out now as she straightens the car out onto the road and begins to pull away. 

Bucky’s heart feels like it stops in his chest. He has no clue what to make of what just happened. What he just heard. 

It’s legal?

Once Natasha is down the road, Steve slowly walks his way back up to the front door to meet Bucky, an expression to his face that seems to still showcase his confusion. 

“You okay?” Bucky asks softly as he steps aside and follows Steve back into the house. 

Steve slips off his shoes and then gently closes the door. Once he confirms it’s locked, he makes his way over to Bucky and pulls him into a hug. “All good, Buck.” He says softly. “I’ve got you all to myself again.”

Bucky’s almost positive he can feel the pounding rhythm of Steve’s heart as he rests his head low against Steve’s collarbone. 

Bucky’s too anxious to ask. 

Despite that, the next few days seem to comfortably fade into one another for Bucky. The two seamlessly fall back into their usual routine without interruptions and Bucky thinks that things may even be better between the two of them. 

Steve is more open. More… relaxed. More forward, too. 

And Bucky tries to be the same way. Even if he keeps having nightmares and recurring moments of panic, he keeps trying to stay positive. 

Bucky even finds the time to add another few pages to his journal for Lillian - just in time for his therapy session at noon on Wednesday. 

And so when Lillian arrives for their weekly session, Bucky is smiling and happy - way more so than Lillian is expecting.

“Look, I actually wrote in it.” Bucky chimes, waving his journal proudly as Lillian takes off her shoes and steps into the living room. “I bet ya thought I wouldn’t do it, huh?” He asks with a laugh. 

Lillian grins as she takes out her notebook with a pen tucked into the spine and then sets down her bag onto the table. “I’m so happy to hear you wrote in it, Bucky. You’ve been making great progress - I can already tell.” 

Steve sits up from the couch now, already knowing it’s his cue to leave without Bucky or Lillian having to say anything. “I’m gonna run some laps outside. I’ll be back in an hour, alright?” He suggests with a small smile as he comes over and playfully ruffles a hand through Bucky’s hair. 

Bucky swats his hand away and nods. He resists kissing Steve, now watching as the blonde slips on a pair of running shoes and makes a move for the front door. Of course he’s wearing a pair of shorts and another, typically tight grey Under Armour shirt 

He can still hear Steve from this morning, defending himself and claiming ‘it’s comfortable!’ when Bucky had teased him over his outfit. 

Once Steve’s gone, Lillian and Bucky take their usual placements on the couch and Lillian gets right into things. 

“So, how are you, Bucky? How has your week been?” She asks as she lifts a leg to cross it neatly over her opposite knee. In some ways, she reminds Bucky of Natasha. Neat. Put together. Delicate yet strong. 

Bucky leans back into the couch, resting his metal arm along a pillow. “Things have been good. No complaints. We’re happy. I’m happy. Eating a lot of food.” He notes with a chuckle. 

Lillian seems amused. She gives a nod towards the journal, “well, did you want to share anything from your journal? Maybe a passage in particular? Something that highlights how you feel?” 

Bucky thinks over her offer in silence, unsure at first as he gently opens the journal and flips through the few pages of writing, eyes scanning over the passages. He pauses and glances back to her. “Can I share something that I wrote that doesn’t highlight how I feel right now but did the other day?” He suddenly asks. 

“You can share anything.” Lillian assures. 

Bucky nods. Clears his throat. Runs a hand through his hair. “Okay.” He begins as he recites a small paragraph he’d written just a few nights before, undated but Bucky knows exactly when he’d written it. 

“Today was so good. It really was. And then it wasn’t. Taken away from me so quickly that I barely had a chance to really enjoy the moment… and maybe it’s my own fault for how everything went down. Maybe I shouldn’t of been so pushy. Or maybe I shouldn’t have argued back. Maybe I should’ve just left it alone.”

Bucky pauses when he sees he’s written Steve’s name. He skips over it. Licks his lips. Restarts. 

“Things will work out. They always do. I’m just sad right now. It is what it is.” Bucky finishes the last sentence and then sighs. “I wrote that because something upset me. But… everything was fine in the morning.” 

Lillian gives him a nod, “everything worked out?” 

“Yeah… Maybe I overreacted when I wrote that.” Bucky suggests with a bite to his lip. He doesn’t want to explain it. There’s no way he could ever tell Lillian that story.

“From the sounds of what you wrote, you were blaming yourself for it, Bucky.”

“Please don’t play devil’s advocate.” Bucky sighs, “I blamed myself at the time, yes. But now… no. I got the apology I needed. I got the clarity. Everything’s okay.” 

“Do you often blame yourself when things go wrong?” 

Bucky shrugs. “Probably.” 

“Why do you figure?” 

“I’ve spent the last 70 years being tortured - the self-denigration sort of just comes with the territory, I suppose.” 

Lillian makes a note of something in her notepad and then glances up at Bucky again. “I don’t want to assume, but based off facts, could I safely say that what you wrote about... was an issue you had with Steve?” 

Bucky’s nose scrunches up. “Yeah.” He mumbles. “But, like I said, I got an apology. We talked it out. Everything worked out.” 

Lillian jots down another few words before she sets the pen down and lets her notebook settle into her lap. “When all of this is over, Bucky, where do you want to be? What do you want to do once you’re free?” 

Bucky shrugs. “I’ll go wherever Steve goes.” 

“You intend on living with Steve?” 

He nods. 

“You think he’d agree to that?” 

“I certainly hope so. He’s said it before.” Bucky answers with a small laugh, before quieting himself down and running a hand through his hair to smooth it back. A nervous habit, he’s noticed. 

Lillian smiles. “And how’s your sleeping habits these days?” 

Bucky looks over at the television - blank and off, but a distraction nonetheless. He can see his reflection in the glassy surface. “I sleep okay. Just a lot of vivid nightmares. I wake up from them. But they don’t stop me from sleeping.”

Lillian seems to notice he’s looking away and taps her pen a few times, until Bucky turns his head back towards her. “Does Steve know you’re having these nightmares?” 

Bucky bites his lip as he thinks the question over. “He knows… but… I don’t always tell him about them. He asks, though. I just… don’t feel like burdening him all the time. Sometimes I tell him things… sometimes it’s easier to say I’m fine and move on.” 

“Burdening him? Is that what you’d be doing?

Bucky can’t help but glance back to his reflection in the television again. The metal arm sparkles in comparison to the rest of him. “I think so. He hasn’t… said that… if that’s what you’re thinking.” 

“It’s not what I’m thinking, Bucky.” Lillian assures softly. “I’m thinking, you’re not used to having someone who can be there for you. So you’re afraid of taking advantage of that.” 

Bucky scoffs. Not at Lillian - no - but at her point. It’s valid. “Well, you know… I don’t remember too much. Don’t remember much at all, actually. But I do, sometimes, remember these moments with Steve. I’m always… always taking care of him. I’d watch him when he was sick and his ma wasn’t home… I’d save him from getting pummeled in back alley fights… you name it, I did it.” 

“Did Steve ever take care of you? Back then, I mean.” 

Bucky’s lips purse in consideration. “He’d try. Does that count? Steve was always wise, yeah. Always had my back. He’d defend me day and night - but that doesn’t mean he was always capable. He could only do so much. Sometimes, he was bed ridden and that was that. Things changed after the serum, though.” 

“After he saved you - how did that feel?” Lillian presses. 

“Weird. It’s almost… almost like feeling useless. No longer being able to do what you’re supposed to do.” 

“Steve taking care of you makes you feel useless?” 

Bucky’s lips part in confusion. He’s silenced by the thought. He doesn’t understand how they even came to this conclusion… or why it feels so accurate. 

“Bucky, is that a fair assessment? You can tell me I’m wrong.” Lillian reminds him, a kindness to her eyes that throws him off. 

Bucky fidgets and squirms in his spot on the couch. “I guess it is. I never considered it… why I feel guilty telling him things…” He glances to his metal arm. Suddenly, he changes the topic. “This thing is heavy, you know.” 

“Your arm?” Lillian asks, taking the bait with narrowed eyes. 

“Yeah. Everything is always compensating for it. My neck. My shoulders. My back. It’s heavy.” He isn’t lying. He’s never actually thought much about it until now - the thing is heavy.

“You’ve adapted.” Lillian comments. 

“I have.” 

“Have you ever asked Steve to give you a massage? To maybe help with how heavy the arm is? Surely, it’s added unnecessary stress to the rest of your body.” 

Bucky laughs at the thought. Shakes his head. “No.” 

“Why not?” 

Bucky narrows his eyes at Lillian. “You know why. You’re going to suggest because I don’t want to burden Steve-“ 

“-That’s your homework for this week, Bucky. Asking Steve for help with something. Whether it’s rubbing your back because your arm is making everything hurt or because you’ve had a bad dream and need to talk it out. I want you to write about it, too.” Lillian suddenly interrupts, immediately lifting her pen to scribble down into her notepad. “Deal?” 

“Well, that sounds like there’s no option…” Bucky mutters, a pout to his expression. 

“There’s an option, Bucky. But I think you’ll only make progress if you address these things head on.” 

Bucky sighs. “Okay.” He concludes, despite wanting to argue. He knows it’s a simple request - know it’s not something to get up in arms about. He can handle it. He asks Steve for help all the time… at least, he thinks he does. 

“So, do we have ourselves a deal then?” Lillian asks as she reaches a hand out, extended just enough for Bucky to meet her in the middle. 

He’s apprehensive at first, but moments later, he holds his hand out and shakes firmly. He groans as he says it, but he does. “Deal.” 

Chapter Text

— Steve —

 

There’s not many people in the world that enjoy getting up at 05:45 in the morning - Steve imagines there’s a very small handful of rebels that do.

Steve’s sure there’s even fewer people from that same handful that would also enjoy going for a swim naked in a lake just thirty minutes after waking up. 

But Steve seems to find the ephemeral silence and serenity of the early morning to be worth the trouble. Worth the chase. It’s peaceful - he thinks. Peaceful in a sense that Steve doesn’t get to experience very often.

And the swimming-naked-in-a-lake part? Well… that’s just something he does because he can.

Because Steve in 1930 would’ve likely either drowned from a leg cramp or died of hypothermia in the coolness of the lake - give or take one or the other. 

Or he’d get in the lake and have a completely unrelated asthma attack. Who knows.

Scrawny, weak Steve didn’t have as much freedom or as many options as Steve does now and he knows it. He’s thankful for the serum for that reason alone. Thankful he can float on his back in the lake and stare up at the sky where the sun is just starting to rise up high. Thankful doesn’t even begin to explain it the more that he considers it. 

As he paddles himself backwards with a few lazy kicks of his feet, his mind drifts to the last few days. His relationship with Bucky. 

Bucky

God, does he adore Bucky. 

When he looks up at the clouds, all he can think about is being fifteen and dumbly in love with his best friend. 

He remembers the two of them laying out on the rooftop of Steve’s apartment complex, just watching the clouds pass. Bucky had taken blankets from his own apartment to scatter beneath them and a glass bottle of Coca-Cola to share. Steve still remembers Bucky had expertly stolen the bottle from a vending machine just outside the dry cleaners down the street with a wooden slug he’d carved in woodshop. 

He even remembers that cocky grin as Bucky had pushed the slug in while Steve stood guard, heart pounding nearly out of his chest. 

“No big deal, Stevie. Relax!” Bucky had said as he slipped the makeshift coin into the machine and waited until it processed before using the string attached and yanking it back out. The two broke into a fit of laughter - both evil and mischievous as the glass bottle clunk to the bottom of the machine, paid for with a piece of wood.

Steve’s ma would never let him have soda - “it ain’t good for ya,” she’d say. Bucky seemed indifferent. 

Steve’s face feels warm even thinking about it. About the way Bucky then pulled him in hard for a side hug, nearly knocking Steve over in the process as he exclaimed, “Told ya! With you watchin’ out for me, we got no worries!”

He remembers feeling unsure about sipping directly from the bottle because he didn’t want to get Bucky sick. 

Remembers Bucky groaning out. Remembers him saying “Stevie, if ya got me sick over a soda, it would be worth it.” 

Remembers the way he laid his head on Bucky’s chest that day on the rooftop. The way Bucky’s fingers ran through his hair. The way he could almost swear he heard Bucky’s heart beating rapidly against his rib cage. The way Bucky would point up at an oddly shaped cloud and Steve would just stare at Bucky’s face instead. 

The way - 

“Stevie!” Bucky suddenly calls and Steve is immediately rattled from his trip down memory lane. 

Steve flails a bit as he sinks himself down into the lake, now up to his shoulders in the water, eyes wide as he looks to Bucky on the dock. He’s got his hair tied back high into a small, messy bun and a t-shirt and shorts on. No shoes. No socks. His anklet wrapped in Saran Wrap. Such a rebel

“I know, I know. How many times am I gonna scare ya before you actually have a heart attack?” Bucky snorts as he notices the rosiness forming along Steve’s cheeks. 

Steve sighs out and laughs. “You’re getting closer every time.”

“Yeah, well, guess what.” Bucky suddenly says, voice oddly cheery as he plops himself down to sit at the edge of the dock, legs slipping right into the water. 

Steve gives him a curious look as he swims over. “What?” He asks, a brow cocked as Bucky playfully extends a foot further down into the water to gently splash water in Steve’s direction.

Steve splashes back with a crinkled nose before settling just beside the supports of the dock, his face level with Bucky’s shins as he leans in to press a kiss to the closest leg. 

“I was doing some googling…” 

Steve groans dramatically. “Oh no. Nat gives you a phone and suddenly you’re googling things?” 

“Shut up.” Bucky huffs, shooting playful daggers in Steve’s direction as he slips his phone out of his pocket and holds it out to Steve. 

Steve squints as he tries to see what’s on the screen through the sunlight beaming down - ultimately coming to the conclusion that it’s just a bunch of written text on a white background. “What is it?”

“A quiz I found.”

“A quiz?” Steve parrots. “What kind of quiz?”

Bucky rolls his eyes. “Well, first of all, for context, I somehow found myself on a porn site-“ 

Steve makes a face. 

“-And… then I got to thinking… if we did… any of that…”

Steve’s lips thin together in obvious concern. “Bucky.” He whines. 

