“Wow, Stevie you should see if the Y is hirin’!” Steve flushed red as he looked over the breakfast table at his best friend who was sitting backwards over the kitchen chair, chin resting on his arms as he watched Steve draw the bowl of fruit on the table.
“Naw, s’just doodles” Bucky snorted and shook his head, cocking it to the side as his voice dropped slightly.
“I love watchin’ you draw pal, you could be a real big star y’know?” Steve tried not to show how much Bucky’s words warmed his heart. He looked at the sketch and bit his lip as he looked at him gently.
“It’s just still life Buck, anyone can do it. Bet you could draw better than me if ya wanted to” Bucky shook his head immediately, eyes taking an almost hooded effect and his shoulders dropped almost self-consciously.
“No way pal, I could never do stuff like this, ‘sides watchin’s more fun” Steve looked at him and felt his own heart ache, Bucky’d had to leave school to help with his sisters two year ago and it had really hit his self-esteem. The two held eye-contact for several seconds and Steve decided that this time he’d be brave.
“My favourite thing to draw is you though Buck” Bucky’s head snapped up and the two looked at each other for several minutes as Bucky glanced down at his lips, biting his own.
This thing that had been dancing around them for years once again raised it’s ugly head, but Steve was an adult now, so was Bucky. He didn’t need to worry about anyone pulling back at the last second anymore, or getting yelled at for being “too close”.
“Opportunity knocks but once” his mother had always said.
And Opportunity was clearly not a patient woman.
“Yeah?” Steve leaned in closer, watching Bucky’s eyes flutter as they moved so their lips were a breath apart as he whispered softly, answering the dozens of unspoken questions in that single word.
Steve blew gently on the piece, gently brushing away the eraser debris as the door to the dingy Brooklyn apartment he shared with Bucky slammed open. He glanced up as his best friend stumbled into the room. Sweat glistening on his body and covered in motor oil as he kicked off his work shoes, forever the gentleman.
“Hey Buck, how was work?” Bucky wiped his sweat-floppy hair out of his face, eyes sparkling as he rushed over to Steve who was sitting at the window. Steve barely had a chance to ask what had him so excited when Bucky grabbed either side of his face and pulled him into a sloppy kiss. Steve roared away and gaped at him with shocked eyes.
“Bucky what the Hell!? Someone could see!” Bucky grinned and flopped onto the ground by Steve’s feet, resting his head against the sill happily. He blew a raspberry and unbuttoned his shirt as he closed his eyes. Steve looked at him for a moment before flipping his sketchbook to a new page, previous drawing forgotten as the afternoon sun hit Bucky’s face.
“Naw, we’ll be fine pal. It’s too hot for anyone to be out anyways” Bucky heaved a long sigh and Steve watched all the stress from his day ease out of his shoulders, body deflating peacefully. Steve swallowed the thickness in his throat as he looked at his lover. This was the first time Bucky’d been home in over twenty hours, instead working back to back shifts to pull in some extra cash. His clothing was filthy and Steve could smell him from his seat but in that moment all he wanted to do was curl up next to him.
Bucky rolled his head to the side and looked at him with sleepy eyes, watching his hands move over the paper with quiet curiosity.
“Whatcha drawin’ Stevie?” Steve smiled warmly at him as he worked on finishing up the shading. After so many years of drawing Bucky, his hands moved almost instinctively across the paper, turning his focus from Bucky’s light stubble to the bright eyes gazing up at him.
“Drawin’ you pal, now hold still for a minute” Bucky’s cheeks flushed red and Steve couldn’t help the laugh as he held his breath. Steve rolled his eyes and looked at him with a raised brow, setting the sketchbook down and plopping onto the floor next to him, curling himself under Bucky’s arm and Bucky wrinkled his own nose.
“Aw don’t do that doll, I’m reekin’ right now” Steve pressed a kiss under his jaw and grinned.
“You always stink, I ain’t worried” Bucky snorted and reached over to pick up the ratty sketchbook. Steve bit his lip as Bucky looked down at the drawing, smile slowly spreading across his face.
“So that’s what I look like huh?” Steve rested his forehead against Bucky’s neck as he looked at it.
“You gotta real gift Stevie, love watchin’ you draw” Steve blushed and spoke before he had a chance to stop himself.
“Love drawin’ you” Bucky brought the arm around Steve’s shoulders up to cradle the side of his head, pressing his lips to the blonde’s crown of hair. Steve took the sketchpad back and tapped him gently.
“Why don’t you go wash up Buck? I’ll get some supper ready.” Bucky nodded but made no mood to move, resting his head on Steve’s shoulder as he moved back to the drawing he’d been working on before he got home.
“Finish this one up first, s’that Mrs. Jenkins?” Steve nodded and began to move his hand across the page again, feeling Bucky’s weight drop more and more against him as he slowly gave into his exhaustion, eyes still trained on the movement of Steve’s work.