Bucky seems to ignore him, waving a hand towards Steve’s face. “No, no, hush. I realized I didn’t really know who would do what, okay? I have an idea, but… we gotta figure that out before we actually do it because, well, that’s part of doing it.”

“I’m not following.” Steve awkwardly responds, wanting to possibly drown himself right under the dock - but he resists. 

Bucky sighs out loudly. “Stevie, do ya wanna give or take?”

“Do I want to give or take?” 

“Yes.”

Steve isn’t entirely sure where this is going - or what this means. What Bucky is asking. He thinks for a moment before furrowing his brows together and quietly responding, “I always like giving to people?” 

Bucky laughs at that. “Jesus Christ, Steve.” 

“What?”

“That’s totally not what that means. It means… do you want to… uh… do you want to give it to me, or do you want me to give it to you?” Bucky says now, stressing the word ‘it’ enough times that it finally connects for Steve. 

He blanks out momentarily, lips parting in stunned silence. “Uh…” He tries to formulate a thought, though he keeps coming up empty handed. “Well, what do you want to do?” 

Bucky shrugs coyly. Like he has a preference of his own but wants Steve to come to his own conclusions. That or he’s just being a smug asshole. Steve’s unsure. 

Steve leans his cheek up against Bucky’s leg now, eyes cast up at his boyfriend. “You’ve got to have some feelings about it.” He suggests with pouty lips.

Bucky smirks. “I do but I want you to take the quiz. It’s called ‘Are you a top or a bottom?’ and it’s just five questions. Top means you give, bottom means you take.”

Steve rolls his eyes in amusement. “Fine. Okay. Let’s do it then.” 

Bucky looks pleased as he lifts his phone up and reads off the first question. “Question one: when you’re making out with someone, are you on the top taking control, on the bottom begging for more, or do you like to switch it up?” 

Steve’s brows immediately knit together. “Considering my lack of experience, it always seems to end with me on the bottom, doesn’t it?” 

“Is that your answer?” 

“No.” Steve says with a shrug, “I’d like to try being in control more. That’s my answer.”

Bucky silently acknowledges the answer and swipes on his phone. “Question two,” he begins with a sheepish grin, “are you more turned on by the idea of being manhandled and told what to do or by having someone listen to your every word and demand?” 

Steve’s lashes flutter at the question. He swallows. “The second one sounds nice.” He admits quietly. 

A brow shoots up in response from Bucky, but again, he remains silent in commentary. “Three. You’re in bed with someone - are they moaning: ‘don't stop, that feels so good,’ ‘you like that?’ or ‘how do you want it?’” Bucky reads and then glances down at Steve in the water, eyes glimmering from the reflection. 

Steve sucks in a breath. “You could say anything to me and I’d like it.” He says with a small laugh, earning a hand through his wet hair as quiet praise from Bucky. 

“You’d like me moaning all of that, hm, Stevie?” Bucky says - all alluring and teasing. He lets his fingers rake through Steve’s hair again, gripping just a bit at the ends. 

“Mhm.” Steve manages, “but I guess I’ll say the first option. Because I really enjoy when you tell me I’m doing good.” 

Bucky bites his lip at that, concealing whatever is about to slip from his mind before he moves along with his quiz. “Question four: you and your significant other are cuddling, do you prefer to hold them or be held?” 

“Hold them.” Steve says confidently, the two locking eyes again and smiling. 

“Final question, Stevie.” Bucky hums out, thumb swiping up on his phone. “What’s your perfect fantasy? A) You’re on top and thrusting into your partner. B) You’re on the bottom and your partner is railing into you. C) Your partner is riding you and you’re controlling their hips. Or… uh, D) You’re being pushed up against the wall with your hands behind your back while your partner has their way with you.” 

Steve nearly dunks himself under the water in embarrassment as he listens to Bucky rattling off the answers. He holds himself still, attempting to hide partially under the dock - that way he doesn’t have to directly stare up at Bucky. “Jesus. I don’t… I uh…” 

“You know.” Bucky coos as he tries to coax an answer out of him, foot gently nudging at Steve’s shoulder. 

“A.” Steve breathes out, cringing as he admits it. He doesn’t even know why he’s cringing - why he’s so afraid to acknowledge this. Maybe because he has no experience. No clue. And maybe because he’s afraid of what his answers dictate. 

“Hitting submit.” Bucky says with a smirk, before he turns the phone down towards Steve in the water. “Look at that. It says you’re a top.” He says, tongue lining at his lower lip. 

“And that means… I want to… give it to you, right?” Steve responds back as he attempts to not short circuit. 

“Uh-huh.” Bucky nods, “wanna know what I got?” 

“Yes.” Steve says a little too quickly. 

Quickly enough that Bucky can’t help but giggle. It’s harmless. “I got both. But they call that a switch, I guess.” He finally spills, his own face showing the faintest hint of red at the arch of his cheeks. Of course, it only makes him look more beautiful. Of course. 

Steve is caught off guard. “And that means?” 

“I’ll do whatever you want to do, Stevie.” 

Steve gulps. “You’d try being a top or a bottom?” 

“Mhm. And I didn’t need a quiz to tell me that. Just like I don’t think you needed a quiz to come to your conclusion either, but it was fun finding out, anyway.” Bucky teases as he sets the phone aside on the dock now. “Guess that means we know what we’re going to do then, huh?” 

“Do we? Because I still have no idea-“

Bucky laughs. “Relax. Like I said - I was googling things. I did some research. I’ve got some ideas.”

Steve sinks into the water up to his chin, blue eyes just gazing up at Bucky - wide and wondering. He watches in bewilderment as Bucky moves to stand now and then swiftly removes his shirt before his hands go to his hips, the silver in his arm nearly blinding Steve as it catches the sunlight. 

“I figured I’d join you, if you don’t mind.” 

“I’m naked, you know.” Steve says awkwardly, staring up at Bucky in obvious wonder. Bucky is perfection - he always has been. There’s never been a doubt about it. He’s all built-out muscle and carved lines. In which, Steve can’t help to do anything other than stare. It’s all he can do.

“Yeah, I know.” Bucky says with a smirk. “I saw your clothes on the patio and a towel and sort of put two and two together.”

Steve narrows his eyes. Waits to see what Bucky plans to do. To see if he’s going to-

Bucky drops his shorts as if they’re nothing. And then his boxers. And then he’s naked and Steve barely has a chance to drink him in before he’s leaping into the water, over Steve’s head, and breaking the surface with a loud splash. 

When Bucky resurfaces seconds later, his hair tie has fallen out and he’s laughing as he now slicks back his hair away from his face, blue eyes blinking open as the water clings to his lashes. “Now we’re both naked.” Bucky states with a snicker as he wades over to Steve. 

Steve meets him in the middle, awestruck and heart pounding as he envelopes Bucky into a tangled hug where they both feel weightless in the water. “Wonder how that happened.” Steve teases as he feels Bucky’s hands move upwards to cup at his cheeks. 

Bucky doesn’t hesitate to lean in and press a delicate kiss to Steve’s lips, holding him there with caressing thumbs at the arches of his cheekbones while he gently kicks his feet beneath the surface to keep himself afloat. 

Steve melts right into it - like he’s been waiting for this moment since Bucky walked outside and onto the dock. His own hands sink under the water and find the small of Bucky’s back. He holds him close - close enough that Steve has to resist a gasp when he feels their lower halves press up against each other. 

“Let’s say,” Bucky begins to say between kisses, “we decided we wanted to do it .”

“Uh huh.” Steve just barely replies as he kisses back, eyes shut. His mind is buzzing. Trying to focus. Trying not to overthink. “Let’s say we wanted to. Yeah.” 

“We’d need… lube…” Bucky drawls as he playfully drags Steve’s lower lip between his teeth, his hands dropping to drape around Steve’s neck. “And condoms.”

“So much googling.” Steve laughs as their lips finally part, a bit breathless and unbalanced now - lips tingling and cheeks burning. He just wants to keep kissing Bucky - keep kissing and keep touching. He wants to absolutely drown in him.

“I was also thinking, though, that maybe we don’t actually need the condoms - you know? Since it’s just you and me. You can’t catch a cold; I’m sure you couldn’t catch anything from me. And I don’t have anything… I know because… of tests… from you know…” Bucky trails off towards the end when he realizes what he’s bringing up. “If you don’t feel comfortable, though, because of…” He’s stopped by Steve kissing at his forehead and then over the tip of his nose. 

Steve won’t make him explain. He doesn’t need to. Steve just nods and leans in to kiss Bucky again on the lips - in an attempt to both stop him from finishing his thought and to assure him Steve doesn’t care about the past. Not one bit. “Whatever you want, Buck. We can do whatever you want.” He promises, words whispered, as if just for them to hear. 

Bucky seems to smile. Let’s the tension in his face dissipate. “So then lube. Lots of lube.” He smirks as they again separate, laughing.

Steve just nods. Lots of lube. 

—- 

It’s a few hours later now. 

Bucky is quietly eating a 3 Musketeers bar in the living room, eyes glued to the TV while Steve sits on his phone right across from him on the adjacent couch. Bucky’s hair is still slightly damp with some curling at the ends and Steve may or may not want to reach out and touch it. 

“I’m gonna send a new list of groceries over to Thomas. The guy that gets our food delivered. Do you want to add anything?” Steve suddenly asks as he shoots a glance over to Bucky. 

Bucky shrugs as he chews on the candy bar. “Only groceries?” 

“You can put whatever you want on the list, honey. Do you want more clothes? You never really got to specify on a wardrobe, did ya?” Steve suddenly realizes, a soft sigh leaving him as he sets his phone into his lap. “It’s weird having to tell someone else what you want, but it works.” 

“Couldn’t we just go shopping in the town? Or… you know… you?” Bucky asks as he crumples up the now empty wrapper and tosses it at Steve with a smirk. 

Steve rolls his eyes as he snatches the wrapper in midair, now balling it up and stuffing it into his sweatpants’ pocket like the good boyfriend he is. “I could. But I’d rather not push our luck. Belle has told me he really didn’t want me venturing off too often… to leave you alone… because he doesn’t trust you.” 

“I don’t trust him.” 

“Neither do I, hon. I’m just trying to keep us on his better side. I don’t want to fight. I just want to survive this. Get us out of here. Give us a better life.” 

“Every time you call me honey, my stomach knots up. Stop that.” Bucky groans playfully, making a grab for the nearest pillow so that he can toss that as well in Steve’s direction. 

“Honey? What about sweetheart? Baby? Darling?” Steve teases as he lets the pillow hit him - if only for Bucky’s satisfaction and Steve’s own when he gets to see the accomplished grin on Bucky’s face for successfully hitting Steve. 

“And here I thought best guy was going to be the death of me.” Bucky whines softly as he brings a hand to his face, dragging it down his cheek coyly. 

“Best guy was the only thing I could call you without being obvious back then. Guess I realized I can call you anything I want now.” 

“You can.” Bucky murmurs, crossing one leg over the other. 

“So then get used to it, honey.”

Bucky smiles and looks down at his lap. “I’ll text you a list?” He says. 

“Perfect.” Steve replies. And for a moment, the conversation ends and the two resume their enjoyed silence. It’s comfortable - relaxing. They don’t need to talk. 

But then Bucky clears his throat and immediately Steve is looking up, a questionable expression to his face. “You okay?” Steve asks softly.

Bucky nods, chewing on his lower lip. “Yeah. Just… uh…” He pauses and trails off, a smile appearing on his face. “I just… I told Lillian my body was hurting the other day and…” He laughs anxiously, “it’s silly.” 

Steve frowns. “Your body was hurting?” It’s the only part of the entire sentence that Steve seems to hear. “Does it still hurt? Are you alright?” 

Bucky waves him off. “No, I’m fine, I swear! I just… like I said, it’s stupid. I just told Lillian and she told me I had to tell you and-“

“And?” Steve interrupts. 

Bucky pouts. “I’m supposed to ask you for a massage.” 

Steve’s concern cracks into the faintest smile, the corners of his lips turning up in amusement. “You’re supposed to ask me for a massage? Lillian said that?”

“Yes.” 

Steve chuckles. “Well, okay. If Lillian says so.” Steve shrugs now, as if he could ever possibly be inconvenienced by anything Bucky needed. He leans forward on the couch, a brow arched when he notices Bucky doesn’t move. “Well?” 

Bucky blinks. His Adam’s Apple visibly jerks. “Now?”

“Unless you wanted to wait until we're even older, I don’t see why we can’t do it now.”

Bucky blushes, lashes hiding away his eyes as he looks down at his hands. 

“Come here, Buck. What am I massaging?” Steve says as he turns himself inwards on the couch and spreads apart his legs so that he’s sitting back on one foot and the other is hanging off, leaving a space for Bucky to sit. 

Bucky sighs quietly as he watches Steve pat repeatedly at the space between his thighs, now standing up and walking over to where Steve is. He plops himself down in the space in front of Steve and glances back at him with a nervous smile. “Everything? But let’s try my shoulders.” 

“I’ve got zero experience with this whatsoever, you know,” Steve begins with a laugh as his hands skirt up Bucky’s sides, sliding upwards along his arms until he comes to his shoulders.

Bucky seems to tense before forcing himself to ease up. Steve can feel it. “I don’t either.” Bucky blurts out. “Just… be careful with my left side. The scar tissue…” 

“I’ll be careful, sweetheart.” Steve assures, voice gentle as he gingerly begins to rub the tips of his fingers into the muscle rounding out Bucky’s shoulders. He’s nervous - sure - but for once he’s able to conceal it. He puts all of his focus into actually trying to do a good job with this. “Does that feel okay?” He questions as he rubs into the muscle now with a bit more pressure, now rubbing in small circles. 

Bucky leans back into the touch, hands coming up so that he can gather back his hair and push it over onto his right shoulder, a soft sigh escaping his lips now. “So far, so good.” He answers as Steve moves both hands over to his left shoulder, immediately lightening his touch. 

“Does the arm get heavy?” 

Bucky nods, wordless. 

“Does it hurt?” 

“Phantom pain. Sometimes I still feel the left arm. My real left arm...” Bucky mumbles, a soft gasp leaving him when Steve’s slender fingers dip into the loose collar of his t-shirt, now grazing along one of the scars and trying his best to be gentle. “Sometimes the bone hurts. Where my real arm was sawed and where they connected the new arm. Soldered it.” 

Steve leans himself forward and presses a small kiss to the back of Bucky’s neck, right at the prominent bone in the center. “Why don’t you take this off?” He suggests as he slips his hand out of the shirt. 

Bucky doesn’t object and leans forward just enough for Steve to trail his hands down so that he can slide the shirt over and off Bucky’s body. 

It’s the first time that Steve has actually allowed himself the chance to really look at Bucky - at his shoulder. At the scars. They’re faded and yet still prominent enough that Steve is almost afraid to touch them. But he does with a featherlight graze of his fingers. 

“They’re ugly.” Bucky says aloud, a bitterness to his tone. 

“No.” Steve interjects as he gently works his fingers between the knots of muscle and ribbons of scars. 

“No?” Bucky echoes, quiet. Whispered. He presses back into the touch. 

“No.” Steve states again, as if the first time wasn’t clear. Wasn’t loud enough. “Never.” He adds on as he carefully wraps his right arm around the front of Bucky’s chest and pushes him back into Steve’s body to bring his back to Steve’s front so that he can massage at the front of Bucky’s left shoulder much more intimately. In a way that suddenly causes Bucky’s breath to hitch. 

“That actually feels really nice...” Bucky manages to mumble out as he cranes his head back, letting it rest along Steve’s shoulder as he glances up at him. 

Steve catches the glance and looks over at him with a smirk. “Thank god, because I’m still clueless.” He snickers as he admits it and then leans down and in, meeting Bucky in the middle for the warm press of lips against lips. They get caught up for a moment - just lips pressing together and tongues gently gliding up against each other. 

God damn, Bucky tastes sweet - like the chocolate bar he’s just finished. And he smells good, too. His hair lingers with the scent of the new apple-cinnamon shampoo and conditioner set he’s been using thanks to Thomas getting creative with their lack of weekly shopping list updates. And his face is soft, too. Smooth, buttery skin and even smoother, pouty lips.

Steve’s entire mind is fogged up like a bathroom mirror after a hot shower.

“Luckily, Captain America is a fast learner.” Bucky suddenly murmurs against his lips, Steve feeling the pull of Bucky’s lips into an obvious smile. It’s devious. Taunting. 

They pull apart to make eye contact. Bucky’s blue eyes are wide - nearly swallowed whole by the blacks of his pupils. Dilated and wanting. 

“He’s really not. He’s just a good guesser.” Steve assures nonchalantly as his left hand dips down to glide over the cool metal bicep - rubbing soothingly into the plates there while his right hand kneads at Bucky’s flesh shoulder cap. It’s warm. Strong. Muscular, yet sharp at the peak. 

“Then guess what I’m thinking right now, Captain.” Bucky breathes out, words practically bouncing around in Steve’s skull. 

Guess what I’m thinking right now, Captain. 

Steve immediately feels the heat both along his face and in the pit of his stomach.

He licks his lips as he leans in for another kiss, letting it linger and deepen just for a moment before he pulls back, eliciting a whine from Bucky. “You’re thinking about me massaging a lot more than your shoulders, Sergeant.”

“Stevie.” Bucky sounds flustered. He feels warmer to the touch now, too. 

“Lean back more.” Steve instructs, spreading his own legs just a bit more to make more room for Bucky - inviting him to lean back fully and sink his weight into Steve. And he does - confidently. 

Steve immediately presses his lips along Bucky’s jaw to suck slowly at the throbbing pulse there. He doesn’t know where this has come from, but whatever sudden surge of confidence this is, he doesn’t intend on letting it go to waste. 

“You’re forward.” Bucky notes quietly as he stretches his neck for Steve, eyes fluttering shut as he melts into Steve’s chest. 

“Trying something new.” Steve acknowledges, words spoken against Bucky’s throat as both his hands move to Bucky’s chest to cup at his pecs. He’s anxious - unsure - but he throws his doubts aside and allows both fingers to find Bucky’s nipples, pinching and kneading them slowly. 

“Steve.” Bucky whimpers out, reacting instantly. 

“What do you want for lunch? I was thinking sandwiches.” Steve smirks as he keeps kissing up and down the side of Bucky’s neck, allowing his nose to graze and nuzzle along the smooth skin. “Yes, no?” 

Bucky kicks out a leg against the couch. “Lunch? You’re asking me about lunch?” He groans, “Jesus Christ, Steve.”

Steve swallows down a laugh. Forces himself to stay as serious as he can. Keeps his composure. “Lunch. Yeah, lunch.” He nods as he pinches both nipples again before trailing his hands downwards, over the toned and clenching muscles of Bucky’s stomach and to his hips - now rubbing purposefully at the prominent bones just beneath flesh. “We’ll do the usual, yeah? I cook, you sit and watch.” 

Oddly enough, talking about something completely unrelated seems to make things easier for Steve. More relaxing. Less terrifying. 

“And then you’ll put your feet on the table and I’ll have to yell at you for it.” Steve suggests with a shrug as his fingers teasingly dip into Bucky’s waistband. 

“I do it on purpose, y’know.” Bucky answers with a stifled gasp as Steve’s fingers drag lower into his pajama pants. 

Steve tsks audibly as he leans them both back even further, forcing Bucky’s abdomen to stretch and allow easier access for Steve’s hands to roam. “I bet you do. Cold cuts? Chicken cutlet? BLT?” 

Bucky gasps again as Steve’s fingers slip entirely beneath his pants, cold hands immediately warming up as they grasp at bare, muscular thighs. “BLT?” 

Steve laughs and kisses along the shell of Bucky’s ear now - just like he’d recalled Bucky doing to him. He knows he’s doing a good job, too, by the way Bucky seems to writhe beneath him. “It’s what the folks call a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich now. They got lazy.” 

Bucky swallows down a groan and shifts, as if to press up into Steve’s hands that are kneading at the tops of his thighs. Steve is ignoring his erection deliberately and he knows it. “I haven’t had one of those in awhile… maybe since the war…” 

“My poor baby.” Steve comments as he allows his knuckles to graze just over the base of Bucky’s pubic bone - just touching. Just teasing. 

“Your poor baby.” Bucky stammers out, the back of his skull pressing back hard against Steve’s shoulder as he tries to feel more. 

Steve smirks when Bucky’s right leg spreads away from his left, now hooking his thigh over the outer part of Steve’s, foot dangling off the couch. 

“Please touch me, Steve. Please. For god’s sake, don’t ya start being a tease.” Bucky says, a familiar Brooklyn drawl to his words.

“Light mayo? Lots of mayo? I say lots. We deserve it, right?” Steve says as he talks over Bucky, words hot against Bucky’s neck as he speaks them, now peppering kisses all across the skin again, trying to distract. 

Bucky doesn’t answer, just whines. Whines and breathes out audibly. 

“Right?” Steve repeats, brows furrowing as he slips his hands out from Bucky’s pajama pants and focuses now on undoing the few buttons at the front. They’re flimsy and Steve knows he could simply pull them apart and rip the pants, but he’s feeling reserved. Doesn’t want to make an unnecessary scene. He undoes the buttons and then pulls on the pants, letting them slip down just enough to allow him room to do what he wants to do. 

“Steve-“ 

“After lunch, what should we do? We have a whole day ahead of us.” Steve continues his game, swallowing down the spike of nerves he feels as he wills himself to wrap one hand around Bucky’s hard cock while the other settles just above his stomach, rubbing circles. 

Steve can’t resist lifting his face away from Bucky’s neck to look down and over their heaving bodies to see what’s in his palm. Bucky’s beautiful. Perfect. Everything he’s seen before and yet it’s not the same. Never the same. He studies every detail - all the small veins, the pink flesh, the way he fills out Steve’s hand so perfectly. 

“Steve, fuck, Steve…” Bucky whimpers as he turns his face into Steve’s neck, hiding away into the crook of his shoulder. 

“What, Buck, what?” Steve finally relents as he breaks away from his own narrative, feeling his own face heating up from the anxiety of it all. He has no clue what to do. This is real. This is actually happening. He started this. 

“You’re so good.” Bucky suddenly says, as if he can sense the building nervousness from Steve without even having to see his face. It’s a testament to how in tune they are with each other. “You’re doing so good, Stevie,” Bucky adds on with a quiet moan, bucking his hips up into Steve’s palm. “Up and down,” he says, voice gentle, “c’mon, Stevie. Give it to me. I’ve been good. I know I have.” 

Those words do something to Steve. He feels them in his chest. Feels them in the way his heart rate triples and his blood throbs loudly in his ears. He even feels those words in the pool of heat radiating from his groin. 

“Up and down.” Steve parrots as his hand follows suit, moving along Bucky’s shaft in the same way he’d done with himself in the shower. He’s gentle, yet his motions have purpose. He’s desperately trying to get used to it. He lets his thumb run along the slit at the top, feeling the way it dips in. The dampness that beads there. It’s familiar. He knows what he’s doing - he’s just blanking out.

“Uh-huh.” Bucky manages, pulling his face away from Steve’s neck now to stretch himself out further, back arching into Steve’s chest and stomach as he lifts his hips forward. His body is tight - Steve can feel it. 

“You’re so pretty, Buck.” Steve suddenly breathes as he watches himself move along Bucky’s cock, slowly pumping him in his hand. “So pretty. I could watch you all day,” he admits quietly.

“I’m even prettier when you go faster,” Bucky says teasingly, a blush going all the way from his face to his stomach. 

Steve bites at his lip at that and does as Bucky’s implied, hand moving faster and with more pressure. The more he does it, the more confident he feels and eventually Steve is able to work up a rhythm that has both him and Bucky panting. 

Every sound Bucky makes is distracting and beautiful and, fuck, Steve can barely focus. He’s painfully hard now, too. Wants to touch himself. Wants to flip Bucky over and take him right here, but he knows he can’t.

“Talk to me,” Steve murmurs as he starts on pressing kisses all along Bucky’s bare neck and shoulder while his free hand cups and kneads at Bucky’s chest to hold him up so he can’t sink down further into Steve’s lap. 

Bucky is a panting mess as he contorts under Steve’s touch, now pulling back his left leg to bring his knee up while the leg dangling over Steve’s thigh hooks down further. Both hands reach back to grip and brace at Steve’s thighs, trying to stay in place as best he can. “I want you to fuck me, Stevie. Please. That’s what I need,” he practically begs. 

Steve pumps him in earnest now, kisses getting sloppier but motions staying in rhythm with the movements of Bucky’s hips. He wants to get him off. Wants to hear him. “You know I want to, too, baby. You know I do.” 

“C’mon,” Bucky moans. Steve can see from his peripherals that Bucky's eyes are clamped shut and his mouth is ajar. “Fuck me, Stevie. Right now. I’m begging you.” 

Steve groans out, muffled into Bucky’s neck, “I can’t. We can’t. We don’t have anything-“ 

“-Fuck. I don’t care, it’s fine, I’ll be fine-“ 

“No, honey; I can’t do that.” Steve says and he has to swallow down a laugh when he hears Bucky nearly wailing in response. “Just focus on my hand. Focus on what’s happening right now. We can worry about that other stuff later… focus on this.” 

Bucky nods, flustered and high-strung. His thigh muscles are tight, and as Steve’s free hand slips back down the valley of muscle that leads to his groin, he can feel how tense Bucky is - how close he must be. 

“Tell me how to get you off,” Steve suddenly says, voice low and breathy as he sucks a bruise into Bucky’s jawline. He wants to mark him up - wants to claim him in the same way Bucky did to him. He gives Bucky’s base a squeeze before he brings his hand to the tip and spreads more of the precome around to aid in his pumping. He has to be close. 

“You’re right there…” Bucky breathes, words nearly swallowed by a moan, “just… keep…” He trails off as Steve apparently does something right and suddenly Bucky is arching and writhing in his lap and before Steve can comprehend it, he feels the warmth dribbling down his hand in long, uneven spurts. 

Steve kisses Bucky through it, only pulling himself away momentarily to look down at his hand. He groans quietly to himself at the sight. He keeps pumping him, slower and slicker now as he tries to help Bucky down from his high. The come is dripping down his wrist and is likely going to get onto the couch, but Steve’s apparently too horny to care. It probably already is all over the couch. 

“Stevie, fuck…” Bucky whimpers out as he presses his head back hard into Steve’s shoulder. His barely-there nails dig into Steve’s thigh on one side while his metal hand’s plates pinch into the other. 

Steve doesn’t care. Bucky could mark him up bloody and bruised and he wouldn’t care. 

He wants this. 

Wants Bucky. 

“Such a good boy.” Steve says, nearly surprising himself when it slips out. But when Bucky doesn’t appear to react - not negatively, anyway - he feels confident. When he’s sure Bucky is through the ringer, he finally releases him and resorts to rubbing soothing hands up and down his body. “You okay, honey?” Steve asks when he realizes Bucky is suddenly loose and pliable - more so than before. 

“Mhm.” Is all Steve gets in reply. Bucky is heavy against him - like an anchor pulling down a ship. 

Steve isn’t entirely sure of what to do but he does what he thinks is best and keeps kissing at his neck while his hands keep touching and rubbing gently.

The two stay like this for a few moments. For Steve, it feels like hours - though he knows it isn’t. It’s just minutes. Minutes and seconds. 

Eventually, Bucky wiggles in his grasp and a soft sigh escapes his lips. “I’m okay.” Bucky answers again - this time more alert. He’s back online like a computer that’s just rebooted. “You blissed me out.”

Steve finally loosens his grip and allows Bucky to sit himself up, a soft set of groans following suit. “You disappeared for a moment.” Steve acknowledges with a small laugh. 

“It felt really good,” is all Bucky manages as he stretches himself forward before leaning right back into Steve, though sitting up by himself. He’s more grounded now - more in the moment. 

He’s okay, Steve tells himself. 

“I love you.” Bucky says simply as he lifts his hands to Steve’s face and cups his cheeks to draw him into a kiss. 

“Yeah, I love you, too, Buck.” Steve replies without hesitation before he kisses Bucky, now smiling against his lips. “But I think I should clean us up a bit, right?” 

Bucky laughs as he pulls away, now huffing as he leans off Steve to allow him to move. “Yeah, yeah. Don’t wanna ruin the couch.” 

Steve offers a smirk before getting up to stand - legs wobbly and erection still achingly obvious. He doesn’t understand why he seems to stay harder much longer than Bucky. Or why Bucky is already back to normal and he’s not. He groans as he looks down at himself. 