Steve looked over at Bucky’s sleeping form next to him, trying to ignore the horrible green uniform hanging in their closet. He ran his pencil along the lines of Bucky’s back, hoping to engrain it into his memory as much as he etched it into the paper. He focused his shading on the way the moonlight lit his skin, how the marks he’d left on Bucky stood out.
He ignored the burning in his eyes and the lump in his throat as he focused on the shading of his lower back and the way the sheet bunched around the curve of his lover’s ass. He turned his attention back up to where the moonlight was hitting Bucky’s face and froze for a split second as his own piercing blue eyes met Bucky’s slate ones.
“Hey baby doll, what you doin’ up?” Steve didn’t now how to vocalize how much he didn’t want to sleep, knowing that in the morning the man he loved would be putting on that uniform and hopping a train that may keep him from ever seeing him again. However, upon seeing the glazed look and redness in Bucky’s eyes he realized he didn’t need to.
Bucky felt the same way.
Steve sniffed as his eyes filled with tears and he turned back to the sketchbook, altering the picture to capture Bucky’s eyes on him, trying to focus through the tears blurring his vision. He felt a tear slide down his cheek as a warm, calloused hand rested on his naked hip. He looked over at the brunette and watched Bucky smile tenderly.
“Love watchin’ you draw Stevie” Steve let out a wet laugh and wiped his eyes, dropping his pencil and grabbing his hand tightly, staring into Bucky’s eyes as he willed himself not to sob.
“I love you” a tear escaped Bucky’s eye and he propped himself up on his arms, moving to hover over him, setting his sketchbook on the nightstand and pulling Steve in for a slow and passionate kiss, pressing his thin body back into the bed again.
Later, when they were sweaty, sated and catching their breath. Bucky rested his head on his shoulder and watched as Steve continued the finishing touches on his work. Steve looked down at him and pressed a kiss to Bucky’s forehead. Bucky gently took a hand in his and ran this thumb over a slim wrist.
“You gotta keep all the ones you do while I’m gone, so I can see ‘em when I get back.” Steve nodded and looked at him.
“I-I could send you some? If you wanted?” Bucky flashed a brilliant smile at him and nodded.
“Yeah, that’d be great Stevie. I’d love that” Steve smiled wetly and pulled him in for another kiss.
“I’ll send you my best”.
The chair was uncomfortable and Steve’s ass had gone numb hours ago, but the nurses said that they weren’t sure when Bucky would wake up and he didn’t want to risk missing him.
No one knew what had truly happened to Bucky at Azzano, and it wasn’t until after his lover had collapsed in the middle of the mess hall that they’d fully realized just how bad off he was. Steve was trying to keep a brave face, but every time he closed his eyes he could see the haunted face on that table, the way his whole body lit up and the way he’d murmured Steve’s name like it was a damn prayer.
As if Steve had ever deserved such reverence.
He brushed the curls out of Bucky’s face as he murmured, Steve could tell he was on the edge of consciousness. Bucky shifted slightly and his eyes blinked open slowly.
“Steve…?” Steve smiled as his eyes filled with tears.
“Hey, hey honey m’here. How are you feeling?” Bucky quirked a lip and pressed his forehead into his hands.
“M’okay, just tired I guess.” Steve quickly glanced around the medical wing before pressing a quick kiss to his forehead. Bucky hummed and his eyes caught Steve’s sketchbook out of the corner of his eye and his eyes brightened in a way Steve had almost forgotten.
“Lemme see” Steve let out a wet laugh and nodded, wiping his eye as he pulled it out, setting it in Bucky’s lap as he slowly thumbed through the book.
“Monkey on a unicycle huh?” Bucky snorted and looked at him playfully. Steve grinned in spite of himself and laughed.
“Felt like that sometimes, no one ever seemed to see me y’know?” he’d aimed for humour but with the way Bucky’s hand gently enclosed around his wrist, just like it had all those months ago before his deployment, Steve knew he’d been caught.
“I see you Stevie” Steve cleared his throat and laced their fingers together.
“I know you do” the two sat in a quiet silence for a moment before Bucky turned back to the book, coming across an unfinished work.
“You should finish this” Bucky’s eyes were starting to drift closed again as Steve gently took back the book, smiling as he began working on the piece.
“Whatever you say Buck” Bucky watched him for a few moments before he began to drift off again, the familiar skritch skritch of Steve’s pencil across the page lulled him into a sense of security.
“Love watchin’ you draw” he mumbled, and Steve glanced over at him and smiled, pressing another kiss to his forehead. Bucky’s breathing evened out as he fell asleep again and Steve flipped to another page, beginning to draw his lover’s sleeping face.
“Love drawin’ you Buck”.
Steve bit back a snort as one of the Wakandan children ran at Bucky, who barely had a chance to brace himself before the children were on him, hanging off of him as he laughed good naturedly. Steve flew his hands over the page of his sketchbook, trying to get a rough outline before they all took off again. Bucky shuffled over and tucked his knees to his chest, wrapping his one arm around them and looking at the picture.
“Is that what I look like?” Steve looked at Bucky who was captivated by his own rendering. Steve nodded softly as Bucky’s eyes welled, glancing up at Steve nervously.