Bucky’s the one smirking now. Proudly, almost. “I still want that BLT, y’know. I expect extra mayo and I expect to sit at the table with my legs propped up.” 

Steve rolls his eyes playfully. “Yes, your highness,” he sighs before he making his way towards the downstairs bathroom to wash himself off and bring out towels to do the same for both Bucky and the poor couch.

Steve cleans them both up and scrubs at the couch while Bucky watches in amusement, his pajama pants still half down and unbuttoned. He’s drinking this in for all it’s worth - Steve knows that. 

When he’s finished up, Bucky follows behind him into the kitchen and takes his rightful place at the table, just as he’d said he would. 

Steve doesn’t complain. He could never. He genuinely loves this - loves the way he gets to do something for Bucky. Something he knows Bucky could do without his help, but allows him to do all the same. 

“I really liked that, Steve,” Bucky blurts out randomly just as Steve has finished making their sandwiches and sets down a plate in front of Bucky. 

“What? What I did?” Steve questions with a curious brow as he plops himself down at the table. 

“Yeah. You did it on your own. Two weeks ago I couldn’t even make eye contact with you, without you havin’ to look away. And then that… you did that.” Bucky states with a glimmer to his eyes.

“I told you I’m tryin’ to be better. I wanted to do that. I really wanted to.” Steve says sheepishly, unable to help the blush that immediately rises to his cheeks.

“Can’t believe my virgin boyfriend jerked me off,” Bucky snickers, followed by a taunting, dramatic sigh escaping him. Like he’s in a goddamn soap opera. 

Steve immediately shoots him a look. “You ruin everything.” He grumbles with a laugh, only to have to dodge a piece of crust that Bucky rips off and tosses at him. 

“You love me.” 

“I really, really do.” Steve says simply as he pops the ripped-off piece of crust from Bucky’s sandwich into his mouth. 

The rest of their day is blissful, to say the least. 

Chapter Text

 A Few Days Later

 

“Are you insane?”  

“What?” 

“You know what!”  

Bucky is immediately smirking as he stares up at Steve looming over him from his obviously comfortable place sprawled out on the couch. He looks content - long locks of pretty hair spread along the pillows and lean, muscular body wrapped up in two different fleece blankets. 

It’s not enough to distract Steve. Not this time. 

Steve looks serious - at least he thinks he does. He wants to look it, anyway. Wants Bucky to think it. 

But, instead, Bucky’s smirk doesn’t waver as he sits up, arms stretching upwards in Steve’s direction while he playfully wiggles his fingers. His metal arm glimmers as it catches the rays of light bleeding in from the windows. Bucky has a long sleeve shirt on that he’s ripped one sleeve off of because it doesn’t quite fit the metal bicep as nicely as he’d like it to. It’s endearing… but Steve won’t admit it right now. 

“I’m serious!” Steve tries, a bit of a pout appearing on his lips while his hands move to his hips in attempts to make a point. 

Bucky groans now, softly and coyly, “Stevie, you’re gonna have to just tell me what I did wrong, because it’s really not occurring to me-“ 

“-You added lube to the shopping list and I almost sent it to Thomas! Don’t even act like you don’t know what you did!” Steve whines in exasperation, “when I said you could add whatever you wanted to the list, I wasn’t talking about lube!”

Yes, Steve’s aware he’s probably overreacting. But Steve isn’t about to take a risk and assume Thomas wouldn’t bat an eye. What if Thomas actually were to read it? What if Thomas told Belle? What if…? 

There’s a breakthrough in Bucky’s expression, like he’s acknowledging it now. He laughs and hops up from the couch to bring himself to his feet in front of Steve, a hand coming out to touch along Steve’s shoulder. It pulls Steve from the depths of his mind. 

It’s on purpose. 

Steve resists a shiver. Keeps his brows furrowed. 

“I’m sorry. Was it slightly stupid? Probably. But how else was I going to get your attention, huh? I can’t get us lube. We don’t have lube. We need lube, Stevie.” 

“Was it slightly stupid, Buck? No - it was insanely stupid. C’mon, you cannot-“ 

“-I know, I know. You’re right, Stevie.” Bucky interjects, blue eyes wide and lower lip pushed out - like a pouting puppy. And it works, somewhat. “I’m really sorry. I knew you’d proofread the list. I knew you would catch it. You always catch things. Always.”

There’s a split second where Steve feels ice spread through his veins. A jolt to his chest. 

You always catch things. 

It doesn’t mean anything. There’s no way it means anything.

The consuming guilt that’s been temporarily shackled away in the furthest parts of Steve’s mind suddenly resurfaces and Steve swears he hears the echoes of Bucky’s screams scatter every which way in his head, bouncing around inside his skull. 

“Steve?” Bucky interrupts and everything returns to normal. 

It vanishes. The screams evaporate. The reminders are starting to happen more and more. 

It’s just Bucky alive and well and his pretty hair and his big, bluer-than-the-ocean eyes staring hopefully. 

Steve sighs. The tenseness in his brow falls. He’s fine. It’s dumb to be frazzled over something that didn’t happen - he didn’t send the shopping list. Thomas doesn’t know anything. They’re fine. 

Steve lets his lower lip catch between his front teeth as he quietly breathes out, “baby.”  

Bucky leans in now and presses a gentle kiss to the very tip of Steve’s nose. When he pulls back, he’s smiling. “You’re not mad, right?” 

“No, babydoll. I’m not.” Steve assures, quiet. 

Bucky’s smile suddenly turns into a smirk, both devilish and pleased. “Can you please go and get us lube then? Please? 

“From where?” Steve asks as he lets his lashes flutter shut - just for the moment. Just to allow himself to take in the warmth of Bucky’s presence so close to him. 

“From the lube store, I don’t know. Don’t they have a general store in the town?” 

Steve then nearly chokes, eyes opening to the look of pure amusement on Bucky’s face. “You want me to go and ask someone in a store to get me lube and then buy it? Don’t you think it’ll look strange if Captain America is buying lube?” 

Bucky rolls his eyes and peels himself away from Steve now as he saunters towards the staircase. “That’s why it won’t be Captain America buying it.” 

“Gee, do tell me your grand plan,” Steve begins with a huff as he watches Bucky double up the steps. 

“Stay there. I’ll be back.” Bucky calls from over his shoulder as he vanishes upstairs. He doesn’t take very long at all - as if he’d known exactly what he was looking for the moment he set off for the steps. 

When he reappears in front of Steve, he’s holding out a baseball cap and a pair of sunglasses. “It’ll work.” He says before Steve can even get a word in. 

Steve groans as he takes both items into his own hands. “Did Natasha put you up to this?” He demands jokingly as he pauses and studies the baseball cap he’s holding. It’s his old Brooklyn Dodgers hat, all beat up and frayed at the edges of the bill. Steve smiles. “And where did you find this, Buck?” 

Bucky laughs and crinkles his nose. “I may have told her you needed a disguise for something that wasn’t related to lube but equally important. That was her advice,” he then glances to the hat, “I also may have rummaged through your closet a bit. Found it in the back - on a box of some unpacked clothes.” 

“You know,” Steve says with a chuckle of his own as he slips the hat onto his head and presses it down firmly, “the Dodgers apparently moved to Los Angeles in ‘58. We missed a lot.”

Bucky makes a face and then leans in to press a chaste kiss to Steve’s lips. It’s loving. Honest. Raw. “Don’t wanna miss anything else then, do we, Rogers?” 

“No-“

“Then go get me some lube.” 

Steve rolls his eyes. “Yes, your majesty.” 

And, as asked, Steve eventually makes his way into the small town. Bucky promises to keep in touch to ease Steve’s worries about leaving Bucky alone at the house. Because even if Steve gets over his slightly irrational fear of publicly buying lube, he’s now worried about something happening to Bucky. But Bucky promises and so Steve agrees. 

It takes him two hours of contemplating why and how he’s going to pull this off, but he leaves with Bucky waving him off at the door and his sunglasses pushed up high on the bridge of his nose. The baseball cap is just a tad too tight - but he’ll manage. 

Steve hasn’t been back to the town since Bucky sprung that kiss upon him and caused him to panic in the worst way possible. He remembers embarrassingly running away both shoeless and cashless, and then having to open a tab just to get a pair of shoes. He’s more prepared this time - swears he is. Even has two cellphones on him, just in case Belle decides to call while he’s out.

Nobody seems to recognize him, and if they do, they aren’t exactly making it obvious anyway. Steve thinks he’s mostly in the clear as he parks his motorcycle neatly between two white lines on a side road and then slips his S.H.I.E.L.D. phone out to text Bucky, as he’d said he would once he arrived. 

Steve 

‘Well, I just got off the bike. Pray I don’t die.’ 

Steve snickers to himself as he sends the message and then awkwardly begins to weave his way through groups of people. Seconds later, Bucky replies. 

My Best Guy

‘You’re so dramatic. You’ve done how many missions with your life on the line like a reckless fool and yet you’re freaking out over lube??’ 

Steve 

‘😩’

My Best Guy

‘Nat told me you jumped out of a plane, you know. And then Sam told me you also jumped off one of the helicarriers and barely gave him a heads up.’

Steve nearly snorts when he reads the text. 

Steve

‘The Nat story, I’ve got no excuse. But with Sam and the helicarrier? You were trying to kill us!’

My Best Guy

‘Yeah, that’s another thing. I grounded him and you kept coming!! Ridiculous! You could’ve gotten hurt. I should spank you.’

Steve

‘Don’t be such a tease.’ 

Just as he shoots that text over to Bucky, Steve catches sight of a grocery store with a glowing neon sign that reads ‘pharmacy inside’ right on the front door. He groans to himself. 

Steve was honestly hoping that he wouldn’t find anything. That he could just turn away now and tell Bucky they’ll just have to wait… and yet, he’s a terrible liar and he’s already seen the store and now he can’t turn back. 

He bends the bill of his cap down in attempts to further shield his face and then quietly pushes the door open, nearly cringing when he hears the chime of bells trigger at the top of the door frame. 

“Hi, sir!” Someone - a kind, young woman, bless her goddamn heart - immediately says from the counter towards the back.

Steve wants to turn around now.

“Let me know if there’s anything you need help with. I’ll be around.” The woman says, despite not hearing any response in return. 

“Thank you, ma’am.” Steve awkwardly says, just loud enough, and then darts off in the direction of ‘Personal hygiene’ - it’s a start, right? 

Steve begins at one end of the aisle and then slowly makes his way to the opposite side, scanning over each individual section. 

The anxiety feels worse - much worse - than he’d like to admit. His heart is pounding. This is stupid. He knows this is. 

He suddenly pauses when he spots a smaller section on a middle shelf with the label ‘sexual wellness’ - bingo. 

There is, of course, an overwhelming amount of products. There are two-pack tubes labeled ‘his’ and ‘hers,’ followed by bottles labeled ‘hot and cold,’ and more specifically, cardboard packages labeled with different bases for the ingredients. None of it makes sense. 

Steve makes a face as he picks up one of the bottles and internally cringes when he reads the back.

“Numbing, cooling sensation?” He says to himself and then immediately sets the bottle back onto the shelf like it may self combust. 

Steve pulls his phone out now and immediately goes to text Bucky. He realizes Bucky replied from before. 

My Best Guy

‘Can’t help it, big guy.’ 

Steve gulps. 

Steve

‘Hate to kill the flirting, but I’m drawing a blank here. I’m at the store. They’ve got way too many lubes. What the hell do I buy? They don’t have one labeled for anal sex. They’re all weird.’ 

My Best Guy 

‘Just get a basic one. I’m laughing.’ 

Steve 

‘None of them are basic!’ 

“Sir, do you need help?” Suddenly, that same woman that had been behind the counter has now miraculously managed to sneak up on Steve and causes him to full-spin around. 

He shoves his phone back into his pocket like he’s been caught shoplifting and tries his best to not look like a complete jackass. Though, judging by her curious smile, he already looks like one. 

“Hey, hi, uh… I’m okay? I think. Yeah.” Steve fumbles with his words, clamping his eyes shut beneath the protection of his sunglasses. He feels his lashes catch against the shades. He reopens his eyes. 

The woman grins more - like she knows Steve has zero clue what he’s doing. “I can try to help you.”

Steve turns his attention to the bottles and tubes and boxes decorating the shelf and scoffs to himself. “I just need a regular… container of lube. I don’t buy lube often enough to know what I’m looking for.” 

The woman reaches passed his line of sight and then hands off to him the two pack he’d seen just seconds ago. “This one is popular. It’s a ‘his and hers’ pack, it-“ 

Fuck it. Steve doesn’t want to pretend. “I need it for my boyfriend. Not for a woman.” Steve says rather unapologetically and immediately expects a look of disgust - one he’d seen before on the playground from kids when Bucky had picked him up from a punch. 

Steve still remembers it and many moments like it. 

Remembers having a group of kids heckle him for his lunch money and then shove him to the blacktop. He must’ve been ten and still smaller than every kid in his class. He remembers getting up and demanding his money back. Remembers throwing a punch. Remembers getting blindsided by a fist connecting so hard with his nose that he’d lost his sight for a short moment. Remembers Bucky swooping in from behind and lifting him up by the collar of his shirt. Remembers the punches Bucky threw back - remembers Bucky telling those kids off and watching them back away like scared vultures being shooed by a grizzly bear. 

And, more importantly, Steve remembers one of them sneering a string of hateful words towards the two of them. Words Steve would rather forget. 

Words Steve expects now… and instead, the woman seems unphased. She’s still smiling. 

“Oh! Okay, perfect. Then let me suggest this.” She says now as she puts back the two pack and instead hands over a simple, moderately-sized container labeled ‘water-based lubricant.’ 

Steve blinks a few times before he comes to terms with things. She’s not berating him. She’s not even reacting. She’s just… doing her job. The modern day society is both amazing and confusing all at the same time. 

Steve takes the package and flips it over in his hands. 

“Water-based lubes work well with condoms and toys, but may dry faster, so use more than necessary to assure comfort. We also have oil-based and silicone-based, but neither of those work well with certain toys or condoms… and if you’re unsure of things, I’d say steer clear for now.” The woman says with a shrug before she points to a lower shelf with different colored beads and short bulbous-looking toys. “I’m not sure if you’re looking for these, but the smaller sizes can be helpful for first timers.” 

Steve gulps. “Oh, uh. Thank you.” He breathes out as he tucks the small box under his arm and then bends to try and look at the toys. 

The woman hands off one in particular - purple and made of silicone. “This’ll be compatible with the lube. It’s a good starting size. It’s a plug so it can be kept in place, too. Anything else I can help you with today?” 

Steve is floored into silence as he takes the small plug labeled ‘starter’ and hooks it under the opposite arm before he moves to stand up and face the woman. “No, no. Thank you so much.” He says as he finds his voice again.

She looks pleased. “Great! I’ll be right up front when you’re ready to checkout. If you need anything else, don’t hesitate to ask.” She concludes before she walks off and leaves Steve standing quietly by himself. 

He quickly brings both items forward into his hands again, studying both of them as if trying to decide if that’s all he needs. He then pulls his phone out again - if not just to ask Bucky, but to even just flaunt that he pulled it off. He got the goddamn lube. 

He grins with his teeth dug into his lower lip as he types out another message to follow up from his previous, unanswered one. 

Steve

‘So. Update. Turns out people around here really don’t care who you’re going steady with. Like at all.’

‘Oh. And I got the lube. And a toy???’ 

‘It’s called a plug. Google it.’ 

He waits a minute. Bucky replies. 

My Best Guy

‘A plug? You gonna use that on me, Stevie? Gonna fill me up with it?’

Steve immediately feels a blush come on when he reads the message from Bucky. He feels warm. His stomach knots up. 

Steve 

‘Sure am, honey. Gonna fill you up with a lot more than that.’ 

Bucky 

‘Steve Rogers, I swear...’ 

Steve

‘Hmm?’

Steve smirks proudly. He’s never felt so confident in his life. He wants this. He wants to make Bucky feel good. It’s all he wants now. 

But when Bucky takes more than a few minutes to reply, Steve decides to follow up. Just to make sure there’s no loose ends before he heads home. 

Steve

‘Did you want anything else by the way? Or was this entire trip really just for lube? ;)’ 

He puts his phone away with a shrug when he still doesn’t get a response and heads for the front of the shop. Paying for everything is quick and easy, at much surprise to Steve, and the girl even provides him with a bag so he doesn’t have to awkwardly carry the lube and the very obvious sex toy in his hands. He’s incredibly thankful. 

On his way out, Steve notices Bucky still hasn’t replied and decides he’ll just do a small bit of shopping on his own. Bucky’s probably busy. He’ll answer. 

Steve ends up hitting two more nearby stores - the first being a small, charming bookstore where he buys a few books on the moon landing and different facts about space. Space has gotten a lot cooler since the 40’s - Steve remembers NACA but now there’s NASA and apparently a whole competition known formally as the Space Race he apparently missed. He’s sure Bucky will be interested in reading about it, too. 

After, Steve then makes his way into the store he’d previously gotten his shoes from with his open tab which he promptly closes and includes an extra twenty for the fabricated interest he pretends he’s accrued. The store owner is as nice as she was the first time. She’s so nice, in fact, that Steve buys a few random things just because. 

He walks out with two more bags now - both filled with random snacks and items of clothing for Bucky. One item in particular may or may not be a Captain America shirt, as well. Steve can already just see the stupid grin on Bucky’s face when he’d show him the shirt...

Bucky. 

Shit. 

Steve decides to pull out his phone again, now opting to call Bucky instead of trying to text him. 

There’s no answer. Of course. 

Steve tries again. 

His heart is starting to pound. Why isn’t Bucky answering? 

No text messages. No phone calls. Nothing.

He’s supposed to answer. He promised. 

Steve

‘Buck, you’re starting to worry me. Can you answer please? It’s been a bit since I heard from you.’

Steve can’t help it now - his immediate thought is that something is wrong. Did something happen to Bucky? Is Belle at the house? Did Bucky get hurt? 

Steve starts on a fast, nearly desperate pace for his motorcycle now. When he reaches his bike, he immediately calls Sam. He’s the first person Steve can even think of with his mind racing. Fortunately, the phone only has to ring twice before the other end picks up. 

“Steve!” Sam sounds cheery. Happy. 

“Hey, hey,” Steve replies as evenly as he can - as controlled as he can manage. “How are you? Listen, uh-“ 

“-I’m good. I’m okay. But… are you okay?” Sam’s voice immediately deflates. He sounds concerned. Steve can almost just envision his expression; brows furrowed, forehead wrinkled with worry. 

“I’m okay. Have you heard from Bucky in the last hour?” 

“No. Why? Where’s Bucky?” 

Steve swallows. “He’s home. He should be home. He’s gotta be home. I’m at… I’m in the little town near the house. He hasn’t answered me.” 

“He hasn’t answered you?” 

“No - no… he was… and then he stopped… and… he said he’d answer. He promised.” 

“I’m sure he’s fine, Steve. Maybe he’s just busy?” Sam asks with a sigh, “don’t get too worked up. He’s not on the news - I’ve got the TV on. No one’s looking for him, so there’s that.” Sam goes for a laugh and abruptly catches himself. He pauses. “I’m sure he’s okay, Steve. I’m sure. Just get home and check on him.” 

Steve nods against the phone, quiet. He’s just breathing. Awkwardly and shallowly because now he’s panicking. He feels like the world is pressing in on him - like the oxygen is slipping away. Like he’s losing Bucky again. He can’t lose Bucky again. 

“Steve.” Sam says, stern. 

It’s enough to snap Steve out of the bubble he’s temporarily trapped in. He takes a deep, shaky breath before quietly managing to reply, “I’m here.”

“Go home. Go see Bucky. He’s okay. Don’t panic.” 

“Okay.” Steve murmurs as he turns the key into the ignition and the motorcycle immediately hums to life beneath his weight. “I’ve gotta go, I’ve gotta ride.” He says over the rumble of the engine as he hooks the bags over one of the handles of his motorcycle and then kicks the stand up from beneath the asphalt. 

“Be safe, Steve. Please let me know things are good when you get a chance. Bucky’s okay.” Sam says the words like he means them - and, fuck, Steve wants to believe him - but he can’t. Sam doesn’t know for sure. Sam isn’t sure of anything. No amount of false assurance and guidance will help right now. 

Steve ends the call. Shoves the phone into his pocket. Sniffles. God. He’s freaking out. He’s really, truly panicking. 

He shouldn’t have left Bucky alone. 

He shouldn’t have went to the town.

He can’t lose Bucky again. He can’t do it again. He won’t. Steve can’t fucking handle that. 

The ride home is a blur of trees - leafless and lifeless against the backdrop of a crisp, grey sky. There’s no clear path, save for forward. Steve’s sure he runs every stop sign and possible red light he comes across and when he arrives back at the house, he barely manages to correctly park the bike in the driveway before he’s ripping the bags from the handle and running up the porch on the verge of a meltdown. 

“Bucky!” Steve calls out as he presses his face against the wooden door frame before he frantically pats himself down for his keys and jams them into the lock.

“Buck! I’m back!” Steve tries again - voice cracking with strain as he attempts to mask his fear with some shallow form of a sitcom-my ‘honey, I’m home!’ - one that doesn’t work. One that only echoes in the house as he pushes the door open and runs in, shoes on, and darts for the kitchen. 

Bucky’s nowhere to be found. 

Not in the kitchen. 

Not in the living room. 

Not even the downstairs bathroom. 

Belle took Bucky. Belle has Bucky. Bucky is in danger. Steve failed to protect Bucky. This IS Steve’s fault.

Steve doesn’t even realize he still has the bags clutched into his fists as he scrambles up the stairs and begins checking each and every room on his way down the hallway.

“Bucky!” Steve says between a clenched jaw as he reaches his own bedroom, now pushing open the door and immediately coming to a standstill.

He’s frozen in place.

Bucky. 

Bucky is on the bed. 

Bucky is… Bucky is okay. 

He’s curled up on the bed, phone clutched in one hand and Steve’s compass, opened, in the other with his head pressed back onto Steve’s pillow and his chin tilted up. He’s breathing softly - soundly. 

He’s asleep. Bucky is asleep

Steve’s chest feels like it may explode. Like his heart may just burst and his ribs may shatter. His lungs burn. His throat aches.

“Bucky.” Steve says as he remains glued to the floor, dropping the bags at his feet in mere shock. 

It’s only then that Bucky actually stirs awake, blue eyes fluttering open in confusion. Like he doesn’t realize he’s gone and fallen asleep. He’s slow to rise but when he sees Steve, he immediately sits up and rubs at his face. All Steve knows - all Steve can see - is that Bucky is without a scratch. No marks. Nothing. Just waking up from a nap. 

“Steve?” Bucky says, groggy and warm-toned as things begin to come alive for him. When he realizes something isn’t quite right, he forces himself out of the cocoon he’s made himself with the sheets and comforter and crawls to the end of the bed. He manages to put back the compass on the nightstand, a blush creeping onto his face. “Steve, are you okay?” He asks, quiet. He’s worried. “I’m sorry, I… I fell asleep. I’m sorry.” He begins, “I shouldn’t have fallen asleep on you. I didn’t sleep well last night - it’s my fault.” 

Steve nods. His breath still feels shallow like he’s just gone and run a marathon. He sniffles - awkwardly. “It’s okay, Buck,” he says despite his vision suddenly blurring up, “you fell asleep. I figured. You’re okay. It’s not your fault. It’s not.” He says aloud, trying to hide how absolutely terrified he is. That he’s shaking. That he truly thought Bucky had been fucking taken. 

Bucky frowns. “But… you’re mad?”

“No. Never.” 

“Then what’s wrong?” Bucky says quietly as he finally climbs off the bed and walks himself directly in front of Steve. His nose crinkles when he glances down at Steve’s feet. “You have your shoes on. You never leave your shoes on.”

Steve looks down cautiously. “I forgot-“ 

Steve’s suddenly silenced by Bucky’s hands stretching out and gently coming along either side of his head to slowly and carefully slip his sunglasses off. “Steve…” He murmurs out, expression falling when he sees the strain in Steve’s eyes. The glassiness. The pure panic. 

Bucky knows.

Steve knows Bucky knows. 

“Hey...” Bucky whispers as his metal hand hooks the sunglasses to his own shirt while his flesh hand reaches out now to gingerly graze along Steve’s cheek. His thumb just barely touches along Steve’s lower lash line, long lashes bowing and instantly clinging together as a single tear transfers from them to the pad of Bucky’s thumb. The tear melts into Bucky’s skin and vanishes as Bucky wipes across his cheek, slow and loving. 

“I… I thought you… I didn’t… Belle…” Steve attempts to speak though he stops himself when nothing makes sense. Bucky already knows. He doesn’t have to explain. 

“I’m so sorry, Steve. I didn’t mean to scare you like that. I’m so, so sorry. I’m okay. Nothing happened to me. Look. See? I’m right here. All here.” 

Steve presses shamefully into the weight against his cheek, eyes clamping shut to avoid any more tears spilling. It’s overwhelming. He’d expected a manhunt. Expected to have to kill someone. To hunt someone down. And here he is - Bucky is okay. Bucky is fine. Better than fine. It’s too much. 

Steve’s never felt like this before. Not since… the train. Not since he lost Bucky the first time. He feels guilty. Consumed with blame like a heavy weight tied to him and pulling him down. This is a panic attack. He knows it is. 

“I’m right here, Steve. Nothin’ happened to me. You don’t have to be afraid. I’m here.” Bucky says softly as he pulls Steve into a tight embrace, hands gripping securely at the back of Steve’s shirt while Steve clings to him all the same. 

“I know. I just… I panicked.” Steve responds, the words sour on his tongue. He doesn’t want to admit he’d thought the worst possible scenario. “I thought I lost you again. It wasn’t rational, I know. No normal person just… my heart is pounding...” 

“No normal person has been through what we’ve been through, Steve. You’re okay. Deep breaths.”

Steve nods and buries his face into the crook of Bucky’s neck now. He allows himself a moment of silence and breathes Bucky in. The shampoo and conditioner. The body wash. His aftershave. Bucky smells like home. His home. 

Steve thinks he hears Bucky say ‘I’ve got you’ quietly, but he’s not sure. 

Steve isn’t sure how long they still like that. How long he clings. Or how long he has his eyes closed for. And Steve certainly doesn’t know how he’s now somehow managed to end up sitting at the edge of the bed with Bucky kneeling between his legs and untying his shoes. Slowly. Carefully. Time seems to have blended into one blurry collection of moments.

And assuming Steve hasn’t gone entirely crazy, he’s almost positive he can hear the patter of rain against the window panes in the room.  

“No shoes in the house,” Bucky says as he breaks the silence with a soft tsk as he slips off one of Steve’s shoes and then the other, eyes cast up at Steve. He’s smiling as he sets the shoes aside. 

Steve sighs softly as he lifts his hand to take off his hat and gently tosses it aside. “No shoes in the house,” he echoes as he watches Bucky. 

Bucky smiles wider, “your hair is a mess.” 

“Yours isn’t much better.” 

Bucky pouts as he raises a hand to comb back through his hair, trying to push it back and away from his face now.

“That’s better.” Steve murmurs before he stifles a yawn. He’s tired. He’s not sure why. 

Bucky looks amused as he leans in to nuzzle his nose against Steve’s thigh, his lips pressing a soft kiss against Steve’s pants. 

Steve can’t feel it but he can see it. He can pretend.

“Let’s lay down,” Bucky suggests as he slowly pushes himself up off the floor and then climbs into Steve’s lap. His hands press flat against the expanse of Steve’s chest, gentle yet firm as he pushes Steve back against the bed and settles on top of him. 

Steve’s arms instinctively wrap around Bucky’s waist now, a quiet ‘oof’ escaping him as he allows his head to hit back against one of the pillows. “What about the lube? Didn’t you wanna see what I got you?” Steve asks as he settles into the mattress, one hand gripping at the back of Bucky’s shirt. 

“I do,” Bucky hums out as he nudges his face into Steve’s chest, “but it can wait. We can wait.” 

“Yeah?” Steve says as he closes his eyes. Apparently panicking for an hour will drain you. 

“Yeah. Besides, we can’t have you falling asleep the first time we have sex. That would be sort of lame.” 

“I’d never fall asleep.” 

Bucky snorts. “Yeah, okay. You’re gonna fall asleep now.”