“You drew me a lot before, right?” Steve squeezed his knee and bumped their shoulders together.
“I did, you used to always let me draw you when I wanted to practice my portraits.” Bucky hummed and looked at the drawing again, murmuring before he had a chance to stop himself.
“Love watchin’ you draw” Bucky’s eyes went wide at the words and Steve grinned, kissing his temple.
“And I love drawing you” Bucky smiled and shyly tucked his hair behind his ear, but didn’t pull away when Steve leaned in for a soft kiss, just like he always had.
“I love you Steve” Bucky scratched his beard gently and looked at him and Steve felt his heart swell.
He’d lost most of his friends, he was an international fugitive and his best friend would go days completely catatonic.
But now he was looking into the eyes of the man who had loved him unconditionally for as long as he knew what love was.
He wouldn’t change a thing.
“I love you too Bucky”.
If you had’ve told Steve in 1940 that one day he would be one-hundred-and-six in a thirty-something year old body after travelling through time and space living in a Brownstone with his best friend turned husband. He would have laughed in your face.
But as he glanced over at his husband who was sitting on the couch next to the window, he realized how glad he was that it had happened.
He returned the Stones, handed the shield off to Sam and settled in to “get a life” as Natasha had commanded.
Bucky’d cut his hair, helping Sam out as his way of making amends – and Steve was glad that Captain America still had the Bucky Barnes watching his back.
However, he still lived for quiet Sunday mornings with the love of his life.
Steve slowly walked towards him, furrowing his brow when he noticed that Bucky’s notebook pages weren’t lined. In fact it wasn’t a notebook at all.
It was a sketchbook.
“Whatcha doin’ doll?” Bucky froze and slammed the book shut, face burning red as he ducked his head, although he no longer had his long hair to hide behind. Steve nudged him forward, sliding in between him and the armrest to rest his head on his shoulder. He hadn’t seen Bucky this unsure of himself in months.
“Jus’doodles, needed a way to unwind after missions and Sam said lotsa people like this – s’nothing like yours though” Steve furrowed his brow at Bucky’s defense, like he had to justify that he drew as well. He opened the book and glanced at the image Bucky had been drawing and he gaped.
His own eyes staring back at him. Bucky tensed against him as Steve inhaled sharply, immediately flipping the book back to the first page and slowly working through them one by one, watching his own life play in front of him.
An image of him, still skinny as a rail with his hair falling into his eyes as he looked up at whoever he was talking to, smirking gently.
Him in his dress uniform, smiling brightly at Peggy.
Steve asleep in their tent, head on his pack as he lay peacefully.
Steve felt his eyes well with tears as he began to notice little scribbles in the bottom corners on the occasional image.
First visit to Wakanda.
I recognized Natalia today
He felt himself grinning as he flipped the page again, smile immediately falling.
The day I said goodbye.
Steve recognized the set of his jaw, the exhaustion around his eyes and the collar of the suit he’d worn to take back the Stones. It was clear Bucky hadn’t paid much attention to the detail in the background of the pictures, but Steve recognized the giant platform behind him.
He could sense Bucky’s discomfort and flipped the page quickly, seeing an image of him talking to Sam in Tony’s cabin, Sam holding the Shield.
He came back, make sure you say thank-you.
Steve couldn’t tell if his heart broke or healed, remembering the whispered “thank-you” pressed into his lips when he’d come back. He remembered how confused he had been, he was only supposed to be gone five seconds.
It was now clear that Bucky had never believed that.
That would need to be a conversation at some point.
But not today.
Steve flipped through the pictures and tightened his hold on his husband as he looked them over, recognizing the majority of his work.
The Howling Commandos.
The children of Wakanda.
But they were few and far between compared to the plethora of Steve renderings in the book.
“Buck…” Bucky breathed a soft laugh and shrugged.
“Told ya, nothin’ fancy. Never could draw like you-“
“They’re beautiful” Bucky’s gaze shot up to his husband’s in surprise, gasping when he realized Steve was crying.
“Sweetheart, why didn’t you tell me that you could draw?” Bucky smirked and bit his lower lip in a self-deprecating manner.
“Art was your thing, you always said it made you feel special. Didn’t want to take that away from you when you struggled so much with everythin’ else” Steve gently tossed the sketchbook further down the couch, enclosing Bucky in his arms and peppering kisses to the side of his head.
“Not takin’ it away, somethin’ we can do together now” Bucky nodded and Steve felt him relax into his arms, pulling the sketchpad back up and beginning to shade in the piece he’d been working on.
Steve watched for several minutes mesmerized as Bucky detailed the image of their hands entwined, wedding rings shaded perfectly before he buried his face into Bucky’s neck.
“I love watchin’ you draw pal” Bucky let out a loud laugh and leaned back against his chest, pressing his weight against him briefly before sitting up again.
“I love drawin’ you Stevie” Steve grinned and kissed his shoulder, relaxing against the arm of the couch as he watched Bucky sketch. The light was hitting the brunette perfectly for Steve’s own work.
But this time, he’d rather just watch.