“Am not.” That’s a lie. Steve knows it. Bucky knows it. “Can you do me a favor?” Steve suddenly asks. 

“Anything.” 

“Text Sam and tell him you’re okay and that I’m taking a nap.” 

Bucky snickers. “Yeah. Okay.” 

It’s the last thing Steve registers before he drifts off, Bucky curled up perfectly against him. He’s alive. He’s okay. It’s all that matters. The lube… it can wait. 

Chapter Text

—-

1945.

There isn’t a word to describe this grief. This emptiness. This feeling of being swallowed whole - alive - drowning - surrendering. 

There isn’t anything left anymore. 

Nothing. Just darkness. Just blame. 

Steve blames himself. Steve hates himself. 

Bucky is gone, he’s not coming back. Not this time. There is no rescue mission for Captain America to embark on - no happy ending. 

Steve knows he was never meant to have a storybook life. How could he? Born broken, small, defenseless. A heart of gold isn’t worth its weight in the real world. The real world doesn’t care if you’re a good person, no, the real world eats you whole. Steve deserves this for trying to beat the odds. For trying to be a savior he can’t be. For failing to save Bucky. The one goddamn thing that mattered most - Steve couldn’t do. 

Alcohol doesn’t seem to do anything, either. Steve’s downed an entire bottle of the poison, half-hoping for death, half-hoping to forget and feel numb to the pain. 

Neither scenario happens.

He opens a second bottle, this time scotch, and pours the dark liquid out into his now empty glass. His eyes, watery with tears, clamp shut as he brings it to his lips and chugs it back. When he clears the liquid, he quickly pours another shot for himself. He just keeps going - hoping to eventually get somewhere. Anywhere but here. 

But then… Bucky’s face, beautiful and happy, stares up at him from within Steve’s opened compass. Almost as if silently asking him why. He wishes it wasn’t just a photo gleaming up at him. He wishes he could tell Bucky the truth. That he loves him. No, that he really loves him. 

He sniffles as he swirls the remaining liquid in his glass, now trying his best to ignore the building nausea in his stomach. He’s not eaten at all today. Bucky would be disappointed. 

“I miss you,” Steve says dumbly to his compass, a sniffle immediately following suit. When he swallows, it’s audible and thick. “I don’t want to do this anymore, Buck. Not without you.” 

There’s no response. Of course there’s no response. 

Steve frowns and sets the glass down, a few stray tears pattering beside it on the wooden table. They immediately soak into the wood, only for more tears to follow. He can’t stop crying. He feverishly wipes at his eyes with his hands. 

“They keep trying to tell me it wasn’t my fault, Buck. But we know that’s not true. You know what I did to you. You know I did it.” Steve swallows down a quiet sob, “I just wanted us… I wanted us to… to be able to live a good life. Together. We always wanted a place together, a real one. Not that apartment. No… a real place. Away from all these people. When the war was over… you promised… you said… and I… I took that away from you. From us.” 

He shakes his head now and drinks more. Steve groans softly at the burn lighting up his throat and quickly wipes his nose against the back of his hand. He sniffles again. 

“I wanted to tell you I loved you. That I’ve always loved you. That… that…” He stops himself. 

A clock ticks quietly from within the room. It only serves to solidify just how alone Steve is now. 

He wants to tell Bucky so much. Wants to tell him everything he couldn’t say. Everything he was too afraid to say. 

That he’s sorry. That he’s so fucking sorry. 

That… that… life doesn’t seem worth living anymore. That everything is duller - the sky, the grass, the brightest of colors - none of them appear the same to Steve. It’s as if Bucky left and took every bit of vibrancy with him.

Steve hasn’t slept in two days. Not properly, anyway. He can still hear Bucky’s scream echoing over and over whenever he sits in silence. And every time Steve closes his eyes, he sees flashes of the fall. Bucky’s own eyes. The terror in them. The pleading. The desperate hands stretched outwards. All in vain. 

By now, Steve knows he can’t get drunk. He’s figured this out. But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t stop him from trying. He’ll finish this second bottle and move onto a third. 

Peggy found him just an hour before. Steve doesn’t believe a word she had to say. He didn’t then and he doesn’t now. This is his fault and no amount of blame-shifting will convince him otherwise. Bucky is gone because of Steve. Because of Steve’s choices. Because Steve couldn’t save him. There is no other version of this story. 

The news reporters know it. 

The Howling Commandos know it. 

Stark knows it. 

Peggy knows it. 

Steve Rogers killed his best friend. 

Steve Rogers killed Bucky Barnes. 

—-

Steve wakes abruptly to a rumble of thunder, eyes blinking open in a momentary panic as his nightmare dissipates into only a memory and the real world once again sets in. His heart is pounding. Steve takes a moment to remember where he is as he lays there, clearly in bed, with a dampness to his cheeks that he quickly palms away. “Shit,” he says quietly to himself as he feels the cold sweat clinging to his back. 

He needs to tell Bucky. 

He can’t do this anymore. He physically cannot handle this weight anymore. 

Things start to come to him the longer he lays there. 

Steve knows he hasn’t slept long. It’s still light in the room, although it has gotten a bit darker, as have the clouds outside. He can see from the balcony windows that it is now absolutely pouring. 

The light is on in the bathroom, golden and bright in contrast to the cool tones surrounding the bedroom, and the door is just slightly left ajar. 

Steve gently shifts around to sit himself up, sighing softly as he glances around. He’s got to tell Bucky now. Bucky needs to know the truth. It’s now or never. 

“Buck?” Steve calls out suddenly as he again wipes at his eyes. His pulse is throbbing loudly in his ears - so loudly that he can’t focus. He’s terrified of this. Terrified of Bucky’s reaction. He doesn’t want to know. He doesn’t want to do this. “Can we talk? I need to talk to you.” Steve tries again, albeit louder this time. 

“Yeah, Steve. I’ll be right out.” Bucky calls out now and Steve immediately feels his throat run dry. 

“Take your time.” Steve begins to say but it’s only a moment later when the light flickers off and Bucky comes sauntering out from the bathroom, damp hair neatly brushed back and dressed only in a pair of grey briefs, a pair of socks that sit mid-calf, and - fuck, of course - the Captain America shirt Steve had just gotten him.

“You okay? You look like you’ve seen a ghost…” Bucky acknowledges as he stands there now, eyes scanning Steve for any hints. “Bad dream?” He offers, a pout to his lips. 

Steve feels his heart pang in his chest. He nods. “Bad dream.” He accepts, words nearly catching in his throat as Bucky crawls onto the bed and slips himself right into Steve’s lap. 

“Tell me about it.” Bucky coos out as his metal hand moves to run through Steve’s hair while his flesh hand hooks at the back of his neck. 

Steve gulps as his hands instinctively come to Bucky’s lower back. He feels like he’s lost in space, floating endlessly without oxygen. Without a lifeline. “I… it was just… it was stupid.”

“You wanted to talk, though. I heard you say that.” Bucky murmurs as he presses their foreheads together, “you can tell me anything.”

The intense eye contact is too much for Steve. He’s a terrible fucking liar. He has to close his eyes. “I wanted to talk, yeah. About my dream.” 

“I’m listening. I’m here.” Bucky assures with a softness to his voice that nearly sends a chill down Steve’s spine. 

“That shirt looks really nice on you, by the way.” 

Bucky laughs. “Stop avoiding the subject. I can handle it. Just tell me what happened.”

“I dreamt…” He trails off. Nope. He’s backing out. He can’t do it. “I dreamt I lost you.” It’s not entirely a lie. 

“You dreamt you lost me?” 

“Yeah.” 

There’s a sigh - quiet and maybe even a bit sad. Bucky’s hand slides from Steve’s hair to the base of his neck to meet his other hand and hook securely together. He seems to shift forward in Steve’s lap, their bodies practically melting together. “You couldn’t lose me. I could never go anywhere - not without you.” 

Steve’s chest hurts. 

“It was just a dream, Steve. Dreams don’t mean anything. I’m never going anywhere. You’ll never lose me.” 

Steve just nods. He’s afraid to say anything else. 

“Hey, I’ve got an idea. Let’s get your mind off that. How about you show me what you got me?” Bucky suddenly says as he changes the subject and pulls back just enough to have Steve blinking his eyes open in wonder. “I said I’d let you sleep. You’ve slept.”

“It sort of looks like you already went through the bags,” Steve says as he chews on his lower lip. 

Bucky smirks. And god, is it a pretty smirk. Soft, pink lips turned up against smooth skin. “I only went through one of them.” He admits with a shrug as he then leans in and presses a playful kiss to the very tip of Steve’s nose. 

Steve allows himself to relax. To move on. For now, anyway. Bucky… Bucky will just have to wait. He’ll understand. He’ll know why Steve lied. He might not even care. Right? 

Steve clears his throat and lets his hands squeeze just a bit at Bucky’s hips, fingers curling beneath the shirt and grasping at bare skin. “Only one?” Steve asks, breathless. 

But Bucky doesn’t respond - instead he unhooks his hands and gently slips off Steve’s lap before going over to the bags that have been left exactly where Steve dropped them previously. 

“It’s the all-black one.” Steve says as he watches Bucky bend to grab the bag he’s pointing to, long legs and thick thighs the only thing Steve finds himself able to focus on. 

Bucky definitely had more clothes on before Steve fell asleep. He remembers pants. He swears Bucky had pants on.

“Where’d your pants go?” Steve decides with narrowed eyes as he watches Bucky make his way back over, bag in hand.

“They got lost somewhere between you falling asleep and me calling Sam. We had a nice chat,” Bucky shrugs as if it’s nothing out of the ordinary, “I told him you fell asleep and then when I hung up the phone, my pants were gone. Honest. I took a shower and forgot they even existed.” Bucky says with a playful grin as he swipes his own phone from the dresser and then plops back onto the bed, besides Steve now. 

“I know I said it already, but I like that shirt on you,” Steve comments in a murmur, watching with wide eyes as Bucky searches through the bag and pulls out both the plug and the small box of lube. 

“You did say it already, but I’ll allow it,” Bucky teases as his eyes scan over the products. There’s a curiosity to them - a glimmer of awe almost - that Steve can’t help but feel a certain way over. “Do you want to… try this out?” Bucky suddenly asks. 

Steve gulps. “The plug and the lube?” He responds, dumbly. As if he doesn’t already know. 

“Maybe just the lube? Maybe just your fingers and your… you… you know.” Bucky says with a laugh and then sets everything down on the bed before climbing back into Steve’s lap, this time hooking his feet at the backs of Steve’s knees. 

“What if I’m really bad at it?” Steve cringes as he asks, his hands again taking their usual places at Bucky’s hips. 

“Well then, we’ll just keep trying ‘til you’re good at it,” Bucky replies with a coy smile before he leans in to pepper kisses all along Steve’s jaw before working his way down towards his neck. As he presses a particular kiss, warm and wet, to Steve’s skin, he whispers: “but I don’t think you could be bad at it. You’re good at everything.” He then leans away and brings his hands to the hem of Steve’s shirt and carefully drags it up Steve’s body, only separating his lips from Steve’s skin in order to get it over and off Steve’s head so he can toss it aside. Once it’s off, Bucky quickly reattaches his lips to Steve’s skin - only this time closer to his collar. “I love your body,” he whispers, soft and only for Steve to hear. 

“I love yours,” Steve answers with his words caught in a moan, his hands gripping harder at Bucky’s hips, as if he could fall away at any second. “But we both know I’m not good at a lot of things. That’s a lie…” 

“Not lying,” Bucky says as he brings himself forward and draws their lips together, “you’re gonna be everything I’ve ever dreamt you’d be.” 

Steve kisses back, feverish. When he hears Bucky’s words, he can’t help but smirk into the kiss. 

He wants to prove Bucky right. 

He wants to be everything Bucky’s hoped he’d be.

Every previous thought and worry is out the window. 

Steve suddenly pulls them backwards, a soft gasp escaping Bucky now as Steve hits the bed and pulls Bucky forward into his lap. 

Bucky immediately bends at the waist to continue their kiss, sitting himself comfortably at Steve’s stomach. His mouth tastes sweet as he parts his lips and licks into Steve’s mouth, eliciting quiet moans from both of them when Steve’s own tongue massages up against Bucky’s. 

Steve doesn’t need to be told this time that he’s allowed to touch Bucky. He knows he’s allowed. And for once, Steve feels confident as his hands first slide up Bucky’s back - feeling the warm skin beneath the fabric of his shirt - and then back down to rub along his bare thighs. His touch seems to do something, Steve notices, as Bucky arches into his hands and kisses back harder. 

“Scoot up,” Steve instructs between parting lips, eyes locking with Bucky’s and noticing the glimmer of confusion. Steve’s hands move to Bucky’s ass now and push him ever so slightly. “I said scoot up, honey. I know you heard me.” 

Bucky runs a caressing hand along Steve’s face and then nods, rather breathless, and shifts his body higher up until he’s sitting along the lower-half of Steve’s rib cage now. 

Steve groans softly at the pressure and comfortable weight of Bucky on top of him. Like he belongs there. 

“Stevie, are you sure?” There’s a tone of uncertainty now to Bucky’s voice. Like he’s still dealing with Steve from before the war. Before the serum. 

“Bucky, I’m not that little kid anymore. You know that. You’re not gonna hurt me-“ 

“-I know, I know…” Bucky whines.

“Trust me. You couldn’t hurt me if you tried.” 

Bucky nods and forces himself to relax. “Like this?” Bucky asks quietly as he arches forward and leans back down again to reconnect their lips. It’s a bend, but Bucky doesn’t seem to complain. 

“Mhm, like that,” Steve responds into Bucky’s mouth, hands again roaming along the expanse of his boyfriend’s back and then down his arms. He wants to touch him everywhere. 

“What do you want me to do?” Bucky asks as he separates their lips and braces his metal hand along the top of the bed frame.

He’s flustered - Steve can tell. He can see the rosiness creeping along Bucky’s cheeks and the deep ocean of blues nearly swallowing his pupils whole. 

“Just relax...” Steve trails off as one hand lifts from Bucky’s thigh to the front waistband of his briefs, now feeling the soft outline beginning to press against the fabric. 

“Fuck,” Bucky immediately reacts to the touch, his lower lip caught between his teeth as he stares down at Steve. 

Steve’s nervous - sure - but he’s doing a way better job at hiding it than he’d ever thought possible. While one hand drags down Bucky’s briefs, just enough to slip his length out, the other hand grasps at the back of his ass and pushes him even higher up Steve’s body. 

He knows what to do. He’s got this.

Steve offers the faintest grin as he lifts his head off the pillows and gently draws Bucky into his mouth, one hand bracing at Bucky’s hip for support while the other kneads at his ass, gripping and massaging. 

Bucky’s breath hitches audibly and Steve can feel the way he tenses up - he thinks that’s a good thing. He’s pretty sure it is.

Steve forces himself to keep his eyes open as he stares up at Bucky, taking his shaft deeper into his mouth just as Bucky’s flesh hand drops to hold onto the back of Steve’s head - supporting him and seemingly pushing his lips further around his growing erection simultaneously.

“Jesus Christ, Steve, fuck…” Bucky stammers out above the sounds of rumbling thunder as Steve allows himself to be guided, now gently starting a rhythm of sucking on and off Bucky’s cock. The rain is coming down harder now - the room’s gotten darker. 

“Good?” Steve questions randomly when he catches a moment of air before Bucky is immediately filling his mouth again. Every time Bucky thrusts in, Steve has to hold his breath and hollow his cheeks out - which he quickly learns and masters. 

“Mhm, good, yeah,” Bucky yelps back desperately now, lighting up Steve’s insides in ways that go beyond primal instinct. He’s breathless - shaky. Steve can feel Bucky’s muscles tightening beneath his fingertips the more he sucks and swallows around his now very-obvious erection. 

Steve’s in control. Steve’s doing this to Bucky. 

“Move up.” Steve manages to say as he manhandles Bucky forward and off his knees, knocking his metal hand from the bed frame. The motion forces both of Bucky’s hands to brace on the pillows above Steve’s head now as he loses balance and straddles his legs outwards on either side of Steve’s body. It’s the perfect leverage for Steve to continue to suck him off while a hand is able to slip into Bucky’s briefs and drag them down one thigh and off of one leg with Bucky’s help. They’ll just slip off the other leg eventually when Steve lets Bucky sit up. 

“C’mere,” he suddenly says as he pulls off Bucky, lips shiny with drool as he reaches a hand up to cup at Bucky’s face and guides him downwards to connect their lips again while his other hand now comes forward to wrap around Bucky’s length and jerks him off slowly - passionately . He wants to drag this out for as long as he can. 

“Stevie,” Bucky begins in a purr as they kiss, trembling fingers holding tightly to Steve’s hair to keep him still as he recovers and gets back onto his knees. “I’m not going to last long if you keep that up,” he says in a groan as Steve kisses him again. 

“Okay, okay,” Steve laughs now, anxious yet controlled. He can feel Bucky pressing up into his hand and his back arching with each stroke. 

“Let me take this off,” Bucky suddenly says as he leans back and sits up, now quickly shrugging himself out of his shirt and tossing it aside. 

Neither of them bother to look at where the shirt lands before Bucky bends back down and reattaches their lips, desperate and wanting. 

“God, look at you,” Steve moans as he breaks the kiss again, only so that he can watch himself stroking Bucky. He can see the shininess beading at the head of his cock now. Steve knows he’s doing a good job. He runs his other hand, teasing and playful, up along Bucky’s abs now - fingers feeling and curving into each muscle. 

Bucky is perfection. True, honest perfection. 

Every curve. Every dip. Every inch of him. 

It’s intoxicating, to say the least. 

“No, look at you,” Bucky manages in a choked laugh, “you’re so-“

Steve immediately cuts Bucky off by bucking his hips up into a bridge and flipping his boyfriend onto his back on the bed with a strangled whine. 

“Steve, god,” Bucky begins as he settles, his legs instinctively wrapping around Steve’s waist and using his strength to pull Steve down into him. 

“Bucky, god,” he teases back, a smirk playing on his lips as he makes a motion towards Bucky’s phone that’s a foot away from them on the bed. “Wanna get that?” 

Bucky is silent as he nods and extends his hand out, fingers making a grabbing-motion as he just barely reaches the phone and lifts it over to them. 

“Find a video for us to watch. I need my next move,” Steve admits with a blush and Bucky immediately breaks out into a laugh - soft and endearing. 

“Of course,” he snickers as Steve leans down and presses soft, gentle kisses along the side of his neck. 

It doesn’t take Bucky much time at all to find a video, one that’s appropriately called ‘cute boyfriends making love.’ Steve doesn’t comment on the title, no, instead he just watches as Bucky presses play and then props it up on a pillow a few inches away from them. 

It’s a video Steve’s never seen before. And fuck, he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t getting flustered just watching it.

The video starts with the two men clothed, but by a minute in they’re both already naked and writhing on top of each other in a bed. 

Steve smirks. They’ve got that part mostly figured out already. 

And then as things start going, one of the men dips down between the others legs and the camera angle changes and… fuck. 

Steve’s eyes dart from the phone screen to Bucky’s face - he can see it in Bucky’s eyes. He wants that.  

A few minutes pass on video. Steve watches as one of them grabs a bottle and pours a generous amount into his palm. He spreads it. He starts pushing his fingers in. Curling them. The other man is groaning and begging for more. 

Steve can feel Bucky’s erection pressing hard against his own. 

Two fingers. The men kiss more. Three fingers. The one man slips out and lines himself up and Steve has the rest figured out. 

“Just keep it on,” Steve says as he uses a hand to grab gently at Bucky’s cheek and turns his attention back to him. “Let’s do this, yeah?” 

“You’re sure?” Bucky asks, doe eyed and panting. 

“I’m sure. Help me out of these pants.” 

Bucky chews on his lip and nods, now eagerly sitting up to unzip Steve’s pants. It doesn’t take them long before they’re both completely naked and Bucky’s now the only one left in just a pair of socks and his goddamn prison anklet. 

“Leave the socks on, babydoll,” Steve says with a smirk as he presses a few open-mouthed kisses to Bucky’s palm while he pushes Bucky back down onto the bed and takes his place back between his legs. 

“Stevie…baby...” Bucky pants out as he slips a hand between their bodies and takes both of their shafts into one palm and gently squeezes them together. It’s intense. It’s fucking euphoric. 

Steve nearly doubles over from the jolt of pleasure. 

“Honey…” Steve replies, voice lost in a groan as he can’t help but rock into the slow, deep strokes of Bucky’s hand and the wet warmth of his cock pressing against his own. It’s overwhelming. It’s filthy. It’s everything. “Spread your legs for me, yeah?” 

“Whatever you say,” Bucky obliges now, shaky thighs parting and falling away from Steve’s body as he bends his knees and settles back further into the bed. He keeps stroking them both until Steve pulls away and begins to trail kisses down his neck. Down his chest. Over his stomach. His naval. 

Bucky gasps. 

Steve pauses when he reaches Bucky’s hips, lips lingering wet kisses and trailing them further down until he finally gets to his inner thighs. He’s copying the video - Bucky knows it, too. 

But then he freezes up as he notices something he’s definitely not seen before. There’s welts, healed and scarred over, scattered all along the very inner part of Bucky’s thighs, tucked away and barely visible until now. They catch him off guard. 

They haven’t healed after all this time, unlike Steve’s own scars which have. Either Bucky’s serum truly isn’t as good or the welts were that awful… 

He swallows, lips hovering. 

Bucky seems to catch on. “Steve?” He asks, almost worried in tone. 

Steve can’t dare do this now. He can’t do that to Bucky. He won’t. He knows what they are from. He knows. 

“Sorry, baby, I was admiring…” Steve covers, before dipping back down. 

It’s enough to distract. 

“Oh, fuck!” Bucky finally cries out when Steve’s tongue slides wet between his thighs - starting at the underside of his balls and making his way to the tight ring of muscle he’s been dying to taste. 

Steve doesn’t think this is rocket science - and it certainly doesn’t seem like it is when he factors in how intensely Bucky reacts from just a simple lick. And so, he keeps going. He laps at the muscle, smirking to himself as he begins to settle into it and completely buries his face there - nose nuzzling against his boyfriend’s body as he attempts to press the tip of his tongue inwards. Just like he’d watched in the video. 

Bucky is a mess for Steve almost instantly. A beautiful, fucking mess. His metal hand immediately wraps around his shaft and starts to slowly touch and stroke himself while his flesh hand grips at Steve’s hair. His feet then come up and brace at the back of Steve’s shoulders, heels digging in hard. 

Steve doesn’t mind. He could never. 

“Such a good boy,” Steve responds now as he lifts his head just to make eye contact. A free hand then slips beneath Bucky’s thigh in order to pick him up and lift him closer to Steve’s mouth, holding him still while he writhes against the bed. 

Bucky looks like he could die right then and there. “Don’t stop, god, don’t stop, Stevie. You’re so fucking good. You’re so good. Please.” He says, practically crying out the words. 

“Shhh,” Steve coos as he dips back down and peppers kisses along the lower swell of Bucky’s ass, drinking him in for all he’s worth. “You taste so good, baby,” Steve moans out as he again circles his tongue over the tight hole before spitting and lapping it up. 

Bucky is silent, head knocked back to the pillows while he stares up at the ceiling. His heels are digging in harder - his one hand is gripping tighter at Steve’s hair while his other hand is jerking himself off in sync with Steve’s tongue. 

“Should I get that lube now? Think you’re ready for that?” Steve suddenly asks as he lifts off and allows a bit of spit to dribble from his chin. He doesn’t wipe it. 

Bucky nods, now lifting his head and revealing glassy eyes and parted lips. “Yes. Please. I need you. I’ve never needed anyone like this before, Stevie. It’s you. I need you.”

“You’ll have me, Buck. Relax. Easy.” Steve assures in a murmur as he presses another few kisses along Bucky’s inner thighs and then wills himself to his knees, Bucky’s hand and feet falling away as he lets Steve up to get the lube. 

The box doesn’t really say much. Just use as necessary. The woman said to use a lot. The men in the video used a lot. It seems like a good idea. 

Steve opens the box and slips out the tube, all while checking on Bucky who’s a gorgeous, panting mess as he watches. 

“We’ll go slow. You tell me if it hurts, Buck. I won’t do anything you don’t want me to.” Steve says out loud as some anxiety seems to creep up on him. It’s as if he’s assuring himself more than Bucky. That this’ll go okay. That he won’t hurt Bucky. That this will be good. 

“You won’t,” Bucky whines quietly from the pillows, eyes wide with desire. Bucky’s never looked so pretty. 

“Lay back for me. Relax.” Steve reminds Bucky now as he finally pours a dollop into his hand. He then rubs it between his fingers before climbing back between Bucky’s legs and settling there. 

Bucky immediately lifts one leg up over Steve’s shoulder to rest his foot at his back while the other leg loosely comes around Steve’s waist and draws him in closer. 

Steve’s eyes lock with Bucky’s for assurance as he then brings a single digit, wet and slick, to his boyfriend’s entrance. He holds it there and circles it slowly. 

“Steve…”

“Breathe.” He whispers, both to Bucky and for himself,  before he gently slips just the tip of his finger inwards. There’s a moment of pressure before it snaps like a rubber band and he eases in. 

Instantly, both Bucky and Steve gasp. 

“Keep going,” Bucky manages as one hand clutches at Steve’s forearm for support. 

Steve nods and does as he’s asked, now inching his finger in deeper - slow and cautious. The more he pushes, the more warmth he feels. Bucky is tight. 

Fuck.

“You’re okay,” Steve assures as he leans down and in to reattach their lips for a very necessary kiss. As he kisses Bucky, eyes closed and body pressed against Bucky’s, Steve gently works his finger in until he’s finally able to hit the knuckle. 

Bucky kisses back desperately while he clutches tightly onto Steve now. He’s okay. He’s breathing. That’s all that matters. 

Steve then pulls away to focus his attention on Bucky’s jaw, peppering kisses there while he slowly slides his finger halfway-out. He waits until he feels Bucky suck in a breath against his body before he pushes back in and let’s his lips press right to Bucky’s pulse.

“Shit, Stevie…” Bucky seems to mewl now, kicking a heel into Steve’s back as he arches off the bed.

It’s definitely a good thing. He’s not in pain. Steve hasn’t done anything wrong. So far, so good. 

Steve stays slow and gentle the entire time, ignoring his own aching erection and pounding heart as he eventually begins to build up an even pace of in-and-outs that has Bucky sighing and gasping.

It takes them a bit - mostly because Steve is too afraid of hurting Bucky - but eventually he’s able to work in a second digit, now curling both fingers into Bucky while he writhes against the bed. 

Steve knows Bucky has done this before. He knows that it wasn’t enjoyable for Bucky in the past. And he certainly knows Bucky is used to being hurt like this and so he’s absolutely terrified the further they progress. 

But he can do this. He can handle this. Steve has waited his entire life and then some for this. 

Holy fuck, Steve Rogers, you’re finally going to do this- 

“-Fuck, baby,” Bucky suddenly moans out, interrupting Steve from his inner monologue. Bucky is clutching at Steve desperately, his metal fingers surely leaving bruises now as Steve curls his fingers deep and seems to hit at just the right spot. 

Steve doesn’t care. He wants the bruises. He wants the marks. 

“You’re so pretty,” Steve remarks as he pumps his fingers into Bucky, the two falling into a rhythm as Bucky pushes against the digits on each thrust in. 

“You’re so sweet on me,” Bucky coos as he lulls his head off to one side, hair wild against the pillows and sheets. 

Steve knows the response. He likes that it has become something shared between them. He smirks. “Always sweet on you, Buck.” He responds coyly as he adds in a third finger, nearly groaning when he feels Bucky’s muscles mold right against him. There’s no tension now. No fight. Bucky takes him like it’s nothing and Steve is beginning to get anxious with the anticipation. He knows what’s coming. He knows how close he is to getting what he’s wanted for so long. 

Bucky does, too, a cocky grin playing on his lips as his lids fight to stay open. “Fuck, can you tell me why the idea of me taking your virginity is so fucking hot?” He asks with a kick to Steve’s back when Steve again hits that same spot he’d found previously. 

“‘Cause you’re a jerk,” Steve answers with a laugh, a teasing grin on his face. 

“Yeah, whatever, punk,” Bucky chimes back, “I think… I think I’m ready. If you’re ready.” 

“You’re ready?” 

“Fuck, Steve, I just said that,” Bucky groans. Clearly he’s a needy one when he’s being pleasured. 

Steve slowly slips his fingers out now, eyes admittedly finding it hard to look away from the sight between Bucky’s legs. 

He swallows. His nerves are on fire. He needs this. He needs Bucky. 

Bucky’s leg falls away from Steve’s shoulder now to instead settle around his waist with his other, his ankles crossing at Steve’s lower back. “Get more lube, before I pass away from lack of stimulation.” Bucky whines, causing Steve to laugh. 

Steve’s thankful the bottle hasn’t gotten thrown from the bed as he locates it and pops the cap. He then pours another large amount into his palm before he casts an uncertain glance to Bucky. 

Bucky makes a face in amusement. “Rub it in, baby. C’mon. Captain America ain’t that clueless.”

Steve feels a blush immediately rise to his cheeks now and right down his chest. He almost wishes he wasn’t so pale. He lets his eyes briefly wander back to the phone that’s still very much playing the same video. 

The two men in the video are going at it like wild animals. Still. Steve sort of wishes he could just skip all this awkwardness and just… get to that part. If they even get to that. Does Steve even want that?

“Jesus Christ, Steven Grant Rogers-“ Bucky interrupts him now with a groan, chest heaving as he lays there on the bed. Waiting, not patiently at all. 

Steve’s heart skips a beat. He brings his hand to his length now and gives himself a few slick pumps, a moan managing to slip out when he realizes just how desperate his body is. When he’s sure he’s slick enough, he then takes the excess and glides it between Bucky’s open legs, smirking when he feels the flutter of muscle twitch against his fingers. 

“C’mere,” Bucky whines now as he reaches out for Steve, hands finding whatever he can grab as Steve settles once more between his thighs. His legs immediately wrap around his waist and their foreheads press together soon after. 

Steve is breathless. Dizzy almost. “Buck…” He manages quietly as they share a quick kiss, his eyes closed while one hand clutches at Bucky’s thigh and the other pumps his own swelling erection just to help ease the pressure that’s already building. His stomach is in absolute knots from the desire. 

“It’s just you and me and all the time in the world,” Bucky responds faintly, clutching onto Steve as if the two could be pulled apart at any second. “You’re just gonna… line yourself up, yeah? And then you go real slow. You’re gonna feel so good, Stevie… I promise…” 

“Yeah?” Steve asks in a haze, a hand guiding himself now between Bucky’s legs, a soft gasp escaping when he feels the head of his cock press up against Bucky’s rim. He lets his eyes open. They’re so close. He can practically hear Bucky’s heartbeat. Does he hear Bucky’s heartbeat? Steve has no fucking clue. 

“Easy, baby,” Bucky mewls, tilting his chin up just enough to graze their lips together. “I can take it. Give it to me.” 

Steve nods, kissing back slow as he gently presses forward, his hand holding himself from slipping out as he, again, fights that tight ring of muscle. Just when he thinks he’s not going to make this work, the head slips in and Steve nearly loses his balance in the process. “Fuck,” he yelps out at the sensation that immediately takes him over. It’s overwhelming. It’s hot and tight and he literally cannot process it. All the air escapes him. 

Bucky’s heels dig right into Steve’s lower back while he then breaks the kiss and lets his head fall back against the bed with a hiss. “Steve, god, oh fuck…” Bucky cries, the two of them freezing up from the intensity. “Fuck, you’re there… fuck…” 

Steve holds still on shaky support, letting his face nuzzle into Bucky’s neck now and breathing him in as he tries to let Bucky catch up.

After a few moments, Bucky seems to come-to again and Steve starts to inch in slowly, all the while his eyes are trained on his boyfriend’s face. 

“You’re so tight, Buck…” Steve manages to choke out as he gets about halfway, his face and chest a cherry-red and his forehead now coated in a thin layer of sweat. This pleasure is the most intense thing he’s ever felt in his life. He has nothing to compare this to. Nothing that even comes close. Not even that time in the shower. 

“Keep moving,” Bucky begs as he again lifts his head, reaching a hand out now to clutch at the back of Steve’s neck and to hold him close by the short hairs at his nape. 

And he does. Steve slowly winds his hips forward, feeling as each inch of himself slips deeper into Bucky’s heat, holding onto him like a vice.

“Fuck, you’re big,” Bucky grimaces slightly, teeth gritting together. 

Steve knows it’s the serum - he knows because he remembers his body from before. Nothing worth commenting about. But now?

“Just a sec, Steve, shit…” 

Steve immediately freezes, holding himself still despite every animalistic instinct in him telling him to slam into Bucky. Because it’s definitely what his body wants but he knows better. He would never. 

After a few moments of the two panting practically in unison, Bucky finally seems to settle. He offers a nod and a kiss to Steve’s forehead before whispering for him to keep moving.

Steve inches himself deeper now until he suddenly glides in the rest of the way and bottoms out with a shuddering breath. He feels like his heart could explode. Like his lungs could collapse. His hands clutch, knuckles white, to the bedsheets on either side of Bucky’s shoulders now as he slowly recedes, thighs clenching from the intensity as he gets about halfway before winding his hips back into Bucky, eliciting a moan from both of them. 

“Baby,” Bucky whines, shaky and sharp just as a crack of lightning temporarily lights up the room and his face, revealing blue eyes, bright and wide and lips, red and flush. 

Steve thinks he could never love anyone else like this. That he could never be so lost in someone. So far out into the deep end with no sign of return.

“Buck, honey, you feel so good…” Steve trails off as he lifts his head away from Bucky’s body to press their foreheads back together again and reconnect their lips. He kisses him deeply - as passionately as he can manage as he starts to thrust into Bucky now with a more persistent rhythm. It’s consistent. It’s good. It’s so fucking good. 

They keep kissing, lazy and slow, while Steve continuously pumps into Bucky, into his heat, into that tightness, now chasing that pleasure to a finish line he doesn’t want to ever reach. He can feel Bucky’s thighs beginning to tremble as his hands slip away from the back of Steve’s neck and instead to his shoulder blades, nails clawing deep into the skin there. 

“Faster, Steve. Harder. Give it to me.” Bucky blurts out suddenly, practically spoken into Steve’s mouth. It throws him off guard. 

“You’re sure?” 

Bucky smirks as Steve pulls back. “Please.” 

It’s all he has to say for Steve to agree. 

Steve braces himself with one hand on Bucky’s inner thigh now while the other slips between them and wraps around Bucky’s cock, a smirk immediately forming on his lips when Bucky yelps. He then begins to work himself into Bucky at a faster pace, hand pressing down on Bucky’s thigh to spread him wider, holding him down while he drills into him. 

“Fuck, fuck,” Bucky cries out now as Steve hits into him, angling himself as he tries to hit at his prostate. Steve’s never felt that sort of pleasure before but he knows enough about it to know he wants Bucky to feel it. He wants to be the cause of Bucky coming undone. He wants nothing more than that. 

“I’m gonna flip you over,” Steve suddenly warns as he slips himself out, hissing at the temporary disconnect, before he quickly takes hold of Bucky’s body and ragdolls him onto his stomach.

Bucky doesn’t fight it, only groans as he struggles to prop himself back onto his knees for Steve, shaky thighs clenching up as Steve comes up behind him and immediately presses back in, balls deep. This time it feels different. Tighter. A new angle. 

Bucky’s back arches involuntarily. 

“Right there, baby, fuck, how’s that?” Steve asks now - nearly surprising himself with how fluidly the words escape him. It’s unlike him. He doesn’t question it. One hand once again wraps around Bucky’s erection while the other braces across his chest and hooks onto his shoulder from behind, holding his body close; stomach to back. 

“So good, you’re so deep,” Bucky wails now, trembling as he melts back into Steve, metal hand encapsulating Steve’s over his cock while the other braces, fingers splayed, to the bed in a desperate attempt to stay up. 

“You’re so pretty for me, Buck,” Steve tells Bucky as he leans down, lips hot against his boyfriend’s ear. “So pretty and so good around me. Like you belong there.” 

Bucky moans out - low and throaty. “I do!” He cries back, “I do, I swear I do! Make me yours, Steve. Please. Fuck. I’m getting close.” 

“Me too, baby, me too…” Steve murmurs back as he fucks into Bucky harder, the sounds of skin slapping against skin echoing off the walls. He’s barely breathing. Barely processing what’s happening. All he can feel is the pleasure and the way it’s building inside of him. The way it so badly wants to throw him off the edge and spiral him out of control. 

But he holds on. He forces himself to. Just for a little longer. Just until Bucky is there. 

Steve pumps Bucky faster now, going base to tip, while Bucky’s metal hand helps him, the two in perfect sync while Steve continuously winds his hips and thrusts deep into him. The closer Bucky gets, the tighter his walls seem to clench around Steve. 

It doesn’t take much longer before Bucky finally comes crashing down without a warning, a sharp groan escaping him as Steve pushes him over the edge and his orgasm overtakes him, muscles spasming and practically milking Steve in the process. 

“Bucky, fuck, such a good boy. That’s my good boy. Come for me, c’mon,” Steve coos to him as he fucks him through it, fast and sharp while he feels his boyfriend spill into his hand, over and over. He peppers kisses all along Bucky’s neck and cheek - for as much as he can reach - while Bucky cries out, struggling to control himself. “You’re so good. So good.” Steve continues as he rails into him harder. 

Harder than he can actually handle. 

“Fill me up, Steve. Come in me. Give it to me,” Bucky sobs back as his orgasm continues to rack through him, “please, god, please… I need it. I need you.”

It’s all too much for Steve as he immediately follows Bucky over that cliff, eyes clamping shut and forehead pressing hard against Bucky’s back as he tries to steady himself all while unraveling. He feels himself come into Bucky, toes curling and stomach muscles tightening as he slows himself down to ride the intensity out. 

“Stevie, fuck, yes.” Bucky whimpers as his legs finally give out and he plants forward onto the bed, Steve instantly falling with him, the two groaning as they lay there. 

Steve gives Bucky just a few more slow thrusts before he finally slips out with a pop, gasping when he feels some of his come already starting to drip down hot between Bucky’s thighs. 

Bucky whimpers, like he’s disappointed. Like he’d wanted Steve to stay in him. 

Steve doesn’t ask. 

They’ll have to change the sheets. And by they, Steve knows it’s just him. Bucky will just lay there and watch like the pampered princess Steve allows him to be. 

But Steve doesn’t want it any other way. He always wants it like this. That’s all he can think right now - just how much he wants things to never change. How badly he wants to be like this with Bucky for the rest of their lives.

And also how badly he sort of, really wants to go for round two because, of course… he’s still hard. 

He’s not surprised. 

He can’t get drunk. 

He has super strength and speed. 

And he heals insanely fast. 

And now, Steve can also definitely confirm he has no refractory period. What else has this serum done that Steve hasn’t discovered yet?

Bucky suddenly moans out, “Christ, that was so fucking good, Steve. I can’t believe you ever doubted yourself…” 

Steve laughs and rolls off Bucky now, collapsing beside him on the mattress and reaching out to gently push away strands of hair covering Bucky’s face. He nearly gasps when he sees the tears and saliva that have stained his boyfriend’s cheeks and chin. He looks completely blissed out - like he’s not entirely all there - just like the last time. 

Steve’s seen him like this before. He tries not to overthink it. It’s okay. This is normal for Bucky. 

“Comin’ back to earth yet, baby?” Steve asks quietly as he cups at Bucky’s cheek and swipes away a tear that’s still threatening to fall.

“You may’ve fucked me into a coma for a moment there...” Bucky finally croaks out, voice weak and watery as he smiles and blinks away more tears and then lifts a hand to wipe his chin of the drool that’s been steadily puddling into the sheets. 

There’s something about the sight that turns Steve on more than he’d like to admit. He swallows hard. He’s been having more and more thoughts like this lately.

But maybe that’s normal. It seems normal. Right?

“Can we just… stay here for a bit? I don’t think I can walk…” Bucky says with a small laugh as he slowly rolls himself onto his side and immediately wiggles himself into Steve’s arms, like a puppy wanting to cuddle.

Steve wraps himself tight around Bucky, holding onto him and kissing gently at every part of his face that he can reach. He’s sweaty, but then again, so is Steve. “Yeah. For a bit. But we’re gonna have to change these sheets. Like… desperately.” 

Bucky snickers. A wandering hand eventually finds its way between their bodies and gently wraps around Steve’s still half-hard cock, stroking it slowly.

Steve groans softly. Tries to ignore it.

“Can I say something?” Steve asks now as the sounds of the rain and thunder take prominence in the room. 

“You can say anything,” Bucky responds as he nuzzles his face into the crook of Steve’s neck and kisses at his pulse. His eyes may be closed. It’s hard to tell. 

“Well, I haven’t had a lot of sex-“ 

Bucky snorts, thumb rubbing gently over the tip of his shaft. “You haven’t had any-“ 

Steve cocks a brow, playfully scolding, and arches into the touch. Bucky quiets with a grin. “As I was saying, I haven’t had a lot of sex, but that was amazing. You’re amazing.” 

“You’re amazing.” Bucky mimes, laughing. “But can I say something?” 

Steve shoots a glance to Bucky’s phone, suddenly realizing the video must’ve ended because the screen is off. He wonders what else he could learn for next time. Because there’s definitely going to be a next time. Lots of next times, in fact. 

“Steve!”

“Yeah, Buck? Say something.” Steve breathes, shaky. 

“Bucky Rogers sounds kinda dumb, doesn’t it?” Bucky replies now, nonchalant.

Steve nearly chokes. “Wait, what?” 

Steve feels Bucky’s lips turn up against the skin of his chest, like he’s smiling. “You heard me.” He says plainly and then lets go and moves away for a moment to grab the discarded blanket that’s rolled up at the end of the bed before coming back over and wrapping it around them. “Nap round three?” He asks. 

Steve sighs and smiles. He wants to press Bucky further - but he knows Bucky’s already moved on. He said what he wanted to say. “Yeah, nap round three. Or two. Two for me. Three for you. But then we really need to get cleaned up.” 

“Yeah, yeah. Cleaned up. We will.” Bucky says teasingly. 

Steve lets the rain and thunder overtake the silence in the room. 

He’ll tell Bucky the truth soon. He promises. 

Just… not right now. Right now, it’s nap time.